April 24, 2008
Good April day to you all! I have a positive update on Haydain Neale of jacksoul below. Please check it out. And there is also some good news for those that like Caribana!
I've also got some pics for you from the VIP Jam last Monday in my PHOTO GALLERY - if you were there, you know how great it was - we really are lucky to live in such a great country with the mega talents that we have here!
Let's get right to the news so scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
Haydain Neale Trust Fund Launched
(April 15, 2008) We would like to first of all, thank everyone for their continued support. We have been very touched by all the thoughts, prayers, e-mails and letters received from both friends and fans. It has been a long road over these past 8 months but Haydain continues to improve each week. His injuries immediately following the accident were very severe and as a result he was unconscious for a number of weeks. Since then Haydain has left the hospital and is now in a rehabilitation setting. Every day he has nothing but the best therapy and, in true 'Haydain' fashion, approaches his recovery whole-heartedly and with a positive sarcasm. We still have a long road ahead of us but we are confident that his positive rehabilitation will continue. We encourage everyone to continue sending notes and check this website for any updates. Many people have asked if there is anything they could do to help. The outpouring of ideas and offers have been tremendous and, in hopes of consolidating all the generosity, we have set up an official trust to aid in Haydain's rehabilitation. We are also working to release a new 'Jacksoul' song that was recorded not long before the accident. You will be able to find more information on both initiatives on this website.
Finally, we would like to thank all of our friends and the various doctors, therapists and caregivers that have been amazing through the entire recovery. We will not forget you.
Haydain, Michaela, Yasmin and Family
Haydain Neale Family Trust
Many thanks to all who sent messages, thoughts, and prayers for Haydain and his family. If you would like to make a donation to the Haydain Neale Family Trust, please visit any RBC location or use PayPal directly from the link below. Thanks again to everyone for their support!
The Revolution Starts at Home
(April 18, 2008) A feature documentary about how the family household has become one of the most ferocious environmental predators of our time.
Concerned for the future of his new baby boy Sebastian, writer director Andrew Nisker takes an average urban family, the McDonalds, and asks them to keep every scrap of garbage that they create for three months. He then takes them on a journey to find out where it all goes and what it’s doing to the world.
From organic waste to the stuff they flush down the potty, the plastic bags they use to the water they drink out of bottles, the air pollution they create when transporting the kids around, to using lights at Christmas, the McDonalds discover that for every action there is a reaction that affects them and the entire planet.
Everyday life under a microscope has never been so revealing. By the end of this trashy odyssey, you are truly inspired to revolutionize your lifestyle for the sake of future generations.
In Garbage!, filmmaker Andrew Nisker, skilfully and succinctly puts all of the information in one place – shifting the movement from melting glaciers and oil slicks to our neighbourhoods and into our homes, so that average people can connect the dots between their actions and the environment and be inspired to change their polluting ways
From the filmmaker: Official website | Trailer | Buy the DVD
Get Creative For Cash: Rap Edition
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Les Seaforth (Alias More Or Les), Special To The Star
(April 20, 2008) Earlier this week the Canadian Press reported that out of 43 musicians who received federal grants last year, only four were hip-hop artists. Is the system stacked against them? We asked a veteran rapper to share some wisdom.
Often described as music that dominates Canadian record sales and radio play, rap is a huge money-making genre ... for major music labels whose parent companies are based in the United States. For people trying to make music here, it's a different story. Being a Canadian rapper means never having to say you're rich.
But I don't speak from a place of bitterness (much); it's just reality. Under the name More Or Les, I've been a professional emcee since 1992 (the first time someone put cash in my hand for rhyming "material" with "cereal" in front of strangers), turning an afterschool activity into something that almost pays decently.
It's a challenge most Canadian artists face. With a smaller population than the U.S., a lack of infrastructure for urban music development and very few independent or major labels offering (or able to offer) monetary advances for music and video creation, the Canadian rapper must get crafty and create promotional, performance and financial opportunities for himself.
And crafty I have been; hip-hop creators often insist that the core of their culture is to do things differently from what mainstream society expects. I've performed at the World Cycling Championships, Second City, the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place and the North York Central Library as a part of well-attended, decent-paying shows where you would typically not expect to find a rapper.
Add to that being the only rapper on the zine-writers' Perpetual Motion Roadshow tour, and taking it upon myself to busk (read: me, mic, iPod, speaker, cash box, CDs, rapping) on the Queen St. W. sidewalk, and you have someone who has learned to find opportunities.
Enter: grants and loans. Offered by provincial, federal and private organizations, grant and loan programs differ almost as much as the music. You can find programs to cover costs for video-making, recording, production, touring and product duplication (CDs and vinyl), as well as items some rappers overlook, like marketing, promotions, travel to and attendance of music conferences, and writing. Imagine someone paying you to write lyrics! To some folks, that's getting paid before "getting paid."
Grant and loan bodies available to Toronto rappers include FACTOR (which assists on recording and video expenses) and its visual equivalent VideoFACT; the Ontario Arts Council; PromoFACT; and the Toronto Arts Council. They all have websites, occasionally have information seminars, and some even have staff available on the phone to answer any questions.
But I would not call this "free money." Even though I have received funding through the Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council and recently from FACTOR, it did not come easily.
It took me a while to discover, understand and apply for funding – several times. And there is work involved; it's more than just filling out a form. I've seen artists scoff at that, thinking they should be able to submit their music and get a cheque. But all of these organizations have criteria that must be met; all the Is must be dotted, all the Ts crossed; and most importantly, your project must be creative, professional and logical, regardless of genre. And this detail can work to an artist's advantage in other ways: you might get your work seen and/or heard by organizations not interested in funding rap specifically if you present it in a way that fits their criteria.
Just like artists, the people working in these organizations want to be proud of the product they're giving money to. In talking to members of some of the above-mentioned organizations, I have found them genuinely interested in the music they fund. As they should be: successful projects enable them to get more funding from their sources to give to you. So use the money for what you outline in your application as best you can – buying beers with your grant money hurts more than your liver.
What should be a bigger concern is that rappers are perhaps not aware these opportunities exist.
There's no guarantee that telling people to do their research and ask questions will generate results (especially since they become my competition if they succeed), but artists need to do just that to see what's available to them.
And if grant and loan bodies can reach out to the community more (for example, FACTOR has a monthly open mic and info session), they stand to increase their presence on the urban music landscape, perhaps get more high-quality clients and help to build the "hip hop community" often spoken about but hard to quantify in this country.
More Or Les performs May 15 at Reverb.
Source: L3 Publicity
(Apr. 18, 2008) London, UK - The Reggae I-Tunes group from the United Kingdom has launched www.reggaeitunes.com which is a full service website that allows visitors access to feature news, reviews, previews, event listings, chat rooms, reggae forums, and samples from international reggae artists as well as independent artists and labels from around the world. In addition to the latest in news content, visitors will have the option to watch online TV that's populated with music video's and on-camera interviews from the Reggae I-Tunes cast and crew from international events such as stage shows and festivals along with free online internet radio broadcasting some of the best Reggae music on the internet.
"This has been some time in the making, and we are pleased with the launch of the site. The people told us that they wanted a full service website, and we are happy to deliver. It is our intent to provide them with the best experience, while generating revenue for and from our viable industry," said Steven Angus, President and CEO of Reggae I-Tunes. Reggae I-Tunes also has a radio station component, which allows listeners to tune in from around the world to hear a diverse mix of Reggae music from their extensive and growing music library.
As well as a number of distribution and marketing services available, Reggae I-Tunes will also operate an online store, which will allow visitors to purchase the music they hear, with a portion of the sales paid directly to the artist and producer. Visitors will also be able to purchase other digital products including videos and event tickets.
Gets $300,000 Budget Boost
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw
(April 22, 2008) Toronto's exuberant Caribana summer festival got a sizable boost to its budget and its reputation from the provincial government yesterday, as organizers unveiled new events and locations for this year's revamped instalment.
Ontario MPP Jim Brownell announced a $300,000 grant from the Ministry of Tourism to help market the event, renamed Scotiabank Caribana after receiving its first six-figure private title sponsorship. The additional funds are expected to be ease the burden of perennially cash-strapped organizers.
After drawing 1.2 million revellers last year, organizers were expecting up to $1.7-million in grants, sponsorships and gate revenue this year. The new cash infusion should bring the festival's total revenue to nearly $2-million, vastly increasing the likelihood of balancing the books.
"We are always on a very, very tight budget so this $300,000 will definitely help," said Eddison Doyle, CFO and COO of the Festival Management Committee. "More money is always good to have, and we are always thankful for amounts like these. But we certainly [still] don't have enough."
Mr. Doyle also thinks the grant signals increased provincial confidence in the responsible operations of the Festival Management Committee, now in its third year at the helm. Echoing Mr. Doyle was City Council's Caribana liaison, Joe Mihevc, who praised the committee for the event's maturation under their watch.
"It started as a small community event, it had its growing pains, but the last few years we've really noticed a breakthrough. We've really noticed a higher level of organization, a higher level of professionalism," he said.
The city and province already contribute $436,000 each, and the federal government $100,000 more. The festival has enlisted the help of 14 other sponsors, including Tourism Toronto and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and relies heavily on gate revenue from ticketed events.
Planners are also reaching out to the city's other cultural festivities. Caribana will feature in the Luminato festival's water-themed finale, entitled "Luminat'eau," and a plan is under way to team Caribana with Toronto's premier Latin festival, Salsa on St. Clair, which attracts more than 250,000 people annually.
"This year will be the first step of a multiyear plan to create a powerful one-two punch in support of tourism in this great city, cultural productions, our local arts scene and a celebration of a really good time," said John Montesano, vice-president and general manager of Latin television network TLN.
The Royal Ontario Museum, another sponsor, which provided the backdrop for yesterday's announcement, will hold this year's art exhibition, which relocates from the Distillery District and boasts a "Roots to Rhythm" theme.
Other highlights include the new Calypso Tent Music Series, which offers performances each weekend starting in June, and a return to Olympic Island for De Caribana Lime, a full day of Caribbean food and performances in song, dance, drama and storytelling.
The festival is scheduled from July 15 to Aug. 3, with the centrepiece parade Aug. 2.
Summer festival standouts
Doors Open Toronto:
Luminato: June 6-15
Pride Week: June 20-29
TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival: June 20-29
Canada Day Festival of Fire: June 28-July 5
The Fringe of Toronto Theatre Festival: July 2-13
Caribana Festival & Parade: July 15-August 3
Taste of the Danforth:
Canadian National Exhibition: Aug. 15-Sept. 1
view of the Grand Canyon
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dan Leeth, Special To The Star
(April 12, 2008) GRAND CANYON, ARIZ.–A canyon wren greets the dawn, its call a descending scale of flute-like notes. Eyes open to the sight of distant palisades blushing in the morning sun. Here at the canyon bottom, a kilometre below the rim, shadows linger well into the morning.
One by one, campers crawl from sleeping bags, grab mugs and head toward the aroma of coffee and pancakes. Beside them flows the Colorado River, a football-field-wide channel of muddy-brown liquid. The nearby current mildly laps the bank, but a quarter-mile downstream, the ominous roar of rapids reverberates from riverside cliffs.
Stunning confines, tasty cuisine and the promise of coming cataracts – another day begins in the depths of Arizona's Grand Canyon.
Every year, more than four million tourists stand at the canyon's edge and gape at its cliffs and chasms, shapes, shades and shadows. A mere 25,000 gaze back annually from below.
Instead of expansive grandeur, folks at the bottom experience a corridor filled with intimate colours, textures, sights, sounds and smells.
Riverside landforms vary from sheer cliffs to tumbling slopes and skirted terraces. Surprises abound. Springs gush from cliffside caves, waterfalls tumble over desert bluffs and tributary canyon slots lead to emerald grottos.
Willows and tamarisks shade sandy benches. Coyotes, deer, and desert bighorn roam streamside flats. Other than a pair of foot bridges near Phantom Ranch, the only marks of humankind are historic.
"There are not many places in North America where you can go for 18 days on a river trip and not go through communities," observes part-time river guide Matt Claman. "This is a very long stretch of uninterrupted river travel that also happens to have a lot of whitewater."
The Grand Canyon offers over 150 named rapids. They range in scale from wavy churners to frothing maelstroms sporting waves higher than houses and holes that could swallow a Hummer. Bounding, bouncing and bashing through one of these can be a puckering endeavour.
Most river trippers hurdle through the canyon's cataracts on pontoon rafts powered by pistons. The rigs stretch around 10 metres in length and can hold 15 or more people plus guides. Gear, food, fuel, spare engine and generally enough adult beverages to open a streamside speakeasy get strapped on top.
These floating motor coaches travel at around 13 km/h, giving gas-powered trips the advantage of speed. Passengers can traverse the length of the canyon in six days, with optional seven- and eight-day journeys available to those wanting more time for side-canyon exploration.
Motor rigs plough through whitewater, treating passengers to an amusement park-like, drenching ride. Riders, especially those near the bow, feel the thrill as waves of water pour over them. Because of their power and size, motor rafts seldom flip.
Motorized trips have their disadvantages. There's the din of engine noise, and those sitting near the back smell the exhaust. Guide interaction is limited. Scenery passes quickly and the shortness of the trips and size of the groups make it difficult to get to know fellow passengers.
"People go back to their cliques and families," observes Ryan Zimmer of Wilderness River Adventures. "You have a few people who mingle, but not many."
Then there's the speed itself. Some think that even eight days in the bottom of the canyon is not enough time. For them, commercial outfitters offer longer, muscle-powered alternatives.
The most common go-slow options employ oar-powered, inflatable rafts.
Floating at half the speed of piston-powered rigs, a full-canyon oar journey takes a dozen days or more. The unhurried pace allows more time for absorbing the majesty of the canyon. Vacations become experiences.
"You get people who come down here for 16 to 18 days and it's a completely different experience," says guide Bill Bruchak. "They become part of the place and end up taking it with them. That's what boatmen call `getting it.'"
If motor rigs are the river's busses, these are its minivans. The rafts carry four to six passengers each plus an oarsman. Chummy seating and lack of engine noise gives guides the opportunity to share natural history, human history and a few tall tales from their own canyon history.
Their smaller size and lower-slung seating make oar-powered rafts feel more exciting in heavy whitewater. Although it happens infrequently, they will flip more easily than their motorized brethren. Fortunately, they are far easier to turn back, sunny-side up.
For those who think that watching a guide do the work is too sedentary, a number of companies offer paddle rafts. Passengers wielding plastic paddles provide the locomotion while guides bark instructions. Success in the whitewater depends on strength and teamwork.
Of course, paddle rafting is not for the unfit. With 364 kilometres to cover, upper body muscles get a Bengay-worthy workout.
Paddling a rapid can be exciting but when it comes to whitewater, few rides compare to those provided by dories. Invented in the 1960s, these wood and fibreglass vessels carry four passengers and an oarsman. They are broad on the bottom and feature upturned ends with pointed bows and sterns. Costly, colourful and classic, dories are the sports cars of commercial river running.
They are also somewhat rare. Of the canyon's 16 outfitters, only two (Grand Canyon Dories and Grand Canyon Expeditions) offer dory trips.
The most manoeuvrable commercial craft on the river, a dory's hard sides, sharp bow and rocker-shaped hull allow it to carve its way through a rapid like a Ferrari twisting down a race track. Guides carefully plot routes. Unlike rubber rafts that bounce off boulders, when a dory smacks a rock, holes can result. Most are easily patched with fibreglass and epoxy.
Dories are also the most prone to tipping, and the easiest to right. To help keep the boats from going bottoms-up, passengers learn to lean into waves. After a rapid, they bail out the boat.
The fun of a run can be measured by the inches of liquid sloshing in the foot wells.
Grand Canyon float trips are not for everyone. Nights are spent camping on sandy benches. Shelter comes in two-person tents, which you erect yourself.. Mattresses are foam pads, and bedding is a sleeping bag.
The bathroom consists of a military-surplus ammo can topped with a toilet seat, and the only bathing facility is the 7C river. There are bugs, bats, snakes, scorpions, rodents and the occasional skunk to contend with, along with ample blasts of wind, rain and heat.
Cell phones don't work at the bottom of the canyon, and there's no TV, WiFi, Internet, or even electricity to recharge an iPod. In the world of interconnectivity, it's a disengaging getaway.
On the other hand, most commercial trips provide guide-cooked dining with menus featuring fresh foods through trips' end. Experienced river runners share knowledge, stories and song.
Hikes lead to waterfalls and pools nearly impossible to reach by any other means. Sunsets paint the sky pink, and starlit nights are simply stellar.
Best of all, the river provides an ideal venue for testing limits, challenging fear or just contemplating the meaning of life.
"The greatest thing for me being down here is just seeing how it affects different people," says Wilderness River Adventures guide Paul "Okie" Jones, "and trying to see how it has affected me."
Whether motor or muscle-powered, the experience is not soon forgotten.
Dan Leeth is a freelance writer based in Aurora, Colo.
Just the facts
When: Spring weather may be unstable and temperatures can range from pleasantly warm to downright cold. The river is most crowded in summer, with groups adjoining camps. Days can be scorching. Late summer-early fall brings cooler temperatures and generally more stable weather.
Outfitters: A list of the 16 companies licensed to operate in the Grand Canyon may be obtained from the Contact Grand Canyon National Park or the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association. Full-canyon trips range from six to 18 days and cost $2,000 to $5,000 U.S. or more.
Outfitters generally provide camping gear and dry bags free or at a nominal rental fee. Most companies offer half-canyon trips of 3 to 5 days with a takeout or put-in at Phantom Ranch, at the bottom of the Inner Gorge. The only option to hiking is to arrange for mule transport.
