20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
(416) 677-5883


November 29, 2007

 Brrrr!  It's cold out there!  Put your mittens on folks and stay warm out there!

A new event on the scene - the
Aroni Awards - some exciting guests and great night!  Again, The Gospel Christmas Project is a must-see show and a must-have CD.  Have you purchased your tickets yet?  No?  Why not purchase tickets and give to someone for a gift? 

I also have an excellent gift idea about giving back authored by a friend of mine,
Chris Cathcart.  What a great idea during this potentially insatiable season!  See details below! 

And a special announcement on the social scene,
Chef Anthony Mair joins the crew at Harlem



Aroni Awards - Sunday, December 9, 2007

Get Ready To Inspire

Following a successful launch in 2006, the Aroni Awards returns on Sunday, December 9th, 2007 for yet another captivating event, with the presentation of five AroniMAGE awards to the unsung heroes of our community. The AroniAwards Education Grants will be presented to three students who show strong dedication to community service, a positive outlook and continue to persevere despite socioeconomic hardships and other obstacles.  The Aroni Awards Gala was created in honour of Aron Y. Haile, an African Canadian and accomplished student, entrepreneur, software developer, who died in 2003, at the young age of 30. 

Get Ready To Be Inspired

Canadian Idol’s favourite judge Farley Flex returns as Master of Ceremony, with some of Canada’s premier entertainers, presenters such as Cabral “Cabbie” Richards (
TSN), Matt Rapley (Canadian Idol Finalist), Jay Martin (Comedian), Dwayne Morgan (Poet), and many more. The evening features Sway Magazine VIP Reception, Silent Auction, Awards Presentations, 3 Course Dinner (Dynamic Catering), live performances, and After Show reception and more. This year’s Aroni Awards Gala will once again be held at the newly renovated Atlantis Pavilions (Main Ballroom).  The magnificent complex with its 30-foot floor to ceiling windows, panoramic views of the Toronto skyline and waterfront, offers a unique venue to create the perfect setting for the Aroni Awards Gala. 

Tickets: $60 (Includes 3 Course Dinner Catered by Dynamic, Silent Auction, Cocktail
VIP Reception, Live Performances, After Awards Reception) 
Purchase tickets at www.aroniawards.com or by calling

Two Shows, One CD - The Gospel Christmas Project – December 21 (Ottawa) and December 22, 2007 (Toronto)

Source:  Andrew Craig

You’re invited to the Christmas musical events of 2007: the
Gospel Christmas Project, live at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and Toronto’s Massey Hall! Audiences are calling this show “fabulous”, “amazing”, “thrilling beyond expectation”, “music to God's ears” and “a wonderfully joyful spiritual evening”.

“The Gospel Christmas Project - LIVE!” is two hours of the world’s greatest Christmas carols, in all-stunning new arrangements made by musician, producer and broadcaster
Andrew Craig. The songs are rendered by some of our country’s greatest voices:

Jackie Richardson, Canada’s Queen of Jazz and Blues,
Alana Bridgewater, “Killer Queen” in the Mirvish production of “We Will Rock You”
Kellylee Evans, 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Female Vocalist of the Year
Chris Lowe, a tremendous new voice recently-emerged from the Gospel community
and the Juno-award-winning
Sharon Riley and Faith Chorale

“The Gospel Christmas Project” is already a wildly-popular radio show, a Gemini-nominated TV special, and a brand-new CD, called “The Gospel Christmas Project”, available in all major retail outlets right now, and on ITunes as of December 4.

“The Gospel Christmas Project” was originally performed in
Ottawa in December 2006.  It returns to Ottawa this Christmas, joined by the National Arts Centre Orchestra on December 21.

And the next night (
December 22) The Gospel Christmas Project makes its Toronto debut at the legendary Massey Hall!

Visit the website: www.gospelxmasproject.com

Purchase CD at CBC Records, HERE!


Chef Mair Joins Harlem

On Friday,
December 7, 2007Master Chef Anthony Mair (formerly of Mardis Gras), will be joining the stellar cast of HARLEM, Carl Cassell's second restaurant and music venue.  Harlem is Carl’s landmark restaurant-bar and benchmark of northern cool which is located at 67 Richmond St E., the corner of Richmond and Church Streets.  They say that when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object, BIG things happen. 

Situated in the hub of city movement,
Harlem adds polish to an area already carving out new urban development. But no development is ever complete without the social and cultural contributions of the colourful class.  You’ll find it all passing though Harlem.

The two see the union as a movement in the right direction and perhaps one that may see the creation of even more restaurants within the downtown core. 

Look for the exciting new dinner menu coming soon!



The Lost Art of Giving Back - Just in Time for the Holidays!

Source:  One Diaspora

The Lost Art of Giving Back, is the debut book from veteran PR consultant and volunteer advocate Christopher Cathcart, and is the perfect Christmas, Kwanzaa, holiday season gift or a gift for any season. 

The book is a brief (only 54 pages!), engaging read, and discusses how we all can discover the joys and sense of empowerment found through volunteering and giving back.  It reviews such topics as finding time to volunteer, being creative in the process, and involving our workplaces, among other points.  Lost Art also profiles the volunteer efforts of such notable individuals as PR maven and noted author
Terrie Williams and Hidden Beach Recordings’ CEO/Founder Steve McKeever.

Information on the Lost Art of Giving Back can be found on Cathcart’s website (www.onediaspora.com), and signed copies can be purchased there as well; standard copies can be purchased via www.amazon.ca (
CDN$ 9.79  plus shipping), www.amazon.com (US$ $10.00  plus shipping); www.barnesandnoble.com (US$10.00 and ‘free’ shipping) or at the publisher’s site, www.xlibris.com.

For more information, please contact Chris directly at Chris@OneDG.com.  This season, why not give the gift that celebrates giving? 


Love Affair With Measha Brueggergosman Has Only Just Begun

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Classical Music Critic

November 26, 2007) Violinists, cellists and piano players can be exciting or captivating. But few of them can make us fall in mad, passionate love like a singer.

And you can bet that anyone who wasn't smitten by soprano
Measha Brueggergosman before attending her solo recital at Roy Thomson Hall yesterday afternoon left the auditorium with their pulse racing.

She may have only just turned 30, but there are only a handful of pros around the world who can match the
Fredericton, N.B., native for fabulousness. She has the voice and technique. She also has that extra ingredient that bumps a performer into the seduction zone.

As she breezed through cabaret-flavoured 20th-century art songs from England (Benjamin Britten), France (Francis Poulenc and Erik Satie), Germany (Arnold Schoenberg) and the United States (by living composers Ned Rorem and William Bolcom), it would be easy to underestimate the force of artistry needed to make this program work.

Most of these songs were meant to be sung in a salon, not in a concrete-lined 2,500-seat concert hall.

These pieces demand finesse to properly shape exquisite stories or jokes in music without the benefit of an orchestra or amplification.

Brueggergosman and ever-elegant piano accompanist Roger Vignoles not only jumped these hurdles but added pirouettes before each graceful landing. The soprano convinced us that she wouldn't be happier anywhere else but right there, onstage, doing her best to please our eyes and ears.

The recital was broadcast live on
CBC Radio Two, so that listeners across the country could share in the pleasure. What they wouldn't have seen were the diva's gowns – the first a great sail of royal-blue silk, the second a striking burgundy-plum dress courtesy of the reality-TV design competition Project Runway Canada.

The program itself was clever, mixing more serious songs with lighter ones – most from Brueggergosman's new album, Surprise.

Unlike most classical singers, this soprano has built a beginning to what will hopefully be a great, long career on recitals and concert performances with orchestras, rather than in opera. But that will change for us soon.

Toronto's Opera Atelier announced yesterday that Brueggergosman will sing the role of Elettra in the company's spring production of Idomeneo by Mozart.

Her most captivating performances yesterday were in the songs by Britten and Bolcom, with which she created bookends in songs about love.

But the real love was the one she is igniting between artist and audience wherever she performs.

King Of Calypso Still Packs A Punch

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com
- Gayle Macdonald

(November 26, 2007)
Harry Belafonte might be hobbling on crutches these days, but he doesn't take a misstep when asked what led to his right foot being put in a cast.

"I was having a heated discussion with Condoleezza Rice," quips the 80-year-old singer, actor, outspoken human rights activist, and vocal critic of U.S. President George W. Bush and his entire administration, including the 66th Secretary of State.

In truth, the man known as the King of Calypso (a name that stuck in the fifties after the raspy tenor belted out "Day-O!" in The Banana Boat Song), sustained the injury after hitting his instep against furniture while horsing around with one of his five grandchildren. "I thought I'd just bruised it, only to find out six weeks later, I'd broken it," says Belafonte, still a thin, handsome man whose sly wit and sharp tongue has made him a number of political enemies but far more humanitarian fans.

In an interview in
Toronto recently, the feisty octogenarian spoke of his admiration for his mother Melvine, Eleanor Roosevelt, friend Martin Luther King and Pierre Trudeau (among others).

But he slammed Democratic presidential-hopeful Hillary Clinton, what he calls ineptitude of the mainstream media, and his No. 1 nemesis, Bush, whose invasion of
Iraq, he adds, has been a world-crippling sham. (He was in Toronto to receive an International Diversity Award from the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews). "For [Bush] to have lied to us, to mislead, and all driven by greed and avarice is very, very painful," says Belafonte. "He's made it very difficult for America to be seen as a place of hope, certainly in the same way in which it was seen before he came onboard. When I travel places, I see people are far more angry at us than I've ever known them to be."

Belafonte's never met Bush, but he has run into Hillary Clinton at many functions, where he says the presidential-hopeful studiously continues to snub him. (Apparently, Clinton's chill started after Belafonte met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in early 2006, and was quoted saying, "No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution.)

How does it make him feel? "It tells me much about her," shrugs Belafonte. "And it validates what I'm doing is right."

Belafonte credits being born, in poverty, to parents of colour, for instilling a lifelong ambition to fight for civic and human rights issues. "I've always found poverty a painful and cruel place to have to exist. I found racism so crippling. So early on, I developed a passion for changing it.

"The idea came from my mother, that I should use all resources at my disposal to try to make a difference in the world in the way we find it, and in the way in which we should leave it. She was a woman with no tangible possessions or means, but she had great dignity and enormous intelligence, even though she had no formal education."

Belafonte's life is remarkable for its diversity. Born in the
Harlem ghetto, he was sent back by his mother to live with his grandmother in Jamaica for his early, formative years. His mother brought him home to New York near the outbreak of the Second World War, a battle Belafonte was part of for two years as a munitions loader with the U.S. Navy.

After honourable discharge, he started taking acting classes in the late 1940s alongside the likes of Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau and Sidney Poitier. On the side, he worked as a club singer to pay for the theatre classes.

For several years, Belafonte juggled both careers, landing roles in films such as Carmen Jones and Island in the Sun. But by the early fifties, he was focusing on singing, signing with RCA, when his album Calypso made him the first artist in industry history to sell more than one million LPs.

His life took another sharp turn about the same time he met the young Martin Luther King. He was swept up by the civil rights movement, which set him on a course to fight apartheid, poverty in
Africa and America and launch the multiartist We Are the World fundraising effort, all of which have earned him countless humanitarian awards, including the first Nelson Mandela Courage Award. "I grew up in an environment in America where much of the rhythm of the culture of our nation, and our society, was engaged in making change," says the father of four, and grandfather of five, aged 26 years to eight weeks. (He is married to his second wife, Julie Robinson). "The organizing of the labour movement in the thirties, the Great Depression which so many people in my family found themselves, World War Two where ideas were exploding ideological questions. And right after that came the whole world of McCarthyism and civil rights. I was on McCarthy's blacklist. And that was an honour. When I got to look at all the others on the list, I thought, 'wow, I'm not that good, guys.'

"I have been privileged to have been friends with Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, [singer and activist] Paul Robeson, and [activist, writer, historian] W.E.B. Du Bois. I have met the powerful thinkers of our time, including Nelson Mandela. I've been here in
Canada, running around with Pierre Trudeau. All those kinds of things were the mix of ingredients that, I guess, made me into who I am."

He says he's seen great atrocities but also great acts of kindness. One that sticks happened on a visit to
Rwanda, where Belafonte was distributing food to children in a safe haven compound, run by UNICEF Canada president and CEO Nigel Fisher. "The children were starving and we were passing around protein biscuits. I gave one to an eight-year-old boy, who looked at it, then turned around and gave it to his younger brother," he says. "To have that capacity in the midst of that kind of devastation, at that age, had a profound impact on me."

Redskins Will Honour Fallen Teammate

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Matt Sedensky, Associated Press

(November 28, 2007) MIAMI–Pro Bowl safety
Sean Taylor died of a gunshot wound yesterday, leaving the Washington Redskins in mourning for a teammate who seemed to have reordered his life since becoming a father.

The 24-year-old player died at the hospital where he had been airlifted after the shooting by an intruder in his home early Monday.

"It is with deep regret that a young man had to come to his end so soon," his father, Pedro Taylor, said in a statement on behalf of the family. "Many of his fans loved him because of the way he played football. Many of his opponents feared him the way he approached the game. Others misunderstood him, many appreciated him and his family loved him."

A string of mourners, including
Taylor's father, visited the player's home and embraced outside. Authorities entered the home, but it was unclear what they were doing.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league will honour
Taylor's memory at all games this weekend.

"This is a terrible tragedy involving the loss of a young man who leaves behind many people struggling to understand it," he said in a statement.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said what he would remember most about
Taylor was his excitement about playing football.

"God made him to play football," Gibbs said. "To me, he just loved and thrived on the competition part of it. ... Sean, he loved football. He loved these guys here."

