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LE NEWSLETTER

September 3, 2009

OK, it's September ... I'm trying to deal with that.  School's started, there's a chill in the evening air and the pace picks up in the office.  Still haven't achieved that sense of renewal phase yet.  But it IS supposed to be decent and relatively warm weather this holiday weekend so soak it up and enjoy.  Hear a rough winter is right around the corner. 

There's so much music news and film news and TV news as well this week - all relevant ... all newsworthy - and mostly Canadian!  Toronto International Film Festival is about to descend on Toronto so put your star-gazing glasses on!  They're aiming to be the baddest film festival there is! 

R.I.P. Kelly Verhey, a former churchmate of mine who passed away from cancer. You're the smiling light in so many lives! Find health and wellness and peace again.  Condolances to her immediate and extended family and may you have many happy memories to sustain you. 

I'm not going to waste your time talking about it but let you get right to it.  Like I said, lots and lots of entertainment news this week so please have a scroll and a read ...

::TOP STORIES::

Oprah Spot Sought By Toronto Rapper

Source:  www.cbc.ca

(August 28, 2009) A Toronto rapper has set out to change Oprah Winfrey's mind about hip hop.

Subliminal, who calls himself a "soul-hop" artist, has begun a YouTube and Facebook campaign dedicated to getting the talk show host to invite him onto her show.

Oprah is well known in the music industry for not having hip hop artists as guests, Subliminal, whose real name is Sean Mauricette, said in an interview with CBC News.

She has spoken out against the depiction of women and use of the N-word and the word "bitch" in hip hop. And she experienced a strong backlash from the public, including a blast from U.S. rapper Ludacris, after she tried to advance that message.

"What I didn't like, there were people like myself who agreed with a lot of things she was saying," Mauricette said.

"I kind of want to prove a point to her and I want to show her that we do exist — there are positive black men out there doing this music and doing other things as well. We don't use the N-word and we don't refer to all women with B-word. We're not all gangsters," he said.

"Some of us have degrees — I have a degree in architecture, I'm an actor and I work within my community. And I feel sometimes artists like myself who try to do things in a positive light, it's hard to get noticed by radio and by television and so forth."

Mauricette, who recently released the album Train A Thought, does graphic design, garden and building design and has an interest in cooking, as well as being a musician.

That wide range of interests is one of the messages he takes to youth in community centres, schools and public appearances.

"I'm trying to show people that if there's something you're passionate about, just do it and I find that message is being swallowed up by the youth," Mauricette said.

Artists wants to be good role model

Mauricette said he's keen on an Oprah appearance, not just because she has a top-rated show, but because he wants to inspire others.

He has yet to hear back from Oprah's Harpo Enterprises, though he has forwarded his plea to her company.

However, he said he's getting a huge response from people across the U.S. and Canada who have tapped into his internet campaign.

His YouTube video is an open appeal to the talk show host and he uses every opportunity to repeat the plea.

"Oprah, give me a chance. Let me come on your show," he said in his interview with CBC. "Let me teach you how to beatbox. Let me talk politics with you, Let me tell you what soul-hop is and how allowing me to get on your show could open up so many doors for myself, for what I'm trying to do with the youth and for our community as a whole. Give me a chance I will not let you down."

Gay And Lesbian Coalition Claims Victory

Source: PRNewswire-USNewswire

(August 31, 2009) *LOS ANGELES -- AEG Live/Goldenvoice (producer of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival) and Live Nation, parent company of House of Blues, all announced last night that they have cancelled their respective concerts by Buju Banton.

The cancellations followed a huge outcry from people all over the country, angry that these companies were promoting a singer whose lyrics glorify the murder of gay people.

Banton was to perform at Los Angeles' Nokia Club (Oct. 14), in San Francisco (Oct. 10), Philadelphia (Sept. 12) and at the House of Blues in: Chicago (Oct. 1), Las Vegas (Oct. 15), Dallas (Oct. 20) and Houston (Oct. 22).

"I hope this victory sends a deafeningly loud message to other promoters and concert venues, that singers who glorify violence against LGBT people, or any group of people, should never be welcomed," said L.A.  Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri L. Jean. "It shouldn't be necessary for us to pressure promoters to do the right thing; people like Banton should never have been booked in the first place."

Hours after the Center issued a news release yesterday morning and launched a Facebook group:

"Cancel Shows for 'Faggots Must Die' Singer," hundreds responded with phone calls and email messages to the companies and signed the Center's online petition, demanding that AEG Live/Goldenvoice and Live Nation cancel the concerts. Gay Liberation Network, based in Chicago, had been protesting against Live Nation for a week.

Through his music, Banton promotes a culture of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, singing in his most notorious song "Boom, Bye Bye" that "faggots get up and run" when he comes, that "they have to die," and that he will shoot them in the head or "burn them up bad."

"In his home country of Jamaica, Banton and his fellow performers of 'murder music,' have helped to create and sustain a culture in which violence against LGBT people is not only tolerated, it's sometimes celebrated," said L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Executive Officer Lorri L. Jean. "The Center is an ardent supporter of free speech and artistic expression, but we cannot--and will not--tolerate speech in any form that promotes violence against LGBT people."

In 2004 the House of Blues responded to pressure from the Center and the LGBT community, eventually cancelling a concert at its West Hollywood venue by Capleton, a reggae singer who also promoted violence against gay people. And just a year later, the company eventually agreed to cancel a West Hollywood concert by Sizzla, a performer who sang lyrics that included: "I go and shoot queers."

About the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

Since 1971 the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has been building the health, advocating for the rights and enriching the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Our wide array of services and programs includes: free HIV/AIDS care and medications for those most in need; housing, food, clothing and support for homeless LGBT youth; low-cost counselling and addiction-recovery services; essential services for LGBT-parented families and seniors; legal services; health education and HIV prevention programs; transgender services; cultural arts and much more. Visit us on the Web at: http://www.lagaycenter.org.

Celebrating Global Geeks Of Hip Hop

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

(August 31, 2009) Toronto pop-culture pundit Dalton Higgins is celebrating hip hop in all its "global multi-racial glory" with his new book Hip Hop World (Groundwood Books: $19).

The 30-something scribe surveys the genre from an international perspective, including the contributions of aboriginal peoples, runs down its history and lexicon, and examines the more controversial elements, joining the call to ban the n-word.

The Star interviewed Higgins in advance of tomorrow's launch party where he will be reading from the work.

Q: The way you outline the integral role of Germans, Jamaicans and Filipinos in its origins, you could almost make the argument that hip hop is not an American art form.

A: Americans simply took all of these cultural by-products and mixed `em up in a big sweltering pot of culture in the Bronx. If you look at Afrika Bambaataa's play lists in the '70s, he was playing Jamaican reggae, Cuban salsa, German electronic music, urban beat poetry/spoken word, punk – and that was as hip hop as it gets.

Q: Never heard of nerdcore rap. Sounds like an oxymoron.

A: The secret is out now. A large bulk of rap humanity are total geeks who walk around with rhyming dictionaries and a thesaurus to make their lyrics tight. Have you ever checked out the dense wordplay and large range of literary devices utilized by your average rapper, from Paul Barman back in the day to Lupe Fiasco or Mr. Lif? These are emcees who might not get the time of day during Singles Hour at a bar, or for any exploits on athletic playing fields – they are geeky – but their appeal lies in their nerdiness and smart sharp wordplay. The word counts in your typical rap song trump that of your average pop or rock song tenfold. In hip hop, it's completely hip to be square.

Q: Quick, name three seminal rap albums.

A: Main Source, Breaking Atoms: this is one of those records that has no fast-forward material; interestingly, the band featured two Canadian DJ/producers, K-Cut and Sir Scratch. Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill: Lauryn can rap and sing better than most so-called emcees and R&B vocalists. Romantic, hyper-political, comedic, this album captured most of the full range of what it is to be black, human. Slick Rick, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick: from his distinctive Brit-meets-Bronx accent, to his range of fact-meets-fiction storytelling, Rick was the 'o' in rap originality. Public Enemy, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back: required listening for non-black baby boomers struggling to understand black community politics, histories, hopes and dreams.

Q: Okay, that's four. Now, who's the greatest living rapper that's still recording regularly?

A: KRS. He's recorded some 20-plus albums and at 44 can still put most rappers to shame in terms of his diverse rhyme styles, lyrics, potent messages, cadence, flow, delivery, all of the measuring sticks of what makes a good emcee. He just released an album with Buckshot (Black Moon), where they rhymed about the redundancy of rappers using the T-Pain inspired Auto-Tune program to accentuate their vocals – before Jay-Z went there with his "Death of Autotune" song.

Q: Jiggy, bling bling, crunk ... what's a current hip-hop term with dictionary potential?

A: Maybe twerk. It's a term that means to dance with somebody suggestively and it's shown up all over the place, from Beyoncé to Bubba Sparxx to the Ying Tang Twins to the new Chingy song ("She Twerk It"). It's the equivalent to the Jamaican word "daggering" (the accompanying dance has been banned) and also means to dance lewdly.

Q: Really, you think hip hop could survive without the n-word?

A: Pumping out n-word-like profanities by the pound is doing nothing to advance any community, much less the black one. N-word pushers need to go rent the DVD boxed set of Roots or borrow a copy of The Autobiography Of Malcolm X from the library. And speak to their elders about how the word was used while blacks were tortured and lynched.

Steely Of Music Production Duo Is Dead

Source: www.radiojamaica.com

(September 1, 2009)
Wycliffe Johnson, popularly known as Steely of the dancehall reggae production duo, Steely and Clevie, has died.  RJR News is receiving information that Steely died on Tuesday morning in a New York Hospital from complications following a heart attack.

Our news centre understands that Steely was recuperating from Tuberculosis and kidney related problems.

Steely and Clevie have worked with artistes such as The Specials, Gregory Peck, Bounty Killer, Elephant Man, Sean Paul and No Doubt. 

Steely debuted as a keyboardist with Sugar Minott's Youth Promotion collective in the 1970s.

Steely and Clevie first played together at Lee "Scratch" Perry's Black Ark Studios during the late 1970s.

In 1986, the duo was the house band at King Jammy's Studio, which became the centre point of late-1980s reggae, by which time Steely & Clevie were established production leaders with an immense slew of 12-inch and dub singles.

The duo formed the Steely & Clevie label in 1987. 

::TRAVEL::

India: A Journey To The Other Side

Source: www.thestar.com - Mariellen Ward,
Special To The Star

(August 28, 2009) VARANASI, India–The veil between life and death seems very thin here, and a boat ride on the river can become a journey to the other side.

It was just before twilight when I stepped onto the creaky planking of a small wood boat. The old knotty boatman pushed us away from the muddy shore and rowed. With each pull of the oars we crept along the surface of
India's most sacred river, the Ganges, past the scythe-like curve of ghats (steps) that line the western shore, toward Dasaswamedh Ghat, the main ghat, and the aarti (ceremony). The aarti is performed each evening at dusk to honour Ganga Ma, the Ganges River. Behind the ghats, and a wall of soaring stone palaces and pavilions, pulses the holy city of Varanasi.

As the sky darkened, the moist air filled with swarms of mosquitoes, huge flying insects and the damp, putrid smell of the river.

The riverfront darkness was broken at Dasaswamedh Ghat as crowds gathered for the aarti, performed by Hindu priests in flowing robes brandishing huge burning diyas (brass candles).

Loud music and chanting accompanied the choreographed ritual. I watched from my boat, tethered to many other boats jostling their cargoes of Indian pilgrims and tourists.

When the aarti ended, we untethered and continued to glide slowly north, the hypnotic current of the Ganga leading us along as we crossed the weakly lit ghats. Out of the darkness, a white shape appeared, wedged in the black water. Instinctively, I knew what it was and I froze. I prayed the boatman would not notice, would not point. I wanted to observe the blunt presence of death, wrapped tightly in a white shroud and floating in the Ganga, in my own quiet contemplation.

On we went, the boatman didn't notice, and I breathed again.

Varanasi is the city of Shiva, Hindu god of destruction, and his energy is intensely present. I thought about the figure in the river and felt shaken as some of my own fears were confronted and destroyed. I wondered if this figure was recently one of the many dhoti- or sari-wearing pilgrims I saw descending the ghats for ritual immersion in the sacred river that they consider Shiva's divine essence.

Was he or she one of the unending stream of believers who have made pilgrimages to Varanasi for 3,000 years, to seek salvation, to be absolved of sin, to become a jivan mukta, one who is liberated while still alive, or to die and cross over?

Crossing is a spiritual practise here in one of India's holiest tirthas (crossing places). The souls of faithful Hindus are believed to cross to the other side in Varanasi, the most visited pilgrimage destination in India.

To die and be cremated here helps to achieve moksha, a release from the continuous cycle of life-death-rebirth. Those who cannot afford a full cremation are released into the river as partially cremated corpses.

It takes a long time to cross the six kilometres of Varanasi ghats in a small boat.

Finally, we reached Manikarnika Ghat, the main cremation ghat, one of the oldest and most sacred ghats in Varanasi. It is said that Vishnu, the preserver, dug a well here at the time of creation and Shiva was also present. This ghat symbolizes the cycle of creation and destruction.

In most Indian cities, the cremation grounds are well-removed and hidden from view. But Varanasi is Mahashamshana, the great cremation ground, and death is ever present. At any time of the day or night, Manikarnika Ghat is busy. As we passed slowly we were on our way back and travelling against the current several cremation fires burned and I saw the bearded face of one man being consumed by flames.

Varanasi is a cauldron of Hindu beliefs made manifest. The careful avoidance of death often practised in the West is burned away and the knife-like demarcation between this world and the next dissolves in an instant.

It's strong medicine and the effect can be shocking. And beguiling. Along with mourners, pilgrims, tourists, citizens and students, Varanasi seethes with wayward foreigners who wear layers of dishevelled clothes and far-away expressions on their sunburnt faces.

I spent a week in Varanasi and often felt bombarded with intense energy and surreal disorientation. But on my last night, I took a boat across the Ganga to the flat, wide sandbank on the other side to watch the sunset over the city and the ghats.

Some time after the sun disappeared behind the ancient buildings, the pink sky faded, leaving a pale glow that made the entire scene soft and indelibly beautiful.

I began to understand why this spot is considered so very sacred.

Lights appeared and shimmered gently on the crystal surface of the sacred river and soon after the aarti began way down the river at the main ghat. But I could hear the powerful chants and see the huge flames of the diyas from where I was seated on the sand, across from Assi Ghat. I felt in that moment in harmony with the rhythm of Varanasi. It is so peaceful on the sand bank, yet very few living souls cross over to this other side.

I lit two diyas that I had purchased on the ghats, spoke the prayer to the mother of India, Jai Ganga Mata, and set the candles afloat on the river in the twilight as the boatman rowed me back to shore.

Mariellen Ward is a Toronto-based freelance writer.

::MUSIC NEWS::

DJ AM Found Dead In New York

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
The Associated Press

(August 29, 2009) New York — DJ AM, the sought-after disc jockey who became a celebrity in his own right with high-profile romances and a glamorous lifestyle, was found dead Friday at his apartment, which had drug paraphernalia in it, a law enforcement official said.

Paramedics had to break down the door to his Manhattan apartment before they found his body at about 5:20 p.m., the official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because family hadn't been notified. There was no evidence of foul play, the official said.

DJ AM, whose real name was Adam Goldstein, had talked openly about past addictions to crack cocaine, ecstasy and other drugs, but he claimed he had been drug-free for years.

He died nearly a year after surviving a South Carolina plane crash that killed four people and seriously injured rock musician Travis Barker.

Mr. Goldstein, 36, was a deejay for hire who performed at Hollywood's most exclusive parties and was admired by music aficionados. He also was famous for past relationships with the reality TV star Nicole Richie, the daughter of singer Lionel Richie, and with actress-singer Mandy Moore.

Mr. Goldstein was critically injured last September when a Learjet crashed on takeoff in Columbia, South Carolina. The plane was transporting Goldstein and Barker, a drummer for the pop punk band Blink-182, after a performance; the pair had formed the duo TRVSDJ-AM.

Mr. Barker and Mr. Goldstein were burned, though Mr. Barker was injured more severely. Mr. Goldstein had to get skin graft surgery, but about a month later, he was performing again, joining Jay-Z on stage.

At the time, he told People magazine he was grateful to survive.

“I can't believe I made it,” he said. “I've prayed every night for the past 10 years. There's a lot more to thank God for now. ... I was saved for a reason. Maybe I'm going to help someone else. I don't question it. All I know is I'm thankful to be here.”

Mr. Goldstein rose to fame several years ago as highly sought-after DJ whose beats kept the dance floor packed and clubgoers hypnotized.

Celebrities and fans instantly shared their reactions to his death on Twitter, where “RIP DJ AM” was the No. 1 topic Friday.

“I'm stunned. Rest in peace Adam,” singer-songwriter Josh Groban posted.

“So horrible. In shock,” wrote TV host Maria Menounos.

“Thoughts and strength goes out to friends and family,” entertainer Solange Knowles wrote.

“He survived a deadly plane crash and now THIS,” blogger Perez Hilton tweeted. “I can't stop crying.”

Representatives for Ms. Moore and Mr. Barker didn't immediately return telephone messages seeking comment on the deejay's death.

Motown For A Night

Source:  www.mississauga.com -
Alex Sahounov / Photo by Daniel Ho

(August 10, 2009) They were bringing good memories back, one hit at a time.

R&B/soul quartet BLuSouL brought the hits of the 1960s and '70s to Mississauga last night during the Motown Revue in the Central Library Square. The show was part of the My Mississauga summer event series.

With their strong harmonies and larger-than-life stage presence, BLuSouL took audiences back to the glory days of Detroit music for a tribute to the Motown record label, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The group performed for over an hour before having to halt the show because of bad weather, but by then people were up and dancing to classics from The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, James Brown and the Jackson 5.

BLuSoul formed four years ago out of a love for soul and R&B music. The group has already won awards in Canada and the United States, and continue to bring their love of Motown hits to audiences across the country.

Motown music is powerful because it crosses all barriers and makes you want to move, no matter who you are, said Edward Dottin, the group's founder and musical director.

"Everybody likes Motown music ... it's universal," he said.

What also made Motown music so unique was the quality of the performances, which are lacking in today's culture because of the saturation in the pop music genre, said band member Jeremiah Sparks.

"When someone like Michael Jackson passes away, there's no one to fill the void," said Sparks. "The quality is mostly gone out of music today."

Performing classics from the early Motown era lets audiences gain a new appreciation for the music, said the group members.

BLuSouL performs more than 100 shows every year, and draw from a variety of musical influences, including gospel, soul hip-hop and even country music.

"We have a little piece of everything in the group," said Dottin.

The My Mississauga series continues Thursday at noon with a performance by singer/songwriter Evan Champagne, followed by the Pakistani Indepedence Day celebrations that run Friday from 2-10 p.m. The series runs through the remainder of August and September.

For more information, visit www.mississauga.ca/portal/discover/mymississauga.

MuchMusic Shows Its Age

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(August 29, 2009) Just as video killed the radio star three decades ago, the Internet has killed music television in the new millennium.

MuchMusic, MTV, CMT and VH1, once the powerhouses that fuelled the mainstream pop music industry with round-the-clock videos and created a cultural tidal wave, are mere shadows of their former selves, clinging to their increasingly adolescent audiences with celebrity-gossip-as-news programs, wacky reality shows, TV dramas, comedies with tenuous connections to the entertainment world, and ... well, more of the same. Actual music videos are pretty much sidelined.

Indeed, a lamenting chorus of musicians, music fans and industry watchers is heaping scorn on Toronto-based MuchMusic, just as the channel indifferently marks its 25th anniversary. So much for the memories of a generation raised on Much's feisty blend of slick major-label productions and cheap-and-cheerful homemade videos, cheeky interview programs, excited, camera-ready veejays and chaotic annual video awards spectaculars.

"The Web is the new video universe," says veteran Canadian music journalist and documentary maker Nicholas Jennings (Shakin' All Over and its sequels This Beat Goes On and Rise Up, airing this month on CBC-TV). "It used to be `I want my MTV!'; now it's `I want my YouTube!', `I Want my MySpace!'

"There's no reason to watch MuchMusic if you're a music fan. And that's sad when you think of how many Canadian music acts that channel helped launch internationally in the 1980s.

"The groundwork (expat British documentary/current affairs specialist) John Martin prepared, and the galaxy of stars he helped to create are all gone, completely decimated, and in their place there's a no man's land of talk shows and content that's only tangentially related to music or to Canada.

"John must be spinning in his grave."

While MuchMusic, now owned by CTVglobemedia, is bound by its promise of performance to the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission to devote half its airtime to music videos, you'll only find them if you tune in really early in the morning, during a couple of Videoflow slots in daytime viewing-slump periods, or in the 5 p.m. Much On Demand program that includes a Top 10 video countdown. Or, of course, on the MuchMusic website.

With so little of its former lustre intact, the groundbreaking Canadian music channel that was launched under the aegis of Martin and progressive broadcasting guru Moses Znaimer isn't even celebrating when it turns 25 on Monday.

"We will be doing absolutely nothing for the 25th anniversary," says Brad Schwartz, senior vice-president and general manager of Much MTV Group. "Our core audience (the millennial demographic, with a skew to 18-year-olds) doesn't care that we're 25. It's not news to them, only to the press and people who are no longer our audience."

Besides, what's the point of celebrating a TV phenomenon that no longer exists, a channel whose audience got too old for videos or has found new toys with which to access them?

It's just business, Schwartz asserts, and MuchMusic's doing good business without its former raison d'être, ranking as the No. 2 network for 12-to-34-year-olds last year, behind TSN.

Overall ratings have held at 1997 levels, he says, despite an increasingly competitive environment and the fact that music videos, once Much's stock-in-trade, are now available elsewhere at the click of a mouse. "More music videos are being consumed now than ever before, but kids aren't watching them on television," Schwartz concedes. "They're going to the Internet, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, their phones, and countless music websites.

"We haven't forsaken videos; we're just taking them to the places where viewers want to watch them."

Forty per cent of MuchMusic's core programming now comprises U.S.-made entertainment and "news" shows targeting teens. However, most of the 300-plus Canadian music videos financed every year solely by MuchMusic and its slightly older-skewed partner, MuchMoreMusic – to the tune of $4.8 million annually, and dispersed by the arms-length VideoFACT fund – don't actually make the Much TV playlists.

But many Canadian videos do end up on the channels' websites, Schwartz points out, and on the subscription-based digital channels MuchLoud, MuchVibe, MuchMoreRetro and the PunchMuch video request service, which will all be commercial-free as of Monday.

And if VideoFACT – the name is soon to be changed to MuchFACT – is helping finance videos that don't feed into its various broadcasting operations because the music is unsuitable for Much formats, or because the artists don't match the target demographics (they're too old, fat and/or ugly) so be it.

"They still end up benefiting Canadian culture," says Schwartz, adding that CTVglobemedia has no plans to seek changes to its conditions of licence from the CRTC or to diminish its commitment to Canadian content.

The broadcast TV video age may have passed, but to the independent music industry, videos remain essential to the marketing of product and image, says Shauna de Cartier, owner of the Toronto roots music boutique label Six Shooter Records. "TV is still effective, but the probability of getting on Much's or MuchMore's playlists, or even on (country music lifestyle/entertainment channel) CMT's, is very low.

"We try to get video content to support all our acts, even if some don't qualify for VideoFACT or (the radio industry-supported) FACTOR funding."

That's because the Internet offers myriad music formats, demographic niches and space for videos, she says. "There are hundreds of alternative outlets for music videos all over the world.

"Unlike MuchMusic, which seems to be following its U.S. counterparts and the major labels' example – dropping acts from their rosters – these new Internet music channels are driven by a thriving indie culture, and they're setting an entirely new stage for music videos. They're shaking things up."

The Internet reaches a potentially unlimited audience and is also a more forgiving medium, de Cartier points out. "You don't need to shoot on film if you can't afford it. There are more computer-savvy people out there with good technical skills, so it's not hard to get less expensive live video footage that can provide a decent representation of a band that doesn't have the money for a full production.

"And usually you can see exactly how many people have been exposed to a particular song. YouTube registered more than 80,000 views for one song by our artist Jenn Grant – that's more than you'd get on light rotation on MuchMusic."

VideoFACT gets more applications for video grant money than it did five years ago, when music TV was still fully functional, says the fund's chairman Bernie Finkelstein. "Most artists are more interested in the prospects of a video going viral on the Internet than with big production values or mainstream airplay on broadcast TV channels. Video is a very important tool, now more than ever."

That doesn't make the new MuchMusic – or its TV counterparts – any easier to swallow.

"Definitely, they've been playing a lot more reality TV programming, and I'm not really a fan of that," Billy Talent guitarist Ian D'Sa told Canadian Press in a recent interview.

Musician Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics is less circumspect. "I don't think MuchMusic contributes to youth culture anymore," he told CP. "I think it has let Canada down in a lot of ways. It's becoming this teenage lifestyle channel as opposed to an outlet for great, wild, strange, interesting, beautiful music."

With files from Canadian Press

Elvis Costello Offers Breadth, Banter

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

(August 30, 2009) Elvis Costello brought downhome charm and country-rock flavour to Massey Hall Friday night in support of his current T-Bone Burnett-produced disc Secret, Profane & Sugarcane.

Accompanied by six crack musicians who collaborated on the album, the multi-talented singer/songwriter delivered a rousing 75-minute set. Costello, sporting a dark grey suit and purple fedora, kicked off the 27-song concert with tunes picked from his entire 30-year recording history – "Blame it on Cain" from his 1977 debut My Aim is True, "Down Among the Wine and Spirits" and "My All Time Doll" from his latest – and covers like "Mystery Train" and Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down." Later, he debuted a couple of darkly intriguing tunes he said he had written that afternoon, and offered a stirring reworking of 1983's "Everyday I Write the Book."

As much as the novel folkiness of the organically arranged music the group presented – much in the vein of his 1986 album King of America – the crowd enjoyed the leader's banter. The native Brit who turned 55 on Tuesday, joked that sharing his birthdate with Ivan the Terrible, Sean Connery and Billy Ray Cyrus was "conclusive proof that astrology is bulls--t."

And noting his return to Massey Hall after five years, he recalled that bandleader dad Ross MacManus – "always the better singer" – told him to "never look up to a note, always look down to it." And no, he shrugged, he didn't know what that meant.

The host of the talk show Spectacle displayed great comedic timing and the ability to laugh at himself, recalling a time the BBC referred to him as an "aging punk rocker." In setting up "She Handed Me a Mirror," about Hans Christian Andersen's unrequited love for 19th century singer Jenny Lind, the husband of Diana Krall managed a shot at another Canadian diva. Explaining that Lind made her American debut before a large crowd without a microphone, he quipped "It was like a Celine Dion concert: you couldn't get far enough away."

He played mostly acoustic guitar in leading his band – Dennis Crouch on standup bass, Jeff Taylor (accordion) Jerry Douglas (dobro), Mike Compton (mandolin), Stuart Duncan (fiddle) and guitarist/vocalist Jim Lauderdale – but fired up the electric for a stand-out version of Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale." A microphone change before the song rendered his vigorous voice much clearer for the rest of the set.

The audience was receptive, but sedate, cheering songs at the end, but never singing along or standing 'til the encores.

Lil Wayne, Eminem, Drake, Kanye On One Song

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 28, 2009) *Four of the hottest MCs in the game have come together for a new single inspired by the forthcoming LeBron James documentary "More Than a Game."

Eminem, Lil Wayne, Kanye West and Drake combined mics for the song "Forever," which will appear on a collection of tracks inspired by the film (due in theatres Oct. 2). The soundtrack will be released Sept. 29 on Interscope Records.

An early version of the song — featuring Wayne, Drake and Nut Da Kidd and produced by Boi-1da (Drake's "Best I Ever Had" and "Uptown") — has already hit the Internet, but this week, the version with the aforementioned rappers is expected to debut, reports MTV News. [Scroll down to listen.]

"They redid it, it got mixed over the weekend, now it's getting mastered," Young Money president Mack Maine told MTV Monday.

 Polow Da Don will executive produce the soundtrack, which will also include songs by T.I., Mary J. Blige and Young Jeezy, according to Rich Paul, who works with James as a part of their marketing company LRMR.

The song came together when Gee Roberson, an executive at Atlantic Records who also manages West and helps oversee the careers of Drake and Wayne, visited LeBron during the playoffs in May.

"He came over and played this — it was me, LeBron and Maverick [Carter, James' manager]," said Paul, who will co-executive produce the project for James' camp. "And he played the track. It was hot. It went right with the movie. It was like perfect for a moment that you want to be forever. And when he decided to put Wayne, Drake, Kanye and Eminem on it [together], it just makes it better. It's one of those songs fans will really want to hear forever. It's that type of feeling."

"There's gonna be an unexpected feature on the hook," he added. "Right now, we have three different R&B singers writing the hook to see who comes up with the best one. I'mma be shocked. So I can't tell you who it's gonna be."

On the original, Drake performs double duty, rapping and singing the chorus. Plans call for Drake, Wayne, West and Em to shoot a clip for "Forever" next month in New York, Paul said, directed by Hype Williams.

Eminem Steals The Show On Drake's Star-Studded Single

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

(August 30, 2009) In another eventful week for Toronto's scorching-hot rapper Drake, the biggest buzz may have been for a collaborator: Eminem.

Last Friday was supposed to be the digital release date of "Forever," Drake's star-studded single off the upcoming album Thank Me Later. Instead, the track was leaked and many listeners agreed that among Drake, Kanye West, Lil Wayne and Slim Shady, it was the latter who stood out. MTV.com's Shaheem Reid concluded that despite the mediocrity of his recent album Relapse, Eminem "came back with a vengeance, using a machine-gun flow to have the hottest appearance on the record."

Drake's fellow Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon Twittered that "this song is insanely desperate, but Eminem is really amazing. When he turns it on, there's no one better. The internal rhyming is brilliant."

For those who haven't heard it, or refuse to listen to pirated tracks (are there still any of you?), see a YouTube version here –

http://tr.im/drakeever – or read below what Eminem packs into 48 seconds of mic time:

There they go, packin' stadiums as Shady spits his flow

Nuts they go – macadamia – and they go so ballistic, whoa

He can make them look like bozos, he's wonderin' if he should spit this slow

F--k no, don't provoke, his cup just runneth over, oh no

He ain't had it with bars like this since the last time that he overdosed

They been waitin' patiently for Pinocchio to poke his nose

Back into the game and they know rap'll never be the same as befo'

Bashin' in the brains of these hos, and establishin' a name as he goes

The passion and the flame is ignited, you can't put it out once we light it

This s--t is exactly what the f--k that I'm talkin' about when we riot

You dealin' with a few true villains who stand inside of the booth true spillin'

And spit true feelings until them two feelings come flyin' up out of our mouths, then rewind it

Payback, motherf--ker, for the way that you got at me, how's it taste?

I'ma slap the taste out of your mouths with the bass so loud that it shakes the place

I'm Hannibal Lecter, son, in case you're thinkin' of saving face

You ain't gonna have no face to save by the time I'm through with this – play some Drake.

WATCH IT HERE:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxRIOdaPiIw

Recession Or No, Music Touring Pays

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

(August 29, 2009) The recession bites, but the bands play on, and in many places the tickets are selling better than ever. Just when you might think that Canadians would have good reason to stay home and watch TV, they're streaming out to concerts, club shows and music festivals.

“The business in general is very solid,” says Harvey Cohen, director of touring for Union Events, a concert promoter based in Alberta, one of the provinces most shaken by hard economic times. “Our volume is certainly up, the number of shows and number of bands touring is up. We have more shows booked for September than in any month in our history.”

The Calgary Folk Music Festival actually did better than ever this year, selling out all tickets for the first time in its 30-year history. “And our tickets sold 10- to 20-per-cent faster than usual,” says Kerry Clarke, the festival's artistic director. Prices were the same as last year.

Nationally, the concert business is reinforcing the old adage that when economic news turns gloomy, entertainment becomes more important, not less. The national unemployment rate stands at 8.6 per cent, but Riley O'Connor, chairman of Live Nation Canada, says the country's biggest concert promoter is doing a robust trade.

“There has been a drop, but not to a point where it's hurting,” says O'Connor. “1991 was way worse, and severely affected our business.”

Live Nation's total number of shows has declined to about 1,400 this year from about 1,600 in 2007, partly because some bands read the headlines and decided not to risk touring, O'Connor says. The caution was largely unnecessary in Canada, he says, because Canadians tend to go to more live cultural events than Americans do.

Against the Grain (ATG), a prominent Toronto club-show promoter, is having a banner year, according to co-owner Jeff Cohen. The company has even bumped up the number of its larger theatre shows at Massey Hall, one of which sold out.

“We've had more success this summer than any other summer we've ever done,” says Cohen. “I don't think anybody has a problem with paying $20 to $100 for the bands they want to hear.” Most tickets for ATG shows at Lee's Palace and the Horseshoe Tavern, their two main venues, sell for less than $30.

Some outdoor festivals around Toronto have had trouble attracting audiences, Cohen says, noting the Virgin Festival's decision to move downtown from a venue near Barrie because of slow ticket sales. But he says the problem is more likely related to those events' relatively low degree of local identity compared to the strong grass-roots tradition of the western folk festivals.

The softest parts of the concert market may be those with the biggest share of middle-class, middle-aged fans. Cohen says that “adult contemporary” performers such as Michael Bublé appeal to the most worried segment of the concert public – 40- to 60-year-olds with kids and mortgages. “Those are the guys in suits sitting in their offices, thinking, ‘Will I have a job tomorrow?'” Cohen says.

Good concert action is the best news for many performers, who now derive much more of their income from touring. For a band such as Toronto-based Metric, a CD may be more valuable as a lure for the concert experience than as a generator of direct revenue. “CD sales have to be really, really strong to make the kind of money Metric is getting from their live shows,” says Lenny Levine, president of Last Gang Records, which released the band's album Fantasies in April and also manages the group.

For bands at a lower level of recognition, recordings are often the engines that drive touring. “Nine out of 10 times, a booking agent will say, ‘Okay, what's going on with the record?'” says Levine.

Ticket resellers appear to have had surprisingly little immediate effect on the concert business, including those who operate on the Internet. Live Nation's O'Connor says he estimates the combined take by all types of resellers (including sidewalk scalpers) to be two per cent or less of total concert revenues.

Those resellers have mostly paid full price for their tickets, O'Connor adds, so even if they fail to resell them all, the musicians and promoters have been paid.

But if online resellers are left with a block of unsold tickets, they're unlikely or unable to hawk them on the sidewalk before the show. A venue that is technically sold out may have empty seats inside, and people outside unable to buy tickets. The venues end up selling fewer hot dogs, pints of beer and T-shirts than they might have if the resellers hadn't been involved, says O'Connor.

TicketMaster's much-reported stake in reseller TicketsNow, and its apparent funnelling of business to TicketsNow for some U.S. shows even when regular-price tickets were available, may have temporarily soured some people on a night of live music. But Last Gang's Levine says it did nothing to quell the desire that feeds the concert business.

“I think fans want to have a piece of the artist,” he says. “They want to see them live, they want to buy the T-shirt.”

Click, Look, Listen At These Music Video Sites

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Sakamoto

(August 29, 2009) Music videos have proliferated so belligerently across the Net, it's almost unfathomable to think you used to be at the mercy of a seemingly sadistic program director who forced you to sit through dozens of lamentable vids before allowing you to catch the one clip you'd waited hours to see. Here, five online destinations sure to obliterate the memory of that autocratic paradigm:

Yahoo! Music: A handy repository of thousands of vintage and current videos, along with exclusive premieres and living-room-style performances. (new.music.yahoo.com/videos)

AOL: All the hits, plus a feature that lets you watch multiple videos by the same artist, and intimate AOL Sessions by everyone from Coldplay to New Kids on the Block. (music.aol.com/video-hub/most-popular)

Antville: A trove of indie videos by all those tragically hip artists you keep hearing about (Grizzly Bear, The XX) but never actually hear. (videos.antville.org)

80s Music Videos: Housing more than 1,000 examples of the form's heyday, it's a reminder that for every "Thriller" and "Take on Me," there were at least two epic embarrassments. Start with "Japanese Boy" by Aneka and work your way through the alphabet. (80smusicvids.com)

YouTube: A vast visual playground, this alternately frustrating and exhilarating one-stop site has cellphone concert videos, vintage TV performances, and fan vids from the cringingly amateurish to downright inspiring. (youtube.com/music)

Virgin Fest Goes Pop

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

(August 29, 2009) With headliners like The Pixies and Nine Inch Nails, this weekend's Toronto Virgin Festival is a rock and indie lovers dream, but there are a trio of emerging pop acts on the bill worth noting: Canadians Anjulie and Melanie Fiona, along with Australia's Daniel Merriweather, are singer-songwriters winning acclaim with their debut albums.

Oakville-born, L.A.-based Anjulie – you may remember her as host of TVO's Vox TV – is up for a MTV Video Music Award for "Boom" from her self-titled disc.

The song topped Billboard's dance chart in April. She plays Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Raised in Melbourne's rural outskirts, Merriweather, who now resides in New York, is making his Toronto debut Saturday at 7 p.m. He turned to the crack combo of DJ/producer Mark Ronson and the Dap-Kings band (they made Amy Winehouse's Grammy-winning disc) for Love & War.

Living "pretty much out of my suitcase" these days, Fiona still calls Vaughn home.

Long before garnering heavyweight co-signs from Jay-Z and Kanye West and recording The Bridge, she performed in a girls group on the short-lived Mike Bullard Show and also at the defunct Avocado Supper Club on Adelaide St. with rapper Drake. She hits the stage at 4:45 p.m.

Anjulie, 25

Influences: "My mom played calypso records and '60s artists, and my older siblings listened to Michael Jackson, U2 and Nirvana. I only lasted one semester at a performing arts school; the idea of having structure with music annoyed me."

Breaking in: "I moved to New York when I was 19, against my parents' wishes. I played everywhere trying to get my music out: the lobbies of record companies, on the streets. It's tough when you're doing music that doesn't necessarily sound like stuff on the radio and you don't fit into one cultural aspect of music. Radio is very pocketed in the States – `Are you urban or are you white rock?' – and I'm still trying to break those boundaries.

Collaborator: "I met my songwriting partner (Philosopher Kings keyboardist) Jon Levine when I was 17. We're opposites: he likes Van Morrison and the Beatles and I like Björk and Missy Elliott. It creates a clash musically, which ends up being really cool. We wrote "Don't Call Me Baby" for Kreesha Turner. It was originally called "Don't Call Me Anjie." We also wrote for Fefe Dobson and the Philosopher Kings. It spurred my writing career, which was my introduction to the music industry."

My music is...: "Pop-folk-soul. Lyrically very raw, but set against sweet melodies."

Big gig: "Nokia Theatre in New York in February with Jesse McCartney. I don't know about numbers, but mostly because to play in New York is nerve-wracking, there's always people reviewing you. It got a great review from MTV."

Image: "My style is very eclectic, like my music. I'll do vintage stuff with couture pieces and stuff that I find on the street. I used to be digging through bins at second hand stores, but since I've been nominated designers are like `Oh, you should wear my dress.'

Daniel Merriweather, 27

Early years: "My mom had this old shitty violin with no strings on it, and as a kid I was just intrigued by it. I played from age 4 to 13. The first record I ever bought, when I was 10, was Boys II Men's Cooleyhighharmony, and I listened to that non-stop. It kind of taught me how to sing, that early '90s, really cheesy R&B. When I discovered Stevie Wonder, that's when I wanted to start writing songs."

Collaborator: "About seven years ago, Mark Ronson heard an early demo that I made back in Melbourne and he invited me to come to New York. At that time he was a celebrity DJ trying to do more production.

"He was looking for some fresh thing that he could sink his teeth into; at the same time I was looking for a producer that understood where I was coming from."

My music is...: "Somewhere between the feeling of soul music and the thought process behind folk music."

Fashion sense: "I like classic clothes. When I buy a shirt, or a pair of pants, I want to be able to wear them in 20 years. That's how I feel about my music as well."

Big gig: "The show I did last Sunday at V Festival (Chelmsford, U.K.) was crazy. I just listened to a recording of it and I thought I heard a reverb on my vocals; I asked my sound guy and he said, `That's the crowd singing along.' That's really humbling."

Melanie Fiona, age undisclosed

Early years: "My dad plays guitar. I played piano from age 5 to 13, but never really appreciated it, because my parents made me do it. At 12, I got some vocal lessons to learn breathing techniques, but I'd already been singing my whole life."

Breaking in: "Canada can be tough for urban music. It's like you've got to break in the States and bring that back home. I had my record deal with Universal Motown and I'd known Jay Brown (of Jay-Z's management firm Roc Nation) because I'd written "Dem Haters" for Rihanna's second album. He'd seen me grow as an artist. I had a meeting with him and Jay-Z and they agreed to represent me."

My music is...: "Pop-soul. I mix up the old with a new twist that's reflective of the music that I grew up listening to."

Big gig: "Going on tour with Kanye West (last fall) without having the album released or even a single out. As a new artist, that was unheard of."

Turning point: "February at the Roxy in L.A. That performance was even bigger than I even realized at the time. Carson Daly did a feature on me on that and it was my television debut.

Just the facts

What: Virgin Festival
When: Today and tomorrow
Where: Molson Amphitheatre
Tickets: $40-$100 at virginfestival.ca/Ontario

Whitney Houston's Back, At Lower Power

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

Whitney Houston
I Look To You (Arista/Sony)
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)

(August 30, 2009) The release tomorrow of
Whitney Houston's seventh album, I Look To You is being heralded as a major comeback. Its significance is a matter of perspective:

Six years since her last recording, the forgettable One Wish: The Christmas Album.

Seven years since the "crack is wack" comment during a Diane Sawyer interview promoting Just Whitney.

Eight years since the New Jersey native's skeletal appearance and clumsy performance at the concert celebrating Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary as a solo artist.

Nine years since being dropped from the Oscars, ostensibly for a sore throat, but unofficially for erratic behaviour during rehearsals.

10 years since she earned her last (and sixth) Grammy, for "It's Not Alright But It's Okay."

Perhaps the most important measure of Houston's decline is that you have to go back to 1990 to find her atop Billboard's decisive Hot 100 Chart, for "All the Man That I Need" and "I'm Your Baby Tonight."

Fact is, "The Voice" behind the 1985 debut – the most successful ever by a female artist, having sold 13 million copies – hasn't been a contender in nearly two decades.

With questions about the singer's drug-addled past and divorce from Bobby Brown certain to distract, Houston, 46, isn't doing much publicity for the new album which was originally due in 2007 and she isn't scheduled to tour. Tuesday, she performs in Central Park for Good Morning America and is slated for a sit down on The Oprah Winfrey Show's Sept. 14 season premiere.

A heavy push from Arista (confident enough to have brought the album forward a day to meet the deadline for Grammy consideration) and the beneficence of Mariah Carey's disc being delayed means I Look To You has a good shot at opening at No. 1.

But is it worthy?

Houston's executive producer and longtime guru Clive Davis assembled a fine cast of contemporary and old school hitmakers for the album with mixed results.

Didn't think I wanted to hear a duet ("Like I Never Left") that opens with Akon crooning "Akon and Whitney, yeah;" and I was right. Their voices aren't complimentary enough to bridge the generation gap and the break-up to makeup lyrics are a yawn. Similarly, the new-jack, Eric Hudson-produced "Worth It" which contains the line "I know somebody's gonna make love to this song tonight" is a slick, feathery track better suited to Mariah or Ciara. On the other hand, Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz deliver the disc's strongest tune, lead single "Million Dollar Bill," an upbeat, feel-good anthem with a vintage R&B bassline.

Meanwhile, vets Diane Warren and David Foster provide the album's centrepiece, "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" a beautifully written and arranged, piano-driven inspirational that indirectly references Houston's tumultuous past with the lyrics "Survived my darkest hour/My faith kept me alive/I picked myself back up/Hold my head up high."

But poignancy and humility have replaced the strength and strut Houston once brought to sweeping ballads like that. She doesn't soar as high or as long, so the payoff isn't as big as it was on '90s gems like "I Will Always Love You," "I'm Every Woman" and "I Have Nothing."

That's not necessarily a detriment: though weathered, her vocals are still distinct and pleasing and she's more emotive now – evidenced by the first few bars of the "A Song For You" cover, which sadly degenerates into a dance mix.

It's the music that does Houston a disservice. She was better paired with live instrumentation, staying in her lane with richly spare, slow and mid-tempo offerings, instead of the mod, Rihanna-friendly electro-pop programming that's rife throughout.

The disc ends with the triumphant R. Kelly penned/produced "Salute" that finds Houston declaring "Don't call it a comeback, no, I been here for years." Not exactly, but at least she got to make the attempt that Michael Jackson didn't.

LeToya Embraces Fans With 'Lady Love'

Source: Courtney Lowery, Aliya Crawford, W&W Public Relations, Courtney@w-wpr.com, Aliya@w-wpr.com

(August 31, 2009) *(NEW YORK) - Having established herself as a chart-topping, platinum-certified artist, songwriter and entrepreneur, LeToya is ready to make her next move with the release of the singer's sophomore album "Lady Love" on Capitol Records.

Already shaping up as the female anthem of 2009 is the album's lead single, "Not Anymore." Written and co-produced by Grammy Award-winning artist Ne-Yo, the track pulsates with empowering determination as LeToya's soulful voice reaches out to females who are "fed up" with straying boyfriends.

"That drama … I don't want it anymore," she declares. "I dried my eyes and realize/I deserve somebody who treats me right."

The current single, Regret, featuring Ludacris is already picking up steam and showing promising signs of success as it debuted the most added record to Urban Radio picking up more than 35 adds.  The bold, yet sultry vocals of LeToya announces how apologetic her man is for ending their relationship as Ludacris lyrically proclaims how a woman should be treated. 

The first single, "Not Anymore" finished No.1 Most Added at Media Base. Among the 42 urban stations that have added the song include such powerhouses as, WJLB/Detroit, KBXX/ Houston, KBFB/Dallas, WPEG/Charlotte, WWPR/New York and WOWI/Norfolk.

The video for "Not Anymore' was shot in Los Angeles under the direction of Bryan Barber. In addition to Ne-Yo, "Lady Love" boasts production contributions by (Tank, Oak, Bei-Maejor, Neff-U). LeToya also makes cameo appearances on albums by two of her label-mates: "Somebody Else" from Avant's recently released self-titled album and "Love Rollercoaster" from MIMS' upcoming sophomore set "Guilt."

Showcasing a more powerful LeToya, "She Aint Got" speaks of a time when a woman has put years of energy into a relationship and when it's easily interrupted by a miscellaneous other woman.  The video, directed by Bryan Barber, features Orlando Hudson and Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield as LeToya chants "Swing batta, batta" throughout the chorus of the song.  An instant visual hit, the video was immediately added to MTV Jams and VH1 Soul, as Music Choice added it as 'Most Demanded and Choice Cuts' and the video remained on BET's 106th & Park countdown for 3 consecutive weeks.

Born and raised in Houston, LeToya (née Luckett) sang her first solo in church at the tender age of five. After meeting Beyoncé Knowles in elementary school, the pair later joined forces as members of Destiny's Child. During LeToya's seven-year stint, she co-wrote two of the group's gold singles, "Bills Bills Bills" and "Say My Name," and appeared on the group's breakthrough album, "The Writing's on the Wall."

In addition to her musical talents, LeToya's also a successful entrepreneur.  She owns and operates two upscale women's boutiques called Lady Elle. Now in its sixth year, the clothing store is located in two of Houston's premium shopping domains, The Galleria and Uptown Park shopping center.

This summer, Luckett will co-star in her first feature film debut and lead role; The Preacher's Kid in theatres October 30, 2009 and will play alongside Ashton Kutcher & Katherine Heigl in Five Killers due out in 2010.

No Doubt About It: Bif Is Back

Source: www.globeandmail.com – Fiona Morrow

Bif Naked

The Fox Seeds 2009
CD Launch Party
At the Commodore Ballroom In Vancouver on Thursday

(August 29, 2009) The last time I saw Bif Naked, in March, she was wrapped in a cream shawl and shivering, her post-chemotherapy fingernails covered in Band-Aids.

The contrast on Thursday night in Vancouver was pronounced: Wearing a black micro-skirt and a sparkly tank top that showed off not just her elaborate tattoos, but a finely honed pair of biceps, Naked was a feisty whirling dervish on stage. There wasn't a hint of lethargy to this performance in her hometown, just one stop on her first tour since being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer.

She was headlining the conclusion of the 30th annual Fox FM Vancouver Seeds competition for new bands. Previous winners include Nickelback, and Naked was once a competitor while a member of the band Chrome Dog in 1993.

The three finalists in the 2009 contest each had 20 minutes to rouse the crowd before the final winner was announced and given prizes that include management consultation from Coalition Entertainment, which handles Our Lady Peace, and expert assistance from local sound god Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Franz Ferdinand) in mixing their debut single.

Having brought their fans and family members with them, the rookie rock stars had a very forgiving crowd to please. The winner - Goodbye Beatdown, a hip-hop/funk/reggae fusion act from suburban Langley, B.C. - is an energetic outfit with a good rhythm guitarist and a fresh sound. The lead singer's grandmother (standing beside me when the winners were crowned) was beside herself with pride and excitement.

An excited buzz went through the room when another former winner - Matthew Good - made a surprise appearance to introduce Bif Naked. The local rocker, who's been more prolific as a blogger and political activist, has a new album due out next month. It was as good a time as any to remind people he was still making music, I suppose.

By this time it was getting late, and the sell-out crowd was thinning. "You guys look amazing to me," Naked said, after asking for the house lights to be turned up between each song, allowing the singer to interact more effectively with the audience and, less positively, to watch the steady stream of bodies heading toward the exit. By the end of her hour-long set, it was after midnight and only a modest, core group remained.

None of that seemed to bother her as she performed tracks from her latest album, The Promise, which asks us to stay positive and shrug off our mistakes. On stage with her was the album's producer, Neurosonic's Jason Darr, on guitar.

The band was tight, with the newer material showing greater depth than the enthusiastically received familiar pop punk of Spaceman and I Love Myself Today. The occasional flicker of torch-song melancholy, however, stretched Naked's voice and needed to be pushed harder to be convincing.

She, though, was exuberant - and clearly disappointed when the venue decided it was closing time. "Live long and live well," she said, waving goodbye, a huge smile on her face.

Music Industry Seeks New Levies

Source: www.globeandmail.com – James Bradshaw and Karim Bardeesy

(August 31, 2009) The music industry is using federal consultations on copyright reform to take another stab at winning an “iPod tax” to counteract lost revenue from downloading and file sharing.

The battle for levies on new digital music players, such as the popular Apple iPod, was fought and lost in 2007 and early 2008, when the Federal Court of Appeal blocked an attempt by the Canadian Copyright Board to impose a tariff of up to $75 on new iPods and similar devices. Levies on smaller devices in place in 2003 and 2004 were struck down by the court.

Now industry insiders have another avenue to pursue the levies: the federal government's eagerness to introduce new copyright legislation.

The Conservative government launched the public consultations late last month, hoping to avoid the same criticism that dogged the last attempt at copyright reform, Bill C-61, which was drafted without substantial input and died when a federal election was called last fall. A town hall meeting in Toronto on Thursday evening – dominated by music industry executives and intellectual property lawyers, and attended by Industry Minister Tony Clement – sparked a lively debate about the iPod tax.

When digital music downloading caught on in the late 1990s, the Canadian government established a levy on blank recording media, compensating artists for the copying of their music. The fee is now 24 cents per audio cassette and 29 cents per CD.

“The levy works so well, we don't even realize we're paying it,” television writer Dennis McGrath said.

But the fee was already dated when it launched in 1999. The era of mass downloading – through sharing hard drives, flash memory, DVDs, music players, or online file-sharing networks – is here. Fewer people are buying blank CDs, and blank tapes are obsolete. So the money generated for artists fell to $32.5-million in 2007 from $39.4-million in 2004, a 17-per-cent decline.

A regular annual drop in music sales has spurred the industry to try again. With two million iPods and iPhones in Canada, according to the mobile advertising firm AdMetrics, the potential haul from Apple products alone could be substantial.

“Keep the playing field open and let the market decide,” said Daniel Snider, a student at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, who argued for open peer-to-peer file sharing in tandem with new compensation for artists through a new levy. “File sharing improves my life and it's going to continue.”

But whether it's worth the price, be it an additional $75 or a more modest fee per music player, was hotly debated.

Some advocates think the levies unfair because they are paid by everyone, and fail to differentiate between those who copy music for private use and those who use media such as hard drives and iPods for other purposes, such as the illegal mass spreading of copyrighted material.

It's all part of a larger discussion about how broad or specific the legislation should be, and whether it should be “technology neutral” – in other words, written in blanket terms that give it the flexibility to encompass new technologies as they emerge.

Mr. Clement has set a target date of Dec. 11 for introducing new legislation, but added he is open to taking “an extra couple of weeks or an extra couple of months” if necessary, to get the bill right.

Jonas Brothers Deliver Summer Treat

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

(August 31, 2009) Every audience wants to believe it's unique and the Jonas Brothers, like most touring acts, did their darnedest to make last night's Rogers Centre crowd feel special.

They delivered the typical "we love coming here" shtick and lauded the "familiar and new faces" greeting them since they were in town for the MuchMusic Video Awards in June. But there was an authentic air of novelty when Kevin Jonas declared "this is the biggest crowd we have performed for on this tour," which concludes in Ottawa today.

It's true: Toronto loves them some Jo Bros at least 56,000 strong. And for the naysayers been chattering about the group's decline in popularity - their concert film only grossed a third of Miley Cyrus's, and the new TV show got off to slow start - that's the second-most concert tickets sold here this year. That's just behind U2 (estimated 58,000-60,000 for each of their two Sept. dates) and ahead of Coldplay (45,000).

Of course many of those seats belonged to chaperones of the 7-to-12-year-old girls who comprised the bulk of attendees.

However, the New Jersey trio of Nick, 16; Joe, 20 and Kevin, 21, dressed in shades of black and grey, put on a show with much more musical depth and maturity that fan base would augur.

There were a few neat party tricks - massive rotating in-the-round stage with a trampoline in the middle and runaways out into floor seats, a white piano that rose out of the floor, a smaller hydraulics-pumped stage - but no fancy choreography, multiple costume changes or fireworks.

Heralded by a tape of Queen's "We Will Rock You," the fellas rose up through the middle of the stage and launched the tasteful, music-focused 100-minute set with "Paranoid" from current disc Lines, Vines & Trying Times, followed by "That's the Way We Roll" and "Poison Ivy."

Not that you could actually hear the band, given the feverish fans who were either screaming or singing as loud as they could.

Those rock-star parents who shelled out $15.50-$95.50 for an end-of-summer treat should also have been entertained by the purity ring-wearing sibs.

For one thing, the ensemble's live sound is more rock 'n' roll than kiddie pop, plumped by a driving 10-piece band, including four horns and two violinists. Then, playing solo piano on "Black Keys," Nick  spun a moving tale about being diagnosed as diabetic four years ago and asking the doctor "Am I going to die?" The upshot of this was not to be defeated by challenges, which may come in handy as a teaching tool. And how about that cover of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline?"

Unexpected treats included the appearance by singer Demi Lovato for "This Is Me," and a bouncing version of the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling." Nick, the crowd favourite, also played drums and guitar. Kevin concentrated on guitar and did most of the speaking, while somersaulting, microphone-jumping Joe was the most exuberant.

The Jonas Brothers are hard workers, churning out four albums in the past four years, with a massive, young following that's theirs to squander.

Vikter Duplaix's 'Electric Love'

Source: Thornell Jones, Fortress Marketing, fortressmktg@gmail.com

(September 1, 2009) *(Los Angeles, CA) - Urban Alternative's favourite male vocalist Vikter Duplaix returns to the scene with his genre-blending brand of R&B with the single "Electric Love," which became available worldwide for sale on Monday August 31 via Traxsource.com.

Duplaix, a Grammy® -nominated singer/songwriter/producer and international DJ, has captured the danceable bounce of a traditional Chicago "steppers" cut and married a seductive melody with his trademark breathy vocal style - a first for the Philadelphia-bred curator of international dancefloor rhythms.

The song, co-written with James Poyser (Erykah Badu, Musiq Soulchild, The Roots), is a return to collaboration with his partner in Axis Music Group.

"While many of my early fans know me for my dance-oriented tracks, the 'bold and beautiful' project exposed them to my R&B roots. "Electric Love" reflects a hybrid… a perfect blend of both," says Duplaix.

A noted love man, Duplaix is also showing his fans love via a free download offer exclusively at www.VikterDuplaix.com. The free download of "Electric Love" launches just in time for Labor Day Weekend and wraps up at the end of summer on September 22.

"I felt it was important to show some love to those who have supported me and my music throughout my career. Giving you some 'Electric Love' is like a thank you and a welcome all in one."

Fusicology.com, the premier online source for underground culture across the United States, will be teaming with Duplaix to continue treating fans to exclusive content throughout the fall. "Electric Love" is a preview of the yet-untitled full length release from Vikter Duplaix due first quarter 2010.

Vikter Duplaix on "Electric Love"

"'Electric Love' is a dreamy, lush rhythmic landscape into your own imagination. You can be as wild, creative and free as you like…just follow my melody."   - Vikter Duplaix

About Vikter Duplaix

Philadelphia born Vikter Duplaix was nominated for a 2008 Grammy® Award for the track "Make A Baby" from his third album "bold and beautiful.' (bbe) BET-J adopted  the song and the accompanying music video elevating his status from niche dance artist to adult R&B contender fuelling his popularity. A founding member of the Axis Music Group with James Poyser and Chauncey Childs, Duplaix has produced a Who's Who of R&B superstars including Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Earth Wind & Fire, as well as appeared alongside smooth saxophonist Jimmy Sommers. Duplaix became an International star through a steady stream of featured vocal spots with Jazzanova, King Britt, Masters at Work, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Roni Size.

Imogen Heap's Tweet Sound Of Success

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Dakshana Bascaramurty

(September 1, 2009) A few days into the tour to promote her new album Ellipse, British singer Imogen Heap is a little worn around the edges. She stands in the wide lobby of a building in downtown Toronto just off the heels of yet another interview, evidence of a long day etched into her face.

At six feet tall, Heap is an overgrown pixie. Her rust-coloured hair has been swept into a tangled up-do and brightly-coloured clips that keep stray strands off her face revealing tired, brown eyes. She's sporting a black dress – the blank canvas for a silk scarf splashed with violet, blue, green and scarlet flowers. Her long, lean legs are covered in dazzling, black-sequined leggings and are punctuated with a pair of electric-blue ballet flats. But even this loud an outfit can't mask her fatigue.

“Oh. There's going to be a photo?” she asks with a tiny yawn, noticing a photographer fiddling with his gear.

A thick, silver bangle slides down her wrist as she touches her face self-consciously, before grabbing her make-up bag and disappearing into a washroom.

It may take a few more records yet for Heap to get used to the gruelling promo schedule of a music artist, but she is an old pro at putting herself on display for mass audiences online. Since the emergence of Napster a decade ago, record label executives have waged war against online file-sharing. Heap, whose two previous solo albums filled with airy vocals and synthesized instrumentals have sold half a million copies, has quietly created an ingenious model that has let her thrive online – and it came from a completely genuine place.

After a few minutes of primping, she returns from the washroom, her lips a deeper shade of rose from a fresh coat of shimmering gloss. As she begins talking about her connection with fans –through Twitter, YouTube, MySpace and Flickr – her energy level rises.

She's noticed how some other artists, at the behest of their labels, have awkwardly waded into social networks, trying to figure out how Twitter might lead to record sales. But Heap says people can smell phony motivations a mile away.