Shorter trips: Colorado River Discovery offers half- and full-day trips down the river from Glen Canyon Dam to Lees Ferry. Prices run $70-145.
At the western end of the canyon, the Hualapai tribe (www.destinationgrandcanyon.com/runners.html) offers one-day, white-water float trips downstream from Diamond Creek. Cost is $249 plus a $79 transportation fee.
Information: To learn more about the Grand Canyon, contact the National Park Service or the Grand Canyon River Outfitters Association.
For more visiting the Grand Canyon State, contact the Arizona Office of Tourism.
Festival Line-up Boasts New Venues, Variety
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(April 22, 2008) The 22nd edition of the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival will be a diverse musical spread with 10 more locations than last year.
Having earlier announced that soul music legend Al Green would kick off the 10-day, 12-night event, organizers revealed the participation of other exciting vocalists – Lizz Wright, Susan Tedeschi, Salif Keita, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Nikki Yanofsky, James Hunter and Ernestine Anderson – at The Pilot Tavern yesterday.
Joining the elite pianists – Dave Brubeck, Ahmad Jamal, Michel Legrand and Oliver Jones – already advertised for the Grandmasters Series are Renee Rosnes, Cyrus Chestnut, Geri Allen and Dr. John.
Sax fans will be enticed by Charles Lloyd, Maceo Parker and Houston Pearson individually, but the unique Alto Summit – designed specially for Toronto with Red Holloway, Donald Harrison, Greg Osby and Bobby Watson – will have them downright agog.
The flavourful musical palette includes contemporary California swing band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Nigeria's Toby Foyeh & Orchestra Africa, Sweden's Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Cuban trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval and American funk bassist Marcus Miller.
Boundary-pushing acts include Philly hip-hop producer RJD2, the 18-piece Bjorkestra, which fuses the music of Bjork with "innovative stylistic and improvisatory concepts drawn from modern jazz and beyond," and a cappella group Naturally 7.
Trumpeter Roy Hargrove, guitarists Mike Stern and John Scofield return, while bluesman John Hammond and French bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons make their festival debuts.
The June 20-29 event will utilize 40 venues, from St. Timothy's Anglican Church to The Old Mill Inn and Enwave Theatre, including several first-time spots: The Drake Hotel Lounge, Diesel Playhouse and Supermarket.
Organizers are also premiering a Toronto Jazz Festival Orchestra to perform with the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Find full schedule and ticket information at tojazz.com or 416-870-8000.
R&B Star Al Wilson
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(April 23, 2008) *Soul singer Al Wilson, best known for his 1973 No. 1 hit "Show and Tell," died Monday of kidney failure at a hospital in Southern Calif., according to reports. He was 68. Wilson died in a hospital in Fontana, a city about 50 miles east of Los Angeles, said the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. A native of Meridian, Miss., Wilson was 12 when he began his musical career singing in the church choir and leading his own quartet. In high school, he moved with his family to San Bernardino, Calif., where he worked as a mailman, janitor and office clerk while teaching himself to play drums. After high school, he toured with the group Johnny Harris and the Statesmen before joining the Navy and singing with an enlisted men's chorus. After two years in the service, Wilson relocated to Los Angeles and began working the local nightclub circuits before joining several R&B vocal groups: first The Jewels, then The Rollers and eventually instrumental combo The Souls. In 1966, Wilson signed to the Soul City label and two years later had his first hit, "The Snake." Several minor hits followed, including Do What You Gotta Do," his cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi" and Rivers' own "Poor Side Of Town." "Show and Tell" spent one week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hit 100 singles chart in January 1974. The romantic ballad was written and produced by songwriter Jerry Fuller, and first recorded by Johnny Mathis. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
Al Wilson, 68
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press
(April 23, 2008) FONTANA, Calif. — Al Wilson, the soul singer and songwriter who had a number of 1970s hits including Show and Tell and The Snake has died. He was 68. Wilson died Monday of kidney failure at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fontana, according to his son, Tony Wilson of Yucaipa, Calif. “He was always singing,” his son said. “He would call me in the middle of the night with a new song that he had written.” Wilson was born on June 19, 1939, in Meridian, Miss. He sang in the church choir as a boy and had his own spiritual singing quartet. His family moved to San Bernardino in 1958 and he found work as a mail carrier, office clerk and janitor. He toured for four years with the group Johnny (Legs) Harris and the Statesmen before joining the U.S. Navy. After a two-year stint, he moved to Los Angeles and played with the Jewels and their successor group, the Rollers. A drummer, he also worked with the instrumental group the Souls. In 1966, he was spotted by manager Marc Gordon, who introduced him to singer Johnny Rivers, who signed him to his Soul City label. Wilson's first single, The Snake in 1968, was a hit and was followed by Do What You Gotta Do. Show and Tell was released in 1973 and the next year was No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. Wilson charted with several other 1970s singles, including La La Peace Song, I've Got a Feeling (We'll Be Seeing Each Other Again) and Count the Days. In later years, he continued to tour clubs in Los Angeles and elsewhere. In addition to his son, Wilson leaves his wife, Patricia; daughters Alene Harris and Sharon Burley; a brother, Eddie Wilson; sisters Lottie Ross, Ruby Conyers and Maebell Cole, and 13 grandchildren.
Clive Davis No Longer 'The
Man' At Sony BMG
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(April 18, 2008) *Wow, we didn't see this one coming, but in a shake-up that reflects the music business as it exists now, legendary music man, Clive Davis is being shuffled off to another post.
The move is also a nod to the new realities facing the music industry: keeping costs in check amidst declining sales.
On Thursday, Sony BMG Music Entertainment said that Davis would give up his corporate role as head of its BMG division and control of its RCA Label Group for a new creative post.
Barry Weiss, the chief of the company’s Zomba Label Group, will become chairman and chief executive of the BMG Label Group, overseeing RCA and Zomba, and an array of artists like Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, OutKast and Kelly Clarkson, reports the NY Times.
As the world knows, Davis, 76, is revered for his ability to find and develop hit artists. His latest in a long line, which includes Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys, is British singer Leona Lewis, who's currently number one on the singles chart.
But developing artists and creating hits the way Davis does comes with an expensive price tag. In short, making expensive videos and launching pricey marketing campaigns are no longer business as usual. Sony BMG’s decision to promote Mr. Weiss underscores the idea that hits alone cannot save the industry.
Weiss, 49, who also personally oversees many of his artists’ creative decisions, has enjoyed his share of chart success with acts like Chris Brown and T-Pain. But he also has a reputation for tightly managing expenses, and being savvier about the digital revolution. T-Pain’s hits, for example, have had considerable success as ring tones, the kind of high-margin, low-glamour products that are becoming more important to labels’ bottom lines.
Davis will continue to work with some acts and report directly to the Sony BMG chief executive, Rolf Schmidt-Holz.
“The business is under tremendous pressure, and it’s very tough to maintain profits as they were in preceding years,” said Danny Goldberg, a former record company president who now runs the management firm Gold Village Entertainment. “So it’s clarifying that they would turn to Barry Weiss, who is on the one hand responsible for signing talent and on the other hand has shown a discipline about cost-cutting.”
Hmm, there goes Clive's annual Grammy bash.
Springsteen's Keyboardist, Danny Federici, Dead
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(April 18, 2008) NEW YORK–Danny Federici, the longtime keyboard player for Bruce Springsteen whose stylish work helped define the E Street Band's sound on hits from "Hungry Heart" through "The Rising,'' died Thursday. He was 58.
Federici, who had battled melanoma for three years, died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. News of his death was posted late Thursday on Springsteen's official Web site.
He last performed with Springsteen and the band last month, appearing during portions of a March 20 show in Indianapolis.
"Danny and I worked together for 40 years – he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much ... we grew up together," Springsteen said in a statement posted on his Web site.
Springsteen concerts scheduled for Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Saturday in Orlando were postponed.
Federici was born in Flemington, N.J., a long car ride from the Jersey shore haunts where he first met kindred musical spirit Springsteen in the late 1960s. The pair often jammed at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park, N.J., a now-defunct after-hours club that hosted the best musicians in the state.
It was Federici, along with original E Street Band drummer Vini Lopez, who first invited Springsteen to join their band.
By 1969, the self-effacing Federici – often introduced in concert by Springsteen as "Phantom Dan" – was playing with the Boss in a band called Child. Over the years, Federici joined his friend in acclaimed shore bands Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom and the Bruce Springsteen Band.
Federici became a stalwart in the E Street Band as Springsteen rocketed from the boardwalk to international stardom. Springsteen split from the E Streeters in the late '80s, but they reunited for a hugely successful tour in 1999.
"Bruce has been supportive throughout my life," Federici said in a recent interview with Backstreets magazine. "I've had my ups and downs, and I've certainly given him a run for his money, and he's always been there for me.''
Federici played accordion on the wistful "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" from Springsteen's second album, and his organ solo was a highlight of Springsteen's first top 10 hit, "Hungry Heart." His organ coda on the 9/11-inspired Springsteen song ``You're Missing" provided one of the more heart-wrenching moments on "The Rising" in 2002.
In a band with larger-than-life characters such as saxophonist Clarence Clemons and bandana-wrapped guitarist "Little" Steven Van Zandt, Federici was content to play in his familiar position to the side of the stage. But his playing was as vital to Springsteen's live show as any instrument in the band.
Federici released a pair of solo albums that veered from the E Street sound and into soft jazz. Bandmates Nils Lofgren on guitar and Garry Tallent on bass joined Federici on his 1997 debut, ``Flemington." In 2005, Federici released its follow-up, "Out of a Dream.''
Federici had taken a leave of absence during the band's tour in November 2007 to pursue treatment for melanoma, and was temporarily replaced by veteran musician Charles Giordano.
At the time, Springsteen described Federici as "one of the pillars of our sound and has played beside me as a great friend for more than 40 years. We all eagerly await his healthy and speedy return.''
Besides his work with Springsteen, Federici played on albums by an impressive roster of other artists: Van Zandt, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker, Gary U.S. Bonds and Garland Jeffreys.
Hot Chip's Live Show Is Hot Stuff
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter
(April 18, 2008) Hot Chip may look like the world's biggest nerds, but the five British funksters make some of the sweetest sounding electro-pop around.
They are the dance band that the indie kids love and anticipation was high to see them live at the Phoenix in support of their third album, Made in the Dark.
The sold-out show got off to an iffy start. Opening band Free Blood seemed to be having a private dance party amongst themselves onstage. The duo sang over pre-recorded beats, although Hot Chip's multi-instrumentalist Al Doyle joined them for a song. Free Blood has pretty good bass-filled grooves, but the minute it felt like they had something funky happening onstage, the vocalists would shriek wildly or abruptly change things up, seemingly to cut off any possible enjoyment.
Most folks weren't really paying attention, anyway, as they were waiting for the main event. Having seen Hot Chip perform two years ago at Lee's Palace, I thought I knew what to expect, but the band's incessant touring since then has created a very different beast live.
At the last show they stuck fairly faithfully to versions of their recordings. Percussionist Felix Martin missed that show due to illness – perhaps that made all the difference. Hot Chip at full strength is something to behold.
On record, the band is all about a unique mix of sweet vocals, tasteful synths and techno beats. If there is complaint, it's that sometimes it seems a little precious and calculated. That certainly wasn't the case at this show.
Live, the band has beefed up its sound, making it a little messier by adding more squelchy bleeps and stronger percussion. Almost like an electronica jam band, they extended songs and let them bleed into others. Many had repetitive grooves that built up to peaks like house music tracks, at times reminiscent of stalwart local electronica instrumentalists Holy F---.
While some of their subtler, more delicate elements were lost, what was left was a purer party sound. At times, the show had the ebullient feeling of an old-school rave.
While the latest album has garnered mixed reviews, the new tracks benefited from the chunkier live sound. The band opened with a driving "Shake A Fist," then "Bendable Poseable" launched with a maelstrom of feedback from multi-instrumentalist Doyle, who acted as spokesperson for the evening, not that there was much chit-chat.
The stage presence was pretty static, save for the band members switching instruments and an impressive light show choreographed to the performance.
The set was heavy with tracks from the new album, but the minute Alexis Taylor's vocals started old faves like "Boy From School" and "Over and Over," the fist-pumping, hands-in-the-air crowd went crazy.
If there was a misstep, the obligatory encore started off a little slowly with the ballad "Made in the Dark" but picked up with "Don't Dance" – and despite the exhortation of the chorus, the sardine-packed crowd grooved in place as well as they could – and "No Fit State."
When the band finished up with a cover of Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U" (itself famously covered by one Sinead O'Connor) the crowd burst into sing-along mode. A fitting denouement to the evening.
Kathleen Edwards Brings Dark Material To Phoenix
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(April 19 2008) The only bad songs, Kathleen Edwards believes, are those that leave nothing to the imagination.
Even so, the 29-year-old, Ottawa-based singer-songwriter gets pretty close to the nitty gritty several times on her just-released third CD, Asking For Flowers, the roots music star's most confident and outwardly focused recording to date. Perhaps not coincidentally, its most remarkable achievements are songs that deal less with her inner life and the realm of imagination than with human behaviour of the worst kind.
The long ballad "Alicia Ross," a signal departure for Edwards, tells the story of the 25-year-old Markham woman who was savagely murdered in 2005 by her next-door neighbour. He was never a suspect till he came forward five weeks after she disappeared and led police to her remains.
Edwards focuses on the grief of Ross' mother, not on the grim details of the event itself, to create a powerful statement about the effects of violence.
"It was a hard song to write, brutal, and it took a long time," Edwards says during a recent stopover in Toronto. She performs Wednesday night at the Phoenix Concert Theatre with Justin Rutledge opening.
"But it was a song I really wanted to finish. I was moved by her story, the randomness, the senselessness of it, but it was her mother's pain that got to me. She was very visible in the media during the five weeks the police were looking for her daughter and I could see my own mother ... anybody's mother ... how could you live another day with that much pain?
"Our parents spend their lives trying to protect us, teaching us to be careful ... but how can you prepare a child for something so unexpected?"
Recorded in Los Angeles with producer Jim Scott – he has also worked with Tom Petty, one of Edwards' favourite songwriters and performers – Asking For Flowers arrives a full three years after her sophomore album, Back To Me, and six years after her groundbreaking independent debut, Failer. There's no mystery to the long wait between albums, Edwards says.
"I just didn't have the songs. I took some time off, I got married (to guitarist and collaborator Colin Cripps), I worked last summer in a winery in Niagara, I spent time in my garden.
"I usually write alone and locked away ... I'm the stereotypical depressed songwriter. I envy writers like (Bruce) Springsteen – I've seen pictures of him carrying a notebook and scribbling ideas down whenever they occur to him. I usually have to wait for the right circumstances. This time, when Jim called to say he'd put together a band he wanted me to play with, only a couple of songs were finished. The rest I wrote in California, some actually in the studio."
The unscheduled break in her professional routine gave Edwards time to reflect on the world around her, on tough issues affecting everyone – the Iraq war, political fugitives, incipient racism in her homeland, mortality and violence – that surface in unusually brave and sophisticated ways in the songs "Oil Man's War," "Oh Canada," "Scared at Night" and "Alicia Ross."
There's evidence, too, of her trademark black sense of humour ("I Make The Dough, You Get The Glory," about her long-time band mate, Ottawa guitarist and songwriter Jim Bryson), her propensity for dirty words ("Sure as S--t," a tender love ballad in which passion finds expression in a profane mumble), and outlaw sensibilities ("Buffalo," "Run").
There's enough wit, emotional depth and bravado to have earned Edwards significant critical praise this time out.
"My mouth can get me into trouble," she laughs. "I'm always acting on my gut reactions. My big concern on this album was over `Oh Canada.' Maybe as a white middle-class woman I'm not entitled to write a song about racism. Part of me feels I could be harshly judged because I didn't include myself in the song."
Still, she has made the album she wanted to make, she says, and without record-company meddling or advice.
"It was scary handing it over (to her U.S. label Zoe Records) ... and no one has called me yet to tell me I made a great record."
Not that she's looking for extra approval. Asking For Flowers was picked up for release outside North America by Universal Music, which guarantees major-league exposure and the trappings of stardom.
"Well, maybe better hotel rooms," Edwards says with a cheeky grin.
Leona Lewis Is Taking North America By Storm
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler
(April 17, 2008) Non-conformists need not apply, thank you very much. When commercial music mavens Simon Cowell and Clive Davis set out to craft a new pop starlet, they probably had a lovely, compliant sort of singer in mind - someone with the pipes of Whitney Houston, though not the crack pipes; someone like the young Mariah Carey, not the older Mariah scary; someone like the tumultuous Amy Winehouse, but without her assorted barefooted scandals.
They have their anti-diva in Leona Lewis, the dusky-skinned darling who won the third edition of Cowell's British talent show The X Factor in 2006. Under the extreme grooming of Cowell and American producer and label supremo Davis, Lewis has blossomed, from the shy owner of a strong soprano voice to a superstar on the rise. The catchy, syncopated R&B pleader Bleeding Love, from her debut album Spirit, sits atop the Billboard singles chart south of the border and, as of this week, the album itself is No. 1 in Canada, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
It has all been quite a rush for a 23-year-old singer who not so long ago worked as a podiatrist's receptionist and a Pizza Hut waitress in London. "It's kind of amazing," Lewis says, speaking from New York recently. "It's kind of hard to prepare for it, with the media attention and things like that. It's amazing to be doing music on this level."
