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LE NEWSLETTER

April 5, 2007

Is anyone else just aching for spring or hints of the summer?  It seems like we've had a few 'tease' days here in Toronto - hopefully other parts of the country are having warmer weather.  Perhaps my discontent is due to my little jaunt to
Bermuda this past weekend - where the weather was still a little chilly but definitely sunny.  What a great trip and magnificent island!  The newsletter may seem a little light this week as a result of a few days off ...

Catch some exciting events coming up - you've got only a short time so mark your calendar now and get those tickets!  One is
Sophisticate with its private invitation party and then there's MadTV's Aries Spears headlining a comedy night! 
 
 
::HOT EVENTS::

Sophisticate “The Private Party” - Saturday, April 14, 2007

Created on the premise that bigger is not always better and that intimacy and the personal touch are key, each
SOPHISTICATE “private party” caters to150 personally invited guests who enjoy a musical vibe that covers a broad spectrum of R&B, neo-soul, and old school ranging from Chaka Khan and Quincy Jones to Beyonce and Ne-Yo.  Our DJs are famous for playing the unexpected at any given moment….as long as it keeps the crowd moving.

The definition of a SOPHISTICATE

Entrance is by private invitation and VIP guest list only.  Contact info@consepshun.com  to get on the $10 VIP guest list. This event will be limited to 150 guests only.

SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2007
Andy C and Consepshun Enterprises present
SOPHISTICATE the private party – Anniversary Edition
Tangerine Bar & Lounge
647 King Street West (King & Bathurst)
Style Code: chic, stylish, sophisticated
Hosted by: Andy C with special guest host Robert Jean of French Fellows
Musical Vibe: DJ Darrel Alize with MC Toney Williams
www.consepshun.com

Aries Spears Headlines Toronto

Comedian Aries Spears brings his unique comedic talents for the first time in Toronto to the Panasonic Theatre on Saturday, April 14. This Chicago native is best known for his 8 seasons on Fox’s hit show Mad TV where he portrayed characters from Bill Cosby, James Brown, rapper Jay-Z, DMX to Al Pacino.  Aries has also appeared on Def Comedy Jam and most recently on Comedy Central. Aries is joined on stage by comedians Jean Paul, MTV Canada’s Gilson Lubin, Flow 93.5 human jump off TRIXX and direct from England by way of Hamilton the always hilarious, and outrageous Jason Rouse.

Music for the event will be provided by Matisse and DJ Staring From Scratch.  The after party for this one will be all the way live.

SATURDAY, APRIL 14
Ajahmae And SFS Entertainment Presents
ARIES SPEARS
Panasonic Theatre
651 Yonge Street (former home of Blue Man Group)
Doors open 7:30 pm; Show starts 8:00 pm
Tickets: $35 advance – www.ticketmaster.ca

::TOP STORIES::

A Grand Night For Nelly

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop Music Critic

(April 02, 2007) SASKATOON–"All
Nelly, all the time" would appear to be the Juno Awards' new motto. The Victoria-bred, Toronto-based pop sweetheart completed a triumphant, five-for-five sweep of the 2007 Junos at Saskatoon's Credit Union Centre last night, adding three trophies to the two she picked up at the previous night's pre-broadcast gala – and serving as both show host and a featured performer to boot. She even demonstrated a knack for acrobatics at the top of the night, swooping onstage from the ceiling like Peter Pan dressed – yep – like a bird. Talk about multitasking. "I know, I'm a bit obnoxious," she giggled backstage. Furtado's massive third album, Loose – which has logged sales in excess of 10 million copies worldwide – was named Album of the Year by Juno jurors, while Nelly's slinky duet with American uber-producer Timbaland, "Promiscuous," picked up Single of the Year honours. The fan-voted Juno Fan Choice Award also went to Furtado. Loose had already been named Pop Album of the Year and Furtado Artist of the Year during Saturday night's surprisingly brisk and efficient, non-televised gala at Saskatoon's TCU Place convention centre.  "I was shocked, honestly," she said of the sweep. "I've sat in the crowd and lost for Best Album two times before and thought, `Maybe one day I'll get that.' I didn't realize it would come so soon."

Furtado was actually moved to tears when one reporter's question prompted a reverie about moving to Toronto at 17 and hitting the Queen St. subway in the middle of the night on her way to a dingy studio to record tracks with her old trip-hop band, Nelstar.  "I'm sorry, I just really love doing what I do," she said.  Furtado proved a terrific choice of Juno host, injecting the proceedings with a healthy dose of modesty and an infectiously offbeat sense of humour.  The girl can sing, as her mid-show medley of choice cuts from Loose – featuring Toronto rapper Saukrates sitting in on Timbaland's vocals – showed, but an amusing taped segment that had her playing a randy aunt who seduces Michael Bublé proved she's got a talent for comedy, too. And, of course, she's cute as a button. Rick Hansen, whom Nelly proclaimed "really, really cute" during a tribute to the 20th anniversary of his Man in Motion tour, was the envy of every male in Saskatoon last night. The result was an awards show that, by and large, managed to be quite entertaining and, God forbid, quite respectable. A lively show, too, considering every musician, industry weasel, reporter and Juno associate in Saskatoon appeared to be recovering from the gallons of free vodka and tequila that had flowed so freely at CTV's rather unhinged debauch at Earl's the night before.

After wobbling slightly with last year's scattered and decidedly unfunny Pamela Anderson-hosted broadcast – which drew the ire of some critics for its inclusion of international ringers Coldplay and Black Eyed Peas on a bill supposedly devoted to honouring the best in Canadian music – the 36th annual Junos made a sound rebound last night, particularly in the performance department.  Toronto lads Billy Talent jolted the show into high gear by kicking the evening off with a riveting performance of "Devil in a Midnight Mass" that had the arena rumbling down to its foundations. Even the pressroom in the bowels of the rink was quaking.  And while corporate-rock mooks Three Days Grace and Québécois adult-contemporary superstar Gregory Charles were dubious choices, the indie-friendly program more than made up for it by including the Tragically Hip, Montreal dream-pop sensation Patrick Watson and his gifted band, a double-shot of Alexisonfire and Dallas Green's solo stuff as City and Colour. There was also a career-making parting shot from Montrealer DJ Champion and his explosive live band that had Furtado up onstage dancing with smokin' singer Maria "Mel" Goreti. Billy Talent – who'd tied Furtado and the unfortunately overlooked k-os with five Juno nominations of their own leading into the weekend – were the only other multiple winners as the weekend drew to a close, taking home two Juno statues during the show last night. The likeable punk outfit was dubbed Group of the Year, while its popular Billy Talent II album got the nod as Rock Album of the Year.

Graciously, the boys announced that their Group of the Year trophy would be shared with friends and former tourmates Alexisonfire, who were also in the running for the award with the Tragically Hip, Hedley and Three Days Grace. "They're our good friends and they work really, really hard, and they deserve this as much as we do," front man Ben Kowalewicz said backstage. "It's always a nice validation to give (the trophy) to your parents and tell them: `Shut up. See? Following your heart is okay, following your dreams is okay,'" he said of the award, before drolly inviting reporters to come watch the band unravel at the Warner Music after-party later as Billy Talent celebrated the victory by "getting drunk. Getting very, very drunk." The only minor surprise among the seven awards handed out during CTV's Juno broadcast was rumpled Hamilton rocker Tomi Swick taking Artist of the Year honours over Canadian Idol grads Eva Avila and Melissa O'Neil, critical darling Patrick Watson and modern-rock one-man band Neverending White Lights.  Swick almost didn't make the show, having been hospitalized last week after getting in a fight with eight men after an apparent dispute over a parking space. He suffered a concussion and had to sit out Friday night's Juno Cup hockey game.  "I've learned my lesson," he laughed. "Well, actually, I haven't learned my lesson – I was doing alright and some guys jumped me from behind." Chatting with reporters backstage, Swick also admitted that his guitarist had been punched in the face after arriving in Saskatoon on Thursday night. But he downplayed his brewing reputation as a "troublemaker extraordinaire." The only other award handed out last night went to Hamilton outfit jacksoul for R&B/Soul Recording. Front man Haydain Neale nearly contributed to further injuries on Swick's part backstage by popping a champagne cork in his direction.  Super-producer Bob Rock, meanwhile, got a typically poetic induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame from Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, which enlisted the Vancouver-based knobsman to helm its World Container album last year. The soft-spoken Rock conceded afterwards that he'd been a little taken aback by Downie's lavish praise, which included dubbing Rock "a warm, interested and alive man of the world beyond guile." "It was hard to follow what he said," he said. "It was kind of embarrassing." Quotation of the night went to Tom Wilson of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, who'd had to bow out of their performance at the pre-awards gala because they were stranded in the Glasgow airport after a European tour. The band – which also includes Stephen Fearing and Colin Cripps – did manage to make it to last night's show, presenting the first award of the night. "I don't know anyone who spends 24 hours coming to Saskatoon," quipped Wilson. "Except some pioneer in a covered wagon."

Angie Stone Ready For The Next Level

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 3, 2007)  *For her next album “
The Art of Love and War,” due sometime this summer, Angie Stone believes she has incorporated all of the ingredients needed to cross over and out of the midlevel R&B niche she has commanded since her career began.  For example, she’s hoping to get John Mayer on guitar and Stevie Wonder on harmonica for the track, “Happy Being Me.” The song is described by Billboard as “the most eloquent track [of the album] that drives home Stone's renewed spirit. "When you get close to losing your life, you see it flash before you," Stone tells the trade of her bout last year with congestive heart failure. "This song is a true testament to who I am and where I am." The album is being recorded in a studio on Sunset Blvd. once used by the late Marvin Gaye to record his 1976 album, “I Want You.” In fact, Stone hopes his spirit will bless her recording experience. The time period has already bled into such tracks as the ballad "Sometimes," inspired by the soundtrack to the 1974 urban film "Claudine," Stone says.      

Stone says she celebrated her “Patrice Rushen days" on the funky "Play With It." She referred to another track, the uptempo "These Are the Reasons," as her "drama queen comeback." She duets with Chyno -- the Charlotte, N.C., singer/songwriter who appeared on UPN's "The Player" -- on the torchy "Half a Chance." Stone says with a laugh, "Men don't beg no more, but I've got him begging on here."       Mary J. Blige also used the studio to record some songs from her Grammy-winning album "The Breakthrough.” While absorbing that, Stone credits another force on her side.       "This business is hard," she says. "I've been waiting all these years, and I've survived." Pointing to her heart for emphasis, she adds, "But I can't be touched right now, because God has me right here."

Canucks Pull Strings In Hollywood

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Michele Henry, Staff Reporter

(April 04, 2007) Waiting backstage on the
Mr. Meaty production set, Josh and Crystal don't seem like themselves. Two of the stars of the hit CBC series just hang there. Their arms dangle, lips droop and the eyes of these teenage mall rats stare at nothing. They're lifeless. But not for long.  With a few flicks of their overdeveloped thumb muscles, Jason Hopley and Jamie Shannon give these spongy sacks of foam a soul.  They're expert puppeteers. It takes Hopley no time to imbue Crystal with her signature bitchy 'tude once he slips his hand up her backside. It takes Shannon seconds to make Josh squirm as an insecure poseur.  "Puppets are light – they don't weigh anything," Hopley says. "You have to give them weight to make them come alive. You have to give them energy." Lately, it seems Hopley and Shannon, both 36, have been using some of that energy on their careers.

The duo, known as "The Grogs," just inked a deal with Disney that will keep their fingers doing a lot of high-profile talking.  The monkey puppets of Shannon's and Hopley's creation named Ooh and Aah started this weekend as the new hosts of Playhouse Disney. The pudgy primate brothers, who aren't in Canada yet, will also be featured in videos that play during line-ups for rides at Disney theme parks.  And, Hopley and Shannon returned last week from the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards in Los Angeles where they worked the orange carpet as Josh and Parker, the stars of Mr. Meaty. The two pimply faced teens, who hawk greasy food and trade wisecracks in a suburban mall on the show, headed to Hollywood with a purpose.  The aspiring filmmakers wanted to pitch their "ninja-zombie" movie to film execs, a plotline that plays out in the series, which chronicles the lives of these foam-based characters.  Last September, Mr. Meaty expanded its audience: it tore into the homes of 90 million Nickelodeon viewers in the U.S., despite criticisms from vegetarians who didn't like the fast food focus.  That hasn't stopped Hopley and Shannon from thinking beyond the animation box – or from defending their satire, which actually criticizes unhealthy eating.

