April 9, 2009
Happy Passover/Easter! For those that celebrate neither, then Happy Long Weekend! Enjoy hanging with friends and family or just chill and catch your breath. And try to get thoughts of snow out of your head and more thoughts about the warmth of the sun on your face. Maybe nature will follow our lead!
I'm so touched by the outpouring of compassionate emails and calls of support with respect to my recent health issues, including from people I have never even met. It's really been a moving experience for me.
Not to mention that my amazing friends stepped up with their visits, calls, errands ... how did I get so lucky!? Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
OK, so I'll get right to it - Check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!
K’naan To Release ‘Twitter Single’ Assembled From Fans’ Tweets
Source: Universal Music Canada
(April 1, 2009) – Toronto - Somali-Canadian musical trailblazer K’NAAN is about to collaborate with his fans in an unprecedented way –assembling a new version of his song “People Like Me” from their tweets on Twitter. On April 1, K’NAAN will invite his Twitter followers to download the special instrumental version of the song, created specially for this promotion, and submit their own lyrics for the story via his Twitter. All fan tweets tagged with #knaansong will be considered for inclusion in the final song. Deadline for submissions is May 1. Following that, K’NAAN will assemble the best tweets and record the results. The final track will be made available to fans via free download on K’NAAN’s Twitter page at http://twitter.com/thedustyfoot and his official site at http://knaanmusic.com. This will mark the first time Twitter will be officially used for the creation of a song.
K’NAAN’s latest album, Troubadour, was released on Feb 24 and debuted at #1 and #3 on the digital album charts in Canada and the United States , respectively: sure evidence of the electronically-oriented nature of many of his fans. This Twitter song collaboration is a logical extension of the new relationships being forged by artists and their audiences in an increasingly interconnected world.
More information can be found at http://www.amoctone.com/knaan/plmtweet/
Michael J. Fox Is Anything
But Beaten By Parkinson's Disease
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt
(April 04, 2009) NEW YORK — Michael J. Fox isn't quite ready to talk. Shuffling into the front room of his ground-floor office just off Fifth Avenue, he extends a shaky right hand and asks if it would be all right to wait a few minutes more: He popped a pill a little while ago and it hasn't taken effect yet.
It's a pleasant place to pass the time as Fox retreats, this former doctor's office now decorated with auction catalogues and leather chairs and antique furniture in a warm autumnal palette. Up on the wall, above an assistant who never takes her eyes off a computer screen, is a large sign from an old Vermont maple-syrup operation. Photographs of Fox's family are scattered around, snapshots taken on vacation through the years that make him and his wife, Tracy Pollan, and their four adorable children look like principals in a J. Crew ad. Though he and his family live in a spacious co-op upstairs, this office makes for a comfortable, inviting second home. And for Fox, who has devoted much of the last nine years to supporting the search for a cure for Parkinson's disease, there is sometimes little distinction between life and work.
He re-emerges, and though he says he's still feeling a little shaky, he emits a frat-boy brightness: "Why don't we just get started and in a minute the pill will kick in and it'll be a party."
Fox was always good at keeping the dark things light, whether it was dealing with teenage suicide in Family Ties or his character's departure from Spin City. Since announcing nine years ago that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1991, Fox's brand has been that of professional optimist, from the suggestion in his 2002 memoir, Lucky Man, that the disease had made him a better person, to his passionate advocacy that embryonic stem-cell research would find a cure. This week brought the publication of another memoir, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, and an appearance on the couch of that prophet of positivity, Oprah Winfrey.
Here, in his inner office, Fox settles onto a couch, though settle might be the wrong word: His left leg, thrown horizontally across his right knee in what would normally be an expression of relaxation, is see-sawing violently in place, throwing waves of motion rolling up his torso that are so violent the white T-shirt underneath his casual blue dress shirt is creeping upward to reveal his belly.
He ignores the movement and focuses on his words, the one aspect of his communication he can still control.
The drugs help, but artificially manipulating brain chemistry is an inexact science: His days are spent shaking, shimmying, and rocking from side to side. "On the one hand, the loss is my spontaneity, and the loss is my being able to say: 'Yeah, let's go do this' or 'In 10 minutes I'm gonna do that,' " he begins, peering out, wide-eyed, from behind smart rectangular glasses, beneath an FDNY baseball cap. (Lately he's been wearing his Vancouver Canucks hat but just happened to grab this one this morning.) "I don't know where I'm going to be in 10 minutes, I don't know if I can do it. But on the other hand, I can't say, 'In 10 minutes it'll be the same old shit.' I don't know. It makes me present for every moment."
He'd rather focus on the positive aspects of his situation. "I may be different from other people, but someone told me that the growth of happiness is in direct proportion to your acceptance, and in inverse proportion to your expectation," he says. Suddenly, he leans forward, propping himself up on two hands and setting himself back on the chair, an act he will execute a dozen times over the next hour.
"If you can say, 'Yeah, this sucks, this is what it is and this sucks,' then you can move on from there. But if I'm still negotiating what this is, and I can't face what it is, and I say, 'Well, you know, maybe it's not that and maybe it's something else, or maybe it's not fair or maybe it's some kind of cosmic joke' - forget all that! It is what it is, what it is. And we need to look at that. And once it is what it is, it won't expand, it won't mutate from there. It won't become something else.
"So now I can move, now I can operate; I know what it is, I've fixed it in space. And I can see what's around it, and what's around it is all kinds of great stuff."
Fox has a rich life, not just in spite of his illness but because of it, too. Over in one corner is a collection of small-framed snapshots of him during what he calls his "Walter Mitty moments," playing guitar alongside the various classic music acts at the annual Michael J. Fox Foundation galas (Bruce Springsteen, the Who, Elvis Costello). The foundation is the largest single private supporter of Parkinson's research, with $140-million (U.S.) dispersed since its founding in 2000. In September, Fox will attend a conference in Toronto at the McEwan Centre for Regenerative Medicine, marking the foundation's being granted tax-deductible status as a charity in Canada.
But reminders of his condition lurk here in this room as well. The air conditioner is running hard and loud to counter Fox's own natural heat production: All that human jackknifing creates a surplus of kinetic energy. Propped up against the wall is a small, square painting - just black text on a white background - that immortalizes an expression Fox, a former heavy drinker, used as he was trying to quit and accept the Parkinson's diagnosis. It reads: "fuck it and breathe."
And it can be anxiety-provoking to speak with him in person, at least initially. Millennia of evolution have conditioned us to respond to random extreme movement like his roller-coastering lower leg as a sign of distress or incipient violence, and though the only violence is in Fox's misfiring neurons, it takes some effort to relax in his presence. Yet, after beginning Always Looking Up with a vivid description of his torturous morning rituals (choke down pills, force feet into hard shoes to preclude painful cramping, engage in bathroom activities compromised of shakes and shimmies), he writes of looking in the mirror and noticing a fat smile, and declaring: "It just gets better from here."
Lucky Man was a classic redemption story, tracking Fox from his childhood in Burnaby, B.C., through his hard early years in Hollywood, his fast ride to stardom through seven seasons on Family Ties and in Back to the Future and its sequels and other big films, into the depths of self-loathing - the alcoholism, the Parkinson's diagnosis - and then through his realization that there are more important things in life than money and fame. It concluded with hope, with the birth of his fourth child, daughter Esme, only two months after Sept. 11.
Always Looking Up progresses thematically rather than chronologically, built around four pillars of Fox's life: work, politics, faith and family. "I set up questions for myself and tried to answer them, and sometimes there was no answer and I had to be prepared for that," he says.
"I couldn't say, 'Yeah, I went here and I went here and I went there. I climbed the mountain and I saw the wise man and he told me the answer and now I know it and now I'll share it with you.' It was much more of a wandering journey." His words pour out in a torrent. He'd always been a fast thinker, but it's as if the disease or maybe the drugs have opened up a facility that allows him to express himself at the speed of thought. Though after about a half-hour, he removes his glasses, rubs his face wearily and begins to slow down.
A high-school dropout who became a voracious reader (he's just finished Joseph O'Neill's post-Sept. 11 novel Netherland and Aravind Adiga's Man Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger), Fox has a novelist's facility with words. In fact, he has toyed with the notion of writing a novel. First, though, "I need to have some story to tell," he says. For some years, he kicked around the idea of working up a fictional tale based on the sexual-abuse scandal that hit Maple Leaf Gardens in the 1990s. "I was kind of playing with that in my mind, with the idea of someone who became an enforcer at the junior level and then discovered that, once he started to deal with these issues that came up, all of a sudden he could score and was free to be able to play hockey."
In the end, though, he just couldn't go forward. "I just got so depressed. The more I uncovered facts about that, the more I thought: 'This is just so grim.' "
When Hyperion, the publishers of Lucky Man, approached Fox to see if he was interested in writing another book, he reflected on the fact that readers had responded with particular enthusiasm to that memoir's expression of optimism in the face of challenge. He thought about doing a work of reportage on the subject, "looking at the research into serotonin levels, and MRIs of people with positive brains, positive ways of thinking ... a broad way of looking at the idea of optimism. But as I started to research it, I realized there are much better reporters than me." Instead, he began writing about the subject from his own perspective, about "using optimism as a lens to continue to tell my story."
That initial idea was recast in the form of a one-hour TV special about optimism, in which Fox attends the Obama inauguration, talks to people about looking on the bright side of life, and travels to Bhutan to learn about that country's Gross National Happiness Index. The program, which carries the same name as the book's subtitle, will air May 7 on ABC, which is a corporate cousin of Hyperion.
Fox writes in Always Looking Up of getting painted with the crude brush of U.S. political discourse. In the summer of 2006, he was appalled to see George W. Bush exercise the first veto of his presidency to kill a bill that would have permitted funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Vowing it wouldn't happen again, Fox turned his office into the headquarters of a co-ordinated effort that promised to throw its weight behind any candidate in that fall's midterm elections - Democrat or Republican, House member or Senate hopeful - who supported the research. He appeared at rallies, raised funds and filmed commercials for candidates. And then, in mid-October, Rush Limbaugh attacked Fox for an ad made on behalf of a Democratic candidate in which the right-wing radio host said Fox was "exaggerating the effects of the disease." For good measure, Limbaugh even imitated Fox's dyskinisias, rolling from side to side and waving his arms in the air, and added, "It's purely an act."
In short order, Limbaugh had his ass handed to him on a plate, as experts and Parkinson's patients scolded him for his ignorance. And Fox was given the platform of a lengthy interview with Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News in which he kept to the high road, helping to move attention from Limbaugh and himself to open up a broader debate about stem-cell research.
"It almost in a way lightened the moment for me, because I kind of went: 'Oh, is it this predictable, is it this cartoonish, that you have to dehumanize the messenger?' " Fox recalls with a kind of glee. "And then it became this wonderful thing, because there was something karmic about the fact that the conversation got hijacked, and they spent the last two weeks [of the campaign] talking about stem cells, which they didn't really want to talk about. Other than the fact that the subject is so serious to me, and the quest of getting these restrictions lifted was so heartfelt, there was a little bit of a Merry Prankster feeling to it."
In Always Looking Up, Fox writes of sitting in a congressional hearing in 1999 and executing an astonished and hopeful double take when an executive at the National Institutes of Health suggested research could provide a cure for Parkinson's within a decade. Now, almost 10 years later, Fox is more cautious about the prospects. "I would say I'm more clear-eyed about the difficulties of research," he says. "It just doesn't work that quickly. There would have to be a tremendous series of fortunate events to have that straight a track to any kind of breakthrough. But having said that, I'm seeing more and more possibilities now."
And when he talks about his acting career, it is usually in the past tense. Since leaving Spin City in the spring of 2000, he has done occasional gigs on shows run by friends of his - a couple of episodes of Scrubs, a few of Boston Legal - where he knows that if he needs to wait 20 minutes for the meds to kick in before shooting a scene, he can do so. Last summer, his friend Denis Leary called and asked if Fox would do four or five episodes of the New York firehouse drama Rescue Me. As a paraplegic.
"It's literally a nuts thing to do," allows Fox, adding that he has not yet seen the episodes, airing later this month. "When Denis called, I said, I move like crazy, this is counterintuitive at best and insane at worst. But I just thought, this is the equivalent of colour-blind casting. It was audacious enough that I wanted it."
Acting is an odd experience now, since he no longer has all the tools he once did, but it's also sort of freeing for the same reason. "It's nostalgic, in a way." He doesn't miss the day-to-day grind; after doing two successful series, and winning numerous Emmys, he'd achieved more or less all he'd wanted with prime-time TV, anyway. But he still has the need for creative expression.
"I can't even say what it is I do, but I love doing it," he says. "I'm just kind of an observer. Whether it's writing a book or travelling or doing this documentary. Because of Parkinson's, I can't do anything on a regular, consistent level. There's no such thing as an average day for me. So that creates a situation where I don't get stuck in a rut." He smiles. "I can't sit in a rut. I'll bounce out of a rut."
An excerpt from Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox ran on page R5 on April 4, 2009. It is not available online for copyright reasons.
Jazzed Up For Fest
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(April 06, 2009) Mindful of the impact of a floundering economy on consumers' entertainment dollars, organizers of the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival are announcing the lineup of their 23rd edition today, about two weeks earlier than normal.
"We need a longer lead time to sell tickets," said executive producer Pat Taylor of the live broadcast from JAZZ.FM91's Liberty Village headquarters at 2 p.m.
While today's news conference will reveal headliners such as legendary crooner Tony Bennett, Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés and at least one member of New Orleans' pre-eminently musical Marsalis family, the schedule will be finalized with opening acts, club listings and perhaps another big name or two before the program is printed early next month.
That's why Taylor was checking out Harlem late last week.
"Nice room," said the veteran impresario as he sipped a Red Stripe beer and perused the two-year-old Church and Adelaide Sts. eatery from his perch at a table inside the front window.
He introduced himself to the owner, Carl Cassell, and chef Anthony Mair and asked about the live music they had booked during the jazz festival's June 26-July 5 dates.
Unsurprisingly, Cassell and Mair eagerly agreed to add shows to fill out the 10 days and have them all marketed as part of the festival. But what's in it for Taylor?
"If I can spread the word of jazz, it gets more jazz musicians out and working," he explained. The festival only produces about a third of the 350 shows that fall under its umbrella, primarily those at larger venues, such as Nathan Phillips Square, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Harbourfront Centre and the Old Mill Inn.
The remainder are arranged by the principals of joints like The Rex, Gate 403 and, now, Harlem.
"This is also an opportunity for me to get a feel for the space," added Taylor as he examined the restaurant's second-floor Renaissance Room stage.
"If it's working well, maybe we'll bring shows here in the future. These guys feel real rhythm, they probably do a lot of funk and R&B here, and we're doing a lot more of that now."
Younger. Edgier. Funkier.
Those are the words Taylor kept returning to in discussions of this year's offerings, which include acts like old school faves Kool & the Gang, soulful Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings and British upstart Jamie Cullum, who will be playing a "grand piano with a crappy lid, because he likes to dance on top."
Taylor, who is proud that the festival has brought the average age of its attendees from 57 to 38 in the last decade, plans to be twittering backstage updates this year in an effort to inveigle even younger, hipper music lovers.
But there'll be plenty on tap for the 60-plus crowd, he noted, including Bennett, 82, sax dean Sonny Rollins, 78, and 88-year-old piano master Dave Brubeck, who has a standing invitation to the festival.
That older demographic, mainstays at Nathan Phillips Square's free noon shows, may be miffed to learn they won't be able to purchase alcohol until 5 p.m. The festival's one concession to the recession is eliminating daytime paid-duty officers for a $7,500 savings. They can't serve liquor without a police presence.
"The sales don't justify the cost," Taylor explained.
Though the fest is holding the line on ticket prices ($5-$95) and has recommitted all sponsors from last year – plus two new ones – Taylor said they're not out of the woods.
To date, the annual event, which claims a $21 million economic spinoff based on attendance of 500,000, has only received 10 per cent of the $300,000 it usually gets from all three levels of government combined: a $32,000 Ontario Arts Council grant (it requested $50,000).
"It's never been this late," said Taylor of the vital 3 per cent of the festival's budget, which they applied for, as usual, a year ago. "They know we go public (today). We will accredit and thank them and pray they come to the table."
And if they don't? "I'll raise hell. I don't know what we'd do. We have contracts with the artists, so we can't cancel. We'd go bankrupt."
What Rap Needs: More Phil Collins
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler
(April 08, 2009) Pale-skinned rapper Luke Boyd just released his major-label debut, a video for the single Anybody Listening is in rotation on national music television, and he's set for an extensive Canadian tour that kicks off April 23 in Vancouver. But in a genre known for braggadocio, the humble hip hopper out of Enfield, N.S., puts his baggy pants on one leg at a time like anybody else.
In town earlier this week, the likable 31-year-old who calls himself Classified shared the straight dope on dope smoking, rappers rapping about rapping, and explained Self Explanatory , his new album that allows listeners to choose story lines.
You've released 12 albums, but Self Explanatory is your first on a major label. How has that changed things?
Business wise, it's night and day. Musically, I made the album the same way as I always have, in my own studio, on my own terms and my own time.
The single Anybody Listening samples No Reply at All by Genesis. Are you a fan?
I've always been a fan of Phil Collins's music. I don't even think it's about that, though. We took the sample, we cut it up a little, but I think there's so much more to the track than just the Phil Collins stuff. It's a catchy little hook in the back — I get that. But now let me say something with my song.
You're talking about making rap music, and how therapeutic the process is. Does it matter if anybody's listening?
I'm definitely doing it for myself. But at the same time, I don't know how much I'd do it if I didn't think anybody was paying attention. I've thought about this. If I quit music, would I still do music? I might. But would I spend hours editing, making sure everything was right? All that extra stuff is the stuff that means I want people to hear this exactly how I picture it in my head.
You rap about rapping. Isn't that a tired concept at this point?
I think it's retarded. And I do it! I think there's a place for it, though. I think if you have a good balance of stories, and say something important, then you have the right to say, "Yeah, my shit's better than yours." As immature as it sounds, that's where hip hop came from — that competitiveness.
Guessing by some of the lyrics, you're fond of pot, right?
It's my downfall [laughs]. I don't drink that much, I don't do hard drugs or anything like that. But now I'm starting to realize that I can do this better when I'm not high. I like making beats when I'm smoking — it's very laid back. But when I'm writing, I like to have a clear mind. So, I'm trying to slow down on the weed thing.
The album has multiple narratives, where listeners can choose which mood or story line to follow. How did that idea come about?
It just popped into my head, like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, back in the day. I used to read them all the time. I thought it would be cool to let the listener go through it, with a six-song side story. If they want to go to a club, they can go to track 17. If they want to go bike riding, they can go to track 7.
Sounds like your own adventure is turning out okay.
I'm happy with where I'm at right now. I just had a baby six months ago and I have a wife who supports me in what I'm doing. I've been working at this for years, and now it seems that things are really starting to take off.
Any love from Phil Collins?
He hasn't called me yet. I'm waiting, and hopeful. But so far, no reply from Phil at all.
Failed Him, But Seal Brought The Soul Party
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(April 06, 2009) You'd think that Seal would be a little more Zen.
The last time the Star spoke with the British-born singer/songwriter circa 2003's Seal IV, the charismatic performer was lamenting bachelorhood, but infused with a "build it and she will come" outlook.
Less than six months later he was linked to pregnant-for-somebody-else supermodel Heidi Klum. Now the couple is apparently happily married with three kids.
So where was all that patience and faith when he kicked off his Massey Hall concert Saturday night?
Just two songs in, the 46-year-old entertainer was urging people out of their seats to dance, clap and sing along.
A few eager-to-please fans indulged half-heartedly.
At that point, despite opening act singer-pianist Peter Cincotti's admirable, thunderous set, the crowd was content to just take in the three-time Grammy winner, who was nattily dressed in a two-tone, grey three-piece suit, as well as the stark video images and strobe lights accompanying him on "Killer" and "Human Beings."
But forgive Seal the nervousness he copped to while directing audience members forward to sit in a couple of empty front-row seats in the otherwise filled theatre.
He's only a few dates into this tour, which began in Minneapolis on Tuesday, hence the later botched opening of "Kiss From a Rose" (after boasting that he wouldn't need audience participation, because he's been performing the self-penned hit "my whole life") and his referral to the set list taped to centre stage after each tune.
The party came together when he doffed the jacket, rolled up his shirt sleeves and launched into James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," followed by Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand The Rain," from his sixth current disc, Soul.
The songs triggered a spontaneous sing-along dance fest that continued for the rest of the two-hour set with Seal executing his own jerky poses and choo-choo shuffle.
Soul, which has turned out to be his most successful since 1994's Seal, is comprised of covers of '60s and '70s classics that his weathered voice is well-suited for – despite being hampered by pitch problems during this show. With a solid mid-career repertoire of rock, dance and soul, and seductive stage presence, Seal can rest easy – wifey isn't the only one with a career that has legs.
High-Altitude Island Of Saba Maintains A Low Profile
Source: Melanie Reffes, www.travelweekly.com
Saba has 1,500 residents, four towns, one road, 10 cab drivers and no traffic lights. To call Saba a quiet island is an understatement. Just a 12-minute, 28-mile flight west of St. Maarten, the statuesque rock jutting from the sea has, so far, gone unnoticed by mass tourism.
Named for the Arawak word siba, which means rock, Saba (pronounced SAY-bah) is a 5- square-mile, dormant volcano poking 2,855 feet above sea level. With ocean depths of more than 1,000 feet within half a mile from shore, Saba is a top diving destination.
Movie fans might recognize Saba as Skull Island in the original “King Kong” movie from 1933. Aviation aficionados know it for the world’s shortest commercial runway, measuring 1,300 feet in length.
Saba has no traffic lights, three jail cells for those who may have had a few too many Heinekens (called Dutch tea in Saban slang), one gas station, one road (named the Road), four towns, four street sweepers, 10 cab drivers, 10 churches and a mountain aptly called Mount Scenery.
Saba did get WiFi access islandwide in January but is without many of the standard-issue amenities of other Caribbean islands, such as megaresorts, casinos and beaches. (There is one strand of gray volcanic sand that appears from spring until early winter and then disappears with the tide.)
But the island is more about what it does have: eco-perfection, fine dining and locals so friendly you’ll think you’ve met them before. On this “mountain that meets the sea” are four villages: Bottom, Windwardside, St. Johns and Hell’s Gate. Mandated by law, gingerbread- style houses are painted white with red, sloping roofs and green shutters. If not painted to these specifications, the government will repaint or issue a fine.
The Road was built in 1943, the first car arrived in 1947 and the first plane landed in 1959.
“People want to come here, they just don’t end up here,” Saban- born Glenn Holm, the director of tourism, said from the tourist office in Windwardside.
“I never lock my house or my car. If you stole a car, where would you take it?” he asked as he described safety on Saba, adding that hotels rarely give out room keys.
With a population of 1,500, Saba welcomes 24,000 stayover and day-trip visitors each year.
The rainy months of April and May produce mountain breezes brisk enough that air conditioning is rarely needed.
Cautious on construction
With 150 hotel rooms on the island, “the government is cautious about allowing new hotels to be built,” Holm said. “We do not want too much growth, or the island will lose its appeal.”
Queen’s Gardens Resort, the one four-star hotel, is distinctive, with rectangular towers that rise out of the rain forest 1,200 feet above the sea. Its 12 suites, 10 with Jacuzzis, are the most luxurious on Saba. The property has the largest rainwater-filled swimming pool on the island — and also the only bathtub.
Nightly rates start at $220, double, with a 20% agent commission.
“Weddings are big business,” said manager Claire Nuyens. “Saba law requires that six people with Dutch passports be present at the ceremony. Lucky for us, six Dutch citizens are on staff and will happily stand in as witnesses.”
On the edge of a ridge with 10 cottages and a sun deck by the pool, Cottage Club is the only Saban-owned hotel on the island. “We had 400 more guests in 2008 than the year before,” said manager Aaron Soares. “I guess the economic crash hasn’t touched down in Saba yet.”
Rates start at $118 per night, per cottage, and dip to $105 in low season with a 20% agent commission.
For nature buffs, Ecolodge Rendez-Vous is a collection of 12 solar-powered cottages scattered at the edge of the rain forest. Plunge pools hidden among papaya trees appeal to the sunbathing crowd, while the Rainforest restaurant is tops with gourmands who appreciate homemade ice cream in tropical flavours.
For those needing a good night’s sleep before a day of diving, the German-owned, three-star Scout’s Place Hotel & Dive Center is close to the shops in Windwardside. The 14 rooms, all with sea views and Internet access, are simple and clean. Single room rates start at $79 with breakfast.
Willard’s of Saba, the only hotel on the island with a tennis court and the highest property at 2,000 feet, continues the family tradition of the landmark Willard Hotel in Washington. With seven suites and a solar heated swimming pool, the hotel caters to discerning travelers with money. Gourmet dining in the restaurant is popular with locals, and Wine & Wow Night draws an eclectic crowd at sunset. Cliffside suites start at $250 nightly.
For a small island, there are a surprising number of fine eateries. Gate House Cafe, part of the elegant Gate House hotel with a villa nestled among cashew and orange groves, marries French flavours with Caribbean flair and boasts the most extensive wine list on the island.
At the Swinging Doors, opposite the Big Rock Market, chef Eddie Hassell’s Sunday night “Cook Your Own Damn Steak” is a big hit with hungry Sabans who barbecue their own dinner while Hassell serves his signature side dishes and endless tales of his days as a U.S. Marine.
Things to do
There are 1,064 steps up to the summit of Mount Scenery; a sign at the base suggests it takes 90 minutes to climb to the top. At the summit is a misty rain forest called Elfin Forest where, if the skies are clear, views of five neighbouring islands are spectacular. Trails through Saba National Park are well marked.
At the island’s only spa, Saba Day Spa, hikers and divers are grateful for a treatment trifecta in the Ultimate Bliss Rejuvenation package: three hours of scrubbing, wrapping and massaging for $210.
Recreational diving started in the early 1980s by scuba enthusiasts from the U.S. and today is a major part of the tourism product. Saba has 30 dive sites within its Marine Park, reachable via a short boat ride. Winair has several flights daily to the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport on Saba. Ferry service is available from St. Maarten on the Dawn II and the Edge three times a week. Visit www.sabatourism.com.
Apple Changes Price Structure For iTunes
Source: www.thestar.com - Jessica Mintz, The Associated Press
(April 07, 2009) SEATTLE–The era of one-price-fits-all-songs on iTunes came to an end Tuesday as Apple Inc., the Internet's dominant digital music retailer, began selling some of its most-downloaded songs for $1.29 (U.S.) apiece.
Apple said in January that it would end its practice of selling all individual songs for 99 cents each and begin offering three tiers: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29.
Recording companies pick the prices, much as they did for CDs sold in stores and online. On day one, songs including "Jai Ho'' from the "Slumdog Millionaire" soundtrack, "Single Ladies" by Beyonce and "Chicken Fried" by the Zac Brown Band were bumped up to $1.29. The main iTunes page advertised collections of 69-cent songs that included "London Calling" by The Clash and "Monkey'' by George Michael.
Other songs from the same albums and artists remained at 99 cents.
Apple also did away with copy-protection technology known as digital-rights management, or DRM, allowing customers to play more songs on devices other than Apple's own iPods.
Without DRM, the songs can be copied to any number of CDs, computers and music players, as long as those devices support the AAC encoding format Apple uses.
AAC, like the more widely used MP3 format, is a method of compressing large audio files while trying to preserve sound quality. Besides iPods, several media players can play back unprotected AAC files purchased on iTunes, including Microsoft Corp.'s Zune and certain models from SanDisk Corp. and Creative Technology Ltd.
Susan Kevorkian, an analyst for the technology research group IDC, said music retailers have historically set higher prices for hit songs and lowered prices to stimulate interest in new artists and reinvigorate sales of older albums.
"ITunes was very much a market maker for digital music services," Kevorkian said. "It made sense for Apple and other retailers to charge 99 cents a song, $9.99 an album. It was a new way of buying music for many consumers, and the less complexity and the better perceived value, the better for all involved – Apple and the music labels.''
As people got used to buying music online, Apple had trouble arguing that it was simplest if all songs were 99 cents; when it became clear DRM was on its way out, Apple let go of control over pricing in order to keep its service in line with competitors like Amazon.com Inc.
Shoppers looking for the lowest price have several iTunes alternatives, including Amazon, which sells songs for 79 and 89 cents and most albums for $5.99 to $9.99, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sets prices at 64 cents, 94 cents and $1.24.
While music labels pushed for this ability to vary pricing, it isn't clear music shoppers are swayed by a difference of a few cents if it means having to change their iPod/iTunes habit in any way. Apple continued to outsell Amazon for more than a year after the Web retailer launched its MP3 store, even though the music could be transferred automatically to iTunes after a simple software download.
Shares of Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple fell $3.45, or 2.9 percent, to close Tuesday at $115 amid a broader market sell-off.
Releases New Itunes EP
Source: EMI Music, Melissa Victor, Simone Smalls PR, Inc.; Simone Smalls / Myisha Brooks
(April 08, 2009) *NEW YORK - "Sailing," the new single from platinum-selling Capitol singer-songwriter AVANT, is now an iTunes exclusive EP as of yesterday, April 7.
The artist has been on tour since late January in Je'Caryous Johnson's popular stage play Love Overboard, co-starring with KeKe Wyatt, Carl Payne, Karen Malina White and Khalil Kain, and playing remaining runs in California, Texas and Oklahoma through early May.
"Sailing," AVANT's new-style re-invention of the Christopher Cross ballad standard, is already a national Top 20 hit on adult-targeted Urban AC radio, and was the No. 1 most-added song in the format at its release to radio earlier in March.
It joins AVANT's long-lived previous single in the Billboard Urban AC airplay Top 20, where "When It Hurts" is currently No. 7 after 28 weeks on the chart, peaking at No. 3.
For the iTunes EP, the album version of "Sailing" is combined with three tracks previously unreleased to the domestic market: "Yes," "You Are More" and "Provocative."
The self-titled album's kick-off single "When It Hurts" also remains on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in the Top 40, after an eight-month chart run, peaking at No. 15. At the turn of the year, a viral video for the album track "Break Ya Back" also created major internet buzz around the album.
The Capitol album AVANT debuted at No. 6 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at its December, 2008 release, and entered in the top 30 in Billboard's Top 200 national album chart. It is AVANT's fifth album, and his first for Capitol Records. Album track collaborators on AVANT include such innovators and hitmakers as Trackmasters (LL Cool J, Nas), The Architects (Missy Elliott), Anonymous Entertainment's Eric Dawkins and Tony Dixon, and DJ Smurf aka Collipark (Soulja Boy).
Avant has one RIAA Platinum album certification for My Thoughts and two additional Gold album awards for Ecstasy and Private Room. His Top 10 R&B/Hip-Hop hits include the No. 1 "Separated," the No. 4 smash revival of Rene & Angela's Quiet Storm classic "My First Love" with Ketara "Keke" Wyatt, and the No. 3 "Read Your Mind," with Snoop Dogg. He has appeared as an actor in the stage play Love in the Nick of Tyme and in the hit film comedy First Sunday, alongside Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan and Katt Williams.
For bio, photos and other press materials on AVANT, please visit www.emimusicpublicity.net.
Adam Lambert Gets Rare Standing Ovation From Idol Judge
Source: www.thestar.com - Erin Carlson, The Associated Press
(April 08, 2009) NEW YORK – Lil Rounds continued her streak of disappointment on "American Idol.''
The 24-year-old Memphis mom's eyes welled with tears as judge Simon Cowell derided her performance of "What's Love Got To Do With It" Tuesday night as a "second- or third-rate version of Tina Turner."
"I have no idea who you are," Cowell told Rounds. "You're not making the impact you should be making on the show. ... You've got to start becoming more original."
She has lost momentum in recent weeks, while Adam Lambert has emerged a serious front-runner on the popular Fox network competition.
The 27-year-old actor from Los Angeles received a standing ovation from none other than Cowell following his rendition of "Mad World" by Tears for Fears.
The theme on this week's performance show was songs from the year the contestants were born. All of them – except for 16-year-old Allison Iraheta – were born in the 1980s.
Cowell and his fellow judges loved Matt Giraud's slick take on the Stevie Wonder hit "Part-Time Lover." Giraud is a piano player from Kalamazoo, Mich.
They also gave Danny Gokey high marks for his cover of Mickey Gilley's version of "Stand By Me." They praised Anoop Desai's performance of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors," although Cowell deemed the North Carolina college student a "singing yo-yo" for his erratic work.
And for the second week in a row, Cowell criticized Iraheta for something other than her singing. Last week, he picked on her outfit; this week, he advised the 16-year-old rocker to "start being talkative and likable. Because I still don't know much about you."
Iraheta, who has an easy laugh and can do an uncanny impression of Gokey, performed Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me.'' Judge Randy Jackson compared her to original "Idol" Kelly Clarkson, declaring: "She could sing her face off and so can you!"
Cowell suggested Scott MacIntyre go back to what he does best – playing the piano – after the 23-year-old from Scottsdale, Ariz., tried his hand at the electric guitar.
"It's my punk side coming out," MacIntyre joked.
Kris Allen generally gets good reviews, but the judges' panel mostly soured to the heartthrob's cover of "All She Wants To Do Is Dance." Cowell used some of his favourite words – "indulgent, boring, forgettable" – to describe it, causing audience members to shout their support of Allen: "You're hot!!!"
Responded Cowell: "So am I, but it's not about that."
One of the eight remaining finalists will get the boot on Wednesday night's results show. In a new rule this season, judges can save a contestant they feel has been wrongly eliminated by voting viewers.
(April 02, 2009) *If change is truly good, then “Metamorphosis” must be great. Singer Maysa is here to show and prove that that is indeed the case.
The soulful songbird has released her latest smooth jazz-funk-soul disc called “Metamorphosis” as well as begun a personal metamorphosis herself.
The Baltimore native has paid her dues as a member of touring and recording groups through the ‘90s including Stevie Wonder’s female backup group Wonderlove and the British jazz-funk group Incognito. She went solo in 1995 and consistently put out six acclaimed (original) albums and has done her share of 'guesting' on dozens of albums for some legendary artists, groups, and producers.
“My uncle turned me on to jazz music one day when he told me to turn on PBS to see Al Jarreau because he was scatting,” Maysa said of her inspired beginnings. “That was it. I was like, ‘I have to do this.’ My mom took me to see Melba Moore when I was six. As soon as Melba Moore opened her mouth, in the play ‘Purlie’, I was like, ‘I don’t think there is anything else I want to do. I remember my heart feeling too big for my chest and being extremely excited about what she was doing. And knowing at the point, as six years old, that that was what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”
Knowing her calling at such an early age, it’s quite interesting to find that even fans don’t know what to call or categorize her music as. While Maysa gladly accepts the ‘Are you soul or are you jazz' question, she really sees herself as more of a jazz-funk singer.
“It’s all the same to me,” she said. “Whatever comes from your spirit to me is soul music.”
Maysa has been compared to a number of soul-jazz songbirds including Anita Baker, Sade, and Phyllis Hyman, and she told EUR’s Lee Bailey that upon those comparisons, though flattered, she became determined to create a name for herself and find her own sound. She explained that the combination of her degree in classical performance, her opera training, her experiences, and her size; she found her voice.
According to Maysa and her education, a singer’s body has a lot to do with their sound, referencing how some people could hear a difference in the late Luther Vandross’ voice after he lost weight.
“Your voice resonates from your body cavity,” she explained, and continued that that fact was a crutch of sorts in her weight loss attempts. But now, “Metamorphosis” refers to more than just her new album. The singer is making body changes herself.
“I’m really on my metamorphosis now, though. It really shouldn’t matter in this day and age, but the world is the world,” she said.
“I have a beautiful life,” she continued. “I have a wonderful family and I have a beautiful career. It’s been hard on me in some instances. In some instances, I haven’t had the right publicity and marketing during the last 18 years. I think if I had done that, I would have been a more widely known person as a singer. But I am blessed with a very large core of people that support my music. All I ask is to go to the next level that will make people think of me and further my career and help me become more financially stable.”
Maysa is confident with her new label, Shanachie, that she’s able to take her future into her hands and share her vision with music fans.
“They show me a lot of respect and they respect my choices musically and they respect me period,” she said of the record company, “and I think that’s why we work so well together.”
“I did a classic soul album with them and they came to me and asked if I wanted to do another record with them. I said, ‘It wouldn’t be another covers record.’ For my people, I need to put out my music again. It was fun doing the covers and I’m really honoured that I was able do that, but it’s time for me to express myself again as a songwriter and a producer.”
Maysa also works well with producers Rex Rideout and Chris Davis.
“We work like brothers and sister,” she said of putting the album together. “Pure magic happens. When you have people that are of like mind and spirit, it’s easier to do. I work with people that don’t have egos. I’m not a diva and these guys are nice and considerate. I tend to gravitate to people like that.”
Fans can gravitate to Maysa via her website at www.maysa.com.
“See the changes I’m making; the metamorphosis,” she proudly said.
Diana Krall On Brazil, Safety And Chainsaws
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(April 05, 2009) When Diana Krall breezed through town last week to promote her new album, Quiet Nights, an aptly titled collection of bossa novas and ballads, the jazz pianist-singer didn't shy away from the disc's mixed reviews. The 44-year-old Nanaimo native, who is also in the midst of sequencing the forthcoming Barbra Streisand disc she produced, returns April 30 for a two-night stand at Massey Hall with her quartet, 45-piece orchestra and career-spanning setlist. The Star chatted briefly with the fit and fabulously coiffed mom of toddler twins at a downtown hotel suite.
Why the Brazilian overtones on this record?
I wanted to work with (German arranger) Claus Ogerman again, because working on The Look of Love (2001) was a great experience. He did the Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim album, he worked with Joao Gilberto and all my favourite artists, like Bill Evans. I wanted to do another orchestra record and it just made sense to start with "Quiet Nights," which I did when I was playing songs for Claus and (co-producer) Tommy LiPuma and the album just kind of wrote itself.
Do you think the suggestion by some critics that you played it safe with this album – in approach, choice of arranger, perhaps – is fair?
Everything I do has some kind of comment. With The Look of Love it was all about the picture. Then The Girl in the Other Room (2004) it was `Why aren't you doing what we love you to do?' And then the big band (2006's From This Moment On), la la la ..... There are very few legends to work with and Claus Ogerman is one them. There's a strength for me to interpret standards and bossa novas; it's something I really love to do. I'm not saying it's easy, or safe, but what's not safe? I guess writing your own compositions again and maybe incorporating a chainsaw in your band. (Preposterous laughter) We live in this sort of pop-idol world, where you're expected to do all these vocal gymnastics. I was listening to lot of Joao, he sings very quietly, that's probably why the album came out the way it did. I hope people like it. I think it's beautiful and it certainly wasn't easy to make it sound that way.
How much of the upcoming show will be from Quiet Nights?
I'm at the point in my career where I'm lucky enough to go `Okay, I'm going to do a Joni (Mitchell) tune, solo piano, then play with the quartet, then something from When I Look in Your Eyes (1998) or The Look of Love and just mix it all up. I want to do what Frank Sinatra did, where he just comes out and sings what he wants to sing. It's not a retrospective, though, and there will be quite a few tunes from the new album.
With young children now, have you had to temper your touring schedule?
Not all at. We're full on from April 15 until we finish in Moscow in December. They started touring with me at six months old. But you have to plan ahead to make sure the tour bus and everything is safe and that there are nearby parks and museums and things to do in the day. My bandmembers are like `Oh, I'm going to take a nap before soundcheck.' My napping days are over ..... You just do the best you can and make adjustments.
Carrie Underwood Wins Top Country Award
Source: www.thestar.com - John Gerome, The Associated Press
(April 06, 2009) LAS VEGAS – The women of country have taken the wheel.
Carrie Underwood captured entertainer of the year Sunday night at the Academy of Country Music Awards, winning the top honour that has eluded women for nearly a decade, while Taylor Swift won album of the year and Julianne Hough snagged top new artist.
Country music's boys' club was adjourned for the year when Underwood broke Kenny Chesney's four-year win streak and became the first woman to hold the title since the Dixie Chicks in 2000. The significance wasn't lost on the 26-year-old superstar.
"I accepted that award on behalf of myself and my fans, but also on behalf of other women who came before me that kicked butt but never got the recognition they deserved," Underwood said. "I can't wait (for) the day, which I hope is in the very near future, where having females in the category is no big deal whatsoever."
In 39 years of recognizing a top entertainer, the academy has granted the honour to a woman seven times, including Underwood. The others were Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks. Each won once.
Chesney, who missed the chance to tie Alabama for most entertainer of the year awards, kissed Underwood as she walked up to accept the honour.
"He told me he was proud of me," said Underwood, who's enjoyed astounding success since winning American Idol in 2005 with eight No. 1 country hits including the signature single, "Jesus Take the Wheel."
Swift, another woman dominating not only country music but the entire industry, won album of the year for her sophomore disc Fearless. Both of Swift's albums have topped the 3 million mark – a rare feat today. She's connected with fans both young and old for her intensely personal songs, which she writes usually on her own or with a co-writer.
Backstage, Swift told a reporter that she "obsessed" over making Fearless.
"I laboured over this album for two years," she said. "The fact that you can write songs in your bedroom about your feelings and boys and can win album of the year at the ACMs. I just didn't think that was possible."
Swift, who had four nominations going into Sunday's show, also got a special honour as McEntire presented her with an ACM Crystal Milestone Award for bringing so many young people to country music.
A tearful Hough, who added country singer to her Dancing with the Stars credentials, thanked "everybody that has followed me from the beginning and believed in me." She bested Jake Owen and the Zac Brown Band for the honour.
Other winners included Jamey Johnson, Sugarland, Trace Adkins and Brad Paisley, but the evening's most memorable moments came during the performances.
Adkins performed "'Til the Last Shot's Fired," a sombre salute to U.S. troops, with the West Point Glee Club in honour of servicemen and women. The performance was introduced by Lt. Andrew Kinard, who had been wounded. He told the crowd, "As you listen to this song, please consider that it's not about the war, it's about the warrior.''
John Rich's angry anthem "Shuttin' Detroit Down" also stirred the crowd.
"I'd like to dedicate this song tonight to all the hard-working, taxpaying Americans from coast to coast who love this country as much as I do," Rich said while holding a guitar tagged with a "Made in the U.S.A." sticker.
"We wrote this song specifically for you," he said before launching into his searing song that feeds into taxpayer resentment about the bailouts on Wall Street.
Other performances included teen sensation Miley Cyrus, dancing atop a high staircase on stage; Heidi Newfield singing "Johnny and June," inspired by the late Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, around an appropriate ring of fire; and Underwood in a burgundy dress so overwhelming that it took up most of the stage.
"Can I borrow that?" host Reba McEntire quipped afterward.
Newcomer Johnson beat out veterans like George Strait and Paisley in nabbing the night's first honour, song of the year for his poignant hit about an old man looking back on his life, "In Color.''
"Thanks to my band for going in on an off day and producing an off record," Johnson quipped in a brief acceptance speech.
Adkins won single of the year for his heartfelt hit "You're Gonna Miss This." The deep-voiced singer said the song, about how people want to grow up and move on with life when they should slow down and enjoy the moment more, was very personal to him, but he didn't think others would relate to it. When his label said they were going to release it as a single, he said, "Go ahead. Nobody's going play it."
"I'm glad I'm an idiot," Adkins cracked. "Thank you very much."
Sugarland broke Brooks & Dunn's lock on the vocal duo award, and lead singer Jennifer Nettles received an ACM Crystal Milestone Award for her songwriting.
Strait and Paisley led all nominees with six. Paisley was linked up by video from Nashville, where his wife Kimberly Williams-Paisley is expecting their second child, and accepted the trophy for male vocalist of the year from there.
"I wish I could be there but I didn't want to take the chance of missing the birth of our next child. I hope you understand,'' said Paisley, who also won video of the year for "Waitin' on a Woman" and vocal event of the year for "Start a Band," his guitar-slinging duet with Keith Urban.
Jamie Foxx introduced Strait's performance of "Troubadour," and joked that the country scene was getting more diverse.
"Things are changing," Foxx said, mentioning his repeat appearance at the ACMs and Darius Rucker's success on the country charts. "(An) African-American singing country. Things are changing. Got a black man running the country. Things are changing. ... I mean what's next, white people going to Tyler Perry movies?"
The show aired live from the MGM Grand on CBS.
Veteran Acts Harmonizing With Big Chain Stores
Source: www.thestar.com - Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Associated Press
(April 02, 2009) NEW YORK — Over the past few decades, a veteran music act's best shot at platinum magic usually consisted of pairing up with younger hitmakers (à la Santana) or covering treasured classics (like Rod Stewart). These days, another kind of vehicle has become a path to bestselling success - teaming up with box-store chains.
Garth Brooks started the trend in earnest in 2005 with an exclusive Wal-Mart deal, and the Eagles and AC/DC had multiplatinum-plus success over the past two years by exclusively selling new CDs at Wal-Mart.
Guns 'N Roses sold about a million copies with a special Best Buy deal. And last week, Prince entered the box-store-chain market with a Target deal, selling a three-disc set for the low price of $11.98, mirroring a similar (and successful) venture Journey did with Wal-Mart in 2007.
Though these deals represent only a small fraction of music releases, their impact has been seismic for a struggling industry still figuring out the best way to sell albums amid ever-dwindling sales and profits.
"It's going to be the only way to put records out," said Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, who said he would be interested in making a similar deal for his band. "Look what AC/DC just achieved, it's phenomenal what they did, and if there is a blueprint to keep your eye on, it would be the way that Journey's album and the Eagles and AC/DC has done."
While veteran acts have defined box-store exclusives, younger acts -and genres outside rock and country - have largely been absent from the scene.
Stars such as John Legend and Christina Aguilera have made special CDs for Target, and Beyoncé gave Wal-Mart the three-month exclusive on her B'Day DVD, but those projects were largely CDs with previously released material - not a brand-new album for exclusive content.
Greg Hall, Wal-Mart's vice-president for merchandising in entertainment, said the chain is not opposed to working with newer acts or projects that are geared toward young people - in fact, it just had the DVD exclusive for the movie Twilight.
But such projects have to fit with the most important demographic for Wal-Mart - its consumer base. Hall said the first question asked is, "Where is there a fit with our brand, the Wal-Mart brand, and our customer?"
Given Wal-Mart's standards on profanity (it sells cleaned-up versions of graphic CDs) and its family-friendly image, it's hard to imagine the chain linking with, say, Lil Wayne for his next CD.
Plus, acts such as Lil Wayne and the ever-wholesome Taylor Swift get played regularly on the radio and can sell millions without confining their music to one retail outlet. Veteran acts usually see their catalogue played only on the radio, on oldies stations.
"The artists that you see having success are those who have a huge fan base but face challenges at commercial radio," said Michael McDonald, who manages acts including John Mayer and Ray LaMontagne. "Exposure at the mass merchants, if not a substitute, is certainly the next best thing."
A 2007 survey by the Recording Industry Association of America shows that people over 45 years old make up the largest demographic of music buyers, at about 25 per cent - just the kind of baby-boomer fans who would be attracted to a release from, say, Prince or the Eagles.
Dolly Parton, who recently released an exclusive edition of her CD Backwoods Barbie with three additional tracks at the restaurant chain Cracker Barrel, said it's often harder for older artists to get the kind of attention they need, so chain-store deals are more appealing.
"These types of deals, it is better for veteran artists," she said. "We've made our mark and we have our names, but we're older artists."
McDonald said that, with the shuttering of more and more music stores, exclusive content deals at big-box outlets will probably become more widespread, bringing artists of different ages and genres in the mix.
"Those who are going to continue with business as usual are going to find themselves in trouble," he said.
Family Is A Jazz Triple Threat
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic
(April 08, 2009) One accomplished jazz musician in a family would be a boon, but the LaBarberas boast three – saxist Pat, composer/trumpeter John, drummer Joe – who collectively have played with greats such as Tony Bennett, Elvin Jones, Woody Herman and Bill Evans. The brothers will mark a rare performance together tonight for a career retrospective at the spring showcase concert of Humber Music, where Toronto-based Pat LaBarbera has been teaching since 1976.
They are as harmonious as siblings get, but eldest Pat is the undisputed leader: the guinea pig for lessons (clarinet first) from their musical engineer dad and the one who brought jazz home after being introduced to the genre by a high school music teacher.
He was the first to attend Boston's prestigious Berklee College, leaving without graduating to pursue a professional career and land a big gig: with Buddy Rich in 1967.
"As the oldest, it was his job to pull us through," said youngest, Joe. In fact, the trio submitted to an hour-long interview Monday without asking what it was for until the end, simply because Pat commanded, "Let's sit and talk to Ashante."
Pat, 65: Described by his brothers as "Mr. Focused," the father of two is an electronics geek who is usually reading eight books at once. "He never discouraged us," he said of the Sicilian-born father who introduced them to their life-long passion in their rural home of Mt. Morris, N.Y., just south of Rochester. "In those days, you either joined a symphony or became a teacher. There were no role models in our area for professional musicians."
John, 63: Hit the road in 1968 when big brother told him about an opening in the Buddy Rich band. "There was no audition; if you didn't play well, you were fired and went home. That's pressure!" He said he stopped playing in the early '70s because he just didn't like practising. John lives in Lanesville, Ind., and teaches across the Kentucky border at the University of Louisville. He's established himself as a versatile arranger and will conduct tonight. Dubbed "Mr. Inquisitive," he's handy enough to wire a house or fix a car.
Joe, 61: "Mr. Mellow," as they call him, is noted for the sensitivity and the dynamics he brings to the drum kit. The L.A.-based fitness enthusiast is the only one of the brothers to serve in the armed forces, where he played in the U.S. Army band for two years. Joe, who occasionally performs in a quartet with Pat, has a vocalist-daughter Tiffany who has formed a group with John's sons, pianist Chris and bassist Ed. He teaches at the California Institute for the Arts, where he always encourages his students to finish their studies, even though he and his brothers were successful dropouts who later completed their degrees and became educators.
The show is at the Humber Lakeshore Auditorium, 3199 Lake Shore Blvd. W. tonight at 8. Tickets are $20 ($10 for seniors). Info: 416-675-6622, ext. 3427.
Lucky Dube's Assailants Get Life Sentence
(April 03, 2009) *The three men convicted of murdering South African reggae star Lucky Dube in a botched carjacking were sentenced Thursday to life in prison. The 43-year-old singer was gunned down in his car in front of his children in suburban Johannesburg by Sifiso Mhlanga, Mbuti Mabe and Julius Gxowa. The three were found guilty of the crime earlier this week. "The accused showed no mercy for the deceased," Judge Seun Moshidi said at Thursday's sentencing. "It is difficult for the court to extend any mercy today." Thokozani Dube, who was in the car when his father was shot, broke into tears as the sentences were announced and was comforted by his mother. "I'm satisfied. ... I have closure," he later said outside the court room. Dube's family members and their supporters gathered outside the courthouse and sang South Africa's national anthem. "I'm happy with the ruling even though it will never bring him back," said Thuthukani Cele, a keyboardist who had worked with Dube for 24 years. He vowed to keep Dube's spirit alive, saying: "We owe it to Lucky and the world. ... We just wanted to finish this before we open a new chapter."
Delving Deep in the Heart of Texas
Source: Kam Williams
Born in Houston on August 9, 1980, Texas Battle earned his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology at the University of Texas before making his way to Hollywood to take a shot at showbiz. The former student-athlete made a memorable screen debut in 2005 opposite Samuel L. Jackson in the basketball bio-pic Coach Carter. He followed that performance with another just as impressive in Final Destination 3, a hit flick which opened at the #1 spot at the box office.
Since then, talented Texas has appeared in such motion pictures as Even Money and Wrong Turn 2, but he’s still probably best known for his series regular role on the TV soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful,” where he joined the cast in late 2008 as the illegitimate son to one of the main families on the show. His other television credits include a recurring role on the hit CW series “One Tree Hill,” and guest-starring roles on shows such as “All of Us,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” “The Parkers” and “Committed.”
Here, the handsome, young thespian talks about his latest outing as Carey Fuller in Dragonball Evolution, a screen version of the popular comic book series co-starring Chow Yun-Fat, Emmy Rossum and Justin Chatwin.
KW: Hi Texas, thanks again for the time.
TB: No problem, thanks for taking the time to interview me.
KW: What interested you in doing Dragonball?
TB: What interested me in doing Dragonball was that it's a huge comic book series that has built a great fan base and it’s a great action movie!
KW: Tell me a little about your character.
TB: My character’s name is Kerry Fuller. Kerry is a high school bully that attends the same high school as Goku. [played by Justin Chatwin]
KW: How did you prepare for the role?
TB: I drew a lot for the role of Kerry Fuller from my previous role in Final Destination 3 as Luis Romero. I felt they had similar character traits, so that helped me prepare. I also tried to pull from the comic books and how I felt Kerry fit into those.
KW: You’ve also been busy on TV in The Bold and The Beautiful. How do you like being in a soap opera?
TB: I like being on “The Bold and Beautiful” because the whole cast is like a family, we’re like brothers and sisters, and we feed off each other's energy. Every day going to set is fun because of the great cast and crew that I get to work with.
KW: Do you get noticed a lot more because of the show?
TB: Now that I am on B&B I do get noticed a little more than I used to.
KW: How is working on a TV series different from making a movie?
TB: The difference in working on a TV series and a movie comes down to one thing for me, and that is the travel. With The Bold and the Beautiful, we are in one remote location, but with a movie you get to travel, explore, and experience different things everyday. But I’ve really enjoyed doing both.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
TB: I am extremely happy at this point in my life. I have a great job, I have a very supportive family, and I'm loving life. I can honestly say I have no complaints.
KW: The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Where in L.A. do you live?
TB: I live in the San Fernando Valley area.
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
TB: The last book I read was "Where the Red Fern Grows."
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
TB: The only time I get afraid is when I am at the ocean. I get a little nervous when I’m in the water because I always feel like something is going to bite or snatch me.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?
TB: Wow, that’s a good question. I think I have been asked just about everything that I wish people would know.
KW: The Laz Alonso question: Is there anything your fans can do to help you?
TB: My fans can continue to support B&B, visit my MySpace page, and continue to send me feedback mail. And go see Dragonball!
KW: What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
TB: The biggest obstacle I have ever had to overcome was moving from Texas to L.A, because of the change of pace. LA is such a different culture than anywhere else and it operates at a much faster tempo than Texas. Kind of gives you a culture shock when you first get here, but it’s a great city.
KW: Teri Emerson would like to know when was the last time you had a good belly laugh?
TB: The last time I had a good belly laugh was when I watched American Idol auditions this season.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays?
TB: Right now I am listening to my favourite artist Avant's CD.
KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?
TB: Will Smith, because he is a family man, well-rounded, and very well respected, and he just handles his business well.
KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States?
TB: I am extremely ecstatic about the presidency of Barack Obama. I think he is paving the way for young African-American men like myself. I have very high expectations for Obama, and I am extremely hopeful that he will bring great lasting change not just to America, but to the entire world.
KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
TB: My advice to anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps is stay focused, develop a thick skin and a positive attitude, and work hard at your craft every chance you get.
KW: How can your fans contact you?
TB: Right now, at myspace.com/texasbattle, but they can look for my own website which is coming soon: www.texasbattle.com
KW: Do you answer your fan mail?
TB: I answer all my fan mail. I make it my priority to respond to all my fans no matter what. Sometimes it takes me a while, when things get busy with work, but I still answer, because my fans are my support system and I am really thankful to them.
KW: How do you want to be remembered?
TB: I want to be remembered as a man who never forgot where he came from, stayed humble, and took on meaningful projects. I don't want to forget all the people that helped me along the way, and how I got to where I am now.
KW: Thanks again for the interview, Texas, and best of luck with the movie and the TV show.
TB: Thank you for your time and consideration also. I look forward interviewing with you again!
To see a trailer for Dragonball Evolution, visit HERE.
Passchendaele Dominates Genies
Source: www.thestar.com - Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press
(April 04, 2009) OTTAWA – The quintessential Canadian war epic Passchendaele was the big winner at this year's Genie Awards, picking up six statues including Best Motion Picture Saturday, at a ceremony held for the first time outside of Toronto or Montreal.
The film, both a romance and a chronicle of harrowing First World War trench combat, was a labour of love for filmmaker Paul Gross. Gross directed, wrote, starred in and co-produced the $20 million movie, based loosely on his grandfather's experiences overseas.
It won the Golden Reel award for biggest box office hit, making $4.5 million at the theatres after a unusually wide release for a Canadian flick. Gross was unable to attend the awards ceremony.
Co-producer Francis Damberger dedicated the film to members of the Canadian Forces, later telling reporters that he got a new appreciation for what soldiers went through in the mud and gore 90 years ago.
"Many of our actors were close to hypothermia and were in that cold water all the time, and they had wet suits and dry suits on," Damberger said of the battlefield scenes.
"The thing that left us all in awe and humbled was the fact that these soldiers were left in those mudholes for a week at a time at that point in the war in just their khakis."
The Necessities of Life (Ce qu'il faut pour vivre) won fewer awards, but picked up some in the most important categories: best director for Benoit Pilon, best original screenplay for Bernard Emond, and best actor for Natar Ungalaaq, best editing for Richard Comeau. The film was Canada's official entry for the best foreign film Oscar, and made it to the semi-final round.
In the movie, Ungalaaq plays a Inuit hunter who is uprooted from all he knows to get treatment for tuberculosis in 1950s Quebec City. Ungalaaq, a well-known stone carver and northern filmmaker, won critical acclaim for his previous work in Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner.
Director Pilon had only made documentaries before this film, while screenwriter Emond is a well-known Quebec filmmaker. The Necessities of Life was the big winner at Quebec's film awards, the Jutras.
Everything is Fine (Tout est parfait), a film about a suburban teen whose friends carry out a suicide pact without him, was largely shut out of the awards, winning only the Claude Jutra award for Yves-Christian Fournier's directorial debut despite seven nominations.
Comedian Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall fame was the MC for the night, and began by cracking jokes about the heavy subject matter of most of the films – a perennial stereotype of Canadian movies.
"There's nothing like watching a movie in bed, one hand in the popcorn and the other had dialling the suicide hotline," Foley quipped.
Actor Wendy Crewson took advantage of the Ottawa podium to urge the government to "Save the CBC!", a sentiment echoed by many of the film industry celebs gathered at the ceremony. The public broadcaster recently announced 800 layoffs because of a massive budget shortfall, due largely to a recession-era drop in advertising revenue.
Oscar-winner and American actress Ellen Burstyn won the Genie for her work in The Stone Angel, based on Margaret Laurence's classic Canadian novel about a fiercely independent woman's complicated life story.
Callum Keith Rennie won the Genie for best male supporting role for his turn as guilt-ridden writer Walt in Normal.
The actor, who recently had a run on the popular U.S. cable series Californication, said the Genie meant a great deal.
"For me Canada gave me my career and it was the stories I wanted to tell, it's where I grew up and to have my soul invested in Canadian projects is a gift to me," Rennie told reporters afterward.
Kristin Booth won best supporting actress Genie for her portrayal of a woman trying to break the sexual tedium of a long-term relationship in Young People F---ing. The movie was briefly at the centre of a political storm as some Conservative lawmakers argued it and other films with sexually explicit or violent material shouldn't receive government funding.
"Oh my God I'm so ... excited!" said Booth, tossing in an obvious expletive for emphasis, as she received her statuette.
"I'm honoured to be nominated and win in a Canadian comedy. Yes, there should be more Canadian comedies!"
Marie-Sissi Labreche and Lyne Charlebois took home a Genie for their adaptation of two Labreche novels that formed the basis of Borderline. The provocative film was a also a big winner at the Jutra awards, following the relationships of a self-destructive and promiscuous woman.
Of this year's nominees, only Hollywood-like Passchendaele was widely released in English Canada, highlighting one of the great challenges for Canadian filmmakers: distribution.
This year's Genies were held for the first time in Ottawa, at the Canada Aviation Museum. Celebrity presenters such as actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley and veteran actor Gordon Pinsent were among those who walked the interior red carpet – Ottawa was drenched with a cold rain Saturday night. Canadian movie stars mingled with politicians such as Liberal Heritage critic Pablo Rodriguez and Ontario cabinet minister Jim Watson.
Foley, who lives in Los Angeles, said he had seen nine of the films nominated, but acknowledged that Canadian theatre-goers had limited access to the movies up for awards this year.
"We should have the same rules for Canadian film as we have for Canadian music. We should have Canadian content laws for all of our theatres in Canada," Foley told reporters as he came in on the red carpet.
"Every other country that has a vibrant film industry that resists the American industry has that – the French, the English. You can't just fund movies, you have to have someplace to show them and the Americans own all the screens."
Heritage Minister James Moore could not attend due to another engagement, but had met with some of the nominees at a Genie event on Parliament Hill last week.
Seth Rogen : See-Sawing Between Naughty And Nice
Source: www.thestar.com - Amy Longsdorf, Special To The Star
(April 05, 2009) Let other actors consult lawyers, agents and managers before deciding which dotted line to sign. Canadian Seth Rogen has become one of Hollywood's most reliable leading men simply by following his gut.
"My only rule is: Would I go see that movie? I ask myself, `Would I be psyched about this film?' I want to be able to look at the poster and go, `Man, I'd like to be in a movie like that! That looks awesome!' That's my only criterion, really."
Luckily for Rogen, his tastes coincide with a broad spectrum of moviegoers. Since he made his starring film debut in Knocked Up, he seems to have the golden touch, consistently racking up $100 million (U.S.) hits with a mixture of R-rated comedies (Superbad, The Pineapple Express) and family-friendly cartoons (Horton Hears a Who and Kung Fu Panda.)
This spring, the 26-year-old actor continues the unlikely mix with appearances in the PG-rated 3-D yarn Monsters vs. Aliens and the pitch-black comedy Observe and Report. In the former film, he's a sweet but brainless blob who helps other monsters battle unwanted space invaders. In the latter, he's a mall security guard with some rage issues.
"I am very thankful that people are allowing me to do this career," says Rogen, a native of Vancouver.
"I'm kind of shocked that I've gotten away with it. I love that I can do a movie like Observe and Report and then Monsters vs. Aliens. One has been described as transgressive and the other is a delightful family romp. I, personally, am very thankful."
Observe and Report might, in fact, be the most transgressive comedy on Rogen's résumé. Director Jody Hill, who last helmed The Foot Fist Way, has said one of his inspirations for mall cop Ronnie Barnhardt was Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle.
Rogen admits he liked playing a character whose grip on reality is shaky, at best. "Ronnie takes his job far too seriously. He sees the mall where he works as the world. You get the sense that he doesn't leave very often."
Armed with a flashlight, Taser and modified golf cart, Barnhardt is on a mission to take down a pervert who's flashing shoppers and mall workers, including Barnhardt's crush Brandi (Anna Faris). Co-starring are Michael Peña as Barnhardt's second-in-command and Ray Liotta as a police detective with little use for the mall security force.
A few months ago, when test screening started for Observe and Report, it was rumoured that execs at Warner Bros. were uncomfortable with the movie's edgy humour and wanted Hill to dial back the darkness.
Asked to comment, Rogen says, "We did one version at the request of the studio that was slightly more – I don't know if neutered is the word – but toned down, at times. And it, actually, dropped in the scores."
The theatrical cut is "completely un-neutered," Rogen says. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing but, for me, when I watch it, I can't believe it. To me, it's a marvel that a studio let us make this movie. And they really like it. To their credit, they really like this movie."
Observe and Report premiered at Austin's SXSW Film Festival where it scored mostly positive reviews. Variety called the movie a "shockingly and sometimes discomfortingly funny comedy" while a Boston Herald critic raved that the film is "obscenely funny at times and obscenely honest in its depiction of racists, prejudice, mental illness, alcoholism and, mostly, failed lives."
"You watch this movie in a theatre and people go crazy," Rogen says. "It's an insane movie. You see people looking at each other going, `What the hell? How did they get away with this?'"
Rogen has always been a fan of envelope-pushing humour. He was only 16 when he won first prize in the Vancouver Amateur Comedy Contest. A year later, he was a regular on TV's critically acclaimed Freaks and Geeks, where he quickly bonded with the show's writer/director, Judd Apatow.
The series was cancelled in its first season, but Apatow gave Rogen his big break a few years later by casting him in a supporting role in The 40 Year Old Virgin. Since then, the duo has worked together on projects like Superbad and The Pineapple Express, which Rogen co-wrote.
In a matter of a few years, Rogen has rocketed from obscurity to name-above-the-title stardom. Along with Paul Rudd and fellow Apatow discoverees Jason Segel and Jonah Hill, Rogen graced a recent cover of Vanity Fair magazine, where he was hailed as one of "Comedy's New Legends."
Last year, Rogen co-starred with Elizabeth Banks in Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno. For his next role, Rogen is back in Apatow's corner with Funny People, about a novice stand-up comic (Rogen) who befriends a more experienced joke-teller (Adam Sandler). After that, he will begin work on The Green Hornet, which he scripted with his long-time writing partner, Evan Goldberg. Rogen is hitting the gym in hopes of trimming down and muscling up. Preparing for a role is a new experience for the actor, who admits he usually plays himself.
"Obviously, some of my characters are closer to me than others," he says. "But, even so, it's not like I'm working in a coal mine with the movies I do. We make goofy jokes all day. The job I have never feels that difficult, to be honest."
Gladys Knight Doin' 'Bad' With Tyler Perry
(April 06, 2009) *Tyler Perry has added veteran entertainer Gladys Knight and gospel singer Marvin Winans to the cast of his latest film "I Can Do Bad All by Myself," an adaptation of his early stage play. In the story, Perry's iconic Madea character discovers a 16-year-old girl (Hope Olaide Wilson) and her brothers looting her home and sends them to live with their Aunt April, a hard-drinking nightclub singer played by Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson. Knight will play Wilma, a matriarch of the neighbourhood and singer at Marshall Baptist Church, where Madea also frequents. Knight, Winans and Blige will sing in the film, with Blige performing an original song penned by Ne-Yo, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "CSI: Miami" star Adam Rodriguez has also joined the cast of the Lionsgate project, which is currently shooting at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta for a Sept. 11 release. Brian White, Kwesi Nii-Lante Boakye and Frederick Siglar round out the cast. Knight recently made a cameo appearance on NBC's "30 Rock." She last appeared on the big screen in "Hollywood Homicide."
House Actor Kal Penn Joins White House Team
Source: www.thestar.com - The Associated Press
(April 07, 2009) WASHINGTON–The White House has hired actor Kal Penn as a liaison between President Barack Obama’s administration and Asian constituents. White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Tuesday that the actor, who had a recurring role on Fox’s TV show House and has starred in several movies, would join the staff as an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison. His role will be to connect Obama with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, as well as arts groups. Penn starred as Kumar in the movie, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. His House character Kutner committed suicide in Monday’s episode. Penn backed Obama during the campaign. The White House says a start date for Penn hasn’t been set. The hire was first reported by Entertainment Weekly.
: The Greed Behind The Glitter
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald
(April 02, 2009) In his book Diamond, Canadian journalist Matthew Hart writes that the modern history of the coveted gem began in 1869, when a native boy in South Africa found a large crystal on a farm and set in motion the global diamond cartel that is equal parts glamour, deceit, monopoly and war.
And it is the seedier aspects of the diamond trade that are the focus of a new, four-hour miniseries on CBC Television called Diamonds, based on Ottawa-born Hart's critically acclaimed 2002 book.
Boasting an international cast that includes Britain's James Purefoy and Sir Derek Jacobi, as well as Australian Oscar nominee Judy Davis, Diamonds takes viewers on a journey through South Africa, Canada's Arctic and London's posh core as it tracks the horribly fascinating world that feeds off these dazzling bits of carbon.
Reached on the phone from her home in Sydney, Davis admits she knew little about the diamond trade until she read David Vainola's screenplay for the TV show.
“I hadn't seen any of the Hollywood films,” she says, referring to releases such as Blood Diamond. “But the script was very strong, and it was all kind of a horrific revelation. It did change my view of diamonds. Not that I was ever really a diamond sort, but now – to me – diamonds are not entirely innocent.” She says she now asks friends “to look closely at the covenants on any diamond they buy, and make sure they're buying the ethical ones, which guarantee a certain level of working practice [in the mines].”
Oscar-nominated for her roles in Woody Allen's Husbands and Wives and David Lean's A Passage to India, Davis plays an American senator, Joan Cameron, whose geologist daughter is murdered at a Congolese mine.
Co-star Purefoy, who played the salacious Mark Antony in the series Rome and has appeared in films such as Resident Evil and A Knight's Tale, plays the ruthless Lucas Denmont, scion of the powerful diamond producer Denmont Corp. Purefoy admits he, too, was naive about the diamond racket, which, like the drug or sex trades, has tentacles reaching everywhere.
“The story is told from the perspective of many characters who, on the surface, have somewhat tenuous links to each other,” he says. “But when their stories are seen as a whole, you realize the trafficking of diamonds is not so different from the trafficking of anything else. It's about greed, avarice and the accumulation of wealth. The story is also about how all of our actions affect others in ways you sometimes would never imagine.
“To prepare for the role, I talked to a lot of people in Johannesburg who had worked in the mines,” the actor adds, “and one of the things that struck me is that behind those gorgeous stones sparkling on people's necks is a human toll that I had not been aware of before.”
Directed by Andy Wilson, Diamonds weaves together the complex tales of the senator (Davis), the diamond baron (Purefoy), his estranged father (Jacobi), his fiancé (Louise Rose), an orphan/child soldier (Mbongeni Nhlapo) and two ambitious geologists (played by Newfoundland's Joanne Kelly and Nova Scotia native Stephen McHattie).
In the movie, a British/Canadian/South African co-production, Davis's character eventually travels to the Congo to try to find out more about her daughter's death. And Davis says what she liked most about playing a U.S. politician was her character's “eventual loss of innocence.”
“This is a person who spent her whole life in politics, but it was only once she got outside the United States that she finally sees how American-centric she was,” says the 53-year-old. “My view of her is that, despite all the years she's been in domestic politics, she's actually quite naive about some of the ways in which her country operates.”
As the cunning Lucas, Purefoy says there is little – “nothing really” – nice that he can find to say about the guy. “He's a bad person, a really nasty guy who is prepared to put his own greed ahead of the lives of others. As such, he's pretty monstrous,” the actor says with a chuckle. “However charming he may seem, he has the smile of a crocodile.”
To film the Arctic exploration, Purefoy and the crew travelled to Churchill, Man. – “a chilly place, certainly the chilliest place I've ever been,” says the 44-year-old. “One day I was shooting in 40-degree Celsius near Joburg, and the next day – literally – I was on a plane and dropped into minus-40 temperatures wrapped in as many layers as I could possibly get. Trying to pack for that, I might add, was a challenge.”
The first two-hour instalment of Diamonds airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on CBC-TV. The second part runs April 12.
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan
(April 06, 2009) LOS ANGELES — Try as she might, Amy Poehler cannot contain her inner political animal.
The elfin comic actress departed Saturday Night Live during last fall's U.S. election campaign and on a particularly high-profile note: Nine months pregnant, there was Poehler, rapping and shaking her groove thing as Hillary Clinton opposite Tina Fey's dazed Sarah Palin. SNL ratings soared.
"Obviously it felt amazing to leave the show during all the election excitement," says Poehler, who gave birth to healthy son, Archie, one week following her sendoff SNL appearance. "Playing Hillary made it special."
Six months later, Obama's the man and Poehler returns to television in a lowlier government capacity on the mockumentary-style sitcom Parks and Recreation (Thursday, NBC and CITY-TV at 8:30 p.m.). In this case, she's an ambitious mid-level bureaucrat trying to climb the public-service ladder - all the way to the White House. Same big dreams, new pantsuit.
"I seem to keep playing women who want to be president," mused Poehler at the Los Angeles TV critics tour. "I don't suppose that says anything about me. But there's nothing wrong with wanting to be the best, in whatever you do, as long as you stay grounded in reality. I've always been engaged in politics, but I never wanted to be president."
Parks and Recreation puts Poehler to the Tina Fey test. Only five years ago, Fey and Poehler shared co-anchor duties on SNL's Weekend Update desk, among other duties. Then Fey went off to the Emmy-winning 30 Rock and the weighty mantle of comedy's new It Girl.
Poehler stayed and kept adding to her catalogue of celebrity impressions - Hillary, Madonna, Ann Coulter, Michael Jackson et al. - and her sometimes frighteningly real original characters, such as Amber, the one-legged hypoglycemic trailer tart.
"SNL has its ups and downs, but it's still the best comedy training ground on television," said Poehler, the wife of Toronto-born Will Arnett of Arrested Development fame. "It was a great place to work, but the scenes and the characters are very transient. I wanted to turn the volume down a little bit and sit with a character for a while."
Poehler has been fielding sitcom offers for years but held off for the right character fit and the chance to work with the creators of the American version of The Office, who in turn were waiting to work with her.
"Amy has a very sharp comedy mind," said Parks and Recreation executive producer Greg Daniels, who holds the same rank on The Office and spent years on The Simpsons and King of the Hill. "She's particularly good playing completely deluded characters, so that's what we gave her."
In consort with fellow Office producer Michael Schur, Daniels created a complex career woman for Poehler. On Parks and Recreation, she is Leslie Knope, the female equivalent of Steve Carell's buffoonish Michael Scott on The Office.
The aptly-named Knope serves as the deputy parks director in the fictional town of Pawnee, Ind. Selfless to a fault, Leslie makes no secret of her dedication to public service, or her intent to become the first female American president, which does nothing to endear her to co-workers. Like Carell, Poehler has to make a needy and officious character endearing to viewers.
"Leslie tries so hard, but she's not very self-aware," said Poehler. "She's an optimist and really hoping the place she is now is not the place she's going to stay. Leslie wants to move up the government ladder, but she has no idea how to do it."
Her character firmly believes in the power of government to change things, and Poehler knows the type. She was born and raised in Burlington, Mass., the daughter of public-schoolteacher parents, who took an active interest in local politics. As a teenager, she campaigned for Democratic hopeful Michael Dukakis.
"We passed out a lot of leaflets," Poehler said. "My parents watched town-council meetings on TV, and they cared, obviously, about what was being built next to them. You know, are they going to put a prison where the muffin shop used to be?..."
All a truly helpful person ever wants is a big project, and for Leslie it comes in a giant hole. The pilot episode of Parks and Recreation sets up a storyline that will thread through the six-episode test run for the series.
In brief, local nurse Ann, played by Rashida Jones, on loan from The Office, conscripts Leslie into her seemingly straightforward plan to convert an unused construction pit into a community park. Next come the inevitable lawsuits, followed by greedy real-estate developers, angry neighbours, protest groups and the unfathomable city codes. Leslie joins the cause and wades happily into the mire of red tape.
Every stage of the park project introduces a new logjam, as might be expected. "The show isn't as much about politics as it is about government, if that makes any sense," said Schur. "We're not grinding any kind of axe. It's really about a small project on a very local level."
The government workplace jungle is captured video-vérité, as in The Office. Leslie's efforts to push the park through are undermined by her weaselly parks-department colleague Tom (Aziz Ansari of Scrubs), and largely ignored by her smug boss, Ron (Nick Offerman). Also in the mix is the bored college intern April (Aubrey Plaza), whom Leslie actually believes she is inspiring.
If the thudding workplace ennui on Parks and Recreation feels real, credit the input of former government lifers as consultants. "We have a few on staff, and we've visited several government offices," said Schur. "We went to Claremont, Calif., and told some people in government there the idea of the show, and they started laughing. That week they were cutting the ribbon on a park that took 18 years to build."
In most scenes, Parks and Recreation looks very much like The Office - possibly too much. Alarm bells surely went off at NBC two weeks ago with the results of L.A. test screenings of the rough-cut pilot (which immediately flew over the Internet upon release).
The controlled-viewing group labelled the pilot "predictable" and a "carbon copy" of a successful show. Poehler was deemed "too serious" and "too low-key." But Poehler doesn't seem the type to worry about advance reviews - she's already filmed all six episodes of Parks and Recreation, and has moved on to other things, including providing the voice of Gretel in the animated feature Hoodwinked 2 and tending to the needs of little Archie.
"There's really not much I can do to convince people this show isn't The Office," she said, shrugging. "It's a good sign, however, that everybody watching will have had some contact with government inefficiency at some point in their life. If we only got those people, we'll get a huge audience."
Mike Holmes Helps Make It Right In New Orleans
Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem
(April 07, 2009) Mike Holmes managed to snag an A-list guest star – more like an A-plus, really – for his two-part TV special, Holmes in New Orleans, airing tonight and tomorrow at 9 p.m. on Global, to be followed Thursday by the first of a six-part spinoff series, to run consecutive Thursday nights at 8 on HGTV.
Marquee movie superstar Brad Pitt shows up early – tonight, in fact – in the new documentary chronicling the unprecedented rebuilding efforts of the Make it Right Foundation.
As Holmes himself did in the Pitt-initiated project's formative stages.
It really all started ... well, with Hurricane Katrina, the 2005 disaster that flooded almost 80 per cent of the historic city of New Orleans, taking more than 1,700 lives. Unlike many similar celebrity campaigns, Pitt's resolutely pro-active Make it Right Foundation got right down to the business of rebuilding homes for Katrina's many displaced survivors. All he needed was an experienced expert to oversee the effort. And as it happened, our own Holmes held the trademark for the "Make it Right" title, and has of course long shared Pitt's commitment to charitable humanitarian action.
"This is Brad's passion," Holmes says. "He's actually spent a lot of time working on this, talking to people, very secretly, because to him ... well, you know, it isn't about him. It's about the people. That just shows how much he cares."
But caring is one thing and acting is another. Pitt's heart was obviously in the right place, even if his technical expertise fell short.
"He had his vision of doing it when I talked to him," says Holmes, "but he (knew) he didn't know enough about it. He is definitely right on his vision, but to him, I guess, to (be able to) complete the gift of it, that just rocked his socks off."
The job turned out to be even tougher than it looked. The immediate task at hand was to build a prototype home for flood victim Gloria Guy and the gaggle of grandchildren she is struggling to raise. Five more homes were to follow, the first of a planned 150, rebuilding a sustainable, hurricane-safe residential community in the devastated city's Lower 9th Ward.
Construction of the prototype dwelling would take approximately 20 weeks. Holmes and his crew had only 10 to make the deadline of handing over the keys on Aug. 29, the third anniversary of the flood. When he arrived in New Orleans, the project was already two weeks behind. And it was not exactly an appropriate venue for Holmes's trademark hardline style.
"I wasn't there to beat anyone up, that's for sure," he says . "But it wasn't easy either. We had to deal with the inspectors, we had to deal with the unknown ... so many people down there didn't know what they were doing."
Not to mention the miles of red tape to contend with. "I call it `green tape,'" Holmes says. "There's so much corruption. I don't want to point fingers, but it was disgusting."
The official aspect of it, perhaps, but Holmes quickly came to see the other side. "I went to community meetings; we talked to everyone. Being there for 10 weeks we had an opportunity to get to know a lot of people, and one thing that I did learn (amidst) all that corruption is that there are a lot of good people down there, truly good, caring people. And it's a shame that the right people didn't really seem to care about them."
Others did, and gratefully acknowledged and applauded Holmes's efforts, among them Dave Walker, a columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, a long-time fan who came down several times to visit the site.
"I discovered Holmes on Homes during a bout with insomnia and immediately loved it," Walker says. "I think the appeal was his sense of honour about getting it right and his disgust at the contractors whose work he was remediating. The connection to our situation in New Orleans is obvious.
"The only bright spot about Katrina was the outpouring of help from people all over. You still can't get through the airport without running into packs of high school kids in matching T-shirts who've come down to do the dirtiest recovery work – gutting mouldy houses, hanging sheet rock – for people who can't. Church groups from places that would otherwise have no connection to libertine New Orleans.
"It's genuinely moving to the people who live here, and Mike Holmes is now part of that wave of kindness."
The effectiveness of the effort became apparent the day after work was completed, right on time, on Katrina's third anniversary.
"We had to leave the next morning, because Hurricane Gustav was on its way," Holmes recalls. "It was unbelievable! When we were at the airport, the military were there. It was surreal. I wanted to stay. I was going to stay in the house."
He didn't, but then he needn't have bothered. Gloria Guy's new home easily weathered the storm. "Not even a scratch," Holmes says.
And now the momentum is in full swing. "I like to call it the pebble in the pond," he says. "I think being down there with the Make it Right Foundation has started the ripple effect ... you never see it until it's done. And now that six houses are done – I did the first one and oversaw the other five – it's made a statement. I mean, there are bus tours going by.
"So I think now we're going to see a big change, especially in the New Orleans area, and hopefully it ripples right through the States."
We're Happy To See Theatre's Judas Back
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian, Theatre Critic
(April 05, 2009) The bad guys are always more fun.
That's clearly one of the reasons that Judas Iscariot has remained one of the most popular figures in literature, film and theatre over the years.
It also a long way towards explaining the unique appeal of The Trial of Judas Iscariot, which Birdland Theatre is reviving for a very-limited nine-day run at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District, starting this Tuesday night.
When it was first presented here in 2005, shortly after its world premiere in New York, it won an impressive five Dora Awards and garnered a great deal of positive attention.
Since then it's gone on to be presented around the world, including a critically acclaimed 2008 production at the Almeida Theatre in London, where The Independent hailed it as "part Jerry Springer: The Opera, part Inherit the Wind."
Author Stephen Adly Guirgis puts us in purgatory, where the slimiest of lawyers is appealing Judas' sentence to hell and is trying to get him sent upstairs instead.
Director David Ferry, returning to the play for the second time, says "I love this big rambling piece. (It) appeals to me in some ways more now than in 2005. I find its spiritual questions and its relativity to our current f---ed-up economic mess even more pressing now."
A lot of times a revival can be strictly by-the-numbers, or feature B-team replacements of the original cast, but Ferry has done the exact opposite. He's managed to stack the cast with some of the most dazzling names in Toronto theatre.
For example, Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt will appear on a stage together for the first time since their legendary duet, Two Pianos, Four Hands. Dykstra doubles as the Judge and Caiphus, while Greenblatt handles Freud and St. Thomas. How do all these characters inhabit the same universe? Don't ask. Just go see it and find out.
Proving that he's not afraid to work with someone as talented as himself, Ferry has brought actor/writer/director Morris Panych onstage for one of his rare performances as the fez-wearing El-Fayoumy, the counsel for the prosecution.
The sardonic Panych, asked to describe his character, snaps back with "an Egyptian organ grinder's monkey with a sex addiction ... in other words, a regular lawyer." He described the experience of working with such a high-powered cast as "loud" and offered the following advice to potential audience members: "It takes place in purgatory; bring a cushion."
Ferry also went to the world of musical theatre for two of his stars, Adam Brazier and Louise Pitre, who last appeared together in Mamma Mia!'s original 2000 cast.
Brazier handles the part of the once-innocent Butch Honeywell, whose final confrontation with death gives the play its impressive conclusion and Pitre plays Henrietta Iscariot, Judas's mother.
"She has a wonderful monologue at the beginning," describes Pitre, "where she's had to find her dead son and bury him alone, then deal with the fact that the world has condemned him to hell."
However, not all of the cast are new and theatre fans will be pleased to see that Diego Matamoros will be recreating his Dora-winning performance as Satan.
"He's great fun to play," said Matamoros, "and I hope he will surprise many who have not looked into it too much and have not much more than a hazy idea of the legendary fallen angel.
"What's special to me about him is that he helps to remind us that God is a two-way street and that you gotta do the work if you want to get something – no freebies, no handouts."
Although the show is blackly funny and moves from past to present with dizzying aplomb across the stone floor of the Fermenting Cellar – a fact that Ferry's inventive staging 2005 enhanced greatly – there's also quite a bit of substance underneath, which is not surprising coming from its Egyptian/Irish-American author, whose work has always had a strong political agenda.
As Ben Brantley pointed out in the New York Times in his review of the original 2005 production directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Trial of Judas Iscariot considers nothing less than the conflict between divine mercy and human free will. If God is all-forgiving, the play asks, then why is Judas condemned to an eternity in hell?"
Or as Ferry says, "I think the play is ultimately about the need to forgive ourselves in order to come to a place of forgiveness of others."
Content like this, an all-star cast and a unique venue. Be there ... or be damned.
Cirque Picks Insect Theme For 25th-Anniversary Show
Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press
(April 07, 2009) MONTREAL–The Cirque du soleil's 25th-anniversary show may have an insect theme but the entertainment powerhouse's president isn't bugged by the current economic climate.
CEO Daniel Lamarre has just finished his annual tour of all the Cirque's venues around the globe and he says crowds are still coming out to be entertained.
"When there is a financial crisis people like to be entertained, they like to forget about it," Lamarre told reporters on Tuesday. "I wouldn't go as far as saying it's helping us, but it's certainly not hurting us."
He made his comments at a preview of Ovo, the Cirque's new show which premieres next month.
"Ovo" is Portuguese for "egg," an object the Cirque says is a timeless symbol of the life cycle.
The life of insects is the underlying theme of the show but Lamarre says Ovo is not just about the tiny creatures. It's also about a social commitment to the environment.
He pointed out that Cirque founder Guy Laliberte has set up the One Drop Foundation to fight poverty by making safe water available around the world.
"He's really committed to it so that's why we wanted to use the 25th anniversary, a new show, to create this environment," Lamarre said.
The Cirque started in 1984 and is now a major Quebec-based entertainment organization with more than 4,000 employees.
Ovo will premiere May 8 in Montreal's Old Port and then travel to Quebec City, Toronto and the United States.
The cast of Ovo features 53 performers from 13 countries doing a variety of dance and acrobatics.
One of them is "Ladybug" Michelle Matlock, who had been a performer in New York City for the past 14 years until she got the call to join the Cirque.
"Five years ago, I auditioned for Cirque du soleil, and five years later I get a call for this part and they say they wanted me to be a ladybug."
Matlock worked for a number of circuses before coming to Montreal, including New York City's Big Apple Circus. She also studied at New York's National Shakespeare Conservatory, a stint that included "some clowning, some acting, and some classical" training.
But since she says Ovo is all about the survival of insects, that meant she had to do some homework by visiting Montreal's Insectarium.
"I watched how the ladybug moved and how she rested and it was great to integrate that into the movement and the dance that's in the show," she said in an interview.
Matlock said everyone who is in Ovo had to study bugs to see how they moved and how they looked.
"There are families and groups of bugs, but the director was really adamant that each person have their own personality as a bug."
Matlock said a real ladybug "may be a little slow and a little naive, but overall I would say that she's a romantic.
"We're all just bugs and we've got to learn to love each other," she added.
Fallout 3's 2nd Encore Makes The Stay Worthwhile
Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko, Special To The Star
Fallout 3: The Pitt
(out of 4)
Platform: Xbox 360
Rated: M (mature)
(April 04, 2009) Fans of Fallout 3 know – well, everybody knows, but fans understand – that the game is huge and detailed and rich in a way very few games are or even try to be. The thing is, it's so big you almost expect it to be infinite; you can't believe it when you come up against its edges and limits, when once-astounding features become familiar landmarks and you find yourself in the gaming equivalent of digging in the sofa for change, scrounging for novelty. All you want is more Fallout, so you mark your calendar and count the days until expansions are released.
Expansions and downloadable content are the encores of video games. With its first expansion, "Operation Anchorage," Fallout 3 came back on stage (yeah, I'm running with this metaphor) and delivered a limp, by-the-numbers routine that wasn't even really its style. The fans were restless, people started heading out to their cars to beat the traffic; if a second encore hadn't been contractually stipulated, maybe Fallout 3 would have just bailed into its tour bus and started in on the bourbon.
But it did come back out, and redeemed itself with "The Pitt," five-odd hours of sweet, sweet Fallout 3 goodness.
This is what we want when we want "more Fallout": more freaky mutant weirdos, more Mad Max extras talking (and wearing) trash, more post-apocalyptic shanty architecture in and around the ruins of the past, more hidden little details to reward the curious, more small stories of human nature set against a nightmare backdrop, more moral and tactical decision-making. More wicked hardware. "Operation Anchorage" really only gave us the latter; "The Pitt" is what an aftermarket expansion ought to be.
Once again, upon installing "The Pitt," players will receive a mysterious radio signal, this time from the Far North.
Investigating, they'll meet a renegade slave newly escaped from The Pitt, the irradiated, toxified, disease-ridden hellhole that used to be Pittsburgh. He's looking for the same thing everyone else in the wastes seems to be looking for: a saviour and/or accomplice.
Seems a warlord-type by the name of Ashur has been importing slaves from the Capital Wasteland to labour in his newly reactivated steel mills. Worse than the forced labour is the fact that Ashur apparently holds the secret of curing the radiation sickness that invariably kills or mutates everyone in The Pitt, a secret he's not sharing.
Of course, these white-knight errands are never as simple as they seem.
Lots of great detail and some really atmospheric set decoration make "The Pitt" far more rewarding than the sterile tundra-slog of "Operation Anchorage." The decaying hulk of Pittsburgh – even darker, more violent, and more degenerate than the ruins of Washington, D.C. – offers only one main quest-line, but it's a fun one.
Its centrepiece is a sort of treasure-hunt through a harrowing maze of rusted-out industry, and it's well balanced for different player temperaments: the impatient can get in and out and move on quickly through the story, while thorough explorers can indulge in hours of exploration and battle, with commensurate rewards in both loot and the little details Fallout 3 does so well.
Native Artists Find New Territory At AGO
Source: www.thestar.com - Murray Whyte, Visual Arts Writer
(April 05, 2009) On a screen fuzzy-warm with the haziness of amateur video, Anna Tsouhlarakis tries desperately to keep up with a string of enthusiastic dance partners. A gangly kid with toque pulled down tight around his ears flails wildly to throbbing hip hop; a portly middle-aged man engages Tsouhlarakis in a hackneyed Lindy. And then, let's not forget the limbo: Tsouhlarakis, a Navajo from Kansas, has been stifling giggles throughout her 30 separate dance engagements; here, she bursts into all-out hysterics.
The film (called, nor surprisingly, Let's Dance!) serves as the entry point of the AGO's freshly opened show Remix, and it's a succinct, good-humoured, eminently parable signal of what comes next.
Good thing, too, because the show's cumbersome sub-title might have you thinking otherwise. Remix is, according to the book, a showcase of "new modernities in a post-Indian world." But don't let that put you off. Remix addresses big questions, to be sure – of generational churn in a society still grappling with the traumas of colonialism; of the slow smoothing of that process's painfully rough edges; and of history being written by the victors, but gradually, appended by the vanquished – but its strength is in the personal, playful and occasionally spectacular expression of those questions.
Tsouhlarakis is one of those; the arresting Saran-Wrap sculpture of various wildlife, entangled and slowly pinwheeling in the gallery by Ottawa's David Hannan, is another. This is something of a shift. Aboriginal artists in North America for decades laboured under hollow government-imposed distinctions that reduced their art to craft, spurring a mass-trinketeering tourist economy, but little in the way of genuine expression, either individual or cultural. (Vancouver artist Brian Jungen, one of this country's most successful contemporary artists, native or otherwise, calls the Vancouver Airport the best museum of native art in the country, for its array of tiny, mass-produced totems and animal carvings).
"Those artists were denied cultural roots, so the only legal outlet for them was to make an economy for themselves selling to tourists," says Gerald McMaster, the AGO's curator of Canadian art. "So you have a very demeaning moment historically, where they could only make work for the market, while the rest of the world was free to express themselves."
Sloughing off some of that malaise in the '80s and '90s, a generation of artists came of age with genuine rancour, best expressed in this country perhaps by B.C. artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun's An Indian Act: Shooting the Indian Act, in which Paul, of Coast Salish heritage, put several bullets through a copy of the Canadian government's 1968 Indian Act at a rifle range.
Other native artists of Paul's generation, like Rebecca Belmore, made explicit their reaction to colonialism's oppressive force; Belmore, who represented Canada at the 2006 Venice Biennale, offered a bleak vision of a post-industrial landscape awash in blood.
"It was really a backlash – being an aboriginal person constantly being pigeonholed and put in a box," says Kent Monkman, a Toronto artist who figures prominently in Remix.
Monkman suggests the career of celebrated painter Norval Morrisseau as a cautionary tale: Engaged in the '50s with the radical shift presented by Modern movements like abstract expressionism, Morrisseau was steered away from experimentation by curators and dealers, leaving us only to wonder what his vast talent might have achieved.
"What you end up with (of his work is) what the market responded to," says Monkman. "But we're way past that now."
McMaster, who helped assemble the show while he was a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., describes the artists assembled here as the generation that has followed Paul and Belmore along their path. The confrontational position hasn't entirely softened, but it has become more diffuse.
Monkman himself is a prime example. Primarily a painter, he first came to the attention of the art world for his reinterpretations of the heroic landscapes of the Group of Seven – typically with a aboriginal Canadian engaged with a Mountie in a rather aggressive, and perhaps not quite mutual, romantic entanglement.
While surely provocative, the element of raw humour suggests some more complex than simple acrimony. Indeed, Monkman's work is a complex reimagining of history, and ownership of them. "When you look at the market that's been created for aboriginal art, it stems from this idea that started in the 19th century, with Paul Kane and George Catlin – that they wanted aboriginal people frozen in time," he says.
This is not to say the debate is over. In Vancouver, plans for a national museum of Canadian aboriginal art has been mired in the divide between traditional work and contemporary expression; the Bill Reid Foundation, named for the late, famous B.C. artist, is a principle driver of the project and a strong proponent of the traditional forms. "You start fighting: What's traditional, what's not traditional," McMaster says. "You end up locked in an anachronism."
Remix (and Monkman's work) is surely not that. Monkman takes the decidedly European form of history painting and bends it playfully to his will. A Catlin rendering of noble savage culture becomes populated with effete aboriginal dandies with parasols and finery, lounging in repose as their macho counterparts take care of the messy business.
"We ended up with very simplistic representations of very complex societies that would have had any number of different characters," he says. Monkman is simply taking that myth for what it is, and remaking it with one of his own.
Which, it can fairly be said, is the general point of Remix. Incorporating artists of native heritage from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada, it covers the gamut: artists who address their heritage directly (like Dustinn Craig's video 4-wheel Warpony), obliquely, or not at all. McMaster says this is the first generation of native artists for whom identity isn't locked in the definition of opposition, but has a more diluted influence on their work. "It's their ancestry, but they're also part of the world," he says.
Still, old habits die hard. You can read Tsouhlarakis' piece as a comment on dilution of one of her culture's principle forms of spirituality and ritual; you can view Hannan's piece as a lament for a mass-produced culture's indifference for the one it replaced. Or, you can take them for what they are: A fusion of traditional and contemporary reality and culture that's as engaging as it is inevitable. This is the ultimate point of Remix: Divorced strains of cultural history – the victor and the vanquished – being recombined in a new, significantly positive way.
"We're starting to pull art history in different directions," McMaster says. "It's this big, rubbery globe that's not as rigid as it once was. And that only makes us more interesting as our world expands."
Review : Sugar of the Crop: My Journey to Find the Children of Slaves
Source: Kam Williams
Sugar of the Crop: My Journey to Find the Children of Slaves
by Sana Butler
The Lyons Press
“Everyone I interviewed for this book is now dead…
Before I started the search, the one person I knew who was a granddaughter of a slave was my own great-grandmother, Larue Johnson. But I had no idea of this until the morning of her funeral... The fact that her grandparents were slaves came out during the service without pause or emphasis… ‘Born to freed slaves.’ I couldn’t stop thinking about it… Then I became curious. Were any children of slaves still alive?
Before these talks, I had my own ideas of how the children of slaves grew up. I expected them to be an angry and frustrated generation. After all, their parents had survived the single most barbaric period in U.S. history. I thought they might have trouble building strong bonds with their children or handing down anything other than the fear and hatred that remained from being someone else’s property.
After our talks, all those ideas changed. They have been replaced with something more inspirational that has opened the door to an entirely new understanding of human behaviour in the face of oppression and the unyielding strength that comes from unconditional love.”
-- Excerpted from the Preface (pages x -xiii)
It’s hard to believe that when Sana Butler started searching for children of slaves in 1997, that the fruits of her ensuing 11 year-quest would yield fruit as rich as “Sugar of the Crop,” a bittersweet collection of revealing interviews with the surviving offspring of folks freed by the Emancipation Proclamation over a century before. What makes this book special is how seamlessly the author contrasts her aging subjects’ fading recollections with her own expectations of them and her intimate reflections about being black and female in present-day America.
For Sana is a gifted storyteller blessed with a way with words, whether describing sharing a months-worth of delectable brunches around Beverly Hills with Crispus Attucks Wright, a retired 85 year-old attorney whose father had been enslaved in New Orleans, or recounting the frustration of traveling all the way to rural Virginia only to have sit patiently in the searing, Southern summer heat just to get 99 year-old Walter Scott’s monosyllabic response to her questions about whether he wanted reparations and an apology for slavery . And despite the latter’s initial reluctance to make himself vulnerable, Sana was sensitive enough to chronicle the unproductive encounter in a manner which nonetheless granted the humble elder the dignity he deserved in the waning days of a long life ostensibly very well-lived.
Here’s how her account of meeting him for the first time at the Sulphur Spring Baptist Church begins: “Mr. Scott was waiting for me in the fellowship hall, sitting at the end of a collapsible picnic table covered with a checkered red-and-white plastic cloth, surrounded by women in white usher uniforms carrying grits and scrambled eggs in black iron skillets. One hand rested on top of his walking cane, the other held a black Bible in his lap.”
Now that’s writing. I only dream of developing the requisite restraint and skills to be able to summarize such a scenario so sweetly and succinctly. Therefore, I say serious accolades are in order for Sana Butler for selflessly and successfully embarking on this decade-long labour of love to produce a touching tribute belatedly giving voice to a fast-fading segment of African-American society.
All the interviewees may now be deceased, yet thanks to Sugar of the Crop their priceless pearls of wisdom and whimsy have been preserved for posterity by this seminal contribution to the nation’s folklore.
To order a copy of Sugar of the Crop, visit HERE.
To contact the author, email her at: SugaroftheCrop@gmail.com
No-So-Fine China Shattered In Women's World Hockey
Source: www.thestar.com - Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
(April 05, 2009) HAMEENLINNA, Finland – Former Canadian goaltender Sami Jo Small once said she would never feel sorry for beating another country by a couple of touchdowns because it showed how hard the national women's team worked to be that dominant.
The 2009 edition of the Canadian women's hockey team remained unapologetic for its prowess with a 13-1 thrashing of overmatched China to open the world women's championship yesterday.
That China has fewer than 200 registered female hockey players to Canada's 77,000 begins to explain the disparity between the country ranked No.1 in the world by the IIHF and the No. 8-ranked team.
While the lopsided score makes it easy to knock women's hockey, gaps in international hockey development aren't exclusive to the women's game. Canada's under-20 men's team defeated Kazakhstan 15-0 at the world junior championships in Ottawa in December.
"In the men's game there's the tendency to think there's more competition, but in the world juniors there's some lopsided scores and some games that you flip the channel because it's not so fun to watch," Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser said. "That happens on both sides."
Wickenheiser and Sarah Vaillancourt paced Canada's output with five points apiece – two goals and three assists.
Canada spread the rest of the scoring among Carla MacLeod, Caroline Ouellette, Marie-Philip Poulin, Meghan Agosta and Haley Irwin in front of a sparse crowd of 635 at Patria Arena.
Irwin had a four-point performance in her world championship debut as she also had three assists in addition to her goal.
Ouellette had two assists and Jennifer Botterill's two pushed her past a career 100 in her 160th game.
Goaltender Charline Labonte faced only four shots for the victory, so China's power-play goal in the first period knocked her save percentage down to .750.
Canada pelted China with 76 shots. Yao Shi was replaced after allowing seven goals on 41 shots by Dandan Jia, who stopped 29 of 35.
Canada meets Sweden tomorrow in Pool B play of the preliminary round. The Swedes beat Canada for the first time at the Four Nations Cup in November with a 3-2 overtime win.
In other games yesterday, the defending champion United States shut out Japan 8-0 in Pool A. Host Finland opened with a 7-0 win over Kazakhstan in Pool C.
Canada set team records yesterday for the fastest two and three goals scored in history. MacLeod and then Ouellette struck within 10 seconds of each other starting at 3:53 of the first period to better the previous record of 11 seconds. Vaillancourt made it three goals in a span of 46 seconds to beat the previous time of 55 seconds.
Club Offers Ray Of Hope To T.O. Fans
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Griffin
(April 07, 2009) There's always something special about opening day. More so, it seems, this year in this city where the return of major-league baseball to the local sporting scene has taken on extra meaning. With an economy gone south and job losses mounting, the Rogers Centre was still jammed last night with 48,027 true believers, excited at least for one night as the Jays tamed the Tigers 12-5 in the first leg of a 162-game marathon journey. Bless you boys!
It was also a huge night, personally, for second baseman Aaron Hill, making his first game appearance since a season-ending concussion last May 29 in Oakland.
It wasn't easy getting from where he started to where he wanted to be.
There had been a stressful afternoon of waiting around, then nerves jangling in the usual opening day ceremonies, finally loosened by the warm greeting from the boisterous crowd, the good break of getting up as the No. 2 hitter in the first inning, then a great defensive play up the middle in the second inning vs. Miguel Cabrera all combining to transport him from edgy to being comfortably back home between the white lines.
"I'm telling you, I was so glad I got a ball in the first inning," Hill said. "I was so anxious. I was trying to take deep breaths, but they were a lot shorter than they usually were. All day, I knew I was going to be excited, anxious, nervous, whatever it is. But it's so much fun when the lights get turned on and the fans are screaming."
But win or lose for the Jays and their fans, it didn't matter. Tonight would have remained "all good" because in baseball, the great thing is there's always tomorrow.
It's been the same feeling on opening day ever since the first pro team laced `em up, the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1868 ... through two World Wars, a great depression, several not-so-great recessions and all sorts of world tragedies. Consider that both old Tiger Stadium and Fenway Park had their inaugural openers on April 20, 1912, the day the Titanic survivors arrived back in New York City on the Carpathia.
Speaking of the Titanic, after last night's romp, fans who witnessed the kids swing the bats and the veterans chip in will insist this edition of the Jays is no sinking ship, despite early dire predictions by media experts and unsolicited concession speeches by a careful Jays management, already looking forward to 2010.
True ball fans know that contention at any point in any year is just a 10-game winning streak away, twice through the rotation and, with Roy Halladay, they'll insist anything's possible.
But the inescapable truth is that pro sports is in dire straits in this town right now. One day after the Raptors were mathematically eliminated, four years since the Leafs made the playoffs, with the Argos sitting on eight straight losses and Toronto FC never reaching the post-season, the Jays are the only beacon of hope as they open their 33rd AL season under Cito Gaston, a man who twice led them to World Series victories.
The sports landscape is open for the Jays, but is being wide open because of the failure of others a good thing? The unabashedly giddy interim president, Paul Beeston, believes not. As he puts it, "a rising tide raises all ships" (except, of course, the Titanic).
"We'd be better off with the Leafs winning. We'd be better off with the Argos winning. We'd be better off with the Raptors winning. We'd be better off with somebody winning ... Toronto FC," Beeston insisted. "And they'd be better off with us winning, because you find yourself with negative stories, negative thoughts. But there's a clear opening. Somebody's got to lead the pack and why not us?"
Tonight it's back to sober reality for the Jays and their fans, with a mandated dry house, no booze and an expected crowd of about 15,000. But for those in attendance last night, good memories will linger.
There's something special about opening day.
Canada Steamrolls Finland At World Curling
Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
(April 08, 2009) MONCTON, N.B.–Kevin Martin continues to steamroll the competition at the Ford world men's curling championship but that doesn't mean he's taking anything for granted.
Martin hammered Kalle Kiiskinen of Finland 12-4 on Wednesday morning to improve to 8-0 and tighten his grip on first place in the standings.
Through 12 draws, Martin has played the 10th end only twice but has still not had to throw his final stone. Still, he knows nothing is guaranteed.
"I've been here quite a few times but only won it once," the Edmonton skip said. "So I don't think we'll get caught like that I hope.
"In the back of the mind there is the motivation. You want the pressure, you want the big games, you want the highs and the lows and that's what sport is all about."
Canada scored four in the first end, three in the third and four in the fourth end in a game that went just six ends Wednesday.
"Oh he's on fire," said Norway's Thomas Ulsrud, who is in second place at 6-2 after a 10-4 whipping of Thomas Dufour of France in the morning draw. "He's really on fire and he's crushing everybody.
"He's like the Tiger Woods of curling on the ice. There's Kevin and then there's nothing, nothing and all the other back, you know."
Canada was one win away from securing first place going into the playoffs with a game against John Shuster of the United States on tap in the afternoon draw.
Ulsrud said the biggest challenge for Canada could be maintaining its focus especially with how dominant Martin has been so far.
"That's probably the biggest problem for these guys," said Ulsrud, who won the bronze medal last year. "They don't get any tough matches anymore, at least so far, but we will see what happens at the end of the week."
While Canada is running away at the world championship, Norway was in good shape for the playoffs as well.
"I would be lying if I said I wasn't looking at it and we are looking good but you can only win your own games," Ulsrud said.
Several teams remained in the playoff hunt Wednesday including the United States, Germany, Scotland, Denmark, France and Switzerland.
The 2,811 fans attending the morning draw also watched Japan (3-5) hammer the (2-6) Czech Republic 9-3 while China (3-5) won its third straight game 7-6 in an extra end over Denmark (4-4).
Senators Make Clouston Their Permanent Coach
Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press
(April 08, 2009) OTTAWA – The Ottawa Senators are keeping Cory Clouston as their head coach, removing his interim tag Wednesday and signing him to a two-year deal.
The 39-year-old Clouston took over the Senators on Feb. 2, when Craig Hartsburg was fired after the team got off to a 17-24-7 start. They've been 19-10-3 since then, but will still miss the postseason after 11 straight appearances.
Still, owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray moved quickly to lock up the architect behind the turnaround.
"Cory's come in and done a remarkable job," Murray said during a news conference at Scotiabank Place, where the Senators play their final home game Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils. ``He's made (the players) accountable.''
Clouston had been in charge of the club's AHL affiliate in Binghamton before taking over.
On Tuesday, the Senators beat the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins to run their franchise-record home-ice win streak to nine games.
"I just wanted the opportunity to continue what we started here," said Clouston, who's been living out of a hotel room. "I think the biggest thing that I'm looking forward to, and it's a long way away from now, is getting the next season started.
"How we're playing right now gives us a lot of optimism.''
Clouston is the fourth different coach to go behind the Senators bench since the team reached the Stanley Cup final in 2007. Last year, the team dumped John Paddock on Feb. 27 and general manager Bryan Murray took over to finish the season.
Hartsburg was hired last June and given a three-year contract, but he didn't even make it through the first season.
"It's about winning. it's about creating a team atmosphere and approach," Clouston said. "I think the big picture is that we have a game plan that the coaches and staff have put together and, fortunately, it's worked out.''
Melnyk had confirmed Tuesday that Murray would be retained as general manager, and he'll be given permission to spend up to the salary cap in an effort to turn around the Senators.
"There's no question he'll be back next year. Bryan's done a great job," Melnyk said. "The way you judge a good GM is the way he recognizes a problem and acts on it.
"I'll give him a mulligan. He recognized a change was required. Think about it. He signed up Cory and look where we are today.''
of the Week: Eat More, Weigh Less
Source: By Shawn McKee, Staff Writer
(January 06, 2009) One of the most basic tenets of weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume. It's not terribly complicated, but it can easily lead to one of the most common weight-loss misconceptions: The less you eat, the more you lose.
This truth does apply to a certain extent -- if you eat more calories than your body needs to maintain your weight, you will gain weight. However, if you suddenly drop your caloric intake too low, your body will think you're starving and go into survival mode. If you don't eat enough, you will sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
A healthy diet generally won't drop your caloric intake below 1,200 calories, but you will need to find your "magic number" for optimum weight loss. Research suggests that women who consume less than the optimal amount see their resting metabolic rate plummet by as much as 45 percent.
"Don’t be surprised if you need to adjust your calories several times throughout your weight-loss journey, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose," says registered dietician Nicole Bengtson, LD/N. “Your calories will need to be adjusted to account for your changing weight, activity level and metabolism.”
The best way to lose weight is to keep your metabolism firing on all cylinders by eating enough calories, which can be accomplished by following these simple steps:
Always eat breakfast. I know, I know, there's no time for breakfast, you're not hungry and you can save some calories by skipping it, right? Wrong! While you're asleep, your metabolism slows down, and it doesn't pick back up until you eat something. Eating breakfast is crucial for boosting your metabolism first thing in the morning and burning more calories all day long. It doesn’t need to be a hot-cooked breakfast that takes long to prepare, either.
“Even if you just grab a piece of fruit and a string cheese on your way out the door, you need to at least eat something to get your system going in the morning,” Bengtson says.
Eat more often. That's right, eating every two to three hours will not only keep you from gorging at meals because you're starving, but it also keeps your metabolic rate higher because it takes more energy to digest food. Shoot for eating smaller meals and snacks -- yes, you can snack! Aim for 200 to 400 calorie mini-meals every few hours and keep your metabolism stoked.
Plan your meals. It does take a little work to learn to plan ahead, but once you get into the groove, it's a piece of cake. You'll find that by knowing what and when you’re going to eat, you have more energy throughout the day and you'll have a steadier stream of nutrients supplied to your body. The other key is to make sure you have proper snack foods on hand, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and nuts -- anything that's high in fibre is helpful, too.
Once you get your body used to a regular healthy routine, you'll be on your way to serious weight loss without the starvation associated with it.
Source: www.eurweb.com — Jimmy Durante
"If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain."