20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883
                                                                                                                                                                                                 langfieldent@rogers.com
                                                                                                                                                                                 www.langfieldentertainment.com

LE NEWSLETTER

February 7, 2008

 

Another storm hits Toronto ... at times like this, I'm glad that I live downtown to avoid the massive accumulations! 

One week left to get your tickets for Andrew Craig's Valentine's concert entitled
Celebrate Love - a special night out with your special someone!  Log into www.celebratelove.ca and get a taste of what the show will be like.

Two amazing nights of entertainment is on its way to Toronto at Sony Centre - Richard Loring’s
African Footprint at the Sony Centre coming in early February!  Also, mark those calendars now for when the renowned Harlem Gospel Choir hits the stage!

Now there's the cue to you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

 

::HOT EVENTS::

Richard Loring’s African Footprint – February 7-9, 2008

Source:  Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

African Footprint combines dance and song in an incredible 90 minute spectacle. The show melds the hypnotic heartbeat of the African drum, with the soulful saxophone and the haunting pennywhistle, marrying Afro- and Euro-centric music and dance to create an exhilarating series of numbers featuring Kwela-jive, traditional gumboot, tap, contemporary ballet and hip-hop pantsula! African Footprint is so entertaining that critics have dubbed the show “the Riverdance of Africa”. Yet by structuring the show around the poetry of Don Mattera, South Africa’s foremost poet, African Footprint also makes an important and emotional commentary on how Africa can heal the past and reach the hopes and dreams of the future.

In 1999, Richard Loring, television and theatre star and show producer, recruited a group of young people from the dusty streets of Soweto. From hundreds of hopefuls, only 30 young aspiring performers were chosen. The next year was taken up with vocal classes and intensive dance instruction which, for most of these youngsters, was their first opportunity to enter the world of professional theater. Seemingly going nowhere, the long hours of rehearsal were rewarded when, on December 31st 1999, African Footprint was invited to perform before Nelson Mandela in Block B on Robben Island, the very place where South Africa’s leader had been a prisoner for some 18 years. The result was an explosive and emotional performance televised around the world and seen by over 250 million viewers. This is how the journey began…

GET A SNEAK PEEK ONLINE!  

“Don’t miss this hugely successful show!”
-
          Atlantic Sun, South Africa

 “African Footprint is to South Africa what Riverdance is to the Irish and Stomp is to the Brits!”
-
          Entertainment iafrica.com, South Africa

 “A night of amazement!”
-
          Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany

 “A show of polished gold!”
-
          Newcastle Herald, Australia

“Run to get tickets to this exhilarating spectacle!”
-
          Times Picayune

FEBRUARY 7-9, 2008
RICHARD LORING'S AFRICAN FOOTPRINT
The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts
1 Front Street East
Tickets: $25 to $75
Buy Tickets HERE


Performance times:
Thursday February 7 @ 1PM (Special Senior’s Price $25!*)
Thursday February 7 @ 8PM
Friday February 8 @ 8PM
Saturday February 9 @ 2PM
Saturday February 9 @ 8PM

*Some conditions apply. Service charge applicable.
For tickets: www.ticketmaster.ca or (416)872-2262
For group tickets, call (416)393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805

Celebrate Love – Thursday, February 14, 2008

Source:  Andrew Craig

You’ve made all the plans for the perfect
Valentine’s Day. You’ve reserved your favourite table at your favourite restaurant. You have the flowers, the chocolates, the card, the gift.

The limousine picks you both up after work, and you slip across town to dine. Once you arrive at the restaurant, everything is perfect: the ambience, the food, the wine, the conversation. You decide to top off a sumptuous meal with a decadent dessert and coffee.

It’s only 7:30 p.m. Now what? It’s too early to retire to the bedroom, and yet you don’t want the magic to end. What to do?

It’s time to
Celebrate Love!

Celebrate Love is, simply put, an evening of the world’s greatest love songs, sung by some of Canada’s greatest voices, accompanied by top-flight musicians. Celebrate Love is the brainchild of musician, producer, broadcaster and impresario Andrew Craig, and is the realization of a decade-old dream: to create a Valentine’s Day event so compelling and beautiful that it would draw fans back year after year.

Molly Johnson, Canada’s first lady of jazz, headlines a stellar cast of vocalists, including Kellylee Evans (the 2007 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards Female Vocalist of the Year), rising star DK Ibomeka, Indo-Canadian vocal sensation Kiran Ahluwalila, and Mary Jane Lamond, Canada’s preeminent interpreter of Gaelic songs from the East Coast. Add to this mix some of Toronto’s finest emerging vocal talents, the exquisite sounds of the Toronto-based cello quartet Lush, and the Celebrate Love Orchestra, and the result is magical.

Don’t think this show is just for couples! Featuring a unique blend of classic popular songs, rare musical gems from across the planet, poetry and reflections, Celebrate Love is the perfect Valentine’s Day activity for people in all stages of love: from new love, to unrequited love, to jilted love, to old love, to true love.

Andrew Craig first produced Celebrate Love as a proof-of-concept show in 2004, in Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre. Despite minimal advertising, the show sold-out completely, and patrons anxious to get in caused a major traffic jam at Bloor and Avenue Rd!

Audience response to Celebrate Love was overwhelmingly positive. Here are but a few quotes from ecstatic attendees:

“Congratulations on an outstanding performance. Wow! We were totally blown away. The music selection, the individual vocal performances, the tremendous musicians, lighting, sound, and an enthusiastic audience just spoke volumes about the true heart of Canadian music.” - K.S., Toronto

“I want to say that last night was FANTASTIC 10 out of 10, please do it again, Toronto missed the best show in town, if you do the same as last night you will have triple as you did last night.” - J.A., Toronto

“Celebrate Love - WOW! I attended Saturday night’s show...and was blown away. Andrew Craig...remarkable job. The mix and choice of music and culture and diversity beautifully represented the Toronto scene.” - R.T., Toronto

“Amazing Valentines Performance! Thank you so much for making our 9th Valentines together so special.” - S.T., Toronto

“I was at the "Celebrate Love" concert on Saturday, February 14.  It was one of the greatest concerts I've ever been to (and I've been to quite a few concerts).” - I.D., Toronto

“What a great show! The last time I left a show feeling that good was when I saw Luther Vandross and the Voices of Blackness at Maple Leaf Gardens. Keep up the great work!” - C.P., Toronto

Celebrate Love 2008 promises to be even bigger and better. There simply is no better place to be this Valentine’s Day than The Music Hall.

Log into www.celebratelove.ca and get a taste of what the show will be like.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2008
Celebrate Love: An Evening of the World’s Greatest Love Songs
The Music Hall
147 Danforth Ave., east of Broadview
8:00 p.m.
$50
Click HERE to purchase tickets

Members of Harlem Gospel Choir - Saturday, February 23, 2008

Source: Sony Centre for the Performing Arts

The world famous Harlem Gospel Choir is one of the pre-eminent gospel choirs in the world. It travels the globe, sharing its joy of faith through its music, & raising funds for children's charities. The Choir was founded in 1986 by Allen Bailey, who got the idea for the Choir while attending a celebration in honour of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the renowned Cotton Club in Harlem. The Choir presents the finest singers and musicians from Harlem's Black Churches.

The Harlem Gospel Choir has shared its message of love, peace and harmony with thousands of people from various nations, backgrounds, and cultures. The Choir strives to make the world a more loving and peaceful place, and through its music and dynamic performances creates a better understanding of the African-American culture and the inspirational music called Gospel as it relates to the Black Church. The theme of every performance is bringing people & nations together & giving something back. The Choir's songs of gospel and inspiration will touch the depths of your soul and raise your spirits to angelic heights.

Click on the songs below to hear a clip!

Perfect Praise

O Happy Day

“They blended the groovy with the sassy, the funky with the sweet… all the singers were strong both in solo and in harmony.”
The Herald Sun, Melbourne

“I feel truly blessed. Thank you for the tribute”
Nelson Mandela

“Joyous music that spreads its infectious and irresistible message of celebration of the human spirit”
Newcastle Herald, Australia

“Run to get tickets to this exhilarating spectacle!”
Times Picayune

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2008
MEMBERS OF HARLEM GOSPEL CHOIR
The Sony Centre For The Performing Arts
1 Front Street East
8:00 PM
For tickets: www.ticketmaster.ca or (416)872-2262
For group tickets, call (416)393-7463 or 1-866-737-0805
Click HERE to buy now!

::TOP STORIES::

Russell Peters to Host 2008 JUNO Awards airing April 6 on CTV

Source:  2008 Juno Awards

(February 5, 2008) Toronto, ON – Internationally renowned comedian Russell Peters will host The 2008 JUNO Awards broadcast, CTV and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) confirmed today. The announcement was made by Susanne Boyce, President, Creative, Content and Channels, CTV Inc., during the JUNO Award Nominees Announcement in Toronto. The 2008 JUNO Awards will air Sunday, April 6 on CTV from the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta.

Peters returns to the network that broadcast his 2003 CTV Comedy Now! special which propelled him into an international phenomenon when it was posted anonymously on the internet and made its way around the globe. The Brampton, Ontario native now sells out theatres and arenas around the world including England, Australia, Singapore and Dubai – and last week became one of only a handful of comedians to ever headline and sell-out New York City's Madison Square Garden. In June, 2007, Peters became the first comedian to sell-out Toronto's Air Canada Centre, performing to over 30,000 fans over two nights. Later this month, Peters is scheduled to perform before a sold-out audience at the Sydney Opera House.

"I'm excited to be hosting The Juno Awards - a show which I never would have watched...until now," said Peters.

**Media Note** Download photos of Russell Peters at ctvmedia.ca.

Peters has made his reputation by speaking to immigrant communities – Indian, Arab, Caribbean, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, and other South and Southeast Asian audiences around the world. He's performed in China, South Africa, Australia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Jamaica, St. Maarten, Trinidad, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. In 2007, he was the first North American comic to tour India. During his recent tour of Dubai, tickets sold at a rate of one ticket every two seconds, eventually crashing the computer systems and causing near riots at ticket outlets.

"The 2008 JUNO Awards is a national television homecoming for this multi-talented comedian who has taken the world by storm," said Susanne Boyce, President, Creative, Content and Channels, CTV Inc. "He's a huge ‘get' and we know he will bring a whole new element to the broadcast."

"The JUNO Awards is thrilled to have Russell Peters join the growing list of talented Canadians who have hosted the show over the years," said Melanie Berry, President of CARAS and an Executive Producer of the broadcast.

"Meshing the best in music and Russell's comedic flavour will make for one of the most entertaining celebrations of Canadian music."

In December, 2007, Peters landed a deal to develop his own sitcom for FOX. The new project will be based on his own family. "Basically, it's a snapshot of my family 10 years ago. My brother and I are both still living at home with our parents," said Peters. "I come from a working-class South Asian family and this show is about exactly that."

Recently voted the No. 1 fan favourite performer of the past 25 years at Montreal's Just for Laughs Festival, Peters has been doing stand-up comedy for 18 years and has built an impressive body of work. He has been featured at Montreal's Just For Laughs Comedy Festival, HBO's Aspen Comedy Festival, the Edinburgh Comedy Festival and many others across the globe.

Peters has been nominated for four Gemini Awards. His TV appearances include two, one-hour Comedy Now! specials on CTV and The Comedy Network as well as CBC's Comics! He had a recurring role in the Gemini-nominated Canadian sitcom Lord Have Mercy! and hosted his own BBC chat show Network East Late, where he interviewed both South Asian and mainstream artists and personalities. His movie credits include the comedy Quarter Life Crisis, My Baby's Daddy and the martial arts flick Tiger Claws III.

Peters' current DVD and CD, Outsourced, was taped before a sold-out audience at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco and has gone ten-times platinum in Canada. YouTube videos of his comedy segments have been seen by over seven million individual viewers. His website, www.russellpeters.com, gets over 10,000 hits a day.

Broadcast in High-Definition and 5.1 Surround Sound, The 2008 JUNO Awards, Canada's Music Awards, will be broadcast for the seventh year in a row on CTV on Sunday, April 6 from the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta. Previous hosts of The JUNO Awards include Nelly Furtado in Saskatoon (2007), Pamela Anderson in Halifax (2006), Brent Butt in Winnipeg (2005), Alanis Morissette in Edmonton (2004), Shania Twain in Ottawa (2003) and Barenaked Ladies in St. John's (2002).

The 2008 JUNO Awards is produced by Insight Productions in association with CTV and the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). Executive producers are John Brunton and Barbara Bowlby for Insight Productions, and Melanie Berry and Stephen Stohn for CARAS. Louise Wood is Producer and Lindsay Cox is Supervising Producer. Ed Robinson is Executive Vice-President Programming, CTV. Susanne Boyce is President, Creative, Content and Channels, CTV Inc.

Broadcast sponsors of The 2008 JUNO Awards are Rogers, Doritos, Pontiac and TD Canada Trust.

Sponsors of The 2008 JUNO Awards include FACTOR, Canada's Private Radio Broadcasters and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage's "Canada Music Fund", The Government of Alberta, The City of Calgary, Tourism Calgary, Calgary Arts Development and Radio Starmaker Fund.

k.d. lang, A Musician And A Soul Transformed

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Robert Everett-Green

(February 01, 2008) LOS ANGELES — At the end of k.d. lang's sparse living room in the Hollywood Hills, there's a large black and white nude portrait by the American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin, known for his interest in people with unusual bodies. From a distance, the subject looked to me like a proud and beautiful Hispanic woman, gazing straight at the camera with her hand resting on a Chihuahua. It was only when I was standing almost right in front of it that I noticed that Witkin's model had a penis.

“Women tend to see a woman, and men tend to see a man,” lang told me, about the usual response from her visitors. She sees something else: a reminder of her late friend Herb Ritts, who owned the photograph (it has, she noted, a personal tribute from Witkin on the back) and who made what is still the most famous image of lang, sitting in drag in a barber's chair on the cover of Vanity Fair, being shaved by supermodel Cindy Crawford. That 1993 photo, which brought “lesbian chic” into the mainstream, also challenged you to decide what you were seeing and to draw the line (or not) between artifice and reality.

There wasn't much artifice apparent in Lang's comfortable yet simple home near Laurel Canyon. The Spartan main rooms were furnished with low seats and long tables of seasoned wood that accentuate the horizontal. It was recognizably the home of someone who grew up on the Alberta prairie, as she pointed out. Beyond the window of the cozy tile and wood kitchen, the warm January sun shone through the leaves of the young bamboo shooting up from where the land fell away beneath the plain narrow porch.

She bought the house knowing that it had been a cottage getaway for Rock Hudson, who found the relative isolation good for concealing the side of his personal life that Hollywood couldn't publicly accept. But whatever frisson she felt at moving into the former pleasure pad of a reluctant gay icon has given way to an appreciation for the natural serenity of the place.

 “I write lyrics here sometimes,” she said, tapping the weathered wooden surface of the kitchen table where we were sitting, as she tried to decide whether she needed to eat something before her afternoon rehearsal.

At 46, she's stockier than the willowy androgyne who became a star 16 years ago, and in repose her patient, high-cheeked face could be that of someone who spent her whole life on the land, far from the speed and glamour of Hollywood. She poured us some tea and told me about a kind of strong Tibetan infusion laced with salt, sugar and water-buffalo milk – the perfect ingredients, she said, to keep you going during a meditation retreat.

Happily ensconced with her two dogs and her partner of six years, deep in the Tibetan Buddhist practice that she began in 2001, lang has managed to stay in the public eye and even raise her profile without touring or putting out any new music since Invincible Summer appeared nearly eight years ago. She has done a Grammy-winning duets album with Tony Bennett ( A Wonderful World), reissued some of her early cowpunk stuff ( Reintarnation) and made a covers album of great Canadian songs ( Hymns of the 49th Parallel). And now, rather suddenly, a record of good new songs called
Watershed is about to shake up her peacefully ordered life.

The word “watershed” often refers metaphorically to a defining moment, but in geology it literally has to do with a gathering together of the runoff from a wide area latticed with rivers and streams. It took lang six years to write, record and produce the songs for the album, she said, but far longer for the ideas, feelings and experiences behind them to trickle into her consciousness in a form she could express.

Watershed is sort of the culmination of the past 25 years of my life,” she said. “It's a self-examining record. It's really looking at the effects of my being in the world, and of my contribution in the universe. … I love the metaphor of how water always finds its way around obstacles. And I like trying to apply that to your everyday life – of seeing obstacles, and rather than turn away and say, ‘Can't be done,' or ‘I'm too afraid,' find a natural way around them.”

It sounded like common sense, or the wisdom that comes with age. But I could hear something else in it, echoes of things that have come up in my own concurrent practice of Zen Buddhism, in which a simple phrase such as “cause and effect” means a great deal more than Newton imagined. Much of our conversation, in Los Angeles and Toronto, ran on two planes simultaneously, the one having to do with straightforward actions and perceptions, the other resonant with meanings that only start to infiltrate your life when you've spent a lot of time in meditation.

Twenty-five years is the span of Lang's entire career, from her early days as a brash small-town girl with a big voice and bigger ambitions, through her breakthrough to fame and notoriety in the early nineties, to her present status as (among other things) a great interpreter of other people's songs. She basically got what she wanted, in worldly terms, and found it wanting. The woman I met in L.A. was after something much more essential, and had already been transformed by the search.

Hearing her talk about a record in terms of her whole existence, I couldn't help but recall a conversation with her eight years ago, when she told me that Invincible Summer was meant to be “like the soundtrack for Charlie's Angels, like easy-listening music with synthesizers thrown in.” I remember thinking at the time how glib and product-minded that description was. I knew she would never talk about Watershed that way, because although it's still about everyday experiences of love, doubt and endurance, her view of these things has become much more panoramic. Clearly she has travelled a long way in eight years, and much of the journey has been inside herself.

The smell of paint in the air

Her SUV crept out from behind the high wooden gate, and then we turned down the hill and sped away toward Burbank, where her new band was already setting up at a sprawling complex of music studios. This is another kind of watershed for her: getting to know a new group of musicians, after playing with the same people for two decades.

“They all play a thousand things, and they're very gung ho about everything,” she said about the new group. “They don't have this self-consciousness about it all.” They also don't really know her taste yet, not like the mostly Canadian players (including guitarists Ben Mink and Greg Leisz, bassist David Piltch and pianist Teddy Borowiecki) who have played with her for years and co-wrote most of the new record with her, and who regard her “like a sister,” as Mink put it. Those players have too many other commitments to go on the road with her.

“I think it's the end of an era,” she said, “because I want to take these new guys and make them, you know, my guys.”

We passed through a level strip of blue-collar shops and industrial buildings. “I love this part of L.A.,” she said. “It reminds me of Edmonton,” one of her two favourite Canadian cities (the other is Saskatoon). She has lived in L.A. for 16 years, loves its energy and its privacy, but she still responds in ways that are all about the Alberta environments where she grew up: Consort, a tiny town in the southeastern part of the province where she started singing; Red Deer, where she went to art college and became a musician/performance artist; and Edmonton, where she learned to love big, wild rivers and refined her first incarnation as an eccentric country singer.

She began painting when she was 21 and maintains a studio over a fried-chicken joint at a busy L.A. intersection. Her abstract-expressionist canvases, which she exhibits mostly in her dining room, are closely related to her songwriting process.

“I do a lot of painting before and during a record,” she said. “It's kind of like a portal into what I'm thinking. It's a lot easier to put a daub of paint on a canvas that it is to put ink or a word on paper. A word is such a big commitment, and paint is so naive and childlike.” Much of the new album was made with the smell of paint in the air.

We reached the Burbank studio, a square, high-ceilinged black room with piles of gear and five lean, eager-looking guys picking over riffs and trying out harmonies. They've been learning lang's new songs and some compatible old ones from her recordings, but she's also gradually giving them licence to take the tunes in other directions.

They started with a swinging version of A Kiss To Build a Dream On, a Kalmar/Ruby classic from her duets disc with Tony Bennett. They spent a lot of time working out the timing and texture of the last line, which lang delivered out of tempo, pushing the microphone back and leaning away as she went for the full-voice conclusion. She looked totally relaxed, sitting on a stool in a rumpled pale-blue western shirt and pants, her short hair looking as if she had dried it that morning with a couple of swift scuffs of the towel. But she homed in relentlessly on the feeling she wanted the song to have and worked the details till they felt natural.

“I like to get everything so you're not thinking,” she told the players. “Thinking's overrated.”

They did Smoke Rings, a song from Drag, her sultry 1997 album of songs about the eros of smoking. Smiles slowly crept across the faces of the band members as they backed her up vocally in the soft-shoe chorus: “Puff … puff … puff … silky little rings.” She showed them how to keep the initial consonants from exploding on the mike, asked the drummer to make the triplets a little clearer and told the bassist to keep his quarter-notes striding through the verses. It sounded great, and I felt strange sitting silent at the end, instead of applauding.

But lang wasn't quite satisfied, because she was already thinking about where this song might fit in the set list for her Watershed tour, which includes 12 theatre dates across central and western Canada (starting at the National Arts Centre on May 24). She was worried that the song had too much in common with A Kiss for the two to go together. She asked for a vote, and even I got a say. Smoke Rings won, but she didn't seem convinced. Part of her was still ready to experiment – during Western Stars, she asked her Brazilian guitarist to work up a Portuguese spoken-word verse – but she was also trying to coax things toward a final sequence for concerts that were already playing in her mind. By the break, she had changed her mind twice about whether to open with I Dream of Spring, the big, stylistically evasive song that opens Watershed, or with a more subdued, bossa-based tune called Upstream.

“I feel there's a really strong momentum with this record, and part of me feels really excited by that,” she told me. “But part of me is also thinking, ‘What am I doing?' Because it's such a lot of work to carry it through.”

Finding her voice

Three years ago, k.d. lang sang two songs on the live Juno Awards broadcast from Winnipeg: Neil Young's Helpless and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Pacing over the shiny stage in bare feet and a robe-like dark outfit, lang single-handedly changed the tone of the event, from a flashy awards show to an encounter with a kind of truth that's rare in the age of reality TV. We always knew she was a great singer, but those performances confronted a wide audience with the news that she had moved to an entirely new level. The next day, copies of Hymns of the 49th Parallel, which includes lang's studio performance of those songs and other Canadian classics, began flying out of record stores.

Recording those songs, and the Tin Pan Alley numbers she did with Tony Bennett, was a kind of tutorial in songwriting, she told me. It showed her what a song could and should do, and renewed her interest in writing songs that had that same flow and finish, and yet that would have more to do with her life and personality.

“A lot of things came very clear to me when I did the Hymns record,” she said. “I thought a lot about where I grew up, and about how the Canadian Prairies inform my voice and my taste and my basic nature, which is pretty minimal. That environment is basically just two things, earth and sky. …

“It was kind of an ominous challenge to try to write after experiencing those songs as a singer,” she said. “But writing and interpretation feed off each other for me. Interpretation is a chance to let someone else's emotions flow through me, and I can build on the characterization, or the subtext or the narrative of it. Songwriting is more like a bridge between my voice and my personality. It gives me a chance to exercise my more alternative nature, which my voice doesn't seem to be able to do naturally. … In some ways, my voice is more conservative than my personality. My taste is a lot more indie than my voice is.”

Much of her early career was about figuring out how to let the voice do what it did best without sacrificing her own character. She worshipped Patsy Cline and Anne Murray, both of them smooth mainstream musicians, but she wrote rockabilly songs and cultivated a rambunctious cowpunk image. She brought an ironic, art-school sensibility to country music, but she also revelled in the plain-folks directness of Loretta Lynn and George Jones.

Ingénue, her breakout album of 1992, sheared off the rough edges of her music and her image, and ushered in the yearning, torchy pop that made her a star (the single Constant Craving hit No. 2 on the U.S. charts). That was the first real watershed in her career and marked a permanent shift in her singing style.

“The biggest change was from cowpunk to Ingénue,” said Mink, who has written and performed with lang almost since the beginning and who calls her the greatest pop singer ever. “Vocally, she doesn't blow hard any more. She doesn't open the jets, except sometimes on the long notes.”

Her development as a singer has all been about working the details and pruning out things that she regards as inessential. That live Hallelujah performance from 2005, which is still on YouTube, sounds dead simple, but it's the kind of simplicity it takes a lot of effort, attention and experience to achieve.

“It's been a lifelong journey to tame my voice or to refine it,” she said, “to use my vibrato less and less, or in more subtle ways, and to use volume and ornamentation less, and to simplify things and get to the pith of something.” The same drive to distill the thought and the statement comes through in the new songs, because ultimately the voice and the song have to become one.

“I don't write songs for the sake of writing,” she said. “I write for myself as a singer.”

Some of the writing and making of Watershed happened very casually, like a game that had tangible results. She worked at home or in her painting studio, recording to her computer whenever she felt like it, without having to worry about how fast the meter was running. She became the record's producer (her first time in that role) in part because the whole process was so available to her.

Watershed is sort of genre-less, the way I really hear music,” she said. That's also the way she'd prefer to be heard: as a singer without any fixed stylistic address. She's one of the few pop singers today who might please your grandmother (with the Bennett duets disc) and your niece (with the cowpunk anthology Reintarnation).

Jealous Dog, the seriocomic country song at the end of Watershed, first started to form at her kitchen table. She was there with Piltch, who has played bass with her for 20 years and who co-wrote four other songs on the album.

“It was like playing around the campfire,” Piltch said. “It started from this funny little guitar she has that sounds like a banjo and it came together very fast. We weren't set up to work at her house, so we had to rush down to the studio to record the base tracks before we forgot, because neither of us can actually write [music notation]. That song could easily have disappeared.” Her first take is the one heard on the record, with the fan from the chicken joint humming faintly in the background. She was keen to get as many early impressions on the album as possible, in the belief that the first, most instinctive takes were probably closest to the essence of the songs.

“She's a very sensitive, childlike person,” Mink said. “I think she retains a lot of qualities an artist needs to be an artist, and they're mostly childlike qualities.” Interestingly, lang used similar terms to describe her working process with Piltch.

“David and I are sort of naive and childlike in the way that we write,” she said. “We're both kind of retarded, in a good way. We don't take ourselves very seriously and we don't edit ourselves in front of each other.”

The lyrics gave her the most trouble, as they always do, it being “such a big commitment” to put a word on a page. That became even more the case as she tried to write songs that somehow reflected the spiritual changes in her life, but that didn't sound like a Buddhist speaking only to the like-minded.

“I'm sure you've experienced that when you practice [Buddhism], it completely informs your whole consciousness,” she said. “But it was hard to write about what was going on with me, so that it wouldn't turn out like ‘spin, spin the dharma wheel.' But then it started to become very, very easy. Rumi said, ‘You are not God's mouthpiece.' I'm just writing my life through my new philosophy, though I've always, always thought of myself as a Buddhist.”

Shadow and the Frame, a slow ballad written with Borowiecki, is “a meditation on karma,” she said. “It's about all the things you think and do and say, and how you think maybe your actions go unnoticed, or you think there are maybe no repercussions to some of the things you've done, but they're actually woven into the fabric of who you are. You and your actions are exactly the same thing. You embody your thoughts and your actions, and there's no separation.” But you can get something from the song without hearing it as a description of how she passed from unease with her own life to a relationship with a very colourful and ancient religious tradition. The plain Christian churches of rural Alberta always seemed alien to her (they get a knock in Jealous Dog), but a Tibetan Buddhist temple feels to her like home.

She connected with it in a formal way when she met Lama Chodak Gyatso Nubpa, an associate of the Dalai Lama who leads a Tibetan Nyingma Buddhist centre in L.A. Lang now sits on the centre's board, is involved with plans to build a large monastery north of the city and goes on meditation retreats several times a year with her partner Jamie, who introduced her to the lama.

“Jamie is serious, grounded and very deeply involved in the Buddhist community,” said Piltch. “They're involved the way a couple would be when they're doing something that's about something bigger than them individually.”

Lang has been quieter about her spiritual journey than she was about her vegetarianism or her sexual orientation, which she revealed in an interview in The Advocate in 1992. For a few years, in the public mind, her image as a playful, outspoken lesbian with celebrity girlfriends (including Leisha Hailey, a regular on The L Word) almost overshadowed what she did with her voice.

“I think she's gotten a little more careful,” Mink said. “I think she was a little free with her thoughts and didn't understand the repercussions that some of her words might have. … She made it as a star pretty quickly. She didn't have to struggle in bars and be deceived by people in the business, and so her perspective was more trusting than it might have been.”

She distanced herself from the gay community for several years, just as she felt the need to pull away, for different reasons, from the country-music community. They're both still close to her heart.

“I really love country music,” she said. “It's so much a part of my musical DNA. But I kind of keep it in check, because I'm still trying to shed the image of a country-music singer. I don't want to be anything.”

I thought I heard a Buddhist implication in that last line. All of us who practise hope that as we loosen our grip on the things that cling to us, we'll move closer to the infinity hidden in the present moment. She told me a joke about a lama who goes up to a hot-dog stand and says to the vendor: “Can you make me one with everything?” She laughed a big, honest, kitchen-table laugh, and I saw a flash of the iconoclasm that still persists within this determined seeker after truth.

“She's really a good party girl who likes to have fun,” said Mink. “As serious as she gets, she's still a cowgirl.”

Teen Jazz Sensation Nikki Yanofsky Debuts

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Entertainment Reporter

(February 02, 2008) Not many kids get a Carnegie Hall debut for their 14th birthday.

"I'm so thrilled," giggles budding Montreal singing sensation
Nikki Yanofsky about her upcoming performance. She'll share the spotlight Friday with the New York Pops.

"I was telling one of my friends about it, and she said, `Oh, that's nice.' So I said, `I guess you don't even know what Carnegie Hall is,' so I had to explain it," Yanofsky relates over a poor Internet phone connection from the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Unlike other Canadian families, who go to the Caribbean to soak up sun and rum, it was strictly business for Yanofsky and her parents last weekend. She was singing at the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival.

"I think the audience really liked my performance and I had a really great time," says the bubbly teen.

Yanofsky's increasingly busy touring schedule includes a solo Toronto debut at the Isabel Bader Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday, jointly sponsored by the Luminato and Toronto Jazz Festival.

She will be backed by a 12-piece big band and nine-member Imani Gospel Choir.

It was supposed to be one night only, but tickets for Tuesday's show sold out within hours, prompting organizers to add the extra day. Those seats are long gone, too.

The first tickets may have been snapped up by people who had heard Yanofsky at last summer's Toronto Jazz Festival, where she reportedly blew her audience away. It was at the time that the record label Verve released We All Love Ella: Celebrating the First Lady of Song.

On it, Yanofsky sings the Fitzgerald staple "Airmail Special" alongside contributions by Diana Krall and Michael Bublé.

Since then, Yanofsky has made several appearances on television, including the Telethon of Stars. Her website (www.nikkionline.ca) bulges with highly charged vocals that drag childhood favourites such as "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" and "Wish Upon a Star" into adults-only jazz maturity.

(For those not familiar with her powerful vocal stylings, a simple search on YouTube under her name provides ample evidence of her abilities.)

Despite the ease with which she has tackled Ella Fitzgerald's legendary songbook, Yanofsky is not ready to be pigeonholed into a particular genre.

"I think I take after the style of Stevie Wonder," she explains. "I sing jazz and pop and R&B. I love to sing all of them. I don't want to be known as a jazz singer or a pop singer. I want to be known as a songstress."

Besides Fitzgerald and Wonder, Yanofsky cites such diverse performers as Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, John Mayer and Christina Aguilera as favourites.

"I can't give you any favourite songs, because my list of favourite songs changes every week," she says, laughing.

Some might want to compare Yanofsky to Aguilera, who tweaked Pittsburgh's public pop consciousness around her 10th birthday.

But Yanofsky dismisses the comparison: "She and I are very different. She got her start acting with Disney (Aguilera joined the TV channel's Mickey Mouse Club in 1993). Me, I'm an artist and singer."

Yanofsky does concede, however, that Aguilera "made a good name for herself in her teen years."

Unlike the American pop star's troubled childhood, Yanofsky says she has a loving, tight-knit family, which includes two older brothers. "One is 17, the other is 19," she relates. "We're all very close. They're way more than just friends, because we share everything."

The singer does admit she doesn't have a lot of friends her own age – which isn't surprising, given the conform-to-the-pack mentality that pervades our teenage years. There's always a fine line between popularity and ostracism.

Yanofsky alludes to how her teenage girl peers are "not willing to be friends." So she isn't going to bother trying.

"I have three guy friends, though," she adds brightly. "My other best friend is 18."

Given that Yanofsky has now been performing in public, travelling and meeting great artists for more than two years now, it's no surprise she is connecting better with elders.

When she is not performing, the teen gets a semblance of a normal education, as well as plenty of musical coaching.

The coming trip to New York isn't her first. "We went there for my 12th birthday," she recalls. The family returned twice last summer. "We went to see (hip-hop performer-producer) Wyclef Jean. I like to meet with him."

Yanofsky giggles over another reason to love Manhattan: "The initials are N.Y., just like mine, so it's my favourite city."

As for going on stage at Carnegie Hall in a few days, Yanofsky says it's just part of her life's amazing adventure so far.

"Every day is my birthday."

Giants Upset Patriots

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dave Perkins, Sports Columnist

(February 04, 2008) GLENDALE, Ariz.-The New England Patriots may come back and win another Super Bowl some day, but for the rest of their lives this will be the one that got away.

Or should it be said the New York Giants took it away, and emphatically so, with last-minute heroics maybe only Hollywood could consider plausible.

The Giants, who have heard for a solid month that they couldn't beat their next opponent, beat the biggest one imaginable, stunning the previously unbeaten Patriots out of the record books by winning the Super Bowl, 17-14.

Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins had ever completed an unbeaten season.

They won their 17th game that shorter season in the Super Bowl. The Patriots, so dominant this season in winning all 18 of their games, now exit the conversation about the identity of the best team in NFL history and there is no sense that something else should have happened in this one. The Giants were the better team most of the night, no question, yet still required the last-gasp leadership skills of Eli Manning, named the game's most valuable player.

The younger brother of Peyton Manning, last year's Super Bowl MVP, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass with 39 seconds remaining to Plaxico Burress, the same Burress whose mild forecast of a 23-17 victory had been greeted with great derision by, it turned out, people who didn't have a clue.

The Giants owned a narrow lead, 10-7 early in the fourth quarter, at which point the Patriots, all thoughts of dominance long gone in this one, assembled their own dynamic long drive for what looked like a winning score.

For three quarters, until the late-game pyrotechnics, it was a game only the "under'' bettors could love.

Or those – and there were plenty – who decided that the Giants, plus 12 points, were the place to risk one's money.

A bruising, crashing contest followed no previously identified script, a defensive struggle on both sides with the league's record-setting offensive team, the Patriots, with their golden-boy quarterback, Tom Brady, growing increasingly frustrated by their constant failure to break out of the mud the Giants kept them in.

Record television audiences had been forecast for the opportunity to see the Patriots achieve sports immortality by finishing a perfect season at 19-0.

Either that or the scrappy Giants would pull off the upset that seemed so improbable a month ago when they were a wild-card team taking the most difficult path to the Roman numerals.

A first half that lacked fireworks might have chased away some of the thrill seekers, but anyone who stayed for the finish was rewarded with a sensational sporting moment: The underdog persevering and pulling off the kind of upset that will live on.

Part of the New York charge came from its fierce front line, where defensive end Michael Strahan was lined up against Brantford, Ont., native Nick Kaczur, New England's big right tackle.

More than a couple of times Strahan was in Brady's grille at the moment of truth and drilled Brady to the turf on a critical third-quarter sack. Kaczur had his hands full with New York's defensive line, but he was far from the only Patriot outmanned; they were unsettled almost all night.

The Patriots had another of those bothersome needles inserted Saturday when Son of SpyGate struck, this time allegations that they illegally videotaped the St. Louis Rams' final walk-through the day before their first Super Bowl win, as 14-point underdogs, six years ago.

They responded with angry denials, but there was no sense, as there usually is, that someone poked the tiger in his cage this time.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Beyond Celine And Avril, Some Real Excitement

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(February 06, 2008) Something wholly unexpected and heartening happened as the announcement came yesterday that Avril Lavigne, Celine Dion and Feist were among the nominees for this year's Juno Awards.

The press conference contained the usual glitz, as Lavigne's insouciant hit Girlfriend and Feist's catchy 1234 flashed across a big video screen along with others up for single of the year. Lavigne and Feist were also nominated for songwriter of the year, as the bass stomp of Feist's My Moon My Man and other familiar riffs from the past year in Canadian music blared through the speakers in a ballroom of Toronto's Royal York hotel.

In the build-up to this year's Juno Awards on April 6 in Calgary, the only Canadian musician garnering more nominations than the five each that Feist, Lavigne and Michael Bublé got was Celine Dion with six nominations, including two in the category of album of the year for D'elles and Taking Chances. Even rock guitarist Dallas Green of Alexisonfire joked that two nods in the same category hardly seemed fair as he announced the nominee. Alt-rock favourites Arcade Fire, rockers Finger Eleven and country rock band Blue Rodeo also received three nominations each. And Anne Murray was nominated in the pop-album-of-the-year category for Duets: Friends & Legends.

But beyond the hoopla of the morning, the wonderful thing that took place afterward in a corner of the room was the words of many less-well-known nominated musicians who came to the gathering. They are the artists who make up the bulk of the nominees in the lesser-known categories, from best traditional jazz album to best dance recording. For them, with record sales still in a slump, a life in music is increasingly about bolstering local scenes, something far more real and personal than flashing images on a big screen.

"As a jazz musician, all you can do is have faith in the audience and the community. ... In any place you are, if you don't like the scene, you have to make the scene happen. So the fact that there is a lot going on in Toronto is because of the collective will of the musicians making something happen," said
Matt Brubeck, a jazz cellist who lives near Toronto and is the son of jazz great Dave Brubeck. Together with pianist David Braid, the duo is up for best traditional jazz album.

The same sentiment came from
Brandi Disterheft, a young jazz bassist whose standout album Debut is also nominated in the best traditional jazz category: "It's really exciting to be nominated because I think jazz is thriving in Canada. And it's great to expose people not only to dinner jazz, but to a really exciting funky jazz. That's what I'm trying to go for."

Even if Canada's jazz hot spots don't have the same historical cachet as New York, "there's a huge community equal to the greatest jazz areas in the world. Toronto is right up there, and so is Vancouver, Montreal," she said.

Toronto saxophonist and composer
Richard Underhill, a founding member of the Shuffle Demons, is up this year for instrumental album of the year for the jazzy Kensington Suite. He says the live scenes represent the bread and butter. "As music sales have plummeted, playing live is really one of the few ways a band can survive and connect with the fans, because it's really tough to do it if you're just selling records these days."

This can seem contrary to the Junos' heavy emphasis on a few banner categories, such as album of the year and artist of the year, in which the nomination criteria are based on record sales rather than critical voting. (Nominees for album of the year, for instance, are determined by sales, and then the winner is chosen by members of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.)

However, the bulk of categories are chosen by a jury of peers. But that's the nature of the Junos, as they straddle the line between commercial and grassroots music. What can get drowned out in all the attention paid to Dion's six nominations or Lavigne's five is the energy and innovation in all of those minor categories.

Take the R&B/hip-hop Toronto band
God Made Me Funky, up for best R&B/soul recording of the year for We Can All Be Free: "We tour the country constantly and have a really great fan base, but to be recognized by the industry is wonderful," said rapper PHATT al. "Our live show, our music is not just urban in terms of R&B or hip hop. We're R&B and hip hop and rock and funk. We're a whole bunch of things put together. We call it nu funk. It's an amalgamation of music, so we'd like to get an amalgamation of people to see our music."

Then there is veteran soul and gospel singer
Billy Newton-Davis, up for best dance recording for the club hit All U Ever Want. "This is a resurrection, a new career in the dance world. ... My music is going out all around the world, but nobody really knows about it [here]," he said.

In short, the message from the musicians yesterday was not about records and sales, but connecting more closely with audiences. As
Gil Moore, drummer for the classic Canadian rocker band Triumph, which will be inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame at this year's Juno Awards, it's all about playing live. It's the main advice he gives any musician.

"I get this question a lot from young musicians. And it's just so simple: Keep playing for people. It's a simple, simple concept."

Universal Music Canada To Release Juno Awards 2008 Compilation Album

Source:  Universal Music Canada

(February 5, 2008) (Toronto, ON) – Universal Music Canada (UMC), the country's leading music company, is set to release JUNO Awards 2008, a compilation album featuring some of the most celebrated Canadian artists of the year, on February 26, 2008. The project is a joint venture between Canada's four major labels (EMI Music Canada, SonyBMG Music Canada Inc., UMC and Warner Music Canada) along with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS). Since it's inception in 2003, each JUNO Awards CD has achieved GOLD status, selling more than 50,000 copies.

The JUNO Awards 2008 compilation album is a not for profit venture with all proceeds going towards MusiCan, CARAS' national music education charity. MusiCan's mission is to ensure that every child in Canada has access to a comprehensive music program through their schools. MusiCan includes Band Aid musical instrument grants, the MusiCan Teacher of the Year Award, Scholarships and other music education initiatives. Since the Program's establishment in 1997, over 2.3 million has been donated impacting more than 120,000 students, their schools and communities, from coast to coast.

Track Listing in alphabetical order:

Bedouin Soundclash

"Walls Fall Down"

Belly feat. Ginuwine

"Pressure"

Jully Black

"Seven Day Fool"

Blue Rodeo

"This Town"

Paul Brandt

"Didn't Even See The Dust"

Michael Bublé

"Everything"

Dragonette

"I Get Around"

Faber Drive

"Tongue Tied"

Feist

"My Moon My Man"

Finger Eleven

"Paralyzer"

Matthew Good

"Born Losers"

Hedley

"For The Nights I Can't Remember"

illScarlett

"Nothing Special"

Kaïn

"Le Bonheur Au Large"

Avril Lavigne

"Girlfriend"

Anne Murray & Nelly Furtado

"Day Dream Believer"

Justin Nozuka

"After Tonight"

Pascale Picard

"Gate 22"        

Serena Ryder

"Weak In The Knees"

Wintersleep

"Weighty Ghost"

Neil Young

"Dirty Old Man"

About Universal Music Canada:
Universal Music Canada, a unit of Universal Music Group, is Canada's leading music organization maintaining an overall 38 % year-to-date market share. For further information on Universal Music Canada please visit www.umusic.ca .

Alicia Keys Announces Tour Dates

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Ricki Morris

(February 05, 2008) *Alicia Keys will support her new "As I Am" album with a world tour scheduled to kick off later this month in Europe and swing through North America beginning this spring.  Following a month-long trek overseas, the nine-time Grammy winner will begin the North American leg on April 19 in Hampton Va. So far, 30 dates are scheduled in arenas throughout the U.S. and Canada through June 18, when the tour is scheduled to wrap at New York City's Madison Square Garden.  The North American itinerary is listed below:

April 2008

19 - Hampton, VA - Hampton Coliseum
20 - Philadelphia, PA - Liacouras Center
22 - Pittsburgh, PA - Peterson Events Center
24 - Rosemont, IL - Allstate Arena
26 - Columbus, OH - Value City Arena at Schottenstein Center
27 - St. Louis, MO - Scottrade Center
30 - Minneapolis, MN - Target Center

May 2008

1 - Kansas City, MO - Sprint Center
5 - Los Angeles, CA - venue to be announced
7 - San Diego, CA - San Diego Sports Arena
9 - Las Vegas, NV - MGM Grand Garden Arena
10 - San Jose, CA - HP Pavilion at San Jose
12 - Phoenix, AZ - Jobing.com Arena
14 - Grand Prairie, TX - Nokia Theatre at Grand Prairie
18 - Houston, TX - Toyota Center
22 - New Orleans, LA - New Orleans Arena
24 - Tampa, FL - St. Pete Times Forum
25 - Miami, FL - American Airlines Arena
28 - Atlanta, GA - Philips Arena
30 - Greensboro, NC - Greensboro Coliseum
31 - Cincinnati, OH - US Bank Arena

June 2008

3 - Detroit, MI - Joe Louis Arena
5 - Cleveland, OH - Wolstein Center at Cleveland State
6 - Toronto, Ontario - Air Canada Centre
8 - Montreal, Quebec - Bell Centre
11 - Boston, MA - TD Banknorth Garden
13 - Washington, DC - Verizon Center
15 - Baltimore, MD - 1st Mariner Arena
17 - Newark, NJ - Prudential Center
18 - New York, NY - Madison Square Garden

Multi-talented Artist/Producer, Christina K. Enters Licensing Agreement With MTV Networks

Source:  Julie Rosen, JRPR

(February 5, 2008) NEW YORK, NY - One of the music industry's hottest upcoming artists, Christina K., announced today that she has entered into a non-exclusive, multi-year licensing agreement with MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc. (NYSE: VIA and VIA.B), whereby her self-produced original songs and production are to be featured in this season's highly anticipated, Making The Band 4, in addition to being cleared for use throughout the entire network's programming.

"I was thrilled when I was contacted directly by the Music Supervisor from Making The Band. I always knew that my music would be perfect for MTV as I am always looking out for non-traditional ways to continue to gain exposure for my music. As an unsigned artist with highly marketable music, this deal makes great sense for everyone."

Recently listed as one of URB Magazine's NEXT 1000, Christina K.'s new single "I Got a Boyfriend" is continually increasing in airplay on Top 40 and Rhythmic radio. Boasting both production and writing skills, her unique style seamlessly blends pop and hip-hop, to the delight of listeners looking for a new and refreshing sound.

Learn more about Christina K. @ www.myspace.com/christinakmusic; www.myspace.com/ckoutlaw

About MTV Networks:

MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International Inc. (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), is one of the world's leading creators of programming and content across all media platforms. MTV Networks, with 135 channels worldwide, owns and operates the following television programming services- MTV: MUSIC TELEVISION, MTV2, VH1, mtvU, NICKELODEON, NICK at NITE, COMEDY CENTRAL, TV LAND, SPIKE TV, CMT, NOGGIN/THE N, VH1 CLASSIC, LOGO, MTVN INTERNATIONAL and THE DIGITAL SUITE FROM MTV NETWORKS, a package of 13 digital services, all of these networks trademarks of MTV Networks. MTV Networks connects with its audiences through its robust consumer products businesses and its more than 200 interactive properties worldwide, including online, broadband, wireless and interactive television services and also has licensing agreements, joint ventures, and syndication deals whereby all of its programming services can be seen worldwide.

Siedah Garrett - Creative Anomaly

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Ricki Morris

(February 05, 2008) "I wanted to be special, but I didn't know how that was going to happen," explains Siedah Garrett of how she wanted The King of Pop, Michael Jackson to recognize her. 

Actually that is how Ms. Garrett wants the world to recognize her.   She doesn't do average.

Well, her dream came true, Siedah Garrett ended up impressing Jackson by co-writing one of his biggest hits, "Man in The Mirror." 

 Garrett is also known for her classic duet, "Don't Look Any Further," with ex-Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards. (scroll down to watch the old school video from 1984.)

Now she's
nominated for a Grammy for "I Love You I Do," the confessional ballad from the star lit film "Dreamgirls." It's in the running for "Best Original Song."  (Scroll down to watch Jennifer Hudson perform the song.)

In a phone interview with EURweb, she explains that the song for "Dreamgirls" was created to stand as an additional character in the film.

"The song had to say what the actor couldn't," said Garrett.  She continues by explaining that Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), although she and Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) had a relationship, there were still feelings that weren't out in the open.  "She was singing her message to him."

The song written for Effie White is completely different, than a song Garrett would write for Jennifer Hudson.  When writing songs for other artist, Garrett customizes songs to fit their personalities and deliver their message.  She takes herself out of the picture, as a method of letting that person shine.

"It's about putting on your songwriter hat, and leaving your artist jacket in the closet."
   
 But, by the same token, Garrett says there's no way she could create a work and she not be present somewhere in it.

"Anybody that knows me will tell you that I don't do anything half way.  If I'm in-I'm in," the songwriter/singer says. "I bring me into everything I do."

Speaking of everything she does, some might say Ms. Garrett is a modern day renaissance woman.  She dabbles in many other art outlets, from song writing, painting, performing, to accessory design.

"I find it hard to focus long term on any one thing.  I get bored, and I need to create new things.  I like making beautiful things," Garret explained. 

"I couldn't just be a singer, or just write songs, because while I'm writing songs I'm thinking about performing that song ... When I'm performing that song, I'm thinking about writing the next song ... When I'm writing that next song, I'm thinking about that handbag I (want to) design."

Garrett says her creative flow is endless, and it keeps her thoroughly entertained.

As for her paintings and accessory designs, the multi-talented songbird is just getting the buzz out.  But some very huge names have already nabbed them a Siedah Garreet work of art.

"I sold some bags to Angela Bassett ... Oprah ... Mariah Carey" ... and the list went on.

Some of her designs include patterns/fabrics of Stingray, American Crocodile, and Ostrich.

"(As far as ) Stingray ... I've been into this skin for so long.  I like the tactile feel of the skin."

Garrett goes on to say Stingray skin looks like: beads, jewels, it even resembles caviar. 

"(It's) just so beautiful.  It lasts forever, the older it gets the better it looks," she said.

From her music to her artworks, Siedah Garrett is always doing what she can to stand out.

"A pride of every artist (is) a want for attention," says Garrett.

 For other artists out there, a word of advice from the creative queen: "You have to give yourself space, for creativity to visit. You need room for the muse in the room."

 To find out more about Ms Garrett go to www.siedah.com.

Jamaican Born Sean Kingston Continues To Sell Well In 2008

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(January 31, 2008) *17 year old Jamaican born
Sean Kingston who was discovered on the popular social networking site, MySpace, has become a force to be reckoned with since his debut, self-titled album was launched on July 31, 2007 on Epic Records.

In a mere five months, Kingston has accrued more than 7 million worldwide sales of ringtones, ringbacks, singles and albums in physical and digital sales for songs including his #1 smash hit in 21 countries “Beautiful Girls,” his second top ten single “Me Love” and his latest top ten third single “Take You There,” which is making moves on the charts. Additionally, Sean is featured on Natasha Bedingfield’s latest hit “Love Like This.”

To date, Kingston continues to command the digital world with more than 2.7 million digital singles sold.  Both ringtones and ringbacks are being scooped up by today’s tastemakers with more than 2.7 million mobile digital sales to date. This is only the beginning, as Kingston is now wrapping up a national tour with Grammy-nominated Chris Brown, following a national tour with Gwen Stefani. Beginning in March, Sean will kick off an international tour performing throughout Europe, Australia and Asia through the end of spring.
 
Additionally, Kingston has been nominated in the “Outstanding New Artist” category for the 39th NAACP Image Awards that will air live on Thursday, February 14 on FOX.

Sean Kingston is not just a new face in popular music; he’s accomplished the rare task of creating a new genre where rap, reggae, pop, doo-wop and remarkable songwriting all combine into something unique. Add in Sean’s family roots, which cite Jamaican legendary producer Jack Ruby as his grandfather, and you have one of the most exciting debuts in 2007. 

“He had a real distinct sound,” J.R. Rotem, Executive Producer of Kingston’s album, remembers. “I worked with some of the best and I don't see why Sean can't grow to be one of them. His potential is limitless.” Shortly after their initial meeting, Rotem had his flagship artist for label Beluga Heights, which partnered with Epic Records for the Sean’s debut.
 
Sean Kingston is nominated in two of the major awards presentations here in Jamaica. They are the Irie FM Music Awards, and the EME Awards.

For more information on Sean Kingston please visit www.SeanKingston.com, www.MySpace.com/SeanKingston or www.EpicRecords.com

WMG Offers $25 Million For Death Row

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 6, 2008) *
Warner Music Group may end up with rights to recordings from Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg if the company gets its wish to purchase music-related assets from Death Row Records.

WMG is offering a bid of $25 million for the assets, according to the Associated Press. The court-appointed administrators running the bankruptcy estates of Death Row and owner Marion "Suge" Knight have asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles to approve the bidding procedures and leading bid at a Feb. 26 hearing.

The purchase "will result in the highest or best collective recovery for the estates," said R. Todd Neilson, the Chapter 11 trustee of Death Row Records' estate, in court documents filed Friday.

Neilson said he has spent more than a year analyzing the record company's financial information to determine whether it would be best to pursue a plan of reorganization or a sale of the company's assets. He said significant "gaps" in the company's financial and business records that remain have led him to decide in favour of a sale.

In addition to music rights, the assets for sale include videos, master copies of recordings, merchandising rights and inventory.

Neilson proposed that potential bidders submit their offers by April 11 for an April 24 auction. He asked that the court give final approval to the sale at a May 12 hearing. Competing bidders must initially exceed Warner's offer by at least $1 million, and subsequent bids must increase by increments of at least $100,000, Neilson requested.   

Neilson said he began meeting with potential buyers last spring, and that 18 parties have entered into confidentiality agreements to access company records and research a transaction, including companies with prior relationships to the record company or Knight, strategic buyers, major record labels and other entities in the music industry.

Death Row Records received bids from "several parties" last summer, according to Neilson, but Warner's bid was determined to be "the bid most likely to enable the estates to recover fair consideration for the acquired assets."

WMG already houses such record labels as Atlantic, Bad Boy, Elektra, Rhino and Warner Bros. According to the company's annual report, its earnings for the year ended Sept. 30 were $3.385 billion.

Erykah Badu's Album To Drop In Two Parts

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 6, 2008) *It will take at least four months for
Erykah Badu's new album "Nu AmErykah" to be released in its entirety. Billboard reports that the singer will release the project, her first in five years, as a double album with different street dates for each disc.

The first disc, dubbed "4th World War," arrives Feb. 26 via Universal Motown, while the second, as yet untitled instalment is tentatively slated for the summer.

"Nu AmErykah," according to Billboard.com, "pushes the envelope of contemporary R&B with songs accented by finger cymbals, electronic keys and eerie, high-pitched choruses. The happy first single, 'Honey,' last week soared from No. 52 to No. 34 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs." (Scroll down to view video.)

Universal is hoping to cement Badu's artsy niche market with heavy promotion in coffee shops and trendy cinemas, reports Billboard. "Honey" is playing before films at national indie theatres across the country, while the psychedelic "Nu AmErykah" cover art is gracing coffee-cup sleeves at an array of outlets.

The record company will also offer the album in the emerging USB stick technology, which includes access to exclusive videos and Web content (including a Badu-created photo flipbook) that will be updated monthly.

And in fourth-quarter 2008, Universal hopes to further cultivate the singer's coffeeshop appeal by releasing a live album, "Loretta Brown," exclusively via Starbucks. Details have yet to be confirmed.   

A Marriage Made In Music Heaven

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

(January 31, 2008) You'd think Britain's first couple of jazz would be taking it easier these days, but Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth, both 80, are in the midst of a North American tour with a dizzying itinerary.

The pair were in their fourth city in as many days when they spoke with the Star this week from a Florida hotel in advance of this weekend's sold-out performance at Mississauga's Living Arts Centre.

"I love singing; it's as simple as that," said Laine of the enduring attachment to the stage.

Known for the incredible range of her rich pipes, Laine is the only female vocalist ever nominated for a Grammy Award in the pop, classical and jazz categories.

She and distinguished saxist/composer Dankworth have forged an illustrious path, melding jazz and classical, and collaborating – individually, or together – with an international array of pre-eminent symphonies, and legends such as Duke Ellington, Ray Charles and Mel Tormé.

They have more than 600 tunes in their repertoire, but Laine, who carved out a parallel career in the theatre, admits to currently favouring the slower songs.

"I remember hearing Ella (Fitzgerald) later on in her career saying she was fed up with fast numbers, that she adored singing ballads now; and I'm getting like that. I still like to go zippity doo dah, but I like a good ballad."

Sunday's gig – the twosome's only Canadian appearance – finds them in concert with the 17-piece Toronto All-Star Big Band, an outfit comprised of 15- to 22-year-olds and not equipped with a big budget to properly compensate such legendary performers.

"Money is the not the first consideration at this end of our career," explained Dankworth.

"All throughout our career, we've wanted to help the next generation of jazz musicians ... those who really want to do it should have some encouragement from the older generation."

In 1969, the couple founded Wavendon AllMusic Plan in a converted barn on the grounds of their rural English home. Their desire "to introduce music to as many people as possible, regardless of age or social background" has evolved into a 400-seat venue for concerts and education activities.

They've done equally well by their own offspring: daughter Jacqui Dankworth is a respected jazz singer, while bassist son Alec Dankworth has played with Miles Davis and Dave Brubeck.

Laine and Dankworth, who celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in March, met in 1952 when she tried out for his bop septet.

"We wanted a singer, because we realized that would make the band more saleable to a lot more places," explained the bandleader of the more than 50 vocalists the group auditioned.

"None of them were any good, so we had decided to do without one when our agent phoned me while the pianist and I were rehearsing in a club to say that there was a woman in his office who wanted a job. He really intimated he wanted to get her out of his office and asked if we would see her.

"She came 'round and we asked her what she'd like to sing, and she didn't really know what key it should be in, she was pretty raw. (But) she opened her mouth and after a few bars we sat there absolutely mesmerized; it was just what we wanted."

However, the two musicians had to play cool until the rest of the band could hear the young singer whose name was Clementine Campbell. They invited her to participate in their show that night and Dankworth polled the group after the first set.

"I said as nonchalantly as I could `Well, you think she's got something?' And our severest critic was the Scottish trumpet player Jimmy Deuchar, who didn't suffer fools or mince his words, so we were expecting something pissy. He said `I think she's got everything!' and that really settled it."

They agreed on the stage name Cleo Laine, and that she'd be paid £7 a week, and Dankworth had a singer. But romance didn't blossom with Laine, who was then not-so-happily married with a young son, until several years later.

Cupid struck during an end-of-the-year gig at an American forces base.

"Happy New Year's always involved stopping everything and embracing and hugging the nearest woman," said Dankworth, "and that's when it happened with Cleo and myself."

Music has been the linchpin of their successful showbiz marriage, she added.

"I think that if he'd been anything else – an accountant or a banker – I probably wouldn't be with him."

Is there a ballad that summarizes the songstress's feelings about her line mate?

"Yeah, `I've Got A Crush On You.'"

Trace Adkins Plays Niagara Falls, Talks Candidly About Life

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

(February 02, 2008) If it hadn't been for Buck Owens' advice, Trace Adkins might still be lost in the boonies pumping out bad southern rock 'n' roll for beers.

"That low note that you can hit, you need to do that in every song, 'cause that's really all you got goin' for you," is the way the late country music legend famously summarized Adkins' chances of a career in his chosen field.

The singer, then in his early 30s, took his mentor's words to heart. In the dozen years since, Adkins has achieved his wildest dreams and then some, mostly on the strength of that big low voice.

More than 20 of his singles have appeared on Billboard's country music charts, and since his debut in 1996, the Louisiana-born-and-raised baritone has recorded seven studio albums, five of them certified million sellers, and two greatest hits compilations. The most recent, American Man: Greatest Hits Vol. 2, has been smoking up sales records for weeks.

They call him country music's Alpha Male, a title he earned during his drinking years, and although those hazy days – on one of them his second wife shot him in the chest during a booze-fuelled domestic squabble – are five years behind him, Adkins, 45, is one motivated dude.

"I'm not a workaholic, but I do expect everyone to do a good job," he says over the phone from Columbus, Ohio, during a brief stopover on a tour that brings him tonight to the Niagara Fallsview Casino Resort's Avalon Ballroom Theatre.

Working as a rigger in southern oil fields taught him invaluable life lessons, he adds.

"It don't matter how good a job you did today ... what matters is whether you can get up and do it again tomorrow and the next day. That's the work ethic I bring to my music. I can't rest on my laurels."

And he listens to his elders.

On the basis of another piece of advice, this time from country fiddler and band leader Charlie Daniels, Adkins went ahead and wrote the book A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Freethinking Roughneck, a collection of bon mots, impressions, advice, reminiscences and humorous yarns that has become something of a redneck manifesto in country music's literary circles.

"I was worried about offending people, and Charlie told me, `The people that aren't gonna like you because of the book don't like you now, so you might as well go ahead.'"

The book, Adkins explained, was actually his manager's idea.

"Politically, we're diametrically opposed. He's a liberal, and every conversation ends with him saying, `You should write a book.' Well, I did, and I hope it helps others discover what our relationship is all about, what we should all be working for – just learning to get on with each other."

In one section, the thrice-married father of five girls offers an example of his brand of no-nonsense diplomacy by imagining himself as the U.S. president in a post-9/11 conference call with the leaders of the Arab nations and threatening to nuke the entire planet unless Osama bin Laden is handed over.

In another, he writes candidly about his alcoholism, describing a regular wake-up routine that involved downing a tumbler of tequila. "It wasn't hard to write about those things, and I've never been secretive about my drinking. I was pleased to find so many wounds I had inflicted were healed by the time I started making amends. I'm over the worst of it."

These days, Adkins performs about 95 shows a year, opting to spend as much time at home in Nashville as his career will allow.

"It's all very normal," he says. "Four of my five girls live with us (Adkins and his third wife, Rhonda), and the oldest one is married. The girls go to public school ... we do the same things everyone else does. I get my country boy fix on my farm outside Nashville, driving my tractor.

"I missed so much of my first two daughters' lives because of music and drinking. Now I just want to be there for my family."

Theodore Bikel Has No Intention Of Slowing Down

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

(January 31, 2008) Of the five Theodore Bikels profiled on his website – The Man, The Musician and Legendary Folksinger, The Stage Actor, The Prolific and Renowned Film Actor and the Emmy Award-Winning Television Actor – Toronto audiences will get to see the least familiar and maybe the most interesting when the 83-year-old trouper hits the George Weston Recital Hall stage Saturday night.

In a performance to raise funds for the Ashkenaz Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering an increased awareness of Yiddish and Jewish culture through the arts, Bikel the Legendary Folksinger will make his first appearance in these parts in more than 20 years.

Bikel did play here just 12 years ago in a roadshow production of Fiddler on the Roof, as Tevye, perhaps his most famous role onstage and certainly the one he knows best after an astounding 2,094 performances in 30 years.

But it's the folksinger part he seems to enjoy most these days.

"Songs make connections that other means cannot – they form a psychological synopsis of the human experience," Bikel said in a phone interview from Los Angeles.

He ought to know. In the 1950s, just before the folk-music boom, Bikel was very much a part of the socialist peacenik, postwar musical and literary underground in Greenwich Village, N.Y., along with Pete Seeger and the Weavers, Woody Guthrie, Harry Belafonte and others, promoting civil rights, nuclear disarmament and common humanity through songs and poetry.

Born in Vienna, Bikel made his concert debut as a folksinger at the Carnegie Recital Hall in 1956 and has continued to perform his unique repertoire of Yiddish, European and Middle Eastern folk songs in concert halls and folk clubs all over the world since then, recording 20 albums along the way.

He was a co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival, and, with Seeger, tried to get sound engineer/music producer Joe Boyd to pull the plug on Bob Dylan and the Paul Butterfield band on that fateful night in 1965 when Dylan "went electric."

Bikel, who sings in 20 languages, speaks five "quite well plus two others not so well," has recently released the Treasury of Yiddish Theatre and Folk Songs CD, and Our Song, a two-hander with Greek tenor Alberto Mizrahi, of duets in Ladino, Yiddish, Greek, Hebrew and Serbian. His book, Folksongs and Footnotes (Meridian Books/World Publishing), has had three reprints since its publication in 1961.

"I'm not a soap boxer, but I build bridges to peace with every means I can, including music and songs," said Bikel, who will be sharing the stage Saturday night with award-winning Toronto klezmer band Beyond the Pale.

Bikel describes his own folk music act – he'll be accompanied by longtime pianist and musical director Tamara Brooks – as "art song blended with traditional ethnic songs, and a bit of theatre.

"I have to understand what I'm singing about, in whatever language, and because I'm also an actor, the theatre informs my presentation. Songs are mini-dramas, with voices and characters and landscapes unique to them."

Better known for his movie and TV work – his credits include The African Queen, The Defiant Ones, My Fair Lady and The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming – Bikel counts on the crossover factor for his musical endeavours.

"I sing to the choir, but I also seem to reach audiences who've never known me as a musician."

He travels and performs constantly – most recently in an as-yet-untitled Israeli movie about four dissenting souls who find peace and understanding through music – and in live theatrical productions and readings closer to home.

"I am still very active. I work wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself. I live by the adage `He who rests rusts.'"

Two Brothers, One Magical, Meaningful Musical Conversation

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
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)
Charles Dutoit conducting. Guest soloists Renaud Capuçon (violin) and Gautier Capuçon (cello). Repeats tonight and Saturday. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. 416-593-4828

(January 31, 2008) In an evening of spectacular orchestral music with the Toronto Symphony last night, the most powerful, lingering image spoke more of intimacy than anything else: 26-year-old French cellist
Gautier Capuçon sitting with his back arched on the Roy Thomson Hall stage, cradling a gleaming coffee-coloured cello, head back, eyes locked with his older, violin-playing brother Renaud.

Those electric glances were a clue to the magical force responsible for the superlative rendition of Johannes Brahms's luscious Double Concerto. This was late-19th century music at its most full-bodied, caressing, plaintive and redemptive.

It helped that the conductor was Charles Dutoit, the 71-year-old former music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra – regular TSO guest and now chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Having the two soloists in the Brahms concerto not only know each other personally but be frequent chamber-music collaborators allowed their duo work to reinforce the sense of music as dialogue. And one didn't want them to stop talking to each other.

The German music was bookended by the inventiveness of Frenchman Hector Berlioz – the Overture to his comic opera Béatrice et Bénédict, a late work, and the much earlier Symphonie fantastique.

Dutoit made the opera music dance and sing like something by Rossini, only with a much more interesting score. In the Symphonie fantastique, conducted without a score, the audience received a dynamic, nuanced performance from an orchestra solidly behind Dutoit's every gesture and whim.

Just as in that vision of Gautier and the cello, Dutoit helped Berlioz make time stand still – one of the piece's most dramatic innovations, where musical themes become noodlings where the silences separating them are as important as the notes themselves.

There are so many reasons to hear this program, make sure you don't miss the magic.
 

Pianist Anton Kuerti Has High Praise For His Protégé, Wonny Song

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(January 31, 2008) As Montrealer Wonny Song prepares to make his debut with Music Toronto tonight, he will no doubt be thinking about his favourite teacher, Anton Kuerti, the dean of Canadian pianists.

Song was born in South Korea, but his family moved to Canada a year later, in 1980. His father was only supposed to work here for five years. "But he loved Canada so much he wanted to stay," recalls Song from his home in Montreal's artsy Plateau district.

The young pianist left Montreal to pursue piano studies abroad, but the city's allure drew him back two years ago. He loves its relative proximity to Manhattan – and the "wonderful cappuccinos in the morning."

These perks couldn't have been on his mind as the Song family moved up from working-class Montréal Nord to Ahuntsic and, then, Cartierville – hardly musical inspiration for someone in primary school.

"My mother wanted every possible opportunity for me," says Song. "So I had mathematics classes, music classes and all kinds of extracurricular activities."

He quickly developed an affinity for the piano, and his parents were willing to seek out the best teachers. For Song, this included taking a train to Toronto for intense musical weekends at the Kuerti home at Sherbourne and Bloor Sts.

"My family are not musicians," says Song. "So it was great to see how a musical family lived."

He would spend the weekend bunking with the Kuertis, becoming friends with boys Rafael and Julian. Their mother, cellist Kristine Bogyo, who died last year, "was like a second mother."

Song graduated from high school at age 14 and took off to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Cleveland. He has studied with many big names, and his résumé includes a raft of wins and finalist-finishes in major international piano competitions.

Yet Kuerti remains an inspiration. "He lives the way he plays the music," explains Song. "Everything he does he does with so much intensity. It still affects me now."

One of the key lessons Song recalls from Kuerti "is that I should never err on the safe side. He always wished that I strive to take risks and even miss notes as long as I make a least one phrase so achingly beautiful that it will leave a mark on your audience."

He can't wait to be reunited with Kuerti at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival in May. Teacher and former pupil will share a program called "Piano Passion."

Song echoes the feelings of so many young musicians when he describes the conflicting forces of career versus personal life. He says that Kuerti and his family helped him accept that making music one's sole focus need not be an ordeal.

"They are not pretentious," he says. "They are so natural, music is so organic. It inspired me to not shy away from that."

In 2005, Song won the Young Concert Artists competition in New York. Since the early 1960s, the organization has helped scores of talented young musicians start their careers with a Carnegie Hall debut, engagements around the United States and scores of international contacts.

The organization's roster changes every year, as new talents are welcomed into the fold. "We are encouraged to find new management," says Song. But he hasn't made any firm plans yet.

"I'm a happy-go-lucky guy," he says. "I always think of the next concert."

That would be at the Jane Mallett Theatre tonight. Song will offer a mixed program that includes the Goyescas by Enrique Granados, Isle Joyeuse by Claude Debussy, a Beethoven Sonata (Op. 10, No. 2) and works by Rachmaninoff and Jacques Hétu.

Just the facts
WHO: Wonny Song
WHEN: Tonight @ 8 p.m.
WHERE: Jane Mallett Theatre, 27 Front St. E.
TICKETS: $15 @ 416-366-7723 or

Spice Girls Put On An Entertaining Spectacle

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(February 04, 2008) It's a lonely and rather emasculating sensation as it is, being a guy with no real interest in American football on Super Bowl Sunday.

Being one of the few males in the crowd of 20,000 that witnessed the Spice Girls' rip-roaring return to Toronto at the Air Canada Centre last night, then, did no favours for one's besieged manhood. The show's confluence with the NFL's biggest night, in fact, transformed what was already fated to be a riotous celebration of "Girl Power" into a fairly close approximation of the ultimate ladies' night out. And to make matters worse, it offered a stupid amount of fun that even a straight male could love.

The reunited Spices – Geri "Ginger" Halliwell, Melanie "Sporty" Chisholm, Emma "Baby" Bunton, Melanie "Scary" Brown and resident celebrity non-contributor Victoria "Posh" Beckham – have been touting Toronto as "Spice City" since their first tour in nearly a decade began in Vancouver on Dec. 2. Indeed, demand for the Girls in this town has been sufficient to justify four shows at the ACC this month (another tonight, two more on Feb. 25 and 26) where some other North American cities have come up a bit short attendance-wise. That might explain why the group recently announced that it would cut the tour short after its final two Toronto dates. Clearly, the Spice Girls would prefer to say farewell again, even if just temporarily, in a locale – "the second home of the Spice Girls," according to Geri – where they can be confident of going out on a high note.

They should have that pretty much locked up, by the way, since last night's garish, technically mesmerizing Vegas sprawl was easily the tightest and most entertaining spectacle of its kind to pass through these parts since the last Madonna tour came to town. Really.

Essentially, it was a multi-million-dollar drag show, as the Spice Girls' remarkably durable roster of pop hits, from the Latin-flavoured whoosh of "Spice Up Your Life" to gangbusters closer "Wannabe," was merely one ingredient in a performance of endless costume changes, athletic dance numbers and state-of-the-art video projections. They spilled from an ever-morphing sci-fi set rigged with trapdoors, catwalks and moving chambers onto a runway extending halfway back to the floor seats.

The onstage movements of the Girls and their many, deferential male dancers – several were led around on all fours on glittering dog leashes for "Holler" – flowed with such choreographic precision through the technical gimmickry that the show didn't really need music to dazzle.

Luckily, the frantic, dance-party pace only waned after obligatory nods to each Spice's solo career (Posh strode down the runway in black lingerie without singing) gave way to an unnecessary disco-covers medley and two ballads too many on the way to "Wannabe." And the Spice Girls catalogue is one of pop music's more respectable phenomena, as once-ubiquitous hits such as the Motown romp "Stop," the breezy "Say You'll Be There" and even mildly tawdry bedroom ballad "2 Become 1" sounded endurably fresh and welcome all these years later. Still the guiltiest of pleasures.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Marsalis Compilation A Pleasure

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

Jazz
Wynton Marsalis
Standards & Ballads (SonyBmg)
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(January 29, 2008) With Standard Time Vol. 2: Intimacy Calling being my first and favourite
Wynton Marsalis disc, I'm a sucker for this 14-song collection of ballards and standards from the trumpeter's catalogue, circa 1983-1999. The highlights, which showcase the New Orleans native's conversational style, arresting tone and deft command of melody –whether purring or exultant – include a loping version of "When It's Sleepytime Down South" (1991/Intimacy Calling) and cinematic reading of "Stardust" (1984/Hot House Flowers). After last year's plodding, straight-to-the-research-pile Marsalis recording From the Plantation to the Penitentiary, it's a pleasure to put this compilation – which features memorable solos from pianists Marcus Roberts and Eric Reed and an appearance by vocalist Shirley Horn – right into heavy rotation. Top track: With vocals and mute on his original "The Seductress," the player conjures an alluring femme.

Fraser MacPherson Trio: Live at Puccini's 1977

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(February 06, 2008) (Cellar Live) This recovered recording finds the late Canadian tenor saxist (1928-1993) in his best-known group with guitarist Oliver Gannon and bassist Wyatt Ruther on such famed tunes as "I Got Rhythm" and "Body and Soul." In the liner notes, Gannon recalls MacPherson's preference for a drumless trio: "I'm up there fighting for my life and behind me there's a drummer trying to carve out a career for himself." There are certainly no rhythmic holes in this combo – even on speedy tempos like "Honeysuckle Rose" –and it's the ideal showcase for the warmth and vigour of MacPherson's commanding tone. This disc captures the band at its apparent apex. Too bad it's only 50 minutes long. Top Track: An eloquent "Sophisticated Lady."

Al Jarreau Plots A Busy 2008

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com  

(February 04, 2008) *Al Jarreau is preparing two more projects – a holiday album and best-of compilation – to follow up his recently-released "Love Songs" CD, reports Billboard.com.    The veteran crooner is currently working on holiday songs for an album to be completed by May or June. The set will feature standards such as "White Christmas," "Joy to the World" and "The Christmas Song," as well as an original called "Tree Wishes" that he says is "interesting and right in the spirit of things."    As for the compilation, Jarreau is "going through the repertoire now" with promises that the album will be different than 1996's "The Best of Al Jarreau." Titles and release dates will be forthcoming.    In the meantime, Jarreau will launch a short promo tour for "Love Songs" on Feb. 8 in Cleveland. The trek includes a Valentine's Day performance at New York's Beacon Theater.

Swizz Beatz Goes 'Green' For The Gap

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com  

(February 04, 2008) *The music of Swizz Beatz is featured in Gap's new viral "Sound of Color" ad campaign, in which featured artists were asked to write a song inspired by an assigned hue, reports Billboard.    These songs were then turned into music videos by up-and-coming commercial and music video directors. The songs and videos will be available for streaming and download at soundofcolor.com starting Feb. 15.    After 30 days, the artists will retain the rights to their songs for their own use, including possible inclusion on future albums. Swizz Beatz said his song, "Green," is ready for other uses as soon as the Gap gig wraps.    "I didn't want to do a song I wasn't comfortable giving to the DJs," he told Billboard. "I took the approach of, 'How would I use green in a painting without making green the main ingredient, and use it in the slickest way?"'

Unstoppable Feist wins the U.S. Shortlist Prize

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Canadian Press

(February 06, 2008) Toronto — The accolades keep rolling in for Grammy- and Juno-nominated Feist. The Calgary-bred indie darling has snagged the Shortlist Prize, often referred to as a U.S. version of Britain's esteemed Mercury Music Prize. Fellow Canadians Arcade Fire and Stars were also in the running, alongside MIA, Wilco and Justice. The U.S. prize is given to artists who garner critical acclaim but do not have the blockbuster sales achieved by more commercial artists.

::FILM NEWS::

The Show Will Go On, Academy President Vows

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Star Wire Services

(February 06, 2008) The president of the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is vowing that the Oscar show will go on, strike or no strike.

"There's no doubt about it. We're going to do it," Sid Ganis said to applause at the traditional Oscar nominees luncheon this week.

Speaking to the 115 nominees who gathered in the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom, Ganis sought to dispel any fears that the writers' strike might derail the Feb. 24 Oscars the way it shut down the Golden Globes.

It's looking more and more likely the strike could end soon, with sources telling Reuters yesterday a new contract could be presented to union leaders in days and, if approved, end the walkout later this week. The two sides still need to hammer out contract language before a deal is submitted for approval to governing boards of the East and West Coast branches of the Writers Guild of America, they said.

"Of course, we really, really hope that the negotiations between the writers and the producers – which we now hear are going very, very well – will have reached a conclusion that everyone is pleased with," Ganis said. "But regardless of those circumstances ... we will be presenting awards as scheduled on the 24. We're going to hand out Oscars not because of some showbiz notion that the show must go on; it's not the show per se that matters.... The Oscar exists to shine the brightest possible light on you and your work, and it would be such a terrible shame, through no fault of yours and no fault of ours, if the current conditions prevented us from shining that brightest possible light."

The sense of optimism appeared contagious among the strike-weary crowd. "I'm a positive individual. I think the sun will come up tomorrow, that the strike will get resolved and the awards will happen," said Viggo Mortensen, a Best Actor nominee for Eastern Promises.

Nicole Ari Parker - The Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins Interview with Kam Williams

Source:  Kam Williams

Nicole Ari Parker really arrived in 2000 when she played Denzel Washington’s wife in Remember the Titans. Since then, she’s appeared in Brown Sugar and King’s Ransom on the big screen, while enjoying recurring roles on a couple of TV series, Soul Food and Second Time Around.

In 2001, the Baltimore-bred beauty eloped with actor Joseph Falasca, though their union would last just eight months. Four years later, Nicole married her Soul Food co-star, Boris Kodjoe, and they already have a couple of kids, Sophie and Nicolas.

Here, she talks about her latest movie, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, an ensemble comedy about a Hollywood talk-show host who finds himself cut down to size when he returns to his Georgia roots for his parents’ 50th anniversary. Directed by Malcolm Lee, the film features Martin Lawrence in the title role.

KW: How are you and Boris balancing raising children with your acting careers?

NP: Before we had kids, we would dream about having two kids, and we would say that we weren’t both going to work at the same time. And we had this whole ideal game plan which we’ve totally thrown out the window. We both got work, and we both just jumped right in. We took the kids with us. They’re young enough right now that we can do that. To answer your question, we’re winging it. 

KW: What interested you in playing Lucinda?

NP: Honestly, for me, it was a lot of fun to play the sweetheart, because, as you know, for a long time, I wasn’t a sweetheart on television. But I did marry a sweetheart. [Chuckles] Here, I got the opportunity to be the nice girl. And for me, that was a blessing.

KW: Tel me a little about your character.

NP: Well, I think the Lucinda aspect of the movie just adds another layer to the Clyde (Cedric the Entertainer) and R.J. (Martin Lawrence) battle, because I was another thing that they had competed over from childhood. Clyde always liked me, and kind of pushed that in R.J.’s face. R.J. never really spoke up about it, and this is one opportunity where I’ve come back into R.J.’s life. We haven’t seen each other in a really long time, and we catch up about what we’ve been doing. He’s gone off to become this huge star, and I’ve still had a simple life. We just meet up again, and I show up with Clyde , and that sets the stage for more competition. It just feeds the whole fuel. 

KW: How was it working with Martin Lawrence? 

NP: Really good. A lot of big stars, they don’t want to stay for the coverage when the other actors are shooting. But he stands by the camera and feeds us his lines, every time, like he was still doing a performance on his close-up. It’s been really amazing to have all that support . It’s been a really wonderful experience.

KW: What was it like being on a set with so many comedians?

NP: It was interesting to watch because everybody has their own style. Everyone had their own magic. I have so much respect for what they do, and for how they kept their own thing going within the family theme of the movie. But for my character, for me being the straight man in the film, you start to get a little delirious between takes and think that you’re funny and a comedian, too, because you’re surrounded by Mike Epps, Ced, Mo’Nique and Martin. And so you’re thinking, “Yeah, on my close-up, I’m going to say something funny, too.” But it was amazing to watch them in action. I was blown away.

KW: We’re they competitive with each other?

NP: Yeah, they were totally competitive. But it was the best kind, because they were inspiring each other, and helping each other improve their jokes. They still knew they were making a movie and stayed with the same theme.

KW: How about working with a legend like James Earl Jones?

NP: I think I stared at him most of the time. I was just in awe that I was in the same frame with him, given his body of work. I was also in awe of his stature and his strength, because in real-life, he’s bigger than his persona, even at his age. His still enormous and has got that charisma.

KW: As a serious Shakespearean actor, did he seem uncomfortable around so many comedians?

NP: Not at all. He even had jokes when he was hanging with Mike Epps. At first, I kept hitting Mike under the table, because he was saying things like, “That [N-word]…” or “I told that mother-[expletive]…” I had to remind him, “Mike, James Earl Jones is here today. You don’t talk like that in front of James Earl Jones. Have some respect!” But Mike would say, “Oh, James, you know you’re a player.” And James was a remarkably good sport about it.

KW: What is Malcolm Lee like as a director?

NP: Malcolm is very focused, no matter what is going on. No matter how crazy it’s getting, he’s calm and very secure in the shots he wants to get, even if we’re all exhausted. Even if we’re in the 14th hour of a 12-hour day, he finds a way to bring the energy back, and get us all rallied up to stand in the rain and keep going.

KW: This film is being released in February, Black History Month. What do you see as the significance of Black History Month?

NP: I think it’s important to find a way to make Black History Month less of a history lesson and more of a way of life. We need to inspire not just the young people, but the older people, too, because after school, the young people are going home to their moms and their dads. So, everybody has to be inspired by who they are, who they can be, and what their purpose is in this world. We have to start with history, but I think we have to bring it right into the moment, and make the best of our lives right now. That’s how things can change, and take it out of February, and into the whole year.

KW: Jimmy Bayan, realtor to the stars, wants to know where in L.A. you live.

NP: We live in Atlanta full-time now. Boris was shooting two films down there, and I’d just had my baby. We’d been staying in hotels for maybe seven months, when I decided to call a real estate agent and look around. And we found our dream house! And that’s how we’re rolling right now. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but with the kids, it’s just so nice to chill and not be so Hollywood all the time.

KW: Well, thanks for the interview and best wishes to you and Boris and the kids.

NP: Thank you.

Canadian Movies Debut At Berlin Film Fest

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Michael Levitin, Special To The Star

(February 1, 2008) BERLIN–It's one thing to be a filmmaker passionate about creating art. It's another to moveback into your childhood home, bring your 89-year-old mother with you to reenact scenes from 1963 and then meld that personal drama with "pithy gripes about how (your) city hasn't taken care of its past, and has given little regard to its future."

But that's what Canadian filmmaker
Guy Maddin has done to produce his genre-defying work, My Winnipeg.

Quirky premise? Maybe. But Maddin's film – a reflection on the history and heritage of his hometown, which he calls "the most isolated city in North America" – is catching on fast.

It won the City Award for Best Canadian Feature at last year's Toronto International Film Festival. And next week, along with Green Porno, Isabella Rossellini's series of shorts about the sex lives of insects, My Winnipeg will open the Forum section of the
Berlin International Film Festival – one of a handful of Canadian films to gain a spot in this year's lineup.

Granted, there's a lot of star power showing up Feb. 7-17 to compete with, starting with Martin Scorsese whose descent on the German capital will be flanked by Mick Jagger and company presenting the competition opener, Shine a Light, a musical film featuring two concerts the Rolling Stones gave at New York's Beacon Theater in 2006.

Madonna is causing a media frenzy with her directorial debut, Filth and Wisdom, about three young people in search of elusive dreams. And Hollywood bombshells stealing the spotlight at Marlene Dietrich Platz will include Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman (The Other Boleyn Girl) and Penélope Cruz (Elegy).

Not to mention on the male side, the star of stars in Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan (Om Shanti Om).

But for Maddin, none of the glamour at the Berlin fest bothers him. On the contrary, he likes "that there are high-profile glitzy stars there, because it's a thrill for us independent filmmakers to be considered part of the same world."

And who's to say a different Canadian star won't shoot from this year's crop – the way Sarah Polley did last year with her widely praised Away From Her?

Two films by Quebec directors are expected to make a mark, both dealing with problems of youth. Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette's La Ring, (The Fight) tells of a hard-knock Montreal childhood while Yves-Christian Fournier's world premiere of Tout est parfait (Everything is Fine) features a teen struggling to cope after his friends commit suicide.

Also appearing in the Panorama section is Otto; or, up with Dead People, a zombie flick directed by Bruce LaBruce, a global star in the gay film scene who is returning to the Berlinale where his films screened in 2004 and '06.

Perhaps the venue where Canadians stand out most visibly this year is in the short film genre. Claudia Morgado Escanilla's No Bikini; Maxime Desmons's Bonne Mère; Kent Monkman and Gisèle Gordon's Miss Chief Eagle Testickle Trilogy; Jeremy Shaw's Best Minds, Part One; Scott Miller Barry's Taking Pictures; and Noam Gonick and Luis Jacob's Wildflowers of Manitoba all feature as short works.

Feature-length co-productions with Canada, such as Be Like Others, by Tanaz Eshaghian, and Flipping Out, by Yoav Shamir, are also screening.

Some 15 films directed by Canadians, or produced with Canadian help, are appearing in the festival overall.

For Maddin, who has been invited three years in a row to Berlin (Brand Upon the Brain! showed here last year and My Dad is 100 Years Old in 2006, both featuring Rossellini), it is the rapid evolution – and popularization – of documentaries in recent years that's been the biggest boon for filmmakers like himself who work in unconventional narratives.

"Documentaries play in multiplexes now in North America," he says about the trend, "and I'm happy to be part of that."

In the case of My Winnipeg – which charts the city's course from the time of native Americans through to modern sports history – Maddin didn't intend such a personal exploration.

But "as I started making this documentary, I was having trouble separating hometown from home, then home from family, so I ended up mingling the history of my childhood home with the history of the city."

In his portrayal of that city, Maddin, like every artist, hopes he has hit on some element of the universal. And starting next week, foreign audiences will be the judges of whether what they see of Canada as it's projected onto the big screen hits home or not.

Toronto as Bollywood West?

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ian Urquhart, Queen's Park Columnist

(January 19, 2008) MUMBAI, India–This coastal city and Toronto could soon have more in common than a passion for Aishwarya Rai, the Bollywood movie star who attracted crowds on Yonge St. last week at the premiere of her latest film.

Indeed, there are behind-the-scenes moves that could ultimately lead to Canadian/Indian co-productions of Bollywood movies, with the filming taking place at least partly in Toronto.

That was the buzz last night at a gala in Mumbai (the city of 18 million formerly known as Bombay) that was hosted by Premier Dalton McGuinty, who is touring India this week to drum up business for Ontario.

The gala, held at Mumbai's arts centre, featured the screening of a Canadian film, Away From Her, directed by Sarah Polley and starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie.

On hand were several Bollywood producers, directors and stars, including Rahul Bose, the actor/director known as the "Oriental Sean Penn."

In a short speech, Bose sang the praises of Toronto, which he called "vibrant and rich ... truly multicultural."

Asked later if some Bollywood films might be shot in Toronto, Bose said: "That's a no-brainer .... It is genuinely a surprise to me that it hasn't already become the destination (overseas)."

Other Indian filmmakers at the gala echoed this view.

Bollywood already has good relations with the Toronto International Film Festival, which showed some of its movies last year. "It was amazing," recalled TIFF's Cam Haynes, who introduced the Polley film at the gala last night. "There were more people out for the Bollywood films than we had for Brad Pitt."

Greater Toronto has 473,000 people of South Asian descent.

Haynes said he has spoken to two Canadian producers keen to make "Bollywood-type" films. "I was asked to look for talent and co-producers (while in Mumbai)."

One obstacle is that a co-production treaty between Canada and India has yet to be implemented, although it has been drafted.

The treaty is necessary to circumvent Canadian content rules, according to James Weyman, manager of industry initiatives for Ontario Media Development Corp., the province's film investment arm.

Ontario has been told by federal bureaucrats that the treaty is under review, Weyman said. "We've been encouraging them to put it on their priority list."

During the cocktail party before the screening, Weyman was approached by Bollywood figures enquiring about possible co-productions with Canada.

What's in it for them? Sources say they want to burnish their credentials by making films that are worthy of Oscar consideration. That might be easier if they were filmed in Toronto rather than Mumbai, which still has a reputation for producing low-budget Hindi-language films with cornball plots.

Bollywood also wants to increase the exposure of its films in the North American market.

According to a recent report in Financial Times of London, India has ambitious plans to double its share of the global film market.

Genie Too Blinded By Red Tape To See What's Canadian

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(February 1, 2008) Listen, I know I should be a good little Canadian and shut up about this.

But I just can't, eh?

The Oscar-nominated Juno, one of the most successful movies ever made in Canada, isn't deemed sufficiently Canuck to qualify for a prize at the
Genie Awards on March 3.

That's despite the fact it was directed by a Canadian (Jason Reitman), it has Canadian stars in the lead (Halifax's Ellen Page and Brampton's Michael Cera) and it was filmed entirely in Vancouver and area. But Canadians didn't fund Juno, ergo, it can't be considered Canadian or Genie-worthy.

Genie and government bureaucrats (who sound awfully similar) assure me there's nothing nefarious about this. There's a point system that determines Canuck status for films, and Juno wouldn't have made the grade.

Rules are rules, man, and what's more, the feds don't have to explain how they're applied, even when tax money is involved.

"We cannot comment on the eligibility of a specific production," Charles Drouin, a spokesperson for the Department of Canadian Heritage, told me via email.

Journalistic duty compels me to report that Fox Searchlight, the U.S. studio that released Juno, isn't losing any sleep over this.

It didn't submit Juno to the Genies, knowing in advance what the outcome would be. And besides, why worry about Genies when you've got four Oscar nominations?

Nor is title star Page burning up her hamburger phone in righteous indignation. When I talked to her this week, she shrugged off the lack of Genie noms for Juno because (a) she doesn't think Juno is particularly Canadian; and (b) she has a Genie nom for her lead performance in The Tracey Fragments, which does meet Canuck criteria.

So why don't I just let the matter drop? The reason is that year after year, the Canadian movie industry moans about the lack of support for homegrown talent.

The Genies inspire so little passion in the frozen populace, only people directly involved care about who wins what prize. The viewing audience for the Genies' telecast is so low, our national taxpayer-funded broadcaster no longer carries it.

Then a movie comes along, directed by and starring Canadians and made in Canada, that people actually want to see. And what do we all do? We declare it can't possibly be Canuck.

Here's how weird it gets. U.S. actor Viggo Mortensen is nominated for a Genie for his strong acting in Eastern Promises, which was filmed in London. Julie Christie, a Briton, is nominated for her deeply moving performance in Away From Her. Yet Michael Cera, who actually is Canadian, isn't nominated for his sweetly innocent turn as the baby dad in Juno.

Maybe Juno is too successful to be considered Canadian. It has taken in $100 million at the North American box office, and the soundtrack is currently No. 1 on the Billboard chart.

Part of this insanity has to do with the Byzantine Genie rules. Applicants this year had to meet arduous and expensive criteria to be considered for a nomination, including sending 35 DVD or VHS copies of their film to the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television prior to the deadline of Aug. 31, 2007. The Oscars, meanwhile, had a Dec. 3 deadline for Best Picture applicants – and there was no requirement that even a single print be filed along with the form.

The absurdly early Aug. 31 deadline is the reason why Toronto filmmaker Josh Raskin wasn't able to submit his Oscar-nominated short I Met the Walrus for Genies consideration.

"We just got lost in the sea of applications," he told me yesterday.

Raskin could win an Oscar on Feb. 24, but he'll have to sit out the Genies on March 3.

Rules are rules, man. And there's nothing we Canadians do better than obeying them, eh?

Boogie-Woogie Man

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Jennie Punter, Special to The Globe and Mail

(February 1, 2008) Independent film maverick John Sayles was a six-year-old kid living in Schenectady, N.Y., and listening to the local rock 'n' roll radio station when he first heard Elvis Presley's 1956 single Hound Dog - a song that eventually led him to discover the blues. Around the same time, 10-year-old
Danny Glover and his family moved to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, where he later encountered first-hand the neighbourhood's influential music scene.

These experiences, as well as regular trips to visit relatives in the rural South, are what both men bring to
Honeydripper, Sayles's 16th film, which opens today. It's vintage Sayles, filled with well-rounded characters, eloquent, shaggy-dog stories and socially relevant themes. And like most of his previous films, it is self-financed, thanks to Sayles's regular work screenwriting and script-doctoring for other directors. He financed his first film, Return of the Secaucus 7, with proceeds from work on flicks such as Piranha for exploitation legend Roger Corman. Made for $60,000 and ultimately grossing $2-million at the box office, Secaucus 7 is often credited with helping kick-start the 1980s American independent-film movement.

Set in 1950s small-town Alabama, the music-saturated Honeydripper (which had its world premiere at last summer's Toronto International Film Festival) stars Glover as Tyrone (Pine Top) Purvis, a piano-playing army vet who hatches a scheme to save his blues club but is himself saved by the birth of rock 'n' roll.

"I'm interested in how music comes together from a lot of different places, but also in those sea changes, when something new comes in and sweeps everything else away," Sayles said during a lengthy interview at TIFF. "I wondered what happened when the electric guitar came in, and that started me thinking about a character who might be resistant to that.

"And then in 1950s Alabama, what would it be like to be a black man who was his own man - how would he get away with that? It's not the club Tyrone is afraid of losing, because his wife makes more money mopping floors. It's the fear of losing the idea that he's his own boss, he's not asking to shine your shoes and he's somebody in the community."

The role of Tyrone feels tailor-made for seasoned character actor and political activist Glover. He started taking piano lessons in Halifax while filming Clement Virgo's Poor Boy's Game, so Tyrone's boogie-woogie moves look mighty convincing. "I'm no musician, but I had the good fortune of listening to all the great local musicians like Carlos Santana and Sly Stone and hitting all the raunchy West Oakland blues clubs when I was at university," the San Francisco resident said during a TIFF interview. "There was just an explosion of music and the city was small enough and secular enough that it was all in close proximity, so it all resonates with me."

Along with those musical experiences, city kid Glover spent summers in rural Georgia with his grandmother, a midwife, and grandfather, who grew cotton. "I'd come down to the South at age 16, you know, boy from the city gets a country girlfriend who takes him around for the summer - I thought I was in seventh heaven," Glover said with a laugh, continuing: "Honeydripper conveys the truth of that period, which allows you to immerse yourself in it. Pine Top was born as a cotton picker, and to get out of that experience he was always moving. He fought in the First World War. He ... [made] lot of money during the Second World War because his joint was the place where all the black soldiers came. In the period of the film, there is a physical and spiritual movement of people. So all these dynamics are layered in the film."

Blues and rock 'n' roll fans will appreciate that most of the musical performances in Honeydripper - with the exception of Glover's piano - are live. (The Honeydripper All-Star Band, made up of performers from the movie, has helped to drum up interest in the release.) Honeydripper also introduces young Austin blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. (who plays Sonny, the young electric guitar-slinger) to the silver screen. "There's just aren't that many African-American kids who play that kind of music any more," Sayles explained. "When we saw Gary play, he blew us away."

Clark also learned how to play guitar live while jumping up on cars, just like Guitar Slim used to do in New Orleans to draw in customers from neighbouring clubs. "The only thing we cheated was that Gary doesn't bring his amp outside with him," Sayles admitted.

For Sayles, the authentic feel Glover and many others appreciate in his films comes, in part, from necessity. Without the budgets to build full period sets, Sayles - who used to visit his maternal grandparents in rural Florida as a kid - went looking for locations to play the sleepy town. Hank Williams's hometown of Georgiana, Ala., won out; Sayles cast dozens of locals, including a gospel choir, and he asked senior citizens there to teach cast members how to hand-pick cotton, which now is harvested by machines.

And the town's look was just right. "[It] still had railroad track running down the main street," Sayles said. "So we just changed some awnings and façades - that's what you always look for in a low-budget movie."

Jessica Alba - The Eye Interview with Kam Williams: Alba’s Core

Source: Kam Williams

Though born in Pomona, California on April 28, 1981,
Jessica Maria Alba moved to Biloxi, Mississippi while still an infant when her father was transferred by the military. The peripatetic army brat came back to California with her family at the age of three, before relocating to Texas, and then finally settling in California at the age of nine.

Soon thereafter, Jessica exhibited a serious interest in acting, and landed her first screen role in a kiddie comedy called Camp Nowhere. She next made a string of support appearances on TV and in movies till landing the breakout role as the Dark Angel on the Fox-TV series of the same name. Since, she has starred in such films as Good Luck Chuck, Awake, Fantastic Four 1 & 2, Sin City, Honey, The Ten and Into the Blue.

Alba, an attractive blend of Latino, French and Danish, was named #1 on Maxim’s Hot 100 List of 2001, #1 on Ask Men’s 99 Most Desirable Women List of 2006, #6 on FHM’s Sexiest Girls of 2002, #3 on E TV’s 101 Sexiest Celebrity Bodies, of 2006, #4 on Empire Magazine’s 100 Sexiest Movie Stars of 2007, #12 on Stuff Magazine’s 102 Sexiest Women in the World List, Victoria Secret’s Sexiest Woman Celebrity in 2007, etcetera.

Jessica’s about to trade in that pinup image for mother and wife, because she’s expecting and engaged to actor Cash Warren, son of UCLA basketball great Mike Warren. Here, she talks about her life, her career, and her new movie, The Eye, a horror flick where she plays a blind violinist haunted by frightening visions after her sight is restored by a double corneal transplant operation.

KW: Hi Jessica, congratulations on the baby.

JA: Thank you.

KW: Have you picked out a name yet?

JA: I’m thinking of names.

KW: What are some of the ones you’re considering?

JA: I would never share that.

KW: How do you think life will change after the baby is born?

JA: I have to believe that when you have a child and you have someone that needs you and needs your time, you kind of can’t be self-interested anymore and you have to consider that any time you spend away from your child is invaluable.  And so I think I’ll just probably be a bit more choosy and not work for two years straight like I just did.

KW: You get a lot of attention because of your looks. Has that influenced how You pick parts?

JA: I never base anything on my appearance, to be honest with you. I don’t think that people would hire me just because of that. There’s so many much, much cuter girls in L.A. that would do just about anything to get roles. And if it was just about looks they would be getting them. So I have to believe that I bring more to the table than that. And whether it's likeability or an appeal or something more, I don’t know.

KW:  Do you think you’ll find yourself gravitating towards different types of roles now?

JA: I think, initially, I’m going to probably do more character-driven roles, more indies, ensemble casts, smaller budget. Not necessarily the big, box-office, tent- pole movies. And then, I’ve always had my eye out for an action movie since I finished Dark Angel. It’s been this long since I finished that and I still haven’t found that good, female-driven, action flick I’ve been looking for. So, if you have any suggestions, send them my way.

KW: Will do. What sort of research did you do for this role where you had to play a blind person?

JA: I went to a blind orientation center in LA and one in New Mexico. And I lived among people who were learning to deal with blindness, particularly in New Mexico. And I learned how to read Braille, how to label everything in the house, and to walk with my cane. I just sort of learned how to exist as someone with blindness.

KW: Which did you find more challenging? Playing the violin or playing blind?

JA: Violin was definitely more difficult, because I played a soloist, the best of the best. There are people who’ve been playing that instrument since they were three years-old and who practice eight hours a day who still don’t become soloists. They’re just in the orchestra. So, that was tough for me because I wanted to come off as realistic and as believable as possible in order for the audience to really take the journey with me in this movie.

KW: How is this version of The Eye different from the original?

JA: The Hong Kong version was more bitter than sweet in the end. And ours was definitely bittersweet, without giving anything away.

KW: Your previous picture was Awake, another thriller. How does that compare to The Eye?

JA: Wow, they don’t compare at all. The Eye is way more scary. It’s a horror movie, for sure. Awake is more a psychological thriller about someone who is dealing with a surgery and trust. And everyone in his life is sort of betraying him. The Eye’s about a girl who has a corneal transplant. She gains the ability to see, she takes on psychic abilities of the girl, of the donor, and starts to see death before it happens, and she doesn’t understand. She’s literally seeing for the first time, taking in the world, and also seeing horrible things. So yeah, The Eye’s definitely more scary.

KW: What’s up next for you?

JA: I am coming out in a comedy with
Mike Myers, The Love Guru, which is his first original character since Austin Powers. It’s absolutely hilarious! To me, this was like a dream come true, because he is the Peter Sellers of our generation, I feel. He’s a genius and he’s primed in every phrase in pop culture. That was huge because I love comedy and, if you’re going to work with anybody in comedy, Mike is definitely someone to learn from.

KW: What’s the movie about?

JA: I play the owner of a hockey team and he is a guru who fixes peoples, an all around guru. But it’s mostly about love and loving yourself and fixing your love life. My key hockey player’s love life is totally screwed up and our team is losing, and everyone thinks the team is cursed because of me. So, I hire Mike Myers to fix my guy’s love life and hopefully we can win the Stanley Cup. It’s a very funny broad comedy.

KW: Do you have anything to say about the untimely death of Heath Ledger?

JA: Oh my God, it was… it’s such a huge loss, and the most tragic, saddest thing ever… I can’t imagine a more… it was just horrible. And I just feel for his family and his friends and everyone that’s close to him. And I… I don’t know… I guess I’m just sensitive to the fact that he is in the public eye and the fact that people can all have an opinion about him when I feel like he should just rest in peace and people should grieve without having this extra attention on how he passed. It’s a huge loss for the acting community and really so, so shocking and so, so sad.

KW: Columbus Short gave me this question. Are you happy?

JA: [Sarcastically] You know what? I sound so bummed out right now. Of course, I’m happy.

KW: Where in L.A. do you live?

JA: In L.A.

KW: Will you tell me the general neighbourhood? Nosy Jimmy Bayan, realtor to the stars, wants to know.

JA: I live in L.A. in the hills. [Hollywood Hills]

KW: Is there a question you always want to be asked but no one ever asks you?

JA: Not really, reporters get pretty in there. They get right to just about everything.

KW: Well, best of luck with the baby and thanks for the time.

JA: No worries. Bye.

Females Of `A Certain Age' Finding Success With Strong Roles In Films

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Debra Kaufman, The Hollywood Reporter

(February 1, 2008) The dearth of leading roles for women – especially those of a "certain age" – is a cliché in Hollywood. But today's female actor is no Norma Desmond waiting for her close-up. She is likely busy creating a career that doesn't depend on Hollywood blockbusters.

From the flourishing independent film movement to interesting work overseas, female actors willing to look outside the studio system often find themselves in roles as meaty as those of their male colleagues.

"In terms of mainstream films, there aren't great roles for women," says Nicole Kidman, who in 2007 starred in the small relationship drama Margot at the Wedding for Paramount Vantage as well the big-budget The Golden Compass for New Line and The Invasion for Warner Bros.

"But I see the glass as half full, not half empty. That's my view on life."

As the studios become more focused on action-adventure franchises and youth-oriented fare, choices for women of any age are limited. But the pickings can be quite rich for the actor willing to branch out from studio pictures into independent features, European films, artistic projects, animation and even the stage.

Fox Searchlight films provided substantial roles to three actresses this year: Laura Linney in The Savages, Ellen Page in Juno and Keri Russell in Waitress. And upcoming is an adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's bestseller The Secret Life of Bees.

"That's obviously a book that older women have embraced and made into a huge, huge bestseller," says Searchlight COO Nancy Utley. "Older women want to see themselves on the screen. We hope in bringing it to the screen, we'll capture that market."

Lianne Halfon – whose company, Mr. Mudd, made Juno – notes that women behind the scenes can make a difference as well. As Juno was written by a woman (Diablo Cody) and focuses on a headstrong 16-year-old girl, Mandate Pictures specifically sought out a woman to produce the film. "They wanted a female producer," Halfon says. "Diablo's script had three pretty complex characters and a lot of people thought it would be difficult to bring to the screen."

Bob Berney, head of specialty division Picturehouse, notes that, until recently, the lack of women directors may have played a role in limiting movies about women, especially given "the macho world of production." "It's improving," he says. "Mira Nair is doing studio films; Susanne Bier did Things We Lost in the Fire. Women directors bring another point of view and stories that will also help actresses."

Sarah Polley wrote and directed Away From Her, based on a story by Alice Munro and starring Julie Christie, with Olympia Dukakis in a supporting role.

"It was a terrific project," Dukakis says. "That – and a couple of smaller movies that I'm doing – I really like the scripts, the roles, the people. There's not necessarily a lot of money or exposure, but if I'm focused on the work, I'm finding parts to play."

The good news, notes Dukakis, is that a good performance will often draw audiences regardless of the size of the film's budget. Picturehouse's Berney agrees.

"The audience wants to have more strong roles for women and a more diverse approach to stories," he says. "Ultimately, the audiences dictate the money, and both independents and studios have responded to that. But there's still a ways to go."

Countdown To Oscar: Ratatouille Overlooked For Best Picture Nomination

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(February 03, 2008) NEW YORK–Among the tales of depravity and violence that dominate this year's Academy Awards race sits the bright and shining Ratatouille. The Pixar film landed five Oscar nominations and was ranked by many critics as one of the year's best, yet was never a serious contender for best picture. Instead, it was relegated to the relatively new category of best animated feature, which the academy began handing out in 2002.

Directed by Brad Bird, Ratatouille has garnered an aggregate score of 96 on Metacritic.com, ranking it above Pulp Fiction, let alone this year's best picture candidates: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, Atonement and Michael Clayton.

And its other nominations – best original screenplay, score, sound mixing and sound editing – suggests the kind of broad consensus that often results in bigger awards like best director or best picture.

Its five nominations rank as the most ever for a computer animated film and rate second among all animated films, only surpassed by the six received by Disney's Beauty and the Beast. That picture, done in the traditional Disney style in 1991, stands as the only animated film to ever be nominated for best picture.

If not for the best animated feature category, it's safe to say Ratatouille would have been strongly considered for best picture. Brad Lewis, the film's producer, is quick to point out that he has no sour grapes with the academy – and that he's ecstatic about the five widespread nominations.

Still, he has to wonder.

"Ultimately, it makes it perhaps too convenient for people to look at an animated film from an isolated perspective," said Lewis. "Somebody can say, 'You know what? We have a place for that, so we don't necessarily have to give it broader consideration."

Tom O'Neil, a columnist specializing in awards coverage for the Los Angeles Times' "The Envelope" website, concurs. "It's folly to have a separate animated category because it hurts the chances of a movie like Ratatouille for being in the best picture race. But considering the academy history and the fact that only once did they have the guts to do it, at least the little rat is getting the chance to be a big cheese in one category."

BET'S 'Blackout' On DVD Tomorrow

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

(February 04, 2008) *On Thursday, August 14, 2003, the largest blackout in North American history, affected an estimated 40 million people in Canada and eight U.S. states, and outage-related financial losses were estimated at $6 billion. But that’s only part of the story.  

Critically acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright (“Boycott,” “Angels in America”) and BET Entertainment present “
BlacKout” on DVD.

The film recounts the events during the historic two-day blackout period in a Brooklyn neighbourhood, as it descends into violence and chaos – told from the perspectives of an interrelated group of residents.

Wright who is a producer on the film and also stars, became involved with the project after talking with “BlacKout” writer/director Jerry LeMothe.

“It was very clear to me and in talking to Jerry about the piece; it was a personal story to him. He described things to me that happened within my community that I had been ignorant of,” he said.

Like many, Wright had no idea of the violence and fear that permeated neighbourhoods, as folks waited for help that never came.

“During the blackout of 2003, I was in London. So the perspective that I had on what happened in New York City about the blackout was campy and about what was happening on the upper Westside. I had no idea that there were any disturbances that had taken place as Jerry was describing them to me.”

LaMothe’s storytelling prompted the actor to do some research on the event, but he still came up with little to no information or coverage, which intrigued him and attracted him pt the project.

“These things took place under the public perception, and they took place about a bike ride from my house,” Wright told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “So I was compelled to tell the story that shined light on an event that had existed in the darkness previously. For whatever reason, they weren’t reported in the news. I imagine there was probably a tactical attempt not to trigger any further events throughout the city, but there were also probably not a lot of reporters roaming around East Flatbush at that time, so the stories went unnoticed.”

Wright felt that this particular incident is only one of many black community stories that are ignored and overlooked.

“There are children, little brown-skinned boys and girls that disappear daily from neighbourhoods around America, but their faces don’t get plastered on the front page of the newspapers the way the little fair-skinned girl from the suburb’s face gets plastered,” he compared. “This is an undervaluation and an under appreciation of these experiences; that is one of the root causes of national ignorance about what goes on.”

Profound in his thinking, Wright is also known for his attraction to profound and powerful stories. His outstanding performances as in “Boycott” and “Angels in America” have made him a credible name and an actor to watch.

“I try to tell stories that have some resonance. I try to do stories that folks can relate to, but beyond that, there are communities like this one in all major cities throughout America. There are events that happen in those neighbourhoods that often go untold or are misunderstood by this society. We have a chance every once in a while by these underappreciated perspectives,” he continued. “So when I get these opportunities, I take a strong look at the piece.”

  “BlacKout,” which aired on BET last Friday, also stars Zoe Saldana, Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, Michael B. Jordan and legendary filmmaker/actor Melvin Van Peebles. It available on DVD starting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 5, and although the film did not have a theatrical release, Wright expects that it will have a good following, nonetheless.

“I think people generally are looking for authentic stories to be a part of,” he said. “So if you put it together, and people recognized the authenticity of the story then they will come to be a part of it.”

Click here for Kam Williams' review of "BlacKout."

McConaughey, Hudson A Potent Combo Onscreen And Off

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(February 05, 2008) LOS ANGELES — It was inevitable.
Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey were bound to get together again.

Onscreen, anyway. Their 2003 romantic comedy pairing How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days revived his drifting career and, with a box-office yield of nearly $106-million (U.S.), remains her highest-grossing movie to date.

It's taken a while for the two actors to find a reunion vehicle both deemed suitable, but they finally settled on the breezy caper
Fool's Gold, which opens Friday. In it they play a just-divorced couple - he's an impractical Caribbean treasure hunter, she's more sensible but equally intrigued by sunken Spanish booty - who have trouble keeping their hands off each other once the hunt goes into high gear.

Speaking both together and separately, the 38-year-old, free-spirited Texan and 28-year-old Hollywood princess (Hudson's mother is Goldie Hawn and her stepfather is Kurt Russell, in case you hadn't heard) tried to figure out just what it was that made them such a good team the first time and, hopefully, will again.

"It's nice when you have chemistry without having to do a tap dance," Hudson reckons. "It just kind of happened. The first meeting we ever had, before when we were going to shoot How to Lose a Guy, I think everybody in the room was, like, this is going to be fun and easy, because we just got along really well."

"And we surprise each other when we're filming," McConaughey adds. "One of the things that's cool with Kate and I is that if one of us does surprise the other, the other one doesn't pop up and yell 'Cut!' We kind of roll with it."

"Do people pop up and say 'Cut?' " Hudson wonders.

"Sometimes."

"Really? Weird."

"A lot of our accidents are the stuff you see on screen," McConaughey admits.

"That's true," Hudson agrees.

They also figure that it's important for men and women in romantic comedies to get on each other's nerves until they come together at the end. Both actors say that comes naturally enough, though whatever irritates them about one another is counterbalanced by affection and respect.

"Kate has three brothers," McConaughey notes. "She gets guys. That's cool; she's not dainty about certain things. And we can spar real well.

"Maybe she'll be worrying about something that I don't think is really important or relevant," he says by way of example. "Then it'll take up some time, and I'll be like, 'Kate, c'mon.' And she's in her spot, so she'll go, 'No. You just hold on.' And then I take a walk, come back and we'll work it out."

"We're extremely different people," Hudson observes. "But I appreciate so much of what Matthew is; he's definitely an original. Sometimes I don't understand half the things he says, but I love that about him and it's real and it's honest. Sometimes I can't stand it, but I still love him."

Other differences emerged during Fool's Gold's production along the northeast Australian coastline and Great Barrier Reef. Much of the movie took place in and under the water, which was infested with (fortunately) well-fed sharks and, less luckily, tiny Irukandji jellyfish. Their painful, sometimes deadly stingers forced the production to move far down the coast and, eventually, all the way to the Bahamas to avoid them.

And romp though it is, the movie triggered a little serious life-assessment. Admitted scaredy-cat Hudson learned to dive. For the role, of course, but also for her four-year-old son.

"After I had Ryder, I got terrified of everything," she confesses. "In the process of doing this movie, I got over a lot of my phobias, because you realize that you don't want your children to be fearful of things. I don't want Ryder growing up not wanting to go in the water because mom's afraid to go in the ocean, or that she's afraid to go in a helicopter. I want him to see me scuba diving and skiing, being active and not afraid."

On the other hand McConaughey - who enjoys an active beach lifestyle, extreme sports and hiking through some of the remotest places on Earth - was happy to do any stunt they'd let him. He claims to have no intention of changing his physically robust approach to life now that his girlfriend, model Camila Alves, is expecting their first child.

"Becoming a father hasn't given me second thoughts about that," he says. "Look, like in a sport, if you start playing not to get injured, that's when you get injured. I've had some scary situations working on films - and on this one, I had quite a few - but not to an extent where I regretted something I did. I'm not foolish with it at all."

Though there are no plans to marry, McConaughey sounds ready to embrace parenthood.

"I've looked forward to being a father since I was 10, just always thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to have a kid," he says. "And it's just getting more exciting every day and more realistic, too. It's just time, and I'm happy I met a woman I want to do that with. My instincts have already taken over. You can ask advice from a thousand people and you'll get a different opinion everywhere. But I've got the means to bring a kid into a life that's going to have food, shelter, the basics for sure. And he's gonna have a lot of love from his mom and dad. And if you've got that, you've got it licked!"

Hudson, whose divorce from Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson was finalized in the fall, sounds like she couldn't be more in tune with her co-starring buddy on that note.

"Really, my main focus is Ryder," she says. "Personally, I feel like I'm in a really nice place because I'm so happy being alone with our son, and Chris is too. I'm not really interested in a relationship right now; I'm interested in Ryder."

Don't sound like fools, either of 'em. Maybe that's the real source of their screen chemistry.

Special to The Globe and Mail

FILM TIDBITS

George Clooney Starts At U.N.

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(February 1, 2008) UNITED NATIONS–In his new role as U.N. messenger of peace, George Clooney was playing himself. The 46-year-old actor's arrival yesterday was greeted with "oohs" and "ahs" from dozens of people, mostly women, who crowded the lobby entrance for a glimpse and cellphone photo. "Hi guys!" he said, stopping briefly to pose for a picture with his parents. Clooney was touring U.N. headquarters for a ceremony marking his designation by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Michael Ealy Joins Will Smith Movie

Excerpt from
www.eurweb.com

(February 05, 2008) *
Michael Ealy will follow up his role in Spike Lee's World War II feature "Miracle at St. Anna" with a part in the upcoming Will Smith drama "Seven Pounds."  As previously reported, Smith stars as a suicidal, guilt-ridden IRS agent who attempts to make amends for his past. Things were going along fine until Smith's character falls in love with a woman who pulls him away from his agony.   Rosario Dawson has already been cast as the woman, while Ealy signed on to play Smith's younger brother.  Gabriele Muccino, who directed Smith in "The Pursuit of Happyness," is helming the feature for Columbia Pictures. Woody Harrelson is also among the cast. Ealy was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance on Showtime's "Sleeper Cell." Lee's "Miracle at St. Anna" is based on the true story of four black WWII soldiers who risk their lives to save an Italian boy while in enemy territory.

Zoe Saldana Talks Star Trek

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 1, 2008) *Blackfilm.com has a lengthy Q&A with
Zoe Saldana about her role as the iconic Uhura on the forthcoming Star Trek film.   The actress was asked about meeting with Nichelle Nichols, who starred as Uhura in the original "Star Trek" television series from 1966-69, as well as several of the "Star Trek" films.    "I was able to sit down with her and she told me the whole story of how Uhura came to be and where they were going with her character, but it all fell into place the moment she walked into the door and auditioned for the part," Saldana said. "She named the character herself and it was a special thing and she felt as an artist, she was going to make the part big."  As for wearing the Uhura costume for the first time, Saldana said: "It was very interesting. The moment everything came together from the hair, the costume, being on the set, and then you start to feel, 'Okay, this is real. This is amazing and fun.'"    Saldana currently stars in the BET film "Blackout," which arrives on DVD Feb. 5. To read her entire interview regarding Uhura, click here.  

Actor Barry Morse Dead At 89

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Star staff, wire services

(February 04, 2008) Barry Morse, the British-born actor who made Canada his second home, died Saturday at 89. Although he appeared in over 3,000 stage, film, TV and radio roles, he will probably best be remembered as Lieut. Philip Gerard in The Fugitive. Reputed to have performed in every Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw play, Morse was also Shaw Festival artistic director in 1966. The Greek tragedy Medea, starring Seana McKenna in the lead role she played in 2000 at the Stratford Festival, will be part of the Mirvish theatre season, the Star has learned. No Country for Old Men grabbed another pre-Oscar award, named Best Feature Film by the Producers Guild of America on Saturday. NASA will celebrate its 50th anniversary by broadcasting the Beatles song "Across the Universe" across the galaxy to the North Star today.

Local Director Richie Mehta Wins At Film Fest

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 05, 2008) A Canadian film has won one of the top prizes at the
Santa Barbara International film fest. Amal, from first-time director Richie Mehta of Mississauga, picked up the prize for the Best Independent Film at the festival. The movie tells the story of a rickshaw driver in New Delhi who meets up with an eccentric billionaire. "This is a great honour," Mehta said in a news release. "We made this film because I wanted to tell this story to audiences all over the world. To have achieved that, and now be recognized outside of Canada by a festival as highly respected as Santa Barbara, is thrilling." The film recently won the audience award at both the Whistler Film Festival and the Bahamas International Film Festival. It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was chosen by TIFF as one of Canada's Top 10 films of 2007.

Toronto Producer Signs On With William Morris

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(February 06, 2008) Toronto — Toronto's Shaftesbury Films has signed an exclusive representation deal with the Hollywood talent and literary agency William Morris. Acting on Shaftesbury's behalf, WMA struck a deal announced last week with NBC to air 13 episodes of the Canadian company's new one-hour drama, The Listener, about a young paramedic with the power to read minds. Shaftesbury chairman Christina Jennings said the deal with William Morris will help her firm expand into the U.S., where "American TV networks have lately become more open to working with production companies outside the United States."

::TV NEWS::

EUR TV Series Review: African American Lives 2

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(February 1, 2008) *A year ago, Harvard Professor
Henry Louis “Skip” Gates hosted a groundbreaking series on which he and eight other African-American icons explored their roots via a combination of genealogical and DNA research. The show was so successful, that PBS has brought Skip back along with eleven new recruits curious about their roots.

This go-round, the group of luminaries includes actors Don Cheadle and Morgan Freeman, poet Maya Angelou, Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, DJ Tom Joyner, singer Tina Turner. Ebony/Jet publisher Linda Johnson Rice, fellow Harvard Professor Reverend Peter Gomes, comedian Chris Rock and belatedly-black author Bliss Broyard. Plus, there’s Kathleen Henderson, the contest winner picked from among over 2,000 entrants to have her history researched for the program.

If you remember the original show, then you are already well familiar with the format. Broken down into four episodes, the first focuses on each person’s 20th Century relatives.

Episode Two traces Civil War era ancestors, while the third goes all the way back to the Colonial Period. DNA testing is introduced during the final episode, which is when the participants learn what per cent African, Asian, European and Native American they are. Some then venture to their respective homelands.

Highlights include Tom Joyner’s learning of the legal lynching of two of his grandmother’s brothers for the murder of a white man, the reading from a slave ship’s log about captives’ deaths from sickness and suicide, and Ms. Angelou’s heartfelt insights about her strong connection to the Motherland, even in absentia when she wistfully reflects, “I don’t think you can ever leave home.”

Ironically, the most compelling moments revolve around Ms. Broyard, daughter of the late New York Times literary critic, Anatole Broyard. For, her light-skinned father passed for white from the time he moved to New York City in 1938 at the age of 17 until his death in 1990. So, growing up, she never knew she was part African-American.

Here, she is clearly uncomfortable as she struggles to grasp the meaning of her new identity, while wondering whether her father ran from his out of self-hatred or self-preservation. There is nothing culturally black about Bliss, making her inclusion a bit strange, except that it reminds us that there are undoubtedly millions of others like her, the difference being they are either ashamed or unaware of their African ancestry.

The show’s only low moments come courtesy of host Gates who is given to drawing baffling and bizarre conclusions such as when he inappropriately sums up a situation with: “Being black in America has never been about one’s color or facial features. It’s more a state of mind.” What?

Or how about another occasion where he fliply suggests that the damage slavery has wreaked upon the black family can be easily undone, saying: “DNA can begin to reverse the Middle Passage. Ain’t that something?” Otherwise, African American Lives 2 is as moving, informative and fascinating four hours as you can hope to find anywhere on the TV dial.

Desperate Housewives last TV show for Longoria Parker

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Hiscock, Special To The Star

(February 1, 2008) West Hollywood–Eva Longoria Parker is quietly celebrating a personal anniversary.

"It's exactly 10 years ago that I moved to Hollywood from Texas and even then I knew I would succeed," the Desperate Housewives star and wife of NBA basketball star Tony Parker said matter-of-factly.

"It's been an amazing ride for me, to be totally unknown one minute and then known everywhere the next."

She's also celebrating the release of the romantic comedy Over Her Dead Body. Opening today, Longoria Parker plays Kate, a beautiful but demanding and controlling woman killed by a falling ice sculpture on her wedding day. She becomes a disgruntled and possessive ghost, determined to break up her ex-fiancé's budding romance.

Longoria Parker filmed her role on weekends and evenings, working around her Desperate Housewives shooting schedule.

"It was easy," she said of her hectic timetable. "I love to work and when you're doing two separate projects simultaneously, coupled with photo shoots and actually living your life, keeping it all sane becomes no problem when you love what you do. I know how fortunate I am."

But she says it will be her last TV project and, in the future, she will concentrate solely on movies.

"With Desperate Housewives I hit a hole in one, so why play golf again?" she asked.

Life wasn't always so wonderful for Longoria Parker. When the 32-year-old was growing up on the Texas ranch that has been the family home for nine generations, she swears she was the ugly duckling of the family, who nicknamed her prieta fea – ugly dark one.

"All my sisters were really light-skinned and they would tell me I was adopted or switched at the hospital," she giggled. "I look like no-one in the family. People would tell my mother, `Your daughters are so beautiful, but who's this?'"

She moved to Los Angeles and landed roles on several soap operas and then starred in L.A. Dragnet, a weekly TV series that flopped.

"Then I read the script for Desperate Housewives and I thought it was really racy and different and I knew it was going to be a hit. I feel really blessed to be a part of something that has changed television."

Her character Gabrielle Solis, the sexy housewife whose unhappy marriage led her into an affair with her 17-year-old gardener, struck a chord with viewers.

After an unsuccessful year-long marriage to actor Tyler Christopher in 2003, Longoria Parker has found happiness with her new husband, Belgian-born Tony Parker, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. They married in Paris six months ago.

Longoria Parker began her movie career two years ago with roles in the low-budget independent Harsh Times, and with Kiefer Sutherland and Michael Douglas in The Sentinel, which was filmed in Toronto.

She has another film, the comedy Lower Learning, awaiting release. And when the writers strike ends she will return to work on the fifth season of Desperate Housewives.

Nip/Tuck Returns To Canadian TV With Fifth Season

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, Television Columnist

(February 02, 2008) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.–They were, in cosmetic surgery circles, at the very top of their game. This year, the slicey dicey doctor duo of Sean McNamara and Christian Troy leave their thriving Miami practice behind to relocate in L.A.

Which is just what
Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy once swore that they would never do.

"I (originally) thought, to do Beverly Hills ... you think of plastic surgery, you think of Beverly Hills, and that would be a little bit too on the nose. I was more interested in doing something darker, and less `starlet of the week,'" he said during the Television Critics Association press. "But we did that, and I thought it would be interesting to perhaps tackle the very thing that I thought would be bad to tackle at the beginning."

The fifth season of the popularly prurient series, already underway in the United States on originating FX, literally kicks off in Canada on CTV in the coveted post-Super Bowl spot tomorrow, moving to its regular 10 p.m. timeslot the following Friday, Feb. 8.

The move from Miami to Tinseltown has been similarly significant.

"One of the things that we wanted to do by moving is to explore the theme of L.A., which is people who come to this city, as I did, come to sort of reinvent themselves and go after their dreams.

"(Troy and McNamara) ruled Miami as plastic surgeons, and I was very interested in the idea of what happens when you hit 40 and suddenly you go from being the big fish in a small pond to the opposite. It's really about them suddenly on Rodeo Drive and surrounded by dozens of other plastic surgeons who have been there forever. How do they make it? How do they become the top kingmakers again?"

The change of venue has given the show a whole new lease on life – without abandoning what made it so successful in the first place.

"We have completely new sets," beams Murphy. "The show has a completely new look. Everything, I think, is shinier and bigger. The thing that's amazing to me is that it all feels the same in terms of what we explore and how we explore it, and the social issues that we tackle. We still have the cases that we found the first couple of years, which were more sort of exotic and odd.

"The show is still as sexy as it's ever been. Maybe more so."

And, on that note, we must turn to its primary participant, Aussie actor Julian McMahon.

"I feel like my character has been in a mid-life crisis for the whole series," he grins.

"So the idea of a fresh start for this guy ... and that's what he's thinking, is to come out to Hollywood and have this fresh start.

"I mean, everything is pretty grand, these sets we're working on, a great place to start. Of course, he'll go back into his mid-life crisis, but it will be on these new fabulous sets."

And with a fabulous new set of people – as fabulous, even, as Troy fancies himself.

"When he gets to L.A., it feels like he's kind of running among a bunch of people who are better at doing what he's doing than he is. In L.A., everybody is just as charming, if not more so, better looking. Everything that he kind of holds onto, there's better here. And that's kind of his challenge.

"And the sex ..."

Well, you would have to go out there a fairly long way to top what has already gone on this show.

"We are more comfortable doing it," allows co-star Dylan Walsh. "I've moved on from sex dolls to actual flesh women, which I think is a good step. And we did get to have a threesome. A threesome with a hooker ...

"But I've done that before," sniffs McMahon.

TV TIDBITS

Tyra Banks Behind New CW Project

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 31, 2008) *
Tyra Banks is executive-producing yet another fashion-related competition series for the CW.   The network has ordered eight episodes of an untitled fashion-magazine reality series from Tyra and her business partner Ken Mok to go along with their other CW project, "America's Next Top Model."   "It is a competition show about aspiring assistants looking to become assistant editors at a fashion magazine," Mok told the Hollywood Reporter. "At the same time they're trying to prove themselves as aspiring fashionistas, that they have a sense of style and savvyness, all the things to make it in the fashion world."  Described as "The Devil Wears Prada" meets "The Assistant," each episode will feature contestants competing in two challenges, an individual competition and a team competition, in which each squad will submit a page for "The Book," a mock edition of the magazine.   The losing team's page will end up in the trash, and one of its team members will be eliminated. The page from the other team will be included in "The Book." The winner of the competition will land a job in the fashion industry.   The producers are currently in talks with a real fashion magazine to host the contestants, and its editors will serve on the show's judging panel.

CBC's Triple Sensation Auditioning For Season 2

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

(February 1, 2008) Triple Sensation is going for a double. Garth Drabinsky's reality TV search for performers who can sing, act and dance is announcing audition dates across Canada today. And even though no official word has come down from the CBC, which aired the first season in the fall, this seems a clear sign it's full speed ahead for a second season. Once again, the call is going out for young Canadians between the ages of 16 and 26 who are skilled in singing, dancing and acting. If they make it past the initial trials, they'll get to strut their stuff before the "marquee panel," which once again will consist of producer Drabinsky, composer Marvin Hamlisch, director Adrian Noble, choreographer Sergio Trujillo and actor Cynthia Dale. Contacted yesterday at her Stratford home, Dale said she was glad to be doing another season of the program.  "I'm happy because it was a show that had integrity and treated its contestants with respect ... and also because it was entertaining to watch and a blast to work on!" The winner will receive a $150,000 scholarship to any theatrical training institute in the world.  Last year's competition was aced by John-Michael Scapin, a high school student from Newmarket who was only 17 when he won. This year's auditions will begin in Calgary on Feb. 25 and reach Toronto starting on March 8, when registration will take place at the National Ballet School, 400 Jarvis St. Pre-registration for open call auditions begins today online at triplesensation.ca.

Montel Williams Calls It Quits

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(February 1, 2008) *
Montel Williams says 17 years is enough. The talk show host has announced that his syndicated "Montel Williams Show" will take its final bow at the end of this season. “I can’t say thank you enough to those who’ve welcomed me into their homes for the past seventeen years,” Williams says in a statement. “It has been both an honour and a joy.”  Williams says the show has taken him around the world, including visits to the Middle East, a post-Katrina New Orleans and Ground Zero in New York City. He says: “[I] talked with over 30,000 guests and over a half million studio audience members."  CBS Television Distribution, the syndicated show's producer and distributor, is offering the compilation series "Best of Montel" for fall, which includes 52 weeks of highlight episodes from the show.   "We have been honoured to have Montel as a part of our family for the past 17 years, and we're very excited that Montel will live on through these 'best of' episodes," said John Nogawski, president and COO of CBS TV Distribution.

Pleshette on Walk of Fame

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(February 01, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Suzanne Pleshette got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame yesterday less than two weeks after she died of respiratory failure. On what would have been her 71st birthday, Pleshette received the walk's 2,355th star. The husky-voiced television, film and theatre actor died Jan. 19. She underwent chemotherapy for lung cancer in 2006. Pleshette was best known for her role as Bob Newhart's wife on The Bob Newhart Show, a CBS comedy that ran from 1972-78.

Shell Kepler, 49

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(February 05, 2008) PORTLAND, Ore. — Actress Shell Kepler, who for years played the gossipy nurse Amy Vining on the TV soap opera General Hospital, has died. She was 49. Kepler died Friday at Oregon Health & Science University hospital, which did not give the cause of death. Her busybody character on General Hospital was a fan favourite and enjoyed a long run, 1979-2002. In addition to her time on General Hospital, she was also in a 1982 Joan Collins film, Homework, and a couple of episodes of the situation comedy Three's Company. On the side, she was a businesswoman, marketing clothing on the former Home Shopping Club. She said in a 1994 Associated Press interview that her “Lacy Afternoon” collection had sales topping $20 million that year alone. Kepler was born in Ohio and the family moved to California when she was 10. She recalled in 1994 that she did not yet have a driver's licence when she began trying out for film roles. “I managed to get my girlfriends to drive me to auditions because I wasn't old enough to drive. I was a rather ambitious kid,” she said. She moved to Portland after her TV career and became involved in charity fundraising.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Acting Trio Light Up Zandile

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Robert Crew, Toronto Star

Have You Seen Zandile?
http://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)
By Gcina Mhlophe. Directed by Bunmi Oyinsan. Until Feb. 9 at various venues. www.africantheatre.org

(February 1, 2008)
Zandile is a gawky young Zulu girl growing up under the loving care of her grandmother.

Gogo, as Zandile calls her, is an indulgent, nurturing figure and a wonderful storyteller who has succeeded in setting alight the eight-year-old girl's imagination. Zandile has an imaginary friend (who wants to grow up to be "a white lady") and plays at teaching and conducting her school choir (represented, delightfully, by a row of sunflowers).

The golden glow of such a childhood – filled with pretty dresses and shiny new shoes – is abruptly shattered, however. Zandile's mother re-enters her life, driving up driving up in a white car and snatching her daughter away. Zandile's life changes radically, but her love for her grandmother never fades.

There's a wonderful warmth and immediacy to the writing; South African Gcina Mhlophe has apparently drawn on her own experience to craft this popular play, which made its Canadian debut last night at the Workman Theatre.

And the African Theatre Ensemble production has some considerable strengths (as well as some weaknesses). Chief among the former are two luminous performances – by Toronto's
d'bi young anitafrika as Zandile and by Nigerian movie star Joke Silva as the grandmother (and in various other roles, including the mother).

The oh-so talented d'bi young is simply magnificent as she moves from exuberant eight-year-old, through the worries and insecurities of puberty and matures into a delightful 18-year-old determined to find her Gogo.

Silva is an equally charismatic presence in a grounded performance that is remarkable for its love and detail. And there's good work too from the third member of the cast – Olivia Duodu, who plays Zandile's giggly friend Lindiwe.

The performances triumph despite rather than because of Bunmi Oyinsan's direction which seems determined to slow the play down to an absolute crawl. A crude, unimaginative set, long blackouts and overuse of drumming don't help.

The play will be performed at the Workman Theatre until Feb. 2, at the Burton Auditorium at York University Feb. 4 to 8 and at Equity Showcase Theatre, 651 Dufferin St. from Feb. 7 to 9.

Catch it for three memorable examples of the actor's craft.
 

CanStage Rattled By Shakeup

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

(February 02, 2008) The Canadian Stage Company, which has a stated aim to create and produce the best in Canadian theatre, will not produce any Canadian work on its mainstage next season, industry sources say.

The country’s largest regional theatre laid off up to a dozen people yesterday as part of a major restructuring effort in the face of ongoing financial and artistic problems.

The news is likely to raise a few eyebrows from the federal, provincial and civic funding bodies that give CanStage roughly 18 per cent of its operating budget — significantly more than the 8 per cent for Soulpepper and 4 per cent for Stratford.

The resignation of artistic director David Storch on Wednesday, it seems now, was just the tip of the iceberg and a sign that a lot more rough water is ahead.

According to reliable industry sources the beleaguered company won’t be producing any shows of its own in its Berkeley St. venue next season, and will instead depend on three of the city’s major alternative theatres — Nightwood, Studio 180 and Necessary Angel — to provide productions for Canadian Stage.

Artistic producer Martin Bragg would only respond with a “no comment” when asked about that development, but representatives for both Studio 180 and Nightwood Theatre confirmed that they are “in negotiations” with Canadian Stage for next season.

Both Bragg and his general manager, David Abel, refused to discuss details of the downsizing, citing confidentiality agreements with the employees in question.

A number of senior artistic and administrative staff, including long-time employees, dramaturge Iris Turcott, and director of audience development and education, Patty Jarvis, will no longer be working for the company, industry sources confirmed.

Although Bragg insists that new play development — Turcott’s normal area of responsibility — will still be a source of focus for the organization, their immediate future doesn’t seem to indicate that.

“No comment” was Bragg’s answer again when asked if there would be any Canadian works in the 2008-2009 mainstage season. The Star has learned that in all likelihood, there won’t be.

The company’s preliminary playbill, as of now, will apparently consist of Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan’s London and New York hit; It’s a Wonderful Life,a stage adaptation of the Frank Capra movie; Freedom Summer; a new version of Miss Julie set in 1964 Mississippi by American author Stephen Sachs; along with the third Canadian Stage appearance of Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine and the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner, Doubt.

If it comes to pass, such a largely commercial and totally non-Canadian season might raise a few eyebrows from the federal, provincial and civic funding bodies, which give Canadian Stage roughly 18 per cent of its annual operating budget (as opposed to 8 per cent for Soulpepper and less than 4 per cent for Stratford.)

Asked about his decision to make sweeping changes in the middle of the company’s season, Abel defended the move, saying “I’m responding to the future of the company, not the present.”

Still, insiders say revenue projections for the year are down — especially in the areas of subscription and single ticket sales for Little Shop of Horrors. As well, they say, Bragg and Abel needed to do something to prevent a repeat of the 2005-2006 season, which ended with a deficit of nearly $700,000.

While Bragg and Abel refused to comment on any of the latest developments, both insisted their primary interest “was promoting the well-being of the Canadian Stage Company.”

They propose to announce future plans and explain past actions to the public in several weeks.

Second City To Unveil New Show Tazed And Confused

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

(February 03, 2008) Here's a secret about Toronto's Second City company:

The reason their shows are so funny is because they take them so seriously.

It's a week before the opening of their latest entry in the comedy sweepstakes (titled Tazed and Confused) and the atmosphere in their Mercer St. theatre isn't that of a troupe of madcap comics yukking it up, but a team of Olympic athletes who are getting themselves ready for their ultimate test.

Spirits are high, because previews have been going well, but you quickly determine this is a group who must have all been dubbed "overachievers" since their kindergarten days, even though they've learned how to add "works well with others" to their skill set.

On stage, for example, Marty Adams is a hilariously larger-than-life presence, sort of like Seinfeld's Newman on acid. When he appears dressed as a dungeon master in one sequence, his entrance alone is enough to bring down the house in laughter.

But sit down opposite him and he gives you a glimpse of his Dark Side.

"I go home at night and I can't sleep," he confesses. "My heart's pounding and all I do is think of the show. Could I be funnier here? Was I truthful enough there?

"You never know what we're going to add or change at the 24th hour. It's an insane process. People try to prepare you for it, but they can't."

That certainly is proving true for Ashley Botting, who's originating her first main stage role in this revue. A striking brunette with a face that can morph from comedy to tragedy in an instant, she admits it's a daunting experience.

"In my dream brain, it's as exciting as I hoped it would be," she begins, "but the pressure is enormous. You phone your mother just to s--- on her, because you need someone you can s--- on who can take it, but then a half-hour later you call back to apologize."

Even director Doug Morency, one of the most experienced of all Toronto Second City veterans, confesses that although "I feel really good about the show, I never stop thinking about it and working on it. I wake up in the middle of the night with those, you know, those fever dreams, where the same scene keeps playing over and over in your brain."

And Karen Parker, whose experience has mostly been in more conventional theatre, calls this "the most unusual way of doing a show."

A true chameleon, who's never more charming than when she's playing a gawky pig-tailed adolescent, Parker sums up the strange duality of creating a Second City production.

"At some points, when a scene suddenly comes alive from nothing, you say to yourself, 'It's so fast! I can't believe we're doing this so fast!' but then, on the other hand, it's a two-month process in the middle of winter and it can be pretty depressing waiting for the response."

She means the audience. That's the secret ingredient that will determine whether or not Tazed and Confused is the third success in a row for a company coming off the two hits – Bird Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Facebook of Revelations – which were critical and financial successes after an uneven period at Second City.

"You can't worry about that stuff," insists Jim Annan, who's been a major feature of all three shows. "Each one is its own beast, because each cast is different and each chemistry is different."

The boyish Annan is delighted he hasn't been typecast in the various shows and feels he's "free to do anything," including a genre romance-novel sequence in this show "where I play a Fabio character," he says, with a raised eyebrow indicating he sees the humour in that.

He feels the audience is a very big part of the whole Second City scenario.

"It's such a difficult process. It's trial and error. Mostly error. You try things out in front of the audience. You need them. And if something goes wrong, you can't ever get mad at them."

So it seems as though attitudes have changed from the old days when comedians talked about "killing" or "slaying" the customers and felt that they had "died" if they didn't score a hit.

"Absolutely," concurs Annan. "It's so Canadian backstage.

"When a scene or a show lands we say things like, `We hit it pretty well, eh?' And if I don't succeed, I hate myself, not them."

Darryl Hinds has another way of putting it.

"With this show," grins the sardonic Hinds, "when a sketch goes down big, I say, 'We tazed 'em!'"

But how about when things aren't going so well?

"Some nights you're giving your all and getting nothing back," admits Hinds, "but they're rare. For the most part, when we have bad show, I blame myself. 'I screwed the pooch' is how I put it."

As the only non-white member of the company, Hinds also has other considerations to keep in mind.

"I'm happy to represent my race when needed," he concedes, "but I don't want to push it. I'm a character and an actor first."

But having said that, he admits one of his favourite scenes in the current show has him playing Tonto opposite Annan's Lone Ranger.

"I keep trying to bridge the gap and become more than just his sidekick, but it falls short, because neither of us can see past the roles we've been trapped in for years."

That may sound a bit serious for a comedy sketch, but that's all part of the Second City gestalt.

Ask veteran Leslie Seiler what she thinks Tazed and Confused is ultimately about and she delivers an answer echoed by most of her fellow cast members.

"I think it's about the lack of connection in society," says the sophisticated blond with the martini-dry delivery. "Most of our scenes are actually about people trying to connect with one another, despite the distractions of technology, or the incredibly busy city that we live in."

To capture this feel, director Morency and his cast have given this show a different pace from the last two, which tended to favour longer and more expansive sketches.

"This one is very fast and stylized," says Seiler. "We don't sit very long in anything. It has a sort of confused quality, but in a good way."

But in the end, it's all about the experience, which rookie Botting describes with the breathless thrill of the newcomer.

"You have an idea and you think it's good, so you bring it onto the stage and the director says, `Hey, that's going to be funny.' And you think `Wow! Thousands of people are going to laugh at something I just did in four minutes.'"

In other words, she tazed 'em.

Tazed and Confused opens Thursday, Feb. 8 for an indefinite run at The Second City, 51 Mercer St. For tickets and information call 416-343-0011 or secondcity.com.

Mirvish Nabs Erotic Musical

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(February 03, 2008) David Mirvish has snared Spring Awakening, the most sensationally erotic musical on Broadway, for his 40,000 subscribers, the Star has learned.

This exuberantly shocking next-generation show – which won eight Tony awards last year, including best musical – begins its North American tour next September at San Francisco's Curran Theatre. It won't reach Toronto's Canon Theatre until 2009.

But the Canon will be packed with Mirvish shows all season. Despite the fact the theatre was recently sold, and will now be managed by rival Aubrey Dan, Mirvish has a 15-year lease, expiring in 2015. And he will be using the theatre for more weeks this season than ever.

Seven Mirvish shows are set to occupy the Canon, including two non-subscription offerings and five of the six shows in the subscription series.

Among the subscription shows is A Chorus Line, a revival of the phenomenally successful 1975 show about the hopes and dreams of would-be Broadway hoofers. The original – conceived, choreographed and directed by the late Michael Bennett – was one of the longest-running shows of all time. The revival opened in New York in October, 2006, and is now hitting the road.

Making a welcome return to this city is Spamalot, the Monty Python musical that enjoyed an extended summer run at the Canon in 2006. Last time around, it was on subscription. This time it won't be.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will be the second non-subscription show of the season. It's a pre-Christmas holiday season family show with music and lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman (of Mary Poppins fame). In this show, however, the songs are secondary to the props, especially a car that flies.

At a time when the musical theatre is dominated by revivals and retreads, Spring Awakening (which started small before transferring to Broadway) provides shock therapy and reaches out to new audiences.

Based on Frank Wedekind's 1891 masterly play about erotic stirrings among a dozen adolescents in a provincial town in Germany, the musical zaps the narrative with a rock score (music by Duncan Sheik, words by Steven Sater) and a lot of dirty dancing.

What will the traditionally conservative Mirvish audience make of the material, which features homosexuality, masturbation, abortion, suicide and drugs? It may not be easy to swallow for those seeking a spoonful of sugar.

But Mirvish has plenty for them. As previously announced, a revival of the final Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, The Sound of Music, co-produced by Mirvish and Andrew Lloyd Webber, will open at the Princess of Wales Theatre in September for an open-ended run likely to last two years.

Meanwhile, the other Mirvish-owned theatre, the Royal Alex, will be tied up with the insanely popular Dirty Dancing for a long time.

As reported by the Star's Richard Ouzounian, Mirvish will partner again with Lloyd Webber, with a new version of his soccer musical, The Beautiful Game. Featuring music by Lloyd Webber and words by Ben Elton (who also directs it) the show, now called The Boys in the Photograph, will arrive at the Canon near the end of the 08/09 season after an initial run in Winnipeg.

Details of the 2008-2009 Mirvish season will be officially announced at a media conference tomorrow.

Mirvish Adds The Color Purple To Line-up

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Theatre Critic

(February 05, 2008) The arrival in Toronto of
The Color Purple was the big surprise of yesterday's announcement of the Mirvish 2008-2009 subscription season.

The other seven shows had previously been revealed in these pages, but not the hit musical based on Alice Walker's iconic novel, which has been a hit in New York as well as Chicago and will be coming to the Canon Theatre in February 2009.

Director Gary Griffin, although not at the launch, told the Star yesterday that while people readily embrace the big-hearted tale of the life-embracing Celie, an impoverish black girl in the southern U.S., "the secret weapon of The Color Purple is that it's also a very funny and sexy story."

This Mirvish season is definitely a bountiful one, with six regular shows and two extra entries, all but one of them large-scale musicals.

Before the subscription entries officially start, there's going to be a return engagement in September of the wacky musical Spamalot, based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Spamalot first played Toronto in 2006.

Reached at his home in California, Monty Python veteran Eric Idle, the show's creator, quipped "I am very happy Spamalot is returning to Toronto, but I have forgotten why."

The actual season begins in October at the Princess of Wales Theatre with the Andrew Lloyd Webber production of The Sound of Music, still enjoying a popular run in London. The added feature is that here – just as in England – the leading role will be cast by the public from a TV series called How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, airing in June and July on CBC.

Next up in November is A Chorus Line, the Canadian premiere of the Broadway revival now in its 17th month. Michael Bennett's empathetic retelling of what happens to dancers while auditioning for a Broadway show is one of the longest running musicals in history.

Composer Marvin Hamlisch, contacted in New York, explained the show's ongoing popularity by saying "audiences today see a part of themselves on the stage just as much as audiences 20 years ago identified with the dreams of the characters in the show."

In December, there will be a limited non-subscription run of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the musical based on Ian Fleming's beloved children's story.

Drama gets its solitary turn at bat this season with a January production of Euripides' Medea, starring Seana McKenna and directed by Miles Potter, the same team that made a hit out of the play at Stratford in 2000.

After The Color Purple in February, get ready for the roof to blow off the Canon Theatre as the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening comes to Toronto, with a dynamic young cast and the unforgettable music of Duncan Sheik.

Director Michael Mayer isn't worried about the move to Toronto. "Once we left a tiny church in Chelsea and became a hit on Broadway," he said yesterday, "I knew anything was possible."

The year's final show, opening in June, will be Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ben Elton's The Boys in the Photograph, a rewrite of their 2000 London hit The Beautiful Game.

Subscriptions are available by phoning 416-593-4225 or by going to mirvish.com

THEATRE TIDBITS

Mirvish Gives A Sneak Peek At New Season

Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(February 1, 2008) The
Mirvish organization will unveil its 2008-09 Toronto season early next week, but two of its shows are now known. One, of course, is The Sound of Music, which is scheduled to open at the Princess of Wales Theatre in October - after the CBC-TV reality series How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? finds a Canadian Maria to play the lead. Andrew Lloyd Webber, a producer of that show, is also involved in the second - as composer. It's a rewritten remount of his 2000 hit London musical The Beautiful Game. Rechristened The Boys in the Photograph, this collaboration with Ben Elton (We Will Rock You) will open at Winnipeg's Manitoba Theatre Centre in May, 2009, and then move to Toronto's Canon Theatre in June. Elton will direct an all-Canadian cast. The original musical, set in 1969, was a very dark exploration of religious and political strife in Northern Ireland, affecting Catholic and Protestant members of a boys' soccer team. In London's West End, The Beautiful Game ran for 11 months and won the best-musical citation from the Critics' Circle Awards. The Mirvish organization had originally planned to bring the show to Toronto in 2002, but after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, musicals about terrorism did not seem like a formula for box-office success. The current peace in Northern Ireland means that Lloyd Webber and Elton will rewrite the ending to make it sunnier. The show will be largely the same in content, but significantly different in spirit.

::TECHNOLOGY/GAMERS NEWS::

New Book Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008 Will Please Gamers

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(February 02, 2008) Anyone know who was the first female video game star? Nope, not Lara Croft from Tomb Raider or Samus Aran from Metroid. The answer? Ms. Pac-Man from Namco's 1982 coin-operated game of the same name.

This bit of trivia, and hundreds of other video game-related facts and figures, can be found in the inaugural
Gamer's Edition of the 2008 Guinness World Records.

Due out March 11 for $19.99, this book has entries ranging from 1978's Space Invaders (Canada's Eric Furrer holds the record for the longest game ever played: 38 hours and 30 minutes, minus bathroom breaks) to 2007's Halo 3 (the highest grossing game in one day, generating US$170 million in the U.S. alone, on Sept. 25).

Guinness World Records: Gamer's Edition 2008 also features profiles of the world's most beloved games and interviews with champion gamers. Still, you might be sure you've beaten the world record for fastest completion time for a game of Super Mario Bros. (five minutes flat). Gamers who believe their performance is for the record books are encouraged to visit the official Gamer's Edition website (gamers. guinnessworldrecords.com) to learn how to submit scores.

A few other interesting gaming trivia tidbits:

Faiz Chopdat served the longest prison sentence for playing a computer game after refusing to turn off his Tetris game while aboard an airplane.

Biggest funeral for a fictional object? To mark the launch of Guitar Hero II, a funeral for air guitar was held in London, England, on Nov. 23, 2006, where 80, er, mourners gathered.

The first arcade game to feature a stereo sound chip and soundtrack was Atari's Marble Madness.

GTA4 GETS A LAUNCH DATE:

Video gamers, listen up: Grab a Sharpie, break out your calendar and circle the date April 29.

That's the launch date for Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto IV, the latest instalment in the mega-popular game series.

As with its controversial predecessors, this eagerly anticipated sequel – for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – will let gamers work their way up the criminal underworld by taking on seedy missions in a bustling city, carjacking vehicles and engaging in shootouts with rival gangs and cops. This time around, you'll play as Niko Bellic, a Russian immigrant who was lured to America by his scheming cousin but soon discovers the streets are not paved with gold as promised.

Along with hi-res graphics, players can expect a huge New York City-esque metropolis, online multiplayer support and bonus content for the Xbox 360 version.

LiveHive Games Keep TV Fans Guessing At Events Like Super Bowl

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter

(February 03, 2008) If you are a laptop-addicted armchair quarterback – or puck handler, figure skating fan or even a reality TV nut – LiveHive Systems wants you. Today.

The Waterloo-based software company has added an interactive element to television events and is hitching its product to just about any sporting event it can – and today's Super Bowl is no exception.

The company serves the demographic dubbed "two-screeners" – people who have their computer on while they watch TV. While that used to be rare, it's become much more common for gridiron fanatics to track their own virtual teams and the real ones simultaneously.

According to Robert Riopelle, LiveHive's vice-president of business development, the inspiration for the company came when the four founders were sitting in a bar watching a game and playing what-if scenarios.

"We were talking about what was happening – like someone's kicking a field goal, is he going to make it or not? Is it going to be a first down, what the end score going to be . . .? So there are all these questions that happen during a game, and we started thinking, 'Wouldn't it be cool to do this from home? And still do it together and have that same experience, because obviously there's value to it.'"

Calling its product "nanogaming," LiveHive's interactive game asks players questions relevant to the live game, whether that's trivia or predicting the flow of play, like the pub game QB1 – but more open-ended. LiveHive powers the Playcaller game on ESPN.com and recent announcements included deals with the Maple Leafs (www.mapleleafs.com/gamemaster) and NBC for their figure-skating telecasts. Riopelle says the company builds on the passion people have for their content.

"It's all about community. We're connecting people all across North America, so we're creating one big virtual playroom for fans. And they all want to prove to other people how much they know," he says.

Riopelle says the company usually has a live operator inputting the information about a game – where the ball is, or in the case of, say, figure-skating, how many triple Lutzes a skater is going to attempt – but all the intelligence is in the back end of the system. The computer can define probabilities to how likely an outcome is and assign point values accordingly.

"We've had a lot of experience figuring out how to structure these games. How much is too much? When should you ask a question? You don't want to do it in the middle of an exciting play."

As long as there is a televised event for which the outcome isn't known, the company can create product for it. Reality TV is a natural fit – the company worked with Big Brother last year and hints some announcement regarding awards shows will be made soon. Further in the future, two-screening may soon be unnecessary, and Riopelle's ready to adapt to that.

"With technology advancements like streaming on the Web, we're actually starting to see more requests for projects where you embed the video stream into our products so you see it all on your computer. I think that is the future of it."

::OTHER NEWS::

Poet Saul Williams To Launch Spring Tour

Excerpt from www.eurweb.com

(January 31, 2008) *Poet
Saul Williams has set aside dates in March and April to promote his latest album "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust," a project based on lyrics adapted from poems in Williams' 2006 book "The Dead Emcee Scrolls: The Lost Teachings of Hip-Hop."   "NiggyTardust," a collaboration with Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, was released online for free (or for a $5 contribution) in November. According to Reznor, the album had been downloaded 154,449 times as of Jan. 2, with 28,322 choosing to pay $5 for it.  "The NiggyTardust concept sets me free to do more on stage with costume, etc. than one might expect from a regular Saul Williams show," the poet said in a statement.

"It allows me to put my theatre training to use.   "I've also thought long and hard about all the discussion surrounding racial epithets etc. and chose this title as a means of furthering the dialogue while also showing how creativity will outlive and outshine hatred of any kind."   Williams' tour will kick off March 12 at Austin, TX's SXSW music conference. The emcee will play a pair of shows during the influential festival before heading to the West Coast for a 30-city run in March and April. The dates are listed below.


March 2008
12, 13 - Austin, TX - SXSW
17 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Plaza Club
18 - Portland, OR - Aladdin Theater
19 - Seattle, WA - Neumo's
21 - San Francisco, CA - Slim's
22 - Santa Barbara, CA - Club Mercy
24 - San Diego, CA - Casbah
25 - West Hollywood, CA - Troubadour
26 - Tempe, AZ - Clubhouse
27 - Phoenix, AZ - Chandler Gilbert Community College (spoken word performance)
28 - Phoenix, AZ - Estrella Mountain Community College (spoken word performance)
29 - Albuquerque, NM - Launchpad
31 - Dallas, TX - The Loft

April 2008
1 - Houston, TX - Warehouse Live
3 - New Orleans, LA - The Parish
4 - Atlanta, GA - The Loft
6 - Annapolis, MD - Ram's Head Tavern
7 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
8 - Boston, MA – Paradise
9 - New York, NY - The Fillmore at Irving Plaza
11 - Philadelphia, PA - Trocadero
12 - Northampton, MA - Iron Horse
13 - Montreal, Quebec - La Tulipe
14 - Toronto, Ontario - Mod Club
16 - Ann Arbor, MI - Blind Pig
17 - Cleveland, OH - Grog Shop
18 - Chicago, IL - Martyrs
19 - Minneapolis, MN - Varsity Theatre
21 - Boulder, CO - Fox Theatre
22 - Aspen, CO - Belly Up
23 - Salt Lake City, UT - Kilby Court
 

Choreographer Paul Becker A Rising Star

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

(February 02, 2008) If you find yourself in the middle of the screaming crowds packing movie theatres this weekend to see the concert film Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, consider this while openers The Jonas Brothers are going through some of their awesome moves: A 28-year-old Canadian is behind their fancy footwork.

Paul Becker is arguably one of the hottest young rising choreographers on the TV/movie scene. Besides his work with The Jonas Brothers, his recent gigs include the 2007 American Music Awards and three episodes of Aliens in America, as well as the upcoming films College Road Trip (with Martin Lawrence) and The Goods: The Don Ready Story (with Jeremy Piven).

The Walt Disney organization practically looks on him as an adopted son these days, and the list of projects he's got in development for Mouse Central would be long enough to keep most guys his age content.

But not Becker. He's talking on his cellphone from a theatre in Orlando, Fla., where he's directing a stage production of the ultimate Disney cash cow, High School Musical, radiating a fascinating mixture of boyish charm and alpha male ambition.

"I want to have my choreography lead into direction, develop my own films, stage a Broadway show ... you name it, I've got to do it!"

No wonder his acknowledged idol is Gene Kelly, the MGM movies musical man who enjoyed equally successful careers as an actor, dancer, director and choreographer.

In fact, Becker has been photographed for a European magazine layout in some of Kelly's classic poses, and his mentor, High School Musical's original director, Kenny Ortega, is developing a biopic on Kelly's life for Becker to star in.

Not bad for a kid from Victoria, B.C., who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into his first tastes of show business.

"It's true," says Becker. "I have to admit I was always interested in the whole thing, but I was afraid to try it."

Becker is the middle of five brothers. One of them has become a successful casting director, but the others have gone into careers in construction or the food industry. So it's easy to imagine Becker's memories of how "they used to make fun of me if they ever caught me dancing."

At one point, when he was about 11, "my Mom tried to take me to a gymnastics class and I only made it to the door before I ran away."

But a year later, "two girls I knew literally pulled me into a hip-hop class and that was something different. I took to it right away. I used to drag a giant piece of cardboard into the schoolyard and break dance on it."

Once Becker clicked into dance, that was it. "It became an addiction for me. I would skip school to take dance classes. My marks went down, down, down while my dancing went up, up, up."

Even as a teenager, Becker realized, "I had a knack of taking charge of things. I never realized it would pay off one day with me being a choreographer or director. I loved performing too much and I always had a dream of being a film actor."

He graduated from high school and headed to Las Vegas, which was a pretty big leap for a kid from Victoria.

"It was awesome," he recalls. "My first gig was an industrial show with Wayne Newton and there was only one chorus dressing room, so there I was with a bunch of topless girls who kept asking me how my day was going.

"I blushed a lot at first, but I quickly adapted."

But a year of Sin City was enough for Becker and he moved to Vancouver where he got dancing gigs on films like Josie and the Pussycats.

His choreographing career started as well – but by accident. He had been hired to partner Kate Beckinsale in a dancing commercial for Lux soap, but when the two of them showed up to rehearse, he recalls, "There was just me and Kate and a ghetto blaster – nobody else."

The take-charge side of Becker went into overdrive.

"I quickly said, `I'll be the choreographer,' and I staged the number. Everybody liked it and that's how it started."

Becker has other dancing credits, including memorable turns in the films of Chicago and The Music Man, both shot in Toronto. It was on Chicago, in fact, that he met his wife, Vicky Lambert, who was also dancing in the film.

They now in live in Brooklyn with their 4-year-old daughter, "who says I have the best job in the world. She thinks all I do is work with the Muppets, Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers."

It was while choreographing The Muppets' Wizard of Oz that he first came to the attention of Disney. That and his growing friendship with Ortega led to his association with The Jonas Brothers.

"I think the Brothers are great," he enthuses.

"They're the next big thing. They're great musicians and awesome performers.

"I brought back all the classic rock 'n' roll moves for them, like the deep lunges with the microphones, because these guys can really make you believe them."

His dance card is full for the next year, but ask Becker where he's ultimately heading and he pauses only a second before answering.

"That's easy," he chuckles. "I want to have it all."

Red Chamber A Dancers' Showcase

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Dance Writer

(February 06, 2008) Toronto has been treated to some
pretty ghastly dance productions purported to represent Chinese culture.

After Dennis Law's extravagantly kitschy shows, such as Tang Concubines, and the recent Chinese New Year Spectacular, a Falun Gong political vehicle packaged as "the true essence" of Chinese arts, the Shanghai production
Dream of the Red Chamber comes as a revelation.

Performed for one night only to a largely invited audience at the Toronto Centre for the Arts, the dance drama is lavish without being excessive, a showcase for some very fine dancers and an absorbing drama conveyed entirely in movement.

The novel Dream of the Red Chamber is one of the four most revered works of classic Chinese literature. Written in the 18th century by Tsao Hsueh-Chin, the book is a feudal family saga. More than 400 characters – the founding noblemen and their wives and concubines, the sons and daughters, aunts, uncles, servants and hangers-on – people the novel, which spans five generations of the house of Chia.

At the heart of the book is a Romeo and Juliet story about Baoyu, a boy born with a rare piece of jade in his mouth. He is a charming and playful character, uninterested in taking on the responsibilities of a nobleman, and the favourite of his grandmother, the Matriarch.

One day his cousin Daiyu, an orphan, comes to visit. It is love at first sight. Daiyu is sad and ill, but beguiling. Another cousin, Baochai, is full of life and is chosen by the family to be Baoyu's bride. Daiyu hears of the betrothal and dies heartbroken. Baoyu believes he is marrying Daiyu, but when the red veil is lifted from the bride's head to reveal Baochai, he storms out. In another world he and Daiyu are reunited for eternity.

Director and choreographer Zhao Ming found a way to tell a complex story in the language of dance. The movement is a seamless fusion of ballet, modern dance and traditional Chinese dances.

Dream of the Red Chamber is structured like a story ballet with interludes of ensemble dancing – including a spectacular wedding scene – between the several romantic pas de deux and a contorted pas de trois for Baochai and the rival women.

As Baoyu, Zhang Jin is a captivating dancer and actor. Shan Chong's performance as Daiyu tugs at the heartstrings and all of the performers bring a vitality to their parts that gives Dream of the Red Chamber the power to move an audience with or without any prior knowledge of the story or Chinese traditions.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Canadian Hurdler Perdita Felicien Feeling Fit And Focused

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

(February 04, 2008) Perdita Felicien is feeling more fit and focused than she has in a long time.

And heading into the final few months before the Beijing Olympics, what happened four years ago in Athens – her devastating crash in the Olympic final – is ancient history. The hurdler from Pickering, Ont., has put it in the past, and she hopes everybody else will too.

"If I'm a champion, I'm a competitor, I don't dwell on the past, I can't sit here and look at this one little component and rack my brain over it," Felicien said. "I've moved on past that, and I hope other people allow me to move on past that too.

"If someone wants to talk about (Athens), let's have a day when we talk about that, and then don't ask me ever again."

The 27-year-old was in Toronto on Monday to promote a new Nike treadmill running program, "Nike Rock & Run."

The brief visit came on the heels of her season-opening race – a second place finish in the 60-metre hurdles to Canadian teammate Priscilla Lopes at Friday's Millrose Games in New York.

Felicien doesn't have huge expectations for the indoor season, which includes the world championships next month in Valencia, Spain. Her sights are set solely on Beijing.

Her coach Gary Winckler has made significant changes to her training program to help strengthen the beginning of her race, which is normally her weak point. But the changes in her program have forced Felicien to be more focused – which was also part of Winckler's plan.

"Normally I come into the training session and I've seen it all before and done it all before, and things start to get mundane. But (Winckler's) changed things so much that I have to pay attention.

"He's making me mentally tough, I can tell, especially with what we're going to have to face going into Beijing. He's asking more of me and I need to buckle down and be mentally strong and feel like I'm capable of doing it."

Felicien captured gold at the 2003 world championships in Paris before her career took a turn for the worse. She headed into the 2004 Athens Olympics shouldering heavy expectations before crashing in the final. Her injuries suffered in the spill plagued her for the better part of two seasons – along with bouts of self-doubt.

Ancient history now.

Felicien finally turned a corner last summer when she won silver at the world championships in Osaka, Japan. Her time of 12.49 seconds was her fastest since her Canadian record of 12.46 set in 2004.

The performance finally put Athens in the past.

"I've learned that I can persevere," Felicien said. "Any lesser person may have crumbled under that. I feel like my whole vindication was last summer. . . I just feel that if anyone can do this it's me and it's shown me how tough I am and how strong I am."

The silver medal propelled her into this season with renewed enthusiasm, and her autumn training, she said, was her best ever.

"I love my mindset now," Felicien said. "I don't feel afraid, I don't feel nervous, I don't feel overwhelmed, I don't feel under-prepared.

"Looking back on my '05 and '06 seasons, I was anxious, I was injured. I always felt like, `Oh, I don't want to do this.' It was actually hard to get to the start line.

"Now, I'm at a place where I want to compete, I love to compete, I can't wait to compete."

Felicien, who lives and trains in Champaign, Ill., will next compete at an indoor Grand Prix meet Feb. 16 in Birmingham, England.

Tiger Stages Dubai Comeback

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Tony Jimenez Reuters

(February 03, 2008) DUBAI – Tiger Woods birdied his last two holes Sunday to rally from a four-shot deficit and win the Dubai Desert Classic, starting his season with two victories that looked nothing alike.

One week after winning the Buick Invitational by eight shots, Woods had to birdie five of his last seven holes for a 7-under 65, then wait to see if Ernie Els could catch him.

Needing a birdie on the par-5 18th to force a playoff, Els hit his tee shot into the water and made bogey.

"To go 2-for-2, it's a pretty good start, isn't it?" Woods said.

This is the third time he has started a season with two straight victories, and it was another sign that the world's No. 1 player could be headed for a big year. Woods now has won his last four official tournaments, and six of his last seven dating to the Bridgestone Invitational in early August.

He also won his unofficial Target World Challenge by seven shots in December.

This one was a one-shot victory over Martin Kaymer. Woods had already finished when the German, who won the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship two weeks ago, closed with a birdie-birdie-eagle stretch for a 66.

It was a devastating blow to Els.

The 38-year-old South African, who has finished runner-up to Woods more times (seven) than any other player, is in the middle of his three-year plan to become No. 1 in the world. He said recently he needed to start winning, and this was the perfect occasion.

Instead, the Big Easy closed with a 71 and tied for third at 276 with Louis Oosthuizen. It was the second time in three years that Els hit into the water on the 18th at Dubai and lost to Woods. In 2006, it happened during a sudden-death playoff.

"The second shot on the 18, it was right where I had it, but I could see the gust got it in the air and it didn't have much of a chance in the end there," Els said about his wayward shot.

Woods lost momentum with bogeys on the sixth and ninth holes, but he poured it on along the back nine with seven birdies to capture the Dubai Desert Classic for the second time.

"All of I sudden I was in the mix, (and then) out of the mix," Woods said. "I knew I had to birdie three of the last four to win."

At the Buick Invitational, Woods took the lead on the second day and never looked back. In Dubai, Woods went into Sunday's final in fifth – four shots behind Els. He had been in the lead after the first two rounds, but shot a 1-over 72 Saturday – driving wayward balls in sand near the gallery several times.

Part of the problem was his back-up driver. Woods said he cracked the face on the driver he used for more than a year in practice Wednesday. He said the new driver was supposed to be the same but put too much spin on the ball.

"I'm just happy to get a win out of this," said Woods, who won his 72nd career tournament.

But looking ahead, Woods said he hopes his next win is more like the Buick and less like Dubai.

"I like (winning) by seven or eight a lot," Woods said. "It's a lot less stressful."

'Super fan' Nash Boosts Women's Soccer

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Josh Dubow, The Associated Press

(February 04, 2008) SAN FRANCISCO – All-Star Steve Nash is known on the basketball court for peerless vision that allows him to see plays before they develop.

Off the court, Nash is visualizing the success of the Women's Professional Soccer league more than a year before it starts. He's becoming an investor and part owner of the new venture.

"I look at my childhood and realize how many athletes I had to look up to," Nash said in a phone interview. "I look at the opportunity to put some of these wonderfully talented athletes who are dedicated and committed and put them in a setting to inspire a whole generation below them.''

The deal to bring on Nash and Jeff Mallett, a former president and chief operating officer at Yahoo Inc., as investors for the eight-team league was to be formally announced Tuesday by the San Francisco-based league.

Before Nash became a two-time NBA MVP, he won the British Columbia soccer MVP award while in high school. His college days were spent at longtime women's soccer power Santa Clara.

"I think it will have ripple effects for a long time," Nash said. "I'm looking forward to it getting off the ground. I want to be a big fan and hopefully watch them not only entertain but inspire lots of young girls and kids in general.''

Nash comes from a soccer family. His father, John, played professionally in South Africa, and his sister, sister, Joann, was the captain of the University of Victoria soccer team. His brother, Martin, plays professionally for the USL First Division's Vancouver Whitecaps.

As the father of 3-year-old twin girls, Nash wants to help the growth of women's soccer in his adopted country. The investment from Nash and Mallett will fund the ongoing development of the league and is specifically earmarked for new media ventures and initiatives.

"I really just want to be a super fan and watch this league grow," the Phoenix Suns star said. "If I can help spread the word and help get access to some of my fans and help this women's league take off in this country, I'd be happy to do that.''

Women's Professional Soccer plans to debut in spring 2009 with teams expected in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Jersey/New York, St. Louis and Washington. The league looks to add an eighth team before the launch, with possibilities including the San Francisco Bay area, Cary, N.C., Philadelphia and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Commissioner Tonya Antonucci said she hopes having a ``quintessential soccer dad" such as Nash will help attract other fathers to follow the league.

"Having Steve Nash involved is tremendous for our league given the cachet that comes with such an accomplished professional athlete," Antonucci said. "Steve brings such a passion for the game. By endorsing us and putting his money in our league, it shows he believes in the promise of what we're doing. He wants to get involved beyond just investing. He wants to make sure this launch is a successful one.''

Mallett, who was already an adviser to the fledgling league, was responsible for bringing Nash on board.

Mallett played in the Canadian national program and was the general manager of Yahoo's partnership with FIFA for the men's and women's World Cups.

He also has been involved in Major League Soccer and believes the women's game in the United States has an advantage over the men's game. He thinks it will have a better chance to attract the best players in the world, such as Brazilian star Marta.

"It has been a challenge because soccer fanatics like Steve and I, when the TV is on we're watching Tottenham versus Chelsea,'' Mallett said. "Some folks gravitate to the best of the best, and I think the women have a chance of attracting people like Marta and some of the best global talent to form the best league in the world.''

Ford's Biggest Hurdle Was All Mental

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(February 05, 2008) MIAMI-On the road to returning to the
NBA after nearly two months away, T.J. Ford ran into his detours of doubt. He thought about retirement more than once.

And calling it a career at age 24, with a guaranteed contract worth about $30 million as his security blanket, certainly could have been a comfortable option.

But when Ford considered calling it quits, he would glimpse the basketball court in the backyard of his suburban Houston home.

"I would look at that court and I would think, even though I could retire if I wanted to, I still would play basketball," said Ford. "I'm at the same risk playing in my backyard that I am playing on this court, I feel. So that helped me understand it.

"I'm still young. It doesn't make sense to quit something I've worked so hard at to get to this level. To come back down and play at somebody else's level?"

In other words, if Ford wasn't at American Airlines Arena last night, playing in his first NBA game since he was taken off the floor on a stretcher on Dec. 11, he probably would have been looking for a game somewhere else.

Still, Ford, who has been diagnosed with a congenital narrowing of the spine that leaves him at greater risk for spinal injuries than the average person, said coming back from his most recent brush with injury – a crash landing in Atlanta that left him with a painful tingling throughout much of his upper body – was his most difficult obstacle to date.

That's saying a lot for a young man who staged an epic comeback from 2004 vertebrae-fusing surgery that saw him on the NBA sidelines for a year and a half.

"The mental side was definitely harder this time," he said. "Once you've been through it before, it's like, `I've got to do it all over again? I don't know if I want to do it all over again.' Because you can't short-cut it."

The man the Raptors hired to preside over Ford's rehab, former NBA coach and point guard John Lucas, a long-time friend whom Ford considers family, wouldn't allow Ford to short-cut it.

Under Lucas's tutelage, in the spartan digs of a Houston-area recreation centre, Ford endured a basketball boot camp that broke his body down to build it up.

"We did old, old, old-school stuff," said Lucas, who went on to describe the rigours of crabwalks up and down stairwells and court-length wheelbarrow races in which Ford's hands did the running.

The Raptors have been impressed enough with Lucas's work that they're contemplating hiring him in a consultant's role to continue to help Ford's transition back into the line-up.

Lucas seemed enthused by the prospect. "Any way I can help, and help T.J., I'm happy to help. ... I think Chris Bosh has MVP potential. I love to be around guys that want to be stars."

Said Ford of Lucas, with whom he works out during the off-season: "Injured or not injured, he's my guy that I put trust in to get to that next level."

On the long journey to the next level, of course, Ford had to find the will to take the first step: The one over the out-of-bounds line on to the floor.

"I pushed him to try to quit, for one reason: To see how badly he wanted to play," said Lucas. "And at the end of it all, that's what his response was, `I want to play.'"

Ford wants to play, in front of the throngs or in the backyard, for a long time to come.

"This is what I love to do. It is worth it to me. If I didn't love to do it, it would be easier to shut it down," said Ford. "Besides, if I got hurt and I retired, y'all got one more report to write about me, and then I'm done. ... Can't let y'all forget about me that easily."

SPORTS TIDBITS

B.C. Skier Wins 1st Cup Race

Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman, Sports Reporter

(February 03, 2008) Canadian ski racer Emily Brydon, who nearly quit the sport two years ago because it looked like she’d never have a breakthrough, scored her first World Cup victory in impressive style today in a Super G race in St. Moritz, Switzerland.  The 27-year-old from Fernie, B.C., was racing on a course where she’s had a fair degree of success, including her first World Cup podium ever in 2000 and a second-place finish in a Super G in December.  She just flat-out nailed her run and won it on the bottom, where she was the fastest skier in travelling just a hair under 115 kilometres an hour.  She’d been bumped off the podium by 3/100ths of a second a day earlier in the downhill because weather conditions favoured the later races, and she was making no mistake about it this time.  Brydon was a clear winner with her time of 1 minute, 17.39 seconds, a quarter of a second ahead of Elisabeth Goergl and 29/100ths of a second in front of her Austrian teammate Renate Goetschl.  It was Brydon’s third podium result this season – she was also third in a downhill in Cortina, Italy. She’d never managed more than one in a season in eight years of World Cup racing. It was also Canada’s second World Cup victory of the season, the first coming from Britt Janyk of Whistler in a downhill in Aspen in December.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Cayman Islands:  Water… Water   Everywhere

By Melanie Reffes for
Canadian World Traveller

Known as the birthplace of recreational diving in the Caribbean, the Cayman Islands are among the top five destinations in the world for underwater adventure. From the coral reefs that grow like giant underwater mushrooms to the marine life burrowing in the back bays, these environmentally-protected Islands are all about fantastic fining , superb snorkelling and a riotous array of marine life.

With more than forty scuba outfitters, one hundred and thirty dive sites – many a stones throw from the shoreline - spectacular shipwrecks and dramatic underwater drop-offs, there is something for every water baby. Sea turtles, stingrays, schools of tarpon and silversides, barracudas, angelfish, puffer fish, scrawled filefish, flying gurnards and moray eels glide through the canyons and the nooks and crannies of the  lush shallow reefs creating a  kaleidoscope of colour in a  magical underwater world.

In the North Sound at a three-meter dive site and adjacent sandbar, Stingray City is the Caribbean’s most popular animal attraction and a rare opportunity to cavort with the tame Atlantic Southern Stingrays that sail gracefully through the iridescent blue ocean. In water that is just waist-deep, you’ll feel the friendly creatures that measure nearly two meters in diameter and look like large dinner plates brushing their velvety bellies against your hands and feet. Without teeth, they will gladly accept pieces of squid into their large mouths while the fishermen snap photos of your adventure.

South of George Town, Eden’s Rock and Devil’s Grotto is a gigantic mound of limestone coated in the living shell of sea fans, coral, coralline algae and sea sponges. Caverns pierced by rays of sunlight attract hordes of yellowish, big tarpon, damselfish and vibrant parrot fish.

Fantasies of exploring the mysterious underwater world can also be met -- without getting wet! By viewing marine life from a submarine, the fish covered reefs and enthralling drop-off can be discovered by land-lovers. Atlantis submarines offer rides aboard the 48-passenger Atlantis XI, the Deep Explorer 1000 takes two passengers on dives of 800 - 1000 feet below the Caribbean Sea, and the Seaworld Explorer takes 35 passengers just five feet below the surface. Cayman Submarines' SEAmobile Submarine Tours has room for two passengers to explore underwater life at depths of up to 60 feet with a 360-degree view, and Nautilus offers the 60-passenger air-conditioned semi-submarine with a protected glass hull that cruises five feet below the sea's surface.

On the west end of Cayman Brac, a warship - named Captain Keith Tibbetts - with  four deck guns, cannons and turrets was intentionally sunk and is the only  Russian warship in the Western hemisphere open to divers.  A dolphin statue called the Oceanic Voyagers lies in the shallow water amidst breathtaking caves and stunning coral gardens and provides an unforgettable underwater experience.

Little Cayman’s most famous dive attraction, Bloody Bay Wall – a short swim from the shore  and more than 304 meters  below the sea -  is dotted with  Yellow Tube and Orange Vase sponge  ,  tangled masses of Rope Sponge and the rare long snout seahorse. South Hole Sound and Point O’Sand are also enchanting snorkelling sites where you might catch a glimpse of a feisty bonefish or a regal Queen conch.  This tropical underwater wilderness is a sight to behold and with the marine life used to the presence of human divers, they’ll happily pose for personal portraits. Bring your underwater camera.

It would be difficult to spend time in Cayman without being offered conch fritters, a Stingray beer, or Cayman’s own Heavy Cake.  But don't miss the island specialties that will make your visit unique; for a snack that is not to be missed, stop in at any of the Tortuga Rum Company stores for a Tortuga Rum cake, or Cayman’s own Blackbeards Rum Company. Compare the spicy taste of Cayman Brac’s McCoy’s BBQ to the unique flavour of Bussy’s Jerk Chicken on Little Cayman. Visitors and locals alike crave Joe’s Caribbean Shack’s delectable fruit smoothies and to satisfy an island sweet tooth, ICOA chocolates are the perfect remedy.  Available in individually wrapped boxes, these Caymanian specialties make great gifts and can be purchased at their specialty shop on North Church Street.

The Cayman Islands’ National Trust office, located in George Town, offers visitors extensive information on the Islands history, national symbols and culture. Tours are also available for guests to uncover the Cayman of yesteryear -- by learning about wattle and daub, a method of construction used to build homes, which was also used to restore sites such as the Bodden Town Guard House, Old Savannah Schoolhouse and Watlers Cemetery, the Mastic Trail, the Herbarium and Insectarium.  Other historical sites not to be missed include the National Museum in George Town, and Pedro St. James in Savannah - Cayman's oldest surviving stone structure, and the nation's “Birthplace of Democracy."  Interactive displays in the multi-media theatre orient visitors to the history, lifestyle and economics of 18th and early 19th century at Pedro.