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LE NEWSLETTER

February 11, 2010

It's Valentine's weekend ... I can hear the collective moan of every single person out there!!  The good news is that we're also on the brink of a long weekend in Ontario! 

Last week I mentioned the CELEBRATE LOVE concert going on this weekend and gave you a romantic scenario.  But I just can't justify single people missing the concert just because of 'singleness'!  So, I'm going to suggest that this is going to be a damn good concert ... plain and simple ... and this collection of particular artists should make you jump up and get your tickets!  They include
Molly Johnson, who once again headlines a stellar cast of singers, including Gary Beals, Toya Alexis, Wade O. Brown, Suba Sankaran, and more.  So, come out to CELEBRATE LOVE at Andrew Craig's Celebrate Love 2010 concert this weekend on either Saturday, February 13 or Sunday, February 14 - details below.

So, there's lots of new entertainment news so have a scroll and a read.   

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

::HOT EVENTS::

Andrew Craig’s Celebrate Love 2010 :: SATURDAY NIGHT ADDED and Sunday, February 14

Source:  Andrew Craig

Celebrate Love is, simply put, an evening of the world’s greatest love songs!  Due to popular demand, Celebrate Love comes to us for two nights: Saturday, February 13 and Sunday, February 14.
 
Canada’s first lady of jazz
Molly Johnson once again headlines a stellar cast of singers, including Gary Beals, Toya Alexis, Wade O. Brown, Suba Sankaran, and more.

Producer, CBC broadcaster and impresario
Andrew Craig co-hosts and musical directs the band, complemented by Lush, the fabulous all-female cello quartet!

Featuring a unique blend of classic popular songs, rare musical gems from across the planet, poetry and reflections, Celebrate Love is the perfect Valentine's Day activity for people in all stages of love: from new love, to unrequited love, to jilted love, to old love, to true love.

Celebrate Love moves to Toronto’s Al Green Theatre for 2010! Originally conceived and produced in 2004, and again in 2008, Celebrate Love is well on its way to becoming a Toronto institution.

Click
here to purchase tickets to Celebrate Love - Toronto’s premier Valentine’s Day event!

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2010 AND
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2010
ANDREW CRAIG’S CELEBRATE LOVE 2010
Al Green Theatre
Miles Nadal JCC
750 Spadina Avenue (southwest corner of Spadina & Bloor)
$45 adults, $40 seniors; $80 per adult couple; $75 per senior couple
8:00 PM

www.celebratelove.ca   

::TOP STORIES::

Saints March Back To Win Super Bowl

Source: www.thestar.com - Garth Woolsey


(February 07, 2010) MIAMI GARDENS, FLA.–Who Dat? Who Dey? Whooo Haaaaa!

They had long ago captured the hearts and imaginations of a vast legion of followers. Well, here on Sunday the
New Orleans Saints also captured the Super Bowl.

Fairytales really do have happy endings. Dreams come true and underdogs come through.

The Saints marched in on a massive wave of emotional support – mostly everybody wanted to be in on this number – and marched out with a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

It is the first championship in a franchise history that dates back to 1967 and includes decades of miserable performances. Since Hurricane Katrina devastated their community in 2005, however, the Saints and their evolving competence have embodied its we-shall-overcome spirit. Home to the annual Mardi Gras celebrations, a party city nonpareil, New Orleans might never be the same – in a very good way.

They fell behind 10-0 early. But what’s new about comebacks for this bunch.

Drew Brees and Crew on this night outshone Peyton Manning and Co. Manning, in fact, threw a key late interception.

They had their own dreams, too, did the Colts. They had the goal of establishing their place in NFL and Super Bowl history, a claim upon supremacy, dynasty, one of the best ever.

The Colts were the betting man's favourites. The Saints were Everyman's team.

The Saints went ahead 24-17 on a Jeremy Shockey touchdown in the fourth quarter, that featured a two-point conversion attempt that was ruled incomplete by field officials but was upheld under video review.

As if that was the voodoo they needed, the Saints then picked off a Manning pass, cornerback Tracy Porter stepped in front of Reggie Wayne and running back the interception 74 yards to give New Orleans its decisive 31-17 advantage.

Fire Guts Ottawa TV Studio

Source: www.thestar.com

(February 08, 2010) OTTAWA–Anchor Max Keeping usually tells his audience about fires in his city, but Sunday he found himself reporting on the blaze that gutted his own newsroom.

The blaze early Sunday morning destroyed
CTV's Ottawa newsroom at its local station, CJOH-TV. Damages were estimated at more than $2.5 million, the network said on its website. Among the losses were the local news archives of Ottawa's history and 37-year video history of Keeping, who is set to retire April 1, CTV said.

It could be days before staff can return to the building, but plans to continue production from the A Channel building in the ByWard Market were moving forward, CTV said. There happened to be no regular 6 p.m. newscast planned for Sunday because CTV was carrying the Super Bowl.

But the station did air a live news break from a satellite truck outside the building on Merivale Rd.

The news team planned to air their 11:30 newscast on Sunday night from the A Channel studio.

Newsroom staff have already held their first meeting about resuming broadcasting, Keeping said in an interview with CTV News Channel.

CTV stations in Montreal, Toronto and Saskatchewan were sending some cameras and edit suites to Ottawa, he added.

It's not known what caused the blaze, which began on the second floor of the building sometime before 4:30 a.m. There were no injuries.

American Idol Fans Pleasantly Surprised By Ellen DeGeneres

Source: www.thestar.com - Derrik J. Lang

(February 10, 2010) LOS ANGELES, CALIF.—Ellen DeGeneres hit the right notes with “American Idol viewers.

Fans took to the Internet to express their pleasant surprise over the 52-year-old funny lady’s debut as the singing competition’s fourth judge. DeGeneres assumed her judging panel post for Tuesday’s episode chronicling the first round of “Hollywood Week,” the cutthroat post-audition phase in which 181 contestants will be narrowed down to 24 semi-finalists.

The majority of folks posting about DeGeneres on Twitter praised her performance. Some said they were only tuning in for DeGeneres, but not everyone was a devotee. A denim ensemble worn by Degeneres, also host of “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” was mocked by a few tweeters.

When Fox announced that DeGeneres, an Emmy winner with no formal music experience, would be the new judge last September, fans were divided over the unlikely replacement for Paula Abdul, the sugary sweet pop singer who judged “Idol” since it debuted in 2002 then left amid contract negotiations after the eighth season ended last year.

“Ellen completely met my expectations,” said Dave Della Terza, founder of VoteForTheWorst.com, which encourages viewers to champion bad — but entertaining — singers. “She was trying way too hard. Her critiques weren’t funny because no one wants to see a stand-up act at the judges’ table.”

But Andy Dehnart, editor of the popular reality TV blog realityblurred.com and a lecturer at Stetson University, said DeGeneres seemed “more polished and on-point than the people who’ve been sitting at that table for eight years.” DeGeneres is on the judging panel alongside Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi.

“Ellen DeGeneres keeps surprising us,” he said. “She excels as a talk show host, and if she keeps up what she did tonight, she’ll easily establish herself as the best judge.”

As expected, DeGeneres’ critiques were punctuated with humour, but she didn’t hold back the cruelties either. She joked something seemed wrong with a beatboxer’s microphone — just before sending him home. An admittedly drowsy DeGeneres later informed one dull singer that the performance “almost put me right out.”

DeGeneres and the other judges were wowed by several guitar-playing singers during Tuesday’s episode. DioGuardi dubbed quirky 24-year-old musician Andrew Garcia’s rendition of “Straight Up” from former judge Abdul “genius” while DeGeneres called 24-year-old sales representative Jannell Wheeler’s version of “American Boy” by Estelle “amazing, amazing.”

Other guitar players who advanced in the competition included 20-year-old sandwich maker Lilly Scott, who crooned Ella Fitzgerald’s “Lullaby Of Birdland,” and brawny 26-year-old personal trainer Michael Lynche, who announced his wife was going into labour with their first child before launching into John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.”

DeGeneres’ addition comes at a time of change for the aging Fox franchise, which is produced by 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia North America. Cowell is leaving at the end of the current season to judge and executive produce an American version of “The X Factor,” a talent show he created in Britain. DeGeneres didn’t let Cowell off for the move.

“So this is it, huh?” she whispered to him after joining the panel. “I come on, you leave.”

Several names have been bandied about as potential Cowell replacements — Oscar-winning actor-singer Jamie Foxx, shock jock Howard Stern, as well as music executives Tommy Mottola, Guy Oseary and Jimmy Iovine. But Fox and the show’s producers have not announced a replacement for the acerbic British judge.

Ontario Getting Closer?

Source: www.sportsnet.ca - Joe Ferraro

(February 9, 2010) It seems with every month that goes by, another state, province or country sanctions and regulates mixed martial arts, but since the inception of this modern day combat sport, the province of Ontario has turned a blind eye. But it appears the sands of the hour glass are running out for its most serious detractors.

I had the chance to catch up with UFC president
Dana White and asked what the status of legalization efforts were for the province.

"Like I've said along, it's inevitable, it's going to happen," he stated, with a more serious tone in comparison to other answers he gave me to a wide variety of questions.

He continued, "There's no reason it shouldn't be," a bold statement perhaps reflecting that the sports opposition no longer has any legs to stand on.

When asked if he could provide a ballpark figure as to a timeframe that he believed the sport would be regulated in the province, he preached patience, and that the end result would be in his favour.

"It's just a matter of time. It's going to take time. Just like Boston took time and all these other states, we'll get Ontario done."

But patience is running thin for many of the hungry MMA fans and fighters from Ontario. For the fighters, they are unanimous in their voices and outright frustration of always being "the away team." They have never enjoyed the luxury of fighting on their home soil and must travel out of province to garner experience.

For many, fighting on a native reserve, where many MMA events are taking place, is a risky proposition. Not only could anyone involved in such events face criminal charges, if a fighter were to get seriously injured or as a worst-case scenario, a fighter should die in competition due to poor safety regulations or from being allowed to fight without receiving proper medical clearance, there could be some serious liability ramifications. Also is the fear of being blacklisted by all North American athletic commissions.

For the fans, they just want the right to attend an MMA event within the province's borders. Whether it be a UFC event or a grass-roots one, they believe they have the constitutional right to make their own decisions as to how they want to spend their entertainment dollars.

The aforementioned groups have waited over 17 years for their province to wake up and it appears their wishes may be coming true, sooner rather than later.

Enter Noble Chummar, legal representation for the UFC in Ontario and a prominent attorney with Cassels Brock & Blackwell, the lobbyist firm hired by the UFC to work at educating members of the provincial government on the many reasons why the sport should be sanctioned and regulated.

"We're moving forward; Ontario is getting close," smiled Chummar from his offices in downtown Toronto.

Chummar worked closely with the efforts that helped get MMA regulated in Vancouver and sees the bright side in Ontario.

"The Premier is open minded, and that's a positive sign. But the reality is that the sport is currently not regulated."

While the current state of affairs appear dismal, Chummar believes that the right steps have been taken and the ball is already rolling in parliament.

"If the government and public interests are aligned, then we must regulate the sport so it is safe for the fighters who wish to compete. The same can be said for the fans as MMA can provide an avenue of entertainment for the many who enjoy the sport."

Chummar's focus and representation is for the sport of MMA, not just the UFC, but made it clear that his client is the gold standard in mixed martial arts promotions.

"The UFC has the highest standards. They meet and exceed global standards."

Initial projections pointed to the sport being regulated in late 2011, but according to Chummar, the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter with every passing day.

"As for a date, we are not counting our chickens. We are working with various levels of government to continue the education process while always understanding that patience is a virtue."

And with a confident smile, Chummar hinted that maybe, just maybe, the sands of the hour glass have finally hit the bottom.

"It will happen, and it will be sooner, than most anticipate."

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Tahiti: Living The Good Life

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers

(February 06, 2010) MOOREA, Tahiti–It's 5:30 p.m. and a guy with a silver-haired crew cut and a grey sweatshirt that says "Hammered and Happy" is sitting poolside at the Club Bali Hai hotel. He's telling stories of the four amazing decades or so he's spent in French Polynesia.

He's sipping on a (blue) plastic glass full of ice and the contents of a little airline bottle of Jose Cuervo tequila he's brought to his nightly talk, when he spots a new couple approaching from his left.

"Pull up a chair," he says with a smile. "Swing in. Swing in."

Don McCallum (he's known only as Muk) has been holding court in the shadow of the magical Moorea mountains on Cook's Bay for years. He tells stories of falling in love with Tahiti from his home in Newport Beach, Calif., when Polynesian music was the rage and he and two buddies dreamed of nothing (well, almost nothing) but finding a way to get to paradise. He's also talking about failed vanilla plantations, wild chickens and about all the girls who wanted to "date" the exotic white boys from California when they arrived in the late 1950s.

"I'll tell you this," he explains with a wink. "`Sex on the Beach' wasn't just the name of a drink in those days."

There's a chance not all of Muk's stories are entirely true. His longtime partner, Jay Carlisle, laughs when a visitor starts talking about Muk's talk the night before and the roosters that Muk insists live in the hole of a nearby mountain, 330 metres up a steep cliff.

"He's got a fixation with those chickens," Carlisle says, shaking his head as he empties the contents of a can of tuna into the water, setting off a feeding frenzy of jacks and tangs and bright yellow and black angel fish, not to mention swooping, silent manta rays on the ocean floor.

Together with the late Hugh Kelley, McCallum and Carlisle made up a group called the Bali Hai Boys, a trio made famous by a story in Life magazine in 1962, when Tahiti was barely on the airlines' map and just becoming a realistic destination. McCallum was representing sporting goods companies in Southern California, while Carlisle was a trader on the Pacific Stock Exchange and Kelley was a lawyer.

"We had this idea we all wanted to go to Tahiti," Jay explains over a lunch of mahi mahi and poison cru (raw fish marinated in coconut milk; a local specialty) at the Blue Pineapple, the casual but tasty restaurant at Club Bali Hai. "There was no airstrip so you had to go by boat. We heard about a trans-Pacific race from Long Beach, California to Hawaii and we told Hugh, who was a good sailor, that he had to go. He got to Hawaii and the owner of the boat said she was taking it to Tahiti, did he want to come. We said, `You have to go and tell us what it's like.'"

Kelley told them Tahiti was everything they thought it would be. They later heard about a vanilla plantation that was for sale on Moorea. There was no Internet, nobody to call and check things out for them. They saw maps but didn't have any photos. They took the gamble, dropped everything they had collected in successful lives in Southern California and headed to the land of Gauguin and aquamarine lagoons and swaying palm trees and green, jagged mountains.

"We were in heat for this valley," Carlisle explains with a laugh. "We hadn't even seen it."

The boys knew a lot about Tahitian music. They knew the language. They certainly knew Tahitian women. The niceties of vanilla growing and the world price fluctuations? Not so much.

"We lived in a shack with coconut fronds on top," says McCallum, picking up Carlisle's story over his tequila on ice. "We lived with a local politician who had four bungalows at a hotel he wanted to get rid of. We took them off his hands and he helped us with the legal work to let us stay in Tahiti," as laws made it difficult – and still do – for just anyone to move in and snap up local land. They made a great trio. McCallum would great Moorea visitors at the dock and sell them on visiting their hotel. Hugh did the legal work and Jay took care of the business.

They ultimately built up a large hotel, then built another one on neighbouring Raiatea, where they fashioned what's believed to be the world's first overwater bungalow and made architectural history. They took over Club Bali Hai in Moorea in 1982.

They gradually sold the others but kept this one, which retains a ton of charm. It could use a bit of work, but the lack of a spa and Internet and a restaurant that's open at night helps keep costs to a minimum, and in a part of the world that's as expensive as Tahiti that's a good thing.

"We use all local workers," McCallum explains. "They run the restaurant and do most everything and we know them all." Here, he pauses. "Hell," he says, looking around. "We probably all dated their mothers."

"We're the family hotel," says McCallum. "It's the sort of place you would've stayed in the '60s."

It's not quite as if time has stood still. But it's close.

And McCallum has no intention of interrupting his routine now that he's in his 80s.

He brings his two, tiny glasses of tequila most every day but Wednesdays, when there's a native Tahitian show. (If you want to do him a favour, bring some Jose Cuervo from duty free; it costs a hefty $80 or $90 a bottle at the supermarket across from his house.)

One of his stories involves trying to get rid of some of the island's ever present chickens by herding them onto the veranda of what he thought was a vacant unit in the wee hours of the morning.

"I wanted to scare them and then maybe wring their necks. But they were on this veranda and suddenly I looked up and there was this honeymoon couple staring at me, their faces pressed against the window in horror. So that didn't go so well.

"The next time I herded the chickens out in the road. That was a big mess."

Carlisle says Kelley once climbed to the top of a mountain that has a hole in the top that's about 20 feet high (the one he swears is inhabited by more chickens).

"He left a note saying, `If you find this, come to Club Bali Hai for a free case of beer.' Some time later, a group showed up with the note. They were Mormon missionaries. We gave them some Cokes."

"I think the Bali Hai boys might be one of the great stories in recent Polynesian history," says Alain Drouet, former manager at Bali Hai and now manager at the lovely Moorea Pearl Resort. "I wanted to modernize the place but they wouldn't hear of it. It's part of its downfall, but also its charm."

"The Boys created tourism in Moorea," Drouet says. "They really did. It was them and nothing else. They promoted it and built it."

Back at his hotel's pool, the sun is settling in for the night behind the rugged spires of basalt that rise up behind Cook's Bay.

"Things were pretty wild in the old days," McCallum tells his visitors. "We used to be the TV for the whole island. People would come down and watch us."

They still do.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Review:Queen Sade Returns

Source: Examiner.com - by Olusheyi A. Banjo

The band
Sade, began their career 26 years ago with the classic album "Diamond Life," that was a multi-platinum success in various countries including the US. The lead singer Sade Adu,for which the band is named after has delivered smooth soulful vocals since the very first album. Since then, the band has given the world the classic hits 'Your Love Is King," "Smooth Operator, “Kiss Of Life," "The Sweetest Taboo," "Cherish the Day" and many more. Then all of sudden, after 2000,no music. Finally, after  ten years Sade Adu and the rest of the band have returned with the CD "Soldier of Love."The CD is worth the decade long wait.

The album begins with the smooth song "The Moon and the Sky," which is an ode to love in it's truest form, the one that never gives up. The song proves that Sade has not lost her step. Her voice sounds as pure and unaltered as when we first her."She sings "you always know the reason why /we couldn't have the moon and stars/you always know the reason why/this love/ain’t gonna let you go."This song is reminiscent of her classic "Never as Good as the First Time."The rhythm is fantastic.

The band then takes flight with the title track and their newest hit "Soldier of Love." The song is a story of someone who has been hurt and heartbroken but still comes back for more love. The song's lyrics are excellent, the rhythm is out of this world.  The concept is fantasic. She sings "I'm a solider of love/all the days of my life/everyday and night."This song lyrics are truly inspiring.

Another standout song is "Babyfather," a song that gives respect to the good men that take care of their children. In the song Sade, tells the story of boy meets girl, they fall in love and have a child. She tells the child that their daddy loves them so much that they will fight for me."Your daddy loves you/for you/he has the troops and extra backup standing by."That is real love. The song is melodic, with smooth cords and flowing rhythm. The vocals sound as smooth as silk. A plus on this song.

In the song "In Another Time," Sade gives comfort to a friend who is going through a tough time with a heartbreak. She tells them "They don't know what to do with something so good."The song is pure and beautiful. They use  the beautiful sounds of the cello, the saxophone, and the bass to bring out the wonderfulness of the songs message.

"Skin" is the song on which they pay tribute to the late Michael Jackson with the lyrics, “Just like Michael/ back in the day/gonna peel you away."The song is a true head bobber. They use synthesizers to make their sound modern. The song is also about heartbreak and learning to let go. The lyrics are phenomenal and nothing less than the best. 

"Solider of Love" is a excellent recording. There is not one bad song on this album. This recording will make the listener proclaim 'The queen of smooth soul has returned and she is better than ever." 5 Stars

Drake Crafts Eco-Friendly Solo Tour for Spring

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 09, 2010) *Drake will hit the road for his first North American solo trek, dubbed “The Away From Home Tour,” an eco-friendly undertaking done in conjunction with Reverb – a non-profit organization that promotes environmental-friendly techniques.

The 25-city outing stretches from Apr. 6 through May 8 with feature performances from Canadian rapper/singer K-OS and the synth pop New York band Francis & The Lights.

The jaunt follows his participation in the “Young Money Presents: America’s Most Wanted Music Festival,” which was headlined by Lil Wayne.

The tour’s eco-friendly policy, dubbed the “Campus Consciousness Tour,” calls for the use of biodiesel fuel and biodegradable and recyclable products on the bus and backstage.

Drake will also showcase an “Eco-Village” with tents which will feature environmental and other socially-conscious groups educating on green technology, student carbon-offset programs and eco-friendly consumer sampling.

Below are Drake’s upcoming tour dates:

Apr. 6: Charleston, IL (Eastern Illinois University)
Apr. 7: Columbus, OH (private location)
Apr. 9: State College, PA (Penn State University)
Apr. 10: Boston, MA (private location)
Apr. 11: Lock Haven, PA (private location)
Apr. 14: East Lansing, MI (Michigan State University)
Apr. 15: Rochester Hills, MI (Oakland University)
Apr. 16: Morgantown, WV (West Virginia University)
Apr. 21: Orlando, FL (University Central Florida)
Apr. 22: Greenville, SC (Furman University)
Apr. 23:  TBA
Apr. 24: New Orleans, LA (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival)
Apr. 26: New Orleans, LA (University of Missouri – Kansas City)
Apr. 27: Lexington, KY (University of Kentucky)
Apr. 29: Lowell, MA (University Mass Lowell)
Apr. 30: Syracuse, NY (private location)
May 1: Boston, MA (private location)
May 4: East Rutherford, NJ (Bamboozle Festival)
May 5: Towson, MD (Holy Cross)
May 6: Cheney, PA (Towson University)
May 7: Ithaca, NY (private location)
May 8: Plymouth, NH (private location)

Marshall Heyman Meets Janet Jackson In New York For A Wonderland World Exclusive Interview

Source: www.wonderlandmagazine.com - Marshall Heyman

(February, 2010) It’s hard to imagine what 2009 was like for
Janet Jackson. The youngest of nine children, Janet, experienced the death of her older brother and idol, Michael Jackson, and ended her seven-year relationship with the music producer and rapper, Jermaine Dupri.

But 2010 promises to be a massive year for her. A second greatest hits compilation, Number Ones, was released late last fall, including such iconic songs as “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” and “Nasty” from Control, and “Miss You Much” and “Escapade” from Rhythm Nation 1814. This year, Jackson promises a new album of all new material, a sequel to Tyler Perry’s hit “Why Did I Get Married”, titled “Why Did I Get Married Too”, and even a book.

Despite the fact that all of what’s come before 2010 for Jackson (the aforementioned songs, the film Poetic Justice, that sick – in a good way – “Scream” video with her brother, directed by Mark Romanek) is pretty damn fierce, when she meets me in a conference room in her Upper West Side apartment building, she is unexpectedly unassuming, quiet and shy. She speaks at a decibel below ours, perhaps to preserve her energy and voice. Her wardrobe? She’s wearing a sweater and jeans, and a pair of super high Fendi ankle boots. We start with a little chitchat, mostly about what she’s doing in New York, which leads us to the topic of the photo shoot she did for Wonderland.

Wonderland: you’ve been doing photo shoots for a long time. do you still have fun with them?

Janet Jackson:  A long time. Yeah, I do, because you work with different people, and you don’t know what’s to come. And sometimes the shoots are just OK, and sometimes they’re wonderful shoots. I don’t normally like pictures of myself, but [in the Wonderland shoot] I really enjoyed myself. It’s like forties with an edge, a stud here, a spike there, a little latex here.

I’ve never seen a bad picture of you. I loved those W photos of you in that gold bodysuit. You like those W pictures?

I thought I looked like a bad tranny, not even a cute one. If you’re going to make me look like a tranny, at least make me look like a cute tranny.

You’re always so cute, like a chipmunk.

It’s these cheeks, right? People still try to pinch my cheeks once in a while.

So you like being styled?

It hasn’t gotten old for me, I still enjoy it.

Do you think about recalibrating your image when you come out with a new album?

Not really. It comes from boredom. When that happens, I change my hair colour. It’s funny that you said that because at the American Music Awards, I thought: I’m getting kinda bored. I can feel a change coming about. What direction I’m headed into or what it’s going to be, I don’t know. You have really pretty eyes.

Oh, thank you. If you’re a little bored now, where do you want to go?

Like I said, I really don’t know until I get to that point. It’ll start to show itself to me.

Do you feel that with Lady gaga being so popular that your fashion now has to shock people?

I think a lot of [what Lady Gaga wears] is really cool. I’m not knocking Gaga in any way, because I’m actually a fan of hers. I don’t know because we’ve never spoken, but when I look at her, I get the vision of Leigh Bowery. I mean, everybody’s inspired by something. Do I think it’s over the top at all? I enjoy it because it’s something kind of different. It’s something new to look at. It’s going to be hard [for her] to keep up with that, but who knows?

How about Rihanna? Does what she’s doing with bandages remind you of any of your previous incarnations?

Have I done that before? Yes. I’m not saying she’s copying me. Everything is cyclical. They come back around at some point.

Do you have any anxieties about keeping up with Rihanna and Lady Gaga?

To me, it’s just a matter of being you. And like I said, I don’t know what direction it’ll be, but I can tell there’s a change going on in me. Something good. A lot has happened in my life this year, a lot of changes; I think I’m kind of headed in a different direction for sure, and it’ll show itself to me. As far as keeping up, I don’t look at it like that. It’s really about being who you are and doing what you want to do. I think when you try to keep up with something, it’s not a good thing. You have to express yourself and be the true you.

How often in your life would you say you’ve had these periods of boredom?

A lot.  Quite a few, with a lot of different projects; that’s why I dyed my hair red at some point. That’s why I let my hair grow natural at some point; I had my hair like a honey auburn kind of thing. “Love Will Never Do” – that was a whole period. Rhythm Nation – I was covered up from here to here in black. I love black and I’m trying to get out of it.

Do you get bored with your work too, or is it just an aesthetic thing?

I don’t get bored with what I’m doing. I get bored with a sound. I’ve never gotten bored with my work. It’s always a new adventure each time you’re in the studio or you’re writing or working with someone new.

Who do you want to work with these days?

I adore Alicia Keys. She’s one person I met from the very beginning and she hasn’t changed, and you don’t find that. She’s incredibly talented but her soul is such an amazing soul, such an amazing spirit, and you feel that immediately when you’re with her, and she hasn’t changed a bit and that’s what I love about her. I enjoy her.

Are there other people you’re liking?

I like Taylor Swift. I’m not sure why.

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW IN THE FEB/MARCH ISSUE OF WONDERLAND MAGAZINE. ON SALE NOW.

Mary J. Blige Records Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 05, 2010) *R&B star Mary J. Blige not only takes on rock legend Led Zeppelin’s classic hit “Stairway to Heaven” for her upcoming album, but she took a gathering of all-stars with her to remake the track.

The Los Angeles Times’ Pop and Hiss blog reports that rhythm and lead guitars were led by Steve Vai and his pop protégé Orianthi (Michael Jackson’s lead guitarist in “This is It”), respectively, Travis Barker on drums and “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson on bass, with producer Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, Pussycat Dolls) handling piano.

“What people don’t know about me is I’ve been a rock ‘n’ roll fan for years,” Blige told the column after finishing her 17th vocal take at Capitol Records Studio A. “I loved soft rock as a child. I’m full of this stuff, naturally.”

Mary J. had one previous international rock hit, a cover of U2’s “One,” which Blige performed with Bono on the 2007 Grammy Awards, but it was a much bigger success in Europe than here in the States.

Still, ever since the collaboration, it’s Bono who’s been pushing Blige to embrace her inner rock star, so the Queen of Hip Hop Soul – with musicians assembled by Jackson – decided to go straight to classic rock’s most sacred tune.

“Some people might consider it blasphemy, but Mary’s voice really is a nice match [for the song],” said Fair. “Robert Plant’s high-pitched blues thing is right in step with Mary’s vocal range, and she brings the soul music to it, which is what Plant was going for in the first place.”

Indeed, Blige had no trouble hitting “Stairway’s” sweet spots and making its boldest moments her own, but she was also keenly aware of not just replicating the original. “You approach it as yourself, you don’t try to be the artist,” she said.

The remake will be available on Blige’s 10th studio album, due out later this year.

Mapping Her Musical Landscape

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

(February 06, 2010) “I can’t write by a fireplace,” says Inuit singer Elisapie Isaac. “I need a window. I need to feel connected to something, to see the sky or whatever. I think it’s because I’m from this small town where you can see far. No matter what building I’m in, my inspiration is the window.”

Isaac spent almost three years sitting by her window, so to speak, and the songs she found there became the substance of her recent solo recording debut, There Will Be Stars. After several years as the singing half of the Quebec electro-folk duo Taima, the 32-year-old performer and filmmaker (who began a short Canadian tour on Feb. 4 at Toronto’s Drake Hotel) has mapped out her own musical landscape.

“I just wanted it to be sweet and warm, I wanted it to breathe,” she says of the album, which was produced by Éloi Painchaud. She’s talking mainly about the shape-shifting sounds on the record. The songs, by contrast, are often about hard, uncomfortable situations: the ragged end of a love affair; the intensity of a deep winter spent in a small Northern settlement (Salluit, in Nunavik); the dislocation many Inuit feel whether they stay in the North or head south, as Isaac did 10 years ago.

“Tears and emotions, that’s what motivates me,” she says.

Isaac moved from Montreal to study journalism, then quit school to take a job researching a circumpolar documentary about Inuit people, and made her own half-hour NFB documentary: Si le temps le permet (2003), about aboriginal men in the North and their conflicted feelings about traditional and urban ways. With guitarist Alain Auger, she also started Taima and made a Juno-winning record that sold 25,000 copies.

A second disc was on their agenda, but the initial sessions felt “a bit forced,” Isaac says. She bought a guitar and started writing, not at all sure she could assume the creative functions that, in Taima, had largely been Auger’s.

One of the disc’s strongest songs was also one of the first written. Why Would I Cry? is a calm and stately tune about reclaiming personal autonomy at the end of a punishing relationship. “It’s a love song, of course, and also an affirmation,” she says. “I was at a point when I was tired of crying all the time, and this song was the turning point, when I decided that what I choose to do is really my choice.

“It was also a turning point musically, because the melody and the way it’s written are so simple. I knew that was what I wanted to do.” In a way, it was a return to the powerful simplicity of the English hymns and folk songs she sang as a little girl, often on local Northern radio.

Isaac grew up in an adoptive family, after she and a brother were “given away” to a distant relative. The hard phrase sounds mild in her softly accented English.

“Up north, it’s really common for people to be adopted, not taboo in any way,” she says. “My mother wasn’t married, and my grandmother said, ‘The next babyyou have, you should give it to my second cousin, because she’s older and she can’t have kids.’ My grandmother passed away before I was born, but my mother respected her decision. She almost had no choice. But I never heard her crying over it, and I have a great relationship with her.”

Her father is a Newfoundlander. Isaac is still getting to know that side of her family, even as she, now the mother of a four-year-old, thinks of making another film about Inuit women in the North, and about the disappearance of traditional rituals.

“There are so many energies, I sometimes wonder, where do I go?” she says. “I was named after four different women. I used to think that was such a cool thing. But when you’re named after four different women, you sort of become those different woman. I thought it was such a cool thing, but it kind of messed me up.”

A fine mess, and a fine album too.

Elisapie Isaac performs at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, Ont., on Feb. 6, and at Concorde Place in Vancouver on Feb. 13.  

Metro Morning's New Voice, New View

Source: www.thestar.com - Donovan Vincent

(February 09, 2010) Andy Barrie attracted a huge following in his 15 years as host of CBC Radio's Metro Morning and his replacement, Matt Galloway, hopes to keep those listeners – while bringing in a young and diverse set.

"I think that's what everyone's trying to do at CBC Radio," Galloway said in an interview Monday, shortly after the CBC announced he'll take over from the immensely popular Barrie on March 1.

"You want to grow your audience and keep your audience, whether that's a youthful audience, or a diverse audience, (or) perhaps people who have not listened to CBC Radio in the past because they didn't think it reflected their communities.''

Barrie announced his retirement plans last week.

Galloway, the Friday Metro Morning host and, since 2004, host of CBC's afternoon radio program Here and Now, says that while Metro Morning has been successful with Barrie at the helm, "by default, if you have someone else in the house chair there's going to be a different energy or a different feel to the show."

Barrie's "set of reference points are different from my set of reference points. That's natural because we're different people," he added.

Part of that is Galloway's background. His father is a black man from the United States and his mother a white woman from Ontario. (The couple lives in Kimberley, Ont., south of Georgian Bay, where Galloway grew up).

Galloway also credits his west-end Christie Pits neighbourhood with having a "crazy, mixed-up, super-diverse" quality.

"From Ethiopian, to Mexican, to Greek, Korean and Japanese; you look at the restaurants that are there and that sort of says everything you need to know about this city. And I love that part."

He plans to bring those influences to Metro Morning when he takes over, along with his other interests, which include music, a passion he indulged when he wrote for Toronto's Now Magazine and worked at CHRY, York University's student radio station.

Feeling thrilled, ecstatic but a "teensy bit nervous" about his new gig, Galloway says he has huge shoes to fill.

"This is enormously exciting. The responsibility of talking to somebody in the morning, being the first voice you hear, that's a big thing. People often have a good day, or a bad one, depending on how they're woken up."

‘Tupac Shakur: The Life of an American Icon’

Source: Kate Kazeniac Burke, Associate Publicity Director, Da Capo Press, kate.kazeniac@perseusbooks.com


His life had been a series of new addresses, hunger pangs, political meetings, and scary questions from FBI agents. Since early childhood, he had fought to survive.” — TUPAC SHAKUR: The Life of An American Icon

Hip-hop’s greatest gifts and its heaviest burden-is its legacy of urban mythology. It will be remembered as that bittersweet moment when young black men captured the ears of America and defined themselves on their own terms… In doing so, they raised a defiant middle finger to a history that shamed them with slavery, misrepresented them as coons and criminals, and co-opted the best of their culture.” — Joan Morgan, Vibe Magazine

(February 03, 2010) *On September 13, 1996, an unknown assailant in Las Vegas, Nevada gunned down
Tupac Amaru Shakur, one of the most high profile, controversial, and multi-talented recording artists of his day. He was twenty-five.

Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon (Da Capo Press; February 2010) is a critical, incisive, and unauthorized biography that examines Tupac’s rise to success, untimely end, and impact on hip-hop culture.

Tayannah McQuillar, author of When Rap Music Had a Conscience, and Dr. Fred Johnson, a Professor of history, team up for this unique, all-encompassing approach to Tupac’s extraordinary life story.

It begins with his family history, detailing his journey through a childhood of parental neglect and poverty and revealing the ultimate discovery of his artistic talents.

The book then charts his rise to domination of the 1990s rap world. The authors look at the urban hero who inspired millions with his daring, benevolent lyrics, as well as the changed man who later emerged when his music transitioned from social-conscience to gangsta rap.

In these pages are secrets even Tupac’s most die-hard fans do not know:

* Details of Tupac’s marriage to Keisha Morris and why they broke up
* Details about Tupac’s relationship with his biological sister Sekiywa
* Why the T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. movement was the worst idea that Tupac ever had

Tupac’s early end brought an abrupt conclusion to an era of social and political critique through rapping, but his music retains its popularity with five posthumous albums and eight Top-Ten Billboard singles since his death. Millions of die-hard fans continue to clamour for books and documentaries that may reveal more about the man, his music, and his still-mysterious death-this passionate biography will further that discourse.

TUPAC SHAKUR
ISBN: 978-1-56858-387-7
Paperback Original
$15.95

David Clayton-Thomas: No More Blood, Sweat And Tears

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 06, 2010) Blood, Sweat & Tears isn't just the band that made David Clayton-Thomas famous.

It's also the story of his life: a childhood runaway from an abusive home; a teenage jailbird held in some of the country's bleakest prisons; an angry young man who was homeless on the Yonge St. strip during its toughest days.

It might sound like a recipe for disaster rather than rock stardom, but only if you haven't met David Clayton-Thomas, who's uniting with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for two special concerts at Massey Hall on Feb. 12 and 13.

He's a big, burly guy and, even at the age of 68, his handshake is something you have to be ready for. Still, the eyes are gentle, the smile is warm and, as he reclines in an easy chair gazing from his penthouse apartment on Lake Ontario, he seems at one with himself and the world.

But that sure isn't how he started. Born David Henry Thomsett in England on Sept. 13, 1941, he was the son of a Canadian soldier and a young British woman whose father was a popular entertainer named Harry Bryan Smith.

Indeed, Clayton-Thomas makes it very clear that all the artistic impulse in his family came from his mother's side. "My father was about as artistic as a piece of Muskoka rock," he begins. "He would always say, `Put down that damn guitar and dig a hole in something.'"

The family moved from England to Willowdale when Clayton-Thomas was 3. He has no happy childhood memories. None. "Not to speak ill of the dead, but my father was a tough, brutal, bullying, controlling tyrant. I started running away from home at 11 to get away from the beatings."

By the time he was 14, Clayton-Thomas succeeded in breaking his ties with home because he was tossed into his first reformatory school, and that's pretty much how he would spend the next five years.

"I was called a habitual offender," he remembers. "So, even though none of the things I did was that bad – joyriding, vagrancy, kid stuff like that – I did them so often that they kept putting me in worse and worse holes."

He finally wound up at the bottom: in the Burwash Correctional Centre. Closed down in 1973, Clayton-Thomas recalls it as "Canada's answer to Devil's Island."

The one thing prison did for the young man was give him time to discover his singing gift, so when he finally was set free around 1960, he headed for the bars on the Yonge St. strip.

"I was a kid with no one to love him, which made me very violent, very tough. And I guess that was a good thing because those bars of Ronnie Hawkins' sure weren't for pussies."

Long story short, young David Thomsett gave himself a double-barrelled stage name, built up a big reputation with a variety of bands and soon headed down to the States, where he found himself as the new lead singer of a group about to break through into superstardom, with the name of Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Normally, this would be the cue for the "happily ever after" ending, but not with these guys. "The band that I walked into was already ripped apart by power struggles waged by guys who had massive egos," Clayton-Thomas recalls. "It was the reason BS&T rocketed to the top of the charts, and imploded just as dramatically."