Lewis says "amazing," or other such bland, praising adjectives, quite a bit. About her singing idol Minnie Ripperton? "She's amazing." About BRIT School, the Fame-like London performing arts academy where Lewis, along with fellow pop stars Kate Nash, Kate Melua, Adele and Winehouse, were trained? "It's a great school." About Oprah Winfrey? "She's such a lovely lady." And about her taskmasters Davis and Cowell? "They're fine, they're all good and lovely and supportive. Clive is so wonderful and so passionate about music, and it's a privilege to work with both of them, with all of their expertise."
These platitudes do not come in an automated monotone, but in cheerful, breezy summations. Still, when asked about her boss Davis, and how his domineering ways made Kelly Clarkson cry after the former American Idol rebelled against him, Lewis's reply sounds more coached than impossibly naive. "Clive and Simon are very respectful of what I do. They really know where I'm coming from as an artist."
Concerned with Lewis's welfare at this point, I stifle the urge to ask her if she's being held prisoner, and if Davis is holding a gun to the head of her mother to ensure proper responses. If she's blinking out a Morse code mayday with her eyelids, I can't see it.
Even if Lewis has nothing but good things to say about others, her album has brought harsh criticism in some circles, with one reviewer pegging the singer as nothing more than a water-downed version of Carey. Other comparisons could be made, and rarely would Lewis come out ahead: On Bleeding Love, Lewis sounds like a slightly anemic Houston. On a cover of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Roberta Flack's cool elegance is not closely approached.
But that doesn't seem to matter. Lewis apparently has a marketable charisma and talent, an aura not missed by high-profile talent scouts. After watching Lewis on her second episode of The X Factor, Rod Stewart told Cowell that there was "one clear star here" and that the singer was "in a different league to everybody else." On The Oprah Winfrey Show, where Lewis made her U.S. debut, the show's omnipotent host declared the Brit export "the real deal." Davis, who has signed stars from Janis Joplin to Alicia Keys, called the decision to cast his lot with Lewis a "no-brainer."
A no-brainer, but Davis took no chances, hiring a squadron of big-ticket producers and songwriters to build the songs of Spirit. The Syco/Sony-BMG deal signed by Davis, Cowell and Lewis involves five albums and £5-million. In an interview with The Times, Davis compared Lewis to his one-time protégé, Whitney Houston. "The difference, is that Leona has her feet on the ground ... she knows the difference between good and bad."
If anyone's wondering what Lewis has that the others lack, and why a record label put so much on the line for an unproven commodity, it comes down to looks and voice, sure. But don't underestimate docility. That's the Why Factor.
The Lewis factor
Since winning the 2006 X Factor contest (the British version of American Idol), Leona Lewis's star has only risen. The R&B-pop singer's first single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson's A Moment Like This, was downloaded an astounding 50,000 times in 30 minutes upon its digital release at midnight on Dec. 17, 2006. With current North American single Bleeding Love, the top-selling song in the U.K. in 2007, Lewis just became the first British female singer to top the U.S. pop chart since Kim Wilde's version of You Keep Me Hangin' On in 1987. As for Lewis's album, Spirit, the disc made its debut atop both the Canadian and American charts this week.
A Diva Scales Things Down
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine
(April 15, 2008) If Celine Dion is serious about wanting to reinvent herself, she would do well to take a few pointers from Mariah Carey.
Like Dion, Carey originally made her name on big-voiced, rafter-rattling power ballads, songs that were overtly romantic, unabashedly aspirational and tailor-made to show off her vocal virtuosity - particularly the extremes of her upper register. That wasn't all there was, of course, and over time the R&B side of her sound became just as important to her chart success as her vocal histrionics.
But with E=MC2, Carey completely reformulates her image. Even though the cover shows her in full diva drag, pulling back her hair coquettishly as she hides behind what may be the world's largest feather boa, the music inside is surprisingly scaled down. Instead of letting her voice soar, Carey - who co-wrote every track - keeps things on the down-low, often restricting her melodies to a few sing-song notes (as on Touch My Body), and on the opening Migrate feeds her voice through a digital keyboard, a production trick usually reserved for rappers or singers incapable of carrying a melody unaided.
When she does cut loose, it's never over the top and always in the background. Toward the end of I'll Be Lovin' U Long Time, Carey does indulge in a bit of soulful improvisation, shouting counterpoint over the repeated final chorus, but there's nothing self-indulgent or showy about it; she's simply using her voice to goose the beat and add intensity to the tune, the way any soul singer would. Likewise, when she slips into the stratosphere for a bit of wordless vocalizing in For the Record, not only is it background on the final chorus but it's far enough back in the mix to seem like just bit of ear-candy, like the chirpy, synthesized violin that runs through the song.
In short, with E=MC2, Carey has taken the decidedly un-diva tack of putting the beats first and her voice fourth. That's not to say the album isn't well sung - Carey is too much a craftsman not to leave every phrase polished to a high gloss - just that it never seems as if the singing is an end in itself. And by keeping the emphasis on the groove and the songs themselves, Carey doesn't just ensure that E=MC2 is her most enjoyable album in ages but makes herself seem more fun in the process.
Granted, this shift isn't entirely out of the blue, as Carey worked many of the same strategies on her 2006 "comeback" album The Seduction of Mimi. But there's a playfulness to tracks like O.O.C. and the Off the Wall-quoting I'm That Chick suggesting that Carey herself is having a blast making this music, and her enthusiasm is definitely infectious.
Carey's new persona may have its faults - her reliance on phrases like "wichoo" and "all up in it" seems a tad affected - but what diva doesn't have flaws? Even if Carey's E=MC2 isn't as perfect as Einstein's, it's her best album in a decade, and a lot more danceable than any physics formula.
From Side Panel To Fender Bass
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Larry Cornies
(April 16 2008) The look and sound of instruments made from auto parts may have taken some passersby at a street-corner concert in London by surprise yesterday, but for New Jersey musician Bill Milbrodt, the venture was his second time around the block.
The first came in 1994, when Mr. Milbrodt decided that, having driven his 1982 Honda Accord into the ground, he'd salvage what he could in pursuit of his lifelong passion. Together with metal sculptor Ray Faunce III, Mr. Milbrodt managed to turn the rusting hunk of metal into 65 instruments, among them an exhaustophone and a tank bass. The project took 18 months, he told Double Take yesterday.
Rather than display the pieces in a museum, Mr. Milbrodt took them on the road, performing in small venues such as art galleries until the novelty of the instruments garnered enough attention to land their players a gig at New York's Lincoln Center. It was there that Mr. Milbrodt's and Mr. Faunce's creative endeavour caught the attention of Ford Motor Co.'s advertising agency, which persuaded its client to offer a 2008 Focus for a similar project.
Mr. Milbrodt's team of 22 mechanics and fabricators turned the vehicle into 30 playable musical instruments, which were used in a TV commercial. Yesterday's open-air event in London marked the start of a national exhibition tour in support of Teenage Cancer Trust, a charity that builds hospital units specifically for teens with cancer, and runs education and awareness campaigns as well as a support network.
The tour — a first leg of what's hoped will be a longer European odyssey — was created partly to answer doubts that the instruments were real.
Savannah Music Festival, The State's Largest Annual Arts Event
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - William Littler
(April 19 2008) SAVANNAH, GA.—Where to go to learn how to run a major arts festival? Both Rob Gibson and Janet Price might suggest Lincoln Center.
For it was on New York's Upper West Side that Gibson co-founded Jazz at Lincoln Center before going on to direct the Savannah Music Festival, and Price worked as the centre's director of marketing before going on to direct Toronto's Luminato Festival.
"I'm rooting for Luminato. I think it has great potential," enthused Gibson over a post-concert dinner recently, midway through this year's very different Savannah Music Festival. "And I'm envious of the $10 million Toronto's festival has to spend."
At $3 million or so, the budget for the longer-running Savannah Music Festival is a more modest figure, but in his six years of event assembly in the American Deep South, Gibson has learned how to secure plenty of bang for his buck.
Last month, I spent a mere three days at this year's 17-day festival and managed, nevertheless, to take in an ear-opening world music concert pairing Portuguese fado singer Ana Moura with Benin's Angelique Kidjo, sit in on a unique cross-cultural vocal competition titled American Traditions, be impressed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Robert Spano's baton, make the acquaintance of a remarkable flamenco singer, Pitingo, brought all the way from Spain just to perform in Savannah, and hear one of the most stimulating chamber music concerts of the season as part of a series curated by Daniel Hope of the Beaux Arts Trio (who recently appeared for the Women's Musical Club in Toronto as part of their final season).
All of these events were well attended and if you are wondering how a city of only 130,000 inhabitants can support a festival of 100 or so events, at least part of the explanation comes from the fact that the county seat of Chatham County attracts a phenomenal six million visitors a year.
Yes, if you want to present a "destination" festival it helps to be a "destination" city.
Even before John Berendt's sensational novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and its Clint Eastwood film version reawakened people to Savannah's mossy charms, its historic architecture and beguiling riverside atmosphere had made Georgia's second city one of America's tourist meccas.
Set in actual locations and incorporating real-life characters, Berendt's scandalous murder tale focuses on the life of Jim Williams, the man responsible for the restoration of many of Savannah's finest historic properties, his own elegant Civil War-era domicile (now known as the Mercer-Williams house and open to the public) being one of them.
The Savannah Music Festival takes advantage of these historic settings and derives much of its character from the city's smallness. As Rob Gibson explains, "in a city of only 130,000 you have to bring things that do not compete with each other."
"Offer something for `all of the people some of the time,'" a strategy that has made the Savannah Music Festival not only the largest annual arts event in Georgia but, as a stylish press kit announces, "one of the most distinctive cross-genre music festivals in the world."
It is a festival still little known in the northern reaches of the continent, even to those aware of its debt to General Sherman, who spared Savannah as he did not spare Atlanta during his scorched earth march through Georgia during the Civil War.
Walking to festival events through Savannah's still surviving 18th-century squares, beneath venerable live oaks and past azalea bushes bursting into colour is like stepping back into a more gracious age.
And yet, the festival itself is as much about today's artists as yesterday's heritage. The American Traditions Competition in particular celebrates the polyglot character of our continent, simultaneously offering the reminder that almost all the significant genres of American music have had their origins in the South.
"Of all the 13 original colonies we got the `mutts and mongrels,'" jokes Rob Gibson. That diversity of cultural background is celebrated annually, unashamedly and enthusiastically at the Savannah Music Festival.
'Love Song' Singer Has Little Voice, Big Impact
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(April 17, 2008) Sara Bareilles is having a very good year. The California singer/songwriter topped Billboard's Pop 100 chart with "Love Song," the lead single from her debut album, Little Voice; she recently garnered the 2008 Vanguard Award for songwriting from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; and nabbed the opening slot on the Maroon 5/Counting Crows summer tour.
The 28-year-old UCLA communications grad is bringing a four-piece band and her blend of pop, soul and jazz to the Opera House on Sunday.
She spoke with the Star from her Milwaukee tour stop.
Q: An ASCAP award recognizing your contribution to shaping the future of American music, that's pretty heady stuff; what did you say in your acceptance speech?
A: It sounds lofty, huh? There were no acceptance speeches. They tried to move the night along really quickly, which was okay with me, because I got a little overwhelmed. It was just a real honour to be recognized as a songwriter.
A lot of time people are very kind and say they like my voice, or that they have fun at the shows, but I consider myself a songwriter and its really important to me to have that be a big part of my identity. It was exciting to me to just be there and be a part of this community ... Lionel Richie and Steve Miller were also honoured that night. I felt really fulfilled by that kind of validation and acknowledgment.
Q: Which artists careers would you like to emulate?
A: Joni Mitchell, Elton John ... people who are performing as long as they want to be. Touring is a huge part of my life right now and I'm lucky that I like it, because I'd like to build a career based on that. And I'd love to be able to play shows when I'm 50 and still have people come out and want to hear the music.
Q: What were you planning to do with a communications degree?
A: I was blindly moving forward with no clue whatsoever... I really never pictured myself going into journalism. I don't really know what to do with a communications major ... I think I always imagined myself going into music. I was just blindly taking the classes that I had to take to graduate and then playing music on the side.
Q: How did music become your mainstay?
A: It changed when it just sort of made sense. I started to make more money from doing music than I was making at my waitressing job, so I quit and began to really focus on music. When I got the record deal it was like `Oh, maybe I can actually go forward in this career path.' I never felt like I was chasing it so hard, I never felt desperate. Music remained a passion for me. I wasn't forward thinking enough to know what it would feel like to be a broke musician. I was just bumbling along, doing my waitressing job and being content.
Q: When did you learn that you'd be going on tour with Counting Crows?
A: About a month and a half ago. My manager had brought up the idea ... and the possibility of getting to be onstage with them, whether or not it worked out, was just ridiculous. I can't believe I get to spend the summer doing this! It's really special too, because my bandmates are my best friends and we've been working together for well over five years. They've been though everything with me: all of the sh---y shows where three people showed up; lugging gear in and out of our cars, over and over again .... It's really cool to get to share this progression with them – going out on a real tour bus to do these amazing huge shows with some of my favourite bands.
Just the facts
Who: Sara Bareilles
Where: Sunday, 8 p.m. @ The Opera House, 735 Queen St. E.
Tony Bird's African Spirit Returns To Tour
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(April 17, 2008) It's not a stretch to give Malawi-born, Zimbabwe-raised guitarist and songwriter Tony Bird's 1978 masterpiece, Tony Bird of Paradise credit as a landmark effort in the roots/world music continuum.
It's a summation of his eclectic upbringing as an educated and sentient middle-class white musician/poet in pre-independence Southern Africa. It's also, with its savvy, pre-Graceland blend of African rhythms, Dutch Afrikaner and British folk traditions, free-form jazz and a New York sneer, a bright and energizing glimpse of the future of popular music.
Produced by American jazz composer/arranger John Lissauer, Tony Bird of Paradise gave Bird full rein, all the room he needed for his distinctively elegant and percussive guitar work, for his patois-rich lyrics and clipped, regionally resonant dialect, and – well before it was popular for whites to do so – for songs that were as much a celebration of black African culture as a profound apology for the sins of colonialism. Tony Bird of Paradise made many critics' lists as one of the best albums of all time.
Bird's three albums – the last was Sorry Africa, released in 1990 – established him as a folk artist nonpareil. He was a darling of the festival circuit, a major concert attraction, particularly in Canada in the 1980s and early '90s. He possessed unique musical gifts and a strong, compelling voice. Few new performers looked forward to brighter horizons.
And then he disappeared.
"I had health problems," Bird said earlier this week from his home in New York, where he has lived in almost complete obscurity since his last gig in Canada, at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1998. "It was simply too difficult to keep going, and performing was no longer fun."
Head trauma caused by an automobile accident had begun manifesting itself in severe neurological problems that were robbing his hands of mobility, he explained.
"I lost control of my fingers. I thought I had MS. No one seemed to know what caused it, or what to do about it. My career came to a grinding halt.... I walked away from music completely."
Severe and previously undetected allergies to gluten and soy – diagnoses Bird, a vegetarian, arrived at himself after a process of elimination – were also affecting his physical well being, he said. After 15 years of painstaking rehabilitation, and having taught himself a new way to play guitar – to compensate for irreparable nerve damage – Bird, 62, started rebuilding his musical life a few years back, first with small, unannounced gigs "in my old haunts around Boston and Cambridge, the northeastern folk kingdom," and now with a minitour of Southern Ontario.
He's performing in Toronto Saturday night at the Acoustic Harvest Folk Club in Scarborough. For other dates check out mangotime.net.
Bird's re-emergence, underscored each day by yet more tragic news from his beloved Zimbabwe, begs inevitable questions from fans about his long absence and his homeland.
"Everyone assumes I went back to Africa, but the truth is that I've been in America for a very long time," he said. "I have nothing new to say about Zimbabwe, although everything I write is filtered through my Third World experience. I'm destined to be displaced, a scatterling, but displacement adds another dimension to the music, a different sensibility."
He has rewritten his best-known song, the hypnotic and joyous paean "Zambezi Zimbabwe," he said, "to take (president Robert) Mugabe into account.
"In fact, I've been going over all my old work and revising it from pre-revolution to post-revolution. When I sing the older songs now they have something universal to say ... they're not mementos from another time."
Though he stopped performing, Bird continued to write, mostly about big issues – the environment, invasive technology, human responsibility. He has one album in the can, recorded some time ago and featuring Grammy-winning South African vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo, that will soon be released in the U.S. on the Rounder label.
"I'm a better songwriter than I was," he said. "I've kept up scribbling and listening to others. I'm sitting on literally dozens of CDs, hundreds of songs. I never throw anything away. After hibernating for years, I'm not nervous at all to be out and playing again. Communicating through songs is all I've ever really wanted to do."
Just the facts
WHO: Tony Bird
WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Acoustic Harvest, St. Nicholas Anglican Church, 1512 Kingston Rd.
TICKETS: $18 at 416-264-2235, $20 at the door
After A Two-Year Wait, Tokyo Police Club Releases Its Debut
Album This Week
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter
(April 20, 2008) Expectations on any kind of art can be deadly. It's a lesson Tokyo Police Club knows all too well.
Two years ago, the four Newmarket teens released the A Lesson in Crime EP, an unexpected 16 minutes of unabashed rock literally heard around the world that signalled another great band joining Toronto's pantheon. Add to it a killer live show and the wait was on for that first album.
It was going to happen on their terms. Elephant Shell hits stores on Tuesday, and the question is, in a saturated industry all about discovering the next big thing, has this band missed its moment?
Singer/bassist David Monks and drummer Greg Alsop are at Chemical Sound, the Toronto studio where the pair, along with guitarist Josh Hook and keyboardist Graham Wright, recorded – or in this case, re-recorded – the album. The two are well aware that constant speculation about when their long-player would arrive can be a backhanded compliment, but it seems like it doesn't really bother them. Monks was noodling on vocals for acoustic songs that will be added to the Japanese version of the disc.
