March 13, 2008
Back from the 2008 St. Maarten Heineken Regatta last night - with lost luggage and all but am hoping that will be resolved in the next couple of days ... always a price for paradise. I will have a write up in next week's newsletter including the closing concert by Shaggy!
Newsletter is a little lighter than usual taking into considering Internet issues in St. Maarten but scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
Leonard Cohen Inducted Into Rock Hall Of Fame
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - David Bauder, The Associated Press
(March 10, 2008) NEW YORK–Literate Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday.
Lou Reed, who was inducting Cohen, carried a sheaf of papers to the stage and read several examples of Cohen's lyrics.
"We're so lucky to be alive at the same time Leonard Cohen is," Reed said.
Cohen, dressed in a black tux, recited the lyrics to his song ``Tower of Song" in a hushed voice.
"This is a very unlikely occasion for me," he said.
"It is not a distinction that I coveted or even dared dream about."
The Montreal-born Cohen is one of music's most highly regarded songwriters, through pieces like "Suzanne," "First We Take Manhattan" and the much-covered "Hallelujah." Damien Rice sang the latter song in tribute.
He started out as a poet but has been writing and recording his own music since the 1960s.
Madonna recalled a teacher who encouraged her to follow her dreams when she was only 14.
"Thirty-five years later, people are still encouraging me to believe in my dreams," she said at the induction ceremony.
"What more could I ask for?"
Even the people who "said I was talentless, that I was chubby, that I couldn't sing, that I was a one-hit wonder, they helped me, too," she said.
"They inspired me because they made me question myself repeatedly and pushed me to be better."
Singer Justin Timberlake, who helped produce Madonna's upcoming album, inducted her with an innuendo-laden speech.
"The world is full of Madonna wannabes. I might have even dated a couple," said Britney Spears' ex.
"But there is truly only one Madonna."
Timberlake told of how he felt ill one day while working on Madonna's new album and she asked whether he wanted a B-12 shot. He said sure, expecting a doctor, to show up but Madonna pulled out a syringe and said: "Drop 'em."
After he pulled his pants back up, "she looked at me and said: `that's top shelf" and that was one of the greatest days of my life," he said.
"Everything he said is basically true," Madonna confirmed.
"But I didn't say `drop 'em,' I said, `pull your pants down."
Madonna didn't perform but asked punk rockers Iggy Pop and the Stooges to sing "Burning Up" and "Ray of Light."
At the end, a shirtless Pop said: "You make me feel shiny and new, like a virgin touched for the very first time," and tossed his microphone of the floor.
U.S. heartland hitmaker John Mellencamp, with his son Speck playing guitar and his parents watching from a balcony above the Waldorf Astoria Hotel ballroom, joined the rock-kicking with a rumbling version of "Authority Song."
"I wrote this song and I still feel the same way today as I did when I wrote it 25 years ago," Mellencamp said.
He talked of having surgery for spina bifida when he was six weeks old, saying doctors were worried he would be paralyzed below the neck. The 56-year-old rocker said he never knew of the surgery until his teen years, when a classmate asked him about the scar behind his neck.
His grandmother always whispered in his ear: "Buddy, you're the luckiest boy alive."
"I'm lucky to be standing here for any number of reasons," said Mellencamp, a heart patient who snuffed out a cigarette as he took the stage.
Fellow Hall of Fame member Billy Joel, who inducted Mellencamp, said: "You scared us a couple of times when we thought we might have lost you a couple of times, even though it might have been a good career move."
The world needed Mellencamp's voice, he said.
"They need to hear somebody out there feels like they do, in the small towns or the big cities," Joel said.
"And it doesn't matter if they hear it on a jukebox in a gin mill or on a...truck commercial."
Famed Philly soul producer Kenny Gamble, inducted with partner Leon Huff, invited his audience to answer back his wish for ``peace."
"Thank you so much, because that's exactly what our music represented," Gamble told people gathered at New York's Waldorf-Astoria for the annual ceremony.
Patti LaBelle performed a chandelier-shaking rendition of "If You Don't Know Me By Now" to introduce Gamble and Huff. The songwriters and producers created a lush, melodic brand of soul known for their hometown and performed by a variety of artists.
Gamble cited one, Billy Paul's tale of the adulterous affair in ``Me and Mrs. Jones.'
"There's a little `Me and Mrs. Jones' going on here in New York," he said to laughter, hours after New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was said to have hired a prostitute.
He dispelled one rumour. The song "MFSB" stood for mother, father, sister, brother, he insisted. For years, others let their imaginations run wild with the initials.
The Dave Clark Five followed the Beatles in the original British Invasion, with catchy hits including "Glad All Over." Led by drummer and songwriter Clark, the band entered the hall at a tragic time: singer Mike Smith died at age 64 of pneumonia less than two weeks ago.
Actor Tom Hanks paid tribute to the band, recalling times he watched it on The Ed Sullivan Show. Joan Jett, Fogerty and Mellencamp played "Bits and Pieces" and "Glad All Over."
The Ventures, who excelled at what is almost a forgotten art in rock music – the instrumental, were also inducted.
They performed their first hit, "Walk, Don't Run" and "Hawaii Five-O."
John Fogerty recalled how he and fellow members of Creedence Clearwater Revival used to hang out in a garage learning the Ventures' songs.
"When the Ventures first hit the radio, I would say I was gone," Fogerty said.
"The Ventures went on to record 250 albums. Think about that. These days, some of us would be happy to sell 250 albums."
Little Walter, who died in 1968, joins the hall in its sidemen category. He recorded frequently with Muddy Waters in the 1950s.
"He defined an instrument, he defined a sound, he defined a genre," musician Ben Harper said of Little Walter.
Grand Master Of The Grand Finales
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rob Salem, TV Columnist
(March 9, 2008) Kyra Sedgwick is a mere pretender. Clark Johnson is The Closer.
Having directed the first few episodes of The Wire, Johnson has returned to direct its very last, as cable's critical and cult-hit crime drama ends its five-year run tonight at 9 on The Movie Network.
And not only as director – Johnson has been a key co-star throughout this final season, playing a pivotal role in one of its major intersecting plotlines as the beleaguered city editor of the Baltimore Sun.
The pilot and the finale are by far the most essential episodes of any series, first establishing the characters, settings and tone, and then at last resolving it all in an appropriate and satisfying manner.
Both very specialized and uniquely demanding directing assignments, for which Johnson has proven equally adept, as the go-to guy not only for The Wire, but also calling the shots on the first and last episodes of The Shield.
Which would make him an Opener as much as a Closer.
"I'm the Bookender, I guess," Johnson laughs. "I'm cool with that."
These daunting dual directing duties are, he says, inextricably linked. Or at least, they should be. "I did the first episodes of both those shows, and I would have been pissed if they had not come back to me.
"I'm proud to be able to say that I helped to define both those shows."
And then return to help provide closure – and under freakishly similar circumstances, as both shows struggled to cope with the loss of their supervising producers (The Shield's Scott Brazil died in April 2006, The Wire's Robert F. Colesberry in February 2004).
On The Wire, at least, Johnson had the support of writer-creator David Simon. "It was really fun and really collaborative to have him on set," Johnson says. "We were able to close this out together, even without Rob, and to gracefully go out together into that good night."
Not so much the Shield finale, which was mid-production when the writers went on strike. Showrunner Shawn Ryan, while not a WGA member, was involved with its negotiating committee.
"We had to shoot the final six days – with WGA approval, (since) we were not a struck show – without any input at all from the creator of the show. But Shawn and I were on the same page from the very beginning. There was a level of trust there . . . it was a huge responsibility and I took it very seriously."
The genial Toronto-raised actor-director began his rise to hot hyphenate on yet another envelope-pushing (and, like The Wire, Baltimore-set) cop show, Homicide: Life on the Street, where he not only made his bones as an episodic director, but also effectively both opened and closed – in that case, as one of its leading actors – delivering the essentially identical dialogue that kicked off the pilot in and concluded the finale.
A career that has truly, in many respects, encompassed the best of two disparate worlds. Opener and Closer. Actor and director. Movies and television (the former including S.W.A.T. and The Sentinel; the latter, additionally, HBO's acclaimed Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Boycott).
As much as Johnson's impeccable TV track record has opened up endless opportunities and offers, he's finding the feature-film side of the industry typically tougher to crack.
"But hey, it's okay if I'm butting heads with David Cronenberg, and that he gets A History of Violence over me. That's a healthy problem."
Ironically, it was on early Cronenberg sets that the one-time footballer broke into the business – doing special effects. The two remain friends – or now, friendly rivals. "I continue to rag him about not having any black people in his movies."
Like Cronenberg, Johnson has also managed to keep one foot firmly planted on either side of the border, frequently returning to Canada to work both as an actor and director.
"In Canada, I get to work with my friends," he says. Next month, he'll be back to act in an indie feature and a Canadian Film Centre project (produced by his Limb Salesman co-star Ingrid Veninger), and also to direct an episode of the new CTV series Flashpoint.
And if he ever had to choose between acting and directing?
"I'd go back to special effects," he half-jokes. "I like blowing s--t up, and hanging around on set, and just being one of the guys, and the crew's not looking to me for leadership. When you're the director, it's all about everybody just wanting to get the hell home."
To illustrate the point, he cites a Canadian acting job, on the Paul Gross miniseries, The Trojan Horse, debuting on CBC later this month. "When Paul said he wanted me in it, the director, Charles Binamé, was like, 'Is this guy going to come in and want to direct himself? Is he going to second-guess my every decision?'
"Listen, the last thing I want to do when I'm acting is worry about that other actor's tie, or his meal penalty . . . hell no. I really dig being able to just do my job as an actor. And then go home."
Online TV Service Targets Ethnic Viewers
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - David Friend, The Canadian Press
(March 10, 2008) When former EBay Canada general manager Jordan Banks took the reins atInternet broadcaster JumpTV Inc. (TSX: JTV), he hoisted on his shoulders the challenge of selling one of the most debated new technologies to international consumers – online video.
But he has high hopes that's a minor hurdle.
At JumpTV's Toronto headquarters, a quaint office just off a main downtown street, Banks, 39, sits in the company's board room talking about the future of online content and its potential to mesh it with traditional television viewing habits.
One of the first topics the chief executive brings up is ``Quarterlife," the first "television" program that debuted on the Internet before major U.S. network NBC picked it up in as experiment with the mainstream potential of online programming.
The show premiered a night earlier and Banks was hopeful it could mark a new era in merging technologies.
"When you look at what is happening with the consumption of video and the proliferation not only of user-generated content... I'm really bullish on that," he said with assured optimism.
But only a day after the interview NBC pulled the plug on the show after a dismal ratings debut. That squashed the hopes of entertainment insiders who thought "Quarterlife" would help other Internet shows migrate to the corporate big time.
