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LE NEWSLETTER

August 27, 2009

Our 'non-summer' has flown by and I realize how much the lack of sun this summer has affected my mood about the changing of the season into September.  I usually feel this sense of renewal for September but now I'm just clinging to the hope that we may get our typical August weather next month ... next week.  Hope lives!

I can't believe it's been 8 years since
Aaliyah passed ... still miss her groove and listen to her regularly on my iPod.  Then there is this unbelievable vocal performance by Danyl Johnson on yet another British talent show - you MUST watch the youtube on this one.  Caught the end of the Ko set on Sunday night ... unique and authentic hip hop. 

Lots and lots of entertainment news this week so please have a scroll and a read ...  

Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

::TOP STORIES::

Aaliyah: Remembering Her Legacy Eight Years On

Source:
www.mtv.com - By Jayson Rodriguez

(August 25, 2009) One of the last hits from
Aaliyah's all-too-brief career was the track "More Than a Woman," released posthumously from her self-titled third LP.

The song and the video both showcased Aaliyah Dana Haughton, then 22, at her finest: flirty, reserved, sultry and, most importantly, it left listeners and viewers with a palpable sense that there was indeed more to come from this talented artist. Unfortunately, her life was tragically cut short when a plane carrying her and her entourage crashed shortly after takeoff. Her death — which occurred exactly eight years ago — still feels like it happened entirely too soon.

Ever since the Detroit singer and dancer debuted in 1994 with Age Ain't Nothing But a Number, we all watched Aaliyah blossom. Her initial look of dark sunglasses and baggy clothes evolved into a more adult look on her next album, One In a Million. She was always beautiful, but later as a young woman she exuded the kind of appeal that was as sexy as a whisper in your ear — so subtle that it never had to be overtly pointed out.

She also possessed the type of talent and charisma that led many to believe her future was as bright as a supernova.

"Aaliyah was one of the finest young women I have ever worked with. She was a consummate professional, an amazing talent with limitless potential and, most importantly, an exceptional person," Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who worked with the singer on the film "Romeo Must Die," said in a statement after her death. "Her passing is a huge loss to her many friends here at Warner Bros. and we extend our heartfelt sympathy to her family and to those who loved her as we did."

Her credits are easy to remember: three albums that were each certified double-platinum along with the aforementioned "Romeo Must Die," which helped to put her on Hollywood's map. Another film, "Queen of the Damned," was released after she passed.

Her legacy is slinkier — immense yet understated, just like her voice. Traces of it lie the way Ciara moved in the video for "Promise." It's there in Rihanna's runway-fashion sense. Keri Hilson's around-the-way persona and Nicole Scherzinger's simmering sexuality share a debt to her. And the sense of what her career could have ultimately become is evident in Beyoncé's multimedia presence.

During Aaliyah's rise, she and her contemporaries shared a number of similarities, most notably an affinity for going by just one name: Brandy, Monica, Mya, etc. All of them did well from the very beginning. Since then, of course, they've continued to experience success, but each with the usual ups and downs that fame tends to dish out. Aaliyah undoubtedly would have gone on to accomplish more.

But she always felt different, more mature than her age — and her ascent also felt more gradual and firm, and when she passed there was a sadness that resonated because she was set to soar.

"I'll be more than a lover, more than a woman," she sang. "I'm gonna be more. I don't think you're ready."

There truly was no way we could have been.

Danyl Johnson – The Next Susan Boyle?

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 26, 2009) *Danyl Johnson, a 27-year-old schoolteacher from Reading, England, got an actual standing ovation from Simon Cowell during the opening round of the English TV talent show “The X Factor.”

 “I’ve been doing this for how many years? Danyl, that was single-handedly the best first audition I’ve ever heard,” Cowell told Johnson after he belted The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends."

 Danyl's Aug. 22 performance, shown Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show, resembled Joe Cocker's famous version of the song.  The contestant "dipped and twirled, took to the air like an Olympic high jumper, and played to the judges for all he was worth," noted MSNBC.com.

 Johnson seems poised to mirror Susan Boyle’s overnight sensation launch from “Britain’s Got Talent,” another UK talent competition featuring Simon Cowell as a judge. Her story took the world by storm last spring.
 
 Meanwhile, Johnson currently works at three different stage schools in England, teaching young students drama and dance, but has whiffed in his own attempts at stardom. He was a member of the boy band Street Level until 2006, which failed to reach Backstreet Boys-like heights, and he actually auditioned for “The X Factor” that same year — only to be sent home before even getting a chance to show his stuff to the judges.

 While Cowell gave Johnson what he called “an almighty yes” in advancing to the next “X Factor” round, the British press is already declaring Johnson the televised contest’s eventual winner. London’s Daily Express writer Elisa Roche said of Johnson: “He can dance, he can sing. He’s handsome. He’s got the likability factor. He’s got the whole package.”

 Watch Danyl Johnson's audition here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3m2g5NlmNds 

Music Lovers, Meet Ko: Short Name, Long Story

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

(August 23, 2009) Amy Winehouse wouldn't go to rehab, but
Ko went and the results were only marginally different. Okay, that's not fair: Winehouse had a series of widely-reported meltdowns in the midst of her sophomore success, while Toronto singer-rapper-songwriter Ko managed to find his way out of a haze of drugs and alcohol to record a debut album, which comes out Tuesday.

I guess the similarities are the lack of contrition both performers display and how substance abuse fuelled their art. Songs such as "Moving Mountains," "Drunk" and "Bourbon (Crack Song)" delivered in Ko's melange of rock, folk, hip-hop and pop recall the teenaged shenanigans which lead to three incomplete stints in treatment.

And the title track of Let's Blaze, with the refrain "forget it, no worries, let's blaze," opens with the sounds of the 23-year-old inhaling, ostensibly the pot he claims wasn't his downfall.

"I was selling everything I could get my hands on and doing it, coke" and more, he recalled in an interview. "I wanted the drugs around, so the accessibility was just easier by selling it. And I was arrested for possession of marijuana more than once, like an idiot."

Ko's frustrated parents shipped his 16-year-old self to a "crazy insane" bootcamp in Utah. "When I got off the plane, two huge f---ing guys were there. They follow me into the bathroom, I get stripped searched and I'm like, `This is a nightmare.'"

Ko, subsequently fled from that and two other U.S. facilities and ended up living on the street in San Francisco. The album includes two voice messages from a counsellor to his parents after he fled rehab. When he returned to Toronto, unwilling to play by his parents rules, Ko rotated on friends couches, "only sleeping on the streets if absolutely necessary."

It's a wonder the Riverdale-raised scion of a "middle-class Greek family" – real estate lawyer dad, ROM curator mom – wound up in that predicament.

"They're brainy people," said high-school dropout Ko of the Kapches family. Sitting on a park bench last week, he was less serious and introspective about his wayward past than his music would suggest. "I wasn't abused ... it was just experimentation."

What finally straightened him out? "I'm going to have to say music. I can't be drunk and high on blow doing an interview; it's retarded. It feels like childish and gross. What am I going to be? Some 50-year-old man doing blow? No. You see that in the industry: grown men still hooked."

That said, Ko retains at least one vice. "I smoked a joint before I came," he revealed during our chat. Having worked as a landscaper, bouncer and dishwasher, Ko said being a musician on a major label (Warner Canada) is winning "the lottery as far as jobs go." He opens for De La Soul at the Phoenix tonight.

He credits a musical family for imbuing him with the music bug. "Everyone loves to sing. It would start off usually with something like "Mustang Sally" or "Twist and Shout" and then my grandma would be `Let's sing something in Greek, right now!' There were only a handful of songs we all knew in Greek and we would bust into them ...

"I did some plays and stuff, but the thing that got me started was freestyling and going to high school and smoking weed in front and getting into ciphers and trying to impress a whole group of people with what you would say."

When he cleaned up he connected with Tom Stephen, who managed Amanda Marshall and Jeff Healey. Among highlights of Let's Blaze is "The Ballad of Jimmy Roscoe" inspired by James Roszko, who killed four Mounties at his grow op in 2005; there's also an homage to Kurt Cobain.

"Apparently killing himself had a lot to do with the pressures of the industry, people wanting him to do things didn't want to do," said Ko.

What has Ko refused to do?

"Maybe some types of photo shoots with outfits that were a little too tight and spandexy. My music is not 98 Degrees or Backstreet Boys stuff."

Flashpoint Nabs Record 19 Gemini Nods

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Cassandra Szklarski,
The Canadian Press

(August 25, 200) Flashpoint, the slick Toronto-set crime drama that airs on both sides of the border, leads the pack going into this year's Gemini Awards with a record 19 nominations.

Flashpoint was recognized in the top categories, with nods for best drama, best direction and best writing. Stars Hugh Dillon, Enrico Colantoni and Amy Jo Johnson received acting nominations.

The best guest star in a drama series is also dominated by Flashpoint. Four of the five nominees in that category are from the show: Nicholas Campbell, Henry Czerny, Mpho Koaho and Ron Lea. The fifth nominee is Damir Andrei from Being Erica.

The other contenders for best drama are: Being Erica, The Border, The Tudors and ZOS: Zone of Separation.

The Tudors, the steamy CBC show about King Henry VIII, was well behind Flashpoint with 11 nominations, while Being Erica, Diamonds, Less Than Kind and The Border each received nine.

Comedy nominees included Less Than Kind, Rick Mercer Report, Testees, This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Three Chords From the Truth.

Competing for the title of best reality show are: DisBand, Dragons' Den, GoldMind, Project Runway Canada and The Week the Women Went.

The contenders for the awards, which honour the best in Canadian television, were announced Tuesday at a news conference in Toronto.

Last year's big winners included the CBC miniseries The Englishman's Boy and the brooding series Durham County.

Although last year's ceremony was held in Toronto, this year's event will move to Calgary.

It's the first time the awards, which will take place Nov. 14, will be held in Alberta.

MuchMusic Turns 25...Quietly

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch,
The Canadian Press

(August 25, 200) As MuchMusic marks its 25th anniversary this month, there will be no stylishly produced retrospectives, no neon-splashed '80s videos from the vault, and no nostalgic appearances by former VJs.

In fact, representatives from the network – which has survived by keeping a finger firmly on the pulse of young people – say they will not mark the milestone at all, arguing that their audience just doesn't care about it.

"We will be doing absolutely nothing for the 25th anniversary," said Brad Schwartz, senior vice-president and general manager of Much MTV Group.

"It's actually really, really important to me. ... You will not see a press release from us, they will not do anything special on air, there will be nothing going on, you will never know that Much turned 25, because for us it's not a story.

"We are in the looking-forward business, we are in the looking-at-today business, we are in the young-person business. We are not in the looking-back business."

And, apparently, business is good.

Schwartz says MuchMusic was the No. 2 network for 12- to 34-year-olds last year, behind TSN. Overall ratings steadily increased until 1997 and have held steady since, despite an increasingly competitive landscape and the fact that music videos – once Much's lifeblood – are now available at the click of a mouse.

Schwartz remembers when viewers had to stay glued to their sets to watch the latest offering from their favourite artist – and even sit through videos they didn't like to get to videos they did.

"Remember, when MuchMusic was playing music videos, it was the only place to get music videos," Schwartz said.

"You couldn't get them anywhere else, so you had to tune into MuchMusic and watch the countdown. If you wanted to watch the Michael Jackson `Thriller' video, you had to watch videos six, five, four, three, two and then finally get to it.

"Today, you don't need to do that. If you want to watch the `Thriller' video, you go online and you watch it, you watch it 10 times in a row. ... Today's music is so on-demand that you don't need to watch a Beyonce video to get to a Britney video, you can just go straight to a Britney video."

As a result, videos have largely been pushed to the margins of the network's programming. Meanwhile, Much has found higher ratings with in-house fare such as Video on Trial, in which comics poke fun at popular videos; reality shows including So You Think You Can Dance and Pimp My Ride; and with teen dramas including One Tree Hill and Degrassi.

Much still devotes 50 per cent of its programming to music videos, as per the requirements of its CRTC licence. But once-beloved Much mainstays such as The Wedge and Rap City have been relegated to late-night airings – where the network tends to tuck much of its video-centric programming – while The NewMusic was cancelled outright in 2008.

Unsurprisingly, many Canadian artists lament Much's change in direction.

"Definitely, they've been playing a lot more reality TV programming, and I'm not really a fan of that," Billy Talent guitarist Ian D'Sa said in a recent interview.

"Or even pop culture TV programming," added the band's bassist, Jon Gallant. "They're a smash success, I guess they're just following the money, but it's kind of a drag."

Said Alexisonfire vocalist George Pettit: "Sometimes you just feel like you're missing out on what's the best of our culture, and we're trading that for `Hogan Knows Best."'

Rheostatics singer Dave Bidini was more blunt.

"I don't think MuchMusic contributes to youth culture anymore," he said. "I think it's let Canada down in a lot of ways. It's becoming this teenage lifestyle channel as opposed to an outlet for great, wild, strange, interesting, beautiful music."

Even John Roberts – one of the network's first VJs, when he went by J.D. – says he misses long-cancelled music-centric shows such as City Limits and The Power Hour.

"I lament the loss of the shows, because when we first were on the air it was all about the music, it was all about exposing new talent to the audience," said Roberts, now the anchor of CNN's American Morning, on the line from his New York office.

"I guess I am somewhat saddened by the fact that a lot of what was supposed to be quote `music television' has gone into reality TV mode. And I know that people probably just got bored of the videos, but I'll tell you ... I just like listening to and watching music, and you can keep the reality shows, I'm not really interested in those at all."

Videos, of course, have not disappeared from MuchMusic's repertoire. The station's website has more than 14,000 music videos, interviews and clips available for free. And Much also owns cable networks MuchVibe, MuchMoreRetro, MuchLoud and PunchMuch, which will be going commercial-free in the fall.

But as far as the main network is concerned, has the Internet killed the music-video station?

"It's almost like, why would you want to watch a channel of videos and wait and hope something you like comes on, when you have control now?" said Edmonton hip-hop artist Roland Pemberton, a.k.a. Cadence Weapon.

"It's kind of disappointing that there's not more of a music focus on a music channel, but they've gotta go with what people are watching."

Added Dallas Green, guitarist/vocalist for Alexisonfire: "I can appreciate what (MuchMusic) was before the Internet and before reality TV, because I remember it and it meant a lot to me ... but things change, and it's all about how I think you change with it."

So, what changes are next, and where is the station headed? The altered music landscape – and overall direction of MuchMusic over the past decade – might indicate that the station will continue to move away from music, or, at least, music videos.

But executives at the station insist that's not the case.

"I think music is always going to be a part of MuchMusic, yes," said Craig Halket, senior music programmer for Much MTV Group. "I don't see that changing. I think the evolution is going to continue, but music isn't going away."

Schwartz has lots of ideas for the future of the network, saying the network needs to get smarter at presenting music videos.

He suggests showing music videos in commercial breaks between programs, or showing 30-second clips of music videos and directing viewers online to watch the rest.

He also says that campaigning the CRTC to have Much's licence changed is not out of the question.

"We constantly need to evolve the channel along with the desires of young people," he said. "If our licence doesn't allow us to be everything that our audience wants us to be, then obviously we have to look at that.

"But I can't tell you that we have any firm plans or anything on paper that anything's coming, but we will always have to evolve with our audience."

Schwartz considers the mandate for the modern MuchMusic to be an ``excitement channel," dedicated to connecting with youth and connecting youth to music.

One need only look to Much's headquarters on Toronto's Queen Street West on a typical afternoon to get an idea of whether they're succeeding.

For a recent appearance by dimpled teen-popper Justin Bieber, screaming throngs of preteen girls crowded the corner, digital cameras fastened to their wrists.

"It's crazy," Bieber muttered, over and over.

Heck, the mostly preteen "MuchOnDemand" crowd was so amped to be in the Much building, they even mustered appreciative cheers when recent guest Quentin Tarantino cited long-dead Italian director Sergio Leone as a primary influence (``whoo!").

These are Schwartz's people. He's not too concerned with whether the Much of today stacks up to nostalgic memories of the Much of yesterday – which is why the network doesn't feel the need to promote its past.

"My friends come to me and they say: `Oh, MuchMusic isn't what it used to be,"' he said. "I'm like: `You're 36 years old, you're not supposed to be watching MuchMusic anymore.'

"If we're doing our job properly, then we're staying focused on our audience, which is the ripping, burning, young, early adopter young Canadians.

"So to people who don't think that we are what we used to be, I'd say we're even more and greater – we're just not for you anymore. And if we're doing our jobs right, we shouldn't be."

::TRAVEL::

Waikiki Shopping Zone Full Of Amusement

Source: www.thestar.com - Kelly Toughill,
Special To The Star

(August 20, 2009) HONOLULU–The man is scruffy and furtive, his pitch fired out the side of his mouth in staccato bursts at a wave of tourists flowing down the sidewalk toward the beach.

"Glock. Beretta. .44 Magnum. AK-47. Every kind of gun. Only $20. They are waiting for you. Round the corner. Go now."

He hands me a flyer for the S.W.A.T. Gun Club that details in English and Japanese a cornucopia of shooting experiences.

For $10, a child can shoot 24 bullets from a Smith & Wesson; for $95, mommy or daddy can fire 85 shots from an M-16, AK-47 or assault rifle.

Welcome to paradise.

This is one of the most famous tourist zones on the planet.

It is also one of the strangest, a mutation of urban planning that feels like a hybrid shopping mall and amusement park, with a taste of old-fashioned carnival on the side.

In the 1800s,
Waikiki was a playground for Hawaiian royalty, the go-to spot for a society that perfected the art of leisure.

In the 20th century, that tradition extended to Europe and North America, as big resorts like the Royal Hawaiian set up along Waikiki's curving shore and attracted movie stars and magnates. Cheap air travel brought the rest of the world.

Waikiki is a poster child for the big mistakes of the early tourist industry.

Its wetlands were drained in the 1920s, its natural beach replaced with California sand. The neighbourhood bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Ala Wai Canal and the slopes of the Diamond Head volcano was once a verdant grove of waving palms, gardens and fruit trees; now it is a 21-block-long checker board of highrise concrete hotel towers.

Still, five million people visit every year, and it isn't hard to understand why. A conference brought me to Waikiki, but it was the neighbourhood's honky tonk vibe that kept me there. Every time I set out to explore the sights of broader Honolulu, I was distracted by some quirk of the zone – the aggressive street vendors, the midnight surfers, the hula singers at sunset.

One afternoon, I strolled through Tiffany's, Cartier and Prada, then bought board shorts, sun glasses and cut-rate kona coffee – the only real essentials here – for less than $20 at one of the ABC convenience stores that are everywhere.

I tried not to linger at the ubiquitous sidewalk kiosks that sell everything from silk dresses to suntan lotion, but one zealous vendor literally grabbed me as I walked past, then started rubbing what she said was gold dust into my arm, insisting it would banish my unsightly wrinkles. (Unfortunately for her, I hadn't noticed those wrinkles until she pointed them out.)

I woke the first morning at 3 a.m. (well past noon by my internal clock) and wandered down to the beach. It was a black night of no moon and no stars, the ocean an inky wash of even darker black.

As I sat on the sand, the city towers behind me, two men slipped surfboards into the water, and were quickly swallowed by the dark. A few minutes later, two more headed out.

A beach vendor explained to me the next day that Waikiki's famous surf breaks work 24 hours a day. Tourists get the waves from dawn to dusk. Old men take over about sunset, and then the bartenders, waiters and hotel staff surf the break from midnight until dawn, when the cycle starts again.

Waikiki is world famous as one of the best places to learn to surf, its peeling waves long and gentle most days.

It was a native of Waikiki, Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku, who is credited with introducing surfing to North America.

Before Europeans arrived, only Hawaiians of noble blood were allowed to ride their boards on the best waves of Waikiki.

The swells once reserved for royalty are now a no-holds-barred free-for-all of surfers, swimmers, canoes, sailboats, kayaks, ocean-going catamarans.

One afternoon I saw an outrigger canoe repeatedly mow down an entire row of would-be surfers trying to get on the waves. Yet no one seems to get hurt.

Surfing is still at the heart of Waikiki culture, no matter how much the land itself has changed.

Several beachside franchises offer lessons, and somehow get even the stiffest, tubbiest tourist to skim the waves standing up.

The beachside park is dominated by a huge bronze statue of the Duke, his neck strung with the traditional strings of fragrant plumeria blossoms known as leis.

My last night there, I stayed on the surf break long enough for the tourists to thin out a bit.

A local woman surfing nearby offered me tips on how and where to paddle.

Waiting for a wave, the smell of elephants washed over us, a reminder of the Waikiki zoo.

Then, as the sun disappeared, the ancient melody of a traditional hula tune drifted to us from a concert at beachside Kuhio Park.

African elephants, South Pacific waves and ancient hula tunes. How delightful, I thought. How Waikiki.

Kelly Toughill is a Halifax-based freelance writer.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Coroner Rules Jackson's Death A Homicide

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(August 23, 2009) Los Angeles —The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Michael Jackson's death a homicide, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press, a finding that makes it more likely criminal charges will be filed against the doctor who was with the pop star when he died.

The coroner determined a fatal combination of drugs was given to Mr. Jackson hours before he died June 25 in his rented Los Angeles mansion, according to the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the findings have not been publicly released.

Forensic tests found the powerful anesthetic propofol acted together with at least two sedatives to cause Mr. Jackson's death, the official said.

Conrad Murray, a Las Vegas cardiologist who became Mr. Jackson's personal physician weeks before his death, is the target of a manslaughter investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.

According to a search warrant affidavit unsealed Monday in Houston, Dr. Murray told investigators he administered a 25 milligram dose of propofol around 10:40 a.m., after spending the night injecting Mr. Jackson with two sedatives in an unsuccessful attempt to get him to sleep.

The warrant, dated July 23, states that lethal levels of propofol were found in Mr. Jackson's system. Besides the propofol and two sedatives, the coroner's toxicology report found other substances in Mr. Jackson's system but they were not believed to have been a factor in the singer's death, the official said.

Dr. Murray has spoken to police and last week released a video saying he “told the truth and I have faith the truth will prevail.”

His attorney, Edward Chernoff, had no immediate comment but has previously said Dr. Murray never administered anything that “should have” killed Mr. Jackson.

A call to the coroner's office was not returned Monday. Dr. Murray did not say anything about the drugs he gave to Jackson.

Finding Cheap Tickets

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

(August 24, 2009) Unlike your favourite fashion destination, where there's a whiff of last-season desperation around the discount racks, you can get the current season's finest music and opera at prices to make a supermodel blush.

Forget everything you've heard about high culture being a pastime for rich people. Only you and the person in the box office need know how little you paid. There always have been plenty of discounts for students and seniors. But there are rich veins of savings for "adults," too.

You can buy a single ticket to the Canadian Opera Company's season-opening production of Giacomo Puccini's Madama Butterfly for $321, and sit alongside Toronto's prime arts patrons in the Grand Ring. Or go to the same show for less than $50. That's better than 80 per cent off, gentle bargain hunter.

All it takes is research, planning and a dash of good luck. Save for standing around for last-minute rush seats, the best deals come from becoming a subscriber. Think of it as going to Costco and getting grocery deals in bulk – spend a bit more now, save a lot later.

Here are but a few examples from the many classical music and opera presenters out there:

OPERA

Since moving to the Four Seasons Centre three seasons ago, opera really has become the hot cultural ticket in Toronto. The Canadian Opera Company performs to full houses, so it takes a bit more determination to get in for less.

Subscriptions: The opera house has a handful of seats in prime locations for seeing the stage and orchestra – but not the Surtitles. Called "category 1E," these perches are on the orchestra ring level, right under the Grand Ring. The people above have paid $2,058 for a full season of seven operas – a 47 per cent discount off single tickets. Those canny enough to pluck up 1E seats pay $273. That's $39 a show.

Rush seats: Half-price from 11 a.m. on performance day. Any unsold "Opera for a New Age" tickets reserved for younger patrons go for $20.

Up first: Puccini's evergreen tragedy, Madama Butterfly. There are few seats left for opening night, Sept. 26. But this production with a young Canadian cast has a longer than normal run, with 15 performances to Nov. 3.

SYMPHONY

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra offers sales in the summer and (usually) in early January, hawking the best seats available for $39 if you buy for three or more concerts.

Otherwise, the cheapest seats are in the side balconies – still fine places from which to see the stage.

I have to admit my eyes cross whenever I try to figure out the TSO's welter of subscription packages. One 10-concert selection promises savings "up to 30 per cent." In this offer, the cheap seats come to $120 – that's $12 per concert, less than a movie.

Rush seats: $20 starting at 10 a.m. on performance day.

Up first: American violin star Joshua Bell performing a concerto by Johannes Brahms on Sept. 24 and 26.

ROY THOMSON HALL

There are three great orchestras visiting this coming season (from Cleveland, Rotterdam and St. Petersburg).

Getting a cheap-seat subscription for all three comes to $115. The four-date vocal recital series comes to as little as $125.

Rush seats: No.

The first non-TSO classical concert: Cleveland Orchestra with music director Franz Welser-Möst, Oct. 20.

KOERNER HALL

Although the jury is officially out until the season starts, expect this new, 1,140-seat recital hall to become a prime music destination once word gets around about its warm and generous acoustics, nice design and comfy seating.

The people planning the inaugural season's concerts at the Royal Conservatory of Music's new performing arts division have priced seats aggressively, with single-ticket prices to most concerts starting at $20 or $25.

That doesn't include 10 per cent off if you buy a four-concert subscription, or 15 per cent off if you go for seven or more.

Imagine being able to hear Japanese violinist Midori in recital for less than $20.

Rush seats: $10 for back-wall perches on the second level, 90 minutes before the performance.

Up first: The big opening night, on Sept. 25. These tickets are at a premium ($100 to $250) so unless you want to help the Conservatory retire its construction loans, skip to one of the many other choices on the calendar.

CHAMBER MUSIC

Traditionally, this has been the best musical deal in town – including the finest visiting ensembles and soloists. Besides the new season at Koerner Hall, two other prime presenters are Music Toronto and the University of Toronto Faculty of Music.

A Music Toronto subscription to all eight Quartet concerts starts at $269, barely breaking $30 a seat. The five piano concerts can be bought for $170. The young-artist Discovery series is $15 for any seat in the Jane Mallett Theatre.

Rush seats: Back two rows, if available, on the night of the performance.

The U of T faculty of music chamber music series is $25 per seat in Walter Hall. This year, there is also an early-evening Faculty Artist series that starts at 6:30 p.m. It's also $25 a ticket. There are no rush seats.

Gary Hines & Sounds Of Blackness

Source:
www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M. Yarbrough

(August 21, 2009) *
Gary D. Hines is the conductor, clinician, producer and arranger for powerhouse R&B group/choir Sounds of Blackness.

The ensemble, assembled in Minneapolis in the ‘70s, was his brainchild 35 years ago when the music man thought to create a group that showcased all the stylings of black music – the sounds of blackness.

Since January 1971, the Grammy Award winning singers and musicians have consistently performed, recorded and proudly proclaimed the music, culture and history of African Americans, but it was upon finally being signed to a record label in the ‘90s that their music crossed over with the 1991 hit “Optimistic,” which is still a favourite.

With their new disc, their 12th, “The Third Gift: Story, Song, and Spirit,” the group continues to do more than just entertain and share African American culture.

“I am honoured to be a part of the National Domestic Violence Conference (in Long each, CA),” Hines said of the group’s latest contributions through their new disc. “Sounds of Blackness, for our past two projects, including our new one, has contributed music towards the domestic violence efforts and so that’s the reason for me being here.”

Hines told EUR’s Lee Bailey that the group partnered with the organization with their CD “Kings and Queens.”

“We composed a track called ‘She Is Love’ dealing with the issue and our contribution to the struggle in domestic violence. We partnered with an organization called IDVAAC, and that stands for the Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community.”

IDVAAC asked the group for music that would be used in their training for both victims and for perpetrators of domestic violence.

“We told them that our commitment to them would be ongoing and so we are true to that,” he said. “And now with our forthcoming CD, ‘The Third Gift,’ we have two songs on the subject of domestic violence. One is called ‘The Path of Healing,’ which is actually the theme for the conference and the other song is called ‘Healing’ and they're both on ‘The Third Gift.’ Our commitment from the Sounds of Blackness and the struggle against domestic violence is ongoing and it’s serious.”

For more on IDVAAC, Hines suggested the organization’s website, www.idvaac.com. The site has information about domestic violence in general and specifically as it relates to the African American community and to communities of color who face unique challenges along with the whole issue of domestic violence.

“Sounds of Blackness addresses that in our music on our new CD,” he said. “Domestic violence in this day and time in the midst of the war and the economy; the angst and mood in the air with the deaths of Michael Jackson, Walter Cronkite – there’s so much in the air right now. Sounds of Blackness releasing “The Third Gift” is not by accident.”

As Hines explained, he and the group were motivated by the sign of the times for the latest project. In fact, the group made and updated, reworked version of their biggest hit.

“We have a remake of ‘Optimistic’ which is our first single,” Hines said. “Optimism is something that the world needs and this country, and people need to hear right now.”

He described the remake as “different,” but said that the heart of the song was the same with more pertinent and crucial messaging.

“It is an homage to the original,” Hines said. “We’ve changed just some of the sound and a little more of the message of today. We tell people don’t give up and don’t give in. We specifically drive home that message. We told people in 1991 to be optimistic. Now we’re telling them in 2009 again to be optimistic, but we’re also telling them they can win – don’t give up, hang in there and those lyrics are incorporated into the new version.”

The conductor/musician explained that he could see as a writer that the world and the USA, in their current situation, need the encouragement of the song “Optimistic,” perhaps even more than when it first came out.

 “In the midst of unemployment, bankruptcy, foreclosures, the war, and depression, all these things, the world needs ‘Optimistic’ now more than ever and that’s our reason for bringing it back,” he said.

     “We wanted it to be new and different,” he continued, explaining why they did not recruit songbird Ann Nesby to return for the track she made famous in 1991. “We wanted to give an homage to the original and of course to the great Ann Nesby, but we thought that it didn’t need to be a reissue of the same. The message and the genesis and the vibe needed to be the same, but that the sound needed to be fresh and new as well.”

“The The Third Gift: Story, Song, and Spirit” hits stores August 25.

  

“The title,” Hines explained, “comes from the prolific words of the great W.E.B. Dubois ‘Amongst the many gifts that people of African descent have given America and the world, our three greatest gifts are story, song, and spirit. That’s the meaning of the title.”

 “This is a gift – Sounds of Blackness – the whole concept, the ministry. The gift and the mission is to continue the legacy of people such as the greatest composer in the history of this planet; Duke Ellington. When people would say to him, ‘You’re a jazz musician,’ he would say, ‘I do the music of my people.’ Duke Ellington did spiritual as well as his prolific jazz compositions. That’s the meaning of the name, Sounds of Blackness – every sound of blackness: jazz, blues, hip hop, gospel, reggae, rock spiritual. We bring those to people of all backgrounds with messages of inspiration.”

For more on Sounds of Blackness and to check out some tracks from the new disc, go to www.soundsofblackness.com.

Johnny Mathis: A Born Crooner

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(August 22, 2009) "Chances Are" that when you think of
Johnny Mathis coming to sing at Casino Rama Thursday and Friday, you'll start out by getting "Misty" and wind up feeling "Wonderful, Wonderful".

For more than half a century, Mathis has been providing a devoted public with what he does so well: pouring out that woodsmoke and honey voice of his until anyone with a heart is bound to melt.

"Music has been the thing that propels my life," he begins, speaking over the phone from his California home. "I'm thankful for the gifts that I've been given and for the parents who encouraged me from the start."

John Royce Mathis was born in Gilmer, Texas, on Sept. 30, 1935. His parents, Clem and Mildred, moved to San Francisco when he was very young and supported themselves by working at a variety of domestic jobs.

But Clem, a gifted singer in his own right, had other dreams that he never got to fulfill.

"Pop was a wonderful entertainer, a self-taught pianist and an amazing vocalist," recalls Mathis with evident fondness. "He taught me all the songs that he knew once I got to the age of 5. All my earliest recordings were tunes that he had helped me learn years before.

"He sang constantly, when we were out fishing and hunting on the weekends. I still remember how, when he got off work, as soon as he walked in the door, with his work clothes still on, he'd sit down at the piano and unwind for a bit."

It took Mathis years to realize it, but "I finally came to understand that Pop was helping me to get the career he couldn't have. He got married when he was 17 and mom was 15. Then the kids started coming – all seven of us – and he had to worry about putting bread on the table, not a song in his heart.

"He got me a teacher right away, as soon as it became obvious I could sing, and he encouraged me on every step of my journey."

Mathis pauses and continues a bit wistfully. "You know, as I've gotten older, I realize that our voices are similar, absolutely. Every time I open my mouth today, I say, `God, I sound just like Pop!'"

The teacher that began instructing Mathis at the age of 13 was a classically trained woman named Connie Cox, who would give the young singer lessons in exchange for his doing a series of odd jobs around her house. "I thank her every day for those six years we spent together," says Mathis. "She taught me how to protect my voice and not abuse it. That's the major reason I've been able to keep going for so long, taking advantage of all the hills and valleys in this profession."

Mathis has nothing but happy memories of his early years, and he thinks that the place he was raised had a lot to do with it.

"Growing up in San Francisco was the best thing that ever happened to me. That society was so hip, so accepting of all kinds of people, that I was never really all that aware of my blackness. It certainly wasn't anything that ever got in my way."

Besides working on his singing, Mathis was a star athlete in high school, excelling in basketball as well as track and field. In fact, when he entered San Francisco State University on a scholarship in September, 1954, he was determined to become a physical education teacher.

"But then fate kind of hit me over the head with some ideas of its own," Mathis laughs. "There was this lady named Helen Noga who was a partner in this jazz club called The Black Hawk. She heard me sing and decided she was going to promote me.

"The next thing I knew, I was singing with all the great musicians who passed through her club: Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie."

One of the people who dropped by The Black Hawk and heard Mathis sing was a jazz producer for Columbia Records named George Avakian.

"He liked my voice, but felt I needed some more experience and told me he'd be in touch again in about a year."

Mathis forgot all about that and promptly picked up the threads of his athletic career, advancing to the point where he was about to try out for the 1956 Olympics. "And that week, Avakian called me and asked me to come to New York and make some recordings," remembers Mathis. It may have seemed like a big decision for a 19-year-old guy to make: The U.S. Olympic Team, or Columbia Records. But Mathis admits, "I never had a moment of doubt.

"Music won out and even though I wasn't quite sure I was good enough, Pop thought I could make something of myself and told me to go for it."

It took Columbia a while to figure out how to use Mathis, because, as he admits, "I was a typical 19-year-old and sang every note as high and as loudly as I could."

But they sent him out on the road to get some seasoning and Mathis describes that period as "hard work, very lonely. One club on Long Island, I actually manipulated the lights with my feet and conducted the band behind me with one hand."By late 1956, Mathis had two big hits – "Wonderful, Wonderful" and "It's Not For Me To Say" – which started him off on a road he's never left.

Mathis has always kept his personal life private, and when US Magazine quoted him in 1982 as admitting his homosexuality, the publication later had to retract the statement.

But now, Mathis opens up more and admits that it wasn't the nature of his sexuality, but the whole concept of revealing it that troubled him. "It's always a struggle for a celebrity. They want to know everything about you, especially who you go to bed with. I've always been reticent and shy because Mom and Pop told me you just didn't discuss things like that.

"But times go on, there are different mores and things change. Once people get to know you, they're willing to be a lot more accepting."

Over the years, Mathis has known some tough times and, by his own admission, has been through rehab for both alcohol and prescription medication addictions, but can now say, "I'm happy with the way things turned out."

Asked if he thinks there's any secret to his amazing career, he recalls the time he asked his father the same question.

"`Johnny,' Pop told me, 'people just like to hear you sing.'"

Pumped Pearl Jam Pleases Public

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

(August 23, 2009) It was a reverent, but raucous crowd that jammed the Molson Amphitheatre Friday night to worship at the church of
Pearl Jam.

Tickets to see the group, which sold out the Air Canada Centre with back-to-back concerts in 2006, were such a hot property that scalpers offered the $39.50 lawn seats for $400 just before the show.

The two-encore love-in started 15 minutes late – and would break the 11 p.m. curfew – to give attendees a chance to get through the CNE-exacerbated Lakeshore Rd. gridlock.

But that meant some fans missed a novel treat: the band opening for themselves.

With the Pharmacists frontman Ted Leo stuck at the border – passport issues, reportedly – the Seattle alt-rockers decided to help out with a six-song acoustic set.

Alone on guitar, a seated Eddie Vedder captivated with Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain" and "The Needle and the Damage Done," demonstrating the versatility he would later not-so-humbly note – "He can play acoustic. He can play electric. He can f---ing sing."

Guitarists Mike McCready and Stone Gossard also pitched in with solo stints before the Pharmacists had their turn with McCready and Vedder.

It was a fitting prelude by the seasoned quintet that, nearly 20 years in, still hustled like eager-to-please rookies with a high-energy, 27-song headlining set despite a locked-in fan base that's aging along with them.

Against a simple, painted mural of giant waves, the first tune "Of the Girl" found Vedder in fierce form – maniacal laugh, booming sincerity-oozing vocals. They followed with "Corduroy" and "Severed Hand," allowing McCready to show off scorching, blues-drenched solos. Buoyed by the steadiness of bassist Jeff Ament and relentless drummer Matt Cameron, the band cohesively moved through various moods and tempos. It was all the more impressive given the exhaustive song list that changes from city to city (a must, given the fans that follow them around). New songs "The Fixer" and "Got Some" from ninth album Backspacer, which drops next month, went over well, but it was the familiar that stoked the crowd.

As each song was introduced, people – many of them strangers – high-fived and hugged. I'd never seen so much screaming man-love outside of a sporting event.

Vedder, 44, was equally ebullient, jumping around, hanging off the mic stand, swilling red wine from the bottle, playing the guitar on top of his head, smiling and pointing at people in the audience, smoking cigarettes and reaching into the crowd to shake hands, though he did take a serious moment.

"Must be interesting to look at the country below you ... like watching a dog chasing its tail," remarked Vedder, weighing in on the current U.S. health-care debate as an introduction to "Unemployable."

After a brief political rant, he got back to the business of rocking socks off.

True To Reggae's Spiritual Roots

Source: www.thestar.com -
Staff Reporter

(August 22, 2009) At age 59, Marcia Griffiths says most people would call her brand of reggae "old school," but she's quick to add that "it's the good school. Bob Marley's work will never go in vain."

Torontonians will be treated to three of the genre's best-loved performers at the inaugural
Reggae Giants concert tomorrow at Polson Pier's Sound Academy. Headlining that list is Griffiths, who made her name as a member of the I-Threes, the backing group for Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Joining Griffiths will be fellow Jamaicans John Holt – who's also a Rastafarian – and Ken Boothe. Tomorrow's show joins the Mirvish stage musical The Harder They Come, based on the 1972 film that helped put reggae – and Rastafarianism – on the map, and Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae, a recent documentary about the genre's origins, as examples of how reggae and Rasta have been inseparable for more than four decades.

Griffiths says reggae artists have a duty to use music to educate, uplift and unite the world, adding that some still don't understand the responsibility they have. "If you are chosen to do this work, then you must contribute in a positive way," she says. "If you're in it for any other reason, then you will fall by the wayside."

Gramps Morgan, 35, agrees. As a member of renowned reggae group Morgan Heritage, he notes that reggae music grew out of the suffering experienced by impoverished Jamaicans during the tumultuous 1970s, when it was the only medium to express their grievances.

"Because of the spiritual consciousness of the Rastaman, he started using reggae as a musical ministry," Morgan says. "That's why reggae became the Rastaman's gospel music."

But as the genre evolved through the late 1990s, it spawned a host of multi-talented singers, songwriters and producers like Sizzla Kalonji and Capleton. They made their names as socially conscious lyricists but also crossed over into the lucrative dance hall scene known for its faster rhythms and lyrics that tend to favour sex and gangsterism over religion.

Renowned Jamaican deejay Buju Banton, 36, says he "came through the doorways of dance hall" in the 1990s. Even though he later turned to reggae, he says he won't turn his back on his roots. "That's why I continue to do both genres of music," he says.

The Star caught up with Buju in New York, where he was touring in support of his latest roots rock/reggae album, Rasta Got Soul, which is a far cry from some of his more controversial work.

"I'm not contradicting anything," Buju says of the change. "I refuse to get stuck on one level. Therefore, I must fluctuate and the music must grow."

That sentiment is not shared by everyone. Jamaican music icon Leroy Sibbles says that kind of inconsistency led him to cut off his dread- locks in the mid-1990s after wearing dreads for religious reasons in the 1970s and '80s while living in Toronto.

"I was one of the original Rastas," he says. "All the time I was living in Canada, I was a Rasta. There are too many false Rastas out there. That's why I cut off my locks."

Some artists were just posing and not showcasing Rastafarian teachings through their music, he says. "There was all kind of mockery. I couldn't be of a thing like that."

Sibbles says some up-and-coming artists are now wearing dreadlocks and Rastafarian garments as a front to garner more attention or the acquire the coveted tag of a socially conscious artist.

"As soon as some youngsters start to do music, they feel like they have to Ras, and they don't know nothing of Rastafari."

Those artists usually become the one-hit wonders because their music is not lyrically fortified to survive, he says. "I've watch all of the fads come and go while the real thing stands up and continue."

Just the facts

What: Reggae Giants

When: Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Sound Academy, 11 Polson Pier

Tickets: $40-$86 at ticketmaster.ca

Shiloh : At 16, Already A Showbiz Veteran

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Michael Oliveira, Canadian Press

(August 20, 2009) TORONTO — Upstart pop singer Shiloh is already somewhat of a music-industry veteran at the age of just 16, even with only one album under her belt.

The B.C.-born, Saskatchewan-raised singer spent the better part of a decade crooning country tunes in music competitions across North America until finally getting her big break and inking a record deal last year.

Now, the energetic teen - who is plugged into social media and gives her fans almost hourly updates on what she's thinking: "Omg the album just hit 1 pop album on itunes YAY," "The smell of jack Daniels makes me wanna puke," "Just woke up and about to shower then get a mani and pedi then chill" - is eager to continue her nomadic lifestyle and cross the country in support of her debut, Picture Imperfect, released on Tuesday.

"I'm really missing the bus life now, I don't think I could get burnt out, I'm so hyper," Shiloh, decked out in a black leather jacket, red tights and tall heels, says in an interview.

She describes her upbringing as "pretty much a whirlwind." At the age of 7, she started taking part in singing contests, which took her through Canada and the United States, where she would belt out country songs she learned from her mom.

It was at an Edmonton radio station's competition in 2006 that she won a chance to work with some professional songwriters and producers, which spawned her first single, the catchy Operator (A Girl Like Me), and led to her being signed to Universal Music Canada.

She has writing credits on half of her album's 13 songs, which mostly play around relatable themes of teenaged angst such as breaking up with boys, overcoming tough times and torment, and struggling to be yourself in an image-obsessed society.

"Most girls want to be a ballerina. I wanted to be a vampire," she says, a silver fangs-shaped necklace hanging around her neck.

"I had clip-on ones," she says, "but I refuse to put them on my teeth any more because they were ruining my enamel."

Shiloh, who has been home-schooled since leaving her high school - because of "too much craziness of bullies and stuff like that" - says she never had a real agenda and didn't know what to come up with when she sat down to write songs. "I just kind of wrote down whatever I was feeling that day and it ended up being a full-out song," she says.

She calls the Evanescence-influenced I Remember one of her favourites on the album, which touches on some personal experiences of lamenting lost love.

"It was something, you know, I was really attached to a guy at the time and you know plans didn't work out the way I thought they would," she says.

"And you know, stuff happens, but that's all right though."

The album's 13 songs jump from piano chords and pop-punk stylings to ska and reggae tinges, which Shiloh says reflects her diverse music tastes, including Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Frank Sinatra, Butch Walker and rock bands such as Nickelback.

"There's a lot of different [sounds], it'll catch your attention and keep your attention," she says. "The whole goal for the album was that you won't skip a song, it won't be one of those albums where you only like two songs on it, you like all 13."

Shiloh plays in Belleville, Ont., today; London, Ont., tomorrow; St. Catharines, Ont., on Saturday; Hamilton on Aug. 27; Ottawa on Aug. 28; Montreal on Aug. 29; Toronto on Aug. 30; Cobalt, Ont., on Sept. 6; Winnipeg on Sept. 9; Regina on Sept. 10; Red Deer, Alta., on Sept. 11; Kelowna, B.C., on Sept. 16; Vancouver on Sept. 17; Calgary on Sept. 18; Edmonton on Sept. 19; and Saskatoon on Sept. 20.

Sean Kingston Album Gets Fans Online With Karaoke

Source: Antony Bruno

(Aug. 23, 2009) DENVER (Billboard) - Most music videos might not have the promotional impact they used to. But what about videos that make fans the star, allow them to sing with an artist and seem to pop out of the screen?

The CD booklet that comes with reggae fusion singer
Sean Kingston's upcoming album, "Tomorrow" (due September 22 on Epic), contains a special image that fans can hold up to their computers' webcams to launch an "augmented reality" karaoke session on Kingston's website.

That enables fans to use their computer's video camera to record themselves singing "Fire Burning," along with an animated version of Kingston called lil Sean. Lil Sean gets superimposed on existing video so that he seems to pop out of the screen, as if it's in 3-D, and ambitious fans can even choreograph his dance moves.

Once fans finish their videos, they can post them to a social networking site, or to SeanKingston.com, where fans can vote on their favourites.

"It's going to be dope," says 19-year-old Kingston, whose music merges reggae with hip-hop, R&B, rock, pop, electro and other genres. "No one has done this before. It's different and I think it's going to blow up."

The goal is to let the viral videos drive awareness of the album, according to Epic executive vice president of marketing Lee Stimmel.

"It's all about the one-to-one marketing that we as labels tend to lose," Stimmel says. "If I get a 10-year-old kid to get engaged with Sean Kingston by building a video and showing it to his buddies, I just turned on four more guys and gals to him. That has to resonate with entertainment going forward."

The application also ties in to the broader marketing campaign behind "Tomorrow," which will come with a 3-D poster and a pair of 3-D glasses to read it. Those glasses can also be used to view 3-D graphics on Kingston's website. The lil Sean animated character, who will be featured on the cover of the CD, also recently appeared at the Teen Choice Awards and will be the focus of a future video.

"We felt that we had to give the consumer base a reason to buy and experience the full album instead of just songs," Stimmel says. "Let's engage kids in the experience of the album as opposed to the hit songs we know Sean's going to have."

The video application, created by Australian technology and design company Boffswana, is expected to go live by the end of the month. The symbol needed to launch it can be printed out from Kingston's website and will also appear in the bonus PDF booklet available to those who buy the digital album from iTunes.

(Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters)

Sheryl Lee Ralph's 19th annual Divas Simply Singing!

Source: Tom Estey, Tom Estey Publicity and Promotions, tje6464@aol.com

(
August 25, 2009) *LOS ANGELES -- One diva. One song. One night to touch a million lives. And certainly, two multiple Grammy award-winning divas, singing on behalf of HIV/AIDS awareness is better than one! Actress/activist Sheryl Lee Ralph is happy to announce the all-star, mega-watt line up for the 19th annual Divas Simply Singing! AIDS benefit concert.

Yolanda Adams, Brenda Russell, Jenifer Lewis, Yo Yo, Barbara Morrison, Frenchie Davis, and Neo Soul Artist N'dambi along with original Dreamgirls Loretta Devine and Ralph herself will light up the stage! Sam Harris will be the resident divo, paying tribute to the ladies.

The pre-show will be hosted by Emmy-nominated comedienne/actress Niecy Nash.

Created and produced by Ralph, Divas Simply Singing! is an annual benefit concert, produced in conjunction with The Diva( Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed) Foundation to help to raise money and awareness about HIV/AIDS. Divas Simply Singing! is the longest consecutive running AIDS benefit concert in Los Angeles and has raised millons of dollars to help and assist AIDS organizations in Los Angeles and around the world. This amazing evening of song and entertainment spotlights the talents of divas from all walks of show business. 

Divas Simply Singing! will be held on Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. at the Saban Theatre (formerly Wilshire Theatre), located at  8440 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Tickets prices range from $25 to $250. For ticket information, contact the box office of the Saban Theatre Beverly Hills at 323.655.0111.

The event is sponsored by fashion designer Tadashi Shoji; Aetna; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Diageo and American Hi-Definition, ATK, Sweetwater Productions. American  Airlines; Damone Roberts  "the Eyebrow King" and  "Glam God" to the divas. The afterparty sponsored by KCAA radio personality Wendell James of "Talking With Wendell." And Media sponsor KJLH-FM.

About Divas Simply Singing!
"It's one of the best events in town, where music raises the roof, the applause pours out like love and the tears flow like redemption." - Daryl H. Miller, LA Times

With a unique blend of song, entertainment and empowerment, this oft-praised and highly-anticipated event continues to attract some of the most talented women in show business, uniting in song against HIV/AIDS. Talents such as Chaka Khan, Oleta Addams, Melissa Manchester, Dianne Reeves, Roberta Flack, Eartha Kitt, Stephanie Mills, Fergie, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Holiday, Miss Nancy Wilson and many others have raised their voices in song and support of Divas Simply Singing!

This year, Divas Simply Singing! is thrilled to benefit  AIDS Healthcare Foundation and  Women Alive Coalition. In the past, proceeds from the concert have benefited  Project Angel Food, Caring for Babies With AIDS, Minority AIDS Project, the Safe Place for Pediatric AIDS, the National Minority Council, and the Black AIDS Institute.

About the Diva Foundation
The Diva Foundation is a national not-for-profit 501(3) charitable organization founded by Sheryl Lee Ralph in 1990 as a memorial to the many friends she lost to HIV/AIDS while in the original Broadway company of DreamGirls.. The organization focuses on generating resources and coordinating activities to create awareness of and combat against HIV/AIDS. The Diva Foundation utilizes music and entertainment as a vehicle to inform, educate and erase the stigma still attached to this disease. In 2005, Sheryl Lee Ralph  and the DIVA Foundation received  the first Red Ribbon Leadership Award at the United Nations on World AIDS Day for the unique use of the arts in fighting HIV/AIDS.

About Sheryl Lee Ralph
It's difficult to remember a time when people died in numbers to great to imagine and families turned their backs on loved ones dying in silence, stigma and shame.  It's hard to remember that people didn't talk about AIDS in America but Sheryl Lee Ralph has never forgotten. That is why she created the DIVA (Divinely Inspired Victoriously Anointed) Foundation. Her dedicated commitment has led to the 19th Annual Divas Simply Singing! And her critically acclaimed one-woman show, "Sometimes I Cry," a production written and performed by Ralph, which explores the lives of women infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and continues to tour the world. 

"If was fortunate for the country - and world - that two years ago Ralph became sufficiently outraged over the silence about HIV/AIDS and how it kills too many people, too many women, to many black Americans.  Not only did she find her voice when writing Sometimes I Cry.  She found her calling." - Mary Martin Niepold, Winston-Salem Journal

With continued success on stage, screen, television and music along with her philanthropic endeavours, Sheryl Lee Ralph has never been one to rest on her laurels. A triple threat dreamgirl, Ralph is an acclaimed veteran of film, television and the Broadway stage.  Her award-winning work includes creating the role of Deena Jones in the legendary Broadway musical, "Dreamgirls," which earned her Best Actress nods for Tony and Drama Desk Awards. She returned to Broadway for a 12-month stint in the Tony-award winning musical, "Thoroughly Modern Millie,' creating the role of sassy chanteuse Muzzy Van Hossmere to rave reviews.  Ralph has just wrapped the Broadway bound production of The First Wives Club musical at The Old Globe in San Diego, where she brought new life to the role of Elyse Elliot, originally played by Goldie Hawn in the movie.

No stranger to television, Ralph's credits include "It's a Living," "Designing Women," "The District," and most notably, "Moesha" for which TV Guide named her  one of TV's best Mom's and was nominated for seven Image Awards.  Sheryl has shared the big screen with some of Hollywood's award-winning leading men with film credits that include "The Mighty Quinn" with Denzel Washington; "Mistress" with Robert de Niro; "The Distinguished Gentlemen" with Eddie Murphy and "To Sleep With Anger" with Danny Glover for which Ralph picked up a win for Best Supporting Actress at the Independent Spirit Awards for her critically acclaimed  performance .

Finding success in writing and directing, Ralph's award-winning short film, "Secrets," co-starring award-winning actress Alfre Woodard and Robin Givens was a finalist in the HBO Film Short Competition, Showtime's Filmmaker Award Series, and the BET Filmmaker Award Competition. The film was also selected as the audience favourite at the Outfest Film Festival. "Secrets" was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Hollywood Film Festival, the Acapulco Film Festival and the Urban World Film Festival.

Did you know?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that about 250,000 of the 1.2 million people living with HIV don't know they are infected. Get tested!  Visit www.testtogether.org www.divassimplysinging.org

"Don't walk around with a time bomb in your vagina! Get tested!" -- Sheryl Lee Ralph, actress/activist

www.testtogether.org
www.divassimplysinging.com

From Jamaica To Jersey In Three Years

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

(August 25, 2009) NEW YORK — The world's first Hasidic reggae superstar is getting a little unorthodox.

Matisyahu Miller, known to his fans by his first name and to his friends simply as Matis, emerges this month with his first full-length album in three years - and a sound more like Jersey than Jamaica.

He's added electronica, funky pop, straight-up guitar rock and even a touch of folk to his playlist. Singing lessons have given his voice new depth and melody.

"It's not really any longer about me being the Hasidic reggae guy," he says. "I'm informed by Hasidism and Judaism and reggae music, but it's not that black and white, and it's not that simple."

The early reaction? Not always cheers in Crown Heights, the Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lives in a modest apartment with his wife and two young sons.

"Just yesterday I was walking down the street and some kid was walking by me. He's like, 'Matis, stick to the reggae!' I was like, 'Ahhgh!"' he recalls.

Matisyahu, 30, pays hecklers no heed.

"I think the vast majority of people that respect what I do are willing to move with me. I think it's not so much about genres or styles of music as it is about expressing the emotion or the idea," he says.

Matisyahu was initially seen as a musical oddity when he emerged five years ago, an Orthodox Jew in a flat-brimmed black hat and bushy beard who loved hip-hop beats and sang dancehall reggae in a Jamaican accent.

His 2004 debut Shake Off The Dust ... Arise, and the subsequent CDs Live at Stubb's and Youth - all featuring versions of his biggest single King Without a Crown - became a crossover hit. Not bad for a former Deadhead who, before his conversion, had followed Phish on tour, dabbled in drugs and grew up nonreligious in White Plains, N.Y.

His new 13-song CD Light is still definitely grounded in reggae. The first single, One Day, is reminiscent of Bob Marley's No Woman, No Cry.

But the album, which features collaborations with Good Charlotte, Trevor Hall and members of Fishbone, also has songs that could easily appear on a CD by Maroon 5. If you politely swayed while listening to his previous work, this will likely make you dance while pumping your fist.

"One of the things I really love about making music is being able to tap into almost like different sides of myself," Matisyahu says. "I'm sure I will keep evolving in terms of what feels right to me."

WFNX-FM, the New England-based, alternative-rock radio station, was one of the first to champion Matisyahu and invited him back this summer to play. Keith Dakin, the program director, likes his new song and sound, but knows the pressure he's under.

"He's got to convince the fans and the radio community that, 'Hey, there's more to me than just that one song from three years ago,' " Dakin says. The evolution of Matisyahu's sound has many roots. While on tour, he listened to and absorbed what his band liked: The Flaming Lips, Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley.

Dance and electronica also started to interest him - and that community returned the favour. He provided the voice for Drown in the Now, the first single off electronic duo The Crystal Method's new CD.

Intense voice lessons also led to his growing confidence as a singer, evident in the CD's last song Silence, which is a lilting, stripped-down folk song.

"I was able to have more control and do more of what I what I wanted to do. And not be afraid to sing. Not be afraid to lose the accent. And let my voice come out," he says.

Something that hasn't changed is Matisyahu's intense work on his lyrics, which often have multiple meanings and explore religious themes.

Take just one tune from the new album - We Will Walk. It combines mystical themes he studied from Rabbi Nachman (1772-1810), the crisis in Darfur he learned about while contributing to a John Lennon tribute album, and the tragedy of Africa's child soldiers.

"There's a lot of layers," he says with a smile. "But if you listen to the song, it might sound like a love song."

To support the new album, Matisyahu is hitting the road, which presents a challenge for a devout Orthodox Jew: No Friday night shows, the need for kosher food backstage, and avoiding physical contact with women not his wife. He says it takes focus to steer clear of temptations.

"You have so much available to you - the whole sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll thing. If you let yourself go a little bit, then it's like this landslide," he says.

Stage-diving - something he abandoned for religious reasons - is back, however. He says he has always struggled with that particular interpretation of the rules.

There's also another reason.

"It's such a fun thing to do," he says with a smile.

The Big Kiss-Off

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Iain Marlow,
Staff Reporter

(August 25, 200) KISS, it turns out, might put on a rock show so unbelievably spectacular, so hellish and fiery, that Oshawa's infrastructure simply wouldn't be able to handle it.

When the famed glam-rock band announced in April that fans voting online would help determine stops on its upcoming tour, recession-battered Oshawa shouted out loud in the form of face-painting at the mall, computer kiosks for voting and a declaration of "KISS in Oshawa week."

It worked – Oshawa placed first, ahead of New York and Toronto – but the hurting city of heavy motor metal was left off a list of tour dates released by the rockers yesterday.

"The size of the production turned out to require a larger venue," KISS spokesman Erik Stein told the Star.

"In this case, that turned out to be the Air Canada Centre."

KISS is known for its huge shows, with the makeup-wearing musicians surrounded by intense pyrotechnics and hydraulics.

But local Councillor Robert Lutczyk disputes the notion that the General Motors Centre can't handle the band.

Stein was quick to add that "something special" was being planned for Oshawa, but the apparent snub has left Lutczyk feeling "sad."

"It doesn't give me the warm, fuzzy feeling I'd like to be feeling right now," he said.

"It's nice that they're working on something special for Oshawa and I look forward to it. But I'm just not sure why we weren't on the regular list, like everyone out there was expecting us to be."

Sean Shane, a KISS superfan who works at a local auto parts factory, could not believe the band would skip Oshawa after fans shot their city to first place.

"They're all about the fans and the publicity, and it would just be terrible for them to do this."

Shane added: "I'd be very disappointed if it doesn't happen.

"And if it's not a concert, I would be very disappointed."

He worried a movie theatre viewing of a live KISS show might replace a full concert, but said, "I hope to God that they are going to be playing."

There is the unconfirmed possibility Oshawa will be on the next leg of the tour in 2010.

Meanwhile, Oshawa's legion of fans will be left wondering exactly what sort of treat the rock gods will shower upon them.

"It all seems sort of cryptic," Lutczyk mused.

"We got first place, but it makes me wonder whether or not we're going to get the gold medal."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Black Eyed Peas Set Another Record

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 20, 2009)  *The Black Eyed Peas make history on the Billboard charts this week by becoming the first act to spend 20 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 singles tally.   "Boom Boom Pow" and the song that dethroned it, "I Gotta Feeling," have been at the top of the charts for 12 and eight weeks, respectively.   "There's a part of me that wants to be cocky, but then I can't be cocky," group member will.i.am told Billboard Tuesday. "There's a part of me that wants to call out all of my other peers and competitors. I don't want to say no names because I'm not like that, but part of me wants to do that. And would it be wrong if I did that? Yes it would. I'm not like that."   The success of "Boom Boom Pow," the quartet's first No. 1 single, was somewhat of a surprise for will.i.am.   "I knew that `Boom Boom Pow' would be big in the clubs, but I didn't know it would be that potent with the world, outside of the club. So that my accountant's aunt would be like: Black Eyed Peas, I love `Boom Boom Pow!'" he laughed. "I didn't know it was going to be that. I didn't know that teachers would say I like `Boom Boom Pow.'"   Will.i.am says he's not sure how to take it all in.   "Like how am I supposed to take this and soak this in? If these people like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson have these No.1s, but yet we just broke a record, how am I supposed to take that because we came from the under, under, underground," he said.

Aguilera Taps Mia, Santigold For Album

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 20, 2009)   *Christina Aguilera is pulling from an eclectic pool of female artists for her upcoming album, with MIA, Santigold, Lady Tron, Sia and Goldfrapp among those making guest appearances.   "I know I can't let too much out the bag too soon," she told MTV. "I just can't, 'cause I really want you guys to be surprised and to experience firsthand what I'm talking about or what I'm not talking too much about. Too soon in the game, but wrapping everything up now.   "I think I'm most proud of this work than I've ever been, just because I worked with so many amazing and incredibly talented people."    Aguilera said she had particular fun working with Australian singer Sia.   “I think we really created some super crazy magic together,” Aguilera said.

Emergence: Roy Hargrove Big Band

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(Groovin' High/Emarcy)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(August 25, 200) Having proven himself in straight-ahead quintets and large Afro-Cuban and funk ensembles, trumpeter
Roy Hargrove tackles the conventional big band with a reworking of originals and standards that highlights his skills as composer and arranger. This 19-piece group is comprised of musicians the Texas native has been working with on and off for the last decade. The highlights include fluttery ballad "Velera," which appeared quiet and dreamy on 1995's Family, amped up here with lingering horns and percussive texture; trombonist Frank Lacey's "Requiem," a cinematic, 13-minute exposition with marching band feel that dips into avant garde territory on a freewheeling sax solo; and the soulfully bopping, guitar-infused "Roy Allan." Guest vocalist Roberta Gambarini adds suitably rolled R's to a Spanish version of "La Puerta" and renders "Everytime We Say Goodbye" so lush I keep thinking I hear strings. Throughout, the leader displays restraint, stamina and the knack for burnishing a pretty melody. This well-sequenced and varied disc is his finest since 1997's Grammy-winning Crisol. Top Track: Hargrove, 39, leads off a spry version of "September in the Rain" playing mute, then puts the horn aside to sing crooner style. He caps it with a hilarious call and response as the other players try to mimic his scat. The tune also includes a brilliant solo by pianist Gerald Clayton.

TLC Preps For First U.S. Gig in 7 Years

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 26, 2009) *The surviving members of TLC will perform together on U.S. soil for the first time in seven years – as part of a benefit concert hosted by Justin Timberlake, reports People.com  Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas will reunite for the "Justin Timberlake and Friends" concert, to be held Oct. 17 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.   The four-time R&B Grammy winners, who scored dozens of Billboard hits in the 1990s, lost third member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes when she was killed in a 2002 car accident.    Along with Timberlake and TLC, country superstar Taylor Swift and vocalists Alicia Keys and Ciara have also been added to the ticket. Tickets go on sale Saturday.    The benefit concert highlights a weeklong golf tournament to be hosted by Timberlake in Sin City Oct. 11-18 – the 2009 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The 28-year-old singer is in the second year of a five-year partnership with Shriners to host the golf tournament and benefit concert.

::FILM NEWS::

Death Row Launches Film Division

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 20, 2009) *"Sons 2 The Grave," an urban drama starring Tonya Lee Williams and Dorian Harewood, will be the first film project under the newly revived rap label Death Row Records, reports Reuters. 

Toronto-based company WIDEawake Entertainment Group acquired Death Row from bankruptcy in January for $18 million. CEO Lara Lavi said "Sons 2 The Grave" is set to begin filming in Toronto this October.

 "This film embodies what we're trying to do with Death Row, to tell human stories that don't always have happy endings, and that allow us to learn from violence and disenfranchised lives, but not glorify it," Lavi said.

 The indie drama follows a young basketball phenomenon (K.C. Collins) returning to an embattled ghetto after two gunshots cut short his dream of an NBA career. Child actor Cameron Miles Jones is also in the cast.

 Death Row Films will tap the rap label's catalogue for the music score of "Sons 2 The Grave," before moving on to other projects.

 "We're looking at film properties that relate to 'Boyz n the Hood'-type stories, and to power the films with Death Row music," Lavi said.

 She added that the Death Row library, which includes songs and albums by 2pac, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Danny Boy, is barely exploited.

 "We're sitting here with 10,000 masters, of which only 10 percent to 15 percent have been released to the public," she said.

 Death Row Records is licensing its songs to film, television, videogame and advertising producers, including EA Games and the makers of the "CSI" and "Cold Case" TV series. 

 As previously reported, the label also will re-release Dr. Dre's 1992 album "The Chronic" on Sept. 1. "The Chronic Re-lit" collector's disc will feature 16 original songs and seven new tracks, as well as previously unreleased video of Dr. Dre and other artists.

 Death Row is also readying boxed sets of unreleased master recordings for the holiday season.

On the QT with Quentin Tarantino

Source:
Kam Williams

(August 20, 2009) Born in Knoxville , Tennessee on March 27, 1963 to an Italian father and a mother of Irish and Cherokee extraction, Quentin Jerome Tarantino took a most unorthodox approach to showbiz. He dropped out of high school at 15 to pursue moviemaking but it would take some time to realize that dream. The closest he got to Hollywood for years was a minimum-wage gig as a clerk at a video rental store in L.A. where he became known for making recommendations to appreciative customers.

He finally began his meteoric rise in 1992 with the release of Reservoir Dogs, following-up that impressive directorial debut a couple of years later with Pulp Fiction, the seven-time Academy Award-nominee for which he won an Oscar in the Best Original Screenplay category. Since then, his storybook career has included such critically-acclaimed films as Jackie Brown, Kill Bill 1 & 2, and a couple of collaborations with Robert Rodriguez, Sin City and Grindhouse.

Here, Quentin talks about his new film, Inglourious Basterds, which is based upon a screenplay he started writing over a decade ago. The World War II action flick stars Brad Pitt as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army who leads a squad of Jewish soldiers on a mission behind enemy lines in France to go hunting for Nazis.  

Kam Williams: Hi Quentin, thanks for the time. I really appreciate it.

Quentin Tarantino: Oh, it’s my pleasure, I was psyched to do this especially after I read some of the comments you made after reading the script. It was a real phantasmagorical collection of references. 

KW: That was an interesting experience. This is my first time reading a script instead of seeing the movie before conducting an interview.

QT: Oh, that’s cool.

KW: How does it feel to have finished Inglourious Basterds, finally, given that you’ve been working on it for over a decade?

QT: It’s a little surreal, to tell you the truth, after having the project in my mind for such a long time. I had scenes written for it but for years it was always just kind of out there. And at one point I even considered putting it aside, thinking maybe I’d grown out of it or moved past it. But then I realized that I’d invested too much into it, and that even if I never made the movie, I at least had to finish writing it just so I could get this mountain out of the way. One thing that’s different though is that opposed to thinking about it as this long-gestating piece that was written over years and years, the truth is I only came up with a lot of the characters and the first two chapters of the final script way back when. Otherwise, it has a whole different storyline. What kept preventing me from making the movie earlier was that it was just too big and too involved, almost like a mini-series. And just before I turned it into a mini-series, I decided to take one more crack at trying to make it as a movie. That’s when I came up with a new storyline about the premiere of a German propaganda film which I completed about a year ago in just seven months. As a matter of fact, on the cover page of your copy of the original script you can see that I literally put the pen down on July 2nd, 2008. So, the final draft was a weird combination of this long-gestating project and something I had never worked at with more intense momentum.  

KW: Since Brad Pitt’s character, Aldo, is from Tennessee and part-Cherokee, like yourself, I was wondering whether he was modeled on you?

QT: He’s definitely modeled after me. I probably would’ve wanted to play the character, if I had finished writing the script way back when, in the Nineties. But now, I don’t want to act at all.

KW: While reading the script, some of the films it reminded me of in different spots included The Train, Von Ryan’s Express, The Guns of Navarone, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Black Book, Zabriskie Point, The Wizard of Oz, The Big Lebowski and Defiance . 

QT: That’s a neat collection, although I never saw Defiance . I’d be interested in hearing how you connect the dots.

KW: Defiance is included because of the theme of Jews fighting back. Why did you decide to have this all-Jewish unit led by a gentile from the South?

QT: That’s an interesting question. Basically, Aldo’s this character I’ve had in my mind for a very, very long time. So, in a way he came before the Basterds. Furthermore, it’s kind of a two-way proposition, because Aldo had been fighting racism in the South before the war. And if he survives the war, he’s going to continue fighting the Klan in the Fifties, with his own version of the Basterds in the Tennessee Hills. Also, the fact that he’s part Native American is significant, because what he’s doing against the Nazi’s is similar to the Apache resistance, the ambushing of soldiers, desecrating their bodies and leaving them there for other Germans to find. Aldo’s idea is to find Jewish soldiers because he should be able to motivate them more easily because they are essentially warriors in a holy war against an enemy that’s trying to wipe their race off the face of the Earth.

KW: You have a black character named Marcel [played by Jacky Ido] who works as the projectionist in a movie theatre. I’d have guessed that all the blacks in occupied France had been carted off to Concentration camps by the Nazis.

QT: No they weren’t. The relationship between black people and Nazi Germany was very interesting. Part of the reason is that there were so few blacks in Europe that there wasn’t a “Black Problem” per se, the way there was a “Jewish Problem.” So, black people weren’t rounded up in Nazi occupied France . You’d have to keep a low profile, to be sure, but having said that, you’d still enjoy more freedoms there than on the streets of Chicago at the same time period. And far more freedoms than in a state like Alabama . For instance, you could walk into a restaurant in Paris and sit down and order something. The odd irony in all this is that while there’s no mistaking where Hitler was coming from as far as blacks were concerned, after all, he made that very clear in Mein Kampf, the average German soldier did not feel the same way about black people. In fact, they were absolutely appalled whenever they witnessed the racism exhibited by white American soldiers towards their fellow black soldiers. They couldn’t fathom it, because they believed the hype about America being the land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s equally unfathomable that we went to Europe to fight racial oppression with a segregated army. A wonderful paper could be written about all this, and maybe I’ll do that one of these days.     

KW: Do you make a cameo appearance in this film, like you have in a lot of your movies?

QT: Not really. I think you can hear my voice a little bit in one of the propaganda movies. [Chuckles]

KW: Why did you spell “Basterds” with an “E” in the title?

QT: I wasn’t trying to be coy or anything, but it was just an artistic stroke.

KW: How did you feel when the picture was so well received at Cannes , where you got an 11-minute ovation?

QT: Yeah, we got the standing ovation of the Festival. That was really exciting and a lot of fun kind of dropping it on the world there. And I felt a sense of satisfaction because we had worked hard to get the picture finished in time for Cannes .

KW: Laz Lyles is curious about why you chose a lot of relatively unknown actors for this picture?
QT: Since I was casting country-appropriate, every actor had to be from the place they were representing, and they had to be able to speak the appropriate language as well. In other words, it wasn’t enough that you could speak German, you had to be German. Oddly enough, in Germany , this is considered an all-star cast.

KW: Laz also asks, how did director Eli Roth get involved with the project as an actor?

QT: Eli’s a really good friend of mine, and I’ve always known that he’s a really fun performer on screen. Plus, he looks like his character, the Bear Jew, and he does an impeccable Boston accent.

KW: Nick Antoine says you’re already one of the greatest directors of all time, so where do you go from here? What's the next mountain for you to climb?

QT: Oh, that’s a really good question. I don’t really know. Usually, when I finish making a movie, I have to pause to contemplate life a little, and then I see where to go. It’s not like I’m shopping for scripts. I generally have to start from scratch every time. However, I could go with Kill BiIl 3. Or I could do a prequel to this movie, because I have half of it written. It’s actually a story about the Basterds with a bunch of black troops. The truth is that I don’t really know what’s next, but I really like being in that square one position.

KW: How about making another homage to either martial arts or blaxploitation flicks?

QT: Well, I gotta say that I do hear a bit off a calling to do another crime picture. Maybe one set in the Seventies. All these other people are doing it, and to me, they never get it right. Like American Gangster. Were there any black people at all involved making that movie?

KW: Nick also asks, what is your opinion of the direction the film industry seems to be headed?

QT: I don’t want to sound like one of those guys who’s always bemoaning the business today and thinking about how much better it was before. But as my movie gets ready to go out into the marketplace, I feel very lucky that I’m still a commercial director and that my movies still play mainstream and open in 3,000 theatres, because my movies always seem so different from everything else playing in the multiplexes. As long as there’s a place for people like me and Michael Mann to exhibit our work, then I’m all for it.  

KW: Finally, Nick asks, how would you say the internet has influence film?

QT: What the internet has done is destroy film criticism. I would never have guessed ten years ago that the profession of film criticism would be going the way of the dodo bird.

KW: Who’s your favourite film critic? Let me guess: the late Pauline Kael.

QT: For sure. She’s just about my favourite writer.

KW: And who’s your favourite director, Howard Hawks?

QT: I love Howard Hawks, but I would probably go with Sergio Leone.

KW: Keith Kremer asks, if you met someone unfamiliar with your work who wanted to watch just one of your movies, which one would you suggest?

QT: That’s an interesting question… Umm… I would probably cater to that person’s personality. So, if they seemed like more of a Kill Bill person, I’d show them, Kill Bill. If I wanted someone to get to know me though, I would have to start with Reservoir Dogs. 

KW: Bi-continental attorney Bernadette Beekman told me that she was in Cannes for the release of Reservoir Dogs, and she was wondering, what was the best time you ever had at the festival?

QT: Well, I’ve had a lot of good times in Cannes , but when I won the Palme d’Or for Pulp Fiction would have to be the best.

KW: Director Hisani Dubose wanted to know what you shoot on now. She points out that you shot part of Pulp Fiction on High 8. She’s curious about whether you’re still using film or if you’ve gone to High Definition video

QT: I’ve never used High Definition video, never, ever, ever, ever, ever. And I never will. I can’t stand that crap.

KW: Larry Greenberg says you started out at 15 and have been immersed in the
industry, in one way or another, your whole life. He asks, do you think a person
coming to the industry later in life still has a chance for success at acting or directing?

QT: It can be difficult to get into directing at a later age. However, look at Courtney Hunt, the woman who won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance last year for Frozen River [at the age of 43]. So, if you can raise the money on your own, you can direct a movie at any age. As far as acting is concerned, it’s advisable to get started when you’re younger, but there are plenty of actors who started their careers in their late thirties or early forties.

KW: Jackie Schatz asks, how do you think of Hitler?

QT: In a word, despicable!

KW: Marcia Evans asks, will you ever settle down and have a family? 

QT: I’ve thought about that. Look, I went through baby fever, for sure, about five or six years ago, but I kind of got over it. Up until now, I’ve wanted my movies to be the most important thing in my life. I haven’t wanted to let anything distract me from that. And I think I still feel the same way right now.

KW: Marcia may be a bit presumptuous here, but she says she knows you have a foot fetish. And she asks if there’s another part of the anatomy that you have a fetish about?

QT: I appreciate the female foot, but I’ve never said that I have a foot fetish. But I am a lower track guy. I like legs… I like booties… [Laughs] Let’s just say, I have a black male sexuality. 

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

QT: No, there isn’t one that’s just been hanging out there, that I say to myself, why don’t they ask this?  

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

QT: [Hesitates] Very rarely would I use the word “afraid.” I feel trepidation. I get nervous, particularly when I’m about to shoot a big cinematic sequence that absolutely has got to work or else why bother. Going into those scenes, I have trepidation, because it’s mine to mess up.   

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

QT: Oh, I’m very happy.

KW: Teri Emerson would like to know, when was the last time you had a good laugh?

QT: Oh, I laugh all the time. I’m an easy laugher. You can find me on any set, because I’m always laughing.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

QT: I’m a cinemaphile, so I read a lot of cinema books. The last one I read was a biography abut the director Dorothy Arzner.

go HERE

KW: What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

QT: Poverty, to a great degree. I was very poor at the age of 16 and 17.

KW: Working in the video store.

QT: No, those were the good days. But even then, while working at the video store for five years, I was a high school dropout making minimum wage. And that’s what I existed on for what seemed like forever. We would dream about one day getting a raise to the wonderful world of $8 an hour. So, to overcome that minimum-wage kid white underclass to actually be responsible for millions of dollars when it comes to making a movie was a very big deal.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

QT: If you want to be a filmmaker, you have to love it. If you love cinema as much as I do, and not many people do, and if you are focused and actually have something to offer, you will get somewhere with it. And when it comes to being a writer, just write. Writing is actually the easiest thing to get started at. But don’t write what you think people want to read. Find your voice and write about what’s in your heart.  

KW: What’s your favourite dish to cook?

QT: That’s a good question, actually. I’d have to say barbecuing a steak. It’s one dish I do it really well, and it’s very satisfying. I can make other things, but I don’t like to cook just for myself. Barbecuing a steak is always good.

KW: Well, thanks again for the interview Quentin. Best of luck with Inglourious Basterds and I look forward to speaking with you again down the line.

QT: Hey, I look forward to it Kam. This was a really great conversation.

Film Festival To Be Star-Studded

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard,
Movies Editor

(August 20, 2009) The Toronto International Film Festival has always welcomed big-name stars for the 10-day fest, but this year there's a touch of royalty in the mix: the queen of daytime TV, the king of after dark and a former member of Britain's royal family.

Oprah Winfrey, Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York are among the hundreds of fest guests announced yesterday by TIFF as it released its final line-up.

In all, 335 films from 64 countries will screen Sept. 10-19, including 271 feature-length films, 72 per cent of which are world, international or North American premieres.

Among the 71 directors with debuts at TIFF is Drew Barrymore for her roller derby dramedy, Whip It. She and star Ellen Page, plus cast Juliette Lewis, Eve and Marcia Gay Harden will be here for the fest.

TIFF also announced additions to various programs, from kid-friendly Sprockets to the edgy Vanguard.

Among them:

Mr. Nobody, Jaco Van Dormael, France/Germany/Canada/Belgium; North American premiere. Jared Leto stars as Nemo, the world's oldest man. In 2092, humans have achieved immortality, thanks to advances in genetics and at the age of 120 years, Nemo is the last mortal left on Earth. His death is drawing near, and media from all over the world are eager to cover the event. Also starring Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh-Dan Pham and Rhys Ifans.

Antichrist, Lars von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/France/Italy; North American premiere. Lars von Trier's controversial movie was the talk of Cannes this year with its groundbreaking, deeply disturbing and graphic nightmare vision about men and women and their relationship. Now Toronto film fans can judge for themselves. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Dafoe star.

She, A Chinese, Xiaolu Guo, United Kingdom/France/Germany; North American premiere. A rock-`n'-roll odyssey and hybrid of documentary, creative writing, visual poetry and cinema, She, A Chinese follows a young woman on a soul-searching journey from her native village in China to London.

The White Ribbon, Michael Haneke, Germany/Austria/France/Italy; North American premiere. Michael Haneke won the Palme d'Or for best film at this year's Cannes Film Festival for his film set in Protestant Northern Germany on the eve of World War I, where strange incidents begin to occur in a village community and increasingly take the form of a ritual of punishment.

List of stars on the guest list:

Philadelphia's Loss Is Toronto Movie Industry's Gain

Source: www.thestar.com -
Star Staff And Wire Services

(August 25, 200) Director M. Night Shyamalan says he will move production of his new thriller Devil from his hometown of Philadelphia to Toronto because Pennsylvania can't guarantee his film will get a tax credit.

The state's budget, which includes new tax legislation, has been tied up in the Democratic-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate for nearly two months.

"We've been working closely with the production company and we're hoping they'll show up here in the fall," Toronto film commissioner Peter Finestone told the Star today.

"The director wanted to shoot in Philadelphia but the tax credit status there was not secure."

Finestone said the film's producers "wanted assurances from us that our film tax credit situation wouldn't change, and we were able to guarantee it wouldn't."

The only event that might keep Shyamalan in Philadelphia is if the publicity over the move causes a break in the Pennsylvania budget impasse, Finestone added.

Shyamalan lives near the Philadelphia suburb of Malvern and has filmed eight of his nine movies in Pennsylvania, including The Sixth Sense, starring Bruce Willis.

Last month, Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan announced that the province was sweetening its film tax credit by $80 million in a bid to stop several productions from moving to Quebec, which also offers generous film tax credits.

Devil might not be the only bonus for Toronto flowing from Pennsylvania's budget uncertainty.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that another film, Destination Home, about a wealthy family facing adversity during the recession, has cancelled plans to start production in Philadelphia in September.

Producer Justin Moore-Lewy told the newspaper: "We would like to shoot in Philadelphia. But a combination of the tax credit in jeopardy and union negotiations have left us in limbo."

Moore-Lewy said he is now looking at possible filming locations in Toronto, Georgia and Louisiana.

Producer Ari Lantos Makes Mark In Family Trade

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman


(August 26, 2009) Thirty-one years ago
Robert Lantos became the man of the moment in the Toronto film world as the producer of In Praise of Older Women, which had it premiere in September 1978 as the opening night gala of the Festival of Festivals (now called TIFF).

Luckily for Lantos, In Praise was targeted by Ontario's government film censor board, which proposed to snip a few seconds of footage considered dangerously erotic. The ensuing publicity created pandemonium; overflow crowds mobbed the theatre, hoping for something sensational.

Since that night, Lantos has gone on to a long run as a dominant force in our movie landscape. But increasingly he will be sharing the spotlight with his 28-year-old son,
Ari Lantos (the elder of two children he had while married to actress Jennifer Dale).

Currently juggling projects on both the big screen and the small screen, Ari is flying home from Rome just in time for a party to celebrate the premiere of You Might As Well Live, a comedy with a decidedly kinky edge, which he produced in partnership with Jonas Bell Pasht.

It opens Friday at the Bloor, Canada Square and AMC Yonge-Dundas.

Like his previous production, Real Time, YMAWL (directed by Simon Ennis) was shot in Hamilton on a low budget – $2 million in this case.

For the next few months, Lantos is tied up working as co-producer on a much more expensive venture – his father's anticipated $30 million adaptation of the Mordecai Richler novel Barney's Version.

That's why Ari Lantos has been in Rome, where shooting began last week. One of his responsibilities is to take care of the actors and their needs – a task that would give most of us ulcers.

When the Barney shoot ends, he will focus on organizing a pilot for a projected half-hour TV series based on Men With Brooms, the popular 2002 movie starring Paul Gross (who also directed), produced by the elder Lantos.

But perhaps what the younger Lantos is most excited about is the prospect of his third movie, which he hopes to produce next year in partnership with Brian Mosoff.

Echo will be a $6 million supernatural thriller from a script by Noel Baker (who wrote the screenplay for Hard Core Logo) and Michael DeCarlo. It will be directed by DeCarlo, whose credits include several episodes of The Border.

"It's set in an ultra-modern world but it has a classic romantic sensibility," Lantos says.

As for Brooms, CBC Television has just made a deal for the pilot with Serendipity Point Films (the company Lantos founded) and E1 Television.

Paul Mather, the creative force behind Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie, has been recruited as head writer, a clear sign the CBC hopes this will become another hit sitcom about a Canadian small town for its early-evening audience.

Gross will be an executive producer of the TV show and make occasional appearances if it turns into a series.

"I've spent years trying to develop a TV series from Men With Brooms," Ari Lantos notes. Previously there was a different concept, not linked to Corner Gas. But after discussions with both CBC and CTV, that version was dropped.

When it came to You Might As Well Live, Ari and Robert Lantos did not always see eye to eye.

"He was thinking of a mainstream audience," Ari Lantos explains, "and his issue was, `Does it really have to be so dark?' But my partners and I felt strongly it did need to be dark. We were aiming for a specialized audience. And the response when it was screened at the Slamdance (film) festival (an alternative spinoff of Sundance) and in Brooklyn showed that our target audience loves it."

No matter how perverse and outrageous it may be, no matter how many taboos it ignores, You Might As Well Live won't get the free publicity boost that turned In Praise of Older Women into a notorious hit for Ari's father in 1978.

Alas, the Ontario government's censor board no longer performs its sacred mission of snipping out the naughty bits to protect our morals – and surprisingly You Might As Well Live got a 14A rating.

Bassett and Glover Co-Star in Civil Rights Saga Set in the South

Source:  Kam Williams

Giancarlo Esposito makes a decent directorial debut with this multi-layered drama set in
Julia, South Carolina, a mythical oasis of intolerance which has never been forced to own up to its ugly legacy of racism. At the point of departure, we learn that civil rights activist Peter Malcolm (Samuel L. Jackson) had been shot dead there in broad daylight 40 years earlier in front of several eyewitnesses. Yet the murder was never solved, primarily because Jack Herrod (Tom Bower), the sheriff then in charge of the investigation, was a bigot with no interest in bringing the perpetrator (Ted Manson) to justice.

Today, Herrod is retired and ridden with cancer, while Malcolm’s son, John (Danny Glover) remains traumatized by the loss of his martyred father. The latter lives with his wife, Sarah (Angela Bassett), in Gospel Hill, the town’s African-American enclave.   

The point of departure is the beginning of a school year during which a mind-boggling number of coincidences will messily enmesh about a dozen local yokels into each other’s lives. It all starts when seasoned teacher Sarah befriends novice Rosie Griffith (Julia Stiles) on her first day in the classroom. Rosie is new to town, and oblivious about any of its sordid history.

So, when her automobile breaks down, she thinks nothing of flirting with the helpful hillbilly who gets her car going again. In fact, it’s not long before she’s dating Joel (Taylor Kitsch) who just happens to work as a landscaper for Dr. Ron Palmer (Giancarlo Esposito), the city’s most successful, black businessman.

 Joel is also the offspring of Sheriff Herrod’s sons, whose other son, Carl (Adam Baldwin), is having a steamy affair with Mrs. Palmer (Nia Long). It is implied that Ron deserves to have his wife cheat on him since he’s partners with the Valley Corporation, a real estate developer with designs on the black community. For with his considerable influence, the company has been gradually gobbling up all the land to turn the ‘hood into a golf course.

Thank God Sarah Malcolm figures out what’s going down, and she rallies her neighbours to fight city hall before it’s too late. Besides preventing the impending gentrification, the other pressing issue is cracking the cold murder case before the terminally-ill sheriff kicks the bucket.

Despite the convoluted, over-plotted premise, Gospel Hill proves easy enough to follow, because the story has no surprising twists and the characters are such simplistically-drawn archetypes. This one’s pure and virtuous, that one’s dastardly and spineless, and so forth.

By the time the closing credits roll, all the loose ends have been tied in a pat fashion which enables you to exit the theatre with a sense of satisfaction. A well-meaning, modern morality play which telegraphs its punches, like a Sunday school parable about the difference between good versus evil.

Can I get an Amen?

Very Good (2.5 stars)
Unrated 
Running time: 98 minutes
Studio: Art Mattan
To order a DVD of Gospel Hill, visit HERE.
To see a trailer for Gospel Hill, visit HERE

::TV NEWS::

So You Think You Can Dance Canada Steps Up Its Game

Source: www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(August 25, 200) So, Canada, you think you can dance through another season of So You Think You Can Dance?

Hell, yeah. This season, as it did in its inaugural run, So You Think You Can Dance Canada is giving the American original a krunk for its money.

No small feet, given how high the Yanks have stepped up their game. Not to mention the fact that this second Canadian season is bookended by not one but two American Dances, doubled up with a supplementary season on Fox (and here on the same network, CTV) as a reward for exponentially increasing ratings, which will perhaps even eventually elevate into American Idol territory.

Tonight the Canadian Top 20 begin their weekly elimination rounds, an opportune time to take stock of where we're at in this sophomore season, where we've been and where we may be going.

The dancers: I must admit, watching the audition shows, I began to have my doubts. But that's the way it's supposed to go, the segments carefully and selectively edited to keep the break-out talent close to the vest. Now the cream has risen to the top, and favourites are already starting to emerge (okay, so how adorable is that skinny little Cody?).

Ontarians have a particular emotional investment, with eight of the final 20 hailing from here – double last year's count.

If you want to be a little more specific about which hometown hero to root for, here are their names and points of origin:

Cutie-patootie Cody Bonnell, Unionville.

Melanie Buttarazzi, Woodbridge.

Austin Di lulio, Mississauga.

Jenna Lynn Higgins, Toronto.

Danny Lawn, Brockville.

Melanie Mah, Richmond Hill.

Tatiana Parker, Toronto.

Everett Smith, Glen Morris.

Start reserving the big screens at your local sports bars now – the dance-phobic jocks will no doubt be furious, but only for the first hour or so. Then they'll be hooked. Not that any of them will ever admit it.

The judges and host: Lynchpin judge Jean-Marc Genereux has always been a tad emotional, but this year has already shown some other, perhaps darker sides to his characteristically gushy, heart-on-the-sleeve ebullience. We've seen him happy, we've seen him moved to tears, occasionally we've seen him peeved. But watching him lash out as inept auditioners failed to master his ballroom choreography scared the "frikkin'" hell out of me.

By the same token, watching him burn up the dance floor demonstrating the routine with wife/partner France brought out the little guy's hidden hotness. Not to mention this sudden tendency to leer aloud at some of the sexier female contenders. Don't get me wrong – it's a welcome additional shot of hetero testosterone.

The embodiment of hulking machismo, formerly reserved and taciturn judge/choreographer Luther Brown has become positively chatty this year. And glamour girl Tré Armstrong, though no less passionate, seems to have honed her analytical chops, making both her praise and her criticism infinitely more specific.

The best thing about this year's audition round, and something the Americans have yet to try, is having all three of the regular judges choreograph the final ensemble auditions. No reflection on recurring judge/choreographer (and former first-season U.S. contestant) "Boot Camp" Blake McGrath, who does such a remarkable job, and not disregarding their occasional choreography throughout the season, but this did show us a side of the judges we don't often get to see (the scary Jean Marc, for example).

And now Leah Miller. Last year, I gave the MuchMusic-groomed host the benefit of a doubt, given that there is no one alive who could even touch the hem of Brit-born U.S. host Cat Deeley (no Emmy nom again this year – what is wrong with these people?)

But, I've got to be honest here, the reader response was an avalanche of negative emails and website comments. Seriously, not since Ben Mulroney (anyone even remember Canadian Idol?) has an on-air personality been subject to such unprovoked outrage.

The worst I can accuse Miller of is a kind of shellacked stiffness, amplified by wardrobe and make-up excesses that were unflattering from any angle but straight on.

This year, if the audition shows are any indication, Miller has finally relaxed enough to let her natural, sunnier self shine through, with a vastly more casual look to go with it. Diva Deeley has herself undergone a similar make-over by taking over her own styling.

I say we give Leah another chance.

The choreography: Our dance masters rank with the best – literally, with our own Stacey Tookey taking her rightful place among the all-star American team.

And any excuse to bring exchange genius Mia Michaels back across the border ...

As an added note, I was delighted to see a stronger representation of indigenous Canadian choreography throughout the auditions, from traditional native forms to Celtic stepdance.

I only wish this sort of thing adapted more readily to the performance show formats, as the American competition's Bollywood showstoppers do – though there's a real challenge I'd love to see our guys and gals tackle.

The production: Not a lot of room for improvement here, since the staging and editing of our first-season shows was as good as or better than the Americans' – and let's remember, the specifics of the franchise production style are very strictly regulated.

There has, in this recent American season, been a quantum leap forward in the staging, sets and special effects of the more elaborate routines. We would do well to follow suit. And then, of course, surpass them.

Rob Salem, the Star's TV columnist, does not think he can dance. Email: rsalem@thestar.ca

Leonard Nimoy Keeps On Trekking

Source: www.thestar.com -
Darren Zenko, Special To The Star

(August 23, 2009) In 1965, when a young Leonard Nimoy landed a role in the pilot for a new science-fiction TV series, he couldn't have guessed that his Mr. Spock would become one of television's most memorable characters, or that the show, Star Trek, would become one of the great cultural artefacts of the 20th century, entrenching itself in the global consciousness, spawning five spinoff series and 11 feature films, and giving birth to a community of aficionados that came to define what we call "fandom."

Nearly 45 years later, Nimoy, stopping by Toronto's Fan Expo Canada next Saturday and Sunday, fresh from reprising his Spock role in this year's cinematic Star Trek revival, looks back on his long and prosperous association with the granddaddy of TV sci-fi – and its generations of devoted fans – with affection.

"I'm grateful for (Star Trek)," says the 78-year-old actor, director, writer, photographer, vocalist and poet. "It's offered me tremendous creative and artistic opportunities, and an exciting personal life."

The warm relationship Nimoy enjoys with Trek fandom wasn't always so. When his first autobiography, I Am Not Spock, hit the racks in 1977, many fans reacted to the book's title as a repudiation of Star Trek, an unequivocal diss from their beloved Vulcan. From the fan newsletters to the schoolyards, the word was out: Spock hated Star Trek.

"After Star Trek was cancelled (in 1969), there was no new Star Trek product for years," Nimoy recalls, "but Star Trek reruns were ubiquitous, on at 6 p.m. every night, weekend-long Star Trek marathons, that kind of thing. College professors were doing courses based on single episodes. It was all over the place. At that time, I was asked to write a book."

A chance encounter with a mother and child in a San Francisco airport provided the incident that would lead to that book's title.

"A little boy was marched over to me by his mommy. She said `This is your favourite character on TV!' He just stared at me. She said `This is Mr. Spock!' He just stared."

The awkward exchange inspired the actor behind the character to write a chapter into his work-in-progress that detailed the differences between himself and his iconic creation. That chapter was entitled "I Am Not Spock."

"But," says Nimoy, "I did say, in that chapter, that of all the characters I'd portrayed, I was most proud of Spock and that given choice of any character to play again I would choose Spock. He stood for loyalty, intelligence, education. I wanted to use that title as the title of the book; I thought it would spur discussion, but my publisher advised against it. I fought for it and won ... but I won trouble.

"During this period when there was this great hunger for Star Trek production, I released a book called I Am Not Spock. The thought was, here was Nimoy, rejecting Star Trek. People were reading the title without reading the book! I had a tough time."

That same year, while appearing in a Broadway production of Equus, Nimoy headed down to a cinema in Times Square to catch a new movie.

"I'd heard about Star Wars," Nimoy recalls, "and here was this theatre packed with fans, screaming and cheering. I thought, `This could be the window for Paramount to do something with Star Trek. Next thing I know, I'm getting a call from my agent regarding a Star Trek movie."

With Nimoy's reprising of his signature role in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, sating his Spock-hungry fans, there followed 30 years of mutual affection. In recent years, though, the veteran of countless conventions had been feeling in the Trek fan community a certain lack of energy and excitement, what he calls a "habitual style" of fandom. That's changed, he says, since the release of J. J. Abrams' new Star Trek feature, in which Nimoy's aged Spock encounters his younger counterpart, played by Zachary Quinto.

"We have, this year, a big shift in the nature of the fans," Nimoy says. "Two things: larger numbers of people are attending (conventions), and second, there are a lot of people attending who have never been involved in Star Trek – new fans.

This new energy in fandom delights the artist who adapted a Jewish priestly blessing into the famous "Vulcan salute" and devised the "Vulcan nerve pinch" as a less barbaric alternative to Captain Kirk's bare knuckles. With the new movie, and the original Star Trek series now available on remastered with upgraded special effects (and thousands of hours of Trek still ubiquitous in reruns), Nimoy sees "the entire Star Trek oeuvre getting new attention" from a new generation of fans.

"In Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago I asked how many people there were at a convention for the first time. Half the room raised their hand. We had a lot of repeats in the past; I was surprised to see so many coming for the first time."

Flex Alexander : The “Soulaughable” Interview

Source: Kam Williams

Born Marc Alexander Knox in the Bronx on April 15, 1970, Flex Alexander got his start in showbiz as a dancer, earning his nickname because of his dizzying display of acrobat skills out on the floor. After being discovered by Spinderella, he toured with Salt-n-Pepa, Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah before turning his attention to stand-up comedy.

Flex added acting to his repertoire, making his big screen debut in 1992 opposite Latifah and Tupac in the crime drama Juice, following that up with support roles in such full-length flicks as She’s All That, Snakes on a Plane and The Hills Have Eyes II. Meanwhile, he found steady work on television, starring in several short-lived series, “Homeboys in Outer Space,” “Total Security” and “Where I Live,” and playing Michael Jackson in “Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story.”

He also appeared on such sitcoms as “Sister, Sister,” “Moesha,” “The Parkers” and “Girlfriends” before finally getting a hit show of his own, “One-on-One,” which enjoyed a five-year run from 2001 to 2006. The versatile performer has four NAACP Image Award nominations on his resume, along with a couple of BET Comedy Award nominations.

Here, he talks about hosting the second season of SOULAUGHABLE, a clean comedy showcase shot in Savannah featuring a rotating line-up of today’s hottest family-friendly comedians, including Mike Washington, Willie Brown, Sean Sarvis, Small Fire, Meshelle, Cleto Rodriguez, and Ms. V.

Kam Williams: Hi Flex, thanks for the time. When we last spoke you were still doing One-on-One. What originally interested you in shooting a clean comedy showcase like Soulaughable?
Flex Alexander: For one, my family. And secondly, I had done something like this before and taken it on the road a number of years ago, so, I knew that it could work. It was a no brainer.

KW: When you do stand-up, do you ordinarily work clean?

FA: Oh yeah, the last time I did Def Jam was in ’93. I’ve been clean ever since then.

KW: What about the other comedians appearing on Soulaughable? Are they clean just for the show?

FA: No, the majority of them work clean constantly. We stress that, because we don’t want someone to be shocked if they later go to see one of our performers at a club. It just taints everything we’re trying to do. But on the other hand, we can’t absolutely control what people do outside of Soulaughable.

KW: Bill Cosby certainly built an incredible career around strictly clean routines. FA: There’s no reason why we can’t have that again. Things are cyclical, and I think it’s time for that sort of family fare again now.

KW: Which is your favourite medium: TV, film or stand-up?

FA: I don’t have any one favourite. There’s something about each of them that I love. The best way I can put it is that I love the consistency of television, the truth and the creativity of film, and the freedom of stand-up.

KW: I know you’re also a great dancer. Do you sing, too?

FA: No, you don’t want to hear me singing. Not even karaoke. 

KW: When you played Michael Jackson in his bio-pic, did you do all your own dancing?

FA: Yeah, that was my background, so I was excited to do that. The dancing wasn’t hard. The challenging part of the role was in being believable and not a caricature. 

KW: Well, you certainly succeeded, since you landed an NAACP Image award nomination for the performance. How did Michael feel about your portrayal of him?

FA: From what I heard from people close to him, he saw it and said I did a great job.

KW: How do you feel about his passing?

FA: I’m still devastated. I really am. He was the greatest entertainer ever, in my opinion, and he supplied the soundtrack to my life and to many of our lives. So, the world has suffered a great loss. I think his heart was truly too big for this world to comprehend and really treasure.

KW: I have never been able to master the moonwalk. What’s the secret to it?

FA: It’s rhythm, and you have to be patient with it. Some people will just get up on their toes and start going. You just have to stay solid, keep sliding backwards, and stay fluid.  

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

FA: That’s a good one there. Yeah, how do you get through the tough times, the times when people you thought were your friends turn against you, and when people you thought supported you, no longer do?

KW: So, how do you get through those tough times?

FA: With prayer, and by staying close to my family, and by realizing that they’re what’s important.

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

FA: Wow! You know what? Sometimes you do get afraid of failing. Even as much as I have worked, you still sometimes question your confidence. You’re afraid of not being on top of your game, and you wonder what people are going to say. I’m not afraid of too much else.   

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

FA: I’m happy. Yes, I am happy.

KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

FA: by just keep praying for me. That’s the best thing they can do. I don’t take that lightly, as I’ve really learned how to pray. Not that playing around pray, but that type of prayer, like where the old mothers put your name in a hat and burn it as an offering. That type of sacrifice can truly lift you up.

KW: Teri Emerson asks, when was the last time you had a good laugh?

FA: Yesterday, with my kids. [Chuckles] My son was breakdancing and my daughter was singing and running around. To watch them just cracked me up.

KW: How old are your children, Imani and Elijah, now?

FA: She just turned 8, and my son is 5. They make me laugh every day.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

FA: Someone who perseveres through all obstacles.

KW: And what would you say has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

FA: Surviving a household that was drug-filled, with drug addiction and the selling of dope… seeing friends die… having a gun put to my head… making it through all that and God still saw fit for me to be here.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

FA: Sidney Poitier’s autobiography. But I read my Bible every day.

KW: What is your favourite meal to cook?

FA: I’d say breakfast: French toast, eggs, and turkey bacon.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

FA: I tend to shy away from that question, because I still have things to do. God willing, you’ll be able to ask me that question again at 80. 

KW: The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

FA: My late grandmother, Christola Williams.

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan was wondering, where in L.A. you live?

FA: I live out by Magic Mountain.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

FA: Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it, because I was told that all my life.

KW: Thanks again, Flex, and best of luck with Soulaughable and all your endeavours.

FA: Thank you.

To see ventriloquist Willie Brown backstage at Soulaughable, visit HERE.

Oprah Nabs Whitney For Season Premiere

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 21, 2009) *
Whitney Houston's first sit-down interview since emerging from substance abuse will take place next month on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

 As part of the promotion for her long-awaited comeback album "I Look to You," due Aug. 31, Houston will be Winfrey's first guest when the talk show's 24th season premieres on Sept. 14, announced Oprah.com.

 Winfrey calls Houston's appearance "the most anticipated music interview of the decade." The 46-year-old superstar hasn't done a major TV interview since 2002, when she addressed questions about her drug use from ABC's Diane Sawyer.

Meanwhile, Winfrey and her frequent guest, Dr. Mehmet Oz, are suing more than 50 businesses on Wednesday, saying they had falsely claimed the pair endorsed various beauty products and dietary supplements.

 Winfrey's companies Harpo Inc. and OW Licensing Co. and Oz and his company Zo Co. sued the little-known firms located throughout America in a federal lawsuit in New York seeking to stop the "unauthorized and unlawful use" of their names, pictures, voices and trademarks.

 "These defendants are wilfully capitalizing on plaintiffs' valuable reputation and intellectual property rights to lure consumers into ordering their infringing products on the false premise that they have been tested or recommended by Ms. Winfrey and/or Dr. Oz when they have not," the lawsuit said.

 The suit added that the actions had "gravely injured" their reputations, and that many of the offers made by the companies enticed consumers into "credit card scams or other fraudulent schemes."

 The products in the dispute include dietary supplements, cosmetics such as cellulite and anti-wrinkle creams and over-the-counter items such as tooth-whitening products.

In still more Oprah news, the mogul has fessed up to going on a pie purchasing spree while she was in Massachusetts for the funeral of Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

 A Harpo spokeswoman initially denied that Winfrey had bought a pile of pies from the Centerville Pie Co. while on Cape Cod last week. But on Wednesday, the talk show queen called the Cape Cod Times to say, yes, "the pie-gate escapade actually did happen."

 Pie company owner Kristin Broadley says she delivered a chicken pot pie to Winfrey's traveling party last week, then followed with two more orders. Broadley says she delivered a total of 20 pies, including chicken, custard and banana cream, to Winfrey's crew.

 Broadley says a mention of the pies on a radio show hosted by Winfrey's friend Gayle King has sparked a flood of orders.

Coming Soon: Interactive Cartoons?

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Reuters, Hollywood Reporter

(
August 25, 2009) Los Angeles —A reality production company has plans to launch the first interactive animated series in the United States.

RDG, the firm behind such shows as Don't Forget the Lyrics and Wife Swap , is teaming with new-media company Artificial Life to design a TV series in which viewers can participate in the onscreen action.

In the proposed series,
Sleuths , viewers would customize their own avatars, which will appear onscreen during the show's live telecast. A quiz question will be asked three times per half-hour episode, and viewers will text their answers. Those who answer correctly continue to the next round; a wrong answer means elimination from the screen.

At the end of each episode, the top five avatars will appear onscreen with the show's characters.

“It's both a television show and an interactive experience,” said Max Benator, senior vice-president of multiplatform entertainment at RDF USA. “It's revolutionary, and we couldn't be more excited to introduce this to the States.”

The technology – dubbed MoPA-TV, for “mobile-participation television” – has been used successfully in Japan and Europe. Viewers can go online or use SMS mobile texting to register, select avatars and send answers.

When Our Music Got Cued Up

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

(August 25, 200) Somewhere in the late 1970s Canada's fledgling music business joined the big leagues.

Soon after the institution in 1971 of the challenging and visionary ruling by the
Canadian Radio-Television Commission, demanding a minimum of 30 per cent Canadian musical content from commercial radio stations across the country, the seeds that were sown in isolated pockets of musical creativity in the 1960s finally flowered.

Canadian music, for the first time in history, started doing nationwide business. Supported by FM radio airplay and a rudimentary concert infrastructure, bands could tour from coast to coast. Record sales rocketed. Labels sprang up like tulips in springtime as money greased the cogs of this new and vital homemade machinery.

Without those still-divisive CanCon regulations, Canada would likely still be a small part of the U.S. music business.

This update is brought to you courtesy of This Beat Goes On, the second two-hour instalment of veteran Toronto music journalist/producer Nick Jennings' and Gary McGroarty's continuing chronicle – and celebration – of Canada's pop and rock music history makers.

It's old news, of course, but to thousands of young Canadians making their way in a new musical landscape, This Beat Goes On provides a bridge to similarly driven pioneers in the not-too-distant past.

"I believe in history, and I believe this story needs to be told," Jennings said last week, after a gathering at the Gladstone Hotel by many of the 1970s and '80s music stars who contributed to his films.

"We need to know where we came from. It's important to our culture. Our musical legacy runs deeper than Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen. Thousands of artists have made invaluable contributions to our musical life, and they need to be on the record as well."

The documentary features some 50 abridged musical clips from the 1970s, interviews with music stars of the period, as well as with their artistic offspring in this decade, and with long-time Canadian music industry movers and shakers. It airs in two parts in CBC-TV's Doc Zone at 9 p.m. Thursday and at the same time the following week.

A third part of the series, Rise Up – airing in the same slot Sept. 10 and 17 – examines how music videos and MuchMusic cranked a new crop of TV-friendly Canadian pop and rock artists to previously unimagined levels of international acceptance, and plugged them into a new global music market in the 1980s.

The documentaries, which took almost three years to put together, are sequels to Jennings' and McGroarty's lauded Shakin' All Over, the two-hour, 2006 TV special based on Jennings' book Before the Gold Rush, which examined the origins of a new national consciousness expressed in music and song in the 1960s. Proud as he his of that book, Jennings is mystified by its lack of companions.

"In America, Britain, Australia, a sense of cultural history is ingrained," he said. "In other countries, dozens of books have been written about music in the 1960s. In Canada, as far as I know, Before the Gold Rush is the only one, and I think that's shocking, particularly because songs and music are Canada's strongest and most meaningful forms of self-expression, stronger than literature, movies and art.

"Music holds this country together."

This Beat Goes On – the title is borrowed from Vancouver party rockers The Kings' breakout 1980 single – and Rise Up, referencing Toronto band Parachute Club's politically charged pop hit from 1983, sticks to the formula that made Shakin' All Over a memorable TV event.

"The trick is to make the big-picture story clear without too many sacrifices on the music side," Jennings said. "That means we have to move pretty fast. The stories have to set in the context of the times, and illustrated with lots of music, both classics and cult classics."

In both programs, Jennings and McGroarty – he managed Francophone folk-rockers Cano in the 1970s and went on to produce, write and direct Stand and Be Counted, the TV series about the role of music in 20th-century politics – achieve a balance between instruction, revelation and nostalgic entertainment.

It's surprising to learn, for example, how many current pop and rock artists took their musical cues not from big international stars, but from Canadian bands and songwriters they saw in local clubs and arenas in the 1970s and 80s, more or less proving Jennings' thesis.

"We tried to be as inclusive as possible, given how expensive it is to obtain clearances (rights) to air the music," he said. "But there's always someone left out ..."

A couple of glaring omissions in This Beat Goes On will certainly raise eyebrows: Vancouver-based hard rock band Heart, and Montreal songwriter Michel Pagliaro.

"We had a long discussion about Heart, whose key members are American," and ruled the band out, Jennings said. "I'm not sure it was the right decision."

And Pagliaro? His manager rejected the idea of being part of a retrospective, Jennings said.

"`Michel is a contemporary artist with a contemporary audience,' he said."

TV TIDBITS

Jurnee Smollett Added To 'Friday Night Lights'

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 20, 2009)  *Jurnee Smollett ("The Great Debaters") has been added to the cast of NBC's critically-acclaimed series "Friday Night Lights."   According to the Hollywood Reporter, the actress will play Jess, the daughter of a onetime NFL hopeful who knows the game and helps raise her siblings with the help of her father.  Smollett's TV resume includes guest appearances on "Grey's Anatomy," "House," "E.R." and "Strong Medicine." Her breakthrough came courtesy of the 1997 film "Eve's Bayou."

Samuel L. Rides Into HBO's 'Sunset'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 24, 2009) *Samuel L. Jackson will join Tommy Lee Jones in HBO's upcoming film "The Sunset Limited," an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's 2006 play.  Jones will also direct the project, which features Jackson as a man who saves Jones' character from throwing himself in front of a Harlem subway train. The act begins an exchange of ideologies as the two men from different backgrounds debate the worth of their lives.  Production is scheduled to begin next month in New Mexico, according to Variety.  Jones and Jackson previously worked together on "Rules of Engagement." Meanwhile, Jackson just wrapped the films "Unthinkable" and "Mother and Child." After he completes "The Sunset Limited," he'll star in "Vengeance: A Love Story." 

::THEATRE NEWS::

Harder They Come Actors Teach Teens Life Lessons

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Miller,
Staff Reporter

(August 22, 2009) You can get it if you really want it, regardless of your race or socio-economic situation. That's what Leah Bailey, 15, said she learned after meeting with the actors in the Mirvish musical 
The Harder They Come following a recent performance at the Canon Theatre.

Bailey was among a group of 21 teens from the Rexdale area who took part in a six-week summer camp funded by the National Crime Prevention Coalition that focuses on teaching at-risk youth life and leadership skills while exposing them to various career and mentorship opportunities.

Mirvish Productions offered the campgoers a chance to see a production at the Victoria St. theatre and interact with the cast.

"Youth in Rexdale don't get the experience to come out of Rexdale," Bailey said. "Most of them have a wall in front of them and don't feel safe going outside their boundaries."

The teens, aged 13 to 18, asked a multitude of questions, which the actors answered while dishing out advice during a rap session that addressed everything from drugs, violence and black identity to issues such as self-confidence and making it in show business.

In The Harder They Come, Rolan Bell's lead character, Ivan, turns to crime after failing to make it in the music business. The musical, Bell said, is centred on a "rude boy" – a juvenile delinquent in 1960s Jamaica – but the show's message is that taking the easy route is a formula for failure.

That path is exactly what Ricky Rodriques, 15, fights every day to avoid. "It helps me to know not to use guns to get where I want to be, or sell weed just to get money so I can get there," said the aspiring chef.

Actor Marcus Powell, who plays a crooked music producer named Hilton, warned the group that the musical is not an "instruction manual," but more of a cautionary story about the hunt for success. "Obviously, going about it with a gun isn't the way to do it," he said. "So, if that's what you got from (the musical), then you did get the right message."

He added that "it's about being gracious enough to take what you need from the people who are talking sense. You also have to have perseverance, tenacity and skill."

The meeting went from moments of seriousness on certain topics to belly-bursting laughter on others. Many of the youth proudly announced their Jamaican heritage after the cast explained that they were of a similar lineage.

Kirk Patterson, who plays a photographer in the musical, gave a poignant piece of advice that resonated with the group. "Find where it is that you want to be and map out how you're going to get there," he said. "My dream started in a little room in Jamaica."

The Unsung Heroes Of A Blockbuster Show

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(August 20, 2009) Let's hear it for the guys and gals behind the Boys.

Tonight marks the first anniversary of the hit Dancap production of
Jersey Boys, which is still packing them in at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

I revisited the show last week and saw it with a sold-out, cheering crowd, only proving that the Four Seasons song-fest I called "the most entertaining show in Toronto" when it opened last August remains the champion of the city's musical sweepstakes.

As always, it's easy to be blown away by Jeff Madden's fantastic Frankie Valli, the super-slick direction of Des McAnuff and the infectious choreography of Sergio Trujillo.

This time around, however, I also paid attention to the work of five people who usually exist on the periphery of an audience member's awareness, or even way out of sight.

They're the "unsung heroes" of Jersey Boys, the men and women who see to it that a show this successful stays that way.

CINDY TOUSHAN

Her official title is production stage manager, but anyone who knows their way around musicals would simply call this Stratford Festival veteran "the boss."

On a day-to-day basis, she's the person who keeps the show running smoothly, seeing to it that all the lighting, scenery, props, costumes and even actors are in the right place at the right time.

Even though it might not look as heavy as previous Toushan-managed events like Miss Saigon, she says, "From a calling point of view, it's one of the biggest shows I've ever done. Probably 1,200 separate cues. There are sequences so fast that I can't even speak all the words on time."

Despite the heavy workload, Toushan sounds a refrain echoed by other company members: "This is a pleasure to do because everyone is so fantastic. Our morale is high and so is the quality of our work. That makes everyone happy."

Her favourite part? "The music – 275 times and I'm still not tired of listening to it."

MIKE LOMENDA

The strong, silent Lomenda has the unenviable task of playing Nick Massi, the least charismatic of The Four Seasons.

His character even admits it in the show. "What do you do when there's four guys in the group and you're Ringo?" he asks.

"Nick doesn't say very much, but that's who he was," insists Lomenda. "I've only got 10 lines in the first act, but you just have to believe that the story will tell itself.

"You have to trust that even if you're not the focus of the scene, you're still very important to the overall saga. I never forget that I'm part of the group."

While he says that "we always strive for a high level of performance," Lomenda admits "things can go wrong. I once choked on my own spit and tried to start ad libbing. I wound up saying things that were totally inappropriate and when the other guys remind me of them, I blush to this day."

GRANT TILLY

Whether you see Grant Tilly in Jersey Boys depends strictly on what night you go.

He's what they call a "swing," which means he's not on stage normally unless someone in the regular cast doesn't show up. He's responsible for six roles: two of the four leads (Tommy and Bob), plus four ensemble spots with multiple characters.

"They told me to concentrate on one character first, so I spent six weeks getting Tommy under my belt, because so much depends on him," recalls Tilly. "Then I dove right into Bob Gaudio and finally, by May, I felt I had all six roles under my belt."

Tilly has played Tommy and Bob about 20 times each, as well as an average of four performances for the other parts.

"One time, there were two swings on stage for the first time and one of them forget to show up for a scene. All of a sudden, there was silence on stage.

"I was standing in the wings, just watching. I wasn't supposed to be on. But they pushed me into a chair, rolled me on and I did the scene. Somehow muscle memory just takes over.

"I've never been bored yet. It definitely keeps your mind active."

ELIZABETH BAIRD

The woman who keeps that non-stop torrent of feel-good music pouring out into the audience is a bouncy, energetic person who leads her group from two separate rooms in the basement of the theatre. Add to that the fact that a live drum kit is frequently onstage and you have a possible recipe for disaster.

But not with a musical director like Baird.

"That's the beauty of live theatre. I have to be in the moment and I can't take anything for granted, because things change in milliseconds.

"I love what I do. I'm passionate about it and I always give out a lot of energy because I want the cast to be inspired."

Her big concern is to lay to rest rumours that any part of the show is pre-recorded or lip-synched. "Absolutely not. All of our show is live. We double Frankie's voice in places, just like Bob Crewe did on the original recordings, but nothing artificial goes on.

"The bottom line is that I just love this show."

ÉLODIE GILLETT

When you're watching Jersey Boys, it seems there are dozens of women in the cast – short, tall, young, old, brassy, innocent, naughty, nice – but when the curtain call finally comes, there are only three of them.

One of the three is Élodie Gillett, who pauses for breath, thinks for a second and then says, "I wear 10 wigs and 17 costumes in the show. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of who I am next."

Besides the pressure such multiple casting has built into it, matters are complicated in this production by the giant size of the stage and the distance the actors have to cover getting from one place to the other.

"I'd say that 90 per cent of the time, when I make an exit, I'm running to make my next entrance. My quickest change is 17 seconds and that's for wig, dress, shoes, earrings and necklace. Try it sometime!"

Asked if she feels outnumbered in a cast with 13 men and three women, and she just laughs.

"Our stage manager is a woman and so is our musical director. The boys may outnumber the girls on stage, but we're really running the show."

Return To India A Voyage Of Discovery

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Crew,
Special To The Star

Rice Boy
sb_star10sb_star10sb_star10(out of four)
Written by Sunil Kuruvilla. Directed by Guillermo Verdecchia. At the Studio Theatre, Stratford, until Oct. 3.
1-800-567-1600
 

(August 26, 2009) STRATFORD, Ont.–The rich and complex post-colonial culture of India is a fertile source of inspiration for all forms of writing these days — plays, novels, screenplays.

One such Canadian piece is Sunil Kuruvilla's play
Rice Boy, which had a production at Toronto's Canadian Stage in the spring of 2003 and is now being remounted at Stratford Festival's Studio Theatre. Kudos to the festival for finally showcasing such work.

Seen largely from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old, Rice Boy tells the story of a visit back to India by young Tommy (Araya Mengesha) and his father (Raoul Bhaneja) who is still in deep mourning for his wife, who drowned there 10 years ago.

Tommy and his father are at odds with each other – Tommy is browbeaten and treated virtually as a slave.

Neither of them seems to be flourishing in their new Canadian homeland.

In India, they stay with Tommy's uncle (Sanjay Talwar) and aunt (Deena Aziz), whose own marriage is in deep trouble.

In fact, the wife is apparently leaving to live with her doctor-lover after daughter Tina (Anita Majumdar), a paraplegic, gets married. Meanwhile, grandfather (Sam Moses) is confused and lost without his wife, who has just died.

Tommy has difficulty readjusting to India; Tina is housebound. Together they go on several illicit trips to explore the sights and sounds of the nearby town, opening Tina's eyes to a whole new world and enabling Tommy, maybe, to find some cultural balance and perspective.

The episodic Rice Boy is fuelled more by the desire to tell a good yarn than to undertake a deep analysis of colliding cultures.

Much of it is vivid and evocative, what with a bus crash, a creepy encounter with an umbrella mender and visits from a colourful fishseller, but other scenes seem not only superfluous but to actually drag the play down.

The talented cast, led by Majumdar and Mengesha, is strong, while director Guillermo Verdecchia handles proceedings calmly and unemphatically.

One major change is that the grandmother that we saw at Canadian Stage has become grandfather. It works, but the play could strengthen even further by thinning out some of those awkward, unnecessary scenes.

They are red herrings that even our delightfully quirky fish seller wouldn't touch.

::OTHER  NEWS::

Dr. Betty Price Talks Religion and Infidelity in New Book 'Warning to Ministers, Their Wives and Their Mistresses'

Source: www.essence.com – By Dr. Betty Price, As told to Terrance Dean

(August 26, 2009) It was 20 years ago when I started receiving letters from women of various churches who were having
illicit affairs with powerful married ministers. I was flabbergasted. Was this really happening in the church? I asked myself. Then my phone began ringing off the hook. I couldn't understand why these women were reaching out to me. I think it was because they saw my husband, Dr. Fred K. Price, and his televised preachings and were captivated by his message.

Most recently I received two anonymous letters within a week apart. Both women shared their involvement with very high-profile men of God. As I read their letters I sensed their deep regret. They expressed how they never intended on being involved with a minister and each woman was desperately seeking a way out.

The first letter was from an older, mature woman. She'd just bought a luxury condo but lost her government job after 25 years of service. Her self-esteem was very low. She didn't know what to do because she was financially strapped. And, she was older and didn't think she would be able to find another job in this economy. She reached out to her bishop for counselling. They began an affair. It's been going on for three years. The second woman was from a different church. She works on a committee in which she interacts with her pastor daily. They began spending long hours together. Then the affair began. Now, she is desperately trying to get out but doesn't know how.  

Both of these women said they know what they are doing is wrong but expressed they don't have the strength to leave. Both ministers have threatened and coerced these women. They told them, "If they stop the affair then they would be dishonouring God." However, both women expressed they were benefitting financially in the relationships. They were stuck. Unsure of what to do. After reading those two letters my daughter said I had to write a book.



I wrote "Warning To Ministers, Their Wives and Mistresses" because I want to help young ministers. I don't want them to get caught up in the trappings their positions bring and make them go in a different direction than what God has planned for them. I also wrote this book for the many women who come to church specifically for the purpose of sleeping with the minister. In my book I share the many anonymous letters I receive from these women who are having affairs with their pastors.

I think it's time this behaviour is exposed. There are so many families being destroyed because of these women and men of God. With the book my hope is to help other first ladies and women who live right for God and do not have affairs with married men. I really want to bring this issue to the forefront because this secret is very harmful to the church. I want people to know that the inappropriate actions of some ministers do not happen in every church. Moreover, it was time for me to share my story and my experience.

Years ago this woman came into mine and my husband's lives like a whirlwind. She called herself a prophet. Every day she told my husband she had a prophecy for him from God. At the time my husband was new to the ministry and he was very interested in hearing messages from God. This woman always needed to see him after church and preferred to talk with him alone. My woman's intuition kicked in. I recognized what she was up to because this woman always had a word of prophecy but nothing she ever said ever came to pass.

My husband, however, was caught up. I knew he wasn't doing anything with her physically because I was taking care of him at home. But this woman was very charismatic. She even enlisted some of her friends to give prophecies to my husband. That's how desperate she was working to get to my husband.

Repeatedly I would tell my husband she was not a prophet. I told him, "You're spending too much time with someone that is not your wife. It does not look good." But he couldn't see it. He would get upset with me whenever I would say something. I was very hurt by it because not only could he not see what she was doing, but I was his wife. He figured this woman was spiritual and of God. He said he did not have a lot of people to talk to. I told him to talk to God.

At the time this woman was really overweight but then she started to lose the weight trying to get his attention. Then she started dressing like me. Finally, I had enough. I told my husband that I was not going to church with him anymore. I stayed home that Sunday. In all my years of attending church that was the only Sunday service I missed. I had to get my husband to see how serious it was for me. Most women would go after the other woman. I never did. I would never run after a woman. I tell women to go after him. If he doesn't listen to you and see what it's doing to you, then you leave.

I was strong enough to go to him and express what it was doing to our marriage. Besides, I knew I was a good wife. If it would have kept up, I wouldn't have stayed in it. I would have left. When I didn't go to church he realized what he was doing and stopped talking with her. He cut it off and the woman finally left. They all leave when they can't get their way.

In my situation it didn't go as far as him sleeping with another woman. I recognized something was wrong and I spoke up. My husband listened. However, it was enough for me to know that something could go further.

It bothers me to know many ministers have mistresses sitting right up in the church. Their wives and children are subjected to public humiliation. Some ministers even have children with their mistresses and leave their wives. I've talked to a lot of women and they say that in all the churches they've attended the ministers have been unfaithful and run around. I personally know so many that it's scary. These women know what they are doing. Don't be fooled. I wrote my book because I want to expose these types of men, and women, who do this.

I challenge ministers and their mistresses to ask themselves, where is God in your life? What is your commitment to God? Where is your conscience? They don't think of the consequences and devastation it causes their families, their wives, their children and the church.

"Warning To Ministers, Their Wives and Mistresses" is available online at www.faithdome.org.

Rising Rents Are Driving Art Dealers Away From The Art+Design District – Where Will They Land?

Source: www.thestar.com - Murray Whyte,
Visual Arts Reporter

(August 22, 2009) Loop Gallery, in the thick of the City-designated
"Art+Design" district, had an opening on Thursday. But it's also closing.

After being one of the pioneering galleries on this stretch of Queen St. W. in the early part of the decade – pre-Drake Hotel, no less – Loop's new show, of this year's crop of M.A. and PhD. graduates from York University's Fine Arts program, is its last at the current location, where the storefront galleries that helped transform the neighbourhood from downheeled urban hinterland into a theme park for condo-dwellers have been trickling out and away for several years.

It's probably no coincidence that Loop is vacating just as the Bohemian Embassy, a huge condominium development capitalizing on the fast-evaporating culture surrounding it, enters its final construction phases.

Art's role as the beneficial bacteria of urban development is nothing new. Councillor Kyle Rae a few years ago went so far as to suggest that art scenes should be on the constant move as the leading edge of a citywide civic reclamation project.

The dynamic is stunningly consistent: art moves in, real estate goes up, art moves on. Look no further than Yorkville or Queen and Spadina, former homes of vibrant art scenes that surrendered long ago to market forces, only to colonize other pockets of the city to start the process again.

Engine, DeLeon White, Fly, Greener Pastures, and Mercer Union are just a few members of the old guard to become recent departees from the Art+Design district. Watchful eyes – and no doubt, property speculators – are keeping close tabs on where they land. In the migratory patterns of the city's art scenes, there are two inevitables: First, that neighbourhoods where art makes its home become instantly more attractive; and second, because of it, art won't be at home for long. That being the case, here are a few contenders for art's next temporary home:

Dundas and Dufferin

Loop Gallery plans to reopen Sept.1 along the quietly transforming stretch of Little Portugal on Dundas St. W., which seems like the leading contender for the next significant art cluster. Spillover (or spill-up) from Queen began a few years ago, when noted gallerist Jessica Bradley opened her space with a roster of emerging artists – Shary Boyle, Derek Sullivan, Hadley + Maxwell, Luanne Martineau – that's one of the strongest in the country. Last October, the Alison Smith Gallery opened a few doors down. Following them, The Department, a multi-use gallery space run by a cultural marketing agency, opened across the street.

With long-established art space farther west – the beautiful Morrow Street former industrial complex that houses established gallerists Olga KorperChristopher Cutts and Peak Gallery, just west of Lansdowne Ave. – and young upstarts like Le Gallery and Show+Tell trickling along Dundas from the hyper-social Ossington strip to the east, Dundas W. has all the elements of being Next – with one important difference: Bradley, Smith, and The Department all own, not rent, their buildings, making market-forced migration a lot less likely, and a permanent art presence here all the more hopeful. Bloor and Lansdowne Not quite a year ago, the venerable Mercer Union artist-run centre (as of this summer, 30 years young) decamped from the Drake-ified zone along Queen W. for the decidedly un-Drakey environs of this hardscrabble stretch of Bloor St. W., near Lansdowne Ave. The offer was too good to refuse: for about the same money, Mercer traded a nondescript warehouse cave for a turn-of-the-century movie house designed by the same architect who did Casa Loma. The space more than doubled; the rent stayed put.

Mercer had a new home, and the art world had a gorgeous new hub. A gallery called Offthemap was the original storefront pioneer, in 2003; the Toronto Free Gallery followed in 2007, and with Mercer they've attracted a host of others to the strip, such as Funktion Gallery and annhomanART, to name a couple. They've also attracted some boosterish overstatement from long-time neighbourhood activists who have been stumping for change for some time; between Dig In and Big on Bloor's annual Culture Works festival, there's a full-blown campaign meant to anoint the neighbourhood as the Next Big Thing.

Clashes have arisen over the obvious implications of such a campaign – the seemingly inevitable displacement of long-time, low-income residents, for one – and some of those clashes have taken place within the art-world arrivals themselves (Toronto Free Gallery's director, Heather Haynes, is a tireless advocate of equitable change in the neighbourhood).

Meanwhile, for the long-time art presence here, such as Garnet/Abrams, the home-cum-studio of curator/artist couple Carla Garnet and John Abrams, who have been in the area since 1979, or artist/activist Dyan Marie, striking a balance is key. But amid the strip joints (there are two) and shabby convenience stores, you can see change happening, and fast, in hip cafes and bars slowly sprouting to service the emerging gallery class; how – or if – change can happen in a way that works for everyone remains to be seen. Leslieville Art? In the east end? Blasphemy! No one can deny that the majority of serious contemporary practice in this city for at least a generation has been largely a west-end affair, but Leslieville, until the past five years or so the kind of rough 'n' ready urban wasteland that art tends to colonize, has been on the ups for a while.

Challenging, interesting contemporary work can often be found at Brayham ContemporaryParts Gallery, which supplements its art habit with a framing business, and Pentimento Gallery round out the established presence. The lack of institutional presence, like Mercer, plus the absence of artistic pedigree, diminishes its chances, although the long-standing presence of the city's photographic community (the old warehouses in the area have long been the city's photographers' ghetto) helps. For what seems like forever, one of the best sell-lines for the neighbourhood has been modestly self-effacing: "Leslieville: Cheaper than the west end!"

But cheaper also tends to mean more diverse, more interesting – and more art. The drawback is that, with its glut of trendy restaurants and cafes, the benefit of an artistic bacterial culture may at this point be moot – too late, and despite the discount, now too pricey for a larger colony to profligate.

Venezuela Wins Miss Universe Again

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Associated Press

(August 25, 200) Miss Venezuela was the fairest of them all, again.

Venezuelan Stefania Fernandez won the 2009
Miss Universe pageant in the Bahamas on Sunday night.

Dressed in a flowing red gown, Fernandez embraced runner up Miss Dominican Republic as the announcement was made, and received the crown from last year's winner, Dayana Mendoza, of Venezuela. The sparkling tiara fell to the floor at one point, as Fernandez danced in joy.

Venezuela has won the Miss Universe pageant six times.

During a question-and-answer segment with the five top finalists, Fernandez said she believed women have overcome obstacles such as hitting the proverbial glass ceiling.

"I feel we have reached the level that men are at," she said.

The other top-five finalists were runner-up Ada Aimee de la Cruz, followed by Miss Kosovo, Droga Ganusha; Miss Australia, Rachael Finch; and Miss Puerto Rico, Mayra Matos Perez.

The top 15 finalists appeared in bathing suits before the final 10 were chosen for the evening gown segment.

Pageant co-owner Donald Trump told reporters, "I think this is the most beautiful group of women I've ever seen.''

The televised event includes musical performances by Flo Rida, Heidi Montag, David Guetta and Kelly Rowland.

Kennedy Family Loses Its ‘Centre'

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Glen Johnson and Bob Salsberg, Associated Press

(August 26, 2009)  HYANNIS PORT, Mass. — Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the last surviving brother in an enduring political dynasty and one of the most influential senators in history, died Tuesday night at his home on Cape Cod after a yearlong struggle with brain cancer. He was 77.

In nearly 50 years in the Senate, Mr. Kennedy, a liberal Democrat, served alongside 10 presidents – his brother John Fitzgerald Kennedy among them – compiling an impressive list of legislative achievements on health care, civil rights, education, immigration and more.

In a brief statement to reporters at his rented vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, Mass., President Barack Obama eulogized Kennedy as one of the “most accomplished Americans” in history – and a man whose work in Congress helped give millions new opportunities.

“Including myself,” added the nation's first black president.

A source, speaking on grounds of anonymity because plans were still under way, told The Associated Press that Mr. Kennedy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. At the eternal flame rests four Kennedy family members, including the former president, Jacqueline Kennedy, their baby son, Patrick, who died after two days, and a still-born child. Former Sen. Robert Kennedy F. Kennedy is buried a short distance away.

Mr. Kennedy's only run for the White House ended in defeat in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter turned back his challenge for the party's nomination. More than a quarter-century later, Mr. Kennedy handed then-Sen. Barack Obama an endorsement at a critical point in the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, explicitly likening the young contender to President Kennedy.

To the American public, Mr. Kennedy was best known as the last surviving son of America's most glamorous political family, father figure and, memorably, eulogist of an Irish-American clan plagued again and again by tragedy. But his career was forever marred by an accident at Chappaquiddick in 1969, when a car he was driving plunged off a bridge, killing a young woman.

Mr. Kennedy's death triggered an outpouring of superlatives from Democrats and Republicans as well as foreign leaders.

“If Teddy were here, .. as they say in the Senate, if you would excuse a moment of personal privilege, I personally think it would be inappropriate for me to say too much about the initiative we're announcing today and not speak to my friend,” Vice President Joe Biden said during a public appearance. He said he was “truly, truly distressed by his passing.”

“Teddy spent a lifetime working for a fair and more just America and for 36 years I had the privilege of going to work every day ... and being a witness to history,” an emotional Biden added. “Every day I was with him ... He restored my sense of idealism and my faith in the possibilities of what this country could do.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, the conservative Republican from Utah who was alternately a political partner and opponent of the unapologetic liberal for three decades, said “Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States Senator whose influence cannot be overstated.” He listed of nearly a dozen bipartisan bills they worked on jointly, including a federally funded program for victims of HIV/AIDS, health insurance for lower-income children and tax breaks to encourage the development of medicine for rare diseases.

President George W. Bush and Sen. Edward Kennedy laugh before speaking at an event in Boston in this Jan. 8, 2002 file photo.

Mr. Kennedy's family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday.

“We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever,” it said. “We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all.”

A few hours later, two vans left the famed Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port in pre-dawn darkness. Both bore hearse license plates – with the word “hearse” blacked out.

Several hundred miles away, flags few at half-staff at the U.S. Capitol, and Obama ordered the same at the White House and all federal buildings.

There was no immediate word on funeral arrangements. Two of Mr. Kennedy's brothers, John and Robert, are buried at Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington.

In his later years, Mr. Kennedy cut a barrel-chested figure, with a swath of white hair, a booming voice and a thick, widely imitated Boston accent. He coupled fist-pumping floor speeches with his well-honed Irish charm and formidable negotiating skills. He was both a passionate liberal and a clear-eyed pragmatist, willing to reach across the aisle.

He was first elected to the Senate in 1962, taking the seat that his brother John had occupied before winning the White House, and served longer than all but two senators in history.

His own hopes of reaching the White House were damaged – perhaps doomed – in 1969 by the scandal that came to be known as Chappaquiddick. He sought the White House more than a decade later, lost the Democratic nomination to President Jimmy Carter, and bowed out with a stirring valedictory that echoed across the decades: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

Mr. Kennedy was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour in May 2008 and underwent surgery and a gruelling regimen of radiation and chemotherapy.

He made a surprise return to the Capitol last summer to cast the decisive vote for the Democrats on Medicare. He made sure he was there again last January to see his former Senate colleague Barack Obama sworn in as the nation's first black president, but suffered a seizure at a celebratory luncheon afterward.

He also made a surprise and forceful appearance at last summer's Democratic National Convention, where he spoke of his own illness and said health care was the cause of his life. His death occurred precisely one year later, almost to the hour.

He was away from the Senate for much of this year, leaving Republicans and Democrats to speculate about the impact what his absence meant for the fate of Obama's health care proposals.

Under state law, Mr. Kennedy's successor will be chosen by special election. In his last known public act, the senator urged Massachusetts state legislators to give Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick the power to name an interim replacement. But that appears unlikely, leaving Democrats in Washington with one less vote for at least the next several months as they struggle to pass Mr. Obama's health care legislation.

His death came less than two weeks after that of his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver on Aug. 11. Kennedy was not present for the funeral, an indication of the precariousness of his own health. Of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy, only one – Jean Kennedy Smith, survives.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Kennedy's son Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., said his father had defied the predictions of doctors by surviving more than a year with his fight against brain cancer.

The younger Kennedy said that gave family members a surprise blessing, as they were able to spend more time with the senator and to tell him how much he had meant to their lives.

Mr. Kennedy arrived at his place in the Senate after a string of family tragedies. He was the only one of the four Kennedy brothers to die of natural causes.

Mr. Kennedy's eldest brother, Joseph, was killed in a plane crash in World War II. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in 1963. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles as he campaigned for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination.

Years later, in 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr. was killed in a plane crash at age 38. His wife died with him.

It fell to Ted Kennedy to deliver the eulogies, to comfort his brothers' widows, to mentor fatherless nieces and nephews. It was Ted Kennedy who walked JFK's daughter, Caroline, down the aisle at her wedding.

Tragedy had a way of bringing out his eloquence.

Mr. Kennedy sketched a dream of a better future as he laid to rest his brother Robert in 1968: “My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

After John Jr.'s death, the senator said: “We dared to think, in that other Irish phrase, that this John Kennedy would live to comb grey hair, with his beloved Carolyn by his side. But like his father, he had every gift but length of years.”

His own legacy was blighted on the night of July 18, 1969, when Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and into a pond on Chappaquiddick Island, on Martha's Vineyard. Mary Jo Kopechne, a 28-year-old worker with RFK's campaign, was found dead in the submerged car's back seat 10 hours later.

Mr. Kennedy, then 37, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and received a two-month suspended sentence and a year's probation. A judge eventually determined there was “probable cause to believe that Kennedy operated his motor vehicle negligently ... and that such operation appears to have contributed to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.”

At the height of the scandal, Mr. Kennedy went on national television to explain himself in an extraordinary 13-minute address in which he denied driving drunk and rejected rumours of “immoral conduct” with Ms. Kopechne. He said he was haunted by “irrational” thoughts immediately after the accident, and wondered “whether some awful curse did actually hang over all the Kennedys.” He said his failure to report the accident right away was “indefensible.”

After Chappaquiddick especially, Mr. Kennedy gained a reputation as a heavy drinker and a womanizer, a tragically flawed figure haunted by the fear that he did not quite measure up to his brothers. As his weight ballooned, he was lampooned by comics and cartoonists in the 1980s and ‘90s as the very embodiment of government waste, bloat and decadence.

In 1991, Mr. Kennedy roused his nephew William Kennedy Smith and his son Patrick from bed to go out for drinks while staying at the family's Palm Beach, Fla., estate. Later that night, a woman Smith met at a bar accused him of raping her at the home.

Mr. Smith was acquitted, but the senator's carousing – and testimony about him wandering about the house in his shirttails and no pants – further damaged his reputation.

Mr. Kennedy offered a mea culpa in a speech at Harvard that October, recognizing “my own shortcomings, the faults in the conduct of my private life.”

Politically, his concession speech at the Democratic convention in 1980 turned out to be a defining moment. At 48, he seemed liberated from the towering expectations and high hopes invested in him after the death of his brothers, and he plunged into his work in the Senate. In his later years, after he had divorced and remarried, he came to be regarded as a statesman on Capitol Hill, with a growing reputation as an effective, hard-working lawmaker.

His legislative achievements included bills to provide health insurance for children of the working poor, the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, Meals on Wheels for the elderly, abortion clinic access, family leave, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

He was also a key negotiator on legislation creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit for senior citizens, was a driving force for peace in Ireland and a persistent critic of the war in Iraq.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada issued a statement that said: “Ted Kennedy's dream was the one for which the Founding Fathers fought and for which his brothers sought to realize. The liberal lion's mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die.”

Former first Lady Nancy Reagan said that her husband and Mr. Kennedy “could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another.”

“Even facing illness and death he never stopped fighting for the causes which were his life's work. I am proud to have counted him as a friend and proud that the United Kingdom recognized his service earlier this year with the award of an honorary knighthood.” – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Whatever his national standing, Kennedy was unbeatable in Massachusetts. He won his first election in 1962, filling out the unexpired portion of his brother's term. He won an eighth term in 2006. Mr. Kennedy served close to 47 years, longer than all but two senators in history: Robert Byrd of West Virginia (50 years and counting) and the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who died after a tenure of nearly 471/2 years.

Born in 1932, the youngest of Joseph and Rose Kennedy's nine children, Edward Moore Kennedy was part of a family bristling with political ambition, beginning with maternal grandfather John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, a congressman and mayor of Boston.

Round-cheeked Teddy was thrown out of Harvard in 1951 for cheating, after arranging for a classmate to take a freshman Spanish exam for him. He eventually returned, earning his degree in 1956.

He went on to the University of Virginia Law School, and in 1962, while his brother John was president, announced plans to run for the Senate seat JFK had vacated in 1960. A family friend had held the seat in the interim because Kennedy was not yet 30, the minimum age for a senator.

Mr. Kennedy was immediately involved in a bruising primary campaign against state Attorney General Edward J. McCormack, a nephew of U.S. House Speaker John W. McCormack.

“If your name was simply Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke,” chided McCormack.

Mr. Kennedy won the primary by 300,000 votes and went on to overwhelmingly defeat Republican George Cabot Lodge, son of the late Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, in the general election.

Devastated by his brothers' assassinations and injured in a 1964 plane crash that left him with back pain that would plague him for decades, Kennedy temporarily withdrew from public life in 1968. But he re-emerged in 1969 to be elected majority whip of the Senate.

Then came Chappaquiddick.

Mr. Kennedy still handily won re-election in 1970, but he lost his leadership job. He remained outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam War and support of social programs but ruled out a 1976 presidential bid.

In the summer of 1978, a Gallup Poll showed that Democrats preferred Mr. Kennedy over President Carter 54 per cent to 32 per cent. A year later, Mr. Kennedy decided to run for the White House with a campaign that accused Carter of turning his back on the Democratic agenda.

The difficult task of dislodging a sitting president was compounded by Kennedy's fumbling answer to a question posed by CBS' Roger Mudd: Why do you want to be president?

“Well, it's um, you know you have to come to grips with the different issues that, ah, we're facing,” Kennedy said. “I mean, we can, we have to deal with each of the various questions of the economy, whether it's in the area of energy ...”

Long afterward, he said, “Well, I learned to lose, and for a Kennedy that's hard.” Mr. Kennedy married Virginia Joan Bennett, known as Joan, in 1958. They divorced in 1982. In 1992, he married Washington lawyer Victoria Reggie. His survivors include a daughter, Kara Kennedy Allen; two sons, Edward Jr. and Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island; and two stepchildren, Caroline and Curran Raclin.

Edward Jr. lost a leg to bone cancer in 1973 at age 12. Kara had a cancerous tumour removed from her lung in 2003. In 1988, Patrick had a noncancerous tumour pressing on his spine removed. He has also struggled with depression and addiction and announced in June that he was re-entering rehab.

Mr. Kennedy's memoir, “True Compass,” is set to be published in the fall.

In Toronto, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty praised Mr. Kennedy.

“He's a powerful influence for good among small l liberals around the world, and I think that if you take a look at his record arguably he's been the most influential Kennedy, given the influence for good he's had in everything from civil rights to health care to education, international relations as well,” said Mr. McGuinty. “We've lost a fine and decent man who gave politics a good name.”

With a file from Karen Howlett in Toronto

Moses Znaimer: TV Impresario, Bus-Stop Bubble-Bather, Boomer-Publisher ... Curator?

Source: www.thestar.com - Murray Whyte


(August 26, 2009) The friendly feed from Akimbo tells me that the Propeller Centre on Queen is putting out a call for submissions for an upcoming show to be curated by the pony-tailed king of all (Canadian) media, Moses Znaimer.

We all know Moses founded the CityTV empire, slid out the back door a few years ago amid a corporate reorganizing, and moved on to a handful of ventures less fraught with the vagaries of big-media politics (and there are plenty, believe me).

Lately, he's kept himself busy promoting his two classical FM radio stations -- which he shills for from the cozy confines of a bubble-bath, the evidence of which is plastered on TTC buses and streetcars, among other things -- and making bald-faced stabs for CBC Radio 2's fleeing oldsters, who, the theory goes, chafe at the new (and, if I may say) vibrant eclecticism now found on its previously-mouldy spot on the dial. And, oh, yes, he also founded a company developing therapeutic medicines derived from marijuana.

On top of that, Moses' pet project has been Zoomer magazine, aimed at hyperactive baby boomers (like the man himself) who embrace the idea that age is a concept, not a reality (tell that to my 38-year old knees, Moses).

In any case, true to form, Moses' curatorial conceit is pretty blatant Zoomer promotion, but also true to form, it's still clever: In his own words, Moses aims to curate a show called "The Last Taboo," based on his "Zoomer Philosophy" that "aging is sex for the new millennium, the topic we don't discuss openly, the thing that happens to other people, behind closed doors. In deference to this last taboo, people of age have been denied their right to sensuality, to adventure, to any unconventionality that can't be smiled fondly at by a condescending universe. In a way, they have become an invisible demographic."

Well, sure, if you consider owning most of the world and running it "invisible." Whatever the case, Moses invites artists across the country to submit on the subject; just a wild guess that those under 50 might want to direct their energies elsewhere.

On the very same page, I learn that the Star's own Chris Hume is also curating a show at Propeller in January. Called Public Realm, it invites artists to propose radical reimagings of the dividing line between public and private, in a way that gives public space a powerful, galvanizing force -- something Chris knows a fair amount about. Sold.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

New PlayStation To Be Sleeker, Faster, Cheaper

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman,
Special To The Star

(August 22, 2009) The video game gods have finally answered the prayers of cost-conscious: Sony Computer Entertainment on Tuesday announced a redesigned
PlayStation 3 video game console that will go on sale Sept. 1 for $299.

The new charcoal black unit – which includes a Blu-ray player for high-definition movie playback, Wi-Fi for wireless Internet connectivity and an integrated 120 gigabyte hard drive to store downloaded content – is now 34 per cent slimmer, 32 per cent lighter and consumes 36 per cent less energy (helping to reduce fan noise) compared to its bulky, power-hungry predecessor.

The streamlined PS3 (measuring 290 by 65 by 290 millimetres) has also undergone an internal makeover, from the main semiconductors and refinements to the cell processor to the power supply unit and cooling system, which also helps to reduce overall manufacturing costs, Sony says.

"We always knew there were two barriers of entry to those on the fence about PlayStation 3: one was games and the other, price," Matt Levitan, director of marketing for PlayStation Canada, said in a phone interview with the Star.

How big a deal is a $299 PlayStation 3? When the console launched nearly three years ago, it was $659 for the 60 GB unit.

The new PS3 also includes support for Bravia Sync, which allows Bravia television owners to use their TV remote to control the PlayStation 3's Xross Media Bar for navigating among games, movies, music, photos, Internet options, and more.

Sony also announced a price reduction for current PlayStation 3 models: the 80 GB PS3 is $299 and the 160 GB unit is $399.

More than 1,000 compact disc-based PS3 games are available, along with roughly 1,400 downloadable titles.

Sony-published games on the horizon include Uncharted 2: Among ThievesRatchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time,Gran Turismo 5God of War 3Heavy RainM.A.G. and ModNation Racer.

Grade-A Visuals, Bargain-Bin Price

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko,
Special To The Star

Shadow Complex
XBox Live Arcade
1,200 Microsoft Points
(about $15)
Rated T
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of four)

(August 22, 2009) They're weird, the paths the mind takes. When I got into the two-dimensional running, jumping, pistol-popping, explore-and-upgrade action of
Shadow Complex, it wasn't memories of Castlevania, or even Metroid, that first popped into my head, but of Rad Warrior, an ancient DOS game I probably haven't thought about for 15 years.

You wouldn't think there'd be a lot of congruity between the low-resolution, four-colour adventures of a post-apocalyptic caveman searching an irradiated jungle for pieces of a power suit left over from before "The Bomb" and a gorgeous modern game in which a charming dude in a graphic tee infiltrates a techno-terrorist base and kills 800 guys to save a girl he just met, but there it is. I can only report my impressions.

Still, "Metroidvania" is the common shorthand, so "Metroidvania" it is. What that means is roaming a big, multilayered, multi-zoned map, fighting fights and steadily gathering new weapons and tools.

The difference between a Metroidvania-styled game and a straight-up action-platformer is that these weapons and tools are also keys; as you battle deeper into the stronghold you'll see many impassable doors, and you'll do your best to burn their locations into memory, because you know you'll be back. Pick up a brace of grenades, and you go back and blast open those hatches you missed; score a missile launcher, and vaults that once mocked you with their impregnability crumple like tissue.

It's not annoying, this backtracking. In fact, it's very satisfying to go back and open a new area, to explore every hidden and secret nook, to fill in all those blank spaces on the map. Backtracking is the soul of a Metroidvania-type game like Shadow Complex (or Rad Warrior), the percentage of the map you've explored a more important stat than the number of enemies you've defeated.

Defeating enemies is fun, too, and Shadow Complex offers up lots of action in a variety of fun forms, from basic gunplay through sneaky stealth-killing to rambunctious missile-launching, against an inexhaustible army of henchmen reinforced by numerous interesting bosses. And through it all, it looks good.

Good looks are, in fact, the central appeal of Shadow Complex.

Built on the beefy Unreal 3 graphics engine, the gameplay is two-dimensional but the graphics are in lush three dimension – wilderness, warehouse, cavern and corridor all presented with a Grade-A, high-definition depth and fidelity you'd never expect in a Live Arcade game that costs $15. It actually feels kind of unfair, like the entry in a Grade 6 science fair that was obviously put together by your engineer dad.

But looks aren't everything. On the downside, Shadow Complex often feels clunky and frustrating. The controls feel soft, and the camera is too often zoomed right in when you wish it were otherwise, leaving you shooting blind at enemies who may be only 10 subjective feet away.

There's a real lack of crispness in the way your guy jumps and grabs ledges (ledge-grabbing is about 70 per cent of the game), and you're all too often flailing against walls trying to spazz-attack your way up a vertical ascent.

Ironically, the fidelity of the 3D environment compounds this frustration: "Why am I going crazy trying to make this stupid jump when there's obviously a girder I could walk across right over there?"

But in gameplay terms that pretty girder, glistening with lovingly simulated hi-def moisture effects, is not there; it is mere set decoration. This frustration is a new twist on the old "why can't my immortal cyborg warrior with a howitzer where his hand should be get past a 2-foot picket fence?" beef, and I can't say I like it much.

Still ... pretty! And deep! And cheap! Outside of the actual bargain bin, there aren't a lot of bargains to be had in games; Shadow Complex is one.

Microsoft Apologizes For Changing Race In Photo

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(August 26, 2009) Los Angeles — Software giant Microsoft Corp. is apologizing for altering a photo on its website to change the race of one of the people shown in the picture.

A photo on the Seattle-based company's U.S. website shows two men, one Asian and one black, and a white woman seated at a conference room table. But on the website of Microsoft's Polish business unit, the black man's head has been replaced with that of a white man. The colour of his hand remains unchanged.

The photo editing sparked criticism online. Some bloggers said Poland's ethnic homogeneity may have played a role in changing the photo.

“We are looking into the details of this situation,” Microsoft spokesperson Lou Gellos said in a statement Tuesday. “We apologize and are in the process of pulling down the image.”

::DANCE NEWS::

Dance Fest Moves Amid Backyard Serenity

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Special To The Star

(August 20, 2009) Eroca Nicols is on a mission to make contemporary dance fun and accessible – by placing it in the most informal setting imaginable.

Last year, inspired by a cry in her little west-end community to see dancing outdoors, she started
DIMBY: Dance in My Backyard. About 50 people came to each of three performances put on in a narrow backyard opposite Dufferin Grove Park, where Nicols had been giving children's dance lessons.

This year, Nicols' company Lady Janitor, the Cube 3 collective and a Montreal improv group, Les Imprudanses, are reprising DIMBY, in a bigger, neighbouring backyard, where they estimate they can accommodate 100 people – if spectators don't mind sitting cosily with their neighbours.

"I realized there wasn't a lot of family-friendly contemporary dance – it is often a little bit angsty. I was really interested in programming for families without programming down to children," says Nicols, a relative newcomer to the Toronto dance scene. Canadian-born, she was raised in Sacramento, Calif., and trained as a visual artist around Oakland. She danced with an Afro-Haitian folkloric group and took up performance art (Lady Janitor was her handle, because she once did such work for a living).

About five years ago, Nicols came to Toronto. She started DIMBY on "zero money," relying on the "kindness of strangers and friends" to provide the space, the outdoor furniture and the word-of-mouth. This year's event is partly funded by the Toronto Arts Council.

Lady Janitor's dances put the emphasis on fun. The In Crowd, recalling the characters at a typical 1960s high-school dance, is full of stunts and acrobatics.

Cube 3 are returning to DIMBY with Cat Piece. Les Imprudanses divide themselves into four teams and hand out cards to the audience for a series of dance improv games, where spectators get to vote on the winning team.

Since all that activity is bound to stimulate appetites, each performance is followed by a reception catered by local organic food specialist Guerrilla Gourmet.

Nicols believes in bringing dance to the community, and making it accessible in every way she can. "I watch what's happening with So You Think You Can Dance and I'm so excited that people are getting into dance and deciding that that's something they want to see more of."

Just the facts
WHAT: Dance in My Backyard

WHEN: Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: 171 Havelock St.

(south of Bloor St. W.)

TICKETS: Pay-what-you-can, suggested donation of $10. Info at

danceinmybackyard@gmail.com

::SPORTS NEWS::

Bolt Wins 200 With Another World Record

Source: www.thestar.com - Raf Casert,
Associated Press

(August 20, 2009) BERLIN – Usain Bolt startled the world again.

The Jamaican sprinting great captured the 200-metre gold medal in 19.19 seconds today, yet another world record.

His time in the 200 slashed 0.11 seconds off the mark he set last year at the Beijing Olympics and came four days after he broke his 100 record by the same margin.

"I am on my way to being a legend," said Bolt, who gritted his teeth and pointed to the clock as soon as his time flashed.

No one among the near capacity crowd at the 70,000-seat Olympic Stadium disagreed.

"If Queen Elizabeth knighthooded me and I would get the title Sir Usain Bolt, that would be very nice," Bolt said.

Bolt is now five for five in major sprint events. He won the gold in the 100, 200 and sprint relay in Beijing's Bird Nest, each time with a world record. Now he is one race away from doing likewise in Berlin.

"I was running my heart out," Bolt said. "I got my start right and that was the key."

Alonso Edward of Panama was second, a distant 0.62 seconds behind Bolt. Wallace Spearmon of the United States took bronze.

"Just coming out there, I'm just waiting for the lights to flash 'Game over,' 'cause I felt like I was in a video game," said Shawn Crawford, who finished fourth. "That guy was moving – fast."

Bolt's spirits got a boost before the start when teammate Melaine Walker added the world title to her Olympic gold in the women's 400 hurdles, another success for the Caribbean island with outsized performances at the championships.

After defending champion Tyson Gay had withdrawn because of injury, Bolt's main competitor stood beyond the finish line – a huge track clock painted in the same colors as his Jamaican jersey.

With a new take on former U.S. president John F. Kennedy's famous Cold War quote "Ich bin ein Berliner," Bolt pleased the locals with a training jersey saying "Ich bin ein Berlino," referring to the bear mascot of the championships.

His running was even better than his show. From Lane 5, he gobbled up all opposition by the end of the curve, and then let loose those huge arms and legs in a whirl of unmatched speed.

Once across the line, he stuck out his tongue much in the manner of basketball great Michael Jordan.

Bolt took off his orange shoes, which had taken him though through eight races in six days, and he started celebrating on the eve of his 23rd birthday.

It was the first sultry evening in Berlin, with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees, reminiscent of the warm night, exactly one year ago, in Beijing.

"I definitely showed people that my world records in Beijing were not a joke," Bolt said.

During warm-ups, Bolt faked knocking out Spearmon, with the American happily playing along, taken in by the Bolt aura.

The decathlon was won by American Trey Hardee, taking over from injured teammate Bryan Clay. Despite a slow closing 1,500 metres, Hardee held on for gold, edging Leonel Suarez of Cuba.

Earlier, Yusuf Saad Kamel of Bahrain and Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia started their chase for their own doubles. After winning the 10,000 on Monday, Bekele was dominant again and crossed first in his heat of the 5,000.

The Ethiopian great won a long-distance double at the Beijing Olympics. Two golds in Berlin would establish him as perhaps Africa's greatest distance runner.

Competing on two hours sleep, Kamel followed his victory in the 1,500 late Wednesday with a win and easy qualification for the semi-finals in the 800.

"I did not sleep last night because I was very excited," said the Kenyan-born Bahraini, the son of two-time 800 world champion Billy Konchellah.

Favourites Yuriy Borzakovskiy of Russia and Abubakere Kaki of Sudan qualified alongside him while Victoria's Gary Reed also moved on, winning his heat in a time of 1:45.76.

Olympic hurdles champion Dayron Robles had a bad day. The world-record holder had been slowed by a hamstring injury the past few weeks and after hitting the first three hurdles in his semi-final, he cried out in agony, grabbed his leg and slowed to a stop. He had to be helped off the track, leaving the final late Thursday wide open.

In the men's pole vault, another Olympic champion was in trouble. Steve Hooker made it to Saturday's final on a bad leg with his only jump of 18 feet, 6 1/2 inches, but was unsure whether he could continue.

"I am not sure about my appearance in the final," Hooker said. ``It is just that I am not healthy."

Defending champion Brad Walker of the United States pulled out of the event before qualifying with a pelvic injury.

A day after winning her first 800 world title amid a gender-test controversy, 18-year-old Caster Semenya was unruffled by the dispute when she accepted gold medal on the podium, grinning and singing along with the South African anthem.

Her stunning improvement in times, muscular build and deep voice have raised questions if she is indeed competing as a woman.

"She said to me she doesn't see what the big deal is all about," South Africa team manager Phiwe Mlangeni-Tsholetsane said. ``She believes it is God given talent and she will exercise it."

For Walker, World Record Assault Next Item On The Agenda?

Source:
Richard Lewis for the IAAF

(August 20, 2009)  Berlin, Germany - Never mind the cheers and celebrations as winners made their way off the track here at the Olympic Stadium tonight, welcome to the 400m hurdles Mutual Appreciation Society.

"I have to commend her," said Jamaica's gold medallist
Melaine Walker as she beat American rival Lashinda Demus in a fabulous race. "To defeat her, you really feel like you did something. When I see her, I am going to tell her 'I still idolise you, I do not think anything less of you, you are a great athlete and continue to be who you are'."

As Demus responded: "Anybody who runs that fast and puts it together at the right time is a great champion."

Such was the popularity of Walker that it took her almost an hour to finish with the endless television interviews she had to do after a victory in one of the finest 400m hurdles races of all time.

A year after winning the Olympic title in Beijing, Walker added to the Jamaican medal haul by running the second fast time in history, a stunning 52.42 to beat Demus, who was second in 52.96, with Josanne Lucas, of Trinidad and Tobago, third in 53.20.

Now she is eyeing a hat-trick with the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi next year, and something else. "I might chase the world record one day," she said.

That day might not be too far away. The time of 52.34 is held by Russian Yulia Pechonkina from six years ago but there is now only one superstar of this distance.

As she was talking on television about her glory, she stopped as teammate Usain Bolt came soaring into the home straight to smash the 200m world record.

It was back in Kingston in 2002 that Bolt first made his name on the World scene when he won the 200m at the World Junior Championships. And it was there that Walker too made a big impression too - finishing second in the 400m hurdles.

That was a start of a major career that saw her find enough speed to hold off Demus in the home straight and execute the final hurdle with power and panache before storming away.

Demus was second at the 10th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki in 2005, but missed the next edition in Osaka in 2007 after giving birth to twin boys earlier that year.

She missed out on last year's Olympic Games in Beijing too, but has been determined to become the best in the world. It is why Walker knew how difficult it could be to beat her - having lost to her only three weeks ago at the Herculis Meeting in Monaco.

That was Walker's final race before Berlin, and only now can she rest easily.

She said: "I could not eat or sleep. If I am able to beat her, I know am a tough girl.

"I am someone to beat every time I come to a Championship. But I have been having sleepless nights about this.

"I cannot tell you how I am feeling inside. I was not even thinking about the time, it was just that I know we have been competing for years and I know Lashinda is so difficult to defeat.

"If you had seen my preparation for this you would believe I would be capable of coming out and running this way.

"But after Monaco, I thought to myself 'You know what, I am going to prepare for this. I have had stomach aches, back aches, I trained so hard and I was not going to give it up'.

"I felt like I was in practice. I do it a thousand times then and I knew I had only one shot at it, so why not make it the best. I pushed all the way home."

It was some run by Walker, whose personal best was 52.64 but who had not sprinted quicker than 53.26 in 2009. Demus entered the final with a lifetime best of 52.63 from that win in Monaco, but Walker is made of stern stuff.

"I don't even know how this compares to last year," said the Olympic champion. "I am really, really, really happy."

She hardly needed to underline how 'really happy' she was. Her smile told the complete story.

"Coming out of the last hurdle, I thought 'I am close'," she added. "I have pressure by being Olympic champion, but by being able to defeat Demus who is my biggest competitor in life is a real key for me."

She acknowledged the impact Bolt has made. "I am stunned myself by Usain," she said. "Normally everyone else wants to do the same and that is the energy in the camp and I can see more victories coming out."

The Jamaican team will return home to heroic welcomes as happened last year after their magnificent glory in Beijing. But Walker has no worries that she cannot carry on with her life in the way she wants to lead it.

She said: "Things have changed a lot since last year, but I try to be normal and do things like going to the local store.

"People try to say 'sign this and that' but it feels good. Jamaica is a place where they respect you. They will acknowledge you when you do something - but they will not crowd you at all."

But if they do, there is no doubt that Melaine Walker will stand out from that crowd, just as she did in Berlin tonight.

Brathwaite Takes Gold

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(August 20, 2009)  Barbados' Ryan Brathwaite has won the first ever gold medal for the island at the World Championships in Berlin.

Competing in the men's 110 m hurdles, the Lester Vaughan Secondary alum clocked 13.14 seconds, a new national record, to take the gold medal in a closely-contested race.

He had to wait for several agonising moments for his victory to be confirmed, as it took a photo finish to separate him and Americans Terrence Trammell, who placed second in a time of 13.15 seconds and David Payne who placed third, also in 13.15.

Brathwaite hit the first hurdle but ran a clean race the rest of the way, dipping at the line to win.

“At the first hurdle I thought ’I do not have this race anymore,”’ Brathwaite said. “But then I fought and kept to the rhythm.”

Trailing after the Americans after the first hurdle, Brathwaite made up ground over the last 40 meters as Trammell and Payne both hit a string of hurdles with their drag foot, and neither American was able to catch the Barbados runner at the tape.

At home in Barbados, Brathwaite's parents, Angela Young and Eugene Brathwaite, celebrated their son's success.

Young, who was at work at Grazettes Day Nursery at the time of the race, told the NATION:

“I was listening to the radio in the company of my colleagues and preparing the babies for home and it was truly a good feeling when they confirmed he had won."

Meanwhile, his father Eugene was in the comfort of his home, hands clasped, on one knee and ears locked to the radio waiting for his son to make history.

“I’m overwhelmed at his performance. He reminds me so much of Muhammad Ali with his confidence in self and it worked for him. He always believes he can do it and he told me he would lower his time and run his heart out,” the proud father said.

For more details on this developing story, please continue reading NATIONnews.com.

Dolphins' Deal With Williams Sisters Announced

Source:
By Steven Wine, Associated Press

(August 25, 2009) DAVIE, Fla. – The Williams sisters stood at the edge of the Miami Dolphins' practice field, easy to spot in elegant, color-coordinated beige dresses and high heels that dug into the turf.

The team's workout had ended, and it was time for introductions. Joey Porter, meet Serena Williams. Jason Taylor, meet Venus Williams.

The NFL and the best of women's tennis converged Tuesday when the Williamses paid a visit to the Dolphins' complex as the latest celebrities to buy a small stake in the franchise. Their deal with owner Stephen Ross, first reported last week, was confirmed at a news conference overlooking the field.

Venus and Serena live in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., about an hour's drive from the Dolphins' stadium.

"To have this opportunity is really where our heart is," Venus said. "We're South Florida girls. When we get off the road, this is where we come home to. When we come home to Dolphins games, it's going to be exciting."

Venus said she and Serena have been to "a few games." Serena dated former NFL players LaVar Arrington and Keyshawn Johnson, but the sisters said the Dolphins have long been their favourite team.

"We're just 'Go Fins!'-type people," Serena said.

"It's great going to the games for us," Venus said. "When we play tennis, you're so focused you don't really get to feel that atmosphere. When we go to a Dolphins game, we get to soak in the atmosphere and we realize, 'Oh my God, we do this too.'"

The sisters are the first female African-Americans to hold an ownership stake in an NFL franchise, the Dolphins said. The league has no African-American majority owner.

"We're really honoured," Serena said. "Venus and I in tennis have tried to do so much for the sport. We're really excited to even have this opportunity."

Ross, a New York real estate billionaire, has brought six celebrities into the fold since completing his purchase of the Dolphins from Wayne Huizenga in January. The first partnership was with singer Jimmy Buffett; musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and Marc Anthony subsequently bought small shares of the team.

The Estefans are the first Cuban-Americans to hold an ownership stake in an NFL team, while Anthony is a New York native of Puerto Rican descent.

"We are thrilled to have Venus and Serena join the Dolphins as limited partners," Ross said. "They are among the most admired athletes in the world and have become global ambassadors for the game of tennis. Their addition to our ownership group further reflects our commitment to connect with aggressively and embrace the great diversity that makes South Florida a multicultural gem."

Making their first visit to the Dolphins' complex, the sisters watched a little practice, checked out the weight room and chatted with several players. Their favourite is running back Ronnie Brown, a friend through mutual acquaintances.

Brown envisions the sisters broadening the NFL's reach.

"It's exciting," he said. "I hope they can draw a different crowd to the sport. Hopefully we get some of their fans to be Dolphins fans."

The sisters posed for photographers holding team jerseys — No. 11 for Venus, No. 89 for Serena. EleVen is Venus' clothing line; 8-9 is the birthdate of their half sister, Yetunde Price, who died in a 2003 shooting.

The Dolphins' negotiations with the sisters were initiated by former U.S. Tennis Association CEO Arlen Kantarian, an adviser to Ross. He introduced the Williamses to Ross shortly after Serena beat Venus in the Wimbledon final, and the sisters needed time to embrace the offer to buy part of the team.

"One or two days after you win Wimbledon, you get hit with about 25 different opportunities," Kantarian said. "Athletes are used to taking money in, not giving money out. This was a little bit different. But they were very excited."

The sisters saw a marketing opportunity, Kantarian said, but also a chance to extend their reach in the community. They want to help with the growth of the Dolphins' charity foundation.

They also say they'll attend as many games as their schedules permit. Now that they're on board, do the sisters have any suggestions for Ross?

"Don't draft us," Venus said.

South Africa Supports Caster Semenya

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(
August 22, 2009) JOHANNESBURG–South Africans planned to rally in support of track champion Caster Semenya – celebrating her win in the 800 metres at the world championship, and denouncing questions about whether she should be allowed to compete as a woman as racist and sexist.

The International Association of Athletics Federations has initiated gender tests on Semenya, tests expected to take weeks to complete.

While that cloud hovers, Athletics South Africa, track's national governing body, yesterday invited reporters to welcome the nation's athletes home Tuesday from the championships in Berlin.

The youth wing of the governing African National Congress said its president, Julius Malema, would lead a welcome rally for "South Africa's golden girl," saying yesterday Semenya "should be celebrated by all South Africans, despite attempts by the IAAF to humiliate her."

The ANC women's league said its leaders would be at the airport, too, and that other members would hold protests across South Africa on Tuesday. The women's league said questions about Semenya's gender "suggest that women can only perform to a certain level and that those who exceed this level should be men."

Butana Komphela, chairman of a parliamentary sports committee, cited both sexism and racism in a statement yesterday. The South African Press Association quoted him as saying his committee would soon lodge a complaint with the U.N. Commissioner of Human Rights asking for an investigation into the IAAF's "gross and severe undermining" of Semenya's rights and privacy.

"Just because she is black and she surpassed her European competitors, there is all this uproar," Khompela was quoted as saying.

Race is never far from sport in South Africa, where apartheid leaders lavished money and attention on sports embraced by the white minority, such as rugby and cricket, while black players and fans languished in dilapidated stadiums. Soccer is seen as the sport of blacks, and excitement over South Africa becoming the first African nation to host a soccer World Cup have been tempered by charges from some blacks that white South Africans didn't support the bid and won't go to the games.

The head of the South African track federation, Leonard Chuene, was among those raising race in the Semenya case.

"It would not be like that if it were some young girl from Europe," Chuene said. "If it was a white child, she would be sitting somewhere with a psychologist, but this is an African child."

The teenager's stunning and recent improvement in times, along with her muscular build and deep voice, sparked speculation about her gender. Hours before she won the 800 final Wednesday, the IAAF confirmed a complex set of gender tests was under way. The IAAF has been criticized in South Africa and elsewhere for going public, particularly given 18-year-old Semenya's youth and inexperience.

::FITNESS::

The 5 Best Ways to Burn Fat!

By Michael Stefano, eDiets Contributor

The average American gains five pounds a year, every year over the age of 30. Some estimate that 60 percent of our society is overweight. Of course, the best way to avoid obesity is to resist temptation and never let the unwanted calories cross your lips in the first place. But what approach can we take that will help us balance exercise and food consumption?

1. Cardiovascular Exercise
Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise has been touted for years as a key to
effective fat burn. Most experts agree -- a fitness program with the main goal of achieving weight loss must include at least three weekly cardio workouts. This translates into 20 to 30 minutes (or up to 60 minutes when working at lesser intensities), of any physical activity that gets your heart to beat at a rate that's 60 to 90 percent of its maximum.

The specific exercise isn't as important as its affect on your heart rate (and breathing rate). Generally speaking, cardiovascular exercise involves working the major muscles of the lower body in a continuous, rhythmic fashion. Activities such as brisk walking, jogging, riding a bicycle and jumping rope all qualify as aerobic exercise and should be incorporated into your weekly
fat-burning regimen.

2. Strength Training
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding regarding strength training, even amongst people that strength train on a regular basis. When you lift weights (or engage in any other type of strength training), you pit your body against a challenging (but controllable) level of resistance. If done right, muscles will adapt and grow stronger as they anticipate a progressively more difficult workout.

This muscle growth will take the form of a sculpted and more toned physique, and unless taken to an extreme, will usually not materialize into big and bulky muscles. But what about that layer of fat that floats over every inch of your otherwise sculpted body? An increase in lean muscle, if only slight, will result in an increased basal metabolic rate, your body's requirement for fuel at rest.

If you consider that almost all the
burning of body fattakes place inside muscle tissue, it's logical to assume the more muscle you have -- the more fat you'll burn just to exist. This translates into a 24-hour-a-day increase in demand for fat as fuel, and if accompanied by a steady decrease in supply, will result in major fat loss.

3. Flexibility Training and Yoga
Many would question the connection between stretching and fat burning. Flexibility training increases the effectiveness of the rest of your fitness program in many ways. It cuts down on injury and recovery time, reducing next day soreness, getting you back in the gym sooner. Stretching improves performance, balance and speed of motion, allowing you to perform more work in less time.

Interspersing some stretching exercises into an otherwise strength training routine keeps you moving between sets, adding to the overall caloric consumption of your workout. Yoga, with its unique blend of stretching and strengthening exercises, has gained unprecedented popularity. Many fitness enthusiasts, who at one time wouldn't be caught dead in a cat pose, now find themselves attending regular yoga classes -- and looking as lean and fit as ever.

4. Sleep, Rest and Recovery
Most of us won't resist this one, but you'd be surprised at how often lack of sleep or rest is the culprit behind a failed weight loss program. More of a good thing isn't necessarily better. When putting together a fitness and weight loss plan, be sure to include adequate recovery periods between workouts. Rest at least 48 hours between full body strength training sessions and limit cardio to no more than 3 to 6 hours a week. If over-trained, your body will break down, you'll lose precious lean muscle mass and actually get fatter.

Do whatever it takes to ensure a good night's sleep. Get a new mattress, install heavier blinds or go to bed earlier. During sleep, the body's recovery processes go into high gear. Depending on activity levels and individual requirements, get 7 or 8 hours of sound, restful sleep every night.

5. Meditation and Stress Reduction
Meditation has been proven to minimize the body's reaction to stress and alleviate many stress-related health problems. But few realize that it can actually raise your body's levels of the anti-aging hormone, DHEA. Also available as an over-the-counter supplement, DHEA is a precursor to testosterone, which is necessary for muscle growth and fat loss. DHEA and testosterone levels decline with age, but tests conducted on people that meditate on a daily basis reveal that serum DHEA levels were restored to much more youthful levels.

In addition, stress has been found to generate dangerously high levels of the naturally occurring hormone cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol has a major role in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular function as well as regulation of the body's use of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. When cortisol is secreted, it causes a breakdown of muscle protein, leading to the release of amino acids into the bloodstream. This process can also raise blood sugar levels.

Meditation, or any other form of stress reduction, can balance this hormonal shift. You can use your meditative sessions to visualize how you'd like to look, or even imagine yourself engaged in activities you once enjoyed. This type of visualization technique has been found not only to relieve stress, but also to increase your odds of achieving goals you've set -- a nice fringe benefit.

If your goal is to burn fat, take a five-pronged approach. Combine the above five methods with a sensible eating program, and you'll be on the road to unprecedented fat loss and a health and fitness program that you'll stay with for a lifetime.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

"Integrity is the lifeblood of democracy. Deceit is a poison in its veins."

Source:  www.eurweb.com - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy