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March 12, 2009

Well Happy St. Patrick's Day (a little early).  Get ready for all the local Irish pubs to be full to capacity!  Please drink responsibly.  And am I the only that got really screwed up by the time change this year?  I don't know whether it's morning or evening or when the end of my day has come. Now I'm aware too that Spring Break is coming up ... let's be a little more cautious behind the wheel as there will be more young people out in the streets. 

Check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


Michael Jackson Announces Comeback In London

Source: www.globeandmail.com -

(March 05, 2009) LONDON — U.S. pop star Michael Jackson announced his long-awaited comeback on Thursday, telling hundreds of screaming fans he would perform in London this summer and calling it his “final curtain call” in the city.

Wearing a military-style black jacket decorated with silver sequins and punching the air, the 50-year-old revealed his plans on a makeshift stage at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena where he will play 10 dates starting on July 8.

“Thank you all...this is it,” said Jackson from behind a pair of dark glasses.

“These will be my final shows ... performances in London. When I say this is it, I mean this is it. I'll be performing the songs my fans want to hear. This is it, this is really it, this is the final curtain call.”

Music promoter AEG Live, which has signed a deal with Jackson, said that the 10-show Las Vegas-style “residency” could be extended if there was sufficient demand for tickets.

AEG Live president and CEO Randy Phillips did not rule out further co-operation with one of the world's biggest music stars, telling Reuters that his company had a three-and-a-half-year plan to work with Jackson.

“He could gross well over $400-million over the three and a half years,” he said.

The agreement could involve developing a big-screen version of Jackson's hit song and video Thriller.

Asked about concerns over Jackson's health in recent years, Phillips said Jackson had passed a four-and-a-half hour physical examination with independent doctors.

Jackson, still viewed as “The King of Pop” by his fans, has lived the life of a virtual recluse since his acquittal of child abuse charges at a 2005 trial.

His last album of new material was Invincible, released in 2001, and his position as one of pop music's biggest acts has been increasingly overshadowed by bizarre behaviour, a changing appearance and questions about his health.

But fans in London were not concerned.

“Of course it's worth it,” said Shuhena Begum, who travelled from the central English city of Birmingham to see Jackson. “My whole family is mad about Michael -- he's the greatest,” the 21-year-old added.

She said much of the negative press about Jackson in recent years was unjustified.

“People are out there trying to look like Barbie dolls and yet no one says anything about them, but whenever it's Michael it's different.”

There has been scepticism that Jackson is capable of playing a string of gigs, and this would be his first concert series in 12 years. British bookmaker William Hill has already offered odds that Jackson would not turn up for the performances.

He is one of the biggest pop stars of all time, with an estimated 750 million records sold. Thriller, released in 1982, is the best selling album ever.

If he can pull it off, the string of concerts at a single venue would be both lucrative and less demanding than a full-fledged tour.

But if the comeback fails to materialize, or is regarded as a flop, Jackson would find it harder than ever to resurrect a career that has lain lifeless for so long.

Jackson performed in London at the World Music Awards in 2006, but that much-hyped return was described by critics as a shambles after he sang, in a broken voice, just a few lines of his charity single We Are The World.

Fellow performer Prince gave his profile a major boost with a successful 21-night stay at the O2 in 2007 which amassed a reported $22-million, and Britney Spears is due top appear there in June.

Jackson began his musical career with his siblings in the Motown group the Jackson 5 and went on release a string of hit solo albums.

What To Buy For The City That Has Everything

Source: www.thestar.com - Christopher Hume

(March 05, 2009) Not every day does a city turn 175. That's not old by civic standards, it's true; some cities have been around for millennia. But here in North America, it's getting up there.

And let's face it; despite the problems and an increasingly creaky governance structure, Toronto has done pretty well so far. The world may think we're a bit dull, but in times like these, that translates into the most precious commodity there is: stability. Why, even our banks are still profitable, not that we hate them any less for it.

So, in keeping with the birthday spirit, here are a few gift suggestions for the city that, er, has everything:

A NEW SQUARE AT YONGE AND BLOOR: Now that the 80-storey condo on the southeast corner of Toronto's most important intersection seems to be on hold – keep your fingers crossed – let's use the site for a new public square. The size is right, but best of all is the location. It's perfect. If we're not careful, the property could end up as a parking lot; a square is infinitely preferable. Given the mess we've made of the other three corners, this could be the one that makes up for earlier mistakes.

LA RAMBLA OF TORONTO: Close Yonge St. south of Bloor and, voila, instant Barcelona. Okay, it sounds crazy, but why not? How much traffic does Yonge really handle? Besides, a car-free main street would do wonders for downtown business and attract visitors from all over the world, let alone the GTA. The merchants would shout and scream at first, yet they'd be the big winners. Besides, Yonge is well served by the subway and access isn't a problem. The scheme could also help create a string of public spaces extending from the waterfront past Yonge-Dundas Square up to Bloor. Brilliant!

While we're at it, what about dedicated pedestrian zones throughout the city? Kensington Market; Gould St. at Ryerson University; St. George St. where it runs through the University of Toronto; Yorkville and John St. come to mind as ideal candidates for pedestrianization.

A CHARACTERISTIC CUISINE: Quebec has poutine, Chicago pizza, Philadelphia its cream cheese. What is Toronto's trademark dish? The answer is everything and nothing. That's great for residents, who have all the choice in the world, but what about tourists? What is the one thing they have to eat for a complete Toronto experience?

BETTER STREET FOOD: We've heard the talk from City Hall about relaxing Toronto's Victorian rules and regulations for street food, but so far nothing has happened. Still the same old hot dogs and sausages, fries and pop – it's kids' food, disgusting, unhealthy and infantilizing.

A BETTER `BETTER WAY': The transit system we have is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn't go far enough and hasn't for ages. It was built for a city that had half the population it does today. Little surprise then that Toronto has fallen behind much of the world. Every year we do too little and the city loses ground. Have we reached the point of no return? Perhaps not, but we're uncomfortably close.

A CONTEMPORARY ART GALLERY: No offence to the Power Plant or MOCCA, but neither has the capacity to be a major player on the art scene, either local or international. The project would mean a new building – a Gehry original, perhaps? – preferably on the waterfront, and would continue the momentum created by the city's noted cultural renaissance. Given the banking sector's continued profitability, it could be counted on to provide philanthropic input.

BENCHES: Sounds ridiculously simple, but think about a city awash in benches, a city that doesn't view the act of sitting down in public as a form of loitering, an antisocial statement, one to be discouraged. Instead, imagine a city that welcomed you to sit, relax and enjoy the scenery. What about a program for artists, architects and designers to make chairs that would be installed around the city?

A NEW HOCKEY TEAM: The Toronto Maple Leafs are no longer a hockey team; they are a metaphor for failure and, worse, failure that succeeds despite itself. Win or lose, it makes no difference, so of course the Leafs are indifferent.

A WORKING PLANETARIUM: The old McLaughlin Planetarium beside the Royal Ontario Museum has been closed for years. During its time, it was a venue for light shows, dramas and even a bit of astronomy. Now the marvellous domed structure has been reduced to nothing more than a hunk of real-estate meat waiting to be cooked.

MORE 24-HOUR RESTAURANTS: It isn't often we find ourselves searching for a place to eat in the middle of the night, but when the need arises, it is inevitably desperate and must be obeyed at any cost. Besides all-night donut shops and a few restaurants (Fran's, 7 West Café), there is pathetically little to offer hungry Toronto troglodytes. We've been sleeping on this problem for far too long.

175 Reasons To Love Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com

(March 05, 2009) With Honest Ed's, Nuit Blanche, and too many Chinatowns to count, there is no place on earth like our city.

1. It is the centre of the (Canadian) universe.
2. Jane Jacobs called it home.
3. Our first mayor led a rebellion.
4. We can finally buy a decent burrito.
5. We can hang up our laundry without stirring up gossip.
6. We have independent bookstores in every neighbourhood – and new ones are still opening.
7. Our sports teams wear blue and purple, and we look damn good in blue and purple.
8. We have a Little Malta.
9. And a Little Azores.
10. There are so many Chinatowns, we've lost count.
11. There's a festival for every neighbourhood and ethnic group in the city – and about a dozen crammed into every summer weekend.
12. A million people can crowd the streets during one of these festivals and nobody gets mugged.
13. Gays and lesbians can marry here.
14. There's a perfect, tiny old church in the courtyard of the Eaton Centre.
15. And a prayer labyrinth.
16. North America's most stable banks are based here.
17. The elegant footbridge at the mouth of the Humber that has inspired thousands of photographs.
18. The surreal spectacle of Church Street on Halloween.
19. Long before wi-fi, we could predict the weather by looking at the beacon atop the Canada Life building.
20. Violent crime is actually going down.
21. The downtown population is actually going up.
22. Admit it: A couple of the seemingly thousands of new condo dwellings are actually rather nice.
23. One of the city's best golf courses runs underneath its busiest highway.
24. We can watch (and cringe at) young daredevils at Cummer Skateboard Park.
25. The newspaper reading room at the Toronto Reference Library.
26. We have a restaurant devoted to poutine.
27. Those streetcar drivers who assert themselves over the automated voice system with their own personal shout-outs for various intersections and attractions along their routes.
28. Going down the giant escalator at the Paramount – er, Scotiabank Theatre.
29. Working up a sweat on the old wooden indoor running track at Hart House, followed by lunch at the Gallery Grill.
30. Dining on pho at 2 in the morning.
31. The inspirational messages on the Inglis billboard keep Gardiner Expressway commuters uplifted.
32. Touring local history (and stopping for a game of chess) at Mount Pleasant Cemetery.
33. The private viewing booths at the NFB's Mediatheque.
34. That guy – you know the one – who insists on wearing shorts in the dead of winter.
35. We proudly display our favourite of Spacing magazine's iconic buttons of TTC subway stations.
36. We dutifully separate our garbage into black, blue and green.
37. Learning to love theatre classics, thanks to Soulpepper.
38. Michael Snow's Canada geese sculpture in the Eaton Centre.
39. If you're bored by what you're watching at the Winter Garden Theatre, you can admire the faux greenery.
40. The artistic Utopia of the gorgeously restored 401 Richmond and the Wychwood Art Barns.
41. We've got more cyclists per capita than Vancouver.
42. The SkyDome (okay, Rogers Centre) when the roof is in the process of being opened or closed.
43. Basking in the sun at the Canada Master tennis tournament (okay, the Rogers Cup).
44. From the Humber Bay butterfly habitat, the city looks almost beautiful.
45. The dim sum is as good as the tapas. (And the antipasti are as good as the panchan. And ...)
46. We've got a sugar museum. And a shoe museum.
47. When you look up you can see hawks circling.
48. The double-decker Go trains flashing by cars gridlocked on the Gardiner.
49. We are a hockey city, baseball city, basketball city and now a soccer city.
50. We are sometimes also a cricket city.
51. Eating your way across the globe at St. Lawrence Market on a Saturday.
52. The Dakota Tavern, the west end's roots-music rec room.
53. Watching leaves turn at the Toronto Botanical Garden in the fall.
54. Stopping in your tracks as a bigger-than-you-remembered Porter plane descends over the harbour.
55. The flume log ride at Ontario Place.
56. Without us, where would they film movies set in American cities?
57. Honest Ed's shrine to kitsch even lets Toronto fill in for Vegas from time to time.
58. We never have to stop traffic for a Stanley Cup parade.
59. A family of beavers made a home for themselves at the Music Garden.
60. Yonge-Dundas Square was supposed to be Toronto's answer to Times Square. It's really no comparison, but don't you want to give the city a big condescending hug just for trying?
61. Colin Partridge's vivid tree carvings in High Park.
62. Getting to the Toronto City Centre Airport necessitates a ride on the world's shortest ferry route.
63. Bumping into a towel-clad celeb at Stillwater Spa.
64. Marvelling at the machines that churn out sweet walnut cakes in Little Korea.
65. Chilled-out revellers and circus performers at free summertime Promise parties put Cherry Beach on the map.
66. You can pay $5 for a cup of coffee at a growing number of specialty cafes – or still get your double-double for 90 cents.
67. For 10 star-struck days in September, Toronto is justified calling itself Hollywood North.
68. The raging fandom on display – for lacrosse! – at Toronto Rock games is inspiring.
69. Spotting a big, beautiful white-tailed deer nibbling greenery at G. Ross Lord Park.
70. Watching a big ugly amphibious Hippo bus taking a swim in the harbour.
71. The legendary white squirrel.
72. We've now got a deli and bagels that make trips to Montreal almost unnecessary.
73. The smiles on everyone's faces during the first warm spell of the year.
74. A hive of indie rock, from Apostle of Hustle to Woodhands.
75. Hip hop too: Kardi, K-os and K'Naan call it home.
76. Scouting for migrating birds at the Leslie Street Spit – but look out for the snakes.
77. Nuit Blanche, for letting us see the city with fresh eyes.
78. The gorilla compound at the Toronto Zoo.
79. The intimate zoos at High Park, Riverdale Park and Centre Island.
80. A huge festival that treats authors like real celebrities.
81. Exploring the cottagey, car-free Ward Island neighbourhood and wondering why we don't all live there.
82. The united nations of Baldwin Street.
83. Tai chi at Christie Pits.
84. The sad, poignant sculptures at Ireland Park.
85. Being able to overhear – and see – top-shelf jazz from a comfortable perch outside the Nathan Phillips mainstage tent during the jazz festival when you can't afford a ticket.
86. Getting back to nature, almost, in a meandering ravine.
87. Housing is getting more affordable by the month.
88. The view of the city as you drive south on the DVP.
89. Riding your bike along the DVP and Gardiner during the annual Ride for Heart.
90. Lively literati – from Michael Ondaatje to Bryan Lee O'Malley – helped make this a city of the imagination.
91. Enza, supermodel.
92. The glass staircase in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
93. The glass floor at the CN Tower.
94. The perfect blend of old and new in the Brookfield Place atrium.
95. Top-notch, small-scale comedy at Bad Dog, Comedy Bar, Second City – and a dozen other barroom stages.
96. Basking in verdant luxury in the backyards of the wealthy along the Belt Line trail.
97. Shirtless Zanta doing pushups in the cold.
98. Extensive back-alley graffiti, some of which is better than the stuff hanging in galleries.
99. Gehry, Libeskind, Alsopp: Thank you, thank you, thank you, for giving us architecture worthy of debate.
100. Spotting the almost mystical garbage train on the TTC late at night.
101. Fig and molasses, chestnut and birch syrup ... and other exotic flavours from Kensington Market Organic Ice Cream.
102. The care that goes into irrepressibly quirky allotment gardens.
103. Winter? What winter? Eating, shopping and working in the PATH.
104. Rightfully beloved Massey Hall has welcomed too many big names to count.
105. Distillery delicacies: Mayan hot chocolate at Soma, organic beer at Mill Street Brewery, exotic fromage from A Taste of Quebec and a meat pie from Brick Street Bakery, enjoyed in the city's most cinematic setting.
106. The surprisingly vibrant beach volleyball scene at Ashbridge's Bay.
107. Helping a student by riding a rickshaw.
108. Listening to live music at the restored deco classic Carlu.
109. Eating brunch three times a day, every day, in Leslieville.
110. SARS made us stronger – and the resulting benefit concert found a use for the empty expanse of Downsview Park.
111. Ron Baird's landmark kinetic steel sculpture on Dufferin St. south of Steeles Ave.
112. The smell of baked goods at Bathurst and Eglinton subway stations.
113. The giant glowing pill-shaped classroom in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at U of T.
114. There's a downtown driving range that doubles as a drive-in theatre.
115. The CN Tower withstands some 50 lightning strikes a year.
116. We saw a guy take his Christmas tree home on the subway.
117. The Dufferin Grove organic farmers market is open every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m. year round.
118. Going for mojitos at Julie's.
119. Then listening to live Cuban music at Lula Lounge.
120. Hopping from one you-call-that-art? gallery to another on Queen West for Thursday-night opening receptions.
121. Coming across a part of the city transformed for a movie shoot.
122. The impossibly ornate, painstakingly constructed Hindu temple that seems totally out of place alongside the 427.
123. Sipping from a green coconut and wishing Toronto had palm trees during Caribana.
124. Lining up for Hakka food in Scarborough.
125. Dancing to a band from a faraway land in the open air at Harbourfront.
126. Reading a book on the bizarre slab of granite on Yorkville Ave.
127. Feeling like you're the first to discover fresh pupusas on Augusta Ave.
128. Jackie Richardson, a one-woman musical treasure.
129. Dusk Dances and Shakespeare in the Park: keeping green space interesting.
130. Pillow fights, Zombie Walks, subway parties, Manhunt and Capture the Flag: keeping it weird.
131. Spectacular patios – the Madison, Quigley's and the Rectory, to name just three – filling up at the first sign of good weather.
132. The "secret" patios hiding at the back of dozens of restaurants.
133. Grazing among the cow statues in the TD Centre plaza.
134. Watching glass blowers performing their molten arts at York Quay Centre.
135. Lying on the grass for a concert at Molson Amphitheatre.
136. Determining your favourite pa'an-wallah – by sampling them all – on Gerrard Street.
137. Collecting your winnings – even if you're at a loss overall – at Woodbine Racetrack.
138. The fact that decades after Mies van der Rohe designed them, the TD towers look brand new.
139. The myriad and lovely stained glass windows on Annex-area homes.
140. Singing karaoke with the Gladstone Cowboy.
141. Doors Open proves that yes, we do give a damn about architecture.
142. And there's more to like here than just the Flatiron Building.
143. Neil Young and Glenn Gould were both born here.
144. The Rolling Stones surprise us with a secret concert once in a while.
145. Off-leash areas of parks, where dog owners sit on picnic tables and mingle while their furry charges roam free.
146. The harbour lit up with sails at sunset on a windy summer's eve.
147. Watching an extended streetcar accordion its way around a curve.
148. Winter DJ skating parties.
149. The overhead OMNIMAX screen and comfy chairs you can lay back on at the Ontario Science Centre.
150. Trying not to puke while riding the Zipper at the CNE.
151. Surviving the vomit comet.
152. The awe-inspiring R.C. Harris fortress of water filtration.
153. York University's ravine-shrouded Glendon campus.
154. The best movies you've never heard of at Cinematheque Ontario.
155. The best movies you missed the first time around – for a better price – at neighbourhood rep houses.
156. Ogling the old-money opulence of Rosedale.
157. And the nouveau opulence of the Bridle Path.
158. The sights and smells of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
159. Summertime drum circles at Trinity Bellwoods Park.
160. We have had two World Series championships when cities that have had franchises longer – that means you, Houston and San Diego – haven't had any.
161. Finding the perfectly musty tweed jacket in Kensington Market.
162. Watching a dance lesson through the expansive windows of the National Ballet School.
163. A taste of Dover at Bluffer's Park.
164. The historic outdoor pool at Sunnyside Park.
165. Helping the artisans make meals from scratch at Black Creek Pioneer Village.
166. Actual gold in the windows of the Royal Bank tower makes us almost nostalgic for days of excess.
167. Winterlicious and Summerlicious, when we can afford to dine amongst the expense-account set.
168. The city is finally realizing there's a waterfront.
169. The Mayor is your Twitter buddy.
170. Looking out from a rooftop lounge, you can see how much the city has changed in the last decade.
171. We're nicer than they say we are. We're just a little shy sometimes.
172. Big enough to be anonymous. Small enough to know your neighbours.
173. It's easy to leave.
174. It's just as easy to come back.
175. If we don't love it, who will?

Rashida’s Rhapsody

Kam Williams

(March 09, 2009) Born in L.A. on February 25, 1976, Rashida Leah Jones is the younger daughter of jazz icon/composer/arranger/record producer Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton of Mod Squad fame. Rashida was raised in Bel Air and attended the prestigious Buckley School where she was a member of the National Honor Society and voted the “Girl Most Likely to Succeed.” The academic overachiever also received religious training at a Hebrew school en route to Harvard University, and she continues to practice Judaism today.

Not one to shrink away from controversy, the brainy beauty came to the defense of her father as a teenager when he was criticized by Tupac Shakur in a 1994 interview with Source Magazine. During a rant against interracial relationships, the late gangsta’ rapper specifically indicted Quincy Jones for marrying a white woman, adding that his children were “all mixed and [expletived] up because they were biracial.”

