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LE NEWSLETTER

June 26, 2008

Welcome to summer!  Think that's it's here to stay!  I swear! 

Happy Canada Day - falls on a Tuesday this year but hope that you find yourself near a BBQ and good friends - celebrate safely please.

Well, it's
Pride Week again here in Toronto and if you celebrate it, again please do so wisely.  And watch out for all those downtown street closures.

Lots of great Canadian news below mixed with lots of global entertainment news! 


Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

 

::TOP STORIES::

Comedian George Carlin Dies

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Dean Goodman, Reuters

(June 23, 2008) LOS ANGELES — Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs, dirty words and the demise of humanity, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday. He was 71.

Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug-dependency problems, died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica about 6 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET) after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham told Reuters.

Known for his edgy, provocative material developed over 50 years, the bald, bearded Carlin achieved status as an anti-Establishment icon in the 1970s with stand-up bits full of drug references and a routine called "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television." A regulatory battle over a radio broadcast of the routine ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 1978 case, Federal Communications Commission vs. Pacifica Foundation, the top U.S. court ruled that the words cited in Carlin's routine were indecent, and that the government's broadcast regulator could ban them from being aired at times when children might be listening.

The Grammy-winning Carlin remained an active presence on the comedy circuit. Carlin performed in Las Vegas earlier this month and was scheduled to receive the John F. Kennedy Center's prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in November.

His comedic sensibility revolved around a central theme: humanity is a cursed, doomed species.

"I don't have any beliefs or allegiances. I don't believe in this country, I don't believe in religion, or a god, and I don't believe in all these man-made institutional ideas," he told Reuters in a 2001 interview.

Carlin told Playboy in 2005 that he looked forward to an afterlife where he could watch the decline of civilization on a "heavenly CNN."

"The world is a big theatre-in-the round as far as I'm concerned, and I'd love to watch it spin itself into oblivion," he said. "Tune in and watch the human adventure."

Carlin wrote three best-selling books, won four Grammy Awards, recorded 22 comedy albums, headlined 14 HBO television specials, and hosted hundreds of variety shows. One was the first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975, when he was high on cocaine.

Drug addiction plagued him for much of his life, beginning with marijuana experimentation as a teen, graduating to cocaine in the 1970s, and then to prescription painkillers and wine. During the cocaine years, Carlin ignored his finances and ended up owing about $3-million in back taxes. In 2004, he entered a Los Angeles rehab clinic for his alcohol and Vicodin abuse.

George Dennis Carlin was born on May 12, 1937, in New York City, where he was raised with an older brother by their single mother. He fondly recalled that the nuns at his school tolerated his early comedic inclinations.

After a brief, troubled stint in the U.S. Air Force, he started honing his comic act, developing such characters as Al Sleet, a "hippie-dippie weatherman."

Carlin told Playboy that his sensibilities developed in the 1950s, "when comedy stopped being safe ... (and) became about saying no to authority." He cited such influences as Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory and Bob Newhart.

He also dabbled in movies and television, recently voicing a hippie Volkswagen bus named Fillmore in the Pixar cartoon Cars.

Carlin is survived by his second wife Sally Wade; daughter Kelly Carlin McCall; and brother Patrick. His first wife, Brenda, died of cancer in 1997.

Germany Scores Late To Advance To Euro Final

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

(June 25, 2008)  BASEL, Switzerland–Philipp Lahm ended Turkey's storybook run in the European Championship on Wednesday with a late goal in a 3-2 semifinal victory that kept Germany on target for a record fourth title.

In a wild finish that many people around the world did not see because the international TV feed went out, Lahm finished off the surprising Turks off a give-and-go with Thomas Hitzlsperger in the 90th minute. Lahm cut in from the left, set up a passing one-two, collected the ball and shot it past Rustu Recber to unleash the joy of some 20,000 German fans at St. Jakob Park.

With two goals in the final five minutes, the match could have gone either way, but after three stunning comeback victories in a row for Turkey, it was Germany's day.

First, Semih Senturk kept Turkey in the game with an 86th-minute equalizer, beating Jens Lehmann at the near post.

Ugur Boral gave Turkey the lead in the 22nd, but Bastian Schweinsteiger equalized in the 26th. Miroslav Klose then scored in the 79th off a feed from Lahm to put the Germans ahead, setting up the thrilling finish.

Late in the match, a protester carry a banner with the word ``Tibet" on it ran onto the field and was subdued by security officers. Earlier, two players – Simon Rolfes of Germany and Ayhan Akman – need to have their foreheads stapled by trainers to stop bloody wounds. Neither of them finished the game.

Germany, which won Euros in 1972, 1980 and 1996, will play the winner of Thursday's Spain-Russia semifinal in Vienna, Austria. Sunday's final game also will be in Vienna.

For Turkey, it was the end of a tremendous tournament, its best since making the World Cup semi-finals six years ago.

Turkey dominated most of the match despite four suspensions and five injuries, proving its run of extraordinary rallies was no fluke. With a fully fit team, Germany struggled – but advanced to the final for the sixth time.

ESPN cut back to its studio analysts during the outages and showed video of spectators watching at a FanFest in Basel.

Germany's ZDF television wound up using a Swiss feed to televise the latter portions of the match after having to do a radio-style play-by-play when the picture went out. A violent thunderstorm that hit Vienna, where the TV broadcast center is located, was blamed.

2008 BET Awards In The Books

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 25, 2008) *The BET Awards went down Tuesday night and Kanye West went home with two prizes.

West was named best male hip-hop artist and shared a second BET prize with R&B singer T-Pain for their collaboration on the hit single "Good Life."

"This man, T-Pain, is a genius," said West of T-Pain. "I'm one of the kings in this game right now, so my opinion counts."

 "I appreciate it everybody," T-Pain responded. "Three years ago, I couldn't even get a ticket to get up in here." T-Pain entered the show with the most nominations, five in all.

The only other multiple winner was the hip-hop duo UGK, which now only consists of Bernard "Bun B" Freeman as his partner, Chad "Pimp C" Butler, died last year from sleep apnea.

The three hour show, broadcast from Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, gave out 15 prizes in music, acting and sports

Alicia Keys, who shared the stage with three leading female groups from the 1990s -- TLC, En Vogue and Sisters with Voices -- for a medley of R&B music, also won best female R&B artist, and offered a heartfelt endorsement to Obama, who would be the first African-American elected to the nation's highest office.

"Together we can do anything -- Obama, y'all!" she enthused.

Speaking of Obama, BET's Stephen Hill said they had been hoping Obama would attend the event.

"We would've loved it if he would've stopped by," he said.

Meanwhile, perhaps the evening's most awaited moment was when veteran soul man Al Green, recipient of a lifetime achievement award, got the audience in the on its feet singing, and dancing, to his classic 1970s smash hit "Let's Stay Together."

However, backstage in the press room, Green didn't think his performance went that well.

"I'm sorry I didn't sing as well as I should because I got scared. I was nervous," he said. Green, 62, earlier this month hit the top 10 of the U.S. pop chart with his first album in three years, "Lay It Down."

The prize for best female hip-hop performer went to Missy Elliott, who has not had an album out since 2005 but has a new CD set for release in August.

The Dream was named best new artist, and the viewers' choice award, determined by an online vote of fans, went to Lil Wayne and his single "Lollipop," featuring Static.

The best and actress awards went to Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Halle Berry, neither of whom attended. Neither did Kobe Bryant, who won best male athlete

Here's a list of this year's BET Awards nominees and *winners:

Best Female R&B Artist
* Alicia Keys
Mary J. Blige
Mariah Carey
Keyshia Cole
Rihanna

Gaston Back As Jays Manager

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(June 20, 2008) PITTSBURGH–The reeling Toronto Blue Jays fired manager John Gibbons on Friday and replaced him with former manager Cito Gaston, the man who led the team to its only two World Series titles.

The move comes amid a spirit-breaking stretch of 13 losses in 17 games that has buried them in the AL East basement with a 35-39 record.

Gibbons is the third manager fired this week, after Willie Randolph (Mets) and John McLaren (Seattle).

The Jays also fired coaches Marty Pevey, Ernie Whitt and Gary Denbo.

The 64-year-old Gaston becomes the Blue Jays’ first two-time manager. He previously managed the team from 1989 to 1997, leading the team to World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.

Gaston, who has been special assistant to the president and CEO, had a 681-635 record as manager during his earlier stint. Joining his staff will be first-base coach Dwayne Murphy, third-base coach Nick Leyva and hitting coach Gene Tenace.

Gibbons entered the season on perilous ground, with his $650,000 (figures U.S.), one-year contract due to expire at the end of the year. He found himself in hot water after an 11-17 April but the Blue Jays got back on track, and then some, during a 20-10 May.

Then three hard-to-swallow losses at the beginning of June — a 4-3 loss June 1 at Anaheim on a blown B.J. Ryan save; a 9-8 defeat June 5 at Yankee Stadium on Jason Giambi’s walkoff homer off an 0-2 Ryan pitch; and a 6-5 loss June 6 at home to Baltimore when the bullpen blew a 4-0 lead in the eighth — killed their mojo and it’s been a struggle for them ever since.

The main problem is that the team’s offensive woes from 2007 have extended into this year and the burden of again carrying the team is beginning to cause fissures in the pitching staff.

The question now is whether the change can ignite the team, and if not, whether further changes are in the offing.

General manager J.P. Ricciardi has repeatedly said Gibbons should not be a scapegoat for the team’s troubles but ultimately had to make him one with his team unable to emerge from its slide.

The decision was not an easy one for Ricciardi, who roomed with Gibbons when both were prospects in the New York Mets system during the early 1980s and have been friends since.

Gibbons pushed the cause of some players to employ a more aggressive style of ball, giving more runners the green light to steal bases, sacrificing to move runners over and using the hit-and-run more often.

But the line-up isn’t delivering timely, big hits and the losses piled up because of it.

Gibbons, a laid-back, back-slapping Texan who could lay down the law when necessary, was a players’ manager who mostly tried to stay out of his team’s way.

He was routinely criticized by fans, who vented their frustration at an easy target.

Since taking over from the fired Carlos Tosca on an interim basis Aug. 8, 2004, Gibbons compiled a 270-266 (plus this season) record. Only his replacement Gaston (683-636) and Bobby Cox (355-292) have had longer tenures than him in franchise history.

Fans will most likely remember Gibbons for a pair of incidents with Shea Hillenbrand and Ted Lilly during the 2006 season.

Gibbons challenged Hillenbrand to a fight in the clubhouse after the disgruntled infielder left mutinous scribbles on a clubhouse whiteboard last July. In August, Gibbons and Lilly had a physical altercation in the dugout tunnel following an argument on the mound.

Neither incident seemed to harm him much in the eyes of his players, with both ace Roy Halladay and centre-fielder Vernon Wells offering crucial endorsements of him at the time.

The Blue Jays’ best season under Gibbons was 2006, when they finished second in the AL East at 87-75.

They stumbled backwards last season, falling back to third at 83-79, amid a slew of injuries to Ryan, Wells, Troy Glaus, Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Reed Johnson and Gregg Zaun.

Gibbons received little credit for keeping that team on the rails and above .500 despite the injuries, while incorporating youngsters Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum, Jeremy Accardo, Casey Janssen and Jesse Litsch to the team.

On May 29 he won his 300th career game as a manager, a 12-0 thumping of Oakland, and appeared headed to better things.

Now he’s out of work.

Gaston becomes the fourth Blue Jays manager in seven years under Ricciardi. Tosca replaced the fired Buck Martinez, whom Ricciardi inherited from former GM Gord Ash, midway through the 2002 season.

Toronto's Laugh Resort Comedy Club Closes This Week

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

(June 22, 2008) Did you hear the one about the comedy club closing down?

It's no joke: after 18 years the
Laugh Resort is hosting its final shows next Saturday. Located in the Holiday Inn on King St., the hotel has been bought by the Hyatt chain, which is renovating the entire facility. Now it's time for the basement floor where the club is located to begin its makeover.

"At the moment, we're saying that we're closing until we find a new location, but we've been looking for a new location for the past four or five months... and haven't found something that makes sense. So we are still looking, but there is nothing imminent in terms of our return," says Jim Vanderberg, owner of the club.

