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LE NEWSLETTER

December 18, 2008

One week from today is the Christmas holiday ... can you believe it?  I wish each and every one of you the very best of the holiday season (with no stress!) and I also wish you a great deal of joy for 2009. 

I thank you all for your support and love throughout the year.  Your emails of support and suggestions keep me going!  And please celebrate the season safely!

In order to celebrate with my family and also to take a much-needed holiday in St.. Maarten, I don't think I'll be publishing a newsletter until the New Year.  But check your inboxes ... I may get some time to send out a brief one!

Don't forget you can see the entire newsletter with lead lines and graphics by clicking WEEKLY NEWSLETTER above.

Tons of entertainment news again so take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

 

::TOP STORIES::

CTV Cancels Canadian Idol For 2009

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, Television Critic

(December 16, 2008) Canadian Idol, once a competition-crushing ratings juggernaut for CTV, will not be produced in 2009, the network confirmed tonight.

Citing a less-than-idyllic "economic climate," CTV said Canadian Idol will be taking a "rest" for the broadcast year.

But CTV still retains its Idol licence, and says it has every expectation of bringing the crooner competition back again the following season.

Times must indeed be tough for the network to suspend production on the second most-watched Canadian-originated show in the entire country - right behind CTV's other adopted franchise, So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

But even with impressive ratings that ranged between 1 and 1.5 million in the final weeks of its sixth season in September, that is still roughly half the Canadian audience for its sister sing-a-thon, American Idol.

The American show, also cutting costs this year by cancelling its annual American Idol Gives Back fund-raiser, returns for its own eighth season January 13.

Musiq Soulchild Returns With 'Onmyradio'

Source: Dackowski, Brian, Brian.Dackowski@atlanticrecords.com

(December 12, 2008) *Atlantic recording artist Musiq Soulchild has announced a range of promotional activities surrounding the release of his eagerly anticipated new album, entitled "ONMYRADIO." 

The collection - which follows last year's chart-topping Atlantic label debut, "LUVANMUSIQ" - is in stores and at all online retailers.

Among the schedule's highlights is a day-of-release concert performance at New York City's world famous Apollo Theater. 

What's more, the multi-platinum Musiq is making a series of in-store appearances in a number of major markets across the country. On Saturday, December 13th, Musiq will wrap up the schedule with a signing session at Borders Books & Music in Lithonia, Georgia's The Mall at Stonecrest, set for 5pm.

"IfULeave (Feat. Mary J. Blige)," the first single from "ONMYRADIO," is looking like another major hit for Musiq.  The track is blowing up at multi-format radio outlets across the country, including Urban and Urban AC, where it is currently #3 with-a-bullet.  In addition, "IfULeave" has scored the week's third Most Increased Plays at the format.  The single has also just arrived on Billboard's "Hot 100," while also ascending the "Hot 100 Airplay" and "Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop" charts. 

"Musiq teamed up with some of his past hit making partners Warryn Campbell and Karma Productions (Carvin and Ivan) to ensure that his new sound still retained the musical integrity that launched his career and cemented his place as a soul music superstar, " says Office of Kevin Liles executive Jojo Brim.

Furthermore, the "IfULeave" companion video - which recently premiered with a behind-the-scenes documentary on BET's Access Granted - is now in rotation at BET, BET J, and VH1 Soul.

"ONMYRADIO" is Musiq Soulchild's most populist and provocative work to date.  As ever, tracks like "Beautiful" see Musiq presenting an individualistic and distinctly modern take on classic soul, imbuing it with his own special brand of urban energy, attitude and creativity.

The album has just received a major rave from Entertainment Weekly, which hails Musiq for his "new confidence," noting that "he hasn't abandoned his romantic roots, but he… (has enriched) them with Southern charm."  An additional array of national press has already greeted the innovative Atlanta-based artist's return, including recent features in Ebony, Vibe, Jewel, Jet, Upscale, and Black Enterprise.  Further features and reviews will appear in the coming weeks.

As if all that weren't enough, Musiq has just released "A PHILLY SOUL XMAS," a 7-track EP available exclusively at Target stores nationwide.  The collection includes soulful renditions of such holiday classics as "Jingle Bells," 'O Holy Night," and "Deck The Halls," all performed in the inimitable Soulchild style.

"ONMYRADIO" arrives little more than a year after Musiq's RIAA gold-certified fourth album, "LUVANMUSIQ," which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.  The set earned three Grammy nominations:  Best R&B Album, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "B.U.D.D.Y.," and Best R&B Song for "Teachme." 

Inspired by such icons as Stevie Wonder, James Brown, and Ray Charles, Musiq made a blockbuster debut right out of the gate with 2000's acclaimed "AIJUSWANASEING."  Fuelled by the breakthrough singles, "Just Friends (Sunny)" and "Love," the album went on to earn RIAA platinum.  In addition, Musiq was honoured with a number of awards, including Billboard Music Awards for "Best New Artist," "Top R&B Artist," "Top R&B Male," and "Top R&B Single" (for "Love"); the Soul Train Music Award for "Best R&B/Soul Single" (for "Love"); and the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award for "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Song" (for "Love").  Further nominations came from the Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, The Source Awards, BET Awards, and NAACP Awards.

In May 2002, Musiq unveiled his second album, "JUSLISEN," which entered both the Billboard 200 and Billboard's "Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums" chart at #1.  The collection, which featured a pair of hits in "Dontchange" and "Halfcrazy," was soon certified RIAA platinum and again earned Musiq a variety of prestigious awards.  Among the trophies were Soul Train Awards for "Best R&B/Soul Album" and "Best R&B/Soul Single" (for "Dontchange"); an ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Award for "Award Winning Song" (for "Dontchange"); and a BMI "Urban" Award (for "Halfcrazy").  What's more, Musiq received nominations from the Grammy Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, BET Awards, NAACP Awards, and Billboard Music Awards.

"SOULSTAR," Musiq's third album, arrived one short year later and he was once again greeted with both critical and popular success.  Hailed as one of the year's finest collections of contemporary R&B, the album featured two radio smashes, "Forthenight" and "Whoknows." The winner of the Soul Train Awards' "Best R&B/Soul Album," "SOULSTAR" also reaped nods from the Grammy Awards and BET Awards.

In addition to the many honours he has received for his solo albums, Musiq also scored a 2004 Grammy Award nomination in the "Best Urban Alternative Performance" category, acknowledging his take on the classic "Are You Experienced?," found on the "POWER OF SOUL: A TRIBUTE TO JIMI HENDRIX" collection.  Other extracurricular efforts include contributing guest vocals to the Roots' "Break You Off" (found on 2002's "PHRENOLOGY") and Carlos Santana's 2002 "SHAMEN."

For further news and information, please visit www.musiqsoulchild.comwww.myspace.com/musiqsouldchild, or www.youtube.com/user/SoulchildTube08.

Will Smith Taps Into Emotional Trauma

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(December 13, 2008) HOLLYWOOD–Call it perverse, or maybe a savvy career move.

Just when it seems that
Will Smith couldn't be more popular – even President-elect Barack Obama is a fan – the actor and rapper is working on dimming his sunny image.

Smith is arguably the world's most popular actor, a goal he famously set for himself two decades ago. His past eight movies, from Men in Black II in 2002 to this summer's Hancock, have each grossed more than $100 million at the North American box office, a record run of hits.

He's everybody's first pick to play Obama in the eventual biopic of the president-elect's rise to glory. Obama has said he'd like to see it happen. You'd better believe that Smith is up for it, although he hopes it happens after Obama has completed eight years as president.

"When I get the order from my Commander-in-Chief, as a good American, I will rise to the call!" Smith tells the Star, as he begins an interview in a Beverly Hills hotel suite. He's dressed as if at a job interview, all smiles and good cheer in a white shirt, dark tie and natty baby blue pullover.

Despite all this, Smith is busy tarnishing his screen persona. It's a project he began with the release two years ago of The Pursuit of Happyness, in which he played a down-and-out single dad. He followed that with his survivalist scientist in last year's I Am Legend and his grumpy superhero in the recent Hancock, each role tougher than the last.

With
Seven Pounds, his new drama opening Dec. 19 (it reunites him with Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino), Smith will really challenge his many admirers. He plays a government tax collector who stalks poor and unwell people, so insensitive and boorish that he mocks a blind man.

"I've been experimenting," Smith said, agreeing he's strayed far from his grinning Fresh Prince guise that made this striver from a poor Philadelphia family a music, TV and film star while still in his 20s.

"For some reason, I'm really attracted to the nature of emotional trauma in human lives. It seems like a really rich and unmined area in my personal life. I turned it off. When my grandmother died, I never cried or anything like that.

"So for me with my characters, specifically I Am Legend, Hancock and now Seven Pounds, I'm exploring trauma and loss. To be able to go there with a character reveals things about my own management of trauma and loss in my life."

The drive to experiment comes in part from the realization that he's now at the halfway point of his life. Smith turned 40 this past September, although he hardly looks it.

"It was just another birthday. I live my life so abundantly that turning 40 wasn't a huge deal. But a couple weeks ago, my son Trey turned 16 and I sat in the passenger seat and he was driving. That really rocked me. It was so huge a signal that life is moving on and things are changing, and quickly. He's driving!

"It was not so much about getting old, but it was as if I could be missing something, like things were happening fast and maybe I wasn't paying attention as much as I should have been. It was more that feeling, `Dude, wake up! Look! Things are changing quickly and aggressively!'"

It's very hard to write about Seven Pounds without revealing a payoff that Smith, Muccino and co-star Rosario Dawson are all anxious to keep secret. Suffice to say the film unspools like a mystery, but seriously examines the meaning of life.

Making the film was "a crazy epiphany," Smith said, prompting him to further reflect on his life. He used a mountain climbing metaphor to describe his feeling of always having somewhere else to go.

"As soon as you get to the mountain that you wanted to climb and you put your flag down and you stand there for 10 minutes, you say, `Ooh, look at that mountain over there!'

"The journey is the destination, and the worst thing that can happen is that you actually arrive where you thought you wanted to go. It's a really weird time and probably the last two years have been really frustrating for me. It just felt like there's so much I wanted to and so much I wanted to be, but it was like I was blind and I couldn't see. Working on Seven Pounds gave me a crazy epiphany about what I want to be and what I want to do."

He believes in the movie so much, he'd rather undersell it than risk overselling it. The one-sheet poster for the film has an enigmatic shot of Smith's face. This could be the film that snaps that $100-million streak, but it doesn't need to be a blockbuster if enough people embrace it as thoughtful entertainment.

"We're trying to do a non-sale. It's like, we're not going to sell this movie, we're going to hope that we've created enough trust in the industry that people will listen if I say, `You know what? This is a good movie. I think you'll enjoy it. Just trust me; I can't tell you anything about it.'"

Smith is totally unlike most Hollywood celebrities in that he's not afraid to admit to his weaknesses. In a discussion with a roomful of movie writers, Smith continued to talk candidly about personal issues – things like the failure of his first marriage, to Sheree Zampino, the mother of Trey. They married in 1992, divorced in 1995 and when it was over, Smith said he was left in shock over "the idea that somebody could not like me anymore."

He's having no such concerns with his second wife, actress Jada Pinkett, whom Smith married in 1997. They have two children: Jaden, 10, and Willow, 8. Both are following their parents' footsteps as movie stars. (Jaden has a major role in The Day the Earth Stood Still, the sci-fi remake that opened yesterday.)

Yet Smith insisted there is some trouble in paradise, in the form of unwanted extra pounds on his abdomen, although they aren't at all apparent. Even though he lost 15 pounds making Seven Pounds, much of it was the muscle he'd sculpted for I Am Legend.

"It's so not I Am Legend," Smith said, pointing to his abs.

"Now it's I Am Luggage!"

Smith is so disarmingly open, he'll even admit to being a lousy on-screen kisser. He 'fessed up after Seven Pounds co-star Dawson told the movie writers about her frustration getting Smith to kiss her in the movie.

"Will is shockingly shy about intimacy with strangers, I guess," Dawson said.

"That's not too bad, but it was really unbelievable how much he delayed our kissing scenes. For weeks. To the point where I started getting really nervous about my breath. I was starting to get down to the little details of going, `Seriously, like it's not that bad. We don't have to totally do tongue. We can work on this.' It was such a big deal. He was talking about having Jada (on the set)."

When the time came that Smith could put the kissing off no longer, he prepared for the scene with some solo heavy breathing, like an athlete preparing for battle.

"Will was standing outside going, `Yeah! We're gonna get this scene! Woo! Yeah! I'm ready to go today!' And I'm like, `You haven't done that for the past 55 days. Why today, babe? You're kind of freaking me out. I need a little calm to go into this. I need candles and some nice music and you're screaming at me like we're about to play football or something!'"

Smith chuckled when Dawson's comments were relayed to him, and didn't try to dodge the implication that he's no sex machine. He is, after all, the most mellow of rappers, who had a hit with ditties called "Summertime" and "Parents Just Don't Understand."

He explained that his intimacy issues have to do with his upbringing.

"My mother and grandmother were firm about how men were supposed to treat women ... For me, my worst nightmare is for an actress to come on my set and feel like I'm taking this as an opportunity to get a little quickie feel, some legal cheatin' going on. I just specifically need women to be comfortable around me. I just don't want to feel like that dude, and doing a love scene with her clothes off.

"It just puts me in my defensive space, but it also hurts the acting if I'm in that space. You gotta find a comfortable space to feel free, where your hand can brush up against her and all that and it's not all, `Ooh, excuse me.'"

He joked that wife Jada told him to knock it off and just get down to work.

"Jada said, `Listen, I know you aren't comfortable, but you better not embarrass me. When you do that love scene, you better show 'em what you workin' with.'"

Smith laughed as he told the story. A smile is never far from his face, except when he feels unsure about what to do next. That's the one thing about fame that bothers him – how to follow success with more success, and whether he should even try.

"The only part of that that I would say is a burden is when I lose certainty about my next step. Then it becomes a burden. You know how in Forrest Gump, when (Tom Hanks' character) finished running and everybody's following him? Everybody is so connected to the purpose even though they didn't know what it was. But there was purpose, there was meaning, there was movement. It's such a necessity in life to have that purpose. Then he stopped running and it was like, he let everybody down."

Harlem Globetrotter Flash Richardson Dies

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(December 16, 2008) *Harlem Globetrotters member Chris “Flash” Richardson died in his sleep Wednesday while the team was on tour in Japan. He was 28.

A cause of death has yet to be determined, said Globetrotters spokesman Brett Meister.

The players were appearing at a U.S. military base in Sasebo, Japan, as part of an annual holiday tour when Richardson’s death occurred.

The 6-foot-7, Corpus Christi, Texas native played basketball at UNLV and joined the Globetrotters shortly after his college career ended. He was known for his dunking skills and a genial disposition, according to Meister.

“He was a great Globetrotter on and off the court. He just had a very engaging smile that would light up the room,” Meister said.

Funeral plans were incomplete at press time, but team officials said the memorial service would take place in Corpus Christi. Richardson’s survivors include his mother.

::SCOOP::

Leslie Salmon Jones New Fitness DVD Available

Source:  Leslie Salmon Jones

Leslie Salmon Jones, Toronto native, is a Certified Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach and Alvin Ailey trained dancer.  Leslie creates custom-tailored programs that balance body, mind and spirit.  Uniquely experienced in a variety of effective methods, Leslie combines tools from Pilates, weight training, yoga, dance and more to offer you a new, holistic approach to fitness, wellness and life.  She energizes you to attain and sustain your goals, while gaining the confidence and joy that you deserve!

DVD – Vol 1
CORE STRENGTH
back to basics
with Leslie Salmon Jones

Breath | Posture | Tone | Flexible

Get ready to kick-start your fitness routine with “Back to Basics”. In this amazing DVD, Leslie gives you the tools to build a strong foundation in core and strength conditioning, which is perfect for beginners or those wanting to improve form. You can even create customized workouts by doing a different chapter each day and by mixing and matching routines. Enjoy the musical variety of an infusion of energetic and hypnotic world beat rhythmic grooves, created and produced by her husband, musician Jeff Jones.

Price: $24.95
.........NOW: $19.95

Buy now and get this special introductory offer for the holiday season!

* Expires Dec 31st, 2008.

To purchase and to check out Leslie's amazing site: go to www.lesliesalmonjones.com

Lasana Sekou’s Salt Reaper CD “A Brilliant Move!”, Dropped Online

Source:  Offshore Editing

(December 2008) ST. MARTIN, Caribbean - The Salt Reaper poetry/music CD by Lasana M. Sekou has just dropped online at http://cdbaby.com/cd/lasanamsekou for listening, downloading favourite selections, MP3s, and ordering of the actual Audio CD – before its official 2009 release.

The reviews are already coming in for this new work by the St. Martin author, said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), the CD producer. Sekou is considered one of the prolific Caribbean poets of his generation.

“Between the public, revolutionary political rhetoric of Linton Kwesi Johnson and the lush, esoteric wordplay of Dylan Thomas” is how The Salt Reaper collection has been reviewed by World Literature in Review.

“Lasana Sekou has moved his impressive book of poetry The Salt Reaper into the field of WordMusic,” writes Amiri Baraka. The noted US poet’s own poetry has been on albums, in videos, movies, documentaries, and an influence on leading hip-hop artists.

The Salt Reaper – selected poems from the flats, with Sekou’s vocals “accompanied by hurtling hot music,” is “A brilliant move!” said Baraka, whose music credentials also come with Blues People, his acclaimed American music history book.

