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LE NEWSLETTER

October 22, 2009

Good October day!  Got some 'cool' news for you in that the Heritage Singers are bringing a unique production to us but only until Sunday called Olde Tyme Country Wedding.  Get your tickets now!  And Halloween is just around the corner so get your ghoul on!

And why oh why is there still this kind of hatred expressed in such a violent fashion ... racism, homophobia, it's all the same and reeking of  hate.  I'm referring to the murder of a beautiful gay man that was known both in my social circles and in my work circles.  RIP Chris Skinner
. This edition is dedicated to you - story under SCOOP.

OK, jump into the rest of your entertainment news, this week steeped in content in almost ALL areas of entertainment.
 

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

::HOT EVENTS::

Olde Tyme Country Wedding – A Celebration of Love, Life, Weddings ... and Jamaican Food – October 17-25, 2009

Source:  Lee-Anne Lyon

(October 19, 2009) Toronto’s Heritage Singers present Olde Tyme Country Wedding, another exciting production in their 32year history. This original, homegrown production will be presented October 17 and October 25, 2009, at the PC Ho Theatre for Performing Arts, 5183 Sheppard Avenue East, Scarborough; and on December 5, 2009 at Glenforest Secondary School, 3575 Fieldgate Drive, Mississauga.

Tickets are only $30.00, available online at www.heritagesingerscanada.com or the many outlets. All information is on the website, the info line is 647
4771891

The Jamaicanization of the pantomime form was made popular by two performers, the late cultural icon Hon. Louise Bennett
Coverley, or "Miss Lou", who resided in Toronto, Canada; and the late Randolph "Ranny" Williams. Created by Miss Lou, who was also the star performer, Jamaican Pantomime developed its own distinctive character as an art form and over the years, its popularity has often been attributed to the fact that it captures the cultural roots of the Jamaican people with great humour and musical flair.

Old Tyme Country Wedding is a tribute to the many facets of love – of one’s family and heritage, how innocent childhood
friendship turns romantic love, and, not surprisingly, the love of food. The storyline and script were developed by Heritage Singers group members Valerie Laylor, Founder and

Musical Director Grace Lyons, as well as Orville Green. The production is directed by Devon Haughton, whose Jamaica
oriented stage productions are attracting large audiences in the GTA. Grub Cooper, musical director of Jamaica’s celebrated Fab Five band, composed the opening and closing songs. This

Heritage Singers production follows the many others which have all played to sold
out audiences in Toronto over the course of their 32year history.

Olde Tyme Country Wedding tells the story of Toronto resident Babs Spencer, who is compelled by a desire to visit to her birthplace alone in rural Jamaica, Uphill, after a 10
year absence. Opposed by her overly protective parents, the assertive young woman makes the trip regardless of their wishes and, to her dismay, finds herself embroiled in a love triangle. The outcome is a true return to her roots, not only to her birthplace but also to a lost tradition – an authentic, ‘oldetyme’ country wedding.

OCTOBER 17-25, 2009
TORONTO’S HERITAGE SINGERS PRESENT OLDE TYME COUNTRY WEDDING
PC Ho Theatre for Performing Arts
5183 Sheppard Avenue East, Scarborough
December 5, 2009
at Glenforest Secondary School, 3575 Fieldgate Drive, Mississauga
Tickets are only $30.00, available online at www.heritagesingerscanada.com
Info line is 647
4771891

::SCOOP::

Gay Man Murdered In Downtown Toronto

Source:
Rob Salerno, National

(October 19, 2009 )
UPDATE 20 OCT 8am - Ryan Cooke didn’t know that his fiancé had been brutally murdered seven hours earlier when he posted on his Facebook page: “HEY...does anyone know where Chris is?” at 10:04am on Sun Oct 18.

Cooke had lost his phone and no one could reach him. Police had been called to the corner of Adelaide St E and Victoria St at 3:05am by several eyewitnesses who had seen Cooke’s fiancé
Chris Skinner attacked by a group of men who beat him to the ground then ran over him with an SUV. Skinner was taken to hospital where he died of his injuries.

Skinner is the 43rd homicide of 2009 in the city of Toronto. Hours earlier, Skinner and Cooke had been celebrating Skinner’s sister’s birthday in the entertainment district. Skinner decided to leave the party and walk home alone. Details of the attack are being kept under wraps as the police investigation continues, but it is known that Skinner got into an altercation with the occupants of a black SUV before he was beaten, and that after running him over the attackers fled east on Adelaide in their SUV.

The number of attackers has not been confirmed, but it is believed there were at least two and possibly three or four. The make and model of the SUV and its licence plate number were not yet known, but police will be combing over surveillance video from the area to see if it can be determined.

Friends of Skinner suspect that the killing may have been a hate crime, but police haven’t drawn that conclusion.

“No, there’s not at all any indication that there were homophobic elements to the attack,” says Det Stacey Gallant.

But that doesn’t sit well with Skinner’s friends who are struggling to find a motive for the murder.

"Not a single person who knows him would say that he would cause a ruckus,” says Skinner’s long-time friend Craig Lund, “but he would stand up for himself if he was called on anything. I find that Toronto Police very rarely jump to the conclusion that homophobia exists.”

Skinner, 27, lived with Cooke and they planned to get married next summer. He worked as a graphic designer at Endeavour Marketing. Cooke could not be reached for comment at press time.
 
Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Stacy Gallant at 416−808−7410 and Detective Doug Dunstan at 416−808−7406, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−8477 or online at www.222tips.com. And Xtra here. 


 OCT 19 Xtra.ca Staff - The Toronto Police Service reports that 27-year-old Chris Skinner was killed in the early morning hours of Oct 18.

Police were called to the Adelaide St E and Victoria St area at 3 am to investigate a report of an injured pedestrian.

Police said in a press release that an altercation took place between Skinner and the occupants of a black SUV. Skinner was knocked to the ground. The attackers then returned to their vehicle and ran Skinner over with it.

Police say the SUV fled eastbound on Adelaide St. Skinner was taken to hospital where he died.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477 and Xtra here.

Xtra will update as information becomes available.

::TOP STORIES::

Toronto’s Saidah Baba Talibah Invites Fans Inside with The Phone Demos

Source:  www.exclaim.ca-- By Kevin Jones

(Oct. 16, 2009) As conventional routes to even nominal success in the music industry become more and more difficult to define, making genuine, personal connections with an audience at the street level is now mission one for any artistic hopeful. But for Toronto, ON-based soul rock siren
Saidah Baba Talibah, settling for the type of cursory interactions earned through MySpace and Facebook simply won't cut it.

Her latest offering, frankly titled The Phone Demos, offers listeners a glimpse at the type of midnight musical machinations no doubt every songwriter endures during his or her creative processes by serving up just what the title suggests: cellphone-recorded song demos. The collection includes bare-bones versions of tunes destined for her upcoming debut full-length, due early next year, replete with that innocent, nostalgia-inducing crackle and grit familiar to any of us who recycled old cassette tapes back in the day.

"The Phone Demos came along because I was writing songs for the album, and it actually sounded kinda cool the way they were recorded on my phone," Saidah tells Exclaim! of the process that sparked this uniquely raw and revealing EP. "People responded very positively to them, so I thought, 'hmm, why not release them?' because it would be another way for people to get to know me, and for me to just be me."

Allowing people to know who she is on such an intimate level is definitely more important to Saidah than most, as the completion of her planned long-player may literally depend on it. Following the cues of pioneering hip-hop politicos Public Enemy, the singer is employing an ambitious fundraising tactic, dubbed Make Me Wanna (S)Cream, that employs the financial contributions of her fanbase in exchange for a host of gifts, ranging from complimentary dinners to a gracious performance in the living rooms of truly generous souls.

"[Public Enemy] are working on, what, their 13th album and they're looking to raise $250,000, and they've got people investing anywhere from $25 to $100,000. So the whole model of making an album and reaching your fans — or the consumer or supporter— is changing, and I just thought it was a great [way] to connect with people, and essentially what will happen in the end is that, when the album's done, everybody who's invested in it will get an album. It's not like they're just giving money away for free — they're actually getting the album [they've helped create]."

Look for The Phone Demos to drop October 20 on iTunes and other digital music providers, and learn more about Saidah's Make Me Wanna (S)Cream loyalty program here, if you feel your inner philanthropist fighting to scratch that charitable itch as we fast approach the upcoming holiday season.


Saidah Baba Talibah, Daughter Of A Canadian Music Icon, Is Ready To Step Into The Spotlight

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Geena Lee

(Fall issue 2009)
Saidah Baba Talibah has a stage presence that rivals Tina Turner's and a vocal style described as a fusion of Minnie Riperton and Etta James. She's earned recognition worthy of the legend that began with her mother, renowned jazz/blues singer Salome Bey. In the studio recording her debut album (S)Cream, Saidah pauses to chat with Sway about her music.

So you're recording your debut album. Are you nervous?
Very! But at the same time I'm really excited, because I'm finally here, and it's been a long time coming. I am elated to have finally reached the place where I can not only share my music, but invite fans to be an integral ingredient on this journey to realizing this long-time dream.

Describe the album.
It's about life, love and relationships. There's a song about falling in love again and another that deals with healing from a broken heart. "(S)Cream" is a sexy song about being in a relationship with someone whose touch lights you on fire. The album will be released in the new year. In the meantime, the "phone demos" will be released this October — an EP that's a small teaser/taster of what's to come on the album. It's a way to bring people in on my journey — give the raw beginnings of the songs, so that they could get to know and love them.

You've sung background for many artists over the years, including a stint in the Canadian Idol band. What have you learned from the sidelines that helped you move to centre stage?
I started learning from my mother when I was singing background for her. She taught me how to stay on my toes and really watch the person who is singing in front. I think that's a huge asset to have as a background singer; be on your toes, you're a musician — you're part of the band, so pay attention and get into the music. The biggest lesson my mom taught me is to sing from the soul.

You have a unique made-to-order option for fans to choose their own musical adventure when purchasing your songs.
I saw how many artists are taking their art and business into their own hands by financing their albums through the support of their fans. This is my way of getting my music out, and the packages are a way of saying thank you for helping me make my album. The packages range from $15 which gets fans a signed CD and access to a concert, to a deluxe $3,000 package featuring (S)Cream adventure gifts, an acoustic dinner concert, a delicious, raw four-course meal and a burlesque show, all in the comfort of your living room.

- For more information on Saidah Baba Talibah's new album, go to sbtmusic.com

Africentric Alternative School’s Thando Hyman-Aman

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Saada Branker

(Fall issue 2009) She's the first principal of the school that made national headlines well before it even opened its doors.
Thando Hyman-Aman may not be nearly as popular as Toronto's recently launched Africentric Alternative School, but anyone in need of a lesson about the virtues of Africentric learning can start with her.

"It's about centring learning in the history, knowledge, values and experiences of African people," says Hyman-Aman.

When the idea of an Africentric school became the talk of Toronto last year, questions were raised, along with a chorus of impassioned voices in favour and those against any notion of a black-focused school. Some people ran with the misinformed idea that it was to be segregated, as a type of black-only institution. The school is open to all students, says Hyman-Aman. "It's an alternative school because parents have a choice to place their students there."

About 115 students and counting are enrolled in a set of split classes from junior kindergarten to grade 5, all housed in a section of Sheppard Public School. "We have the same standards for success as every other school in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB.) The students will receive the same provincial and TDSB assessments," she says.

In Her Blood

This year makes it 16 that Hyman-Aman has been an educator with the TDSB. Before that, she was an African history instructor for three years. Simply put: she was born into a family that breeds educators, so teaching is in her blood. So is a love of children.

"I come from a long line," says Hyman-Aman about her relatives in education, "from the preschool teacher, to the university professor to the Dean, to the principal." She herself was the principal at General Brock Public School for one year before the TDSB appointed her, this past spring, to lead the city's first-ever, publicly funded Africentric school. "Education has always been a high priority in our family."

Most Canadian families share that sentiment. But what makes Hyman-Aman stand out is how she blended an Africentric perspective into education, from the time she was young right through to the work she accomplishes today. She is the closest example of an achiever raised as a learner of Africentric teaching. And now it's officially a perspective that will be complementing the mandated curriculum of the Ministry of Education.

The Student That Could

During her teen years, Hyman-Aman attended the African Canadian Heritage Association (ACHA), a program in Toronto that celebrated its 40th anniversary in May. Having showed leadership skills, she became its first youth instructor, and soon after understood exactly what the ACHA espoused about giving back to younger learners. "That became an organic way in which I was able to hone my skills in teaching as well."

She says she couldn't help but notice what didn't make the pages of the Ontario school curriculum. "When we think about positive contributions that African people and people of African descent have made to humanity, to society to civilization, I did note that that was omitted," she says. "What I was able to do was infuse it for myself. If there were things that I needed to do with respect to science, I would use that learning opportunity to say, let me research about the scientist from another place; something that was little-known history." Showing such initiative helped Hyman-Aman, an A-student, navigate the educational system.

Today she's excited about her new school's role in generating positive thinking around education. "This is about students succeeding. That's why parents and the community have conceived and inspired what they needed in an alternative school," says Hyman-Aman. She's not focusing on failure or drop-out rates; instead, this principal describes what parents see in their kids: passion.

"What we want to do is harness that passion so that they can feel like I felt when I was growing up; which was ‘I can do anything, I can become anyone, there are no limits to the depth of my success or how far I can go in life.' And if there's any gift that I can impart on our students, it's that."

Toronto Named Host City For World Pride 2014

Source:
Flip Publicity

(October 18, 2009) Toronto has been named the host city for WorldPride 2014.  The announcement was made today in St. Petersburg, Florida at the annual InterPride 2009 Conference.  InterPride is the International Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Pride Coordinators.

The presentation of the Toronto bid took place yesterday during a plenary session at the conference, and included the screening of a video filmed for the occasion as well as public addresses by David Whitaker, President of Tourism Toronto, Scott Mullin, VP Government and Community Relations, TD Bank Financial Group and Toronto Police Services LGBT Liaison Officer Constable Thomas Decker.  The city of Stockholm was also bidding to host the event.

"We are delighted to have been awarded this opportunity to bring the world to Toronto," said Mark Singh, past co-chair of the organization and current chair of the WorldPride committee. "In this exceptionally diverse city, the advent of a festival like this is an opportunity to highlight the acceptance of the queer community by Canadians, and to raise awareness of other countries where queers are still discriminated against."

The first round of voting resulted in 77% for Toronto and 61% for Stockholm. This eliminated Stockholm, however as Toronto needed a two-thirds majority vote to win, a second round of voting took place. The result of the second round was a resounding 78% yes.

WorldPride 2014 aims to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues on an international level through parades, festivals and other cultural activities. The provisional program for the festival includes an opening ceremony with a parade of nations, an international human rights conference, a wall of remembrance in honour of the 45th anniversary of Stonewall, and an exhibition and networking fair. A gathering of all Pride Toronto's former International Grand Marshals will take place, an AIDS Candlelight vigil will be held, and three parades including a Trans March, a Dyke March and Pride Parade. Cultural events will be scheduled to celebrate Canada Day and the US Independence Day, and a closing ceremony will be held immediately following the Parade.

"All the usual aspects of Toronto's Pride Week will remain," said Singh, "such as the Family Pride and FreeZone (an alcohol and drug free environment), and world class entertainment and performers will appear on multiple stages during the festival."

Pride Toronto's 2009 festival drew over a million people and brought an economic benefit to the city of over $100m. Now in its 30th year, the festival is recognized as being one of the leading cultural events of its kind in the world and continuously strives to become more inclusive. With a volunteer force in excess of 1000 people, the organization's profile is evidence of its payoff line 'You Belong'.

With the WorldPride bid firmly now in its grasp, Pride Toronto has plenty of work ahead. 2010 is its 30th anniversary year, and a variety of new initiatives is planned including the introduction of year-round events, beginning with a Fall program that includes a Halloween Party on Saturday the 31st of October.

Singh says that "planning for WorldPride will begin immediately."


Pride Toronto is the not-for-profit organization that hosts Pride Week, an annual festival held during the last week of June in downtown Toronto. Pride Toronto exists to celebrate the history, courage, diversity and future of Toronto's LGBTTIQQ2S communities (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirited) and is one of the leading cultural events of its kind in the world. Toronto's Pride Week has been named the Best Festival in Canada by the Canadian Special Events Industry, is recognized as one of only Eight Signature Events in the city of Toronto, and is ranked as one of the TOP 50 festivals in Ontario by Festivals and Events Ontario. www.pridetoronto.com.

A Mash-Up Where Rap Meets Indonesian Gamelan

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

(October 21, 2009) Most rappers are magpies who will rhyme over usable beats from any source, the more unexpected the better. Even so, Andy Bernstein didn't expect to feel a rhyme coming on when he heard a concert by the Evergreen Club Contemporary Gamelan.

Bernstein is a Toronto rapper (stage name: Abdominal), whose 2007 album Escape from the Pigeon Hole was one of the cleverest, most entertaining rap discs of the year. He went to an Evergreen show in May at the prompting of his housemate and DJ confrère Nik Timar, whose father Andrew plays in the Indonesian-style percussion ensemble.

“I couldn't help being struck by how beat-heavy some of their music was,” Bernstein says. “I was kind of rapping along in my head.”

After some discussion with the Evergreens, and a “gentle nudge” from a Globe review that suggested a gamelan-rap match-up might be a good idea, Bernstein and the band decided to try it out. A few more conversations with Music Gallery artistic director Jonathan Bunce got the cross-cultural mash-up on the agenda for the Gallery's X Avant New Music Festival, which started Wednesday in Toronto.

“It's never been done before, as far as I can tell,” says Andrew Timar.

To get Bernstein into the gamelan groove, Timar took the rapper to the community workshops he holds regularly in Toronto and put him in charge of a large Indonesian gong. Bernstein says the experience showed him aspects of gamelan music he hadn't fully noticed while sitting in the audience.

“On the surface, it seems like a 4/4 beat, but when you're playing in the middle of it, there are so many little counter rhythms,” he says. He selected a few of his rap numbers that seemed most likely to succeed with those beats and swapped with the Evergreen for tapes of their repertoire, which includes traditional pieces and new works by Western composers.

“We'll be taking elements from our pieces,” says Timar, “and creating beats we can do with our instrumentation, that Abs can rap on top of. We might also give him a rhythm track without specific pitch, something just with hanging gongs. That can be more like drum-and-bass.”

Getting all the participants together before Friday's show has proven to be a challenge, however, especially since the set will also include input from the Toronto turntable duo iNSiDEaMiND, last seen during the Toronto Fringe Festival in a multimedia show called The Discovery of Scatterpopia . The most intensive rehearsal is likely to happen during sound check, says Timar.

“I'm comfortable with that,” says Bernstein. “I've done a lot of work with a lot of different kinds of music and musicians. And I think there will definitely be a big chunk of freestyling.” The show will also include pieces by Besnard Lakes keyboardist and composer Nicole Lizée, who will present This Will Not Be Televised , with turntablist P-Love and chamber ensemble; and Karappo Okesutura (2006), for karaoke tapes, mezzo soprano, chamber ensemble and video.

This year's X Avant, now in its fourth year, also features performances by electro-Krautrock pioneers Cluster (who played Wednesday); Czech violinist and vocalist Iva Bittova, with Pere Ubu percussionist Chris Cutler (Saturday); and a show by Continuum Contemporary Music that includes Chris Paul Harman's deconstructions of Scarlatti keyboard sonatas (on Sunday).

The X Avant Festival runs through Sunday at the Music Gallery and other locations. For full program details, see www.musicgallery.org .

Cirque du Soleil Performer Dies Of Head Injuries

Source:  CBC News

(October 17, 2009) A Cirque du Soleil performer has died in a Montreal hospital after suffering head injuries when he fell off a trampoline while training Friday.

The Cirque issued a statement Saturday saying
Oleksandr Zhurov, a Ukrainian in his 20s, had died. The accident happened during a regular training session at a Montreal facility where the international troupe rehearses for shows.

An emergency services official said Zhurov was unconscious when an ambulance arrived at the scene.

"He had head trauma, so we quickly transported the victim to the hospital," said Benoit Garneau, operations chief for an ambulance service.

"Today, it is all of Cirque that is in mourning," said Guy Laliberté, the troupe's founder. "I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Sacha. My thoughts are with his parents and his family, to whom I offer my deepest sympathy.

"Sacha was part of the extended Cirque family for the few months he was among us," he said. "An incident like this reminds us of the courage and determination displayed by our artists each and every day. They are exceptional human beings who share their talents with great generosity."

The Cirque said it would not make any further comments since a coroner's inquiry into the death is underway. It added that it would co-operate fully with the investigation.

With files from The Canadian Press

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Luring Leisure Clients

Source: Vacation Agent Magazine - By Melanie Reffes

(October 2009) The upscale Hyatt Regency Trinidad looks to attract a wider crowd.  As the centerpiece of the recently opened International Waterfront Center Development project in Port of Spain, the Hyatt Regency Trinidad is also the first upscale property to open in the heart of the city since the Trinidad Hilton debuted more than four decades ago. Targeting both the business and leisure markets, the upscale property accounts for more than 50 percent of new room stock in Port of Spain, joining a Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express, Trinidad Hilton, Crowne Plaza and Carlton-Savannah.

Located near the cruise-ship pier, the Hyatt Regency Trinidad overlooks the Gulf of Paria and boasts the largest conference center in Trinidad. And although the conference and conventions market makes up the bulk of business at the property, an increased leisure presence is anticipated, as the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago aggressively targets the eco-vacation market. With a wealth of cultural, culinary and nature tour options, the hotel is positioned for families and singles. Hyatt is also wooing the romance and honeymoon market, with an “Amour” package that includes breakfast for two and a late checkout.

“We’re looking forward to expanding our clientele from mostly business to those experiencing Trinidad on vacation,” says Russell George, general manager. “Ecotourism and romance will be serious markets here, and we’re ready for them.”

Accommodations: The hotel has 428 rooms (32 with balconies), and 10 Presidential and Diplomatic Suites on the 22nd floor. Rooms are modern and stylish, with minimalist browns and beiges, shiny bamboo floors and trendy amenities such as a bedside iPod-docking station, and a flat-screen TV that’s visible through the frosted glass windows of the rain head shower. Rooms with bathtubs are available.

The work area features a spacious desk, two data ports, a high-beam lamp, a two-line telephone with voice mail and an ergonomic office chair. Internet access is available for a daily charge. The signature Hyatt robe and Hyatt Grand Bed are brand-reliable, as are other Hyatt touches including a minibar, coffee maker and large closets.

Public Spaces: The multi-tiered lobby faces the Gulf, offering picturesque views of the parade of ships and small boats in the harbour. Soft music and plenty of space create a mellow ambience for relaxing with a newspaper and a glass of Canvas, Hyatt’s private label wine. The Lobby Bar blends Caribbean pizzazz with contemporary elegance, and offers a tapas menu until 11 p.m.

Dining: Tucked away in the lobby corner, Cinnamon Café opens at 5:30 a.m. for coffee and pastries, and stays open until the early evening with a deli menu. The jewel in the culinary crown is the Waterfront Restaurant, offering sweeping views of the harbour and Esplanade. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Caribbean-inspired menu, under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Fernando Franco, features steaks, seafood and a salad bar, as well as fresh choices that change daily.

Meeting Space: A 16,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom and a 10,000-square-foot Ballroom with translation facilities is suitable for large-scale conferences from the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America. A business center stays open late, and it offers computers and fax machines.

Seven banquet-size conference rooms, 12 breakout rooms and two boardrooms can accommodate up to 1,500 people. An events team is on hand to coordinate every detail. “We’re truly filling a marketplace demand for luxury and high-technology business accommodations,” says Charlaine Montano, director of sales.

Amenities: On the fourth floor, an infinity pool offers a welcome respite after a day of meetings, although wireless Internet access is available. The sundeck is especially popular at sunset.

The Esencia Spa is a 9,000-square-foot haven and the first Hyatt Pure Spa in the Caribbean. The Dimanche Gras massage, named for one of the biggest events of Carnival season, is a two-hour treatment combining aromatherapy and deep tissue massages. Adjacent to the spa is a fitness center.

Excursions: Local tour operators include Banwari Experience (www.banwari.com), which has a desk in the lobby and can arrange excursions to the Wild Fowl Trust, North Coast beaches of Maracas and Las Cuevas. Tours to Tobago (a 15-minute flight or two-hour ferry ride) can also be arranged. Other excursions include a drive through the rain forest to the Asa Wright Nature Center and a boat tour to the Caroni Bird Sanctuary.

The northwest coastline offers a variety of activities, from offshore island exploration to water sports. Beaches within easy reach of the property include Bombshell Bay on the eastern end of Gasparee Island, and Macqueripe on the Tucker Valley Road. Scotland Bay, a 20-minute ride from the property, is ideal for swimming.

The hotel is within walking distance of the city center and central business district. The front-desk staff is knowledgeable and eager to offer suggestions regarding off-property sightseeing and restaurant options.

Getting There: The property is 17 miles northwest of the Piarco International Airport. During rush hour (both morning and afternoon) the ride may take up to 30 minutes and cost $25 to $35. For clients who enjoy last-minute shopping, the airport is a modern facility with stores selling duty-free alcohol and local crafts.

American Airlines flies nonstop from
New York-LaGuardia, Miami and Washington, D.C. (BWI); Caribbean Airlines flies from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and New York-JFK; Delta has direct flights from Atlanta and JFK; and Continental flies nonstop from Houston.

Key Selling Points: The property and everything in it is relatively new. The staff-to-guest ratio is high (450 staff). A security force works around the clock monitoring public areas and room corridors. Elevators can be accessed only with a room key. The Hyatt E-Concierge online service can confirm airport transfers, dinner reservations and spa treatments prior to arrival.

After successfully hosting 34 Heads of State, including U.S. President Barack Obama, for the 5th Summit of the Americas this past April, Hyatt Regency Trinidad is gearing up to host Queen Elizabeth II and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this November.

Rates & Commission: Rates through December for a room with a king-bed start at $245 per night. Carnival in Trinidad, Feb. 15-16, 2010, is the most popular (and crowded) event of the year. With a four-night minimum stay, the property is offering a “Carnival” package starting at $279 per night, including breakfast at the Waterfront restaurant.

Commission is 10 percent. Travel agents are offered 50 percent off room rates, subject to availability. U.S.-based wholesalers selling the property include Libgo and Travelspan.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Toronto’s 88.1 CKLN FM Returns to Air!

Source:  
L3 Magazine and www.L3Magazine.com

(October 19, 2009) After a temporary cessation of live programming on the airwaves, Toronto’s 88.1 CKLN FM resumed daytime broadcasting Monday October 5th, 2009.    

Under the direction of a new, democratically elected Board of Directors, and in full compliance with the Ryerson Student Union and the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission), both day and night programming was re-instated over a two week period starting Monday, October 5. 

“We still have a long way to go,” said CKLN Board Chair Ron Nelson, “but with the help of our board, the volunteers, the communities we serve, the Ryerson students and their Student Union, things will hopefully go back to how they were a couple of years ago where CKLN was performing as a dynamic and award-winning Canadian campus-community radio station.”  

About CKLN: 

CKLN began broadcasting after receiving its license in 1983, and has been seen as one of the pillars of both community and campus community radio in Toronto.  Representing multiple genres of music, spoken word and artistic expression, CKLN remains focused on providing a voice for various communities that are not represented in mainstream media.  The station is run by approximately 300 volunteers, some of whom are journalism and radio and television arts students or alumni from Ryerson University.  

The CKLN studios are located on the second floor of 55 Gould Street at the Ryerson Student Centre in Toronto.   

Members of the media who wish further comment, or who wish to speak to the CKLN Board chair should send their inquiries to:    
board@ckln.fm , or calling 416-979-5251 

Corb Lund: Voice Of Experience

Source:
www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(October 18, 2009) At age 40 and now six albums into a musical career that's as distinctive and musically adventurous as those of his unwitting mentors, Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett and Neil Young – all of them renegades in the country music fold – Taber, Alta., songwriter Corb Lund is grappling for the first time with the kinds of personal worries, events and political issues that most of us come up against when the heady trappings of prolonged adolescence finally slip away.

A seasoned road warrior with a quirky perspective and a powerful urge to cut his own swathe – he records in Nashville with preferred producer Harry Stinson, but hightails it back to Alberta when the necessary work is done, resisting attempts to rope him into the conventional American country-music herd – Lund these days seems less the carefree, good-natured country-punk hooligan I first met five years ago.

As he settled into a barely lit corner of the deserted back room at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern for an interview one afternoon recently – Lund and his crack band, The Hurtin' Albertans, are playing there Thursday and Friday nights on the eastern leg of yet another cross-country tour – he looked wary, weary, troubled.

True to form – Lund seems incapable of or just not interested in writing about stuff outside the realm of his own experience – some of what's worrying him is evident on Losin' Lately Gambler, a return to rabble-rousing form after last year's Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!, an epic history in narrative song of horses in wartime.

Breaking up with his longtime girlfriend has yielded two superior love songs – "A Game in a Town like This" and "Alberta Says Hello" – and the invasive appetites of the oil and gas industries that are tearing apart his native province's pristine cattle ranges and turning friends into bitter enemies, he said, are what's behind "Chinook Wind," a lyrical paean to lives shaped by the wind that howls over the southern Alberta landscape, and "This Is My Prairie," the starkly unapologetic portrait of a lone "keeper of the family land" driven to a desperate act of defiance.

"These are all true stories," Lund explained. "I don't write a lot of love songs. I think they're the default setting for a lot of songwriters, and most of them seem fake to me.

"`Alberta Says Hello' came easy. It's very economical – not too many words, which is unusual for me. I've been going through a lot of stuff since I broke up with my girlfriend ... and I'm not good at writing about what I haven't experienced or things I don't feel."

A natural-born small-c conservative, Lund has travelled enough in the world – the band is rarely off the road, just long enough to record and write – to see global implications in the range wars that are setting families against one another in his home province.

"My politics are getting confused," said the former steer-riding rodeo star. His father, a prairie veterinarian, and his mother recently joined a landowners' conservancy group to protect well water from the ravages of fuel industry drilling and agricultural pesticides.

"The more I see, the more anti-corporate I become. I know it's not the fault of the riggers and drillers; they're people trying to feed their families. And I buy the meat and vegetables these companies produce, and I put oil in my truck.

"But I really don't think banks and oil companies and big ag-food care what happens to people like us. It's surprising to me how effective corporations are at convincing working people to come over to their side. Even our own government can't stop them if they want oil rights on ranch land. They tear it up and leave a terrible mess.

"It's the system that's wrong, and we built the system. Now everything's f---ed up, we have to change it, but I have a lot of faith in human ingenuity."

Elsewhere on Losin' Lately Gambler Lund taps into his father's life experiences and tall tales for "Talkin' Veterinarian Blues" and, to a lesser degree, "Horse Doctor, Come Quick," a humorous and not-too-far-fetched rumination on the source of animal tranquilizers that seem to have become the drugs of choice among urban club goers.

"You see so much of this stuff, you have to wonder where it's coming from," Lund said, chuckling. "That song is not a true story ... I'm just asking a question."

The only real peace the anxious, lanky Lund gets these days in on stage. He lives to play. "Performing is the part I enjoy, more than recording, more than writing songs," he said. "And this is a pretty hot band now. After five years and more than 1,000 gigs, I'd put my guys (bassist Kurt Ciesla, drummer Brady Valgardson, and Grant Siemens on guitar, lap steel and banjo) up against Nashville's best.

"Some musicians might have better chops, but my guys do it right, and I'd never record with any other band. They give my songs character, because they understand them and we've been through a lot together.

"Playing live will never change. It makes the music business irrelevant.

"In the end, it's all that matters."

Dancer Recalls Michael Jackson's Last Day Of Life

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 20, 2009) What was Michael Jackson's state of mind 13 hours before he was pronounced dead?

"He was happy, he was smiling, he was laughing with us," remembers
Daniel Celebre, who was a principal dancer in the superstar's This Is It comeback tour.

Celebre had been rehearsing with Jackson in Los Angeles "for three months, eight hours a day, and he always danced full out. His energy was amazing, man."

In fact, on June 24, the last day of Jackson's life, director Kenny Ortega staged the show and "we ran through the whole thing and finished at about 1:30 in the morning," Celebre, a dancer based in Toronto, recalled in an interview yesterday at the midtown BDX dance studio.

"The feeling was unbelievable. Michael was at the top of his game. People who had known him for years said he'd never danced better.

"We even ran `Thriller' for the first time in costume and the people from wardrobe were in the audience crying. They told us `You guys don't understand how amazing it looks.'"

When asked if Jackson seemed tired or under strain, Celebre shook his head emphatically. "Every day he looked fly, but that day, he was better than ever. He looked young, man. His form was so perfect."

Every evening Jackson and the dancers would say goodnight to each other. That night was no exception. "We always hugged. I said `Hey Mikey, I love you,' and he said, `I love you too, bro.'"

And that's the last Celebre ever saw of Jackson.

The next day is a hard one for the 24-year-old to remember, because it ended a longtime dream.

Celebre was born in Nobleton, Ont., from "a large and close-knit Italian family." His mother took him to jazz and tap lessons at the age of 4. Soon he was into hip hop, breakdancing and his favourite, electric boogaloo, "which I tried to do just like Michael Jackson."

He did lots of club, promotional, TV and movie work, playing opposite Hilary Duff as the dance double for the male lead in the climactic scene of The Lizzie McGuire Movie when he was only 18.

But in 2007, "I stopped dancing, for personal reasons. I wanted to be the best dancer I could be and all people wanted were the stunts I could do. `Can this guy spin on his head? Can he do the flip?' Of course I could, but I knew I could be so much more than that and so I just walked away."

His father had taken over La Salumeria, the Italian deli on Yonge near Davisville, so Celebre joined him there. On April 10, he was "slicing some mortadella" when he got a call from his Toronto agent, Peter da Costa.

"I know you've been turning down every job I've offered you for two years, but you always said the only person you'd come back for is Michael Jackson. Well, you've got an audition for him tomorrow. Get out here."

At first, Celebre resisted, but his father said, "Daniel, you're going on the plane tomorrow. Hurry up."

He was giddy with excitement, rather than nail-bitingly nervous.

"Everybody else on the line was stressing out. I just kept dancing. `What are you nervous about, people?' I'd tell 'em. `This is Michael. Let's have fun.'"

They whittled the dancers from 500 to 250 and finally to 10. After he made the last cut, he met Jackson.

"I shook his hand. It was huge, man. He had the glasses, the hair, the black suit. We stood there and I thought, `You're nothing but love, man.'"

Celebre loved the rehearsals and hard work that made everybody better and better. And then came June 25.

"We were all sitting in our dressing rooms, ready to start rehearsals. I was watching a clip of Mikey doing `Ease on Down the Road' from The Wiz on my computer.

"We never had the TV on, but somebody had put it on 'cause Farrah Fawcett had just passed. Then we started to get the news about Mikey.... People were running down the halls screaming. Some fell to their knees. Everybody was crying. Everybody."

The rehearsals were filmed and will now be released as the much-anticipated movie This Is It on Oct. 28, but Celebre hates recalling the funeral, the memorial, "all those things that rub my nose in the fact that he's gone."

Celebre prefers to recall the first day of rehearsal.

"He told us he was taking us on an awesome adventure ... and he did."

Michael Jackson Was ‘Excited', Ready For Concerts

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Mirja Spernal and Mike Collett-White, Reuters

(October 20, 2009) LONDON — Michael Jackson was “excited” about performing a run of 50 live concerts in London for which he was rehearsing just before his sudden death in June, the director of a new movie about the “king of pop” said on Tuesday.

In the last few days of his life, Jackson also appeared to have “gone into another gear” and showed no signs of drug dependency, Kenny Ortega told Reuters in an interview.

“This is It”, a feature-length film built around footage of the final Los Angeles rehearsals before Jackson's death on June 25 aged 50, hits theatres around the world on Oct. 28 and looks set to be one of the biggest movies of the year.

“He was excited, looking forward to (it), happy, pleased with what we had accomplished up until that moment and looking forward to finishing up the rehearsals in Los Angeles and moving on to London,” Ortega said.

“Those last few nights of rehearsals it seemed like he'd gone into another gear, and everyone really believed that we were about to embark on something that was going to be rather remarkable.”

Asked whether Jackson had shown any signs of dependency on drugs, Ortega replied: “No.”

Jackson died of a prescription drug overdose, and his death triggered fevered speculation about his physical state at the time and what drugs he may have taken.

According to Ortega, who had been working with Jackson on staging and choreographing of the “This Is It” concerts, the sell-out shows were seen by the singer as his swansong.

“This was it, this was his final curtain call. I think that what Michael wanted to do was to retire from performance and focus on film making and other things.

“He had said to me before in confidence that he didn't intend to be out there in the world performing for much longer, so this opportunity came along where he thought that he was young enough to be able to do what it was that he loved, he wanted to share it with his children ... to do it for the fans.”

Journalists in London were shown about 12 minutes from the concert film and accompanying trailer.

Jackson was shown on stage rehearsing “Human Nature”, from his hugely successful 1982 album “Thriller”, apparently singing himself and working with musicians to coordinate the music with his dance moves.

He also performs “The Way You Make Me Feel” with a group dancers, and appears to be moving relatively well and freely.

Ortega said that at no time did Jackson suggest he was doing the concerts for the sake of money or of clearing his debts.

Despite enjoying one of the most successful careers in pop music that spanned 40 years, Jackson left behind debts estimated by some to be around $500-million.

The string of shows and other potential projects with concert promoter AEG Live would have gone some way to clearing those arrears.

Sony Pictures paid $60-million for the footage of Jackson in This Is It, and Jackson's estate and AEG Live were to share the profits. Pre-sales ahead of the theatrical release have been particularly strong in the United States, Japan and Britain.

Venezuela's Winning System For Saving Children Through Music

Source:
www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(October 16, 2009) When 6th Grader Mairi Padrón was shot in the leg by a stray bullet after school, she wept. But not because of the wound.

She was on her way to her first orchestra rehearsal. "I cried because I couldn't take part," she explains. "Getting a chance to play was more important than the pain."

That scene, taken from a newly released German-made documentary,
El Sistema: Music to Change a Life, goes straight to the heart of a Venezuelan phenomenon that causes jaws to go slack and eyes to mist up.

Venezuela, awash in natural resources but burdened by intractable urban poverty and violence, has for nearly 35 years been building after-school music programs that currently have an annual enrolment of a quarter-million children and teenagers.

The State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children's Orchestras –"El Sistema" – gives children a clean shirt, lunch and admission to a new world of music, camaraderie and empowerment.

When their children enrol, parents become part of the equation, too. They have to make a commitment to support attendance, even if this means they can't send their offspring out to boost the family's earning power.

"When families discovered that music was helping keep kids off the streets and off drugs, they became our most important allies," El Sistema's founder, José Antonio Abreu, said in an interview on radio station WGBH following El Sistema's flagship Simón Bolivár Youth Orchestra's debut in Boston two years ago. Teens who attend El Sistema are less likely to quit high school; their drop-out rate is 6.9 per cent compared to 26.4 per cent of their non-participating peers, according to one study.

By the time the youth graduate from high school, they are accomplished singers, instrumentalists and conductors – El Sistema boasts that 85 per cent of students achieve a level of music proficiency considered good to excellent. They have learned how to work with others in common purpose and how to see beyond the gangs, violence and the dead-end life of the barrios (slums).

Everyone from the steady stream of international visitors who see the program at work every year is impressed.

According to the El Sistema website (www.fesnojiv.gob.ve), there are established or budding Sistema-like initiatives in 25 countries now. In Canada, projects are already underway in Ottawa and in New Brunswick.

"It is one of the most profoundly moving experiences, and certainly one of the deepest experiences of music I've had in more than 25 years of being professionally involved in the field," says Glenn Gould Foundation managing director Brian Levine, who came from the recording industry.

The most concrete proof of El Sistema's local success came in 2007, when the Inter-American Development Bank agreed to advance $150 million (U.S.) to finance the construction of eight "centres for social action through music" in Venezuela. The first one opened earlier this year.

Toronto is about to get a peek at what all the fuss is about. On Oct. 26, the Glenn Gould Foundation will present the eighth Glenn Gould Prize to the 70-year-old Abreu.

The tireless cheerleader must be one of the most-decorated figures in music history. So far in 2009 alone, he has been awarded the Polar Music Prize, the Frankfurt Music Prize and, in the United States, the Bridge Builders Award, the TED Prize, an International Citation of Merit from the International Society for the Performing Arts, a Distinguished Service Award from the Conductors Guild and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Frederick Stock Award.

The most famous of El Sistema's graduates is 28-year-old conductor Gustavo Dudamel. Two weeks ago, he became the music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic as fireworks exploded in front of a crowd of 18,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl. He is "the Dude," a shining example of El Sistema's winning ways.

Already, Los Angeles has an El Sistema-type ensemble on the go – the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. Those kids and their parents were also front-and-centre at the Hollywood Bowl.

"It was one of the most amazing things I've ever been a part of," says soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who was invited to participate. "A lot of the people in the sections closest to us had never been to a classical music concert before, so they were unjaded and so tickled. They were crying and screaming. I thought they were going to rush the stage."

Brueggergosman and Dudamel first met in Tel Aviv two years ago. Since then, she has performed with the conductor several times in Europe, and hopes to continue the relationship. "He is one of the most sincere musicians," the soprano says. He also inspires everyone to do better.

For the Hollywood Bowl concert, the soloists memorized their parts in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, because Dudamel knew it by heart. "We were, like, if he's doing it, we should be able to do it," smiles Brueggergosman.

Dudamel was born in the Venezuelan city of Barquisimeto. He joined El Sistema's local centre at age 6. At 13 he was a proficient violin player and, after turning 17, was named the music director of the 200-member Simón Bolivár Youth Orchestra, which travels the country and the world as musical ambassador.

The group's international tours brought him to the attention of the world's top conductors – people like Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim – who opened professional doors for him outside Venezuela.

Dudamel is scheduled to lead the ensemble at the Four Seasons Centre on Oct. 26. That night, Dudamel receives the $15,000 City of Toronto Glenn Gould Protegé Prize in Music and Communication, alongside Abreu's honour.

The triennial Glenn Gould Prize is usually worth $50,000, but Abreu asked that the money go to El Sistema. So, with a bit of creative thinking, the Foundation handed the money to Yamaha, which was able to turn the cash into 171 musical instruments having a combined retail value of $150,000, Levine explains.

The Venezuelans will not leave Toronto without bestowing a gift of their own – performing in schools and community centres, as well as at a monster school concert at the Rogers Centre on Oct. 29 (see sidebar for full list of activities).

Levine and fellow organizers hope the spirit of El Sistema will fire up interest in its possibilities here.

"It's more than just music. It's more than just getting out of the barrios. It's the spirit these kids get for helping others, for wanting to give back," says Levine.

Abreu's tireless, quietly charismatic presence has been there all the way from very modest beginnings.

In 1975, the then-36-year-old economist and amateur musician was frustrated that there was no professional orchestra made up of Venezuelans in his country. So he did something about it.

In an interview with filmmakers Paul Smaczny and Maria Stodtmeier, El Sistema founding collaborator Frank Di Polo, shrugs: "For us it's a huge surprise that the world wants to copy this process, because those of us who have been involved from the start were never really aware of what we were doing.

"First we set up an orchestra, then we set up a foundation, then we created opportunities for everyone in the country. But we never stopped to think, ah, yes, that's what I'm doing. Never."

Today, the Venezuelan ministry of social services covers 90 per cent of El Sistema's operating expenses, with the rest raised from foundations and corporations.

"When you're walking down the street, everyone knows about it," says Toronto Symphony Orchestra director of artistic administration Loie Fallis, who used part of a recent sabbatical to go on a Venezuelan El Sistema pilgrimage. "Everyone has, in some way, been touched by the program – that's over 30 years. That's fantastic, don't you think?"

Richard Holloway, chair of the Scottish Arts Council, was similarly inspired by a visit. He returned with a plan to fund a pilot project.

"You can't help being knocked out by the sexy, almost spiritual intensity of the playing of these kids; it's so deeply human. We decided we wanted to see whether a similar sort of project could make a difference in Scotland, in the sort of settled, workless areas that seem stubbornly resistant to attempts to break the cycle of poverty," he said to England's Guardian newspaper in 2006.

Toronto, with its escalating gang-related violence and almost daily shootings, is also a prime candidate for music-driven improvement.

Both Fallis and Levine describe how the kids go to regular school every morning, then spend four hours of the afternoon at the nucleo, as each music centre is called. On Saturdays, music takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During those 24 hours a week, 3- and 4-year-olds learn the fundamentals of working together by singing. They graduate to recorders, then to orchestral instruments.

By puberty, they're playing in school orchestras, singing in choirs, and auditioning for community, regional and national groups that represent upward mobility in El Sistema.

Abreu has set up nucleos in prisons, as well as apprenticeship programs that teach young people how to build and repair instruments.

"What amazed me, no matter what level it was, no matter what rooms we walked into, was how focused (the children) are on what they're doing. They were focusing on the music, they were focusing on these amazing teachers and conductors, and on each other. There's great communication between them, which is great to see," Fallis recalls. "And they seem happy and content. There's no darkness. It's all very light and very positive."

Fallis, a former horn player, was struck by how El Sistema is set up to feed itself – where students eventually become teachers.

"You don't realise until you see it that it's all self-perpetuating," Fallis continues. "When I looked at one of those young 3- or 4-year-olds – at that point they weren't playing instruments yet – that is where Mr. Dudamel or the other young conductors would have begun. You could see where the whole program is going just by looking into the eyes of these young people. Perhaps there would be another Dudamel 25 years from now."

Any account of El Sistema reveals that the music education itself is different, less focused on the self. Traditionally, most music students aim to become soloists. But, in the El Sistema model, the emphasis is on building community.

A street gang is probably the tightest form of community anyone can aspire to – so you have to offer something pretty powerful as an alternative.

We are a long way from seeing that kind of official recognition for the redemptive, empowering role music can play in childhood. The Glenn Gould Foundation is addressing that, too, organizing a day-long series of talks and workshops on education themes at the Royal Conservatory of Music on Oct. 28 that will feature Abreu as the keynote speaker.

Not that there aren't people and organizations who have been working in Toronto for similar with similar goals.

The 10-year-old Regent Park School of Music is a prime example. There, volunteer teachers provide music lessons and experience in instrumental and choral ensembles to children from of the city's most economically disadvantaged areas.

There's a daring project – the Hammer Band – launched by violinist Moshe Hammer in the gang-riddled Jane and Finch community.

The galvanizing moment for Hammer came in 2006, during what became known as the summer of the gun. "I was so moved by what happened," Hammer recalls. "Then, in the shower one day, I realised that violins and violence sounded almost interchangeable."

He put together his plan to start string ensembles and went looking for permission to start small violin ensembles from principals at three elementary schools. This year, he has a half-dozen schools participating and has two other teachers helping get to 120 children in Grades 3 to 6 twice a week for lessons.

"I'm hoping to double those numbers every year," Hammer says of taking on new Grade 3 arrivals each fall, while continuing to move up the skills scale with the other kids as they grow older.

Coming soon is C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute, "one of the most notorious in Toronto," Hammer says. Like all the other people in the world who recognize the power of musicmaking, the violinist is fearless.

"Some of these kids have a tough life," he says. "Involvement in sports, doing something that actually works, can give them strength inside." But music offers even more. "It teaches life skills. The kids learn how to listen," is one of Hammer's examples.

Hammer is working toward having more than 500 Jane and Finch-area children involved. "If they make the most minute little shift inside them, the whole energy of the area will change, and I'll be smiling."

Since returning from sabbatical, Loie Fallis has been talking to her Toronto Symphony colleagues about how that organization can expand its already extensive youth education and outreach activities.

"I feel different since coming back. I think I'm looking at things in a different way," Fallis says. "I think I'm more appreciative of the whole teaching and learning process and realising that it's not just about the music. It's about the whole experience. It's bigger than that."

With any luck, the arrival of Abreu, Dudamel and 200 of Venezuela's most enthusiastic young musicians will light similar sparks around this city.

"Music represents joy, peace, hope, integration, strength and infinite energy," Abreu is fond of saying.

Everybody can use a little bit of that.

Wilhemina Agency Hooks Fergie Up

Source: John Murray, Chief Financial Officer, Wilhelmina International, Inc., 214-661-7480

(October 19, 2009) *DALLAS -- Wilhelmina International, Inc. has announced that multi-platinum recording artist,
Fergie, has partnered with Avon Products, Inc., one of the world's leading global beauty companies.

Fergie is represented by Wilhelmina Artist Management in the fashion and beauty categories, including fragrances and cosmetics. Wilhelmina Artist Management is a division of Wilhelmina International.

The full text of Avon's press announcement follows:

New York, NY - Avon Products, Inc. announced a partnership with award-winning artist, Fergie. A bold choice for the global brand, Fergie represents the same independence, confidence and femininity that Avon promotes. Avon is tapping the multi-talented singer, songwriter, fashion designer and actress to collaborate on a fragrance that embodies her unique character and appeal.

"I'm so excited to partner with Avon to develop my first-ever fragrance," Fergie commented. "I'm always seeking out new ways to express myself, and fragrance is the perfect opportunity to share my originality
and confidence with my fans, and the Avon consumer. I couldn't be happier to be working with a brand with such a strong reputation for supporting women."

"We are thrilled to partner with Fergie and feel she will resonate strongly with our Avon Representatives and customers both as a fashion/style icon and a bold, multi-talented woman," says Jeri Finard, Senior Vice President and Global Brand President, Avon Products, Inc. "Fergie is a strong, confident and unique woman who stays true to herself and her beliefs. She inspires others with the empowering message that anyone can make their dreams come true - a message that is at the core of
the Avon brand."

Fergie will make her first appearance on behalf of Avon on October 27th at the upcoming Avon Foundation for Women Annual Gala Event in New York City, where she will perform in support of Avon's charitable efforts. The annual event celebrates champions who are changing women's lives.

In development now, Fergie will be intimately involved in the development of the fragrance, including the scent, packaging, name and campaign. The fragrance will launch globally in August 2010 and in the U.S.
in November 2010 and will be available exclusively through Avon Representatives worldwide.