Gibbs acknowledged it will be hard to concentrate on football this week. "I don't know how we'll deal with it, except we'll all do it together," he said.

"This is a terrible, terrible tragedy," said Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who added that the team would honour
Taylor with patches on their sweaters and the No.21 on their helmets.

Redskins teammate Clinton Portis also played with
Taylor at the University of Miami. He had sensed a new maturity in his close friend.

"It's hard to expect a man to grow up overnight," Portis said. ``But ever since he had his child, it was like a new Sean and everybody around here knew it. He was always smiling, always happy, always talking about his child."

Doctors had been encouraged late Monday when
Taylor squeezed a nurse's hand, according to Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' vice-president of football operations. But family friend Richard Sharpstein said he was told Taylor never regained consciousness after being taken to the hospital.

"Maybe he was trying to say goodbye or something," Sharpstein said.

Taylor, the fifth overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft following an All-American season at Miami, was shot early Monday in the upper leg, damaging the key femoral artery and causing significant blood loss.

Trauma experts said a serious wound to this large artery, leading from the abdomen through the upper thigh, is among the most difficult to fix and can quickly drain the body of blood. Too much blood loss prevents oxygen from reaching the brain and vital organs.

"According to a preliminary investigation, it appears that the victim was shot inside the home by an intruder,"
Miami-Dade County police said in a statement. "We do not have a subject description at this time."

The attack came eight days after an intruder was reported at
Taylor's home. Officers were sent to the home about 1:45 a.m. Monday after Taylor's girlfriend called 911.

Sharpstein said
Taylor's girlfriend told him the couple was awakened by loud noises and Taylor grabbed a machete he keeps in the bedroom for protection. Someone then broke through the bedroom door and fired two shots, one missing and one hitting Taylor, Sharpstein said. Taylor's 1-year-old daughter, Jackie, was also in the house, but neither she nor Taylor's girlfriend was injured.


The Acorn Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

November 23, 2007) It's not unusual for a mother to tell her only son fairy tales. But when the son is a young man, and when the stories are true, things get more interesting.

"Interesting" is one of the words for
Glory Hope Mountain, the recently released album from the Acorn, an Ottawa-based indie band led by singer and multi-instrumentalist Rolf Klausener. It was Klausener, disenchanted with traditional sources of inspiration and tired of first-person songwriting, who decided to base an album's material on interviews with his mother, Gloria Esperanza Montoya, a half-Mayan Honduran emigrant whose childhood memories are of dirt floors, flooding rivers and orphanages, not hopscotch, puppy dogs and pigtails.

Special audio: The Acorn's album
Glory Hope Mountain was based on songwriter Rolf Klausener's mother Gloria. Listen as she discusses the events that lead to her son's inspiration:

Another word for the album of fluid, atmospheric folk-rock would be "elaborate," though Klausener himself doesn't see it that way. "I didn't set out to be ambitious," he says from
Ottawa, "but it turned out to be a relentlessly unending set of tasks to get the record done, beyond songwriting and arrangements. The recording process and the research process were what was needed to get this idea done."

The research involved an investigation into Central American folk rhythms as well as discussions with his mother about her often perilous early years. Those recollections inform the surreal, poetic narrative of Glory Hope Mountain (the album's title is a literal translation of the words of his mother's name): A baby is born struggling ("Your rosy lungs were empty"), a surge in the river almost sweeps children away ( Flood Pt. 1 and Flood Pt. 2) and a young girl runs away from an abusive father ("as far as these crooked legs will take me").

The lyrics, some addressed to his mother and some in his mother's voice, are image-laden and fanciful — "Lift your head from wild and wicked sleep, where seven-headed serpents hiss soliloquies." And although it was Klausener's boredom with self-centered songwriting that triggered the album's concept, he isn't disdainful when it comes to more confessional works. "I don't think this album's any more valid than somebody's breakup record," he says. "I was just pretty tired of the soul-searching that comes on when you start writing songs about yourself. I've done of it plenty of times myself, and I've loved the results."

The Acorn, in a nutshell, began as a solo electro-acoustic vehicle of Klausener's in 2002. As albums came out (2004's The Pink Ghosts and 2005's Blankets!), the project picked up members and moved from Ottawa's Kelp Records to Toronto's Paper Bag Records, which issued the EP Tin Fist earlier this year. The band now has six members.

The new disc isn't the only recent Canadian album inspired by a songwriter's parent, but it's unique in that the parent was an active participant. While Greg Keelor's Seven Songs for Jim and Emily Haines's What Is Free to a Good Home? are tributes to deceased fathers, Klausener's mother is able to listen to a record based, in the most part, on the early years of her life.

"Proud, just amazingly proud," is how she feels about Glory Hope Mountain. "For him to be able to write about my life, and then make it into music is just wonderful."

As her son listens on the phone line, an upbeat Montoya speaks in broken English, richly rolling her "R's" as she recounts some of the more harrowing events that made their way lyrically into songs.

She lived in an orphanage until the age of 6, when her white father retrieved her, taking her back to a farm outside the Honduran capital city of
Tegucigalpa. A near drowning when she was a child left her fearful of water to this day — "it gives me goose bumps" — and a "brutal event" involving her father sent her fleeing from home at age 11. Eventually, as a young adult, she made it to Montreal. "It brings me happy memories," she says of the album, "even though that part of my life was fairly rough."

The album's closing track, Lulla by (Mountain), sung by Ohbijou's Casey Mecija in the voice of Montoya, is sweeter, with lines about a mother's blood running through a child's heart with every beat. Because young sons are not always the most communicative when it comes to their feelings towards their mothers, the tender song was a revelation. "Very deeply," Montoya says, when asked how it affected her. "I cannot explain how happy it makes me, that Rolfie has been able to show how much he loves me."

Ironically, Klausener says, his attempt to avoid introspection in making the album became intensely personal anyway. "A lot of these songs ended up relating back to my own life," he says. "You end up reflecting on choices you've made, and choices your family made, and how they affected you."

One choice Klausener had initial regrets about was the album's title. He considered Glory Hope Mountain too literal, too bucolic, "too Will Oldham."

But in the end, "You can't really change it," he says, quite rightly. "It takes on a life of its own. It's like trying to rename a child after they've lived with the name for a few years."

The Acorn performs
Glory Hope Mountain tonight at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St. W. (416-598-4753).

Alt-Folk/Jazz Creator Gregory Hoskins Is Back But At His Own Pace

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Entertainment Columnist

(November 25, 2007) "There's the craft and there's the calling ... I've never been drawn to the former, much to the chagrin of my bank manager,"
Gregory Hoskins says, his grey eyes reflecting the sombre light of Toronto's first snowy day this fall.

He takes a sip of cappuccino, and stares out the front window of his west-end home. His three favourite instruments – his vintage Washburn jazz guitar with modified humbucking pickups and a Bigsby-Gretsch twang bar, a trumpet, and a well-loved, hand-made acoustic guitar that has seen better days – are lined up beside him in the sparsely furnished living room.

The setting implies there's not much in Hoskins' life other than music. But like his songs, it contains hints of the complex life of an artist whose stock-in-trade is the heartbreaking, soul-wracking effort of relentless self-examination.

"The job is the craft, and the craft is to entertain," he continues. "The calling is to illuminate. I am not good at entertaining ... but I've learned how to engage an audience."

That's largely thanks to the quality of the musicians the Montreal-raised songwriter has managed to gather around him – primo bassist George Koller and drummer Gary Craig, guitarist Kurt Swinghammer, horn player Phil Dwyer and pianist Jon Goldsmith – in the decade and a half since Hoskins first gained serious critical attention fronting the long-gone but well remembered Toronto alt-folk/jazz ensemble The Stick People, and recorded two memorable albums, Moon Come Up and Raids on the Unspeakable, on the True North label, recordings that "bands play on tour buses late at night, and seem to impress filmmakers," he says.

These are the musicians who will perform with Hoskins, in a rare concert and recording, Thursday night at the Glenn Gould Studio in
CBC's Front St. HQ, along with The Beggars String Ensemble (named after his recent solo CD, The Beggar Heart) and "several special guests."

"They elevate my songs," he explains quietly. "Because they're so good, I have so much freedom. In days gone by it was all about playing the parts. Now it's about issuing an open invitation to the audience ... asking them to come inside the music with us. It's about having fun."

Liberated from band bonds, and after a mysterious six-year withdrawal from the music business – "not a bid for enigma or an overdeveloped sense of privacy, as I feel (the answers) are all there in the songs anyway, but an attempt to honour the people in my life, and the transitions that life brings," he says by way of explaining – Hoskins re-emerged in 2001 with the remarkable solo CD, The King of Good Intentions, praised by critics for its "quiet soul," the singer's "haunting voice" and "lyrics (that) speak of the hard lessons he has obviously learned over the last decade."

At 43 and the father of three teens, Hoskins, known among peers as a reclusive, even reluctant artist, is learning to enjoy performing for the first time, and as a latecomer to indie music-marketing, he's eager to take responsibility for his art in the commercial world he has so far managed to avoid. He runs his own website, raises finances for his own recordings and performances – Thursday's show is underwritten by his brother Ralph's media company – and does his own bookings.

Determined to focus on live performance "for the next five years," Hoskins long ago abandoned notions of conventional success. "I don't even know what that means. All the rules have changed, the landscape is nothing like it was when I had a record deal. I have no choice but to make it up as I go along.

"How do you measure success? You measure it in small moments, like when a woman came up to me after a show recently with eyes wide open and just said, `That last song ...' "

He's happy enough to be able to write when the urge overcomes him – "I'm not prolific, I never turn up for a session with 30 new songs, and I spend a lot of time with my head stuck up my own ass," he chuckles – and to play with a small ensemble of intuitive musicians.

"And I'm very happy with the last two records. They didn't break any rules, they didn't break new ground, but the songs are doing what I hoped they'd do – they've become a brief and meaningful part of someone else's life.

"I'm just hitting my stride, according to my brother ... I'm just getting interesting."

Just the facts:
Gregory Hoskins

WHEN: Thursday,
8 p.m.

WHERE: Glenn Gould Studio,
250 Front St. W.

TICKETS: $45-$70 at 905-471-7802 and at www.gregoryhoskins.com

Rossi Brought Back Down To Earth

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Pop Music Critic

(November 25, 2007)
Lukas Rossi will be ringing in 2008 in much more modest style than he did in 2007.

As a dwindling number of you might recall, last New Year's Eve marked the live debut of the star-powered band
Toronto native Rossi was picked to lead from a field of 14 internationally drawn contestants on the popular "reality" show Rock Star: Supernova.

Since the original line-up featured almighty Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, ex-Guns `n' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke and former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted – replaced before touring could begin by the Black Crowes' Johnny Colt when he suffered a shoulder injury – and the show was a major hit, there was a certain smugness within the music industry that Supernova, the band, couldn't fail.

Fail it did, though.

While sales of the Rock Star Supernova album hit the platinum mark here in Rossi's home nation, it peaked at a relatively dismal No. 101 on Billboard's
U.S. albums chart. Critics savaged the record.

And when a Supernova tour of packed houses all over the planet (including Massey Hall) commenced last January, critics savaged the tour, too.

"Supernova wasn't close to super." "Rock Star Supernova crashes and burns in
Oakland." "Rock Star Supernova flames out on Oracle stage." "Band's reality-TV background spawns predictably soulless gig." So went the headlines, and within a few months, down went Supernova.

Newsted was long gone. Rumours swirled that Clarke was quitting. Tommy Lee took up deejay-ing and feuding in court with the rest of Mötley Crüe. Supernova was, for all intents and purposes, over by the spring, and Rossi – previously the living embodiment of "cocky" – was forced to choke down a large amount of humble pie.

"It takes a chunk out of you, man. I'm not gonna lie," says the 30-year-old singer from a recent
Ottawa tour stop.

"I thought it was gonna go on longer. I think my ego got blown a little out of proportion after it was all said and done, and coming back down to earth is obviously where I belong. Coming off that tour, it was like: `Where's all the glory?' But I like it where I am right now. If I have to pay my dues until I die, that's the way God wants it to be."

And where is Rossi right now? Weaving his way across the country on a small-venue acoustic tour that brings him to Lee's Palace tonight.

His high-powered Supernova bandmates have been replaced by keyboardist Lou Dawson, the luxury tour bus by a car steered by his wife, Kendra. Which, for Rossi – who spent years knocking around
Toronto bars in Cleavage and a few other unsuccessful indie bands – is really not unfamiliar territory.

"It's not really an adjustment," he says. "I've always been a really hard worker. In my other bands, no one did s--- for us. It's just as hard on my wife as it is on me. I failed my driver's test four times so, unfortunately, she's been having to do all the driving.

"She basically tour-manages and handles all the crazy people and so forth that I can't. ... She's good support. We get hard on each other sometimes – it's pretty gruelling, driving and playing, driving and playing, especially in the winter. I'm sick now and I have 10 shows in a row to do.

"But the fans are waiting, man, so it's my pleasure to do it."

Rossi's fondness for his fans does seem sincere.

He maintains personal contact with hundreds of them through his website, www.LukasRossiOnline.com, and some of them have become "friends for life." He hosts regular online chats and auctions off lunch dates to admirers on eBay in each town where he plays, donating the money to various charities. The last of these such occasions, he says, consisted of going out drinking and gambling with the highest bidder and was "a great time."

Because of the TV show, he says, "people assume they know me. I guess they feel like I'm approachable. And that's cool, because I am."

Fans will, however, have to wait a while longer for new music from Rossi.

He has a new project, Stars Down – featuring his current tourmate
Dawson and a full line-up not yet solidified – in the works and being shopped around to various labels. The album is about "half done," he says, and sticks with the heavy rock sound towards which he's always gravitated. A release within the next six months is the goal.