“‘Oh, I think you should set up a Twitter account and get in there with your fans,'” Heap says mockingly, through clenched teeth and affecting a stuffy American accent. “Probably the reason why they're not having all kinds of success is because they don't live it. It's something I live every day.”

One only needs to look at the numbers. As of Monday, she had more than 360,000 friends on MySpace and more than 88,000 fans on Facebook. With more than 960,000 followers, she is the 117th-most-followed user on Twitter. Even through the rush of stops through this promo tour, she dispatches several tweets every day.

Two years ago Heap launched a video blog to document the creation of Ellipse . Rather than slick, expertly edited clips filmed in an L.A. studio, Heap's 40 homemade videos are intimate, fireside chats filmed in her London house. In one video she trills on about how she doesn't like the piano in the background of one track on her album, in another, she gleefully announces she's passed her driving test.

“Not having a producer or anyone to work with, you're just left with your thoughts which can be a loud, noisy thing sometimes. So just kind of expelling those and directing those to the camera, the process of that helped me focus it,” she says.

Through Twitter and YouTube comments, fans gave her feedback on songs in progress, helping her craft Ellips e from start to finish.

Even when the album was complete, Heap wasn't done with the creative consultation. She held a contest over Flickr to find fan photographs that she could use as album artwork. She even offered a small cash prize.

Perhaps most impressive, Heap put out the call through Twitter for fans to write her biography – 140 characters at a time. She received more than 1,500 submissions and stitched 81 of those together to create the final, footnoted oeuvre.

“I have lots and lots of ideas and that is maybe the slight drawback for Twitter for me is that I can come up with an idea, say it, and it happens,” she says with a nervous chuckle.

When a leaked copy of Ellipse was listed on eBay in early July, more than a month before its release, Heap summoned her troops. With just a few tweets expressing her annoyance, she urged fans to make the album “the most bidded on item ever on eBay,” which she hoped would catch eBay's attention and lead to its removal. Fans drove the price up well into the millions and Heap herself topped it off with a £10-million (about $18-million) bid before eBay removed the listing. Mission accomplished.

Heap acknowledges Ellipse will be downloaded – “Actually, I know it's happening right now,” she says – but has some optimism that the majority of her fans will find a reason to pay for it. And that idea may not be so far-fetched – with Heap opening up channels to her fans through Twitter, YouTube and Flickr in the last two years, it’s their album as much as her own.

Charlie Wilson Part 2

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

(September 02, 2009) *R&B singer Charlie Wilson, a.k.a. Uncle Charlie, has been recognized as the lead voice of the funk soundtrack of the ‘80s.

With the Gap Band, Wilson catapulted tracks such as “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” and “Early in the Morning” to the top of the charts. In recent years, he has been a distinct voice lacing looped and live hip hop tracks.

Now in decade four of his music career, this year he released his second solo album, titled “Uncle Charlie,” leading with the hit single, “There Goes My Baby,” which debuted at #1.

With all his music history, there was only one thing that slowed him down and that was prostate cancer. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early, and Wilson, now a survivor, is singing the praises of early detection.

“I talk about it at every concert,” he told EUR’s Lee Bailey. “I tell the people I was diagnosed; I just bring it up. I know that people are there for the music and a lot of them don’t want to come to see me praise God. That really doesn’t bother me. I’m going to give him the praise every chance I get.”

When asked if he felt any objection to spreading the gospel at his concerts, Wilson undoubtedly said, “No.”

“I have to. It’s a platform, it’s the stage, there are thousands of men out there, and their women are there – their wives and their girlfriends, and that’s the perfect time to tell them,” he said. “Once I say it, it reminds them that you gotta get a check-up. After shows, so many people tell me that they got their husband to see the doctor and that they were diagnosed early for prostate cancer. They just want to thank me, but I just say, ‘Don’t thank me, I’m the mouthpiece.’”

Uncle Charlie’s appearances and performances these days are often times fundraisers.

In fact, one of the concerts Charlie will be performing and headlining at is the all-day Bridge To Hope benefit music festival on September 26 at San Francisco's historic and beautiful Fort Mason on the Great Meadow. The event is being presented by the Lazarex Cancer Foundation. Get more info here.

“I know how I woke up this morning and I know that it had nothing to do with the alarm clock,” Wilson said of his motivation to do as many show as he can for the cause. “If it was always the alarm clock, then I would love to take it out to the graveyard and wake a few other people up. I definitely understand what it feels like to be alive and how much I appreciate how God has blessed me. I don’t take life and every day for granted. Once we wake up, when need to give God the praise and go to bed at night and say prayers that we hope to get up.”

“In the course of a day, I do the things I need to do and if I can help someone This is what I do. I’ve got a lot of energy and I’m hot right now and when the iron is hot, I’m striking every where,” he said.

Wilson admitted to being one of those people who start thanking God and praising God and praying to God when they’re sick.

“When I got well, I started appreciating life. And when you appreciate life, you gotta start thanking God. I’m thanking God for life. I’m not a preacher. I’m a singer, but I’m an appreciative singer, he said. “I’m getting a lot of blessings right now. How many people do you know came from where I came from and are doing what I’m doing right now? So, I’m giving him the praise. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer so I’m talking about it. I’ve been traveling around the country and anything I can do to help people, I’m doing. We’ve been doing shows and giving back.”

In particular, Wilson is targeting brothers and encouraging them to get checked and sharing with them ways to get checked often.

“I’m informing brothers that this is what you need to do to get yourself checked out,” he said. “You need to know your history; you need to know what would cause it. I’m just going around telling people about this disease.”

In addition to all the work he’s doing to battle cancer, Wilson’s records are working pretty hard, too. He currently has two tracks in the Top 10 simultaneously; a first for Wilson.

“I’m a happy camper. My new disc ‘Uncle Charlie,’ is doing really well. ‘There Goes My Baby’ stayed at #1 for 10 weeks and is currently still in the Top 10. The new single “I Can’t Live Without You,” is also in the Top 10 and headed to #1.”

“I don’t slack up none,” he said. “Every time I get to the stage, I do the best show that I can put on and I’ll continue to do that and I hope to continue to bring other fans to the table. I love the people and I love to see them smile, and make noise and have a good time. That’s why I’m there.”

To catch up with Charlie Wilson, check out his website at www.unclecharliewilson.com.  

Also for more on his appearance at the upcoming Bridge to Hope Concert, go to www.bridgetohopelcf.org.

Read part one of our interview with Charlie Wilson here.

New Orleans Soul Queen Heads To T.O.

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Brad Wheeler

(September 02, 2009) “Make me a queen, happy again,” Irma Thomas sang. “Hear my cry, and ease my pain.” An old critique of the 1963 single Ruler of My Heart praised Thomas's earthy, devastating reading as “one quarter devotional hymn, one quarter bayou hoodoo, one quarter lovelorn torture, and one quarter barroom blues.” That description, a testament to Thomas's versatility, extends to a half-century career that's noted by the release of The Soul Queen of New Orleans: 50th Anniversary Celebration. In advance of Thomas's rare local concert Sunday at Harbourfront Centre, the 68-year-old legend speaks from New Orleans about young singers and the critique of a song (unfortunately not on the new album) that defines her style.

“I find the analysis about Ruler of MyHeart interesting because at the time I recorded it, I couldn't have been more than 20 or 21 years old. I find it fascinating that [the reviewer] would get all of that out of one song. [Laughs.] I mean, it's what I do – I've always had that tinge of all those elements in everything I've ever done. I grew up with all of those elements surrounding me. It's part of me. I never dissect me that way, but if that's the analysis of the person who wrote it, I'm okay with it.

“I did hear Norah Jones's version of the song, and it was lovely. But as far as other contemporary singers, I have not been totally impressed, to be honest with you. There's something missing in what they do. The singers from the early days of R&B – the mature singers – they told stories in their songs. They had feelings in their songs. You don't get that a lot with this young generation of R&B singers. They're too technical, instead of going at it from a ‘feeling' standpoint. Something is lost in the process. Those of us from earlier eras, we sing songs from within – how it feels to us, from within.”

On Sunday, 9:30 p.m., Irma Thomas appears at Harbourfront Centre's Hot + Spicy Food Festival, which runs Friday to Monday, 235 Queens Quay W., 416-973-4000.

Indie Musician Gets Noticed For Wal-Mart Jingle

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Oliveira,
The Canadian Press

(September 02, 2009) Vancouver-based indie musician Hannah Georgas was playing to a mostly empty New York City bar when she got what might be her big break.

There weren't many people listening that night, but she won over one very important new fan, who asked her to write a jingle for
Wal-Mart.

That jingle is now in a commercial, which is getting Georgas more attention that she's ever gotten before, and even some notice from country-pop star Taylor Swift.

The song – with some jangly guitar, glockenspiel flourishes and just a couple lines of vocals, "don't ever feel alone/ you've got a place called home" – is the backdrop for two different ads.

In one, a mother and daughter share a sentimental goodbye as the teen prepares for life at college. In the other, a mother and son share a slightly more awkward moment as mom hands over a framed family photo to hang on his dorm wall.

"It's going to be airing on TV for back to school for eight weeks all through North America, it's been on YouTube and lots of people have been commenting on the song, it's just been a great response," Georgas said in a telephone interview.

Georgas wrote, recorded and mixed several versions of the jingle with Ryan Guldemond of the band Mother Mother, with the longest take stretching out to about 50 seconds.

Based on the response from online posters, Georgas and Guldemond are now going back to the studio to turn the jingle into a full song, which will likely be posted on Wal-Mart's official website as a free download.

Georgas, who has currently only released a five-song EP but is putting the finishing touches on her debut full-length album, is going on tour across Canada in October and hopes the attention she's getting from the commercial sells a few extra tickets.

She adds she had no qualms about commercializing her music or writing for Wal-Mart, even if some musicians believe their compositions are sacrosanct and should never be used for corporate purposes.

"It's another way for an artist to get their music out there and for people to hear it," she said.

"People are asking, 'who is this artist that's singing on this song? We want to find it' and they go and look at my MySpace and other stuff I've done – think it's great."

Although she counts indie rock bands among her favourite acts, Georgas said she was thrilled when country-sensation Swift Tweeted to her more than 1.1 million followers about the mother-daughter commercial, saying it made her cry.

Georgas returned the favour by Tweeting some Swift lyrics on her account.

"I thought it was great, I think it's awesome," Georgas said with a laugh.

"At the end of the day she's great too, she's got a good message."

"I work part time at an afterschool-care program and every single kid loves Taylor Swift, and if any kid is going to be listening to music, then let it be Taylor Swift."

MUSIC TIDBITS

?Uestlove Blesses New Al Jarreau Single

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 28, 2009) *Jazz/pop/R&B crooner Al Jarreau has tapped hip hop staple Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson of the Roots to produce the first single from his upcoming album "Al Jarreau – The Very Best Of: An Excellent Adventure," due Sept. 29 release on Rhino.  Titled "Excellent Adventure," the track was collectively helmed by Richard Nichols and the Randy Watson Experience -- a production/songwriting duo comprised of songwriter James Poyser and ?uestlove, according to Billboard.com. Other songs slated to appear in the 16-song compilation include "We Got By," the title track from his 1975 major-label debut; "Take Five," from "Look To The Rainbow," which earned him the 1977 Grammy for Best Vocal; "(Round, Round, Round) Blues Rondo A La Turk," the 1981 Grammy winner for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance; and "Moonlighting," the theme song from the hit television show by the same name starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis.

Noel Gallagher Says 'Intimidation' Made Him Quit Oasis

Source: www.thestar.com – Associated Press

(August 31, 2009) LONDON–Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher claims "verbal and violent intimidation" led to his decision to leave the Britpop band. In a letter to fans posted to the band's website, Gallagher also apologizes for having to cancel European concerts. The posting says "the level of verbal and violent intimidation towards me, my family, friends and comrades has become intolerable." Gallagher offers no details about what the intimidation was, and doesn't specify who was responsible. Gallagher also doesn't directly write about his brother Liam, the band's frontman, who he earlier said had forced his decision to quit. That statement said Gallagher couldn't work with Liam "a day longer." Oasis was a leading act in the "Britpop" explosion of the 1990s.

Beatle Film's Magical Mystery Tour

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

(September 01, 2009) It is a conversation that still keeps people talking decades later, and for Toronto's Jerry Levitan, it continues to add to his already awards-laden mantle.
 On Sunday, Levitan's Oscar-nominated animated short, I Met the Walrus won a Daytime Emmy in the New Approaches, Daytime Entertainment category, which celebrates web-based video. The film was nominated from YouTube.  "We were up against The New York Times and All My Children, so I'm very surprised we won," says Levitan, calling from Hollywood, and still buzzing from the win.  Levitan, a lawyer, children's entertainer and writer, interviewed John Lennon in 1969, when he was just 14. In 2007, the 40-minute interview was edited into a five-minute excerpt and animated by Josh Rashkin. It went on to win awards at film festivals around the world. Levitan, who produced the film, says he knows what makes the short film resonate with people.  "It's the story that speaks to the humanity and decency of a superstar, namely John Lennon, that has this impact, so I'm not surprised any more, because I deal with it every day, but people are so taken by the humanity of this story"  Levitan has turned the story into a bestselling book as well, and is now fielding other creative pursuits.  "I'm just happy to do creative things...I don't know if it's all thanks to John Lennon, but definitely that experience, and how I handled the material, is the reason I'm doing all these things." Also on Sunday, Canadians Don Breithaupt, Anthony Vanderburgh and vocalist Phil Naro won an Original Song Emmy for the show 6teen.

CD/DVD Pick Of The Week: Death Row

Source: www.thestar.com -
Ashante Infantry

Various Artists
 The Chronic Re-Lit and From The Vault
(Wideawake Death Row/E1 Music Canada)
 http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f596122%5fANAlvs4AAYHVSp2QVAOXfS%2f0Ob4&pid=1.2&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f596122%5fANAlvs4AAYHVSp2QVAOXfS%2f0Ob4&pid=1.3&fid=Inbox&inline=1http://ca.mg202.mail.yahoo.com/ya/download?mid=1%5f596122%5fANAlvs4AAYHVSp2QVAOXfS%2f0Ob4&pid=1.4&fid=Inbox&inline=1(out of 4)

(September 01, 2009) The upstart Toronto company that snatched the controversial Death Row label out of bankruptcy court fires the first salvo from its 10,000 track archives. Disc 1 is a retooled version of Dr. Dre's 1992 solo album The Chronic – using original masters, unlike some past reissues. It's a crisply delineated, ferocious 11-song collection starring his fresh-sounding protégé Snoop Doggy Dogg. The disc highlights Dre's penchant for live instruments, whistling synths, funky rhythms and retro backing vocals, as well as the knack for sequencing and comedy that would inform the work of his next major discovery, Eminem. This album also defined the profane, misogynistic and soulful West Coat gangsta rap that continues to influence rappers via seminal tunes like "Nuthin' But A `G' Thang" and "Bitches Ain't S--t." Disc 2 is a DVD, with The Chronic's music videos, a previously unreleased 1997 interview with a nervous Dre discussing critics, the origins of rap and the blights of beefs and redundancy on the genre.
 There are also seven unreleased songs. The standouts are the self-explanatory "Smoke Enough Bud" with gospel-rooted singer Jewell set to Shirley Jones's R&B classic "Do You Get Enough Love." A featured backing vocalist on much of the '90s West Coast rap, it's great to hear her in the foreground. Also, "Dog Collar" with Snoop and a couple of no-name rappers is one nonsensical groove with a heavy George Clinton influence – "All you need is your dog collar, with diamonds on it, baby." The CPO tracks – "Slipping in the West," "Foo Nay Mic" – recall the little-known rapper's unique booming voice, but average flow. And "Poor Young Dave" and "Touchdown" are typical Snoop stories from the hood. It's an intriguing snapshot of an important era, that aficionados will want to examine. Made me want to go play some Tupac Shakur and Warren G.; curious to hear what else comes out of the vault.

We Remember Gospel Legend Marie Knight

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 02, 2009)
*Gospel star Marie Knight, who came to prominence in the 1940s while touring with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, died Sunday at a Harlem nursing home of complications from pneumonia, according to her manager, Mark Carpentieri. She was 84. Raised in Newark, N.J., Knight began touring the national gospel circuit with evangelist Frances Robinson, according to the Associated Press. In 1946, she teamed up with Tharpe and the two quickly became the most popular gospel artists of the 1940s with hits including "Didn't it Rain" and "Up Above My Head." Knight began a comeback in 2002, working on a tribute to Tharpe. In 2007, her manager's M.C. Records company released "Let Us Get Together," her first full-length album in more than 25 years.

George Clinton To Get BMI Icon Award

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(September 02, 2009) *The ninth annual BMI Urban Music Awards will honor George Clinton as an Icon during a ceremony to be held Sept. 10 in New York at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.  The annual gathering from U.S. performing right organization BMI honors the songwriters and publishers of the most performed urban songs on U.S. radio and television for the past 12 months.  As a BMI Icon, Clinton will join an elite group that includes The Jacksons, James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Bee Gees, Willie Nelson and Carlos Santana, to name a few.  In addition to receiving the Icon award, Clinton will be saluted with an all-star musical tribute during the ceremony. Also to be awarded that night will be the Urban Song of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Producer of the Year and Publisher of the Year. BMI will also honor the Top Urban Producers of 2008-2009, as well as the BMI songwriters whose songs have hit No. 1 on the Billboard R&B, Hip-Hop and rap charts. Expected guests include Bootsy Collins (Parliament, Sly Stone); T-Pain; Polow da Don; Adrienne Bailon; Keri Hilson; Ray J; Soulja Boy Tell’em; Dallas Austin; Bobby Valentino; Cee-Lo; Plies; Rick Ross; Big Boi from Outkast; DJ Khaled; and more to be announced..

::FILM NEWS::

DVD Dishes Dirt on Deceased King of Pop

Source: Kam Williams

Winning the race to produce the first posthumous
Michael Jackson DVD is this unauthorized biography which spends as much time trashing the recently-departed King of Pop as it does praising him. I heartily recommend the film only to two groups of people: those who believe Michael was a self-hating, child-molesting freak and those who might simply enjoy laughing non-stop at a hastily-edited, low budget flick featuring none of his music and almost no recent interviews with any of his relatives, colleagues or friends other than Motown Records founder Berry Gordy who must have had no idea about the tenor of the documentary he was being filmed for.

The movie does, however, include footage of Jackson ’s estranged sister LaToya making her since-recanted statement that “I cannot and I will not be a silent collaborator in his crimes against small innocent children.” In addition we see a clip of his longtime spokesperson Bob Jones, a disgruntled former employee who wrote a damning tell-all book claiming that for years he had to cover up evidence of his boss’ sleeping with little boys.

  Particularly hilarious is the backhanded compliment served up by Walter Williams who says “Sammy Davis, Jr. was the greatest entertainer of all time,” before grudgingly adding “I put Michael up there with him.” Others quoted here include: music editor Nekesa Moody, publicist Susan Blond, and photographer Harrison Funk who praises himself by only talking about how much Michael loved his work. It takes a lot of nerve to put out a DVD, when those are the best celebs you could get on tape.

There are also plenty of testimonials by grieving fans mixed in with info explaining why Michael was referred to as Wacko Jacko, rehashed tabloid stories about his baby dangling incident, plastic surgeries, sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber and pet chimp Bubbles. Meanwhile, the movie omits the man in the mirror’s songs, since they obviously never got permission to include any.

Who wants to watch a Michael Jackson bio-pic where the most memorable tune is Amazing Grace?
 

Fair (1 star)
Unrated 
Running time: 70 minutes
Studio: Infinity Entertainment Group

DVD Extras: Four featurettes, entitled “The Memorial,” “Charity Work,” “The Media” and “Global Phenomenon.” To order a copy of Michael Jackson: Devotion, visit HERE. 

Canadian Directors Laud TIFF As Career Launch Pad

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

(August 29, 2009) For the first time in 13 years, the Toronto International Film Festival won't feature an opening-night gala honouring a Canadian film. And, more than ever, TIFF's red carpets will be awash with superstars from Hollywood and abroad.

But you won't hear Canadian filmmakers complaining.

