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

LE NEWSLETTER

November 26, 2009

 Happy Thanksgiving to my people south of the border!  Please celebrate safely.  Is this the warmest November we've ever had in Toronto or what?  I'm back from LA and had a great time hanging with friends that treated me like gold - specifically Leah and Art - thanks so much.  Even got to hang with Kayte Burgess who was also in LA - great times.

As most of you have heard by now, friend, family man, proud Canadian, songwriter, smoky and organically talented soul singer,
Haydain Neale passed away on Sunday, November 22nd.  My own small, seemingly insignificant as words cannot express, tribute ... is below under SCOOP. Please go to my PHOTO GALLERY to see a plethora of pics of Haydain, dating only back to 2001, when we first met. 

Also of note in my PHOTO GALLERY are pics from the Saturday opening of
Harlem Underground (formerly Irie Food Joint at 745 Queen Street W.).  People - RUN, don't walk to check out this new and exciting (not to mention delicious) menu, courtesy of Anthony Mair.  And the decor?  Incredibly artsy and a whole new vibe ... courtesy of Carl Cassell's genius. 

The
AroniAwards celebrate amazing people with amazing talent - those people in the community that are often overlooked are celebrated ... what a special concept that includes a full night of entertainment.  Get your tickets now!  See under HOT EVENTS for all the details.  

 

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

::HOT EVENTS::

The AroniAwards – Sunday, November 29, 2009

GET READY TO INSPIRE: The AroniAwards returns on Sunday, November 29th, 2009 for the 4th Annual INSPIRE Gala. Join Comedian and AroniAwards 2009 host Jay Martin for yet another captivating event with the presentation of five AroniMAGE awards to the unsung heroes of our community. The AroniAwards Education Grants will be presented to three students who show strong dedication to community service, a positive outlook and continue to persevere despite socioeconomic hardships and other obstacles. 

AND THE AWARDS GO TO: The 2009 AroniMAGE awards will be presented to Jermaine Bagnall (Media/Sports), Schools Without Borders (Organization), Big it Up (Entrepreneurship), Thando Hyman-Aman (Education), Mitzie Hunter (Community). The 2009 AroniAwards Education scholarships will be presented to Aman Y. Sultan, Troy Knights and Chante Barnwell.

OUR INSPIRATION: The Aroni Awards Gala was created in honour of Aron Y. Haile, an African Canadian and accomplished student, entrepreneur, software developer, who died in a vehicular accident in 2003, at the young age of 30. 

GREAT THINGS HAPPEN WHEN CANADA'S TALENTS GIVE BACK: What do comedian Jay Martin, Mark Strong, Jesse Beare, Saidah Baba Talibah, Divine Brown, BabyBoyz, Manding Folikandon Drummers, Devo Brown, Patricia Jaugernaught, Women Enterprise, Nadine Williams, Sound the Horn and others have in common? Sunday November 29th, 2009 Canada’s premier entertainers and personalities present participate or perform in support of our Youth.

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 29
ASTRAZENECA presents the 4TH ANNUAL ARONI AWARDS GALA
Arcadian Court
401 Bay St.
8th Floor Simpsons Building
(Queen & Bay)
5.30pm-10pm
$60 General & $88 VIP
(Includes 3 Course Dinner Catered, namic, Silent Auction, Cocktail VIP Reception, Live Performances, After Awards Reception) 
Available online at  www.aroniawards.com
www.aroniawards.com

::SCOOP::

We Remember Haydain Neale

Just on the heels of me telling you all that I had good news that
Haydain Neale made his first public appearance recently,  I’m so saddened and shocked to tell you that Haydain passed away on Sunday.  Although I've been struggling to come to grips with this loss, I do know that he's affected an entire community.  I still feel happy that I had the chance to know his brand of organic coolness, hang with him, have meals with him and be a fan.  He was an artist activist that loved artists and was able to articulate purposeful solutions to struggles that can face Canadian artists.  We will remember the positive impact he had on music, our lives and our Canadian pride.

You will be missed Haydain but not forgotten and we have many happy memories that will sustain us.  Sincere condolences to the family and close friends.  Please go to my PHOTO GALLERY to see a plethora of pics of Haydain, dating only back to 2001.


www.jacksoul.com


Here's one of my favourite jacksoul tracks - Unconditional:



Released on behalf of the Neale family: At 39 years of age Juno Award-winning artist Haydain Neale of jacksoul passed away Sunday, November 22, 2009 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, after a very private seven month battle with lung cancer.
 
On a beautiful, sunny morning with his wife Michaela, daughter Yasmin, brother-in-law Shawn Hudson and friends Davide DiRenzo and Jennifer Hyland by his side, Haydain passed away peacefully.
 
Throughout his rehabilitation after a car accident in August 2007 and during his illness, Haydain always maintained a positive spirit.
 
In a statement from his wife Michaela; “Through all these challenges, Haydain’s sense of humour and love of music were ever-present. He constantly brightened the room with his singing and his smile. His joyful presence and beautiful voice will be missed by us all.”
 
An interment with a private family gathering will take place later this week.
 
The family appreciates your messages of condolence but requests that you respect their privacy during this difficult time. Messages can be left at www.jacksoul.com

Any inquiries can be directed to:

 
Erica Silver
Director, National Media Relations and Corporate Communications
erica.silver@sonymusic.com

::TOP STORIES::

Blood, Sweat And Fears: The Battle For Ultimate Fighting

Source: www.thestar.com - Sandro Contenta

(November 21, 2009) It will be a full house tonight at Wegz Stadium Bar in Vaughan, and it won't be because of the Leafs.

It's fight night – the fury and flurry of
Ultimate Fighting Championship – and the standing-room-only scene will be repeated in most GTA sports bars that broadcast the pay-per-view signal from Las Vegas.

"In Toronto, it's the most watched sport," Wegz general manager Steve Vizena says of mixed martial arts, noting that his 850-seat bar is half-empty when all that's on are the Maple Leafs.

At 10 p.m. local time, when former UFC light heavyweight champions Tito Ortiz and Forest Griffin step into the octagonal cage, all of Wegz's 100 screens will likely be tuned to the fight. "When the big fight comes up, everyone will be screaming to watch it," Vizena says.

Most Ontario residents have to restrict their passion to the TV screen. Mixed martial arts – both amateur tournaments and professional fights – are banned in the province. They're permitted everywhere else in Canada except Newfoundland and Saskatchewan, according to UFC officials.

Ontario's lucrative market has made the province ground zero for UFC's expansion drive. The company, considered one of the hottest sports properties in the world, has hired Noble Chummar, a partner at the Toronto law firm Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, as a registered lobbyist. Also advising UFC is Cassels' chairman, former premier David Peterson.

U.S. Senator John McCain once described mixed martial arts – a whirlwind mix of jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kickboxing and wrestling – as "human cockfighting." Ontario apparently agrees.

The government insists the fighting style contravenes Section 83 of Canada's Criminal Code, which bans "prize fights," except sanctioned boxing. But the section seems to give provinces the power to decide which combat sports are legal. And it does not stop people from learning mixed martial arts (MMA) in the growing number of GTA gyms that teach it.

Marc Ratner, UFC's vice-president for regulatory affairs, says he lobbied almost a dozen cabinet ministers six weeks ago in Toronto. They included Consumer Services Minister Ted McMeekin, responsible for the Ontario Athletic Commission, which would have to sanction mixed martial arts here. It was Ratner's third lobbying trip to Ontario in six months.

"I'm very bullish on Ontario," he says.

UFC, which is privately owned, was valued by Forbes magazine last year at more than $1 billion (U.S.) – a stunning figure for a company that was more than $40 million in debt just five years ago.

Growth has been phenomenal – UFC officials insist mixed martial arts has displaced hockey as the fourth most-popular sport in the U.S. And it's rapidly spreading around the world.

"Per capita, Canada is our hottest market," Ratner says in a telephone interview from Las Vegas, where UFC has its headquarters. "And Ontario is the hottest market in Canada."

Ratner describes the number of pay-per-view buys in Canada as "staggering," but won't divulge figures. (It is speculated that UFC 100, a series of fights last July broadcast in 51 countries, sold 1.5 million pay-per-view orders, at $44.95 each.)

The former executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission came to Toronto with a company report estimating that UFC events here would generate $23 million in spending, including ticket sales, $6 million more in salaries and $4 million in tax revenues.

Ratner predicted sellout crowds at the Rogers Centre, Air Canada Centre and Hamilton's Copps Coliseum – all stadiums whose officials are eager to stage MMA bouts.

He says 42 per cent of the 18,900 fans at Montreal's Bell Centre for a UFC event in 2008 were from Toronto. With average prices of $262, the two UFC events held in Montreal so far each grossed about $5 million in ticket sales. UFC is planning matches in Vancouver next July, but needs the approval of city council.

Ratner believes Canada's MMA frenzy is partly due to our love of hockey brawls. Dana White, the company's hard-nosed president, has also argued that UFC's main demographic – men between 18 and 35 – have attention spans too short to watch 15 rounds of boxing. Mixed martial arts, with bouts that usually last no more than 15 minutes, are made to order for today's video culture.

Montreal's passion for the sport is fuelled by Georges St-Pierre, the UFC welterweight champion who is often described as the best MMA fighter in the world, "pound for pound." But Ontario has its own favourite gladiators, including former welterweight champion Carlos Newton of Toronto.

But minister McMeekin isn't convinced. His spokesperson, Douglas Tindal, says Ontario "has no plans" to allow professional MMA fights.

Recently, the health promotion ministry denied an application from the Ontario Mixed Martial Arts Association for recognition as a "provincial sport organization." In other words, Ontario also doesn't recognize MMA as an amateur sport.

"The primary consideration in looking at any of these things has to do with the safety of the public and the participants," Tindal added.

Safety concerns were the main reason UFC was shunned by governments after it staged its first tournament – a bloody, bare-knuckled, 1993 slugfest in Denver. Based on the popular vale tudo (anything goes) fights in Brazil, they were fights to the finish with no time limits, no weight classifications and few rules.

For years the fights were largely underground affairs, evoking images of the street-brawling culture in Chuck Palahniuk's book, Fight Club. One fighter, Kevin (Kimbo Slice) Ferguson became infamous for posting his street fights on the Internet.

In 2001, Las Vegas casino owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta bought UFC for $2 million. White owns a 10 per cent stake. UFC isn't the only company with a stable of fighters under contract, but it is by far the most successful.

Over the years, UFC implemented five weight classes for fighters and banned 31 actions, including, eye gouging, biting, and striking the throat, spine or back of the head. Bouts are three rounds, a maximum of five minutes each – five rounds for championship bouts.

A 2006 study by academics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine examined injuries from 171 MMA fights in Nevada. Forty per cent ended with injuries, most of them minor. The most common (48 per cent) were cuts to the face, followed by hand injuries, nose injuries and eye injuries.

The injury rate, the study found, was "in keeping with other combat sports."

Fighters spend a lot of time wrestling on the floor and bouts are often stopped by fighters who "tap out" – a signal that means they quit. Fights end with fewer knockouts and fewer blows to the head than in boxing, the report says.

"This suggests a reduced risk of (traumatic brain injury) in MMA competitions when compared to other events involving striking," the report concludes.

Nevada and New Jersey were the first states to sanction MMA events in 2001. Today, 41 of 48 states with athletic commissions have given MMA the green light, Ratner says. Massachusetts is poised to be next, followed by New York, he adds.

But Ontario doesn't seem ready to jump on the bandwagon anytime soon.

Carpet One Floor & Home And Glen Peloso Join Forces To Bring “Glen’s Picks” To Stores Across Canada

Source: Eventful PR

(Sept 1, 2009 BURLINGTON, ON - Glen Peloso, Principal Designer of Glen Peloso Interiors, Inc., has been designing spaces for commercial, corporate, and residential clients for almost fifteen years, and is now coming to Carpet One Floor & Home.  Glen and Carpet One Floor & Home have created a collection of his favourite products to help stylize and transform any space in your home. This very special collection is appropriately called Glen’s Picks’.

You may recognize Glen as the host of such television design shows as Restaurant Makeover, Take This House & Sell It, and Renovate my Wardrobe to name a few, as well as his live speaking engagements at Home Shows across Canada.   He has had regular guest appearances on various national TV and radio shows, and has been hired to design sets for TV and stage productions, and trade show appearances.  Glen is a regular contributor and is often featured in national magazines and newspapers.   His credits include Canadian Living, VIVA Magazine, Home & Decor and Canadian Home Trends.

"We are very pleased and excited to have partnered with Glen Peloso on our in-store promotion ‘Glen's Picks’.  Glen has a trained eye for style and an understanding of what Canadian consumers are looking for.  His passion for design, connection with consumers and down to earth personality make him a welcomed addition to Carpet One Floor & Home,” says Philip Yetman, Director of Marketing, Carpet One Floor & Home.