As for Supernova, which has never officially announced its demise, Rossi isn't holding his breath for a comeback.

"It actually felt like a real band. I thought it was gonna go on much longer," he says.

"But at the end of the tour, everyone just kind of went off and started deejay-ing or whatever. I don't know what that's about, but let 'em do what they want. I'd just started to fire. I'm ready to start rockin'. I'm just getting my feet wet and I've got no time to relax. I don't have time to make pit stops. I'm not a deejay.

"All these shows in
Canada are sold out, man, and they're not there to see Tommy Lee. They're there to see me. And that's a good feeling."

Ambassador Of The Sax Was Beloved Worldwide

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Classical Music Critic

November 24, 2007) If Paul Brodie ever resented the "joy of sax" comments that accompanied him around the world, he never once complained. He probably loved the attention for his beloved saxophone, which was a lifelong cause.

He died on Monday at
Sunnybrook Hospital during surgery to remove an aneurysm near his heart. He was 73.

The "Ambassador of the Saxophone," as his 2000 autobiography is titled, was born in
Montreal on April 11, 1934, but grew up on the Prairies. His first instrument was the clarinet. His musical education, including a master's in music from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, was in woodwinds.

After graduation, he moved to
Toronto and became the Royal Conservatory of Music's first saxophone teacher in 1958. He would later teach at the University of Toronto and York University, as well as the Brodie School of Music and Modern Dance, which he ran with wife, Rima, for 20 years.

He made his
New York debut at Town Hall that same year, and his Toronto Symphony Orchestra debut in 1961.

Brodie's international fame came as both a soloist and a member of the Paul Brodie Saxophone Quartet. Their mix of classics and more popular pieces resonated with audiences around the world, including the
Soviet Union and Asia.

His efforts helped bring about the first World Saxophone Congress in 1968 – an event that soon took on a life of its own.

Among his 56 albums, he made
China's first digital recording in 1990 with the People's Liberation Army Band. It was the first visit from an international sax pro to the Middle Kingdom.

"There isn't even an instruction book in Chinese," he recalled in a Star interview. "I gave seven master classes to over 500 saxophonists from as far away as
Tibet, Mongolia and Manchuria, and these guys did not even know how to finger the instrument properly."

Brodie's musical legacy includes a number of instructional manuals for budding saxophone players, and a diaspora of students who have inspired younger generations with a love for the versatile woodwind.

The musician leaves behind wife Rima and daughter Claire.

According to his wishes, there will be no funeral or memorial services. His ashes will be scattered in the woods at
Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.

Slash: Welcome to His (Drug-Free) Jungle

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

November 28, 2007) Did Keith Richards ever ask, "Pardon me, but do you mind if I shoot up?" I don't hang around them, so I don't know if rock stars tend to seek permission or bother to excuse their antisocial behaviour. (Richards does have manners; he considered it to be the poorest etiquette to overdose in another's loo, for one thing.) Anyway, I'm not sure I expected Slash to ask me if it was okay to smoke before he lit up, but he didn't. He's two feet away from me, on the hotel-room couch, and I'm leaning in a bit with my tape recorder, because he's a little laid-back (or "mild-mannered," as he puts it). So, as he draws and puffs, I'm in on the whole Marlboro experience.

I wouldn't have it any other way, though, even though I'm an avid non-smoker. Heck, if the guitarist had asked me if it was cool to smoke, I would have replied with astonishment: "Is it cool for you to smoke? Are you joking? Dude, it would be so totally cool if you did smoke."

If he didn't believe me, I could have walked him over to the other room, where a cardboard box full of copies of his new autobiography sat on a table. The cover art is a headshot, with the former Guns N' Roses member in classic depraved rock-star pose, iconic cigarette on his bottom lip, dangling like a participle. The nose ring, the hair in the eyes, the hazy stare, the crazy top hat - it's all there.

In the flesh, the Mad Hatter-like lid is replaced by a backwards ball cap. He's calm, drinking coffee (not Jack Daniels), and the room is rather untrashed. His book, co-written by Anthony Bozza (author of bios on Tommy Lee and Eminem), chronicles a chaotic history of extreme behaviour and drug and alcohol use. But, by the end of 457 pages, Slash is sober. He still is - for 18 months now. "I kind of had to just burn out on it," the surprisingly fit-looking 42-year-old says, referring to numerous attempts at cleaning up that didn't take in the past.

Sobriety hasn't altered his look at all - leather pants, shades, skull ring, bracelets and black cowboy boots announce him as rock star. Slash, the stereotypical stoned rocker, says he has never played up to the image. "I'm just a guitar player who likes rock 'n' roll and the life that goes with it. It's a life I've always led."

When asked if you can have sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll without the drugs, Slash, who survived a heroin-related near-death experience in the early 1990s, laughs a bit. "Yeah, definitely you can," he replies, before adding, "But it was a big part of it."

Heroin, cocaine and drink may be in the past, but the divorced father of two didn't make it out unscathed. His book opens with the admission that doctors gave him six weeks to live when he was 35, his body beaten up by years of debauchery. Since then, a three-inch implanted defibrillator keeps his heart pumping.

Slash, born Saul Hudson, is not an invalid; he certainly looks up to the nerdy challenges of the rec-room rockers that test him relentlessly on the popular video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. In real life, there is some question about his status: While he isn't among Rolling Stone magazine's 2003 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, a 2004 Internet poll conducted by Guitar World magazine slotted him 15th.

Asked if he thinks of himself as a guitar hero, Slash is demure. "No, not really," he answers, amused. He has played the video game, but hasn't faced himself as a contestant. "I'm a practising guitarist," he continues. "It's one of those things you work at your entire life and you never master."

That's a stock answer, isn't it? "It's hard to put on airs unless you have this kind of mentality where you think you're a hero before you even learn how to play, and that was what you were striving for. There are some very arrogant players like that, but I don't fall into that category. I have good moments, but I'm not consistent enough to be able to walk around like that."

That he's able to walk around at all is something of an accomplishment. He was born in
Stoke-on-Trent, England, but as a child moved to Los Angeles, where his parents worked in the entertainment industry (his black mother, as a costume designer to the stars; his white dad, as an artist). By the time he was a teenager, Slash had developed a taste for soft drugs, competitive BMX riding and assorted delinquencies. After the raw, dark sound of Aerosmith's Rocks changed his obsession from bike racing to guitar, he eventually got together with the musicians that formed Guns N' Roses, included among them an intensely odd singer from Lafayette, Ind., named Axl Rose.

"I remember my dad even told me, back in the day," Slash says on the subject of his former bandmate. "He said, 'Don't go down with the ship, because that's where Axl seems to be taking you all the time.' "

Rose was volatile and young Slash didn't need his father to tell him so. Once, after the singer was abusive to Slash's grandmother, the guitarist confronted him about it while driving along
Santa Monica Boulevard. Although Slash "chose his words carefully and presented the issue in a very non-judgmental, objective tone," the moody singer began rocking back and forth as he stared out the passenger-side window, before he opened the car door and leapt out without a word, landing on the pavement at 40 miles per hour. He made it to the sidewalk and took off down a side street without looking back.

"He's different," Slash says, "simply put."

In print, the guitarist comes off as the peacemaker of the unruly group, handling Rose with kid gloves. Slash left the band in 1996, but he still hasn't taken those gloves off. The book is not an anti-Rose manifesto. "Everybody's looking for that," Slash says. "Everybody loves to have some dirt, some negativity. They thrive on it, and I didn't want to feed that. That's not what it was all about."

Although the pair were not particularly close - Slash describes them as like fishing buddies who have nothing to talk about if the talk isn't about fishing - the guitarist is charitable when speaking of Rose. "He can be a really endearing, charming, sweet guy who's a good guy to have in your company," Slash says. "But there's another side of Axl that is very self-sabotaging. So, even though he's a perfectionist, extremely talented and will work to no end to achieve a goal, he will tear it down in a split second."

Under those circumstances, the band that broke big in 1988 with the album prophetically titled Appetite for Destruction could hardly have been expected to last - not with a singer who provoked riots by walking off stages early (St. Louis, 1991, and Montreal, 1992) and a drug-and-booze-addled lead guitarist as main attractions.

While Rose continues to lead an otherwise anonymous Guns N' Roses, Slash now records and tours with Velvet Revolver, a hard-rock outfit that includes combustible singer Scott Weiland as well as two former members of GNR.

Every journalist who has spoken to the guitarist since he split with Rose has asked him about a possible reunion, and I see no reason to break the string. So, Slash? "I don't see it happening," he says, not riled at the tired question. "It's not happening now, and it's not going to happen any time in the near future. But you never know - crazy things happen."

They sure do, crazy things. You could write a book full of them.

Jacksons May Reunite For Tour

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

November 27, 2007) Everybody else is getting back together, why shouldn't The Jacksons?

In a year that has seen reunion tours by The Police, Van Halen and the Spice Girls, Jermaine Jackson is floating the idea of a 2008 outing with his brothers, who range in age from 46 to 56.

"We feel we have to do it one more time," the singer/guitarist told BBC 6 Music yesterday.

The Gary, Ind.-born group, which began as the
Jackson 5, shot to fame in the late '60s with the pop-soul hits "I Want You Back" and "ABC" on the strength of fifth son Michael's infectious vocals.

By the time they hit the road for the 1984 Victory Tour, they had left Motown for Epic Records, been joined by a sixth brother, Randy, and seen Michael score a multi-million-selling sophomore solo smash with Thriller.

They recorded 1989's
2300 Jackson Street before disbanding in 1990.

The key to a successful
Jacksons comeback is the participation of King of Pop sibling Michael, who was said to have performed on the Victory Tour reluctantly.

"Michael will be involved," said Jermaine, who indicated that his infamous brother has attended organizational meetings at which concert dates were tabled.

He also told the BBC the long-rumoured reunion was delayed by Michael's 2005 sex abuse trial.

Though evidently the inspiration of young superstars such as Usher and Justin Timberlake, the entertainer's cat-and-mouse games with the public, absence from record charts, implausible plastic surgeries and controversial relationships with young boys have transformed him from music icon to punchline.

Being part of a family tour "could add something positive" to Michael's legacy, said Flow 93.5 program director Wayne Williams.

"It would be good for him and his career. And regardless of Michael's goings-on, there's definitely an appetite to see him along with all his brothers onstage one more time."

Jermaine also told the BBC that the band was "in the studio at the moment," hinting at work on new material.

Michael, who has long been supposed to be working on a new record, says in the current issue of Ebony magazine: "I'm writing a lot of stuff right now. I'm in the studio, like, every day."

However, the 49-year-old entertainer, who is featured on the cover to commemorate Thriller's 25th anniversary, is evasive on the subject of touring, primarily noting "I don't like long tours."

Homegrown Quartet's Not Just Another Male Supergroup

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic

(November 27, 2007) Does the world really need another tenor supergroup, wearing too-tight tuxedos and singing "Unchained Melody" in Italian?

You might say no, until you meet the
Canadian Tenors.

These four guys, who are about to have their official Toronto debut Friday at the Winter Garden Theatre, have talent to burn and a love of music that's positively electric.

What they don't have is attitude. Sitting around the west-end church where they like to rehearse, wearing toques and sweaters, they could be any group of young men shooting the breeze ... if they also happened to have killer singing voices.

Torontonian Jamie McKnight is the youngest, the one who joined most recently, plucked from the chorus of the
Stratford production of Oklahoma!

"Sure, I've been in musical comedy for the last few years," grins McKnight, "but I used to be a member of the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus as a kid and once that style gets ingrained in you, you never forget it."

Victor Micallef, also from
Toronto, held onto his opera roots much longer. He was a member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble for two seasons who turned down an audition for the quartet, "because it wasn't quite what I wanted to do at first. But the more I heard about the project, I said `This is more interesting than I thought' and I came on board."

Fraser Walters is probably the one with the most diverse career. He was a member of the Grammy Award-winning a cappella ensemble Chanticleer as well as a survivor of the musical The Lord of the Rings in

"As soon as I realized this group could be something different and not just a clone of all the others," he says, "they had me hooked."

The same sentiment comes from
Ottawa's Remigio Pereira, who started out as a rock 'n' roller, before becoming a classically trained guitarist and then branching into a career as an opera singer.

"I was worried we'd just be one tenor group too many," admits
Pereira, "but once we started singing together, I know we had a unique feel."

The whole thing is the brainchild of Victoria composer/pianist Jill Ann Siemens, who got the idea in 2003, before Il Divo had stepped onto the scene

Over the next four years, she tried many different combinations of people and voices, with at least a half dozen tenors not making the cut before she found the group that clicked.

"It took us a while to get to this place," says Walters, "but now, the sky's the limit."

They've been touring around the Prairies and doing smaller gigs in Ontario on the same bill as Rita MacNeil, but they've also been honing a debut CD, which is due to be released this winter.

And their choice of material is truly eclectic. Musical comedy buff McKnight has brought songs like Stephen Sondheim's "Being Alive" into the mix, while the more pop-oriented Walters enjoys performing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

Pereira is happy to be including Neapolitan folk songs like "O Sole Mio!" while Micallef points out that they're also doing iconic opera solos such as "Nessun Dorma."

But the best part for them is the casual atmosphere they've cultivated around their performances.

"We don't have Simon Cowell and millions of dollars behind us," says Micallef, alluding to Il Divo, "and we didn't begin in a stadium."

"Heck no," agrees McKnight. "We talk to the audience onstage, just like regular guys. People come back afterwards and say, `It's like stepping into your living room.'"

Micallef sums it up. "We're making good music for good people." He grins. "And if it takes us around the world, so much the better."