The festival, for all its international trappings, still provides homegrown filmmakers with the rare breaks they need to find a larger audience in Canada and elsewhere.

For Richie Mehta, whose first feature, Amal, premiered at the fest in 2007, TIFF not only settled a fractious dispute with his distributor, it also led to his first major studio project.

Mehta and his distributor were deadlocked on the film's final cut, with both sides agreeing to let the audience at TIFF decide. If they liked Mehta's cut, it would be the one to go into theatres. If not, well, there would be some big changes.

"We were kind of at a stand-off ... so TIFF was basically a testing ground," Mehta recalls. "That night was probably the greatest night of my life. It was one of those cheesy end-of-the-movie moments where everyone stands and cheers and you know as soon as they stood and cheered, you won."

(Mehta also won TIFF's 2005 Pitch This competition for budding filmmakers, giving him $10,000 to begin development on Amal.)

When Amal premiered, it was spotted by a visiting programmer for the Santa Barbara Film Festival, where the movie showed five months later. A Hollywood executive saw it, loved it, and Mehta – who has a contractual obligation to keep mum for the time being – now finds himself helming his first studio-backed film.

Quebec filmmaker Philippe Falardeau has had all three of his films, including 2008's C'est pas moi, je le jure, premiere at the fest.

Back in 2000, his first movie, La Moitié gauche du frigo, premiered the same year as – but days after – Denys Arcand's higher-profile Stardom.

Most of the Quebec media had left town before Falardeau's movie, which ended up winning a prize for best first feature. "All of a sudden, that gave me attention back home in Montreal," he says. "So that was funny.

"It was really a career launcher for me, because TIFF is really keen on following (filmmakers') careers ... so they've shown my two other films after that," he adds, including Congorama in 2006.

Falardeau is often asked by colleagues and friends why he premieres his films at TIFF rather than in la belle province. First, he says, the festival acts as a "doorstep" for national and international sales.

Second, it's the audiences. "I like the enthusiasm of the public and also ... it's a very sophisticated crowd at TIFF. These are moviegoers who go back year after year.

"So it's really interesting for me to test the film there before it's launched. I often learn how to talk about my own film after spending a week at TIFF," Falardeau says.

Filmmaker/editor Reg Harkema says there's a perception among his colleagues that "you are kind of stuck inside the `Canadian bubble' at TIFF."

But he adds that the festival has grown up since he premiered A Girl is a Girl in 1999, with a focus on "international" content while continuing to support Canadian filmmakers.

Premiering a film at TIFF opens doors, Harkema notes. When his second film, Monkey Warfare, premiered in 2006, it won a special jury prize and, within a week, Harkema had an audience with key players at Telefilm Canada to pitch two projects, one of which, Leslie: My Name is Evil, will premiere at this year's festival.

B.C. filmmaker Carl Bessai, whose latest film, Cole, is coming to TIFF, says the fest stacks up well with competing events. "If you compare (TIFF) to the big festivals like Cannes or Berlin, somehow because of the North American-ness and the fall slot, it's just considered a better place to actually introduce a movie to an audience and get a really strong audience sense of how the film is going to be perceived," says Bessai, who has had seven of his films show at TIFF.

Bessai regularly attends Cannes to make business connections, but says there's a definite line drawn there between the public and the industry. "Cannes is a really important place for a filmmaker to go, but you don't have the kind of access to the filmmaking that you do in Toronto. It's older, it's more elitist, it's more closed, it's more traditional.

"Don't you love to go to a screening (in Toronto) and actually hear the director talk and meet some of the actors?" he asks.

"On the one hand, (TIFF) is huge. On the other hand, it's very intimate and it's very much for the community and for the people. That's very Canadian, I think."

Filmmaker Blaine Thurier is premiering his third film, A Gun to the Head, after having his first two films screen in Toronto.

Thurier, who also doubles as keyboardist for indie pop band The New Pornographers, says coming to the festival "is a matter of mental preparation.

"The first time, I had no idea how big this thing was. I also had a documentary crew following me around and I'm also trying to do business at the same time. So I forgot to have fun.

"The second time around, I said `All right, no business. I don't care. My film is here. All I care about is showing it.' So I just partied the whole time, and the whole festival was a blur," Thurier says, adding that he did manage to sign with the prestigious Gersh Agency.

"The third time around, I'm trying to find a balance. I'm trying to do a good amount of business and also have a good time because it's supposed to be fun. I won't drink too much so I can actually remember meeting people," he says with a laugh.

You Might As Well Live: Lives Up To Cult Status

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

You Might As Well Live
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_halfstar.gif(out of 4)
Starring Joshua Peace, Michael Madsen and Stephen McHattie. Directed by Simon Ennis. 78 minutes. At Bloor Cinema, AMC Yonge & Dundas and Canada Square. 14A

(August 28, 2009) No recent Canadian movie so richly deserves a dedicated cult of admirers as You Might As Well Live. A twisted black comedy about a self-deluded dork who longs for a little more respect, this scabrously funny first feature by the Toronto team of actor/co-writer Joshua Peace and co-writer/director Simon Ennis plays like Napoleon Dynamite as remade by John Waters ... in Hamilton.

Actually, the grim industrial sites and drab neighbourhoods where the story takes place are located in the fictional burg of Riverside. Since he's hated by just about everyone who lives there, Robert Mutt (Peace) decides the only thing he can do is throw himself off a bridge.

When he fails to accomplish that, he ends up in the local mental hospital, where Robert's a lot more popular than he ever was on the outside.

He even has a friend in an orderly played by Clark Johnson, one of many veteran Toronto actors who clearly relish the opportunity to contribute to the movie's store of lunacy.

Alas, after a fateful air-hockey match with a new doctor (Julian Richings), Robert is deemed sane enough to be released. Chances are he won't last long, especially now that his neighbour Fred Steinke (Stephen McHattie) has convinced the rest of Riverside's upstanding citizens that Robert was the one who sent him all the kiddie porn that Fred's wife found on their computer. As for what's going on in the Mutt family home, creepy Uncle Casper (Boyd Banks) is trying to turn Robert's kid sister into a jailbait pop star.

Determined to become "a real somebody," Robert perseveres as best he can, though the only work he can find is as a courier for a local drug dealer. Of course, he mucks that up but not before it leads to memorable encounters with a roller-skating drag queen named Dixie (Greg Bryk), lascivious TV weatherman J. Amberson (Dan Lett) and Edna (Liane Balaban), a possible paramour whose dearest desire is to someday blow up city hall.

But the person who stands to make the greatest difference in Robert's life is his biggest hero: Clinton Manitoba (Michael Madsen), a disgraced local baseball hero who's now nearly as reviled as Robert himself due to an Internet sex-tape scandal.

Cute and heart-warming this ain't. In fact, the grubby settings and crummy thrift-store fashions are enough to lend an appropriately down-at-heel feel to You Might As Well Live even if it didn't include the sight of its protagonist relieving his bowels into an old tire.

Yet as vulgar as the movie can sometimes be, it's easy to warm to Robert and his quest to find a place for himself among Riverside's crude and colourful hoi polloi thanks to Peace's energetic performance as the ever-plucky bonehead.

Ennis is also wise not to let Robert wear out his welcome with viewers – instead, the first-time director keeps the pacing tight and the gags in very generous supply.

Disney To Buy Marvel In $4b Deal

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(August 31, 2009) LOS ANGELES – The Walt Disney Co. said Monday it is buying MarvelEntertainment Inc. for $4 billion (U.S.) in cash and stock, bringing characters like Iron Man and Spider-Man into the family of Mickey Mouse and WALL-E.

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of 5,000 Marvel characters. Many of them, including the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, were co-created by the comic book legend Stan Lee.

Analyst David Joyce of Miller Tabak&Co. said the acquisition will help Disney appeal to young men who have flocked to theatres to see Marvel's superheroes in recent years. That contrasts with Disney's recent successes among young women with such fare as "Hannah Montana" and the Jonas Brothers.

"It helps Disney add exposure to a young male demographic it had sort of lost some balance with," Joyce said, noting the $4 billion offer was at "full price."

Disney said Marvel shareholders will receive $30 per share in cash, plus 0.745 Disney shares for every Marvel share they own. That values each Marvel share at $50 based on Friday's closing stock prices.

Marvel shares jumped $10.17, or 26 per cent, to $48.82 shortly after the market opened. Disney shares fell 47 cents, or 1.8 per cent, to $26.37.

Disney said the boards of both companies have approved the transaction, but it will require an antitrust review and the approval of Marvel shareholders.

Disney CEO Robert Iger said the acquisition combines Marvel's ``strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters" with Disney's "unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties" and ability to maximize value across multiple platforms and territories.

TIFF Adds Free Film And Music Events To Outdoor Lineup

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

(September 01, 2009) Even if you don't pay to see any films at the Toronto International Film Festival, there may be something of interest as part of the free outdoor programming schedule, which takes over Yonge-Dundas Square for the duration of the festival.

Big names just added to the lineup include Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman, who will host the opening night concert by DJ Champion; Rapper Chuck D, who will host and perform at the closing night Festival Wrap party with renowned audio-visual mashup crew Eclectic Method; and the National Ballet of Canada, who will do a preview presentation of a new piece.

This is in addition already announced events involving Neil Young, a roller derby exhibition, zombie walk and even swing dancing lessons. The square will also host the TIFF Live in Concert Series, which will showcase concert films including The Harder They Come, Woodstock and Stop Making Sense, and some new music shorts that featuring local stalwarts including Danko Jones, Woodhands, Laura Barrett and Martin Tielli, and many more. There is also the TIFF Shhh! Silent Film series and other events that are designed to expand the Festival reach beyond just films.

The new announcements add even more lustre to the square's events, particularly the National Ballet, which will preview the latest production from Aszure Barton, to celebrate the festival screening of Mao's Last Dancer on Sept. 16.

The closing night wrap party is a can't-miss event. World-renowned video remixers Eclectic Method will create a set incorporating clips from the Essential 100, made up of the most important films that have appeared at the festival over its first 33 years.

::TV NEWS::

CBC Producer Dies After Hit-And-Run

Source: www.thestar.com - Danielle Wong,
Staff Reporter

(September 01, 2009) Nothing seemed to be a barrier for Dianne Trottier – not a fractured femur, and certainly not a broken elevator.

So when friends heard the 33-year-old CBC employee had died after a hit-and-run driver in Fredericton struck her motorized wheelchair over the weekend, they were shocked and upset.

"It makes me feel angry, for someone to have killed her and not own up to what they have done," said childhood friend Michelle Du Boulay. "It almost feels ironic because these are the things that would get her fired up."

Trottier was going to her hotel after a meeting with friends in Fredericton on Saturday when she was hit in a crosswalk. She died Sunday at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Trottier, who had osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disorder sometimes known as brittle bone disease, was hired as a CBC writer in 2003. She later became a producer for the Newsworld TV show CBC News: Around the World and had flown to New Brunswick last week to help the local bureau.

CBC senior writer Marianne Policelli said she didn't observe Trottier's wheelchair when she first met her. "The very first thing that struck me about Dianne was that you didn't notice the chair ... because her personality was so huge," she said yesterday. "She was so quick and witty."

The Toronto native, who loved to travel and cook, played centre for the Pirates in the Toronto Power Wheelchair Hockey League. "A lot of players looked up to Dianne," said Esther Dzura, the league's president. "She would set them up to help (them) score the goals."

Trottier broke her femur last year at a Minnesota tournament and was airlifted to a Toronto hospital, but still managed to play again before the season ended, Du Boulay said. "Everything she wanted in life, she fought for it. No experience made her weaker."

One time, CBC radio producer Ing Wong-Ward recalled, the lift at a supermarket in their neighbourhood was broken. Trottier called the head office right away and was told: "They're going to build a ramp next week."

"That was Dianne: she was on it immediately," she said. "It was not acceptable to her. She had every right to shop in peace."

Daytime Emmys Get New Venue, Network In Attempt To Lure Viewer

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

(August 30, 2009) LOS ANGELES–"Guiding Light" earned one of its last trophies at the Daytime Emmys on Sunday night before it leaves the air after 72 years.

Jeff Branson, who plays Shayne Lewis on the CBS soap, tied for supporting actor in the first award presented on the live CW telecast.

"This is so bittersweet," Branson said backstage.

He tied with Vincent Irizarry of ABC's "All My Children," who got his soap start on "Guiding Light" in the early 1980s.

"I have such affection for that show. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of television history," Irizarry said backstage. "What other medium is producing product that lasts 72 years? It has entertained not only generations, but employed generations of people."

Singing, dancing, comedy and a touch of pathos set against the glitzy backdrop of a historic theatre were part of the 36th annual Daytime Emmys in an attempt to lure an eroding audience for award shows.

Sunday's broadcast relocated to the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles this year, leaving its recent home at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. Opened in 1926, the venue has hosted everyone from Judy Garland and Jack Benny to Duke Ellington and Stevie Wonder.

"It's a smaller venue, which has that real glamorous look," executive producer David McKenzie said. "We want to call attention to the fact that downtown has these incredible theatres. I hope to restore a lot of the glamour to the awards and make it a really memorable event."

Early arrivals in sweltering heat on the red carpet included Big Bird and Susan Lucci of "All My Children" in a bejewelled coral gown. Stacy Haiduck of "The Young and the Restless" created a stir by carrying a stuffed cat, which she dressed up with a black ribbon and sparkling brooch. The cat is a favourite prop of her mentally unstable character Mary Jane Benson on the CBS soap.

Honouring everything from soaps to talk shows to game shows, it's the first time the awards weren't on one of the major three networks. They had alternated between ABC and CBS the last four years.

"We've tried to make it very fast-moving this year so it doesn't seem like two hours," McKenzie said.

He landed his self-described "dream hostess" in Vanessa Williams, who plays fashion diva Wilhelmina Slater on ABC's prime-time "Ugly Betty." Williams lost out as a daytime nominee for performer in an animated program, a category presented during Saturday's creative arts ceremony.

Williams' singing and dancing chops were on display in the show's opening number, a parody set to "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" from the Broadway musical "Jersey Boys" in which she was comically inserted into scenes from the soaps and game shows.

"I never auditioned for any daytime," she said, recalling her show biz beginnings. "I used to watch 'Days of Our Lives' way back in the day. I got caught up in the whole Luke-and-Laura scene back in high school in the late '70s and early '80s."

The Daytime Emmys were to pay tribute to "Guiding Light," which CBS cancelled after a 72-year run that predates television. The low-rated soap will air its final episode in September, leaving just eight daytime dramas on the air. CBS and ABC will have three weekday soaps, with NBC having one.

Betty White will introduce the tribute, with more than 30 past and present "Guiding Light" actors participating, McKenzie said.

The lifetime achievement award goes to PBS' "Sesame Street" for 40 years of educating and entertaining children. Sandra Oh will help salute the show, joined by Big Bird, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster.

Kevin Clash, who portrays Elmo, won for performer in a children's series.

A "Daytime Gives Back" segment features a visit to Kenya by Lucci, Anthony Geary, Kelly Monaco and Montel Williams.

"If this part of the show doesn't make you cry a little bit, I'll give you your money back," McKenzie vowed.

Lucci will also be seen in a runway photo shoot, with actors modeling outfits from their shows.

Williams is taking a no-nonsense approach to her hosting role, a job she's handled previously at the TV Land Awards and the Essence Awards.

"It's live TV. I got a lot on my plate and I just want to make it through without any glitches and give people a good show," she said. "They'll be tuning in to see their favourites. The bottom line is they want to know who won."

PBS garnered the most network nominations with 56, followed by ABC with 50, syndicated programming with 49, CBS with 30 and NBC with 20.

Among programs, ABC's "All My Children" received a leading 19 nominations, although Lucci was not among them. PBS' "Sesame Street" had 15 nods, followed by NBC's "Days of Our Lives" with 13, Ellen DeGeneres' syndicated talk show with 12, NBC's "One Life to Live" with 11, and "The Young and the Restless" with 10.

"All My Children" will compete against "Days of Our Lives" and "The Young and the Restless" for drama series honours.

"The View" was overlooked in the talk show-entertainment category, though the ABC show's five panelists will compete against DeGeneres, Rachael Ray, and "Live!" co-hosts Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa for talk show host.

Author's Cameo A Weird Case Of Déjà Vu

Source: www.thestar.com - Vit Wagner,
Publishing Reporter

(August 28, 2009) A 53-second scene in the TV adaptation of Vincent Lam's Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures concerns a consultation in the emergency ward involving a patient with a sewing needle embedded in his foot.

During the brief exchange, it is established that the patient, identified in the script simply as Mr. Needle, makes his living as a writer. This prompts the doctor to inquire after the nature of the man's work. The patient responds with a laundry list that includes everything from short stories and novels to screenplays.

In the third take of the scene, shot yesterday on a sound stage impressively decked out to represent the fictional Toronto Mercy Hospital, Mr. Needle unexpectedly deviates from the script.

"Well," he deadpans, "I wrote the book that this show is based on."

The impromptu version, a last-minute prank hatched by script supervisor Melanie Orr and director Rachel Talalay with the complicity of the actor playing Mr. Needle, will not be in the eight-part series when it airs in January on the Movie Network – although viewers can probably look for it among the extras, when the inevitable DVD comes out.

If you haven't guessed by now, Mr. Needle is played by Lam who, of course, is the author of the book the series is based on. Going with the improvised take, no matter how much it delighted the crew members who were in on the fun, would have to count as one inside joke too many. As it is, the keeper shot ends with Lam reaching for an issue of Maclean's featuring a mock cover with his face plastered across the front – the idea being that Mr. Needle is actually a writer of some renown.

"It's all too confusing," said Lam, after shooting his cameo. "I already can't follow the distinction between reality and fiction with this process.

"To write the book, I used my experiences as a doctor," continued Lam, who still works part-time in the emergency department of Toronto East General Hospital. "And now, when I come to the set, it feels like a reverse process. The book has spawned a physical reality that looks remarkably like my hospital. It's as if life became art and then art became life inside of this television set. It's a very weird, déjà vu experience."

Lam was quick to give credit to Byron Mann, the actor playing the doctor, for the way he handled the unexpected curveball.

"I was very impressed by his professionalism," he said. "When I threw in that joke line, Byron totally played it straight and did the rest of the scene. He barely flinched."

Director Talalay had similarly high praise for the way Lam acquitted himself during his acting debut. His cameo took six takes – three each from two different angles – not counting the one that was a hoax. Lam shot the scene barely 12 hours after flying back from the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

"Actually, I was really surprised at how well he did," Talalay said. "I've shot cameos before and I was worried that he was going to clam up. You know somebody's going to be good when during rehearsal they have the lines down but not memorized."

As if winning a Scotiabank Giller Prize for your debut work of fiction, on top of being a physician, isn't accomplishment enough. Not that Lam, who turns 35 next month, is contemplating a career change. He is continuing to put the finishing touches on a much-anticipated first novel, Cholon, Near Forgotten, a historical narrative set in Vietnam and based loosely on the experiences of his grandfather.

Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, which won the Giller in 2006, is a series of linked stories that overlaps the experiences of a group of young medical students as they become doctors.

The TV version, a Shaftesbury Films production adapted for the screen by Jason Sherman, doesn't promise to replicate the book incident by incident, which is fine by the author.

"It's nice to be able to spread an idea," said Lam, who also serves as artistic consultant on the project. "If one thinks of a book as a particular idea, it's neat to be able to take that, push it out and have other people do different things with it artistically. That's been a really neat thing to see happen – to see how the life of one's work can go further."

The patient with the needle in his foot, for instance, does not appear in the book. Instead, it is based on something that happened when Lam, his wife and two young children moved house recently.

"Somehow a sewing needle ended up in the carpet. I walked into it and it actually got into one of the joints in my foot. I went to Emerge and it was too deep for them to take out. So a friend of mine who is a great plastic surgeon had to take me into minor surgery and cut open my foot to get the needle out," Lam said.

"So the line between fiction and reality becomes rather blurry. There is no one with a needle in his foot in my book. That's just something happened to me in real life."