“When I was approached by Carpet One Floor & Home to develop ‘Glen’s Picks’,  their high level of care and knowledge of design trends made them a company I could work with as we share a similar vision,” says Glen Peloso, principal designer of Glen Peloso Interiors Inc.  ‘Glen’s Picks’ are a selection of products I regularly use and products I love.  Carpet One Floor & Home’s excellent suppliers have an incredible product line that is vast and varied.  They have the perfect flooring solution for both commercial and residential projects.”

‘Glen's Picks’ will be launching in Carpet One Floor & Home stores across Canada starting this August.
Look for Glen at selected showrooms across the country as he fields consumer questions on flooring and overall style and design.

About Carpet One Floor & Home:
Carpet One Floor & Home (www.CarpetOne.com) is North America’s leading floor covering retailer, with more than 1,000 independently owned and operated locations in the Canada, United States, Australia, and New Zealand.  Carpet One Floor & Home stores are known for a broad selection of carpet, wood, laminate, ceramic, vinyl, and area rugs, including exclusive brands like Bigelow and Lees.

Learn more about Glen Peloso by visiting the Glen Peloso Interiors website www.glenpelosointeriors.com

Please visit www.carpetone.com  for more details. http://www.glenpelosointeriors.com/carpetone/glenspicks.html
 

Taylor Swift Beats Michael Jackson For Top Prize

Source: www.thestar.com

(November 23, 2009) LOS ANGELES—In the end, the King of Pop was no match for a country music sweetheart.

Taylor Swift, fresh off her triumph as Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year, took the biggest prize of Sunday's
American Music Awards: the Artist of the Year award.

She had stiff competition from pop star Michael Jackson, who died in June at the age of 50.

"I just want to say that music has never been ultimately about competition," a visibly shocked Swift said in accepting the award via video link from London, England.

"To even be mentioned in a category with Michael Jackson, who will be missed and loved forever is an unimaginable honour.

"I'm sending my love to the Jackson family," she added.

Swift ended up winning five of her six American Music Award nominations, including Pop/Rock Female Artist, Adult Contemporary Artist, Country Female Artist and Favourite Country Album.

But Jackson posthumously set the record for most American Music Awards won by any artist.

He scored his record 23rd win with the prize for Favourite Pop/Rock Male Artist, which was preceded by a win for Soul/R&B Male Artist.

His 2003 album Number Ones, which surged back to the top of the charts after his death, also won Favourite Soul/R&B and Pop/Rock Album.

His prizes were accepted by brother Jermaine, one of the original Jackson 5 group that started Michael's career.

"We love you, Michael," Jermaine Jackson said.

"It's not just about winning the award; it's mainly the message. The message Michael had will live on forever and that's that he saw good in everyone.

"Start with love and let’s love each other," he said, wearing a white glittery glove in honour of his brother.

The show was kicked off by another Jackson, sister Janet, who performed a medley of some of her biggest hits. She didn't acknowledge her late brother, as she did at the MTV Video Music Awards.

Meanwhile, Jackson's repeat wins weren't the only touching moments in the program.

Houston thanked God, her family, Arista Records mogul Clive Davis, and all the fans who "supported me and loved me and stayed by me."

Keith Urban, winning his first American Music Award as Country Male Artist, declared to wife Nicole Kidman, "I love you so much, baby girl. This is for you and Sunday," their 16-month-old daughter.

As always, the show was mainly about the performances.

Lady Gaga was one of the most compelling at Sunday's show. Wearing a Vulcan-inspired headdress and vest filled with lights, the 23-year-old performed a medley of songs from her new album, The Fame Monster. She used her microphone to break into a glass case, where a grand piano sat waiting. It caught fire when she sat down to play.

Rihanna strutted the stage in a tight body suit made up of strips of white fabric spaced to show off lots of skin.

Jennifer Lopez drew gasps from the audience when she lost her balance after jumping off a dancer's back and landing on the stage on her rear end. But she quickly recovered her poise.

Shakira performed flanked by a dozen dancers in tiny black bodysuits.

Kelly Clarkson did a stripped-down version of her hit Already Gone, backed by a string quartet.

The Black Eyed Peas, who were early winners, energized the crowd with Meet Me Halfway and Boom Boom Pow, with dancers wearing outfits made from stereo speakers sharing the stage with Fergie, Taboo, apl.de.ap and will.i.am, who wore a pompadour wig.

Country star and former American Idol Carrie Underwood did Cowboy Casanova in what looked like a gold diaper ensemble with metallic booties.

The show was capped by American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert, whose performance of the first single from his new album, For Your Entertainment, included shoving a male dancer's face in his crotch.

The American Music Awards honour the year's top-selling artists in pop/rock, country, rap/hip-hop, soul/R&B, alternative, adult contemporary, Latin and contemporary inspirational.

Fans voted online to select the winners.

– With files from Reuters

Raunchy Lambert Steals American Music Awards Show

Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(November 23, 2009) Continuing along a well-worn path first blazed by Madonna, American Idol finalist
Adam Lambert announced himself last night with a overtly racy performance at the American Music Awards. The rendition of his new song, "For Your Entertainment," included a variety of sexual hijinks referencing S&M and bondage. The performance drew some heavy, immediate criticism on the L.A. Times blog, Pop and Hiss, but accomplished its main goal – getting Lambert noticed in a crowded pop pack. This morning, the talk was overshadowing posthumous victories at the awards show for Michael Jackson and the top prize, Artist of the Year, given to squeaky clean Taylor Swift.  Lambert, who is openly gay, came out after the show with both barrels blazing, talking about "discrimination" if the pre-taped performance was edited. It wasn't.  And here you are this morning, wondering about Adam Lambert. All he needs is an aircraft carrier and a "Mission Accomplished" banner.

Salem: Retirement Means More Oprah, Not Less

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(November 23, 2009) It's Oprah's world; we just live in it.

I don't know why everyone seems so surprised.
Oprah Winfrey calling it quits with her syndicated talk show became inevitable as the beloved billionaire moved up the food chain to mogul-hood, from afternoon icon to magazine publisher (O) to Broadway impresario (The Color Purple) to movie producer (Precious).

Virtually every Oprah-endorsed expert has been spun off into his or her own series. She has merely to mention a book on the air and it becomes an instant bestseller. Hard-to-get celebrities from Tom Cruise to Sarah Palin feel comfortable enough in her earnest on-air embrace to freely humiliate themselves before a national audience.

Let's face it: was it not Oprah Winfrey who almost single-handedly got Barack Obama elected president of the United States? Presumably, this was because she was too otherwise occupied to take on the job herself.

So leaving syndicated daytime behind to start up her own network is the next logical step on Oprah's road to world domination.

Again ... she has been down this particular road before. No one seems to remember that, a little more than a decade ago, Winfrey was involved in the start-up of the Oxygen channel, later pulling out after disagreements on direction.

And now she is getting ready to blow Oxygen right off the American cable tier, rebranding the former Discovery Health into the Oprah-centric OWN, as in Oprah Winfrey Network, though I prefer to take the title literally.

I mean, this is the same woman who only recently went to court over proprietary rights to the phrase "aha moment" – essentially attempting to buy actual words right out of the English language.

As it is, she already all but owns the letter "O."

I'm not saying she's not entitled. The woman is both a virtual saint and a canny entrepreneur – becoming a universally adored household name on the sheer strength of her emotional integrity and boundless empathy, while also possessing the foresight and business savvy to retain ownership and creative control of her brand.

Concerns to the contrary, Oprah hasn't forsaken us. Though she's hedging on making an on-air commitment at this early stage – why undermine her last syndicated season-and-a-half? – there can be no doubt she will resurface on OWN, if not quite perhaps in the same daily format.

But Oprah the mogul knows better than anyone that Oprah the icon is her greatest asset.

The public shock and horror will eventually abate, the more it becomes clear that this means more Oprah, not less.

As far as I can determine, her faithful staff were the first to find out, though given Winfrey's famously hands-on hiring practices, I would imagine that she'll be taking a lot of them with her.

The official announcement went out online soon after, around the same time Winfrey apparently put in a personal call to Ellen DeGeneres, her soon-to-be former competitor and likely dominant successor, with whom she recently posed for the Christmas cover of the December issue of O.

DeGeneres received the call just as she was wrapping up her own Thursday show taping and immediately broke the news to her studio audience.

"She is an amazing woman," DeGeneres said. "She will always be the queen of daytime television.

"She also said she is leaving me all of her money. And I was, like, `Thanks Oprah, thank you.'"

Oprah tearfully told her own audience on air Friday morning, promising a memorable final 18 months before the move to cable.

"We are going to knock your socks off," she promised. "The countdown to the end of The Oprah Winfrey Show starts now."

And then, the Oprah Winfrey Network. To be followed, perhaps, by the United States of Oprah? And, eventually, Winfrey World?

I don't know about you, but I could think of worse places to live.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Don't Write Off Tahiti Because Of Papeete's Woes

Source: www.thestar.com - Sandro Contenta

(November 21, 2009) Come on, guys.

National Geographic Traveler, a magazine I quite like, recently compiled ratings of some of the World's Great Places. Several spots got mentioned as "best-rated places," including Slovenia, which got a 78 rating, and Wales, which notched a score of 76.

I was in Slovenia this summer and wrote a couple of stories that we've published; look for more next year. And I was lucky enough to go to Wales last month for a story for next year's golf magazine. A great, great place.

No quarrels with those. But down near the bottom of the story were locations the magazine said were "Places With Troubles." It went on to explain these are spots "under severe pressure" and that "many places (are) working to recover."

They put
French Polynesia/Tahiti in that category, with a rating of 50. They explained that there's trouble in paradise and that the main island, particularly the capital of Papeete, "is a disappointment." They said there's too much noise and too many seedy souvenir shops, plus low environmental quality.

But they quickly added that the other islands are to die for.

I just got back from Tahiti, and I think these guys are nuts. Sure, Papeete has grown too quickly and, old-timers agree, has lost a lot of charm. But to downgrade an entire set of islands because of one tiny, rough patch in Papeete is immensely stupid. It would be like saying the Toronto Islands aren't really much because there are factories that spew smoke in the harbour of Hamilton, or that Honolulu's a big city so all of Hawaii gets a lousy rating.

Other than having dinner at one of the festive truck wagons or roulettes on my last night and making a quick tour of the morning flower market in Papeete, I didn't have a chance to check out the main island. But a friend I met spends weeks at a time at a lovely, small village on the south end of Tahiti, well away from Papeete, and says locals have taken him as one of their own and that it's a stunning part of Polynesia.

Some native Tahitians say they pretty much avoid Bora Bora, which has a half ton of luxury resorts on the islands that outline its shimmering lagoon. I guess they're looking at the way it used to be and seeing too much development. But a couple of friends and I did a mini-tour of the south end of the island and the main city of Vaitape and found it charming. Again, not cheap, but there are friendly locals and ramshackle homes and chickens and dogs everywhere and few signs of uber-luxury when you're in town. A few tacky souvenir shops, yes, but also some lovely women in the main market who will sell you a large bottle of luxurious coconut oil for about 10 bucks.

Bora Bora's towering mountains and its remarkable lagoon make it the stuff of South Seas legend; the prototypical paradise. But I was blown away by Moorea, where I met up with a group of expat Californians who built the world's first overwater bungalows back in the 1960s and who still can be found at Club Bali Hai on Cook's Bay. Don "Muk" McCallum will regale you with nightly tales about wild parties and girls on the beach and politics and the ever-present chickens. A mile or two down the road is Claudine Dixon. She runs the Black Pearl Shop, insists on calling everyone "babe" and has a smile as wide as Moorea's lagoon.

The mountains of Moorea are remarkable: a sharp jumble of thick, green basalt that rises up into the blue sky with shapes you've never imagined. Waking up (unintentionally) at 5 a.m. one day, I saw a brilliant sunrise slowly illuminate a massive column of green on the opposite shore of the bay from my unit at Club Bali Hai and thought I'd passed over to a different world. I don't think I've ever seen anything so beautiful as Moorea in that short slice of morning.

Over on Huahine, the water is a deep shade of blue I'd never imagined, and there are more lagoons and gentle but still impressive mountains and a hotel, Te Tiare, that does a great Tahitian dance show at night. Raiatea has marvellous ruins of old, sacred Polynesian sites. And the overwater bungalow I had at Le Taha'a Private Island Resort was the most luxurious hotel room with a view I've ever slept in.

I saw so many adorable kids; naked children swimming in the lagoons, a little girl sucking her thumb in grandpa's arms on the ferry boat from Papeete to Moorea, a small girl fast asleep in her mother's arms during the frantic run-up to the big canoe race I got to witness (and more on that in future pages of Star Travel).