"As Fergie's agents, we had one mandate for her own signature fragrance line, and that was to find an innovative gold standard beauty brand that understands her as an artist, but also understands her philanthropic side as well. There was no better beauty player in the world who fit the bill
than Avon," said Sean Patterson, President of Wilhelmina, fashion and beauty agent for Fergie.

Fergie is the most recent partner to join the company's premier fragrance portfolio. Avon's other partners include Reese Witherspoon, Patrick Dempsey, Courteney Cox, U by Ungaro, Eon Productions for Bond Girl 007, Derek Jeter and Christian Lacroix.

About Wilhelmina International, Inc. and Wilhelmina Artist Management
(http://www.wilhelmina.com):

Through Wilhelmina Models and its other subsidiaries including Wilhelmina Artist Management, Wilhelmina International, Inc. provides traditional, full-service fashion model and talent management services,
specializing in the representation and management of leading models, entertainers, artists, athletes and other talent to various customers and clients including retailers, designers, advertising agencies and catalogue companies. Wilhelmina Models was founded in 1967 by Wilhelmina Cooper, a renowned fashion model, and is one of the oldest and largest fashion model management companies in the world. Wilhelmina Models is headquartered in New York and, since its founding, has grown to include operations located in Los Angeles and Miami, as well as a growing network of licensees comprising leading modeling agencies in various local markets across the U.S.

Ivanka Trump: She's Playing To Win

Source:
www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(October 17, 2009) Like father, like daughter ... except she has much nicer hair.

Ivanka Trump won't turn 28 until Oct. 30, but she's already had a career that few people manage in a lifetime. She's the executive vice-president of development and acquisitions at the Trump Organization, has had a successful run as a model, has designed and sold her own line of jewellery and has just published her first book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life.

"I found that there really weren't any books that dealt with the modern female experience in the business world," she says from Manhattan, "and that was something I wanted to change.

"Many women wrote about their experiences 20 years ago in helping to shatter that glass ceiling, but no one until now has come along to update that kind of struggle in the context of today's female experience."

So Ivanka Trump did just that, writing a highly readable book that manages to combine sound advice for any younger women (or men, for that matter) trying to make a place for themselves in the business world.

Yes, it's true that her parents are Donald and Ivana Trump, but after speaking to her, you realize she's bright enough to have gotten where she is even if her name had been Mary Smith.

Born in New York City in 1981, Ivanka Marie Trump entered the world right in the middle of her father's headiest period of success, with his Trump Tower on Fifth Ave. rising to the sky at the moment of her birth.

So even though Ivanka is canny enough to write about ordinary things such as Lego sets she had as a child and what they meant to her, she still admits that "I was cognizant of who my parents were and what their place in the world was."

Many times in her book, Ivanka declares her entry into the world of real estate was inevitable and when pressed on that point, she doesn't waver.

"My passion and my love for this business is, in part, genetic. I was inspired to see two people who came home from work every day who relished it and enjoyed it and were happy with what they were doing."

In her book, she goes into more detail about what the separation and divorce of those parents did to her, starting when she was only 9, and is candid about walking to school every day through a gauntlet of tabloid headlines at newsstands.

She admits the lowest point came when she saw a photo of Marla Maples, a woman she had never met, but who would later become her father's second wife, with a headline above it screaming "The best sex I ever had," referring to The Donald's performance in the sack.

But despite spending her adolescent years in a media firestorm, she refuses to hold any grudges.

"I think my father is an amazing man, an amazing mentor and an amazing parent," she says firmly. "I'm very protective of him."

She acknowledges, but won't accept, the fact that he has become the butt of many jokes over the years, for his hair, for his bluster, for his machismo.

As far as she's concerned, "He's an absolute genius in his world. People in the public eye are subject to commentary, not always coming from a place of knowledge."

And if you look carefully through the pages of The Trump Card, you'll find a man who frequently offered his daughter sage advice, crashing down against her getting body piercings at an early age, but encouraging her to think twice about an offer that Anna Wintour gave her to work on Vogue after she left college, instead of automatically going into the family business.

"My father sat me down and said that I shouldn't have blinders on," she recalls of that conversation. "He said he didn't want me to work for him unless I had total conviction in what I was doing and didn't always think there was another career path I should've followed."

Of course, his advice had the desired result and Ivanka turned down the Vogue job, sounding wise beyond her years when she states that "When you're young, you have a certain freedom to make sudden decisions and take bold moves, but you have to realize that they should always further your ultimate goal."

Starting in 2006, she began appearing on her father's reality TV show The Apprentice and that started her on the path to her new writing career.

"Once I was on that show, I got a tremendous amount of mail from young men and women my age, as well as from the parents of children in my generation, all wanting to know how my brothers and I wound up so successful, so motivated. I know the common pattern is for children to rebel against their parents and their professions, but we were totally the opposite."

She started looking back at her childhood to figure out why and in that examination were the seeds that grew into The Trump Card.

"I realized nobody wanted to hear a lecture from someone in their late 20s. This book could in no way be a manifesto. It had to be a peer-to-peer conversation between someone of my generation who was just starting out and someone who had managed to climb pretty far up the ladder."

This past summer, she became engaged to Jared Kushner, owner of the New York Observer, and gladly admits, "I'm about to get married and I want to have a family."

On the professional front, "We'll see what comes. I'm entrepreneurial by nature and you never know where life is going to take you."

Finally, what does she think is her "trump card"? What makes her always hold a winning hand?

"It's a certain tenacity that I was born with and then cultivated. I bring that to the table in everything I do."

Leona Lewis Still Reeling From Punch

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(October 16, 2009) *British singer Leona Lewis pulled out of a planned one-day promo visit to Germany Thursday as she recovered from being sucker punched in the head during a book signing Wednesday in London, her spokesman stated.

 The 24-year-old, who last year became the first British woman to top the US charts for more than 20 years with her single "Bleeding Love," was signing copies of her autobiography "Dreams" at Waterstone's book store in the Piccadilly district of London when "a guy came up and punched her to the side of the head," her rep told the BBC Wednesday.

 The spokesman said he did not hear the man say anything to Lewis during the "unprovoked" incident. Security swooped in immediately and the man, 29-year-old Peter Kowalczyk, was immediately arrested. He was charged Thursday with assault and placed in an area for prisoners with mental-health issues. The south London resident will appear in court on Oct. 26.

 The attack has reportedly left Lewis with bruising on the side of her head. Initial reports had her going to the hospital as a precautionary measure, but in subsequent accounts, Lewis was reported to have seen her own doctor. Her rep says she is doing OK, although "understandably badly shaken." The singer also cancelled a scheduled appearance on BBC's The One Show Wednesday night.

 Lewis addressed the incident on her Web site Thursday, writing: "Thank you so much for your support it is truly overwhelming. Yesterday was a horrible shock and left me extremely hurt and upset. I’m very sorry to those I wasn’t able to meet at the signing. Thank you again for all of the lovely messages."

 According to an eyewitness at the store, "[The attacker] walked up there with the book, she signed it and, as she looked up, he just punched her. …She was running out with her hand over her eye and I just saw a man on the floor."

 Waterstone's released a statement about the incident, saying they were supporting any police investigation and thanking Lewis for her professionalism. 

 Lewis recently released a new single, "Happy," from her sophomore album, "Echo," due Nov. 17.

Bands See Web As Friend And Foe In Quest To Make It Big

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Karen Pinchin

(October 16, 2009) Victoria — Before he signs a new band to his independent music label, Franz Schuller usually gives aspiring musicians bad news: They're probably not going to be famous. This bitter pill is briskly followed by another: “Whatever they think they knew about the music industry from what they've heard, or read, or seen on television, that really doesn't exist any more,” says Mr. Schuller. “It's really, really hard for artists out there now. It's an insanely huge challenge to actually make a decent living playing music these days. That's the reality.”

Since music first jumped into digital form and as consumers increasingly turned to downloading songs on the Internet, the music industry has attempted to figure out exactly how and where music and technology meet. The same goes for bands trying to make it in the digital age. The irony is, while technology can help a band get noticed like never before, it also can be the biggest impediment in making a career out of it.

That was exactly what a diverse group of international music industry types – from small promoters to app developers – who gathered in Victoria, B.C. for the fourth annual
Transmission conference asked themselves.

Members of Mother Mother (from left to right) Ali Siadat, Jasmin Parkin, Ryan Guldemond, Molly Guldemond and Jeremy Page. The band was recently in Victoria, BC attending the Transmission conference and playing a gig.

Branded as a forum for music and technology leaders, the annual invitation-only event aims to “facilitate a meaningful, solution-oriented dialogue amongst peers from within and inside the music industry.” The talks dovetailed with Rifflandia, a sold-out music festival in the same city featuring hipster darlings Mother Mother, Tegan and Sara and Holy F(asterix/asterix)k. One of the headlining topics: “Does anyone know what the [bleep] is going on?”

Mr. Schuller, singer and guitarist for the Montreal-based punk band
GrimSkunk and founder of indie label Indica Records, was one of Transmission's attendees. He says technology has had innumerable positive effects on the music industry, ranging from band websites, MySpace pages and Facebook accounts that aid promotion and publicity, to digitized songs that can be easily distributed across international borders.

I just want to create a clone who actually enjoys being online. When you get home, your time off is actually way more work than being on the road.— Tim Baker, lead singer of Hey Rosetta!

But he also insists that the music industry needs a fundamental rethink, and suggests the allure of social technologies may eventually prove to be a Trojan horse for aspiring bands.

“For all the massive opportunity that the Internet and mobile phones and devices give us by reaching millions and millions of people, there's also a gazillion bands. It's really hard to get noticed or to get anyone's attention,” says Mr. Schuller. “It's allowed people with absolutely no business competing in the same space to complicate the careers of people who do have a lot of talent. There's way, way too much stuff out there.”

This rings true for Tim Baker, lead singer of the burgeoning Newfoundland-based band
Hey Rosetta!, which made the shortlist for this year's Polaris Prize. As social networking technologies grow more popular, bands are put under pressure to communicate with their fans in a way that didn't exist a decade ago.

“I just want to create a clone who actually enjoys being online,” he says with a laugh. “What a band is historically supposed to do is tour, and write music and put on shows. When you get home, your time off is actually way more work than being on the road.”

One of the other downsides of bands' hyper-connectedness is that there is less of the traditional fame element or mystique that has been associated with older, established mega-artists like Bob Dylan or Pearl Jam. According to Ryan Guldemond, lead singer of indie pop quintet
Mother Mother, anything the band can do to spread their music is a good thing, but there's always a risk that fame will encroach on their personal lives.

“It's hard to maintain any kind of magic if everyone is Twittering about everything,” he says. “If you read negative things, or see yourself presented in a way that isn't flattering, it can hurt your self-esteem. You can get too caught up in it, and you might start believing in this virtual image of yourself.”

Additionally, as a direct result of single-song downloading from licensed digital providers like Apple's iTunes, bands are under coming increasing pressure to make every song a single. Mr. Guldemond says this is unrealistic and not, at least creatively, the best way to make music. He argues it's important to have eccentric album tracks, which can produce new growth and direction for a band and its fans.

This pathological need for people to put themselves, and their music, into a narrowly defined box is something he says is a direct result of the mass industrialization of the music industry. One of the boxes he has the hardest time rationalizing is the “click the arrow to play” windows of YouTube; why anyone who tapes an entire concert would bother putting it online is a mystery to him.

“What is the benefit of that for them?” says Mr. Guldemond. “If they're at the show, it's hard to dictate how they spend their time while they're there. But I don't really appreciate all the rampant uploading, because half the time it just makes you look like a [terrible] band.”

A
search for Hey Rosetta! on the video-sharing website brings up more than 300 videos, some official and label-sanctioned, but most of which are grainy clips filmed in loud, dark bars. It's one less-than-desirable part about being a band in this digital age – everything you ever play will probably make it online, whether you put it there or not.

“The people who post those videos? They always have the best intentions, and they're doing it because they love you, so obviously it's hard to get mad at them,” says Baker. “But it's a little bit weird when you know that every time you play, no matter what happens, it's going to be available for all the world to see online, forever, and that people will judge you on it.”

Rissi Palmer : A Little Bit Country

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Leroy Graham

(Fall issue 2009) Quick, name your favourite black country singer — see, it’s not as easy as you think. That’s why emerging country crooner
Rissi Palmer is such a breath of fresh air. Sway caught up with the barrier-breaking cowgirl while on tour in the US.

What was it like being an unknown black performer walking into a country bar for the first time?
There are not a lot of black people in these places, so a lot of times it was like, “Is it R&B night here? What’s going on?” But then when they heard our set and what we were doing, they’d say, “Oh, she’s for real. Wow.”

Do you feel your race overshadows your talent?
I’m hoping that once someone has heard the album and seen me perform it won’t be a question anymore. I totally look forward to the day when it’s, “So Rissi, tell me about the album” as opposed to “You’re black. Tell me how that feels.”

Early on you were offered a deal by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the production duo that made Janet Jackson a star. Why did you turn them down?
A lot of people in my family said, “I can’t believe you just did that. That’s money.” But I couldn’t imagine having to sing something I didn’t feel, I didn’t identify with and didn’t feel sincere about.

Aside from the race issue, what are some of the difficulties that you’ve faced in the industry?
Aside from the black thing, I’m a new artist — a female artist — on an independent label. A lot of radio people are saying, “I like it, but is she going to be here six months from now, or a year from now?” We’re trying to show people that we’re here to stay, we’re here for the long haul.

What do you say to people who question whether a black singer can penetrate the country charts?
I don’t feel there should be any difference in whether you’re a black or white female country singer. Just like there are white people who love country music, there are black people who love it, too. It’s what I love and what I do.

- Rissi Palmer is currently performing in the US. For more info go to rissipalmer.com

Terri Clark, Back In The Saddle Again

Source:
www.thestar.com - Nick Krewen

(October 18, 2009) After 14 years of having to kowtow to the sometime inflexible demands of Nashville record labels, Canadian country singer and songwriter Terri Clark has declared a state of independence with her ninth and newest album, The Long Way Home.

"I just didn't want to have to jump through hoops anymore – at all," said the raven-haired Clark, 41, who single-handedly financed, produced and secured a distribution deal with EMI Music Canada for the new album.

"I don't want to be told what I can or can't, should or shouldn't, record, ever again. I don't think that did me any good and, frankly, I think I made a better record left to my own devices."

Despite a string of more than 10 chart-topping hits, beginning with the feisty independent anthem "Better Things to Do" and stretching to the current attitude-adjuster "Gypsy Boots," the pride of Medicine Hat, Alta., felt victimized by record company decisions based on second-guessing the unpredictable music programming needs of U.S. country radio.

Clark experienced that cold reality when BNA Records, her last Nashville-based label, recorded an album with her but wouldn't release it.

"The album couldn't come out until we had a hit," she explained, noting that the label spent two years exhausting its A&R staff – the people responsible for finding music for its artist roster – and endless music-publishing resources, hoping to nail that elusive song.

In the meantime, Clark was being emotionally hammered by personal turmoil: A divorce from her former guitarist, and her mother Linda's cancer diagnosis. The news of her mother's illness devastated her.

"That was such a crushing blow," admitted Clark shortly before her record release party at the Gibson Showcase Studio last month.

"The one thing that stopped me in my tracks was my Mom getting sick. That made me stop and really re-evaluate a lot about my life – what I'd been doing, what I didn't want to do anymore, how I wanted to behave and how I wanted to be remembered.

"I'd been going so fast, full tilt for so many years, and Mom getting sick forced me to stop and deal with some really hard feelings.

"I did a lot of thinking and writing during that time."

Some of those songs, presented to BNA, were summarily rejected. Her frustration mounted.

"I'd pitch them a song and they'd say, `Well, we really like this and we'd really like that,' and I'd never hear anything else," she recalled. "The next thing I knew they were out looking for songs again."

Clark became so disillusioned that she met with BNA Records president Joe Galante and asked to leave.

"He was very gracious," said the Nashville-based Clark, an eight-time Canadian Country Music Association Fans' Choice Entertainer of the Year who, even in her slump, was nominated for Female Artist of the Year at this year's CCMA awards.

"Joe said, `I realize we're driving you crazy. The problem is that we don't know what we need. Terri, it changes every week. I can tell its wearing on you.'"

"And it was – my fire was going out. I was becoming really disinterested in a scary way, ready to walk away from everything."

As a parting gift, Galante allowed Clark to re-record "Gypsy Boots" and "Tough With Me" for the 10-song The Long Way Home.

With the reins of her career back firmly in hand, Canada's sole female Grand Ole Opry member has reignited her passion for music.

The album comes out in the United States on Tuesday, but that's not first priority for Clark. She has a new romance and a 21-date Canadian tour – hitting Ontario this month – touting The Long Way Home.

Her mother's cancer battle continues, and Clark is positive. Some of the album proceeds are being donated to the department of research for the Canadian Naturopathic Doctors Association.

"That's the path my mom is following," said Clark.

"We're having faith that God's going to heal her. I can't even begin to picture my world without her.

"There's actually an iTunes-exclusive track that I wrote specifically about that feeling called `Let Me Love You Longer.' I'm not ready. It's too soon. She's 60 and she's got too much of her life ahead of her, so we're just kind of not accepting it."

Sting's Sailing Toward Something New

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(October 21, 2009) London —  A few weeks ago when walking through Green Park, a genteel oasis in the middle of London, Sting encountered a middle-aged couple on the path. The woman approached him and said, “Do you think we could have a photograph?” Absolutely, the singer said graciously – and then the woman handed him her camera. Clearly, she had no idea who he was, and merely needed someone to take a picture of her with the husband.

Ouch! But perhaps it didn't hurt so much. If you have an ego so legendary that it makes Fort Knox seem like a ramshackle hut, it would take a stronger blow to rattle your timbers. And the woman who relates this story is Sting's PR assistant, who is very fond of him and tells it with a laugh, so it must not be a sore spot.

We're in the production offices of Xingu Films, which belongs to Sting's wife Trudie Styler, located on several floors of a beautiful old mews house. The couple live five minutes away, the assistant says, “just across the park.” Also just across the park is Buckingham Palace, though I'm pretty sure this is not the residence she's referring to.

Trudi Styler and her husband and musician Sting at the Rainforest Foundation Photography Exhibition in London, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009.

When Sting enters, he looks like a man who's had a brisk walk through the autumn leaves. He's dressed in motley that only a rich hippie could carry off – a brightly coloured cardigan over a shirt open to expose his tanned chest, tuxedo pants tucked into calf-high leather boots. A grizzled beard covers his jaw; it's like finding that Captain Ahab has had a yoga studio built in the ship's hold.

The first thing he does is to suggest I sit in a particular chair, because it is the same shade of blue as my boots. This attention to detail is charming but would probably drive you insane, if, say, you were in a band with him: Later in the interview, he will say, about his time with the Police, “A lot of bands when they start out have a semblance of democracy. Democracy doesn't work in a band. You have to have one guy driving the ship. And, uh … that's me.”

His former bandmate Stewart Copeland has said a few things about the captain, and they're not “Sir, yes sir.” But more on that later. First, there's quite a poignant story to tell about a man and his past, about spectres and hauntings and the season that is generally acknowledged to be the end of things. Sting's new record is called If on a Winter's Night ... and it's a collection of songs, both new and traditional, about the coldest, darkest season. But if you're a man who grew up in a northern place, in a home that was cold in all senses, and you're the exact age that your father was when he died … well, it's going to be about other things, isn't it?

Going home, for example. Sting recently returned to Newcastle, in the north of England, for two weeks – the longest time he's spent there since he left 40 years ago, at the age of 18.

“The city's changed a lot, but the ghosts are still there,” he says, after he's settled into a low sofa and wrapped his arms wrapped across his chest. “More than I imagined.”

Which ghosts would those be?

“Well, I've lost a lot of people – I've lost my parents, lovers, friends, colleagues. And they all came to pay their respects.” He laughs, though it's a before-the-axe-falls kind of laugh. “In a nice way, in a sweet way, but I hadn't quite expected it.”

Perhaps it's not surprising that ghosts refuse to rest, considering that he didn't attend either of his parents' funerals (a subject he returns to repeatedly in his 2003 memoir, Broken Music .) Decades worth of ambivalence informs If on a Winter's Night ... . For example, there's the memory of being dragged out of bed before dawn in winter, when he was a little boy called Gordon Sumner, to help his father on his milk rounds.

“Most of my school friends would be tucked up in bed. My feet would be frozen, blue,” Sting says. “At the same time I was aware how magical it was, to own the streets before anyone did. This grey, industrial landscape became this enchanted, clean, beautiful fairy tale.”

There was another, gift, too, at the heart of a troubled relationship with his father: “My dad and I didn't talk very much, ever, but he allowed me to imagine. He used to call me ‘the dreamer.' To him it was an insult, but to me …,” he bursts into laughter. “I was a mystery to him.”

There's no bitterness in that famous voice, which is oddly both rumbling and nasal. Why would there be? Living well has provided a potent revenge. His wife's offices are stylish in a deliberately low-key fashion; the note cards on her desk say “the Sumners” (vastly preferable to “the Stings.”) Two of his children have followed in his musical footsteps. When he wants to act – which is not very often these days – Trudie the film producer coaxes him on screen, though “she still hasn't paid me for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels .”

Last February, tucked away from the howling winds in a Tuscan farmhouse, Sting gathered with seven musicians – many of them long-time collaborators, most playing traditional instruments – to record his album about winter, which has a suitably antique, firelight feel (the title is taken from Italo Calvino's novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveler , one of his favourite books). Originally, the record company suggested a Christmas album; sitting on the sofa now, Sting records his reaction to that particular suggestion by pretending to stick a finger down his throat. Perhaps he didn't know that the Christmas record has been given new respectability this year with Bob Dylan's seasonal offering. What he wanted was to explore the conflicting emotions that arise from Christmas, and winter as a whole.

His old friend ambivalence again.

“My Christmases as a child were hardly ecstatic times. They were supposed to be happy, but they never were. There was always a family row. The feeling of having got the present you'd begged your parents for, and then feeling jaundiced by it, bored with it.

“There's something deeper, though, that I tried to capture on this record, a light in the centre of darkness, which is part of the Christian story, but it's also something older. It's less to do with salvation than the cycle of the season.”

He rubs his bearded jaw – one of the things he likes about winter is that it demands more stylish clothing than summer, and the season allows him to get all hairy. Speaking of cycles, what about the Police, the band that broke up in the eighties and reunited in 2007 for a hugely successful tour? Would the captain take the bridge again? Afraid not, mateys.

Once again, he turns to mime, crisply knotting a bow in the air. “We tied up loose ends, we closed the circle, and we don't have to do it again,” he says. “We made a lot of money, made a lot of people happy and still remained friends.”

Well, it seems that Sting is not the only one suffering a bout of ambivalence. In Stewart Copeland's recently released memoir, Strange Things Happen , the Police drummer talks about his old bandmate with alternating fondness and rage. “His obsessive creativity has evolved into a monster,” Copeland writes. “He hasn't heard the umpire's whistle in 30 years.” And, memorably: “Sometimes the back of his head is better than the front.”

So, has Sting read the memoir? He responds with a feline smile.

“Yeah. It's sweet.”

Ooh, there's a loaded word. “I think he's been pretty fair about me.” Then he sighs, acknowledging 30 years of water roiling under the bridge. “You know, I'm not the easiest person to be in a band with.”

Ryan Gosling Teams Up With The Zombies

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

Dead Man's Bones
At the Opera House
In Toronto on Tuesday

(October 21, 2009) Hell, according to George Bernard Shaw, is full of musical amateurs. The motto of Dead Man's Bones, as stated on its debut self-titled album, is “never let a lack of talent get you down.”

The heebies never met their jeebies at an awkward, if adorable, performance by Dead Man's Bones, the special fright-night music project developed by actor Ryan Gosling and his friend Zach Shields, neither of whom are trained musicians. Enlisted for the concert was a children's choir from the Etobicoke School of the Arts. (The night before in Montreal it was Every Kid Choir; for Vancouver's Saturday concert, that city's Carson Graham Secondary's vocal jazz choir will perform.) At the Opera House, the teens wore white robes and ghoulish face paint and sang their little hearts out, shouting and melodically chanting about flowers growing from graves and spelling out “Z-O-M-B-I-E.” They were undead, but not without charm, and the soloist named Zoe was the winner of the applause-o-meter at the end of the night for her murder ballad.

In a superb break with convention, a collection of sideshow talents preceded the headliners. We saw a mesmerizing mind reader, a so-so pair of acrobats and a glittering lady with a trained peck of pigeons and oodles of poodles. The main feature was more unprofessional theatre than indie music. The backdrop (sparkly lights, a graveyard and a haunted house) promised a somewhat serious production, but, really, the only frightening thing was how close the show came to collapsing at any given moment. At mid-show, a home movie was shown on a white sheet. Gosling, who played guitar, piano and keyboards and sang credibly in a disembodied baritone croon, remarked that both his and Shields's mothers were in the balcony. Those women must have been proud, in the nervous way of parents who watch shaky grade-school pageants. Shields wore the same black-vest/white-shirt outfit as Gosling, except that the girls didn't squeal when he took his jacket off.