"This stuff is fun. I mean, the real record is done, so for this we can just mess around," he says.
We head over to Reliable Fish & Chips in Leslieville – after dining on subs and burgers while touring, enjoying a good meal is a pleasure the band indulges at home – the two open up about their meteoric rise and what has happened since.
"It's weird because usually the course of action when you do an EP is that you do three or four songs and it's usually a teaser for the album. So you re-record those songs later with some extra tracks on there, but our EP wasn't meant to be that," says Alsop. "It was always the seven songs that it was, released to be a stand-alone.
"And whenever we were touring the EP ... we weren't able to work on the record, 'cause it's like two things that totally don't mix. It's also a matter of, as much as people say, `Look, we want a new record,' they also say, `Come to Oklahoma,' so we wanted to tour and give it its full run. We didn't want to hurry it along and put out a bum record."
Which sounds like it nearly happened. They've toured almost constantly since they released the EP and admit they were blown away by its long life. They released Smith, another EP, in 2007, then – after signing with the Saddle Creek label in the U.S. – settled in to record in Connecticut last September.
"So then we were off finally in September, we had a ton of ideas, but nothing really like cemented together," says Monks. "So we thought we'll go into studio and write it there, and watch it come together on tape, which is something we've never done before, but it's something that tons of bands do and it works all the time. But it just didn't seem to click for us."
In some ways that helped. After the first sessions, the band went on tour, then restarted at Chemical. Recording moved very quickly from there.
"I think it was a really necessary experience to go and learn how to make a record the wrong way for us," says Alsop. "It gave us something to compare it to, and otherwise you might be making a record aimlessly."
Monks adds: "We did kind of make it twice and because of that, we're really sure of it.
"When you know you're not on the right track and to call that, and not being afraid to say it because it gets into the territory of money and labels. Everybody wants to put out a good record, everyone wants to do it the most practical way possible and when you really stand up for yourself, then you learn a lot about how you work as a band."
The result builds on the promise of the first EP. It's short, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, and retains the energy and melody that have become their signature. Early reviews have been upbeat; the New York Daily News even said "like a finely reduced sauce or the perfect hors d'oeuvre, each cut bursts with nuance."
Just don't call it dance-punk. Monk says that's one thing most blogs and press get wrong.
"Everyone's like `twitchy dance-punk. Huh.' I don't get it," he says.
"And that we're really goofy. I know that was a lot of people's complaints about us," says Alsop. "Oh yeah, I remember I know one person just railing against us saying, `They have no respect for the culture of Japan, and we're making fun of animé with our name and Japanese people in general.' And we're like, `Really, and just cause we used the city of Tokyo in our name?'
"We don't take ourselves extremely seriously ... but the songs are serious songs, they come from a real place and real emotion."
The other elephant in the room is the band members' ages.
"It's weird, when you were 21, did you feel like you were like the young little rascal?" Monks, 21, asks. "No, not at all. But probably like to people who are like 30-whatever, and he's been listening to like Joy Division his whole life, to him, we seem like ..."
"Young precocious somethings," Alsop, 23, finishes.
"We just play what we play," says Monks. "And if that's what twitchy dance-punk sounds like to you, then that's cool."
They are guilty of being young, but it seems like they know what they're doing.
"We've been lucky, but we've worked for what we've achieved," says Alsop.
And even though they feel they were part of a Toronto scene, touring has made that a distant feeling.
"It feels like there's a new wave in Toronto, another generation," says Monks. "I don't feel like Metric and Broken Social Scene or MSTRKRFT are my contemporaries. It's more like Born Ruffians, the Meligrove Band and the Coast. Just young, up-and-coming bands that are in the same place as we are in our careers.
"At the same time as we rely on touring ... it becomes really difficult to feel part of the Toronto scene because we're just gone so much."
This city will get to judge just how young or goofy or accomplished the band is when it plays the Opera House in early May. And expectations be damned. Tokyo Police Club have made a promising career out of confounding them.
'Young@Heart': Transcending limitations
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Philip Marchand, Movie Critic
(out of 4)
Documentary. Directed by Stephen Walker. 108 minutes. At the Varsity. PG
(April 18, 2008) One of the most remarkable scenes you will ever see in a documentary is the chorus of elderly men and women – average age of 80 – singing Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" before convicts in a Massachusetts penitentiary.
It is easy to imagine how badly this concert might have gone over with such an audience, if the show relied on a cute concept, or begged the audience to indulge sub-par performances because the old dears meant well. This is literally a captive audience, many of whose members are certainly not known for politeness.
But there is also a curious equality between audience and performers, because they are both marginalized groups, easily ignored and shunted aside – the old and the incarcerated. When the chorus sings well and with unabashed feeling the prisoners are visibly moved – not just by the songs themselves but the courage and professionalism of their entertainers. For a moment these two groups are united in the hope that the limitations in their lives can be transcended.
Walker, a British filmmaker, does not give us the history of the chorus, or its wry, middle-aged musical director, Bob Cilman. Instead he begins in the middle of things, at a Young@Heart concert in London, rapturously received. Then he takes us to Northampton, Ma. home of the chorus, and records their rehearsals for their next show. Every member of the chorus caught in the lens of Walker's cameras seems to be an engaging personality. Their musical tastes run to classical music or show tunes rather than rock, which makes it all the more impressive when they gamely try to learn odd and difficult new songs chosen by Cilman.
There's "Yes We Can Can," for example, the 1973 Pointer Sisters' hit where the word "can" is repeated 71 times. Far more resilient singers have been defeated by that example of lyrical excess.
The dramatic heart of the documentary, however, is not the learning of these songs in time for the concert, but something much more serious – the question of whether some very physically fragile members can muster the stamina, or even live long enough, to appear on stage.
There is Bob Salvini, possessed of a bad case of spinal meningitis but also a standout rendition of the Police's "Every Breath You Take." Hoping for just a little more time on this Earth, he tackles a new solo in rehearsal. "It sounds great," Cilman says, as if his encouragement can help stave off the dark angel. "You can't do anything wrong."
Then there's Joe Benoit, a star of the chorus, horribly battered by cancer and chemotherapy. Asked if he fears death, Benoit replies, "I don't think about it at all. Doesn't bother me one bit." He gives the camera a sly look. "Did I convince you?" It is one of the chief virtues of this documentary that we are rarely aware of the filmmaker's technique. The pace never lags but neither is it hurried. What we focus on are these unassuming people working very hard to do a good job of entertaining their audiences, and in the process reminding us of William Butler Yeats' verse: "An aged man is but a paltry thing,/ A tattered coat upon a stick, unless/ Soul clap its hands and sing, And louder sing/ For every tatter in its mortal dress."
R&B, Ne-Yo Experiments On New Album
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Mikael Wood, L.A.
(April 18, 2008) Ne-Yo says he didn't plan to rush his new album, "Year of the Gentleman," his third release in as many years, into production.
"I wanted the third album to be something a little different from the first and second as far as the essence and the sound of what I was doing," he tells Billboard of the Def Jam set, due June 24. "So I was going to chill for a minute and really take some time to figure out what I wanted that to be. Fortunately, it didn't take me that long, which is why the album's coming out now."
Judging by the handful of tracks previewed by Billboard, "Year of the Gentleman" does indeed offer something a little different from traditional R&B: "Closer" is a Stargate-produced club track with pulsing strobe-light synths and a high-energy house beat that calls to mind Rihanna's "Don't Stop the Music." "So You Can Cry" sports a mellow, easy-listening vibe, with Ne-Yo making a priceless rhyme of "pity party" and "calamari." Guitars and cymbals figure prominently in "What's the Matter," which Ne-Yo likens to "a Beatles-style rock record."
In addition to Stargate, collaborators on the set include members of Ne-Yo’s Atlanta-based Compound Entertainment crew (the HeavyWeights, Shay Taylor, Chuck Harmony), as well as Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and J.R. Rotem, who struck radio gold last year with his protégé Sean Kingston.
Beyond a tour with Alicia Keys and Jordin Sparks that begins tomorrow (April 19) in Hampton, Va., Ne-Yo's 2008 campaign also includes at least two forays into movies and TV: a script in development at Fox Atomic that he says "is going to be in the vein of 'Purple Rain'" and an animated series about which he’s in talks with Cartoon Network. "For me it’s always, ‘Let’s make the next one,’ " Ne-Yo says as he prepares to head back to the video shoot. "'What’s the next thing going to be?'"
Additional reporting by Hillary Crosley, N.Y.
Ready For A 'Lyfe Change'
Source: Kitara Garner, Account Executive, W&W Public Relations, Inc., email@example.com
(April 21, 2008) On April 29, critically acclaimed, singer/songwriter/producer, Lyfe Jennings, will release his new album, Lyfe Change, on Columbia Records.
Lyfe Change is the third offering from Lyfe, who first introduced himself to the world in 2004 via his platinum-selling debut, Lyfe 268-192 and the hit singles, "Must Be Nice" and "Hypothetically," featuring Fantasia.
His follow up release, The Phoenix, was equally impressive, showcasing even more of Lyfe's depth on heartfelt compositions including "Let's Stay Together" and the thought provoking cautionary tale, "S-E-X."
Lyfe chose to title this album Lyfe Change to invoke people to make a change in their lives and in the lives of others. Since the beginning of his career, Lyfe has progressed, both personally and artistically seeking to bring positive messages back to the forefront of the music scene, with his own life serving as an example. Lyfe Change is a personal testimony, every lyric a seed for the soul.
The 14-track album includes all-star cameo appearances from Wyclef Jean, Snoop Dogg and T.I. with production by Grammy nominated producers, Jerry "Wonda" Duplessis, The Underdogs and Rich Keller. Highlights of Lyfe Change include his current chart topping single "Never Never Land," which speaks about the transformation of a man who is choosing to leave the trappings of his youth behind to claim true love, in addition to the beautiful ballads "Will I Ever" and "Midnight Train". Up-tempo, hip-hop infused tracks like "Cops Up" and "Wild Wild Wild," showcase Lyfe's diversity, while the song "It's Real" calls urgent attention to the epidemic of HIV/AIDS.
Lyfe proclaims, "I'm a musician. I'm not in a box. That's what I hate about categories; people put you into one and dare you to come out! I'm just trying to do something meaningful and classic, something that can be remade in 20 years."
House Of Blues
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Frank Matys, Special To The Star
(April 22, 2008) GRAVENHURST–Ontario's cottage country is a far cry from Chicago's gritty south side. But those worlds are closer than you think, thanks to the passion of a Gravenhurst man whose makeshift theatre inside his garage is home to blues at its best. The theatre, such as it is, occupies an attached garage on Gravenhurst's main drag, where tiered seating and a small stage fill the space that once housed an auto repair shop named Moe's.
It has the feel of a spacious rec room – if a rec room were painted black and orange and filled with friends and strangers drawn together in a common love of the blues.
That was the scene Saturday night as rapid-fire guitar licks executed by a lanky figure in black reverberated fast and hard through the cool night air.
It was no weekend bar band, but it was the stuff of legend – literally.
A wide-eyed audience of 115 – boomers mainly – crowded the rear of Peter Swanek's home to revel in high-energy performances by bona fide bluesmen Johnny Winter and James Cotton in a setting that gave new meaning to the term "up close and personal."
"I had to see it for myself," Oakville resident Ian Hay shouted over the clamour of the music. "You just can't pass up the chance to see two legends in this kind of venue."
Saturday's highly anticipated double bill marked the inaugural show at Peter's Place, Swanek's most recent venture as a music promoter.
"People expect to be blown away," the exhausted 51-year-old said as workers put the finishing touches on the room hours before show time.
A renovator by trade, the father of four garnered a reputation as a pied piper of the blues when he began booking bands into the living room of his former home in nearby Innisfil eight years ago.
Colin Linden, Sonny Rhodes and The Band's multi-talented keyboard man Garth Hudson were among the talent that attracted big audiences.
The atmosphere was loose and fun, the bands performing within feet of discerning fans willing to pay a premium for the privilege.
Audience and artists rubbed shoulders over helpings of barbecue during the intermission, and the drinks were strictly bring-your-own.
"It was magic," Swanek recalled of the intimate performances that garnered a near-cult-like following among devotees of his eclectic offerings.
"When the shows worked, and almost all of them did, people would talk about it for days and sometimes weeks after."
After the death of his common-law wife, Sheri Shears, in 2006, he pursued a long-held dream of transporting his intimate concert concept to Gravenhurst.
"She said, `If I ever pass on, go do that,'" he said. "When she passed, I was up here in five months."
A 1 1/2-storey house with an attached garage along the south end of Muskoka Rd. proved the ideal venue from which to base his new operation.
Aided by his girlfriend, Michelle Nelson, and an enthusiastic circle of friends, Swanek transformed the former workspace into a mini-theatre, complete with professional lighting, fog machines and a licensed bar.
"I just closed my eyes and kept going," Swanek said of the sometimes gruelling effort.
Winter and Cotton – the latter one of a few remaining early Chicago bluesmen – were a natural choice for opening night, he said.
"They are as good as you can get," Swanek added, noting both men accompanied the late, great Muddy Waters on his seminal album Hard Again.
Waters is long gone, but Winter and Cotton, both with plenty of play left in them, tour regularly and pack in crowds at venues large and small. But, usually, they aren't this small.
"This place is only 100 people?" Winter, grinning slightly, asked a reporter Saturday night before emerging from the motor home that ferries him from gig to gig. "I don't even believe that."
The intimate room is the obvious draw here, with audience members having gladly plopped down $150 a piece to share in the experience.
"People in our age group don't want to be in a cattle line," longtime Winter fan Ken Mad, 54, said of the vast concert halls of his youth.
The Keswick man fondly recalled a 1970 performance by the fleet-fingered Texan at Maple Leaf Gardens.
"I was 17 and it blew me away," he added. "When I was a kid, Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix were on the same plane. Now we're seeing (Winter) here. This is fabulous."
Swanek's mounting popularity in music circles and his recent move north have caught the eyes of other promoters and there is talk of moving to a larger auditorium. For now, at least, Swanek's admirers are happy to have him continue booking big-city acts here, in this special room.
"This is nothing short of a public service," said fan Chris Brown of Toronto.
On May 24, Jack de Keyzer is the next blues artist slated to perform at Peter's Place Live. For more information, go to petersplayers.com.
CBC Names Interim Chief Of English Radio
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon
(April 17, 2008) Toronto — CBC top brass have announced a new interim executive director for English Radio. Susan Mitton, regional director of the Maritimes, will replace Jennifer McGuire as the search continues for a permanent executive director of radio. The job is the No. 2 position in radio under Richard Stursberg, who heads all English services. McGuire had been moonlighting in the position at CBC Radio, while also assuming her new role at CBC News as executive director of programming there and deputy head of news. Mitton will begin in the interim position on May 5. The announcement comes at a time when programming changes toward non-classical music at Radio 2, including more changes due this fall, have created an uproar among some listeners.
Robin Thicke Has 'Something Else' In
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(April 17, 2008) *Robin Thicke gave some media folk a preview of his upcoming album "Something Else" during a listening party held April 14 in Los Angeles. Billboard notes: "A fedora-clad Thicke worked the room (across the street from Interscope's Los Angeles headquarters), introducing himself to those in attendance. Prior to playing the album, he thanked Interscope for the 'honour to do this one more time' and declared that the listening soiree was 'a celebration. It's the Barack Obama era: yes, we can!'" Due July 1 via Star Trak/Interscope, "Something Else" is led by the track "Magic," an uptempo number described by Billboard as "a further expansion of the sultry, classic R&B sound that powered his 2006 breakthrough, 'The Evolution of Robin Thicke.'" While "Evolution" featured cameos by Lil' Wayne, Faith Evans and Pharrell, "Something Else" sports no featured guests.
Billy Joel Returns To 'The Stranger'
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.
(April 17, 2008) Columbia/Legacy will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Billy Joel's "The Stranger" with two special edition releases this summer. Due July 8, the album will be available as a two-CD set and a two-CD/single-DVD package. Both incarnations include the previously unreleased concert disc "Live at Carnegie Hall 1977." The set was recorded June 3, 1977, at the famed New York venue, a month before Joel hit the studio to record "The Stranger." The DVD on the three-disc set rounds up promo videos and a 60-minute 1978 appearance on the BBC's "The Old Grey Whistle Test," which Columbia says only aired once. "The Stranger" won Grammys for record of the year and song of the year (for the single "Just the Way You Are"). It also spawned the hits "Only the Good Die Young," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" and "She's Always a Woman." Joel has a handful of live dates on his schedule in the coming weeks, including at New Orleans' Jazz Fest on April 26. He will also play 10 shows at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino from May through July, and July 16 and 18 dates at Shea Stadium in Queens, N.Y.
Guitar Still Weeps
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill
Mess Of Blues
(out of 4)
(April 22, 2008) This collection of crowd pleasers – not band favourites, the late Toronto blues guitarist takes pains to mention in the liner notes – is Jeff Healey's long-awaited return to electric blues of the roadhouse variety. This is the genre on which Jeff Healey built his considerable reputation and fortune in the 1980s and '90s, and which he abandoned more than a decade ago to pursue his passion for elemental, and not at all popular or profitable, American jazz and acoustic blues. Healey, who died at age 41 in early March after a lifelong battle with a rare form of cancer – retinoblastoma – that blinded him in as an infant, recorded the disc over the past couple of years in studios and live venues in Toronto and Britain. Mess Of Blues was meant to sound excited, sweaty and dirty. Its primary purpose was to make a little money by cashing in on past glories. In the give-`em-what-they-want spirit of the undertaking, Healey and his crack Toronto band are good-natured, generous, tasteful and committed to the material, though it should be said they add little of substance to Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane," The Band's much overdone "The Weight," or to the closer, the equally overwrought early rock classic "Shake, Rattle And Roll." And while it's legitimate to ask if the world needs another version of "Jambalaya," it has to be said this one is a crackling, super-syncopated Louisiana killer, and sets a new standard. Not surprisingly, it's on the blues cuts – "I'm Torn Down," an ineffably soulful "Sittin' On Top Of The World" and the title track – that Healey shines. He proves once again to be both a guitarist of astonishing eloquence and gracefulness juxtaposed with profane sensuality and roadhouse bravado, and a singer who knows every nook and cranny of the emotional landscape of these lyrics.
