March 27, 2008
end of March and April is full of the hope of spring! Now as many of you know,
I’ve had ongoing web issues – mostly related to Frontpage – PLEASE feel free to
share your FP horror stories with me! In any case, this week’s newsletter
looks a little different and I didn't get to load all pages. I’m so sorry
but I just am at the mercy of those trying to fix it right now. For now
you’ll just have to link to the pages that interest you …
If you ever need to email me, please remember to only me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the SOS Band’s concert at the Capitol Event Theatre here in Toronto. Check out pics in my PHOTO GALLERY! What a show and what a mega-talented band these musicians are … goes to show why they’ve been around so long … and still selling out venues and putting crowds into a frenzy! For the amount of crazed fans, I really thought that I was at the concert of a new and hot up-and-coming band – but it was so refreshing on a couple of fronts – one; to see a Toronto audience go so nuts period; and two; to have a Toronto audience go so nuts for a legendary band serving up old skool music. Thanks so much to Shamakah Ali (former SOS band drummer!) and Cindy Wilson for the hook up that night!
Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
Remembering A Dread Who Took Control
Excerpt from Jamaica Gleaner
(March 18, 2008) MICHAEL 'Mikey Dread' Campbell, the maverick broadcaster who introduced underground reggae to mainstream radio in the late 1970s through his Dread At The Controls programme, died last Saturday in the United States.
Campbell, who was 54 years old, died six months after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. A posting on his website, dreadatthecontrols.com, said he passed away at his sister's home in Connecticut.
Dread At The Controls aired for two years on the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) where Campbell began working as a transmitter engineer in 1976.
He played the cutting-edge music of producers King Tubby and Augustus Pablo and dancehall singers like Linval Thompson.
In a 2003 interview, the Portland-born Campbell listed Dread At The Controls as one of his biggest achievements.
"Before that show come along, people at the JBC wanted to play classical music which had no relevance to Jamaican people," he said.
Campbell joined the JBC at a time when the hot jocks were the established Errol 'E.T.' Thompson and a rising Barry 'Barry G' Gordon. He said he was given the go-ahead to start Dread At The Controls in 1977 by Ossie Harvey and Rupert Linton who were senior members of the JBC production department.
The show's time slot was a novelty. It started at midnight on Sundays and ran for four and a half hours; before Dread At The Controls, the JBC signed off at midnight.
Two years later, Campbell and the JBC parted ways after the station declined his request to give Dread At The Controls a prime time slot. He went into record production full time, working with the influential British punk band The Clash and later Guns 'N' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin.
Michael Campbell is the second noted Jamaican music personality to die in three weeks. Producer Joe Gibbs died on February 21.
Dreader than dread
Michael Campbell was also a respected artiste and producer. As 'Mikey Dread', he recorded hit songs such as Barber Saloon and African Map.
He produced fellow JBC worker Edi Fitzroy's Miss Molly and The Gun and Imperial Majesty by Rod Taylor.
Disc jockey Barry'Barry G' Gordon once described IRIE FM as a 24-hour version of Dread At The Controls.
Attended Titchfield High School.
Campbell boasted that he broke Althea and Donna's big hit Uptown Top Ranking and Gregory Isaacs' Soon Forward on Dread At The Controls.
Eric Peterson - He's A Rascally National Treasure – But Don't
Tell Him That
Excerpt from www.globenandmail.com - R.M. Vaughan
(March 14, 2008) Eric Peterson would like you to know ... well, rather a lot of things.
Recently awarded ACTRA Toronto's Excellence Prize (a lifetime achievement-style award for actors still spry enough to use it), the beloved Canadian theatre and film stalwart, and self-described "old fart," shows no sign of going gently into that good night, evening or even midafternoon. Peterson is nothing if not energetic, even fiery, especially when the topic turns to the state of Canadian cultural production (and he will steer the conversation to that perennial puzzlement whether you ask him to or not).
These days, Peterson is best known as the rascally Oscar on CTV's hit sitcom Corner Gas. But Oscar is merely the latest in a long line of popular, emblematic Canadian characters played by Peterson.
Starting with his portrayal of First World War hero Billy Bishop (in a play, and later a film, he co-wrote), and, most recently, of medicare founder Tommy Douglas - with stints on Street Legal, Traders and every other popular Canadian show you can name - Peterson has embedded himself in our national consciousness, become "that Canadian actor" who's in everything because he looks and sounds typically Canadian. Indeed, friends of mine who were not born in Canada have told me Peterson reminds them of the first boss they worked for when they came to this country, or their first good Canadian teacher, or the wise-cracking neighbour who gently teased them through their first winter. In Japan, a man of Peterson's stature would be declared a Living National Treasure, and granted a bountiful stipend. Write your MP today.
I'm sure you're very grateful and honoured and all that to get the Excellence Award, but part of you must be thinking, 'It's about G-D time!'
Oh, no, no, no, no!
I mean, probably like many people, I work out of a deep swamp of self-doubt. So part of me is thinking ACTRA's mistaken me for somebody else! It's a clerical error! When I think of the people who've been honoured by this award, these are huge heroes of mine. Acknowledgment by your peers is not like a regular nomination, a contest you've never entered. This is an honorary award. [A local screenwriter approaches, interrupts our conversation, and engages Peterson in a long chat about a potential new project. Apparently, this happens to the actor every day. He knows everyone.]
That moment just proves my next observation: You have literally worked with everybody in Canada at least three times, and therefore done hundreds of interviews. Is there anything you've ever wanted to say but didn't? Such as, 'That bastard so and so' ...
Ha! Ha! No, I don't think so! I totally leave it up to the interviewer to take me places.
But you are an éminence grise.
Literally, that's for sure! But, as with everyone, inside and outside opinions differ. I don't feel that, for all the prestige you want to present to me, that I have any more security than when I first started, because I'm a Canadian actor.
How is that possible?
Well, it's possible because I have watched, as a theatre actor and a film and television actor, over the years of my career, the salaries drop. It's partly because the country has changed. The model of having a cultural formula, where we had state money supporting theatre and film, in order to keep them healthy, has been replaced by a global marketing formula which is detrimental to indigenous work. So, my livelihood as an actor is always in question. I have long periods when I don't have work.
But you're always on TV.
That's because television is like Styrofoam. It's never thrown away, and it will never be destroyed. And Corner Gas is on television every day, so there's a perception that people are always working. Corner Gas got me a house, so I'm very lucky for an actor. I made a decision to stay in this country and all my theatre work has been new work, Canadian work, and my television has been the same. But I've seen a shift in the cultural aesthetic.
Are you referring to the large number of American productions made in Canada?
Absolutely. I'm also talking about the amount of American product that comes to us directly from Canadian companies, and the use of public money, via tax credits and direct incentives, to subsidize the U.S. industry, the largest, healthiest entertainment industry in the world. I'm interested in keeping alive work that is done by Canadians for Canadians. I view that as being the wellspring of my own creativity and I view that as how one makes art that is worthy of being enjoyed by the rest of the world. Film in this country is so hard because there's so little of it - we're always trying to hit the home run, but we only have one bat. And that situation is the same situation I came into as a young actor.
With this interview, Mr. Tommy Douglas, your CIA file just got one page thicker.
Ha! You should see my CSIS file!
Oct. 2, 1946, Indian Head, Sask.
THE EARLY YEARS
Studied acting at the University of Saskatchewan and then in England before moving to Vancouver.
Co-founded Tamahnous Theatre in Vancouver with John MacLachlan Gray and there in 1978 he originated the role of Billy Bishop in Gray's one-man revue Billy Bishop Goes to War. The show moved first to Toronto and then toured extensively for three more years. Peterson won awards from critics for his performance on Broadway and in the West End.
Wife Annie Kidder, is an outspoken activist and head of the group People For Education - but Kidder had a previous career as a stage and TV actress and a director. (Her sister is the actress Margot Kidder.) The couple has two daughters; the eldest, Molly, studies theatre at Concordia University.
Susan L. Taylor: All About Love
Excerpt from www.essence.com – by Audrey Edwards
In her new book, All About Love, Essence Editorial Director Susan L. Taylor expands on invaluable life lessons from her beloved In the Spirit columns over the past two decades. AUDREY EDWARDS recently talked with our favourite wise woman about embracing love and finding the courage to live fearlessly, especially in these challenging times.
If there is one word that defines the spirit of Susan L. Taylor, it is love. It’s how she branded a magazine: first as editor-in-chief of ESSENCE for 19 years and then as its editorial director, making the publication you hold in your hands not only a must-read for Black women but also a guiding light for a people still too often stumbling in the dark. She instinctively understands love’s transforming power—that love affirms and motivates; it heals and is redemptive. In the Spirit, Susan’s monthly column, is filled with this power. In this space, Susan has never been afraid to tell us her own stories—of struggle, of uncertainty, of tripping before she found her way to higher ground. True love, Susan has said repeatedly, begins with the love of self. This is the God love, the supreme love from which all other love will flow, natural and healthy. Love marks her personal style of humility.
In her fourth book, All About Love: Favourite Selections From In the Spirit on Living Fearlessly (Urban Books, $19.95), being released this month, Susan continues the love lessons she began imparting to us nearly 30 years ago. Wise and warm, honest and provocative, this collection of essays explores spiritually empowering subjects ranging from finding harmony to building wealth, committing to social and political change, staying in good health, shedding anger, and finding real love in all our relationships.
We caught up with the fearless warrior woman at three o’clock one recent morning. In this interview she tells why, after all these years, she continues to run on love.
ESSENCE: You have already published three books: In the Spirit, Lessons in Living and Confirmation, with your husband, Khephra Burns. So why now, when many people would rest on their laurels, have you decided to write this fourth book?
Susan L. Taylor: The overarching focus, and why I expanded or revisited some of these ideas, is to offer a deeper understanding of our power and completeness and our responsibility during this most critical stage in our history. We don’t have time to waste. Our communities are crumbling; our children are under siege. Failing schools and a for-profit prison industrial complex are sucking the life out of Black homes and communities. We are not going down like this!
ESSENCE: What do you think still keeps Black women from living our best lives —from activating the supreme God love from within?
S.L.T.: We haven’t healed from the residuals of slavery. We don’t trust one another or work as well together as we must. We need potent messages addressing these issues to be spoken within our churches and mosques. We need a new order of ministers to stand in pulpits. It’s not enough to sing and praise God in worship services. Any religion that doesn’t encourage us to work together to end the needless suffering all around us is godless. God is Goodness, the energy or force that’s holding everything together in this amazing universe.
ESSENCE: How have the messages you impart through In the Spirit changed over these past two decades, and what does the column mean to you now?
S.L.T.: The column has always been something of a public diary. My second column, “Coming to Faith,” published in July 1981, set the tone for the intimacy and honesty my writing would take. At that time, no popular mass-market magazine had spiritual content. I wanted to say why I was writing about God, so I looked back at the time my first marriage fell to pieces, devastating me. I wrote about going to a New York City hospital emergency room at age 24 as a single mother, thinking I was having a heart attack. The doctor said it was an anxiety attack. Walking back home to the Bronx because I had no money for public transportation, I passed Reverend Ike’s church and felt pulled by a force to go inside. I heard a sermon that would change my life. “God is alive in you,” said the visiting minister, Reverend Alfred Miller. This was new to me, and it transformed my thinking.
Ten years later I realized all the circumstances surrounding that frightening and then enlightening day had saved my life. But I had never spoken about or even really looked at this before I took the time to be introspective and then write about it. So the column became a place where I could look in the mirror and encourage others to do the same. Over the years it has evolved into writings about the transformative power of love. And recent writings, still often personal, extend to talking about the collective commitment to our community that we able, stable Black folks must make.
ESSENCE: What do you feel are the issues that Black women should be concerned about right now? And what can we do to move ourselves and community forward?
S.L.T.: I know that to be saved, the earth needs our feminine sensibility and regenerative love. I know we must believe in the power of love, and not just talk about self-love and self-worth or loving God and having faith. We must learn how to live in the space of inner peace in our everyday lives. This takes consistent, conscious effort because I know so many Black women are hurting and sad, and we don’t easily express our heartache or show our wounds. I know we must stop hurting one another and declare peace as fervently as this nation has declared war.
I know that we must make healthy choices in everything from food to lovers, and must take care of ourselves rather than always being anxious about the response of others. I know we must feel comfortable in our skin, no matter what shade it is, and teach our sons and daughters to revere our ancestral beauty—our pure unadulterated Blackness—because anything less is holding on to the self-hatred we have internalized over the centuries.
ESSENCE: You seem to come as close as any modern, progressive leader to being truly self-actualized, yet you say you still have struggles. What are your greatest, continuing challenges? Who is the Susan L. Taylor readers don’t know?
S.L.T.: I still have to work hard at fighting feelings of fear—and I don’t win every day. Fear that I’m not enough. Not good enough, not smart enough. I’m my own worst critic. My challenge is extending love and generosity to myself all the time, even when I don’t hit the mark or mess up. As for the Susan L. Taylor readers don’t know, there is so much of me that I don’t yet know either. Self-discovery is thrilling. My goal is to keep hitting a higher and higher octave, to keep learning and sharing.
ESSENCE: In branding a magazine, you’ve also branded yourself. As a result, many people have now come to equate you with ESSENCE. How do you define who you are separately from what ESSENCE is?
S.L.T.: ESSENCE is the vehicle I work through. It’s where I give love to our people and community. It’s where I have rank and title. It has given me resources and popularity, but I am none of those things. I’m a doer, a worker. What’s important to me is my integrity, contributing to the larger good and my family and to moving our people forward. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see ESSENCE. ESSENCE: What’s great about being a Black woman at this point in our history?
S.L.T.: We are living at a time when the most difficult work and the cruellest aspects of our history are behind us. Historically, Black women have suffered tremendously, but today’s Black women are the triumph. We have choices, and that’s what freedom is all about: having the power to choose.
ESSENCE: You have raised a loving daughter, have a lovely granddaughter, and have been in a successful marriage to Khephra for almost 20 years. What do you think is the key to happy, long-lasting relationships?
S.L.T.: Tenderness, humility and respect for personal differences. Without these a union suffers and dies. The spiritual purpose of partnership is self-revelation and sharing soul to soul. This is how we come to know who we are fully. We have to learn to love goodness, not good looks, good sex or what someone can give us. And we have to make time for our relationships. We schedule time for everything else, from food shopping to salon appointments. We need to schedule time for love. Beyond procreation, the main purpose of coming together in a love relationship is to learn how to give, trust, forgive, live in harmony with another person and deepen our relationship with God. As my beloved Khephra always says, “Love isn’t passive. It’s active.” We both love our young people and dedicate our lives to nurturing them. There’s nothing more nurturing and binding to a relationship than partners working together for a purpose greater than one that just benefits them.
Audrey Edwards, an ESSENCE contributing writer, lives in Paris, where she is fulfilling her dream to reside in the City of Lights.
Jerome Awards Honour Role Models
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Joanna Smith, Staff Reporter
(March 26, 2008) Growing up in one of the city's toughest neighbourhoods inspired Vera Manu's dream to become a lawyer.
"I want to effect change in my community," said Manu, who is in second year at Osgoode Hall Law School.
"I live in Jane and Finch and that inspired me to go to law school. With a law degree, I know I can make more changes."
The 24-year-old was among 13 recipients of Harry Jerome Awards announced yesterday by the Black Business and Professional Association to celebrate excellence in the African-Canadian community.
"It's very important to me because it's recognizing that my efforts have not been in vain," said Manu, who will receive the honour at an April 26 gala dinner in Toronto.
The awards bear the name of Harry Jerome, who won the bronze medal for Canada in the 100-metre dash at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics despite having severed a quadriceps muscle two years earlier.
Jerome, who died in 1982, used his athletic stature to criticize the misrepresentation of blacks in Canadian television, fight wage discrimination and lobby to improve perceptions of his community.
The Jerome awards are meant to spotlight similar role models, such as Manu, who had to repeat first grade and take ESL classes as a youngster.
She later won a scholarship to York University and got an undergraduate degree before entering law school.
She has worked with a local mentoring group set up to help aspiring black women.
The father of another winner was at the awards preview held yesterday, standing in for Anne Ogundele, goaltender for the women's soccer team at University of Kentucky.
"It's a good reward for a job well done," said Gabriel Ogundele on behalf of his Mississauga daughter.
Another 2008 recipient is Roger Rowe – a role model for Manu's career path as a lawyer and activist committed to the Jane-Finch community. Rowe litigated a landmark 1999 case that established a new standard for administrative fairness in deportation cases.
Also honoured is Calgary author and filmmaker Cheryl Foggo, whose 1990 book Pourin' Down Rain chronicled her forbearers' trip from Africa to America and onward to pioneer days Western Canada.
New Brunswick-born Willie O'Ree, who joined Boston Bruins in 1958 to become the first black in the National Hockey League, is receiving a lifetime achievement award. He played parts of three NHL seasons while concealing the fact he was blind in one eye.
This year's Harry Jerome Awards will be presented April 26 by the Black Business and Professional Association at the Toronto Congress Centre.
• lawyer Roger Rowe
• author Cheryl Foggo
• actor-singer Anthony Sherwood
• University of Toronto professor Njoki Nathani Wane
• aviation physician Stephen Blizzard
• NHL pioneer Willie O'Ree
• sickle cell anaemia activist Charles Ofori-Attah
• Canada AM anchor Marci Ien
• high school principal Chris Spence
• software developer Warren Salmon
• pharmaceutical educator Alex MacGregor
• University of Kentucky soccer goalie Anne Ogundele
• law student Vera Manu
Black Women and Depression
Superstar PR agent Terrie Williams first revealed her battle with depression in Essence more than two years ago. Now she’s releasing Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, which delves even deeper into the souls of Black folks
ESSENCE: What made you write Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting (Scribner)?
Terrie Williams: My love for Black people. I received thousands of letters and e-mails after my ESSENCE article appeared. These people’s best friends didn’t know they were in pain. Their families didn’t know. How do you tell someone, “I feel like I’m dying inside, and I don’t know what to do about it”? People didn’t know how to begin the conversation. This book can help them do that. The other part of it is that so many of us have no idea that we’re in so much pain. We don’t know what our pain looks like, sounds like, or feels like.
ESSENCE: So what does depression sound like for Black people? Which phrases resonate most with women?
T.W.: “I’m tired.” “I’m really not a people person.” “I don’t feel like it.” “Can you supersize that?” “Nothing good ever happens to me.”
ESSENCE: Why don’t we realize we’re in pain?
T.W.: Because we’re moving so quickly in our lives that we don’t take the time to process what happens to us. That you have to work ten times harder than your White counterparts. That someone clutched her purse when you got on the elevator. That you’re underappreciated by your family. I also believe we all harbour deep-seated scars from our childhood. When we don’t talk about any of that stuff and don’t process it, it sits inside and festers. And when it does come out, it’s uncontrolled rage, the violence we witness every day, self-medication, working 24/7, shopping, gambling. Those are the ways our pain manifests itself. Even those who achieve great things in corporate America—their spirits or souls may be dead because so many people drain their lives.
ESSENCE: What’s the most common reason women hide their pain?
T.W.: I think it’s that we’re afraid to seem weak. We’re afraid to show a chink in the armour. Some of us think, I’m already coming in the door perhaps not as valued as I should be, so to show a chink in the armour would be death. What’s interesting to me is that the person right next to you is more than likely dealing with the same thing.
ESSENCE: What’s the best way to help someone who’s depressed?
T.W.: Say in a caring, gentle way, “You don’t seem like yourself lately.” You could use the book or the ESSENCE article to get them talking. Depression is something that’s treatable through diet, exercise, medication, strengthening your relationship with God, getting toxic people out of your life. It’s something you can master on many levels.
ESSENCE: What about people who get frustrated trying to find a good doctor to talk to?
T.W.: I’ve heard people say, “I tried a therapist once.” But when you go to the shoe store to find a pair of shoes, if the first one doesn’t fit, you keep trying until you find one that works, right?
ESSENCE: What else should we know about depression?
T.W.: We all have challenges that we go through. They exist so we can come out on the other side and share the experience with someone else, so people don’t think they’re standing on a ledge by themselves. Some of us have had very, very difficult lives. But there’s glory and joy on the other side— there’s no question about that.
Nevis - Tiny Island Has A Big Love For Musical Heritage
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Jo Matyas And Craig Jones, Special To The Star
(February 28, 2008) CHARLESTOWN, NEVIS–"You comin' to the funeral on Sunday?" tour guide Devon Liburd asks as he steers our minivan around this tiny island.
His tone of voice makes it clear this is more than a suggestion: if you're on the island on Sunday, you're expected to attend the four-hour outdoor service to show respect.
It doesn't matter that we're tourists. It doesn't even matter that we've never met the deceased, one of the island's musical icons.
Music is such a rich part of the culture and heritage here, that the tribute performances by local bands and choirs are considered a must-attend event.
So, sitting in the packed, sun-scorched bleachers of the cultural complex in Charlestown – the only collection of buildings large enough to be labelled a town on this island of 9,000 people – turns out to be an excellent window into why soca, reggae and calypso are enjoying a revival on island.
It's taken effort to keep the traditions alive.
"We have several specific music teachers who move from school to school on the island," says Crefton "King Meeko" Warner, an award-winning calypso performer who designs music programs for Nevis' schools. "They start the kids on simple rhythms using guitars, shakers and drums. We focus on how the music is part of their heritage – everything from Big Drum music to colourful masquerade troupes, both of which are rooted in our African traditions."
While Nevis' compact size (it would take days of circling the island to burn up one tank of fuel) is a draw for those searching for something a little more isolated, it has also created challenges for the live music scene.
"Nevis is not large enough to have live music more than one place any night of the week," says marine biologist and snorkelling tour operator Barbara Whitman. "So, they rotate. Thursday is a live band at the beach bar at Nisbet Beach. Tuesday is the Oualie Beach. Wednesday is Eddy's."
It seems like a good idea to pair food with music – and that's what the Oualie Beach Resort has done with the Tuesday evening West Indian buffet.
As guests enjoy fresh fish, lobster and pork cooked on beachside grills, guitarist "Snowflake" strums background music. After dinner, he moves to the beachfront bar with his mates, the Oualie Beach Boys and the Band. For the past 10 years, Tuesday nights have been jam sessions attracting locals who bring guitars, tambourines, washtub bass. Everyone drains bottles of Carib beer, dances, and plays long into the night.
"If you're not a member of the band, you're still welcome to join in, and by the time the night is over you'll be considered an official band member," says Tim, the restaurant's maitre d'. One night later, the Golden Rock Plantation Inn hosts the Honey Bees, the oldest of Nevis' string bands. String band music, which originated in the 1920s and is also known as a scratch band, is a collective of guitars, mandolin, a bass pipe made from bamboo or PVC and percussion (maracas, triangle), with a fife carrying the melody. Students learn to play as part of the school program, and some string bands have young members to keep the tradition alive.
"This type of Caribbean rhythm is like a collective," Patterson Fleming, maitre d' of the Coconut Beach Bar at the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, says on a starlit Thursday night as he points out how drummers, guitarists, keyboard players and vocalists rotate in and out of position.
It's a small island, but with a big heart for music. And it doesn't beat any stronger than on our last night. A church in Charlestown is the site for a medical benefit concert, with a lineup ranging from choral groups to instrumentalists.
The highlight is an 8-year-old boy who beats beautiful music from a collection of steel pans, yet another part of the school program.
The performance may not have been an official part of the funeral that morning, but it's hard to miss the connection. The teachers who bring music into the schools are strengthening the island's musical heritage. Even after the sadness of death, the music lives on.
Jo Matyas is a freelance writer and Craig Jones is a writer and musician from Kingston, Ont. Their trip was subsidized by Nevis Tourism and Cheryl Andrews Marketing.
Carole Pope Confidential
Excerpt from www.thesar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(March 20, 2008) If you think the passing of time might have turned Carole Pope all warm and fuzzy, then think again.
She's coming back to Buddies in Bad Times Saturday and Sunday night along with guest comic Elvira Kurt and in her own inimitable words, "There will be acoustic, there will be jokes, there will be blood."
The woman dubbed "The Raunch Queen" in her heyday with Rough Trade 30 years ago is still capable of lobbing a conversational grenade into the room with the best of them.
"Just when you think human sexuality is wide open," she begins from her home in Los Angeles, "you realize we're still back in the Dark Ages. We're all controlled by a bunch of old white guys and I really wish they'd die off."
Then she laughs with that dark, throaty sound of hers that could give Beelzebub bad dreams.
"And I just can't get enough of Republicans caught being gay."
You don't intend to bring every conversation with Pope around to sex, but somehow it just happens that way. Maybe it's because when she broke onto the Toronto music scene with Kevan Staples in the mid-1970s they were unlike anything the city had ever seen.
"I was just going to do what I was going to do," is how Pope diffidently explains the mixture of dominatrix gear, X-rated lyrics, driving music and blatant sexuality she used to set the city ablaze.
"A lot of people didn't understand that Kevan and I were doing sexual parodies and sending it all up sky high. They used to tell me they got turned on by my songs and I'd be all `Like yuck!'"
Ask Pope what she thinks it would have been like if Rough Trade had launched today and her answer is immediate.
"It would be a lot harder, because everybody's got a gimmick these days. You can be a boozed-up Brit chick and have a big hit just singing about getting beat up by your boyfriend."
She sighs. "But, you know, I think the younger audience today would get what we were trying to do. They're very big on irony these days."
In fact, some of the kids of today have turned on to Pope, thanks in part to her music appearing on television soundtracks from The L Word to The Trailer Park Boys. She even recorded a new version of her anthem of horniness, "High School Confidential," for Queer as Folk.
"Oh yeah," agrees Pope dryly. "That's where I got all the 15-year-old boys who want to be my friend on MySpace."
She loves having young audiences, but at the same time, she gets oddly puritanical about one thing. "Having sex at a really young age is totally screwed up, because that way you lose your childhood."
Pope feels the whole notion of what is or isn't sexy has been debased by many entertainers today. "Let's not lay it all out, people. Let's be a bit discreet. Don't throw it all in my face. I want some mystery. I want some intellect.
"Paris Hilton? Get me out of here. She's just Miss Chock Full of Sperm. What kind of a role model is that?"
Pope may have been lower profile in recent years, but she still produced three solo albums and an autobiography, Anti Diva, in 2000. Her recent solo music has more of a techno edge, though her lyrics still possess a political and sexual punch.
Yet for all her mystique, it took Pope a depressing two years to get her last album, Transcend, distributed.
"Why? Because I'm not in my 20s," she sneers. "I have a whole new album written, but I don't know if I have the energy to go through the whole agony of trying to get it recorded and released again.
"Yeah, I could go the whole garage-band route, but don't you think I'm just a little old for that?" asks the woman who turns 58 in August.
Pope seemed to flaunt her debauchery and self-indulgence back in her early days, but she seems remarkably grounded today.
"I've been taking care of myself since the '80s," she admits, "because it just seemed the wisest thing to do."
But how did she avoid crashing and burning in her youth like the Lindsay Lohans and Amy Winehouses do today?
"I just didn't have an addictive personality," she says after a pause. "It's not that I didn't do my share of booze and drugs, but with me, ultimately, it was always about making music."
Pope hasn't appeared at Buddies since her 1996 show Carole Pope & A Bunch of People She's Slept With, but she's looking forward to her gig this weekend. She promises a "mash" of her early Rough Trade songs "to get them out of the way."
Although she's just a bit anxious about what Kurt will do. "Elvira's going to mock me, I just know it, so I guess I better prepare to mock her back."
Or as Pope herself said earlier, "There will be acoustic, there will be jokes, there will be blood."
And no one drinks her milkshake.
Just the facts
WHO: Carole Pope with Elvira Kurt
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, doors at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St.
TICKETS: $20 at artsexy.ca or 416-975-8555; $25 at the door
It's No Accident: Crystal Castles Is Toronto's Hottest New Band
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(March 23, 2008) The word "accidental" has already appeared so much in Crystal Castles lore that it seems a rather bitter irony that an actual, real-life accident has now thrust itself into what is, arguably, the Toronto duo's first crucial North American tour.
Five shows into the pair's current five-week road swing – timed to give Crystal Castles' eponymous debut album a little pre-release juicing at Austin's all-important South by Southwest festival the weekend before its official arrival in stores last Tuesday – pixieish singer Alice Glass wandered off from a gig in Chicago early this month and wound up breaking a couple of ribs when the car she was riding in collided with another vehicle.
"After the show, she went for a drive with a friend and someone smashed into them. We didn't even know," says keyboard maestro and beatmaker Ethan Kath, who stages a homecoming gig with Glass this Friday at Circa. "We were at the venue waiting for her till, like, seven in the morning. We didn't know what was going on."
Despite her doctor's advice to take five or six weeks off, Glass – a diminutive banshee who is nevertheless so shy offstage that she's rumoured to burst into tears before shows – was back at it for the band's March 14 SXSW date at storied Austin venue Emo's.
A painful move, but no doubt a beneficial one, since there was a line-up snaking down 6th Avenue well before the doors opened, waiting expressly for Crystal Castles to kick off the evening's line-up. So if the hugely hyped performance wound up proving necessarily brisk, at least Glass and Kath observed a golden rule of show business by curtly walking offstage after about 20 minutes while a packed, thoroughly wound-up houseful of admirers gasped for more.
"That was the first show Alice did with her broken ribs, so we played four songs and she was, like, `That's it,'" says Kath. "You need your ribs to sing. Every time she coughs, she's holding her stomach in pain. And she has a really bad cough."
Yikes. Take care of yourselves, Crystal Castles, because this is most definitely your moment.
Blog-age notoriety has accrued so quickly and so furiously for the twosome that it was being hyperbolized overseas last year as "the most exciting and original band in the world right now" based largely upon the momentum gained from a single tune, "Alice Practice," that was, as legend has it, surreptitiously created – "by accident," if you will – when the engineer presiding over Crystal Castles' first demo sessions in April of 2005 hit "record" while Glass wailed her way through a preparatory microphone check.
Kath posted the tune online merely as a means of proving to his friends that he was, in fact, still alive after vanishing into the studio for months with Glass on a shared whim to build a noise-rock band in the vein of Toronto's Sick Lipstick or Montreal's AIDS Wolf that substituted mutilated, analogue keyboard sounds for guitars.
Suddenly, though, he was fielding frantic offers from three separate labels to release it as a single. And so Crystal Castles subsequently agreed to issue "Alice Practice" as just the second seven-inch released by upstart U.K. label Merok Records, an imprint launched by the roommate of a then-unknown British band called the Klaxons.
By the time Kath and Glass accepted an invite from Merok to tour the U.K., both their single and its predecessor by those same Klaxons – who would go on to win the 2007 Mercury Prize the following year for their album Myths of the Near Future – had sold out completely.
"We flew to the U.K. to discover that the Klaxons had just got a record deal. You know what happened with them, right? At the time, that was just all new things happening," says Kath. "We got there and a week later they'd signed to Polydor. We were just excited that our seven-inches had sold out, just happy about that alone."
Within a year, Crystal Castles had graduated from touring the States via Greyhound bus to headlining status in the U.K., landing remix duties for Bloc Party, Liars and their pals, the Klaxons. CC also sparked a mini-riot among rabid fans moved to trash a Rough Trade record shop after a rowdy in-store performance in London, all the while remaining oddly distanced from the internationally renowned Canadian indie scene from whence they sprang.
Toronto's slow-to-come recognition of the latest budding pop exports in its midst might stem, in part, from Kath's previous association with a mightily underrated but fatally un-trendy local rock band that he'd prefer not to mention these days for fear of "confusing electronic-music fans."
That band – which I won't name because I like Kath too much to betray his trust – was nothing to be ashamed of. But, for the record, the fact that the guy's attained this sort of success by letting slip the New Order fetish previously hidden behind a metal heart proves he's a much more three-dimensional songwriter than anyone in this town thought.
And while we're at it, if the recent Internet scuttlebutt over the fact that Ethan isn't his real name has touched a nerve, it might be useful to remind yourself that no one is born Sting.
There's nothing careerist about Crystal Castles' rise, unless Kath and Glass initially set themselves on a mission to reach the meagre commercial heights set by such cult forebears as X-Ray Specs, Adult. and the Sugarcubes. Hell, they've even done their best to piss off the U.K. tastemakers who elevated them to this level in the first place.
"We're headlining an NME tour in May with three opening bands I've never heard of," says Kath. "In September of 2007, we were the opening DJ set when Klaxons headlined the tour and we didn't even end up going. We f---ed that up. We sent our drummer to DJ. And it's funny, because we're friends with Klaxons and they said we could share their tour bus but we sent our drummer and they were, like, `Who the f--- is this guy?' I'm surprised NME forgave us for that stunt. Now, they have us headlining a tour, when really they should have just never talked to us again after that."
Daniel MacMaster, 39
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Lindsay Lafraugh, The Canadian Press
(March 20, 2008) THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The former lead singer of British hard rock band Bonham has died at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre of a Group A streptococcus infection at the age of 39.
Daniel MacMaster had been living in this northwestern Ontario city for the past eight years with his partner Tina McCallum.
MacMaster had been working as a long-haul trucker.
McCallum said Wednesday that MacMaster's death on Sunday was unexpected and sudden.
MacMaster thought he had a cold and by the time the doctors realized what it was, it was too late, McCallum said.
“(It is) something most people fight off naturally, or if it is caught results in strep throat,” said McCallum.
“For some freaky reason it got into his bloodstream . . . once that happens there is not a lot that they can do,” she said.
Experiencing the life of a rock star at a young age, MacMaster released two albums before the age of 25 with Bonham, a band named after its drummer Jason Bonham, son of late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham.
The band's first album, “The Disregard of Timekeeping”, was released in 1989 and made it onto the Top 40 charts, with the single “Wait For You” being the most successful.
It wasn't long after the release of “Mad Hatter”, the band's second album, in 1992, that the members went separate ways.
After Bonham was over, MacMaster, who was raised in Barrie, Ont., returned to Toronto where his music career had started years before when he was lead singer for the band Scorcher.
While in Toronto, MacMaster met McCallum. She said that by the time the pair got together he was done with the rock ‘n' roll lifestyle.
“In the end he didn't want to tour ... he didn't want the fame and the fortune, he just wanted his music to be heard.”
MacMaster continued to write music and played with a local hobby band, Oh My Blues Band.
McCallum said MacMaster was a family man and the proud father of Kaleb, 8, and Aryanna, 6.
“He was a devoted father” and “a funny guy. Everybody has a funny Dan story,” she said.
Funeral services for MacMaster are being held Thursday in Thunder Bay.
Ms. Kelly Rowland, Digital Diva
(March 21, 2008) The Grammy winning R&B/pop superstar Kelly Rowland is back with her new studio album, Ms. Kelly: Diva Deluxe, a groundbreaking digital-only collection of new songs and scorching remixes available exclusively through all major online digital music providers on Tuesday, March 25.
Ms. Kelly: Diva Deluxe premieres five new Kelly Rowland tracks as well as remixes of Kelly's co-compositions "Come Back" (Karmatronics Remix) and "Like This" featuring Eve, a Redline Remix of Kelly's international smash and #1 Billboard Hot Dance Club Play recording.
"The tracks on Diva Deluxe are too hot to hold onto," said Kelly Rowland, "so I decided to release them digitally so my fans could get into them as soon as possible. I hope everyone enjoys the new songs as much as I did recording them."
Kelly Rowland is currently enjoying the mounting international success of her latest single, "Work," which is the #9 Top Digital Single across Europe and is charting in the UK (#8, #1 TV Airplay), Ireland (#12), France(#11), Germany (#1 Club Record), Switzerland, Sweden (#3 Video Chart), Denmark (Top 20 Dance) and Australia (#2 Most Added at radio). "Work" will be released as an extended play of dance mixes to US digital music providers on February 26 with an extended play of dance mixes of Kelly's new single, "Daylight," going to US digital music providers on March 4.
Ms. Kelly: Diva Deluxe is Kelly's first new collection of songs since June 2007 when Ms. Kelly, her second solo album, entered the Billboard Top 200 at #6, giving Kelly her first Top 10 album as a solo artist, while debuting on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at #2.
Ms. Kelly was the long-awaited successor to Rowland's best-selling 2002 gold-certified solo debut album, Simply Deep, which has sold more than two million copies worldwide. Peaking at #1 in the UK, #3 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Album chart, and #12 on the Billboard Top 200, Simply Deep included the smash hit, "Dilemma," Kelly's duet with the rapper Nelly, which earned the Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2003 and spent 10 weeks at #1 on the Hot 100.
One of the vocal superstars, and founding member, of Destiny's Child, the top-selling female group of all time, Kelly Rowland proved a major contributing force as the trio racked up sales of more than 60 million records worldwide while earning two Grammy Awards in the Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals category (2000: "Say My Name";
Kelly's natural charm and charisma have opened up the doors to roles in movies and on television. Her big screen acting credits include starring roles in the 2003 horror blockbuster, "Freddy vs. Jason," and 2004's comedy romance, "The Seat Filler," executive produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Among her television appearances, she has appeared as "Carly" in three episodes of "The Hughleys" and as "Martha Reeves" (of Martha & the Vandellas) on "American Dreams." She has performed on "Saturday Night Live" and as a guest host on "The View."
Kelly Rowland has appeared as celebrity spokesperson for the "Dark & Lovely" hair product line from Soft Sheen-Carson (consumer products division of L'Oreal USA, Inc.)
Ms. Kelly: Diva Deluxe - tracklisting
1. Daylight (featuring Travis McCoy of Gym Class Heroes) - 3:30 2. Broken - 3:24 3. Come Back (Karmatronics Remix) - 6:20 4. Like This (Redline Remix) - 2:48 5. Love Again - 3:50 6. Unity - 3:51 7. No Man No Cry - 3:28
Daylight (Remix EP)
1. Hex Hector Remix
2. Maurice Joshua NuSoul Remix
3. Karmatronics Remix
4. Lost Daze Remix
5. Dan McKie Remix
Work (Remix EP) - timings forthcoming
1. Freemasons Club Mix
2. Freemasons Dub Mix
3. Steve Pitron& Max Sanna Radio Edit
4. Steve Pitron& Max Sanna Extended Remix
* * * * *
The Cult Of Leonard Cohen
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Francine Kopun, Feature Writer
(March 23, 2008) A guitar. A creaky voice. Poetry, black suits and a mournful expression.
If you guessed Leonard Cohen, you are a longtime fan, or you've been watching American Idol, where a young man in dreadlocks sang "Hallelujah" two weeks ago, making the song a bestselling single in cyberspace 24 years after it was first recorded.
Cohen is back, again. At 73, he's on tour for the first time in 15 years. His three shows – one of which was added to fulfill demand – at the Sony Centre June 6-8 are sold out. Premium orchestra seats are being auctioned at ticketmaster.ca. Bidding starts at $310.
Rumours abound more shows may be added in other Southern Ontario cities.
Cohen may be working because he has to – his former business manager allegedly siphoned $5 million from his personal accounts and investments, leaving him about $150,000 – but the reunion is no less sweet to longtime fans because of it.
Aficionados like Anne Mitchell, 36, a University of Toronto administrator, have bought tickets to multiple shows. She plans to see him twice in Toronto and once in Montreal.
"He seems to get the emotional truth down to me," she says by way of explaining her lifelong interest in Cohen's work.
Cohen inspires devotion among people one doesn't typically associate with fandom – doctors and accountants, prison guards and high school principals.
He works at it. Cohen donates unpublished poems, poems-in-progress, drawings and archival material – like his old student passport – to the Finnish accountant who runs a popular Leonard Cohen fan site on the Web.
"This is his way to show some appreciation maybe, of all his loyal and longtime fans," says Jarkko Arjatsalo, founder of www.leonardcohenfiles.com.
Cohen gave him the news of his tour and tour dates before he gave it to the press, so Arjatsalo could break the news on his website. Since then, traffic to the site has jumped from 1,000 to 10,000 visitors a day.
Cohen first contacted Arjatsalo in 1997, two years after Arjatsalo launched leonardcohenfiles.com. At the time, Cohen was living at a Zen monastery, on Mount Baldy near Los Angeles, which had just got an Internet connection, says Arjatsalo. Cohen offered to contribute to the website. In 1999, he invited Arjatsalo and his wife and son to Los Angeles for a visit.
"It was really exciting, of course. We were surprised to see how nice he is in real life. He's a very humble, friendly guy who wants to listen to what you have to say," says Arjatsalo.
Cohen also met with the organizer of an annual Edmonton celebration of Cohen's September birthday, University of Alberta physician Kim Solez, 61.
"He has the most interesting thoughts in the world," says Solez, who has had his own share of interesting thoughts – Solez established the standard by which kidney transplant biopsies are interpreted. A fan since coming to Canada in 1987 from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Solez is also organizing the bi-annual International Leonard Cohen fan event in Edmonton this summer – it has so far been held in Montreal, New York City, Berlin and Hydra, the Greek island where Cohen often lived.
It is this kind of devotion that may help explain how the Montreal-born Cohen can spend years out of the spotlight, go years without releasing any new material, and still return to acclaim and honours.
It helps, of course, that he has Dustin Hoffman-like looks, and his poems and songs so often deal with love and desire, half-mad women in rags and feathers enchanting men with oranges and tea; sex in the Chelsea Hotel.
A year after news of his financial difficulty broke, he published a book of poems called Book of Longing. In March, 2006, Indigo Books president Heather Reisman declared it the No. 1 bestseller in the country, the first book of poetry in Canadian history to do so.
In March, Cohen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – his songs have been recorded by everyone from Bono to Billy Joel; "Hallelujah" has been on soundtracks including Shrek and the television series House.
"He's our Bob Dylan, in a way," says Bryn Davies, 59, a retired high school principal in Burlington who is moved to tears at the thought of the excitement the concerts have generated among young fans who have never before seen Cohen perform.
Davies plans to attend all three shows with his wife, Susan Eaton-Davies, 58, also a retired principal, who has her own reasons for attending.
"He'll be a sexy 74-year-old," she says, laughing.
Correctional officer Vernon Silver, 53, a married father of two stepchildren, will travel from Sault Ste. Marie to see Cohen this June.
Silver has been a fan since he was 17 for this simple reason: "Leonard says the things I wish I could say when I talk to women."
Pacifika's Worldly Sound
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar, Entertainment Reporter
(March 23, 2008) It is a perverse compliment that Pacifika's smooth-sounding mix of silky vocals, sweet guitar and classy beats on their new album Asunción could come from anywhere.
Highly stylized, world-y sounding hipster-pop, it fits in the vein of the Thievery Corporation and Bebel Gilberto.
Signed to San Francisco's Six Degrees label, one of the pre-eminent purveyors of this particular sound, the three members of the group – Adam Popowitz, Silvana Kane and Toby Peter – are all Vancouver-based with long and varied careers in the music biz. The trio is riding high on this sweet collection of songs that will see them leave the West Coast on tour, with a date at the Lula Lounge Wednesday evening.
The sound has a natural feel, which is a result of how they work and also the reason why Kane, the chief lyricist, says that many of the songs ended up in Spanish.
"The way the three of us work is really organic in that we all sit together in the studio and put on an old-fashioned ghetto blaster and put in an old-fashioned tape and we just record," she says. "For me, lyrically or melodically, that's the way the best work always comes, when we're just relaxed and enjoying the process, and so as it happened, everything mostly came out in Spanish. It wasn't planned to be that way, but it did continue to happen, so it just sort of fit. It was also really enjoyable for me to sing in my mother tongue."
These three aren't new to the biz – Kane was part of girl group West End Girls, Peter has backed up k-os, while Popowitz has recorded and produced other bands.
"Because we've been doing music for so long, I think we all know what we like and what we don't like and what needs to be in place and what can be discarded," says Peter. "I think we all bring our experience in to this group, which just makes us more solid. We all have a good depth of experience to draw from."
The three-piece augments their line-up with an extra percussionist, and because of the genre hopping and Spanish vocals, this is another group that cagily treads around the world-music-but-not-quite label.
"Well, in the sense that the global spectre has been so much more interactive than it has been, in the sense that many of us are global citizens, more than we ever were before, and seeing as music seems to have to be categorized, I would say that because of what we're up to, it is most likely world, or world-pop, perhaps. Maybe world music-inspired fits," says Kane. "But really, I guess whatever people term it is fine by us."
Pacifika plays the Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W., on Wednesday. Tickets are $15 and doors open at 9 p.m.
It's Not Just About Having Fun Now For Sheryl Crow
Excerpt from www.thesar.com - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic
(March 21, 2008) Sheryl Crow has, of late, been forced to take a long, hard look at – to borrow a phrase from the late Douglas Adams – life, the universe and everything, and she doesn't like what she sees.
During the three years that have passed since her last album, Wildflower, the Missouri-born singer/songwriter suffered through the nasty one-two wallop of a heartbreaking split with her fiancé, cyclist Lance Armstrong, conducted beneath the full glare of the media's attention, followed mere days later by the news she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
A lesser rock chick might have crumbled, but Crow – who euphemistically refers to her recent trials as a "trouble spot" – is made of sterner stuff.
She beat her illness, put her relationship woes behind her and, perspective gained, took on the responsibility of motherhood by adopting a baby boy named Wyatt. Now, she's hellbent on making sure her 10-month-old pride and joy gets to grow up in a slightly more sensible and less suicidal world than the one we've got now.
Yes, the gorgeous Southern gal previously known for singing the virtues of "a good beer buzz early in the morning" and soaking up the sun has reinvented herself as a mild species of protest singer on her new album, Detours.
She takes aim at such topics as U.S. government corruption, the war in Iraq, cultural xenophobia, the looming oil crisis and the shameful aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in a manner uncommonly direct for contemporary Top 40 artists of her stature.
"I don't think it's ever been as bad politically as it has been the last couple of years. It seems almost difficult to write about anything else," says Crow, 46, hosting a day of interviews in a Yorkville hotel room. "When I hear goofy boy/girl songs on the radio, I think, `Wow.' I mean, there's room for entertainment everywhere, but isn't somebody going to talk about what's happening?
"We typically tend to distract ourselves from feeling anything – not only as who we are, but as a people. And not only in America. It's happening everywhere.
"We're at the height of materialism and tabloid-ism and we're being distracted, so the government gets away with a lot of crazy things like taking us to a war. I feel hopeful there's going to be a surge of people waking up. Certainly, what I went through woke me up to writing about the truth and being very fearless about addressing what's really happening."
Much of Detours was written after late-night feeding sessions, "baby on the hip and pen in hand," while new mom Crow grappled with the sad realities of the planet we're leaving to our children.
Her adoption came on the heels of completing a tour to raise awareness about global warming, she says, but Wyatt's arrival in her life really hit home about "how dire things are becoming."
"Having a little baby and knowing what he's going to inherit, it became a personal affront to me that (the Bush) administration has not only been so reticent but really lacked leadership regarding the environment.
"It makes me angry, you know, that we already know that a third of all species are going to be gone in his lifetime. They're making it even more difficult for people to install solar panels and to invest in wind power. And with a war going on, he's going to inherit a very unstable planet. It just becomes egregious at the most deeply personal level."
While she braces for a right-wing backlash and a retaliatory IRS audit, mind you, Crow hasn't forgotten her rock 'n' roll duties.
An international tour – complete with "crib on the bus" for her son – launches in May, with her first real coast-to-coast, cross-Canada run since she scored an opening slot on a Crowded House tour during the mid-'90s. It's slotted for September.
There are also rumours Crow will soon hook up with Fleetwood Mac for an unspecified project, but she's playing coy about the situation for now.
"We're just talking and kinda dreaming about what we could do, collaboration-wise. Could we tour? Could we collaborate in a recording studio?" she says.
"We're not really sure what we're doing yet, but it's great fun to think about. As a kid, I pored over those records and I had my hair cut like Stevie Nicks."
Yundi Li,- He Fills Halls And Sells Cds, But Marketing Has
Triumphed Over Music
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Ken Winters
Yundi Li, piano
At Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto on Tuesday
(March 20, 2008) The recital Tuesday night by the young Chinese pianist Yundi Li was a marketing rather than a musical phenomenon. Roy Thomson Hall was packed to the rafters with more young people, than I have ever before seen at a Toronto concert. When Li stepped onto the platform - neat, handsome, beautifully tailored - you could feel the crowd's appreciation of this popular cultural icon, an enormous superstar in his home country and an obviously highly marketable quantity both there and abroad. The venerable Deutsche Grammophon records him. Critics on both sides of the Atlantic have lauded him.
It was only when he played, alas, that we heard what a fragile hold he has on musical reality.
He opened the slender first half of his program with Chopin's most shopworn Nocturne, the one in E flat, Op. 9, No. 2, and played it very badly indeed. His rubatos - those subtle fluctuations of tempo that are part of the elastic vitality of the Chopin "singing line" - were far from subtle, and the elegant ornamental arabesques which increase as the piece advances were, in this case, crabbed and noticeably unlyrical.
Chopin's Four Mazurkas, Op. 33 suffered the same insensitivities of style, with the addition of a failure to grasp the characteristic rhythm of the vigorous Polish dance form. Only the third of the four had any simplicity and command. All of these were accompanied by the subliminal but distinct sound of Arthur Rubenstein spinning in his grave.
We then had what the printed program told us would be three Chinese pieces announced from the stage. In fact we had seven of these frail pieces, not three, inaudibly announced by Li himself, and they were pretty but very much alike, highly decorated with finger work but harmonically unadventurous.
After these we had Liszt's piano transcription of the great Schumann song, Widmung (Dedication). The one thing immediately obvious in Li's performance was that he appeared to have never listened to it in its original song form. He played the melody in a manner no singer could have followed.
The first half ended with Chopin's Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise Brillante. This had had more practice and more thought put into it and was generally more polished, but the Andante fell short of the trance-like beauty we expect of it, and the Polonaise was superficial in its brilliance.
After intermission, wearing a different suit, Li gave us Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, his best shot on this occasion. Even here, however, he designed his effects crudely, with much banging of chords and octaves and no grip on the interior life of the delicately varied reiterations of the Promenade between the Pictures.
Even so, after he crashed his way through The Great Gate of Kiev movement, his audience cheered him and stood to clap. The market had triumphed. Yundi Li will continue to play when and how he likes so long as he fills halls and sells CDs. Everything will profit except the music.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Acid Funk Never Sounded Sweeter
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(March 23, 2008) Better known as a writer and cultural critic, former Village Voice scribe Greg Tate has been equally prolific on the bandstand.
He's the musical director of the improvisational acid-funk band Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Chamber, which makes its Toronto debut at Lula Lounge this Thursday as part of Small World Jazz Series II. (Visit smallworldmusic.com for more info.)
A self-taught guitarist, the Dayton, Ohio-born Tate played in R&B bands in his early teens, but put aside musical ambitions to focus on radio broadcasting and deejaying, complemented by his studies in film and journalism at Howard University.
"After I moved to New York in 1982 I started hanging out with all these great guitar players – Vernon Reid, James "Blood" Ulmer – and I just got inspired by seeing them play to pick up the axe again and started jamming with different cats," recalled Tate, who co-founded the Black Rock Coalition in 1985.
"I started to slowly work my way back to the stage and in 1991 I put together a band called Women In Love (with Me'Shell Ndegeocello on bass). We were together five years and I pretty much have had a band ever since."
The desire to update jazz trumpeter Miles Davis' '70s forays into rock and funk prompted Tate to launch Burnt Sugar in 1999.
"I was interested in the way Miles put Bitches Brew together and the range of instruments that he had – acoustic, electric – and the electronic post production that went on.
"I knew there were improvisers around New York that had assimilated Miles (along with) hip hop, dub and triphop and punk and reggae and free jazz, and could freely bring those elements together in a real organic way to any kind of improvisational situation."
Burnt Sugar began as a three guitar band with no vocalist. A couple of years ago it featured nine horns. These days the full ensemble, which draws from an on-call group of about 40 players ranging from their teens to late 50s, is comprised of four horns, four singers, four guitarists, two drummers, two bassists and two keyboardists. The Toronto gig will feature nine musicians.
With 15 albums under its belt, Burnt Sugar's set list can run from interpretations of Thelonius Monk, Jimi Hendrix, or Chaka Khan to freeflowing two-hour jam sessions.
"Anybody who's seen us at least three times gets the message that you're never going to see the same show twice," explained Tate on the phone from New York.
"Burnt Sugar was really designed to fill a void in terms of bands in the States that were populated by mostly black musicians and had that experimental edge, though it was never mandated to keep it black; we have cats from Sweden, Pakistan, Australia and Oregon.
"People have accepted the narrow commercial definition of what black music is. I was definitely led to create the band more by creative impulses than by political ones, but I make my living being an observer of America's racial political landscape so that feeds back into why this particular band does what it does."
Tate uses the Butch Morris Conduction system of 26 hand signals and baton cues to lead the Arkestra.
"The idea is that the band becomes the instrument of the conductor's will," he explains. "The thing I learned from Butch was that it's okay to get in people's faces if they're not giving you what you want. It's okay to yell at them, threaten them, sometimes push them. It can get kind of tactile (on the bandstand) sometimes."
Dolly Parton Goes It Alone
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(March 24, 2008) NASHVILLE, Tenn.–Dolly Parton knows a good investment when she sees one, and these days she sees one in the mirror.
Parton, 62, whose business portfolio includes a theme park and an entertainment production company, says she's spending a lot of her own money trying to get back on country radio with her new CD, Backwoods Barbie.
"I'm looking at it like an investment," she told The Associated Press.
"I thought, `I've made enough money. I can afford to invest a little in myself.' "
She has self-released the disc on her own label, Dolly Records, and hired a seven-member promotions team. "I purposely tailor-made this to try to get some hits," Parton explained.
The album reached No. 2 on Billboard in its second week, her best showing in 17 years.
The first single, "Better Get to Livin'," a country-pop song she describes as sonically similar to Keith Urban, sputtered at No. 48. But the second single, "Jesus & Gravity," is just now arriving on radio.
Music Row began to lose interest in Parton in the '90s as a new crop of country stars emerged. Her last Top 5 hit, "Rockin' Years," was in 1991, and she hasn't had a major label record deal in 10 years.
"When it changed I was still as serious as ever and was thinking I'm still as good as ever, if I ever was any good," Parton said.
She has watched with interest as new technology has created opportunities without the big labels.
"Now the majors are what they used to think I was: history," she said.
"I thought this is a good time, but I need to make an all-out effort.... Whatever it takes, you fight for it. You do what you have to do to feed your habit, and I'm a music addict."
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Mariel Concepcion, N.Y.
(March 18, 2008) Jean Carlos Casely isn't ashamed to admit his mother raised him with a heavy hand. Mama Casely not only mandated her son be involved in musical theatre by the time he was in the fifth grade but also enforced him to take piano lessons at 12. "I began getting classically trained at a young age and I wasn't too happy with it," admits the 22-year-old R&B singer, who goes by his surname these days. "But it was cool once I got past the fear."
Still, it was his mother's same austerity that kept the half Trinidadian/half Panamanian singer on track. At her suggestion, the Miami-native, who had been writing and recording songs since the age of 14 and had already signed a short-lived deal with an indie label at 15, enrolled in the Boston's Berklee College of Music. There, he studied voice, songwriting and music business.
His mother's guidance and academic schooling, paired with Casely's natural born musical ability, eventually led him to be handpicked by well-known production duo, the Diaz Brothers. Last March, Casely was contacted by the siblings' assistant after she came across his music on his MySpace page. "[The Diaz Brothers and I] knew some of the same people, so it was crazy that we hadn't crossed paths before," he says. "We set up a meeting and it just felt like the right move." A month later, Casely signed with the production company.
Casely and the brothers immediately began recording music with the intention of shopping around for a major label deal. "One night we were in the studio listening to beats and I came across the music we eventually used for 'Emotional.' I just had a feeling something was there. I took it home and wrote the lyrics," he says.
The next day, Casely recorded the Diaz Brothers-produced "Emotional" which, after breaking on local rhythmic station Power 96 just a few weeks later, became his first official single from his upcoming debut. The violin-laden track jumps from 97-85 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart this week. "They tested it first but request calls kept coming in and then it jumped to 80 spins a week. That's when labels starting calling," says Casely.
Last year, Casely signed to Epic records via the Diaz Brothers, and is now slated to released "1985" -- and ode to his birth year and the "big hooks, catchy melodies and deep lyrics of the 80s" –- in late May or early June. So far he's worked with producers Jim Jonsin, Seven Aurelius, Street Runners and DLP. Flo Rida, Pitbull and Rick Ross, all of whom have appeared on various "Emotional" remixes, are the guest features so far.
"I like to call the album an electronic R&B set," says Casely. "It has an 80s sound to it with the synths in the production, but at its core, it's an R&B album." Other tracks on the set include the club record "Touch Me" and "Heart in Shade," about an unfaithful man.
Casely, who is currently on a radio promo tour, is also hoping to expand his songwriting credits, recently putting pen to paper for the likes of Omarion and Bow Wow.
"My success is not an overnight success by any means," says Casely. "I prayed, I asked for signs, but one opportunity lead to another. Everything is tied together. It was a blessing in disguise all along."
Cuban Legend Israel Lopez 'Cachao' Dies
Excerpt from www.billboard.com - Leila Cobo, Miami
(March 24, 2008) Cuban bass player Israel Lopez "Cachao," whose place in history as one of the creators of the mambo was forgotten for decades before he was rediscovered and introduced to a broad audience in the 1990s, has died in Miami. He was 89 and had suffered from kidney failure.
Perhaps no other Latin music bass player was as well known on a massive scale as Cachao, who after nearly 30 years in relative obscurity, was "rediscovered" by actor/musician Andy Garcia. Garcia would subsequently produce the Cachao albums "Master Sessions, Vol. 1" and "Vol. 2" as well as the documentary "Cachao: Como Su Ritmo No Hay Otro," which garnered the bassist widespread recognition.
Reborn as a star in his late 70s, the affable Cachao turned out a series of impeccable recordings. Most recently, he collaborated on Gloria Estefan's album "90 Millas."
While Cachao's success can be traced to his classical-trained virtuosity and his inventive descargas, or jam sessions, he is best remembered as the man who invented the mambo.
The claim can be traced back to the 1930s in Cuba, when Lopez and his brother Orestes revolutionized Cuban music with a composition they titled "Danzon Mambo." The piece laid the groundwork for what would become the mambo revolution, carried out by Damaso Perez Prado.
While Perez Prado left Cuba for Mexico and later the United States, popularizing the dance craze as he went along, Cachao remained in Cuba until 1962. After a brief stay in Spain, he moved to the United States, never to return to Cuba.
Cachao would record solo albums for Emilio Estefan's Crescent Moon Records, and later, with Univision. Most recently, he had been signed on by label/management Eventus.
Regina Belle's 'Love Forever Shines' CD
Source: Gwendolyn Quinn, email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
(March 24, 2008) *Four-time GRAMMY® Award-winning artist REGINA BELLE will release her debut Gospel album LOVE FOREVER SHINES in-stores May 13 on the re-launch of Ruben Rodriguez' Pendulum Records distributed by Fontana in association with Walker Davis Entertainment. The CD is executive produced by Ruben Rodriguez, Ray J. Davis and Chris Walker.
LOVE FOREVER SHINES features the first single, "God Is Good," that takes the listener on a journey back to the "ol' time, down home, take me to the river" gospel tradition. Already off to a great start at radio, "God Is Good" is #1 Most Added Gospel record, #2 Most Added Gospel record (monitor only), 4th Most Active Record at Gospel Radio all this week, and top 25 at R&R. "God Is Good" is available at iTunes.com and all other online music outlets everywhere.
"Regina Belle is an exceptional artist," states Pendulum Records CEO and Founder Ruben Rodriguez. "We shared great success during our Columbia years and I'm looking forward to sharing more success with the release of LOVE FOREVER SHINES. It's truly a blessing to find us together again. 'God is Good,' generates major phones at radio. It's all very special."
LOVE FOREVER SHINES comprises 14 spirit-filled tracks including such songs as "Almost Slipped," "I Hope He Understands," "Victory," and "I Call On Jesus" featuring award-winning gospel artist Shirley Murdock. A noted songwriter in her own right, Belle penned many of the songs featured on the project, as well as collaborated with her brother Bernard Belle, a well-known music industry songwriter who produced and arranged many of the album's tracks. Award- winning Gospel artist, Melvin Williams (Williams Brothers) duets with Belle on the song, "Good To Be Loved," as well Williams' vocals can be heard accompanying her on background on the first single, "God Is Good."
"These songs are very personal," Belle comments about the new CD. "They come from my own life experiences. So I had to be very active in the writing part of the project. One day I was sitting in a hotel room in Detroit. I was feeling completely alone. So I asked the Lord to show me that He was with me. It seemed that in an instant He began to say, 'I'll Never Leave You Alone.' From that moment He began to give me the song so quickly that I couldn't keep up with writing it as fast as He was giving it to me."
As a ministry powerhouse and Minister of Music at New Shield of Faith Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia where her husband, John S. Battle, III is senior pastor, Belle's life has been full of change and challenge. But she proclaims that it has served as one of the vehicles for the anointing and effective ministry of her upcoming project.
The award-winning singer, songwriter and producer never stopped singing in the church. Since those early childhood days, Belle always had a desire in her heart to do a Gospel project. And although she had always incorporated Gospel into her albums and performances, this wish to do a complete Gospel album would not leave her heart. With the release of LOVE FOREVER SHINES, Belle is fulfilling this desire that the Lord placed in her heart.
Belle's undeniably powerful and unique vocal talents have garnered her recognition from both the music industry, as well as fans worldwide. The New Jersey native discovered her love of music at an early age while attending church services with her family, first singing in the church choir, and then going on to sing solo at the tender young age of eight. Although she loved to sing, she also went on to learn instruments as varied as the trombone, tuba and steel drums throughout her school years.
During high school, she also attended the Manhattan School of Music for preparatory operatic voice training with Inga Wolfe.
The Rutgers University graduate began her career recording a duet with the GRAMMY® Award winning group, The Manhattans, becoming the legendary group's opening act. Her performances were so stirring that she grabbed the attention of record company executives at Columbia Records and soon earned a record deal with the company. Belle went on to release her debut album ALL BY MYSELF (1987), featuring the hit single, "Show Me The Way," followed up by the sophomore album, STAY WITH ME (1989), which produced chart-topping hits such as "Baby Come To Me", "This Is Love" and the GRAMMY®-nominated song, "Make It Like It Was" another #1 single on the R&B charts. She went on to record duets with Johnny Mathis, and most notably Peabo Bryson, on the song, "A Whole New World" from the ALADDIN Soundtrack, which reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, won four GRAMMY® Awards and has earned multi-platinum status. Her third album, PASSION (1993), featured the hits "Dream In Color" and "If I Could," which reached #9 on the R&B charts.
Over the next few years, she released several more albums including REACHIN' BACK (1995), BELIEVE IN ME (1998) and THIS IS REGINA (2001). In
2004 she released the chart-topping jazz album, LAZY AFTERNOON, working with GRAMMY® winner and music extraordinaire, George Duke.
Audiences will have the opportunity to experience Belle's anointing first-hand during her upcoming tour dates at mega churches across the country this spring and summer (see dates and markets below).
For more information on Regina Belle, please visit www.pendulumrecords.biz.
REGINA BELLE 2008 MEGACHURCH TOUR
Bobby Womack's Legendary Works Of Innovative Music
(March 25, 2008) *Since he began his musical career as a child in the early 1950s, Bobby Womack has been one of American music’s true innovators, blending the styles of traditional gospel and soul with funk and R&B as an architect of the modern soul genre.
Capitol/EMI honours Womack’s legendary body of work with the May 27 release of The Best Of Bobby Womack: The Soul Years, a new label-spanning CD and digital collection of his greatest soul sides from the 1960s and ‘70s, as well as the digital debuts of seven classic Womack albums and a newly- discovered 1972 concert recording.
In addition to the physical and digital release of The Best Of Bobby Womack:
The Soul Years, Capitol/EMI will make available digitally, for the first time, seven original Womack albums from the vaults of Liberty Records, Minit Records and United Artists Records, and a newly-discovered recording of a 1972 concert at New York’s Apollo Theater.
Unearthed during research for the new hits collection, the never-before-released recording features live versions of many of Womack’s top hits, including an 11-minute version of his R&B Top 20 charting cover of “California Dreamin’” with a six-minute guitar jam by Womack, an underrated guitarist whose playing style influenced Jimi Hendrix, among others.
A stirring cover of the Carpenters’ “(They Long To Be) Close To You” is another highlight from the recording, as is the performance of Womack’s brother Harry, who was murdered just two years later.
In the early 1950s, Bobby Womack began his music career as a member of The Womack Brothers, a gospel quintet with his siblings. In 1953, they opened for The Soul Stirrers and Womack befriended that group’s leader, Sam Cooke.
Cooke signed the brothers to his own SAR record label, and renamed them The Valentinos in the early ‘60s, a change that was accompanied by a crossover push into R&B from the group’s gospel roots. 1962’s “Lookin’ For A Love” was their first R&B hit (the song was later covered by the J. Geils Band and was their first pop hit), and The Valentinos hit the road with James Brown.
Within weeks of its release, The Valentinos’ 1964 hit “It’s All Over Now” was covered by The Rolling Stones, becoming the band’s first #1 UK single and a 10-week resident on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in the U.S., propelling Womack’s crossover fame.
The December 1964 murder of Womack’s mentor, Sam Cooke, was one of many hardships he would face during his life. A few months after Cooke’s death, Womack married his widow, Barbara Campbell; after several years of building his reputation, the then 21-year-old found himself cast out of and shunned by music’s inner circle.
Womack had toured with Cooke as a guitarist in his band, so after some failed solo efforts and largely untouched single releases with The Valentinos in the mid ‘60s, he joined Ray Charles’ band as a guitarist and recorded as a session player for Aretha Franklin (1968, Aretha Now and Lady Soul), Joe Tex, Elvis Presley (1969, #1 hit “Suspicious Minds”) and others.
He wrote several songs for Wilson Pickett during the next few years, including two Top 10 hits which he also recorded himself – “I’m In Love” and “I’m A Midnight Mover” - an association that would help to restore Womack’s standing in the closely-knit soul music community.
1968 marked the beginning of Womack’s comeback, when he released his first solo chart hit, “What Is This?,” followed by covers of “Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words),” “California Dreamin’,” and “I Left My Heart In San Francisco.”
In 1971, his “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha” from his Communication album reached #2 on the R&B chart, and he also played guitar on Sly & The Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On, Rita Coolidge’s self-titled album, and Janis Joplin’s Pearl, among others.
In 1972, his “Woman’s Gotta Have It” hit the top of the chart as his first #1 R&B smash (later covered by James Taylor). “Harry Hippie,” also released that year, reached the Top 10, and Womack wrote the original music to the blaxsploitation film Across 110th Street, including the title song, later featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown in 1997 and in 2007’s American Gangster).
In 1973, Womack scored another Top 10 R&B hit with “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out,” and the following year he re-recorded The Valentinos’ “Lookin’ For A Love,” which hit #1 on the R&B chart and the Pop chart’s Top 10. The Top 5 R&B single “You’re Welcome, Stop On By” followed.
Womack’s career was flying high, but trouble wouldn’t stay away for long. In 1974, Womack’s brother Harry (the inspiration for Womack’s 1972 hit “Harry
Hippie”) was murdered in Bobby’s apartment. Womack leaned heavily on drugs and alcohol to try to dull the pain of losing his brother. It was a choice that would, despite Womack’s two 1975 Top 10s, “Check It Out” and Daylight,” eventually derail his career from the fast track yet again for several years. In the early ‘80s he came back from the sidelines and has released several albums since then, including a gospel album in 1999 that brought his career full circle, back to where it all began for The Womack Brothers.
Still recording and performing at the age of 64, Bobby Womack is a true soul survivor, a musical torchbearer of life’s trials and hardships. “I'm still writing music,” says the music legend. “It's impossible to always rise to the occasion, but it's important that when the spirit has you, you work with it.
That’s when you have something to say - not because you're under pressure to prove to somebody that you're still here and valid.”
The Best Of Bobby Womack: The Soul Years (CD & Digital Album)
1. Across 110th Street
2. Woman's Gotta Have It
3. I'm A Midnight Mover
4. That's The Way I Feel About Cha
5. You're Welcome, Stop On By
6. Lookin' For A Love
7. I'm In Love
8. I Left My Heart in San Francisco
9. Communication (Single Version)
10. Fact Of Life/He'll Be There When The Sun Goes Down
11. Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words)
12. Harry Hippie
13. I Can Understand It
14. The Preacher/More Than I Can Stand (Live) (Single Version)
15. I'm Through Trying To Prove My Love To You
16. It's All Over Now/Bobby Womack and Bill Withers
17. California Dreamin'
18. How I Miss You Baby
19. Nobody Wants You When You're Down And Out
21. Check It Out (Single Version)
22. Fire And Rain
Digital Release Debuts (available May 27 from all major DSPs) Fly Me To The Moon (Minit Records, 1968) My Prescription (Minit Records, 1969) The Womack Live (Liberty Records, 1971) Live At The Apollo (1972, PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED CONCERT RECORDING) Lookin’ For A Love Again (United Artists, 1973) I Don’t Know What The World Is Coming To (United Artists, 1975) Safety Zone (United Artists, 1975) BW Goes C&W (United Artists, 1976)
Ringtune Debuts (available May 27)
“Woman’s Gotta Have It”
“Lookin’ For Love”
“That’s The Way I Feel About Cha”
A Genre-Bender With A Crazy Touch
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Tamara Bernstein
(March 25, 2008) If you glance at the program notes to Toca Loca's current show, you might be forgiven for thinking, initially, that you were in for business as usual, in that "new music" way. Here, for instance, is how Toronto composer Erik Ross describes his newly minted piece: "Fibodoiccannez Splice is a play on the Fibonacci [number] series going forward and backwards at the same time and a dozen providing security. ... Moments of stasis happen just before all of the upper Fibonacci moments, and the piece ends where 12X12 hits the Fibonacci at 144."
Ooooookay! But if you keep reading, you'll find names like Michael Jackson, Alanis Morissette and Earl Hines popping up (no pun intended) in the notes to other pieces. The composers' roster includes jazz musicians such as saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff, a performance artist (Myra Davies) and Nicole Lizée, the McGill University music grad whose master's thesis was a work for turntables and orchestra and who plays keyboards in the indie band Besnard Lakes.
Welcome to the touring show P*P, Toca Loca's foray into new music-pop genre-bending. And if that conjures up images of stiff, classically trained musicians trying in vain to fit into the new, pop-worshipping CBC, don't run away. As that mysterious asterisk in the show's title reveals, Toca Loca has its own delightful, quirky style. It would also be tough to find a new-music group with more integrity than this Toronto-based trio, whose members are pianists Gregory Oh and Simon Docking, and percussionist Aiyun Huang. Toca Loca's mixture of electrifying performances, free-spirited curiosity, discerning musical taste and a whimsical sense of humour has made it an irresistible presence on the new-music scene since its birth in 2001. The name sets the tone: Oh, the group's artistic director, explained recently that it "doesn't exactly mean anything, but 'toca' means 'play' (an instrument) or touch [in Spanish] ... 'loca' (feminine singular) means 'crazy.' 'Toca' can also be some sort of weird hairstyle ... I think ... also a headdress of some sort. So to recap: play crazy; touch crazy; crazy hairstyle; crazy hat ... of course, this is coming from a non-native speaker who only learned Spanish because he was in love with an Argentinean poet."
Back in 2006, Toca Loca contacted "a group of carefully selected individuals," according to the program notes, and "drew them into the dark corridors of P*Pdom. ... These individuals were charged with a formidable task: to write a piece based in some way on P*P."
The asterisk, the composers were told, is "a wild card that can represent whatever you wish. Be careful what you wish for ..." But Oh's final instruction to the composers was: "Write what you want to write."
U.K.-based Hywel Davies took full advantage of the wild card and called his piece PUP. ("Watch out for the percussionist throwing sticks for her new dogs," he writes in the program notes.) Several composers covered pop tunes in their own style; many focused on some aspect of pop culture beyond the purely musical. Andrew Staniland's Made in China was inspired by his discovery, after the birth of his daughter, "that nearly everything she touches is 'Made in China' - "her crib, clothes, toys ... you name it."
The subject line of a piece of spam e-mail provided the title and text for Aaron Gervais's Do you crave to shoot like a film star, bro? Oh explained that the shooting refers to a porn star's ejaculation, but Gervais insists the text offers many meanings, which he prefers to leave to the reader. For the word "film," for instance, he chose a diminished seventh chord - "a cliché from silent films" laden with cheesy associations of tension.
Gervais says that his piece is "explosive" in a way that he may not have written if he had been writing for anyone other than Toca Loca. "I knew they could handle it. Aiyun has to change instruments every quarter note in first part of piece. I knew that she wouldn't ask me to make it easier."
Oh, meanwhile, is no stranger to pop music, his two masters degrees in classical music notwithstanding. He plays with the band the Lollipop People and confesses that he has "always had a secret life as a lounge singer."
"What I love about pop music," Oh says, "is that there's a groove. There's a shying away from over-intellectualization. The audience can enjoy themselves and make noise; the performers can feel a little more free. I really enjoy that feeling of being able to do whatever I want onstage."
Oh sensed the same spirit of liberation in many of the pieces. "A lot of the composers wrote something especially good, because they didn't feel they hadn't had to adhere to a rigid code of conduct," he said.
That takes us back to the asterisk, and the question of musical genres. "If something is 'classical,' does that make it by nature of a higher art form," Oh asks. "People are still saying: 'Is [the Québécois band] Arcade Fire art music or pop (in a pejorative sense)?' And when some of the really slick string quartets, like the Kronos or Turtle Island, or Alarm Will Sound play a piece, does it automatically become art music because it's done by a classically trained string quartet?"
Oh likes to ponder these questions, but doesn't worry about finding answers, "because there's a lot of room in life for beautiful things and probably not enough time to worry about whether they're going to be in museums in 100 years."
Special to The Globe and Mail
Toca Loca's P*P tour plays at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto tonight at 8 p.m., Halifax tomorrow and Montreal April 1.
There's Plenty To iLike About R.E.M.'s Return To Form
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine
(March 25, 2008) Usually, when a disappointing album is followed by induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, that's time to stick the fork in and declare a band done. So don't feel bad if you'd already written off R.E.M. as one more alt-rock outfit on its way to the oldies circuit. After all, who could possibly have imagined that the trio - once celebrated for its chiming guitars, muttered vocals and humble, Athens, Ga., roots - would ever matter again?
Yet here they are, a quarter-century into their recording career, with all the hallmarks of hipster buzz. Not only do they have a new album due out in a week, but it has already "leaked" onto the file-sharing circuit, and is currently being streamed through iLike, a music-sharing service (apps.facebook.com/ilike/artist/R.E.M.). The songs can be played in full for free through the iLike website, and also through an iLike "widget" that users can add to their Facebook and MySpace pages.
There's a free video for one song on iTunes, and free footage on the band's website so fans can assemble their own video for Supernatural Superserious, the current single. There was even some coverage in the gossip columns after gay-friendly front man Michael Stipe jokingly outed bandmates Peter Buck and Mike Mills as straight. All told, there hasn't been this much excitement about the band since the mid-nineties heyday of Monster and New Adventures in Hi-Fi.
Still, the most impressive thing about their latest album, Accelerate, isn't that it has people talking, but that it does so without altering R.E.M.'s image or identity.
From the adrenalized pulse that pushes Living Well Is the Best Revenge to the giddy thrash of I'm Gonna DJ, the songs don't stint on the band's signature devices.
There's the aggressive, Byrds-derived guitar (this, remember, was the band that turned "jangly" into a rock crit staple), witty, cliché-flipping lyrics, and a muscular, lead-guitar approach to bass. They sound just like we remember, only fresher, somehow.
Stipe will likely get credit for a lot of that, given the politically edged whimsy of many of the lyrics. After all, it's hard to imagine anyone in this election season not cracking a smile at the sarcasm of Man Sized Wreath's opening lines: "Turn on the TV and what do I see/ A pageantry of empty gestures all lined up for me/ Wow!"
Ya gotta love that "wow."
Although the songs are seldom specific in their references, it's not hard to make a connection between, say, the poetic gloom of the verses in Until the Day Is Done ("The battle's been lost, the war is not won" ) and the war in Iraq. Besides, as Bob Dylan made plain in the sixties, a song has much more lasting impact if the fans have to infer the political content.
There are echoes of Dylan in Stipe's singing, as well, while the arrangements boast touches that could be described as sometimes Beatlesque, sometimes Zeppelinesque. Yet the album's most salient feature is its economy. As with its earliest albums, R.E.M.'s playing here is lean and melodic, with nothing extraneous about the music.
That's sometimes true of the songs themselves; Houston, for example, is bracingly short, with a second verse that barely lasts four bars. Yet the music never seems lacking for content or impact - it does what it needs to, then stops. And isn't that the essence of alt-rock ethos?
Foo Fighters Surprise Toronto Audience
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler
(March 23, 2008) Affable frontman Dave Grohl promised an Air Canada Centre crowd the “biggest Foo Fighters show yet,” and hinted at surprises early, but the near-capacity throng could not have expected a cameo appearance from guitarist Alex Lifeson and bassist Geddy Lee of Canadian rock legends Rush on Saturday night. The pair joined Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins for YYZ, a spiralling progressive-rock instrumental from Rush's 1981 album Moving Pictures. The members of the two bands know each other through Nick Raskulinecz, a U.S. record producer who has worked with both groups, most recently on Rush's Snakes & Arrows album in 2007. Later, with appreciative comments on Canadian folk music icon Stompin' Tom Connors, Grohl further endeared himself to his Toronto audience. The 130-minute performance was the fourth of an eight-concert Canadian tour by the Grammy-winning alternative rockers, in support of their latest album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Future dates include Winnipeg's MTS Centre, March 25; Saskatoon's Credit Union Centre, March 27; Edmonton's Rexall Place, March 28; and Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum, March 30.
Singer Corinne Bailey Rae's Husband
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(March 24, 2008) LONDON – The husband of Grammy-nominated British singer Corinne Bailey Rae has been found dead. Police say Jason Rae was found in an apartment in the northern English city of Leeds on Saturday. Officers are awaiting results of toxicology tests to determine the cause of death. A 32-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of supplying him with drugs but has been released on bail, officials said. Thirty-one-year-old Jason Rae was a saxophonist with a funk band, the Haggis Horns. Bailey Rae's self-titled debut album sold more than 1 million copies in the U.S. after its release in 2006. The 29-year-old was nominated for song of the year at the Grammy Awards in both 2007 and 2008.
Missy Elliott Launches Talent
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 24, 2008) *Missy Elliott and adidas Originals are teaming up for the international launch of the Respect M.E. talent competition, “Stand Up Be Seen.” Beginning this month, the competition looks to recruit 10 female ambassadors for Missy and her clothing line Respect M.E. The 10 winners will be featured in the Fall/Winter 2008 Respect M.E. campaign, while five will continue on to be the faces of the Respect M.E. line, starting with Spring and Summer 2009. The contest will launch in the United States, Argentina, the Asian Pacific Region, China, Japan, Korea, Europe, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Switzerland. The five ambassadors will also travel to those locations for photo shoots by international photographers. Female candidates interested in competing in the contest can enter exclusively at www.adidas.com/Missy.
Oasis, Foo Fighters To Headline Virgin
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(March 25, 2008) Brit superband Oasis and U.S. rockers the Foo Fighters will headline the two-day Virgin Festival in Toronto this fall. The Foo Fighters are set to close the night on Sept. 6, while Oasis will take the stage Sept. 7. Other big-name acts booked for the outdoor show include Bloc Party, Paul Weller, Stereophonics and Spiritualized. Canadian bands including Wintersleep, the Weakerthans and the Constantines will also appear. Organizers say they expect to add more acts to the line-up. This year the Virgin Festival will also host shows in Calgary on June 21 and 22 and Vancouver, at a date yet to be determined.
Woody Allen To Appear At Montreal Jazz
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(March 25, 2008) MONTREAL–Renowned film director Woody Allen will appear at the Montreal International Jazz Festival on June 30 with his New Orleans Jazz Band. Tickets for the show at Place des arts go on sale on Saturday. Allen, 72, will play the clarinet in what will be his first appearance at the jazz festival. Allen, who has been a clarinettist since the age of 15, occasionally shows off his talent at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City. He toured Europe in 1996 and played in various places including Venice, Barcelona, Athens, Monte Carlo and Paris.
Luciano: Jah is My Navigator
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry
(VP/Universal) (out of 4)
(March 25, 2008) The album title pretty much spells out the content of this Dennis Brown sound-alike's latest effort, filled as it is with paeans to The Most High. For those who don't share the Jamaican Rastafarian's belief that "Jah is the source," the roots-and-culture disc includes love songs and missives about individual and social upliftment, such as "Trod Out," "African Liberty," "Wise Up Youth," with elementary lyrics: "Like the ocean always in motion,/ That is how you've got to be." ("Never Give Up"). The music is classic reggae at its finest, courtesy of Sly & Robbie on bass and keys and saxist Dean Fraser helming production. With little variation in tempo, the rhythms are somewhat repetitive, though "Paradise Last," a duet with newcomer Rochelle Bradshaw, is given a surprising acoustic-pop treatment. This record recalls the genre's kinder, gentler pre-dancehall times when albums didn't come with parental advisory stickers; it's reggae with integrity. Top tracks: A righteous cover of Bob Marley's "Jah Live." "Sweet Jamaica" recalls the island's golden age.
Marc-André Hamelin: No Limits
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - John Terauds
(March 25, 2008) Pianist Marc-André Hamelin is one of the world's great artists. He plays brilliantly, always showcasing the work and the composer, not himself. He also plays with a lightness that belies the hundreds of hours of hard preparation behind the scenes. Actually, the ever-deepening rings under his 46-year-old eyes say it all. This man's entire life is devoted to the piano and making everything he plays sound wonderful. This DVD combines extensive background interviews with a recital at the Ruhr Piano Festival in Essen, Germany, last summer. It's an extraordinary interpretation of a textbook solo-piano program: sonatas by Haydn and Chopin, the 12 Preludes in Book II by Debussy and fun encores by Gershwin and Hamelin himself. The Debussy pieces are the highlight. They are intended as studies in alternate sonic universes, and are remarkably difficult from a technical as well as interpretive point of view. Hamelin's results shimmer and vibrate with colour. Here is an artist in full command of his medium. Filmmaker Jan Schmidt-Garre has created a 30-minute documentary portrait, while also including more than an hour of raw interview footage. We get fabulous music as well as a mountain of insights into the mind of a great artist who cares more about his art than himself. Who could ask for anything more?
Madonna Sets Radio Record In Canada
Source: Warner Music Canada
(March 26, 2008) Broadcast Data Services (BDS), the company that monitors airplay in North America has confirmed that “4 Minutes,” the first single from Madonna’s forthcoming album Hard Candy, has debuted at #1 on the Canadian CHR Audience chart. This marks the first time any single has entered at the top of either CHR chart in BDS history. “4 Minutes” was co-written by Madonna, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. Timberlake also co-produced the track with Timbaland and performs vocals with Madonna. The song also entered the CHR spins chart at #5, only the second song ever to debut in the Top 10 on that chart. “4 Minutes” also entered the All Format Audience chart at #2, the highest debut in the chart’s history. Hard Candy will be released in North America on Tuesday, April 29, 2008. The album features Justin Timberlake on multiple tracks and production by Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and Nate “Danja” Hills. “4 Minutes” is currently the #1 selling single on iTunes while Hard Candy has the distinction of being the current best selling album on iTunes based strictly on pre-orders.
Canadian Celebs Can't Get No Cash Satisfaction
Excerpt from www.thesar.com - Lee-Anne Goodman, The Canadian Press
(March 20, 2008) Actor Nicholas Campbell says it astounds him when people assume he should be enjoying a jet-setting retirement after his years as a staple of Canadian television.
"It happens all the time, and it just makes me crazy – as if that's ever going to happen," the 55-year-old Campbell said yesterday.
"If I'd had the kind of financial advice I'm getting now, I probably would have been okay, but let's face it, I was never making huge money as an actor in Canada anyway. You can make okay money here, but you're never going to be wealthy."
Many Canadian actors who are household names in Canada are far from living the same lives of wealth as their American counterparts.
Eric Peterson, star of ratings blockbuster Corner Gas, has long griped about the country's residual system; he gets nothing for his long run on one of Canada's most successful shows, Street Legal.
He laughed yesterday imagining how Campbell's financial woes, which have included bad investments on race horses, would have made him a bigger star in the U.S.
"(It) would have been in every magazine and would have been spun out into the greatest sort of lifestyle story ever, increasing a thousandfold his stardom and his earning power," Peterson said.
Maureen O'Donnell, a film and television publicist in Toronto, points the finger at a number of culprits: TV and film productions in Canada are underfunded, there's no star machine to promote English-Canadian productions or their actors, and the Canadian media don't cover them the way they cover American actors.
"What makes a sellout crowd? What brings people to a venue, whether it's the TV set or a movie theatre? It's name recognition," she said.
It's a chicken-and-egg argument, she added. Are the media reflecting Canadians' apathy or are Canadians uninterested because they don't read or hear about homegrown movies and TV shows?
"In the United States, there is this whole capitalist machinery behind every facet of the arts – whether it's television or the opera or theatre. That doesn't exist here, because no one seems to value our distinct culture."
Peterson agrees. "There's a talent and brain drain in this industry that we pay no attention to," he said.
Gordon Pinsent was among those who moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s.
"I was the angry one," the actor, who won a Best Actor Genie this month for his role in Away From Here, recalled yesterday.
"I was building furniture and having temper tantrums and tipping the furniture over, scaring my little daughter, because I was wickedly frustrated in a house I couldn't afford, and I was doing all sorts of acting jobs that I wouldn't have touched with a barge pole up here. And the mudslides and the earthquakes – I just couldn't stand it."
Pinsent was delighted to move back to Canada, but with his return came an acceptance that a life of luxury was not in the cards.
At 77, Pinsent is comfortable but says he has always remembered words of wisdom from fellow Canadian actor Christopher Plummer.
"He once said `If ever there was a business that could be called the luck of the draw, it's this one,” Pinsent recalled.
Arcand's Critical Eye
Excerpt from www.thesar.com - Peter Howell, Movie Critic
(March 21, 2008) Australians love to fire up their barbies, but they've never sizzled Denys Arcand – and he can't understand it.
"The place where all my films have played the best is Australia. How can you explain this?" the genial Quebec filmmaker says, looking genuinely puzzled.
"I've never been to Australia, never. I've never been interviewed by anyone from there, except maybe once in an Australian newspaper. Yet I'm big there. I'm huge."
Arcand's reception Down Under might seem apropos nothing, but to him it's another sign of the crazy planet he walks upon and the insane movie business he toils in.
There are few Canadian directors who worry less about appealing to international audiences than Arcand. Part of this is self-defence: he knows that adjusting his art to vainly please everybody would result in appealing to nobody.
He's also curious about how people think and act, which in his view is often irrational and contradictory – and he includes himself in that scathing assessment.
His new movie L'Âge des ténèbres (Days of Darkness), opening today, is a black comedy about a Quebec civil servant (Marc Labrèche) who retreats into wild and sexy daydreams to escape the drudgery of his job and his wife's disinterest. Arcand manages to keep the mood upbeat – he even tries slapstick for the first time – even while musing that the world is disintegrating into a mire of disease, destruction and senseless bureaucracy.
It's the final and bleakest chapter in Denys Arcand's trilogy of sex and mores that began with The Decline of the American Empire (1986) and continued with The Barbarian Invasions (2003), which won that year's Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film. Yet at the same time, Days of Darkness is also one of Arcand's finest satires. He was speaking to the Star while on a visit to last September's Toronto International Film Festival, where Days of Darkness had its North American premiere. He was very pleased by the enthusiastic response his film received at TIFF , a contrast to the decidedly mixed reactions at the world premiere in Cannes last May. (Reactions were also mixed when Days of Darkness opened theatrically in Quebec last December.)
Arcand, 66, has been writing and directing films since 1962, when he began his celluloid career by making industrial films for the NFB – and creating controversy for the distinctly pro-worker stance he often took. He's won awards at home and abroad, and he's enjoyed the highs of sold-out houses and the lows of empty auditoriums.
"You never know in this business. Nobody knows anything until it plays. And then, even when it plays, you're never sure and you don't totally understand. If there were a science to this, Hollywood would make only hits. It's partly magic."
He laughs when he thinks how he's misjudged audiences. "Decline of the American Empire was a huge hit in France, Italy and Spain. But it bombed miserably in London; people were offended by the film and actually asking for refunds.
"So then I make the next film, Jesus of Montreal. We're expecting big things. We go to Cannes, big reaction, I win a couple of prizes. We bomb in France, Italy, Spain...but gigantic success in London! We're on the screen for one year in Central London, and we also have big success in Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Go figure!"
He takes it all in stride – all those years of Jesuit schooling taught him something about stoicism and forbearance – but he does admit to being bugged by the reaction of critics in France, where film reviewing is something of a political football.
"It's very different in France and it's maddening. Newspapers in Canada will give you a fair deal if they don't like your films. They'll say, `Well, we don't like this one,' and if they like it they'll say they like it. In Paris, I can tell you in advance who's going to like me and who's going to hate me, because it's very political and if your film is liked by the right then the other end will say, `If the right likes it we hate it.'
"So the film becomes irrelevant, and what can I do? I could have shot The Seven Samurai and they would have blasted me anyway, because the other people like me, they have to hate me. So it becomes a game, but it's very tiring intellectually. It's a bit crazy."
Speaking of crazy, one thing that really gets Arcand's goat is the gigantic white elephant called Olympic Stadium, which cost $1 billion to build and now sits empty as a monument to hubris. It's a big part of Days of Darkness. Arcand rented it to portray a bureaucratic hellhole where civil servants act like the robotic worker slaves in Metropolis, Fritz Lang's dystopic sci-fi.
The night before this interview Arcand paid his first visit to Toronto's Rogers Centre (which he still calls SkyDome) to catch a baseball game between the Blue Jays and the Yankees. He prefers Toronto's dome by far to the one in hometown Montreal. "The SkyDome is perfect. You can have a baseball game and you're not too far from the action. In Montreal, the Olympic Stadium just sits there and we paid $1 billion for it. And it's not even fully paid and the roof is collapsing. Montreal is an insane city!"
Maybe that's why he loves it so much.
Women On The Verge
Excerpt from www.thesar.com - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter
(March 21, 2008) Another movie awards season has come to an end without any female directors taking home a major prize. According to a Celluloid Ceiling survey of the top-grossing 250 films in Hollywood, only 6 per cent in 2007 were directed by women.
On the bright side, a female writer, Diablo Cody, won the 2008 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, a rare event in Academy Awards history.
Sarah Polley, Tamara Jenkins, Nancy Oliver, Robin Swicord, Julie Taymor, Marjane Satrapi, Julie Delpy, Mira Nair. This tiny band of women made significant films last year that enjoyed major commercial release. That they were more numerous or at least more noticed than in previous years is a tiny step toward optimism for the future of the female writer and director.
As for the hundreds of other women who made features, shorts – lots of shorts – and documentaries in 2006 and 2007, their work will only be seen in festivals. So good grounds remain for the Female Eye Film Festival, opening next Thursday at the Cumberland and Canada Square cinemas and running through Sunday, March 30.
A scan of the program, a combination of professional workshops, script readings, screenings and a tribute to the late Toronto filmmaker Lindalee Tracey, tells a story about the women's side of the business. The subjects women filmmakers take on are rarely calculated to earn commercial interest.
Only the festival's opening movie, Kari Skogland's adaptation of Margaret Laurence's classic CanLit novel The Stone Angel, is slated for theatrical release May 9. The Star's Peter Howell, in a preview of the film before its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, called it "affecting." Trailers indicate a drama of substantial proportions with a billboard cast including Ellen Burstyn, Ellen Page, Sheila McCarthy and Kevin Zegers.
Director Shamim Sarif's The World Unseen has the cast (including Lisa Ray) but not the clout for any chance of North American wide release. Set in South Africa during the 1950s, the early years of Apartheid, the film, seen at TIFF and the Times BFI London Film Festival, offers the largely untold story of how South Asian families fared under the brutal colour codes of the South African National Party's government.
Setting aside short films that make up the bulk of the program – several worthy of serious interest – the remainder of the 72 movies in this sixth year of the Female Eye festival would be lucky to get TV broadcast. The noteworthy films are mostly documentaries, including Tracey's amusing and edifying doc from 2004, Anatomy of Burlesque (which did get several TV airings). The screening is the main attraction at next Friday's tribute to the accomplished filmmaker, who died of cancer in 2006.
From Alexis Krasilovsky comes a 2007 doc, Women Behind the Camera, a 90-minute international look at females with cameras, from Hollywood directors of photography to Bollywood lensers and women struggling to tell women's stories in developing countries.
Strong Coffee: The Story of Café Femenino comes from Vancouver documentary-maker Sharron Bates and follows an interesting odyssey of coffee, beginning with some disadvantaged Peruvian farmers and the women who pulled their community up by the bootstraps by organizing a coffee co-op.
A dramatic feature, Das Fraülein, has a documentary ring to it. Swiss filmmaker Andrea Staka draws on her own background for a story about women who left Yugoslavia in the 1970s, only to watch helplessly from abroad as their families back home were devastated by the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
For schedules, prices, locations and programs, go to FemaleEyeFilmFestival.com
'Tyler Perry's Meet The Browns': Perry True To His Formula
Excerpt from www.thesar.com - Philip Marchand, Movie Critic
Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns
(out of 4)
Starring Tyler Perry, Angela Bassett, Lance Gross, Rick Fox, David Mann and Jenifer Lewis. Written and directed by Tyler Perry. 104 minutes. At major theatres. PG
(March 21, 2008) Writer/director Tyler Perry, who is nothing if not a storyteller, begins his latest movie with an one of the oldest tricks of his trade. It's simple. Put your hero or heroine in desperate straits, then see what happens.
His heroine, Brenda (Angela Bassett), is a single mother of three, living in the Chicago projects. The father of her eldest child refuses to spend a dime on support. Then she loses her job, and can barely put food on the table. "We been here before, and don't we always make it?" says son Michael (Lance Gross), to raise spirits.
"One thing black women know how to do – that's make it," Brenda replies, without much conviction.
Then a letter arrives from a small town in Georgia, inviting her to the funeral of a man she has never met, a man who is supposed to be her father. She, her son and two young daughters take the southbound bus to meet these supposed relatives, the Brown family, and a lively set of characters they turn out to be.
Based on a hit play by Perry, Meet the Browns establishes clearly its mix of romance and comedy. Comedy enters chiefly in the person of Leroy Brown (David Mann), a fat, bald man who dresses in outrageous clothes and bounces around like a hyperactive child.
Romance follows when Harry (Rick Fox), a former pro basketball player, takes a fatherly interest in Michael at the same time as he gives Brenda the eye. When the family returns to Chicago, and Michael proves susceptible to temptations of life in the 'hood, comedy gives way almost entirely to this element of romance, darkened with a tinge of melodrama. Will Harry and Brenda find true love? Will Harry and Brenda together convince Michael there are better careers than dope dealing?
It is unlikely that Meet the Browns, as it resolves these questions, will win the hearts of many critics. But critical darts cannot penetrate the hide of this durable beast, the Tyler Perry industry. He's a box-office phenomenon – his 2005 screen debut Diary of a Mad Black Woman and last year's Why Did I Get Married? were top-grossing movies.
Like other artists who can stir the emotions of his audience, he possesses the magical ingredient of total sincerity. A victim of physical abuse as a child, a playwright who nearly succumbed to despair after years of working in obscurity, Perry is attuned to the religious, working-class African-American women whose values and beliefs he shares. "Just keep praying" is a refrain heard throughout the film, and sure enough Brenda, whose faith bends but does not break, witnesses a literal "miracle" before the end.
His audience is also willing to meet Perry more than halfway in the matter of comedy. Viewers at the screening I attended laughed uproariously at Leroy's malapropisms, like "last will and testicles," and his general buffoonery.
To this hilarity I remained indifferent, and to Perry's manipulation of plot for maximum emotional effect. It would take a stony critic, however, to dismiss entirely the movie's tribute to the virtues of perseverance and generosity.
An Unpredictability You Can Rely On
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey
(March 21, 2008) Sam Rockwell occupies uniquely unstable ground among American film actors. Whether he's playing comic relief (Galaxy Quest), a villain (The Green Mile, Charlie's Angels) a sidekick (Matchstick Men) or unpredictable leading man (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) - or even a two-headed president (The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy) - you just never know where he's going to take you.
Rockwell got his breakthrough in Tom DeCillo's Box of Moonlight (1996). His role as a man-child who lives in a trailer and dresses like Davy Crockett established him as a free - if somewhat unbalanced - spirit, but he consistently brings a serious, even dangerous, intensity to his parts as well. Never is that more clear than in his latest film, Snow Angels, directed by wunderkind director David Gordon Green (George Washington) from a novel by Stewart O'Nan.
The film, shot in Nova Scotia, follows several intertwining relationships in a small Pennsylvania town as it traces the events leading up to a domestic tragedy. Rockwell plays Glenn, an alcoholic, newly born-again Christian who is struggling with his separation from his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and daughter.
Snow Angels had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2007, but it wasn't until the more recent festival in January that he sat down to talk about the film. It wasn't an easy sell, with some reviewers complaining it was simply too bleak. "People can be lame," Rockwell says dismissively, defending "probably my favourite role that I've done so far."
It's easy to understand his attraction to the part. As a movie fan, he says he's as devoted to the anarchic comic parts of John Belushi in Animal House or Bill Murray in Stripes as he is to the bravura performances of De Niro in Taxi Driver or Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. His role in Snow Angels represents a chance to play a character who is both absurd and deeply alarming.
At 39, Rockwell has been an actor most of his life. His parents, also actors, separated when he was 5 and he had a footloose bi-coastal childhood, living with his father in San Francisco during the school year and spending summers in New York with his mother.
His stage debut, at 10, was in a skit where he played Humphrey Bogart onstage with his mother. In his early career, he spent almost a decade doing television guest appearances and low-budget films, working odd jobs like delivering burritos by bicycle and assisting a private detective.
He has continued to work in the theatre (his most recent role was as Judas Iscariot), typically with the off-Broadway collective LAByrinth Theater Company, where Philip Seymour Hoffman is a co-artistic director.
Snow Angels is full of examples of counterintuitive casting, with the cool English beauty Beckinsale as Annie, a small-town housewife working in a local Chinese restaurant, carrying on a listless affair with a married man. Her best friend is played by Amy Sedaris (the comic writer and star of Strangers with Candy), in an uncharacteristically naturalistic performance.
"Isn't Kate great? Isn't Amy Sedaris amazing?" he says before getting around to his own performance.
With Glenn, Rockwell says, he enjoyed the chance to play a character who is inherently not likeable, something of a throwback to the anti-heroes of seventies and early eighties American cinema, from Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver to Eric Roberts in Star 80. The challenge was to get the audience to recognize themselves in him, even as they squirm at his behaviour.
"You know that Seinfeld episode where George talks about having 'hand,' as in the upper hand, in a relationship? Well, Glenn never has 'hand,' so he's always pushing a little too hard, trying too hard to please. I mean, we've all been in those situations where we want more than the other person wants, and it's humiliating. You don't like being around that kind of person, but you can sympathize with them."
With Green, Rockwell seems to have found a kindred, non-linear kind of spirit. When Green said he was going to change some parts of the novel, Rockwell begged him (successfully) to keep the original dark ending. As an example of Green's unusual approach, Rockwell recalls a scene in which Glenn - small-town, conservative and filled with recently acquired religious zeal - is trying to sell a carpet to a sceptical lesbian couple. Green suggested he remove his shoes and bounce around the carpet on his bare feet. Rockwell didn't understand the sense of it, but when he took Green's suggestion, he felt it worked to capture the awkwardness of the scene. He also played drunk by gargling with Jack Daniels to recreate the sense memory.
Rockwell did a lot of research, too, reading the Bible and studying the world of anti-abortion activists as his model, including a documentary called Soldiers in the Army of God. "That's why my character has a beard," he says. "A lot of these guys seem to have beards - maybe there's an Old Testament-prophet kind of connection to it. And they seem to like to wear Christmas sweaters."
It's an insight into Rockwell's zigzag creative method that he connects Christmas sweaters to anti-abortion bombings. His future projects show a continuing fascination with odd juxtapositions. At the most recent Sundance Film Festival, he starred in Choke, based on Chuck Palahniuk's novel, as a colonial theme-park worker, sex addict and con artist who believes he may have been cloned from the foreskin relic of Jesus Christ.
Also due out this year is Ron Howard's adaptation of the award-winning play Frost/Nixon, with Michael Sheen and Frank Langella reprising their Broadway roles. Rockwell is in the straight-man role as journalist James Reston, who prepared Frost for his historic interviews.
In an industry where actors become stars by doing exactly what's expected again and again, Rockwell has his own kind of consistency: He's predictable in his unpredictability.
Darkness, Tyranny Will Reign In 'The Tudors'
Excerpt from www.thesar.com - Anita Gates, New York Times News Service
(March 21, 2008) DUBLIN–For a guy playing Henry VIII, Jonathan Rhys Meyers was looking very skinny in his jeans, relaxing in a trailer on the Irish set of Showtime's steamy period drama "The Tudors.'' The series, which critics could take or leave but many viewers are eating up (the costumes! the sets! the sex scenes!), returns for its second season on Sunday, March 30.
"I have got absolutely no physical attributes in common with Henry VIII," Rhys Meyers acknowledged as he made tea. "So everything has to be more about his energy, more about power, more about confidence.''
He had just filmed a scene set shortly before Henry and Anne Boleyn's wedding, which history tells us took place when the king was in his early 40s. Rhys Meyers is 30. "Henry is 30," too, this season, he said with a playful gleam in his eye. "He's going to stay 30 for a while.''
He will also stay slim, although Rhys Meyers has been eating voraciously to put on a few royal pounds. "You don't want to see a skinny guy in a big fat suit," he said. "Unless it's Eddie Murphy.''
The king's physical appearance may be a minor point, really, when you consider the historical facts that "The Tudors" have played fast and loose with. And Michael Hirst, the show's creator and writer, will defend every single decision.
"Showtime commissioned me to write an entertainment, a soap opera, and not history," said Hirst, taking a break in an office at Ardmore Studios, near Dublin. "And we wanted people to watch it.''
It seems there have been practical moviemaking reasons for the misrepresentations. Take Henry's sisters. In Season 1, Gabrielle Anwar played one, Princess Margaret, who marries an older man, the king of Spain, against her will. As any number of Internet history buffs will tell you, it was Henry's other sister, Mary, who did that, and the older man was the king of France. So didn't the writer do his research?
As it turns out, Hirst was well aware of both facts. But the list of characters already included a Princess Mary, Catherine of Aragon's little daughter. "I didn't want two Princess Marys on the call sheet," he said, because it might have confused the crew. " `Which one do you mean, Michael? Who do we dress?' ''
As for Margaret/Mary's husband, "The Tudors" had shown a French king in a different context in Season 1. Hirst feared that viewers might be confused, so he just chose another European country.
Liberties were also taken with the death of Thomas Wolsey, archbishop of York and the king's right-hand man. According to historians Wolsey fell ill and died in Leicester in 1530 on his way back to London to face charges of treason. In Season 1, Wolsey committed suicide there, despite religious strictures against it.
Hirst defends his decision, contending that this might have been the way things really happened, and that Henry would have covered it up. Wolsey certainly had motive.
"He was going to come back to a show trial," Hirst said. "And the best that he could get would have been a public beheading in front of all his enemies and a jubilant crowd.''
Hirst also wanted to give an acclaimed actor, Sam Neill, a powerful scene: "I didn't want him to go out with a whimper. I wanted him to go out with a bang.''
History will continue to be altered in Season 2, beginning with Pope Paul III, played by Peter O'Toole. The pope who refused to let Henry divorce his first wife and excommunicated him was Paul's predecessor, Clement VII. But last season Clement, played by Ian McElhinney, had a few short scenes.
Hirst worried that viewers might remember and react negatively to the casting change, so he just set up a papal succession. But in reality by the time Paul III was elected, in October 1534, Catherine was long gone, and Henry and Anne had been married roughly a year and a half.
Hirst decided that any confusion created by the changes is outweighed by the interest the series may inspire in the period and its figures. To that end, he wants to emphasize the similarity to the current era.
"I mean, who is Henry but a man who's married to an older woman who falls in love with a younger one and wants to marry her?" Hirst asked. "We've seen that.''
Natalie Dormer, who plays Anne, found it easy to see her as a contemporary. She said there were strong likenesses between her character and a more recent British royal beauty: Diana, Princess of Wales.
"They were both incredibly image conscious," said Dormer, 26, who was sitting in a dressing room, wearing a 16th-century-style ivory dress. "Anne Boleyn shook up the court in an aesthetic way.''
Just like Diana, who used glamour to court the news media, Dormer said, Anne made it clear that she was bringing "a certain je ne sais quoi, a sophistication" to the court. So far, the historical Anne and the Showtime Anne have not noticeably diverged. (She really did contract and survive what was known as the sweating sickness.) But anything can happen.
Anne will do historically accurate things, like marrying Henry, giving birth to a daughter (the future Elizabeth I), losing her husband to Jane Seymour and losing her head to the executioner. The season will also bring Thomas More's fall from grace, which really occurred.
Just the other day Hirst swore that there would be no further historical adjustments this season, at least nothing significant that he could think of. Oh, except the plot to kill Anne Boleyn. He invented that to illustrate how much the English people hated her.
Marley Biopic With No Marley Music?
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 24, 2008) *The upcoming Bob Marley biopic from the Weinstein Co. hit a snag last week when his family refused to license any of his music for the film, even though his widow, Rita Marley, is its executive producer.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the problem is rooted in a competing Martin Scorsese documentary being produced by the Marley family-owned Tuff Gong Pictures and Steven Bing's Shangri La production banner, the first theatrical documentary to license Marley songs.
The family members involved in the Scorsese documentary say they had no idea that the Weinstein project would be unveiled so soon. They also believe that its projected late-2009 release date would interfere with their film's February 2010 opening, which is timed to coincide with Marley's birthday.
"Martin Scorsese doesn't want to go out with a competing project, and Steven Bing has made deals with companies" that are now compromised, Blue Mountain Music president Chris Blackwell said. "The Weinstein project has put the documentary into jeopardy." Blue Mountain Music is Marley's music publisher.
"All our efforts and support are currently directed toward the documentary," said the reggae legend's son, Ziggy Marley, who is executive producer of the untitled Scorsese film. "We believe that this project is the best way to represent our father's life from his perspective, and any other film project pertaining to our father will be empty without his music to support it."
"When I sold the film rights to my book (for the Weinstein film)," Rita Marley told The Reporter, "the contract did not include any rights to use my husband's music."
The Marley family's lawyer, Terri Dipalo, denied the latest move was a negotiating ploy to compel the Weinsteins to buy Marley music rights or to up the price for those rights. She did suggest that "anything's possible" when asked if Marley's songs might end up in the Weinstein feature.
Music publisher Blackwell would like to see the Weinstein biopic delayed until at least 2015 to avoid the two projects colliding. He said he talked with Harvey Weinstein on March 13 about the issue, but so far nothing has been resolved.
No True Love For True North Movies
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter
(March 25, 2008) Michael Sparaga's latest movie was made for the Canadian Film Fest. Okay, not literally.
But Maple Flavour Films, premiering tomorrow night at the Carlton Cinema – a kind of road-film documentary in the Michael Moore style – pretty much sums up the moribund state of Canadian film and the raison d'être of the festival as it enters its fifth year today.
The movie traces Sparaga's travels from Halifax to Vancouver as he tries to get ordinary Canadians to see his first feature film, a quirky superhero comedy called Sidekick, and to garner media attention – with zero marketing dollars.
Festival director/screenwriter Bern Euler said Sparaga's film and its message are exceedingly apt for inclusion in the five-day event.
"It's near impossible to find a Canadian movie on the big screen in this country. That was one of the reasons I started (the festival)," Euler said.
Along the road – with Sidekick's one and only print in the backseat – Sparaga also picks up public impressions of Canadian film by asking people to name their favourites, as well as the Canadian equivalent of the Oscar. The answers are predictably, depressingly similar. ("Boring." "Can't name one." "Sorry, don't know.")
The festival, which only screens Canadian films, is making headway. Last year's event saw tickets to more than half of the films sell out and filmmakers use the annual event for networking and schmoozing.
But the obstacles remain formidable, Euler said. Canadian films only get about 1 per cent of the total movie-going audience so theatre distributors have little incentive to screen them.
While U.S. films have an average $1 million to spend on promotion, the Canadian average is $33,000. Euler doesn't know even one Canadian filmmaker who spends that much.
There's also the Harper government's tepid support for Telefilm Canada, a major source of funds for filmmakers. The festival gets no government funding at all – despite many requests – because Telefilm, with a frozen budget, can't afford to fund new festivals, even one that exclusively shows Canadian film, said Euler. He calls the situation "extremely frustrating."
Sparaga shares Euler's frustration, but he also targets Canadian filmmakers, who turn up their noses at genres like action movies, horror flicks and light comedies: in other words, the kinds of films Canadians regularly rent or go in droves to theatres to watch.
And while there's "plenty of finger-pointing" in the industry, Sparaga said his film highlights the obvious disconnect.
"You can't deny what the public is saying, that is, they're unaware of our films, they're unaware of our stars, they're unaware of our awards, they're just completely unaware," Sparaga said.
"I'd rather know the public was saying horrible things about Canadian film but ... they were at least thinking about it rather than nothing. Nothing is the worst; you can't overcome nothing," he added.
To Sparaga, the phenomenon is a cultural puzzle. "People love the Tragically Hip ... they love the National Ballet. In every art form, Canadians actually have quite an impact in their own country, except film," he said.
But Sparaga said his movie is also "very uplifting" because the men and women on the street are proud Canadians who yearn to see more and better Canadian film.
"What they don't want to see is another depressing rural drama," he added.
Euler said this year's line-up will break the "artsy, boring, slow, intellectual" Canadian flick stigma/stereotype, with more than 25 entries, including light comedy, drama, horror, documentary and shorts.
Already generating buzz is Mr. Big, premiering Saturday at noon, a doc by filmmaker Tiffany Burns that exposes a controversial entrapment technique used by the RCMP. It will be introduced by Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a boxer wrongly convicted of murder.
The fest opens tonight with the gala premiere of Hank & Mike, a comedy, at the Varsity and runs until Saturday.
For information, go to canfilmfest.ca. Tickets are $10 each, cash only, and on sale at theatres before screenings.
Sweet as Thandie
Source: Kam Williams
(Mar. 25, 2008) Born in London on November 6, 1972, Thandiwe Newton spent some of her formative years in Zambia with her Zimbabwean mother, Nyasha, and her British father, Nick. However, political unrest would prompt the family to relocate to England where Thandiwe would attend the University of Cambridge.
After a back injury curtailed her plans for a career in dance, she dropped the “w” from her name when she turned her attention to acting. In 1991, the regal beauty made her screen debut in Flirting, an Australian film featuring another then unknown, Nicole Kidman.
Thandie has since proven herself to be one of the most talented thespians around, delivering very memorable performances in such pictures as Crash, Beloved, Besieged, Jefferson in Paris, Mission: Impossible II and The Pursuit of Happyness. Recently, the versatile actress has even mastered comedy, first as the object of Eddie Murphy’s affection in the $100 million hit Norbit, and now as a pregnant woman left at the altar by Simon Pegg’s character in Run, Fatboy, Run.
As for her private life, Thandie has been married for ten years to writer/director Ol Parker. The couple lives in London where they are raising their two daughters, Ripley, 7, and Nico, 3. Here, she weighs in on everything from family life to her new movie to colorblind casting to the candidacy of Barack Obama.
KW: Hi Thandie, I’m honoured to have this opportunity to speak with you.
TN: Really? That’s so lovely.
TN: Nice. Is Kam short for something?
KW: Funny you should ask. Yes, Kamau, it’s an African name.
KW: I was given the name when I was a jazz musician back in the Seventies. We were getting ready to record an album and the leader of the group didn’t want any slave names on the record cover.
KW: Over the years, people sort of Anglicized it by dropping the “au” off.
TN: How amazing! “Kam” is gorgeous. I love it. My name, Thandie, is an abbreviation, too, of Thandiwe.
KW: I knew that. And that it means “beloved.” Ironically, Beloved might have been your breakout role.
TN: Yes, I think it probably was.
KW: I also thought you were terrific in your next picture, Besieged.
TN: I loved that film.
KW: Why did you decide to make your second comedy in a row with Run, Fatboy, Run?
TN: Well, I made Norbit, but I still felt that I hadn’t really been involved in a comedy in terms of having the experience of just witnessing comedians at work. Norbit just felt a little claustrophobic. It didn’t have the kind of freedom or camaraderie that I thought a comedy should have. And I was keen to work in England, as I always have been, because my children go to school there. Plus, I’ve been a fan of Simon Pegg’s for a number of years. I love the work that he’s done with Nick Frost, like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. And I just got a sense of [director] David Schwimmer as a really well-rounded, decent guy from when he did a play with a friend of mine, Saffron Burrows. I like working with first-time directors because it’s often a risk well worth taking. And I loved the material. So, it was fun!
KW: One of the things I love about this film is that it’s hard to pigeonhole.
TN: I feel the same way. It’s not a romantic comedy. It’s not a straight drama. It feels much more true to life than a formulaic comedy. But I also think that Simon has great timing and a unique kind of humour, reminiscent of Peter Sellers or Jack Lemmon. He reminds me of those old school comedians whose brands of humour were much more authentically a part of their personality, not anything generic. Simon’s is a combination of physical, creative and intelligent. His other gift is that he can move from a strongly comedic moment to one of complete earnestness which draws you in much more. Ordinarily, comedy is a detachment from feeling where you turn something into a joke instead of express how you really feel. That kind of protects you from being the one with an opinion, if you know what I mean.
TN: But Simon can get right into earnest emotion very easily, so the comedy almost allows for the sentiments to go deeper. I think he’s unique in that respect. In England, it’s been a while since we’ve found someone who could cross over and be an international success in movies. And I just think Simon’s it.
KW: I think you’re obviously “it” too. I felt that your performance in Crash was pivotal, and providing that Oscar-winning Best Picture with its most riveting and social significant moment by far. That’s why I said you deserved an Oscar for it.
TN: Well, there were a large number of very strong performances that year. I don’t know, ever since Beloved was snubbed by the industry, and not taken seriously in that respect, I don’t feel impassioned with either joy or sadness by getting or not getting accolades. It’s not part of the way that I value myself.
KW: I also think that many of the challenging, iconoclastic characters that you’ve played, in films like Beloved and Besieged and Crash, aren’t the types of roles ordinarily recognized by the Oscars.
TN: The thing about all of those roles, and The Pursuit of Happyness, as well, is that they make people uncomfortable, because it goes right to the marrow of the truth. That is not a popular place to be. With Beloved, it wasn’t popular to take the lid off denial. But I like to put myself in that area of discomfort, because that’s what truly reveals the essence of what we really are, those areas that you’d rather ignore and get away from. They’re the ones that I just want to stare at as long as I can. So, I don’t mind, even though the Oscar has become the absolute benchmark for filmmaking talent. I think we can sort of promote ourselves as individuals. If we feel privileged to witness a great performance, then that in itself is enough to feel validated.
KW: I agree. Plus, the job that you do as a mother is far more important than acting.
TN: It is and it isn’t though, Kam, because the truth is that if you want to be a movie star, you’ve got to work at it. But I’ve found that in order to ensure longevity, it’s better to avoid the highs and lows of success. It’s sort of like surfing where if you stay in the middle of a wave, you’re going to stick around longer. But if you get into the dizzying heights, you’ve got to maintain, and that’s a tough thing to do. I‘ve got two kids, so I’m quite happy to stay on in the middle, burning my light a bit brighter here and there. But I love what I do.
KW: The Tao teaches that both the very heights and the very bottom are to be avoided.
TN: I think that’s true, but I’ll get the old Oscar for all of us one day.
KW: I’m sure. Given that you have a parent from Africa, and one who’s white, I’d love to hear what you think of Barack Obama’s candidacy.
TN: I think that it’s wonderful for America to have these rich choices in whom they vote for. It feels like there’s evolution happening right in front of us. And I don’t think it’s just about America but an international vote for life to have these exciting choices available. Once a pick has been made, what’s important is to commit to the changes that these people actually want to put in place. I think that how Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama or anyone else is going to benefit the country is far more complex than the color of their skin or their gender. So, in a way, it’s been a distraction from what’s truly necessary which is to get in there and make real changes.
KW: I’ve read that you were born in England, and also that you were born in Africa. Which is correct?
TN: I was born in London during a brief trip back from Africa which is where we all lived at the time.
KW: How do you think growing up in Africa and England, and having both a black and a white parent has shaped you?
TN: Oh, God, that would be an hour-long answer to your question. It provided challenges which have made me who I am…It provided great wealth in terms of having this great-colored skin, and looking exotic, and different. However, it also made for a very lonely disposition as a child, at times. Being an outsider has its good and it’s bad. There’s a ying and yang to all of it. Having to negotiate that kind of winding road has made me much more inquisitive about psychology, and interested in investigating myself and the parameters that people set up around themselves and others. It’s a privilege, in a way, to have had to question my identity. By virtue of being unconventional, I was exploring that from a very young age. And I feel glad about that. But by the same token, if I hadn’t had the strength of character and some real pluses, like getting involved in the arts, for example, where differences can be celebrated, I could have been a very depressed, a very closeted, and a very unhappy person. But I see these challenges and negative experiences as gifts, at least I do now, anyway. [Laughs] So, I’ve been showered with gifts, and I’m glad of that. Life is about being uncomfortable and about how we deal with those areas of discomfort. I’m sorry I’m not answering your question, but it’s such a gigantic question, and one that I can’t answer briefly.
KW: No, this was an excellent answer, given our time constraints. Another thing I really liked about Run, Fatboy, Run was its colorblind casting.
TN: I love that not one journalist has questioned my son in the movie looking so light. In real life, I have one blonde child, and one dark-haired child. One of my daughters is olive-skinned, like me, and my other is very pale-skinned. Their faces are similar, but they have different coloring. 30 or 40 years ago, it would have been noted, and someone would’ve complained, saying, “She couldn’t have a kid that color.” So, I do love that the casting hasn’t been questioned in England [where it opened last September] and I’m interested in seeing how it is accepted in the United States. I wonder whether black audiences will want to see the movie.
KW: I certainly hope so, not only because it’s very funny, but to support colorblind casting and the idea that you can have you and Simon Pegg paired in a romantic comedy without skin color having to be the theme. So, I’m asking all my readers to support it.
TN: You do it, Kam!
KW: Bookworm Troy Johnson was wondering what’s the last book you read?
TN: Oh my Lord! What was the last book I read? Oh, it was a book by my friend, Justine Picardie, called Daphne. It’s about Daphne du Maurier and the Bronte family.
KW: Lastly. are you ever afraid?
KW: Well, thanks again for the interview, Thandie, and best of luck in the future.
TN: Thanks you so much. Take care, bye!
Angela Bassett Gets Star
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 21, 2008)*To paraphrase Ice Cube, Thursday was a good day for actress Angela Bassett. But, it didn't start out that way for her. "Do you ever have one of those days? I woke up and the sun wasn't really shining but then it burst through the clouds and it was glorious. Hallelujah!" Bassett spoke those words to the crowd gathered to watch her accept her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. At the ceremony, the Yale University trained and Oscar nominated actress was joined by her husband Courtney B. Vance, their children and guests Forest Whitaker, Laurence Fishburne and Rick Fox, her co-star in the new film "Meet the Browns." "You get a lot of no's in this business and you have to have that desire and determination which is what Angela has," Fishburne shared. Whitaker said that Bassett was "a powerful artist, a beautiful person, a mother, a wife, a friend who illuminates my life." Bassett received the Walk of Fame's 2,358th star.
Actor Cera Slated For Lead In
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey
(March 21, 2008) Toronto — Canadian actor Michael Cera, who recently shot to prominence thanks to his work in Juno and Superbad, is in final talks to team up with Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright for a graphic-novel adaptation, The Hollywood Reporter says. Cera would take on the titular role in Scott Pilgrim's Little Life, an adventure romance based on a work by Bryan Lee O'Malley, the Reporter says. Right now, Cera is co-starring with Jack Black in the Harold Ramis film Year One.
Singleton's 'A-Team' Gets A Release Date
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 21, 2008)*Twentieth Century Fox has set June 12, 2009 as the release date for "The A-Team," its feature adaptation of the 1980s TV series co-starring Mr. T, reports Daily Variety. As previously reported, John Singleton will direct the remake from a script by writing partners Michael Brandt and Derek Haas ("3:10 to Yuma"). The storyline will follow Hannibal Smith and his team of former Special Forces soldiers, who have been set up for a crime they didn't commit. While casting has yet to be announced, there were rumours that Ice Cube had been offered the part of Bosco "B.A." Baracas, played in the original TV series by Mr. T. Also set to open on June 12, 2009 is Paramount's Eddie Murphy comedy "Nowhereland."
Canadian Leaders' Toughest Calls
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Delacourt, Ottawa Bureau
(March 23, 2008) OTTAWA–Former prime minister Paul Martin says that the single hardest decision he made in his time in office was sending Canadian troops to the Afghan province of Kandahar.
Appearing as a judge and panellist on the CBC show, The Next Great Prime Minister, to be aired tonight, Martin doesn't hesitate when asked about the toughest call he made while prime minister from 2003 to 2006.
"Sending Canadian troops to Kandahar," he tells host Rick Mercer, recalling how he went to the military bases and met troops and their families. "You don't make a decision like that lightly."
Martin is slammed in the memoirs of another former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, for getting Canadian troops enmeshed in the "killing fields" of Kandahar, as opposed to a safer site in Afghanistan, because he took too long to make a decision and Canada's soldiers ended up there by default.
But Martin, who also rejected that version of events when Chrétien's book came out last fall, explains to Mercer that he agonized over sending the troops to Kandahar.
The Next Great Prime Minister is an annual, televised competition among promising, young, would-be leaders of Canada – a joint production of Magna International and the CBC. The winner will be unveiled at the end of tonight's show and will receive $50,000 and a six-month internship with Magna, the Dominion Institute and the Fulbright program.
The four contestants are grilled by a panel of eminent politicians, who are, in turn, quizzed on their own approaches to government and leadership.
All of the judges on this year's show tell Mercer that their toughest decisions revolved around life-and-death matters – some international, some domestic.
Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, known for his epic battles with the federal government, says somewhat surprisingly that his most agonizing moments come annually when his cabinet has to come up with what's known as the "formulary" – the list of drugs that are approved for provincial health coverage.
"You're playing God," Williams says.
Kim Campbell, who was Canada's first female prime minister, says her biggest challenge in the summer of 1993 revolved around trouble in the Balkans. Canada was at an impasse with its NATO allies over whether to bomb Serbian forces.
"NATO acts on consensus and we were the one holdout," she said. "It was tough, because politically, you know, Canada (was) being the little spanner in the works."
In an hour-long broadcast devoted to the subject of being prime minister, there are only a few references to the current holder of the job, Stephen Harper. One contestant, Alika Lafontaine, a Métis from Saskatchewan, says if he ever became PM, he would be more open with the media than Harper is.
Martin was in office for just 26 months, from December 2003 to February 2006. In a couple of weeks, Harper will reach that 26-month mark. Next fall, Martin is due to release his memoirs and reflections on his long climb and brief stay in power. At several points in the broadcast, Martin's comments reveal that he's been reflecting about the political career that came to an abrupt end on election night in 2006.
He advises one of the young contenders, for instance, that leaders must be true to themselves.
"People are really very perceptive and they understand if you're being yourself. ... Be who you are."
When asked to proffer his political wisdom, Williams, who often butted heads with Martin, tells another contender to "crank her up a notch" – to be more passionate.
Martin himself gets fired up at one of the hypothetical situations presented as a test to contenders – the question revolving around what a prime minister should do if Quebecers voted by a narrow majority, just 900 votes, for instance, in favour of separation.
"How could anybody take Quebec out of Canada with a 900-vote difference?" Martin says, warning of "total chaos" that would ensue. "I don't believe, as a Quebecer, that anybody should have the opportunity of tearing my country apart ... over my dead body, no way."
Former prime minister John Turner rounds out the panel of eminent politicians while Chrétien, Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark gave the show a pass this year.
General Hospital Turns 45
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Derrik J. Lang, The Associated Press
(March 24, 2008) LOS ANGELES–It's been 45 years since General Hospital began dispensing heavy doses of drama to TV viewers.
Since 1963, ABC's longest-running daytime series has documented the trials and tribulations of Port Charles' citizens, carving an unprecedented television niche with intrigue and illness – long before ER, House and Grey's Anatomy graduated from medical school.
"You don't get to 45 years just because you're lucky," executive producer Jill Farren Phelps told The Associated Press as the cast and crew celebrated GH's April 1 birthday with punch and cake on the show's hospital set at ABC's Prospect Studios.
Leslie Charleson and Jane Elliot reminisced about playing feuding sisters-in-law Monica and Tracy Quartermaine for more than 30 years. Since arriving in 1977, Charleson's cardiologist character has given up a child for adoption, become a hit woman, been held hostage and battled breast cancer.
The actors agree their characters have been through it all – usually more than once.
"We have such history," Elliot said. "We have births, deaths, marriages, divorces, birthdays, birthdays and birthdays that we've shared. When we look at each other on camera, you sometimes can't tell if Monica and Tracy are responding to each other or if Jane and Leslie are responding to each other. It's not the characters but the history that's there."
Stars such as Demi Moore, John Stamos, Ricky Martin and Rick Springfield got their start on General Hospital. A-list fan Elizabeth Taylor famously guest-starred as the malicious Helena Cassadine at supercouple Luke and Laura's wedding in 1981, one of television's most popular moments, attracting 30 million people.
"We were all kind of scared to work with her, but she came on and she was so excited to be with us," Sandy Masone, a sound engineer who's worked on the show for more than 30 years, said of Taylor. "She was so gracious. She even invited us back to her house for a party."
Those days, however, are over.
The viewers now average less than three million, under a third of the 11.8 million who typically tuned in the year of Luke and Laura's wedding. In an effort to stay relevant, the soap has begun using computer-generated imagery.
Kelly Monaco's character, Sam McCall, was recently seen dangling on the edge of an unfinished bridge hundreds of fake metres above a fake river after being kidnapped by the Text Message Killer, a mysterious murderer who'd stalked Port Charles residents for months.
"I think we're walking a fine line," said Phelps. "I'm very proud of all of the stuff General Hospital is doing, especially the CGI. It's very cutting edge. We're trying to give a new look to this medium but without putting off our audience and making them wonder, `What have you done to my show?'"
Like other soaps, General Hospital has also turned elsewhere for eyeballs. The popular HIV-positive character Dr. Robin Scorpio, played by Kimberly McCullough, keeps a blog and co-starred in Night Shift, a 13-episode SOAPnet spinoff that debuted last year and is now available on DVD. Scorpio will soon give birth: a first for an HIV-positive daytime TV character.
"I'm always looking to see how to get more people to watch our soaps," ABC daytime president Brian Frons told the AP. "As part of that, later this year, General Hospital will finally premiere in France. For us, it's not just about viewers on the broadcast network, it's about viewers around the world."
Cancelled soaps, such as NBC's Another World and Passions, haven't been replaced with new shows. The same thing could be said for the genre's ever-eroding viewership.
So what's the prognosis?
"Maybe it'll be animated in 45 years," Frons said.
Global Renews New TV Series For Another
Excerpt from www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey
(March 21, 2008) Toronto — Global Television gave the green light yesterday to second seasons for three of its Canadian dramas - The Guard, 'da Kink in My Hair and The Best Years. The network said it renewed the shows because of "solid statistics" during its first season, but did not provide average weekly ratings. The Guard, shot in Squamish, B.C., is an action series about four members of the Canadian Coast Guard. 'Da Kink in My Hair made the jump from stage to screen, and takes place in a hair salon in Toronto's Caribbean community. The Best Years, shot in Toronto, follows six students at university.
VH1 Adds Vivica Fox To Reality Slate
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com
(March 20, 2008) *VH1 has gotten into the Vivica A. Fox business with a new competition show that searches for the next great celebrity stylist. "Glam God With Vivica A. Fox," due to premiere this summer, will feature contestants vying to become a stylist to the stars through their talents in three key elements of fashion - hair, make-up and wardrobe. Each week the hopefuls will compete in various challenges designed to test their knowledge of fashion and style trends as they create the perfect look from head to toe. Those who fall short will have their style license revoked and be sent packing. The lone remaining stylist will win a chance to style an A-list celebrity and receive $100,000. "Vivica is a movie star and a fashion icon who knows how to step onto the red carpet and nail it every single time," said Jeff Olde, Executive Vice President, Original Programming and Production, VH1. "Her instincts are impeccable and she knows how critical it is to have a 'glam god' she can trust to create a star-making killer look. We are thrilled that we have her vision and insights to drive this show."
Island Theme Party
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter
(March 23, 2008) Marvin Ishmael, known as "Trini" on the Caribbean performance circuit, would like to boldface the "community" in community theatre.
The Trinidad-born actor, director and writer, a cast member of the musical Bombay Dreams, is co-producing Caribbean Dinner Theatre, a monthly outing at De Great Iron Pot in Scarborough, where singing, stand-up and storytelling is served up over curried crab and dumplings, macaroni pie, callaloo, stewed chicken, jerk chicken or Singapore chow mein.
Uniquely, the performance series brings together the stories and cultures of more than one Caribbean country. Performers and audiences hail mainly from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, but there is room for guest artists such as singer Ian Jutson, from Pakistan.
This is not a closed club: non-Caribbean Torontonians are also drawn to the Sunday night event out of a love of Wes' Indian culture.
"Normally, Jamaicans go to Jamaican events, Trinidadians go to Trinidadian events and Bajans go to Barbadian events," says Ishmael, a veteran performer and founder of the first theatre of colour in the GTA, We Are One.
Caribbean Dinner Theatre caters to a cross-section of the islands. "We speak in a mid-Caribbean accent so it's understandable to anybody from any of the islands or, for that matter, from Ireland or Scotland." Even native-born Canadians will appreciate the jokes and stories, says Ishmael.
A family affair that began in last December and continued in January with a show called Under the Lamplight, this event recalls fond memories for the older immigrant generation and informs younger Canadian-born audience members about their roots.
"In the evenings boys or young men would gather round the standpipe or under a lamppost and tell stories to each other."
Ishmael's instinct was to share that aspect of Caribbean storytelling in a simple folk-like setting. "TV wasn't part of our lives. We just told stories: ghost stories, first love, first dance."
February's show had a Valentine's theme. But for the next Sunday's supper crowd, the informal troupe has assembled a show called Politics Caribbean Style.
"It's about how we view politics on this continent," says Ishmael, hinting at the kind of irreverence that accompanies political humour where he comes from.
Expect jokes about Stephen Harper and Fidel Castro (a hero in the Caribbean), Barack Obama, Pastor Wright and revisionist history, and some pointed gags about the expectations versus the reality of the immigrant experience.
The performers include calypso singer Henry "King Cosmos" Gomez, actor John Phillips, stand-up comedian Norman Sabu Grant, actor Sandra Witter and singer Jassette Haughton. The group hails from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, each bringing their diverse talents to the monthly productions.
"People know me from all over," says Ishmael. He used to have a touring act with Jamaican-born Oliver Samuels that they called Oliver and Trini. Along with his co-producer Anthony Joseph, Ishmael would like to revive that style of variety performance, which tended to die out when the big musicals hit Toronto.
"Now is the right time for a new style of artist," says the Ryerson trained performer.
"Part of the plan is to attract voices and artists from our community. When I grew up as a person of colour, our role models were doctors and lawyers and teachers. People in society who were just like us. I grew up with the idea that nothing was impossible for me."
The educational need today, he says, is not so much for black-focused schools but for young people to meet people who look like them who can be mentors and models of success.
Ishmael sees a place for Caribbean Dinner Theatre in this process and to make the connection between the generations he's hoping to bring in some hip hop artists and eventually expand the program to other locations in the GTA.
"What we have to do is act as guardians of our culture."
Politics Caribbean Style, the latest production from Caribbean Dinner Theatre, takes place on Sunday at De Great Iron Pot, 55 Nugget Ave. Dinner from 5 to 6:15 p.m. with show to follow. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Call 905-915-0227 or 416-286-9558 for reservations.
Strong Cast Makes Cat Revival Purr On Broadway
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(March 24, 2008) NEW YORK–It's the big things that will grab your attention most in the fascinating new revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof now playing on Broadway, but don't ignore the smaller ones as well.
Of course it's hard not to heed the Big Daddy of James Earl Jones, when he greets the news of his imminent death with a deep, loud vibrating note that no cello could ever aspire to.
And Phylicia Rashad's Big Mama is an unquestioned force of nature, racing around like the Mississippi delta's answer to Martha Stewart as she tries to make sure everything will be right for the last birthday celebration of the man she's loved for so long.
Terrence Howard can also blaze with sudden passion as the deeply repressed Brick, flinging his crutch like a thunderbolt at his wife not because he hates her, but because he hates the things she knows about him.
And Anika Noni Rose as Maggie the Cat can unleash a non-stop stream of high-voltage talk that simultaneously lets us see how much she knows but how little she understands of the once-great, now-decaying world that is crumbling around her.
Grand, bold moments all. The kind that you come to Tennessee Williams to experience, because – with the possible exception of Eugene O'Neill – no modern North American playwright ever let the pain of living reach his heart so deeply, twisting him on the rack until he had to let the agony erupt on the page in searing, primal moments.
But as anyone who's drained the cup of full-throated despair to the dregs can tell you, there are instants of quiet desperation that can sear the soul just as surely.
The leading players in this cast are up to those as well. Yes, Jones can bellow out his contempt for the "mendacity" of his kinfolk, but when the full extent of it hits him, he whispers the word in a sound like the death rattle.
Rashad sucks in a mouthful of air when she realizes Big Daddy is closer to his end than she ever thought, as if to save some of the oxygen they've shared together.
Howard's voice when he describes the "click" that alcohol brings to his brain allowing him to get through another evening has the sad familiarity of a demon you meet in a too-familiar dream.
Rose's sudden little-girl pleading using her husband's name reveals to us a cat who is a frightened kitten as well.
These are great parts that great actors have met with courage and the result is thrilling.
As for the whole question of doing a play that Williams wrote for an all-white cast with an all-black one, it seems irrelevant as long as the performers are this inspired.
As a matter of fact, the cadences of Williams's speech ring true here, truer than they usually do in the average production where many of the white cast struggle to wrap their tongues around the Southern dialect.
And the understanding murmurs with which the largely black audience greet the news of Brick's repressed homosexuality remind us that husbands "living on the down low" are still a problem for large segments of the African-American community.
If there's something wrong with Debbie Allen's production, it's that she's encouraged the galaxy of supporting characters to play in a sitcom style that brings things perilously close to the world of The Jeffersons or Good Times.
Brother Gooper and his wife Mae and their "no-neck monsters" are humorous, to be sure, but you shouldn't constantly have the feeling they were all about to holler "Dy-no-mite!" in moments of stress.
Still, you'll probably have to wait a long time to find a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with four such superb performances sharing the stage.
Former Stratford Director Cites Creative Interference As Reason
For Stepping Aside
Excerpt from www.globenandmail.com - Michael Posner
(March 24, 2008) The high backstage drama at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival may have opened a second act.
Refusing to exit silently, Marti Maraden says her resignation as co-artistic director 12 days ago was the result of creative interference and an agenda imposed by general director Antoni Cimolino despite earlier assurances that the unusual triumvirate arrangement that was put in place 21 months ago would work as a partnership.
In an exclusive interview, Ms. Maraden said she was “misled” about the unconventional leadership construct that she, Don Shipley, Des McAnuff and Mr. Cimolino agreed to in 2006.
“It was supposed to be a partnership, a shared leadership, and Antoni would intervene only if it was urgent, and it came not to be that,” Ms. Maraden said. “We were misled as to how we were actually functioning.”
In effect, she said, hers had become an associate's job, without real artistic decision-making authority. “There was no protocol for decision-making, no clearly defined method either written or spoken by which we could all know when a choice of project or artist had a green light,” she wrote in an e-mail Sunday.
Mr. Cimolino announced on March 13 – just weeks before the season's opening – that Ms. Maraden and Mr. Shipley had resigned and that Mr. McAnuff would assume sole artistic director responsibilities. The ensuing controversy, affecting one of Canada's pre-eminent cultural institutions, has engulfed the theatre community.
In a formal statement issued Saturday, Ms. Maraden contradicted the festival's account of how the resignations unfolded and gave fresh details about how the festival's leadership unravelled.
According to her contract, she was to share the “creative responsibilities and authority of an artistic director,” Ms. Maraden wrote in her statement. “Though Antoni clearly held ultimate authority, he repeatedly told us that we three … were to make artistic decisions … while he looked after the festival and sought the means to make our dreams … a reality. However, [his] increasing involvement in artistic decision-making on large and small matters, especially as the 2009 programming began, and … a virtual unilateral imposition of [his] agenda made it impossible for me to continue. … I cannot be an Artistic Director in name only. … Either a leadership is shared or it isn't.”
Mr. Shipley has so far declined to speak publicly, but Ms. Maraden's version of events will doubtless form part of the formal review that Stratford Festival chairman Richard Rooney is scheduled to undertake.
Responding to Ms. Maraden's statement, Mr. Cimolino said Sunday that he intervened only when the tripartite group failed to come to terms. He said the group's consensus model had “worked for a very long time.” But twice since November, no consensus could be reached on a major point. “It was then my role to be the arbiter … to end an impasse for the sake of the festival. That's difficult, but necessary.”
In her statement, Ms. Maraden also contradicted the earlier version of the timing of the resignations. “Impressions have been created … that Don Shipley and I resigned in a sudden and impulsive manner,” she wrote. In fact, she insists that she told Mr. Cimolino on Dec. 3 that she wanted out, citing “the lack of protocol for decision making.”
She cemented her decision to leave on Feb. 15, but wanted to delay formal announcement until late summer, to minimize disruption.
However, she agreed to reconsider if “certain fundamental conditions could be agreed upon.” As late as March 12, the day before the resignations were announced, Mr. Shipley was still proposing talking points aimed at ending the artistic gridlock. “I wasn't optimistic, but agreed it was worth a sincere effort,” she wrote.
Mr. Shipley shared those talking points with Mr. McAnuff on the night of March 11, including a proposal to change how the trio made decisions – from absolute consensus to majority rule.
On March 12, after rehearsal, Ms. Maraden was called to Mr. Cimolino's office and advised that both resignations would be announced the next day, she wrote.
“Antoni told me that settlement papers had already been drawn up. I was very surprised. I certainly wasn't expecting … an immediate announcement. … No precise timing had been discussed.”
In the interview, Ms. Maraden declined to cite specific examples of creative decisions she felt were being usurped, nor details of how Mr. Cimolino's agenda conflicted with her own. Almost certainly, it involved the choice of plays, directors and acting talent for the 2009 season.
Mr. Cimolino said the timing of the resignation announcement was determined by two factors. The first, he said, was a de facto ultimatum from Mr. Shipley saying that a decision had to be made by the end of day, March 12, on whether to change the decision-making protocol. “I had otherwise agreed with Marti that waiting until the end of summer made a lot more sense,” Mr. Cimolino said.
The second factor was a pending New York Times article expected to trumpet the success of the triumvirate's relationship. With no new protocol agreed upon, Mr. Cimolino said he realized “there was simply not enough trust to be able to continue.” The subsequent resignations would prove the Times' salute to harmony as “patently untrue and would be damaging to everyone personally and to the festival as an institution. It all came together, the ultimatum and the Times story. We had to acknowledge where we were at.”
Mr. McAnuff said Sunday that “we all understood there had to be some generosity and we could not demand to have our own way. There were probably less than handful of times where Antoni had to get involved. It was understood from the beginning that he would be involved in artistic decisions, that he was the CEO and we reported to him.”
Mr. McAnuff believes that the failure of Stratford's grand experiment may ultimately have been the result of human chemistry. “We didn't know each other and trust did not build up.”
CFL To Give Green Light To Ottawa
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Rick Matsumoto, Staff Reporter
(March 24, 2008) The Canadian Football League is ready to take its game back to the nation's capital for the third time.
The league will announce Tuesday afternoon at Ottawa's Civic Centre that it has granted a conditional franchise to a group headed by Jeff Hunt, the highly-successful owner of the Ottawa `67s Junior A hockey, and also including a trio of local developers, Roger Greenberg, John Ruddy and William Shenkman.
While there has been some speculation that the team might be operational by the 2010 season, players will not set foot on the turf until the franchise holders and the city of Ottawa reach an agreement on the rebuilding of at least part of Frank Clair Stadium.
The upgrading of the stadium is part of a program aimed at revitalizing the whole of Lansdowne Park on which the stadium sits.
The city decided to launch a program to redevelop the entire park after stress cracks appeared in support columns and horizontal beams in the lower section of the 47-year-old southside stands last September.
The damaged stands are due to come down by late June or early July.
Once the franchise holders and the city reach an agreement on the stadium, the CFL will likely hold a draft to stock the team with players made available by the current eight teams.
Frank Clair Stadium was originally the home of the Ottawa Rough Riders, which was founded in 1876, but folded after the 1996 season after years of poor attendance.
The franchise was reborn in 2002 as the Renegades, but that club also went under prior to the 2006 season.
Hunt sought a franchise last year as part of a group that Golden Gate Capital, but the bid was withdrawn when the head of Golden Gate became ill.
Hunt has become one of the most successful operators of a Junior A hockey franchise in the country with the 67's, who were a struggling club when he took over in 1998.
Toronto Chosen To Host 2009 World Baseball
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - Associated Press
(March 24, 2008) TOKYO–Mexico City, San Juan, Tokyo and Toronto were selected Monday to host first-round games at the second World Baseball Classic in 2009.
The 16-nation tournament will switch from a round-robin to a double-elimination format during the first two rounds. Japan won the inaugural WBC in 2006, defeating Cuba 10-6 in the final at San Diego.
Sites for the later rounds have not been announced. Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles is the leading candidate to host the semifinals and final.
"The 2009 World Baseball Classic will further demonstrate the remarkable global growth of our game," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "There has been incredible demand to host the games of the second World Baseball Classic."
–China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan will play in Group A at the Tokyo Dome from March 5-9.
–Australia, Cuba, Mexico and South Africa will play in Group B at Mexico City's Foro Sol Stadium from March 8-12.
–Canada, Italy, United States and Venezuela will play in Group C at Toronto's Rogers Centre from March 8-12.
–Dominican Republic, Netherlands, Panama and Puerto Rico will play in Group D at San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium from March 7-11.
Unlike 2006, teams that advance from the second round will cross over for the semifinals and face opponents from the other side of the bracket.
GG Arts Award Winners Announced
Excerpt from www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(March 25, 2008) MONTREAL–Inuit artist Kenojuak Ashevak and Quebec filmmaker Serge Giguere are among this year's winners of the Governor General's Awards in visual and media arts. Other winners for artistic achievement are sculptor Michel Goulet, painter Alex Janvier and multidisciplinarian artists Tanya Mars and Eric Metcalfe. Jeweller Chantal Gilbert, who has penetrated the global market as an artistic knifemaker, will get the Saidye Bronfman Award for excellence in the fine crafts. And Shirley Thomson, a former director of the Canada Council for the Arts, is the recipient of the award for outstanding contribution to the arts. The winners were announced at a ceremony in Montreal this morning. They will receive $25,000 and get their awards from Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean at a ceremony in Ottawa on Friday.
Spring Into Swimsuit Shape: 5 Easy Exercises
By Calzadilla B.A., CPT, ACE Raphael, eDiets Contributor
Bikini weather is knocking on the door and you're cringing. You're deathly afraid of trying on some of your spring and summer clothes, aren't you? Welcome to the after effects of the long and grueling winter battle.
Many of you have been sitting around and not really doing much of anything all winter. So how can I expect you to follow my recommendations?
With discipline, that's how.
In recent years, the fitness industry (books, trainers etc.) has adopted a hand-holding philosophy for those who aren't compliant with their diet and exercise program. When a person over eats, the industry gently whispers "it's OK just start again tomorrow." Haven't been working out? "No problem, just start when you can."
You're not going to get this soft approach from me today. You need someone to tell you that things have gone too far. No more sitting around. No more lazy winter days. No more gaining weight. It's over as of this moment.
I'm not suggesting that you need to attain a ridiculously low body fat level. I am suggesting that you can lose considerable fat, improve your health and look absolutely "babelicious" this summer.
Now stop the whining and let's get to work.
There is plenty of time to make changes and reap the rewards that come from a balanced fitness and nutrition program. However, it won't happen over night because the human body can only lose up to two pounds of fat per week without losing muscle. In 18 weeks, you can lose approximately 18-27 pounds of pure body fat. This alone will get you propelling into spring and set you up for a marvelous summer.
The formula for losing fatnever changes: Maintain consistency with one of the many eDiets nutrition programs, weight train to stimulate the metabolism and perform cardiovascular exercise to burn additional calories. Use this strategy and you will get to your goal.
For those who are ready to start burning loads of body fat, you've come to the right place.
I've designed a workout to stimulate all your major muscle groups and to burn a lot of calories. It's great for someone who is pressed for time and/or who has limited equipment. I have not provided direct work for some muscles such as biceps, triceps, calves and abs. However, these smaller muscles will be stimulated with the exercises I've provided.
A1. Dumbbell Squats
Stand up straight with feet· shoulder-width apart.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand with arms hanging· down at your sides and palms facing one another.
Maintain a neutral· spine and a slight bend in the knees throughout the exercise.
Lower your body by bending from your hips and knees stopping when· your thighs are parallel with the floor.
Contracting the quadriceps· muscles, slowly return to the starting position.
· Exhale while returning to the starting position and inhale while lowering your body.
Do not let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able· to see your feet at all times).
It helps to find a marker on the wall· to keep your eye on as you lift and lower, otherwise your head may tend to fall forward and your body will follow.
Think about sitting back in a· chair as you are lowering down.
Push off with your heels as you· return to the starting position.
You may want to try this exercise· without weights until you master the movement. It's a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body, but if done improperly can lead to injuries.
Perform 15 repetitions and immediately go to the next exercise.
A2. Dumbbell Reverse Lat Row
Sit on a bench with your feet close· together.
Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging down at· your sides and palms facing one another.
Bend your upper body so it· is parallel with the floor.
Contracting the mid to· lower back muscles, draw both arms toward your body and turn your wrists so that your palms are facing the ceiling. Keep your elbows tight against the body and stop when your arms are at chest level.
Slowly return to the starting· position.
Exhale while lifting the weight.·
Inhale while returning to the starting position Perform 15· repetitions and immediately go to the next exercise.
A3. The Lunge
Stand· straight with your feet together.
Hold a dumbbell or cans in each· hand with your arms down at your sides.
Step· forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor.
Contracting the quadriceps muscles, push off your right· foot slowly returning to the starting position.
Alternate the motion· with the left leg to complete the set.
Inhale· while stepping forward.
Exhale while returning to the starting· position.
The step should be big enough that your left leg is nearly· straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor.
Make sure your head· is up and your back is straight.
Your chest should be lifted and your· front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement.
Your right knee should not pass your right foot. You should be able· to see your toes at all times.
If you have one leg that is more· dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first.
· Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.
Perform 12 repetitions for each leg and immediately go to the next exercise.
A4. Dumbbell Chest Press
Lie on a flat bench with your spine in a neutral position.·
· Hold a dumbbell in each hand at chest level with your upper arm parallel to the floor and your elbows facing outward.
Contracting· the chest muscles, press both arms upward above the chest until the arms are almost fully extended with a slight bend in the elbows.
Slowly return· to the starting position.
Exhale while lifting· the weights.
Inhale while returning to the starting position.·
Perform 12 repetitions.
After completing the Chest Press, Wait 30 seconds and repeat A1-A4 three additional times (remember to wait 30 seconds after A4 before repeating the sequence). The entire process will take approximately 25 minutes. If you haven't worked out in a very long time or are a beginner, perform A1-A4 a total of two cycles (2 sets).
After completing the above, go to the cardiovascular phase below.
B1. Cardiovascular Exercise
You can perform any type of cardiovascular
exercise such as power walking on the treadmill, the stationary bike,
elliptical trainer etc. However, use a heart rate monitor and after a 5 minute
warm-up, gradually increase your target heart rate to 70 percent to 75 percent
and maintain it for 20 minutes. Then, cool down for 5 minutes.
Perform the above routine (weights and cardio) three alternate days per week. If you're feeling energized, add the cardio component one additional day without the weight-training exercises.
Prepare for some serious perspiration and ultimately a slimmer body -- just in time for bikini season.
As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Excerpt from www.eurweb.com - William Arthur Ward
"The pessimist borrows trouble; the optimist lends encouragement."