As I rode from Tahiti to Moorea I thought about what the Polynesians felt like as they came across these green spires after sailing on an empty ocean. They had ancient stories that told them of various Pacific lands, including Hawaii far to the north, and they could make their way across vast tracts of open water based on the night sky and following of wave patterns and currents. I was on a packed ferry boat, but the magic of approaching an impossibly beautiful island sparked the same awe that must have whacked ancient visitors over the head.

A video on the plane talked about blue and green being the colours of Polynesia. But it didn't mention the billions of gleaming combinations; cobalt and azure and aquamarine and navy blue and deep green and emerald and pine and everything else.

It's an expensive place, for sure. And there are technological challenges in the form of pricey, spotty Internet service. But it's a very relaxed, understanding place. Not to mention sexually tolerant.

It's not uncommon to find open transvestites working in public jobs, and Tahiti has an annual Vahine-Tane (Woman-Man) contest. The contest drew 700 people to a hotel and was played with big photos in the tourist mags.

The people I met were great. Claudine's brother put on an impromptu guitar and ukulele concert for me. The woman driving me to the ferry boat in Papeete went out of her way to try to find me a giant canoe that had been launched the day before I arrived. And when I went to inquire about renting a dune buggy on Moorea, the woman at the tiny, wooden shack told me I'd be better off to call a competitor as she only had the big buggies and they'd be too expensive.

Take that, National Geographic.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Jacksoul Singer 'Was In A Rare, Rare Class'

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(November 24, 2009) It was just a glimpse, but it gave us such hope.

More than two years after being knocked off his scooter and sustaining serious head injuries, Jacksoul lead singer
Haydain Neale made his first public appearance in the audience of Bravo's Motown At The Concert Hall which was recorded Oct. 4 and aired Nov. 10.

After the house band, comprised primarily of his bandmates, announced that their performance was dedicated to Neale, the camera panned to him. He didn't smile or wave with that erstwhile exuberance, but jerked his head as wife Michaela put an arm around him.

It wasn't a long-enough glance to gauge the lingering effects of the Aug. 2007 accident.

And with the Nov. 3 release of a new Jacksoul single "Lonesome Highway" and an album of new material, Soulmate, slated for Dec. 1, fans couldn't help but think the Hamilton-born Neale was on the upswing.

His family has always been optimistic, but tightlipped, about his condition and intensive rehabilitation.

In a press release about the production of the new tunes – written, and seemingly recorded, prior to his accident – Neale says: "It takes me more time now, but I still orchestrate the room."

Sadly, Jacksoul's fifth album will now be the posthumous legacy of its gravelly-voiced frontman. Relatives announced late Monday that Neale died in hospital on Sunday after a seven-month battle with lung cancer.

"Through all these challenges, Haydain's sense of humour and love of music were ever-present," said Michaela in the statement. "He constantly brightened the room with his singing and his smile. His joyful presence and beautiful voice will be missed by us all."

Soulmate's 10-song collection of "songs that tell of love, hope and endurance" will join a fine catalogue anchored by "Still Believe In Love," the No.1 most-spun Canadian track and the No.1 track on all formats simultaneously in 2004.

"Who do you compare him to?" said Toronto R&B singer Wade O. Brown, 39, on whether the two-time Juno winner was the country's most successful male soul singer.

"In terms of accolades and compositions, he was in a rare, rare class. In a country where there's no soul scene, he succeeded in spreading soul music without toning down his sound to cross over. That needs to be acknowledged and heralded," Brown said Monday.

Sultry and given to much vibrato, Neale's distinct vocals captivated with emotional conviction.

"You felt what he sang," said Halifax-born, Toronto-based R&B singer and Canadian Idol finalist Gary Beals. "And he was an excellent songwriter. The Canadian music industry has truly lost an amazing, powerful performer."

In the liner notes for 2006's MySoul – mainly covers from the likes of Radiohead, Teddy Pendergrass and Sam Cooke – Neale wrote: "I think music can heal and educate. If Jacksoul never makes another recording, I'll always be proud that our music was a positive force for not just love between couples, but love of self, community and the world."

An interment with a private family gathering will take place later this week. All proceeds from the sale of Soulmate will go to the Haydain Neale Family Trust.

Joel Plaskett Leads East Coast Folk Music Charge

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(November 23, 2009) OTTAWA – Halifax singer/songwriter Joel Plaskett led a big night for East Coast musicians at the fifth annual
Canadian Folk Music Awards on Saturday.

Plaskett was the only multiple award winner at the gala, earning prizes for contemporary album of the year and producer of the year.

Fellow Halifax native Susan Crowe was named English songwriter of the year while ukulele player James Hill – who is originally from Langley, B.C., but is now based in Brookfield, N.S. – won traditional album of the year for his collaboration with Anne Davison.

Charlottetown's Catherine MacLellan was named solo artist of the year and fellow P.E.I. resident Colette Cheverie won traditional singer of the year.

Ariana Gillis of Vineland, Ont., won young performer of the year over Taylor Mitchell, the 19-year-old songstress who was mauled to death by coyotes while hiking in Nova Scotia last month.

Montreal's Karim Saada won for world solo artist of the year while Quebec City's Mansa Sissoko and Toronto banjo player Jayme Stone took the world group prize.

Montreal's Catherine Durand was named French songwriter of the year.

Toronto's Sultans of String, who had been nominated for three awards, received the trophy for instrumental group of the year, while band member Chris McKhool earned the children's album of the year award for his solo project, "FiddleFire!"

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan's Deep Dark Woods was named ensemble of the year, Winnipeg's Don Amero earned the aboriginal songwriter of the year award and Vancouver bluesman Jim Byrnes took the prize for contemporary singer of the year.

Monica Is 'Still Standing'

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

(November 23, 2009) "When you put those two words together ('still standing'), you think strength. In all the things that we all face on a daily basis, I would want people to be able to stand strong through the things that they’ve experienced and that’s what I’ve done in my life."

*Singer
Monica signed her first record deal in 1991 at the ripe age of 11 and is still standing. Her debut album hit four years later and produced four radio singles and made her the youngest recording act to ever have two consecutive chart-topping hits on Billboard’s R&B chart.

Monica’s early hits include “Don’t Take it Personal (Just one of the Dem Days),” “Before You Walk Out of My Life,” and “The Boy is Mine,” her duet with pop star Brandy, made her one of the most popular artists of the 1990s. In the early 2000s, however, Monica’s rotations on radio began to wane during a time when she was dealing with the suicide of her boyfriend, a tumultuous relationship with Corey “C-Murder” Miller.

Monica weaved in and out of the limelight over the following years gaining experience in life and in the industry. She’s now sharing her experiences on her own reality series called “Monica: Still Standing,” which airs Tuesday 10PM/9C on BET.

Described as an intimate, provocative docu-drama that takes a look at her day-to-day world; her balance of family, health challenges, her career, and being a full-time mother of two young sons, the show was originally slated for eight episodes, but BET has decided to extend the season to 12 episodes.

“I hadn’t seen it in its entirety at first and I really didn’t want to,” Monica said of her new series. “I really trusted the people we did the show with. I wasn’t very concerned about the way things looked throughout the process of taping. And I didn’t want to go back and view footage and become concerned about things I hadn’t been concerned about before.”

The singer said that show producers assured her that the series would honestly reflect her life, eluding to stories of scripted, edited, or encouraged reality series.

“There are so many positive aspects that I wanted to make sure were understood and they did,” she said. “They promised me that the show would reflect my life the way it really is, which is drama-free, full of family, we love God, we love each other.”

“They can definitely find ways to make things appear to be different than they are,” she continued. “If you ask anybody on reality TV that’s the way they feel about most of what you see, so I’m really one of the fortunate few.”

Monica shared her thoughts on the very popular reality series “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

“If you put a lot of girls together, that’s just the reality. Usually women don’t get along to that degree,” she said of the show. “I think it’s a great show – for them. It just wasn’t a great show for me to try to emulate or duplicate. I actually have friends that are on that show and I love it for them. I think it’s incredible for them, but I’m walking into my own purpose and positive energy is something I keep amongst me.”

Monica got the reality gig after doing a “pilot” of sorts. She teamed up with Peachtree TV (independent channel WPCH) for a show that depicted a personality in the music industry with a personal life as well. Monica was recruited for the show, which was titled “The Single”

“I think BET looked at what I had done with Peachtree TV with the hour long special and (they) see what I could bring to television and they’ve been extremely supportive from that moment on,” she said.

The show was named “Still Standing” based on a philosophy and the singer’s new record.

“When you put those two words together, you think strength,” Monica explained. “In all the things that we all face on a daily basis, I would want people to be able to stand strong through the things that they’ve experienced and that’s what I’ve done in my life. I’m only 29 years old and a lot of different things have taken place and my test and trials have left me with quite a testimony. I’m proud of being able to get through a lot of things that have happened. I’m not a victim, I’m a victor.”

Her album of the same name is expected in stores on mid-January.

“During the taping of ‘The Single’ we created [the song] ‘Still Standing’ and once I heard it, I said it was the best representation for where I was at this moment and I instantaneously named the album that,” she explained. “And I wanted to be clear, what I wanted people to take away from it and I said, ‘I just want people to still stand; stand on their own two feet and believe in that.’ The song was the beginning of it all.”

Monica continued that while the track was never released as a single, it had been used for - and connected with - a number of great causes including an event honouring producer Babyface.

“I do understand that they won’t always see my vision and vice versa,” she said about the song not becoming a single, “but I took it as a challenge to create more music and make the music more heartfelt and have the same intensity. It just motivated me to get back into the studio. I’m glad that it happened that way because if not, this show may not have come about.”

 “Monica: Still Standing” airs Tuesday nights at 10PM on BET. For more on the singer and the latest Monica news, check out her official website: www.monica.com.  

She-Wolves, Monsters And Lovers On New CDs

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(November 23, 2009) Pop music's last quarter gets a heavy infusion of girl power with anticipated releases from four strong performers this week.

These women have distinct love-'em-or-hate-'em sounds and images, and personal or professional travails that inform their latest projects:

Rihanna will be the most scrutinized, in the wake of 2007's hit-spawning Good Girl Gone Bad and a brutal assault by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown earlier this year.

With a single English Billboard No.1 – 2006's "Hips Don't Lie" – to her credit, Shakira's a 50-million-selling international star still trying to conquer the North American market.

Madonna-modelled Lady Gaga is building interest for the Monster Ball Tour that kicks off in Montreal on Friday with an eight-song mini album.

And Toronto's own Jully Black has switched up her style in the hopes of broadening her audience so that, as she said in a media release, "black music in Canada can get a shot to be recognized and respected amongst the Nickelbacks, Nelly Furtados and Hedleys of the world."

Rihanna
Rated R (Island Def Jam)
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)

The 21-year-old Barbados native told an interviewer that in the glare following the Chris Brown incident, she felt like she went to bed as Rihanna and woke up as Britney Spears. The performer has embraced the spotlight, however, with attention-getting outfits and references to the assault in her fourth album – a tense, dissonant effort buoyed by synths and rock guitars with a "middle finger up," never-again-to-be-victimized attitude. Two songs refer to Brown most directly: "Stupid in Love" and "Cold Case" ("Blood on your hands ... What you did to me was a crime"). Elsewhere, she conjures Beyoncé's hustling diva on the bouncing "Rockstar" and "Rude Boy." The disc is pretty gloomy for a pop-dance artist, but it's her most interesting to date.

Top Tracks: Curveball "Te Amo," about being pursued by a woman, and "Photographs," which yields a hint of vulnerability.

Shakira
She Wolf (Epic)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif

The third English-language album from this 32-year-old Colombian is a loose, dance-friendly romp that includes Latin, electro pop, Indian and dancehall reggae rhythms. It's a lyrically amusing collection of songs about self-empowerment and the kind of love that's better than getting "a fancy Gucci dress for free." The vamp with the bedroom hair references werewolves, Matt Damon and Angela Jolie; tells a neglectful lover "I'm starting to feel just a little abused/Like a coffee machine in an office"; and hopes a beau who has absconded to Paris with another encounters fleas and toilets that don't flush. A deftly arranged album with lots of variety.

Top Track: It's easier to pinpoint the duds: the midtempo "Gypsy" is a vibes killer; and while Lil Wayne serves up another inimitable line – "I'm the cashier/I change girls" – on "Give It Up to Me," the tune would've been better if producer Timbaland didn't also rhyme on it.

Lady Gaga
The Fame Monster (Interscope)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif

This is an uber re-release of the 23-year-old New Yorker's 2008 smashing debut The Fame, featuring eight new tracks. Voted Billboard's Rising Star of 2009, she too seems mired in the darkness after the insouciant, celebrity fixations of her last album. In the lead single "Bad Romance," she confesses, "I want your ugly/I want your disease/I want your everything/As long as it's free." "Monster" finds her singing "He's a wolf in disguise/But I can't stop staring into those eyes ... He ate my heart/Then he ate my brain." In interviews, Gaga, who wrote the bulk of the songs, has said the lyrics are metaphorical, about the bleak side of fame she has experienced. This album is a good tease for fans and, as a double disc, a solid introduction to the Gaga phenomenon.