Puppeteering together for almost two decades, they've done several puppet programs, including YTV'sWeird Years and CBC's Nanalan', which has won two Gemini awards. Hopley and Shannon joined forces in 1990, the year Jim Henson died.  Just like the famous creator of Sesame Street, the Star Wars films' Yoda and the Muppet characters, The Grogs, who both attended Claude Watson School for the Arts in Toronto, began their "strings-attached" careers by doing live, five-minute puppet spots on YTV. Henson's shorts were shown on a local TV channel while he attended the University of Maryland.  Growing up in Toronto, the puppeteers fell in love with Henson's characters.  "Yoda was awesome," Hopley says. "And Grover was real. I mean, I knew someone was making him move, but he was real somewhere." Hopley and Shannon, both experienced actors who dropped out of York University on the same day during their first semester, combined their early love of Henson's creations with their own desire to create.

Their modest North Toronto workshop brims with swathes of material, glue and puppets in various stages of creation: there are heads, eyes, drawings, arms and hair all over the place.  It's The Grogs' garden of Eden, where they get to populate their fantasy world with cloth, foam and rubber. "With people actors, you're limited by makeup," Shannon says, adding that puppets are the ideal fusion of acting and art. "With puppeteering, you can make the walls and the characters inside them, too." There are more than 100 puppets on Mr. Meaty, including teenagers such as a chunky dreadlocked vegan and a goth. They're all endowed with soft faces that allow puppeteers to push on parts, such as cheeks, lips and noses, to convey emotion.  Being able to nail subtle facial expressions give The Grogs' puppets a human glimmer, says Michele Weiss, director of original programming at Playhouse Disney.  That "soul" quality is a reason puppets, a low-tech art in a high-tech-obsessed world, are making a comeback.  "There's a resurgence of it," Weiss says. "People were afraid they skewed young, but now they're coming back as a medium for all ages. The humour is very sophisticated and the puppets talk directly to the kids at home." Noreen Young, children's television producer and puppeteer behind celebrated program Under the Umbrella Tree, says digital animation isn't as good at coming alive like that.  Kids might be bored of the computer-generated shows that saturate the small screen with characters that are mechanical and planned, Young says, paving the way for puppets, which are spontaneous and more direct. The ancient art of animating inanimate objects disappeared from view after Henson's death in the '90s, Young says, and The Grogs are helping it regain popularity because they have reinvented the craft with an edginess that appeals to the hard-to-reach tween demographic.

"Normally, kids that age don't want to have anything to do with puppets," Young says of kids aged 8 to 14. "They think they're too babyish." Shannon and Hopley work hard to make the toys on their arms seem real.  As they voice the characters, their faces contort with the puppets'. It's all in the fingers, Hopley says as he slides his arm into Crystal, a splotchy-haired "cool kid."  "If you want us to come to your party it better be good," Hopley says, in a throaty female rasp, making the words come out the puppet's mouth. "Or you'll regret it."

From Control Room To 'Mind Control'

By Doug Miller / BobMarley.com

During the course of Stephen Marley's well-decorated music career, he always had the idea for a solo album in the back of his mind.  That vision is now a reality, with today's release of the genre-bending, mind-blowing Mind Control. And as Stephen revealed in an exclusive interview with BobMarley.com's Jen Gurny, he's stepping out from behind the studio control room and in front of the microphone at the right time. When asked what people can expect from Mind Control, Stephen echoed the sentiment of his famous father. "Positive music," he said with a smile. "Jah, light, hope, you know, good stuff like that." The album, which has already been lauded in early reviews from such industry stalwarts as Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Spin, Time Out New York, Interview and Performing Songwriter, mixes influences that Stephen soaked up during childhood while observing his legendary father with those he developed as producer for his Grammy-winning brother, "Jr. Gong," among others.

There's a little bit of everything on Mind Control, including straight-up reggae that recalls classic Bob tunes ("Chase Dem"), funky, hip-hop influenced and soul-infused love songs ("Hey Baby," with Mos Def), and a heaping helping of politically and socially oriented song craft (the title track plus the real-life story-telling trilogy of "Officer Jimmy Interlude," "The Traffic Jam" and "Iron Bars.") Stephen said he didn't set out to make the album a mishmash of all the sounds and ideas that flood his creative mind. It just worked out that way. "The music we hear is the music that influences us in some way or another," Stephen said. "We didn't make an effort at having it sound that way. We're just making music, and that's how it comes out." Stephen, who has won five Grammys, more than anyone in his prolific family, said he has always been a big fan of hip-hop music, although he can't necessarily remember the first time he heard it.

"There was always an interest," he said. "You know, beat and rhyming. In Jamaica, the deejays do it similarly. They sit at the mic and 'toast.' So that's what really attracted me first -- the toasting." As for his prowess as a multi-instrumentalist, which he displays in grand fashion on Mind Control, Stephen said it started with guitar early in his life and branched off from there. Being around his dad and the Wailers taught him the reggae style and overall message of tolerance, he said, while observing their talent and dedication in the studio and at concerts helped shape his own musical sensibilities. Now it's Stephen's turn to shine as a solo artist, and he's making the most of it by getting ready for a North American tour with Jr. Gong at his side, spreading the word to everyone about Mind Control. For fans of all Marley family members, it's simply about time. "I'm a natural," Stephen said. "We're doing what we love and we're doing what comes natural to us at the same time. It's in our blood." During the course of Stephen Marley's well-decorated music career, he always had the idea for a solo album in the back of his mind.

::MUSIC NEWS::

'Great Crossover Appeal' - K'naan

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Li Robbins, Special to The Globe and Mail

(Apr. 2, 2007) Desert blues, Portuguese song, Gnawa-trance . . . and the winner is . . . Somali-Canadian hip hop! The
BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the newcomer category went to Toronto-based rapper K'naan on Saturday night in London. K'naan, who also won Rap Recording of the Year at last year's Junos, doesn't find it odd to be included in world-music awards. He says it demonstrates he can "cross imaginary genre boundaries." True -- in fact, his "great crossover appeal" was one of the reasons the BBC jurors chose him. But his nomination wasn't without a hint of controversy on the other side of the pond. Not because of the beats though, but because of the words. Specifically the words to the song Kicked Pushed, written after a post performance incident in Sweden in 2006. The lyrics are an explicit, incendiary response to racism and violence. The March/April issue of England's Songlines magazine contains a squib saying that K'naan's BBC awards nomination was "marred by accusations that his lyrics are unacceptably violent." But K'naan thinks such accusations are misguided. "This Gandhi thing -- it's imposed on me," he said recently, speaking by phone from Vancouver. "To say that when angered and unjustly abused that I would have said nothing or responded in a turn-the-other-cheek manner is not really listening to my music."

K'naan knows about anger and injustice. He grew up in a tough neighbourhood in one of the world's toughest cities, Mogadishu; the country of his childhood was shattered by intermittent civil war. In 1991, Somalia's then president, Siad Barre, finally fled the capital city. K'naan, along with his mother and brother, fled the country. It was the year he turned 14; he spoke no English. Today, at age 29, he doesn't view himself as a victim -- he says to face struggle is "a privilege." He also says that accounts of his life too frequently fixate on the violence he witnessed, failing to recognize the beauty. "I understand it's an interesting story to hear about someone who grew up in a war environment, and who has written songs about it. But they [journalists] haven't taken into account the sense of the melody of life, the beautiful thing that surrounds all of the difficulty. . . . When I think of my growing up in Somalia I don't think of it as just running from bullets, I also think of the poetry." If Somalia's venerable tradition of poetry defined him, then he rewrote the definition to include rap, mimicking Nas and Rakim verses on Mogadishu street corners, despite not understanding a word. Then his family landed in New York, moving a few months later to Toronto. "I felt deaf, you know, I could not hear anybody, I could not understand a thing," he says, recalling his arrival in North America.

"But I was always interested in language, and in the silent emotion from how you said something, rather than just the aspect of language which you understood." The literal aspects of language gradually became intelligible too and he was taken aback to find so many simplistic lyrics -- the opposite of the Somali songwriting tradition.  "I didn't know how an entire language allowed for people to seep into mainstream form while not saying anything intricate." And so he began to rap, in English, about things he'd seen in Somalia. His take-no-prisoners lyrics, frequently offset by buoyant melodies, have already carried him to considerable success, including performances at the United Nations, and 2005's Live 8. But he says the Somali-Canadian community has viewed his music with a certain amount of wariness. "I kind of exposed the vulnerable soft spot in a people who are generally hardened by struggle, who would like to see themselves as the unbroken, prideful people . . . it's like, 'Tell us, because we know it, but please don't share it with the world.' " He has shared it though, and some, he thinks, just wish they had got there first. "People have relatives who they think can rap, and they don't want me to be the first Somali to have done it. 'But my cousin raps,' they'll say." Without question he's the only Somali-Canadian rapper currently embarked on a U.S. tour with Stephen and Damian Marley, followed by dates in Britain and Europe. And his debut CD, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, will be re-released (remixed and including some new songs) to the United States and Britain this spring. All of which makes it difficult to imagine anyone, anywhere, viewing the genre-bending K'naan as a "newcomer" for long.

Rihanna Keeps Pace

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(March 29, 2007) NEW YORK – Some singers take two-year breaks between albums.
Rihanna is working on her third disc, just two years after releasing her first. "It's a non-stop pace, very speedily, and Def Jam does not play, that's all I can tell you," she joked of her record label in an interview with The Associated Press. "We just keep going and going – it's fun, we make sure that we have fun while we do it.'' The hits are likely to keep coming and coming for the 19-year-old Barbados beauty, who has had success with "S.O.S.,'' ``Unfaithful" and "Break It Off." Her new single, "Umbrella,'' was due out Thursday, the first song from her upcoming, not-yet-titled album, set for release June 5. "It shows such growth for her as an artist," Def Jam President Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, told the AP. "If you listen to the lyrics to that song, you know the depth and how far she's come.'' Jay-Z delivers the opening salvo on the dramatic song, about the strength of a relationship.

Rihanna said the song can be about a romantic or platonic relationship. "`Umbrella' is a serious song, a relationship song. ... It's different, and that's what I love about it," she said. "People are not going to expect a song like that from me.'' The singer made her debut with island-flavoured dance groove ``Pon de Replay" in 2005, from her debut album, "Music of the Sun." Less than a year later, she released "A Girl Like Me," a platinum success that broadened her mainstream appeal. Artists usually don't release another album so quickly, especially when they're having success with their current one. But Island Def Jam Chairman Antonio "LA" Reid said Rihanna's upcoming album, which features labelmate Ne-Yo and a song written by Justin Timberlake, is being released this summer because the label feels it's that good. "In the past, Rihanna has made really great singles. This time, Rihanna has not only made really great singles, but a great album," he told AP. "We want people to hear it now and experience it now.'' But fans may be surprised by what they hear. "My sound has changed," Rihanna said. "It's a lot edgier than the rest of the stuff that anyone has heard from me before. I'm singing about different things, it's a lot sexier.''

She also considers the album more adult, reflecting the quick growth she's had to do in her short time in the spotlight. "This business really helps you to find out who you are, and how strong you are," she said. "You need strength and determination with all the negativity coming at you sometimes ... I've grown a lot.'' Part of the negativity Rihanna has faced involved talk of an alleged affair with mentor Jay-Z. Rihanna said the rumour was upsetting but she's learned not to let the gossip mill get her down. "At first I was like, `Ha ha, it's funny,'" she said. "Now I just ignore it and I'm numb to it. ... You cannot stop people from saying what they want to say.''

Irene Cara: A Blast From The Past

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 3, 2007) Wonder what's going on with
Irene Cara? The Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy winning singer/actress is back in the music/movie business. For the new film 'Downtown,' the 48-year-old 'Sparkle' star did a remake of Petula Clark's 1960s classic of the same name. "I thought it was a great idea so I decided to do it and revamp the whole song," she recently told 'MTV Radio Networks' about the hip-hop centric rendition, which closes the film. "I produced it and updated it and kept the vibe of the music for the rest of the movie in the production of our version of the song." Officially titled 'Downtown - A Street Tale,' the movie revolves around a diverse group of street kids living in a New York City ghetto Forgotten by society, they live far from the dreams and aspirations of the rest of the world They survive by eating out of dumpsters and turning tricks to make it through a bleak winter with little hope of ever making it out of the abandoned building they call "home." Directed by Rafal Zielinski, the film will premiere in NYC on April 17 at the Apollo and then in theatres April 20. According to a spokesperson, the Los Angeles premiere is slated for April 23, preceding a nationwide rollout throughout late April and early May.

Cara, a New York City native, was the cream of the crop in the early 1980s, with a sting of music driven movie projects such as 'Sparkle,' 'Fame' and 'Flashdance' under her belt. Today, the two-time Grammy Award winner is focusing her time and energy on hernew girl group, Hot Caramel.  "My focus right now is this record that I've been working on," she shared. "This CD project with my band, I've been developing this myself. We're a group of women who are musicians as well as singers and songwriters and producers. Very substantive women in music. This is not what a lot of people like to call a band these days." She hopes to have a debut music effort from the group out sometime this year.

Ryan Shaw: Make Way For New School Soul Man

By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(Apr. 3, 2007) New school soul crooner
Ryan Shaw has been establishing himself in the music industry with a recent spat of showcases to help promote his debut opus 'This is Ryan Shaw,' due out April 17. Shaw, who recently completed a tour jaunt with Robert Randolph, has a growing buzz factor with some drawing vocal comparisons to the late great Otis Redding. "I wanted to make music that meant something," said Shaw, who first sang at his Pentecostal Church. The 26 year old is a four time winner of Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre, and has also toured with Tyler Perry's urban theatre production 'I Know I've Been Changed.' Now, he's one to watch, already having one of his songs featured in promos for ABC's hit series 'Brothers and Sisters' Starting April 27, Shaw is confirmed to go out on tour dates with British soul starlet Joss Stone this spring. Tour dates below. Ryan Shaw North American Tour Dates (w/ Joss Stone unless noted)

April 27 - Mashantucket, Connecticut - Foxwoods Theatre
April 30 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Electric Factory
May 3 - Atlanta, Georgia - The Tabernacle
May 5 - Memphis, Tennessee - Beale Street Festival (w/o Stone)
May 8 - Austin, Texas - Stubb's (headlining)
May 9 - Dallas, Texas - House of Blues
May 12 - San Diego, California Viejas - Concerts in the Park
May 15 - San Francisco, California - Warfield Theatre
May 18 - Portland, Oregon - McMenamins Crystal Ballroom
May 21 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore Ballroom
May 24 - Seattle, Washington - Paramount Theatre
May 26 - San Diego, California - KIFM Gaslightlamp Festival (w/o Stone)
May 27 - Denver, Colorado - Fillmore Auditorium
May 29 - Minneapolis, Minnesota - Bunkers (headlining)
May 30 - Chicago, Illinois - House of Blues
June 2 - Toronto, Ontario - Kool Haus
June 5
- Montreal, Quebec - Metropolis
June 8 - New York, New York - Central Park Summerstage
June 9 - Rochester, New York - Rochester Jazz Festival (w/o Stone)
June 11 - Boston, Massachusetts - Avalon Ballroom
June 13 - Vienna, Virginia - Filene Center
June 14 - Manchester, Tennessee - Bonnaroo (w/o Stone)

With Her New CD, Martina McBride Is Calling The Shots

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Randy Lewis Special To The Star, The Los Angeles Times

(April 04, 2007) BERRY HILL, Ten.–When
Martina McBride turns up in a couple of weeks on American Idol to coach contestants on the finer points of singing a country song, don't be surprised if she starts quoting the adage that "less is more.'' The woman who has won nine trophies from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, mostly for Female Vocalist of the Year, isn't big on singers who like to showboat. "There's just no need to make one word have 25 notes; there really isn't," says McBride, who last season appeared on Canadian Idol as a mentor to the contestants, including winner Eva Avila. "It just is really not very soulful. Sometimes it is, like with Aretha (Franklin), but even she doesn't really do that.'' If her AI charges on the nights of April 17 and 18 need proof that she's willing to put her money where her mouth is, she can spin them her new album, Waking Up Laughing. It does include a few wall-rattling crescendos, particularly in the first single, Anyway, a ballad riding high on the country charts.

The pint-sized singer with the pipes of steel has sold nearly 12 million albums in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan. She's racked up five No. 1 singles, including Blessed, I Love You and her first, Wild Angels, and is vying for yet another top female vocalist honour from the country music association, which hands out its awards May 15 in Las Vegas. "I never think, `How can I show off on this song?' Sometimes, quite honestly, when I sing something really big or powerful, it's because that's the only way I can get it out," she says. McBride's maturation as a vocalist is just one part of a continuing musical evolution. She produced the new album herself, her second time calling all the shots. After working for most of her career with producer Paul Worley, she decided to try producing on her 2004 Grammy-nominated Timeless, a tastefully inspired collection of country songs she grew up loving. For the first time, she's also getting songwriting credits, having co-written three songs, including Anyway, with Brett and Brad Warren.

She's experienced her own hard moments, as the rare female singer who is also a producer, mentioning a magazine story she read recently that described her husband John as her "husband/producer.'' It's mild frustration that lights up her sky-blue eyes at the assumption that it must be a man who is in the driver's seat when a female singer is in the recording studio. John did work on the album but as an engineer following her orders. He is completely clear on who's the boss on this one. Besides, there are other McBrides around who are all too ready to put in their two cents' worth. While they were playing back one song for their three daughters, Delany, 12, ventured an opinion born out of the comfort of being around musicians all her life. "She told me, `Mom, all these other people around you won't tell you what they really think, but I will, and I don't like those background vocals,' " McBride says of her little Simon Cowell-in-the-making. "And she was right! We ended up taking them off."

Neil Sedaka: Making music for 50 years

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Columnist

(April 03, 2007)
Sedaka's back ... that is, if he ever really went away. The multi-talented singer-songwriter – who's appearing in concert at Casino Rama tomorrow and Thursday – is currently celebrating his 50th year in show business. That means couples who danced to Connie Francis doing "Stupid Cupid" in 1958 saw their children do the same to the Captain and Tennille with "Love Will Keep Us Together" in 1975 and watched their grandchildren sigh over Clay Aiken's recording of "Solitaire" in 2004. "I'm a very lucky man," says Sedaka over the phone from a Florida hotel. "I just stuck with my music and it took me places I never dreamed I'd go." He's got a new compilation CD, Neil Sedaka – The Definitive Collection, being released on the Razor and Tie label this month and he finds it "a pretty definitive selection of the more than 1,000 songs I've written over the years."

His records have sold literally hundreds of millions of copies, while his songs have been recorded by everyone from Wayne Newton to Sheryl Crow. It all started 68 years ago in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was born on March 13, 1939. Sedaka still recalls vividly how he was first attracted to music. "There was a neighbour in our building who had a piano. When I was 7, I used to sneak into their apartment just to sit there, enjoying the feel and smell of the ivory keys. Then I noticed I could pick out a melody with one finger. The next year, my teacher put me in front of the choir to conduct them. After I was through, she sent me home with a note saying I should be given music lessons at all costs." Sedaka's parents were poor. "My dad was a cab driver. `Maxi the Taxi,' they used to call him, but he worked very hard to put me through music school." For the next nine years, Sedaka studied classical music at Julliard, but it wasn't where his heart truly was. By the time he was 16, pianist Arthur Rubinstein called him "one of the finest young classical pianists in New York City," but he prefers to remember that "I had already written songs for a lot of black artists at Atlantic records like Dinah Washington. I also had a group called The Tokens and we thought we were pretty hot stuff."

Living two musical lives "was tearing me apart," Sedaka recalls, "so I went to my parents and they gave me six months to prove I could make a living in pop music. Within two weeks I was signed to a recording contract and, between 1958 and 1963, I sold 40 million records." Sedaka was an unlikely rock idol who didn't act tough like Elvis Presley or sexy like Frankie Avalon. His two secret weapons were his genuine musicianship and that he wrote his songs with a teenage neighbour and friend of his, Howard Greenfield.  "Calendar Girl," "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen," "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" ... everything they came up with went gold, then platinum. But fashions change and, with the British Invasion of the '60s, Sedaka found his star rapidly dimmed.  "I was realistic," he admits. "I knew my time had passed and so I concentrated on writing songs for other people." Numbers like "Puppet Man" for Tom Jones and "Working on A Groovy Thing" for the Fifth Dimension kept his art before the public.  He finally recorded a new-style solo venture called Emergence in England in 1972. "I stopped writing pop tunes and got more poetic," he explains, "painting pictures with music." Elton John loved the new Sedaka sound and signed him to his Rocket label, producing two hit albums, Sedaka's Back in 1974 and The Hungry Years in 1975, which yielded some of Sedaka's biggest hits ever. "Love Will Keep Us Together" was composed at the offices of Rocket. "I came up with that razzmatazz, honky-tonk beginning first," recalls Sedaka, "then the rest of the tune just flowed from that. Howard put a lyric to it in no time flat and I knew we had a hit when we walked out of the office and all the secretaries were singing, `I will, I will, I will.'"

But there were also more serious songs, like "The Hungry Years," the heartbreaking story of a couple who claw their way to the top, only to find there's a lot they "lost along the way." Sedaka resolutely insists it's not autobiographical. His own marriage to his wife Leba has been "a joy for 42 years. She is my wife, my friend, my lover, my manager, my adviser. She has made my life possible." Then who is the song about? "Sonny and Cher. Howard had worked with them over the years and he always felt bad about how once they got what they always thought they wanted, they didn't need each other any more. "They didn't know it was about them. I even sang it on their show one night and kept looking at them to see if they'd figure it out, but they never did." But after 50 years onstage, does Sedaka ever get tired of performing? "Never, I'm still thrilled to be doing this after all these years. I'd never leave my audience." It would be like breaking up with them, and we all know how he feels about that.

Thelonious Monk Jazz Program Moving To New Orleans

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Stacey Plaisance, Associated Press

(Apr. 2, 2007) NEW ORLEANS — One of jazz's most prestigious organizations is on its way to the genre's spiritual home.
The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz is relocating its performance program from Los Angeles to New Orleans' Loyola University. To celebrate the move, jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and trumpeter Terence Blanchard — a New Orleans native — planned to join the program's incoming class for a performance at Loyola on Monday. Only a handful of students are chosen for the graduate-level college program, previously based at the University of Southern California. The selection process lasts for several months and includes several national and regional auditions.  “It's the best out there,” said Elizabeth Dalferes, a spokeswoman for Loyola, where the program will be based for the next four years. Dalferes said several factors led the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to move its jazz performance program to New Orleans. Among them: the city's appreciation for jazz, its mission to preserve jazz music and heritage and the space and programs already available at Loyola, she said.

The institute also recognizes there is a need for music mentors in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina struck in August, 2005, scattering many of the city's musicians, Dalferes said. Hoping to help fill that void, the institute's students will work with the city's young musicians and promote jazz in schools. The celebration Monday also was to include the launch of the institute's “Jazz in America” program with performances for New Orleans area high school students by jazz saxophonist Bobby Watson and singer Lisa Henry. The institute's new class, to be named on Monday, will live in New Orleans for two to four years, studying jazz performance and working with young people in the local school system. Students of the institute will also participate in national tours to classrooms in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other cities with a strong need for public arts education, Dalferes said. The institute is a non-profit educational organization created in 1986 in memory of Thelonious Monk, the jazz pianist and composer who believed the best way to learn jazz was from a master of the music.

EMI Drops Copy Protection On iTunes

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(April 02, 2007) LONDON – Breaking from the rest of the recording industry,
EMI Group said Monday it will begin selling songs online that are free of copy-protection technology through Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store. The deal, however, doesn't include music from the label's biggest act, The Beatles. ITunes customers will soon be able to buy songs by the Rolling Stones, Norah Jones, Coldplay and other top-selling artists for $1.29, or 30 cents more than the copy-protected version. The premium tunes also will be offered in a higher quality than the 99-cent tracks. EMI Chief Executive Eric Nicoli said The Beatles music catalogue is excluded from the deal, but said the company was "working on it." He declined to set a time frame for negotiations over the catalogue. The announcement followed calls by Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs earlier this year for the world's four major record companies, including EMI Group PLC, to start selling songs online without copy-protection software. The technology, known as digital rights management, or DRM, is designed to combat piracy by preventing unauthorized copying or sharing, but it also can be a consumer headache. Some music players, for instance, support one type of DRM software but not others.

