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May 21, 2009

The weather has definitely taken a turn for the better here in Toronto.  Unlike some other places in the country! Celebrate the sun people!!

Well the results are in on American Idol - I don't think that I've watched it as much as I have this season - finally some real artists took the stage.  A surprising outcome (to me!) but a great finale with tons of special guests - more than most award shows!  Check out the results coverage under SCOOP.  The blogs and FB are going crazy!

Then there's the National Jazz Awards, Riverdance comes back to Toronto, the mega show Bachelorette finally features a Canadian and another Canadian Taylor Kitsch hits the screen in an upcoming Canadian/South African co-production, The Bang Bang Club.

And this weeks travel takes us to the east coast of Halifax

Now help me hit 500 friends on Facebook (in just over one week)!  Click on the icon to the left!

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


Kris Allen Takes The `America Idol' Title

Source: By Lynn Elber, Associated Press

(May 20, 2009) LOS ANGELES (AP) — Folksy singer
Kris Allen is the new "American Idol," turning judges' favorite Adam Lambert into an also-ran.

Host Ryan Seacrest said on Wednesday's finale that nearly 100 million votes were cast for the finalists. The 23-year-old Allen, a student from Conway, Ark., bested the 27-year-old Lambert, a theater actor from San Diego.

The two-hour finale included performances by the Black Eyed Peas, Cyndi Lauper, Carlos Santana and Rod Stewart. Lambert performed with Kiss and Allen dueted with Keith Urban.

Before the announcement, the two finalists dueted on "We are the Champions" with the surviving members of Queen.

Allen gets a record contract along with his "American Idol" title.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — "American Idol" viewers showed they really care whether Adam Lambert or Kris Allen won the crown.

As the finale got under way Wednesday, host Ryan Seacrest said more than 100 million votes were cast after Tuesday's singing showdown between Lambert and Allen. A record-setting 624 million votes were cast over the season.

Although Lambert has been a judge's favorite, the contest could be close. When he and Allen were declared the finalists last week, only 1 million votes separated the pair out of 88 million viewer votes.

According to DialIdol.com, a Web site that tracks phone call traffic on vote nights, the contest was too close to call. The site said it's the first time it couldn't predict a winner.

The matchup has the potential to be a reprise of last year, when David Archuleta appeared to outduel David Cook. "You came out here tonight to win, and what we have witnessed is a knockout," judge Simon Cowell told Archuleta — who then proceeded to lose to Cook.

Could Lambert, cooed over by Cowell and the show's other judges Tuesday, as he has been all season, be another front-runner who falters? Could low-key Allen swipe victory from the bold theater actor who brought "guyliner" to family TV?

The answer may be found among Danny Gokey's supporters, according to Paula Abdul: Gokey's elimination after making it to the top three sent them in search of a new favorite.

"After the third one leaves, you wonder where do the votes go from that third contestant," the "Idol" judge said backstage after Tuesday's singing showdown.

Allen and Gokey seem more aligned than Lambert, in both style and substance. Allen, 23, of Conway, Ark., and Gokey, 29, of Milwaukee, shunned Lambert's elaborate staging and wardrobe when they performed, and both have traditional public images.

Allen is a married college student and has worked as a church worship leader. Gokey, a widower, is a church music director.

Lambert, 27, of Los Angeles, has largely kept his life under wraps, saying "I know who I am" when asked to dish. His talent, however, is there for all to see.

"That was the best I've ever heard you sing — ever!" Abdul exulted Tuesday.

Allen said Monday that he hoped the outcome isn't decided by "having the Christian vote."

"I hope it has to do with your talent and the performance that you give and the package that you have. It's not about religion and all that kind of stuff," he said.

Lambert concurred, saying, "It's about music. That's really important to keep in mind."

Allen got respect from the judges Tuesday on that score, even if Cowell's praise for his version of "Ain't No Sunshine" sounded like a consolation prize.

"When your name was announced last week, I wasn't sure that America had made the right choice," Cowell said. "I absolutely take all that back now after that performance."

Will the acerbic Brit find himself recanting again after the final audience vote?

Fox is a unit of News Corp.

On the Net: http://www.americanidol.com/

Kris Allen Crowned 'American Idol' In Surprise Victory

Source: www.billboard.com - Monica Herrera and Jessica Letkemann, N.Y.

(May 20, 2009)
Kris Allen was crowned the "American Idol" Season 8 champ on Wednesday night (May 20), after nearly 100 million votes declared the 23-year-old Conway, Arkansas native the winner over runner-up Adam Lambert.

During the two hour-plus season finale, contestants were paired with veteran recording artists for duets. Allen broke out the guitar with Keith Urban to perform the country singer's "Kiss a Girl;" third runner-up Danny Gokey and Lionel Richie did a medley of "Hello," "Just Go," and "All Night Long;" Cyndi Lauper teamed up with fourth-place finisher Allison Iraheta on "Time After Time;" and Lambert joined the glam rock band KISS for a pyro-heavy take on "Detroit Rock City" and "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Nite." All thirteen contestants provided the vocals for Carlos Santana on "Black Magic Woman" and "Smooth," and Lambert and Allen performed  "We Are the Champions" with the big surprise guest of the night, Queen.
Allen's victory came as a surprise to "American Idol" followers, particularly those who frequent "American Idol" blogs and fansites. Between the two Season 8 finalists, Adam Lambert has topped Kris Allen in blog buzz by an average of about 51% since both singers made the Top 36 in February, according to Nielsen BuzzMetrics. And while overall buzz for both has grown as the pool has narrowed, 16% more bloggers mentioned Adam Lambert instead of Kris Allen on May 19 after the final performances aired.

The pair's Twitter metrics tell a similar story, with tweets mentioning Lambert also consistently outnumbering tweets about Allen by 50%. And just as with blog buzz, tweets about Lambert on May 19 right after the voting for the winner opened outstripped tweets about Allen by 16%.

At the request of "American Idol" producers, iTunes keeps the download rankings for contestants' studio recordings under wraps. But when an Apple software malfunction in late April temporarily leaked the sales figures to the public, the data counted six of Adam Lambert's studio recordings among the Top 10 "Idol" downloads. According to the New York Post, the singer's interpretation of Tears for Fears' "Mad World," which he performed during Tuesday's final performance night, claimed the No. 1 spot.
Kris Allen, meanwhile, held three positions on the Top Downloads chart, with his recording of the song "Falling Slowly" landing at No. 3. While those numbers are not as impressive as Lambert's, the iTunes leak led "Idol" watchers to shift their attention towards Allen, who'd long been considered a "dark horse" contestant, and away from third-place contestant Danny Gokey, who held just one of the Top 10 downloads.
To be fair, one data-miner that focuses exclusively on votes has consistently called a tighter race between Lambert and his Season 8 contestants. DialIdol.com, the popular website that predicts the outcome of each episode based on the number of busy signals each contestants' phone line receives, said Wednesday morning that the final vote counts for Lambert and Allen were too close to call a winner, as they had been the week prior.
As the new "American Idol" Allen automatically wins a recording contract, but whether or not his buzz will translate to album sales remains to be seen. The Season 7 "Idol" champion, David Cook has sold 1,012,000 copies of his self-titled debut album since its November 2008 release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks, who famously generated a loyal fanbase known as the "Soul Patrol," has only sold 704,000 copies of his debut album since its release in 2006.


National Jazz Awards : And The Winners Are ...

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

(May 15, 2009) With the move from a dance hall to a soft-seats theatre, the focus of the eighth annual National Jazz Awards shifted from schmoozing to appreciation.

Instead of the dinner-dance set-up staged at Palais Royale in recent years, last night's celebration took place at Harbourfront Centre's Fleck Theatre.

"We wanted a night of listening, not just partying," explained executive director Bill King, of the gathering that typically attracts about 500 jazz fans and musicians from across the country.

"And with these great orchestras (National Jazz Orchestra, Yamaha All-Stars and an all-star band conducted by Darcy Hepner) we wanted a real stage space; all this music is quite intricate."

The evening also featured performances by Real Divas, Chris Donnelly, Mario Allard Quintet, and Christine and Ingrid Jensen with Joel Miller.

Veteran multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson earned the most hardware, taking the SOCAN Composer, Acoustic Band (for his quartet) and Jazz Recording (For Kenny Wheeler) categories.

"He's such an extraordinary musician," King said. "He's become an elder jazz statesman but remained so active, constantly writing, composing and teaching. He's a mad man genius. (These wins) account for his volume of work in the past year."

Determined by 7,200 online voters, other winners included: Sisters Euclid (Electric Band); David Braid (Keyboardist); John McLeod (Arranger); Molly Johnson (Female Vocalist); Eliana Cuevas (Latin Jazz Artist); Oliver Jones (Musician); Ross Taggart (Instrumentalist); Ian McDougall (Big Band); Bill Coon (Guitarist); and Eli Bennett (CBC Galaxie Rising Star).

Guido Basso was named Allan Slaight Artist of Distinction and Bob DeAngelis wrested the Clarinetist title from perennial winner Phil Nimmons. Media awards went to Ottawa scribe James Hale and photographer Roger Humbert.

Repeat winners from last year were: Hugh Fraser (Trombonist); Jodi Proznick (Bassist); Jesse Zubot (Violinist); Terry Clarke (Drummer); Joe Coughlin (Male Vocalist); Phil Dwyer (Saxophonist); Brad Turner (Trumpeter and Producer); Cellar Live (Record Label); Katie Malloch (Broadcaster); and the Vancouver Jazz Festival.

Once again the West Coast cleaned up, sweeping more than a third of the 28 categories.

Nominations are based on votes by music journalists, jazz festival producers, broadcasters and record industry people.

Riverdance Is Back, And It's Still Delightful

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

http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1024636%5fANElvs4AAIZ6ShR63wXqznFVqYY&pid=1.2&fid=Inbox&inline=1&stationery=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1024636%5fANElvs4AAIZ6ShR63wXqznFVqYY&pid=1.3&fid=Inbox&inline=1&stationery=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1024636%5fANElvs4AAIZ6ShR63wXqznFVqYY&pid=1.4&fid=Inbox&inline=1&stationery=1(out of 4)
Composed by Bill Whelan. Directed by John McColgan. At the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St., until June 21. 416-872-1212.

(May 20, 2009) It's been around since 1995, has visited 32 countries and has played to audiences in excess of 21 million.

But now the self-proclaimed journey is drawing to its end.
Riverdance, which opened last night at the Canon Theatre, is on what is apparently its farewell tour of North America and making its final stop in Toronto, courtesy of Mirvish Productions. It's fair to say, however, that it is hardly on its last, very shapely legs.

The dancing is as energetic and as noisy as ever; if you like thundering feet, this is the show for you. And the Irish dancers still display that engaging mix of wholesome and sexy.

If it has done nothing else during its 14 years touring the world, Riverdance has given unlikely employment to a generation of dancers whose mothers and fathers can hardly have expected that little Sean or Fiona would make a lucrative career out of a healthy hobby.

Here we have Marty Dowds as the principal male dancer and Alana Mallon as his female counterpart. He is as good a dancer as you could hope to see, although perhaps a touch less charismatic than others whose shoes he now fills; she has both strong technique and strong stage presence.

The clogging vs. tap contest, featuring Dowds, Marcus Maloney and Craig Ashurst and tappers Kelly Isaac and Jason E. Bernard is the undoubted highlight of the show. And they've also got a nifty, flying-fingered fiddler in Pat Mangan who romps effortlessly through several intricate tunes.

To me, other parts of the show still appear problematic.

The solo ballads are not particularly striking, despite the best efforts of baritone Michael Samuels (in particular) and Laura Yanez. The Russian dancing, with Evgeniya Starodubova and Sergey Bukreev leading the way, is not particularly original or engaging, and the quasi-Flamenco sections featuring dancer Rocio Montoya appear, well, rather odd, given the context.

But the moon (and occasionally the sun) still shines brightly down, the narrative is filled with misty, poetic words and allusions while the blazing energy of the dancers lights up the stage.

It may be shuffling off into the Celtic twilight but the Riverdance journey has brought pleasure to millions. And, it's safe to say, will continue to do so for some time to come.

Bachelorette Faces Frank Truth

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 18, 2009) Jillian Harris, the Canadian star of The Bachelorette, says her "hotdog" theory of dating just doesn't cut the mustard any more.

When she appeared on last season's edition of ABC's The Bachelor, Harris boasted she could tell a lot about potential suitors by their condiment preference.

But ahead of today's premiere of The Bachelorette (also on Citytv), Harris admits her saucy strategy is no longer much help.

"These guys give me a run for my money and they're not buying the whole hotdog thing," she told reporters during a recent conference call. "So I tried, I've tried to play the hotdog thing on them, but they're not buying it."

Harris, of Peace River, Alta., revealed her hotdog hypothesis during the last season of The Bachelor, in which she finished third in the quest to capture the heart of singleton Jason Mesnick.

Sauerkraut lovers, she surmised, are the bad boys all women think they want, while onion eaters will never walk down the aisle.

Ketchup fans, she claimed, are all-American guys but don't take a lot of risks. And mustard men, she maintained, are blue-chip marriage material.

On The Bachelorette, Harris will be the one handing out the roses as she chooses between 30 potential paramours, including an Olympic cyclist, a breakdance instructor, a pizza entrepreneur, a commercial pilot and a winemaker.

As a "short, little quirky Canadian," Harris says she doesn't think she fits the mould of The Bachelorette and was surprised she was promoted from contestant to top billing.

"I think I'm just quirky because, I mean, when it comes to sex appeal, I don't know how much I have," says Harris, who stands 5-foot-2.

Taylor Made

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle Macdonald

(May 15, 2009) Taylor Kitsch, the Kelowna, B.C.-born hunk who's been the cover boy for Men's Health magazine (twice) and most recently hit the big screen as the muscle-bound Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine is literally – and quite deliberately – wasting away.

Clothes hang on his once-ripped, six-foot frame. His normally tanned skin is wan and grey. He hasn't been able to sleep for weeks, and is fighting chronic exhaustion. “I probably weigh about 150 pounds right now, and I feel like shit,” says the 28-year-old. “I wrote an e-mail to my best friend the other day saying I feel like a 14-year-old pregnant girl, trapped in an alley, with nowhere to go.”

Okay, all weird. The guy who makes women drool as heart-breaking running back Tim Riggins on NBC's Friday Night Lights (which airs on Global in Canada) is likening himself to an impregnated teen? Are his marbles intact?

As it turns out, a surreal head space is exactly where Kitsch wants to be.

The dramatic weight loss – he dropped 30 pounds in two months – is all part of his commitment to embracing his latest film role as Pulitzer Prize-winning, drug-addled photojournalist Kevin Carter in the upcoming Canadian/South African co-production,
The Bang Bang Club – whose title mirrors the self-styled moniker of a tight-knit group of four young men whose photographs captured the final bloody years of apartheid, from the time Nelson Mandela left his jail cell in February, 1990, to the 1994 elections.

“My mom doesn't like even hearing what I'm going through playing him,” says Kitsch, who has wrapped another dawn-to-dusk day on the set in Johannesburg, where the cast and crew have just re-enacted a public execution by necklacing – placing a gasoline-filled rubber tire around a person's neck, and setting it on fire. “This role,” adds the actor, “was a dream of mine, yet probably the biggest challenge of my career, but I'm [expletive] spent.”

Kitsch grew up a typical Canadian rink rat, playing junior hockey with the Langley Hornets before a knee injury sidelined him for good. His mother encouraged him to do some modelling (he hated it) before he switched to acting classes in New York, eventually nabbing parts in such forgettable films as John Tucker Must Die and Snakes on a Plane. His big break came when he was chosen to play the brooding running back in the critically lauded Friday Night Lights.

Kitsch caught wind of The Bang Bang Club – and the role of Carter, whose 1993 Pulitzer-winning photo, of a vulture stalking a starving child, came to define the famine in Sudan – in the final days of shooting Wolverine with Hugh Jackman in Vancouver. He recalls reading the script on the plane back to Los Angeles. He met Bang Bang's director, Steven Silver, the next day.

“I told Steven in that meeting, ‘Listen, I know you know nothing about me. But if I get this role, you're going to get everything I've got,'“ recalls Kitsch, whose character sports a diamond stud earring and African tribal bracelets.

“In this movie, there's no such thing as taking a scene off. Each day is so [expletive] intense. But no one is going to put more pressure on me than myself to put the life back into Kev,” he says of the photographer, who committed suicide in 1994. “I want to leave people with way more than an impression of a haggard drug addict. People tend to remember the worst. But I want to bring the life, the laughter, his sense of humour back. When Kev was happy, his smile was ear-to-ear. I'm all over the map with this guy because if you read up on who Kev Carter was, anything goes, really.”

The rest of the Bang Bang Club included photographers Greg Marinovich (played by Ryan Phillippe), Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach) and Joao Silva (Neels Van Jaarlsveld). On the film set everyday have been Marinovich (who won his own Pulitzer) and Silva; the two men co-wrote the 2000 book on which the film is based. Sadly, the real-life Bang Bang Club came to an end in April, 1994, with the death of Oosterbroek. Carter's best friend, he was killed while photographing a firefight in Thokoza days before the national elections that the Bang Bang Club had worked so hard to support.

On July 27 of that year, Carter drove to the Braamfonteinspruit River and taped one end of a hose to his pickup truck's exhaust pipe, running the other end to the passenger window. He died of carbon-monoxide poisoning at 33. His suicide note ended with the line: “I have gone to join Ken if I am that lucky.”

Like a young De Niro

It's just past 6:30 p.m. and, despite his exhaustion, Kitsch seems happy to chat on his cellphone into the evening. An easy conversationalist, he exudes a down-to-earth chumminess that gives away his West Coast roots. “I called home the other day and my mom said my little sister Haley just about kicked down the door, running in, shouting that Gambit is on a Slurpee cup! She was so proud of me!” laughs Kitsch, who has two younger sisters, as well as two thirtysomething brothers.

Dubbed Hollywood's newest “It” boy since the release of Wolverine, Kitsch seems to have no attitude, no airs. But he's not thick, and he knows he's been blessed with an insanely handsome face. That's precisely why he's taking baby steps to choose roles that will get people to see beyond the drop-dead good looks, and appreciate his talent. The Bang Bang Club fit his requirements to a T.

The movie is Silver's feature-film directorial debut. Having spent the past 20 years making documentaries, primarily in Canada, the 42-year-old says it was Kitsch's performance as the damaged Riggins in Friday Night Lights that convinced him the actor could nail the role of Carter: He had the perfect mix of scruff, machismo and vulnerability the director was seeking.

“Kevin was quite skinless,” explains Silver, who grew up in South Africa but moved to Canada in 1995 at the age of 27. “By that, I mean he was so open to everything – so engaged in the moment.

“It was that quality that made him a fantastic photographer, but it also meant that everything he saw – all the bloodshed and the violence – seeped in, and he couldn't handle it all,” adds the director, who has been trying to get the film made for eight years, and has written 18 drafts of the script.

“Taylor takes my words and turns them into something that is always new and exciting. I didn't cast look-alikes, but inadvertently they've almost taken the shape of the people they're playing,” he says, adding that even when the cameras stop, the guys stay in character, calling themselves by their scripted names.