He's heard the chain plans to put an upscale restaurant in the space. Originally, it was assumed that the club would survive until the end of the summer, but then the renovation permits came through and now the club has to vacate the space next weekend. Vanderberg had booked acts until the end of the summer, when he hoped to hold a farewell send off. Now it's not going to happen.

"The reality is we don't expect the city to pour out. Most people who come to club are just going out for the night and want to see a show. So we'll put on a show, and those of us who'll be around will have a drink and say it's been fun," says Vanderberg.

The Laugh Resort was initially located next to the Old Firehall, which was at that time occupied by Second City. A much larger space, Laugh Resort used to book acts like Ray Romano, Adam Sandler and Ellen Degeneres. In 2000, it moved to the Holiday Inn location. The club allowed independent comics to perform, as opposed to places like Yuk Yuk's that want exclusive deals with comedians.

Without the Laugh Resort, independent comedians' main alternative to the four Yuk Yuk's GTA locations is Absolute Comedy at Yonge and Eglinton.

Vanderberg says rents downtown have risen so much that having a club that's only open a few nights a week doesn't seem feasible.

That said, he's not sure whether this will truly be the last laugh.

"Who knows? I've got a bit of a vision to find a bigger space and start doing some of those shows that seem to only happen when Just For Laughs pulls into town for a few days, once a year," he says. "Whether we open in some other fashion or let it go, it's been fun."

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Hype Meets Reality In Aitutaki

Source:  www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Toronto Star

(March 06, 2008) AITUTAKI, COOK ISLANDS–"Okay, let's go."

This is what passes for a boarding announcement in the one-room airport on the island of
Aitutaki, a semi-atoll that sits in the southern Cook Islands group like an island of brilliant turquoise in the midst of the cobalt blue Pacific.

It's truly another world here, a place where the village of Arutanga on the main hook-shaped island boasts all of three shops (differentiated by their exterior paint jobs as the green, yellow and brown stores) and a couple of stop signs.

Like a string of pearls, three volcanic islands and a dozen motus – small, mostly uninhabited palm-filled islets rimmed with white sand – are captured in a triangle-shaped lagoon of such aquamarine clarity, we're told sailors used to watch on the horizon for a green reflection on the undersides of clouds as a pointer to Aitutaki's gem-coloured waters.

Called paradise in all the travel literature and on various websites, Aitutaki is one of those rare times when hype meets reality.

The fact Aitutaki comes with its own romantic past seems to heighten its appeal.

Lt. William Bligh was the first European to discover it just after leaving Tahiti in 1789. In true colonial fashion, he let the natives come to him and never actually touched land. Less than three weeks later, his crew aboard The Bounty mutinied.

One of the motus, Akaiami, was a landing site for the TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Ltd.) Coral Route flying boats in the late 1940s and 1950s, where movie stars such as Marlon Brando and John Wayne were advised to pack a bathing suit in their hand luggage so they could paddle in the crystal water while the plane refuelled.

More recently, Aitutaki was home to a season of Survivor, where a corner of the lagoon and two motus were declared off-limits to tourists during the three months of filming.

Luckily, I faced no such restrictions on my day trip here.

About a 45-minute flight north from Rarotonga by turboprop, our small plane lands on an airstrip built by Kiwi and American soldiers during World War II as an outpost to protect the South Pacific. Today it has been upgraded and serves regular commercial flights.

I've opted for a day trip from Rarotonga, while others on board have suitcases and are there for several days or more.

Accommodation on Aitutaki is limited in numbers but varied in style and runs from beach huts to high-priced luxury resorts. Without much to do beyond fishing, exploring the exceptional diving and snorkelling, or lazing in the lagoon, it's decidedly a couples' destination. (Golfers will want to try the funny little nine-hole course by the airport where a round costs less than $8 Canadian, if only to say they've done it.)

Our guide for the day, James Turu, has flown over with us from his home in Rarotonga.

He keeps up a steady patter as a bus takes us around the island ring road, stopping for a spell in the main village so we can explore.

He tells us there are no dogs on the island – something about them once being blamed for spreading leprosy – but there are plenty of small striped cats and lots of land crabs that come out to perch stupidly in the road after it rains to be scooped up and taken home for supper.

Turu points to a clearing at the side of the road.

"This is where you can drink bush beer with locals," he says of the intense moonshine they brew here from various fruits. For a "donation" of less than $4 Canadian, "you can drink all night," he tells us.

But we're not after road crabs or a drinking session, but rather a daylong cruise on a flat-bottomed catamaran boat kitted out to look like a Polynesian ceremonial vessel.

As we chug out into the lagoon, which measures 42 kilometres around, we can see right down in the clear depths to colourful fish, coral and giant clams. Someone remarks it's like a giant aquarium. We'll see everything up close when the boat stops at a coral bed and we slip into the seductively warm water to explore with the snorkel gear provided on board.

Occasionally, we see the deep blue of the water outside the lagoon and white surf pounding on the coral reef at the rim, a strange sight that reminds you you're sailing in a pool within a vast ocean.

First stop is the islet of Moturakau, used as both the Survivor tribal camp and a location for the British reality TV series Shipwrecked. Looking like a place where Gilligan would feel at home, its only inhabitants are the ubiquitous Cook Islands wild chickens and roosters – which seem to be everywhere – and for 30 minutes or so, a dozen tourists.

The boat slides almost to the beach and we hop into ankle-deep water and wade ashore. It's easy to wander off alone and have a feeling of almost total isolation in paradise and indulge in some Robinson Crusoe-inspired daydreaming until Turu blows the conch shell to signal the boat's departure.

Next up, a stop at Tapuatae (One Foot Island), where the post office and bar share the counter in a thatched-roof hut.

The sole employee makes it clear that only one kind of business can be done at each end. No ordering a beer with your postage.

For about $1.50, you can get a foot-shaped One Foot Island stamp on your passport.

Sure, it's hokey. And you can bet we did it.

A walk around the island's perimeter in the crystal water revealed a postmaster's cottage and a thirsty cat who was delighted to share the contents of my water bottle from a shell on the porch, a couple of roosters, some land crabs and nothing else but blue-green water, arcing palms and brilliant-coloured fish. We were able to walk out in the knee-deep water to a sandbar across the inlet and then swam and lazed in the clear water until the conch blew again.

The boat captain doubled as cook as we pulled away from shore, firing up a gas barbecue and grilling chunks of fresh broadbill (swordfish) marinated in soy sauce and spices.

The table was laid with salads, bread, mango and pawpaw (papaya), chunks of fresh coconut, taro and banana pudding.

Before we ate, Turu stood in the middle of the boat and prayed, something you get used to quickly in this part of the world, where religion plays a primary role.

After lunch Tumu, the captain, and a couple of workers on board picked up guitars and a drum and serenaded us with Maori songs in rich harmony.

They showed us how to break into coconuts and we shared the creamy meat. Silver fish jumped from the lagoon in great arcs.

We stared out into the water and motus as if to burn the images into our minds, scenes to be replayed once we were back in the real world and had left paradise behind.

Linda Barnard is the Star's movies editor.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Al Green Proves `The Reverend Still Got It'

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

(June 20, 2008) His shirtless album cover poses are well behind him, but Al Green is still seductive.

"Some people been wondering if the Reverend still got it," the legendary performer acknowledged near the end of his 75-minute set at the Sony Centre last night.

The answer is a resounding "Oh, hell yeah!"

From his mesmerizing falsetto, to jerky dance moves, campy take on his iconic soul self and Eartha Kitt purrs, the 62-year-old Arkansas native, who handed out more than two dozen roses to female fans, is a bubbly, accessible entertainer.

He wasn't so much sexy, this pudgy Gatorade-sipping version, but romanced with candour and charisma.

At this TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival preview concert he delivered many of his `70s hits – "Let's Get Married," "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?," "Tired of Being Alone" and "Love and Happiness" – as well as the title track from his new disc Lay It Down, and a medley of Sam Cooke, The Temptations and Otis Redding classics.

Backed by a youthful 12 piece band (including daughter Deborah Green on backing vocals) and two dancers, the singer gave the blend of soul, gospel, blues and rock 'n' roll a spontaneous air, though he was clearly working from a set list.

He took the stage in a dark suit and sunglasses, later doffed to offer wide-eyed proof that "ain't nobody up here high."

In an interview with the Star a day earlier he discussed the correlation between his dual roles and entertainer and religious leader. After being born again, Green founded the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis in 1976 and still preaches every Sunday that he's in town.

"There are a lot of lonely people in the world, a lot of people with somebody who are still lonely and we're trying to carry this message of love and happiness," he said, holding fort in a downtown hotel conference room.

"The pulpit is my abundant life; singing on stage is my life, that's why I've been doing it since I was 19, 20. And I can't choose between my songs, which one I like best, because they're like my kids, I love them all."

At the concert he told the near-capacity crowd that he came to "preach everybody happy."

They returned his ministrations by dancing in the aisles, shouting out dozens of "I love you's" and waiting 10 minutes for the encore that never came.

Good to see he can still leave them wanting more.

Carly Simon: ‘We're Going Through A Hard Time Now'

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Simon Houpt

(June 20, 2008) NEW YORK — Carly Simon won't leave the stage. She's been singing for almost an hour and a half now, moving gamely through former hits – Anticipation, You're So Vain, etc. – for an invitation-only crowd of fans at Joe's Pub, the East Village cabaret space.

Here to launch her new album, This Kind of Love, which is being released by the Starbucks label Hear Music, it has been a evening of nostalgic indulgence and cozy familiarities: At one point, Simon introduced her 31-year-old son, Ben, who sings and plays backup guitar, by saying, “I'm his mother, James Taylor is his father, though James doesn't always connect the dots,” and everyone laughed as if they were old friends.

But set times at Joe's Pub are strictly regulated, and a few minutes ago some people evidently felt it was time for her to wrap up. Simon's voice is patchy and her eight-piece band seems under-rehearsed; all night she's been muttering to herself, complaining about having broken her last good guitar-playing fingernail, and about trying to “find balance.”

Before we continue with the story, let's pause for a moment to dwell on the notion of finding balance, for that may be the central goal – and the most elusive one – of Simon's life. For almost 63 years now (her birthday is Wednesday) she has careened from one extreme state to another, from one man to another, from ecstatic independence to pathological neediness. Perhaps it is merely Freudian: She never received the approval she sought from her father, who died when she was only 15 years old; James Taylor didn't think much of her musical talent. She is an emotional tornado: get too close, and you can't help but be pulled into the vortex.

Which may have been partly why, as the performers wobble through the title song of her new album, a few of the wait staff here at the club – younger than the average Simon fan by a good decade or two – begin subtly mocking the band, clapping derisively and mimicking their intense folk-rock faces.

And as Simon wraps up a clunky version of her Oscar-winning anthem Let the River Run, from the 1988 movie Working Girl, the house lights rise and the staff starts to clear the tables.

Simon is oblivious to the cue – maybe she doesn't even notice the lights from behind her sunglasses. So as the warmth in the fans' bellies begins to chill (the feeling is inchoate but coalescing: Are they all overstaying their welcome?) the band lurches through The Last Samba, a slow song from the new album. After which Carly Simon is happy to leave the stage, to applause, on her own terms.

A few days later she is sitting in the far corner of a dressing room uptown, backstage after a TV show, wearing sunglasses and luxuriating in the dark: the only illumination comes from the bare bulbs of the vanity mirror across the room. As a few band members depart for a week on the road by themselves – they will meet up in Los Angeles for another TV appearance – she exhorts a couple of them to take care of Ben. Then, finally, as silence descends on the room, she welcomes me with a slight smile and removes her sunglasses.

A notoriously anxious performer and an almost hermit-like public figure, Simon would prefer to be at home on Martha's Vineyard, tending her garden, than back here in her hometown. “So many of the people you see walking down the street with just stony faces, who have tunnel vision, who don't look at another person and don't give a person any good energy,” she complains. But she has come in to discuss This Kind of Love, her first album of all original material since The Bedroom Tapes eight years ago, which she recorded while recovering from breast cancer. And the first order of business is to distance herself from her 2005 album of standards, which sold well but received mediocre reviews.

