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LE NEWSLETTER

September 24, 2009

Is Fall really here?  Doesn't this past week in Toronto feel like those 2 weeks we used to get in July of super humid weather?  Between that humidity and the extra cold air conditioning at work, who knows how to dress anymore?

Maxwell is in town tomorrow night (Friday) at the ACC - now you know this concert is going to be so get your tickets today! 

Well here's your entertainment news - take a scroll and a read! 


::TOP STORIES::

A Transgender Twist On Secrets

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Entertainment Reporter

(September 19, 2009) Darren Anthony has always taken his big sister's lead, following her into social work, sketch comedy, acting and now playwriting. As it's said in their family: "Darren does what trey does."

He could do worse.

trey anthony is the creator of the award-winning `da Kink in My Hair, which was the first Canadian production staged at the Princess of Wales Theatre and has also been mounted in San Diego and London and adapted for television.

Now, she's producing Darren's first play,
Secrets of a Black Boy, which opens at The Music Hall on Friday. With its focus on male angst and similar use of dramatic monologues, the show is being touted as "the male answer to `da Kink," which examined the lives of black women.

Forthright, plain-spoken trey also gets billing as dramaturge and contributing writer. "I'm the younger brother, so I do a lot of listening," says easygoing Darren of heeding her script suggestions: less cursing, and more vulnerable characters.

But last spring, in the midst of one of the dramedy's early table reads, Darren would have been within his rights to wonder if trey had finally led him astray. He'd agreed with her and director Kimahli Powell to cast a transgender man, and not to inform the other actors until that individual was ready.

Now he was.

The all-male, all-black cast was about to learn that someone in their midst was born a woman.

Would this secret derail Secrets?

It began with a dare.

"Right after opening night of Kink at Mirvish (in January of 2005), Darren came up to me and said, `You should do a guys' version,'" recalls trey, 31. "I said `Why don't you do it?' I didn't think he'd step up; he had never written."

But the child and youth worker and burgeoning actor, who once thought he had a good NBA shot, was stirred to action by Kink's success. He presented trey with a rough script about a year later.

The pair, British-born of Jamaican parents, fleshed out the story of six buddies coming together for one last domino game at a neighbourhood community centre slated for closure. trey respected the authenticity of Darren's provocative dialogue around topics such as interracial dating, police harassment, domestic violence, illiteracy, fatherhood, infidelity and marriage, but insisted he push past the bravado to "bring more softness and sensitivity" to the subjects.

They also clashed over Darren's refusal to clarify the sexuality of a presumably gay character. "This topic is hard to talk about in my community and I want to present it subtly," says Darren, who also has an acting role in Secrets.

Workshopped at Harbourfront Centre in 2007, Secrets outsold two post-Kink female-centric productions trey premiered the same week. "I thought women wanted to hear about other women," she says of the surprise trumping, "but I underestimated how much straight black women, especially, wanted to hear black men talk."

Biscuit was the last role cast in Secrets.

He's the youngest character; a troubled, homophobic teen imbued with the pant-sagging glibness and fury that usually indicates a skewed idea of manhood.

The part is being played by Samson Brown, who trey knew as a butchy female poet always nagging her for a role – and who happened to be in the process of becoming a man by the time Secrets auditions were being held.

Raised in northwest Toronto, the only child of a single South African community activist mother, the soft-spoken, young-looking Brown is a high-school dropout with wisdom borne of identity issues and domestic drama.

"He has this smile, the swag and the innocence; the character was him," says Darren of selecting Brown from more than a dozen prospective Biscuits.

Darren, trey and director Powell then had to decide how to handle Brown's evolving gender, both in and out of the company; well-known as a spoken word artist in the black queer community, word of his unique inclusion in Secrets would eventually filter out.

What if the subject of his transition came up during an interview with the mainstream press? How would the other cast members feel if they learned of it elsewhere? Was Brown, still regarded as a tomboy by some relatives, ready for that kind of exposure?

"The thing I need most in a rehearsal hall is trust," says Powell. "Is this actor joining the cast going to potentially complicate this cast? What does it mean that there is this ... secret?' I was hopeful that Samson would eventually feel comfortable disclosing to the other actors."

Darren was nervous about Brown's participation. "I didn't want Samson's story to be bigger than Secrets. I didn't want the audience to lose focus," he explains. "And I felt for how emotional this would be for him, facing the media and his (extended) family."

Uneasily, they left it to Brown to decide when and whom to tell.

"What the f---? Are you for real? That, by his own recollection, was fellow actor Al St. Louis' response to Brown's brief, matter-of-fact "I was born a woman" declaration.

It occurred at the third or fourth Secrets ensemble read, one afternoon inside the rehearsal space at trey's Queen St. W. offices. Brown, unsure of how a new course of testosterone might affect his appearance and mood, figured it was time to inform the cast.

"Based on what I already knew about black men, I naturally assumed they wouldn't be okay with it, especially if they listened to dance hall reggae or were raised in religious households," he says.

After he spoke, one actor "jumped up like `Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!' and started pacing around the table," trey recalls. "I'm thinking `Oh God, this is not going to be good.'"

Others were silent. Some looked uncomfortable. In the Q&A that ensued, Brown evenly and honestly handled queries, such as: "Do you think as a man or a woman? You can have kids? Do you have sex with men or women? You don't stand up and pee?"

"I asked for paper and I started writing," remembers spoken word artist St. Louis, the eldest cast member. "I'd been around gay people, but this was a new experience for me. I wanted to get into the mind of this."

The word "transgender" was not in the vocabulary of Scarborough's Shomari Downer, 26, who calls Brown "a brave individual" for making the disclosure.

Halifax native Eli Goree, who's gotten flak from peers for playing gay or bisexual characters says Brown's boyish appearance wasn't jarring. "I just thought he was really young."

Brampton's DJ O-nonymous, 31, shrugged: "I always thought Samson was a girl, but it wasn't relevant to me."

After an hour-long discussion, the cast thanked Brown for sharing, and got back to business – as Darren had hoped they would.

Behind the scenes of a play about gender and secrets, a secret about gender turned out not to be a big deal.

But try asking these guys for their ages: most of them – even the director – refused to tell. Talk about keeping secrets.

The Secrets Cast

The hurts and hopes of the Secrets actors mirror the characters:

DJ O-nonymous: The full-time DJ is the youngest of seven children of Jamaican parents. Music became his purpose after he failed to garner a football scholarship to the U.S. He had the first of his five children at 16 and lost his only brother to suicide. "I've fit all the stereotypes – black guy with dreads and tattoos, I've dated white girls, been estranged from my kids at times – and still had the wherewithal to make positive choices," he says.

Eli Goree: "I don't know how to separate my (fatherless Secrets) character's experience from my own," says Goree, who recently moved to Vancouver where he's living near his dad for the first time. The youngest of six children has encountered disapproval from his sisters for dating interracially. More bothersome, he says, are the times he conceded to a director's demand to portray "inappropriate things racially," because he needed the gig.

Shomari Downer: Raised by a Jamaican mom, he's lost several friends to "the hustler lifestyle," so his sensitive role in Secrets is a relief from the thug parts he usually gets. But there's a long pause when the cocksure Downer, also a songwriter and producer, is asked to reveal a moment of weakness. "When my son was born," he finally offers. "He was in ICU for two weeks. Once, he stopped breathing."

Al St. Louis: The Grenadian-born eldest of four siblings divided his upbringing between his mother and brother in Jane-Finch, and his dad and sisters in New York. It took years to come to terms with the loss of his NBA dream after a career-stalling injury while on an athletics scholarship to a U.S. university. "In hindsight, I needed a consistent male figure," says the father of a six-month-old son. He owns two barbershops, has a degree in electronics engineering and is an established performance poet and motivational educator.

Ashante Infantry

Mad Men, 30 Rock Repeat At Emmys

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

(September 21, 2009) LOS ANGELES–It was a night for same old, same old, but also a few surprises.

As anticipated, Mad Men, about an advertising agency in the 1960s, won the Best Drama at last night's prime-time
Emmy Awards, its second straight win. And 30 Rock won the Best Comedy award for the third year in a row.

Other repeat winners were Bryan Cranston for a second straight year for Best Actor in a Drama Series for Breaking Bad, about a high school teacher turned drug manufacturer. Glenn Close also repeated her previous win for Best Drama Actress for her role as the devious lawyer on Damages.

Michael Emerson, who plays the cruelly devious Ben on Lost, and Cherry Jones, the stalwart U.S. president on 24, were honoured as best supporting actors in drama series. It was Emerson's second win and the first for Jones.

"Wowza," Jones said. Emerson accepted his award for what he called "the role of my lifetime."

Earlier, Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock and Toni Collette of United States of Tara were honoured as best lead actors in comedy series at the Emmys, which kept to a light-hearted, viewer-friendly tone.

"I'll be honest with you. I'd trade this to look like him," Baldwin said as he accepted his Best Comedy Actor trophy from Rob Lowe of Brothers & Sisters, his second win.

Collette, who plays a mother with multiple personalities on the Showtime series, was honoured as Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

"Wow, this is insanely confronting," said a beaming Collette. She thanked series creator Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Juno.

Collette's victory deprived Tina Fey of 30 Rock of winning a second consecutive award in the category. But Fey took the stage a few moments later to acknowledge a guest actor award she received for her Sarah Palin impersonation on Saturday Night Live.

Kristin Chenoweth of Pushing Daisies and Jon Cryer of Two and a Half Men won supporting acting Emmys for their comedies and proved that acceptance speeches can be entertaining.

"I'm not employed now so I'd like to be on Mad Men. I also like The Office and 24," said Chenoweth, alternating between tears and smiles as she accepted for her cancelled ABC series.

"Thank you so much to the academy for recognizing a show that's no longer on the air."

Cryer, whose series is the most-watched comedy on TV, brought a wry tone to his speech.

"I used to think that awards were just shallow tokens of momentary popularity, but now I realize they are the only true measure of a person's worth as a human being," Cryer said.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart won the trophy for Best Variety, Music or Comedy Series, its seventh in a row.

Grey Gardens, the story of a reclusive mother and daughter who were relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the Dickens adaptation Little Dorrit won for Best Movie and Miniseries, respectively.

No Canadians took home key trophies, but there were several shout-outs to Lorne Michaels, the Toronto-born creator of Saturday Night Live and executive producer of 30 Rock.

"I would not be here if it was not for Lorne Michaels," said Fey, acknowledging an earlier win for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy for her stint playing Sarah Palin on SNL.

Singer Justin Timberlake gave his own thanks to Michaels for "letting me make a fool of myself" on SNL, for which Timberlake won a guest actor trophy.

Later, Baldwin, in accepting his trophy, called Michaels "the greatest boss you could ever have."

Host Neil Patrick Harris started the evening on a lively note, performing "Don't Touch That Remote," a custom-made tune from Broadway composers Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman of Hairspray fame.

Harris implored viewers to stay glued to the show and called attention to some of the stars in the house.

"I see legends galore, Lange, Barrymore," Harris sang to Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, later adding, "But like next season on Idol I'm not seeing Paula Abdul." Meanwhile, the camera panned to an empty seat at the Nokia Theatre.

Harris's winning turn as host was noted by Jeff Probst, honoured as best reality show host for CBS's Survivor.

Probst was one of the five reality hosts who emceed the Emmys last year and received scathing reviews.

"Neil Patrick Harris, this is how you host the Emmys. Nice job," Probst said, pointing his Emmy toward him.

The Amazing Race won its seventh consecutive Emmy in the outstanding reality-competition category, once again turning top-rated American Idol into an also-ran.

An exception to the upbeat mood came in clips from animated series Family Guy, which showed the dog character Brian beaten bloody, followed by a reality show snippet with barely concealed swearing.

In a bid to give viewers reasons to stick with the show, CBS put advisories onscreen of upcoming moments, including Timberlake's appearance as a presenter.

The pre-show red carpet brought out the stars for an Emmy program that offered Mad Men a chance to repeat history and gave Family Guy an opportunity to make it.

Rising network star Jim Parsons of CBS's The Big Bang Theory made the cut for best comedy series actor, but niche premium cable shows including HBO's Flight of the Conchords and Showtime's Weeds grabbed a hefty share of nods.

TV's most-watched comedy, CBS's Two and a Half Men, failed to score a best series bid, although stars Charlie Sheen and Cryer did.

Full list of Emmy Awards winners

Winners in all categories for the 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards announced by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

Complete list of winners at Sunday's 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards:

• Drama Series: “Mad Men,” AMC.
• Comedy Series: “30 Rock,” NBC.
• Actor, Drama Series: Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad, AMC.
• Actress, Drama Series: Glenn Close, Damages, FX Networks.
• Actor, Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock, NBC.
• Actress, Comedy Series: Toni Collette, United States of Tara, Showtime.
• Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Michael Emerson, Lost, ABC.
• Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Cherry Jones, 24, Fox.
• Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men, CBS.
• Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth, “Pushing Daisies,” ABC.
• Miniseries: Little Dorrit PBS.
• Made-for-TV Movie: Grey Gardens, HBO.
• Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm, HBO.
• Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens, HBO.
• Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Ken Howard, Grey Gardens, HBO.
• Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Saddam, HBO.
• Directing for a Comedy Series: The Office: Stress Relief, Jeff Blitz, NBC.
• Directing for a Drama Series: ER: And in the End, Rod Holcomb, NBC.
• Directing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: American Idol: Show 833 (The Final Three), Bruce Gowers, Fox.
• Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special: Little Dorrit: Part 1, Dearbhla Walsh, PBS.
• Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Comedy Central.
• Reality-Competition Program: The Amazing Race, CBS.
• Writing for a Comedy Series: 30 Rock: Reunion, Matt Hubbard, NBC.
• Writing for a Drama Series: Mad Men: Meditations in an Emergency, Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner, AMC.
• Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Comedy Central.
• Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special: Little Dorrit, Andrew Davies, PBS.
• Host, Reality or Reality-Competition Program: Jeff Probst, Survivor, CBS.
• Original Music and Lyrics: 81st Annual Academy Awards: Song Title: Hugh Jackman Opening Number, ABC.
 
 List of winners in the creative arts categories of the 61st annual Primetime Emmy Awards:

• Guest Actor in a Comedy Series: Justin Timberlake, Saturday Night Live, NBC.
• Guest Actress in a Drama Series: Ellen Burstyn, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Swing, NBC.
• Guest Actress in a Comedy Series: Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live: Presidential Bash 2008, NBC.
• Guest Actor in a Drama Series: Michael J. Fox, Rescue Me: Sheila, FX Networks.
• Governors Award: Sheila Nevins, HBO Documentary Films president.
• Animated Program (for Programming One-Hour or More): Destination Imagination (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends), Cartoon Network.
• Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour): South Park: Margaritaville, Comedy Central.
• Art Direction for a Multi-Camera Series: How I Met Your Mother: Shelter Island, Not A Father’s Day, CBS.
• Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series: Pushing Daisies: Dim Sum Lose Some, ABC.
• Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie: Grey Gardens, HBO, and Little Dorrit, PBS.
• Art Direction for Variety, Music, or Nonfiction Programming: American Idol: Episode 821-822, Fox, and 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, MTV.
• Casting for a Comedy Series: 30 Rock, NBC.
• Casting for a Drama Series: True Blood, HBO.
• Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special: Little Dorrit, PBS.
• Choreography: 81st Annual Academy Awards: Musicals Are Back, ABC, and So You Think You Can Dance: Adam and Eve/Silence, Fox.
• Cinematography for a Half-Hour Series: Californication: In Utero, Showtime.
• Cinematography for a One-Hour Series: The Tudors: Episode 303, Showtime.
• Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie: Little Dorrit: Part 1, PBS.
• Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations: Laos, Travel Channel.
• Cinematography for Reality Programming: Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experiment, What Did I Sign Up For? Discovery Channel.
• Commercial: Heist, Coca-Cola.
• Costumes for a Series: Pushing Daisies: Bzzzzzzzzz! ABC.
• Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special: Little Dorrit: Part 3, PBS.
• Costumes for a variety/music program or a special: So You Think You Can Dance: Episode 415-416A, Fox.
• Directing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special: Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, Bucky Gunts, NBC.
• Directing for Nonfiction Programming: Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, Marina Zenovich, HBO.
• Main Title Design: United States of Tara, Showtime.
• Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special (prosthetic): Grey Gardens, HBO.
• Makeup for a Single Camera Series (non-prosthetic): Pushing Daisies: Dim Sum Lose Some, ABC.
• Makeup for a Multi-Camera Series or Special (non-prosthetic): MADtv: Episode 1405, Fox.
• Makeup for a Miniseries or a Movie (non-prosthetic): The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (Hallmark Hall of Fame Presentation), CBS.
• Music Direction: Streisand: The Concert, CBS.
• Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score): Legend of the Seeker: Prophecy, Syndicated.
• Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Original Dramatic Score): Into the Storm, HBO.
• Original Main Title Theme Music: Great Performances, PBS.
• Picture Editing for a Drama Series (Single-Camera): Breaking Bad: ABQ, AMC.
• Picture Editing for a Comedy Series (Single or Multi-Camera): 30 Rock: Apollo, Apollo, NBC.
• Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie (Single-Camera): Taking Chance, HBO.
• Picture Editing (Short Form): 81st Annual Academy Awards, ABC, and Stand Up to Cancer, ABC, CBS and NBC.
• Picture Editing for a Special (Single or Multi-Camera): Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger, HBO.
• Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming: This American Life: John Smith” Showtime.
• Picture Editing for Reality Programming: Project Runway: Finale (Part 1), Bravo.
• Hairstyling for a Single-Camera Series: Mad Men: The Gold Violin” AMC.
• Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special: Dancing With the Stars: Episode 709, ABC.
• Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Movie: Grey Gardens, HBO.
• Creative Achievement in Interactive Media - Nonfiction: The Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Digital Experience, NBC.com.
• Creative Achievement in Interactive Media — Fiction: The Dharma Initiative, DharmaWantsYou.com.
• Lighting Direction (Electronic, Multi-Camera) for Variety, Music or Comedy Programming: American Idol: Finale, Fox.
• Variety, Music, or Comedy Special: The Kennedy Center Honors, CBS.
• Special Class Programs: Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, NBC.
• Special Class — Short-format Live-Action Entertainment Programs: Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, drhorrible.com.
• Special Class — Short-format Nonfiction Programs: Writer’s Draft, Fox Movie Channel.
• Children’s Program: Wizards of Waverly Place, Disney Channel.
• Children’s Nonfiction Program: Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am? With Maria Shriver, HBO, and Nick News with Linda Ellerbee: Coming Home: When Parents Return from War, Nickelodeon.
• Nonfiction Special: 102 Minutes That Changed America, History.
• Nonfiction Series: American Masters, PBS.
• Reality Program: Intervention, A&E.
• Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking: The Memory Loss Tapes, HBO.
• Writing for Nonfiction Programming: Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, HBO.
• Sound Editing for a Series: Battlestar Galactica: Daybreak (Part 2), Syfy.
• Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special: Generation Kill: The Cradle of Civilization, HBO.
• Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera): 102 Minutes That Changed America, History.
• Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One Hour): House: House Divided, Fox.
• Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or Movie: Generation Kill: The Cradle of Civilization, HBO.
• Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (Half-Hour and Animation): Entourage: Pie, HBO, and Weeds: Three Coolers, Showtime.
• Sound Mixing for a Variety or Music Series or a Special: 81st Annual Academy Awards, ABC, and The 51st Annual Grammy Awards, CBS.
• Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Programming (Single or Multi-Camera): 102 Minutes That Changed America, History.
• Special Visual Effects for a Series: Heroes: The Second Coming/The Butterfly Effect, NBC.
• Special Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special: Generation Kill: The Cradle of Civilization, HBO.
• Stunt Coordination: Chuck: Chuck Versus the First Date, NBC.
• Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series: American Idol: Episode 834A, Fox.
• Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special: Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, NBC.
• Voice-Over Performance: The Simpsons: Father Knows Worst, Fox.
• Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Special: Chris Rock — Kill The Messenger, HBO.

 On the Net: http://www.emmys.org

– The Associated Press

Precious Wins People's Choice Award

Source:
www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard, Movies Editor

(September 20, 2009) TIFF audiences rained praise on Precious: Based On The Novel `Push' By Sapphire, giving the arresting movie with the unwieldy name the Cadillac People's Choice Award – and the type of buzz to make the film a major Oscar contender.

Director Lee Daniels made it clear the feeling is mutual, dedicating the award to TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey for his "unparalleled" support, said Maple Pictures co-president Laurie May.

Precious, the moving story of a horribly abused teenage girl struggling to survive in Harlem, has already garnered some flowing attention, capturing the grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at this year's Sundance.

Movie blogs and critics are humming with talk that Precious will follow in the steps of last year's pick, Slumdog Millionaire, which went on to win eight Oscars, including Best Picture.

Several are already saying the Oprah Winfrey-produced film will secure a best picture nod – especially since the Academy has expanded the list to 10 – not to mention acting nominations for Gabourey Sidibe, who plays the title character, and Mo'Nique for her portrayal of the teen's tyrannical mother.

TIFF co-director Piers Handling reminded guests at yesterday's awards reception that "Toronto audiences have pretty good taste," often acting as a bellwether of bigger things to come for movies in their People's Choice winners.

The award has helped launch several films into top-award races; past winners have included Amelie, American Beauty, Hotel Rwanda, Tstotsi and Eastern Promises.

Meanwhile, Precious will be distributed by Lionsgate, which helped orchestrate Crash's upset win over Brokeback Mountain at the 2005 Academy Awards.

Precious producer Winfrey, director Daniels, and stars Mariah Carey, Paula Patton and Sidibe were at TIFF for the premiere.

The film opens here in November.

First runner-up for People's Choice was Bruce Beresford's Mao's Last Dancer. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Micmacs was second runner-up.

New this year were Cadillac People's Choice Awards for the documentary and Midnight Madness programs.

The Topp Twins, a doc about a New Zealand lesbian country singing comedy act, took the prize, with Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story named runner-up.

The Midnight Madness people's pick was Sean Byrne's The Loved Ones, with Michael and Peter Spierig's Daybreakers earning runner-up. The other award winners were:

Best Canadian Short: Pedro Pires's Dance Macabre.

Best Canadian First Feature: Alexandre Franchi's The Wild Hunt.

Best Canadian Feature Film: Ruba Nadda for Cairo Time, starring Patricia Clarkson, Tom McCamus and Alexander Siddig. Special Jury Citation to Bernard Émond for La Donation.

FIPRESCI International Critics Prize: Laxmikant Shetgaonkar for The Man Beyond the Bridge and Bruno Dumont for Hadewijch.

Precious Snags Audience Choice Award At TIFF

Source:
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(September 19, 2009) A raw film about an abused teen named Precious has won the audience choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The harrowing tale, Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire, snagged the coveted award Saturday, the last day of the festival. Before coming to Toronto, the film wowed audiences at the Sundance festival, taking the grand jury and audience awards there. Piers Handling, co-director of the Toronto festival, says the remarkable success of Precious is not unlike last year's surprise sensation, Slumdog Millionaire. After winning the audience choice award in Toronto, Slumdog went on to sweep the big categories at the Oscars. Other prizes handed out at the Toronto fest include best Canadian feature film, which went to Ruba Nadda's Cairo Time, best Canadian first feature film, which went to Alexandre Franchi for The Wild Hunt, and best Canadian short film, which went to Pedro Pires for Danse Macabre. The awards helped wrap 10 days of movie madness. Saturday's closing night film was to be The Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt and directed by Quebec's Jean-Marc Vallee, who helmed 2005's C.R.A.Z.Y. More than 300 films were screened during the fest, which drew megastars including George Clooney, Matt Damon and Oprah Winfrey.

Ecomii’s Launch of Natural Health

Source:  www.ecomii.com

We are proud to announce the launch of ecomii Natural Health- www.ecomii.com/natural-health.  This new platform answers consumer demand for credible, comprehensive information on natural health alternatives to pharmaceuticals and medical procedures.  As holistic medicine, herbal remedies and vitamin supplements gain popularity, there is an increasing need for an independent resource for consumers – especially given the largely unregulated nature of alternative remedies.

ecomii Natural Health provides consumers with a complete natural guide for almost 200 health problems and conditions.

·          Diseases & Conditions: Provides detailed comparison on how conventional and holistic doctors approach these conditions, as well as researchers’ input as to possible reasons for the imbalance or illness.

·          Vitamins & Supplements: Educates consumers on the optimal doses as well as specific types recommended to optimize health and prevent diseases and deficiencies.  Nutritional supplements have become a common fixture in American households, with two thirds of Americans using them, yet most consumers are unclear on the correct doses.  

·          Herbal Medicines: Taps the wisdom of the oldest medical therapies and provides consumers with detailed information on the recommended herbal remedies for each condition.

·          Alternative Medicine: From homeopathy to acupuncture to hydrotherapy, our Alternative Medicine guide provides consumers with a thorough explanation of each treatment option.

ecomii continues to redefine the “green” landscape online by offering solutions on Parenting, Smart Food, Healthy Home, Gardening, Building, Auto, and Clean Tech Investing.   As the most popular independent green lifestyle site, ecomii is positioned to be the brand leader in the category and set to take advantage of the trend toward health and sustainability. 

ecomii - a better way

::HOT EVENTS::

Maxwell Better As A Lover Than A Fighter

Tickets are still available for Friday’s concert – don’t miss Maxwell’s first return to Toronto with his newest CD, BLACKsummers’ Night. 

