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LE NEWSLETTER

October 1, 2009

Toronto doesn't joke when a new season appears - BAM!  Fall - boots, coats and fall gear abounds. I even put gloves in my purse today!  sigghhh  It's also flu season so take those vitamins, get your rest and for goodness sake, STAY HOME if you're sick!!  There are no awards given out for pushing through and very possibly spreading your germs around. 

Thanksgiving holiday weekend next weekend so get your list ready of who you'd like to thank for their input in your life this past year!  Tons of news here so take a walk through your entertainment news! 

Oh and don't forget to add me on
FACEBOOK!!  


::TOP STORIES::

Mats Sundin Calls It Quits

Source: www.thestar.com - Stephan Nasstrom,
Associated Press

(September 30, 2009) STOCKHOLM – Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin is retiring from hockey after nearly two decades in the NHL.

"It was a tough decision," Sundin told reporters Wednesday at a news conference at Stockholm's Grand Hotel. "It's sad to tell you today that my career as a pro hockey player is over."

The 38-year-old Swede, who said he reached the decision this fall, played for the Vancouver Canucks last season after spending most of his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He spent 13 seasons with Toronto, becoming the longest-serving European captain in NHL history, and he gave special thanks to the Maple Leafs organization.

"Toronto is and will always be my second home," Sundin said.

One of Sweden's key players in the 2006 Turin Olympics, where Sweden beat Finland in the final, he recently ruled out playing for his home country in next year's Winter Olympics in Vancouver.



Sundin singled out winning Olympic gold along with playing in the NHL playoffs as the highlights of his career.

"It was a special experience," Sundin said. "The NHL? All playoff games and reaching the semifinals twice."

Sundin, an eight-time NHL all-star, is first among Swedish players with 564 goals, 785 assists and 1,349 points.

In 1990, Sundin became the first European to be the top pick in the NHL draft, but despite a long and stellar career he never won a Stanley Cup.

"It would have been fun, but I've experienced so much," he said.

Known as "Sudden" in Sweden, Sundin also won three IIHF World Championship titles with Sweden in 1991, '92 and '98.

After nine months on the sidelines, Sundin signed with Vancouver as a free agent in December last year and made his debut with the Canucks in January against the Edmonton Oilers. He recorded nine goals and 19 assists in 41 games, adding three goals and five assists in eight playoff games.

Toronto's career leader in goals and points, Sundin plans to return to Sweden with his wife later this year.

"I don't know if I'll be involved in hockey in the future," he said. "But I will always have a close relationship with hockey. My love for hockey will always be there."

Sundin also played in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City where he led in goals and points and made the tournament all-star team.

LEAFS ON SUNDIN:

Reporter Kevin McGran asked members of the Toronto Maple Leafs about Mats Sundin:

Tomas Kaberle:

"He had a great run. It was awesome playing with him. I have such good memories."

"It was a pleasure playing the power play with him. He's got a great shot and sees the ice well."

Matt Stajan:

"He was a great leader. As a young guy coming to the league, I don't think you could ask for a better leader. I learned so much from him. The way he held himself. He was a good friend. I wish him all the best.

Viktor Stalberg (a Swede):

"He was always there when the national team needed him. He was a role model not only for me but for a lot of young Swedish players. He had a great career."

Ron Wilson:

"I prefer to remember him as the dominant player he was. He was so tough to play against. ... You'd marvel when you saw him, he was so hard to contain."

Mercy, Sask., Gets Religious Faceoff

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(September 28, 2009) Let's just say the irony was not lost on me. When assigned to interview Brandon Firla, the newest addition to Little Mosque on the Prairie, I balked. You see, I'm not sure if you can tell from the accent of my writing (or my name or the accompanying logo), but being of South Asian ancestry – or brown as I usually put it – I found it a little weird to be profiling the new white guy on Canada's most successful mainstream brown show ever.

There's no arguing that Mosque is most definitely that. (It returns tonight on CBC at 8:30 p.m.) Seen in over 80 territories around the world, it enters its fourth season as one of the kindest representations of Muslims to ever be broadcast. It also comes at a time when South Asian characters have reached the same token status in ensemble casts on U.S. network shows previously enjoyed by the black friend (in the '70s) or the requisite gay sidekick from the past decade.

Right now, Danny Pudi's Abed is the funniest thing about Community, while Kunal Nayyer's Raj on The Big Bang Theory is a hoot. There was Kal Penn's run on House and, kicking off this recent wave, Sendhil Ramamurthy's Mohinder on Heroes and Naveen Andrews' Sayid on Lost.

Sure, some portrayals (even on Mosque) are more stereotypical than others, but overall, I think it's a very good thing. Really, it only makes good business sense, particularly in ensemble casts, because of demographics alone. To update what the mighty Apu from The Simpsons once said: "There are only one billion of us."

Despite all that, Firla really does add something new to Mosque. While the show retains all of its earnest charms – Amaar is still the Ross Geller of imams, Baber is still the amusing nut who reminds you of your kooky uncle and Sitara Hewitt's Rayyan remains, well, hot – it's Firla's Rev. William Thorne who adds a much-needed dose of conflict to the series.

Playing the new Anglican priest who arrives in Mercy, he's an ambitious, BlackBerry-wielding man of the cloth who sees this stop in Podunk as purgatory. He also can't believe that his house of God somehow shares its space with a mosque. Honestly, being the Thorne in the side of the mosque lets the series mine the territory that many of us assumed it would when it launched.

Firla, a fixture on Toronto's comedy scene, deserves to be better known. I became a fan when I caught his Rumoli Bros. bit at the Spiegeltent at Harbourfront a few years ago. Partnered with his real-life brother, the pair rock a new school vaudeville schtick that is funnier than it has any right to be. He's also put on stage shows Sarsical and An Inconvenient Musical, and guested on many shows. He's likely best known as Clark Claxton from Showcase's Billable Hours.

His role as Thorne walks a very careful line; while he's being set up as the bad guy of sorts, he remains likeable and credible.

"I like to say he's spiritually insane. He's as much of a mad man as Baber is on the Muslim side and Amaar is caught in the middle running the madhouse," says Firla, about his character. "I mean he's the villain, but we tread that line because he can't be unlikeable. I thought of him as a mix of Basil Fawlty and Groucho Marx, with a little bit of Mel Gibson in there, you know, for the insanity."

Filming for the season ended a few weeks ago and it's obvious that he enjoyed his run on the series.

"It's kind of a special show. There's nothing like it out there. I think this show probably represents Canada better than any other show out there, because of the issues of diversity, racially and religiously."

Because of his character, he says he purposely didn't look up too much information on Islam, but he did pick up some knowledge.

"I did find one really great quote from the Qur'an. It's `He deserves paradise who makes his companion laugh.' I kind of like that one, considering the comedy angle."

Despite his role as the new bad guy on the show, Mosque fans should enjoy his addition, no matter what team he preaches for.

Diddy Reveals Details Behind Interscope

Source: www.allhiphop.com -
By Tai Saint Louis and Nolan Strong

(September 29, 2009) After almost five years as part of the Warner Music Group, Sean 'Diddy' Combs has relocated his Bad Boy Records imprint to Interscope Geffen A&M, Combs told AllHipHop.com Tuesday afternoon (September 29).
 
The first release to come from the joint venture will be Diddy's experimental forthcoming album, Last Train to Paris.
 
Under the new partnership, all of Diddy's future releases will be distributed via Interscope Records, as will albums by any future artists to join the Bad Boy roster.
 
All artists currently signed to Bad Boy Records will still continue to release projects through WMG.
 
“I had started some previous business relationships with Jimmy Iovine,” Sean “Diddy” Combs told AllHipHop.com. “We had a great chemistry with each other. When I sat down with Julie [Greenwald, Atlantic COO] and told them that I had an interest to go sign with Jimmy and they didn’t make it rough for me. Lyor [Cohen, WMG Chairman] and Julie were nice enough to let me get my [Bad Boy] name. I was able to take the name over to Interscope and to still in stay in business with them. I am not abandoning any of my artists over there, I still have that imprint. But all my future recordings, including my recording contract that will be at Interscope Records.”
 
According to Combs, the new Bad Boy label with Interscope will operate like a small boutique label, with an emphasis on signing unique talent.
 
“We are going to take our time with the amount of acts that we sign,” Combs stated, adding that the label will cater to “superstars.”
 
“We want to find those very unique artists. We want to build something very special that’s not already out there,” Combs told AllHipHop.com exclusively.  
 
Since being purchased by Warner in 2005, Bad Boy has released projects from a new generation of pop, R&B and Hip-Hop acts, including B5, Gorilla Zoe, Yung Joc and Making the Band alums Danity Kane, Donnie Klang and Day 26.
 
"Puff is a rare person in the music industry today, that can move the culture in many areas - fashion, TV, music - as well as making records," commented IGA Chairman Jimmy Iovine. "Whenever a free agent like him comes along, which is rare, you grab him."
 
“I was at a point where I felt like I needed a fresh start. I felt like A-Rod going to the Yankees,” Combs said of his decision to move on. 
 
Combs' upcoming Interscope debut Last Train to Paris comes three years after his fifth studio album, Press Play, which is certified platinum.
 
Last Train to Paris, which Combs has described as "electro-hip-hop-soul funk," will follow the rapper/entrepreneur along a fictional European tour.
 
Along the way, he pursues the woman of his dreams, losing her twice before finding their happily ever after.
 
“It’s Hip-Hop and it has a lot of different ingredients going into it. As soon as people heard the word 'electro,' they automatically assumed it was electro-heavy. It’s not electro-heavy, it’s a musical gumbo of the different sounds I’ve experienced throughout my travels and through producing.
 
Diddy and Dirty Money's new single, titled "Love Come Down" is set to be serviced to radio stations nationwide.

It's Official – Diddy Leaves Warner Music

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 28, 2009) *After a five-year run, Sean "Diddy" Combs confirmed to Billboard that he is exiting his exclusive deal with Warner Music Group/Atlantic Records at the end of September.   A new, not yet officially announced deal is in place, according to his spokeswoman.   The joint venture with Warner Music Group for the current roster and catalogue of Combs' Bad Boy label will remain in place.   "Now that the term of the Warner deal has ended, I have elected to accept an opportunity to move my recording career and future label venture to another company," Combs said in a statement.   Combs' spokeswoman would not confirm which label he will be partnering with, though reports have said a deal is in place for his next album, "Last Train to Paris," to be released by Interscope Records.   The one album Diddy released through the WMG agreement, 2006's "Press Play," has sold 703,000 units to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Hip-Hop Deejay Turns Smooth-As-Butter Swooner

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

(September 27, 2009) When he talks, he sounds just like your average hip-hop head from Detroit (well, Ann Arbor).

When he sings,
Mayer Hawthorne sounds like he's channelling Curtis Mayfield or Smokey Robinson.

The 29-year-old is riding the kind of buzz that can't be bought, and if you've heard his debut, A Strange Arrangement, it's understandable why.

This latest neo-soul barrage is hard not to like. It is a silky, smooth-as-butter collection of songs most men would be smart to have in their collection to woo their favourite lady. Released a few weeks ago, Hawthorne's now touring North America with his band, the County. They stop at the Drake tonight for a sold-out show.

Hawthorne, born Drew Cohen, has been a deejay and in hip-hop bands for years. Then two songs ended up in the hands of Stones Throw label head Peanut Butter Wolf, igniting a foray into neo-soul that even surprised him.

"I was an all-hip-hop guy. I mean, I've always listened to all kinds of music, but I've spent the last decade practically trying to break through into the music industry as a hip-hop deejay and producer. And this Mayer Hawthorne thing was really just a side project for fun, and it just sort of exploded accidentally," he says during a tour stop in Denver.

"I never even intended for the Hawthorne stuff to be released to the public. It was really just something I did in my bedroom for fun, just something for my close friends and family and myself."

When his label boss first heard the tracks, he thought the songs were vintage tracks of an unknown soul group. Hawthorne had to convince him he had made them. Making what many consider black music means a lot of listeners have been surprised when they met him.

"Absolutely, everyone is shocked. I haven't met a person yet who has not been surprised after they see a photo of me after hearing my songs," Hawthorne says. "But you know, again, that lets me know that I'm getting it right."

He admits things that have been a whirlwind in the past year, and what's amazing – beyond the fact that he sings, produces, arranges and plays almost all the instruments on the album – is that he only started singing this past year. The songs on the album sound like the work of a practiced veteran.

"I really had no singing background. I was never into the school or church choir, I never really sang much in any of the bands that I was in. I was always the bass player or the drummer or the deejay, kind of in the background. Singing is a very new thing for me, and something that I'm still learning," he says.

He wanted to recreate that classic soul Motown feel but "it was really important to me that I updated and put my own hip-hop spin on it. "It was important to me that new kids listening to it didn't feel like it's their parents' music, that it felt like something new that belonged to them."

The result is rappers like Ghostface Killah and Snoop Dogg are approaching him to possibly sing the hook on tracks, as he works on new hip-hop music and a new wave album, with producer 14 KT. But after the long slog, he's just happy to share his music with the world.

"One of the really incredible things about this project is the range of demographic in the audience at these shows. It's unbelievable, I'm getting high school kids, hip-hop heads, indie-rock kids and grandparents. That, to me, tells me that I did a decent job at nailing at what I was going for."

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Social Climbing In Capri

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

(September 25, 2009) CAPRI, Italy–Sunshine bathes the terrace at Villa Jovis, a Roman villa built for the Emperor Tiberius more than 2,000 years ago on the isle of Capri.

A lone cloud mars an otherwise faultless blue sky, hovering theatrically like a whiff of smoke above Mount Vesuvius, which towers over the mainland Amalfi Coast.

Considering all the huffing and puffing we had to do to reach this impressive maze of crumbling walls and archways, I wonder if there's not a nimbus of steaming perspiration rising from my sizzling flesh, as well.

Capri's pulse-raising potential is immediately apparent to passengers aboard the ferry from Naples as it approaches the port of Marina Grande.

Wedged atop a rocky bluff, above the marina's narrow strip of trinket shops and pizzerias, perches the town of Capri – a relatively compact labyrinth of exclusive boutiques and sidewalk cafés populated by beautiful people who have elevated sweater-draping to an art form.

Visitors can surmount the slope on foot, but most opt for the funicular, which deposits travellers just below a gracious terrace where bougainvillea-draped columns frame views of stucco houses tumbling toward the coast.

White sails gleam like giant shark fins slicing the surreal teal water, but more menacing still are the formidable cliffs to the west, scarred by a faint zigzag stripe known as the Phoenician Steps.

Until the 1870s, these centuries-old stairs provided the only access between Marina Grande and Capri town's more relaxed little sister, Anacapri, where shops are more likely to stock authentic local wares than the latest runway fashions.

These days, a narrow, winding road skirts the cliff face to connect Anacapri with Capri, providing an adrenaline rush of its own, particularly if riding one of the public buses at night, when the world is enshrouded in inky blackness, save for the marina lights twinkling far, far below.

As we round a particularly harrowing bend one evening, even a jaded-looking local is moved to make the sign of the cross, though she coolly attempts to disguise the gesture as a hair toss.

Perhaps the Phoenician Steps aren't such a bad alternative after all, we reason – at least when attempted in broad daylight (and headed down, rather than up). So we find ourselves at the top of this daunting and seemingly endless staircase, with the colourful fishing boats of Marina Grande bobbing 200 metres below.

Lizards scamper with enviable ease between the big stone steps, rustling among dried leaves and disappearing into weeds, but our thighs and lungs are soon burning.

Toward the bottom, as the steps level out into an alleyway leading into town, we encounter a British couple, already red-faced and panting as they begin the ascent.

"How far to the top?" the wife asks plaintively.

"Did you bring a lunch?" I reply.

Her husband – clearly the instigator of this little adventure – stares daggers at me as I urgently attempt to blink a Morse-code message to the wife: "Forget what Nike says! Just DON'T do it!"

But hubby, undeterred, sweeps her along, and if they made it, they must have experienced a sense of satisfaction at least equal to our own.

If we could survive these sadistic steps, then surely we had bested the biggest challenge that "Stairmaster Island" (as my husband nicknames Capri) could boast.

At least, that's what we think until we undertake the Sentiero dei Fortini, a rocky path linking the ruins of several Napoleonic-era forts along Capri's wave-lashed west coast.

We begin with lunch at Add O'Riccio, a friendly little restaurant overlooking the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), a cave renowned for reflecting the ethereal blue light of the sea.

We hoped to take a boat tour of the cave, but the water is too choppy, so after sharing a hearty plate of cheese ravioli and a supersized Caprese salad ("Grande, like me," jokes our diminutive waiter), we set off toward the fort course, a couple of hundred metres down the road.

Minutes after descending a short flight of steps to the dirt trail, we're rewarded with a glimpse of Orrico, the most impressive, in my opinion, of the three forts along the way.

This orderly stone semicircle seems to have grown out of the jagged precipice upon which it presides, like neatly ordered molecules forming spontaneously from natural chaos.

Though the fort is open to the sky, intriguing features like a brick fireplace remain.

Continuing onwards, we pass through a cool forest, where pine needles deaden the sound of our steps.

Soon thereafter, we're evicted into a grey moonscape, clambering over rocks, in and out of gullies, and past blue-fingered fjords and caves that pluck at the eroding limestone.

Painted ceramic plaques beside the path illustrate the flora and fauna that hikers might encounter along the way, such as the rather unimaginatively named "wall lizard," the Western whip snake ("not poisonous, but prone to bite").

Thankfully, we live to hike another day, choosing a trek to the Arco Naturale – a massive natural stone arch on the east coast – as our grand finale.

It's possible to reach the arch via a relatively short walk from Capri town along the Via Matermania. But we're seduced by the more scenic, albeit longer and more arduous, Via Pizzolungo, which flirts with the southeast coast.

This undulating route proffers fantastic views of the Faraglioni – an array of thrusting pinnacles just offshore – and winds past the Grotta di Matermania.

After a final ascent and a jog past the strategically placed Le Grottelle restaurant, we descend one last staircase to view the arch itself.

Rough and unpolished, it shines golden in the sun, offering a keyhole view of the aquamarine sea.

As the grey skies that had beleaguered us begin to clear, a rainbow forms just beyond the arch–a celestial confirmation that we're gazing at one of Capri's greatest treasures, a priceless view on an island of big bucks and bling.

Amy Laughinghouse is a London, England-based freelance writer.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Maxwell's Rusty Pipes Take The Shine Off Lively Show

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

(September 27, 2009) Maxwell owes us one.

Among the 5,000 plus who turned out to the R&B singer's show at the Air Canada Centre Friday night were doubtless many who would've been irreparably inconvenienced had he cancelled because of the croaking he repeatedly apologized for, but the rest would've preferred a make-up date than to suffer through his ravaged falsetto.

It was the Brooklyn native's first return to the arena's theatre configuration since 2001 when newcomer Alicia Keys opened for him. He delivered a thrilling Massey Hall set last fall on the comeback trail after a seven-year sabbatical to "be a regular person."

Fans lustily greeted Maxwell's return, sending his fourth disc, BLACKsummers' night, to the top of Billboard's chart earlier this year.

The ACC stage was warmed up by adequate and fiery sets from songstress Chrisette Michele and rapper Common, respectively.

A recording of local emcee Drake's "Successful" gave way to video images of water across four giant screens, before the dashing singer stepped forward, GQ sharp in white shirt and black suit.

[Note from Dawn:
Believe me, this recording is accurate - it's not the quality of the video. Maxwell was completely overtaken by his large band   as badass as they were – Maxwell’s hoarse voice could not carry over it.]



On the first few tunes from his hits catalogue – "Sumthin' Sumthin'," "Get To Know Ya," "Lifetime" – it seemed as if technical problems were to blame for the 36-year-old singer's usually robust, buttery pipes being overwhelmed by the rocking 10-piece band.

But the problem was apparent as soon as Maxwell spoke.

"I'm a little hoarse tonight, because I got too excited," said the performer, who spent the last two weeks in Toronto rehearsing for this kickoff of his month-long North American fall tour.

"I didn't think I'd make it onstage, but I couldn't cancel."

Coulda, shoulda, dude.

The crowd was understanding and generous with the neo-soul crooner who was exciting to watch. No complex choreography, just intense, fluid movement befitting the organic bent of his music. There were a few nice touches in the production – the musicians and backup vocalist moved around the stage and the stage action was displayed in black and white on the video screens, rendering a classic vibe – but the trap doors Maxwell popped up out of a couple times seemed a bit gimmicky, especially given the appeal for no photographs.

The best of Maxwell evokes the sensuality of Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke, but he's given to raw R. Kelly moments, evidenced by comments like: "If you're not wearing any panties, let me hear you say ho," which yielded lots of affirmative cheering but seemed like overkill given the sophisticated sexiness of his lyrics.

He included many new songs on the set list, including "Cold," "Fistful of Tears," "Help Somebody" and "Stop the World," as well as a cover of Al Green's "Simply Beautiful," and made a valiant attempt on what should've been a showstopper "This Woman's Work," but the notes were beyond his reach.

The show was fine, as Maxwell's ardent fans and handlers likely reassured him afterward, but it should've been fantastic. After all, a subpar performance doesn't net attendees a rebate on tickets priced up to $150.


Concert Review: Maxwell

Source:  By Jane Stevenson - Sun Media

(September 26, 2009) TORONTO - One thought kept running through my head as I watched neo-soul singer Maxwell struggle through the launch of his North American tour on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre Theatre.

What a difference a year makes.

After putting on one of the best shows of the year in Toronto last October at Massey Hall, Maxwell returned to kick off his first-ever North American arena tour in the ACC's theatre setup and never looked totally comfortable in the larger setting despite rehearsing in Toronto for the last two weeks.

To be fair, there are almost always technical and production problems at every first show of a major tour so hopefully as Maxwell's trek continues he will iron out some of the kinks.

But there's not much you can do, other than cancel, if you lose your voice.

It was clear there were vocal problems early in the show, as Maxwell's talented ten-piece band, including a three-man horn section, drowned out his voice during his opening older songs, Sumthin' Sumthin', Get To Know Ya and Lifetime.

Later the Brooklyn-born singer, who often fidgeted with his earphones, explained his voice was hoarse and he had almost cancelled the show.

Never was the problem more apparent than during what is normally one of his live show's biggest highlights, a cover of Kate Bush's This Woman's Work, which found an eager female fan snuggle up beside him on stage before she was escorted off.

"I'm pretty hoarse tonight," said Maxwell, after he struggled through the song. "I didn't think I was going to be on this stage. But I didn't want to cancel."

Also problematic was Maxwell's stage setup with a y-shaped catwalk that brought the sexy, good looking singer closer to his adoring female fans, who he often hi-fived when they weren't hurling underwear at him, but it never really seemed to suit his fluid dance moves.

Instead, it seemed disjointed rather than complimentary.

And when he popped up and then disappeared from three different areas on the catwalk during the course of one song, it was comical instead of impressive.

Think David Copperfield and you're getting close.

The show actually began promisingly with a large video screen displaying water imagery as the handsome, and sharply dressed Maxwell emerged into the spotlight to huge applause and screams from his besotted fans.

But as the evening progressed, Maxwell's bedroom-suitable stage banter seemed beneath a man who has been called a modern-day Marvin Gaye.

It took the singer a good 45-minutes to find his groove, ironically warming up during the new song, Cold, from his first album in eight years, BLACKsummers'night, the first instalment in a trilogy of records with the next two scheduled to be released in 2010 and 2011.

Later, as his show came to a close, another new song, Pretty Wings, found white feathers floating throughout the air, and the older encore song, Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder), finally seemed to hit the mark, but by that point, it seemed a little too late for a rally.

Dissecting Glenn Gould

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

(September 26, 2009) "Which 50-year-old musical celebrity destroyed himself with pills?" University of Toronto philosophy professor Mark Kingwell asks, rhetorically. "Michael Jackson ..." He pauses for a moment, "... and Glenn Gould."

Both spent years at the top of their respective bestseller charts. Both have sold more records – and inspired more myth and speculation – after their deaths.

Tomorrow marks the day, 27 years ago, when Toronto pianist Gould suffered a massive stroke. He died seven days later, kick-starting a virtual Gould cult of devoted listeners, musicians and academics around the world.

But have we really figured out who this eccentric, reclusive man really was? Do we really know what it is about his 1955 recording of J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations that continues to mesmerize us?

Shortly after Gould died, Toronto composer Alexina Louie wrote a piece for string orchestra called O Magnum Mysterium (O, Great Mystery). The words are biblical, but the mystery was – and remains – about Gould himself.

Now, Mark Kingwell has joined the ranks of the seekers of truth. Yesterday, his new opus, Glenn Gould, joined Penguin Books' Extraordinary Canadians catalogue.

In an elegant feat of rhetorical and analytical skill, Kingwell uses philosophical and cultural observations to turn the tables on the Gould enigma. The author shows us how to confront and dissect our fascination so that we can better appreciate our broader relationship with music, genius and our culture.

In conversation at University of Toronto's Trinity College, Kingwell reveals how, like thousands of listeners before and after, he was stopped in his tracks when he first heard Gould's recording of the Goldberg Variations.

His favourite of the Gould albums is a recording of pieces by William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons that predate the piano by nearly three centuries. It's part of a diverse collection of classical and pop that he plays to first-year philosophy students before and after each lecture.

"I wanted to make a virtue of necessity," he says of the Gould project – which could hold true for his teaching methods as well. "We are surrounded by music, but, most of the time, it's wallpaper. I wanted to bring music into the foreground."

It's an act that does not involve a chronological account of an artist's life. Kingwell, wanting to describe the jumble of chance and circumstance that shapes people's lives, talks dismissively of "the fiction of biography" and "the lie of the biographical narrative" to explain why each of the book's 21 chapters deals with a different topic.

Each of these subjects is as much – if not more – about broader issues as it is about Gould the man, the artist, the prophet and the oddball recluse.

Kingwell, like a tourist inside our Western world view, explores the nature of time, memory, architecture, silence, existence and the nature of progress. He addresses Canada's self-identity as the North alongside Gould's obsessive love of solitude and wintry landscapes.

Gould lurks in these pages, but more as a sort of muse than central character. In the end, it's our ideas of Gould that are at play here, reflecting the way the myths we build so often become larger than the original subject.

Despite his discomfort with how easily we toss around the word "genius" these days, Kingwell can't escape the topic here. He writes: "Gould's genius was interpretive, but it is no less creative and groundbreaking for that, especially in the aesthetic realm of music, which can live only in performance. His influence is inescapable; no performer after him can avoid the example he sets, an example derived from his original interventions and the arguments surrounding them. Now, everyone must perform through him; he can be emulated or rejected, but he cannot be ignored."

In organizing the book, Kingwell was inspired by the 21 takes Gould needed in 1955 to nail the opening "Aria," the haunting theme that sets the Goldberg Variations into motion. The pianist felt that, with each play-through, he was stripping a small layer of something inessential, of himself, from the music, to arrive at the pure core of Bach's intentions.

In approaching Gould and our idea of Gould from a broadly learned perspective, Kingwell hopes to approach the essence of the pianist's broader significance to our country, culture and history.

Writing about memory, and Gould's prodigious ability to remember everything he set his eyes on, Kingwell writes: "Memory is not the vast aviary imagined in Plato's Theaetetus, a storehouse of flitting birds we try, with limited success, to catch in hand. Memory, like mind more generally, is the embodiment of a person negotiating the world. Creating a world, indeed; and finding out, in so doing, who else is listening."

In the end, Kingwell is not sure he has found the essence of Gould. But that's fine with him, because he sought more to question than to answer.

As we follow the unfinished, inconclusive story of this extraordinary Canadian, the world is likely to keep listening – and wondering – for a long time to come.

Mark Kingwell will speak about his Glenn Gould book at Harbourfront Centre's Studio Theatre on Thursday at 7 p.m. Tickets: $6 ($4 for members) at 416-973-4000

Acoustic Reunion For Jazz Greats

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

(September 28, 2009) Three quarters of '70s jazz-rock fusion group Return to Forever – pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White – showed off their acoustic chops with a sizzling show at the Royal Conservatory of Music's new Koerner Hall.

The American jazz stalwarts' last performance together here was on the 2007 RTF 30-year reunion tour with guitarist Al Di Meola, a well-received electric outing at the Sony Centre. That project seems to have ended badly with Di Meola grousing publicly about Corea's behind-the-scenes leadership.

But there were no bad vibes Saturday night. In fact, this trio's camaraderie nearly upstaged the high-calibre, swinging jazz they executed.

Corea, 68, set the tone immediately, removing the piano cover with an "I don't need this” quip and buffing the side of the instrument with a towel before playing a note.

The sold-out crowd would have much more to chuckle about throughout the 90-minute set: Corea theatrically fussing with sheet music, limbering up and changing his eyeglasses; all three whispering, trading hand signals and high fives, or urging each other on with mock competiveness.

Jokes aside, Corea, who kicked off and dominated most of the songs, proved a sensitive, cerebral improviser with a classical bent.

Clarke, 58, was at the physical and emotional centre of the group: situated between the other two, his deep, rumbling sound was a counterpoint to Corea's light, relaxed touch. It was mesmerizing to watch his tender bowing, and the ease and speed with which he slapped out percussion on both the wood and strings of his standup bass, racing with Miles Davis alum White, 59, who garnered only one significant solo. The adept drummer was such an also-ran during the show that Clarke's joking "We never tell him what we're going to play" seemed like fact.

This ensemble renders the excitement of pianist Keith Jarrett's longtime trio; hope there's an album in the works.

Toronto vocalist Sophie Milman opened the show with songs from her current disc, Take Love Easy, accompanied by a cracking quartet that included standout saxist Diego Rivera. The songstress dressed up the stage with her colourful, smoky pipes and green tropical print halter gown.

This was the second show of the venue's Grand Opening Festival, which continues through Oct. 17 with an eclectic line-up that includes bluesman Keb' Mo', sitar master Ravi Shankar and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade.

A few noticeable kinks: long line-ups to be seated; and Milman had to ask for the house lights to be turned down halfway through her set. Otherwise, the room's lovely, warm sound, high ceiling and 180-degree balconies make it a jazz-friendly listening room.

Corea called it "a cool new place. It goes up instead of too far back."

Lyfe Jennings: New Disc Coming ‘Sooner’

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

(September 28, 2009) “I have three children and they're at an age where they really need me there. I just can’t be on the road seven, eight months of the year. They need me in their life right now.”

*Platinum-selling singer/songwriter
Lyfe Jennings is prepping for his new album “Sooner or Later” with every intention of retiring sooner rather than later.

After a very successful run on “Showtime In Harlem" (The Apollo) and the sale of thousands of self-produced EPs, Jennings dropped his major label debut "Lyfe 268-192” in 2004. The disc enjoyed great success and led to three more discs, including the new “Sooner.”

However, the five-year stint has bumped the artist to young veteran status and he has decided to retire.

“This is my last album,” Jennings told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “I have three children and they're at an age where they really need me there. I just can’t be on the road seven, eight months of the year. They need me in their life right now."

Jennings said that the move is certainly a good and perhaps even easy sacrifice for time with his children, ages 4, 2, and 9-months. He also admitted that a part of the motivation to spend some time at home came from the time that he had to spend with them last year after an incident with his children’s mother.

“With that situation that happened last year, the way it just forced me to be at home a lot and spending time around [my children] and getting to see them day-to-day; their growth cycle mentally and physically, that kind of made the decision easier for me than if I had been out on the road.”

In October 2008, Jennings was arrested in Smyrna, Georgia, on a Sunday night after police said he fired a gun in the air and attempted to evade arrest by leading them on a high-speed car chase.  It all started when the singer went looking for the mother of his children at another man’s home. He was booked on misdemeanour charges of criminal trespass, discharging a firearm near a public highway and refusal to take a DUI test, as well as two felony counts of attempting to elude and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

“People were fearful of booking me for shows; concerned with whether I was going to show up or not,” he said of how his life slowed down. “So I got the chance to be around my kids day-to-day and I thought it was the right time to be a full part of thief life. God works in mysterious ways. If the situation had never happened, I would’ve still been out on the road – a lot.”

In addition to preparing the new disc, Jennings said that he is also preparing for his retirement – of sorts.

“I’m trying to make good financial decisions and open up businesses and try and supplement the income,” he said. “But when I say this is my last album, I’m not saying I’m not going to do music again. I’m going to continue to tour, but I’m not going to tour in connection with an album so therefore I won’t be touring as much. I’m on my own label and I plan on doing other things with the label. Everything will work out.”

The new disc will feature the single “Haters,” which recently got some radio spins and underground love right now.

“My (now former) label didn’t even really want me to put that song out,” he said of the track. “My fans are more used to me doing conscious music, but I just really wanted to address it because I had never spoke on it and there were just so many different things about it on the news. I just wanted to address it and I did it and that’s it, and now we’re moving on.”

Jennings explained that “Haters” was actually just a street single that ended up getting a lot of action on its own and so will now be on the upcoming disc.

“It’s not like we made a big push at radio,” he said of the song. “It turned into something on its own. It’s fine for what it was used for, but the next single will be more of what people are accustomed to from Lyfe Jennings.”

He explained that “Haters” is not quite his style; that he had to get some things off his chest in response to tabloid talk about the October 2008 incident.

“When I write songs, I have themes to them. It’s not just me venting,” he said. “That song is more just me venting [about’ mostly tabloids & blogs]. The other songs are something that you get something from.”

The new disc could come out before the year’s end, though Jennings said he is leaning toward a January release date.

“I’m trying some different stuff. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised.”

For more on the new disc, look for EUR’s part 2. In the meantime, visit Lyfe Jennings official website at www.lyfeonline.com for more on the artist.

She Ain't Heavy, She's Our Singer

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Goddard,
Staff Reporter

(September 26, 2009) Just as desperation proved inspirational for Abbey Road – the last album recorded by The Beatles – a tribute concert tonight and tomorrow promises to make the most of a third-choice performer.

Creative making-do on Abbey Road is legendary: photographer Iain Macmillan turned an allotted 10-minute photo shoot into his famous crosswalk cover; Paul McCartney and producer George Martin patched together snippets of unfinished songs into the suite that anchors side two; and "Her Majesty," originally cut from the record, resurfaced as its charming finale.

In the same spirit this weekend, Art of Time Ensemble artistic director Andrew Burashko is to pluck a relatively obscure act from the Cameron House on Queen St. W. to perform the pivotal, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

"The singer who was supposed to do it dropped out," he says of first-choice Martin Tielli, formerly of the Rheostatics.

"The next person I called was Serena Ryder (2008 best new artist Juno winner) but she was busy," he says. "Her manager suggested
Alejandra Ribera.

"I decided to take a chance and got exactly what I was hoping for – someone with a real edge for that song."

Burashko leads the Art of Time Ensemble, a 13-piece classical orchestra that stages concerts with pop singers. To salute Abbey Road's release 40 years ago today, the ensemble performs at Harbourfront Centre's Enwave Theatre tonight and tomorrow with such stars as former Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page, Our Lady Peace singer Raine Maida, former Skydiggers leader Andy Maize and soloist Sarah Slean.

The only unknown is Ribera.

"I never listened to pop music, even as a teenager," she confessed with amusement last week after a Cameron House show. "I remember going to my mom and saying, `Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is not to be able to sing along with The Beatles?'"

At 26, Ribera comes across as worldly and sophisticated in a long, black dress with a scooped neckline.

Born in Toronto to an Argentine father and Scottish-born mother – "Julio Iglesias meets Ethel Merman," she calls them – she sang in the High Park Girls' Choir and studied viola and violin.

After high school, she enrolled in York University's vocal jazz program but quit after four days when a psychic friend suggested she study with a witch doctor in Slovakia.

Other travels followed. Constantly on the move, taking odd jobs and losing her centre, she had the underside of her right wrist tattooed with "escuchame," Spanish for "listen to me."

"I was trying to remind myself to listen to my body," she says, although people interpret the tattoo now as "listen to me sing."

Last November, she began her Tuesday-night residency at the Cameron House with a talented quartet on drums, double bass, trumpet and piano.

After a summer break, they returned Sept. 1, performing cabaret-style shows that include the occasional Spanish-language classic and Ribera's compositions mixing jazz, pop and other elements.

"Someone once said to me, `You sound like a gramophone – you have this weird crackly old-school sound,'" Ribera says. "I was completely unaware I was taking my voice on a journey that people thought was bizarre ...

"People say listening to me is like listening to four different singers," she also says. "There are so many distinct sounds coming out."

Mostly, "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" calls for energy and passion. Ribera offers both in abundance.