While the seven-year-old JumpTV is a different type of company with a different business approach, it's playing in the same entertainment sandbox – primarily convincing the world that Internet video is more than just a fad and showing the profit margins that prove it.
JumpTV deals in online streaming of live ethnic television and sports from around the globe. In Toronto, techies monitor hundreds of international channels on a wall of giant flat screen monitors that look like something out of a Hollywood spy movie.
The company's goal is to get as many eyeballs as possible watching each of those stations, from music videos out of Trinidad & Tobago to both English- and Arabic-language versions of the Aljazeera Channel.
Selling such a diverse slate is a risky task, but Banks has some practice in the online world – he helped build and market EBay Canada during its launch in 2000.
After nearly a decade with the company, Banks says he felt like he had "really won" by building local operations from the bottom up, and was prepared to take on a new challenge.
"I started looking for opportunities where I could get into a space that I understood, that fascinated me," he said.
I wanted to "take a set of assets... restructure and recalibrate them, and build something again that would win in a space as big as online video."
Banks was ushered into JumpTV's lead position last November to shake up operations and shake out extra costs.
Having served on the board he was already familiar with the company's operations, which he likes to refer to as "a mile wide and an inch deep," and attempting too serve too many customers with too much content.
And so Banks began what he called his 100-day self-imposed mandate to tighten the company's focus on what had proven most successful – sports.
JumpTV has a loyal subscriber base in Hispanics, which make up a third of its subscribers. About 60 per cent of them were located in the United States. The company found the community had a thirst for international soccer games that weren't broadcast by American stations.
Meanwhile, JumpTV also had a relationship with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, to broadcast games from about 150 universities.
"Sports is a key demographic for anybody when they're launching any kind of TV channel," said one JumpTV analyst who asked not to be named.
"When Fox (network television) first launched they went with sports first and then added the other things around it."
But sports programming doesn't necessarily ensure success.
"It's going to be a hit or a miss – moving away from the total ethnic idea and trying to focus on profitable ethnicities. You've got to have people that want something that they can't get anywhere else," the analyst said.
Banks believes he has realistic expectations for the JumpTV: primarily to lift the company to a break-even point on a monthly basis by the end of this year.
Convincing the world Internet TV is the wave of the future could take a little longer.
"Are we a year ahead of when we're really going to see some momentum? Ya know, maybe," he said.
"But talk to me in three or four years and you'll say, 'I can't believe there's a time when people really went and spent 40 per cent of their viewing on (traditional) TV.' "
Teen Forward Expected To Go In First Round Of NHL Draft This
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Sunaya Sapurji, Sports Reporter
(March 12, 2008) When Brampton Battalion forward Cody Hodgson is on the ice, his opponents look like pawns ripe for the taking.
"There are a lot of similarities between chess and hockey," says Hodgson, who grew up playing the board game competitively. "You're always planning your attack beforehand and when you're moving up (the board) you should always attack with more than one piece."
And there's no doubt that when it comes to Brampton's offensive attack, Hodgson is king.
He stopped competing in chess tournaments before entering high school so he could spend more time on hockey – a gambit that has paid off.
The sophomore centre leads the team with 39 goals and is second in scoring with 80 points in 65 games, almost doubling his point production from last season.
"Not only does he generate points for us, but most games he's assigned against the best player on the other team, so he has the added task of shutting (them) down as well," says Battalion head coach and GM Stan Butler. "He's one of those guys that is such an effective player that, until you're behind the bench coaching him, you don't appreciate him as much as you should."
The Battalion (39-22-1-3) face the Peterborough Petes tonight in Peterborough with their goal of finally capturing the Central Division title which eluded them with losses to Niagara and Sudbury over the weekend. The Battalion, 3-0 against the Petes this season, have a four-point lead in the standings over the IceDogs (39-25-0-1) with three games remaining for both teams. And with Peterborough (27-35-0-3) only two points out of seventh place, tonight's game could also serve as a precursor to a first-round playoff matchup.
"It's really important. It's a crucial game for us," Hodgson says of facing the Petes.
"Peterborough is a good team, so it'll be a good challenge for us. We know that Niagara is really close behind us and could possibly beat us if we don't win these (remaining) games," Hodgson added.
While the 18-year-old's immediate focus is on the playoffs, the Markham native is still looking forward to this summer's NHL draft, when he's projected to be a first-round pick. Hodgson – who has drawn comparisons to New York Rangers star Chris Drury – is expected to be joined by friends and former Markham Waxer teammates Steven Stamkos (Sarnia Sting) and Michael Del Zotto (Oshawa Generals), who are also top-10 draft prospects.
"It's pretty special," says the 6-foot, 180-pounder. "Looking back at minor hockey, I don't think we would have ever expected for all of us to go in the first round, but right now it looks like there's a good possibility that could happen."
There's a chance – depending on the way the draft lottery plays out – that the local kid may still be available for the Leafs.
"Anywhere would be great, but it would be an honour to play for the Leafs," says Hodgson. "It would be a dream come true. . . . I've always been a big Leafs fan."
SPITFIRES' BIG GUN: Windsor rookie winger Taylor Hall, the OHL's player of the week for a second straight week, broke the Spitfires' rookie goalscoring record last night. In the first period of a 5-3 win over Plymouth, Hall notched his 42nd goal of the season, shattering the 41-goal mark held by Charlie Skjodt since the 1975-76 season.
NO OFF-SEASON: With the OHL's regular season winding down at the end of this week, players who won't be making the playoffs are still looking ahead. Erie Otters forward Justin Hodgman signed a contract with the IHL's Fort Wayne Comets yesterday.
Kingston's Justin Wallingford will be heading to the Springfield Falcons of the AHL and teammate John Murray is going to Reading in the ECHL.
Christopher Surges To Gold Medal
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(March 10, 2008) VALENCIA, Spain–Tyler Christopher earned Canada's first medal at the world indoor track and field championships in record fashion yesterday.
The 24-year-old from Chilliwack, B.C., won the men's 400 metres in a Canadian-record time of 45.67 seconds.
Sweden's Johan Wissman was second in 46.04, while Chris Brown of the Bahamas was third in 46.26. Christopher was sitting third with 40 metres to go before surging to win and earn $40,000 (U.S.).
Christopher started in Lane 5 with arch-rival Brown to his immediate right. Brown went out hard on the first lap and, as the runners broke for the inside lane after the second bend, Christopher was squeezed back into third as Wissman also made a bid for the lead.
"That was the plan, to go out in front at the start, but then when I didn't it wasn't that important to me to waste the energy to get in front," Christopher said. "So I let them have it.
"I conserved a little energy and went for it at the end."
He adjusted his tactics to begin his sprint coming off the last bend.
Christopher became the first Canadian man to win a world title since Montreal's Bruny Surin captured the 60-metre title in Barcelona in 1995. He's the first Canadian gold medal winner since Perdita Felicien of Pickering captured the women's 60-metre hurdles in 2004 and became just the seventh Canadian to win a gold medal in world indoor history.
Christopher also bettered his own world-best time this season.
Christopher was particularly pleased about beating Brown, who captured the 2007 Pan American Games title when Christopher thought a false start would be called and let up, only to find he was mistaken. The Canadian had to settle for the silver on that occasion.
"Chris Brown and I have quite a battle history," he said. "I win, then he wins, and he has three on me so far.
"So it was about time to take him down." A disappointed Brown was humble in defeat.
"Obviously he (Christopher) stayed behind and watched both of us," said Brown.
"He made a big surge and earned the victory."
A Flurry Of Concerts At Canadian Music Week
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(March 10, 2008) An all-out assault by the biggest snowstorm of the winter left Canadian Music Week 2008 with an instructive lesson in why the South by Southwest festival in sunny Austin, Tex., will be so much larger next week.
Still, the snow must have made visiting Scandinavian rockers like Sweden's Boys in a Band and Finland's Pooma feel at home. And a few marquee names – Moby, RZA, KRS-One, Alanis Morissette, the Breeders, KISS's Ace Frehley – were willing to get their feet wet slogging through the slush between venues and lend this year's CMW proceedings a hint of star power.
It wasn't the festival's best year, by any stretch, but there was, as always, some fine live music to be heard in scattered Toronto nightspots.
A FEW HIGHLIGHTS
Black Mountain, Lee's Palace, Wednesday: It wasn't officially a CMW show, but the overflowing guest list and the abundance of chatter at the back of the room betrayed its placement on the first day of this year's Canadian Music Week calendar. Not that Black Mountain needed the conference to get bodies in the room. Buzz on the West Coast outfit's terrific new record, In the Future, is huge and Conan O'Brien has already come calling, so the band's upward arc seems assured. Despite its stoner-metal bent and obvious hippie-isms, Black Mountain is a more disciplined unit than one might think, adhering tightly to album arrangements and even soloing within strictly rehearsed limits on 18-minute epics like "Bright Lights." Not a jam band. Not yet, anyway.
Airfields, Wrongbar, Thursday: What is it about awkward AV-club types that compels them to band together into mini-My Bloody Valentines and make sweet, shoegazer sounds? Local crew the Airfields brings a bit more Smiths-Ian sparkle to its breakneck noise-pop. Familiar musical marks are evoked, yes, but they're all hit amid taut playing and sticky songwriting.
Small Sins, Drake Underground, Thursday: Ex-Carnation Thom D'Arcy's bittersweetly tuneful electro-pop crew just needs to shake up an appealing but ultimately repetitive songwriting formula a bit to realize its obvious potential. Still, the many lingering females spilling downstairs served notice that Small Sins have no problem striking a chord with the young ladies they reach. "They're all so cute!" the pair next to me kept gushing. Major drunk points, too, to the guy who asked me three times what the band's name was even though there was a large, illuminated sign reading "Small Sins" at the back of the stage.
Hey Rosetta!, Horseshoe Tavern, Friday: This St. John's sextet wore its influences on its sleeves, but as those two influences seemed to be the Arcade Fire and U2 (with a pinch of Coldplay), a positive reception was all but guaranteed. Tim Baker's vocals, in particular, often evoked Win Butler's urgency, and the whole thing – including mandolin and violin – seems built for soaring, emotional choruses. Not too original, then, but not bad at all.
The Breeders, The Phoenix, Saturday: I don't know who's cracking the whip in Breeders land these days – my guess would be monster drummer Jose Medeles – but ex-Pixie Kim Deal's notoriously slapdash garage-rock crew sounded decidedly fine-tuned for just the second date on its current tour. Good, because the evident love one could feel in the room for Kim and twin sister Kelley, their off-kilter songbook ("Iris" got louder cheers than "Cannonball") and even the oodles of untested material previewed from the band's forthcoming fourth album, Mountain Battles, leads me to believe the time is finally right for the Breeders to be recognized as a serious enterprise again.