BLACKsummers' Night
Maxwell
Sony
Three stars

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Amy Verner

(July 07, 2009) There are some people who won't even notice that Maxwell is missing his signature afro, even if this gorgeous, unmovable mess of hair contributed to his image as a late-nineties sex symbol. But after a seven-year hiatus from the music biz, the songwriter who helped define the genre of neo-soul has returned with an album that closely parallels his new cropped cut. Which is to say: smooth and sleek, but less seductive.

The good news is that BLACKsummers' Night is Auto-Tune free. As the first of a trilogy to be released over the next two years, this collection of nine songs still showcases Maxwell's ability to jump from a mellow, masculine pitch to a falsetto that defies sonic gravity. His vocal range is indisputably in fine form.

The better news is that at least three tracks deserve top marks for putting listeners in the mood to make out (because really, wasn't that the main reason why so many of us gravitated towards Embrya and Urban Hang Suite , two of his strongest albums).

As the breakout single, a video for Pretty Wings is already working its charms online. The repetition of the title's two words has the effect of a lullaby rather than a romantic gesture; a kiss on the forehead instead of the lips.

With Stop the World , it's as if we're back to the old Maxwell, a crooner who is persuasive enough to make all outside problems melt away. (As if the music isn't soothing enough, he reassures with, “Let the world rage outside, 'cause when I'm here with you / The world stops for me, the world stops for me.”)

In Fistful of Tears , Maxwell tries to calm and condemn his lover's anxiety; the melody, meanwhile, is more enveloping than a duvet covered in cashmere. Check it off as the catchiest track on the album.

Jam sessions are an integral part of Maxwell's shtick; the problem with Phoenix Rise is that it evokes lobby music at a European boutique hotel. Although he tries to expand beyond musical foreplay with Help Somebody – a gritty call to action – and Cold , he's ultimately a better as a lover than a fighter.

Back in 1996 when Maxwell arrived on the scene, his peers could be counted on one hand: D'Angelo, Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott and Angie Stone. Now, the hybrid niche of neo-soul has increasingly become crowded with such eager-to-please artists as John Legend and Robin Thicke to say nothing of chanteuses Corinne Bailey Rae, Adele and Duffy who channel a similar moody-meet-mellow vibe.

This means that Maxwell songs no longer sound like groundbreaking grooves. What's worse, some of the lyrics actually enter turnoff territory. “You come from out of nowhere / Disappear and reappear / Houdini would be proud” from Love You or “Global warming ain't got nothing on this chick” care of Cold .

Maxwell is still a flirt par excellence; but with BLACKsummers' Night , he's missing some of that magic mojo. Personally, I blame the hair.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25
MAXWELL IN CONCERT
Air Canada Centre
40 Bay St.
Toronto Get Directions
7:30PM

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Sea Kayaking Off Newfoundland Can Take You Where The Fish Go

Source: www.thestar.com -
Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press

(September 22, 2009) BAY BULLS, N.L. – "It's a whole different world from a sea kayak."

Those were the words from our guide, Gerard Keough, as my husband Mike and I set off for our very first ocean adventure in a kayak built for two.

"Most boats can't get anywhere near some of the areas we get to explore – the caves, thecoastline, the small bays, the little crevices created by the ocean that are quite spectacular and have some really amazing life forms in them."

It was one of those gorgeous, late summer days you wish you could bottle and release in the grey depths of winter.
Newfoundlanders describe that sort of vast blue-sky bliss as "a large day, b'y."

Sun caught every ripple on the calm waters of historic Bay Bulls, a postcard-pretty fishing village about 25 minutes south of the capital St. John's.

It's a sheltered, deep-water harbour that is home to shipwrecks attesting to its battle-weary past. British settlers over the last four centuries survived repeated attacks, especially from French military forces that tried to drive them from these strategic shores.

Today, the community of 1,200 hosts thousands of visitors a year. They come to hike its rugged coastal trails or to board the touring boats that offer glimpses of majestic humpback whales in summer.

And they come to sea kayak.

The first challenge was getting Mike in the boat. At six-foot-four, it took a few tries to get the rudder controls set where his feet could comfortably reach them without his long legs getting too cramped up.

We wore life jackets and "skirts" that fit over the kayak to seal out the water, once we were seated inside.

A double kayak is much more stable for beginners than a single boat, though the rare flip can occur.

"If anything happens just pull that up to release it and swim," Keough said of the loop on the kayak skirt. He is a cautious guide who approaches the open water with respect and care.

Whoever rides in the kayak's rear seat has the extra duty of steering as well as paddling. It's a delicate dual task to keep your lower body in control of the rudder as your upper body strokes the water – something Mike compared to mastering a drum kit.

Keough, a former social worker in Kitchener, Ont., who came home to find his dream job, said it generally takes newbies about 30 minutes to really get going.

Sea kayaking is an instructive test of any relationship. It demands team work, patience, rhythm and endurance. A sense of humour helps. This is especially true when the salty wind hits you full in the face, the waves slap your bow and your shoulders start to ache.

After about 45 minutes of what we thought was hard paddling, we entered the oasis of a sea cave, carved by waves crashing into the ancient cliff soaring over our heads.

Our voices echoed off the wet stone that cast aqua green shadows as the ocean surge pulled us forward and back. We admired small starfish clinging to the rocks at our side, and caught our breath before heading out for some serious kayaking around rock towers rising up out of the sea. Locals call these geological wonders "the stacks."

Our guide's affable tone turned serious as he described the potential hazards ahead.

"You have to be able to follow me. There's all kinds of shoals. If you twist off by five feet you could end up on a rock, the water runs out from under that rock, the boat tips over, then we've got to do a rescue.

"I'm just being really blunt and straightforward because that's the only way to do it out here. Safety is the most important thing. If I get that sense at any moment that you're in any kind of danger, then we stop trying to go around the stacks."

Right then. With singular focus we paddled as one to keep Keough directly in front of us. Our reward was a front-row view of some of the most spectacular ocean scenery we've yet to see.

Kayakers love to swap stories of nesting eagles and Atlantic puffins – the stocky little birds fondly referred to as "potatoes with wings" – that make their home on nearby Gull Island.

But the greatest thrill of all has to be a close encounter with a whale. The bigger the better.

Keough was paddling back from a recent camping trip with friends when a large humpback rose up out of the water about 10 metres from their kayaks.

"I almost got the sense that the whale noticed us and then dove directly under our kayaks, turned, came out directly behind us, came out of the water again, back in, and then turned around and came up beside us maybe 20 feet to our left.

"And then it was gone. My sense at the time was he didn't expect us there and then he decided to check us out and see who we were and what we were doing. It was quite an amazing experience."

The best time to see the gentle giants is July and August when they chase caplin, their favourite staple of small fish, close to shore.

Keough had two more trips later in the day so we turned our boats back toward the bay after a two-hour tour. It was heads down, hard work against the wind as we paddled against larger waves back into the sparkling harbour.

We groaned and laughed as we unfolded ourselves from the narrow compartments. After stretching our muscles we were ready to replenish those burned-off calories with a freshly caught meal of fish 'n' chips.

Keough grinned like a man who has truly followed his calling.

"It's a phenomenal day in a phenomenal place," he said. "And it never gets old, folks. Never."

– – –

If You Go . . .

Sea Kayaking Tours: Outfitters Adventures: www.theoutfitters.nf.ca

Registration for tours is required. To book: 1-800-966-9658. Half-day tour: $69 tax included. Transportation from St. John's: $25 Times: 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. (In season, generally starting in May until Sept. 30). Day Tour: $129 tax included. Lunch included. Time: 9:30 a.m.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Gladys Knight: The 'I Can Do Bad All By Myself' Interview

Source:
www.eurweb.com - Kam Williams

(September 18, 2009) *The great ones endure, and Gladys Knight is a testament to that sage maxim. Over the last half-century, this seven-time Grammy-winner has enjoyed #1 hits in pop, R&B and Adult Contemporary, and has triumphed in film, on television and in concert.

Revered as The Empress of Soul, Gladys is currently basking in the glow of the critical acclaim for her latest album, “Before Me,” a tribute to great legends like Ella, Duke, Billie, Lena. She has also recently released a couple of collaborations with the 100-member Saints Unified Voices gospel choir, with whom she landed the “Best Gospel/Choir Album” Grammy.

Knight was awarded yet another Grammy for her duet with the late Ray Charles on his posthumous album “Genius Loves Company,” specifically for “Heaven Help Us All,” and her “At Last” solo album earned a Grammy for “Best Traditional R&B Vocal Album.” Furthermore, her recent four-year run at the Flamingo in Las Vegas was hailed “the number-one show on the Strip” by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The Georgia-born icon began performing Gospel music at the age of four and won the grand prize on television’s “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour” just three years later. She met with phenomenal success throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s with “Gladys Knight & The Pips”, including several Grammys while registering numerous Top 10 hits, perhaps most memorably, “Midnight Train to Georgia. Over the course of her illustrious career, Gladys has recorded nearly 40 albums, earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and been inducted into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame. 

Here, she talks about her life and about her co-starring role as Wanda in Tyler Perry’s new movie, “
I Can Do Bad All by Myself.”

Kam Williams: Gladys, thanks so much for the time. 

Gladys Knight: Not a problem, Kam.

KW: The first time I met you was on an airplane back in the Seventies.

GK: Oh really?

KW: Yes, and you were quite gracious in speaking to me briefly and signed an autograph. I appreciated your making that encounter a special moment I’d remember for the rest of my life. But I wonder what it is like on the other end, and whether always being approached by fans has been a burden for you.

GK: No, I’m just me. I never get any further past that than that. I’m a people lover. I love interacting with different people as I meet them, and I think people are one of God’s greatest creations, I really do. They’re interesting and intriguing. 

KW: What interested you in doing “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” and working with Tyler?

GK: Mr. Perry? Mr. Perry called me up and said, “Gladys, I’m sending you a script. I have a part I need you to do.” [Laughs]

KW: This is his most music-driven movie so far.

GK: Yeah, it is. How about that! And it was really fun making this movie, too, although I was nervous about it in the beginning, because I didn’t feel I had enough experience to pull it off. I didn’t want to disappoint him, since he had so much faith in me. In fact, I almost said “no.”   

KW: Really?

GK: Yeah, because looking at the rest of the cast, I knew that they were great. Taraji [Henson] was up for an Academy Award, and Adam [Rodriguez] is doing so well with his series [CSI: Miami], and I just didn’t know whether I would measure up. 

KW: Well, you did a terrific job in the film, including delivering a couple of powerful singing performances. Who picked the songs, you or Tyler?

GK: Tyler and I discussed it, after we finished working out my role. He said he wanted me to sing, but that we’d discuss it later. When he called me back, he asked me, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I don’t know, because I haven’t given it any thought. I thought you were going to pick one.” He started laughing, and said, “Okay, you make a list, and I’ll make a list. We’ll put ‘em together, and out of that we ought to be able to choose.”  

KW: Your first one was a solo rendition of “The Need to Be” by Jim Weatherly who also wrote “Midnight Train to Georgia” which played a big part in your career. 

GK: Absolutely!

KW: How did you come to settle on that tune?

GK: Most people who ask me what’s my favourite song, expect that it’s “Midnight Train” or “Neither One of Us.” But actually, it’s always kinda’ been “The Need to Be” because of what it says. I love the way that song was written, I love the melody, I love everything about it. So, I presented it to Tyler, and he called me back, and said, “That’s the one!” 

KW: You also did a beautiful duet with Marvin Winans on a song he wrote. How did you like playing his wife Wilma, a church elder?

GK: I loved her, because I knew her from my childhood. So, I had something to draw on for my character. I just brought all those little ladies, even the weight thing. I was worrying about going on the screen looking a little heavy. I wanted to be fit, but Tyler started laughing again, and said, “Girl, come on down here, you’re right for the part.” And when I thought about it, I had to admit that back in the days, the church ladies who held those positions weren’t glamour girls. They were nurturing and kinda portly, and dressed kinda basic as they linked between the church and the community. So, they were who I drew on.    

KW: Well, watching you certainly took me back to my childhood.

GK: Yeah! Come on, now!

KW: You also performed at Oprah’s Gospel Brunch. I only wish I could have been there to witness it live. I must watch that video at least once month. 

GK: There you go!

KW: What was it like being there?

[http://www.kewego.co.uk/video/iLyROoafYJA0.html ]   

GK: It was awesome! It really, really, really was. Yes it was!

KW: I always thought you were from Atlanta. But your Wikipedia page says you were born in Loachapoka, Alabama.

GK: [Squeals, laughing] That’s not true. That is not true. I was born at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia to Elizabeth and Merald Knight, Sr.

KW: You better have somebody correct that right away. In your autobiography, “Between Each Line of Pain and Glory,” you said, “I have seen it all, to be sure, but rarely participated in it.' What did you mean by that?

GK: Well, there have been so many different sides to our industry. Some of them not so good. The drugs, the partying, the alcohol, and the bad behaviour in the way we treat each other. The cheating… ugh! Over the years, I have definitely not participated in those things. That’s what I meant.

KW: I asked my readers to send in questions for you, and I couldn’t believe how many prefaced their remarks by saying how much they love you. Marcia Evans says you are her all-time favourite artist. She saw you last year at the Westbury Music Fair, and was wondering whether you’ve ever sung "I Will Survive" at one of your shows? 

GK: I sure have. As a matter of fact, sometimes I’ll close with it, because it has such a great message and the tempo is really, really fun, and leaves everybody on an up-note.

KW: Irene Smalls says Gladys Knight is one of my favourites.  Please ask her, how has hip-hop changed the nature of black music?

GK: [LOL] Well, it’s been good as far as giving young artists an opportunity to get out there. But, it’s been bad, in my opinion, as far as the quality of the music and the stories that they tell. It’s one thing to be raw about your history, but they took it to another level and it became vulgar. It has not elevated our industry musically, and it definitely has not elevated us as African-Americans, because we show disrespect for our partners, men and women. I believe we have lowered our self-esteem with these performances and presentations. 

KW: Renee Peterson says she loves your hit song 'Love Overboard.'

GK: Hey!

KW: She asks, which of the many musical geniuses you worked with did you enjoy collaborating with the most?

GK: I get something different from everybody I work with. Would you believe that Sammy Davis, Jr. taught me how to sing a ballad? “You can be in an arena,” he said, “and you should be able to hold their attention. And it worked!” Marvin Gaye… Stevie Wonder… you name ‘em, and we’ve worked with ‘em.

KW: Rose asks, will you be coming to West Palm Beach, Florida in the near future?

GK: Yeah, I hope so, when we come off this European tour. I haven’t been there for a while, and I loved it when I was there. I will certainly request that West Palm Beach be one of our stops.

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

GK: No, I heard ‘em, all. [LOL]

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

GK: Of course! And you should be. That’s part of your life lesson to be afraid. The bigger question is how you deal with being afraid. Do you have to summon courage or something else to live with that fear without letting it take you over?

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

GK: Yes! I have a wonderful family! I have the most beautiful, wonderful husband [William McDowell]. After all these years, I can finally say that. I have wonderful children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My brother [Bubba] and my sister [Brenda] love me and support me and we still get a chance to work together. I have the people who still buy a ticket to see me entertain them. That is quite an honour to me. So, what else could you want for?

KW: Jackie Schatz asks why you named your son Jomo and your daughter Kenya? Let me guess, after Jomo Kenyatta!

GK: [Laughs] That’s right!

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

GK: Just a few minutes ago, laughing at Tyler.

KW: “Realtor to the Stars” Jimmy Bayan was wondering, where in L.A. you live?

GK: I don’t live in L.A. I live in Las Vegas.

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

GK: A book on the ups and down and ins and outs of cholesterol.

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

GK: I listen to everything. This morning I was listening to the soundtrack of Forrest Gump. It’s beautiful!

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

GK: A child of God.

KW: What is your favourite dish to cook?

GK: My squash casserole, and my sweet potato casserole.

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

GK: With prayer and my family. The support of my mom when she was here, my husband and children now, and even my fans have brought me through certain challenges. 

KW: Bus driver Kevin Kenna says, a white guy from Philly wants to know what a Pip is.

GK: Technically it’s a seed. We were the seeds that went into the making of a song.

KW: Attorney Bernadette asks if you get sick of people asking, where are the Pips?

GK: No, because it was family [her brother and two cousins], and we were together over 40 years. So, it was really like leaving a marriage, but we all needed to grow. And there were things I wanted to do, that I couldn’t do inside of that structure.

KW: Thanks again for the honour of speaking with you, Gladys, and best of luck with everything.

GK: Why, thank you so much, I’ve enjoyed talking to you.

To purchase a copy of Gladys Knight’s autobiography “Between Each Line of Pain and Glory.” visit: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/142236173X?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=142236173X

To see Gladys Knight and other legends perform at Oprah’s Gospel Brunch, visit: http://www.kewego.co.uk/video/iLyROoafYJA0.html 

To order a copy of Gladys Knight’s autobiography, visit: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/142236173X?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=142236173X

To see a trailer for I Can Do Bad All by Myself, visit: http://www.apple.com/trailers/lions_gate/icandobadallbymyself/large.html

Independent Artists Angry Over Lost Grants

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
James Bradshaw

(September 19, 2009) The rejigging of a federal fund for Canadian music has divided the independent music community, with thousands of artists voicing outrage at the move at the same time that associations supporting independent production are offering their support.

In a move to provide more money for Canadian artists to tour internationally and focus on commercially viable projects, the Tories have redirected funds that were used to help artists on the musical fringe record their work.

Many who benefited from the eliminated grants say innovative, avant-garde albums such as The Perilous Beauty of Madness by indie band DarkBlueWorld or This Riot Life by Veda Hille (which was long-listed for the 2008 Polaris Prize) will no longer be made, dulling Canada's cultural edge. But other musicians, as well as the associations who distribute the funds, defend the decision and are praising the Tories for offering sustainable funding.

On Friday, July 31, the Conservative government renewed $27.6-million per year in funding for the Canada Music Fund, for five years. They also “streamlined” the fund, eliminating two of its seven components and pouring those funds back into the remaining five in an effort to “increase the visibility of Canadian music on digital platforms and in international markets.”

One of the casualties is the Canadian Musical Diversity category, a $1.35-million initiative established in the late 1980s by the Mulroney government and administered by the Canada Council for the Arts on behalf of Canadian Heritage.

“ The people who get money through FACTOR are never the people who support the kind of music that we do. ”— Elizabeth Fischer

The Musical Diversity component gave grants of up to $20,000 for the recording and distribution of “specialized music,” defined as “music whose intent or content is not shaped by the desire for wide market appeal – instead, it places creativity, self-expression or experimentation above the demands and format expectations of the mainstream recording industry,” and has “significance beyond being just entertainment.”

Of the savings, $900,000 will go to digital market development and the other $500,000 to international market development, administered by FACTOR (The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings) and MUSICACTION, two non-profit organizations supporting independent music. FACTOR, MUSICACTION and the Canadian Independent Music Association (formerly CIRPA), have all lent their support to the move.

Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said the government was “reacting to the pressures of the last election campaign” which came after the Conservatives eliminated the $4.7 million Promart and $7-million Trade Routes programs, which supported international touring and cultural marketing.

“These changes are policy reforms that have long been called for by people in the music industry,” Moore said. “We consulted, we listened, we reasoned, we figured out what was the best approach to take, and that's what we did.”

Many artists, however, are taking it as a crushing blow to their aspirations. Nilan Perera, an improvisational musician, started an online petition demanding that the Musical Diversity component be reinstated, drawing 3,924 signatures from both independent musicians and established stars such as Blue Rodeo drummer Glenn Milchem and concert pianist Eve Egoyan.

“The Conservative government mugged the Canada Council and gave the money to the industry through FACTOR and MUSICACTION,” said Gary Cristall, who manages independent artists and is the former acting head of the Canada Council's music branch. “They were Robin Hood in reverse. They robbed the poor to give to the rich.”

Moore countered that these artists might still find support in the same place.

“The Canada Council has their own envelope of funding – I believe it's $9-million. If they want to spend their money in a way to help independent artists, they're free to do that,” he said.

Some musicians also cited a comment Moore made to the CBC earlier this month as evidence that the Conservatives were abandoning artists with narrower appeal.

“The envelope they were looking for was basically to fund artists who have no interest in developing any kind of commercial opportunities for their music, that's just a different approach than what we have in mind,” Moore told the CBC.

Moore said yesterday the Conservatives' philosophical inclination is toward funding artists with commercial promise, a view Prime Minister Stephen Harper has espoused. “But not entirely,” Moore added.

“It's not my view that in order for art to have merit and value to society, it has to be commercially viable,” Moore said. “I'm not at all castigating independent artists and what their hopes are for their creations. … It's about funding things that are of a higher priority for government and for the industry.”

Cristall acknowledges that not all artists will make a commercial splash, but “everything that is mainstream now was once marginal, and that is where things come from. … Stravinsky – there were fights when The Rite of Spring premiered in Paris … and these are the things that are now seen as the foundations of our culture.”

Elizabeth Fischer, a member of DarkBlueWorld, contends that FACTOR is of little use to musicians like her, who typically only achieve sales of a few hundred or a few thousand copies.

“[FACTOR is] only interested in commercial product. The people who get money through FACTOR are never the people who support the kind of music that we do. When they say they're independents … they're really farm teams for some major label,” she said.

FACTOR president and CEO Heather Ostertag disagreed, saying a large part of the organization's funding goes to culturally and musically diverse artists, some of whom have “very limited or no sales potential.” She added that she believes the debate is premature, as the streamlined Fund's criteria haven't been set in stone.

Moore added that now that the funding is locked in for five years, “there's always room to adjust and change things” and for “open debate.”

But Fischer said expanded international funds are of little use if she can no longer scrape together the money to record her music. Her group toured their second album – which “could never” have been made without a Musical Diversity grant – to several Baltic and Eastern European countries on the strength of a separate Canada Council touring grant.

“But we would never have gotten the touring grant if we hadn't made the record,” she said.

Reba McEntire: Everyone's Sweetheart, Nobody's Fool

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(September 19, 2009) Say "Reba McEntire" to most people and it conjures up images of after-school snacks in a cozy kitchen: the cinnamon hair, the warm cocoa voice and that sweet, sweet smile.

She's the lady who makes you feel good about feeling bad, and even her most hurtin' songs have an ample dose of healing wrapped around them.

That's what's made her the bestselling female country artist of all time, with more than 50 million albums sold worldwide, and when the crowds come to hear her next Thursday and Friday at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, they'll get a woman they've known and loved for 33 years.

"My fans are very, very loyal to me and I'm loyal right back to them," she says on the phone from her home in Beverly Hills. "They're from all over the world, from 2 to 82, and they're very protective of me."

That's her secret right there, laid on the table in the first minute of the interview: people want to take care of that down-home girl called Reba.

But talk to her for a while and you discover there's a lot more to her than that first impression. "The first thing you gotta remember about me is that I grew up around rodeo." Her accent bends that last word with a distinctive twang. "My daddy won the world championship for steer roping three times and the first was in 1957, when I was just 2 years old."

Home was Chockie, Okla. ("It had a population of 18 people. I made it 19.") And asked what it was like to grow up on the buckle of the Bible Belt, she laughs. "I never thought of it that way, you see. We lived all the way out in the country and even though we'd go to church with grandma and grandpa, we learned most of our beliefs from inside the family, by example.

"My faith has always been very important to me. I don't know how on earth I would have survived in this world without it."

Still, a couple of years ago, when she gave an interview in which she admitted she believed in reincarnation, the wrath of the Christian Right came down on her.

"People said I can't be a Christian if I believe in reincarnation. But I always felt God loves us so much he'd want to recycle us and not just throw us away. Maybe I'm part Buddhist, part Christian, but you don't have to categorize or label me. Just say that I'm a true believer in a higher power."

Her earliest memories of childhood are happy, simple ones: "Building our home, bringing my newborn sister, Susie, home from the hospital, just singing, all of us, as we were goin' down the road."

Sure, there was music, but to young McEntire, "I was a rodeo and ranching kid. I had no idea of being a star in any way, shape or fashion."

She formed a group with her brother and sister called The Singing McEntires, but in her words, "it was just something we did for fun at county fairs and things."

Then, when she was 19 and studying to be a teacher at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, she was asked to sing "The Star Spangled Banner," to open the National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City.

That particular event was broadcast on ABC's Wide World of Sports and seen by millions of people. One of them, country star Red Steagall, was so impressed, he strong-armed McEntire out of school and down to Nashville, where she soon had a contract at Mercury Records.

"When I stepped out there that night to sing I had no idea my whole life was about to change," insists McEntire. "I was just singing, like I had since I was a little kid."

But those days were over and within two years, McEntire had her first single break onto the charts. It was prophetically called "I Don't Want to be a One-Night Stand," and in the 33 years since, her popularity has only grown.

There were some speed-bumps along the way, with diehard country devotees worrying about the "purity" of her sound as she became more mainstream and a few tongues wagging when she divorced her husband of 11 years, Charlie Battles, in 1987 and married a long-time member of her band, Narvel Blackstock, two years later.

But the one really dark night of the soul McEntire had to live through took place on March 16, 1991, and when she talks about it even now, her voice grows shaky.

"When we were on tour, we always used to fly in three planes. The band and some of the technical fellas would often fly on through the night right after we finished a concert, and the rest of us would follow the next morning.