Top Track: "Dance in the Dark" name checks Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana as real victims of fame.

Jully Black
The Black Book (Universal)
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

Black is carrying serious weight on her third album, as executive producer, co-writer, art director; she even penned her own publicity bio. Do-it-yourself life lessons are the foundation of the 39-minute disc. Black, 31, has dubbed this collection "durban" rock – combining dance, urban and rock. I'd call it pop, the kind Whitney Houston used to make, especially on feel-good liberation anthems "The Plan" and "Running." Even with the heavy guitars on "Share My World" and "I'll Rock It," I'm recalling Hall & Oates and Michael Jackson circa "Beat It" more than anything decidedly rock. Folky, acoustic closer "Time Of Your Life" seems out of place on such an energetic record. Can't fault the vision here, but more continuity desired.

Top Tracks: Black's Gwen Stefani-esque pitch on "What Is This?" will have listeners wondering "Who is this?" Longtime fans will appreciate the straight R&B vibe of "Need You."

Alicia Keys Confirms Beyonce, Drake Collaborations On 'Freedom'

Source: www.billboard.com - by Mariel Concepcion, N.Y.  

(November 25, 2009) Earlier this month, Alicia Keys told Billboard.com that since her album, "The Element of Freedom," was pushed back from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15, she used the additional time to work on possibly "the most exciting collaborations of my career yet." Now her label, J Records, confirms the album includes a duet with Beyoncé as well as one with newcomer Drake.

"Put It In A Love Song" features Beyoncé, while "Unthinkable (I'm Ready)" has background vocals by Drake. There's also the reggae-tinged "Love is My Disease;" the 80s-inspired "This Bed;" and first and second singles "Doesn't Mean Anything" and "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart," which are at No. 18 and No. 41 on this week's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, respectively.

"Element of Freedom" features production from Jeff Bhasker, Swizz Beatz, longtime collaborator Kerry "Krucial" Brothers and Drake's producer, Noah "40" Shebib.

In support of "Element," Keys is set to appear on "The Today Show," "Oprah," "Late Show with David Letterman," and "The View," among others, in coming weeks. Additionally, she will perform an intimate, sold-out concert in New York City on Dec. 1 (World AIDS day and the original release date of the album), with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the "Keep A Child Alive" charity. The event will be streamed live on YouTube at 8 p.m. EST.

Here is the tracklist for "The Element of Freedom:"

"Element Of Freedom (Intro)"    
"Love Is Blind" 
"Doesn't Mean Anything"
"Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart"    
"Wait Til You See My Smile"
"That's How Strong My Love Is"  
"Un-thinkable (I'm Ready)"  
"Love Is My Disease"
"Like The Sea"
"Put It In A Love Song" (featuring Beyoncé)   
"This Bed"
"Distance And Time" 
"How It Feels To Fly"
"Empire State Of Mind (Part II) Broken Down"

John Mayer Wages A Shock And Awe Battle

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(November 25, 2009) John Mayer stepped on the Sound Academy stage last night secure in the knowledge that Battle Studies, his first full-fledged studio album since 2006's Continuum, will be the No.1 when the Billboard charts are updated on Thursday on the strength of over 300,000 copies sold in the U.S.

Joined by 3,200 fans for an intimate performance that was taped for a future online concert by Sympatico.ca, Mayer wasted no time in getting his celebratory groove on.

Anchored by the booming, spacious beats pounded out by drummer/album producer Steve Jordan, and fortified by an seven-piece band that included Pretender and occasional Paul McCartney sideman Robbie McIntosh, the five-time Grammy winner got heads a-bobbin', toes a-tappin' and legs a-shakin' with his ethereal introduction of "Heartbreak Warfare," the Battle Studies opening salvo.

A tasteful note-for-note rendition of the high harmonics guitar solo also served notice that the Connecticut native could satisfy the divergent tastes of any number of fans in the audience; from the shrieking women who consider him eye candy and swoon at his brooding looks, to the serious musicians who hear the blues and R&B influences of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and J.J. Cale in his impeccable six-string fretwork.

It's the enormity of Mayer's musicianship that is the eye-opening aspect for those expecting to hear the restraint he tends to demonstrate on his recordings, Battle Studies included.

This performance was anything but soft: a visit to 2006's Continuum yielded a funky rendition of "Vultures" that ended in a climactic double-fisted strummed vamp that kept building momentum; Mayer's rendition of Robert Johnson's blue classic "Crossroads" started off as a rough 'n` tumble sweat-fest that was all granite and steel; and a lengthy workout of "Waiting On The World To Change" began somewhat routine and recognizable, before the guitar-slinger and his crew modulated into a different key, switched the tempo and delivered a transcendent exhibition of Berklee-schooled jazz that was as uplifting as it was inspiring.

Even as a singer, the mocha and caramel inflections of Mayer's reserved tenor are less nuanced, though certainly more soulful, as he finds himself carried away his passionate expression. As a result, Mayer's material took on a Jekyll/Hyde existence of its own: "Half Of My Heart" was much more lively and forthcoming than the Battle Studies' version featuring Taylor Swift; heightened by the call-and-response chorus of "ohs" the 32-year-old solicited from the more-than-willing audience.

Not that they needed much coaxing: it's a good bet those who witnessed the manic guitar solo blowout of "Gravity" and flew on the soaring wings of "Bigger Than My Body" will be making the trek to the Air Canada Centre on Feb. 14 to claim John Mayer as their Valentine.

MUSIC TIDBITS

R. Kelly Moves 'Untitled' Release To December


Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 23, 2009) *The release of R. Kelly's new studio album "Untitled" has been pushed back to Dec. 1 as he continues to tour in promotion of the project.

The outing --which continues tomorrow in Washington DC --now includes a Dec. 2 appearance in Memphis, TN, as the trek prepares to enter its final leg of dates in the Midwestern and Southern states.

"Untitled," Kelly's 10th studio effort, follows "Double Up," which hit shelves in 2007 and peaked at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. Earlier this year, the singer also released "The Demo," a four-song mix-tape featuring the club hit "Supa Man featuring OJ Da Juiceman."

The itinerary, which wraps Dec. 8 in St. Louis, is included below.

November 2009
20 - Louisville, KY - Palace Theatre
21 - Charlotte, NC - Ovens Auditorium
22 - Greensboro, NC - Special Events Center
24 - Washington, DC - DAR Constitution Hall
27 - Jacksonville, FL - Moran Theatre
28 - Miami, FL - Knight Centre
29 - Tampa, FL - Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center

December 2009
2 - Memphis, TN - Orpheum Theatre
4 - Norfolk, VA - Convocation Center @ Old Dominion University
5 - Richmond, VA - Landmark Theatre
6 - Cleveland, OH - Palace Theatre
8 - St. Louis, MO - Fox Theatre

Newcomer Nevels Debuts: CD Gains Airplay

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 23, 2009) *Gospel music audiences across the nation welcome contemporary, inspirational
recording artist and songwriter Emmitt Nevels, Jr. as he releases his debut CD "Love You I" on 7-Places Global Gospel.       Nevels’ style invokes passionate praise and a distinct call to worship that has gospel programmers nationwide adding Nevels to their station’s music rotation. According to Gospel News Today, the up-tempo praise single "I Wanna Bless You" is already gaining national airplay in radio markets such as Atlanta, Detroit, Jacksonville, St. Louis and Buffalo, NY. And, Jazz-styled tracks "Eternity" and "It’s A Good Day" may soon find their way on the playlists of smooth inspirational Jazz shows. Nevels, a Youngstown, Ohio native, previously sang lead for a local group G-Clef and even had an offer to join the Grammy award-winning gospel group Commissioned in the 1990s when Gospel star Fred Hammond left the group.

Sade Sets A Date For New Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 25, 2009) *Sade fans can mark Feb. 8, 2010 on the calendar as the release date of "Soldier of Love," the singer (and band's) long-awaited new studio album – and their first since the multi-platinum release of "Lovers Rock" nine years ago.  Sade has enjoyed phenomenal success both internationally and stateside throughout the span of their twenty-five year career.  Since the release of their debut album, "Diamond Life" in 1984, the band has seen all five of their studio albums land in the Top 10 on Billboard's Top 200 Album Chart selling a total of more than 50 million albums worldwide to date.   "Soldier of Love" was recorded in England and produced by the band and their longtime collaborator Mike Pela.    To pre-order the album now, click here.

Corinne Bailey Rae Returns To The Stage

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 25, 2009) *Corinne Bailey Rae has performed her first full concert since the sudden death of her husband, saxophonist Jason Rae, from an accidental drug overdose in March 2008.   Monday night's concert at the Tabernacle, West London, attended by about 500 people, saw her debut songs from her second album, "The Sea."  According to Billboard, "much of the new material is a departure from the breezy pop soul of her self-titled debut record, which hit No. 1 in the United Kingdom in 2006 and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 in 2007."   Bailey Rae played just three tunes from her first album -- "Like a Star" and an encore of "Put Your Records On" and "Til It Happens to You" – while spending more time on the deeply personal songs from her new album. Highlights of the set included the emotional ballads "I'd Like to Call It Beauty" and "I'd Do It All Again" and the upbeat "Paris Nights and New York Mornings," likely to be the first full single release from the album.  Bailey Rae played a brief set on Nov. 19 as a late addition to learning disability charity Mencap's Little Noise Sessions, held at London's Union Chapel, but the Tabernacle show was her full live comeback.  The gig, which benefited the clean water charity Pump Aid, will be followed by some tour dates in the U.S. next month. In the meantime, "The Sea" will be released on Feb. 2, 2010.

Usher's Album Release Pushed Back

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 25, 2009) *Jive Label Group has cancelled the Dec. 21 release date of Usher's new album "Raymond v. Raymond," and a new date is still being determined, a rep for the company told Billboard.com.    The date change is designed to give the album the proper setup time that it deserves, according to the rep. "This is a solid album that we believe in. We want to give it a proper launch."   "Raymond's" lead single, "Papers," holds the No. 2 spot on the current Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.   Usher's last album, 2008's "Here I Stand," has sold 1.2 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan. His biggest-selling album to date is 2004's "Confessions," whose total stands at 9.7 million units.

Bob Marley, James Brown Added To Grammy Hall Of Fame

Source: www.billboard.com - by Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters  

(November 25, 2009) The Recording Academy has added songs by James Brown, Bob Marley, the Beach Boys, Louis Armstrong and others to its Grammy Hall of Fame, bringing the total number of titles in the collection to 851. The latest batch of 25 recordings added to the list includes Brown's 1966 "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" and Marley's 1973 album "Catch a Fire," which the Jamaican reggae great recorded with his band The Wailers, the academy said.  Also on the list was the Beach Boys' 1965 song "California Girls," jazz master Louis Armstrong's 1931 "Lazy River" and the 1972 comedy album "Class Clown" from George Carlin, who died last year.  The 25 recordings added to the Grammy Hall of Fame will be displayed along with the rest of the collection at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles.  A full list of the recordings is here.

Beyonce Announces New Album Plans For 2010

Source: www.billboard.com - by Mariel Concepcion, N.Y.
  

(November 25, 2009) During the last U.K. stop of her "I Am..." tour at the Trent FM Arena in Nottingham,
Beyonce announced that she indeed has plans of releasing a new album next year.  "This is my last show for this tour in the UK, so hopefully, I'll see you all in a year with a new album," a raspy-voiced Beyonce told the crowd at the end of the set, before thanking them "from the bottom of my heart" for coming to the show. Producer Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins also confirmed the news on Twitter, recently posting he is working on some tracks for Beyonce's upcoming album.  Beyonce's 2008 album, "I Am... Sasha Fierce," has sold 2.5 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

:FILM NEWS::

May-September Friendship

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(November 24, 2009) Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee became fast friends at the end of the world.

The American journeyman actor and the Australian newcomer play a drifter father and son in
The Road, a postapocalyptic drama opening Friday that's based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. Their unnamed characters are travelling almost entirely alone in a world destroyed by some sort of major calamity.

You really have to get along with your fellow actor to pull something like this off, and long-haired Mortensen, 51, has way more film experience than short-haired Smit-McPhee, 13.

The interview banter between this odd couple, who were still working together off-screen at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, tells just how well they bonded. If this were reality TV, you'd call it The Viggo and Kodi Show. They even have similar blue eyes.

"He carried me!" Mortensen says of his pint-sized co-star.

Smit-McPhee refuses to fall for the flattery or feign modesty.

"He's terrible!" he says of Mortensen, smiling mischievously.

"He's so annoying, isn't he?"

The two first met at an audition arranged by director John Hillcoat. There were four preteen lads vying to play Mortensen's son: one Canadian from Ontario, two Americans and the Aussie Smit-McPhee, who came last but made the biggest impression.

"He just did a great audition," Mortensen says.

"John afterwards said, `What do you think?' And I said, `They're all great, I don't know how these kids did it.' Because they had to do very emotional scenes. `But I think the last boy was really something.'

"And John said, `Yeah, that's the one I want.'"

You might think that Smit-McPhee would have tried to suck up to Mortensen, by telling him how much he liked him in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Not this cool cat.

"I told him, `No offence, but I'm not really a fan of that stuff,'" Smit-McPhee says.

"He's more of a Mel Brooks fan," Mortensen chips in.

They do share a contrarian spirit. Mortensen is a fan of McCarthy's many novels, and he'd read every one except The Road. He'd always intended to, but people kept bugging him about it.

"When someone says to me, `You've got to see this movie right away, it's awesome,' or `You've got to read this book,' I tend to stubbornly say, `Okay, okay, I'll get around to it! Don't tell me about Cormac McCarthy books!'"

When Mortensen finally did get around to The Road, first the screenplay and then the book itself, he was pleased by how faithful the adaptation was and how much humanity was in this story of utter devastation. It's a tale about finding your soul at a time when the world seems bereft of meaning.

But how would anyone prepare for the last days of Earth as we know it?

"Well, you can't," Mortensen says. "Any more than the character can. But I got a little skinnier. Kodi was already skinny.

"What I liked about the challenge was that on paper it was a pretty bare-bones thing. You take everything away, you make the world dead and you've just got these people. It's about making that work.

"In other words, if we believe the emotional journey that we're on, then maybe the audience will. That was the purpose. There was no hiding behind anything. It was just us."

Smit-McPhee offers his own view: To make it work, it first has to be about "me" before it is about "us."

"We did a bit of work together, but our acting style, I think, had to be our own kind of person. And then it kind of worked together."

That's pretty sophisticated thinking for a kid whose previous work has been mostly for Aussie TV. He's one special talent, though. He's so convincing playing a starving lad in The Road, when people at TIFF saw him scarfing down plates of food at the post-premiere reception, they felt relieved.

Mortensen is generous with his praise.

"He was amazing. It was cold and wet and there were some tough scenes early on. It wasn't just that he had an emotional availability, he was smart. If something happened that was unexpected or I might say the wrong line, he would just go with it. That told me that he was in the moment. It wasn't just like a lot of kids do, which is like a robot ... he prepared thoroughly. When you show up on the set and they say action, all bets are off. He knows how to do it. There are a lot of adult actors who never figure that out."

Smit-McPhee had some insider knowledge to help him. His dad, Andy McPhee, is a well-known Aussie actor and he was on set to help coach his son. McPhee also had a bit part in the film as a rough gang member.

Mortensen had some extra assistance, too. In real life, he's a dad to a 21-year-old son, who is now in university.

"It helped me get into the story," he says.

"Like most parents, this offered a more immediate way into it. But I don't think it's that necessary. You don't have to be a parent to understand the situation. These two people alone, an adult trying to take care of his child. Nature is dead and they're in trouble all the time. It's like someone living on the street that has a kid. They're always thinking they've got to get some food, how do they keep from stealing our stuff and hurting us. How do you stay dry and relatively warm? That's all you think about."

Would these two work together again? They both agree they'd do it in a heartbeat, but hopefully in better working conditions next time.

EUR Film Review: The Blind Side

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kam Williams

(November 25, 2009) *What is it about the holiday season and heart-warming tales revolving around an orphan who's miraculously saved by some selfless act of charity?

This year's contribution to the tried-and-true genre is
The Blind Side, a real-life story based on Michael Lewis' best seller of the same name. 

Superficially, the picture's plot resembles the typical, Cinderella-themed sports saga with a fairy tale ending. After all, it chronicles the gridiron exploits of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) as he pursues a dream of playing pro football from high school through college en route to a promising NFL career which, by the way, he has just begun this season with the Baltimore Ravens.

But Michael's chances of making it were complicated by the fact that he was not only abandoned by his parents and homeless but also illiterate and practically mute.

Those odds improved immeasurably the day the beleaguered black teenager is spotted living on the streets of Memphis in the middle of winter by Leigh Anne Touhy (Sandra Bullock), a wealthy, white socialite who is shocked to learn that he was one of her daughter Collins' (Lily Collins) classmates.

When she brings Michael home for a bath, he cleans up nicely and gets along well enough the family, that after a good night's sleep in a warm bed they decide to keep him. So, Leigh Anne hires a tutor (Kathy Bates) to help him get his grades up, while son S. J. (Jae Head) serves as the gentle giant's personal trainer. .

Written and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Alamo), The Blind Side is best approached as the antiseptic version of Precious designed for the tweener demographic. Where the relentlessly-harrowing Precious is raw and unnerving, The Blind Side presents relatively unthreatening scenarios subtly suggesting that the solution for the host of woes visited upon ghetto dwellers lies in being rescued from their misery by wealthy benefactors. 

It's fun to pretend, ain't it?

Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexual references, drug use and brief violence.
Running time: 128 minutes
Studi  Warner Brother

To see a trailer for The Blind Side, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khtBvQdxta4

Fantastic Mr. Fox: The Hipster And The Chicken Thief

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

Fantastic Mr. Fox
(out of 4)
Animated comedy featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe and Owen Wilson. Directed by Wes Anderson. 87 minutes. At major theatres. PG

(November 25, 2009) The word "cool" in the hipster sense never appears in the writings of Roald Dahl, nor does – God forbid! – the word "hipster."

Which makes it somewhat puzzling that dedicated hipster Wes Anderson, a Texas filmmaker now living in chic Parisian exile, would be attracted to
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Dahl's veddy British bedtime story about a furry chicken thief.

Has Anderson tired of filming human foibles? Not at all. He has simply transplanted his humans (his most A-list cast to date) to an animal setting, using a beloved children's tale as backdrop and stop-motion animation as his conceit.

The result is not only marvellous whimsy, but also something that advances the burgeoning retro-tech movement. In an age when everything seems digital, computer-driven and as fake as instant coffee, more and more artists (Spike Jonze and John Lasseter among them) are embracing the old ways of vinyl records, hand-drawn cartoons and painstaking stop-motion character movements.

How much of this is intended or accidental from Anderson's perspective is open to debate, since he reportedly directed Fantastic Mr. Fox entirely by email and video chat. According to Tristan Oliver, his director of photography, and Mark Gustafson, his director of animation, Anderson left them to do the heavy lifting in London while he barked orders from Paris. Can art be created from a distance? Did Anderson outfox or badger his underlings? Discuss.

Whatever the truth is, Fantastic Mr. Fox feels like a Wes Anderson picture through and through, and maybe that's all that matters. There's the familiar existential angst (you don't read those words in Dahl, either), the fascination with minutiae and the agreeably perverse soundtrack that thinks nothing of lifting from the disparate likes of the Rolling Stones, Burl Ives and "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" in its quest for coolness.

Few could argue with Anderson's instincts that Fantastic Mr. Fox just looks so much better than if it had been constructed on an iMac. The fur and costumes are real, the puppets feel the weight of gravity and the swish of wind, and the autumnal splendour of the colour palette is so evocative, it makes you want to just book off work and join Mr. Fox (George Clooney) in his foxhole.

Except that would mean joining Mr. Fox in the most dangerous of assignments, since he is about to go back on a promise he made 12 years earlier to his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) that he would mend his chicken-stealing ways and settle down to raise their soon-to-arrive son Ash (Jason Schwartzman).

Mr. Fox is now a successful newspaper columnist and snappy dresser (designer corduroy from nose to tail), as well as a devoted father to Ash, but middle-aged doubts have crept in. He's no longer happy living in a hole and wants to relocate to fancier digs in a tree atop a hill, and he's eager to return to a life of "pure wild animal craziness."

His lawyer Badger (Bill Murray) warns him that the tree is within shooting distance of the farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, "three of the meanest, nastiest, ugliest farmers in this valley."

There's no doubt of that – the farmers guard their chickens, ducks, turkeys and apple cider like gold – but Mr. Fox is not to be deterred. He plans the proverbial "one last big job" both to replenish the larder and to prove he still has foxy cojones.

Has Clooney ever played a more heroic character? He even rides a motorcycle, after a fashion. Yet he harbours personal doubts.

"Who am I?" he asks his opossum pal Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky). "And how can a fox ever be happy without, you'll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?"

It has become the norm rather than the exception of late for animated films to be aimed more at adults than children. Happily, Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't one of these. Anderson and his co-writer, Noah Baumbach, have made a few modest diversions from Dahl's text, but they remain faithful to its essential good spirit and sense of wonder at the natural world.

There is no serious cussing – the word "cuss" is comically taken to be a cuss between Fox and Badger – and nothing that would bring a blush to the face of a maiden aunt, human or otherwise.

Kids and adults will both love it, perhaps for different reasons, but they'll love it all the same.

 
Swiss Court Grants Roman Polanski $4.5m Bail

Source: www.thestar.com - Bradley S. Klapper

(November 25, 2009) GENEVA – A Swiss court granted Roman Polanski bail on Wednesday, accepting $4.5 million to allow him to remain under house arrest at his chalet. The director will stay in prison for up to 10 days while the Swiss government decides whether to appeal.

The Swiss Criminal Court reversed its previous rejection of bail, saying it was confident the large cash guarantee would compel Polanski to remain at his chalet in the Swiss resort of Gstaad under house arrest and monitored by an electronic bracelet.

The court said it still viewed him as a high flight risk.

The verdict does not affect the Swiss Justice Ministry's ongoing assessment of whether Polanski should be extradited to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski fled sentencing in Los Angeles a year later.

"The 76-year-old appellant is married and the father of two minors," the court said as it considered Polanski's offer of a cash bail secured by his apartment in Paris. "It can be assumed that as a responsible father he will, especially in view of his advanced age, attach greater importance to the financial security of his family than a younger person."

The court said Polanski would be subjected to "constant electronic surveillance" at his chalet and an alarm would be activated if he leaves the premises or takes off the bracelet.

But Polanski wasn't immediately released by the Swiss Justice Ministry, which ordered him arrested Sept. 26 as he arrived in Zurich to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

"We will decide quickly on whether to order his release or file an appeal with the Federal Tribunal," ministry spokesman Folco Galli said. Authorities had 10 days to refer the matter to the tribunal, Switzerland's highest court, but Galli said they would make their decision before that.

The Federal Tribunal said it had yet to receive an appeal.

Polanski's lawyers Lorenz Erni in Zurich and Herve Temime in Paris declined to comment. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office also had no reaction, spokeswoman Shiara Davila-Morales said.

The decision came as a surprise after a series of setbacks for the director of "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown,`` and "The Pianist.``

Swiss legal experts had said earlier that Polanski's chances of bail were slim, and even U.S. authorities expressed confidence that a Swiss court wouldn't grant his release.

The court last month rejected Polanski's first bail offer of his Gstaad chalet as collateral, which the director claimed made up more than half of his personal wealth and would definitely guard against his flight because he has two children he must support through school.

This time, the court looked favourably on Polanski's offer of cash and the threat of sacrificing his family's home if he fled justice.

"Cash is king," said Peter Cosandey, a former Zurich prosecutor. Still, he said he could "hardly remember a case where bail is granted to someone who isn't even a full-time Swiss resident."

A decision on extraditing Polanski to Los Angeles is still pending, and would also be subject to appeals.

Polanski was accused of raping the 13-year-old girl after plying her with champagne and a Quaalude pill during a modeling shoot in 1977. He was initially indicted on six felony counts, including rape by use of drugs, child molesting and sodomy.

Polanski pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful sexual intercourse. In exchange, the judge agreed to drop the remaining charges and sentence him to prison for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation. The evaluator release Polanski after 42 days, but the judge said he was going to send him back to serve out the 90 days.

Polanski then fled the country on Feb. 1, 1978, the day he was to be sentenced and has lived in France since.

Polanski claims the judge and prosecutors acted improperly. A California appeals court will listen to oral arguments from his attorneys next month. They will be urging the court to order a lower court to decide whether to dismiss charges against the fugitive director, whether he is present or not.