Jenn Grant, The Rivoli, Saturday: This one's going places. A confident, slightly kooky stage presence with a keening voice halfway between Chan Marshall and Leslie Feist, Nova Scotian cutie Grant writes self-deprecating, emotionally disarming tunes that change shape at the drop of a hat and consistently refute singer/songwriter convention. Killer band, too.
Dog Day, The Rivoli, Saturday: I pimp this Halifax quartet endlessly in print, I know, but they're getting better. A year of non-stop touring has brought a hardened edge and some heaving dynamics to the galloping pop tunes found on last year's awesome Night Group album, while the two notoriously introverted couples who compose Dog Day now appear to be having a bit of coy fun exploring their anti-stage presence. If you were to ask me my favourite band right now, these kids would be it.
Socalled, The Drake Underground, Saturday: Montreal rapper, producer, accordionist and musical convener Josh Dolgin is a bona fide mad genius, but he's also an engagingly absurdist showman. Saturday's Drake gig found him and fellow Montrealer Giselle Numba One (a.k.a. Giselle Webber of Hot Springs) recreating samples from Yiddish folk recordings live onstage, a chap in an evening gown juggling blocks and Dolgin inviting a boy/girl rap duo he'd never met before (and whose name, unfortunately, eludes me) to freestyle over a couple of tracks.
"There, you're all Jewish now," he announced at one point, and I believed him.
- With files from Garnet Fraser
File-Sharers Should Get Ready To Pay, Say Experts
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist
(March 9, 2008) Some of North America's leading experts in peer-to-peer file sharing on the Internet are convinced that sooner rather than later – maybe within a couple of years – we won't be downloading music, movies and TV shows for free.
In fact, the consensus at Thursday's key panel discussion – The Evolution of Peer-to-Peer Music: From Enemy to Business Partner – in a day-long round of seminars during Canadian Music Week was not dissimilar to a controversial idea advanced just last month by the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC).
SAC has proposed making it legal to share music on peer-to-peer networks in exchange for a monthly fee of $5 going to royalties for music's creators. But David Hughes, senior vice-president of the technology division of the Record Industry Association of America, suggests that business may find its own solution, with internet service providers charging some users an extra fee for their downloading habits. Downloading eats up precious bandwidth and slows down the network.
"Eighty-five per cent of available bandwidth is used for piracy," Hughes told a tightly packed crowd at Toronto's Fairmont Royal York.
"It's the ISPs who have to crack down, and they will, once they realize they can make money from the people who use the most bandwidth. The shift will be to subscription services costing (high bandwidth users) a fee, as much as $12 a month," Hughes predicts.
Eric Garland, CEO of BigChampagne, the California-based media measurement company that monitors digital music activity on the Internet, added: "Maybe the ISPs will have to find the bandwidth hogs and charge them extra; making it more difficult and expensive for ordinary subscribers to acquire bandwidth isn't a good strategy. It doesn't serve the hunger. This is a beast and you have to feed it."
Eric DeFontenay, founder of the New York-based MusicDish e-journal, about online music by new and emerging artists, agrees that things should and will change.
"Radio was the first medium accused of ripping off music and musicians, till performing rights and (methods of) compensation were established. What's needed is compensation for artists that's transparent to consumers, something like the SAC proposal.
"If you want all-you-can-eat music, $60 a year is cheap," he said.
The analysts and experts at Thursday's discussion – including Washington-based Gary Greenstein, a specialist in the future financing of digital media space, and Chris Gillis, a business development manager at the California-based Mediadefender Internet piracy prevention company – offered different hypothetical solutions to the increasing use of the Internet by peer-to-peer file sharers, free music downloaders and the subsequent massive loss of revenue to music creators.
They generally agreed that the commercial music industry in the U.S. had erred in pursuing and penalizing peer-to-peer networks and those who used them. "Suing customers is not a good way to do business," DeFontenay said. "Music industry efforts to stop file sharing by litigation was a huge failure."
Hughes says there needs to be another way to raise obstacles for downloaders. "Raising awareness of the morality of free downloading doesn't work, nor does litigation," he says, adding, "If you make the hassle factor high enough, people will pay."
Greenstein warns, however, that customers won't go for extra fees.
"Only a fraction of music consumers in the U.S. use existing (legal) subscription services such as Napster and Rhapsody (or Puretracks in Canada). They aren't going to buy into an ISP-based subscription . . . they'll go around it, find other ways to get their music for nothing.
"In the meantime, they're looking at an empty screen waiting for searches and downloads – that's a huge and untapped opportunity for advertisers. "
Trying to stop free music-file exchanges – in Canada there's no legal impediment – is a waste of time and effort, most of the panellists agreed.
"People don't care that they're using peer-to-peer," Garland said. "They use it without knowing or caring because it's easy, it's comfortable and it works. It's the very definition of the Internet. You can't stop people using the Internet for entertainment. The problem is getting them to pay for it."
They'll Be There For Us
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter
(March 12, 2008) Move over Spice world, Toronto is Bon Jovi country.
More than 60,000 fans have already rocked along with New Jersey's finest, at two shows in December and one on Monday. With concerts tonight and tomorrow, the band sets a record for the number of nights played at the Air Canada Centre on a single tour. The previous record of four nights was held jointly by The Police and the Spice Girls.
With the amount of equipment, people and planning involved in a giant concert, it's easy to have a Spinal Tap moment. Case in point: the Star was taken behind the scenes of Bon Jovi's new stage before Monday's show.
One of the group's public relations representatives is trying to get us to the sound check – usually off limits to media. Now if only we knew where we were going.
Lost in the depths of the ACC, we turn left into a hallway and emerge by the floor seating. The band, on the 17-metre-wide by 12-metre-deep stage, stops playing. Jon Bon Jovi isn't with them. He's beside us – about 15 metres from the massive platform, practising one of the songs he'll perform from a side stage, getting up close and personal with fans.
Fans who saw the two shows in December are in for a new experience, as this leg of the tour features added touches like four huge HD screens behind the stage.
"For the first part of the tour, it had a western, saloon type of vibe," says crew chief Mike Rew. "For this part, Jon wanted something a little more rock 'n' roll."
We make our way to the other side of the stage, where guitarist Richie Sambora is speaking to his guitar tech, Takumi Suetsugu. Sambora plays a chord and the sound powers through the ACC via 155 speakers.
Under the stage, Suetsugu places the guitar on a rack with more than a few others.
Just how many does Sambora travel with?
"Well, let's see, he usually has around 36 with him. I know I just sent eight back to his home and 16 more are coming. He just likes to switch things up, you know to keep things interesting," says Suetsugu, who adds Sambora uses about 10 different guitars a night. Is there anything Sambora is particularly picky about? "Everything," Suetsugu says.
In a hallway just behind the stage, a short distance from where two ice resurfacing machines are blocked in by sound equipment, Sambora is horsing around with members of the crew. The band caught a Chicago Rush-Philadelphia Soul arena football game Sunday – Bon Jovi and Sambora are part owners of the latter team – and the guitarist is demonstrating a mock tackle.
Yesterday was the band's day off, and the plan is to take Sambora – where else? – to guitar stores in town.
"I like everything (guitar-wise), that's my problem," he jokes.
"Well, for you, that's a good problem to have," says a crew member.
Sambora retreats to the ACC team locker rooms, which are being used as dressing rooms and crew offices, and Rew shows us the back of the stage, a semicircle he says can swivel to vertical, creating a surface that can backlight the band and act as a screen for projections.
Under the stage, Jon gets a private quick-change area, where he can change his shirt or grab a quick drink of water. It's spare; a framed, weathered portrait of Frank Sinatra looks to be the only sign of personalization.
Wires, cables, speakers are everywhere backstage; setting up and getting the show ready is controlled chaos. What's more amazing is that, with the Toronto Maple Leafs hosting the Philadelphia Flyers last night, the stage had to be pulled down after Monday's show, only to be rebuilt again this morning.
Between sound check and show time, the band scatters.
Fans begin to fill the ACC` and, around 7:30 p.m., opening band Daughtry takes the stage. There are definitely some fans here to see them.
Bon Jovi take the stage at 8:30 p.m. Four touring musicians, including guitarists and a violinist join core members Jon Bon Jovi, Sambora, David Bryan and Tico Torres.
The huge roar that greets the band gets louder as Jon takes the stage last.
They begin to play "Lost Highway" and the crowd goes wild.
New Album For Grace Jones
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com -
(March 6, 2008) *Jamaican born singer/actress and model Grace Jones is reportedly workingon new material for release later this year. Jones who spoke to this writer backstage at the recently held Reggae Academy Awards, has employed a stellar line-up of musicians and producers to jump start the project.
‘I worked with a lot of Jamaicans on the album. I have people like Mikey Chung, Sly and Robbie and Uzziah 'Sticky' Thompson’, Jones revealed. The still untitled album is expected to be released on an international imprint.
Jones also revealed that she will be moving back to Jamaica.
Born Grace Mendoza Jones in Spanish Town in 1948, she is the daughter of Marjorie and Robert W. Jones, who was a politician and Apostolic clergyman. Her parents took Grace and her brother Christian (now Bishop Noel Jones), to relocate to Syracuse, New York in 1965. Before becoming a successful model in New York City and Paris, Jones studied theatre at Syracuse University.
She signed with Island Records in the 1970’s and released a number of albums and club hits. Among her more popular hits are Pull Up to the Bumper, My Jamaican Guy, Demolition Man and Slave to the Rhythm. Most of her songs scored well on the Billboard Dance and Club Play charts in the US. Over in the UK, she had a handful of hits charting on the UK Singles chart.
Jones' work as an actress in mainstream film began with the role of Zula, the amazon in the 1984 film Conan the Destroyer alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain. Before this she appeared in low-budget films, often with sexually explicit content. She next landed the role of May Day, in the 1985 James Bond movie A View to a Kill. She appeared in a number of other motion pictures including the 1986 vampire film, Vamp. She also played the role of Helen Strange in the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang - for which she recorded the title song, 7 Day Weekend in 1992.
An Album Full Of Beguiling Snaps
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine
Asking for Flowers
(March 11, 2008) Some songwriters deal mostly in broad strokes, building their tunes from sweeping generalizations and big, sturdy riffs, with results that are frequently stirring and occasionally anthemic, but seldom deep or revealing.
Kathleen Edwards takes the opposite tack. Her songs come together through subtle gestures and snapshot imagery, an approach that's almost pointillistic in its accumulation of detail. It doesn't make for a terribly rabble-rousing sound, and Asking for Flowers, her third album, doesn't even pack the bar-band punch of her 2003 debut, Failer.