"That night, they were going from San Diego to Ft. Wayne. Narvel got a call at two in the morning from one of our other pilots who asked him to come down to his room. When he came back, he told me that the plane had crashed."

McEntire keeps herself together. "I asked, `They're all right, aren't they?' And he told me that nobody survived. It was a horrible, horrible night."

A total of 10 people died, including seven of McEntire's band members and her road manager. But despite her personal devastation, she still appeared on the Oscars nine days later to sing "I'm Checkin' Out," the nominated song from Postcards from the Edge.

"It was my tribute to those men in the band," she says. "None of us ever wanted to miss a show."

McEntire's touch has remained golden since then, with a surprise 2000 victory on Broadway in Annie Get Your Gun, replacing Bernadette Peters, and then along came Reba, her hit sitcom, which ran on TV for six seasons.

During this period, the hits kept coming, with her 2001 smash "I'm a Survivor" seeming to sum up her whole career.

Now she's back with her music, with a new album, Keep on Loving You, and the touring show she's bringing to Fallsview.

"I don't change clothes 15 times. I don't have 10 dancers. I just get up there and sing my songs," she declares proudly. "And the people seem to like it."

Brian McKnight’s Got Music, Radio And TV Covered

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

(September 23, 2009) *When R&B crooner Brian McKnight first hit the charts and radio waves in 1992, music fans were not only impressed with his vocal ability, but also his songwriting talent, and his skills as a multi-instrumentalist (he can play nine instruments). Clearly marked as his modus operandi, McKnight has maintained his music career by multi-tasking.

EUR’s Lee Bailey caught up with the music man who proceeded to reel off a list of accomplishments and ambitions for the month: a benefit concert, two radio shows, new TV show, new CD and of course, touring.

This weekend, the singer will be in San Francisco for the Lazarex Cancer Foundation’s Bridge to Hope Music Festival on Saturday, September 26 at the Great Meadow. The all-day event will raise money for the foundation to help encourage cancer patients at the point when they are told that there is no traditional medicine to help them.

 “Any opportunity that an artist has to not only come and entertain folks, but also to do it for a good cause, you want to do as much of that as you possibly can,” McKnight said of joining the likes of Charlie Wilson, Gerald Albright, Kirk Whalum and others for the show.

“When you live a somewhat advantaged life, and there’s so many people out there that don’t have hope; people that feel like they’re at the end of their rope, especially these days – if there’s anything I can do to lend my talent to the cause, I try to do that,” he said. “If seeing me gives some of that hope and we can raise money for this cause, then that’s what it’s all about.”

Giving back isn’t all that keeps Brian McKnight busy, however. He’s grown a radio following as the morning host on Los Angeles "The Wave" smooth jazz radio station, as well as his syndicated evening radio show. And now he’s parlayed his popularity into a new television show.

“I attribute [my blessings] to hard work and really understanding when the door is cracked,” he said of the opportunities. “What I mean by that is, it’s easy to see when the door is open. Sometimes, if the door is cracked, you’ve got to push that door open; you gotta kick that door open. And sometimes it doesn’t move on that first kick. Sometime you’ve got to keep kicking and keep kicking. And I think that’s what we’ve done.”

McKnight continued that while he’s pleased with what he’s done over the last 20 years, he realizes it’s important to start looking forward to the next 20 years and therefore started branching out in radio and television.

“It’s really about branching out and taking myself to another level. If you have goals and you continue to set that rung a little bit higher, you’ll stretch out,” he said.

“It’s really scary,” he added. “Now that I’ve filmed the first two shows and looking at them, I know what I wanted to create, and I think I’ve done that, but it’s different. And when you try something different you know you’ll get a lot of naysayers because it’s something that’s outside the norm. I think that we’ve got something that’s really great.”

His new TV venture, "The Brian McKnight Show," premiere's tomorrow night in Los Angeles on KCAL9 at 11pm and the rest of the country this weekend.

McKnight started working for the entertainment news show ‘Extra’ about five years ago as a special correspondent when it dawned on him there was a market for him in broadcasting.

“I realized that there are people in this business that I know that wouldn’t necessarily talk about to other people because we have a relationship and that’s when the light went on, ‘Hey, maybe there’s a TV future,’” he said. “Then radio happened. The Wave jazz station in LA decided they wanted me to host their morning Show, so I tried it, and it became successful. And I thought, ‘Well, this is good.’”

Motivated by the current theory of the music industry that ‘if you go away, you’ll be forgotten,’ he continued to work not only on his art, but on the branding of Brian McKnight.

“And if you’re afraid to fail or to succeed, you’re going to get 0% of the things you don’t try. That much I know,” he said.

He’s been on the Wave for almost three years now and has taken the show to the Top 10 in the LA market.

“That’s a big accomplishment for a smooth jazz station, especially in the morning,” he said. “The Wave has been around long enough that we’ve built up a listenership that is very, very loyal.”

And with that morning show parlaying into a syndicated nighttime show, with NYC personality Lenny Green, his fans are growing.

“My evening show is really a more R&B intensive show. It’s a nighttime show and each hour has a different theme,” he described. “It’s a five-hour show and the first hour is a wind down. It’s sort of a bridge for the gap of leaving work and getting home, we talk about some current events. The second hour of the show is live music.”

He explained that three nights a week, he handles the live music and the two other weeknights, his guests, such as Maxwell, Kenny Lattimore, and Eric Benet sing live in the studio.

“The third hour is really fun because we get a chance to talk about relationships,” he continued. “It’s amazing how we don’t talk anymore – men and women. We text, we e-mail, we Facebook, but good ol’ fashioned is communication is gone. I think that can be attributed to the breakdown of a lot of these relationships. It’s great to be able to talk about different subjects every day, even though I’m not an expert. I’m learning as much as everybody else, but it’s good to get the conversation going.”

“And then the last two hours are a traditional quiet storm format. We slow it down, allow you to get closer to the ones you love and get you ready for whatever happens after the show,” McKnight said.

Whew. That sounds a lot like work.

“When we decided to do all of this at the same time, initially it seemed like a great idea,” he told Bailey. “I don’t think we even realized how much work it would be, but when you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work.”

According to McKnight, his schedule runs with three hours for the morning show, five hours for the evening show, a couple of days a week for the TV show taping, and touring on the weekends doing at least five shows a month.

“You move your schedules around and through the marvels of modern technology, I’m in several places at one time some days,” he jested. “And I’ve got a brand new CD coming out October 27.”

A new CD?! Lawd, we don't have time to discus that in this article.

Soooo, if you want the scoop on that and more, check out part 2 for more on his new projects and visit his official site at www.brian-mcknight.com.  

For more on the Lazerex Foundation Bridge to Hope Music Festival, visit www.bridge2hoplcf.org.

Susan Boyle Drives America Wild

Source: www.thestar.com - Star Staff

(September 18, 2009) It seems that Susan Boyle still has talent, as far as America is concerned.

The Scottish singer, who became a worldwide star after her performance earlier this year on Britain's Got Talent was viewed millions of times on YouTube, made her American TV singing debut on Wednesday night.

She sang the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," the first single from her upcoming album, on the NBC show America's Got Talent and the verdict seems generally favourable.

The Toronto Star's John Sakamoto blogged that "the material turns out to be a perfect fit for her particular vocal talents."

"Backed only by piano and strings, she sounds much younger than her 48 years and more like Tori Amos than an aspiring cast member of Les Miz," he said.

The Los Angeles Times called it "lovely, inspirational, free of surprises."

Reuters said even fans of the Rolling Stones liked the song, with near-unanimous approval in a survey of responses on the fan website It's Only Rock'n Roll (iorr.org).

The performance, which was pre-taped before a live audience, drew a standing ovation.

Boyle, wearing a simple black dress, appeared a far cry from the Brillo-haired, awkwardly dressed spinster who appeared on the British talent show in April.

The Los Angeles Times noted that Boyle's cover of the Rolling Stones song had features in common with versions by Harriet Wheeler of the Sundays, Alicia Keys and Sheryl Crow, but said "Boyle sewed together a lovely quilt from what's already out there."

The paper also reported that L.A. was in the grip of "Boylemania" after the 48-year-old spinster arrived on Monday night.

She was mobbed by 50 photographers and more than a thousand fans when her plane landed at Los Angeles airport. Wearing designer dark glasses, blowing kisses to her fans and escorted by six burly bodyguards to a waiting limousine, she went on to visit Disneyland, the paper said.

Boyle's debut album, I Dreamed a Dream, isn't due until Nov. 24 but is reportedly already at or near the top of Amazon.com's music charts thanks to tens of thousands of pre-orders.

The frenzy even has Boyle beating out Whitney Houston and Jay-Z.

Boyle took some time out of the Britain's Got Talent tour in July to record some songs for the album. American Idol and Britain's Got Talent judge Simon Cowell, whose label is producing the CD, said, "She sounds fantastic on record. She's so good, the album is not just going to be show tunes. We're going to take our time with this," according to People magazine.

With files from the Los Angeles Times and Reuters

Musical Treasure Up For Grabs

Source:
www.thestar.com - Oakland Ross, Feature Writer

(September 20, 2009) Nathaniel Anderson-Frank is a gifted Canadian who could use a good violin.

In fact, he could use an amazing violin.

In a few short days, he just might have one.

The 24-year-old Toronto native is already a highly accomplished musician.

He is currently working toward a Master's degree at London's Royal Academy of Music where he is studying on a full scholarship.

But Anderson-Frank does not have a violin of his own, or at least not one in playable condition.

That's the bad news.

The good news is the former Annex resident could soon find himself in the musical equivalent of heaven, along with a dozen other talented young Canadian musicians.

All they need to do is play their hearts out over the next few days, in a series of closed auditions at
Toronto's Glenn Gould Studio, and a sumptuous trove of musical treasures could be theirs.

The assembly of truly sensational instruments includes three Stradivarius violins, a 1729 Guarneri del Gesu violin, and a 1696 Stradivarius cello, along with a clutch of slightly less luminous masterpieces of wood, varnish and craftsmanship – more than a dozen prizes in all, collectively insured for about $26 million (U.S.).

"There is a reason why those Italian violins cost so much," commented Min-Jeong Koh, 27, another young Canadian who will be vying for a handhold in the remarkable musical contest, which takes place every three years and is all but unique to Canada.

"There is so much they can do for you," she says.

Doing good for Canadian musicians – that is the precise goal of the Canada Council's Musical Instrument Bank, a 24-year-old project aimed at putting top-quality instruments into the hands of Canada's finest young performers, enabling them to attract professional managers, international concert dates and recording contracts that might otherwise elude them.

"It does provide career-development opportunities," said Joanne Larocque-Poirier, head of endowments and prizes at Canada Council. "They get to play in chamber orchestras around the world. Many are guest soloists around the world."

In all, 17 carefully selected players will be competing this week for nine exceptional violins, while six cellists vie for two instruments, including the vaunted 1696 Bonjour Strad.

Crafted by Antonio Stradivarius in Cremona, Italy, the Bonjour is the single most valuable instrument in the Canadian collection, insured for the crescendo-like sum of $7.5 million. Four violins – the three Strads and the Guarneri del Gesu – are insured for $4 million each.

A pair of fine old cello bows, one valued at $40,000, are also available to the winning contestants.

Eight of the instruments, or more than half the collection, are on loan from a U.S. benefactor who chooses to remain anonymous, including the three Strad violins and Bonjour cello.

Winners of the triennial contest will be announced at a news conference Thursday, followed by a celebratory concert that evening. The concert will be aired Oct. 4 on CBC Radio Two.

As with all great career opportunities, however, there is a catch: The winning musicians will not get to keep their prizes.

Instead, they will inherit the violins, cellos or cello bows for a three-year period, with the possibility of renewing their custodianship of the same instrument, or choosing a new one, if they can triumph again when the competition is renewed in 2012.

Past victors include violinists James Ehnes, Judy Kang and Lara St. John, all now internationally known.

"They become cultural ambassadors for Canada," said Larocque-Poirier.

When he spoke on the phone the other day, an aspiring cultural ambassador named Nathaniel Anderson-Frank had just returned to his London flat after playing a concert at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Sloane Square.

For that engagement, Anderson-Frank employed an Italian violin dating from the 1730s, possibly the work of Milanese luthier Carlo Testore – a worthy instrument that is on loan from the academy.

The arrangement is temporary, one of a series that have typified Anderson-Frank's artistic life for four years, ever since his own violin became unplayable, a victim of woodworm.

So Anderson-Frank could certainly use a good violin – better yet, an amazing one.

"That's why I'm taking this audition," he said.

Cellist Rachel Mercer of Toronto will be a return competitor this week, after spending the last three years performing on the Canada Council's 1824 McConnell Nicolaus Gagliano cello, currently valued at $250,000 (U.S.).

"It's really a special instrument," she said. "It took at least a year to mesh with it, so that I could communicate with it."

Like the other 2006 winners, Mercer had to hand back her instrument late last month.

Since then, almost the entire inventory of violins and cellos has been undergoing restorative work at Geo. Heinl & Co., a venerable Church St. store that deals exclusively in stringed instruments.

"When I work with a really valuable instrument, I just take more time," said Tim Bergen, head of restoration at the store's cluttered but airy upstairs workshop, where five luthiers toil full-time. "You have one of these treasures of humanity in your hands, and you're going to pass it on."

As he spoke, Bergen was retouching the fingerboard of a 1689 Stradivarius violin – the Baumgartner Strad, insured for $4 million.

"They're works of art," store owner Rick Heinl said. "As they age, their voices improve."

And their price tags soar.

Violinist Jean-Sebastien Roy of Montreal believes the astronomical prices that are nowadays commanded by élite 18th century Italian violins no longer reflect their true musical quality, extraordinary though it is.

"It gets to the point where the money difference between a really good violin and an amazing violin – it doesn't make any sense," he said. "They are becoming objects of art for collection."

Another winner in the 2006 Canada Council competition, Roy has been playing the 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius.

But Roy won't be back in Toronto this week to compete for another turn on a sensational instrument.

Instead, he recently negotiated a bank loan of $150,000 and purchased a Milanese violin crafted by Testore in 1745.

"It's not as prestigious as a Strad," he said, "but it is a very good compromise."

Some experts believe the multi-million-dollar prices now paid for the élite antique instruments still provide an accurate indication of their musical quality.

"Many of these instruments are spectacular works of art and antiquity," said Andrew Shaw, president and CEO of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

"There's a difference between a great Strad and a great contemporary instrument. The depth of colour and sound is different."

According to Shaw, the chief value of the Canada Council's instrument bank program is that it helps to ensure that a limited number of the world's great violins and cellos remain in Canada, to be played by our talented musicians.

"This is an important point, about great instruments staying in Canada," he said. "Canada should have great instruments."

Even if most of them are donated by a mysterious American.

Reporter Awed To Feel Rare Violin Come To Life

Source:
www.thestar.com - Oakland Ross, Feature Writer

(September 20, 2009) Rick Heinl dimmed the lights and said, "Have a ball."

I was alone with $4 million worth of magic and mystery and wood, clutched in already clammy hands.

I was in the Geo. Heinl showroom on Church St. In my left hand was a 1729 Guarneri del Gesu violin and in my right, an 1869 Vuillaume bow.

This is the story of a musical sacrilege and a personal fiasco.

Or: How I Was Reduced to Playing "Besame Mucho" – badly – on One of the Greatest Violins Ever Made.

The instrument I was holding is among those the Canada Council loans out as the bounty of a triennial musical competition whose 2009 version commences tomorrow. Heinl owns the store where the instruments undergo restoration prior to being redistributed.

At the close of our interview, I asked if I could hold one of the violins. I fully expected him to say no.

Instead he retrieved the Guarneri del Gesu, fashioned by Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri, second only to Antonio Stradivari among all-time violin makers.

"Hold it like a baby," Heinl said.

I began playing the violin five years ago, sawing away at weekly private lessons and driving neighbours insane. I have progressed from Excruciating to Deeply Unpleasant to my current level of play – Still Bad, But Not That Bad.

I own a Hungarian violin that is about 30 years old and cost me something in the mid-four-figure range. Now I was holding a true masterpiece of the luthier's art, appraised at 1,000 times the price I paid for my instrument.

Granted, there is debate concerning the true value of the great 17th- and 18th-century Italian violins.

I have tended to be a sceptic, unwilling to believe they could honestly be worth millions of dollars.

But I had never held a 1729 Guarneri del Gesu in my hands.

In the dim light of the showroom, the instrument's surface shone with a greyish hue, its body seeming slightly smaller and more slender than most contemporary violins.

I plucked the G-string and immediately felt the entire frame seem to bend and then shiver, as though it were alive. This is not something my own violin seems to do.

I began to play a G-major scale, trying to loosen up, and felt the same vibrant sensation I'd got from plucking a single string. The violin reminded me of a small animal – I thought of a young gazelle – trembling with life and straining to bolt.

It was unlike anything I'd experienced in a violin before.

Already, my nerves were getting the better of me.

I had thought of playing one of the German études I have practised hundreds of times.

Now I found I could not remember the order of the notes, while the fingers of my left hand – never very deft – began to collide with each other at every string crossing.

In desperation, I began to play "Besame Mucho," but even that old standby was beyond my ability.

There I was, holding an Italian masterwork for what almost certainly would be the only time in my life, and I couldn't play a damned thing.

I was too nervous and, to be honest, too ashamed.

Small as it is, the violin was vastly too big for me.

Toronto Band Takes Polaris Contest

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

(September 22, 2009) According to the Polaris Prize grand jury, the best album of the last year was The Chemistry of Common Life by Toronto's F---ed Up. Considered a hardcore masterpiece, the album which has met mostly rave reviews, continued the award's reputation for unpredictability, and also cemented the band's status among the local music community.

"I'm a little underdressed," joked Damian Abraham, lead singer for the band and occasional Fox News contributor, who was wearing a T-shirt and jeans. "I called and asked what the dress code, and they're like, `Casual, dress however you want.' You know, I guess they assumed we dress up a little more, but that's how we are."

The award caps off a great year for the band, that included them touring the world playing a 12-hour show in New York, and even teaming up with the likes of Nelly Furtado on a Christmas single. Abraham says it's only the beginning, and that they know what they're going to do with the $20,000 prize that comes with the award.

"We'll take out everybody who played on the record to a nice dinner, and then we're doing this benefit single for an aboriginal youth charity and we're going to pay for that ourselves. Hopefully it'll sell really well and we can make a ton of money. We're actually getting a ton of celebrities to sing `Feed the world, Do they know it's Christmas time?'

"I don't want to jinx it, but I just nailed down some pretty funny people to sing it. It's going to make the Nelly Furtado appearance on the last F---ed Up Christmas record seem like a natural, so this ones going to be really cool."

Hosted by Grant Lawrence from CBC Radio 3 and Sarah Taylor from MuchMusic, the gala ceremony was held at Toronto's Concert Hall.

F---ed Up beat a field that included a cross-section of albums from across the country, including Somalian rapper K'Naan, East Coast singer-songwriter Joel Plaskett and Toronto's Metric. In its fourth year, the Polaris prize aims to recognize the best Canadian album based on artistic merit, regardless of genre or sales numbers, and is determined by voting by music journalists.

This year featured many repeat nominees, including Patrick Watson, who won the award in 2006.

For the first time in its history, all 10 nominees performed at the gala, which will be broadcast on television next Saturday evening on MuchMusic. The gala event had the vibe of a musicians' club house.

"It's just a great night of music, and we're just happy to be a part of it," said Tony Dekker from the Great Lakes Swimmers.

"It's rad to be nominated alongside my peers," said nominee Chad Vangaalen. "For me, I don't sell enough records that anyone should care about what I'm doing, but this is one event that I can get really behind."

Along with Watson, the other previous winners of the Polaris Prize are Final Fantasy and Caribou.

New Album Casts Singer Harry Connick Jr. In Fresh Light

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

(September 22, 2009) With 24 albums to his name, covering pop, jazz, funk and blues, from solo to big band configurations, Harry Connick Jr. would appear to have done it all musically.

But the New Orleans native's new disc, Your Songs, casts him in a fresh light thanks to veteran producer Clive Davis.

"He said, `We know you can play, we know you can arrange, we know you can write, so let's just make a pop album that everybody can just enjoy and really feature you as a singer,'" Connick recalled in a recent interview with the Toronto Star.

The performer, also an established film, TV and theatre actor, admitted that vocals often took a back seat in his arrangements.

"I have a tendency to write myself out of the recording, like the singing is the least important, or it's more about solos, or more about instrumentation, rather than just shut up and sing the song."

With Davis's mandate of "songs everybody knows" with "accessible arrangements," Your Songs does include some ear-catching horn solos and strings sequences, but the focus is Connick's soothing pipes. It's comprised of modern gems – "Just the Way You Are," "Close To You" – and classics: "All the Way," "Mona Lisa."

Though song selection was the primary contribution of the 77-year-old producer, who only turned up at the two-week recording session once, it was still a challenging process for the hands-on Connick.

"My usual pattern is I either write the songs or pick the songs," the laid-back entertainer explained while seated in a Toronto hotel suite munching on almonds and clad in a black leather jacket, white T-shirt, jeans and Crocs.

"Depending on the configuration, I arrange, orchestrate, conduct, sing, and then oversee the mixing and the mastering.

"It's very difficult to submit part of your control to somebody else and have them take over, at least conceptually, part of what's going on.

"I found my ability to listen to him more impressive than I thought I had the capacity for."

Connick, who penned the arrangements and orchestration for Your Songs, also tapped lifelong New Orleans pals Wynton and Branford Marsalis for guest appearances. "You're asking arguably the greatest living trumpet player to play a melody on an Elvis tune," he said of Wynton's solo on "Can't Help Falling in Love With You."

"It's humiliating to ask him to do that, however it's deceptively difficult. People like Louis Armstrong screwed it up for everybody, because they were so great at that it sounds so easy to do. But he played it, five minutes he was gone. (Tenor saxist) Branford, on the other hand, is much more into giving me what I want, but he gives me a lot more choices."

The singer said he has movie scripts in development but is now focusing on music and plans to tour in the spring.

Connick, who is married with three girls, pointed to Don McLean's "And I Love You So" as an album cut he particularly likes.

"That's just a beautiful melody and I like the way I sing it, because there's a line in there that goes, `Yes, I know how loveless life can be,' and I think I'm old enough to know and I've lived enough to have my heart broken in different ways.

"To understand those things where I maybe didn't quite understand them in the past, I'm proud of that. It's kind of a weird netherland of emotion, because I'm not thinking necessarily about my heartbreak, I'm interpreting heartbreak, but I feel like I can interpret it better because I've been there."

MUSIC TIDBITS

Toronto's 'Sinatra' Battered Into Coma

Source: www.thestar.com - Hugh Ash,
Special To The Star

(September 19, 2009) PALMA, SPAIN–A Frank Sinatra impersonator from Toronto is fighting for his life in a Spanish hospital after his Good Samaritan act went tragically wrong on the popular holiday island of Majorca. Chris Mann, 51, was badly beaten in a late-night attack on Sept. 5, police say, after he tried to protect a group of young women, who were caught up in a rowdy dispute between two men at a taxi stand in Portals Nous, a chic resort retreat for many British television celebrities.  All were believed to have been drinking at the fashionable bar nearby. Mann was still in a coma, suffering from severe head and chest injuries, at the Son Dureta Hospital in Palma, Majorca's capital. His parents rushed from Toronto to be at his bedside. The divorced father of two, who is starring in the hit show Come Fly With Me at the island's Grand Casino Theatre, is understood to have been kicked and punched in the face several times in the attack.  Doctors, who performed emergency, life-saving surgery, believe Mann sustained brain injuries when his head hit the pavement.  Hospital sources described his condition as "stable, but serious.''  One man surrendered to police last Wednesday and was being held in custody. Slim and sandy-haired, Mann's portrayal of Ol' Blue Eyes has seen him make more than 1,000 performances on hugely successful tours around the Western world.

Leonard Cohen Okay After Collapse

Source:
www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(September 20, 2009) MADRID–Leonard Cohen is recovering after collapsing onstage while on tour in eastern Spain, his music company said yesterday.  The veteran poet and performer has been released from hospital after suffering from a stomach complaint, Doctor Music Concerts said in a statement.  Cohen was performing "Bird on the Wire" in Valencia when he collapsed, causing the band to stop playing to rush to his aid. The concert was stopped. A video placed on YouTube by a fan shows Cohen kneeling down several times during the performance and then keeling over sideways during a saxophone solo. The Canadian-born musician, who will be 75 years old tomorrow, was taken in an ambulance to the Nueve de Octubre hospital in Valencia. He was released early yesterday, said Barcelona-based Doctor Music Concerts. Cohen was due to perform the last show of his Spanish tour at the Palau Sant Jordi concert hall in Barcelona tomorrow. Trucks carrying Cohen's show had arrived at the hall yesterday morning and were to set up as normal, a spokesman for the concert hall said. Cohen came out of retirement five years ago when he discovered that most of his retirement fund had disappeared in a disputed case of mismanagement. After leaving Spain, Cohen was due to perform next in Sunrise, Fla., on Oct. 17, his website said.