FILM TIDBITS

Jennifer Hudson To Play Winnie Mandela

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 19, 2009) *Jennifer Hudson is set to star in a drama that casts her as the former wife of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela.  "Winnie," based on the Anne Marie du Preez Bezdrob biography “Winnie Mandela: A Life,” begins shooting May 30 in the South African locations of Johannesburg, Capt Town, Transkei and Robben Island, where the future president spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.  The film will be directed by Darrell J. Roodt, the veteran South African filmmaker whose 2006 movie “Yesterday” was Africa’s Best Foreign Film nominee, and who also directed “Cry, The Beloved Country,” and “Sarafina!”  Winnie Mandela has been depicted as the mother and wife who was a steadfast supporter of her activist husband and who was jailed herself for campaigning for his release and fighting against apartheid.  Her image subsequently took a hit when she was associated with a bodyguard who murdered a 14-year old alleged informer, and she was later convicted of fraud.  The filmmakers will tell the whole story, good and bad.  “I was compelled and moved when I read the script,” Hudson said. “Winnie Mandela is a complex and extraordinary woman and I’m honoured to be the actress asked to portray her. This is a powerful part of history that should be told.”  Hudson is also expected to sing the film’s theme song.

Lee Daniels Marches Toward 'Selma'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 19, 2009) *"Precious" director Lee Daniels is now in advanced negotiations to helm "Selma," which will trace the historic 1965 march in the Alabama town that marked the political and emotional peak of the civil rights movement.  Daniels, whose "Precious" is drenched in Oscar buzz, will be teaming on the project with U.K. producer Christian Colson, reports Variety.  "Selma" will be the first new project for Colson and his shingle Cloud Nine Films  -- which launched in March -- since the producer enjoyed eight Oscar wins and a worldwide gross of more than $200 million earlier this year with Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire."  Pathe U.K., with which Colson made a five-year development, production, sales and distribution pact in March, will take the lead on financing, with Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner's Plan B shingle co-producing.   Shooting is set to take place by early spring. No cast has been attached yet, and the project's final budget is still being sorted out.

::TV NEWS::

Cherry On Top

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(November 25, 2009) The loudest man in the room is actually wearing a relatively quiet brown pinstriped suit and is talking about how he's going to cry. Asked about his remarkably subdued – but definitely dapper – sartorial choice, he responds, "I didn't want to outshine anybody here."

As if there was any chance of that not happening.

Just by showing up at the CBC's Winter Launch event,
Don Cherry garners the biggest cheers in the room, and there's no doubt the national broadcaster is putting even more of its hopes on the man who holds court from Coach's Corner, with a special four-hour, two-part biopic called Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story airing on the CBC in March.

Actor Jared Keeso is the man who gets to play the younger version of this nation's hockey conscience and he walked away from the experience with more than memories.

He got to keep three of the suits he wore during production.

"They are not as loud as the ones he wears now, like the Hawaiian-shirt pattern one, but they're something. I've even broken them out a couple of times," he says with a laugh.

The film covers Cherry's early years, playing hockey, meeting and marrying his beloved wife, Rose, coaching in the minors, working for the Bruins – up to when he starts doing Coach's Corner. Cherry says he didn't really want a film about his life, but his son, Tim, who served as writer and producer, convinced him otherwise.

"My son tried to get me to do it for two or three years, and nobody likes to have your life and all that, but he says, 'Look Dad, I want to do it,' so when your son says he wants to do it, what can you say?" he says.

He also warns that the film may not be what you expect.

"It's not really a hockey movie, you know what I mean. It's the story of guys in the minors and that life. I'm not really a hero in this movie to tell you the truth. I guess I was a pretty selfish guy, and only thought of myself. Rose is the hero, as far as I'm concerned. So I think it's a testament to how she stuck with me through all those tough years."

Keeso adds: "That's the good thing about Don. It speaks to his character that he wanted people to know the truth. He isn't always put in the brightest light, but it's the truth. Hockey is something that took up a good portion of his time, and often his family came second. That's the reality of the situation."

Because the film was shot during last year's playoffs, Cherry could visit the set only during the last few weeks of production, so he says he didn't give too much advice to Keeso, but he was particular about one thing – one of his other true loves, his famous dog, Blue.

"I saw a scene where he was walking with Blue, and I said you have to show your love to Blue, that's the main thing," Cherry says. Keeso said that despite Cherry's status as a hockey icon, and what we know of him now, in Cherry's younger days, he definitely wasn't as demonstrative as we think of him now.

"The biggest thing that Tim said was that Don wasn't too animated when he was on the ice. He was never yelling. Even on the bench, he would stay pretty still."

Times change though, and just from visiting the set, Cherry knows that seeing the final product will be an emotional experience for him, which is why he plans on waiting to see the film.

"I happen to get there on the day they were filming the end of it, and it was pretty emotional I have to tell you, because the girl, (actress) Sarah (Manninen) looks just like Rose. And Rose had a little Pennsylvania accent, and she even picked that up. It was very, very emotional for me," he says.

"I've seen some clips, but I'm going to wait to see it. When people watch it, I'm going to be watching it for the first time myself. I want to be by myself, down in my basement and I know there's going to be a few tears, I tell you that."

Good Morning America Cancels Adam Lambert

Source: www.thestar.com

(November 24, 2009) NEW YORK–ABC's Good Morning America cancelled an appearance by Adam Lambert following his racy American Music Awards performance, and he was quickly snapped up by ABC's morning rivals on CBS.

Lambert was to sing Wednesday on Good Morning America, but the network said Tuesday that "we were concerned about airing a similar concert so early in the morning.''

"Obviously, I respect their decision – they gotta do what they gotta do," Lambert said Tuesday in an interview with Ryan Seacrest. "It's too bad, I think there were a lot of fans who were excited to come see me.

"They probably had a lot of pressure coming at them from certain people who weren't happy about it.''

While singing his new song "For Your Entertainment" at the awards program, Lambert kissed a male keyboardist, fondled a dancer and had another dancer briefly stuff his face in Lambert's crotch. It prompted many complaints to ABC.

While women have often crossed the threshold regarding sexually provocative appearances on television – think Madonna kissing Britney Spears – Lambert's performance was perhaps the first time it has been done by an openly gay man. The singer said before Sunday's show that he was hoping to accomplish just that.

"There are a lot of double standards as far as that goes,'' Lambert said backstage, a few days before the awards show. "We've seen female pop and rock performers do that for the last 10 years. They've been very provocative, owning their power and sexuality. You just don't see men doing it very often. And I'm hoping to break down that double standard with this number.''

ABC had seen Lambert in rehearsals and knew some of what he had planned, but not the extent. Top ABC News management made the decision to cancel Lambert, spokeswoman Cathie Levine said. She said there was no pressure from the parent Walt Disney Co.

Lambert has performed on Good Morning America before, most recently in August.

Shortly after ABC's cancellation, CBS quickly announced Tuesday that Lambert would appear on The Early Show Wednesday morning both to perform and discuss the reaction to Sunday's appearance. Lambert is also appearing on David Letterman's Late Show Wednesday, which was scheduled weeks ago.

The Good Morning America cancellation was first reported on TVNewser and Hollywood Life Web sites.

Kids In The Hall Among The Talent On CBC's Slate Of Winter Shows

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(November 25, 2009) On a high from improved ratings this fall, CBC-TV threw a laid-back winter launch yesterday to introduce new and returning programs that will make their debut on the public broadcaster in January.

Coming off the network's strongest season in five years, CBC Television's general manager Kirstine Stewart unveiled a prime-time schedule that boasts a roster of new comedies such as the family sitcom 18 to Life , the father-son private-eye series shot in Newfoundland Republic of Doyle , and an outrageous, eight-part murder mystery from the Kids in the Hall, called Death Comes to Town , which wrapped filming recently in North Bay.

“Our goal is to differentiate our programming from conventional broadcasters,” Stewart said in an interview after the presentation. “And we do that almost by sheer volume and the quality of Canadian programming that we do.

“A lot of the competition – whether CTV or Global – while they certainly get involved in Canadian programming, but not in a large way in prime time. We can give more Canadian drama, a lot more comedy and more reality-type programming in prime time than the conventionals do.”

Stewart also disclosed yesterday that an eight-part series, Pillars of the Earth , featuring Gordon Pinsent, will air on CBC in the winter of 2011. A Canada-Germany co-production, Pillars of the Earth , based on Ken Follett's book, is currently shooting in Romania.

On hand at the CBC yesterday were the five members of the Kids in the Hall – Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Dave Foley, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson – who came to support the comedy, which centres on a character named Death (McKinney) who gets off a bus and wreaks havoc in a small Canadian town.

Billed by creator McCulloch as “ Corner Gas meets Twin Peaks ,” it airs Jan. 12. Yesterday, the kids said they were glad to be returning to the public broadcaster, where their original show premiered in 1988.

Allan Hawco, creator and star of 12-part Republic of Doyle , flew in from Newfoundland, where he has now wrapped the 10th episode, which guest stars Victor Garber. Other episodes, he added, will feature Pinsent, his daughter Leah, Shawn Doyle and Mary Walsh, to name a few. “I'm also trying to recruit Rick Mercer,” added the 32-year-old St. John's native. “And I've written three roles for [ Canada AM co-host] Seamus O'Regan [another native of Hawco's home town]. But it just hasn't worked yet. Basically, I am going to hijack everyone I know in the business at some point.”

In March, hockey fans will get an honest look at Don Cherry's life in the minors – “which is not pleasant, believe me,” Cherry said – and the toll that took on his family, particularly his wife, Rose (now deceased).

The brain child of Cherry's son, Timothy Cherry, called Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story , the two-part movie stars Jared Keeso ( I Love You Beth Cooper ) and follows the bombastic Cherry from the small leagues to his ascension to commentator on Hockey Night in Canada .

“At first, I didn't want to do it,” Cherry said. “But my son kept after me for three years. In the movie, I don't look like much of a hero. But I did it because I saw that it was a tribute to Rose. I've seen part of it, and it was very sad. It was tough to watch because it showed how selfish I was. I was a selfish guy.”

TV TIDBITS

McCrary Is New Malcolm On 'Restless'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 19, 2009) *So much for Shemar Moore ever reprising his role of Malcolm Winters on "The Young and the Restless." Beginning next month, the character will be played by former "Family Matters" star Darius McCrary, according to EW.com.   McCrary signed a multi-year deal to assume the role beginning with a taping on Nov. 18, the Web site reported.  His debut will air on Dec. 29.  “We are thrilled to have the character of Malcolm back on Y&R,” according to a statement from Maria Bell, the drama’s co-executive producer/head writer. “Malcolm, Neil Winters’ brother, has always been a catalyst to exciting stories.  "He’s coming back to town to see his brother and to reunite with his biological daughter, Lily Winters, as she fights for her life. Malcolm is a photographer…someone who lives on the edge and who always pushes the envelope.” Moore left the soap in 2005 to co-star in CBS’ "Criminal Minds." According to EW, "it seems obvious that Moore’s busy schedule ('Minds' is about to air its 100th episode) — combined with the fact that Bell wanted the Malcolm character back full-time – made it impossible for Moore to return (one insider even said that Moore has been approached before about coming back to the show but it was clear that it wouldn’t work out because of his commitment to 'Minds')." McCrary will find a familiar face on the Y&R set; the Emmy-winning Bryton James (Devon) used to co-star as Richie Crawford on Family Matters, as well.

Osmond Crowned Dancing With The Stars Winner

Source: CBC News

(November 25, 2009) Osmond, 51, was declared the victor over two younger rival finalists — singer Mya, who is 30, and Kelly Osbourne, 25-year-old daughter of Ozzy Osbourne — through a combination of viewer votes and scores from the program's three judges. "I did it!" the 1970s teen idol exclaimed when he was declared winner, before rushing out into the studio audience to bring his wife, Debbie, to the stage. Partnered with Kym Johnson, Osmond called his time on the program — which matches celebrities with professional ballroom dancers for a weekly competition — one of the highlights of his lengthy career. Regularly ranked among the most-watched U.S. television shows this fall, Dancing with the Stars also counted former congressman Tom DeLay, former NFL star Michael Irvin, pop singer Aaron Carter and actresses Melissa Joan Hart and Debi Mazar among this season's competitors. Musical guests who delivered performances included Taylor Swift, Michael Bublé, Susan Boyle, the Bee Gees and Whitney Houston.

::THEATRE NEWS::

The Catering Queen: This Playwright Knows Her Canapés

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

The Catering Queen
(out of 4)
By Alison Lawrence. Directed by Ed Sahely. Until Dec. 6 at the Tarragon Extra Space, 30 Bridgman Ave.
416-531-1827

(November 24, 2009) If you've been yearning to see a well-made comedy again – you know, the kind with a beginning, an end and lots of laughs in between – then you ought to run, not walk, to the Tarragon Extra Space, where
The Catering Queen is playing.

Alison Lawrence's bittersweet romance was a huge hit at the Fringe in 2006, but her fellow cast members were so busy, this is the first time they've all been able to get together and put the show on again.

Lawrence has taken advantage of the time off to polish the script, add lots more witty lines and allow everyone to hone their already sharp performances to a razor's edge.

It's Christmastime and we're in the Forest Hill mansion of George and Buffy Smythe, where their annual cocktail party is in full swing. Of course, they use a catering company and Melanie is in charge, as she's been for years.

Melanie is "the catering queen" of the title, a woman so devoted to passing lobster bundles or glasses of Chardonnay that she hasn't really succeeded in having a life of her own, either personally or professionally.

The same problem, to a greater or lesser degree, also affects her colleagues: Cynthia (the wisecracking actor), Eric (the serious wannabe director) and Timothy (the seriously campy dude studying to be a massage therapist).

Lawrence worked as just such a caterer for many years and her dialogue all rings true, as does the way that the banal loading of "sweeties" onto a tray serves as a contrapuntal duet with the heartbroken woman who's using it to hide her pain.

There's both something old-fashioned and up-to-the-minute about Lawrence's play, which is one of its major charms.

On one hand, you can sit back and delight at a well-written script that glides along in the sophisticated style you thought people had forgotten how to write; on the other hand, Lawrence's characters have a sexual candour and freewheeling morality that makes you gasp with how contemporary it is.

Lawrence is superb as Melanie, with a too-bright smile and too-brisk gestures hoping to distract you from eyes that are constantly filling with tears. Sharon Heldt is the essence of every brassy showbiz broad who proves to be not nearly as tough as she first seems. Dmitry Chepovetsky has discovered a new way to play camp without making it seem clichéd or offensive, and David Macniven is solid as a single dad who works hard to hide his pain.

The shallow outside world gets two shameless representatives in Brian Young, nerdily superb as an opportunistic screenwriter, and Mary Frances Moore, the icewine of actresses, as an alcoholic lawyer who can't stop hurting.

Director Ed Sahely hasn't directed as well as the show deserves, and his staging and pacing are a bit on the ragged side. But with a cast like this and a script like this, The Catering Queen deserves a long and happy reign on our stages.  

Toronto Fans Might Lose Composure For Composer

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(November 22, 2009) People don't like
Jason Robert Brown, they love him.

The composer of shows like Parade and The Last Five Years has a near-cult following among musical theatre fans. So his concert this Monday night at The Glenn Gould Studio is probably going to generate the same level of enthusiasm from the crowd that his last appearance here in 2006 did.

Back then, I wrote that "Jason Robert Brown rocked the walls of the Glenn Gould Studio with a performance so filled with energy, guts and emotion that to say the audience was blown away would be an understatement."

Once again, Brown is going to be backed up by his sizzling band, the Caucasian Rhythm Kings, but this time, there will be a couple of additional bonuses.

The Toronto Youth Music Theatre Company Choir will be providing their exciting sound and the hottest musical theatre performer on the scene today, Chilina Kennedy, will be appearing as guest star.

Kennedy, of course, was Maria in this summer's smash Stratford Festival hit West Side Story and will be returning there in the title role of Evita in 2010.

Michael Rubinoff, who is presenting Brown in association with Mark Selby told The Star that "One of the questions I am asked often by young performers and theatregoers is when we were bringing Jason back. He has inspired the next generation and to see him perform live is the ultimate celebration of his outstanding work."

That work has taken Brown in quite a few different directions since his last appearance here.

On the down side, his long-gestated musical version of Betty Boop, written in collaboration with hot playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole), dissolved in an acrimonious brew of litigation between authors, producers and primary rights holders.

But thinking positively, his tween musical 13 finally got to Broadway in 2008 after a 2007 tryout in Los Angeles and even though it only ran 105 performances, it attracted a devoted group of fans and is being produced all around North America.

Perhaps the best news is the Mark Taper Forum revival of Brown's Tony Award-winning 1999 musical, Parade (which originally starred Brent Carver).

Reduced and rethought by director Rob Ashford, it garnered an impressive set of reviews and will likely be heading for New York again sometime in the distant future. If Ragtime can be revived, then why not Parade? (Both shows, by the way, were originally developed by Garth Drabinsky.)

With Brown and Kennedy on the same bill, there's no doubt that a healthy selection of songs from The Last Five Years will be on the program and since that inventively told story of a star-crossed marriage is one of the best things Brown ever wrote, it's a major cause for celebration. Fans of the 2004 Canadian Stage production starring Tyley Ross and Blythe Wilson still recall it as one of the best shows the company ever produced.

So between the man, his music and his guests, it's an evening that it not to be missed.

Jason Robert Brown and friends perform at the Glenn Gould Studio, CBC Broadcast Centre, 250 Front St. W at 8 p.m. Tickets at www.ticketweb.ca or 1-888-222-6608.

The Madonna Painter: Small Town Drama, With A Slicing Edge

Source: www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

 
The Madonna Painter
Written by Michel Marc Bouchard
Translated by Linda Gaboriau
Directed by Eda Holmes
Starring Juan Chioran and Jenny Young
At Factory Theatre in Toronto

(November 24, 2009) Factory Theatre has had its ups and downs over the years, but its 40th-anniversary season has so far proved its immeasurable worth to Toronto arts.

The first two shows on the bill have not just been the best new Canadian plays of the season, but of last season too.

Now, strictly speaking, neither was an entirely new play. Brad Fraser's True Love Lies made it debut in Manchester last winter, while Michel Marc Bouchard's
The Madonna Painter had its first staging – translated from its original French into Italian – in Florence in 2003.

But this is its English-language premiere and better late than never. In fact, in this case, maybe better late than sooner because The Madonna Painter has now gained in topicality. The poetic play is set in a small French-Canadian village in 1918 as a serious flu epidemic spreads panic. Then, as now, fear led to paranoia and conspiracy theories: The villagers believe vengeful English-Canadian soldiers coming back from the war are purposefully transporting the flu from town to town as they search for deserters.

The village's handsome young priest (Marc Bendavid) has a peaceful plan to fight the Spanish flu, however: He wants to commission a triptych of the Virgin Mary to hang over the altar. It will act as an offering to God, but also lift the spirits of the villagers and give them hope.

After securing money from the town's creepy doctor (Brian Dooley), the priest hires roving Italian artist Alessandro (the always fabulous Juan Chioran) to paint the picture. Three of the town's various Marys compete to be his Madonna model: mystic washerwoman Mary Louise (Nicola Correia-Damude), who reads dirty bed sheets like tea leaves; the sexually adventurous Mary Frances (Miranda Edwards); and Mary Anne (Shannon Taylor), a gullible innocent who is in love with the young priest.

In the end, however, Alessandro chooses Mary of the Secrets (Jenny Young), an outcast who swallows people's deepest secrets when they are on their deathbed and then spits them out into a nearby barren field.

If this all sounds insufferably twee, it's not – at least, not for long.

There's a dark edge to The Madonna Painter that sharpens and sharpens until it slices you in half in the final terrifying scenes.

The play examines art, religion and superstition and the fear and hope that lie behind them all. It paints a romantic picture and then slashes it to bits with brutal reality – which is similar to Alessandro's effect on the communities he invades like a foreign virus.

Bouchard calls his play “a collision of ecstasies, a bouquet of lies disguised as a fable” – and, really, I can't better that description. You will gather from that phrase, however, that Bouchard, like many of Quebec's playwrights, writes in heightened poetic language that is never fully comfortable in English translation.

There's a certain disconnect between the style English-Canadian actors and directors are most confident with – that tends to be some variety of naturalism – and the dialogue of a play like this that many are willing to write off only because they know they're peering through the linguistic looking glass.

Director Eda Holmes, designer Sue Lepage and the cast take us to the edge of the culture gap without quite bridging it the way, say, Richard Rose did with his recent production of Wajdi Mouawad's Scorched .

Even if it takes a while, we are eventually fully enveloped by Bouchard's Gothic vision of early-20th-century Quebec and his colourful cast of characters.

Young pulls at the heartstrings as a wounded young woman who finally opens up with tragic consequences, while Chioran's Alessandro seduces the audience as confidently and as cruelly as he does his models.

Taylor pulls us into the odd, fantastical brain of Mary Anne, who is led to believe than a man's sex organ can morph into a beast or a priest.

Correia-Damude, too, is quite spellbinding, revealing the intimate and often quite poignant details of the town's nocturnal life as she washes them away.

As the third young woman, however, Edwards needs to be reined in a tad: She's a little too modern in her saucy body language and she shows us her agony without making us feel it.

As for the English version of the script, I sometimes wish I would see a different name than Linda Gaboriau on a translation of a French-Canadian play, but the truth is that when she's on her game – as she is here – she's undeniably the best.

If my anglo brain tried to wrestle Bouchard's poetry to the ground from time to time, my body successfully overrode it. Ultimately, I know I'm watching an unforgettable play when I walk out unable to form a coherent sentence, which I did here.

The Madonna Painter runs until Dec. 13.  

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Dragon Age: Origins - Never Lets You Off The Hook

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Dragon Age: Origins
Xbox 360/PlayStation 3
$69.99
Rated M
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 four)

(November 21, 2009)  From their mighty citadel of game-forging – a few floors of office space abutting an atrium hotel on a particularly bleak and depressing stretch of Edmonton freeway – BioWare Corp. sends pretty much one thing out into the world: epic role-playing games.

From the legendary Dungeons & Dragons-based Baldur's Gate games and the 10-times-better-than-the-prequels Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic through to the sleek space opera of Mass Effect, the BioWare label has come to stand for capital-B Big Games, massive adventures offering character and combat in more or less equal doses.

Dragon Age: Origins is the apotheosis of everything they've been working toward. It's tough to know where to start with a game this big and multifaceted, so let's begin with the core of the game, its dialogue. You'd think that a heroic-fantasy title featuring fireball-hurling wizards and hammer-swinging warriors would be fundamentally a game of battle, but that's not how BioWare rolls.

From the minute the disc starts to spin, you can feel it: spells and armour and critical hits and magic knives and stuff, that's all secondary to role playing, to identifying with your character, to making choices based on that identity, to playing through the consequences of those choices.

Maybe that's not everyone's cup of tea (or flagon of mead). But if you're buying BioWare, you know what you're getting. Or, at least, you think you do. With Dragon Age, they've taken everything they've learned about turning player choice into meaningful gameplay and narrative, and moved it forward into a place where you feel it like never before.

Simplistic Dark Side/Light Side mechanics are gone; the rote menus of good-bad-neutral (ie. patsy-jerk-robot) dialogue choices are gone; the feeling that, save for a few incidental differences, all roads lead to the same cut scene is gone.

In Dragon Age, you're never without the feeling that what your character says and does is meaningful, that every choice represents an irrevocable setting of feet upon a path, that every opportunity opened means another (or several others) closed.

This all works because it's non-trivial in game terms. Dragon Age isn't a conversation/exposition system running alongside a battle game; rather, one directly affects the other.

Playing the goody-two-shoes role will alienate the more cruel and mercenary (they'd say "pragmatic") role of your companions just as surely as being a ruthless killer will alienate your saintly pals, and these attitudes are reflected in how well they'll fight for your cause.

And the choices you'll make aren't easy; BioWare never lets you off the hook.

You'll encounter situations where you honestly agonize, walking around a castle more or less begging every character you meet to either give you another option or take the choice out of your hands entirely.

But there's no escaping the fact that it's up to you, and there's no going back, and someone's going to be terribly hurt no matter what, and afterward, half your party's going to hate your stinking guts.

::OTHER NEWS::

Third Time Lucky For Annabel Lyon

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner

(November 25, 2009) The third time proved a charm for Annabel Lyon, whose debut novel The Golden Mean claimed the $25,000 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, awarded Tuesday in Toronto.

The Golden Mean, the only finalist for all three of Canada's top literary awards, earlier this month lost out to Linden MacIntytre's The Bishop's Man for the $50,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize and to Kate Pullinger's The Mistress of Nothing for the $25,000 Governor General's Award.

In winning, the British Columbia author lifted the recent hex on triple nominees. M.G. Vassanji's The Assassin's Song and Rawi Hage's Cockroach were in the running for all three awards in 2007 and 2008 respectively, but both came away empty-handed.

In accepting the award, Lyon credited the country's small literary presses for helping her get started.

"I wouldn't be standing here today if I didn't have those opportunities," said the 38-year-old.

The Golden Mean, a fictional account of the relationship between the philosopher Aristotle and his star pupil, Alexander the Great, triumphed over Alice Munro's Too Much Happiness, which also finished as a runner-up for the GG prize, as well as Douglas Coupland's Generation A, Andrew Steinmetz's Eva's Threepenny Theatre and Susanne de Lotbinière-Harwood's translation of Nicole Brossard's Fences in Breathing.

The finalists each received $2,500.

"In this alarmingly confident and transporting debut novel, Lyon offers us that rarest of treats: a book about philosophy, about the power of ideas, that chortles and sings like an earthy romance," read the assessment of jurors Marina Endicott, Miriam Toews and R.M. Vaughn.

The $25,000 Writers' Trust Non-Fiction Prize went to Brian Brett's Trauma Farm: A Rebel History of Rural Life, which won out over Trevor Herriot's Grass, Sky, Song, Wade Davis's The Wayfinders, Erica Ritter's The Dog by the Cradle, the Serpent Beneath and Eric Siblin's The Cello Suites.

Yasuko Thanh's short story "Floating like the Dead," published in Vancouver Review, claimed the $10,000 Writers Trust of Canada/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, awarded annually to a developing writer.

Of the prizes awarded for career output, former Giller Prize winner David Bergen received the $25,000 Writers' Trust Notable Author Award and Stratford's Marthe Jocelyn collected the $20,000 Vicky Metcalf Award for Children's Literature.

The Writers Trust Award for Distinguished Contribution went to the organizers of the annual Politics and the Pen Committee fundraiser for the Writers' Trust.

::DANCE NEWS::

Aszure Barton's Dance Work Taps Into ‘Who We Were As People'

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(
Aszure Barton has an international reputation for complex, detailed dance pieces, where even one small finger movement can make a giant statement. But that doesn't mean she works alone.

The Canadian choreographer has an unusually collaborative creative process. For her new work Watch Her , created for the National Ballet of Canada and premiering tonight, she not only drew inspiration from her dancers, the whole company got involved in shaping the movement onstage – then taught steps to one another.

“Ballet dancers are usually told what to do,” says Barton. “My challenge to the company was to be collaborative, to trust themselves to make choices, to be part of the development.”

Choreographer Aszure Barton watches a rehearsal of the National Ballet at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto, November 20, 2009.

The choreographic process began with dancer Kevin Bowles. Barton asked him to sit on a chair and enact 10 different ways of observing someone. He then taught those movements to dancer Sonia Rodriguez. From there, the pair worked on movements together and taught those steps to another group of dancers. More and more dancers were added to the mix, until every dancer learned the entire ballet.

“Aszure doesn't impose choreography,” explains Rodriguez. “Rather, she builds a movement vocabulary out of the dancers. The process was a conversation between a perceptive choreographer and her dancers. She tapped into who we were as people. The movement collectively shows off our individuality.”

Once dancers learned their steps, Barton jumped in again, asking them to position their heads in a certain way, or adding in a gesture. Through this process, she reshaped and sculpted the movements, and the layers within layers of Watch Her were developed. (In an odd twist, movement is not necessarily performed by the dancer who created it, yet all the material appears somewhere in the piece.)

“The piece is not about technique, although there are many virtuoso demands,” says dancer Xiao Nan Yu. “It's about placing responsibility on the dancers to work as a group.”

Of course, Barton's choreography has its own individual stamp. The 34-year-old is one of contemporary ballet's rising stars because of the wit, sophistication and humanity of her works. She has received commissions from the American Ballet Theatre, the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Sydney Dance Company, among others. She's also had three residencies at Mikhail Baryshnikov's arts centre in New York – and counts the great dancer as one of her mentors.

“When I first came across Aszure Barton, I saw great promise in the originality of her movement, theatricality and flair for engaging an audience,” says Baryshnikov. “She has delivered on that early promise and shown remarkable strength as an artist.”

Despite kudos on the world stage, Barton still considers herself a Canadian. The Edmonton native joined Canada's National Ballet School at 14 and did a one-year stint as an apprentice at the National Ballet. And although she's been based in New York for the last nine years, her company Aszure Barton & Artists does annual residencies at the Banff Centre. She says she's particularly proud of being proclaimed Edmonton's official Ambassador of Contemporary Choreography.

Wherever she's working, Barton says, she is most inspired by “developing characters through movement.” In Watch Her , those characters enact a story about the comedy and tragedy of love. The piece is centred around a man watching a woman; dancer Bowles explains it as a man “looking inside his own mind, perhaps at a remembrance or a fantasy. Events are happening outside his control. It's a painful journey for the observer.”

Perhaps a metaphor for the man's mind, the set is a large enclosed box with narrow entrances and exits. And the music – the lush and romantic Dialogues on Stabat Mater by Lera Auerbach – offers a heightened contrast to the movements. “At moments in the dance, you feel like a peeping Tom, stumbling over something you shouldn't be seeing,” says the National's music director and conductor David Briskin.

But Barton has another interpretation of Watch Her , too, which occupies a more elevated plane. She sees Rodriguez as an angelic thread, and the concerto grosso orchestration a representation of the power of both the individual – and, fittingly, the group.

Watch Her is my desire to connect to something bigger.”

Watch Her is part of a mixed program that also features George Balanchine's The Four Temperaments (1946) and Jerome Robbins's Glass Pieces (1983). It runs at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre Wednesday through Sunday.

Take 110 International Student Dancers, Mix Well And Jetez

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(November 25, 2009) Readying the students of Canada's National Ballet School for high-profile stage appearances is challenging enough. But when you add 97 more dancers-in-training from around the world, it becomes a logistical nightmare.

The organizational complexities alone could explain why the Assemblée Internationale, a cornerstone of the National Ballet School's 50th-anniversary celebrations, has become something of a magnificent obsession for Mavis Staines. The school's artistic director has spent the last five years planning the event bringing together students from 13 professional training academies – from Winnipeg to Havana to Stuttgart – for an intensive round of classes, performances and symposia under way this week.

“ It's a whole perspective of ballet in one building. We are each other's competition, but we're also the next generation. ”— Sara Coffield

“I believe in the benefit of exchanges,” says Staines. “I also think it's important that students explore the shift from studio to stage.”

That shift will partly be on show tonight, when each school stages works from its own repertoire, mainly by well-known choreographers.

But the real test of how well the puzzle that is the Assemblée fits together will be performances of student choreography on Friday night and Saturday afternoon: Staines's grand plan mandated that each student dance have an international cast.

Therefore, each school filmed its piece on DVD with the cast wearing numbers. Students learned their steps by watching their number – designating the dance role assigned to them – move onscreen.

“Some schools were very detailed in the DVDs,” says Shaun Amyot, the NBS staffer in charge of casting the Assemblée. “The NBS sent in the whole piece, plus separate footage of each of the seven couples. Stuttgart included comments on the choreography, while Hamburg had various versions shot from different angles.”

Of course, even a detailed DVD can't explain the nuances of a dance. Student choreographers say they noticed each school produced a very different use of the body. The Cubans, for example, are more direct in their approach to movement. So while the cast learned their steps, they didn't know the quality of movement – where the impetus came from, which aspects of the choreography to make the priority, or how to connect steps.

“There is only so much you can learn from a video,” says student choreographer William Bracewell of London's Royal Ballet School.

As for which dancers should be in which productions, Amyot had to gather information on everything from students' heights, to partnering skills, to who excelled at turning, and the like. “I couldn't put a short boy with a tall girl,” he says. “I also had to match the role to the strength of the individual dancer.”

Then came another problem: Four schools chose not to bring a student piece. That meant “leftover” students, and Staines was determined that every student participating in the Assemblée would appear in new choreography.

To make it all add up, two more pieces were created by NBS students – and Amyot gave birth to the aptly named Improvisation AI09 , a work for 22 dancers. All told, a staggering 110 dancers will be onstage for the student choreographic concert. “I'm holding my breath until the performance,” says Amyot. “The greatest unknown is: Can they do the roles?”

That's a big unknown for such an important week of performances in the NBS's history. So why bother with hurdles like international teams and DVD-based learning?

For a start, the Assemblée mirrors real life. As student choreographer Alex Lantz of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School explains, choreographers coming to a company usually don't know the dancers. And according to Staines, “Learning roles from DVDs is the most common tool in dance. DVDs to a dancer are what scripts are to an actor.”

There are also larger payoffs for the students. As Myles Thatcher, a student from the San Francisco Ballet School, points out, the program gives students a glimpse of the training at other schools. “By watching others,” he says, “ I know where I need to step up my game.”

Sara Coffield of the NBS agrees. “It's a whole perspective of ballet in one building,” she says. “We are each other's competition, but we're also the next generation.”

The repertory concerts take place tonight. The student choreography concert premieres Friday night and repeats at a Saturday matinee. All performances are at the Betty Oliphant Theatre at 404 Jarvis St. in Toronto(416-964-3780).

::SPORTS NEWS::

Study Says Basketball Refs Try To Even The Score

Source: www.thestar.com - Eddie Pells

(November 23, 2009) They don't all need glasses. But if you always suspected basketball referees are biased – well, you're right, according to a couple of professors who've studied the matter.

Refs favour the home team, the academics say. They're big on "makeup" calls. They make more calls against teams in the lead, and the discrepancy grows if the game is on national TV.

The professors studied 365 college games during the 2004-05 season and found that refs had a terrific knack for keeping the foul count even, regardless of which team was more aggressive.

Exhibit A: The 2005 Final Four meeting between Illinois and Louisville. The Illini, known for being more aggressive defensively, got whistled for the first seven fouls. By the end of the game, the foul count was Louisville 13, Illinois 12. The Illini won 72-57.

Results like this were the norm across all the games the professors studied from that season – from the Big East to the ACC to the Big Ten and all 63 NCAA tournament games. The take-home message for coaches: The more aggressive your teams the better because, in the end, the foul count is going to be about even no matter what.

It helps explain, the professors say, why college basketball has gotten increasingly physical over the past 25 years.

"Part of the reason for the study came from something my coach used to tell me," said study co-author Kyle Anderson, a visiting professor at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, who played at Division III Knox College. "He said a team can come in and push and shove and grab and hold, and by the end of the game, or end of the half, they've only got one or two more fouls because officials kind of get tired of calling it.''

Among the key findings, which were published The Journal of Sports Sciences earlier this year:

–The probability of a foul being called on the visiting team was 7 per cent higher than on the home team.

–When the home team is leading, the probability of the next foul being called on them was about 6.3 percentage points higher than when the home team was trailing. The professors also cited an earlier study that concluded there were more calls against teams ahead in games on national TV versus those ahead in locally televised games. Calling fouls against the leading team tends to keep games closer, the studies said.

–The bigger the difference in fouls between the two teams playing, the more likely it was that the next call would come against the team with fewer fouls. When the home team had five or more fouls than the visiting team, there was a 69 per cent chance the visiting team would be whistled for the next foul.

As part of their 365-game sample, the professors looked at 93 games played on neutral courts, and the numbers remained largely the same when it came to levelling the foul count.

"There's something to it," said Irv Brown, a former official who worked six Final Fours and was supervisor of officials for the Western Athletic and Big Sky conferences. "If you're looking at the board and one team has a lot more fouls, you probably look a little harder to do something, subconsciously.''

Brown said he used to experiment and try not to look at the scoreboard, but human nature dictates that referees will. Same for home-court advantage. Try as they might, there's no way a referee can completely block out thousands of fans yelling at him from close range.

"As an official, you get the reputation that you're tough on the road, and that's what you want," Brown said in a telephone interview last week. "But it takes a lot of years. You have to get established. Some guys who aren't established, you'll see them out there, trying to take some of the heat off, trying to take care of the home crowd.''

Anderson said he talked to a number of referees as part of the research and the majority said "you're crazy. We don't do this.''

"But a few others said, 'Yeah, I try to make it even out,''' Anderson said.

The NCAA asked for a copy of the study, and Anderson said he hasn't received any negative feedback – at least not yet.

The professors looked only at first halves because teams committing intentional fouls while in catch-up mode at the end of games skewed the second-half results.

Anderson and his co-author, David Pierce of Ball State, made it clear in the study that referees aren't intentionally trying to influence foul counts.

"We'd like them to have no memory and strictly call what's going on on the court," Anderson said. "But part of this is, if I'm a ref, I want everyone to think I'm fair and if I call 10 fouls on one team and two on the other, people are going to think something's going on here. It's sort of subconscious. And it points out one of the biggest problems with basketball is that it's a very hard game to officiate.''

SPORTS TIDBITS

Caster Semenya To Keep Gold Medal

Source: www.eurweb.com

(November 20, 2009) *South African track star Caster Semenya gets to keep her 800-meter gold medal from the world championships, and the results of her gender tests will be kept confidential, the South African sports ministry announced Thursday.  The ministry also said in a statement that the International Association of Athletics Federations has agreed to allow the 18-year-old to keep her prize money. "Whatever scientific tests were conducted legally within the IAAF regulations will be treated as a confidential matter between patient and doctor," the sports ministry said. "As such there will be no public announcement of what the panel of scientists has found. We urge all South Africans and other people to respect this professional ethical and moral way of doing things." Before the 800 final in Berlin, the IAAF said it had ordered gender tests because of Semenya's muscular build and dramatic improvement in times. The case sparked outrage in South Africa, and the IAAF was accused of violating her privacy. South African track officials were accused of failing to protect her. Australian newspapers said in September that Semenya has male and female sexual organs, but the IAAF has refused to confirm or deny those reports.