Instead, the songs here quietly insinuate themselves, edging their way into consciousness so casually that often you're barely aware of being caught in the groove before the lyrics have you completely hooked. Some of that stems from her singing style, a plain, vibrato-less sound that verges on the girlishly earnest; and some from her sense of melody, which follows the chords with the easy flow of casual conversation.
Mostly though, it's the way she brings those elements together to tell a story. Just as Edwards's music avoids the brash or blunt, her sense of narrative tends to be equally indirect, encouraging her audience to listen between the lines.
Sometimes that's because she doesn't want the larger points to get lost in the details. For instance, the angrily mournful Oh Canada alludes to the 2006 Boxing Day death of Jane Creba without naming her, precisely because Edwards is appalled that Canadians weren't equally upset by the tragic deaths of other, unnamed minority girls in Toronto that year. Likewise, Edwards paints such a moving portrait of innocence taken and a life ended in Alicia Ross that it's hardly necessary to recognize Ross's name from the news to be moved by her story.
Edwards is aces at boiling her stories down to the emotionally significant details, and her best songs deftly articulate the music's mood to underscore the feelings she wants to convey. So even though it's hard to draw much in the way of specifics from Buffalo, other than that it seems to be about driving through a snowstorm to hook up with an old flame, there's no problem at all in grasping the protagonist's jangled nerves as she bounces between anxiety and wan hope. It's a lovely bit of writing, and a wonderfully impressive opening to the album.
Yet for all Edwards's strengths, there are moments when it's tempting to ask for more. Although it's nice that she keeps her singing simple and straightforward, having a bit more power and articulation would make it possible to follow the wordplay in lyric-packed songs like The Cheapest Key without having to turn to the CD booklet. And while the small-scale charm of her voice is perfect for something as quiet as the unlikely love song Sure as Shit, a few slightly broader strokes wouldn't have hurt on a torch song as moving as the title tune.
Still, those are relatively minor cavils, and in the end Edwards's strengths far outweigh her failings. Besides, how could you not like someone who can spin a lyric as drolly self-denigrating as "You're cool and cred like Fogerty/I'm Elvis Presley in the seventies"?
Moby Talks About Music's Future
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(March 9, 2008) Moby is as keen a thinker as you'll find among pop stars, which explains why he's called upon by events like Canadian Music Week to speak almost as often as he is to actually play music.
Small wonder, for instance, that this year's CMW industry conference invited the bookish electronic musician back to Toronto for an afternoon Q&A session in the Royal York ballroom yesterday. During the dawning breakdown of the post-Napster era in 2002, Moby was asked to deliver a keynote address to the assembled CMW suits on "the future of music within the music industry" that basically boiled down to: "My 14-year-old cousin has never bought a record in his life, and he's not alone. You guys are in trouble if you don't figure this downloading thing out."
They didn't, obviously, at least not quickly enough. And, thus, Moby returned this year to the same audience – diminished in numbers (as predicted), considerably less set in its obsolescing ways as it once was (as predicted) and increasingly looking to live music and merchandising revenue as its sustainable future (as predicted) – as something of a prophetic figure, fielding random queries on an array of industry concerns.
"It's weird. I wrote an article for The Economist in '99 or 2000 – it was their year-end issue – and they wanted me to write about the future of the music business and, in hindsight, a lot of the things I wrote did come true. But they weren't good predictions," says the affable Moby (born Richard Melville Hall) over tea in a College Street café, before his DJ gig at This is London on Friday night.
"I think this is my third time coming to speak at CMW and what I like most about this time is I don't have to prepare anything. I always feel kind of absurd and presumptuous presenting a speech ... I've never worked at a record company, I only have a passing understanding of the nuts and bolts of how a record company works. I'm just a clueless musician."
The self-deprecation comes honestly from Moby, who beat a hasty retreat from stardom once the glow from his surprise 1999 hit, Play, started to wear off. But he's anything but clueless.
Look at Play. The record blew up to the tune of 10 million copies sold in large part because Moby allowed every single song on it to be licensed for use in commercials, movies and TV, unintentionally foreshadowing the current reality where a single iPod Nano ad can elevate Leslie Feist to the Grammy Awards and even U2 was moved to ally itself with an Apple commercial to launch its last album.
His moves were shrewd, perhaps, but they were never strategic. They simply, one suspects, reflected the open-minded vision of someone who acknowledges that the tumult of the digital revolution "requires everybody involved to be willing to give up the old ways of doing things." To that end, he's been previewing his latest album, Last Night (due April 1 via Mute/EMI) with a free, downloadable DJ mix posted on RCRDLBL.com.
"Every aspect of the music business is in a state of transition – the way records are made, the way they're distributed, the way people listen to them, how music exists," he says. "I was talking to someone recently and we were remembering that, up until the Walkman, music never left the home. Unless it was on a transistor, unless it was on a radio, that idea that you would bring your music with you didn't exist. You bought a record, you listened to the record at home and maybe, if you were feeling really crazy, you brought a record to a friend's house. It's such a different way of thinking about music that it's so portable now.
"For the longest time, people just associated music with the delivery vehicle it was presented on. So people thought of music as being a record or being a cassette or being a CD and not recognizing that it's this intangible entity. It's the only art form that has no actual substance. Music is just air moving around ... . And so, I think, even in the record companies, they always assumed music would be linked to some plastic delivery vehicle. And now, it isn't."
Although he switched from vinyl to CDs (but not to digital files) for DJ-ing purposes last year after a brief panic at a Belgian airport where he thought his records had all "been sent to Singapore," one area where Moby remains a bit of a traditionalist is his beloved dance music.
He returns to and lovingly canvasses the genre's 30-year evolution in satisfying style on Last Night after the tentative pop moves of Play and its slightly less revered follow-ups, 18 and Hotel.
Structured conceptually around a night of dusk-till-dawn clubbing in New York – a subject with which Moby (who's never been quite as "straight-edge" as he's portrayed) is still doggedly well acquainted at 42 – the new record traces a narrative/narcotic arc from the early lift-off of piano-buoyed, old-school rave anthems through dark, grinding hip-hop, blippy techno and sultry Italo-disco to a long, satisfying ambient pre-dawn spaceout in a manner the DJ/producer hasn't really attempted since his 1995 classic Everything Is Wrong.
Why? Because, fashion be damned, it's still the soundtrack to his life.
"Maybe it's sad," says Moby. "There's a scene in Anchorman where Will Ferrell says to his friends, `We've been having the same party for eight years and in no way is that depressing.' Well, I first started going out in New York in 1981, when I was 14 years old. And I've been going out in the same neighbourhood now for almost 30 years and I still find it interesting.
"That's how I get exposed to new music. I'd much rather go out and have music randomly presented to me by different DJs than stay home and discover it on my own. You can see how people respond to it and I love being surprised – going out, walking into a bar and hearing some DJ you've never met before playing a song you'd never expect to hear in a nightclub."
Whitney Houston Album Halfway Done
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 7, 2008) *Whitney Houston has four songs completed for her highly-anticipated, as-yet-untitled comeback album, and four more will be recorded later this month, according to her mentor, BMG Label Group chairman/CEO Clive Davis. "We're on track for a holiday release," he said during Billboard's Music & Money Symposium yesterday morning. "We're not going to compromise who she is to fit into today's hip-hop radio market. The public wants Whitney material." So far, tracks for Houston's first studio album since 2002 have been produced or written by will.i.am, Sean Garrett and Akon, who told Billboard.com last year, "The voice is there; I don't think anyone could ever take that from her. As long as we apply that voice to hit records, she'll be right back where she left off."
Feist, New Pornographers Scoop Indie
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press
(March 10, 2008) Toronto — Multiple-nominee Feist took away awards for solo artist and album of the year at the eighth annual Independent Music Awards. The ceremony was dedicated to Canadian jazz legend Jeff Healey, who died of cancer last Sunday. Suzie McNeil of Rock Star: INXS fame walked away with favourite pop artist, and the New Pornographers won for favourite group. The Lowest of the Low were also inducted into the Indies Hall of Fame.
Avril Lavigne To Design Fashion Line For
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Associated Press
(March 10, 2008) NEW YORK — Avril Lavigne, known for her pairing of frilly dresses and combat boots, will bring her style to the juniors department at Kohl's department stores. The edgy, pop-rock star's clothing line “Abbey Dawn” was named after her childhood nickname. Lavigne was born in Belleville, Ont., and grew up in Napanee. “I actually am the designer,” she told Newsweek magazine for editions on newsstands Monday. “I try everything on and approve it all.” Avril Lavigne: ‘The Canadian crowds are always really good to me.’ She joined a long line of celeb-turned-designers, including Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson. Lavigne kicked off her 2008 world tour in Victoria last week.
Kenny G: Rhythm & Romance
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry
(March 11, 2008) He may not get much in the way of critical props, but with 75 million album, single and video sales, smooth jazz saxist Kenny Gorelick, 52, is "the biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era." This first disc of Latin love songs finds him in samba, salsa and bossa nova mode with elite players, such as bassist Nathan East and Weather Report drummer Alex Cuna. The leader is characteristically melodic; measured and tender on "Ritmo Y Romance," and exuberant during "Salsa Kenny" His light, brassy sound lacks subtlety and the solos are predictable, making the record more suitable for dinner parties than headphones. Top track: G's trumpet-mimicking clarity and roundness on "Besame Mucho."
Kat Parra: Azucar De Amor
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry
(March 11, 2008) This sophomore disc from California singer Kat Parra cuts a style-transcending swath through Latin music – salsa, bolero, samba, charanga – incorporating Middle Eastern and folk traditions. She's imbued with an exquisite, versatile voice that's emotionally accessible whether delivering an English jazz standard ("Misty") or retooling ancient Sephardic tunes ("Esta Montanya D'Enfrente"). Top track: A delightful, percussive arrangement of Stanley Turrentine's "Sugar" in Spanish and English.
India.Arie Headed To Broadway
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 12, 2008) *R&B singer India.Arie will bring her talent to the Great White Way this summer in the first Broadway revival of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf." Whoopi Goldberg and DreamTeam Entertainment Group will serve as executive producers of the work, which is based on Ntozake Shange's book of the same name and presents the stories of seven women of color from the African Diaspora. Arie, born India Arie Simpson, will head the company at a theatre to be announced this summer. Shirley Jo Finney will direct the production, while Tony winner Hinton Battle has signed on as choreographer. Previews of the Obie-winning drama will begin on or about July 15 with an opening on or about Aug. 2, according to Playbill News. The supporting cast and its home theatre have yet to be announced. The production's original run was nominated for a Tony Award in 1977 for Best Play, and Trazana Beverley won a Tony in the category of Best Actress in a Featured Role (Play). The original Broadway company also featured Laurie Carlos, Risë Collins, Aku Kadogo, Janet League, Paula Moss and Ntozake Shange.