Although some might question the wisdom of even getting into a pissing fight with a gun-toting, convicted felon who advocated selling crack to kids, Rashida nonetheless summoned up the gumption to confront Tupac, publicly taking him to task for his scathing remarks. His curious response, however, was to woo her big sister, Kidada, and by 1996 the couple was engaged and planning their wedding when ’Pac was blown away in an ambush which remains unsolved to this day.

The next year, Rashida graduated from Harvard before kick-starting her acting career in the TV miniseries The Last Don. Since then, she’s been a staple on the tube, appearing on such shows as Freaks and Geeks, Boston Public, Chappelle’s Show, and most recently, The Office. And her new sitcom, Parks and Recreation, where she will co-star opposite SNL alum Amy Poehler, is set to premiere on NBC on April 9th.

Although twice named to People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People in the World list (in 2002 and 2007), Rashida remains grounded, having been romantically linked not only to heartthrob Josh Hartnett, but also to relatively homely-looking guys like Tobey Maguire, SNL’s Seth Meyers, Mark Ronson, and John Krasinski, a fellow cast member on The Office,.

Here, she talks about her new movie,
I Love You, Man, a romantic comedy where she plays the fiancée of a nerdy loner (Paul Rudd) desperate to make a friend (Jason Segel) to serve as best man at their impending wedding.   

KW: Hey Rashida, thanks for the time.

RJ: No problem.

KW: What interested you in making I Love You, Man?

RJ: First of all, the script was hilarious, and it was just really nice to find a female character that was dynamic, outspoken, interesting and actually an important part of the plot. 

KW: How did you feel about the picture’s bawdy brand of humour?

RJ: I’m not easily offended. I have a pretty high tolerance for raunchiness or shock value, so I’m the wrong person to use as a gauge. I just liked the fact that the comedy, for the most part, is definitely based in reality which naturally lends itself to making crazy jokes.

KW: I’m probably a little more prudish than the average person, because I will admit that at the screening I attended, the rest of the audience was howling from beginning to end, and they even gave it a hearty round of applause at the end. I loved it, too, but I was certainly shocked here and there. 

RJ: That’s great!

KW: How did you like working with Paul Rudd and Jason Segel?

RJ: They’re both absolutely just the most generous, kind and hilarious people I’ve ever worked with. It was really a treat.

KW: I see that your new sitcom, Parks and Recreation, will be premiering soon. Will you continue to appear on The Office?

RJ: It’s not looking that way at the moment, because I’m playing a different character, and those shows are scheduled to come on back-to-back.

KW: You’ve got a new movie and a new TV show. Which medium do you prefer to work in?

RJ: It’s nice to be able to do both TV and film. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. Hopefully, I’ll be able to bounce around in both.

KW: I was very impressed by your performance and chemistry with Paul in this film. So, if it’s a big hit, as I suspect, I’d guess this is going to be a real breakout role for you.

RJ: Thank you. I hope that that’s the case. If not, at the very least, I’m really proud of it. I think it turned out really well. 

KW: I know that you also sing. Any plans to pursue that further right now?  

RJ: Music will always be a part of my life, but career-wise, acting is where my heart is.

KW: I heard that you have a photographic memory. Is that true?

RJ: No. I don’t know where that came from. I think my dad might have said that in a moment of pride, adding to the list of things he’s proud about.

KW: Speaking of your father, is there any truth to the rumour that he was the taxi driver for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air?

RJ: No, that’s not true. Who told you that?

KW: My son, who knows every episode inside and out. It sure looks a lot like your Dad in that opening sequence. And his name comes up as executive producer right after the cabbie’s seen on the screen. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4BQxpXYPk8&feature=related]

RJ: I know.

KW: Incredible! I always thought that I had a piece of inside knowledge that the cab driver was Quincy Jones. But you would know. Do you think the actor even looks like your Dad?

RJ: Kind of. I can’t really remember, but kind of.

KW: I’ve always told people that it’s Quincy Jones, but I guess I’ve been wrong all these years.

RJ: I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong.

KW: Well, it’ll be interesting Googling to get to the bottom of it now. You’ve made People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People twice, five years apart, most recently in 2007. How does that feel?

RJ: It feels really nice. Maybe I’m getting better with age.

KW: What I find just as interesting is you’re making Harper’s Bazaar’s Best Dressed List.

RJ: Yes, thank you.

KW: How would you describe your sense of style?

RJ: I like to wear what make me feel great, which can mean the color, or that the fit’s right, or that it’s just an interesting piece of clothing. I like to change it up. 

KW: Do you have favourite designers?

RJ: I do have designers that I love to wear, like Philip Lim and Marc Jacobs whose stuff I know will look good on my body. But still, I always like to express myself by changing things up.

KW: What was the idea behind that series of hilarious public service announcements you and Natalie Portman made together? I saw them on youtube. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7xT3eiX35w&feature=related]

RJ: It was right before the election, and we went to the writers of Funny or Die because we basically wanted to do something poking fun at those political commercials which we felt were way too serious. So, we decided to do something really stupid.  

KW: How do you feel about Obama’s winning?

RJ: I’m elated! That was the only hope we had left in this country. It made me feel really proud to be an American for the first time in a long time.

KW: In terms of Judaism, are you Orthodox, Conservative or Reformed? Do you keep a kosher kitchen?

RJ: No, I do not keep kosher. I grew up reformed. I never had my bat mitzvah, but I still practice and go to synagogue on high holidays. 

KW: Who are you inviting to your Seder this year at Passover?

RJ: You know, I don’t have a Seder. I always have to piggyback on somebody else’s. I’ll probably go to my friend’s parents’ house.

KW: I’m not Jewish, but I wrote a piece about a Seder I was invited to that look like the United Nations, since they had invited a motley group of people of every color, creed and ethnicity. There were more Gentiles there than Jews.

RJ: How nice. That’s real the spirit of Passover.

KW: What was the source of your beef with Tupac?

RJ: He did this interview in The Source Magazine in which he started ripping on interracial relationships, saying that they ruined the black race and stuff like that. I got pretty irate and frustrated, so I wrote him an open letter.   

KW: When he was murdered, did the police come to speak to you?

RJ: No.

KW: Just kidding. How did you feel when your sister, Kidada, started dating him?

RJ: He apologized a lot, but we had to work through it.

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

RJ: That’s a good question, but no, I can’t come up with an answer to that, because I’m so used to being asked everything. [Chuckles]

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

RJ: That’s really sweet. Yes, I actually am happy. Thank you for asking. 

KW: The Laz Alonso question: Is there anything your fans can do to help you?

RJ: Not for me particularly, but something that irks me is the crazy, stalker-ish, aspects of this voyeuristic culture. People are never really satiated by looking at celebrities whose lives have nothing to do with their own. It’s just supporting this really awful culture where people are being harassed and stalked every day, every minute of the day. I don’t think that’s what people bargained for when they decided to become an actor or singer. It can start with people not supporting that tabloid culture.  

KW: That’s probably why the WASP philosophy is that your name should only in the paper twice, when you’re born, and when you die.

RJ: There you go. I like that. That’s a very good philosophy, but I think I’m way beyond that now. [Laughs]

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

RJ: Yeah, definitely. I’m afraid of roaches.

KW: Then don’t move to Manhattan.

RJ: I know. I’ve lived in New York, so I already went through that.

KW: The “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan question: Where in L.A. do you live?

RJ: I live in L.A., but I’d rather not say where.

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

RJ: During the entire filming of I Love You, Man. It was incredible how much I got to laugh on the set.

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

RJ: I am reading this book called Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker. It’s an account of the events leading up to World War II from different perspectives of people around the world.

KW: What was it like growing up with such talented and well-known parents?

RJ: I don’t know what it’s like to not grow up with that, because I don’t have the other experience. But my parents made a concerted and effective effort to really keep us normal. I had a wonderfully loving, supportive and sheltered childhood, so it never really occurred to me that that was an issue until I went to college.  

KW: How did you like Harvard?

RJ: It was great. I had a wonderful experience there.

KW: Have you ever traced your ancestry?

RJ: Yeah, my dad had our family tree done a long time ago. My great-great grandmother on one side was a slave. We were able to trace our ancestry back through her owner’s lover and her owner who gave her his last name. On the slave owner side, there was a long lineage which included American presidents and Winston Churchill. I don’t know a lot about my mom’s side, but she’s Irish- Jewish on one side, and Russian-Polish-Jewish on the other side. 

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to nowadays? 

RJ: I’m a big Kanye West fan. And I really like this singer/songwriter named Bon Iver.

KW: What was the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome in life?

RJ: I would say dealing with sickness and death.

KW: I’m sorry to hear that. Thanks again for the interview, Rashida, and best of luck with both the new movie and new TV show. 

RJ: Thank you.

To see a trailer for I Love You, Man, visit: HERE 

To see Rashida Jones and Natalie Portman speak out on the global financial crisis, visit HERE  

To see the Fresh Prince opening theme to judge whether Quincy Jones is the cab driver, visit HERE

Simmons And Stronach: Hope To Make Beautiful Music Together

www.globeandmail.com Guy Dixon

(March 10, 2009)   The blood-spewing, kabuki demon is happy to talk “360 marketing” and the search for teen acts to tailor into the next big thing – even a Jonas Brothers-like boy band, if that's what it takes.

“I'd like to sign three acts the first year,” said
Gene Simmons by phone from Beverly Hills, Calif., about his new Canadian record label. He's in Toronto tomorrow to make a keynote speech at Canadian Music Week, taking a break from recording KISS's first studio album in 10 years. Although, he quickly noted, the band is in no hurry to finish the album any time soon, not when Simmons has so many other pots on the stove, including his newly resurrected record label, Simmons Records.

If it's unlikely to think of Simmons, who drooled blood on the cover of KISS Alive! II, looking for squeaky clean teen bands – an even stranger image is his business partnership with ex-politico Belinda Stronach, now back in the fold as executive vice-chair of Magna International, and a silent investor in Simmons Records.

But is it such an about face? The KISS bassist turned marketing whiz, turned reality-TV celebrity, turned record-label front man has always had business in his makeup. The result of all that stage paint, platform boots, pyrotechnics and blood-red food colouring are the more than 2,500 licensing deals KISS has signed, according to Simmons's website.

The resurrection of Simmons Records, which had a less than spectacular existence under the BMG umbrella in the 1980s, came about through a deal with Universal Music Canada, hence the focus on Canadian acts.

The head of Universal Canada, Randy Lennox, has been conspicuously in the market for partnerships with new, unconventional record and media companies, such as his involvement with the Toronto-based upstart WIDEawake Entertainment Group, which recently bought the back catalogue recordings of the Death Row rap label.

Simmons's marketing company, Simmons Abramson Marketing, had been working with Magna Entertainment's horse-racing operations. Meanwhile, Simmons had gotten to know Stronach further when they were exploring potential real-estate investments.

But with Magna Entertainment now in bankruptcy protection and real estate having lost its lustre, Stronach is now investing in a record label which has, it must be said, a highly bankable public face. Simmons is currently filming the latest season of his domesticated rock-star-father reality show Gene Simmons Family Jewels, and he has a hand in everything from a line of clothing to comic books. You can even buy T-shirts with Simmons's face embossed on a $100 U.S. bill with the captions “Go Green With Gene” and “Gene Simmons for President.”

“I love getting up every day and filling it with as much as I can, otherwise I'd be home watching I Love Lucy,” Simmons said.

He thinks a record label should handle all aspects of a band, from image to songwriting, in the same vein as Motown. And every career move should be carried out with an eye out for tie-ins with licensing deals, TV, movies, you name it – that “360-degree” approach to marketing.

Simmons was a little short on the specifics about where his new label has gone since November when word got out about its development. Then as now, Simmons has been touting the Toronto party rap band Down With Webster, which Simmons confirms he's “unabashedly” clamouring to sign. There is still no signed deal, although he's hopeful. He also suggested, despite his Henry Higgins talk of grooming for success, that he would need to do little, if anything to ready that group for the charts.

Just last weekend, an e-mail circulated by the Ottawa band Rudeboy claims that Simmons has been phoning Craig Simon's house and sending e-mails to say how much he likes the group. Simmons apparently also added in the message that “as a fan of the Special and the English Beat, let me say how much I enjoyed your stuff.” Gene Simmons and ska?

Ultimately, Simmons is open to all ideas. “I'm looking for the next U2 and Led Zeppelin. The only thing that matters is ‘Do you have the goods?'“ he says, but adds “it's not enough to be [just] a band.”

Meanwhile, he's getting set for a stadium tour of South America with KISS, before a swing back to Canada for a few gigs in July. Tomorrow, during Simmons's keynote speech at Canadian Music Week, expect a lot more talk about 360-degree marketing, branding and making the impossible possible. As he likes to say, “TV, music, politics, we're all in the same business. You need to use any and every tool possible in this really difficult economic period.”


Joe Fresh Style & Loblaws Launch Cosmetics Collection

Note from Dawn:  Most of you have probably heard of the Joe Fresh Style™ clothing line by Loblaws, found in many chains of Loblaws stores across the country.  Joe Fresh Style™ is the brainchild of Joseph Mimran, who, among many accolades, also founded the hip urban chic of both Club Monaco and Caban.  The Joe Fresh Style™ is casual chic designed for Canadian fashionistas that include value as one of their style priorities.  If you’ve been to one of the stores, you will have found stylish casual and weekend wear for an exceptional value.

Now, they join the beauty and cosmetic ranks with Joe Fresh Beauty™.  You can expect the same value and consistency in this line of cosmetics. I was fortunate enough to obtain a variety of the beauty products which range in price from $4 to $8 (!!)  The extensive selection includes all the colours of the season, not to mention incredibly modish packaging. 

I’ve made some notes below (noted with *Note) beside the products that I was able to try and noted some of my favourites.  At the prices stated below are such a good buy, you cannot go without trying a handful of these cosmetics for your face, eyes and lips and welcome in spring with that youthful glow!

Joe Fresh Style & Loblaws Launch Cosmetics Collection

Source:  Joe Fresh Style

(March 4, 1009) TORONTO, ON – Joe Fresh Style, the epitome of affordable chic, and Loblaw Companies Limited are launching an inspired collection of stylish and well-priced cosmetics aptly named Joe Fresh Beauty.  The comprehensive range of face, lip and eye products will be available in March ’09 in over 250 stores across Canada.

Joe Fresh Beauty collection remains true to the Joe Fresh Style brand of offering customers quality products that are both fashionable and affordable.

Joe Mimran, Creative Director, Joe Fresh Style, says “The approach we’ve used with the fashion collection translates beautifully to cosmetics.  We want to dress our customers from head to toe and that includes make-up.  For us, it’s always about value, style and quality.”

With these three attributes top of mind, the collection has been created to be comparable to prestige lines that are frequently used by make-up artists, found in department stores and boutiques nationwide.  Every item, from cheek tint to fine tip liquid eyeliner, is designed to have superior wearability and lasting coverage.

To ensure quality products across all categories, in 2008 the Joe Fresh Beauty collection was sampled to top make-up artists across Canada to rave reviews.

The collection features over 60 shades for lips and eyes.  The colour palettes are designed to work effortlessly everyday with seasonal colour introductions to reflect the trends.  Foundation shades work well for almost all skin tones and are consistent across all three formats: liquid, cream and pressed powder.

Using the following seven key Joe Fresh Beauty products, women on the go can create a naturally beautiful look in five minutes or less: cream foundation, duo concealer, cheek tint, fine tip liquid eyeliner, mascara, brow pencil and moisturizing lip tint.

To accompany the new cosmetics collection, Joe Fresh Beauty also offers make-up brushes and other accessories.

The Joe Fresh Beauty collection has 200 SKUs with prices ranging from $4-8 for make-up and $2-16 for brushes and accessories.

“The partnership with Joe Mimran and our design team lets us enhance the shopping experience of all of our customers,” says Elizabeth Margles, Vice President, Marketing, Joe Fresh Style, Loblaw Companies Limited.  “The response to the Joe Fresh Style collections has been immediately positive, from apparel and jewellery to sunglasses and accessories.  We want to continue to surprise and delight our customers with every shop.”

For store locations across Canada, visit www.joe.ca.

Loblaw Companies Limited is Canada’s largest food distributor and a leading provider of general merchandise, drugstore and financial products and services. Through its various operating banners, Loblaw is committed to providing Canadians with a one-stop destination in meeting their food and everyday household needs. This goal is pursued through a portfolio of store formats across the country. It also offers one of Canada’s strongest control label programs, including the unique President’s Choice and no name brands. Loblaw is one of the largest private-sector employers in Canada, employing over 134,000 full-time and part-time employees.

Product Fact Sheet


Product Name




Light Weight Foundation (liquid)

30 ml

Light 1, 2, 3
Medium 1, 2, 3
Dark 1, 2, 3


Cream Foundation

9.5 g

Light 1, 2, 3
Medium 1, 2, 3
Dark 1, 2, 3


Pressed Powder

11 g

Light 1, 2, 3
Medium 1, 2, 3
Dark 1, 2, 3


Duo Concealer

4.5 ml cream
 1.4 g stick

Light, Medium, Dark



11 g

Glow, Sun Kissed, Tan


Cheek Tint

4 g

Berry, Bronze, Nude, Cherry, Peach, Pink


Note: Really creamy sheer blush in small tube

7 g

Plum, Berry, Rose, Pink, Pale Peach



Product Name




Eye Shadow (single shades)*
Note: BEAUTIFUL colours; apply as sheer or as matte as you want. Great long-lasting wear with clear packaging.

3.3 g

Silk, Pebble, Bronze, Espresso, Chocolate, Pale Pink, Baked Clay, Dusty Rose, Plum, Petrol, Silver, Charcoal, Midnight, Black

S/S Trend: Gold Rush, Olive, Forest, Cherry Blossom, Faded Violet, Powder Blue, Denim


Eye Shadow Trio

7 g

S/S Trend: Smoke, Copper, Blue Petrol, Violet, Forest, Espresso, Olive


Eyeliner (automatic)*
Note: has eyeliner at one end and a smudger at the other that snaps off and voila! A sharpener!

0.3 g

Black, Brown, Bronze, Charcoal, Petrol, Forest, Olive, Purple


Eyeliner (pencil)

1 g

Black, Chocolate, Charcoal, Pearl, Gold,

S/S Trend: Silver, Opal, Aqua, Royal Blue, Forest, Violet, Slate


Fine Tip Liquid Eyeliner

1 ml

Brown, Black


Brow Pencil*
Note: has a brush for your brows at the other end!

1.3 g

Blonde, Auburn, Brown, Black


Brow Powder

3.3 g

Blonde, Auburn, Brown, Black



8 g

Brown, Black


Clear Mascara & Brow Gel

8 g




Product Name




Cream Lipstick*
Note: Very creamy and clear packaging so you can see the colour

3.3 g

Peach, Dusty Rose, Pink, Berry, Cinnamon, Plum, Coral, Cocoa, Nutmeg, Coffee, Strawberry, Watermelon, Ruby, Blackberry


Matte Lipstick

3.3 g

Coral, Poppy, Ruby, Nude, Rose, Mocha, Clay, Brick, Fuchsia, Watermelon, Berry, Bordeaux


Tinted Lip Balm

4 g

Nude, Coral, Blush, Pomegranate, Blackberry


Lip Gloss
Note: Stays on a REALLY long time and not gummy at all!

3 ml

Sheer Pink, Bare, Mauve, Coffee, Bordeaux, Ginger, Ruby, Berry, Clear, Peach, Candy, Poppy


Matte & Sheer Lip Crayons*
Note: Very creamy and sheer with easy application

2.6 g

Sheer Pink, Candy, Apple, Bare, Berry, Brick, Cherry, Cinnamon, Malt, Bordeaux, Plum, Wine


Lip Stain*
Note: Stains your lips in a light shade for long-lasting wear; wear with a gloss overtop!

3 ml

Sheer Pink, Candy, Peach, Apple, Watermelon, Cinnamon


Lip Liner (automatic)

0.3 g

Cinnamon, Mocha, Coffee, Plum, Pink, Rose, Poppy, Berry



Product Name



Manicure & Pedicure Kit


Nail file, scissors, hindostone, nail clipper

3-in-1 Tweezer Kit


Interchangeable tweezers

Eye Grooming Kit


Tweezers, eyelash curler, brow and lash brush

Manicure & Pedicure Kit


Soak dish, nail clippers, nail brush, emery board, toe separators, orange stick

Brush Kit


Powder, eye shadow, eyeliner and crease brushes

Cuticle Trimmer



Cuticle Pusher



Emery Board



Matchbook Emery Boards



100 Blotting Papers



8 Cosmetic Wedges



Duo Sharpener



Compact Mirror


Regular & 2x magnifying


Product Name


Powder Brush


Blush Brush


Foundation Brush


Concealer Brush


Brow & Lash Brush


Crease Brush


Large Eye Shadow Brush


Small Eye Shadow Brush


Eyeliner Brush


Fine Liner Brush


Kabuki Brush


Retractable Lip Brush


Retractable Powder Brush


Joe Fresh Beauty Spring/Summer ’09 Trends

Source:  Joe Fresh Style

(March 4, 1009) TORONTO, ON - Joe Fresh Beauty, the new cosmetics line from Joe Fresh Style and Loblaw Companies Limited, brings colour, quality and affordability to consumers across Canada in early March ’09.