“We like to say around here that Ryan is the anchor of the film – the Harvey Keitel of the piece – while Taylor is like a young Robert De Niro in Mean Streets. He's the snap, crackle and pop.”

As gruelling as some of the scenes have been for the actors, Canadian producer Daniel Iron of Toronto's Foundry Films says no one has injected more blood, sweat and tears into this project than Silver, who was active in the National Union of South African Students (an affiliate of the African National Congress's internal legal group) before moving to Canada.

“This is Steven's film. He lived through this, knew many of the people in this story. He was a young law student very involved in the burgeoning democracy. This is a story I think he has had to make,” says Iron, who has also been in South Africa since March, shooting in Johannesburg, Soweto and Thokoza – places where the photojournalists chronicled the final atrocities of white rule.

Iron, who is co-producing with Lance Samuels and Adam Friedlander of Out of Africa Inc., hopes to complete the film in time for the Toronto International Film Festival in September. “But it's a film I'm not going to rush,” he says. “I'm going to take my time and do it right.”

A tumultuous time

Silver says he became captivated by the Bang Bang Club after reading a Time magazine article about Carter almost a decade ago. It became something of a quest for him to understand the photographers' motivation to put themselves in grave danger every day.

“These guys' photographs jar you to this day. They gave us images that otherwise would have remained hidden from us, and I was fascinated by the kind of people who did that,” says Silver, who also wrote and co-produced Gerrie & Louise, a Gemini-winning and International Emmy Award-winning documentary for the CBC.

“They were young men and this work gave them a career – a rock ‘n' roll ride they found exciting. [They were] ordinary men who threw themselves into extraordinary places at a tumultuous time. It's about how these men were negotiating the rules of the world as they manoeuvred into manhood.”

Kitsch says he believes Oosterbroek's death – combined with some harsh criticism thrown Carter's way for photographing, and not helping, that Sudanese toddler – is what finally tipped Carter over the edge. “This guy was hardwired to self-destruct,” he says.

After arriving back home in Austin, Tex., this week, Kitsch has been hitting the gym, trying to bulk up again for his football-stud role in the new season of Friday Night Lights.

It will be a long time, he adds, before he begins to really shake Kevin Carter out of his head. “This film isn't just about death – that would be incredibly depressing,” he says. “It's a vindication of what these guys did. They brought this to the surface and made the world sit up and take notice.

“In a sense, The Bang Bang Club is a celebration. What they did took incredible courage. They stepped into situations most others would not, which I guess means they were a little bit crazy. But they really did seek change. They didn't want to be bystanders any more.”


Halifax : Summer Sizzles By Land And By Sea

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

(May 16, 2009)  HALIFAX–This is a city of perfect summer moments: sitting on a wooden deck watching a parade of tall ships sail past; following a bagpiper through an old stone fort; gaping in awe at a man riding a unicycle while juggling flaming torches in the dark; listening to the 400-year-old dialogue of the Bard come alive under the stars as the ocean murmurs nearby.

Many cities wilt in the summer. They get too hot, too crowded, too dirty. Not Halifax. This city shines in July, August and September, when it is pleasantly warm by day, and deliciously cool by night. It's built for summer, with beaches and lakes for swimming, surfing and kayaking and a thriving nightlife of theatres, concerts and bars.

This summer some of the world's most impressive tall ships will return to Halifax, arriving on July 16. Visitors can tour the U.S. Coast Guard bark the Eagle, and more than a dozen others. The Buskers' Festival returns Aug. 6, with dozens of street performers scattered along the waterfront. Buskers are best enjoyed at night, when their crazy pass-the-hat antics seem even more daring illuminated by torches and spotlights.

Here's a brief guide to the best of a Halifax summer.


The Lord Nelson Hotel overlooks the Victorian-era Public Gardens in the heart of downtown. This classic hotel was an occasional haunt of international spies through two world wars and still retains an aura of old-fashioned, wood-panelled mystery.

It is just down the hill from the city's premier historic site – Citadel Hill – and around the corner from the city's best shopping on Spring Garden Rd. For those with more modern sensibilities, the brand new Courtyard Marriott Hotel has a view of Halifax Harbour and George's Island, and is also home to the lovely Spirit Spa. The hotel won raves from tradition-minded Haligonians for the way it blends into the historic Brewery Market next door.


This is a city of eclectic shopping. Start on the waterfront in the big stone edifice known as Historic Properties, one of several vault-like buildings constructed more than two centuries ago to safeguard the loot of successful privateers.

Today, Historic Properties holds a map store, a shop featuring local pewter works, a clothing store that features designers from across Canada, an art gallery and Carrefour Atlantique Emporium, a unique store that carries toys, crafts and hundreds of books about Atlantic Canada.

From Historic Properties, head west along the waterfront to Nova Scotia Crystal, where you can watch master craftsmen create the goblets, flutes and candlesticks sold in its shop. Then head uphill.

Stop at the gift shop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to find unique souvenirs of the region. On Barrington St. you will find Hilltribe, a local boutique that commissions its own line of natural-fabric fashion from tailors in Indonesia.

On the same block is Peep Show, with cutting-edge fashion geared toward 20-somethings, and a candy store that is a favourite of visiting celebrities. Meander along Barrington until you reach Spring Garden Rd. This is the heart of Halifax shopping. Goods range from the stiletto wonders of Kickass Shoes to the antique saris of Plovers, an eco-boutique in the Park Lane Mall. Also check out the city's fine art galleries, such as Zwicker's Galley on Doyle St., Studio 21 on Lower Water St. and the Argyle Gallery at Historic Properties.


If you go to Martinique Beach, stop by Harbour Fish N' Fries in Musquodoboit on Highway 7 on the way back for the clam platter. This isn't the leathery stuff found in most diners. These bivalves are plump and juicy, plucked fresh from the bay behind the beach and then coated in light batter. Skip the fries and get extra portions of clam, scallop or fish.

For more sophisticated dining, return to the city and try Gio at the Prince George Hotel, Chives on Barrington St. or Bish, the city's best upscale restaurant on the water, at Bishop's Landing.

Another favourite of local residents is Saege, one of several food establishments owned by a beloved local catering company, Scanway. For a truly unique experience, head to McNab's Island in Halifax Harbour with a picnic from gourmet grocer Pete's Frootique on Dresden Row and a bottle from the city's premier vintner, Port of Wines, on Queen St.


Argyle St. is the centre of nighttime entertainment, with several bars and restaurants strung along two blocks surrounding Neptune Theatre. On a warm summer night enjoy the city view from the top deck of The Argyle, or go to the other extreme by checking out the Seahorse, a basement bar one block away where some of Canada's best bands got their start.

Down the hill toward the harbour you'll in the Old Triangle, a classic Irish Pub, and P+ogue Fado, one of several clubs that feature live music. Bearly's House of Blues and Ribs on Barrington St. is everything a blues club should be: a small scruffy space that smells like stale beer and attracts some of the best blues musicians in the country. Point Pleasant Park is home to Shakespeare by the Sea, which will stage Macbeth and Love's Labour's Lost in the forest this year.

Outdoor delights

Nova Scotia lives up to its claim of being "Canada's Ocean Playground," with surfing, kayaking, beachcombing and hiking trails all available inside the city limits.

The most popular surfing site is Lawrencetown Beach, about half an hour east of downtown. Three businesses rent surf gear and offer lessons at Lawrencetown: Kannon Beach operates out of a big building on a bluff overlooking the beach; Dacane's operates a kiosk at the beach itself and Happy Dudes rents gear from a trailer down the road. Sea Sun Kayak is the oldest kayak service in the city. They run expert tours through protected bays, where you can scoop up fresh mussels from your kayak to boil up on the beach.

The best beach hike is at Crystal Crescent Beach southwest of the city, but don't venture past the second beach if you are offended by nudity. The pristine white sands and dramatic grey cliffs at the end of Crystal Crescent have long been the unofficial nude beach of Halifax.

Another stunning beach is found farther east of Lawrencetown. Martinique Beach is the longest beach in the Maritimes, a five-kilometre crescent of sand backed by grassy dunes.

Kelly Toughill is a Halifax-based freelance writer.


Barenaked Ladies Unveil Songs At Hush-Hush Gig

www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(May 16, 2009) TORONTO — Not to put too fine a point on it. On Friday, at the third of three hush-hush gigs by Barenaked Ladies at Toronto's rootin-tootin-hollerin Dakota Tavern, jokester Sean Cullen introduced the Steven Page-less band as “new and improved” and as having “cut off some of the fat.” Thus starts a new chapter in the two-decade career of one of Canada's most famous, most successful and quirkiest pop acts, now working as a quartet - to the worry of its legion of fans (and perhaps its record label).

It should be pointed out that co-founder and co-frontman Page, who left the group in February to pursue solo projects, is currently in a relatively svelte state. Comedian Cullen, on the other hand, appears to have found the 40 lbs that Page has lost.

As far as being leaner, it's true that the new Barenaked Ladies (billed as Scarborough Bluffs) are that. The foursome switched between instruments, and the traditionally three-pronged repartee between Page, drummer-jester Tyler Stewart and Ed Robertson is now banter that only goes two ways. A respectable set of a 13 new songs played at the Dakota varied from slightly psychedelic power-pop (How Long), to ambling, minor-key Beatles style (Hold On), to crunching arena rock (I Have Learned), to mandolin-sprinkled folk-pop (Ordinary), to vintage, downhearted BNL balladry (Shoulder).

The show, a tame affair compared to a reportedly more rambunctious performance two nights earlier, was, according to Robertson, the “final rehearsal” before the band goes into the studio on Monday to record the follow-up to 2007's Barenaked Ladies Are Men. (Last year's Juno-winning Snacktime! was marketed towards children).

Robertson is the star of television's Ed's Up!, an adventure series which sees the singer-songwriter trying his hand at various (often rugged) occupations. Now his job is to lead a hit-making musical franchise on his own. At the Dakota, multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn took a more conspicuous role – his All in Good Time was a gentle, slow-dance acoustic number.

The original band was built around the harmonically compatible and Kraft Dinner-loving duo of Page and Robertson, the Scarborough, Ont., schoolhouse pals who shared similar tastes in quirky pop, Fez hats and macaroni and cheese.

The suburban Toronto outfit's first long-playing album, 1992's Gordon, included hits Be My Yoko Ono and If I Had $1,000,000. While Page was the group's signature voice early on (singing lead on hits Brian Wilson, Jane and One Week), Robertson's voice graced increasingly more singles as the years passed.

The past year for Barenaked Ladies was not its best one. Page was arrested in upstate New York for alleged cocaine possession in July of 2008. A Robertson-piloted Cessna 206 crash-landed, with no injuries involved, a month later. (Page's drug charges were dismissed earlier this month.) The night's final song, Runaway, may well have been directed towards the emancipated Page. The sulky, downbeat tune had Robertson singing a line “I tried to be your brother, but you cried and ran for cover.”

When it was over, emcee Cullen appeared again, judged the performance a success, and surmised that it looked like “everything is going to be okay.” One imagines that Barenaked Ladies has heard that kind of thing a lot lately – if the members had a million dollars for every soothing bit of encouragement given, they'd be very rich indeed. And they'd only need to split the fortune four ways.

Music For Every Ear

Source:  www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(May 16, 2009) Toronto's Jazz and Pop scene has so many choices in the summer months, there's something to suit just about anyone.

MAY 26 & 30

Billy Joel and Elton John bring their Face 2 Face tour to the Air Canada Centre. This combination of the Piano Man and the flashy Brit performing their biggest hits should be a blast for their fans. The pair cancelled a similar 2003 gig here owing to SARS concerns. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $79 to $275.50 at 416-870-8000 or ticketmaster.ca.


Having proven herself as a bona fide solo star and after having started a family, Gwen Stefani has finally made time for a No Doubt reunion. The group, which hasn't performed together in more than four years or made an album since 2001's Rock Steady, is reportedly at work on a new disc. At the Air Canada Centre. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $65 to $108 at 416-870-8000 or ticketmaster.ca.

JULY 5 & 6

In shows rescheduled from April, esteemed jazz bassist Charlie Haden performs in a rare duo setting with Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson at Glenn Gould Studio. 8 p.m. Tickets: $69.50 at 416-872-4255 or roythomson.com.


Sasha Fierce, a.k.a. Beyoncé, brings her sassy, singing selves to the Molson Amphitheatre on the "I Am..." world tour. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $34.75 to $150.75 at 416-870-8000 or ticketmaster.ca.

AUG. 5

Classical and jazz square off at Massey Hall as pianists Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock recreate their sizzling, duelling-keys display of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue at last year's Grammy Awards. They'll be performing solos, duets and concertos for two pianos, with orchestra. Tickets: $69.50 to $199.50 at 416-872-4255 or roythomson.com.

Islamic Idol Lets Pop Fans Keep The Faith

Source: www.thestar.com - Hadeel Al-Salchi,
Associated Press

(May 18, 2009) CAIRO – Flames burst from the stage for a grand entrance, and fake fog swirls around a young man in a white robe. He clutches the microphone, gazes seriously into the camera and then, accompanied only by drums, he sings.

"I accept Allah as my God, His religion as my religion, and His messenger as my messenger," he intones, as the audience, divided into men's and women's sections, claps along with the rhythm.

The singer is a contestant on a
new Islamic version of American Idol, launched to promote and drum up talent for the Arab world's first Islamic pop music video channel.

The satellite station, 4shbab – Arabic for "For the Youth" – is the brainchild of an Egyptian media worker, Ahmed Abu Heiba, who says his mission is to spread the message that observant Muslims can also be modern and in touch with today's world.

"We have failed to deliver this message," he said on the sidelines of the contest, which aired late last month. The show is called Your Voice is Heard, though Abu Heiba has nicknamed it "Islamic Idol."

"What I am trying to do is to use the universal language of music to show what Islam looks like," he said.

The channel, which was launched in February and can be seen across the Arab world, is a bid to capitalize on a generation of young Muslims who have become more observant but are also raised on Western pop.

But it's hard to hit the right balance between conservative and liberal. The channel shows no female singers – or any other women – adhering to the mainstream view that women performers are taboo in Islam. Still, some conservatives are wary about mixing pop culture and religion.

So what does Islam look like on 4shbab? There's rock and hip-hop from American and British Muslim bands, singing about the struggles of keeping up with daily prayers or dressing modestly. The Arab singers tend toward a more romantic pop style – young men with smouldering eyes and flowing shirts sing in the rain about leading a virtuous life, going to mosque and supporting their families.

Abu Heiba said he wants to include women singers on the station, but "I believe that our societies are not ready to accept it."

The Arab world is full of female singers, but only on the numerous secular pop music channels. The videos often feature scantily clad women singing or dancing, with suggestive lyrics. Many tut-tut that such videos are offensive and against Arab and Muslim culture, but viewers still flock to the wildly popular video TV stations.

Abu Heiba said 4shbab is an antidote to the "lewd" music videos mainstream channels show.

"We give our kids the shadow of holiness because this is basic in our culture and religion," he said.

Hagar Hossam, 16, said she watches 4shbab "every day." Dressed in a head scarf and a long robe, the high school student giggled with her friends in the women's section of the competition.

"Islam isn't just about praying and religious rituals," she said. "We're allowed to have fun, be happy and be young. We just try to balance it with our religion and with what makes God happy."

Foxx Makes History With Hit Single 'Blame It!'

Source: Theola Borden, VP, Publicity, RCA Music Group = J, Arista, RCA

(May 15, 2009) *(New York, NY) - J Records recording artist Jamie Foxx sets the all-time record for 12 consecutive weeks at #1 on the Urban Mainstream chart with his hit single "Blame It" (TLC's "No Scrubs" was #1 for 11 weeks in 1999)! 

This unprecedented feat is coupled with "Blame It" coming in at #1 on the Hot 100 Audience chart for a 4th week with an audience of 119.6 million. 

The single also maintains its Top 5 status this week landing at #3 on the Rhythmic chart (after a 5 week run at #1), and #5 on the Top 40 chart.  

Additionally, "Blame It" is currently #3 on Nielsen's Ringscan chart as it crossed the million tone sales mark after peaking at #2 a few weeks ago. 

Foxx's RIAA-certified Platinum album Intuition is currently #6 on the R&B Albums chart.

Officially announced during his surprise appearance on BET's 106 & Park, Foxx will bring his unsurpassed talent as an all-around entertainer when he hosts and performs on the 9th annual BET Awards on June 28th at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium. 

Jamie also garnered three BET Awards nominations for "Best Male R&B Artist," "Best Collaboration" with T-Pain for "Blame It," and "Video of the Year" for the star-studded "Blame It" featuring Ron Howard, Forest Whitaker, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, T-Pain and more. Prior to the BET Awards, Foxx will perform his hit single on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on May 18th and several songs from Intuition on Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series on June 19th.

Intuition, Foxx's third studio album was released December 16, 2008 and debuted at #3 on the Billboard's Top 200 and #2 on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, with sales of 265,000 copies in its first week.  Since its release, Intuition has been a Top 10 staple on R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, peaking at #1 three times.  Last month, Foxx appeared on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart with 3 singles simultaneously within the Top 10: "Blame It," "She Got Her Own," and "Just Like Me;" at #1, #2 and #8, respectively.

With his continuous chart-topping success in music, his widely popular The Foxxhole radio show on Sirius XM, creator and co-executive producer of one of MTV's highest-rated reality shows, From G's to Gents, and co-starring role alongside Robert Downey, Jr. in the critically-acclaimed film The Soloist, Academy Award winner and Grammy-nominated artist Jamie Foxx is the undisputed "King of all Media."

James Ingram Brings Us Back To The Light With Newest CD Release

www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(May 14, 2009) *"People say this is my first Inspirational but Yah-Mo Be There, which was on my first album in 1983, is Spiritual," said legendary award winning singer/songwriter James Ingram about an old song now on his new Inspirational album Stand (In the Light) on the Intering Records/Music One/WEA imprint. "That was to my parents, my father was a deacon. People say, Hallelujah, they say, Praise Be to God Yahweh (is Hebrew) its another way of saying God. Listen to the lyrics, Heavenly Father watchin us fall. We take from each other and give nothing at all. Well, its a doggone shame but never too late for change. So if your luck runs low, just reach out and call His name, His name. Yah mo b there whenever you call."

The Stand (In the Light) CD is full of Gospel, Inspirational, Traditional and Pop selections that does one thing, guides the listener to the goodness of God's light (His love). From the title track Stand, an anthem of victory in Gods light; the old Traditional Blessed Assurance; Dont Let Go, a sweet lullaby; Everything Must Change, a heart-felt ballad that will certainly tug at your heart-strings and then he changes the tempo and uplifts your heart to fly once again; For All We know, an old Pop song sung by Dinah Washington in 1962 and then by Nat King Cole, which he sang at his mothers funeral too, of course, the Grammy Award winning Inspirational Yah-Mo Be There, the CD is full of my favourites.