(“We love the Notepad, Ryan,” one swooning fan squeaked. She meant The Notebook , the tear-jerking feature film, which starred the London, Ont.,-born star and his one-time paramour Rachel McAdams.) Shields, an inhibited vocalist who cloaked himself in reverb, was generally unsure of himself. “We're new at this,” he admitted, superfluously. He banged a drum, offered the duo's top tune (the gliding pop of Pa Pa Power ) and often turned his attention toward the singers behind him, as if to coach them. The choir was doing fine.

The bones of dead men aren't any different than those of the living, they just clatter more. The rudimentary, ghostly rattle of the band (the two principals and three others, including Shields's cousin, the drummer) came from the album's original material: Buried in Water is a creepy waltz, and there were melancholy zombies-in-unrequited-love numbers. Influences would be the Shangri-Las, ethereal Johnny Cash, Earth Angel -style doo wop, Boris Karloff and the Langley Schools Music Project, an obscure scheme involving a British Columbia school choir in the 1970s.

On their album, Gosling and Shields used the Silverlake Conservatory Children's Choir, but, for any number of reasons, that California ensemble does not accompany the touring production of Dead Man's Bones.

And so what you have in each city is a different choir, with little time for rehearsal, thus ensuring every concert's endearingly slapdash appeal. To its credit, Dead Man's Bones does not take itself too seriously. And neither should you.

Dead Man's Bones stalks Vancouver's Venue Oct. 24.

Singing Just Like A Piano Can't Be Done, Naturally

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

(
October 21, 2009) With four albums to their name and more than 200 performances annually, Naturally 7 has hit the Top 10 in Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, Italy and France, but the septet, which originated in New York in 1999, has yet to garner major notice at home for their blend of R&B, gospel, jazz and soul.

This is no ordinary harmony group: unlike mere a capella – singing without instruments – the men of N-7 also recreate instruments (percussion, horns, guitar, woodwinds) with their voices in a method they've dubbed vocal play.

The group, which appears at Koerner Hall Wednesday, has toured extensively with Michael Bublé and appears on the Canadian crooner's new album.

The Toronto Star spoke with co-founder and first baritone Roger Thomas by phone. The ensemble's other members are Warren Thomas, Rod Eldridge, Jamal Reed, Dwight Stewart, Garfields Buckly and Hops Hutton.

Q: Who was the model for N-7?

A: No one has specifically done it like we've done it. Some of the forerunners are the Mills Brothers, Bobby McFerrin, Take 6, even The Fat Boys in hip hop.

Q: Can any of you play the instruments you imitate?

A: Only the bass singer, Hops. My brother Warren, who is the vocal drummer, does not play drums, but people, even professional drummers, assume he does, because of how he acts it out. Some of us play instruments that we don't imitate.

Q: Are there any instruments that you haven't been able to recreate vocally?

A: The most prominent one is piano. It's a very distinct sound that a voice is far too warm to ever sound like.

Q: Do I hear Auto-Tune on "Catchy" from your forthcoming disc Wall of Sound?

A: Yes, just to make it contemporary. We'll run our voices through whatever. If it's an acoustic instrument, like a trumpet, we do our best to match that sound naturally, but if it's an electric instrument, then we do the exact same thing to our voice that you would with the instrument, like running a guitar through a distortion pedal.

Q: Is there any boy-band-style choreography in the show?

A: No. No. Part of that is probably because we're not that good at it. And we have to stay away from that stuff, because there is that boy-band type stigma of "It's a popcorn thing." We want to keep people focused on the music. Q: Got any dirt on Michael Bublé after touring with him for 14 months?

A: Only that I used to beat him regularly at ping-pong.

We learned a lot from him. We hadn't done a lot of being a support for people and the two or three times we did – I'll let the people be nameless – their management told us that we were too strong and they weren't going to use us any more. The first night that we toured with Michael Bublé we got a standing ovation and that happened all week long and we were starting to get scared.

He told us very clearly: "The better you guys do, the better the overall thing is, and the more ready people are going to be for me to do what I've gotta do." We hope to do the same thing when we're in his position.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Rihanna Bares It

Source:  www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(
October 21, 2009) Rihanna is exposing her fans to more than her music with her new single, "Russian Roulette." The singer is featured nearly topless on artwork for the song. The photo fits the apparent theme for her new album, Rated R, which is due out Nov. 23. It will be her first CD since 2007's Good Girl Gone Bad, which went multi-platinum, and her first solo single since she was attacked by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. Meanwhile, Brown had news of his own Tuesday, announcing a "fan appreciation" tour to begin Nov. 14 in Houston, Tex. Brown was sentenced to probation, community labour and domestic violence counselling for the February attack on Rihanna.

Norwegian Pop Group A-Ha To Call It Quits

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Karen Pinchin

(October 16, 2009) OSLO, Norway — Norwegian pop band a-ha says it plans to call it quits at the end of 2010.  A statement on the Norwegian trio's Web site Thursday announced the move, which comes after a 27-year career interrupted by a seven-year hiatus in the mid-1990s.  The band became an international sensation in the mid-1980s following the release of its1985 debut album, which included the hit Take On Me. Although the group went on to release eight more albums, a-ha remains best-known for that song.  Thursday's statement says that band members want to follow other pursuits, “be it humanitarian work, politics, or ... new constellations in the field of art and music.”  The band plans to arrange a world tour in 2010, playing its final concert in Oslo on December 4.

Latifah Schedules November Tour

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(October 15, 2009)  *
Queen Latifah has set aside the month of November for a North American tour to promote her recently released studio set, "Persona."   The entertainer kicks things off with a Nov. 1 show in Vancouver, after which she will work her way east. The month-long club tour will stop by 18 cities through the Nov. 29 conclusion in Chicago.    "Persona," Latifah's seventh studio album and her long-awaited return to hip-hop, debuted at No. 25 on The Billboard 200 during its release in August. It is Latifah's first collection of new material since 1998's "Order in the Court."   "My acting, singing and rapping identities all came together under one roof as well as my taste in different kinds of music," Latifah explained about "Persona" in a recent interview with the LA Times. "I'd say it's half rap and half singing. If I had to categorize it, it would be more like hip-hop urban alternative."   Below is Queen Latifah's tour itinerary:

November 2009

1 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Commodore Ballroom
3 - San Francisco, CA - The Regency Ballroom
4 - West Hollywood, CA - House of Blues
6 - Las Vegas, NV - LAX
8 - Denver, CO - Odgen Theatre
10 - Dallas, TX - House of Blues
12 - Austin, TX - Antone's
13 - Houston, TX - House of Blues
15 - New Orleans, LA - House of Blues
17 - Miami Beach, FL - Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater
18 - Orlando, FL - Hard Rock Live
19 - Atlanta, GA - Center Stage
21 - Baltimore, MD - Ram's Head Live!
22 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
24 - New York, NY - Highline Ballroom
25 - Foxborough, MA - Showcase Live
27 - Atlantic City, NJ - House of Blues
29 - Chicago, IL - House of Blues

Kandi Burruss' 'Fly Above' EP Due Oct. 29

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(October 19, 2009) *The show must go on for singer/songwriter
Kandi Burruss, who is expected to promote her new EP while still mourning the death of her former fiancé.  Due Oct. 29, "Kandi Koated Entertainment Presents The Fly Above EP" includes the title track, which she performed on her Bravo reality series "The Real Housewives of Atlanta," as well as the songs “Trade Him In,” which features Gucci Mane and is produced by Drumma Boy; the Jazze Pha-produced “Must Be Good”; the Nitti-produced “I Like Him,” featuring Rick Ross and Rasheeda, and the Kuya Productions love song, “I Just Know.” The former lead singer of R&B group Xscape is also featured on “Try It Out,” the hit song by Big Bank Black which has been a staple on Atlanta radio. And “Tardy For the Party,” the track she revamped for "Housewives" cast mate Kim Zolciak, reached the Top 10 on iTunes' Dance chart upon its release. Burruss is scheduled to begin a promo tour for the EP "in the coming weeks," her camp stated.  Her full-length CD, "B.L.O.G.," is due out in early 2010.

CD Pick of the Week: Joss Stone

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

Joss Stone
Colour Me (Virgin Records)
***(out of 4)

(October 20, 2009) This British singer is an interesting study: despite a great voice, top-shelf marketing and A-List collaborators, she's never had a Top 10 Billboard tune.  Not that selling eight million discs worldwide since her debut at 16 is anything to sneeze at, but you'd be hard-pressed to name a Joss Stone song.  The ingredients have been long present for her to have had the Back to Black success of Amy Winehouse, whom she beat with the retro vibe, but the combination of Stone's youth, mature, soulful voice and throwback sound seems to have kept listeners at bay.  Now 22, with a couple of heartbreaks and some record company angst under her belt, the songstess may be in a better position to sell the funk and soul missives that comprise her fourth album.  The first single "Free" heralds the disc's sassy, independent vibe as she encourages taking control of one's art or love. The powerful voice ranges from Chaka Khan guttural to smoothed-out Teena Marie cooing, in organic arrangements, accompanied by strong horns and subtle percussion.  Among the co-written highlights: sultry kiss-off tune "Could Have Been You"; poetic "Parallel Lines" – "We go by like parallel lines/Living out our separate lives like separate lines/ If we crossed the space in between/ How beautiful it could be" – and piano-driven "Girlfriend on Demand."  Guests on this stirring record include Jeff Beck, Sheila E., Raphael Saadiq and Nas.  Top Tracks: "4 and 20" is a novel and sexy ultimatum anthem.

Wyclef Working On A Memoir

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(October 20, 2009) *You can add author to the wide range of talents under rapper/ singer/ musician/ philanthropist Wyclef Jean  The former member of The Fugees is working on a memoir with Rolling Stone writer Anthony Bozza for publisher It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. The memoir will chronicle Wyclef's childhood in the tiny rural village of La Serre in Haiti and his subsequent immigration to Brooklyn, NY, where at the age of 9 he began his journey into pop culture. He will recount his struggle between the double life he led as a preacher's son playing music in church with becoming a young rapper trying to fit in with his peers.  The book will also document his success as founding member of The Fugees and then his solo career where he established himself as a sought-after musician, performer, songwriter and producer.  "I am so happy to share my journey which took me from the hut to the projects to the mansion," said Wyclef. "I am just getting started and feel so excited about It Books publishing the early stories from my life." Financial terms weren't disclosed, the book is currently untitled and a release date has yet to be set.

Brian McKnight’s 'Evolution' Begins Oct. 27

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

(October 21, 2009) *E1 Music announces the Oct. 27 release of "Evolution of a Man," the new studio album by R&B singer and talk show host Brian McKnight. [Scroll down for tracklist.]  The set includes first single "What I've Been Waiting For," already a Top 10 hit at Urban A/C radio. [Scroll down to listen.]   Meanwhile, the singer's syndicated radio program "The Brian McKnight Show" is currently available in 47 markets. He also hosts "The Brian McKnight Morning Show" on LA's KTWV, The Wave Smooth Jazz radio.   And then there's his new late night television talker, "The Brian McKnight Show," which debuted on Sept. 26 and is syndicated in over 200 U.S. markets.  Below is tracklisting for "Evolution of a Man":

1.The Brian McKnight Show
2.  Just A Little Bit
3.  I Betcha Never
4.  What I've Been Waiting For
5.  When Ur Lovin' Me
6.  Never Say Goodbye
7.  Stay Tuned
8.  Next 2 U
9.  I Miss You
10. Always Be My Baby
11. Baby It's You
12. While
13. Another You
14. Not Alone

::FILM NEWS::

The “Surrogates” Interview with Boris Kodjoe

Source:  Kam Williams

Boris Kodjoe, along with his better half, Nicole Ari Parker, comprises one of the more striking and accomplished couples in showbiz. Prior to acting, Boris enjoyed a flourishing career as a supermodel, and was featured in national ad campaigns for everything from Ralph Lauren to Perry Ellis to Yves Saint Laurent to The Gap.

The Austria-born actor met his future wife on the set when they were both hired to co-star on the Showtime series ‘Soul Food.’ They subsequently married and settled in Atlanta where they are raising their two kids, Sophie and Nicolas.

Here, he talks about life and his latest movie, Surrogates, a sci-fi crime thriller co-starring Bruce Willis.

Kam Williams: Hi Boris. How’s the family?

Boris Kodjoe: Very well, thanks. All three are doing great! Nicole’s been a busy bee lately. She’s getting ready to star in a new ABC-TV drama called “The Deep End.” She plays the head of a big law firm. So, she’s doing great, and so are the kids. They’re taking a nap right now.

KW: How is your daughter’s foundation, Sophie’s Voice, doing?

BK: Great! We recently had a big event in New York . Everybody showed up: Russell Simmons, Gayle King, Gabrielle Union, Serena Williams, Charles Barkley, James Blake. It was amazing! We raised some money, but our primary objective, really, was to introduce the world to Sophie’s Voice and to inform them of our long-term objectives of eradicating this birth defect and raising awareness of the importance of Folic acid to pregnant women, since Spina Bifida is very preventable. So, we accomplished that, and now it’s off to planning the organization’s next big event. 

KW: Folic acid is a B-vitamin, right?

BK: Exactly! It’s easily obtainable in foods, like leafy, dark greens. 70% of the cases of Spina Bifida could be prevented by taking Folic acid. But the number of cases have gone through the roof lately, because of a lack of nutritional responsibility.

KW: Let’s talk a little about the movie. What interested you in doing Surrogates?

BK: It was a whole new caliber of film that I hadn’t been a part of before. Over $100 million budget…a lot of CGI [computer-generated imagery]… the scale was just huge. Plus, getting to play a character that I hadn’t done before. And, of course, being able to play around with Bruce Willis. That was an added incentive, since he’s a real movie star. So, the whole package seemed enticing to me.

KW: How would you describe the film?

BK: It’s an action-thriller with an interesting scenario where we’re living in a world where we have technology that allows us to live vicariously through our own robots that roam the streets. Consequently, there’s no crime, only joy and happiness.

KW: Until a murder ruins the peace of that utopia.

BK: True. That’s when Bruce’s character starts investigating, and I yank his chain a little bit because I’m his boss. I’m the head of the FBI, and he’s one of my agents.

KW: Would you say Surrogates is a futuristic sci-fi?

BK: No, it’s very contemporary. We’re living in a time when we’re very close to that reality. Nowadays, robots are doing a lot more than merely replacing us in factories. The kind of software we’ve developed so far is pretty much capable of doing everything a human does. The only thing we haven’t figured out yet is how to recreate a soul. It’s a very controversial subject, because we live in a time of technological advancement which could be very dangerous, in my opinion. 

KW: Would you say Surrogates is more CGI-driven or stunt-driven? 

BK: It’s a marriage of the two, which I think is the best way to go. As an audience, you don’t identify with machines. When actors are replaced by CGI, oftentimes we don’t see fear, excitement and other human emotions in the faces. As a result, the audience can’t relate, and doesn’t care anymore. That’s what happens with so many movies that display these antagonists that aren’t really human. I prefer real villains.

KW: Children’s book author Irene smalls was wondering, what’s involved when you make the transition from acting for television to acting for the big screen?

BK: The only thing that changes is how much time is given. Usually, in TV, you’re moving along really quickly, because there’s so much to do and not a lot of time, especially with one-hour dramas. They require a production to shoot between 8 and 10 pages of script a day, and that’s a crazy schedule. So, what that means is that as an actor, you basically shoot the master in maybe 2 takes. Then you go into coverage where you have 2 takes, and then you’re moving on. By contrast, on a feature film, especially one like Surrogates, you’d literally shoot at a pace of about a half-page per day. That gives you a lot of time as an actor to find different beats, and to discover alternative approaches. If take 3 wasn’t good, maybe take number 12 brings something out that you didn’t even notice before. For me, the preparation is the same, the time factor is the biggest difference. My goal is always to be ready and 150% prepared, and already in the frame of mind of my character when I arrive on the set.  

KW: Irene also asks, are you concerned about the image you projected of black males in the roles you portray?

BK: Well, I’m very conscious of choosing roles based on the overall message of the film. Sometimes, my character might not experience an epiphany or represent perfect moral principles, but the overall script is the most important aspect in terms of my decision. So, I always look at the project as a whole to get a sense of its message, because if it’s not on the page, it’s not going to be on the screen. Secondly, I want to be challenged by my character, and I also make sure that the director’s vision is in line with mine. After that, all I can do is be 150% prepared, let go and jump in there feet first, trusting that it’s going to be a great project, because I’m not in charge of the editing process, adding the music, or all the other things that the director and the producers handle. Once I decide to be on board, all I can do is put my best foot forward in alignment with what the project is trying to achieve.    

KW: What would you say is Surrogates’ message?

BK: It’s a cautionary tale warning about the potential dangers of technology. The movie shows us the possibilities of what can happen when machines get corrupted or into the wrong hands. With a lot of power, comes a lot of responsibility. I liked the film’s message, because I believe in taking technological advancements with a grain of salt. Just look at how today we’re losing ourselves in a maze of impersonal, electronic activity, from TV to the web to radio to mobile gadgets. Whereas years ago we’d sit down with friends and just look them in the eyes. Now, we don’t even acknowledge other people in our presence anymore. We’re too busy texting and getting messages. I think that this whole being available 24 hours a day has damaged the quality of interpersonal relationships.   

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

BK: I’m just finishing an amazing book that Nicole and I both read. It’s called “The Shack” and has been the subject of some great conversations lately. I’ve passed it on to all my friends because I’m fascinated not so much by religion but by spirituality. To me, spirituality is the notion that there is a God without the limitations of a specific religious structure or dogma. I’m very spiritual in that sense. (HERE)

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

BK: When you have two little kids, it’s really all day, everyday, because they come up with the most ridiculous stuff. When they’re too quiet, that’s usually a sign that something’s going on. Recently, I went into their room to wake them from their nap and Sophie had stripped Nicholas of his clothes. He was standing in his bed completely naked and covered from head to toe with baby oil. And so was the bed, the table, the hardwood floor, and Sophie’s arms and hands. When I walked in, I said, “What’s going on in here?” And she turned to me with this big smile and said, “Daddy, I made the whole room and Nicholas shiny.” 

KW: Wow! That’s beautiful. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

BK: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

KW: Okay, what do you believe is your biggest accomplishment?

BK: My family. Having a family and being a great father and husband. It’s where I get my strength and power, and where I find my truest joy and happiness. Everything else sort of falls into place when that nucleus is there and intact. A lot of people forget that that’s the most important thing in the world.

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

BK: Hmm… That’s a good one… Yeah… We both, my wife and I, we believe in God and we believe that He has a plan, and that all we have to do is worship. And by worship, I mean trusting that He will provide. And oftentimes it is a challenge, especially when you’re going through those tough times, and you don’t understand the purpose. That’s why faith is so important. Tough times don’t last forever, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. It’s really about asking what do you want me to do versus why am I going through this. That’s something we’ve definitely experienced over the past four years, and is really the source of our strength. Obviously, we believe in each other, and have each other’s back. It is important that we support each other, and give each other the opportunity to be weak or vulnerable, and to take over for awhile, when necessary.      

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

BK: Besides challenging myself to have that faith I just spoke about, I’d say insecurities about the language barrier. Learning to speak English was a big hurdle, considering what I do.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

BK: Schnitzel and fries for my kids. They love it. Usually it’s prepared with veal, but I make it with chicken.

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

BK: I listen to everything, but right now I’m into the new Whitney Houston album, and Maxwell. And I like Wale, too.

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

BK: I see a father and a husband, someone who loves life, and someone who’s been blessed. I also see a young boy from Germany who has come a long way.

KW: Thanks for the time, Boris. Please give my best to Nicole, and let her know I’d like to speak to her about her new TV show whenever she’s ready.

BK: Thank you, Kam. That’d be great.
 

To make a donation to Boris and Nicole’s charity, Sophie’s Voice, and to learn more about Spina Bifida, visit: http://www.sophiesvoicefoundation.org/
 

To see a trailer for Surrogates, visit HERE:

Caroline Cave - Actress Suffered For Her Art

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(October 21, 2009) After a year during which she performed in a series of emotionally and physically draining plays like Festen and Miss Julie, Caroline Cave decided it was time to lighten up a bit and do some film.

Wrong.

The movie she picked was Saw VI, which opens this Friday, and although she wound up enjoying the experience, she sheepishly admits, "I don't think I was prepared for the physical and mental stamina it would take."

Of course, you can't blame Cave for making that mistake, because when she agreed to appear in the sixth instalment of the series, she hadn't seen any of the five previous parts.

"I stay away from the genre. I get too terrified," she says with a shudder. "I don't know how to separate myself from the narrative and wind up getting involved with everything."

But, being the kind of actor who believes in total preparation, Cave sat down, alone at home, to watch the entire series.

The franchise, which began in 2004, is devoted to "the jigsaw killer," who doesn't actually slay his victims but puts them through gruelling tests that either redeem them or (usually) destroy them.

Some people dismiss the cycle as "torture porn," but Cave found more depth in the works than that.

"There's something intriguing about the puzzle in each film," she theorizes, "with each character's personal unhappiness leading to the way they engineer their own destruction."

But being prepared with Saw Past didn't help Cave much with Saw Present or Future.

"First and foremost, they don't let you read the screenplay," she says with just a bit of edge. "Not before, during or after. They insist that to get any of the narrative out there in advance is destructive to the franchise,

"You even have to sign a confidentiality agreement. It's kind of like I've heard Woody Allen works. Not." She uncorks a wicked laugh.

"The bottom line is that I won't know what the movie is about until I sit in the theatre on Friday with everybody else."

But there are a few details from the film she's able to reveal.

"I play a smart, cocky lawyer named Debbie who finds herself in quite a situation. Yes, there's a little bit of a see-through blouse as I get wet.

"Then you get Caroline drenched in blood, with prosthetics and all that stuff, which help to make me look gorifyingly destroyed."

She knew all that would be part of the bargain, but she wasn't prepared for the physical trauma she went through.

"The major fight was shot over three days, and you'd keep doing parts of it over and over and over again until your muscles were sore and your brain was numb.

"Mental and physical fatigue at the same time is a recipe for disaster. I hurt myself quite a bit, lots of cuts, bruises, and once I banged my head so badly they dragged me off the set to make sure I wasn't concussed."

No wonder she embraced her new television series so happily.

"It's called Cra$h & Burn and I'm enjoying every aspect of shooting this show." It makes its debut on Showcase on Nov. 18, but Cave is already one of its biggest fans.

"It's a dark, edgy dramedy, not unlike Dexter or Six Feet Under. It's about the unexpected, and my character goes through emotionally turbulent territory."

The "Burn" of the title is Jimmy Burn, played by Luke Kirby, described as "a young claims adjuster for a bottom-line insurance corporation."

Cave would appear to be "Crash," a.k.a. Catherine Scott, the do-anything-if-it-works insurance lawyer.

"My character is the kind of woman who was on the fast track to be a star prosecutor in Toronto, but she takes a few too many wrong turns and winds up with this loser firm in Hamilton.

"How did I get there?" A snort of satanic merriment. "There's a lot of sex, drugs and rock and roll in my backstory. A lot. And that makes it really interesting to play."

So with a new movie and a new TV series, Cave would appear to have it made, but the canny lady has one more ace up her sleeve.

"I'm getting married on New Year's Eve in Vancouver. Yeah, I know it all seems sudden, but it turned out to be an extraordinary and beautiful surprise. I got shot by Cupid."

The groom is an old high school friend she encountered back home, who she thought was "deliciously cute back then." Their mothers suggested they date.

Cave hasn't mentioned his name and she says she won't, not yet.

"He's just getting used to the idea of being married to an actress and he said he didn't want to be exposed so much so soon."

It's a good thing she learned how to keep all those secrets making Saw VI.

Good Hair: Chris Rock Explores The Black Hair Industry

Source:
www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

Good Hair
3 stars (out of 4)
A documentary narrated by Chris Rock. Directed by Jeff Stilson. 95 minutes. At Canada Square, Kennedy Commons and Scotiabank theatres. PG

(October 16, 2009) There's more than a strand of truth that hair is a loaded issue for black Americans and it's one comic
Chris Rock explores with humour and insight in Good Hair.

Inspired by his young daughter, who wished aloud for "good hair" – meaning straight, shiny, "white" hair – Rock heads out to get to the root of the thinking that value judgments can be made based on the state of follicles.

From barber shops and hair salons, to a factory where great vats of hair relaxer are produced (the stuff is so caustic the chemicals can eat through a soft drink can) Rock talks to black America about its obsession with having smooth, straight hair that only grows naturally on non-black heads.

With an easy-going style that seems unscripted (belied by five credited writers, including Rock), the comic interviews black stars. Among them is a dryly funny Ice T, author Maya Angelou and Raven-Symoné, whose scalp seems to creepily shift from side to side as she tugs on her weave.

All recall the first time they had their hair chemically straightened – using the stuff some women dub "creamy crack" because they can't stop using it once they start. Their wistful tones make it sound like they're discussing the time they lost their virginity.

Then there's Al Sharpton, explaining how James Brown took him for his first relaxing treatment to create his now-legendary swept-back mane.

It costs a king's ransom to buy and maintain a woman's "crowning glory," as Angelou calls it. Rock explores the irony of spending hours in the salon chair and hundreds, even thousands of dollars, to obtain gorgeous hair that can't be enjoyed. Forget about letting a man touch it in a moment of passion, and never let it get wet – that backyard swimming pool is for wading only.

The doc revolves around the Bronner Brothers International Hair Show, held in Atlanta each year, a fest used to market products and services to the estimated $9 billion (U.S.) black hair market. It culminates in the Hair Battle Royale, a flashy, over-the-top competition.

"Good hair is good business," Rock intones. Without its host, Good Hair would have had trouble finding an audience. It's more TV special material that theatrical release. But thanks to Rock's laid-back humour, Good Hair is also good entertainment.

Overnight Success – In 4 1/2 Years

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(Oct. 17, 2009)  Director Peter Stebbings was sure his quirky script for the superhero movie Defendor had all the necessary ingredients – humour, social injustice, drug dealers and a love story – to attract an audience in Canada, but, more importantly, abroad.

The problem was no one else was a believer, except for Toronto/Los Angeles-based producer Nicholas Tabarrok of Darius Films, who has a history of backing first-time directors (Michael Mabbott's 2005 The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico ) in projects others viewed as too risky.

But the pair's hunch on the $3.5-million Defendor , which ended up attracting well-known actors Woody Harrelson, Kat Denning and Sandra Oh, was bang on. The film was one of the first – and the few – to get picked up by a major U.S. distributor at last month's Toronto International Film Festival. Sony Pictures paid close to $2-million for Defendor .

It took him 41/2 years to get it made, but Stebbings figures he got lucky by sticking to a simple formula: tell a decent story with heart, land a cast high-profile enough to attract international attention and stick to a vision of what you want the film to be.

Stebbings, who grew up in Vancouver and now lives in Toronto, says when he started pitching his film to financial backers he was up against the proverbial wall. “The marketplace looks for a lot of sameness,” he said. “At least initially, no one really trusted the tone of the film, which is not a full-blown comedy. It's a movie that believes entirely in the given circumstances, and let's some of the comedy come to us. We don't chase for laughs in this film. My intent was to make people laugh and, hopefully, touch them on a deeper level as well. A lot of Hollywood independent-film folk enjoyed the script, but didn't know how they'd market it.”

In Defendor , Harrelson stars as a disillusioned man who believes he's a superhero and combs city streets in search of his arch enemy, while befriending a young prostitute played by Dennings. Oh portrays his psychiatrist.

Jeff Sackman, a former ThinkFilm executive and now a freelance consultant who helped broker the deal with Sony, says Defendor is a model for how Canadian-made, independent movies should be made and sold. “Use Telefilm [Canada] to fund a project that has a cast of international calibre, and the film has a better chance of getting picked up by a substantial player outside of Canada,” he asserts. “I've been blabbing at Telefilm for years to get out of Canada-centric thinking. The United States is a troubled environment for the independent financing of film. In Canada, people have grown up on the tit of the lamb, so to speak. So we have to find a new way of doing things.”

Defendor will be released before the end of the year through Alliance Films, and Vancouver's Insight Film Releasing is handling international sales.

“There is more and more openness with Telefilm in funding films like Defendor and Rob Stefaniuk's Suck , which I think is great,” adds Sackman.

During the Toronto International Film Festival, Universal Pictures International Entertainment purchased various territorial rights outside of North America for the vampires-meet-rock film Suck. The Weinstein Co. bought Tom Ford's A Single Man for over $2.5-million; and Toronto's IFC Films bought U.S. rights to Nicolas Winding Refn's Viking action-adventure Valhalla Rising .

After the lights went down at the festival, more deals trickled in: Jon Amiel's Creation was sold in the United States to Newmarket Films, Magnolia Pictures picked up Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love , and Sony Pictures Classics purchased both the Israeli movie Lebanon and Aaron Schneider's Get Low, starring Robert Duvall.

But the buzz around Defendor got off the ground early at TIFF. Stebbings said he was approached at the film's party by Sony Pictures Classics's co-founder Tom Bernard – who ended up passing it along to the sister company.

Sackman says he got the phone call from Sony as the credits were rolling. “The top guy was saying. I want to do it. Within 36 hours we closed [the deal]. But unlike the old days, when the deal would be done at 4 in the morning, right after the screening, that novelty is gone. It's the state of the universe and no one cares as much. Obviously if A Little Miss Sunshine comes along, there will be multiple bidders and agents driving the price up, but I haven't seen that urgency for a few years.”

Stebbings says he's ecstatic with the deal, especially in this market, while adding, “If this had got done a year before, I think it [the price] would have been 50 per cent better.

“In the pre- Juno days [the 2007 sleeper hit from Jason Reitman], there were roughly 200 independent films for sale. Post- Juno , the market was glutted with something like 600. Sales agents and shoppers alike are being more selective – as opposed to buying everything, throwing them at the wall, and seeing what sticks. Everyone is aware that the independent isn't quite an endangered species, but it's not far off the UNESCO list.”

The first-time director adds that he and Taborrak know the battle is not won to get a wide theatrical release (that is to say, up to 60 screens across the U.S.). That said, he hasn't forgotten the high of getting the call, while sharing nachos with Tabarrok at Toronto's 24-hour 7 West Cafe, that the Sony deal had been signed.

“We raised our tea cups and gave each other a cheers. And when Woody [Harrelson] heard the news, he texted me right away, and said this little movie that might … has become this little movie that did.”

Jamie Foxx Lays Down ‘Law’ In New Film

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

(October 16, 2009) *Jamie Foxx stars in the new thriller “Law Abiding Citizen” about a man who seeks revenge on the district attorney who orchestrated the plea bargain that set his family’s killers free.

Foxx plays DA Nick Rice to Gerard Butler’s every-man Clyde Shelton in the film which opens today in theatres everywhere.

“Revenge is a tough thing,” Foxx said speaking to the film’s story. “I don’t know if that’s my Texas upbringing, but you have certain things about you that you say, ‘Ok, at that point, that’s where I would tip; that would be my tipping point.’ When you look at this movie, you look at your daughter and your wife who you love and you say, ‘Wow, what I would do?’ I’ve read stories about people taking the law into their own hands and that’s just bad. It’s tough.”

The film weaves a story of complexities with what initially appear to be plot gaps, but Foxx explained that that was the genius of the film and its director F. Gary Gray and producer Lucas Foster.

“Literally, we were flying by the seat of our pants at times and every single step Lucas Foster was like, ‘No, that’s not going to make sense when you do that. It will make sense if you do this.’ He is really responsible for making it work. It’s tough to do a movie like this; to sort of suspend the reality and take it out of the extreme, but he was great at it.”

Working with Gray and Foster was just one of Foxx’s resources in developing his character. Like most actors, Foxx turned to real people to study for his role, though this time, he didn't deal with real life DAs, but with their opposition.

“I got with the defense attorneys because defense attorneys tell the truth about DAs,” Foxx said. “DAs always put their best food forward, but the defense attorneys are like, ‘They’re arrogant, they’re this they’re that,’ and I wanted to have a layer of that; the person that is detached emotionally about the case. If you take every case and you’re emotional about every case, you won’t be able to make it. That’s what I did.”

Foxx admitted that while falling into character and the genius of the crew, his challenge for ‘Law Abiding Citizen,’ was actually the process.

“We were writing as we were going and coming up with stuff,” he said. “Other than that I had a good time. ‘Blame It’ was number one at the time, so I kept coming on set singing. And Philly was a great city to shoot, and great food.”

Foxx has done well in film, television, and radio and he told reporters that being able to lean on different talents is important particularly in today’s unforgiving and fickle entertainment industry.

“You don’t know what’s gonna work,” he said. “You don’t know if this movie is going to be great. You don’t know if the songs are going to be hits. It’s hard to be a successful celebrity these days. It's not about the celebrity anymore, it’s about the vehicle. If you have a great vehicle, you’re good. It’s tough out there.”

 As far as his music career is concerned, Foxx said that he is going to stay current and churn out at least a couple more “young albums,” as he called it, before settling back into unadulterated R&B.

“I’m going to stay current,” he said. “All my R&B cohorts are out of jobs right now. Nobody wants to hear R&B. It’s sad. I sing R&B in the show, but if you want to be on the radio, you’ve got to stay young. My daughter always says, ‘Dad, you sound old. You sound 50. Why don’t you have a machine on your voice? Why don’t you have the auto-tune? They’re not going to like that.’ I’m thinking I’m killing it.”

“I have to get more albums and more material so when you’re out on the road you can relax,” he continued. “I had a conversation with Lionel Richie who said, ‘You’re a couple of albums away from getting your Vegas on.’ So I can just go to Vegas and say, ‘Hey, you know this one?’”

With a dual career, or even a tri-career if you consider his comedy radio show “The Foxx Hole,” Foxx said that he’s pretty protective of his work.

“The one thing you try to do is just be known for your entertainment as opposed to the Internet and ‘tweets’ and all that. If I’m doing jokes and I’m in this club and the jokes are designed for this club and somebody tweets it and the people that are reading it are not in the club. You’ve got to protect your art and still be out there. When we do radio shows, we’re having to explain a joke or we’re having to send a gift basket. It gets to the point where you want to kick somebody and say, ‘it’s comedy.’ As far as our radio show, we stay way out there. We’re like the Richard Pryor album that you had to go into the basement to listen to.”

Still, with the radio show, films, and hit records, Foxx said that his first love remains his first choice – Comedy.

“For me the comedy is much more enjoyable because that’s where I’m from. Sometimes when you’re doing the drama it gets so heavy,” he said. “And say you don’t have that big movie after ‘Ray,’ but then you get a hit song, so it feels a little better. We’re all very emotional. Every artist is so emotional. If you’re dying in one area, and if that’s the only area you’re in, it’s tough, but if you luck up and you get a hit record, you can hide behind that record. So, I cheat a lot. It’s tough for my friends that are just actors because there are not a lot of roles that are great or movies that are fantastic. I feel humble and lucky.”

For more on “Law Abiding Citizen,” go to the official website at
www.lawabidingcitizenfilm.com.

Oscar Winner Morgan Freeman Challenges Segregated Prom

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Leroy Graham (with files from Jon Sarpong)

(Fall issue 2009) You are not alone if the idea of a segregated prom occurring during the present millennium is a shock to you. Actor
Morgan Freeman, whose recent HBO documentary, Prom Night In Mississippi, deals with the controversial topic, was taken aback at the idea of separate proms for black and white students.

"Well, I learned about it several years ago; I was at the school to speak to the kids and I found out that they were having a separate prom. I asked the kids why they had a separate prom and they let me know that it wasn't their idea, they were just reacting to what the school boards and others had put in place," says Freeman.

The film follows the lives of students at a Charleston Mississippi high school, not far from where Academy Award winner Freeman makes his residence. For Freeman, the idea of open and blatant racism in this Southern town is nothing new, but he does find it interesting that, although individuals will take part in racist acts, they will do anything to avoid being classified as racist.

"I think it's an American thing and is most dramatized in the South," says Freeman "I left the South when I was 18 and have lived everywhere and learned that racism isn't relegated to the South, it is everywhere, it's just a matter of how it is manifested."

Freeman sees the decision of the students to work with him to produce an integrated prom inspiring. In the film, he offers to pay for the prom if the students will work together and partake in an integrated prom.

"They inspired me the first time that I learned it was not their idea to have segregated proms; it was not their idea not to socialize with each other," says Freeman.

Ultimately, Prom Night In Mississippi offers a candid look at racism today through the lives of students, administrators and families. In a Barack Obama US, where politics and economics have been integrated to various degrees, Freeman sees social interaction as the last bastion of acceptable racist behaviour.

"Many people are very big on tradition, the way things have always been. Change is hard for a lot of people in different areas of life. My feeling is that the amount of attention that this documentary is getting will make people see how ridiculous things are and make changes. There is still a ways to go, but I think this generation of kids will take this experience with them and pass it on to create new traditions."

Not Evil Just Wrong Challenges Environmental Claims

Source:
www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson

(October 18, 2009) The movie event of the weekend will almost certainly not be happening in a theatre near you. Instead, the makers of a new documentary called
Not Evil Just Wrong are using less traditional means and venues to stage what they hope to be the largest ever simultaneous movie premiere at 8 p.m. tonight .

Irish journalist Phelim McAleer, who is one of the film's producers and directors, calls it "the movie that Al Gore and Hollywood don't want you to see." Why? Because Not Evil Just Wrong directly challenges much of what Gore's Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth presents as irrefutable evidence of climate change.

Though activist-minded filmmakers may have traditionally occupied the left side of the political spectrum, the documentary field has seen great changes in recent years both in terms of the messages that get presented and the manner in which the movies themselves circulate.

One trend is the making of documentaries that challenge the claims of others. Since Michael Moore's movies have already inspired ripostes like Fahrenhype 9/11 and Michael Moore Hates America, it was only a matter of time before An Inconvenient Truth earned a rebuttal.

Not Evil Just Wrong attacks Gore and his fellow environmentalists on subjects such as the nine "significant errors of fact" that a British High Court judge found in An Inconvenient Truth in a 2007 case.

According to McAleer, distributors and film festivals were none too keen on circulating the movie. So over the past few months, he and his wife/co-director Ann McElhinney have encouraged viewers to buy the movie online and host screenings in their homes, churches, community centres or wherever else they see fit.

"Be part of the resistance," the filmmakers implore in a statement on the site. "With your help we can bypass the barriers to distribution that Hollywood and the mainstream media put up to stop you from hearing the truth."

McAleer and McElhinney are not entirely alone in their fight to get their message heard. In several cities across Canada, free screenings are being sponsored by the Fraser Institute, the politically conservative think tank. (The Toronto screening takes place tonight on the 3rd floor of the Weston Conference Centre, 1491 Yonge St.)

Nor have the makers of Not Evil Just Wrong been bashful about confronting the man they believe has exaggerated global warming's threat to the planet. McAleer took Gore to task in person when the former U.S. vice-president faced the media at the Society of Environmental Journalists conference last weekend.

McAleer asked Gore about what he believes is one of the most egregious falsehoods in An Inconvenient Truth: that climate change has led to a drastic decline in population for polar bears in the Arctic. (Other surveys indicate the numbers have increased.) The exchange – which circulated online and earned coverage on CNN and Fox News, – ended with McAleer's microphone being cut off.

"I know he doesn't answer questions," says McAleer. "And that's a very odd way to behave if you know the world is going to end. But I was more disappointed in my fellow journalists – rather than asking the politician-slash-millionaire-slash-businessman to answer the questions, they felt their job was to shut me down."

McAleer is not the first documentarian to present himself as a burr in the side of the establishment. What may be surprising is that the orthodoxy he opposes is the environmental movement. Says McAleer, "Big Environment is not the little underdog any more, if it ever was, and it deserves exactly the same scrutiny as Big Business."

Another irony is that Not Evil Just Wrong's creators are using many of the same strategies used by filmmakers of a far different political persuasion. Indeed, in its spirited defence of "ordinary working Americans" whose livelihoods will suffer if governments heeds Gore's push for bans on fossil-fuel energy, their movie uses tactics viewers have come to expect from Moore. There's file footage of old movies, cartoons, class-based arguments (says a middle American dependent on a coal plant, ("I'm not the one flyin' in the private jet") and even a scene that resembles the one in Bowling for Columbine when Moore makes a house call to Charlton Heston.

McAleer owns up to the Flint muckraker's impact on his work. "I would not be making documentaries if it wasn't for Michael Moore," he says. "He aroused my interest and people's interest in documentaries. He's also made it acceptable for people to go to the movie theatre and watch documentaries. I hate to say it but we're all children of Michael Moore."

As McAleer sees it, the difference between Not Evil Just Wrong and Moore's films is "we tell the truth."

Yet the method by which he gets his truth across to viewers shares much with the activities of other politically minded filmmakers. In fact, there was another simultaneous mass premiere held in March of this year, when Age of Stupid – a British documentary about climate change that sounds the alarm far more loudly than An Inconvenient Truth did – staged what its creators claimed was the largest and "greenest" premiere ever.

Age of Stupid was also one of many political docs that made their Toronto debuts at a new festival earlier this month. The MUCK Film Festival showcased films whose main objective was not to entertain but to "enlighten, engage, enrage and change," in the words of its founder, academic and filmmaker Dr. Stuart Samuels.

In fostering discussions between filmmakers and audiences and inviting community and non-profit groups to participate in screenings, MUCK (which stands for "movies of uncommon knowledge") sought to forge the same kind of connections that Not Evil Just Wrong's creators do by turning living rooms into movie theatres.

Samuels suggests that documentary makers, just like everyone else, have had to respond to the changes in communication and social networks wrought by the Internet. Methods of distribution are also shifting. Whereas the box office success of Moore's movies and An Inconvenient Truth led filmmakers to believe that docs would get a larger place in the marketplace, those films' success has not been repeated. (Even celeb pet projects like Leonardo DiCaprio's The 11th Hour and George Clooney's Darfur Now had short lives at theatres.)

"What happens in a lot of cases is these films get shown for a couple of days and then go to DVD and then get lost," says Samuels. "You spend all of these years, trying to do something and you get no real satisfaction. So this is an attempt to make something that is more ongoing."

However different the objectives of Not Evil Just Wrong may be from most documentaries that seek to change the world, the movie is another example of how activist-minded filmmakers are becoming more creative about how their messages get seen and heard. And whatever those messages may be, Samuels says that what they share is an "anti-institutional" bent and a drive to tell stories that the mass media ignores or under-reports.

"That's what An Inconvenient Truth did at first," he says, "which is counter what people had taken as accepted and weren't questioning. It's a healthy questioning of some of our assumptions about the nature of the reality around us and how it affects our everyday lives. These are big issues that don't necessarily get addressed in traditional filmmaking."

The makers of Not Evil Just Wrong have gone one step further delivering their movie into the hands of the people they believe will be most affected by the economic impact of environmental legislation.

"These are the people who work for a living and depend on cheap energy," says McAleer of the folks he hopes will be screening and viewing his film tonight.

A Serious Man: The existential Absurdity Of Suburban Hell

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Peter Howell

A Serious Man
3.5 stars (out of 4)
Starring Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed and Sari Lennick. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. 105 minutes. At the Cumberland and Sheppard Grande theatres. A

(October 16, 2009) Sure to befuddle casual Coen brothers fans even as it delights the faithful,
A Serious Man is a wicked turn into existential absurdity after the straight screwball antics of last year's Burn After Reading.

Set in a 1967 of cookie-cutter bungalows and sublimated desires, it's suburban Midwestern hell as viewed through the travails of physics professor Larry Gopnik (Broadway star Michael Stuhlbarg), whose life is vexed by an estranged spouse, snotty kids and a conniving student.

Resolutely paced, impeccably staged and lensed, it's comedy for people who can laugh at poetic car wrecks, obtuse rabbis, mysterious dental messages and an endlessly drained cyst.

Such people would be Coen fans, natch. But even they might pain their puzzlers over the mystical and violent prologue, set in olden days and introduced with a proverb about accepting fate, which has nothing to do with Gopnik's bummer "Summer of Love."

Or does it? Gopnik's woes are distinctly Biblical, in that he shares with the besieged Job an unfair share of bad luck and a stoic determination to keep on keeping on.

Gopnik studies precision, but he's surrounded by rough edges. Wife Judith (Sari Lennick) is leaving him for the obnoxious and patronizing Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed).

Son Danny (Aaron Wolff) is more interested in smoking pot and watching F Troop than keeping up with Hebrew studies. Daughter Sarah (Jessica McManus) is whining about a nose job.

Gopnik's freeloading brother Arthur (Richard Kind) has taken up permanent residency on the couch, except for those lengthy sessions when he's draining his disgusting cyst in the bathroom.

The neighbours include a scary gun nut and a beguiling nudist who is trouble with a capital "T." The desperately hopeful lyrics of Jefferson Airplane's "Somebody to Love" have never been a more appropriate soundtrack choice.

Gopnik gets no relief at work. A failing student (David Kang) accuses him of "unjust" grading and tries to bribe his way past it. Meanwhile, an anonymous foe is busily sending letters to the prof's superiors, bad-mouthing him and endangering his quest for tenure.

"Everything that I thought was one way turns out to be another!" Gopnik laments, sighing deeply.

This in a nutshell is both the comedy and the topsy-turvy logic (or illogic) of Joel and Ethan Coen, who drew upon their childhood experiences growing up Jewish in a Minnesota suburb for A Serious Man.

Well, maybe not entirely. It's highly doubtful they knew a dentist who found bizarre messages hidden in teeth, to mention just one of the amusing digressions the film takes.

The Coens were taught that the rabbi is the fount of all wisdom. So does their hero Gopnik sally forth to consult with not one, not two, but three rabbis.

What soothing advice does he get?

"You can't know everything."

Perhaps Gopnik forgot that he teaches something in physics called the "uncertainty principle."

One thing is entirely clear. A Serious Man is primo Coens, but it's also something of a private club. If you don't already get these guys, the doors of enlightenment aren't going to suddenly swing open for you now.

It may not add up, but it's a living.

Spike Jonze-Kanye Short Sets Net Abuzz

Source: www.thestar.com - Lesley Ciarula Taylor

(October 19, 2009) The Internet exploded Monday morning with speculation about the latest collaboration between director
Spike Jonze and rapper Kanye West, a wild and weird 11-minute video called "We were Once a Fairy Tale."

The blurry mini-movie was first posted on West's website on the weekend, but vanished Monday and was available only on YouTube, split up into part 1 and part 2.

Fan reaction ranged from baffled to awe-struck, with lots of GENUIS!!!!! postings in various spots.

MTV.com called it "mind-bending and a bit too close to home."

(Spoiler alert. If you don't want to know the details, stop reading. Taste alert: The video contains disturbing and violent images.)

In the film, West, notorious for his rants most recently at the Music Video Awards in September when he interrupted Taylor's Swift's award, starts off drunk, wobbly, loud and obnoxious in a club. He moves around, trying to talk to a few women, dancing to his song "See You in My Nightmares" and finally passing out when he and a woman just start having sex.

From there, he ends up in a bathroom spewing pixielated red stuff, finds a shiny Excalibur-type sword and stabs himself in the stomach, with gushers of pixelated red stuff, then pulls out a furry, cute-faced little rodent with his intestines as the soundtrack switches to a classical piano score. West hands the sad-eyed creature a tiny knife, it stabs itself and keels over and everything fades to black.

"He's killing his ego," reported one fan.

Another contends the video was made and released "a long time ago" – in June. But it was released to a lot more fanfare this past weekend, at the same time as Jonze's top-grossing feature film Where the Wild Things Are.

"In lampooning West's self-indulgent public persona," MTV.com theorized, "Jonze makes Kanye a more sympathetic character, on film at least, helping the rapper to rid himself of whatever demon is inside him in a cathartic, moving and powerful scene."

NikNik13 offered this observation on West's website: "It's like his intent is not to be an evil person at all. It's okay, Kanye, I forgive you."

Hollywood Gushes Bloodsuckers In Vampire Boom

Source:  www.thestar.com -
David Germain

(October 20, 2009) LOS ANGELES–Vampires have been an eternal force in Hollywood horror since silent-movie days, yet they have risen to new heights as the Twilight franchise, TV's True Blood and other incarnations put the bite on viewers.

In studio flicks, independent and foreign-language films and small-screen series, there are more bloodsuckers out there today than you can shake a wooden stake at.

With so many vampires afoot, will Hollywood's favourite night creatures lose their flavour with fans?

"Will there be a vampire glut? Will the vampire market crash? I don't know," said Chris Weitz, director of November's The Twilight Saga: New Moon, part two in the movie series based on Stephenie Meyer's vampire-romance novels. "It's kind of the only growth industry in America, that I can tell.''

So many of Dracula's brethren are being sired nowadays that Weitz and his brother have duelling vampire films out this fall.

Paul Weitz's Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant opens Friday, with John C. Reilly as a centuries-old bloodsucker in a travelling freak show.

While vampires have a strong pulse in Hollywood, some expect the genre could bleed out from overexposure.

"Sometimes there are trends with audiences and with film studios, TV stations, and they go wild, and they run like lemmings in one direction until they go over the cliff," said Werner Herzog, who directed 1979's Nosferatu the Vampyre. "The genre of vampire films in its darkness and in its nightmarish aspect is a genre that will be forever, but sometimes, you have an overload, an overkill, and when the heap gets too, too big, everybody starts to turn away.''

In his 2007 Antarctica documentary Encounters at the End of the World, Herzog wisecracked that he was not making yet another movie about penguins, a reference to a spate of films on the cold-weather birds.

Penguins reached a glut after only a handful of movies, but the sheer variety of vampire stories lends them superhuman durability for exploring the issues and fears of mortals.

"I think vampires are richer veins than penguins," Reilly said. "There's only so much you can do with penguins. They're cute. They can't fly. They live in snow and ice.''

Vampires benefit from modern fans' hunger for fantastic stories. Otherworldly tales once were aimed mostly at specialized horror, science-fiction or fantasy audiences, with a Star Wars or an E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial occasionally breaking out to huge crowds.

Moviegoers today besiege theatres for out-of-this-world stories, from Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings to the latest adventures of Batman or the X-Men.

"We're at a supernatural height right now with superheroes and science fiction. I think it's all being embraced, with Battlestar Galactica being a critical hit and Iron Man being a huge mainstream hit," said Meredith Woerner, whose book Vampire Taxonomy: Identifying and Interacting With the Modern-day Bloodsucker hits stores in early November. "It's a great time where people are ready for some magic.''

Vampires have been hardy souls on screen for ages, dating back to 1920s and '30s classics such as Nosferatu, Vampyr and the original Dracula, with Bela Lugosi. Dracula has been played by countless actors, among them Lon Chaney Jr., Christopher Lee, Frank Langella and Gary Oldman.

Movies and shows such as The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer transfused teen power to vampire tales, helping to open the current vein of hip, pretty young dead things in the genre.

"What's particular about them now is it's coinciding with the optimum market for TV and film. It's that young market, it's kind of the Dawson's Creek thing," said Michael Sheen, who co-stars as the vampire Aro in the Twilight sequel and played a werewolf in the Underworld vampire franchise. "Whereas in the past, I don't think that has been the case. The symbol of vampires has never quite hit that marketing gold.''

Along with True Blood, recent TV bloodsucker sagas include The Vampire Diaries, Blood Ties, Moonlight and Britain's Young Dracula and Being Human.

Among recent and upcoming big-screen stories are Blood: The Last Vampire, the horror comedy Transylmania, Ethan Hawke's vampire Armageddon thriller Daybreakers and foreign-language vamp tales such as Sweden's Let the Right One In and South Korea's Thirst.

Twilight leads the way, its love story between an immortal vampire stud (Robert Pattinson) and a sensitive schoolgirl (Kristen Stewart) proving irresistible to teen and older audiences alike.

So far, fans seem willing to devour as many vampire stories as Hollywood can dish out.

"The truth is, you can't have too many vampire movies, just like you can't have too many zombie movies. Each movie is capable of being allegories for different things," said Cirque du Freak star Reilly. "Ours is this whole other universe for vampires that have nothing to do with Dracula or good-looking teenagers making out. It's this crazy underworld that exists, more like Harry Potter than Twilight, because the regular human world doesn't even know they're there.''

While their popularity may ebb and flow, vampires always will have a place in the audience's heart, said Nicolas Cage, who starred in 1989's Vampire's Kiss and was a producer on 2000's `Shadow of the Vampire.

"The vampire is always going to be fascinating," Cage said. ``It's like the vigilante cop, or it's like the cowboy or the Western. It's part of the fabric of society.''

The September Issue: Vogue's Real Devil Bites Her Tongue

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Peter Howell

The September Issue
*** (out of 4)
Directed by R.J. Cutler. A Doc Soup

(October 21, 2009) Canadian premiere at the Bloor Cinema, Wednesday, 6:30 and 9:15 p.m.; general release Friday.

The fashion industry is built on illusion and masquerade, so it should come as no surprise that The September Issue isn't exactly the documentary it purports to be.

It's neither the scathing Anna Wintour exposé that the jealous and the bitchy might hope for, nor is it the complete page-turner about Vogue's fabled autumn issue that the title suggests. There is the feeling throughout of knives being sheathed, claws being retracted and tongues being bitten.

What doc-maker R.J. Cutler has captured instead, almost by accident, is something more interesting yet not fully realized. Reduced to getting only snippets of insight into Wintour as the imperious editor-in-chief of fashion bible Vogue, he turns in frustration to Grace Coddington, the mag's creative director, who cautiously lifts part of the curtain on the Oz-like enterprise.

Coddington doesn't say all that much, but her rolled eyes of exasperation speak volumes about what she thinks of Wintour, with whom she has worked and sparred for two decades. She mischievously schemes to get around Wintour's waspish ways but only occasionally succeeds.

Cutler is fortunate to have found an ally in Coddington, since the two main catwalks of The September Issue have been weakened by leashed access and a soured economy.

Obviously determined not to seem as shrewish as Meryl Streep depicted her in The Devil Wears Prada, in image but not name, Wintour allows gritted-teeth entrée to Cutler and his camera crew. It's abundantly clear that the welcome mat was withdrawn whenever anything of real substance was uttered or Wintour felt threatened, unless Cutler foolishly left it all on the cutting-room floor.

We're left mainly with talking-head chatter about how "AH-na" (never "ANN-a") is "the most powerful woman in the United States" (this will come as news to Hillary Clinton) because she discovered the power of putting celebrities on the cover of her magazine. Those delivering such banal benedictions include fellow fashion luminaries Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta and Jean Paul Gaultier.

More serious judgments are presumably delivered off camera. Wintour apparently thinks nothing of trashing a $50,000 Roaring Twenties photo homage because she dislikes the romantic approach Coddington has taken to it, but her reasons are never amplified.

It's difficult even to see Wintour, as she hides behind perpetual sunglasses and a hairstyle resembling Darth Vader's helmet. The closest we get to genuine insight are when Cutler and his crew accompany Wintour to her country estate, and meet an adult daughter who says she's going to go to law school rather than get caught up in the "really weird industry" of fashion. The disappointed look on Wintour's face suggests many a family argument hasn't gone her way, but she refrains from commenting.

FILM TIDBITS

'Precious' Director Courts Miss Saigon; 'Selma'

Source: www.eurweb.com 

(October 19, 2009) *Director
Lee Daniels is reportedly hoping to follow up his upcoming film "Precious" with a feature adapted from the hit Broadway musical Miss Saigon.   According to ComingSoon.net, Daniels is considering the Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil musical set in Southeast Asia as one of his projects after the Nov. 6 release of "Precious," which has been one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the current festival circuit.    In addition to Miss Saigon, Daniels is also said to be eying a civil rights story, tentatively titled "Selma."      "It's a moment in time in Martin Luther King and LBJ's (life) around the signing of the Civil Rights Act," Daniels told the Web site. "It's a snapshot of the march. It's really Lyndon Johnson's story. Martin Luther King is a part of it, but it's really the arc of a man that starts out as a racist who is forced to look at himself in the mirror and then ultimately side with King. It's really a journey of a white cat and how he sneers at tradition and against George Wallace, against everybody, and says, 'Uh-uh.'"   According to ComingSoon.net, "Selma" has already been developed by producer Christian Colson and screenwriter Paul Webb

::TV NEWS::

"The National" Wins Canada's Top TV News Honours

Source: Reuters -
By Etan Vlessing

(October 19, 2009)
TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - With the rival CTV network continuing to boycott the news categories at Canada's TV awards, there was no surprise in the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s sweep of the first night of the Gemini Awards on Monday.

"
The National," the CBC's flagship news show, repeated as the winner of Canada's best newscast and earned another trophy for best reportage for its Washington-based coverage of the U.S. economic crisis.

Perennial Gemini winner "The Fifth Estate," the public broadcaster's investigative news series, earned a slew of trophies, including for best news information series, best host and best interviewer in a news information series.

The CBC's only real competition at the Geminis in the news categories, Global Television, came away with the prize for best special event coverage for its Canadian federal election night telecast.

The CTV in 2006 stopped submitting its newscasts for Gemini consideration to protest a focus on Toronto-based news operations, as opposed to local TV station coverage. CTV is pressing Ottawa and the country's TV regulator for a federal bailout of its local news operations after they were hard hit by a TV ad slump during the economic downturn.

CTV did earn Gemini trophies on the TV sports front, as its cable sports channel, The Sports Network, saw Brian Williams named best sports program host and TSN's SportsCenter series named top Canadian sportscast.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television also handed out documentary and lifestyle series awards Monday night before the Geminis resume Tuesday night with awards in the drama, kids, comedy and variety TV categories.

The top Gemini awards will be handed out November 14 in Calgary during a live broadcast on Global Television.

(Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters)

CBC Rebrands All-News Channel As CBC NN

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Cassandra Szklarski

(October 21, 2009) Newshounds already get their headlines from CNN, while business junkies learn the latest from BNN. Now, Canadians can get ready for CBC NN.

CBC Newsworld will be rebranded as the CBC News Network on Monday, as the 24-hour all-news channel launches a revamped schedule and format to go along with a new look and name.

The public broadcaster says the CBC NN moniker is part of a series of efforts to modernize and integrate news coverage, with changes also in store for CBC-TV's flagship news show The National.

Richard Stursberg, the broadcaster's head of English services, says The National will run seven days a week and boast a new set, an expanded roster of correspondents and bring
Peter Mansbridge out from behind the desk to deliver the news while standing.

CBC NN, meanwhile, will feature a new set and onscreen graphics along with new morning anchor Anne-Marie Mediwake, formerly of Global. Business experts Amanda Lang and Kevin O'Leary team up for the half-hour Lang and O'Leary Exchange each weekday afternoon.

The changes follow a particularly difficult year for the CBC, which has been struggling to cope with a $171 million budget shortfall.

Stursberg said Wednesday that the latest overhaul is the result of extensive consultations with CBC audiences, and that the Newsworld name change in particular was geared towards putting the focus on CBC News.

"'Newsworld' doesn't actually give you a good sense of what it is, because it's actually a news network," said Stursberg.

"It was partly to make it a little bit clearer to people ... (The network) has been around for a long time, over 20 years, and still people were unclear as to what the nature of the offering was."

He dismissed any suggestions that the similarity to that other all-news channel, CNN, might send a message to viewers that CBC was trying to emulate a more U.S.-style approach to packaging news.

"Guaranteed, when you turn it on you'll know where you are," he said.

"Nobody was confused at all by it, nobody in the focus groups thought that we were being like CNN or any of that."

In recent months, CBC has cut 800 jobs. The news division shaved 100 positions as it amalgamated assignment desks to serve all its news platforms: television, radio and online.

Other changes to The National include a new segment several times a week featuring Wendy Mesley and a slightly shortened show that ends five minutes early to provide a 10-minute local news segment leading into The Hour.

Online initiatives include a new political portal featuring blogging by Kady O'Malley and veteran Ottawa journalist Don Newman.

Oprah, Redeemer-In-Chief

Source:
www.thestar.com - Sarah Barmak

(October 17, 2009) For those who haven't been paying much attention to daytime television over the last few months you missed some transformative moments in American celebrity.

Yes, this was taped, edited television, not some drunken confession caught on video and posted to YouTube. These were interviews with three fallen icons –
Mike Tyson, Whitney Houston, and, posthumously, Michael Jackson – all on Oprah. They were billed as no-holds-barred, revealing "tell-alls" – the crack, the loneliness, the wife abuse. Yet their subjects ended up, strangely, more compelling and sympathetic than they had been in years.

Oprah, in her maternal, take-charge way, has taken three very flawed, very broken icons who decades before Barack Obama represented black American genius and, in a certain sense, given them redemption. It began after Jackson died this summer, when an Oprah special aired the groundbreaking interview she conducted at his Neverland Ranch in 1993 – at the time, the first interview Jackson had granted in 14 years. There Michael was, at the apex of his celebrity, before the pedophilia allegations, talking about his abusive father and his childhood. His sadness and his loneliness. The famous question, "Are you a virgin?" followed by his famous answer, "I'm a gentleman."

"They want to keep you young forever," says Michael at one point, talking about his fans. Oprah talks about how she wished she had reached out to him, like a guest on her own show. Then the season premiere: a two-part interview with Whitney Houston.

"I think it's the best interview I've ever done," said Oprah, appearing in a pre-show segment. It was the best of them, she said, because it was an anti-interview – not a probing, hard-hitting quest for answers, just a conversation between two impossibly famous, preternaturally accomplished black women, the most famous black women in America, a simple heart-to-heart in leopard heels and cocktail dresses.

"I really just wanted to be there for her, not judging and not trying to create a moment, just, open up your heart to me," Oprah continued.

And, on Monday, a talk with Tyson, who is fresh from his train-wreck monologue in the eponymous documentary about his life, Tyson. On her show, he cries about the recent accidental death of his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus; he cries about his long-dead mentor, Cus D'Amato. You want the convicted rapist to find peace, you're cheering for him.

Whitney, Michael and Tyson aren't just any group of disgraced former celebrities. Together they were the trifecta of 1980s black American talent, a trio of genetic outliers whose otherworldly gifts came to stand for success and ability itself.

In the 1980s and early 1990s, they were role models for black and white children alike. They were crossover hits that seemed to signal that America had somehow miraculously moved "beyond race." It hadn't, and it still hasn't, but perhaps it had taken a small step forward. Perhaps only Michael Jordan was idolized more than Tyson as a male athlete. Whitney's unbelievable power and vocal range made her the symbol of an era when R&B prized freakazoid voices. And Michael had become a brand in himself, achieving the same name-recognition around the world as Mickey Mouse and Coca-Cola.

As much as we loved worshipping them, we loved watching their downfall. Years of ridicule in the tabloids reduced the objects of our affection at first to being the punchlines of late-night television jokes, then to the status of freaks, then finally to invisibility.

Now, by "coming clean" in a session with Oprah, Tyson and Whitney at least get second, or perhaps third and fourth acts, in public life.

At her best, Oprah is not an interviewer at all. She's a best friend with a camera, a confidante with a makeup crew and a sound guy. That is partially because she spends so much of her time talking to regular, anonymous screw-ups – the street girl from the broken home who goes on to Harvard; the alcoholic mom who promises in front of America to give up having vodka for breakfast and take care of her kids.

By welcoming these broken icons into her healing circle, Oprah is doing her bit for the history of black American celebrity. It is part of her own shift in the culture, as she begins thinking more about her own legacy, and less, perhaps, about her brand.

Tale Of A Terrorist Near-Disaster

Source:
www.thestar.com - Garnet Fraser

(October 18, 2009) Given all the bloodshed worldwide in the last few years, the average Canadian can be forgiven for taking little notice of a terrorist attack that almost happened. Tomorrow's edition of The Passionate Eye on Newsworld could serve to refocus their attentions.

The move by British authorities against a cell of would-be bombers in 2006 is memorable mostly for the brief, but widespread disruption in international travel that resulted from London's airports being shut down. But "Terror in the Skies" – a BBC documentary making its debut on these shores – serves to remind us both of the scope of the plot (which sought to blow up seven transatlantic flights in one day) and how close it came to our shores.

"I think most Canadians weren't aware that there were flights bound for Canada that were also intended targets," says Catherine Olsen, the executive producer of The Passionate Eye. "We kind of think of ourselves as immune, or we think that terrorism happens a long way from here."

But Air Canada flights were among those scouted by the terrorist cell – based in Walthamstow, London – with an eye toward killing as many British vacationers as possible. The plotters' intended explosive mostly involved several innocuous household goods, such as batteries, drink bottles and portable cameras – that could be combined in a plane's washroom to construct a bomb. Though the story involves much lifelike reconstructions of the cell's bomb assembly, nervous flyers shouldn't worry: it doesn't get specific enough to function as a how-to guide.

Some details the program does explore reveal how closely the cell members were watched by British authorities for some time, but the aspiring suicide bombers had apparently been instructed with some care about concealing their tracks. The cat-and-mouse game has another component, as the British investigators want as much specific evidence of the plot as possible, without waiting so long that tragedy strikes.

The Passionate Eye is turning its eye toward terrorism a fair bit this season: Tonight it re-airs the Sept. 11 doc "102 Minutes That Changed the World" – which got the show's highest ratings ever, Olsen notes – and in December has a report coming about last year's Mumbai bombings.

During tomorrow's program local viewers will likely be reminded of the recent trials of the seemingly harmless Toronto 18, and Olsen notes the comparison as well. "What's quite chilling about it is that the people behind the plots in (London) and Mumbai is that the people behind the plots didn't have previous records," Olsen adds. "They were apparently law-abiding."

After delays and setbacks, a trial last month found the London plot's ringleaders guilty, but watching the doc tonight will show some viewers what a near thing the whole investigation was.

"Terror in the Skies" airs at 10 p.m. tomorrow.

D'oh! Bash Marks The Simpsons 20th

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Michael Cidoni, Associated Press

(October 20, 2009) Santa Monica, Calif. — Forget red.

The arrivals-line carpet leading into Barker Hangar was yellow — appropriate, given the night's honourees:
Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge and Maggie Simpson, all on hand to celebrate 20 years of The Simpsons. Their series is the longest-running American sitcom, the longest-running American animated program, and it recently surpassed Gunsmoke as the longest-running American prime time scripted entertainment program.

“You know, it's really weird,” noted Simpsons creator and series executive producer
Matt Groening. “I mean, I thought the show would be successful. But the fact that we're still standing here some 20 years later and talking about it is very peculiar. But very happy.”

Brace yourself for another Simpsons milestone, as matriarch Marge Simpson appears on the cover of November's Playboy, as well as in a three-page spread for the adult magazine.

“Well, I talked to Marge today,” said Al Jean, The Simpsons executive producer. “She's a little embarrassed. She wanted people to know the photo is Photoshopped. It's really the body of Wilma Flintstone.”

The carpet was crammed with guest stars who've lent their voices to Simpsons episodes, including Robert Englund, the actor best known for playing Freddy Kreuger in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, and one who appears eager to see more of Mrs. Simpson. “Marge is hot — big hair and all,” he confessed. “And I've loved (actor) Julie Kavner (who supplies the voice of Marge) since Rhoda. So, I'm glad some manifestation of her is getting to finally show it off.”

“It is hilarious,” added Star Trek actor George Takei. “(The Playboy spread) is the kind of thing that makes The Simpsons a perennial. It's going to live long and prosper,” he continued, laughing.

Some reporters along the yellow carpet couldn't resist drawing comparisons between The Simpsons precocious Bart Simpson and the so-called “Balloon Boy,” a 6-year-old who was said to be hiding in the rafters of his family's garage following reports Thursday that he was flying over the plains of Colorado in a giant, homemade helium balloon.

Authorities said Sunday that the story was a hoax concocted to land a reality television show, and the boy's parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, will likely face felony charges.

“Such a perfect Simpsons episode,” commented documentarian Morgan Spurlock, who serves as director of The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special in 3-D on Ice, which will air in January. “All of that playing out in real time was so unbelievable. But it's America. It was American news at its best. We run with something without having all the facts. We turn it into a big lead story. That's what it's all about.”

Rising Starlet Vinessa Antoine Brings The Culture Of Cool To CBC

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Pamella Bailey

(Fall issue 2009) When Scarborough native
Vinessa Antoine moved to the US to pursue an acting career, she had no idea her big break would come right here at home. At 27, the budding actress plays a prominent role in CBC's Being Erica, now in its second season. She plays Judith, Erica's BFF, a sassy, straight-talking lawyer who knows what she's all about. But getting to this point has been quite the journey.

Antoine's initial passion was dancing — she began studying classical ballet at the age of four. But as the daughter of Trinidadian parents, a career in the arts wasn't the natural expectation. "My parents' generation didn't really understand the arts as something important," says Antoine. "Choosing dancing as a career is just not something you do in Trinidad."

A year into university, Antoine was accepted into the prestigious Alvin Ailey dance program in New York City. She left her university studies to work full time, determined to pursue her dancing career much to the chagrin of her parents. "It really put a fire under me to go after my dream. I knew if I was going to do this, I would really have to want it for me."

Three years later at the end of the program, she was ready for a change. "I wanted to break out of my shell," says Antoine. "I knew that I wanted to express myself in other ways, not just dancing." She took some acting classes, signed with a manager, and with a few TV and stage credits under her belt headed to Los Angeles.

For the first time, the young actress worked full-time at her craft, booking commercials and auditioning for big-budget films. But while LA honed Antoine's acting skills — she booked roles in CBS's The Unit and ABC's All My Children — she struggled to make a personal connection with people. "In New York you could go to Brooklyn and feel a bit of the West Indian vibe," says Antoine. "But in LA, I couldn't feel that. I couldn't conform to this black American girl they wanted me to be. They had no idea how to relate to this Trinidadian girl."

Now back in Toronto, Antoine admits she will eventually have to return to LA to take her career to the next level. "In Canada we don't have a star system," she explains. "Here we tend to move laterally. You can get to a certain point in Toronto then you move to Vancouver or Montreal. But we don't have huge Canadian stars unless the US gives us the nod, and then we'll say, 'Oh yeah, Jim Carey really is great.'"

For now, Antoine is thrilled with her role in Being Erica, a drama-comedy she describes as "intelligent, witty and very Canadian." She is also at work writing her own screenplay, which features an African-Canadian in a leading role. "I stopped waiting for the perfect role," says Antoine. "I know the stories I want to tell and I know how to tell them." Not surprising for a rising star who knows exactly where she's headed.

Primetime Comedies Making A Comeback

Source: www.thestar.com -
Bill Brioux

(October 19, 2009)
Early in 2005, as his series Everybody Loves Raymond was set to go off the air and with hits like Seinfeld and Friends long gone, executive producer Phil Rosenthal was asked if traditional TV sitcoms were dead.

"I get this question a lot," said Rosenthal. "I say yes. I think it's going to be the end of laughing everywhere. And after that, smiling will go, too."

Rosenthal's point was that all TV is cyclical.

"There will be another comedy hit that comes along," he said, ``and as soon as there is one, everyone will say, `Oh, look, comedy is back.'"

Well, look – comedy is back.

After a few dark years when acclaimed comedies like Arrested Development couldn't arrest viewers and shows like The Office and 30 Rock (which returned last week for a fourth season) won awards but barely won renewals, suddenly audiences are ready to embrace laughter again.

With hope and change embraced as political mantras, audiences seem ready at last to turn away from dark crime dramas and toward "blue sky" shows that will help them laugh their way out of the recession.

Several new comedies have already established a solid footing this season in the ratings.

So far, three of the four new comedies on ABC's all-new Wednesday lineup –
The Middle, starring Patricia Heaton as a harried, Midwest mom; Modern Family, with Ed O'Neill as the head of an over-extended clan; and Courteney Cox Arquette's Cougar Town – have all been given full season renewals.

So has the Fox animated comedy The Cleveland Show, a spinoff of Family Guy, as well as Glee, the Fox high school musical comedy, with Jane Lynch's ruthless cheerleader coach Sue Sylvester emerging as the most outrageously hysterical new character of the year. (The exception so far has been the critically panned Kelsey Grammer comedy Hank.)

In all, eight of the 22 new U.S. network offerings have already won full season orders, including the CBS drama The Good Wife (also a positive story of a woman emerging from the shadow of her husband's scandal), The CW's The Vampire Diaries and ABC's sci-fi drama FlashForward. The new Friday night Canadian comedy The Ron James Show is also off to a solid start, holding around 700,000 viewers a week in CBC's old Air Farce time slot.

Ratings for tween comedies such as Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place and iCarly are also soaring this fall on specialty networks, thanks mainly to the new Portable People Meter data that seems to be counting more moms and dads in front of the set.

In addition, more positive, uplifting reality shows such as So You Think You Can Dance Canada, The Biggest Loser, Dancing With the Stars, The Amazing Race and Battle of the Blades are soaring in the ratings.

CBC's Blades opened to a shade under two million viewers three weeks ago and drew over 1.5 million a week ago Sunday.

Amazing Race, now in its 14th edition, is stronger than ever in Canada, scoring over two million viewers the previous Sunday.

Mean-spirited, harsh reality shows, on the other hand, seem totally out of fashion. Trashy reality shows like I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and The Moment of Truth were shunned this summer.

The first casualty of the fall, the Ashton Kutcher-produced drama The Beautiful Life, was cancelled after two episodes.

Other flash-and-trash young adult soaps such as 90210 and Melrose Place are struggling in the ratings.

Comedy isn't booming everywhere. After a strong opening week, The Jay Leno Show has fallen back to earth and struggles to reach about five million U.S. viewers a night at 10 p.m. on NBC.

With the immediate success of Cox Arquette's Cougar Town, two of her former Friends friends are looking to get back into the TV comedy game. Matt LeBlanc has signed to headline the new Showtime series Episodes, a comedy-within-a-comedy to be produced by his old Friends boss, David Crane. And ABC has won the rights to a new comedy from Matthew Perry, who will write and star in a series about a self-involved sports arena manager.

With the former Seinfeld cast reuniting on Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm, everybody seems ready to get back into the comedy act – including Rosenthal, who has sitcoms in development at both HBO and BBC.

::THEATRE NEWS::

BASH'd!: Giddy, Gay, Radically Tough

Source:
www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

BASH'd!
**** (out of 4)
Written and performed by Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow. Directed by Ron Jenkins. Until Oct. 31 at Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave.
416-504-7529

(October 16, 2009)
BASH'd! is brilliant.  It takes a certain kind of genius to turn rapping, with its penchant for homophobia, into the framework of a blow-you-away saga of gay love and death.

Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow wrote and perform this hour-long piece of dynamite, with Aaron Macri providing the insinuating musical grooves.

Craddock and Cuckow rock the stage as two gay gangsta angels (Feminem and T-Bag) who doff their wings to tell us the story of small-town Dylan and how he came to the big city (Edmonton) to hook up with streetwise Jack.

They fall for each other, get married, but don't live happily ever after, because one night Jack gets gay-bashed and Dylan goes crazy looking for revenge.

In the course of one hour, this show makes you giddy with laughter, puts a lump in your throat and may even wind up radicalizing you, whether you're straight or gay.

I've seen it several times in different cities and it's always electric with the sound of clapping as Craddock and Cuckow lead the audience in the acid-tinged rap that finishes their powerful work.

BASH'd! has knocked out audiences and critics in Edmonton and Toronto, won the Outstanding Musical Award of the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival and went on to a successful run off-Broadway.

The current engagement at Theatre Passe Muraille is the beginning of a national tour, which will end in Vancouver next February when the show is part of the 2010 Cultural Olympiad.

Its language is tough and the message tougher, but BASH'd! is a show you don't dare miss.

This is a rewritten version of reviews that appeared in the Star on July 7, 2007 and April 1, 2008.

The Nightingale and Other Fables: Theatrical Magic

Source:
www.thestar.com - John Terauds

The Nightingale and Other Fables
4 stars (out of 4)
Music and works by Igor Stravinsky, as re-imagined, staged and directed by Robert Lepage. Jonathan Darlington, conductor. Canadian Opera Company, with Ex Machina. To Nov. 5. Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen St. W. 416-363-8231 (
www.coc.ca)

(October 17, 2009) The results are breathtaking — both theatrically and musically. This has to be the most enchanting work for the musical stage to hit Toronto in years. There are not many seats left for the eight-performance run, so grab them while you can, even if you think that opera is not really your thing.

In a world that gets debunked and demystified at every turn, the magical is rare — and therefore all the more valuable.

In presenting the world premiere of
The Nightingale and Other Fables on Saturday afternoon, the Canadian Opera Company has allowed Quebec director Robert Lepage free reign to sprinkle and splash the gold of pure theatrical magic over a compilation of music and short works for stage by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971).

The results are breathtaking — both theatrically and musically. This has to be the most enchanting work for the musical stage to hit Toronto in years. There are not many seats left for the eight-performance run, so grab them while you can, even if you think that opera is not really your thing.

No cascade of words can do full justice to Robert Lepage's brainchild, which combines orchestra, voices and several genres of movement and puppetry into a 90-minute conjuring of fairytale worlds that are at once familiar and totally novel. This is a co-production that continues on to the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and the Opéra national de Lyon later this year.

What makes the effort particularly satisfying is the sensitive work by Vancouver Opera principal conductor Jonathan Darlington and the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, the excellent singing cast, skilled acrobats and mesmerizing puppeteers.

The centrepiece of the show is Stravinsky's 45-minute dance-opera The Nightingale, loosely adapted from the Hans Christian Anderson fable about a Chinese emperor who falls under the musical spell of a songbird, only to spurn her for a mechanical imitation, with almost tragic consequences. In the end, the nightingale graciously returns to save the monarch from death.

The overall look and feel is meant to evoke the Orientalist exotic fantasies of 18th and 19th century Europeans, while the music is straight from the great experimental explosions of the early 20th century.

Each character and member of the chorus is doubled by a Japanese-style puppet. The original dance portions have been transferred to a pool of water where the orchestra would normally play, bringing the action literally inside the opera house. The orchestra plays from the stage, where the singers and sets would usually be.

Add in richly detailed costumes by Mara Gottler, and the fable passes in a fluid wave of rich colour and sound. Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko is spectacular as the fluttering, strong-minded avian, swooping through Stravinsky's tricky score as if she really were flying.

The music itself is not as steel-edged as Stravinsky's Rite of Spring or Firebird. It, too, floats, slides and trills as if suspended in a weightless dreamworld.

There is so much detail at work in the music, the intricately finished puppets, in the lighting, the choreography and the waterworks that there are times the senses are overwhelmed by Lepage's omniscient vision. But this only adds to the arresting spectacle. Suspending disbelief has never been this easy.

The first half of the show is more of a patchwork, which does not have the same sustaining force as The Nightingale. Not that there isn't a procession of marvels to admire, especially the fluidly skilled hand-shadow-puppet work for Stravinsky's Pribaoutki, Cat Lullabies and Two Poems of Konstantin Balmont. These are strung together by three Pieces for Solo Clarinet, impressively played by Ross Edwards.

The short "barnyard fable," The Fox, was acted out by costumed acrobats throwing shadows on a scrim behind the chamber-sized orchestra, while the singing cast congregated on one of two raised platforms on either side of the pool.

The only performances that didn't live up to this stellar standard involved the COC Chorus. They sounded muddled in The Nightingale, and the small group of women singing Four Russian Peasant Songs (accompanied by three French horns) were weak and limp. But, surrounded by such a powerful larger spectacle, these weaknesses faded into insignificance.

Many opera directors shun magic for shock value in contemporary stagings. Meanwhile, Robert Lepage is telling us that it's okay to dream. And he makes a particularly compelling case for himself here.

The Turn Of The Screw A Perfect Halloween Treat

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Crew

The Turn of the Screw
(4 stars out of four)
By Henry James. Directed by Vikki Anderson. Until Nov. 7 at the Campbell House, 160 Queen St. W. 416-504-3898. www.dvxt.com

(October 19, 2009)  It's more than 100 years old, but ghost stories don't come any creepier than Henry James' gothic thriller
The Turn of the Screw, (although his namesake, M.R. James, runs him close at times.)

No blood is spilt, no flesh is sliced or diced, yet the tension never lets up through this tale of a young governess, hired to look after two orphaned children at a remote country house called Bly.

Forty years ago, this classic story was brilliantly adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Hatcher, who created a glittering tour de force for two actors, one playing the governess, the other bouncing between four roles – the narrator, the children's uncle, the housekeeper Mrs. Grose and the 10-year-old Miles.

Flash forward to 2009 and DVxT Theatre's artistic director, Vikki Anderson, had the smart idea of staging the play as a follow-the-actors piece in the 1822 Campbell House Museum, once the home of the Chief Justice of Upper Canada, Sir William Campbell.

I'm not, in general, much of a fan of so-called "site-specific" theatre which can be overly self-conscious and giggly as you shuffle from room to room, trying hard to stay out of the way of the actors..

But in this case, the period feel of the house, the candlelight, the winding staircases, the cozy kitchen and the historically accurate bedroom all contribute powerfully to this haunting tale, augmented powerfully by John Gzowski's subtle, moody sounds and music.

Playing the governess is the talented Christine Horne. Much of the fascination of James' tale lies in its psychology; is what Horne's innocent but neurotic character thinks is happening really taking place? Are the spirits of her predecessor, Miss Jessel and her lover Peter Quint, trying to take over the two children or it is all simply a product of the governess's fevered imagination? Horne captures this ambivalence brilliantly.

And who better to pull off the other, very different roles than Clinton Walker? He is debonair and seductive as the uncle who insists that the governess is not to contact him under any circumstances, suitably befuddled, vague and gossipy as the housekeeper and downright disturbing as the young boy Miles. Good stuff.

If you are in the mood for a bloodless coup over Hallowe'en, DVxT Theatre has a treat in store for you – while keeping a trick or two up its collective sleeve.

William Shatner's Stratford Reunion, 53 Years Later

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(October 19, 2009) If your current image of
William Shatner is formed by All-Bran and Priceline commercials, then think again.

The man who was Captain Kirk (and always will be, in some people's eyes) is a deeply melancholy figure in real life: more King Lear than The Fool.

He's chosen not to reveal that side of himself too often, but its front and centre in William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet, the award-winning film that is playing at DocFest Stratford Thursday night (info and tickets at www.docfeststratford.ca or 1-800-567-1600) and will mark Shatner's return to the festival city where he appeared for three seasons, starting in 1954.

"I don't think of it as a triumphal return back," insists Shatner over the phone from a New York hotel, "except that I'm coming back in a limo and I left in a Morris Minor."

Despite the jaunty nature of the title, William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet is a profoundly bittersweet work. It's the saga of how choreographer Margo Sappington created a ballet called Common People in 2007, based on Shatner's 2004 album Has Been, which combined Shatner's self-examining prose-poems with the haunting music of Ben Folds.

The pitchman who urged us to take the two-week challenge for All-Bran is in considerably different form here, especially in songs like "It Hasn't Happened Yet," where a walk in the Ottawa snow on Christmas Eve serves as the springboard for a life-long examination of personal inadequacy.

"When is the mountain scaled? When do I feel I haven't failed?" are the kinds of questions he asks throughout.

And Shatner willingly shares the origin of the song that starts, "I was crossing the snow fields in front of the Capital building ...."

"It was Christmas time," he begins, "I had just graduated from McGill and was working with the Canadian Repertory Theatre in Ottawa. I had just finished a performance and I was dreadfully lonely for all the family and friends I had left behind in Montreal.

"I could feel the snow, I could hear the carillon bells. That moment has lingered in my memory for nearly 60 years," sighs the 78-year-old actor.

He channelled those feelings of emptiness and fear into the songs on Has Been. Many observers felt it was a rebuttal to the mockery that had greeted his previous album, 1968's The Transformed Man, with its solemn recitations of the lyrics to "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" and other hits of the time.

"I wasn't thinking in terms of 'I want to show them,' " snaps Shatner sharply. "Who are 'they' anyway? I wish I could sing. I always had a yearning in my heart to make that kind of music. I wasn't trying to show anybody anything. I was trying to create something that was meaningful to me.

"Why do you think people will be surprised to discover I'm so serious inside?" he asks harshly. "My God, does everyone think that I'm all of the characters they've seen me play over the years? Don't they know what acting means? No, I'm not Captain Kirk, no I'm not the man from Priceline." The silence smoulders.

"There's why I loved doing Boston Legal," he continues, in a calmer voice. "David Kelley allowed me to play both ends: Comic antics which hide a melancholy soul.... That's what I'm really all about."

This week's screening of William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet is not only a chance for his native country to take a look inside his soul, but it's happening at a place with layers of resonance in his life.

When I asked Shatner in a 2001 interview what the Stratford Festival meant to him, he replied, "Joy. Music. The tinkling of bells." He expands on that now.

"Stratford has many tunes it plays for me. There's the dazzling crescendo of the night I went on for Chris Plummer in Henry V without any rehearsal, but then there are also the low notes of loneliness and feeling ostracized and not belonging."

Our conversation returns to the lyrics of "It Hasn't Happened Yet," a song that provided inspiration for Sappington's ballet.

What is he talking about when he speaks in the song of "what I might have done, should have done?"

"I don't think of career moves," he retorts instantly. "If I had really wanted to play Hamlet, for example, I could have made that work. It applies to other aspects of my life, the deep emptiness when ..." He stops himself, voice thick. "I won't go into it any further, but you can imagine."

The spectre of his third wife, Nerine Kidd-Shatner, comes clearly into focus. Shatner found her dead at the bottom of their swimming pool on Aug. 9, 1999, an accidental drowning due to alcohol and valium.

He wrote about it on Has Been, in a lyric that painfully admits, "My love was supposed to protect her. It didn't. My love was supposed to heal her. It didn't."

Crash! Boom! Bang! Stomp is Back, All In Fun

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Michael Crabb

Stomp
**** (out of 4)
Created and directed by Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. Until Sunday at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St.
416-872-1212 or www.mirvish.com

(October 21, 2009) Just when you thought it was safe to take out the earplugs,
Stomp is back in town – in all its cacophonously crashing, clattering and captivating glory.

Stomp inventively deploys recognizable, often everyday objects – virtually anything that will make a sound when banged, scratched, ruffled, scrunched or otherwise disturbed – and combines these with funky moves and some occasionally suggestive clowning to create a headily rhythmic intoxicant.

It's more than 16 years since the original eight-member British cast made its sellout Toronto debut at Harbourfront Centre's erstwhile du Maurier (now Enwave) Theatre. That was even before the Brighton-born show became a fixture at New York's off-Broadway Orpheum or had spawned multiple casts and exploded onto the international touring circuit and into bigger venues.

The visceral thrill of experiencing such a gritty gang of noisemakers in an intimate space is inevitably diluted in a theatre as large as Toronto's 2,260-seat Canon, where Stomp opened its latest local appearance Tuesday night. Even so, this current touring cast – mostly American but with one Torontonian, Troy Sexton, among its 12 rotating members – still manages to deliver an impressive wallop.

Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, Stomp's percussively obsessed founding compadres, have never let the show rest on its synchronized brooms, reverberating rubber tubes, thunderous trash cans or clicking Zippos. If they had, Stomp would likely have exhausted its welcome years ago.

Routines have been retired and fresh ones introduced. New this visit is a clever sequence employing huge tractor tire inner tubes worn around the waist and others involving airborne paint cans and recycling containers for fluorescent tube lighting.

These are skilled performers, rehearsed to a fine sheen of rhythmic and theatrical sophistication, yet in their dusty, thrift-store reject non-fineries and with an almost nonchalant, deadpan attitude, they come across as just a bunch of unassuming folk having a great time; which likely explains why Stomp is still an audience favourite after all these years.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Uncharted Territory

Source:
www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
PlayStation 3
Rated T for Teens
$59.99
**** (out of 4)

(October 17, 2009) There was a dark, confused time (most of the '90s) in the history of video games when the greatest praise you could offer a title – praise generally offered by the apparatus of marketing – was that is was "like playing a movie."

At best, this priority usually resulted (and still results) in awkwardly stitched-together Frankensteins where watching chunks of a crummy movie is the "reward" for moving through stretches of crummy gameplay; at worst...well, just google Night Trap.

I'm still of the opinion that "make it like playing a movie!" is a misguided game-design goal, but even the most misguided of ideas – say, shooting a multi-million-dollar Vietnam War epic starring a notorious flake on the Philippine coast during typhoon season – can result in a masterpiece. That said, I present to you Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the Apocalypse Now of cinematic video games.

First and foremost, Uncharted 2's gameplay is good and solid and valid and fun – rather than serving as an overly elaborate "next chapter" button for its internal action-adventure movie. The Tomb Raider-meets-Gears of War hybrid of the series' first instalment – climbing things, leaping across heart-stopping gaps and solving environmental puzzles alternating with shooting it out against hordes of henchpersons – is back this week but more tightly integrated, feeling like a coherent thing-in-itself rather than a borrowed two-for-one.

It's a joy to play, a joy heightened by a constant progression of ultra-blockbuster "holy crap!" intensity as developer Naughty Dog throws roguish hero Nathan Drake into circumstances that make Indiana Jones' various predicaments seem about as dangerous as jaywalking.

Of course, excellent gameplay and cool situations aside, you can't be "like a movie" without looking totally money – and Uncharted 2 looks as if it uses gold nuggets instead of pixels, running on an engine powered by hundred-dollar bills. Note to developers: Cool water effects are last year's bragging point; Naughty Dog's gone even cooler and moved on to awesome snow.

But it's not just technical prettiness and gloss; these visuals are deployed in the service of some seriously breathtaking art direction, environments and level designs that'll add hours to your playtime – because you'll be just standing there looking around. True story: About six chapters into the game, I actually went out and bought a better TV so I could enjoy it even more.

Nice graphics and fun gameplay, though, are pretty common. What Uncharted 2 really gets right – and again, I have to restate that it's very weird for me to be praising a game in this way – is the "movie" part of the movie-game equation. Most game scripts follow a pattern – some surly, badass dialogue; a hot chick or two (one with a sexy accent); lots of explosions; a Mexican standoff; the obligatory evil Russian – and then some actors go into their separate booths at separate times and read their lines. That's where "dialogue" usually comes from, and usually it plays out stilted and wrong – passionate lovers, devoted comrades and nefarious nemeses sound as if they've never been in the same room together, because they haven't.

With Uncharted 2, Naughty Dog did a very Hollywood thing: it let the actors work together, improvising dialogue and developing their characters in something like collaboration. Uncharted 2 might never win a Best Screenplay award in the movie biz – those other elements mentioned above are all there, right down to the Russian – but encouraging actors to be actors rather than using them as expensive sound-file generators makes all the difference in making it come alive rather than just plonking out of the speakers and lying there.

For all its polish, beauty, epic scale and beyond-high-adventure blockbuster set pieces, it's these performances that really sell Uncharted 2: Among Thieves as not only a movie you enjoy playing, but a game you enjoy watching.

Google Set To Unveil Music Search

Source:  www.thestar.com -
Ryan Nakashima

(October 21, 2009) LOS ANGELES–Google Inc. will launch music search pages next week and include ways for consumers to buy songs for download, according to people familiar with the matter.

The music pages will package images of musicians and bands, album artwork, links to news, lyrics, videos and song previews, along with a way to buy songs, they said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the deal before next Wednesday's announcement.

The package is similar to how companies get individual pages for Google's financial news service.

Song previews and sales will be provided by online music retailer Lala and iLike, a music recommendation application bought by News Corp.'s MySpace this month. Song previews will appear in Lala or iLike online music players, and users won't have to navigate away from the search results page.

The effort marks a new way for Google and the recording companies to promote alternatives to Apple Inc.'s iTunes, the leader in song downloads.

Major recording companies – including Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group Corp. and EMI Group PLC – pitched the idea to Google a year ago and are co-operating with the project, according to one person.

They will benefit by sharing revenue from song sales with Lala and iLike, while making the discovery, experimentation and buying process simple for people who use Google to search for music.

Google improves itself as a destination for music discovery. Although Google won't get a share of song sales, it will collect revenue from advertising that will be shown with the search results, according to the people familiar with the plans.

A Google spokesman declined to comment.

The development comes as compact disc sales continue to plummet even as sales of individual song downloads are on the rise.

Overall music sales have slid nationwide in seven of the past eight years and recording companies are searching for new ways to tap audiences online and collect revenue from advertising, licensing and downloads.

::OTHER NEWS::

Audrey Niffenegger Doesn't Believe In Ghosts

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - John Barber

(October 20, 2009) Does Audrey Niffenegger believe in ghosts?

Millions will want to know. As the author of The Time Traveler's Wife , an obscure first novel that gradually became a worldwide bestseller, she is now the reigning sovereign of the mightiest nation in book world: women readers, who collectively buy 80 per cent of all fiction sold in English-speaking countries.

This is the author who almost single-handedly invented the new literary genre – supernatural romance – that is now the biggest thing since the detective novel. She loves cemeteries, dresses in black and lives alone. Her hugely anticipated new novel,
Her Fearful Symmetry , could be the most naturalistic ghost story ever written, treating supernatural beings as simple matters of fact, like the drawers they curl up in and the kittens they scare.

Her millions of readers gobble it up. Does she?

“No,” Niffenegger announces in a recent interview, at once decisive and slightly apologetic. “I wish! There's a lot of things I would like to believe in, but unfortunately I have a very sceptical turn of mind.”

So there you have it. The only reason there are any ghosts in Her Fearful Symmetry, Niffenegger says, was that she needed to invent a dead relative to explain why her unemployed twin heroines could afford a fancy London flat.

“I thought, ‘This is rather a nice character and I'm sorry I will never get to know her, because she was just a plot mechanism,'” the author said. “Then I thought, ‘If she was a ghost I could write about her.'”

Such candour could be dangerous for any writer who seeks to weave the old magic spell. But Niffenegger might be the least superstitious – or pretentious – author who has ever made the windows rattle and light bulbs pop. A lifetime of reading spooky stories has given her an anthropological view of the spectral matter.

“If you read across different cultures, people seem to agree mainly on the properties of ghosts,” she says. “Ghosts are cold, ghosts are clammy, ghosts are hungry and they want things they can't have. And they're lonely. They want to influence people, but they can't. Or they're jealous and they seem to want things from people. That seems to be a theme that comes around again and again.”

Happily accepting the stereotype, the author created unusually realistic ghosts.

Trained as a visual artist in an open studio, content to sell books by the millions or the handful (her first two were handmade in editions of 10 each), Niffenegger is among other things refreshingly immune to the overwrought mystique of the writer's garret.

“My process was kind of messy a lot of the time,” she admitted, describing the deliberately unhurried, seven-year gestation of Her Fearful Symmetry . “I was just scraping around, not really knowing what the plot would be or why all of these characters were running around.”

It took her five years to think up a climax: “I figured I'd get somewhere eventually if I just let it slide.”

That certainly isn't the way they teach creative writing in any school. Nor did Niffenegger attend classes in appropriate disdain for cheesy genres. Free and unknowing, she invented her own. It doesn't offer readers temporary escape into mystical realms untainted by the banality of their real lives. Instead, it uses the supernatural to shine light on the intricately faceted human relationships its readers are most interested in.

In her first novel, time travel offered a way of depicting a marriage “from every possible viewpoint,” according to Niffenegger. The ghost who haunts her second book is a window into the hermetic lives of its mirror twins and their troubled relationship.

But make no mistake: This woman in black really does love cemeteries. Not being religious makes them especially poignant to her, according to Niffenegger.

“They seem like a very strange attempt to remember people,” says the author, who is fascinated by the lavish memorials erected by death-obsessed Victorians. “To me, they always seem to be much more for the living than the dead. The dead – you could do anything you want with them and they wouldn't mind.”

Long before she came to know her characters, she says, she decided their adventures would centre on an apartment building next to a well-populated cemetery in her native Chicago. When her imagination required an even thicker atmosphere, she transferred the action to London's Highgate Cemetery, one of the most extravagant, crowded burial grounds in the world.

Admittedly naive and little travelled at the time – before the lightning-strike success of her first novel – Niffenegger today relishes the rebuff she received when she first proposed to do in-situ research to the formidable Jean Pateman, 40-year chairman of the volunteer Friends of Highgate Cemetery, whose strict management inspired one recent guidebook to describe the burial place of Karl Marx and George Eliot as England's most unfriendly tourist destination.

“Jean quite famously said ‘Oh, my dear, I don't think that would be a very good idea.'” Niffenegger recalls. “What I didn't know at the time is that they are besieged with journalists, photographers and filmmakers. Everybody wants to come do something with the cemetery.”

It is a testament to her method that the then-unknown artist not only overcame this first stiff barrier, using her just-published first novel as a calling card, she soon entered into the life of the cemetery as fully as the glamorous ghosts that drew the despised multitudes. She haunted it so thoroughly that Pateman invited her to make herself “useful” by guiding her own tours.

“I was thrilled and scared,” the novelist said. “I kept imagining myself losing a group of tourists and never getting out again.”

But that didn't happen. Niffenegger is still guiding occasional tours at Highgate, and Her Fearful Symmetry is dedicated to the recently retired Pateman, who accepted on condition it contain “not very much swearing and no sex in the cemetery,” according to Niffenegger.

Niffenegger continues to live in her home city of Chicago, comfortably alone except for the presence of a house sitter who has become a house mate. “It's the first time in my adult life I've lived with another person more than a few weeks,” she says. “I've never been married. I don't have kids.”

Having achieved fame in her 40s, she is determinedly not carried away by it. “You can become such an ego-driven bighead,” she says of the international talk circuit that now occupies much of her time. Learning to talk about herself was a struggle, she says. “My natural instinct is to be the observer.”

Clinging to what remains of her former obscurity, she strongly advises fans against haunting Highgate in hopes of finding her. She plans to be unreachable, off in the imaginary world of a hair-covered girl with werewolf syndrome, the hero of her next novel, sticking to the shadows.

Audrey Niffenegger reads at Toronto's International Festival of Authors on Oct. 24 at 8 p.m., and takes part in a three-way interview at 1 p.m. on Sunday (more information: www.readings.org).

Quebec Artist Wins Sobey Prize

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Sarah Milroy

(October 16, 2009) At 35, Canadian artist David Altmejd has already crossed a lot of thresholds in his professional life. Receiving his first artistic training in Montreal, he headed off to New York, completing his Masters in Fine Arts at Columbia University in 2001. Three years later, he appeared in the Whitney Biennial, in New York. He has shown his work in Grenoble, Barcelona, Istanbul, Cologne. He is represented by two of the best art dealers on the international scene: Stuart Shave/Modern Art (in London) and Andrea Rosen Gallery (New York).

Though he still lives in New York, he has, of late, been embraced anew by his native land. Two years ago, he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale, where his installation of labyrinthine mirrored structures, threaded with fine gold chains and populated by taxidermied squirrels, dismembered werewolves, Plasticine toadstools, and a cubbyhole full of leather-clad sex toys intrigued the public.

On Thursday night, he was awarded Canada's leading contemporary art prize, the $50,000 Sobey Art Award, at a ceremony at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, where 700 art lovers gathered to fete him.

Speaking just minutes after the Sobey announcement, as the crowd roared in the background, I asked him to review the big milestones in his life as an artist. Altmejd, who still speaks with a slight Quebec accent, turned the conversation with relief to what really interests him: his work.

“The real thresholds have happened inside my head, with my ideas,” he said, “like the moment when I could see that a head could be the centre of the universe, that it could be an energy-generating object.” What followed was a series of heads, erupting in crystal formations, signalling transformation, regeneration and decay.

“The next big threshold was around 2003 or 2004, when I realized that interior space could be as infinite as exterior space – that I could work inside an object, making it infinitely complex.” A few years later, he had a similar epiphany about the human figure. “I came to see that it was the most amazing thing in the universe, particularly the body of the person you love.”

He started making giants, like the one that lounged, in a semi-decomposed state, in the Canadian pavilion at Venice – a person with worlds inside him. Subsequent giants have stood erect, fashioned from shards of mirrored glass, seeming to deconstruct into abstract form.

The conversation turned to Louise Bourgeois, but his media handlers were beckoning, so I had one last question: When people look at his work in a hundred years, how will it be of its times? Could his collapsed human forms – densely encrusted with exotic materials – relate to the trauma of how we experience our bodies, with all our viral threats and genetic mutations?

“I never think about that kind of thing,” he said. “I see my works as fundamentally hopeful, because they are about change and growth and energy.”

Still, the future may hold some fears. “I was having a talk with a friend of mine last night, about what the world would be like after an apocalypse. My friend was thinking that people would form together into groups, to help each other out, but I was thinking that every person would be completely on his own. For me, the apocalypse would be extremely lonely.” He paused, and the sound of the crowd swelled to fill the silence on the line. “It was interesting to me how we could imagine this so completely differently.”

David Altmejd's work will remain on view at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia with that of his fellow Sobey Art Award contenders –Graeme Patterson, Marcel Dzama, Shary Boyle and Luanne Martineau – until Nov. 5.

Diabetes Coaching Helps To Combat Epidemic

Source: www.swaymag.ca - BY: Josh Kail

(Fall issue 2009)
Diabetes has become an alarming epidemic. More than two million Canadians have diabetes, and that number is expected to reach three million by 2010. With the average patient-to-doctor face time lasting a mere seven minutes, much more must be done to reverse this growing trend. Enter Fit4D, a newly expanded website and enhanced suite of personalized services that uniquely address the specific needs of those living with diabetes and pre-diabetes. It offers one-to-one personalized coaching services, engaging educational content and supportive online communities. Fit4D virtually connects its coaching team of dieticians, exercise physiologists, nurses and pharmacists — all certified diabetes educators (CDEs) — with diabetes patients all over the continent, empowering them through education and individualized motivation to live the healthiest and happiest lives possible

"The benefits of working with Fit4D coaches for a person living with diabetes are to have their questions answered," says Fit4D Fitness Coach Josh Gold. "People don't typically have access to CDEs that readily. The Fit4D Quick Consult, one hour on the phone with a Fit4D coach, gives them confidence, answers questions and can put them at ease while educating on the reality and tapering fears."

Picking up where the doctor leaves off, Fit4D is an online personalized diabetes coaching service dedicated to providing the highest levels of educational and emotional support for those living with type 1, 2 or pre-diabetes.

Fit4D not only helps to save and enhance the quality of life for those with diabetes and/or those who are at high risk for the disease, it also contributes by decreasing the costs of diabetes-related healthcare and filling in the gaps that now exist for ongoing patient care.

- For more information on diabetes coaching, go to fit4D.com.

Paul Shaffer, from Thunder Bay to Letterman

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Michael Posner

(October 17, 2009) New York — Ten minutes to roll tape on the set of The Late Show with David Letterman , and Eddie Brill, a comedian who has eaten way too many cheeseburgers, is warming up the audience.

“Anyone here from outta town?” Pavlovian cheer. “Anyone here from New York?” Ditto. Then the standard injunction: Applaud lustily, but please resist the temptation to wolf whistle.

Suddenly, from nowhere, Letterman himself appears. He literally runs across the set and half slides to a stop, as if skating on thin ice. Which, lately, he pretty much has been. Then, he disappears again.

Brill makes no mention of him, nor of the subject on everyone's lips: the recent revelation that Dependable Dave, husband and father, master of late-night quip and query, for years maintained a cozy nookie nook somewhere in this fabled 7th Avenue building. There, we now know, he conducted serial adultery with various obliging staffers, only to confront a $2-million (U.S.) extortion attempt from the fiancé of one former sexual minion.

Paul Shaffer leads the CBS Orchestra for the Late Show with David Letterman.

That case is now before the courts. Dave has apologized ad nauseam, and a strenuous gag order has been issued to everyone associated with the show. Maybe that accounts for the largely sullen demeanour of the Letterman staff. Morale seems to be missing in action. If they did a TV series about the place, they could call it 30 Rock Bottom .

“ Writing never had the immediate gratification I was looking for. Writers get off on that process. I wasn't meant to write.”

Now, with the minutes to air counting down on the second of two shows they're taping tonight (they do a double-header on Mondays, to enjoy a three-day weekend), Brill introduces the house band, members of the CBS Orchestra. They emerge from the wings one by one, like football players at the Super Bowl, complete with celebratory high fives. The decibel cheer volume rises, reaching its crescendo with the appearance of quarterback, captain and band leader Paul Shaffer, a short, bald man in dark, high-fashion specs wearing a black suit with patent leather lapels, a black shirt and a black tie. The sheen is so bright, you could use it to comb your hair.

A few weeks shy of 60, Shaffer has parlayed his sidekick status into a cultural art form. He's the coolest cat in Gotham, the genius of jive, king of the keyboards, the Yid kid with no lid, the loungeyest lizard of them all. He fairly runs to his familiar perch, one he's occupied for 16 years and immediately starts pounding the keys. He plays standing up, bent over, his face a rictus, a Buddha mask of utter bliss, lifted by the music ( Gimme Some Lovin' ) to some transcendent nirvana. The glitz-and-schmaltz persona is all an extended charade, but he can't fake the joy. The boychick from Thunder Bay is exactly where he longs to be. And where he belongs.

The band plays on, and will easily be the best thing about this otherwise deflated show, which features a lifeless Uma Thurman and a laconic Tim McGraw. No amount of applause can cover the dead zones. Is there an air pump in the house? Anyone?

From Thunder Bay to Westchester County

Ninety minutes later, Shaffer hustles over to his favourite neighbourhood eatery, Café Cielo, on Eighth Avenue, a block away. His black limo waits outside. He's a regular here, usually for lunch, the menu for which actually features Insalata Paul Shaffer: crushed endive and hearts of palm in lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil (“None of that boring lettuce,” he says). A reserved table is in the corner window, safely away from the hoi polloi.

“How ya doin', darlin'?” he croons to one of the waitresses, an aspiring dancer. Owner Joe Gambuto comes over to greet him.

The two shows may be safely in the can, but Shaffer's adrenals are still pumping epinephrine. As we sit down to dinner, his right leg nervously keeps time to some undeclared riff. It feels like he needs a mini-keyboard at the table, just to keep his fingers happy.

The wizard of kitsch has had a busy day, of course – two Letterman shows, and a morning spent doing 15 radio interviews from his home in Westchester, the leafy, suburban Eden in which Shaffer once thought he could never find happiness.

As he explains in his new autobiography, We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives, A Swingin' Show-biz Saga , published by Random House and written with David Ritz – hence, the radio promos – “nature is highly overrated.” (He said that only minutes before a traffic accident in Hawaii that nearly killed him.) A city hipster at heart, Shaffer pulses to the beat of the neon jungle, the late-night jam sessions and comedy slugfests. For years, he lived in its midst, occupying a modest two-room suite at the Gramercy Park Hotel before its recent five-star Ian Schragerization.

Now, with his wife of 19 years, former Letterman show booker Cathy Vasapoli, and their two kids (Victoria, 16; Will, 10), he's forged a kind of peace with suburbia. He even rides horses in the summer at Letterman's 2,700-acre Montana ranch.

But as Shaffer explains while we wait for his baby lamb chops, broccoli and carrots to arrive, much of what has happened to him professionally since he moved to New York from Toronto in 1973 has occurred in a narrow 10-block radius of where he now sits. Not far away are the recording studios where he played the piano for the movie soundtrack of Godspell . Closer still is Rockefeller Center, where for a decade he bruised the ivories in the World's Most Dangerous Band, when Letterman was parked at NBC.

Even his current Broadway aerie – for years, the Sunday-night home of The Ed Sullivan Show – had something to do with shaping the young Shaffer. One night in 1961, back home in Thunder Bay, 11-year-old Paul watched piano duo Ferrante and Teicher play the theme song from Exodus on Sullivan . Inspired, he quickly mastered the music, and proceeded to out-duel his Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue concert rival, Marvin Slobotsky. “I killed at my bar mitzvah.”

Shaffer, of course, already knew his way around the keyboard. He'd been studying since age 6, at the insistence of his mother, Shirley, and ultimately passed his Grade 8 Conservatory exams.

For those who maintain that we are the blended product of our parents, Shaffer's childhood might be prime evidence. In a lonely town that was on absolutely no one's concert tour, they introduced their only child not only to the classics, but to authentic jazz – Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, of course, but also Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson – as well as pop greats Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett. His father, Bernard, a lawyer who had once performed with Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster, gave his son regular instruction on their relative merits.

When the parents partied, heartily it seems, Paul even then was the house piano player, banging the keys until his fingers ached, while his father did Al Jolson impressions on bended knee. When they travelled, his parents took Paul with them. His book vividly recounts one memorable trip to Vegas to see Sarah Vaughan. “Take note, son,” says Bernard. “This is the music that matters.” Paul is 12.

And then, at precisely the moment of maximum impressionability, his teens, rock ‘n' roll arrives on the scene – his own private particle accelerator. You can see him, locked on the frozen shores of Lake Superior, the virtual dead end of Bob Dylan's Highway 61 , teenage ears pressed hard against the transistor radio, absorbing the indelible sounds of an exploding musical universe – Motown, Phil Spector's wailing wall of sound, the Ronettes, the Crystals and his favourite, the Four Seasons. (He's seen Jersey Boys three times.) Rushing home from school each day to learn and practise what he'd heard. Covering the songs in his high-school band, the Fugitives. “I couldn't get enough of it,” he says.

Only in Thunder Bay, he adds sadly, was playing in a rock band insufficient grounds for getting laid.

But passion for music, his father tells him, “doesn't equal income.” Hence, the subsequent sociology degree from the University of Toronto. “I don't know what I was doing there,” he says. “I was sleeping all the time. I think I was depressed. “ No doubt the rough-hewn blueprint to follow Bernard into law did not help.

Then, a decisive lunch at the Royal York Hotel with Dad, who owns something of a temper. Somehow, Shaffer fils summons the courage. “I want to give this music thing a try.” To his credit, Dad, perhaps still remembering his own career compromise, gives his blessing to a one-year trial.

The year is largely inconclusive, Shaffer scraping by. Then one day, he plays piano accompaniment at a Godspell audition for his girlfriend. At the end, the show's composer, Stephen Schwartz, approaches and, impressed by Shaffer's rock ‘n' roll chops, hires him on the spot to play at every remaining audition. Among those he accompanies: the incandescent Gilda Radner, later his close friend and, alas, unrequited love.

Godspell and Schwartz are godsends. He becomes the show's musical director, and 11 months later, Schwartz calls again, inviting him to New York to play piano for the movie soundtrack. It's his first trip ever to the Big Apple and he's instantly in love. A year after that, Schwartz needs him for another gig, Doug Henning's magic show.

“It'll be hard on you, Paul, but now you'll have to move to New York.”

“That's a helluva sacrifice,” he says. “I'll be there tomorrow.”

Over lunch with Gilda, she confesses to a one-night tryst with Henning. Shaffer is stung to the quick, and so angry that Henning never called her back that he discloses all the secrets of his magic tricks.

The rest is more anecdote, rich and well-told. A parade of great names appears – Dylan, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Spector, Lorne Michaels (Shaffer played piano for the first five years of Saturday Night Live ), John Belushi, Cher, Richard Belzer, and the brilliant Martin Short – for Shaffer, not just his best friend, but a kind of life coach, a manifestation of what it was not just to be funny, but to “live funny.”

Not widely know is that Shaffer was offered the role of George Costanza Seinfeld , before Jason Alexander. The message on his answering machine said he wouldn't even have to audition. Too busy with other work and convinced the sitcom was unlikely to succeed, he never returned the call. “I only missed out on the most beloved show in the history of television.”

His on-camera persona, successfully cloaking the inner nerd, satirizes the smarmy Vegas archetype while simultaneously inhabiting it. It emerged, he says, during his early years in Toronto, hanging out with Short, Radner, Eugene Levy and others. “Kindred spirits who had more nerve to be themselves – I use them as justification: ‘Oh, you can be like that.'“ Now, he's adapted to the role so well that it's hard to tell where the glibness stops and the irony begins.

Although Shaffer has composed occasionally, including (with Paul Jabara) the disco hit It's Raining Men , his desk is not stuffed with unpublished songs. “Writing never had the immediate gratification I was looking for,” he explains. “Writers get off on that process. I wasn't meant to write.”

He finds no shortage of contentment, however, as a cover artist. “That's what I grew up on. I always thought that's all you need to do.”

Telling his stories, Shaffer is always discrete in his new book – he's still Canadian, for God's sake. Thus, Belushi's out-of-control drug use is not mentioned. “I just figure that's all been told,” he says. Spector's recent murder conviction is alluded to only obliquely. “I regret all the tragedy that has surrounded Phil in recent years,” he writes.

Nor, he insists, ordering a Diet Coke (about as stiff as his drinking gets) will he pass judgment on the Letterman scandal. “I've been told I can't comment. It's an ongoing legal proceeding.”

The new biography is probably not Shaffer's last word. He says he may emulate Sammy Davis Jr., who wrote two autobiographies, Yes I Can and Why Me?. “There's definitely enough material for a second book,” says Shaffer. “I think I'll call it Why Not Me?

Ready For A Jewellery Party?

Source: www.metronews.ca - Rafael Brusilow

(October 20, 2009) Breaking the mould of the traditional direct sales model,
Silpada Designs is showing Canadian women they can make their entrepreneurial ambitions sparkle by selling jewellery in a casual, party setting that focuses on fun instead of formality.

Silpada was founded in 1997 in the United States by stay-at-home moms and self-made entrepreneurs
Bonnie Kelly and Teresa Walsh who had wanted to come up with a way to earn some income while still being able to take care of their kids.

They took their combined passion for designing and selling jewellery and started Silpada on the philosophy that direct sales works best when there is no pressure and customers can explore the product with their friends.

The formula is simple: Silpada reps set up parties where women and their friends try on and buy jewellery without any formal sales speeches to wade through. Arrival times are casual, there’s no pressure to buy and parties usually run for a few hours.

At the end of the night the rep earns a commission of 30 per cent of the sales total and the hostess who offered her house to be used for the party receives the same 30 per cent of total sales in credit for free jewellery.

The sales average for each Silpada party is $1,250 meaning reps and hostesses average $375 each per party — not bad for a few hours’ worth of mingling with your friends, especially since there’s no résumé to hand in or weekly hours to maintain since reps work as little or as much as they like.

The model has been so successful that Silpada has quickly grown to more than 28,000 representatives in the U.S. and retail sales of $270 million since 1997 and about 1900 reps across Canada with retail sales of $10 million since entering the Canadian market in April 2008. 

“We feel very blessed. Our goal was never to get out there and make this big, huge company.

When you base something on your heartfelt passion, people see that,” Walsh said.

“It’s an easy product to sell — there’s no pressure and because of the party atmosphere it’s very low-key. You don’t have to feel like a sales person,” Kelly said.

Kimberly Ross, 37, used to be a construction safety manager in Toronto before becoming a full-time stay-at-home mom. Since starting last October she runs two or three parties per week and says Silpada is a natural fit.

“I wanted to get back into the business world — I wanted to do something for myself. It’s given me back my own sense of self from a business perspective.”

::DANCE NEWS::

'Tommy The Clown': LA Icon Needs Help Himself, But Continues To Put Youth First. (Video)

Source: 
www.eurweb.com - By Kathy Williamson

(October 20, 2009) “Unfortunately, we lost the academy and more. We are now trying to rebuild a place where everybody can dance, enjoy themselves and even do after-school work. There would also be the return of battle night, once a month.”

*It seems so simple. Keep kids busy doing things they love to do, and they will be distracted from negative activity. That’s exactly what
Thomas “Tommy the Clown” Johnson has been doing since the early ‘90s.

“Back in 1992, after I got out of jail, I was working for a company and was asked to be a clown for a birthday party. I did it,” said Tommy. “I had fun and the kids had a great time.”

“I used to work from 7 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., get off work, go home and get dressed as Tommy the Clown and ride through the neighbourhoods until it got dark, in my bright green car with music blasting. I would stop the car, jump out, start dancing, walk on my hands, spin, do flips and pass out business cards,” said Tommy. “Both kids and adults were mesmerized.”

This successful hands-on street marketing increased his popularity and he was called to do more birthday parties and appear in parades.

“It became a way of life for me. I eventually quit my job and became Tommy the Clown full time,” he said. Kids wanted to dance with him; and dance against him. So, he created the hip hop clowns, and began building a crew. “I started with a little girl, added some twins and a guy. They started traveling with me a doing parties and they ‘blew up.’”

They became so popular that more local youth wanted to join and become a part of his crew. “I had to tell them to come out with their own crews, because I couldn’t accommodate everybody. They did and then wanted to battle.”

“One day we went over to someone’s house and began battling. It got so intense that we couldn’t judge who was the winner. So, I created a battle-zone, where everyone could come and showcase their talent out on the dance floor and let the audience be the judge.”

Soon, clown crews started forming en masse and battle zone challenges became popular. That’s when film maker David LaChapelle took notice.

“The dance was in a video that he was shooting. He came to my academy and saw the dances, the battles, the faces, the excitement and the colors. He stated that he wanted to do a film, and he did,” said Tommy. “There were three films, ‘Clowns in the Hood,’ ‘Krump’ and then a feature film ‘Rize.’

So, how did something that started out to entertain children become a phenomenal movement, attracting older youth, teens and adults?

“It became hip after I created my crew and people saw that I had different age groups with me. When we would go to the parades and teens saw their unique clothing and dance skills – they saw that being a clown was cool. Although it was kid-form, it wasn’t kid-ish,” said Tommy.

As part of his commitment to youth, Tommy formed CLOUT – Changing Lives One Youth at a Time. The organization is partnered with Snoop Dogg. “It’s not financial partnering, but Snoop believes in us and has allowed us to use his name,” said Tommy.  “He has a foundation that deals with kids on the sports side and I deal with kids on the dance side.”

Tommy remains positive about helping youth.

“Unfortunately, we lost the academy and more. We are now trying to rebuild a place where everybody can dance, enjoy themselves and even do after-school work. There would also be the return of battle night, once a month.”

“I know that I have the power to help kids with who I am and who I have become. The kids need an outlet. They need some place to go; but you have to bring it to them. And, that’s what I’ve done with this whole clown business. It allows them to paint up and become a character and then go out and entertain, make people laugh or amaze the public with their skills.”

“You don’t know what you can do, until you do it. You become creative on the dance floor where people are watching you and praising you. You are doing something unique that they probably can’t do. That makes you feel good and have second thoughts about any negative actions.”

“I’m a one-man band, and I am trying to keep these kids motivated. I would like to get a building where we can do shows and create a battle league where the youth can compete for trophies or dance scholarships. Competitive dancing is a sport,” he said.

While building his foundation, Tommy continues to do parties and make appearances, pays the young people who accompany him and provide for his family.

To contact Tommy the Clown or C.L.O.U.T., visit www.tommytheclown.com or e-mail him at TommytheClown@aol.com.

Watch Tommy The Clown and his krumpin' kids break down how it's done:


Tommy the Clown

Tommy The Clown | MySpace Videos

::FITNESS NEWS::

Ab & Butt Toners: 10 Best Exercises

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


I hate to see anyone feeling awful about their body, but at the same time that's what it sometimes takes for people to make changes. Looking in the mirror and being honest with yourself, becoming annoyed with how tight your clothes fit, going to the doctor's office and hearing about your health issues...Most times a wake-up call is exactly what we need.

So what areas of the body stand out so much that they practically initiate this wake-up call? We are obsessed with these two areas of the body -- glutes and abs. If an alien landed on earth and knew little of our culture, it would quickly assume that a firm butt and tight abs were reserved for those with royalty and prestige. It may sound crazy but just think of the way you look at someone with a tight butt or flat stomach.

A calorie-reduced nutrition program combined with exercise will do wonders to create a tight booty and firm abs. The formula that works for a healthy body is the same one that works for a great butt and abs -- nutrition, exercise and loads of consistency.

As far as nutrition, the biggest mistake people make is reducing calories as low as possible. After a few days of this insane approach, they're back to eating more junk then ever because the approach isn't realistic. The key is to reduce calories low enough to lose fat but still keep calories high enough to sustain your energy. Food, when used properly, can actually stimulate the metabolism to lose body fat. This is where eDiets can help! Our qualified dieticians have not only created great meal plans, but they're also accessible to you as an eDiets member whenever you have a question.

Your glutes and abs won't get tighter and smaller unless your overall body fat is reduced. You can perform all the butt movements on the planet for hours a day, but it won't make one bit of difference unless you lose body fat. Spot reduction is simply not possible.

To help accelerate your progress, I've constructed five great abdominal exercises and five great butt exercises. Take two exercises (one butt and one abs) and include them in your current workout (no matter what the workout is). Perform three sets of 15 reps of each on alternate days of the week. After three weeks, choose two other movements from the list. This alternating schedule will allow you to keep changing abdominal and butt exercises without adapting to the same movement. And it will also prevent boredom.

ABDOMINALS

Vertical Scissors


Starting Position:

·  Sit on a chair or bench with your legs straight out in front of you.

·  Your hands should be under your butt for balance.

Movement:

·  Contracting your abdominals, lift your right leg as you lower your left leg.

·  Reverse the positions of your legs by lowering your right leg and raising your left leg, mimicking a scissor.

Key Points:

·  Breathe rhythmically throughout the exercise.

·  Squeeze your butt and hip muscles as you switch legs.

Cable Kneeling Rope Crunch


Starting Position:

·  Kneel in front of the cable machine with your body facing the machine. Hold a rope attached to the upper cable attachment. Keep your elbows in.

Movement:

·  Contracting the abdominals, curl your body downward toward your legs, stopping when you have reached a full contraction of your abdominals.

·  Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the weight stack touching.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the weight and curling down.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Incline Bench Leg Raises


Starting Position:

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

Movement:

·  Contracting the lower abdominal area, raise your legs up until your hips form a 90-degree angle.

·  Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of your legs touching the bench.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

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

Reverse Ab Curl


Starting Position:

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

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

Movement:

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

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting your hips.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

Reverse Trunk Twist


Starting Position:

·  Lie on the floor with your back relaxed and your arms out to the sides forming a "T" with your body.

·  Extend your legs straight up in the air so that your hips form a 90-degree angle with a slight bend in your knees.

Movement:

·  Contracting the abdominal and oblique muscles, lower your legs toward one side keeping your feet together and your back on the floor. Stop at the limits of the strength of your abdominal and oblique muscles.

·  This may start out as a very small range of motion and gradually increase as you get stronger.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

·  After completing the set on the one side, repeat on the other side.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lowering your legs.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

BUTT

Smith Machine Forward Lunge


Starting Position:

·  Place the bar across the back of your shoulders. Be sure it is not resting on your neck.

·  Place one foot forward and one foot back. Both feet should be flat on the floor and facing forward with a slight bend in the knees.

Movement:

·  Lower the weight until the front leg is at a 90-degree angle. The rear heel will come off the floor slightly but should remain straight with a slight bend in the knee.

·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the legs fully extending.

Key Points:

·  Inhale while lowering the weight.

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Do not let the front knee ride over your toes (you should be able to see your foot at all times).

·  Do not let the back arch.

·  Never let the knee of the back leg come in contact with the floor.

Barbell Wide Stance Squat


Starting Position:

·  Begin by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Although the animation shows the feet wider than shoulder width, I've found that the glutes receive better stimulation when the feet are shoulder width.

·  Place a barbell across your shoulders. Be sure it is not resting on your neck.

·  Maintain a neutral spine and a slight bend in the knees.

Movement:

·  Concentrating on the quadriceps muscles, begin to lower your body by bending from your hips and knees.

·  Stop when your thighs are parallel with the floor.

·  Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your knees fully extending.

Key Points:

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Inhale as you lower down.

·  Do not let your knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times).

·  It helps to find a marker on the wall to keep your eye on as you lift and lower. Otherwise, your head may tend to fall forward and your body will follow.

·  Think about sitting back in a chair as you are lowering down.

·  Push off with your heels as you return to the starting position.

·  Perform this movement in a slow and controlled fashion without using momentum.

·  You may want to try this exercise without weights until you master the movement. It is a very effective exercise that involves most of the muscle groups of the lower body, but if done improperly can lead to injuries.

Straight Leg Reverse Lift

Starting Position:

·  Start this exercise on your hands and knees.

·  Straighten your left leg as if you were going to do a push-up.

·  Keep the right leg bent, supporting your weight along with your arms.

Movement:

·  Contracting the buttocks muscles, lift your left leg up toward the ceiling, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the buttocks.

·  Slowly return to the starting position.

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

Key Points:

·  Exhale while lifting the leg.

·  Inhale while returning to the starting position.

·  Do not let the back arch.

·  If you are an intermediate or advanced exerciser, you can add an ankle weight to the working leg to make it more challenging.

Dumbbell Lunges

Starting Position:

·  Stand straight with your feet together.

·  Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides.

Movement:

·  Step forward with the right leg and lower the left leg until the knee almost touches the floor.

·  Contracting the quadriceps muscles, push off your right foot, slowly returning to the starting position.

·  Alternate the motion with the left leg to complete the set.

Key Points:

·  Inhale while stepping forward.

·  Exhale while returning to the starting position.

·  The step should be big enough that your left leg is nearly straight. Do not let your knee touch the floor.

·  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.

·  Your right knee should not pass your right foot. You should be able to see your toes at all times.

·  If you have one leg that is more dominant than the other, start out with the less dominant leg first.

·  Discontinue this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

Treadmill Incline Power Walk

Starting Position:

·  Stand tall with your legs straddling the belt.

·  Choose the manual program.

·  Step carefully on the belt.

Movement:

·  Perform a five minute warm-up and then adjust the incline setting to 12. Increase your speed between 3 mph and 3.5 mph, based on your fitness level. Make sure to use your glutes and hips with each step Walk at this level for 15 to 20 minutes.

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



::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Note

"Intellectuals solves problems, geniuses prevent them."

Source:  www.eurweb.com  — Albert Einstein