Alejandra Ribera appears in "The Art of Time Ensemble Presents Abbey Road," tonight and tomorrow at 8p.m., at the Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre. Coincidently, Massey Hall is mounting a note-for-note tribute tonight only, "Classic Albums Live Presents Abbey Road," also starting at 8p.m.

Streisand, As You Haven't Heard Her In Decades

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

4 Stars
Love Is the Answer
Barbra Streisand
Columbia

(September 27, 2009) Think Barbra Streisand, and the term “jazz singer” is not the first thing that comes to mind. Or the second. Or the 23rd.

Having made her name on Broadway, in the roles of Miss Marmelstein and Fanny Brice, the material on her early recordings tended toward the theatrical, as befit a diva in training. But before she made that big splash, Streisand's nightclub act typically found her performing with a jazz quartet, and that's the sound she returns to on Love Is the Answer .

Coupled with a one-time only appearance over the weekend at the Village Vanguard, a New York jazz spot Streisand last played in 1961, Love Is the Answer is being billed as the singer's jazz album. Produced by Canadian jazz star Diana Krall, the basic tracks were largely recorded with Krall's trio plus several guest pianists, including Alan Broadbent and Bill Charlap.

Still, to call this a jazz album is misleading. Just as her approach to show tunes was worlds away from the full-throated declamation of Ethel Merman, her jazz style has little in common with the hard-swinging, improvisatory style of Ella Fitzgerald.

A better reference point would be with the moodily dramatic recordings Frank Sinatra made in the fifties with arrangers such as Nelson Riddle. There, as here, the emphasis wasn't on swing so much as reshaping the songs into something unique and distinctly personal.

As if trying to provoke comparison, Streisand's second track is In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning , which Sinatra made into a classic of longing and lost. But where his performance functions as an urbane blues, her take presents the song as a sonic short story, so that instead of raw emotion, she provides a sense of place, time and character.

Streisand's greatest strength as a singer has always been her ability to reshape a melodic phrase for maximum impact verbally, and she's in peak form here. But instead of making the music seem more theatrical, what marks Streisand's phrasing on these recordings is her sense of rhythmic play. She'll bunch one set of lyrics together in a rush ahead of the rhythm, then languorously draw out another as if she couldn't bear to keep up the tempo, and while that sometimes plays up the drama of the lyrics (as on If You Go Away ), it more often adds to our understanding of the tune's melodic logic, particularly on Make Someone Happy and her breathtaking rendition of Here's That Rainy Day .

Johnny Mandel's lush, evocative orchestrations greatly enhance the music, but they're not essential to the performances. Indeed, there were times – for instance, Where Do You Start ? – when I preferred the unorchestrated quartet versions included on the two-CD deluxe edition. But whether you take your Streisand string-soaked or stripped down, Love Is the Answer is a revelation.

Hip-Hop/Gospel Artist Faithful Releases New CD On Living Water Records

Source:
www.eurweb.com - By Eunice Moseley

(September 24, 2009) *Amazing producer Quran Rankin (Christina Aguilera, Donnie McClurkin) puts the magic touch on the sophomore project of Hip-Hop/Gospel artist Nicole “Faithful” Franklin titled “Taking it Back. The CD is released on Living Water Records (distributed by Thank You Entertainment//Fontana/Universal). It offers twelve hot Contemporary Gospel selections that are of a Praise and Worship nature.

 “I wrote all the lyrics,” Faithful said. The rapper, spoken word artist and film director also pointed out that producer Quran was “an amazing producer, he plays everything.”

“Me and Quran is like a team…98% Lord inspired,” Faithful stated.

Once you listen to the album you will see why Faithful and I refer to his skills as “amazing.” After you get over the shock of the music you are sucked into the talents of Faithful as she raps (a flow reminiscent to me of an Mc Lyte/DaBrat combination), uses spoken word and arrangement of the background vocals of Dennis Clark, Sherrie, Bryan Clark and Sharon Youngblood.

In the entertainment business Faithful is known as Nicole Franklin the film director and choreographer. She served under the tutelage of film director F. Gary Gray and Paul Hunter. As choreographer Faithful worked on such programs as Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, The David Letterman Show and The European MTV Awards. She also worked on the projects of Whitney Houston, LL Cool J, Mary Mary, and Snoop Dogg. Her debut CD was released on the Streetlife/Scotti Bros imprint.

I love the vocals of Dennis Clark on the “He’s Coming” selection; I am amazed at the violin driven track and the great harmony on “Without You;” Faithful’s spoken word talents shine through on the previously mentioned song and “The Greatest;” I love the hard Hip-Hop on the title track “Taking it Back,” and the Rock feel, with the piano driven intro on “You Are” is refreshing.

Stop by and meet Nicole “Faithful” Franklin Sunday, October 18th at the Uplifting Minds II entertainment conference’s national talent competition showcase at the Los Angeles Convention Center (West Hall-Theater) from 5 – 7 p.m., admission is free. Log onto www.NicoleFaithfulFranklin.com or www.myspace.com/nicolefaithfulfranklin to hear or learn more on Faithful.

Wanted: Closet Singers, Ice Shavers

Source: 
www.thestar.com - Sarah Barmak, Special To The Star

(September 26, 2009) Take heed, Nuit Blanche artists: if you want to build a 10-by-16-foot LiteBrite out of discarded water bottles, you're going to need a little help from your friends.

The same goes if you're constructing a Ferris wheel capable of carrying several two-gallon blocks of frozen coffee, then shaving the ice into caffeinated snow-cones for passersby. Or recruiting an amateur avant-garde choir to sing in a downtown shopping centre.

In this year's Nuit Blanche – taking place a week from tonight – volunteers are set to play key roles: building installations and art, performing, and donating studio space.

Alita Gonzalez, 35, was turned down by Nuit Blanche organizers for an official grant for her "Nite Lite" project, but was invited to apply to the all-night art festival as an independent exhibitor. At a previous Nuit Blanche, she worked on a project with artist and author Bruce Mau. This time around, she decided to take two months off her design and advertising job to construct her masterpiece: a giant light installation, inspired by the LiteBrite toy, made of 40 LED lights and 1,600 discarded plastic water bottles painted different colours.

As she set to work, offers to help came pouring in. "I recruited friends to collect the water bottles," she says. "Then I got people to strip them with turpentine, empty them, throw away the caps. I have a carpentry set designer building the 10-by-16-by-five-foot frame for me. I've had 10 to 15 people come through, carrying bottles, sorting through them. I've had studio space subsidized by friends at Queen West and Dufferin ... I couldn't do this without (volunteers)."

The giant screen, which will be in Trinity Bellwoods Park, will display different designs as the night goes on. The bottles will be reused as lanterns and chandeliers afterwards, Gonzalez says. The project is meant to draw attention to the environmental effects of plastic waste. "Some people who helped said they felt like they were part of something bigger," she says. "This isn't by any means fun work: stripping off bottles with turpentine, bathing bottles in soapy water, discarding the labels."

Craig Black, a friend of Gonzalez, contributed around 1,000 plastic bottles himself, collected from a film set he works on. With his background in lighting and film, Black also connected Gonzalez with a lighting company, PRG, which donated the LED lights. He says he helped out as a friend, and because he believes in Gonzalez's work and wanted to be a part of it.

"I do think she's a great artist," he says.

Gonzalez joins many other exhibitors who are moving beyond artwork that is merely interactive, relying on members of the public to construct it, assemble it – even perform it.

Conductor Christine Duncan is hoping to recruit singers for her "Sonic Fun House" exhibit, an orchestral work with an improvisational vocal performance, all sung by volunteers, at the Atrium shopping complex at Bay St. and Dundas St. W. The exhibit will be a large-scale version of the volunteer-based experimental vocal group The Element Choir, which she leads year-round. Performers aren't expected to have prior musical training – just a latent musical streak and the ability to memorize a few hand cues.

"Anyone can join it, that's the great thing," explains Jonny Dovercourt, artistic director of the Music Gallery and a regular singer in the choir. "A lot of people don't realize they're musicians, and then they find out that they are. You don't have to worry about instrumental prowess or virtuosity. It's a good way of unlocking musical instincts, which I think everyone has."

Volunteers are encouraged to go to a rehearsal for the night, scheduled for Sept. 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Edward Day Gallery (952 Queen St. W.).

Other exhibits are receiving help from unlikely sources.

Toronto performance artist Brandon Vickerd's Nuit Blanche project, a choreographed dance performed by two highrise construction cranes aptly titled "Dance of the Cranes," is a collaborative effort between him and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 793, who work the cranes.

Then there's "Battle Royal," a performance piece by New York artist Shaun El C. Leonardo that will pit 20 Canadian pro wrestlers against one another inside a 17-foot steel cage located in the Toronto Coach Terminal.

Television hosts Nobu Adilman, Micah Donovan and Christopher Martin are hoping to attract volunteers to their Nuit Blanche project, which will see them serving coffee snow cones shaved from frozen blocks of java rotating on a wooden Ferris wheel in U of T's Hart House quad. The whole area is set to be transformed into a multimedia installation, titled "Drop Out," featuring multiple artists and curated by Blackwood Gallery.

Donovan explains that the trio regularly gets offers of help for their experimental cooking show, Food Jammers, which sees them making soup inside bathtubs and airbrushed cars out of cake.

The trio will be constructing their mutant coffee-snow-cone Ferris wheel in the quad the day before Nuit Blanche, and they'll need help putting it together. "We couldn't do it without volunteer help," Donovan says. (To inquire about helping, contact the Food Jammers at dudes@foodjammers.com.)

Nuit Blanche takes place on Oct. 3

from 6:55 p.m. to sunrise.

Info: scotiabanknuitblanche.ca

Ornette Coleman Won't Be Touring Much Longer. Missed him? Too bad

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

(September 26, 2009) What can it mean that a pre-eminent jazz player drew barely half a house (just over 1,000 people) to Massey Hall?

The economy hasn't had that kind of effect on A-list headliners in other genres; and $69.50 to $89.50 is not an unreasonable ticket for a pioneer like
Ornette Coleman.

Can't blame underexposure; he's been awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy and the Pulitzer Prize since his last visit in 2005; and this year marks the 50th anniversary of his seminal recording The Shape of Jazz to Come and revolutionary piano-less gigs at New York's Five Spot club.

And at 79, the New York-based Texas native doesn't have that many tours ahead of him.

As disappointing as the turnout, was seeing only half of the half get to their feet when the icon hit the stage last night.

Clad in a shiny brown suit and green shirt, slender, soft-spoken Coleman spoke only at the beginning and end of a 90-minute show, to introduce a song and the band.

His accompanists were electric bassist Al MacDowell, Tony Falanga on acoustic bass and drummer son Denardo Coleman.

Alternating on alto sax, trumpet and violin, the leader made good on the abstraction and odd time signatures expected from one heralded for popularizing avante-garde jazz.

Given Coleman's free-wheeling rep, it was surprising how short and structured the songs were. His quartet got in about a dozen tunes – twice as many as peers like Wayne Shorter and Sonny Rollins do in the same time.

But it provided good measure of the compositions and approach of Coleman, who appeared to be reading music throughout.

He's fond of start-stop precision, call and response, definitive beginnings and endings and infusing elements of funk, bluegrass and Latin.

There were no separate solos, but occasionally a musician stood out – particularly Falanga's bowing.

Coleman, more creative on violin than the horns this time around, didn't impress with stamina or his high squawking pitch. His appeal, as always, was in delivering the unexpected. Too bad fewer and fewer people here seem to care.

Rebecca Caine: Our Heroine Comes Home

Source:  www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(September 26, 2009) You never forget your first love.

That's why Toronto audiences will be thrilled to get the opportunity to hear
Rebecca Caine sing tomorrow night as part of the first ticketed concert at the Telus Centre's 150-seat Conservatory Theatre.

It was 20 years ago when Caine captured the heart of this city with her performance as Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera, and although there have been numerous other mega-musical heroines who've made a dent in this town's affections since then, no one evokes quite the lingeringly romantic impression that Caine still does.

Absence also makes the heart grow fonder, and it's been 10 years since she last appeared here with the Canadian Opera Company in The Golden Ass. Before that, her other smash COC appearances in Lulu and The Cunning Little Vixen proved that she was no mere flash in the chandelier.

"It's funny how Toronto has been important to me at so many different points in my life," muses Caine over an egg-salad sandwich scoffed down between rehearsals for Raising Caine, which is what she calls her Sunday night offering.

She was born not far from where we're having lunch, at Toronto General Hospital, since her Australian-born father was teaching at the University of Toronto at the time.

"Dad was a statistician who finally wound up in the math department at Princeton ... and Mum's father had taught at Cambridge. I come from smart people. God knows what happened to me!"

But she knew early on that academia wouldn't be her destiny.

"I knew I wanted to be a singer from the moment my parents took me to the Metropolitan Opera when I was 6. It was Turandot with Birgit Nilsson, Franco Correlli and Mirella Freni. That settled it for me! From then on I always sang, shrieking around the house fearlessly."

By her high school years, they were living in Baltimore and Caine recalls playing Marian the Librarian in a student production of The Music Man that also featured a teenaged Bebe Neuwirth as Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn.

"I'll never forget that. The power of the leading lady. I had been a spotty, pizza-faced child until that moment, but now I was the high school musical queen."

Unfortunately, it wasn't all happily ever after. Caine's parents broke up, although they were later to reconcile, and the 17-year-old diva went to England with her mother.

"I went into the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, much too early. ... It was grim. Everyone patronized me because I was North American. So we came to a mutual parting of the ways and I was out the door at 19.

"So I started working. I got a job with a little opera company and it was heaven. Then that summer, my singing teacher sent me in to audition for Cameron Mackintosh and the revival of Oklahoma! he was doing. I froze with shock, but I got the leading role of Laurey."

This was only the beginning of Caine's lengthy professional relationship with Mackintosh. "Then he put me into the tour of My Fair Lady he was sending out, as Eliza. Everyone was a hundred million years older than me! We finally wound up in Toronto at the Royal Alex in 1982. I left it all feeling a bit bruised. Too much, too soon."

Caine healed her wounds by stepping back into an operetta ensemble, did musicals in repertory and finally found herself at Glyndebourne in the chorus of a Trevor Nunn production of Idomeneo.

"I was only one of the dancing girls, so I didn't think anyone noticed me, but one day before lunch, Trevor put his hand on my shoulder and said `My dear, I'd like you to be in a musical.'"

Nunn wanted her to play Cosette in his production of Les Misérables, which was already in rehearsals for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican Theatre.

"When I showed up," recalls Caine, "the gloom was so thick you could spread it on toast. One of my chums said `It's absolute crap, darling, we'll be off by Christmas.'"

But after they opened on Oct. 8, 1985, the public made it a giant hit and Caine now sadly admits that "I was too young to appreciate it. I didn't know how lucky I was. Hits like that only come along once in a lifetime."

Well, twice actually, although Caine's first involvement with The Phantom of the Opera wasn't happy.

"I was picked to be the swing opposite Sarah Brightman, but it never really worked. I realize now that Andrew (Lloyd Webber) wanted whoever alternated with Sarah (then his wife) to be good, but not too good. I was out before I should have been and that was very sad."

She didn't have very long to be depressed, however, because a phone call soon came across the Atlantic from a man she had never heard of named Garth Drabinsky.

He was producing The Phantom of the Opera in a lavish old theatre he was restoring for the occasion, and he wanted her to play Christine opposite the performer who had been her leading man in Les Misérables, Colm Wilkinson.

Like everyone else connected with the show, Caine still finds the memories of its Sept. 20, 1989, opening to be incredibly powerful.

"I was so terrified. As I walked to the theatre on opening night, I remember watching the guys selling Shopsy's hot dogs on the street and wishing I could be one of them.

"But then the curtain went up and it was the kind of magical night you dream of all your life. I'm so proud of what we all did."

And now she's back, even if it's only for one night. But being in Toronto is proving to be incredibly emotional for her.

"It means so many things to me, both good and bad. My father died while I was performing here, I had the biggest success of my career here, it's the town of my birth.

"In some ways, I feel I'm not really Canadian, but you know what? It's the only passport I've got ..."

Ruben Studdard Shows More 'Love' On New Single

Source: Andy Silva; asilva@shorefire.com; Nancie S. Martin, nsmartin@shorefire.com;  Shore Fire Media

(September 29, 2009) *R&B stalwart Ruben Studdard follows a successful summer of live, TV and radio appearances with the release of "Don't Make 'Em Like U No More," the second single from his current album 'Love Is' (on Hickory Records/ 19 Recordings).

The song has been described as a "sleek and soulful R&B ode to everyone's special someone" and has been creating excitement at radio stations across the country.

With its charming chorus ("They don't make 'em like U no more"), the romantic song fits perfectly with the grand theme of 'Love IS' - an album Entertainment Weekly called a "mix of crafty originals and sturdy covers" featuring tracks that give "Ne-Yo a run for his dance-pop money." "Don't Make 'Em Like U No More" hits Urban AC radio September 29.

Listen to "Don't Make 'Em Like U No More" ( via audio stream):
Windows Media Stream: http://bit.ly/DontMake_Windows Real Player Stream: http://bit.ly/DontMake_RealPlayer

On October 21st, Studdard will join Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind and Fire), Charice, Peter Cetera (Chicago) and Michael Johns on the David Foster And Friends Tour kicking off in Chicago, Illinois. The tour will include stops in New York, Boston, LA and Miami and is bound to draw both new and old fans to see Studdard, a.k.a. "the Velvet Teddy Bear," perform.

A special event on the tour mirrors Studdard's own rise to fame: a "Hit Man" Talent Search for emerging artists. Two finalists will perform during the final concert in Vancouver.  For more about the search and tour, visit: http://bit.ly/HitManTalent

Fans can keep up with Ruben at his brand new site RubenStuddard.com, which is updated regularly with official news, tour dates, audio/video, discography, and more: http://www.rubenstuddard.com/

Ruben Studdard Tour Dates With David Foster And Friends:

Oct. 21-   Chicago, IL Rosemont Theatre
Oct. 23-   New York, NY  WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden
Oct. 24-   Newark, NJ Prudential Center
Oct. 25-   Boston, MA Agganis Arena
Oct. 28-   Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre
Oct. 30-   Tampa, FL   St. Pete Times Forum
Nov. 1-    Hollywood, FL    Hard Rock Live
Nov. 5-    Los Angeles, CAGibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk
Nov. 6-    San Jose, CAHP Pavilion
Nov. 8-    Vancouver, BC    General Motors Place

Ruben Studdard Online: http://www.rubenstuddard.com/http://www.myspace.com/rubenstuddard / http://www.imeem.com/rubenstuddard

Barbadians Get A Taste Of Seasoned Us Soul

Source:
www.eurweb.com - By Gerald Radford/Entertainment Journalist

(September 29, 2009)  *Forecasters warned of steamy hot temperatures on the Caribbean Island of Barbados last weekend, but it seems they weren't referring to just Mother Nature's handy work. 

They must have considered that US music legends and chart toppers -- along with some of the Caribbean region's hottest local performers -- were slated to descend upon the island to lend their talent to the inaugural instalment of
'The Ultimate Soul Weekend,' organized by Timeless Barbados Inc.

 Over the course of three nights and in the Islands most notable venue, Sir Garfield Sobers Stadium, the islanders - whom seem to have an enormous appreciation for American music - and those of us whom traveled from abroad were treated to the powerhouse roster of Stephanie Mills, Peabo Bryson, Jeffrey Osbourne, Deborah Cox, En Vogue, and CeCe Winans (Regina Belle was originally slated to perform, but was recovering from a minor ear surgery); the stage blazed white hot for three straight nights. 

 There is much to be said of seasoned showmanship, which when coupled with the Barbadians enormous appreciation for America's contribution to R&B created the perfect storm; the energy brought out the best in the artists. 

 On Friday, Deborah Cox absolutely killed both vocally and with her effervescent stage presence (did we know she was so amazing live?!?!) and was later succeeded by En Vogue, whom not only blazed through all their chart toppers ('Hold On,' 'Free Your Mind,' 'Don't Let Go') but threw in a high-energy old school medley that turned the gymnasium into one big sing-along party. Saturday night belonged to balladeer Jeffrey Osborne, who had no problem engaging the audience with his timeless love songs ('Wings of Love,' 'Human,' 'True Believers'), even dipping into his LTD repertoire to bring them to their feet for a steamy island shindig, and Stephanie Mills, the small wonder with powerhouse vocals that will blow your hair back; she 'brought it' delivering everything from 'Put Your Body In It' to the show stopping 'Home.' I also must mention Mills being called to the stage during Cox's (Friday) set to perform an amazingly powerful -- and UNREHEARSED --  rendition of Michael Jackson's 'I'll Be There;' don't be surprised if you see these two ladies together somewhere in the near future. Closing out the festival on Sunday were Peabo Bryson ('Whole New World,' 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Can You Stop the Rain'), one of, if not THE most flawless and powerful male voices in R&B and the radiant and anointed CeCe Winans ('Alabaster Box,' 'More Than What I wanted,' 'Hallelujah Praise').  Both performers, though different in mission, complemented one another nicely, delivering awe-inspiring vocals and lyrics of substance. 

 As for the Barbadian performers, whom were interwoven throughout the American's sets each night, I'd say we may be sleeping on a good deal of cross-cultural entertainment.  I was extremely impressed by more than a few and have officially had my genre appreciation broadened to include Soca.  From the Fiery Soca Queen Alison Hinds ('Roll It Gal') to the stunningly talented (breezed through Patti's and Chaka's highest highs without a second thought) Ria Borman to the smouldering jazz diva (Rosemary Phillips), there were NO disappointments.  In fact, the organizers of the show are in the infancy stages of starting what will be called Gold Coast records on the island, which just may give us more access in the near future...be on the lookout for it.

 So, all this plus white sands, blue waters, and plenty of sunshine to boot...next year is a must do!  I also must plug, among a host of helping hands, Brian Springle (of Springle Entertainment), Ivy Taylor, and the beautiful Hilton Barbados for near perfect handling of the complicated logistics of hosting such prestigious performers and their guests.  Did it really have to end?

Click HERE for more information on the 'Ultimate Soul Weekend' and other Timeless Barbados Inc. events.

DJ AM's Death Ruled Accidental Drug Overdose

Source: www.thestar.com - Colleen Long,
Associated Press

(September 29, 2009) NEW YORK–DJ AM died accidentally from a lethal cocktail of prescription drugs and cocaine, the medical examiner's office ruled Tuesday.

The toxicology report showed the 36-year-old had in his system cocaine, OxyContin, Hydrocodone or Vicodin, ant anxiety drugs Xanax and Ativan, Klonopin which also controls anger, Benadryl, and Levamisole, a drug apparently used to cut cocaine.

The cause of death was acute intoxication due to the combined effects the drugs, the medical examiner's office said. The dosage of each drug was not released.

The celebrity, whose real name was Adam Goldstein, had openly discussed past addictions to crack cocaine, Ecstasy and other drugs.

He was found Aug. 28 in his apartment in New York City's trendy SoHo neighbourhood after a friend called 911. Paramedics had to break down the door before they found him, shirtless and wearing sweat pants, in his bed around 5:20 p.m.

Six pills were found in his stomach and a pill in his throat when he was found dead in his apartment. The pill in his throat appeared to be OxyContin. A crack pipe and prescription pill bottles were discovered there.

In October, MTV was to debut his reality show, Gone Too Far, in which he and concerned families staged interventions for drug abusers. MTV hasn't said whether Goldstein's show will air.

Goldstein was critically hurt in a plane crash last September in Columbia, S.C., that killed four people. He was flying in a Learjet after a performance with Travis Barker, a drummer for the pop-punk band Blink-182 and Goldstein's partner in the duo TRVSDJ-AM.

Barker and Goldstein were burned. Goldstein had to get skin graft surgery but resumed performing about a month later.

Goldstein was known for his mashups – blends of at least two songs. He performed in clubs, on concert stages and at exclusive Hollywood parties. He was famous in part for his personal life – he dated actress-singer Mandy Moore and reality TV star Nicole Richie.

Nicki Richards Introduces 'Nicki'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(September 30, 2009) "Bring the Love," spreads a message of cultural, religious, racial tolerance. A subject that
Richards has broached on more than one occasion, but she told of one particular experience that sparked the concept for the song.

"I had to serve jury duty," she began, "and the line went straight down the middle of the table and it got pretty heated. People who were different, racially to be exact, got heated and that was the beginning of that song. That was the day I had the idea for that song."

*Nicki Richards is a singer, songwriter, and arranger who has worked with some of the absolute biggest names in pop music.

She's sung alongside the likes of Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Madonna as a touring singer.

As a matter of fact, fresh off tour with Madge in particular, Richards has released and is promoting her new disc "Nicki" with 17 tracks for the 17 years she's been away since her debut disc in 1991. "It's great," Richards said of her gigs with the pop maven. "It's crazy pop music with crazy fans; 95,000 people sometimes. She's a hard worker. I'm learning so much from her. She's the consummate business woman. She's very disciplined. I've learned how to break the rules sometimes from her."

 "I'm lucky," she continued. "I've worked with some amazing folks. I take something from each one of them. From all the great divas that I've been able to work with, there are some things that they're great at and I take a little bit of that from everyone. I learn from the best."

Richards called Madonna one of the most influential artists in shaping her own singing career.

"Madonna is just a master at multi-tasking and raising the bar so high. She works harder than all the 20 year olds around her," she said. "And Mariah's a hard worker, too. I've worked with her for four years. So, with my own career, there are no excuses. If I feel tired, I think, 'Well, these ladies that I work with, they might be tired, but they keep it going.' And that kicks me in the behind to do more"

With the influence of some very powerful music stars, developing her own unique style could have been a difficult task, but Richards said that she's been able to create a sound all her own and described to EUR's Lee Bailey the artist fans would encounter at a Nicki Richards gig.

"You'd see a person that not only has written, arranged, produced and does playing and singing on stage and dancing a little bit, too, they'll see someone who is creative and honours tradition and then breaks all the rules at the same time," she described.

"I have great respect for people that have come before me, but I'm blessed enough to have a fresh take on things," she clarified. "And I channel what comes through me and it changes things. I take risks with that musically and you'll hear that and you'll see that."

As an example, the singer described the track "Lawdy" from her new album. She said that the song has traditional Southern soul undertones.

"I reach back to my roots in New Orleans, my roots in Georgia, Alabama and Florida. I take some of the traditional beats and ideas from that. You'll hear a little New Orleans second line groove for a moment and then I bring it to now. I bring the feeling of what's happening now to it and on top of that, I get political and talk about what's happening. It just all comes together."

The song, written during the aftermath of Katrina, is one of many that Richards said was written from an emotional place of political tones.

"It's my emotional reaction to what I see. I try not to be afraid of addressing issues," she said of incorporating social messages in her lyrics. "It's not important for me to get into a debate about it, I just want to be honest about my feelings are about it."

Right now, Richards is writing a new album that she said would likely include political commentary of current issues.

"There's going to be reactions to all the things happening now with President Obama. I would probably take the stance of 'Hang in there. Rome wasn't built in a day.' It would be directed at the audience. I think he needs our patience and support," she said. "I have feelings about it. It wouldn't be the strangest thing for it to end up in a song."

 "It's not so much that I'm trying to take a stance in politics," she continued. "I'm just a confessional writer. I just write about what's around me; something that happened to me yesterday or something going on in the world."

Another song on the disc, "Bring the Love," spreads a message of cultural, religious, racial tolerance. A subject that Richards has broached on more than one occasion, but she told of one particular experience that sparked the concept for the song.

"I had to serve jury duty," she began, "and the line went straight down the middle of the table and it got pretty heated. People who were different, racially to be exact, got heated and that was the beginning of that song. That was the day I had the idea for that song."

 Richards explained that this jury experience on a case of an accused African American just a year ago brought to light, as it had been times before, some blatant racial prejudices.

"Because of what [the accused] looked like and how he spoke on the stand, what happened in the jury room, there were some white gentlemen who jumped to a very quick decision without having all the information," she remembered. "People will take a look at you and they've already made up their mind who you are. It was interesting, but at the end of the day, there wasn't enough evidence to convict him."

 She said that once the issue popped up, it welled up and she agonized about it. One morning soon after the not-guilty verdict, Richards woke up, struck with inspiration.

"I ran to my keyboard to bang the idea out. It happened pretty quickly," she said.

 Another track on the new disc, 'Things Are Different,' Richards said pretty much captures the tone of the disc.

 "That's pretty much the theme of the album."

 Richards even considered having the song be the title track, but decided on "Nicki" instead.

 "I just went for the easy option," she said.

 For the latest on Nicki Richards, check out her official website at www.nickirichards.com.

MUSIC TIDBITS

CD Pick of the Week: Mariah Carey

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry


Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel
(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(out of 4)

(September 29, 2009) The title of
Mariah Carey's 12th album portends an unrealized complexity. With no high-profile guests, little vocal gymnastics and use of the same producers – Christopher "Tricky" Stewart and Terius "The Dream" Nash – throughout, this is as fuss-free an album the native New Yorker has made in her 19-year recording career.  It's not completely without cheese: there's an unnecessary gospel choir on the Foreigner cover "I Want to Know What Love Is" and equally unnecessary dashes of Auto-Tune here and there.  The weightiness shows up in the romantic drama that's explored throughout; worthy enough for Barbara Walters, Oprah Winfrey, Maury Povich and the "Harvard University graduating class of 2010," all of whom Carey namechecks.  The lyrics she co-writes are a mixed bag: impressive on "Angels Cry" the disc's most mature and fulfilling tune – "We treated love like a sport/The final blow hit so hard/I'm still on the ground" – but, mostly of the inane – "It's not chipped/We're not cracked/Oh, we're shattered" ("Up Out My Face") – variety.  Vocally, she's doing a lot of the breathless, cooing Janet Jackson thing. She dedicates the wordless minute-long "Angel (The Prelude)" to her whistle-like highest octave, as if to show that she can still hit it, but chooses not to.  With fewer danceworthy beats than recent discs and the monotonous song-to-song similarity, this winds up being a tepid, R&B lite effort that falls short of Carey's claim that "I'm the same Mimi/Butterfly flow like Muhammad Ali" ("Candy Bling"). Top Track: "The Impossible" is a midtempo romp with a fun-filled "My Favourites Things" comparison of what she loves as much as her mate: bubble baths on the jet, Duncan Hines yellow cake, free money, etc.

Big-Name Buskers Raise Money For War Child Canada

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(September 29, 2009) Toronto — “I'll take pennies, nickels, dimes or thousands,” says the sidewalk chanteuse. “Don't go so fast,” she shouts out, mid-verse, to a man in a rush. “Give a little bit of change.”  Her fans are crazy for her, and now Chantal Kreviazuk wants all the loonies she can get. Yesterday in downtown Toronto, some 50 recording artists – Sass Jordan, popster Shiloh and hard rockers ill Scarlett included – busked for War Child Canada, a charity for kids in battle zones. Latte-slurping passersby opened purses and dug into pockets at the charming but insistent behest of Kreviazuk, the keyboard-playing Winnipeg native who inserted ad lib lyrics about her initiative to raise $30,000 for a Darfur youth centre as she presented, with aplomb, her affecting piano ballads.  This is the second year for the Busking for Change program, originally inspired by Kreviazuk's husband Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace. Kreviazuk sees the initiative as a simple act of sharing. “We're already living a life of excess,” she says. “It's a state of mind – it's about calling yourself out and stepping up.”

Radiohead Frontman Forms New Band

Source: www.thestar.com - John Sakamoto,
Toronto Star

(September 29, 2009) Thom Yorke has formed a new group and is taking it on the road – this weekend. "In the past couple of weeks I've been getting a band together for fun to play the Eraser stuff live and the new songs, etc. to see if it could work!" he announced Tuesday on Radiohead.com, referring to his 2006 solo album and a pair of songs ("Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses" and "The Hollow Earth") he released under his own name this month. "It's me, Joey Waronker, Mauro Refosco, Flea and Nigel Godrich." Flea, of course, is the bassist from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Waronker is best known as the drummer for Beck, Godrich is Radiohead's long-time producer, and Refosco is a percussionist/multi-instrumentalist who has recorded with the likes of David Byrne and They Might Be Giants. The band will make its live debut Sunday, Oct. 4 at the venerable Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. They'll also play the following night. "We don't really have a name and the set will not be very long cuz ... well ... we haven't got that much material yet!" Yorke writes. The Orpheum seats about 2,000 people. Tickets to Yorke's shows, on sale Tuesday afternoon, are $47 (U.S.) each, with a limit of two per person.

::FILM NEWS::

Inspirational Bio-Pic Chronicles LeBron James’ Formative Years

Source:  Kam Williams

Most people only know
LeBron James as a basketball phenom who went straight from high school to the NBA, where this year he was named the youngest MVP in the history of the league. However, few are aware of how challenging a childhood he had to overcome en route to the pros, being raised by a single-mom who had a hard time just keeping a roof over their heads.

In fact, Lebron moved about a dozen times between the ages of 5 and 8, living in some of the worst projects around Akron, Ohio. Fortunately, his chronically-unemployed mother Gloria had the good sense to let her son stay with his coach’s family until she was able to provide him with a stable home situation.

LeBron ended up forming what would prove to be lifelong bonds during his formative years, first while playing in an AAU league and later while attending St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. For over that period, he had the same teammates: Dru Joyce III, Romeo Travis, Willie McGee and Sian Cotton. Consequently, as LeBron reminisces, “It was basketball, but it was more like friendship than anything.”

Furthermore, they were coached by Dru’s father, a practical role model who impressed upon them from the outset that basketball was “more than a game,” to help them see it was a vehicle to be used “to get from Point A to Point B.” LeBron and company took that message to heart, cultivating not only character, individually, but a chemistry and cohesiveness, collectively, which would stand the test of time.

Yes, that tight-knit squad enjoyed unparalleled success on the court, including the national championship title, but this moving documentary focuses as much on their achievements away from the sport to drive home more important points about the value of loyalty, persistence and integrity in overcoming any adversity. Although LeBron was obviously the star of the team, the picture devotes equal time to all the members, each of whom had his own cross to bear. Along the way, we learn that Willie was raised by his big brother, because both of his parents were drug addicts; that diminutive Dru had a short kid’s complex; that Romeo had anger management issues; and that Gentle Giant Sian struggled to outgrow his clumsiness.

More Than a Game marks the auspicious directorial debut of Kristopher Belman, who was afforded unusual access to the Fab Five for seven years, from junior high through their high school graduation. The footage he shot of LeBron back then proves priceless now, as it is an absolute treat for an avid NBA fan to be able to watch the gifted man-child’s potential gradually materialize right before your very eyes. Nonetheless, More Than a Game remains, at heart, an inspirational bio-pic about the transcendent magic of friendship forged in pursuit of hoop dreams.

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG for mild epithets and smoking.
Running time: 105 minutes
Studio: Lions Gate Films

To order a copy of LeBron’s autobiography, Shooting Stars, visit HERE.

To see a trailer for More Than a Game, visit HERE.

Swiss Police Arrest Polanski

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Bradley S. Klapper and Ernst E. Abegg, The Associated Press

(September 26, 2009) Zurich —Director Roman Polanski was arrested by Swiss police for possible extradition to the United States for having sex in 1977 with a 13-year-old girl, authorities said Sunday.

Polanski was flying in to receive an honorary award at the Zurich Film Festival when he was apprehended Saturday at the airport, the Swiss Justice Ministry said in a statement. It said U.S. authorities have sought the arrest of the 76-year-old around the world since 2005.

“There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming,” ministry spokesman Guido Balmer told The Associated Press. “That's why he was taken into custody.”

Balmer said the U.S. would now be given time to make a formal extradition request.

Polanski fled the U.S. in 1978, a year after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with the underage girl.

The director of such classic films as “Chinatown” and “Rosemary's Baby” has asked a U.S. appeals court in California to overturn a judges' refusal to throw out his case. He claims misconduct by the now-deceased judge who had arranged a plea bargain and then reneged on it.

The Swiss statement said Polanski was officially in “provisional detention for extradition,” but added that he would not be transferred to U.S. authorities until all proceedings are completed. Polanski can contest his detention and any extradition decision in the Swiss courts, it said.

Polanski has faced a U.S. arrest request since 1978 and has lived for the past three decades in France, where his career has continued to flourish. He received a directing Oscar in absentia for the 2002 movie “The Pianist.” He was not extradited from France because his crime reportedly was not covered under the U.S.'s treaties with the country.

In France, Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand said he was “dumbfounded” by Polanski's arrest, adding that he “strongly regrets that a new ordeal is being inflicted on someone who has already experienced so many of them.”

