Langfield Entertainment
88 Bloor Street E., Suite 2908, Toronto, ON  M4W 3G9
(416) 677-5883


Updated:  July 6, 2006


Welcome to July - officially summer to me.  Have you been to Harbourfront Centre yet this summer?  You should check out the Roots: Remix coming up - see details below!  And tickets are selling fast - get them now for the Karnival Komedy Xplosion!

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.




ROOTS: REMIX: July 14-16

Source:  Harbourfront Centre

Harbourfront Centre
presents a weekend festival peering into the cultural mirrors, reflecting and exploring the old-school and new school styles of arts and culture through a clever incarnation entitled Roots: Remix. This weekend’s theme presents a three-day excursion through time and place, presenting some of the planet’s unique artistic works in music, dance, film and food. Roots:Remix is a live exploration, showcasing how the creative endeavours of the past influence and manifest themselves in the creative cultural arena of the present. Friday night through Sunday these waves of time converge to entertain and fascinate visitors with a creative cultural swirl of yesterday and today. In conjunction with the Centre’s overall seasonal theme of Power of Place, Roots:Remix is the perfect festival where both young and old alike can share and discover the passion of arts and culture together.

Through Roots:Remix, the relationship between arts’ roots and its contemporary form are presented daily, though not exclusively, via place, as Friday’s music gives play to the Filipino connection, Saturday looks to Jamaica and Sunday focuses on an African perspective. Evolutionary sounds are served up as living legends of yesterday play into the young creative stars of today. In music, dance, film and food, Roots:Remix provides rare examples as to how the past plays a necessary role as a continuum to the future. Watch film presentations including Bob Dylan-No Direction Home, PBS’s American Roots Music, Celtic Spirits, Oliver Jones in Africa and get a sneak peek of the much-anticipated documentary-in progress – Legends of Ska. Taste how roots get remixed through the recipes cooked-up in our four, on-site, food demos and through the exotic meals offered by seven World Café vendors. Experience the movement of global cultures through nine incredible and very different choreographed dance performances. See attached for complete list of artists performances and event times and locations. Multiple outdoor and indoor stages at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto).

Admission is – as so often is the case at Harbourfront Centre – Free! Public Information is available by calling 416-973-4000 or online at the Harbourfront Centre website.


Friday July 14, 8 pm

Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage

EVENT PROFILE: A seven member fusion group who specialize in re-interpreting Brazil's popular music. They perform original compositions in Portuguese, French and Spanish. Combining samba, reggae, bachata and cumbia with funk, rock and ska to create a perfectly mixed tropical punch!

Friday July 14, 9:30 pm

Joe Bataan
Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage

EVENT PROFILE: The Canadian debut of East Harlem's best known Afro-Filipino, widely credited as the creator of Latin Soul (and cofounder of the Salsoul label). His legendary releases helped define the New York Latin Funk sound of the 1970s.

Friday July 14, 11 pm
Matalino: Filipino Contributions to Urban Music & Culture featuring DJ Dopey
Brigantine Room
Late Night NOWpresented by Brahma

EVENT PROFILE: Former World DMC (2003) Champion DJ Dopey is one of a number of proud Filipino-Canadians who have made unparalleled contributions to global hip hop music and culture. Join Dopey, D-Scratch (1996 DMC Champ) and the Needillworks crew as they demo turntablism and spin the finest platters for your dancing pleasure.

Saturday July 15, 2 pm
The Jimmy Bowskill Band
Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage

EVENT PROFILE:  Although only fifteen, award-winning blues prodigy Jimmy Bowskill has already played with Jeff Healey, Dickey Betts, ZZ Top and Deep Purple! His music, though heavily blues influenced blurs the genres and captivates fresh and experienced audiences alike.

Saturday July 15, 3:30 pm
Carlos del Junco
Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage

EVENT PROFILE: Cuban born Carlos Del Junco is a modern day master and pioneer of the ten hole diatonic harmonica. The sophisticated and unique sound produced by del Junco is at once sensitive, soulful and sexy, while never forgetting the rawness inherent in blues music. 
6 time winner - Harmonica Player of the Year - Canadian Maple Blues

Saturday July 15, 8 pm
Seckou Keita Quartet
Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage

EVENT PROFILE: A UK-based global mash-up quartet, fronted by ex-Baka Beyond member Seckou Keita and comprised of top musicians from Senegal, Italy, Egypt and Gambia. The quartet incorporates upright bass, violin, congas, calabash, percussion and kora.

Saturday July 15, 9:30 pm
Jamaica to Toronto: Soul, Funk and Reggae 1967-1974.
Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage
 Presented by Tilley Endurables

EVENT PROFILE: This one time only concert and CD launch brings together legendary Jamaican musicians, some who haven't played together in 30 years! Witness Canadian music history - a reunion featuring Jay Douglas, Lloyd Delpratt (Bob Marley, Jackie Mittoo), Everton Paul (Wayne McGhie), Jo Jo Bennett (Sattalites), Bob and Wisdom (Wisdom's Barber Shop), The Mighty Pope and many.

Saturday July 15, 11 pm
Version XCursion featuring Dubmatix and SystemEcho
Brigantine Room
Late Night NOWpresented by Brahma

EVENT PROFILE:  A journey into 'new-dub' with CKLN's Sassale and Aram Scaram. Sounds shaped by bass heavy melodies, reggae, dub and downtempo.
Special guest Dubmatix brings a dirty mash-up featuring roots, dub & electro-dub. Think Massive Attack meets Smith & Mighty and Thievery Corporation in Toronto.

Sunday July 16, 3 pm
Aurelio Martinez
Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage

EVENT PROFILE: Belize's Aurelio Martinez creates a marriage between contemporary music and the sacred rhythms of Central America's Garifuna people. His socially conscious lyrics speak to the concerns of the modern-day Garifuna - just one of the reasons he is known as the new voice of Paranda.

Sunday July 16, 4:30 pm

Harbourfront Centre Concert Stage
pepsi concert

EVENT PROFILE: Congolese supergroup Kekele bring back Rumba Congolaise - an irresistible mix of Cuban Rumba and African rhythms. Their uplifting music blends enchanting vocals and spellbinding guitar.


Friday July 14, 8:30 pm
Calle 54, documentary
Fernando Trueba, director, 105 mins
Studio Theatre

Spanish with English Subtitles
EVENT PROFILE: Trueba is in love with Latin jazz. This documentary, full of colour, follows 13 giants of Latin jazz into the studio. Featuring Tito Puente, Jerry González, Chucho Valdés and more!

Saturday July 15, 2 pm
All My Children of the Sun, documentary
Jim Brown, director,
PBS Series American Roots Music, 60 mins
Studio Theatre

EVENT PROFILE: An examination of what North Americans call "folk" music, and how the category has expanded to include music such as tejano in south Texas, Cajun in Louisiana and the evolution of Native American music. The film also explores where the blues, country and gospel genres are headed in the 21st century.

Saturday July 15, 8 pm
Celtic Spirits, documentary
National Film Board, 28 mins
Studio Theatre

EVENT PROFILE: Canada's Celtic heritage explored - through music! Folk-singer John Allan Cameron and fiddler Winston "Scotty" Fitzgerald, well-known Cape Breton musicians, are the on-camera guides and performers in this film about the roots of Celtic music.

Part One: Saturday July 15, 9 pm
Part Two: Sunday July 16, 5:30 pm
Bob Dylan - No Direction Home, documentary
Martin Scorsese, director, 120 mins
Studio Theatre

EVENT PROFILE: A chronicle of Bob Dylan's strange evolution between 1961 and 1966 from folk singer to protest singer to "voice of a generation" to rock star. The first feature-length biography of Bob Dylan includes previously unseen footage from Dylan's concerts , studio recordings and interviews.

Sunday July 16, 1 pm
Oliver Jones in Africa, documentary
Martin Duckworth, director, 53 mins
Brigantine Room

EVENT PROFILE: Oliver Jones, one of Canada's foremost jazz pianists, tours Nigeria with his bassist Dave Young and drummer Archie Alleyne, discovering in Africa the roots of much of today's music. Hearing and absorbing the musical sources of blues, spirituals, calypso rhythms and more, he reflects that for a Black jazz artist, a trip to Africa is a voyage home.  Followed by Panel Discussion.

Sunday July 16, 4:30 pm
Marron, La Piste Créole en Amérique, documentary
André Gladu, director 85 mins
Brigantine Room
French with English subtitles

EVENT PROFILE: Louisiana's Creole community was largely responsible for the creation of jazz music. André Gladu takes a closer look at this ignored culture and goes along the slave trail - where escaped slaves passed on their spirit of resistance to the Creole people. This meaningful journey sheds light on people who transcended suffering through music.

Debut Sports Presents The Karnival Komedy Xplosion

Source: Debut Sports

Join one of Canada’s fastest rising black comics, Jay Martin as he hosts the Karnival Komedy Xplosion.  Presented by Debut Sports & Entertainment, the show will feature Don DC Curry and Earthquake.  DC Curry is best known for his memorable portrayal of “Uncle Elroy” in the hits Next Friday and Friday after Next and his reign as BET’s comedian of the year. Earthquake attracted fans during his time on the Def Comedy Jam Circuit and BET’s Comic View. 

Special guest hosts include Caribbean comedians Marc Trinidad and Jean Paul. There will be two chances to catch this comedy extravaganza, with shows on Friday, August 4 and Sunday August 6, 2006.

About Debut Sports:

Debut Sports and Entertainment is dedicated to the personal and business service needs of professional athletes and entertainers alike. We specialize in the creation and execution of their events, sponsorship, marketing, endorsements, public relations, speaking engagements and public appearances. We also are dedicated to the marketing and promotion of athletes and entertainers by integrating them into the corporate business world.

Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts
5040 Yonge Street
Friday, August 4-, 2006 - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 6, 2006- 2:00 p.m.
For event information please visit
Or call Kirk Brooks at (416) 213-0123 ext 555
To purchase tickets, please visit or


Baby Boyz Grow Into Dancers

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(Jul. 5, 2006) An urban dance crew called Baby Boyz has built an electrifying show out of a family home in Brampton.  Their latest routine recreates slow-motion fight scenes from movies, dance routines to the music of Fame, a two-man arrangement that mimics airplane flight and a four-man formation of a guy riding a bicycle.  The music is everything from opera to Bob Marley. “We spend, man, hours every week (rehearsing)," says Tabby Donaldson, a member of the original York Memorial school crew that became Baby Boyz in 2003. "It's not even just dancing. It's exercising, or jogging around the block to get us focused on what we're doing."  Heading into the season of competition, urban dance teams are warming up for events such as Harbourfront Centre's Beats, Breaks and Culture electronic music festival. On Saturday and Sunday at 5:30 p.m., Toronto crews Guilty Bratz, Drunken Monks, MEC, Natural Flow, She Bang, Trip-line and Style Lordz, will (literally) battle it out at Pop, Lock, and Load 3. First prize is $1,000.  The competition is billed as a highly competitive, super-intense event, with Colombian guest artists Style Force.  The Baby Boyz have gathered for rehearsal in a home in the comfortable Dixie-Sandalwood neighbourhood of Brampton. They work on their routines in the landscaped yard or in the basement. It's 6 p.m. and they are coming from summer jobs.

They are Julian Siddo, 17; Darren Duncan, 17; Sheldy Steele, 21; Nathan Creary, 17; Jamey Bryan, 18; Tabby Donaldson, 21; Ryan Edwards, 17; Antonio Yearwood, 19; Alexander Martin, 16; and his brother Clive Martin, 17. All of them say they would like to continue dancing into adulthood.  "We are more directed now toward professional showcasing as opposed to competitions," says Creary. "If you only do competitions it's going to get you nowhere." But the Baby Boyz made their name winning contests. In 2004 they won the $1,000 first prize in the You Got Served high school dance championship. This year they were runners-up, after winners Mayhem's Finest.  Breakdance competitions are very different from ballroom or even jazz contests, says Tina Nicolaidis, co-founder and artistic director of City Dance Corps.  With ballroom, "every move is written in a book. It's very technical. If you're five degrees in the wrong direction, judges will take note. With breakdancing, you need the right technique, but it's freestyle. There are no set rules and a lot is left to interpretation of the dancers themselves."  Nicolaidis, who started the City Dance Corps school and performance group with her sister Estelle, says individuality is prized above all else in break-dance competitions.  The worst thing you could say about a b-boy is, "this dancer reminds me of ...” The average viewer will get excited about the "tricks" — a long freeze (on the head, say), or an impossibly difficult balancing formation. "But the dancers themselves are not impressed. They think about how they can add style to that trick. That's what sets a dancer apart. It's how they interpret the music."  Trevor Brown, Baby Boyz manager, works with his b-boys to do exactly that. "We try to incorporate as much as possible," he says. "We're not just about one dance form; we try to get acrobatics into our routine, we try to get breakdancing in — popping, locking."  The choreography as well as the acrobatics are a collaborative effort. The guys will get a routine together and if it looks cool, they'll show it to their manager. "Then Trevor would look at the routine and analyze it and change it up to make it look better," says Creary.  Showcasing gets the Baby Boyz more gigs, like the Dance Hall Queen show in Malton, charity shows, or performances like Dance Immersion, for real fees.  "At every performance we do, we get at least one or two calls," Brown notes. And, he says, with a wink and a nudge, "We're looking for sponsors."

Baby Boyz' next show is for T-DOT (Tobacco Don't Own Toronto), in the Zukerman Amphitheatre at Earl Bales Park, 4169 Bathurst St., July 14, 1 p.m.  Email or call 416-318-9914

Derek Brin - Producer With St. Thomas Roots Working To Get Play For Caribbean

Source: Ayesha Morris, 774-8772 ext. 302 or e-mail

(July 4, 2006) Weekend barbecues with Ginuwine. Heart to hearts with Ru Paul. And danceable tracks rising from the Pokemon soundtrack. At 38, music producer Derek Brin said that the more he rolls in celebrity circles, the closer he feels to his Caribbean roots. Now, he wants to give back.  "My life itself has turned into a learning process. The funny thing is, the more success I get, the more I appreciate my culture, my family and where I came from," he said.  Brin was born in Canada, came as an infant to live on St. Thomas until he was four, then moved back to Canada.  His parents are V.I. Port Authority Executive Director Darlan Brin and Marion Bernadine of Trinidad. He has an older brother, David, who grew up here.  Early on, his musical influences included jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, rock and funk.  He studied music, computers and Latin at De La Salle College, an all boys private school in Canada.  Later, Brin studied drums and piano at the Conservatory of Music and in the school's music band, before moving on to the music program at Humber College, where he focused on piano.  He also attended the University of Toronto to do a double major in law and accounting and finance.  A television production company hired Brin to write music for their in-house shows, and he would score themes and background music for nature documentaries and other shows.  That launched his work composing music for 30 different television shows over the course of seven years.  In 1996, Brin started his own company, Fierce Music Entertainment, which included mixing and remixing, developing artists and producing cross-over Caribbean sounds. Brin also does sound engineering and builds, designs and consults on music studios. With his partner, Gary Serrao, the company has built studios in St. Vincent and Barbados.

His work is featured on Soca Gold 1999, with songs including "Stamina" by Ramses and "Pedal Pusher" by Rupee. Other work includes "Malibu Massive Hits" in 1999 and "My Man Dat," a blend of Jamaican dancehall and rhythm and blues.  To date, Brin has produced music for Diane Warren, Celine Dion, Jaheim, Kelly Price and the Pokemon soundtrack. Three of his songs are expected to be released on the soundtrack of "Save the Last Dance II," coming out on DVD too.  He is also a founder and member of six-year-old soca band Neu Jenarashun, which backs up artists like David Rudder, Rupee and Machel Montano.  One of his latest projects is putting together a soca compilation for Barbados' Cropover festival.  He is also looking for new talent in the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean to develop on a new site,, and to collaborate with mainstream artists.  The site will be similar to and will allow artists to create a profile and network internationally like They will also be able to upload their music and sell mp3 downloads or mastered CDs in order to start earning royalties, he said.  "If an artist can't press a CD or only has one or two songs, iCaribbeanTunes will press a CD per request or create a compilation CD of multiple artists if people want to purchase it that way," he said. "This gives the artist a vehicle to get their product sold."

The website will be specifically geared to artists from the Caribbean and Latin America, who he said are underrepresented.  "I want to try to help them think globally," Brin said.  "It's about the voice and the performer. I'm looking for someone with talent, ambition and who knows music is not an easy thing. Spoiled artists are the hardest to work with."  Earlier this year, Brin signed a three-year contract with Ole Media Management, one of Canada's largest independent music publishers.  Brin said one of his most humbling experiences was working with mega producer Guy Roche, who was producing a song written by Diane Warren for the Pokemon Soundtrack.  "My manager sent me there as a programmer, which basically means I replay all the music and drums for an existing song but with my flavour and funk to it," Brin said. "I'd been producing records for years so I thought I was ready to produce the song, but as I spent days with Guy Roche and started to learn his system and worked with Diane Warren, I started to feel like a student and ended up learning so much and feeling blessed for the opportunity."  Brin said he does not let the attention get to his head.  "Humbling my attitude allowed me to grow and become one of the big boys," he said. "Regardless of my success, I remain open-minded to learn from others, accept change and never assume I know everything."  Eventually he hopes to win a Grammy and have a large steel band from the Caribbean such as the Rising Stars with him as he goes to accept the award.  "Similar to Kanye West's performance last year at the Grammys with a marching band," he said. "Just imagine 200 plus kids lickin' pan at the Grammy's walking through the aisles to the stage."

Introducing ... Labba

Source: Hustle, By Jesús Triviño Alarcón

If Brooklyn MC Labba were a student at Hip-Hop University he’d be on the Dean’s List. Seriously, in his 27 years he has been mentored by rap legends (Eazy-E, Busta Rhymes) and music industry gurus (Mark Pitts, Dave Lighty). Labba’s about to graduate magna cum laude with his debut album, God Don’t Like Ugly.  

Born in Trinidad and raised in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn, NY, Labba’s mother immigrated from the Caribbean isle in 1978. Growing up he “did everything wrong like every other dude” he says. By 1991, his friend introduced him to Mark Pitts, who in turn became Labba’s first true teacher.  “Mark educated me on the business, how to make a record, what not to do,” says the oversized MC. “I came into hip-hop real lucky.” His luck wouldn’t stop there. The following year he moved to L.A. to link up with his friend Homicide, who was down with N.W.A. founding member Eazy-E. Yet after years of making demos with Homicide and finally meeting with E, he was still unsigned. In 1997, Matt Fingaz, who owned a small vinyl company, called Labba urging him to return to New York.

Fingaz, now an in-demand producer manager, said he had a young aspiring producer willing to make beats for Labba.  “Me and Just Blaze did a record and it came out cool. Just was on the B-Side and Da Beatminerz were on the A-Side,” says Labba. “Just did ‘Invasion America.’ It was very wack because I wasn’t what I am today. I put out a vinyl and people started playing my records.” Off the strength of his vinyl, he started making the rounds in NY’s underground circuit. By 2000, little by little industry bigwigs started taking notice. The first was famed Source editor Riggs Morales. The journalist advised Labba to continue to make records like his forceful “Big Brooklyn.” He recommended he hook up with Mike B, who at the time was helping DJ Whoo Kid put together 50 Cent’s infamous mixtapes.  “I learned the difference between freestyle and making a record from 50,” says Labba. “I also met Red Spyda – he birthed me. He gave me 100 beats to rhyme over.”

Red’s beats didn’t immediately get Labba his long desired record deal but it did lay the foundation. From the 100 beats he made a 13-song demo; he begun hustling for good and started selling his CDs in his neighbourhood. Becoming a local star would help Labba more than he could ever imagine.  “One day my homeboy, John, called and he said, ‘I got some very important people you should meet,’” says Labba. “I met Jeff Dixon, VP of Disturbing Tha Peace and Kevin Liles. Kevin said, ‘You sound like a hardcore Chubb Rock with a gun in your hand.’ He said, ‘You’re on your way to greatness.’”  Still, no deal. DTP hierarchy connected Labba with other producers, DJ Nasty and Track Stars. Using their sonic backdrops Labba made more songs, which would solidify his buzz in the industry. The calls began. Cash Money was interested. DTP were helping. Busta Rhymes was eagerly after the hefty MC.   

“Busta told me, ‘You a West Indian American from Brooklyn. This is what I need in my crew,’” says Labba. “Then I got with Dave Lighty and he was really pushing Jive. I performed for the owner of Jive and the next day Busta called me and it was a wrap. That’s pretty much how I officially got signed to Flipmode/Jive and Gangsta, which is my label.”  With a label deal finally in his lap Labba is set to detail his life. The life of an immigrant who achieved the American dream. True West Indian American Gangsta Rap, as he calls it. On God Don’t Like Ugly, he explores his journey but also that of his mother. “Family Plan” details his mother’s transition from Trinidad to America.  “I represent the have-nots, the immigrants. On my way to greatness if I be ridiculed or be rewarded so be it, just as long as I get out of the ghetto.” While waiting for his official debut,  Labba is hard at work at whatever the Dungeon Dragon throws his way. He’s presently hitting the streets with his mixtape appearance on The Countdown to The Big Bang and his own joints, The Point of No Return I and II.  “From Busta and Jay-Z I learned that you need to have a ‘I Love My Chick’ and ‘Big Pimpin’,” says Labba in a lackadaisical manner. “From 50 I got perseverance and LL has just meant so much to me. I feel like I went to Hip-Hop 101, 102, and 103.”

Ladies and gentlemen please rise for your valedictorian of Hip-Hop University, LABBA.

Salif Keita - A Jazzed African

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Li Robbins

(June 30, 2006) For Malian-born Salif Keita, being a white-skinned black kid meant being ostracized. And whether the discrimination came from traditionally held beliefs that albinos carried bad luck, or whether it was just one more twisted form of racism didn't much matter -- the results were the same. Africa isn't the only place negative stereotypes about albinos exist -- activists have deplored the depiction of albinos in movies such as The Matrix, and more recently The Da Vinci Code. But the stigma in parts of Africa has sometimes turned antipathy towards albinos into violence. Some believe that the blood of albinos is still sought after for use in rituals.  Less horrific but still shocking -- men used to spit on the streets in disgust when they saw Keita coming. Members of his own family rejected him at birth. Later he gave his family another reason to turn their backs -- he became a musician. "I come from a noble family and our traditions dictate that nobles don't play music," says Keita through a translator from New York. "So I had some real problems with my family for some time. Finally they accepted it." Given his level of success, it's hard to imagine acceptance would be permanently withheld -- Keita was famous in Mali in the 1970s with the Rail Band, and then Les Ambassadeurs. His 1987 hit, Soro, made him one of the earliest stars of the then emerging genre of world music. He went on to become the first African bandleader to be nominated for a Grammy; he's collaborated with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Carlos Santana and Grace Jones among others; he performed in Martin Scorsese's Feel Like Going Home, and he sells out concert halls around the world.

But the 56-year-old Keita never loses sight of the oppression he faced growing up. "It was very difficult not to be like everybody else. It's true the treatment of albinos is better than when I was a boy, but there are still social and health problems. I've established a fund to help albinos, I called it SOS Albinos, although now it is an NGO, based in Bamako." In 2001, after living in Paris for almost two decades, he moved back to Mali. "Any one place can be good for the music," he says. "But I'm more useful in Africa. I can help young Africans to progress, to grow up in the world." His new CD, M'Bemba, was recorded mostly in Africa, and its cover features an unsmiling Keita decked out in a Napoleon-style jacket, surrounded by a swirl of traditionally garbed Dogon dancers. For Keita this symbolizes peace between cultures. For critics its acoustic contents indicate a move away from his more heavily produced, electric sound. "It's because I don't want all my albums to be like each other -- acoustic is just what I want to do right now." It also seems to be what people want to hear right now. His current tour includes a stop at the Montreal Jazz Festival to receive the Prix Antonio Carlos Jobim. Although Keita doesn't see any overt connection between jazz and his music, he says both play a role in "advancing the general culture." Meantime, he's still dealing with the past: through talking about the plight of albinos (notably in a Wall Street Journal story earlier this year) and through his music. The album's title song M'Bemba is a request to the griots (the traditional musicians of Mali) for permission to sing -- and an apology to his noble ancestors for doing so.

Salif Keita. July 6, 9:30 p.m., $26.75 to $30. Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queen's Quay West, 416-973-4000,

Critics Get Their Say With Polaris Music Prize

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon

(Jul. 5, 2006) Music awards can do two things: They can steer you to happenin' new music. Or they can beat you down with a list of what you supposedly should be listening to. The Polaris Music Prize, a critics' choice award inaugurated this year and fashioned around Britain's Mercury Prize, is trying to do the former, to become a means of discovery. On Sept. 18, it will award $20,000 for the best Canadian album released between June 1, 2005, and May 31, 2006, regardless of genre. Yesterday, the short list for the prize was announced, as chosen by 120 Canadian music journalists and media types. Ten albums making the cut included some obvious indie favourites: Broken Social Scene's latest, self-titled disc, Metric's Live It Out, The New Pornographers' Twin Cinema, Wolf Parade's Apologies to the Queen Mary and critical darling Final Fantasy's He Poos Clouds.

Two hip hop releases also made it:
Cadence Weapon's Breaking Kayfabe and K'naan's The Dusty Foot Philosopher. Sarah Harmer's I'm a Mountain was possibly a concession by some jurors to their quieter, adult (and perhaps mainstream) moods, while the inclusion of The Deadly Snakes' Porcella and Malajube's Trompe L'oeil immediately veers the list back to the downtown anglo and French hipster crowds. (Bonne chance, Malajube!) A jury of 11 will pick the winner from the bunch. Arguably, the list is a good snapshot of the current critical orthodoxy. Canadian music is going through a highly creative period, not reflected in various Juno Awards categories, which are based in part on sales numbers, rather than purely on jury selection.