To Angelo Rombley, The Salt Reaper music producer, the CD’s “Spoken Word or WordMusic digital compatibility with media, communication and game platforms,” did not take away from his “staying true to the message in the poems.”

Poems like “The blockade next time,” a Martin Luther King birthday protest in the Caribbean in 1990, a recent verse like “The cubs are in the field,” and adult love poems “Into Africa” and “Intoxicate” are recited with breathlessly arresting rhythm by Sekou, said Sample.

Other poems set to music are the drug addicts’ tale “Doped up roughings,” and “Cradle of the nation,” which mythologizes St. Martin people to the island’s Great Salt Pond and is called “magisterial” by Jamaican scholar and reggae critic Dr. Carolyn Cooper.

There are international topic selections “Double Dutch. Immigration at Schiphol,” “Haiti 200,” “Los otros americanos,” and the anti-torture/genocide “The blood boil,” said Sample.

 “Sekou gives his voice to those who for too long have been voiceless,” wrote historian Dr. Maria van Enckevort about the The Salt Reaper.

The author of 13 books and “a performance poet,” Sekou has recited in the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and the USA, but The Salt Reaper is his first Audio CD – a late joiner to poetry recordings from the likes of Mutabaruka, Gil Scott-Heron, Nikki Giovanni and LKJ.

Rombley sees The Salt Reaper as “breaking new home-ground. What we are seeing is the evolution of poetry on the island of St. Martin alongside the new technology to reach the people.”

“The world right now is flat because of the digital platform. Reading has to compete with a ‘click’ society –TV, email, downloadable music.”

“In this ‘click’ society the people want something entertaining but yet with some substance to it. That was a motivation for the type of music mixed for The Salt Reaper poems,” said Rombley, an award-winning graphic designer and digital artist.

The Salt Reaper Audio CD is also available at www.amazon.com, www.spdbooks.org and from HNP/Mountain Dove Records www.houseofnehesipublish.com. The CD bears a parental advisory.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Bliss in Bermuda

Source: Melanie Reffes

Steeped in British tradition and oozing its own unique charm, Bermuda is a serene sliver of sunny Shangri-la and a short commute to a world away. With azure water, rolling hilltops, architecture swathed in tropical hues and glorious stretches of sandy beach, it is, indeed, the Caribbean’s hip haven for rejuvenation.

Derived from the Latin salus per aqua, the word spa literally means ‘good health through water’ and from the Greek ‘masso’, massage means ‘to touch’.  Although many treatments incorporate water in their wellness rituals and most treatments involve touching to some degree, the art and science of the Bermudian massage is unique with an abundance of highly trained therapists and a bevy of indigenous products.

Whether it’s a mirror to your soul or a massage for your soles, a day at the spa is a must-have guilty pleasure. From grapefruit extracts to rose petals, welcome to the world of unbridled luxury where the wise and the weary soak, scour and soothe their way to feeling good.

The Willow Stream Spa is a tranquil sanctuary inside the Fairmont Southampton resort. Celebrating the seascape and scents of the Island, the eco-chic spa beckons with a medley of massages that will remind you why you booked a vacation in the first place. “The spa has a commanding location on the highest point on the south shore and offers guests an outdoor roof top terrace with stunning views, as well as an indoor pool with waterfalls,” notes Paul Hawco, Spa Director, “The pink sand of Bermuda and our picturesque scenery create a spa experience like no other.”

Fifteen treatment rooms, two Jacuzzis and a sundeck overlooking the lapping waves is truly a tropical oasis. Using natural elements from the sea and the earth, treatments heal and hydrate as they synchronize the energies of the mind, body and spirit.

In order to encourage total relaxation, the spa is a no-gadget zone with blackberries and cell phones not permitted and to ensure you are relaxed even before your massage begins, spa goers are encouraged to arrive thirty minutes prior to an appointment to make full use of the spa’s facilities.  

Drawing from the traditions of Eastern Ayurveda or the science of a long life, treatments build the immune system in the winter, renew in the spring, soothe in the summer and balance in the fall.  Customized to individual needs, the trained therapists work their nimble fingers as they maximize the healing powers of hot stones, erase all symptoms of jet lag and perform miracles with an array of anti-ageing treatments. For the outdoorsy set, a sixty-minute golf  performance massage that is endorsed by pro- instructor David Leadbetter and world class player Charles Howell III is designed to get you in shape for another round on the greens.

Signature treatments include a Bermuda Aromatherapy Facial using sea algae that balances the skin and chamomile to restore elasticity after the heat of the sun.  An herbal massage for the feet rounds out the ninety minute package and is guaranteed to put a spring back in your gait.

Indian Bindi oil and stones warmed in water creates a deep heat massage in
The East Meets West Bermuda Stone treatment as it melts stress into oblivion. In the privacy of your own suite, the aptly named Bliss in Bermuda treatment kick starts with an aromatherapy session followed by a dip in a hydrotherapy tub with more than a hundred rotating jets that feel like an underwater massage.

Guys need maintenance too and with the Power Pedicure, manly men can turn their tender tootsies into sandal-ready feet that will look snazzy with a pair of Bermuda shorts. “We have seen an increase in men taking advantage of the spa, “observes Paul Hawco, “We appreciate the subtle differences in male and female preferences and seek to create experiences that are geared to each individual.”

Love blooms at the Willow Stream with side-by-side couple’s treatment rooms and treatments that create memories that last a lifetime.  “Spas can be incredibly romantic “ Spa Director Hawco adds, “We provide a unique couples experience - a little time spent apart in the female and gentleman lounges as well as time together in the romantic couples lounge . “

Guests at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess may use the Spa facilities at a reduced rate.

Total relaxation now has an address on the south shore. The Spa at the Elbow Beach Resort is the zenith of excellence with views of the azure Atlantic Ocean that put postcards to shame. Managed by the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Group, the Spa boasts six private suites  decorated in soothing colors, couples suites, hand-crafted granite soaking tub, bamboo flooring and a pebble-lined steam shower.  Holistic treatments rooted in Asian customs and blended with Bermudian finesse create an unforgettable experience.

Bermuda’s national treasure, the Rum Swizzle, is a mouth-watering treatment that combines the antioxidant benefits of fruit essences like grapefruit and orange with the potency of rum. A gentle foot ritual is followed by a pineapple body scrub that cleans and renews tired skin. A delightful bath in zesty lemon and lime juice smoothes rough skin and with a ‘real’ Rum Swizzle cocktail in hand, the body and scalp massage will lure you into pure nirvana. Bermuda pink sand is used to exfoliate in the three-hour Ocean Wave Ritual leaving skin as supple as the sand on the beach. The trained hands of the therapist work magic in a massage that ripples tenderly over the body like waves in the sea.  (These signature spa experiences are priced at $480 for three hours of treatment time, plus half an hour of relaxation time.)

“Everyday we are blessed with the natural beauty, resources and rich culture of Bermuda,” says Spa Director Debbie Baxter with infectious zeal, “In keeping with the Mandarin Oriental tradition, we wanted to translate this into authentic spa experiences where guests can revel in things truly Bermudian.”  With a dollop of Bermuda honey, calendula oil for sensitive skin , sugar and lemon, the Full Body Sugar and Honey Scrub is eighty minutes of pleasure with an all-over body massage leaving skin bright and full of life.

For those who aim to minimize the harsh the effects of the sun, the Cooling Sun Savior Ritual cools after a day on the beach.  A gift of the natural gel derived from the aloe plant is yours to use while back on the beach chair.

And yes, you can try the massages at home.  The aromatic line of scrubs and bath oils with the uplifting essence of jasmine, invigorating scent of frangipani and sweet almond are available for sale in the Spa Boutique.

Brand new on the spa scene, the Samadhi Spa is a private health retreat for savvy spa goers seeking a journey back to balance or a calming spot to unwind during a weekend getaway.  Located at the Newstead Belmont Hills Golf Resort on Harbour Road overlooking the Hamilton Harbour, Samadhi is the only spa on the Island with water views from the treatment rooms. A trio of single rooms, two double treatment suites, a hydrotherapy suite, two relaxation areas, locker rooms with wet steam , tennis courts and a fully equipped gym add up to one-stop shopping for rest and relaxation.

“We are about gearing the spa towards a holistic retreat where people are able to not only receive body treatments but also able to participate in educational workshops like nutrition, Ayurvedic medicine, exercise, and weight loss as well as practice yoga and tai chi.” says Sanali Senanayake Spa Director who has lived in Australia, Oman and Dubai before moving to Bermuda.

The signature treatment called the Samadhi massage which is a true fusion of East meets West uses a cornucopia of Caribbean curatives and organic products. “Nothing we use comes out of a jar, “notes Spa Director Sanali Senanayake, “We use only natural organic products made daily without preservatives.”
Two unique product lines are stocked in the Spa and used in the various treatments.  The Eastern Ayurvedic ingredients include oil from the therapeutic Neem leaf said to improve memory and the rejuvenating GotuKola herb that fortifies the immune system as well as delicious ingredients from the West like grapes, cocoa and truffles.  A spa menu is available for those who choose to linger over lunch and tempts with nutritional dishes including low calorie choices designed by an Island chef.
As the only spa on the island with a formal affiliation with the esteemed Atlanta School of Massage, therapists are up-to-date with the cutting edge developments in the world of spa therapy and have access to current research on the healing benefits of spa treatments.

Catering to a knowledgeable crowd, the demographic is diverse with spa goers coming from all sectors. “Although women make up the majority of guests, “Senanayake adds, “the clientele is changing and we now have athletes as we cater to their needs.  We also cater to babies and children with our trained therapists who understand their specific issues.”

Contact:
Willow Stream Spa   www.willowstream.com/
The Spa at Elbow Beach   www.mandarinoriental.com/
Samadhi Spa  www.newsteadbelmonthills.com/
1-800-Bermuda   www.Bermudatourism.com

::MUSIC NEWS::

Musician At The Forefront Of Cuban Evolution

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Music Critic

(December 11, 2008) When Alberto Alberto sings "de Toronto soy" (I am from Toronto), he is referring to far more than a mailing address.

For the 36-year-old Cuban ex-pat, the city is all about artistic inspiration that has taken him far beyond the traditional music of his native country.

Since coming to Canada in 1999, the gregarious, energetic singer/composer/arranger has been a tireless ambassador of timba, the genre-crossing evolution of son that is very much the music of the times in Cuba.

Although there are only about 2,000 ex-pat Cubans in Toronto, their influence on the city's Latin music scene has been disproportionately large.

"In the last five years, there have been a lot of new Cuban arrivals, most of them of a very high professional quality," says Alberto. The positive cycle keeps feeding itself, attracting even more new talents.

That has only helped musicians like Alberto propagate the aggressively dance-friendly rhythms of timba, placing more importance on rhythm than salsa, which tips the scale toward melody.

The singer's first big Toronto project was cover band Quimica Perfecta (Perfect Chemistry). More recently, he has been working locally as Alberto Alberto y su Orquesta, which performs the bandleader's own creations.

"Now, timba has a community (in Toronto), thanks to what I do," says Alberto. "I've been pushing very, very hard."

They're putting on a show at Lula Lounge Saturday night. Much of the music is bound to come from the band's year-old album, Traigo de todo (I Bring it All), which includes Alberto's dance-fired ode to his adopted city and the proud refrain, "de Toronto soy."

For Alberto, the road from Cuba to Toronto leads in the other direction, too. "The bandleaders there keep inviting me to come play with them," he says, laughing.

Alberto toured the U.S. in 2006 with Cuban bandleader Maraca. He discovered that decades of severed relations with Cuba helped build up an almost insatiable thirst for new music among lovers of Latin styles.

"They want to see what's going on," says the musician. "They want timba."

He also discovered a yawning gap between advocates of timba and traditional salseros in big cities like Los Angeles and New York. "It's more of a division between communities" rather than a fight over musical tastes, Alberto observes.

One of the advantages of Toronto is such deep divisions don't exist.

Another notable absence in Toronto is Cuban politics. "One of the reasons I'm staying in Canada this winter is I don't want to have anything to do with politics," says Alberto. In this city, the musicians are all about music. "We don't even touch politics," he adds with evident satisfaction.

Alberto began singing at age 5, earned himself a prodigy's profile through national talent shows, and got his first gig with a major band when he was 17, thanks to Delio Cardoso and his Orquesta Pakason. Another star mentor early on was pianist Chucho Valdes.

Locally, Alberto boosted his profile as soon as he arrived in 1999 by gigging with jazz greats Jane Bunnett – the single biggest force in initiating the growth of Cuban music in Toronto – and Hilario Duran.

Alberto says he's devoting a lot of energy in coming months to creating tracks for a new album with Telmary, a Cuban singer/songwriter who is working out on the edges of that country's pop music scene.

Alberto and Telmary have performed and toured together in the last year. "Everybody loves Telmary," he says, hoping that her hip-hop sensibility and his passion for timba can translate into a mutual creative leap forward.

Best of all, it's happening here in Toronto.

Just the facts
WHAT: Alberto Alberto y su Orquesta

WHERE: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W.

WHEN: Saturday @ 10 p.m. (doors @ 7 p.m.)

ADMISSION: $15 ($54 with dinner and dance lesson) @ 416-588-0307 or lulalounge.ca

When One Wrong Becomes A Right

Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(December 12, 2008) To Nicole Underhay, the Done Me Wrongs are a happy accident, a band of desperate troubadours whose sudden popularity on the southern Ontario roots music circuit proves that nothing is impossible.

"We are a motley crew," admits Underhay, a former Shaw Festival actor who won a Dora Mavor Moore Award this year for her performance in the Canadian Stage Company's Fire.

"We came together for the simple love of music. Playing together after performances at the Shaw was a way of relieving tension during the nine months every year of the festival season. Country and folk music and old gospel songs were what we had in common ... we never thought it would be more than a party band."

The Done Me Wrongs – actors Underhay and Cameron MacDuffee, and erstwhile Shaw Festival orchestra musicians Karen Graves and Bill Bridges – debuted in 2005 at closed-to-the-public get-togethers in the basement bar of the Royal George Theatre on Niagara-on-the-Lake's Queen St., where the renowned festival's actors, musicians and stage crew members would unwind with ad hoc monologues, skits, poetry recitals, comedy routines and musical turns.

That's where the band recorded its debut CD, Done Me Live, financed by $1,500 collected at a public fundraising concert at Niagara-on-the-Lake's historic Navy Hall.

Before long, the band became not just the focus of these occasional closed-shop gatherings, but also something of a local cause celébre, performing at festivals and small concerts around Niagara and holding down a residency at an off-the-tourist-strip bar frequented by hard-drinking "townies."

The CD was launched last December with a show at the Dakota Tavern – the Done Me Wrongs' first gig in Toronto. The band was booked at the city's hippest roots music bar again in November and filled the place.

"And it was packed till closing time, with complete strangers!" Underhay says, incredulous.

That led to two more bookings at the Dakota – Wednesday night and next Wednesday – and an offer to open for the Stars tomorrow at the last of the band's three consecutive nights at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on the CNE grounds (tickets $29.50 at Ticketmaster).

The sudden rush of demand for live gigs coincides, rather uncomfortably as it turns out, with sessions this week for the Done Me Wrongs' second album, financed again by contributions at a Navy Hall fundraiser: "a lot more than the first time," Underhay says. They are hoping it will lead to a deal with one of Toronto's smarter boutique roots music labels.

"I think we're a real band," says the Newfoundland-born actor-turned-honky-tonk cowgirl, who studied geology at university and was bent on an ordered academic career before the acting bug bit her.

And now, music has seduced her.

"No one in Toronto knows I'm an actress," she says. "Here I'm a musician."

Just the facts
WHO: The Done Me Wrongs

WHEN: Wednesday, Dec. 17

WHERE: Dakota Tavern, 249 Ossington Ave.

TICKETS: PWYC

Jazzy Janes Are Far From Plain

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(December 13, 2008) Toronto's two jazz Janes are hitting the bandstand together for the first time in 18 years. As female soprano saxophone players, Jane Fair and Jane Bunnett were an even rarer commodity when they encountered each other at a musicians' hangout in the late 1970s.

They founded the short-lived Music in Monk Time (1988-90), a quintet devoted to the compositions of piano giant Thelonious Monk, before their paths diverged.

Toronto native Bunnett, 53, also a proficient flautist, is a multiple-Juno-winning bandleader and performer noted for her forays into Cuban music.

Guelph-born Fair, 60, adept on clarinet, tenor sax and flute, has excelled as an educator, both privately and at Humber College, and has rarely performed publicly in recent years.

The women are reprising Music in Monk Time with a concert tomorrow at the Distillery District headquarters of the Art of Jazz, a Bunnett co-founded non-profit organization dedicated to jazz education.

The Star chatted with the Janes this week, revealing snapshots from their past and present:

ON THEIR FIRST MEETING

Bunnett: I think I met (Fair) at a music space that was called Mother Necessity. I really loved the soprano sax and at the time it was an obscure instrument. You could see by the way she carried herself that she was a dead-serious musician and she had a great sound.

She really bites down on the notes. She's got a great sound on tenor, too; that Charlie Rouse dry, breathy sound. And it's very warm and distinctive. She's playing a different soprano (now) than she used to play and it sounds a bit brighter.