And then the Canadian Tenors laugh ... in harmony.

Christmas with the Canadian Tenors will take place at the Winter Garden Theatre,
189 Yonge St. this Friday at 8 p.m. For tickets and information go to ticketmaster.ca

Young's Warm Homecoming

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

November 28, 2007) It was the mother of all homecomings.

Monday night,
Neil Young returned to Toronto, his birthplace, and, more importantly, to Massey Hall, 36 years after his sold-out 1971 concert there suggested he might be a Canadian star of profound and possibly lasting artistic worth.

In the first of three shows at the venerable Victorian venue – he performed there last night and is scheduled again for Thursday – the 62-year-old singer, guitarist and songwriter dabbled quite deliberately and self-consciously with notions of art throughout. A sharply dressed curator, in red jacket and white boater, wandered upstage, hanging and rearranging primitive paintings on the back wall, appearing to evaluate them, even discussing their virtues in the intermission with Young and his wife, Peggy, posing as potential buyers.

And high above the set hung a series of letters and one number, 3, which seemed to have some mysterious function as they began to light up, one by one, late in the evening.

If it was Neil the folkie or Neil the rocker for whom the enthusiastic crowd turned up – they rose to their feet when he walked onstage unannounced, and after almost every song– they all got their fill, and then some.

The first 45 minutes, after an indifferently received opening set by Peggy and part of Young's band (dobro/steel player Ben Keith and bassist Rick Rosas) featured Young solo, wandering between half a dozen priceless vintage acoustic guitars (he played just three of them, and a banjo) and two pianos (a grand and a honky-tonk upright), and offering up, with almost whimsical abandon, familiar masterpieces ("Old Man," "A Man Needs A Maid," "From Hank To Hendrix," "Cowgirl In The Sand," "Ambulance Blues") and more obscure gems from his vast treasury.

He was in fine voice, his trademark falsetto barely faltering in the high register and his guitar playing exemplary.

After a 20-minute intermission Young returned to the stage with Keith, Rosas and drummer Ralph Molina for a smoking set of typically raunchy rock, much of it from the current album, Chrome Dreams II, interspersed with a few lost classics ("Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," "Winterlong").

Older, maybe not wiser, and certainly no less passionate, Young was the master Monday night. Long may he run.

Wanted: A Visionary For The COC

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

November 28, 2007) The hunt is officially on for Richard Bradshaw's successor. But don't assume the next leader of the Canadian Opera Company will be seen waving a baton, leading the orchestra and joining the cast onstage for curtain calls.

"We're going to cast a very wide net," pledges Dory Vanderhoof, a veteran behind-the-scenes cultural guru who spends most days on the road (usually in
U.S. cities) even though his company has been based in Toronto for two decades.

Yesterday, after three months of speculation, the Canadian Opera Company announced that Vanderhoof and his firm, Genovese Vanderhoof & Associates, have been hired to conduct one of the most challenging searches in the history of
Canada's performing arts world.

It's the right choice.

"Richard Bradshaw was a galvanizing force and did an amazing job," said Vanderhoof in a phone interview from the offices of another client, the New York City Opera. "We're looking for someone with the same kind of leadership qualities and abilities."

But that doesn't mean he is looking for a Bradshaw clone.

"Our goal is to find the best possible leader for the opera company," says Vanderhoof. "In doing searches for many performing arts groups, we have found you have to keep an open mind and look in a lot of different places if you want to identify the best talent out there. Strong candidates emerge with many different backgrounds."

The Houston Grand Opera Company chose Anthony Freud – a former lawyer from
England – as its new general director after a search led by Vanderhoof. Seattle's opera company made a more surprising choice: a former music critic.

Los Angeles Opera has a big profile partly because it is run by the famous tenor Placido Domingo. And one of the most successful company leaders in recent history was the late Beverly Sills, who took over running the New York City Opera after she stopped singing.

Indeed, before Bradshaw's promotion to the top job in the mid-1990s, he was the music director of the company when it was run by Brian Dickie, who was not a conductor.

Neither was Dickie's predecessor, Lotfi Mansouri, who presided over the COC in the 1980s and at the San Francisco Opera in the 1990s, although he was a stage director.

But if COC's next boss is not a conductor, then who would lead the orchestra that Bradshaw developed into one of the company's greatest assets? It would be up to the new general director to create an organizational structure for the operation and choose his own music director.

How long will the process take?

"It's too early to say, but the average search takes six or seven months," says Vanderhoof, who worked on the COC staff in the 1980s after moving here from
New York. "It truly is a wide open search. We have about 1,000 people on our active contact list, of whom about 200 are Canadian. I've met with the search committee and we are all excited. It's a great opportunity and we are confident we can find the perfect candidate."

But ultimately, it's the COC board that has to make the final choice once there is a short list. It's a bit like matchmaking.

The board and the future general director have to fall in love with each other.

Toronto's key attractions: an opera house where musicians and singers love to perform, and an audience that snaps up every available ticket.

Toronto is lucky, the COC's new leader will be someone who, like Bradshaw, becomes infatuated with this city and this country; and someone with a vision and a gift for articulating it that gives us fever.

Above all, we need an inspired ringmaster – someone who like Bradshaw knows how to build momentum and how to keep it going.


Sly Stone Hits The Big Apple

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 26, 2007) *Following decades of inactivity and a summer of spot dates throughout Europe,
Sly Stone and his famous band The Family Stone took the stage in New York last week for the first time in 32 years. A crowd of about 1000 showed up at B.B. King's Blues Club and Grill Tuesday for the rare appearance of 64-year-old Stone, who performed dressed in a white sweatsuit with silver trim, sunglasses and Mohawk hairstyle.  According to Reuters, Stone "filled the club with his rich, mellifluous voice as the band spent an hour cycling through their greatest hits, including 'Everyday People,' 'Family Affair' and 'Stand.'" Due to popular demand, B.B. King's has added two more Sly and the Family Stone shows for Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. The bad news: both sets are already sold out.

Alicia Keys Unlocks Billboard's Top Spots

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 26, 2007) *As expected, the new album and single from
Alicia Keys has taken Billboard by storm this week, with No. 1 landings on multiple charts. One day after her album "As I Am" entered The Billboard 200 in the top position, the set's first single, "No One," seized control of Billboard's Hot 100 chart with a rise from No. 2 last week.  The track also sold 210,000 downloads, an 88% increase from last week, and remains No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for a sixth week. Back on the Hot 100, "No One" unseated the three-week reign of Chris Brown's "Kiss Kiss" featuring T-Pain, which falls to No. 2 ahead of Timbaland's "Apologize" featuring OneRepublic at No. 3 and newcomer Flo Rida's "Low" featuring T-Pain at No. 4.       Elsewhere in the top 10, Soulja Boy's "Crank That (Soulja Boy)" is down 4-6 and Kanye West's "Good Life" featuring T-Pain sticks at No. 7. Fergie's "Clumsy" jumps 12-8, making her the first female artist since Paul Abdul in 1989 and 1990 to take five songs from a debut album into the top 10. Baby Bash's "Cyclone" featuring T-Pain is down 8-9, and West's "Stronger" rounds out the top 10 with a 9-10 slide.

LaBelle Says Music Industry Racist

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(November 27, 2007) R&B legend
Patti LaBelle says one of the biggest obstacles in her career has been watching friend and fellow diva Céline Dion soar up the charts with a song she recorded first. LaBelle tells online magazine MonacoRevue.com that racism in the music industry kept her from reaching the same heights with "If You Asked Me To." Dion's 1992 rendition soared to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while LaBelle's '89 version peaked at No. 79. "Why do I think Céline had the sales and I didn't? Because she's a white girl," LaBelle tells the Canadian-owned magazine based in Monaco.  "You want me to be honest? That's why. People pay more respect to white artists who sing well before they do black women," she says. "I've been singing for 45 years and that's an obstacle that I'm still ... I'm getting over it because I'm fabulous. You know, so you can't beat me up. You can't make me feel less than I am because whenever I get the microphone I'm gonna show you who I am. But the industry is very racist." Nevertheless, she referred to Dion as a friend, and said that she's satisfied with her career.

Nas 'Ni**Er' Album Pushed Back

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

November 28, 2007) *Nas upcoming album "Ni**er," originally due in December from Def Jam, has been pushed back to February for a release during Black History Month, reports MTV News. Nas said the first single, due sometime in January, is not the recently leaked track "What It Is." In that song, he spits: "Racist neighbours flinchin'/They don't know if I'mma rob them/ Or if I'm Russell Simmons/ They thought it was me, just like Mike Bivens/ They pray for my downfall like the mom of Robin Givens." Nas told MTV that "What It Is" features vocals he recorded, but the track is from origins unknown. "I never rhymed to that beat," said Nas.  A final track list for "Ni**er" is still being finalized, his camp told MTV. So far, Atlanta's DJ Toomp (T.I., Ludacris) and longtime Nas collaborator Salaam Remi have contributed beats. Diddy and his new Hitmen are also tapped to donate music before production closes in the next week or so.


Shawshank Director Leaves Redemption At The Door

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(November 22, 2007) NEW
YORK — When director Frank Darabont came into New York from his Los Angeles home last week for a few days of interviews about his new film, The Mist, he stayed in a lavish suite at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue that was tricked out with a balcony, a dining table for 12 and a grand piano.

“This is awesome,” he chuckled, casting his eyes around the room as he welcomed a visitor. “I don't play piano, but it's a hell of a prop. It makes me look very classy, doesn't it?” This was a rare moment of Hollywood-style excess for Darabont, who has lately been operating in conditions that are practically ascetic compared with his previous work.

Until a few years ago, Darabont, 48, was known for his deliberate, almost painterly productions of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, big-hearted studio dramas that were shamelessly old-fashioned in their optimism, their filmmaking style, their reliance upon stars and their budget.

Then came The Majestic, a Capraesque yarn headlined by Jim Carrey that tanked with the critics and the public. Since its release in December, 2001, Darabont has stayed out of the feature director's chair, filling his time with writing assignments and a form of job retraining: creating and directing TV shows.

He needed to cut his teeth in television because he was gearing up to take on The Mist, a spook fest he adapted from a Stephen King story, which required a new bag of filmmaking tricks: He had learn how to shoot fast, work lean and not worry if the rough edges showed.

“I believe in doing the course work,” he joked.

There were two reasons Darabont needed to change his style. The first was aesthetic: He felt The Mist required a jazzy, jumpy, verité approach. The second was financial: The Weinstein
Co., which was making the film through its Dimension Films label, capped his budget at $17-million. Other studios offered him more than twice that amount, on the condition that he change the ending he had written, to make it less bleak, maybe even a little optimistic. Fat chance: Darabont is done with optimism.

“So far, the 21st century has sucked,” he said, pouring himself the first of three room-service coffees that he will gulp down in the next 23 minutes. Normally, Darabont has an FM-radio sort of smooth baritone, but at the moment his anger has coloured it into a growl. “Mankind's been disappointing me, and letting itself down in a pretty profound way, and that's not a political slam against our current leadership, it's just across the board. I think people are out of their minds.”

What, you may be wondering, does this have to do with a commercially oriented thriller? A little background: Like Darabont's other adaptations of King stories ( Shawshank, Green Mile), The Mist is set in a prison of sorts. But where those films depicted people crammed together in a tense environment in order to illuminate the higher angels of human nature, The Mist is a horror film in which the worst horror comes from the humans themselves.

On the day after a tremendous storm knocks out power and phone service in a small
New England coastal town, a father (Thomas Jane) takes his young son (Nathan Gamble) and a neighbour (Andre Braugher) to a local supermarket to stock up on supplies. A thick, mysterious mist begins rolling in. As the three are waiting to pay for their groceries, a man suddenly rushes in with blood streaming down his face, warning that “something in the mist” snatched his friend.

The shoppers barricade themselves in the market. Initially, they're more or less united against their unseen enemy: They pile heavy bags of dog food against the store's plate-glass windows, and plot strategy. But as the creatures in the mist begin to show themselves – first tearing apart just about anyone who dares step outside, then breaking through the windows – panic descends and the refugees look for scapegoats.

One woman (Marcia Gay Harden), a wild-eyed, sermonizing Christian fundamentalist that the townsfolk used to write off as the local nut, succeeds in whipping people into a frothing, homicidal frenzy with her proclamations that the attack is the work of a vengeful God.

Which brings us back to Darabont's cynicism. “The genre of horror, as Rod Sterling showed us, can be a great forum for discussing some real issues,” he says, narrowing his eyes.

But Darabont isn't just trying to make some abstract observations: About halfway through the film, he uses some of the more level-headed townsfolk to articulate an argument that shoves a stick at that most poisonous of issues – the use of fear to manipulate the masses. “You scare people badly enough, you can get them to do whatever you want,” declares one. In an obvious parallel to the present-day U.S. and its all-volunteer army, one foolish young man, his courage inflated by the patriotic tough talk of a pair of old coots, steps up for a dangerous assignment that results in his horrific death. So, we must ask: At what point in the creation of The Mist, the source material for which was written in 1980, become about the
U.S. invading Iraq?

Darabont laughs. “Believe me, it was definitely on my mind,” he says. “You're examining how people react and act under fear. And the fear of fear. And let's face it, it's
America. It's not just America, it's the whole world, it ain't just us. But you know, since 9/11, we've been running around like chickens with our heads cut off, and the movie examines what happens when fear is applied and the veneer of civilized conduct is taken away.

“The idea of how people react in a pressure cooker of fear is not necessarily specific to today, it goes back to Greek tragedy. But boy, it sure started feeling like a very timely movie to me now. So it winds up being a pretty political film without it being a political film.”

Darabont says that exploring those issues became the primary reason for him to make the film. “You have to find some kind of relevance, some kind of meaning, some kind of reason for the movie to exist – aside from, you know, crazy birds from another dimension that you can set aflame.”

As for that key conversation about human nature, Darabont says, “I tend to have a version of that scene in all my movies. There's a scene in Shawshank where Tim Robbins gets out of solitary and he sits down with the guys in the mess hall and it suddenly turns into this conversation between his character and Morgan Freeman's character about hope: Is it a good thing, is it a bad thing? You know. Kind of the whole movie hinges on that sort of argument.”

The Mist, however, is unlikely to leave viewers with the same warm-and-fuzzy feeling as Darabont's other features. Adapting a story by King that concluded ambivalently, he crafted an ending that some viewers will find not just horrifying; they will be appalled.

Darabont shrugs, and pleads for the ending not to be revealed in print. “It wasn't just done for cheap effect. I have some pretty deep-in-the-marrow reasons for how the story went,” he insists. “Do you consider that action at the end of the movie a gesture of extraordinary love and strength? Or is it a big damn mistake? People make mistakes when they let their fear get a hold of them.”

“I know some people absolutely love the ending, I know some people absolutely don't,” he says. “And you know what? That's fine, as long as it doesn't wash over you and make you feel nothing. I walk out of way too many movies these days that just do not take a stance, that are not the product of a filmmaker trying to say something. It's just some guy wearing superhero clothes, and I just can't give a damn.”

Darabont's next project, if it goes forward, is his own adaptation of Ray Bradbury's dystopic Fahrenheit 451.

“The book is something I read when I was 9 and I've wanted to make it since then. It is so bold and so visionary, and I think it completely defines where society is headed, and you know, certainly the burning of books is a great metaphor for a lot of things, but I think it is the finest examination of fascism lurking under the skin of democracy that has ever been written.

“My favourite two movies last year: Pan's Labyrinth – a masterpiece – and Children of Men.” He pours another cup of coffee. Rise of the Silver Surfer? You couldn't drag me at gunpoint.”

But then, he doesn't have kids who wear down his resistance. At least not yet. “I think I may be ready for that,” he sighs.

“I need some reason to be hopeful. I need somewhere to find my optimism again.”

Holiday Movies Guide

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Movie Critic

(November 23, 2007) The U.S. Thanksgiving weekend traditionally marks the start of the long season of overindulgence, and that goes double for movie fans.

With dozens of films opening between now and New Year's Eve, many of them potential blockbusters or Oscar candidates, cueing the viewing becomes a harder task than the seating arrangement at a dysfunctional family banquet.

To make the job easier, here's my rundown of the 12 films to scribble onto your Santa season to-do list. I'm working a Cool Yule theme this year, mindful that one person's cool must-see is another's chilly turn-off.

But all of these films have something special going for them:

Kidman Putting Her Career Back On Track

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Special To The Star

(November 24, 2007) New York–It was not something she wanted or wished for, but in terms of high-profile visibility,
Nicole Kidman's personal life has taken precedence over her career for the past couple of years.

During that time, she met and married Australian country singer Keith Urban; saw him through three months of rehab for alcohol abuse; and turned 40 – all in the publicity glare of paparazzi cameras and magazine covers.

This week the Australian actor, denying rumours she and Urban are expecting a child, revealed she lost two babies while married to Tom Cruise, and testified in a Sydney court that she was afraid she would get into a car accident two years ago when a celebrity photographer chased her.

But now Kidman's career has regained prominence, with the release in a period of just a few months of three movies.

She and Daniel Craig, who appeared together in the recently released The Invasion, teamed up again for The Golden Compass, which is due to be released Dec. 7. In the fantasy adventure, she plays a sultry villainess.

She is also currently starring in Margot at the Wedding, which opened yesterday. Kidman plays the titular Margot, a sharp-tongued writer who creates chaos wherever she goes. Her life is on the verge of falling apart when she and her son attend the wedding of her estranged, free-spirited sister, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, to an out-of-work artist (Jack Black).

Kidman was so attracted to the script that she worked for less than $1,000 a week, a far cry from her usual asking price of around $17 million a movie, which she received for The Interpreter and Bewitched, both in 2005.

"The story is so funny and has this strange, beautiful, brutal honesty to it while at the same time bringing a strong sense of affection," she says.

"What interested me is the way these two sisters are so tough on each other, pushing each other's buttons like crazy, and yet they love each other through it all."

We were talking in
Manhattan, where Kidman has a home and where she has briefly met up with Urban, who is on a concert tour across America. The visit coincides with a short break from filming the epic movie Australia in Sydney with her friend and fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman and her Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann.

Kidman and Urban met at a party in
Los Angeles in January 2005 and were married in June 2006 in Sydney in front of more than 200 friends and relatives. Four months later, her new husband checked into the Betty Ford rehabilitation clinic.

Kidman stuck by him, visiting him regularly and encouraging him in his recovery. "I love him for his honesty and bravery. Simply put, he's a wonderful, wonderful man and I'm very lucky to have him," she says.

She and her ex-husband Cruise, whom she married when she was 23 and then divorced at 34, have joint custody of their two adopted children, Isabella, 14, and Connor, 12, who are both Scientologists, like Cruise.

Kidman admits that after she and Cruise divorced, she went through a period of unhappiness and loneliness. "When I was alone, I became very isolated and felt very lonely and it was difficult to meet someone," she says.

"I realized you can have so many beautiful things around you and if you don't have someone in your life to share it with, it doesn't mean that much. I'm just so grateful I have someone I can share the highs and also the lows with."

If her private life has been something of an emotional roller coaster, her professional career has been a steady upward climb from the age of 15, when she made her first real impression as a frizzy-haired teenager in the Australian holiday film Bush Christmas. She made her international breakthrough co-starring with Billy Zane in the thriller Dead Calm and met Cruise when she was cast opposite him in Days of Thunder.

After they separated, she starred in Moulin Rouge! and won a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in The Hours.

She has demonstrated her willingness to explore her talents and experiment with a wide range of roles, some in decidedly non-commercial projects.

Her roles in The Human Stain,
Cold Mountain and Lars von Trier's Dogville enhanced her reputation as a "serious actress," but she has had her share of flops, too. The Stepford Wives, Bewitched, Birth and Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus, were all slight missteps in a sparkling career.

Filming demands have taken her around the world and she will soon be temporarily moving to
Berlin, where she will make her next film, The Reader, for her Hours director Stephen Daldry.

"As an actor, I spend most of my time travelling and I have a very gypsy existence," Kidman says. "The thing that draws me to being an actor is that ability to travel. I get to go and live in
Sweden where I made Dogville, or I live in Romania to make Cold Mountain.

"I've had so many different experiences because of my job, and I love it."

Cinema Swoop Puts Dent In Pirated Movies

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Unnati Gandhi

November 28, 2007) It all went down like a scene in an action film.

Shortly after
midnight on a recent Friday night, a man nestled comfortably into his aisle seat beside his girlfriend at the back of a Montreal theatre, his digital camcorder atop a tripod recording the Steve Carell comedy Dan in Real Life. Meanwhile, just outside, cinema owner Vincenzo Guzzo and a team of private security guards prepared to move in.

“We walked in like a SWAT team. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Two guys went up one way, two guys went the other way, I went straight up the middle,” Mr. Guzzo, executive vice-president of the independent Guzzo cinema chain, said Tuesday.

“He had nowhere to go unless he jumped over me. And I'm 245 pounds of robust Italian hot blood.”

Police were called and a 23-year-old man became the first Canadian to be arrested and charged for
illegally recording in a cinema since new legislation came into effect in June.

The arrest, which was the culmination of weeks of private investigation, has already put a huge dent in the city's normally bustling piracy industry, Mr. Guzzo said: Not a single illegally recorded movie sourced from
Montreal has surfaced on the Internet since.

Montreal police spokesman Constable Raphael Bergeron said he too can't recall any illegal recording incidents from the last few weeks – significant because Montreal was recently identified as the No. 1 city in the world for surreptitious recording in theatres, topping pirating capitals in such countries as China, Lebanon and the Philippines.

It was a May visit from California Governor and onetime Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger that prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal government to get going on film-piracy legislation. An amendment to the Criminal Code was announced less than a month later.

Under the previous law, the federal Copyright Act, recording a movie was only a crime if it could be proved that it was for commercial distribution. The movie industry complained that the law was too difficult to enforce.

With the new legislation, filming a movie with a camcorder in theatres now carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment, while recording for the purpose of commercial distribution is punishable by up to five years.

Douglas Frith, president of the Canadian Motion Pictures Distributors Association, said the fact that charges have been laid in this case shows that the legislation is working.

“It could be a breakthrough case. That theatre had been targeted fairly often, more than we would have liked, so this is very significant.”

The association also credits the industry's investment in a series of technological systems.

One such system, at a cost of nearly $5,000 to the studio, was a night-vision detector set up to scan the auditorium for digital camera lenses. It was installed in the Guzzo Lacordaire cinema in question, said Gary Osmond, director of investigations for the CMPDA in

“This was the first time we used the technology and we caught someone, so it was obviously worth the money and the research and development.”

The association is considering installing the technology in other problem theatres in
Montreal and Calgary.

On top of that, studios can determine at which theatre a film was recorded because each individual reel sent out has a set of watermarks printed onto different frames, generating a unique code for every theatre.

Louis-René Haché, of
Montreal, has been charged with one count of recording in a movie theatre and one count of recording in a movie theatre for commercial distribution. A reporter's attempts to contact him went unanswered.

He pleaded not guilty to both charges this month and was released on a promise to appear with the condition that he not go to any Guzzo cinemas. He is scheduled to next appear in a
Montreal courtroom Jan. 21.

With a report from Tu Thanh Ha


Jerry's Master Of Israeli Domain

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(November 26, 2007) Israelis are buzzing about
Jerry Seinfeld, who's in the Holy Land as part of a world tour to promote Bee Movie, his new animated movie about bees. Seinfeld makes an unlikely folk hero in this Hebrew-speaking Mediterranean country, with his nothing-happens comedy set in the highrise apartment buildings of New York City and based on rapid-fire English dialogue. But folk hero he is, as evidenced by the massive local media coverage his visit is receiving. Seinfeld is being treated like visiting royalty, literally.  Few entertainers get to meet both the Israeli prime minister and president; Seinfeld saw both, as well as touring the official Israeli Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, the route taken by visiting world leaders. The comedian himself seemed awed by his reception. He said it was quite a contrast to his last trip to Israel in 1971 as a 15-year-old volunteer on a kibbutz collective farm. "I would be in the fields, and nobody wanted my autograph and nobody wanted to take their picture with me," he told reporters in Tel Aviv.  "They just let me hack away at those banana leaves, and no, I didn't meet the prime minister even once."

Page Gets A Nod

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(November 28, 2007) Los Angeles — Halifax-born rising star
Ellen Page was nominated for best actress yesterday at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, while The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Juno were among the top nominees over all, each claiming a spot among the best indie films of the year. The other nominees in the best-feature category were the drama I'm Not There, which was inspired by the life of singer Bob Dylan, A Mighty Heart, with Angelina Jolie playing the wife of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, and the drama Paranoid Park. The Spirit Awards are given out annually by Los Angeles-based Film Independent, which supports moviemakers working outside the major studios or within the studios' specialty divisions. Among other top categories, Jolie was nominated for best leading actress for A Mighty Heart and Page, 20, earned a nod for Juno. Joining them were Sienna Miller for Interview, Parker Posey in Broken English and Tang Wei for Lust, Caution.


Learn Lyrics To Your Favourite Songs

Source: MTV via PRNewswire

November 23, 2007) NEW YORK -- Having trouble remembering the lyrics to your fave new song? Well get ready it's all about the lyrics on MTV during "Spankin' New Lyrics Week" Monday, November 26th thru Thursday, November 29th. Hosted by MTV VJ Damien Fahey "Spankin' New Lyrics Week" will introduce fans to new music from their favourite artists performing their hit songs live on "TRL" which airs all week at 3:30pm-4:30pm ET/PT.

Scheduled to hit the "TRL" stage first, during "Spankin' New Lyrics Week," on Monday, November 26th are rapper Bow Wow and R&B heartthrob Omarion, who will perform "Girlfriend" from their upcoming collaborative album "Face Off."

On Tuesday, November 27th Keyshia Cole, someone who knows a little something about writing lyrics, will perform "Let It Go" and "Shoulda Let You Go." On Wednesday, November 28th rock band
One Republic will perform their rendition of "Apologize" which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and is featured in remix form on Timbaland's 2007 release Timbaland Presents Shock Value.

Ending the week with a huge bang on Thursday, November 29th is superstar songstress Alicia Keys who will perform "No One" and "Like You'll Never See Me Again" from her recently released album As I Am.

Viewers should also expect special appearances by Ashley Tisdale, Paramore, Lupe Fiasco, Mario, The Dream and Good Charlotte. "TRL" will have video premieres and "first look" of videos throughout the week including Chris Brown "With You," The White Stripes "Conquest," Snoop Dogg "Sensual Seduction," The Dream "Falsetto," and J Holiday "Suffocate."

During "Spankin New Lyrics Week" MTV.com (music.mtv.com) will feature
all of the weeks live "TRL" performances, photo highlights from all performances and appearances and all on-air video premieres. In creating innovative entertainment and gaming experience around music lyrics, music fans will be able to find lyrics to some of their favourite artists featured during the week. In addition, on Wednesday, November 28th, MTV.com will launch a video remixer for
Tennessee rockers Paramore featuring their hit single "Misery Business." The MTV Video Remixer at http://remix.mtv.com,
lets viewers create their own interpretations of their favourite music videos and post them to MTV.com allowing them to reinterpret and reimagine their favourite music videos in new ways.

The official sponsors of "Spankin' New Lyrics Week" are Ford Sync, Jack in the Box and Rhapsody.

CBC Appoints New Head For All English Media

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(November 23, 2007) Characterizing it not as cost-cutting but a way to get programs onto more media platforms, the
CBC has announced the integration of all its English-language services under one management umbrella.

Richard Stursberg, previously head of CBC English TV, will now oversee TV, radio and CBC.ca.

The move, approved by the broadcaster's board of directors on Tuesday, is the result of a push over the past few years to integrate offices throughout the corporation, including regional operations, and early moves to combine
CBC TV, radio and online newsrooms. The process mirrors the combination of the CBC's French-language Radio-Canada services under top executive Sylvain Lafrance two years ago.

Mr. Stursberg noted that the move “has absolutely nothing to do with” possible job cuts. “I hope that what's going to happen is to grow both services more effectively than we have, and to grow our presence on other platforms.”

He added in an interview that “what's happening in the media environment more generally is that people are consuming media in all sorts of different ways. So increasingly, what people are doing is looking at how to make our content available on all the more advanced platforms – whether it's Google or iTunes or the Internet generally or hand-held mobile devices, whatever it happens to be. And so when we have everything under one roof, it just makes it easier to make the transition to those platforms.”

Mr. Stursberg's expanded role comes after the head of
CBC radio, Jane Chalmers, announced this month that she would retire at the end of the year. “And so now, it was just because Jane decided to retire that it was an opportunity to take the last step and do what the French [at Radio-Canada] had done,” Mr. Stursberg said.

Reporting to him is Jennifer McGuire, now appointed to the new position of executive director of programming for radio, and Kirstine Layfield, the head of
CBC-TV programming.

Mr. Stursberg said “the existing strategy for radio will continue exactly as it's going. I think it's fair to say that radio has been a towering success.”

He and Ms. McGuire spent a great deal of time stressing this point to
CBC staff Thursday during a town hall meeting.

“If we could create a television service in English Canada that had the level of intelligence, affection, success that the radio service had, it would be an extraordinary achievement,” Mr. Stursberg said.

There may be more crossover of
CBC personalities between radio and TV. For instance, Jian Ghomeshi, who hosts the Radio One arts and culture show Q and regularly appears on the TV current affairs show The Hour, is working on a pilot program for CBC-TV.

The announcement about Mr. Stursberg comes at a time of widespread management changes. Both the chairman and the chief executive officer were only recently appointed, and neither has a background in public broadcasting. And along with the departure of Ms. Chalmers as the head of radio, the
CBC is still in the process of replacing the head of CBC news, Tony Burman, who resigned in June.

Mr. Burman's position has been split in two, with Chicago Sun-Times publisher John Cruickshank named in September to the new position of “publisher” of
CBC News. A permanent replacement for Mr. Burman's role of editor-in-chief has yet to be named.

Wanted: Cancon, Everywhere

Excerpt from
www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

November 23, 2007) Veteran TV producer Christina Jennings's phone didn't start ringing right away.

But two weeks into the
American TV writers' strike, the Shaftesbury Films co-chair says that several U.S. networks have now placed calls to her Toronto office expressing interest in such shows as the procedural drama ReGenesis and 13 episodes of the period drama The Murdoch Mysteries (based on the acclaimed novels by Maureen Jennings, and set in Victorian Toronto).

“They can't do reality and reruns forever, and they only have so many movies in the can,” says
Jennings. “So they're looking around. ReGenesis is on the desk of three networks, and I had a call this week from one of the Big Three presidents,” she adds, referring to the chiefs of NBC, ABC and CBS. “Whether it amounts to anything, who knows? These calls may – or may not – have happened regardless of the strike, but let's just say it pushes [available Canadian programming] up the pile.”

This past week, debate has been ongoing in Canada's close-knit production community about whether or not the mainstream U.S. networks will actually bite – and buy Canadian shows to fill a schedule that could soon be depleted of fresh content. (Talks are set to resume on Monday between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers).

Some, such as
Jennings and CBC's executive director of network programming, Kirstine Layfield, bet they will bite if the strike drags on. Others doubt the insular, conventional American broadcast market – which rarely co-produces or buys non-U.S. programs ( Due South on CBS was a notable exception) – will ever do more than merely eyeball Canadian shows.

Regardless of whether the American interest is feigned or real,
Jennings says, “we're very much on the American radar.” And she is encouraged that U.S. broadcasters might finally be understanding what other broadcasters around the world have long realized: that Canadian TV can travel, sell and be lapped up by an international audience. “We are selling shows all over the world,” says Jennings, pointing to a couple of high-performing Shaftesbury programs, the tween drama Life With Derek (sold in 138 countries, translated into nine languages) and ReGenesis (110 countries, 15 tongues).

“When we first started going to MIPTV (a broadcast marketplace held in
Cannes during the spring) and MIPCOM (in the fall) seven or eight years ago, we didn't have a booth,” recalls Jennings, chairman and co-chief executive of 20-year-old Shaftesbury. “We were floaters. And it was tough getting meetings, because nobody really knew who we were.”

This is the third year that
Jennings has rented prime real estate to shop Shaftesbury's wares on the Riviera. And she contends that her company is so busy with meetings that she's likely going to have to find bigger space next year, when Shaftesbury expects to churn out $90-million in production volume, with a slew of new shows including The Summit, set to air on both Global and CBC and starring Christopher Plummer and Bruce Greenwood.

And Jennings – whose company last year ranked among Canada's top three production houses, with volume of $54-million – is not alone in her assertion that exports of Canadian television into global markets has never been stronger.

John Morayniss, the Los Angeles-based chairman and chief executive of Blueprint Entertainment, says that international deals are surging due to a bigger appetite for programming among U.S. cable broadcasters, domestic specialty and digital channels – and a healthier international marketplace overall.

Morayniss, whose boutique TV production shop produces such shows as Whistler, Til Death Do Us Part and The Best Years, also just returned from MIPCOM, where his firm signed up deals in a number of new territories. Whistler just got a deal in
Germany, putting it in about 60 countries. The Best Years – on Global and The Network in the United States – is just going into its second season and is sold in 40 countries.

“There's growing demand for scripted shows, both half-hour and one-hour series,” says Morayniss, adding that the half-hour Til Death Do Us Part attracted lots of attention from international broadcasters at MIPCOM, who were interested in acquiring the “format rights” to produce a local version of the show about once-happily married couples in which one of the partners ends up knocking the other off.

Mary Darling, whose WestWind Pictures produces Little Mosque on the Prairie, says there's also been many format-rights enquiries about that
CBC sitcom, which is now sold in 80 territories. She, too, has noticed an uptick in international interest for Canadian-made programs, and believes a good reason is simply that “Canadian product is getting better.

“There are also way more platforms to sell onto,” she adds. “Not everything has to be a big network deal. It can also be broadband, video on demand, direct-to-home video. There are all kinds of different ways to sell into the international marketplace that didn't exist a couple of years ago.”

According to trade magazine Playback's 19th annual report on independent production, Canadian production and development spending in 2006 rose to $1.52-billion, up from $1.26-billion in 2005. It also reported that that was the first significant increase in spending activity since 2000, when spending peaked at $1.83-billion, and then began a downward spiral to a low of $1.24-billion in 2004. In 2005, the first signs of a potential turnaround occurred, with production volume posting an increase of 2 per cent, the magazine said.

The Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) conducts its own annual survey of the Canadian industry. Its latest study – which takes into account production from
April 1, 2005, to March 31, 2006 – also found that production activity has been on the rise, noting a 6-per-cent increase to $4.8-billion. (That total includes foreign-location shooting and broadcaster in-house production, which Playback's list does not.) The top five Canadian production houses in 2006, according to the CFTPA study, were Toronto's Alliance Atlantis (estimated volume of $157-million), Vancouver's Insight Film Studios ($120.8-million), Toronto- and Los Angeles-based Blueprint ($99.7-million), Toronto's Nelvana Enterprises ($57-million) and Shaftesbury (with $54.1-million).

Michael Shepard, president of Vancouver-based distribution company Thunderbird Films, which packages and sells several Canadian shows, says it's been a great run for Canadian programming in the United States, a notoriously tough territory to crack. Shepard predicts that 2007-08 will be an even stronger season. He notes that Thunderbird has already secured national
U.S. syndication for Da Vinci's Inquest, Cold Squad, Tom Stone (about a roguish ex-cop, and now called Stone Undercover), ReGenesis and Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Da Vinci was the first show Thunderbird launched in
U.S. syndication three years ago. It now draws roughly three million viewers, and ranks 83rd of the 158 shows currently in U.S. syndication.

Stone Undercover and Cold Squad have been packaged together as a two-hour block that Shepard estimates draws over 2.5 million viewers a week. Tom Stone might not have been a huge hit on the
CBC. But this show is so easy to program,” Shepard says. “It's light. It doesn't take itself seriously. … It can go anywhere in a schedule, and it attracts a broad demographic.” (At the end of its run on the CBC, the show had a weekly audience of 260,000 to 385,000).

Things are looking up, too, for Intelligence, which Thunderbird already sells in 143 territories. Recently Fox was reported to be eyeing a remake of Chris Haddock's crime series for the American market, and has ordered a pilot from the Vancouver-based creator and his partner, John Wells.

Shaftesbury's Life With Derek, which is broadcast in the
United States on the Disney Channel, often is in the top 10 shows among viewers age 9 to 14, the only Canadian show to regularly rank above such Disney originals as the hugely popular Hannah Montana. Disney has also just picked up Shaftesbury's newest live-action kids' show. With the working title High Court, it goes into production in December.

Arnie Gelbart, whose Montreal-based company Galafilm produces shows such as the teen drama 15/Love, says Canadian programs are increasingly popular with international TV buyers because such shows are typically cheaper than American ones, but still have that “American feel about them.” Adds Gelbart, “The bottom line is, we've just become better at producing shows that people want to buy or look at.”

If there is one hitch to the saleability of Canadian TV around the world, Blueprint's Morayniss says, it's that most Canadian programs are still being sold by foreign distributors. “There is no strong Canadian international sales company currently,” he notes, adding that Alliance Atlantis used to fill that role.

“I'm seeing this growth in the number of [international] buyers and this continuing strength of Canadian programming, but we're missing a strong Canadian-based international sales company that thinks first and foremost about
Canada, and can get these shows placed in key markets, keeping the profit and programming momentum here. Wouldn't the industry benefit from a distributor who has a huge built-in loyalty to Canadian infrastructure and programming?”

Morayniss adds that such a missing link motivated Blueprint, with offices in
Toronto and Vancouver, to acquire a majority stake in Toronto's Oasis International, a global distributor of film and TV since 1991. Oasis's library includes over 3,000 hours of programming, including ReGenesis, Kenny vs. Spenny and Iggy Arbuckle.

Jennings says she's also heard many complaints from broadcasters who are tired of forking over big dough for highly touted new American shows, only to see U.S. broadcasters cancel a series after three or four episodes. “That's not to say people aren't still massively interested in what the Americans are making and doing, but they're being more cautious,” she says.

As for whether another Due South could be around the corner,
Jennings notes that “the world is changing, and it's changing for the [U.S. broadcasters] too. As producers, we're actually starting to see more openness to a discussion about getting involved in a Canadian series early on. Even if the writers' strike settles next week, I don't think the opportunity is gone.”

Shrek Returns In Christmas Special

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon

November 28, 2007) Can you feel it?  The slight spike in road rage, the surge in advertising, the nippy chill, the escalating scent of pine, the increase in twinkling lights, the shortage of public parking spaces, the free-floating anxiety you can't explain.

People, this can mean only one thing: Christmas is nearly here!

Television has always served as an early detection system for the yuletide season. And this year is no exception. So sit back, work on your gift list, gulp down some eggnog and try to pretend it's not Nov. 28.

Christmas in
Rockefeller Center (NBC, 8 tonight) is broadcast live from the Manhattan landmark. This year's telecast will be hosted by Al Roker, the ever-shrinking cataloguer of the planet's rain, sun, clouds, temperature, sleet, lightning, snow, low-pressure systems and, everybody's favourite, squalls!

Hopefully without the use of a giant blue map, the Today weatherman will introduce a number of musical performers, including Josh Groban, Céline Dion, Barry Manilow, Ashley Tisdale, Taylor Swift and American Idol star Carrie Underwood.

I have not seen a song list. But if NBC is serious about spreading joy, peace and goodwill, it will do whatever is necessary to prevent Céline from belting out "Feliz Navidad." And, please, somebody put Manilow in a headlock if he shows up with jingle bells.

Of course, the visual centrepiece of this holiday extravaganza is the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree. This year's massive specimen – it stands 84 feet tall, or roughly 109 Eva Longorias stacked on top of one another – was taken from a backyard in

Really? Let's just hope this was with the owner's permission.

"Good lord! Honey, come quick! Look at the TV! Isn't that our 60-year-old Norway Spruce that was stolen two weeks ago?"

Moving on.

Based on the classic children's book, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (
ABC, 8:30 tonight) features a Christmas-loving town called Whoville and a Christmas-hating creature named Grinch. Will the Grinch ruin the day for the Who's-Who in Whoville? Or will he be taught the true meaning of Christmas?

Kids, the moral of this story is quite simple: never trust green people. (Incidentally, if you're looking for the movie version that stars Jim Carrey,
ABC will broadcast it on Dec. 8.)

And, finally, we arrive at the night's most publicized Christmas special. Here's a clue: "Twas the night before Christmas. And not a swamp rat did creep. As mother and babe played kazoo in their sleep."