Jay-Z Inches Toward History With 'Blueprint 3'

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 17, 2009) *Based on sales numbers from Nielsen SoundScan, Jay-Z's "The Blueprint 3" moved 476,000 copies in the week ending on Sunday (Sept. 13), which gives the rapper his 11th No. 1 album on the Billboard 200.     The album's No. 1 achievement pushes Jigga ahead of Elvis Presley as the solo act with the second most No. 1 albums in the more-than 50-year history of the Billboard 200. He needs 10 more chart toppers to unseat the Beatles, who hold the record with 19 No. 1s.     Elsewhere on the Billboard 200, Whitney Houston's "I Look To You," falls to No. 3 with 88,000 (down 71%), Raekwon's "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. 2" debuts at No. 4 with 68,000 and Trey Songz's "Ready" slides three positions to No. 6 with 45,000 (down 65%)      The Black Eyed Peas' "The E.N.D." zips up four slots to No. 7 with 44,000 (up 29%) and Taylor Swift's "Fearless" moves down one position to No. 10 with 33,000 (down 6%).

Tonex Tell-All Drama/Controversy

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Mona Austin / mediamindedpro@yahoo.com

(September 21, 2009) *From his tattooed and pierced appearance, a short-lived marriage, the death of his father, and early retirement from the Gospel industry to being dropped from Verity Records, the life and career of Gospel artist
Tonex has been marred by pain and controversy.   Throughout all the pressure, the young pastor of Truth Apostolic Community Church in San Diego has taken pride in being transparent.   In 2007, after a foul-mouthed online interview and angry YouTube posts he issued an open letter apologizing to fans and fellow clergy for his outlandish rants.  Now, during an astonishing testimony in an exclusive interview on The Lexi Show, Tonex (real name Anthony Williams) lays to rest years of speculation about his sexuality and admitted he is attracted to men. When Lexi attempts to clarify if he is a practicing homosexual, the radical artist declares he is a “free spirit.”   Among many candid details, in the following clip, Tonex acknowledges he had a nervous breakdown, says he does not blame his interest in men on being molested, that he believes in “same sex covenants” and that he wants to be a dad someday:  Watch the interview below: http://loldarian.blogspot.com/2009/09/gospel-artist-tonex-opens-up-about.html

Tomorrow: Sean Kingston

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

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

(September 22, 2009) Sean Kingston's sophomore disc is as confusing as his biography. When he debuted in 2007, the singer-rapper was described as the Miami-born grandson of Bob Marley & the Wailers producer Jack Ruby. Now, recent interviews have him claiming Jamaican birth and reggae's Buju Banton as his uncle. Tomorrow's blend of catchy melodies and inane lyrics is equally perplexing. Take opening track "War," a tune tricked out with helicopters, gunfire and other combat imagery that's ostensibly a love song: "I'm at war/ Fighting for the one that I love and the one that I truly need/ Shorty, I'd take a bullet for you girl cause you mean the world to me." Then, there's "Fire Burning" about a nightclub hottie who's "cold like fyah." But these dance-floor ditties and aren't deserving of such scrutiny. Kingston's repetitive mix of pop, reggae and techno – a melange of Rihanna, Sean Paul and Black Eyed Peas – is meant to get you moving, not thinking. Top Track: "Face Drop" shows some depth, as the chunky Kingston rebuts an ex: "Saying that I'd look better if I was thinner/Don't you know you shoulda loved me for my inner."

At Home With Friends: Joshua Bell

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

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

(September 22, 2009) American violin star
Joshua Bell is trying to broaden his horizons on this 16-track grab bag of pop, jazz and classical. Where many great artists have tiptoed along the crossover path, Bell goes boldly — in both sound and content. The guest vocals include Sting (singing John Dowland) and Josh Groban (Cinema Paradiso), but Bell's violin is front and centre throughout, weaving garlands of sound like an invasive Virginia creeper around whoever else is trying to share the microphone. The prevailing mood is pensive, melancholy, with the occasional outburst of energy. My favourite is Bell's duet with Anoushka Shankar's sitar, which reigns in the otherwise schmaltzy fiddling. Bell returns to traditional, live classical mode Thursday and Saturday, in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's season-opening programme at Roy Thomson Hall.

Da Brat Throws Prison Talent Show

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 22, 2009) *Allhiphop.com is reporting that incarcerated rapper Da Brat is organizing a talent show for fellow inmates while serving her three-year bid at Arrendale Federal Prison in Alto, Georgia.  The rapper, born Shawntae Harris, reportedly got permission to throw the event – labelled Showtime at Alto – after brainstorming ideas that would allow inmates to discover their talents and possibly cultivate them during their sentences.  Brat colleague and friend DJ Nabs will handle music duties, according to the Web site. Should the effort prove successful, Brat plans to push for prison authorities to make the showcase an annual event.   The Chicago-born rapper is in the second year of her sentence for attacking an Atlanta Falcons cheerleader in 2007.

Kirk Franklin Headlines Ohio's Joyfest

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 22, 2009) *Kirk Franklin has been tapped to headline the JoyFest Gospel Music Festival on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the amusement park/resort Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.  The performance line-up includes Dr. Marvin Sapp, the 2008 Best Gospel Artist award winner;  Crystal Aikin, winner of BET's "Sunday Best" gospel competition and Tye Tribbett, 2006 Grammy nominee for his "Victory Life!" album.  Comedian Bone Hampton, who has appeared on BET's "Comic View," will emcee the festival, to be held from 4-9:30 p.m. in the Soak City parking lot. (Admission to Cedar Point is required.)   Combo tickets to Cedar Point and the concert will be available online until 5 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25 and at Cedar Point on the day of the show. Concert only tickets for season passholders and deals for groups of 15 or more are also available. For more information and a link to purchase tickets, please visit www.cedarpoint.com.  

Kiss, Chili Peppers, LL Cool J Nominated For Rock Honours

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(September 23, 2009) New York —Kiss, LL Cool J and the Red Hot Chili Peppers could be among next year's inductees at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are part of an eclectic group of 12 acts in contention for the 2010 class. Other first-time nominees include Genesis, Jimmy Cliff, The Hollies and songwriter Laura Nyro. Some of the names on the ballot have been there before — Donna Summer, Darlene Love, ABBA, the Chantels, and the Stooges. Only five acts make it in. The 25th annual induction ceremony is slated for March 15 in New York City. The inductees will be announced in December.

::FILM NEWS::

Fresh Faces At TIFF

Source:
www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard, Movies Editor

(September 20, 2009) Kodi Smit-Mcphee: Kodi Smit-McPhee was spotted carrying a heaping plateful of food during TIFF, and the sight couldn't help but occasion a sense of relief.

He's so convincing as a starving son in The Road, John Hillcoat's adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel, it's easy to believe his meals are few and far between.

This 13-year-old wonder from Down Under, just 12 when he teamed with Viggo Mortensen to make The Road, seems to have lived more than one life in his baker's dozen of years.

Few kids his age can carry a seriously downbeat role like the one he aces in The Road, or hold the screen for so long next to an artist of Mortensen's calibre. He also nailed a convincing American accent. You'd never guess he's Australian. He and Mortensen became fast friends during filming.

Kodi's career is on a much brighter road than the grim trail he followed with Mortensen. He's in discussions to play the male lead in an English-language version of Let the Right One In, the Swedish vampire coming-of-age saga that made many a critic's Top Ten list last year.

He's ready to let the sunshine in.

Peter Howell

Romola Garai: Romola Garai has been quietly adding up solid reviews for a couple of years (despite the unfortunate flop, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights in 2004), drawing good notices for her role as the teenaged Briony Tallis in the Oscar winner Atonement two years ago.

Now comes Glorious 39, the pre-war thriller starring Garai as Anne, the daughter of a powerful English politician (Bill Nighy), during Britain's period of appeasement, when many in the upper classes aimed to avoid war with Hitler. The movie, with its stellar cast, including Julie Christie, did well at TIFF and was a crowd pleaser, with many talking about the performance of the 27-year-old English beauty as Anne, a young woman who faces the ultimate betrayal.

Garai did the rounds of interviews at TIFF with enthusiasm and charm. Garai is excited about just finishing a four-part adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma for BBC TV, playing the lead role. But what she seems most proud of at the moment is just having gotten her degree in English Literature. "I am now Romola Garai B.A.!" she said over a quick lunch with the Star.

Linda Barnard

Samrat Chakrabarti: The high point of The Waiting City, about an Australian couple in Calcutta to adopt a child, is the lively and hilarious performance of Samrat Chakrabarti as Krishna, a meddlesome worker at the hotel where the Aussies stay. Befriending them and inserting himself into their lives, he digs out their secrets and gives unsolicited advice, in what seems like a typical Bollywood comic turn by an Indian actor.

"I'm actually an American, and I live in New York," Chakrabarti explained after the world-premiere screening. Indeed, if he looks familiar, it's owing to numerous TV roles including on Law and Order. But his breakout performance in The Waiting City should take him to a new level.

Martin Knelman

Portia Doubleday: This 18-year-old beauty is the real thing, playing zany comedy opposite Michael Cera in Youth in Revolt as though she had been doing it all her life when, in fact, it's her first genuine movie role, unless you count a cameo at age 6 in Legend of the Mummy. In her new film, she plays Sheeni, a girl with Jesus-loving parents, a drug-loving brother and a self-loving boyfriend. No wonder Cera looks so good. She tries to change him into the larcenous Frenchman of her dreams with hilarious results. Her one career bump so far is being replaced on Showtime's The United States of Tara after the pilot, but she winningly says "that they did it to me so nicely I couldn't possibly get mad." Keep your eyes on this one.

Richard Ouzounian

Amy Ferguson, Georgia King, Rooney Mara: First-time directors Tatiana von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini have assembled a cast of outstanding young actresses for their film Tanner Hall, a drama set in a girls' boarding school in northern New England. All in their early 20s (and coy about giving their ages), Americans Amy Ferguson and Rooney Mara and Scottish-born Georgia King are solid and believable as three teens on the verge of womanhood facing tough decisions and hard learning lessons about consequences.

These are the first leading roles for this trio of young actresses (the fourth star, Brie Larson, wasn't at TIFF), although they have screen credits ranging from TV to theatre and small movies. During an interview with the Star, the actresses said they hope the as-yet-unsold Tanner Hall will find a waiting audience of young women who often feel overlooked by Hollywood's desire to cater to teen boys. King's first screen role was as Lady Teazle in The Duchess – which was at TIFF last year – starring alongside Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. In Tanner Hall she's the bad seed, a new girl who sets out to manipulate and destroy others. King balances a credible portrayal of evil with vulnerability.

Rooney Mara, younger sister of actress Kate (TIFF closer last year, The Stone of Destiny), has the most challenging role, taking on the part of wise yet unworldly Fernanda, who finds herself drawn into an affair with an older family friend (Tom Everett Scott). Her portrayal of a girl's torment over her actions and rising panic about her choices is credible and note perfect.

Mara has the lead in director Samuel Bayer's re-imagining of A Nightmare on Elm Street, due next year. She also appeared alongside Michael Cera in another TIFF film, Youth in Revolt. As Lucasta, a scholarship student who seems unaware – or unwilling to acknowledge – that she is questioning her sexual identity, Amy Ferguson takes on her first major role.

Linda Barnard

Derrick Borte: First-time film director Derrick Borte switched from making TV commercials to commenting on the cult of consumerism in The Joneses, his superbly smart movie that's been one of the hits at TIFF.

Borte, 41, also wrote the script about a perfect suburban U.S. family with a passion for the latest toys. But everything isn't what it seems behind the designer door of the Joneses' upscale home.

It stars Demi Moore, David Duchovny, Amber Heard and Brockville-born Ben Hollingsworth.

Linda Barnard

Steven Soderbergh And The Art Of Not Being Precious

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

(September 19, 2009) Surely Steven Soderbergh can't be joking – and don't call him "Shirley."

But it's true. The usually straight-arrow Soderbergh is having some fun with
The Informant!, his new movie that opened yesterday following its TIFF debut, even though it's a whistleblower drama about a serious price-fixing case.

You'll observe, and he'll happily agree, that the exclamation point in the title is a bit exuberant, just like the film's surprisingly jaunty score. The title of the book the movie was drawn from, written by New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, didn't have excited punctuation.

But the 1980 disaster movie satire Airplane! did, and it's the kind of irreverent feeling Soderbergh wanted. He also stole that film's "so there!" slapdown, originally used in a copyright notice, to punctuate his opening scrawl explaining that The Informant! is based on a true story, but it's not a slave to mundane details.

"I've always wanted to steal that," Soderbergh says, as he relaxes in a couch at the Royal York Hotel for an interview.

"The story is so crazy, and we've chosen to do it in a very stylized way, that I wanted to make sure everyone knew that this did happen. If you aren't constantly aware of that, you'd go, `I cannot believe what this guy is doing.' You can't believe it. So I was trying to think of a way to set the tone and give people permission to look at it in a cockeyed way."

Can this be the same black-garbed Soderbergh who released a muy serioso 4 1/2-hour biopic on Che Guevera last year?

At first glance, it may seem inappropriate to make light of the case of Mark E. Whitacre, described as the highest-ranked corporate whistleblower in U.S. history. Matt Damon, who packed on 30 pounds and a bad moustache for the film, plays Whitacre.

From 1989 to 1995, Whitacre was president of Archer Daniels Midland's Bioproducts Division, a U.S. firm that turns corn into gold, by way of the thousands of common household foods and goods the grain and its by-products are found in.

ADM was also growing illegal profits through price-fixing, which Whitacre squealed about to the FBI. At the same time, he played both his firm and the feds by embezzling $9 million, which he used to fund his lavish lifestyle – he would leave $100 tips on $9 diner meals. Whitacre was convicted and spent eight years in prison.

As often happens in a Soderbergh movie, he's less interested in the basic facts or even answering the "why?" of a story than he is in examining a fascinating character. And he certainly found one in Whitacre, an Ivy League brainiac earning $350,000 annually who acted as though he were starring his own spy movie – one where you can't trust anything the spy tells you.

"I really liked the book because there was no attempt to psychoanalyze him, there was no attempt at a reductive attitude about why he was the way he was," Soderbergh says.

"It didn't ask those questions and I'm not interested in asking those questions either. As I get older, I find myself really not asking `Why?' about this kind of stuff anymore. Why do people do what they do? I look around at the behaviour on the planet and it seems to me that `why' is kind of irrelevant. There's just no good explanation for a lot of the behaviour we're seeing. Our motivations are often mysterious even to ourselves."

The screenplay by Scott Z. Burns adds another layer of insanity by having Whitacre maintain an interior monologue with himself about all manner of arcane facts, even as his world begins to shatter around him.

Did you know, for example, that polar bears cover their black noses with one paw while trying to catch fish in an ice hole, so the fish can't see them?

"That one killed me!" Soderbergh chuckles. "That's my favourite. It really is a great philosophical question about what kind of consciousness other creatures have.

"Scott is full of these crazy facts, and it was his idea to have narration that didn't help. Usually it's designed to help, and it's often a crutch. What if we removed the crutch and it makes the situation worse? That could be fun."

Why was "fun" so important for a film like this?

For one thing, it's another of those "getting older" things for Soderbergh. At the tender age of 46, the Atlanta-born auteur is realizing that he'd like to lighten up a little, more often than just when he reunites with George Clooney and the boys for another Ocean's 11 spin-off (don't expect an Ocean's 14, by the way).

For another, the whistleblower drama has already been done by guys like Michael Mann, whose The Insider is a classic of the genre. Why should Soderbergh try to compete with that?

"I just felt that it had been done and done really well by others. What am I? If I'm standing on the shoulders of all these whistleblower movies, what is my contribution going to be?

"And so this was our solution. I really feel that this approach makes the film more of an adhesive than if we had done the straight version. It's more memorable as this than as a drama. It's going to stick better. We'll see."

Soderbergh was also drawn to the project by the human capacity for gullibility. Even veteran FBI agents were conned by Whitacre, and they should have known better.

"I don't understand why people are surprised when it's revealed they've been lied to. I don't understand this at all. Especially by a public figure. I'm always shocked that they're shocked.

"I'm beginning to think the way to go through life is to either believe everything you're told, or nothing, and that spending time trying to figure out which is which is just a waste of energy. I think you'd be happier if you just were all one way or all the other."

Soderbergh wasn't always this easygoing. In fact, for most of the first half of his now 20 years as a feature film director, he feels he thought way too much about life, the universe and everything.

From sex, lies, and videotape in 1989 (which won him that year's Palme d'Or at Cannes at age 26) until his scriptless experiment Schizopolis in 1996, Soderbergh feels there was much "preciousness" about his work. For the past decade, he's been making films at a more accelerated pace, working on several projects at once (a 3-D Cleopatra musical is one current brainstorm), to rid himself of his tendency to fuss and overthink things.

"My first four movies are really difficult for me to contemplate. I don't feel they're alive enough. They're too formal. But you've got to go through that. At least I got out the other end of it. I made a conscious effort to identify what I thought were weaknesses in the way that I was working, and I wanted to get better, basically. I'm a better filmmaker than I was 20 years ago, I know it."

He must have been doing something right, though, because sex, lies and videotape is a legend, hailed as a marvel of emotional honesty that helped kick-start the Sundance Film Festival and the indie film boom of the past two decades. Further laurels are expected when the film is released on Blu-ray come November.

Soderbergh shot The Informant! in 37 days, just a week longer than he took to shoot sex, lies and videotape. That's speedy work for a director of his stature, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'm just speaking for myself, but I learned fairly early in my career that time doesn't help me," Soderbergh muses.

"I work best when I treat it as a sport, when there's a ball coming at me and I either have to catch it, hit it, or get out of the way of it. That's when I do my best work, when I think on my feet."

Fergie Knows Film

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

(September 19, 2009) When the Duchess of York walks the red carpet at tonight's TIFF closing gala for the film she co-produced, The Young Victoria, most people would assume that a fascination with the famous monarch caused the former Sarah Ferguson to spend 15 years on the project.

But they would be slightly off target. "You remember the scene (in the film) where Albert turns to Victoria and says, `Thank you for reminding me I was a guest'? Well, I know that feeling very well," explains the Duchess, her distinctive ducal voice – Big Ben's chimes and Manhattan taxi horns blended together – coming in over the phone from her office in New York.

Indeed, what only becomes apparent after speaking with the woman herself is that her zeal for the project was driven by the intense identification she felt with one of the leading characters.

It wasn't Victoria, the then-youthful monarch, in whom she saw herself. It was Albert, the beloved consort.

It's difficult to live your private life in front of the entire world, a fact that Sarah Ferguson learned when she fell in love with Prince Andrew, married him in 1986 and then came under some very intense – and often unpleasant – public scrutiny.

"Her majesty (Queen Elizabeth II) is the most wonderful woman, and I was very lucky in my time with the family," insists the Duchess. "Prince Andrew and I still have a wonderful relationship.

"But if you're not born into royalty, you never really belong there."

The couple finally divorced in 1996 and the Duchess has gone on to have an incredibly varied and fulfilling life, working in the arts and devoting much of her time to charitable causes, two things, appropriately enough, that Albert was passionate about. "I loved to glean and learn from (Albert). That was a joy. He was a man to be admired, an extraordinary individual. In researching him, I learned so much of what one could do in the field of social change."

The Duchess's interest in Victoria and her reign began "when I was at school studying history. But then, after I married Prince Andrew, I thought it was important to learn about his family."

Members of the Royal household staff would take the young Duchess around Buckingham Palace and satisfy her deep thirst "to experience the past, to learn about everyone who had lived here and what had gone on before me."

The wealth of history she learned during that time kept leading her to Queen Victoria, and she eventually wrote two books about her: Travels With Queen Victoria (1995) and Victoria and Albert: A Family Life at Osborne House (1991).

"The more I learned about Victoria and Albert, one fact became clearer and clearer: it was the greatest love story ever, two people who were first brought together for political reasons, but ultimately became truly and deeply devoted to each other."

It took 15 years from the moment the Duchess conceived of the concept for The Young Victoria to the final product hitting the screen, and she generously admits that "an idea can be wonderful, but the whole success depends upon the execution, and it was the most incredible team of people who made it happen. They took a little acorn and turned it into this giant oak tree."

When the film opened in London earlier this year, there was a bit of carping about its supposed historical inaccuracies, some of it, according to the News of the World, allegedly from Queen Elizabeth II herself. But the Duchess respectfully defends The Young Victoria and its creators. "Julian Fellowes' screenplay and Jean-Marc Vallée's direction are both impeccable.

"In fact, I like to say that this is the most totally historically correct love story ever told."

Besides helping to celebrate The Young Victoria at TIFF, the Duchess is also in Toronto to launch the Canadian arm of the Sarah Ferguson Foundation, the organization she founded in 2007 "to fund programs that promote education and wellness worldwide."

She's delighted to be doing this because "I have always felt that the people of Canada have treated me very well, very fairly and, of course, Prince Andrew spent that time here in Lakefield," she says, referring to his six months in 1977 at Lakefield College School in the Kawarthas.

With royal love triumphing over the adversity of interfering agents, leaving Victoria and Albert to live "happily ever after" until his untimely death at the age of 42, one has to wonder if the Duchess's devotion to the fairy-tale story of The Young Victoria is a kind of wistful "might have been" when compared to the way her own life turned out.

She takes some time before responding to that suggestion.

"I sadly live with lots of regrets. I would love to have done lots of things differently, but you learn by your mistakes and you live with them and you get on with your life.

"Prince Andrew and I have two beautiful girls whom we both believe we have co-piloted, co-partnered and co-parented to a happy conclusion, despite our occasionally differing points of view.

"That's a modern day fairy tale, I suppose."

Jane Campion : The Power Of Her Restraint

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Rick Groen

(September 23, 2009) If the gifted are smart, and not just gifted, they learn from experience its one great lesson: They learn the power of restraint. On the ice, the star player takes fewer strides to reach the same goal. At the keyboards, the jazz pianist hits fewer notes to get the same effect. And behind the camera, the talented director uses fewer tricks to create the same tension.

Jane Campion has always been a talented director. That was clear from her earliest work, in shorts such as Peel, then features such as Sweetie and An Angel at My Table and, most famously, The Piano .

Now, in her mid-50s, Campion has made a film, Bright Star , that is simultaneously a brave extension of, and a radical departure from, everything she's done before. The destination is identical, yet experience has taught her a starkly different way of getting there.

Campion: ‘It’s a sort of ego-lessness that you have to go through to take your signature off a piece.’

Campion's entire canon has been devoted to strong and intelligent women snared in conflicted circumstances, and nothing's changed here.

Although Bright Star is a romance involving the Romantic poet John Keats, the love story unfolds not from the perspective of the celebrated man, but through the eyes of the unheralded woman – a girl, really, 18-year old Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish).

Their affair is intensely felt yet never consummated, confined on all sides by the proprieties of the time, by Keats's failing health, and by his relative impoverishment. The consequent discrepancy, between feeling so much and doing so little, gives the film its purity and its poignancy. And that's because the very restraint imposed upon the lovers is embraced by the director – stylistically, she makes a virtue of necessity.

Inevitably, perhaps, her new style is borrowed from an old master: “I was watching Robert Bresson's films, Mouchette and [ Diary of a ] Country Priest , and I saw how powerful the classical style can be. It was very tense and yet he used none of the usual filmic techniques to create it. He just has a very restrained approach. After that, I got kind of sick of directors' signatures and whizzing cameras. It just felt empty and wasn't giving me anything very subtle. It's a sort of ego-lessness that you have to go through to take your signature off a piece. The job of the young artist is to be crazy, challenging, provocative, exploitative; but as you mature, you're trying to disappear into the heart of something, and that's what's exciting.”

Let me interrupt her here to point out a tiny irony: Campion is unrestrained in her praise of restraint. A tall woman, sturdy, with long fine blond hair and blue eyes, pale yet piercing too, she speaks with great passion, radiating authority without a hint of self-importance. Better yet, she has a wonderful laugh, a big laugh that bursts out at unexpected times, instantly changing the conversational mood from sombre to silly. Like when we're talking about Keats's death from consumption in Rome, coughing up blood, lying on a narrow bed in that cramped apartment above the Spanish Steps.

“I cried when I visited that room,” she begins. “But did you look up at the ceiling? It has carved daisies. And Keats, who could be very witty, said to Severn, the painter who was nursing him, ‘I can already see the flowers growing over me.' ” Big laugh.

She continues: “And I'm a little thick, but I was reading Andrew Motion's biography, and in one of his last letters Keats boasts, ‘I'm still riding the little pony,' and I'd never heard that euphemism before so I thought, oh, even at that stage in his illness, he's actually going out riding.” Bigger laugh, and then, just in case I'm a little thick too, “Not wanking, but ‘Riding the little pony.' It's very sweet, isn't it?”

Don't expect to see that pony on screen, but the sweetness is definitely there. And so is Keats's vaunted theory of “negative capability,” albeit filtered through Campion's cinematic sensibilities. “Yes, that was really helpful to me. I don't know if I understand negative capability correctly, but I think it's like a Buddhist idea that you can inhabit a space of mystery without searching after reason, that the desire of the mind to know, to work everything out, is a kind of low thinking. The muses are waiting for your mind to shut up. And that changed my approach to the cast.”

“For example, we didn't rehearse this in the normal way. I didn't like the idea of doing a big period-piece bio, so we were already working against the fact that we had costumes on. It was quite a challenge for some members of the cast to feel that they didn't have to present a character, but just to slip into that quiet space. It was uncomfortable for them. They were getting grumpy. I'd see them doing stuff, I could see the gears turning, and I'd look at it and think, ‘I'm so not interested in what you're doing. Can you stop? Can you just stop ?' They were scared at times, but it was weirdly inside me that I just couldn't react to anything fake. ‘When you stop acting,' I said, ‘I'll look.' It's such a relief when screen actors don't act.”

For Campion, then, the notion of negative capability became another lesson in the value of restraint. Of course, less isn't always more. Sometimes, it's not nearly enough, which brings us to the question: Why are there so few women directing feature films?

“Hilariously, they're calling this the year of the woman director. But how many are there? 10? Look, I think of myself as a filmmaker first, and appreciate that many men are as sensitive as women. But, to your larger question, it's really about the fact that men still rule the world. That isn't what interests me as a director, but it's a fact. They do.”

Okay, but women have made significant inroads into other professions, so why not movie-making?

“There's … an equal number of women and boys in film schools, and girls do very well there making short films. But as soon as that's over, it's like, ‘Okay, end of equality.' Men control the halls of power, especially in Hollywood, and that's impenetrable. It's a boys' club. The frustrating thing is that half the people in the world want scripts that speak to them, and they aren't getting them.”

No laugh now, and no restraint either. Indeed, this closing argument casts her film in a more ambiguous light. Bright Star speaks eloquently to women and men alike – that makes it an exceptionally good movie, and a happy cause for celebration. But Bright Star is also written and directed by a woman from a woman's point of view – that makes it an exceptionally rare movie, and a lingering cause for concern.

Bright Star is now playing in Vancouver. It opens in Toronto and Ottawa tomorrow.

Why Dressing Like A Woman Is Such A Drag

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Lynn Crosbie

(September 21, 2009) Have you ever woken from a television coma, sat upright and asked: What is going on? Maybe because that wired little shill, Vince, is smacking a Slap Chop and Graty around. Or because Oprah's raging narcissism suddenly, alarmingly, feels less like velvet than sandpaper.

I was watching TV when a trailer for the new
Tyler Perry film, Madea Goes to Jail, appeared and I noticed, with shock, that the movie is scarcely comic.

Perry is intently stamping around in a flowered schmatte and a wig of old-lady curls, and that there are scenes of love and unity and deep, plangent emotion.

Now, this is a bit like the dearly departed Divine's oeuvre: By the time s/he made Hairspray, in 1988, Divvy had done so many drag roles director John Waters remarked that no one even mentioned any more that he was a man in a dress. But for the hideousness, the same may be said of John Travolta's reprisal of the role, a few years ago.

Yet, in spite of the preponderance of white men in Western cinema, very few of them do drag.

There are exceptions, like the still-badass Patrick Swayze in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, and try taking a dress off Robin Williams.

But black actors, especially comics, are another story.

In a first-season episode of 30 Rock, Tracy Jordan, playing Tracy Jordan, is urged by his conservative black writer Toofer not to dress in drag. "Drag," he asserts, "is a way for Caucasians to emasculate you and make you seem non-threatening. ... All the best African-American comedians refuse to do drag. Chris Rock doesn't do it. Dr. Cosby doesn't do it."

Tracy agrees, then is infuriated later when he realizes that "everyone" does it. He's right. Martin Lawrence, Flip Wilson, Eddie Murphy, Garrett Morris and, of course, Tracy Jordan himself have all done drag - a practice that cultural commentators are finding increasingly disquieting, as Toofer did.

I had to go look up Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) and its first sequel, Madea's Family Reunion (2006). While both films were critically reviled, it's hard to find a movie review that references Perry playing a woman (and a number of male roles, as Murphy often does), as though there is nothing strange at all about the franchise.

Elsewhere, there are rumblings of distaste, following, it seems, Dave Chappelle's self-confessed "conspiracy theory," explained on Oprah this July.

Although Chappelle has, fleetingly, done drag himself, he told Oprah at length about "taking a stand" and refusing to wear drag in a Martin Lawrence film. Then he wondered why, "at some point in their careers," black men are always asked to cross-dress. "Why all these brothers gotta wear dresses?" he asked.

Black men in dresses has been compared, ominously, to minstrelsy. The most prevalent theory about the phenomenon is, well, Toofer's - that the dominant culture, fearing black men's sexuality, are anxious to dress it down, so to speak, and the ensuing humiliation is, for racists, a bonus.

There are problems with this theory, however. While there is no doubt in my mind that black men continue to signify sexual dominance, that this code has yet to be broken, to think of black men as little dolls being dressed up by gigantic white monsters is hardly progressive either.

Where is the comic or actor's agency in this theory? Do Murphy or Perry (whose audience is largely black) not create their own characters? And are they not intelligent or powerful enough to know what they are doing?

Does wearing a dress make a man deviant or gay - Chappelle compared being asked to wear a dress to Brokeback Mountain, that is being queer).

Punishing homophobia within black communities is still a hardship for black, gay men, and theories that suggest machismo is the essence of masculinity don't help.

Finally, what no one seems to remember is that men, particularly comics, have always dressed as women - dating back to when women were restricted from stage acting. The men on Saturday Night Live still cross-dress for convenience, and such all-male troupes as Monty Python and the Kids in the Hall cross-dressed out of necessity.

There are so many female comics now that men really need not throw on a foam bra and frock any more; that is, women have finally taken charge of the characters that men performed out of an exigency mired in oppression.

Yet there are still not many famous black female comics, besides Wanda Sykes and Whoopi Goldberg, who, when she is the psychic replacement for Swayze in Ghost, affects one of the most significant acts of drag in cinema history.

And black men keep hopping into dresses because they want all the parts and/or because black women still can't get the big, comic roles.

Would Mrs. Klump, Big Momma, Rasputia or Madea still be funny, played by women? Probably not, because these impersonations are degrading travesties waiting to be countered, not by men in suits, but by women. Or, to rephrase Chappelle, a lot of sisters in dresses.

FILM TIDBITS

Spike Lee And De Niro Team For 'Alphaville'

Source:
www.eurweb.com - Kam Williams

(September 18, 2009) *New York-born filmmakers Spike Lee and Robert De Niro are joining forces to present "Alphaville," a series for Showtime about Lower Manhattan's Alphabet City.   According to the Hollywood Reporter, the ensemble drama will chronicle the neighbourhood’s gritty and tumultuous past before it became the gentrified East Village.     The project will be written by John Ridley, with Lee on board to direct the potential pilot. Ridley, Lee, De Niro and his producing partner Jane Rosenthal will executive produce.     Set during the 1980s, the drama will re-create the neighbourhood’s mix of struggling artists and musicians living alongside Puerto Rican and black families. Along with its growing bohemian and celebrity population, which also included graffiti artists, break-dancers, rappers and DJs, the neighbourhood was plagued by illegal drug activity and violent crime.     Local tensions culminated in the Tompkins Square Park riot of 1988, in which police clashed with anarchists and homeless activists.     The 1980s-era Alphabet City was also the setting for the musical "Rent." The neighbourhood also served as the backdrop for two De Niro pictures: 1976's "Taxi Driver" and 1999's "Flawless."

A Sam Cooke Biopic Gonna Come

Source:
www.eurweb.com 

(September 18, 2009)  *Plans are in the works to turn soul legend Sam Cooke's life story into a feature film.   According to Reuters, the singer's label ABKCO Music & Records Inc. are in the early stages of developing a film adaptation of Peter Guralnick's 2005 biography "Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke."   "In the next couple of months, I should be able to make an announcement on the film," ABKCO president Jody Klein told Reuters.  Jody Klein's father, Allen Klein, who died in July, managed Cooke. New York-based ABKCO – which also controls the rights to compositions by the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Kinks – is controlled by the Klein family. ABKCO owns all the necessary master recordings and rights to make the movie.   Cooke crossed over from gospel stardom to achieve mainstream pop success with such tunes as "Chain Gang," "Cupid," "Good Times" and the posthumous protest anthem "A Change is Gonna Come." Notably for the times, he owned the rights to his music through various recording and publishing entities he controlled.     The crooner was 33 when he died in a Los Angeles motel in 1964. Cooke was fatally shot by a motel manageress who said she feared for her life after he stormed into her office after a dispute with a woman the family man had brought back to his room.

Lebron James Living A 'Fantasy'

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 18, 2009) *NBA star LeBron James will crossover into acting and portray himself in "Fantasy Basketball Camp," an upcoming comedy for Universal Pictures.   The story follows five guys from different backgrounds who come to Vegas to live out their fantasy by attending the LeBron James Adult Basketball Camp. While it should be enough that these dreamers get to interact with their hero, the campers drag James into their various life issues, ranging from serious to idiotic.   Brian Grazer, producing for Imagine Entertainment, said the idea to cast James came out of meetings the exec had with the athlete and his partner Maverick Carter; encounters that left Grazer feeling confident the Cleveland Cavaliers standout could make the same easy transition to the screen that Eminem did in his film debut on "8 Mile," which Grazer also produced.   "I initially sought LeBron out because my 8-year-old son, Thomas, and I were just dying to meet him, but I felt that beyond being one of the world's great superstar athletes, here was someone so relaxed and comfortable with himself that he would have the capability to be that way onscreen," Grazer told Variety. "Later, when I watched him host 'Saturday Night Live,' and saw his advertising work, it was clear he can do this."   James will serve as executive producer along with Carter and Imagine's Michael Rosenberg and Kim Roth. Production is scheduled to begin next summer, when James can become a free agent.     James is also the focus of the documentary "More Than a Game," which explores his high school years in Akron, Ohio. Lionsgate is releasing the doc starting with Oct. 2 openings in Los Angeles and New York.

Boris Kodjoe Headed To The 'Afterlife'

Source: www.eurweb.com

(September 21, 2009) *Via his Twitter account, actor
Boris Kodjoe (@BorisKodjoe) announced that he has joined the cast of Screen Gems' "Resident Evil: Afterlife."   "In Toronto meeting with the director of my new movie 'Resident Evil: Afterlife' Very exciting!!! Lots of stunts, shooting guns, monsters...," he tweeted Wednesday.  The director, Paul W.S. Anderson, is married to the film's star Milla Jovovich. Anderson directed the first film in the franchise and wrote and produced the other two.  Kodjoe is also spending these days trying to raise awareness of Spina Bifida, a condition that affects his four-year-old daughter with actress Nicole Ari Parker. The couple launched the Sophie’s Voice Foundation in 2008.   "It has been hard for the past four years to find our way through this maze," Kodjoe told Black Enterprise magazine recently about dealing with the disease. "It’s tough because our daughter needs 24/7 care, but we still have to make movies and TV shows because that is what supports the family. You realize that all the things that stress you out aren’t really important at all. Our daughter’s health, our son, Nicolas, our family—the four of us—that is our priority in life. We also have to be meticulous about fundraising. It’s a business, but it’s quite sobering."   Kodjoe is asking for the public to help kids with Spina Bifida by texting CLUB10 to 85944, then when asked to confirm: YES.

Jackson Movie, Song Coming Out Next Month

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(September 23, 2009) NEW YORK – The first posthumous release of a new Michael Jackson song, "This Is It," is scheduled for Oct. 12. Sony Music Entertainment offered few details about the song, except to say it includes backing vocals by Jackson's brothers. Two weeks later, Sony is releasing a two-disc set to coincide with the movie that shows scenes of Jackson rehearsing for his series of London concerts. Jackson died before publicly stepping back on stage. The album includes some of Jackson's greatest hits as they appeared on previous albums. The second disc features previously unreleased versions of Jackson songs and a spoken-word poem from Jackson called "Planet Earth."

::TV NEWS::

Nina Dobrev : From Degrassi To The Dark Side

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Andrew Ryan

(September 22, 2009) The kids of DeGrassi grow up so fast these days.

This time last year,
Nina Dobrev was still a day player on the Canadian teen drama DeGrassi: The Next Generation , which conveniently filmed in her hometown of Toronto. Today, she's 1,200 kilometres away in Atlanta and starring in The Vampire Diaries (CTV, Thursdays, 8 p.m.), already tagged as the first hit series of the fall season. Dobrev, who also has a role in Atom Egoyan's new film Chloe , does not play a vampire in the TV show, but she has, by necessity, become a creature of the night.

“With a vampire show come the night shoots and the long hours,” says a weary Dobrev, speaking from Atlanta where the series is filmed. “ DeGrassi had a large ensemble cast, so we wouldn't shoot every day and, because it was a high-school show, most of the scenes were shot during the day. On this show, we start late on Monday and every day we push later and later. By Friday night, sometimes we end up shooting until 4 or 5 a.m. on Saturday morning.”

Not that she's complaining. Vampire Diaries is a career-maker for the 20-year-old Dobrev, who was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and relocated with her family to Toronto at the tender age of 2. As with DeGrassi alumnus Shenae Grimes – now in her sophomore year on The CW's remake of 90210 – Dobrev was plucked directly from the no-pressure world of Canadian TV drama and dropped into the heady realm of American network television. And as a star of the series, she's the first to admit there's an adjustment to make.

“Everything is different now,” she admits. “Aside from having a personal publicist for the first time, the show has a great buzz and everyone is talking about it. There are more press interviews. I was in New York two weeks ago for the first time, and there were billboards for the show everywhere. It was a little intimidating, but cool.”

Unlike 90210 , Vampire Diaries was strong out of the gate. The premiere episode two weeks ago registered close to five million U.S. viewers for The CW – most-watched show launch in the network's history. The show performed commensurately well for CTV here, earning nearly 1.5 million viewers.

No doubt fuelling the fast liftoff is the fact that vampires are a hot entertainment property of late, courtesy of the Twilight film series and HBO's True Blood . “Of course, there's vampires in all the shows coming out,” says Dobrev, “but if I had to compare our show to anything, I would say it's like Dawson's Creek meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer . More than anything it's about life in this small town – with vampires.”

Based on the young-adult novels of L.J. Smith, Vampire Diaries stars the willowy Dobrev as Elena, your typical teenage girl newly returned to Mystic Falls high school following the tragic death of both parents.

Elena's first day back to school improves greatly once she meets Stefan (Paul Wesley), the new kid at school, who happens to be a vampire. Soon after, she meets Stefan's hunky and slightly more sinister brother Damon (Ian Somerhalder of Lost ), also a vampire. Instead of bitten, Elena is smitten.

“Some people might think Twilight ,” concedes Dobrev, “because they see boy meets girl in high school, and one's a vampire and the other isn't. But the story takes a complete 360 by the second episode. Suddenly people are dying, people are going missing and nobody realizes vampires are at the base of all this drama. We try to keep the audience on their toes.”

Even with her DeGrassi diploma – she spent three seasons playing the cheerleader turned teen mother Mia – the professional acting field remains relatively new territory for Dobrev, who devoted her teen years to competitive gymnastics while attending Toronto's highly regarded Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts.

Building up to her role in Diaries , Dobrev had some fleeting experience in the horror vein: Her breakout film role came in the 2006 low-budget zombie musical Repo! The Genetic Opera (starring Paris Hilton!), and two years later, she portrayed a lycanthrope-hunting teen in the cable movie Never Cry Werewolf . But when it came to vampires, she could only claim to being a fan.

“My first real vampire obsession and awareness probably came from watching Interview with the Vampire ,” she admits. “Aside from Brad Pitt looking dreamy with those fangs, the vampire aspect was just so intriguing. To get ready for this show, I've watched that movie at least four times in the last few weeks.”

Unlike Grimes, who was savaged by vicious Internet gossip during her 90210 rookie season, Dobrev at least has the advantage of Vampire Diaries filming far away from the Hollywood spotlight.

“We're definitely removed from the big TV business, which I like a lot,” says Dobrev. “Down here, I can feel a sense of normalcy. I'm not swamped like the people on 90210 or Melrose Place . I can go to work in the morning, I can go to a restaurant. I can have a life.”

Then again, she's already sat for her first celebrity mug shot. Dobrev and three of her Diaries co-stars, Sara Canning, Kayla Ewell and Candice Accola, were charged last month with disorderly conduct in the town of Forsyth, Ga., roughly 100 kilometres south of Atlanta. Police said the women were striking suggestive poses and dangling off the side of a highway bridge for a photo shoot; the photographer was also charged. (Conveniently, news of the incident broke the day after the show's premiere.)

Such is the cost of fame. Dobrev is currently poring over scripts for films she might consider when Vampire Diaries wraps filming for its first season. “I really want something I can sink my teeth into,” she says, with no trace of irony.

MSNBC To Telecast "About Our Children...," Featuring Bill Cosby On Sunday Sept. 20

Source:
www.nbcuni.com

(September 8, 2009) NEW YORK MSNBC will telecast "About Our Children...," a live event featuring Bill Cosby, moderated by Independent Women's Forum president and CEO and MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, Sunday, Sept. 20, 7-9 p.m. ET.

Cosby will discuss poverty in America, focusing on the parenting, education and health issues facing the poor in the United States, live from Howard University. Panellists include Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP,
Terrie M. Williams, author of "Black Pain," and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

MSNBC will also take online questions for Cosby and the panel at TheGrio.com and msnbc.com. The event will be live streamed on msnbc.com and viewers can also go to AboutOurChildren.msnbc.com to get more information about this special event.

Dr. Bill Cosby is one of the most influential performers in the last half century. Coming from a poor Philadelphia neighbourhood, he rose to reshape the nation's airwaves through shows like "I Spy" and "The Cosby Show." He became one of the most successful storytellers on record, and authored several blockbuster books, including Fatherhood, the fastest-selling hardcover book of all time, which spent 54 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Bill Cosby, in his work as an entertainer, has always communicated philosophies that help people see their human commonalities.

Michelle D. Bernard is the president and CEO of the Independent Women's Forum, a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and educational institution, and Independent Women's Voice and an MSNBC political analyst. Bernard is a regular panellist with MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews" and with "The McLaughlin Group." She is also a Sunday columnist with The Examiner. Bernard is the author of Women's Progress: How Women and Are Wealthier, Healthier and More Independent Than Ever Before (Spence Publishing) and is a contributing author to the National Urban League's State of Black America (2009) and Lifetime Networks' Secrets of Powerful Women: 25 Successful American Politicians Tell How They Got Where They Are and What It's Like (Hyperion Books/February 2010).

Built on the worldwide resources of NBC News, MSNBC defines news for the next generation with world-class reporting and a full schedule of live news coverage, political analysis and award-winning documentary programming -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MSNBC's home on the Internet is msnbc.com. Msnbc.com delivers a fuller spectrum of news. Drawing on its award-winning original journalism, NBC News heritage, trusted sources and Microsoft's advanced technologies, the site presents compelling, diverse and visually-engaging stories on the consumer's platform of choice.

Members of the media can get more information about MSNBC and its programming on msnbc.com or the NBC Universal Media Village Web site at www.nbcumv.com.

Shoplifters Pay For TV Confession

Source: www.thestar.com -
Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

(September 21, 2009)
SAN DIEGO, Calif.–Even by the confessional standards of the Dr. Phil television show, it was a whopper of an admission.

The nicely dressed couple said they had roamed several states as shoplifters, stealing mostly toys, selling them on the Internet and making as much as $1 million (U.S.) over seven years.

"I'm no lawyer or a cop," said show host Phil McGraw, incredulously, "but isn't that a federal crime?"

The wife paused, then said, "Yeah, it is."

Last week, a federal grand jury in San Diego agreed, handing down an indictment against Matthew Allen Eaton, 34, and his wife, Laura, 26. And, as McGraw predicted, the transcript and video of last November's show are central to the prosecution's case.

The indictment, for moving stolen goods across state lines, says the Eatons sold more than $100,000 worth of stolen goods using eBay and PayPal over a 12-month period – a crime prosecutors call "e-fencing."

More than 500 boxes of toys and other items were carted off when investigators from the San Diego Regional Fraud Task Force raided the couple's suburban home in San Marcos, Calif.

The Eatons had approached the Dr. Phil show with the offer to tell their story.

They answered his questions politely and with only slight hesitation.

They even provided a home video of an out-of-state road trip – the indictment suggests it was to Arizona and Texas – in which they smoothly ripped off several stores with their three young children in tow, and mailed the stolen goods back home.

The toddlers, they said on the video, are good decoys.

"Sometimes we just kind of go in together as a nice little family to make it seem like we're normal people, and we don't look like the kind of people that steal," Matthew Eaton said.

"We have our kids with us, and they usually always buy it."

Laura Eaton provided a typical inventory of the loot. Sometimes they would stuff goodies into their pockets; other times they would boldly walk out of stores.

"We steal diapers, wipes, shoes, socks, clothes, food," she said on the video. "This scanner, desk, the lamp, swords, filing cabinet, TV, this computer, trash can, cabinets, movies, paper shredder."

McGraw was not the only person surprised at what the Eatons told him and a television audience of about 5 million.

"In 20 years of fraud cases, I've never seen anything like this: a taped confession before a national audience," said Secret Service agent Greg Meyer, who worked on the case.

Paul Pfingst, a former two-term San Diego County district attorney and now a defence attorney, said, "In the hall of fame of dumb crooks, these people will have a prominent position."

The arraignment judge, U.S. magistrate Ruben Brooks, ordered the couple to undergo mental health counselling as a condition of bail.

By the time the couple chatted with McGraw, they knew the San Diego County Sheriff's Department was investigating them for shoplifting a toy from a Target store, a possible misdemeanour.

The show propelled the investigation and brought in federal officers.

So why did they go on television? Matthew Eaton told Dr. Phil he and his wife felt gripped by a shoplifting compulsion and that only by blowing their own cover did they think they could stop.

"Putting it out in the open and knowing that everybody's seen us now," he said, "it'll help us to not want to go to the stores because we're going to feel like they're going to recognize us now.

"And I think it's something to help us stop."

The couple claimed to be kleptomaniacs, which McGraw, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, suggested is baloney. Kleptomaniacs steal for thrills, not profit, he said.

On camera, the couple was matter-of-fact; not remorseful but not boastful, though they admitted the spree was "a little fun."

Matthew Eaton said he had thought about more serious crime.

"I've thought of going into a bank and just getting one teller's money and getting in and getting out," he said.

"But there's no way I could really do something like that. It's just too dangerous."

Laura Eaton said the couple had dreams of using the profits to start a legitimate toy business.

Now they are indigent and could face five years in prison. Their children – ages 4, 2 and 1 – were placed with relatives after the couple was arrested.

Matthew Eaton's employment record is checkered. He has worked as a security guard and a supervisor at a gas station. An auto-detailing business he founded flopped, leading him to file for personal bankruptcy in 2000 to try to shed personal debts and a bill from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

The Eatons moved to Las Vegas in 2007, but within months had moved back to San Diego County.

Some attempts were made to shield their identities when they appeared on Dr. Phil. They were referred to by their last names, but no references were made to San Diego or its suburbs.

When the fraud task force cranked up its investigation in recent months, an attorney representing the couple complained a Dr. Phil producer had tricked the couple by promising psychological help and, if they were indicted, bail money and a legal defence fund – assertions the show denies.

Only one toy is mentioned in the indictment, a Lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon, allegedly stolen from the Target store in Vista, Calif., a crime that brought the Eatons to local sheriff's detectives' attention.

In court, defence lawyers said the couple have long suffered from depression. As the investigation closed in, each found legitimate employment: Matthew as an auto detailer; Laura as a home-care helper for the disabled, their attorneys told the magistrate at arraignment.

Nothing in the indictment or court documents suggests the government will ask McGraw to testify.

Last Monday, the couple pleaded not guilty. The magistrate set bail for Matthew Eaton at $35,000; for Laura Eaton at $25,000. She was bailed out quickly, with the help of family members. On Friday, her husband remained in the federal lockup in downtown San Diego.

Each has a lawyer appointed by the court and paid with public funds. Neither lawyer would comment.

On his show, McGraw warned the Eatons to quit their life of crime.

"You better stop this, and you better stop it right now," he said, "because they're going to burn you down. ... I'm not just picking on you; I'm trying to help."

It appears his advice was in vain. Four months later, the indictment alleges, the Eatons were still stealing.

Dying Of The Light

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

(September 20, 2009) Nothing is quite as rare in television than the ending of a soap opera. Show runners have to wrestle with questions they never normally worry about, since soaps are intended to last indefinitely. Do they just let storylines go unresolved, or do they try to wrap them up?

The series finale of
Guiding Light, after 15,000 episodes, opted to grant the long-suffering citizens of the fictional town of Springfield happy endings. After a little suspense, leading character Reva Shayne tearfully agreed to marry beau Josh Lewis for the fourth time. Two other marriages took place. Two of the show's teens drove off to university. "It's just too many goodbyes," says one character.

For fans around the world, last Friday's end of The Guiding Light was the end of an era. The question on most devotees' minds now is whether it also signals the end of an entire genre.

The soap opera that became the longest running drama in TV history debuted as an NBC radio show in 1937, and then as a CBS TV program in 1952. Back then, companies like Procter & Gamble invented the genre to sell the soaps that sponsored the shows.

The soap opera rose to a ratings peak in the 1960s and 1970s, buoyed by automobile advertising and a large, stay-at-home daytime audience. The soaps invented what television scholars have called "immersive story worlds" – long-running narratives that aren't expected to end, ever.

Until now, that is. The soap may have had its day. Dwindling advertising dollars, and the aging of soaps' core viewership out of the coveted 18-49 advertising demographic have been blamed for the genre's decline.

So with Guiding Light finally over, what measures are the remaining seven daytime soaps taking to make sure they remain on the air? On Feb. 16, 2009, All My Children featured a same-sex wedding, the first soap to do so. It's not clear that such attempts to keep plots relevant will work in the long run.