Ingram started in the entertainment business as a background singer that was blessed to meet the maestro Quincy Jones who took a listen to his demo, which had his hit single Just Once on it. Quincy not only included James on his The Dude album released in 1980, but included Ingrams Just Once and his song One Hundred Ways.

The Dude CD received three Grammy Award nominations all for Ingram (Best New Artist, Best Pop Male Vocal and Best R&B Vocal for One Hundred Ways). He performed Just Once at the Grammy Awards that year and also won an award without the release of his own CD.

James solo release, It's Your Night, was in 1983 and debuted the Yah-Mo Be There single, a collaboration with Michael McDonald, which garnered him another Grammy Award and became the most played song of that year.

As a songwriter Ingram wrote Pretty Young Thing for Michael Jackson and recently Kanye West's Good Life featuring T-Pain that samples the song received a Grammy Award nomination. James as a collaborator has performed with Patti Austin on Baby Come to Me and The Secret Garden, the hit single from the Quincy Jones Back on the Block album, which also featured Al B. Sure, Barry White and El Debarge.

"When I am talking, God is talking. He has his experiences through us, Ingram points out to me. There’s is a war over our souls.  Call on God, I have no answers but I know with God we are gonna Stand!" he proclaims.

For more on James Ingram and his newest CD release log onto www.JamesIngramsMusic.com.

A New Debarge Arrives On Billboard


(May 18, 2009) *The name DeBarge is back on Billboard for the first time in years thanks to 19-year-old Kristinia, the daughter of founding DeBarge member/keyboardist James.

The teen recently entered the Hot 100 at No. 30 with her first single, "Goodbye," which samples Steam's 1969 pop No. 1, "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." The song also appears in the latest Nivea ad campaign.

As previously reported, Kristinia DeBarge is signed to Sodapop Music, a new label co-founded by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and industry veteran Jeff Burroughs. Her as-yet-untitled album is scheduled for a summer release through Island Def Jam.

According to Billboard, DeBarge describes the album as "empowering and inspirational, aiming to give women strength and help young girls feel like they're not alone. It's the kind of album that will make you feel like everything is OK."

Tracks include "Cry Me a River," about a girl ready to move on from a painful breakup; "Sabotage," chronicling the struggles of peer pressure; and the ballad "It's Gotta Be Love."

DeBarge launched her career when she participated in "American Juniors," an "American Idol" spinoff, in 2003, and reached the top 20. Once filming ended, she joined her father on tour.

It was during one of those shows that the 14-year-old DeBarge met Babyface. He took her under his wing and has been working with her for the past five years. Their efforts paid off on the eve of her 19th birthday in April, when DeBarge met with Island Def Jam chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid and signed her first label contract.

Now she's ready to continue her family's musical legacy. "Being a DeBarge has done nothing but bring good things my way," she says. "I've worked hard for everything that's come my way. But I also know my last name has been in my corner."

Kravitz Reflects On 'Let Love Rule' Album


(May 15, 2009) *To promote the 20th anniversary, remastered, re-release of his first album "Let Love Rule," Lenny Kravitz sat down with the Associated Press's Nekesa Mumbi Moody to discuss his musical journey.

The Associated Press: Listening to the songs on "Let Love Rule" now, do any of them have a different meaning for you?

Kravitz: I feel like things have evolved. A song like "Let Love Rule," which is really an anthem for me, and has become the people's song. I think beyond it's original intent, I think it means more now and has even more relevance now based upon the circumstances that we're in on the planet.

AP: How so?

Kravitz: Well, if you had asked me 20 years ago if I thought the world would be a better place in 20 years, I would have thought yeah, I would have thought that we'd have some kind of evolution even if it was minimal, but in actuality we are in a much worse place as a global community and as just the planet earth, itself, environmentally as well.

AP: Are you less hopeful?

Kravitz: I'm not less hopeful. I take the position of remaining optimistic but there's a much deeper hill to climb.

AP: Looking back, how do see how you've grown as an artist and personally in these 20 years?

Kravitz: I don't know if the music shows me how I've changed, I've just changed through time and growth. When I listen to it, it's not like I listen to it and say, listen to that young naive kid. But I guess in some was there was a naïveté that was there, and there was a real openness that was there that is maybe still part of me at my core but I had to change to adapt to what happened to me after becoming popular.

AP: You've moved to Paris. What about the city drew you?

Kravitz: For a city I love it, because I'm moved by architecture and this is the most beautiful city as far as I'm concerned. It's a very magical city, but it's not overwhelming. It's not a city that stresses me out.

AP: Did New York stress you out at times?

Kravitz: New York got to that point for me. Everything. just everything. I still love New York, I'm a new Yorker. I'll always be a New Yorker. But New York also changed a lot, and what I miss about New York is the individualism it used to have. It's become so just like everywhere else.

AP: You're in the upcoming movie "Precious." What does acting do for you that music doesn't?

Kravitz: It's completely different. And it's a medium in which you've put your faith in the director, it's completely a director's medium. I'm used to doing my own thing, my own music, my own words, my own this, my own that, and this is taking direction, and I like that, I like that very much.

Nick Cooper: Solo Duet


(May 15, 2009) *Nick Cooper has been called the mentor of the human voice, and as a respected artist and vocal coach, his resume reads like the playbook of a renaissance man.

He’s backed up crooners Maxwell and Kenny Lattimore, opened for songbirds Chaka Khan and Oleta Adams, and coached Mario, Ciara, and Beyonce to name a few. As a performer and a vocal coach Cooper is definitely an exception to the theory that those who can’t, teach.

“I believe in maximizing who I am every day,” Cooper said of the secret of his success. “That’s been a passion of mine since I’ve been a kid. My ultimate goal is to leave earth having maximized the essence of all that I am.”

Cooper, who celebrates his 38th birthday today, was pretty young when he unknowingly launched his dual career. He realized he wanted to sing as a kid.

“I realized at a young age that singing was my passion and that quickly morphed into me doing a lot of gospel music, recording for a lot of artists as a kid. Then I went into being a soloist in that world.”

The next stop was a tour with the Howard Playmakers Repertory Company, where Cooper performed all over the world. By age 13 he scored his first commercial.

“By 15, I was doing all of the town hall meetings for Ted Koppel whenever he needed a child to come in and moderate. By 16 I was on Broadway. From there, there were many things in between. Along the way, many things were developing.”

In addition to having the talent to sing well, Cooper, before the Ted Koppel gig, walked into his second love – public speaking.

“As a kid, my mother had a serious phobia of public speaking and one day she asked me to read the announcements for her and that kind of opened up Pandora’s Box for me to realize I also loved speaking as well. So a lot of things you see on my resume kind of work in a dual capacity for me not just of me being a voice coach and singer, but also of me being a motivational speaker.”

 Along the way, Cooper picked up the talent of dancing, and even juggling and stilt dancing. He performed at the Smithsonian and for the President of the United States.

“I feel like performing is a part of my DNA,” Cooper said of bounding between performing and teaching others to perform. “I am a performer; I’ve just transitioned from solely being in front of the crowd to also offering my skills to other people. I’ve realized, through the death of my vocal coach that my gift transcends just me. So, while I love to perform and love to be on stage and sing, and act, and dance, I also love helping other people to birth their gift.”

Cooper told EUR’s Lee Bailey that while he’s really been doing both since 1996, he doesn’t think he’ll ever stop transitioning and reshaping how he draws on his talents.

“There’s a lot I want to do. I don’t think you ever stop making the transition. I’m a bit different in that I don’t live through my clients. I am still creative. I still record. I still perform. Though not as much, but the transition is still being made.”

Cooper first voice-coached in 1996 while on tour with Kenny Lattimore. The R&B star, impressed by Cooper’s skills, asked for some singing advice. Cooper said that soon after he found himself at a friend’s annual picnic where he gained his first official client.

“I was at one of Keke Shepherd’s picnics and Kenny ran into this other guy that wanted to him to be his voice coach. Kenny said to him, ‘Why don’t you talk to Nick?’”

Long story short, the guy turned Cooper on to 20 people, who turned him on to 10 people, who turned him on to 15 more.

“And before I knew it, I had a business.”

Since, Cooper has not only taught some of the most popular artists to hone their skills, but has produced, sung, and arranged music for international artists and on his journeys has come to appreciate the thanks and praise he’s received from those he’s worked with and performed for.

“Things like that really helped to let me know that singing was a lot more than just opening my mouth and trying to impress people. It was really about healing. I think, if anything transitioned me from just being in front of the camera, being on stage, being the front and center guy, it has been those types of statements. It’s been people saying, ‘Nick, your gift touches me.’ It’s been me singing on ‘American Idol’ with the choir and Simon Cowell coming directly up to me and saying, ‘Man, you’re amazing,’” Cooper said. “I feel like I have a lot more capacity to spread my wings and fly in that capacity. I feel like my life was more than being artistic.”

To learn more about Nick Cooper, and keep watch for his project – expected early next year – check out his MySpace page at www.myspace.com/thevocalcornerstore.

Boyish Norwegian Wins Eurovision Song Contest

Source:  www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(May 17, 2009) MOSCOW – A boyish, fiddle-wielding Norwegian singer won the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow on Saturday night, his bouncy ditty the highlight of the musical bonanza studded with pyrotechnic artistry and stunning electronic visuals on an epic scale.

Twenty-five performers from across Europe competed in Moscow in a musical bonanza that is one of the most watched annual television events in the world, despite being written off by some as European kitsch.

"Fairytale," penned and performed by 23-year-old fiddler Alexander Rybak, blew away competition from Iceland's Yohanna, who finished second, and Azerbaijan's AySel & Arash, who was third, with a folksy melody to the accompaniment of an acrobatic dance routine and two blonde female support singers.

The elfin-faced Rybak, the winning graduate of a Norwegian television talent show in 2006, accrued the most points in Eurovision's 53-year history, outstripping Finland's Lordi in 2006.

"Thank you so much, Russia. You are just great, thank you," an emotional Rybak, said, speaking in Russian from the stage after the result was announced. "You are the greatest public in the world," he proclaimed, before launching into a repeat performance of the winning entry.

Russia was trying to capitalize on the prestigious event to showcase the nation's hospitality and growing role in modern society, but those efforts were undermined several hours earlier when riot police attacked gay pride rallies in the capital.

Gay rights activists sought to use the international competition to draw attention to what they call widespread discrimination against homosexuals in Russia. No injuries were reported.

Police hauled away around 40 demonstrators, including British-based activist Peter Tatchell and American activist Andy Thayer of Chicago, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network.

"Today's arrests go against the principles of Eurovision, which are about peace, harmony, cooperation and unity between all the peoples in Europe," Tatchell told The Associated Press after being released by police.

Rybak criticized the protesters for choosing the same day as the contest – which has a large following in European gay communities – to vent their frustrations.

"I think it is a little bit sad that they chose to have (the protests) today. ... They were spending all their energy on that parade, while the biggest gay parade in the world was tonight" at Eurovision, Rybak said

Minsk-born Rybak, who left Belarus when he was four years old with his musician parents, earned the maximum number of points from several of the participating former Soviet satellite countries.

His performance was greeted by rapturous applause from the spectators thronging the Olimpiisky Sports Complex in central Moscow. The crowd heard a wide array of songs, ranging from traditional cheesy pop to tear-jerking ballads and ear-piercing operatic melodies.

Norway last won the competition in 1995 and as winner will host the show next year.

Russia was pinning its hopes on "Mamo," an overwrought ballad composed by a Georgian songwriter and partially performed in Ukrainian by a Ukrainian-born artist Anastasia Prikhodko, but she could only muster 11th place.

U.S. burlesque artiste Dita Von Teese, ex-wife of rocker Marilyn Manson, spiced up Germany's act by straddling a shiny lip-shaped black plastic sofa. In an apparent concession to the organizers' sensibilities, Von Teese toned down her initially planned performance, which involved her stripping off her top down to just sparkly nipple warmers.

The winner of the competition was picked by a combination of telephone voting and official juries from national broadcasters in the 42 nations that originally took part.

Britain had been billed as a favourite for the contest, but its entry, singer Jade, could only manage fifth place, despite composer Andrew Lloyd Webber writing her song.

Bookmakers had also favoured Greece, which was pinning its hopes on an elaborately choreographed stage performance involving a giant flashing treadmill.

Israel made an appeal for peace and harmony with "There Must Be Another Way," sung in Arabic, Hebrew and English by Arab-Jewish duo Noa and Mira.

In a Eurovision first, crew members of the International Space Station gave the command to start telephone voting in a video message from the orbiting science laboratory.

Moscow authorities splashed out US$32.5 million on the show and a weeklong series of decadent parties.

Sting And Sheryl's Love-In

www.globeandmail.com - Gayle Macdonald

(May 19, 2009) The first time Sheryl Crow was introduced to Sting in the late 1980s, she was an unknown musician singing backup for the king of pop, Michael Jackson.

Now she's a big name in her own right. And on Thursday, Crow and Sting - who have 25 Grammy Awards between them and have since become great friends - are teaming up as the star entertainers (along with the Canadian Tenors) at this year's One Night Live benefit for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, raising funds for the hospital's Women & Babies Program.

In a conference call from her farm in Nashville and Sting's apartment in New York, the pair - who are both active in political/human-rights/environmental causes - say committing to headline the Toronto event was important, especially since both are parents. Sting has six kids, and Crow has an adopted two-year old son, named Wyatt. Both freely admit that the secret of successful parenting is a puzzle they are still trying to figure out. They just give it their best shot.

Did you sign up immediately when Sunnybrook placed the call?

Sting I did it because Sheryl was doing it.

Crow And I did it because Sting was doing it.

Sting They called me four or five months ago, and it seemed like a no-brainer. My kids aren't babies any more, but they're a huge part of my life.

Crow My son is the most important person in mine. I love it when there's a charitable component. Plus, I get to see Sting play, and I'm a huge fan. And be part of something that is doing good work.

Sting, you've been around the parenting block six times - any words of wisdom to pass on to Sheryl?

Sting Well, I haven't had a baby for a while. ... My eldest is 32 - I was only 10 when I had him [he jokes]. And my youngest is 13; three girls and three boys. I've found it's easier to bring up girls. The girls adore me. The boys want to get rid of me.

The 13-year-old has plans and I'm just in the way, you know?

I met Sheryl's little boy last year in Tokyo. He's a star. He's going to be a spiritual leader or something. His mother just won't allow him to go into politics. Truly, he's amazing and she's great with him.

Sheryl, you were active for the Democrats in the last U.S. election. Sting, you're big on human-rights causes. What are your views about Barack Obama's impact on the United States' tarnished record on human rights?

Sheryl I think I can reiterate what most people are feeling - and that's a feeling of optimism. We have a hard road ahead of us, but in the first 100 days, he's really tried to tackle all the problems he was handed. He also represents to me a stillness we haven't seen in any of our leaders for a long, long time. A sense of consciousness that I don't think we've seen in any of our recent presidents, if ever.

Sting I met him and Michelle on Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Ball. He has an amazing charisma. He can think and speak at the same time. I think Americans have had this terrible sense of misrepresentation for the past eight years. I love America, and I want to see Americans proud of their country. It's a huge step in the right direction.

Are the two of you going to have a chance to rehearse before Thursday's event? And will you perform Sheryl's single Always on Your Side together?

Sheryl I have a gig in Chicago two days before, so I don't think we're going to have much time to rehearse. But I always feel at home in Toronto so I'm not worried. I've been there a lot.

Sting I've got a gig [tonight] with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra ... so I haven't had much time to think about [it] either. I'm blushing here, though, I have to say, because I'm a little bit terrified about playing with the CSO. ... I'm singing and half of my material will be orchestrated for the greatest orchestra in the world.

Sheryl As for whether we'll be singing Always on Your Side - it would be nice to do that. We'll talk about that. I loved this song when I wrote it. And when it came out on my album, I thought it should have had more attention than it had. When we looked at it again, we realized it needed a male counterpart. The first person who came to mind was Sting. He and I have known each other a long time. I met him when I was a back-up singer in 1989 for Michael Jackson. I've always been impressed with him. He's an immensely talented, great guy. Yup, that song might be perfect for that particular evening.

Sting I'm blushing again. [Sheryl's] not only a great back-up singer, but a great musician. I was so thrilled she became a star.

For more information: http://www.onenightlive.ca; for tickets call 416-870-8000.

Erykah Badu To Tour Before 'Amerykah 2'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 20, 2009) Erykah Badu will keep busy on the road this summer as she awaits the release later this year of her follow-up to last year's "New Amerykah."

 According to Live Daily, her schedule features a number of festival appearances, including the May 24 UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival in Westwood, CA. Badu will also perform at Washington State's Sasquatch! Festival (5/25) and Manchester, TN's Bonnaroo (6/14). Details are included below.

 The singer continues to promote her fourth studio set, "New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)," which arrived early last year and peaked at No. 2 on The Billboard 200. The album's lead single, "Honey," was released late last year to coincide with the singer's 10-year anniversary in the music biz, and it's still making waves on R&B/hip-hop charts.

Below are Badu's tour dates:

May 2009
24 - Westwood, CA - The 23rd Jazz Reggae Festival at UCLA
25 - George, WA - Sasquatch! Festival
29 - Honolulu, HI - Waterfront at Aloha Tower
30 - Phoenix, AZ - Celebrity Theatre
31 - Las Vegas, NV - House of Blues

June 2009
2 - Anaheim, CA - The Grove
4 - San Diego, CA - Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay
5 - Los Angeles, CA - Club Nokia at LA Live
6 - San Francisco, CA - The Warfield
14 - Manchester, TN - Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival

September 2009
10 - Memphis, TN - Orpheum Theatre

October 2009
16 - Dallas, TX - Red Bull Soundclash

Al B. Sure! Hits 'Home' With New Album

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 20, 2009) *Al B. Sure! is the newest artist under Hidden Beach Recordings and will release his first album for the label on June 23. 

 Titled "Honey I'm Home," the 13-track CD is his first new studio project in more than 15 years. Ten of the songs were written and co-produced by the artist himself.

 The set revolves around the central themes of love, romance and relationships, reports Billboard.com.  The lead single, "I Love It (Papi Aye, Aye, Aye)," was co-produced by his long-time writing and producing partner Kyle West and also features cellist Tina Guo. 

 Rounding out the set are two covers -— Sting's "Fragile" and Michael Jackson's "Lady in My Life" —- and an interlude version of Sure!'s first No. 1 R&B hit (No. 7 pop), 1988's "Nite and Day."

 "'Honey I'm Home' is ‘In Effect Mode' 2009 on steroids," says Sure!, who has spent the last several years writing and producing on projects by David Bowie, Richie Sambora, Faith Evans and Usher, among others. "I didn't want to do a trendy record or sound like everyone else. This is the grown-up version of me and all that I've experienced in the interim."

 Pre-orders of "Honey I'm Home" are available at
hiddenbeach.com/albsure. You can also check out tracks from the CD there, too. Additional information about Sure! and the album can be found on the singer's web site, albsurelove.com.  