Degrassi Takes Tinseltown

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

(August 30, 2009) It was inevitable, really, that Degrassi would finally "go Hollywood" – as the title of tonight's premiere TV movie (CTV at 8), Paradise City: Degrassi goes Hollywood would clearly seem to indicate.

After striking a chord with Canadian kids for its unvarnished depiction of pimpled 1980s teenhood, The Kids of Degrassi Street – then Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High and finally Degrassi: The Next Generation – went on to become a huge cable cult hit in the States.

Typically, this level of cross-border success would be the on-ramp to the express lane on the road to Sell-Out Town. And indeed, as the "Next Generation" has grown up before our eyes into young hunks and hotties, Hollywood has begun to chip away, one by one, luring Shenae Grimes down to cut a swath through the CW's remade 90210, and now Nina Dobrev as designated dish on the same network's new Vampire Diaries.

Meanwhile, Degrassi grad Aubrey Graham has exploded onto the U.S. music scene under his nom de rap, Drake, with an upcoming debut album featuring such A-list collaborators as Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West, while fellow alum Jake Epstein tours in the roadshow cast of Broadway musical Spring Awakening.

The great irony here is that Degrassi Goes Hollywood actually spent almost no time in Hollywood at all.

"You'd be amazed at how much of it was actually shot here, in Yorkville and on the Bridal Path," reveals Lauren Collins, whose returning Degrassi character, Paige, carries much of the transition, stretching her considerable comedic skills as a dog-sitting lackey to an oblivious celebutante who becomes an overnight showbiz Cinderella.

Similarly central to the Paradise plot is singing star Cassie Steele (Instant Star), whose aspiring actress Manny remains in Toronto – in typical Degrassi fashion, struggling with esteem issues and unable to extricate herself from an ill-advised relationship.

In the end, of course, Manny too comes to Tinseltown to claim her due destiny – another great irony, since the Toronto-born Steele, who is about to release her second album, has actually been living in L.A. for two years.

And the 23-year-old Collins, who left the show last season, is very likely the next to follow. "Degrassi has opened a lot of doors," she says.

She still, nonetheless, seemed a bit overwhelmed by the scaled-down Hollywood-style red-carpet premiere of Paradise City last Wednesday at the Bloor Cinema.

"All the lights and the fans and the cameras ... I mean, I used to live in this area. I'm used to running around here in my pyjamas, going into Kinko's at midnight.

"This," she looks over to the gathered throng of squealing, photo-snapping Degrassi fans, "this is just crazy."

Crazy, maybe. But still Degrassi. Indeed, this special sidetrip to L.A. actually satirizes the vastly more stylized American fare, from 90210 to The Hills to High School Musical, that has followed in its teenaged wake.

"Yet again, some very insightful work from Canadian parodists," enthuses longtime Degrassi booster Kevin Smith, who makes another in a series of cameo appearances in tonight's TV movie, along with sidekick Jason Mewes.

"Depending on which urban legend you listen to, Degrassi actually inspired the original 90210," Smith suggests. "There is talk that Aaron Spelling tried to buy it from (producer) Linda Schuyler. But it was like, `Let's do it, but let's make it completely unrealistic and use impossibly pretty 28-year-olds.' "

Nothing much has changed, Smith allows. "Not to condemn all of American television, but we're about to start our new fall season here, so when you drive through Los Angeles it's nothing but billboards, and they all look like they're straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad.

"I've lived my whole life as a fat man. Just to see one real-looking human being on that board, man, like Marilyn amongst the Munsters ...

"That's the thing about Degrassi," he says, "that warm, comforting feeling that ... we're sexual beings, and we naturally tend to sexualize everything, whether we're conscious of it or not. But the moment you settle back into an episode of Degrassi, you're like, `Boy, if I was still in high school, I would have had a shot with these girls.' "

And, much as those girls (and guys) have grown up, gotten gorgeous and gone on to bigger if not better things, the show remains the same.

"It's cyclical," Smith allows, "and now there's now a whole new group coming up. But it's still Degrassi, still very much grounded in that world. It's right up there with the John Hughes canon in terms of turning a mirror on a generation of young people and reflecting them accurately.

"And I for one am delighted."

A Week Of Reckoning For Canadian TV

Source: www.globeandmail.com – By Grant Robertson

(August 31, 2009) Canada's television industry is bracing for a week of upheaval that only a decade ago would have been unthinkable in the days when local TV was a profit generating machine.

Over the next few days, money-losing TV stations in two Canadian cities will be shut down, their signals suddenly going black in Victoria and Red Deer, Alta. At the same time, a number of others slated to close will attempt to begin the climb back to profitability, having been rescued by new owners willing to gamble that small-market TV can be profitable.

The reckoning for the broadcast industry comes after Canada's big broadcasters, CTV Inc. and CanWest Global Communications Corp., (CGS-T
0.12-0.01-7.69%) warned early this year they were preparing to shut down several struggling TV stations to slash costs. The big networks argue the economics for small-market TV no longer work in some cities because advertising and viewership have dropped significantly in the face of competition from cable and the Internet, and the revenue is no longer enough to support costs.

As many as eight stations – including five that made up CanWest's E! network and three of CTV's A channel outlets – faced closing. In the end, all but the two CanWest stations in Victoria and Red Deer have been given reprieves or found new owners.

However, the past eight months have seen a series of fire-sale deals that underscores the tenuous situation faced by small-market television.

CTV sold its Brandon, Man., station to Bluepoint Investment Corp., co-founded by Bay Street veteran Colin Berrie, for $1.

In a similar move, cable broadcaster Channel Zero Inc., owner of the specialty channel Movieola, bought CanWest's CHCH station in Hamilton and CJNT in Montreal, for a mere $12. The deal is expected to close today.

“We're prepared to suffer some early going losses,” Channel Zero chief executive officer Cal Millar said of the challenge his company faces.

Though CanWest's station in Red Deer will not be saved, negotiations continued through the weekend in Victoria, where employees mounted a last-ditch effort this month to buy the station.

Richard Konwick, assignment editor at the Victoria station, CHEK, said the employees were willing to pay the $2 asking price and had secured $2.5-million in financial backing to cover operational losses. The bid was turned down Friday after CanWest said the financial cushion wasn't enough.

Though buying a TV station for a few dollars might seem like a low-risk proposition, the new owners must be able to install the necessary infrastructure, such as advertising sales departments, functions which would previously have been supplied by the parent company. They must also be able to absorb early losses; commercial revenue has cratered because advertisers were reluctant to buy time on a station slated to close.

A source at CanWest figures the CHEK employees need at least a $5-million cushion to cover their operating losses in the three months it would take for federal regulators to scrutinize the deal.

CanWest did not want to be on the hook during that time for any operating losses that would accumulate. The company is in the middle of restructuring its debt with bondholders, a process that could include filing for protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.

“If their proposal was going to be taken seriously, they had to meet certain conditions because we were not prepared to assume the risk of maintaining those operations on their behalf from September going forward,” CanWest spokesman John Douglas said of the employee offer.

However, Mr. Konwick doubts the TV station would bleed that much cash in such a short period of time. “They're worried about operating losses, but this is not the world's biggest TV station. We have a pretty good idea of what the operating losses and the costs are,” he said. “I believe $2.5-million is more than adequate. I think it would last for a year at least.”

The station will be off the air tomorrow if a deal can't be reached.

“If we don't get this done, I think for all intents and purposes it's over for this station,” Mr. Konwick said.

At Channel Zero, the company has been racing to revamp CHCH in Hamilton under a new format, which will run mostly news throughout the day and movies during prime time. Mr. Millar said the company inherited a similar problem, with a lot of unsold advertising over the past few months, but the situation is looking better in recent weeks.

“When CanWest told everybody it was going to be closed or sold, a lot of advertisers didn't necessarily book for the first quarter, which is the strongest quarter of the broadcast year,” Mr. Millar said. “However, a lot of those advertisers clearly parked the money to wait and see what would happen, and a lot of those advertisers are coming back to us now.”

The new owners plan to run a marathon of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky movies during its first week, a tribute to their efforts to save the Hamilton station, which employs about 150 people. “I think we're the underdog coming out punching,” Mr. Millar said.

TV TIDBITS

Wes Williams Up for a Gemini

Source: www.geminiawards.ca

The
24th Annual Gemini Awards have nominated Scarborough’s Wes (“Maestro”) Williams in the category of Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Supporting Role in a Dramatic Series for an episode of The Line.  The Line follows a collection of cops, criminals and everybody in between as they intersect in a combustible suburban wasteland.  Congrats Wes!!

Guns on CBC – September 6-7, 2009

Source: www.hungryeyes.ca

Tune in on CBC TV and support Canadian talent in Guns!  The story is of four families caught up in illegal gun trafficking and the ripple effect this has on their lives. From the streets of Toronto to Dayton, Ohio, and all the way to the front lines of Uganda, "Guns" examines the incendiary issues of illegal arms in Canada, the US, and around the world. This is the story of the people who traffic guns, the elite police force charged with catching them, and the lives caught in the crossfire.

Starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Shawn Doyle, Lyriq Bent, Cle Bennett, KC Collins, Gregory Smith, Stephen McHattie, and Colm Feore.

Toronto Star related article HERE.

Levar Burton's 'Reading Rainbow' Cancelled

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 31, 2009) *PBS has decided that it is over the "rainbow."   The once popular "Reading Rainbow," hosted by LeVar Burton, aired its final episode Friday, wrapping a more than two-decade run of teaching kids how to read.  Production on new episodes stopped several years ago, PBS said. Along with the end of the broadcasts, the "Reading Rainbow" site at pbskids.org will be discontinued in December.  But the program, which premiered in 2003, will remain available for classrooms with off-air educational rights in effect for a year, according to a PBS Web site.  PBS and member station WNED, producer of "Reading Rainbow," are in discussions to create a literacy Web site and to continue the show's local story contests for kids on a national level.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Cirque du Soleil: Bugs in the Big Top

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Shaw

(August 29, 2009) Cirque du Soleil is back in town next week with OVO, the latest creation from the Montreal-based, internationally renowned troupe that’s been putting a new spin on the circus for a quarter century. This particular production has the distinction of being the first that’s both written and directed by a woman, Deborah Colker, a famed Brazilian dancer and choreographer. It is also the first Cirque production to feature no human characters — this one is all about bugs. Susan Shaw explores how it all came together:

FINE TUNING

Toronto is OVO's last Canadian stop (after Montreal and Quebec City) before heading to the United States, and the new show is in some ways still a work in progress. "All the ingredients and components – sets, props, costumes – are there. For sure, there are changes. When a show is as new as this one, it takes time to get it set," says Naum. "It's alive, always changing." Much like the natural world the show is emulating.

LOCATION AND SET-UP

Cirque's touring shows include a mobile "village," complete with a kitchen, office trailers, warehouses, the artistic tent, a school (for both younger performers and children of other performers), the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) and other tents and trailers. This means they need a big space – at least 180,000 square feet. OVO is the second Cirque show to use the Port Lands venue, which has ample parking and loads of room for the village.

Having just completed its run in Quebec City, OVO was packed up for the trip to Toronto; what takes two days to dismantle takes seven to set up. On average, 55 tractor trailers are used to haul all the equipment from one city to the next.

THE CAST & CHARACTERS

Fifty-three performers – only five are Cirque veterans – bring to life the assortment of insects that populate the stage. Split into 10 different acts, OVO has a varied cast that includes a spider, scarabs, hardworking ants, a dragonfly, butterflies, crickets, fleas, a firefly and the unusual-sounding Creatura. Each act involves the performers showcasing their incredible talents: acrobatics, feats of agility and pure stamina.

With so many shows going on around the world – 16 at last count – Naum says it is becoming harder to find artists in certain disciplines. Cirque has a team of international scouts looking for talent at major sports events, festivals and multidisciplinary shows. There's also a "virtual talent scout" (cirquedusoleil.com/casting), where those who think they have what it takes to become a Cirque performer can apply online to join the company.

 THE STORY

A community of insects, led by the eccentric and well-liked Master Flippo, is shaken up when The Foreigner (a fly who buzzes around, as flies are wont to do) arrives carrying a strange egg. OVO's senior artistic director Nicolette Naum, speaking on the phone from Quebec, says that "the stranger brings the egg, the symbol of life, and the insects are intrigued. The Ladybug, you can see she feels something. She falls in love." While it's just as visually stimulating as all Cirque productions, Naum says OVO's storyline is perhaps more straightforward than some previous shows.

THE SET

Since the show revolves around a community of insects, the set reflects the natural world and scale plays a big part in the production. A 20-foot-tall mechanical flower serves as both prop and character; the titular egg, which obscures most of the stage at the beginning of the show, is 28 feet wide and 22 feet tall. The Wall, which serves as a stage, launching pad and perhaps a secret home to some of the insects, is 60 feet wide and 20 feet tall; of the curtain-like "skins" covering it, the largest one is 75 feet by 50 feet.

The setting of OVO is described as a "stylized habitat" that is at times a forest, a cave or even a house, obvious places where you'd find colourful bugs. And colourful they are – costume designer Liz Vandal's creations draw from such sources as futuristic superheroes, suits of armour and fashion designers.

JUST THE FACTS

OVO runs Sept. 3 to Oct. 18 at the Port Lands on Cherry St. Tickets, ranging from $45.50-$91 for children 12 and under and $65-$130 for adults, are available at cirquedusoleil.com.

Nothing's Diminutive About Michael Therriault, Who Is Charming Audiences As Irving Berlin

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(August 29, 2009) NEW YORK–If you think the same actor couldn't play Tommy Douglas, Gollum and Irving Berlin, then you haven't met Michael Therriault.

The 35-year-old Acadian shape-shifter, who has lit up stages and screens across Canada, is charming Manhattan with his performance as Berlin, the iconic songwriter of numbers like "White Christmas" and "God Bless America" in a show called
The Tin Pan Alley Rag, which is running at the Roundabout Theatre until Sept. 6.

Canadian director Stafford Arima, who staged Therriault's latest show and has just been announced as the director of next season's Stratford production of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living In Paris, puts his finger on what has made this diminutive artist so in demand: "The great thing about Michael is that he has got such a thirst for discovering the truth about a character. He brings a wonderful collaborative spirit to the room, as well as that unique Canadian modesty, which is so endearing."

But sitting down with Therriault for a post-theatre supper after a recent performance, he blushingly admits that it's not modesty he radiates in rehearsals at all. "It's fear. Sheer terror. I'm crazy about rehearsing, but I always worry that I'm doing something wrong."

And that's after a 15-year career that has seen him appear in New York, London and Stratford to rave reviews and audience acclaim.

But the gentle Therriault doesn't feel those things really matter. "I can't judge my experience in a show by whether or not the critics or the crowds liked it. I judge it by how much fun it was to do and how much I learned. That's what's important to me."

In a business where actors run around frantically lobbying for roles, Therriault has just quietly gone about his business his own way and the A-list roles have flooded in his direction.

He was only a few years out of Sheridan College's Musical Theatre Program when he caught the eye of Richard Monette and wound up portraying the villainous Mordred in Camelot on Stratford's Festival stage.

Over the next seven seasons, he played everything from Ariel in The Tempest opposite William Hutt to Motel in Fiddler on the Roof beside Brent Carver. He later played the same role with Harvey Fierstein on Broadway, and the gravel-voiced he-diva told the Star that, "Michael's got energy and commitment and talent to spare. If he could only come up with a name Americans could spell, he'd be a big star down here."

But stardom hasn't been the major motivator for Therriault. "If I'm working on a project with heart and people connect with it, then you've got something great there."

He certainly feels that way about The Tin Pan Alley Rag, but before arriving there, he had a lot of wildly mixed experiences.

Everyone agreed that his shy, sly accountant, Leo Bloom, was the best thing in the Toronto production of The Producers. It earned him a Dora Award but the show failed – and that made him unhappy.

The same thing happened again with The Lord of the Rings, where Therriault's surrealistic portrait of Gollum was the only thing that many people enjoyed about that misbegotten behemoth. "It doesn't make it any better if they like you and don't like the show," he says.

Therriault was one of the few people to travel with Rings from Toronto to London, and while he hoped that "we'd all get a chance to make things better," he finally admits that "in the end, they kind of meld together in my mind: a long rehearsal, a long technical process and a show that kept constantly changing."

There was one major difference in London, where Therriault got "a fantastic entrance that terrified the hell out of me," making his initial appearance head down, suspended 15 metres in the air on wires, as he slowly slithered into view.

"It never stopped scaring me, not all through the run," he now admits. "The technician up in the fly gallery with me was so funny. He knew how scared I was so every day, he'd read the newspaper to find something he could discuss with me while I was hanging there."

But that didn't work, either, so Therriault had to take things into his own hands. "My family bought me this giant joke book, so every night I'd learn a couple of jokes and scream them out at the top of my voice while I was upside down. They were the worst jokes. You know, `Your momma's so fat that...' kind of jokes. It's kind of surreal now that I think of it."

But there has been a lot of that off-the-wall quality in his career. When asked to audition for the CBC-TV miniseries on the life of Tommy Douglas, Therriault "didn't even know who he was."

But after some research, he found he had another source of stress. "I had never played a real person before, and I knew there were so many Tommy Douglas fans out there that I didn't want to disappoint."

Fortunately, he likely pleased most of them, including Douglas's daughter, Shirley, who contacted Therriault to tell him how pleased she was with his work.

His current project once again came out of the blue, with director Arima phoning him up and asking, "Do you ever play Jewish?"

Therriault laughed, thinking of Leo Bloom and Motel, and agreed to come down to Manhattan to audition for the part of Irving Berlin.

"I guess I have to thank my father for my French-Canadian nose, which everybody thinks makes me look Jewish. Those characters have also all been little guys, like me, and I guess I have that kind of nebbishy quality. I suffer well."

Looking ahead to when this project closes, Therriault says, "I don't know what I want to do next and I keep trying to figure it out. I love theatre and that's why I keep doing it."

He certainly wouldn't rule out another stint at Stratford, since, he says, "the happiest years of my life were there and I definitely want to be a part of it again one day."

Asked if he has any regrets so far, Therriault looks a bit wistful. "Yeah," he says. "I wish I were a leading man type."

But then he smiles. "I complained about that at Stratford years ago, and one of the other guys said, `Mike, look around. We're all over six feet tall, but you're the one who's playing the really good parts.'"

And he still is.

Ghetto Walls Around Immigrant Theatre Crumbling

Source: www.thestar.com – Lesley Ciarula Taylor, Immigration Reporter

(August 31, 2009) This time, the ghetto walls that close off immigrant theatre may finally be coming down.

Nina Lee Aquino, who cut her artistic director's teeth on the in-your-face theatre of the Asian-Canadian company fu-GEN, is moving up to the bigger, more diverse, older Cahoots Theatre.

Marilo Nunez is premiering the Latin-American Canadian Alameda Theatre's Refugee Hotel on the main stage as the first show of Theatre Passe Muraille's fall season.

And perhaps the most audacious of all is Impact '09, the "international multicultural platform for alternative contemporary theatre" that rounds up top professional talent from around the world for 10 days, 20 programs and 70 productions in Waterloo Region at the end of September.

Even if it's just the barbed wire on top of the ghetto walls, it's something.

"Until theatre in Toronto looks like the inside of a TTC bus, my work is not done," says Aquino, 32, who last year won the John Hirsch Prize for young directors and produced the first anthology of Asian-Canadian drama.

"Why can't a Chinese actor play Happy in Death of a Salesman? It gives it a new meaning to a new audience."

She regularly produces the increasingly popular 8-year-old CrossCurrents Festival for artists of colour at Factory Theatre in the spring.

"I think there is a new generation of audiences. The big buzz in Stratford is for Rice Boy (at the Studio Theatre). It has an all-brown cast and it's a brown play."

Follow the connections here: Rice Boy is written by Sunil Kuruvilla, who lives in Waterloo, where Impact '09 springs from the restless imagination of the MT (say it out loud) Space Theatre Company.

It stars Anita Majumdar, who broke through by writing her own identity plays, and is a couple with fu-GEN incoming artistic director David Yee, a Chinese-Scots Canadian. And it's directed by "ethnic" pioneer Guillermo Verdecchia, who provided the mentoring that allowed Nunez to create Alameda in 2006.