But the award's executive director, Steve Jordan, a former A&R executive at Warner Music and True North Records, isn't out to pick a fight with the Junos. "We didn't set out to fill a hole," he said. "We just looked at the Mercury Prize and the way that it focuses on the full-length record as an art form, like a movie or a work of fiction or a piece of poetry that is a work from start to finish." He added: "The album is the star in this case, even probably more so than the artist." Yesterday's announcement also named Rogers Wireless and Rogers Yahoo! Hi-Speed Internet as the major sponsors. Warner Music has been an early financial backer and remains committed to the project, even though it doesn't have an album in the short list. Jordan said the industry sees the prize as a plus for everyone, not just the eventual winner. Warner, though, will be distributing a 10-track compilation CD of the nominees next month. But already you can hear the tap-tap-tapping of music bloggers ruminating over the list's inclusions and omissions. The trick for the Polaris will be to have some element of surprise, which Britain's Mercury has managed to maintain (awarding last year's prize to Antony and the Johnsons' I Am a Bird Now over much higher-profile nominees such as Bloc Party). If not, you can easily imagine critics, many of whom are on the Polaris jury, questioning their own orthodoxy.

Harmer, Metric, Broken Social Scene Up For Music Prize

Source:  Canadian Press

(Jul. 4, 2006) Toronto — Albums by Broken Social Scene, Sarah Harmer and the New Pornographers are among the 10 nominees for the inaugural
Polaris Music Prize. The $20,000 award was created to honour Canada's best album based on creative quality, irrespective of musical genre or sales figures. Also nominated are releases from Cadence Weapon, The Deadly Snakes, Final Fantasy, K'nann, Malajube, Metric and Wolf Parade. They were selected from a pool of 165 by a panel of more than 120 music journalists and broadcasters. To be eligible, an album had to be released between June 1, 2005 and May 31, 2006. The winner will be announced at a gala concert in Toronto on Sept. 18. In tone and task, the prize is most comparable to the popular Mercury Prize in the U.K. The nominees will be featured on a 10-track compilation CD, set for release in August. The nominees and their albums:

—Broken Social Scene for Broken Social Scene (Arts & Crafts/EMI)

—Cadence Weapon for Breaking Kayfabe (Upper Class/EMI)

—The Deadly Snakes for Porcella (Paper Bag/Universal)

—Final Fantasy for He Poos Clouds (Blocks Recording Club/Sonic Unyon)

—Sarah Harmer for I'm A Mountain (Cold Snap/Universal)

—K'naan for The Dusty Foot Philosopher (Track & Field/Sony BMG)

—Malajube for Trompe L'oeil (Dare to Care/Outside)

—Metric for Live It Out (Last Gang/Universal)

—The New Pornographers for Twin Cinema (Mint/Outside)

—Wolf Parade for Apologies to the Queen Mary (Sub Pop/Outside)

Toronto-based music industry veteran Steve Jordan, who launched the prize, says he was impressed by the diversity of the judge's selection. "The quality of this shortlist is a tribute to our jury's musical expertise and a testament to how rich and varied the music scene is in this country," Jordan said.

Hilario Duran - Cuban Super Session

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun. 30, 2006) Laughing constantly and teasing each other, the musicians crammed into the Scarborough recording studio were clearly having a good time, and on a historic occasion.  Not only was Toronto pianist Hilario Duran making his first big-band recording, the session had three of Cuba's most notable musical exports — Duran, whiz drummer Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez and celebrated saxophonist/clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera — playing together for the first time.  Hernandez and D'Rivera, both U.S.-based, were here for two days in April to record Duran's From the Heart, which was released last week.  "If he did not call me to do this album, I was going to call him and say `What's wrong with you?'" said D'Rivera in a recent phone interview. The 58-year-old master brass player, who is making his fourth appearance at the Toronto Jazz Festival tonight (8 p.m. at Nathan Phillips Square, $25), knows Duran from their native island.  Duran, 52, considers D'Rivera — a child prodigy who later co-founded the famed Afro-Cuban fusion band Irakere — to be an early mentor. He composed a tribute song to him, "Paq Man," for the Scarborough recording session.  "He's the most influential Cuban musician of our generation," explained Duran. "I wanted to do something original and distinguished for his style. The song is like him: energetic, funny, intelligent."

Grammy winner D'Rivera was honoured and impressed by how well the buoyant tune encapsulated his voice. "I feel like I wrote that piece. I feel very moved to see that he admires me so much."  Wherever they might meet in the diaspora, the affection is palpable among the Cuban musicians, whether they defected (as did D'Rivera in 1980 and Hernandez, 43, in 1990) or immigrated (Duran in 1995) from their home island.  Of the 21 musicians at the Scarborough session, eight were Cuban, including highly rated trumpeter Alexis Baro, another key member of Canada's growing Latin Jazz scene.  "I feel happy when we play together," said Duran, who plays a free show at Nathan Phillips Square tomorrow at 1. "I feel like we are home."  D'Rivera believes the dispersal of Cuban musicians has been an asset to jazz and classical music internationally.  "Some disgraces are the cause of some beautiful things. Like slavery. Can you imagine if instead of importing slaves from Africa, they imported them from Poland? There would be no blues, only polka."  To work with Cuban musicians is to experience the results of a "rigorous (musical) education system," said Toronto bassist Roberto Occhipinti, who also played on Duran's new album and is opening for D'Rivera tonight. "They are the cream of the crop when they come out."  Duran's producer, Peter Cardinali, has noticed that the Cuban players hold each other to lofty standards.  "The highest level of American, Canadian or European musicians play for themselves and hope others will like it," he said. "When the Cubans listen back to what they've recorded, they try to figure out if other Cubans will like it, especially when they tread new ground."  It's true, said Duran. "We're always just thinking that we want to do things right."

Music Holds The Message

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Geoff Pevere, Movie Critic

Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man

Starring Leonard Cohen, U2, Beth Orton, Nick Cave, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker. Directed by Lian Lunson. 105 minutes. At the Bayview and the Cumberland. G

(Jun. 30, 2006) Like Bob Dylan in Martin Scorsese's No Direction Home last year, Leonard Cohen is at once at the centre of the tribute-concert documentary Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man and a spirit hovering somewhere unreachably above it. But that only makes the Montreal-born poet and pop singer's charisma — which may be one of the very few that can match Dylan's — that much more entrancing. You can pay homage to the 71-year-old bard of exquisite despair, but you can't touch him.  Based around a January, 2005 Sydney, Australia concert produced by the former Saturday Night Live music director Hal Willner, Lian Lunson's film blends elusively self-effacing interviews with the dungeon-voiced Cohen — who says things like "I'm not a very nostalgic person. I neither have regrets nor occasions for self-congratulations" — with performances of his songs that range from the reverential (Beth Orton's "Sisters of Mercy") and the rousing (Rufus Wainwright's "Hallelujah") to the sinister (Nick Cave's "Chelsea Hotel #2") and the simply sublime (Antony's "If It Be Your Will").  As a movie subject, Cohen has proven equally electrifying and elusive ever since the late National Film Board of Canada director Donald Brittain first followed the young man with the enigmatic grin around snowy Montreal in Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen back in 1965. Even then, in the full flush of early adoration, Cohen seemed both bemused and amazed by his own popularity. It was as though he was both present and absent at the ceremony of his confirmation, and that's exactly the attitude — 40 years, several score of songs and a conversion to Buddhism later — that still holds. Even talking about himself, Cohen seems to be describing someone created in verse.

If that means there's something of a biographical vacuum at the centre of Leonard Cohen I'm Your Man, it's a vacuum that's filled far less effectively by the frequently gassy verbal encomiums of superstar fans like Cave and Bono ("This is our Shelley," he solemnly intones from behind those shades, "This is our Byron ...") than it is by the performances themselves.  For while the man remains a resolutely monastic enigma when grinning into Lunson's lens, we're told all we need to know about why he matters once the performers take the stage: this is music, both spiritual and sensual, made for bold feats of interpretation. This even goes for the man himself, whose studio rendition of "Tower of Song," accompanied by U2, holds you transfixed in the high beams of a radiant talent.  Even he knows it's all about the songs.

U.K. Rock-Music Festival To Begin Tour In Toronto

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Oliver Moore And Catherine Mclean

(Jul. 2, 2006) The islands in Toronto's harbour will be the first Canadian destination for the Virgin Festival, a mega-popular music event in Britain. Organizers are promising more than 40 bands at the two-day event, about half of them confirmed. The festival, slated for the weekend after Labour Day, is expected to draw up to 50,000 people. The details were revealed yesterday with characteristic exuberance and showmanship by Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson. Descending a cable dangling below a helicopter, the billionaire dropped down to The Docks, a mainland entertainment complex near Ward's Island. "We spent a number of years in Britain practising on the Brits before we came here," he told reporters. "There's a lot of very, very, very big bands. And a lot of dating gets done there, I'm sure, so all in all it's very popular." Mr. Branson touted his music label's role in the development of pivotal acts, including the Sex Pistols and Lenny Kravitz, pointing to this track record as a sign that Virgin can make this festival work. "I think we can attract really good bands. . . . Over the years I think it will build in the same way it built in the U.K.," he said. "It's the biggest sort of social event on the calendar for a particular age group in the U.K."

Bands expected to appear the Saturday of the inaugural Virgin Festival include Alexisonfire, The Hidden Cameras, The Dears, Buck 65, The Flaming Lips, Gnarls Barkley and Eagles of Death Metal. On the Sunday, concertgoers will hear from Sam Roberts, K'Naan, Massive Attack, The Raconteurs and Wolfmother. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow at Future Shop locations around Greater Toronto and at that chain's website. They will be available through Ticketmaster beginning next Saturday at noon. Admission for a single day will cost $57.50 and a two-day pass will cost $104.50. The price includes taxes, unlimited access to rides at Centreville and ferry passage to the islands. Those purchasing two-day passes will have to go home in between, organizers warn. Camping will not be allowed this year but may be possible if the event returns to Toronto. The festival will touch down at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course two weeks after the Toronto date and there are plans to tour the festival more broadly next year.


The People Go For Fierce, Funky Pharaoh

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Geoff Chapman, Special To The Star

(Jul. 2, 2006) Pharaoh Sanders still looks like an Egyptian god, fierce face, trim beard and colourful apparel — and he still plays with the fire and fury he discovered when he fled rhythm and blues and the avant-garde for Sun Ra's space band and the even more unruly world of John Coltrane.  Last night, from his clarion call opening blasts in the big tent in Nathan Phillips Square, jazz fans awaiting what was sure to be one of the Toronto Jazz Festival's 20th anniversary hits were overwhelmed by his shrieking improvisations on tenor sax, the staccato barks and relentless assaults on the senses.  Ten minutes into the number, one from the prolific Coltrane stable, he decided to end for a while the mighty over-blowing that seemed to predict an imminent gargantuan sonic bacchanal. That probably came as some relief to his rhythm team, pianist William Henderson (who's endured Sanders' company for 24 years), bassist Dezron Douglas and all-action drummer Joe Farnsworth, for there were many times when Sanders and the trio seemed to be mining different veins.  Kenny Garrett on alto sax, two decades younger and just as energetic as the old lion, took centre stage for his 10 minutes of glory. He generates heat in a much more accessible manner, building imaginative ideas with long-phrased notions to multiple peaks of excitement.  His is a distinctive sound, compellingly edgy and fused with blues and funk, and he was able to make his scorching contributions logical and thrilling without resorting to wails and honks and contrived dissonance.  The pianist took 10 minutes of his own to battle the front line by way of ebullient chords and whirling runs, while drummer Farnsworth turned the jazz world on its head — his clever solo was the quietest part of this 35-minute marathon of boiling rhythms and a sprawling anarchic sensibility. The band then moved into relatively serene territory where it wouldn't be necessary to issue all the bandsmen with speeding tickets.

Earlier, one of Canada's brightest young pianists, Laila Biali, opened proceedings with her regular trio spawned at Humber College, bass Brandi Disterheft and drummer Sly Juhas. Ideas flow from her continuously and a full house enjoyed her flowing lines and extraordinary range of stylings — and she's not afraid to be loud as well as tender.  There's now a considerable vocal component in her shows, and while this worked on a take of the Radiohead song "High And Dry" it did not on a wacky version of "Bye Bye Blackbird" and the funky-pop "Heading to The Homeland." Crooning intimately "The Nearness Of You" in a large venue didn't make sense either. Yet this unit is full of promise, exciting on old tunes like "Flying" and newly-minted ones such as "Radiance."  The previous night the venue was given over to Latin jazz, with enormous success. The home-grown kings of this cross-cultural bonding are bassist Roberto Occhipinti's quintet, with its searing front line of tenor Phil Dwyer and trumpeter Kevin Turcotte battling wits with a pair of ex-Cubans, excellent pianist Hilario Duran and brilliant young drummer Dafnis Prieto.  Their set was exhilarating, with a great coda tailor-made for dancing and vigorous outings on originals "T.Dot" and "Mank."  The headline act was also an ex-Cuban quintet affair led by Paquito D'Rivera playing clarinet and saxophones, with urgent and enticing help from Argentinian trumpeter Diego Urcola. This was Latin smooth and slick rather than raw but the multiple beats and skilful playing had an exuberant effect. The personable leader offered music by tango legend Astor Piazzolla as well as European classicists, and particularly delightful was his "Waltz For Moe Koffman" (Canada's late great alto saxist).  Veteran tenor George Coleman hit all the right spots at his packed Montreal Bistro gig, loping easily through standards and jazz anthems and even "Mack The Knife" backed by the terrific local trio of pianist Gary Williamson, bass Neil Swainson and drummer Barry Elmes.

Solomon Burke - A Royal Return To His Much-Loved Country

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

Jul. 2, 2006) The quiet, warm voice doesn't fit the picture.  Solomon Burke is a massive man, well over 300 pounds, an imperial, towering presence on stage and not a little dangerous in demeanour.  The self-anointed "king of rock and soul" wears an ermine cape, great chunks of gold and bright, precious stones. He carries an ornately carved, oversized cudgel, a sceptre of sorts, less to support his mammoth frame than to enhance the appearance of regal potency, a condition he underscores at every opportunity by boasting about his 21 children, 65 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.  He can bring 10,000 people at a time to stunned silence with his soul-searing stare, or with a deep, resounding roar that's charged with compelling testimony of experiences — both spiritual and profane — beyond the understanding of ordinary mortals.  Yet, here is Solomon Burke on the phone from his home in Los Angeles, speaking in the calm and humble voice of an undertaker — until he handed the family business over recently to two of his offspring, Burke was active in the daily operation of a chain of mortuaries across the U.S. — or of an ordained minister who still enthralls the faithful at his churches in California, Philadelphia and Holland with rousing sermons and roof-raising gospel music.  "If you're above ground or below, I've got you covered," he intones with a barely suppressed chuckle.  "But in truth, music is the joy of my soul, the anchor, the means for me to convey the wisdom and power of God, the light of salvation ..."  Burke, who makes his first Toronto appearance in 15 years at Massey Hall on Saturday, is a rarity in American pop music. He's a legend among his peers, a Grammy winner and inductee into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall Of Fame, the first to blend blues, soul and country music in groundbreaking sessions for Atlantic Records in the early 1960s, a seminal influence on countless stars who have covered his songs — including The Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett and The Blues Brothers — and a performer and composer from whom fate has so far withheld a Top 10 record.

With his stunning 2002 "comeback" album, Don't Give Up on Me, featuring material contributed by such lifelong admirers as Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello, and its 2005 follow-up of the classic soul recording Make Do With What You Got, Burke re-emerged in his mid-60s as a huge attraction on the international roots music festival and concert circuit. Last year he also toured the U.K. with British pop-rocker Jools Holland, and performed at the Americana Music Awards in Nashville — not bad for a soul man whose best work was considered done 40 years ago, and was overshadowed by the success of his musical peers, protégés and stage buddies Joe Tex, Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson.  "I have to be one of the luckiest men alive to have been able to be making music at this stage of my life," croons the singer, who's still performing more than 120 dates a year.  On Burke's new project, already in the can and to be released later in the year, the R&B icon revisits the country music territory that Atlantic producer Jerry Wexler insisted he abandon in 1961. Wexler "couldn't get behind a black man singing the white man's blues," says Burke, and demanded his new star concentrate on gospel and soul. (Ironically, Ray Charles immediately took up the slack with his hugely successful, genre-defying breakout album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.)  Burke's new album was overseen by legendary roots music producer, songwriter and performer Buddy Miller, and contains, says Burke, "a couple of standards, but mostly songs written specially for me by some great country and roots music writers — Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin, and Buddy and Julie Miller.

"It has been my dream to do a country album, and it has been a great lesson for me and my band.  "Simple as it may sound, country music is not easy to play well. It's an art in itself, and the guys in my band have had to work real hard to get their heads and hands around a couple of these songs — we hope to introduce one or two at the Toronto concert.  "But for the most part, I want this to be a request night. It has been 15 years — too long — since I've played in Toronto, and we have a lot of catching up to do. After the first two songs, the band won't know what's coming next. Keeps them on their toes. They practise three times a week just to keep on top of the 878 songs in my repertoire."  To R&B fans and Burke's devout followers — they tend to be fastidious aficionados who cling to their recordings of the master's classics including "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love," "Cry To Me," and "Just Out Of Reach" — the shift to country will no doubt bring stress and concern.  But Burke is unfazed. He wants to take them on even greater musical adventures in the future.  "I'm seriously considering moving on to other places — jazz, opera, liturgical music. I'm recording next year with a 150-piece orchestra. Who knows what will come out of that? My aim is to keep spreading the message of love and peace through music.  "But after so many others have had hits with my songs, I need a hit record of my own. I have a big family to look after.  "I need to keep remembering my mother's advice: The race is not given to the swift, but to those who endure."

India.Arie To Tour Behind ‘Testimony’

Excerpt from

(June 30, 2006) *Fresh from her performance during the Chaka Khan tribute at Tuesday’s BET Awards, India.Arie will begin a summer-long road trip to promote her new album, “Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship," her third studio album which arrived in stores this week. The tour begins Saturday (7/1) in West Palm Beach, FL and will travel through 20 cities before wrapping in mid-September.  (The complete itinerary is listed below.) Meanwhile, she’ll perform on "Live with Regis & Kelly" this morning, and on “The Late Show with David Letterman” July 11.  Tuesday’s release of “Testimony” was timed to coincide with national HIV Testing Day, a worldwide cause "close to the singer's heart," according to a press release. The new disc was produced by longtime collaborators Shannon Sanders and Mark Batson (Seal, Beyonce).

Here is India.Arie’s tour itinerary:

July 2006
1 - West Palm Beach, FL - Meyer Amphitheatre
5 - Chicago, IL - Taste of Chicago
6 - Buffalo, NY - Lafayette Square
7 - Toronto, Ontario - Danforth Music Hall
13 - Louisville, KY - Kentucky Center for the Arts
14 - Detroit, MI - Chene Park Riverfront Amphitheatre
15 - Saint Louis, MO - Live on the Levee Festival
19 - Atlantic City, NJ - House of Blues
21 - Washington, DC - Carter Barron Amphitheatre
23 - New Brunswick, NJ - State Theatre
29 - Atlanta, GA - Chastain Park Amphitheatre
30 - Memphis, TN - Orpheum Theatre

August 2006
5 - Cincinnati, OH - Aronoff Center for Performing Arts
6 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium
7 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues
10 - Tampa, FL - Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center
11 - Orlando, FL - Orange County Convention Center
12 - Birmingham, AL - BJCC Concert Hall

September 2006
16 - Redding, CA - Cascade Theatre
17 - Laytonville, CA - Black Oak Ranch
 Anthony David Makes The Grade

Source: Thornell Jones, 323-401- 0662,

(June 30, 2006)  Long Beach, CA  -- Anthony David, Billboard Magazine Breakthrough Artist 2005 is making the grade again as he graces the cover of the July 1, 2006 issue of the venerable publication. Along with such notable underground soul artists as Eric Roberson and Frank McComb, David is considered primed for exposure beyond the underground Soul scene he’s conquered with his Bill Withers-esque vocals and acoustic guitar.  Anthony David first came to the public’s attention as a background singer for his hometown friend India.Arie under the name Tony Harrington. He also holds the distinction of penning one of her most popular tunes “Part of My Life,” a version of which appears on his 2004 Brash Music debut  3 Chords & The Truth. The lead single from Arie’s latest offering is also an Anthony David composition – the inspiring “There’s Hope.” David’s sophomore album due in stores September 26, 2006,   titled The Red Clay Chronicles,  picks up where his acoustic guitar driven debut leaves off and features an appearance by guitar great Earl Klugh, as well as “Words” a duet with India.Arie. “I am very humbled to be able to continue to share my music with the world every day. Having the support of Earl Klugh and India.Arie on this project is beyond words.”

The lead track from The Red Clay Chronicles will be the cautionary tale “Stop Playn” which appears on a 4-song mini-CD distributed in 350,000 boxes of Pro-Line Soft & Beautiful Botanicals. The CD project also featuring Music by Heather Hedley, Geno Young, and Yolanda Johnson was the brainchild of Dallas’ Neo-Soul Café host Frances Jaye and can be streamed at  Fans will be able to hear old and new tunes by Anthony David as he hits the road this summer appearing alone and with Kem and also India.Arie. Confirmed dates kick off this weekend during the Essence Music Fest in Houston.

7/1 Houston   Breakfast Klub
7/2 Houston   Breakfast Klub
7/3 Houston   Red Cat Jazz Café
7/7 Augusta, GA   Bell Auditorium (Kem)
7/8 Atlanta, GAStone Mountain Park (Kem)
7/13 London, EnglandJazz Café (Kem)
7/14 London, EnglandJazz Café (Kem)
7/15 Rotterdam, N.V.North Sea Jazz Festival
7/21 Washington, DCCarter Baron Amphitheatre (India.Arie)
7/28 Atlanta, GAChastain Park (Indie.Arie)
9/5 Southfield, MI    Lawrence Technological University

To learn more about Anthony David and additional tour dates visit

MuchMusic, MTV Fight For Web Viewers

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
- Grant Robertson

(June 29, 2006) A battle of the broadbands is being waged between
MuchMusic and MTV in Canada as each network chases larger Internet audiences. The two music and pop-culture channels expanded their broadband video offerings in recent months, with the latest salvo coming yesterday from MuchMusic. Toronto-based MuchMusic, which is owned by CHUM Ltd., began adding hundreds of music videos and archival footage to its website, through a bolstered broadband channel called MuchAXS. The move comes on the heels of a major Web expansion by CTV Inc.'s MTV operation, which launched its own broadband channel, MTV Overdrive, three months ago. The site carries thousands of music videos, reality shows and talk programming. While the two channels generally target teens and young adults, the on-line strategies are among the most developed Web TV properties in the sector. Both companies have the advantage of holding the rights to most of their content, and have negotiated contracts with record labels to show music videos.

The rollout of broadband TV in Canada has been hindered at most networks since the companies don't hold the Internet rights to the U.S. programming they show. "It's not easy," said Maria Hale, vice-president of content business development for Toronto-based CHUM. "You really are walking through a complicated forest when you're trying to get these things launched." In addition to deals to show videos on-line, CHUM has spent more than a year digitizing its archives, which include performances and interviews with musicians dating back to the 1960s. Roughly 1,000 clips are being added to the site. MTV has secured rights to about 10,000 videos and has added most of its U.S. counterpart's reality and talk programming onto Overdrive.  Broadband operations have significant implications for both networks. MTV aims to develop programming specifically for Internet viewers. Shows that prove popular could then be moved to the Web. Toronto-based CTV has been using MTV's Web strategy as a testing ground for its own operations. The TV network announced plans this month to launch a broadband channel to show its own programming. The site will make one program, Instant Star, available on-line before it airs on the network.  "There's a much bigger opportunity to take creative and viewer risks on broadband than you would ever dream of doing on conventional TV," said Kris Faibish, CTV's vice-president of digital media. CHUM's broadband operation will also influence MuchMusic's television schedule. The network wants users of its broadband site to continuously rate videos and shows on the Web. The results will help MuchMusic's programmers develop the network's schedule on conventional TV, Ms. Hale said.

Independence Day Come's Early For Lil' Kim

Source:  Associated Press

(June 30, 2006) NEW YORK —
Lil' Kim said she'll be celebrating Independence Day early this year. The rapper, who was sentenced in September to a year and a day in prison for lying about a shootout outside a hip-hop radio station, is being released Monday, the day before July Fourth. “I am thrilled to be coming home,” Lil' Kim said Thursday in a statement issued by her publicist, Tracy Nguyen. “I thank all my fans for all their letters, as well as my family and friends for all their support throughout the past 10 months.” The entertainer, whose real name is Kimberly Jones, began serving her time at a federal detention centre in Philadelphia on Sept. 19. Her lawyer, L. Londell McMillan, noted then she could be released early for good behaviour. “She has accepted responsibility and handled herself in an exemplary manner,” McMillan said Thursday. The rapper, who will remain under house arrest for 30 days after her release, was convicted of lying to a federal grand jury and in the subsequent trial. The case stemmed from a gun battle that erupted outside WQHT-FM, known as Hot 97, when Lil' Kim's entourage crossed paths with a rival rap group, Capone-N-Noreaga, whose song Bang, Bang contains an insult to her from rival Foxy Brown. One man was hurt in the shootout that followed. Lil' Kim, who won a Grammy in 2001 for her part in the hit remake of Lady Marmalade, maintained she hadn't noticed two of her close friends — who later pleaded guilty to gun charges — at the scene of the shootout. But jurors at her trial saw radio station security photos that depicted one of them opening a door for her and witnesses said they saw her at the station with both of them.

Tyner Delivers As A Jazz Royal Should

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Robert Wright, Toronto Star

Jun. 30, 2006) Imagine being a 21-year-old getting a chance to start your career as Wayne Gretzky's winger? Or Peyton Manning's wide out?  How you gonna top that?  That's the scenario a 21-year-old Philadelphia-born pianist named McCoy Tyner faced when budding tenor giant John Coltrane invited him to join his new quartet in 1960.  Tyner would go on to perform continuously with the fabled quartet through its most fertile and acclaimed period, 1960-65, before going solo.  And, although the Coltrane years were undeniably the high point — jazz's high point, for many — his career since has been anything but anti-climatic, with close to 80 solo recordings to his credit, four Grammys and the prestigious Jazz Master award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2002.  Last night Tyner brought his latest musical combo, a septet, to the Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square and even before a note was heard, most of the full house was on its feet.  How's that for respect?  He kicked off with a trio tribute to his mentor, Coltrane, with bassist Charnett Moffett and drummer Eric Kamau Gravatt, then followed with a playful reading of Duke Ellington's bouncy, "In a Mellow Tone."

He brought on the rest of the band for a two-chord modal jam in the style of "Impressions," with excellent work from trumpeter Wallace Roney.  Roney, who mentored with the great Miles Davis in the year before his death, and served a lengthy stint with Coltrane alumnus Elvin Jones, was particularly strong on "Stolen Moments," the Oliver Nelson minor blues nugget. A big, rich, flugelhorn-like sound, superb technique and a stratospheric range are an unbeatable combo.  Tyner had on display his signature muscular, harmonically dynamic comping style — if he didn't invent parallel fourths, he certainly perfected them — thunderous left hand and blazing right-hand lead lines.  Before Tyner's set, New York pianist Vijay Iyer's quartet performed a selection of original post-modern, neo-classical compositions that, while not always satisfying, were nonetheless interesting.

Avant Brings Romance Back To Music

 Source:  Kim Trick, The Room Service Group, 718-408-1151,  
 (July 3, 2006) In the world of R&B, romance is dead. Listening to the radio and watching videos will convince even the most rose-colored dreamers that true love has been replaced by the lustful pursuit of interchangeable sex partners who are wooed by fancy clothes, liquor and glittering jewellery, then tossed aside like old garbage.    Luckily, there are still singers like Avant who are brave enough to defy conventional thought and resurrect the spirit of romance.  For his fourth album, Director, the velvet voiced singer and songwriter returns with a disc full of moving melodies and a mission to rep for the real men who aren’t afraid to embrace their emotions and love a woman fully and freely.  “I think we’ve lost the chivalry in relationships,” says Avant. “Our lifestyles and music have changed and that makes it hard for some men to understand what a woman really needs.” Avant, a Cleveland Ohio native who still lives in his hometown, learned how to appreciate and admire the strength and resilience of women who are mothers, sisters and lovers from the most important woman in his life, his mother.  “One of the most valuable things my mother taught me is that you can love someone and not expect anything back.”  As the youngest son in a family of six, he watched his mom sacrifice mightily to provide the best for her children.  Money might have been tight, but her affection never faltered. She encouraged Avant to develop his musical gifts and played classic R&B artists like Smokey Robinson, The Supremes and Marvin Gaye who later influenced his creative direction.
 Avant loved the great ones, but to him, his uncle, the late Andrew Pittman was the ultimate performer.  “My uncle was the inspiration for me to be in the music game doing what I do,” he says simply.  “I would watch him perform with his group when I was 5 years old and I wanted to be like him.”  Avant’s uncle never made it in the record business, but Pittman’s experience played a huge part in teaching Avant valuable lessons about discipline and hard work. At 14, an age when most teen boys are preoccupied with sports, video games and girls, Avant began penning his own songs.   “I started writing songs when I realized the different ways a person can approach love.  I had just begun to understand what love is, and I wanted people to hear my voice and see my vision as an artist.” Avant honed both his vision and his voice at the Cleveland School of the Arts, where he learned to integrate his smooth tenor, songwriting ability and dramatic flair into a sultry stage persona. Avant entered and won innumerable talent shows, but unfortunately, Cleveland just couldn’t provide any professional outlets for his budding talent. After graduation, Avant worked a few factory jobs holding fast to his dreams of music industry success.   “I would sometimes get discouraged,” he admits.   “But, I recognized that this was a stepping stone to the next phase in my life.”  Avant continued to make music, using downtime at work to write material and a friend’s studio to record after hours. “I had a bunch of sleepless nights,” laughs Avant, who would often bring a change of clothes and head directly back to work. His big break came in 1998 when Avant made his professional debut with the independent release of his first single “Separated.”  Radio embraced the song and the resulting buzz helped the singer land a deal at the now defunct label, Magic Johnson Music.  His debut album, My Thoughts, sold over a million copies and garnered the singer legions of devoted fans.  His subsequent releases Ecstasy and Private Room were also well received, earning gold plaques, but his career has not been without its share of controversy. The singer had to contend with critical backlash that much of his style was borrowed from other crooners. And though his music was unquestionably well received, even the singer acknowledges that his distinctive musical gifts weren’t always showcased in his earlier material.  This time around, Avant assumed more control over his sound and the key people supporting him.  He signed with new management and collaborated with a bunch of A-list producers like Jermaine Dupri and Rodney Jerkins to take his sound to the next level.
 The result is a fourth album that is his best to date, a replete with dreamy ballads detailing the different stages of love.  Instead of adhering to a cookie cutter soul formula, Avant pours his heart into Director, an album titled to celebrate his creative control.  His lead single “You Know What” is a saucy mid tempo cut featuring Lil’ Wayne that skilfully captures the heat-filled first words of a man approaching a sexy female spotted from across the room. Avant’s lyrics create rich visual images that place the listener in the middle of an emotional whirling vortex. In “4 minutes”, an emotionally powerful slow jam describing a man’s attempt to mend a broken relationship, the singer’s desperation and grim realization that the best thing that ever happened to him is about to walk out of his life forever are tantalizingly present in the lyrics and underscored by a haunting echo and the soft clock ticking.  Avant isn’t afraid to get real and describe scenarios without happy endings.   In “Right Place, Wrong Time,” when he sings “Someone else is filling my shoes/but I’m not mad at you/’cause I wasn’t there/now he’s taking my place,” he assumes responsibility for the break-up and acknowledges his ex-lover’s right to move on. The sinuous bassline of “Mr. Dream” charms listeners and compliment Avant’s lyrics, which seductively chastise a woman for chasing an elusive Casanova and ignoring his very real affections, while the lush melodies of “Imagination” reinforce his promise to fulfill all fantasies. Avant’s Director proclaims a grown and sexy love between consenting adults that is both uplifting and mutually satisfying. It’s obvious that Avant knows how to treat a woman and now he wants to share his knowledge with the fellas.  “I try to talk about things that guys need when smoothing over the situations that arise in relationships,” Avant reveals.  “Sometimes, guys do crazy things, but deep down they know that if they have the right woman, they should try to please her.” With his latest release, Avant has the experience and accolades for the job as Director and most importantly the power of his magical soothing vocal and lyrical abilities to put the love back into lovemaking. “Lie About Us,” featuring Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, is the second single from Avant’s latest album, Director. Click on the links below to listen to the song.

Inside The Brubeck Soul

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Peter Goddard, Entertainment Columnist

(Jul. 3, 2006)  Duke Ellington had more sultry singers in his life. Oscar Peterson has probably played way more blues. But no jazz pianist has ever owned a moment in jazz history as did Dave Brubeck.  The moment came in late 1959, with the release by the pianist of Time Out, a hit album containing the huge single, "Take Five."  Time Out became jazz's first million-selling album. "Take Five" became the background music for a slice of history.  Written by the late saxophonist Paul Desmond, Brubeck's long-time colleague, the sauntering, jaunty "Take Five" had the unusual time signature of 5/4 — imagine a waltz and a march going out on a date together — and an even more unusual reception.  It was a chart-topping jazz hit in the age of rock 'n' roll.  All radio formats — pop, rock and jazz — played "Take Five." Epitomizing the essence of the Playboy-reading, double martini, pre-Beatles cool, the single made Brubeck seem like the prince of refinement, the professorial, emotionless intellectual, playing classically influenced jazz — like he even dared to play copycat fugues, à la Bach.  Sure, it was Paul Desmond's silky playing that attracted the most serious listening, and led to other hit albums such as Time Further Out and Time Changes. Otherwise everyone agreed, it was Brubeck's cerebral manner that defined the music.  Boy, did everyone get him wrong.

The stuff he was playing wasn't about thinking cool, rational and straight, Brubeck now says. It was about being terrified.  "Everybody thought I was the most far out (player) in the late '40s, and '50s," he said recently on the phone. "Paul Desmond, everybody. But I was really getting World War II out of my system. I was feeling very emotional at the time, not intellectual."  Born in Concord, Calif. on Dec.6, 1920 — Brubeck's dad was a rancher, his mom a pianist and music teacher — he initially entertained ideas of become a veterinarian.  Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 after graduating from the College of the Pacific, he was shipped off to Europe where he served under Gen. George Patton. The bloody carnage he saw appalled him.  "A while ago I was looking at my old pictures," he says. "We were going through boxes of them (to go to) the archives. It took all morning just to go through the war pictures. For me it all goes back to the Battle of the Bulge, where so many thousands were killed.  "About 60 million people died in that war. You think we are in big trouble now? We were in much bigger trouble then."  (Two years ago he released Private Brubeck Remembers, a CD devoted to World War II songs.)  Now 85, his most recent compositions have tended to reflect an inward-looking, life-affirming quality. Earlier this year, Brubeck was part of a group project commission by the Pacific Mozart Ensemble to create new music for a Credo to correspond to Mozart's Mass No. 18, "Great" in C Minor.  "I didn't purposely try that hard to (copy Mozart)," he said. "But my (music) copyist — who did his masters on Mozart — said it was very much like Mozart except for my harmonies. He said the old Brubeck harmonies showed through."  If Brubeck has a parallel in classical music, it's the German-born British pianist Alfred Brendel, a highly disciplined performer who says he creates "order through which chaos sometimes shimmers."  Brubeck's orderly mind keeps the chaotic shimmering to a strict minimum, however. His studies at Mills College in Oakland with French composer Darius Milhaud — Darius, Chris and Danny are the names of Brubeck's musician sons — led to the pianist's fascination with classical forms.

Other jazz pianists have embraced European classicism with the greatest — Bud Powell and Cecil Taylor for instance — absorbing it entirely for their own purposes.  Not Brubeck. He loves the forms of classical music in and of themselves. In fact, he's most often criticized, as Rolling Stone critic Mikal Gilmore once noted, "for his approach to improvisation from a theoretical rather than a swinging basis."  Maybe so. But more and more we're beginning to hear from and about the Brubeck soul.  Speaking about the release sometime ago of his The Gates of Justice CD, he explained to an interviewer: "I think people are aware enough of how bad off the world is if we don't behave. A piece like Gates of Justice is full of what they should be doing."  Dave Brubeck is at Massey Hall tonight at 8 p.m. with his quartet.

Ageless Brubeck Superb As Closing Act Of Festival

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Robert Wright, Toronto Star

(Jul. 4, 2006) What better way to wrap up the 20th anniversary of the Toronto Jazz Festival than a full house at historic Massey Hall for one
David Warren Brubeck, 85, iconoclast, artist.  The pianist, who has been delighting crowds around the globe for 72 years, didn't disappoint, with an enchanting two-hour set, blending rich, impressionist harmonies and abstract 20th century jazz rhythms.  Kicking off with "Gone With the Wind," Brubeck quickly dispelled any doubts about whether his playing skills are intact — stabbing chords, unleashing a cascade of arpeggios, sitting out to ponder his next move, studying his bandmates in amusement during their solos, Cheshire grin on face as if betraying a secret, head bobbing in approval, laughing boyishly.  For those wondering why this legendary artist — who could undoubtedly live handsomely on the royalties of "Take Five" alone, and has nothing to prove — is still onstage at his age, the answer is simple: he's genetically hardwired to perform.  Last night, alto saxophonist Bobby Militello distinguished himself time and again in the role of Brubeck's late, lifelong sidekick Paul Desmond, while also showing more than a passing interest in the blues innovations of Cannonball Adderley.  A lush, relatively conventional ballad followed, but the master had a few tricks up his sleeve. And after a lifetime of non-conformist thinking — as a child, he purposely avoided learning to read music to avoid classical music's rigid structures, fooling his teacher/mother in the process; as a musician in the 1950s, he stood up to a racist U.S. entertainment industry; as a composer, he penned a number of jazz standards using atypical rhythms and harmonies — why would he change now?

Brubeck introduced the next song with a hilarious anecdote about how, after a exhausting recent tour that took him to Europe, back to America, back to Europe, and so on — "These bookers can't read a map" — his promoter informed him he had booked another 15 dates.  Brubeck wasn't amused, but the promoter consoled him by saying that the bookings were all in England, "a small country." Brubeck still wasn't amused when, after a gig in Glasgow, Scotland, he and the band had an eight-hour bus ride to Liverpool.  After "bitching," in Brubeck's words, the promoter lined up a London flat for him to stay in, and chauffeur service to the venues. All of which led into the song "London Flat, London Sharp," from his just-released album, which he dedicated to his British promoter. It was vintage Brubeck, a driving, dissonant 4/4 with machine-gun quick melody line, built around chromatically descending chords, with a 12-bar section followed by a 16-bar one, and so on.  He concluded with an enthusiastic reading of his signature number, "Take Five," which showcased long-time drummer Randy Jones, who referenced the legendary Joe Morello solo in spots, but mostly showed off his own unique gifts.  A standing O brought the band back for Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train," and when the cheers didn't stop, Brubeck came out again and had his audience join him in a sing-a-long of that bedtime classic, "Lullaby." No one was put to sleep.

Festival Audiences Younger, Ethnically Diverse

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ashante Infantry, Entertainment Writer

(Jul. 3, 2006)  The final numbers aren't in, but the consensus of organizers of the 20th season of the Toronto Jazz Festival is steady as she goes — an increase in ticket sales but, due to the rainy weather, no boost is expected over the 600,000 who flocked to the event last year.  And if the sales at the HMV tent are any indication, Marcus Miller, Maceo Parker, McCoy Tyner and Paquito D'Rivera made the best impressions.  Here are some other tidbits gleaned from the scene:

·  Attendance: Fest honchos did note a younger, more ethnically diverse crowd and more families. The Nathan Phillips mainstage was at capacity every night, except for the Charlie Hunter/Christian McBride bill. The greatest number of people saw Etta James (3,300) and Seu Jorge (2,200).

·  Absences: Of course, no one saw Roy Ayers head up The Original Superstars of Jazz Fusion since the concert was postponed to Nov. 16. The press release cited "unforeseen circumstances," but hadn't — wink, nudge — promoters dropped the price by $15 due to lagging sales?  The only other show the festival has ever postponed was Miles Davis in 1991 due to illness. (The trumpet great, who was at the fest's inaugural year, died before the makeup date.)  And Nick Payton was AWOL for good reason. The trumpeter was replaced by Wallace Roney in McCoy Tyner's Septet because he apparently blew his lip out and can't play for three months.

·  Attire: From stilettos to bare feet, the Real Divas has the greatest array of stage finery, but it was the men of the fest who stole the show — Pharaoh Sanders was regal in a lipstick-red dashiki, the low-key Vijay Iyer in a bold turquoise shirt and Maceo Parker's entire band in dark, tailored suits and flashy ties. Who's desperately in need of a stylist? Marcus Miller's band. What's up with the sloppy T-shirts and ill-cut jackets?

·  Embarrassment: Okay, the fans can't help themselves, even with big signs that state `No flash,' but professional photographers should know better. Not the shooter who went off in Lew Tabackin's face on his opening night, causing the flautist to stop and tell him "you totally interrupted my train of thought."

·  Endurance: Dubbed "funk skunk with the junk" by Toronto Star writer Rob Wright, Maceo Parker ended his 2 3/4 hour show well after midnight. That was the same evening as John Zorn's started-late-finished-around-the-hour-mark sets, causing one observer to point out "Zorn did two shows in less time than it took Maceo to do one — at the same price."

·  Anecdotes: In her best imitation of a 3-year-old, Etta James told the Hummingbird Centre audience how she loves taking her grandchildren shopping at Wal-Mart, but tries to keep them from telling people who she is. Also, the love proclaimed for our women from Vijay Iyer, Christian McBride and Ron Blake, who all proudly announced from the stage they were married to Canadians.

·  Ubiquity: Local trumpeter Nick "Brownman" Ali played 11 times in eight days at six venues, in various configurations, from urban Latin jazz orchestra Cruzao Grupo Monstruoso to traditional straight ahead trio Chiva. And there's no time for a breather: he's off to the Montreal Jazz Festival with his orchestra then right back here for the Yonge Street Festival. Ali did manage to catch a couple of shows, including the Roberto Occhipinti-Paquito D'Rivera lineup on Friday which he proclaimed "unbelievable, fantastic, the highlight of the festival."

Amadou & Mariam - A Sweet, Surprising Success Story

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Li Robbins

Amadou & Mariam
At Harbourfront Centre in Toronto on Sunday

(Jul. 4, 2006) As unlikely success stories go, Amadou & Mariam (they favour the ampersand) are among the unlikeliest. Middle-aged, a little dumpy, with voices that are not particularly extraordinary, you wouldn't peg them for being such a draw that their Toronto show would be more a case of BRO (breathing-room only) than SRO. The audience members jammed against the stage, many singing along, still more screaming along as each familiar number concluded. Despite a solid reggae-driven set by Sierra Leone's much publicized group, The Refugee All-Stars, it was clear that Amadou & Mariam were the main event. Being the main event must still come as a bit of a shock to the duo, who toiled for nearly 25 years without anyone making much fuss. Their story began in 1977 when they met at the Institute for the Blind in Mali's capital, Bamako -- neither are sighted, both wanted to learn Braille. They married three years later. Amadou already had a respectable career playing guitar with Mali's Les Ambassadeurs du Motel, famed for launching the careers of musicians who would become stars far more quickly than would Amadou -- Salif Keita, for example. Mariam sang on the wedding and traditional-festival circuit.

They started raising a family and making music, bluesy, rock-oriented songs earning them gigs and popularity in West Africa. But even after moving to Paris in the late 1990s, they were known internationally only to expatriate Africans and the world-music cognoscenti. Enter Manu Chao. The maverick producer heard them, loved them and ended up producing their 2004 release, Dimanche à Bamako, co-writing some of the songs and contributing some of the vocals. It was a crossover hit in Europe, at one point out-charting the likes of James Blunt, Coldplay, Green Day and Mariah Carey. Et voilà -- the birth of a main event. At Sunday's concert, the couple performed their music largely as they did in the pre-Chao era, favouring Amadou's love of blues, Chicago style, welded solidly to traditional Malian Bambara sounds. They beamed beatifically at the audience, their trademark aluminum Alain Mikli sunglasses the only outward statement of their lack of (literal) vision. Figurative vision was another matter -- the enchantment of Dimanche à Bamako was largely created by producer Chao's graceful whimsy, not much of a feature in their live show. It didn't matter though. The hooky songs were still hooky, the blues-guitar solos occasionally brilliant (and, when not, still crowd-pleasing) and the odd sweetness that is Amadou & Mariam still infectious. Amadou & Mariam play in Montreal tomorrow and Thursday, in Quebec City on Friday and in Ottawa on July 9.

Billy T. Comes Back For More

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ben Rayner,

(Jul. 4, 2006) The adage "familiarity breeds contempt" tends to find sound justification in the sphere of popular music, but the opposite has proven true in
Billy Talent's case.  Although initially distrusted in some critical and cred-conscious circles as yet another mall-ready blot on punk's good name, ceaseless exposure through MuchMusic and modern-rock radio to "Try Honesty" and the numerous other fine singles culled from the Toronto quartet's eponymous 2003 debut has forced a growing consensus that Billy Talent is a much more substantial outfit than anyone first suspected.  The band's tunes actually sound better after constant bombardment, and it has managed to sell hundreds of thousands of records without subscribing to the stylized, faux-counterculture homogeneity that makes such ill-fitting chart contemporaries as Simple Plan and Hedley almost impossible to tell apart.  Plus, its members are a super bunch of guys who'd been making music together for 10 years (as Pezz, before it nicked its current name, minus an "L," from the novel Hard Core Logo) when Warner Music Canada scored a surprise, slow-building sleeper hit in Billy Talent, the album, three years ago.  "You can't dictate public opinion and you can't dictate public consumption. You just have to put it out there and if people like it, they like it and if they don't, they don't," shrugs singer Ben Kowalewicz over beers and Asian cuisine with his bandmates on Queen West.

"But it's one of those things — I've had people come up to me and say they never really liked us but after four videos they got it and went out and bought it. It took them baby steps and small doses.  "We're a band. It's the four of us and that's how it's always been and that's how it always is. But these days, bands are only as relevant as their next single. The kids who do their research, I think, kind of relate because they find out we've been together for a long time, we have sacrificed a lot and we're not 20 years old — we're 30 years old."  The kids came out in sufficient numbers last Tuesday to snap up 20,000 copies of the band's superior sophomore disc, Billy Talent II, in just the first day of its Canadian release, a convincing signal that becoming one-hit wonders is not a worry for these four friends.  Efforts are now steaming ahead to break the band into other territories, commencing with a summer that will see it rejoining the Warped Tour circuit in North America and spending seemingly every other waking moment in Europe.  If the response to the barrelling new single "Devil in a Midnight Mass" at home and in Germany — where, the lads were stunned last month to discover, Billy Talent is suddenly freakin' huge and in possession of a No. 1 hit — is any indication, at least, the second record should have no problem bettering the first's sales figures of 100,000 copies Stateside. ("We think it's great," says Kowalewicz. "Everyone else thinks it's shit.") And don't think Warner/Atlantic isn't going for it.  Guitarist Ian D'Sa accurately sums up the band's take on the situation by declaring it "pretty surreal."  Bassist Jon Gallant, meanwhile, says it took his sister pointing out, upon the group's return from Germany to do a live appearance at MuchMusic last week, that "You guys are everywhere — I've seen you on billboards on bridges and stuff" for him to grasp the all-points media campaign that has fired up around the disc.  "It feels very weird," agrees Kowalewicz. "I don't think we had any pressure when we were writing the record because we just kinda hung out in our shitty little rehearsal space and did what we did. But now that it's done and packaged and ready to go, I feel like we're part of this massive press machine. We've never had that before.

"Being away from it for a while, you kind of get a nice opportunity to reflect on what happened and digest it a little bit. When you're in the eye of it and you're doing it, you don't really understand it and you just keep going and going. And then you sit on the couch one day and you're, like: `Wow, we are really blessed to be in this situation.'  "It's not saying we didn't work for it because we worked our asses off to get there. But when you sit back and really look at it and the things that go on in the world and we're able to just play rock music and have fun and people actually care, it's pretty cool."  The Billy Talent crew is aware that it's often tarred by mainstream association with the indistinguishable pop-punk/emo hordes, which is why it and producer Gavin Brown took their time hardening the group's sound into the reasonably unique blend of punk, metal and Lollapalooza-era power-pop muscularity heard on the heavy-but-hooky Billy Talent II.  Respect is due for the balance between abrasion and accessibility struck on the disc, sure to be one of the biggest of the Canadian summer.  The band is, thus, now fretting that its own visibility will undermine the music.  "We don't want to become media whores," says drummer Aaron Solowoniuk.  "That's my big fear," concurs Kowalewicz.  "I don't wanna become one of those oversaturated, rammed-down-your-throat kind of bands. That's not ever what we were really about and it's a very fine line between telling people `Hey, what's up? We have a new record coming out' and being, like, Ashlee Simpson."  Solowoniuk, for his part, is determined to exploit the band's position as positively as he can. In March, he revealed online that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis eight years ago and is now committed to raising awareness about the disease and funds to fight it using Billy Talent as a platform.  The incurable nervous-system condition could be irreparably debilitating for such a hard-hitting drummer, but Solowoniuk says new medication is allowing him and many fellow MS sufferers "pretty normal lives."  "Sometimes I can play `crazy,' sometimes I can only play at, like, 70 per cent, but everything's good. I stay as healthy as I can on the road and try not to get burned out," he says.  "I could easily play the MS card. When you go out on the road it's very strenuous, it's tiring, it's hard to eat a good meal.  "I was like: `How long can my body do this?' And I could have easily just played the `I'm too sick to play drums' card, but f--- that. Being in the position I'm in, it's not really an option to just quit. It's easier to give up, but it's worth so much more if you stick to things and just do it."

The Norwoods Take on Reading, Writing, Reality

Excerpt from -
By Kenya Yarbrough

(July 5, 2006)It’s a pretty well-known factoid that mother of award-winning singer Brandy, Sonja Norwood, quit her job to become her singing sensation daughter’s manager. In addition, there was pretty well-made buzz that Mom Norwood was the ultimate intense stage “momanger.”  However, whether or not her protective and demanding antics were fact or fiction, Sonja Norwood has developed, encouraged, and raised two of the biggest names in urban music – Brandy and Ray J. In addition, she has launched and managed an independent record label among the male-dominated major powerhouse labels (with the help of her star offspring). Sounds like the perfect author of a “How To” series, don’t it? “I think that there are a lot of things that I have experienced and I’d like to share information with people,” Sonja said of her idea to write a book. “If I can help people to avoid certain things that I’ve been through or that we’ve been through as a family, I’d like to be able to share. Like getting your kids in the business early, how to keep your kids grounded, definitely for artists that are trying to do an independent label – the struggles and the journeys that you go through, and not knowing what those steps are and what you could do differently, and just various things that would be able to help people.” Ms. Norwood hasn’t really focused on the subject matter. She says that her expertise as a manager, as a label executive, and as a mother, and combinations of the three, would all make fine topics for her book (or books for that matter), but at the moment, she’s looking for someone to center her thoughts.

“I can’t mix mother advice with the industry, so I sort of need someone to help me figure out what’s the most important message for me to get out first,” she told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “I’ve been putting bits and pieces together. I’ve categorized certain things, like when I talk about being a mother. And then I’ve got another folder where I’ve put things as a manager. I need someone to help me sort through it and say, ‘What is the most important message that you want to share?’ What that is, I don’t’ really know yet.” The music exec did mention that her most toiling work has not been managing major singing careers or shielding her children from bad press, but rather running an independent label.  “I think that has been my biggest challenge and not knowing everything that goes into that; understanding that you’re really out there by yourself. You’re in a whole different arena and some people respect that and some people don’t. I just think that going through that, I’ve learned a lot, but I’m glad that I’ve done it, I appreciate the success we’ve had with it, and I would like to continue it. But maybe there are some things that I have done or I have learned with Ray J’s project that I could share with somebody else about being an independent label.” But there are other perspectives to that, too, she says. “Of course there are a lot of books out there about the music industry,” she continued, “and everybody’s take on the music industry. And of course I have my own take, but there are certain things that you experience differently than what everybody else experiences. I think that more women should get in the business; I think more women are capable of being in the business. But what are the problems that we go through as a female in the business that are not just like what is said about females being in any other job in a male-dominated business. Maybe I have something to share there.” So perhaps she’s a little bit puzzled about what topic to conquer in her book, but one thing Sonja Norwood does know is that anyone she works with on the project has to be someone passionate, accurate, and someone she can trust.

“Unless I am totally out of the industry and my kids are out of the industry, there are certain things [I] still won’t speak on. I’m not a writer, so I need someone to help me write it and look inside of the situation and gather their own thoughts and extract information from me,” she said, “Someone that can get to know me and my family and what we’re all about.” Interestingly enough, as she makes plans to put her experiences on paper, Sonja Norwood is preparing to retire. She’s already begun her countdown to mid-2007. Meanwhile, the eldest of the brood, Brandy, is back on TV. The actress singer is not just appearing in “Moesha” repeats. She is one of the judges on a new talent reality series. And in the Norwood modus operandi, that’s not the only thing she’s working on. Brandy is also heading back into the studio, as a matter of fact, to begin work on her new project. On top of all that she's said to be under consideration to replace Star Jones on "The View." Thanks to impressive comments during her guest-judge stint on “American Idol,” Brandy has an upcoming gig on the Simon Cowell- produced “America’s Got Talent,” where she will be the judge. She, along with TV icon David Hasselhoff and Piers Morgan (Cowell’s best friend) will give a thumbs up or down to wannabe stars (a la “The Gong Show”) Wednesday nights on NBC. Regis Philbin hosts. “It’s the wildest talent show I’ve ever seen,” said the self- professed reality TV fan. “I’m a huge fan of ‘American Idol,’ ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ ‘Making of the Band,’ so to be a part of this and see it live every week and be able to give advice on talent… or judge talent – I’m really excited about it.”  The show, which airs tonight and every Wednesday at 9 (Eastern & Pacific  / 8 (Central), differs from Cowell’s “American Idol” in the fact that it is open to any age and any talent.  “It’s not just a singing competition,” Brandy explained. “It’s comedians, it’s jugglers, dancers, groups, and rappin’ grandmas. It’s like, whatever talent you have and you think you can win a million dollars, bring it on. That’s what the show is pretty much about.”  In the meantime, she has a television show in development, but says she not moving forward with that yet.

“I’m really tied down with the [reality] show right now and I’m starting the new album next week,” she said and mentioned that for this project she’s reuniting with super-producer Rodney Jerkins. “I’m excited to be back on television – in a different light. And I’m glad to be back with Rodney.”  Not to be outdone, Ray J is making his mark with KnockOut Entertainment – the label the family established. The rapper/singer is all grown up and has become a businessman. Don’t think that this means he’ll be behind the scenes, though. The artist intends to continue working in front of the mic and in front of the camera.   Ray J doesn’t stop for long. With his sitcom “One On One” fading off the line-up and a short tour ending, he’s already heading to Europe to do a month’s worth of shows and is making big plans for KnockOut to K.O. the competition.  “I’ve just had spot dates. I never really got the opportunity to really do a major tour yet. I’m looking forward to that as an artist and as a businessman. I’m looking forward to that on all the new projects that I’m working on right now. ’ Countdown’ and ‘One On One’ are slowly coming to a close. So, now I’m branching out into independent DVDs, Raydiation Live.” He continued, “[With] KnockOut Entertainment, we’ve got Ray J, Shorty Mac. Brandy is partnered up and doing some things. [She] is really helping us out. It’s fun to have her on the team as one of the investors, as one of the partners, as one of the artists. She’s one of the creators and visionaries for the K.O.”  It’s quite mature of the young star to move on so quickly after news that some of his current projects have come to an end.  “It was fun,” he said of his recent TV work. “But when you put your heart into a lot of projects, you don’t know what’s going to happen, but I did put my heart into ‘One on One,’ and for it not to come back was heartbreaking. That’s why it’s dangerous to put your emotions into things. Besides ‘Moesha,’ that was one of my favourite projects.”  One breath later, he excitedly shared another hot project he’s about to drop. An underground remix with some of the biggest rap names and some of the up-and-comings from his KnockOut roster.  “I’ve got a new underground remix with Snoop, Nate Dogg, Slim Thug, and Shorty Mac, called ‘Smokin’ Trees.’ It’s a celebration song for the summer time. It’s going to be a real banger for the streets,” he said.  Clearly the Norwoods have a lot to celebrate.

For more on what’s up with Brandy’s new show, go to  

For the latest on Ray J, click

Interested writers, contact Sonja Norwood at KnockOut Entertainment: ( or call 818-716-7047).


A Star Is Born, Via Starbucks

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(Jul. 5, 2006) If 17-year-old pop/folk/jazz/blues prodigy Sonya Kitchell never follows up her debut CD, Words Come Back to Me, she'll still have made an indelible mark.  Few other recording debuts have received such unanimous approbation, except among artists to whom she's now being compared such as Bob Dylan, Janis Ian, Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones — and who, it's easy to forget, weren't much older than Kitchell when they launched their own careers.  What has critics agog since the Massachusetts-based artist's indie album arrived in April, via a distribution deal with Starbucks that ensured the kind of front-rack, primo demographic exposure that mega stars only dream about, is the worldliness and maturity exhibited in Kitchell's music, lyrics and performing style. It is, said Rolling Stone, "music that belies her age."  A trained jazz singer since the age of 7, and a composer only since Sept. 11, 2001, when the events of that day impelled her to scribble down the lyrics to her first song, Kitchell seems to have absorbed the whole canon of modern American song in the past five years — from soul and gospel through to contemporary rock and jazz — and to have emerged, while still too young to vote, drink, drive or get drafted in her home state, as a concert artist of the highest calibre.  She performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival on the weekend, makes her Toronto debut tonight with her five-piece band at Harbourfront Centre's Concert Stage, and will appear Aug. 5 at the Newport Folk Festival.  "I've only been performing at this level — like, with a band and in a different city every night — for the last few months," Kitchell told the Star yesterday, her voice full of brave self-assurance, even if its tone conveyed a hint of teenage angst.

"Don't forget, I've been singing professionally since I was 10. Performing is second nature to me. I never get nervous, especially when I'm playing places with good acoustics and sound systems.  "I used to try to tailor my set for particular audiences — folk, jazz, blues, rock. But I've come a long way in a short time, and now I feel confident enough to be myself, wherever I am."  Kitchell still lives at home with her father, an abstract painter of note, and mother, an illustrator and graphic designer, and makes career decisions with their input. "There was always music around for me to listen to, but my parents aren't what you'd call musical. The most valuable lesson they taught me is that you can make a living as an artist."  If it hadn't been for 9/11, when she felt overcome by the need to express her feelings "in some kind of musical way," Kitchell might be making her way as an interpreter of jazz and R&B standards.  Now the floodgates have opened and her flow of new songs is ceaseless, says Kitchell, who lists as influences Randy Newman, PJ Harvey, U2, Nina Simone, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, The Police, Beatles, Dylan and Mitchell.  "I've written hundreds of songs, but the trouble is, I forget them very easily. I have about 50 in rotation, but the guys in my band know them all. I have a very short attention span.  "I can't wait to record these new songs, but that won't happen till next summer because of my touring. I've been learning so much so fast, I have no idea where I'll be musically then.  "I hope ... I think it will be better than my first album. But I'm still too young to know where I'm heading."



Furtado High Like A Bird On Charts In U.S., Britain

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Jul. 2, 2006) Los Angeles --
Nelly Furtado is number one on the singles charts whether you live in the United States or Britain, but which track depends on your country of residence. On the Billboard Hot 100, Promiscuous is now Furtado's first chart-topper. On the singles chart in Britain, Maneater leads the list for the third week. Both tracks are from Loose, the album that enters the Billboard 200 at number one. Furtado is the first artist to be simultaneously number one on both singles charts with two different songs since Usher did it with Burn in Britain and Confessions Part II in the United States in July, 2005. Loose remains the No. 1-selling album in Canada. Reuters

Furtado Rules

Excerpt from

(June 30, 2006)  *With the help of producer Timbaland, Nelly Furtado came back on the scene and completely took over. The singer’s new album, “Loose,” reached No. 1 on Billboard Wednesday, while the set’s first single, “Promiscuous” feat. Timbaland, landed at No. 1 on the Hot 100.  The track also tops the Pop 100 and the Hot Digital Songs charts. Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie" featuring Wyclef is No. 2 on the Hot 100, followed by Taylor Hicks’ “Do I Make You Proud" at No. 3, Yung Joc’s “It’s Goin’ Down” at No. 4 and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” at No. 5. Cassie's "Me & U" climbs 9-6 and Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" featuring Krayzie Bone drops 5-7. Rihanna's "Unfaithful" holds at No. 8, while Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man" jumps into the top ten with a 13-9 leap. Rascal Flatts' "Life Is a Highway" slips 7-10 to round out the top 10. Elsewhere, Janet Jackson's "Call On Me" featuring Nelly enters the Hot 100 at No. 73.

New Foxy Brown Album Due In December

Excerpt from

(June 30, 2006) *Now that her hearing is nearly 100 percent again, Foxy Brown says her comeback album should hit the streets sometime in December.  "I went straight from the operating room to the studio,” the Brooklyn rapper tells MTV. “It was really hard. I was deaf for an entire year. Completely deaf. The surgery was iffy. They didn't know if it would be a success, and it was." Last December, Brown was diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss. She went under the knife in February to reverse the impairment and now says her hearing is almost fully restored.  "To suddenly lose your hearing after 10 years as a professional artist, I questioned God: 'Why me?'" she said. Soon, the Ill Na Na will be facing questions from an attorney in her upcoming assault trial. Brown, whose real name is Inga Marchand, is accused of striking two nail salon workers in a fight over payment for a manicure in August 2004.

Raunchy Brown Jeered During New Edition Reunion

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jul. 3, 2006)  HOUSTON (AP) — Bobby Brown was back with New Edition — and his ostentatious behaviour stood out when he was paired with the soulful group.  Brown, who left New Edition in the 1980s for a solo career, reunited with the band Sunday night for two songs at the Essence Music Festival.  As the other five members moved to slick choreography Sunday, Brown ran around the stage wildly and performed raunchy dance moves.  The crowd was brought to its feet with their performance of the 1985 hit, Mr. Telephone Man.  Brown then left the stage, and the remainder of the group — original members Ralph Tresvant, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe, plus Johnny Gill, who replaced Brown — performed several ballads.  Brown followed with a solo set that started with Don't Be Cruel, then quickly turned to more raunchy dancing and talk about his sex life with wife Whitney Houston.  By the time he finished with My Prerogative, Brown was shirtless and many in the audience were screaming for him to get off the stage.

Rolling Stones May Head Halifax Outdoor Concert

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(July 3, 2006) Halifax -- The Rolling Stones appear poised to headline a large outdoor concert in Halifax this September, a year after the legendary rock group staged a similar event in Moncton, N.B. Two Halifax newspapers are reporting that the city's regional council will approve the concert in a closed-door meeting tomorrow. Sources told the Halifax Daily News that the concert could cost the city between $100,000 and $150,000 in security, traffic control and site-service costs. A possible site being floated is the Halifax Commons, a large park in the middle of the city. CP

Dallas Austin Released From Dubai Jail

Source: Associated Press

(Jul. 5, 2006) ATLANTA — R&B producer Dallas Austin has been released from a jail in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, after being pardoned on drug charges.  "He is on the plane and safely out of the country," Austin's lawyer, Joel Katz, said in an e-mail to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum pardoned Austin on Tuesday, hours after the Grammy-winning producer was sentenced to four years in prison for possession of cocaine.  A court sentenced Austin, who has created tunes for Madonna and Janet Jackson, for possessing 1.26 grams of cocaine, his defence team said. The court had also ruled that Austin should be deported after serving his prison term.  Austin told the court on Sunday that he made an unintentional mistake and did not mean to break the law in the United Arab Emirates.  Local media in Dubai reported that Austin was on his way to supermodel Naomi Campbell's birthday bash at the glitzy Burj al-Arab Hotel when he was arrested May 19 at Dubai's airport. Austin's lawyer disputed the report, saying the producer was in Dubai to attend concerts.  Since his arrest Austin had been held without bail at Dubai's al-Rashidiya Police Station.  Austin has several hits to his credit, including Pink's "Just Like a Pill" and TLC's "Unpretty". He won a Grammy Award for best R&B album in 1999 for producing TLC's multiplatinum Fanmail.

Jill Scott Blasts Portrayal Of Black Women In Music

Excerpt from

(July 5, 2006) *Jill Scott unleashed her frustration over the portrayal of black women in popular music and videos during a panel Monday at the Essence Music Festival’s empowerment seminar, held as part of the magazine’s Take Back the Music campaign. "It is dirty, inappropriate, inadequate, unhealthy and polluted," Scott told the audience. "We can demand more." Actor Shemar Moore, rapper Common and former video dancer, Karrine Steffans, who penned the tell-all "Confessions of a Video Vixen," were also part of the panel that discussed the negative impact such images have on young black girls. Education and the fostering of self-esteem were among the possible solutions discussed to address the problem. Scott also suggested that folks who are offended by the images stop buying the music and encourage like-minded individuals to do the same. "This is about choosing what we will allow in our lives," she said. "We can force things. We can change things. Challenge the music industry with your purchasing power." Steffans said a lack of self-esteem allowed her to degrade herself in videos for virtually all the big names in hip hop. "I was always told I was ugly," she said. "I didn't realize my own power and my own worth."

T.I. Expands His Kingdom

Excerpt from

(July 5, 2006) *Atlanta rapper T.I. has contributed verses to the upcoming Beyonce album, “B-Day” as well as the forthcoming disc from Justin Timberlake. The latter, produced by Timbaland, is a tune dedicated to T.I.’s female fans.  "It's sayin' we really put it down for the young ladies," T.I. explained backstage at the BET Awards. "I think we gonna do good from Bankhead [Court, the housing project where T.I. was raised,] to Berlin. I think it's gonna go down." Meanwhile, the rapper just shot a video for his next single, "Live in the Sky," with the song’s guest star Jamie Foxx. "It's about the trials and tribulations that I've been through from the life I used to live to the life I'm now fortunate enough to live," T.I. said. "And just paying respect to my cousin and some of my homeboys that didn't make it to see the day and one of my friends who is doing life right now." The artist and owner of Grand Hustle Records is thick into the promotion of his current album, “King,” but is already making plans for his next album, which he has named “T.I. vs. Tip.” He’s also in the process of selecting his big-screen follow-up to "ATL." "We don't know exactly what I'm doing next, man, but I have a lot of opportunities to stand alongside some very heavy hitters in the film industry, and I plan to take full advantage," he said.




Getting In A Fringe Frame Of Mind

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

(June 30, 2006) Some people go by the solstice while others prefer Canada Day as the official start of summer. In this city, it's not really summer until the
Toronto Fringe Festival is in full swing and people you've never met or heard of before ask you to come and check out their play while you're standing in line for another show.  As the Fringe gets bigger (136 plays in 28 venues this year), performance anxieties, usually reserved for artists, transfer to audiences. How many shows can you handle in a single day while maintaining personal hygiene? Is the next play going to be as diabolical as the one before or will it be this year's Drowsy Chaperone? Will this train wreck of a production end in time for last calls at the beer tent? Relax. Even with the best of educated guesses, you're bound to stumble into a nasty surprise or two. And that show that looked terrible in posters may end up being the little theatre gem you must see. It's the Fringe way. So with all that in mind, here are the shows that jumped at me from the press kits, program and Fringe website. As with last year's picks: no guarantees, no particular order and no reviews.

The Catering Queen

An appetizing cast that includes Hume Baugh, Dmitry Chepovetsky and Mary Francis Moore stars in Alison Lawrence's deconstruction of a "catering gig from hell." Ed Sahely directs this comic look at the world of cater-waiters where canapés and bitchiness are endlessly served. First show July 6, 7 p.m., Tarragon Theatre Mainspace.

Teaching As You Like It

Our favourite failure story is back in town. Actor Keir Cutler returns with his alter ego, Dr. Keir, in the third instalment of the excellent Teaching trilogy, following Teaching Shakespeare (1999) and Teaching Detroit (2001). This time, Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It is the latest text to be submitted to Dr. Keir's twisted analysis. First show July 7, 7:15 p.m., Glen Morris Theatre.

Welcome to Eden, Population: 2.

A Divine Musical

This is an original musical about the original sin from Allison McWood and Mark Selby. What kind of musical, you ask? Well, Adam (Mark Allan) sings A Man's Gotta Eat before he tastes the forbidden fruit and the newly created Eve (Julie Martell) warbles There's Never Been a 'Me' Before. In other words, it all sounds like good clean biblical fun. First show July 5, 10:30 p.m., Tarragon Theatre Mainspace.

Art Is a Cupboard

The Sweat Company had a critical hit last year with The Dispute, so odds are in this one's favour. Geoffrey Pounsett directs Melissa Major's "almost true story" about a group of avant-garde artists in Stalin's Russia, a place that's becoming "stranger than their own surreal visions." Cast includes Brendan Murray and Sean Sullivan. First show July 5, 8:15 p.m., Factory Theatre Mainspace.

Desperate Housepets

This foray into the dramatic, angst-filled world of house pets by Robert Watson proved insanely popular last year at SummerWorks. With a cast that includes a rabbit, a fish, a cat and two dogs (all played by that species known as human actors) questioning the meaning of life, this show is as silly as it is clever. First show July 5, 8:45 p.m., Robert Gill Theatre.

It Was Kit: The 'True' Story

of Christopher Marlowe

The life and death of Shakespeare's contemporary has so far inspired two murder-mystery novels and numerous speculative biographies, and now it's playwright Allison McWood's turn to separate facts from fiction in this "comedic twist on history." The very large cast includes Graham Coffeng, Scott Moore and Melissa-Jane Shaw, and is directed by Regan Macaulay. First show July 6, 6:30 p.m., Tarragon Theatre Mainspace.

Living Shadows: A Story of Mary Pickford

This Canadian silent-screen fireball was America's first true sweetheart. Tracey Power has written and stars in a one-woman show that tells the story of this Hollywood legend, 12 years after Pickford has left the silver screen and just as she gathers all her films and memoirs to set them on fire. First show July 5, 10:30 p.m., Tarragon Theatre Extraspace.


UnSpun Theatre presents a new collaborative creation with a decidedly chilly bent: a young couple, the last occupants of an abandoned house, are torn apart by the secrets in their cellar -- "a terrible something in the darkness." The possibilities are frighteningly enticing. First show July 6, 9:15 p.m., Robert Gill Theatre.


A "cycle of seven short plays," this one is written by seven different playwrights and features several actors/AutoHosts who will take audiences/Guests on rides inside "real live automobiles" and into "small, intimate clusters." If all of this sounds like a "gimmick"/accident waiting to happen, rest assured that its writers include such familiar names as Brendan Gall, Julie Tepperman and Rick Roberts. First show July 6, 8 p.m., Royal St. George's College East Parking Lot.

Manners for Men

About time! Join writer and performer Justin Sage-Passant in what CBC calls a "brilliantly written, razor-sharp" etiquette lesson of a show. If you've ever wondered how the Queen's English and cheesy pickup lines can be reconciled, this is the show for you, laddie. First show July 5, 6:30 p.m., Factory Theatre Mainspace.

July 5 to 16. $10, and various ticket passes. Different venues, 416-967-1528,

Canadian Paul Haggis Wins Humanitas

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Sandy Cohen, Associated Press

(Jun. 29, 2006) LOS ANGELES— Canadian Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, joint winners of the original screenplay Oscar this year for Crash, collected another award for the film on Wednesday: the Humanitas Prize.  Haggis and Moresco were among 11 writers who collected awards and their share of $145,000 (U.S.) in prize money at a luncheon at the Hilton Universal Hotel.  The screenwriting award honours work that helps "liberate, enrich and unify society."  Crash, which also won the best-picture Oscar, tells the intertwining stories of an array of diverse characters over 36 hours in Los Angeles. The Humanitas judges commended it "for its call to reach out with respect and compassion to all of our brothers and sisters."  The award recognizes screenwriters who "give people something worthwhile to think about," said Frank Desiderio, president of the Humanitas Prize. Since 1974, the organization has awarded more than 240 prizes and $2.5 million in cash to television and film writers with "strong ethical voices."  "Storytellers have always shaped culture," Desiderio told The Associated Press. "Stories carry values, and we want to raise up the best values so that the culture is influenced to become one where the common good is really served."

Winners are decided by the Humanitas Prize organization, which includes more than 50 accomplished screenwriters and industry heads, Desiderio said.  While fiction is the focus of the prize, the organization occasionally recognizes documentaries. It did so this year, presenting a special award to An Inconvenient Truth, which chronicles former vice-president Al Gore's quest to draw attention to global warming.  "It points out a social problem that affects the whole human family and gives people a positive way to go," Desiderio said.

Other winners:

— Richard Curtis for The Girl in the Cafe, an HBO film that tells the story of a hard-working civil servant's relationship with a mysterious woman he meets in a cafe. It is "a clarion call to universal concern," judges said.

— Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland for Quinceanera, which follows a 14-year-old girl in a Los Angeles neighbourhood as she prepares for her coming-of-age ceremony.

"It's about unconditional love," Chris Donohue, executive director of the Humanitas Prize, told AP. "It shows the importance of living in a multicultural world and finding family in those people who love you unconditionally."

Quinceanera also took top honours at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

— David Shore for an episode of Fox's House, which weaves together stories of three patients with similar symptoms. Judges cited its "poignant probe into the pain and confusion that comes when someone we love disappoints us."

— Greg Garcia for writing the pilot episode of My Name is Earl, an NBC comedy that follows a small-time crook as he tries to reshape his karma and right past wrongs.

— Alice Prodanou, Michael Stokes and Steven Sullivan for their animated work, Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends: A Froggy Day in Sunny Patch, which judges acclaimed for "its whimsical portrayal of the importance of friendships."

— Willy Holtzman for Edge of America, a story about a black teacher who comes to work at the Three Nations Reservations High School in Utah.

— Colin Marshall, a graduate student at Columbia University, won the 2006 David and Lynn Angell Humanitas Comedy Fellowship, plus $10,000.

The Film Strip: Does 'Superman' Have Soul?

Excerpt from - by Marie Moore

(June 29, 2006) *"Superman Returns" is well worth its 19-year wait, even though comedian Chris Rock was not cast as Supe's sidekick Jimmy Olsen. Yes, it was rumoured that Chris Rock would be Jimmy Olsen in director Tim Burton's version before the film landed in the hands of Bryan Singer. No one knows how Burton's project would've turned out had Chris been cast, but unfortunately for Richard Pryor, "Superman III," was one of the worst in the hero's series, if that's any indication.  So does the new Superman, Brandon Routh, have soul? Well, he should have because this survivor from an extinct planet spends most of his time saving poor souls here on earth. Dizzy Gillespie is among Routh's favourite artists. His father, once a jazz drummer, and mother play music in their spare time. His sister, Sara, is a singer/songwriter and appears on the new CD, "The Sound of Superman."

When asked how he feels about assuming the role of one of the most sought after parts, Routh had no qualms about saying he was "blessed." With blessings come fortitude and Routh, who is part Native American Indian, showed that fortitude when he dismissed the whole Superman curse notion that has plagued actors over the years. "People have different lives and what happens to other people doesn't mean it's going to happen to me," he affirmed. "I don't live my life in fear and I'm going to do what I'm going to do. There are so many great things about this and I'm not going to bring any kind of negatives into it."  So, which do you feel is more like you, Clark Kent or Superman?  "That's hard to
say," Routh replies, "because I've learned from both of them. At any one time I can be either one."  Don't think for a moment that Brandon Routh was the only one going into the time-honoured classic with fears about filling the shoes of a predecessor. Kate Bosworth, who is Lois Lane, says she was mortified when she was offered the part. "I was, I mean, the idea of it was nerve wracking. But I think what was most nerve wracking for me was the investment and passion that the fans have for the film. And you know, I just wanted to do my best and honour them and how they view the film."

2006 Turks & Caicos Islands International Film Festival

Excerpt from

(June 29, 2006) Recently the Turks & Caicos Islands International Film Festival (TCIFF) hosted an opening reception for the film festival that will be held on October 17-21, 2006.   The reception took place at the trendy SAPA restaurant in the Flatiron district of Manhattan.  A number of celebrities and dignitaries attended the affair including The Honorable Michael Misick, Chief Minister of Turks & Caicos Islands along with his wife actress LisaRaye Misick – others in attendance were Staci J (The Apprentice) Chad Coleman (The Wire) Dave Mays (Source Magazine) and Jacob the Jeweler. TCIFF will take a unique focus on films by celebrating the fusion of film and music.  The Festival will honour those films from all over the world that best marry music to cinema through content, character, theme and score/soundtrack.  Also highlighted throughout the festival will be the work of one special artist that encompasses both music and film. Actress/producer Jasmine Guy is the Executive Director for the festival, along with Terrence Duckette, President of Imani World Productions, LLC.  Academy Award-nominated producer Karolyn Ali is the Program Director.  “I have felt for a long time that film and music are inseparable in creating an impactful on-screen experience” explains Guy.  “This is a great opportunity to celebrate that fusion, and to embrace films and filmmakers from around the globe.” Known for its amazing beauty, Turks & Caicos Islands have become one of the most sought-after celebrity destinations.  “We are extremely pleased to welcome the world’s filmmakers to Turks & Caicos this October for what will become an annual gathering that celebrates great filmmaking in a setting like no other on Earth, notes The Honorable Michael Misick.

The Turks & Caicos Islands International Film Festival promises to be an
exciting event.  TCIFF boast…“days and evenings filled with screenings, premieres and film-related activities, with plenty of time for fun in the sun and other island pleasures.  Each night shines with parties, concerts, and outdoor mixers on the tantalizing white sands of Turks & Caicos”.   (Imagine that!) Competition categories for the TCIFF cover a wide range of film and music including: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Documentary, Best Song and Best Score. For more information on The Turks & Caicos Islands International Film Festival, visit their website at   Dianne Quander is a writer in New York City.  She can be reached at

The 'Black Hair' Interview With Aron Ranen

Excerpt from – By Kam Williams

(July 5, 2006) *Aron Ranen is a gifted filmmaker and professor who has received a litany of accolades for his groundbreaking documentaries, along with a couple of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Here he talks about his latest opus, Black Hair, an incendiary expose’ which is currently generating plenty of conversation in African-American communities all across the country.  His eye-opening investigation revealed that Koreans have come to control virtually every aspect of the multi-billion dollar, black hair care industry, from manufacturing to distribution to retail sales, while simultaneously employing tactics to put African-American merchants and wholesalers out of business.

Kam Williams: How did a white guy like you develop an interest in the black hair care industry?

Aron Ranen: I made a TV pilot with an African-American host, comedian Chey Bell who also happens to cut hair. She told me about all the dollars black women spend on their hair. I was amazed, and decided to make a fun film about that. But when I began shooting in Oakland at a hair expo, I met some black folks who told me of the Korean takeover.

KW: How did you decide to make a movie about it?

AR: I knew that the black hair biz has the potential to bring dollars and employment to inner city neighbourhoods. I decided that if my skills as a filmmaker can help, then that's my path.

KW: Did you learn a lot about the history of the industry as you researched the subject?

AR: You should have seen my reaction when someone first told me about Madame CJ Walker...I mean, come on...this thing is fixable, doable and the film can help. And I hope Oprah leaves her legacy, just like Madame CJ, and opens up a thousand black beauty supply shops with training, and product discounts for the employees.

KW: Were you surprised to learn the extent of Korean domination of the hair care market?

AR: No.

KW: Why did you put your movie on the Internet in several instalments?

AR: To comply with the rules of (scroll down to see the video).

KW: Won't that hurt potential film sales?

AR: Perhaps… Is there money in documentary?

KW: Ask Michael Moore. He made over $100 million with Fahrenheit 9/11. Is what the Koreans are doing, the way they’ve gone about taking control of the manufacture, wholesale distribution and retail sales of black hair-care products illegal?

AR: We would need help from the NAACP to determine that. I am a filmmaker not an attorney.

KW: Playing Devil’s advocate, let me ask you if it’s a form of reverse-racism to suggest that black consumers should only buy from black businesses?

AR: Just think, it's a business in which 99% of the customers are black, and 99% of the owners are Korean... That just seems a little off...don't you think?

KW: Yep. What has been the response of blacks, whites and Koreans to your film?

AR: White people say it's one-sided, Koreans don't like it either, but African-Americans give me hugs and tell me to ignore the white people.

KW: Do you think black people will now organize and change their behaviour after being educated by your documentary?

AR: I think it will take investment bankers like William Lewis and Vernon Jordan, and major media figures like Oprah, Ed Bradley, Spike Lee, or Sean Combs to take this to the next step in terms of economic development. I mean, these giant foundations give micro-grants to poor Africans in the Sudan for pottery businesses, why can't some of that seed money go to develop black-owned, retail hair supply stores in America?

KW: Were you surprised when one of the black distributors featured in your film was arrested for arson for allegedly attempting to burn down a Korean competitor who opened up down the street from him?

AR: I have no comment, since I have not seen any of the exact charges.

KW: How did he get caught?

AR: Are you trying to get me in trouble?

KW: I’m just asking logical questions. Why do you think the black community is so involved with their hair that they could be 10% of the population but purchase 80% of the hair care products?

AR: That's not my area of expertise. My documentary is a simple story of the obvious truth that is out there for everyone to see. By shining the media light on it, perhaps we can spur some positive economic changes in neighbourhoods that could use some good news.

KW: When did you get interested in making movies?

AR: At the age of thirteen.

KW: Why do you also teach filmmaking?

AR: It's fun, and I get to meet people from all over the world who attend my workshops. I also learn a great deal by teaching, and thus become a better filmmaker. I teach "Organic Documentary" at my film school in San Francisco. People interested in learn how to make their own Black Hair-style expose’ should visit my website at

KW: What other projects are you working on now?

AR: A history of LSD in the Sixties is also up at I am looking for an investor to get it to feature-length.

KW: Is Black Hair officially finished, or is it still a work in progress?

AR: Black Hair will only be done when we get stores open and effect some real change. Until then, I will always release updates on the web and on DVD.

For MORE, go HERE.


Tookie’s Ashes Scattered In South Africa

Excerpt from

(July 3, 2006) *The last wish of executed felon Stanley Tookie Williams was carried out Sunday in South Africa, according to his close friend and supporter Barbara Becnel. In accordance with his will, the ashes of the Crips co-founder was spread out in a lake in South Africa, per his final request. A statement released Friday from Becnel announced that she and Tookie’s long-time friend Shirley Neal sprinkled his ashes into a lake at Thokoza Park in Soweto. "On his last day of life Stan asked me to spread his ashes in South Africa," Becnel said. "He wanted to return to the motherland." Williams, convicted of murdering four people during two 1979 holdups, was executed in California’s San Quentin prison on Dec. 13.  Before his death, Williams had gained worldwide support in his effort to reverse his death sentence, claiming he had redeemed himself by writing children’s books and encouraging kids to stay away from gangs.  

FBI Breaks Up Movie Piracy Ring: Official

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Associated Press

(Jun. 28, 2006). NEW YORK — FBI agents carried out early morning raids Wednesday and broke up two international movie-piracy rings that siphoned millions of dollars from the motion picture industry over the last year, a federal law enforcement official said. Hordes of agents rounded up more than a dozen members of the two large-scale rings in raids throughout the New York City area, the official said. Recording equipment was also seized. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because announcement of the arrests had not been made. Details were to be unveiled at FBI headquarters later Wednesday. A second federal official said one of the movies the suspects were conspiring to profit from was Superman Returns, the highly anticipated film being released this week. Movie piracy has become a huge problem for the film industry with the advent of high-speed Internet access. The Motion Picture Association of America claims the U.S. movie industry loses more than $3 billion annually in potential global revenue because of physical piracy, or bogus copies of videos and DVDs of its films. Videotaped copies of films in theatres often are digitized or burned off DVDs and then distributed on file-sharing networks.

Academy Changes Rules For Best Foreign Picture

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(July 3, 2006) Beverly Hills -- The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has changed the way it chooses nominees for best foreign- language film and eliminated a rule requiring entries to be in the official language of the submitting country. The Academy's governors approved a new process in judging foreign-language films, allowing New York-based Academy members to participate in the selection for the first time, according to a statement issued Friday. A shortlist of films from nine countries will be chosen by the same Los Angeles-based screening committee that has traditionally viewed the approximately 60 submissions. That shortlist will then be screened by a second committee, made up of 10 randomly selected members of the original committee, 10 Los Angeles-based members not on the original committee and 10 New York-area members. They will view the short listed films and select nominees from that field. In another change, entries submitted in the category no longer have to be in the official language of the country submitting the film (which is how French-language Quebec films earned consideration in the past). As long as the dominant language is not English, a picture from any country may be in any language or combination of languages. "So if the Taiwanese want to send us a picture with exclusively Portuguese dialogue this year," Academy executive director Bruce Davis said, "we're ready for them." Academy Award nominations will be announced in January. The 79th Annual Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 25, 2007. AP


A Sad Day For Journalism

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Ron Haggart

(Jul. 2, 2006) Toronto -- When Liberal cabinet minister Jane Stewart was under fire for her job-creation program in the small business sector, TVOntario's Studio 2 sent out its cameras to find three examples of projects that worked. I remember one anecdote: A Hamilton food processor (ineligible for grants in that city) opened a plant in Brampton (a centre of high unemployment) to make frozen mashed potatoes for President's Choice. There weren't many jobs, but they were new jobs, and that's the way it was supposed to work. Now that kind of reporting is to end (TVOntario Drops The Axe On Studio 2 -- June 30). And when the Ontario government said it was closing all coal-fired electricity-generating plants, Studio 2 discovered Atikoken. The jobs at this plant are the mainstay of the town's economy and, as coal-fired plants go, Atikoken is about as harmless as you can get. Politicians don't like this kind of reporting. It broadens the agenda and extends the factual basis of debate beyond the narrow strictures laid down by those in power and those about to achieve it. The cancellation of Studio 2, and the introduction of new talk shows, represents the Americanization of TVO. This is what the U.S. networks do: They invite to their round tables the paid pundits of the special-interest think tanks. The moral imperatives of the war in Iraq, say, become a debate over George Bush's approval ratings. No new ideas need apply. The statement by Studio 2 co-host Steve Paikin that TVO does not have the resources to send cameras to Iraq is irrelevant. No one expects that. But, on their best days, they sent their cameras to Brampton and Atikoken, and the people of Ontario were enriched by the insights of original reporting. Now they'll just round up the usual talk-show suspects.

TVOntario Drops Axe On Studio 2

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Karen Howlett

(June 30, 2006)
TORONTO — TVOntario's Studio 2 will air for the las time tonight as part of a sweeping overhaul that will see the province's public broadcaster revamp its programming, create a separate French network and leap into the digital age. Steve Paikin, the co-host of Studio 2 since its launch 12 years ago, will anchor a new, hour-long flagship current affairs program called The Agenda. The new program will cover a wide range of topics, from politics to culture, and begin airing in September, five nights a week. The Agenda will differ from Studio 2, a newsmagazine program, by delving into only one or two topics during each show. "We're going to brazenly put long-form journalism out there and give people what they've been telling me they want more of, which is more intelligent, thoughtful, in-depth discussion," Mr. Paikin said in an interview yesterday.  The 46-year-old veteran journalist has had a varied career that includes moderating the televised leadership debates during January's federal election campaign. He said TVO does not have the resources to send camera crews to political hot spots such as Iraq, but it can make its mark by providing thought-provoking discourse. "We want to be the best current-affairs show in the country," he said.

TVO announced yesterday that Studio 2 is one of three programs the broadcaster is axing as it focuses on learning outside the classroom for children and their parents. The new content, to be rolled out over the next 15 months, is aligned with the Ministry of Education's priorities and follows a strategic review done at the request of the government. Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory told reporters that the cancellation of Studio 2 seems like an attempt to line up the political policies of the government with the editorial policies of TVO. But Education Minister Sandra Pupatello denied that the government was involved in the decision. The government made a "very special effort" not to become involved in programming, she said at a news conference yesterday, where she unveiled $25-million in funding for TVO over two years. The other cancelled programs are More to Life, a daytime information program, and Vox, a weekly talk show for teens. Paula Todd, the co-host on Studio 2, will become host of a weekly series called Person 2 Person. TVO chief executive officer Lisa de Wilde said Mr. Paikin's new current-affairs show will anchor the station's content for adults. "This is going to be a destination where you will go when you want to give your brain a workout," she said.

Programming for adults will broadly focus on the theme of citizenship, Ms. de Wilde said. Documentaries and feature films can illuminate that theme and are powerful tools for education, but until the review is complete, the fate of TVO staples such as Saturday Night at the Movies remains up in the air, she added.  TFO, its French-language broadcasting network, will be spun off as a separate, stand-alone entity with its own board of directors, management and budget to better serve the needs of the francophone community. TVO will use a portion of the government funding to convert its production facilities to digital from analog technology by September of 2007. The broadcaster, which is dependent on government funding and contributions from the public, is also looking for new sources of revenue. To that end, Ms. de Wilde did not rule out the possibility of commercials running on TVO in the future. "My responsibility is to get this organization in a financially sustainable mode," she said. Ms. Pupatello said the government is providing TVO with $10-million to convert to a digital format and another $15-million for staff training. Ms. De Wilde said the changes will usher in a new digital era at TVO as it looks at providing programming on the Internet.

Finally, A Fix For Biography Addicts

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Andrew Ryan

(June 30, 2006) People still miss
Biography. The original TV profile program has faded from A&E's schedule but it left behind those viewers fully hooked on a nightly dose of great lives told quickly. You don't shake a TV habit like Biography overnight. And the Biography void lingers. Even now, the show's absence from regular A&E rotation is the topic of conversation among broadcast scholars and cranky old men in coffee shops. With the latter group, the discussion usually ends with, "When the hell is that Biography show coming back?" Biography has, of course, been gradually eased out of A&E's regular line-up over the past few years as the network shifts sights toward -- who else? -- the upstart younger demographic. On the new A&E, the youth movement has translated into a continuing influx of low-budget unscripted programming, like Growing Up Gotti, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Airline, King of Cars, Inked, Dallas SWAT and several other loud reality shows the kids really seem to enjoy. All the reality excitement on A&E hasn't left much room for poor old Biography. It's a shame, really, because Biography was a sturdy TV destination for two decades. Five nights a week at 8 p.m., there was Biography, solid as a rock. The series created the TV art form of abbreviating a famous person's life into a tight 49 minutes, plus commercial breaks, and the subject could be either dead or living, it didn't matter.

In fact, the subject didn't even have to be very famous. Biography covered all the big names in the first few years -- the really big names would receive a two-hour profile -- and gradually edged well down the celebrity ladder. But the show's breezy format could make almost anyone appear interesting, even the actor who played the sidekick on Home Improvement. And you can inform those still pining for Biography that all the old episodes -- hundreds of them -- were transferred over long ago to the
Biography Channel, where they currently run around the clock. But the people who miss the show the most aren't likely candidates for digital service. Most of the real Biography fans are still adjusting to cable television. These days, Biography will return occasionally on Friday nights and only then for a specific reason. The show makes a brief comeback tonight in a reworked version of an earlier profile on Johnny Depp (Biography, A&E, 8 p.m.). Running two hours, the new profile is timed nicely with the release of the coming feature Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. The summer sequel is a Disney movie, and Disney also owns a large chunk of the A&E Network, so I suppose somebody sent an e-mail to someone. Luckily, Depp's rise through the ranks to become a bankable movie star does make an impressive success story. Depp started out as a baby-face cop on the Fox Network's 21 Jump Street, a teen drama he wisely departed after two seasons to focus on more serious film work. He took on complex lead roles in films like Edward Scissorhands and What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

Depp turned down the pretty-boy parts and kept playing against type, which included odd portrayals in Ed Wood and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Depp's acting gift is his ability to detail offbeat characters, and his range is evident in the film clips shown. As per all Biography outings, Depp is afforded an awestruck profile, but it's still a notch above the usual star treatment. Even though it veers leeringly into his personal life, and his relationships with former girlfriends Winona Ryder and Kate Moss, the program still manages to depict Depp as a tireless, generous actor who more recently became a father and family man with Vanessa Paradis. He's the shy superstar, and also a rather nice guy who's worked hard to reach his current status as a Hollywood A-lister. The same sentiment doesn't apply to this evening's second Biography offering on Russell Crowe (A&E, 10 p.m.). The New Zealand-born actor is more or less demonized in this profile, which runs one hour, presumably because he doesn't have a movie landing in theatres this month. And Crowe can't blame anyone for the biographical indictment, since he's made himself an easy target. The short version: Crowe was a journeyman film actor until the 1997 feature L.A. Confidential, in which he played a violent, brush-cut cop named Bud. The breakout role established Crowe, according to this TV bio, as a smouldering film presence, and possibly the next Marlon Brando. Crowe poured the intensity into the lead role in Ridley Scott's Gladiator and won a best-actor Oscar. More time, unfortunately, is devoted to Crowe's hot-blooded public outbursts. The program says that Crowe, flush with his Oscar win, began to believe his own bad-boy image. Apparently, Crowe thought he really was Maximus. There is obsessive attention paid to Crowe's numerous scraps and embarrassing imbroglios, including his arrest last year for assaulting a New York hotel clerk. The program even suggests Crowe's repeated rage displays may have hurt the box-office draw of his most recent major film, Cinderella Man.

Moviegoers don't mind a brute, but they can't abide a bully. Also tonight: Just for Laughs Canada (CBC, 8 p.m.) is a homage to Canada Day, which is tomorrow, if you want to check the calendar. Taped at last summer's comedy festival in Montreal, the special is hosted by Russell Peters, and features spotlight turns from such established stand-up performers as Glen Foster and Royal Canadian Air Farce's Jessica Holmes. Each of the comics offer personal reflections on Canada and Canadians, but pay particular attention to Debra DiGiovanni, a rising star appearing more often lately on MuchMusic and comedy specials. She's not a glamour gal, but she's terribly amusing. According to some people, DiGiovanni may be the funniest woman currently working the Canadian comedy-club circuit. She's the one to watch.

Dates and times may vary across the country. Check local listings.

Brandy To Replace Star Jones?

Excerpt from

(July 3, 2006) *All of a sudden, Brandy Norwood has entered the three-ring circus sparked last Tuesday by Star Jones Reynolds’ unscripted moment on “The View.” The 27-year-old singer/actress, currently a host on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” will be auditioning for Star’s old gig when she appears as a guest host on Wednesday and Friday of this week, her rep told People magazine. "These tryouts are for consideration for the permanent gig," another source close to the matter confirms to the magazine. "They plan to have a few people trying out, like what CBS did (before hiring) Craig Ferguson for the ‘Late Late Show.’"  The former Moesha star is enjoying a career resurgence via “America’s Got Talent,” a reality show created by “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell that searches for the next big star across multiple genres. "’America's Got Talent’ has really opened a lot of doors for me," Brandy tells People. "I want to do a lot more TV."  Meanwhile, “One Life to Live’s” Renée Goldsberry, the first to sit in Star’s chair last week after her exit, will return as a guest host today, while tomorrow’s show will be a rerun and Thursday’s episode will have “All My Children’s” Susan Lucci sit in with the co-hosts Barbara Walters, Joy Behar and Elizabeth Hasslebeck.

In other fallout since Reynolds announced she would not be returning next season, her replacement Rosie O’Donnell has finally commented on the situation by telling blog site Jossip (with an exaggerated wink): “I’m not at liberty to discuss it.”  When asked about past comments about Star’s claim that her weight loss was solely from diet and Pilates, O’Donnell said: “Well you know how much I like her, [but] she thinks she's Beyoncé.”

No End In Sight For CBC's Tommy Troubles

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Val Ross

(Jul. 4, 2006) Last week, both the Directors Guild of Canada and the Writers Guild attacked the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for mishandling controversy over a TV drama about thuggish Saskatchewan politics in the era of Tommy Douglas, father of Canadian medicare.  Since Prairie Giant first aired in mid March, descendants of the late Saskatchewan Liberal politician Jimmy Gardiner -- Douglas's political opponent -- have demanded redress for the film's depiction of Gardiner as a booze-drinking, anti-immigrant arch conservative. The CBC apologized to the Gardiners, and on June 9, citing historical inconsistencies, it cancelled a scheduled rebroadcast of Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story and suspended further sales of Prairie Giant DVDs. Yet this has only deepened the Corp's PR problems. Although producer Kevin DeWalt was notified, CBC contacted neither the director, veteran filmmaker John N. Smith, nor his son, screenwriter Bruce Smith, who heard the news on Peter Mansbridge's nightly newscast. The Directors Guild is urging CBC to apologize to both Smiths. "The CBC's action not only threatens artistic and creative freedom but could amount to censorship," said guild executive director and CEO Pamela Brand. Maureen Parker, executive director of the Writers Guild, concurred: "The CBC's behaviour is inexcusable." Still unsatisfied is Marg Gardiner, the politician's granddaughter, who says she is still waiting for CBC to "take steps so that defamation of my grandfather's reputation ends." She wants a "correction of historical errors" (such as Gardiner being shown taking a drink) and a meeting to discuss "mitigation." She says no one at CBC has yet agreed to meet with her.

Saskatchewan is a province deeply riven by political passions. When CBC invested $1.2-million in the $7.9-million Douglas dramatization project, and the Saskatchewan NDP government put in $600,000 (as part of the province's centennial celebrations), both must have realized that they'd draw fire.  Sure enough, when the provincial investment was first announced in 2005, the opposition Saskatchewan Party raised questions about its involvement in what party leader Brad Wall saw as a potentially partisan project.  Wall returned to the attack a week after Giant's March, 2006, broadcast. His chief of staff contacted Jimmy's grandson Michael Gardiner to ask if the family could be present in the legislature when the Opposition tried to get a motion of apology passed. They readily agreed.  Now the Opposition is urging school boards not to employ the miniseries as a teaching aid. "Jimmy's great-granddaughters are in school in Regina. Imagine these kids watching inaccurate portrayals," Wall says. So far, the only school board to do so has been Saskatchewan Rivers, whose trustees on June 6 advised their Prince Albert-area schools to avoid Prairie Giant ("I view this film as political propaganda," said trustee Barry Hollick). But even socialist stalwarts dispute the film's portrayal of their beloved Tommy. After reading an early version of the script, Tommy's daughter Shirley Douglas withdrew from her involvement for reasons unknown, although she too objected to seeing booze in the hand of her family member. (Both Douglas and Gardiner were public teetotallers, but in private took the odd drink.) And after Prairie Giant aired, former NDP premier Allan Blakeney weighed in with: "Douglas was not Saint Tommy and nor was Jimmy Gardiner the epitome of the devil." By late March, Marg Gardiner and her family had fired a volley of letters to government, media and CBC executives. Among other things, they insisted that Gardiner was no anti-immigrant bigot, but had in fact fought to keep the Ku Klux Klan out of the province. So the CBC commissioned an independent assessment from an anonymous Saskatchewan historian. It has shown this neither to the Smiths, nor the Gardiners. Bruce Smith, who obtained a copy, says, "The historian doesn't cite a single thing in he movie we should have changed." The report picks out details such as Douglas dying at his cottage instead of Ottawa ("we knew that -- but it was a set issue"). In any case, says Smith, Prairie Giant carries a disclaimer: "This film is a dramatization based on true events. Some names have been changed and characters, locations and events have been composited, condensed or fictionalized for dramatic purposes."

The CBC's behaviour in this controversy recalls the 1992 slugfest over The Valour and the Horror, about Canadian airmen bombarding German civilians in 1944. The CBC trumpeted this film -- until outraged veterans sued for $500-million. Then, as now, the corporation faced a Conservative government bent on cutting its budget; then, as now, CBC withdrew support from a controversial project and agreed to a review of its accuracy (the veterans' suit was later thrown out of court). Almost four decades ago, John Smith went to jail for refusing to divulge his sources for a documentary on Quebec's FLQ bombers. "Someone at CBC told me then, 'Either you obey orders or you won't have a career.' Well -- I have a career." He's back in Saskatchewan to work on a new DeWalt project, a film of Guy Vanderhaeghe's The Englishman's Boy. As for Prairie Giant, "My sense is this is totally political. Tommy's being attacked. Yes, the film is an interpretation. And I stand by it." For Bruce Smith, at work on a new project based on the Stephen Truscott murder case, Prairie Giant's problems arise from misunderstandings about the nature of drama: "You'll notice, there were actors. This was not a documentary!"  With Paul Gross, one of Canada's handsomest men, playing jowly, pop-eyed John Diefenbaker, what was the clue? But Marg Gardiner has not given up, and in the prairies, political memories are haunted by giants.

Canadians Seek Supernova Fame

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Victoria Ahearn, Canadian Press

(Jul. 5, 2006) Splashy, poolside partying dominated activities at the Rock Star mansion in Los Angeles Tuesday as the two Canadian contestants on the reality TV show of the same name geared up for their first taste of television fame.  "I'm just having a good time getting some sun, drinking a lot of water today, you know what I mean?" Lukas Rossi of Toronto said over the line from the swank estate on the eve of the show's second season premiere Wednesday on Global.  "We had a few drinks (last night) and just had a blast. A lot of people got thrown in the pool. It's a rock party, man."  Rossi, 29, and Jenny Galt, 29, of Vancouver are among 15 contestants vying to be the lead singer of a new group called Supernova, featuring Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and Gun N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke.  "It's weird because you're out of your element. You're away from your family and everything so it can be a little stressful," admitted Galt of the atmosphere in the house, where cameras are on them for much of the day.  "And there's a lot of partying that goes on, of course, and people want to have a few drinks so that they can relax and the booze is always there. But it's far from a hard life here. It's not exactly like something to complain about. It's pretty gorgeous."  Rossi, described on the Rock Star website as a mix of Jeff Buckley and Freddie Mercury, has recorded, written and produced music for the past 15 years and has collaborated with various bands, including Tea Party.  He auditioned for the show in Vancouver on the insistence of a friend, and because he idolizes Lee and the crew.  He's a self-professed "outcast" of his family who grew up ``having nothing," he says. Despite the partying, it's been quite lonely at the mansion and he's trying to focus on his main goal — winning.

"I'm not here to be on a TV show, I'm just here to be in the band. I'm really not into all this reality stuff," said the singer, who sports a nose ring and heavy eye-makeup.  "I'm not here to be a pop star or a TV star. I'm just here to rock."  The Montreal-born Galt plays piano and guitar. She's lived in Ottawa and now Vancouver, and toured Canada and Australia with her recently disbanded pop-rock group, Cherrybomb.  The Rock Star website describes her as a sly, girl-next-door type, which she agrees with.  "I've always got something going on in my brain. It doesn't necessarily mean I tell everybody what I'm thinking," said the blond-haired Galt, who auditioned in Vancouver after receiving an e-mail from Rock Star agents.  "My strategy for winning, or whatever that kind of stuff might be, are a little kept to myself."  Scouts travelled the globe — with stops in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Iceland and Malaysia — to find 15 finalists with musical backgrounds ranging from pop to hard rock and looks ranging from "southern Belle" to pierced punk.  Hopefuls were also allowed to send a video or audio clip directly to producers online.  The bulk of contestants live in North America, although there is one from Australia and one from Iceland.  All of them get to live in the mansion before they're cast off the show, hosted by former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Dave Navarro and model Brooke Burke.  Viewers get to vote for their favourite contestant at the end of each show and the three rockers with the fewest votes will be deemed eligible to leave that week. The band itself will ultimately choose who goes home.  The winner will record an album with Supernova and head out on a world tour in 2007. Butch Walker, who's written or produced tracks for Avril Lavigne, Pink and Bowling for Soup, will co-write and produce the CD.  Last season, 15 finalists — including four Canadians — competed to be the new lead singer for Australian rockers INXS.  Canadian J.D. Fortune emerged as the winner, and has since recorded a CD with the band and gone on a world tour.

Rock Star Franchise Gets Down And Dirty

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Andrew Ryan,

(Jul. 5, 2006) In the world of rock, the second album is always the tough one. The inability to follow up a breakout single dashed Bill Haley's career back in the fifties, and the same misfortune has since befallen untold numbers of one-hit wonders. It's the hard reality of rock music: You really are only as good as your last hit. And the kids still go for the crazy rock-and-roll sound, but they're usually fussy about who grinds it out. Rock is a volume-driven business in which any random handful of college dropouts can produce a hot debut album, make the cover of Rolling Stone and then disappear off the face of the Earth -- in most cases, because they couldn't pull off the follow-up. The same rock-industry pressure should probably apply to the semi-anticipated return of Rock Star: Supernova (CBS, Global, 8 p.m.). Formerly known as Rock Star: INXS, the reality talent search takes on a harder edge in the sequel series, simply by adhering to the oldest rule in the rock-and-roll playbook: When in doubt, just play louder. The first campaign of Rock Star was a soft-rock take on American Idol. The contestants were the same sort of fresh-scrubbed young hopefuls, who in this instance were vying for the lead-singer position with INXS, a pop group that turned out a remarkable number of singles in the early eighties. The competition was judged by the surviving members of INXS, who looked exactly like as one would imagine fiftysomething Australian rock stars might look: tiny, tanned and crinkly. The first Rock Star was a harmless affair that became a modest hit for CBS last summer. The show generated some public buzz, but it was nowhere near the ratings draw of ABC's So You Think You Can Dance. It's possible that Rock Star held more interest for viewers in this country, since there were two Canadians who made it to the final rounds: Suzy McNeil and J.D. Fortune. The latter won the contest and is currently residing in a motor home, somewhere on tour with INXS. Another rock-and-roll dream realized.

Much has changed with Rock Star: Supernova. This time, the program seeks a singer for the specially assembled "supergroup" comprising three heavy-metal icons: Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, still more famous for his former marriage to Pamela Anderson, and guitarists Jason Newsted (Metallica) and Gilby Clarke (Guns N' Roses). They are a mean-looking trio of bad boys, dressed in black leather and covered in body art.  Cranking the volume and dirtying up the concept seems an attempt by CBS to increase Rock Star's appeal to angry young males -- the very demographic that sustains the rock music industry. It's unlikely that many under-21 viewers who sampled the first series had ever heard of INXS, but they likely possess at least a vague awareness of Metallica and Guns N' Roses. And of course, all the dudes know Tommy Lee was married to Pammie. That alone makes him a godlike figure to most young metalheads. And unlike the first Rock Star, Supernova is supposed to be an original band, with original material. Once the singer is crowned, the supergroup will march straight into the recording studio with Butch Walker, a sought-after rock producer who has created hits for Avril Lavigne and other artists. Once again, there are two Canadians among the contestants. The final group of 16 presented in tonight's premiere includes Vancouver native Jenny Galt and Toronto's Lukas Rossi.  Get used to the racket, because Rock Star: Supernova airs twice a week and it's around all summer. The franchise's fate depends entirely on unpredictable fan support. In keeping with music-industry standards, it will be either a chart-topper or remainder-bin television. But if Rock Star bombs, we'll never see it again. Beyond the obvious, there is much to marvel at in Niagara Falls (PBS, 8 p.m.), which recaps the history behind the raging wonder of nature and parallels its fame with the rise of American culture. Even with the one-sided approach, it's still a lively hour. Not surprisingly, the film is driven by astounding film documentation of Niagara Falls. The program features archival 1930s clips of foolhardy souls who tried to ride the Falls in wooden barrels, very often with sad results. The newsreel footage is juxtaposed with recent high-definition photography -- shot right from within the whirling waters -- that demonstrate its sheer force. According to this report, Niagara Falls has maintained its rank as a prime travel destination, with an estimated 20 million visitors a year. As natural wonders go, that's staying power.

From T.O. Trenches To Wacky Moose TV

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Nelson Wyatt, Canadian Press

(Jul. 5, 2006) MONTREAL—Moose TV is a different kind of animal.  For one thing, it's a situation comedy with a sense of humour provided by aboriginal creators and actors, something producer Ernest Webb says is a rarity.  "I think it's time," said Webb, a Quebec Cree who helped create the show, which will begin an eight-episode run on Showcase early next year.  "Native people are some of the biggest jokers around. If you go to a family gathering or wherever, you always hear laughter."  Moose TV is acted by a galaxy of aboriginal stars including Adam Beach (Windtalkers and Clint Eastwood's upcoming Flags of Our Fathers); Nathaniel Arcand (Da Vinci's City Hall, Pathfinder); Jennifer Podemski (One Dead Indian, Degrassi: The Next Generation) and Michelle Latimer (This is Wonderland, Naked Josh).  The show tells the story of George Keeshig (Beach) who returns to his hometown of Moose in northern Quebec after 10 hard years in Toronto.  An "ideas" man, he decides to reopen the community's abandoned TV station with his pal Clifford (Arcand) and the hijinks ensue as the locals line up to pitch programs such as Me and My Beaver.

Beach said George is a truly dynamic character. "He carries himself with this energy of `let's create' so it's just non-stop for this guy," the Manitoba native said on the Moose TV set near Montreal.  "It's something I'm not used to because the energy is so high. I give so much credit to the comedic actors out there because it's a different medium compared to drama."  Moose TV is not a far-fetched idea, Beach noted. He has heard of one native community that hooked their TVs up to a single video camera set up in a garage. People provided their own shows by turning up to chat or read books aloud.  Webb and his wife came up with the idea for Moose TV about six years ago. Until now their production company, Rezolution Pictures, has concentrated mainly on social issue documentaries.  "We feel like we're breaking new ground here," he said, although some of the comedy derives from stock situations such as buddies hanging out, father-son clashes, and girl trouble.  Webb sees Moose TV as "a natural progression" since Canadians most often see aboriginals grappling with problems in dark dramas based on true stories.  Arcand, who said he bases some of his character on Webb and scriptwriter Paul Quarrington, agrees.  "This is a breath of fresh air for me ... I don't have to play a screaming warrior on a horse trying to scalp a white man, or the belligerent young native man in the contemporary age raising his fist to the government."


Richard Leacock in CBC’s North/South

NORTH/SOUTH the sexy, fast-paced, daytime drama series set in the increasingly cosmopolitan city of Halifax follows the exploits and struggles of the Kilcoynes, Colleys, Toulanys and Singhs, four economically and socially diverse families toiling within the construction industry - an industry where business IS personal. 
Richard Leacock’s character is the first in his family to go to law school.  Check it out and email CBC and tell them you love the show so they'll keep it on the air.

CTV News To Boycott Future Gemini Awards

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Gayle Macdonald

(June 30, 2006) Toronto —
CTV News has pulled out of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television's annual Gemini Awards for the best in Canadian television. In a letter to staff Thursday, CTV News president Robert Hurst said he wrote to the academy's CEO Maria Topalovich to inform her of his decision to withdraw. "Many of you have been arguing for years that CTV [News'] participation in these awards is of little value," Hurst wrote in the memo. "Last year, we won Geminis for best newscast (11 p.m.), best reportage (David Akin) and best news information series (W-Five). But those awards did not seem to change attitudes across our news division." Hurst added that at a recent CTV News management meeting, a vote was called, and it was nearly unanimous in favour of withdrawing. Asked yesterday why he was pulling out after his team picked up three awards, Hurst said "one of the areas that the Gemini Awards has to address is local news. The majority of broadcast journalists in Canada work in local stations, and the Geminis ignore it. There's been a fair amount of unhappiness about the Gemini awards, the process and the procedure, widespread among CTV staff for years. We concluded under the current structure it's really of little value."  Topalovich could not be reached.

TV Ratings Soar For World Cup

Source: Canadian Press

(June 30, 2006) Canadian television ratings for the World Cup have improved dramatically from four years ago when the tournament was held in South Korea and Japan. TSN and Rogers Sportsnet averaged 431,000 viewers a match over 56 games in the first and second rounds, which was a 138-per-cent increase over 2002 and a 46-per-cent increase over the 1998 World Cup in France, the networks said yesterday in a joint release. The number of Canadians watching this year's World Cup in Germany jumped from an average of 386,000 in the first round to 683,000 in the second. By comparison, the average audience over 47 NHL playoff games on CBC this year was 1.653 million and the high was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup, which was 5.553 million.

CBS To Use Soft Sell In Introducing New Anchor Couric

Source: Associated Press

(Jul. 4, 2006) NEW YORK — The soft sell of successor Katie Couric by Bob Schieffer ends with this simple request: "Just watch." The promotion that has begun airing on CBS News programs is the first step of CBS News' sales job for Couric, who starts Sept. 5 as the new CBS Evening News anchor. The idea is to have Schieffer introduce Couric to his audience, and he ad-libs in his amiable style. Couric appears briefly on the screen, looking serious and talking on the phone, but does not speak. Phase two later this month will be ads featuring Couric talking about the news and how to cover it, said CBS News president Sean McManus. The ads will gradually branch out to other CBS programs, then to other networks, he said. In August, advertising for Couric's debut will include specific promotions for segments in the CBS Evening News, he said. "There's not a great necessity to let people know that she is starting on Sept. 5," McManus said. "The entire world will know that. We're trying to give a sense of transition." Couric, McManus and CBS Evening News executive producer Rome Hartman met last week for their first planning session. While it is tempting to give the evening news a revolutionary new look, McManus said it doesn't make sense. The median age of evening-news viewers among the three broadcast networks is over 60. "If we can bring in a younger audience and a different audience, great," he said. "But we would be very short-sighted if we were to do something that would alienate the people who are used to watching the news at 6:30."


Toronto Theatre's Struggle

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Guy Dixon And Suzanne Ma

(Jul. 2, 2006) At the end of the show, when Frodo departs the stage, it isn't the audience at the Princess of Wales Theatre that's crying. It's the rest of Toronto's theatre industry mourning the lost opportunity of turning
The Lord of the Rings into a Phantom of the Opera or at least a Miss Saigon-calibre hit to push the city back into a theatre-going mood. As announced this week, the massively ambitious, $28-million staging of The Lord of the Rings is ending on Sept. 3, far sooner than David Mirvish and its other producers seemed to be hoping given the show's open run, which began with previews in February. And Rings producer Kevin Wallace laid much of the blame on local critics, calling London, where the production will reside next, its "spiritual home." But the industry sees another, more critical reason effecting The Lord of the Rings' early closing. Toronto audiences have simply gotten out of the habit of going to the theatre, a trend far different from periods in the 1990s when audiences were enticed by a number of big, concurrent productions, which then lent extra vitality to mid-sized theatres and the grassroots fringe scene. The marketplace has changed hugely, and I think the way people buy their tickets has changed," said Jacoba Knappen, executive director of Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts, which represents 185 member companies from professional theatre, dance and opera throughout the city. Theatrical productions, particularly independent shows not included in package theatre subscriptions or unusual cases such as Rings, which needed to attract sell-out crowds to survive, are struggling to get arty, urban audiences to fill the seats. Never mind the "905" crowd from Toronto's suburbs. Theatres must do a much better job at attracting those who live within Toronto's inner-city 416 area code, she said.

For large productions and festivals such as Southern Ontario's Stratford and Shaw, out-of-towners are crucial. The Rings audience, for instance, was 53 per cent from the Greater Toronto Area and 47 per cent from outside the city, according to Mirvish. And the Canadian dollar and border issues can be problematic. Yet for the larger Toronto market, including the vital fringe scene and theatre workshops, there's a new concern about the fickle hometown crowd. "Toronto theatre is far from over. There's always an interest to garner more excitement in the Toronto theatre crowd and there's a lot of work being done," Mirvish said, speaking passionately yesterday. "We are disappointed [about The Lord of the Rings closing] but right now we are doing our best to protect that investment . . . and that means ending its run in September," he added. "I believe that it's better to try than not to try. You can sit at home and do nothing or you can have your imagination stirred by people trying to do something creative." Still, "a lot of the theatres don't seem to know who their audiences are," Knappen argued, adding that Chicago theatres, for instance, have been able to study audience trends more effectively. Her association is trying to get funding for a similar Toronto study. Then again, when the producers of the Rings asked audiences to fill out an on-line survey, it did little to boost one's impression of the show or the producers' confidence in their own production. But many are beginning to see this as a Toronto-specific problem, happening while other secondary theatre centres around the world, such as Berlin or Madrid, are growing. Also, much smaller Canadian theatres, such as Regina's Globe Theatre or Saskatoon's Persephone Theatre, don't seem to be affected by the lull Toronto is facing, Knappen noted.

For theatre producer and entertainment lawyer Derrick Chua -- who recently co-produced the boy-band spoof BoyGroove, which was first staged as a fringe show before appearing at the Diesel Playhouse -- Toronto theatre is having a problem getting word out to the general public. Because promotional budgets for independent theatre are so small, it's hard to drum up enough buzz beyond the core, die-hard theatre going crowd. Meanwhile, for the rest of Toronto, "theatregoing is just not the same regular event that it used to be in the heyday of the mega-musicals," such as Phantom and Les Misérables. "You'd get three or four mega-musicals playing at the same time and there was more of a culture of theatregoing," Chua said. "On any given weekend, you'd have 5,000 people going to see the theatre." Despite the sense of a lull in the industry, Chua said he's continually busy, especially with the upcoming Toronto Fringe Festival. "The Fringe is a force unto itself. That is one festival, knock on wood, that has actually been increasing in numbers the last few years. And we expect it again to increase this year with all the notoriety of The Drowsy Chaperone, being a Fringe hit to win five Tony awards." For mid-sized companies, such as the Tarragon Theatre, the end of Rings also lends a certain indirect damper. "In our theatre, I think probably the effect is more an emotional, psychological one. We've only got Mirvish left in that category of large producer, really," said Mallory Gilbert, the Tarragon's general manager, who is coincidentally leaving the company after 34 years, but plans to still be active in Toronto theatre with various independent projects. "There does seem to be a reluctance to go out if you're not already committed to a theatre. People are taking a little longer to make those decisions and sometimes it's on the afternoon of the performance day, and that's terrifying," Gilbert said. Nevertheless, the Tarragon, which has one 200-seat theatre and another 100-seat space, had a strong 2005-2006 season. It sold around 4,000 season subscriptions, and Gilbert says the company has already sold around 65 per cent of that for 2006-2007, and she has no doubt that Tarragon will match last year's numbers. Subscribers make up about 40 per cent of the Tarragon's audience. Yet she feels that for the vast majority of people who don't commit to season's tickets, there is less of a draw to go to theatres. "I think there's an awful lot of choice in Toronto right now, which is great. But I think it paralyzes people. There is so much choice that people really have to want to go to anything particular thing before they'll shell out the money . . . and most people don't have the time to go and stand in line for rush seats, at least not if you're over 30. It's all of that together," she said. "To watch people have difficulties just spreads a kind of unease."

All You Need Is Love

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

Jun. 30, 2006) It's a Magical Mystery Tour you'll never forget.  The latest Cirque du Soleil spectacular, LOVE, which has its gala premiere tonight at the Mirage Hotel after two press previews, is undoubtedly the most unabashedly joyous show in this organization's history.  Sceptics who thought that the alliance of The Beatles and Cirque represented nothing more than sheer commercialism have been proved resoundingly wrong.  LOVE is not only a satisfyingly artistic and original piece of entertainment in its own right, but it honours the musical integrity of the Fab Four in a way that few other shows ever have.  To begin with, how is the music used? Relax, there are no cheap cover vocals, update orchestrations or horrible medleys. The men in charge have been Sir George Martin, the original producer of all The Beatles' albums, and his son Giles, who has inherited his father's gift for recording studio wizardry.  Every single word and note you hear was recorded by The Beatles during their years together. Sometimes, four versions of a song will be blended together to form a new and invigorating take on an old favourite, but more often than not what you hear is the songs you love, impeccably mixed and played through 6,305 state-of-the-art speakers.  From the very first second that the a cappella voices of John, Paul, George and Ringo blow you away with "Because," you know all will be well.  So much for what you hear, but how about what you see?  Things are in first-rate shape there as well. Director Dominic Champagne has referred to LOVE as "a rock 'n' roll poem" and that's as good a description as any.  Champagne has responded to the music and lyrics of The Beatles on an emotional and sensual level, rather than an intellectual one. There is no attempt to force things into a biographical narrative, although there is a loosely chronological thread that starts at the time of their births during World War II and continues forward to the break-up of the group in 1970.

Cirque is known for its strange characters who wander through their shows, and this is no exception. Only, if you look closely, you will be able to identify them as Sgt. Pepper, Mr. Kite, Fr. McKenzie and other iconic figures from Beatles lyrics.  But musical impressionism is the primary order of the day. "Eleanor Rigby" features a sad-faced woman who pulls a toy train laden with all of her sad memories, while "Lady Madonna" is a joyously pregnant South African woman who dances in yellow gumboots with her husband.  Some moments are surprisingly dark, with "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite," for example, being turned into a sort of Satanic mass attended by evil robed figures.  But mostly all is sheer bliss. The aerobic ballets performed to "Something" and "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" are amazingly original and beautiful, while the rollerblading virtuosity displayed during "Help" is an eye-popping knockout.  This is a world of super-saturated colour, hyperkinetic movement and amazing technical skill. Yet somehow, it all serves to underscore the sweet humanity behind the music of the Liverpool Lads who conquered the world.  It's hard to explain, but when the finale, predictably enough, leads into an arm-swaying rendition of "All You Need Is Love," it's hard not to become emotional about what these songs meant to all of us — both in our youth and today.  The power of The Beatles has been combined with the power of Cirque du Soleil and the final result is a glorious theatrical knockout.  Will you love it? In the words of John, Paul, George and Ringo:  "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah."

Woman In Pain Lifts Harlem Duet

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

Harlem Duet

Written and directed by Djanet Sears. Until Sept. 22 at the Studio Theatre, Stratford. 1-800-567-1600

(Jun. 30, 2006) Watching the Sunday night preview of Harlem Duet, I felt much the same as I did seeing the first production a decade ago: a marvellous central story was being asked to bear the weight of more historical significance than its structure could take.  The current Stratford version is superbly acted and well-directed, but that nagging central problem remains.  For most of the play, we're in Harlem, in the present day. A black couple has split up after nine years together. Her name is Billie, but he carries the weightier handle of Othello. He's taken up with a white woman called Mona (as in Desdemona), whom we never meet, and another unseen character named Chris Iago hovers at the edges of the action.  In other words, we're in a modern prequel to Othello, which is a truly fascinating idea. As if all this wasn't enough, Sears adds two other versions of the same story: one set in 1860 with runaway slaves, the other in 1928 with a frustrated black tragedian. These vignettes are more distracting than rewarding.  The author and cast make their points strongly enough in the main narrative. Not only do we have two people hurting each other deeply, their battles keep coming back to skin colour, the one unforgettable fact, they feel, of their existence.  Sears' play requires actors who aren't afraid to commit 110 per cent to the work and she definitely has them here.  Karen Robinson once again shows she is fully willing to dive into the depths of a role, no matter how painful. Her Billie has been hurt so deeply that she is near insanity. It's an astonishing performance.

Nigel Shawn Williams as Othello has the less sympathetic part. The betrayer is never as fascinating as the betrayed, but Williams uses intensity and passion to help us see why he felt he had to leave this woman.  The third amazing performance comes from Walter Borden, who radiates a riveting complexity as Canada, Billie's long-lost father. Borden brings a lifetime of compassion and experience onto the stage and everyone is richer for it.  Barbara Barnes-Hopkins has wit and warmth as Billie's landlady, Magi, although it's theatrical territory we've seen her cover before. And Sophia Walker, as Billie's sister-in-law Amah, isn't really up to the level of everyone else on the stage.  Still, despite these minor problems, Harlem Duet remains the kind of work that will haunt you days after you see it and Karen Robinson's performance will stay in your memory even longer.

Baring The Burden Of Race

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - Kamal Al-Solaylee

Harlem Duet
Directed and written by Djanet Sears
Starring Karen Robinson
and Nigel Shaw Williams
At the Stratford Festival
Rating: **½

(July 3, 2006) With all the excitement greeting the current revival of Djanet Sears' Harlem Duet at the Stratford Festival, it being the first play there by a black writer, with a black female director and an all-black cast, it would be wonderful to report that Thursday's opening-night performance was equally as exciting and groundbreaking.  In its literary conceit as a black female intervention in the mythology of Othello and in its still-resonant discussions of racial politics, soaked as they are in the private passions of two lovers, Harlem Duet is a rich, significant modern Canadian play. As a writer, Sears has done her literary, political and poetic homework. The intellectual reach of the text is breathtaking.  As a director, however, Sears lets the ball drop in a production which, despite some captivating performances, is cumbersome, tentative and -- surprisingly given the fiery nature of the material -- cold-blooded in many places. This in a play where magic potions are concocted, racial wars are raging and incarceration is all but inevitable for its lead character? What went wrong? Perhaps this Harlem-set story has yet to find its "spiritual home" (to use the buzz phrase of the week in theatreland) in the white fortress of Stratford. And perhaps it will pick up heat as the run continues through the summer. But for now, we have a great story told by Sears the writer nearly botched by Sears the director.

The story is of Billie (Karen Robinson), who's going through the agony -- pain is an understatement in this context -- of breaking up with her lover Othello (Nigel Shawn Williams). To make matters much, much worse, he's left her for a skinny white girl. Variations of the same story are played out in two musically enhanced interludes: one set on a plantation in the 1860s with two slaves dreaming of freedom in Canada, and another in 1928, featuring a pair of black performers.  The play juggles more than just time periods. There's an experiment in verbal style, from the poeticism of the earlier periods to the academically informed racial debates of the present (or at least the late-1990s, when the play was first written). Onstage, Sears crafts a strong, urban vocabulary for the present, but is at a loss to translate the rich poetry and imagery of the 1860s or 1920s, which she herself created, into performance terms. What looks integrated on the page lacks coherence and punch on the stage.  The transitions between periods and places, in the literal and more figurative sense, were still too rough on opening night. While Astrid Janson's costumes are flexible enough, her set is neither as nimble nor as suggestive of the play's textual richness as it could be. Paul Mathiesen's lighting design wastes a similar opportunity to shed the missing lyrical light on the production. Nor is Sears at home directing in the Studio Theatre's mini-thrust stage. Clearly the production was set for a stage with a proscenium arch, and has been retooled to fit the new requirements. The wonderful immediacy that a small, open space like the Studio can create is not used to its full effect.

Luckily, the heart and mind of the play lie in the exchange between Billie and Othello on race issues. Since both are academics created by an artist, their words combine intellectual and historical rigour with an emotional punch. The debates about affirmative action, defining one's identity by skin colour, and the trap of history as a narrative of progress -- these were and continue to be Harlem Duet's intellectual provenance and are delivered well by the lead actors.  Williams succeeds admirably in exuding the confidence and the insecurity that Sears has built into his character. Robinson is on her usual autopilot to play a seemingly strident character, but, in the production's most powerful moments, she casts a real spell as a woman spurned by a lover and betrayed by an unsympathetic culture. I wish I could sense more sexual tension between them, however.  The other characters are your standard-issue, even stereotypical amusing black people. In the context of the story, they (a man-hunting landlady, a kind sister-in-law and an estranged father) provide Billie with systems of support. In the context of this production, however, they're mainly a distraction from the real story of how two black people cope with their share of the burden of race.  Harlem Duet continues at the Studio Theatre in Stratford, Ont., until Sept. 22 (1-800-567-1600).


We Remember Lloyd Richards

Excerpt from

(July 3, 2006) *Famed theatre director and educator Lloyd Richards, who served as a mentor for Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry, has died of heart failure.  Richards directed six of Wilson’s plays on Broadway: starting with “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in 1984 and continuing through “Fences” (1987), “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” (1988), “The Piano Lesson” (1990), “Two Trains Running” (1992) and “Seven Guitars” (1996). Richards won a Tony Award for his direction of “Fences.” He made his Broadway directorial debut in 1959 with Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun.” Its success propelled Richards into a career teaching drama, first at Hunter College and then New York University.  Richards died on Thursday, his birthday, at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Always secretive about his age, he was believed to be in his mid-80s. *Several Broadway shows have changed their schedules to accommodate the holiday tomorrow.  Sarah Jones’ one-woman Tony-winner “Bridge and Tunnel” has cancelled its performance on July 4, but a show will be added Wednesday, July 5, at 2 p.m. “The Color Purple” has also nixed its July 4th staging.  “The Lion King” has cancelled July 4th’s 8 p.m. show as well as its July 9th 3 p.m. performance. But, the production has added shows for 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. July 9th. No changes were announced for the Maurice-Hines-choreographed “Hot Feet,” which features the music of Earth Wind & Fire.


Troops, Farmers Remembered On Canada Day

Source: The Canadian Press

(Jul. 2, 2006) Canadian soldiers and farmers were the focus Saturday as thousands took part in
Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa. Military veterans, medal-winning Olympic athletes and some of Canada's biggest names in music were part of the events on Parliament Hill, where some 25,000 marked the country's 139th birthday. The crowd responded with prolonged applause when Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged Canadians to pay tribute to the soldiers and aid workers in Afghanistan and other world hot spots. "Let's show our appreciation, today and every day, to those who do it best for us in Afghanistan and around the world," Mr. Harper said. "Our diplomats, our development workers and brave men and women of the Canadian Forces." Canadian soldiers had a painful reminder of the dangers they face in Afghanistan's volatile southern region on Friday as they were preparing for Canada Day when two rockets fired into the coalition base in Kandahar wounded 10 people, including two Canadians. Harper's words on Afghanistan were met with praise by many in the Ottawa crowd. "I grew up with the traditions of this country, and it means everything to me," said Louise Zawada of Alexandria, Ont. "I'm very, very proud to hear Harper talk."

As protesters lined tractors and farm machinery along the street in front of the Hill, Gov.-Gen. Michaëlle Jean noted Canada's prosperity, including in her remarks a thank-you to the people who toil to provide the country with a safe and plentiful food supply. "Ours is a country of great wealth from its plains, forests and mountains that nourish us to the crystal clear waters of our abundant lakes and rivers," she said. The thousands who flocked to Parliament Hill were from all parts of the country, and from around the world. Ukrainian Igor Protasov, visiting Canada for the first time with his parents, couldn't hold back his excitement. "For a long time we wanted very much to visit Canada," said Mr. Protasov, his eyes beaming as he gazed over the crowd. "It was our dream, and we would like to wish Happy Canada Day to everybody." Along with the usual Snowbirds fly-past, the crowd enjoyed performances by Susan Aglukark and Colin James — all a prelude to an evening fireworks display. Earlier, a few blocks away, Mr. Harper and Ms. Jean took part in a wreath-laying at the National War Memorial at an event marking the 90th anniversary of the Battles of the Somme and Beaumont-Hamel in France. It was the first time a remembrance ceremony was conducted at the National War Memorial on July 1. Opposition leader Bill Graham released a statement describing Canada as being like no other country, "made up of individuals, representing all ethnicities and all religions, bound together by our shared values of family, community, tolerance and freedom."

At 55 C, one of the hottest locales for a Canada Day party was the Kandahar base. Along with barbecued burgers and cold beer, Canadians played a few games of volleyball and staged a 10-km charity run. In Montreal, thousands lined downtown Ste.-Catharine Street to watch a parade that featured the usual eclectic fare from the city's various ethnic communities, along with the perennial Shriners riding their signature miniature cars. "It's about fun," said Jason Cole, 18. "You know, get out and enjoy — see the people that do right for us." Hundreds gathered under sunny skies in Halifax at historic Citadel Hill for official Canada Day ceremonies, which included a performance by a military band and a 21-gun salute. Ron Heffernan, a warrant officer in the navy, draped a Canadian flag over his shoulders and wore a foam hat in the shape of a maple leaf. "Canada Day to me is just coming together, a celebration of family," said the 38-year-old Ottawa man, who is stationed in Halifax. "Not just family as in husband and wife, mother and father, but family as in Canadians." In Toronto, 27 people from 18 countries took the oath of citizenship as part of celebrations at Queen's Park, the Ontario legislature. Citizenship judge Sarkis Assadourian reminded the new Canadians of their potential, noting the Governor General and her predecessor, Adrienne Clarkson, came to this country as immigrants. "I don't think there's a country in the world that allows new refugees or new immigrants to become commander-in-chief, head of state, representing our nation all over the world," he said. The Toronto Blue Jays and visiting Philadelphia Phillies sported Canadian flag patches on their caps — the first time both the home and visiting team had the Maple Leaf sewn on their hats. And Jays' players had the word Canada stitched on the back of their jerseys instead of their names. Toronto won, 5-2. In St. John's, N.L., a large crowd turned out for a party on Confederation Hill. At the other end of the country, about 300 people gathered in front of Vancouver's art gallery to celebrate Cannabis Day. David Maimo-Levine, one of the event's organizers, said Cannabis Day is celebrated on Canada's birthday to emphasize the fact that Canada has a relatively lenient stance toward the drug. "We just want to celebrate that fact and point out how free and wonderful Canada can be sometimes."

Black Teen Pilot Sets Flying Records

Excerpt from

(July 5, 2006) *Jonathan Strickland, a 14-year old African American helicopter and airplane pilot at the Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, successfully landed a Robinson R44 helicopter at the Compton/Woodley Airport, making him the youngest African-American pilot to fly a helicopter round trip internationally and netting him the last in a total of four world records.  Jonathan’s final leg home from Canada meant battling heavy turbulence along the coast of Oregon state, and flying a total of 15 hours and over 1,000 miles with stops in Portland and Medford, Oregon; and Monterey and Paso Robles, California. “I met a lot of people along the way who cheered me on to fulfill my dream of flying a plane and a helicopter on the same day” said Strickland.  “Taking this trip gave me the opportunity to see a whole new world, and to discover that there is so much more out there for me. Hopefully, other children will see me and feel the same way about their future.” Strickland’s flight through Canada brought with it three more world records – among them, the youngest African-American to fly a helicopter internationally and the youngest person to solo a plane and helicopter on the same day. Upon his landing on July 1, Strickland was given a hero’s welcome by family and friends and was honoured to be greeted by his mentors, the Tuskegee Airmen, including original airmen Ted Lumpkin, Levi Thornhill, Jerry Hodges,  Andrew Wallace, and Western Region Vice President Ralph Smith among others.

“Today the past represented by the Tuskegee Airmen greets the future represented by young pilot Jonathan Strickland,” stated museum Director Robin Petgrave. “These young kids are the Compton Experiment, children who are supposed to fail, but like the men and women of the Tuskegee Experiment, not only accomplish great feats, but excel above all others.  The children you see here will one day play a major role in America as the pilots, astronauts and engineers of the future, proudly carrying forth the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.”   Jonathan received his training as a member of the Aviation Explorer Program at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum, a Congressionally-recognized non-profit that teaches disadvantaged children to fly planes and helicopters, for free, in return for community service. 

Get Your Kicks With Capoeira

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jul. 5, 2006) This Saturday at Harbourfront Centre's Roots:Remix weekend, Marinaldo Da Silva, artistic director of Capoeira Camara, will bring his acrobatic capoeiristas for a live demonstration and workshop on the Toronto Star stage, at 1:30 p.m. Brazilian-born Da Silva spoke recently with Susan Walker about the history and practice of capoeira.

Q:        What is capoeira and how did it develop?

A:            Capoeira is a form of martial arts that combines music and acrobatics. It is a game of question and answer, call and response. Two people will enter the circle to play, as we call it.  People used to say it was a form of resistance to their overseers developed by the slaves. But that doesn't make sense; they were working too hard. It came from the street, mainly in the north of Brazil, probably after the abolition of slavery in 1988. It became associated with gangs, called the mautas. It was very violent.

Capoeira was a way to survive on the streets. It became very violent, with the use of knives and razors. Do you know The Gangs of New York? It was like that. The government had to ban it on the streets. Capoeira is still a form of self-defence; that's why it is called martial arts.

Q:        How did capoeira become a dance form?

A:            Because of the beats when you follow the music. It's the ginga that comes as you move back and forth. The reason it looks like dance is that we don't block as in Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts. We use our bodies, kind of like boxing, to escape.

Q:        How do you teach capoeira?

A:            It starts with the basics, movements, the kicks, the lunges, the ginga. Once we get there we go to the singing, note by note, instrument by instrument. Advanced students do the acrobatics.

Q:        What are the musical instruments used?

A:            One is an instrument we call a berimbao. It's a gourd, with a string attached to a stick. It makes a unique sound. There is also a tambourine and a drum.

For more information on capoeira, go to

Warhol On Tragedy And Celebrity

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Martin Knelman,

(Jul. 5, 2006) Ah, yes, the connection between celebrity and disaster.  According to director David Cronenberg, Andy Warhol was prophetic in the way he intuitively grasped this aspect of 20th-century American experience and expressed it in his art.  That's why Cronenberg, AGO guest curator for the exhibit, places Warhol's unforgettable silkscreen images of Elizabeth Taylor in conjunction with The Red Disaster — a photo of an electric chair.  "There were many ways that you could achieve celebrity," Cronenberg explains in that familiar dry, matter-of-fact voice — deadpan with a pinch of irony — referring to an artist who simultaneously craved, worshipped and satirized celebrity.  "One of the ways was to die in a horrific way and find yourself in the headlines of a newspaper with a photo of you, dead.  "And of course the other way was through the normal channels, Hollywood, and the pop culture of the times. But in each case there was a suggestion that tragedy could make you a celebrity or that being a celebrity ... would lead to tragedy."  If you don't get how this applies to Warhol's life, rent Mary Harron's 1996 movie I Shot Andy Warhol.  The Cronenberg remarks quoted above are a sample of the spin Toronto's celebrity auteur as film director brings to "Andy Warhol/Supernova: Stars, Deaths and Disasters 1962-1964," the Art Gallery of Ontario's summer exhibition.  It opens a 15-week run Saturday after a week of previews for donors, members and the ultimate celebrity-creators, the media.

Whether or not you get to the AGO to take in the 26 paintings and eight 16-mm films on display, you can catch Cronenberg's choice words about Warhol on an 80-minute CD available at the AGO gift shop at the bargain price of $9.95.  You may often have had the experience of coming home from a Broadway musical with the original-cast CD, or searching out the soundtrack album of a movie you loved. But how many times do you wind up with the recording of the audio guide to an art exhibit? This could be the start of something big.  Last night Cronenberg even gave a lecture on Warhol to a standing-room-only crowd at the AGO's Jackman Hall — an especially appropriate venue since it's the rented home of Cinematheque Ontario, where the regular audience is familiar with Warhol and Cronenberg.  On this occasion the audience consisted of 300 glamorous insiders at a cocktail reception for the Curator's Circle — including AGO board members, art-world VIPs and major donors.  Among those on the guest list: gallery owners Jane Corkin and Mira Godard; retired dancer Veronica Tennant; design oracle Bruce Mau; major donor and board member Roz Ivey, accompanied by Toronto Life editor (and recent National Magazine Award lifetime achievement award winner) John Macfarlane; art collector Larry Wasser; donor Victoria Jackman; Nina Kaiden Wright, the grande dame of corporate sponsorship for the arts and Rob Bowman, who wrote the liner notes for the Cronenberg/Warhol CD.  Elvis Presley and Jacqueline Kennedy were among the superstars Warhol was obsessed with, but according to Cronenberg, it was a famous building, rather than a famous movie star, that Andy Warhol secretly wished to emulate.  Warhol made a one-shot, eight-hour movie about this building. If you wonder why, let Cronenberg explain: "Andy aspired to become the Empire State Building ... beautiful, powerful, majestic, eternal but also distant, something you could see but not touch ... that voyeuristic distance is very important to his aesthetic."  And he's not kidding.


Animated Arts Awards Beam Up Shatner As Host

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail -
Scott Colbourne

(June 30, 2006) Toronto — They still don't have a catchy name like Junos or Oscars, but the first annual Canadian Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts will have a host: William Shatner, the hardest working actor in the universe, will be emcee of an event celebrating Canadian talent in video games and animation this September in Vancouver. The CAEAAs, which are supported by a broad range of game development companies, animation studios and postsecondary schools, will hand out awards in 43 categories at a gala evening that promises a potent mix of limousines, red carpets and social awkwardness. The trophy, still nameless, is currently being designed by British Columbia artist Dean Lauzé, and the producers have put out a call for nominations and judges.


Raptors Will Be Better Without Villanueva

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jul. 2, 2006) Considering the tantalizing statistical oddity of the Toronto Raptors acquiring two players who go by initials that rhyme with freeway in a three-day span, it's settled. Now that T.J. Ford and P.J. Tucker are in town, the only logical choice to sing the national anthems on opening night is William Shatner, the Canadian actor-cum-crooner who once played a cop named T.J. Hooker. Or not.  If half-cocked 1980s TV references aren't your thing, let's bring the transaction back to the 1960s. Shatner's most famous small-screen utterance is "Beam me up, Scotty," and Terrance Jerod Ford, the Raptors' new starting point guard, is Star Trek-transporter quick. Check that. Ford, acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night for Charlie Villanueva, a couple of nights after they drafted Anthony (Pop Junior) Tucker with the 35th pick in the draft, is warp-9 speedy. He is one of the two or three fastest guys in the NBA. And the best thing about this deal is that he gives the up-tempo Raptors something they've arguably never had: a pass-first point guard with the jets to penetrate and the sense to give up the rock.  It's easy to argue the fundamental flaws of moving Villanueva, which is what you were probably expecting from the resident grump. It's been said you simply do not trade big guys for small guys in a league in which size usually wins. But this is a special case, for a few reasons.  It's true that Villanueva is both a hard-to-guard scorer and a 6-foot-11 specimen, a rare combination. Yes, he overcame an ugly draft-night reception a year ago to have some great games — including a 48-point outburst in a loss to the Bucks — and he finished second in rookie-of-the-year voting. But Villanueva hasn't exactly proven the scouting report wrong. He did disappear for long stretches, just as the college watchers said he would. When it came to defending, he seemed to disdain the prospect of sweating without statistical return.

That's not to say he's not going to improve. But with Spanish forward Jorge Garbajosa on the way to town and centre Rasho Nesterovic already here, the frontcourt is getting crowded. And it's important to remember that Villanueva arrived in what he called the best shape of his career and still sported a body soft enough to make the press corps feel slightly less self-conscious about their spare rubber. So while Ford is a risk — while a spinal cord injury kept him out of the entire 2004-05 season recovering from surgery — even more risky was the possibility that Villanueva, who needed constant butt-kickings from the coaching staff last season, could see his career flat-line or regress.  Previous Raptor regimes have underestimated the importance of a true point guard to their doom. Mike James isn't a true point guard, and with Bryan Colangelo as president and GM, James won't be retained as a free agent. Rafer Alston couldn't be relied upon. And even Alvin Williams, as justifiably revered as he is, was never enough of a penetrator for the purist's taste.  It's not that the deal doesn't have its problems. Now the Raptors have two point guards, Spanish backup Jose Calderon being the other, who can't shoot well enough to win a stuffed animal at the CNE. And Calderon and Ford — both below-average to abysmal marksmen, depending on the day — need to improve their strokes.  But if the considerable free-agent coin at Colangelo's disposal reaps a shooter of any rep, they'll be a better club than they were last year watching James jack it up off the never-ending dribble and Bosh languish for long stretches without the ball. They certainly will be better in the long run.  Ideally, the 23-year-old Ford will help Toronto's young players, such as Bosh and No.1 overall draft pick Andrea Bargnani, develop faster. At his best, he'll give them the ball in situations that suit them, which is what true point guards do by instinct and what shoot-first point guards do by last-ditch necessity.  Dealing Villanueva is being called dicey in some quarters. But if the other choice was going into next season like the Raptors have gone into too many seasons before it — with an ill-suited imposter running and ruining the offence — dealing Villanueva was a no-brainer. Colangelo, fresh from watching the tranformation that Steve Nash, the best point guard of them all, engineered with the Suns, obviously understands that better than most. T.J. Ford isn't Nash. Toronto won't rise as fast as Phoenix did a couple of seasons back. But congratulations to Colangelo are still in order, simply for having the guts to boldly go where no Toronto GM has gone before.

France Defeats Portugal, 1-0, On Penalty Kick

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Associated Press

(Jul. 5, 2006) BERLIN (AP) — Few teams faced more questions heading into the World Cup than Italy and France.  The French were over the hill — they couldn’t even score.  The Italians were consumed by the biggest soccer scandal in the nation’s history.  No teams have answered their doubters more emphatically.  “We were not listening to it when they were giving us a lot of stick,” French forward Thierry Henry said, “and we’re not listening to it now.’’  On Sunday in Berlin, the Italians play for their fourth world soccer championship and the French go for their second.  Both teams have rich traditions, but neither entered the monthlong tournament a favorite.  The Italians came to Germany as a match-fixing scandal built at home. Day after day, allegations of bribes and favoritism piled up against four topflight clubs for which 13 of the 23 Italy team members play.

The players were silent about the probe, but their performances were boisterous.  “Yes, the confusion of the past two months has given us all the desire to respond in an appropriate way,” coach Marcello Lippi said. “It’s brought this group of guys together. We wanted to show what Italian soccer really means.’’  Italy won the World Cup in 1934, 1938 and 1982. This time it has allowed only an own-goal in six games, and now its offense is rising to the same level. After beating Germany with two goals in the final minutes of extra time, Italy headed to its first final since losing to Brazil in 1994.  That run has required a determination no team has matched in this event.  Except, perhaps, for France.  Four years ago, the French became the first defending champion to exit in the opening round of the next World Cup. They didn’t even score a goal in 2002.  In the buildup to Germany 2006, they rarely impressed, barely escaping from their qualifying group. Veteran players such as Zinedine Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Fabien Barthez hinted at distention toward coach Raymond Domenech.  Through two first-round games, France was on the verge of early elimination again, and Zidane was suspended for the match with Togo after getting two yellow cards. He even threw his captain’s armband in the coach’s direction when substituted in the dying moments from a 1-1 tie with South Korea. It looked like it might be the last game for Zidane, who retires after this tournament.

But the French beat Togo — and were revitalized.  They beat Spain 3-1 with a dominant second half, then toyed with pretournament favorite Brazil in the quarterfinals.  Their 1-0 semifinal win over Portugal came with a bit of good fortune — a suspect rewarding of a penalty kick that Zidane converted. No matter: France will be in Berlin for its fifth World Cup meeting with Italy.  Italy won the first two World Cup matches with France, 3-1 in 1938 and 2-1 in 1978. France won 2-0 in 1986, then took a penalty-kick shootout 4-3 after a 0-0 tie in ’98.  Who has the edge this time?  “It is an advantage having this experience, having players who know what it takes to go to the end,” Domenech said.  “I think we enter in good form, just the right mix physically and psychologically,” Lippi said.  Although France has yielded just two goals, Italy has the superior defense, led by Fabio Cannavaro, perhaps this World Cup’s best player. But Zidane, a three-time world player of the year, has been masterful the last three games. If anyone can create space in the penalty area for his teammates, it’s Zizou.  Barthez has made some outstanding saves, but he also has a penchant for bobbling the ball. Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, who has been questioned back home about illegal sports betting, has been impregnable.  While Henry has three goals, he’s also had plenty of chances as France’s lone forward. Italy’s scoring has been more balanced, and the bench is deeper up front.  If the stars decide the title, France has the edge. If it becomes an 11-man game, Italy is in better shape.  “Now,” Lippi said, “we’ve got to complete the opera.’’

England Pays Penalty

Excerpt from The Toronto Star

(Jul. 2, 2006) FRANKFURT, GERMANY - The slogan of this World Cup has been "A Time to Make Friends" but this was something else entirely: a day to revisit old demons, a day to retell familiar stories, a day to pick at old scabs. No one came out of it bloodied worse than Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, David Beckham and an England side that has from the start of this tournament been the definition of underachievement — but while you're at it with your lagers, save a foamy French toast for one Zinedine Zidane, through to the semi-finals and full value for it after smiting favoured Brazil.  England's meeting with Portugal in yesterday's first quarterfinal at Gelsenkirchen, and France in the nightcap here partying like it was 1998, carried so many echoes of the recent past it almost seemed they were being played in some alpine territory where everything bounced back.  Included was one final result that left the English fans gutted and the burghers of tiny Gelsenkirchen hastily putting plywood up on the windows: The Portuguese over England on penalties, after 120 minutes of nil-nil during which the volcanic Rooney was sent off when he stomped on the tender parts of a prone Ricardo Carvalho, then gave his Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal a little shove.  Rooney's fitness battle to get to this World Cup was a key storyline heading in, but healing a broken metatarsal in medical-record time is apparently child's play for the scouse wizard compared to keeping cool.  He's always been over the top at blowing his top, and this moment, a little more than an hour into a match in which his fellow leaders with the Three Lions were looking as usual adrift and rudderless, was precisely the wrong one. Not that there's any right one.

But it wasn't just Rooney who failed for 10-man England. Beckham was taken off for Aaron Lennon early in the second half, weeping on the bench as he sat with an ankle injury.  Apart from a couple of moments of set-piece magic — a free-kick assist to beat Paraguay, and a free-kick goal against Ecuador in the knockout prelude to this one, Becks was a bust. The much pacier Lennon gave England some much-needed width, with Lampard and Gerrard never really figuring out how to play with one another inside.  It's Lampard, though, whose form at Chelsea has been on the slide since Christmas, who may come out of here with the look of MHP — Most Haunted Player.  Taking the first shot for England in the shootout, his attempt was easily stopped by Portuguese keeper Ricardo, and the midfielder looked stricken as he headed away. Lampard came into the game with an oh-for-22 record with his shots, but this last one will follow him around for some time, perhaps forever, as a team many figured had its last, best chance to recapture the glory of 1966 is instead going home.  Gerrard? He missed his spot kick as well, Ricardo diving to his left to save. Jamie Carragher banged one off Ricardo's hand and the post going the other way.  The only Englishman to find the net was Canadian native Owen Hargreaves, who ran miles in the middle back of the midfield and, along with defender Rio Ferdinand, were simply monstrous as they packed the back to defend with Rooney gone.  Yes, Hargreaves. He came into this tournament derided by England fans as Sven-Goran Eriksson's private toy boy. He left it making the only shot in the shootout after a day in which he showed something lacking in this less-than-its-parts England: raw emotion, his exhortations at the end of the second half and fierce clapping after making his kick the exception to the rule on this emotionless group headed up by the stonefaced Eriksson, whose reputation, too, is left in tatters.

Haven't we seen this before? In 1998, Beckham was sent off against Argentina at St-Etienne — England go home after a loss on penalties. In 2002 in Japan, England was knocked out by a Brazil side coached by Luis Felipe Scolari — and that was Scolari rushing on the field to congratulate his Portugal side yesterday, after Ronaldo potted the clinching kick in a 3-1 shootout.  Two years ago, at Euro 2004, Portugal knocked out England — on penalties. Even the sight of Portuguese falling down like nine-pins yesterday had the look of familiarity. "It's a big disappointment to lose like this, but it always seems to happen," Michael Owen said on that night in Lisbon two years ago, a loop that could've been replayed last night.  Against all this, Brazil and France seemed like a kickaround, at least until they kicked off. From there, Les Bleus matched Brazil, beating them at their own game. If Portugal-England was molasses in January, this was a flowing River Main, full of purpose and incisive enterprise — and in the telling, it was Brazil that cracked.  Zidane bossed the midfield and delivered the perfect ball on a free kick to Thierry Henry to count the only goal.  Coming back for his last World Cup finals, Zidane, just turned 34 a week ago, has been reborn this past week, and just like the World Cup final at Saint-Denis eight years ago, he went off the victor.  A Time to Make Friends? More like a time to turn back the clock. England beaten by Scolari, France bundling off Brazil, Portugal and Italy rounding out a take-your-pick final four. It's taken a while to arrive, but ladies and gents, now we have a tournament.