I went to her for my first lessons. When I started studying with her she had me playing long notes for the first few weeks and I was like, `This isn't very fun,' but she wanted to make sure I was playing in tune and she really got me started on the right foot. She's very patient and methodical; a lot of times I just fall on my face with my impulsiveness.

Fair: I don't recall our initial meeting, but we started collaborating in the early '80s. It was initially a peer kind of thing and at some point Jane came over and had lessons. We collaborated on that Monk thing, but we also did another little group (Ladies of Jazz) with some other women, which was more contemporary, hard bop stuff. Jane's highly energetic and coming up with great ideas all the time. I think it has a bearing on her improvisational choices; there's always a bubbliness and exuberance.

ON MARVELLOUS MONK

Fair:
Monk is ubiquitous in every jazz musician's repertoire. It's compelling and very hard to master and Jane and I shared a love for it. If you were assigned to jazz prison and had to only do Monk you'd be happy.

Bunnett: I try and work at a bit of Monk whenever I sit down to practice. We want to get the Art of Jazz studio up and running as a performance venue and I thought this would be a great opportunity to do some playing with Jane, because she's an inspiring person to be around.

ON THEIR `PLAIN' FIRST NAMES

Fair: I was named for my grandma on my mom's side. Nobody's ever chased me down and said, `Are you Jane Bunnett?' but I do have a suspicion that people may have heard `Jane Somebody' and thought, `Oh, I heard about you' and meant Jane Bunnett.

Bunnett: My real name is Mary Jane, but I never suited it. There's another soprano sax player in New York – Jane Ira Bloom – and the three of us get mixed up a lot.

Just the facts
Who: Music in Monk Time

When: Tomorrow @ 3 p.m.

Where: Art of Jazz Studio, 53 Mill St., building 74, studio 202

Tickets: $15 @ 416-840-7663

Jimmy Jam: Time For A Reunion

Source: 
www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(December 11, 2008) *Legendary music man Jimmy Jam is all about reuniting. The super-producer, songwriter, and famed keyboardist, born James Harris, told EUR’s Lee Bailey that he is currently finishing up a new album with the Time, the famed funk-pop-R&B crew that scored a number of 80s and 90s hits such as “The Bird,” “Jungle Love,” and “777-9311.”

“We’re in the studio right now putting the final touches on a brand new Time album – all the original members,” Jam said. “We’re having a great time. We’re getting along, which is amazing.”

The group actually got back together just under a year ago when they performed on the Grammys. The Time apparently had such a good time on the awards show, they decided to take their act to Vegas and had a very successful turn of performances through the summer.

“[That] led us to ‘We’re all still getting along, why don’t we put an album together?’” Jam continued. “So we’re having a great time and hopefully at the beginning of the year, you’ll hear some brand new Time music.”

It’s been 18 years since The Time released an album with the original members. The band began breaking apart in the mid-80s, first with Jam and Lewis who became one of the most prolific writing duos in popular music. The group's last album, 1990's ‘Pandemonium’ featured members throughout: Morris Day and Jerome Benton on vocals, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’ songwriting skills, and guitarist Jesse Johnson on several tracks.

 “The biggest challenge [for the new project] was getting everybody together initially. It wasn’t like we weren’t getting along with each other, but it was kind of like when you see someone and say, ‘Hey, we should get together and have dinner,’ but if you don’t actually set the date, it never gets done,” Jam explained.

He said that when the group was asked to play the Grammys, it all started to come together. The Grammy appearance was in essence the date for dinner.

“It was either we’re going to do this or we’re not going to do this, and if we’re not going to do it, then we’re not serious about getting this thing back together because that’s a great opportunity,” he said. “So when everybody signed on to do the Grammys then that all of a sudden became that point where we started talking about maybe we should do an album, maybe we should do some shows.”

Jam said that it was important that everybody get on board and had to be at the point in their life that they felt it was a priority to work on the disc. But he also admitted that he had the most reservations about doing the new album – because of other loves in his life.

“First of all, I love producing; I love writing. And secondly, I love my family and I was trying not to do things that would take me away from them,” he said. “But Vegas during the summer was great because our families got to come. And it was just like old times, but our families were there. That made it so that it worked and then that led into, ‘Let’s do an album.’”

 “It’s something that not only we need just spiritually to do, but I think it’s something that the industry needs to see,” he continued. “[To see] a band and to see that – like the Rolling Stones and Aerosmith and some of the great rock bands that never seem to break up – that we have something important. I’m always heartened to see New Edition get back together because a lot of times, that just doesn’t happen. So I feel like we have an opportunity to do that and we’re going to do it and have a great time doing it.”

Jam also spoke about another reunion – one with his good friend Janet Jackson. Jackson, who’d worked with the team of Jam & Lewis for over two decades, but for her 2008 “Discipline” disc, Jackson chose not to have the duo contribute, a choice some fans and industry-ites thought unwise. However, Jam shrugged it off.

“We’re not perfect,” he said of the Jam & Lewis team. “We don’t always make the right decisions. We’ve done records in our time, luckily not many, but we’ve done some that weren’t the best records to do. We went into all the records with good intentions though. You don’t go into it saying, ‘Ooh, I’m going to make a bad record.’ You go in to make a great record. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We had mad records together for 20 years and she decided to go a different direction and I applaud her for it. I want to see her successful in whatever she does.”

Jam said that Jackson certainly doesn’t need to do anything; that a new project with them would simply be a want, as is with both the pending and possible discs.

“I think she’s anxious to do some work. And [The Time] is back together because we want to be together, not because we need to be together,” he said. “If we collaborate with Janet again, and by the way, I never thought that we wouldn’t collaborate again. Just because you work with another producer or decide to go the other way, that that closes the door of the possibility. We want to work with her and I think she wants to work with us and if that all happens, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

Jamaican Star, Famous For Reworking Pop Songs, Has Taken To Writing His Own Material

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(December 11, 2008) Jamaican singer Sanchez is known for two things: doing reggae versions of pop songs and always being the best-dressed person on the bandstand.

Of the former, the 44-year-old entertainer is matter-of-fact: "It was easier," he said of coming to the fore in 1986 with Simply Red's "Lady in Red" and carving out a niche interpreting songs made popular by the likes of Tracy Chapman, Babyface and Marvin Gaye.

"You just pick up somebody's song and put a reggae beat around it and hopefully you get a hit," he said.

But eventually, Kingston-born Kevin Jackson, who now resides in Florida, realized the great limitation of that pursuit – the lion's share of royalties going to the song's owner.

That's why, when the Star caught up with him on his native island, he was in the studio, working on a new album of original material.

"I grew in the music," he said via cellphone, citing singer/songwriters Beres Hammond, Freddie MacGregor and Glen Washington for showing him the way.

"They're the people in Jamaica that always come up with original stuff and actually opened my eyes and got me to start thinking different."

It turns out that writing lyrics is no big deal.

"I do it anywhere, because it's so easy, because so many things are happening around me through everyday living," said Sanchez. "Writing a song nowadays is like getting up and getting a cup of tea. People are just like, `You should have been doing this a long time ago.'"

The singer acknowledges that diehard fans, such as those who bought tickets for his Mississauga show this Saturday at the One Love Reggae Music Festival, still want to hear the cover tunes.

"Some people are like, `So what, don't think you're going to stop doing them singovers, because you know that's what made you and you do them better than anybody else.'"

As such, Sanchez has added recent hits by Ne-Yo, Keyshia Cole and Chris Brown to his repertoire.

The performer got his start in church and has always included a gospel segment in his concerts.

"Just giving thanks to the Father," he explained, noting the lack of contradiction, because his style of secular music is loving rather than lewd.

"I wouldn't say I am a (staunch) Christian," he added, "but I'm working towards it, because I'm just trying to live right."

As far as vices, the father of four cops to occasional tobacco use and, well, his extensive wardrobe. In photographs and performance, Sanchez is always spiffily matching and bejewelled.

"I am, for real," he said, laughing at the clotheshorse descriptive. "If I step in a store and there are five suits that are looking like Sanchez, I'm not leaving them. I'm going to get all five and I'm going to get five shoes and five hats. I've stopped counting suits now. I have two walk-in closets and they are filled."

Though he favours off-the-rack creations by Gucci and D&G, the majority of his outfits are designed by the entertainer and sewn by his wife Monica.

And lest you think him a narcissist, know that Sanchez's sartorial efforts are meant as a compliment to his female audience.

"They're taking time to go out and do their hair and nails and try to get a nice dress and to come to your show ... Come on, you have to complement that," he explained.

"If I go on a stage without a suit now, people are going to be like, `Was that Sanchez?'"

Vinyl 45s Make A Comeback

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner,
Pop Music Critic

(December 11, 2008) The seven-inch single is pretty much the inverse of the MP3 file.

Physical, inconsistent, mortal and definitely not portable in the post-Walkman sense of the word, the beloved, wee black discs upon which rock 'n' roll was born should by all rights have been dealt a final death blow by the arrival of digital music files.

Curiously, though, sales of 45s – a format introduced by RCA in 1951 – are on the rise. Especially in the U.K., where they've inched back up to more than 15 per cent of the total singles market and the White Stripes' "Icky Thump" last year posted the highest single-week sales of a seven-inch in 20 years.

Most of the activity in mainstream circles is overseas, mind you, where the major record labels never used the advent of the compact disc as an excuse to kill off their singles market altogether and force the record-buying public onto full-length CDs. Since the rise of Napster and, later, iTunes, however, a market for single songs has been reborn, and one of the unintended benefactors has been the seven-inch. Sub Pop Records' famous "single of the month" club has been reactivated. Toronto has its own label dealing just in seven-inches, Davy Love's Magnificent Sevens imprint. And with more seven-inches out there making the rounds, more musicians have started thinking in terms of singles again.

Toronto country troupe One Hundred Dollars, for instance, fetes the release of its "Fourteenth Floor" seven-inch for local label Blocks Recording Club tomorrow at the Silver Dollar. It's the first in a series of singles to be issued by different labels around the country.

"We had initially conceived it as a takeoff on Gordon Lightfoot's `Railroad Trilogy,' but the format was too small to do three songs," laughs vocalist Simone Schmidt. "We thought it would be more interesting to leave it open-ended and use the seven-inches to record interesting singles and B-sides – things that we wouldn't necessarily want to put on an album.

"It's all new and it's all thematically linked to where the label is. So for the label in Alberta, we're recording a song called `Black Gold' that's about Fort McMurray and the oil sands. ... It's interesting to have that kind of challenge in the concept when you're writing."

The creative possibilities offered by the 45, not its marketability, are what have sustained the format through all these years when it was supposed to be dead.

"I personally love them," says Oliver Ackermann of New York noise-rock outfit A Place to Bury Strangers, which recently issued a volley of seven-inches on Important Records. "When you create a seven-inch, it's an opportunity to do something unique that doesn't fit for an album. The tracks are also immediate; there is no filler. A single is a glimpse of a moment and an experience and an idea."

They're also highly collectible. The punk and indie-rock undergrounds have always been particularly fond of the seven-inch as a badge of fanhood, something doled out in limited quantities and often specific circumstances – on certain tour dates or on labels available only in a certain region.

Bands like No Age and Toronto's F---ed Up are almost legendary these days for the volume of material they churn out on hard-to-find seven-inches.

"Seven-inches are like little flags for the fan," says Joel Carriere of Toronto's Dine Alone Records. "It's a conversation to relate and compare."

As a result, says Carriere, "it's a lot more fun for us to work on it because we are getting rad pieces of history to fans ... Vinyls are not going to float a record company by any means, but they will put a smile on some fans' faces and in the end that's all you really want to do."

Evaporators lead singer Nardwuar the Human Serviette – such a fan of "dead" formats that you can still get Evaporators albums on eight-track cassette – finds the artwork possibilities of the 45 attractive, conceding that the actual sound of the recording is almost secondary to the package itself.

He recalls with no small fondness, for instance, an old Tumor Circus seven-inch titled "Swine Flu" that came out during the 1990s. Each copy had a hole drilled through it, rendering it impossible to play.

"They're like pet rocks," he says. "People just want to collect them."

Rob McConnell Happy To Be Blowing His Own Horn

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(December 16, 2008) If the 30-plus albums, multiple Grammy and Juno awards, Order of Canada and other distinctions don't indicate the breadth of Rob McConnell's prowess as performer, composer, arranger, educator and bandleader, the 73-year-old trombonist will unabashedly tell the tale himself.

"I'm sorry about being complimentary to myself, but I am a good writer," said McConnell in a recent interview at his home off Danforth Ave. He was referring to the 1,500 charts of American standards and jazz tunes penned for his venerable 22-piece big band, The Boss Brass, which was founded in 1968.

For the first time since 2000, the ensemble has reassembled for a sold-out, three-night stand kicking off at The Old Mill Inn tonight.

To the leader, there's no better measure of his proficiency than the all-star players who jump at the opportunity to participate in the group.

This week's stellar talents include, trumpeter Guido Basso, saxophonist Alex Dean and trombonist Ian McDougall.

"The band has always played really well for me, even under absolutely sh-- conditions," McConnell said. "Like (late alto saxist/flautist) Moe Koffman, who had 100 times the money that I had and played like an angel for me until he died.

"And Jerry Toth, who was the second alto player. They were really good players and it was a very nice compliment to me that they stayed with my band. They would cancel anything to play with The Boss Brass."

The mirthful McConnell is precise, not boastful. In the comfortable home he shares with second wife Anne, only one each of his three Grammys and five Junos are displayed. The rest have been dispersed amongst seven grandchildren.

"They have them in their bedrooms," he said.

And if the maestro is quick to toot his own horn, he's just as upfront about his deficiencies.

Tonight's show marks his first public performance in more than two years, following a lengthy hospitalization and recuperation due to a heart ailment.

The native of London, Ont., who lost some teeth in a series of mini stroke-triggered falls, said his embouchure is off.

"You might as well tell the truth: I'm not playing that well and I don't like that at all; I was a very good player.

"I never practised, I just played all the time and the busier I got, the better I got. I was always telling other guys what to do, so it was just a natural thinking to become a band leader.

"I could just whack any note I wanted to, and usually it would be loud, but I'd never miss it which now I'm scared sh--less that I'll miss it, so I don't try it. I've lost some of my nerve too. I've been giving my solos away to the boys in the band."

Like the heart disease that killed his father and elder brother before age 60, so has the music bug skipped a generation of McConnell descendents: his 52-year-old son shows no signs of the musical malady; and none of the musician's three children played an instrument past high school.

"They all associated the music business probably more than the music itself with me being mad at somebody. My vocabulary is mostly swear words when it comes to the music business, because it's a crock.

"Music has treated me really well, it's just there's so much bullsh-- in it, especially writing. I used to write for television shows and jingles and a couple of films. It's all people that don't know what they're doing telling me what to do."

McConnell's 13-year-old, British-based grandson Connor has recently started playing trombone.

"He's funny as hell, because he knows the language from me," said the beaming grandpa showing off photos.

"My daughter phoned me and says `Connor's got a gig.' I said `I've never heard you use that phrase in your life; is that what Connor says?' `Yeah, he's got a gig with his band. He's getting into the jazz thing, dad.' I said `Well, fine. Good luck to him.'"

Before he took ill, McConnell performed regularly. The Boss Brass had become financially unwieldy, but he'd launched a trio with bassists Neil Swainson or Don Thompson and guitarist Ed Bickert and also started a tentet.

Nobody was more surprised when tickets for the Old Mill shows went in a day.

"I was really nervous about doing this. It was (JAZZ.FM91 CEO) Ross Porter's idea to do this, with taping the last night for broadcast."

"It was exhilarating to sell out so quickly. Then I thought `Oh, well, now I've got to get my rear in gear.'"

Youngman Delivers Debut Album

Source: Melanie J Cornish , melaniejcornish@critical-mmg.ccsend.com, Critical Marketing and Media Group

(December 17, 2008) *With only one listen to Youngman's debut album you will understand that he is ready to stake his claim on not just the UK R&B scene, but that of the world.

The album, WHO I BE, which has been two years in the making sees Youngman calling on artists such as Queens based femcee Ava Denera, London Boys S.A.S , Dynamite, Harry Shotta and on the remix of the radio smash Wine It,  Stylo G assists him. 

Produced entirely by Natural Born Hustlaz, this thirteen track introduction to one of the hottest young male vocalists to come out of the UK is enough to have the famed suitors of today’s R&B world doubting their own prominence.

From the club driven Hush Hush and the high energy Hey Shorty to the classic R&B ballad All About You one of the most obvious characteristics with Youngman's WHO I BE is the cohesion it exudes. 

This is a testament to the working relationship between Youngman and his team behind the scenes."This mixtape album is all about showing the world who I am and how I feel about different subject matters," the talented Youngman explains. While commending his management and  production company, Natural Born Hustlaz on providing him with exceptional guidance, Youngman's work is a sure example of how he is enjoying perfecting his craft. "They are very professional but give me the artist enough freedom to allow me to be me."