Songwriter Sean Garrett Inks Solo Deal
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 12, 2008)*Songwriter/producer Sean Garrett – whose hits for artists such as Usher, Chris Brown and Fergie have earned him 12 No. 1 singles over the last four years – is now a solo artist on his label Bet I Penned It under Interscope Records. His debut single "Grippin'" (featuring Ludacris) shipped to urban radio on March 4 and is the most added song in its first week out, according to the label. Garrett's debut album, Turbo 919, arrives in stores summer 2008. Sean's first major writing credit came in 2004 with Usher's "Yeah!" (on LaFace) featuring Lil' Jon and Ludacris. The track spent 12 weeks at No. 1 and broke numerous sales and chart records. On deck for Garrett in 2008 are new projects with Whitney Houston, Raven-Symone, Michelle Williams, Ashlee Simpson, and others.
Bill C-10 Fixes Non-Existent Problem
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
(March 10, 2008) The federal tax credit change that sparked a film censorship uproar is designed to fix a problem that has never presented itself, a government spokesperson has confirmed.
Bill C-10, currently seeking Senate approval, contains an amendment that would allow bureaucrats to withdraw tax credits for Canadian films and TV shows deemed in violation of the Criminal Code.
Yet the problem is a hypothetical one, because no such film has ever been presented for tax credit consideration, said Andrew House, a spokesperson for Heritage Minister Josée Verner.
"Canadian Heritage has not received an application for a production containing criminal content," House said via email.
He was responding to questions from the Star regarding Verner's statement last week that Bill C-10, which the House of Commons approved last fall, will solve the "legal absurdity" of films facing Criminal Code prosecution seeking federal tax breaks.
The government's desire to fix a theoretical "absurdity" has prompted strenuous debate over the use of tax laws to censor films, a move critics say would put at risk a national film and TV production industry worth $5 billion annually.
"Mr. Harper's government is clearly responding to a problem which does not exist," NDP leader Jack Layton told the Star. "The Criminal Code is there to deal with any issues that might arise, and none seem to have."
The NDP and Bloc Québécois want Bill C-10 returned to the House to remove the offending section.
While the government fights a phantom problem, Layton added, it is creating a real one by signalling to banks and other film and TV investors that essential tax credits are subject to sudden withdrawal according to vaguely defined criteria.
Layton said he's dismayed the Liberals declined to support a Bloc Québécois motion last week to return Bill C-10 to the House for further debate. The Liberals argued that since they have a majority in the Senate, they can more effectively deal with the matter there.
New Lantos Venture Takes Aim At Alliance
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Grant Robertson
(March 10, 2008) Canada's film industry is in the middle of its biggest behind-the-scenes upheaval in a decade - and the latest act will play out today with a deal that is expected to unite two industry stalwarts.
Maximum Films, a firm launched last year by Canadian movie producer Robert Lantos, is joining forces with Entertainment One Ltd., run by Patrice Théroux, former head of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc.'s distribution arm.
The deal will combine two upstart companies, with two separate libraries of movies, into one major Canadian distributor in a bid eventually to knock off Alliance Films as the top player in the industry.
"We're looking to grow to become the pre-eminent distributor of feature films in Canada," said Bryan Gliserman, managing director of Maximum Films.
It is the latest in a flurry of moves inside the industry since Alliance's distribution business - which has supplied Canadian theatres with the bulk of their top theatrical releases over the past decade - was bought by U.S. bank Goldman Sachs Group last year.
In the aftermath, new companies like Maximum have emerged in an effort to chip away at Alliance's market share, while also taking advantage of an increasing number of independent films being financed outside of the traditional Hollywood studios that are looking for distributors.
"There's been an awful lot of large hedge funds that have supported the production of feature films over the last number of years," Mr. Gliserman said. "That has enabled us to get supplies from individual producers."
Similarly, Entertainment One has spent upward of $100-million buying up smaller distributors in order to get bigger, positioning itself as industry lines are redrawn.
The film distribution business relies heavily on personal relationships and the volume of titles a firm can boast. Distributors get new movies on as many screens as possible, and need to have a big enough library to balance box-office bombs with breakout hits, while also juggling expensive blockbusters that have bigger marketing budgets.
Mr. Théroux, who was fired by Alliance Atlantis in a dispute over the sale of the company, and Mr. Lantos are both hoping to leverage their connections to lock up new distribution contracts, while also winning a few studio deals away from their rivals.
Their main competition is long-time colleague Victor Loewy, now head of Alliance Films, who has contracts with Hollywood studios such as New Line Cinema, Miramax Films, the Weinstein Co. and Focus Features. These produce some of the biggest films made in Hollywood each year.
However, Mr. Lantos is no stranger to building small distributors into major players. As a producer who was often unhappy with the hurdles Canadian films faced getting into theatres, he helped found Alliance Communications in 1984. It merged with Atlantis Communications in 1998 to form Alliance Atlantis.
Entertainment One, meanwhile, recently bought RCV Entertainment BV, based in Europe, and Canada's Seville Pictures. It has been in a race with Maple Pictures Corp. for the rank of Canada's second-biggest distributor.
Goldman Sachs has also been wheeling and dealing. Needing a Canadian partner to operate Alliance Films in Canada, it sold 49 per cent to the investment arm of the Quebec government, the Société générale de financement du Québec, for $100-million.
David Reckziegel, co-president of Entertainment One's Seville Pictures division, said the industry shake-up is significant. "There is a realignment of market share in the country right now," Mr. Reckziegel said. "The question is, how much longer does that realignment go on for?"
Maximum's titles include the upcoming Atom Egoyan picture Adoration. Entertainment One released Shake Hands with the Devil, which grossed more than $1-million in Canada.
Producer Ronnie Screwvala Is Bringing An Unheard-Of Discipline
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Marcus Gee
(March 10, 2008) MUMBAI — In Bollywood, the centre of India's film industry, it could take up to two years to make a movie. Budgets were back-of-a-napkin estimates and scripts often ad-libbed.
Bollywood churns out more than 200 movies a year for the movie-mad Indian masses, but has always been a shambles, a sort of overgrown cottage industry marked by mob money, poorly organized production and anaemic marketing.
Producer Ronnie Screwvala is changing all that. The 50-year-old chief executive officer of rising media empire UTV Software Communications, with far-flung interests in movies, TV and gaming, is bringing an unheard-of discipline to the Bollywood dream factory as he seeks to turn the industry from a colourful curiosity into a global force.
Mr. Screwvala put his company on the map last year with the hit movie The Namesake and has attracted Walt Disney Co. as a 32-per-cent shareholder. Now, he wants to showcase the creative genius of Indians just as the information technology industry has shown off their technical skills, and make India a big player in global media.
In a country where the economy is surging by 8 per cent or 9 per cent a year and newly prosperous Indians are spending more and more on entertainment, the potential for the media industry is enormous. Last year, after languishing for years at about $1-billion a year, less than the box-office gross of the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic, the Indian film industry's revenues grew to $2-billion in 2006. The consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts they will hit $4-billion in five years. More than 250 multiplex theatres have sprung up across the country, offering air-conditioned comfort in place of the seedy cinemas that used to be the only place to watch movies in India.
But, Mr. Screwvala said, "for us, really, the bigger challenge is how we can take Indian content and push the envelope internationally - and it's not going to be easy."
UTV is expanding aggressively, with plans to release up to 20 movies this year and launch five new television channels. The company earned a profit of $13-million last year on revenue of $43-million and analysts expect those revenues to rise by two-and-a-half times this year with earnings from UTV's new ventures.
As his company grows, Mr. Screwvala is changing the way movies are made in Bollywood.
While three-hour eye-glazers were the stock in trade of the old Bollywood, Mr. Screwvala likes to keep films to about 90 minutes. And he helped the industry break out of its stale pattern of hackneyed plots and predictable song-and-dance numbers to embrace wider themes.
UTV's 2006 picture Rang de Basanti, for example, follows a group of cynical young men who wake up to the story of India's independence movement by acting in a film about it. The movie was a hit, especially among the new generation of young, middle-class filmgoers with wider tastes than their elders.
Thanks in part to Mr. Screwvala, writers with fresh, serious stories to tell are finally getting attention in Bollywood, said journalist and scriptwriter Neelesh Misra.
"Some of these guys who have waited six or seven years with a script in their hands are now getting a chance," Mr. Misra said.
Mr. Screwvala is also credited with challenging India's traditionally haphazard approach to filmmaking. A few powerful moguls and their families ruled the roost, handing out work to favoured directors and actors. Scripts were written on the fly, often as the movie was being shot. Stars stormed in and out of pictures in mid-production. Films were often financed with "black money" from organized crime. Marketing consisted of crudely drawn posters put up by cinema owners.
By contrast, Mr. Screwvala makes films in as little as three months, down from the two years producers often used to take. He insists on a script, not just a concept, before greenlighting a project. He spends on marketing, taking a page from Hollywood and devoting up to 40 per cent of a film's budget on spreading the word.
His latest film, Jodhaa Akbar, a historical epic featuring beauty queen turned megastar Aishwarya Rai, took in $10-million on its first weekend last month, nearly recouping its entire production cost.
A serious man in the frothy atmosphere of Bollywood, he tosses around terms like "management bandwidth," "aggregating content" and "value add" as easily as any accounting firm executive.
Industry analyst Ritesh Poladia calls UTV "the pioneer of organized movie production in India. They are instilling a corporate culture in the movie making industry."
Mr. Screwvala could see the industry's failings because he came to it as an outsider. A commerce grad from a Mumbai college, he had no connection to the business apart from stints as a host of chat and game shows and a hobby of acting in small plays.
He cut his teeth in business at a cable television company, going door-to-door in apartment buildings trying to sell the new product, a novelty in a country where for years there was just one, government-owned channel. "Nobody even knew what a remote was," he recalls. With one channel, you didn't need one.
His approach is paying off for UTV. He has seen its staff grow to 1,000 from 300 in two years and its share price grow sevenfold since it became one of the first Bollywood outfits to list on the stock market in 2005. Today its market capitalization stands at $419-million.
Last year, in addition to producing The Namesake, about the son of Indian immigrants struggling for acceptance in New York, Mr. Screwvala co-produced the Chris Rock comedy I Think I Love My Wife. Now he's putting up half the financing for The Happening, a thriller starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by M. Night Shyamalan about a family fleeing an environmental disaster.
Smelling potential, Disney spent $204-million last month to raise its stake in UTV to 32.1 per cent from 13.7 per cent. With that support and other local and international financing, UTV plans to release 20 movies in 2008.
UTV is also expanding aggressively in online gaming and television. He acquired the British computer games firm Ignition, which is developing the new War Devil game for the next generation of PlayStation machines.
Raven Symone': The Interview With Kam Williams
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com – Kam Williams
(March 10, 2008) *Born in Atlanta, Georgia on December 10, 1985, Raven-Symone' Christina Pearman moved with her family to New York City while still a toddler.
By the age of two she had already been signed by the Ford Modeling Agency, and she soon started doing TV ads for everything from Cool Whip to Fisher Price toys to Ritz crackers to Jello.
Not long thereafter she would join Jello pitchman Bill Cosby on his popular, Emmy-winning sitcom, worming her way into America's heart as adorable Olivia.
She subsequently appeared on such series as The Fresh Prince, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper, My Wife and Kids and The Cheetah Girls before landing her own show on the Disney Channel, That's So Raven.
She made her big screen debut in 1994 as Stymie's girlfriend in The Little Rascals, followed by well-received performances in Dr. Dolittle 1 & 2 and The Princess Diaries 2. Singing since she was 4, Raven has also enjoyed quite a musical career, releasing her first CD, Here's to New Dreams, in 1993. And she is currently working on her fourth album which is scheduled to drop sometime this Spring.
Among her many accolades are seven NAACP Image Awards, including a couple just this year for That's So Raven. The former child star deserves to be commended for avoiding the host of woes which have befallen so many of her kiddie colleagues en route to adulthood, such as her ex-roommate Lindsay Lohan and misfit mom Britney Spears.
Here, Raven talks about her new movie, College Road Trip, a family comedy where, opposite Martin Lawrence, she plays the teenage daughter of an overprotective police chief.
Kam Williams: Thanks for the time, Raven.
KW: How was it working opposite Martin Lawrence?
RS: He was very professional, although he's so funny it was often hard to keep a straight face while shooting. But having watched and studied him, I knew what I was getting into. I knew what I had to prepare for, and how to react towards him.
KW: What message do you want audiences to walk away with from College Road Trip?
RS: That family is very important. And that, yes, everybody wants to grow up, but you have to realize that parents always think of their kids as that little boy or girl, so you have to help them see that you're growing up and can handle yourself in a respectful manner.
KW: Have you mapped out a plan so that your fans who have known you as a little girl will accept you as a woman?
RS: Of course. I think any business you go into, you should definitely write up a plan, whether in Hollywood or in corporate America. And I think that even as a person, you have goals to reach, and you always want to refer back to what you want, although you can always tweak it. But yeah, I definitely take steps to show people that I'm growing, and hopefully they will be growing with me.
KW: What did you learn about showbiz during your formative years on the Cosby Show?
RS: Honestly and truthfully, since I was 3 to 5 years old, I think I learned everything subconsciously from their actions, namely, professionalism, to always be creative, and to always enjoy yourself, but at the same time know that this is a job, and to take it seriously because a lot of people's livelihoods are at stake. So, you need to be professional.
KW: One of your fellow cast members in this film was Donny Osmond, another former child star. What was it like working with him?
RS: I have to say he was fabulous and down-to-earth. Even though he's been in the business as long as he has, he's still a real person. We sat down and talked, and he made me laugh.
KW: Did the two of you ever discuss your both having grown up in the industry?
RS: Yes, we definitely talked about it. We have a lot of things in common, surprisingly. I think that's why I enjoyed him so much, because he knows these struggles that I go through, and because he overcame all of them and is still working to this day. He's the type of person who's cool about it when he's spotted on the street even though he's bombarded by so many people. He can still live a life; and I like that about him.
KW: You're playing a girl about to go to college in this movie. Do you ever wish you had gone to college in real life?
RS: Well, I still have college in my plans. I think you can go to college at any age. It depends on the person that you are. I had a lot of work after high school, so that wouldn't have worked for me.
KW: When is your new CD going to be released?
RS: That's still up in the air. They keep pushing it back. I've been very busy, and I still have to do the artwork. I'll be going on tour from April all the way into August. I'm very proud of that, and I think I'll always continue to have both aspects in my life, just because it's a creative outlet for me.
KW: Which do you find more challenging acting or singing?
RS: How do I say this without sounding full of myself? Seeing that I've don't both for so long, they're not all that difficult. With my music, none of my albums really sold that much, so I need people to realize I'm doing this because I do really love to sing, to write, and to dance. When I perform, I don't use a lip-synch track. I want people to realize that I'm not joking when I do all my work.
KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson was wondering, what's the last book you read?
RS: The last book I read was The Fulfillment of Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra. I think that's the title.
KW: Would you describe yourself as happy?
RS: Would I describe myself as happy. Yeah. [Laughs] I've never gotten that question before except from my psychiatrist.
KW: I got that question from Columbus Short.
RS: Oh, Columbus! You gotta love Columbo. He was on That's So Raven. Yeah, I'm happy and definitely focused, although in this industry you go through your ups-and-downs just because not everything is going to go your way. Everybody has their days, but overall, yeah, I'm very happy with the way my life is going. And I'm healthy, and that should always make you happy.
KW: Jimmy Bayan, "Realtor to the Stars," wants to know where in Los Angeles you live.
RS: I'm not telling nobody where I live.
KW: Can you just say what neighbourhood?
RS: I live in L.A.
KW: Are you ever afraid?
RS: Yes, I'm always afraid. I'm afraid to fail.
KW: Well, I'm sure you'll enjoy nothing but continued success. Thanks for the interview, Raven, and good luck with this movie and all your upcoming projects.
RS: Take care, and have a good day.
Jamal Woolard Gets His B.I.G. Break
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 7, 2008) *The months-long search for an actor to play the late Notorious B.I.G. in Fox Searchlight's upcoming biopic "Notorious" has ended with the casting of Brooklyn-based rapper Jamal "Gravy" Woolard. Two years ago, the budding MC made headlines after he did a radio interview at New York hip-hop station Hot 97 moments after he was shot outside of the building. Like Biggie, Woolard sold drugs before he picked up the mic. He had released a number of albums on indie labels in the 1990s before being signed by Warner Bros. “Finding BIG was a task in itself and I’m honoured that so many young men came out to audition for the role,” said the rapper's mother, Voletta Wallace. “However, it was Jamal's charming personality, warm spirit, wonderful sense of humour and beautiful smile that won my heart. He is a talented and charismatic actor and I am excited that he will bring Christopher's character to the big screen.” Rounding out the "Notorious" cast is Derek Luke ("Catch a Fire") as Sean "Diddy" Combs, who off-screen is an executive producer on the film; Anthony Mackie as his hip hop rival, Tupac Shakur; and Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace. I’m looking forward to working with award-winning actress Angela Bassett,” said director George Tillman Jr. ("Soul Food"). “I’ve been a huge fan of her work for such a long time. She and the entire cast bring such a wealth of talent, I am beyond thrilled.” Due for release in January 2009, "Notorious" will focus more on the artist's troubled life away from music. Principal photography is scheduled to begin on March 24 in and around the five boroughs of New York.
Louis Gossett Jr. Handles 'Untold Truth'
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 7, 2008) *Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. is realizing a lifelong dream to produce and narrate the documentary film "The Untold Truth - The True Stories of the Negro Baseball Leagues." The project will focus on the history of “black baseball” - from slavery to Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier - and celebrate the contributions African-Americans made to United States history through the game. Gossett said: “'Roots' showcased African-American history from slave trade to emancipation. 'The Untold Truth' picks up the story from there and takes us on a journey that chronicles the accomplishments of African-Americans from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.” The documentary will feature today’s icons from sports, music, and entertainment discussing this period in American history and introduce a new generation to the era. The original soundtrack will include some of today’s platinum artists from hip hop, R&B, jazz, and pop. Gossett is partnering with Los Angeles-based Wrapped Productions and its principals John Rittenour, Gregg Champion, and Gary Ballen, who secured exclusive rights from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to tell the story.
Inside Operating Theatre Of War
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Vinay Menon
(March 12, 2008) It's a job few of us could imagine. But for the Canadian doctors, medics,nurses and caregivers now stationed at a trauma centre inside the Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan, it's a job they will not forget.
For one month this winter, the fifth estate was granted exclusive access to this military hospital, NATO's busiest.
The result is Life and Death in Kandahar (CBC, 9 tonight), a documentary that is by turns sobering, inspirational, harrowing and affecting.
"You see things that would be shocking for laypeople," says Maj. Sandra West, one of the doctors we meet tonight. "You see some very horrific injuries."
It's not just coalition soldiers who arrive writhing or motionless on stretchers. Afghan fighters, border police, civilians caught in the crossfire – even enemy combatants – are treated in the Role 3 facility.
In one heartbreaking scene, an 8-year-old boy is flown in from a nearby province. A grenade explosion has killed his sister and shredded his face. He can't talk or swallow. He is in shock.
Maj. Terry Ratkowski, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, spends 20 hours operating on the boy, ultimately saving his life. Later, there is a poignant scene in which Ratkowski is seated in a tiny booth, phoning his own children in Edmonton:
"Are you having a good day today?" he asks sweetly. "I sure miss you."
The hospital deals with the types of injuries most ER doctors in Canada would never see. But despite a high success rate – if you arrive here with a pulse, it is said, you will go home one day – not everyone can be saved.
In one scene, a soldier rides in the back of an armoured personnel carrier at twilight, his eyes downcast, his fingers gently tapping on the flag-draped coffin of a fallen comrade.
"We must remember that freedom isn't free, to use a cliché," says Capt. Neil Pritchard, a trauma leader at the hospital. "And the cost of freedom is lives, a factor that Canada had forgotten for 40 years, thinking that we're just a `blue beret' country. Well, we're not."
To Pritchard, this is not a peacekeeping mission, nor is it a low-level insurgency.
It is war.
He notes: "War is not polite and it isn't neat. It is dirty, it is grimy, it is grubby, it is confused."
As we see tonight, this war is rocket attacks. It is head trauma. It is roadside bombs. It is mangled limbs and amputations. It is improvised explosive devices. It is compound fractures. It is small-arms fire. It is torsos riddled with gaping wounds.
It is scars that will never heal. Or to quote Bertrand Russell: "War does not determine who is right – only who is left."
As the mandarins, plutocrats and armchair warriors debate Canada's mission in Afghanistan, Life and Death in Kandahar sidesteps the political rhetoric and shines a much-deserved spotlight on the intrepid souls valiantly saving lives in a disorienting combat zone.
"You sometimes wake up in the middle of the night dreaming about what your next step is, or you wake up in a cold sweat thinking about how you're going to deal with it," says Sgt.-Maj. Doug Libby.
But deal with it they do. And that is why every civilian and military medical professional in the documentary – West, Ratkowski, Pritchard, Libby, Dr. Dave Evans, Dr. Rakesh Patel, nurse Ronda Crew – will leave you with a patriotic lump in your throat.
"You never stop being a mom, I guess," says an emotional West, as she returns from the base morgue one afternoon. "So I do what I can."
The last words go to reporter Gillian Findlay: "Wherever you stand on Canada's mission here – important international duty or costly folly – you'll want to meet the remarkable people in our story tonight."
Bravo's Top Chef Returns For Season
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Adam Goldman, The Associated Press
(March 11, 2008) NEW YORK–We've had three seasons of U.S. Bravo's "Top Chef" and each one has gotten arguably better as the network wised up and chose a smattering of chefs with real skills to populate the program.
What will the fourth season bring?
Well, if the 16 contestants' resumes mean anything, this year could be a dandy when it kicks off Wednesday on American television. Many of them have worked at some top-notch spots and appear to have real seasoning and one is from Canada, Lisa Fernandes of Toronto. (The show is not on Bravo in Canada although the first season was shown on The Food Network).
"I think this season is tougher . . . because the talent pool is deeper," said Tom Colicchio, a well-known chef and judge on the show. "There are more contenders this year. These are good cooks without a doubt."
Colicchio said Bravo couldn't attract such talented people in the past because the show was taken lightly in culinary circles, and few with major cooking aspirations wanted to risk their reputation in a venue as derided as a back-stabbing reality show.
But that has changed.
"It has become respectable," Colicchio said. "A lot of the chefs who came in season four probably wouldn't have come out in season two. More and more talented chefs are coming out because the show is being taken seriously."
One of the reasons they're taking a chance on "Top Chef" rests with the guest judges. Last year, Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud and Andre Soltner landed on the program, raising the stature of "Top Chef."
"I think that has really legitimized the show," said Colicchio, who owns the popular Craft steak houses.
Colicchio said contestants know they also have a shot at parlaying their fame into a restaurant like first-season winner Harold Dieterle. Colicchio doubts Dieterle could have opened Perilla in New York without the exposure he received by taking part in "Top Chef."
Colicchio, who helped vet the resumes, said he looked for pedigree. He found plenty.
Many of contestants have the credentials to go all the way, and in some cases, the egos to make for good television.
Richard Blais, Andrew D'Ambrosi, Dale Talde, Spike Mendelsohn and Manuel Trevino all seem to have the moxie and experience to take the title. Like their victorious predecessors, they've worked in some decent kitchens and withstood the pressure.
Trevino rose to sous chef at Mario Batali's Babbo, an Italian restaurant and one of New York's best. He's currently executive chef of a Mexican place named Dos Caminos. At Babbo, he worked with author Bill Buford for about a year.
Buford says Trevino, or Memo as he's known, "has got a crazy amount of talent, can't believe there are other chefs on the program who have more skills or (have) as much elegant lightness under pressure, and, probably most important, he has a genuine creative fire, a wildness that will result in his coming up with a dish so unexpected and brilliant that he will be a finalist, or else will result in some kind of equally unexpected flameout and make Memo just too damn hot too handle."
Buford, who penned the book "Heat" while slaving away at Babbo, added that Trevino gives the show "unexpected cred."
Like Trevino and Mendelsohn, D'Ambrosi is doing a stint at Le Cirque 2000, a legendary spot in Manhattan that recently revived its reputation after getting three stars in The New York Times (the paper took one away in 2006).
Talde is a sous chef at perennially packed Buddakan, a big operation that can turn out exceptional food when the kitchen is on it’s A game. He helped open restaurant Jean Georges Vong in Chicago, where the show takes place this season.
Mendelsohn works as the chef de cuisine at MAI-House. The Times named it one of the best restaurants in 2007. Mendelsohn could have some tricks up his sleeve after spending time at Les Crayeres in France, which has two Michelin stars, and Thomas Keller's Bouchon, a famous bistro in Napa Valley.
Blais' curriculum vitae is also impressive. According to Bravo, he "studied under luminaries such as Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud and Ferran Adria." If he learned anything from those stints, the Atlantan could be formidable – though his knowledge of molecular gastronomy doesn't guarantee victory.
OK, so what about the women?
In three seasons, a woman has never won. A female chef has come close, landing in the finals on the first and third seasons.
This season, half the contestants are women. And there may be a dark horse among them like Fernandes. She cooked at the popular Public in lower Manhattan, and now is doing catering gigs while waiting for the "right opportunity."
"The female talent is huge," Fernandes said in an interview. ``All I'm gonna say is that we started out with more women than any other season and walking in there and seeing that many women definitely got my hopes up."
But remember: The judges only care about one thing.
"I'm judging solely on who's making the best food," Colicchio said. "That's it."
CBC Regrets Cutting Francophone
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Canadian Press
(March 10, 2008) Montreal — The CBC has apologized for cutting francophone performances from a TV show. Popular Quebec singer Claude Dubois accused the CBC of "racism" after it chopped several Quebec artists from the televised version of Monday's Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame gala in Toronto. "Upon reflection and based upon the negative reaction to the television broadcast, we acknowledge that we could have done a better job of reflecting the full diversity of the participants," wrote CBC executive vice-president Richard Stursberg in a letter sent to all artists whose performances were not included in the TV show.
We Will Rock You Closes On High Note
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(March 12, 2008) David Mirvish is expected to announce today that the cast of We Will Rock You will end their Toronto run on May 11 after 488 consecutive performances.
But there's no need to shed a tear for Galileo, Scaramouche and friends, because not only is there a good chance they'll embark on a Canadian tour, they've finally broken the SARS jinx that has hung like a black cloud over Toronto theatre for the past five years.
Since SARS hit in 2003, there hasn't been a big musical here that lasted more than a year until the Queen-Ben Elton collaboration came to the Canon Theatre last March, despite mixed to negative reviews from local critics.
But while We Will Rock You is the major sign that happy theatre days are here again, it's not the only one.
Menopause Out Loud, the sassy musical revue glorifying "the change," has currently played 476 performances, spread out over three engagements at the Capitol and Panasonic theatres since it began in June 2006.
Mark Zimmerman, who handles the show's marketing and promotion, says it is still playing to solid audiences and he expects it to last at least several more months.
There's also Evil Dead: The Musical, which packed the Diesel Playhouse for 151 performances last summer and reopened Valentine's Day to crowds so strong that producer Jeffrey Latimer says it's a safe bet it will run through June, if not all summer.
For a while, it had looked like no production would crack that ceiling and restore the city to long-run glory. The Producers and Hairspray both closed after 33 weeks in 2004, and The Lord of the Rings gave up the ghost in 2006 following 32 weeks of performances. But We Will Rock You's bunch of bohemians seems to have turned the tide.
"I think it's fantastic that a musical with a local cast was able to do this for us," Mirvish told the Star yesterday. "We've got a community of artists here who can handle any kind of show and do it fantastically."
The irony is that while other projects that came here with expectations of great success (like The Lord of the Rings) went down in flames, the unpretentiously campy futuristic musical, hung on the songs of Queen, should prove such a goldmine.
"We initially said we run it for seven weeks," confessed Mirvish, "but in our hearts we may have hoped for 14." To last over four times that length and play to more than 700,000 people (all of whom seem to know the words to "Bohemian Rhapsody") is quite an achievement.
And while nothing is carved in stone yet, Mirvish is optimistic that We Will Rock You "will go out on a Canadian tour," conceivably starting soon after the close of the Toronto engagement.
"It's been fun," concludes Mirvish, "and it proved we can still sustain a year's run here in Toronto."
Forget Playoffs, Leafs Play A Game To Remember
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Damien Cox
(March 12, 2008) It was a night to forget what doesn't lie ahead for the Maple Leafs.
It was a game that could stand alone, without common sense implications, without buts or howevers, as simply a memorable, determined effort by a group of hockey players who found a reservoir of energy when, really, there were many more reasons for them not to bother.
Utterly befuddled by French-Canadian goaltenders named Martin for more than eight consecutive periods on home ice, first Brodeur of the Devils for two games last week then Biron of the Flyers last night for 44 minutes, the Leafs unexpectedly sprang to life with purpose and hustle.
Behind 3-0 to Philadelphia in the third, first Mats Sundin scored on a power play, but that didn't seem to mean much. You already knew Sundin was the one guy who could score, but he usually travels alone.
Then, just over eight minutes later, much-maligned Pavel Kubina found the net after Sundin had won a draw in the Philly zone with a slap shot that glanced off a Flyer's shinpad.
That goal meant something. The Flyers, seemingly skating cautiously uphill all night, suddenly looked a little glassy-eyed, as though stunned by the fight left in an opponent that had seemed vanquished.
The visitors, already outshot by a wide margin, began to fumble the puck all over the ice. Defenceman Randy Jones raced back into his own end to clear the zone but felt the pressure of a fast-skating Alex Steen on his tail and bounced the puck unconvincingly off the boards.
Jeremy (Goal-A-Game) Williams pounced on it near the blue-lettered Viagra ad along the dasher and, with one mighty bend of his composite stick, whipped a wrist shot to the far side past Biron's right shoulder.
Game tied, 3-3, with the ACC crowd on its feet and the Leafs roaring with renewed vigour.
But a tie through regulation, coach Paul Maurice understood, was really only a less-damaging version of defeat, for it would allow the Leafs to, at best, gain only a single point on the eighth-place Flyers.
So, when the Flyers were penalized with 1:55 left, Maurice abandoned any pretence that it wasn't must-win night for the home team and, as soon as it was safe, yanked Vesa Toskala for an extra attacker.
It was one of those odd moments that occur late in an NHL season when a desperate team is pulling out all the stops. Just 13 seconds after Toskala skated to the Leaf bench, Maurice's gamble worked. Well, almost.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, whose previous signature moment on the season was a moment of hesitation in Carolina on an open net that led to a Leaf defeat, found himself with the puck on his stick 15 feet from the Flyer goal, time on his hands and Biron doing the backstroke in his crease.
Just as victory seemed certain, Ponikarovsky's shot, not quite high enough, was batted away almost defensively by Biron. It was either a terribly blown chance or an inspired bit of goalkeeping, take your pick.
It saved a point for the Flyers, but it didn't save them from defeat in overtime when Kubina somehow banked the puck home from behind the net for a 4-3 Leaf win.
The Flyers, bitter that an obvious Leaf foul moments before Kubina's winner wasn't called, had to be a rattled crew on the flight home after their jittery performance – and Biron had to be a rattled goalie. If that produces another wave of false hope for the Leaf Nation heading into tonight's return match, so be it.
A season filled with disappointment and dysfunction somehow produced a magnificent, chest-pounding triumph last night for all those who cheer passionately for the club. Lord knows those suffering folks deserve it.
Rasho Rocks Sonic
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Doug Smith, Sports Reporter
(March 10, 2008) There have always been point guards, and for a while around the NBA, point forward was a position that was in vogue. The Raptors have taken things a step further.
Say hello to Rasho Nesterovic, point centre.
The 7-footer, more accustomed to receiving passes rather than dishing them out, turned into something, well, not quite like Magic Johnson but effective nonetheless as the Raptors got a much-needed win to set them off on an arduous five-game western road trip.
Nesterovic has been solid since replacing the still-injured Chris Bosh in the Raptor starting line-up and never more than yesterday in front of a sell-out crowd at the Air Canada Centre as Toronto dumped the Seattle SuperSonics 114-106. It was just the team's second win in its last six games.
Dishing out six assists – equalling his career high and being the unlikely team leader on the day – Nesterovic once again proved that his experience and intelligence will make him a valuable part of the rotation in the 20-game run-up to the playoffs.
"We put in a little set for him, not necessarily for him to score from that position, but to create some things," coach Sam Mitchell said of Nesterovic, who also contributed a season-high 17 points to the triumph.
"Rasho's smart enough to pick and choose when to score."
The new sets are designed to get the defence scrambling and initiate more motion in the Raptors' offence. They will go back to relying on Bosh whenever he gets back but in the interim, having someone able to pick and choose who to pass to – and when – out of the post is a luxury the Raptors haven't exploited all season.
"They don't let big guys pass, they don't trust them," Nesterovic joked. "It's hard to find a team to trust a big guy."
The Raptors are certainly learning how to trust Nesterovic, who has scored 16 or more points in three of his last five games.
"He does the little things for us, he's a great player for us," Jose Calderon said of Nesterovic. "He knows how to play basketball. It's easy with him; just give him the ball in the post and he can make assists."
The victory couldn't have come at a better time for the Raptors, who were reeling from four losses in their last five games and the absence of Bosh, who is unlikely to play in at least the first two games of the road trip.
They had played well in an overtime loss to Washington and had blown out a horrible Miami team, but there were lingering questions about their cohesion and determination in defeats at the hands of Indiana, Charlotte and Orlando.
And while beating the 16-27 Sonics hardly means all is right, a loss would have been a huge blow to Toronto's psyche. Now, the trip to face the Lakers, Warriors, Nuggets, Kings and Jazz at least begins with Toronto knowing it can play well enough to win.
"Any time you win, you have confidence," said Mitchell. "You've got to go out and play with confidence ... if you don't have that, then you don't have a chance."
The confidence boost will be greater if Toronto can match its unselfish offensive style of yesterday afternoon. Led by 23 points from Anthony Parker, the Raptors had six players in double figures, everyone who played more than five minutes had at least one assist and outside of the 21 shots hoisted by Andrea Bargnani, no one had more than 14 field goal attempts.
"We got some unbelievable production from our bench," said Mitchell, pointing to 15 points from Carlos Delfino, 12 from Kris Humphries and 10 from Jason Kapono.
With Parker scoring 10 of his 23 points in the third quarter, Toronto outscored Seattle 35-21 to take a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.
And even with the requisite Seattle run – the Sonics got within five with under four minutes left – the Raptors were able to hang on.
Serena Beats Venus In Bangalore Face Off
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 10, 2008) *Serena Williams got the upper hand on her older sister Venus Saturday as the two siblings battled each other in a 2-hour, 20-minute semi-final match at the WTA Bangalore Open. Serena, a third seed, advanced to the final with a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7/4) victory, giving her a career 8-7 lead in head-to-head competition with her sister. Following their first tournament on Indian soil, Serena said in a court-side interview: "Venus is one of the best players on the circuit and showed that today. It was a close game which could have gone either way. The Bangalore crowd is absolutely amazing. We would love to come to India all the time." Serena, 26, was scheduled to face fourth-seeded Patty Schnyder of Switzerland on Sunday.
A Heritage Minister On The Hot Seat
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com
(March 7, 2008) OTTAWA — Josée Verner is making a habit of snubbing the arts community. It's not such a great habit for the country's Heritage minister, who was appointed only last August, and has no serious background in the arts.
Last November, Verner was invited by Robert Lantos, one of the country's most respected film producers, to his home in Toronto's Forest Hill neighbourhood for a meet-and-greet with the country's top artists.
Guests were asked to come for 5:30 p.m. for the two-hour reception. And well-known Canadian actors, producers and writers, including Paul Gross, Albert Schultz, Garth Drabinsky and Noah Richler, were there.
But few even met the guest of honour, because by the time Verner showed up – well after 7:30 p.m. – most people had left.
“It pissed a lot of people off …,” said one of the guests. “They [the guests] were there with good will.”
Verner said in an interview that she is “so sorry” about her tardiness. Her driver, she says, was stuck in the snarl of traffic that is Toronto.
But it happened again this week. This time, she wasn't just late; she was a no-show at the Genie Awards in Toronto. Her explanation was that she couldn't miss the confidence vote on the budget that was scheduled that night in the Commons. Whispers along the red carpet, however, were that she was afraid she would be criticized for her government's plans to deny tax credits to TV and film productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other offensive content.
That condemnation went on despite her absence. Sandra Oh, the gala's master of ceremonies, Sarah Polley, the young director and multiple award-winner, and even Verner's former host, Lantos, piled on.
And it continues as the minister faces one of the most difficult issues of her portfolio – defending a policy that many in the arts community are charging is tantamount to censorship.
For her part, Verner says this idea that the Conservative government is not a supporter of the arts is not true. “I think frankly it's a little bit unfair, because we did a lot. When we look at our record, we spend a lot of money in the [Canada Council for the Arts], we spend a lot of money for the festivals. The small festivals in every part of the country are so happy to receive funds … and at the same time, we believe in our major festivals, the ones who make us so proud – for example, Just for Laughs.”
“I have a certain sympathy for Josée Verner because I think it is very difficult to be a strong cabinet minister in the Harper government,” says author Susan Swan, chair of the Writers' Union of Canada, who has also been snubbed by Verner. A few months ago, Swan requested a meeting with the minister. Instead, she was pawned off on an underling, who, although pleasant, provided no insight into the minister and her thinking on issues.
By comparison, Swan says that Verner's predecessor, Bev Oda, was “much more present.”
“[Verner] comes from Quebec, which has far more thoughtful and progressive policies on the arts than the other parts of the country,” says Swan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, she adds “obviously picked her as part of his plan to woo Quebec votes. But Josée has no voice, as far as I can tell.”
GLAMOUR TRUMPS MONOTONY
Last August, Harper shuffled his cabinet and promoted Verner. She went from what is considered a junior portfolio as the minister in charge of the Canadian International Development Agency to the more senior Heritage post. And she went from blond to brunette.
Interestingly, there are no blond women in the Harper cabinet; like her other erstwhile blond female ministerial colleagues, Verner has taken on what society considers a much more serious hair colour. She says it's just easier to take care of. (The lone blond in cabinet is Human Resources Minister Monte Solberg, and even he has toned down his highlights.)
All this is to say that, while it can't be easy for women in Harper's testosterone-filled cabinet (seven of the 32 ministers are female), it must be even harder as the minister promoting arts and culture, an area that many Tories believe is frivolous.
Indeed, there was no new money for the arts in last month's budget, and Verner's voice around the cabinet table is limited, as she is not a member of Harper's most influential cabinet committees, such as priorities and planning, Treasury Board and operations.
“She is not pro-active on the arts,” says Swan. “She seems instead to project, perhaps unconsciously, the dated attitude of her government that the arts represent a fringe constituency instead of them being integral to a vibrant democracy.”
The commentary at the time of the shuffle was that Oda had to go because she was not a good communicator. She couldn't speak French, and her deliberate, monotone delivery in English made her seem dull.
There was a view, too, that Harper needed a Quebecker in the job to help celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.
And so who better than Verner? Not only is she from Quebec City, but with her designer clothes and great hair she would lend some glamour to the post.
AN INDEPENDENT STREAK
It's hard not to like Verner. The 48-year-old wife and mother of three (a son, 25, and two daughters, 20 and 15) is sweet, friendly and in possession of an independent streak.
For example, this week, she was one of only four Conservatives to vote against a Tory private member's bill to make harming a fetus a crime. The bill was of concern to pro-choice advocates who argued it would eventually lead to restrictions on abortion. It was a free vote, but most of the cabinet, including her boss, the Prime Minister, voted in favour of it. The bill passed.
Verner first attracted attention in Ottawa after she came from almost nowhere in the 2004 federal campaign to challenge the Bloc candidate, winning 32 per cent of the vote.
She garnered the most votes of any Conservative candidate in Quebec, and Harper invited her to come to Ottawa to serve as his Quebec adviser.
No stranger to politics, Verner, who grew up in the Quebec City suburb of Sainte-Foy and undertook secretarial studies at Collège O'Sullivan, worked for the provincial Liberals in the Bourassa government in the 1980s, first with the minister of health. She also later served as a communications adviser to Lawrence Cannon, who is now her cabinet colleague, but at that time was a minister in the Bourassa government.
She left that world when her third child was born. “It was too much for a mother to manage politics and family,” she says.
A decade later, during which she had worked with her husband, Marc Lacroix, who owns a small communications business, she was lured back into the political world, this time helping out the provincial Action Démocratique du Québec. Not long after, she was approached by the federal Tories. Upset about the Liberal sponsorship scandal, Verner says she met with Harper and was “strongly impressed by him.”
A cabinet colleague describes her as “intelligent and articulate.” She is well-liked and respected by caucus members.
“While understated in her approach, she is very passionate about what she believes, and is very patient and kind-hearted. Still waters run deep,” says the colleague.
Once referred to as “the minister not sure of herself” by francophone reporters, many observers believe she is growing into her job. Over the past year, her English has considerably improved. And several people noted her performance this week in Question Period: the way in which she aggressively handled opposition questions over the controversial tax-credit issue.
Alain Pineau, the national director of the Canadian Conference of the Arts, says she is gradually “coming into her own … given the fact that Madame Verner came to this portfolio without any kind of track record apart from the fact that she was nice-looking and apparently intelligent …”
He says that, inside government, she has a reputation as someone who listens and respects her officials, which he says has not always been the case with other ministers. “I am always open to meet with people, to have them in my office. So frankly, I think by continuing to work hard we will be able to convince people that of course we are interested,” she says. “We believe in our culture. In my sense, it's our national identity and it's so important to … strengthen that.”
As well, she says that she is always “open to meet people.” And, yes, she'll even meet with Swan, “if she wants to meet with me.”
Maybe it's just a case of making time, where she didn't seem to have it before.