Mitterrand's ministry said Sunday in a statement that he is in contact with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, “who is following the case with great attention and shares the minister's hope that the situation can be quickly resolved.”

A native of France who was taken to Poland by his parents, Polanski escaped Krakow's Jewish ghetto as a child and lived off the charity of strangers. His mother died at the Auschwitz Nazi death camp.

He worked his way into filmmaking in Poland, gaining an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film in 1964 for his “Knife in the Water.” Offered entry to Hollywood, he directed the classic “Rosemary's Baby” in 1968.

But his life was shattered again in 1969 when his wife, actress Sharon Tate, and four other people were gruesomely murdered by followers of Charles Manson. She was eight months pregnant.

He went on to make another American classic, “Chinatown,” released in 1974.

In 1977, he was accused of raping the teenager while photographing her during a modeling session. The girl said Polanski plied her with champagne and part of a Quaalude pill at Jack Nicholson's house while the actor was away. She said that, despite her protests, he performed oral sex, intercourse and sodomy on her.

Polanski was allowed to plead guilty to one of six charges, unlawful sexual intercourse, and was sent to prison for 42 days of evaluation.

Lawyers agreed that would be his full sentence, but the judge tried to renege on the plea bargain. Aware the judge would sentence him to more prison time and require his voluntary deportation, Polanski fled to France.

The victim, Samantha Geimer, who long ago identified herself publicly, has joined in Polanski's bid for dismissal, saying she wants the case to be over. She sued Polanski and reached an undisclosed settlement.

Festival organizers said Polanski's detention had caused “shock and dismay,” but that they would go ahead with Sunday's planned retrospective of the director's work.

The Swiss Directors Association sharply criticized authorities for what it deemed “not only a grotesque farce of justice, but also an immense cultural scandal.”

Naturi Naughton: The 'Fame' Interview With Kam Williams

Source:  Kam Williams

(September 30, 2009) *Fresh on the heels of her steamy screen debut earlier this year in Notorious as Lil’ Kim,
Naturi Naughton is back with Fame, a remake of the 1980 Academy Award-winner for Best Score and Best Song.

Now, the New Jersey native is enjoying a starring role showcasing an array of her considerable talents, including solo performances of a couple of hits from the original, the title track “Fame” as well as “Out Here on My Own.”

Fans of 3LW (ala 3 Little Women) will remember the curvaceous cutie as a founder of that popular singing sensation. Since then, Naturi has studied Political Science at Seton Hall University and has appeared as Little Inez in the Broadway production of Hairspray.

Here’s she reflects on being a member of the ensemble of Fame, a music-driven drama revolving around the aspirations of students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts. 

Kam Williams: Hi, Naturi, thanks for another interview.

Naturi Naughton: Thank you.

KW: What interested you in doing Fame?

NN: You know what’s so great about Fame is that it’s one of those classic re-inventions, one of those movies everybody wants to see come to life because it’s about young people fighting and striving for their dreams. Plus, I’ve been there. I was a young person who had a dream and wanted to be successful, and that’s kinda what Fame is all about. So, I think I was just attracted to the struggle and the realness of the story.

KW: You play Denise, but I don’t remember there being a Denise in the original.

NN: She’s similar to Coco, but not really the same personality, because we revamped the characters and changed some of the main storyline. However, I do feel very honoured that I get to sing some of the original songs first done by Irene Cara. It was really exciting to bring those classics back to life in a new way. Even though I’m not playing exactly the same character, I feel like I’ve had a chance to recreate Coco in a fresh way.  

KW: You’ve met with tremendous success as both a singer and an actress. Which is your preference?

NN: I’ll always love singing no matter what, but I’m very attracted to acting because it gives me a chance to show my range and to transform into a totally different character.

KW: What was it like working alongside veteran actors like Kelsey Grammer, Charles S. Dutton, Debbie Allen and Bebe Neuwirth? 

NN: I loved the fact that I got to work with so many well-respected actors. It was both an honour and a learning experience watching how smoothly they do their job. I also learned from the other young people in the cast, and we really supported each other. But the veterans truly inspired me to believe that if they can have a long career, I can have a long career. So, it was great!  

KW: And how was director Kevin Tancharoen? After all, this is his directorial debut.

NN: He had this wonderful vision, yet he was very open-minded, letting us all innovate and kinda create our characters. It was great having a young director, because he didn’t shut our opinions out. He wanted our input to make sure that it was a team effort, which made it fun. I loved that!

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

NN: I wish they would ask me about what I was like growing up or what kind of student I was in high school and college, because most people don’t know that I was actually very, very focused on my academics, and that I am a big advocate of that. I think a lot of people don’t realize that I’m not just an entertainer, but an entertainer who loves Political Science. 

KW: What is your favourite meal to cook?

NN: I don’t have the time to do much cooking, but I do the best that I can in the kitchen. I like making fried chicken and mashed potatoes, but I would like to learn to cook some new dishes.

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

NN: Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, a great book.

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

NN: My parents, Ezra and Brenda, because of the way they raised and supported me. Even though we didn’t have a lot when I was coming up, they still made sure I had the same opportunities as everybody else.  

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

NN: When I look inside myself, I see a passionate, young, woman who really is beautiful and deserving of her success because she’s so hardworking.

KW: The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?

NN: I have to think that over, because I’ve been through some tough times… I think I usually rely on my faith. I started out singing in church. So, I go back to my roots, and believe that God will give me the strength to get through those tough times. Also, I lean on my family and other people who are a part of my life for advice and encouragement. 

KW: I see you that the next movie you’ll be making is Lottery Ticket, a comedy where you’ll be starring opposite Ice Cube.

NN: I’m very excited about that film. It’s very funny and has a great moral. I’ve loved Ice Cube’s work for so long, and I know it’s going to be great to have the opportunity to work with him.

KW: What is the secret of your success?

NN: My faith in God for giving me the talent… my parents support … and my friends pushing me not to give up on my dreams. I don’t think I could do what I do, if I didn’t have all of these working together to make it happen. 

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

NN: I laugh every day, but I had a really good laugh with Asher Book who is also in Fame. He cracked me up with the great British accent he fooled everybody with while we were doing a promo tour for the movie in London.

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

NN: Well, right now, all I listen to all day long on my iPod is Miss Whitney. Whitney Houston was my inspiration growing up. “I Look to You“ is an absolutely amazing CD. I’ve listened to it every day since it came out. I’m very happy and proud and glad that she’s back, because I grew up wanting to be the next Whitney Houston. From the time I was six years-old, I used to sing her songs at every event, wedding and talent show.

KW: What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

NN: It probably would be going through the break up of my girl group [3LW]. Dealing with the entertainment business in general is pretty hard, just jumping over those hurdles and trying to stay alive in the industry.

KW: What would you say is the message of Fame?

NN: To work extremely hard for your dream. You cannot expect to achieve success overnight. It’s not easy and all about the glamour.

KW: Can you still go the mall or the movie theatre like a normal person?

NN: Sure, but I get spotted all the time. Fans come up to me and ask to take a picture, but it’s never anything threatening. They’ve been so supportive. I’ve been getting nothing but love everywhere I go. It’s all good. 

KW: Thanks again, Naturi, and best of luck with Fame and your upcoming projects.

NN: Thank you.

To see a trailer for Fame, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke5ohHKxYl8

FILM TIDBITS

Mr. T. On The New 'A-Team'

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 28, 2009) *Mr. T, currently in movie theatres as a voice in "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," gives his blessing for the man who will play B.A. Baracus in the new film version of his 80s V series "The A-Team."   "Quentin (Rampage) Jackson, I'm a fan of his. He's the UFC fighting champion. As one tough man to another, I respect him," Mr. T told the New York Daily News.    The TV personality says he has no bitter feelings about being left out of the film version.   "I'm not mad at Quentin Jackson and I'm not mad at ['A-Team' creator] Steve Cannell," he said. "I like to think he's my friend, because back in '95 when he heard about me going through the chemotherapy for my cancer, he would call me constantly to check up on me. There's no hard feelings. I'm not mad about nothing. There's no I in A-team. ...   "I'm grateful that I had the time [on the show] back in the '80s. When the movie comes out, I'm going to go see it and I'm going to enjoy it."   Don't assume he's one of those former '80s stars desperate to claw his way back into the limelight.   "If I never make another dollar, if I never get on TV again, all I wanted to do was buy my mother a house and pretty dresses, and I told her I would be a good little boy. And I'm batting a thousand." 

Like A Disaster Movie, But For Real

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(September 29, 2009) MANILA–A popular Philippine actress cried out for help from a rooftop as a tropical storm roared and floodwaters rose menacingly. Then an actor emerged from nowhere on a speedboat and swept her to safety. A romantic scene from a movie? No, it was the real-life travails of young actress Cristine Reyes. Her rescue by movie and TV heartthrob Richard Gutierrez as Tropical Storm Ketsana raged across the Philippines. As the storm blew and set off the worst flooding in the capital in more than four decades, Reyes, 20, climbed to the roof of her two-storey house in hard-hit Marikina city on Saturday with her mother and two children. Marooned for hours, she made a frantic call for help to ABS-CBN TV network with her cellphone. "If the rains do not stop, the water will reach the roof. We do not know what to do. My mother doesn't know how to swim," she said. Gutierrez, 25, a close friend and Reyes' co-star in an upcoming movie, heard of her plight, borrowed an army speedboat and went to the rescue. Reaching Reyes' house, he struggled to tie the boat to a tree amid the churning waters, climbed into her house and eventually whisked her to safety. "I thought it was our ending but I did not lose hope," Reyes said. "Let us help those who have not yet been rescued." Thousands of people have been rescued by troops and civilian volunteers from rooftops and isolated villages.

Monsters Vs. Aliens

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

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

(September 29, 2009) Slipon your 3-D specs and dig the 1950s-ish angle of this animated comedy: monsters summoned to save the planet from a four-eyed alien nerd.  These monster mash-ups are all blasts from classic films. The best of them are Ginormica (Reese Witherspoon), a giantess just one inch shorter than the title freak of Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, and B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), a sapphire splodge evoking The Blob. The "aliens" are really just one midget who goes by the vainglorious handle Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson).  Co-directors Rob Letterman and Conrad Vernon packed everything but a tray of Rice Krispie squares into the tale (although there is a Jell-O mould), and it's clear the project was near to their geeky li'l hearts. It's almost too much love. But now that we've met these fun characters, let's hope for a sequel. Extras include four pairs of 3-D glasses, a commentary track, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes and a bonus cartoon about B.O.B.

::TV NEWS::

Dirty Dancing, Canadian Style

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo,
Toronto Star

(September 29, 2009) Kind of dirty.

That's how I'd sum up So You Think You Can Dance Canada so far this season.

Season 1, which saw contemporary dancer Nico Archambault voted Canada's favourite, was a tough act to follow. But Season 2 is holding its own, with the routines hitting harder week after week ... and dare I say, hotter.

In fact, it struck me last week, as I watched a girl slap another girl's booty in the group results show number and, the night before that, dancer Kim Gingras grab partner Emanuel Sandhu's crotch in a hip-hop routine, that we're naughtier here in the Great White North than our American counterparts.

We've had butt-grabbing, breast-brushing, grinding and shaking of very private parts in dancers' faces.

"You were asked to be sleazy and dirty and rough and raw, and you did it so well," guest judge Mia Michaels told Gingras after the hip-hop routine, choreographed by sometime judge Luther Brown (naughty boy). "If I was asked to grab the guy's crotch, I'd be like, `Oh God! Oh God!'"

The routine spurred guest judge Rex Harrington, who's gay, to say Gingras made him "question parts of myself," to hoots from the audience.

"I love that the Canadians are not afraid to push the envelope on So You Think You Can Dance," said guest judge Dan Karaty, an import from the U.S. show. "Every time I see the show here in Canada it gets sexier and sexier. I love it, love it."

Of course, in between all the sexy stuff, there's been some really good dancing. And here's where the competition gets hot and heavy, if you'll pardon the double entendre. The top 10 have been picked and now it's up to the viewers to decide who advances to the late October finale on CTV.

So, to borrow a phrase from guest judge Mary Murphy, the doyenne of the U.S. SYTYCD: "Hello hotties!"

CODY BONNELL
Hometown: Unionville
Age: 19
Style: Hip-Hop
Quote: "Holy smokes, little Cody, you just have this whole James Dean thing going on": Mary Murphy after Bonnell's krump routine.
JAYME RAE DAILEY
Hometown: Montreal
Age: 21
Style: Contemporary
Quote: "Martha Graham said dance is a hidden language of the soul. We saw your soul": Rex Harrington after Dailey's contemporary routine.
VINCENT DESJARDINS
Hometown: Trois-Rivières
Age: 20
Style: Ballroom
Quote: "Vincent, I just want to bite you because you are so precious and your talent is beyond amazing": Mia Michaels after Desjardins' jive.
AUSTIN DI IULIO
Hometown: Mississauga
Age: 19
Style: Contemporary
Quote: "I think you're a star, you really came out dominating everything and you have no idea about a waltz, you know, so it was magnificent to me": Mary Murphy after his smooth waltz routine.
AMY GARDNER
Hometown: Calgary
Age: 21
Style: Contemporary
Quote: "It will be a piece that is memorable for sure at the end of the season, I believe. It's gonna stand up; that's because the two of you danced it so well": Mary Murphy on Amy's contemporary number.
KIM GINGRAS
Hometown: Montreal
Age: 23
Style: Hip hop
Quote: "The fact that you held Emanuel, who's not only heavier than you, he's taller ... to keep him there while he does the splits? Awesome job, I haven't seen that on any stage yet": Tre Armstrong on theatre routine.
MELANIE MAH
Hometown: Richmond Hill
Age: 19
Style: Contemporary
Quote: "You are the cutest monster on the face of the planet and tonight you took a bite, literally, a bite on the top 10": Jean Marc Genereux on Mah's jazz routine.
TARA-JEAN POPOWICH
Hometown: Lethbridge
Age: 20
Style: Contemporary
Quote: "Tara Jean, that was like Shirley Temple and Ginger Rogers all combined": Rex Harrington on her theatre performance.
EMANUEL SANDHU
Hometown: Vancouver
Age: 28
Style: Contemporary/Ballet
Quote: "I absolutely am falling more in love with you every single show. Why? Because you're putting emotion behind everything you do and you're dancing it full out": Tre Armstrong on Sandhu's theatre routine.
EVERETT SMITH
Hometown: Glen Morris, Ont.
Age: 25
Style: Tap
Quote: "Everett, you remind me of a young Gene Kelly": Rex Harrington after his theatre performance, which included tap.

Dexter's A Daddy, Lithgow's A Baddie, But Deadly Secrets Remain

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

(September 26, 2009) SAN DIEGO, Calif.–Comic-Con is traditionally a place for revealing secrets. Genre creators from every medium use the annual fantasy fan-fest as a primary platform for select revelations of casting and production announcements, exclusive sneak-peek trailers, hidden DVD "Easter-eggs," video game previews and closely guarded TV plot lines.

The notable exception this year being
Dexter, the killer cable comedy returning for its fourth season tomorrow night.

One wonders why its resolutely close-mouthed creators and cast – series star Michael C. Hall, his TV wife Julie Benz, his real wife and TV sister Jennifer Carpenter, and the season's special guest villain, John Lithgow – even bothered to attend. Or, for that matter, about the appropriateness of a Dexter presence there at all, despite its serial-killing central character and even in light (or rather, dark) of the convention's hardcore gore contingent.

Dexter, though on occasion horrific, can't quite be classified as "horror." Neither is it quite comedy, or really all drama, or even their increasingly prevalent synthesis, "dramedy."

The closest I can come is "serial thriller" – and that's just for the opportunity to sneak in a bad pun.

It's not just me. For the four days of last July's convention, the host city of San Diego was plastered with punny Dexter propaganda.

From plastic Dexter carryalls to Dexter buttons, Dexter pedicab posters and Dexter billboards ... there was even a guy out in front of the convention centre offering demos of the new Dexter iPhone game (the mind boggles).

Much of the printed material depicted Dexter holding a pablum-spattered baby sporting a "My Dad is Killer" bib, or a "Cereal Spiller" onesie ... which can now be purchased at showtime.seenon.com, along with an assortment of Dexter T-shirts, bobble-heads, drink coasters, trading cards ...

In its three years on the air, here on The Movie Network, Dexter has become a pop-culture phenomenon, defying the apparent plot limitations of a sociopath protagonist with a day job as a Miami crime-scene investigator (where he has somehow avoided crossing paths with David Caruso).

Based on the novel, since sequelled thrice, by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter must have seemed an even more unlikely premise than the blood-spattered family saga of The Sopranos, or for that matter, the funereally funny Six Feet Under, from which sprang its star, the deceptively boyish Hall.

Not even Lindsay was sure it would work, and particularly not with Hall in the lead.

"When I heard who was cast ... I was not convinced," the author admitted. "Just because he even looks different on Six Feet Under. I don't know if you've noticed that. He looks totally different. And I wasn't convinced until I visited the set."

Once he got there, however, it was a different story.

"The first second of the first scene I saw him shooting, I went, `Oh, my God. That's Dexter!' I mean, he absolutely nailed it. I have a background as an actor and I tried to imagine how I would portray the character if I was acting it, and I didn't know until I saw Michael doing it. He's terrific. He really is. He's all an author could hope for."

Indeed, it is now impossible to imagine anyone else as Dexter Morgan, Hall having so indelibly embodied the uniquely, subtly multi-faceted role.

I can personally attest to this, having spent some time with him on set at the beginning of that first season, without him ever breaking character. It was ... uncomfortable.

That first season of Dexter was brilliant, deviating only slightly from the plot line of the book. The second, with its love-to-hate femme fatale Jaime Murray, quickly surpassed brilliant and shot straight to astonishing.

There was absolutely no way they could ever top that. But then along came Jimmy Smits, counter-cast as Dexter's confidante, and Season 3, if just a little less jaw-dropping, gave the thriving franchise yet another shot of adrenaline.

And now here we are at Season 4, about which I can tell you very little, though certainly more than those assembled back at Comic-Con were willing to divulge.

In tomorrow night's establishing episode, Dexter is settling into new fatherhood, determined to spare his son – significantly named Harrison, after Dexter's adoptive dad – the isolation and abandonment he endured as a child.

But the late-night feedings are taking their toll, and Dexter is falling asleep on the job. Jobs, actually, neither one of them particularly conducive to napping.

Season 2's guest good-guy, craggy Keith Carradine, returns to Miami on the trail of a fugitive foe – played by another guest star, John Lithgow – who long ago escaped unscathed.

"I play another serial killer," Lithgow allowed, carefully choosing his words. "They call him the Trinity Killer, since he kills in threes ..."

A glance over to his Dexter bosses, seeking their approval to continue. Which he apparently didn't get.

"And his first victim is ... High Commander Dick Solomon."

Lithgow's left-turn reference to his famously over-the-top sitcom character elicited a sigh of relief from his colleagues, and a good hearty laugh from the crowd.

"This character could not possibly be any more different," Lithgow laughed. "No one will ever be able to look at me and think of 3rd Rock from the Sun ever again."

One shudders to think of the effect it could have on his successful side-career as a bestselling children's author. Actually, one just shudders, period. Lithgow's early scenes in the season opener are some of the creepiest stuff you will ever see on TV – even on Dexter.

"I have a huge following among very tiny children," the actor wryly acknowledged.

"And I hope I'll bring them with me as regular viewers of the show."

He's kidding, right?

EUR Covers The Mo’nique Party At Sugar Bar

Source:
www.eurweb.com - By Audrey J. Bernard - Lifestyles/Society Editor

(September 29, 2009) Royalty Comes To Late Night TV With Majestic Debut Of Queen Of Comedy Mo’Nique’s New Talk Show Premiering On Monday, October 5, 2009 on BET; Celebratory Party In The Big Apple Hosted By Debra L. Lee, CEO, BET, And Legendary Husband And Wife Duo, Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, At Their Popular New York City Watering Hole, The Sugar Bar

 *The Queen of Comedy, Mo’Nique, is causing such a stir at water coolers nationwide.  First, she’s the centerpiece of the Lee Daniels-directed “Precious,” which won the coveted People’s Award at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival in Canada.

 Although there are many standout performances in the brilliantly directed drama, her portrayal of a malicious mother of an abused teenager is the most prominent one.  She gives a performance that’s no laughing matter and is already causing tremendous Oscar buzz.

 On the flip side, as one of the most loved female comedians and a revered role model for voluptuous women everywhere, she’s hosting her own late night show that premieres on Monday, October 5, 2009 at 11:00 p.m. on BET.

 The show boasts A-list celebrity guests and promises to be a non-stop fun-filled hour of unadulterated entertainment.  It's a late-night party that only the biggest Queen in the comedy game can deliver!

 In celebration of the majestic arrival of BET’s new Queen of Late Night TV, BET’s CEO Debra L. Lee, together with singers and nightclub owners Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson hosted a star-studded cocktail reception at Ashford & Simpson’s Sugar Bar in the heart of the beautiful Upper West Side on Thursday, September 17, 2009.

 The raunchy Queen of Comedy was in rare form at her party greeting guests with big hugs, posing for guest pictures and dancing and singing ‘til the wee hours of the dawn.  She is truly “every woman.”

 New Yorkers love Mo’Nique from her 3 year stint as the popular host of the legendary Showtime At The Apollo where she won the hearts of millions of viewers.

 The Mo’Nique Show will undoubtedly force viewers to push their bedtime an extra hour as each night promises to offer something different; whether the show opens with a funny monologue or eye-popping skit, Mo'Nique is determined to keep her show format fluid, leaving viewers curious as to what the following night's show will bring.  Stay tuned!  (Photos by Ronnie Wright)

Dark And Awesome Writing Just Part Of Glee's Success

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(September 30, 2009) You know when Batman starts singing, there just might be something to the musical renaissance we're experiencing on TV.

This past weekend, the latest and greatest caped crusader animated series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, featured a musical episode and it was awesome. Like its guest-starring villain, Neil Patrick Harris, the form has gone from being considered cheesy to one of the hottest things around.

Let's be clear: like most straight men, I don't often pick a musical as my first choice of how to spend precious free time. But there is no new show I look forward to as much as Glee (Wednesday night at 9 on Global and Fox). I can't believe how much I'm enjoying it. It's this year's breakout hit and deservedly so. We may live in a High School Musical (blech) world, but Glee's success is impressive.

TV musicals have had a mostly dismal history. So when Glee's pilot wowed folks earlier this year, I remained sceptical and had visions of Cop Rock. That '90s Steven Bochco series tried to marry the cop drama and musical theatre, only to flame out so miserably that it's considered one of the biggest television failures of all time, and that's saying something considering how much craptastic television has been made.

Even just two years ago, Viva Laughlin, the American version of a somewhat successful British series (Blackpool), was cancelled after two episodes. As The New York Times put it in its review: "Viva Laughlin on CBS may well be the worst new show of the season, but is it the worst show in the history of television?"

Glee has seen excellent ratings and was the first freshman series of this very young season to be picked up for a full 22-episode order. Here are five reasons why I think it's been successful.

1. The writing has been beyond dark, almost to the point of evil, and that is awesome. So far, the show has tossed aside any idea of political correctness, with pro-caning jokes ("Yes we cane!") and great relationship advice like, "Dishonesty is food to a marriage. It will die without it."

2. Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester. While the entire ensemble cast (many got their start on Broadway) is quite good, longtime bit player Lynch has found a home as the sadistic cheerleading coach; her lines are usually burst-out-loud funny. Whether she's blackmailing the principal, telling her Cheerios cheerleaders to "Smell your pits: That's the smell of failure and it's stinking up my office," or offering a male teacher iron tablets to help with menstruation, she's great and has likely already sewn up an Emmy nomination. In a recent profile, producers said they plan to humanize her a little bit, but they'd be smart to keep her as darkly driven as she has been.

3. The song selection has been great. While cashing in on rock band Journey's continued (and somewhat baffling) resurgence, the show has also used hits like "Rehab," "Gold Digger" and, last week, "Single Ladies," to great effect.

4. Borrowing something that The O.C. did, the show focuses on the adults as much as the kids, which helps it maintain broad demographic appeal. The funny thing is that it's hard to tell which set of characters has been more immature. The show is a soap opera, but it's done a good job of not falling into cliché territory yet, turning the high school setting on its ear, subverting the tropes that have become worn like old shoes. Last week's Beyoncé-inspired gay football kicker is a great example.

5. Singing as a trend is probably healthier than it's been in decades, so the timing is excellent. Beyond High School Musical, American Idol and even karaoke, the popularity of video games like Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Singstar have even tone-deaf people singing more than they have in years. With the show's appropriation of current hits, it just doing on TV what many of us are doing at home.

Right now, Glee is cool, which puts it in the rarefied musical-TV territory of Flight of the Conchords, which serves as a good signpost. Great in its first year, that show was a little more hit and miss in its second (although they had the challenge of writing original music for the series). We'll see if Glee can maintain its current level of awesome.

As well, the one-off musical episode has become part of most series' bag of tricks. The granddaddy of this trend was the classic Buffy episode "Once More With Feeling." The Simpsons kind of ran it into the ground with what became an almost annual foray. Along with last week's Batman episode, earlier this season Rescue Me tuned in. Harris – who also starred in last year's musical web hit Dr. Horrible – is going to be singing in his day job on a special episode of How I Met Your Mother later this year.

Which is another great thing about this trend. After years of fairly useless reality stars, TV is letting talented people strut their stuff. That's a chorus we should all be able to get behind.

TV TIDBITS

Mos Def, Common, Harper In New Doc Series

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 28, 2009)  *Mos Def, Common and Ben Harper are among the subjects of a newmusic documentary series for cable channel Current TV titled "Embedded."   The debut episode, airing October 14, spends seven days with Mos Def as he performed at venues in Tokyo and Osaka. Cameras capture him in a Tokyo hotel room, wearing a bathrobe and smoking a cigarette, and discussing the differences between Japanese and American culture - revealing how impressed he is by the intensity of the local hip-hop fans who have been filling clubs for a week to see him perform. The initial run of six episodes will also feature Thievery Corporation, Silversun Pickups and the Decemberists.   After the first run of six episodes is completed, the independent channel will debut a few "best of" compilations from all of the shows, and then plans to air another six-episode season in the coming months, according to Davis Powers, vice president of music programming at Current TV.   "No one is committing to this type of music programming in the television space," Powers says. "We wanted to commit to doing real music journalism and documentaries -- and that comes with working with the artists on the ground floor."    Founded in 2005 with funding from former Vice President Al Gore, Current TV is available on select cable and satellite providers, including Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV and Dish Network. It recently captured international headlines when North Korean authorities detained Current TV journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee for nearly five months before releasing them in August.

Mad Men Chat

Source:
www.globeandmail.com

(September 27, 2009) Travel back to 1962 with Globe and Mail writer Andrew Ryan as he dissects the finer story points and plot nuances in the sharp period drama Mad Men. One of TV's hottest shows, Mad Men is set in the world of Madison Avenue advertising, circa early sixties. The AMC original series won the Best Drama Emmy in its rookie season and has steadily built a loyal viewer following in Canada and the U.S. Mad Men began its third season last month and buzz for the show keeps growing.  Andrew Ryan discussed the show live Sunday night. What will happen next week? Join Andrew and share your observations and comments with other fans of the show.

Jason Priestley Returning To Series Television

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 30, 2009) Jason Priestley is returning to series television with a comedy about a morally bankrupt used car salesman. The series is set to shoot in Halifax and Priestley says it's "a great chance to get back to Canada and flex some comedic muscles." Priestley will play the title character on the half-hour show Meet Phil Fitz, bound for The Movie Network and Movie Central next year.  Most recently, Priestley finished filming the BBC miniseries ``The Day of the Triffids. He's also been adding to a growing list of director credits, with stints behind the camera of 90210 and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But Priestley is perhaps best known as the squeaky clean teen Brandon Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210. He notes that his new series allows him to dive into a nasty personality for a change. "I get to play a guy who is the embodiment of Freud's id," Priestley said Wednesday in a release. "The writing is sharp, edgy and so fast it leaves you gasping for air. You don't often have a chance to get paid to be morally bankrupt."

Omar Miller Joins 'CSI: Miami'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(September 30, 2009) *Actor
Omar Miller is the newest cast member of CBS's drama "CSI: Miami," according to the Hollywood Reporter.  The 30-year-old will play Walter Simmons, a Louisiana native and art theft specialist who transfers over from the night shift to join Horatio’s (David Caruso) team. His first episode will air on Oct. 5.     Miller, most known for his roles in "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," "Miracle at St. Anna" and the TV series "Eleventh House," was originally cast as a guest star on "CSI: Miami," with the network recently picking up his series regular option.     Miller's film credits also include "Shall We Dance" and "8 Mile."

::THEATRE NEWS::

Thank Heavens For Fake Boy Band Altar Boyz

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

Altar Boyz
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
Book by Kevin Del Aguila. Music & Lyrics by Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. Directed and choreographed by Tim French. Until Oct. 11 at Toronto Centre for the Arts, Studio Theatre, 5040 Yonge St. 416-872-1111

(September 28, 2009) Blessed be the
Altar Boyz!

It may have taken five years for this off-Broadway hit to surface in Toronto, but it finally has, in a production worthy of beatifiction, if not outright canonization.

And it's all thanks to a new professional company with the appropriately sanctified name of Angelwalk Theatre.

Let us bow our heads and give thanks, because shows this brisk, bright and entertaining don't come along that often in the theatrical liturgy. Basically, it's the story of the last performance of a fictitious Catholic boy band on the last night of their "Raise the Praise" tour. The book of Kevin Del Aguila keeps things bouncing merrily in the air by giving the five cast members distinctive personalities, a bit of conflict and enough snappy one-liners to propel us from song to song.

And let's confess (because it's good for the soul!) that it's those musical numbers we really want to see. If you're one of those people who always found the Backstreet Boys a very guilty pleasure, or repeatedly watched videos of 'N Sync when you thought no one was looking, then this is the show for you.

Director/choreographer Tim French has every last arm lunge, pelvic thrust and hand gesture synchronized to within an inch of its life. His Boyz don't just rock, they roll as well, with some killer moves that you'll admire for their skill while you laugh at their silliness.

Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker have provided a dozen tunes, which all sound like Grade-A, boy band material but have sly, satirical lyrics that sound like someone slightly stoned on magic mushrooms listened to some Christian rock albums once too often while under the influence.

Add all of this together with a dynamite cast and the result is non-stop hilarity. It's not right to have a favourite, but – 'fess up! – everyone who watched a boy band had one they liked more than the others. My choice is Stephen Roberts as Abraham, the one Jewish member of the group (oy, don't ask!). He's Joe Jonas-kute, Justin Timberlake-kewl and Nick Carter-kinetic.

That's not to imply the other four are any slouches. You're also going to love Ken Chamberland as the ruggedly handsome Matthew, Aidan deSalaiz as the Ricky Martinized Juan, Eric Morin as a hilarious fresh-out-of-rehab Luke and the adorable Jeigh Madjus as a Filipino Gary Coleman with a truly seraphic voice.

This is only supposed to run in North York until Oct. 11, but I think some smart producer should class up the not-quite-worthy lighting and sound, and move this winner of a show downtown for a heavenly long run. Amen.

Secret Formula Still Has A Few Kinks In It

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

Secrets of a Black Boy
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)
By Darren Anthony. Directed by Kimahli Powell. Until Oct. 3 at The Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave. 416-778-8163 or themusichall.ca

(September 28, 2009) Comparisons may be odious – or even odorous – but they are also inevitable where Darren Anthony's
Secrets of a Black Boy is concerned.

Anthony's big sister is trey anthony, author of the phenomenally successful 'Da Kink in My Hair. And it was trey who not only encouraged her brother to write Secrets but is also producer/dramaturge for its short run at The Music Hall.

The structure of both plays is virtually the same. A group of black people get together (women at the hairdresser's in Kink, men for a game of dominoes in Secrets) and a series of secrets begin to spill out, usually presented via a dramatic monologue.

Kink, however, featured several blazing performances and stories that were truly gut-wrenching. It's a level of intensity that Secrets never comes close to matching; indeed, a couple of Secrets' monologues – the story of the murder of young drug dealer Curtis, wife-beater Jerome's plea for sympathy and understanding – are somewhat flat and unconvincing.

Where Secrets does score is the way it connects with its audience; it certainly doesn't shy away from controversial issues such as interracial dating and absentee fathers. There were shouts of recognition from Saturday's audience as the play turned the spotlight on such hot topics as the apparently limited love-making technique of some black males and the lack of emotional support that black men feel they get from their partners.

I asked one audience member what she felt about that last point. "He (the playwright) has a point," she said with a shrug.

Director Kimahli Powell has adroitly shaped the play according to the abilities of his performers, a couple of whom – Samson Brown as Biscuit, Darren Anthony himself as Jerome – lack a certain amount of technique.

What might have been monologues in Kink are ensemble pieces in Secrets.

Al St. Louis has charisma as Sheldon, however, and Eli Goree (Jakes) and Shomari Downer (Sean) are both quietly effective.

The use of music, with DJ O-nonymous actually onstage, adds to the atmosphere, as does Glenn Davidson's graffiti-scrawled set.

It is honest and forthright, with some delightful touches of humour. "They pulled me over for speeding when I was walking," one guy complains.

And while it may never reach the heights (or plumb the depths) of Kink, Secrets is a worthy, occasionally compelling piece by a promising new playwright.

The Butterfly Effect

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

Madama Butterfly
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
By Giacomo Puccini. Canadian Opera Company. Directed by Brian Macdonald. Carlo Montanaro, conductor. To Nov. 3, Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W. 416-363-8231 (coc.ca)

(September 28, 2009) The Canadian Opera Company started its season in excellent form with a gorgeously sung, solidly produced
Madama Butterfly – one of the most popular operas in the canon – on Saturday night at the Four Seasons Centre.

Susan Benson's plain, pastel-and-grey set and costumes have been around for many years, and are starting to look dated. But this revival glows with colour and drama anyway, thanks to gorgeous work from the cast and orchestra, led by Italian maestro Carlo Montanaro.

It's been 105 years since Giacomo Puccini's opera had its premiere in Milan, but its richly evocative music and simple plot – American sailor loves and leaves a Japanese geisha, with tragic consequences – transcend time and place.

The COC is giving more people the chance to see this production, offering 15 performances between now and the beginning of November. In exchange for the extended run, the principal characters are double-cast. This means the experience could be substantially different, depending on who is singing.

Saturday night, Romanian soprano Adina Nitescu made a spectacular Toronto debut in the lead role, Cio-Cio-San. Her dramatic, slightly raw-edged timbre, remarkable vocal control and still intensity riveted the audience from first greeting her new husband, Lt. Pinkerton, to the moment she plunges a dagger into her abdomen when she finds out that he has married someone else and is about to take her son back with him to the United States.

The cast, largely made up of Canadian voices, was uniformly excellent. Among the principals, tenor David Pomeroy, as the navy boy, was in strong, ringing voice, even if his acting was more that of a bumpkin than rake. Baritone James Westman found the right mixture of gravitas and concern as Sharpless, and Alyson McHardy's honeyed mezzo lent an affecting depth to servant Suzuki.

Montanaro let the music breathe and unfold in a carefully measured pace, matched flawlessly to the work onstage. Brian Macdonald's straightforward direction was helpful, as was Michael Whitfield's subtle lighting.

This is a classic case of no one messing with a good thing, while still working hard to make the best possible kind of artistic impression.

Shaw's Comedy Gets Teeth

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce Demara,
Entertainment Reporter

(September 30, 2009) Even in tough times, Jackie Maxwell does not believe in playing it safe. So, in assembling the Shaw Festival's 2010 line-up, its artistic director decided comedy, for sure, but comedy with a bite.

Earlier this year, as the recession put a damper on ticket sales, Maxwell said the easy route would have been to go for the tried-and-true old faithfuls.

"People go, `You have to retrench your programming, you have to make it safe and easy and people will come.' The notion of ... hiding and sitting back, I think that really is not the way to do it and I don't think that our audiences are particularly up for that," Maxwell said.

"If ever there was a time for trying to clarify and contextualize all these crazy things that are happening, it's now." The theme of the Shaw's 10-production program in 2010 will be "provocative and stimulating," Maxwell said.

That begins with two works from the festival's namesake, George Bernard Shaw, which Maxwell described as "two of his sparkiest and deeply pertinent plays."

The Doctor's Dilemma, directed by Morris Panych, examines with a dark comic eye the ethical issue of who gets the cure when there isn't enough for everybody. (Think the H1N1 vaccine.)

Maxwell persuaded revered former artistic director Christopher Newton, who ran the festival for 23 years, to take on the second Shaw piece, John Bull's Other Island, a comic look at colonialism.

Other works include:

Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband, about a politician hiding a dark past and his devoted but conflicted wife. (Modern examples abound.)

Caryl Churchill's Serious Money, set in the late 1980s climate of high finance and greed. ("Incredibly timely," Maxwell noted.)

Canadian playwright Linda Griffiths' Age of Arousal, a fin-de-siècle period piece about a suffragette running a typing agency.

Clare Booth Luce's The Women, about life in the powder rooms and salons of the fairer sex.

The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov's gentle but pointed comedy of manners.

Harvey by Mary Chase (the theme of it – who's really crazy – could not be more contemporary).

One Touch of Venus, a musical comedy from the 1940s, with tunes by Kurt Weill and story by Ogden Nash and S.J. Perelman, one of the creative minds behind the Marx Brothers films.

Half an Hour, a one-act play by J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.

Hugh Jackman Stops Play To Chide Cellphone Offender

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Kuchwara,
Associated Press

(September 28, 2009) NEW YORK–Hugh Jackman knows how to stop the show.

He did it recently when a cell phone call interrupted a preview performance of
A Steady Rain, the Broadway play that stars Jackman and Daniel Craig.

The crude video shown by the TMZ.com Website appears to have been shot from the audience.

It shows Jackman breaking character to tell the owner of the ringing cell phone, "You want to get that?" as the audience erupts in cheers. As the ringing persists, Jackman pleads: "Come on, just turn it off." He then paces the stage of the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, waits about a minute for the ringing to stop and the play resumes.

Producers of A Steady Rain declined to comment.

The interruption occurred during an intense moment in the play, when Jackman's character, a Chicago policeman, reveals haunting memories.

A customary loudspeaker announcement reminds theatregoers to turn off their phones. Since the incident, ushers who seat patrons and pass out playbills at Schoenfeld are also instructing patrons to silence their phones.

A Steady Rain, a taut drama about the relationship between two policemen, opens Tuesday for a limited engagement through Dec. 6. The play by Keith Huff already has proven to be a potent box-office winner, playing to capacity audiences since it began previews on Sept. 10.

Jackman won a Tony Award in 2004 for his performance as Peter Allen in the musical The Boy from Oz. Craig, filmdom's latest James Bond, is making his Broadway debut.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

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

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
Nintendo DS, $34.99. Rated E

(September 26, 2009) Is there a weirder place in the worlds of fiction and fantasy than the Mushroom Kingdom? Italian plumbers battle demon-turtles with raccoon suits and magic fireball flowers; misunderstood transvestite bird-lizards spit deadly eggs; the hills are alive, undergirded by a network of space-and-time-warping sewer pipes defended by sentient munitions; the whole place floats in a vast cosmos of animate power and Escherian dimensions. ... As presented through 25 years of Super Mario Bros. games, the Mushroom Kingdom makes Oz look like an office park, Wonderland like a Wal-Mart.

But for all its wildness, its strange machinery and bizarre denizens, the Mushroom Kingdom has a strange consistency, a predictable dream-logic built up through those decades of games. We know, generally, what a warp pipe does, we know how spectral Boos behave, we know how to stomp Goombas and break blocks, we know more or less what Bowser wants.

This familiarity within the fantastic is what makes a game like
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, the third in the Mario role-playing game series, so engaging. As the elements that comprise the Mario canon are expanded and remixed, our expectations are alternately subverted and reinforced, and the result is a platform/puzzle/RPG hybrid that's nothing but payoff after laugh-out-loud payoff.

At the heart of Bowser's Inside Story are some quintessential Mario themes: the mutability of scale and frame-of-reference, and the interplay between the layers of the worlds-within-worlds cosmology of the Marioverse. When a mysterious new malefactor arrives in the Kingdom, kidnapping Princess Peach (as usual) and usurping Bowser's quasi-evil throne, both the Mario Bros. and the Koopa King swing into action – the Bros. because, well, that's what they do, and Bowser because he's damned if he's going to let some villain-come-lately nab his nefarious style. But through an accident of fate and bizarre magic, Mario and Luigi end up inside Bowser's body, and in order to save the day they'll have to secretly assist their nemesis from the inside, adventuring through his internal plumbing to beef up his muscles, stoke his inner fires, unlock his hidden potential. Our heroes risking their lives (or their 1UP Shrooms, at least) to power-up their greatest foe – delicious irony!

Regarding gameplay, Bowser's Inside Story is the kind of game that would rightly be called a "hodgepodge" if its overall fit-and-finish wasn't so tight; the development team pulled off a miracle making this happen. At the overworld level, it's a Legend of Zelda-esque top-down adventure, with both Bowser and (eventually) the Bros. visiting and revisiting areas as new abilities unlock new pathways. Inside Bowser's body, it's straight-up puzzle-platformer as Mario & Luigi (you control them both simultaneously) use their arsenal of moves to make their way through the Koopa King's guts and organs. When the fighting starts, it's a turn-based RPG actuated and augmented by old-school arcade reflex skill. And throughout and around it all are minigame elements changing things up: rhythm-game play, vertical shooting, jigsaw-puzzling, toe-to-toe mega-fisticuffs. Somehow, it all integrates.

Best of all, though, Bowser's Inside Story is really funny. Every little scenario features a gem of dialogue or action coming straight out of the deep well of Mario lore. Whether it's Bowser's interactions with his confused and fickle minions or his frustration at having another heavy encroach on his turf, the game makes great use of Mario staples and Luigi's can't-get-no-respect shtick. It's a warm and friendly game, engaging, entertaining and compelling at every turn, a long-form love letter to the weirdest, widest world in games.

Spawn Unveils Cure For Homesick Gamers

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

(September 26, 2009) Do you miss your favourite console games when you're on the road? If so, Spawn Labs' Spawn HD-720 appliance will ease your homesickness.

Unveiled last week at the TechCrunch50 technology conference, the "anywhere, anytime" device lets gamers play console games remotely on broadband-connected computers as if they were in front of their TVs at home.

This might be déjà vu for television fans who use a Slingbox – a device that lets you watch your local TV programming from any place you've got a high-speed Internet connection – but this new product is the first to "place-shift" console games.

The Spawn HD-720 unit is said to work with Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and GameCube games. The Nintendo Wii is likely omitted because players must control the action using the motion-sensing Wii Remote, which communicates with the sensor bar near the television.

The Spawn HD-720 also supports multiplayer matches so you can be travelling and still play with your friends or family back home – or elsewhere, if they're on a broadband-connected computer, too.

Texas-based Spawn Labs says there's another application for this product: if someone is occupying the television you want to play on at home, you can go to another room and play your console games on a computer via your wireless network.

Additional features include the ability to invite remote friends to watch live, real-time gameplay, plus this 13-pound device also lets players capture videos of favourite games and share them with others online.

The Spawn HD-720 is due out in November for $199 (U.S.), but the company is taking preorders now at spawnlabs.com.

Might & Magic bundle a steal Old games never die – they're just reborn on GOG.com.

Hundreds of classic computer titles are now downloadable from "Good Old Games," all of which are guaranteed to work on today's speedy machines, are free of digital rights management (so you can install them on more than one PC), and each title includes bonus content such as digital manuals, interviews, artwork, soundtracks and more.

GOG.com's latest offering is a limited edition "Might & Magic 6-Pack," which contains a half-dozen beloved fantasy role-playing games from yesteryear, yielding hundreds of hours of gameplay.

Take your courageous party through dank dungeons, treacherous forests and bustling towns to unlock mysteries, fight foes via turn-based combat and meet memorable characters.

Now available for $9.99 (U.S.), this 554-megabyte download includes the first six games from the series (1986 to 1998): Might and Magic: Book 1; Might and Magic 2: Gates to Another World; Might and Magic 3: Isles of Terra; Might and Magic 4 & 5: World of Xeen (with bonus adventure "Sword of Xeen"); and Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven.

Also included: manuals, reference card, maps, soundtracks, clue books, avatars and more.

Sony's PSP Go A Visual Delight But Is Price Right?

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Chad Sapieha

(September 30, 2009) If looks alone determined the fortunes of new gadgets, the PSP Go, Sony's newly upgraded handheld gaming system, might be the most successful device of its kind.

Available in pearl white and piano black, the PSP Go is about half the size and weight of the original PSP, which makes it roughly the same mass as a portly smart phone, and the first model in the PSP family to fit comfortably in one's trouser pocket.

The device's svelte new chassis is made possible by a cleverly hidden control console that slides down from under the screen, as well as a slightly smaller display, reduced from 4.2- to 3.8-inches.

Another factor affecting size is that the PSP's traditional Universal Media Disc (UMD) drive has been swapped for 16GB of internal memory. The upshot: PSP Go owners will need to download games through Sony's online PlayStation Store rather than buy them on disc.

Indeed, the shift from physical to digital media is the PSP Go's raison d'être. It may have a sexy new form and a couple of new features (such as support for Bluetooth headsets), but it plays the same games with same controls and same graphics as earlier PSPs. Thus, those who buy it will do so primarily to unchain themselves from optical media.

But is this a good idea?

There are plenty of advantages to a purely digital gaming platform. We need no longer go to the store to buy games. Players will never worry about losing tiny discs stored in their pockets and purses. And the elimination of packaging and chemical manufacturing processes ought to delight green-minded gamers.

But drawbacks exist, too.



It took me almost an hour to download a 1GB game. And avid players who exhaust the limits of the device's onboard memory will eventually end up either spending time managing files or investing in Sony's proprietary M2 Memorysticks. Plus, there's no way for existing PSP owners to transfer their existing library of UMD-based games to the new device.

Then there's the elimination of consumers' ability to trade in used games to create currency to buy new ones – a popular penny-pinching tactic among lower-income gamers. And if, given publishers' lessened distribution costs, you expect a decrease in software prices, you'll be disappointed: Digital titles sell for the same price as their hard copy cousins.

However, given the PSP Go's steep price-$249.99 (that's a whopping $80 more than previous model PSPs and, perhaps even more alarming, just $50 shy of the much more robust PlayStation 3), it's safe to say that Sony isn't marketing it to minimum wagers whose first concern is economy.

Indeed, Sony Canada's Matt Levitan told me earlier this summer that the PSP Go is best considered a high-end portable gaming device. “It's more of a tech-savvy, early adopter handheld,” he explained.

It's also an obvious effort on Sony's part to begin competing with the iPhone and iPod Touch, both of which have become ad-hoc gaming devices that provide users access to thousands of cheap downloadable titles through Apple's App Store.

Indeed, Sony has even gone so far as to add a new section to its own online store that focuses on the same sort of smaller, less expensive games available for Apple's devices-including many of the same titles.

Still, the PSP Go will succeed or fail based on players' interest in downloading full-size, full-price games. To that end, Sony is firing off a volley of high quality handheld titles in rapid succession, starting with a pair of glitzy racers released this week, Gran Turismo and MotorStorm: Arctic Edge .

Now it's just up to consumers to let Sony know whether we're down with downloadable content.

::OTHER NEWS::

Digital Book Trend Emerges At Word On The Street Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - Katie Daubs,
Staff Reporter

(September 27, 2009) The Word on the Street Festival is a place where people wax poetic about the feel of a font or the smell of a story.

It's also a place where a new trend is emerging — the digital book. For the second year, Sony has been on hand to market its Reader to bibliophiles at the Queen's Park festival. The Reader is bookish in its design, and has an interface where people read downloaded books. The cost for an entry-level model is around $250, but the downloadable content is cheaper than print, and sometimes free.

"We've been getting a good reaction," said Tim Algate, the product manager for Reader. "Some people say it's not for them, because they like the touch and feel of books, but this is a pretty captive audience."

Outside of the tent, Marlene Fogel and her friend Clare Herrema were both impressed.

"You can have 400 books on there!" Fogel said. "For travel, you can even read it in the sun. You don't have to worry about carting 3,000 books with you."

A few booths away, the idea of digital books was downright blasphemous.

"Everyone likes to curl up in a chair and read a book, not a screen," said Alice Lundon, who does publicity for Trinity College book sales. "The rare books, they're so gorgeous, the pictures are so beautiful. We're so crazy about books, so we're prejudiced."

Mary Frances Cappuccitti, a printmaker, said she would love a digital book for mass-produced fare, like Harlequin romance novels. But her friend, Beth Duffus, was adamantly against the technology.

"It's like in Beauty and the Beast, when Belle walks in and there's that big library. I mean, what would it have been like if it was just a few screens?" she asked.

::COMEDY NEWS::

Ron James's Big Tent Of Comedy

Source:  www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux,
The Canadian Press

(September 25, 2009) "Comedy is the longest apprenticeship in the world," says Ron James, who ought to know. He's waited 30 years to land a CBC comedy series he can finally call his own.

The Ron James Show premieres tonight at 8, in the time slot vacated last season by the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

Repeats of five of James's CBC comedy specials have kept the slot warm in recent weeks, with close to a million Canadians tuning in earlier this month to one of those rebroadcasts. The steady exposure on TV and stage has made James – as Rick Mercer recently called him – "more Canadian than warm mitts on a radiator."

That's the kind of apt phrase that usually drops from James's lips. He's a language specialist with an ear for Canadian colloquialisms, a sort of stand-up Stephen Leacock with a Cape Breton cadence.

James describes his series as a "hybrid," breaking it down this way: "If there's any theme to the show, it's the Canadian everyman and his brave march through life's bright fury." Besides writing and performing, he's also an executive producer on the series, along with Garry Campbell and Lynn Harvey.

James opens each week with a stand-up set, not unlike the early Seinfeld episodes. He walks out onto what looks like a vintage music hall stage (actually a set in Studio 41 of CBC's downtown Toronto Broadcast Centre) and tickles the audience with tales from the road, his Cape Breton, N.S., roots or such sacred Canadian touchstones as Tim Hortons or hockey. The show then segues into sketches shot in and out of the studio and even an animated segment called "Li'l Ronnie," offering a glimpse into James's mischievous childhood.

"It's Dennis the Menace with a Cape Breton accent," he explained last week at CBC's fall TV season press launch.

The 52-year-old comedian says he wanted his show to appeal to the widest possible audience, aiming to set up the same "big tent" that Jay Leno is hoping to fill with his new series. James calls it the "Parker Brothers demographic – fun for kids from 8 to 80."

If he does his job right, he says, "the plumber and the professor will be laughing at different things on the same show."

What you won't find is the kind of political sniping you might see on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Rick Mercer Report.

"Affable subversion is my call for the show," says James. "I want it to be accessible, but I also want it to walk a razor's edge at times."

James sharpened his edge over many years on the road as Canada's hardest working comedian, travelling coast to coast in comedy clubs, theatres and arena halls.

He's also worked in television before, on shows like Blackfly and Made in Canada.

While he was happy guesting on other people's shows before, he believes he's just now ready to headline his own series.

"It's a marriage of humility and confidence," James says of getting to this point in his career. "You have to have the confidence that you're in the right set of shoes."

::DANCE NEWS::

Emily Molnar: A Dance Leader Poised For Challenges

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(September 30, 2009) Vancouver — As summers go, this one wasn't exactly Emily Molnar's most relaxing. On July 1, she officially became interim artistic director of Ballet British Columbia. She walked into the job not knowing whether the company was going to receive the grant money it needed to stay afloat, pay for dancers – or even pay her own salary.

Later that month, she spent three weeks at Alberta Ballet, creating a previously commissioned work. She was also in communication with a small company in Toronto, where she was building another piece. Back in Vancouver, she had to program some sort of content for her financially beleaguered company and put together a program for Ignite , an already-announced late-September fundraiser. And she decided Ignite needed a new, original work. So she spent the rest of her summer creating one.

Emily Molnar, Ballet BC's artistic director, during an audition for dancers in Vancouver.

It sounds daunting, but Molnar doesn't let it show. “I think that to the outside eye, it is a challenging position that we're in. But it's also incredibly exciting because there's a newness about what we're doing that doesn't happen all the time,” Molnar said during a break from rehearsing her new work Dedica at the Dance Centre in Vancouver earlier this month.

Challenging doesn't begin to describe it. In the months leading up to Molnar's appointment, Ballet BC laid off the entire company – administrative staff, dancers and artistic director John Alleyne – teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, restructured financially, rehired some people, parted ways with Alleyne and cancelled plans for a 2009-2010 subscription series – during a year when the city and its culture are meant to be in the spotlight with the upcoming Olympic Games.

And in the early weeks of Molnar's tenure, she learned the company had lost out on $107,000 in expected funding from the province: $50,000 from provincial gaming grants and $57,000 from the B.C. Arts Council (funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the City of Vancouver did materialize, however).

“We're pinching pennies, of course,” says Molnar. But she believes this interim year gives the company a chance to evaluate its expenses and decide what it can live without. In the meantime, a new permanent executive director has been named: Jay Rankin joins the company Nov. 1 from Toronto Dance Theatre, where he has been managing director.

“ There has to be someone who has the desire to look at what the future of the company is. So to me, that's not interim.”

Molnar, 36, is originally from Regina, but moved to Toronto when she was 10 to attend the National Ballet School. She was a member of the National Ballet of Canada, a soloist with the Frankfurt Ballet and a principal dancer at Ballet BC. Based in Vancouver, she has worked most recently as an independent choreographer, and also has an affiliation with Vancouver's Arts Umbrella.

She has a long association with Alleyne: He was her teacher in Toronto and she danced in many of his ballets both at the National and later at Ballet BC.

“I've known John since I was 12,” she says. “John was a huge inspiration and a huge mentor for me throughout my upbringing, so … there will always be a part of him in the company as long as I'm here.”

Officially, Molnar is only in the position until June 30, 2010. And while she says she believes it made sense to hire an interim artistic director for this transitional year, she is making no secret of her desire to remain in the position permanently.

“I'm not approaching it as interim as far as the way that I participate in it,” she says. “I had to completely build a season, build the rep, hire the dancers … and look at what our next steps are going to be, in that there has to be someone who has the desire to look at what the future of the company is. So to me, that's not interim.” She has asked that a decision on her future be made by March.

For this season, the company will present Ignite this evening, as well as a November choreographic series at the Dance Centre, and a triple bill of international work at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in April, when the company's 2010-2011 season will be announced.

Plans to stage The Nutcracker in December were shelved, with all the uncertainty surrounding resources. (Meanwhile, Vancouver's Goh Ballet Youth Company has announced plans to stage its own Nutcracker .)

“It's a very deliberate course that we've chosen,” says Molnar about the stripped-down season. “For us to just go out there right now and continue the way we did [didn't make sense]. We don't want to just do it; we want to do it well. … But we also didn't want to completely disappear for a year.”

Dedica , to be unveiled Wednesday, was created as an ode to Ballet BC. “I wanted it to be about celebrating the past and future of the company,” Molnar says. “And to show people that … we're going forward. We don't have to save the company in any way. The company is very strong and going into a new direction.”

That new direction, she says, includes an emphasis on contemporary ballet, a focus on development and collaboration, and new marketing and branding that may include dismantling its Dance Alive series. Molnar is also talking about building a school for contemporary dance and developing an apprenticeship program.

All of that takes money. And there's a lot riding on Ignite to get that ball rolling. With a sellout, the company can raise “tens of thousands of dollars,” according to board member Kevin B. Leslie (who wouldn't be more specific about the evening's fundraising goal). There are still tickets available.

But both Leslie and Molnar say there's more at stake Wednesday than just raising dollars. “We're trying first of all to rebuild the confidence of our audience, because it's only natural that there are people questioning or having doubts,” Molnar says. “It's up to us to go: This is now what we're doing. Please come and be a part of it.”

Ignite, featuring performances by Ballet British Columbia and The National Ballet of Canada, runs Wednesday at 8 at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre (604-732-5003, ext. 207).

Tango Made Part Of Cultural Heritage

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Barbara Surk, The Associated Press

(September 30, 2009) Dubai — Tango was declared part of the world's cultural heritage by the United Nations today and granted the international seal of approval Argentina and Uruguay have long sought for the dramatic dance and its sensual moves.

The 24 members of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee of Intangible Heritage granted the tango dance and its music protected cultural status at its meeting in Abu Dhabi. The designation may make Argentina and Uruguay, which both claim to be tango's birthplace, eligible to receive financial assistance from a specialized fund for safeguarding cultural traditions. It will also help both governments justify using public funds to preserve their most famous export after beef.

“We are very proud,” Hernan Lombardi, the minister of culture of the autonomous city of Buenos Aires said on the phone from the Emirates' capital. “We hope this decision will help spread the tradition of tango all over the world.”

Tango emerged as a dance style in the late 1800s in the suburbs of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay. It is popular in Europe, Japan and the United States. The recent spike in tango's popularity throughout the world is in part attributed to the Broadway hit Forever Tango and TV's Dancing With the Stars .

“Tango is a feeling that can be danced, and that feeling of course is passion,” Mr. Lombardi said.

The popular image — willowy, spike-heeled women spinning, kicking and lunging across the floor in the arms of tuxedo-clad men — is known as show tango. The kind danced in milongas, or tango dance halls, is more waltz-like, but equally sensual.

Argentina and Uruguay have long been embroiled in a clash over the birthplace of the great tango crooner Carlos Gardel. They kicked aside their differences last year in a joint effort to persuade UNESCO to list tango among UNESCO's traditions worth safeguarding for humanity.

India's Vedic chanting and Japan's Kabuki theatre are among the dozens of UN protected traditions.

::SPORTS NEWS::

B.C. Artists Conflicted Over Olympic Funds

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Marsha Lederman

(September 29, 2009) Vancouver — When Vancouver's Olympic Organizing Committee officials reveal which artists they've lined up for the upcoming Cultural Olympiad, it's a safe bet Matthew Good's name won't be on the list. Nor will he take the stage at the opening or closing ceremonies. The Vancouver musician has told his managers that he wants nothing to do with the Games.

"I think it's utterly shameful for anyone, any artist in this country, to participate in an event like this and get paid to do it," says Good.

Good takes issue with the Games over the burden on taxpayers, a referendum on whether to bid for the Winter Olympics that only allowed Vancouver residents to vote, the participation of professional athletes and the difficulty people who live in the region will have getting around.

"The whole thing's a gong show, really."

In Vancouver's arts community, there are a lot of mixed feelings these days about the Olympics. There has been talk of boycotting the Cultural Olympiad since the recent announcement of deep cuts in B.C.'s funding for the arts - primarily through the cancellation of gaming grants.

In a submission to Vancouver city council last Thursday, the Alliance for Arts and Culture revealed that 44 per cent of the arts and culture organizations that received the grants last year didn't get them this year. And the Alliance claims that provincial cuts to arts funding will total 92 per cent by 2011-12.

While it is impossible to say that arts funding has been cut because of the costs associated with hosting the Olympics, that perception is definitely out there, says Radix Theatre artistic director Andrew Laurenson. So there has been a lot of hand-wringing in the arts community over whether to accept funding from Games organizers.

"I think there are some ill feelings about taking the money to perform during the Olympics, knowing that it's, as one of my friends said, costing future generations. Ethically it's sort of a troubling situation," Laurenson says.

In a recent newsletter to the theatre community following the announcement of 70 new projects for the 2010 Cultural Olympiad, Laurenson posed this question: "As an artist, how can one proceed with Olympic-funded opportunities ... while feeling conflicted about perceived wrong-doings around Olympic funding?" His advice: Hold your nose and take the money. "Accept the work (there's a family to support), do the best work possible (don't lose integrity as our leaders seem to have done), but in the process speak out about the cuts as much as possible," he wrote.

That's what Scott Watson has decided to do. The director/curator of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at the University of British Columbia is incensed at the recent funding cuts (they do not directly affect the Belkin), and has written to Premier Gordon Campbell about it. But he has happily accepted a "handsome amount" from VANOC for the exhibition Backstory: Nuu-chah-nulth Ceremonial Curtains and the Work of Ki-Ke-In, which is scheduled to open in January.

"I don't think it would be productive to [boycott the Olympiad]," Watson says. "It's cutting off your nose to spite your face. It's more or less like announcing you don't need the money - not a good strategy in this case." When funding sources are drying up, it's difficult for groups to turn down any infusion of cash. "We couldn't do the project we're doing without that grant," says Watson.

So there isn't widespread support for a boycott, and VANOC officials don't appear worried. "I understand the frustration in the community, but I think the community by and large completely recognizes this as an extraordinary opportunity and that the Cultural Olympiad, the Games in general, present a great moment for B.C. artists, for Canadian artists and for international artists to share their works or their creations and to be out there on the stage," the Olympiad's program director Robert Kerr says.

Good, whose new album, Vancouver, will be released next month, says artists shouldn't need the Olympics to showcase their work. "The reality is, if you're an artist in this country on your merits, you should be able to do what you do. ... Why do we need this for the promotion of anything? This country's had such an inferiority complex with regard to its arts for so many years. What, we need the Olympic Games, which last two weeks, to try to impress upon the world that we've got great art?"

NHL Gains Edge As Judge Rejects Both Bids For Coyotes

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Cribb,
Sports Reporter

(September 30, 2009) A Phoenix bankruptcy judge has denied both the NHL and Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie in their bids to seize control of the troubled Coyotes hockey club.

But the result is not exactly a tie.

Judge Redfield T. Baum said he is "passing the puck to the NHL" to alter its bid and "take another shot at the sale net or it can pass off the puck."

"The NHL can probably cure the defect in its bid" if it makes some amendments related to the payment of debts to former team coach Wayne Gretzky and owner Jerry Moyes.

The NHL had tabled a $140 million (U.S.) bid for the bankrupt team with a commitment to keep it in Arizona for the near future. Balsillie put $242.5 million on the table along with a plan to move the club to Hamilton if he were successful.

It appears now, though, the Coyotes will not go to the highest bidder.

Or Hamilton.

Balsillie's lawyers argued Phoenix is not a viable market for professional hockey, that Hamilton could successfully support the team and that the NHL rejection of a relocation application was conducted in "bad faith."

The league vigorously challenged those assertions.

Baum ultimately sided with the NHL.

"In the final analysis, the court can not find or conclude that the interests of the NHL can be adequately protected if the Coyotes are moved to Hamilton without first having a final decision regarding the claimed rights of the NHL."

"This conclusion effectively is the end for the efforts of (Balsillie's) PSE (Sports and Entertainment LP), Balsillie, Moyes and the Coyotes to force a sale and relocation of the hockey team."

Baum's 28-page ruling says the Balsillie bid is denied "with prejudice." The NHL offer was denied "without prejudice."

It remains to be seen whether the NHL will come to the table with enough to tip the legal scales in its favour.

The NHL's bid promised Moyes only about $14 million of his claimed losses of more than $100 million. And that would be shared with Gretzky, who has a claim of about $9.3 million.

Balsillie's bid treated both as full creditors.

"There are multiple factors that support the NHL bid," reads the decision.

But Baum takes issue with the league's lack of debt repayment to the two Coyote top dogs.

"One of the prime policies of bankruptcy is equality of distribution amongst the creditors," the decision reads. "The apparent practical effect of the NHL's bid is to pay all creditors in full except the Moyes and Gretzky claimants."

A spokesman for Balsillie said his lawyers were reviewing the ruling and will comment later.

It seems to be back to the drawing board for Balsillie, especially since the judge essentially said it would make no sense to move the team with the prospect of more litigation over the NHL's rights to control its own membership, who owns its teams and where they play.

Baum's summary of the case starts with the massive red ink surrounding the Coyotes, the former Winnipeg Jets who flew south in 1996. The ruling cites total losses of $75 million in 2004, $50 million in 2005, $75 million in 2006, $117 million in 2007 and $72 million in 2008.

Financial statements "raise substantial doubt as to the company's ability to continue as a going concern."

The team was also a failure on the ice – "The Coyotes have not been a particularly successful team," Baum wrote.

Money aside, Baum says other issues played into his decision – key among them the NHL controlling the right who to admit to its club, the right to control where its members play their home games and the right to a relocation fee if a team moves.

"This court struggles with how it can adequately protect the NHL's membership selection right and control over home team location rights if the court were to allow PSE (Balsillie's group) to move the Coyotes to Hamilton."

Baum notes that if he were to allow the team to move and then the NHL was to win subsequent litigation over that, it would be akin ``to the old adages about closing the barn door after the horse is long gone and how do you un-ring the bell.

"The obvious refrain to the first adage is it's 'too late,"' and to the second, 'you can't."'

The back-and-forth wrangling over the team's future started when Moyes caught the NHL by surprise and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 5.

More than 1,000 documents were submitted to the court in the ensuing months and several hearings were held in courtroom No. 703 – with Baum rarely tipping his hand about which way he was leaning. Commissioner Gary Bettman and Balsillie were among the occasional attendees, along with a large contingent of Canadian journalists.

The NHL contended all along that Balsillie's bid was an attempt to skirt the league's rules on the transfer of ownership and relocation, arguing attempts should first be made to sell the franchise to a buyer who would keep it in Phoenix, despite over $300 million in losses since the franchise moved to the desert.

Chicago sports mogul Jerry Reinsdorf and a group of Canadian and American businessmen called Ice Edge Holdings were among the others to show interest, but another firm bid never actually materialized.

That forced the NHL to put together its own offer to buy the franchise, with an eye on keeping it in suburban Glendale for at least this season while it sought out a local bidder.

In early September, Baum presided over two days of hearings that culminated with an auction for the team and saw both the league and Balsillie sweeten their bids. Even though the Canadian billionaire was offering $100 million more than the NHL, the largest unsecured creditor (SOF investments), city of Glendale and the committee of unsecured creditors all spoke up in favour of the league's bid.

An emergency hearing on Sept. 23 gave Balsillie an unexpected chance to improve his offer even further. He agreed to keep the team in Glendale this season, pay the city a non-refundable fee of $25 million (with another $25 million promised if he was awarded the team) and sell the Coyotes to someone else if a local bidder emerged – "a fairly significant change," according to Baum.

After that, everyone simply waited for the judge to file his ruling.

The drawn-out bankruptcy proceedings have been extremely tough on those employed by the team – everyone from Gretzky (who stepped down as coach last week), to the players, to the people in charge of selling tickets and trying to market the Coyotes.

All in all, it's been a trying few years for the franchise.

The Coyotes finished 13th in the Western Conference last season, allowing Jobing.com Arena to become the only current NHL building to have never hosted a playoff game.

It's been seven years since Phoenix was last in that position and a staggering 22 years since the franchise advanced past the first round, dating back to a series victory by the Jets over Calgary in 1987.

With files from The Canadian Press

SPORTS TIDBITS

Tony Parker Developing French Cartoon

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 28, 2009) *San Antonio Spurs player Tony Parker has inked with French cartoon production shingle Tele Images Kids to develop "Basketball Adventures," an animated basketball series using his image.    The first season follows Parker and his street basketball team -- boys and girls in their teens -- in an amateur tournament across the U.S. Every episode will take place in a different city and will have a theme that echoes the lifestyle or culture of the location, reports Variety.    Series' helmer Franck Michel said the show will be in 2D and will have a hip-hop, urban touch.  Parker tells Variety that the series will feature guest stars, probably including wife Eva Longoria.    Budgeted at 6 million pounds ($8.8 million), "Basketball Adventures" -- which is a working title -- has been picked up by French net M6. Production will start next January.

Ray Nettles, 60: CFL Hall of Famer

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 29, 2009) JACKSONVILLE, Fla.–Ray Nettles, a member of the CanadianFootball Hall of Fame, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. He was 60. Nettles died in a hospice in Jacksonville, Fla., the B.C. Lions said in a release. The hard-nosed defensive player was rookie of the year in 1972 and the CFL's outstanding lineman in 1973. During a nine-year career, Nettles played with B.C., Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Calgary. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2005. Nettles, who attended the University of Tennessee, was drafted by the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 1972. He elected to come to Canada and joined the Lions. B.C. traded him to Toronto in 1977, and the Argonauts dealt him again a year later to Hamilton. Nettles was named a conference all-star both seasons, giving him five all-star nods for his career. Nettles completed his CFL career with stops in Ottawa (1979) and Calgary (1980).

::FITNESS NEWS::

Simple Workouts For Busy Women

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

When I was growing up, I was always astonished by how my mother worked mega hours a week, took care of a family, dealt with compounding stress and still kept her sanity. When I think of it, I most certainly feel like I'm of the weaker sex.

Today, with a focus on careers and fitness, women are faced with even more challenges.

To honour the busy women of the world, I've constructed a workout that's simple and quick. So if you're sick of all the "rules" related to what you should or shouldn't be doing concerning exercise and you feel inundated with career and family responsibilities, I have a solution.

In addition to a workout, I've also provided suggestions for those who want even more alternatives based on their busy schedule.

No hour-long sessions in the gym or long bouts of cardio and no living with the guilt of dreading the thought of exercise. Just a realistic alternative to all the "noise" in the world of fitness that makes us hate exercising. No anatomy lessons today, simply something you can do in your living room. The only weight you'll need is your own body.

This series of movements will take about 12 to 15 minutes. Yep, you are reading correctly. You can do them three to five times per week, and your entire body will be stimulated, and you'll feel rejuvenated.

I've designed this routine so that one exercise stimulates multiple body parts; this way, you'll get the best bang for your buck in the least amount of time. Perform each exercise in succession. After completing one movement, immediately continue to the next one. After you've completed all the movements (one cycle), perform them one more time. Attempt 20 repetitions of each movement. Don't worry if you can't perform all the reps; it will come!

I also recommend performing this routine first thing in the morning. You know and I know that after that, it may get too difficult to fit time in.

1. BENT KNEE PUSH-UPS -- Start with your hands and knees on a mat. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and your head, neck, hips and legs should be in a straight line. Don't let your back arch and cave in. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows. Lower your upper body by bending your elbows outward, stopping before your chest touches the floor. While contracting the chest muscles, slowly return to the starting position. Inhale while lowering your body. Exhale while returning to the starting position. After mastering this exercise, you may wish to try the full push-up.

2. LUNGE -- Stand straight with your feet together. If you don't have dumbbells, use cans. Hold one in each hand with your arms down at your sides. Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor. While contracting the quadriceps muscles (front of the thigh), push off your right foot and slowly return to the starting position.

Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set. The step should be long enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Make sure your head is up and your back is straight. Your chest should be lifted, and your front leg should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the movement. Also, make sure your right knee doesn't pass your foot (you should be able to see your toes at all times). Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

3. ABDOMINAL BICYCLE MANEUVER -- Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Put your fingertips on the sides of your head. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle-pedaling motion, alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. This is a more advanced exercise, so don't worry if you can't perform a lot of them. Don't perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back. Also, don't pull on your head and neck during this exercise. The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.

4. BENCH DIPS -- Using two benches or chairs, sit on one. Place palms on the bench with fingers wrapped around the edge. Place both feet on the other chair. Slide your upper body off the chair with your elbows nearly, but not completely, locked. Lower your upper body slowly toward the floor until your elbows are bent slightly more than 90 degrees. While contracting your triceps (back of the arm), extend your elbows and return to the starting position, stopping just short of the elbows fully extending. Inhale while lowering your body, and exhale while returning to the starting position.

Beginners should start with their feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle. As you progress, move your feet out further until your legs are straight with a slight bend in the knees.

5. ABDOMINAL DOUBLE CRUNCH -- Lie on the floor face up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Cross your hands over your chest. While contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor. Exhale while rising up and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.

You'll begin to notice a tighter feel in your muscles in a few weeks, and you will naturally perform more reps as time progresses -- all in 12 minutes or less.

For those who desire more alternatives:

·  Perform two brisk, 10-minute walks, one in the morning before work and one at lunchtime. You need a break a few times a day, and this is a good way to spend it.

·  Simulate strength-training movements at your desk, using your own body as tension. For example, tighten your muscles and do curls, leg extensions, lateral raises, seated ab crunches and triceps kick backs.

·  Perform one exercise per day for 10 minutes first thing in the morning. For example, on Monday do lunges for 10 minutes. Tuesday, do bent-knee push-ups for 10 minutes; Wednesday, do crunches for 10 minutes, and so on. Take a breather as needed, but keep the pace for a solid 10 minutes.

·  Commit to a 20-minute walk every other day. Sometimes even 10 minutes every day seems daunting. If that's the case, try for every other day.

·  Don't forget about your favourite videotapes. Who says you have to do it all at one time? If you have an hour-long tape that you enjoy, perform half of it one day and the other half the next.

Make sure that the workout pattern fits into your lifestyle with the least amount of angst and drudgery associated with it. Busy schedules are a part of life but should never be an excuse to stop exercising and caring for your health, weight and fitness level.

As always, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

Source:  www.eurweb.com   — Jameson Frank

"Our greatest battles are that with our own minds."