 Here's the complete track listing for "Honey I'm Home":

1. "Nite and Day (Interlude)"
2. "I Love It! (Papi Aye, Aye, Aye)"
3. "I'm Glad"
4. "Top of Your Lungs!"
5. "All I Wanna Do"
6. "Lady in My Life"
7. "Dedicate My All"
8. "Bye the Way, By the Way"
9. "Only You!"
10. "Whatcha Got?"
11. "Fragile"
12. "4 Life!"
13. "Never Stop Loving You"


CBC's Shortened Lineup

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 15, 2009) CBC Radio has unveiled a new schedule that includes more repeats, something it warned of earlier this year when it announced the cancellation of several shows. The public broadcaster announced in March it was cutting the radio programs Out Front, The Inside Track, In the Key of Charles, The Point and the weekend edition of The Signal. As a result, Radio One's new weekday lineup that starts Sept. 7 (some happen the end of June) includes a mix of repeats and new, yet-to-be-announced programs created from documentaries, archives and listener stories. Encore airings on weekday afternoons include mostly Radio One programs from other time slots, including The Next Chapter, Dispatches, Ideas, Writers & Company, and Tapestry. Also being repeated in the afternoons on Radio One are the Radio Two show Canada Live and Rewind, which airs on CBC's Sirius Satellite Radio channel. And Randy Bachman's Vinyl Tap, which airs on Saturdays on Radio One, is getting repeated on Radio Two. Radio One is also cutting its local noon-hour programming from two hours to one. Its weekend schedule, meanwhile, will feature 16 new episodes of White Coat and new time slots for several programs. New shows on Radio Two include the music program Shift, with host Tom Allen of Radio 2 Morning. 

We Remember Wayman Tisdale: Musician And Former NBA Basketball Player, Dies At 44


(May 15, 2009) *Former NBA player turned jazz bassist, Wayman Tisdale, has died after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 44.  Tisdale died this morning at St. John Medical Center in Tulsa, hospital spokeswoman Joy McGill said. Tisdale, who spent three years of college at Oklahoma University, played in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns. The 6-foot-9 forward, averaged 15.3 points for his career. He was also on the U.S. team that won the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. Tisdale's death was announced on the Oklahoma Senate floor Friday by Senate Majority Leader Todd Lamb, who led the chamber in prayer. "Whether you're a Cowboy or a Sooner, Oklahoma has lost a great ambassador," Lamb said. "He was a gifted musician, a gifted athlete and he just wore that well wherever he went." Tisdale learned he had cancerous cyst below his right knee after breaking his leg in a fall at his home on Feb. 8, 2007. He said then he was fortunate to have discovered the cancer early. Ironically, EUR's Lee Bailey was scheduled to speak with Tisdale about his upcoming appearance at the Playboy Jazz festival next month. Unfortunately it's an opportunity we won't experience.

Billboard First For Chrisette Michele


(May 15, 2009) *Chrisette Michele has scored her first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200, as her sophomore set "Epiphany" (Def Jam) debuts atop the list with 83,000. However, it's the lowest sum for a No. 1-debuting album in Nielsen SoundScan's 18-year history.     The last chart-topping album to hold that title was Johnny Cash's "American V: A Hundred Highways" (American) in the summer of 2006, when it started with 88,000. Only one other album has debuted at No. 1 with less than 100,000: the Notorious B.I.G.'s "#1's" (Bad Boy) in November of 2005 with 99,000.     Michelle edges out the seventh week of the "Hannah Montana: the Movie" soundtrack (No. 2 with 82,000) and the arrival of Ciara's third album "Fantasy Ride" (LaFace) at No. 3 with just under 81,000.     "Fantasy Ride" is her third top three debut in as many tries. Her freshman 2004 effort "Goodies" entered the list at No. 3 with 125,000 while 2006's "The Evolution" blasted onto the tally at No. 1 with 338,000. Seemingly, despite the fair amount of heat generated by "Fantasy Ride's" first single -- "Love Sex Magic" (featuring Justin Timberlake) -- the album clocks Ciara's lowest first-week sum yet.

Sizzla: Ghetto Youth-ology

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

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)

(May 19, 2009) Socially conscious Sizzla Kalonji preaches on with typical self-explanatory song titles – "Jah Love," "Ghetto Utes Dem a Suffer," "Black Man in the White House" – and the solid roots reggae rhythms of his Firehouse Crew backing band. Nothing particularly novel in his ideas or approach here. The 33-year-old Jamaican singer likes to play with his vocals, straining ear-cringingly high or employing synthesized effects, but he's most entertaining in gruff and urgent Buju Banton mode. There's a nice duet ("What Am I to Do Baby") with sugar-voiced newcomer Conradine Campbell, but overall this is a disc for constituents. Top Track: "I Love You So" is a sweet love song with an R&B backbeat.

Diane Nalini: Kiss Me Like That

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry


(May 19, 2009) Inspired by her love of astronomy, jazz-singing University of Guelph physics professor
Diane Nalini's fourth album revolves around a stars-and-sky theme. That means standards, such as "Skylark," "Blue Moon" and "Stardust," a half-dozen originals with titles such as "Winter Eclipse" and "Love in Outerspace," and covers of Sting ("Valparaiso") and James Taylor ("Sweet Baby James"). The music – courtesy of an acoustic trio comprised of guitarist Joey Goldstein, bassist Kieran Overs and drummer Anthony Michelli – includes loping country-pop, swing and reggae. Nalini, whose last album reinterpreted Shakespeare lyrics, and sings here in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French, says this album is for "anyone who has ever been stopped in their tracks by the majesty of sunrise, the haunting beauty of the moon or the twinkle of a star." And, I would add, anyone who appreciates a ringing voice that operates with crystal-clear articulation within its limited range. CD release next Sunday at Hugh's Room. Top Track: Though Nalini's vocals and Kelly Jefferson's sax solo conjure magical nights, "Cuando Sale La Luna" (When the Moon Comes Out) makes me wish I understood Spanish.

Lionel Richie Gearing Up To 'Go'

www.globeandmail.com - Jennifer Lewington And James Bradshaw

(May 19, 2009) *As Lionel Richie marks today's release of his new album "Just Go," the veteran singer is already preparing for his next project, one he says will feature less collaborations and more of his own vision.  For both 2006's "Going Home" and the new "Just Go," Richie worked with contemporary producers and writers such as StarGate, The-Dream, Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Ne-Yo and Akon.  But Richie tells Billboard.com that he's "already started" on another album, which he intends to personally helm although he expects to bring in some collaborators as well.  Among them, the Dead Executives - the Good Charlotte duo of Joel Madden, his daughter Nicole's boyfriend and father of Richie's granddaughter, and his twin brother Benji. Richie plans to record a couple of songs with the siblings.  Richie says he's been "sketching up some songs" for the project, drawing inspiration from his travels -- which have been largely international to promote his last few albums.    "I go to every great club in the middle of Paris and sit in the corner and watch what people move to," he says. "Then I go to Berlin and check 'em out. I go to London and check 'em out, New Delhi...And then I go back to the hotel room and, while I'm in that same mood, I start to write.    "I've plugged into a world beat somewhere, so right now this album coming up is gonna be pretty interesting. I can always tell when I'm going in the right direction -- I scare the record company to death! They're like, 'Now, Lionel, where are you going now?' But I have to keep it interesting for me and my listeners, 'cause it has to be something they're not quite expecting."   Meanwhile, Richie says the long-promised Commodores reunion is also in the works. "It's the No. 1 question we get," Richie says. "I can honestly tell you before the end of the year, for sure, you'll hear a rumble. I think now might be the proper time."


Velcrow Ripper : The Punk Rocker With 'Industrial-Strength Spirituality'

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(May 14, 2009) If rockers were the cultural gurus of the sixties, and techies like Steve Jobs and Nicholas Negroponte were the nineties' watered-down version, documentary filmmakers may very well be emerging as the new prognosticators of where we're headed.

Velcrow Ripper, the 45-year-old filmmaker with the part-punk, part-New Age pseudonym who lives on the Toronto Islands, is a clear example. His widely praised 2004 documentary Scared Sacred, a tour of war-devastated lands, was intended to be less a documentary and more of a meditative piece and call to arms.

And so is his second film in a planned trilogy –
Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action. The new film takes Scared Sacred a step further by trying to get at the motivation for activism, examining how inward-focused spirituality can compel people to act outwardly, protesting against injustice and environmental degradation.

While filming Scared Sacred, Ripper found that what got people through horrific, wartime tragedy was a sense of personal meaning. “I witnessed it firsthand. Those who had a sense of meaning, whatever it was that gave them that, were the ones who survived. Those without any meaning were the ones who gave up,” he says.

 “One of those sources of meaning was to take action, to actually try to stop what had happened to them from happening to anybody else. And I began to realize that the relationship between sources of meaning – a depth of understanding in one's inner life – and taking action to create change is a really harmonious thing. The spirit and the action, they go together really well. In fact, they are meant to go together.”

This kind of talk has made Ripper the doc community's version of a star. He gives lectures and conducts workshops to share his vision of spiritually conscious activism. Still, he rejects the idea that Fierce Light simply preaches to the choir. Instead, he deliberately lets emotions run high in the film to move audiences – even if not everyone agrees with its political assumptions.

“The theme of Fierce Light is about coming from the heart, as well as the head. It's going to be unsatisfying if you go to it looking for facts, facts, facts. The reason I did that is because the film is about soul force … what I call almost an industrial-strength spirituality.”

Yet Fierce Light doesn't aim for a kind of Chicken Soup for the Soul self-help airiness, nor does it reach transcendence like the 1979 documentary masterpiece Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy. Fierce Light never strays from its street-level, activist core.

The filmmaker, born Steve Ripper, grew up on British Columbia's idyllic Sunshine Coast and was raised in the Baha'i faith, which is based on the spiritual unity of all religions.

But even that was too confining for him. As a young punk rocker, he felt torn between spirituality and activism. At a hippie gathering, surrounded by kids called Feather and Crystal, someone gave him the nickname Velcrow, with an added “w” to lend a measure of mystique. (Velcrow's friends know him as Crow.)

“As I went along, it became clear in many activist circles that you had to stay in the closet as a spiritual person,” Ripper says. “Spirituality wasn't something that was part of the picture. There had been a real rejection of religion because of fundamentalism and the human-rights abuses done in the name of religion.”

However, something new is afoot, his films argue, and that's what Ripper is becoming a figurehead for: It's the interest, building for years now, among those on the left – an acknowledgment that spirituality seems to be at the heart of activism.

As Ripper adds: “My Facebook profile has a quote from Antony Hegarty, the New York musician, that says, ‘Hope and sincerity are the new punk.'”

Spielberg, Depasse To Produce MLK Biopic

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(May 20, 2009) *Steven Spielberg, Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones are set to produce a biopic on slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. for DreamWorks, which has acquired rights to his life story, reports Variety. The deal was made with King's son, Dexter.

King, who was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis at the age of 39, copyrighted his speeches, books and famous works during his lifetime.

 The project marks the first film to be authorized by King's estate and gives the producers the right to utilize King's intellectual property -- including his famous "I Have a Dream" speech delivered during the 1963 March on Washington -- to create the definitive portrait of his life.

 Dexter, who is chairman and CEO of King Inc, has been embroiled in a legal tussle with his siblings Bernice King and Martin Luther King III over who controls the personal papers of their late mother, Coretta Scott King, among other things. 

And it looks like Dexter, and possibly Dreamworks, is going to be embroiled in yet another legal tussle with Bernice and Martin, III because, according to the Associated Press, they're not too thrilled with the agreement.

"This is a deal that Mr. Spielberg and his people ... have entered into believing that they have the blessing of The King Estate. They don't have the blessings of Bernice and Martin King," Bernice King told The AP in a telephone interview on Tuesday after finding out about the arrangement in an e-mail from Dexter King.

Martin Luther King III stated that the matter was typical of an ongoing pattern of exclusion.

"It's not that we are against a film," he said. "It's very interesting to me that a company would engage in a business arrangement knowing that there's severe controversy around many issues pertaining to the estate of Martin Luther King Jr."

 A King film has been a long-time dream for Spielberg and DreamWorks CEO and co-chairman Stacey Snider, who has been working feverishly on acquiring the rights since exiting Paramount Pictures and setting up a solo enterprise. 

 "We are all honoured that the King Estate is giving us the opportunity to tell the story of these defining, historic events," Spielberg said, according to Variety. "It is our hope that the creative power of film and the impact of Dr. King's life can combine to present a story of undeniable power that we can all be proud of."

 De Passe was an executive producer on the miniseries "Lonesome Dove." 

 Jones has been a central figure in developing and managing the intellectual property of King. He also executive produced "King: Montgomery to Memphis" for CNN and "Assassinated: Bobby Kennedy & Martin Luther King, Jr." for TBS. 

 Jones and de Passe co-produced the 2009 Commander in Chief's Inaugural Ball.

EUR DVD REVIEW: Crips and Bloods: Made in America

Source:  www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(May 20, 2009) *How many young lives would you guess have been claimed in gang-related warfare in Los Angeles over the past four decades? 100? 200? 500? Try 15,000 and counting.

What makes a poor kid pick up a gun and shoot another poor kid for something as seemingly meaningless as a pair of sneakers or for passing through his neighbourhood?

To get at the roots of such profound dysfunction, you really have dig rather deeply, as does director Stacy Peralta in
Crips and Bloods: Made in America.

Narrated by Forest Whitaker, the film opens with actual footage of gang-bangers being blown away in drive-bys and being left lying dead in the street.

Apparently, some of these demented killers are so proud of their slayings that they get a kick out of filming their dirty work so they can watch it later at their leisure.

Such sensational and sobering moments aside, the picture more importantly offers a serious discussion of exactly how the gangs in L.A. came to be. Apparently, it is not unusual for a kid from the 'hood to go from the cradle to the grave without ever seeing the suburbs, the ocean at Malibu, the mansions in Beverly Hills, or other alternatives to the thug life.

According to former gang member Ron Wilkins, the Crips and the Bloods were originally formed as benign, street-front fraternities which offered rudderless youngsters a sense of status, family, power and acceptance in a world which was showing them little in the way of love. But they gradually morphed into felonious associations, since there weren't many legal outlets for all that unbridled testosterone.

The crack epidemic of the Eighties didn't help matters much, nor did the dwindling manufacturing base or an educational system way too willing to graduate functional illiterates. As the curtain comes down on this daunting documentary, expect to well up while watching emotional tableaus of grieving mothers burying their babies at funerals or simply staring blankly into the camera with tears streaming down their pained faces.

The tragic side of the thug lifestyle that they never show in gangsta videos.

Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: New Video Group

Ang Lee Lightens Up

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(May 17, 2009) CANNES, France–Just like Joni Mitchell in her song "Woodstock," Ang Lee had to get back to the garden by revelling in the legendary 1969 music festival.

After 30 years as a filmmaker, the past 13 spent on serious dramas, the Taiwanese filmmaker decided to lighten up by making Taking Woodstock, his new comedy competing for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It had its world premiere here yesterday, receiving generally favourable reviews.

Based on a true story, it looks at the hippie hoedown through the eyes of Elliot Tiber, a young motel operator in the Catskills whose life is suddenly turned around – and turned on – by the arrival of three days of peace, love and music.

Lee said he met Tiber two years ago while promoting his previous film Lust, Caution and he listened to his "one-minute pitch" about a Woodstock movie, based on Tiber's memoirs. It was an easy sell.

"I've made six tragedies in a row," Lee told a press conference.

"I was yearning to do a comedy/drama again without cynicism."

CALLING ALL WOMEN: Jane Campion, the New Zealand director and only woman to win the Palme in the festival's 62 year history (for The Piano in 1993), says woman have to learn to fight the "old boys" of Hollywood, the same way she had to.

She'd been asked following Friday's world premiere of her competition film Bright Star to comment on her singular status as a female Palme winner, and also the fact that most movie directors are male.

Campion, 55, said women are less inclined than men to engage in the wheeling and dealing of the movie industry. "They must put on their coats of armour and get going!"

For Now, The Croisette Belongs To Women

www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(May 15, 2009) Cannes, France — Things are quieter on the Croisette this year – there are somewhat fewer movie folk attending the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, and definitely fewer tourists. Without the incessant booming of party music to drown them out, a few voices rise above the crowd – women's voices, as it happens.

The tone is likely to become more baritone in the next few days with the arrival of Lars von Trier, Ken Loach and Quentin Tarantino, but for now the ladies get to hog the spotlight, in front and behind the camera.

Yesterday saw the debut of Australian director Jane Campion's Bright Star, the story of John Keats's brief and of course doomed love affair with his strong-willed neighbour, Fanny Brawne (doomed because, as the world knows, Keats met his easeful death at 25, in Rome, separated from Fanny).

Campion's the only woman to have won the Palme d'Or, in 1993, for The Piano. While Bright Star's a more conventional love story than The Piano, and does not feature Harvey Keitel's naked backside, Campion's still fascinated with the way women's lives, historically at least, could move from oppression to liberty.

The movie is as much about Fanny (played by Australia's Abbie Cornish) as it is about her much better-known paramour, Keats (the compelling young British actor Ben Whishaw). Fanny's great talent is for sewing and clothing design, but she is also, as Cornish demonstrates, a wilful and witty piece of baggage. “The Minxtress,” Keats calls her. She's a proto-Chanel, as devoted to her fashion designs as Keats is to verse.

“There wasn't much opportunity for women in those days,” said Campion after the film's first screening. “They sewed. They sewed and they waited.”

As for women's opportunities these days, Campion said she was lucky to have received her start in Australia, away from the traditional structures of film production: “The studio system is a bit of an old boys' club,” she said. “It's difficult for them to trust women to do the job.”

At the same time, though, she felt that women needed to toughen up to face the rough-and-tumble of moviemaking: “Women don't grow up with the harsh world of criticism that men do. You have to develop a thick skin. Women have to put on their armour and get going.”

The British director Andrea Arnold, whose second feature Fish Tank screened on Thursday to positive reviews, was less keen to wave the feminist banner, saying that her gender didn't really affect her filmmaking. But it clearly does when you look at Fish Tank, an unsettling but compulsively watchable movie about a hellcat teenager named Mia (played by untrained, first-time actress Katie Jarvis) trapped by poverty and in a damaged relationship with her mother and sister. The three find escape in booze, hilariously inventive profanity, and, in Mia's case, break dancing.

Jarvis was discovered on a train platform in suburban England, and she's a treat to watch, every emotion visible but cloaked behind a mask of toughness. The American entry Precious, about an abused girl in Harlem with an even more gruesome mother, is the mirror image of Fish Tank, down to the casting of its lead actress, Gabourey Sidibe as Claireece “Precious” Jones. The 26-year-old was a college student who on a whim went to a casting call at her school – she'd dismissed acting as a career as it seemed “too hard.” Yesterday, she sat at a beachfront restaurant, next to co-stars Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz, and said, giddily, “I think I've got my second role. Now I'm really an actress!” Director Lee Daniels shared the surreal sensation: “I keep thinking someone's going to say, you're not in Cannes, you're in Kansas!”

Oprah Winfrey is one of the producers of Precious, which is based on the autobiographical novel Push by Sapphire. There's a familiar triumph-through-adversity message and the whole thing does threaten to drown in its own pain, but it's saved by the performances, not least a strong cameo by an almost unrecognizable Mariah Carey, makeup- and diamond-free, as a social worker who's seen it all.

Yesterday on the Croisette, the singer (makeup and diamonds restored to their proper place) talked about why she felt she needed to scrub off her stage persona and present a different face to the world: “I thought, let me peel layers away from who the world thinks I am, even who I think I am,” said Carey, who was wearing a nude, floor-length gown and oversized sunglasses. “There's a side of me that needs to do work like this.” Then a butterfly landed on her table, and she let out a squeal. Like I say, it's been a girly couple of days.

So where are the boys? They're coming, don't worry. In the next few days we'll see films by Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodovar, Michael Haneke, Alain Resnais, Ken Loach, Sam Raimi and Jacques Audiard. Tarantino sails in on a giant wave of machismo mid-week, along with Brad Pitt, for the debut of his Second World War blood 'n' flicks action movie, Inglourious Basterds, which is not likely to feature much mother-daughter angst.

In case I've suggested it's all pastels and daisies, rebellious girls and grotesque mothers, things haven't been quite so gyno-centric. We've seen scrapping brothers, too: Tetro, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is the story of two estranged siblings, played by Vincent Gallo and newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, trying to come to terms with the legacy of their famous father (not something that Sofia Coppola needs to worry about any more.) It's not screening in the main competition and unfortunately even the return of Coppola, and the resemblance of Ehrenreich to Leonardo DiCaprio, couldn't save the movie from mixed word-of-mouth, with one person leaving the screening mumbling “disaster” and another saying, “I liked it. I know it's strange, but it reminded me of Guy Maddin.” This may mark the first occurrence of that comparison.

The rampaging mother isn't the only monster on the loose in Cannes: One person is reported to have passed out at a screening of Park Chan-Wook's gory vampire thriller Bakjwi, or Thirst. Vampires, it seems, are still scarier than teenagers.

Christian Bale: Why Terminator Is Worth Reviving

Source:  www.thestar.com - Amy Longsdorf,
Special To The Star

(May 17, 2009) For Christian Bale, the Terminator movies are a very American kind of adrenaline rush.

The Welsh-born actor was only 17 when he moved to Los Angeles to live with his father and further a fledgling acting career. No sooner did he step off the plane than he decided to check out Terminator 2 at the local multiplex.

"I'd literally just come to the States and the first thing I did was to go see T2," says Bale, 35. "It was opening weekend and I couldn't hear a damn thing that was said in the movie because everyone was screaming so much. So, it was my introduction to American audiences but also to a movie that just seemed to make everybody crazy in a way that I really enjoyed and appreciated."

Cut to 18 years later when Bale, now riding a wave of success thanks to his turns in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, was offered a role in Terminator Salvation, the fourth instalment in the mega-successful series.

"At first, the idea of doing another Terminator didn't seem to be smart to me," admits Bale. "But reviving the Batman movies (didn't seem smart either.) I came to believe that there were some potentially good stories here ... and I'd like to see (the Terminator franchise) revived."

Originally, when Bale was approached about the fourth Terminator by director McG (Charlie's Angels), he was offered the role of Marcus Wright (played by Sam Worthington), a mystery man whose only memory is of being imprisoned on death row.

Bale passed on that part, opting instead for the more iconic role of John Connor, the resistance leader who, in post-apocalyptic America, must go up against the villainous artificial intelligence network Skynet and its robotic army of killing machines. The cast of the film includes Helena Bonham Carter, Moon Bloodgood, Anton Yelchin and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was the big draw of the first three Terminator movies. The 1984 original, directed by Thunder Bay's James Cameron, featured Arnie as a monosyllabic bad guy, the T-800.

By Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), also directed by Cameron, the T-800 was re-programmed as a hero to combat the even more deadly T-1000 (Robert Patrick). In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), helmed by Jonathan Mostow, Kristanna Loken was the title destroyer.

Until recently, one of T4's most closely guarded secrets was a cameo by Schwarzenegger. The California governor never set foot on the New Mexico set, thanks to computer-enhanced footage of him left over from the previous films.

"Arnold didn't have to expend one second of time," says Bale with a laugh.

Regardless of Schwarzenegger's easy payday, Bale counts himself a mammoth fan of the one-time action superstar. "I think it's always admirable when you're the originator," says Bale. "Of course, Arnold has had many imitators and we've sort of moved on now from the '80s and those big, beefy action guys but he was the first, and so hat's off to him.

"You look at what that guy has achieved and it's phenomenal. I get a big thrill out of seeing the scene where Connor faces off against the original T-800."

Less thrilling for Bale was becoming an Web sensation after a T4 tirade was leaked to TMZ.com. On the audio clip, Bale can be heard screaming at director of photography Shane Hurlbut for walking through his sightline during a shot. Bale's tantrum went viral, was mocked on an episode of Family Guy and remixed as a club song.

Bale's castmates insist the leaked outburst isn't representative of the actor's on-set behaviour. Bale's co-star Anton Yelchin recently told the LA Times that, "people don't know how sets work, so it gets blown out of proportion. (Bale) loves his daughter (4-year-old Emmeline), loves his wife (Sibi Blazic) and loves his job. That encapsulates how he lives his life."

A few years ago, Bale seemed like an unlikely pick for superstardom. At age 13, he aced the starring role in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun but a decade later, he seemed content to star in indie under-achievers such as Velvet Goldmine, Laurel Canyon and The Machinist.

It wasn't until Christopher Nolan tapped Bale as the Caped Crusader in Batman Begins that the actor's career as an A-lister took wing. The movie's 2008 follow-up – Dark Knight – netted $997 million at the box-office and surpassed Star Wars to become the second highest-grossing film of all time. (Titanic still holds the top spot with $1.8 billion in earnings.)

Bale is proud of Dark Knight and its ability to exist on two levels at once – as popcorn entertainment and as a movie willing to probe the nature of evil.

"Chris (Nolan) managed to delve into uncomfortable ethical questions but ... at the same time, you can just see the movie as a pure entertainment spectacle. That's Chris's talent – being able to balance and juggle."

Bale will next be seen in July's Public Enemies, Michael Mann's gangster thriller about Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and his crew, including Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi). Bale plays FBI agent Melvin Purvis, the man who spent most of his career trailing the outlaw.

Stepping back into time to Prohibition-era Chicago was a blast for Bale, both literally and figuratively. The actor pored over vintage newsreels of Purvis, paid a visit to the late FBI agent's son in South Carolina, and insisted on using only vintage weaponery.

"It's just a wonderful period in every way but especially in terms of the clothing, the cars and the guns," says Bale. "This was the last dying breath of guns that seemed to have some sort of character to them ... I would like to smell (my gun) after shooting it – and I kind of enjoyed carrying it around with me."

Bale also enjoyed facing off with Depp even though the two actors only shared two short sequences.

"I think that Johnny is a superb actor," says Bale. "What I like so much about him is that there's nobody else like him. We don't know each other in the slightest. I met him at the script read-through. We chatted for five or 10 minutes.

"I had two scenes with him, one in which he was in a jail cell ... and another in which we were about 200 hundred feet away from each other. He was a silhouette in a window that I was shooting at. And then I was behind a tree and he was shooting at me. That was the closest we got to each other that evening."

Bale has yet to select his follow-up to Public Enemies but, unlike Depp, he's never tempted to lighten up and go off and shoot a comedy.

"Hey, look, Terminator is a lighter movie, don't you think? It's not Apocalypse Now. I mean, we intend for people to have a good fun ride," says Bale. "It's a good summer movie. I call that a lighter film. No matter how grey and dark you might want to make it, it's essentially a movie to have fun to. Watch it with a crowd."

Terminator Salvation opens in theatres on Friday.

Shawn and Damien Weigh-In on Latest Wayans Family Production

Source: Kam Williams

In 2000, the Wayans Brothers made a big splash with Scary Movie, a hilarious spoof of horror flicks. Since that phenomenal franchise has raked in about a billion dollars at the box office, it’s no surprise that it also spawned a cottage industry of imitators, including such similar parodies as Not Another Teen Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie, Superhero Movie, Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie.

Now the Wayans have returned to the genre with
Dance Flick, a spoof of dance films featuring plenty of their relatives both in front of and behind the camera. Directed by Damien Wayans, the picture is based on a script he co-wrote with his Uncles Shawn, Keenan Ivory, Marlon and Cousin Craig. Plus, the movie stars ten Wayans: Damon, Jr., Kim, Shawn, Marlon, Craig, Keenan, Chaunte, Michael, Cara Mia and Gregory.

Recently, Shawn and Damien shared their thoughts with me not only about making the movie but about being members of a family which has become as associated with acting as families with pedigreed thespian lineages like the Barrymores, the Phoenixes, the Fondas, the Bridges, the Baldwins , the Arquettes and the Redgraves.

KW: Shawn, Damien, thanks for the time.

SW: Hey, what it do, Kam?

DW: Hi.

KW: Shawn, the first time I ever interviewed you was at the Four Seasons for Scary Movie. You might remember it because I brought my young son along who was in the fourth grade at the time. He was dying to meet you and Marlon because he watched your TV show, “The Wayans Bros,” every day after school. And you guys were great with him, signing autographs and taking pictures with him.

SW: That’s right. I remember. How’s he doing?

KW: Very well, thanks. He’s a sophomore at Princeton .

SW: Wow, that’s great! Time sure goes by fast, huh?

KW: What took you so long to parody another genre? After all, the Wayans revived the whole interest in spoofs with Scary Movie. But then everybody started ripping off your idea with Date Movie, Epic Movie, Superhero Movie, Disaster Movie and Not Another Teen Movie. 

SW: You mean, “Not a Wayans Movie.” Yeah, we did start something, but we took time off to pursue some other projects. Then, when we missed having that kind of fun, we picked a genre that we wanted to lampoon and went back at it.

KW: Damien, this movie marks you feature film directorial debut. How challenging did you find it?

DW: Well, as a first-timer, there’s always going to be challenges. But I had my family around, and that’s always good, since they’re funny guys and add to the process. If they were unfunny, that would probably be a problem. They’re also producers who understand that they have a brand, who know how to execute that brand and to make sure that comes across. And I think they did a good job.  

KW: Did you have a hard time commanding the respect of your veteran actor relatives in the cast, being younger than them?

DW: Nah, they all listen. They’re uncles, and at the end of the day, they want that respect. And they earned it.

SW: We all respected each other. We thought he was the guy for the job because we knew he had the talent to be able to do this. It was a really fun, family project, and we had a good time.

KW: Why is it so many actors and actresses I interview credit a Wayans brother for helping them get their start? 

SW: Yeah, we’ve helped a lot of folks. [Chuckles] But we had help. My brother Keenan helped us. So, we try to help other people who share that passion and are serious about comedy.

KW: I see that five of you worked on the script for Dance Flick. What was involved in that process?

SW: We just went into a room, drank some green tea, began feeling jittery, and started being funny. [Laughs]

KW: When coming up with ideas, do you think about how expensive it will be to shoot a particular stunt?

SW: Yeah, as you get closer to the actual time when the movie’s going to be shot, the more challenging  the stuff you wrote hopped-up on green tea becomes to execute.

DW: [Laughs] Exactly!

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks, who do you think would make a good Supreme Court Justice?

SW: Who do I think would make a good Supreme Court Justice? Michelle Obama.

DW: I’m a go with Judge Mathis, or Oprah. [Chuckles]

SW: Hold on, he’s got more questions. You might want to save Oprah.

KW: You might answer Oprah to The Rudy Lewis question: Who’s at the top of your hero list?

DW: Keenan.

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

SW: “Eat Right for Your Metabolism” by Felicia Drury Kliment.

DW: Mine was Donald Goines’ ”Black Girl Lost.”

KW: Bobby Shenker wants to know whether that hilarious “Men on Film” sketch from “In Living Color” will ever be adapted in to a movie.

SW: Will it ever? I can’t say whether it might ever make its way to film, but I can’t say never either. 

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

SW: I guess of flying.

DW: If he didn’t say that, I was just about to say it. That man is nervous about flying.

SW: I don’t really like flying, and I ain’t down with getting in the ocean either. Sharks!

DW: Me, I was a little nervous about this movie until Keenan calmed me down when he came in and said, “You’re doing a good job. You rock!”

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

SW: Yes, very happy!

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?

SW: Watching this movie.

DW: Yeah, watching David Alan Grier play Sugar Bear. [Laughs]

SW: And watching that scene from Superbad where they were drawing penises.

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

DW: Ooh, that’s a good one. I rock that Jay-Z all the time, and Diddy.

SW: I have to listen to older music because I don’t feel like we’re getting great new music right now. I like Kanye… Common… Little Wayne …

DW: Yeah, I like Kanye. I love what he’s doing. I’m a big Dre fan, and Eminem.  

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

DW: By coming out to see Dance Flick, and bring everybody you know.

SW: And don’t bootleg our movies.

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

DW: I know what Shawn sees. You see Grandpa, because you look just like him.

SW: What do I see? A hard worker.

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

SW: That question.

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

DW: I would say, to keep the hustle alive, never take “No” for an answer.

SW: And stay close to your family, and teach those younger than you how to do it.

KW: How do you feel when Barack Obama became President of the United States ?

SW: It was an unbelievable feeling.

DW: Yeah, it was incredible.

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

SW: I’d rather not say.

DW: I stay down the block from where you don’t want to go.

KW: Do you still have ties to New York ?

SW: Yeah, New York will always be a big part of our heart and our soul.

KW: What’s the target audience for Dance Flick?

SW: Anyone who wants to laugh.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

SW: As guys who did some quality work and who were good people.

KW: Is there any message that people can take away from this movie?

SW: That even during a recession, you can laugh.

KW: Well, I really appreciate the interview, and best of luck with the film.

DW: Thank you.

SW: I’m glad to hear your son’s doing well. Tell him I said, “Hi!”

KW: Will do, definitely.

To see a trailer for Dance Flick, visit

Inside Out Goes Baby Crazy

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson,
Special To The Star

(May 15, 2009) A handsome, sensitive man with a loving partner and a thriving pediatric practice in Paris, the hero of Baby Love would appear to be ideally suited to becoming an adoptive parent.

Indeed, Manu – played by the appropriately dashing Lambert Wilson – wants nothing more than to have a child of his own. The fact that he is also gay presents certain obstacles, seeing as he lives in a country that doesn't allow same-sex couples to adopt.

In one of the most amusing scenes in this French hit – which makes its Toronto premiere at the
Inside Out film festival on May 19 – Manu prepares for a visit from an adoption agency representative who's come to determine his suitability.

Trying to pass himself off as a straight single, he scours his home for anything that might indicate his actual orientation. Out go vacation shots of his boyfriend and any magazines with hunky studs on the covers. But when Manu comes to a certain tome, he's perplexed – does a coffee-table book on Greek myths count as gay or straight?

That's just one of the many challenging questions posed by the movies at Inside Out. The 19th edition of Toronto's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered film and video festival runs to May 24. Once again, the fest features a great bounty of queer-themed works, many of them local and Canadian premieres.

The program includes docs on icons like author Kathy Acker and singer Ferron, as well as such international prizewinners as Service, a raucous look at a seedy porn theatre by Filipino director Brillante Mendoza, and Disgrace, Steve Jacobs' bracing adaptation of J.M. Coetzee's novel with John Malkovich as a sexually predatory South African prof.

Two new movies about would-be parents are among Inside Out's more lighthearted entries. The festival's centrepiece gala, Baby Love, takes a mostly breezy but sometimes pointed approach to the subject of LGBT adoption. Wilson is consistently charming as the prospective dad, whose longing for a child causes no shortage of complications.

He's even accused of being "a closet straight" after he announces his marriage to a young Argentine woman, having convinced her to bear his child in return for French citizenship. Of course, the reliably messy nature of human emotions means his scheme doesn't work out so neatly.

A Canadian movie that shares Baby Love's familial theme, The Baby Formula, screens at the festival on May 22.

This first feature by stunt coordinator-turned-filmmaker Alison Reid is a likeable mockumentary about a lesbian couple who, thanks to some stem-cell chicanery, are both impregnated with "female sperm" created from each other's genetic material.

It's a scientific first, though, judging by the many spats that ensue between Athena (Angela Vint) and Lilith (Megan Fahlenbock), maybe it's not the best idea for both halves of a relationship to be so hopped up on estrogen at the same time.

Reid's cast certainly had big fun with the premise. What's more, being actually pregnant during the film's production must have enhanced Vint and Fahlenbock's performances.

Like poor Manu, their characters learn that becoming a parent is a complicated business no matter who you are or whom you share it with.

For info, go to insideout.ca

Ron Howard : The Director's Code

Source: www.thestar.com - John Hiscock,
Special To The Star

(May 15, 2009) NEW YORK–Knowing the Catholic Church would never grant him permission to film at religious sites around Rome, Ron Howard used everything in his director's bag of tricks, from 100-year-old effects to the latest techno-wizardry, to make Angels & Demons.

"I'm proud of what we achieved with this movie because we used every kind of visual illusion," Howard said as he chatted in a Manhattan hotel room 24 hours before the film opened last night.

He added that "great set-building and construction, guerrilla-style filming in Rome and using green screen" helped complete the effects.

"I was very glad it was my 20th movie and not my second one because it required a lot of planning and forethought and a lot of visual improvisation and piecing together. Technically, it was a real feat and logistically it was incredibly challenging, but we managed to get our work done."

The pains Howard and the movie's star, Tom Hanks, took in order to research and make the film have been widely publicized. The pair said they went to great lengths to get around obstacles to filming and the two Oscar-winners resorted to some clever subterfuge.

Howard did his research by paying his money and joining public tours of the Vatican, wearing dark glasses and a baseball cap so he was not recognized, while Hanks, reprising his role as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, did his own exploring.

"I poked around and checked out a few churches and sites of antiquity," Hanks said.

Howard said he did not even bother to seek the church's permission to film at its buildings in Rome, knowing the Vatican's antipathy towards author Dan Brown's novels, which mix science and religion while weaving fact with fiction.

"Their policy was not to cooperate and we just hoped that when we got to Rome they wouldn't actively impede us," said 54-year-old Howard, who won an Oscar for directing A Beautiful Mind.

"For the most part they didn't. But we had city permits to shoot in several locations where you would have seen churches in the background, and legally we had the right to do that, but it was suggested to us that the cooperation at those locations was going to be more difficult. It was put to us that the Vatican had requested that we be kept away from those locations."

The team filmed in Rome for a month on the city streets and at the Pantheon, Piazza del Popolo and Castel Sant'Angelo, but because of the problems, compounded by the swarms of tourists that milled around during shooting, they returned to Los Angeles, where St. Peter's Square, the Sistine Chapel and the Piazza Navona, among other sites, were constructed on the Hollywood Park racetrack and on six sound stages on Sony's backlot.

It is the fourth time Howard and Hanks have worked together, after Splash, Apollo 13 and The Da Vinci Code, and the first time either man has made a sequel.

"The Robert Langdon character can stand having another movie made about him," said Hanks, 52. "The idea that he knows symbols better than anyone else, combined with his knowledge of art, architecture and history, means you can drop him into almost any story provided it is a whip-smart, intelligent new saga like this one is."

Angels & Demons pits Langdon on the side of the Catholic Church against those who would destroy it. But church leaders object to Brown's story depicting a church that has long opposed the march of science, to the point of systematically murdering scientists, and presenting some of the Vatican's hierarchy as being so bent on attaining ultimate power that they may be willing to kill for it.

"Most of the outcry was an echo of their antagonism about The Da Vinci Code," said Howard. "I have very close friends who are very devout Catholics and I talked to them before The Da Vinci Code and it was very difficult for them, but I talked to them before Angels & Demons and they said the scandal, abuse of power and violence was part of church history which you can read about in the Vatican bookstore. The book utilizes it in a fictional way and it is not offensive at all."

Some of the 40 million people who have bought Brown's book will doubtless take issue with the changes and omissions Howard has made, but he is unapologetic.

"I took more liberties with this one because if I learned anything from The Da Vinci Code, it is that these are very, very ambitious stories," he said. "They work great as novels but you have to simplify them, and with this one I wanted to narrow the focus.

"I felt I could take more liberties this time because with The Da Vinci Code, people were making documentaries about the book and writing scholarly analyses ... That kind of familiarity was a little intimidating. Here I felt more comfortable making the movie I wanted to see."

Brown has just finished a third Langdon adventure, The Lost Symbol, which will be published in September. It is a safe bet that Howard, Hanks and the crew will soon be working on turning it into a movie, although Howard insists that as yet he has no idea of the book's plot.

"Dan is not telling me anything," Howard said. "I know he's gone back, deepened the story and re-worked it several times. At the premiere in Rome we all surrounded him and kept refilling his glass, trying to get him to tell us what it's about, but he can hold his liquor and he wouldn't say anything."

Pedro Almodóvar : Now that's dedication

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(May 20, 2009) CANNES, France - With filmmaking, sometimes it's all how you hold your tongue, Pedro Almodóvar told a rapt roomful of international journalists yesterday.

The maestro from Madrid was explaining how sometimes he let his actors have free rein on the set, while other times he demonstrates exactly what he wants.

"If necessary, I play all the parts on the set. In one of the films I shot some time ago, I even performed cunnilingus on an actress to show the actor how to play the part."

Fortunately for sensitive journos and the gentle folk back home, the openly gay Almodóvar didn't elaborate on the hows, whys and wherefores of all that.

But he did make his point, which was humorously translated from Spanish into French and then into English, about the amount of passion he demands in his films. In the case of Broken Embraces, his new creation he calls a story of amour fou (crazy love), he's got passion to spare.

One of 20 films competing for the Palme d'Or in this weekend's judging, it stars Almodóvar's favourite muse, Penélope Cruz, as a high-class call girl named Lena who is striving to become an actress. She's also attempting to sort out her feelings between two lovers: movie director Mateo (Lluís Homar) and jealous millionaire Ernesto (José Luis Gómez).

The movie opens in current times, in which we learn that Mateo has renounced filmmaking and even his own name and has returned to writing, answering only to his pseudonym of Harry Caine. He's also blind, the result of a car crash in 1994, the mysterious details of which we learn by degrees. Harry is certainly no invalid, though, managing to seduce a gorgeous blond after she assists him in crossing the street.

Most of the film plays in flashback, leading up to the events of that 1994 crash that profoundly changed the lives of Lena, Harry, Ernesto and the many people in their orbit.

Broken Embraces is being described as film noir because it has elements of a murder mystery about it and a strong central female character – the latter a norm for an Almodóvar picture.

But it's really a film about filmmaking and it also has strong elements of comedy. There's a running gag in the movie about the making of a loopy laugher called Chicas y Maletas (Girls and Suitcases), which is highly reminiscent of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the 1988 comedy that first won Almodóvar international recognition and acclaim.

It's almost as if he's in his Stardust Memories phase, to reference the 1980 Woody Allen movie in which Allen, coincidentally a good friend of Almodóvar, started to seriously question what he was doing as a filmmaker. In Allen's case, the self-doubt manifested itself in bitterness; with Almodóvar, it's more about nostalgia.

He admitted that he misses the carefree days of his earlier comedies, before his films took a more dramatic turn. He's fully indulging his feelings by openly quoting his earlier movie (as well of those of beloved fellow auteurs) in Broken Embraces.

Peering into bright TV lights through oversized sunglasses, Almodóvar said he felt surrounded by "the ghosts of all these women" from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and he has other plans to salute them. He's heading to New York after Cannes to begin work on a Broadway musical of the film.

Stating the obvious, he said he likes to put strong women in his films, while at the same time including weaker male characters. Part of this has to do with his upbringing in the 1950s, raised by a houseful of women. But he's not really sure why he does this.

"I don't know if there's a psychoanalyst in the room. Perhaps you could explain it to me."

There's no female stronger than Cruz, who has appeared in several of Almodóvar's films and who sat next to him at the press conference.

She recently won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for her role as a volatile artist in Allen's Spanish comedy Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which premiered here out of competition last year.

Cruz said Allen and Almodóvar "could not be more different" as directors, since Allen doesn't like his actors to rehearse while Almodóvar does. But her pal Pedro can be spontaneous when the mood strikes him. She spoke of a key lovemaking scene in Broken Embraces that Almodóvar essentially wrote on the spot.

Broken Embraces is a good Almodóvar film, but it's not one of his better ones, like All About My Mother and Volver, which he brought to Cannes in 1999 and 2006 respectively, both of them starring Cruz.

It seems unlikely to win the Palme, a hunch Almodóvar also seems to be playing. He's planning to skip town before prizes are doled out on Sunday. But he's hedging his bets.

"I'm going to be leaving Cannes on Friday so that I don't give the impression that I'm waiting for an award ... but I'm prepared to come back on Sunday!"


Let's Hear It For The Toys

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(May 15, 2009) CANNES, France–Woody, Buzz Lightyear and their plaything pals are coping with abandonment issues in the new Toy Story sequel. Next year's Toy Story 3 has the gang learning they have reached their shelf life as the young boy who owns them grows up and goes off to college. "Toys are put on this earth to be played with by a child," said John Lasseter, director of the first two Toy Story movies and chief creative officer for Pixar and Disney animation. "The thing they worry about the most is all the things in life that prevent them from being played with, and probably the thing they fear the most is being outgrown." Pete Docter, who was at Cannes for the premiere of Up, helped develop the stories for the Toy Story flicks and was an animator on the first film. He said the creative minds behind the original movies holed up in a cabin for two days to brainstorm ideas for the third. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen return as the main mouthpieces, providing the voices of toy buddies Woody and Buzz. Lee Unkrich, one of Lasseter's co-directors on Toy Story 2, is directing the new sequel.

Don Cherry Biopic Starts Shooting Next Week

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(May 14, 2009) Don Cherry is getting his own biopic. The outspoken former hockey coach, a mainstay of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, will be the focus of a made-for-TV movie expected to air on the public broadcaster next year. A publicist for the film says Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story, is set to begin shooting next Wednesday in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba. The script is written by Tim Cherry, Don Cherry's son, who also serves as executive producer. The film will reportedly include dramatizations of Cherry's boyhood in Kingston, Ont., and follow his hockey career through the minor leagues and as a coach with the Boston Bruins. It stars Jared Keeso as Don Cherry and Sarah Manninen as Rose Cherry. Producers are inviting hundreds of volunteer extras to come out for three days of shooting May 24, May 31 and June 14 when an arena in Brandon will double for NHL play and a rink in Selkirk will provide the background for AHL action.

Chris Rock's 'Hair' Coming In Fall


(May 15, 2009) *The HBO Films documentary "Good Hair," co-written and produced by Chris Rock, will finally arrive in US theatres this year after world rights were picked up by Roadside Attractions and Liddell Entertainment.   Roadside will release the film domestically in the fall, reports Variety. Lionsgate will handle home video and other domestic ancillary rights, while HBO retains pay cable rights.  The documentary also stars Rock as he shares hair recollections with such celebs as Maya Angelou, Nia Long, Raven Symone, Ice-T and the Rev. Al Sharpton. Stories of how hairstyles impacted their lives and self-esteem helped Rock formulate an answer to a question posed by his daughter.     "Good Hair" was directed by Jeff Stilson, a writer and co-producer of HBO's "The Chris Rock Show."

GG's Chace Signs On For Footloose

Source:  www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(May 20, 2009) Gossip Girl actor Chace Crawford is stepping into the starring role in the remake of Footloose, reprising the role that made Kevin Bacon a heartthrob back in 1984. Paramount Pictures said yesterday that Crawford will star as Ren McCormack, the bad boy in a small town who brings everyone together with his daring moves. Kenny Ortega, the mastermind behind the High School Musical movies, will direct. HSM star Zac Efron originally was set to play the part but dropped out in March.


Television Networks Tone Down Glitz

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

(May 14, 2009) CTV and CBC are dialling down the glitz on this year's fall season launches, which traditionally feature a parade of U.S. stars and lavish parties to promote prime-time plans to advertisers.

The annual spring events are being curtailed by the tough economy.

CBC is dispensing with the ritual altogether in favour of a road show-style promotion. Advertisers will be pitched in a series of visits in the coming weeks, says Kirstine Layfield, executive director of network programming.

Traditionally, launch events take over big downtown venues such as the venerable Massey Hall – as Global did in 2007 – or the shiny Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts – as CTV did last year. Broadcast honchos usually take the stage to boast of past and future successes, banter with onscreen talent like Ryan Seacrest or the cast of Heroes, and offer up a big-screen preview of their best bets.

The CBC event generally takes place at its flagship Broadcast Centre.

Ratings leader CTV traditionally offers the most outlandish event, with past parties featuring visits from actor Donald Sutherland and screen legend Sophia Loren. Last year's gala was lighter on American talent but still offered some flash, closing with Jully Black performing her hit "Seven Day Fool" with a 10-piece band.

This year, the network says it's holding a series of "up close" events instead, in which advertising agencies and buyers will be invited to a series of small presentations over two days. It'll be followed by an informal parking lot barbecue, says spokesperson Scott Henderson of CTV, where the schedule is packed with powerhouse imports including Lost, American Idol and Grey's Anatomy.

CTV honcho Rick Brace said the move is just one way the broadcast industry is grappling with the economic downturn.

"We think it's the responsible thing to do, but we also think it's very important to get our message out to our clients to let them know that we are very much open for business," said Brace, CTV's president of revenue, business planning and sports.

Over at CBC, a sales launch this month will take the place of a combined media/sales presentation in the CBC studios. The media blitz will be held in September, Layfield said.

"Like everybody, people are all cutting back on upfronts and those kind of things," Layfield said in an interview, noting similar steps taken south of the border by U.S. networks.

"The sales event will just be done in a different format that doesn't really allow a lot of people to show up; it's going to be more of a road-show thing, where we go out to the agencies."

CBC's scaledown actually began last year, when The Hour's George Stroumboulopoulos hosted a fall launch with guests that included Natalie Dormer from The Tudors, the cast of Little Mosque on the Prairie and comic Rick Mercer.

The CBC has already announced a slew of new shows slated for the fall, including Battle of the Blades, an elimination-style competition that will pair hockey players with figure skaters for a Dancing With the Stars-type performance.

Other new shows include Canada's Super Speller, hosted by Evan Solomon; 18 to Life, a comedy about a couple that gets married at 18; and The Republic of Doyle, about a father-son team of private investigators plying their trade in Newfoundland.

Layfield said the delayed launch should allow a more dramatic event come fall, noting that one of the CBC's most anticipated new series has yet to begin shooting.

"Shows like Blades and stuff, it's not like you have a pilot you can show people. When we actually are shooting it will be a fun time to have a media event, so we're going to wait until September."

Global refused to provide details on its fall launch plans.

CBS Picks Up Medium, Cancels Without A Trace

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

(May 20, 2009) NEW YORK–A couple of television crime-fighters are on the move: Patricia Arquette and Medium from NBC to CBS, and Simon Baker's The Mentalist to CBS' Thursday-night line-up.

CBS, the last of the top four broadcasters to reveal its fall schedule to advertisers this week, said it was cancelling Without a Trace, The Unit and Eleventh Hour. New series with Jenna Elfman and Julianna Margulies are moving in.

The nation's most popular network is a model of stability in a roiled broadcast industry. It's the only network with more viewers this season than last, yet had less advertising revenue than its previous year because of a depressed market.

CBS moved quickly to grab Medium. As an aging show, production costs were going up. But since it is made by a production company owned by CBS Corp., the costs were more easily absorbed by CBS. It lands on CBS' Friday schedule at 9 p.m., between Ghost Whisperer and Numb3rs.

Simon Baker's The Mentalist was broadcast TV's only real new hit this season, and CBS decided to move it from Tuesday nights to Thursday at 10 p.m.

Thursdays are important for networks as they seek income from advertisers like film studios looking ahead to the weekend. CBS also said it sees the chance to gain a competitive edge at 10 p.m. with NBC's decision to air Jay Leno's new comedy show at that hour each weeknight.

"No matter how well he does, there's going to be more (audience) share available at 10 o'clock for people who put on great dramas," said CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves, "and that's what we do."

CBS tinkered with its Monday-night comedy line-up, except for 9 p.m. stalwart Two and a Half Men. The network is moving How I Met Your Mother up a half hour to 8 p.m., and shifting Big Bang Theory to 9:30 p.m. in the hope of nurturing it as a hit.

Elfman's new show, Accidentally on Purpose, debuts at 8:30 p.m. Based on a true story, it's about a San Francisco film critic who gets pregnant after a one-night stand with a young slacker, then decides to keep both the baby and the dad.

Much like it did with its CSI franchise, CBS is now spinning off NCIS, which has surprised even network executives with its burst of popularity the past year or so. NCIS: Los Angeles features Chris O'Donnell and rapper LL Cool J as a former Navy SEAL, and will air directly after NCIS on Tuesday.

CBS says it has an opportunity on Tuesdays with ABC, NBC and Fox's schedules that night dominated by reality shows like Dancing With the Stars and The Biggest Loser.

"If you don't want to watch reality, we are the only game in town," said Kelly Kahl, CBS' chief scheduling executive.

Margulies stars in The Good Wife, about a stay-at-home mom forced back into the workplace when her politically prominent husband is sent to prison after a sex scandal. It will air Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

CBS is bringing on one other new series in the fall. Three Rivers, to air Sundays at 9 p.m., is a medical drama about organ donation.

CBS also renewed the comedy The New Adventures of Old Christine, which ABC had been eager to pick up if CBS didn't want to air it any longer.


The Naked Bunch

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 19, 2009) Just say your inner-goddess made you do it. Your body – yes, the one you always cover, even in front of the cat – is a coveted commodity for a new TV series. Inspired by the successful British series, How To Look Good Naked Canada is coming to a television set near you. The casting call is out and Ontario women who are uncomfortable in their own skin, for all reasons, are invited to take part. As well, those interested in being on the series, a co-production of the W Network and Insight Productions, must be age 25 to 60, and size 10 to 18. Canadian fashion and lifestyle experts have been recruited to show the chosen women how to get their groove back – with and without clothes, and without surgery. Women who are interested, or who know someone who'd like to reveal their inner goddess, should go to insighttv.com and click on the How to Look Good Naked Canada icon.

Banff TV Fest To Honour Mark McKinney

Source:  www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(May 20, 2009) Comedian, writer, and Kids in the Hall member Mark McKinney has been named the latest recipient of the CTV Sir Peter Ustinov Award. McKinney will be presented with the honour at the Banff World Television Festival on June 8. Since shooting to fame with his sketch comedy troupe The Kids in the Hall, McKinney has built a successful career as a TV writer, penning shows including NBC's Saturday Night Live and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and co-creating the Canadian miniseries Slings and Arrows. He's currently the producer, senior story editor and showrunner for the Citytv series Less Than Kind. McKinney says he's humbled by the award, which in previous years has gone to comics including John Cleese, Bob Newhart, Martin Short and Tracy Ullman. The Banff World Television Festival takes place June 7 to 10.


Deborah Hay Is Starring In Not One But Two Shaw Fest Plays

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

(May 16, 2009) The old cliché advises that one "ought to make hay while the sun shines."

For Shaw Festival actor
Deborah Hay, this spring the sun is shining 24-7.

Not only is she playing the female lead in two of next week's shows opening at the flagship Festival Theatre, she's also trying to finalize the details of her upcoming marriage to Stratford Festival star Ben Carlson.

"Actually, we're much further along with the plans for our honeymoon than for the wedding," she laughs.

"We know we're going to Morocco, but the rest is all still a bit vague. Actually, I'd love to elope."

She's not sure how Carlson would react to that suggestion, "because he's really terribly, wonderfully traditional. He actually got down on one knee to propose to me."

It seems incredibly symmetrical that leading players from Canada's two largest (and sometimes rival) theatre festivals are planning to tie the knot.

Call it cultural détente, if you like, but it's made Hay a very happy woman.

Actually, as she relates the story of her life in that wonderful hot butterscotch voice of hers, it sounds as though Hay has been a very happy woman most of the time.

Her childhood memories growing up in Montreal in the 1970s are especially vivid.

She recalls "being very shy, so I used to get up before anyone else and sit in the kitchen on the big yellow rocking chair as the sun poured through the orange tie-dyed curtains."

What did she sing, alone on that chair? "Oh, almost anything by Barbra Streisand. `You Don't Bring Me Flowers' was my favourite."

There's a pause and then she adds, "I was driving with my father in the car one day when I was 5, singing along with Streisand on the radio and I asked my father in complete earnestness if I could sing as well as her.

"He pulled over the car because I guess he knew that whatever he said was going to be important to me.

"He looked at me and said that we had very different voices, but each was wonderful in its own way."

The nature of what acting meant to Hay – "the germination of the desire to explore human nature" – occurred to her about a year later.

"My mother got a phone call, during which I later found out she learned that a very dear friend of hers had died. She didn't want to frighten us children, so when she hung up, she kept speaking very brightly, but the tears were running down her face and I marvelled at how one could feel one thing and do another."

A few years later, Hay's mother actually took her to a play, but not a childish panto or fairy tale. No, it was The Elephant Man.

Hay still vividly recalls the scene "where the actress exposed her breasts on the stage." A bawdy laugh erupts.

"I guess that's what made me want to go into the theatre."

Hay followed her dramatic heart all the way through high school. When it came time for university, she tried to fulfill her parents' wish for stability by studying mathematics for a year at Western.

"It was a horrible disaster," she shudders. "Then I went straight to York for theatre."

Right after graduation, she found herself in an incredibly creative environment, working in repertory for Layne Coleman in Kingston. Since then, she's been pretty steadily employed across Canada, including multiple-year stints at Stratford and Shaw.

"I have worked as a waitress and I actually kind of enjoyed it, but I was really klutzy at it," she admits.

There's no room for self-doubt of any kind on Hay's schedule this coming week.

On Wednesday night, she brings up the curtain on Brief Encounters, the first of three Noel Coward triple bills that anchor the Shaw Festival season.

She begins as the tortured suburban housewife in Still Life, trying to snatch happiness from an adulterous affair that never should have been.

Without a beat, she segues into the dreamily romantic world of We Were Dancing, then finally winds up as a hysterical society hostess with a party from hell in Hands Across the Sea.

"The first time we finished all three plays, I passed out in the dressing room," she confesses.

"But my stamina has built up. I enjoy running a lot, but Ben has had to convince me that doing a show like this is the equal of a good run, so now I try to find my physical release through yoga and pilates."

The week's assignment doesn't stop with the Coward. Far from it.

On Saturday night, she's front and centre with another major opening, Born Yesterday, playing that archetypal dumb blond, Billie Dawn – the role that made Judy Holliday a star.

Hay isn't about to offer us a cliché. "Billie's not a stupid woman; she's a person unformed, because of lack of opportunity or lack of vision. When she's finally shown some respect, she blossoms in the most wonderful way.

"The biggest reward of playing Billie is her journey toward learning how to think, and emerging victorious because of that knowledge."

So with this kind of week and summer ahead, how does Hay feel? She pauses for a moment.

"You know, for a long time I thought I was just allowing my life to happen to me. But now I realize I was actually carving out the path I would take.

"And the more joyful you can be about the decisions, the more joyful you'll be about the results."

Sony Centre Reopening Delayed

www.globeandmail.com - Jennifer Lewington And James Bradshaw

(May 19, 2009) City-owned Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, closed for renovations since last June, now faces an unexpected delay in reopening, officials have confirmed.

Earlier plans to resume operations in January, 2010, "will be a challenge and I would say now second quarter of 2010," Sony Centre CEO Dan Brambilla said.

The delay, caused by drawn-out negotiations over a proposed condo tower above the cultural venue, has wider repercussions for the 49-year-old Front Street landmark.

Quiet talks between Sony Centre officials and newcomer impresario Aubrey Dan, who is eager for a toehold in the downtown theatre scene dominated by David Mirvish, are on hold pending a firm date to reopen.

"There's a little problem that's called construction delay," said Mr. Dan, president of Dancap Productions, a deep-pocketed businessman and philanthropist determined to make his mark in musical theatre in Toronto. "Unfortunately, the date of construction completion kept moving along and got extended and extended."

Last month, Dancap cancelled its November-December, 2009, run of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas! because of delays in renovations of the Sony Centre.

Mr. Dan, who has had a combative and litigious relationship with Mr. Mirvish, currently has a multiyear agreement with the Toronto Centre for the Arts, another city-owned theatre now home to Dancap's long-running production of Jersey Boys.

Mr. Dan said he would like to seal a similar arrangement with the Sony Centre - "a great theatre" in his words - with an agreement that guarantees him a certain number of nights for his shows through the season.

"We're always trying to find a formalized agreement where we can really make sure that we have a commitment, and we're prepared to give a commitment, because we see the facility as a longer-term downtown location," Mr. Dan told The Globe and Mail. "So we always negotiate that wherever possible when management is open and flexible to such terms."

Mr. Brambilla said "until we can give them [Dancap] a firm commitment as to when, exactly, we are reopening, there was no point furthering the negotiations."

That said, it remains to be seen how big a role Dancap might play in the renewed Sony Centre.

Mr. Brambilla said his 3,200-seat facility, with ambitions to be open 200 nights a year, aims to differentiate itself as a venue for acts that reflect the multicultural diversity of the city.

"I don't want to turn this [Sony Centre] into another Broadway house," he said, adding "we are looking at a fair balance between his occupancy of the building whilst keeping our mandate and our brand."

With an annual city subsidy of about $1-million a year to the Sony Centre, some members of council are keen for a successful conclusion to the talks with Dancap.

"I have an interest in reducing the liability of the city on an annual basis," said Councillor Michael Feldman (Ward 10, York Centre), a member of the Sony Centre board who has had informal discussions with Mr. Dan.

But for now, said Mr. Feldman, the Sony Centre's priority is to wrap up a deal with Castlepoint Realty Partners Ltd., the developer of the proposed 49-storey condo tower.

The deal was to close March 31, but spokesmen for the parties now say it may be done within a month. In the meantime, the Sony Centre is proceeding with its renovations.

City councillor and Sony Centre board member Howard Moscoe (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) sounded lukewarm about Mr. Dan's overtures to extend his theatre presence in the city, after meeting with the impresario last week.

"My advice to him is if you want to do something, do it directly and don't run around behind closed doors," Mr. Moscoe said.

Acting, Stunts - It's All In A Knight's Work

Source: www.thestar.com - Daniel Dale,
Staff Reporter

(May 19, 2009) Toronto's Sean Delaney, 31, has performed for five years as a knight at Medieval Times, the dinner-theatre show at Exhibition Place.

Do you ever feel like you have to defend the job?

Sure. And it's not always the easiest job to defend. There are times when I myself feel kind of ridiculous. There I am, out there in monochromatic polyester rolling around in horse poo. I feel kind of like a clown.

But at the same time, when people dismiss it or disregard it, I'm very aware of how much skill is required. If we make the job look easy – if people are sitting there thinking, "Oh, I could do that, ride a horse and hold a flag; I could swing a sword" – I remind myself, and remind them, that it takes a long, long time to acquire these skills.

They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you become good at something. Well, it takes more than that to become a good knight.

If you introduce yourself as a Medieval Times knight, what do people say?

I usually don't introduce myself as a Medieval Times knight. I usually introduce myself as Sean, for starters. And if they ask what I do, I say, "Well, I am the head knight at Medieval Times." And when they say, "Oh, what's that like?" I say, "Well, it's kind of like being an actor and stuntman combined."

What were you doing before you took this job?

I was actually working as a line cook.

How do you go from being a line cook to a Medieval Times knight?

I've been studying martial arts pretty much my whole life – I do karate, tai chi, aikido, Jiu-Jitsu – and I went to university for theatre.

This is a nice bridging between the two. It's very physical, but also theatre- and acting-oriented.

How did it even occur to you?

Actually, I saw an ad in the paper.

Some professional wrestlers get upset when they're scheduled to lose fights. Do knights?

I personally don't. I typically play the bad guy. So I lose every day and I don't get upset about it.

Would you like to get back to acting?

If I were to be offered, say, a movie role, and that led to more and better acting gigs, and the work was steady, I'd love to keep acting. Unfortunately, it's a very competitive business. And Hollywood hasn't come knocking yet.

Job Interview is an occasional feature about working lives of GTA residents.


Rose Theatre Bringing Star Attractions To Brampton

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

(May 19, 2009) The 2009-10 season that the Rose Theatre announces today is so attractive that even diehard downtown Torontonians might have to start uttering the phrase, "It's worth the drive to Brampton." Costin Manu, the theatre's manager of programming, marketing and development, has put together an eclectic program that includes everything from touring companies of Broadway musicals like The Color Purple, The Wedding Singer and the hilarious Altar Boyz to star attractions like Art Garfunkel, Brent Butt and Stuart McLean. As Manu told the Toronto Star, "We are thinking always about what programming is original, booking exclusive runs and Canadian premieres, and aiming very high." There are exciting specialty dance shows like Tap Kids, novelty acts like the comedy percussion of Explosion and the spectacle of the New Shanghai Circus. Want to be amazed? Kreskin is on the bill. Seeking foot-stomping energy? You'll find it in Barrage. A family Christmas musical? They have Leslie Bricusse's Scrooge. How about a warm-hearted comedy-drama? Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks stars Broadway greats Constance Towers and Jason Graae. And if you're seeking star power, there's everyone from Natalie Cole and John McDermott to Spirit of the West and the Canadian Tenors. Due to contractual restrictions, a lot of shows that are appearing on the Rose's schedule won't be coming any closer to the GTA, so think about making the short journey in search of some fine entertainment. More details at myrosetheatre.ca.


Andy's Ready To Humour Us

Source:  www.thestar.com - Garnet Fraser,
Toronto Star

(May 16, 2009) "I used to do a joke that a comedy club is the last place you'd go for a laugh. It's like finding a funny book in the Humour section of the library."

Andy Kindler, on the phone from his California home, has lots to say about the state of comedy, little of it positive. Discerning fans of standup will find much to love in the veteran funnyman's visit to Toronto next week; famous comics might do better to stay away. A few words from Kindler about his peers:

"I tell (young comedians) to stand in the mirror every day and say `I'm hilarious.' It's how Dane Cook got started."

"The judge (in Michael Jackson's trial) put a gag order on Jay Leno. If I knew that was possible, I would have spent the last 10 years down at the courthouse."

"If you're smarter than a fifth grader, you're probably not a fan of Jeff Foxworthy."

The above are taken from Kindler's annual State of the Industry address at Just for Laughs in Montreal; since 1996 he has used it to take shots at the biggest names in the business. To be mentioned means you've made it, though that may be little comfort – he once offered a million dollars to anyone who could provide "footage of Whoopi Goldberg being humorous."

One positive bit of industry news, is his own rise from warhorse of the comedy-club circuit to recurring player on David Letterman's Late Show. His appearance on that show in 2005 has made a marked difference for the 52-year-old, after decades of playing clubs everywhere from Florida to such unlikely comedy hotbeds as Medicine Hat and Moose Jaw.

"They were no worse than playing a one-nighter in the United States, but that's not a compliment," he says. He has always liked the idea of playing Canada, "because I grew up on SCTV. I liked that tone of the detached observer of American culture, looking at it and saying `that's not us.' I'm more of an attached observer."

For a guy who often expresses hostility to U.S. popular culture, Kindler's material certainly shows his immersion in it. On that critical Late Show appearance on 2005, he scored by lamenting the rise of text-messaging ("What's the pitch here? `Do you find talking on the phone to be too convenient? Would you like to turn your phone conversations into a more laborious process?'") and wondering where the drama lurked in watching the then-huge Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: "`That guy's got a unibrow! Do you think they'll talk about that at all?' ... The suspense is killing me. It's like watching the movie Sleuth (pause) or a more current movie."

Kindler invites awareness of what he's doing onstage, offering commentary about what's working and what isn't. It's about making the interaction with the audience more genuine, he says; "it sounds corny, but it's true."

Letterman's team liked him so much that they've brought him aboard as a kind of roving reporter, going everywhere from Wall Street to space camp. Now he makes his first visit to Toronto's Comedy Bar, and it's a busy stay – two sets each next Friday and Saturday, followed by an appearance with the bar's resident sketch troupe the Sketchersons in their regular Sunday Night Live show.

To give you a sense of his vintage, he appeared on a young comedians special in 1992, along with Ray Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Bellamy and Judd Apatow.

"To be really good at (standup) you have to spend years working on it. And that of course is contrary to the desire of the entertainment business, which is to seek out younger and younger all the time."

That might sound self-serving if his views on most of popular comedy weren't so corrosive. And it's not just safe targets like Dane Cook or Carrot Top.

In the interview he suggests that Curb Your Enthusiasm, should it ever return, has made Larry David's character so unlikeable that "he'll have to become a mass murderer" just for a fresh twist.

The changing culture always provides fresh material to irritate Kindler. His latest brainstorm: a new version of Twitter called Fritter, wherein "people let you know what they would have accomplished with their time, if they weren't busy updating you on the most mundane activities in their lives. No time to write that novel, I'm telling you what I had for lunch."

Just the facts
WHO: Andy Kindler

WHERE: Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor St. W.

WHEN: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

TICKETS: $20 at comedybar.ca


Wagering To Win: Toronto Site Links Competitors

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

(May 16, 2009) Video gamers who trash-talk about their "mad skills" can now put their money where their mouse is: a new Toronto-based website and service, WorldGaming.com, lets you place a wager – from $1 to $1,000 – to compete online against single players or in multiplayer tournaments.

The site serves as a matchmaking service.

It connects console gamers, holds funds from both parties in escrow while the gamers duke it out online, and then credits the winning gamer's account based on results electronically sent to WorldGaming .com following the match.

Nearly 20 games are supported between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, including Microsoft Game Studios' Halo 3, Sony's Resistance: Fall of Man and EA Sports' NHL 09. Coming soon: Activision's Call of Duty 4, Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto IV and Microsoft Game Studios' Gear of War 2.

"Trash-talking is part of gamer culture," site co-founder Billy Levy says in a telephone interview with the Star. "And so we're offering an extension of this competition by letting you vie for cash instead of dishing insults."

WorldGaming.com has hosted more than 10,000 challenges to date, managing more than $100,000 in winnings. Levy says the activity is legal, because video games are based on games of skill rather than chance and therefore are not considered gambling. Registered players must be at least 18.

Here's how it works: Players register free at the site and create a profile, which includes an online Gamertag (Xbox Live name) or PSN ID (for PlayStation Network). Gamers then visit a lobby to initiate a challenge and specify for how much.

They deposit money into the account via a credit card or PayPal. If the challenge is accepted, players go to their consoles and play the game online, just as they normally would, and an automated verification system ensures the correct results are sent to WorldGaming.com to credit the winner's account. Players can assess would-be challengers through a reputation feedback system and skills rating based on actual wins and generated by the game automatically.

WorldGaming.com takes a 10 per cent fee off the top for managing the competition (e.g., $10 from a $100 wager, per player) with a maximum of $25 per person, per game.

Multiplayer tournaments are also available, offering cash and prizes to winners. Levy says team-based head-to-head games will soon be supported as well.

Plants vs. Zombies: Using Flower Power To Fight The Undead

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

Plants vs. Zombies

http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Platform: Windows/Mac OS X
Price: $19.95
Rated: E

(May 16, 2009) When considering a defence against the foul hordes of the undead, a few essentials come to mind: shotguns, of course, and chainsaws. Maybe a fire axe in a pinch, and a clutch of grenades if you're lucky.

But think outside the ammo box for a second. What about ... seeds? When you think about it, it makes sense. Plants come out of the ground, zombies come out of the ground; the fact that one spreads joy and life and the other spreads zombie germs and terror makes them perfect nemeses.

Thus we come to PopCap Games' latest, Plants vs. Zombies, in which flower power alone stands against the shambling advance of the restless dead.

A top-notch take on the "tower defence" game genre, Plants vs. Zombies – working title: "Lawn of the Dead" – has you mounting your defence of home and hearth with nothing but seeds and sunlight. As zombies shamble across your yard, you must select the right plants for the job of staving them off: pea-shooters to deal damage, sturdy wall-nuts to form living barricades, happy little sunflowers to generate the precious "sun" units that allow you to deploy other defensive greenery.

As you repel successive waves of zombies, you'll gain access to potent new plant allies – 48 varieties will eventually fill your seed catalogue – and you'll need them all as the zombies get progressively tougher and more resourceful.

Things start out zombie-slow and tutorial-simple, but as the main campaign progresses, from front yard to backyard to the roof of the house, things get pretty intense. New challenges continually arise, and the zombies arrive in greater numbers and with terrifying new reinforcements.

At its most chaotic, the chaos is its own reward: there's great joy to be had in seeing the screen crammed with scores of cartoon undead, every pixel crowded with artillery of melons, seeds, peas, pods, spines and flying pats of butter courtesy of the corn-flinging kernel-pult. Even when your defence wilts and the zombies make their dinner date with your delicious brains, there's no frustration, only determination; rarely have I been so quick on the "play again" button.

Even if the grind of the campaign is getting you down, PopCap has packed Plants vs. Zombies with lots of other goodies for a change of pace and challenge. Dozens of unlockable mini-games present themselves as you play, most of which I could see some other company releasing as stand-alone games in their own right. If those aren't enough, there's also the devilish puzzle mode, a survival mode, a blissfully zombie-free Zen-garden toy, and the option to replay the main campaign with more challenging restrictions. That's a lot of game for 20 bucks.

But portion size alone is no way to judge an entree. Plants vs. Zombies succeeds because every byte, from the interface to the music, is packed with love, care, craftsmanship and good humour.

The conception and art direction on the zombies alone would be worthy of an entire review. There are defensive zombies wielding screen doors as shields, zombie decathletes that pole-vault over your defences, zombies driving "Zomboni" ice machines and the zombie bobsled drivers that ride their icy wake, aqua-zombies riding bloodthirsty zombie dolphins ... and even a dancing zombie (complete with backup dancers) whose zipper-laden red leather jacket seems somehow familiar.


'Dancing With The Stars' Results: And The Winner Is...

Los Angeles Times — Allyssa Lee

(May 20 2009) In what was the closest competition in series history, Olympic gold medalist and all-around athlete adorable Shawn Johnson narrowly edged out sexy Frenchman Gilles Marini for the title of Season 8 “DWTS” champion.

The 17-year-old gymnast from West Des Moines, Iowa, grew in leaps and bounds as the competition progressed, and with the nurturing, twirly guidance of partner Mark Ballas, was remade a ballroom dance superstar. Though she was tied with Gilles coming into Tuesday night’s finale, the voters ultimately gave spry Shawn the advantage: Maybe it was because of her perfect-30 freestyle routine the night before. Or as a reward for how far she’s come out of her shell. Or maybe it was a vote for America. Whatever the reason, that 18-inch globe of glittery goodness, the coveted Mirrorball trophy — the highest honour in reality TV about ballroom dancing — is hers. (A special shout-out to those of you who joined in our live chat on Tuesday: We totally called it!)

Shawn not only is the youngest competitor ever to  win this much-esteemed honour, but she also made good on Apolo Anton Ohno’s bold claim that no Olympian who had made the finals had ever not won their season (maybe it should be dubbed the golden medal rule). Shoot, as an Olympian, maybe she thrived on that pressure. And yay to Mark Ballas as well for winning his second “DWTS” title with his second “DWTS” Olympian and joining Cheryl Burke and Julianne Hough as repeat pro winners. Do you think this’ll make buddy and bandmate Derek Hough that much hungrier to win the following cycle?

Still, credit should be given to the sexilicious Gilles. He was a formidable competitor this entire season and had the entire package in terms of attitude, skill and the uncanny ability to look good in tight-fitting pants. You know, less than 1% separated Shawn and Gilles. It was almost as if they could be co-winners, no? Certainly, Gilles should be able to keep his head (and the rest of his finely sculpted body) held high, firm in the knowledge that he is a true dancer. 

The road to this victory was long and hard, however. And I’m not talking about the 11 weeks of competition. I’m talking about the two hours of filler. Segments about the judges sizing up the final three, previous contestants sizing up the final three, and the final three sizing up the final three. Though it was amusing to see that some of the finalists’ comments about one another rivalled Ross’ roast: Melissa made fun of Shawn’s height, and Gilles made fun of Melissa’s “Bachelor” history. His faux-earnest “Melissa, please take this rose. I’m taking the trophy” got as many surprised and disapproving groans as when Ross said, “Wouldn’t it be ironic if she came in second on this show too?”

Ross’ roast turned out a lot tamer than I thought it was going to be. Maybe because I was preparing for the worst. I liked how he said Bergeron is an old French word meaning “Seacrest” and called the judges “Smoking, Croaking and Flaming.” That this was “the first season where no actual stars made it to the finale. This isn’t a who’s who, this is a who are you?” That Belinda Carlisle was dressed “like a hooker from ‘Battlestar Galactica.’ ” Felt like he took the easy route when he picked on Steve “the Woz” Wozniak so much, though (“Was it you who took the bite out of the Apple logo?”). I mean, the guy’s a self-proclaimed geek; of course he would be an easy target. And brava to Lil’ Kim for taking his “I guess it’s not easy doing the cha cha cha with a bulletproof vest” and “she’s just doing community service” comments in good-humoured stride.

Lady GaGa performed two songs. And she kind of scares me. Her costumes sure fit into the “DWTS” world, however: For her mega-hit “Just Dance,” the Lady wore a sparkly black unitard with one leg cut off and a big butterfly decal hanging from it, like a scapular. And it was another unitard for the song “LoveGame,” only this time it was pinkish-purple and sequined and she had sparkly skin. And she wielded something that looked like a glowing toilet brush. Did you catch Bruno going crazy over her second number in the background? Wild!

There was also a lot of Season 8 recap. Remember Holly Madison and her abundant ... fringe? Belinda, we’ve missed you! The Woz with his pink feather boa! I didn’t like how Tom peer-pressured the Woz to do the Worm, however: He obviously wasn’t prepared for it, and the world might have been a better place had it not witnessed this inflexible and highly unsuccessful attempt. Denise Richards and Maks performed their quickstep, which was very convenient, because Maks just had to put on a vest and another tie for his other quickstep with pro champ Anna Demidova (who also used that pink feather boa). DAG still made his less-than-savoury faces, LT’s still got his groove, and Steve-O redeemed himself with his fox trot, which he landed safely on the steps of the stage this time. Chuck donned his red satin pyjamas one last time and revealed he had “a new respect for satin, silk, and glitter and thongs.”

Samantha got a bigger role in the co-hosting duties. Though all her stilted Samantha speak (her comment that Chuck looked “like a sparkly crayon”) was a poignant reminder that maybe she should not handle the mike so much. Just sayin’. And though I figured that her awkward, loosey-goosey hip shaking before and after the commercial breaks were just a way to relax and have some fun before the hard speaking parts began, now we know that she was actually shimmying toward something — a role on Broadway, as Roxie Hart in “Chicago!”

Loved that we were able to see Lil’ Kim and Derek’s jumping jive once again. This repeat viewing just confirmed that this was my favourite dance of the entire season and how much the rap star’s spunk and charisma were missed the last couple of weeks. Ty braved the dance floor once more for his Lindy Hop with Chelsie, and then we were on to the final three dances of the season.

The show wanted to make it seem like Shawn, Melissa and Gilles were being judged one last time. And they were. But the fact that they all got perfect 30s for their cha cha, samba and Argentine tango, respectively, negated any chance of the judges’ scores upsetting any sort of voting turnout. They were basically all in the same places they were last night, right? So why was this judging necessary in the first place? Maybe as a reminder of the odd logic of those awful dance-offs at the beginning of the season. Whatever the case, it was fun to see all three couples perform their favourite dances, and I admired Team Shark’s decision to perform a routine that earned them a 28, rather than the perfect-30 routines chosen by Melissa and Gilles. And Tony's decision to embrace Bruno at the end of his and Melissa's samba routine, rather than Melissa. It was bold, and I liked it!

But as we neared the end of the second hour, it was revealed that Melissa and Tony were the third-place finishers. Melissa has made a great run, and her stint on this show has helped to put all that bad "Bachelor" juju behind her (and she didn't have to suffer the indignity of ending up in the runner-up position once again). But poor Tony. He’s come so far, only to fall short once again. He has amassed quite the celebrity fan base, with former partners Marissa Jaret Winokur and Jane Seymour rooting for him to win. (Maybe next year?) Though when they announced the Season 8 champ, both Shawn and Mark clasped their mouths in disbelief, and Mark fell to the floor in shock. Gilles was a gracious runner-up, only saying words of praise for Shawn, Cheryl and this competition. Which makes him a winner in my book.

What do you think, ballroom fans? Did the right star win? Post your comments below, and see you in September!

Photos: Kelsey McNeal /  ABC

A Triangle's Intimate Theatrics

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

As It is
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
Until May 24 at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. 416-504-9971

(May 15, 2009) Through much of the first part of
As It Is, Heidi Strauss, the choreographer, sits against a wall, clearly thinking hard, or at least musing, as Robert Abubo and Kristy Kennedy engage in rigorous activity you might define as the antithesis of thought.

Meanwhile, as this performance gets underway we in the audience are musing too, about how a season as a dance artist-in-residence at Factory Theatre might have bent the direction of Strauss's choreography. As It Is is the first dance work to be included in Factory's Performance Spring, where it is running in rotation with two plays and a comedy sketch troupe.

Certainly Kennedy, Abubo and Strauss conduct themselves like actors, in that facial expressions, violent gestures and meaningful looks heighten their status as characters. No neutral face here, and no fourth wall.

The stage is the rehearsal hall, stripped down to emphasize its domestic qualities. Curtains are tied back to reveal the city at sunset, as effective a stage backdrop as any designer might fashion.

Jeremy Mimnaugh directs the electronic soundscape from a corner beside the two rows of seating. This is theatre so intimate that you might find the performers wrestling it out in the chairs beside you.

Strauss capitalizes on the discomfort that such up-close-and-personal theatrics can provoke. Abubo and Kennedy are a couple in some distress and their emotional turmoil, as much as their physical exertions, are enough to make us feel we've walked in at the wrong moment.

When Strauss gets up and enters their world, the tension is triangulated. It's a revolving two-against-one, every man for himself or, very briefly, a united threesome.

Abubo, Kennedy and Strauss dress, talk and act like ordinary folks, yet they do things only highly trained dancers could do. Employing contact dance manoeuvres, they pull and tug and push each other off balance and slam at each other to propel themselves like ricocheting missiles.

Strauss's brief address lets us in on her musings: about how lucky we are to be safe and sound in times of terrible strife and grief, even as close to home as the shootings in west-end Toronto, but how quickly, in an eye blink, love can turn to war.

They've Just Jeté-Ed In From Berlin

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(May 20, 2009) International dance companies touring to Toronto are a vanishing breed, and Christopher House believes that the local dance community has to step up and help fix the problem.

“Artists,” he says, “have to take up the responsibility for bringing an international dialogue to the city. Both audiences and dancers need that challenge.” The artistic director of Toronto Dance Theatre (TDT) is making his own effort with the
Berlin/Toronto Project, which opens at Toronto's Winchester Street Theatre May 21. Thanks to funding from the Goethe-Institut and the Canadian embassy, House is bringing two Berlin choreographers to set works on the TDT dancers. Both men are also giving workshops, while German dramaturge and dance scholar Susanne Foellmer is presenting two pre-performance lectures and mentoring discussions.

The idea was born when House attended Tanz, Berlin's international dance festival, last August. Franco-Ontarian André Thériault is co-artistic director of the festival, so House's lament about Toronto's fading international dance experience fell on sympathetic ears. Thériault conducted the initial screening of potential choreographers for the project, and House followed up with interviews.

One of their first finds was Christoph Winkler, 41. Says House: “You could immediately sense his passion for what he's doing. He practically danced through the entire meeting.” Felix Marchand, 35, then became involved when another choreographer withdrew because his wife was pregnant, and his alternate, a woman choreographer, became pregnant as well.

Marchand came highly recommended, and House liked his energy and sense of humour. Both choreographers are known for being innovative risk-takers.

Born in the small town of Turgau, in then-East Germany, Winkler was always drawn to physical expression. The club scene was one of his interests, along with weightlifting and judo. “I'd do a solo on the dance floor and people would clap,” he recalls, “and this translated into a need to dance.” He started ballet classes when he was 16, and at 18 had to make a choice. He was accepted into an international business course at university, but he turned it down for a place at the State Ballet School in East Berlin, later moving on to study choreography.

After Germany's unification, Winkler travelled to West Berlin to broaden his horizons. There had been virtually no contemporary dance in East Germany. He's been an independent choreographer in Berlin since 1998.

Marchand, who was born in Mainz, West Germany, also spent a lot of time in dance clubs. He says he didn't graduate from high school because all the late nights made it impossible for him to get up early. Marchand opted for community service instead of the army and was sent to Hamburg to work with the handicapped. In the evening, he took dance classes.

His main dance studies were at schools in Hamburg (pedagogy) and Arnhem, Holland (release technique). He settled in Berlin in 2002. Winkler changes his choreographic approach with each new dance piece. “I like to work with different structures,” he says. Marchand focuses on collaboration and a close relationship with the dancers. And while Marchand's movement remains grounded in anatomical principles, he too is changing his choreographic exploration. “I used a lot of text in the past, but lately I'm interested in pure movement again,” he says.

While the choreographers differ in their style and choice of content, they share a predilection for breaking down the fourth wall to include the audience. The work they do could be called “performance pieces,” or dance with theatrical elements.

Winkler's piece is called Toronto Files and is built on the personal stories of the five dancers in the piece. “I wanted the dancers to have a real exchange of information. In fact, they all learned things about each other that they didn't know. These biographical stories are the motivation behind the text and movement.”

Marchand's droll sense of humour is apparent in the title of his work Awareness Étude for Six Dancers and an Audience. The common ground for the six dancers in it is their anatomy, or what Marchand calls their bones, muscles and blood. “We created a language together,” he says, “and they have to be super-aware of their composition in relation to both space and each other. Images are revealed by moments. Stories and relationships are told through physicality.”

Both choreographers appreciate the TDT dancers' high level of training and the fact that they are so open and enthusiastic. Says House: “I can't stress how important new ideas are to the developmental experience of dance. I hope we can continue the project with choreographers from other countries.”

The Berlin/Toronto Project runs at the Winchester Street Theatre May 21 to May 30.


Paul Tracy To Race In Toronto Indy

Source:  www.thestar.com - Norris McDonald, Motorsport Writer

(May 20, 2009) Toronto's Paul Tracy, who will be competing in next Sunday's Indianapolis 500, will race in this summer's two Canadian stops on the Indy Racing League circuit, it was announced today.

Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion who does not have a full-time ride in this year's Indy car series, will pilot a car entered by KV Racing Technology in the Honda Indy Toronto July 12 and the Rexall Edmonton Indy two weeks later.

No sponsor of Tracy or the car in the Canadian races was announced today. The Toronto driver will be sponsored at Indianapolis by the Geico insurance company.

The KV racing team is co-owned by former CART driver Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven, a former partner in the Champ Car ownership group.

"I am pleased to announce that Paul Tracy will be joining KV Racing Technology for the two Canadian races," said KVRT co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven in a release today.

"Paul is one of the greatest and most exciting drivers in the history of the sport and has shown here at Indianapolis that he still has what it takes to be competitive. We look forward to having him drive for KVRT in front of his countrymen."

Said Tracy, known far and wide as the "Thrill from West Hill": "I want to thank Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser for the opportunity to continue my career and race in my home country. I feel very fortunate to be able to race in front of my hometown fans with a very competitive team. KVRT has shown that it can compete with the top teams in the series and I am confident that we will have strong performances at both the Canadian races."

Tracy will be contesting his 17th race in Toronto and fifth in Edmonton. In 16 previous starts on the streets of Toronto he has finished in the top 10 a total of 11 times with eight top 5 showings, five podium performances, two wins (1993 and 2003) and one pole.

He has made four starts on the airport runway street circuit in Edmonton, three times in Champ Car and once, last year, in an Indy Car, finishing in the top 5 all four times with a best showing of third in 2005 at the inaugural Edmonton race.

During a span of 18 seasons, Tracy has crafted a career that has established him as one of the top drivers ever to step into the cockpit of an open-wheel car. The resident of Las Vegas is among the top 10 in almost every Champ Car career statistical category including wins, 31 (tied for seventh all-time), poles, 25 (ninth all-time), and laps led, 4,238 (sixth all-time).

Shaq Takes Broadcasting Course At Syracuse

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(May 19, 2009) SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Shaquille O'Neal is in training for his next career.

The seven-foot-one centre for the Phoenix Suns is taking a course at Syracuse University known as Sportscaster U, a crash course designed to teach athletes about the broadcasting industry. He arrived on Sunday and started school Monday at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

"I've been an athlete that's sort of in advance; always thinking," O'Neal said Monday during a break in his studio work. "After basketball I'd love to have my own radio show, my own TV show."

Sportscaster U is essentially a broadcasting boot camp started last year by Syracuse radio play-by-play announcer Matt Park and fellow Syracuse alum Dave Ryan, an ESPN announcer. Park and Ryan are adjunct professors at Newhouse.

The inaugural Sportscaster U was held last summer in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association. Four players, including Eric Snow and Adrian Griffin, signed up for the hands-on course.

They will host another session for more NBA players later this summer, but this week's session was designed specifically for Shaq.

"His energy level is unbelievable," Park said. "He wants to do it all and he's been terrific."

O'Neal spent his time taping mock stand-ups, scripting material, and conducting interviews.

He even scored the first on-camera interview with former Duke point guard Greg Paulus, who last week announced his decision to play football for the Oranges this fall.

"He's got great personality. His presence is phenomenal. He's so funny and charismatic. He's got the whole package," Paulus told The Post-Standard of Syracuse.

O'Neal also interviewed Tim Green, the former Syracuse and NFL player turned TV analyst and author. O'Neal asked Green about his latest book and then bantered with the former Atlanta Falcons player.

"I've been the type of person (and) the type of athlete, I don't like to be given anything," O'Neal said. "I like to earn."


10 Best Ab Exercises

By Jason Knapfel, eDiets Contributor

While you can't wake up to a washboard stomach at the end of this week, after you finish this article, you'll be happy to know that you're doing the most effective exercises to get you to that point some day very soon!

eDiets Chief Fitness Pro Raphael Calzadilla is here to share his 10 best ab exercises to get the washboard stomach you've always dreamed about.

Follow Raphael's lead, and you'll see a transformation in your tummy in just a few short weeks. The first step you need to take is changing the way you view your ab work. It's a common misconception that you are going to trim the fat in your midsection. Ab exercises aren't going to reduce the area. But they do develop the muscles. You need to improve your diet to reduce the fat.

Another common mistake many people make is doing too much, too often, Raphael says. "One of the biggest misconceptions people have is the belief that they need to work five or six days a week to get their abs looking good. They also think they have to perform 15 sets. In reality, the muscles are like any other muscle group that needs to recover from any type of workout in order to make progress. Your ab workout shouldn't take you more than 12 minutes, three days a week."

If you don't know what you're doing, you can actually do more harm than good. Take sit-ups for example. This popular move can lead to back and neck injuries if you don't have proper form. Sit-ups also work more of the hip area than the abdomen, Raphael points out.

There are good reasons for building strong ab muscles other than "looking hot." The core of your body is the abs and the lower back.

"All of the strength of the rest of the body stems from the core," he says. "It also helps as far as improving balance and flexibility and reducing injury. Having weak abs and a weak lower back is an invitation for injury."

In addition to working the abs, Raphael stresses the importance of and regular cardio exercise. Before you can achieve a flat stomach, you need to reduce overall body fat.

Here the 10 most effective abdominal exercises. Raphael suggests that beginners start with the Ab Crunch and Reverse Ab Curl.

1. Bicycle Manoeuvre (studies actually prove this to be one of the most effective)

Starting Position:

· Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position.

· Put your hands on either side of your head by your ears.

· Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle.

Slowly go through a bicycle pedaling motion alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.

Key Points:

· This can be a more advanced exercise. Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back.

· Do not pull on your head and neck during this exercise.

· The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.

2. Ab Crunch

Starting Position:

· Lie on a mat on your back.

· Make sure that your lower back is relaxed against the mat during this exercise.

· Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle.

· Keep both feet on the floor.

· Place both hands behind your head.

Contracting the upper abs, raise your head and upper torso off the floor until your shoulders are slightly lifted. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your head touching the floor.

Key Points:

· Exhale as you contract the abs.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

· Keep your eyes focused on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.

· Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

3. Reverse Ab Curl

Starting Position:

· Lie on the floor with your back relaxed and your hands on the floor by your hips.

· Keep the upper back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise.

Contracting your abs, raise your butt and gently roll your hips off the floor, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips. Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

· Exhale while lifting your hips.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

4. Double Crunch

Starting Position:

· Lie on the floor face up.

· Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor.

· Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor.

· Place both hands behind your head.

Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor.

Key Points:

· Exhale while raising up.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

· Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.

· Your hands should not be used to lift the head or assist in the movement.

5. Cable Kneeling Rope Crunch

Starting Position:
On a mat, kneel in front of the cable machine with your body facing the machine. Hold a rope attached to the upper cable attachment keeping your elbows in toward your ears.

Contracting the oblique muscles, curl your body downward on an angle rotating your right elbow to the left knee, stopping when you have reached a full contraction of your obliques. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the weight stack touching. You can either alternate side to side or do 8-12 repetitions on one side and then repeat on the other side.

Key Points:

· Exhale as you lift the weight.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

6. Machine Hanging Knee Raise (should use spotter or have someone watch you)

Starting Position:
Grasp a chinning bar with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing forward. Keep your upper body motionless throughout the exercise.

Contracting the abdominal muscles, raise your legs with bent knees while gently rolling your hips under, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips. You may get your knees to 90 degrees or higher depending on your strength and flexibility. Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

· Exhale while lifting your legs.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

7. Fitball Advanced Reverse Crunch (not for those with back injuries)

Starting Position:

· Lie on the ball with your upper back supported by the ball and hands above your head, holding onto a solid support, such as the support for a cable machine in the gym or the footboard of your bed at home.

· Bring your legs up until your hips and knees are each at a 90-degree angle.

Contracting the abdominals, curl your legs up toward your body. Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

· Exhale while lifting your legs.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

· Lower your legs only as far as you can while maintaining control.

8. Lying Bent Knee Leg Lift (care needed for those with back injuries)

Starting Position:

· Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and knees slightly bent.

· Place your hands under your head for comfort, not support.

Contracting your lower abdominal muscles, draw your knees toward your chest until they form a 90-degree angle with the floor. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the feet touching the floor.

Key Points:

· Exhale while lifting your legs.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

· Your back should remain comfortably against the floor during the entire motion.

· Avoid this exercise if you have any back conditions.

· Eliminate this exercise if you experience any discomfort.

9. Machine Angled Leg Raise

Starting Position:
Support your body on your elbows in a Roman Chair or by hanging from a chin-up bar.

Contracting the abdominals and obliques, draw your knees up on an angle so that they move toward your right elbow. Stop when you get a full contraction of the obliques and abdominals. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping when the hips are almost fully extended. Alternate side to side to complete the set.

Key Points:

· Exhale while lifting your legs.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

· Keep the upper body stationary throughout the exercise.

10. Incline Bench Leg Raises (care needed for those with back injuries)

Starting Position:
Lie on an incline bench and stabilize your body by gripping the bench above your head with your legs extended out.

Contracting the lower abs, raise your legs up until your hips form a 90-degree angle. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your legs touching the bench.

Key Points:

· Exhale while lifting your legs.

· Inhale while returning to the starting position.

· Point your chin toward the ceiling to avoid using your upper body.

· To increase the difficulty, cross your arms over your chest.



Motivational Note

"If you're never scared or embarrassed or hurt, it means you never take any chances."

Source:  www.eurweb.com — Julia Sorel