"Toronto is such a rich place to grow this," says Trevor Schwellnus, artistic producer of Aluna, another new Latin-American Canadian theatre company. "You can't pull off the Mikado any more in Toronto with a white person playing an Asian."

Serbian-born playwright Silvija Jestrovic, now teaching at the University of Warwick in England, recalls navigating the Canadian scene a few years ago.

"I didn't so much try to fit in the Canadian scene, as much as I tried to say, `Look, I just got here and I have some stories to tell. Would you be interested?'

"Immigrants or immigrant-oriented companies were crucial in producing my work. My last play, Not My Story, was pulled off into production twice, once for Toronto Fringe and the second time for a full run by April Productions, by another ex-Yugoslav, actress and director Dragana Varagic. The play featured a mixture of native English speakers and those whose first language wasn't English.

"I consider these productions to be truly Canadian."

Aluna works sometimes in Spanish and often with collectives, adapting the traditions of artistic director Bea Pizano's native Colombia.

For Schwellnus – born and raised Canadian – the often-unpopular, risky collective theatre created by Paul Thompson here in the 1970s is also part of their tradition.

Thompson says of Aluna: "One of their strengths is that they use dance as much as language. In the last show I saw, there was more Spanish. I liked being immersed in it."

Not that he speaks Spanish very well. That's not the point.

More than three decades of alternative theatre have taught Thompson that success is fleeting. So why worry if the audience walks out?

"Sometimes you have to invent the audience. You can't buy an audience, you have to seduce them, you have to charm them, you have to surprise them. You have to invent them.

"The real point is, we should all be cheerleading the originality and the imagination of the emerging companies. In certain times, it has been very true. Then we get chickens--t and hide in corners."

Right now, "we're chickens--t."

Nunez acknowledges the connection. "We're where Factory and Passe Muraille and Tarragon were 30 or 40 years ago."

The 21st-century evolution is intercultural professional theatre, created by determinedly bicultural first- and second-generation artists fed up with stereotypes and itching to break out of fringe festivals and Summerworks.

"When we did People Power (in 2008) at Carlos Busolan Theatre, there were people speaking full Filipino," says Aquino. "An artistic director said he felt angry because he wasn't in on the jokes. I wanted to say, `How does that feel?'"

"I want to make it okay to listen to an accent on stage," says Nunez. "Actors who are newcomers, they have accents and it's very hard to break out."

"If I tone down my accent, I tone down my identity," Aquino says. "It's laziness. Audiences want to be spoon-fed. As soon as they don't understand, they disengage."

"We have moved to colour-blind casting here but accent-blind casting doesn't happen," says Varagic, a celebrated actress in her native Serbia.

In Refugee Hotel, which is set in Canada in 1974 after the coup in Chile, the Canadians and Chileans are trying to speak to each other. "The non-Chilean characters keep speaking louder. It's as if they were speaking two different languages. It's hilarious," Nunez says.

She got flak for producing it entirely in English.

"We live in Canada. This is not just an exile play. It's about love and its power. You can't get more universal than that."

Plus, a little more pragmatically, "theatre critics are not kind to non-Anglo theatre."

Next step, says Aquino: no more "identity plays."

"The reviewers love those stories because it makes them feel good and fuzzy. It's always about the transition. We're never just damn here. What we need is the sophistication of the stories with a fresh, contemporary perspective. The Chinese guy who likes hockey and drinks beer and eats mac-and-cheese with chopsticks."

Nunez, 35, left Chile in 1974 with her parents at the age of 3 months. She has the Chinese characters for strength and creativity tattooed on her left inner arm.

"I'd like to have a meeting with Albert Schultz (artistic director of Soulpepper Theatre) and tell him I want to do a Canadian adaptation of Blood Wedding by (Federico García) Lorca directed by Soheil Parsa," she says, referring to the founder of Modern Times Theatre.

"Give us a chance to bring a new audience to your space and see what happens."

Bringing Goodness to Rwanda

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Michael Posner

(September 02, 2009) It's taken the better part of a year, but Toronto's Volcano Theatre is finally going to make it to Rwanda.

After 11 months of assiduous fundraising and gifts of 250,000 Aeroplan miles from generous donors, the company's much-acclaimed production of Michael Redhill's Holocaust drama Goodness leaves for Kigali and Butare next month.

Its four performances there – part of the Arts Azimut Festival, commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide – will follow an 11-day run at the Theatre Centre (Sept. 16 to 27).

Goodness documents an encounter between a descendant of Holocaust survivors and the survivor of another, unnamed genocide. It won the Best of Edinburgh award at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and later, in New York, drew a rave notice from the Times, which said the play had “the intimacy and discordant reach of a late Beethoven string quartet.” It has also had subsequent successful runs in Helsinki, Barcelona and Vancouver.

Volcano artistic director Ross Manson, who also directed the play, had long hoped to take the project to Rwanda.

But cuts made last year to PromArt, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade's $4.7-million cultural-diplomacy program, put that plan in jeopardy.

Now, after months of becoming what he calls “the poster child” for the Harper government's arts cuts, Manson says he's just $10,000 short of the roughly $90,000 needed to gain liftoff.

“But we're going regardless,” he said in a recent interview. “We'll find the other funds somehow,” by borrowing money from future projects and fundraising the gap. Box office from the Toronto run, he hopes, will make up some of the shortfall.

Volcano's challenge, of course, is one faced by other Canadian groups and artists that tour their work. Although many corporations and foundations have been generous in providing financial backing for local productions, few funds exist expressly to underwrite the costs of taking theatre, music and dance abroad – something that Manson says pays incalculable dividends.

And, as Manson's spreadsheet for Goodness indicates, the costs of travelling even with bare-boned shows is not cheap. In this case, the budget includes more than $4,000 just for vaccinations required to travel to Rwanda, about $20,000 for air fares, and the cost of travelling with a portable generator (in case of electrical blackouts, still common in Rwanda), dimmers, a lighting board and portable sound system.

The Aeroplan miles contributions came as the result of an e-mail appeal sent out last year by Volcano.

The Goodness remount kicks off the 15-year-old company's most ambitious season. With a budget of almost $1-million, Manson is assembling three plays – dubbed the Africa Trilogy – focusing on the West's relationship with Africa. The playwrights and directors all come from Africa, Europe and North America. The project was commissioned by Toronto's Luminato festival, where it will premiere next June, and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.

Manson, who will direct a show at York University this fall, is also incubating a new play by Toronto playwright Hannah Moscovitch.

::OTHER  NEWS::

Freaks, Geeks And Nerds Unite!

Source: www.thestar.com - Iain Marlow,
Staff Reporter

(August 30, 2009) Nerds are streaming endlessly down the escalators into the bowels of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, dressed as pixies and axe-wielding monsters, zombies and anime superstars.

And each one is stopping to take pictures of a fatherly storm trooper and his similarly attired miniature sidekick. Is this your family?

"Sadly, yes," says Michelle Donnelly, clutching her princess daughter Oona, 4, as she watches her husband Luke and 5-year-old son Ronan pose for the costumed horde.

"You should see us at Halloween."

Welcome to
Fan Expo Canada 2009, a three-day embrace of the uber-nerd within that started, on a much smaller scale, in 1995. Organizers expect roughly 50,000 people this year, wearing anything from mustard-stained T-shirts and black, featureless Nike shoes to elaborate zombie costumes of fake-shredded skin, gore and massive toy weapons.

Yesterday thousands ran giddily from bargain comic-book stalls (Atomic Rabbit, anyone?) to video game demonstrations (where beautiful assistants stood listless as adolescents crowded around Wii and PS3 systems), from lineups for Leonard Nimoy autographs ($60 each) to signed Patrick Stewart cards (only $75).

Around noon, Chris Misener, a 22-year-old in a black knee-length coat who drove up from Hamilton for what he called his "fantastic getaway," sidled over to a hunky Green Lantern.

"Can I take your picture?" he asked the spandex-clad figure, who stood between flaming oil drum props.

"Would you like to be in the picture?" the Green Lantern asked back.

Misener nodded and took out his X-Men Cyclops visor for the occasion. "I got here as early as I could – one of my friends had costume issues," he said after the photo session.

Giggling Yoda wannabe Aubrey Rishaur, at 15 months, had no need to feign youth, though remarkably, this was not his first Fan Expo.

"He came last year; he was only a few months old," Bat Girl mom Cindy said. "It's my husband, he comes down for the sci-fi stuff."

Of which there was plenty, of course, including an appearance by Billy Dee Williams, who played Lando Calrissian in a couple of Star Wars movies. Clutching an autographed picture of Calrissian with a ray gun, Jade Barsalou, 26, said, "We came down just for Lando."

"We waited an hour and a half," her friend Danielle Mason, 32, said. "It was so worth it."

There were also lesser stars, such as the undead-slaying cult hero in Evil Dead and Army of Darkness Bruce Campbell, who had a lineup of blood-spattered fans, and former professional wrestler the Honky Tonk Man.

One man, stripped down to a beige G-string, was having his body airbrushed into the Green Lantern, to promote an upcoming movie.

"That's really awkward, he's spraying his crotch," one girl said.

Another, pausing to take in the unusual scene, added: "This is 20 levels of wrong."

The convention finishes today.

Scam Targeted Facebook Friends Of N.l. Woman

Source: www.yahoo.com

(Aug. 26, 2009) ST. JOHNS (CBC) - The online message sent from Ann Cousins's Facebook account said the Newfoundland woman had been robbed of all her money at gunpoint while vacationing in London, England, and was desperate for help from her friends.

In fact, Cousins was at work in Port Aux Basques, on Newfoundland's southwest coast, at the time, unaware that her account had been hacked and someone was trying to con her friends and family.

Cousins spoke publicly Wednesday about last week's incident in hopes of urging other people to protect themselves from possible identity theft.

"That's the scary part," she said. "You watch movies on TV about people losing their identity, you know. That's the first thing that popped into my mind."

Cousins said that on Aug. 17, she got a call from her daughter-in-law who said she had just received the message and believed Cousins was playing a practical joke on her since the two live in the same house.

Cousins, immediately suspecting her account had been hacked, tried to sign in to her Facebook account to warn her online friends and family of what had happened, but she couldn't access her account.

"They changed my password," she said. "I couldn't get in. I still can't get in on it."

Then Cousins received a second call, this time from a friend in Western Canada who received the same message about Cousins being robbed. The sender asked her friend to wire $800 to London to pay for a hotel room.

"They told her to send money through Western Union," she said. "She phoned me in a panic. And when she phoned me, she said 'Oh, thank God!'," Cousins said, "She didn't know if I was in London or where I was at."

Cousins said the incident worries her because it suggests that some of her other online transactions could be compromised.

"It's a very scary thought," Cousins said. "You don't know what people could do. Like, I do all my banking online and ... I don't know if I want to do that anymore."

She contacted her internet provider, Bell Aliant, who recommends she protect herself by changing passwords every 60 days.

As for social networking, Cousins said she wants to permanently shut down her Facebook account and said she is in contact with the company to have that done.

"I got no interest in going back on there," she said.

For Kelly Mark, Making Artwork All In A Day's Work

Source: www.thestar.com - Murray Whyte,
Visual Arts Reporter

(August 30, 2009) In Kelly Mark's crammed-full studio at the base of Tecumseth St., an ancient manual punch-clock is tucked on a shelf near the shimmering widescreen Mac she uses to assemble her significantly higher-tech work.

Sliding open a drawer, Mark removes a neat stack of punchcards that catalogue her recent days spent preparing for a show of new work at Diaz Contemporary, which opens Thursday.

"11 a.m. to 4 p.m., then 8 until 6 in the morning," she says, reading the time stamps on the card, rendered in uneven ink. "8 at night until 8 in the morning." She flips to a new card, and pauses. "Noon to 4." She smiles. "Slow day."

Mark can be forgiven a slack moment here and there. Since at least 1997, her output has been frantically broad and prodigious, spanning sculpture, text, neon, video, sound, performance and, in at least one case, a variation on needlepoint.

What they all have in common, though, seems neatly summarized by the cards themselves. They're actually part of an ongoing piece that Mark, 41, started in 1997. It's called "In & Out," and is just what it appears to be: When she starts making art each day, she punches in. When she calls it quits, she punches out. She marks her time, and uses it. Art is her job, and when she's on the job, she works.

There's an echo of such artists as '70s conceptualist On Kawara, among others, who stamped the time he got up each day on the backs of two postcards, and sent them to friends in New York for three years. Both obsessive and mundane, Mark takes the idea and renders it less self-indulgent and more simply pragmatic.

Or is it? Like much of Mark's work, "In & Out" tries to understand the time we spend and how we spend it, and what – if anything – we have to show for it. For Mark, whose father worked in various factories in Welland, Ont., and whose mother worked at Canadian Tire, time's value, or lack thereof, is a constant, worrying presence.

In the Diaz show, Mark is showing a series of dense collages assembled from hundreds of pages of obsolete Letraset sheafs. She disavows them as doodles, but allows that each took months to complete; as such, they're an excruciatingly dense catalogue of time, inexorably whittled away.

For Mark, the process of making art is kept low to the ground, like any job. "In & Out" is sustained by a private collector who hopes to give it to the Art Gallery of Ontario, provided they agree to commit to a modest annual fee to sustain it. ("I want the AGO to become my sh---y boss," Mark laughs.)

Even if they don't, Mark has never had any lack of takers. Constantly busy producing work for museums and public galleries across Canada and around the world, her time is, mostly, spoken for anyway.

The show at Diaz is, like most of her work, the product of feverish industry. Mark, busy with museum shows, hadn't shown commercially in a few years, she says, which made her antsy. So she started punching the clock a little harder.

The work at Diaz shows the breadth of her practice, and her trademark self-deprecating wit. "Nothing is so important that it needs to be made in 6 foot neon," reads a sign, six feet tall, in neon.

It's a jab both at conceptual art history – Bruce Nauman, the famous American artist, initiated the medium as art in the mid-60s – and at herself: Mark has made several neon sculptures over the past few years, often gently-transparent jibes at various insecurities, her own included: "I have no issues," reads one, with the "no" flickering on and off.

Another neon piece grew from a sound project, "I really should ...". In it, Mark resignedly catalogues all the things that, undoubtedly, would improve her life: I really should eat more bran, I really should stop using the word `cool,' I really should keep my opinions to myself, I really should try to remember which one is the salad fork. Taken together, the piece nags at the subconscious, a semi-serious litany of the inertness we all feel: I should, but I don't, and why?

It is, like much of her work, obsessively aware of our lazily self-recriminating, workaday lives. And the frustrations sometimes bubble over: "It's Just One God Damn Thing After Another," an annoyed cliché, is emblazoned on a metal disc; its circular form embodies the grim prophecy of the words themselves, endlessly repeating.

True to her workaday aesthetic, Mark is a purveyor of artists' multiples, an early conceptualist notion that meant to devalue the singularity of an art object by making the same thing in bunches. It also dovetails nicely into Mark's pointedly unromantic artmaking practice: Mark is a worker, art is her product.

At Diaz, Mark has made a series of "Exit" signs, altered to read "Exist." Which is different, a gung-ho life coach might say, from actually living; and the gap between the two – unpassable by the ridiculous drudgery of the workaday – is Mark's stock in trade.

In her only video piece at Diaz, "A Man & A Woman," text fades in and out in an inexorable, Hollywood-esque tease: "A Man; A Woman; An Architect; A Barber," and on, for more than eight minutes, through "A Street-Smart Detroit Cop," "An Over-the-Hill Football Player," "An Emotionally Hollow Rock Star." Mark hilariously builds anticipation with absolutely no payoff – waiting, excruciatingly unrequited.

Like "I really should ...", the piece isn't just an admonishment, or a tease, but a mildly-issued challenge: If you should, why don't you? And what, exactly, are you waiting for, anyway?

Carefully unpacking a box on the table in her kitchen, Mark tilts back the lid to show a five-foot long neon piece to be installed in the gallery this week. "Working Hard(ly) Working," it shimmers, the "ly" cast in a paler shade than the rest.

The piece, unlike her other illuminated text pieces, has a dimmer switch, convenient for home display on occasions when blinding neon isn't quite appropriate.

Mark understands product. She also knows where she's from. She dims the piece slightly and smiles. "Blue-collar blue," she says. Kelly Mark isn't waiting for anything. She really should get back to work. And she does.

Kelly Mark: It's One Goddamn Thing After Another, runs Thursday through Oct. 10.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

How The Other Half Plays

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

(August 29, 2009) If you're the type to scour weekly flyers for video game sales and console price drops (such as last week's PlayStation 3 announcement), you need not concern yourself with the Encore, a new countertop gaming system from Toronto-based JVL (jvl-ent.com).

Because at $3,999 (U.S.) – yes, that's right – this luxury item isn't trying to compete with the current crop of sub-$300 machines. In fact, with Ivanka Trump providing the testimonial quote in JVL's press materials, it's fairly clear JVL is not going after prudent players.

If you've got the cash to spare, however, and want an entertaining appliance (and conversation piece), you won't be disappointed with this Amazon.com exclusive. I grudgingly gave back my loaner unit after tasting how the other half lives for six weeks. Sigh.

The Encore is an all-in-one gaming system not unlike what you might find on a bar at your local pub – actually, there's an optional coin slot in case you want an additional revenue stream. The glossy 22-inch touch screen delivers a high-definition gaming experience, though most of the built-in 140-odd video games are cartoon-like in the graphics department. Players can use their fingertips or the spill-resistant buttons to navigate among genres – such as Action, Puzzle, Strategy and Cards – and then tap to begin playing.

This unit looks extremely cool, including coloured lights on top of the screen that change during gameplay, but the feature that blew me away was the incredible audio, powered by four loudspeakers and a subwoofer.

At a hefty 38 pounds, though, you might want to give the Encore (measuring 22 by 21 by 15 inches) a dedicated place in your home, perhaps near your high-speed Internet connection, as the Ethernet jack in the back is reserved for downloadable updates and new games.

Most of Encore's games are of the "casual" variety, so don't expect first-person shooters like Call of Duty or vast fantasy landscapes à la World of Warcraft. Instead, gem-swapping puzzles, poker matches, Sudoku challenges and trivia-based digital diversions are the name of the game.

A few of my favourites include:

Monster Mash: Save the fearless monster hunters (who resemble the Ghostbusters gang) by destroying flying witches, toothy vampires and ghastly Frankensteins. As you make your way through a haunted mansion, use your fingertip to quickly tap the baddies, while leaving the hunters alone.

Gone Snowboarding: Along with Gone Fishing and Gone Bowling, Gone Snowboarding stars a white polar bear who must shred three increasingly difficult mountains. Collect power-ups and avoid trees to make it to the bottom of each hill in record time.

Underwater Mess: Scour a messy underwater world and find all the items listed at the top of the screen, plus hidden treasures. In a take on Where's Waldo, your task is to tap the correct items, while incorrect ones will cost you points.

Nintendo's Flipnote Studio Is A Pocket Animation Suite

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

Flipnote Studio
Nintendo DSi
Free
Rated E
http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(August 29, 2009) Maybe I'm a giant geek, but out of all the products and capabilities announced for Nintendo's DSi hand-held, the one I was always most excited about was the application formerly known as "Moving Notepad."

Even geekier, I refused to have my experience ruined by spoilers – I knew it was a sketch app, which I'd always thought the DS needed, and that was it. The wait was worth it; launched this month as
Flipnote Studio, the little free-to-download program has blown me away. If the DSi wasn't a must-have before, it is now.

Though Flipnote Studio has all the basic jot-and-sketch functionality you'd expect given its old "Notepad" handle, its real coolness comes from the "Moving" part: this is a pocket animation suite, each note-page a frame.

Under a simple set of paint and draw tools, along with a greatly useful lightbox function that lets you keep track of where your figures ought to be, your little flipbook-style movie will come together quickly – actually, almost instantly. If your experience is anything like mine, that first eight-second clip you come up with will be a time-lapse illustration of Flipnote Studio's rapid learning curve, the final frames many times more sophisticated than the initial scribbles. It's a gratifying feeling.

Easy as it is to learn and use, there's some sophistication to be had here, though nobody would ever mistake Flipnote Studio for a pro-level animation workstation. Two layers enable two colours, or a rough sketch layer. Frames may be copy and pasted – which speeds up the process, but loses the delightful organic squiggliness of hand-traced frames – and rearranged on a timeline. A multi-step "Undo" has your back. Coolest of all, Flipnote Studio can import (in lo-res black and white, but still...) images from the DSi camera, and sounds from the DSi microphone; in fact, Flipnote greatly improves the utility of the latter by offering a light but functional multi-track sound mixer.

The possibilities of what you can come up with using Flipnote Studio are pretty exciting, and you're going to want to share your precious achievements. This is where I was kind of worried; obsessed with controlling content and connections (read: "protecting kids"), Nintendo isn't known for making it easy for users to meet and share.

Flipnote Studio may be evidence of a thaw in that stance. Through a third party, Japanese community portal Hatena, flipnote makers can freely upload, download, edit, share, rate and comment on their and others' work. You can even embed your flipnotes in webpages, or post them to that terrifying den of weirdoes and crazies, Facebook. Veterans of DS app-toys like Electroplankton will appreciate how good it feels to spring your creations from DS jail.

Did I mention that Flipnote Studio is a free download? Yep, just hit the DSi Shop and grab it; deals don't get much better.

There is, though, one big drawback to Flipnote Studio that I ought to point out: hand cramps. After tracing 80 frames with the little stylus, your fingers start locking up into a kind of gnarled claw; I ended up switching to a cheap plastic mechanical pencil with the lead retracted, just to give my aching mitts something substantial to grasp.

But carpal tunnel syndrome is a small price to pay in the service of one's art.

::SPORTS NEWS::

B.C. Pair Shoot Way Into History With Canada Games Medals

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

(August 29, 2009) Sue Kim of Langley, B.C., and Eugene Wong of North Vancouver, B.C., stamped their names in the Canada Games history book yesterday, winning gold in golf in the sport's Games debut.

Kim shot a seven-over-par 79 yesterday in blustery conditions at Roseneath, P.E.I., for a four-round total of 293.

Augusta James of Bath, Ont., finished in a four-way tie for second at 303, taking the silver medal in playoff that took three holes to decide.

Soo Bin Kim of Coquitlam, B.C., won the bronze.

Wong started the day six shots back but charged up the leaderboard – shooting a 2-under 70 for a four-round 288, forcing a playoff with Justin Shin of Maple Ridge, B.C. Shin took silver after a playoff that also lasted three holes. Julien Goulet of St-Roch de l'Achigan, Que., finished at 292 to win the bronze.

B.C. also won the men's and women's team events place Thursday.

LPGA: Beth Bader shot an 8-under 64 at the Safeway Classic, to take a one-stroke lead into the second round at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains, Ore.

Anna Nordqvist and Seon Hwa Lee each had 65s, a stroke in front of a group that were two shots back.

Hamilton's Alena Sharp (71) was tied for 40th. Lorie Kane of Charlottetown was tied for 116th after struggling to a five-over 77.

LEFTY TO PLAY: Phil Mickelson will play in the Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts next week in Norton, Mass.

Mickelson has played only three tournaments since the U.S. Open in June after taking time off to be with his wife, Amy, and his mother, Mary, who were both recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

The tournament is the second leg of the PGA Tour's four-event FedExCup playoff series

EUROPEAN PGA: Paul Lawrie shot a second straight bogey-free round yesterday, a three-under 69 that gave him a two-stroke lead over four other players halfway through the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, Scotland.

Star wire services

Chan Puts The Generation Gap On Ice

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman,
Sports Reporter

(August 30, 2009) Patrick Chan and Don Jackson's figure skating eras are separated by nearly 50 years, but you wouldn't have known that on the ice yesterday.

Chan, world championship silver medallist and a top contender for the 2010 Winter Olympics, put on a clinic for the Forest Hill Figure Skating Club with Jackson, world champion in 1962 and the first man to land a triple Lutz in competition.

The 18-year-old Chan and the 69-year-old Jackson were a pair of skating Pied Pipers in the frosty arena, as youngsters ranging from 5 to 19 followed their every word and move, as did a group of instructors. Talk about rapt attention.

"Well, I think if I was a young kid and Patrick Chan came to do a seminar for me, I'd be eating up everything, too," said Jackson.

Elaine Hume, an instructor at the club for 25 years who knows Chan through his late coach Osborne Colson, put things in perspective.

"This is a unique situation where the past meets the present," said Hume. "These kids have a pretty good idea they (Jackson and Chan) are part of figure skating history. They know this is something pretty special."

Chan and Jackson have some history, too. Turns out that when Chan was just 8 and living in Ottawa, he was in Jackson's learn-to-skate class at the Minto Club. But their closest connection is through Colson, who was Jackson's best friend and trained the 1960 Olympic bronze medallist as a pro.

Jackson recalls when he first heard about Colson's prize protégé.

"He said, `I've got this young boy with me, he's an excellent little skater but he's got something special.' It was Patrick Chan he was talking about."

That something special was on display yesterday, as Chan charmed everyone. He also left behind more than memories. Chan donated his gold medal and award from his first-ever Grand Prix victory at the Trophée Eric Bompard in Paris in 2007 to the club's trophy case.

"It's sort of to inspire you guys," he told the skaters, later adding: "I owe you guys more than you owe me."

Chan said it was important for him to connect with the skaters.

"This is going back to the roots," he said. "These are the kids that are the future of Canada's skating. They're the ones who are going to be looking up to me – hopefully – when they get up to a higher level if they do, just like I looked up to Elvis (Stojko) or Kurt (Browning)."

Jackson reminisced with Chan about Colson and showed him the ins and outs of a toe wally, a move not used much today but one Chan may employ in a show program.

"He gives me a lot of tips," said Chan. "Always, always so nice and always compliments me. If I ever feel down, I'll probably give him a call to motivate me back up."

Like most, Chan marvels at the longevity of Jackson, who still coaches at the Minto Club and skates in shows.

"I think I'd be in sunny Florida enjoying my retirement," said Chan. "But that's what he loves."

Jackson, for his part, is impressed with Chan's sense of joy on the ice.

"He loves what he's doing. That's why he's there. And he passed that on to the skaters. And I hope I do the same thing."

No worries on that front.

Canadians Rowers Win World Silver

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Canadian Press

(August 30, 2009) POZNAN, Poland – Canada's men's eight captured silver today at the world rowing championships, the lone highlight in a largely disappointing day for Canadian crews.

Aided by a strong tailwind at Malta Lake, the Canadians crossed the line in five minutes 27.15 seconds, well back of the gold medal winners from Germany (5:24.13). The Netherlands placed third in 5:28.32, edging out the host Polish team by less than a tenth of a second.

Canada coxswain Mark Laidlaw said he expected the race to be a challenging one.

"I was very aware of Germany during the race, but I knew that the Dutch were making a push and Poland had made an impressive charge," said Laidlaw.

Coach Mike Spracklen was pleasantly surprised by the result.

"It was nice to get a silver medal in the eight," said Spracklen. "If you asked me three months ago I would have not predicted that would happen. There are a lot of new guys."

The team consists of Laidlaw, Derek O'Farrell of Unionville, Ont., James Dunaway of Duncan, B.C., Malcolm Howard of Victoria, B.C., Andrew Byrnes of Toronto, Doug Csima of Oakville, Gabe Bergen of 100 Mile House, B.C., and Rob Gibson of Kingston, and VanKnotsenburg of Beamsville, Ont.

Only Howard and Byrnes were part of the men's eight crew that won gold at last year's Beijing Olympics.

Medal hopefuls Doug Vandor of Dewittville, Que. and Cam Sylvester of Caledon finished fifth in the lightweight men's double. New Zealand won in 6:10.62, France was second in 6:12.57, and Italy finished third in 6:15.08. Vandor and Sylvester crossed in 6:23.08.

Lindsay Jennerich of Victoria, B.C. and Sheryl Preston of North Delta, B.C. also had high hopes for Sunday's race, but finished sixth in their final.

"One and one just didn't add up to two," said Preston, who paired with Jennerich to reach the podium twice in World Cups this year. "We are disappointed but not discouraged."

In the first race of Sunday's final, the men's coxed pair of Laidlaw, Jan Tize of West Vancouver and Conlin McCabe of Brockville, Ont., finished fourth overall in 6:57.55. The U.S. won the race in 6:53.58, followed by Czech Republic (6:54.58) and Germany (6:55.44).

The lightweight women's quad team, made up of Katya Herman of Sudbury, Kristin Jeffery of Newmarket, Lauren Wells of London, Ont., and Tanya Lahdenranta of Surrey, B.C., just missed out on a medal in morning action. The crew maintained a tight third position until the last part of the race when they were edged out by the Americans.

Germany won gold, while Britain was second.

"We've tended to be good in the last 500 metres," said Herman. ``But the other crews just stepped it up."

The U.S. captured the women's eight in a time of 6:05.34, while Romania (6:06.94) and the Netherlands (6:07.43) rounded out the podium. Canada was sixth in 6:16.68.

The Canadian women's eight team consists of Sarah Bonikowsky of Orangeville,, Ashley Brzozowicz of Toronto, Peggy DeVos of Kamloops, B.C., Larissa Lagzdins of Burlington, Romina Stefancic of Victoria, Jane Rumball of Fredericton, N.B., Krista Guloien of Port Moody, B.C., Lauren Hutchins of North Vancouver, B.C. and Lesley Thompson-Willie of London, Ont.

Serena On Love, Loss And Thickness

Source: www.eurweb.com

(August 28, 2009) *To promote her new memoir "On the Line" - which covers her love of fashion, her body image, love life and how much she loves her sisters – tennis star Serena Williams hooked up with People.com to discuss those topics in detail.

The book includes her experience coping with the 2003 shooting death of her eldest sister Yetunde Price, a loss she has chosen to endure privately – until now.

What did you want to say in your memoir?

I wanted to explain how I see things. I wanted to talk about my body and my sisters, my career, what I've learned, what I'm still learning. I want women to know that it's okay. You can be whatever size you are, and you can be beautiful both inside and out. We're always told what's beautiful and what's not, and that's not right.

The heart of the book is about the loss of your sister, Yetunde.

It was a real dark period in my life. I went through depression. I never even talked about it to my mom. No one knew I was in therapy, but I was. I was so close to her.

[After Yetunde's death, Williams gained about 20 lbs. Although she says she has always been 'thick,' Williams was the heaviest she'd ever been.]

There were a lot of comments about your size. Was that strange?

Yes. For some reason, everyone is obsessed with weight. Are you bigger? Are you smaller? And everyone cares about that! It's insane. Some days, I'll be bigger. Other days, I'll be smaller. It's not a big deal.

You mention that in your memoir. But just a few sentences later, you say that you're insecure about your body.

I think every female does that. We think we look good one day, and then the next day – or the next minute – we're insecure about something. Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and am like, 'I want to lose my inner thigh. I've got to do an hour of cardio today,' or whatever. I try not to do it, but the insecurity comes back sometimes. I do want to look good still; I do want to be healthy.

So what are your troublesome body parts?

My thighs. I think they're too big. But also my arms. I think they're too muscular. They're too thick.

Your arms? I thought you'd consider those your best part.

I'm sensitive about them. I know that toned arms are in now. Look at Michelle Obama. She has great arms, and I think it's wonderful that she shows them off like that! I love her for that. I'm like, 'keep wearing strapless dresses!' But I don't like mine. Hi!
 
[Williams, who has never publicly acknowledged her yearlong relationship with rapper Common, has had ups and downs in her love life.]

In your book, you talk about a past relationship that didn't work out, but you don't name him. You just call him 'So-and-so.'

The guy was a loser. That's why I didn't name him in the book. Everything is a learning experience. You learn about life; you learn about love. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything, because it's made me who I am. I enter relationships with my eyes wide open now. I'm not so naïve. 'So and so' actually had his own problems; he must have been 23 or 24. Looking back I'm like, 'Oh my God, it was never going to work.' At the time, you obviously can't see that.

You're dating someone in the public eye right now. What's that like?

You can go on a Web site and there will be all sorts of gossip about them. They're spotted hanging out with someone, and he's suddenly 'romantically linked' with someone else. And you have all your friends calling you and asking what's going on. That can be annoying. Really, it's kind of stupid. You can't let the media decide how your relationship is going to be. You have to communicate. Trust is very important to me, and I'm not going to get my information about my boyfriend from the media. Sometimes I read that I broke up with him, and I have to call and confirm. (Laughs) Which actually is my favourite part, because I love to make that phone call and be like, 'Are we still together?'

Read the entire People.com Q&A with Serena HERE

Bolt Says He'd Like To Make The Jump To Four Gold Medals

Source: www.thestar.com - Raf Casert,
Associated Press

(September 02, 2009)  BRUSSELS – Usain Bolt may go for four gold medals at the 2012 Olympics in London.

However, the world's fastest man won't be making the decision whether to attempt the feat achieved by Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis.

"For me, I don't know," Bolt said, when asked about the possibility of chasing four golds. "I always leave the decisions up to my coach."

Speaking ahead of Friday's Van Damme Memorial track and field meet, Bolt said if it were up to him, he would add the long jump to the 100, 400-relay and 200 metre sprints, rather than the 400.

In Beijing, his coach Glen Mills did not confirm Bolt for the 100 until the last moment, despite the fact that he was the world record holder. Of course, Bolt went on to win the 100, 200 and 100-relay golds, all in world-record times.

After a second golden triple at the Berlin world championships last month, Bolt could be the first male track athlete to earn four Olympic golds at the same games since Lewis at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Owens won four Olympic golds at the 1936 Berlin Games.

It would also place Bolt – who has declared his desire to become "a legend" – in the most exalted of company. Bolt said if he does decide to go for four, it would take meticulous preparation.

"You don't want to try something new and then something goes wrong," he said.

Bolt said he has such faith in his coach that he would go against his own wishes if Mills thought it would be better for him to tackle the 400 rather that the long jump. Owens and Lewis each added the long jump to their three sprint events.

Bolt already ran some 400s early in the season to boost his stamina for the 200.

"It really gives you speed and endurance," the Jamaican sprinter said. "The 400 I don't want to do, but I think I'll do it in the future because my coach can be very convincing. And he'll find some argument for me to do it."

Bolt would prefer the long jump, relying on his natural speed to send him flying.

"I think I would be pretty good. I tried it when I was young, just messing around," he said.

For the moment though, he's focusing on the 200 at the Van Damme. He tried out the new Mondo track on Wednesday and wants to beat the 19.79 second stadium record set by Tyson Gay three years ago.

"19.70 is my goal on Friday," said Bolt, who had a blistering run of 19.19 in Berlin to shatter his own world record.

Gay will only run the 100 because of a lingering groin injury.

::FITNESS::

The Better Butt Diet: Super 6-Week Plan

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


(Wednesday, July 30, 2008) I've designed a simple and effective six-week plan to steer you in the direction, toward a smaller and tighter butt.

I can't create miracles in six weeks, but I can provide a realistic starting point.

Let's begin with a reality check. You can't get a good-looking butt if you have excessive body fat. I'm not suggesting that you have to attain a perfect body to get a good-looking butt; after all, we need to respect different shapes, forms and genetic structures. However, don't expect to have great glutes with excessive body fat.

You need to consume fewer calories than you burn, but that doesn't mean starving yourself and eating as little as possible.

The key to manipulating nutrition is eating the correct foods in the correct amounts at the correct times. If you're an eDiets member using one of our specially designed nutrition programs, you're automatically on track with this necessary piece of the formula.

What I like about my six-week plan is that it's easy to follow and includes a schedule that calls on you to progress each week. This will help you to burn more and more calories each and every week. The pace of progress calls for in this plan exercise isn't easy, but it's also not complicated. And my simple nutrition tips are sure to make a difference if you follow them each and every week for the entire six weeks.

WEEK 1

1. Walking Lunges -- Stand with your feet hips-width apart, grasp a pair of dumbbells or cans with your arms straight at your sides, palms facing your body. Take a long step forward and lower your body so your front knee lines up with your ankle. The back knee is almost touching the floor. Push off with your back foot and take a long step forward with your other foot. Walk-lunge 15 steps and then turn around and return to the start (one set). You should contract your glutes on the lowering of each movement. Perform two sets on two alternate days per week.

2. Power Walking -- Power Walk for 30 minutes. Generally, a good speed is between 3.5 and 4.0 mph on a treadmill. You're walking briskly, but you should still be able to hold a conversation. Begin slowly and build to your max speed. Walk for 30 minutes four days per week.

3. Eat breakfast every morning. Eating a healthy breakfast will help to regulate blood sugar and help to prevent binge eating.

WEEK 2

1. Walking Lunges
-- Use the same parameters as week 1. Perform two sets on two alternate days per week.

2. Extension Step-Ups -- Grasp a pair of dumbbells or cans by your sides with palms facing the side of the body. Stand behind a 6- to 12-inch high step or bench (normally used in aerobic step classes) and keep your arms straight. Step onto the middle of the step with your right foot and then lift your left knee high (to hip height). Step down with your left foot, and then repeat on the right side. Perform one set of 15 steps on each leg -- two alternate days of the week.

3. Power Walking -- Increase the time to 37 minutes and keep the days the same (four days per week).

4. Assess Your Pantry/Refrigerator -- Eliminate foods that you tend to binge on and that have empty calories .

WEEK 3

1. Walking Lunges
-- Perform three sets on two alternate days per week.

2. Extension Step-Ups -- Increase to two sets but keep to two alternate days per week.

3. Power Walking -- Add a fifth walking day and keep the time the same (37 minutes).

4. Water -- Consume 64 or more ounces per day. Think that sounds like a lot? Here are 10 easy ways to get your water.

WEEK 4

1. Squats -- (Eliminate the Walking Lunge exercise). Place a broom stick or barbell across the back of your shoulders. Be sure it's not resting on your neck. Your feet should be shoulders-width apart. Lower the weight, keeping your knees behind the toes at all times. Think of sitting back into a chair and contract the glutes on the lowering phase. Stop when the knees are at a 90-degree angle. Return to the starting position and repeat.

Inhale while lowering the weight, and exhale while returning to the starting position. Do not let the knees ride over your toes (you should be able to see your feet at all times), and don't arch your back. Perform two sets of 15 reps on two alternate days per week.

Watch the video below for a helpful guide.

2. Extensions Step-Ups -- Remain with three sets but add a third day (alternate days of the week).

3. Power Walking -- Increase the time to 40 minutes and keep the days the same (five days).

4. Junk Food -- Eliminate one junk food item from your diet this week.

WEEK 5

1. Squats -- Increase the sets to three and increase the reps to 20 (two alternate days per week).

2. Extensions Step-Ups -- Perform three sets but increase the reps to 20 (three alternate days per week).

3. Bent Knee Push-ups -- Start with your hands and knees on a mat. Your hands should be shoulder width apart and your head, neck, hips and legs should be in a straight line. Do not let your back arch and cave in. Lower your upper body by bending your elbows outward, stopping before your face touches the floor. Contracting the chest muscles, slowly return to the starting position. Perform one set of six to 10 reps or as many as you can do on two alternate days per week.

4. Power Walking -- Increase the time to 45 minutes and keep the days the same (five days).

5. Carbohydrates -- Slightly decrease the amount of starchy carbohydrates at two of your meals. For example, if you're having pasta for dinner, decrease your normal serving.

WEEK 6

1. Squats -- Continue with three sets but increase the reps to 22 (two alternate days per week).

2. Extension Step-Ups -- Perform three sets but increase the reps to 22 (three alternate days per week).

3. Bent Knee Push-ups -- Perform two sets as many as possible. Increase to three alternate days per week.

4. Power Walking -- Add a sixth day and perform 45 minutes each day.

5. Brown Bag -- If you work outside of the home, bring a bagged, healthy lunch at least three times this week.

After six weeks you can tailor the program to your liking. My job is to help jump-start you in the right direction.

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

::MOTIVATION::

Motivational Thought

"Be happy in the moment, that's enough. Each moment is all we need, not more."

Source:  www.eurweb.com  — Mother Teresa