Originally, Al Kooper put the group together, but it soon took on a life of its own, with Steve Katz and Bobby Colomby gaining equal prominence. There's an incident that took place shortly before his arrival that Clayton-Thomas tells to set the scene.

"They were scheduled to play the Fillmore East and, the day before the show, the marquee read `Blood, Sweat & Tears.' Kooper walked by, saw it and had the stagehands change it to `Al Kooper's Blood, Sweat & Tears.'

"Katz walked by, read it and raised s---. By dinner, it read `Al Kooper, Steve Katz and Blood, Sweat & Tears.' The next morning, Colomby saw it and exploded but (owner) Bill Graham said, `Forget it. I'm out of f---ing letters.' So they opened as `Blood, Sweat & Tears.'"

Clayton-Thomas roars with laughter at the rampant egos involved but, in the same breath, acknowledges the serious problem underneath. "You can't have nine superstars in one group. Mick and Keith, sure. John and Paul, fine. But not nine.

"They got rid of Kooper before I came and Katz always made sure I knew that he was the boss and I was his employee, even though I was making 10 times the money he was."

A lot of that was because Clayton-Thomas had also written some of the group's biggest hits of the period, including the classic "Spinning Wheel."

"What goes up must come down," were Clayton-Thomas's prophetic words and, despite gold records and Grammy Awards, the personality pressures caused him to split from the group in 1972.

He tried striking out as a solo act but soon found that, when he was announced, everyone thought they were going to hear BS&T. Finally, Colomby approached him. "We're not doing that well without you," Clayton-Thomas recalls him saying, before twisting the knife. "And you're not setting the world on fire without us."

By then, Katz had left the group and, since he had been the major reason for Clayton-Thomas's departure, the singer returned. "In some ways, the second time around had the better band, in the sense of world-class musicians," Clayton-Thomas says. "But they were hired guns and the spirit just wasn't there anymore."

Then things got even stranger. In 1976, Colomby was named a vice-president at CBS. He left the band but retained ownership of the name and control of all its activities.

"Blood, Sweat & Tears didn't go into a recording studio for 25 years," Clayton-Thomas notes sadly.

"(Colomby) wouldn't let us. He was a big executive and didn't want to be connected with the name but he had no trouble collecting millions of dollars from the money we made touring."

And, as usually happens when a band falls on unhappy times, some of its members sought ways of finding a more pleasant alternative reality. "Yeah, we acquired a reputation as a drug band," Clayton-Thomas concedes, noting that it probably reached a low point when Gregory Herbert died from a heroin overdose in 1979, although Clayton-Thomas maintains that, instead of a simple OD, his colleague had been sold strychnine by Moluccan terrorists bent on killing Americans abroad.

"I had a bit of a meltdown after that," he says, "but then, once my daughter was born in 1982, I got myself together again."

So, Blood, Sweat & Tears kept rolling along, "a multimillion-dollar road operation, but we finally had guys in the band who weren't even alive when we first hit."

That was when Clayton-Thomas decided to come home to Toronto. He quit the band for good in 2004 and set up residence in the city that "I always knew was my spiritual home.

"The kind of burning passion to succeed and overcome my early years has pretty much fizzled out now. I have no interest in doing 200 concerts a year on the road any more."

But he has to glance over his shoulder at his ghosts one more time. "I spent most of my life driven to prove something, to be accepted, because if you didn't make it, the alternative was back to Burwash. I was running like crazy from my past. But I've put all that behind me now."

British Jazz Saxophonist John Dankworth Dead

Source: CBC News

(February 07, 2010) Saxophonist
John Dankworth, a leading figure in British jazz who played with the likes of Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald, has died at 82.

His wife, jazz singer Cleo Laine, announced her husband's death near the end of a 40th anniversary concert at The Stables, a music venue north of London that they founded together.

The musician, who also composed for film and television, passed away on Saturday at a London hospital after a few months battling an undisclosed illness.

Dankworth was once hailed by Jazzwise magazine as "one of the totemic figures of British jazz" and as the United Kingdom's "first major jazz musician."

Monica Ferguson, The Stables chief executive officer, said Sunday that Laine went on with Saturday night's concert because she believed her husband would have wanted that.

Laine talked to the musicians before concert, saying "'I'll go on and I'll have a lump in my throat and I might crack.' But she didn't crack," Ferguson said, adding that the audience was visibly moved by the announcement.

"There were a lot of gasps and people I spoke to afterwards were visibly shaken and moved by it," she told BBC News.

Young British singer Jamie Cullum credited Dankworth with influencing generations of British performers.

"A great man and one of our finest musicians and composers has died. Rest in peace, Sir," posted Cullum on his Twitter page.

Fell ill during U.S. tour

Dankworth fell ill last October while at the end of a U.S. tour with his wife. They cancelled the rest of their concert dates for the year. His illness was never divulged.

His last professional appearance came last November during the London Jazz Festival where he played his saxophone from his wheelchair at the Royal Festival Hall.

Born in Woodford, Essex in 1927 to a family of musicians, Dankworth first picked up the clarinet, bought by his mother.

"I loved music, but I didn't want to be taught music, or learn anything, until my parents gave me up for lost, really, and that was when I was about 15," he told the BBC. "Then I eventually just heard some jazz."

Eventually Dankworth made the leap to the saxophone after hearing Charlie Parker play.

At age 17, he won a spot at the Royal Academy of Music and after serving briefly for the British Army during the Second World War he resumed his music career, garnering British Musician of the Year in 1949.

Founded two charities

Besides playing with the likes of Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington, who became a close friend, Dankworth was a successful composer.

He created scores for films such as
Modesty Blaise, Darling and The Servant and TV series including the original theme for The Avengers.

Laine and Dankworth married in 1958 after she auditioned for his band.

In 1969, the pair founded The Wavendon Allmusic Plan, a musical education charity and opened a theatre in the old stable block on their property in Wavendon, Buckinghamshire, about 80 kilometres north of London.

The Stables holds about 350 concerts a year and hosts youth music camps as well.

In 1999, the couple created a second charity, the Wavendon Foundation, to help young artists and organizations needing financial help.

Laine was made a dame in 1997. Dankworth was knighted in 2006 by the Queen for services to music.

The couple had a son and daughter, both of whom are jazz musicians.

With files from The Associated Press

Manager Drama Delays Usher CD

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 08, 2010) *The New York Daily News is reporting that Sunday’s scheduled release of Usher’s new CD “Raymond Vs. Raymond” has been delayed until March 30 because his label refuses to move forward until he finds a new manager.

Ursh’s situation at Jive Records has reportedly been chaotic ever since he and his mother – and former manager – Jonetta Patton, severed their professional ties in late November 2009.

“She walked away from the project because Usher had his girlfriend [and former Def Jam executive] Grace Miguel was all in the mix,” a source told the paper’s Gatecrasher column. “She felt as though if she didn’t end things when she did, it would permanently affect their personal relationship.”

Usher had apparently declared that he would manage himself, with the help of Miguel, but the label felt that “there was chaos in the camp.”

Jive has already released three singles in an attempt to launch “Raymond vs. Raymond.” The first single, “Papers,” which was released last September, only reached No. 31 on the Billboard Hot 100, so the label began working two more new singles, “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home)” and “More.”

In the meantime, Usher has reportedly made moves to sign with AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips, who manages Lionel Richie, Toni Braxton, and was serving as Michael Jackson’s manager at the time of his death in June.

“In fact, Usher was spotted sitting at Phillip’s table at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy bash,” Gatecrasher reported, adding that Grace Miguel was also with the R&B star at L.A. Reid’s post-Grammy party at the L.A. restaurant Cecconi’s.

Fantasia on Oprah: Family, Money, Tumours Discussed

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 04, 2010) *In case you missed
Fantasia’s appearance on Wednesday’s “Oprah,” the singer sat down with her “Color Purple” boss to discuss the moochers in her family, her financial and housing woes and the reasons she missed so many of her Broadway performances.

Describing her financial rock bottom, ‘Tasia said it started when she couldn’t afford to buy a pizza.

“The pizza lady says, ‘Well, the card declined,’” she says. “At that point I knew that I had been mishandled. Because there should have been no way that there wasn’t any pizza money.”

Fantasia also talked about her home coming close to foreclosure, and her surgery to have two tumours removed following her Broadway run in “The Color Purple.” She said having to perform the shows with the tumours was physically draining, and only added to the exhaustion she was suffering from serving as her family’s sole financial provider.

A clip of her VH1 reality show “Fantasia For Real” was shown, and the selfish attitude of her brother Teeny was discussed at length, with Oprah just shaking her head at one point.

Fantasia later sang herself to tears during a performance of her new single “Even Angels.” Watch below, or at here at Oprah.com. Also, read the full account of her discussion with Oprah here.

As fans await the scheduled spring release of her new album, Fantasia reprises her role in The Color Purple in Los Angeles from Feb. 10 through 28.

Taylor Swift: True Artist Or Howling Cat?

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 05, 2010) There's a battle raging on the Internet over Taylor Swift's performance at last Sunday's Grammy Awards: not only between fans and non-fans, but between the head of Swift's record label and the first American Idol.

Spirited debates have been taking place on websites like www.MTV.com, with some questioning the country singer's vocal chops and others defending her after a wobbly performance with Stevie Nicks on the awards show.

The Washington Post described her singing as "off-key caterwauling."

Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta weighed in on Thursday, saying a technical issue kept Swift from hearing herself properly during the performance. "She is the voice of this generation. She speaks directly to (her fans) and they speak directly back to her," Borchetta told Associated Press.

"This is not American Idol. This is not a competition of getting up and seeing who can sing the highest note. This is about a true artist and writer and communicator. It's not about that technically perfect performance."

That comment got Kelly Clarkson fired up. Clarkson, who won the first season of Idol, wrote to Borchetta on her blog.

"I understand defending your artist obviously because I have done the same in the past for artists I like, including Taylor, so you might see why it's upsetting to read you attacking American Idol for producing simply vocalists that hit `the high notes,'" she wrote. She added that Idol contestants "not only hit the high notes, you forgot to mention we generally hit the `right' notes as well" and signed the letter "One of those contestants from American Idol who only made it because of her high notes."

Star staff, with files from Associated Press

Reunited And It Feels So Good

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(February 04, 2010) It took a little deception to reunite Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin on stage after more than 25 years.

A booker trying to line up talent for the grand opening of a new theatre and arts centre in Richardson, Texas, near Dallas, called each of their agents separately, saying the other had agreed to come back together for the first time since their Tony-winning turns on Broadway with Evita in 1979.

"They didn't have either one of us and they wanted one of those evenings where we each sing 20 minutes, half hour and do a number like `Getting to Know You' or something at the end. I hate those evenings so I was ready to blow it off," Patinkin recalled in a recent interview.

But after doing the show, Patinkin suggested to friend and musical director Paul Ford that they develop a new show with a "story and a structure," using song and spoken word to follow the relationship of two people over a lifetime.

"I asked Patti if she'd be interested in that and she said, `Go ahead, doll,'" Patinkin said.

Five years later, ``An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin'' is coming to the Royal Alexandra Theatre for six nights from Tuesday to Feb. 14.

"It's Mandy and Paul's concept and direction and I'm just a girl singer with the band. And it is a joy, a joy to be back on stage with him," LuPone said.

The stage chemistry the two shared in Evita – he as Che Guevara, she as the doomed first lady of Argentina – was there from the beginning, LuPone said.

"It (chemistry) is a very elusive thing. You either have it with somebody or you don't and you can't make it up. And Mandy and I have it," LuPone said.

"You don't know what it is. But when you have it with somebody, what it does is it releases any kind of fear, any kind of trepidations and you're free to do anything because you trust the other actor and the other actor trusts you," she added.

Patinkin agreed.

"I can certainly say that in my life, I've rarely felt more chemistry with anyone in the world other than Patti," Patinkin said.

"To be up there with Patti is as good as it gets for me. When I look into her face, I'm 30 years younger instantly. We're right back in time and I'm just in heaven and I'm only sad when the evening's over."

While many people will associate Patinkin with roles on film (The Princess Bride, Alien Nation) and television (Chicago Hope and Criminal Minds), he's also been touring regularly over the past 20 years in solo shows, including one called Mamaloshen, in which he sings entirely in Yiddish.

So, far from being a chore, touring with LuPone is something he actually enjoys.

"I've been (touring) for 20 years. I love living in hotel rooms, I love moving. I love going to the airport and getting on the plane. I love the state of mind you have to be in – particularly these days at an airport – you just to give into it, it's a forced relaxation, almost a forced kind of meditative state," Patinkin said.

"We stay at the most beautiful hotels in the world, my family gets to come with me often and you know, I get to do work that I love and I'm not sitting at home stewing. I'm not sitting around waiting, wondering what's next. I'm on the move, I'm living, I'm living my life, I'm happy," he added.

LuPone, who has divided her time between Broadway – picking up a second Tony for her role in Gypsy – and London's West End, has also dabbled in TV and movies. But the stage is her first love, she said.

"It's the actor's medium, it's totally the actor's medium. You have the instant gratification of the audience response," LuPone said.

LuPone is pleased to retract an intemperate remark she made on her blog, suggesting live theatre is a "dying art." But a career on stage is not for the pampered and the precious, she said.

"I hear Beyoncé wants to be on stage in a musical. Excuse me, you haven't got enough money? Do you have any idea how gruelling the schedule is? Everybody wants to be in a musical and God bless them if they've got the chops for it, go for it," LuPone said.

"But what they don't realize is how much energy and how much discipline it takes eight shows a week," she added.

Both stars are genuinely looking forward to returning to Toronto. LuPone filmed a TV pilot here and Patinkin has filmed and performed concerts.

"Oh my god, it was 40 below when I was there. But I really loved Toronto. It doesn't need to be anything like New York, it's totally Toronto and I love it," LuPone said, adding she's hoping to rediscover an Italian restaurant on Avenue Rd. that she visited the last time she was in town.

"I think Canadians are so wonderful. I've lived in Toronto for a time, I've lived in Vancouver for a time, I love Canadians. They're not egomaniacs like a lot of people in America, they're not filled with entitlement like a lot of people in America. In general, there's a far greater humility," Patinkin said.

Just the facts
WHAT: An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin

WHEN: Tuesday to Feb. 14

WHERE: Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King St.

TICKETS: $28-$125 at ticketking.com

A Classy, Grown-Up Mariah Carey Hides Her Diva Label

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(February 10, 2010) Given the so-so reviews of her current album and inability to sell out even half of the arena she once filled, you'd think Mariah Carey would be quick on the mark for last night's Air Canada Centre concert.

An hour before showtime her publicist put photographers and reviewers on alert that the songstress would be taking the stage 15 minutes earlier than scheduled.

Nice try.

After ushers moved some attendees down from the nosebleed seats to fill in the spaces (much to chagrin of new neighbours who paid up to $130 for their tickets), the New York native hit the stage 48 minutes after the original set time.

But all was forgiven once Carey appeared and delivered her classiest, most grown-up show yet.

Kudos to the director of this well-crafted concert billed as the Angels Advocate Tour – named for Carey's forthcoming remix album. It's a tasteful, yet unpredictable showcase for the talent behind a 12-album catalogue which includes 18 No. 1 Hot 100 hits (second only to The Beatles).

Gone are the skimpy outfits, stuffed animals and over-the-top skits; replaced with smooth segues and an artfully draped Vegas style set.

Buoyed by the sexy, high-energy choreography of 10 dancers, and a tight seven-piece band, Carey, 39, her buxom figure clad in glittery gowns or cocktail dresses, was mostly bump with little grind, keeping the focus on her golden voice.

She apologized repeatedly for having a cold, but it was evident mainly when she spoke; and didn't prevent her from hitting those impossible whistle notes.

Given to erratic public performances, Carey wasn't entirely scripted; she bantered lazily with the audience and lamented not being "in bed with some NyQuil and a frigging heater."

As she stepped gingerly across the stage and occasionally waved to individual fans, Carey's comportment was more queenly than the diva label she's often pegged with.

:FILM NEWS::

Frozen: A Chill A Minute

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

Frozen
(out of 4)
Starring Kevin Zegers, Shawn Ashmore and Emma Bell. Directed by Adam Green. 85 minutes. At major theatres. 14A

(February 05, 2010) The biggest frights come softly and without warning.

They're the mysterious sounds you awaken to in the middle of the night. The slow footsteps in a supposedly empty house. The sudden movements in a dark garden.

They're also physical, like the chill that slides up your spine as you realize you're stranded on a ski lift, high above a vacated mountain. This is the terror scenario for
Frozen, Adam Green's masterfully minimalist horror.

Arriving in theatres immediately after its Sundance premiere, it's almost a Canadian movie, because the two male leads are from Toronto.

Dan (Kevin Zegers), Joe (Shawn Ashmore) and Parker (American Emma Bell) are three pals looking for cheap thrills. They've managed to scam one last run down a ski mountain from a lift operator who is anxious to get home.

The operator warns them that bad weather and nightfall are both closing in, and the mountain must be shuttered until the following weekend. Dan, Joe and Parker promise they'll be right up and down.

Things don't go as planned, and that's putting it mildly. Not much more of the plot can be revealed, except to say that there's perhaps no more lonely spot on Earth than being attached to a slender wire high above a dark mountain.

And what is that sound, off in the distance? What is it, and is it getting any closer?

Taking a dramatic turn from the slasher hilarity of his breakthrough feature Hatchet, writer/director Green plays it straight with a script that has the virtue of simplicity.

We are given a few minutes to get to know Dan and Parker, who are boyfriend and girlfriend, and Joe, who feels like a fifth wheel. Dan is bossy, Parker is coy and Joe is a little moody.

Then it's straight up that mountain, where time stands still.

Not for the viewer, who will have reason to think of Open Water and Jaws before the final credits roll.

The tension is almost unbearable. One actor loses a glove, and it registers like a grenade strike. But hypothermia isn't the most immediate threat facing the three stranded skiers.

Frozen reminds us that you don't need much to make a good scary movie.

Just a strong story, good actors and an abiding sense of how things dangle in the dark.

The Avatars Of Their Era

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liam Lacey

(February 07, 2010) James Cameron’s science-fiction epic Avatar is not only the box-office record holder of all time and poised nicely for Oscar glory next month (with nine nominations). It has been widely hailed as a movie that has changed the experience of movie-going. Technology was developed for it that realizes a virtual world in unprecedented detail and allows actors to transfer their performances to three-dimensional animated characters. In a little more than a century of film, a handful of other films stand out as fundamentally changing our experience of the movies.

1. The Birth of a Nation (1915)

D.W. Griffiths’s first blockbuster was the culmination of narrative innovations in cinema’s first 20 years, from close-ups, cross-cutting action scenes and flashbacks, to action in the foreground, middle and background. Unfortunately, The Birth of a Nation was also a shamelessly racist propaganda film that contributed to the revival of the Ku Klux Klan.

2. Battleship Potemkin (1925)

Director Sergei Eisenstein’s film about Russian sailors’ 1905 rebellion against their Czarist overlords is an exercise in the power of montage, designed to induce the maximum emotional effect from editing. Everyone from Neil Jordan and Martin Scorsese to Terry Gilliam, Frances Ford Coppola and George Lucas have paid homage to the sequences, while Eisenstein’s propaganda techniques have shaped modern advertising.

3. The Jazz Singer (1927)

“Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothin’ yet, folks. Listen to this,” said Al Jolson in the first movie to use scenes of synchronous dialogue, ending many silent stars’ careers, changing the look of movies, and ushering in the era of rat-a-tat banter.

4. It Happened One Night (1934)

The original romcom, with runaway heiress (Claudette Colbert), and Clark Gable as the grumpy guy who falls for her. Undershirt sales dropped after Gable appeared shirtless. It gets remade a few times each year under a different title.

5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Disney’s first animated Technicolor feature emphasized realistic depth effects and action sequences, and lay the foundation for the eventual converge of animation and live action.

6. Gone With the Wind (1939)

The story of how a spoiled Southern brat, Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), becomes the embodiment of the indomitable South remains the model of every prissy heroine who discovers her mettle. Still the highest-grossing movie of all time, when adjusted for inflation, the movie is also a landmark in hype, with its release preceded by a three-year publicity campaign.

7. Citizen Kane (1941)

Apart from being often cited by critics as the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane marked significant technical innovations, including deep-focus photography and overlapping dialogue, and a much-imitated jigsaw narrative. Culturally, it marks the transition of the job of director from craftsman behind the camera to king-of-the-world status.

8. Breathless (1960)

Jean-Luc Godard’s propulsive B-movie plot, jump-cuts and high-low culture mix opened up the New American cinema of Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Penn and others, and continues to cast its shadow over the art-exploitation blends of Quentin Tarantino and the unhinged melancholy of Wong Kar-wai.

9. Psycho (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock’s low-budget shocker broke a lot of rules, killing off its star and showing a toilet onscreen. The frenzied editing of the shower scene pushed back decades of film censorship and opened the door to the cinema of sensation. Bonnie and Clyde, Jaws and the entire slasher genre owe Psycho a huge debt.

10. Star Wars (1977).

Star Wars was the film that ate the heart and soul of Hollywood,” lamented screenwriter/director Paul Schrader. How did a movie for kids become the new paradigm? From CGI, Dolby Sound, toy marketing, mythologist Joseph Campbell, trilogies and reboots, the Star Wars franchise is the new model. A generation of 10-year-old Star Wars worshippers, from J.J. Abrams to Kevin Smith, grew up to become filmmakers themselves.

Amanda Seyfried : Blonde, Beautiful – And Twisted

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(February 08, 2010) It’s midday, and the winter sun shining through a window in Amanda Seyfried’s hotel suite has cast the actress in an ethereal glow.

The blond hair, hastily pulled into a single braid draped over her left shoulder, gleams. Her skin, a pearly white, is almost translucent. She looks like a porcelain doll.

On hearing the door open, the diminutive 24-year-old - who has been curled cat-like in a chair - rises slowly on six-inch Brian Atwood heels, and extends a hand.

The moment Seyfried’s fingers close, vice-like on yours, that aura of fragility disappears.

The young woman, blessed with celestial good looks and a longshoreman’s handshake, is smart, funny and tough as nails. “These shoesare hell. Hell on Earth,” says Seyfried, huge, sea-green eyes flashing. “But they look good, and that’s what counts.”

Then she flops back into her chair, kicks off the designer shoes, and settles in to chat about her new film Dear John, a weepy tale about a soldier and his honey who fall in love against the backdrop of Iraq.

The movie wasn’t a critical success, but audiences lapped it up. It was the top earner at this past weekend’s box office with $32.4 million in domestic sales, enough to knock Avatar off its No. 1 perch.

All good news for Seyfried, of course. But her highest compliment of late may still be from co-star Channing Tatum, who she says described her as “nuts” and “absolutely out of her mind.”

“My sense of humour is a bit twisted and dry. I am nuts, but I guess we all kind of are,” she says. “And I know Channing meant that in the best way. He gets me, as did Lasse [Oscar-nominated director Lasse Hallstrom].

“The three of us totally connected on the humour level. This is a serious film, which means you’ve got to play around as much as you can before the camera starts rolling. So we fooled around a lot. In fact, I’m a bit surprised we even got a movie out.”

Dear John, based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, is the love story of Savannah Curtis (Seyfried) and John Tyree (Tatum), a special forces soldier who meets the love of his life while on leave visiting his dad in South Carolina. Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, My Life as Dog) signed Tatum on first, but auditioned scores of actresses before picking Seyfried, whom he felt would bring the necessary gravitas to the role.

“Amanda did a really great job adding her personality to the character,” the Swedish director said recently. “Her unpredictability was also very rewarding. She just has a way of avoiding clichés and obvious choices.”

Seyfried explains that she likes to mix up her movies so she’s never too comfortable.

Sure, the Pennsylvania native - whose last name is pronounced “sigh-frid” - got her start in Tina Fey’s Mean Girls playing the dim-witted Karen Smith). From there, she moved on to another (albeit untraditional) teen part on the HBO drama about polygamy Big Love. And in Mamma Mia! she plays Meryl Streep’s free-spirited daughter, Sophie. But the actress has also embraced edgier, darker parts of late.

In March 2008, Seyfried signed on to co-star with Megan Fox and Adam Brody in the black comedy/horror film Jennifer's Body, written by Diablo Cody (Juno). Then she heard that Toronto director Atom Egoyan was casting about for a lead in a new thriller Chloe. Eager to take a break from romantic comedies and try on a complex title character, she convinced Egoyan to cast her alongside with Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.

In Chloe, set for release in March, Seyfried plays a temptress hired by a wife (Moore) to see if her husband (Neeson) will cheat. The raciest film Seyfried has made to date, she gets naked for the part and also has a steamy make out scene with Moore.

“No actor wants to be typecast,” says Seyfried, who trained in classical opera for two years and studied with a Broadway voice coach for almost five years (which explains why she was one of the strongest sets of lungs in Mamma Mia!, where she also met her boyfriend, British actor Dominic Cooper).

Comedies are really fun to do sometimes, but they are not as rewarding as playing a role that’s just so complex you can’t wrap your head around why this person is the way he or she is. — Amanda Seyfried

“Roles like that are scary, with so many moments of insecurity that you just want to walk away. But they are also just so much more fulfilling. Chloe was that movie for me.”

Egoyan’s style of direction, she adds, is totally different from Hallstrom, who let her and Tatum improvise freely.

“Lasse trusted us completely because we were playing versions of ourselves, and we all knew that. It was more about making everything feel as real as possible because that’s what the audience needs - they need to believe this love more than anything,” says Seyfried.

“Atom is the kind of director who knows the characters in his movies, better than the characters know themselves. From the moment we sat down to discuss my role as Chloe at the Sunset Marquis [hotel], we literally talked through everything. Why she did what she did? Why she makes the decisions she does? Why she dresses this way? Where she came from?

Seyfried says she also felt immense pressure on the Chloe shoot - a film rocked by the tragic, accidental death of Neeson’s wife, Natasha Richardson - not to let Egoyan and her fellow cast members down. “I just wanted it to be right, because it was so hard. I didn’t want to be the weak link. I couldn’t do that to Atom. And I couldn’t do that to Julianne and Liam.”

Given the degree of drama, both on and off the Chloe set, it’s no wonder that after that film wrapped, Seyfried signed on for another romantic comedy - coming this May, Letters to Juliet co-stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Vanessa Redgrave. It’s frothier fare than Dear John, although there are some tragic twists.

As for her next project? Seyfried says she’s ready to explore the dark side again.

“I’m looking for something kind of twisted. Actually, really dark and twisted. I like to live in a world that would never actually exist for me.”  

Lee Daniels Thankful For Norman Jewison's Push

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(February 10, 2010) Caught up in the pre-Oscar whirlwind, Best Director nominee Lee Daniels said he made time to be in Toronto Tuesday for one reason: local filmmaker Norman Jewison.

Daniels is up for Best Director for Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire, one of six nods for the moving drama about a horribly abused teenage girl struggling to survive in Harlem, including Best Picture.

"I really wouldn't be here if it wasn't for visionaries such as him," he said of the 83-year-old Jewison, who was to join Daniels and filmmaker Clement Virgo (Poor Boy's Game) for a panel discussion celebrating Black History Month at Isabel Bader Theatre.

"I don't think I would have had the courage to make Monster's Ball (Daniels was producer) if I hadn't seen In the Heat of the Night."

Jewison's groundbreaking 1967 film, starring African-American actor Sidney Poitier, explored racial tension in a southern U.S. town and won five Oscars.

Daniels said he met Jewison at the Directors Guild of America awards earlier this month and was "giddy" at the opportunity to speak with him. "When you understand the statement that was made at the time by a very young Jewison, made without even thinking about it, it was so candid and made with utter truth," Daniels reflected in an interview Tuesday.

Toronto has a special place in Daniels's heart and he credits the Toronto International Film Festival with encouraging his career.

"I was here for American Beauty when I was managing actors and I said, `That's the last time I walk the red carpet carrying someone else's purse!'" Daniels said with a huge laugh.

But what meant the most to him was having Precious here for a glamorous premiere last September, followed by winning the TIFF People's Choice award.

"The premiere was like a rock star event," Daniels said. "It was pretty monumental. I have to sit down and figure out which moment was the highlight ... TIFF is the No. 1. All filmmakers aspire to be in Toronto."

Daniels dedicated the People's Choice Award to TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey for his "unparalleled" support.

"I dedicated it to him. I get emotional about it. He understands my work and I so respect what he does."

If Daniels were to win the Oscar March 7, he would be the first gay African-American to take Best Director honours. "I am very proud to be African-American and proud to be gay, but I am most proud to be a filmmaker," he said.

"I'm so okay with just being at the party and having people recognize Precious," Daniels said of his nomination. "The win has been that this obese black girl is in the public's vision. A nomination is like a vanilla cupcake. Yeah, I would like some icing, but I have enjoyed plenty of cupcakes without icing."

If a win is in the cards, Daniels would rather hear Precious called for Best Picture than hear his own name read aloud.

"By far, Best Picture. I think it's representative of everyone I have ever worked with," said Daniels. "I am the face of the movie, but there are so many people who have helped me and I am so blessed. And get this: it's almost great not to win. You have to get up in front of millions of people."

FILM TIDBITS

Whoopi Goldberg is ‘Earthbound’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 04, 2010) *
Whoopi Goldberg and Kathy Bates have joined Kate Hudson and Gael Garcia Bernal in the cast of the Film Department’s “Earthbound.” The Film Department is fully financing the picture, which began production Jan. 18 in New Orleans, reports Variety. Rosemarie DeWitt, Lucy Punch, Romany Malco, Steven Weber and Treat Williams are also in the film. The story centers on an irreverent young woman who unexpectedly falls in love with her doctor. Bates most recently starred in “The Blind Side.” Goldberg is next featured in “Toy Story 3.”

Movie Version Of ‘24’ Gathering Steam

Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Yeo

(February 09, 2010) Hollywood seems to be gearing up to make a big-screen version of the Kiefer Sutherland’s hit TV series 24. Twentieth Century Fox executives have hired Billy Ray to write a script for a feature length film, which takes Jack Bauer to Europe, according to Variety.com. Ray’s credits include Shattered Glass and last year’s American remake of the British thriller State of Play. The movie would be produced by the TV show’s key executive producers, including Sutherland, who is said to be eager to turn the series into a feature film franchise.  Much will depend on whether the television series is picked up for its ninth season, sources said. Insiders say the idea of a feature is still in the preliminary stages. A television movie of the show was aired in 2008. Movie executives are keen to go ahead with a film version of 24 because of its built-in audience and its foreign appeal. The television series is a huge hit in international markets.

Louis Gossett Jr. Has Prostate Cancer

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

(February 9, 2010) CNN reported yesterday that Louis Gossett Jr. has announced that he has prostate cancer in its early stages.  He wants to bring awareness to his condition in an effort to alert other black men that go undiagnosed until it’s too late. Gossett had been keeping a low profile in the movie industry for some time.  But, he did come back to help out Tyler Perry in “Daddy’s Little Girls” in 2007.  He will be helping him out with “Why Did I Get Married Too?” as well.  Read here about his present status and what he’s doing to stay proactive and save other’s lives.

::TV NEWS::

Trick Is Keep Mythology Going

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(February 04, 2010) It's all about the "mythology" – the evolving storyline and context for all the episodic action, particularly though not exclusively in genre TV.

That's mythology as in Tuesday's launch of the final season of
Lost, now well on the way to finally resolving the mysteries that have accumulated over the last five years.

Pivotal mythology episodes of two series air this week: the season finale of Fringe (9 p.m. Thursday on Fox and A; 10 p.m. next Tuesday on Space); and a super-sized two-hour mid-season Smallville (Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. on CW; Sunday from 7 to 9 on Space).

Having learned the lesson of Lost, which out of necessity has been forced to pile on endless convolutions and complications, both shows have been cautious about revealing too much too soon, spacing out the advancement of their individual mythologies with self-contained episodic storylines.

Far too often, these stand-alone episodes degenerate into formulaic "freak of the week" storytelling.

Fringe, at the end of its second season, has done an admirable job of revelation rationing and this week takes a few more steps in that direction – though frankly, anyone who hasn't figured out the primary plot twist just hasn't been paying attention. Still, this week's episode leaves a lot to be further explored (those hot sauce-slurping bald guys, for example).

What keeps me coming back – and I never miss an episode – is the impeccably visceral execution of its weekly freak shows. The first 10 minutes of the very first episode continue to haunt my dreams, and this week's pre-credits catastrophe is among the series' most bizarre. That's saying a lot.

Another essential element in maintaining a serialized storyline is a compelling cast and characters. Here again, Fringe particularly excels where, say, Heroes has abysmally failed (will someone please put this show out of our misery?).

Fringe's irresistibly appealing leads, Anna Torv and our own Josh Jackson, are standouts in a stellar cast. Their slow-brew chemistry is about to finally crank up some heat.

Smallville's task is more inherently difficult. For one thing, no mythology has been so thoroughly strip-mined as the Superman saga, from comics to radio to movie serials, at least three live-action TV series, several cartoons and five feature films.

That being said, the vast universe of Star Trek, the exemplar of genre mythology, was dense and complex enough to fuel five series, one cartoon, countless videogames, novels and comics and 11 (and counting) feature films.

But the longest Star Trek series ran only seven years, and Smallville has gone nine; a proposed 10th season now seems unlikely with the pickup this week of the Tom Welling-produced cheerleader pilot Hellcats on the same network.

Team Smallville has been additionally hampered by their self-imposed mandate, "No flights, no tights," effectively restricting the young Clark Kent's ascension to something short of the garishly garbed Superman we all know and love. That could well change if this does prove to be the final season.

Smallville has explored comics canon before, and usually pretty faithfully. Friday night's "Absolute Justice," in which our hero encounters the fabled former Justice Society of America, follows "Justice," the popular sixth-season episode introducing the nascent modern-day Justice League.

 Friday night it's all old-school hero fashion, as the blacklisted veterans of the Justice Society dust off their super-duds and end their enforced retirement.

Indeed, the reverent two-hour episode plays out like a Watchmen prequel, with a team of new young heroes following in the boot-steps of their discredited and defrocked predecessors. There's Hawkman, Dr. Fate, the Star-Spangled Kid, flashbacks of the "golden age" Flash and Green Lantern, Sandman, Wildcat, The Atom ... even Ma Hunkle, the society's old house matron, an obscure shout-out to the fannish faithful by series scribe and prolific comics creator Geoff Johns.

Somehow, none of them looks dumb. Okay, not too dumb. But what did you expect? I mean, Hawkman ... the guy's got wings. On his head!

Nonetheless, and despite some dodgy wire work, you will believe the man can fly.

Martin Short – As One Seriously Nasty Piece Of Work

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Gayle MacDonald

(February 06, 2010) You probably know him as uber-geeky Wheel of Fortune fan Ed Grimley. Or maybe from roles like Franck, the over-the-top wedding planner in the 1991 remake of Father of the Bride. But if you happen to see him on the new series Damages, well, you may find yourself doing a double take. Forget funny guy, or even comically bitchy guy – this is Martin Short as one seriously nasty piece of work.

And he didn’t hesitate to take the part. When the producers of Damages, a Golden Globe and Emmy-winning drama that debuted in 2007 and launched its latest season last weekend, asked Short to play Leonard Winstone – an unscrupulous attorney representing a family modelled on Bernie Madoff – he jumped at the chance. Not only could he dive into an unusually dark character, the ripped-from-the-headlines script – about clients stuck in the largest investment fraud in Wall Street history – made for a creative production process with a cast that includes Glenn Close (as an equally ruthless lawyer) and Lily Tomlin.

 “I like the unpredictability of a series like Damages. I’ve signed up for the 13 episodes of Season Three – but who knows, I could be killed off next week. They map out the shows in their heads so they don’t necessarily tell me everything in advance,” says Short, who was born in Hamilton, Ont., but now lives in the Pacific Palisades with his actress wife Nancy Dolman (Annie Tate on ABC’s Soap) and their three kids.

“It’s almost like a form of improvising: They shoot the first show, look at the dailies, get a nuance of what they like about that performance, and then they write in that direction. The style of this show is to shoot many takes, and I’m always a little different in every one. My job is not to determine what the character is. My job is to give them an ample array of paint colours for their palate. I love that process.”

To play this part, Short rented a friend’s sublet in Greenwich Village, a neighbourhood he’s loving. “When I did SNL here, we lived around Central Park. But the village is like living in Paris.”

As for the work, the plot of this season centres on Patty Hewes (Close), who represents clients bilked of billions in a case against the powerful Tobin family – father Joe, who is under house arrest (Campbell Scott), and his wife Marilyn Tobin (Lily Tomlin), who laments having to live on tuna while puffing her 50th cigarette of the day. Short’s Winstone is the Tobin family’s legal pit bull.

Also starring Rose Byrne as Hewes’s protégé Ellen Parsons, the veteran cast of Damages made for a set Short describes as “not about panic, and all about working on the floor.”

“Glenn is a real pro. And it’s not like she shows up, saying I’m only to be addressed as Patty. When you’re very good at it, and you’ve done it for a while, you appreciate the process and the people you’re working with.”

In fact, Short insists that Close is “very playful,” and Lily is “just a funny person, in her demeanour and in her charm. For a heavy, dark drama there’s an enormous looseness on this set.”

And a role that looks at the ugly side of human nature isn’t as out of place as it might seem for Short.

The 59-year-old trained to be a social worker before he got the acting bug in a production of Godspell in Toronto – where also he met his wife and cast members such as Victor Garber, Gilda Radner, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, and Paul Shaffer, who was musical director.

“I never practised social work,” he says, “because I was always interested in acting too. I wanted to take a year to explore that, primarily because I didn’t want to be that guy, trapped at 30, not knowing if what I was doing made me happy.”

Eventually, of course, Short joined Saturday Night Live, and his steady rise earned him a stream of work, both in Hollywood and in live theatre, where he won the 1999 Tony Award for best actor in the Broadway revival of Little Me. In recent years, the actor has also filled his days (and nights) with concert tours, which he loves.

“Not being on the stage feels like not going to the gym, if that’s a constant part of your daily routine. The longer you stay away, the more that ease [on stage] evaporates.”

Over the course of his 30-plus-year career, Martin has jumped easily from hilarious sketch comedy to high-brow theatre. In Damages, he's dabbling in something new, yet again. And it's light years removed from Ed Grimley, the prancing nerd in armpit-high pants and frontal cowlick.

Damages airs Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showcase.

TV Funnyman Stephen Colbert Turns Great White North Blue

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(February 06, 2010) Stephen Colbert, the satirical TV pundit who dubs Canadians "syrup suckers" and has tangled with the city of Oshawa, has once again set his sights north of the 49th parallel.

On Thursday's episode of the Colbert Report, he targeted his comedic outrage at recent changes at The Beaver. Last month, the publishers of the Winnipeg-based history magazine announced they will change its name this spring to Canada's History, in part because Google searches for its current name often bring up pornographic results.

"Oh, come on," Colbert said on his show, which airs on The Comedy Network. "Evidently Canadians don't know that here in America `Canada's History' is a euphemism for a sex act so depraved I can't describe it on TV. Let's just say it involves moose antlers, a jug of maple syrup and the Stanley Cup."

He put a call out to the Colbert Nation – dedicated fans whom he often uses to help him with pranks.

"Nation, let's help out these Canadians," Colbert said. "Go to urbandictionary.com and redefine `Canada's History' in the most jaw-dropping terms imaginable. Just put everything in there. And putting everything in there is the hardest part about performing Canada's History."

His fans dutifully followed, and now the "Canada's History" entry on the well-known online slang repository has more than 800 opinions expressed, some with graphic Canadian-themed descriptions.

For Deborah Morrison, president and CEO of Canada's National History Society, which publishes The Beaver, Colbert is just the latest to pile on their name change.

"It's sort of a story that's gone on quite a lot longer than I thought it would, frankly," she said. "We've been living with this name change for almost two years. ... We anticipated that there would be a lot of attention drawn to it, but I think it's fair to say that we didn't anticipate the scope of the international attention that we received."

Morrison says her magazine doesn't plan to retaliate against Colbert. In a recent comedic assault on Canada, Colbert called us "Iceholes" for not allowing U.S. athletes to practise at Olympic venues.

Previously he won a hockey bet with the mayor of Oshawa, resulting in Stephen Colbert Day being declared in that city in 2007.

Autism Through A Time Machine

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(February 06, 2010) PASADENA. CALIF.–They say a picture is worth a thousand words but to the young Temple Grandin, the picture meant everything.

Now an accomplished professor, author, speaker and advocate, with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a PhD in animal science, Grandin grew up a "high-functioning," perceptually visual autistic – an "anthropologist from Mars," as she has described herself, a choice label used by neurologist author Oliver Sacks as the title of his 1995 anthology.

It wasn't until college that Grandin really came into her own and realized her true calling: cattle. Today more than 50 per cent of all livestock in North America are handled with humane techniques and systems that Grandin designed.

Her remarkable life story is told remarkably well in a new cable movie,
Temple Grandin, debuting tonight at 8 on HBO Canada, starring Claire Danes in the title role and Catherine O'Hara as an understanding aunt.

"There was no way I could take this role on casually," Danes told critics at the recent mid-season TV previews. "I have such incredible respect for Temple. I spent a lot of time thinking about her. I didn't want to fail her or disappoint her in any way."

She didn't.

"It's like going in some sort of weird time machine," allows Grandin, habitually dressed in the colourful cowboy garb she still favours. "She played me really, really accurate ... the way I was in the '60s and '70s."

Indeed, one can hardly see a trace of the star of My So-Called Life and Stardust. "Just watching the trailer," Grandin says, "I whispered to Claire ... `Can you believe that's really you?' She said it was kind of weird for her, too."

At 63, Grandin bears little resemblance herself to the woman she was in her 20s.

"The thing about autism is as you learn more and more and more, you keep getting less and less autistic-like. In order for Claire to get some inkling of how to do this part, I found an old TV show tape from the '80s and an old VHS tape from the early '90s for her to watch."

The changes and growth, she says, are ongoing. "You keep getting better and better. People tell me my talks today at 60 are better than my talks at age 50."

As much as Grandin has revolutionized the cattle industry, she has also become a leading advocate for a more enlightened approach to autism. That's the way she was raised.

"When I was a little kid, I had all the symptoms – no speech and really severe autism," she says. "You've gotta work with the kids really young ... My mother made sure I had my first job when I was 13, working for a seamstress. When I was in college, I had internships at a research lab and at a school for autistic kids."

Her mother (played here by Julia Ormond) packed her off to the country to stay with her aunt at age 15.

"She arranged for me to go out to the ranch," Grandin recalls. "I was scared to go. She said, `You have a choice, two weeks or all summer.' And I'm really glad she made me go.

"It's important to get autistic kids out doing different things," she says. "I want to emphasize: Autism is a big spectrum, ranging from somebody who is going to remain non-verbal all the way up to famous scientists.

"I mean, who do you think made the first stone spear? Someone who saw things differently. It wasn't the yakkety-yacks around the campfire, that's for sure."

Then Danes comes in: "I'm the yakkety-yack around the campfire," the actress jokes.

If so, then she is a uniquely empathic one.

"It's true (that) autism is on a spectrum, and manifests itself differently in every person," confirms Danes "So I had to understand what autism was in a kind of abstract sense, and then figure out how it expressed itself through Temple.

"(I had to) kind of differentiate, which is not really possible. Still, that was part of the process. So first I broke it down into two magic chapters: her physicality and her voice. It just took time and practice.

"I worked with a great dialect coach who created, like, an exercise tape for me. I spent a day with Temple, and we recorded that conversation, so she created a kind of Rosetta Stone of Temple, so to speak. And it was in my iPod, and I was constantly reviewing it. Her voice ... was in my head for so long. It's very familiar and very dear to me."

Given Grandin's emotional connection to her bovine siblings, how does she reconcile her role in streamlining the process by which they become cheeseburgers?

"Well, I feel very strongly that we've got to give the cattle a good life," she told me. "And compared to some of the other animals, cattle have a very good life.

"You know, in nature everything dies. I mean, nature can be harsh. You know, those cattle would never have been born if we hadn't bred the cows and bulls together."

Survivor Lives Up To Its Slogan

Source: www.thestar.com - Bill Brioux

(February 07, 2010) LOS ANGELES–Outwit, outplay and outlast. After 10 years at the helm of Survivor, Mark Burnett has unquestionably mastered all three.

Reporters and ex-castaways mobbed the executive producer last month at the show's anniversary party held at CBS's fabled Television City. There, critics mixed and mingled with host Jeff Probst and more than 200 former participants from the reality show's 20 editions – every former Survivor contestant who could still legally cross state lines. It was like an island-themed high-school reunion for people with implants and tattoos.

Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains, begins Feb. 11 on Global and CBS. It is a milestone that Burnett, who turns 50 this summer, never expected to celebrate. "I didn't think we'd do a second season," he says. "Now I meet people who don't remember Thursday at 8 o'clock before Survivor. Unbelievable."

The prolific reality show kingpin has a list of series credits spread across five networks and several cable channels. Not all of them were hits – Burnett's Dragon's Den makeover, Shark Tank, is floundering at ABC, and the producer himself yanked Our Little Genius away from Fox after an impropriety was discovered. Still, one Survivor or Apprentice makes up for a whole lot of Pirate Master (Burnett's 2007 bomb) or On The Lot (a failed collaboration with Steven Spielberg).

"I think Survivor clearly changed the face of television," says CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, adding at the party that the real interactions of competitors are "probably more fascinating than any scripted show you could imagine."

"It is in the end a very, very simple game of relationships under stress," says Burnett, a one-time British paratrooper who is astounded at how many participants still show up to remote locales with no idea how to start a fire. The series is a morality play at its core, he adds. "You're rained on, you've suffered, you look in the mirror and find out who you are as a person. Could you do the right thing? That's what Survivor brings out under stress. You can't win the game if you've been brutal to other people."

Several former participants come up and embrace Burnett over the course of the evening, thanking him for changing their lives. Burnett's life was changed more than anyone's, transforming him from an unknown to one of the most powerful players in network television.

Over the past decade, the father of three has divorced and remarried. He fell in love with his Malibu neighbour Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) and the two were wed in 2007. And while fellow Brit Simon Cowell gets all the headlines for being the highest-paid personality at his network, you never hear much about Burnett's fortune, which is estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

It all began with an adventure game called Eco-Challenge. That Discovery Channel series really came together in British Columbia in 1996, when Burnett assembled much of his core production crew. Those marathons followed competitors through an intense endurance test, on land and sea, canoe, bicycle and even camel back as they raced across tricky locations around the world. By the time Burnett turned his attention to Survivor in 2000, he had already, in more ways than one, opened on the road, assembling a team that could excel in a challenging new world of exotic location storytelling.

Burnett has teased Canadian journalists for years with a Canuck Survivor, and hinted again at the CBS party at "Gold Rush locations in the Yukon" as a possible future destination. CBS, as Burnett's gruff ex-Navy SEAL competitor Rudy Boesch likes to put it, is quite happy with Survivor as "a bikini contest," thank you. A winter Survivor would only happen in a Canadian version, and only if CanWest Global can outwit and outlast its creditors.

Maybe it could still happen, though. Survivor got a big boost last fall from the new BBM Canada Portable People Meters, which seem to favour big event broadcasts and shows families watch together. Global's December finale soared over 2.8 million viewers, the highest total in years.

TV TIDBITS

Brandy and Ray J in New Reality Show

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 05, 2010) *One reality series from Ray J is not enough for VH1. The network, having just wrapped season two of “For the Love of Ray J,” has signed up the loverboy and his famous sister for a new series titled “Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business.” The hour-long show will follow the siblings, as well as their mother Sonja Norwood, an entertainment manager, and father Willie Norwood, a musician, as they work to run Sonja’s music business RnB Productions. When the matriarch decides to ease her control on the family business, which includes managing both Brandy and Ray J, the siblings are forced to take over and catapult the business to the next level. Cameras will also follow Brandy as she records her latest album with Timbaland, while trying to juggle the responsibilities of motherhood with her seven-year-old daughter Sy’rai. Ray J similarly dedicates time to his own musical projects, spending time in the studio with a slew of producers including Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. The 11-episode “Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business” premieres on VH1 Sun, April 11 at 9 p.m.

Reality Show To Follow Faith Evans Return

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 08, 2010) *Faith Evans will document her return to the music industry after a five-year hiatus in the new reality series, “It’s All About Faith,” due later this year from producers E1 Television and E1 Music. The series, co-produced by Evans and Ten2One Entertainment, will also follow the R&B singer at home with her husband/manager Todd Russaw and their four children. “Working with Faith on her new highly anticipated album and this compelling reality series is a perfect example of how E1 Entertainment is implementing its strategy of utilizing its three business pillars – Television, Film and Music,” stated John Morayniss, CEO of E1 Television. “We’re excited to be able to offer artists working in multiple creative fields and disciplines the opportunity to partner with E1 in all of our complimentary businesses. Ultimately, this allows us to help them reach the largest possible audience around the world.” Faith’s 6th album is due later this year on her own imprint, Prolific Music Group, which is distributed by E1 Music.

Veronica Webb Scores Fashion Week Gig

Source: www.eurweb.com


(February 08, 2010) *Former supermodel
Veronica Webb has been tapped to co-host the temporary broadcast Fashion Week TV. The runway veteran will team with Canadian model Coco Rocha to host live coverage of New York’s annual Fashion Week in Bryant Park. The show is produced by “Project Runway” creators Modelina.com and will air on municipal station NYC Life. “Fashion Week is a hive of activity, and we want to make sure that New Yorkers have an all-access pass,” Modelinia founder Desiree Gruber tells Page Six.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Raven Dauda : Apparel That Truly Fits

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 08, 2010) What a difference two years can make.

Early in 2008, an actor named
Raven Dauda, who was largely unknown to Toronto audiences, tackled the leading role in Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel for Obsidian Theatre at the intimate Berkeley Street Upstairs Theatre.

The response from audiences and critics was overwhelming, with the Star's Robert Crew hailing her as "superb ... Dora-worthy ... wonderfully nuanced."

She's about to open again this week in the same part in the same play, but it's now at the larger Bluma Appel Theatre, as part of the Canadian Stage Company's season.

And in between, she's made a lasting impression in three other shows (Wild Dogs, Miss Julie: Freedom Summer and Doubt), earning two Dora nominations and one Dora Award for her work.

"It's amazing how quickly things change," enthuses Dauda, on a short break just before starting a full day of technical rehearsals.

"I know it sounds clichéd, but I've been living the dream for the past two years."

And if there ever was a case of "overnight success" actually taking a decade or two, that story is hers.

Dauda was born in Ottawa in 1973, the child of a Jamaican mother and a father (now deceased) who came from Sierra Leone in Africa, with one side of her family providing a definite push to her artistic ambitions.

"My mother always had an interest in performing but never the opportunity. She was always telling me about my cousins who worked in Caribbean theatre and reminding me that it was in our blood."

She laughs. "Even nowadays, she constantly reminds me that she is living through me."

As with many children, games became rehearsals for the future.

"After school, we'd all go to a babysitter's house while we waited for our parents to get off work and we'd put on these plays and magic shows, which I loved."

She later went to Vancouver's Studio 58 to study acting but admits with embarrassment that, "I never completed the program, I don't know why, but I wish I had."

Then it was back to Toronto and what she calls "the whole waitressing bit," where she got one or two jobs touring with children's theatre shows.

Soon TV and the movies took over. For the next decade, Dauda played roles in nearly three-dozen projects, ranging from her debut in the political thriller Murder at 1600, to continuing roles in series like Paradise Falls and Across the River to Motor City.

Then came 'da Kink. Dauda wasn't part of the original cast of trey anthony's 'da Kink in My Hair, but she was friends with the entire company. So when it was being remounted for Theatre Passe Muraille, anthony invited Dauda along and she blazed her way into the role of the gay Hollywood star, trying to be accepted by her sisters back home.

"I was so honoured to be a part of that journey with trey and it helped me redefine my devotion to the theatre."

Since then, the bulk of Dauda's work has been onstage, and it's all been both varied and splendid.

As the shy seamstress, Esther, in Intimate Apparel, who gradually becomes aware of her worth, Dauda is light years removed from the Rachel she played in Wild Dogs, whose iron-ribbed pride kept destroying her capacity to love.

And in her back-to-back Dora-nominated roles at Canadian Stage last season, you couldn't imagine two more different women than the simple Christine in Miss Julie: Freedom Summer or the complex Mrs. Muller in Doubt.

The fact that all of these roles were written specifically for a black actress doesn't bother Dauda at all.

"I think about colour-blind casting," she admits, "but I'm more than content with what I've been given. Yes, it's been black-specific, but it's allowed me to delve into myself and into my race, and I am grateful for those opportunities.

"I know the plight friends of mine have had and I understand their frustration, but I've been very lucky to be seen in very different ways. And as long as people ask me, I'll keep doing it."

Intimate Apparel begins Monday night at the Bluma Appel Theatre, 27 Front St. E., and runs through March 6. For tickets and information, call 416-368-3110.

El Numero Uno: Morality Tale Offers Life Lessons Without Preaching

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

El Numero Uno
(out of 4)
Starring Walter Borden, John Blackwood and Andrew Broderick. Directed by ahdri zhina mandiela at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People, 165 Front St. E. 416-862-2222

(February 05, 2010) Billed as an "ol' time Caribbean story ... in a new Canadian context," there's much in
El Numero Uno to charm and intrigue young audiences.

Set and costume designer Astrid Janson has excelled in both categories, creating a theatre-in-the-round stage easily adaptable to quick scene changes, and costumes borrowing from Jonkonnu masquerade tradition that are wonderfully inventive and fun.

Veteran actors Walter Borden and John Blackwood anchor a cast that is uniformly strong – with one exception.

And the story by Pam Mordechai, with its rhyming couplets, is a nicely packaged morality tale for young people that offers life lessons without being too preachy.

But the production has a couple of minor problems that mute its potential, the first being young Andrew Broderick as the lead character, a teenage pig named El Numero Uno.

Broderick needs to make an extra effort to project both in volume and in the expression of his character.

El Numero Uno needs to be more dynamic and appealing, charismatic enough to immediately captivate his audience's attention and imagination.

Broderick simply needs to rise higher to the occasion.

The theatre-in-the-round stage is a wonderful concept, but in such a large space dialogue can be easily lost to one portion of the room, especially when an actor is delivering lines with his or her back to audience members, or even to the rafters.

It's an issue that everyone in the cast has to contend with.

The musical numbers could also use a little more pep.

The fife, the cow bell and the drums provide the right accompaniment, but the numbers seem a little muted and, at times, off-key.

They need to fill the space and carry along the audience, and they don't.

That said, El Numero Uno is playful and entertaining kids' fare, nicely capturing the accents of the Caribbean and its folklore. 

Wedding Crashers

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 04, 2010) Sometimes you have to learn how to live apart before you can learn to live together.

That's just one of the many lessons playwright Julie Tepperman and her husband, director Aaron Willis, have discovered by working on
Yichud.

The play (whose title means "Seclusion") starts previews on Feb.6 at Theatre Passe Muraille and will continue through Feb.27.

The Orthodox Jewish tradition originally referred to the proscription against unmarried men and women being together, unchaperoned, under any circumstance, but it is now more commonly used to define the moment right after the marriage ceremony when the bride and groom are left alone – supposedly for the first time.

Tepperman laughs as she recalls her first encounter with it.

"When Aaron and I were married, we never had a Yichud room. I learned about it when I was working at a synagogue, I started to open a door and somebody screamed out, `Don't go in there! That's the Yichud room!'"

What Tepperman discovered was that "many people consider the time spent there more sacred that the wedding itself. It's a way of consummating the marriage without consummating the marriage." She giggles. "Although there are stories and now that I've been researching it, people are always anxious to ask me, `Is it true they do it in the Yichud?'"

But Tepperman and Willis were more impressed with the many layers of meaning this seemingly archaic tradition contained.

"There are so many levels of seclusion, within religion, within family, within ourselves," says Tepperman. "I came to realize that all the laws of Judaism keep us safe. The Torah is like a blueprint for life."

Willis adds his perspective. "My experience with Judaism is that one of the most beautiful things about it is that you experience it by doing, rather than intellectualizing. There are 613 mitzvot or commandments and every one is capable of making your life fuller and deeper."

What's fascinating is the way Willis and Tepperman came to their in-depth knowledge of Judaism, because neither was really born into it.

Tepperman has the seemingly more conventional background, with an Orthodox mother and a Conservative father, but she admits that most of her profound religious discoveries have come recently.

"The theatre has been my way into Judaism. It continues to challenge my own identity."

But the real wild card is Willis.

"I was not born Jewish; I was raised Catholic. Julie and I met in theatre school at George Brown, started seeing each other, then started to talk about religion.

"The more I heard about Judaism through her, the more I wanted to be a part of it. I finally said that I thought we should have a Jewish home."

Willis converted after they were married and they now call themselves "fairly secular Jews who practise," and the Annex synagogue they regularly attend defines itself as "traditional egalatarian."

What's also a joy to see is the way that Yichud the play has grown along the same path as the couple's spiritual journey.

Tepperman wrote what she describes as "a 20-minute scene for Adam and me" set in the Yichud, which so captured the imagination of all who saw it, that an expanded version played at the 2009 Next Stage Festival.

After that, both the Harold Green Jewish Theatre and Theatre Passe Muraille decided to co-produce it, but in a shocking development at the end of last November, the former pulled out of the production, claiming that a corporate sponsor had taken offense at the play.

Andy McKim, artistic director of Theatre Passe Muraille, believed in the work so much that – together with Tepperman and Willis – he set about raising the $40,000 needed to bring the work to the stage and found it from generous donors within a week.

Instead of cutting back because of financial adversity, the new version of Yichud is an expansively joyous celebration, with all of Theatre Passe Muraille's space being turned into the location of the festivities, a live klezmer band, and wonderful members of Toronto's Jewish theatre community, including Richard Greenblatt, Diane Flacks, Jordan Pettle and Michael Rubenfeld, swelling the ranks of the company.

The question of financial donors making artistic decisions remains a problematic one, but for the time being, everyone connected with Yichud prefers to concentrate on the work at hand.

"Judaism is like art," says Willis. "It's a tangible thing. You're always working on it, always shaping it all the time."

His wife is in happy agreement. "I have a deep respect for people who are willing to examine their religion in their work. I find that every question I ask opens up more questions."

Just the facts
WHAT: Yichud

WHEN: Feb. 6-27

WHERE: Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Ave.

TICKETS: $20-$35 at 416-504-7529 or www.passemuraille.on.ca

Miss Saigon Returning To Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(February 04, 2010) It looks like Aubrey Dan will be waging war in the Pacific all summer at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

The Toronto Star has learned that
Miss Saigon, the heartbreaking Boublil-Schönberg saga of the war in Vietnam, will join the previously announced Rodgers and Hammerstein classic South Pacific as the second Dancap Productions musical of the summer.

Miss Saigon will consequently become the first musical theatre piece ever to play the centre, from July 9 to Aug. 1, followed by South Pacific from Aug. 12 to Sept. 5.

"I'm delighted to be able to expand the horizons of this glorious showplace for opera and ballet," Dan told the Star. "And I am honoured to be the first presenter of theatre here, especially with two such memorable musicals."

Miss Saigon, loosely inspired by Madama Butterfly, was the 1989 work with which Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg followed their world-class megahit Les Misérables.

Complete with its flying helicopter, the Toronto version of Miss Saigon, produced by Mirvish Productions in association with Cameron Mackintosh, opened the Princess of Wales Theatre in 1993 and played to 1.4 million people during its 824 performances. There has not been a major professional revival here since.

It makes an interesting contrast with South Pacific, with both shows examining the tragedy that befalls interracial romantic relationships in shows set 25 years apart.

This new production of Miss Saigon is being mounted in cooperation with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, which has been a potent force on the American musical theatre scene since its inception in 1946, playing to nearly 200,000 patrons this summer.

Miss Saigon will run first in Pittsburgh in June before transferring to Toronto. There is no word yet on the creative team behind the show. Dan's publicity team could offer no comment when asked if Canadian performers would make up part of the company.

The Windy City Is Blowing Toronto Away

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

(February 06, 2010) ChicagoThe Windy City is having another season to make other theatre cities envious.

By the time the Tony Awards roll around in June, a record number of Chicago productions and plays will have gusted over to New York.

Local playwrights Keith Huff and Tracy Letts both had dramas on Broadway this fall, while new Chicago-originated musicals Million Dollar Quartet and The Addams Family are headed there soon. (The Goodman Theatre wants to take its Stratford-born double bill of Hughie and Krapp’s Last Tape, starring Brian Dennehy, to the Great White Way too, if it can find a space.)

Chicago's buzz extends to off-Broadway, with the work of director David Cromer, and beyond with the ongoing success of Letts's 2008 hit, August:

Osage County, which recently visited Toronto and crossed the pond to London.

Given all that recognition, isn't it a little embarrassing that the City of Toronto website is still claiming that Hogtown is "the third-largest English-language theatre centre in the world”?

While Toronto may have indeed vied for that unscientific title in the 1990s, it's decidedly been in the dust in the past 10 years. Even a Canadian company like Cirque du Soleil would rather test drive its new vaudeville show Banana Shpeel in Chicago rather than Toronto.

Toronto's theatre artists have talent to burn, of course - so what's Chicago theatre got that TO has not? Here are the four Cs that Canada's biggest metropolis could learn from the so-called Second City.

Civic leadership

This year, Chicago celebrates the 10th anniversary of the theatre district. A decade ago, long-time mayor Richard M. Daley poured over $100-million into transforming the city's downtown Loop from a place you'd not want to venture after dark into a hopping area anchored by the arts. A block that contained an empty lot and the shells of two porn cinemas became the new home of the Goodman Theatre, while several bigger theatres were renovated to host touring shows and pre-Broadway tryouts like The Addams Family starring Nathan Lane.

"We're starting to do economic-impact surveys, but even the most simple statistics would indicate that the theatre district has pumped far more revenue into the city than the city put into it," says Roche Schulfer, executive director of the Goodman.

The mayor's largesse has extended beyond the Loop, too, with companies such as Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Lookingglass getting fancy new and heavily subsidized digs.

Over all, Chicago spends about three times as much per capita on arts and culture than Toronto does, though its efforts to brand the city as a theatre town are simple and inexpensive – like giving theatres street-lamp space to fly banners promoting their shows.

Meanwhile back in Toronto. … The street lamps fly banners asking citizens "TO Live With Culture," generically (and confusingly) promoting the idea of the arts rather than the actual living cultural institutions in town.

While Mayor David Miller came into office talking a big game about the arts, as he leaves many arts professionals quietly say that he's been a disappointment. "Of the major cities in North America, we are still funded municipally the lowest by a long shot," says Toronto Arts Council executive director Claire Hopkinson.

The problems are myriad and well-known: Commercial producer Dancap – which has investments in Broadway-bound shows like The Addams Family - has struggled to find space to produce and present downtown, while lifeblood not-for-profits like Factory Theatre and Tarragon Theatre are still struggling with substandard spaces.

Almost as old as Chicago's Theatre District is a Theatre Ontario report called "Spaced... Out?" detailing some of these issues. "It may as well have been written last month," says Jacoba Knaapen, head of Toronto Alliance of the Performing Arts. "So little has changed, it's appalling."

Collegiality

This is an oddly formal term you hear from everyone in Chicago theatre, but it's more than just a buzzword. In the front lobby of the Steppenwolf Theatre, there’s a display case celebrating not just the regional Tony they won in 1985, but the other three Chicago theatres that have won it since, a record for an American city: the Goodman Theatre (1992), Victory Gardens (2001) and Chicago Shakespeare Theater (2008).

Martha Lavey, artistic director of Steppenwolf, suspects the sense of co-operation between theatres dates back to birth of the city's "storefront" theatre movement in the 1970s. "It tended to involve ensemble-based theatres like Steppenwolf," she notes, "and that sense of fellowship maybe engendered itself across the actual ecosystem of the community."

Through the League of Chicago Theatres alliance, over 190 theatres, from small non-union companies to the giant Broadway in Chicago organization, promote and advocate together. "We've been able to achieve things here because we've been willing to work together, because we haven't stayed in our own separate backyards," says Schulfer.

Meanwhile, back in Toronto. … The Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts tries to perform the role of the LCT, but to a certain extent it is still rebuilding after a major financial crisis in 2004.

As for Toronto theatres' ability to play together nicely, perhaps the simplest example of the lack of communication between the various theatres is how often two of the bigger not-for-profits – Soulpepper and Canadian Stage Company, say – will schedule their openings on the exact same night.

"That's terrible," says Deb Clapp, executive of the LCT, when I tell her how often this happens in Toronto. "I'm not going to say it doesn't happen here, but certainly never among the major theatres."

Comprehensive criticism

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about talking to Chicago theatre practitioners is how enthusiastic they are about their local critics.

Composer Jean Sibelius once quipped that no one had ever raised a statue to a critic, but in Chicago they are about to name a theatre after one. Playwrights David Mamet and Letts are among those who donated money so that Victory Gardens would name its new studio space after Richard Christiansen, retired critic for the Chicago Tribune.

While he wasn't always kind, Christiansen is revered for reviewing shows big or small, union and non-union, no matter where they took place in the city. "He would seek out new work wherever it was and new companies and give them visibility akin to a Broadway touring show," says Schulfer, long-time executive director of Goodman. It's a tradition his successors have kept up.

Why does this matter? Well, it means Chicago has developed as a city where graduates from the city's many universities stick around and start companies, instead of immediately going to try their luck on the coasts in New York or Los Angeles. They know that they'll be taken seriously even before they get their Equity card.

"My first play was done here with a budget of something like $1,000," says Letts, who relocated from Dallas in the 1980s. "But not only can you get a play on for $1,000 here, you can actually get the critics out to see it, and then you will find audiences who will support it."

Meanwhile back in Toronto. ... While the alternative weeklies cover the independent scene, the city's local daily newspapers are less than fully supportive and almost never cover non-union shows. Local playwright Brad Fraser recently complained on his Facebook page that the city's biggest daily gives more space to reviews of Broadway productions than some local shows by established playwrights. (The Globe and Mail's policy is only to review Equity shows, as well.)

Confidence

Ask Chicagoans about the state of their theatre scene right now and few will brag about the number of shows headed to New York.

“I don’t think there’s a sense this is a particularly strong moment,”

says Bob Mason, artistic associate at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

“It’s just being noticed elsewhere.”

Chicago theatre gets "discovered" about once a decade, says Robert Falls, artistic director of the Goodman, since Mamet emerged in the 1970s.

Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones’s blog boasts that Chicago is "America’s hottest theatre city,” which may not be climatologically correct, but is at least more easily defended than Toronto's "the third largest English-language theatre centre in the world” claim.

Says Letts: “I can't imagine, frankly, why an English-language playwright would want to live in any city other than Chicago or London."

Meanwhile back in Toronto....

George Walker Is Back Where He Belongs

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(February 07, 2010) George F. Walker has been having a recurring dream. A man knocks on his door, says “I just hate your stuff,” and offers him a million dollars to stop writing. Walker gleefully agrees, then cuts a side deal by which he can write all he wants but must hide it away in a drawer, never to be seen. Presto: Walker’s in paradise.

The mysterious millionaire has never materialized in real life, but Walker’s newest play and his first stage work in a decade,
And So It Goes, came perilously close to finding its way into that drawer for good.

It took the entreaties of Ken Gass, artistic director of Factory Theatre, to not only pry the piece away from the renowned Toronto playwright, but convince him to direct it. Because for the good-natured, humorous Walker, bringing a play to life for the first time is a terrible ordeal.

“It was getting emotionally hard to do, you know. I'm not that comfortable with this guy,” Walker says about his brand-name persona. “That guy was not really me, so it was hard to get out there in the public eye.”

Walker has run that gauntlet of emotions dozens of times, pacing through every nook and cranny of a slew of playhouses, feeling sick, sitting under the risers to hear – but not see – his new work unfolding. “That’s what it does to me,” he says.

So for years, TV writing took over. He created This Is Wonderland for CBC-TV (he half jokes that the idea came to him when a critic slagged him as “the best TV writer we have working in theatre”), and is now writing for TMN’s Living in Your Car, which debuts some time this year.

There were many moments, he concedes, when he thought he might not write any more plays. TV gives him more distance, less fear and greater anonymity. But Walker was having nagging thoughts about the economy and mental health issues, and then, “this play just kind of escaped from me. … It came out really fast, like in about 10 days.”

And So It Goes follows the decline of a middle-class family – Ken (Peter Donaldson), a laid-off investment adviser, his wife Gwen (Martha Burns), a deeply dissatisfied former teacher and their daughter Karen (Jenny Young), who at 25 has unwittingly derailed the life they knew by developing schizophrenia. Dropped into the mix is Kurt Vonnegut (Jerry Franken), who dispenses sage advice from beyond the grave as a ghostly family therapist. Though the play is characteristically grim, some of the darkest moments are cut with a healthy dose of humour. It’s not Vonnegut-level absurdity, but it lightens the mood.

“It’s his spirit that I thought the play needed,” Walker explains. Two of his three daughters (including Courtney, who is assistant director on the production), are devoted Vonnegut fans (though Walker supposes he would turn to Joseph Heller or J.D. Salinger for dead-writerly advice).

Gass never doubted that Walker would return to the theatre because he loves live encounters, not to mention the freedom to write what he likes. And Gass thinks the play, while rooted in Walker’s early works, is a departure of sorts.

“He's writing in a sparer, more focused way,” Gass said. “He’s gaining a stylistic freedom and, to me, it suggests a new face.”

The other thing Walker missed was directing his own plays, a habit he developed out of a desire to be close to the cast.

“In some cases he could be extremely articulate about what the playwright wanted,” Burns said. “He would even sometimes say, ‘I think the playwright wanted this.’ And in some cases, he couldn’t be [so articulate], which is always the magic of the collaborative process.”

“You get in there and you’re so close to the actors – that’s the only real upside. The rest is pain,” Walker adds. “But you forget the pain.”

Before he’s had time to forget, though, Walker will brave the stage again this summer with his own version of The Beggar’s Opera at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, titled King of Thieves.

And he’s finding it at least a little easier this time because Toronto’s theatre culture is, on the whole, so much healthier. He eagerly reminisces about his early days when Factory, which produced his first play in 1972, was surviving month to month and he was plagued by the distinct feeling that if his play crashed, “you were going to take the whole structure down with you.”

Before he died in 2006, long-time Globe and Mail theatre critic Herbert Whittaker told Walker: “You’re my favourite. Because you do your work and then you go away.” Many Canadian theatregoers will be thrilled to see he’s come back again.

And So It Goes is now playing and runs until Feb. 28 at Factory Theatre in Toronto.

'Our Voices Have Been Neglected'

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

(February 10, 2010) African-American playwright Lynn Nottage has had a very good decade. Her 2003 play Intimate Apparel was one of the 10 most-performed shows of the noughties in the United States, and she won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Ruined, a gripping drama about women working in a bar and brothel in war-ravaged Congo.

In Canada, her time in the spotlight is just beginning. Obsidian Theatre’s acclaimed production of
Intimate Apparel, about a black lingerie designer in 1905 New York, returns to Toronto tonight, promoted from the 243-seat Berkeley Street Theatre, where it was first staged, to the 827-seat Bluma Appel Theatre. And next January, Obsidian will co-produce the Canadian premiere of Ruined which – lest you think it sounds too heavy – has been called “a crackling thriller with humour, plot twists and lots of humanity.”

Earlier this week, Nottage spoke to The Globe and Mail from her Brooklyn, N.Y., home, while her forgotten lunch burned in the oven.

What drew you to the time and place of Intimate Apparel?

In many respects, the America that we know today was defined by what happened in the early 20th century. It was a moment in which there was huge flux, culturally and geographically. You had immigrants who were flooding in from Eastern Europe. You had African-Americans who were moving from rural areas in the South to large urban centres like New York and Chicago. Intimate Apparel is about that confluence – and I was really interested in these conversations between cultures when they occurred in the bedroom.

You feel this era has been untapped from the African-American perspective?

There was an abundance of writing that occurred in the twenties and thirties with the Harlem renaissance, but prior to that there not a lot of literature written in first person by African-Americans. In particular, I found it very difficult to find stories about ordinary African-American folks like Intimate Apparel’s Esther, a woman who’s seemingly unexceptional in every way and yet who plays this pivotal role in all these peoples’ lives.

Do you see that as your role as a playwright, giving a voice to those that haven’t had one? Intimate Apparel and Ruined, set 100 years apart, have that in common.

I am interested in people living in the margins of society and I do have a mission to tell the stories of women of colour, in particular. I feel we've been present throughout history, but our voices have been neglected.

How has winning the Pulitzer Prize last year changed your life?

My phone rings a lot more often. And I get far more invitations to go out than I did before. As a playwright you're really not used to being in demand. I'm just trying to say no.

What are you saying yes to?

I have a new play that I'm working on. Ruined is gearing up to go to London in March and April, and [another production is] preparing to do a small tour of the United States that will end up in South Africa.

Do you hope Ruined will be as popular in America’s regional theatres as Intimate Apparel has been?

With its small, multicultural cast, Intimate Apparel is a play that's perfectly conceived for that. Ruined poses much more of a challenge because it has 13 cast members, including two musicians, all African. What we're trying to develop is a new model to tour it around to regional theatres, make it possible for more cities to host the play.

Did you ever feel the pressure to turn Ruined into a monologue to get it produced?

Plays are getting smaller and smaller, not because playwrights minds are shrinking but because of the economics. Ruined was a play which was somewhat of an anomaly in that I did not take a commission until it was finished, because I really wanted to explore the subject matter unencumbered. Otherwise, I felt as though I’d have the voice of dramaturges and literary managers saying, “This is great, but we’ll never be able to produce it.”

What’s the new play you’re working on?

By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is a multimedia play set in old Hollywood about an African-American maid who’s trying to get into a film like Gone with the Wind. The first act is a rather broad comedy; the second act jumps 70 years later to a group of African-American academics that are looking at the legacy of this actress’s life.

Bit of a shift in focus from Ruined.

I was writing it while I was writing Ruined. Because of the nature of the material, I needed an emotional outlet and that was By the Way. It’s a way that I could continue to write and be productive, but leave the world of Ruined.

Will you be breaking into film like Vera Stark?

One would think that I’d get more of those phone calls. But you can count on your hand the number of films you've seen that have been written by black women. I still think that Hollywood has not been overeager to invite us to the table.

Intimate Apparel runs to March 6. Visit www.canadianstage.com for more information.

THEATRE TIDBITS

Hornsby, Williamson join Denzel’s ‘Fences’ on Broadway

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 03, 2010) *Russell Hornsby and Mykelti Williamson are among the actors joining Denzel Washington in the upcoming Broadway production of August Wilson’s Fences. Hornsby (ABC’s “Lincoln Heights” & HBO’s “In Treatment”) will play Lyons, while Williamson (FOX’s “24″ & “Forrest Gump”) will portray Gabriel. Casting for the role of Raynell will be announced at a later date. Chris Chalk of Manhattan Theatre Club’s Ruined has been cast as Cory, the athlete son who spars with his bitter father Troy Maxson, played by Oscar winner Washington. As previously reported, Oscar nominee and Tony winner Viola Davis will play mother and wife Rose. Also added to the Kenny Leon-directed staging is Stephen McKinley Henderson (August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom & King Hedley II) as Jim Bono. Previews begin April 14 at the Cort Theatre. Opening is April 26.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Mass Effect 2: Love, Betrayal, Fighting And Fun

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

Mass Effect 2
(out of 4)
For Xbox 360 and PCs. $59.99
Rated M for mature

(February 06, 2010) A message to sci-fi fans eager to play the follow-up to 2007's
Mass Effect role-playing game: Run, don't walk, to pick up this stellar sequel.

If you can find one, that is. Mass Effect 2 sold more than 2 million units during its first week.

Developed by Edmonton's BioWare for Electronic Arts, Mass Effect 2, the second in a planned trilogy, continues the heroic space adventures of Commander Shepard in the 22nd century. In fact, you can even import your saved game from Mass Effect to continue as your customized Commander.

The extraordinary story in Mass Effect 2 revolves around a mysterious race threatening humankind, and Shepard's reluctance to work with Cerberus, a terrorist-like organization, to stop "The Collectors" in their path. As with the first game, there are also love interests, betrayals, minigames and numerous side-missions.

Mass Effect 2 offers a deep storyline with memorable characters in exotic environments, and there's also plenty of action. Third-person combat plays a huge role, with many character classes to choose from (including a brute soldier, tech specialist or stealthy infiltrator), as well as multiple futuristic weapons and special powers.

Mass Effect 2 isn't without its issues, however. For one, the "Power Wheel" and "Weapon Wheel" interface you call up during combat is hard to see, with a small font for the names of the weapons and powers. As a result, unless you can make out the silhouette or remember where a favourite selection is on the ring, you might need to squint to read what you're choosing, even on a 60-inch television.

Another beef surrounds some anticlimactic moments, when the dialogue builds up to what you think will be an epic fight that ends before you know it. One of the early missions, for example, involves joining a mercenary group to find the elusive "Archangel," and despite 20-odd minutes of conversation about his motives and whereabouts, the actual fighting that leads up to the meeting with him takes only a minute or two.

Shortcomings notwithstanding, Mass Effect 2 is an extraordinarily fun and great-looking RPG. And a code in the box lets you download new missions and special items free. 

::OTHER NEWS::

Jet Magazine Unveils New Look, But Will It Matter?

Source: www.eurweb.com


(February 04, 2010) *Black magazine icon,
Jet, is going through some changes. Johnson Publishing, the company behind the weekly is announcing some big moves for the mag.

Beginning Monday, with its Feb 15 edition, featuring singer Trey Songz on the cover, Jet will unveil its new look, including a new logo, new design and layout, new sections and features.

“As a world-class media company, we will solidify Jet’s position as an innovator and leader in the African-American marketplace by offering expanded content that will entertain, inform and extend our readership footprint of the brand in a smart way,” said Linda Johnson Rice, chairman and CEO. “We will continue to build our communication platforms to engage our audiences and address evolving consumer needs.”

The brand will showcase various points-of-view from recognizable contributors such as Dr. Ian Smith, Warren Ballentine and Fonzworth Bentley. Additionally, Jet will maintain reader favourites such as Jet Beauty and Jet Love (formally known as Love and Happiness), while also covering sports, finance, beauty and style.

Hopefully the changes will help because it’s no secret that both Jet and Johnson’s other iconic property, Ebony, have been slipping as far as subscriber/readers and revenue.

As most experts see it, the biggest and almost impossible hurdle that Jet and Ebony and even other weekly/monthly vehicles have to overcome is the fact that the internet is too formidable a challenger. Here’s how Richard Prince’s Journal-ism’s makes the point:

“A reader of BlackAmericaWeb.com wrote Wednesday, ‘My husband’s mother kept every Jet & Ebony back to the late 1950’s – including the 8 1/2 x 11 editions from back in the day – and when she died, we kept renewing the subscriptions to maintain her legacy. But the truth is, we flipped through the Teddy Pendergrass issue and didn’t even read it because the news was so old.’”

Wise Girls Settle, Loveless Writer Says

Source: www.thestar.com - Jennifer Wells

(February 04, 2010) In stores Thursday. Just in time for Valentine's Day!

That's the pick-me-up pitch from the just-released
Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, which surely will be flying off bookstore shelves right about ... well, this instant because the book, at least in marketing terms, is deemed to be a sizzler.

The Today Show will be pumping it. Oprah has published a quiz in her eponymous magazine. (Question No. 7: "What does having it all mean to you?") A Marry Him video is to be posted on YouTube on Thursday. Tobey Maguire has reportedly signed up for the movie version, which is odd, given that the book has but the faintest whiff of a plot.

No matter. Marry Him is a predetermined juggernaut.

In the service of Star readers everywhere allow me to step forward and take one for the team. As in: Save the $32.50 and buy yourself a nice bottle of Prosecco instead and, oh go on, a heart-shaped box of chocolates.

The author is Lori Gottlieb, who famously, yes, famously, penned Marry Him! for the Atlantic magazine in March 2008. The key insight: Hunting for a mate customized to a long list of expectations (cut abs, dark hair, smart, funny, millionaire, nice dog, sports only in moderation, no smelly feet) will doom young women to a forever state of disappointment until such time as she is too old and saggy to be deemed marriage material.

"My advice is this: Settle!" cried the exclamatory Ms. Gottlieb in the Atlantic. "That's right. Don't worry about passion or intense connection. Don't nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling `Bravo!' in movie theatres."

Stretching the premise to book length has allowed the author to hang out a full laundry line of behaviours/habits/characteristics that some women dislike about some men. I will admit, I found this bemusing, in a horrifying way. Among the relationship "deal-breakers": cheesy flowers; no flowers; nose hairs; saying "fabulosa"; "always looking at me with those adoring eyes"; and, my personal favourite, "He'd never seen Casablanca ... how can you be 32 years old and not have seen that?" (In the mind of the dismissive woman in question, not having seen the Humphrey Bogart classic "speaks to a larger issue of cultural void.")

These strictures are recounted not in contrast to, but in complement of, Gottlieb's own life.

The author has energetically mined the meditations-on-self genre, from Stick Figure, a book-length account of her adolescent journey through anorexia, to The XY Files, an Atlantic piece on her decision as an unattached woman to bear a child via sperm donor. (The first person she informed of the successful pregnancy was her therapist. "I didn't know who else to call," she writes, which may tell us something.)

Anticipating, with dewy naïveté, the joys of motherhood, Gottlieb registers surprise that her baby-on-hip status (no time to shower, eat or "urinate in a timely manner") didn't make her a prime fish in the dating pool.

Finding The One is what Marry Him is all about, trailing Gottlieb's own admissions that her list of male no-no's is excruciatingly long – polka-dot bow ties, working in the pest-control trade, You've Got Mail revealed as a favourite movie. The result, surprise, has been a narrowing of the field of candidates.

She decides to make a personal shift, brave girl, and break up with her list. So she sets it free in a helium balloon, a moment made movie worthy when a cute jogger (curly hair, muscular legs, UCLA law sweatshirt) trots by, makes eye contact and says, "You really shouldn't do that. It's bad for the environment."

Men come off really well in this book. The jogger. Evan, the dating coach who repeatedly tells Gottlieb to get over herself. Gottlieb's rabbi. And Kyle, who stands for all men who do not microanalyze the way women do: "If a girl seems like she isn't going to have too many unexplained crying jags or have too many antidepressant prescriptions or want to endlessly discuss the minutiae of the relationship, or go through our email or Google the names of exes, that's a huge plus for us. It's like cha-ching! Yahtzee! Touchdown!"

For Gottlieb, there is no happy ending, at least not on her terms. She remains single and holds the book out as a cautionary tale for young women.

How are they going to torture this into a Hollywood movie?

Gottlieb writes: "I'm the ghost of what could happen to you if you don't broaden your idea of Mr. Right."

She calls it settling.

I'd call it re-educating glassy-eyed 20-year-olds, nurtured at the teat of reality television and celebrity magazines, to seek substance over superficiality.

Of course, that presumes a level of maturity, which Gottlieb had to pass the age of 40 to reach.

You could say this is a book about "settling" for Mr. Good Enough.

Or you could say this is a book about growing up.

Ian Brown Wins $25,000 Taylor Book Prize

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 08, 2010) Journalist
Ian Brown won the $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction Monday for his touching book about his child's rare genetic mutation.

The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Search for His Disabled Son profiles 13-year-old Walker, who has cardio-facio-cutaneous (CFC) and is frail, mentally delayed and unable to communicate.

“I wrote this book because Walker can't speak,” Brown said in his acceptance speech as his wife and fellow Globe and Mail journalist, Johanna Schneller, who is Walker's mother, looked on with tears in her eyes.

“I would like to thank you for Walker's sake and say Walker would appreciate this, but obviously I don't know that — it's all speculation — but I do know that if Walker was here right now ... he would be very, very, very happy to be here. He would convey that to you.”

Brown first wrote about Walker as part of a series for the Globe and later turned the stories into a book that recently won B.C.'s $40,000 National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction.

Since the book was published, Brown has received regular emails from families of loved ones afflicted with CFC around the world, he said.

“We all feel like we have a kind of community,” said Brown, anchor of TVO's documentary series Human Edge and The View From Here.

“That's the thing about a severe intellectual disability, it's isolating ... and so this is a way to be less lonely.”

Schneller said Walker has a generous spirit and wouldn't mind sharing his story with the world.

“The world is a wide, open book to Walker on some level,” she said. “He's discovering it anew every single day, and I really don't think that he would object to being the subject of a story.”

Three other authors were in the running for the Charles Taylor Prize, established in 1998 by Noreen Taylor in honour of her late journalist husband.

University of Waterloo professor John English made the short list for Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, 1968-2000.

Montreal author and literary translator Daniel Poliquin was in the running for Rene Levesque.

And Kenneth Whyte, the publisher and editor of Maclean's magazine, was a finalist for The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst.

The three runners-up each receive $2,000.

The four finalists were selected from a crop of 125 Canadian titles by jurors Andrew Cohen, Sheila Fischman and Tim Cook, who won the prize last year.

Brown said he was grateful for having such a prize in a world where “narrative non-fiction is being ignored these days in favour of faster, more frequent, shorter blurts of information.”

“I think narrative non-fiction will come back, and this prize keeps it there.”

The Secret To Magazine Sales?

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Adams

(February 08, 2010) It's a truism that in a tough economy consumers favour the light and fluffy. Certainly this could explain the solid performance of Hello! Canada which, according to statistics released yesterday, enjoyed a 15.1 per cent increase in circulation in the final six months of 2009 relative to its performance in that same July-December period in 2008.

According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), the gossipy, photo-packed Hello!, published since fall 2006 by Toronto-based Rogers Publishing, had a total circulation of almost 113,000. While the celebrity-themed weekly's single-copy sales held around the same as last year (72,000-73,000), it saw a hike of more than 65 per cent in subscriptions, to just over 40,600 from 24,500 in 2008.

At the same time, as if to contradict the “light-and-fluffy” thesis, English Canada's premier current affairs weekly Maclean's, also published by Rogers, saw its circulation increase by three per cent, to almost 363,000 copies on average from 352,400. This was driven by a 5.5 per cent increase in subscription sales; newsstand sales dropped by 15 per cent, to just over 11,500 copies on average from about 13,600 previously.

Hello! and Maclean's were two of the bright stories in ABC's semi-annual survey which monitored the performance of more than 80 English and French-language periodicals. Overall last year's July-December stretch - traditionally the time when publishers produce their fattest, most advertisement-packed issues to their largest readership - was lacklustre.

According to an ABC analysis of 57 Canadian titles, total paid subscriptions were down 3.25 per cent from 2008, to about 5.4 million from roughly 5.6 million, while single-copy sales declined by 4.34 per cent, to about 1,178,000 from 1,231,430. Still, this last was considerably less than the 23.6 per cent decline in single-copy sales that Canadian magazines faced in July-December 2008 as economic woes really gripped the market.

As ever, Reader's Digest remained the top magazine published in Canada, claiming a total paid circulation of close to 763,000, although this was a 7.5 per cent decline from 2008. Canadian Living, published by Montreal-based Transcontinental Media, placed second, with an average circulation of 515,357, a drop of one per cent from last year. Chatelaine, another Rogers publication, was in third place, with a circulation of 507,438. However, this was an 11 per cent decline from the same six months of 2008, spurred by losses in both subscriptions (a drop of almost 10 per cent) and single-copy sales (18.4 per cent).

The country's competitive English-language fashionmagazine market remained flat with all three of the big players - Elle Canada, Flare and Fashion - reporting declines overall, with Fashion topping the charts with a total circulation of about 145,000.

Elle and Fashion both saw increases in their subscriptions, of 10.7 and 8.2 per cent respectively, while experiencing declines in single-copy sales, of 44.6 and 16.8 per cent , respectively. Flare, however, went the other direction, boosting single-copy sales by just over 43 per cent (to 20,700 from 14,422) while taking an almost eight per cent hit in subscriptions.  

Hollywood Sign Gets Makeover For Fundraising Drive

Source:  By Steve Gorman, (Reuters)

(February 09, 2010) LOS ANGELES - Hoping to prevent the famed view of the Hollywood sign from being spoiled by development, a group set out on Tuesday to raise $5 million to buy a nearby hilltop peak once owned by billionaire Howard Hughes.

The San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land is seeking to purchase the 1,820-foot-tall (555-meter) ridge, called Cahuenga Peak, from a group of Chicago investors who acquired it from Hughes' estate in 2002 with plans to build luxury homes there.

City officials and residents have worried since then of cluttering the postcard-perfect view of the landmark sign, whose four-story-high "H" stands just to the east of and slightly below Cahuenga Peak in the Hollywood Hills.

To launch the fund-raising drive, the land conservation group received permission to superimpose over the Hollywood sign giant letters that spell out the message "Save the Peak" -- to be fully in place from Thursday through next Tuesday.

"This is as an iconic a view as you'll see anywhere in the country," said Sam Hodder, California state director of the land trust. "People fly from all over the world to come to Hollywood and see this sign. And if there were houses put up on this hill, the Hollywood sign would never be the same."

After years of fretting and on-and-off negotiations between the city and the property's owners, the land trust recently struck a deal to buy back the 138-acre tract for $12.5 million, based on an independent appraisal.

The land will then be turned over to the city and incorporated into the surrounding acreage of Griffith Park.

The development group, Fox River Financial, stands to make a tidy return on the original $1.6 million it paid for the site, which was listed for sale a year ago for $22 million.

APRIL DEADLINE

The trust's exclusive option to buy the parcel runs out April 14. If sufficient funds are not raised by then, the property will be put back on the open market.

But Hodder said he is confident the campaign will succeed.

More than $7 million in public and private money already has been set aside or pledged for the purchase, including a major gift from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, a New York-based charity dedicated to preservation causes.

That leaves about $5.2 million to raise by the deadline in order to gain public ownership over what Hodder described as the largest undeveloped piece of privately owned open space left in the Los Angeles area.

The Hollywood sign on Mount Lee originally read "Hollywoodland" and was created to promote a housing development in 1923. The last few letters deteriorated in the late 1940s and the part that remained was restored in 1978.

Lesser-known Cahuenga Peak has its own storied history. It was purchased by Hughes, the reclusive aviation mogul turned filmmaker, as a love nest for actress Ginger Rogers in 1940, but their relationship ended and the house was never built.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Will Dunham)

Pow! A Multicultural Comic-Book Hero For Toronto

Source: www.globeandmail.com - John Barber

(February 09, 2010) Novelist Rabindranath Maharaj occupies a land every bit as exotic as his lavish name suggests, a mysterious east few literary explorers have ever imagined, let alone visited. Magnificently alone in the crowded bazaar, he works assiduously to infect the Canadian imagination with his strange foreign notions.

But it would be wrong to prejudge the quality of Maharaj’s work just because he lives and works in Ajax, Ont., a ho-hum suburb 35 kilometres east of Toronto, sandwiched between and even overshadowed by the notoriously benighted Scarborough and industrial Oshawa. Like his latest novel,
The Amazing Absorbing Boy, the author’s chosen milieu is full of surprises.

Consider the doughnut shop where the 54-year-old Trinidad-born author composed much of The Amazing Absorbing Boy, a no-name joint lost in the interminable sprawl on Toronto’s ugly eastern flank: It is an architectural marvel, superbly bright and spacious, clad on three sides with two-storey walls made of clear glass and filled with amiable folk who all seem to know one another, including Maharaj. And not a single laptop in sight.

“The good thing about this place is that you meet interesting people and they give you a little slice of their experiences, like what part of Canada they came from, and so on,” Maharaj says, turning easily from a neighbourly chat with a beehived regular to literary business.

“When this is crowded, I go to a Starbucks in a Chapters close to here,” he adds. Or sometimes to a Tim Hortons, which is everywhere. “Each one for a different reason.”

But this one is the “most cozy,” he says An immigrant deeply curious about the shifting identity of his adopted metropolis – much like the bright, befuddled young narrator of his latest novel – Maharaj has staked out the centre of his universe at Cross Country Donuts, 240 Harwood Ave. S.

It’s an original view that becomes quietly remarkable when seen through the eyes of Maharaj’s boy hero, Sammy, an orphan from Trinidad shipped north to live with his long- absent, mentally ill and abusive father on a slab of foam in a condemned apartment in Regent Park, Toronto’s most notorious public-housing complex. A setting that most Canadians would recognize as fertile ground for a scathing drama of social realism becomes, to Sammy, the jumping-off point of a great adventure.

Sammy’s is no Horatio Alger story. His oddball adventures among the natives, told in the episodic manner of the comic books he loves, bring no redemption. He drifts from one menial job to another, idles with old-timers in downtown doughnut shops, falls in love with a girl who disappears and struggles with the numbing legalities of immigration. But the bitterness that overwhelmed his disappointed father gains no hold on the son, who remains buoyed by his quest to “crack the puzzle,” as Maharaj puts it, of his strange new surroundings.

 “ The good thing about this place is that you meet interesting people and they give you a little slice of their experiences.

“The things that would have destroyed his father became a different kind of thing to the son,” Maharaj says. Every obstacle is a new adventure on the quest to belong. “Samuel thinks when you move to a new place you have to absorb a bit of the place around you, and try to allow the place itself to absorb a bit of you.”

To the extent it provides guidance to new immigrants, the novel is all about the power of imagination. “People whose imaginations are limited or bounded by what they see before them, especially if they’re in a new, perhaps threatening kind of situation, I don’t think they’re going to get very far,” he says. “I don’t want to sound too Oprah-ish or anything like that, but I really believe that if you have the power to imagine particular things you have the ability to transform them.”

Maharaj is a walking advertisement for his own advice. A successful teacher on his way to becoming a high-school principal in Trinidad, he threw it all over at the age of 37, bringing his wife and three young children north to study creative writing at the University of New Brunswick. His fate was set when his first book, The Interloper, was nominated for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

He moved from a high-rise apartment in Mississauga, where his wife and now-grown children still live, to another in Ajax, and continued to write novels that are much admired but sell poorly.

“Some people can look at my life, like my father and mother for instance, and say, ‘This fellow has made a series of bad decisions,’” Maharaj allows, admitting that literary life in the new country is “touch and go.” But the advantage he gained is the chance to write what he wants. “And I suspect having a narrow readership is the price I pay for that – just writing the kind of book I would want to read.”

With its local setting, artfully simple style and abundance of engaging characters, The Amazing Absorbing Boy could well change that. Torontonians in particular will find themselves immersed in a familiar city they never knew, guided by the sort of new citizen they see everywhere but can barely recognize.

“Somebody asked me whether this book was a series of love letters to Toronto,” Maharaj says. The answer is no – not exactly. “It’s a series of intimate letters to a person you don’t know all that well,” he says. “Because you don’t know this person all that well, you don’t know if these letters will be tossed aside or looked at with wonder, as in, ‘You know, I never saw it this way before!’”

Wonder aside, it is almost certainly true that no native-born Canadians have ever seen their country the way Maharaj and Sammy present it in The Amazing Absorbing Boy. Whether they like it or not – or even notice his efforts – the bard of Ajax is quietly redrawing the literary map of his adopted country.  

::DANCE NEWS::

Russian Conflict A Faux Pas De Deux

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(February 08, 2010) The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming. And the National Ballet of Canada is not pleased.

Call it a "faux pas de deux," or "clash of the dance titans."

It's what happens when two pieces of good news add up to bad news for somebody.

First news bulletin: The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, which will reopen in October after a renovation currently underway, has scored a coup by securing the first Toronto appearance in more than two decades of the full
Kirov Ballet (known as the Mariinsky Ballet at home in St. Petersburg.)

Second news bulletin: A mixed program showcasing up-to-date Russian choreography is an innovative highlight of the National Ballet's 2010/2011 season, to be unveiled Monday by artistic director Karen Kain.

Now here's the whoops! factor: the Kirov is scheduled to dazzle Toronto audiences at the Sony Centre the same week in early March 2011 that the National Ballet plans to salute the marvels of Russian dance a few blocks away at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

The result: an unseemly behind-the-scenes squabble over the past couple of weeks between the ballet company and its former landlord and partner the Sony Centre, with city hall caught in the middle.

"This feels like a Mack truck falling out of the sky and hitting us," says Kevin Garland, executive director of the National Ballet of Canada. "It's great to have the Kirov coming to Toronto, but the timing couldn't be worse for us, and we didn't hear anything about it in time for us to plan accordingly."

Garland presented her case to Councillor Kyle Rae, chair of the city council committee that oversees the culture budget. "We're sympathetic," says Rae, "but we can't solve the problem."

The city makes sizable contributions to both the Sony Centre and the ballet company.

Dan Brambilla, CEO of the Sony, says: "We are thrilled about being able to bring the Kirov back to Toronto in our first season after reopening, and we feel it is going to be exciting for the whole city and increase the public's appetite for dance."

The Kirov, the Sony Centre and the National Ballet have been joined in Toronto cultural history since the night in June 1974 when Mikhail Baryshnikov, a member of the Kirov company, defected after a performance at what was then the O'Keefe. Before heading to New York and American Ballet Theatre, Baryshnikov danced La Sylphide with the National Ballet.

The two organizations discussed the possibility of working together, but negotiations broke down over conflicting demands. The Sony asked for the use of the National Ballet's subscriber list, offering a percentage of ticket sales in exchange. The ballet company wanted co-presenter status plus a guarantee of being "made whole" – arts-biz jargon for covering any shortfall in the ticket revenue projected in its budget for its own Russian program.

Back story: There were some ruffled feathers and hurt feelings when the ballet company decided to leave the building at Front and Yonge Sts., despite Brambilla's pitch to keep them under his roof.

Instead, the ballet company opted to move to the Four Seasons Centre when it opened in 2006, thus becoming the principal tenant in a building controlled by its long-time sibling, the Canadian Opera Company.

According to Garland, the ballet company has a limited number of weeks of access to the Four Seasons.

The company's June season occurs during the Luminato festival, which features dance events, but Garland says, "Luminato is very careful to work with us and do things in a way that protects us."

As Brambilla told Rae, his chief responsibility is to make the Sony as successful as possible and reduce the amount of subsidy it needs from the city.

What next? Garland is looking into a schedule change, but the logistics may make that impossible.

More promising alternative: a partnership between the two organizations aimed at mutual co-existence, persuading ballet aficionados to buy tickets to both events, and luring tourists for what promises to be a fascinating and unique double bill.

Alice In Wonderland Highlights National Ballet's New Season

Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb

(February 09, 2010) Karen Kain is hoping to lure Toronto audiences down a rabbit hole with a new, family-friendly work by one of today's hottest choreographers.

Christopher Wheeldon's
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland – based on the famous 1865 novel by little-girl-loving English author Lewis Carroll – is the major highlight of the National Ballet of Canada's 2010-11 season, details of which were announced Monday by Kain, the company's artistic director.

British-born, New York-based Wheeldon, 36, is acclaimed internationally for innovative works that push ballet classicism in a contemporary direction. His abstract early masterwork from 2001, Polyphonia, joined the company's repertoire three years ago to critical acclaim and Wheeldon's own troupe, Morphoses, made a successful Canadian debut just last week in Ottawa.

The new $1.36 million Wheeldon work is set to a commissioned score by British composer Joby Talbot and is the National Ballet's first co-production with England's famed Royal Ballet. It will receive its world premiere at the Royal Opera House in London in February 2011 before National Ballet dancers perform it at Toronto's Four Season's Centre, June 4 to 12. The National Ballet is doubtless counting on the name recognition of an Alice ballet to win market share during Toronto's Luminato festival, historically a challenging time at the box office.

Wheeldon is not the only marquee name choreographer Kain is bringing to Toronto.

In late March 2011, the National Ballet will acquire Russian Seasons, its first work by Alexei Ratmansky, the 41-year-old St. Petersburg-born choreographer and former Bolshoi Ballet artistic director. His 2006 Russian Seasons mixes elements of classicism with folk and jazz idioms.

Ratmansky is no stranger to Canada. In earlier years he spent a couple of seasons dancing with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Like Wheeldon he is regarded as a major torch bearer for the art of ballet.

So too, in an arguably more radical way, is Britain's Wayne McGregor, whose daringly inventive 2006 work Chroma will receive its Canadian premiere in the National Ballet's November mixed program. The company is the first troupe outside the Royal Ballet – where 39-year-old McGregor is resident choreographer – to perform the multi-award-winning Chroma. McGregor, in Toronto this week to choose his National Ballet cast, says the fact he's agreed to allow the Canadian troupe to perform Chroma is "a testament to Karen's persuasive gifts."

The company will begin its 2010-11 season with a short tour to Quebec, its first in many years. Apart from the perennial Nutcracker in December, the only other traditional full-length classic will be a March 2011 revival of the Russian-based Don Quixote – not the George Balanchine version that bombed in 2006. The National Ballet will also revive former artistic director James Kudelka's quirkily popular 2004 staging of Prokofiev's Cinderella.

For full programming details, see www.national.ballet.ca.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Crash Kills Leafs Gm Brian Burke's Son

Source: www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran

(February 06, 2010) Brendan Burke – the youngest son of Leaf general manager Brian Burke – has been killed in a car accident in Indiana.

"We are saddened to report that Brendan Burke, the youngest son of Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke, succumbed to injuries he suffered in an auto accident ...," the Leafs said in a statement Friday night.

"The family asks for privacy at this difficult time."

Brendan Burke, 21, and Mark A. Reedy, 18, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., died at the scene of a two-vehicle accident in Wayne County, Ind., around 2:50 p.m. Friday. Heavy snow was falling at the time.

Investigators said Burke was driving eastbound on U.S. Highway 35 in a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee when, according to witnesses, the vehicle slid sideways into an oncoming 1997 Ford truck driven by Michael Moreland, 24, of Lynn, Ind. Moreland was not hurt.

Wayne County is close to the Indiana-Ohio border, about 100 kilometres northwest of Cincinnati.

The father-son relationship made headlines throughout Canada and the North American sporting culture in November when Brian Burke revealed to the media that his son was gay.

The public admission of homosexuality by Brendan Burke, a former goalie working with a top-ranked university hockey program, was widely credited with nudging hockey toward overcoming its sometimes homophobic culture.

The younger Burke told the Star at the time he was overwhelmed with the positive feedback he'd received from the public, heralding the support from his father and the hockey world.

"The reaction from the press and fans and everyone has been overwhelmingly positive," Brendan Burke told thestar.com.

Brendan Burke was a student manager of the Miami (Ohio) University hockey team, and had come out to his team and his father more than two years ago.

The Burkes went public after a reporter, who had been a friend of the family, told them he planned to write about it.

Brendan told his father he was gay in 2007 and while Brian admitted in November he was surprised by the news, he was supportive.

"I said, `It won't change anything Brendan,'" Brian Burke said at the time. "`It doesn't change our view. We love you and we're proud of you. It doesn't change anything in my mind and it never will.'"

Brian Burke has received widespread praise for supporting his son, both within hockey and outside. He told reporters he hoped his story will give others the confidence to come forward.

"I think it's important my story is told to people because there are a lot of gay athletes out there and gay people working in pro sports that deserve to know there are safe environments where people are supportive regardless of your sexual orientation," he said.

Brendan Burke analyzed video and kept stats for the top-ranked Miami team. The team's coach, Enrico Blasi, and the rest of the team first learned of Brendan's orientation after the Frozen Four tournament last spring.

"I think having Brendan as part of our program has been a blessing," Blasi told ESPN.com.

"We are much more aware of what you say and how you say it."

A tribute to Brendan appeared on a website for Miami fans.

"As most of you know, Brendan was a part of `The Brotherhood,' working with the Miami hockey program as a student manager," it said. "No matter your point of view on things, please keep the Burke family in your thoughts."

In a statement MLSE president and CEO Richard Peddie said: "On behalf of the entire Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment family, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Brian Burke. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Burke family during this extremely difficult time."

Canadiens GM Bob Gainey Resigns

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(February 08, 2010) MONTREAL—Bob Gainey has resigned as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens after a tumultuous era at the helm of hockey’s most storied franchise, becoming the latest in a string of Habs GMs to leave without a championship.

Gainey becomes the third straight Habs general manager to leave the job without delivering a Stanley Cup — a once-unthinkable statistic for a team that was dominant for decades.

Gainey will remain employed with the Habs as a consultant to new GM and executive vice-president Pierre Gauthier, and he told a news conference Monday that he remains devoted the team.

He presided over an era where the Canadiens were competent during the regular season, poor in the playoffs, and flooded by fans’ nostalgic adulation as they celebrated their 100th birthday.

“I’ve done my best and it’s time for me to pass the torch. I’m leaving the team that I love in good hands,” Gainey told reporters.

“The job of general manager required a vision and a long-term commitment and I didn’t want to commit myself now for four, five or six more years.

“If I had to choose between leaving a little earlier, or a little later, I’d prefer (to go) earlier.”

The Gainey era ends with a record of 241-176-46-7 during the regular season, 11-22 in the post-season, and zero appearances beyond the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The team is currently in sixth place in the East, with a record of 28-26-6 despite a crippling series of injuries to key players like Andrei Markov, Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Kostitsyn.

His successor, Gauthier, was general manager of the Ottawa Senators from 1995 to 1998 and of the Anaheim Ducks from 1998 to 2002, and has served the Canadiens in a variety of roles since 2006.

If Gauthier is preparing to make any drastic changes, he certainly wasn’t showing his cards Monday.

“It’s a great honour to become general manager of the Montreal Canadiens,” Gauthier said. “I like our team. I like the organization. I’m very comfortable with Jacques Martin and our team of coaches.”

Habs president Pierre Boivin announced the moves Monday. After delivering his statement, Boivin turned to face his departing GM and said: “I’m sure you would have preferred better results — but you can be proud of the organization and team you put in place.”

Gainey, a Hall of Fame winger who was team captain from 1981 to 1989, is considered among the best defensive forwards in the history of the game who had even the Soviets marvelling over his combination of grace and power on skates.

As a hockey executive, he received an outpouring of sympathy after losing his wife to cancer and then his daughter in a boating accident.

He was given a prolonged, emotional ovation on the night two seasons ago that his No. 23 jersey was retired.

But the team has never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs under his watch.

Gainey said after last season’s four-game playoff sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins that his job would be on the line if the team did not show improvements this year.

Despite the modest record, Habs fans can be frequently heard grumbling that the team’s fiscal hands will be tied for years by some of the big contracts Gainey took on — especially Scott Gomez’s US$51.5 million deal, which still has four years left.

Gainey has come in for heavy criticism for a number of other decisions that left fans perplexed.

Some of the most controversial moves revolved around promising young goalie Carey Price.

Gainey has staunchly defended Price since he used the team’s highest draft pick in a quarter-century — the No. 5 pick in 2005 — to select the British Columbia netminder.

At Price’s first NHL training camp, then-coach Guy Carbonneau said that unless the rookie netminder earned the No. 1 job in Montreal over incumbent Cristobal Huet, he should be sent to the minors.

But Gainey publicly disagreed with his coach, and ultimately Price made the team as a backup.

He then traded Huet later in the year, just as the Canadiens were atop the league standings and preparing for a playoff run. Price had a difficult playoff and the Canadiens were upset by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round.

Gainey then mockingly dismissed a question after last year’s playoffs about why the slumping Price — and not Jaroslav Halak — got to start every game in a four-game sweep by the Boston Bruins.

Price struggled throughout the series, while Halak got to play only one period and didn’t give up a goal. More recently, Gainey admitted to shopping Halak around the league this year.

This was before the backup netminder went on a tear; Halak now finds himself among the league leaders in save percentage while Price is increasingly riding the bench.

Both Price and Halak are restricted free agents at the end of this season and the city is divided by the debate over which goalie the team should keep.

Gainey’s replacement will have to decide whether or not to trade one or the other prior to the March 3 trade deadline.

Gainey made a number of moves early on in his tenure that quickly turned around a team that had missed the playoffs in four of the five years prior to his arrival.

The most stunning was the acquisition of Alex Kovalev from the New York Rangers for Jozef Balej just before the 2004 trade deadline in Gainey’s first season in Montreal.

After a slow start in the regular season, Kovalev caught fire in the playoffs and helped lead the eighth-seeded Canadiens to a first-round upset of the top-ranked Bruins.

Kovalev became an adored player in Montreal over the next four seasons, but Gainey chose to let him go as a free agent last summer despite a small fan rally outside the Bell Centre imploring Gainey to re-sign him.

Gainey also traded a struggling Jose Theodore and his rich contract to the Colorado Avalanche in 2006, freeing up money for the Canadiens to sign other players.

The Habs entered this season after receiving a drastic facelift, with Gainey obtaining Cammalleri, Gomez, Brian Gionta, Jaroslav Spacek, Hal Gill, Travis Moen and Paul Mara in a flurry of summertime activity. Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev, Mike Komisarek and Chris Higgins were among those who were shown the door.

Argos Sale To B.C. Lions Owner Complete

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich

(February 09, 2010) The Toronto Argonauts’ long-anticipated ownership change has been completed.

The Canadian Football League announced Tuesday evening that the Argos have been sold to David Braley, who also owns the B.C. Lions.

“This is the next step forward for one of our oldest and greatest franchises,” league commissioner Mark Cohon said in a statement. “David Braley is one amazing Canadian, deeply committed to this country and what makes it strong and unique and vibrant, especially the Canadian Football League. He has a track record of tremendous success in our league, in his personal business endeavours and charitable activities, and I know he will work tirelessly to make the Argos successful.”

Braley believes he can help revive a franchise that has fallen on hard times after winning only seven games in the past two seasons.

“I believe strongly in the Argonauts brand and will work to turn the Double Blue into a winning team on the field and a leading franchise within the Canadian Football League,” Braley said. “It will take time and effort, but I am extremely confident that with the right people and plan in place, we will succeed on behalf of Argos fans.”

With Argonaut ownership finally settled, the league now faces the problems that come with having one man own two franchises in an eight-team league.

“We are unanimous in the belief we would much rather have an exemplary person with considerable financial resources and an undeniable love for our league sit atop two franchises than have any one of our franchises owned by someone of uncertain means or questionable character, or someone lacking in a real, long term commitment to what’s best for the CFL and its fans,” Cohon said.

“We understand there are those who will now view every interaction between the Lions and the Argos with extreme scrutiny. I can assure them their vigilance will be nothing compared to the way I and my colleagues in the league office will monitor every transaction and every game involving these two teams, reserving every step of the way our right to veto any trade or punish any initiative that fails to clearly meet the highest standards of competitiveness.”

Details of the sale were not disclosed. David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski purchased the Argos out of bankruptcy in 2003 for $2 million.

Honouring Canada's Musical Olympic Medallist

Source: www.thestar.com - Martin Knelman

(February 10, 2010) Canada's hopes of winning medals this month in Vancouver do not depend on our artists, but a concert on Sunday at the Orpheum Theatre will include a salute to a pioneer composer who won a silver medal at the 1948 Summer Olympic Games.

Yes, you read that right; no, it's not a factual error.

I'm referring to the late
John Weinzweig and his delightful composition Divertimento No. 1, one of the most frequently performed classical music pieces ever written by a Canadian.

Most of the world has forgotten, but when the ancient Olympics were revived at the start of the last century, it was taken for granted that if sport was the first pillar of the event, culture was the second.

From 1912 through 1948, arts competitions were held and 151 medals awarded in many arts categories, including architecture, town planning, sculpture, painting, drawing, literature and music. During those years, Germany led the world with 24 medals. Italy and France won 14 each, and Britain collected 10.

Canada lagged behind with just two medals: a bronze in 1932 to sculptor Robert Tait McKenzie, and the 1948 silver to Weinzweig.

Credit Wende Cartwright, director of performing arts programs at the Vancouver Olympics, for arranging a place of honour for Weinzweig, whose medal-winning piece will be played by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bramwell Tovey. That's one piece of the impressive, wide-ranging Olympic cultural extravaganza Cartwright has helped organize, working on a $20 million budget.

Among those attending the concert will be the composer's younger son, Daniel Weinzweig, managing partner of Searchlight Recruitment Inc. (which specializes in arts-world executive recruitment) along with his family.

When he was 6 or 7 years old, he recalls, he found the medal and took it to school, hoping to trade it to a classmate for some marbles he coveted. Fortunately, he failed to close the deal and the medal remains in the Weinzweig family.

Cartwright got to know Weinzweig (who died in 2006 at age 93) while she was doing executive jobs with Roy Thomson Hall and the Royal Conservatory of Music.

"He filled in a lot of blanks for me about the history of music in Canada," she explained in a phone interview the other day. "I had tremendous respect for him because he was such an inspiration for younger composers and musicians."

Arts competitions were dropped from the Olympics in the 1950s because most competing artists were professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs.

Divertimento was inspired during the summer of 1945 when Weinzweig was serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

"I overheard a conscientious bandsman practising long notes on his flute," he later explained. "As I listened to the rise and fall of those cool flute tones, ostensibly an exercise in breath control, they became charged with feeling for me. What a great idea for a slow movement!"

After he added a first and third movement, the work was given its radio premiere by the CBC from Vancouver in 1946, and was played at a Toronto Symphony Orchestra concert the next year. It has also been performed in Prague, Melbourne and Rio de Janeiro. Without the composer's knowledge, Divertimento was entered in the Olympic competition by a Canadian music association charged with choosing submissions.

The jury's decision was announced at a press conference on July 13, 1948. The judging committee praised the work for its "progressive fingerprint," its "smooth-flowing, pleasantly abstract" melodic ideas.

For more than 50 years, the man known as the dean of Canadian composers kept the medal in the filing cabinet of his home office. As son Daniel Weinzweig explains, "Dad wasn't that interested in prizes. He was much more interested in having his work performed."

SPORTS TIDBITS

Emmitt Smith & Jerry Rice Are Now Hall of Famers

Source: www.eurweb.com

(February 07, 2010) *
Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith will now be the NFL’s Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.  The NFL’s career receiving and rushing leaders were joined in the Hall by John Randle, Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Floyd Little and Dick LeBeau. Little and LeBeau were elected as senior committee nominees.  “I am just honoured … to stand up there with greatness,” Rice added before breaking down in tears.  Rice and Smith both made it in their first year of eligibility. They were elected a day before the Super Bowl, a game they each won three times.  “This is almost perfect,” Smith said. “I don’t think even Steven Spielberg could have written a script this nice.”

Argos Sale To B.C. Lions Owner Nearly Done: Source

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Zelkovich

(February 08, 2010) The sale of the Toronto Argonauts to B.C. Lions owner David Braley is nearing conclusion. According to sources, Argo owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski have come to an agreement on most major points with Braley, though some small issues still need to be ironed out. Once they are, which should happen Monday or Tuesday, Braley will become the first owner in Canadian Football League history to control two teams. Lawyers for the two sides met throughout the weekend after the Argo owners promised the ownership question would be solved by Sunday night. The deal, which would likely be rubber-stamped by the CFL's board of governors this week, will settle many of the issues surrounding the team. While the Argos would not confirm that Calgary player personnel director Jim Barker will be their new head coach, sources say the former Argo coach will be named this week. That would seem to secure the job of general manager Adam Rita, who is under contract through 2010.