Moonlight Serenade was produced by Richard Perry and very much controlled by him,” she begins. “He did most of the tracks in Los Angeles and then I was kind of the ‘lady singer' who put the voice over the tracks in New York, and I didn't contribute much to the production.”

The sense of being wronged comes up often in conversation with Simon. Her father, Richard Simon, was a co-founder of the publishing giant Simon & Schuster, but he was done in by “a rather evil accountant,” who, she says, undervalued the company and arranged for his ouster. Recently, Simon herself co-operated with the journalist Sheila Weller for Girls Like Us, the new bestselling portrait of Simon, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell, but she has come to regret it.

“A bunch of people have actually come forward to me to say, ‘You know, I never said that, Sheila put that in the wrong terms,' ” Simon says. “So it's hard to know exactly what's true and what's not true. I know that Sheila did make some errors, which I spotted immediately, and I was surprised there aren't more fact-checkers at Simon & Schuster. I'm sure my father would have wanted more fact-checkers.”

Simon remains sharply insecure about her reputation as an artist, but she is self-aware enough to occasionally spoof herself: She shouts self-mockingly that, except for a trio of songs on the new album, one each written by Ben, her daughter Sally, and her friend Jimmy Webb, “all the other lyrics are mine! mine! mine!”

This Kind of Love originated after she was given a copy of the greatest hits album of the Tropicalismo singer Caetano Veloso. Brazilian music had been common in her parents' house as she was growing up; in fact, she says that it was after being swept away by the music in the 1959 film Black Orpheus that she resolved to find a way to spend her life making music. But she'd never heard of either Veloso or Jorge Ben until last year.

As she began planning the new album, she'd hoped to record a duet with Veloso, but when that didn't work out, she says, she just decided to rip off his music. “I expect a call from him any day,” she jokes. “From his lawyers. I've lifted so many of his ideas. So if that's the only way I can meet him, that's the way I'll meet him. Even if it's in court, I want to meet this man. I really love him.”

In turning back to the sound that permeated her own upbringing, Simon toggles between spirited little love songs and a handful of tunes that expose her emotional ravenousness. After the death of a friend a few years ago, she endured a bout with depression that ended with her in hospital, and today she is still rail thin. (She looks, with her hair nearly covering her eyes, like a skeletal sheepdog.) She has so much to give, she says; the need emanating off of her is terrifying.

The album was written as a way of grappling with what she calls the “parallel existences,” of being a new grandmother, even as she can still recall with exquisite clarity what it was like to be pregnant, to be nursing for the first time. “My kids are older now and yet the emotions are so much the same,” she says.

“I remember the first time that we were sitting around the dining room table, Ben and Sally were about, respectively, eight and 11, and Sally told Ben a secret and I felt sooooo left out. I said, ‘What did you say?' They said, ‘It's a secret.' ‘Why are you telling secrets from me?!' And I just couldn't get used to the fact that they had this autonomy that I wasn't expecting.”

Simon has lately been able to hold back more and let her children grow as artists with only minimal guidance. But it's a challenge. “It used to be that Ben would take my advice, or that he would not want it but he would eventually realize that I had something to say and that maybe I was right, and maybe he could use my advice. Now, I don't have that card, and he's just so talented, and so good, and really has his own voice. I feel quite intimidated to give him suggestions, much like it was – or it is – with Sally, and much like it used to be with James.”

Simon's relationship with Sally is rockier. Until recently, the two kids each lived in cottages on Simon's 40-acre expanse out on Martha's Vineyard, but a few months ago Sally and her husband moved to Cambridge with their son, who was born last fall. You can hear the strain in the relationship in the new song Hold Out Your Heart, in which Simon sings: “Oh my girl what have you done? / Is it something we can't even talk about? / Did you silence me, remove me from your faith? … Did you make me all but a stranger to your love?”

“It's a very tender relationship, and we're going through a hard time now,” Simon says. “I have not seen my grandson more than a handful of times. He's adorable, and I'm sure absolutely great, and I hope to get to know him soon.” She pauses, and as an awkward silence spreads through the room, I try to lighten the mood by changing the subject. But she's not finished. “I was looking forward very much to being a grandmother, and I had cribs and cradles and everything all decked out.” She stares at the floor.

Perhaps she and Sally are simply too similar. “My friend calls me ‘pathologically empathetic,' ” she says. “I notice that my daughter's like this too. I cannot leave a dying insect. You know, I have to either get its wings into proper condition to fly off again by itself … or I have to give it a peaceful death.”

Gould's Passion For His Piano

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

(June 21, 2008) It's hard to believe a 9-foot-long black object weighing 1 1/2 tons can sit in the spotlight at centre stage and not get noticed.

We all know a concert grand piano when we see one, but the attention is always on the person playing it.

Those of us sitting in the audience, or listening to the CD, may take the instrument for granted, but it can make or break an artist's performance. Especially in the case of Canadian piano legend
Glenn Gould, who died in 1982.

His lifelong quest to find and then obsessively maintain the right piano has all the qualities of a passionate love affair.

It's rich grist for American journalist Katie Hafner, who has turned this less-well-known side of Gould's artistic life into a book: A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano (McClelland & Stewart).

Hafner has shaped mountains of research and recollection – on Gould as well as the people and pianos in his life – into a tale that bristles with anecdotes and insights about a Canadian whose name is recognized around the world.

"We know so much about Gould, but we know so little about his piano," says Hafner of the Steinway grand the pianist discovered in the wings of the Eaton Auditorium in 1960 that became his constant recording and concert companion.

Gould demanded the piano travel with him to concert halls as well as recording studios in New York and Toronto.

It was a dream relationship, until movers accidentally dropped the piano during a move. Neither the Steinway factory nor Gould's personal piano technician, Vern Edquist, could fix the damage.

Edquist, one of the city's top piano technicians before retiring a number of years ago, tuned for Liberace, Victor Borge and a planeload of classical greats. But no one was like Gould in their demands.

"He had this thing about not wanting to expend any extra energy," says Edquist as he tries to describe the lightning response the pianist wanted.

As one of the by-products of Edquist's adjustments, some hammers would hit strings all by themselves when not called for. "Glenn called these `hiccups,'" says Hafner. They can be heard on some recordings, yet Gould, who was so finicky about so many details, never seemed to mind the extra notes.

It's one of many contradictions about the man and the artist. Edquist quotes Winston Churchill's description of Russia to explain his former boss: "a mystery wrapped in an enigma."

There's nothing more compelling to most journalists than trying to clear up mysteries. Hafner, who has been reintroducing herself to piano lessons, was at a piano camp in Bennington, Vt., five years ago, when a fellow camper began talking about Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. One person led to another and, soon, the idea for a book about his relationship with pianos began taking shape.

Although Hafner never met the pianist, all her reading, research and conversation with people who knew and worked with Gould have given him the dimensions of a living being. "I feel like I know him now," Hafner declares.

Does she like him? "Oh, absolutely. How could you not like all those quirks?" she exclaims.

Gould's magnetic personality continues to draw new fans, like Hafner. "His career seems to have had a second life," says Edquist, who says working with Hafner opened an avalanche of memories.

Hafner may have succeeded in humanizing Gould's piano, but she also adds fresh perspectives on Gould's other romantic relationship, with Cornelia Foss.

As Edquist reminds us, "he called himself the last Puritan," but, as we now know, he had a long affair with the wife of American composer and conductor Lukas Foss. Hafner's research includes conversations with Cornelia, which emphasize the gulf in Gould's life between the romantic relationship he would have liked to have, and the fragmented, messy one his nature and career ultimately afforded.

Hafner discovered Gould recorded some late solo-piano pieces by Brahms in direct response to the emotions associated with his affair with Foss. "This made me hear the music in a new way," Hafner says. "Now, knowing that they were a direct expression of how he felt about Cornelia, I think this is the most beautiful interpretation of those pieces I have ever heard."

Her work on A Romance on Three Legs inspired her so much that Hafner bought the 80-CD box set of all of Gould's Columbia recordings last fall. "I listened to it as a chronology – of his life and his experiences with the piano," the author explains. "Everything I heard now meant so much more, because I was following the piano as well."

Konshens Is Red Hot With Winner

Source: www.eurweb.com
 By Kevin Jackson

(June 19, 2008) Newcomer Konshens seems to have hit the right notes with the single Winner. Recorded late last year, the song has become a sort of an underground hit, making its way onto various mix tapes and drumming up solid rotation in the dancehall.  

‘Winner is a song that I wrote shortly after the birth of my daughter.  It was an expression of the mood that I was in and the bills were piling up and I just didn’t see a way out’, Konshens said in an interview earlier this week.

Though not surprised at the response that the song has gotten, Konshens who has steadily built up a fan base among the innercity, said he wanted a song that everyone could relate to. ‘I basically did a song that everyone can relate to. I guess it pushed the right buttons and people are now reacting to it’, said Konshens.

Born Garfield Spence, Konshens is from the Sherlock area of Duhaney Park.  A former student of the Excelsior High School, he graduated with eight CXC subjects. 

Konshens made his entry into the musical field in 2005 when he and his older brother Delus formed the duo Souljah. They got their big break in Japan after recording the hit single Pon Di Corner on the Guilty rhythm from Cash Flow Records. The song figured on various reggae charts in Japan and earned the duo a performance in the Asian territory. Later on the album Sons of Jah earned them a successful four week tour in various cities of Japan. 

Currently signed to the Natural Bridge stables, Konshens has been churning out singles one after the other. Among his most recent efforts are Music, Warriors (troop rhythm), Don’t Waste Your Talent, and Rasta Imposter (Young Veterans label).

Asked what he brings to the table as an artiste, Konshens said ‘I bring realness. I don’t see myself as a big artiste. I am expressing things that people tend to overlook’.

The video for the song Winner which was directed by Winston Mayhew, was released a week ago. The clip is quite entertaining and it is obvious that some amount of thought and coordination went into the making of the video.  Good camera movements, nice colouring, effective wardrobe, and interesting storyline make this video stand out as one of the best videos shot locally so far this year.

Red Holloway Tells The X-Rated Story Behind The Song `Music For Making Love'

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

(June 21, 2008) There's an adage that good lawyers never elicit testimony that surprises them; something about adequate research and detailed preparation of witnesses. While good journalism depends on the opposite, you generally know what to expect.

Take my recent interview with sax dean
Red Holloway, who participates in an Alto Summit at the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival tomorrow. Also adept on tenor and R&B, the Arkansas-born, Chicago-bred player is not a marquee name, but a respected instrumentalist who worked with the likes of Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie and B.B. King in a career-spanning six decades.

When I get Holloway on the phone from his Cambria, Calif., home, we go down the usual path: coming up in jazz's '40s to '60s heyday, what to expect from tomorrow's four-sax front line with Donald Harrison, Greg Osby and Bobby Watson, keeping his chops honed, the early influence of a church pianist mother, his 2007 disc Something Old, Something New, etc.

Chatty Holloway exudes the mirth that defines his playing and occasional blues singing. I decide to have a little fun and ask the 81-year-old about the inspiration for a particularly seductive original on Something Old, figuring on some general platitudes about a late wife or current sweetie.

This is how it went:

Q. "Music For Making Love," that's such a deliberate title. Tell me about composing that tune.

A. Did you listen to the music?

Q. I did. It's hot.

A. Well, that's why I wrote it. Well, actually, I wrote some music for a porno album.

Q. You did? When?

A. That's why (the album title) says Something Old. That was back in probably the '80s.

Q. I've never heard of this: a jazz musician making music for a porno film.

A. I do this for a living, not as a hobby. Whatever they say they want, then I sit down and try and figure out ... I don't know if you look at porno or not ... probably ... maybe? You don't have to commit yourself.

Q. I'm not committing.

A. Nevertheless, the music they write – "Dunh! Dunh! Dunh!" – (it's) like you're running somewhere. How can you make love with all that noise and screaming guitars? I think it should be something that's beautiful, so that's why I wrote that music.

Q. So was this song ever contributed to one of those films?

A. It was contributed to an album. I just found out that someone has been trying to put it to a movie and they haven't consulted me about any royalties or nothing. People will steal your stuff, so if they don't have to pay you they won't. I have to tell you, this was done in a studio. It was done live. I had to get an idea of what to write for this.