KeAnthony And His 'Hustlaz Story'
Source: ThinkTank Marketing; www.thinktankmktg.com
(April 22, 2008) Raised in Nashville, Tennessee, KeAnthony was exposed to a rich variety of music. At age five, he joined his family's nine-member gospel ensemble, The Gospel True Notes, solidifying a dream for a future in music. In fifth grade, KeAnthony made a friend that would influence his life in a way he never imagined. The two were inseparable. Childhood innocence would soon melt away, and as teens, they found themselves engaging in a life on the streets. When faced with the possibility of an aggravated robbery charge, his best friend turned KeAnthony in to the police, leading him to live the next eight years of his life behind bars. Now with a lifetime of experiences behind him, KeAnthony is ready to share his story, A Hustla'z Story. This album is a self-written lyrical lullaby tenderly narrated with the strength of KeAnthony's character. "It's all reality to me," he states. "I can't sit down and write 'I love you' and not mean it. I write songs that deal with love and life." He addresses one's need to escape the day to day in "Everytime I'm High," a soulful plea for solitude, peace, and freedom. With passionate sincerity, he reminds listeners, particularly single mothers, to put the past in the past, "don't let things get in the way of your happy days," with "It's Okay." The power of attraction, support and love is explored in the slow jam, "My Song." Here he tells listeners of a powerful union, the kind he simply cannot live without. On the flip side, KeAnthony stays true to life and illustrates the flames of jealousy in "Medlin," a song about someone content on destroying his reputation with the woman he loved, which unfortunately led to the break up of the relationship. The highlight of the album is the lyrical portrayal of the story that led KeAnthony to his stint in prison. The track "Forever My Homie" cries out to his long lost friend, enlightening listeners on the creation and demise of their friendship. "A ni**a done snitched on me/ and I thought he's supposed to be/ forever my homie," KeAnthony croons. He goes on, "never saw it coming/ now I'm sitting in this jail cell wondering why/ I'm the only one doing time." Definitely one to take the high road, KeAnthony served his time and never sabotaged or sought revenge on his friend. With beats and production provided by The Underdogs, Tank, and Scott Storch, a narrative true to life and a mastery of soul stylistics, A Hustla'z Story is sure to catch the attention of listeners worldwide. "I don't give a damn where you from," KeAnthony states proudly. "You will feel this album."
Introduces New Album
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(April 23, 2008) *Terrence Howard held a lunchtime listening party for his debut album, "Terrence Howard – Me and the Band of Kings" at the Sony Club in New York. According to People, the Oscar-nominated actor was dressed in a gray three-piece suit and drummed his chopsticks along to the 11-song disc as it played for a room full of journalists. Due in September, the album is highly reminiscent of a live, big band, jazz feel and features songs with subjects ranging from broken relationships ("It's All Game") to self-reflection ("Plenty") to the celebration of love on his single, "Love Makes You Beautiful." Howard, who plays the guitar on the album, said he began writing songs at age 16 in his "rainbow colored notebook," and told reporters about recording an "emotionally sobering" song that began as a letter to his ex-wife.
Album Due In June
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(April 23, 2008) *New material from Dwele will hit the market this summer with the June 24 release of his third album "Sketches of a Man," from RT Music Group/Koch Records. According to Billboard.com, the first single is titled "I'm Cheatin'," a G-1-produced track about a man who loves his lady's uninhibited sexual ways. The artist, born Andwele Gardner, describes the album as "kind of a mixture. I have a couple songs that are more radio-friendly, but I'm actually trying to take my time and elevate. It's all about going with the music and trying to follow that." The Detroit singer – who appeared on Kanye West's Grammy-winning "Flashing Lights" and on Common's Grammy-nominated single "The People" – said he planned on sticking with tracks about relationships. "That's what people tend to buy ... Everything from the usual living life and learning about love," he said. "This album is moreso talking about relationships and what we have to do to make them work." Other songs include "A Few Reasons," produced by Nottz, the hip-hop-infused "Body Rock," "Love Ultra" and "Open Your Eyes," a Bobby Caldwell cover.
Filmmaker Dilip Mehta Finds Hope In Telling Widows'
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter
(April 22, 2008) If Dilip Mehta had wanted to make a 10-hankie film that would traumatize us the way the making of The Forgotten Woman did him, he could have.
"But that's not the film I wanted to make," says the engaging first-time feature director of his documentary, which opens Friday. "I found a lot of hope. I wanted to show that."
In the temple city of Vrindavan, he found horrifying evidence of the neglect of widows, and recorded contemporary stories of banishment and abandonment that were every bit as tragic as those in his sister's Oscar-nominated film Water.
But there were also some positive elements, especially in the work of Ginny Shrivastava, who has worked for the widows of Rajasthan through Association of Strong Women Alone, and in the support and leadership of Dr. M. Guri, who has championed the cause of women condemned to poverty and ostracism because they were widowed, and made a home for them.
After the making of Water, the two Mehtas and their producer, David Hamilton, talked about how they would give back something to the widows for giving them the stories that became Water.
"I'm a photojournalist, Deepa and David are filmmakers. What are we going to do? Set up a funding agency, establish an NGO? No, it just didn't make sense. We should give back by giving total awareness (about the widows)," says Mehta.
"It would be irresponsible for me to say there hasn't been any change," Mehta adds.
The Indian government has brought them some aid, but most of the work that has gone on – in an environment not far removed from what it was for the widows in white in 1938 – is being done by private citizens.
"Still women are being ostracized, marginalized, being shunned and economic gains (in India as a whole) are taking precedence over everything," Mehta observes.
About the rosy-cheeked and positive Burlington-born Shrivastava, Mehta says. "Canadians should be very proud. She should get the Order of Canada for what she's doing for women.... It's about dignity, self-respect."
The widow of Om Shrivastava, an Indian man she met while studying at the University of Toronto, Ginny has dedicated her life to improving the lot of women.
Without people like her, widows, especially in West Bengal, can be packed away behind dark, damp ancient walls. They beg and they pray, often blamed for the death of their husbands.
Mehta did not attract any protests or censure from Indian religious authorities as his sister did when she first tried to film Water in India. "(The film) was done very much under the radar," Mehta recalls. "As a documentary filmmaker you don't attract that kind of attention."
A prominent photojournalist based in New York City, Delhi and occasionally Toronto, Mehta has worked with his sister on her films Earth, Fire and Water, where he was associate producer and production designer. "I had never even shot with a video camera before," Mehta says. "My crew was me and myself. My production designer became the sound person."
A photographer who has always preferred to shoot with available light, Mehta entered his ancient locations with only a 60-watt bulb attached to a 60-metre cord, "in case we were plunged into the darkness, which was most of the time."
After he'd finished shooting a scene, he'd shout "Cut!" until his production designer asked him just whom he was talking to. Mehta laughs: "Then I realized, I'm the one with the camera."
He did not spend a lot of time with the widows, says Mehta, but the time he had was intense.
His next project is What's Cooking Stella?, an upstairs/downstairs kind of story starring Lisa Ray as a Canadian diplomat living in India and Don McKellar as her husband in India. Seema Biswas plays Stella the cook.
Here again, Mehta is motivated by the deepening social inequalities he views in the new India.
It still takes his breath away to contemplate the plight of the Hindu widows. "And it's all in the name of God," he says.
The Forgotten Woman screens at Hot Docs Thursday at 7 p.m.
Soldiers' Story Humanizes Iraq War Combatants
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Mark Brown, Special To The Star
(April 21, 2008) The Iraq War drama Black Watch – which opens in Toronto on June 6, as part of the Luminato festival – is one of the great accidental success stories of world theatre. When the show was first presented, at the Edinburgh Fringe in August 2006, its producer, the National Theatre of Scotland, only intended that it play for the three weeks of the festival.
Now, almost two years on, the piece (which takes its name from the famous Scottish regiment of the British Army) arrives in Canada with a string of awards, and sell-out crowds in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
The play was even performed as part of the celebrations for the beginning of the newly elected Scottish parliament in June 2007.
So what makes this show, written by leading Scottish playwright Gregory Burke and directed by the National Theatre's John Tiffany, such a hit?
One theory for its popularity is the authenticity of its portrayal of the soldiers' experience – based on interviews Burke conducted with former soldiers in a Scottish pub – from the frustration and boredom of awaiting orders to the sudden brutality of coming under attack.
The play, which raises a number of uncomfortable questions for the politicians who ordered the invasion of Iraq, is widely considered to have humanized the soldiers and their involvement in the conflict. Burke, who admits to having felt uncomfortable writing a play that might have been considered exploitative of the soldiers, is relieved by the general praise for his representation of the troops.
With every Scottish performance of the play, Burke has found that former Black Watch soldiers (including Iraq War veterans), serving troops and even relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq are full of praise for the play.
"They (Iraq veterans and soldiers' families) are delighted that we've done it," he says. "They come up and thank you and say that we've got it exactly right. That's very reassuring."
Billy Hanafin, a former corporal with 10 years' service in the Black Watch, is typical of the play's admirers among ex-army personnel. "The play does a really good job of getting across how the ordinary soldiers feel (in the battle zone)," he says.
"It is a waiting game. Ninety per cent of it is boring; the other 10 per cent is totally manic. When you're waiting, that's when the frustration starts to creep in, and the play shows that.
"In a split second things can change, like they did for Stuart Gray, who was a friend of mine," Hanafin adds, referring to Sgt. Stuart Gray, who was killed in a suicide bomb attack in Iraq in 2004. The death of Gray, alongside two fellow Black Watch soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter, forms the basis for one of the most memorable and moving scenes in the play.
It is the measure of the breadth of the play's appeal that it has received praise from conservative and liberal critics, and from former soldiers and anti-war activists.
Nicola Fisher, chairperson of the Stop the War Coalition in Glasgow, believes Black Watch taps into a rich vein of public disquiet over the war in Iraq.
"Opposition to the war remains very strong in Scotland, as it does around the world," she says. "I think all sorts of people find something very true in the play's portrayal of the soldiers and its implied criticisms of the war."
Burke believes his drama will have a particular resonance in Toronto. "If Boston is the Irish metropolis of the New World and Montreal is the French one," he observes, "then Toronto is probably the Scottish one.
"And, of course, Canada has lost a lot of troops in Afghanistan. The continued relevance of the play is a depressing thing."
Black Watch plays Varsity Arena, June 6-15. For information go to luminato.com.
Mark Brown is a theatre critic and freelance writer based in Scotland.
Numerous Festival Films Find Fertile
Ground In Bittersweet Tales Of Failed Artists
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Philip Marchand, Movie Critic
(April 17, 2008) The documentary may be the ultimate democratic medium. Those who make such films often come armed only with patience, nerve, skill and obsession. And unlike the heroes and heroines of Hollywood, their subjects may be losers who remain losers. They may be stalwarts who battle adversity with a result that is, at best, a draw. They may not even be likeable.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil, tonight's sold-out opening film at the 15th annual Hot Docs, is a case in point. For three decades this Toronto-based heavy metal band has been playing at birthday parties, bar mitzvahs and loud sports bars. The members have won respect from some of the best known performers in their line. They rock. Yet superstardom, or any kind of stardom, has eluded them.
The film by Sacha Gervasi captures the poignancy of failure during Anvil's European tour, where the band appears in stadiums occupied by only a handful of people. It's a disaster from beginning to end, yet the two founding members of the band, guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, refuse to give up. Their refusal, in the face of relative failure, is almost more inspiring than success. It's as if failure, more than success, teaches courage and wisdom.
There are more than a few documentaries about failed artists, in particular, at this year's Hot Docs. It's a rich theme. One of the most remarkable is The Rise and Fall of the Grumpy Burger: One Man's Search for the Half-Truth, by Toronto-based filmmaker Matt Gallagher. The movie features Marshall Sfalcin, an old friend of Gallagher's from Windsor, Ont. Sfalcin himself is a devoted filmmaker, who tells Gallagher, "I'm not interested in happiness. I'm interested in just feeling like I've done something good on a larger scale than just for myself."
Sfalcin, 37, created a series of Twilight Zone-like episodes, titled Ten Dollar Tales, for a local cable station, which pays nothing for the material.
But he had been nurturing grander ambitions for some time. He says he wanted to film the story of his grandfather who created fast food, pre-McDonald's, with his "grumpy burger," served in a now-defunct family-owned chain called the Hi Ho Restaurants in the Detroit/Windsor area. Sfalcin wanted to rescue this episode from historical obscurity and restore the reputation of his grandfather as a fast-food pioneer.
Gallagher filmed Sfalcin's attempt to film this story. "Marshall was struggling to get the truth from his uncles as I was struggling to get the truth from Marshall about his life," Gallagher says. The result is a cinematic Portrait of the Artist as a No Longer Young Filmmaker. Sfalcin's film, alas, comes to grief as his uncles, unwilling to revisit their failure, clam up. Sfalcin remains artistically unfulfilled. Can he ever attain that fulfillment?
"I think he's got the talent," Gallagher says, with a slight laugh. "He's got, you know, the drive to do it and he's got the talent to do these B-movies. He's extremely hardworking."
A very different failed artist is the subject of Nik Sheehan's Flicker, about Brion Gysin (1916-86), a Canadian artist and mystic and close friend of novelist William S. Burroughs.
His great bid for fame was his invention of the flicker machine, a bright light inside a rotating cylinder with patterned holes. The flicker produced is said to correspond to alpha waves in the brain, and when subjects close their eyes and lean close to the cylinder, they often report a boost in alpha wave-stimulated creativity and transcendence. One of the interviewees calls the device a "portal into the time-space continuum." Another reports that, "It's like touching God in a way, or somewhere where you don't have access in your daily life." Performance artist Kenneth Anger cautions, however, that "I don't think it works unless you smoke a pipe of hash."
Gysin had great hopes of marketing this device à la lava lamps, thereby making himself a fortune. For whatever reason, however, the flicker machine never found its way to the mass market. This left Gysin permanently embittered – "It poisoned his life that he wasn't successful," his agent recalls – demonstrating that failure, artistic or otherwise, does not always lead to increased spiritual depth.
A particularly sad instance of artistic failure is portrayed in Alison Murray's Carny, about fairground workers. One of these workers is known as "Bozo Dave," a "cut-up clown," whose act is taunting passersby into throwing balls at a circle on a canvas beside him. If they hit the circle, Bozo Dave falls into a water-filled tank.
It may not be the ballet or an art-school project, but Bozo Dave's routine is a form of performance art nonetheless. In the early morning he puts on his clown face, lifts his shoulders and marches to his post, psyching himself up by repeating, "It's show time." Bozo Dave eventually leaves the job and the carnival, but it is not because his spirit has wilted.
"That job will take a toll on your body," he says. By the time he quits, he is suffering from knee, back and shoulder pain.
None of these people take their frustrations lightly – failure is still humiliating.
The irony is that their very failure has been turned into a kind of triumph through the presence of a filmmaker who has humanized them.
Two Films Go Deep With Sonic Safaris
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Philip Marchand, Movie Critic
(April 19 2008) Music provides paths to the spiritual, and strange and diverse those paths can be. Two documentaries screening at the Hot Docs festival demonstrate this variety with their strikingly different approaches to song and spirit.
By far the oddest is As Slow As Possible, a documentary by Scott Smith about the pilgrimage of Ryan Knighton to St. Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany, where an organ performance of a musical composition by avant-garde composer John Cage is currently in progress. That performance will last 639 years, from the time the first note was sounded at the stroke of midnight on Sept. 5, 2001.
Vancouver author Knighton, who has been losing his sight for 15 years and now possesses a shred, wanted to hear a note change. "I suppose I'm hoping that when I get there I will experience something that will make me feel okay to leave my eyes behind," he explains in the film.
Cage, who died in 1992, often talked spiritually about music. "The purpose of music is to quiet the mind and therefore make it more susceptible to divine influence," he is quoted in the movie. Even before he reaches Halberstadt and hears the organ, Knighton is talking, if not about quiet, then about the process of slowing down, a necessary precondition of quiet. "The sighted world goes by so fast, and it's so hard to keep up with it. I'm always in a position of being indebted to people for helping me keep up. I never think about the fact that I'm slowing them down, and that might be a good thing."
Now back in Vancouver, Knighton reflects on his presence at the note change. "I'm not a religious or spiritual person by any means – if anything, I'm urban and glib," he says in an interview. "But there's something extremely comforting in knowing that this bizarre note is playing now in a monastery somewhere, which has nothing attached to it. There's no commercial gain to it, there's no ego."
He quotes the philosophy: time exists to make sure everything doesn't happen at once. Of his "deeply ritualized" experience at Halberstadt, he continues, "That was the closest I ever felt to feeling that everything was happening at once. It wasn't as linear an experience as I thought it would be."
Adrian Wills's All Together Now, on the Cirque du Soleil show based on the music of the Beatles, is a world apart from Smith's movie. It's the difference between popular and esoteric, elaborate and simple, collective and individual, fast-paced and slow-paced, St. Burchardi's Church and Las Vegas. But elements of the spiritual can be found in both musical experiences.
In All Together Now, hints of the spiritual come through in the language of the participants. "Once you start tampering with the music of the Beatles, you're tampering with the Holy Grail," Sir George Martin, the Beatles' famous producer, says in the movie. Yoko Ono, no mean guardian of the Grail herself, complains to the Cirque show's director about an overly sexualized interpretation of the song, "Come Together," co-written and performed by her late husband, John Lennon. "This is not a sleazy song," she protests. It's about peace.
"For me there was a real theme of family running through this film," director Wills says in an interview. "What I was experiencing was that the Beatles themselves are a family because of everything they have gone through." As in most families, sensitivities run close to the surface. Cirque du Soleil had to make sure there was a balance of material – a delicate balance between Lennon and McCartney songs, an adequate representation of George Harrison, a contribution here and there from Ringo.
What keeps this film's motif from degenerating into a series of family squabbles is the gravity of death, and the reality of a change of generations. The relation between father and son is particularly underlined – a key member of Cirque du Soleil comments about the passing of his father; Dhani Harrison, with his almost eerie resemblance to his own dad, George Harrison, shows up; and Giles Martin ruminates on his father, Sir George Martin.
The younger Martin chafes at the "mantle" of the elder, now 80, descending on his shoulders, but there is no hint of sourness. "He's old, but he still has his brain," Giles Martin says in the film. "He never accepts second best."
"All Together Now," today at 9:15 p.m. and Sunday at 3:45 p.m. at the Bloor Cinema. "As Slow As Possible," April 22 at noon at the ROM and April 27 at 9:30 p.m. at Innis Town Hall. Tickets at 416-637-5150 or hotdocs.ca.
Ang Lee Slams Bill C-10
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Rod Mickleburgh And Tralee Pearce
(April 21, 2008) VANCOUVER AND TORONTO — Renowned Oscar-winning director Ang Lee has joined the growing chorus of artistic voices strongly opposed to Bill C-10, the government's pending legislation that will deny tax credits to films and videos deemed offensive to the public.
“People should be free to say anything,” said Lee, when asked about the controversial bill during a question-and-answer session on the weekend with young Vancouver filmmakers.
He noted that he has never been censored, even when “I was making a film about gay cowboys in Calgary”, referring to his best known movie Brokeback Mountain that garnered the Taiwan-born director an Oscar.
Not even Chinese authorities censored him during filming in the Communist-ruled country for his most recent film, Lust, Caution, Lee added.
Actor and director Sarah Polley discusses her opposition to a controversial film tax-credit restriction on CTV's Canada AM
He said financially-assisted films should not be treated as propaganda “or as a salesman for the tourist industry. I think that's just too low. They (the government) should know better than that.”
Afterwards, as youthful film-makers gathered around him, Lee urged them to “make a noise, whatever” to stop Bill C-10. “It's almost like censorship.”
Lee, who also directed such celebrated films as Sense and Sensibility and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is the highest-profile opponent so far to speak out against the bill, currently in hearings before a committee of the Senate.
Critics of the bill welcomed Ang Lee's comments as a boost to their efforts. “He's dead on,” said Toronto-based author Susan Swan yesterday upon hearing the news. “Ang Lee has done us a great favour.”
Swan is the chair of The Writers' Union of Canada and travelled to Ottawa on Thursday to brief the senate committee on the union's opposition to the bill. Union members such as Michael Ondaatje ( The English Patient) and Barbara Gowdy ( Kissed) are watching the proceedings with a keen eye because it will affect whether their books are made into films, she said.
Swan said Canadians may not realize the chill Bill C-10 could have on an already challenging industry for those trying to get films made. It took until 2001 to make Lost and Delirious, the film version of her 1993 book The Wives of Bath, starring Piper Perabo, Mischa Barton and Jessica Paré.
“It's very difficult to make a film period. And it's very difficult to make a film in Canada.”
Brian Anthony, the national executive director and CEO of the Directors Guild of Canada said yesterday that having an international directing star weigh in on the issue was a reminder to both critics and proponents of the bill that the issue isn't just of concern to the Canadian industry, “and no one else is watching.
“It's nice to have this voice of concern from outside the country,” he said.
Documentary filmmaker and constitutional lawyer Joel Bakan ( The Corporation) agreed, saying “It helps to have people from the industry speak out, whether it's Ang Lee or Wendy Crewson.”
Still, Bakan says there's always the risk that people who are proponents of the bill will say all the critics are just self-interested. “What's really crucial is not just that Ang Lee speaks out but also that people who aren't necessarily part of the film industry understand how important these values are in terms of the production of culture in the country and get stirred up about it.”
Lee agreed to talk with local filmmakers in the midst of a private visit to the city at the urging of Vancouver city councillor B.C. Lee, who became friends with the director when both were film students back in Taiwan.
Lee captivated his audience with his friendly, unassuming demeanour.
His next movie, he disclosed, is “a comedy about the sixties,” but he would also love to make a film one day in Vancouver.
“I think this is the most beautiful city in the world …. I hope it's a hockey movie. I want to make a movie where Canadians win, not always Americans,” said Lee, who became a fan of the Calgary Flames during the filming of Brokeback Mountain.
Then She Found Me Is Helen Hunt's Baby
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - James Adams
(April 23, 2008) Uh-oh. It's a late Saturday afternoon and Helen Hunt is looking tired. She's hungry too, as she forages among the buns, salad and cold cuts left on a hallway table at the Park Hyatt Hotel during last year's Toronto International Film Festival.
Weariness begets wariness when it comes to a Helen Hunt interview. At 44, she is the only female actor to have won four consecutive Emmys (for Mad About You). Then there's the Oscar she earned in 1998 playing opposite Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets. Yet for all that fame, all that success, all that, well . . . love, she's known to the media as a bit of a hard slog. Read some previous profiles and words such as "aloof," "curt," "officious" and "condescending" stud the prose.
This day, however, her tired is a good tired. She had arrived in Toronto just a day or two earlier, bringing with her perhaps the riskiest project of her illustrious career. It's a movie, of course, called Then She Found Me, and it stars her, perhaps equally "of course," along with Bette Midler, Colin Firth and Matthew Broderick. But it also boasts Hunt as its director, co-writer and co-producer. About the only thing it lacked upon her arrival in Toronto was the all-important distribution deal.
Hence, the decision to have Then She Found Me's world premiere at TIFF, where hungry distributors are as plentiful (almost) as hungry stars.
The gambit worked. "It sold last night at 2:30 in the morning," a smiling Hunt reports between nibbles on a bun. True, the film was out of focus for roughly the first 10 of its 100-minute screening. But the audience reaction was enthusiastic, with the result that THINKFilm in association with Canada's TVA agreed to pay an estimated $3-million for Canada and U.S. rights. Seven months later, the film is set for commercial release, starting Friday in Vancouver and Toronto.
Then She Found Me was a 10-year labour of love for Hunt, sparked by her reading of the 1990 Elinor Lipman novel of the same name. The movie keeps the book's core conceit - a schoolteacher, now in her late 30s (played by Hunt who, while she has always flirted with the skinny side of slender, verges on the wraith-like here), learns that she is adopted and is unwillingly reconnected with her long-absent, larger-than-life birth mother (Midler as a sort of Oprah-ish TV star). Otherwise, it's a very free-and-loose adaptation. "There's 30 per cent of her book in there, maybe," says Hunt, including the movie's other big conceit, the desire of Hunt's character to have a baby with her feckless husband (Broderick).
It was the writing and the financing that took Hunt the longest time to pull together. "Directing, I always knew I wanted to do that," she says, having previously cut her teeth in several Mad About You episodes. But acting in it? "That was the toughest decision. I was pretty tortured as to be in it and, in my head, I'd come up with a good long list of reasons not to be in it." However, as Hunt mulled over other actors for the part - no names were mentioned - "I felt like I'd seen 'it' a bit, y'know? Whereas I hadn't acted in a while [a cameo in 2006's Bobby], so I wasn't bored with myself. I felt, too, that I understood the part better than I'd ever be able to communicate it to another person."
Being the director also informed the decision to self-cast. "I only had 27 days to shoot. That's not very long and there was a fair amount to get through. The only way to do it is if the one actress in virtually every scene would be willing to work 23 hours a day. I didn't think I could necessarily ask someone else to make that commitment, but I could of myself."
Hunt confesses that she found the screenwriting "utterly terrifying." But "as scary as it is, it is something you can show up to everyday, even if the work is pushed forward only an inch." With acting, unless you're taking lessons or communing with an acting coach, "you're waiting for that script to come in, or the rehearsal to begin."
A lot happens in Then She Found Me and while there are a few laughs along the way as well as a surprise ending ("Don't give it away," she pleads), it's largely a measured, modulated, restrained piece of work.
"Bette Midler" and "restrained," however, are not words usually seen in each other's proximity. How did that bit of casting happen? "Well, I needed someone a bit infamous in that part," Hunt explains. At the same time, she acknowledges that she was concerned that Midler's inherent ebullience might prove overpowering. "I urged her at first to have faith in the tone of the piece, in the material and in doing less.
"Then," she laughs, "I realized, 'This is Bette Midler.' I had to be careful not to take what is magical and original about her and put a damper on that. I had to let her do her thing." Part of the fun of Midler's character, Hunt adds, is that "while she's not as famous as Bette, she thinks she's as famous as Bette."
Another intriguing casting choice is that of Salman Rushdie - yes, that Salman Rushdie - as Hunt's gynecologist. Hunt mentions that she "wanted an Indian doctor" in that role because, well... she gave no specific reason this day but later, with another interviewer, she said "there's a point where some of the characters [including Rushdie] pray" for the health of Hunt's unborn child "and it was important to me that it not be some Judeo-Christian version of God they're praying to."
Hunt, in fact, auditioned real Indian doctors, but none appealed to her. Then Rushdie showed up, uninvited - somehow he had gotten a hold of the script and the audition schedule - and, "really, he was the best of the bunch."
For all the headaches, the experience of doing almost everything on Then She Found Me seems to have been salutary rather than dissuasive for Hunt. "I'm writing something now that has a big part for me. And I'm going to direct."
Then She Found Me opens in Toronto and Vancouver on Friday, in Montreal on May 2 and in other cities on May 9.
Brothers & Sisters A Family Affair
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press
(April 18, 2008) He works on a show called Brothers & Sisters, but it probably should be called Husbands & Wives or simply Family. In any case, Ken Olin is happy to be back at work.
The former thirtysomething star is executive producer of the second-year drama, which returns from its strike-imposed hiatus with four new episodes starting Sunday at 10 on ABC and Global.
Brothers & Sisters stars Calista Flockhart, Rachel Griffiths and Sally Field in a serial drama about the wealthy Walker clan of Los Angeles. In Sunday's episode, the 53-year-old Olin is back both behind and in front of the camera, shooting scenes opposite his real-life wife, Patricia Wettig. The couple are that Hollywood rarity, having been married over 25 years. Their son Cliff is also a writer on the series.
With so many family members involved not only in one business but in one series, that 100-day writers' strike had to hurt.
"I don't think anybody wanted to be out of work," Olin says on the phone from L.A. Being both boss and dad to Cliff probably made things a little easier, he suggests.
"Then you become parents and you're just dealing with him being out of work and out of money . . . you just become mom and dad."
Dad the producer certainly got Cliff into the writers' room, but the 24-year-old earned the right to stay as a story editor, says Olin. "He's written some of our best episodes."
Besides, there's nothing wrong or unusual about a little nepotism in Hollywood.
After all, if it wasn't for Cliff, Olin and Wettig might not have landed their big TV break. Cliff went to preschool with producer Marshall Hershkovitz's daughter Lizzie; Hershkovitz later cast Olin and Wettig in thirtysomething.
Olin is back before the cameras as David Caplan, love interest for Wettig's character, Holly Harper (ex-mistress of the Walker family's late patriarch). He says he asked his wife for permission before tackling the recurring role.
"I actually think Patty is enjoying it. I always turn to her and ask if that's okay." No wonder these two have been married so long.
How does his son feel about writing scenes for his parents?
"It's very weird for him," admits Olin – "especially when he has to write for us kissing and stuff."
There was talk at one point that their daughter, Roxie, might also join the series as Harper's daughter Rebecca, but that role eventually went to Ontario-born actor Emily VanCamp (Everwood).
"I really like working with Patty and Emily," says Olin, who admits it's a bit awkward acting on a series he is also producing.
"I get a little nervous when I'm in front of all these people I'm so used to relating to as a director and a producer."
After thirtysomething ended its five-year run in 1991, Olin worked on the short-lived but brilliant Paul Haggis series EZ Streets. Earlier, he worked as an actor on the classic cop series Hill Street Blues.
It was on thirtysomething that he first got the chance to direct. He went on to helm episodes of everything from The West Wing to Felicity to Alias, where he also served as a producer.
He's enjoying his new role of executive producer, even though the past season has been challenging due to the writers' strike. The silver lining, he says, is that everyone returned to work a little more pumped than they usually would be at this time of year.
"There was more excitement and enthusiasm for the remainder of the year than you'd normally find in February and March," he says. "That's when people (working a weekly TV series) are usually exhausted."
Brothers & Sisters has already been renewed for 2008-09, with an extended 24-episode order. Olin says they'll probably get right back to work on Season 3 after a one-month hiatus.
By that point, he'll probably find ways to work any remaining Olins into the series, including Cocoa, the family dog.
"This is what happens when Patty and I work together," he says. ``We spend a lot of time making arrangements for our dog."
Ed Begley Jr.: The Green
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter
(April 19 2008) Ed Begley Jr. is off to Manhattan for his first role in a Woody Allen film.
He's sharing top billing next month with Kevin Spacey and Laura Dern in HBO Films' Recount – detailing the Florida hanging-chad schmozzle that got George W. Bush elected in 2000 – premiering May 25 on the U.S. cable channel, as well as here on The Movie Network. In August, he's got a part in the stoner buddy flick Pineapple Express.
But the actor is just as proud to see his face on the label of Begley's Best – an all-purpose, environmentally safe cleaning product – as he is to hobnob with big stars or to see his name on a movie poster.
During the 1990s, Begley Jr. candidly admits in a recent phone interview, casting agents and directors were giving him a wide berth, dismissing him pretty much as some kind of an eco-nut.
"People were afraid to hire me, they just thought I was too wacky," says Begley Jr. who would, among other things, arrive at Hollywood events on his bicycle.
But times have changed. Witness the unexpected approach from Oscar-winning director Allen, who's returning to Manhattan for his next film.
"He doesn't call. He sends a letter and ... you get 12 pages of your scene and you just look at that and decide if you want to do it or not. I'm a big fan of his so I was elated at the possibility of working with him. Of course I would never say `No,'" he says.
Despite being a committed environmentalist for almost four decades, Begley Jr. says he doesn't get too self-congratulatory about going "green" years before it was considered a mainstream cause.
"There's no joy in 'I told you so.' I'm just happy that people are doing it, whatever it took them to do it," says the actor, who is coming to town next weekend for the Green Living Show at Exhibition Place.
As part of an activism that goes back to 1970 – when he bought his first electric car – Begley Jr. is appearing in Living With Ed, a series airing on HGTV. He's also written a companion guide of the same title that lays out in plain English ways to reduce one's impact on the environment.
In fact, the Begleys are leaving an environmental footprint on Planet Earth that is a barely perceptible footfall. Begley, his second wife, Rachelle, and daughter, Hayden, live in a modest, 1,585-square-foot house in Studio City with solar panels and a wind turbine that provide an independent supply of electricity. The house also has a solar oven, among other features.
The book and the series cannily go beyond the feel-good appeal of preserving the environment, focusing instead on the real dollar savings that can be realized from reducing, reusing and turning to green energy sources.
Thrift and frugality was passed down from his Irish immigrant parents, particularly his Oscar-winning dad, Ed Begley.
"He was a conservative that liked to conserve. He never used the word `environment,' but he was an environmentalist. He was a guy who came from very simple stock and always lived a fairly simple life, so I've always tried to do that in my own way," Begley Jr. says of his father.
Saving money by conserving came as "a surprise" to the actor, but it's a hook that is bound to have a strong appeal for viewers and readers struggling to go green.
"I started with a very modest budget – I was a struggling actor in 1970 – so I did everything on the cheap and that's what I urge everybody to do, pick the low-hanging fruit first, do the stuff that's cheapest and easiest and you save some money and move up the ladder when you're ready," says Begley Jr., pointing out that higher-ticket items like improved insulation lead to even greater cost savings.
Unlike such celebs as Jaclyn Smith and Victoria Principal, who parlayed the last vestiges of their fame to plug fragrances or discount clothing lines, Begley is also contributing to a greener Earth with his Begley's Best cleanser.
Begley Jr. says he took his cue from Hollywood power couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, who more than a decade ago turned Newman's Own into a label that raises money for good causes.
"What they did with Newman's Own, I wanted to do in my small way . . . to have good products and give a lot of money to charity," he says. "That was the paradigm that I sought to duplicate . . . and with some success. We give a lot of money away to charity and we have good products that are keeping people away from toxic substances."
Begley Jr. is also surprisingly upbeat about prospects for the Earth's future, making reference to the Montreal Protocol agreement of 1987 that restricted the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the impact they had on the depletion of the ozone layer.
"We got really tough with (CFCs) and that hole did not get bigger, it did not stay the same size. It's gotten smaller in much less time than we thought," Begley Jr. says.
"We had the dirtiest air in the nation (in Los Angeles) in 1970. We thought, `Oh, it's going to take us such a long time, I don't know that we can ever clean it up.' We have four times the amount of cars in L.A. since 1970, yet we have half the population," he adds.
"We can do this. I'm convinced we can do it. We all need to say that and mean it and get cracking."
Ed Begley Jr. speaks at the Green Living Show's main stage next Saturday at noon. For tickets and info, see www.greenlivingshow.ca.
to Cuban TV
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Reuters
(April 21, 2008) HAVANA — Cuba will air the award-winning U.S. television drama The Sopranos and current series Grey's Anatomy beginning this week, the Communist youth newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, said yesterday. HBO's The Sopranos depicts the life of a New Jersey Mafia boss and his family and will be broadcast by state-run TV Tuesday evenings, while ABC's Grey's Anatomy, which follows the lives of doctors working in a hospital, will be broadcast on Thursdays. House, Friends, and Everybody Loves Raymond have entered Cubans' living rooms, and the forensic series CSI is a huge hit on the Caribbean island where programming is weighted heavily toward educational, variety and children's programming, propaganda, Latin American and Cuban soap operas and sports. Cuba has four national TV channels and various provincial stations, all government operated.
Jesse L. Martin Is 'Coming To Dinner'
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(April 22, 2008) *Jesse L. Martin has lined up a possible Broadway gig to follow the end of his nine-year run on NBC's "Law & Order." The actor is currently in talks to star in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," a new Broadway-aimed production based on the 1967 movie about a white woman who brings her black fiancé home to meet her parents. Martin will play John Wade Prentice, the role played in the film by Sidney Poitier. Kenny Leon ("A Raisin in the Sun") is attached to direct the play, which is expected to begin rehearsals in August. The roles of white parents Matt and Christina Drayton have yet to be cast, however, a number of A-list names have been floating around, including Michael Douglas, Diane Keaton and Sigourney Weaver. Martin, whose last episode of "Law & Order" airs tomorrow night (April 23) at 10, rose to prominence with his role in the original Broadway production of "Rent."
Robert Godin Made A Career Out Of French Theatre In Toronto
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(April 17, 2008) If there really is a fountain of youth, then Robert Godin must bathe in it every morning.
The 61-year-old actor has been performing with Théâtre français de Toronto throughout its 40-year history, but he still has the infectious enthusiasm of a lad right out of theatre school.
"I look out in the audiences," he says on a break from Et si on chantait (a.k.a. Shall We Sing?), the closing show of TFT's 40th season, "and see older audience members I played to as a kid. And then I turn around and look at the young people acting with me and I feel part of a giant chain of theatre that stretches through my whole life."
If you're a TFT regular, you've seen the ebullient Godin illuminating everything from those frothy revues artistic director Guy Mignault whips up to the more substantial classical comedies the group also produces with panache.
"I call my career M&M," he jokes, "musicals and Molière."
But there's more to Godin than that. His 40-year history with Théâtre français de Toronto, through all of its various names and venues ("I've played in every one of them," he says proudly), has made him a vital part of the organization.
He travels to schools around the GTA to prepare them for the student matinees they will attend, works as a telemarketer to ensure TFT's faithful subscribers will return every season, and – in general – acts as a goodwill ambassador for the company.
"I love this group and I would do anything for it," swears Godin of Toronto's only francophone theatre. The irony is that Godin is one of the most anglo of all francophones you've ever met.
He was raised in Rosedale in a 25-room mansion, with everyone speaking impeccable French, courtesy of his grandfather, who ran a successful casket factory and moved here from France during World War I.
"My grandfather was the president of the Toronto Cricket Club," laughs Godin. "Can you get any more WASP than that? And I went to St. Michael's Choir School, which is where I began singing before going on to the Royal Conservatory."
How raffiné and ultra-français was Godin's upbringing? He tells this story at his own expense.
"I went to Quebec in the 1970s thinking I'd find my roots, but I was wrong. I felt like an outcast. I was in a production of Pygmalion and they had translated some of the lines into joual, the Quebecois slang.
"When it came my time to say the line, I mispronounced it and I heard one performer say to another, `He's an English guy. He wouldn't know.'"
Since then, Godin has spent most of his time in Ontario, appearing at Stratford or in other English productions as well as his ongoing and much-beloved work at TFT.
"You know," he says reflectively, "at the age of 61, it's not so much about the career any more. It's things like watching the younger performers and getting all teary-eyed about the next generation.
"At the 40th anniversary gala, I sang Jacques Brel's translation of `The Impossible Dream' and I thought, yes, this is right, this has been the life I wanted to lead."
Just the facts
What: Et si on chantait... (with English surtitles)
When: Apr. 23 through May 10
Where: Théâtre français de Toronto at the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs, 26 Berkeley St.
Tickets: $24-$46 at 416-534-6604
'08: Brave New World
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(April 19 2008) Next Wednesday is Shakespeare's birthday. It also – appropriately enough – marks the start of the new Stratford Festival season, with a preview of Hamlet.
This year heralds a new beginning for the festival, with general director Antoni Cimolino and artistic director Des McAnuff presenting their vision to the world.
And, appropriately enough, it also welcomes a multitude of new faces bringing their energy to the task at hand.
"Yes, it scares me," admits Ben Carlson, who is playing the Prince of Denmark in this year's Stratford version, directed by Adrian Noble.
Although he's a multi-year veteran of the Shaw Festival and played Hamlet before in 2006 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, this will mark his Stratford debut.
"It's a bit of leap for me," confesses Carlson, "coming into this company and playing this part right away, but I'm delighted to be here."
Carlson isn't the only newcomer on this year's roster. Leah Oster, playing the leading role of Marian Paroo in The Music Man, is also venturing into this celebrated institution for the first time.
But instead of fear, she finds the experience inspires confidence.
"You're surrounded by people who are so superb at what they do," she says with admiration.
"The best of the industry have gathered here and they're all devoted to making you look good on stage."
Another fresh face belongs to Nikki M. James, who portrays Juliet in McAnuff's signature production of Romeo and Juliet.
Although she had played Dorothy in McAnuff's recent version of The Wiz, she was astonished when he wanted her to play Juliet.
"At first, I wasn't sure it was something I could do," she admits, "but I knew that Des believed in me and I said, `Okay, for you, I'll give it a chance.'"
It's the same kind of courage that's infused veteran lighting designer Kevin Fraser, who's tackling the new and edgy production of Cabaret by Amanda Dehnert with a sense he describes as "purely intuitive. You see something that she's trying and it encourages you to experiment."
Actor Nigel Shawn Williams has been at Stratford before but he finds the work he's been offered this year "incredibly exciting," from the seldom performed Fuente Ovejuna by Lope de Vega to the world premiere of Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass.
"I'm always excited about doing things first," he says, "about birthing a play to the world and that's what's happening here this year."
Or, as Shakespeare himself said, "O brave new world!"
We highlight the talented men and women of Stratford as they prepare for a new season.
Gritty Addiction Tale Enthralls
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(out of 4)
By Michael P. Northey. Directed by Patrick McDonald. Until May 3 at Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front St. E. 416-862-2222
(April 23, 2008) Want to learn how a 16-year-old can go from being "king of the hill to bottom of the barrel" in just one year?
Then make what will prove to be an informative, frightening, yet still entertaining visit to Cranked, which opened at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People yesterday afternoon.
This show from Vancouver's Green Thumb Theatre about teenage addiction to crystal meth has been a big hit on the West Coast and it deserves an equal reaction here.
I saw it with a packed house of mid-teens, who can be the most critical of audiences, but they were held every minute, cheering loudly at the end.
The major reason is that this is a show that not only walks the walk, but talks the talk. Thanks to Michael P. Northey's exceptionally idiomatic script, as well as the music/beats laid down by Kyprios and Stylust, a young audience doesn't feel condescended to and is able to connect perfectly.
The story they're relating to is that of a kid named Stan, who raps under the name Definition. He struck it big just after his 16th birthday with a record deal, instant fame and tons of money. But shortly after, he discovered crystal meth and the money vanished, along with his health, his family life, a lot of his brain and – almost – his life.
We meet him at 17, after months in rehab, when he's trying to make a comeback. In the course of his backstage pre-show jitters, we learn all about what brought him to this place. Most of it is cleverly done in the first rap he ever wrote in Grade 9, for a teacher who demanded he turn in an essay about what his father did for a living.
With the baby grooves and halting rhymes of the embryonic rapper, we learn about a life that gave "empty" a new meaning, but the brilliance of the sequence is that we see Stan using his repressed inner feelings to fuel his growing art.
Kyle Cameron is awesome here playing Stan, as he is throughout the whole 45-minute show. He's not afraid to show us the disgusting physical side of his addiction, picking at sores both real and imaginary, while wiping away a cold sweat that never seems to vanish no matter how hard he tries.
His dementia is equally convincing, with some of his hallucinations proving so deeply felt that when we later find out they were false, we're as relieved as we are surprised.
The performer and the script have taken us through hell, which is why the hopeful ending may seem a bit on the artificial side, but one would like to think that anyone who sees Cranked would be terrified enough by its portrait of crystal meth to keep far away from it in the first place.
Mad props to LKTYP artistic director Allen MacInnis for making a show this important and tough available to our city's students.
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer
(out of 4)
Choreography by Bill T. Jones Until Saturday at the Enwave Theatre, 231 Queens Quay W. 416-973-4000
(April 17, 2008) Bill T. Jones is one dancesmith who understands the power of the spoken word.
Words inflict pain and words can heal. Both functions are central to the experience of Chapel/Chapter, which had its Toronto premiere at the Enwave Theatre last night.
The stories told are harsh, dangerous to tell and dangerous to hear. But words of prayer and remembrance make a way to say, "deliver us from evil."
Two murderers confess their crimes in Chapel/Chapter. One man tells how he killed all five members of the Soto family. Another relates his "troubled" daughter's murder: "It was an accident." He struck her with his closed fist. A third confesses to a death he witnessed but never told for 18 years.
The two murderers' accounts are repeated with variations. But not in a way to numb us.
The superb young dancers of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, a highly eclectic group as always, turn us from passive observers to willing participants with their every move.
Jones is not literal. He and artistic associate Janet Wong have fashioned a language that is a visual correlative to emotional rather than factual truths.
Designer Bjorn Amelan has reconstructed the interior of the Enwave Theatre as a chapel with seats and pews arranged around all four sides of a large dance mat carved in the shape of a church window. Heavy red drapes enclose the space.
As the audience files in, male figures in orange prisoners' jumpsuits walk around the space, their eyes closed. Blue-costumed sighted figures redirect them when they stray off the dance mat.
The mat is a large light box. As the scenes shift, it becomes a playground where charades are played, with dancers spelling out variations on "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."
Texts are projected in bold fonts. A little girl plays hopscotch and cross-legged dancers play patty-cake. The games and the ritualized ensemble dance that follow the telling of these almost unspeakable crimes bring order to the chaos of a world where awful things happen for no apparent reason.
Jones and Wong devised patterns of dance that speak of embracing life and expressing ourselves to the fullest. The highly energetic, gutsy dance sometimes looks like yoga positions assumed in very rapid sequences.
Peter Chamberlin makes an icy-eyed killer. Erick Montes is the very essence of the family dog in the Soto story and the fallen victim in another. Maija Garcia is the personification of innocence as Little Girl.
A lot of thought and work went into the creation of a show in which song, spoken word, high-spirited music, movement, acting and stunning visual and lighting effects are not just layered, but fused into a mesmerizing whole.
Jones' work has often focused on collective experience. And what is a dance company if not a place to express collective experience?
Chapel/Chapter leaves an audience feeling as if they've just been through something they won't soon forget.
Get Their Act Together
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Damien Cox, Hockey Columnist
(April 22, 2008) MONTREAL–It was survival, yes. But more than that.
This was a game that the Montreal Canadiens needed to win to fight another round and spare themselves the ridicule of losing to a team that was defined as clearly inferior.
But winning in a way that would re-fortify the confidence in the Montreal dressing room was also on the agenda and that, too, was accomplished.
A resounding 5-0 triumph in Game 7 against the Boston Bruins last night in a building that shook with sound surely gave the Canadiens a wee bit of their swagger back – and just in time.
With Washington having stunned the Flyers in Philadelphia last night to force a Game 7 tonight in that series, the Canadiens will now wait to find out whether they'll play the Flyers in the next round or the much tougher New York Rangers.
If it's the Rangers, well, the first-place Canadiens will find themselves the underdog going in.
They'll need all the swagger they can muster.
For the first half of last night's game, they really only had Carey Price and more Carey Price to throw at the plucky Bruins. Mostly, the Habs seemed uncertain and a bit confused.
Sure, they had the early lead off an inadvertent deflection by a Boston player, but the visitors dominated the first period and were no worse than even with the home team past the 10-minute mark of the second.
Then came a hard diagonal pass through the neutral zone from first-line winger Alex Kovalev to fourth-line centre Maxim Lapierre and Lapierre handled it cleanly. He drew a Boston defender to him, then dropped the puck to Swiss-born Mark Streit cutting behind him.
Streit, it's fair to say, is an unusual player in today's NHL, a rover as much as a pure defenceman or forward. He does a little bit of everything for these Canadiens and, as he gathered the drop pass from Lapierre, it appeared he might be in for a world of hurt, for 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara was cruising across the zone to meet him.
But when Chara tried to create a collision, Streit slipped the puck between the giant Slovak defenceman's legs and cut into open ice in the slot. A head fake got Boston goalie Tim Thomas leaning to his left and Streit flicked the puck between his legs for a 2-0 Montreal lead.
"I put a move (on Chara) and it worked," Streit said. "Then it was like a dream. A lot of noise. A lot of joy."
It wasn't just any goal, however. It was a stylish goal that caught Boston's top player napping and after that, well, the Canadiens seemed like the Canadiens again. Faster. Quicker. Smarter.
"You don't see those kind of goals too often in the playoffs," Habs captain Saku Koivu said. "Those are the ones that really grab the momentum from the other team."
The rest of the night was all Canadiens. The Brothers Kostitsyn, Andrei and Sergei, who had each scored in the opening 2:02 of the series, capped the night by each scoring in the final 2:02 of play to partially obscure the reality neither had done very much of significance in between.
"They're like glue off the ice," Koivu said with a chuckle. "So they should be able to find each other on the ice."
Koivu, playing his second game after missing three weeks with a broken foot, looked to be back in mid-season form, but his play and Streit's scoring heroics might not have mattered much if not for Price.
After giving up 10 goals in the previous two games, Price made 25 saves for the shutout, with the most meaningful ones coming in the first period when the Canadiens still looked like the less confident of the two clubs. His exemplary play bought time for coach Guy Carbonneau's youthful team to release the doubt created by blowing a 3-1 series lead, bought time for them to find that swagger.
"It wasn't an easy spot for him after Games 5 and 6," Koivu said. "But he really looked big out there. And I felt that little by little, we were able to grab more of the game as it went on."
Little by little, they survived. Actually, it might have been more than that.
The Canadiens might have found themselves again.
Thomas Fired As Knicks Coach
Is The Famous Hollywood Sign In Danger?
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lisa Leff, The Associated Press
(April 17, 2008) LOS ANGELES–The world-famous HOLLYWOOD sign that has been used by TV and movie directors in more scene-setting shots than a film student could ever count was first erected in 1923 to promote real estate in the fledgling capital of celluloid.
Eighty-five years later, some fear the sign and the hillside on which it sits are threatened by, yes, a real estate deal.
An investment group that owns 138 sage-covered acres above and to the left of the 45-foot-high, steel-and-concrete H put the land up for sale last month for $22 million.
Some Los Angeles residents are afraid mansions will be built there, spoiling the sign's uncluttered, postcard-perfect backdrop. They worry, too, that the land will no longer be accessible to the hikers, sightseers and romantics who often climb the hill for solitude and a panoramic view of the Los Angeles basin.
Residents led by a city councilman are fighting to preserve the parcel, known as Cahuenga Peak.
"That is our Eiffel Tower," Councilman Tom LaBonge said. ``There is the Hollywood sign. There is the open space. And that's all there is. This is ours and it should remain ours.''
The parcel has a distinctly Hollywood back story: It was once owned by billionaire Howard Hughes.
Lore has it that Hughes bought it in 1940 – 17 years after the publisher of the Los Angeles Times spelled out his plans for a nearby subdivision in King Kong-size letters – with dreams of building an estate to share with Ginger Rogers.
The romance fizzled – Rogers later said the idea of being holed up with the tycoon on the isolated hilltop gave her the willies – and Hollywood's highest crest was left to the deer, the coyotes and the visitors who ignore the no-trespassing signs.
In fact, most people here assumed the property had long ago fallen into the public domain. That is, until Fox River Financial Resources, the Chicago investors who quietly purchased the peak from Hughes' estate for $1.7 million in 2002, put the one-of-a-kind parcel on the market recently.
Based on the bargain-basement price paid by the investors, it appears the Hughes estate's trustees were unaware of what it was worth or too busy managing the billionaire's vast holdings to care, said Ernie Carswell, a real estate agent handling the property.
Either way, the current asking price stems from valuable information the owners unearthed after buying the property: In 1949, Hughes secured the right to build a hillside road on land owned by the city Department of Water and Power. That would make the hill more accessible, and thus more attractive to homeowners.
"Deep beneath all the layers was the Hope diamond. Someone found it, and it was our sellers," Carswell said. "The day that happened is when that property skyrocketed in value.''
Carswell said the parcel is farther away from the Hollywood sign than many people realize, and that at a distance, even a mansion would be a mere "speck" on the mountain.
To the many fans of the Hollywood sign, however, carving up 1,820-foot Cahuenga Peak makes as much sense as cutting up the Hope diamond to make a lot of engagement rings.
"I think people would do everything from bake sales to jog-a-thons to stop this," said Yvonne Chotzen, who often walks her dog on the trail below the sign. "There is huge passion for it.''
LaBonge wants the city, which owns the ground the sign stands on and the land on three sides of it, to acquire the old Hughes property. But he said the city cannot legally pay more than $6 million, a price based on its most recent appraisal.
The councilman is talking to conservation groups about buying the land. Another option, he said, is asking Hollywood heavy hitters to chip in as they did in the 1970s, when Hugh Hefner, Alice Cooper and other celebrities paid $28,000 each to replace the sign's nine crumbling letters.
Historian Marc Wanamaker, president of the preservation group Hollywood Heritage, doubts the Ginger Rogers-Howard Hughes love story. But he said there is no denying the significance of the Hollywood sign, which is instantly recognizable around the world.
"It's true the Hollywood sign was originally a sign to help sell development. But by 1945 the City Council of Los Angeles had made it the official iconic sign of Los Angeles," Wanamaker said. ``It's just become part of the culture and landmark status of Los Angeles, extremely important.''
Carswell said there is something ironic about the effort to block real estate development around the site.
"Those letters were a real estate developer's advertisement. That's the whole way the sign got there," he said. "So I think it's the perfect circle."
Breaks Give Ontario Video Game Industry Extra Life
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko, Special To The Star
(April 20, 2008) "When we first started out, the game development industry in Ontario was decimated," says Denis Dyack, recalling when he founded the video-game development house Silicon Knights in St. Catharines in 1992. "A big company, Grey Matter, went out of business in Oakville and for a long time developers didn't pop up."
Fifteen years later, the development scene couldn't be more different. Game development in Canada employs 9,000 people – a sixth of them in Ontario – and is now a growing, $2-billion industry.
A large part of the growth comes thanks to government support for an industry seen as creative, non-polluting and non-extractive. The Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit, for example, can refund 30 per cent of labour, distribution and marketing of games. This and other incentives from Queen's Park and Ottawa cut the cost of doing business in Ontario by nearly 60 per cent.
"It's helping out everybody in Ontario," says James Schmalz, founder of London-based developer Digital Extremes, creators of the Unreal series of games and its widely adopted technology, one of the top independent developers in the world. "I see a huge amount of growth occurring in the next five years." In fact, the news last week of the demise of Pseudo Interactive, which employed 50 people in Toronto, is greeted with shrugs by gaming insiders, who reckon all those affected already have new jobs.
However, the growth in Ontario is catch-up with the industry elsewhere in Canada, specifically in Quebec and British Columbia. Anchored by French developer and publisher Ubisoft's massive Montreal studio and supported by aggressively generous tax incentives over the years, Quebec does over a quarter of the country's game business; Vancouver, long the heart of Canadian game development and home to industry giant Electronic Arts' 3,000-employee studio, takes fully half of the pie.
Coming up between these two poles, and without a single, massive development house providing a centre of gravity, the industry in Ontario tends to be more dispersed and independent-minded; while the province has 16 per cent of the country's game workers, 40 per cent of Canada's game companies are headquartered here.
"The community is very close-knit and very personal, which is nice," says Tim Carter, a veteran game designer specializing in so-called "serious" games, games designed for purposes such as training disaster-response officials.
"Some of that comes from shared frustrations, some of it is Canadian sociability. We're more open to talking, there's more mixing between newbies and veteran professionals."
Warren Currell, whose company, Sherpa Games, acts as an agent to help independent creators and smaller developers get their games published, sees that kind of communication as a necessary adjunct to incentives like tax-breaks if Ontario wants to have home-grown companies come up rather than outside companies drop in.
"I think the big value is mentoring," he says. Many independents "don't know how to apply for Telefilm, they don't know how to apply for other grants, they don't know any of this stuff."
To this end, he says, development and support organizations like the Ontario Media Development Corporation are critical.
Like any fast-growing industry, a major challenge is recruiting and retaining talent. Provincial support like the recently announced funding of $9 million for the Ontario College of Art and Design's Digital Futures Initiative – which aims to produce graduates armed with both business and design chops – may go a long way to fill this need. But with companies all over the world climbing over each other to secure top talent, keeping these graduates in Ontario can be difficult.
"All we do is export talent," says Dyack. "There aren't the equivalent opportunities in Ontario ... Bill Gates comes down and talks at Waterloo, he's taking those kids down to Seattle. And that happens every year."
For Dyack, the solution is more growth, and consolidation. "I think the independent (games development) space is disappearing, and I think it should disappear. ... It's analogous to movies in the '20s and '30s, when all the smaller studios were rolled up into the majors that are still with us today.
"There are a few things to overcome, and in the short term they will be overcome, and in the next five to 10 years, the industry going to explode."
More sceptical in his movie analogies is Tim Carter. "I'm worried the Canadian game industry will go down the same road Canadian film went down in the '70s with the Canadian Film Development Corporation," he says, alluding to our film industry's era as Hollywood's tax shelter and cheap-feature factory.
"The focus is all on the administration and business side, not on the games ... The funders need to be aware that games are more than just pop entertainment or tech ventures. They're a new form that needs to be developed."
Darren Zenko has been writing about video games for nine years.
Get Ready To Feel Blu, PS3 Owners
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star
(April 19 2008) In case you're not up on your Blu-ray news, an upcoming feature called BD-Live will let movie fans with Internet-connected Blu-ray players gain access to exclusive content, such as the ability to download high-definition trailers for current theatrical releases or additional language packs for the film. Or you'll be able to take advantage of online community features such as chatting with friends in another city while watching the same movie, uploading user-generated content like commentary tracks or playing multiplayer games.
PlayStation 3 (PS3) owners, however, can now update the machine's firmware to take advantage of these BD-Live features.
Using a wired or wireless connection, you can go to the System Update tab on PS3's media bar to download the firmware upgrade version 2.2.
Other benefits of this firmware upgrade include:
• The ability to transfer PS3 music and photos to a PlayStation Portable (PSP).
• DivX and WMV format support for video files over 2 gigabytes.
• Resume play, so a Blu-ray disc or DVD will resume playing at the point it was paused.
• Using the PSP as a remote control to play music files on the PS3 without turning on the TV.
• Faster Internet browsing.
Dreamfall available on Xbox Live
One of the best PC adventure games to surface over the past few years is now available as a digital download for Xbox 360 owners.
In Funcom's Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, which costs 1,200 Microsoft Points (about $17) over the Xbox Live service, players control three separate but connected protagonists in the 23rd century: the soul-searching Zoë, who stumbles upon an alternate universe; April, a young heroine who returns from the original game; and Kian, an apostle and assassin rolled into one.
Unlike many video games with thin characters and a clichéd plot that feels like an afterthought, Dreamfall features well-written dialogue, a compelling storyline and competent voice acting.
Game-play includes exploring three huge worlds – a futuristic Earth, a magical plane called Arcadia, and the mysteriously dark realm, Winter – while you interact with dozens of characters, solve puzzles and engage in a few combat sequences.
Cheaper guitar for 'Guitar Hero'
Nintendo Wii owners looking for a wireless guitar to play Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock now have a more customizable and less expensive option.
Nyko's FrontMan is the first third-party controller for the game. At $49.99 or less, it has a more appealing price tag than the $69.99 for the official Les Paul game guitar.
You can change the colour of the pick guards from black to white (for the yellow guitar) or black to pink (for the white guitar).
The comfortable wireless guitar also offers a port that lets you snap in the Wii Remote (not included) to power the guitar – therefore no batteries are necessary.
She Wants To
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt
(April 22, 2008) NEW YORK — Jhumpa Lahiri is sitting primly in the living room of her rambling Brooklyn brownstone, reflecting on the ambivalent fortune of good fortune. Eight years ago, she won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction with her first book, the short-story collection Interpreter of Maladies. Lahiri was born in London to Bengali parents who moved to Rhode Island when she was young, and both Interpreter and its follow-up, the novel The Namesake, explored the emotional and cultural dislocations of Indian immigrants straddling lives in their homeland and in America.
And now here she is with Unaccustomed Earth, her third book, a knockout collection of eight short stories in which her focus has shifted down one generation, to the children of Indian immigrants in the United States, even as it remains trained on the minutiae of identity and daily life.
So on this day a few weeks ago, even though advance reviews are glowing, Lahiri is thinking about the critics who wished she would find another subject. "I think there's an impatience," she says. "It goes something like this: 'Why do you keep writing about the same thing? Why do you keep writing about immigrants? Why are they all so depressed?' "
She chuckles, then notes that, when Interpreter came out, some said she wasn't entitled to write about India because she hadn't been born there, or grown up there. "And now with this book, it's, 'You don't write about India any more. What happened? Don't you love India any more?' " She shakes her head.
In photographs and public appearances, Lahiri is often draped in silk with sunbursts of colour, making her seem exotic, remote, severe and almost consciously iconic (The Bengali-American Writer!). Today, though, the icon she evokes is Connecticut Housewife: dressed in a sensible robin's-egg-blue cardigan, the hue of which matches the strap of her watch, a blue-and-beige skirt, and brown stockings. Her feet rest in a worn pair of brown house slippers. Her hair is down, shoulder-length.
"Someone just asked me last week, 'Well, you won the Pulitzer Prize and you could do anything' - as if the Pulitzer is like some gold American Express card - 'You can go buy a Jaguar, why are you driving a Honda?' - and she said, 'You could write about anything, why do you keep writing about the same thing?' And I thought: Because I want to. I mean, isn't that the point of writing? That it's the one job, if you're lucky, if you're a fiction writer, you can think about and write about what interests you, what inspires you."
The inspirations for Unaccustomed Earth are here in this room, both present and palpably absent. Behind Lahiri, to her left, is a camping tent in which her two children were playing earlier this morning: 3½-year-old Noor, and Octavio, who will turn 6 next month. (At this moment, he is at school, in kindergarten; she is at a tot's music class with her nanny.) Behind and to Lahiri's right is a children's easel, which doubles as a spot to hang a pair of Noor's tiny purses. There are a few contemporary sculptures here too, works that once belonged to Lahiri's mother-in-law, a Guatemalan artist who passed away in 2000. Her father-in-law died in 2004.
"The book is clearly a result of a certain phase of life," she acknowledges. "It is the first book I've written as a mother, as a parent, and also as someone who's watched parents die. So I think that's why there are both so many children in the book and ... parents dying also."
The book's title comes from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Custom House: "Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth."
But Lahiri, who herself struck out in a new direction away from her parents when she married her husband, Hispanic journalist Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, recognizes that there are unseen costs.
The title story of Unaccustomed Earth, which begins the book, finds a young mother at loose ends, having moved from the East Coast to Seattle with her husband and young son. Less than a year after her own mother has passed away, Ruma is pregnant with her second child, contemplating whether she should fulfill her filial duty and invite her father, who is visiting for the first time, to move in with her family.
"The father thinks, 'My daughter wouldn't take me in, anyway, because she wasn't created that way,' " Lahiri says. "There's a letting go: She's leading her own life. That idea, that attitude, it's interesting to me, because I think my parents and their generation, they accept these new ways, but - not that it's not a full acceptance - it remains a foreign way of approaching life. Because there is that whole sense of filial obedience, loyalty, really doing what your parents expect you to do. But at the same time what always interests me is that those parents themselves have in some sense betrayed their own parents' expectations.
"I see that in my own parents in many ways. So I think it's not just about, 'Oh, we're raising you in a foreign land and we wanted you to be A, B and C and you really turned out to be X, Y and Z.' But it's that the parents themselves carry a certain burden: 'Did we expect to really live our entire adult lives in the United States and not be there for our own parents?' and all of those other things."
While each of the stories in Unaccustomed Earth has its own power, the book's major achievement is its second part, a 110-page narrative arc that unfolds over the course of three connected stories. It begins in 1974, when six-year-old Hema meets nine-year-old Kaushik and follows the intermittent development of their relationship over the next 30 years. "I was inspired by linked stories, a grouping, the way Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant do. They're two of my most favourite writers."
She never saw the story as a novel. Besides, she recognizes that, especially over the past few years, she has not had the focus that writing another one would require. "My sense is that, if I'd started a novel in 2003, that I'd still be writing it," she laughs.
It has been an intense time. In the summer of 2005, Lahiri and her husband sold their two-bedroom apartment in Park Slope and overextended themselves to buy this brownstone. She was just thinking about that a few hours ago, in fact, as she watched the morning's happy chaos unfold. She had recalled the couple from whom they had bought the house, who had lived here for more than 30 years, had raised their two children here and welcomed grandchildren into the house: a journey on which Lahiri and her husband were just embarking.
When they bought the place, "I remember just going very far in my head: Am I going to grow old in this house? Am I going to die in this house? Am I going to become a widow in this house? And I'd just never thought of those things, in a tangible sense, until I bought the house. I mean, everyone thinks about those things: Am I gonna die? When am I gonna die? Who's gonna die first? What's gonna happen? But I remember thinking about them and suddenly there was a setting, and it made everything so much more real."
Jhumpa Lahiri and Michael Ondaatje will read this evening at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto (416-973-4000).
Ways to Get in Shape for Summer
By Mueller Glenn, eDiets Senior Writer/Editor
"I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes, I have to turn my head until my darkness goes." -- The Rolling Stones
The time to put on a bathing suit and head for the beach is coming soon enough. The question is: Will you be ready? Personally, I have to admit last winter provided its fair share of discontent, and now there are a few extra pounds spilling out over the top of my boxer shorts. In fact, the very thought of walking around a crowded beach in my bathing suit is enough to make me break out in hives. Unless I keep my XL Gator T-shirt on at all times, somebody is likely to mistake me for a beached whale and stick a harpoon in my side.
I need a workout routine that can whip me into shape. In order to get some extra motivation, I turned to our Chief Fitness Pro, Raphael Calzadilla, for advice. If you've read any of his articles, you already know Raphael consistently drives home one very important message -- you can't goal without a plan! And, whatever healthy meal plan you chose you must combine a slight caloric deficit with consistent exercise in order to drop that extra weight.
Now, straight from his home office in West Palm Beach, Fla., here's Raphael's top-10 tips for a simply sizzlin' summer:
1. To lose fat and get trim, try alternating exercise activities during the week. Sometimes I fall into the trap of doing the same exercise routine over and over. Of course, other times I go for weeks without doing any exercise other than sixteen-ounce curls. But anyway, the point is that Raphael recommends changing your exercise routine at least every 4-6 weeks.
2. We're all busy people, but the longer days and extra sunlight should keep us extra motivated. Unless you make it a priority in your life, it is easy to feel like there just isn't enough time to exercise. However, during daylight savings time, you should take some advice from that popular 60s song and "let the sunshine in." When you find yourself really pressed for time, Raphael suggests trying three 10-minute workouts spread through the day. Believe it or not, three 10-minute bursts of activity can be just as effective as one 30-minute exercise session.
3. Take yourself off the beaten path. As the poet said, sometimes taking the road less traveled can make all the difference. Yes, I realize that Robert Frost wasn't referring to exercise, but his advice still applies. Now that spring is in full bloom, why not go to a state park and hike on the weekends? You can alternate this with the strength training and cardio you complete at the gym or home during the week. Hiking and climbing burns a lot of calories and actually helps to boost your metabolism.
4. People attain great success when they have a goal. Try to make yourself accountable for reaching your weight-loss goal. You might want to sign up for a 5k walk or race in your local community. As you begin to train for the race and improve your eating habits, you'll start to get leaner. "The objective is not to win the race, but to set a goal and exercise the discipline to complete it," Raphael says. "It will be almost impossible to not lose fat and get leaner."
5. The Weighting Game. If you really want a fit body for summer, Raphael recommends: (a) performing weight training two to three days per week for 30 brisk minutes, (b) doing cardiovascular exercise three to five days per week for 30 moderate minutes and (c) slightly reducing your intake of calories.
6. Give Those Extra Pounds the Boot. If you really want to lose weight, maybe you should try going to boot camp. No, we're not asking you to enroll in the military... although that would certainly get you in shape, too. Many gyms and health clubs offer some sort of group "boot camp" classes. "The basis of the program is combining calisthenics, cardiovascular exercise and running obstacle courses to improve fitness and lose fat," Raphael says. "As the name implies, it's run in military boot camp style but is a lot of fun. Just two days per week of this activity will strip fat from your body. You don't have to be in shape to participate, and you're encouraged to go at your own pace."
7. Don't be afraid to try something new outdoors. Try a variety of outdoor recreational activities, and you'll be more likely to burn fat while having a great time. If you are adventurous enough to give it a whirl, Raphael recommends purchasing a pair of roller blades. "It may take you a few weeks to feel comfortable, but I guarantee you'll enjoy rollerblading in the sunshine and listening to great music on your head phones," Raphael says.
8. Motivation is one of the keys to creating a bathing suit-ready body. Believe it or not, Raphael says you should go ahead and purchase the bathing suit that you would like to be wearing by the start of summer. Yes, I know it won't fit you now... but that is his whole point. "Make fitting into the suit a realistic goal and leave the suit somewhere in your kitchen so it's always visible," Raphael says. "Let the future enticement of fitting perfectly into the suit be your motivation. This isn't psychological mumbo jumbo -- this tip really works."
9. Spend a day at the park. No, we're not talking about going to the ballpark, although that is also an important summer ritual. Raphael recommends finding a park near you with an exercise path. Such parks usually contain fitness stations that require you to complete push-ups, sit-ups and lunges. "Most of these courses only take 20 minutes to complete, but they can be repeated to extend exercise time."
10. One of the keys to getting a leaner body is stimulating the metabolism. In order to give your metabolism that special "get up and go," Raphael recommends exercising in the mornings. "When you work out in the morning, you decrease your appetite and burn calories all day long," Raphael says. "Try to power walk, jog or swim as a start to your day, and don't forget to include strength training to further stimulate your fat-burning progress."
|from www.eurweb.com - by Erma Bombeck|