The Canadian outfit Natural Born Hustaz which is made up of Natural (producer/song-writer), Brad 'Hush' Leonard and in-house musician Pete "Fantom" Kadar are as equally impressed with their artist and the final product they have created. "Having Youngman as an artist is a great blessing. I couldn't ask for anyone better, he's a franchise player who takes good advice, learns to adapt and goes hard and in this business it’s the key to survival. WHO I BE has been two years in the making and we are looking to make a big difference in the U.K. R&B industry"

Having already secured the support of prestigious DJs on both sides of the Atlantic, Youngman is often found in rotation on the UK's urban radio shows. Hailed as 'one of the sickest artists' by BBC/1XTRA's Mistajam, Youngman is being heard by all the right ears. Ronnie Herel another of BBC1/XTRA's talented team also gives the WHO I BE project a serious co-sign "He's been tearing it down in the clubs, tearing it down on plastic and now he has the official album, the mixtape WHO I BE. You ain't nobody unless you have this album in your selection"

Encouraging the support of the DJs and the industry, Youngman now looks to his fans to get to grips with him and his talent which are on display in this, his debut street offering. Never one to sacrifice his creativity and the faith of others in him, Youngman is the future of R&B.

WHO I BE is available as a FREE digital Album that can be downloaded at www.myspace.com/officialyoungman or by clicking the link here
http://www.zshare.net/download/524596644135feea/

MUSIC TIDBITS

Choice Of Cohen's Song A Good Reason To Rejoice

Source: www.thestar.com - Kenyon Wallace,
Staff Reporter

(December 13, 2008) Hallelujah! Leonard Cohen's classic song has become the subject of tabloid headlines and the blogosphere across the Atlantic.  The winner of tonight's X Factor, Britain's version of Canadian Idol, will record Cohen's "Hallelujah" – generating an expected windfall of about $2.5 million in sales and downloads. That makes the 74-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter, currently on his first tour in 15 years, the real winner of the contest.  If the song – a ballad on the eternal conflict between man and God, sex and love, life and death – does as well on the British charts as expected, Cohen is set to earn back almost half of the $5 million allegedly stolen by his former business manager several years ago.  "I think the windfall this will bring will be very welcome," said Kim Solez, organizer of the International Leonard Cohen fan event.  Solez says the former Zen Buddhist monk and poet didn't react the way most people would if they lost their life savings. "He said he wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but it's wonderfully instructive to lose everything," Solez recounted with a laugh.  Cohen wrote "Hallelujah" in 1984. Since then, it has been recorded by more than 100 artists including Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson.

Rahsaan Patterson Wraps 'The Ultimate Gift'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(December 15, 2008) *The very spiritual funk of Rahsaan Patterson made him one of the pioneers of the neo-soul movement. His 1997 self-titled debut album produced hits “Stop By” and “Where You Are.”  The discs that followed would garner critical acclaim and the singer/songwriter resonated on numerous motion picture soundtracks.   After a ten year record career, Patterson is releasing his first holiday album, titled “The Ultimate Gift.”   “I thought that would be an appropriate title because, for me as a musician and an artist, you get questions particularly around this time of year like, ‘What would your ultimate gift be?’ So I wanted to write a song that would capture what ultimately I feel would be the best gift that we could receive as the human race and that would be to heal the world and make it a better place for us and the animals,” he said. “And I think the time is appropriate as well, being that we have a new president and the hope has been restored for a lot of people.” Read what else Rahsaan Patterson has to say. Plus, HEAR "Holiday," a cut from his new Christmas CD, "The Ultimate Gift," HERE.

::FILM NEWS::

Cinematheque To Screen Top Flicks, Most Before They Hit Local Theatres

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(December 17, 2008) Stories of family and social strife, NFB nostalgia and rural zombies are among the Top 10 Canadian films of 2008, the Toronto International Film Festival Group has announced.

With the exception of Deepa Mehta's immigrant saga Heaven on Earth, which opened this fall, all of the films on the list won't see a commercial release in Toronto until next year, if at all.

These include Atom Egoyan's cultural drama Adoration, Luc Bourdon's NFB appreciation La mémoire des anges (The Memories of Angels) and Bruce McDonald's zombie innovation Pontypool.

But Cinematheque Ontario will screen all the films along with Q&As and intros by filmmakers, Jan. 30 to Feb. 7 at the Art Gallery of Ontario's Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St. W. Tickets are available by calling 416-968-FILM (3456), toll-free 1-877-968-FILM or visiting the box office at 2 Carlton St., west mezzanine.

"This is an exceptional list. We are thrilled with the diversity of the selected films this year, as it reflects the strength and health of the Canadian film industry," said Piers Handling, the director and CEO of TIFFG.

National panels of filmmakers, journalists, programmers and industry professionals choose Canada's Top 10 films, with separate lists of features and shorts. Each film must have either premiered at a major Canadian film festival or obtained a commercial theatrical release in Canada in 2008.

Here are the Top 10 Canadian feature films of 2008 (in alphabetical order, including future release dates where known):

Adoration: Atom Egoyan (May 2009)

Before Tomorrow: Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu (February 2009)

Ce qu'il faut pour vivre (The Necessities of Life): Benoit Pilon

C'est pas moi, je le jure! (It's Not Me, I Swear!): Philippe Falardeau

Fifty Dead Men Walking: Kari Skogland (spring 2009)

Heaven on Earth: Deepa Mehta

Lost Song: Rodrigue Jean

Maman est chez le coiffeur (Mommy Is at the Hairdresser's): Léa Pool

La mémoire des anges (The Memories of Angels): Luc Bourdon

Pontypool: Bruce McDonald (March 2009)

The Curious Case of Taraji Henson

Source: Kam Williams

(December 16, 2008) The name Taraji Henson and Academy Award are being whispered in the same breath in the wake of her compelling performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button where she holds her own opposite several Hollywood heavyweights, including Brad Pitt and Oscar-winners Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. Previously, Taraji has for some reason remained under the radar despite delivering critically-acclaimed work in picture after picture, from Baby Boy to Hustle & Flow to Smokin’ Aces to Talk to Me to The Family That Preys.

In 2009, the versatile thespian is slated to star in Not Easily Broken with Morris Chestnut, in Hurricane Season with Forest Whitaker, and in Once Fallen with Ed Harris. Here, she talks about her powerful portrayal of Queenie in Benjamin Button, the screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale about a man born old who gradually grows younger year by year.


KW: Hi Taraji, thanks for the time again.

TH: Oh, no problem.

KW: Who did you base your character Queenie on?

TH: Queenie was pretty much on the page. Eric Roth is a brilliant scriptwriter. All the words were there. I just had to do a little bit of research to make her real. That entailed researching each decade that I live in the film and studying what happens to the body as it ages and decays.

KW: How about preparing to play Brad Pitt character’s adoptive mother?

TH: The mother stuff I know, because I’m a mom. Nurturing? I got that.  

KW: Speaking of mothering, how’s your son Marcel doing?

TH: He’s doing great, thanks, and making me very proud.

KW: What was it like being directed by David Fincher?

TH: Wonderful, because he really pays attention to the smallest of details. He leaves no stone unturned. He goes over every little aspect, each grain of salt. That’s why the film is so brilliant.

KW: After watching it, it’s so rich I sensed that I’ll have to see it at least one more time to catch everything.

TH: Probably so.

KW: Do you think the picture is going to generate a lot of Oscar buzz?

TH: I’m told that it already is, but I leave that up to the big guys.

KW: You’ve been nominated for an NAACP Image Award a couple of times before. Do you think this performance might finally put you over the top?

TH: I don’t even mess with that.

KW: I have to ask you how you feel about Obama’s win.

TH: I am over the moon. Over the moon! I just knew it wouldn’t happen. I’m telling you, in the beginning, a lot of my friends and colleagues were planning to vote for Hilary until we saw he had a shot and how many white people were coming to bat for him. When he won, I was so filled with joy. I can’t even explain the feeling. It’s an amazing time to be alive.

KW: Let me ask you a few of my regular questions again. From music maven Heather Covington: What’s music are you listening to nowadays? 

TH: Right now, I’ve been listening to Q-Tip, because I’m about to be interviewed for a documentary being produced by Nas that Michael Rapaport is directing about the group A Tribe Called Quest. I’m a huge A Tribe Called Quest fan, because, to me, they were the first artists to make hip-hop sexy, when they infused it with jazz, which was incredible. I’m a music collector and I have over 6,000 songs on my iPod, but that’s what I’m listening to right now. I can’t get away from them. They’re incredible. 

KW: Can you think of another question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would? Last time you said, “What color panties are you wearing?” which was the funniest answer I ever got to that question. 

TH: You know, I’ve been asked so much, I can’t think of anything.

KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson asks: What was the last book you read?

TH: Book? What is a book? [Laughs] If I could read a book right now, that would mean I have time.

KW: Judging from your upcoming films, Not Easily Broken with Morris Chestnut, Hurricane Season with Forest Whitaker, and Once Fallen with Ed Harris, it looks like you’re about to break very big playing leading ladies with your name appearing at the top of the marquee, especially if you land an Oscar nomination.

TH: I hope so.

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Where in L.A. do you live?

TH: Glendale.

KW: Thanks again, Taraji. Best of luck with Benjamin Button, and I hope we can speak again after you’ve collected all your accolades during awards season.

TH: Absolutely! Have a great holiday!

KW: You too!

To see a trailer for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, go HERE.

More To Choose Than Picking Flick

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(December 12, 2008) Jeffrey Katzenberg, the DreamWorks Animation honcho and 3D evangelist, came to Toronto this week with his enthusiastic thoughts on the future of moviegoing.

He offered visions of sugarplums dancing digitally in our heads, along with the critters of the Monsters vs. Aliens comedy he thinks will kick-start the 3D cinema revolution come next March.

The new 3D won't be like the old 3D, he promised. The actors won't be chucking rocks and spears at us. They'll be chucking rocks and spears at each other, in that wonderful extra dimension we've been missing all these years.

As exciting as it all is, my heart sank at the thought of what this really means: more choice. I'll have to make more decisions about how I want to view movies.

I suspect I'm not alone in this dread. We are now all inundated with options about how to do something that used to be as simple as sitting in the dark.

I fully expect to have conversations like this one:,

He: "Hey, Monsters vs. Aliens is playing down at the local bijou. Let's go!"

She: "Okay, but in which format: 2D, 3D or 3D IMAX?"

He: "We can't see it in 2D. That's just so 20th century. It's got to be 3D."

She: "But the ticket is $5 more."

He: "Totally worth it. They give you these cool glasses that make you look like Poindexter."

She: "All right. I hope those glasses don't give me a migraine. But the nearest IMAX screen is a 45-minute drive away. I don't think we can make it in time."

He: "Okay, we'll see it in regular 3D, even though my pals tell me that you really can't appreciate Seth Rogen's Blob character unless he's the size of a house."

She: "Should we purchase our tickets online or by telephone?"

He: "We're running out of time. Let's just go to the theatre."

She: "I have an idea. Why don't we just stay home and watch The Dark Knight again on our big new plasma TV? Less stress."

He (sighing): "I thought you didn't like that movie."

She
: "I didn't want to see it when you downloaded it onto your iPod. I want to see it on a big screen."

He: "Okay, I'll watch The Dark Knight again, but it's got to be on Blu-ray. A regular DVD just won't cut it for a movie this intense."

She: "So go rent the Blu-ray version then."

He: "Should I rent the single disc, double disc or triple-disc version? Or maybe it's just one disc with the Blu-ray. And do you care if we get one that comes with a miniature Batpod?"

She (rolls eyes): "What does it matter which disc we get? And no, I don't want the Batpod."

He (impatient): "What does it matter? The choice you make depends on which commentary you get and which behind-the-scene featurettes! Don't you want to hear Christopher Nolan explain every decision he made in filming The Dark Knight?"

She: "Look, let's go back to square one. Let's go and see Monsters vs. Aliens."

He: "But we've argued for so long, it's too late now to see it in 3D. We'll have to settle for 2D at the Varsity."

She: "Yes, but at the Varsity we can get drinks in our seats! Boozing in theatres is legal now!"

He (grumbling): "Okay, I guess I can live with that. But that leaves us with yet another decision to make."

She: "What? Buttered or unbuttered?"

He: "No. Beer, wine or scotch?"

Go Ahead, Offer Clint Eastwood Another Good Script

Source: www.thestar.com - John Hiscock,
Special To The Star

(December 14, 2008) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.–It's not that Clint Eastwood has an insatiable desire to work. It's just that he can't resist a good script, and they seem to be landing in his lap more frequently than ever nowadays, keeping him on film sets and away from the golf course.

At an age when most filmmakers have long retired, the 78-year-old actor-director completed two movies this year – he directed both and also stars in one – and he is currently developing another while at the same time embarking on a gruelling round of promotional interviews.

"This has just been an unusual year," he said. "In fact, the last five years have been kind of unusual, as it seemed like as fast as I would get one movie finished, another would just pop up. When I did Mystic River I thought, `Well, this is fine. I'm not going to act anymore. I'm going to retire from that.' Then suddenly Million Dollar Baby came along and I liked the story and there was a part in it for me. And that's kind of what happened this year."

What happened this year was Gran Torino, about an unhappy old widower who sets out to reform a youth who tries to steal his car.

"We'd finished Changeling and were doing post-production when along came
Gran Torino, which is a very offbeat and unusual story for me and doesn't fit into any slot of pictures that are coming out nowadays and so I thought, `Well, I'll try that, too,'" he recalled. "It just seemed the thing to do. It's very politically incorrect and it's something of a redemption story, which are the kind of things I like, so it was fun."

It is the first time he has been in front of the camera since his 2004 Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby. "I hadn't planned on doing much more acting but Gran Torino had a role that was my age and seemed tailored for me," he said.

He plays Walt Kowalksi, a former Korean War veteran and retired auto worker who has become embittered by the changes to his neighbourhood and who resents the Asian immigrants who now live around him. The script – by first-timer Nick Schenk – portrays Kowalski as an iron-willed and inflexible racist, but he unwillingly finds himself drawn into the life of a young Hmong teenager whom he catches trying to steal his prized 1973 Gran Torino.

Getting to know the boy and his family, he comes to understand certain truths about his neighbours and himself. "It has a message of tolerance, which I think is very important and which attracted me to the script," Eastwood said.

He was exactly on time for our interview at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. He came into the suite eating a bagel and looking tanned and fit in a navy blue blazer and grey slacks. Although known as a man of few words, the self-deprecating Eastwood talked at length about himself, his work and his family, and he answered questions with good-natured humour.

Gran Torino was filmed in Detroit, where Eastwood, his wife Dina and their 12-year-old daughter Morgan had rented a house on the outskirts of the city for the summer.

He takes his family responsibilities very seriously, although when he was younger his personal life was chaotic. He has fathered seven children by five different women.

He has daughter Kimber, 44, by Roxanne Tunis, an actor who appeared with him in the television series Rawhide; a son Kyle, 40, and daughter Alison, 36, by model Maggie Johnson, to whom he was married for nearly 30 years and who he divorced in 1982, giving her a reportedly $30 million settlement; a son Scott, 22, and daughter Kathryn, 20, by former girlfriend Jacelyn Reeves, a flight attendant; 15-year-old Frannie, by actor Frances Fisher; and Morgan, 11, whose mother is Dina Ruiz, the television news anchor he married in 1996.

"I'm a much better father now than when I was younger because then I was working all around the world and I was desperate to find the brass ring, so I worked constantly," he reflected. "Now my daughter takes precedence over everything and even though I've done a lot of work in the past year, it's not because I've ignored her or not been involved in her school activities. I go to all the softball games and look ridiculous out there because almost everybody's got a much younger father than me. But it's fun. I think you appreciate everything a lot more when you get to my age. I never started out thinking I would have a big family but now it's very important to me and family relationships take precedence over work.

"I think I'm a good dad and by and large I have a great relationship with my kids, although I can't say it has always been that way."

His son Kyle has written both songs and music for several of Eastwood's films and co-composed the score for Gran Torino as well as co-writing the title song.

Born in San Francisco, Clint Eastwood has been a major force in the film industry for more than five decades, while pursuing his own path and managing to avoid the trappings of Hollywood. His acting career began when, after working as a lumberjack and serving in the army, he was signed as a young athlete by Universal and given small roles in films like 1951's Francis in the Navy, Lady Godiva and The First Traveling Saleslady. Then in 1959 the Western television series Rawhide came along and Eastwood got the part of Rowdy Yates after a television executive saw him in the corridor and told him, "You look like a cowboy."

By the mid-1960s he was a star. His role as the tough-as-nails cop Harry Callahan in the Dirty Harry series, which started in 1971, cemented his status as an action hero. He received the recognition and applause of the film industry when he won best picture and best director Oscars for 1992's Unforgiven.

The honours kept coming. Mystic River (2003) won six Oscar nominations, including his second as best director and Million Dollar Baby earned seven, including a best actor nomination for Eastwood – only the second of his career. He failed to win best actor, but he took home Oscars for best picture and best director.

In 2006, he made Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, which earned him another best director nomination, although he lost to Martin Scorsese for The Departed.

He has long incorporated his personal ideals of independence into his filmmaking career, where he has total autonomy, making his movies through his own company, Malpaso, and usually distributing them through Warner Bros., with whom he has had a long-standing arrangement. He has the only and final say on script, casting, marketing and everything else.

"I've been here a long time," he mused. "I joined the Screen Actors Guild 55 years ago and nobody ever dreams they're going to live for half a century let alone be in the same profession for all that time.

"In my early days I did a lot of adventure stories, but at this stage of my life I want to make some sort of statement, so for the last 15 years or so I've tried to make films for adult audiences hoping young people will come along too and appreciate the thoughts expressed in them."

He has seen a lot of changes since his first acting role and he cannot help feeling occasional pangs of longing for Hollywood's so-called Golden Age.

"I miss the era I grew up in when adults went to movies and you had different subject matters and every movie didn't have to be a sequel or a remake," he said. "Now people in Hollywood see a movie is doing good business so they make four more like it. It seems to me to be counterproductive."

As long as good scripts keep coming his way, he has no intention of retiring, although he may have had his last acting role.

"I'm still working at this stage of my life because I learn something every day, and as long as I do that I'll be happy," he said. "I keep saying I'm not going to act anymore and there aren't that many great roles for a 78-year-old now, but if a good role comes along, then it's never say never.

"But if not, and I'm never photographed in front of a camera again, it won't break my heart. I'm happy behind the camera."

Hugh Jackman To Be Oscars Host

Source:  www.thestar.com - Sandy Cohen,
The Associated Press

(December 12, 2008) LOS ANGELES – Hugh Jackman will host the 81st annual Oscars, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences confirmed Friday.

Telecast producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon called the Australian actor "a consummate entertainer and an internationally renowned movie star."

"He also has style, elegance and a sense of occasion," Mark and Condon said in a joint statement. "Hugh is the ideal choice to host a celebration of the year's movies – and to have fun doing it."

Jackman, recently named People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive," won an Emmy in 2005 for hosting the 59th annual Tony Awards in 2004. He also took home a best-actor Tony that year for his performance in the musical "The Boy From Oz."

Perhaps best known as Wolverine in the X-Men movie franchise, Jackman recently starred in Baz Luhrmann's romantic adventure film Australia with Nicole Kidman. He was out of the country Friday for a promotional tour for the film and wasn't immediately available for comment, his representative, Alan Nierob, said.

Jackman has never been an Oscar nominee, but was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in 2001's romantic film Kate & Leopold. His other movie credits include 2006's The Prestige and 2004's Van Helsing. Jackman also served as a past presenter on the Oscar show.

The 40-year-old actor and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, have their own Oscar – their 8-year-old son Oscar Maximillian. The couple also have a 3-year-old daughter Ava.

With new producers, a new set director and even a new music director, the Academy has been hinting at an all-new look and feel for this year's Oscars telecast on Feb. 22.

Jackman's selection is a departure from the Academy's standard of big-name comedians. Jon Stewart hosted the ceremony in 2008 and 2006; Ellen DeGeneres was the 2007 host. Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg have also hosted the show in recent years.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Vs. A Child's Christmas In Wales

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Ben Rayner / Dan Smith

(December 15, 2008) This holiday season, we invited members of the Star's entertainment team to nominate their picks for the all-time top Christmas classic. They've made cases for eight of the greats, which will be showcased two by two starting today. Vote for your favourite by 6 p.m. each day. The semi-finals will be held on Friday and Sunday, with the final battle on Dec. 23. The ultimate winner will be announced in the Christmas Eve paper.

Today, Ben Rayner defends How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, while Dan Smith stands up for A Child's Christmas in Wales. Read their pitches and vote.

Dr. Seuss's Holiday sneakiness

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is a triumph of animated subversion, and not just because of the hallucinatory storytelling talents of Dr. Seuss and master animator Chuck Jones.

No, the Grinch – first unleashed upon unsuspecting children in 1966 – is a slithery bit of holiday sneakiness.

Every year, it sucks Grinches like me in with a storyline and deliciously demented tunes like "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" that revel in the unblinking evilness of its grouchy, green protagonist, only to blindside us with a seasonal sweetness that makes our own shrunken Grinch hearts grow three sizes larger along with his.

Ebenezer Scrooge has been around longer, but the Grinch – voiced with glee by horror-movie ghoul Boris Karloff – is the ultimate Christmas villain.

He's a fussy old hermit who so despises the holiday racket of Who carols, blumblookas and "noisy games like Zoo-Zither-Carzay, a rollerskate type of lacrosse and croquet" that he decides to clean Whoville out of every piece of physical evidence of Christmas, all the while finding time to abuse his pathetic pet dog.

He really is a mean one, that Grinch, and we love him so much for it that we still love him when he caves to Who pressure, learns that, "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store" and volunteers to carve the Roast Beast.

Seuss and Jones didn't just come up with a beautiful Christmas yarn; they created one of the most memorable cartoon characters of all time.

Ben Rayner

Curl up with a warm tale

We know where we'll be this Christmas Eve: curled up on the little couch before the tree with the not-so-little-any-more people, delivering our best rendition of Dylan Thomas's classic A Child's Christmas In Wales.

Of the many editions out there, we prefer a 2004 Candlewick Press picture book edition ($25.99) that features New Yorker Chris Raschka's delightful illustrations. They give a fresh bounce to the familiar warm tale, offering a more viewer-friendly engagement for the smaller ones.

The Firemen, the Uncles, the Useful Presents and the Useless Presents, Aunt Hannah with her rum-laced tea, the other Aunts who "sat on the very edges of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers ..."

Oh, and the snow! Honest to God snow, real winter snow:

"I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was 12 or whether it snowed for 12 days and 12 nights when I was 6."

And ...

"Our snow was not only shaken from whitewash buckets down the sky, it came shawling out of the ground and swam and drifted out of the arms and hands and bodies of the trees; snow grew overnight on the roofs of the houses like a pure and grandfather moss, minutely white-ivied the walls and settled on the postman, opening the gate, like a dumb, numb thunderstorm of white, torn Christmas cards."

Then we'll off to bed, to say "some words to the close and holy darkness ..."

Dan Smith

Button, Frost/Nixon And Doubt Lead Golden Globe Noms

Source:  www.thestar.com - David Germain,
The Associated Press, With files from Star staff

(December 12, 2008) BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.–The Academy Awards picture cleared up a bit yesterday as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Doubt and Frost/Nixon led with five Golden Globe nominations apiece.

The Oscar fate of the year's biggest film, The Dark Knight, remains uncertain, though, with the Batman blockbuster earning only a single Globe nomination, Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger.

Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon had a leg up with Best Drama noms, along with The Reader, Revolutionary Road and Slumdog Millionaire.

Toronto movie lovers have a soft spot for Slumdog Millionaire, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September and won the People's Choice Award.

The groundswell of Toronto-led support for the film about a teen who wins the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire may take away some of the sting of a lack of Canadian films and actors in the running for Globes. Kiefer Sutherland is the only Canuck nod, as Best Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for 24: Redemption.

Meryl Streep had two nominations, Best Dramatic Actress for Doubt and Musical or Comedy Actress for Mamma Mia! Kate Winslet also had two, Best Dramatic Actress for Revolutionary Road and Supporting Actress for The Reader.

Also nominated for Dramatic Actress are: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married; Angelina Jolie, Changeling; and Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long.

Nominees for Dramatic Actor are Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road; Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon; Brad Pitt, Benjamin Button; Sean Penn, Milk; and Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler.

The year's biggest hit, The Dark Knight, came in with strong awards buzz but had only one nomination, for Ledger's Joker. Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose on Academy Awards nomination day last Jan. 22.

"This nomination is deeply appreciated and is not lost on those of us who continue to love and miss him," said father Kim Ledger in a statement. "We are so proud that our boy's work is being recognized in this way."

The Harvey Milk film bio Milk also had been at the top of awards watchers' lists but only grabbed an acting nomination for Penn. And one of the year's biggest comedy hits, Sex and the City, was shut out.

Happy-Go-Lucky star Sally Hawkins, named Best Actress by both Los Angeles and New York film critics this week, earned a Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.

Doubt, which opens today, got four acting nominations in all, also scoring supporting nominations for Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis, plus a screenplay slot for director John Patrick Shanley, who adapted his Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr. were nominated as Supporting Actor for Tropic Thunder.

While hit Mamma Mia! was a Best Musical or Comedy nominee, the category was dominated by smaller movies, including Burn After Reading, Happy-Go-Lucky, In Bruges and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

The animated hits WALL-E and Bolt had two nominations apiece, for Best Animated Picture and Best Song.

The Globes are the second biggest film awards show after the Academy Awards and often set the tone for the Oscars by singling out key performances and achievements. The Globe ceremony is scheduled for Jan. 11, 11 days before Oscar nominations.

The awards are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 85 critics and reporters for overseas outlets.

HBO Dominates Top TV Nominations

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(December 12, 2008) NEW YORK–Tina Fey, executives at HBO and the folks at Mad Men are among the television people with reason to smile following the Golden Globe nominations.

Fey's been on a roll. The series she created, 30 Rock, won the Emmy for Best Comedy and she won for Best Actress in a Comedy in September. She and her series received Golden Globe nominations yesterday in the same categories.

HBO captured 22 of the 55 television nominations. The psychotherapy series In Treatment and Recount, a movie dramatization of the aftermath of the 2000 U.S. presidential election, both led the way with five nominations apiece.

It was a boost for the network, which has been trying to recapture its mojo after The Sopranos and Sex and the City departed. The hot new vampire series True Blood and In Treatment were both nominated for Best TV Drama.

Gabriel Byrne, Melissa George, Dianne Wiest and Blair Underwood of In Treatment all received nods for their acting. Recount will compete for Best TV Movie or Miniseries, with Kevin Spacey, Tom Wilkinson, Laura Dern and Denis Leary nominated for their acting.

HBO's miniseries John Adams earned four nominations.

AMC's Mad Men, the Emmy winner for Best Drama, was also nominated in this category, as were Fox's House and Showtime's Dexter. Jon Hamm and January Jones of Mad Men were nominated for their acting.

The nominations proved another demonstration of cable's continued strength versus broadcast networks. Cable shows received 38 nominations to broadcast's 17. Popularity also meant little to the Golden Globes. CBS, for example, has 10 of the 14 most-watched dramas on the air this season and none of them earned a nomination.

Broadcast's best showing was in the Comedy Actress category, where Christina Applegate (ABC's Samantha Who?) and America Ferrera (ABC's Ugly Betty) joined Fey. Mary-Louise Parker of Showtime's Weeds and Debra Messing of USA's The Starter Wife were also nominated.

Parker duplicated Fey's feat with a Best Actress nomination and Best Comedy nod for her series. Showtime's Californication, HBO's Entourage and NBC's The Office were also nominated for Best Comedy.

Best Actor nominees for a comedy were Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Steve Carell (The Office), Kevin Connolly (Entourage), David Duchovny (Californication) and Tony Shalhoub (Monk). Besides Byrne and Hamm, Dramatic Actor nominees were Michael C. Hall (Dexter), Hugh Laurie (House) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors).

Best Dramatic Actress nominees were Jones, Sally Field (Brothers and Sisters), Mariska Hargitay (Law & Order: SVU), Anna Paquin (True Blood) and Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer).

FILM TIDBITS

Van Johnson, 92: Hollywood's Boy Next Door

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(December 14, 2008) NEW YORK–Van Johnson, whose boy-next-door wholesomeness made him a popular Hollywood star in the '40s and '50s with such films as 30 Seconds over Tokyo, A Guy Named Joe and The Caine Mutiny, died Friday of natural causes. He was 92.  With his clean-cut looks, the red-haired Johnson played opposite many top-shelf leading ladies during his two decades with MGM. When movie contracts began to dry up, he had a very successful stint doing regional theatre and then later found more success in London as lead in The Music Man and La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway.

Toronto Cinema Experiments With Serving Beer And Wine

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(December 15, 2008) Would you like a beer to go with your popcorn, or a glass of red with your Twizzlers? Some moviegoers in Toronto now have those and other alcoholic options thanks to one-year pilot project to see whether booze and movies can mix without any trouble The downtown Varsity cinema has had its liquor licence since Friday and has been selling alcohol in four specially designated theatres. Cineplex Entertainment spokeswoman Pat Marshall says consumers had been asking for bar service in theatres for some time and so far, customer feedback has been positive. She says there are no worries that drunken patrons will disrupt movies since there's a two-drink maximum. A pilot project is also due to launch soon at a theatre in Oakville, pending the liquor licence going through. Ontario is the second province to experiment with the idea. You can already buy a drink at some Alberta cinemas.

::TV NEWS::

Znaimer's Legacy Suffers The Axe, But Name Lives On

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(December 12, 2008) The irony's so thick around Queen Street West, you need an aqualung to breathe.

This week alone, Citytv founder
Moses Znaimer has been honoured (and deservedly so) with his own dedicated stretch of the street. Onetime City and MuchMusic reporter John (J.D.) Roberts has been named to the Broadcast Industry Hall of Fame. And the now Rogers-owned Citytv – currently a temporary tenant sharing facilities with CP24, its one-time sibling, now owned by CTV – is about to become an aggressive competitor of CP24, with a licence for its own cable news channel.

Inside the building that Moses built, all is angst, paranoia and reluctant resignation. And a lot of empty office space.

CTV (but mostly CHUM) has been devastated by what is apparently now a third round of layoffs. Rogers (but mostly City) is just as axe-happy, if on a somewhat smaller scale, following up the cancellation of such long-time City institutions as Speakers Corner, Silverman Helps and Ed the Sock with its own massive staff layoffs.

Say goodbye to the entire CityPulse entertainment unit, including its two major talents, Liz West and Larysa Harapyn, already booted by CTV from CHUM cable's strip-mined Star! channel.

Already off Star!, and now entirely out on the street, is veteran producer Marcia Martin, long-time queen of original programming at CHUM and a faithful City staffer from Day One. Joining her streetside is MuchMusic's David Kines, along with pretty much all of MuchMoreMusic.

Even more regrettably, so is The New Music, pioneer promoter of local, street-level entertainment coverage, originally hosted by a mulleted Roberts and the somehow still-hanging-in-there Jeanne Beker.

Even if you are able to follow all that, you may be wondering what it will mean to you.

One thing is certain; it's pretty much over for hometown TV's local entertainment coverage – at least, that which does not involve a story of more-or-less national interest, or when anyone who can loosely be construed as a celebrity happens to blow through town.

Toronto's market-specific publicists are at their wits' end, suddenly unable to find anyone to pitch to in what used to be an essential promotional medium.

Sorry, but if you're not big enough now for CTV's etalk or Global's Entertainment Tonight Canada, you'll just have to make do with the Internet and whatever is left of print and radio.

Moses, hopefully, can derive some satisfaction from the fact that those who have decimated his legacy must now enter the building by way of a street that forever bears his name.

WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE ANNE: Some things, fortunately, never change. Or at least don't change much.

Give CTV their props for bringing back Canada's li'l red-haired darling, Anne Shirley, in new TV-movie Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning, an off-book prequel/sequel airing Sunday night at 7.

Thus adding yet another chapter to the existing Anne canon: two early films, the first of them silent; two British miniseries; two cartoon versions, one of them an anime Anne; three stage musicals; sequel series Road to Avonlea, a 1956 TV-movie and no less than three miniseries, Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel and Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story.

Adding some American cachet are Barbara Hershey as the elder Anne and aging icon Shirley Mac-Laine (who is half-Canadian on her mother's side) as the young Anne's protector, Amelia Thomas.

For more on the Shirleys, Anne and MacLaine, read tomorrow's Star Week cover story.

Bill Bellamy's 'Got Jokes' And More

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(December 12, 2008) *Bill Bellamy got jokes – and a very popular TV show, too. His “Bill Bellamy’s Who’s Got Jokes” is closing out its third season on TV One and he’s gearing up for the fourth.

 “The show is a one-hour, hilarious, unpredictable source of entertainment,” he described. “It is a comedy competition which focuses on the funniest new faces in comedy – clean comedy, so all the family can watch the show together and enjoy it. It comes on TV One Saturday nights.”

The comedy competition show hopes to discover the next big acts in comedy.

“We’re basically going after new faces,” he said. “We’re not going to exclude anybody who wants to do the show, but primarily we’re trying to discover new faces.”

“Who's Got Jokes” is a bit different from other comedy competitions, Bellamy told EUR’s Lee Bailey.

“The difference that sets the show apart is the crowds that we have,” he said referring to the studio audience that plays a big part in the show. “The audience is incredibly energetic. We have judges that our randomly selected from people that come in to see a taping of our show.”

The competition has two rounds. The first features contestants doing their stand-up routine, and then the judges give them a score. That score is tallied with round two scores.

“The second round is what we call our skills round,” Bellamy said. “This is where we challenge these comedians, like with any comedy club, stuff can happen and we want to see how these guys react on their feet. We do all kinds of gags. One time a squirrel flew into the electrical thing and the girl had to do her set in the dark. It was hilarious. Just to see someone struggle and work their way through the mud is the best thing and we’re capturing it on television.”

One thing the show isn’t capturing on television is profanity. Bellamy, who himself said he’s never been known as a dirty comic, said that sometimes it may be difficult for comics to switch from adult material to a cleaner set, but he assured that good comics can.

“All the real comics can do anything and everything,” he said. “All the comics that have been out here perfecting their craft, they can go clean or if they want to get it a little spicy, they can, but when you’re dealing with television, you’re going to have to have a clean set unless you’re doing cable or something.”

The show has been the catapult for up-and-comers Rodney Perry, Ron G, and Shawn Morgan and Bellamy is rather excited about the three, yes three, finalists from this season’s competition which airs this weekend.

“This is a very unique finale because we have three comedians instead of two,” he said. “The audience decided that they wanted all three of them. We’re going to have to vote for three comics. We’re encouraging folks to text or go to the website (http://jokes.tvoneonline.com/dev2/flash.html) and vote for your comic because these guys really did a great job.”

The “Who’s Got Jokes?” finalists are Sean Larkins, Lab Luv, and Dekeyes. Check out “Bill Bellamy’s Who’s Got Jokes” finale on TV One this Saturday at 10 and look for his new sitcom project.

For more on Bill Bellamy, check out www.billbellamy.com and www.myspace.com/billbellamyworld.  

CSI Change Is Win/Win For Viewers

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(December 11, 2008) Change is often difficult, especially on television.

Tonight's the night we've all been dreading: Gil Grissom, a.k.a. actor William Petersen, is leaving
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

But dry those tears, faithful CSIers. He's not quite gone yet. He's sticking around, in a gradually diminishing capacity, for another month or so, to help usher in ...

Now here's the good news: his replacement is Emmy and Tony winner, Oscar nominee and estimable presence in every medium he undertakes, Laurence Fishburne, as college professor Dr. Raymond Langston, introduced tonight in a compelling new storyline and destined to take over the team.

There is great potential in this CSI arc, much as this first episode echoes Silence of the Lambs and Copycat, and the usually brilliant comic actor Bill Irwin is even more brilliant here as the surrogate Lecter.

There is even more potential in Fishburne's ultimate leadership, with producers hinting that his interest in serial killers may be more than objectively clinical.

More I cannot say without incurring the wrath of spoiler-phobes, a digitally vocal, passionate bunch.

But I think you'll like it. A lot.

And let's face it, CSI is long overdue for a creative upheaval. As remarkably consistent as it's been over the past eight years, that is eight years and another two franchises. Something's gotta give. And killing off Gary Dourdan's Warrick Brown and banishing Jorja Fox's Sara Sidle (okay, so that was apparently her idea) just aren't going to cut it.

Besides, Sidle came back for a visit. And Petersen has taken time off before, with Liev Schreiber filling in for four episodes last year. Though this time his Grissom is well and truly gone, Petersen does remain one of the show's executive producers, and thus retains a vested interest in what he has promised to be at least one return engagement.

So win/win all around, folks.

Other similar transitions have gone less smoothly. David Duchovny's departure from The X-Files in 2002 signalled the series' sad decline into unwatchable banality (kicking and screaming all the way).

On the other hand, ER, NYPD Blue and Law & Order are known for their revolving-door casting policies.

Others we have barely noticed.

When Bewitched swapped out Darrens midstream, we hardly blinked an eye (or even twitched a nose). Same when Scrubs' Sarah Chalke filled in for Roseanne's Lecy Goranson when she took time off for college.

Valerie lasted barely a season as Valerie's Family when its titular star Valerie Harper was summarily canned. But since no one was watching anyway, it hardly mattered.

Shannen Doherty batched herself out of two lucrative jobs, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Charmed, which both thrived without her. And by the time the increasingly annoying Shelley Long departed Cheers, we were happy to see her go.

This one's my favourite: Pernell Roberts left his role as Bonanza big brother Adam Cartwright in 1965. Wayne Rogers quit his Trapper John gig on M*A*S*H in 1975. Four years later, the character was revived in his own series, Trapper John, M.D. ... portrayed by Pernell Roberts!

Meanwhile, M*A*S*H's McLean Stevenson-to-Harry Morgan turnover in 1974 arguably improved the show, which ran another nine years. (The less said the better about the two-season '80s spinoff After MASH).

And then there's the curious case of David Caruso, who famously blew off NYPD Blue because he thought a brilliant movie career beckoned. Which it didn't. (Anyone remember Jade? I didn't think so.)

Six years ago, humiliated and humbled, he took his 3 1/2 facial expressions and moved down to CSI: Miami.

Small world, ain't it?

J.D. Roberts Long Gone But Not Forgotten In Canada

Source:  www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar,
Entertainment Reporter

(December 12, 2008) It is fitting that John Roberts' induction into the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame coincides with Canadian Music Week next March. While he has been a familiar fixture on U.S. network TV news for almost 20 years, he's still fondly remembered in this country for his work at MuchMusic and as one of the original hosts of recently cancelled The New Music, whose passing didn't go unnoticed by the CNN anchor.

"Yes, I did hear about that, which was really sad news. But what a run it had, what was it, almost 30 years?" he says from New York. "You know, I've had so many terrific experiences in this business, but when I tell people here at CNN that I covered Bob Marley's funeral for The New Music, they are usually left gaping in awe."

Roberts, who many still remember as "J.D." from his music gig roots, says that Canadians still recall his lower profile jobs, reading farm reports in Owen Sound or spinning records as a disc jockey at CHUM radio in the '70s. He left Canada in 1989, working in local news in Miami, returned here to host CTV's Canada AM for two years, and eventually joined CBS, where he worked for more than a decade. He joined CNN in 2006.

Roberts has been sent to war zones, he's interviewed heads of states and reported live from such major news events as the Atlanta Olympic bombing and Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans. Now he often starts his day at 3 a.m. as one of the co-hosts of CNN's American Morning.

Roberts says he's glad to be at CNN, although for a long time he was hotly tipped as the replacement for Dan Rather. But when the time came, he was passed over.

"It was a little difficult leaving CBS, as it would be leaving any place after you've worked there for 14 years," he says.

"But no, I don't really have any career regrets. If I have one thing that I think about from time to time, it's that I wish I had gone to medical school."

Asked what he'd do if he could do anything he wanted, he recalled one of his old stomping grounds.

"I'd love to go back and cover the White House. I think that the beat to have at least in the next couple of years will be the White House beat. I think there's so many different and interesting developments on so many different fronts that to have that true front seat to history and to be able to travel around the world with the new president would be an extraordinary journalistic experience."

Roberts, who became an American citizen in 2001 but did not renounce his Canadian citizenship, is looking forward to coming back for the induction ceremony.

"I mean, how long has it been? I left Canada in 1992, permanently, and to think 16 years later that they still look upon that body of work as something worthy of being recognized, really it's a wonderful honour. I'm very thankful to them for even considering my name."

ACTRA To Open Ontario Credit Union In January

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(December 16, 2008) A little over a decade ago, accomplished Canadian actor Peter Keleghan, best known for his roles on The Newsroom and The Red Green Show, was 38 and sitting humiliated in a bank office as he sought his third mortgage. The bank wouldn't grant it unless his father, who owned his own home outright, would co-sign with him.

"I had bank managers asking me, 'What guarantees us that you're going to be employed in five years or two years or one year?' And I said, 'Well, what guarantees that you're going to be employed?' "

The experience convinced Keleghan to press the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (
ACTRA) to look seriously at starting its own credit union. The ball started rolling four years ago, and early in the new year, Ontario entertainment workers beleaguered by the credit crisis will have a tailor-made financial home, the Creative Arts Savings & Credit Union, to help weather the storm.

A similar entity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists/Screen Actors Guild Credit Union, exists south of the border.

Keleghan, who made use of the AFTRA/SAG credit union while living in Los Angeles, says it accommodated the fluctuations and peculiarities of his earnings as an actor, and took a longer vision of his income, which could see one cheque a year or a windfall of work. It also offered advice on the technicalities of self-employment across multiple borders.

The main attractions for the Canadian institution, says Keleghan, are a board of directors composed of members elected by fellow members, and the fact that profits are funnelled back into the union rather than to outside shareholders.

"From our members' perspective, I don't think there's any question that there has been, and will continue to be, a tightening of credit. What better time to have an organization that is your No. 1 advocate?" said union CEO Steve Mumford, who was headhunted from his general manager's position at a Woodstock, Ont.-based credit union.

The Creative Arts Savings & Credit Union currently has three paid employees (the goal is to have five to seven). It has administrative offices in Toronto but will provide its services - including bank accounts, investment portfolios, mortgages, savings and loans - primarily through the Internet and phone. A small mobile team that can travel to meet clients "because [entertainment workers] are a very active bunch," Mumford said.

Members of ACTRA and virtually any union, guild or association connected with it are eligible to join, as are their immediate families. Mumford hopes to sign up 700 members by the end of the first year and 4,000 members by the end of year five from an estimated pool of about 25,000 people.

But he hopes to eventually accept anyone in the entertainment industry, just as he would like to push the restrictions that now confine the credit union to Ontario.

Keleghan was careful to emphasize that the union is not a lender of last resort - "poor credit is poor credit" - but said they will work with members who can't meet their loan conditions rather than showing them the door.

To succeed in convincing a group of increasingly fearful and reticent people to entrust their money to an infant institution, Mumford will need to lean heavily on the reputation of its founding investors. More than 100 members have contributed the $2.5-million in seed money needed to earn regulatory approval, among them Keleghan and his father-in-law, renowned Newfoundland actor Gordon Pinsent, who put "a whack" of cash into investment shares.

"A lot of it from my point of view was putting my money where my mouth is," said Keleghan, who was recently awarded ACTRA's highest honour, the award of excellence, in part for his work creating the union.

The most important service the union promises, according to Keleghan, is to take a broad view of a member's income. Whereas low-earning or single-cheque years can scare banks away, they're considered par for the course for many in entertainment.

"You can have someone who's making a very decent overall living in this profession, but it's up and down, it's feast or famine," Mumford said.

TV TIDBITS

Shatner Looking Forward To New Talk Show

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(December 12, 2008) NORWALK, CONN. – William Shatner says he's happy with howBoston Legal ended and looks forward to his new celebrity talk show. Shatner showed up at a party Thursday at Priceline.com, the Norwalk-based Internet travel business. He has been a pitchman for the company for 10 years. Shatner's five-season run playing attorney Denny Crane on Boston Legal ended Monday. His talk show, William Shatner's Raw Nerve, premiered Tuesday on the Biography Channel. "It's given me a device, a platform, to talk to people I've always wanted to," Shatner told The Advocate of Stamford. Shatner, who gained fame for his role as Capt. James Kirk on Star Trek, says he wants the conversations with guests such as actress Valerie Bertinelli, comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Tim Allen and porn star Jenna Jameson to be the kind he would have over a drink or dinner. "It has that rapport," Shatner said. "I'm just having a conversation." Shatner did not watch the final episode of Boston Legal – saying "I don't like to look at myself" – but says he was pleased with the script written by creator David E. Kelley. In the finale, Crane is suffering the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and asks Alan Shore, played by James Spader, to enter into a legal marriage so he could bequeath his fortune to his fellow attorney. "That was the most extraordinary, creative solution to so much," Shatner said.

Berry, Perry To Host NAACP Image Awards

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(December 17, 2008) *Oscar winner Halle Berry and actor-screenwriter Tyler Perry will host the 40th NAACP Image Awards, which will broadcast live from Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, Thursday, Feb. 12 (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) on FOX.  Nominations for the annual awards show that recognizes the artistic achievements of people of color and honours projects and individuals that promote diversity in the arts will be announced Wednesday, Jan. 7 in Los Angeles. Performers and presenters will be announced shortly. Previously announced honourees include former Vice President Al Gore and Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai, who will both receive the Chairman's Award. The event, which coincides with the NAACP's 100th anniversary, is executive-produced by Vicangelo Bulluck and will kick off the organization's year-long centennial celebration.  "We are extremely honoured to have former Image Awards winners Ms. Halle Berry and Mr. Tyler Perry host this historic event," said Image Awards Chairperson Clayola Brown. "Halle and Tyler have broken many barriers in the entertainment industry. In this historic centennial year, their successes remind us of the immense progress that has been made in the last 100 years and gives us continued hope for the progress that our nation will achieve in the future."

::THEATRE NEWS::

Diesel Playhouse Turns Out The Lights

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(December 11, 2008) The house the Dead built is no more.

Tuesday night's performance by the music group Straight No Chasers was the last show to play at the
Diesel Playhouse, 55 Blue Jays Way, originally built in 1997 as a home for the Second City.

After the comedy troupe left the premises in 2005, to relocate across the way on Mercer St., the theatre stood dark and was supposed to be turned into condos.

Producer Jeffrey Latimer, who arranged to lease the building from Michael Kleinman the following year, knew he had a two-year stay of execution to keep the venue functioning.

It reopened as the Diesel Playhouse in April 2006 with the production of Boy Groove. Some 140 shows appeared there over the next two years, but the theatre will best be remembered for the hit production of Evil Dead: The Musical, which filled it for 500 performances on two separate occasions, finally ending its run on Sept. 6 of this year.

"I was supposed to have closed the place in April 2008, but Evil Dead was still going strong, so I asked to have my lease extended until we closed in September," recalls Latimer. "After that, my involvement ceased. We went out on a high."

Then things changed. Mel Pearl assumed ownership of the building and B.J. Reinblatt (brother of Evil Dead's author, George Reinblatt) continued to manage the place on a month-to-month basis.

The problem was the shows weren't coming. The calendar on the Diesel's website reveals that there were only four one-night stands booked between now and the end of February, at which point a new horror musical called Cannibal (starring Evil Dead's leading man, Ryan Ward) was tentatively scheduled to open.

Some shows, like this Sunday's sold-out engagement of the Princes of Comedy, are planning to move to Second City. Klaus Schuller, executive director of Second City Toronto, said, "We'll do everything to help, but we can't sacrifice our own operation."

All day yesterday, sound and lighting equipment was being removed from the Diesel and it was obvious that its days as a performance space were over.

"It's a shame," said Latimer. "It was great while it lasted."

New Direction Lands Actor In Jersey Boys

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(December 13, 2008) How do you get from the pastoral lanes of Niagara-on-the-Lake to the mean streets of Newark?

Walk like a man, my son.

That's what
Jeff Madden learned when he set out on the long and winding road that led him to the Toronto Centre of the Arts, where he gave his first performance last night as Frankie Valli in the new Canadian company of Jersey Boys.

After eight seasons with the Shaw Festival in what he calls "an incredibly creative and nurturing environment," the 34 year-old actor with the boy-next-door looks and the once-in-a-lifetime voice decided to strike out in new directions.

"Shaw is the best place for a young actor to work," recalls Madden, before starting a long and strenuous day of technical rehearsals.

"You learn so much from so many good people."

But still, after releasing his first solo CD, Taking the Wheel, in 2007, Madden began to feel that "this is the time to put myself in charge and ask, `What do I want my life to be?'"

He soon found he had become a valuable commodity in the world of Canadian theatre. His dance card was full to the summer of 2009. Pride of place was his job as the leading man in the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Ben Elton musical The Boys in the Photograph, premiering in Winnipeg at the Manitoba Theatre Centre next spring, and eventually coming to Toronto as a Mirvish production.

But just as he was settling in and planning to enjoy a few tranquil months with his wife of six years, Christine, and their two baby daughters, Sydney Murray, 2, and Emily Rose, 9 months, he got a call from the casting people involved with Jersey Boys.

Madden sighs. "And then my world turned upside down."

At first, they were talking to him about taking on a role in the national tour. Then it became obvious that enthusiastic audiences were demanding Dancap Productions keep the show on past its originally scheduled Dec. 6 closing date, and the search began for a resident Canadian company.

Madden says he "almost lost track" of the auditions he did, as well as the numerous trips to New York to be approved by Bob Gaudio and Frankie Valli.

When he was finally offered the plum starring role of Frankie Valli, he had decidedly conflicted emotions about having to turn away from all the other shows he had committed to.

"It was a tough decision," he concludes. "But in the end, I think I made the right one."

In point of fact, a lot of Madden's life and career has been about taking a while to settle on the right choice. As a kid, his family moved from Surrey to Montreal, to Newmarket, to Dartmouth, before settling in Etobicoke when he was 15.

He was a musician and a jock as a kid, not an actor.

"I played the piano at 7 and the trumpet at 10 and I was in all sorts of choirs," he recalls. "I also went in for baseball, the canoe club and swimming. But acting? Never, not once. No, wait. I was one of the kings in a Christmas pageant when I was 6 and that was it."

That started changing in high school. A class trip to Les Miserables when he was 15 opened his eyes to the power of theatre. Then he had a wonderfully ego-driven moment watching a student production of Grease. He laughs at the memory.

"I was sitting there, and I went, `Wait a second! Why am I not doing this? I could be way better than this guy!'"

So through his university days he balanced his academic schedule with musicals for the U. of T. Follies like Anything Goes, Guys and Dolls and The Wiz (he played The Tin Man).

During his last year at university, he decided the theatre "was maybe something I could do for a living." He started taking acting classes and researching the industry.

Within two years, he landed his professional job in the chorus of Lady Be Good in Winnipeg. Shortly after, he was playing a leading role at the Charlottetown Festival.

Madden's love life followed the same pattern – a period of waiting before the final inevitable decision. He and his wife have been together romantically for 15 years, but it took them nine years to decide they should get married.

"We were really young, and wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing with our lives," he says.

They are doing that now, with a pair of infant daughters and a job that every young musical theatre actor in Toronto would kill to have.

What's it like to play the legendary Valli, the kid from Sopranos country who became one of the biggest stars in pop music history?

"It's a bit of a struggle to get into the whole head space of how he grew up," admits Madden, whose own life has been securely spent in upper middle-class respectability. He cites other points of connection with Valli.

"I had three older brothers," he chuckles. "So I know what it's like to bossed around the way Tommy DeVito bosses Frankie. (Valli) was also a fighter and I'm a fighter, too."

Although Madden looks like the kind of boxer who always plays by the rules, he's also the kind of guy you'd be smart to bet on.

The Panasonic Puzzle

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(December 16, 2008) TORONTO — Theatre impresario David Mirvish is fond of saying that dark periods in his theatre houses don't trouble him, even though he's losing money. At least he knows for sure how much it's costing him.

One of his newest Toronto acquisitions, Yonge Street's
Panasonic Theatre, is likely to see some dormant nights while the staff at Mirvish Productions puzzle out how to use the 700-seat house. While it's off to a rollicking start, and while it presents tantalizing possibilities for staging commercially viable off-Broadway shows to Toronto, Mirvish is still searching for the theatre's niche.

Taking over from the long-running Blue Man Group, Mirvish retooled We Will Rock You after a 61-week run at the 2,300-seat Canon Theatre and moved it up Yonge Street in July. Unable to sustain sufficient ticket sales at the Canon, but with the show's popularity still intact, Mirvish had batted about the idea of a cross-Canada tour but ultimately settled on an extended run at the Panasonic.

The show was extended for the third time Tuesday. It is still selling between 80 and 90 per cent of its tickets, with performances now stretching through March 1.

Unfortunately, a scaled-back major musical cannot be the model for the Panasonic. As David Mucci, Mirvish's director of operations, explains, such a move is attractive because the setup costs have already been covered in the larger theatre. But while We Will Rock You lent itself well to being collapsed onto a smaller stage, most larger productions would be irreparably harmed by losing some of their set. And with 40 employees, We Will Rock You is still an unusually large and costly staff for 700 seats.

There is also the matter of casting: The main actors agreed to stay on for an open-ended run, securing the loyalty of the show's dedicated fan base. Mirvish called the smooth transition “a minor miracle,” and Mucci dubbed it “a perfect storm of events.”

“It's unlikely that you would take a Dirty Dancing or a Sound of Music and try to put that in a 700-seat theatre,” Mucci said of the company's two current mainstays.

But communications director John Karastamatis is also cool to the inverse approach of using the Panasonic in part as a transfer house for productions whose success outgrows smaller venues, a concept that has long been dreamed of within the city's theatre community. (An example would be David Hare's Stuff Happens, which had the 240-seat Berkeley Theatre bursting at its seams.) A combination of factors emerging over the last decade have made those transfers difficult, he said, citing higher advertising costs, the rise of inexpensive fringe theatre and the declining budgets of non-profit theatre companies.

“I don't know how viable that is. … Maybe 250 [seats] is the right size. Maybe 500 or 700 is too large for some of these shows,” he said.

The Panasonic was an impulse – although an obvious – buy for Mirvish, packaged with the strategically key and considerably larger Canon Theatre, for which he fought a lengthy court battle with rival Dancap Productions.

“We hadn't a clue. We didn't know what we were doing,” Mirvish said with a chuckle when asked about the strategy behind buying the Panasonic. “But we knew if we had had the Panasonic when we did Da Kink in My Hair [which played for 15 weeks at the 2,000-seat Princess of Wales Theatre], we could have run for two years.”

An off-Broadway-size theatre is attractive because of the potential to mount creative programming with less financial risk. When Mirvish thinks a show can be supported, the runs will be open-ended, a model that increases the potential profits but hinders long-term planning and can mean more dark nights.

With declining American ticket sales having been offset by increasing local tourism, Canadian content looks more attractive, Mirvish says. He is intrigued by the notion of collaborating with non-profit playhouses to bring new, smaller works to a wider audience.

“We have things we want to work on and stories we want to tell, and the roll of the dice in the big house is too expensive for us,” he said.

Mirvish is also toying with the idea of going from five musicals to six next season, and hopes having the Panasonic can help sustain the growth the company saw this year, when subscriptions jumped from 33,000 to 40,300.

Fellow theatre impresario Jeffrey Latimer thinks Mirvish may have stumbled across a treasure trove. Sitting on the rights to the smash-hit musical Forever Plaid but lacking a venue to stage it, Latimer renovated a hollowed out movie house to create the New Yorker Theatre, the Panasonic's former incarnation, in 1993.

Forever Plaid combined with another huge success, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, to fill the theatre for the first five years of Latimer's 11-year tenure and built the base for dozens of longer-run shows and one-offs he later staged there. But in 2004, Latimer accepted “an offer too good to refuse” from Live Nation, looking to house the Blue Man Group, and sold the theatre.

He says an off-Broadway size commercial theatre can thrive in downtown Toronto, though that was harder with the 440-seat New Yorker; the extra 300 seats the theatre now has are “a huge X-factor” for its survival. There is a wealth of smaller productions with carefully defined audiences and word of mouth support making waves in New York, Chicago and San Francisco that would fit the Panasonic, he argues.

“There's not much of an off-Broadway here. The best model is between 500 and 600 seats so you actually can find a way to make a little more money,” he said. “I think there's a lot of opportunity.”

Latimer's experience suggests mid-size shows thrive under the umbrella of a line-up of larger attractions. The Sound of Music, Dirty Dancing and Dancap's Jersey Boys should create an audience that is starving for more theatre, he said, adding that Mirvish is uniquely positioned to run the Panasonic thanks to the large infrastructure he already has in place.

For the time being, the theatre's future is cluttered with big ideas and a healthy dose of ambition. Can Mirvish turn them to a reality?

“There's a learning curve for us. We don't know,” he said.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin Head 'Godot' Cast

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(December 15, 2008) NEW YORK – Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman and David Strathairn will all be "Waiting for Godot" this spring on Broadway. The four actors will appear in the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of the Samuel Beckett absurdist classic opening April 30 at Studio 54. Preview performances begin April 10. Lane, who will play Estragon, was last on Broadway in the David Mamet comedy "November." Irwin – set for the role of Vladimir – won a Tony Award for his performance as George in the 2005 revival of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" It was directed by Anthony Page who will also direct "Godot.'' Strathairn is Lucky and Goodman is Pozzo.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

There's No Place Quite Like Home

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko,
Special To The Star

(December 13, 2008) We've been wandering and waiting, PlayStation People, and at last our long-promised land has been delivered.

PlayStation Home, Sony's online world for virtual living, decorating, socializing, shopping, game-playing and advertisement-viewing, opened this week, and I wasted no time scouting the beta version of this sleek land of digital milk and brand-identified honey.

First things first, though: gotta get into character. The PS3 is the last console of this generation to give users the opportunity to create a personal electronic puppet, and it's the most sophisticated and realistic. Rather than cartoony Mr. Potatohead-style interchangeable parts, Home offers a deep set of face-modelling tools. There's even a height/weight proportionizer. I spent an enjoyable hour coming up with, as Paul Simon put it, "a roly-poly little bat-faced girl."

With the chassis built, it was time for the trim. Unfortunately, Home's costume closet leaves much to be desired for dress-up-dolly purposes. Making do with the least tacky jeans-and-T ensemble available, I went out to hit the mall.

Outside in Home's central plaza, everything was as you'd expect from an online multiplayer world: little knots of inane/belligerent conversation ("F U", "lol whut????" etc.), avatars running through their limited repertoire of "dance" moves, players with handles like "KaosDemonicus" and "tea_begger" getting creative with spaces and symbols to get around the system's swearing filters, everyone already well-versed in the various methods of combining animations in ways that vaguely simulate sex.

My very first social interaction on entering the world of Home:

"r u pregnant?"

"No. I'm just plump."

Okay, enough. Back to the apartment to change clothes, body and gender. Back out, this time a dumpy, balding, middle-aged dude in a nondescript polo shirt, sport shorts and sneakers. I am invisible. I make my purchases – a cowboy hat, some new chairs as quickly as possible, and head over to where I belong: the bowling alley.

The multiplayer games are the coolest parts of Home. There's bowling and pool, and a bunch of virtual video-game cabinets, including the sublime Echochrome. Over at the mall, there are even a few chess tables, though rudeness is still the norm, with people getting up and wandering away from a game after a few moves, bowls or shots. The air crackles with occasional bursts of unintelligible, distorted gabble from the few denizens using headset mikes.

To be fair, these are early days. Everyone's still aimless, figuring out what's available, where things are, how things work. Sony has big plans for this world: movie screenings and conferences with game developers, themed areas of the world based around specific games, sharing of videos and music, lobbies for connecting with other players for online games and more. They've certainly got the technical end running well; Home runs smoothly and looks great, and has the potential infrastructure for some really cool features. It'll be interesting to see how it all matures as a service and a community.

Meanwhile, though, there's a hubbub out in the Plaza. Like a soapbox preacher, some dude in a black turtleneck and fauxhawk is making like a crazy street-corner preacher, screaming about the future of Home while a crowd of avatars dances the robot around him amid a cloud of virtual soap bubbles.

"I READ AN ARTICAL!" he shouts (in all caps). "THERE WILL B NEW GAME WORLDS IN THE UPDATE!!! EVEN BARBIE HORSE ADVENTURES!!!!"

The gathered robo-dancers pick up on this, and a flash meme sweeps the Plaza:

"PONY!"

"P O N Y"

"pony"

"Poooooony!"

"lol pony g-ay"

And so it goes ...

EA, Sony Face Cutbacks

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman,
Special To The Star

(December 13, 2008) Perhaps the multi-billion-dollar video game industry isn't as "recession proof" as previously believed.

While market research firm NPD says video game sales are up 25 per cent year over year, the struggling world economy looks to be affecting some of the interactive industry's biggest players, including
Electronic Arts and Sony.

Last week, video game giant EA, makers of the Mirror's Edge, the Need for Speed series and more, slashed its financial outlook and lowered its net revenue and earnings-per-share guidance, due to lower-than-expected sales of its top-tier holiday titles, and announced it would lay off employees and consolidate studios.

The megapublisher also said it would cut back on its game releases through fiscal year 2010.

"While we saw significant improvement in the overall quality of our key products this year, we are disappointed that our holiday slate is not meeting our sales expectations," wrote EA CEO John Riccitiello in a company statement, while also noting retailers were taking less inventory.

"Given this performance and the uncertain economic environment, we are taking steps to reduce our cost structure and improve the profitability of our business."

Citing slow game sales, Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities, recently predicted EA was facing an estimated 16 per cent decline in fiscal-year revenues.

PlayStation 3 owner Sony also announced it would slash upward of 16,000 jobs worldwide in a bid to save $1.3 billion by the end of the next financial year.

Most of the job losses are expected to come out of Sony's Electronics divisions, which will close about six of its 57 manufacturing sites.

No details have been provided on how this might shake up its PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable business.

::OTHER NEWS::

Magazine Industry Optimistic In Face Of Storm

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner, Publishing Reporter

(December 16, 2008) Symbolically, there is no better reflection of the prospects for Canadian magazines next year than the fact that Masthead, the publication that covers the business, will print its last issue early in 2009.

"It has been a struggle for everyone across the board: consumer magazines, trade magazines, big, small," says Masthead editor Marco Ursi, who will maintain the publication's presence online after next month's final print edition. "Everyone's having a hard time of it right now and it's going to continue into 2009."

But Ursi and others in the business are optimistic that the fundamentals are strong, enabling the business to recover when the economy turns around. Observers also insist that the Canadian magazine business is in significantly better shape than its U.S. counterpart and caution against viewing the more severe U.S. downturn as a mirror of the situation here.

After a slight decline in ad revenues during the first half of the year, ad pages plunged by more than 12 per cent during the third quarter, according to Leading National Advertisers Canada. It is expected that the fourth-quarter numbers will be even worse.

Masthead isn't the only Canadian magazine disappearing from the shelves. This year also saw the shuttering of Gardening Life and Wish, along with satirical scandal sheet Frank.

Also, Rogers Publishing, which publishes more than 70 magazines including such newsstand heavyweights as Maclean's and Chatelaine, laid off about 40 staffers earlier this month, amounting to roughly 4 per cent of its workforce.

"We've taken steps to weather the storm, but 2009 will be a very difficult year," says Rogers Publishing president and CEO Brian Segal. "We're looking at how to reduce costs without hurting our brands and our relationship with our audiences and advertisers.

"I don't think there's anything unique about it. When the level of the lake goes down, it doesn't matter what boat you're sitting on. Advertising is down. But there's no real change in market share. And circulation is holding nicely."

Magazines Canada, which represents 335 publications commanding a total of 65 per cent of overall paid circulation, reports that start-ups outnumbered closings by roughly 3-to-1 this year, the same ratio as recent years. High-profile newcomers included Zoomer, Best Health and Vita.

Readership, which increased to 111 million at the end of 2007 from 107 million in 2003, is also expected to increase slightly this year, according to figures compiled by the Print Measurement Bureau. Prior to 2008, ad sales increased by an average of 7 per cent annually since 2000, reports Magazines Canada CEO Mark Jamison. Also, 80 per cent of the magazine subscriptions purchased here are for Canadian magazines.

"We are facing the same challenges that everybody in the media business is, but we're coming off a period of tremendous growth," Jamison says. "The fundamentals are very strong."

Ad sales started plummeting sooner in the U.S., where revenues were already down by nearly 5 per cent in the first quarter and another 6 per cent in the second. Among the hardest hit was Time, which saw its ad revenues drop by 26 per cent in 2008. The newsweekly, which announced it is cutting its Canadian edition at the end of the year, is also scaling back operations in Europe and Asia.

"The American magazine industry is in a very different place as the Canadian magazine industry, to the point where there is actually no comparison," Jamison says. "And I don't think that it's just that they are farther into the ditch."

"A lot of the American industry is finally looking at their costs and efficiencies for the first time. We've been doing that for the five or six years, while we've been experiencing growth."

Says Ursi: "It's not a death spiral. Magazines will come out of the recession and go back to doing the business they've done for a long time."

::DANCE NEWS::

Bollywood In Brooklyn For A Beautiful Journey

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Dance Writer

Bamboo Blues
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Choreography by Pina Bausch. Until Dec. 20 at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave.,
Brooklyn, N.Y. 718-636-4100 or bam.org

(December 14, 2008) NEW York–
Bamboo Blues, as Pina Bausch dancer Shantala Shivalingappa has remarked, is about India, but there's nothing particularly Indian about it.

There is however something in the constantly billowing tall white muslin curtains that set the stage for this spectacular show at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in Brooklyn that creates an atmosphere we associate with the subcontinent.

First performed last year by Tanztheater Wuppertal, Bamboo Blues is the latest of Bausch's "travelogues" – theatrical tributes to people and places beyond her own culture (Nefes, an ode to Turkey came to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2007).

When a beautiful soloist with long, dark hair arrives on stage, her tresses and her dress – a pink satin ball gown (signature Bausch costuming) – seem choreographed as much as her tumultuous solo she performs against the constantly flowing curtains.

Bamboo Blues (think Mumbai) is a 140-minute journey against backdrops, such as a huge Bollywood poster of two Indian screen stars, that makes you think you've walked in on someone's recollections of a trip to India.

(Bausch has, in fact, had a long relationship with the country and forged an artistic friendship with the late Indian dance artist Chandralekha. She and the company have been visiting and performing there since 1979. Bamboo Blues emerged out of a company research trip in November 2006; the show premiered in 2007.)

As in most of Bausch's works, the piece is structured episodically. There's a quality of in medias res to much of the show, as if the audience just happened upon scenes that started before they got there. Often the dancers will walk right off the stage and into the audience or break through the fourth wall, to, for instance, extend a long strip of cardamon-scented tape, hand-over-hand and give the front row an olfactory experience of India.

Incongruity is the governing principle. Western music (Alice Coltrane, Talk Talk, 4hero) plays cheek-by-jowl with Indian tracks, a number of them performed by the Bombay Dub Orchestra. As the sound jump cuts from one passage to the next, so does the dancing.

Brilliant solos and duets – pure dance in swirling gowns, saris and white cloths worn by the men like sarongs – are interrupted by bits of business such as Christiana Morganti, looking for all the world like Rita Hayworth, vamping to the front of the stage, and extending a hand to an audience member, saying, "nice to meet you."

Bausch really invented the multidisciplinary theatrical form that Tanztheater Wuppertal is known for. Peter Pabst's set design and videos, Marion Cito's costumes (stunning couture gowns in bright Indian colours) are inextricably linked to the creation of the movement. The 68-year-old choreographer has a cinematic way of working – her movement choreographed to sound, dialogue and video. Cinematography of Indian outdoor scenes move across a scrim that is itself pulled across the stage – a visual correlative of Shivalingappa wrapping herself in a precious white swath of fabric held taut by a male dancer.

There are many moments to capture on the screen of memory. When Jorge Puerta Armenta balances tree branches on shoulders, arms and head and slowly proceeds across the stage and downstairs into the auditorium, it's a dramatic moment that you won't soon forget. Bamboo Blues cuts quickly to the outsourced Indian telephone operator, taking orders for Pronto Pizza to be delivered in Brooklyn. As this is going on, 10 dancers on all fours make a many-legged creature, pushing each other across the stage to move a big table, like a big dog shoving a toy across the floor.

Or we might flash to the women in their ball gowns arranging themselves for a group portrait, as if Vanity Fair was doing a Bollywood issue. Bamboo Blues is thoroughly celebratory, with none of the angst we might associate with Mumbai since the shootings. But this spirit is in keeping with Bausch's gentler vision after 9/11. She told a group in San Diego last year that there was enough violence in the world, without her adding to it.

For Thursday evening's premiere at BAM, the 11th time the company has performed there, the "tout le monde" of dance seemed to be out and in a festive mood. Among notable audience members were Mikhail Baryshnikov, Michael Ondaatje and Linda Spaulding. To hear someone in this crowd say "that was the most beautiful show I've ever seen" really meant something.

When Bausch herself took the stage for the curtain call, the whole house rose to its feet in tribute to the leading lady of dance theatre.

Canadian Choreographer's New Project Is A Muppet Christmas

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar,
Entertainment Reporter

(December 14, 2008) Even with a star-studded cast including Uma Thurman, Nathan Lane and Jesse L. Martin in Letters to Santa: A Muppet Christmas, Canadian choreographer Paul Becker knows who we want the real dirt on.

"Oh, with the Muppets there's always something happening on set. Like Sweetums is always breaking things or Gonzo is eating all the craft services again," he says. "And Mrs. Piggy is a giant diva, but we hit it off well. I think she has a crush on me."

Becker knew what he was getting into, having worked on The Muppet Wizard of Oz in 2005, and was told that the show's stars absolutely wanted him back.

"I received an email from the producer who said that Gonzo and Kermit wanted me to do it. They said they wouldn't work with any other choreographer, so that was great."

Becker, who has a long list of film and television credits, is probably best known for being a choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Besides choreographing this new Muppet special, he also appears in it.

The plot revolves around the Muppets accidentally receiving three children's letters to Santa and their attempts to rectify the situation.

Becker says that working on Letters To Santa was a dream come true, partly because of the loose, fun nature of the shoot. That being said, shooting large song and dance musical numbers with puppets does present some technical challenges.

"One thing is that everyone works on a platform. Or well, the humans do. The humans are dancing, singing or acting on platforms that are four feet high, so that's obviously a huge challenge," he says. "It's really a giant team effort, because beyond just choreographing, I have to help figure out cut points for the director, like letting him know where to shoot best for the dancers' point-of-view, but everything has to work together from the lighting to the crew."

The special was shot in New York City in September and Becker says he really couldn't have been happier; despite the long days away from home, "even my daughter loves the fact that I'm working with the Muppets."

Letters to Santa: A Muppet Christmas airs Dec. 17 at 8 p.m. on CTV and NBC.

Falling Apart – With Great Control

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Paula Citron

The future memory heartbreak junction
Blackandblue Dance Projects
Dancemakers Centre for Creation In Toronto on Thursday

(December 12, 2008) What a surprise!
Sasha Ivanochko can sing. And she has a sense of humour.

The Toronto-based dancer/choreographer shows a completely different side of herself in her new solo The future memory heartbreak junction, having its world premiere as part of the Dancemakers Presents series.

Usually burning with intensity and angst, Ivanochko proves she can also be cheeky and droll. That being said, the dark side of the human condition plays a big role in the piece.

In her program notes, Ivanochko describe the woman at the centre of the dance as “Tart of Hearts, Lady of the Evening, Diva, Tough Cookie, Grand Mess, Plain Jane, Beauty and the Beast,” and she is certainly all these things. When the audience comes in, Ivanochko is leaning against the back wall. She is wearing a skin-tight cocktail dress with a bright red lamé underskirt overlaid with black chiffon. When the light catches her dress, one can glimpse the vibrant red underneath, just as one is meant to see the heartache that lies beneath her tough exterior.

The woman appears to be a torch singer (either in reality or metaphorically), and her throaty delivery at the microphone is full of amusing double entendres. When she begins to sing, we don't hear the lyrics. Rather, Ivanochko acts out the songs physically, her writhing and contorting reflecting the unspoken words. Only in her most private moments does she actually sing the lyrics. Not surprisingly, it is Patsy Cline's great hurtin' hit I Fall To Pieces she chooses.

Designer Geoff Bouckley has covered himself in glory in this production, both in props and in lighting. In one corner, he has constructed the hood of a car that acts as the woman's foil. At the beginning of the piece, the car lights go on, and she, like the proverbial deer in the headlights, is momentarily frozen before dropping to the ground, her body seemingly broken in a hundred pieces. Throughout the solo, Ivanochko is aware of the car, and it becomes a symbol for everything that is wrong with her life. Her thumb-up hitchhiker is perhaps trying to get away from the wall of pain that the car conveys.

Bouckley's lighting is magical as it follows the dancer, whether sweeping over her to emulate the headlights of passing cars, or caressing her crouching body when she is in her deepest despair. There is nothing subtle about it, and it is as overwrought in execution as is Ivanochko's melodramatic representation of this troubled soul.

Catherine Thompson's interesting original sound score consists of reality checks in the form of the sounds of children playing and train whistles, interpolated with bluesy guitar chords. She seems to be expressing a small town rather than a big city. We also hear crickets, which suggest a country setting. The soundscape seems to radiate loneliness. It makes me think of an empty road at night, far from anything or anyone that is warm and inviting.

Ivanochko makes herself more vulnerable onstage, perhaps, than she ever has before. Some of her positioning seems taken straight out of pornography, such as when, with her hands on the ground in front of her, she, on her spread-apart knees, arches her body backward, her tongue making lascivious thrusts from her mouth. She also enacts a shuddering orgasm that makes one feel downright uncomfortable.

Her dance vocabulary is very simple, economical and unhurried. Every movement has been carefully thought through. She runs methodically in a circle. She falls into the splits. She distorts her body through limb thrusts and muscle isolations. The most interesting aspect is that Ivanochko uses great physical control to convey a portrait of someone who is falling apart.

If I have one cavil, it is Ivanochko's shoes. The piece is crying out for provocatively sexy, ankle-strap high heels. The shoes Ivanochko is wearing with their thick heels and cross straps are positively middle-aged.

That being said, Ivanochko has brought to the stage an intriguing if damaged woman. Whether she is reality or subtext, truth or metaphor, fact or symbol simply doesn't matter. We can all feel her pain and understand her bravado.

The future memory heartbreak junction performances conclude Saturday at Dancemakers Centre for Creation (www.dancemakers.org).

DANCE TIDBITS

Dance Stars Join Nutcracker Show

Source: www.thestar.com -
- Star staff

(December 13, 2008) So you think you can dance...The Nutcracker? Nico Archambault, the Season 1 winner of So You Think You Can Dance Canada, along with Bella ballerina and runner-up Allie Bertram, will join the cast of the National Ballet of Canada onstage for a performance of the Christmas classic.  The show will be broadcast live in high definition today at 2 p.m. at 79 Cineplex Odeon theatres across Canada.  Admission for children 3-12 is $9.95, seniors $17.95, and everyone else $19.95. A special family pack is available for $49.95, which includes admission for two adults (or two seniors) plus two children.  To buy tickets or get more information, visit cineplex.com.  If you want to see the performance in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, visit thenutcracker.ca. Adult tickets range from $44 to $117. And if you can't get to the movie theatre or the Four Seasons Centre, Bravo will rebroadcast the production on Dec. 18 at 8 p.m., so really there's no excuse to miss this show.

::SPORTS NEWS::

'Greatest Argo Ever,' Joe Krol Dies At 89

Source:  www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich,
Sports Reporter

(December 17, 2008) The nickname said it all.

Joe Krol, known as "King" Krol, was indeed the supreme ruler of the Toronto sports world half a century ago when he passed, ran and kicked the Toronto Argonauts to five Grey Cups.

Krol died last night at the age of 89, and he will always be remembered as one of Canada's greatest athletes. He was also half of one of the most memorable sports tandems in Canadian history, pairing with receiver Royal Copeland to become "the Gold Dust Twins."

"When you look at the outstanding players in Toronto Argonaut history, Joe Krol's name comes up first in most cases," said Argos radio analyst and alumnus Peter Martin.

"Simply put, he was the greatest Argo ever and definitely the best of his era," said former teammate Charlie Camilleri. "What made Joe special was that he did it all – he could run, pass, kick and defend. He was a true Argo for life and was always proud to have worn the Double Blue."

Krol, who won the Lou Marsh Award in 1946 as Canada's top athlete, may have been the most versatile athlete to play in the Canadian Football League.

It was a time when everybody played both ways, but few did it as well as Krol. He was a quarterback, halfback, defensive back and punter and excelled at all.

In his first of three consecutive Argo Grey Cups, Krol returned an interception for a touchdown in a 35-0 win over Winnipeg in 1945.

He threw three touchdown passes in the 1946 championship win, a Grey Cup record he still shares with Doug Flutie.

In the 1947 Grey Cup, Krol kicked four singles and threw a touchdown pass to Copeland as the Argos defeated Winnipeg 10-9.

A member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Krol was named the Argos' all-time running back and ranked 46th on the list of greatest CFL players in history.

His number 55 jersey is one of only four retired by the Argos.

Football wasn't his only game. He was the last player cut by the Toronto Huskies in 1946, their only NBA season.

Born in Hamilton in 1919, Krol starred in university football at both Windsor and Western Ontario. He started his pro career in 1942 with the Hamilton Wildcats and won his first Grey Cup with them in 1943.

After playing two games with the Detroit Lions in 1945, he joined the Argos and became a star.

After nine years as the toast of Toronto, Krol retired from football to get into business.

But the Argos lured him back in 1955, strictly as a punter.

"I didn't make $7,000 until my last year, and that was the most I ever made from football," Krol told the Star's Chris Young in 1994.

Raptors On Hunt For Help

Source:  www.thestar.com - Doug Smith,
Sports Reporter

(December 12, 2008) Bryan Colangelo is resisting change for the sake of change, but there may be Raptor roster movement sooner rather than later.

Seeing a need for another big man with Kris Humphries injured and unproven rookie Nathan Jawai still not even practising, the Raptor general manager could have a new player on the team as early as next week.

And the acquisition won't necessarily come via a trade. It could be as simple as signing an unemployed free agent or minor leaguer to a contract for the rest of the season.

There are a handful of players who might warrant consideration as Colangelo looks around for some frontcourt help. There are ex-NBAers like Juwan Howard, Jake Voskuhl and even Michael Ruffin who might fit what Colangelo needs, while a player like Courtney Sims, a 6-foot-11 banger who has been in free agent camps with Toronto before, could be picked up out of the D League. Jermareo Davidson, a D Leaguer with NBA experience would also be on a list, as would Damone Brown, another minor leaguer with NBA experience.

Colangelo has said he thinks the need for a fourth big man is, at the moment, acute. Humphries has missed four games already and is not expected to play tonight in New Jersey. Jawai's heart issues have kept him off the court all season, seriously cutting into Toronto's frontcourt depth.

And while the move of Andrea Bargnani back to the bench in a backup role to Chris Bosh and Jermaine O'Neal will exacerbate the problem a bit, if coach Jay Triano is serious about cutting Bosh's minutes, the need for a fourth big man is almost dire.

The cost would be minimal and even though any acquisition would put Toronto over the NBA's luxury tax threshold, it would be a small enough amount that Colangelo could make moves throughout the season – dealing the likes of Hassan Adams or Will Solomon for a draft pick, for instance – that would get the team back under the tax level by the end of the season, when the final accounting is done.

Any move would be considered tweaking rather than revamping a team that's 9-12 heading into tonight's game. But Colangelo said he's not ready to pull the trigger on any hugely significant deal because he still believes the roster as constructed could be among the best in the second tier of the Eastern Conference behind front-runners Boston and Cleveland.

"I talk to various teams about various things but we still liked this team a lot coming into the season – all of us – and we still do," the president and general manager said yesterday.

That's not to say he hasn't been fielding all kinds of offers of late. With the Raptors scuffling along, losers of five straight before a win over Indiana on Wednesday, rival general managers are burning up the phone lines and acting like sharks circling their prey.

"It (having trade talks) is natural from my perspective but other teams, when they smell blood in the water, they come at you," he said.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing from Colangelo's perspective. He isn't about to do anything with what he sees as his core group of Bosh, Jose Calderon, Bargnani and O'Neal, but the urgency other GMs have may open avenues previously closed.

"It stimulates the process (of finding a mutually beneficial trade)," he said.

Richie Hall Named As Eskimos' New Head Coach

Source:  www.thestar.com - Dean Bennett,
The Canadian Press

(December 17, 2008) EDMONTON – If you can't beat him, hire him.

The
Edmonton Eskimos, tired of having their lemon-hued helmets squeezed in the vise of Richie Hall's defences, picked him today to be their new head coach.

"I can't believe this. This is pretty amazing," said Hall, his trademark smile as wide as the Prairie sky as he donned the green baseball cap with the double-E logo to meet with reporters outside the team locker room at Commonwealth Stadium.

"(It's) an early Christmas present. I almost feel like I hit the lottery."

The 48-year-old Texas-born Hall spent the last 15 seasons within the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the last eight as the team's defensive co-ordinator.

"It's a bittersweet day," he said.

"I'm very enthused, very happy, very proud to be the next head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos. But at the same time I'm leaving an organization that I have a lot of respect for.

"I can't say enough for the organization, for the players and for the fans of Saskatchewan."

"Hopefully they don't boo us too badly when we go back."

Hall had interviewed for a number of head-coaching vacancies in the CFL – no fewer than seven over the past four years – but had always been bypassed.

He replaces Danny Maciocia, who gave up his coaching duties at the end of last season to focus on his job as general manager and director of football operations.

Maciocia said the book on Hall is that he's a top football mind who knows how to get the most out of his players.

"I've actually sat down with our quarterbacks and I asked them `Who's the toughest defensive co-ordinator we've gone up against in the last few years?"' said Maciocia.

"It was unanimous. It was Richie Hall."

Hall played nine seasons in the CFL as a defensive back with Calgary and Saskatchewan (1983-91) and helped the Riders win the Grey Cup in 1989.

The Colorado State University product appeared in 153 career regular-season games and was a four-time West Division all-star.

As a coach, he helped Saskatchewan capture the 2007 Grey Cup and this year ran a defence that was first in fewest yards allowed (354 per game), second in pass defence (266 yards per game) and fewest passing TDs allowed (28) and third in fewest TDs (44) and points allowed (25.1 per game).

His stingy defence was a big reason why the Riders posted a second-straight 12-6 record and finished second in the West Division standings this year despite an abundance of injuries, especially on offence.

He is respected throughout the league for a quick smile and infectiously cheery personality. But does he have what it takes, reporters asked, to crack the whip when the team is 3-7 and the players are more concerned with the locker room music than their blocking assignments?

"There is a meanness side to me," he replied.

"I'm not a hollerer, but at the same time I think if you talk to the players who play with me that I have a look.

"You don't have to holler or yell to get your point across."

Hall, who will now work on picking his staff, takes over a team that finished 10-8 last year, returning to the playoffs after a two-year drought that had fans in the Alberta capital screaming for Maciocia's scalp.

He said he's looking for an offensive co-ordinator who doesn't just know football, but the three-down, wide-field, wide-open Canadian brand.

"(He) will utilize the CFL rules, to utilize the things that makes it unique up here, the (multiple) motion, the dimensions of the field, the formations.

"You want to play within the strengths of your football team. I know they have a good nucleus here."

Eskimo linebacker Shannon Garrett said the hiring was long overdue.

"He's been overlooked the last couple of years as a head coach, and now he's got an opportunity," said Garrett. "He's a very smart coach. I think he'll fit in well in this organization."

Hall got the job after making a short list that also included B.C. Lions defensive co-ordinator Mike Benevides, Eskimos assistant coach Noel Thorpe and Greg Marshall, who was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' defensive co-ordinator last season.

Both Hall and Benevides have spoken to the Toronto Argonauts about their head-coaching vacancy. The expectation is Benevides is now the front-runner for the Argos job.

Hall is the Eskimos' first African-American head coach in a field where minorities have been under-represented across North America.

Hall said he doesn't see race as something that adds pressure to the job.

"We're not where we should be (in race relations), but we're not where we used to be."

The inauguration next month of African-American Barack Obama as U.S. president, he said, will be a watershed event.

"I never thought I would see that in my lifetime, but it's happened," he said.

"So the world is changing, and I think it's for the better."

SPORTS TIDBITS

Walter Gretzky Named To Order Of Canada

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(December 12, 2008) OTTAWA – Walter Gretzky, Canada's most famous hockey dad, has been named to the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour. The father of superstar Wayne Gretzky was presented with a medal by the Governor General during a ceremony at Rideau Hall on Friday. He was honoured for his work with various charities. "Gretzky ... consistently finds ways of giving back to the community," an official told the audience. "He has helped a myriad of charitable and non-profit organizations as a volunteer and fundraiser." After receiving his medal, Gretzky said he was in shock and wished his mother could have heard the news. He said he expected a phone call from his famous son Friday night. "I think he will be very proud, it may bring tears to his eyes because he is a very emotional, family-oriented person," Gretzky said. Other prominent recipients Friday included former Reform party leader Preston Manning, musician Paul Shaffer, and former Supreme Court justice John Major. The Order of Canada was created in 1967 to recognize a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to community, and service to the country.

Morneau Named Top Canadian Baseball Player

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(December 12, 2008) ST. MARYS, Ont. – Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau was named winner of the Tip O'Neill Award on Friday, an honour handed out by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to the country's top player. The first baseman from New Westminster, B.C., is the fourth multiple winner of the honour, joining Larry Walker (nine), Jason Bay (two) and Eric Gagne (two), and bags it for the second time in three years. "I've got a long way to go to match Larry – he's a Hall of Famer in my books," said Morneau. "But any time you want to mention my name in the same sentence as his, that's cool with me." Morneau also finished second to Dustin Pedroia in voting for American League MVP after batting .300 with 23 home runs, 47 doubles and 129 RBIs. He helped bring a Twins team expected to fall off within a tiebreaker loss of the AL Central title. Morneau also became the first Canadian to win the home run derby and scored the winning run at the all-star game. Other top vote-getters for the award were Ryan Dempster, Bay, Joey Votto, Rich Harden, Russell Martin and women's national team MVP Ashley Stephenson.