Just in time for spring/summer, the collection boasts beautiful neutrals and an array of colours for all ages and ethnicities.  The colours draw its inspiration from the Joe Fresh Style fashion collection, with shades like cherry blossom, faded violet and denim.

The inaugural collection offers a wide range of fresh hues for eyes, lips and cheeks for an everyday-wear look, accentuated by a selection of bold colours and unique products to create a more dramatic face.

For spring/summer ’09, Joe Fresh Beauty offers some fun beauty tips that will work for day or evening.

Bare but Groomed: For all seasons, “the look” starts with gorgeous, healthy looking skin.  Joe Fresh Beauty’s liquid foundation is formulated to match your skin tone, or for a dewier glow, try the cream foundation.

Brow Wow: Bold brows are back, but need to be groomed.  The Joe Fresh Beauty brow powder duos and brow pencils make brows stand out while the brow gel tames any stray hairs.

Drama Queen: The modern look this spring combines minimalism with bold features.  Try the new smoky eye in black or midnight, or for a more metallic looking eye use bronze, pebble or silver. 

Fresh Flush:
For a glowing cheek, try the new cheek tint or powder blush in peach.

Glamour Girl: Liner is no longer simply worn in a straight line.  Think glamour when applying the black or brown eyeliner pencil or go for more drama with the liquid liner.

Hot Lips:
Spring/summer lips are all about haute colour.  Joe Fresh Beauty’s cream lipsticks in ruby and watermelon and matte lipsticks in berry, fuchsia and poppy create hot looks for warmer weather.

The Colour Purple:
Every spring/summer collection needs a dash of pretty, and in 2009, it’s all about lovely purple eyes with faded violet eye shadow.


Miami To Canada: We Like You; We Really Like You

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Coates,
Travel Advisory

(March 06, 2009) A "Miami Loves Canada" promotion has been launched by five Canadian tour operators and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, offering travellers booking Miami packages free room nights.

The "Stay a Night on Us" campaign offers a free night's stay when a special Miami package is booked through one of the operators by April 30 for travel through September. Travellers also have a chance to win a Valentine's Day trip to Miami in February 2010. Canadian partners include Air Canada Vacations, Alio Tours, Holiday House, Royal Scenic Tours and Sunwing Tours. www.miamiandbeaches.com or call 1-800-933-8448.

AEROMEXICO ADDS TORONTO: AeroMexico has expanded its North American operations with new service to and from Toronto. Daily, non-stop flights to Mexico City offer connections to 40 destinations throughout Mexico, as well as to cities in 12 other countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia. Flights depart Toronto's Pearson International at 9 a.m., arriving in Mexico City at 1 p.m. (CST). See www.aeromexico.com.

CRUISE PROTECTION PLAN: Norwegian Cruise Line has introduced a new "Book Safe Travel Protection Plan," which fully reimburses passengers who are forced to cancel due to a job loss. Travellers purchasing the plan, which starts at $29 (U.S.) per person, can cancel at any time up until their scheduled departure if a job loss occurs. See www.ncl.com.

ELITE PLUS: New on Sunwing Airlines' summer domestic schedule (June 15 to Sept. 11) out of Toronto is the airline's Elite Plus service, offering advance seat selection, seats with extra legroom, priority check-in, advance boarding and a 30 kg baggage allowance. The cost is $35 each way.

See www.flysunwing.com or call 1-877-sunwing.

MORE ICELANDAIR: Icelandair has added a sixth transatlantic flight to its Toronto schedule, which operates from April 1 to Oct. 23. The sixth weekly flight will be available from June 20 through Sept. 4. See www.icelandair.ca.


The Galley Bay Resort & Spa in Antigua is offering up to 51 per cent savings, with rates starting at $499 per couple — down from $1,015 for superior beachfront rooms. Bookings must be made by March 31 for travel through Dec. 20. Contact 1-800-345-0356 or visit www.galleybayresort.com.

DID YOU KNOW? Air Canada has launched a new "Europe Pass," valid for one year and available with six flight credits (three round trips) for a single traveller or eight flight credits for up to two travellers. The pass comes in Executive First and two Economy Class versions starting at $2,994, including taxes. Those purchasing the pass by April 17 can also take advantage of a bonus pass offer of two or four flight credits. See www.aircanada.com.


Bettye LaVette Hustling To Become A Household Name

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

(March 05, 2009) On the scene nearly half a century, Bettye LaVette has been hailed as one of America's "greatest soul singers," but she's only just getting her due.

The Michigan native, who grew up with Motown's finest, including The Supremes and The Temptations, scored a Top 10 R&B hit at 16 with "My Man (He's a Loving Man)."

But she floundered on the sidelines for decades before returning to the touring circuit on the strength of 2005's I've Got My Own Hell to Raise.

Currently on the road supporting 2007's The Scene of the Crime, she performed recently for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama at the Kennedy Centre Honors and pre-inauguration concert "We Are One," respectively.

The Toronto Star spoke with the 63-year-old singer by phone from L.A. this week before her Tuesday night debut on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She performs at the Bathurst Street Theatre tomorrow.

Q: Are you nervous about your first Tonight Show appearance?

A: No. This is my 47th year in this business. There are things to be anxious about, but The Tonight Show wouldn't be one of them; maybe a song I'd never done before, or if I suddenly had to dance, or remember some lines. If anything was going to make me nervous, it would've been singing for two presidents in six weeks.

Q: To what do you attribute these high-profile invitations you've been getting lately?

A: The exposure that I'm getting now that I wasn't getting before. It's all about exposure; it has very little to do with talent. I've been fortunate in the last five years to finally find a husband, a booking agency, a manager and a record company.

Q: What has your husband (her third) contributed to your career resurgence?

A: I'm pretty old, so I was pretty much set when we got married. It's just that he knows a lot about what I do – he's a record historian and collector – and he's extremely helpful to me. I think if you burst my husband open, nothing but musical notes would fall out.

Q: Are you the same age?

A: No, I'm older than everybody. He's only about six, seven years younger. You have to have several years under your belt to deal with me.

Q: What would be your professional pinnacle?

A: To become a household name. I've worked on that for a very long time. Up until now I've collected about 100 people a year; now I'm collecting them faster. I started singing in Detroit in 1962. My first record happened before (Aretha Franklin's 1967 hit) "Respect." All my friends became rich and famous. Now I have to do everything that I have to do quick 'cause I'm so damn old.

Q: You make 63 sound ancient.

A: It's too old to be hustling.

Just the facts
WHO: Bettye LaVette


WHEN: Friday, 9 p.m.

WHERE: Bathurst Street Theatre, 736 Bathurst St.

TICKETS: $32.50 at Ticketmaster

Maladjusting With Francophone Band Malajube

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner,
Pop Music Critic

(March 08, 2009) We Canadians have a habit of dismissing our neighbours to the south as insular sorts who don't give a toss about our culture and, as Scott Thompson once memorably put it on The Kids in the Hall, "show up at the border with skis in July."

By this rationale, francophone pop from Quebec's chances of finding an audience in the States should be about on par with the survival rate of snowballs in Hell. But after their ears were alerted by the Arcade Fire to the many wonders within the Montreal music scene, Americans took to
Malajube's 2006 sophomore album, Trompe L'Oeil, in large enough numbers to establish the quartet as an in-demand international touring act that could play packed houses night by night in unlikely places like Cleveland, Omaha and Phoenix. Thanks to blog-stoked word of mouth, the U.K. wasn't far behind.

English Canada isn't exactly a model of tolerance when it comes to franco-pop, but here the intricate pop of Trompe L'Oeil was taken to heart by a nation's worth of critics and indie-rock fans, scoring Malajube a nomination on the first-ever shortlist for the Polaris Music Prize later that year. Suddenly, Malajube found itself appointed ambassador for the "other" half of the Montreal underground, the half that conducts its rock `n' roll business in French and, as a result, rarely gets much mention in Anglo coverage of the city's recent, globally documented musical blossoming.

Frontman Julien Mineau concedes it was "really flattering" when U.S. organs like Pitchfork and Spin started singing Malajube's praises, and says he's still somewhat boggled that the band's latest album, Labyrinthes – out last month on Montreal indie label Dare to Care – is about to receive an official American release.

"It's strange. We're lucky to be listened to even though we're in an English-music world," he says from his home in Ste-Ursule, a rural community on the north shore of the St. Lawrence. "But it's cool like that. I'm really happy that we get this kind of attention ...

"Many more bands are getting seen or getting record deals in Quebec because they realize they can do it by singing in their own language. That's what I kind of like about it."

Trompe L'Oeil was a bit of a phenomenon within Quebec, as well, logging loads of mainstream radio play and earning Malajube several offers to sign with major labels, all of which the band turned down. And with Labyrinthes – which debuted on the Canadian SoundScan album chart at No. 6 – the band has all but turned down any further involvement with commercial radio, too.

True to its title, the record is an utterly non-linear rush of gonzo prog dynamics and capricious mood swings, offering sighing high harmonies and lulling, beachfront melodies one minute and battering-ram riffery worthy of late-period Voivod the next. It's a dense, confusing listen at first, but the ambition and musicianship contained therein transcend any language barriers, even if the purposefully convoluted end results might alienate a portion of Malajube's less committed fans.

"We just made a strange record for the fun of it," says Mineau. "We got lots of radio airplay last time and we were kind of unfamiliar with that. We weren't playing the same game as other people on the radio, so we kinda made sure we weren't going to be on the radio again.

"We're still in our 20s, so we can do one last strange record, at least. Not that it's going to be the last, but we're still young enough to do experimentation like that."

After something like two years and 300 dates on the road in support of Trompe L'Oeil in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Europe and Japan, an exhausted Malajube was certainly ready for some fun. The sessions for Labyrinthes were thus conducted quickly and with a minimum of practice, without labouring over the album endlessly "as if it was the last record we were ever going to do."

The plan was also not to take the proceedings too seriously, and Mineau maintains that Labyrinthes' towering prog-rock excesses are mostly humorous in intent.

"We wanted to stop touring and just get together again and play music for ourselves – not in front of other people, just to work on the band and everything, the life of the band," he says. "We wanted to just mix different kinds of music together to make something new – stuff that doesn't go together at all. Every track is kinda jammed and you can hear it. Everything's not perfectly played, but that's the way we did it. It's a work-in-progress album.

"At some point, we realized we could do any kind of music. We didn't know what kind of music we were. Malajube, what is it?"

Malajube plays El Mocambo this Thursday night at 9 p.m. as part of the Canadian Music Week festivities.

Seal Maps Out 14-City North American Tour


(March 09, 2009) *Seal has announced a spring concert jaunt through North America that will stop in 14 cities, including Chicago, Toronto, Atlantic City, New York and Albuquerque, reports Live Daily.  The Grammy-winning performer will hit the road beginning March 31 in Minneapolis, and continue on through early May.   The singer/songwriter's most recent work, "Soul," hit shelves last November. Produced by David Foster (Celine Dion, Whitney Houston), the 11-track effort covers classic soul songs, including James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," Al Green's "Here I Am" and Ben E King's "Stand By Me."   The full schedule of North American dates is below:

April 2009
1 - Chicago, IL - Civic Opera House
3 - Windsor, Ontario - Casino Windsor
4 - Toronto, Ontario - Massey Hall
6 - Boston, MA - Orpheum Theatre
8 - Upper Darby, PA - Tower Theatre
10 - Mashantucket, CT - MGM Grand Theater
11 - Atlantic City, NJ - Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa
15 - Columbia, MD - Merriweather Post Pavilion
16 - New York, NY - Radio City Music Hall
18 - Atlanta, GA - Chastain Park Amphitheatre
19 - St Petersburg, FL - Mahaffey Theater
22 - Miami, FL - Fillmore Miami Beach At Jackie Gleason Theater
24 - Biloxi, MS - Beau Rivage Resort & Casino
25 - Houston, TX - Verizon Wireless Theater
28 - Austin, TX - Bass Concert Hall
29 - Grand Prairie, TX - Nokia Theatre At Grand Prairie

May 2009
1 - Albuquerque, NM - Sandia Resort and Casino
3 - Valley Center, CA - Valley View Casino
5 - Oakland, CA - Fox Theater
6 - Los Angeles, CA - Nokia Theater LA Live

Charlie Wilson Says 'Uncle'

www.eurweb.com - By Kenya M Yarbrough

(March 09, 2009) *Charlie Wilson, a.k.a. Uncle Charlie, has one of the most distinct and familiar voices in R&B.

The former lead singer of the very funky GAP Band, laced the ‘80s hits “Burn Rubber on Me,” “You Dropped a Bomb on Me,” “Early in the Morning,” and “Outstanding,” and while the GAP Band is legendary, Wilson took his show solo in 2005 and now the troubadour has released his second solo disc, “Uncle Charlie,” leading with the hit single, “There Goes My Baby.”

The record debuted at #1 on the R&B Albums chart last month, but the success of the album hasn’t necessarily been the singer’s greatest promotion lately. In addition to supporting “Uncle Charlie,” Wilson has also been speaking out on behalf of prostate cancer testing. Certainly, it’s a worthy topic, but it’s more than that for Wilson. Just as he was putting the finishing touches on his new disc, he was diagnosed with the disease.

“I’m feeling a lot better now, for sure,” he told EUR’s Lee Bailey.

According to Wilson, he got the news after going in for a routine annual check up.

 “I do it every year, but my wife insisted on me getting a PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test. My test came back 3.9,” he said of the level in his blood. “My doctor was concerned and asked me to do another test 30 days later. I did the test again, and it came back 4.9.”

Concerned because the one-point jump was particularly aggressive, his doctor told him to see a specialist.

“I went to a prostate specialist and he wanted to do a biopsy. So we a biopsy and he said, ‘Charlie, I have some good news and some bad news.’”

 When Wilson asked for the bad news first, his doctor told him he had prostate cancer.

“I immediately tried to pick my face up off the floor, and my heart had dropped as well,” Wilson described. My wife turned to him and asked, ‘What’s the good news?’”

The good news was that his cancer was in the early stages. Still, Wilson said he was completely devastated.

“I was looking at all the procedures you can do, but when you say cancer, I was only thinking about chemotherapy. All I could remember was the guy said I had cancer,” he said. “It hadn’t sunk into me was that it was early state; that I just need to go through the procedure and be done with it. But I went back to the specialist and we took care of it.”

Though Wilson did seek out a second opinion, he kept in mind that there was only a certain window of opportunity to take advantage of procedures his doctor had recommended.

The singer shared that he felt a little at ease going into surgery when his doctor asked him for a favour.

“Just before I went under, I saw one of the other doctors in the hallway. He had something in his hand,” Wilson began. “Here came my doctor, ‘Man, why didn’t you tell me you were the Charlie Wilson from the Gap Band? Sign my CD!’ And he said, ‘You know I am going to play ‘You Drop the Bomb on Me’ while I’m doing the procedure.’”

And with a successful surgery, he’s taken the opportunity to take up the cause and teamed up with the Prostate Cancer Foundation to help fund research.

“I would recommend a guy going to the doctor. Early detection is the key. Early detection is the message I’m trying to get out to the brothers,” he said. “Real talk, go get yourself checked out. One in three African American men will develop prostate cancer. Every 18 minutes, we’re dying of prostate cancer. I’ve done a lot of performing; this is my time to do a lot of informing.”

Wilson’s performing days are certainly not coming to an end. The singer is jazzed about his new disc.

“I think I have something on there for everybody,” he said of the album. “My first single is called ‘There Goes My Baby,’ written by Babyface and singer/songwriter Calvin Richardson.”

 The disc also features a little help form T-Pain and Jamie Foxx on the track “Supa Sexxy” and from his good friend Snoop Dogg on “Let It Out.”

“My record is hot to death,” says a proud Uncle Charlie.

To find out more about Charlie Wilson, the new disc, and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, go to his website at www.charliewilsonmusic.com.

India's Musicians Are Winning Commercial Success By Switching To Their Mother Tongue

Source: www.thestar.com - Rick Westhead,
South Asia Bureau

(March 07, 2009) NOIDA, India – It's 10 p.m. and Palash Sen has a crowd of 12,000 college students eating out of his hand.

Bounding across an outdoor stage in a black muscle shirt and blue jeans, the lead singer of the Indian rock band Euphoria waves his arms and urges his fans to follow suit.

A few metres away, security staff strain to hold a chest-high bamboo fence in place. Students press against it, leaping in rhythm with the blend of traditional Indian music and electric guitars and drums that pulse from giant speakers.

"They're the best!" shrieks Danvi Rekhi, a 22-year-old MBA student in the front row, snapping pictures with her cellphone camera.

A New Delhi-based orthopedic doctor, Sen formed Euphoria in the early 1990s and the group is now widely considered to be India's most commercially successful rock band.

Yet despite its English-language name, Euphoria's breakthrough in India came only after it stopped recording songs in English.

"Switching to Hindi was key," said Sen, sipping a small coffee a few minutes after he left the stage. "English is still not the language of expression in India; it's just the language of communication."

Other pop stars in India are discovering the same thing.

Despite English being the language of commerce in India since the 18th century, not enough young Indians speak the language well enough to connect with English lyrics. And the popularity of Bollywood musicals, with their Hindi song and dance, extends to the recording world, too.

Like the rock group Euphoria, pop star Raghu Dixit, 34, discovered using English didn't work as a way to promote his songs.

In 1999, when Dixit was working in Belgium as a microbiologist, he won a competition and one of his songs was played on a local radio station. It sounded good enough, Dixit said, that music promoters urged him to return to India and start a career as a musician.

But he was told to forget any idea of recording in English.

"I was faking the English accent and struggling to roll my R's," Dixit said. "It just didn't sound real. The truth is, in India, you have 1.1 billion people and only 100 million of them speak English. It's a big enough market that you don't have to do English."

Others are starting to follow Euphoria and Dixit's lead.

The reality TV show Launchpad is about to start its second season on Channel V, one of India's 100-plus cable TV networks. (There were none before 1991.) Styled after American Idol, Launchpad features Indian musicians competing to avoid dismissal from the show.

In its first full season last year, the show started with 10 acts. All were English.

This year, 20 bands will be featured when the season starts airing on March 20 and at least four will perform in Hindi and three others will play Bengali music, said Rohit Gupta, Launchpad's producer.

"We didn't accept bands that played Hindi last year because it's harder to judge bands playing different languages, but this year we really wanted to reach people who don't speak English," he said. "It's too big a market."

With revenue from CD sales negligible, India's top bands rely on concerts to spur profits. Dixit performs seven or eight times a month and said he receives as much as $15,000 for each performance.

Music labels are now starting to promote Hindi songs as cellphone ring tones. "That's where 70 per cent of the revenue in this business comes from," says music promoter Vijay Nair.

As Euphoria star Sen says when he ends the set on the stage in Noida, the possibilities for Hindi-singing stars are beyond euphoric.

Nicole Cabell : Young Soprano Hits The High Notes

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

(March 05, 2009) On a cellphone from California's Sonoma Valley, Nicole Cabell sounds like any other tourist happy to get some sun and relaxation.

Not that her working life is anything to run away from. The 31-year-old soprano was singled out as one of the world's top young singers when she won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2005. The win catapulted her from relative obscurity to the world's most prestigious venues.

Her first solo album was released in 2007 to positive reviews. She marked another milestone in her arrival in the top tier of North American singers just before Christmas, making her Metropolitan Opera debut as Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute.

When she arrives at Roy Thomson Hall for a solo recital on Sunday afternoon, it will be Toronto's first live opportunity to hear what all the fuss is about.

Cabell lives in Chicago, but her heart belongs to California – specifically, the dusty Pacific hillsides of Ventura, which are the very opposite of glamorous.

Cabell's high school on Ventura's tumbledown Main St. – "all hail to the black and gold" goes the school song – looks more like a Hollywood backlot prelude to a quiet suburban life than a springboard to world diva domination.

The soprano's first taste of music came from playing the flute in junior high band. She needed more. "I wanted to be an instrumentalist, but a marching band wasn't cutting it for me," she says.

One day, when Cabell was in her mid-teens, her mother heard her singing in the house and suggested she join a choir.

"By coincidence, there was an audition for a chamber choir the next day, and I got in," Cabell recalls.

Around the same time, she landed a part in a high school musical. She loved the experience and soon started singing lessons. "I spend six weeks studying and they sent me to a classical teacher," the soprano says of her swift progress.

After vocal studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and Juilliard in New York City, Cabell landed a spot in Chicago Lyric Opera's young ensemble. It was a three-year stint that gave her the means to kick-start her career.

"The only way you really, really know (what you are capable of) is by doing," the singer says.

She says two of her chief inspirations have been previous-generation soprano greats Mirella Freni and Renata Scotto. Listening to her solo album, Soprano (Decca), the resemblance in vocal quality and style is striking.

Early on, Cabell decided she would try to balance opera with symphonic work and song. For Sunday's program, she has chosen an interesting mix of art song, ending with traditional spirituals. Her accompanist is Spencer Myer, also making his Toronto debut.

Cabell says solo recitals are much more demanding than opera. There are all the words to remember. There are no other singers sharing the stage. "And you have to switch characters between songs and sets. It needs a lot of preparation time," she explains.

She's up for the challenge.

Just the facts
WHO: Nicole Cabell

WHERE: Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

WHEN: Sunday at 2 p.m.

TICKETS: $25-$65 at 416-872-4255 or roythomson.com

All I Ever Wanted: Kelly Clarkson

www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

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

(March 10, 2009)  Let's be honest: the beating poor
Kelly Clarkson took over 2007's My December had more to do with the feisty Texan's decision to oppose the will of the music-biz million-dollar boys' club – including legendary industry mogul Clive Davis – than any gross deficiencies on the record's part.

Its sales were sabotaged by bad buzz and a blown-out arena tour, yet the surprisingly bad-tempered My December was actually another pretty decent pop album in the tough-chick vein of her 2004 smash, Breakaway. In co-writing the entire, petulant thing herself, Clarkson might have earned the ire of her handlers and sacrificed some fans, but she walked away with a kind of credibility to which few other American Idol graduates can lay claim.

Hearteningly, Clarkson is still sporting black leather and a pugilistic Pat Benatar pose on All I Ever Wanted. Somewhat more dishearteningly, though, she's back to sharing the credits with a posse of hitmakers-for-hire – the ubiquitous Max Martin and Dr. Luke, Katy Perry and OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder among them – and only seven of the disc's 16 tracks are co-writes, implying there's been a capitulation on Ms. Clarkson's part. At least the Emily Dickinson quotation ("Defeat means nothing but defeat, / No drearier, can prevail!") appended to the CD booklet suggests she's aware of her situation.

Still, the renewed focus on scientific hooks can't really be used against All I Ever Wanted. Stuffed to the gills with rousing choruses about ne'er-do-well boyfriends and persevering through bad times, it's a most appealing barrage of mildly rocking bubblegum. No. 1 hit "My Life Would Suck Without You" is a giddy dance-pop cousin to Cher's "Believe," "I Do Not Hook Up" and "Don't Let Me Stop You" bristle with barbed girl power, and "whyyawannabringmedown" is a shouty mall-punk tantrum fated to blast out of 12-year-old girls' bedrooms for months to come. The ballads aren't quite as fun, but for the most part they err on the "power" side and, even if the sentiment is songwriter Keri Noble's, it's hard to miss the conviction with which Clarkson delivers the "be who you are" message of "If No One Will Listen."

Featherweight, yes, but there are guiltier pleasures out there.

Top Track: "Whyyawannabringmedown." Kelly Clarkson isn't quite Sham 69, no, but this should prove the catalyst for a few pre-teen rebellions.

U2 Tour Features Recession Pricing

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

(March 10, 2009)  Not since their early '80s nascence when they played small venues like the El Mocambo and the Maple Leaf Ballroom could you catch a U2 show for $30 – the bottom price for the band's upcoming tour.

"I can't recall when there was a show with an act of that magnitude that had a $30 ticket," said Toronto promoter Jonathan Ramos. "It would be hard for us to find that price for an artist a tier below."

Tickets, which range up to $250, go on sale later this month for the Irish rockers' "360 Degrees" road show, which kicks off in Barcelona on June 30 and hits the Rogers Centre on Sept. 16.

"We've tried to come up with a pricing structure that recognizes the realities of what's going on," said Arthur Fogel, CEO of Live Nation Global Touring, of the introduction of the 10,000 lower-priced tickets.

But don't consider that another of the socially progressive group's humanitarian gestures, warned veteran music journalist Larry Leblanc.

"Doesn't it smack of a PR thing to you?" he wondered. "Let's not kid ourselves, (big concert promoters) take a huge rap because of ticket prices being as high as they are.

"But the ticket prices are the way they are because the artists are insisting that they be paid that kind of money.

"A lot of the bands will argue records sales have gone down and seeing a band live is the last place that they can get their money's worth out of the fan."

Billboard said the U2 tour is expected to be one of the highest-grossing ever. The band's 2005-2007 "Vertigo" tour pulled in $389 million, ranking second only to the $558 million haul for the Rolling Stones' "Bigger Bang" trek during the same period.

Artists' fees are always the biggest expense, said Ramos, whose Ramos Entertainment Management Group club and theatre shows generally range from $10-$60.

"The price is determined by what we think the market will bear based on a band's history and how they've done in other markets," he explained, noting that these days, even when fans may not be able to afford vacations or a new car, the demand for "legacy artists" such as the Eagles, AC/DC or Madonna is always high. "It's not so much about their last record, it's about what that artist means (to them)."

Toronto promoter Keith Baker was in discussions to present Chris Brown's first headlining Toronto show at the Air Canada Centre this summer.

"We were just awaiting the performance at the Grammy awards," revealed Baker, whose UCR2 Entertainment organized the R&B singer's 2006 Canadian debut at Mississauga's Hershey Centre. "Everybody was anticipating the huge global audience that he would be playing in front of leading to the launch of about five or six dates being planned in Canada."

Now Baker is waiting for Brown to "bounce back" after missing the Grammy gig and subsequently being charged with assaulting singer-girlfriend Rihanna.

Baker is also a U2 fan, anxious to buy tickets for the band's Toronto date. "These kinds of global tours are good for the economy," he posited, recalling the huge Rolling Stones-headlined concert the city staged to lure visitors back following the 2003 SARS outbreak.


Queen Latifah Has A New 'Friend'


(March 05, 2009) *Queen Latifah fans have spoken. A winner has been chosen in the singer's quest to choose a track for her upcoming album. Ingrid Woode, of Sharonville, Ohio, will join Latifah in the studio to record Woode's original song "Fairweather Friend" for the upcoming "Persona" album, set for release this spring, reports the Associated Press. The 25-year-old Woode works a "day job" at a pharmaceutical company, said a spokeswoman for People's Choice, which conducted the contest with Latifah. The outcome was released online late Tuesday. Latifah announced the contest when she hosted the People's Choice Awards in January, with aspiring singer-songwriters invited to submit tunes. The Oscar nominee for "Chicago" narrowed the submissions down to three, the songs were posted on the People's Choice Web site, http://www.pcavote.com, and fans selected Woode as the winner.

Eminem Promises To 'Relapse' In May


(March 06, 2009) *Eminem's label Interscope released a statement Thursday proclaiming May 19th as the release date for his upcoming album, "Relapse," with a single and video set to premiere on April 7. A second 2009 release, "Relapse 2," has yet to set a street date, however, Em said in the statement that he's currently recording tracks for the album to drop in the second half of this year.  "A lot of people were expecting 'Relapse' to drop last year," Eminem said in the press release. "I was one of them. Then Dre and I went back in the studio in September for a few days, and that turned into six months. We were on such a roll; we wound up with a ton of new music produced by Dre. Putting out 'Relapse 2' will let everyone get all of the best stuff."   Last year, Em dropped a freestyle called "I'm Having a Relapse" while promoting his autobiography, "Eminem: The Way I Am." In January, the Detroit native released "Crack a Bottle," which has already reached No. 1 on Billboard. The video for that hit should drop soon, MTV reports.

Haven't We Met: Emilie-Claire Barlow

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

(Empress Music/E1)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(March 10, 2009)  This Toronto singer's seventh album is defined by her impeccable diction and song-stealing solos by the likes of guitarist Reg Schwager, pianist Dave Restivo and trumpeter Chase Sanborn. Barlow is an astute technician with a decent scat who shows off her eloquence in English, French and Portuguese. However, this pristine collection of love-laden tunes – "I'm Glad There Is You," "You Make Me Feel So Young," "You Must Believe In Spring" – lacks passion. Gladly trade that perfect pitch for more warmth. Catch Barlow's live chat and performance on JAZZ.FM91 tonight at 7 p.m.

Andre 3000 Cartoon Debuts On Stage

www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(March 11, 2008) *
Andre 3000's short-lived "Class of 3000" animated series has been adapted for the stage and is now showing in Atlanta at the Alliance Theatre through March 29. The Cartoon Network series was about a group of musical kids mentored by Sunny Bridges (voiced by Andre 3000), who leaves his own international stardom to return to Atlanta and become a music teacher at his old performing arts school.  The show was cancelled last spring. The play, "Class of 3000 Live," is based on the cartoon's first-ever episode "Life Without Music," which follows Bridges as he returns to the ATL and encounters rambunctious 12-year-old Lil' D and seven of his friends, who persuade him to become their music teacher at the school. All songs featured in the television series, as well as the adapted theatre production, were created by Andre 3000.


Malin Akerman Proudly Puts The Bomb In Bombshell

www.globeandmail.com - Bob Strauss

(March 06, 2009) LOS ANGELES — Malin Akerman is used to winning people's hearts, usually with sweetly comedic turns in such lighthearted films as The Heartbreak Kid and 27 Dresses. Her latest role as the latex-clad, butt-kicking superhero Silk Spectre II in the just-released Watchmen, however, is likely going to launch her into a new stratosphere of fandom – one that goes way beyond adolescent boys and devotees of the Watchmen series of graphic novels.

Working on a highly anticipated, big-budget comic-book adaptation – fans have been waiting 20 years for its release – was a first for the Stockholm-born, Ontario-raised Akerman, whose parents moved to Toronto from Sweden when she was 2, and who spent a good portion of her youth in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

Another unexpected first was going brunette. “I prefer being a blonde,” she says.

Yet another was the chance to work on set in British Columbia, a province Akerman had never been to before. “I'd lived my whole live in Canada, but never been to Vancouver,” says Akerman.

“That was mainly because my family is so spread out around the world, when we travelled we'd go to Europe, and Vancouver's the other way. But I've always wanted to go there because I'd heard how beautiful it was – and it really is,” says the actress, who arrives at our interview wearing a black peasant blouse with dozens of tiny, silver skull appliqués.

There was, however, one part of the region the 30-year-old is all too happy to forget – a well-known mountain trail called the Grouse Grind, which figured heavily in the cast's physical training. “It takes about an hour to walk up it. Our workout was walking up this mountain every day and trying to beat our own time. That was not fun.”

It seems to have worked, however, as proven by her scenes in Zack Snyder's subversive fantasy epic. Besides the unforgiving costume and impressive jump kicks,

Silk Spectre, a.k.a. Laurie Jupiter, has a couple of particularly amusing – and revealing – love scenes with her two of her fellow watchmen: pudgy, retired masked avenger Nite Owl II (Patrick Wilson); and the glowing, azure Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), whose nearly unlimited powers enable him to pull off particularly impressive bedroom tricks.

“Here's the thing: The end result is beautiful,” says Akerman, of the racy scenes. “It's classy, it's really sexy and amazing. I always check out a script to see if it's gratuitous or not, and in this case it was beautiful. Of course it's a big deal, in a sense. But this whole film is about the extent of where you go with human nature, and that's part of what we do as people. You fall in love and you make love.”

Adapted from the 1980s comic-book series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that was collected into one of the most acclaimed graphic novels ever published, Watchmen was long considered impossible to turn into a film. The movie underwent two decades of development hell before Snyder (thanks to the success of his previous graphic-novel adaptation, 300) got the go-ahead to make a remarkably faithful adaptation of the violent, complicated comic.

A main concern of the film's marketers is whether or not Watchmen will draw enough female moviegoers to make a profit on its $100-million-plus budget and nine-figure production-and-promotion investment. Akerman, admittedly biased, says she thinks the film has just as much appeal to women as it does to your average fanboy. “Maybe I'm not a typical chick, but I really enjoy it,” Akerman says. “I'm not usually big on violence, but it's not violent just to be violent. There's an amazing storyline that goes through it. It's really cerebral. It's like a piece of artwork. … Plus, there's romance in it as well.

“I had male cousins when I was growing up who had stacks of comic books and were always re-enacting the fights – the Pow! and the Bam!” she recalls. “I just thought it was a lot of boy stuff, and I was into Barbies and dressing up.” At 17, Akerman won the Ford Supermodel of Canada competition and a few years later was landing TV guest spots and small movie roles. She moved to Los Angeles in 2003, and was soon making more lasting impressions on such cable series as Entourage and Lisa Kudrow's The Comeback. (She also began singing for a now-defunct rock band, the Petalstones, in which she met her husband, Italian drummer Roberto Zincone.)

Next up are two more comedies: The Proposal, with Sandra Bullock and fellow Canuck Ryan Reynolds; and Couples Retreat, which pairs Akerman with Vince Vaughn.

Whether or not Silk Spectre opens new doors, she's as pleased as she can be about where her career has taken her so far. “Me, happy? Ecstatic!” Akerman says. “I know this sounds clichéd, but it really is my dream coming true. Which is crazy. I feel so lucky.”

There are times when she longs for home, though. “I miss my friends in Canada,” she says. “All of my real friends are there, and the places that you grew up in … it's nostalgic. No matter where you go or how much you love a place, you never get as strong a feeling for that as for the places where you grew up.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Perry Picks Taraji For Next Madea Film


(March 05, 2009) *Tyler Perry has swooped up Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson to star in his next Madea film, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," based on his stage play of the same name.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, production will begin on March 16 at the new Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. It is scheduled for nationwide release via Lionsgate on Sept. 11.

After "Bad," Perry will immediately begin filming "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too," a sequel to 2007's "Why Did I Get Married." Lionsgate said it will arrive in theatres on April 2, 2010, Easter weekend.

Perry will write, direct and star in both features, which come hot on the heels of his current hit "Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail." The film has led the box office charts for the past two weekends.

In other Tyler Perry news, the filmmaker sent an email to fans denying recent headlines that suggest he wants to "kill off Madea."

Perry wrote: "Now I have been saying for years that the moment people stop coming to see her she will die a quick death. For years I’ve said this. Now, all of a sudden, it’s everywhere that I'm killing her off. That’s strange to me.

"Anyway, the character is a lot of fun to watch but it's no fun getting into the costume, let me tell you. I even got a letter from The Queen of Soul herself saying (and this made me laugh so hard) there are two things that have brought you over. One is Jesus, and the other is 'Madea'. And you bet' not get rid of either one of them!...LOL.

"So, with all of that said, I’m happy to announce that my next movie is 'I Can Do Bad All By Myself' --just for all the die hard 'Madea' fans including you Ms. Aretha Franklin.....LOL. After that I’m doing 'Why Did I Get Married Too.' And 'Madea' will be taking a break for awhile. Not dead. Just a break (smile)."

Film About Regime Of Terror Wins African Prize

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Katrina Manson, Reuters

(March 09, 2009) OUAGADOUGOU, BURKINA FASO — A film set in Ethiopia about a bloodthirsty regime under which political dissidents and village children alike were ruthlessly killed has won best movie award at Africa's top film festival.

Teza, a feature by award-winning director Haile Gerima set during Mengistu Haile Mariam's 1974-1991 rule, won the top prize late on Saturday at this year's 40th pan-African FESPACO film festival in Burkina Faso.

Judges praised the film, 14 years in the making, for its strength, depth and poetry conveying the dashed hopes of a returning intellectual elite. Stunning village vistas and shoulder-dancing amid ululations in bars capture an expressive, vital Ethiopian culture.

The plot follows a series of horrific experiences endured by hero Anberber, who trains as a medical research scientist in Europe. On his return to Ethiopia full of hope and eager to contribute to his country, he and his friends are violently and cruelly rejected at home and again back in Germany. Shot in Gerimas' hometown of Gondar in northwest Ethiopia, the village cast was drawn from locals during three months of filming, many of whom had experienced the brutalities of the regime.

Several entries among this year's competition have raised a critical voice and urged change on the continent.

In the South African film Nothing But The Truth, which won second prize, director and lead actor John Kani plays a librarian denied promotion, who believes post-apartheid freedom's dividends have not been realized. In real life Kani's brother was shot dead in a church by police while reading a poem at the grave of a nine-year old girl killed during an anti-apartheid riot.

Since Teza premiered in Ethiopia at the start of 2009, Gerima says cinema halls showing the film, which has also won awards at the Venice Film Festival, are still sold out two months later. On Saturday night, the winning film was screened in cinema halls across Burkina Faso's hot, dusty capital Ouagadougou, where more than 300 films have shown in the past week.

At Cine Burkina, the country's premier movie theatre, three long queues formed in the dark in all directions, streaming back from any entry point local cinema-lovers could find.

As increasing numbers of cinema halls close down, African films are squeezed out by Hollywood action blockbusters and Bollywood musicals.

Sprockets Unveils 70-Film Program

www.thestar.com - Star Staff

(March 11, 2008)
Sprockets Toronto International Film Festival for Children, Toronto's only film fest for the younger set, unspools April 18 to 24 with 70 films from 22 countries.

Among the movies on offer is an Australian feature for kids 11 and up, Hey Hey It's Esther Blueburger, starring Oscar nominee (for Whale Rider) Keisha Castle-Hughes and Toni Collette.

Anjelica Huston, Sean Astin, Giovanni Ribisi and Ron Perlman lend their voices to Spirit of the Forest, a story of some brave gophers who band together to help save their endangered homeland. It's recommended for those ages 5 and up.

Since it began in 1998, Sprockets, a division of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, has offered kids and teens the opportunity to learn about the world through the filmmaker's lens. It has made a name for itself as a cultural event for families and schools, letting young movie lovers see films that otherwise don't make it to theatres. The varied programs range from Canadian Shorts to Reel Rascals Shorts, a program especially for Sprockets' youngest audiences members: children aged three and over.

Special guests, hands-on craft activities, storytelling and post-screening discussions add to the film program. Directors Pieter Verhoeff (The Letter for the King) and Somaratne Dissanayake (King Siri) and Bilaal Rajan are among this year's guests.

"Sprockets exposes kids to the whole big wide world outside of primarily American mainstream movies," said Canadian filmmaker Patricia Rozema in a press release. "Short of going to live in other cultures, the kind of movies they see at Sprockets might be the best way to open their eyes to glorious diversity of life on this planet."

The Sprockets School Program for Grades 1 to 12 runs from April 20 to 24, with 36 films from 14 countries and explores issues that kids face in the classroom and the world around them, from tolerance and self-confidence to climate change.

The films screen at Canada Square and Sheppard Grande theatres.

For tickets and info visit www.sprockets.ca, call 416-968-FILM (toll-free 1-877-968-FILM) or visit the box office at 2 Carlton St., West Mezzanine level (near the College subway station). Hours of operation are Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $6.60 for children and $10.61 for adults; Reel Rascals and Jump Cuts Young Filmmakers Showcase tickets are $6.60 per person (prices do not include GST, building-fund fee or service charges).

Alice Eve On The Edge

www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara, Entertainment Reporter

(March 11, 2008) Playing a woman who trades sex and personal dignity in a bid to get green card status in the U.S. took its toll on
Alice Eve.

"I definitely had trepidation about (the role), of course I did, and I think I definitely grieved having done it. I don't think that you escape the human process when you do something like that," said British-born Eve, who plays an Australian actor who succumbs to an immigration officer's demands for sex in
Crossing Over, opening Friday.

The film, starring Harrison Ford, Naomi Watts and Ray Liotta, explores several storylines – most of them rife with heartbreak and tragedy – in its examination of the U.S. immigration system and the toll it takes on ordinary people.

For Eve, 27, the role is definitely her toughest to date after lighter fare on stage and screen, in part because sex scenes require nudity.