Shrek the Halls (ABC, 8 tonight) is a franchise extension of the wildly successful big-screen trilogy that prompted millions of children* to begin speaking with a Scottish accent while referring to their cats and dogs as "Donkey." (*Does not include actual Scottish children.)

As with the trilogy, tonight's special features the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz, who may have attempted to plant subliminal "Come back to me this Christmas, Justin!" messages in her dialogue.

The plot synopsis: it's Christmas Eve. And just when Shrek is poised to relax with Fiona and the kids, along comes Puss in Boots, Gingerbread Man and Donkey, each determined to put their own spin on the holiday.

So, naturally, Shrek lumbers into his tool shed. He retrieves his trusty crossbow and begins picking off his adversaries, one by one. The carnage mounts as the ogre stomps through the swamp, unleashing a string of profanities, shielding his rotund body from the squalls while searching for new targets. And when Santa tries to intervene, well, Shrek kills him too.

Actually, that last paragraph may contain several factual inaccuracies.

Am I hallucinating? I think this eggnog is bad.


'Everybody Hates Chris' Gets Syndication

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 23, 2007) *Two years before it hits syndication, the Chris Rock-produced sitcom "
Everybody Hates Chris" has been cleared for broadcast to stations representing 35% of the country and seven of the top 10 markets, reports Daily Variety.   CBS Television Distribution has struck deals with several key Fox- and CBS-owned stations to begin stripping the show in September 2009. CBS deals are said to be worth a mix of $35,000 per week in cash (along with barter ad time), while the Fox stations are giving up barter ad time only.  "Chris" will air on Fox stations in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington and Houston. The CBS stations pacting for the show are in Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta and Miami. Weigel Broadcasting's WCIU has snagged "Chris" for Chicago, while indie KAZT has bought the show in Phoenix. Roger King, CEO of CBS Television Distribution, quietly began selling "Chris" a few months ago, according to Variety. The series, based on Rock's experiences growing up in Brooklyn during the 80s, premiered on UPN in 2005 and made the transition to the CW last year. It's now in the middle of its third season.

Food Network To Cease Production Of Emeril Live

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

November 27, 2007) NEW YORK – Food Network is kicking Emeril Lagasse down a notch. The celebrity chef's Emeril Live, which has been on the air for 10 years, will cease production Dec. 11, Food Network publicist Carrie Welch told The Associated Press. "However, Emeril is under contract with Food Network," Welch said Tuesday. "We love him, we support him and look forward to a long partnership with him." Welch wouldn't comment on Lagasse's contract. Asked why the show was cancelled, she told the AP: "The only reason would be that it hit a ton of television milestones and, you know, all good things come to an end." The Food Network will continue producing Lagasse's The Essence of Emeril, and he will take part in "specials and other development opportunities in the future," Welch said. The network will also air reruns of Emeril Live. "I am deeply appreciative to all the unbelievable staff – many who have been with the show since the beginning – and all the loyal viewers, and the many talented guests who have appeared on the show through the years," Lagasse, 48, said in a statement provided by Welch. "I look forward to continuing my association with the Food Network with The Essence of Emeril, and I have lots of new ideas cooking," he said.

Tyra's 'Top Model' Tosses Twiggy

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(November 28, 2007) *Citing scheduling conflicts, 1960s supermodel
Twiggy will not return for the upcoming 10th cycle of Tyra Banks' CW program "America's Next Top Model."  The vacated seat at the judge's table will be filled by another veteran cover girl, Paulina Porizkova, when the show begins its next season. "We are thrilled to have Paulina as a part of this cycle's judging panel," ANTM executive producer Ken Mok said in a statement. "The show and participants will benefit a great deal from her vast modeling knowledge and expertise." Porizkova will join Banks, runway diva Miss J. Alexander and photographer Nigel Barker on the judging panel.  Twiggy leaves the show having put in work for five cycles. She was brought in during Cycle 5 to replace one of the original judges, Janice Dickinson. "We would like to thank Twiggy for her great contributions to the show," Mok said. "Having an icon like Twiggy lend us her considerable expertise has elevated our show to a whole new level. We wish her well in her endeavours and hope to collaborate with her in future Cycles of ANTM as well as other projects."


Browning Ready To Take Flight

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(November 24, 2007) When you realize you're going to meet
Kurt Browning, a whole bunch of numbers come to mind.

In the world of ice skating, he's been a four-time world champion, a four-time Canadian champion, a three-time Olympic team member and three-time World Professional Champion.

But now, at the age of 41, he's flying off in a new direction – literally – playing the title role in
Peter Pan, this year's family musical from Ross Petty, now in previews at the Elgin Theatre and opening officially next Friday.

The guy who bops down the street is still boyishly jaunty, with the slightly tentative spring in his step of someone who's always going to feel more comfortable on a surface that's been well-Zambonied.

For more than 20 years, he's been out there on the ice, but now he's soaring through the air with Tinker Bell as his guide.

Back in his childhood days, the Alberta-born Browning hit the blades soon after he could walk. He had his first serious coach when he was 11, but it wasn't until he was 14 that the sport really grabbed hold of him.

"I was at a seminar at the Glencoe Club in
Calgary," he recalls. "Chris Cross was singing `Sailing' in the background. I kept repeating a simple pattern – step out, present, cross over, return – and, suddenly, I went, `Wow! I feel this inside me.' That's the first time I really felt skating was more than getting from here to there."

There was no looking back. As he quickly rose to the top of the heap, everyone wondered how he did it. He laughs now when he reveals what his secret weapon was.

"When I was an amateur, it was all very straightforward. I'm going to do whatever I have to do to win, because if I don't, then somebody else will. I hated losing – no one knows what to say to you. If you win, it's so much easier.

"I was a clean, simple machine: have fun, skate hard and win."

And win he did, including an astonishing three-year stint from 1989 to 1991 when he captured both the Canadian and World Amateur Championships each year.

Then it started to go wrong. "When you start talking about all the things I've won," he says with disarming modesty, "don't ever forget that I also lost the biggest competition in the world you can lose."

Browning is referring to his 1992 ordeal at the Winter Olympics, which began with a back injury that curtailed his training process and sent him off to
Albertville, France, ill-prepared.

"I was on the world stage without a shield and a sword," he remembers. "I was vulnerable. I was injured. I shouldn't have gone. It was awful."

What did he do after his defeat?

"I went skiing with some teammates. Made a few jokes. Then I left them behind and I lay down in the snow. Tips of mountains. Puffy white clouds.
Albertville sky. I had a good little cry, then I partied really hard and the world was a beautiful place again."

Ask him if the experience damaged him permanently and his eyes flash with momentary anger. "Destroyed me? Never. A month and a half later, I came in second in the World Championship and my mother said, `Of all the medals in your life, that's my favourite because no one knows how hard you worked to get it.'"

Browning's mother died in 2000 and he keeps that medal next to a picture of her.

Ask him for the happiest time in his life and the answer comes without hesitation: "The day I filmed `Singin' in the Rain.'" (The wonderful tribute to Gene Kelly from his 1994
CBC-TV special You Must Remember This.)

All the people I trusted and loved most in the world were there. It was a really tight rink that day.

"I suddenly had the realization that something special was happening to me. I was cutting edges so deep, everything was perfect. It had nothing to do with competing or medals. It just had to do with skating."

Browning admits that now, "I'm concerned with how I'm finally going to find my way off the ice and live the rest of my life," but he looks on performing in a musical like Peter Pan as the first step.

"Singing, wow!" he gasps with awe.

"It's like living in this house for years and suddenly discovering there's a rec room in the basement with a bowling alley."

Still, he admits, "I want my sons to learn how to skate because it's just too much fun not to."

And looking back on his whole program, from top to bottom, he smiles.

"Hey, I'm proud my life will never make a Monday night movie."

T.O. Finds Her Crazy Cook Delicious

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

November 25, 2007) The hottest chef in town these days isn't Susur Lee or Mark McEwan. Nope, it's Judy Kaye, currently getting standing ovations every night at the Princess of Wales Theatre for her role as that meat-pie making maniac, Mrs. Lovett, in John Doyle's brilliant production of Sweeney Todd.

As it's Kaye's character who comes up with the idea of turning Sweeney's victims into human tourtières – and the scene where she does so rocks the theatre with laughter – it's bit of a relief to meet her over breakfast at the Senses Bakery and find her daintily nibbling on croissants.

"I just love her," says Kaye, speaking of her current alter ego. "She's pragmatic but delusional at the same time, which is a delightful combination to play."

The 59-year-old native of
Phoenix has played Lovett in many different productions opposite many different Sweeneys over the years. She pauses, sipping a latté, to calculate how many and finally concludes that Alexander Gemignani, her current leading man ("absolutely brilliant!") is lucky No. 7.

Kaye show no signs of getting bored with Lovett, especially not in Doyle's production, where the actors are also the orchestra. In fact, Kaye admits that "the first show I did of this version was the most scared I've ever been in my life. I was just poleaxed about playing the instruments."

And this is from a woman who's done some pretty challenging things in her career. She was the original superdiva, Carlotta, in the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera, played anarchist Emma Goldman when Ragtime came to New York and is the voice of private investigator Kinsey Milhone for the audio books of Sue Grafton's popular series of alphabetical mysteries (A is for Alibi, etc.).

"Yeah, I see myself as Kinsey, but I don't have her body or her youth," laughs Kaye, spearing a piece of smoked salmon with her fork. "And I eat a lot better than she does," she insists, scorning Kinsey's fondness for quarter pounders.

Kaye admits that she's been performing since childhood ("I was one of those kids out in the backyard acting, whether or not anyone was watching"), but it got serious when she was a teenager.

"I had my pivotal moment at the Phoenix Jewish Community Centre. Funny Girl had just opened on Broadway and they had me sing `I'm the Greatest Star.' I got a standing ovation and that was the end of that." She grins. "Or rather, that was the beginning of that."

She worked on the West Coast and turned down the chance to be in Three's Company opposite John Ritter and Suzanne Sommers "and I kicked myself for a while, but you know, now I'm glad I wasn't Joyce DeWitt."

Then in 1977, she signed on to be Madeline Kahn's understudy in the musical On the Twentieth Century and then found herself suddenly taking over the role when Kahn began missing too many performances.

Overnight, Kaye became the toast of Broadway and she's never looked back since, playing everything from Rosie in Mamma Mia! with Louise Pitre to the daffy Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir.

She's currently worried about the strike between stagehands and producers which has virtually shut down Broadway, saying, "I see both sides of the issue, but I think adjustments need to be made. I've been on many shows where we had flymen, but no scenery to fly.

"We've been told to take all of our stuff home every night, because they've been threatening to pull the guy from Local One in
New York who's working on our show and if he went on strike, we couldn't cross the line."

Judy Kaye and a picket line? A scary thought. I've seen the way she wields a meat cleaver. If those guys are smart, they'll end the strike soon.

Sweeney Todd continues at the Princess of
Wales until Dec. 9. For tickets call 416-872-1212 or go to www.mirvish.com

A White Christmas Dream Comes True

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(November 24, 2007) NEW
YORK–Thirteen Canadian performers recently took a bite out of The Big Apple – and found it tasted just like a sugar plum.

They're part of the cast of
White Christmas, which is currently in previews at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, prior to Friday's opening. It's based on the beloved 1954 film that starred Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye, about two showbiz partners who also happen to be World War II vets. They're out to help their former commanding officer, whose Vermont ski lodge is in trouble due to a lack of snow.

Irving Berlin wrote the songs, which include the iconic title number as well as other favourites like "Count Your Blessings."

In 2004, producer Kevin McCollum, director Walter Bobbie and a crack creative team turned the movie into a hit stage musical that has been criss-crossing America during the holiday season ever since, usually with two companies running simultaneously.

This year,
Toronto and Boston are the chosen cities, but nearly 50 per cent of the company here is Canadian, including the leading man, Peterborough's Graham Rowat. For two blissful weeks, they all got to rehearse in Manhattan.

But not just anywhere in
Gotham. These lucky Canucks were learning their tap routines and belting out their ballads at one of the most venerable addresses in show business: 890 Broadway.

From the outside, the building on the corner of
E. 19th St. may look like dozens of others in this part of the city just north of Union Square and west of Gramercy Park.

But theatre insiders know its rich history. It was bought in 1977 by director-choreographer Michael Bennett, then riding high on the success of A Chorus Line.

He turned it into a complex of studios, offices and rehearsal halls where show people could turn their craft into art. Bennett created shows like Ballroom and Dreamgirls there, finally selling it shortly before his death in 1987.

But its tradition continues and on this bright, brisk November day, the atmosphere inside is the same as it was when Jeremy Gerard described it in The New York Times 21 years ago:

"Ride the elevator at 890 Broadway on any given morning and you ride with the hope-ridden freight of the performing arts. There in its cab are hoofers and haberdashers, singers, set designers and loose-limbed lotharios, ballerinas and bankrollers, the eminent and the imminent of the stage. The doors part and, like circus performers from a trick car, they stream out into dozens of studios and workshops and green rooms and offices."

First out this morning is Jennifer Stewart, radiating with the enthusiasm that made her such a hit in the
Toronto production of Hairspray.

"Can you believe we learned the whole show in three days?" she asks, astonished at the cast's achievement. "They call it boot camp, but I've never had so much fun in my life."

Eight hours a day of non-stop tap-dancing has left Stewart with more energy than she knows what to do with and, every night, she finds herself heading down to the theatre. The current strike took place the day before they left, but until then she had managed to see 14 shows. Her favourite? Des McAnuff's The Farnsworth Invention.

Manhattan can also awaken the romantic in a girl. Since Stewart is getting married this summer (to We Will Rock You dancer Sam Strasfeld), "I walked around the upper West Side looking for my wedding dress."

Barry Flatman, playing the crusty Gen. Waverly, is a veteran of nearly 40 years of show business, having made his mark on stage, screen and television. But these two weeks in
New York have turned him into a kid again.

"I'm having the time of my life," he declares emphatically. "I love rehearsing here. There's something seeping into the walls and floorboards of the place. It's a great feeling to actually go to work on Broadway. You walk in here and it raises your game a couple of notches."

And Dora winner Paula Wolfson, while admitting she enjoys "the very different expectation and energy – learn it now, then give me a performance in seven minutes," says she still finds Manhattan "just a bit exhausting as well.

"The reason they call it `the city that never sleeps' is that it's too noisy. They're laughing, they're squawking, they're yelling. The one thing they're not, is quiet."

While the cast work a scene over and over until it's polished, McCollum leads the way down the hall to an empty rehearsal space to explain his fascination with the project.

"I was born in
Hawaii," begins the ebullient producer who also can count Rent, Avenue Q and The Drowsy Chaperone among his successes, "and the whole idea of a white Christmas was completely foreign to me.

"Then I moved to
Chicago when I was 14, experienced my first big snowfall and, shortly after that, saw White Christmas for the first time. Since then, I've always had a love affair with the material."

Although McCollum admits the piece is very much of its time (the early 1950s), he feels that that's part of its strength.

"It's built on a post-war ethic: be true to your word; take care of your own; protect your family. I think the song `Count Your Blessings' is at the centre of what this is all about.

"I think we all ought to ask what blessings we should be counting this time of year."

McCollum was surprised when Sony
CEO Dan Brambilla came to him a year ago asking to bring the show to Toronto.

"I said, `Dan, you can't afford it; your dollar is only worth 80 cents.' Well, maybe he knew something I didn't, because look at the dollar now!"

Director Bobbie stops by to wrap things up by differentiating this show from other iconic Christmas stories.

"Most other holiday tales are morality plays, where somebody who's greedy or unkind has to be taught a lesson and then reform. But that doesn't happen here.

"Our conflicts are all between well-intentioned people who misunderstand each other. They experience the little hurts we all do in our everyday lives and find a way to forgive."

And through it all, that glorious Irving Berlin score which, as Bobbie puts it, "fills your heart with warmth and romance and joy" keeps everyone happy.

Almost as if on cue, the sound of the cast drifts in from down the hall, singing the perfect song:

"May your days be merry and bright,

And may all your Christmases be white."

White Christmas plays at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts,
1 Front St. E. from now through Jan. 5. For tickets and information call


Indy Driver Dances Past Spice Girl

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Sandy Cohen, Associated Press

(November 28, 2007) LOS ANGELES– Speed trumped Spice in the
Dancing With the Stars finale last night, as Helio Castroneves upset Melanie Brown to capture the fifth Dancing With the Stars mirrorball trophy.

"It will look so good between my two Indy 500 trophies," Castroneves said.

Later he admitted he was "shocked" by the victory: "I was not expecting it. Mel, she's an incredible dancer.''

Indeed, Brown was by far the more polished performer, consistently wowing the judges with her versatility and flair. She and her partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, entered the finals in first place, one point ahead of Castroneves and Julianne Hough.

Both couples received perfect scores of 30 from the judges in their final dances last night. But Castroneves' personality and enthusiasm, plus an effortless quickstep on his final performance, earned enough viewer votes to win.

Losing "was a horrible feeling," Brown admitted. "I'm not going to deny it.''

Hough also had won last season's competition, with speed skater Apollo Anton Ohno..

Earlier last night, as expected, Marie Osmond was the first finalist to be eliminated.

Osmond and her partner, Jonathan Roberts, came into the finals in third place after a doll-inspired freestyle routine panned by judges and bloggers alike.

Osmond, 48, had enjoyed strong viewer support throughout the hit show's fifth season while enduring the death of her father and fainting on stage.

The show "gave me something that I knew was solid, something I can count on," she said in a segment recorded before she was ousted. "It's been one of the best experiences of my life.''

ABC show began with a dozen dancers.

Model-actress Josie Maran was the first to be eliminated. Other nixed contestants were actresses Sabrina Bryan, Jennie Garth and Jane Seymour, entrepreneur Mark Cuban, entertainer Wayne Newton (who appeared last night but did not perform), boxer Floyd Mayweather, actor Cameron Mathison (who took off his shirt after his last dance last night) and model Albert Reed.

The night's finale also featured Céline Dion performing two songs, "My Heart Will Go On" and "Taking Chances."


Riders Quench Cup Thirst

Excerpt from
www.thestar.com - Sports Reporter

November 26, 2007) James Johnson was too small to play high school football. He didn't participate in any sport.

But, before a sellout crowd of 52,230 at the Rogers Centre, he stood mighty tall last night for the
Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The 5-foot-7, 198-pounder from
Los Angeles played a giant role in the Roughriders' 23-19 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers that ended an 18-year Grey Cup dry spell and earned him the 95th edition of the game's most valuable player award.

Johnson picked off three of inexperienced Bombers quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie's passes, including one for a 30-yard touchdown, as the Riders prevailed in a Grey Cup that was far from classic.

The Riders went in as 10-point favourites, but for much of the game they looked like the underdogs as quarterback Kerry Joseph spent a lot of time fleeing the relentless
Winnipeg pass rushers and often lying on the turf shaking out the cobwebs after taking a hit.

But while the Riders' offence struggled with Joseph completing only 13 of 34 passes for 184 yards, the defence took advantage of Dinwiddie, who had the huge task of making his first professional start in the CFL's championship match, replacing the Bombers' No.1 pivot, Kevin Glenn, who broke his arm in the East final win over the

They also nullified any threat of the Bombers countering the loss of Glenn with a strong ground attack, holding Charles Roberts to 47 yards on 13 carries.

Early in the fourth quarter, Joseph found receiver Andy Fantuz, the former
University of Western Ontario Mustangs star, who was named the game's outstanding Canadian, with a 29-yard pass for a TD to finally give the Riders some breathing room with a 23-14 lead.

Still the Bombers came back with a safety and a field goal to close the gap to four points. It wasn't until Johnson made his Cup-record third interception with less than a minute remaining that it was certain that Earl Grey's goblet would be returning to
Regina for the first time since 1989.

Johnson explained that the Bombers' strategy was to put a lot of pressure on Dinwiddie, who completed 15 of 33 passes for 225 yards, to force him out of the pocket.

"We knew we had a young quarterback in there, so we wanted to move around and mix things up and it paid off," he said. "We kinda had him moving around.

"I could see him looking at what he wanted to do. (Milt) Stegall was his go-to guy, his blanket, so I was jumping it every time I got."

The 27-year-old Johnson sat in the post-game press conference with 15-month-old son Desmond, the youngest of his three children, on his lap, while his wife, Angela, and mother, Lisa, looked on proudly.

He said he finally decided to play football when he went to
West L.A. Junior College in 2001.

"I tried to play running back because I was more of a let-me-have-the-ball kind of guy," he said. "The coach said I wasn't big enough for that. So he told me to go over with the DBs. But they had already issued the pads, so I was probably one of the only guys out there without pads trying to make the team."

After two years of junior college, he sat out the 2003 season because he couldn't get a university scholarship. But the following year,
Arkansas State finally came through with financial help and Johnson spent the next three years there before signing with the Riders.

The game had a rather bizarre Grey Cup first when Bombers head coach Doug Berry attempted to challenge a challenge. The Riders had challenged an official's call that they had been stopped on a third-and-one attempt, but the ruling was overturned by referee Glen Johnson after viewing the video, giving the Riders a first down. So
Berry tossed out his own flag, challenging that decision. For that he was assessed a delay of game penalty, putting the Riders at the five and they went on to kick a field goal.

The game most likely was the last of Stegall's playing career. While a Grey Cup championship eluded him, the future hall-of-fame receiver didn't go out with a whimper. He was the game's leading receiver with five catches for 85 yards.

President Going, Pinball Next?

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rick Matsumoto, Sports Reporter

(November 27, 2007) The Argonauts will be without a team president by the end of the week.

That's when
Keith Pelley, who has held that position since 2003 when Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon purchased the team, departs to pursue his new job as president of the CTV/Rogers consortium which has purchased the mass media rights for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

And it won't be until next week when the owners will find out if they'll have to look for a new head coach as well.

That's when
Michael Clemons is expected to reveal his decision.

Pelley, who has been instrumental in rebuilding the floundering franchise, said yesterday that he doesn't expect the
Argos to have his replacement in place by the time he leaves office.

"They are still having dialogue with several people," he said. "David is away this week and nothing will happen until his return. I don't expect they'll have someone in place before the middle of December or the beginning of January."

Pelley also revealed that one of his final acts as Argo president will be to meet with Clemons this week. But he added that no action would be taken if the popular head coach decides to leave until Cynamon returns.

While it has been speculated that Clemons is ready to step down as head coach to pursue other endeavours, including the running of his newly-formed foundation, he has maintained he will not make a final decision until he sits down and discusses the matter thoroughly with his wife Diane.

As recently as last Thursday, when the latest report surfaced that he had decided to re-sign, Clemons called the story "asinine" and stressed emphatically he hadn't even had the opportunity to have his annual post-season meeting with his wife because of her involvement in organizing a Grey Cup week Gospel concert.

Another rumour that general manager Adam Rita was headed to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the same capacity, was also discounted.

Pelley confirmed that Ticat president Scott Mitchell had requested permission to speak to Rita.

Asked if he'd denied Mitchell's request, Pelley would only say, "I'm confident Adam Rita will be a member of the Argo family for many years to come.''

Rita said yesterday he was inundated with questions about whether he was leaving for
Hamilton during Grey Cup week.

"All I know is I'm an Argo and always expect to be," he said. "Yes, a guy in my profession has to take a look if an opportunity comes along, but my intention is to stay with the
Argos. I've always expected this would be my final stop in this business.''

Meanwhile, former Argo GM and coach Bob O'Billovich confirmed he's interested in the Ticat job left vacant by the firing of Marcel Desjardins. He said he met with Mitchell over the Grey Cup weekend.

O'Billovich has worked as the B.C. Lions' director of player personnel since 2003 and has been credited with bringing in such outstanding players as running back Joe Smith and defensive end Cameron Wake, who last week was named the CFL's top defensive player and rookie of the year.

"The only job I'd be interested in is general manager in either
Hamilton or Toronto," said O'Billovich. "I've got a good situation with B.C."

Other CFL positions available include the head coaching jobs with the Montreal Alouettes and Calgary Stampeders.

There have been calls for Jim Popp to drop the head coach half of his duel GM/head coach roles with the Alouettes after they struggled to a 8-10 record.

Calgary it is rumoured that John Hufnagel will be named head coach, replacing Tom Higgins, who resigned two weeks ago.


Slim Your Butt & Hips

By Joyce Vedral, eDiets Contributor

You've heard it before: "wide load," "child-bearing hips," "big butt!" Well, you can hone down that out-of-control rump if you're willing to work out just a little bit every other day. But, wait… It gets even better! While you're at it, you can tone your flag-waving triceps and hamstrings (back of your legs).

How can you do this? You do special exercises that attack two body parts at a time. It saves time and prevents boredom. I find that working the hip-butt area can be boring.

One of my favourite ways to work fat off the hips and butt is to do two-for-one hip-butt exercises.

For example, why not get your hamstrings toned while zapping your hips and butt? And why not tighten those flag-waving arms (the triceps) while melting down your hips and butt? This makes me more motivated to work out, especially on days when I really don't feel like disturbing my lazy tranquility. And yes, like everybody else, I have those days.

The following two "double whammy" exercises will go a long way toward getting rid of your plump rump -- and at least it gives you a good start by the holidays. As I said, you will also make headway on your hamstrings and arms. So let's get started!

Butt & Hamstring Toning Hack Squat.

Position: Stand with your feet a natural-width apart, holding a broomstick or barbell behind your back (see start photo).

Movement: Bend at the knees to a comfortable position, not more than your knees can go and not more than thighs parallel to the floor. Flexing your butt, hips and back thighs, rise to start position and repeat the movement until you have done 12 repetitions. Without resting move to the next exercise.

Butt/Hip & Triceps Toning Floor Lift

Position: Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you, and your arms at your sides, elbows bent. (See start photo.)

Flexing your triceps and hip muscles as you go, lift yourself off the floor by straightening your arms not quite fully. Flex your triceps and hip/butt area an extra time, and return to start position. Repeat until you have done 12 repetitions.

Repeat the sequence two more times. This little routine will take no more than five minutes and goes a long way toward getting your butt, along with your hamstrings and arms in shape! To get there faster, it's a good idea to add more exercises for this area and for the rest of your body!

For more exercises and advice on toning, visit Joyce at www.joycevedral.com.


Motivational Note - You Gotta Dream…

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Willie Jolley, Host of the “Willie Jolley Show” on XM 169 –The Power!

Just as everything in life that grows is the result of a seed, the same is true for your dreams.  Dreams are the starting point for success, the seed for success.  If you take a corn seed, plant it and water it daily, it will grow into an oak tree.  The same is true for your dreams.  If you can conceive the dream in your mind, plant it in your heart, and water it daily, then it, too, will grow.  How do you water it?  You water it by saying daily, “I believe I can, I believe I can, in fact I know I can.” Plant your dream deep, water it daily, and don’t let the weeds of doubt choke it, and your dream can and will become a reality. Willie Jolley is
America’s “Premier Celebrity Speaker, Singer and Author” and was recently inducted into the Speakers Hall Of Fame.  Visit www.williejolley.com for FREE Motivation and Information on his Hot New “Money Making Music and Motivation” Program designed to Grow Your Faith, Your Future and Your Finances!”