The DRM used by Apple does not work with competing services or devices, meaning that consumers can only download songs from iTunes to work on their computers or iPod music players. The lock between the download services and players has drawn criticism from European industry regulators, who argue that it limits buyer choice. "Doing the right thing for the customer going forward is to tear down the walls that impede interoperability," Jobs told a London news conference. He has previously argued there was little benefit to record companies selling more than 90 percent of their music without DRM on compact discs, then selling the remaining percentage online with DRM. Some analysts suggest that lifting the software restrictions could boost sales of online music, which currently account for around 10 percent of global music sales. Jobs said that he planned to offer around half of all music in the iTunes store under the premium package by the end of the year, but declined to say whether the company was in discussions with other leading record companies. "Consumers tell us overwhelmingly that they would be prepared to pay a higher price for digital music that they could use on any player," Nicoli said. "It is key to unlocking and energizing the digital music business.'' The iTunes music store will begin offering EMI's entire catalogue – apart from The Beatles – without DRM software starting next month, he said. EMI has acted as the distributor for The Beatles since the early 1960s, but The Beatles' music holding company, Apple Corps Ltd., has so far declined to allow the Fab Four's music on any Internet music services, including iTunes. The situation was exacerbated by a long-running trademark dispute between Apple Inc. and Apple Corps. That legal feud was resolved in February when the two companies agreed on joint use of the apple logo and name, a deal many saw as paving the way for an agreement for online access to the Fab Four's songs. Apple Corps was founded by the Beatles in 1968 and is still owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the widow of John Lennon and the estate of George Harrison.

EU Launches Antitrust Probe Into iTunes

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Constant Brand, Associated Press

(April 03, 2007) BRUSSELS, Belgium – The
European Commission confirmed Tuesday it has opened an antitrust probe into Apple's iTunes and the way it works with the major music companies to sell songs online. The commission alleged distribution agreements Apple has signed with the record labels to sell their music on iTunes stores in EU countries "contain territorial sales restrictions which violate'' EU competition rules. People can only download singles or albums from the iTunes store in their country of residence, the commission said. "Consumers are thus restricted in their choice of where to buy music and consequently what music is available, and at what price," it said in a statement. "For example, in order to buy a music download from the iTunes' Belgian online store a consumer must use a credit card issued by a bank with an address in Belgium.'' Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said Monday the company wanted to operate a single store for all of Europe, but music labels and publishers said there were limits to the rights they could grant to Apple.

"We don't believe Apple did anything to violate EU law," he said. "We will continue to work with the EU to resolve this matter.'' The cost of buying a single song across the 27-nation bloc varies among the available iTunes stores in EU nations. For example, downloading a single in Britain costs $1.56, in Denmark $1.44, while in countries using the euro such as Germany and Belgium, a single track costs $1.32. The "statement of objections" EU regulators sent to Apple does not allege the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is in a dominant market position. Apple has two months to answer questions issued in the letter, the commission said. If found guilty of violating EU competition rules, Apple could face hefty fines, which in theory could total up to 10 percent of the company's worldwide annual turnover. The EU investigation comes amid moves by European consumer rights groups in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Nordic countries to force Apple to change the rules it imposes on its online music store customers.

The groups are demanding Apple lift limits preventing consumers from playing their downloads on digital players other than Apple's iPod. In February, Norway, which is not a member of the EU, declared those limits illegal and gave Apple until Oct. 1 to change its compatibility rules or face legal action and possible fines. The EU investigation does not deal with these concerns, however. Apple has said it is willing to open iTunes to players other than iPods if the world's major record labels moved to change their anti-piracy technology. Apple and EMI announced a deal on Monday that would allow EMI's music to be sold on iTunes minus anti-piracy software that limits its use on some players. The move is expected to be watched – and likely followed – by other record labels.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Cassels Brock Wins Historic Royalties for Songwriters and Music Publishers

Source:  Cassels Brock & Blackwell

(April 2007) In March 2007, the Copyright Board of Canada certified the CSI Online Music Services Tariff (2005-2007), which sets the royalties payable by services such as iTunes, Puretracks, and Napster for the right to reproduce musical works and distribute them to consumers as downloads and streams. The royalty rates are the first of their kind to be established in Canada, and are among the highest in the world for the online reproduction of music. CMRRA/SODRAC Inc. (CSI) is a collective society that represents the vast majority of songwriters and music publishers whose songs are used in Canada. Peter Steinmetz, Casey Chisick, Tim Pinos and Erin Finlay of Cassels Brock acted for CMRRA. CMRRA is the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency Ltd.

::FILM NEWS::

Jay-Z Inspired Musical: 'Confessions Of A Thug' Now Available

Source:   Wong Cook,   Exposure PR,   musicskoop@yahoo.com

(April 4, 2007) LOS ANGELES -- The new award-winning, highly anticipated hip-hop musical "
Confessions of A Thug," starring Daron Fordham and featured on the cover of the current (March 31st through April 6th) edition of Billboard Magazine, has been released on DVD in the U.S. domestically by Polychrome Pictures, a subsidiary of Warner Home Video. "Confessions of A Thug" is a groundbreaking, hip-hop musical chronicling the life of a college-educated street hustler, who explores the path his life has taken. In addition to directing, Daron Fordham (Black Spring Break I & II) starred in and also wrote the picture.  In an interview, Fordham said that he was "inspired by the entrepreneurial example of hip-hop mogul Jay-Z to make the picture." The movie is a cutting-edge urban crime drama, with an outstanding soundtrack of original music, presented with a fresh, new approach to the genre.  The movie also includes performances by multi-platinum rap artists J. T. Money and The Lady of Rage. "This film is a morality tale. You reap what you sow. We wanted to portray that in a non-traditional way and raise the bar artistically on what an urban film can be and look like," says Fordham. By merging hard-hitting rap performances with dramatic filmmaking and edgy photography, Fordham gives his audiences the best of both worlds. "'Confessions' is a movie for the young urban crowd and the art crowd," says Fordham. Among other honours, the movie gained the award for Best Director at this year's 2007 San Diego Black Film Festival.

Raymond Forchion, producer of "Confessions," couldn't agree more: "We've created a product that transcends the borders often set for this type of movie. The musical numbers alone elevate this picture and give it a whole new level of excitement. The soundtrack album includes eleven original hot tracks from the movie that have created a buzz on the underground and club circuits." The March 31st edition of Billboard is on newsstands now. In addition to the cover spot there is also an article about the picture. Starting with Birmingham, Alabama, Director/Star Daron Fordham, Producer Raymond Forchion and other stars from the picture will be touring several U.S. cities and visiting various retail outlets in the coming weeks to promote the PolychromePictures/Warner Brothers release. For more information about the film and to view trailers, visit http://www.confessionsofathug.com/ and http://www.polychromepictures.com/.

Nia Long: The Are We Done Yet Interview With Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – By Kam Williams

(April 3, 2007) *Who ever heard of an actress being typecast as pregnant? That's exactly what appears to be happening to
Nia Long lately.  In 2004, the talented thespian of Trinidadian extraction appeared in Alfie, where she played the playboy's knocked-up ex-girlfriend, Lonnette. Then, last year, we found her expecting again in her very next movie, Big Momma's House 2, where she was reprising the role of Sherri opposite Martin Lawrence.  Nia seems to be stuck on the mommy track, because, now, as Suzanne in Are We Done Yet, she's about to give birth to twins. Here, the fetching beauty, who was named one of the World's 50 Most Beautiful People by People Magazine in 2000, talks about this latest outing opposite Ice Cube.

Kam Willams: How would summarize the storyline of this sequel to Are We There Yet?

Nia Long:
What happens is: Nick decides to sell the sports bar to start his magazine. And when the family finds out I'm having twins, we're like, "Oh my God! We're gonna need more space." So, we move outside of the city to get more for your money, and we find this beautiful, old home that needs a little work. But then, once we move in, we realize that it's falling apart at the seams.

KW: Besides being pregnant, how is your character different?

NL: In the last film, you saw her, she was troubled. She was going through a divorce. her ex-husband was playing games. It was "Where are my kids? Where are my kids? Where are my kids?" In this one, you see her as sort of this resolved woman who's like, "Okay, I'm pregnant, I'm married, I'm not working, I'm a stay-at-home mom, and this is my new life." And so, with that, you see a lighter part of her personality. She's much more optimistic about things. She wants everything to be great, but she'll still tell you like it is. She's not a fool.

For full interview by Kam Williams, go HERE.

Mary Walsh Steps Behind The Camera To Helm Her First Film

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, Entertainment Writer

(April 04, 2007) It was really only a matter of time until
Mary Walsh got around to directing a feature. "It's the perfect job for me," she concedes. "And I must say, I found it really satisfying. I'm always trying to tell people what to do anyway and here people were expecting me to do it. So it was fabulous, like coming home, like finally finding my true place."  Aside from maybe singing opera, it is perhaps the only aspect of entertainment in which the multi-tasking Newfoundlander – Codco, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Hatching, Matching & Dispatching, Mary Walsh: Open Book, and major roles in other people's movies, like Secret Nation, New Waterford Girl and Mambo Italiano – has not already achieved and excelled. And even here she is in familiar territory – and not just geographically. Young Triffie, a decidedly dark period comedy opening across the country this Friday, is based on a stage play she commissioned from writer Ray Guy back in 1985, and has since directed in several East Coast productions. Yet as much as the play, set in 1947 in a small, deceptively peaceful coastal community, has a characteristic and indelible Maritime sensibility, she has cherry-picked some of the finest comic talent from across the country to help her bring it to cinematic life. Parliament should only be this representative.

From the West Coast, Fred Ewanuick, best known as the sweetly clueless Hank Yarbo on the unprecedented sitcom hit, Corner Gas. Here he's portraying a hapless Newfoundland Ranger, a relatively minor character in the play, but the endearingly accident-prone focus of the film. From Central Canada , Second City veterans Colin Mochrie and Andrea Martin, the former as Ewanuick's derisive superior, the latter as an increasingly unhinged doctor's wife. And, as the boozy town doctor, Quebec film institution Rémy Girard. The East Coast is of course well represented, notably by Walsh herself and her old Codco comrades, Cathy and Andy Jones. The actors were the easy part, Walsh says.  "There's a lot of old technical stuff, ya know, jargon and that kind of thing, and people are constantly mesmerizing you with technical terms and you don't know what the f--k they are talking about. That was the steepest learning curve for me. "But (with the actors), I really did kind of know what I was doing. I mean, you're directing Fred, you're directing Andrea, you're directing someone who is already extraordinarily funny ... there's not much to it, really. You say, `Well this is what we have to get,' and then you get that, and then you go, `Well Fred, why don't you do what you'd like' ... you know what I mean. The occasional time there'd be a question or something, but mostly ..."  "Mostly from me," offers the soft-spoken Ewanuick, finally joining the conversation.

"No, not at all," insists Walsh. "Fred is extraordinarily talented ... and extraordinarily modest. He has an immense amount of stuff in there, but you really gotta go, `No, this is okay. This is what we want. We want what you are bringing to it.' So you have to really tell him that, because he's just a bit shy, I guess."  "Picked the right profession," he shrugs. And the right director to guide him through his first film lead.  "She's very good at telling me what to do," he says. "She has a way and I can't describe how she does it, but she has a way of getting across what she wants, without actually doing it, or giving you a line read, or physically showing you.... She will give you little clues and hints and then you're like, `Oh yeah, okay, I get it.' And then you do it and then you get to play a little bit. Do your work and then you can play. "Coming from TV, you don't get to play as much. It's very structured and you don't have as much input. So, when you come to film you forget that, you forget, `Oh yeah, I can add.' So it took a bit of encouragement from Mary. And then once we got into it, she had to tell me to shut up."  The movie, like its far-flung acting ensemble, has a somehow universal Canadian appeal. "I think comedy is the same across the country," suggests Ewanuick. "It's the delivery that's different. So maybe something that's kind of half funny in Newfoundland, amongst Newfoundlanders, would be three times as funny to me.

"I think there's definitely differences regionally, but I think comedy's comedy no matter where you go. Especially the physical stuff." And there is plenty of that in Triffie – much of it at Ewanuick's expense. Also a very dark undertone of death and dysfunction, unsolved murder, eviscerated livestock, drug addiction and child pornography. "It's got the slapstick and then you've got all these outrageous characters and then you've got like these solid performances ... and this dark, you know, sheep mutilation, dead girl on the beach.... And you look to Mary and you go, `This is a comedy, right?' "Cause you're never sure, until you see it all put together and you're just amazed at how it does work out. It just works. I think Mary's created her own genre and I like to refer to it as `Walsh.'"  "Funny," says Walsh, "I like to think of it more as Fargo meets Anne of Green Gables."

FILM TIDBITS

Denzel Deployed To Iraq For Next Film

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 29, 2007) *
Denzel Washington has agreed to produce and possibly star in “Journal for Jordan,” a film based on the letters of a soldier killed in Baghdad during the Iraq war.  The project is based on a New York Times essay written by Dana Canedy, who described a 200-page journal written by her fiancé, 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King, for their son. King, 48, was killed last October, one month before he was scheduled to finish his tour of duty. He never got to see his son, as his deployment came before the boy was born. King wrote the journal in hopes of passing on important lessons to his son and to prepare him for a life without his dad. The film will be produced by Columbia Pictures-based production house Escape Artists, which acquired the rights to the essay. Crown has signed on to release a book based on the journal.