Brazil Exits Early

Source: Associated Press

(Jul. 2, 2006) Munich — France still has Brazil's number. And on Saturday, the French had all the flair, too.
The experienced and savvy French ousted the five-time champions 1-0 in a stunningly one-sided World Cup quarterfinal game. Tacked onto France's 3-0 victory in the 1998 title match — the last time Brazil lost in the World Cup — it's clear the Brazilians have a nemesis at soccer's highest level. The heroes were familiar as well. Zinedine Zidane, headed into retirement after the tournament, served a perfect free kick to Thierry Henry in the 57th minute. Completely unmarked, Henry had the whole right side of the net and smashed in a right-footed volley. It was Zidane who lifted his nation past the Brazilians in 1998, scoring two goals for France's first title. This was a shocking exit for Brazil, the pretournament favourite. The Brazilians had just one shot on goal all game and allowed huge defensive gaps all night. Stars such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka were either invisible or inept. "This was not a lucky victory," Henry said. "I've always said this World Cup isn't about us dreaming of winning, but I have to say this victory is the stuff of dreams," added Henry, who hugged several Brazilian players after the match. "Now we want to go all the way." France began the tournament so poorly it appeared headed for a first-round exit like four years ago. Instead, France heads to the semi-finals against Portugal on Wednesday in Munich.

With Germany playing Italy in Tuesday's semi-final in Dortmund, this will be the first all-European final four since 1982. In the final minutes, Brazil desperately pressed forward, with Ronaldinho surfacing at last and barely missing on a free kick. Two more attacks yielded nothing as France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez screamed at his teammates to hold on. Barthez was gripping a floater by Lucio as the clock ran out, setting off a wild celebration in which the France players mobbed each other while jumping in a circle. Several of them offered hugs to the vanquished and dazed Brazilians before heading to the corner where their fans were waving flags and taking pictures — and savouring a magnificent victory. Brazil and France have played three times since the 1998 final, with France winning 2-1 in the 2001 Confederations Cup in South Korea and then playing to a 0-0 draw in a 2004 friendly in Paris. Obviously, intimidation is not a factor for the French, who were the better team all night. Zidane wove, bobbed and spun his way through the Brazilian midfield, looking like his three-time FIFA World Player of the Year self. He orchestrated a short passing game that looked Brazilian. Several of his superb touches led to dangerous opportunities for Henry, Patrick Vieira, Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda.

Toward the end of the first half, Ronaldo and Juan both drew yellow cards trying to slow down the French offence. Juan pulled down Vieira on a near breakaway after a brilliant feed by Zidane from midfield. It could have drawn a red card and ejection, but referee Luis Medina pulled out the yellow, setting up a free kick from 20 yards that Ronaldo blocked with his arm just outside the penalty area. That drew a yellow for Brazil's scoring star, but his team escaped a scramble near its goal as the half ended. It was a temporary reprieve. For all Zidane's flowing play, it was his dead-ball cross following a foul that netted France's goal. About 30 yards out on the left wing, Zidane lofted an inward swinging cross. The Brazilians' marking had been loose all game and this time they paid for it. Henry, completely free at the back post, met the ball with his right foot. Goalkeeper Dida had no chance. In front of French President Jacques Chirac, France made Brazil look so ordinary — at times amateurish — that the yellow-clad Brazilians in the crowd even were whistling at their team late in the match. Brazil's streak of three straight finals, two of them wins, and 11 straight World Cup victories was snapped.

Leafs Sign Kubina And Gill

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Ken Campbell, Sports Reporter

(Jul. 2, 2006) Discuss amongst yourselves whether the Maple Leafs got a player worth $5 million yesterday, but they undoubtedly got one who is willing to stand up for his principles.  Two years ago,
Pavel Kubina spent the lockout season playing in his hometown of Vitkovice in the Czech Republic. His team was eliminated in Game 7 of the Czech league semi-final and Kubina was so enraged with the refereeing that he had some rather select words for the officials after the game.  His tirade earned him a suspension and a $10,000 fine, which the Czech Hockey Federation — which would have received the money — insisted had to be paid if he wanted to participate in the Turin Olympics. Kubina, dug in his heels and threatened not to pay; the federation backed down when he instead made a $5,000 donation to charity.  He ended up playing a regular shift on the blue line with Maple Leaf defenseman Tomas Kaberle and earned a silver medal.  "That's the kind of person I am," said the 29-year-old defenseman, who signed a four-year $20 million (all figures U.S.) deal yesterday with the Maple Leafs. "If I believe strongly about something, I stand up for it."  The Maple Leafs hope Kubina believes strongly in taking care of his own end of the ice, an area of the game in which they were terrible last season. Their defensive deficiencies were the main thrust behind them acquiring Kubina and behemoth defenseman Hal Gill, formerly of the Boston Bruins, on a three-year deal at $2.075 million per season.

Taking into account the qualifying offers to their restricted free agents and buyouts, the Leafs have about $37.4 million committed for next season. Even assuming Nik Antropov, Matt Stajan and Kyle Wellwood all sign, the Leafs would still need two more forwards and three more defensemen. The defensemen would likely be from a group of Leaf prospects including Carlo Colaiacovo, Jay Harrison, Brendan Bell, Ian White and Andy Wozniewski.  The salary cap is set at $44 million for next season, but the Leafs don't want to go over $42 million. That doesn't leave much room to fill out the roster, particularly if they pick up Gary Roberts and his $2.25 million salary for next season, which means most of GM John Ferguson's work was done yesterday.  "Definitely, we feel like we're a better team," Ferguson said. "Adding these two players to Bryan (McCabe) and Tomas (Kaberle) and augmenting that with some of the youth we have coming up, we feel we have a different look and a better look."  That should be the case inside their own blue line, an area of the ice that often looked like a horror show last season. Kubina and Gill, who combined are 12-foot-11 and 480 pounds, represent an enormous upgrade on Aki Berg and Ken Klee, who were employed as the Nos. 3 and 4 defensemen much of last season. They both have the ability to clear out the front of the net and even though Kubina scored just five goals last season, he has some offensive upside.  "I have to score more than five goals," Kubina said. "My goal is to score about 10 goals a season and I have to do better than (five), that's for sure."

Kubina regularly plays against the top opposing forwards and when the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2004, he was charged with shutting down the likes of Alexei Yashin, Saku Koivu, Keith Primeau and Jarome Iginla. Gill can also do an effective shutdown job with his size, but is not terribly adept at handling the puck, which means he could be paired with a less physical puck mover such as Kaberle.  But where Kubina and Gill will be most valuable is in their ability to take some of the enormous amounts of pressure and ice time off Kaberle and McCabe. It also gives coach Paul Maurice the option to break up the duo and give the Leafs some depth.  Kubina, who might be the only right-shot defenseman the Leafs have next season, can handle more than 20 minutes of ice time, while Gill is good for about 18. It's possible Staffan Kronwall could rebound from injury and find his way into the top four, which would relegate Gill to the No. 5 spot, one in which he would undoubtedly feel more comfortable.

Debt Woes Swamp Olympians

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -
Dana Flavelle, Business Reporter

(Jul. 3, 2006) For Olympic athletes Deirdre Crampton and her teammates, sailing in this week's world championship race in France means testing their skills against the wind, the waves — and some of the most privileged and pampered competitors in the sport.  The rival British team has a personal chef, massage therapist and meteorologist, all housed in carefully scouted facilities close to the race site.  In sharp contrast, Crampton, of Toronto, and teammates Kelly Hand and Chantal Léger are in La Rochelle with high hopes, a new boat — and a tidal wave of debt.  The Yngling World Championships is considered the best competition in a non-Olympic year. The Canadians' goal is to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where they hope to improve on Crampton's 16th place finish at the Summer Games in Athens two years ago. The team has many of the vital ingredients including experience, determination and skill.  But, like many Canadian Olympic hopefuls, they have very little public or corporate financial support, a fact that almost derailed their dream earlier this year. At one point, they couldn't even afford a boat, which cost them a spot on the national team.  "For us, this summer is going to be the critical moment," Hand says. "If we can't get back on the national team, we won't have enough money to quit our jobs. Right now, it's a do-or-die moment."  They're not alone.

For many Olympic athletes, this summer marks the start of serious training — and fundraising — for the next Summer Games. With Canada's success in Torino, Italy, where the winter athletes won a record 25 medals, and the arrival in 2010 of the next Winter Games in Vancouver, interest and support for elite winter athletes have never been higher.  But many summer athletes still struggle, especially in sports where their chief rivals have a natural advantage — better weather — and far more funding. Sailing, one of the most expensive sports in the Games, is only the most extreme example.  Crampton's team chewed through $250,000 in the crucial 2 1/2-year period leading up to the Olympics in Athens. After the Games, one team member quit and they had to sell their boat to pay off some debts.  Undeterred, Crampton and Léger brought Hand on board, hoping her experience as a two-time Olympic sailing coach and now their skipper would boost their performance. They clicked immediately but the team still didn't have a boat. A Yngling (pronounced Ying-Ling) starts at $30,000 brand new, plus the sails, and they couldn't afford it.  So they borrowed one, a decision that proved to be disastrous. In a sport where the calibre of the boat is as important as the quality of the athletes, it's nearly impossible to overcome poor equipment.  "We gambled on some equipment and didn't make the national team," Hand says of their performance in January. "It was the worst day of our lives. We fought, we cried, we thought it was over, finished."  Though they can continue trying to qualify for the Games, what's called running an Olympic campaign, it meant they wouldn't be eligible this year for basic federal funding.

After much soul-searching, the team decided to carry on and reinvest in their plans. Going back into debt, they bought a new boat from world-class boat builder, Bill Arnott Ltd. in Sarnia, and signed on for this week's world championships.  "If you don't have the financial backing of family or a sponsor it's really tough to hang in there," says Léger.  In the wake of Canada's successful showing at the Olympics in Torino earlier this year, in part due to more funding for Canada's winter sports, it's hard to believe some elite athletes struggle to make ends meet.  "I know athletes who've gone to the local grocery store and asked for a deal on food," says Margie Schuett, whose long association with amateur sport in Canada started when she was a competitive diver. She's a vice-president of Canada's Commonwealth Games Committee and a category B member of the Canadian Olympic Committee.  Seventy per cent of Canada's amateur athletes live below the poverty line, Schuett notes. And while many are students, who would be broke anyway, they have a lot of extra expenses, including travel, coaching, and proper nutrition.  Even the top athletes in each sport who qualify for basic federal funding get less than minimum wage. "It's supposed to be spent on food and shelter but most athletes use it to supplement their travel and coaching costs, says John Curtis, high-performance manager and general counsel to the Canadian Yachting Association.  "You can eat cheap but you gotta have the best sails in the world," he notes, recalling his days as an Olympian. "I can attest to that myself. The typical athlete is living at home and being fed by their parents. I drove a $50 car and ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I was 34 years old at the time."  The situation facing the sailors is admittedly extreme. Most sports have less expensive gear — a swimsuit or pair of running shoes will do — or are able to spread the costs over larger teams. And comparisons with British sailors are probably unfair because boating is that country's forte.  Canada is by definition a winter nation, whose prowess is naturally in things like hockey, where global competition is slimmer. Only 30 countries compete seriously in the Winter Games, while more than 300 enter the summer Olympics.  Winning the Winter Olympics for Vancouver in 2010 has dramatically raised the profile of amateur sports, says Schuett. Public and private funding for those Games has reached the hundreds of millions. But most of it will be spent building and hosting the Olympics. It will leave a rich legacy of training facilities for future generations.

But for Canada's summer athletes, like Crampton, the spotlight on Vancouver may actually hurt their chances of raising money by diverting attention from Beijing.  Raising money for summer athletes in the shadow of VANOC 2010 "is a huge challenge," acknowledges Chris Rudge, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee.  Rudge is the first to agree that financial support is critical. In today's highly competitive high-tech world of sport, where mere milliseconds separate winners from losers, it takes more than raw talent and a gruelling training schedule to win a medal, Rudge says. It also requires buckets of money.  "We need to get them access to proper coaching, advanced technology, sports medicine and science. We're way behind many, many countries."

Crampton's mother, June Weber, is the team's biggest cheerleader. A co-owner with her husband of a small television production company, she says she has used everything from PowerPoint presentations, which have so far raised very little, to neighbourhood bake sales, which raised $800, to try to defray some of their expenses.  Still, it's an uphill battle.  There's a perception that sailing is a rich person's sport that the average taxpayer doesn't need to support. But why should the burden fall on the family, which can't even claim the tax break, when the athletes are competing for the glory of Canada, says Weber.  As for corporate sponsors, sports like sailing, which rank fairly low in terms of media coverage, present a problem. Support for most amateur sport in Canada is relatively low, at least by U.S. standards. So how do you get a bang for your buck if no one sees your name on TV or from the stands?  Weber has overheard negative comments at the hairdresser's, and even her best friend said one day, "Why should my tax dollars pay for these athletes to have a good time?"  "They think they're out their having fun," says Weber. "That's the perception and I think, oh really?"  In reality, the training schedule is brutal. Crampton and her teammates describe a typical day: Get up at 7 a.m., go to the gym to work out, go to the yacht club to prepare the boat, sail, watch videos of their performance, get debriefed, do some more weight training, flop into bed at 10 p.m. Repeat the next day and the next.

They work out to maintain a level of fitness that will sustain eight- to nine-hour days out on the water, wrestling the sails, the wind and the waves. They must also keep their weight within a prescribed range to ensure a level playing field among competitors.  On the road, these women — in their late 20s and early 30s — live like students, bunking with other sailors' families and dining at all-you-can eat buffets.  They do their own equipment maintenance and tune-ups because knowing the boat intimately is key to winning. Once the sails are set, out on the water success depends on physical strength, mental agility and the best equipment money can buy.  "It's all about math, knowing the angles, working the numbers, fine-tuning the sails to match minute shifts in the wind and the waves," says Hand. "It's like fine-tuning a piano."  Lack of funding means they must also be their own travel agents, business managers, promoters and even coaches.  So why do they do it?  "You get to spend almost every day outside for the most part in sunny weather," says Crampton. "You get to be active and learning."  "I enjoy the people I'm around. They become your friends and family," adds Léger.  "For me, it's completely addictive. At this stage, it's what or who I am," says Hand.  But the pursuit comes at a price. For at least two of the four years between Games, they must spend so much time training, it's hard to hold more than a casual low-paying job, or do other grown-up things like marrying and starting a family.  "It's a bit scary at age 30. I see a lot of my peers really trucking with their careers and I think what's going to happen when this is over? Is it going to be valued by companies?" asks Hand.  "I thought when we got back from the Olympics last time this was my chance to parlay everything I had learned into a career," says Crampton. "I thought I'd have a leg up because I was an Olympian. Instead, employers said "that's neat." But it didn't translate into a job offer.  Crampton went back to working for her parents' television production business. Hand works for her brother's advertising company. Only Léger has a job created specifically to accommodate an Olympian's training schedules. For a year, she is employed with the Royal Bank of Canada, one of the oldest and biggest corporate supporters of Canada's Olympic athletes. Her job is to act as an ambassador for the company and the Olympics by helping motivate employees and schoolchildren.

Many in Canada's sporting community agree the Olympic system is underfunded but they don't all see eye to eye on the remedy. Some want more funding for athletes, some for coaches and some for facilities.  Everyone is spread too thin and there's little central co-ordination. So, new athletes find themselves continually reinventing the wheel in terms of figuring out how and where to get cash, says the Canadian Yachting Association's Curtis. "It's extremely inefficient."  His first bit of advice is don't sell T-shirts. They don't bring in enough money.  Primary funding comes from Ottawa, which directly funds athletes through a system called carding. To qualify, you must be ranked in the top 16 in the world championships, in the top eight at the Olympics and even then you'll get just $1,500 a month, or $18,000 a year, less than minimum wage.  There's another problem. There aren't enough cards to go around. Sport Canada, the federal agency, decides which sports federations get how many cards based on a complex formula that takes into account how many medals your sport is likely to win.  It seems clear why hockey gets more money than sailing. "Every sport needs a lot more money that what the government gives them," Curtis says.  The national sailing team, for example, has 55 members but only 32 are carded. Crampton's team is not among them at this point. But Curtis says the sports federation has confidence in them. They need more time.  Ottawa also hands "bulk" funding to the sports federations, which decide how best to allocate it. The yachting federation invests roughly half in the athletes and the other half in its coaches, after taking 10 per cent off for administrative expenses. But the total amount last year was just $1.2 million, well below what its team members spent.  "In the class I sailed in there were athletes spending $250,000 a year," said Curtis. "You have to move the boat, shipping it by container, then towing it behind a vehicle, paying duties, clearing customs. Most of it's done in Europe. You can't effectively train in one location like swimmers can, or runners. You have to be competing against others. It's not about timing yourself. It's about managing all the variables."  Beyond governments, there are other private and non-profit sources of funding, says the Commonwealth Games' Schuett. But it's not well organized or easy to get.  "To be a world-class athlete you have to train six to eight hours a day. You don't have time to do another job. You don't have time to fundraise," she says.

As for corporate donors, Schuett says the trick is convincing them there is a sufficient payback to bother investing in a particular athlete, team or sport. Few large companies will write a cheque for simply philanthropic reasons. Sponsoring the Olympics is now part of the marketing effort.  "You do them purely for their business value," says Loring Phinney, vice-president of corporate and Olympic marketing for Bell Canada, a major sponsor of the Vancouver Games.  Companies like Bell want to be able to take their best customers to popular sports events or extend special offers to a wider community of grassroots players. Hence, Bell decided to focus on two of Canada's most popular teams, the speed skaters and freestyle skiers, in addition to Swimming Canada, a broadly based sport.  For Canada's athletes, the situation is improving, as the record win in Torino demonstrates. The Canadian Olympic Committee has plans to try to do the same for the Summer Games under its new "Road to Excellence" campaign, says Rudge, who came to the committee from the corporate world.  Since then, Ottawa has nearly doubled the base funding for elite athletes to $140 million this year. Still, there may never be enough money to underwrite the really expensive sports, like sailing and horseback riding, Rudge cautions.  But Crampton says the Olympics isn't just about winning. It's how you get there. What you had to do to make it happen. "For hundreds of athletes, it's the journey that makes the Olympics so special. Whether you do or don't qualify, it's the journey that makes you an Olympic athlete."  As a child watching the Olympics on television, she says, what inspired her were the stories about the athletes' lives and how they got there. What obstacles they overcame and how they kept forging ahead. "That's what makes the Olympics so special."  As Weber, Crampton's mom puts it: Isn't that something all Canadians can support?

You can follow the team's progress at


Evander Holyfield To Tip Back Into The Ring

Excerpt from

(June 30, 2006) *Former four-time heavyweight champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield, at age 43, will return to the ring on Aug. 19 to fight a 10-round match against Jeremy Bates.  "I'm very excited about it," Holyfield told of the fight scheduled to take place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. "Being able to finish what I've started means a lot. I was sidetracked lately, but I am getting back on the path."  It’s been 21 months since the boxer’s last bout, when he lost a unanimous decision to Larry Donald in New York and was subsequently suspended by the New York commission for "poor performance," meaning he couldn't fight anywhere in the United States until the suspension was lifted.  Holyfield, (38-8-2, 25 KOs), protested the suspension, passed a series of medical tests and eventually convinced New York boxing officials to change his suspension from “medical” to “administrative,” which allowed him to seek licenses elsewhere. Last week, Holyfield was granted one in Texas.

Venus Shows Off New Tat On Centre Court

Excerpt from

(June 29, 2006) *Defending Wimbledon champ Venus Williams took just 51 minutes to destroy 103rd-ranked American Bethanie Mattek 6-1, 6-0 in a Centre Court match during Wednesday’s first round. But, reporters at a post-game press conference seemed more interested in the fashion choices of both the tennis star and her opponent - who wore, among other things, old-school athletic tube socks up to her knees.  "Bethanie is always coming out with some kind of new outfit,” the 6th-seeded Williams told reporters. “That was a very 70s-inspired look with the little running shorts and knee high socks. That's real American apparel right now. I really liked the socks. I want some too. I have ones in different colors at home which I wear, but maybe I should follow her example and wear some on court too."   As for her own look, Venus sported a white Reebok tennis dress with a matching white sun visor, big gold ball earrings and a temporary crystal tattoo on her right shoulder. She says of the tat: "I had some at Serena's house in LA, but if you leave something there and don't put it away, it disappears, like the house eats it. I found these again after a year right after the French. It was a happy reunion."  Meanwhile, Shenay Perry won her first round match against Germany’s Kristina Barrois 7-5, 5-7, 8-6; and 8th-seeded James Blake took care of Taipei’s Yeu-Tzuoo Wang 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 to advance to round two.


Why Exercise? 20 Reasons!

By Michael Stefano, Guest Columnist

With all we now know about the benefits of exercise, it's hard to believe more Americans don't work out. It's the closest thing yet to the fountain of youth, and truly the ONLY way to change the appearance, shape, and strength of your body.  In addition, the health benefits associated with an intelligently orchestrated strength, flexibility and cardiovascular training program can add quality years to your life.  Everyone exercises for different reasons. But no matter your initial motivation, you still get ALL the benefits. Below is a list of 20 reasons why you should work out. If you can find even one benefit on this list, you'll have enough reason to begin an exercise program and take steps to take care of yourself. For a great workout, click here and let me help.

Regular exercise can...

·  Help you lose weight, especially fat

·  Improve your physical appearance

·  Increase your level of muscular strength and endurance

·  Maintain your resting metabolic rate to prevent weight gain

·  Increase your stamina and ability to do continuous work

·  Improve fitness levels, or your body's ability to use oxygen

·  Provide protection against injury

·  Improve your balance and coordination

·  Increase bone mineral density to prevent osteoporosis

·  Lower resting heart rate and blood pressure

·  Lower Body Mass Index (BMI) -- your fat-to-height ratio

·  Reduce triglycerides, bad cholesterol (LDL), raises good cholesterol (HDL)

·  Enhance sexual desire and performance

·  Reduce heart disease risk and stroke

·  Reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer

·  Increase insulin sensitivity -- prevents type 2 diabetes

·  Reduce your level of anxiety and help you manage stress

·  Improve function of the immune system

·  Improve your self-esteem and restore confidence

·  Help you sleep better, relax, and improve mood

The bench press, a simple exercise, is great example of a movement that, when done properly, delivers big results in less time.  

Benefits: Tones the chest, shoulders, and triceps while building strength and endurance in the upper body.

Instructions: Lie supine (flat on your back) on your bench holding dumbbells at your shoulders (elbows bent at about 90 degrees), feet planted firmly on the floor. Exhale and slowly press both dumbbells straight up and toward the ceiling. Inhale and in a slow and controlled manner, lower weights to the starting position. Use dumbbells that will allow you to hit muscle fatigue in the range of 10 to 20 repetitions.

Trainer's Note: The bench press, a very simple but effective movement, has long been considered the number one exercise for the upper body. It can be performed with dumbbells, with a barbell, on a Smith Machine or other chest press machine at a health club.

To learn more about Mike Stefano and his fat-burning, body-sculpting workouts go to


Motivational Note – Fear

By Jason M. Gracia Founder and President

Fear. It can stand in the way of everything you have ever wanted to have, do,and be, and yet, it can also be your greatest ally - if you know how to use it. Would you try to keep something cool inside your oven? Hot inside your freezer? Of course not! But this is exactly what people do with their minds and bodies. They work against their natural tendencies and struggle to change their lives for the better. They prepare a fantastic meal and try to bake it in the freezer. And once again they fail to get what they really want. It's time to stop fighting against your natural tendencies and embrace them. Today you'll learn a new and exciting technique that will motivate you to live life at a whole new level.

The Only Two Motivators in Life

People are motivated by only two factors - pleasure and pain. Everything we do results from our perception that it will provide us with pleasure or help us to avoid pain. And we will do a great deal more to satisfy the latter. This is a fact that you can use to your advantage. Once you learn how to harness the power that the fear of pain offers all human beings, you will take complete control of your life. You will be motivated like never before to implement your plans for a better future. An example will help to get you started... Alisha wanted to write children's books. Along with this goal came two sets of fears. To begin, she feared failure. Writing children's books was something she had wanted to do ever since she was young, but the images of her friends and family laughing at her stories stood in her way. What if she wasn't any good? What if no one liked what she wrote? What if this was just a silly dream that would be better off forgotten? This grouping of fear became a powerful obstacle between Alisha and her goal. It scared her away from taking action. But this was only the first set of fears. The second type is where the key to successful change and motivation is found.

You Must Use this Fear

While tossing around her thoughts about writing children's books, Alisha also thought about what her life would be like should she let go of her dream. What would she think of herself ten years from now knowing that she let her negative fears take control of her future? How would she feel knowing she never gave it a shot, never took the risk and followed her dream? These were the fears that motivated her to action. You see, while the first set of fears stood in her way, they did not completely block the path to success. The fear of regret and loss drove Alisha toward her goal, but in the end there is only one question to ask: Which set of fears was stronger? Before we finish Alisha's story and cover the exact steps to using fear to your advantage, I want to mention an important aspect of motivation and change. Just as an archer requires a target before he can shoot his arrow, you need a target before you can get motivated to achieve it. And while many of the struggles I help clients with center around other aspects of personal change, the number one issue is knowing what you really want. If you aren't certain about your goals, or have no clue what you want, don't worry. This is common and there is a solution.