Q. So you watched the film?

A. No, this was live, this was no film.

Q. While they're making the film?

A. Let me explain.

Q. Please.

A. This young lady had just got out of jail and this fellow – we have a friend who had a recording studio, so we did this late at night – we let them have all they want to drink, all they want to eat, and paid each one of them $1,000. And after they got into the love-making, we just had some plain, soft sweet music playing. Then after the "aahs" and the "oohs" and the "ooos," that gave me an idea of what to write.

So what I did – we already got all these sounds on the tape – then I wrote this music. In fact, I have a copy of the whole LP.

Q. That's hilarious. Did it pay well?

A. Oh, yeah. I got $12,000 for that.

 

I wondered why the three times married father of six needed a live visual to score sex, but I wasn't going to ask.

We rapped some more after that: about Holloway's collaborations with organist Jack McDuff, George Benson and singer Etta James; his failed 2004 Cambria mayoral bid; and the strawberry red hair that garnered a lifelong nickname in elementary school, but it was all, well ... anti-climactic.

After The Divas Left, Jazz Fest Picked Up

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
J.D. Considine

(June 23, 2008) 'Diva" is a word that gets tossed around all too lightly these days.

Implying both adulation and approbation, it refers to those female singing stars whose sense of drama is personal and permanent, and who insist on star treatment whether on stage or off. Divas can be thrilling, but they can also be a pain, and it was more of the latter than the former when Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love and Merry Clayton jointly headlined at the
Toronto Jazz Festival on Saturday.

Granted, each has seen better days. Spector, whose sultry croon powered the Ronnettes' 1963 smash Be My Baby, last saw the Top-40 in 1986, when she made a cameo appearance on Eddie Money's Take Me Home Tonight. Love, who sang lead on the Crystals' early-1960s hits (He's a Rebel, Da Doo Ron Ron), is probably better known now for having played Danny Glover's wife in the Lethal Weapon films. And Clayton, who made her name sparring with Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter, landed her last hit in 1988, through the Dirty Dancing soundtrack.

Nonetheless, they offered the full diva treatment, arriving late, singing only a few songs, and haranguing the crowd whenever the response was insufficiently adulatory. Moreover, there seemed to be an unspoken agreement that no more than one diva could occupy the stage (or, for that matter, Nathan Phillips Square) at a time, which meant that the Lincolns, who served as the divas' backing band, wound up doing a couple numbers between each set.

Given that Spector and Clayton did just three songs each (Love generously offered four), the audience were left with precious little meat and a whole lot of filler. Spector was the saddest of the three, as her famously wide vibrato has become an outright wobble, and she no longer seemed capable of handling the melodic challenge of Walking In the Rain. Clayton, who scolded the crowd for "sitting like a bump on a log," changed Gimme Shelter's refrain from "rape, murder" to "oh, children," but otherwise did little to make the song hers (although, in fairness, the Lincolns' overly busy groove didn't help).

Only Love left an overall positive impression, and that was largely because she went beyond her own hits to close her set with an impassioned rendition of Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come. Clearly, you don't have to live in the past to sing old songs.

Then again, we didn't need Darlene Love to remind us of that lesson, because blues guitarist John Hammond Jr. spent the opening set breathing new life into old blues. Working with a crack three-piece band (including boogie-woogie master Bruce Katz on piano), Hammond's set was a masterful balancing act between tradition and immediacy, bringing such snap to decades-old blues like Muddy Waters' I Be's Troubled that they sounded almost new.

Folding yesterday into today is the real work of traditionalists, and it would be hard to imagine a more inspiring example than the performance offered by Dr. John with the Wild Magnolias at Nathan Phillips Square Friday.

Dr. John has mined the classic strains of Creole New Orleans for decades, and has always preferred keeping the party going to preserving the music in amber. But his current album, City That Care Forgot, takes a somewhat different attitude, using a funky update of the old grooves to address the anger and frustration of post-Katrina New Orleans. He devoted most of his set Friday to songs from the album, and while neither the angry Promises, Promises nor the mournful My People Need a Second Line got quite as enthusiastic a response as his 1973 hit Right Place, Wrong Time, they remained profoundly moving.

Although the Dr. John concert was prefaced by an official opening ceremony, the Nathan Phillips jazz tent had been baptized earlier Friday with a performance by Gary Morgan and PanAmericana!, a remarkable ensemble that combines rhythmic ideas drawn from Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music with big band writing in the Count Basie tradition.

For this Toronto show, the New York-based bandleader recruited a number of the city's finest players, who delivered polished performances of the rhythmically complex Moragatu (featuring a wonderfully sinuous solo by saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff) and the densely voiced Refractions. Morgan is a regular visitor to these parts, and his Friday afternoon set doubtless left many jazz fans eager for his return.

Special to The Globe and Mail

John Hammond Jr. plays the Vancouver International Jazz Festival June 26.

Ne-Yo, Keyshia Cole At Reggae Sumfest

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(June 23, 2008) *Ne-Yo and Keyshia Cole will headline this year’s international night on Friday, July 18 for the 16th staging of Reggae Sumfest, set to take place at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica, July 13-19.  The festival showcases the best of Dancehall and Reggae music, as well as top R&B/Hip Hop performers, and each year attracts in excess of 30,000 patrons to the tourist capital of Montego Bay.    “The Jamaica Tourist Board is again pleased to lend its support to Reggae Sumfest, one of Jamaica’s premiere music events, which has sought to showcase the island’s musical genius while promoting Montego Bay and Jamaica as a vacation destination," said Basil Smith, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism. Prices are $15 for July 13; $29 for July 17; and $50 for July 18 and 19. Tickets can be purchased online at www.islandstubs.com. For travel packages and additional information on Reggae Sumfest, visit www.reggaesumfest.com. The Festival Schedule is listed below:

Sunday, July 13
• The opening Beach Party for the festival will feature the two sound systems Classique and Danger Zone.


Thursday, July 17
• Fans will enjoy performances from Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, I Octane, Elephant Man, Lady Saw, Vybz Kartel, Demarco, Anthony B, Wayne Marshall, Macka Diamond, Ninja Man, Voice Mail, Shane O, Assasin, Busy Signal, Spice, Serani, Harry Todler, Erup and Munga.


Friday, July 18
• Featured performers include Jah Cure, Courtney John, Richie Spice, Queen Ifrica, and Pressure.


Saturday, July 19
• The festival’s curtains come down with a number of Jamaican artists with international acclaim, including Beres Hammond, John Holt, Brick & Lace, Tarrus Riley and Etana.

What Happens If Jazz, Classical And Barenaked Ladies Collide?

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
J.D. Considine

(June 20, 2008) It's difficult to imagine a more vivid example of musical fusion than the ensemble camped out in a third-floor rehearsal room at Toronto's Royal Conservatory of Music. In addition to violin, cello and piano - the components of a classical piano trio - there is also double bass, saxophone and guitar, the makings of a small jazz combo. And facing the six, from the other side of the semi-circle, is Barenaked Ladies vocalist Steven Page, holding a microphone but singing without assistance, the way a tenor in recital would.

This is a rehearsal for Art of Time's season finale, Songbook 2, which will feature Page singing songs by Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello, Jane Siberry and others, as well as a performance of the Prokofiev Violin Sonata No. 1 by Steven Sitarsky and Art of Time musical director Andrew Burashko. The program is not a "pops" concert, but instead a serious effort by serious musicians who just happen to hail from a variety of disciplines.

"A lot of the point of view is simply about who the ensemble is, bringing people from different disciplines into one place," Page says during a lunch break. "Even the songwriters come from different places. So the point of the show, really, is to create a meeting place for disparate writers and performers."

The concept is simple enough. Burashko invites a singer to choose a group of songs, which are then arranged for the six-piece chamber ensemble. Between the writing, the playing and the singing, the Art of Time performance hopes to blur whatever lines exist between classical and pop, jazz and art song, or any other genre that might get swept into the mix.

"Letting Steven and the other singers choose the songs was incredibly important," Burashko explains. "If they have a strong emotional connection to the song, they wouldn't be thrown by anything in the arrangement."

Burashko and company have billed the program, which takes place Friday and Saturday at the Enwave Theatre in Toronto's Harbourfront, as Songbook 2, but it's actually the Art of Time's third experiment with the format.

"First we did it with a jazz singer named Melissa Stylianou, and we did jazz standards," Burashko says. "But it was exactly the same concept, which was getting a bunch of people with totally disparate sensibilities, and giving them carte blanche to arrange songs without robbing them of their nature.

"We did it last year with Sarah Slean, which worked like a dream, and we just recorded that. So the idea is an old one. Working with Steven is a new thing."

Working with classical musicians isn't exactly new for Page. "I sang chorally all the way through high school and even university, and I was in the Mendelssohn Youth Choir in Toronto," he says. "I just loved everything about it, the social aspect, feeling the noise come out of your body - all of the things that made me want to be a singer."

"I took it seriously, but it was never something I considered pursuing as a career," he adds. "I sort of fell into pop music, and since then, I've only had bits and pieces of opportunities to do serious singing. This last year, I hosted the Black and White Gala for the NAC Opera, and got to Nessun Dorma with Michael Schade and Russell Braun." He laughs. "That's my version of air guitaring."

For Songbook 2, Page is getting to sing "12 songs I've always wanted to sing," but in arrangements that go well beyond anything he or the songwriters might have imagined. Take, for example, For We Are the King of the Boudoir, which was written by Stephin Merritt for his band the Magnetic Fields. The song itself is a bit of a burlesque in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta style, but the arrangement (by Cameron Wilson) takes a sharp left turn with an instrumental section that plunges the tune into densely modern harmonic territory.

"I asked [Wilson] to write an interlude, because the song itself is what, a minute and a half long?" Burashko says. "And part of the beauty of this concept is that you're always taking a chance, because it's important to give the people the freedom to do what they want, so that they feel fulfilled."

Page adds, "I like performing it, because it's nice to know I'm enabling someone to have all the freedom they wish in doing an arrangement. It's like they're part of the band at that point."

Speaking of the band, what of Page's other outfit? "We're always working - doing one-offs or benefits or this, that, and the other thing," he says. "Plus we're always writing, so we think we're busy. But people stop me on the street and say, 'You guys still together?' It's like - oh my god, we gotta do something here!"

Fortunately, the Ladies have big plans for the coming year. "This is the 20th anniversary of the group, so we're going to do an album in the fall, have it out in the spring and do a fairly intensive tour to celebrate," he says.

In the meantime, he hopes that BNL fans who don't normally attend chamber concerts might be curious enough to check out the Art of Time program. "Part of what we're doing here is just getting people into the concert who may not normally come," Page says. "I know there are lots of classical music fans who think, let's not cross these two things because it's cheesy. But I think the cheesiest thing the classical world does is pander to the most banal mainstream taste."

And there's nothing banal or mainstream on the schedule for Art of Time's Songbook 2.

Songbook 2 will be performed at 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow at the Enwave Theatre at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre. For tickets, call 416-973-4000, or go to http://www.artoftimeensemble.com.

Mike Stern Lets His Guitar Do The Talking

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

(June 25, 2008) Mike Stern has a curriculum vitae that's the envy of every musician who dreams of a life in jazz.

The 55-year-old guitarist's creative associations with jazz legends Miles Davis, Billy Cobham and Jaco Pastorius, among countless others, provide jaw-dropping evidence of constant musical renewal, mercurial versatility, fertile imagination and dogged persistence.

For all that, Stern – who performs in a guitar-heavy triple-header Friday at the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival with John Scofield and John Abercrombie – is a plainspoken and down-to-earth conversationalist. He's humble about his successes (four Grammy nominations and numerous jazz/instrumental awards) and eager to improve what fans and critics see as a firm and comprehensive grip on his instrument and his milieu.

"I don't know s--t," the Boston-born, Washington D.C.-raised Stern said in a recent phone interview from Tokyo. "The more I learn, the more I need to learn. I'm still learning from guys I've been playing with for years and from others I meet on the road."