Another Good ‘Night’ For Forest Whitaker

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 29, 2007) *
Forest Whitaker will follow up his Oscar-wining performance in “The Last King of Scotland” with a co-starring role opposite Keanu Reeves in “The Night Watchman.” Based on an original idea by crime writer James Ellroy, the project follows a veteran LAPD cop (Reeves) who turns to alcohol after the death of his wife. The cop is forced to go up against his longtime mentor (Whitaker) when he is implicated in the execution of a fellow officer. The Fox Searchlight film is being helmed by David Ayer, who directed “Harsh Times” and wrote the screenplay for “Training Day,” which earned Denzel Washington an Academy Award for best actor. Production on “Watchman” is scheduled to begin May 21. In the meantime, Whitaker will star in Sony Pictures' "Vantage Point," voice the character Wild Thing in Warner Bros.' "Where the Wild Things Are" and appear in the indie feature "Winged Creatures."

Halle Berry Gets Star On Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press


(Apr. 4, 07) LOS ANGELES —
Halle Berry has an Emmy, a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Now she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A teary-eyed Berry received the 2,333rd Walk of Fame star in a ceremony Tuesday in front of the Kodak Theatre. “I am so emotional ... as soon as I saw the crowds of people and friends here, I started to cry,” she said. Berry won the best actress Academy Award in 2001 for her role alongside Billy Bob Thornton in Monster's Ball. She won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for her title role in Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Berry, 40, co-stars with Bruce Willis in the upcoming film, Perfect Stranger, which opens April 13.

We Remember Calvin Lockhart: Nassau-Born Actor Died Thursday

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 4, 2007) *
Calvin Lockhart, star of stage and screen whose character name of Biggie Smalls in the 1975 film “Let’s Do It Again” was used by late rapper Notorious B.I.G., died Thursday in his native Nassau, Bahamas from complications of a stroke. He was 72. The actor starred in a string of films in the early to mid-70s, including “Cotton Comes to Harlem,” “Uptown Saturday Night” and “Myra Breckinridge.” He also starred opposite Eddie Murphy in 1988’s “Coming To America,” and in January completed work on “Rain,” an upcoming film shot in the Bahamas.        Born Sept. 18, 1934 in Nassau, Lockhart was classically trained and became the only black actor ever invited to be an actor-in-residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford Upon-Avon.  Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie said the following about Lockhart’s passing: "Although his acting career was of relatively short duration, Calvin's cinematic charisma and talents won him high praise from critics and audiences alike all around the world."       Calvin produced and directed several major stage productions and also appeared on television in London, Germany and the U.S., including the television series “Dynasty.”       He is survived by his mother, Minerva Cooper; his wife, Jennifer Miles-Lockhart; sons Michael Lockhart and Julien Lockhart Miles; brothers Carney, Eric and Phillip Cooper; sisters, Melba and Delores.

::TV NEWS::

Sophina Brown: The Shark Interview with Kam Williams

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(Mar. 29, 2007) *Born in Saginaw, Michigan,
Sophina Brown wanted tobe an actress for as long as she can remember. She burst onto the stage in the second grade with a memorable performance in Wheels, a musical about the evolution of, what else, the wheel. She distinctly remembers telling her mother that one day she was going to appear on a billboard in Times Square. Upon receiving her B.F.A in Theatre Performance from the University of Michigan, she immediately moved to New York City. Sophina wanted to star on Broadway but soon realized that choice roles in plays were generally given to veteran thespians with film and television credits. The same, however, was not true for Broadway musicals. So, although she had no formal training in this arena, she switched her game plan. Eventually, she auditioned for the Lion King, and landed the lead of Nala. And just two years after Sophina's arrival in New York, her childhood prophecy came true when a billboard went up on 41st Street & Broadway advertising the show. Seeing her face on that billboard every day reminded her that dreams can come true, if you want them bad enough.

She can currently be seen on TV as part of the ensemble cast comprising the legal team on CBS' new hit drama
Shark. Sophina plays Raina Troy, a very tough, strong and compassionate woman who, through her constant challenging of Sebastian Stark (James Woods) to do the right thing, is the source of moral consciousness on the team. The show airs Thursday nights at 10:00pm (ET/PT) on CBS. Sophina can also be seen on the big screen in Because I Said So, opposite Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore. An avid theatre fan, she catches as many plays, musicals and live performances as she can fit into her demanding schedule. She is also actively involved with a group of actors doing live readings of plays. In her free time, Sophina also loves searching out new restaurants featuring innovative cuisines, especially desserts.

Kam Williams: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an actress?

Sophina Brown: I'd say around the age of four. I can't remember existing apart from that dream.

KW: How did you know?

SB: I just knew. I was always performing in my room, while my friends were out riding bikes. My favourite times as a child were when I was old enough to stay home by myself. I would have the whole house to sing and dance. No one would tell me to be quiet!

KW: Do you remember how you felt the first time you were on stage?

SB: It felt really good. The instant gratification of having an audience is thrilling. There's nothing like performing live. You don't feel that energy in film or television. That's one of the reasons my heart will always be rooted in theatre.

KW: Did you perform in high school?

SB: I did. I actually went to a performing arts school for half a day from seventh to twelfth grade. Half of my day was spent studying theatre, the other half was spent at a regular school for academics. We produced two plays a year. It was such a big deal at the time. At that age, getting cast in a school production seemed like a life or death situation.

KW: Did you have any second thoughts about majoring in theatre in college?  Did you have a double-major or a fall-back position?

SB: None at all. "Fall-back" was never in my vocabulary. That was a little hard for my parents to understand at first, but they saw my determination and always supported me.

KW: Where did a little girl from Saginaw, Michigan get the confidence to move to Manhattan right after graduating from college?

SB: Confidence wasn't the problem. It's more like where did I get the money. That was always the plan. Broadway, Broadway, Broadway. I didn't even know enough to be afraid of anything. I just knew I was broke. I busted my butt waiting tables my senior year of college just to get out there. I slept on a lot of couches. Thank God for my friends.

KW: Was auditioning harder than you had envisioned?

SB: The auditions weren't the hard part. It was the disappointment that often followed. This business can bring high highs and low lows. If you don't have a solid faith and support system, it can do serious damage.

KW: When did you know you could make it in show business?

SB: I may have a different definition of "making it" than most people.
I don't care if I'm making three hundred dollars a week or three million. If I'm being paid to do what I love most, it's a blessing. How many people can say they jump out of bed every morning excited to go to work? It's so rare that passion and profession intersect. When that happens, that's making it. I would not settle for anything less.

KW: How did you enjoy having the lead role in The Lion King?

SB: It was amazing. It's such a powerful story. I remember watching the show from the back of the theatre after being cast. I was weeping because I couldn't believe that I was given the opportunity to be a part of something so beautiful.

KW: Why did you decide to relocate to Los Angeles?

SB: If you notice, unlike the musicals, most Broadway plays have actors and actresses with huge TV and film credits. For example, Julianne Moore, Julia Roberts, Ashley Judd, Cynthia Nixon, etcetera. I wanted to build up my resume so that I could move back to New York and do theatre.

KW: Jimmy Bayan insisted I asked you where in L.A. you live?

SB: I live in Hollywood.

KW: How do you like having a hit TV series?

SB: I love having a J-O-B! I'm so excited to play this role everyday.
They're really writing wonderful stuff for me. It's truly a joy. I hope that we keep building on our audience.

KW: What's the show about?

SB: It's an LA based law drama. James Woods' character, Sebastian Stark, used to be a high-profile defence attorney. Now, he's switched sides. He has a team of younger lawyers that he schools in the process. But to his surprise, we sometimes school him.

KW: Tell me a little about Stark and your character, Raina?

SB: They are both strong, opinionated, and passionate, which means, they bump heads...a lot. Raina always calls Stark on his dirty tactics, but there is mutual respect and admiration.

KW: How does the long days involved with shooting a TV series compare to the daily grind of appearing on Broadway?

SB: This schedule is a bit more taxing than Broadway for me. The days are longer and we're constantly learning new dialogue, but it keeps everything fresh. The trick with Broadway is making a show seem fresh even though it's been running for ten years.

KW: Which do you prefer, movies, TV or the stage?

SB: The stage. As an actor, you're in charge of the storytelling once you step out on that stage. You take the audience on a journey. It's truly an actor's medium. With film and TV, there's so much that's out of your control. You have to give it over to editing and post-production. It goes through many different hands before it is enjoyed by an audience. It was hard for me at first. It's kind of like letting someone hold your baby, and hoping you recognize it when you get it back.

KW: Are you being recognized now everywhere you go?

SB: Nah. I don't go anywhere. I'm such a homebody. I really should work on that.

KW: Can you still go shopping in the supermarket and the mall?

SB: Oh, yes. I don't know what I would do without my weekly trips to Target. It's my safe haven in a cold, cold world. I'm kidding...sort of.

KW: How can your fans find you? Are you on MySpace?

SB: No, I seem to be the only person who doesn't have a MySpace page.

KW: What advice do you have for any aspiring actress eager to follow in your footsteps?

SB: Don't wait for someone to give you an opportunity. Create an opportunity for yourself. Always be working on your art, even when no one is paying you to do so. Take classes, read everything you can get your hands on, always be prepared, and make the most out of every opportunity to perform. Even a two-minute audition is a performance. Enjoy it! Fear is not an option. Do not compare yourself to others. No one can do what you do. And remember to always be grateful for where you are right now.

KW: Thanks for the time, Sophina, and good luck with your career.

SB: Thank you!

Russell Hornsby: Taking The ‘Heights’ Higher

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(April 2, 2007) *Actor
Russell Hornsby is a familiar face on the small screen, the big screen, and the stage. Currently, he stars as Eddie Sutton on ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights.”  The acclaimed show, about a family that moves to the ‘hood under an ‘officer-next-door’ program, debuted last year and is coming upon its season finale tonight (Monday). Hornsby talked with EUR’s Lee Bailey about the series, the finale, and the success of the show after its first season, saying that the pressure to do well was more on the TV audience than the show itself.   “It’s [was] asked of me, early on, ‘Did I feel any pressure about the show and about the subject matter?' I think that we’ve done all that we could've done. I think the network has done all that [it] can do – just by putting the show on the air, they’ve done a lot. And Kathleen Mcghee-Anderson and Kevin Hooks, as producers, have done their jobs. But I really feel that the pressure has been on the audience – to take some time find the show and to stay with it. It’s a qualitative show that’s about truisms of life and family. So I’m very excited that the audience has found the show and has been really supportive of it over these 12 weeks.” The show is a rarity in that it centers on a black family, but it is not a comedy. For that and the fans, the mid-season fav has been picked up for a second season, which Hornsby expects to start some time in January 2008.

“This program is about an African-American police officer and his family that move from the suburbs of Los Angeles back to his old neighbourhood in the ‘hood’. He really wants to go back and be about change in the community and be active. The family takes part in the officer housing program, which converts old run-down houses into new homes. So he brings his family into this neighbourhood, which brings new problems,” he described. The finale has Hornsby’s character, Sutton, in a standoff with his nemesis, Bishop, a local drug dealer. The episode is led in by last week’s cliffhanger, which left viewers wondering if Bishop’s identity is really his. The episode also left fans wondering if the family would stay in the neighbourhood. A good bet, seeing as how the show will be returning, is that they will. In the meantime, during the hiatus from the show, which was shot eight months ago, Hornsby has been starring in the off-Broadway production of August Wilson’s “King Headley II.” The play is running at the Signature Theater in New York through April 22. “It’s one of the plays of the ten-play cycle,” Hornsby said of the gig. “It takes place in Pittsburgh in 1985. It’s about this gentleman in his mid-30s whose fighting to find his identity. He spent 10 years in prison for killing a man. August ties in all the aspects of whatever’s plaguing the African-American community at that time – lack of education, lack of employment, poverty, and the like.” The thespian actually worked alongside Wilson long before his death in October 2005, touring for two years with the play “Jitney.”

Some may find it interesting, almost paradoxical that Hornsby rides the lines between stage and screen. But the actor believes that taking every opportunity to act is a part of being a true craftsman. “I’ve been very fortunate to do film, television and theatre, but theatre is my background,” he said. “You want to work in all facets of entertainment as an actor. I don’t think of television as a step down; I think of it as another opportunity. You’re not going to reach the same number of people with theatre as you do with television. I do the theatre for me and television is an opportunity for me to reach a larger audience.” He continued that this particular television project is significant: “With ‘Lincoln Heights’, because of the subject matter – an African American family in a dramatic backdrop – is something that has been serving the community and what they’ve been thirsting for and we’ve been able to give it to them.” The season finale of “Lincoln Heights” airs tonight on ABC Family at 7/6c. For more on the show and the cast, check out www.abcfamily.com.

New Show Follows Band In The HollyHood

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Los Angeles Times

(April 03, 2007) On Thursday night, MTV will premiere a series about some Southern folks who strike it rich, load up their vehicle and move into a huge Los Angeles mansion to live the good life. No, it's not another version of The Beverly Hillbillies. But it could be called The Bel-Air Blingbillies. The actual title is
Adventures in HollyHood, and it's an unscripted series about Three 6 Mafia, the rap group that scored an Academy Award in 2006 for the hip-hop anthem "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," from the film Hustle & Flow. The show follows the group's members as they travel from their Memphis, Tenn., home to Los Angeles (rolling in a Rolls-Royce, no less) to capitalize on their Oscar momentum and become Hollywood players. It may be "hard out here for a pimp," but it's also not easy for a group trying to move beyond one-hit-wonder status. Three 6 Mafia is near royalty in Memphis, but in Hollywood it's just another act trying to climb to the next level.

In the first episode, the rappers are recruited to come up with a song for Jackass Number Two, a project that definitely will not earn them a second Oscar. In a future episode, they pitch their idea for a movie, Streets of Memphis, which gets a less-than-warm reception. Meanwhile, their record company is pressuring them to put out an album. Still, the emphasis is on comedy, as the group tries to put "the hood" into Hollywood. Juicy J and DJ Paul, the creative core of the group, are one of music's oddest partnerships and their posse, including personal assistant Big Treice, Web consultant Computer and protégé Project Pat, form an offbeat ensemble. "Their perspective is key, and they are very endearing and charming," said Rod Aissa, an executive producer of the series.

Paul Reubens' Career Is Back In The Spotlight

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Shawn Hubler Special To The Star, Los Angeles Times

(April 04, 2007) HOLLYWOOD–The line at the autograph table snaked out of the Burbank Marriott ballroom, the longest by far at the recent Hollywood Collectors & Celebrities Show. They could have had Batman. They could have had the cast of Married ... With Children. But the cavalcade was there for only one man. They wanted to see
Paul Reubens, famous for playing Pee-wee Herman but who has evolved from that juvenile character into a serious – and seriously visible – character actor. "This is unbelievable," marvelled Reubens, whose stint as the host of Pee-wee's Playhouse from 1986 through 1991 was, until recently, generally regarded as the high point of his career. Now 54, Reubens looks less like his rosy-cheeked alter ego and more like Pee-wee's well-mannered father. But many also wanted to meet Paul Reubens, the actor.

In the last couple of years, the publicity-shy comedian – whose trajectory dramatically stalled after his 1991 arrest and no-contest plea on charges of indecent exposure – has been steadily attracting fresh regard. NBC, for example, just signed him to star in
Area 57, a sitcom about a passive-aggressive alien being watched over by a bunch of government employees. Bloggers and TV critics are still lavishing praise on his recent bit on 30 Rock as an inbred European monarch with a "joint fluid" disease. A guest appearance on Reno 911! last year led to a role in this year's movie, Reno: 911! Miami. Then there's his recurring character as Courteney Cox's old tabloid mentor on the TV drama Dirt, airing on U.S. cable. Hollywood loves comebacks, but Reubens' road back has been especially bumpy. Originally trained, he has said, as "a serious actor, in the James Dean kind of school," he landed in Hollywood as part of a boy-girl act on The Gong Show. He graduated to the L.A.-based improv troupe the Groundlings, in which, among his many other characters, he debuted Pee-wee Herman in 1978. Initially, Reubens has said, Pee-wee was a fumbling stand-up comic with a propensity for botching jokes, but by 1981 Reubens had developed him into a live show that sold out for months in L.A. and went on to play Carnegie Hall. The Pee-wee stage show, patterned on old kids' cartoon shows, became an HBO special, then a movie (directed by then-unknown Tim Burton) and then a Saturday morning show, then another movie, then a pop-culture phenomenon.

When Pee-wee came to CBS in 1986, there was nothing like him. After the cancellation of the show, however, Reubens' career faltered. In 1991, he was caught in a vice sting at an adult theatre in Florida. Reubens paid a fine, did public service announcements, joked about the embarrassing incident and sought to put it behind him. But the morals charge damaged his marketability as a children's entertainer, and Reubens has not appeared in full Pee-wee voice and regalia in 15 years. Every role, it seemed, reminded audiences of Pee-wee, and whether by his choice or Hollywood's, his professional profile remained low.  Then, in 2001, he was cast as a seedy, dope-dealing hairdresser in Blow, and critics praised his performance.  Meanwhile, his image problems appeared to be fading.  When he was hit the following year with a second prosecution – over photographs seized from a private collection of erotica and kitsch art – the incident ended in a much-reduced misdemeanour obscenity charge and generated far less public interest. (Indeed, his supporters viewed it as persecution.) Now Pee-wee's Playhouse is airing in the U.S. on the Cartoon Network and Reubens has said he is nearing a deal for financing on the third Pee-wee movie.  But whether that film comes to fruition, Reubens appears to have found his own place in the spotlight.

TV TIDBITS

Left Eye Documentary To Air On VH1

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 29, 2007) **Among the line-up of
VH1’s Rock Docs specials over the next few months is “Last Days of Left Eye,” a documentary about the late TLC rapper-singer and the final days spent at her spiritual hideaway in Honduras.  Directed by Lauren Lazin ("Tupac: Resurrection"), the film uses archival material and talking-head interviews to provide background and transitions for footage shot by Left Eye during a month-long spiritual retreat in the Central American country. She was killed there in a car crash on April 25, 2002. Left Eye, born Lisa Lopes, speaks at length in the film about her belief in astrology and numerology, and promises to "set the record straight" about her checkered past before redirecting her energies in a positive direction, according to a review in Daily Variety.  "Last Days of Left Eye" is scheduled to open the Atlanta Film Festival, an event in her hometown that will include Lopes’ family and friends making rare public appearances. A date has not yet been announced for the film’s premiere on VH1.

Louis Gossett Jr. To Host ‘ReNew Orleans'

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 3, 2007) *
Louis Gossett Jr. has been tapped to host "ReNew Orleans," a seven part TV series in which teams compete to rebuild communities in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans, Louisiana.  Show producer Damon Harman, CEO of DNA Creative Media, selected Gossett because of his extensive background in community service. The actor started the Eracism Foundation to stomp out racism around the globe. He's also a Board of Directors member of the Challenger's Club, a Los Angeles community center.   "I am deeply moved by any project that restores people who are down and out to their proper place in the world," says Gossett.  The seven-part series will be filmed later this spring.

 

::THEATRE NEWS::

Whistle Muscles Its Way To Greatness

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

A Whistle in the Dark
(out of 4)
By Tom Murphy. Directed by Jason Byrne. Until April 21 at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 55 Mill St.
416-866-8666

(April 02, 2007)  A sudden shock. A numbing pain. A rush of adrenaline. That's what your body experiences after a physical assault, and your spirit is likely to go through the same three stages after seeing
A Whistle in the Dark. Superb acting from a powerhouse cast and taut, economical direction combine with a tough-minded script to create the most muscular piece of theatre we've seen in Toronto in some time. Tom Murphy's 1961 drama is about the Carneys, a family of Irish émigrés living in Coventry. Murphy's script is at its best in tearing away at the festering scabs of fraternal resentment and showing how deeply people can hurt each other in the name of love. And he knows how to deliver dramatic punches that can lift an audience out of their seats; if you're seeking a play with blood pounding through its veins, you'll find it here.

Praise is due to director Jason Byrne, of Ireland's Loose Canon Theatre Company.  He sets the action in a simple, claustrophobic playing area by John Thompson that offers the actors (and the audience) no chance for escape. It's perfect no-frills staging, concentrating on what is truly important: the actors and the script. Together, with master fight director John Stead, he also leads us through some incredibly convincing onstage violence, which makes the second act of this play particularly devastating. Jonathan Goad underplays the odd-man-out Michael with a breathtaking display of control.  He almost speaks under his breath at times, a man who's afraid to take a stand, but yet we hear everything he says and understand his agony, thanks to the heartbreak pouring out of his eyes. Allan Hawco is also brilliant at the other end of the spectrum as Harry, the bully of the bunch, the emotional terrorist. Hawco has never given a tougher, grittier performance and it's instantly obvious that the dark side sits well on him. The character of DaDa is a great, shambling old lion, which Joe Ziegler brings to life with painful precision. He's an Irish Willy Loman with a strong streak of violence and Ziegler taps into that delusional world without sentimentality.

The youngest brother, Des, could have been played as a clichéd juvenile, but Philip Riccio takes a bolder tack, making him tense and spiky, with a hint of psychosis, while Sarah Dodd plays Betty with a combination of toughness and vulnerability that she brings off admirably  A Whistle in the Dark is a worthy play, with a first-class director and an excellent cast. Now it's your chance to become part of the audience and complete the other end of the dramatic equation.

This is an edited version of the review which first appeared in the Star on Jan. 17, 2005.
 

::OTHER NEWS::

Comic Draws On Indian Lore

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(March 28, 2007)  MUMBAI, India – Throw Indian and American soldiers into a barren Afghanistan desert, toss a nuclear warhead into the hands of terrorists and you have an action-packed plot in the latest graphic novel to be released by
Virgin Comics. Created by graphic artists in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, the dark tale titled "Virulents" is the latest in a series of comic books produced in a year-old partnership between British billionaire Richard Branson, spiritual guru Deepak Chopra and Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur. The comic will first be released in the United States on Wednesday, followed by Britain and India. Graphic novels are part of Virgin's strategy of tapping into India's booming entertainment market. The company sees India, with its one billion-plus population, both as a producer of content and as a consumer. "It's one of the biggest entertainment markets with 55 per cent of the population – 550 million people – under the age of 20," Suresh Seetharaman, president of Virgin Comics, told The Associated Press in Mumbai. "Virtually all the art is created here. We have a team of 120 in Bangalore."

"An American reading it has no idea it was not written down the road from where he lives," added Larry Lieberman, Virgin Comics chief marketing officer. "He has no idea it is written, conceived and illustrated in India, in Bangalore." Seetharaman said Branson viewed the partnership as a means to feature eastern stories and philosophies of destiny. "India is strong in mythology and magic. It has a vault of stories that we can tap, package and present to the world," he said on the sidelines of a global entertainment industry conference. Unlike last year's serialized Virgin comics such as "The Sadhu," "Devi" and "Snakewoman," which are science fiction takeoffs on epic Indian good-versus-evil tales, the new release tells the whole story in one book and at first glance appears rooted in the present. The troops liberally swear in English and Hindi, and there are references to the war on terror, President George W. Bush and even Bollywood beauty Aishwarya Rai. Then comes the twist – the terrorists turn into demonic vampires. The new novel draws inspiration from an ancient Indian legend of a blood demon who produces clones every time a warrior slashes and spills his blood.

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, released earlier at the Mumbai conference, projects India's media and entertainment business to more than double over the next five years to hit US$22.5 billion in sales by 2011. Sales touched nearly $10.4 billion in 2006, up 20 per cent from a year ago. Virgin Comics covers a broad swathe of genres from horror and fantasy to super heroic adventures, and the creators have planned the next logical step – film. In December, the company announced that Nicholas Cage would play a spiritual warrior hunting a man who murdered his family in a movie hatched from their comic book "The Sadhu." Seetharaman, who also heads Virgin Animation, said comic books were stepping stones. "Comic books are an incubator. We use it as R&D (research and development). Once it succeeds, you can take it to gaming, movies, animation. The trick is to tell stories to a global audience," he said.

The Glenbow's New Exhibit About Alberta Legends Also Celebrates Artistic Freedom

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Val Ross


(April 2, 2007) CALGARY — Albertans have acquired a lot of polish, and money, since the days of Fort Whoop-up, the Prairie's most notorious 19th-century trading post. But on Friday night in Calgary, at the
Glenbow Museum's VIP opening for its new, permanent, $12-million gallery, Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta, you could see that Westerners still like to party. Men in everything from bolo ties and braids to business suits, and women, sporting styles from Chinese brocade sheaths to pony-hide cowboy boots, hovered over a buffet of bison and seared tuna sashimi, and then downed wine and frosty beer before trooping off to inspect the largest and most exuberantly Albertan exhibit the Glenbow has unveiled since it opened 31 years ago. History is so recent in the West that, for many of these VIPs, Mavericks was a family affair.  The new gallery tells the province's history through the stories of 48 people -- men and women, crooks and visionaries, traders, scrappers and survivors -- who made their mark here between the early 1800s and the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

"It's incredible having your own grandfather in a museum," said Jordan Crump. His Alberta-born grandfather,
Melvin Crump, (drummer, chauffeur and activist with the Alberta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is a living maverick. Aged 90, he came to the party, where he was mobbed by well-wishers after he joined a jazz ensemble for Down By the Riverside. "The Glenbow makes a point of reaching out to the community," said James Macleod, a distant relative of maverick James Farquharson Macleod (who led the North-West Mounted Police to tame Fort Whoop-Up in the 1870s). "Compared to the Glenbow," his wife Dorothy Macleod added, "museums in Eastern Canada are more like. . . museums." The Mavericks opening signals a new level in Calgary's rapidly ascending pride in itself, its power and money.  But this same pride is also forcing the city to acknowledge that in terms of cultural amenities, it looks like a cow town. A report by Calgary Arts Development, which goes to the city government on Wednesday, confirms that Calgary has fewer visual and performing-arts spaces than Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, Austin, Tex., or Seattle. In fact, since 1987, the number of performing arts seats per capita has declined by 25 per cent. What's left is so constrained, there's no room for growth.

Polls show that city voters are ready to pay for improvement. But the provincial Conservative government isn't there yet. "This government puts about $60-million a year into propping up horse racing," said Kevin Taft, leader of the Alberta Liberal Party, who came down from Edmonton to attend the Glenbow opening. "The arts get $22-million." The Glenbow vies with the Royal British Columbia for the rank of Canada's sixth-largest museum, but it receives far less public funding than any of the other Top 10. A hefty 28 per cent of its annual operating revenues come from heroic fundraising efforts -- about three times what other major Canadian heritage institutions raise.  It is a model for what the federal Conservatives have in mind when they talk of shifting more responsibility for maintaining cultural institutions onto the private sector. It may also become a model for the world: Glenbow president Mike Robinson just got back from Paris, where he was invited to tell the Louvre, the musée du quai Branly and others about the Glenbow's NGO model of operations. A professor of environmental design, Robinson joined the Glenbow in 2000, and has worked ever since to shore up its $33-million endowment against inflation. So the museum must generate much of the operations funding.  "We're at the stretch point," he says cheerfully. "The downside is constant vigilance about fundraising. We're unable to offer our staff defined-benefit pensions and we don't have big budgets for curatorial travel or training. But there's an upside." This became clear with the mounting of Mavericks.

In 2001, the museum opened its spectacular Nitsitapiisinni Blackfoot gallery. This was the world's first gallery to invite its aboriginal subjects to tell their own story in their own words, and with its glorious beadwork and painted hide artefacts, it was attracting a lot of attention. But visitors would exit into the ripped carpets and tired displays of the museum's Alberta history gallery, which hadn't been updated for 30 years. Happily, Alberta's centennial was coming up in 2005. So the province's Centennial Legacy Fund came up with $4-million, the federal Western Regional Diversification Fund gave $5-million and a further $3-million came from private-sector donors including financier Randal Oliver, Imperial Oil and EnCana. Then, three years ago, museum vice-president Jocelyn Dow walked into Robinson's office waving a book, Aritha van Herk's Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta. Dow and Robinson were struck by ven Herk's zesty, irreverent descriptions of such figures as D.W. Davis, the whisky salesman who morphed into the province's first federal MP, and her recounting of the case against Filumena Losandro, the last woman hanged in Alberta, who was possibly a victim of anti-Italian-immigrant prejudice. Robinson called the writer. "He asked 'What if we use Mavericks as the spine for our gallery?' " van Herk recalls. "I said, 'Go ahead, titles aren't copyright and history belongs to everyone.' " (Van Herk ended up writing the Mavericks souvenir book, Audacious and Adamant and lending her voice and face to the exhibition's introductory video.)  Robinson asked Edmonton's Royal Alberta Museum to become a partner on the project. But the Royal, which has a closer relationship with government, sent back word that higher-ups deemed the project (or van Herk herself?) "too political." No problem for the Glenbow, though. "This is an example of the freedom we have thanks to our citizen board, no political appointees and a hefty endowment fund," Robinson says. "And we exercise our freedom boldly."

Boldness marks Mavericks' design. It's part art installation (to describe the flurry of public discourse around the creation of Alberta as a province, artist Lori Sobkowich created an installation of cascading white paper, with a white desk, symbolizing journalist Bob Edwards's newspaper crusades, stuck to the ceiling). And it's part theme-park; critics complain that it is too much fun for a real museum. Interactive elements abound. Smell boxes let visitors sniff the tea and tanned hide aromas that would have permeated a trading post in maverick David Thompson's day; they push a detonation plunger to start a video about the perilous the work of 1950s oil shooter Charlie Stalnaker. "Isn't that a blast?" says Michale Lang, project manager of Mavericks. Critics also complain about the show's dependence on simulated materials, such as Fred Finley's newly built Red River cart with wooden wheels, or the model of flying ace Freddie McCall's open-cockpit plane. "Replicas?" demands Lang. "Or are we reviving historical skills and trades?" Freddie McCall's own son built the replica plane, she points out. Where history is so recent, and its connections still familiar, this argument is plausible. "I believe in a strongly interpretive approach to history, as opposed to static displays of artefacts," Lang says. "In the museum world, I'm a maverick."

Jose Latour: A Revolution Of His Own

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner


(Apr. 4, 07) When Fidel Castro overthrew the regime of General Fulgencio Batista in 1959 and began an extraordinary 47-year hold on power in Cuba,
Jose Latour was just 17 years old. Like many of his friends, he was soon caught up in the ideological fervour and joined Castro's revolutionary 26th of July Movement -- named for the revolutionaries' failed first attack on a military barracks in Santiago de Cuba on that date in 1953. "And as you know, when you're 17 years old, you're totally stupid," Latour says with a warm smile. We're sitting in the living room of his apartment in Toronto's east end, the light of an unseasonably mild late-winter morning pouring in through the windows. "I swallowed it hook, line and sinker. And for many years I was ready to do whatever they asked." Now 66, Latour is stocky and physically strong. His head is a field of white stubble, but his blue eyes shine with a fierce intelligence. He has long since stopped being stupid. An accountant and financial analyst by training, he worked for almost 20 years in various Cuban government ministries. He came to Canada two years ago, with his wife and two children, to continue his second career -- as a mystery novelist. He has written nine books so far, five in Spanish and four more in English, his second language -- no mean achievement (his first effort in English, 1999's Outcast, was recently re-released in Canada by McClelland & Stewart). In translation, his work has been published in 11 countries. Reviews have been consistently laudatory.

I've read two of his English-language books; both are gripping page-turners. Latour's lingering animus toward Cuban communism and the horrors it wrought is readily apparent in his work. His social commentary about food rations, endemic corruption, neighbourhood informants and the sanitized Cuba that blinkered Canadian tourists see isn't overdone or sermonized; it's just there, seamlessly woven into the text. Latour says he began to stop being stupid in the late-1960s, when it became glaringly apparent that the glories of socialism were largely illusory. Yes, he concedes, there was free public education and health care. But everything else was dysfunctional. At one point, he recalls, Castro decided to abolish the Ministry of Finance, only to recreate it a few years later. Another time, he eliminated the faculty of commercial sciences at the University of Havana and sent to the shredders an archive containing 200 years of the country's economic history. "So you can now learn the batting average of a Cuban baseball player in 1959, but not the cost of a pair of shoes or a ton of sugar," Latour says. Latour, charged with mapping the connections between inflows and outflows of economic activity, was allowed one trip abroad -- to Soviet bloc countries in the mid-seventies. "I remember an East German leader saying they had to criticize themselves severely because they had not reached their standard-of-living goals," he recalls. "If he had come to Cuba, he'd have committed suicide."

Over time, he saw the entire system as artificial, propped up by Soviet subsidies. To keep its client-state alive, Moscow routinely paid three times the world price for Cuban sugar, nickel and tobacco, and sold Castro arms, machinery and oil at cut rates. The house of cards collapsed with the Berlin Wall in 1989, after which Cubans began to starve. Latour says he lost 40 pounds. While left-leaning ideologues abroad lionized Castro and his minions, framing him as David in the battle with capitalist Goliaths, Latour says they failed to see that Castro was in fact a Goliath, one who brooked no opposition: "He executed thousands by firing squad, imprisoned tens of thousands. Either people did not know what was happening or they thought all of these victims were agents of foreign services, trying to destroy the pure Cuban revolution." Castro is now widely believed to be battling cancer, but Latour expects no immediate systemic changes if the dictator dies. He calls the likely successor, Castro's brother, Raul, "a murderer," and says the trial of Saddam Hussein has shown the Cuban leadership what could happen if there were democracy and an independent judiciary. They will try to hold on, because they have nowhere to go. Change will come, he says, only after the current generation dies out. Although he had been an avid reader of mysteries since childhood, reading Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner and others in English, Latour never thought about writing until the 1970s. "In the early years, my commitment to the revolution was so intense," he says. "I was working 10- and 12-hours days, on weekends I volunteered, and I was a member of the militia."

Feeling unfulfilled, he started to write. His first four books culled material from the pre-Castro years, in order not to offend. Anything dealing with contemporary Cuba was subject to heavy censorship. In his fifth book, The Fool, he tried to deal fictionally with a real-life 1989 scandal involving government officials who facilitated shipments of cocaine to the United States. "I thought that perestroika might have changed things," he says, "but the Ministry of the Interior said they would never publish it and I was now considered an enemy of the people." In 1990, he resigned his position with the Ministry of Finance and started to write in English. He resented the system, but did not seriously consider leaving until after the publication of Outcast in 1999. It became a big success in the U.S., Japan and Britain, and brought visitors from abroad to his home. But it made Latour's position in Havana more tenuous. His books were never reviewed by Cuban critics, he says, and he was never invited to appear on Cuban television. He came to Toronto briefly in 2000 to open a bank account for his U.S. dollar royalties. Impressed with the city, he returned the next year to put immigration proceedings in motion. "I'd had a visit from two state security officials who wanted me to rat on someone, and I would not do that," he says. "So I said to my wife and two kids, 'I'm too old to go to prison. We have to leave.' " Shortly after, he was invited to promote a Spanish-language edition of one of his novels. Normally, the Cubans would never approve exit visas for an entire family, but Latour somehow won the intervention of high-ranking government officials in Spain, who managed to win permits for the four of them. It didn't hurt, Latour says, that his Spanish publisher, a billionaire, is a close friend of Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs. They left Havana in 2002, and stayed in Madrid until Canadian immigration papers arrived.

Despite his growing audience, Latour says he's still struggling to make a living as a writer: "It's very, very difficult. I may have to take a job next year." In the meantime, M&S plans to publish two more Latour books -- 2005's Comrades in Miami and Crime of Fashion, which he's currently writing. The latter is partly set in Canada. His work ethic is strong. "Sometimes, I work seven days a week," he says. Latour has also genetics in his favour -- there's a strong longevity streak in the family. His youngest aunt is 87, another is 97 and still active. The growing audience for his work can probably look forward to many more novels.

OTHER TIDBITS

Griffin Shortlist Unveiled

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Entertainment Reporter

(April 03, 2007) Don McKay, a two-time nominee for the
Griffin Poetry Prize, was again named today to the Canadian shortlist for the lucrative literary award.  McKay's Strike/Slip was among three nominees announced in Toronto today for the $50,000 prize.  Also nominated were Ken Babstock's Airstream Land Yacht and Priscila Uppal's Ontological Necessities.  The four nominees for the international prize, also worth $50,000, are U.S. writers Rodney James (Salvation Blues), Frederick Seidel (Ooga-Booga) and Charles Wright (Scar Tissue), and U.K. poet Paul Farley (Tramp in Flames).  A record 483 books, including 18 translations, representing 15 countries were considered by jury members John Burnside, Chames Simic and Karen Solie for this year’s prizes.  The seven nominees will participate in a program of readings June 5 at the MacMillan Theatre in Toronto, with the two winners to be announced the following day.  Writer David Young, one of the prize's six trustees, acknowledged that poetry isn't as central to our literary culture as it once was, but said it will always endure.  "It's like the albino cockroach in the nuclear reactor," he said. "It can't be killed."

::SPORTS NEWS::

A Gigantic Sigh Of Re-Leaf

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran, Sports Reporter

(April 04, 2007) Andrew Raycroft was asked if he thought the
Maple Leafs were a team of destiny.  “I guess we’ll find out in four days,” said Raycroft. “Then, hopefully we’ll find out in two months.  “If we don’t pull this out, we’ll just be the team that got everyone’s hopes up.”  With two games left, the Leafs’ playoff hopes remain alive because they managed to pull out another victory in overtime. Just like Saturday, the Leafs blew a lead in the third period, but won it, this one 3-2, in the extra period, their eighth straight win at home.  The tension last night was palpable in the overtime. The Leafs were on the power play, the fans were getting impatient, screaming for someone to shoot.  Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe were feeding each other passes, seemingly taking forever to set up a shot.

The 19,547 at the Air Canada Centre, who haven’t seen a Leaf playoff game since 2004, demanded action as their team tried to keep pace with eighth-place Montreal.  McCabe, who was minus-5 in that blowout loss to the Rangers, had been the goat on the Flyers’ tying goal. He sensed the pressure but didn’t buckle.  “We’ve got to work it around a little bit,” he said. “We had two minutes. We were just trying to get them moving, move the puck a little bit and wait for something to open up.”  Finally, Sami Kapanen slipped near Sundin. Kaberle fed to McCabe, who let loose his one-timer and the Leaf faithful let out a sigh of relief.  “Good for Bryan,” said coach Paul Maurice. “He had a tough night in New York.”  And another tough one last night, on the ice for both Flyer goals. McCabe was victimized on Mike York’s goal that forced overtime after he swatted at the puck in the air.

“I tried to knock it out of the air and it ended up sitting in the middle and they got a lucky bounce and it went in, so I kind of felt some shame after that,” he said. “I was about to snap. You don’t want to be the goat.”  Instead, he got to be the hero. There were others who helped grit out a win against a less-talented Flyers squad that played a tight defensive game.  The defensive pair of Hal Gill and Ian White each scored in the second period to give the Leafs a 2-1 lead. The Leafs had dominated the play, but were confounded by Flyers goalie Martin Biron, the ex-Sabre backup acquired by Philly at the trade deadline.  “(Biron) wasn’t giving us anything,” said Maurice. “He played an incredible game in terms of what he gave back on rebounds. Mats pounding the puck, and it’s sitting two or three inches from his pad. That’s very difficult to do.”  The Leafs broke through when White’s harmless-looking shot eluded Biron at 9:53 of the second. It was his third goal of the year.  “Sometimes you get the breaks,” said White, who scored on his fifth shot. “To be honest, I figured one was going to go in. I had chances early, probably better chances than the one I scored on. I knew it was my time, I had a good feeling.”

Also feeling good was Gill, a stay-at-home defenceman who gave the Leafs the lead.  “Hal played a great game in New York, but it didn’t get noticed because we got beat so bad,” said Maurice. “When you’re a stay-at-home defenceman, scoring is a good feeling. He played so hard all night every night in his end. That’s a great feeling scoring for us.”  Raycroft picked up his 37th win, tying Ed Belfour’s team record for victories by a goalie in a season. He’ll have to pick up No. 38 on Long Island tomorrow to set up a showdown against Montreal on Saturday.  “We still control our own fate,” said McCabe. “That’s all you want. You don’t want to be hoping for someone else.”

McManus Calls It A Career

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Canadian Press


(April 3, 2007) CALGARY --
Danny McManus is calling it a career and heading to the broadcast booth. One of the Canadian Football League's top quarterbacks and a three-time Grey Cup champion, McManus announced his retirement yesterday after 17 years in the league. McManus, who had limited playing time as a backup for the Calgary Stampeders last season, will be an analyst on TSN's CFL telecasts this season. McManus, 41, finishes second in career passing yards with 53,255 and second in CFL history with 6,689 pass attempts and 3,640 pass completions. He made six Grey Cup appearances, winning the Cup in 1990 with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 1994 with the B.C. Lions and 1999 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. "I'm very pleased with my career having played 17 seasons," McManus said in a statement. "I feel very fortunate to have played the CFL game, as it was a truly unique experience that has brought me countless memories. The two things that I will miss the most is the competition on the field and the guys in the locker room."

McManus finished sixth in career regular-season games with 298. He also played in 18 playoff games. "The biggest [memories] are the championship years," he said. "But in the long run, the daily things you go through with your teammates are the memories I have -- things you never forget." McManus was a high-risk, high-reward quarterback who didn't hesitate to throw into traffic to try to break a big play. In his career, he threw 259 touchdown passes, but also 281 interceptions, second only to former Saskatchewan Roughrider Ron Lancaster, who had 396. McManus was also blessed with a quick release, which made him one of the league's hardest quarterbacks to sack. His name will always be linked to receiver Darren Flutie, his favourite target for a decade. His last-play TD pass in the snow to Flutie to win the 1994 West Division final over Calgary is part of B.C. Lions lore. McManus and Flutie moved to Hamilton together in 1998 and won a Grey Cup the following year, when McManus set a team passing record and was named the league's outstanding player. "I played 10 years with one guy and people just put us together," McManus said of Flutie, now also a broadcaster. "I was lucky to be associated with him. "It's nice to play with someone who has that desire to win." McManus completed 16 of 28 passes for 280 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions as a backup for Henry Burris in 2006.

"It's been a pleasure to have the opportunity to be with Danny in both Calgary and Edmonton," Stampeders head coach Tom Higgins said. "Over the years, it's been exciting to watch Danny's career unfold and see what he's been able to achieve." McManus posted some impressive single-season numbers in his career, including passing yards (5,334), pass attempts (612), completions (365), passing percentage (60.0), and touchdowns (29). He'll make his TSN debut on June 28 for the CFL's season-opening doubleheader. McManus will work 28 games this season, the majority of which will be alongside play-by-play announcer Rod Black in the broadcast booth. "It'll be a big step," said McManus. "I'll be learning again, but there's a lot of quality guys on staff and I'll be able to ride their coattails."

That will include former CFL star Matt Dunigan, who is in his second stint as a football commentator with TSN. McManus backed up Dunigan when the two were with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1992. McManus worked three Grey Cup games with the CBC during his playing career and was approached by the public broadcaster to join it upon retirement. But McManus said TSN "gave me an offer I couldn't pass up. "Also, I'll be in the stadiums, at the games, and that will help with the transition from active to non-active," he said. In his college days, McManus was twice chosen as the player of the year in his four seasons at Florida State and was the most valuable player in the 1988 Fiesta Bowl. He was selected in the 11th round (282nd overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 1988 National Football League draft and was released after the 1989 season. McManus signed as a free agent with Winnipeg in 1990 and played three seasons with the Blue Bombers and the next three with the Lions. He signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in 1996 and played for two seasons before joining Hamilton, where he played for eight seasons, 1998 to 2005.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Serena Just Can Not Be Stopped

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(April 2, 2007) *
Serena Williams had been shut out of the first set 6-0 and was down two match points in the second set of the women’s finals at Saturday's Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. She was teetering on the brink of losing to the No. 1 ranked player in the world, Justin Henin of Belgium.   But suddenly, the tennis star from Compton, Calif. channelled her inner Australian Open and won the next point, then the next, then the game, then the next five games to take the second set and go up 3-0 in the third. Dazed and confused, Henin recovered briefly to squeeze out three more games before she was eventually put to rest for good (0-6, 7-5, 6-3).  “It’s just not in me to give up. I just keep fighting,” Serena told interviewer Mary Jo Fernandez following her victory. “I feel when I get down a part of me plays better. I think all champions have that, when they get down you can't hold them down.” With overwhelming support from the crowd – which included both of her parents, big sis Venus, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade and Star Jones Reynolds – Serena charged toward her fourth Sony Ericsson title and 28th career win. Her run through the tournament was as dramatic and authoritative as her monstrous tear at the Australian Open earlier this year, which culminated in an unexpected win over then No. 1-ranked Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-2. Critics had written off Serena, believing she was not “match fit” after spending much of 2006 sidelined with injuries. No such talk followed her play last weekend.   The Sony Ericsson victory boosts Serena’s world ranking up from No. 18 to 11.

::FITNESS NEWS::

8 Ways to Lasting Weight Loss

By Tatum Rebelle, eDiets Contributor

The first things many women do when they want to lose weight is dramatically cut their calories and make a list of off-limit foods. Even with the best intentions, doing this is actually slowing down your metabolism and creating cravings. This results in more stored fat, and the eventual binge when cravings are finally too strong to ignore.  Then there is the sense of failure and frustration due to feeling like you have fallen off the wagon. Determined to do better next time, the cycle begins all over again. Yo-yo dieting is a way of life for millions of Americans -- even though there is more than a 90-percent failure rate.  Nutrition is the leading contributor to weight loss. It is imperative that you stay conscious of what goes into your body. The quality of food you eat is directly reflected in your body’s appearance, as well as your overall health. No amount of exercise can counterbalance a poor diet. Eating healthy does not require deprivation of your favourite foods, but rather moderation of foods that do not promote health and weight loss. When the bulk of your diet is made up of various whole grains, vegetables and fruits, there is no need to count calories or worry about getting adequate nutrients. These fresh foods are lower in calories and higher in nutrients than overly processed foods or high-fat meat and dairy products.

Here are some recommendations for lasting weight loss:

1. Do not drastically cut calories. They are your body’s energy and necessary for it to function efficiently. What you can do is limit the empty calories. These come from foods with little or no nutrients. If some of the leading ingredients are flour, high fructose corn syrup, sugar or partially hydrogenated oils, you can bet the food does not support your health or weight loss.

2. Keep junk foods out of sight, and out of mind. When ice cream is in the freezer or potato chips are calling to you from the pantry, they are hard to ignore. Keep healthy snacks that satisfy your cravings close by. If you have a sweet tooth, strawberries should do the trick. If you crave crunchy or salty foods, keep carrots or a variety of nuts in stock.

3. Do not drink your calories. Soda, juice, coffee filled with creamer and alcohol can contain a ton of calories. By sticking to tea and water you can cut hundreds of calories each day. By simple cutting out a couple high-calorie beverages daily, you can lose several pounds.

4. Make fitness a priority. If exercise is something that's done only when you have the time, chances are that it will not happen very often. Make fitness a priority and schedule it on your calendar like you would a lunch date or a doctor’s appointment. Find what works best for you and stick to it. The best time might be first thing in the morning before the kids wake up, or in the afternoon when they nap. You may find that exercising with your child works best. Whatever time of day or type of exercise you choose, it is important to be consistent. Make it a priority and a habit.

5. Every little bit counts. Getting in shape does not require a daily two-hour commitment at the gym. Something as simple as an afternoon walk around the neighbourhood with the stroller, or squatting and lunging as you hold your baby can make a big difference.

6. Change your mindset. Developing a positive attitude towards weight loss and health is absolutely necessary if you want to be successful. It has been proven over and over again that the mind and body work closely together. When your mind is saying exercise is a miserable chore, that's most likely what it will feel like every time you do. When your thoughts dwell on the excess weight, your body is carrying with it a hopeless attitude that will undoubtedly make the pounds harder to lose. Many people find that positive affirmations help. When you exercise, tell yourself that you are becoming a thinner and healthier person. The more you do this and believe it, the more likely it is to actually be true. As you are eating your balanced diet of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, don't think about the junk food you are missing out on. Instead, think of how fit you are becoming by feeding your body what it needs to become its best.

7. Find inspiration that works for you. Some may want to lose the weight so they can fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes. Others may want to get healthy to reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes so they have a better chance of being around longer for their children. Still others may need a role model or visual picture of someone they want to emulate. Motivations for getting in shape are unique. Figure yours out and use it to keep you going.

8. Get help. Fitness and nutrition can seem overwhelming at times. Using online resources and hiring a fitness coach can be very beneficial. Having a personal trainer who is knowledgeable about postpartum exercise will provide safe and effective workouts, as well as hold you accountable to regular exercise.

It only takes minor lifestyle adjustments to have a noticeable impact on both your physique and your health. You can do things as simple as changing breakfast from white bread toast with margarine to whole grain toast with a thin spread of natural peanut butter. Adding as little as 5-10 minutes a day of physical activity to your daily routine can facilitate gains in weight loss and improve health. Most of our daily routine is simply habit. Creating new habits takes just a little bit of time, and can be completely life changing.

Tatum Rebelle is the owner of Total Mommy Fitness and a certified personal trainer. She is certified in prenatal and postnatal fitness by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as well as other health and wellness specialties. She's previously been a personal trainer at 24 Hour Fitness in Scottsdale, AZ and Dallas, TX and Fit for Life in Fort Worth.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - Sonya Friedman

"The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others."