"There are so many entertainment options, lifestyle options competing with soap operas now," says C. Lee Harrington, professor of sociology at Miami University. She is co-editing a forthcoming book, The Survival of Soap Opera, which will discuss how soaps' producers can save the medium.

"Soaps are routines, and if you break those for many months, it can be hard to get back into it," explains Nancy Baym, author of Tune In, Log On: Soaps, Fandom, and Online Community. After coverage of O.J. Simpson's murder knocked some soaps off the air for months, "it spiralled. Once the viewers were gone and not as many of them came back, the producers got interested in younger, sexier storylines to bring in younger viewers."

Devotees to Guiding Light have been voicing their anger and sadness about the show's end online. "I can barely keep it together," wrote one fan on the Guiding Light's fan forum at SoapCentral.com.

Seventy-two years and 20,000 episodes later, however, some producers and fans were admitting the show had gone stale. The show's declining ratings – just 2.1 million viewers per episode this year, down from 3 million five years ago – had led producers to dramatically change production values to save money. Many fans voiced a dislike of the show's experimentation with shaky handheld digital cameras and less grandiose sets.

Others didn't take well to attempts on the show's part to introduce storylines aimed at a younger demographic, particularly a recent plot about cloning. Yet although the show's demographics are aging, the book's authors also point out that they are incredibly active online – something soaps' producers could be doing more to engage.

"Fans are using YouTube to do personal archiving" of the show, says Harrington. "They'll repackage the whole history of a couple, for example. They haven't offered interactive opportunities to viewers the way other shows have done."

Some believe that this online activity means reports of the soaps' demise are exaggerated. The three major networks all broadcast some TV content on their own websites, and "the industry has not found a way to monetize those viewers," argues Sam Ford, a co-editor of The Survival of Soap Opera. "There's no metric of engagement." Ford, a research affiliate of M.I.T.'s Convergence Culture Consortium and a longtime soap opera fan, has compared soaps to long-running programming like pro wrestling.

No matter how many storylines are wrapped up, however, longtime fans have logged on to online discussion forums to list countless loose threads Guiding Light left hanging – and will now go unresolved for good.

"I have been with you for the whole 72 years," one fan posted in all-caps on the comments thread of a CBS news story on Guiding Light's cancellation. "Your show and your town are like so many nice, beautiful and happy places I have been ... Please take care and you all will be in my heart forever. Your faithful viewer an old sad women (sic)."

M*A*S*H TV Writer Larry Gelbart Dead At 81

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(September 21, 2009) LOS ANGELES — Writer
Larry Gelbart, who developed the hit television show M*A*S*H that uncovered a rich wellspring of comedy and pathos in war, died of cancer on Friday at age 81.

He died in Los Angeles, his talent company, Creative Artists Agency told Reuters.

The Emmy-winning M*A*S*H lasted 11 seasons, becoming one of the most honoured shows in U.S. television history before ending in 1983, with a final episode that set a record by attracting more than 106 million viewers.

Gelbart penned the 1972 pilot for M*A*S*H , a comedy set in the 1950s Korean War, which used that conflict as an allegory for the Vietnam War, in which the United States was embroiled during the early years of the series.

The show, based on a 1970 movie of the same name by director Robert Altman, was about wise-cracking doctors operating on the wounded just a few miles from the front lines, in what they called “meatball surgery,” because it called for quick action.

Producer and director Gene Reynolds called on Gelbart to write the pilot script for M*A*S*H , and he went on to write for other episodes. He also served as executive script consultant and shared an Emmy award with Reynolds when the series won for outstanding comedy in 1974.

Born the son of a barber, Gelbart began his career writing for radio as a teenager, writing for comedian Danny Thomas and later for the show Duffy's Tavern .

Later, while in the U.S. Army radio service, he wrote for personalities like Jack Paar and Bob Hope, before going on to work on 1950s television programs such as the comedy Caesar's Hour , writing alongside Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.

Gelbart also co-wrote the book A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum , which became a Broadway musical in the 1960s, and the 1982 movie Tootsie starring Dustin Hoffman.

He was inducted last year into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.

Gelbart is survived by his wife, Pat, children Adam and Becky, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Erica's Even Better Second Time

Source: www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(September 22, 2009) It's time at last to welcome back Erica Strange, who picks up where she left off on her time-spanning voyage of self-discovery with the second-season debut of Being Erica, tonight at 9 on CBC.

I must confess, I was wrong about this show. Not that I don't still love it to bits – it remains one of the best things on the air, on either side of the border (which it is, and gaining a solid following in the U.S., even hidden away on Soapnet).

Indeed, I loved it so much, I didn't want to change a thing. I wanted Erica's time trips back through her life to ultimately resolve nothing and always take her back to square one, wrestling with her inadequacies and that adorable angst the fabulous Erin Karpluk has brought to the role.

And the equally fabulous Michael Riley's enigmatic therapist Dr. Tom – essentially, Doctor Who with a couch – well, I wanted him to remain an enigma. The less we knew about him, I thought, the better.

Wrong, and wrong again. I've seen tonight's episode and I can assure you that, after last season's game-changing cliffhanger, Being Erica has picked up the ball and run it all the way through the end zone and up into the stands.

"All of the big questions asked in Season 1 will be answered in Season 2," assures Karpluk, "but also many more will be posed.

"In Season 2, Erica is worldlier, more accountable and more experienced in the ways of time travel. She's no longer the inexperienced patient travelling wide-eyed through time. This Erica is more skilled in the Dr. Tom `school of therapy,' and she uses her experiences to help other people.

"There are fantastic new characters that are introduced ... and as for Dr. Tom, you'll just have to tune in to find out."

I did, and was absolutely blown away by how they managed to open up Tom's mystery-shrouded origins and yet somehow still maintain the mystery. Brilliant.

The new season arrives with a fresh opening title sequence and a dedicated following from its initial run (repeated over the summer).

"It's been great," Karpluk enthuses. "I'm so happy people are responding to the show the way they are. I'm surprised at how many men are watching ... even if their girlfriends had to tie them down to the couch the first time. But they're coming back every week."

No doubt part of the appeal is wish fulfillment; who among us has not wanted at some point to go back and do it all over again?

"Interestingly, unlike my character, I have very few regrets," the actress allows. "I guess the one (thing) that I would go back in time to change is when I was in Grade 7 and lost both of my front teeth on a waterslide.

"(But) playing the character of Erica and getting to know her has taught me to let go of things more easily."

Even teeth.

GOOD NIGHT: Break out the diet sodas and low-fat snack foods, commandeer the remote and claim your cushion on the couch – it's gonna be a long one.

Were Erica the only thing worth watching tonight, that would be enough. But there is also the series debut of The Good Wife (on CBS and Global) at 10 p.m., conveniently, right after Erica.

Both shows have a particular, though by no means exclusive appeal to women.

No doubt this has something to do with the presence of Dee Johnson, a writer from the original Melrose Place who went on to ER, Army Wives and Commander in Chief. Among The Good Wife's familial executive producers are husband-and-wife show creators Robert and Michelle King, and executive-producing brother act Ridley and Tony Scott.

But mostly it is the uncannily evocative performance by Julianna Margulies as the wife of a disgraced district attorney picking up the pieces of her life and career. Christine Baranski is also perfectly cast as her bitter and manipulative superior, as is Chris Noth as her scandalized sleazeball husband.

There are more obviously male-skewed alternate choices in these same time slots, with the spun-off NCIS: Los Angeles following its original incarnation on CBS and Global at 9, and the new Christian Slater amateur sleuth show, The Forgotten, on ABC at 10.

If TV columnist Rob Salem could travel back in time ... he'd probably stay there. Email: rsalem@thestar.ca

Modern Family Worth Adopting

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(September 23, 2009) The Brady Bunch, they definitely aren't.

Meet Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill, Married ... With Children), a middle-aged man on his second marriage, to a much younger woman (Sofia Vergara, Dirty Sexy Money) with a teenaged son (Rico Rodriguez, Jimmy Kimmel's "Young Guillermo").

His daughter from his first marriage (Julie Bowen, Boston Legal) and her overzealous husband (Ty Burrell, Back to You) have three kids of their own.

His gay son (Jesse Tyler Ferguson, The Class) and his partner (Eric Stonestreet, CSI) have just adopted an adorable Vietnamese baby.

Oh, and the whole multi-generational melange is being filmed by a documentary crew for Danish TV.

A blended, culturally integrated household. People who use "parent" as a verb. Same-sex marriage and adoption. Reality television.

Has there ever been a more modern
Modern Family (tonight at 9 on ABC and City)?

Whatever that happens to mean right now. But Modern Family would seem to have most contingencies covered.

It also happens to be the best new network sitcom of the season – as befits a show co-created by sitcom veterans (notably Frasier) Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd.

Yet Modern Family is a very conscious change of pace for both.

"The question we keep asking," Levitan explains, "is `What's the real? What's the real?'

"I mean, coming off of doing a series of (traditionally-taped) multi-camera shows, which are fun and great and all that, the biggest appeal of doing this show for Chris and I was just to delve into what is real at every stage of the game.

"What are the conversations that we're having with our kids, with our wives? What are the funny situations that we are witnessing in our schools? And to just mine them and to mine them, and to keep going deeper and smaller with them, as opposed to getting bigger, like you do in a multi-cam.

"Nothing against multi-cam. Love them. But this is something that we really wanted to do here, to just be real."

GOT MILF? I have to be honest with you, I saw a single screening of the Cougar Town pilot three months ago and the only thing I really remember is Courteney Cox's cleavage.

Which is apropos of absolutely nothing, except that a) I am, after all, a guy, and b) I don't remember her having one (two?) in Friends.

I went back and checked my notes, and I wrote down only two things: "Desperate Ex-Wives" and "Old Adventures of New Christine."

Draw your own conclusions. Though I should add that the show was created by Bill Lawrence, the very funny man behind Scrubs, who has written for Cox before (a single episode of Friends) and has cast his actor wife, Christa Miller (also Scrubs), as her snarky married gal pal.

But see for yourself, tonight at 9:30 on ABC and City.

HAVE MERCY: The best thing I can say about tonight's other debut series, Mercy (8 p.m. on NBC and City), is that it comes with an expiration date.

Originally intended as a possible mid-season entry, this paint-by-numbers hospital drama got bumped up to fall to replace the now-delayed Parenthood, which has shut down temporarily to retool after losing lynchpin co-star Maura Tierney, taking some personal time off to recover from recently diagnosed breast cancer.

The current word, by the way, is that the already excellent show is going after the wonderful Helen Hunt to replace her.

Whatever happens, it's got to be better than the cardboard and clichéd Mercy, a Nurse Jackie knock-off in only the most superficial sense. Take two pilots and call me in the morning.

Star TV columnist Rob Salem wonders, if women who chase younger men are “cougars," are men who chase after young girls "wolves"? Or just "pigs"? Email: rsalem@thestar.ca

TV TIDBITS

Jill Scott Commits To 'Sins'

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 17, 2009) *R&B star Jill Scott, most recently seen in HBO's "Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency," has been cast as the lead in Lifetime Television's telefilm "Sins of the Mother," reports Variety.     The story follows a grad student who returns home to face her abusive, alcoholic mother – played by Scott – only to discover that her mom is sober and has a 3-year-old daughter and new life.      The story is adapted from author Carleen Brice’s novel "Orange Mint and Honey."      Damon Lee ("Obsessed") is executive producing for Mother Road Prods. Elizabeth Hunter adapted the novel for television and Paul Kaufman sits in the director's chair.   Production on the film begins this week for 2010 premiere.

Coming To TV: Kandahar Hospital

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(September 23, 2009) It's not exactly ER, and will likely lack the pathos-laced humour of M*A*S*H, but a new television series is in the works that aims to focus more attention on the ongoing trials and tribulations of Canadian soldiers in the war in Afghanistan. With the working title Combat Hospital, the show will be based on the daily activities at the constantly busy Role 3 Multinational Hospital at Kandahar Airfield. The program is the brainchild of Vancouver writer Jinder Oujla-Chalmers, whose previous credits include No Ordinary Guy, a documentary about former Alberta premier Ralph Klein. "I was originally going to place it in Iraq at the Saddam Hussein Hospital; I went and pitched it at the Banff Television Festival, and most people thought, `Great idea, but it's too much of a hot topic,'" Oujla-Chalmers said in an interview. "So I went back to my agent and we came up with Afghanistan." Oujla-Chalmers, 55, has spent the past two weeks job shadowing and interviewing medical personnel at the Kandahar hospital. She's currently awaiting a decision on whether CanWest Global will simply order a pilot episode or a full series for its schedule.  The show is likely to be expensive to produce – as much as $1.5 million per episode. There are a number of potential locations that could double for Afghanistan, including Jordan, Mexico and even Ashcroft, B.C. The plot will involve a female protagonist and the lives and relationships of others working at the hospital. And yes, some of mainstream television's usual conventions have to be acknowledged, she added. "Well, you always have to have sex: sex sells," she chuckled. 

::THEATRE NEWS::

Phantom Power

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

(September 20, 2009) TORONTO–It was 20 years ago tonight – Sept. 20, 1989 – that Toronto threw what remains the most glamorous, glitzy and gorgeous party of its life. And this evening, about 300 people are going to gather in a midtown nightspot to try and bring back some of that magic.

The occasion for both events was
The Phantom of the Opera, which opened on a sultry pre-autumnal evening two decades ago and proceeded to run for 10 years, one month and 11 days, closing on Halloween 1999.

Phantom was truly the show on steroids. The largest advance sale in legitimate theatre history (close to $24 million). The longest run in Toronto theatre annals (if you forget the semi-professional Toronto Truck Theatre of The Mousetrap). The biggest opening-night party anywhere (five separate events, not a limousine or tuxedo to be had in town and a traffic jam that isolated Casa Loma until dawn).

It didn't just change the face of theatre in this city, it changed the lives of everyone connected with it. Some of them went to Hollywood, some of them went to London, some of them went to the great beyond and some of them are going to jail.

(Some of them went into journalism as well, since I was director Hal Prince's assistant in that long-ago time.)

All of these things dawned on Rebecca Caine about a year ago. The internationally successful opera singer, who originated the role of Christine Daae in the Toronto production, sat in the garden of her Hammersmith home and realized that "this 20th anniversary might be the last time we could get a lot of us together.

"People had such pride that event," she sighs over the phone from London. "We should own what we did and we accomplished with that experience."

And so, with the help of an original cast member, Gretchen Helbig, a member of the stage management team, Barry Burns, and technical director Peter Lamb, she set out to gather the tribe from all around the world where they had dispersed.

"All I can say is, darling, that we should thank God for that geek at Harvard who invented Facebook," trills Caine in her flutiest Mary Poppins voice.

But after a year of work, close to 300 Phantom veterans from across the years, plus guests, will be filling a venue more accustomed to hosting DJs and techno-pop bands.

The location is being kept secret because, as Caine reminds us, "It's a private party. Not a public event."

The public has enjoyed the lingering effects of Phantom, though, long after the show's closure. Its success and long run meant a generation of theatre people stayed here in Toronto instead of moving to the U.S., and local musical-theatre productions are still deriving benefits from that.

Although the eyes of the party-goers will largely be on the original cast's stars, there are two people who have said they're coming whose presence will provide an added "zing" to the proceedings.

One of them is Garth Drabinsky, the show's producer, its angel or devil, depending on which day you caught him. Everything about Phantom, from the glorious restoration of the Pantages, to the stellar level of the cast he attracted, was all due to Drabinsky's zeal for perfection.

That drive would later get him into trouble and he's now awaiting an appeal on his recent conviction for fraud and forgery, but he promises to show up on Sunday. (Whether Phantom's star Colm Wilkinson will attend is less clear.)

The other attention getter is bound to be the woman who began as the youngest member of that first Phantom cast, a shy 15-year-old whose ears everyone covered when the backstage talk got a little blue.

Her name is Neve Campbell and she went on to a huge career as the star of TV shows like Party of Five, movies like the Scream series and London stage appearances at the Old Vic in Resurrection Blues.

She's flying back from England for the event. Her major memory of that magic evening 20 years ago? "Driving with the cast in my first limo ride to Casa Loma where only four years before I'd been serving catered food as a student of the National Ballet school for a fundraiser."

It promises to be quite a night. One can almost hear one of the ghostly voices from Hal Prince's earlier show, Follies, describing it:

"Welcome to our first and last reunion. A final chance before the curtain comes down to stumble through a song or two and lie about ourselves a little."

On Opening Night, It's Happily Ever After

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

(September 21, 2009)
When The Beautiful Game debuted in London in 2000, Northern Ireland was still a very troubled place – and the precursor to The Boys in the Photograph was still a very troubled play.

The Beautiful Game, about a group of young athletes in the late 1960s united by a love of soccer but divided by generations of sectarian conflict, had a yearlong run and won the London Critics Circle Award for Best New Musical.

But for author Ben Elton and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, something didn't sit right. "It was a superb production, but I felt and Andrew felt that it was too bleak, too dark," Elton said in a recent interview. "Right from the first preview, we felt that this is not good theatre. We've created a great love story, a story full of humour and the spirit of the community. And yet, we've ended with this very bleak thing. We allowed our hero to remain unredeemed.

"And we said there and then, if ever we get a chance to do it again, we will change that f---ing ending and our hero will be redeemed by love. We're storytellers and we're theatre people, and that's how we like our stories to be. This is not a documentary."

Nine years later, the road to redemption that began earlier this year in chilly Winnipeg continues with a three-week run in Toronto. It has a new title, The Boys in the Photograph, three new songs by Lloyd Webber and a new ending in which the hero – despite being sorely tested – chooses love over hatred and peace over conflict.

Elton, an acclaimed author with a background in comedy and theatre, said the astonishing change in Northern Ireland – peace and power-sharing between Catholic Republicans and Ulster Unionists – provided all the impetus needed to revisit the story.

"Northern Ireland is unique in the world in that the conflict has effectively been resolved. It's a beacon to the world," said Elton, a student of history. But Elton and Lloyd Webber needed a partner if they ever hoped to mount a redux. Fortunately, Elton, who wrote and directed We Will Rock You, which just ended a successful 2 1/2-year run in Toronto, had forged a strong connection with theatre impresario David Mirvish.

"I said to David, `Look, Andrew and I have this unfinished business. We really believe in this show,'" Elton said, noting that Mirvish Productions came close to producing The Beautiful Game eight years ago.

Mirvish, Elton recalled, was game but cautious. A production with a 26-member cast, plus a 10-piece orchestra, is a costly proposition. Mirvish suggested a co-production with the Manitoba Theatre Centre and its artistic director, Stephen Schipper.

When Elton, who is directing, arrived in Winnipeg in March, the temperature was —37C. But audiences couldn't have been warmer, awarding standing ovations to the all-Canadian cast every night of its three-week run in May.

The six-week run at the Royal Alexandra Theatre, which begins tomorrow and runs until Nov. 1, is the next critical test for the musical, which Elton hopes will go on to become an international hit.

"If Toronto is successful ... then I believe other theatre owners across North America will be interested," Elton said, noting that could include a return to Toronto. "We'd love to see it go to Broadway; we'd love to see it come back to London."

A South African production of Boys is already slated to play during the quadrennial World Cup of soccer next year in Johannesburg. But Elton emphatically states that Boys is not about the sport, it's about life.

"Quite literally, soccer is a metaphor for passion and youth. But basically ... it's about a group of kids who fall in love and fall out of love, and some are corrupted by hatred and some rise above it," Elton said.

"It's about kids that just want to play football and get laid and their lives get hijacked," he added.

Elton, who has often proclaimed that he could have cast We Will Rock You several times over because of the depth of Canadian talent, said the future success of Boys rides on the shoulders of such Canadians as choreographer Tracey Flye, musical director Bob Foster and, of course, the young cast. Tony LePage, who plays the lead role of John Kelly, said the experience to date has been "incredibly exciting.''

"We've got people from all over the place. We've got girls from Newfoundland and a couple of us from New Brunswick. We all get along amazingly well.''

The reaction from the audiences in Winnipeg was so positive, LePage is confident the show will be a big hit in Toronto.

"(The audience) will laugh and they'll cry and, at the end, they'll come out feeling very, very hopeful. It's very uplifting."

Roberts Wields A Poison Pen

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

(September 23, 2009) Rick Roberts is well aware that Mimi (or A Poisoner's Comedy), which opens the Tarragon Theatre season tonight, is the first musical he's ever had a hand in writing, but he also thinks he's chosen some ideal subject matter and that makes him quite optimistic.

"Sex, death and food: three great things to sing about," declares the 43-year-old actor, who also concludes a successful run Oct. 3 in the title role of George F. Walker's Zastrozzi at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

In collaboration with Melody Johnson and Allen Cole, Roberts has chosen to tell the story of the Marquise de Brinvilliers, a 17th-century vixen who cheerfully poisoned anyone who got in the way of her greed or lust, earning her the title of "the first serial killer in history."

Audiences who know the clean-cut, square-jawed Roberts mainly from his TV work on series like Traders, or his stage appearances in projects such as last season's Tuesdays With Morrie, will be surprised to learn that beneath that sleek exterior beats a distinctly disturbing heart.

"I love dark humour," declares Roberts with sinister glee. "That's one of the reasons I love Zastrozzi so much. It's sprawling and messy and irreverent and wonderfully twisted. We've aspired to put some of those same qualities into Mimi."

Roberts was born in Hamilton and grew up in Edmonton, where his parents took him to the symphony and the theatre from an early age, but – as he willingly admits – "the rest of my family are all economists and engineers and English teachers. I'm the only career artist in the bunch."

He tried two years of pre-med but switched to drama, finally winding up at the National Theatre School.

Since graduating, Roberts has almost had two distinctly different careers. The world of television and film has tended to lean on his good looks and cast him conventionally but, as he realistically admits, "typecasting is still casting. Although it can be frustrating when you're playing the friendly neighbour or the neutered husband over and over again."

He says with relief that, "theatre is a bit more generous as an art form. You can transform yourself and people are willing to accept that." His offbeat, passionate performances in shows as diverse as Hotel Loopy and John and Beatrice certainly attest to that.

"Live performance is wonderful, but it can also generate fear," he confesses. "You hear someone cough at the wrong moment and you think, `They hate me,' but at least it keeps you alive. Sometimes I get to feel that working in film or TV is like playing chess with yourself."

But it's writing that Roberts finds "truly liberating," which is why he's looking forward to tonight's opening of Mimi so much.

"I want the audience to be definitely challenged by the dark morality of what we're saying. I'd like them to laugh heartily and then have that laughter shift into a totally different place.

"That's my idea of what theatre is really about."

Mimi (or A Poisoner's Comedy) is at the Tarragon, 30 Bridgman Ave., until Oct. 25. Call 416-531-1827 for tickets.

This School Musical's A Real Class Act

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

Nursery School Musical
http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1023369%5fAM0lvs4AAVfsSrqT5Qqvkj8JpYM&pid=1.2&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1023369%5fAM0lvs4AAVfsSrqT5Qqvkj8JpYM&pid=1.3&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f1023369%5fAM0lvs4AAVfsSrqT5Qqvkj8JpYM&pid=1.4&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)
Book and lyrics by Brett and Racheal McCaig. Music by Anthony Bastianon. Directed by Racheal McCaig. Until Oct. 3 at Berkeley St. Theatre Upstairs, 26 Berkeley St.
416-368-3110.

(September 23, 2009) Once upon a time, there used to be smart, satirical small musicals playing in Toronto all the time, but now they're a bygone memory, which is why
Nursery School Musical is such a welcome visitor to the theatrical scene.

It's a real treat to discover once again the joy of hearing funny jokes and lyrics delivered by a multi-talented cast and delight in laughing at something with real relevance to the life all parents live.

Authors Brett and Racheal McCaig aren't afraid to let their comedy have real teeth, like a scene about couples who want to hire "Nannies for Nothing" and employ "the best that the third world has to offer."

You'll also run into all the terrors of modern parenting, like mothers who insist their children are allergic to everything and fathers who grade their daughters on every minute of their first day at nursery school.

Anthony Bastianon has provided the kind of chipper, bouncy tunes you expect to hear in a show like this and the McCaigs come up with lyrics which are usually deftly clever.

One of the real joys of the show is that it avoids sentimentality like the plague and exults in a fairly broad streak of blue humour.

When two young stroller rats are discussing the discovery of their penises and compare the way they look by having one say it's "Like Wynona Judd's thumb", while the other maintains his is like "Kelsey Grammer in a turtleneck", you know you're a long way from Kansas, Dorothy.

Virtually all of the cast are awesome, but my favourite has to be Cailin Stadnyk, who constantly changes from a student who looks like she's been possessed by the exorcist to a trailer-trash Mom in the bat of an eye.

Aaron Walpole excels as a variety of plus-sized characters, Paul Constable is always funny, but never more so than in a number where he poops his pants, and Brett McCaig is the perfect nerd, both as father and child.

Kylee Evans is a tasty schoolteacher and Lindsey Frazier the perfect WASP. The one disappointment is Diana Coatsworth who brings the wrong energy to the sure-fire role of the mother who's out to oppose everything.

One could also pick at the slight sogginess of Racheal McCaig's direction and the tendency to let most musical numbers simply stop instead of coming to a satisfying finish, but these are fixable flaws.

Nursery School Musical is, quite simply, a fun night at the theatre. They're rare these days, so enjoy it while it's around.

Dancap To Present South Pacific At Four Seasons

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(September 23, 2009) Prepare for some enchanted summer evenings at Toronto's opera house, which until now has been dark throughout July and August.

It was 60 years ago that the highbrow world of grand opera collided with the showbiz world of Broadway musicals. The occasion was the opening of South Pacific, a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical based on James Michener's prize-winning
Tales of the South Pacific, about World War II.

On opening night in 1949, Ezio Pinza, a major opera singer who is remembered with a drinking fountain named after him in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera House, became a pop star the moment he warbled "Some Enchanted Evening" to Mary Martin.

Next summer, Toronto will contribute a new chapter to the story of this show's connection with opera. Aubrey Dan, the high-rolling impresario and CEO of Dancap Productions, has made a deal with the Canadian Opera Company to lease the opera house for summer musicals, including the much-acclaimed current Lincoln Centre revival of South Pacific.

It swept the 2008 Tony awards and is still drawing crowds a year and a half into its run. The touring version – directed by Bartlett Sher, who won a Tony for staging the Lincoln Centre revival – has just been launched in San Francisco to rave reviews.

South Pacific will remain at San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre for a month before moving on to other U.S. cities, eventually playing Los Angeles for an extended run before arriving in Denver for the month of July.

After receiving inquiries from the Toronto Star, Dancap issued a press release late yesterday announcing a deal with the opera company to stage theatre productions at the Four Seasons in the summer starting in 2010, but with no indication of what shows it will present.

This is almost certainly a multi-year deal, and that will help Alexander Neef's cash-tight opera company pull in revenue during July and August, which has been a dead zone since the 2,000-seat house opened in 2006. For the other 10 months of the year, the schedule is divided between the Canadian Opera Company, which built and owns the centre, and its principal tenant, the National Ballet of Canada.

It was always assumed by Neef's predecessor, the late Richard Bradshaw, who planned the Four Seasons, that it would need some summer revenue to balance the books.

Neither the opera company nor the ballet company has chosen to schedule performances between late June and Labour Day. And even when it's dark, the house costs money.

Indeed, it is one of the most expensive cultural venues in Canada to operate, which means it may cost Dancap around $200,000 a week to rent it. Moreover, South Pacific is considerably more expensive to present than typical Broadway musicals on tour, because of its lavish Tony-winning costumes and sets, as well as its large cast and 25-piece orchestra.

Consequently, on the road, South Pacific is playing in larger houses than the 1,100-seat Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Centre.

The touring cast is headed by opera singer Rod Gilfry as Emile (the role for which Paolo Szot won the 2008 Tony) and Carmen Cusack as Nellie Forbush, the nurse from Little Rock, in a role that earned acclaim for Kelli O'Hara on Broadway.

Dan is taking a big risk. During the summer, many theatregoers are out of town. And the show will have to compete with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, which will have three musicals: Kiss Me Kate, Evita and Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.

To help with the financial risk, Dancap is said to be seeking a corporate sponsorship deal, likely with a large bank.

With an annual window of nine weeks, Dancap could be planning to present two or three musicals every summer. Audiences of a certain age may remember that a summer series of musicals was once standard fare at the O'Keefe (later Hummingbird, now Sony) Centre while opera and ballet were on hiatus.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Wii Gets The Better Of Alexander Ovechkin

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

NHL 2K10
Nintendo Wii
$59.99
Rated Everyone 10+ http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of four)

(September 19, 2009) "Total domination," says the two-time NHL MVP standing beside me as we play
NHL 2K10 on the Wii.

I'm at the Hockey Hall of Fame, and Nintendo has brought in the game's cover boy, all-world superstar Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, to play the game against all media challengers.

When it's my turn, I suit up as the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ovie loyally lines up as the Caps.

And yes, he's trash talking.

If you've ever watched Ovechkin play, you know he's a maestro on the ice who's famous for his over-the-top celebrations – some of which are in this game, although he can't seem to actually make them happen with the Wii remote.

The Nintendo PR reps warn me before we play that he's very intense, and while he's admittedly not a video game guy, he's giving his all against the assembled media. The thing is, during our game, it's really nowhere near "domination." It's actually a pretty pathetic display from both of us as we try to put an actual shot on net. "Shoot, Jesus Christ, shoot!" he yells, but he doesn't really manage it.

Later at home, when I do get some time with the game, our ineptitude starts to make sense. While the Wii, and particularly its sports games, have proved easy to use, this game is akin to its more powerful console cousins and has some pretty complicated controls. It's the kind of thing that takes time to pick up, but with some practice it can become second nature.

Indeed, the control system supports four different controller schemes, including the new Wii Motionplus, which makes the controls more sensitive and accurate (it comes packaged with NHL 2K10). That said, I'm not sure how much of a real addition it is, and the game will initially ask if you want to enable it. Motionplus seems to allow more complex stick handling, although I found that it didn't really add much for me.

Another impressive thing about NHL 2K10 is how quickly it gets you playing. The Wii has lagged behind the other major consoles when it comes to online integration, but this game allows you to play a "quick game" – thereby sidestepping long load times – jump online to find an opponent, or invite friends from its title screen. Integration with Wii Speak even allows online trash talking.

Of course, in person it's just as fun. "Come on!" Ovechkin shouts at the TV. I'm not losing, so I'm not going to let him get the only word in.

"What domination? It's scoreless. I thought you were the MVP?" I say.

He harrumphs.

My virtual Crosby grabs the puck, and I try to go in on a breakaway as he plods along.

That's one of my initial complaints about the game: it feels a little slow. Again, after playing at home, I see that the "Z" button provides a burst of speed, but overall, at first it seems like guys just chug down the ice. It's still apples-to-oranges when comparing the graphics to its higher-end console competitors, but the Wii's graphics have improved a bit from last year's version, and the stadiums and commentary are all top notch.

There is one obvious nod to the Wii's family-friendly customer base, and that's the addition of the Mii Super Skills Competition. This puts players' Nintendo avatars through competitions like Hardest Shot, Fastest Skater and Goalie Superskills (which is a mini-game I fell in love with). Sure, the hard-core gamers will probably pass it by, but this is a great little party mode to play with kids, or when newbies to the game pop by.

Back to the game with Ovechkin: one of his guys gives Crosby a hard check in the middle of the ice. He's called for a penalty. It's a power play for my Penguins. I get about two shots off but can't make use of the extra attacker. The buzzer sounds. Our five-minute period is over. The score is 0-0. Considering he's been playing the game all day, and I had five minutes' practice before my scheduled time, I consider it a victory. We shake hands and he takes on his next challenger.

Ovechkin may be the league's MVP, but I'm ready for a Wii rematch.

::OTHER NEWS::

Book Review : Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America

Source: Kam Williams

Photographs and Interviews by Mike Tauber
Co-produced by Pamela Singh
Introduction by Rebecca Walker
Foreword by Ann Curry
Essay by Allan H. Goodman, Ph.D.
Channel Photographics
Hardcover, $34.95
140 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-9773399-2-1

“America’s children of mixed race are evidence that love is overcoming even racism, which once seemed insurmountable. ‘We come from open-minded lovers,’ I like to tell people about my siblings, to maybe get a laugh and ease the feeling that we are different from everyone else.

It can be lonely sometimes to see people stare and struggle to figure out your ancestry. Since I was a child I have been asked, ‘What are you anyway?’ The question used to hurt, but as you can see in Mike Tauber’s photos, we are the new face of America and its noble ideas of equality and freedom.”

                         
n      NBC News Anchor Ann Curry in the Foreword (page 3)

It’s not exactly a fluke that America elected Barack Obama in a landside in last year’s election. After all, according to the last census, people identifying themselves as of mixed heritage happen to be “the fastest growing demographic in the United States .” Perhaps, historians will one day look back on Obama not as the first African-American President, but at Bush as the last lily-white one.

For while some bigots certainly still cling desperately to outmoded notions about racial purity, most of the country has come around to an understanding that there’s only one race, the human race, and that we come in an infinite array of beautiful hues and features. Black folks have certainly known this for generations, being blessed with family trees reflecting the full spectrum of the rainbow. Meanwhile, Caucasians have sealed their fate as an ever-dwindling minority with their narrow self-definition of who gets to be white.

If you’d like to see tangible proof of how the U.S. is actually evolving into the proverbial ethnic melting pot of lore, may I suggest you check out Blended Nation: Portraits and Interviews of Mixed-Race America. This attractive, oversized, coffee table book is comprised of dozens of snapshots of the offspring of intermarriage, a wonderfully-motley mosaic representing the emerging face of a fully-integrated American population. Each headshot is accompanied by a personal essay in which the subject intimately reflects upon what it’s like to walk a mile in his or her moccasins.

A groundbreaking book which makes a persuasive case “that race is primarily a social construct that helps us categorize people.”

To order a copy of Blended Nation, visit HERE

Jeff Johnson: ‘Everything I’m Not’

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

(September 21, 2009) The book is extremely timely considering the muse for the title. Rapper
Kanye West has been a newsmaker for the past week after interrupting country singer Taylor Swift during her acceptance of her first MTV Video Music Award last Sunday.

“That is why this book is so important. Even those of us who have made it to the highest echelon of our profession, if we are neglecting parts of ourselves, then we can never be our personal best. Kanye has been a friend for quite a long time. I’ve watched him at some very great points and I’ve watched him at some very low points, but most of us just don’t go through that on national television,”
Johnson said.

 *In his debut book “Everything I’m Not Made Me Everything I Am,” author/commentator/journalist Jeff Johnson shares strategies of discovering yourself by uncovering who you are not.

 The title of the book is inspired by the Kanye West song of the same title, but the philosophy is inspired by the author’s belief that everyone needs to attempt to become "our personal best by shaking off labels of expectations and be the sum of all our parts."

 “It is about the fact that so many of us have other people putting us in boxes or forcing us to choose boxes about who we are and seldom is it a real representation of who we actually have been called to be,” Johnson described.

 He revealed to EUR’s Lee Bailey that it was his own self-reflection of rebuking those boxes that people wanted him to fit in or those boxes that he had accepted that made him realize who he was and that served as a springboard for him truly understanding who he was.

 “It was 2003 and I was the National Youth Director for the NAACP,” he reflected. “I’d been traveling all over the country, doing social work and working with young people and empowering young people and the time came for me to leave. I resigned from the association and it wasn’t until that point where I really had time to look around at where I was that despite my professional success I was an awful husband, I wasn’t spending time with my children, I wasn’t connecting with my family, and all in all I wasn’t consistent. I said to myself that something’s got to change.”

 He said that it was at that point that he began to create the strategy in his own life.

 “[I had] to get myself from a place where I was only concerned with my work and professionalism, but not concerned about who Jeff Johnson was as a person,” he said. “It’s been about trying to perfect those things in my life and helping others do the same thing that was the real impetus for this book.”

The book is extremely timely considering the muse for the title. Rapper Kanye West has been a newsmaker for the past week after interrupting country singer Taylor Swift during her acceptance of her first MTV Video Music Award last Sunday.

  “That is why this book is so important. Even those of us who have made it to the highest echelon of our profession, if we are neglecting parts of ourselves, then we can never be our personal best. Kanye has been a friend for quite a long time. I’ve watched him at some very great points and I’ve watched him at some very low points, but most of us just don’t go through that on national television,” Johnson said.

 He also said that Kanye, as well as everyone can benefit from the book.

 “I think Kanye has been someone that – unlike other people in the entertainment industry, especially pop music – has been very honest and transparent in his music. He’s allowed us to see the best of what he’s experienced and he’s allowed us to see the worst of it,” he said. “As we saw the other night, being at your personal best doesn’t give you the grounds to be able to neglect the other aspects of who we are. When we do do that, we put ourselves at risk of not only of us not being whole, but making tremendous mistakes.”

 “I think, from Kanye’s own words on ‘Jay Leno,’ we saw that he neglected the need for him to address the loss of his own mother; neglected to deal with the healing that was necessary, and so we saw him drinking half a bottle of Hennessey on the red carpet, which led to him getting on stage and doing what was absolutely unacceptable,” Johnson said.

  Johnson continues that more than that, the philosophy of the book means more than just breaking the mold of not fitting in a box and learning who you do not want to be defined as, it’s about really being able to learn who you are.

  “The book starts very clearly with blowing up prisons. So many of us are being held captive by either self imposed prisons or prisons imposed by others about who we are and who we should be, what we believe we have the capability to achieve, and do we even believe that we were born to be great. I believe that we were all born to be great in our own individual way.”

 Johnson explained that his tips and strategies are a daily process and that he offers no conclusion of perfection, per se.

 “This is not a book that shows you how to get rich in seven days, or how to get a mate in 30 days, or how to be perfect in 45 days,” he said. “These are strategies that have to be used on a daily basis; that have to be inserted in our life in our decision-making processes daily to be able to become better people on the way to being our best.”

 “I absolutely employ these in my life on a daily basis,” he continued, “and there are days when I’m incredibly successful and there are days when I’m less successful. This book, unlike many self-help books, isn’t charging you to be perfect after you read this. It’s charging you for those days that you do fall down that you wake up and challenge yourself to push a little harder.”

 One of those ways, Johnson suggests, is to upgrade your friends. Although he explained that it’s not about abandoning any longtime friends, but making sure your circle of friends includes people that share your interest and ambition.

 “Most of the time we’re a by-product of the people we are surrounded by,” he said, “but there is a fear of people separating from the people they’ve always been around. They think it’s going to make them look like a jerk or that they don’t care about those people, but that’s not it at all.”

 Johnson is not telling people that they shouldn’t be friends with the people they’re with anymore. Rather, he’s saying that people should surround themselves with people that want to go to the same places; that will encourage them to do the right thing; that will give them information and insight that is consistent with who they want to be; and that will challenge you to be your best self.

 “I wonder who was around Kanye the other night to say, ‘Yo, why are your rolling on the red carpet with a bottle of Hennessey?’” he asked. “I wonder who was with Michael Vick to say, ‘You don’t need to be involved in this dog-fighting ring.’ I wonder about the young people who are good kids who want to do good things, but because they’re in the wrong circles end up making foolish mistakes that destroy so much of their lives or waste so much of their time. This isn’t just a celebrity issue this is a people issue. Who’s around us is very much an indicator of how high or far we are able to go.”

 “Everything I’m Not Made Me Everything I Am” is available in bookstores everywhere.

 “I’m hoping that it’s helpful to people.”

  For more on Jeff Johnson, go to www.jeffsnation.com, and look for his upcoming news and public affairs show on BET coming this fall.

Jamaican Playwright Trevor Rhone Passes On

Source: www.eurweb.com - By Kevin Jackson

(September 17, 2009)  *
Trevor Rhone, arguably Jamaica's greatest playwright, is dead. The 69-year-old Rhone died on Tuesday at a Kingston hospital after suffering a heart attack.

 Rhone is best known for a series of plays that are ranked among the finest in local theatre, including Smile Orange, Old Story Time and Two Can Play. He also co-wrote the screenplay for The Harder They Come, the 1972 low-budget film that introduced Jamaican pop culture to an international audience.

 Rhone was a past student of Beckford and Smith High School (later St Jago High School) in St Catherine. He was involved in British theatre during the 1960s. Returning to Jamaica, he wrote the comedy Smile Orange which starred Charles Hyatt and also helped complete the screenplay for The Harder They Come.

 In 1974, Rhone's film version of Smile Orange, starring Carl Bradshaw, was released in Jamaica. In a 2003 interview, Rhone said he wanted to make a statement with the film, which deals with the prejudices of Jamaica's tourist industry.

 Rhone worked on other films, such as the 1988 drama Milk And Honey, which won a Canadian Genie Award, and One Love, a 2003 romance flick that starred singers Ky-Mani Marley and Cherine Anderson.

 In 2003, Rhone staged the autobiographical one-man play, Bellas Gate Boy, which was nominated for an Actor Boy Award, Jamaica's version of America's Tony Awards.

 In 2007, the veteran playwright earned a Gleaner Honour Award for his contribution to the arts.

 Rhone is survived by three children and a grandchild. 

::DANCE NEWS::

India's Ganges River Inspires Veteran Dancer To Create Ganga

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb,
Special To The Star

(September 18, 2009) Under the lofty timbers of a former furniture factory on Dufferin St., choreographer Janak Khendry sits in a corner watching intently as Seshadri Iyengar's long arms etch eloquent patterns in the air. Iyengar is a Bangalore-based Indian classical dancer. A range of emotions play across his face as, body turning, Iyengar seems transported to a spiritual realm.

Khendry, skirting 70 and a veteran of Toronto's thriving South Asian dance scene, is in final rehearsals for his new multimedia show,
Ganga. It deploys such traditional dance styles as Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak, each with its particular expressive movements, to explore the symbolic meaning of what the great statesman Jawaharlal Nehru once called "the river of India," the Ganges.

Khendry's glass art gallery that he opened 30 years ago – he is also an internationally exhibited sculptor – has helped underwrite his dance company, which has now essentially become the focus of his life. With its 18-member cast, Ganga, which opened at Harbourfront Centre last night, is Khendry's largest, most ambitious project to date.

The seed was planted three decades ago, but it didn't sprout until 2005. Khendry was touring with his company in India. At sunset one evening, standing on the banks of the Ganges in the holy city of Haridwar, Khendry witnessed a transformational sight.

A group of priests had floated sacred "aarti" oil lamps onto the river in a ritual Hindu offering of light to the deities. "At that moment," Khendry recalls, "a message came to me. `Do Ganga.'"

For Khendry, the experience was a reminder of how Ganga – the Hindi word for Ganges – as river and goddess animates a rich fabric of history, mythology and ritual.

Khendry began researching his subject, returning to India to trace the river's 2,400 kilometre course from its Himalayan origins to the Bay of Bengal.

For music, Khendry turned to a frequent collaborator, Mumbai-based Ashit Desai. The recorded score with its mix of tradition and modernity complements Khendry's own eclectic dance background, and willingness to adapt and combine ancient dance forms, into something with appeal for contemporary audiences.

Khendry wants Ganga to resonate for a diverse modern audience. "It has universal messages," he says. "I feel if someone comes to see my work they should not leave empty-handed. If they do, I have failed."

Tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, 207 Queens Quay W., Toronto. Tickets from $28 to $35 @ 416-973-4000 or harbourfrontcentre.com

::SPORTS NEWS::

Smackdown, Big Show, Fozzy On Jericho's Mind

By Kenai Andrews - SLAM! Wrestling

(September 23, 2009) TORONTO --
Chris Jericho can remember the time when first heard the idea of a Smackdown TV show. He was toiling in WCW, which was on its last legs and while the concept sounded interesting, he had also seen Thunder, a similar WCW show that was less than stellar. Now 10 years later, and with WWE's Best of Smackdown 10th Anniversary DVD at hand, he sat down with SLAM! Wrestling to discuss the show and even named his 10th Anniversary Smackdown All-Star Team.

Looking relaxed and comfortable, Jericho was one day removed from the Breaking Point pay-per-view in Montreal when he spoke before Raw at Toronto's Air Canada Centre. He commented on the Canadian road trip and his title run with fellow unified tag team champion Big Show. "It's great. We just did Calgary and Edmonton a couple of weeks ago and now being in Toronto and Montreal. We did Winnipeg in February, so I'm glad that we have more of a presence in Canada this year in 2009 than we had in the past, because it's a big market, great fans; and a lot of the guys in the crew are Canadian, so might as well exploit that a bit more," he observed.

He's a big fan of his partner. "I like the chemistry with Big Show, I think every match that we have now, has a pretty good flow to it."

Jericho was on the outside looking in when Smackdown first debuted back in 1999. "We had Nitro and then they added Thunder to the schedule, which was kind of a bad decision at the time," he recalled. "Because they really didn't have the brain trust behind it to make it work and Thunder became kind of a red-headed stepchild. I used to watch it just for the pure bad comedy of it, how bad it was. So when I heard about Smackdown, I thought it was interesting, but obviously the WWE is a lot different from the WCW and how the hierarchy is.

"I didn't know it if it would be a little bit too much. You never know if it's going to be too much TV. And here we are 10 years later, and it's just become a common thing, the fact that we have the two major shows being on every week. I guess in hindsight there was enough room and there was enough fan base to have two separate shows. Because when Smackdown first came out, it wasn't a separate brand, it was just you'd go do Raw and Smackdown, similar to what I do right now. It was just another way to get some exposure, and get your storylines out.

"I guess in retrospect, it turned out to be a pretty successful thing."

He broke down his memorable Smackdown moment in which he and then Alliance member Rhyno wrecked the original Smackdown set, which was scheduled to be replaced.

"It ended up being a pretty good thing. We didn't even have to do much work to do it. He hit me so hard that I think I broke through the screen. It turned out to be a pretty good visual."

Jericho weighed in on the question still kicked around by fans today: Was the "Brand Extension" a good idea?

"I think it was a better idea then than it is now. There was a lot more talent when they did the brand extension," he said. "You could actually split the rosters in two; create some competition for ourselves, especially after WCW went under. Sometimes I wonder if we should still do that with talent roster the way that it is with a lot of younger guys. It's a good idea to give them a chance to shine, but for me the way right now, especially working Raw and Smackdown, it shows that some guys should do both shows because we need the diversity on both. But still, week in and week out, they still make it entertaining, build up a lot of Smackdown and they do it more on Raw as well, there's room for everyone on the show, some just have to kind of grab the brass ring and run with it.

"I'm happy to be on both shows, I like contributing to both."

While there is a lot to celebrate on the Smackdown DVD, there was also an acknowledgment that the show -- and the company for that matter -- needs to continue to focus strongly on the things that made it successful in the first place.

"Creating new talent, creating new stars. That's the most important thing for any of the brands to do," he quickly answered. "They have to keep the wheels turning; they can't just base it on the same guys year in and year out. That's how business fails; that's how WCW failed.

"We have some young guys that are ready to grasp it and there are other guys that aren't. They're going to have to speed up the process a bit.

"I think that Morrison is learning more each week, I think Dolph Ziggler is learning more each week, Cryme Tyme have learned a lot over the last few months. Legacy is getting there, Jack Swagger, Kofi Kingston and The Miz; those are the guys that are going to have to start becoming more of a presence. A couple of guys in ECW, Evan Bourne, Sheamus is another guy that I think has some potential.

"So now is the time, we need these guys to step up and the thing is too, is you say step up, step up, step up, but some guys just aren't capable; they're not ready because they don't have the experience yet. But as long they are improving every week, and those are guys that I kind of see as being the next wave of the company, when my generation of guys is retired or not at the same level as we are now."

When asked if the addition of Jim Ross was a good brand move, Jericho noted the last year's draft helped Smackdown from a respectability standpoint.

"I would say so, I remember last year when they did the draft, Triple H, Jeff Hardy and Jim all moved them to Smackdown to kind of give them a big presence, a big jump start when things started on MyNetwork TV.

"Jim Ross is the voice of wrestling, you hear his voice you automatically know it's the WWE. I think to have Jim on the show definitely gives Smackdown more credibility just by the fact that he's appearing on it."

Due to his schedule, the sequel to his successful book, A Lion's Tale: Around The World In Spandex, will be delayed from its original fall 2009 timetable. However, Jericho's band Fozzy will be releasing their new album early next year.

"Our new record comes out January 19th, worldwide," he revealed. "The new song is actually up on YouTube right now, it's called Martyr No More. It's got a really big buzz behind it right now. It's going to be a big record for us, I'm very excited.

"It's funny because we started as just a hobby, the first three records were fun and the last record really kind of put people's mind into different places like, 'This is a great record, this is a real kick-ass band.' And now it's been four years -- actually ended up being five years -- since all our names came out so there's been a lot of people asking because I think they thought Fozzy was actually really good. When they hear Chasing the Grail, which is the new record, it's going to blow people's minds because this is going to be the rock record of the year. I'm not just saying that; I think it's going to be hard to beat this record, I believe it's that good. All the people that have heard it, from the executives to the suits, to everybody else feel the same way.

"It's just building right now. The Clear Channel doesn't know which song they want to pick as the single because they said there's six songs that could be the single on this record, so I guess that's a good problem to have. It's all building, like I said we don't come out until January so we kind of have a long road to go and build everything properly. We didn't want to rush it."

He was quick to torpedo the notion of retirement any time soon. "My contract is for another year, we'll see what happens after that," he said. "I feel great though, I've still never been injured -- knock on wood -- and honestly believe that the work I'm doing now is the best that I've done in my whole career, so I could pretty well continue going probably for as long as I wanted to right now barring any kind of serious injury and I haven't have had one in 19 years, so why start now?

"It's pretty much just an open field; just have to kind of decide where I'm at mentally. A couple of years ago I had to leave because I had been doing it 15 years straight. I needed to get away and clear my head. I did that, came back with a whole new batch of ideas and a whole new character. Like I said, a whole new batch of guys to work with, which is important, which is why some guys need to start getting more steam behind them, which they are. As long as I'm enjoying myself and as long as I'm am able to be creative and to keep entertaining the fans -- whether they love or hate me -- I'll stick around."

Sonya And Rob Van Dam's Journey With Colon Cancer - Part 1

By
Kenai Andrews - SLAM! Wrestling

Part One of a Two-Part Series

(June 23, 2009) Cancer struck Sonya Van Dam, the wife of wrestler Rob Van Dam, out of the blue and challenged the couple in unexpected ways. In an exclusive, two-part interview with SLAM! Wrestling, Sonya and Rob document their journey with overcoming colon cancer and in the process, reveal some of the checks and balances -- or lack thereof -- of the American health care system.