In that number are American fusionists the Yellowjackets, with whom Stern recorded the critically acclaimed album Lifecycle.

"They've been together, with different personnel, for 30 years and have developed a solid band sound," Stern said. "When I sat in, it was a natural fit. We just did a show together in Minneapolis and though my priority is still my own band (he's currently working with bassist Chris Minh Doky and drummer Lionel Cordew), I'm looking forward to touring Europe with the Yellowjackets in July."

That Europeans and Canadians are more appreciative of his music – a distinctive amalgamation of bebop-infused jazz, hard rock guitar textures, and country, blues and world-music elements – than audiences in the U.S., comes down to education funding and the financial burden of America's military adventures, Stern believes.

"There's not a lot of support for the arts and arts education in America right now," he said.

"More and more is going to the military, and what really worries me is that there's less and less outrage.

"It's just a general observation, but that seems not to be the case in Europe, where they take their culture seriously, or Canada. I recently taught some sessions at Humber College in Toronto and it was as good a music school as Berklee – lots of interest, lots of support.

"Maybe things will get better in America after the elections. We don't have four more years to waste."

Time wasted is anathema to Stern. He did enough of that living large – with the help of alcohol and drugs – back in the day with Davis, still the guitarist's most inspiring mentor.

"To be a good musician you have to concentrate on who you are as a person before you start working on the music. When I was with Miles other things were getting in the way. I had to find myself and I had to get sober. Twenty-five years later, and sober all that time, it's easier for me to play from the heart, to let go and not think too much."

About his famous Yamaha Pacifica guitar, a solid-body rock instrument and a genuine rarity in the jazz world, Stern explained that it was designed to replicate a modified Telecaster he had bought from Washington-based country-blues guitarist, the late Roy Buchanan, through a mutual friend.

"That guitar was stolen from me at gunpoint in a bus station one night," he said. "I had no idea what made it so hot ... those country guys use weird backwater voodoo when it comes to guitars. Yamaha worked real hard to make one for me that sounds and feels just right."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Don Cornelius Sells 'Soul Train'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 19, 2008) *After 37 years, "the hippest trip in America" has come under new ownership.  Don Cornelius, creator of the "Soul Train" franchise, has sold the property to MadVision Entertainment, a multimedia company specializing in branded urban content and production. The deal includes production rights to "Soul Train's" weekly series, including a catalogue of more than 1,100 hours of archival footage. New episodes haven't been produced since 2006, but it's understood that MadVision may bring the show back sometime in the future. "The 'Soul Train' legacy and brand are of the utmost importance to me and to 'Soul Train's' millions of fans," Cornelius told the Hollywood Reporter. "After years of offers, I feel the time is now finally right to pass the torch. The MadVision team understands and respects my vision."  Peter Griffith, who founded MadVision with Kenard Gibbs and Anthony Maddox, said the company also is eyeing new opportunities for "Soul Train" on DVD, broadband and video-on-demand.   "Our goal is to preserve the show's legacy and expand the brand for the generations to come," Gibbs added.

Soul Siren Maiysha Gets A Bowie Connection

Source: rshapiro@shorefire.com, mlavigne@shorefire.com

(June 24, 2008) *David Bowie is one of the biggest influences on progressive soul siren Maiysha's debut album 'This Much Is True' (August 26-Eusonia/UFO), which is why she was thrilled when veteran Bowie bassist Gail Ann Dorsey joined her for a recent NYC showcase. "Gail has played with many musicians I admire, so it was an honour that she wanted to work with us for this performance," says Maiysha. "The Bowie connection is especially exciting- Bowie was one of my earliest musical idols for albums like 'Ziggy Stardust,' 'Let's Dance,' and 'Young Americans.' 'Young Americans' actually had special meaning for me because another one of my idols, Luther Vandross, co-wrote "Fascination" and helped with the vocal arrangements on that record." "Bowie 's ability to take on different personas, experiment musically, and show off many sides of his personality inspired my musical path," continues Maiysha. "Every song on 'This Much is True:' reflects a different facet of my character, and I'm not locked into any one niche- lyrically or musically. I can thank Bowie for driving me to constantly reinvent my sound, incorporating everything from swing music to rock to classic soul to drum and bass on my album." The combination has worked spectacularly- Newsweek declared that Maiysha's "soulful sound incorporates hip-hop, jazz, and funk that is just as comfortable on the dance floor as at a backyard barbecue". Hip-hop journalist Will Dawson also got a taste of Maiysha's NYC showcase and raved that she "let loose with soaring vocals that literally rocked the packed studio with a mix of rock, soul, jazz and funk."

www.shorefire.com
www.eusonia.com
www.maiysha.com
www.myspace.com/maiyshamusic

New Beatles Documentary Is Getting Plenty Of Love

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Reuters

(June 25, 2008) SILVER SPRING, Md.–A new Beatles movie depicts surviving band members, widows and their producer reuniting to rise above a reputation for discord and collaborate on a lavish stage show with Cirque du Soleil. The movie, All Together Now, shows Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr working with Yoko Ono, George Harrison's widow Olivia and The Beatles' producer Sir George Martin to remix their music for the 21st century with the Las Vegas stage production of Love. "I wanted to tell this story about these people who are myths. They're mythic characters," said the film's Canadian director, Adrian Wills. "This was a way for them to sort of deal with their past in a way that was in the present." The movie had its U.S. debut last week at the Silverdocs documentary film festival and was repeated by audience demand Monday. Apple Corps Ltd. executive Jonathan Clyde said there are only limited plans for more public showings, but a DVD release is in the pipeline. Love is a $180 million (U.S.) show at a specially built theatre at the Mirage Hotel. The Cirque du Soleil employs dance, acrobatics and fanciful staging to interpret the evolution of Beatles music from exuberant pop to utopian psychedelia. Wills said he filmed at a distance with a long lens and put a microphone on whomever he could. He got interviews with Paul and Ringo by first gaining the trust of Ono and Harrison. "We kind of stole the film," he said. There are brief moments of discord. Ono is shown distressed over "Come Together," with dark-clad dancers gyrating suggestively. It looked "sleazy" for what her husband, John Lennon, had intended as a political song, she complained. But mostly the film shows McCartney, Starr, Harrison and Ono working closely with Martin and the Cirque.

::FILM NEWS::

Jasmine Richards Heard The Premiere Call Her Name

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Catherine Dawson March

(June 20, 2008) Jasmine Richards should have been cramming for exams last week. Instead, the Grade 12 student flew to New York to attend her first movie premiere. She had to. She was in the movie. "I probably should have been studying, but the premiere was calling my name," she laughs.

"It's crazy to think that I've gone from being a normal kid to all of a sudden being at a premiere of my own movie, and paparazzi actually know my name!"

The (almost) 18-year-old actor from Oakville, Ont., plays a key supporting role in
Camp Rock, Disney's new TV musical that is billed as the heir apparent to the High School Musical franchise.

Since the age of 11, Richards has slowly built her career in Canada with parts in TV series such as Da Kink in My Hair, Naturally, Sadie and Overruled! But landing a role in Camp Rock - a star vehicle for pop group the Jonas Brothers - has launched her into a whole different universe.

At the New York premiere, Richards faced the press in a black sheath made for her by an Oakville designer (paired with a H&M headband and $20 boots), then did 80 interviews in a row as flashbulbs popped and fans clamoured for autographs. "It was a very scary experience, and at the same time very exciting."

Her co-stars, Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas, are used to the media's glare, but this is their first feature film. Disney created it to showcase their next best tween sensation (after Miley Cyrus and her Hannah Montana series). The "JoBros" second album made its debut at No. 5 on the Billboard chart and is still in the Top 50, their next CD comes out in August and they're featured on the Camp Rock soundtrack, which went on sale last week.

Disney knows that if you grab the kids with a catchy tune, the adulation will follow. And unlike High School Musical, Camp Rock has a wider mix of tunes, from ballads to pop anthems to hip-hop beats. "Music is the parlance of your kids and mine," Gary Marsh, the entertainment president of Disney Channel Worldwide, said before a screening of Camp Rock last month.

In the film, Joe Jonas (the cute one) plays Shane, a spoiled rock star sent for a time out by his bandmates (brothers Kevin and Nick Jonas) to do community service as a counsellor at summer music camp. "I showered in cold water. I looked at a tree. It's been three hours, I need hair product," he whines early in the movie.

Clearly Shane has a lot to learn about camp, but before the summer is over there is a girl to woo (newcomer Demi Lovato), songs to sing, dances to learn and lessons for all about not changing who you are to fit in. It's a favourite Disney theme, so you know when one character declares: "Being popular is so not a 'so what!' " that she's in for some dramatic comeuppance.

The musical was filmed last September in Ontario cottage country, at Camp Wanakita in Haliburton and Kilcoo Camp near Minden. The locations were gorgeous, Richards says, but fall came early last year and "it was a big change for the L.A. kids.

"We were out [filming] in T-shirts and shorts and because of the cold weather we wore hot pads taped to our backs, in our pockets, in our shoes. It was crazy."

Toronto actor Daniel Fathers laughs when he remembers the experienced director of photography trying to figure out what do about the encroaching fall colour. (Keen-eyed viewers will notice the leaves changing colour from scene to scene.) "It was a major concern," he says. "They were filming leaves, and then sending that film down to Los Angeles to see if they could change the colour to keep it [like] summer."

At 42, Fathers was the elder statesman on set. He had never worked with so many kids and hadn't even heard of the Jonas Brothers before. He didn't know what to expect, especially from 18-year-old pop star Joe Jonas, with whom he had many scenes. Fathers plays the camp owner, an aging Cockney rocker who shames Shane into caring about his summer job.

"He switched off the teen pop star and turned on Joe Jonas the actor," Fathers says. "He was as pro as anybody with his experience could possibly be. When I saw the film, I was really impressed."

But it was 20-year-old Kevin Jonas who still has Richards in a swoon. In a key scene, her character picks up a guitar and sings her heart out. Richards had to look like she knew what she was doing. "He gave me guitar lessons on set, which was awesome. I mean, how many girls can actually say, 'Hey, Kevin Jonas taught me how to play guitar.' "

As soon as her exams are over, Richards will be making plans for her summer and her future. Now that she is graduating, she will take a year off school and chase her acting career in Los Angeles. "Being in this film has motivated me. ... There are a lot of doors that have been opened now."

Camp Rock airs Friday at 8 p.m. on Family and Saturday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Composing at camp

We're rubbing off on them, eh? Not only are the Jonas Brothers opening for Canada's own Avril Lavigne on her European tour, but most of the lyrics for the pop band's new album were written while filming Camp Rock in Ontario cottage country last summer. "Our hotel had this huge room with a piano," co-star Jasmine Richards says, "so everyone would go and sit around the piano and Nick would play and sing a song that he wrote." A Little Bit Longer is the band's third studio album. It will be released Aug. 12, and they'll be performing some of the songs on their next North American tour, which kicks off July 4 in Toronto.

C.D.M.

Nicole Ari Parker: The Interview With Kam Williams

Source: www.eurweb.com – By Kam Williams

(June 19, 2008) *Born in Baltimore on October 7, 1970, Nicole Ari Parker was the only child of Donald, a dentist, and Joanne, a health care professional. Bitten by the acting bug at an early age, Nicole starred in both school plays and community theatre before attending film school at NYU.

After graduating in 1993, she landed several supporting roles in feature films, and began to get some serious attention after delivering a powerful performance in Boogie Nights.

She subsequently made memorable appearances in pictures like Blue Streak, Remember the Titans, Brown Sugar and Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, to name a few. On TV, Nicole has enjoyed recurring roles on such shows as Cosby, Second time Around and Soul Food, which is where she met her future husband, co-star Boris Kodjoe.

The couple married in 2005 and they already have a couple of kids, Sophie, 3, and Nicolas, 1. Here, Nicole talks about Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, which has just come out on DVD, and about the challenge of juggling acting and her family responsibilities.   

Kam Williams: Hey, Nicole, thanks again for the time.

Nicole (Ari) Parker: No, thank you.

KW: How are Boris and the kids?

NP: They’re great. Thank you for asking.

KW: How are you finding time to balance kids and career?

NP: I’m finding it, Kam. I’m finding it every day. You just have to. This business pulls you in so many different directions that you just have to line up your priorities, and commit to them. We really give our family love and attention constantly, because we want to do what we want to do in this business. So, we have to put 110% in.

KW: What interested you in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins?

NP: First of all, I wanted to work with [director] Malcolm Lee. I was really excited about that opportunity and the chance to be a member of this cast.

KW: It is interesting that you hadn’t worked with Malcolm before, because you were so good in Brown Sugar which has the feel of his type of film. Plus, you are so much a part of that generation of young black actors and actresses many of whom enjoyed breakout roles in his movies.

NP: That happens a lot, Kam, It’s like two ships passing in the night. We should’ve been matched up a long time ago, but just never had the chance until now.

KW: I think you would’ve been perfect in The Best Man. You would’ve fit in well with that ensemble.

NP: My sentiments exactly.

KW: Who did you base your character Lucinda on in Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins?

NP: It was really Malcolm’s, baby. He really had specific ideas about how he wanted her to be. She might have been a girl he knew. I don’t know. But he was very clear about he wanted from her, and I just kind of fleshed it out. And it was fun to play a nice character for change. [Laughs]

KW: Was it weird having so many comedians, Martin Lawrence, Cedric, Mo’Nique and Mike Epps, on the set?

NP: No, it just made going to work everyday such joy. It was really remarkable to see them in action. They’re all so brilliant. In reality, Malcolm had to edit a lot of stuff out which you’ll now get to see on the DVD. You’ll be blown away and saying to yourself, “I can’t believe this didn’t make it into the movie.” But you just can’t, the movie happens in real time. 

KW: I would also guess that these comedians were constantly going off the script, and cracking jokes which might be hilarious but couldn’t be included in the final edit for consistency reasons, since their improvising never got shot again from all the different angles needed.

NP: Exactly! They couldn’t go back and get the coverage of it. You’re absolutely right. There could be technical reasons as well.

KW: Are there any specific DVD extras you’re recommending?

NP: If you buy the DVD and go right to deleted scenes, you’ll know the money was totally worth it. You’ll see your favourite comedians in action.

KW: The cast also had a couple of veteran actors in James Earl Jones and Margaret Avery. 

NP: I thought Malcolm was so smart in casting them in the movie, and in giving them a chance to shine. I felt blessed just being in the same frame as James. He’s so elegant and graceful in real life. And my husband got to be with him on stage recently, in the Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  

KW: Do you care to comment about your upcoming projects: Never Better, Pastor Brown and Nowhere Land?

NP: Never Better is a TV pilot. For Pastor Brown, I was so blown away to be working with Rockmund [Dunbar] as a director. I couldn’t believe how much my brother-in-law from Soul Food was shining in this moment. I totally trusted him behind the camera and it was a really wonderful experience.  

KW: And how about Nowhere Land?

NP: Honestly, working with Eddie Murphy was mind-blowing just in terms of the budget alone. To see the respect he commands, to witness his presence, you understand why he and people like Martin Lawrence are stars.

KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson reminded me to ask you, what was the last book you read?

NP: Showing Forth the Presence of God by Joel Goldsmith, my favourite writer. And before that I read Eat, Pray, Love, a best seller by Elizabeth Goldsmith. I think it might have been a featured Oprah Book Club pick.

KW: Is there a question you wished a reporter would ask you, but none ever does?

NP: No, they pretty much ask me everything. [Laughs] They get all in my business. 

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

NP: I am like overflowing with an avalanche of happiness. My cup runneth over.

For the full interview by Kam Williams – go HERE.

Canadian Film's Conceptual Risk-Taker, Peter Lynch

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Jason Anderson

(June 20, 2008) Growing up on the edge of the Don Valley in the Toronto suburb of Thorncliffe, Peter Lynch felt like he had a foot in two different worlds: the modern, structured world of the high-rises such as the one in which he lived and the wilderness of the valley below. "The valley was where you were unsupervised," the Toronto-based director says. "You could be Tom Sawyer on the Don River. When I make a film, I always feel like I'm going back to that valley, going back to the tree forts and fires and those things I was doing to test myself in nature."

No other contemporary Canadian filmmaker is so keenly aware of the ways that we imprint our dreams and desires onto the natural world, often with results that are less than ideal. This theme recurs throughout the Cinematheque Ontario retrospective of Lynch's work since 1993 (it starts today with a lecture presentation and a screening of one of his favourite films, Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend). In 1996's Project Grizzly, Lynch made a mythic hero out of Troy Hurtubise, an intrepid North Bay inventor who fashions a (hopefully) bear-proof suit and heads out into the Rockies to test it. Based on the true story of another odd quest - a government-sponsored reindeer drive from Alaska to the Mackenzie Delta in 1929 - 1998's The Herd transforms a tale of folly in the far north into an existential epic. An avidly surreal short that first surfaced in 2003, Animal Nightmares reimagines humanity from the perspective of the critters whose lives we commandeer and curtail.

And much as Mother Nature rejects our efforts to force her to do what we want, Lynch continually resists the pressure to convey these stories in a formally conventional manner. Instead, he freely mixes elements of fact and fiction, often providing - as in Cyberman, his 2003 portrait of the University of Toronto's resident cyborg, Steve Mann - highly mediated versions of reality. "Each story has its own form," he says in an interview last week. "I also feel there should be a conceptual risk when you set forth to make a film - you shouldn't already know what the outcome will be."

The difficulty in trying to categorize Lynch's work may be why it has been undervalued. At the same time, viewers all over the world have felt the strange pull of Hurtubise's quest in Project Grizzly. Already parodied on The Simpsons, it more recently inspired Grizzly Proof, an exhibition of work by artists who were invited to create their own responses to the movie: The show runs at Trinity Square Video's gallery until July 12.

"It's probably one of the most-blogged-about Canadian films," Lynch says of the film's unexpected longevity. "People do their own cuts of it and put it to different music. I guess the reason it strikes a chord is that it's so homespun - Troy uses everyday materials but for this fantastical quest. And people love to see someone go to that extreme, to set up a mythology and then act it out to such a degree."

Though Project Grizzly remains Lynch's best-known film, he continues to expose the "larger mythic dimension" of the stories that interest him. With several dramatic projects in the works (including a noir-ish script he wrote with Paul Quarrington), he is also pleased to see his past oeuvre of not-quite-docs get the deluxe treatment at Cinematheque Ontario. "It's affirming as a filmmaker," he says. "It's also nice because I'm at the stage of my career where I feel like I'm getting ready to embark on a new direction. I feel like I'm just starting and this is a foundation to go outwards and to explore these themes on a bigger canvas in drama. [François] Truffaut talked about how it takes something like 15 years to become a filmmaker. I would say that's probably true but that just gets you to square one."

Special to The Globe and Mail

Weird Science: The Idiosyncratic Archaeology of Peter Lynch screens from today through June 28 at Cinematheque Ontario, at the Art Gallery of Ontario's Jackman Hall, 317 Dundas St. W. in Toronto (http://www.cinemathequeontario.ca or 416-968-FILM).

FX Master's Greatest Hits

Source: www.thestar.com - Derek Tse,
Toronto Star

(June 21, 2008) The geek world lost one of its greatest heroes last week when special effects and makeup wizard Stan Winston passed away at 62 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

Winston worked on some of the most influential science-fiction and fantasy films of his generation (including such notables as Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Jurassic Park) and earned four Academy Awards along the way. Like stop-motion effects guru Ray Harryhausen before him, Winston made the impossible seem real on screen and shaped the dreams of millions of moviegoing geeks.

To salute Winston's work, we've compiled a short list of our favourite effects/sequences that he worked on.

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

Sure, it may not look so great in today's CGI-polished world, but the model work and makeup effects in director James Cameron's killer-cyborg flick were impressive for its time. Especially gruesome: The scene where the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) repairs his damaged arm and face, which includes plucking out his own eyeball.

ALIENS (1986)

Winston teamed up again with Cameron for this action-heavy sequel to Ridley Scott's Alien and took home his first Oscar. Winston had plenty of moments to showcase his brilliance, including the terrifying scene in which the leathery, spider-like facehuggers chase Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Newt (Carrie Henn) around a locked room. But the most impressive achievement has to be the climactic battle between Ripley, encased in a powerful exo-skeleton, and the alien queen.

PREDATOR (1987)

Sure, it managed to somehow rip off both Alien and Aliens, but it had one hell of a monster, its disgusting design courtesy of Stan Winston. As Arnie – playing heroic beefcake Dutch – eloquently remarked upon seeing his extra-terrestrial foe's hideous face for the first time: "You're one ugly motherf---er."

TERMINATOR 2:

JUDGMENT DAY (1991)

By this time, filmmakers were beginning to grasp the possibilities of CGI on the big screen. Winston won a couple of Oscars for his work here, including creating the liquid effects of the constantly morphing, mercury-like T-1000 (Robert Patrick).

JURASSIC PARK (1993)

Steven Spielberg's action-adventure may have been short on script but it made you believe dinosaurs were stomping around, snacking on people stuck in Portaloos. Winston crafted the animatronics, including a 20-foot Tyrannosaurus Rex, which were mixed in with the CGI trickery, and won Oscar No. 4.

IRON MAN (2008)

This summer blockbuster is one of the best superhero movies ever made, thanks in no small part to the Iron Man suits hero Robert Downey Jr. donned. Stan Winston Studios designed the metallic do-gooder's armour.

::TV NEWS::

Tabla Player Chana Was The Linchpin In Bringing The Community On Side

Source: www.thestar.com - Prithi Yelaja,
Staff Reporter

(June 20, 2008) Gurpreet Singh Chana's euphoria at being asked to audition for his first lead film role quickly turned to apprehension when he learned what part was on offer.

Chana, an observant Sikh born in Toronto and raised in Hamilton, was up for the role of the notorious bomb-maker
Inderjit Singh Reyat in the documentary Air India Flight 182.

The film, which previewed at Hot Docs last month, makes its world television premiere on CBC Sunday at 9 p.m. The date marks the 23rd anniversary of the doomed flight's departure. On June 23, 1985, a bomb planted by Sikh extremists in British Columbia downed the plane, killing all 329 on board.

"When you think `Air India bombing,' you think Sikh. You think bad, bad, bad. It's obviously a very sensitive subject not only to the victims' families but to the Sikh community, and how the actions of a few can paint a wide brush over the wider community," says Chana, 31, a Toronto-based tabla player.

"So I thought, what is this film going to really accomplish? I had many reservations going into the audition."

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the public tends to perceive a man in a turban and beard, whether Muslim or Sikh, in a negative light, largely thanks to media-perpetuated stereotypes, he adds.

Director Sturla Gunnarsson spotted Chana, who "fell into acting" in a bit part in Amal, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, last year.

Casting the Sikh conspirators was so challenging, Gunnarsson was advised by actors' agents to forget about getting Canadian Sikhs for the parts. But Gunnarsson, an Icelandic Canadian married to a Sikh woman, was determined.

"For a film like this you can't hire someone to act Sikh, you have to be Sikh. ... I'm not casting somebody and putting a ZZ Top beard on them, which is what people usually do," says Gunnarsson, who has read the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, and visited the Golden Temple at Amritsar, Sikhism's holy shrine, several times.

"There is so much shame and denial amongst many Sikh Canadians around this issue," Gunnarsson says, that he was convinced Sikh participation in the film was vital to the community's redemption.

Gunnarsson argues the bombers are not Sikhs in the true sense.

"There's nothing in the Guru Granth Sahib that justifies murdering innocent people. These are fanatics. So the worst thing anybody in the Sikh community can do is turn a blind eye. You have to condemn them.

"The only way the Sikh community can be seen in a negative light in relation to this story is if they don't denounce these people."

That line of reasoning ultimately persuaded Chana, who agreed to sign on after consulting his parents and elders at his gurdwara, the Sikh temple.

Only 8 at the time of the bombing, Chana didn't comprehend the cultural, political and social ramifications of the tragedy until recently, he says – though, being Sikh, it always formed a backdrop in his life.

Because of his high profile in the community as a tabla player, Chana was the linchpin, according to Gunnarsson. "Once he was on board, the film became a less difficult sell. People felt, if Gurpreet's doing it, it can't be all that bad."

For the other 70 parts – mostly victims, their family members and airport workers – Gunnarsson held an open casting call near Pearson airport. Hundreds of people, including entire families, showed up. He took photos of each one and then painstakingly matched them up, based on physical characteristics, to the parts available.

"Each role was very specific: a 40-year-old Gujarati, a 50-year-old Parsi. They had to match up in some way to the faces of the victims' families we'd interviewed and feel as though they could be those people 22 years earlier."

Chana hopes his role will kick-start his acting career, though he stresses that his appearance is part of him and he would never cut his hair or shave his beard for a part.

He adds with a chuckle, "When somebody looks at me, they're not going to think: `He should be playing a surfer boy.'"

TV TIDBITS

Williams To Sub For 'Meet The Press' Sunday

Source: www.thestar.com - David Bauder
, The Associated Press

(June 19, 2008) NEW YORK – Top NBC anchorman Brian Williams will host the next Meet the Press but the network hasn't chosen who will permanently replace Tim Russert, an NBC News spokeswoman said Thursday. The guests will be Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Joe Biden, D-Del., who had been lined up to speak with Russert last week. Tom Brokaw was the host Sunday, two days after Russert died of a heart attack. The show was a tribute to its long-time host. Brokaw joked about jockeying for the job while speaking at Russert's memorial service in Washington on Wednesday. He noted the leaders of politics and journalism who were in the audience, with the largest contingent those who think he should Russert's successor on Meet the Press. The MSNBC cameras cut to a shot of Steve Capus in the audience, the NBC News president who will be making that decision. NBC News reporters David Gregory and Andrea Mitchell are considered possible permanent choices, along with Hardball host Chris Matthews. Williams, anchorman of NBC Nightly News, could do it but that would make for a tough schedule. There is also some sentiment toward having Brokaw, the long-time nightly news anchor, do the job temporarily. It's an important decision for NBC, since Meet the Press was a clear leader in the Sunday morning talk show ratings, chiefly on the strength of Russert's personality. The show reportedly makes more than US$60 million in revenue for the network and often had a waiting list for advertisers. NBC also must find someone who will fill Russert's role as Washington bureau chief.

Janet Jackson To Star In MTV Reality Show

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 20, 2008) *
Janet Jackson is the latest celebrity to step into the world of reality television. The superstar is joining 25/7 Productions to develop an as-yet-untitled music competition series for MTV, reports Variety. The show, which has already begun casting, will feature Jackson mentoring a group of aspiring singers and dancers in the months leading up to her world tour, which launches on Sept. 10.  "It's really about finding who's the next Janet Jackson or Justin Timberlake or Usher," executive producer Dave Broome tells Variety. "And we'll find it from a pool of people who you wouldn't typically find it from. We'll go to YMCAs, church groups, local community centers and try to cast the show."         The program will be shot in various street locales, rather than on a studio soundstage. Producers are still ironing out the prize - but it could potentially relate to Jackson's tour.

Alfre Woodard Headed To NBC

Source:  www.eurweb.com -
J.D. Considine

(June 24, 2008) *Alfre Woodard, last seen on the small screen in ABC's "Desperate Housewives,"  returns to television opposite Christian Slater in NBC's new Jekyll and Hyde-themed drama series "My Own Worst Enemy."  According to the Hollywood Reporter, Slater plays a mild-mannered suburban dad, named Henry, whose alter ego, Edward, is a suave spy. Woodard will play Edward's tough and astute boss at Janus HQ. She also has an alter ego, who gets to interact with Henry. Woodard is the last major cast addition to "Enemy," joining Slater, Mike O'Malley, Yara Martinez and Saffron Burrows. The project is slated to air Mondays in the fall at 10 p.m. Woodard received two Emmy nominations in 2006, for her yearlong stint on "Desperate Housewives" and for the miniseries "The Water Is Wide."

::THEATRE NEWS::

Case Closed: City Needs The Sony Centre

Source:  www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(June 23, 2008) Toronto owes a debt to Leonard Cohen.

His four concerts here earlier this month were memorable for many reasons. Among them was that his thrilling performance made it clear it would be an act of civic madness to let the
Sony Centre be torn down.

Five or six years ago, there was a real question whether this place would be needed once the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet moved to their new home at the Four Seasons Centre – and whether it could survive without them.

Now the verdict is in: Toronto needs the Sony Centre, especially for bookings that need more than 3,000 seats to make them viable, but whose audiences dread the cavernous Air Canada Centre.

The demise of the Sony came close to happening, but sanity prevailed. This week, the famous fan-shaped performing arts centre designed by Peter Dickinson will close its doors – but not forever.

Instead, the place long known as the O'Keefe Centre – until it changed its name to Hummingbird, then Sony – is about to be reborn. Almost 48 years after it opened with the pre-Broadway tryout of Camelot, it is going to get the facelift it has long needed. And its future seems secure.

The price tag for its makeover will be more than $20 million, mostly covered by Sony's development partner, Castlepoint Realty, in payment for the right to build a 49-storey residential tower known as the L Tower, designed by that provocative architect, Daniel Libeskind.

That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that time is running out on Sony Centre CEO Dan Brambilla's $75 million scheme to create a cultural complex adjacent to the theatre to keep the centre abuzz even on nights when there is no show.

He called it the Arts and Heritage Awareness (AHA) Centre, which was to include an interactive attraction telling the story of the arts through the history of the many ethnic groups that make up this city's population.

There was also going to be a concierge service to help tourists plan activities, plus a banquet facility and a video cabaret space.

That plan got the blessing of the city, which owns the centre, but the money to build it was going to have to come largely from Ottawa and Queen's Park – about $22 million each. Over the past three years, there has been lots of positive talk but no commitment.

Brambilla has not given up and, technically, his deadline for raising the money has been extended to Sept. 15. But at this point, I'd say chances are very slim it will happen. Luckily, there's a Plan B.

With or without funding for the AHA Centre, Castlepoint will soon break ground and start the long process of building the L Tower. The seven-storey podium at the base of the tower, linking it to the original theatre, will be built even if there is no AHA Centre.

But unless AHA funding comes through, the podium will belong to the developer for the next 15 years – and will be used for retail space. Then, perhaps around 2025, the city will have the option of reclaiming the space and using the podium for whatever it chooses.

The theatre could reopen in the fall of 2009, after being shuttered for less than 18 months. But it may be more realistic to plan the gala reopening for the spring of 2010.

The theatre will be more dazzling than ever – with a knockout lobby, new seats in the auditorium and an improved sound system. Tarnished brass will gleam more brightly than we've seen since 1960 and broken pieces of limestone will be replaced.

And maybe Toronto will learn to appreciate this unique showplace after years of denigrating it because it wasn't really an opera house. No, it wasn't.

But now we don't need to pretend it ever was.

Martin Knelman's column on the arts appears every other week on this page. mknelman@thestar.ca

Evil Dead Marks Its 300th Performance

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

(June 25, 2008) If George Reinblatt weren't so thirsty, he probably would never have written Evil Dead: The Musical, which is celebrating its 300th performance on Thursday night.

Let Reinblatt, 31, the perpetual frat boy without a campus, tell the story himself.

"It was the summer of 2002," he began, "and I went to see my buddy Chris Bond, who was performing in The Rocky Horror Show at a bar somewhere in Toronto.

"I was fascinated by the idea of people being allowed to drink in a theatre. I mean, it combined two of my favourite activities."

So later that evening ("over more than a few brews," in Reinblatt's words) he and Bond decided to create a show of their own that – most importantly – would be presented in a venue that allowed the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

The next night, Reinblatt watched the 1981 movie The Evil Dead and called Bond, saying, "We have to do this!"

Next he contacted the film's creator, Sam Raimi, by now an A-list Hollywood director thanks to films such as Spider-Man.

"Surprisingly enough, Raimi gave me the rights from the start. It was all legal, but very limited. Later on, when we started to expand, the film company entered the picture and they kept us on a very short leash until they knew it was good."

Together with fellow Queen's University buds Frank Cipolla and Melissa Morris, Reinblatt and Bond wrote the show over the next year and had it ready to open at the Tranzac Club, on Brunswick Ave. (which, happily, was fully licensed) on Aug. 14, 2003.

If that date rings a bell, it's because it was the night of the giant blackout, and only now, five years later, is Reinblatt willing to sheepishly admit that "I never even saw that performance. I was trapped all the way over on the other side of town." What happened in the Annex, however, was amazing.

The cast and the audience poured into the street, lit the show with headlights, played it all acoustic and kept the evening going.

"It was that night," Reinblatt chuckled, "that the Evil Dead buzz started."

The run at the Tranzac sold out quickly and another was planned for October, which also played to packed houses as well as critics who were largely favourable.

Then Just For Laughs brought it to Montreal in the summer of 2004 and the wheels started turning to take it to New York, where it opened on Nov. 1, 2006, got generally upbeat reviews and ran until Feb. 17, 2007.

Next it came back, to the Diesel Playhouse, where tomorrow night will mark the show's 300th performance – the longest run for a Canadian musical since Greg Robic's The Clouds in 1994.

What has Reinblatt been doing? Writing for Just For Laughs and going to his show around the world (including a week in Korea).

"I've maybe seen it 200 times and I still keep laughing harder than anybody. Some people find it really obnoxious."

When asked if he has plans for the future, he hints he has a few things up his sleeve, but then admits, "I've kind of grown to realize that no matter what I do next, people might say, `It's not as good as Evil Dead.'"

And they might not serve drinks at the theatre, either.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Bragg Stepping Down As Artistic Producer Of Canadian Stage Company

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

(June 19, 2008) Martin Bragg announced yesterday that he would leave his position as artistic producer of the Canadian Stage Company at the end of the 2008-2009 season, his 17th with the organization. "My contract expires next August and I'm obliged to give the board a year's notice. I think there's something else besides Canadian Stage that I want to do, even if I don't know what it is yet. And if I renewed my contract, that would mean three or five more years, and there wouldn't be any more time left." Bragg, 54, seemed in good humour as he talked about a decision "that had been brewing for a long time. I thought I finally had to s--t or get off the pot." Bragg was under heavy fire this year when artistic director David Storch suddenly resigned, followed by the downsizing of the organization to deal with falling revenues. But Bragg insisted, "Sales have picked up and we're going to come out of this thing just fine. We're 7 per cent ahead of last year." The first part of the search for an artistic director ended Monday but will now go on hold because the company's bylaws require an artistic producer in the top spot "and it's going to have to be up to the board if they want to change it," Bragg said. The highlight of his years with Canadian Stage was The Overcoat, the acclaimed Morris Panych piece. "To take that around the world twice as our calling card was a big undertaking for us. And running Angels in America for 50 weeks at the Berkeley Street Theatre was also very important for me." Keeping his cheeky air of optimism to the end, he said, "The Marty Bragg rule is to leave a place better than you found it. Well, when I came here, there was a $3 million deficit. It's down to $1 million now."

::OTHER NEWS::

Bernhard Delighted To Visit For Pride Week

Source:  www.thestar.com - Lee-Anne Goodman,
The Canadian Press

(June 23, 2008) TORONTO – Comedian Sandra Bernhard is best known for her outrageous live shows, her memorable star turn in the film "The King of Comedy" in the 1980s and a famous feud with her former best friend forever, Madonna.

And yet the tall, red-haired Bernhard, dressed in an elegant grey pantsuit, was surprisingly serene Monday as she took time out during her visit to Toronto for
Pride Week to sit down for an interview.

There was no profane trash-talking of celebrities – just a gentle slap at Madonna – nor an impromptu rendition of the song "Me and Mrs. Jones", something she used to do with such hilarious aplomb during her famous live show, "Without You I'm Nothing."

Instead, Bernhard talked mostly about politics of both the sexual and presidential variety, and the delight she's taken in motherhood since she gave birth to her only child a decade ago.

"We're at the precipice of big changes down in the States and I'm really hopeful that the next four to eight years will bring about big changes in terms of the environment and a new consciousness that will help bring people back together again," said the openly gay Bernhard, who performed Sunday night to kick off Pride Week.

Times are indeed changing, Bernhard believes, for gay people – and Canada is well ahead of the U.S. on that front, she says, which is why she was delighted to come north to help for Pride Week, the city's annual celebration of gays and lesbians.

"The whole gay movement is evolving, along with the women's movement, and all the marginalized groups, although they're all fighting different battles," Bernhard says.

"Even in comedy, I think that straight audiences are starting to appreciate more camp and the type of comedy that used to be more associated with the gay community. And people here in Canada, they are just less fazed by all this stuff, and I think that's really important. It's time for everybody to just live and let live. Sexuality is just another form of expression, after all."

Bernhard, a Barack Obama supporter, confesses she was disappointed in the way Hillary Clinton ran her presidential campaign.

"I think if she'd been more genuine, if she'd been closer to who I think she really is, she would have won. She's a great politician and a smart woman, and I obviously would have liked to see a woman be president, but on so many levels she didn't follow her heart," Bernhard said. "I think she was really qualified, but she kind of blew it."

Bernhard is currently on the road for the 20th anniversary tour of "Without You I'm Nothing," although her Sunday night Pride event at Toronto's Massey Hall was mostly improv.

She reports the show went off beautifully, including her renditions of the Guns N' Roses rocker "Welcome to the Jungle" and Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love."

At 53, Bernhard looks much younger, and says living well keeps her looking so good. She's been a devoted mother to her daughter Cicely and involved in a happy relationship for nine years with a woman who's not in show business.

"I take good care of myself," Bernhard adds. "When you get to do what you want to do and you're satisfied with your career and your life and you have a lot of fun, it helps keep you young."

Cicely – currently fully immersed in a hippie phase, her proud mother reports – has added immeasurably to her happiness.

"She's fabulous. She's the love of my life; I just adore her," a beaming Bernhard says.

As for the famous feud with Madonna? Bernhard is dismissive – but insulting – about the pop star with whom she was once extremely close. The pair even once went on David Letterman's late-night NBC talk show and suggested they were a couple.

"I don't talk much about it because she's so ever-changing in her friendships and her relationships. I don't think it really matters to her whether she's friends with people and made up with people – that's not a priority to her, friendship," Bernhard says with a shrug.

Gordon Pinsent Is Spending The Summer On CBC Radio

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
Josh Wingrove

(June 24, 2008) Fifty years ago in Winnipeg, CBC audiences got their first taste of Gordon Pinsent. It didn't go well.

"Ooo," he says, head shaking, a smile breaking across his face. "It was awful."

Playing a beaten-up prisoner in a live-to-TV stage production, the script called for Pinsent to speak a set of lines to a beautiful female co-star outside his prison cell. But he forgot a line. So, to improvise, he kissed his co-star through the bars ("No reason in the script whatsoever" for the kiss, he says). But the cell's paint was still wet and so was his makeup, which he'd touched up himself. When the girl pulled away she was wearing it - leaving her with two lines of paint, a face full of fake bruises and a string of fake-bloody gauze stretched from his mouth to hers, all "beautifully lit by the CBC," he says.

"When I saw this, I forgot the line again and I went back for another," Pinsent says with a boisterous laugh.

The experience didn't bruise the rest of his career. He has since become a Canadian icon on stage and on screen. Critics lauded his recent performance in Sarah Polley's 2006 film Away from Her, in which Pinsent plays a man whose wife is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

But Pinsent, now 77, is back on the CBC. He's hosting a pre-recorded Radio One series this summer that launches today.

The Late Show will air half-hour documentaries that explore the lives of interesting, but unknown, Canadians who have died. It's one of the few projects Pinsent has agreed to do since his wife, actress Charmion King, died last year of complications from emphysema.

"There's something about this show, based on ordinary lives, focusing on the extraordinary within the subject," he says. "It's very much a living portrait of these people."

A Newfoundland native who speaks like the Stratford Festival veteran he is, Pinsent will host the 10-part series this summer, narrating between clips from the subject's friends and family.

"These stories are just so soul-satisfying," he says. "This is a perfect use of radio."

At a recording session last week at the CBC studios in Toronto, where he lives, Pinsent looked quite at home.

Working with producer Mary Lynk, on the phone from Halifax, he sat alone at a round table with four microphones, performing the lines and hitting every consonant precisely. The day's subject was, fittingly, another East Coast storyteller, a woman named Mary Power. It will air next month.

"I come from a small town. I remember the storytelling," Pinsent says. "It's amazing, and oddly enough in a big city, they do get lost."

He hopes that his show will bring an element of old-fashioned storytelling back to the airwaves. Sitting in a black shirt, jeans and a jacket, he has tucked a blue silk handkerchief skillfully into the jacket pocket - he knew a photographer was coming and dressed up. It's all in tune with the grandpa-sitting-by-the-fire vibe Pinsent has as a storyteller.

He and Lynk have worked together before and, while recording, tease each other back and forth. It's a game of cat and mouse - she calls Pinsent "honey bun," while he picks at her grammar.

"What do you think?" Lynk asked of one take.

"Don't know," said Pinsent, categorically yet nonchalantly. He doesn't seem to care. He's the talent, and leaves the decisions up to her.

"Okay," she said with a laugh. "Well, one more time."

And so they did another. And another, if need be. He performed them with ease, sitting half-off his seat, with one hand stuck into his mop of white hair, propping up his head.

"You know what I'm thinking, Gordon?" Lynk asked.

"That you're going to get someone else to do this?" he quipped.

"It's great," she later assured him. "Because you are a god."

When he had finished, a pair of women whisked Pinsent away to makeup, and then off to shoot a TV ad to promote the radio series (it airs twice a week to the end of August).

Pinsent will finish recording the show in the coming weeks. He doesn't yet know what will come next, but he believes that "there's no such thing as retirement" in show business. "If there was, I might have been gone a year before the Sarah Polley opportunity," he says.

He is waiting to hear on whether he will land a role in an upcoming Ridley Scott film. He has also been known to carry a placard, appearing in demonstrations criticizing the Canadian TV networks for a lack of homegrown content (a staple of his career). When he does protest, he quickly becomes the face of the event, the known celebrity lending legitimacy to the voices of behind-the-scenes folks. It's a role he's prepared to do, but is far more comfortable letting his work speak for itself. It's what led him back to the CBC studios.

"Radio has always been a relaxing, comforting medium for me," he says. "This is the most satisfying job for me in a long, long while."

The Late Show runs Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m.

OTHER TIDBITS

25 To Get Hollywood Walk Stars Next Year

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(June 19, 2008) LOS ANGELES–Hollywood will enshrine an eclectic bunch in its famous curbside Walk of Fame next year, including Hugh Jackman, Ben Kingsley, The Village People and fictional fairy Tinker Bell. Recipients of the sidewalk stars also include Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy, Cameron Diaz, Robert Downey Jr., Tim Burton, Leslie Caron, Charles Durning, Ralph Fiennes, William Petersen, Kyra Sedgwick, John Stamos, Mark Burnett, Chuck Lorre, Kenny (Baby Face) Edmonds, Dave Koz, The Miracles, Doug Morris, Rush, Shakira, KFI radio personality Bill Handel and KCRW host Harry Shearer, who also provides voices for characters on The Simpsons. Cheeta the chimp did not make the list. The animal actor, whose credits include the 1967 comedy Doctor Dolittle and the Tarzan movies, was trying for the seventh time to get a sidewalk star. His handlers had launched an online petition to get supporters to urge the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to give him a star in 2009. Guinness World Records has called the 76-year-old chimp the oldest living, non-human primate. Cheeta is retired and lives in Palm Springs. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce's Walk of Fame Committee chose the recipients, who were ratified by the board of directors Thursday.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Wimbledon Win For Wozniak

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(June 24, 2008) LONDON–Another Another Canadian is through to the second round at Wimbledon. Aleksandra Wozniak of Blainville, Que., defeated Mariya Koryttseva of Ukraine 7-5, 6-4 today.

Her win comes a day after Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., upset David Nalbandian of Argentina in the first round.

American Venus Williams, the defending women's champion, struggled in the first set before cruising to a 7-6 (5), 6-1 victory over British teenager Naomi Cavaday to begin her bid for a fifth Wimbledon title.

Second-ranked Rafael Nadal started his Wimbledon campaign with a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (0) win over German qualifier Andreas Beck.

Fourth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko was ousted in first round of Wimbledon for the fifth time.

Davydenko lost 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to Germany's Benjamin Becker on Tuesday, extending his woeful run on grass at the All England Club.

The 27-year-old Russian has advanced past the first round at Wimbledon only twice in seven trips, including a fourth-round exit last year.

Third-seeded Maria Sharapova has advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-4 win over French qualifier Stephanie Foretz.

As reigning champion, Williams was up first on "Ladies Day" on Centre Court as the All England Club enjoyed a second day of dry, sunny weather.

It took a while for the seventh-seeded American, playing her first grass-court match of the season, to find her game and take command against a 19-year-old wild card playing only her third career Grand Slam match.

"She played a great match," said Williams, who hit one serve at 125 miles an hour. "She put a lot of pace on the ball, forced a few errors by me. I felt confident throughout the match.

"I felt good out there. I always feel good on that court."

Cavaday, a left-hander with a world ranking of No. 197, pushed Williams to the limit in a surprisingly tough opening set that lasted nearly an hour.

With nothing to lose, Cavaday went for her shots and got out to leads of 2-0 and 3-1. She missed a chance to go up 4-2 and Williams rallied to go ahead 4-3.

Cavaday, however, didn't wilt and forced a tiebreaker. Williams was up 3-1 and 4-2 in the tiebreaker, but Cavaday got back to 4-4 with a forehand winner. At 6-4, Williams squandered a set point with a forehand error. She converted on the second when Cavaday couldn't handle a second serve and sent a forehand return into the net.

Cavaday held to open the second set, but Williams then reeled off six straight games to close out the match, and celebrated with twirls to the crowd.

Among those in the stands were her mother, Oracene, and sister Serena, the two-time champion who won her first-round match Monday. The Williams sisters, who could meet in the final, have won six of the last eight Wimbledon titles.

Russian Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion, is paired against Stephanie Foretz of France on Court 1 Tuesday.

Among the men, Spain's Rafael Nadal – coming off his fourth straight French Open championship and first grass-court title at Queen's Club – is up against 122nd-ranked German qualifier Andreas Beck. Two-time runner-up Andy Roddick of the U.S. meets Argentina's Eduardo Schwank, making his Wimbledon debut.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Bosh Named To U.S. Olympic Team

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(June 23, 2008) Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh was named to the U.S. men's basketball team unveiled Monday for the Beijing Games. The U.S. finished third at the Athens Games four years ago. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Jason Kidd were among the 12 players placed on the squad. Completing the team were Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Michael Redd and Deron Williams. The team was selected without a tryout. It will have a minicamp this week in Las Vegas and gather there again July 20-25.

Venus Wants Fifth Wimbledon Trophy

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(June 23, 2008) *Venus Williams said she may break from her tradition and actually shed a tear or two if she can come away with her fifth Wimbledon victory in the coming weeks. "I'm definitely not a crier. I'm the happiest winner ever, but I think maybe I would even cry if I do it," said the tennis star, currently ranked 7th in the world.  Wimbledon is Williams' favourite tournament and certainly one that means the most to her.    "I just think it's the ultimate place to play your best tennis. The most wonderful tournament to win would definitely be here. I've been blessed to do well a few times here, so that feels obviously very good. I just love it here. It's good for my game too," she said. "It's always extremely exciting coming back as the defending champion. It's nice to have the memories from last year all kind of flowing into this year.  "Really just all the wonderful times I've had here on the court, too. But I've also had really great times with my family and my friends here. So I think just the combination of memories on and off the court."   Williams has won Wimbledon twice in the last three years, the latest occurring in 2007 over Marion Bartoli in the finals.   "Of course I think about what a fifth title would be like," she said. "But I know that I'm gonna have to work for it. I'm willing to pay that price.  Despite the fine form of French Open champion Ana Ivanovic, Williams, who will play doubles with sister Serena, believes her biggest rival for the title will probably come from her own family.   "I have the most respect for Serena as a player on tour. Definitely I see her as a player who can produce any shot at any time from anywhere," she said.