"Because I'm blond and chirpy, I often get cast in a certain kind of role. To play someone who has an edge and who packs a punch and who has a journey and a crisis was, I think, the thing I was most interested in about this project," Eve said.

It helped to work with an actor of Liotta's calibre, who plays the sleazy-but-conflicted immigration official, she said.

"It's more of a bond that you develop, it's not a friendship really because you don't want to be friends," Eve explained.

"You don't want to sit and chat backstage with Ray. You form a bond. You get very, very close and I trusted him and that was paramount to me, so that we could just do the scenes with ease."

As an actor who travels frequently, Eve said she has become quite "resilient" at crossing international borders, right down to looking ahead upon arrival to see which immigration officer seems to be "smiling the most."

The important thing to remember about Crossing Over, Eve said, is that each storyline – a Mexican mother separated from her child, a Bangladeshi high school student whose essay on the 9/11 terrorist bombings draws the attention of the FBI, a woman at odds culturally with her Iranian-born family, a Korean teenager's conflict with his father – are all based on true events.

In fact, a similar situation to her own character's happened during filming, Eve said.

"It's important to recognize that each story ... is true and not to say `Oh God, that's a bit extreme.' What the film does is it opens the forum for debate," she said.

Eve observed many Western countries like the U.S. and Australia are "driven by fear" in the aftermath of 9/11 and that has a negative impact on how newcomers are perceived and welcomed.

"From the things I've read and the attitude (Canadians) take, there seems to be an interest and a desire to do the right thing and to be malleable in your approach. And it's not driven by fear, it's driven by trying to pick the best way forward," Eve said.

"I think we've got to be compassionate with our borders," she added.

Eve, who went into "the family business" as the daughter of British actors Trevor Eve and Sharon Maughn, said she's also working on two screenplays in her personal bid to create strong roles for women.

"Roles for women, we've got to create them. You can't ask men to write them because how can they, just like women don't necessarily write the best roles for men?" she added.


Vince Vaughn Engaged To Calgary Real Estate Agent

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(March 06, 2009) CALGARY–It looks like Hollywood actor Vince Vaughn is getting hitched to his Calgary flame. Vaughn, ex-boyfriend of Jennifer Aniston, proposed to real estate agent Kyla Weber, 29, handing her a huge diamond ring, according to a co-worker. "It's the biggest ring I've ever seen," Sylvia Smith told the Calgary Sun, saying she spoke to Weber a few days ago. Vaughn, whose films include Wedding Crashers and Zoolander, turns 39 later this month. Star magazine said Vaughn and Weber met at a wedding last summer in Los Angeles. A source told Star that the wedding will be in either L.A. or Alberta.

Morgan, Lawrence Attend Rock's 'Funeral'


(March 09, 2009) *A sizable chunk of black Hollywood has just been cast in the Chris Rock-led remake of "Death at a Funeral," including Tracy Morgan, Martin Lawrence, Columbus Short, Loretta Devine and Danny Glover. Neil LaBute is directing the ensemble comedy in which a funeral ceremony turns into a debacle of misplaced cadavers and family secrets. When things can't get any worse, a man arrives saying he's the dead man's gay lover and threatens blackmail.  Also joining the Screen Gems film are Regina Hall, Ron Glass, James Marsden and Zoe Saldana.  Rock, who co-wrote the script with Ayesha Carr, is producing with Sidney Kimmel, Share Stalling, Lawrence Malkin and William Horberg.    Morgan, a regular on NBC's "30 Rock," recently signed on to star opposite Bruce Willis in the Warner Bros. buddy action-comedy "A Couple of Cops," which Kevin Smith just signed on to direct.    Lawrence, meanwhile, last appeared in "College Road Trip" and "Wild Hogs."

Jada Pinkett Smith Adds 'Schoolmaster' To Her Resume

The Associated Press

(March 11, 2008) LOS ANGELES -
Jada Pinkett Smith is adding another title to her resume: schoolmaster.  The actress-producer and her husband, Will Smith, opened the New Village Leadership Academy in Calabasas, Calif., last fall. The school is for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Now Pinkett Smith hopes to open a companion high school.  Pinkett Smith says she decided to open the elementary school after developing a home-school program for her children.  The school generated some controversy because it relies on instructional methods developed by Scientology founder Ron Hubbard. But the school's director has said it isn't a Scientology facility.  Meanwhile, Pinkett Smith is set to produce and star in a new series on TNT.


Bryan Cranston's Role May Be The Death Of Him But He's Living Life In The Fast And Loose Lane

Source:  www.thestar.com - Rob Salem,
Television Columnist

(March 08, 2009) LOS ANGELES – For a guy who's been battling cancer for two years – not to mention the accumulated stress of impending fatherhood, imminent financial ruin and running an illegal meth lab – Bryan Cranston is looking good.

His hair has grown back. He's gained some weight. He exudes the relaxed and confident air of a man who's been acknowledged by his peers with a best lead actor Emmy Award.

"I had three previous nominations and didn't win," allows Malcolm in the Middle's former father – a wildly comic character and thus the polar opposite of his tortured role in
Breaking Bad, the critically acclaimed (if under-watched) AMC series returning for its second season tonight at 10 p.m.

"I was pretty comfortable with not winning," Cranston says, "and I was preparing myself for the same thing. My wife, on the other hand, was starting to hyperventilate and get sweaty palms, which is very attractive. (That's) one of the reasons I married her.

"I just told her, 'Relax. Don't get all worked up, because they're not going to mention my name. Let's just have fun and enjoy this.'

"And then (Emmy presenter) Kiefer Sutherland said 'Bryan Cranston,' and the first millisecond of that went, 'That sounds familiar ...'

"Hopefully I said something that was coherent and appreciative, which is how I felt. It was a wonderful night."

Things have been pretty wonderful ever since. For one thing, with Breaking Bad's second season in the can – a full 13 episodes, compared to last season's strike-truncated seven – he no longer has to starve himself.

"When we did the pilot, I was 186 (pounds)," he says. "When my character started his chemotherapy, I got down to 170. When we started up the second season, I had to go back down to 170. But now we've finished for the season, so I've started beefing up."

If you missed the first season, tonight's a good chance to get on board, but know that Cranston's Walt White has already been through the wringer. He began the series as the picture of banality: an unremarkable chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, with a pregnant wife and a son with cerebral palsy. Then he was told he has stage three lung cancer. Determined to leave his family enough money to survive after he's gone, he makes the fateful decision to use his skills to start cooking crystal meth.

With a former student Jesse (Aaron Paul) helping him out, they start production in an isolated RV, but before Walt can strike it rich, he has to worry about DEA agents (including his brother-in-law) and violent rivals in the drug trade, one of whom he kills, after much deliberation. By season's end, Walt and Aaron's meth business had finally made the right connection for the local drug trade, but it's with a violent and erratic local kingpin named Tuco, so it's far from clear that Walt will even live long enough for the cancer to get him.

Walt's financial worries are easy to relate to for many in the audience right now. If its appeal does grow, a third season seems likely, raising the question, how long can a series based on a guy with an ostensibly terminal disease postpone the potentially inevitable?

"Good question," acknowledges creator/producer Vince Gilligan. "I never thought of him dying in the first season. (But) that definitely is something we think about being on the horizon.

"How far the horizon stretches is unknown. But I knew I wanted to take this as far as we believably could, and hopefully that will be, you know, Season 13 or 15."

In the meantime, Cranston is taking full advantage of the opportunity, stepping behind the camera to direct tonight's return episode.

""Yes, it was difficult," he admits. "I remember (a scene) where Walt was calculating how much money he needs before he can get out. And I'm, like, `Okay. Now I want two cameras here and we're going to go on the other side and shoot that. All right? We ready? Let's ...

"`Oh geez, I'm in this!' And I quickly had to get to the script and, you know, refamiliarize myself with the lines."

Cranston says he relied on producer Gilligan to get all the details on cancer right.

"Vince did a lot of research," he says. "I didn't want to do any because I wanted to learn about it as my character learned about it."

He did have some first-hand experience – and indeed, who among us has not been touched, directly or indirectly, by cancer?

"My sister-in-law had breast cancer," Cranston reveals, "and I went with her for her chemotherapy injections, and radiation.

"I noticed in a lot of the patients there was a lot of self-reflection. There was a lot of quiet time. There was a lot of anger. There was a lot of resentment. So you run a gamut of emotions..

"That's what is so great about the show, that often his condition will surface in an emotion that seems inappropriate at the time, but actually, given the set of circumstances, you can understand and accept.

"So it forces you to do a lot of self-examination, and I think the irony in this is that Walt looks at what has happened since he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, how his life has changed, and I don't think necessarily that he would turn it all in if he had an opportunity to.

"He was a walking zombie before, a very depressed man for 25 years – emotionless, invisible. And all of a sudden, this blew the cap of emotions off, and there really is no going back emotionally. There's no going back physically. He can't go back to teaching. His life has changed forever.

"And he's actually, at times, embracing that, which I find fascinating sociologically."

But it's uniquely difficult to portray. Which is why he tries to leave it behind on the set.

"He's too exhausting to play, to take anything home," Cranston says. "Once I take off the glasses and the Wallaby shoes and all that, I leave it there.

"I'm 52, and I'm running around like ... it's a very physical show, and a very emotionally draining show. I go home and I'm exhausted. I sleep well."

And then he gets up and starts all over again.

"For this show to have any success at all, (we had) to have this man be relatable," he says. "People need to understand him – not necessarily to agree with what he's doing, but to understand what he's going through and why he's doing it.

"If we can be truthful in that telling of that, then I think we have a shot at making a very interesting and compelling story. And hopefully we've accomplished that. And will continue to do so."

Castle's Sexy Sleuth Could Be Canadian Star's Hit

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Andrew Ryan

(March 09, 2009) The few surviving fans of Murder, She Wrote are in for a shock.

The beloved eighties series starring Angela Lansbury as the sensible-shoed sleuth Jessica Fletcher established the TV conceit of a mystery author being smarter than the real cops at solving murders. Of course, each case closed with tea and biscuits.

The concept holds on the new crime drama
Castle (starting tonight on ABC and A, at 10), except that Jessica Fletcher is now a man's role. A rather attractive man, in fact, who is also a single dad and playboy type prone to hitting on his leggy police-department liaison. And sit down, dearies: He's Canadian.

Castle is a sleeper show for ABC, which is launching more series than any other U.S. network in this bleak economy.

Debuting in a plum timeslot following tonight's return of Dancing with the Stars, the new crime drama opens a spotlight role for Edmonton-born
Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, bestselling author of crime-horror novels.

A handsomer Stephen King, Castle lives and works in New York, where he is mobbed by his public and happily grants fan requests to autograph cleavage. He is the writer as rock star.

"Castle obviously enjoys his fame, and everything that comes with it," said Fillion recently. "He takes the stories in his novels from the real world, so he's always searching for new sources, new stories. ...He's like a child. Every day is a field trip."

Slickly filmed in the same style as all modern crime procedurals, Castle could be the show to push Fillion over his TV hump.

The rugged actor has not had any hits, though he's fronted previous network series, including Joss Whedon's ambitious sci-fi western Firefly (11 episodes) or the 2007 action series Drive (four episodes); more recently he spent a season on Desperate Housewives playing the gynecologist husband of honorary housewife Dana Delany.

Both good-looking and funny - a rare combination - Fillion was a natural fit for the role of a bon vivant media celebrity, which left only a trip to the bookstore.

"Almost all my preparation has come from reading Clive Cussler, James Patterson and other mystery writers," said Fillion, 37. "Right now I'm deep into Robert Parker and the Spenser series. It started as research; now I'm reading them for pleasure."

As he should, Fillion goes over the top as the brash Castle, whose star presence is played up in the pilot. The launch event for the writer's final novel in a popular crime series resembles an overblown Hollywood premiere. Does Tom Clancy get this many groupies?

To humanize the character, the party guests include Castle's precocious teen daughter, Alexis (Molly Quinn) and his dotty mother Martha (Susan Sullivan), a man-hungry ex-showgirl. "It's important for viewers to know Castle is a good father, and a good son," said creator and executive producer Andrew Marlowe.

At the same party, Castle's editor, also his ex-wife, rails at him for closing down the series, which has left the writer bereft of book ideas. Serendipity occurs across town with the discovery of a naked dead woman covered in rose petals.

Sharp of mind and fashion sense, Detective Kate Beckett, played by Hamilton native Stana Katic, recognizes the crime scene as a scenario from one of Castle's books, and picks up the author for questioning. And so the tango begins.

Whereas Jessica Fletcher seemed to be asexual, or at least celibate, Castle is a randy chap. The sexual tension between the flighty writer and the hot lady cop is evident in their first scene together: Castle invites Beckett to spank him as atonement for past legal indiscretions. She declines, but her police superiors still believe it's a fine idea for Castle to be involved in the copycat-killer investigation.

"She's very annoyed at first, because she's forced to babysit this superstar," said Katic, who last year appeared in the James Bond feature Quantum of Solace. "But she also admires him because she reads his books. ... The attraction is there."

And the celebrity author is smitten. Throwing all probability to the wind, Castle calls in a marker to the mayor - a personal friend on speed-dial - that gets him assigned as the full-time partner of the sultry Big Apple detective. The writer has found his new muse. The lady protests, though not too much.

"Their relationship feels to me like a throwback to an older style of filmmaking," said Katic, citing the romantic films of forties-era director Ernst Lubitsch as inspiration. "There's a subtle elegance and sensuality and sleekness to the story."

But very little DNA evidence. Jessica Fletcher never poked with the bodies, and likewise for this attractive sleuth duo.

There is little in the way of autopsy scenes or other graphic unpleasantness in the first outing of Castle, and viewers are unlikely to witness any blood at all throughout the series' tryout run, slated for 10 episodes. Leave the blood work to the CSI test-tube jockeys in Las Vegas and Miami, say the Castle creators.

"We call this the ABC crime procedural," said Marlowe proudly. "Even the crime scenes in our pilot are pretty because they're stylized versions of crime scenes from his novels. We're not going to focus on the gore. There's enough of that on TV."

Jerry Seinfeld Bringing Reality Series To NBC

www.thestar.com - David Bauder, The Associated Press

(February 26, 2009) NEW YORK–Jerry Seinfeld is returning to NBC as producer of a comic reality series where celebrities and a referee try to help squabbling couples make peace.

That's the good news for Seinfeld's fans.

The bad news? Seinfeld said he has no plans to step in front of the cameras for The Marriage Ref or, for that matter, to ever star in a television series again.

"It's a young man's game," said Seinfeld, 54. "Nothing could surpass the experience I had.''

That would be Seinfeld, of course, the sitcom that ended its nine-year run in 1998, a big part of NBC's golden era. The fourth-place network has since fallen on hard times, and jumped at the chance to welcome back one of its top names.

The idea came from personal experience.

Seinfeld and his wife, Jessica, were arguing one day – he doesn't remember the topic – while a friend was visiting. The friend became uncomfortable and wondered if she should leave.

"I said, `You know what, I need some help to settle this right here. I need a marriage ref,'" he said, and the friend obliged.

Seinfeld helped develop the idea with a friend, Ellen Rakieten, who had just left Oprah Winfrey's production company after working there for 23 years.

She brought the problem-solving experience and Seinfeld added the comic sensibility. They don't intend to delve into serious stuff, but smaller things like leaving the bathroom messy. Even, perhaps, about nothing, really.

"I've been married for nine years," Seinfeld said in a phone interview. "One of my favourite things is talking to guys about their marriage. It's so funny because it's not your problem.''

Indeed, Rakieten said, "we all fight about the same stuff. When you can look at it in a funny way and realize you're not alone, it takes some of the edge off it.''

The hour-long episodes will introduce the couples through filmed reports and show them fighting. A panel of celebrity guests will weigh in to offer advice and observations before the final arbiter, a "ref" who hasn't been selected yet, will settle things.

Being right may not always be the deciding factor, either. The ref will penalize people for fighting dirty, for instance, Rakieten said. Eye-rolling is a technical foul.

The team hopes to get the show on the air for next season, but said the timing hasn't been determined.

All of Seinfeld's sitcom co-stars have tried new TV shows since Seinfeld ended, with varying degrees of success. Julia Louis-Dreyfus has been the most successful, on CBS' The New Adventures of Old Christine.'

Seinfeld, who has three children, said that with his family and stand-up comedy career, he didn't want to make the time commitment to act in another TV series.

Idol Goes From TV Show To Empire

Source: www.thestar.com - Lynn Elber,
Associated Press

(March 09, 2009) LOS ANGELES – In 2001, Simon Cowell figured a singing contest snapped up by British TV would be an easy sell in America. Instead, network responses ranged from lukewarm to hostile.

"I was thrown out in one pitch meeting. After 30 seconds, the guy told me to get out," recalled Cowell, making the rounds with entertainment mogul Simon Fuller. "The main thing we were being told was music doesn't work on TV in prime time. We tried to explain that there's lot more than music on the show.''

So much for Hollywood acumen. The talent contest has "created this whole zeitgeist," said media analyst Shari Ann Brill. Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson are among the singers rewarded with instant careers in music, movies and theatre.

A chorus of enterprises has gotten a dusting of
Idol magic as well, including a Disney World attraction to the "Karaoke Revolution Presents American Idol" video game. A deal with iTunes for exclusive show video and song downloads last season coincided with Apple's emergence as the nation's leading music retailer.

There's even altruistic value in the franchise: The charity initiative Idol Gives Back raised $64 million (all figures U.S.) in 2008.

Fuller, who started it all with Britain's Pop Idol and carried the concept to the United States and more than 35 TV markets worldwide, including Canada, told The Times of London that "pure, simple television is not that interesting for me; what's far more interesting is trying to create a cult effect.''

CTV has "suspended" Canadian Idol this season due to the economic climate and is running American Idol.

For Fox, which gave American Idol a modest summertime 2002 tryout, the show is a money machine. A 30-second ad on Idol costs around $500,000 and rises to more than $600,000 for the finale, said Ray Dundas, an analyst for ad-buying firm Initiative.

By comparison, he said, other Top 10 shows, such as Grey's Anatomy, get closer to $240,000 per 30-second commercial.

The difference reflects both the size of the Idol audience and the fact that it can deliver the elusive young adult viewers preferred by advertisers, Dundas said.

American Idol, in short, big-foots broadcasting.

It has dominated as the most-watched series since its third year, a pattern that's holding true this season even as ratings dip in an overall TV slump. Two-hour American Idol episodes on Tuesday have averaged 58 per cent more viewers than the closest competition, CBS's NCIS and The Mentalist (27 million for Idol vs. 17 million each for the CBS shows).

"I don't believe there will ever be another show like this. It's the last of its breed," said Mike Darnell, Fox's president of alternative entertainment.

As a trendsetter, Idol has served as a blueprint for a generation of shows in which contestants – whether singing, dancing, skating, or swallowing fire – are vetted by a triad that includes one wasp-tongued TV judge, preferably with a foreign accent.

Len Goodman of Dancing with the Stars and Nigel Lythgoe of So You Think You Can Dance (and a former Idol producer) are part of the elite group.

Idol singers remain irresistible gossip fodder, with unknowns such as this year's drama queen Tatiana Del Toro heaped with water-cooler and online attention – at least for the moment.

Michael Jung, a vice-president with Walt Disney Imagineering Creative Entertainment, helped develop the new attraction that gives visitors to the Orlando, Fla., park the chance to compete, vote and perform à la Idol. "It gives you a taste of that next Cinderella story. You could be the next American Idol," he said. American Idol is in tune with fans, but can that last?

It's going to be "harder and harder" to sell records in the dramatically changing industry, said Steve Knopper, author of Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age.

Yet even if its empire is diminished, the show may endure.

"How long did American Bandstand last – 30 years, 40 years?" Knopper said. "I think Idol is built in that universal way. It's a talent show. It's not reinventing the wheel."

Ottawa To Merge TV And Web Funds

www.thestar.com - Greg Quill, Entertainment Columnist

(March 10, 2009)  In an effort to encourage the development of Canadian programming that's more accessible to the iPod generation, the federal government is doing away with the controversial Canadian Television Fund, the source of taxpayer subsidies to the Canadian TV production industry, and combining it with the Canada New Media Fund, which subsidizes digital media development.

Starting on April 1, 2010, the government will invest $134.7 million annually in the new program, called the Canada Media Fund, Heritage Minister James Moore said at a press conference yesterday on the Toronto set of the CTV police drama series Flashpoint. This is the amount that would have been invested in the two former programs, he said.

"We are levelling the playing field at a time when the industry is undergoing structural change," Moore said. "The eligibility for funding for broadcaster-affiliated production will be expanded, and broadcaster in-house production will be allowed ... including provincial educational broadcasters and CBC/Radio-Canada."

CBC was previously not allowed to compete for CTF in-house production money.

But under the new guidelines, the public broadcaster's "guaranteed envelope" will be removed. In 2005, 37 per cent of CTF funding was guaranteed for CBC productions, reflecting the corporation's historic proportion of CTF funding since 1996, and confirming its position as the primary platform for independent productions.

The emphasis of the new broadcast policy will be on drama, comedy, and children's programming, and will favour productions developed for distribution platforms other than prime-time TV – the Internet and mobile telecommunications devices, said Moore, who admitted he watches "more television programs on my iPod than on regular TV."

The new fund will also support documentaries and variety and performing arts programming that can demonstrate the market alone would not support their creation.

"The realigned fund will favour projects produced in high definition and those that have achieved and demonstrated the most potential to achieve success, in terms of audience and return on investment," Moore said. "Applicants will be required to make their projects available across a minimum of two distribution platforms, including television."

In response to a recent report from the auditor general pointing out vested-interest potential in the existing Television Fund, whose board comprises representatives of major broadcast and production industry stakeholders, the board of the Canada Media Fund will be smaller. Five of the new fund's seven members will be appointed by broadcasters and program creators, and two by the government, Moore added.

The establishment of the new fund is a clear rejection of last summer's recommendation by the broadcasting industry czar, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, that the $300-million Canadian Television Fund be split into two funding streams, one for private networks, the other for non-profit broadcasters.

Canada's major public and private broadcasters seem happy with the new arrangements.

Pierre Karl Péladeau, president of Quebecor Media, said in a statement yesterday that he welcomes the minister's "positive response to problems of governance, funding and policy. The ... changes will enable the new Canada Media Fund to focus on quality, successful Canadian content.

"We now have reason to think that the necessary conditions will be created to promote the development of a strong and creative production industry in what has become a fiercely competitive international environment."

CTVglobemedia president Ivan Fecan congratulated Moore "for recognizing the importance of audience success and for putting the audience first in the creation of this fund. All of us in media exist to serve the audience."

And Richard Stursberg, CBC's executive vice-president, English services, said, "We like the direction. The new policy puts the emphasis on drama shows in prime time, and rewards people for making programs Canadians want to watch."

The removal of the public broadcaster's right to guaranteed funds is of little concern "provided everyone is one equal footing when it comes to the mechanism for measuring audience numbers," Stursberg said. "We're happy to take our chances."

CBC-TV Makes Program Cuts

www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

(March 10, 2009)  CBC-TV is cancelling its long-running series Fashion File and putting its daytime lifestyles program Steven & Chris on hold due to the financial crunch.

Fashion File will wrap up production for good on March 31, while Steven & Chris will go on hiatus after production ends on April 15, Kirstine Layfield, executive director of network programming, said Tuesday in a statement.

"We remain committed to factual programming and building a strong afternoon schedule, but like every other media organization right now, we're facing big challenges as a result of a significant drop in advertising revenues," Layfield said.

"We're not able at present to make the kind of expenditures we ordinarily would."

Fashion File, an internationally syndicated series hosted by Adrian Mainella, has been on the air for two decades. Steven & Chris launched just over a year ago.

Both programs will be broadcast in repeats when they're finished production, and will form part of a new afternoon schedule, said the CBC.

The programming changes come a day after Heritage Minister James Moore said the beleaguered public broadcaster will not be getting any help from Ottawa to cope with its economic woes.

Last week, CBC/Radio-Canada president Hubert Lacroix said that slumping ad revenues would force the network to consider deep cuts to staff and programming. He said revenues had dropped by as much as $60 million and predicted even tougher times ahead.

Without government help, Lacroix warned that the network have to consider measures that "would change the very nature of our service to Canadians." That included adding American shows to the schedule to replace more expensive original programming and reducing geographic coverage by shrinking or consolidating local stations.

The economic downturn has affected all of Canada's major television networks.

In recent weeks, Canwest Global put its E! network up for sale while CTV closed local stations.

Late last year, CTV said the financial crash had forced it to put its popular singing contest, Canadian Idol, on hold this year.

Layfield said she hoped the CBC would be able to continue working with Steven & Chris talk show hosts Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman.

She said the CBC also intends to retain the Fashion File brand, which it co-owns with Fashion Magazine, for use on other platforms.


Morris Chestnut Makes 'V'-Line To ABC


(March 05, 2009) *Morris Chestnut will have a lead role in the pilot for ABC's drama "V," according to the Hollywood Reporter. The Warner Bros. Television project is a re-imagining of the original 1980s miniseries about an invasion of aliens known as Visitors and the resistance against them. It will center on a female Homeland Security agent. Chestnut will play the woman's boyfriend, who has a dark secret -- he is a Visitor. The actor's breakout role came as Ricky in John Singleton's 1991 film "Boyz N the Hood." He recently starred in and executive produced Sony Screen Gems' "Not Easily Broken" opposite Taraji P. Henson.

Sherri Shepherd Gives Life To Lifetime


(March 05, 2009) *As if a day job on ABC's "The View," a recurring role on NBC's "30 Rock" and a role in the critically-acclaimed Sundance winner "Push" isn't enough, Sherri Shepherd is about to squeeze in another high-profile project. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lifetime has ordered an untitled multicamera pilot for a sitcom that would star the comedian and draw storylines based loosely on her own experiences.  The project was originally developed for the CW network during the 2007-08 development season. Dave Flebotte penned the script about a woman who chooses to deal with her husband's infidelity and his illegitimate child by allowing the child and mother to move in with them. After the comedy didn't get a go-ahead at the CW, the script went to Lifetime, which is half-owned by ABC Studios' parent company, Disney.


At 92, Kirk Douglas Returns To The Stage With Sold-Out Retrospective

Source: www.thestar.com - Ryan Pearson,
The Associated Press

(March 07, 2009) CULVER CITY, Calif.–Kirk Douglas emerges from behind a black curtain and walks purposefully, if a bit unsteadily, to centre stage.

"When you have a stroke, you must talk slowly to be understood," he says, smiling to a largely empty theatre at a rehearsal of his new one-man show Before I Forget.

The 92-year-old actor emphasizes each syllable as clearly and firmly as he can through the speech impediment caused by a 1996 stroke.

"I've discovered that when I talk slowly, people listen! They think I'm going to say something important." Douglas waves both hands as if scoffing at the concept, then takes a seat in a black leather easy chair.

Plenty of people are willing to listen. The four performances of Douglas's show this week sold out. The site: Kirk Douglas Theatre, opened by Center Theatre Group in 2004 after a $2.5 million U.S. donation from Douglas and his wife, Anne.

"You know, I never wanted to be a movie actor," Douglas says. "My goal in life was to be a star on the stage. Now I know how to do it – build your own theatre."

Douglas, who has appeared in more than 75 movies, developed this show after writing nine books, including My Stroke of Luck and his most recent, Let's Face It. "But I found it was easier to write a one-man show than to present it," he said, referring to his speech impediment in an interview in. "But that's a challenge for me, and I have always welcomed a challenge."

The nearly 1  1/2-hour performance features clips from Douglas's movies and public appearances, including his acceptance of an honorary Academy Award in 1996.

Douglas talks understatedly about his famous family and friends like the briefly-married couple Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. He recalls one night when they were all staying at the same New York hotel and Gardner came knocking on his door, sobbing. "She had just had a violent argument with Frank, who seized a gun and he threatened to shoot himself," said Douglas, who also recounted the incident in his latest book. "I calmed Ava down and she went back."

Douglas clearly enjoys the process of looking back at the people and projects of years long past. He notes in the interview that he's most proud of his work on 1960's Spartacus, created during the anti-communist paranoia of the 1950s.

"It was a low point in our history," Douglas said. "I hired Dalton Trumbo, who spent a year in jail, because he was blacklisted, and I hired him under the false name of Sam Jackson. ... Well, I was ashamed of myself for being such a hypocrite and in the middle of shooting, I decided to use his correct name. And Spartacus was the first movie to use the correct name of a blacklisted writer. And the blacklist was broken. That's something to be proud of."

Douglas says his determined return to the stage – where he got his start in show business – isn't intended to inspire others his age. He only wants to keep doing what he does best. "My job is to entertain people," he said. "And if they find my life interesting, and it takes their mind off the foreclosures all the problems that we have, then I've done my job."

Idol Alum Steffi D Breaks Out On Broadway

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(March 07, 2009) For some people, she'll always be known as the girl who chopped her last name, put a bow in her hair and made a big noise as one of the finalists on Canadian Idol in 2006.

But nowadays,
Steffi D is carving out a whole new career path for herself as the tortured free spirit Ilse, in the national tour of the hit Broadway musical Spring Awakening, which is coming to the Canon Theatre as part of the Mirvish subscription season, starting March 17.

It's been an exciting and convoluted career path for the young woman born Steffi Didomenicantonio in Orleans, Ont. And she's still only 19.

"It might sound pretty quick," she laughs on the phone from her Michigan hotel room where the show is playing, "but I've been singing and stuff since I was four, so it's a pretty long time for me."

Usually, that early and strong an interest in a theatrical career indicates some pushing from the family involved, but the exact opposite was the case in this scenario.

"My God, no!" she whoops in that high, endearing voice. "My whole family is medically oriented. My father is a radiologist, my aunt is a dermatologist, my mother is a pharmacist, my brother is training to be a doctor. I'm the odd one out."

At first, they all thought it was cute when little Steffi would entertain at family parties, singing into her plastic microphone, but as she got older and held on to those dreams, things changed a bit.

"I warned them early on this was what I wanted to do for a career and I remember my dad shaking his head and saying, `That's a very scary thing,' but they always supported me."

Her other secret weapon is that she's a multiple triple threat. Not only does she speak and perform in three languages (English, French and Italian) but her work stretches from heavy drama to broad comedy, with lots and lots of music in between.

"I did a lot of competitions as a kid," she recalls, "but most of them were classically based, with a few journeys into musical theatre."

But in early 2006, when one of her friends told her he was auditioning for Canadian Idol, she came along for the ride even though "I had never sung a pop song in my life."

Still, something she did must have clicked, because the judges embraced her and she was on her way.

The friend, by the way, never made the cut.

When it looked like she was about to make it to the final 22, it was Jake Gold who talked to her about her name: "It's too long, it's too complicated, Mulroney's never going to be able to say it right every week. Why don't you make it shorter?"

And overnight, Steffi D was born. At first, she impressed everyone with her period tunes like "I Only Have Eyes For You" or mellower pop ballads like "Kiss Me," but as the weeks went on she stretched the envelope and her final performance, when she was eliminated from the Top 5 on Aug. 22, 2006 was Nancy Sinatra's assertive anthem "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'."

"There were a lot of ups and downs on Idol," she recalls. "It was a very emotional ride. It tests you and then it keeps testing you. But I have no regrets, no sadness, only great things, good thoughts."

So she moved to Toronto and enrolled in the George Brown College Theatre School, but before she even knew her way around the TTC, a friend told her there were open auditions for Spring Awakening.

The powerful musical has knocked Steffi D for a loop when she saw it in New York, its mixture of edgy Duncan Sheik music and period Franz Wedekind drama combining to create a timeless portrait of troubled youth.

"When I saw it, I thought `Oh my God, that's just how I feel!' and I know that's what most other young people think as well."

Less than a week after her open call she was flown to New York and offered a role in the national tour.

Her character, Ilse, is a victim of abuse, but manages to keep a sweet, free spirit through it all and that's what Steffi D loves the most.

"She's got some kind of innocence about her, but she also has an old soul. She grew up way too quickly for her age and now she's coming to grips with that."

And although her personal scenario has never been as dark as Ilse's, Steffi D says she can understand what the character is going through "because every human being has known some kind of despair.

"I took all my life, good and bad together. They made me and they made her."

She still finds it thrilling to bring this electrifying show across North America because "it defies all the rules, it breaks all the moulds. The pain and pleasure of youthful sexuality has never been told so raw and with so much detail."

Right now, she plans to stay with Spring Awakening as long as she can and after that, "whatever comes my way, I'm going to take."

And so far, that strategy has worked just fine for Steffi D.

Getting personal with Steffi Didomenicantonio

What was the first role you played on stage?

Lisa Vineberg, Malton

"I was Helen Keller at the age of 11 at the Ottawa Little Theatre."

What celebrity did you want to be like when you were growing up?
Ian Bender, Toronto

"I remember writing in my diary that I wanted to be the female Jim Carey. I thought he was so funny and I wanted to be the first superstar female Canadian comic."

What was your favourite week on Canadian Idol?
Cara McRae, Barrie

"That would have to be '80s week when Cindy Lauper came on and taught us the most amazing things. I sang `It's My Life' and wore these crazy hair extensions and this tutu. Madness!"

What do you remember most about your last night on Canadian Idol?
Matthew Bair, Cambridge

"When it was all over the judges lifted me up on their shoulders and cheered for me. It was an incredible moment."


Video Games A `Balanced' Pastime

Source: www.thestar.com -
London Telegraph

(March 07, 2009) Almost two-thirds of parents believe video games provide a great social experience, while more than half think gaming helps to bring their family together, according to a new study from Microsoft.

Eighty per cent of the parents it surveyed said that video games were a vital component in a "balanced blend" of modern and traditional home entertainment.

Microsoft's survey, which questioned more than 2,500 parents in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and the United States, along with 1,000 British children, gauged attitudes on a host of video game issues. It's the second consecutive year that Microsoft, which makes the Xbox 360 games console, has commissioned the study.

The research revealed that 81 per cent of British children play video games at least once a week, with more than three-quarters playing against others online. One-third of parents admitted to knowing little about who their child was playing against, and 42 per cent expressed concern online gaming was pitting their child against older gamers. But only five per cent of children said they'd encountered a worrying or frightening experience online.

Microsoft's Play Smart, Play Safe study found in the last 12 months, parents had become more aware of the parental safety controls in modern consoles to restrict access to specific content and age-rated games: 73 per cent knew of the controls, up from 60 per cent last year.

Around 69 per cent of children said they wanted their parents to be more involved in checking the content and suitability of the games they play. Although 94 per cent of British parents said they felt "personally responsible" for checking the age ratings of games before allowing their children to play them, nearly two-thirds said they sometimes let children to play games that were not suitable for their age. Some 92 per cent of children were aware of age rating systems, compared to just 60 per cent of adults.

Parents said they'd welcome a central point to get tips and advice about safe gaming, with 45 per cent calling for a dedicated website, and 65 per cent saying they would use a parent-child discussion forum to help establish safe gaming rules.

Apple Launches Smaller iPod Shuffle

www.thestar.com - Jessica Mintz, The Associated Press

(March 11, 2008) SEATTLE – Apple Inc. unveiled a minuscule new
iPod Shuffle on Wednesday that takes its "smaller is better" mantra to a whole new level.

The third-generation Shuffle, a slim aluminum rectangle less than seven centimetres long, takes up about half as much space as the previous version even as it doubles music storage space to four gigabytes. To achieve such a tiny form, Apple had to remove most of the buttons from the body of the $99 device and build them into the headphone cord instead.

"Smaller has tended to work very well for us," said Greg Joswiak, a marketing vice-president at Apple.

The trade-off for a sub-$100 Shuffle has always been the lack of a screen to visually navigate through the music stored on the device. The first generation Shuffle, which launched in 2005, could hold about 240 songs, arguably not enough to warrant a screen.

Now that the device can carry 1,000 songs, Apple has come up with a way for people to identify the music they're listening to or find songs they want. A new feature called VoiceOver can, at the push of a button, speak the song and artist name or rattle off the list of custom mixes – called playlists – that the owner has loaded onto the device.

Here's how it works: As you synchronize a new Shuffle using an updated version of iTunes, your PC or Mac looks at each track and playlist and creates a small file of a computerized voice speaking the title, artist or playlist name. If a song is in Spanish or Chinese, say, the software figures this out and speaks in the appropriate language. Apple says the device can handle 14 languages.

The new Shuffle, which comes in silver or black aluminum with a shiny stainless steel clip, is set to go on sale Thursday. Joswiak said Apple's own earphones will be the only option for early buyers, but that other companies plan to make compatible headphones as well as adapters for regular headphones.

Shares of Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple jumped $4.05 U.S., or 4.6 per cent, to $92.68 in midday trading.


Book of Negroes wins CBC's Canada Reads

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner,
Publishing Reporter

(March 06, 2009) When The Book of Negroes emerged Friday as the winner of this year's Canada Reads showdown on CBC-Radio, it was but the latest in a series of triumphs for Burlington author Lawrence Hill's 2007 bestseller.

Set in the 18th century and involving the story of a young African girl who regains her freedom after being sold into slavery, The Book of Negroes previously won the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize in 2007 and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize a year later. The recognition boosted the book's sales past the 100,000 mark in Canada, while helping its publication launch in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere. The first translation is soon to reach Norwegian readers.

"It's been an unusual trajectory for a book," Hill says. "And a really gratifying one.

"It started out well, but it didn't look like it was going to become a bestseller or anything. And then months after it came out, sales started picking up. Then it won some awards quite a while after it was published, which stimulated new interest. Usually if a book doesn't make a splash in the first couple of months you kiss it goodbye and know that it's on its way back to the publishers."

The Book of Negroes won out over David Adams Richards' Mercy Among the Children, Gil Adamson's The Outlander, Brian Francis' Fruit and Michel Tremblay's The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant.

Broadcaster and filmmaker Avi Lewis, who championed Hill's book during CBC's weeklong debate, argues that the past success enjoyed by the novel didn't necessarily hand him an unfair advantage.

"Everyone on the panel wants to help a Canadian author with their career, not just give a prize to a Canadian author who is already well-established," he says. "But ultimately what trumps it all is the most powerful book. I don't think I really did that much. The book itself convinced my fellow panellists."

In the process, Lewis ended a winning streak for titles promoted by musicians. The Canada Reads winner had been championed by a musician in five of the seven previous years, including the last three in a row. Last year's winner was Paul Quarrington's King Leary, defended by Dave Bidini of Rheostatics fame.

"As a lifelong wannabe musician, I feel quite vindicated," Lewis says. "If I have the guts to get up on stage and make my horrible audiences for an audience, I don't see why musicians should be horning in on territory that rightly belongs to the talkers of the world."

Hill is at work on a new novel, due for publication in 2010.

"I can't control what expectations other people might have," he says. "But I'm trying not to have expectations on myself, except to try to write the best book I can.

"The rest is business."

Finding Faith In Blogging The Bible

Source:  www.thestar.com - Leslie Scrivener,
Staff Reporter

(March 08, 2009) David Plotz, editor of the online magazine Slate, set out to read the Bible "fresh," have a personal encounter unmediated by teachers or scholars, and blog about his findings. A non-observant Jew, "fundamentally ignorant" about his roots, Plotz, 39, said he felt a veil had been lifted by the end of the project.

Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single World of the Bible was published last week.

You say even non-believers should read the Bible to understand literature, culture and language. It should be mandatory reading in high schools, just like Shakespeare. Why?

The most wonderful parts of the Bible are more wonderful than you were ever taught in glancing bits in Hebrew school, and the awful bits are extraordinarily horrible. The Book of Ruth is like a Jane Austen novel or a Patsy Cline song. My favourite moments are when biblical heroes grapple with God ... when Abraham is on the side of morality and God is being taught a lesson. The Book of Judges gives any horror movie a run for its money.

In every chapter you come across language that has come to us as cliché: "how the mighty are fallen," "see the writing on the wall" or "can a leopard change its spots?"

Of course, the Bible was a source of many ethical beliefs and proscriptions.

Leviticus, a much-maligned book, has an invocation about how to treat the poor and mete out justice, and deeply resonates today. In Proverbs, you the see the birth of the first self-help book, but very modest. I found that very appealing. Very Episcopalian.

Why did you read only the Hebrew Bible and not carry on to the charity and turn-the-other-cheek New Testament?

I'm Jewish. I was reading my holy book to learn about my tradition. I was giving it a very irreverent treatment, and with my Bible I was allowed to say these things. Christian readers might have looked askance at a Jewish reader making light of Jesus in a way I could with Moses or Job. As a Jew, I was not sure I could have the same freedom.

Here's a line on Sodom and Gomorrah: "After the attempted mass gay rape, the father pimping, the urban devastation, the uxorious saline murder ..." Did readers object to this tone of levity?

I got a ton of response, 11,000 emails over the year. A very small group (of non-believers) on the far extreme, atheists, said why read a book of mythology. Fundamentalist Jews and Christians said I was inviting damnation, but about 60 per cent of those who corresponded with me were well-educated, knowledgeable Jews and knowledgeable, deeply Bible-loving Christians. I was really moved by the way they appreciated the project. Both thought I was misguided and made mistakes. But they saw that I was curious and giving this book they love a chance. My naïveté, ignorance and openness were in fact a service.

Why do women love the Book of Ruth?

Ruth and her husband Boaz are the ancestors of King David and later of Jesus. What I love and what women loved ... it's not a story about God, the geopolitical interests of the Israelites or miracles, it's a story of domestic life in the way that small gestures create joy and happiness and ultimately lead to Jesus if you are Christian or King David if you are not. It's incredibly moving.

Religious practices in the Bible – burning sacrifices and the like – had nothing to do with your life, until you encounter words from the Friday night blessing. You found that unsettling.

On Friday nights I have always said the blessing over my sons, blessing them in the name of Ephraim and Manasseh. That was mumbo jumbo to me. I was reading Genesis, and saw that Jacob blesses his grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh, and then the Bible instructs us to bless our own sons similarly. It was a moment of profound connection between me and my ancestors, the realization that for 100 generations, back through my father's line, men have been blessing their sons in this way. It made me realize my responsibility to the future to preserve that continuity.

Why do people in the Bible live so long?

Biblical literalists had very elaborate explanations that after the Flood, the canopy to protect you from solar radiation was removed. In my view, it's what happens in all mythology.

You are appalled at the story of Abraham and Isaac, in particular, and a vindictive God who subjects his people to unconscionable trials of faith.

There are moments of great mercy and justice, but for the most part He's very capricious and vindictive ... It explains that when difficult things happen, you can say God is punishing you. Or God has a distinct plan we can't hope to understand. It's folly for us to claim He's being capricious.

You conclude by saying you left the Good Book "broken-hearted about God."

If you go into the book thinking God is a hero, teaching us all sorts of things, as a source of morality and justice, then it's very disheartening, because God is not that. The most moral moments come from humans.

So what happens when an ignorant person reads the book on which his religion is based? Has it changed your engagement with Jewish life?

One of the great things about the Bible is that it's a provocation. It doesn't give you answers to moral questions, but forces you into an argument – it puts me into a fight with God and with the book itself. Why would (God) do that? Why kill the Egyptian children? That argument represents a form of belief and engagement. Even for non-believers, this can be deeply rewarding.

Lots of offers to go for coffee and talk?

So many I would not have to pay for coffee for the next year.

Southern Canadians Now More Active Than Northerners: New Study

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

(March 8, 2009) "There are potentially higher chronic disease risk factors in northern Canadian compared with southern Canadian populations," says Kathleen Deering, one of the authors of the paper in the most recent Canadian Journal of Public Health.

"The higher risk factors would point to the potential for higher chronic disease prevalence in the future."

Northern Canada has long had higher rates of conditions such as respiratory disease that are blamed on factors including cramped, poorly ventilated houses. Deering's paper suggests northern lifestyles may be about to take a higher toll as well.

She and three other researchers compared how northerners and southerners exercise, smoke and drink and they also looked at their incidence of conditions such as arthritis, asthma and heart disease. As well, they compared the populations over time, using surveys conducted in 2000 and 2005.

Strenuous leisure activities have long been more common in the south. But in the past northerners got more overall exercise because they included more physical work in their daily lives.

Those days are gone. Southern Canadians are now outpacing their fellow citizens north of 60 in all kinds of exercise.

From 2000 to 2005, the proportion of northerners considered at least moderately active increased by seven per cent. In the south, the increase was roughly 28 per cent.

"In the second (survey), northern Canadians were less physically active in both measures than southern Canadians," says Deering.

Southerners are also consuming less booze and tobacco.

Smoking dropped by 13 per cent in the North, but by 20 per cent in the South. The percentage of regular drinkers grew more than nine per cent in the North, outpacing the southern growth of less than six per cent.

The percentage of obese or overweight northerners increased 10 per cent, as compared with only seven per cent of southerners.

Deering's research didn't examine the causes behind those trends. But she says they may already be eroding public health in the North.

"For northern Canadian respondents, the prevalence of having any chronic disease increased more than in southern Canadian respondents."

All chronic disease increased more than eight per cent in the North, while the figure was less than seven per cent in the South.

Still, Deering says the fact that the incidence of most such conditions remains fairly close between the two regions means there's time to bring the North in line with healthier trends in the South.

"It signals a need for monitoring of chronic disease in northern Canadian populations before the prevalence gets higher," she says. "This is an important time to focus efforts on chronic disease prevention.

"It's easier to prevent diseases than it is to treat them."


NABJ Presents P.R. Conference In NYC: Veteran Publicist Terrie Williams To Deliver Keynote Address

www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(March 11, 2008)
*The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) will present its Conference for Media Related Professionals on Saturday, March 21, at the Associated Press Headquarters in New York City.  Public relations guru Terrie Williams will deliver the keynote address. Other attendees include: Wynona Redmond, President of the National Black Public Relations Society; Marvet Britto, celebrity publicist and frequent CNN contributor; PR Expert Karen Taylor Bass; Crystal Howard, Director of Public Relations for ESPN; Myorr Janha, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Russell Simmons Design Group/Rush Communications; Malcolm Berkley Public Relations Manager for UPS; Mario Armstrong, on-air tech expert for NPR's Morning Edition; and Errol Cockfield, Press Secretary for NY Gov. David Patterson.  Conference workshop topics include: The Changing Face of Public Relations: What is Next on the Horizon?; Using PR to Give Back to Our Communities: Where Corporate Responsibility and PR Meet; PR in the Matrix: How Advances in Social Media Can Catapult Your PR Efforts to New Heights; Corporate vs. Agency vs. Entrepreneurship – Which is Best for Media Professionals of Color?; and Moving on Up – Getting to the C-Suite.  For full registration information, the schedule and workshops, please visit: www.nabj.org.


Rick Mercer, Canada's Comedic Institution

Source: www.thestar.com - Joel Rubinoff,
Torstar News Service

(March 06, 2009) Say what you will about the sorry state of Canadian TV, a beleaguered U.S. satellite pumping out generic comedy and drama series that shamelessly mimic the rhythms of American blockbusters: you gotta love Rick Mercer.

A 39-year-old comedy maverick whose weekly cross-country jaunts embrace the quirky and capricious on The Rick Mercer Report (8 o'clock tonight on CBC), the sharp-witted Newfoundland native is defiantly Canadian in all the right ways, a cross-border Conan O'Brien – crossed with Jon Stewart – who draws irreverent inspiration from the days when a scathing political barb could generate more heated reaction than all the mate-swapping reality bachelors in the world.

Watching his highly touted series – a Canadian institution on the order of poutine, beaver tails and Gordon Lightfoot songs – you get the sense Mercer views himself as a latter-day Don Quixote, a hapless trailblazer tilting at windmills as he enmeshes himself in one comic snafu after another.

"I know how to get back because there's splatters of blood from my nose all the way down the ice sheet!" he cracks on a treacherous Thunder Bay ice-climbing stunt that sees the klutzy adventurer smacking his face.

He doesn't fare much better at ringette, toppling on the ice while practising with the Cambridge Turbos on tonight's show in a way that makes him not only the butt of every joke, but a logical candidate for a Canadian version of Dancing With the Stars.

But that's the great thing about Mercer: just when you've got him pegged as a self-deprecating buffoon incapable of sober second thought, he'll turn the tables in his hilarious rant segment, explode with satirical smart bombs, and caustically blast political bungling and the bureaucratic ineptitude of corporate Canada.

"Nortel has announced it will be slashing another 32,000 jobs,'' he harrumphed with mock officiousness on this week's edition.

"That brings the total number of jobs at Nortel to ... Larry in sales! ... (elongated pause) ... the office Secret Santa may be a bit anti-climactic this year."

I especially like how he humanizes starchy politicians in a way that feels less mean-spirited than engagingly subversive, allowing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to shed his ivory-tower image while helping him move into his new Ottawa digs – CRASH! there goes the TV set – and poking fun at the former university prof's self-penned literary tomes.

"Warrior's Honour: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience," cracks Mercer, examining one of the opposition leader's more ponderous titles. "I read this one – it's really funny!"

Ignatieff, to his credit, displays a sly wit that redefines him for Canadians as Mercer flings partisan insults ripe for Tory attack ads.

"What are they gonna call you?" poses the acid-tongued comic, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Egghead? Nerd? Intellectual?"

Ignatieff shrugs. "I don't care,'' he laughs, deflating his pompous facade.

But Mercer's real talent, in the end, is his absolute refusal to take himself – or his country – too seriously, making current issues accessible, and engaging, in a way self-important political pundits could never hope to.

"It's inauguration day in America," he noted during Barack Obama's historic ascension to the Oval Office. "You can see all the updates and streaming video at cbc.ca. However, if you'd rather look at pictures of (Finance Minister) Jim Flaherty's head superimposed on a monkey, check out my website!"

I can't speak for the rest of Canada, but if there's ever an election for Self-Mocking Pissant with a Social Conscience, Mercer gets my vote.

New Comedy Uses The Gloom And Doom Of The Global Recession To Get A Lot Of Laughs

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(March 07, 2009) Welcome to the Dark Side, Master Luke.

It's a very exciting and totally different atmosphere down at
Second City these days, where the company is putting the finishing touches on its latest show – 0% Down, 100% Screwed – which opens at their Mercer St. digs on Tuesday night.

How can I put it? When you're dealing with the world of satirical comedy, the worse things are going in the world, the better they wind up on stage.

"We're ultimately a reflection of what our audience is going through, always," Second City veteran Darryl Hinds says. "Second City has historically tackled the issues of the day and in recent years, some people have criticized us for not having enough edge."

Hinds has a point. I remember one devastating sketch in 1991 called Bobby Rae Superstar, in which the foundering NDP premier acted out his angst in an Andrew Lloyd Webber opera, while a chorus of irate Ontarians sang things like "Bobby Rae / I'm okay / Still have my job at the IGA."

And although Mike Harris summoned up a certain amount of venom (who will ever forget Ontario: Yours to Recover?), the recent years have been – politically speaking – a case of lobbing softballs gently over home plate so that the guys could make short, easy hits.

"Well, it was pretty hard to be edgy when nothing was happening," admits Hines, a bit defensively, "but now, it's a different ball game."

A lot of this different tone is coming from Melody Johnson, who's directing the show. Besides her years of comic experience, she's also a valued member of this city's alternative theatre community for her work as an actor and author who's not afraid to venture off the beaten path.

"We set the whole scene with our opening number," she says, which features the cast as a Greek chorus of fear, playing a chain gang oppressed by all the ills of modern society: recession, unemployment, insecurity, etc.

But here's the amazing part. According to Leslie Seiler, who's also been through more than her fair share of Second City shows, "the audience reaction to this is amazing. It's probably generating the most laughs of any opening I can ever recall."

"Every time we hit a familiar chord," agrees Hinds, "they roar out their approval."

Kerry Griffin, who normally specializes in playing the jovial Teflon-covered guy who escapes all tragedies unscathed, says he gets one of his biggest reactions in the same opening scene.

"I'm playing the prison guard on top of the chain gang down below," he chuckles, "and I look down on all of them suffering and say, `I've got a cushy job with the federal government so I'm not particularly affected.'"

"People leap on lines like that," says Hinds. "There is a hunger and an anticipation for what they see as inequalities in society and it acts as a release valve for them."

During the past few Second City shows, Marty Adams has been the go-to guy for broad, hysterical physical humour. He used to sport a John Candy-esque bulk, but he's slimmed down considerably – maybe to fit the new zeitgeist – and his comic vision has gotten leaner and meaner as well.

"I love the darkness," he says with relish. "I love sharing terrible things and discovering that everyone else has been through them as well."

He pauses and grows reflective for a moment. "Every horrible time I've suffered in my life, comedy has got me through it. I like to think we do the same thing for the audience. We exorcise a lot of demons and people leave with a renewed sense of how things aren't all that bad at all."

But not everything is gloom and doom. Far from it. The zany side of Adams surfaces in a scene in which he plays the famous explorer Marco Polo, who now finds that no one remembers he brought pasta to Europe or opened the trade routes from the East, but is just the name of a silly children's game.

And, of course, there has to be politics. With Hinds in the company (who often seems more Obama-esque that Barack himself), you just know that you have to play that card.

And with Seiler, whose specialty is sleek blond disdain, there just has to be room for Hillary Clinton to slide into the action and take over.

"Harper and Obama get together for dinner," sneers Seiler with her evil edge, "and Hilary winds up running the show."

But there's another sadder twist and that falls on company newbie Caitlin Howden, from Montreal.

"Because I'm the newcomer," she sighs, "I get to play all the timid and meek and docile characters, like Stephen Harper's wife. I mean, picture my dilemma. Here I am married to the most unappealing man in existence and then Obama, the sexiest man on Earth, shows up to my house for dinner."

Reid Janisse gets to play one of the evening's most inventive creations, Jeff Rockburn, the super-hyper American television know-it-all who wants to bring all the worst excesses of American TV to the Canadian screens.

"I love this topical buzz," he enthuses. "I like the smart comedy. We're playing to the reference levels and the shared knowledge of the world right now, which makes it exciting."

But Janisse also sounds a welcome note of calm on the global situation. "Look, this is just another recession. They've happened before and gone away. This one will vanish, too. The problem nowadays is that there's so much information, so much access. All of this doom and gloom can spread so quickly."

Although the staff at Second City admit that their audiences have dipped slightly since the recession hit, they also point out that they're one of the most price-friendly entertainments in Toronto, with a $23 top except for Friday and Saturday, when it goes up to $28, and that includes a free improvisational set.

The other thing to remember is that this isn't some fly-by-night group. This year marks the 35th anniversary of what used to be The Old Firehall on Lombard St. (one of the finest comedy venues in memory).

In its heyday, it helped hone the talents of Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Marty Short, John Candy, Catherine O'Hara and Martin Short, who all contributed much to the Canadian cultural scene.

That early location of Second City is now the home of Gilda's Club, named after the beloved Gilda Radner, a place dedicated to the support of cancer sufferers and their families.

A daily fundraising event called Toonies for Gilda will continue through the run of 0% Down, 100% Screwed at Second City and there will be other activities taking place during the year.

So there remains more than a fair degree of hope that out of the current troubled climate, the Second City – past, present and future – will triumph.

In the words of Janisse, "Audiences need the jokes. For the world right now, it's a really rough time, but for a comedian, it's gold. We find a way to make you laugh and then, for just a split second, you stop and say `Hey, is it really all that bad? I don't think so.'"


Dec. 16, 1959
The Second City opens at 1842 N. Wells in Chicago with Excelsior & Other Outcries.

April 1963
The company makes its first annual trip to Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre.

June 1973
The Second City Toronto opens in a location on Adelaide St.

March 1974
The Second City Toronto opens its first permanent (and liquor-licensed) location in The Old Firehall on Lombard St.

October 1976
The Second City Toronto debuts Second City TV throughout Canada.

September 1977
Twenty-six episodes of SCTV debut in 55 U.S. markets.

March 1985
Andrew Alexander and Len Stuart acquire Bernie Sahlins' interest in The Second City, making the North American company Canadian-owned.

November 1997
Second City Toronto moves from the Old Firehall to a new facility at 56 Blue Jays Way.

October 2005
The Second City Toronto moves to a brand new theatre space on Mercer St.

Career's Jumping For Jon Lajoie

Source:  www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar,
Entertainment Reporter

(March 08, 2009) He started out as the "Everyday Normal Guy," which proved rather quickly, that despite his protestations, he's an above-average comedian. In fact, Montreal's Jon Lajoie is unquestionably Canada's most successful web-based comedian, having parlayed homemade parody videos into a worldwide audience and a sold-out show this week at the Phoenix.

"I do have a lot of opportunities and I'd like to hop on them, because you never know how long your heat is going to last in this business and especially since being an internet celebrity is a new thing," Lajoie, 28, says on the line from Los Angeles. "So I'm expecting my heat to drop in about six months, but then I always say that."

The heat has lasted a year already, with over eight million YouTube views in that time of his aforementioned faux-gangsta rap – "Last time I had sex was in 2003 / And I'm ashamed to admit but it wasn't free" – and his series of hilarious videos since 2007 have found him important fans in folks like Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who feature him on their Funnyordie.com site.

A former singer in a cover band, his strength is being a musical chameleon; one video mocks (and successfully mimics) hardcore rap, while in the next he's strumming his guitar in the countryesque, salacious "Song for Britney." Like a lot of things that catch fire online, his material is frequently racy; Josh Saltzman, part of the Tim Sims Award-winning sketch duo 7 Minutes in Heaven, recently sang the praises to The Star of Lajoie's clip "Pedophile Beards," which advises the fashionable on how to look like a dangerous predator.

All of this his enabled Lajoie to launch a tour of comedy clubs from Houston to Miami later this month, but not before his show Friday at the Phoenix, as part of Canadian Music Week. The next day he'll host CMW's annual Indie Awards, which is giving him some trepidation.

"I'm used to performing for people who come to see me, so people know what they're getting into, but here I think some people will be sitting there going, `who the hell hired this guy?'," he says. "When I start busting out the `2 Girls, 1 Cup' song, I'm sure they're going to be like what?"

As he works the movie and TV casting circuit in L.A. – he has acting experience from a Quebec soap – Lajoie isn't known to everyone yet. (While his album You Want Some of This? came out last year, it only recently became available on iTunes.) But he is riding an obvious wave of musical comedy along with the likes of Flight of the Conchords and the Lonely Island.

"Definitely, there does seem to be something out there, right now. It's a refreshing renewal of the style, because I used to think 'musical comedy, really?' As soon as I picked up a guitar and started writing a funny song, I was like, 'Jon what are you doing?' Like I don't want to be (veteran Quebec duo) Bowser and Blue with an acoustic guitar, you know? I was like I don't want to be that dude, but the stuff that I do, and that Lonely Island guys and Flight of the Conchords do, I feel like it's a natural evolution in musical comedy, like it is going toward something else.

"It just works. I mean Flight of the Conchords, they just reinvented the whole f---in' game. Completely changed it, and I would by lying if I said they weren't a big influence on some of things that I do."

Despite trying to figure out the next step in his ascent up the comedy ladder, he's still constantly working on new material, and just last week he shot and recorded a new song and video, one that he hopes to unveil in the next few days.

"That's why I tell the people that represent me down here, I'm just going to do my thing and keep doing my thing, and if you guys can set up some opportunities for me, that's fine. I'm doing some writing for TV and movie stuff, but I have to just keep doing the Internet stuff, because I'm used to that pace, that freedom," he says.

As for his newest song, "It's kind of like if Coldplay was singing a song about masturbation. That's what I was going for ... so I kept thinking about `Yellow,' `Fix You,' and all those slow Coldplay ballads, and I was like I have to write a song like that. I want a video with the typical Chris Martin slow-mo walk.

"I was like, I'll make this deep philosophical song about how we're floating in space, on the edge of time, and in the universe where we can't define everything, the infinite galaxies, but the thing that we all do, and that we all have in common is that we all take the time to masturbate. That's basically the idea."

He recently got an apartment in L.A. because that's where the work is – although he still has an apartment in Montreal. As for his plans beyond mocking Coldplay, he says some fans have invited him to be a part of an HBO pilot; he can't say who's in it, but it's a role written for him. What he's really excited about is a musical movie pet project that he's been writing.

"I have like five or six songs written, it's sort of like Across the Universe and High School Musical, but mixed with my f---ed-up brain. That's the best way I can explain it. So we're probably going out to pitch that in a couple of months, but I want to get all the songs ready, so I can sell this thing and get it made."

As long as he keeps the funny songs keep coming, he'll have nothing to worry about.


Baryshnikov Photos Capture Movement In Motion

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Simona Rabinovitch

(March 09, 2009) NEW YORK — What does movement look like at a standstill? This question leapt to mind as Russian-American dancer, actor, choreographer, and photographer Mikhail Baryshnikov raced down the corridor of the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York's Hell's Kitchen neighbourhood. Even just riding in the elevator of this multidisciplinary art hub and performance space, one senses that important artistic business is going on: Choreography rehearsed, dreams realized, impossibilities achieved. Small, statuesque and full of energy, Baryshnikov himself personifies this constant creative propulsion.

"I'm at a crossroads," laughed the 61-year-old with an icon's dignity and a child's glee while gearing up for the release of his latest work as a photographer, Merce My Way. "But I'm pretty much always in that state."

Over the past two years Baryshnikov used a digital camera to shoot dress rehearsals of master American dance choreographer Merce Cunningham's work. The result of his voyeuristic endeavour are photographs of surreal, cinematic quality: blurred ribbons of colour and ghostlike smears of dancers in flight. Like their kinetic creator, Baryshnikov's still photographs appear to be in perpetual motion. A 128-page book of 85 of these images, which showed last year at New York's 401 Projects gallery, is out this month.

"I asked Merce because I thought his choreography is the perfect subject for a lens," said Baryshnikov, swivelling on a chair in his small, windowless office. "I worked with him, I danced with him, I'm a big fan."

When Baryshnikov began experimenting with digital action photography four years ago, he had been taking 35-millimetre pictures for almost a quarter century. Black-and-white portraits and landscapes from his travels line the walls of the Center, but he had never photographed dance, assuming the results would be "boring and unnecessary." Then, something changed. Inspired by dance photography books from the 1940s and 1950s, Baryshnikov realized he might evoke in a still photograph the energy of movement. His first such exhibit was Dominican Moves, a collection of social dance images shot in Dominican Republic dance halls, outdoor cafés and strip joints.

"Dominicans dance everywhere," he chuckled, pulling up photos on his computer screen. "They dance in gas stations, on the beach, while they are working..." Riveted by the palette of images, he pointed out a shot of a middle-aged couple swaying like teenage sweethearts on a terrace that resembled, in his words, a Pedro Almodovar set. "Look at this," he murmured. "They are beautiful, ah?" As locals invited him into their world, he came to understand that Dominicans' relationship to movement is like a language.

"They are great people, beautifully careless and very demonstrative. They really listen [to] their own heart, and they're very proud of that manifestation. And we are such hypocrites, Anglo-Saxons and Slavics. We are very much internal and depressed people, and very restrained."

Though he lives in New York, the man Time magazine called the world's "greatest living dancer" feels at home in a culture where sashaying hips are as common as handshakes. This warmth, he explains, is why he keeps a summer house on the Caribbean island, where he, his wife, dancer Lisa Rinehart, and four children spend much of their time. His oldest child, 27, is from a past relationship with Jessica Lange.

Born in the Soviet Union, Baryshnikov started studying ballet when he was 9. He was a principal dancer in Leningrad's Kirov Ballet before defecting to Canada in 1974, soon moving to the United States, where he joined the American Ballet Theatre and became a household name. Over the years, he's served as artistic director of influential dance companies (including ABT) and founded others, performing more than 100 works - both classic and avant-garde. An important innovator, he challenges not only the limits of the human body, but of art itself.

He acts, too, appearing in Sex and the City as moody Russian lothario Aleksandr Petrovsky, and in meatier parts like his Oscar-nominated performance in The Turning Point (1977) and Tony-nominated Broadway role in Metamorphosis (1989). Two years ago, he performed the notoriously challenging work of Samuel Beckett in the New York Theatre Workshop's Beckett Shorts.

"He gives instructions what to do but rarely on how to do it," said Baryshnikov in praise of the late Irish playwright. "If you're stupid enough to go on stage you should be smart and strong enough to make these internal decisions."

While he doesn't travel as much as he used to, preferring to be home with his family, there are summer gigs in Europe to dance, new shows to produce, and of course, his work at the Center. "God, my plate is full," he said. (According to the Huffington Post, late this spring he and celebrated dancer Ana Laguna will do a world tour of new material choreographed by a trio of talents, including ABT's Artist in Residence, former Bolshoi Ballet director Alexei Ratmansky.)

As he hopped between thoughts at light speed, his intense focus on each one felt like a glimpse into the realm of inspiration, where ideas live before acquiring shape or velocity. In that quietly infinite world, where Baryshnikov seems to relax, everything really is possible - though perhaps not all at the same time.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mikhail Baryshnikov will sign copies of Merce My Way at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in New York's Lincoln Triangle tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.

National Ballet's Romeo Returns For His Juliet

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

(March 09, 2009) It is big news in the dance world when a star of the Stuttgart Ballet decides to leave and join the National Ballet of Canada.

Jason Reilly had his reasons, both personal and professional, and whichever way you look at it, Stuttgart's loss is Toronto's gain.

He's spent 12 seasons with Stuttgart, was one of the étoiles of the international gala circuit, a guest with the Royal Ballet, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet and companies in Japan, Korea, Verona, Helsinki, Leipzig and Santiago. Reilly is evidently a dancer who can sell tickets.

On Wednesday and next Saturday he is guest dancer in the National Ballet's Romeo and Juliet at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. After that, he'll return to Stuttgart to finish out the season before taking up his principal dancer position in Toronto in August.

This strapping, 29-year-old performer will be welcomed by all, including Tina Pereira, the National Ballet soloist who captured his heart when they performed together in The Taming of the Shrew in March 2007.

Jason was a "dayboy" at the National Ballet School from the age of 10. When he was 15 ("I was a bit ambitious"), he asked the school's artistic director Mavis Staines if he could approach Reid Anderson about getting a job. Anderson was then director of the National Ballet, but later took over in Stuttgart and invited Reilly to that company the next year. The thought of what he might do with all that freedom and his own bank account at 16 caused Reilly to postpone until he was 17.

On tour last summer with Roberto Bolle & Friends, alone in hotel rooms, Reilly started mulling over the idea of going home. For starters, he says, he missed his family. He's the middle child of nine kids who grew up in North York.

"I never thought we'd get older," he jokes, his black toque pulled down toward the black frames of his glasses.

"My sisters and brothers are having kids and starting families. I missed being an uncle and never meeting my nieces and nephews."

Reilly was also managing his career. "I started thinking about what I will do when I retire, at 37, 38 or 39. In Europe I see a lot of dancers who reach that age and it's a shock to their system. They've worked to get their citizenship and learn German but they don't know what they're going to do.

"I didn't want to be in that situation. This way I can still dance and retire here."

He made the call to Karen Kain, artistic director of the National Ballet. "I thought he was a huge talent when he was in ballet school," she remembers. "He's a fantastic partner, a wonderful actor, a very versatile dancer. We're getting him as he's coming into his prime."

Reilly, winner of the 2006 Deutscher Tanzpreis Zukunft, a future dancer award, is pumped about coming back to town. He's a practised Romeo, having first performed the lead in the John Cranko ballet six years ago. "If a Romeo is off, I'm the one who jumps in. Once I did nine shows in a row with six different girls."

In this athletic dancer's repertoire, Romeo and Juliet rates high. "I love the music, I love the pas de deux, the energy in the second act ... You can be yourself. You get to play with swords; you get to kiss the girl. It's a lot of fun."

His Juliet is Greta Hodgkinson. The last time they danced together, she says, they were instantly into form in rehearsals. "He's extremely strong and coordinated, quite an extraordinary actor and wonderful to play off of."

Pereira admits, rather shyly, that she and Reilly have remained in touch since that fateful The Taming of the Shrew performance.

"I remember I didn't have a lot of time to rehearse," she says. She was busy rehearsing for the seventh Erik Bruhn competition, which she won. "There are a bunch of crazy lifts in Taming, but he made me feel safe and very comfortable."

Asked whether we can expect to see Reilly and Pereira dancing as a gala couple, the young man grins. "That would be cool."


Canadian Team Makes Manager Whitt Proud

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Griffin

(March 08, 2009) Even in defeat, yesterday's crowd-pleasing World Baseball Classic spectacle at the Rogers Centre was energizing – with a chance to lead to something defining for Canadian baseball.

Ernie Whitt's squad went down with guns blazing in a 6-5 loss to the United States, suffering a flesh wound in this forgiving double-elimination format. So Canada lives to fight another day – and maybe another after that – with consecutive wins needed to advance to Round 2.

"We know we can play with them," catcher Russell Martin said of Team USA. "Coming in, we were well prepared and we fell short a little bit. They didn't take us lightly. They were ready to play. We gave them a run for their money."

That's an understatement from an understated player. The fans lent emotion to the game perhaps more than any local baseball crowd this decade, standing and cheering throughout the final inning after back-to-back doubles by Martin and local hero Joey Votto had pulled Canada within a run, with one out.

The stage was set for a storybook ninth with J.J. Putz facing Canada's best hitters, Justin Morneau and Jason Bay. Votto stood on second representing the tying run, but was left stranded when Morneau grounded out and Bay popped to right. "I looked over and saw (Matt) Stairs on deck," Putz said. "Knowing what he can do, I really went after Bay."

That's respect for an opponent. The Canadians have fought hard for it over the decade since Whitt took over as manager in 1999. Votto had four of Canada's seven hits in his first WBC appearance. He homered to give Canada the lead in the third, while Martin, who had two hits, homered in the seventh and started the rally in the ninth.

"Great crowd," Martin marvelled. "It was one of the funnest games I've ever played in. I played in the playoffs last year (for the Dodgers) and it's hard to compare the environment, especially this early. Coming from spring training, it's a drastic change."

The Canadians have a day off to think about tomorrow's game that will spell elimination for someone. Considering not that they lost, but how they lost, Whitt believes the time off after the loss will be easier.

"You want to put yourself in a position to win and I think we did that," Whitt said. "We had our chances. That's all that you can ask for. That's the beauty of baseball, getting that opportunity and getting that chance to win."

Journeyman Mike Johnson pitched well, but there were a couple of bumps in his four-inning road. After retiring the Americans in the first, Johnson barely had time to sit in the dugout before his teammates handed the gift of a four-pitch inning to Jake Peavy. Johnson went back out quickly, walking the first two batters, then giving up the tying run. Finally, pitching a fourth inning with his pitch count mounting, Johnson gave up three runs on homers to Kevin Youkilis and Brian McCann, creating a 4-2 deficit.

"The team that we're putting out there makes you relax a little bit," Johnson said. "You know if you give up 1-2-3 runs, our guys are going to come out and pick you up."

The beneficiary of the four-run fourth, getting the win, was LaTroy Hawkins. But the biggest winner may be 20-year-old right-hander Phillippe Aumont. After loading the bases in the fifth – then following the first all-French Canadian mound visit in WBC history, featuring coach Denis Boucher, catcher Martin and Aumont – he retired three in a row, the last two on strikeouts, pumping his fist as he sprinted off the mound. Growth.

The low point was the sound system playing the Fenway Park staple "Sweet Caroline" during the seventh-inning stretch as U.S. leadoff man Dustin Pedroia stood in the on-deck circle smiling. "I saw a couple of Red Sox fans and they were happy," he said. "I don't know if anyone else was."

Maybe not, but it's certain 42,314 fans went home smiling about the sporting spectacle they had just witnessed.

NHL Cracks Down On Fighting

www.thestar.com Damien Cox

(March 10, 2009)  NAPLES, Fla.--There are those who believe all fighting in hockey is wonderful.

There are those who believe it's all idiotic.

Then there are those that believe some fighting in hockey is necessary and meaningful while just some of the fights are idiotic.

The NHL knew it couldn't please the first crowd or the second, so it's going for the third.

Today, the league's general managers approved recommendations aimed at curbing so-called "staged" fights and those scraps that occur as a result of teammates coming to the supposed rescue of other teammates.

No longer will two players be permitted to line up for a faceoff and then drop their gloves immediately after the puck is dropped without receiving extra penalties. Starting next season, the league will assess automatic 10-minute misconducts to players in those situations, while referees will be given latitude to decide how involved two players have to be in the play before they can drop their gloves.

In 500 fights this season up to the first week of February, 108 fights occurred right after a faceoff, a occurrence that has increased 30 per cent in the past eight years.

Similarly, another 118 fights occurred because one teammate was coming to the aid of another after an illegal or legal hit, an increase of 27 per cent over the past eight years. On 85 per cent of those occasions, the original hit was clean.

To curb those types of fights, the GMs decided to ask officiating staffs to more aggressively hand out instigator penalties.

So while the NHL won't ban fighting, it also understood it had to respond in some way to the public furor over fighting caused by the death of senior hockey defenceman Don Sanderson in January.

So more than 45 per cent of the fights that had occurred this season by the first week of February are of a type that will receive extra penalties next season. The GMs proposals, of course, have to be rubber stamped by both the league's competition committee and the NHL board of governors.

In essence, Gary Bettman's administration decided to take a stand against the type of fights few support, although it stopped short of booting players from the game who engage in staged fights or respond to a clean hit on a teammate by starting a fight.

"What we're saying is that if you're going to fight, it's got to be a real fight," said league vice-president Colin Campbell.

The league didn't come up with new regulations on the removal of helmets during fights, nor did it decide to respond to the request of the players union for new regulations on head shots.

So not everyone will be happy with what the GMs have decided today.

Then again, with hockey in Canada making everyone happy is impossible.


Raptors' Bosh Gets Guest Weatherman Gig

www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(March 11, 2008)
Chris Bosh is trying his hand at meteorology. The Toronto Raptors forward will serve as a guest weatherman Thursday during an appearance on Toronto's CTV affiliate. Bosh will fill in for longtime weatherman Dave Devall on the CTV News at 6. Bosh is the latest high-profile celebrity to fill in for Devall, who will retire April 3 following 48 years as CTV Toronto's weather specialist. Previous guests included longtime Olympic broadcaster Brian Williams, while upcoming guests include former WWE star Trish Stratus and Toronto Argonauts CEO Michael (Pinball) Clemons. Bosh is averaging 22.8 points and 9.4 rebounds in 59 games with the Raptors this season.

4-Team U.S. Football League To Launch This Fall

www.thestar.com - The Associated Press

(March 11, 2008) Former NFL coaches Dennis Green, Jim Fassel and Jim Haslett will lead teams in the new
United Football League. The league plans to debut in October with four teams in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Orlando and New York. It announced the coaches Wednesday. Former NFL defensive co-ordinator Ted Cottrell will coach the New York franchise. Green, the former Vikings and Cardinals coach, will be in San Francisco. Fassel, who led the Giants to the Super Bowl, will coach Las Vegas. Haslett, the former New Orleans Saints coach, will be in Orlando. The UFL is an outdoor professional football league. Teams are scheduled to play games in Hartford and Los Angeles along with the home markets. The league also announced the San Francisco franchise will play games at AT&T Park.


Sexier Arms: 4 Exercises That Stop the Jiggle!

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

Today we begin with a simple exercise. Your right arm should be at the side of your body. Please lift it up and out to the side so that your shoulder and hand form a straight line. Next, simply shake your right arm. Is fat bouncing all over the place like a bowl of Jell-O? Congratulations, you officially have bat wings. Let's face it... you're carrying too much body fat.

Everyone is fascinated by women who have sleek and tight arms -- biceps that look fit with a bit of muscularity and triceps that look tight and firm. It displays strength and femininity wrapped into one package. In my opinion, this is a totally sexy look.

There are a few things I've learned about attaining beautiful arms that have proven themselves time and again. These training concepts are not always seen in gyms and seldom performed by trainees.

As always, you have to perform cardio and strength training to make changes because these are the most efficient methods to improve muscles and burn body fat.

I've designed a simple program for creating tighter arms that will produce fabulous results. So if your goal is to show off sleek arms in a sleeveless dress, then you've come to the right place. If you're a man who wants better looking "guns," the routine will work for you as well.

Many of my customized workouts are based on years of my own personal experience, as well as trial and error with my personal training clients. Members of eDiets should also take advantage of the hundreds of additional exercises with animations and descriptions located on the eDiets fitness program and Virtual Trainer.

Here's my formula for sexy arms...

1. Antagonist Workouts: Antagonist training refers to working opposing muscle groups in the same workout. There are many ways to manipulate workout parameters, but I've had great success performing a biceps exercise immediately followed by a triceps exercise (also called a superset). One then rests for a specified time and repeats the cycle. This not only increases blood flow into the entire arm, but also challenges the cardiovascular system to some degree.

Antagonist supersets allows you to use more weight because the opposing muscle group gets a bit of a rest as you work the other muscle. This is my all-time-favorite way to work arms, and I've had my greatest success using this method with clients and eDiets members.

2. Time Between Sets: Arms respond quite well with a 45-second to 60-second rest between supersets when performing antagonist training. After performing the biceps and triceps exercise, one would wait no more then 45 to 60 seconds and then repeat the cycle. People tend to wait a lot longer than they realize, or they repeat a set too soon. There has to be some time allotted for recovery, but not so much that you begin to get stale. This allows you to do more work in less time and pumps blood volume into the arm.

3. Lower Body Fat: You won't get great-looking arms with elevated body fat levels. Sometimes new eDiets members tell me that they hate the flab on the back of their arms and want to know which exercises will make the arms sleek. It doesn't quite work like that. As you perform your arm exercises and as you reduce body fat through a slight calorie reduction with added cardiovascular exercise, you'll see your arms develop the way you want them to. The muscles will develop slightly from your workouts, and your reduced body fat will then display sleek muscles.

Balance is vital. A healthy nutrition program combined with a slight calorie deficit, cardiovascular exercise and weight training is essential. A proper nutrition program will send just the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and monounsaturated fats into your body and help your arms (as well as your entire body) look lean. Cardio will accelerate the fat burning process, and weight training will stimulate and develop your muscles so that when the fat comes off, you're left with a lean and tight body and beautifully sculpted arms.

For four weeks, add the following program to your upper-body weight training sessions. Place it first in the workout, and then follow with all of your other muscle groups (chest, back and shoulders). Yes, your arms will be fatigued when performing the other exercises, but this allows you to prioritize the arms. The muscles that are worked at the beginning of a workout usually respond the quickest to changes.

The Workout

A1. Fitball Supine Triceps Extension

Starting Position:

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand.

·  Sit on the ball and walk your feet out until your head, neck and shoulders are supported on the ball with the knees at a 90-degree angle.

·  Raise your hips in line with the knees and shoulders like a tabletop. Maintain the tabletop position throughout the exercise.

·  Holding the dumbbells, extend your arms toward the ceiling with a slight bend in the elbows.


·  Slowly lower the dumbbells toward the shoulders by bending the elbows stopping just short of the dumbbells touching the shoulders.

·  Contracting the triceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the arms being fully extended with a slight bend in the elbows.

Key Points:

·  Inhale while lifting the weights.

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  The upper arms should remain stationary throughout the exercise.

A2. Barbell Double Biceps Curl

(stand with your back against a wall for better isolation of the biceps)

Starting Position:

·  Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the knees.

·  Hold the barbell with both hands shoulder-width apart, a slight bend in the elbows and palms facing away from your body. The barbell should be resting lightly on your thighs.

·  Keep your shoulder blades contracted throughout the range of motion.


·  Contracting the biceps muscles, raise the barbell toward the shoulders keeping the upper arm stationary and elbows close to the body stopping just short of the barbell touching your shoulders.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale as you raise the weight.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Instruction: Perform A1 for 10 reps and immediately go to A2 and perform 12 reps (superset). Wait 45 seconds and perform the superset two additional times for a total of three supersets.

B1. The Triceps Extension

Starting Position:

·  Stand with a dumbbell in your right hand and your left hand on your hip.

·  Press the weight over your head until your right arm is almost straight with a slight bend in the elbow at the top position.

·  Do not allow the weight to touch your head or neck area.


·  Slowly bend your elbow, lowering the weight until your arm forms a 90-degree angle behind your head stopping before the weight touches your back.

·  Contracting the triceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Inhale while lowering the weight.

·  After completing the set on the right side, repeat on the left side.

·  This exercise is not to be performed with large dumbbells. The technique is more important than the weight.

·  You can also perform this exercise while seated on a bench.

B2. The Biceps Curl

Starting Position:

·  Sit on a bench or chair with both feet in front of your body and your back straight.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms at each side and palms facing forward.


·  Contracting the biceps muscles, raise the weights toward your shoulders stopping just short of the weights touching the shoulders.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the weights.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Your upper arms should remain stationary throughout the exercise.

Instruction: Perform B1 for 12 reps and immediately go to B2 and perform 12 reps (superset). Wait 45 seconds and perform the superset two additional times for a total of three supersets.

Perform the workout on three alternate days of the week. Beginners should perform only one superset of each cycle.

Believe me, the program is not easy -- but it will produce results when combined with your nutrition program. Time to get to work.

Please check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.


Motivational Note

“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Mark Twain