This was an understandably difficult subject for Sonya to lay bare and it took several months for her to mentally prepare for the discussion. Their journey started in February in 2007 and is nearing its fruition here in the summer of 2009. We start, naturally, from the beginning.

It was February of 2007, when an unusual bout of stabbing stomach pain combined with ineffective prescription fibre pills left Sonya Van Dam searching for answers. Her body was trying to tell her something. Though it was indirectly all around her, colon cancer was something that was the farthest thing on her mind. "I had no idea. I honestly thought it could have been irritable bowel syndrome, that's why I ate the fibre pills for so long and wanted to believe that they worked," she said. "Of course I thought initially, 'Oh, this could be cancer.' But it wasn't a serious thought; it was just one of those 'Oh, I just checked my symptoms on the internet, I'm going to be fine.'

"My friend Tina Mucciolo [Louie Spicolli's sister], her mother passed away from cancer. But that was six months after Louie died, and that was before we moved here, so I really dealt with the after-effect of the grief that Tina went through," she recalled. "But I've never had cancer touch my life like this. My adopted grandfather died of liver cancer, but we didn't know that until after he was dead. We didn't know. He didn't go through chemo or anything. They're secretive like that. You didn't talk about cancer in their generation. It was the c-word and you whispered about it. I didn't know until two years after he died that he died of liver cancer. He was 89 years old."

Rob Van Dam's experience was similar. "Cancer was something that I heard about, but it didn't affect me at all, it was something that just happened to other people," he admitted. "But now that we're past this, and everybody is aware of our situation, I find that it is was way more common than I ever realized. It seems that almost everyone that I know has been affected by cancer either from a family member, a loved one, or someone very close to them. From doing some studying, I've learned that 1-in-2 men and 1-in-3 women can get cancer, so the odds are incredibly high that somebody, if they don't know somebody that's gone through this, they probably will."

On the horizon was a show for RVD in Portugal, just a week away. It was the perfect getaway, an opportunity to soak up the sights and sounds of the country. But the stomach pains were an issue, and through a neighbour’s recommendation, Sonya sought a second opinion from Dr. Sitaraman Jyotheeswaran, the physician she affectionately referred to as Dr. J. "He is a phenomenal doctor," she gushed. "He was educated in England, he's from India and I honestly believe because he is an outside-of-the-box thinker, that's why he gave a 32-year-old woman a colonoscopy. None of the other doctors wanted to do it, because I don't have a family history of colorectal cancer. So nobody wanted to do it."

"The blood in the stool should have been the first sign. My [first] doctor missed that entirely. He thought it was either a haemorrhoid or irritable bowel syndrome."

Sonya heard through a neighbour that her case shocked Dr. J's staff to the point where they all had personal colonoscopies done, but she had seen several doctors before him.

"I went to the ER and that doctor blew me off and wrote a prescription for Xantax, which is an over-the-counter indigestion medication. That's the equivalent of someone coming in with part of their brain bleeding and then giving them some Tylenol. And the medical system here in California is different. I've lived all over the country, five different states and California has a very strange medical system. We have a lot of tiny little hospitals, not one big hospital.

"We live along the coast, by Long Beach. On the east coast, they usually have one big university hospital or two major hospitals for the city. Los Angeles is not like that; we have tiny neighbourhood hospitals spread along the city.

"If you get in a serious accident, and you're on the wrong side of town, if you're in serious trauma, you could possibly die, because they can't get you to the right hospital. It's just not equipped to deal with major traumas. It's very bizarre; it's like a dirty little secret here in Los Angeles."

Sonya had the colonoscopy when she came back from Portugal, unprepared for the salty lemonade she ingested to 'prep,' which would induce what she gracefully described as "violent diarrhea."

She was even more unprepared for the result.

"At that moment, you just go numb," she said vividly. "The feeling where I can describe it as I didn't hear the other words that were coming out of his mouth. It was almost like a movie. Every time I've seen that in movies I was like, 'Oh, whatever. Talk about dramatic.' No, it really happens like, his lips were moving, I was not hearing anything else coming out of his mouth. Because all I could hear in my head was, 'Did he just say I have cancer? No way. He just said I didn't have cancer.' And that's all I can say, and my head is nodding and I'm agreeing with everything but have no idea what he is saying.

"It didn't really dawn on me until the doctor gets up and leaves, and I have no idea what he said other than what I'm processing in my brain as, 'You don't have cancer.'

"So the nurse comes in and she's helping me get into the wheelchair because now I'm getting wheeled to the parking lot and she wheels me out, and her and then the other two nurses that were working in the recovery room both rush over and they're like, 'I'm so sorry, sweetie, you didn't get the results you were looking for today. You've got a really long hard road ahead of you, but you're young, you're going to do fine.' And in that exact moment, I was like 'Holy s---, I have cancer; he said I had cancer.'"

"That's when it really sunk in for me that I had cancer, was when those nurses were like 'Sweetie, I'm so sorry.'"

"We were actually still in the doctor's office just moments after hearing the news, we were still kind of in shock, and didn't really know how to react," concurred Rob. "I mean I didn't want her to know that I was freaking out; I wanted to be strong for her. Just literally seconds afterwards, she turned to me and said, 'We have to tell everybody; if it can happen to me, it can happen to them.'"

That led to her revealing the news on her MySpace page.

Sonya elaborated on the moment. "I dealt with it very matter-of-factly. At this point, I have to call my family and tell them I have colon cancer, which is not the easiest thing. It surprised me how I dealt with it, honestly. It shocked me that I was so matter-of-fact about it. You really don't know how you're going to react until something like that happens.

"I always expected that I would fall part, or I would just be a sobering mess, my-life-is-over type of thing. I guess I manned up. I took it, I didn't cry. It freaked me out that I didn't cry for a long time until like right before my surgery. I found out April 5, [2008] that I had cancer. My surgery was April 25, so I didn't have a lot of time to process.

"Everything was so fast, because between that time you have to 1: process and accept that you have cancer; 2: shop for a surgeon, which can I just tell you, is the strangest thing I've ever had to shop for in my life. I love shoes, but it's very surreal to shop for a surgeon. And they all have egos the size of California."

The doctor-searching process seemed rather impersonal to her at first.

"What I didn't like was that there was no real support system," she observed. "If I had gone with one of my local surgeons, they just sent me to the local oncologist and it's just kind of like you're on your own. There's no team that works on you or for you. I felt like I needed more, like this was so much bigger than me. I didn't understand everything that was happening to me and so my neighbour suggested I go to City of Hope."

According to its website, City of Hope is a non-for-profit organization and one of only 40 National Cancer Institute (NCI) certified centres in the United States. Supported by various fundraisers, public and corporate contributions and established in 1913, it is nearing 100 years in existence. One of their core mandates is to research and develop an active cure for cancer.

The centre answers the question of why people should use their services: "At City of Hope, we treat people who have cancer and other serious illnesses, not simply the symptoms and the disease. We strive to treat the whole patient, and we do it with respect, honour, humanity and understanding."

Famed musician Sheryl Crow has recorded various public service announcements for the City of Hope.

"I went and interviewed the surgeons there, and I had a great feeling," Sonya explained. "The first thing they said was, 'When you're a patient here at City of Hope, you're a patient for life. We don't let you go. You're always in our databanks; if some new treatment comes in and it affects you -- because that's the cancer you have -- we're going to call you. We're going to make you know that this treatment is here and available for you.' So right off the bat, this is what I was looking for.

"They have a team of doctors. I have one primary doctor that I see, but that primary doctor every week has case meetings with six other doctors. So six other doctors are going through my chart and my case and discussing every treatment protocol that they put me on. So that felt a lot better. And being 32, this is the other thing. I'm a 32-year-old woman with colon cancer; it is as odd as you can get.

"Colon cancer is my grandpa's disease. It's primarily men and primarily men over 50," she continued. "So for a 32-year-old woman to have it was just bizarre, and my local surgeons and doctors were acting like, 'Oh, we see this every day,' which I knew they didn't. And for them to act like they did, it was almost felt like they were belittling it, and I didn't like that either. When I went to City of Hope, it was like, 'This is bizarre. You are a very special case. We want to study you,' which never feels good to hear that they want you to be a lab rat, but at the same time, it feels great to know that someone feels your cancer is as strange as you do, and they want to get to the bottom of it."

"My surgeon and my life-saving doctor was Dr. Benjamin Paz. He saved my life, because on April 25, 2008, I went into surgery, and they removed half of my colon. They were just going to take the section that had the tumour in it, because at this point, I've not been staged. I can't get staged until they take the tumour out. So they go in and they take out my entire ascending colon, and half of my transverse and 35 lymph nodes, which was a lot more than they expected to take out. The tumour was a lot larger than they expected. It was 6.6 cm in diameter. Three of the lymph nodes were infected, which meant stage three. There are only four stages of cancer. Stage five is death. And here I am at stage three.

"The surgery was brutal, because first the colon is missing and all you eat is ice chips. I wasn't hungry, but I wanted to eat something badly," she laughed.

"I was out of the hospital after five days, after the surgery and I have to wait two weeks for the staging [a determination of how advanced the cancer is], which is its own form of torture because if I'm stage one or two, I don't have to have chemotherapy. Rob's like, 'Oh, you're stage one. I can feel it, you're stage one.' I knew by the pain was in that I was further along than stage one, but I wasn't willing to say stage three, so I figured stage two. We actually had bets before the doctor came in to see what stage I was in because you have to laugh, or you're going to go insane," she explained.

"So we're making bets, and Dr. Paz, he has a great sense of humour and he's always smiling. He wasn't smiling when he came in, and I knew right away something was wrong. He said, 'It kind of us by surprise, no one was expecting your tumour to be as far advanced as it was.' I'm like, 'Just tell me.' He said, 'I'm sorry, but it's stage three.' I'm like, 'What does that mean?' He said, 'Well, three of your lymph nodes were contaminated and that means it was on its way out of your colon and into your body.' The next place it usually takes root is in your liver. It goes from the colon into the liver, nine times out of ten that's how colon cancer works. Once it gets into the lymph nodes, it's in your bloodstream, and your liver filters your blood. So it's going to be that's the next place, because it's trying to filter it out."

By all accounts, this was not good news.

"What stage three means, is that your probability that you could develop cancer elsewhere in the next five years could be somewhere 50%-70% without any treatment," Dr. Paz clarified. "It [The liver] is the most common site, but it is not the only site, because the blood goes through the liver before it goes to the rest of the body, so the liver is the most common site, but not the only one."

"When I say we found it in the nick of time, I mean we really found it," Sonya emphasized. "It was on its way out; Stage four was not far away. I knew, because you know your body. Honestly, the whole reason I found the cancer is because I knew my body, because I knew something wasn't right. No matter what the doctors said, 'Oh, it's indigestion, it's irritable bowel syndrome, I knew it wasn't right and I wasn't going to let it go, and I honestly believe that's what saved my life, was my own persistence. Because I was so young, and because my cancer was so advanced, they automatically put me into the genetic testing.

"When they take the tumour out, they test the tumour genetically right away. Every protein that they tested before was negative, which meant that they needed to do more in-depth testing on me because how are all the tests coming out negative and here I am with stage-3 colon cancer? So they tested more, it took months, I get the results back and the results are it's not in my genes. We still don't know how or why I got cancer. I will probably never know because if it's not in your genes, then you're just a freak anomaly, is what they've called me. There's ten other thirty-somethings in the City of Hope databanks that are like me. We don't have family history, our genetics don't have cancer in them, but yet we've still got a major aggressive advance cancer at an extremely young age. So we're a bunch of medical mysteries. They talked about my genetics at a couple of conferences, because they are baffled, they are literally baffled by my case. They don't understand it.

"One of the things that help you get through this is knowing whatever they find out about is going to help somebody five to ten years down the road and it really does motivate you. Not necessarily motivate, but inspire you."

For the curious, Sonya has a multi-racial background. Primarily, her mother is white, while her father's ethnic background is Indian.

"Had my doctor, when I went in February of 2007, been responsible and done a colonoscopy at that time or even in November, it would have been stage one or two. Had he had done it when I went in for a bloody stool, it would have been what they call a polypectomy. So when they go in and they do the colonoscopy, they'll see that there's a 'Polyp' there and they'll just remove it. Everything starts as a polyp. It's a really small, like a skin tag. They just remove it right there, send it off to the lab and then everything's fine because you don't have to go through chemotherapy. Because I had the run-around and the cancer was growing, cancer grows faster in healthier bodies because it has all the things that it needs. It's almost like a tapeworm."

But now, Rob and Sonya were facing the biggest decision of their life. Sonya thought about talking about it with Tina but she and her other close friends were going through a lot as well.

"Tina is my best friend; 2008 was a really tough year for her," she said. "She got married, got pregnant and had a baby all in one year. I found out I got cancer on the 5th of April; she found out she was pregnant on the 6th. So we kind of had our own stuff to deal with. She's been there, but with the cancer, I didn't really lean on her because she had so much on her plate already. She now has a stepson, adjusting to a new husband; she had too much, so I had some other friends that I really talked to about the process. I didn't want to dump this all on her. I dumped it on my friend Emily in South Carolina mostly, who by the way was going through a divorce at the time and can I just tell you, I would much rather have had cancer than go through a divorce. I told Rob that too. It was kind of an ugly divorce.

"She's like, 'I wouldn't trade places with you,' and I'm like, 'Well, I wouldn't trade places with you!'

"Once I got staged, he tells me with Stage 3, it's basically mandatory protocol that you go through six months of chemotherapy. I'm like, 'Well, what am I looking at if I don't want to take chemotherapy at stage three?

"'50-50,' they said. They said, 'You can walk out of here and not do chemotherapy and you have a 50-50 chance it will come back. And if it comes back, it comes back with a vengeance.' So, I didn't like those odds. Let me clarify that, Rob did not like those odds. He was pretty shaken up after we left that appointment, because here we are faced with this choice of: 'We're going to pump as much poison into your body as we can to kill the cancer but not kill you, or you can go and live your life and maybe, maybe not it will come back and kill you. So it's literally a do-or-die situation.

"It wasn't presented as an option that we could really just take or leave," said Rob. "It seemed like it was very important to do this. We weren't looking forward to it, of course, and of course, we could have refused treatment and a lot of people in her situation, her circumstances, probably would maybe not go through the chemo if they were older, if they were not in as good a shape because the chemo does take its toll on the patients. Colon cancer is something that usually people get when they're older. It's usually men, it's usually older than 50, someone who eats a lot red meat. And in fact we still don't even know how she got it, which really sucks, because if she got from let's say the water, well damn, we're still drinking the water.

"So that's pretty frustrating not knowing, but knowing there was a 50-50 chance it could return because it was stage three, there was no doubt that if chemo was going to decrease the chances of it coming back, then we had to do it."

"There was no tension," she insisted when queried at length. "There was absolutely no tension because for him because for him he was like, 'You know honey, I can't lose you; I can't live without you. I can't live knowing that there's a 50-50 chance that you could be taken away from me." When he put it exactly in those words, I was much more receptive to it. Because for me, basically it was the fear that was driving me of not wanting to do it. Fear of the unknown, fear of what was in store for me with the chemo that was my biggest fear for me. But for him to calm me down, and say 'Look honey, we can't do this without you.' That put it into perspective and I was like, 'Okay.'

"It was that simple; it really was because the compassion and love that was in his eyes. He was literally pleading with me to, 'Do it for us. Do it for us, and we'll get through it, and I will be there every step of the way,' which he absolutely has been."

"Rob's reaction was a lot like mine, like when we were in the recovery room he also went numb. He was kind of in the same boat with me; he just didn't hear the words coming out of the doctor's mouth and when we talked about it later, his experiences were very similar there.

"The difference was he didn't need the nurses to tell him; he heard it the first time where I didn't.

"He was obviously upset, but he was very positive in that he had to convince me that it was the right thing to do. So he believed in his heart that it was the right thing to do and he just had to convince me that it was okay.

"I absolutely would not have made it without him. He was my rock."

"I actually know people that you and I know -- some people that everybody knows -- that are going through this right now and keeping it private because it is a very personal matter and I can understand that," added Rob. "Being a stickler for the truth, and believing every day our lives are tomorrow's history. Sonya and I both feel very similar about that. That's why if anything happens with me and people think of something they should keep hush-hush like for instance, my big bust with
Sabu when I had the possession of marijuana. You'll never ever hear me apologize about that, you'll never hear me back away and say, 'Oh, we can't talk about that.' That happened; that's history; let's learn from it. Sonya feels the same way and that's one of the many reasons we are such a great team."

"Sonya has always been very strong in facing the diagnosis and her options. She has been in tears but not overwhelmed by it," Dr. Paz said when asked for his perspective.

"Once they understand the potential consequences and how they are to manage through the treatment, they do well. The aim is to make sure we convey the information correctly and help patients to face the treatment with dignity. All of these things take a lot of work, but we are blessed to have a team of physicians, nurses, and a hospital dedicated to this. The doctors I work with everyday not only care about the difficult aspects of the cancer patients, they really care about the psychological aspects well.

"We work with our patients."

There was still a long way to go however. The Van Dams had decided to undergo chemotherapy, a six-month process. In the upcoming second part, running tomorrow, Sonya and Rob will discuss the other side of the chemotherapy experience, including its very real side-effects as well as some analysis and reflection from Dr. Paz on Sonya's journey.

Tyson Gay Runs Second Fastest 100m Of All Time

Source:
www.thestar.com - Associated Press

(September 20, 2009) SHANGHAI, China – Tyson Gay ran the second fastest 100 metres of all time on Sunday when the American sprinter clocked 9.69 seconds to win his event at the Shanghai Golden Grand Prix meeting.

Gay matched Usain Bolt's winning time in last year's final at the Beijing Olympics, then a world record, but which the Jamaican has since eclipsed with his astonishing run of 9.58 seconds to win the 100 title at last month's world championships in Berlin.

The American, who had come home in 9.71 in Berlin, powered to victory in Shanghai ahead of Asafa Powell of Jamaica, who clocked 9.85.

It was a special day too for teammate Carmelita Jeter in her 100 metres race, as the American became the second fastest woman of all time in 10.64.

And Canadian Perdita Felicien was third in the women's 100-metre hurdles, while Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang returned from a foot injury to place second Sunday at the Golden Grand Prix.

Only the late Florence Griffith-Joyner has been faster than Jeter – a total of three times, including her world record of 10.49 set in 1988.

Jeter's performance improved on Marion Jones's time of 10.65, set at altitude in Johannesburg in 1998, and left her well clear of Jamaica's Veronica Campbell-Brown in 10.89 at the Shanghai meet.

Felicien, from Pickering, Ont., clocked 12.73 seconds to grab the bronze. Brigette Foster-Hylton of Jamaica beat out American Dawn Harper for gold in a photo finish after both finished in 12.56.

Felicien was fifth at last week's world athletics final in Greece, even though she ran the same 12.61 as three other women. Harper was awarded second, Delloreen Ennis-London of Jamaica third and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Whitby, Ont., fourth after officials had studied the photo finish.

Foster-Hylton won that race in 12.58.

Liu, in his first race since a foot injury forced him to pull out of the Beijing Games one year ago, received boisterous applause from his hometown crowd. He put his hand to his heart before collapsing on the track after finishing the 110 metre hurdles in 13.15 seconds.

He has been one of China's most popular athletes since winning the country's first Olympic gold medal in track at the Athens Games in 2004.

American Terrance Trammell, who placed second at the world championships last month in Berlin, won the race in a photo finish.

In other events, Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva made another attempt at improving her world record but failed to clear 5.07 metres – one centimetre higher than her current mark. Isinbayeva, who has broken the world outdoor and indoor marks 27 times, won Sunday's meet with a vault of 4.85. Poland's Anna Rogowska placed second with 4.60, and her compatriot Monika Pyrek got third with 4.50.

In the men's 200, Wallace Spearmon pulled away comfortably in the last 70 meters to win in 20.57 seconds. Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis placed second in 20.90, and American Shawn Crawford came in third, clocking 21.04.

American Lashawn Merritt, first at the World Championship, won the 400 in 45.28. Robert Tobin of Britain place second in 45.49, and Gary Kikaya won third in 45.63.

Kenya's Augustine Choge unleashed his kick in the final 200 meters in the men's 800 and cruised away from South Africa's Mbulaeni Mulaudzi, who won at the worlds in Berlin. Choge finished in 1:44.10 seconds, while Mulaudzi clocked 1:45.68 and Bram Som finished in 1:45.78.

Amine Laalou of Morocco won the 1,500 metres with a blistering surge that began in the final 200 metres, finishing in 3:34.19. World champion Yusuf Saad Kamel of Bahrain placed second in 3:34.94. Belal Mansoor Ali of Kenya was third in 3:35.18.

Jamaican world champion Melaine Walker won the women's 400 hurdles in 54.68. Romania's Angela Morosanu was leading around the final turn but placed second in 55.11 as Walker kicked past her in the final stretch. Poland's Jesien placed third in 55.29.

Canadian Olympians Like Home Advantage

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman,
Sports Reporter

(September 22, 2009) After perusing yesterday's front-page New York Times article claiming Canada is being nasty in protecting home advantage for the 2010 Winter Games, downhiller Manuel Osborne-Paradis gave a derisive snort.

"Don't they have a war that should be on the front page," said Osborne-Paradis.

The Whistler native wasn't alone in pooh-poohing the complaints – mostly, it seemed from Americans – about Canada being unfair hosts for limiting access to Olympic facilities ahead of the Games.

Osborne-Paradis was in town yesterday with teammates John Kucera and Erik Guay to promote the launch of the GMC Cup series.

"I think that's making excuses ahead of time," said men's head coach Paul Kristofic of Toronto. "Every country that hosts an Olympics is going to do the exact same thing as we are."

American speed skater Catherine Raney called the approach "un-Canadian" in the Times story, albeit with a laugh.

Downhiller Erik Guay of Mont Tremblant, Que., wasn't about to disagree with that statement.

"You know what, I think Canada sometimes we're just too nice of a country," he said. "Sometimes, we need to step up like that and say, `We're going to give these guys the biggest advantage we possibly can.' And that's the way it should be. The other nations all do it. I don't feel bad, for one."

The Canadian skiers are used to this on the World Cup circuit in Europe, where the host country always gets extra privileges. These past two springs, Canada has set up a training course on the Olympic layout at Whistler and their rivals have been on the outside looking in.

"For ski racing, that's the whole point of having a race in your own backyard," said Osborne-Paradis. "You know in Austria, you don't see any Canadians training on Kitzbuehel the week before. In Wengen (Switzerland), you don't see any Canadians training there.

"They do ski testing on it, they figure everything out. It's common knowledge within our sport. I really don't think it's that big of a deal. There's a million other things that are more important to worry about."

Each international sports federation has rules regarding the amount of training time that the host must provide leading up to an Olympics.

"If it's within the rules, we can do it," said Kristofic. "Canadians are very polite and fair people, very honest about everything. I think the difference in our situation leading up to the Olympics is we've been pretty open about how much we've been working with the venues and whatnot and experts in the field to get the best shot possible at medals. Maybe other nations have been more quiet about it."

SPORTS TIDBITS

Floyd Mayweather Is Money In Big Fight

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 18, 2009) *Money Mayweather lived up to his name once again Saturday night in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand's Garden Arena, earning an estimated 10-15 million dollars.  The huge payday was made possible because Floyd Mayweather Jr. put a huge whipping on Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez for a unanimous decision, maintaining his perfect record in his comeback from an almost two-year retirement. Mayweather knocked down Marquez in the second round and then peppered him with countless damaging shots to remain unbeaten (40-0, 25 KOs).  "Marquez is tough as nails," Mayweather said. "He's a great little man. He was really hard to fight, and he kept taking some unbelievable shots." At Friday's weigh-in, Marquez (50-5-1) was four pounds lighter (142 pounds) than Mayweather (145 pounds), who paid a $600,000 penalty for missing the bout weight of 144 pounds.  "Don't forget, I came from a small weight class too, so I know when you're in front of a great fighter. I think he brought his best tonight, Mayweather admitted." As far as punch stats go, Mayweather had a huge advantage. He landed 290 of his 493 blows (59 percent) while allowing just 12 percent of Marquez's 583 punches to land.  Mayweather also got in more jabs in each round than Marquez landed total punches, and just 16 percent of Marquez's power shots even got to Mayweather. For MORE of this NY Times/AP report, go HERE.

Herschel Walker Is Now An MMA Fighter

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

(September 23, 2009) *Former NFL Pro Bowl running back Herschel Walker has followed up his run on NBC's "Celebrity Apprentice" with a new contract to become a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.   Promoter Strikeforce announced that the one-time Heisman trophy winner – and fifth degree black belt in Taekwondo – has signed a multi-fight contract and will begin a 12-week training camp in California next month.   "I will go in there and test myself against any 20-year-old," the 47-year-old said in a statement. "I want to prove to people who sit on a couch and don't do anything but criticize other people that, if you're a true athlete or martial artist, you're not old until you can't get up and walk around anymore.    "I've been training for several years," Walker added. "I would play college football games on Saturday and then compete in martial arts tournaments on Sunday after church I'm now looking forward to opening up another chapter in my life and to competing in MMA."    After winning the 1982 Heisman trophy as U.S. college football's outstanding player, Walker played 12 seasons in the NFL with four teams including the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings.