20 Carlton Street, Suite 1032, Toronto, ON  M5B 2H5
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             (416) 677-5883
                                                                                                                                                                                                 langfieldent@rogers.com
                                                                                                                                                                                 www.langfieldentertainment.com

LE NEWSLETTER

December 3, 2009

December?  Really? Am I the only one that missed November?  Does this means that snow is on it's way - say it ain't so?  And the holidays?  Oh man, feeling the stress, which I'm sure will soon turn festive.  Tis the season afterall! 

Tribute to celebrate
Haydain Neale's life is this coming Monday - please buy your tickets now and support the Haydain Neale Family Trust - not to mention an AMAZING night of local talent!  See details under HOT EVENTS! To recap last week's news, friend, family man, proud Canadian, songwriter, smoky and organically talented soul singer, Haydain Neale passed away on Sunday, November 22nd.  Please go to my PHOTO GALLERY to see a plethora of pics of Haydain.

The
AroniAwards celebrated amazing people with amazing talent this past Sunday night - see pics in my PHOTO GALLERY for those attending the high profile VIP Reception.  

 

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS

::HOT EVENTS::

CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU: A Celebration of The Life and Music of Haydain Neale
 
Update on the Haydain tribute. Tickets went on sale December 2nd and as of 4:00 pm Thursday, we crossed the 600 ticket threshold. At this pace we'll sell out tomorrow. Full line-up is now.... in case tickets sell out, feel free to still contribute to the Haydain Neale Family Trust Fund.

Nelly Furtado & James Bryan
Keshia Chante
Luke McMaster
Justin Nozuka
Divine Brown
k-os
Wade O Brown
Ivana Santilli
Chantal Kreviazuk & Raine Maida
Tomi Swick
Jim Cuddy

Better than the Junos!!
 
MONDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2009
PHOENIX CONCERT THEATRE - TORONTO

410 Sherbourne Street (north of Carlton, south of Wellesley) 

19+/ General Admission
Doors: 7:00PM Show: 9:00PM

MAP 


Tickets on sale @ 10:00am Wednesday, December 2nd
Tickets available all Ticketmaster Outlets or call 416-870-8000 to charge by phone.
Order online at www.ticketmaster.ca
Tickets (incl. GST) $20.00: General Admission
(plus FMF and service charges)
ALL PROCEEDS GO TO THE HAYDAIN NEALE FAMILY TRUST

 

On Monday, December 7, 2009, Haydain Neale's friends and peers will join on stage to celebrate the life and music of one of Canada's most beloved artists. Haydain Neale's legendary voice had been missing from the Canadian music scene since a serious motor accident in the summer of 2007, but his strength and perseverance during his recovery was moving and inspiring. Over the past two years, with the unwavering love and support of his wife Michaela, daughter Yasmin and numerous others, Neale finished production on the album he started almost 3 years ago. While privately battling cancer, Haydain went back into the studio with his fellow jacksoul band mates to complete the record.  On December 1, jacksoul will be releasing SOULmate, a collection of all new remarkable songs that tell of love, hope and endurance, set to his trademark unstoppable beats.
 
With past hits like "Can't Stop", and "Still Believe in Love, jacksoul has been internationally heralded as an incredible artist that delivers soul stirring and intoxicating music.  Executive produced by Haydain and Michaela Neale, SOULmate is the fifth release from jacksoul, and is comprised of ten new tracks that showcase a powerful voice in R&B/Soul music, a potent mix of smooth vocals and tight beats, and showcases the simplicity of brilliant songwriting.
 
All proceeds from the sale of SOULmate will go to the Haydain Neale Family Trust.
 
For more show information please contact:
 
Katherine McFarlane, REMG Entertainment, 416-203-3509
katherine@remgentertainment.com
 
For press accreditations please email:
Erica Silver, erica.silver@sonymusic.com 

::TOP STORIES::

Nico Archambault's Leap Of Faith

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Paula Citron

(November 30, 2009) Nico Archambault may have won the very first So You Think You Can Dance Canada competition. And he just appeared with Janet Jackson on the American Music Awards. But is he really a Rudolf Nureyev?

The director of a new television film on the legendary dancer (which airs tomorrow on Bravo!) seems to think so - he's cast Archambault as his lead, opposite a principal dancer from the National Ballet.

"Nureyev was a mythological figure, a rock star of ballet," says filmmaker Moze Mossanen. "I had heard about this guy from Quebec who had won big, so I hunted him up on YouTube. I thought he looked great on camera, but what sold me was his partnering - he's strong and he could lift."

“ I was scared at first to play Nureyev. I'm not a ballet dancer and yet I'd be impersonating one of the greatest ones who ever lived.”

Surprisingly, Archambault got off to a weak start on SYTYCDC in 2008.

The judges were so underwhelmed by his contemporary solo that they didn't give him a pass to the audition finals. To make it on air, he had to show up for an afternoon session where second chancers could show their stuff in a piece of choreography that they learned en masse.

Still, to say this role is a shift for Archambault is an understatement. And as Nureyev, Archambault isn't just giving up his eyebrow piercing and leather pants for a wig and Le Corsaire pantaloons - he's traded in his signature jazz, tap and hip-hop moves for double tours and pirouettes.

"I was scared at first to play Nureyev," says the 25-year-old Archambault. "I'm not a ballet dancer and yet I'd be impersonating one of the greatest ones who ever lived."

Then again, this is a unique take on Nureyev - an hour-long dance drama with original choreography that is more contemporary than ballet. Mossanen was very clear that he wasn't making a documentary or a biopic, he was doing storytelling through dance.

"The film is a tribute to the mythology of Nureyev. I was not so much interested in capturing his dancing as exploring the psychology of his personality and the dramatic forces that were around him," says Mossanen. "Who better than Nico to capture the charm, sensuality and star power that made Rudi so captivating?"

And Archambault is not a kid off the street who stumbled into stardom. He has been dancing since he was 7, and was already appearing in music videos at 13.

Although he was born on the south shore of Montreal to a non-artistic family (his father works for the fire department and his mother in banking), his parents supported his passion. Archambault studied dance privately at the Louise Lapierre School for eight years. He attended a special arts high school, and while he dropped out of a postsecondary dance program after a year, he has been making his living as a dancer ever since.

At 17, Archambault moved to France as part of the boy band 4U. They spent two years touring Europe as the opening act for the French megastar singer/dancer Lorie. Then Archambault came home to Montreal, where he has danced in TV shows, music videos, commercials, casino revues and musicals. In 2005, he also co-founded the electro-pop group Pinup Saints, which released their first album, Golden, this year.

Archambault almost didn't audition for SYTYCDC because, "I wasn't sure about the show. I'm not really into reality TV, and I never liked competition in relationship to dance."

But the show's focus on dancers beyond the chorus line changed his mind at the last minute. He was also interested in working with accomplished choreographers; creating dances is another of his passions.

So has his life changed post-SYTYCDC? "I'm still training and creating," he says. "The major difference is people know who I am and interesting projects come my way."

Like that appearance with Janet Jackson - who also cast him in her video for Make Me. Or dancing in the opera version of the Quebec mega-musical Starmania. Or performing and choreographing this summer's starry line-up on Parliament Hill for Canada Day.

Archambault and his fiancée - Vancouver-born Wynn Holmes, whom he met when she was a guest choreographer for Pinup Saints - have also formed their own company. Called Street Parade, it trades on their skills as performers as well as choreographers. The two created a number for the second season of SYTYCDC. In 2010, Archambault will be choreographing a new musical Le blues d'la métropole, based on the songs of the seminal Quebec rock group Beau Dommage.

But the Nureyev film is Archambault's biggest stretch yet. The closest he's come to ballet was training as a kid, and some basic moves for warm-ups. So he immersed himself in ballet classes for the role. It's paid off: Everyone connected with the film is impressed with his work ethic and what a quick a study he's been.

"The guy is a sponge for learning," says the film's choreographer Matjash Mrozewski. "I had to really work with him on port de bras, breath and relaxed wrists, but he really got off on the fact that he was doing double tours and attitude pirouettes. He may not equal Nureyev as a technician, but he echoed his animal quality and sex appeal."

The National Ballet's Greta Hodgkinson plays Margot Fonteyn, and Archambault was intimidated at first by her formidable reputation. "She's such a great dancer she can partner herself," he quips.

But Hodgkinson says that while Archambault had to learn a "more classical and refined way of moving," he turned out to be a strong partner: "I could tell him I needed to be back here or forward there, and he never had to be told twice about placement."

The National's Etienne Lavigne, a fellow Montrealer who plays Erik Bruhn, also gave Archambault special coaching in ballet technique. "Nico's gift is his energy and charisma," he says. "Nureyev was described as a puma on stage, and Moze saw that energy in Nico."

As for Archambault's next move?

"Wynn and I have our cellphones and suitcases. We live like gypsies going between Montreal, Toronto, New York and Los Angeles," he says. "I think that having specific goals limit your perspective. I leave the future open. I take on a project because it inspires me, and so that I can grow as an artist."

Nureyev airs on Bravo! Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.

Bailey Rae Brings Breezy Soul To The Drake

Source:
By Jane Stevenson, Sun Media

(November 30, 2009) Back in 2006, British neo-soul singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae was riding high on the success of her self-titled debut album, which subsequently sold four million copies worldwide, and spawned such breakout hits, Put Your Records On and Like A Star.  (Note from Dawn: see photos in my PHOTO GALLERY.) 

She found herself nominated for almost every music award across the pond and in North America, and her warm, inviting voice won over such famous fans as Herbie Hancock who used her on his all-star tribute to Joni Mitchell, River: The Joni Letters, which won a best album Grammy.

Then Bailey Rae’s life came to a crashing halt with the accidental drug overdose death of her bassist-husband Jason Rae in March 2008.

Now the 30-year-old Leeds-born artist is emerging from her grief with a deeply personal new album, The Sea, due Jan. 26, and a select number of short, intimate shows including The Drake on Sunday night.

“It’s nice to be back, I haven’t seen you after so long,” she said, dressed in a slinky black halter dress and surrounded on the small stage by five musicians.

About 150 people gathered to hear Rae run through most of the material from The Sea, which leans towards a bigger, bolder rock sound on such tracks as Are You Here, Paper Dolls and Diving For Hearts.

“This is about all the bad girls I was friendly with in school,” said Rae with a little smile about Paper Dolls.

“Did you like that song?” she said afterwards. “It’s only our third gig we’ve done so it’s new to us as well.”

But Rae’s breezy pop-soul sound is still very much intact on other new songs like Paris Nights and New York Mornings, and Closer.

It was nice to see Rae, who handled an acoustic guitar, tambourine and dulcimer, so at ease on stage.

There is definitely a delicate and shy quality about the singer as if she is the calm centre of the music as it swirls around her.

But when she opens her mouth to sing, her voice is fuelled by an emotional strength and power.

Case in point, the new soulful ballads Love Is On Its Way, I’d Do It All Again, I Would Like To Call It Beauty and The Sea’s title track, which featured her hitting some mighty high notes.

Rae left the stage after the encore song, Till It Happens To You, but not before saying: “We’ll be back, hopefully somewhere bigger, bring your friends.”

And so her life, on stage and off, continues.

3.5 stars out of five

---

SET LIST:

Are You Here

Paris Nights and New York Mornings

Love Is On Its Way

Like a Star

Closer

Paper Dolls

I’d Do It All Again

Diving for Hearts

The Blackest Lily

I Would Like to Call It Beauty

The Sea

Put Your Records On

ENCORE

Till It Happens To You

Revamped Gardens To Be Athletic Centre, Supermarket

Source: www.thestar.com - Denise Balkissoon

(December 01, 2009) A $20-million injection from Ottawa will help breathe life back into beloved but barely used Maple Leaf Gardens, the Star has learned.

A source close to the deal said the federal government, Ryerson University and grocery giant Loblaw will announce Tuesday morning plans to develop the iconic building at Church and Carlton Sts. as a joint student athletic centre and long-planned supermarket.

Each of the three parties will share the $60 million renovation tab, a meeting at Ryerson will hear from federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and John Baird, the transport and infrastructure minister, Loblaw executive chair Galen Weston and Ryerson President Sheldon Levy.

The plan is to have a flagship Loblaw store on the main floor, topped by two new floors of athletic facilities. There will be volleyball and basketball courts, plus an ice rink, which will have the same dimensions as the original.

One-third of the cost will come from Ryerson students, who agreed in a referendum last spring to each contribute an extra $126 in annual fees for a new athletic centre. Ottawa is kicking in $20 million, with the reset to be raised in partnership with Loblaw Companies and its founding family, the Westons.

Toronto Councillor Kyle Rae, who represents the area, called the announcement "fantastic news," adding Levy has worked hard to make the deal happen. "The neighbourhood will finally get the store they were promised 10 years ago, and employment in the neighbourhood again," he said Monday night. "We lost both Maple Leaf Gardens and the CBC around the same time in the 1990s, and it did great damage to the neighbourhood."

Rae said he was pleased to see that the landmark building can be saved – and there will be skating there again.

"It has so many series of memories for people. You can tell people's age if they saw something at the Gardens," Rae said. "People really believed it was a public space, because they had seen hockey games there or they had seen the Beatles or they had seen Bob Dylan.

"They saw it as public space, when in fact it was private property," Rae said. "And finally, I think we're getting the mix that is the best."

It has been more than a decade since the Maple Leafs moved out of what former mayor John Sewell once called "the most famous building in Canada." Recently, the Gardens hosted the CBC reality show Battle of the Blades.

Loblaw bought the stately art deco building from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment in 2004, after a bidding war with Home Depot. Hockey fans scorned the idea of a grocery store in the Leafs' hallowed home, scrawling "Boycott Loblaw's" on the pale yellow bricks.

Financial concerns left the site dormant these past five years. There was the staggering cost of renovating the building, and Loblaw was in fierce competition with retail rival Wal-Mart. Partnership options were limited by an MLSE condition of sale that the Gardens couldn't host events that would compete with those in the Leafs' new venue, the Air Canada Centre.

Rumours that Ryerson might partner with the grocery giant on the site have been circulating for years, but in February 2008, president Sheldon Levy told the Star cost made it a no go. "We are such a long shot," he said. "We are better to put our time and energy in something that is more feasible."

Two months ago, Bob Hunter, executive vice-president of MLSE, told the Star that a small arena for varsity hockey might be all right, but anything over 8,500 seats would compete with another MLSE property, Ricoh Coliseum, home of the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League.

With files from Louise Brown

43rd Annual Cavalcade Of Lights Kicks Off With A Bang

Source:  680News.com - Jackie Rosen


(November 29, 2009) Toronto - Toronto certainly knows how to kick off the holiday season, and on Saturday night, Nathan Phillips Square was packed with those in the Christmas ...and Chanukah spirit, ready to celebrate.

The Cavalcade of Lights, now in its 43rd year, opened with a Christmas medley from some of Canada's most talented musicians, which was led by renowned guitarist Adrian Eccleson.

They were followed by Mayor David Miller, who took to the stage amid a crowd which was both cheering and booing. With his command, Toronto's official Christmas tree was lit up, while onlookers revelled in the bright lights.

The following hour was filled with performances from some of Canada's hottest musicians. Steven Page, former front man for the Barenaked Ladies, now solo artist, performed a Chanukah song.

"It's a beautiful November. We're very lucky," he said of the weather, as the skies were clear for the event.

Pop singer Keshia Chante, crooner Matt Dusk and electro-pop rockers Fritz Helder and the Phantoms also performed a mix of their own hits and Christmas favourites.

Matt Dusk commented on the crowd, decked out in glow sticks, saying that looking out from the stage, everything was "a big blur. All I see is about the first five rows and a bunch of lights, and people just jumping up and down. That's what you want."

The evening wrapped up with a spectacular fireworks display above city hall and a skating party, with tunes from DJ Tony Sutherland pumping in the background.

Missed Saturday night's party? Cavalcade of Lights festivities continue for the next three Saturdays at Nathan Phillips Square, with concerts by other hot Canadian musical acts beginning at 7 PM, and skating parties set to top 40 and dance tunes to follow. In addition, Markets selling Christmas and other novelties will be open starting at 2 PM.

Stevie Wonder Named UN Messenger of Peace

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(Dec. 02, 2009) The UN chief is naming blind pop star
Stevie Wonder a United Nations Messenger of Peace to focus on helping people with disabilities.

United Nations spokeswoman Marie Okabe said Wonder's designation as a UN peace envoy will be officially announced on Thursday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

She said the singer-songwriter, who has won 25 Grammy awards, is being recognized for his philanthropic work with the U.S. President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, the Children's Diabetes Foundation and Junior Blind of America.

Wonder will be the 11th UN Messenger of Peace, joining a list of notable figures including Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, actor Michael Douglas, primate expert Jane Goodall and conductor Daniel Barenboim.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

New Air Canada baggage fees...Healthiest Airport Food...Jim's Deals of the Day

Source: www.thestar.com -
Jim Byers

(December 2, 2009) I guess it was a matter of time, but it's still a shame to see Canadians have to pay more for air travel.
 
Air Canada today announced that it will start charging passengers with Tango, Tango Plus and Latitude fares $30 for a second,checked bag on all flights to the U.S. (except Puerto Rico) and $50 for second bags on flights to Europe and Israel. The policy takes effect for flights on or after Jan. 19. 2010 for tickets purchased from today onwards.
 
Passengers with Economy Class tickets will continue to get two free, checked bags on flights within Canada, as well as to and from Mexico, the Caribbean, South and Central America, Asia and Australia, which I find kinda weird. I mean, if you're charging $50 for a second bag to Europe, why not $50 for a second bag to Asia or South America?
 
The fee for a second checked bag to/from the United States, Europe and Israel will not apply to Air Canada Prestige, Elite, Super Elite members or Star Alliance Silver and Gold members. Executive Class and Executive First customers continue to receive an allowance of three checked bags on all flights, regardless of destination.
 
That's great for those of us who travel a lot, but the average guy gets screwed. A family of four flying to Europe in economy with two checked bags per person would end up forking over another $200. A family flying to Orlando to see the Mouse - or take in a tour of the Tiger Woods domestic bliss display in Isleworth - would pay another $120.
 
Air Canada, of course, couched this in very public relations-like terms, stating not that they were hiking baggage fees but merely saying it had "matched the prevailing checked bag policy of international carriers on U.S. transborder and transatlantic routes." Which makes it sound like it's not their fault and that they simply HAD to fall in line.
 
Customers purchasing Economy Class tickets for travel on or after January 19, 2010 to/from the United States, Europe and Israel will still be able to check one bag for free, in addition to permitted carry-on baggage. But you'll have to pay for bag number two.
 
"This change in baggage policy to match our U.S. and European competitors is an important step as we work toward sustained profitability," said Ben Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. "In this weak economy it is more critical than ever to continue reviewing all our activities on a regular basis and making adjustments as necessary to remain competitive with our industry peers. We are committed to offering our customers a full range of competitively priced travel options."

Yes, some airlines charge for each bag. And yes, air travel is expensive. But don't you just HATE getting nickeled and dimed sorry, thirtied and fiftied - like this?
For the record, WestJet's p.r. guy tells me they haven't changed their policy; it's still two bags free on all flights.
 
Healthy Airport Food
 
No offence, but I wouldn't have expected the Detroit Metro airport to have topped a list I spotted of airports in the U.S. with the healthiest meals.
 
A study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine looked at 17 U.S. airports and said 79% offer at least one healthy option (low-fat, high-fibre, cholesterol-free). Detroit Metro scored 100%, meaning all their restaurants have at least one healthy option, and good for them. San Francisco rose to 94%, while the next three were Phoenix Sky Harbour, Houston Intercontinental and Newark.
 
Las Vegas was last with just 66% of places offering a healthy choice. The study said too many Vegas eateries offered only burgers, sausages, hot dogs or pre-made items "full of fat and cholesterol." Chicago O'Hare and Dulles in Washington D.C. each got scores of just 68 %.
 
Time to pull up your socks, folks. 
 
 
JIM'S DEALS OF THE DAY
 
Up to 50% off - Cheap flights to every Canadian destination with Air Canada
http://www.travelalerts.ca/ccount12/click.php?id=1769
 
US$69 - Over 75% off! - Peak holiday sale in Orlando near theme parks (sale ends soon)
http://www.travelalerts.ca/ccount12/click.php?id=1755
 
US$444 taxes included - 4 night 4* Disney Bahamas cruise: early January
http://www.travelalerts.ca/ccount12/click.php?id=1756

::MUSIC NEWS::

Alex Cuba, Libre

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Goddard

(November 26, 2009) Alex Cuba is making curious inroads into the Canadian music scene.

The Cuban expat now living in a remote corner of British Columbia recently covered a Blue Rodeo song in Spanish – with help from Blue Rodeo.

He also co-wrote most of Nelly Furtado's new Spanish-language disc and sings with her on the title track, "Mi Plan (My Plan)."

On Monday, he won a major industry award for world music. This upcoming Monday he opens for U.S.-born Brazilian singer
Bebel Gilberto at the Sound Academy.

After two Juno-winning solo albums, he has released a third CD, Alex Cuba, on his own label for distribution in Canada and the United States by EMI. "My best to date because of its simplicity," he says of his latest work in his charming low-key way. "In the beginning, I tended to make music that was complicated, but I have managed to become a better songwriter because of how I live in Canada – simply."

Cuba wears his hair in a retro Afro, and grows sideburns all the way to his mouth. His singing voice possesses a luxurious quality and his guitar playing incorporates jazz, pop and other styles into a recognizably Cuban sound – "a natural progression to everything I've done," he says.

Thirty-five years ago, he was born Alexis Puentes in Artemisa, an hour west of Havana. His father Valentin Puentes was a guitarist specializing in a popular '60s style called "filin," meaning "feeling," a ballad form influenced by blues and jazz.

From an early age, with fraternal twin Adonis, Cuba practiced guitar and other instruments, and in 1995 he travelled with his father's band to play a Cuban solidarity concert at Simon Fraser University. Anthropology student Sarah Goodacre helped organize the event. Within months she and Cuba were married and living in Cuba.

In 1999 they resettled in Canada, first in Victoria, then in Goodacre's hometown of Smithers, B.C., population 5,000, on the road between Prince George and Prince Rupert. The nearest city, Vancouver or Edmonton, is a 14-hour drive away.

"People think that to make a musical career you have to live in the city," Cuba explained by phone recently from a tour stop in Cranbrook, B.C.

"But from early in my time in Canada, I saw that in cities, especially for Latin musicians, you were going to end up playing at the same place every Friday and Saturday.

"You would be fine for about three months," he says. "Then people will get tired of you and you end up finding a daytime job because music will not pay your livelihood."

Living in Smithers – "a beautiful community of musicians and artists" – avoids such dead ends, he says.

The couple has three children. Goodacre serves as business manager and runs their label Caracol Records. Two or three times a year, Cuba plays to a full house at the local 300-seat Della Herman Theatre, and at other times tours with a bass player and drummer as the Alex Cuba Band.

In 2006 and 2008, he won Junos for World Music Album of the Year. At the second ceremony, he was sitting with fellow musician Serena Ryder at a songwriting workshop when he thought he spotted Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy in the audience.

"Yes, that's him," Ryder confirmed.

When his turn came, Cuba sang the Toronto band's 1993 song "Bad Timing" in Spanish. Later, at the band's Toronto studios, Cuddy dug out the original master tracks and sang harmony for Cuba on a Spanish-language single of "Bad Timing."

Cuba met pop star Nelly Furtado through connections in Victoria, where Furtado grew up and where Cuba based himself for a while when he and brother Adonis performed as the Puentes Brothers.

Wishing to record in Spanish, Furtado wrote nine songs with Cuba. Seven ended up on Mi Plan, released in September.

"I put my vocal on the title track as a demo," Cuba says. "She told me, `If it's okay, I'm going to keep your voice in there – I love it.'"

Just the facts
WHO: Alex Cuba, opening for Bebel Gilberto

WHEN: Monday, 8 p.m.

WHERE: Sound Academy,

11 Polson St.

TICKETS: $31 at Ticketmaster

GTA Youth Music Programs Changing Lives

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

(November 27, 2009) Reformed gang member Anthony Hutchinson has found a way to pay it forward – with music.

At 15, he was already a hardened thief, had his own .22-calibre pistol, and was a member of a street gang in Burnaby, B.C. Little more than two decades later, the professional social worker with a PhD is the head of the
Brampton Neighbourhood Resource Centre.

He credits a high-school mentorship and music lessons for his radical turnaround, and is doing everything he can to pass these benefits on to at-risk children in Brampton. That includes partnering with the Brampton Symphony Orchestra to deliver free violin lessons every Tuesday night.

Hutchinson's efforts are part of a giant, invisible web of music programs – both during and after school – spreading to children and teens across the GTA every day of the week. These projects, workshops, rehearsals and concerts cross age barriers and overlook racial differences. Hundreds of dedicated teachers, professional musicians, volunteers and concerned parents are giving kids the tools to overcome the risks and temptations of life at the poverty line.

Ontario has a brand-new music curriculum for all children from kindergarten to Grade 8 (high schoolers can choose whether to participate in music classes). Many schools have established choirs and bands. The GTA has several specialized arts schools.

Beyond the official school day, kids can turn to privately organized groups and individual music lessons, available in even the most needy areas: the Jane-Finch corridor, Malvern, Rexdale, Parkdale and downtown Toronto's Regent Park.

Financed by private donors, foundations, corporations and government arts councils – and run by platoons of dedicated professionals – these options form a musical crazy quilt that stretches across the whole metropolitan area.

The need is clearly there. In "Toronto's Vital Signs," a massive social and demographic profile published in the Star on Oct. 6, the Toronto Community Foundation highlighted how socioeconomic disparities across the GTA have far-reaching consequences, especially in childhood learning.

In 2008, half of all Toronto District School Board students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6 came from lower-income families. One quarter of all those kids were not being offered any after-school activities at all. "Between 3 to 6 p.m., unsupervised children are more likely to engage in gang-related or delinquent behaviour, or become victims of crime," the report stated.

The foundation took this as a call to arms, teaming up with the school board to launch a new program two weeks ago. Beyond 3:30 is meant to connect middle-school children with meaningful group activities that range from basic literacy (Indigo is a sponsor) and a junior-chef course (coordinated by George Brown College) to music (taken care of by the non-profit Regent Park School of Music).

Foundation CEO Rahul K. Bhardwaj describes this as a "non-traditional, non-institutional, grassroots response to how do we get kids into positive lifestyles, leadership, good choices and nurture a love of music. It's all about feeding the children's soul."

Here's a small sample of how such efforts play out in our communities:

MONDAY

Opera is a hot entertainment ticket for those who can make it downtown. It can also be hot educational commodity, too.

Friday is the Canadian Opera Company's only day off from an after-school program for children aged 7 to 12. On Monday nights, the East York Community Centre gets its turn. Children pay $10 per 10-week workshop, which works out to 50 cents an hour.

The COC's senior manager of education and outreach, Katherine Semcesen, says these programs were born of a desire to nurture future audiences for opera, but quickly became much more. Some are delivered in schools as an enrichment of the standard curriculum. Some involve children going to the opera house for dress rehearsals and performances. The company also tours children's opera productions every season. There are March Break workshops and summer camps.

In all, the COC reaches 30,000 to 32,000 kids every year, Semcesen says.

What is most rewarding, from a child-development perspective, is that opera combines music, drama and movement. "Opera is a celebration of all the art forms. It's like a tasting platter. You can try a little bit of everything," says Semcesen.

Tapestry New Opera Works has also been running after-school and summertime workshops for young people. Managing artistic director Wayne Strongman suggests that, sometimes, stereotypes and prejudices about classical art forms are more prevalent with teachers than with the students.

Tapestry's outreach and education coordinator Amber Ebert can't say enough about the empowering effect of creating a story and music, and then staging them together.

"The heartstring-pulling moment for me is when a child finds their voice," says Ebert. "It's when a shy student becomes a leader or performer. It's not isolated incidents."

Strongman reminds us of a larger issue of connecting kids with culture, not just reading and arithmetic: "How old do we have to become as a country to understand that it is culture that is remembered?"

TUESDAY

I see 12-year-old Aly Velji and his bandmates, violins held high, bows poised to strike, across a suite of offices and meeting rooms the Brampton Neighbourhood Resource Centre has carved out of an old storefront in Kennedy Square Mall. In their cozy classroom, 25 kids, aged 8 to 18, are getting to know the violin for one hour a week.

These lessons are free, and the kids don't have to audition. "Only two of the 25 in the class had ever played a violin before," says the centre's Dan Campbell.

Their patient, energetic teacher is Brampton Symphony Orchestra concertmaster David Rehner. In 10 years of teaching, this is his first contact with the lowest rung in the socioeconomic ladder. Campbell tells me how one student had to drop out because her family was living in a Salvation Army shelter, and there were too many hurdles, even for a single, free visit every week.

Aly is probably more fortunate than many others in the room. He plays trumpet and piano as well, his mother Shamin tells me, but it's the violin lessons that have truly captured his attention.

"He looks forward to it every week," says Velji. "And this would not have been possible without BNRC."

Don Harradine has coaxed his daughter Grace into giving the fiddle a try. He tried music lessons for his son Isaac last year, and saw amazing results. "He has a bit of A.D.D." Harradine explains. "The violin really made him able to focus, and I noticed that his grades started going up, too."

After class, Rehner admits that he is pleasantly surprised by his new class: "I was expecting there to be a difference between these kids and others I have taught, but there wasn't. In fact, what I'm realizing is that the kids are really thirsty for an experience like this."

Rehner says the difference between the children in this room versus some wealthier parts of the GTA is the lack of opportunity. In every other respect, "kids are kids," he adds, smiling.

WEDNESDAY

The area bounded by highrise apartment blocks on Finch Ave. W. to the north and the older, lowrise tenements and strip malls of Keele St. to the east is a 1960s suburban neighbourhood of winding streets and split-level homes. Along Sentinel Rd., public, middle and high schools sit amid parkland, soccer pitches and baseball diamonds.

The underlying reality is much darker. This is where the children of the Jane-Finch corridor go to school. Lording over Sentinel Rd. is C.W. Jefferys C.I., a high school notorious for its frequent lockdowns.

Music man Moshe Hammer – a veteran violin virtuoso who still calls the world his stage – has bravely marched straight into the thick of it. Instead of 76 trombones, he bears armloads of violins.

Today, he is introducing 27 Grade 6 students at nearby Elia Middle School to the joys of the violin. "The main rule is that we are a team," Hammer explains to his attentive would-be fiddlers. "We are kind to each other and we support each other."

The Hammer Band, as he calls it, is about more than music. It's about making a difference in an immigrant-rich neighbourhood that can't seem to find its way out of complex social problems.

Hammer ended last year with 50 kids from two neighbouring public schools. Now he's expanding into middle school, boasting 150 kids in group programs at seven schools.

A few of the 27 gathered in Elia's multipurpose main hall started with Hammer a year or two ago. Their eyes light up when their leader asks them to play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" for their newbie bandmates.

"There's a Hebrew saying," Hammer says after class. "You save one person and you save the world." The medicine is music, but the real cure is "what the kids learn through the violin that is not music."

Hammer has to do his own fundraising, build his own relationships with each principal and make sure each child gets a free violin, bow and case. In return, every parent signs a promise that the instrument will be returned intact at the end of the school year. There is a damage deposit, which Hammer doesn't cash.

"I haven't lost a violin yet," he says, smiling.

THURSDAY

Three hundred rain-soaked public schoolchildren are piling into Walmer Road Baptist Church in the Annex neighbourhood at 9:30 a.m. The kids, along with a phalanx of facilitators and music teachers from Orde St. Public School, Ryerson Community School and Earl Beatty Jr. and Sr. P.S., are part of a four-month choral project developed by local jazz masters Howard Rees and Brian Katz.

Toronto District School Board music coordinator Diane Jameson has shown up, too, to see how this partnership among the board, the DAREarts foundation and Rees is coming along. The special guest today is octogenarian New York jazz legend Barry Harris.

After a quick warm-up, the kids are singing Harris's "Ay-ba-da-ba-wee-boo" minutes later. Two little ones are encouraged to come to the microphone to lead a scat-improvisation session, and have no trouble getting the attention of their fellow singers.

My own prejudices have crumbled. I'm shocked at how these little ones have taken to a series of downtempo jazz songs, introduced by a soft-spoken 80-year-old man.

"You have to be the best," Harris croons into a microphone. "We're just here for one thing. You're not doing this for yourselves; you're doing this for everyone else."

Later, Rees explains how he tried these workshops at Jane-Finch last year with great success. As part of a five-year project, he's moving the choral workshops to a different group area each year. The previous year's chorus will join the current one at a concert at Koerner Hall in the new year.

Jameson's role in all of this is not a simple one. She admits that music may not always be a focal point in the classroom these days.

"It is such a mixed bag," she says. "There are schools with wonderful programs. There are other schools where that's not the focus. There are schools that rely exclusively on community partnerships."

But she's doing the best she can to make sure there's at least a bit of exposure to real, professional music-making for each of the 250,000 young people under her jurisdiction.

Hearing the kids leave their workshop singing "Baby, Let Me Tell You `Bout One Time," convinces me that there will be plenty more to sing about in the future.

FRIDAY

Although it offers one-on-one and group classes every day, things pick up toward the end of the week at the Regent Park School of Music. Every room on each of the four floors of the Victorian row house at Queen and River Sts. rings out with piano, violin, cello, guitar, drumming and voice.

Today, a brother and sister who arrived too early for their violin lessons are helping acting manager Rachel Robbins stuff newsletters into envelopes.

If you're going to offer music lessons at $8 an hour and provide your students with free instruments (including practice pianos), the fundraising and communication can't stop for a minute.

Founded in 1999 as an outgrowth of a music outreach program at nearby Dixon Hall, the Regent Park school already boasts two musical success stories: soprano Stacey Darko was accepted, on scholarship, into the University of British Columbia's vocal performance program this fall; and jazz pianist Thomson Egbo Egbo, who took his first piano lesson as a little boy at Dixon Hall, is now in a master's program at Boston's Berklee School of Music.

Both grew up in Regent Park (Darko's family moved north to Finch Ave. when she was in her early teens, but she continued to make the weekly trek, spending two hours on the TTC each way). And both have proven that a lack of money, or living in the wrong part of town, does not have to be a barrier to personal success.

According to board chair Jill Witkin, the Regent Park school is eager to expand its teaching beyond the city's core. The first step has been taken with the TDSB's Beyond 3:30 program in the Jane-Finch area.

As with the Canadian Opera Company, the city's big music presenters are as committed to the cause as dozens of smaller ones.

The biggest and oldest of all, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, organized its first student concert in 1923, with the help of the Toronto school board. Those concerts reached 54,000 young people in the GTA last season.

But there's much more going on, too, including mini concerts at schools as well as interactive workshops between musicians and classrooms. The flagship program is a youth orchestra, assembled by audition every year.

The most interactive school program pairs a TSO musician with a Grade 4 or 5 class in 12 to 18 schools. Over the course of six weeks, the children create a piece of music, then perform it for their parents and their peers.

It costs the TSO about $2,500 per school for this program alone, yet they only charge $500, "because the schools just couldn't afford it," explains TSO education director Roberta Smith.

"This is where I hear anecdotally things like it turns around the classroom bully. I can't tell you how many times I've heard stories about changes in the children," Smith says.

"It's an avenue for the kids who may have been on the sidelines to shine. It allows their classmates, and even their teachers, to see them in a different way and changes the class dynamics."

Jane-Finch music man Moshe Hammer cleverly calls this "fun with expectations." Those expectations are nothing less than turning our city into a better place.

Good Intentions, Bad Rhyme

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

Bill Cosby Presents The Cosnarati State of Emergency
(independent)
(out of 4)

(December 01, 2009) I feel Billy Cosby's pain: "Young black males spewing angry, profane and woman-
hating rap music that plays on the worst stereotypes of black music."

And good for him that instead of just complaining he's taken action with town-hall meetings to address various ills afflicting African Americans, outlined them in the book
Come On, People and executive-produced this hip-hop disc as a companion to said book.

Too bad the only people it will appeal to are parents and teachers. And that's not because the songs – all story concepts by Dr. William H. Cosby – are devoid of profanity, misogyny and materialism; it's because they're boring.

Did you catch the Oprah episode with Jay-Z trying to teach the talk show host how to rap? Yeah, that's the properly enunciated tempo here.

Now, the comedian-actor doesn't actually rhyme himself; he's got a bunch of little-known emcees – Jace the Great, Brother Hahz, Ced Gee and Supa Nova Slom – doing the heavy lipping and they're severely lacking in style and flow.

The beats, courtesy of veteran multi-instrumentalist and composer William (Spaceman) Patterson, are adequate but not done justice.

This well-intended project fails in comparison to a similar effort, 2007's Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations, by Princeton professor Cornel West, which utilized A-list rappers such as Talib Kweli, Black Thought and KRS-One.

In fact, Cosby disrespects hip-hop by not collaborating with any of its popular purveyors for his missives about self-respect, peer pressure, abuse and education. They wouldn't have ceded him as much control, but they would've brought some art to the thing.  

Black Eyed Peas Unveil U2-Level 100-City Tour

Source: www.thestar.com - Lesley Ciarula Taylor

(December 01, 2009) The Black Eyed Peas are inviting Toronto, and 99 other cities, to celebrate their survival, U2 style

The band on Tuesday announced a lights-and-effects 100-city world stadium tour that starts Feb. 4 in Atlanta and ends its North American leg on April 11 in Vancouver, stopping in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre on March 6, in support of its album The E.N.D. After a break, the band heads for Europe.

"When people see this show," lead singer Fergie told the Los Angeles Times, "they will see us going for spectacle and showing what we can do. This is where we're going as a group."

"How do you get to the U2 level? Right now that's what we're looking at," will.i.am, the leader of group, told the Times.

"We've gotten this far – we survived. Most of the people that were our peers, they're gone or way back there now. We lapped them. In the music industry there's a depression, there's a drought. And we have proved that we can survive and lead the way, even in this climate. And the only way to go now is up, to U2."

The band, with three Grammys and a platinum-selling album, got a taste for spectacle after appearing in October at the Rose Bowl with U2.

Produced by AEG Live for the first time, the tour will have a "unique charitable component to be announced in the weeks ahead," the promoters said in announcing the tour.

"We expect our first hundred shows together to be a roller coaster ride that will redefine the live entertainment experience as only the Peas can," said Randy Phillips, president & CEO of AEG Live.

Brownman Makes A Rare Home Appearance With His Electryc Trio

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(November 26, 2009) Given his reputation for forward-thinking musical concepts and execution, it's surprising to find Toronto jazz trumpeter Brownman interpreting compositions by late icons John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard and Jerome Kerns on Juggernaut, his Electryc Trio's debut disc.

"I really feel that as we move forward we have to respect where we come from," the musician explained by phone from a New York stop. "Without those tunes and that era of jazz, I wouldn't be here. I love playing old standards in new ways."

That means a modern take – electronic effects, a quote from The Flintstones theme – on classics like "Red Clay," "Yesteryear" and "Stolen Moments," by the chordless (no piano or guitar) trio who celebrate their album release with a performance at The Rex on Saturday.

It's an increasingly rare local appearance by Brownman, who is on the road almost 200 days a year. In addition to leading seven groups, including Latin jazz ensemble Cruzao (with younger brother Marcus on sax) and hip hop-based outfit Gruvasylum, the Trinidad-born, Brampton-raised Nick Ali is the featured soloist in more than 30 bands, most commonly rapper Guru's Jazzmataz. He has also toured with Sting, Dave Matthews Band and Mos Def.

Just as well he's keeping busy elsewhere, given the incompatible tastes of jazz fans at home.

"Jazz in Canada is a strange animal, because it's very unsupported by the general public; that's why guys like me end up taking off and going out to world stages," Brownman explained. "I think Canadians are very conservative in nature and maybe their tastes tend to be very conservative also. If you look at who is popular ... Diana Krall sells a zillion records in Canada; I enjoy Diana, but I don't think that's indicative of what jazz is. I saw Branford Marsalis in a double bill with Dave Holland (at the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival this summer). That's the forward cusp of what jazz is right now. If something like the jazz festival wasn't supporting that kind of music, I don't think anybody would care."

After completing a physics degree at the University of Waterloo – at the behest of his erstwhile engineering professor father and math professor mother – Brownman decamped to New York where he studied at the Manhattan School of Music and privately with acclaimed Randy Brecker.

"I'm part of that American jazz ideology," said the musician, who prefers not to reveal his age. "It's a very different way of playing; a lot of the Canadian jazz tends to be a little more intellectual, more cerebral, a little less impassioned. There are artists in Canada who play with that (American) approach, but you can't pack a club doing that unless you've got a following already.

"Maybe Mike Murley can do it, but if you're tenor saxophone No. 4 coming out of U of T, it will be an uphill battle. There are a whole bunch of guys returning from New York – drummer Ernesto Cervini, tenor Ryan Oliver – who have been there studying and playing with that New York intensity, who are just starting to face that realization like `Wow, I'm going to have to play to the market a little bit.'"

Brownman has built a solid local fan base that packs Trane Studio for his annual Five Weeks for Miles tribute in October, which explores legendary trumpeter Miles Davis's distinct musical eras. Though his Electryc Trio, with bassist Tyler Edmond and drummer Colin Kingsmore, hearkens Davis's experimental electric period, Brownman favours the preceding 1964-68 incarnation – Davis's second great quintet with saxist Wayne Shorter.

"I think it's his most deeply exploratory period," Brownman explained. "That band was so pushing the outermost envelopes of improvisation. That's the cornerstone of jazz, improvisation, whether it's guided in Latin grooves or hip-hop grooves, or drum-and-bass.

"What they were doing in that period is essentially what we try to achieve with the Electryc Trio using 2009 grooves. We're so deeply connected and so much of what is happening is off the paper. It's just a deeply improvised dance, the three men musical dance."

Just the facts
WHO: Brownman Electryc Trio

WHERE: The Rex, 194 Queen St. W.

WHEN: Saturday, 9:45 p.m.

COVER: $8

Modern Music Linked To Native Tradition

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Brad Wheeler

(November 27, 2009) The Band

Digging Roots is a dynamic four-piece built around singer ShoShona Kish and her guitplaying husband Raven Kanatakta, a Barrie, Ont.-based duo. The band's album We Are has earned six award nominations for Friday's Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards gala in Hamilton. Kanatakta, 33, was born in a remote village in Northern Quebec. He studied music at Boston's Berklee School of Music, and appreciates Delta blues and Jimi Hendrix. Kish is the 35-year-old daughter of a draft-dodging journalist and his artistic wife, both active in the halcyon days of Toronto's Yorkville scene. “Our parents were part of all the exciting social and artistic things that were happening back in the late 1960s and early 1970s,” says Kish. “We were kind of born into that.”

The Music

They don't fit into a box – the head-nodding grooves of We Are include hazy hip hop, thoughtful pop, droning neo-blues ( Spring to Come ) and trippy soul-folk. “I like to think of us as experimenters,” says Kish. “We push at the boundaries of what the various styles would traditionally be, and how the styles overlap.” Parts of the album were recorded last spring in a cottage on Lake Simcoe, where the band, producer Kinnie Starr and other guests made music, stoked fires, ate marvellous meals and watched the lake's ice break. “A lot of what we do is business,” says Kish. “So it was really nice to just do music.”

The Songwriting

The music is modern, but connected to indigenous traditions. An elder (Kish's great-great aunt) told the pair about an old way of creating music, using the contour line of the horizon for the melodies. “It was a simple, magical kind of thing,” says Kish. The two songwriters snapped wide-angle photos, which were used as “song maps” for what eventually became the album's 10 tracks.

The Message

Lyrics are optimistic (“I came to all of this with flowers in my hair,” says Kish), often referencing a sense of community and connection. Asked about such a line as “our roots still grow through the concrete of the times,” she explains that indigenous customs, feared lost by her parent's generation, are still alive. “We're all living in houses in the suburbs and driving cars around, but we're still have some things carried forward from the past – things that we can learn from and refer to.”

Hear Digging Roots tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. on CBC Radio 2's Canada Live, recorded this summer at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre.

The Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards happen tomorrow at Hamilton Place Theatre, Hamilton. Digging Roots also performs at the after-party at Hamilton Place Studio.

Toronto Folksinger Takes On Stompin' Tom Connors - Football Style

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ben Rayner

(November 29, 2009) Donovan Woods didn't set out to write another "Hockey Song," but with each passing Grey Cup one of his tunes becomes more iconic.

"My Cousin Has a Grey Cup Ring," a winsome, sadness-tinged folk ditty from the Toronto singer/songwriter's 2007 indie album The Hold Up, has been making the rounds once again this weekend in anticipation of Sunday's championship battle between the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Calgary.

"I feel like maybe I've woven my thread into the cultural fabric of our nation," laughs Woods. "It's exciting. I like it."

For the record, Woods doesn't actually have a cousin with a Grey Cup ring "as big as a tire swing." His father, however, does: Douglas Woods grew up second cousin to Glen Weir, a defensive tackle for the Alouettes back in the 1970s.

Donovan Woods took poetic license and surmised that his less-than-athletic dad might feel envious of the ring and, as the song puts it, "the prestige that it brings."

"Any time the Grey Cup would come up, he'd always say: 'My cousin has a Grey Cup ring,' " says Woods. "He'd brag about it. So I just filled in the details that he would be jealous of his cousin for all eternity."

Woods is pleased that "My Cousin Has a Grey Cup Ring" has wormed its way ever so slightly into the collective Canadian consciousness. But he's still realistic about the chances of such a quiet acoustic tune being adopted as a sports anthem.

"I wish it would be a Hymns of the 49th Parallel CD or something," he quips of the k.d. lang cover album of songs by Canadian artists.

"CBC used to play it all the time because their broadcast of the Grey Cup game was all about tradition and history and the long story of the game. TSN (which is broadcasting this year's game) doesn't have that. Nothing against those guys, but their broadcast is all, like, yelling and 'Are you ready for some (expletive) football! So I don't think they'll ever use it."

You can hear the song at: myspace.com/donovanwoods

James Dubose: Reality - Check: Producer Re-Writing The Reality TV Rules

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 30, 2009) "Some people want to see that,” he said. “Some people like to see a train wreck. That has its place on TV and it has its run and it normally goes away, but I think when people can identify with the show – they see themselves or they see someone they know, it makes them continue to watch."

*
James DuBose may not be a familiar name, but it is one that rolls on the credits of some of BET’s very popular reality series including 2006-08’s “Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is” and its spin-off “Frankie & Neffe,” and it is the name on the door of the founder and CEO of DuBose Entertainment.

 “All the stuff that I’ve been blessed to do is never about me,” he recently told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “I’ve been blessed to work within our creative community and with a lot of good people. No one is watching TV because James Dubose is producing the show. They’re watching TV because of the talent I’m blessed to work with. I always try to keep that in perspective. I’m just a guy who loves his work. I love what I do. I would do it for nothing. With that said, I’m not looking to be famous.”

DuBose may not be looking to be famous, but he said the he had always been looking to work in entertainment, particularly in production. He said that while he took a football scholarship to Wake Forest University, the school’s draw for DuBose was its Communications Department. His aspirations soon brought him to Hollywood.

“Football was short-lived,” said DuBose. “And then I met a guy named Brad Lachman who created the TV show ‘Solid Gold.’”

DuBose worked with Lachman as a production assistant – a post the former athlete said was initially hard to swallow.

“After playing football and having everything handed to you and then to become a production assistant – basically a 'go-fer' – getting people’s lunches and so forth; it was a difficult transition,” he said, “but Brad sat down with me and we talked about what my goals were. He said, ‘If you really want to become a great leader, it’s best to start from the bottom. So that when you are teaching people, you can teach out of experience and not just what you’ve seen. To this day, he’s still my mentor.”

After his stint with Lachman, DuBose moved to Atlanta to work as an associate producer for the 1996 Olympics. He returned to Los Angeles two years later to work on a cutting edge dating show called “Blind Date” as co-executive producer and in 2001 he launched his own production company called DuBose Entertainment, which specialized in reality and live action shows.

“I always wanted to have my own business. I didn’t know back in 1991 exactly what that was. I knew I wanted to have my own production company, but I really didn’t know what that entailed. I knew I had stories to tell,” he said.

While owning his own company is quite a success, DuBose’s big break came when BET and Interscope Records approached him for a show for R&B breakout Keyshia Cole.

“Everybody had a different take on what they thought the show would be. Once I met Keyshia and got a chance to know who she was as a person, I wanted to portray her in a different way and thank God it worked out.”

DuBose said that the initial conversations about Cole and the direction the show should take was for it to be the female version of Bobby Brown's short-lived reality series on the Bravo network in 2005 called “Being Bobby Brown.”

“They said that she’s this big personality that doesn’t listen,” he said, “but that wasn’t something I was really interested in. After sitting down with her my goal was to make people appreciate her as a woman, as a black woman, and appreciate her music by being able to understand what she had to deal with. I think you have to give her credit that she dealt with all those things and didn’t forget her family and didn’t forget where she came from.”

“When I met her she was already a platinum artist,” he said speaking on how the series may have helped Cole, “but what I do take credit for is that the show has helped people understand the lady behind the music.”

DuBose hopes that viewers will get a lot of understanding out of his latest TV shows “Frankie & Neffe,” which was a spin-off of sorts of “Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is” starring Cole’s mom and sister, and “Tiny & Toya,” the real-life drama of two women (lover and former lover) of two of hip hop’s biggest stars T.I. and Lil’ Wayne.

“You take a show like ‘Frankie & Neffe’ where people say, ‘They have some issues. Why are you showing those things?’ to a show like ‘Tiny & Toya’ and people say, ‘Oh, I didn’t think they were going to do that,’ as it shows a different side of them,” he said. “There are all sides to all of us and the truth is the truth. I’m not sensationalizing anything. I’m only trying to say, here’s their story, now let’s watch them evolve and see them get to a point where we can all be proud of them.”

Of “Frankie & Neffe” DuBose said, “It’s a different show for me. Most people would think they’d be in better situations. I think in Frankie and Neffe’s case, they made mistakes along the way and the show that I wanted to show is that they understand each other now and understand themselves a little better and they realize how much work has to go into the individual.”

But the young producer said that controversy and outrageousness are not his formula for a successful reality series.

“Some people want to see that,” he said. “Some people like to see a train wreck. That has its place on TV and it has its run and it normally goes away, but I think when people can identify with the show – they see themselves or they see someone they know, it makes them continue to watch. I’m telling the truth.”

For more on his series, visit www.bet.com or www.duboseent.com and stay tuned for EUR’s James DuBose Part 2.

Jody Watley: The Makeover

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Fiona McKinson

(December 1, 2009) *Jodi Watley sounds as fresh as she did when she first stepped into the limelight in the late seventies. This Chicago native has embraced a more European sound under a new UK distribution deal.

In the eighties she rivalled Janet Jackson and Madonna for MTV nominations. Today, she may not be as visible in the mainstream as those artists, but she has carved out a niche for herself in jazzy electronic soul. She has been made over into a new force to be reckoned with, and maintains 20 million record sales and a Grammy award.

Departing from her roots in R&B group Shalamar, on this album, Watley makes a number of covers her own. Standout cuts include a soulful remake of the Bob Marley classic Waiting in Vain, a dramatic re-working of Madonna’s Borderline, a stirring rendition of Diana Ross’ Love Hangover and an adaptation of Chic’s I Want Your Love.

Watley says:

“The makeover is a reflection of the music that has inspired much of my work the past decade. I’ve taken songs I love and brought them into the present. As a songwriter and producer, I wanted to compliment the project with two original compositions, reminding people that I’m a songwriter as well.”

The catchy A Bed of Roses co-written and produced by Mercury Music Prize nominees 4hero, is one of the few original tracks. Having so many covers has the drawback that people just discovering Jody Watley will have to pay attention to find out who she is.

However, her interpretations of the songs she performs are telling. Her delivery of the Carpenters’ Close To You both pays respectful homage while emoting vulnerability and wisdom.

Watley says:

“The makeover’ is a nice way for me to direct lovers of quality music across the bridge as I continue to make over my own musical journey after three decades in music. It’s important to me that people recognise how much my music has grown, as I have.”

Watley has certainly grown as an artist, now on her ninth studio album, in her time she has worked with Birmingham’s Musical Youth, Bob Geldof’s Band Aid, George Michael and one of her key influences, Stevie Wonder.

Hers is also the memorable voice on Babyfaces’s This Is (For The Lover In You).

There are few guest appearances on this album bar Voshaun Gotti on Friends, a remake of her ground breaking 1989 collaboration with Eric B and Rakim (one of the first to feature a singer and rapper).

Pioneering, Watley has found a formula to keep the party going and fans dancing with tracks such as Midnight Lounge and Nu Love. This album shows that when the clock strikes 12, this Cinderella, who is as iconic in fashion and beauty circles as the title track underlines, can afford to lounge simply because she has earned her glass slippers and while she has one foot in the past, her finger is squarely on the pulse of what is happening in music.

The international version of the Makeover is out now on Avitone Recordings/ADA Global

Hear tracks on Watley’s myspace page: http://www.myspace.com/jodywatley

Kid Cudi Reaches For The Stars

Source: www.thestar.com -
Raju Mudhar

(November 28, 2009) It was supposed to be a Lady Gaga-Kanye West series of concerts that showcased two of the most exciting, compelling, downright weird but hugely successful musicians out there. And then, with one Swiftian MTV outburst that was the last straw for an overexposed West, those concerts were off.

However, the show must go on, and with Gaga still game, Saturday's show at the Air Canada Centre still features two of most of compelling artists of the past year. Instead of Kanye, eclectic rapper
Kid Cudi gets a chance to show off why he might be a more-than-adequate replacement for his friend and collaborator. After his ACC opening set, Cudi is heading over to the Koolhaus for an all-ages solo gig.

Anybody who's heard Cudi's debut album, Man on the Moon: The End of Day, knows he is definitely on a next-level wave that could see him inch closer to rap's A-list. Indeed, Saturday's ACC gig could be one of those special you-were-there shows if both of these performers build upon their incredibly successful debuts and continue to define the hot new sound of today.

Originally from Cleveland, Cudi was born Scott Mescudi, and despite the second billing on tonight's big concert, he's had that kind of year that most musicians would sell their soul for. His first single, "Day'n'Night" was a club smash that moved bodies on dance floors around the world and was prime remix material for deejays everywhere. Then he dropped Man on the Moon, a concept album that showcased the kind of eclecticism that is rare in any musical genre, let alone hip hop. It included collaborations with West, Lady Gaga, electronic group Ratatat and hipster alt-rockers MGMT. It's earned him plaudits as a sci-fi cosmic rapper – not a label he denies.

"I always wanted to do a really cinematic album, know what I mean? I know a lot of artists have tried to incorporate film into music, and as a movie buff I never felt like anybody executed it properly. So I always felt like when I had a chance to do my major label debut, I wanted to incorporate a lot of different elements from films, and really bring out a story and really paint a picture," he says.

"When we were recording, there was always sci-fi movies on in the background. We were watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A little bit of E.T., even. Apocalyptica...it's something that Kanye did, and something I borrowed from him. I mean having a movie playing, like with no volume, we just watched it, and you actually start to look at the cinematography, and get ideas because you notice things that you never really noticed before."

Despite his participation in this Monster's Ball tour, he's already working his iPhone contacts list to come up with more interesting collaborators for his next record, which he says will be a compilation of collaborations called Cudder.

"I'm planning on working with every artist that I'm a fan of, or artists that have inspired me, or folks that I admire...it's going to be a more fun album. Not really themed as of yet, but I just want to show people that I can do my thing and make whatever I want," he says. "But it's definitely going to have Travis Barker and 88 Keys on there. Going to have Swiss Beats on there. I'm thinking about reaching out to Green Day. The Kings of Leon too. I'm going to try to get Busta Rhymes on there. Jay-Z too, hopefully. Oh yeah, I'm going to get Band of Horses. Me and the lead singer of that band are real cool."

The plan is to get everything set up now, so he can go into the studio immediately after this tour. To keep fans happy, he's also releasing a mixtape in December that he says will share snippets of new songs that didn't make it onto his album – he calls them "deleted scenes," to continue the cinema vibe.

As well, Cudi's exposure is only going to get bigger as he embarks on his first work in front of the camera, as he's a regular on the oncoming HBO series, How To Make It In America. Produced by Mark Wahlberg's production company (the same folks behind Entourage), the show focuses on two guys trying to make it in the fashion business in New York.

"I play their best friend, and support whatever they do," he says. "My character is definitely like the silly one. He's a good friend to them, but he's kind of a space cadet too. Not Kelso from That 70s Show type of dumb, but kind of offbeat and quirky."

A bit of a space cadet? Sounds like a perfect fit for a hip hop star who is literally reaching for the stars with every move he makes.

Gaga Over Lady Gaga

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Robert Everett-Green

(November 28, 2009) It tells you something about Lady Gaga's fast ride up the escalator of fame that the words “Lady Gaga Halloween” were the No. 1 Google search related to everyone's favourite dress-up holiday. The woman who ended her performance during September's MTV Video Music Awards covered in blood and hanging glassy-eyed from a rope isn't like any other dance-pop diva.

“I want your horror,” she growls in her new video, Bad Romance , in which the 23-year-old singer displays computer-generated body modifications that would rate high on many people's ick index. In her video for Paparazzi , Gaga moves about on crutches and in a wheelchair, and flashes images of glamorous women posing as corpses.

She wants our attention, obviously, and she's getting it this month like never before. Her songs were a pivotal element in a recent episode of Gossip Girl (in which she performed), she's in Beyoncé's new Video Phone video, her new eight-song album The Fame Monster came out last week in plain and deluxe editions, and she launched her 60-show Monster Ball tour Friday night in Montreal. Not bad for a performer whose debut album came out just 14 months ago.

Even when she's not bleeding, hanging herself or setting her piano on fire (as she did at last weekend's American Music Awards show), Gaga goes for a style of costuming that hovers between glam rock and the fantastical extremes of Parisian couture. A lot of her outfits reshape the body in ways that suggest non-human life forms, whether through shoes shaped like lobster claws (as in Bad Romance ) or in the glowing exoskeletal ribs of her AMA costume.

We've had physically ambiguous costuming in pop music before, from the likes of Little Richard, David Bowie and Michael Jackson, and like them, Gaga has made herself a subject of speculation as to her sexual identity. The rumour that she may be a cross-dresser or hermaphrodite has gained a lot of mileage on the Internet lately. (Her response: “I am not offended at all, but my vagina might be a little bit upset.”) But while Gaga's costumes are often sexy, in that they show a lot of flesh, it's not at all clear that she's trying to be sexually appealing when she wears them. Her fascination with modified or deformed bodies goes to a deeper place, where we hide our fears about our basic physical selves.

This too has many forerunners in popular music, including Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson and Gwar – the shock rockers, virtually all of whom are male. Manson's grotesqueries can be seen as a way of acting out the monstrous transformations of adolescence, aging and death. Gaga's innovation is to bring this into dance-pop, and to do it as a woman.

“For the deformed, there is an ownership of one's difference, an ownership that is visible and indisputable.” That's from a paper Gaga wrote at New York's Tisch School of the Arts in 2004, when she was still calling herself Stefani Germanotta. The paper distinguishes between the shackled “social body” and the natural body that is “independent, formless and free.” Trying to clear a bigger space for this freer independent body, Gaga quotes from Montaigne's essay, Of a Monstrous Child : “What we call monsters are not so to God, who sees in the immensity of his work the infinity of forms that he has comprised in it.” Gaga has obviously stayed true to the monster theme, both in the title of her new album and tour, and in the way her videos and performances mash together views of the sexy body and the deformed or alien body.

From a mainstream pop point of view, that's a pretty fearsome agenda, especially when coupled with Gaga's bleak portrayals of human relations. Bad Romance and Paparazzi both sound like love songs, but the videos are all about betrayal and revenge, and each culminates in a murder that plays like black comedy. The final shot in Bad Romance shows Gaga enjoying a post-coital cigarette next to the skeleton of her incinerated lover, while sparks shoot from her bra.

“She is a successful grey alien hybrid, stripped of all human emotion or compassion,” writes Generation Hex editor and advertising maven Jason Louv, on the blog Dangerous Minds. “She is the newest model android from the MTV fembot assembly line. She is the latest and greatest Terminator. She is Skynet. She is self-aware.”

He goes too far. Gaga deals with emotion, but it's mostly dark. Rage and disappointment are what I hear seething through her music, in which the object of desire sometimes turns out to be the figure in the mirror or on the tabloid's front page. She may look bloody and damaged, but she's in control, as Madonna always was, and as so few of the rest of us feel ourselves to be, especially when it comes to our bodies and how they appear to others.

What isn't so clear is how much further Gaga can go in this direction. People are already watching her to see whether she can top what she did last time, sort of the way everyone used to check out Cher's latest Oscar costume. Manson is still trying to top himself (in his latest video, for Running to the Edge of the World , he appears to beat a young woman to death) and is far less prominent now than he was 10 years ago.

Gaga's key to survival may be to follow Madonna in other ways and think about her next phase of self-invention. She's a much better singer than Madonna, and Bad Romance is a better song than Just Dance (her first hit), so we may be going gaga over her for some time to come.

Street Musicians Collaborate Trans-Planet in the Name of Peace

Source: Kam Williams

The first time Mark Johnson heard Roger Ridley singing “Stand by Me,” he was so moved by the passion in the elderly black man’s voice, he wanted to share it with the world. However, that seemed like an improbable dream, because Roger was obscure even in their hometown of Santa Monica, California where he was just a street musician playing for tips in the public square.

But then Mark thought about the fact that there must many other equally-talented, yet unrecognized individuals performing outdoors, essentially for free, in cities all over the planet. So, he decided to create a mobile recording studio in order to give them a chance to collaborate with each other without meeting. Since music is the universal language, he hoped to deliver a powerful message about its power to unite the human race by weaving a unique tapestry of tunes with folks from a diversity of backgrounds.

Therefore, with the help of co-director Jonathan Walls, he proceeded to prove that the world is indeed a global village via a project which would take them from Brazil to South Africa to Russia to Holland to Italy to Spain to Ireland to France to Israel to Palestine to Nepal to India and back to the United States. The fruit of those labours is Playing for Change: Songs around the World, a soul-stirring DVD and CD which offers its audience one of the most satisfying listening experiences imaginable.

Despite the physical distance and considerable cultural differences among the contributors, they combined to create some beautiful music. For instance, it is nothing short of amazing to hear how Ridley’s lead vocals blend with that of the gravelly-throated Grandpa Elliot, as well as with one-man band Washboard Chaz, Native American drummers, a Russian cellist, a Zulu acappella group, plus numerous additional accompanists for an unforgettable version of “Stand by Me.”

Besides featuring novel renditions of such classic songs as “One Love,” “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution,” and “A Change Is Gonna Come,” to name a few, the DVD captures the colourful essence of each port-of-call, given that each session was shot outdoors and up against a visually-captivating background.  

Perhaps the picture’s most poignant moment arrives when Irishman Liam O’ Maonlai pauses from playing the didgeridoo on “Biko” to summarize his basic philosophy of life. “I believe in my brothers and sisters all over the world, and that we will see this Earth to be ours,” he says matter-of-factly. “We have an ability to look after one another, and an ability to share. It’s our place, our world, it’s our planet. It’s ours!”

 Here, here! Or should I say, hear, hear!

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated 
Running time: DVD - 83 minutes, CD - 45 minutes.
Studio: Concord Music Group

DVD Extras: “The Filmmakers’ Journey,” a behind-the-scenes featurette, and “The Playing for Change Foundation,” a documentary focusing on the inspiring work of the project’s non-profit organization. .

To order a copy of the Playing for Change DVD/CD, visit: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001QOOCTE?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B001QOOCTE

To see street musicians performing Stand by Me in Playing for Change, visit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us-TVg40ExM

Finding His Bridge

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(November 28, 2009) Nearly 40 years ago, he promised "I will ease your mind." Now it's time for us to return the favour.

The much-loved singer who's performing at Brampton's Rose Theatre on Nov. 30 and at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts Dec. 1 and 2 has gone by a variety of first names in his 68 years on this planet.

"Arthur" saw him through childhood, "Artie" is how he whimsically refers to himself today, but many of us hope he will forgive us for thinking the appellation that sits most comfortably next to Garfunkel will always be "Simon and."

Simon and Garfunkel. Just say the words and the melodies start drifting through your mind: the lacy filigree of "Scarborough Fair," the Alfa Romeo-esque breeziness of "Mrs. Robinson" and – of course – the only white gospel song ever to ring true, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters."

The magical synergy these two guys from Queens, N.Y., created still seems so important a part of our musical heritage that it's hard to believe their initial period of fame spanned only six years and filled a mere five albums.

True, there have been occasional reunion concerts and there probably will be until the grave closes over one of them, but what Garfunkel now calls "the blessing and the burden" of his partnership with Paul Simon ended, for all intents and purposes, early in 1970.

Why? There's a frosty silence over the phone line from New York. "That question belongs to Mr. Simon," Garfunkel finally answers softly. "I'm an acquiescent fellow. If you'd just given me some time off back then, I would have continued on this amazing dual journey we had going.

"You see, I loved all the things you could do with two of us: one tall, one short; one blond, one dark. I thought it was well worth continuing."

But when asked about the creative and personal tensions that supposedly drove them apart, Garfunkel attributes a great deal to the pressures that sprung up from becoming so famous, so fast.

"Everyone kept telling us, `You better strike now, opportunity won't always be here.' It makes you keep throwing logs on the fire. You're always persuaded to write one more song, book one more concert. It keeps you working too much. It's not organic; it impinges on the very nature of being an artist.

"We were too much in each other's faces. The intense togetherness. The same overlapping tenderness. The same love of music. We were very much on the same page but we got tired of being there all the time."

And although he vows, "I will always love my buddy Paul from Queens," Garfunkel feels obliged to note, "I had a life before him and I've had a life after him."

That life began in Forest Hills, Queens, on Nov. 5, 1941, when Arthur Ira Garfunkel was born to his housewife mother, Rose, and his father, Jack, a travelling salesman of men's clothing.

Garfunkel recalls the moment he realized his singing voice was special. "I was in first grade at PS 164 and I was singing in the back stairwell because it had a beautiful echo and I could be alone. I was suddenly aware one day that God had given me a little gift and it would behove me to be serious about this lovely thrush in my throat."

At age 7, he sang in his local synagogue ("a lovely large wooden room") with Cantor Sydney Kaye. Ever since, "singing has always been a quasi-religious, deeply mystical experience to me."

He met Simon in Grade 6 and they began performing covers of pop hits under the name "Tom and Jerry" (Garfunkel was "Tom"). They stuck together from 1956 to 1962, breaking apart briefly twice, first when Garfunkel was finishing his BA in art history at Columbia University and then when their first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m., was released to what Garfunkel now calls "instant apathy."

But producer Tom Wilson believed in the duo, lifted one number from the album, redubbed it with a strong rock beat and re-released it as a single. "The Sound of Silence" shot to No. 1 on the chart.

"And then the games began," Garfunkel says with a sigh. "We ceased being artists and we turned into record makers. That wasn't a bad thing, because when it swings, it really grooves, and when it's mellow, it's a delightful ride – but the ride starting moving too fast."

As the '60s waned, Simon moved into political activism and Garfunkel began acting in movies like Catch-22. After their formal split, Simon's career as a solo artist took off, while Garfunkel's film endeavours ultimately went nowhere, despite some fine work.

"I was dopey," he says of that period. "I sabotage my life through strange subjectivity. I felt every movie had to reverberate inside me – and those kind of projects don't come along that often."

So he moved back to music, releasing three enormously successful and popular albums (Angel Clare, Breakaway, Watermark) that solidified his status as a great vocal artist. He credits their power, quite touchingly, to the actor and photographer with whom he was romantically involved until she committed suicide in 1979. "I fell in love with Laurie Bird," he says.

Since then, Garfunkel has never stopped working. "To live a life is to do various things at various times without worrying about the name of it," he says.

But the glory days of the past are usually just that, except for the occasions when Simon and Garfunkel perform together and evoke the old magic. And the one song that still casts a spell is "Bridge Over Troubled Waters."

Garfunkel says he has performed it with the same emotions for almost 40 years. "You begin with tenderness and compassion because somebody is hurting and you want to extend the hand of healing. And when I sing, `I'm on your side,' it's just me, Artie Garfunkel, saying I'm with you and I will do my best to be compassionate."

Art Garfunkel will appear at 8 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the Rose Theatre, Brampton. Tickets: 905-874-2800.

He will perform at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. on Dec. 1 and 2. Tickets: 905-787-8811.

Touring Steely Dan Still Making The Rent

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(November 27, 2009) Massey Hall was packed to the gills Thursday night with fans enthused to see Steely Dan sing for their supper on the final of two local nights of their two-month Rent Party Tour, which closes in Montreal on Saturday.

In interviews, the duo, singer/keyboardist Donald Fagen, 61 and guitarist Walter Becker, 59, have suggested that the cheeky title of the tour refers to the importance touring now has for musicians since album sales have so radically dropped off.

While youthful acts such as Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue and rock heavyweights such as U2 offer the elaborate bang-up displays, veteran niche acts are finding more creative ways to sell tickets.

So, like Van Morrison earlier this fall, Steely Dan's been performing some of their best-selling albums in their entirety.

They kicked off Wednesday night with 1977's Aja, and delivered 1976's The Royal Scam the following day. Despite some long, noodling interludes, the renditions closely mirrored the original recordings.

With 11 accompanying musicians, including four horns and three backing vocalists, the tunes have a richer, fatter sound, hard as it was to improve on gems like "Sign In Stranger" and "Kid Charlemagne" (sampled in Kanye West's 2007 hit "Champion").

It was disappointing though how low Fagen's raspier, but ever compelling vocals were. Animated, wearing sunglasses and perched most of the time behind an electric piano (with a photograph of Duke Ellington on the front), he looked like he was singing at full strength, but at times could hardly be heard above the instruments and backing singers.

Becker, his compadre of 40-plus years, turned in melodic guitar solos and sang two lines of "Hey Nineteen," but rarely stood out from the other sidemen.

Though crisply arranged, the music had an organic feel given the inventive solos, most notably on baritone sax, trumpet and organ.

"And that concludes the epic part of the show," said Fagen of The Royal Scam which he quite justly referred to as a suite.

This was when the reverent crowd finally struck the singalong chord – for the Greatest Hits – or as Fagen put it "selections from the various phases of our illustrious career" – second half of the two-hour show.

Sting Is Feeling The Cold

Source: www.thestar.com

(November 30, 2009) Sting, recently turned 58, looks remarkable – not "good for his age" or "well-preserved" or any of those other patronizing labels that are attached to people who defy chronology.

Besides, it's embrace rather than defiance that defines Sting. He looks his age.

He's also just made an album. If On a Winter's Night ... is a collection of traditional songs, hymns, lullabies and laments inspired by Sting's favourite season. His record company had suggested a Christmas album, but he wasn't partial to that idea. "I'm interested in the psychological concept of what winter means to us," he explains. "It's hugely important, and it's disappearing with global warming.... We need the winter to reflect, to sit in darkness, to deal with the ghosts of the past. And then we can move forward. So, for me, the album is about regeneration rather than salvation."

But the album is more the kind of music you might expect from a creative lion in the winter of his years, rather than a man who is a mere 58.

"I've always been a little premature," Sting acknowledges. "I grew up quickly, and I'm heading into maturity quicker. In some respects, I'm 14 1/2. In others, I'm an old man, growing into wisdom about the world, asking questions about why we are here."

Sting places his faith in the power of the human imagination to fathom that mystery.

"That's my religion," he declares. "Without imagination, you have no art, no music, no literature, no religion. You can't throw one out without throwing them all out."

For this latest album, he initially wanted "to go back home," he says, "to be inspired by my own experience of winter, which was largely as a child, working on the milk round with my father, driving in the snow, not saying too much to the old man."

Still, as much as he believes musicians are innately melancholic ("It's life viewed through a prism of minor keys"), Sting insists he's happier than he's ever been. "In my late 20s, early 30s, I was very successful and not particularly happy. It was interesting to learn that success doesn't equate to happiness. Look at poor Michael Jackson trapped in this closed, hermetically sealed world with no way out. That's no kind of success."

Sting, by comparison, walks to work every day (in London, he's based in his wife Trudie Styler's offices). There are no bodyguards, no entourage.

"I try to live as normal a life as I can, a citizen's life, given that I have a huge amount of privilege and I'm paid ludicrous amounts of money to do a job I'd do for nothing."

Sting himself is, of course, famously – even notoriously – physically fit (though, in a recent interview, his daughter Coco squelched the stories about his day-long tantric sex sessions with Trudie). "There's a certain amount of vanity involved, and dignity. I wouldn't feel good singing my own songs unless I looked decent, and I couldn't really do my job if I was a fat git."

As well, the element of surprise is something Sting values.

"Reforming the Police? That was a huge surprise even to me," he says dryly.

If you think the evolving wisdom of late middle age would have provided an antidote to the problems, think again.

"It didn't make much difference," Sting concedes with a rueful laugh. "Still, we did 150 shows, played to 2.7 million people. We didn't kill each other. We stayed friends more or less. We'll still go to the weddings of our children, and we'll meet each other occasionally without remorse."

Sting included two of his own songs in the line-up for If On a Winter's Night ... They help underline the personal nature of the project at the same time as they would seem to express a hope that his own songs will endure.

"No, posterity is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about," Sting demurs. Instead, it's the music itself that absorbs him. "There's no end to it. If you think you know about arranging, go and listen to Ravel. If you think you know about rhythmic composition, go and listen to Stravinsky.

"I have so much to learn and so little time."

So time, in the end, is a hard taskmaster, even for Sting, a man who seems so at peace with it.

"Yeah, I could do with another 58 years," he agrees.

A Guitar God Appears Before The Faithful

Source: www.globeandmail.com - John Daly

(December 01, 2009) Instrumental master classes have changed a lot in the half-century or so since touring virtuosi such as Andres Segovia and Yehudi Menuhin would hold sessions with groups of local prodigies in venerable conservatories or concert halls.

A new-millennium variation took place last Tuesday night at the back of a shopping plaza in suburban Bolton, Ont., northwest of Toronto, behind a McDonald's, and across Highway 50 from a Wal-Mart and a Canadian Tire – headquarters for the RockStar Music School & Concert Hall, with a staff of six instructors and a fully equipped mini-theatre. Yes, Jack Black's School of Rock has been institutionalized.

The very special guest guitar instructor tonight is
Steven Vai, 49, part of a generation of speed demons such as Joe Satriani, Eddie Van Halen and John Petrucci who came to prominence in 1970s and 1980s, and who are still revered by boomer and Gen-X-aged hobbyists.

As with a class in Calgary two days earlier, his three-hour session is limited to 100 students. And for $250 a pop, about 50 have shown up – predominantly thirtysomething men, some accompanied by their wives or girlfriends.

Tracy Smith, a 35-year-old graphic designer who's driven all the way from Kane, Pa., one of several participants who's brought the Ibanez electric guitar model that Vai endorses. “It was made to duplicate his completely,” Smith says.

Vai, the son of a New York bartender, shot to fame (at least among guitar slingers) when he was hired by Frank Zappa in 1979, first as a musical transcriptionist, then as a band member. Vai is a graduate of Boston's Berklee College of Music, and he toured and recorded with David Lee Roth, has composed orchestral scores and backed Nelly Furtado on solo guitar at the 2002 Grammy Awards. A wonderfully sonorous and melodic player, he's a master of electronic effects and techniques like finger tapping with both hands on the guitar neck.

So why is Vai not touring with a band, like other, um, mature rock acts? In 2007, Vai's tour stop in Toronto was Massey Hall. And he has a new live DVD to promote, Where the Wild Things Are .

Vai started experimenting with the classes about a year ago in Los Angeles, and has since staged dozens, many in Europe and one in Tel Aviv. “I really enjoyed it, and I felt like I had a responsibility to share some of the things I learned,” he says. It's also “a nice way to break into certain territories without having to drag a band there and lose money.”

He now has a detailed eight-page plan for the class. There are 21 sections, and the early ones cover things like “meditational exercises” and “visualization.” But most of it appears to be more practical – scales, ear training, recording your own album, dealing with agents and so on.

It looks promising and challenging to me, a boomer weekend bar-band guitarist in a Top 40/classic-rock outfit. As Vai and I finish the interview, we pick up guitars, and he starts playing rhythm. “D-minor,” he says. I noodle around on a pentatonic scale. “So,” he says, “you're a player. Yeah, man!” But he then confuses me by changing chords.

Shortly after 6 p.m., Vai walks onstage, plugs in a guitar and declares, “If I'm too loud, too bad!” He keys in a recorded backing track on a laptop computer and starts wailing.

Afterward, he sits down and starts talking about his mental approach. Sometimes when he plays, he says, “It's like being unconscious, but very, very conscious.” And so on, and so on – for almost two hours.

Yet the audience is rapt. Vai is generous with questions, but no one is asking about, say, how to play in the Phrygian mode. “Just seeing you, the clarity is way more there now than it ever was,” says one audience member.

At about 8 p.m., there's a short intermission. Vai has barely made it through a quarter of the lesson plan. James Rigg, a 39-year-old insurance sales manager from Guelph, Ont., and his wife, Lori, 28, a personal trainer, are standing at the side of the room. Has it been worth $250 so far? “He's my favourite musician,” says Rigg. “This is such a rare opportunity.”

Vai takes the stage again and opens with an aggressive rocker. He then offers a few more guitar specifics, including how Frank Zappa showed him the importance of groove by making him play a pattern in 13/8 time. But the lesson plan is now pretty much toast, and discussion of things like “the colours of the music” continues well past the advertised three-hour time limit.

Finally, at about 9:45 p.m., Vai calls for volunteers to come onstage and jam. Close to two dozen of them rush to their guitar cases and line up.

Vai keys a drum-and-bass backing track into his laptop. Jammers plug into an amplifier beside him, one at a time, to trade licks for a couple of minutes apiece. Some of them are impressive shredders.

Tracy Smith plays more slowly and melodically than most. Afterward, he tells me his guitar was “in tune back at my room at the Holiday Inn, but way out when I got up there.” He then joins the long line waiting to have Vai autograph their CDs and guitars in the lobby and pose for photos.

As I leave just after 11 p.m., Vai is still smiling and meeting and greeting his fans. In its own way, it was all genuinely inspiring.

Symphony Program Goes Gorgeously Global

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
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_star10.gif(out of 4)
With violinist James Ehnes. Stéphane Denève, conductor. Repeats Saturday (Roy Thomson Hall) & Sunday (George Weston Recital Hall). 416-593-4828 (www.tso.ca)

(November 27, 2009) In the spirit of thinking globally, but acting locally, the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Canadian star violinist James Ehnes have teamed up for an all-Russian program with star French conductor Stéphane Denève. The results are nothing short of spectacular.

The music comes from between the two world wars. Three much-loved works showcase the remarkable range of tonal expression that came from the pens of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) and Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975).

Although heard frequently, these pieces have rarely sounded as vivid and nuanced as at Thursday's matinee at Roy Thomson Hall.

The highlight was Ehnes's exceptional, seamless mix of lyricism and power in Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2. Between his magic bow and Denève's finely tuned baton, parts of the second movement became an ethereal waltz that carried us into another dimension.

Without a score, the conductor warmed us up with a rhythmically pointed, dynamically vivid suite from Prokofiev's opera Love for Three Oranges, with the keenly focused musicians attuned to every musical nuance.

Equally satisfying was Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5, allowed to unfold naturally, on its own terms. The sound, even in the loud marches, was never forced.

The composer's musical motifs were clearly highlighted in whatever section of the orchestra they appeared in.

It made for one of those rare concerts that appeals to heart, mind and soul, in equal measure.

Do not miss James Ehnes's solo recital tonight at the Royal Conservatory of Music's Koerner Hall. More info at 416-408-0208 or www.rcmusic.ca

A Slew Of Samples From A DJ Doc

Source: www.globeandmail.com  -
Robert Everett-Green

 3.5 Stars
100%
The Slew
Puget Sound/Ninja Tune

(December 2, 2009)
The Slew emerged from the ruins of a documentary-film project for which turntablists Kid Koala (Montrealer Eric San) and Dynomite D (Dylan Frombach from Seattle) had been putting together some music. When the doc project fell apart, the two connected with bassist-keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Mike Hesketh (both formerly of the Australian rock band Wolfmother) and recorded an album's worth of groove-heavy, soul-inflected blues-rock.

100% features a slew of other unnamed collaborators, whose voices drift in and out of the mix to bring us news of lost hopes, busted chances and debts that can never be paid. They function a bit like the archival voices in Moby's 1999 album Play : They're the ballast to the recombinant sounds that billow from the two DJs's six turntables, including some that were pressed to vinyl just for this project.

The disc begins at somebody's peak moment, with a rock singer's voice wailing at the top of his range above a collage of scratches, guitar and drum riffs and what sounds like the meow of a cartoon kitten (Kid Koala is also a comics artist and inveterate joker).

The tension between the apparently live and the obviously sampled is constantly in flux: Just when the live thing seems predominant, the DJs run a call-and-response pattern of screams between singer and audience that accelerates to inhuman speed above the steady plodding guitar.

Like most turntablists from the land of Oz, these guys love to draw attention to the man behind the curtain. But they also want to slip their sounds unnoticed into the warp and weft of the live thing, and they're uncommonly good at doing it.

You can listen to this record as a free-standing thing, or try to tease out the archeology of the songs. Part of Wrong Side of the Tracks comes from an old Muddy Waters song called Two Trains Running , and Robbing Banks (Doin' Time) contains a little of Jerry Hahn's Captain Bobby Stout .

But where these things came from matters less than where they're headed. A few songs are a little burdened by the DJ-ness of the project – I could use less stuttering in the coda of Shackled Soul – and sometimes KK and DD should heed Coco Chanel's advice and take one thing off before heading out the door. But all the trips on this deliriously crafty disc are worth taking.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Soulmate: Haydain Neale's Jacksoul

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(out of 4)

(December 1, 2009) One of the most distinct voices on the Canadian scene was prematurely silenced when
Haydain Neale died last week at 39 from lung cancer after having been laid low by a motorcycle accident since August 2007. These tracks were all written, and seemingly recorded, prior to that crash. With its poignant vehicle metaphors, lead single "Lonesome Highway" is the standout tune, speaking as it does about being delivered by human or spiritual love. Love is the album's theme, whether songwriter Neale's crooning about music or his muse. Backed by a soulful pop-folk blend of acoustic and programmed instruments, he also touches on social issues like domestic abuse and homelessness. It's vintage Neale, save "I Surrender," where voice modulation software disguises his unique tone. Though more restrained than their last two discs, Jacksoul's fifth album showcases a beloved voice. Nelly Furtado, k-os, Divine Brown and Keshia Chanté are among those participating in a celebration of Neale's life at The Phoenix next Monday. Tickets $20 via Ticketmaster. Top Track: With a reggae beat and Neale's killer falsetto, "You're Beautiful" is a touching message song: "We all try to hide/ But there ain't no use frontin'/ Cause we all got demons inside/ Accept where you come from/ And figure out where you're running to."

Drake To Collect Toys At South La Mall

Source: Darren Dickerson / darrenpr@tobinpr.com

(November 30, 2009) *Los Angeles, CA - Santa Claus will get some help on Saturday, December 5 from recording artist Drake (Cash Money/Young Money/Universal/Motown) who will make a special appearance at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in the Sears Court at 1 p.m.  In support of the 8th District's Winter Wonderland Celebration 2009 Toy Giveaway and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza's Giving Tree, Drake will personally sign autographs for the first 100 people who donate an unwrapped toy and five lucky fans will be chosen to attend a private meet-n-greet with the artist.   Hosted by Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks, his wife Bobbie, and the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, the 7th annual Winter Wonderland Celebration will be held on December 12.  The lower level of the Sears parking lot will be transformed into a "snow-village" complete with real snow.   "We are very appreciative of Drake's support of the toy drive and our efforts to extend the Christmas spirit to children who may not otherwise receive gifts this season," said Ben Richardson, General Manager of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza is South Los Angeles' largest shopping center, anchored by Macy*s and AMC Movie Theaters.  It is located at 3650 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90008 (at the intersection of Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Blvd).

Untitled: R. Kelly

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(Jive/Sony)
(out of 4)

(December 1, 2009)
R.Kelly sticks to the smutty script – "sex all morning, sex all day" – on his 10th album. With his unsubtle brand of "real talk," the Chicago native is the Stephen King of R&B: "Girl, I just want to take your clothes off/ Put you in the bed, girl/ Lick your body real slow." ("Go Low"); "Girl, you make me want to get you pregnant" ("Pregnant"). It would be funnier if the singer/songwriter/producer hadn't sold more than 34 million records with this shtick.  However thematically stilted it is, though, Untitled is musically inventive. From straight R&B ("Whole Lotta Kisses"), to dance music ("I Love the DJ") to southern bounce ("Supaman High"), disco ("Be My #2") and gospel ("Religious"), there's nothing he doesn't execute well. And his perpetually pleading vocals are equally pliable: in turns conversational, rapping, yodelling and stuttering; even the occasional AutoTune tweaking works. Captured at his crass best.  Top Track: The well-written and arranged "Like I Do" sounds like a Ne-Yo gem.

Lauryn Hill, Wyclef To Perform In New Zealand

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 1, 2009) *Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill, formerly of The Fugees, are scheduled to make solo appearances at the Raggamuffin Music Festival in Rotorua, New Zealand on January 23, 2010.  The ex band-mates will co-headline the festival at Rotorua International Stadium along with Shaggy, Julian Marley, Sly & Robbie, Sean Kingston and others, according to Allhiphop.com.  Hill's appearance will be her first major outing since cancelling a string of high profile dates in June of 2009 due to health reasons. She had been scheduled to headline the Stockholm Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.  Wyclef filled in for Hill on a number of the cancelled dates.

:FILM NEWS::

Cameron Emerges From Titanic's Wake With Avatar

Source: www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(November 27, 2009) SAN DIEGO, Calif. - It seemed, for a very long while, that the "king of the world" had all but abdicated his throne.

Twelve years have passed since Kapuskasing-born
James Cameron, 55, broke all box-office records with his megahit Titanic – upward of $1.8 billion internationally, still the top-grossing film in cinema history.

It was also, at the time, the most expensive movie ever made, though its then-staggering $200 million price tag has since been matched or eclipsed by the likes of King Kong, Harry Potter, James Bond, Superman, the X-Men, the second and third instalments of both Spider-Man and Pirates of the Caribbean and, coincidentally, the third and fourth Terminators, neither of which the disenfranchised franchise founder had anything (other than an obligatory screen credit) to do with.

In Titanic's wake, Cameron appeared to have vanished off the face of the Earth – and indeed, was spending an inordinate amount of time beneath, deep underwater, much of that poking around the wreckage of the actual Titanic, and playing with emergent IMAX 3-D technology.

It is that technology that has at last allowed Cameron to surface ... and propel himself back up into the furthest reaches of space and studio financing with
Avatar, a computer-animated and live-action sci-fi extravaganza with an estimated investment of $500 million riding on its reception by legions of genre fans eagerly anticipating its Dec. 18 release.

But first there was the annual San Diego Comic-Con, geek Mecca and nexus of all that currently constitutes contemporary pop culture, where Cameron came last July to award their patience and pre-emptive enthusiasm with an exclusive – by several days, anyway – preview glimpse into the immediate future, an epic adventure of intergalactic colonialism in which humans remotely insert their psyches into the bodies of long-limbed, glowing, blue alien constructs.

Towering head and shoulders (literally, at 6-foot-2) over other attending blockbuster brethren – Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, Zack Snyder, Robert Zemeckis, Jon Favreau, Roland Emmerich, et al. – the lanky auteur was greeted, first with reverent awe, then thunderous ovation, by both the conventioneers and the (predominantly Internet) press.

He was pretty much preaching to the choir here; few at the 6,000-strong Avatar panel session and subsequent packed-to-the-rafters media conference were not already intimately familiar with Avatar's extended genesis.

"This thing has been gestating in fragments for a long time," Cameron said, "even since the mid-'70s, when I first started trying my hand at screenwriting" – an epiphany triggered by his first viewing of Star Wars in 1977, when he was working as a truck driver in Niagara Falls.

"I don't even remember the transition point from being a fan reader of science fiction and as an artist drawing things, drawing spacecraft, drawing aliens, to actually, you know, putting them into scenes and so on ..."

He does remember the first early result, a student film and unproduced feature called Xenogenesis, set in a similar "bioluminescent" world he would return to for Avatar.

Cameron spent the early '80s learning his craft, a long and tumultuous apprenticeship as a production designer for schlockmaster Roger Corman on low-budget genre flicks – crafting for the first of them, the cheesy Seven Samurai rip-off Battle Beyond the Stars (scripted by fellow film newbie John Sayles), a spacefaring "mother ship" with a prow shaped like a pair of massive breasts.

(When I brought this up years later at the True Lies press junket, Cameron was genuinely delighted – he had honestly believed no one would notice.)

He went on to design and shoot the visual effects for the John Carpenter cult classic Escape from New York and, in 1981, stepped in for the fired Italian director of the Corman sequel Piranha II: The Spawning, an experience so traumatic the fledgling filmmaker was plagued by nightmares of being hunted down and killed by a robot from the future.

Thus was born The Terminator, and a skyrocketing writing and directing career that quickly included the 1986 Alien sequel, the underwater epic The Abyss, a bigger, shinier, vastly more expensive Terminator 2, the misfire espionage comedy romance True Lies and finally, in 1997, Titanic.

All the while, Avatar was percolating inside his head – particularly when, as the CEO and creative engine of his own, newly founded effects house, Digital Domain, he actively started seeking an appropriate outlet for escalating advances in 3-D filmmaking.

"I just kind of put together all those floating fragments (of story)," he explained. "I did the same thing on Aliens ... you know, I had already written story fragments prior, and when I got the gig to write (it), I just grabbed a bunch of stuff I'd already been thinking about and I slammed it together. It felt kind of mercenary at the time ... you know, like I was just throwing crap at it."

Crafting Avatar, he insisted, was a more organic process. "What happens is, you know, over time, you rewrite it and you massage it and you improve the storyline and all those sorts of things, and, I don't know, I guess there's kind of a spark ..."

A very, very expensive spark, and, notwithstanding Cameron's Titanic track record, a considerable risk for its financiers. "The studio guys, God love 'em," Cameron enthused, a phrase rarely heard in Hollywood. "I mean they signed up to write a big cheque for this movie, and they've backed our play a hundred per cent, all the way down the line, thick or thin."

Even when they didn't quite get it. "At the beginning they would ask questions like, `Do (the aliens) need to be blue?' `Do they need to have a tail?' You know, things like that. And I thought, well, yeah, of course they do. I mean, we had a lot of fun with the design, but we never asked ourselves if people would accept it or not. That's the huge advantage of actually being a geek fan yourself – you don't ask yourself questions like that."

Still, the movie is going to have to transcend its core audience and appeal to the masses to offset its cost.

"When you live with something over the total creative arc of, in this case, 14 years, you start to take certain things for granted," Cameron acknowledged. "But you've got to remember the people coming in cold, you know, starting from zero. So it has to operate on a very visceral level of kind of universal human archetype, if you will.

"I want to make sure that I haven't left anything out in terms of making the story fully accessible to everybody, and not just the fan audience. And by fan audience I mean somebody who knows all the references, knows all the other films, they're steeped in the lore, that sort of thing.

``But, you know, the construction worker, or somebody's mom ... we've gotta make a movie for everybody.

"They'd better be ready to go blue, I guess."

Role Of A Lifetime Suits Colin Firth

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Hiscock

(November 30, 2009) LOS ANGELES–It's hard to believe, seeing him looking resplendent in an immaculately tailored suit and elegant, open-necked shirt, that Colin Firth says he is in the tradition of actors who do not dress well and who prefer T-shirts to tuxes.

Then why the fashion-plate looks? "I'm dressed nicely today because this is a Tom Ford moment," he laughed. "It helps if you get Tom Ford to dress you."

Ford, the fashion designer who was the creative director at Gucci for 10 years, has directed his first film, the beautifully photographed
A Single Man, based on his adaptation of the Christopher Isherwood novel. The movie, which had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, opens Dec. 11.

Set in 1962 in Los Angeles, it stars 49-year-old Firth as George Falconer, a British college professor who is struggling to find meaning to his life after the death in a car crash of his longtime partner Jim (Matthew Goode).

The film follows George through a single day in which he puts his affairs in order and meticulously rehearses his own suicide but has trouble finding a practical or aesthetically pleasing way of carrying it off. During the day he meets with colleagues, talks with a student who has a crush on him and has dinner with an old friend, played by Julianne Moore.

Described as the role of a lifetime, it won the Best Actor prize for Firth at the Venice Film Festival and there is Oscar talk about his performance. Ford, who financed his first feature himself, sparked the British actor's interest by bypassing agents to contact him.

"He just sent me an email," recalled Firth. "I'd never given him my address, but I was struck by the eloquence and sensitivity of what he wrote. Also the choice of material interested me because it wasn't what I expected. I mean, if one lazily thinks of what a fashion designer might do if he's going to conquer cinema next it would be taking the opportunity to display his fashion sensibilities. Choosing the life of a lonely professor in despair in 1962 doesn't really seem like an opportunity to show your spring collection."

Firth made enquiries and discovered people took both Ford and the project seriously. Once he agreed to sign on, things moved quickly. There was no rehearsal and very little preparation. Firth arrived in Los Angeles on a Saturday, was on the set the following Monday and Ford shot the film in a brisk 21 days.

"The script was quite sparse and it left a lot of space," said Firth. "Tom didn't tell me how to do anything and didn't bombard us with verbal instructions. He gave us a lot of freedom and I felt I was being given a chance to do things I wasn't normally given a chance to do."

Firth, who has enjoyed successful runs on the London stage and solidly reliable screen performances as varied as Mr. Darcy in TV's Pride and Prejudice, Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones's Diary and Harry in Mamma Mia! was talking in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles.

Later that day, he was to receive BAFTA/L.A.'s Humanitarian Award for his work in helping to fight poverty and injustice around the world and particularly in Africa. A dedicated supporter of Oxfam International, he was named Philanthropist of the Year last year by the Hollywood Reporter, the film industry newspaper, and in 2006 he was voted European Campaigner of the Year by the European Union.

He brushes it aside, saying: "My parents and grandparents have always been engaged in teaching or the medical profession or the priesthood so I've sort of grown up with a sense of complicity in the lives of other people, so there's no virtue in that; it's the way one is raised. But I'm just a kind of medium. The people who do the real work don't get heard."

Born in Nigeria, the son of academic lecturers, Firth settled in England with his family when he was 4 years old. He studied at the National Youth Theatre and, at the age of 23, was cast as the lead in a West End production of Another Country.

He had his first starring film role in 1989 in Milos Forman's Valmont and then moved to British Columbia briefly, living with Canadian actress Meg Tilly, who he met on the Valmont set and with whom he has a son, Will.

Although he has been heralded as one of the best British actors of his generation, and was particularly praised for his harrowing portrayal of the paralyzed Falklands soldier Robert Lawrence in Tumbledown, it was not until the televised version of Pride and Prejudice that Firth's film career took off.

He lives in London with his wife, Livia Giuggioli, an Italian filmmaker whom he met in 1996 while they were both working on the film Nostromo. They were married in June 1997 and have two sons, Luca and Mateo, aged 8 and 6.

Firth can be serious and intense, but a twinkle is never far from his eye and he has the ability to detect humour in most situations. He has the comedy sequel St. Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold coming out soon and he supplies the voice of Scrooge's (voiced by Jim Carrey) nephew Fred in Disney's A Christmas Carol. But, he concedes, he has yet to be offered the starring role in an epic, big-budget blockbuster.

"They're not bombarding me with offers although the ones that have come along have been too preposterous to contemplate, so it's not as if I spend every day resisting $20 million paycheques," he laughed. "I work with the options I have in front of me and my reasons for choosing a job can vary enormously depending on the circumstances. Sometimes I take a job because it's a group of people I'm dying to work with and sometimes it can be a desire to shake things up a bit and not to take myself too seriously."

Dear Movie Lover … A List Of Holiday Movies For You

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Liam Lacey

(November 28, 2009) Dear filmgoers: Liam Lacey wanted to send all of you personal holiday cards. He really did. But what with the recession and the rising cost of stamps … he decided instead to share his festive spirit the best way he knows how: by guiding you through a very merry season at the movies. Marcelle Faucher for The Globe and Mail

Hard to believe another holiday season is upon us and what a year! Time sure flies when you're losing funds. Since I can't afford to send each of you personal cards, I thought I'd do one of those one-size-fits-all holiday letters to fill you in on what everyone's doing.

First, you should know that Everybody's Fine . At least, that's the name of a movie (opening Friday) in which Robert De Niro plays a widower who visits his far-flung family (Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore) and learns that things may not be quite as good as he thought.

Robert De Niro.

But the holidays do expose those simmering family tensions. Tobey Maguire looks even scarier than in Spider-Man 3 in the new Jim Sheridan-directed movie, Brothers (Friday), in which he plays a marine who is captured in Afghanistan, leaving his ex-con sibling (Jake Gyllenhaal) to care of his wife (Natalie Portman) and daughters. In a climactic scene, Maguire trashes his wife's new kitchen, bringing the war home to her new Corian counter.

Good to see director James Cameron has finally found work again with his first feature since Titanic , with the 3-D science-fiction film Avatar (Dec. 25), which cost more than $400-million (U.S.) in budget and marketing. A disabled marine (Sam Worthington) visits a mineral-rich habitable moon, adopts the long blue body of the local humanoid creatures and joins with a female ( Star Trek 's Zoe Saldana) to fight monsters and save the environment. This is either the start of the 3-D revolution or a big embarrassment – think Planet of the Jar Jar Binks.

Of course, there's always work if you're not afraid to dirty your hands, as George Clooney proves. He's a corporate “downsizer” in Up in the Air (Friday), a sharp new satire from the Canadian director Jason Reitman. George gives a terrific performance as a cocky guy with intimacy issues who racks up a lot of frequent-flier points. Or maybe he's just being George.

The kids are sure growing up fast. Zac Efron's probably not the first actor you'd think of when casting Me and Orson Welles (Dec. 11), about Welles's famed 1937 production of Julius Caesar but if Little Zac can bring his fans to see stage actor Christian McKay's interpretation of the formidable Orson, so much the better.

The old folks are still feisty as well. Clint Eastwood, who turns 80 next year, brings us his new film Invictus (Dec. 11), the story of how Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman), worked to unite post-apartheid South Africa with the help of a rugby captain (Matt Damon), though I worry Clint's repeating himself. Another sports movie, and have you noticed how much Matt Damon looks like a bulked-up Hilary Swank? Could this be Million Krugerrand Baby?

Hilary Swank, Matt Damon.

I'm sure you remember little Susie Salmon, who was murdered and dismembered in Alice Sebold's 2002 bestselling novel The Lovely Bones. Well she's back – telling her story in Peter Jackson's new film version (TBA in December) starring Atonement 's Saoirse Ronan. After his big puffed-up blockbusters, let's hope Jackson can get back to being weird and macabre, the way we like him.

There are so many couples having problems. In Did You Hear About the Morgans? (Dec. 18), Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker star as a spatting New York pair who witness a murder – and are put in the witness-relocation program to “Wy-m-ng.” Judging by the previews, it taps into that familiar holiday theme about sharing space with people you don't like.

Let's not forget that the holidays are also a precarious time for those with substance-abuse tendencies, a category that would apply to both Robert Downey Jr. and the character he plays in Sherlock Holmes (Dec. 25). Only in director Guy Ritchie's version does Holmes has kung-fu to back up his logical mind.

On the other hand, you might want to be slightly ripped to fully appreciate Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus (Dec. 25), with Christopher Plummer playing a 1,000-year-old travelling theatre impresario, Tom Waits as the devil and the late Heath Ledger, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Jude Law sharing one role. Not to mention the chorus line of dancing transvestite policemen.

Which brings us to this year's big holiday party, director Rob Marshall's Nine (Dec. 25), adapted from the 1982 Tony Award-winning musical, based on Federico Fellini's film 8 , about an Italian filmmaker (Daniel Day-Lewis) having a professional meltdown. The women in his life include his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his film star (Nicole Kidman), his costume designer (Judi Dench), a prostitute (Fergie), his mom (Sophia Loren) and a fashion journalist (Kate Hudson).

Nicole Kidman.

Basta! By the time you've worked through the imaginarium of the kung-fu-fighting Sherlock Holmes, as interpreted by Fellini, I think we can agree it should be a full banquet. Till next year, keep telling yourself: Everything's Fine in '09 and Amen to 2010.

In The Reitman Family, Father Knows Best

Source: www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell

(November 28, 2009) If not for some sage fatherly advice, Ivan Reitman might today be selling submarine sandwiches in Toronto, while his son Jason could be sawing bones in a Beverly Hills hospital.

And movie theatres might never have heard the audience laugh for Ivan's comedies Ghostbusters, Stripes and Animal House, or Jason's Juno and the new Up in the Air, which opens Dec. 4.

How the Reitmans became Canada's most successful father and son in film comedy is a study in following your dreams while also listening to your dad.

In the late 1960s, when Ivan was studying at McMaster University in Hamilton, he had a plan to open up a submarine sandwich joint in Toronto. Films were more his passion – but he saw a business opportunity and thought he should go for it.

"My father told me, `Ivan, I'm sure if you wanted to open a sandwich shop, you'd do really, really good and you'd be really successful. But I don't think there's enough magic in it for you,'" Reitman recalled in an interview.

Ivan took his dad's words to heart. Pursuing a path that would eventually take him to Hollywood and global success, he directed and produced movie comedies like 1973's Cannibal Girls, starring his pals Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin, and also produced two early David Cronenberg horrors, Shiver and Rabid.

Many years later, long after Reitman had redefined Baby Boomer comedy with the hits Animal House, Meatballs, Stripes and Ghostbusters, he found his son Jason, then in his early 20s, struggling with his own career path. Jason was in his first year of pre-med at Skidmore College in upstate New York, with plans to become a doctor upon graduating. But Ivan sensed that his son was just going through the motions.

"I told him that story about my father and the sandwich shop, and I said, `Jason, I'm sure medicine is a very noble profession and you'd do very well in it as a doctor, but frankly, I don't think there's enough magic in it for you. You shouldn't be afraid of going into something more artistic, if that's where your heart is.'"

Jason listened to his dad, just as Ivan did, and enrolled in an arts program at the University of Southern California. He also started making award-winning film shorts, followed by a feature film career that makes the words "meteoric success" seem like faint praise. At the age of 32 and just three features in, he's already had a global hit and Academy Award nomination with Juno, and he's heavily buzzed for similar acclaim with Up in the Air, a George Clooney dramedy that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Ivan, 63, couldn't be more pleased – he was all smiles during an interview at TIFF – but he admits he was a little slow in recognizing Jason's potential as a filmmaker. He might have guessed, since he and wife Geneviève took Jason and his younger sisters Catherine and Caroline to the set of every movie they made. The passion for filmmaking rubbed off.

"It became clear later that he'd been watching very closely since he was really young," Reitman said. "He'd been on every set. Geneviève and I really made a point of that. I tried to schedule my directorial work so that a big bulk of it would happen during the summer so that the family could be together if I was on location. I gave my three children small roles and small jobs to do. Without really knowing it, I think I was sort of indoctrinating them into the world."

Even though Jason is now in the same line of work as Ivan, the two have very different filmmaking styles. They may both prefer casual attire to business suits, but in comedy terms Ivan is more the "red nose" clown, the type that likes fast and physical gags. Jason is the "white face" clown, choosing the more cerebral type of humour.

Jason joked in a recent interview with the Star that if he'd directed Ghostbusters, "I would make the most boring Ghostbusters of all time. It would be people talking about ghosts."

Ivan laughs when told of his son's comment.

"I don't believe it! I actually think he'd make a great Ghostbusters movie, if he would ever want to set his mind to it – and that would be the last thing in the world that he would want to do."

Reitman knows exactly how and why he and Jason differ.

"I think it really comes from how we began and what sorts of forces were at work on each of us," Reitman said. "Look, I'm an immigrant. I escaped Czechoslovakia with my parents in 1950. We're Holocaust survivors. So my whole thrust was to entertain. I think my job as a film director was to make the most entertaining movies ever made.

"I'm a good storyteller and I try to tell the stories in as entertaining a fashion as possible. Jason really grew up in privilege. He grew up in Beverly Hills and Bel Air. His DNA doesn't have the built-in worries that mine had. And he was able to concentrate on doing things in a more insightful way. I think he looks at the internal story in a much more meaningful manner than I have had to do, or have desired to do."

Father and son both possess a sharp eye for a good script and director, which is why they both have producer credits on Up in the Air and also Chloe, the Atom Egoyan drama that the Reitmans also premiered at TIFF '09.

California Screaming

Source: www.thestar.com -
Elizabeth Renzetti

(December 2, 2009) "It is fleshy and voracious, grown fat upon its appetite for people and for food, for goods and for drink; it consumes and it excretes, maintained within a continual state of greed and desire." This is how Peter Ackroyd, impassioned scholar of London, describes the greatest city in the world. (That’s right: the greatest. Here's a hankie, New York.) It also sings and dances, sighs and snores, regularly drinks too much and occasionally falls over. In London Eye, Elizabeth Renzetti attempts to keep up with life in the English capital, without falling over. Too often.

When Variety announced that
Paul Greengrass was bowing out of a fourth instalment of the Bourne franchise, the acclaimed British director – who’d been behind the camera for Bournes 2 and 3 -- sounded positively warm towards Hollywood: "My decision to not return a third time as director is simply about feeling the call for a different challenge. There's been no disagreement with Universal Pictures,” he said in a statement.

You do have to wonder if “feeling the call for a different challenge,” is a euphemism for “very tired of 100 lackeys and their dog telling me what to do all the time.” If so, he would only be the latest in a very long and proud tradition of British actors, directors and writers who were lured by California’s siren song, only to wish they’d stayed in Mayfair with their ears stuffed full of wax.

Greengrass was certainly kinder than the deliciously outspoken Rupert Everett, who probably drinks acid to calm an upset stomach (he once wrote that his former BFF Madonna “smells vaguely of sweat,” and that Sharon Stone is “utterly unhinged.”) This week an interview appeared in Observer Magazine in which he lashed out at the hypocrisy in the U.S. film industry: “They’re absolutely addicted to this extraordinary version of life, this warped mirror of society that the Hollywood studio system has produced. These huge groups like Viacom produce these extraordinary stories where the good win and the bad lose and the villain smokes a cigarette and young couples don’t have sex, and everyone says “Gosh!’ at worst. It’s this whole language of political correctness, which I think is the closest thing to evil.”

For every actor who ends up with a starring role on network TV, there are 10 more who return to London complaining about the unrelenting sun and worse, the unrelenting cheeriness of the populace. They complain about the endless meetings, the endless meddling. It’s particularly bad for writers and directors. Last week, I interviewed Sam Taylor-Wood, the artists whose first feature film Nowhere Boy, about the life of young John Lennon, has attracted Hollywood’s attention. She spent a week in L.A. recently, talking about possible projects with studio bigwigs, and is in no hurry to book a return flight: “I couldn’t get out of it fast enough … it frightened the daylights out of me. Going to big studios and sitting in the room with big producers and studio execs, just knowing they’re not going to let you make the film you want to make.”

It’s a familiar lament for British artists washing up on the Malibu shoreline. More than 60 years ago, already suffering from the red-baiting that would drive him from the United States, Charlie Chaplin wrote an essay titled Why I Hate Hollywood. “This is what I say. I, Charlie Chaplin, declare that Hollywood is dying. It is no longer concerned with film-making, which is supposed to be an art, but solely with turning out miles of celluloid.”

Taylor-Wood may have no immediate plans to succumb to Hollywood, but laughingly refused to rule it out: “Never say never.” I told her if she ever wavered, she should read The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh’s great satire about pickled Brits fermenting in the California sun, which contains this immortal epitaph for a soldier of Empire who’d been snuffed out:

“They told me, Francis Hinsley, they told me you were hung

With red protruding eye-balls and black protruding tongue;

I wept as I remembered how often you and I

Had laughed about Los Angeles and now ‘tis here you’ll lie;

Here pickled in formaldehyde and painted like a whore,

Shrimp-pink incorruptible, not lost nor gone before.”

Trust Folds, Puts Canuck Film, Music In Peril

Source: www.thestar.com -
Martin Knelman

(December 02, 2009) The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz – chosen by critics as one of Canada's all-time 10 best movies – is in danger of becoming a lost treasure. So are countless other gems from this country's rich heritage of recorded music, radio and TV.

In short, through neglect and indifference, we are at risk of losing our sense of the way we were – and how we got to be the way we are.

That's the upshot of a decision this week of the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust to close its operations (based in Ottawa) after working since 1996 to preserve, restore and enhance awareness of iconic treasures in our cultural past.

"We just ran out of funding," says David Novek, president of the AV Trust, "so we're going out of business. We'll surrender our charter."

A key blow was the federal government's decision in August 2008 to abandon two programs aimed at preserving heritage: the Canadian Feature Films Education and Access program and the Canadian Musical Memories program. Both were administered by the AV Trust. Those funding cuts probably spelled the end of the trust as a viable organization, though it staggered on for another year.

The trust's decision to fold was made at its annual meeting on Monday in Ottawa.

Novek wants the Academy of Canadian Cinema to take over the trust's mandate, but there is no guarantee that will happen.

"This has been a horrifying and frustrating experience for me," says Ted Kotcheff, who directed the1974 movie version of Mordecai Richler's novel about growing up Jewish in Montreal.

Currently in New York as executive producer of the TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Kotcheff said: "We hear a lot of speeches about the importance of Canada's cultural heritage. But it seems to be just a lot of hot air."

After discovering there seemed to be no properly preserved negative of Duddy Kravitz, he spent two years co-operating with the AV Trust on a proposed restoration. He hoped it would be as rewarding an experience as the miraculous restoration by an Australian government agency of his 1971 movie Wake in Fright, showcased earlier this year at film festivals in Cannes, Sydney and Toronto. But a thick file ends with a letter to Kotcheff advising that the Duddy project has been suspended.

"We were never able to get the kind of financial support we needed from the government or the private sector," says Novek, who was unable to realize the great expectations he had when he took the job on a volunteer basis in 1996 after retiring from his lengthy career as the presiding guru of Montreal showbiz public relations.

Even now, Novek has high hopes that at least some of the AV Trust's work will be carried on by the Academy of Canadian Cinema, and that Astral Media will renew its commitment to funding film restoration. But the message coming from the academy and Astral is basically: "Not so fast."

There has been no announcement from the academy (the organization that gives out Geminis for outstanding TV work and Genies for movies). And Sara Morton, CEO of the organization, was conspicuously unavailable for comment yesterday.

Translation: taking over the mandate of the AV Trust would have to be approved by members of the academy.

Meanwhile, Ian Greenberg, president of Astral Media, dashed hopes that his company will go on funding movie restoration. Over the past seven years Astral has kept that program going by giving close to $700,000, according to Novek.

"That was a commitment we made for a specific reason over a limited time period," Greenberg explained. "That program is over and we won't be renewing it. There was a time Astral was in the movie business, but now we are essentially in the TV business."

Among the movies restored under the program: Loyalties, Exotica, 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, Les Bons débarras (winner of eight Genies) and The Death of a Lumberjack (a 1973 Cannes hit from Gilles Carle, the pioneer of Quebec feature films who died last week).

With encouragement and some funding from Sheila Copps, then minister of Canadian heritage, the AV Trust was formed in 1996 as a private-public partnership with a number of organizations, including the CBC, Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board. Private partners included record and film companies. Early on, it was led by veteran producer and music industry leader Brian Robertson.

As for Duddy Kravitz, well, you can still watch it on DVD, but given the distorted colour in existing prints and the unavailability of a proper negative, future generations may never be able to watch it on the big screen the way it was meant to be seen.

FILM TIDBITS

Jackson Movie Will Have Extra Footage On DVD

Source: www.thestar.com

(November 30, 2009) Hoping to piggyback on the Grammys, Sony Pictures announced Monday that it will release the DVD of Michael Jackson's This Is It on Jan. 26. The music awards show – at which Jackson's memory is likely to loom large – will run five days later. Both the regular-format DVD and the high-def Blu-ray release will contain extra footage and outtakes: an hour on the former and 90 minutes on the latter, Variety reports. As this spoof video pointed out, it's not clear how much more of that sort of thing remains, since so much was wedged into the rush-to-release feature. The Blu-ray disc will include a "Smooth Criminal" vignette that was slated to run before a blockbuster series of concerts Jackson had planned for London.  During its four-week run following Jackson's death, This Is It grossed $70 million (U.S.) in the U.S. and Canada.

Canadian Documentary Wins International Prize

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Jennie Punter

(November 30, 2009) Last Train Home, the latest from Montreal-based hit doc-makers EyeSteelFilm, was the toast of the 22nd annual International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), nabbing the VPRO award for best feature-length film against a strong field. The prize, one of the most prestigious in the doc world, comes with a sculpture and €12,500 ($19,800) for first-time feature director Lixin Fan, who was associate producer of EyeSteel's Genie-winning box-office hit Up The Yangtze. Train reveals the daily grind and the homecoming trek for New Year's of millions of Chinese migrant workers who return to their villages from the cities. For the second year, EyeSteel's rented houseboat was also unofficial party headquarters for late-night doc revellers wanting a local vibe. "People started calling it the 'sink the boat' party," laughs Fan. "They would show up at seven asking for coffee!" IDFA's audience award went to Louie Psihoyos' Japanese dolphin hunt exposé The Cove.

Producers Weigh A Fifth 'Twilight' Film

Source: www.thestar.com -
Lesley Ciarula Taylor

(December 01, 2009) With the worldwide take of their second vampire movie fast approaching $500 million (U.S.), the producers of the Twilight movies are considering extending the series by splitting the final book into two films. According to a report on Variety.com, Summit Entertainment would like to go the route of the final instalment of the Harry Potter series with novelist Stephenie Meyer's conclusion to the teen vampire serial, Breaking Dawn.  The problem is salary. All of the series' leads were relative nobodies when they agreed to a deal covering four books. Now, Robert Pattinson, Kristin Stewart and Taylor Lautner are international superstars. As such, they could demand "eight figures" each in order to agree to a fifth Twilight film. Thus far, Twilight and New Moon have been huge hits. Eclipse and Breaking Dawn have yet to be released. Meyer, director Chris Weitz and screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg would also require major compensation bumps. However, Summit reportedly believes they can profit in any case.

Naomie Harris To Star In 'First Grader'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 1, 2009) *British actress Naomie Harris has signed on for director Justin Chadwick’s Kenya-set drama “The First Grader,” based on the true story of 84-year-old Kenyan Kimani Nganga Maruge. Maruge attempted to take advantage of a Kenyan government initiative to give free elementary school education for all, but was initially denied access to go to the school with the 6-year-old first-graders. She eventually took the government to court. Harris, most famous for her role as Tia Dalma in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, will play Jane Obinchu, the teacher who supports Maruge’s struggle to gain admission to the education program. Newcomer Oliver Litondo will play Maruge.  Production on "The First Grader" has begun on location in Kenya. BBC Films co-developed the project and is co-financing along with the U.K. Film Council, Videovision Ent., Lipsync Prods. and Origin. International sales are being handled by Anant Singh’s Distant Horizon.

Filming Under Way On TV Series Shattered

Source: www.thestar.com -
Robert Everett-Green

(December 2, 2009) Canadian actors Callum Keith Rennie, Molly Parker and Camille Sullivan have started shooting in Vancouver the new television series Shattered, which will debut on the specialty channel Showcase next year. Produced by E1 Entertainment and Force Four Films, the show features Rennie (FlashForward) as a homicide detective with multiple personality disorder. Parker (The Road) plays his wife, Ella, while Sullivan (Da Vinci's Inquest) is his new partner on the police squad. Kari Skogland, a co-executive producer on the program, is directing the pilot.

::TV NEWS::

Toronto Therapist Tapped By Oprah

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Caroline Alphonso

(December 01, 2009) The golden touch of Oprah Winfrey knows no borders: Her glow has been cast so far north a Toronto psychotherapist is now basking in it.

Anne Dranitsaris's phone kept ringing and e-mails poured in after the New York Post's Page Six reported Monday that Ms. Winfrey plans to set the Toronto doctor down the same path of fame and success as she did with “Dr. Phil” McGraw and Mehmet Oz.

Will she storm daytime television as Dr. Anne?

“Insiders say that Winfrey has chosen to mentor Dranitsaris in the same way she helped shape the careers of Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz,” Page Six reported.

Such a link, even a passing one, to the queen of daytime TV is nothing to scoff at – the 55-year-old Ms. Winfrey makes careers, pulls authors out of obscurity, even arguably helped Barack Obama to the White House.

Dr. Dranitsaris neither confirmed nor denied what was said about her in the newspaper story.

“Wouldn't that be a dream come true,” she said in an interview from her Toronto office.

Wondering how the relatively obscure Dr. Dranitsaris got cast in the role of Ms. Winfrey's possible new doctor protégé? It can be traced back to a call from an editor of O Magazine earlier this year.

The 59-year-old married mother of four (with three grandchildren) was approached by the editor to develop a quiz, “Who am I Meant to Be?,” for the November issue. She tapped her experience of 30 years as a clinical psychotherapist and a corporate therapist to develop the quiz.

It was so well received that the editors called her again to write an article for the January issue on careers best suited for particular personalities.

On Monday, Dr. Dranitsaris was still reeling from all the attention, though she hasn't heard anything about it from Oprah's people. She has never even spoken to Ms. Winfrey.

“All I can say is that she knows of me, she liked the quiz. She liked it enough that she was talking about it on Oprah radio,” Dr. Dranitsaris said.

“It's very exciting. But when I saw what they had written, of course it was unexpected that they would make that sort of leap. … Yes, we have this relationship where I'm writing articles. I hope it builds into something more. But right now this is what it is.”

Rogers Online TV Initiative Not Quite Ready For Prime Time

Source: www.thestar.com -
Raju Mudhar

(November 30, 2009) With the launch of Rogers on Demand Online on Monday, the two thoughts that come to mind are: it's about time, and is this all there is?

Considering Canadians are leaders in broadband access and online video viewing, it's a no-brainer for the communications giant to fill a strange gap in their giant media net, and this is something that provides another point of access to the television shows that you already get.

Available at www.rogersondemand.com, it's still no Hulu, the massively successful online site that is geoblocked in Canada (but available through web workarounds). It seems a decent beginning for Rogers – and we can expect the kinks to be worked out (hence the "beta" tag) – but in particular, the library of content needs to be improved.

Rogers' goal here is to add something for existing customers, so this isn't a real web play, even though it will still have to compete with the Youtubes and Dailymotions of the world. The service requires you to sign up, and in the process you either have to provide your Rogers account number or have your Internet connection verified. As such, it will only give you access to shows that you already pay for in your cable package, so really, it's more of a chance to catch up with a show that you've missed, or perhaps illicitly watch at work, as opposed to using it all the time.

It's bound to be a huge hit with kids who lose control of the remote in the living room, but wield absolute power over the family computer.

You still have to watch ads, although as with most things online, there are fewer. Many shows right now just have pre-roll ads (commercials that run at the beginning of an episode). According to a Rogers spokesperson, there's no defined date as to when the beta is going to close. It's considered a value-add for customers, as opposed to something that they plan to charge for.

That's good, because after playing around with it over the weekend, I'd judge it a nice-to-have addition as opposed to something revolutionary. Strangely, the selection does not even match what's available on Rogers-On-Demand service on my digital cable. The way to judge any new service is if it might actually make you change your existing media habits, and right now, I'm not sure where this will fit in for me.

The logos of 20 content providers are listed, but it's obvious that they are still filling it up with content. Right now, it's a mixed bag, with older series like The West Wing and CHiPs (!), a few recent episodes of new series, including Community and Cougar Town and some shorts like the trailer for Ninja Assassin. I watched some of all of the above, and it worked fine for me, although, the real proof happens as more people sign up and try it out.

The movies section currently lists 22 films, and most are older, with Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven the crown jewel at this point. That's the first obvious complaint: the library needs to be much better for this to actually grab eyeballs and be of real value.

Just a few weeks ago, Microsoft launched the Zune Marketplace, selling instantly streaming HD TV shows and movies on its online gaming service, Xbox Live. The selection of TV shows isn't bad, but the choice of movies still needs work. A caveat is that it costs money to sign up for the service, and it's a pay-per-view model. ITunes Canada has also greatly improved it television and movies selection in the past year, but again, it's pay-per-view. If you simply must buy Canadian, www.mobovivo.com is a Calgary-based site where you can also buy episodes online.

But since I do pay for cable, I dislike paying for single TV episodes, and the other obvious place to go are channel websites, where you can stream many of these shows already. For example, the same three Community episodes on the On-Demand site are also available for streaming at www.citytv.com, which requires no sign-up. The two long-term questions are whether or not Rogers will decide to stop streaming on these sites and put them behind the sign-up wall of the On Demand Online service, and if this service will eventually cost something.

That is antithetical to the everything-open-and-free ethos of the web, and goes against the currently-prevailing TV industry idea that it doesn't matter where people are watching, as long as they are. Rogers is obviously getting with that program, so for now, for their customers, this launch is a good thing.

From Starbucks To Skyrunner

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bill Brioux

(November 27, 2009) Not that long ago, Kelly Blatz worked at a Starbucks in Burbank, Calif., fetching coffee for executives who worked at the neighbourhood TV and film studios. As he puts it, "I used to serve all the people I work for now."

Blatz just wrapped production on a second season of the Disney XD series
Aaron Stone (Family Channel). He was in Toronto earlier this week to promote his latest project, the sci-fi 'tween drama Skyrunners (premiering Friday on Family).

In the TV movie, Blatz plays high school senior Nick Burns who, together with his younger brother Tyler (Joey Pollari), discovers a UFO has landed in their town. The boys seize the saucer as their own personal spacecraft and, soon, "weird stuff starts happening to Tyler," says Blatz.

The TV movie – the first for the U.S. cable channel Disney XD – has an odd history. It all started when Blatz won the lead role of video game ace and secret superhero Aaron Stone by accidentally pulling a fire alarm at his audition. Blatz walked in and sheepishly admitted to the panel of producers, casting agents and network executives that he was the dummy responsible for the racket. The panel smiled, looked at one another and knew they'd found their klutzy superhero.

Most young Canadian actors dream of one day making it in Hollywood. Blatz – born and raised in Burbank – boarded a plane and flew to Toronto to shoot Aaron Stone.

When the pilot episode was done, Disney execs told their likable young star that they wanted him for Skyrunner.

Blatz was thrilled.

"There was this amazing script, all about alien invasions, very Spielberg-esque," he says. He went straight into production on Skyrunner, also shot in Toronto.

Toronto has become something of a branch plant for the thriving Disney 'tween sitcom factory. Aaron Stone has already wrapped production on a second season. Earlier this fall, the Jonas Brothers quietly shot a sequel to the 2008 summer hit Camp Rock in and around the city.

He's also cool with being one of the few young actors today not being fitted for fangs.

"We're going to all look back on this time and think, `Why did we have this weird obsession with vampires?'" he says. "It's going to die out real soon."

Crews And Hamilton Reminisce Over Soul Train

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 27, 2009) *In the eyes of many, “Soul Train” is an institution. From a who’s who of singers performing on stage to the scramble board to dancers showing off their best moves while dancing down the show’s infamous line to host Don Cornelius’ weekly farewell of “love, peace and soul,” the TV show immediately generates flashbacks for viewers.

For
Terry Crews, “Soul Train” served as his introduction to dance, a fact he proudly boasts about without shame.

“First of all, "Soul Train" means so much to everybody. People think I’m an actor. I’m a dancer first. This is where you learned to dance,” said Crews, who revealed how far back his relationship with the show went. “This where you get your first move….I was four-years-old when I could see it and all of a sudden, you realize that you can dance over the years because you’ve been watching "Soul Train."

Crews was among a host of celebrities on hand for Centric Presents: 2009 Soul Train Awards. This year’s show, hosted by Academy Award nominees Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, marks its’ official return after a one-year absence.

The 2008 Soul Train Awards was cancelled due to the 2007-2008 Writers Guild of America strike as well as health problems for Cornelius at the time. The show also suffered another set back when "Soul Train" distributor Tribune Entertainment terminated operations amid the sale of Tribune Company to Sam Zell. The 2009 Soul Train Awards came about after the rights to “Soul Train” were acquired by MadVision Entertainment.

This year’s Soul Train Awards honourees include Chaka Khan and Charlie Wilson, who will be recognized for their long and influential music careers and Michael Jackson, who will posthumously receive the Entertainer of the Year award. In addition to honouring the best in black music and entertainment, the Soul Train Awards will feature performances from an all-star roster of entertainers.

Among those taking the stage will be Keri Hilson, Robin Thicke, Erykah Badu, Ryan Leslie, Raheem DeVaughn featuring Ludacris, Fantasia, Mario featuring Sean Garrett and Chrisette Michele.

Michele will also be recognized during the two-hour show by fellow R&B vocalists
Anthony Hamilton and Musiq Soulchild. Hamilton expressed his joy at returning to music as he and his wife, Tarshá McMillian Hamilton, begin work on their respective new albums.

As for "Soul Train's impact on him, the crooner was pleased with being among the artists who have been affected by the long-running show. As a result, Hamilton has no problem with being a catalyst for helping the new generation of artists carrying on the show’s tradition.

“It’s always great when we grow and we pass, you know, the torch, the baton on,” said the singer, who confessed to getting ready to work with Lyfe Jennings on an upcoming collaboration. “It’s always great to be a part of it, the old and the new.”

Centric Presents: 2009 Soul Train Awards will air at 9 p.m. Sunday (November 29) on Centric and BET. 

TV TIDBITS

Donny's Painful Dancing Victory

Source: www.thestar.com

(November 27, 2009) Dancing With the Stars champion Donny Osmond ranks his win on the TV show at the top of his career achievements, saying his entire body hurts after weeks of gruelling rehearsals. Osmond, who turns 52 next month, became the oldest winner of the reality ballroom dancing contest, despite having tangoed, jitterbugged and cha cha cha'd on a broken toe for weeks. "I don't think I've worked harder for any accolade than I have this one," said Osmond, a 1970s teen idol. "When you record an album and it goes platinum ... yeah, you're in the studio and you work hard for months, but it's not like your whole body hurts." Osmond, who beat Grammy Award-winning singer Mya and Kelly Osbourne, danced an Argentine tango for his final night freestyle performance with professional partner Kym Johnson. But he almost didn't get there. "It was Sunday night. I thought I couldn't do this. I was lying down and saying I don't think I can do this. Kym was so determined. She said, `We have to do it one more time,'" Osmond recalled Wednesday. Osmond beat his younger sister Marie Osmond, who finished third on the show two years ago.

Oprah To Interview Obamas For Christmas

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 30, 2009) *Oprah Winfrey will spend at least part of the holidays back at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. filming a primetime special that features an interview with the first couple as its centerpiece.   The network has announced that it will air "Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Primetime Special" on Sunday, Dec. 13, at 10 p.m.    The special, marking the first time Winfrey has interviewed Obama since he took office, will also go behind the scenes as staffers prepare the White House for the holiday season.   Winfrey, who had never before endorsed a presidential candidate, was a strong supporter of Obama during his presidential campaign, stumping for him in key states.   She attended Obama's victory rally in Chicago last November and the president's inauguration in January but has not been politically involved since the election and recently interviewed former Alaska governor and Obama rival Sarah Palin. Oprah visited the White House earlier this year to interview Michelle Obama for O Magazine.    She recently announced that she will end her syndicated talk show in 2011 and focus on launching her cable network, OWN.

CBC Recasts Its News For Younger Viewers

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon


(December 01, 2009) CBC-TV is debuting local news to the extreme as part of its morning roster of kids shows. What's Your News?, today at 9:30 a.m., features news about the most pressing matters for young children. With animated ants reporting, the debut newscast is about getting dressed, featuring segments with children reporting their personal news stories. For Daniel, it's getting new toothpaste at home. For Sameer, it's getting new blue clogs. The economy and climate talks are major stories, but every child and parent also has a whole set of equally pressing headlines.

It's 'Ride' Or Die For Ice Cube

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 1, 2009) *Ice Cube is set to star in the action-comedy feature "Ride Along," which has the rapper as a rogue cop who tries to break off his sister's engagement to an upper-crust white psychiatrist by inviting his future brother-in-law on a ride-along. The project from New Line and Cube Vision was penned by Greg Coolidge, but has gone through a couple of rewrites. Jason Mantzoukas, who wrote the NBC pilot "Off Duty" last season, has been hired to rewrite the final version, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Cube and his Cube Vision partner Matt Alvarez are producing, with Chris Bender and JC Spink executive producing. Last year, Mantzoukas' buddy-cop comedy pilot "Off Duty," starring Bradley Whitford and Romany Malco, was in serious contention for a series pickup at NBC.

Nicole Richie Returns To Television

Source: www.eurweb.com

(December 2, 2009) Nicole Richie, who shot to fame as Paris Hilton's BFF on the Fox/E! reality series "The Simple Life," will return to television as the star of a scripted comedy in development at ABC.  The single-camera half-hour sitcom, which is being produced through Sony Pictures TV, would feature Richie as a professional woman with complicated family relationships and struggling to figure out what role she'll take as her life and her family evolve.  Richie, who came up with the show's initial idea, will get a producing credit in addition to starring. Daisy Gardner ("Californication") is set to write the comedy, while Warren Bell ("According to Jim") will executive produce and supervise the pilot script. Jamie Tarses is attached as an executive producer.   Richie's TV credits include NBC's "Chuck," "8 Simple Rules," "American Dreams" and "Eve." Separately, Richie is working on her second novel, as well as the debut of her clothing collection and shoe line.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Afrobeat Grows Stronger

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker

(December 01, 2009) It has been a long time coming, but Fela Anikulapo-Kuti's revolutionary message has finally penetrated mainstream American culture with the Broadway production of Bill T. Jones's Fela!

The Nigerian creator of Afrobeat, bête noire of successive oppressive regimes, spirit of anti-colonial defiance, and original exposer of African corruption and fratricide, Fela lives again on the stage of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York City. He is reincarnated in the person of Sahr Ngaujah, the Sierra Leone-born actor-director who originated the Fela role off-Broadway. (He shares the demanding part with Canadian-raised TV and movie actor Kevin Mambo.)

In fitting homage to Fela, the show is structured as a lesson (his lyrics are almost sermons) and a 1978 concert, to be Fela's last in the Shrine, the Lagos nightclub that was his home base. Antibalas, the full-bodied Brooklyn Afrobeat band, plays before the lights come up on Fela! against an amazing set that perfectly reflects the art and culture of 1978 Lagos: tribal, contemporary, eclectic, plastered with hand-painted signs and political slogans, and dominated by a huge image of Fela's mother, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (played by Tony winner Lillias White).

Jones has referred to his Fela as "a sacred monster" and this spliff-smoking, combative character announces himself in his first lines addressed to the audience: "We come here for our own enjoyment." You can join in if you like. Indeed this show has the audience on its feet from the outset, Fela/Ngaujah instructing us in the hip-gyrating style of Afrobeat dance.

Everything starts from the music: the scene called "Breaking It Down" tells the story of Afrobeat. Part highlife jazz, part Frank Sinatra goosed by James Brown and his "dirty guitars," and underpinned by traditional African rhythms, Afrobeat is Fela's song, his unique, politically charged voice.

Ngaujah is a charismatic performer, as overtly lustful and cock-of-the-walk seductive as the character he plays (this show goes light, presumably for the sex-averse American audience, on the nearly naked image most associated with Fela). He had 27 wives, known as his queens, and they are ably represented here by an ensemble of beautifully costumed female dancers whom Jones has given the kind of power they would not have had in 1970s Nigeria. Saycon Sengbloh (Hair) is a sweet songstress in the role of Sandra Isadore, the African-American wife Fela acquired when he took his band to the U.S. in 1969 and embraced the Black Power movement. Expert tap dancer Gelan Lambert adds his narrative hoofing.

Fela! is a tale told in intriguingly arranged lyrics (especially "Trouble Sleep" and "Zombie"), music and dance. It's exciting theatre, a trifle long in parts but captivating, as if the Yoruba gods who preside over Fela and his family rule us, too.

This show was considered to have low odds for success in the highly commercial, conservative environment of Broadway, but early signs – plus the canny addition of Jay-Z, and Will and Jada Pinkett Smith to the producers' roster – are that this authentic and highly resonant piece of Africana has struck a chord with the American public.

::OTHER NEWS::

CRTC Approves Al Jazeera Licence

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Susan Krashinsky

(November 26, 2009) The English-language spinoff of Middle East news network Al Jazeera is coming to Canada.

The CRTC approved a request to carry Qatar-based network Al Jazeera English via satellite, in a decision released Thursday, noting that “AJE will expand the diversity of editorial points of view in the Canadian broadcasting system.”

Satellite service Ethnic Channels Group Ltd., based in Toronto, submitted a request to the regulator in late February to carry the network, which broadcasts international news 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With Thursday's decision, Al Jazeera English is now eligible to be carried across Canada.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has declared in the past that it would take an “open-entry approach” to approving non-Canadian news services, because of the importance of “a diversity of editorial points of view.” Because of this, when the commission has no evidence that a news network would broadcast content that violates Canadian regulations, the CRTC is “predisposed to authorize” distribution.

“There is nothing on the record of the current proceeding that leads the Commission to conclude that AJE would violate Canadian regulations, such as those regarding abusive comment,” the commission wrote in the decision.

AJE, which employs many journalists formerly with CBC, BBC, and Réseau de l'Information (RDI), is far less controversial that its sister network Al Jazeera Arabic, which faced opposition in 2003 when it sought to be carried in Canada. Opponents to the licensing accused Al Jazeera Arabic of airing anti-Semitic content. Of particular concern were call-in shows where comments are difficult to control. While many critics lobbied against AJA coming to Canada, there was no similar push against AJE this time.

“We had some good reason to object to Al Jazeera Arabic in Canada. They were involved in some very disgusting programming. Al Jazeera English to date, has not been,” said Bernie Farber, CEOhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifof the Canadian Jewish Congress, which neither supported nor objected to the application. “Our hope is that it won't be.”

The managing directorhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifof Al Jazeera English, former CBC News executive Tony Burman reached out to the CJC and B'nai Brith Canada, to establish a committee that will allow those organizations to express any concerns they have with content on the network. That spirit of communication, plus the diversity of the AJE staff, helped ease some concerns, Mr. Farber said.

“We were given assurances that in fact, [AJA and AJE] are two different organizations, separately run,” Mr. Farber said. Because they are owned by the same parent companyhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gif, he continues to be concerned about problematic footage being shared between the two networks. “We remain wary.”

More than 2,600 people or organizations filed comments to the CRTC in support of the application.

“It's important for Canadians to see images, and to see stories and to see people talking about their reality, that we don't usually have access to … because unfortunately, news channels in Canada don't have the manpower to have as many reporters all over the place,” said Mohamed Boudjenane, executive directorhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gifof the Canadian Arab Federation, which was one of those supporters. “Quite frankly, when you have crappy, biased channels like Fox … it's about time for Canadians to get access to another perspective of the news.”

Since launching in 2006, Al Jazeera English has established a prominent presence on the Internet, and is carried in 100 countries.

“Canada is one of the only countries in the world that has neither Al Jazeera English or Al Jazeera Arabic, including the United States and Israel," Mr. Burman said in an interview with the Globe and Mail in June. AJE was widely expected to win approval here in Canada in late summer or early fall, sources close to the CRTC told the Globe at the time.

On Thursday, sources said the delay in approval was due to a heavy workload, including major files such as the decision on Wireless applicant Globalive and the debate over the future of broadcast television, which has been the subject of a set of CRTC hearings this week and last.

With files from Grant Robertson

High Turnover In Chatelaine's Top Job: Jane Francisco Named Editor-In-Chief

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner

(December 01, 2009) The revolving door to the editor-in-chief's office at Chatelaine continued to spin Monday with news that Jane Francisco has replaced recently ousted Maryam Sanati.

Francisco, most recently editor of Style at Home, is Chatelaine's fourth editor-in-chief since the end of 2004. An 18-year publishing veteran, Francisco has worked for Venue, Wish and other publications.

Owner Rogers Communications, which laid off 900 employees last week, would not comment on the reasons for the departure of Sanati, who took over the job in advance of Chatelaine's 80th anniversary edition in May 2008.

"Jane has a passion for journalism, a strong track record of success and high-level experience with prominent Canadian magazine brands," said a statement from Chatelaine executive publisher Ken Whyte, who helms several other Rogers publications. "She has an intuitive understanding of what Canadian women want, and we are confident she will serve Chatelaine's readers very well."

Sanati served as editor-in-chief longer than her two immediate predecessors, Sara Angel, who held the job for 13 months, and Kim Pittaway, who lasted less than a year.

By comparison, the late Doris Anderson held the top editorial job at the magazine from 1957 to 1977.

"Circumstances have changed completely since Doris Anderson was the editor. It was a much different world and a much different magazine then," said D.B. Scott, president of the consultancy firm Impresa Communications and a contributor to the blog Canadian Magazines (http://canadianmags.blogspot.com/).

Chatelaine recently stirred controversy with a feature about whether parents and schools have overreacted to the threat posed by food allergies, fuelling blogosphere speculation that the outrage sparked by the article might have played a role in Sanati's departure.

But industry watchers are more inclined to view the moves as related to a trend that has seen fewer managers at Rogers assume greater responsibility.

Rogers also confirmed Monday that Dianne de Fenoyl, managing editor of Maclean's, has taken on the additional responsibility of editorial director at Chatelaine.

Earlier this year, Whyte, already the first person to hold both the publisher and editor-in-chief posts at Maclean's, was named publisher of three other Rogers publications, Canadian Business, Profit and Moneysense, while Chatelaine publisher Kerry Mitchell was also put in charge of Flare.

"Having one publisher responsible for four or five titles saves a significant amount of management money," said Scott. "Whether it produces better or more profitable magazines remains to be seen."

Chatelaine's readership has declined by 2.5 per cent between this year and last, according to figures from the Print Measurement Bureau. Its total readership is 938,000, according to the PMB 2009 Fall 2-year Readership Study.

Ranking Toronto's Gourmet Burger Joints

Source: www.thestar.com -
Amy Pataki

(November 19, 2009) Toronto is flipping over gourmet hamburgers.

Four high-end burger bars have opened downtown in the last month, broadening our already wide choice of beef, lamb, chicken, salmon and bison patties served with epicurean toppings. There hasn't been a trend this pronounced since charcuterie.

And why not, when a quality patty – made from grass-fed beef raised without hormones or antibiotics and graded Prime – offers the flame-grilled thrill of a $40 steak, at a fraction of the cost.

"A burger represents a bit of happiness amidst all the doom and gloom of the current economic situation," explains BQM Burger Shoppe founder Saeed Mohamed, who's opening a third location this month in the old Stem Diner on Queen St. W.

If diners are tightening their purse-strings, owners are shying away from fine-dining restaurants.

"Burgers and beer sell a lot easier and hit a wider market," says Brock Shepherd, chef/owner of The Burger Bar in Kensington Market.

To find the ultimate patty, I ordered a plain burger – toppings like truffle paste can be so distracting – at six of the latest gourmet burger bars.  Half the kitchens broke the city's safety rules and offered to cook ground meat medium-rare, which doesn't kill E. coli. Onion rings were the side dish of choice.

The brand new Oh Boy Burger Market at 571 Queen St. W. served the winning burger and rings.

Owner Joey McGuirk (ex-Prohibition) is thinking of franchising. I predict a flippin' success.

OH BOY BURGER MARKET, 571 Queen St. W., 416-361-6154

Open Since
: Nov. 12, 2009
Beef: Premade Leavoy Rowe patties developed by chef Paul Boehmer from AAA and Prime ground chuck
Price: $7.50 for 8-oz Oh Boy Burger, $3.25 for onion rings
Atmosphere: Haute barn with open kitchen, exposed lightbulbs, loud Michael Jackson and friendly counter service
Licensed: Pending
Minutes to order: 13
Served on: Square wooden plate
Burger: Squirtingly juicy, as tender as the finest filet mignon, well-timed on grill and nestled with picture-perfect garnishes into soft, eggy Ace Bakery sesame bun — only a missing dash of salt keeps this burger from perfection
Onion rings: Frozen McCain Beefeater thick-cut rings emerge from deep fryer blessedly greaseless and fantastically crisp, with melting sweet Spanish onions inside
Signature burger: Oh Boy Classic, $7.50, is a basic burger with roasted garlic mayo
Overall score (out of 4): 3.5

CRAFT BURGER, 830 Yonge St. (+ 1 other location), 416-922-8585

Open since
: January, 2009
Beef: Ontario AAA ground chuck
Price: $5.65 for 6-oz. classic burger, $2.95 for onion rings
Atmosphere: Modern with communal table, loud R&B, art for sale, desultory counter service
Licensed: No
Minutes to order: 14
Served on: Rectangular tin pan lined with brown butcher paper
Burger: Moist patty tastes like well-aged steak, crosshatched from grill, faintly pink in centre on soft sesame bun
Onion Rings: Bland
Signature burger: Craft Burger comes with sautéed mushrooms and rosemary-garlic mayo, $6.95
Overall score: 3

THE BURGER BAR, 318 Augusta Ave., 416-922-7423

Open since
: Oct. 13, 2009
Beef: Two cuts of naturally raised Beretta Farms beef loosely ground in secret formula, patties formed to order without filler
Price: $8 for 6-oz. burger, $6 for onion rings
Atmosphere: Western saloon with bubbly table service
Licensed: Yes
Minutes to order: Too distracted by Flying Monkeys Hoptical Illusion pale ale to notice
Served on: White rectangular plate too formal for room
Burger: Crumbly, salty with strong beef flavour and homemade look; chewy white Cobs Bread bun
Onion Rings: Also crumbly and salty, with hand-dipped buttermilk-panko crust
Signature burger: Alba burger with grape tomatoes, $9.95, oozes truffle aioli
Overall score: 2.5

GOURMET BURGER CO., 9 Charles St. W. (+ 1 other location), 647-351-6408,

Open since
: Oct. 5, 2009
Beef: Canadian AAA chuck, aged minimum 30 days, ground twice to remove gristle and shapped off-site, free of binders, flavoured with pepper and Worcestshire sauce
Price: $5.50 for 6-oz. GBC burger, $2.95 for onion rings
Atmosphere: Modern décor with helpful counter service
Licensed: No
Minutes to order: 8 minutes
Served on: Metal pie plate lined with brown butcher paper
Burger: Terrible texture: thin, dry, chewy thanks to overprocessed meat
Onion Rings: Hard-to-bite McCain’s Brew City frozen rings have strong whiff of beer in batter, lots of extra kosher salt
Signature burger: Aussie Burger, $8.50, layered with fried egg, pineapple, beets and bacon
Overall score: 1.5 burgers

W BURGER BAR, 10 College St., 416-961-2227

Open since
: Nov. 2, 2009
Beef: Rowe Farms custom blend of naturally raised Angus chuck (mainly) and Angus-cross trimmings shaped daily on site into filler-free patties
Price: $5.95 for 6-oz. burger, $5.95 for onion rings
Atmosphere: Upscale pub with big-screen TVs tuned to sports, scatterbrained table service
Licensed: Yes, try the spiked milkshakes
Minutes to order: 19
Served on: White rectangular plate
Burger: Dense, rubbery patty tastes not much better than frozen, but crusty homemade bun is nice
Onion rings: Spanish onions hand-dipped in milk and homemade coarse breadcrumbs have fryer taste
Signature burger: Kobe burger, $18.95, made from American Wagyu and cooked on the flat-top
Overall score: 1.5  (incl. 1/2 for Sick Kids Foundation donation)

BQM Burger Shoppe, 210 Ossington Ave. (+2 other locations), 416-850-1919, www.burgershoppe.com

Open since
: December, 2008
Beef: Naturally raised Rowe farms ground chuck made into patties daily without binders
Price: $7 for 6-oz., $5 for onion rings
Atmosphere: Eclectic décor with lively bar scene, indie music and neglectful service
Licensed: Yes, with 11 microbrews
Minutes to order: 17
Served on: White oblong dishes
Burger: Undercooked, greasy, spongy and bland patty is totally outshone by soft grilled white bun
Onion Rings: At first, sweet onions dipped in draught beer and crisp panko seem great — until we notice all the oil pooled underneath
Signature Burger: The Ossington, $9, has portobello mushroom, mayo, mozzarella with balsamic reduction
Overall score: 1

Canada Reads Picks Its Top 5 Books

Source: www.thestar.com -
Vit Wagner

(December 02, 2009) Is there a Canadian with a literary bone in his or her body who has not read Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees?

We may learn the answer to that question if the Toronto author's popular 1996 novel becomes the next winner of Canada Reads.

At Tuesday's announcement of the 2010 five-book reading list, much was made of the sales bump experienced by past winners of the annual CBC Radio literary competition. That expectation will be put to the test if Fall on Your Knees, selected in 2002 for the Oprah Book Club, emerges as the winner when the competition airs in March.

The novel has already sold nearly 400,000 copies in Canada. That figure is roughly equivalent to the current total reached by last year's Canada Reads winner, Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes, which had already enjoyed strong sales as a winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust and Commonwealth Prizes.

Fall on Your Knees, to be endorsed on the air by hurdler Perdita Felicien, is not the only familiar title in the running. Listeners will also hear rapper Roland Pemberton (a.k.a. Cadence Weapon) sing the praises of Douglas Coupland's 1991 international bestseller Generation X and War Child Canada founder Samantha Nutt lobby for Wayson Choy's Trillium Prize-winning and Giller-nominated The Jade Peony. Also in the running are Marina Endicott's 2008 Giller finalist Good to a Fault, nominated by Vancouver broadcaster Simi Sara, and the English-language translation of Nicolas Dickner's Nikolski, nominated by Montreal writer Michel Vézina.

Past winners of Canada Reads, launched in 2002, include Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion, Miriam Toews' A Complicated Kindness and Paul Quarrington's King Leary.

The Race Is On For Canada Reads – Or Rereads?

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Barber

(December 2, 2009) Celebrity panelists sent a largely familiar collection of titles into the running for the CBC's 2010 Canada Reads contest Tuesday, choosing experience over youth in the network's annual Survivor-style sweepstakes for Canadian books.

Indeed, the youngest panelist, 24-year-old Edmonton musician Roland Pemberton a.k.a Cadence Weapon, chose the oldest title, Douglas Coupland's Generation X, first published almost 20 years ago (and superseded this fall by Generation A).

“I'm surprised by that,” Pemberton, poet laureate of his home city, admitted at the show's Toronto kickoff yesterday. “I feel now like I'm the fuddy duddy.”

Now in its ninth year, the popular contest pits the champions of each book against one another in a series of debates, with the majority voting to eliminate one book a show until a single winner remains.

Hurdler Perdita Felicien likewise played it safe by choosing to defend Ann-Marie MacDonald's much-awarded Fall on Your Knees, first published in 1996 and since translated into 17 languages. Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child Canada, raided the same vault in choosing Wayson Choy's first novel, The Jade Peony, published in 1995.

The most recent book enlisted in the 2010 competition, which will be aired on CBC Radio and Bold TV next March, is Marina Endicott's Good to a Fault, finalist in the 2008 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It will be championed by Vancouver media personality Simi Sara.

The only real surprise and the clear dark horse is Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner of Montreal, a first novel greeted with multiple awards when published in French, and more recently a Governor-General's Award for the 2008 English translation by Lazer Lederhendler.

“This is the best book ever written in Canada,” declared its champion, Montreal belletrist Michel Vézina. “As soon as these other guys read it they will just leave.”

While panelists waxed pugilistic about their choices, selected authors were more circumspect. “I'm so happy it's a game show and not a literary contest,” Endicott said.

After marvelling at the youth of his own champion, Coupland reined him in. “I don't necessarily agree with the combative part of it,” he said.

Howie Mandel Comes Clean About Life As A Germaphobe

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(Dec. 02, 2009) Will the real
Howie Mandel stand up? Whoa! Hold on – not all at once. People perceive the Toronto-bred comic in disparate ways. To some he is the zany absurdist with a rubber glove on his head. To others he is remembered as the soulful, wise-cracking emergency-room doctor on the eighties network hospital drama St. Elsewhere . Parents might recognize his nutty baby voice from the animated children's show Bobby's World .

Of course, Mandel was widely watched as the host of the cash-grabbing prime-time game show Deal or No Deal , and currently he's the star prankster of his own hidden-camera show Howie Do It .

“ I have to do book signings in the heart of an international pandemic. One side of me sees the humour, the other side feels the terror. And as much as I'd like for you to buy the book and come out and meet me, I really don't want anyone to show up.”

But now he is an author, which may unite his splintered audience in seeing him the same way he does: as a very sick man – and that's without getting into his serious heart ailment, which resulted in a pair of corrective surgeries earlier this year. In his new biography
Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me , Mandel lays it all out, defining himself as “an anxiety disorder.”

“I've had a very fractured, weird career,” the 54-year-old performer says from his home in Los Angeles, where he lives with his family and suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. “It's very ADHD of me,” Mandel says with a laugh, “my appeal being so distracted.”

With the amount of press he's doing, the focus on the bald comic will be narrowed – he'll be the guy talking about his childhood, a highly awkward stage of his life that, as we learn in the first chapter of his book, involved a lactose-intolerant, colour-blind boy so unfocused that he'd forget to go to the bathroom, which resulted not only in his wetting his pants, but in his throwing himself into puddles to cover it up. He also had a fear of laundry hampers, his skin was a nesting ground for sand flies and he needed 100-per-cent attention.

The chapter is entitled Welcome to Me, and it is a doozy of a handshake. Oh yeah, I forgot – don't touch him.

“I have to do book signings in the heart of an international pandemic,” Mandel says, incredulously. “One side of me sees the humour, the other side feels the terror. And as much as I'd like for you to buy the book and come out and meet me, I really don't want anyone to show up.”

How his audience will see him now remains to be seen. It's not new news that Mandel is a full-fledged germaphobe, but he goes into it in the book with eye-popping frankness. “It's scary for me now,” says the high-school dropout and former carpet salesmen. “This is the first time that I've dropped the veil of entertainment.”

Dime-store psychology suggests all comics work from dark, neurotic places, but rarely is it as clearly laid out as in Mandel's fascinating 218-page read. “I spend a lot of my time tortured, in very dark places in my mind. I don't know if these stories will be entertaining, but they're obviously honest. That's a scary undertaking for me – I've never done that before.”

Speaking to Mandel earlier this week, I began by asking a question that is usually banal, but in his case was loaded: “How are you?” He responded that he seemed to be okay, but he didn't know. “I'm not the expert,” he said.

But Howie, you just wrote a book about yourself, didn't you? “Yes, but I go twice a week to a professional to find out how I am.”

At the end of our talk, I again try to find out something his autobiography does not answer: Is he happy? Mandel pauses before answering. “I'm appreciative of everything I have and what I do. My whole goal in life is to maintain happiness. But, because of my issues, I'll be totally honest with you, it's hard to be happy. I try, and I get glimpses of happy, but I don't have a settled happiness.”

In that respect, Mandel, the absurdist comedian terrorized by bizarre compulsions he deals with constantly, is not so unusual at all.

Howie Mandel appears Friday at 7 p.m., at Indigo Books and Music, Toronto Eaton Centre.

::DANCE NEWS::

DV8's Straight Talk On Religion And Sexuality

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bruce DeMara

(November 29, 2009) Dance is sometimes called upon to ask some difficult questions.

Case in point: the latest work by U.K. dance company
DV8 – coming to Harbourfront Centre on Wednesday – deals with the issue of how religious minorities in Western countries can demand tolerance and respect when they're not prepared to extend the same consideration to the gay community.

The work, entitled
To Be Straight With You, takes in-depth interviews from 85 British Muslims, along with more than 200 street interviews, and uses movement, text and music to reveal attitudes ranging from denial to violence-tinged hatred.

"The particular issues that are pertinent aren't particularly to do with homosexuality, I think they're to do with religion and tolerance," said DV8 artistic director Lloyd Newson.

"This work is not against people who have religious beliefs. But it challenges those who have `fundamentalist' religious positions that themselves ask for tolerance and do not give it to gay people and often women and often other religions," he added.

The work, which took 18 months to put together, recently won the Grand Prix de Danse in Paris despite it being performed in English.

Newson said he rejected translating the work in French because he "didn't want people's heads bobbing between the performers and the sub-titles."

Newson said he was struck by a recent poll, conducted by a Muslim organization, which looked at the attitudes of Muslims and the broader community in the U.K., France and Germany to homosexuality. The 500 Muslims polled in the U.K. who said that homosexual acts were morally acceptable was statistically zero, lower even than in the other two countries.

The research conducted by Newson's company had similar results.

Stories presented on stage include that of a 14-year-old Muslim boy stabbed by his father and brother when he revealed his orientation, to a gay Muslim man who spent more than four years in prison for a violent homophobic attack yet fails to see the contradiction.

Other stories within the work echo the words of those who adamantly oppose homosexuality contrasted against those who seek tolerance, creating a sort of debate on stage, Newson said.

"The issue of denial came up a lot when we were interviewing people. It felt like a lot of people were telling us one thing but doing another," Newson said.

It also became clear when developing the work that the company would have put aside classical dance movements – arabesques, pirouettes, etc. – in favour of more "naturalistic" movement.

"Sometimes we had to sacrifice the spectacle of dance to ensure that it didn't distract from the meaning and what was being said. To (use) `pretty' movements ... was just not only insulting but often ridiculous," he said.

So dancers, hooked up to iPhone recordings of the interviews, were encouraged to improvise.

"What was great about that is that it often meant that (the dancers), because they were concentrating on the words, would do things physically that they weren't fully conscious of," Newson said.

The result, an expression of deep pain, internal conflict and rage, carries a message not just religious minorities, but for everyone, he added.

"If we don't challenge people who say extremely intolerant statements under the banner of religion ... it's not just the gays that have to be worried," Newson said.

To Be Straight With You runs Dec. 2-5 at Harbourfront. Tickets ($40) at harbourfrontcentre.com

Mia Michaels' Many Changes

Source: www.thestar.com -
Victoria Ahearn

(November 27, 2009) Star choreographer Mia Michaels is going through an extreme makeover on her entire life.

The Emmy Award-winning talent recently resigned from the hit American series So You Think You Can Dance; shaved her head; restructured her business team; and is now lining up a slew of new opportunities, including guest judging this Saturday's Season 3 auditions for CTV's So You Think You Can Dance Canada in Montreal.

All this while nursing three "bulging discs" in her spine that have left her without feeling in her left thigh and groin, and have forced her to find a new way to teach her sought-after dance moves.

"I've been very challenged this year, from my family's health to my back, to my career to my personal life," the Los Angeles-based contemporary dance expert – who has worked with the likes of Madonna, Prince and Celine Dion – said in a recent phone interview.

"Once you're down at your lowest, there's only one way to go if you choose – if you want to pull yourself out of there – you have to see the light.

"You have to make solid decisions and you have to take bold steps forward."

Last month, Michaels shocked fans when she posted a message on Twitter implying that she was leaving So You Think You Can Dance after five seasons.

She didn't immediately explain why she was departing and that led to wildly inaccurate rumours about her reasons (some fans even speculated that she had cancer).

The real reason she resigned, she eventually revealed, was simple: It was just time.

"For me, it was like everything hit at once around that time," Michaels said over the line from her hotel room in Las Vegas before heading to Florida to see her family for U.S. Thanksgiving.

"I was like: `I have to see the light. I have to pick up the pieces in all areas of my life and move forward."'

So far, she's already lined up three TV shows that are now in development, and she's writing a book about the inspirations behind her choreography.

Her physical movements are limited, though, due to the back injury she sustained during rehearsals for the Season 2 finale of So You Think You Can Dance Canada late last month.

Moonhorse Dance Theatre: Unravelling Emotion With Poetry In Motion

Source: www.thestar.com -
Michael Crabb

Half an Hour of Our Time; Lone Some
(out of 4)
Presented by Moonhorse Dance Theatre. Choreography by James Kudelka and Tedd Robinson. At the Young Centre, 55 Mill St., until Saturday.
416-866-8666 or www.youngcentre.ca

(December 01, 2009) Breaking up, as Neil Sedaka so memorably sang, is hard to do and, as choreographer James Kudelka suggests in a new work for Toronto's
Moonhorse Dance Theatre, it's not always a clean break.

Unlike the jolly superficiality of Sedaka's 1962 hit, Kudelka's Half an Hour of Our Time, presented by the Young Centre as part of its new dance initiative, is a study in emotional pain and complexity, inspired by Francis Poulenc's operatic version of Jean Cocteau's famous one-woman play, La voix humaine.

In the play, the woman conducts a telephone conversation with a man – unseen and unheard – who we learn is leaving her for another. There is no telephone in Kudelka's rendering and Cocteau's invisible man materializes in the form of dancer Dan Wild; yet his interactions with the woman, Claudia Moore, seem as much to be occurring in memory as actuality.

Kudelka's enigmatic 30-minute duet is dense with incident, as if everything that has bound this couple and is now unravelling is played out before us.

There are moments of tenderness. The man's own feelings are clearly conflicted. Their eyes rarely meet. At times Wild circles Moore like a ghostly presence. Even when their bodies touch there is a sense that it's like the magnetically repellent meeting of two like poles that could instantly flip into a powerful attraction.

The fact that the dance is performed in a small studio theatre and in silence intensifies its impact, forcing us to become voyeurs of this intimate portrait of messy, not fully resolved emotional separation.

Only dancers as mature – in years and artistic experience – as Moore and Wild could pull this off so effectively and without a hint of sentimentality.

The two are also paired in what turns out to be a cleverly deployed prologue to the main event, a short duo and solo called Lone Some, choreographed by Tedd Robinson to emotionally aching songs by Smokey Robinson and Paul McCartney.

Here Moore, 56, shows that in dance youth has no monopoly on physical expressiveness.

Tall, lithe and with limbs that can etch poetry in thin air, Moore offers an object lesson in concentrated artistry.  

Watch Her: A Gothic Tale Of Love, Loss And Obsession

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Paula Citron

Watch
Her
Choreographed by Aszure Barton
The National Ballet of Canada
At the Four Seasons Centre
in Toronto on Wednesday

(November 28, 2009) The
National Ballet of Canada's fall mixed program is one of the best ever.

Even if you're not a ballet fan, you should buy a ticket to this one.

George Balanchine's 1946 neo-classical tour de force The Four Temperaments , and Jerome Robbins's Glass Pieces , a 1983 brilliant movement manifestation of the music of Philip Glass, are the bookends of the program.

The company pulls these pieces off in stunning fashion.

All eyes, however, were on Aszure Barton's world premiere Watch Her . New York-based, Edmonton-born Barton has a growing international reputation as a formidable choreographer, and this powerful piece does not disappoint. The minute it was over, I wanted to press the replay button so I could begin to come to grips with Barton's many layers, particularly her detailed gestural language.

Thirty-nine dancers in gorgeous costumes by Yannik Larivée (dresses for the women, suits for the men), performing in Larivée's arresting box set with oddly placed windows and narrow doors, enact an almost gothic tale of love, loss and obsession. Lera Auerbach's modern/baroque score is a fascinating rethink of Pergolesi's 1736 masterpiece Stabat Mater .

The formality of the dance reflects the formal structure of the music. The men, in particular, are often rigidly upright with their arms clasped behind their backs. When hormones rage, jackets come off, but soon reappear as a sop to polite society and public image.

The throughline is Sonia Rodriguez (who has never appeared so choreographically cold), and her more gentle alter egos, Bridgett Zehr and Heather Ogden. Rodriguez The Siren teases the very life out of Kevin D. Bowles (and other men) who are fixated on her, while Rodriguez The Cruel exercises indifference with equal measure. The ensemble at large seems to be acting out various aspects of Rodriguez's personality, be it passion, cunning or apathy.

The movement itself is a paradox. Everyday movements mingle with virtuoso turns and jumps in a jam-packed sea of restless physicality. The stage is awash in tightly controlled entrances and exits. The very density and speed of the movement, and the continual ebb and flow of dancers in various combinations, contribute to the work's complexity.

The final result is a searing depiction of the beautiful in-crowd and their marginalized victims. This dark work will continue to reveal its riches for years to come.

The National Ballet's fall mixed program continues at the Four Seasons Centre until Sunday.

::SPORTS NEWS::

NHL Approves Sale Of Canadiens To Molson Brothers

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb

(December 01, 2009) MONTREAL–The Montreal Canadiens have been formally sold just days before their 100th birthday.

The NHL board of governors approved the club's sale to the
Molson family on Tuesday.

Geoff Molson and his brothers Andrew and Justin are the lead investors in a group that reportedly paid $575 million (U.S.) for the storied franchise.

"This is a proud moment for my family and our partners in the transaction," Geoff Molson, who takes over as chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "As owners, we will be right there with management and the team, building and battling toward our next Stanley Cup."

The Habs will celebrate their

Allen Iverson Returns To 76ers

Source: www.thestar.com -
Dan Gelston

(December 2, 2009) PHILADELPHIA – Allen Iverson is rejoining the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sixers president Ed Stefanski announced the signing Wednesday on the team's website. Iverson is expected to make his debut Monday at home against the Denver Nuggets.

"In light of the recent injury to Lou Williams, which will sideline him for close to eight weeks, we felt that Allen was the best available free agent guard to help us at this time," Stefanski said in a release.

Williams, who averaged 17.4 points and 5.1 assists, broke his jaw in Philadelphia's loss to Washington on Nov. 24.

Iverson, his agent and business manager met with Stefanski, coach Eddie Jordan and two other members of the organization Monday.

The 34-year-old Iverson announced his retirement last week after an ill-fated stint with the Memphis Grizzlies. The 10-time All-Star was NBA MVP in 2001 when he led the Sixers to the NBA finals.

Iverson was offered a one-year, non-guaranteed contract on Tuesday, according to a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract talks had not been made public.

The Sixers would owe just under $650,000 if they guarantee his contract for the remainder of the season on Jan. 10. Stefanski plans to talk about Iverson's return in a noon teleconference.

In 10 seasons with the Sixers, Iverson posted the highest scoring average in team history (28.1), was second on the points list (19,583) and holds the record for 3-pointers (877). He was a seven-time All-Star, won four scoring titles and two All-Star game MVPs.

The Sixers (5-13) have lost seven straight entering Wednesday night's game at Oklahoma City and need Iverson to spark sagging ticket sales and their playoff chances.

This reconciliation was once thought foolish after their acrimonious split three years ago. Iverson's last game with Philadelphia was Dec. 6, 2006 in Chicago. He refused to play the fourth quarter and was banished from the team two days later. He was eventually traded to Denver as part of the Andre Miller deal, and bounced to Detroit before landing in Memphis.

The 6-foot Iverson played three games this season with Memphis before taking a leave of absence to attend to personal matters. He was waived after the two sides agreed to part ways.

The New York Knicks considered signing Iverson after he cleared waivers, before deciding he would take too much playing time from younger players they are trying to develop.

He will likely start for the Sixers with Williams out. Iverson's refusal to come off the bench ended his time in Detroit and Memphis on a sour note.

Iverson would get another look at his former teams after playing Denver. The Sixers, who have not won a playoff series since 2003, play at home Dec. 9 against Detroit.

Iverson was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 draft, but his 10 turbulent seasons in Philadelphia were marred by his rants about practice, run-ins with former coach Larry Brown, arrests, and a failed rap career.

Iverson often arrived late for practices or missed them entirely. In one infamous blowup at the end of the 2002 season, he repeated the word "practice" nearly 20 times during a rambling monologue.

Iverson has career averages of 27 points and 6.2 points in 889 career games in 14 seasons. He is tied for the fifth-highest scoring average in NBA history and ranks third among active players.

Iverson has played in 71 career playoff games and owns the second-highest postseason scoring average (29.7 ppg) in NBA history, trailing only Michael Jordan (33.4 ppg).

Thousands In Montreal Cheer Grey Cup Champs

Source: www.thestar.com -
Andy Blatchford, Tobi Cohen

(December 2, 2009) MONTREAL – The football team that finally triumphed was being celebrated by tens of thousands Wednesday as a sea of humanity swept over the streets of downtown Montreal.

Crowds engulfed the city's downtown core as Montrealers spent their lunch hour cheering on the CFL champion
Alouettes.

The Alouettes have been a dominant force for years but had lost their last four Grey Cup appearances since winning in 2002.

They appeared set to lose again until a stunning string of events on Sunday's final play triggered a reversal of fortune with no time left on the clock.

People tossed confetti from windows onto the passing players, who pumped their fists skyward and waved at the crowd as the passed by on flat-bed trucks.

"It's truly amazing," said Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo.

"As many times as we've disappointed, the fans have been disappointed, they still come out here and respond by supporting us and coming to this parade."

As for the controversial final play of Sunday's game, which capped an improbable Alouettes comeback: "That's why you play 60 minutes. If you're going to beat yourself in your head than you have no chance – but we never gave up."

Louise Laroche, a season-ticket holder for the last five years, waved her arms and shouted as the parade rolled by.

Asked how nervous she was in the final seconds of the game, she said she nearly had a heart attack.

"In the Canadian Football League, it's not finished until zero-zero seconds," said Laroche, who drove from St-Hyacinthe for the parade.

"We have proof of that."

Chants of "Ole-ole-ole!" – a Spanish soccer song popular at Montreal hockey games – rang out as a line of 18-wheelers carried the players down the city's iconic Ste-Catherine Street.

Swarms of fans flooded the street to follow the procession after it passed.

The team was also celebrated during a Canadiens-Leafs NHL game Tuesday night by a chanting crowd at the Bell Centre, and signed the municipal registry at city hall.

One woman interviewed by RDI, the CBC's French news network, summed up the sentiments of many in the hockey-mad city.

"We hope the Canadiens can do the same," she said.

Many Montrealers have noted the irony in recent days that their soccer and football teams are both champions this year but the team they love most – the one in the NHL – is highly mediocre.

A top Canadian on the Alouettes concurred with the obvious.

"It's definitely a hockey town," said Ben Cahoon, who was chosen as the Grey Cup's best Canadian player.

"Driving home in traffic the day after we won the Grey Cup and they're talking about hockey so we know where we rate, I think.

"But we sure appreciate the support today and we appreciate the support all season. This has been a magical memory for all of us."

He said players who'd never experienced a victory parade before were "blown away" by the event.

Police on horseback joined in the parade and so did the city's mayor, Gerald Tremblay, who sat atop an open convertible.

The mayor – whose administration has been rocked by a corruption scandal – was the only person booed Wednesday.