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January 21, 2010

Right off the top, and all over the news is the crisis situation in
Haiti.  It's all very overwhelming watching the news, reading the papers and watching webcasts.  Heartbreaking - and it's hard to know how you can make a difference. It's been hard for me to even know how to pray about the devastation.  I decided that I would pray to give the people HOPE ... hope has a ripple effect that can change lives and bring the kind of help that is needed most.  Give ... in whatever way you see fit.  There is lots of cynicism out there regarding all the fundraisers and charities asking for help.  Listen to it, don't listen to it ... but remember that we live a very blessed life and most of us will never understand the level of desperation and suffering that people in Haiti are experiencing.  No matter what, they need our help.  Here are some points of view that might give you some ideas:

10 things Canada should do to help Haiti overcome last Tuesday's earthquake

Tune in and help Haiti

Canada eases restrictions, waives fees to speed some adoptions of Haitian kids

The Salvation Army

Red Cross

Rogers: How your phone can help Haiti

Now on a lighter note,
KUUMBA is back at Harbourfront Centre - lots of exciting things to do, hear, see and move to.  For example, ever want to learn the dance moves from the music video Thriller?  Well now's your chance!  Lessons are on Feb. 6, 2:30-3:30 p.m. - go HERE for all details.  An amazing collaboration of the arts celebrating Black History Month. 

Stay tuned for pictures next week from the Dave "Soulfingaz" Williams Tribute at Revival.

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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


Celebrate Black History Month at Harbourfront Centre’s 14th Annual Kuumba Festival presented by TD

Two jam-packed weekends celebrating the history and the future of black culture

TORONTO, ON (Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010) . Kuumba, Toronto's longest-running and largest Black History Month festival returns to Harbourfront Centre with two jam-packed weekends commemorating both the history and the future of black culture. The first weekend of Kuumba focuses on ideas surrounding Old School and Power of Soul while the second weekend will explore themes of Black to the Future and One Love. Kuumba. is the Swahili word for creativity and has become synonymous with showcasing the best local and international artists from the African and Caribbean diaspora each February at Harbourfront Centre. Join us Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 13-14, 2010 for dance workshops, film screenings, music, comedy, family activities, food demos and more. All programming is FREE (except the Valentine.s Day Comedy Clash $10, $15 at the door) and runs each day from 1 p.m. into the evening.

Kuumba, presented by TD, runs Feb. 6-7 and Feb. 13-14, 2010. All events take place at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queen.s Quay West). For more information and to purchase tickets for the Valentine.s Day Comedy Clash, the public can call 416-973-4000 or visit harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba




Feb. 6, 8:30-11 p.m.

Saidah Baba Talibah is the daughter of Obie award-winner and Tony- and Grammy-nominated Salome Bey, Canada's Queen of Jazz, Blues and Spirituals, and the niece of Andy Bey, also a Grammy-nominated musician. She offers up a distinct and fluid blend of bluesy rock, deep funk and hot, buttered soul with a voice that can go from a seductive, soft purr to a powerful bellow at the turn of a dime. With special guest DJ L.Oqenz spinning the tunes. DRUM TILL YOU DROP

Feb. 6 & 7, 1:30 p.m.

Learn to play traditional African drums (djembe, sangban, kensedeni, dununba) with Barrington Hibbert! A limited number of drums are available; participants are asked to bring their own drums.

Feb. 13, 2-5 p.m.
This event honours consciousness in hip hop and spoken word (active art forms for social change) and features an artist showcase and cash prize contest for the most talented conscious wordsmith and raptivist rhymer! An open "infotainment" forum will be set up, featuring organizations that marry art with commerce and activism, giving youth the tools to get involved. Representatives from non-profit urban art organizations include: Manifesto, Lost Lyrics, Beatz to Da Streetz, Nia, Stolen From Africa, Young Diplomats, Regent Park Focus, Medina Collective, L.I.F.E. Movement and the Toronto Youth Cabinet. Co-produced with UMAC, The Urban Music Association of Canada
(The Real) Soul on Ice: Feb. 6, 8-11 p.m.
DJs Carl Allen and Kwame Younge spin the best in soul, funk, house & reggae!

Feb. 6 & 7, 4-5 p.m.
A live music and dance class with Cuban musician extraordinaire Roberto Linares Brown and dance instructor Vladimir Aranda.


Enjoy traditional Caribbean cuisine prepared by La-toya Fagon of Twist Catering and Ras Iville & Ikeila Wright from One Love Corn! Patricia J. hosts.

- Stew Chicken with Rice and Peas (Feb. 6, 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
- Jamaica.s National Dish: Ackee & Saltfish with Fried Dumplings (Feb. 7, 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
- Coconut Rice & Peas, Fried Cornmeal Dumplings & Cocoa Tea (Feb. 14, 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
- Callaloo Soup (Feb. 13, 5-6 p.m.)


.Soul Power!.
Feb. 6, 6:30-8 p.m. & Feb. 7, 1-3:30 p.m.
In 1974, the most celebrated American R&B acts of the time came together with the most renowned musical groups in Africa for a 12-hour, three-night concert held in Kinshasa, Zaire. Included are performances by James Brown, BB King, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz and many others.

.Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae.

Feb. 7, 4:30-6 p.m.
The remaining great singers and musicians of Jamaica's Golden Age of music, Rocksteady, come together after 40 years to record an album of their greatest hits, to perform together again at a reunion concert in Kingston, and to tell their story. Features many reggae icons including The Tamlins, Stranger Cole, Dawn Penn, Derrick Morgan, Ernest Ranglin, Judy Mowatt and more.

“Good Hair”
Feb. 13, 6:30-8:30 p.m. (PANEL) & Feb. 14, 1-2:30 p.m. (NO PANEL)

An exposé of comic proportions that only comedian/actor Chris Rock could pull off, “Good Hair” visits beauty salons and hairstyling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore the way hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships and self esteem in the black community.

POST-SCREENING DISCUSSION PANEL: Featuring black hair experts Ruth Smith (Strictly Roots), Buster Berkley (Amorphous Group), and Asha McLeod (Jazma). “Rastafari Then and Now: A Message From Jamaica”

Feb. 14, 6-7 p.m. (followed by short film preview & panel discussion) Nation Cheong, a Rastafarian community youth worker and African drummer is concerned about youth violence and wonders if the principles and values of Rastafari could benefit today’s youth. He gathers a group of black youth and takes them on a journey of discovery into Toronto’s Rastafarian community. Along the way, he re-connects with some of his elders which eventually leads him to travel to Jamaica, the birthplace of Rastafari, for the very first time.

“In Search of Rastafari: A Soul’s Journey” (special seven-minute preview) Bob Marley, a Rasta Prophet, and music icon of the 20th century, almost singlehandedly spread Rastafari to the rest of the world through his powerful lyrics and music. Now, 27 years after Marley’s untimely death, his granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, 24, embarks on an epic journey of faith and self discovery as both a Rastafarian and a daughter of the Marley dynasty. Along the way she will explore the roots of Rastafari and its links to our cultures.

POST-SCREENING DISCUSSION PANEL: Immediately following these two films, there will be drumming and a discussion panel with Nation Cheong, Doctor Patrick Taylor, and Ras Iville.


VALENTINE’S DAY COMEDY CLASH: One Love (or Diasporic Disharmony?)
**Special Ticketed Event** ($10 in advance / $15 at the door)
Feb. 13, 8:30-11 p.m.

Comedians from the U.S., Jamaica, Africa and Trinidad vie for Afrocentric supremacy and regale us with tales on how (and how not) to love the black man and woman. No subject is off limits to Jay Martin, Marc Trinidad, Dwayne Landry, Arthur Simeon!



Led by some of the city’s finest dance instructors (including Jade “Hollywood” Anderson, and Vladimir Aranda), workshops will include:

- “Thriller” Music Video Choreography (Feb. 6, 2:30-3:30 p.m.)

- Salsa 101 for Dummies (Feb. 6 & 7, 4-5 p.m.)

- Voguing & Old School House Dancing (Feb. 7, 2:30-3:30 p.m.)

Feb. 13, 1-2 p.m. & Feb. 14, 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Krumping, an expressive and high energy form of hip hop dance, originated in the streets of South Central Los Angeles and has quickly evolved into a global phenomenon. Northbuck is an organization of Toronto krumpers from diverse backgrounds who each faced hardships; krump was their escape. Northbuck's long-term goals are to spread the movement nationwide along with its message of positive, violence-free living.

Feb. 13, 4-5:30 p.m.

Toronto’s best young dance crews battle for bragging rights and a cash prize of $500.


MICHEZO (“games” in Swahili)
Feb. 6 & 7, 1-5 p.m.

Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison hosts an interactive celebration of the art and genius of traditional African childhood games.

Feb. 6-7 & 13-14, 1-6 p.m.

Let your imagination run wild in a room full of Lego® blocks!

Feb. 13 & 14, 1-6 p.m.

Super Heroes Unite is an art project created by two Canadian artists, Mark Williams and Joe Bonsu. It involves the creation of super heroes from around the world, placing each super hero in a different country and emphasizing the importance of unity through diversity in their artwork.


Harbourfront Centre is an innovative, non-profit cultural organization which provides internationally renowned programming in the arts, culture, education and recreation, all within a collection of distinctive venues on a 10-acre site in the heart of Toronto's downtown waterfront.


Wyclef Jean Calls For Evacuating Haiti Capital

Source: www.eurweb.com - Samantha Gross, AP News

(January 19, 2010) Haitian-born musician Wyclef Jean defended his charity on Monday in the wake of questions about its practices while calling on the international community to enable the evacuation of his homeland's earthquake-ravaged capital.

"Port-au-Prince is a morgue," Jean said at a Manhattan press conference, recounting how he collected the corpses of small children and adults from the festering streets on his recent trip. Tears streamed down his face as he looked into the camera, speaking to his countrymen.

Residents should be evacuated to tent cities outside Port-au-Prince to allow for aid to reach them and so cleanup can begin in earnest, Jean said, asking for help from around the world in building encampments.

"We need to migrate at least 2 million people," Jean said, promising to draw on his status as one of Haiti's favourite sons to aid in such an effort. "I give you my word, if I tell them to go, they will go. But they need somewhere to go to," Jean said.

The musician made the plea for an evacuation at the behest of Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive and President Rene Preval, said Hugh Locke, the president of The Wyclef Jean Foundation Inc.

The organization, also known as the Yele Haiti Foundation, has drawn fire in recent days as groups that vet charities raised doubts about its accounting practices and ability to function in a nation devastated by last week's earthquake.

Jean gave an impassioned defense of the organization, which has received more than $2 million in donations in just a few days.

"My dad always told me, if you're a man with a clear conscience, speak with a clear conscience and the world will know," he said. "Have we made mistakes before? Yes. Did I ever use Yele money for personal benefit? Absolutely not."

An Associated Press review of tax returns and independent audits provided by Jean's foundation showed that it was closely intertwined with Jean's businesses.

Among the mistakes by the young organization, Locke said, was the decision to buy $250,000 of airtime from Telemax S.A., a for-profit TV station in Haiti that is majority-owned by Jean and another foundation board member.

Locke said that Yele believed it was getting a good price for airtime in a nation where many are illiterate and rely on the TV for information. The decision would be handled differently now, he said.

The foundation plans to send donated supplies to Haiti on a plane provided by FedEx on Saturday. It is still deciding how donated funds will be spent, considering such options as mobile schools for refugee camps and security forces to escort supplies, Locke said.

Soul Singer Teddy Pendergrass Dies At Age 59

Source: www.thestar.com -
Nekesa Mumbi Moody

(January 14, 2010) NEW YORK–R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass, who was one of the most electric and successful figures in music until a car crash 28 years ago left him in a wheelchair, has died of colon cancer. He was 59.

Pendergrass died Wednesday in suburban Philadelphia, where he had been hospitalized for months.

The singer's son, Teddy Pendergrass II, said his father underwent colon cancer surgery eight months ago and had "a difficult recovery.''

Before the crash, Pendergrass established a new era of R&B with an explosive, raw voice that symbolized masculinity, passion and the joys and sorrow of romance in songs such as "Close the Door,'' ``It Don't Hurt Now,'' "Love T.K.O." and other hits that have since become classics.

He was an international superstar and sex symbol. His career was at its apex – and still climbing.

Friend and long-time collaborator Kenny Gamble, of the renowned production duo Gamble & Huff, teamed with Pendergrass on his biggest hits and recalled how the singer was even working on a movie.

"He had about 10 platinum albums in a row, so he was a very, very successful recording artist and as a performing artist,'' Gamble said Thursday. "He had a tremendous career ahead of him, and the accident sort of got in the way of many of those plans.''

Pendergrass, who was born in Philadelphia in 1950, suffered a spinal cord injury in a 1982 car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down – still able to sing but without his signature power. The image of the strong, virile lover was replaced with one that drew sympathy.

But instead of becoming bitter or depressed, Pendergrass created a new identity – that as a role model, Gamble said.

"He never showed me that he was angry at all about his accident," Gamble said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "In fact, he was very courageous.''

Pendergrass left a remarkable imprint on the music world as he ushered in a new era in R&B with his fiery, sensual and forceful brand of soul and his ladies' man image, burnished by his strikingly handsome looks.

Gamble said Pendergrass was one of a kind as an artist and boasted a powerful voice and "a great magnetism.''

"He was a great baritone singer, and he had a real smooth sound, but he had a real rough sound, too, when he wanted to exert power in his voice," Gamble said.

But it wasn't Pendergrass' voice that got him his break in the music business – it was his drum playing abilities. He met Harold Melvin, who was looking for replacement members for his group, the Blue Notes, and signed on to be the drummer. Later, he became the lead singer of the group, which became known as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

The band started working with Gamble and Leon Huff and had signature hits in the early 1970s with "Wake Up Everybody" and ``If You Don't Know Me by Now.''

But Pendergrass had creative differences with Melvin and soon left for a solo career, according to his website. It was then he would become a sex symbol for the R&B genre, working women into a frenzy with hits such as "Only You" and concerts dedicated for ladies only.

"The females," Gamble said, "loved Teddy Pendergrass. The females were very attracted to him and his music.''

Unlike the songs of many of today's male R&B crooners, Pendergrass' music bordered on eroticism without explicit lyrics or coarse language – just through the raw emotion in his voice. "Turn Off the Lights" was a tune that perhaps best represented the many moods of Pendergrass – tender and coaxing yet strong as the song reaches its climax.

Fans were devastated when, at age 31, Pendergrass was critically injured after his Rolls-Royce hit a tree. He spent six months in a hospital and returned to recording the next year with the album ``Love Language.''

He continued to sing and recorded several albums, receiving Grammy nominations.

"To all his fans who loved his music, thank you," his son said. "He will live on through his music.''

It was 19 years before Pendergrass resumed performing at his own concerts. He made his return on Memorial Day weekend in 2001, with two sold-out shows in Atlantic City, N.J.

Gamble noted Pendergrass' charitable work for people with spinal cord injuries, his performances despite pain and his focus on the positive in the face of great challenges.

"He used to say something in his act in the wheelchair, 'Don't let the wheelchair fool you,' because he still proclaimed he was a lover," Gamble said.

But his career was never the same. Gamble said it was difficult for Pendergrass to project vocally like he once did: "The breathing aspect of it, he wasn't really able to deal with it.''

And while he had albums, he was no longer seen as the sex symbol but more of a sympathetic, tragic figure, even though he still had a strong following among his core female fans.

After the accident, he dedicated much of his life to helping others with spinal cord injuries and founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance to do just that. Gamble said he wanted to help others.

"In his quiet moments, he probably did a lot of reflection. But I never saw him pity himself. He stayed busy," Gamble said. ``(But) I feel that he's in a better place now. ... He doesn't have to go through that pain or whatever he was going through anymore.''

Mo'Nique Earns Supporting-Actress Prize At Globes

Source: www.thestar.com -
David Germain, AP News

(January 17, 2010) Mo'Nique won the supporting-actress Golden Globe Sunday for her role as a loathsome, abusive welfare mother in the Harlem drama "Precious."

The prize marks a dramatic turning point for Mo'Nique, who was mainly known for lowbrow comedy but startled audiences with her ferocious performance in "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' By Sapphire."

The Globe win could boost Mo'Nique's prospects at the Academy Awards, whose nominations come out Feb. 2.

"First let me say, thank you, God, for this amazing ride that you're allowing me to go on," the tearful Mo'Nique told the crowd.

She went on with gushing praise for "Precious" director Lee Daniels and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, a best dramatic actress nominee at the Globes with her first film role, playing Mo'Nique's abused, illiterate daughter.

"Lee Daniels, the world gets a chance to see how brilliant you are. You are a brilliant, fearless, amazing director who would not waver, and thank you for trusting me," Mo'Nique said. "To Gabby, sister, I am in awe of you. Thank you for letting me play with you."

The Globes were a mix of far-out fantasy and ripped-from-the-headlines reality at the Golden Globes, Hollywood's first major film honours that will help sort out the Oscar picture.

Contenders for best drama include two wildly make-believe adventures, the science-fiction spectacle "Avatar" and the war story "Inglourious Basterds," which rewrites the end of World War II with a gleefully vengeful bloodbath at a movie premiere.

Also competing are timely dramas of the war on terror ("The Hurt Locker") and economic hard times ("Up in the Air"), along with the grim but inspiring "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' By Sapphire," about a Harlem teen struggling to lift herself out of an abyss of illiteracy, abuse and neglect.

The rain-drenched red carpet was a rare sight for an awards show in sunny southern California, stars in their finery getting damp under umbrellas as storms swept the region.

The Globes got a makeover, featuring Ricky Gervais as master of ceremonies, the first time in 15 years the show had a host.

Gervais opened by mocking Steve Carell, star of the U.S. version of "The Office," based on Gervais' British comedy series. While a stone-faced Carell watched, Gervais yammered on about how fans love Carell and wonder where he gets his ideas from.

Carell then mouthed and pantomimed, "I will break you," to Gervais, an executive producer on the U.S. version of the show.

Gervais joked about the international causes near and dear to Hollywood stars internationally.

"You can be a little Asian child with no possessions and see a picture of Angelina Jolie and you think, `mommy,'" he said.

Umbrellas were a must-have accessory for celebrities walking the red carpet outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel as southern California's dry winter suddenly turned wet.

"It's raining a lot — I'm worried that my tattoos are going to start showing," actress Tina Fey joked to Ryan Seacrest during a red carpet show broadcast by E! television.

George Clooney didn't let the showers stop him from stepping out into the rain to sign autographs for fans.

With stars sharing dinner and drinks, the Globes traditionally are a loose and relaxed affair compared to the courtly Oscars. Celebrities sometimes are caught more in reality-show mode — Jack Nicholson once mooned the crowd for a laugh, and Christine Lahti had to rush from the restroom to collect her Globe for the TV drama "Chicago Hope."

Also unlike other Hollywood film honours, the Globes feature categories for musicals and comedies along with dramas. Nominated for best musical or comedy are the Vegas bachelor romp "The Hangover," the Julia Child tale "Julie & Julia," the musical "Nine" and the romances "(500) Days of Summer" and "It's Complicated."

Among acting nominees are Meryl Streep for both "Julie & Julia" and "It's Complicated," Sandra Bullock for both "The Blind Side" and "The Proposal" and Matt Damon for both "The Informant!" and "Invictus."

Others include Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick for "Up in the Air," Morgan Freeman for "Invictus," Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard and Penelope Cruz for "Nine" and Robert Downey Jr. for "Sherlock Holmes."

Martin Scorsese, who won the best-director Globe three years ago for "The Departed," is receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement.

Sunday's winners could get a last-minute boost for the Oscars, whose nominations balloting closes Saturday. Oscar nominations come out Feb. 2, with the awards following on March 7.

Last year's big Globe winner, "Slumdog Millionaire," went on to dominate the Oscars.

The Globes are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 90 reporters covering show business for overseas outlets. The show airs live on NBC.


On the Net:


Source: AP News

Brueggergosman To Make COC Debut

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Simon Houpt

(January 19, 2010) Measha Brueggergosman, who has built a reputation as one of Canada's flashiest opera stars despite having appeared in only a handful of staged operas, will add an important item to her résumé when she makes her Canadian Opera Company debut in the spring of 2012.

The Globe and Mail learned the news of her appearance before tomorrow's (Wednesday's) COC announcement of its 2010-11 season.

Brueggergosman, 32, says she will sing Vitellia in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, a role she may know especially well by the time she lands on the COC stage in 2012: She is also rumoured to be singing it in an Opera Atelier production the previous season, though the company would not confirm that.

The COC similarly demurred. “We are talking to Measha about a project for the future, but neither a piece nor a [performance] period is confirmed yet,” said artistic director Alexander Neef.

“The productions are going to be completely different, like two different shows,” said Brueggergosman. “It's nice to be able to work at home and to have such a meaty, satisfying role to start. I'm really quite grateful.”

She added that she believes that the COC settling into its permanent home at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts has helped the company to focus on its artistic priorities, as well as to be in a better position to commission new works and conduct audience outreach.

“My hope is that it will, in fact, become Canada's national opera company in the truest sense of the word,” she said.

The pair of hometown operas are unusual for the hearty soprano, whose itinerary is usually filled with international recital appearances. Over the next six months, she will be in Germany, the Netherlands, England, Norway and Venezuela.

Her two recordings for Deutsche Grammophon consist of a collection of cabaret songs and a quiet concept album, released this month, called Night and Dreams .


Gulf Islands A Playground Of The Rich And Haven For Artists

Source: www.thestar.com -
Nancy Wigston

(January 15, 2010) USEPPA, Fla.–"No peeking in people's windows," warns the captain as our ferry docks at Useppa, one of southwest Florida's private islands.

This members-only country club allows day-trippers to sample its restaurant, tour its grounds, and visit its gem of a small museum. Noblesse oblige.

The good captain needn't have worried. On our best behaviour, we stroll along the Pink Promenade (path) under banyan trees.

But the hundred-odd cottages seem deserted, ditto for the sugar-sand beach. It's not high season, after all; and Useppa's owner-members seem unaffected by recent financial troubles. The silence is calm, but not weird.

The only people about are white-clad staffers playing croquet on an emerald-green pitch. Useppa's Croquet Club commands respect in American National Croquet circles – this is not your backyard game, but serious stuff that occasionally incorporates golf moves, a perfect fit for an island that has been in private hands since 1911.

Croquet is not Useppa's only game; war games have played out here as recently as former U.S. President John F. Kennedy's first term, when the CIA commandeered the island as a training base for Bay of Pig invaders.

This tale comes alive with photographs and documents in the artifact-filled Sumwalt Museum, named for founder and ex-Tiffany employee Barbara Sumwalt.

Useppa's 10,000 years of often-violent history fill its jam-packed rooms. In 1513, the Calusa Indians dispatched explorer Ponce de Leon; Spanish-American wrangling over Florida continued for decades; the Seminole Wars raged in the mid-19th century.

Useppa's era as a playground for the rich began when New York ad man Barron Collier established a fishing resort here (1911-1939).

He extended hospitality to luminaries like presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover, Hollywood stars Mae West and Shirley Temple, and author Zane Grey.

Tarpon fishing was all the rage. When finally we lunch, alas, our meals are mediocre; the Collier Club dining room pleasantly dull.

The day's excitement arrives on the return trip to McCarthy's Marina on Captiva Island. Gregarious dolphins suddenly appear, jumping and diving around the boat.

We clap, we wave, we laugh; we snap endless photos.

"I've never seen anything like it," says one delighted nature lover. By the time we disembark, we're in love with these friendly creatures.

A thread of road connects the islands of Captiva and Sanibel, the latter synonymous with the "Sanibel Stoop," or shell-seeker's posture.

Although it sounds redundant on shell-rich Sanibel, The Bailey-Mathews Shell Museum turns out to be a hoot. Not only are rare beauties on display, but there's shell art (Sailor's Valentines), shell money, and a shell-themed gift shop.

But nothing tops the deliciously icky film showcasing the living creatures that inhabit shells. Those feet! Those creepy, colourful extrusions!

If all Florida were like these islands – free of discount malls and noisy nightlife – wildlife would flourish as it does here.

Two hundred species of birds and 650 invertebrates call Sanibel home. A tram runs through the national wildlife refuge named for cartoonist and naturalist J.N. "Ding" Darling.

Appointed by Franklin Roosevelt to head the U.S. Biological Survey, Ding designed the Duck Stamp – its proceeds purchased wildlife habitat wetlands.

Our tram driver/guide is a shameless flatterer.

"Eco-tourists are more intelligent than other tourists. If you go to Disney World you don't need any grey matter."

We are then rewarded with sightings of laughing gulls, roseate spoon bills, ospreys, white pelicans, great egrets.

Artists cleave to such places. Inspired by a solo holiday on Captiva, writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh (wife of the famous pilot) wrote Gifts from the Sea, a 1950s bestseller.

Morrow's life lessons – each chapter prefaced by a different shell – endures to this day. (Jacqueline Kennedy was an early fan.)

Visual artists (Robert Rauschenberg) and popular writers (Randy Wayne White) as well as the not-so-famous have called these Florida islands home; any visit to a local art gallery or bookstore becomes a cultural adventure.

On Sanibel, folks breakfast at The Lighthouse Café, named for the island's famous landmark (Tip: bring the owner a framed picture of any lighthouse, anywhere, and breakfast is on the house; no wonder the walls are crammed with lighthouses of the world.)

At Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille (named for Randy White's beloved character, marine biologist Doc Ford) customers choose among 30 rums, watch sports on a myriad of screens, while hoping, like the excited woman at the next table, that "Randy may show up."

Sometimes he does; he lives close by, on Pine Island.

But the quirkiest of the barrier islands must be Cabbage Key, atop a mound of Calusa shells at Mile Marker 60.

Like Useppa, the Wells' privately-owned island is only reachable by boat. Most folks come for lunch (soft-shell crabs; key lime pie); a narrated day trip includes a stop at Cayo Costa State Park for shelling, nature trails, and swimming.

The famous Cabbage Key dining room sports a decor worthy of Scrooge McDuck: tens of thousands of signed and dated American dollar bills cover every available surface.

Legend has it that a local fisherman taped a bill to the bar, for luck. The trend took off.

As greenbacks eventually float downward, the resulting windfall – thousands of dollars each year – goes to school conservation programs.

Stay here if you can, just to sample the era when Florida crackled with characters, not tourists. The 1938 main house, built for her son by author Mary Roberts Rinehart, has affordable, old-fashioned rooms.

Tarpon fishing continues to be popular (a catch-and-release contest occurs mid-October). Yacht owners anchor their boats in sheltered bays; musician Jimmy Buffett is rumoured to frequent the place.

"Players Wanted" reads the sign on the bar piano. One memorable evening, a Florida pal and I listened as a stylish woman rippled the keys.

Later, we shared stories. Hers was riveting: a Belgian national, she'd been stranded in Liberia during the terrible civil war; for 11 months she lived in the "forest," after waking one morning to find her guards and guard dogs shot dead.

"Come with us," said the local people.

When she said goodnight – she and her lover sailed for Venezuela at dawn – I wondered if she had been real. One thing was certain: we'd only have met her on Cabbage Key.

Nancy Wigston is a Toronto-based freelance writer whosetrip was subsidized by Visit Florida and Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau.


Kate McGarrigle Dies Of Cancer

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 19, 2010) Internationally admired Canadian singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle has lost her battle with cancer. She would have been 64 next month.

The mother of performers Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright achieved fame and acclaim with sister Anna in the 1970s, when several of the duo’s songs were covered by artists such as Maria Muldaur and Linda Ronstadt, notably “Heart Like Wheel,” the title track of a best-selling album by Ronstadt.

Born in St-Sauveur-des-Monts, northwest of Montreal, Kate was schooled in music at a local convent, according to an online entry in The Canadian Encyclopedia. She went on to study math and engineering and graduated with a BSC from McGill in 1969.

Kate and Anna went on to release a self-titled album that has been acclaimed as one of best releases of the ’70s.

Once married to American singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III, Kate was invested with the Order of Canada in 1994.

Rufus Wainwright last week cancelled a planned February tour of Australia and New Zealand to be with his mother.

Goodbye Sweet Harmony

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

(January 19, 2010) Kate McGarrigle sang in public for more than four decades, yet even in later life, when she stepped in front of a microphone, she seemed ageless. Her voice called to us from another era, and (maybe more importantly) from our dreams of other eras, when life surely must have been simpler, if no less mysterious than it is now.

She had a clear, light and yet somehow gutsy voice, and it went straight to the heart. It revealed its quiet power most of all in her own songs, such as Talk to Me of Mendocino, which seems on the surface to be about a road trip from New York to the California coast. But somewhere along the way, the focus of the trip shifts, and it's the sun we're following, as it moves inexorably over the land and away from us over the sea. The journey is really one toward knowledge, sadness and death, and also toward a simple radiant beauty: a vision of light through redwoods, a melody that comes to us with the sweetness of an old Stephen Foster song.

We tend to think of Kate almost as one entity with her sister Anna, her partner in singing and songwriting for so many years. Their voices twining together on their own records, or on those of many other eminent musicians, is one of the most distinctive sounds in popular music.

People think we sat around and everybody played the fiddle and we clogged or something, but it wasn't like that at all — Kate McGarrigle

They've often been rhapsodized as a kind of living relic of Old Quebec: sheltered in a village, schooled by nuns, steeped in the folk songs of La Belle Province. Kate, an urbane and observant woman, enjoyed scoffing at that caricature.

“People think we sat around and everybody played the fiddle and we clogged or something, but it wasn't like that at all,” she told me during a long lunch interview several years ago. She and Anna came from a striving middle-class family with a streak of show business in its DNA. Their father sang at intermissions in his father's movie houses in New Brunswick; their aunt played piano and wrote songs in a style reminiscent of Cole Porter; their mother spent nights as a girl translating for her grandfather at a Montreal burlesque house.

The McGarrigles came into their own during the folk-music boom of the sixties, and brought to it a much broader frame of reference than some of their more doctrinaire colleagues. Kate was a practical woman who studied engineering at McGill University, and had the knowledge and the wit to see a jaunty love song in, say, the mundane chemistry of salt. Her song NaCl is all about the seaborne tryst of a fun-loving chlorine atom with a manly bit of sodium. Typically, it harks back to an earlier type of popular music, with a naughty lilt in its step.

Kate was the more outspoken of the sisters, and it may have been her more headstrong character that led them to reject a contract offer from Warner that might have extended the glare of celebrity they got from their self-titled debut album in 1975. But part of their strength was their ability to stick to their own path, come what may.

“It hasn't been bad,” said Kate, summing up her career in 2004. “In terms of the music, we've done what we wanted. I like the records we've made [mostly for Hannibal Records]. I think we could have done some things a little better, been a little sharper, a bit more realistic. … Maybe our father really did discourage us as kids. Neither one of us is dying to strut onstage and be somebody, and I don't think we ever were. We like to play music, and it's fun to be loved and have people applaud you.”

The McGarrigles are known and applauded internationally, but we in Canada always knew them to be a treasure native to this place. They spent most of their lives around Montreal. Their music, in both official languages, brought the two old solitudes together, and carried forward the past we're always in such a hurry to forget.

When Kate became ill, with a rare cancer called clear cell sarcoma, she reacted practically, and generously. She started a fund for research and treatment of “orphan” cancers like hers and played benefit concerts with her children Rufus and Martha Wainwright to swell its coffers.

She's gone, too early, but she's still giving, and not only through her music.

Jane Bunnett  - Sax Player Rallies Jazz Musicians For Haiti

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

(January 20, 2010) Jazz musician Jane Bunnett may have missed the fourth annual Haitian jazz festival this week, but that doesn't mean she won't be playing for Haitians.

The award-winning saxophonist was supposed to have arrived in the earthquake-ravaged country Thursday with her band, The Spirits of Havana, to take part in a week-long jazz fest.

Now Bunnett is pulling together a musical benefit to help a country that was already the Western hemisphere's poorest and now faces overwhelming odds as it struggles to recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake.

"Besides playing the festival, we were planning on going into some of the high schools to perform and we were going to be taking some (donated) instruments down," Bunnett said.

Bunnett was performing at a jazz festival on the island of Barbados and staying at a luxury hotel when news of the earthquake struck.

"I say to myself I could have been there. It was just a matter of timing. It could have been the Haitian festival first instead of Barbados," Bunnett said.

"It's a very strange experience to be in one of the most luxurious places and to see what was happening not so many miles away. It was very hard to take in."

Bunnett's event will be held at Hugh's Room, a 200-seat venue at 2261 Dundas St. W. (just south of Bloor St. W.) on Jan. 28, at 8 p.m.

Jazz singer Molly Johnson, Cuban-born hip-hop artist Telmary Diaz, Latin/jazz singer Amanda Martinez and Cuban pianist/composer Hilario Durán have agreed to perform along with Toronto poet laureate Dionne Brand. Other performers are likely to be added.

Ticket are $25 in advance or $30 at the door, with proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders in Haiti.

"Nobody's even saying, `I need to look at my Day-Timer,' they're like, `Absolutely,'" Bunnett said, adding Hugh's Room quickly agreed to be the host venue.

Bunnett, whose style has been influenced by Cuban music since 1982, said Haiti's musical tradition is similar, with a focus on drumming, vocals and the marimba.

She has friends from Haiti and has made numerous contacts there over the past few months as she planned her appearance at the jazz festival, initiated by various embassies in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince and with the participation of performers from around the globe.

"We just have to do our part to help these people. It's just unfathomable. I just can't take it in. It's going to be a long time. I don't think it's going to be one or two fundraisers. We're going to have to be involved for a long time in terms of helping that country," she added.


There are a number of other fundraising events planned.

Artscape Wychwood Barns at 601 Christie St. will host a family-friendly Haitian relief fundraiser with drummer Muhtadi Thomas and other local artists on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. Donate what you can, with funds going to the Canadian Red Cross.

A fundraising breakfast at the Barns will be held earlier that day from 9 a.m. to noon with proceeds going to Oxfam for Haitian Relief.

Eyeheartbeat presents a night of electronic rock, beats and movement with NLX, Winhara and byronONE on Saturday at El Mocambo, 464 Spadina Ave.; all proceeds to benefit Haiti Earthquake Survivors. Doors open at 9 p.m. Donate what you can.

Haiti, Je T'Aime benefit, to be hosted by MTV's Nicole Holness and Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, will feature DJ sets from Bedouin Soundclash, k-os, Broken Social Scene's Brendan Canning, Blk Btlz, Starting From Scratch and DJ Paul E Lopes. Monday at Revival Bar, 783 College St., doors open 8 p.m. Minimum $10 donation at the door.

The Old Mill Inn is donating all proceeds of Wednesday's show to Haiti Disaster Relief. Danny Marks and Chuck Jackson co-host the night, featuring performers from the recent Maple Blues Awards show and beginning at 7:30 p.m.; $9.95 advance and $11.95 at the door. Reservations: 416-207-2020, 21 Old Mill Rd.

Pink Mafia and U of T Law Program present a fundraiser Thursday at 10 p.m. with DJs The In Crowd and Ainsworth, plus hosts The Mansion Inc., at Tattoo Rock Parlour, 567 Queen St. W.; $5. All proceeds go to Stand With Haiti.

Comedy Week for Haiti will hold events from Sunday to Sunday, Jan. 31 with proceeds going to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Haiti. Venues include Comedy Bar at 945 Bloor St. W.; the Rivoli at 332 Queen St. W.; The Second City at 51 Mercer St.; Bread and Circus at 299 Augusta Ave.; Bad Dog Theatre at 138 Danforth Ave.; Absolute Comedy at 2335 Yonge St.; and Spirits Bar and Grill at 642 Church St.

New Venue Gives Blues Awards Reason To Smile

www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(January 16, 2010) Toronto's blues scene is getting a makeover, with the staging of its annual homage to musicians moving to a prestigious new venue.

After more than a decade at joints like the Phoenix and Black Swan Tavern, the 13th annual Maple Blues Awards will be held at the Royal Conservatory's 1,135-seat
Koerner Hall on Monday.

"We've gone to this fixed seating partly out of respect for the artists, so people can hear without the interference of a club atmosphere," explained Derek Andrews, president of the Toronto Blues Society, which organizes the event. "Not that the clubs were that bad, but people were drinking and talking and we had to shush them now and then."

"A little less fun" will enable attendees to focus on the performances, speeches and memorial video tribute, said Andrews, adding there'll still be plenty opportunity for "babbling and networking."

"If the community wants to lets its hair down they'll do that pre-show, intermission and after (when Ottawa's Monkey Junk jams at the informal lobby aftershow)."

Okay, but can people still show up in jeans? "Absolutely! The dress code is `appropriately attired blues fashion' – and that can be upscale or downscale, blue jeans or blue tux if they wish."

The event grew out of the singular Blues With Feeling Award presented to Chicago legend Willie Dixon at the Underground Railroad restaurant in 1985.

This year, online voting will determine the winners in 16 categories. Hosted by Toronto's Danny Marks and Nanaimo, B.C.'s David Gogo, the program will feature an allstar seven-piece house band, with Quebec City singer Clio making her Toronto mainstage debut and West Coast guitarist Harry Manx and Vancouver jump blues outfit The Twisters.

"The things that are different have to do more with the production – how people come on and off stage, for instance. Otherwise, we've dropped our usual show into Koerner Hall without too much change," said Andrews.

Dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the blues, the non-profit Toronto Blues Society is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, with about 500 blues enthusiasts and professionals anteing up the $20-$125 membership fee.

"Blues are very well served in Toronto," said Andrews of the government-funded association. "We have an office and staff; in other cities and even in the States, you don't see an organization with this much stability and infrastructure."

The party continues Wednesday at the Old Mill Inn, where performers from the awards show will kick off a new Wednesday Night Blues series at the tony venue. It's another upscale outing for the down-home genre, which is well served at local clubs like The Silver Dollar, Highway 61 and Lou Dawgs.

"It's not dissimilar to what we've seen at Hugh's Room for an audience that wants an earlier show to sit down and have a bit more dignified experience...how can I say this diplomatically? They want a more refined evening out, and I think the Old Mill will deliver that," said Andrews.

"There's a place certainly for late-night blues shows that go `til 1 or 2 in the morning, and that's still happening, but the older audience wants a different kind of experience and Hugh's Room has presented John Hammond and Odetta and some other great artists, and those shows start at 8:30 p.m."

People of Note: Roy Ayers: Everybody Loves His Sunshine

Source: www.eurweb.com - Deardra Schuler

(January 14, 2010) *Roy Ayers is among a select group of African American vibraphonists consisting of Bobby Hutcherson, Milton Jackson, Stefon Harris and Steve Nelson.  

Now that Lionel Hampton has passed, Roy continues to represent the vibe tradition.  Best known for the song “Everybody Loves the Sunshine,” Ayers will help Carl Clay of Black Spectrum Theatre, celebrate 40 years via their 40th Anniversary Concert which includes comedian Gil-T.  

The concert will be held within Black Spectrum Theatre, located at 119-07 Merrick Blvd. (in Roy Wilkins Park at 177th Street near the Baisley Blvd. Entrance) in Jamaica, Queens, NY on Saturday, January 16, at 8:00 p.m.

“I grew up with fellow vibe player, Bobby Hutcherson, in Los Angeles.  Of course we miss the late Lionel Hampton and Milt Jackson, two exceptionally great vibraphonists.  

There aren’t that many African American vibraphonists.  Although a few young guys are coming up now” said Ayers who formerly worked with the Gerald Wilson Band in Los Angeles.

Roy has been keeping himself busy performing around the country.  His new CD “For Sentimental Reasons” is due for release in April and he recently returned from overseas.  

“In 1966, after joining Herbie Mann’s band, I started to get international fame.  I travel all the time now.  I enjoy it.  The later part of last year I visited Poland, London, Prague, Czechoslovakia, and Spain.  I had no idea how popular my music is in these countries. The people were so friendly and enthusiastic, I plan to go back.  For now, I am back in the United States where I will perform in Buffalo, NY, and of course in Jamaica, Queens, on Jan. 16.  Also, I’ll be at the Jamaican Jazz Festival in the West Indies”  said the eclectic performer of jazz, R&B, funk, and even hip hop.  

“Erykah Badu told me I was the King of Neo-soul,” recalled Roy.  “I asked ‘What is Neo-soul?  I had never heard the term before.  Erykah said, “Neo-soul is your sound.  People like myself, Jill Scott and others, sample your sound because we love it.”  When Erykah said that to me it was humbling. I really appreciate that these artists think enough of my work to sample it.”  

“You know, Lionel Hampton was the reason I took up the vibes.  He was my inspiration as far back at 5 years old.  My parents always played his records.  My mother kept telling me that one day I would be great and my name would be in lights.  My parents planted that idea in my head.  They took me to see Lionel Hampton perform at the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles.  Lionel gave me a set of vibe mallets in 1948 when I was about 7 or 8 years old.  My folks told me he laid some spiritual vibes on me because I started playing the vibes some 12 years later.   I haven’t stopped yet,” said Ayers who claims his parent’s vision of his success became his vision.  

The vibes set Ayers apart, so he had no difficulty finding work once he moved to New York.  He began performing with Herbie Mann’s Band. “Playing with Herbie Mann was a wonderful experience,” remarked Roy.  “Herbie taught me how to be a true leader.  He was always creating music and went beyond just being a leader.  Musicians don’t always have good credit at the beginning of their career since they are not yet established. Herbie actually helped by co-signing loans for his band members.  I have the greatest respect for Herbie who is now deceased.”

“One of the best engagements in my life was playing with Lionel Hampton at the Village  Gate in 1978.  It was the ultimate experience of my life.  I started my own band Roy Ayer’s Ubiquity.  I call my band that because Ubiquity means a state of being everywhere at the same time. I figure if everyone buys my music, I will be everywhere at the same time,” chuckled the singer/composer/vibraphonist. “Lionel was so instrumental in inspiring my career that having him play with Ubiquity at the Gate meant the world to me,” reminisced Ayers.

“I love all types of music.  In fact I am supposed to do a show in France with George Clinton who is the ultimate funkster,” added Ayers. “George worked with James Brown for several years.  When you come out of the James Brown school, you got to be funky!  I have worked with numerous artists throughout my career.  I have done the Superstars of Jazz with Lonnie Liston Smith, Bobbie Humphrey, Wayne Henderson of the Jazz Crusaders and Ronnie Laws. Jon Lucien has passed but I’ve played with him at some of the jazz festivals as well.  I have shared the stage with Miles Davis, Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock.  Herbie is extraordinarily talented and very versatile.  He did 3 albums with me for Atlantic Records “Stone Soul Picnic,” “Daddy Bug,” and Virgo Vibes.”   So far, I’ve done a total of 86 albums,” said Ayers who has been performing for 50 years.

“You know the show “Fela” is presently on Broadway.  I worked with Fela Kutu and in 1979 traveled to Nigeria with 17 musicians and a film crew. I made a film on Fela and myself since our careers were parallel.  In fact, I did several interviews with him.  I had an opportunity to explore my African roots with Fela.  He was an incredible man who suffered for his beliefs.  Fela was a real artist.  A singer, dancer, writer, band leader, composer, philosopher, politician and married to 27 women.  They all lived together.  Fela told me he made love to 4 of his wives each night. I think it wore him out. He seemed tired a lot of the time, except for when he was on stage,” recalled Ayers.

For tickets to the 8:00 p.m., January 16th, 40th Anniversary Concert featuring Roy Ayers, call 718-723-1800 or visit on line at www.Blackspectrum.com.

Record Labels Must Answer Price-Fixing Allegations

www.thestar.com - Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

(January 13, 2010) A federal appeals court has reinstated an antitrust lawsuit accusing major record labels of conspiring to fix prices for potentially millions of people who download their music over the Internet.

The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said a federal district judge erred in dismissing the case in October 2008 against defendants that include Bertelsmann AG, EMI Group, Sony Corp, Vivendi SA and Warner Music Group Corpor various affiliates.

While not ruling on the case's merits, the appeals court said the plaintiffs' allegations were “sufficient to plausibly suggest” a price-fixing conspiracy. It sent the case back to the district court for further proceedings.

The case was filed on behalf of people who download music over the Internet. It accused the defendants of conspiring to fix prices and limit the availability of downloaded music in violation of a federal antitrust law, the Sherman Act.

“There was uncertainty in the law over the standards for pleading a price-fixing conspiracy,” said Christopher Lovell, a partner at Lovell Stewart Halebian L.L.P. representing the plaintiffs. “This decision goes a long way toward clarifying what the standard requires in a way that helps people who paid allegedly conspiratorial prices for digital music.”

Lovell plans to seek class-action status and said the case's outcome could affect “millions.” The lawsuit consolidates 28 state and federal cases from 2005 and 2006.

The music labels did not immediately return requests for comment.

According to the plaintiffs, the labels conspired to fix prices by creating joint ventures for distributing songs – MusicNet, launched by Bertelsmann, EMI and Warner Music; and pressplay, launched by Sony and Vivendi's Universal Music Group – and the entering of restrictive license agreements.

They also contended that, when rivals started to distribute the labels' music, the labels “agreed” to a wholesale price floor of about 70 cents per song, which they enforced in part through restrictive license agreements.

Writing for the appellate panel, Circuit Judge Robert Katzmann said that, assuming the allegations were true, there was “enough factual matter” to allow the case to go forward.

Katzmann pointed to several allegations of a conspiracy, including one commentator's assessment that “nobody in their right mind” would want to use MusicNet or pressplay.

He said this suggested that “some form of agreement among defendants would have been needed to render the enterprises profitable.”

Genre-Bending Quartet Treads The High Wire

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(January 14, 2010) If you put an adrenaline junkie on stage, chances are the love of thrills is going to be part of the show. It's certainly been true for genre-bending Quartetto Gelato, which burst onto the stage in Toronto in 1994.

In spite of changes in membership, the foursome continues to grow its audience – which now includes the world – with a high-energy mix of classical, world and pop music masterminded by founding violinist-vocalist Peter DeSotto.

Despite its popularity, Quartetto Gelato doesn't perform in its hometown that often, making Saturday's concert at Koerner Hall a notable event. To make it even more interesting, the group is being joined by New York City alt-classical string quartet Ethel, making their Toronto debut.

Ethel specializes in improvised music, which should give the concert an extra edge. The two foursomes will perform separately, then combine as an octet for the closing of the concert.

"This will be quite an adventure," admits DeSotto, who is no stranger to adventure. Over coffee at his Etobicoke home, the musician admits to a fondness for extreme leisure activities, including skydiving – "I like the fresh air when you're up there," he enthuses – and motorcycling.

His last two-wheeled outing was in Cambodia and Vietnam, when he ploughed a dirt bike through jungles and across rivers. "I rode in Saigon, which is the most dangerous city to ride in the world," DeSotto says.

He gets a high from being on stage, too. "Performing is an adrenaline boost," DeSotto says with a smile. "I feel so dull the rest of the time."

Quartetto Gelato has reinvented itself over the years. Right now, DeSotto leads a membership that includes accordion virtuoso Alexander Sevastian, cellist Liza McLellan and the latest addition, Colin Maier.

"He's just a nut," says DeSotto with a smile and a shake of his head. "This guy plays 14 different instruments. Those include oboe, guitar, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, piano, clarinet, double bass and violin.

Of Meier's oboe skills, DeSotto says, "He can play incredibly fast, which is a good thing because, over the years, Quartetto Gelato has been doing the higher, faster, louder thing."

The violinist laughs. (Does he realize we're back on the subject of adrenaline?)

Meier has another skill that is being incorporated into Quartetto Gelato's stage shtick. "He's a gymnast who has worked with Cirque du Soleil," DeSotto explains. Among his previous gigs was working as swing in the Toronto production of The Lord of the Rings, the musical, where he had to be ready to jump in on any one of 10 different roles on a moment's notice.

"I've enjoyed every incarnation of Quartetto Gelato, but I feel that, creatively, this one is the most exciting," DeSotto claims.

The violinist, who also uses his distinctive tenor in performance, says he could never have imagined where he would be today when he founded the quartet with his late wife, oboist Cynthia Steljes. At the time, he was a violinist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra who moonlighted as a strolling musician in local restaurants. Steljes was an accomplished player looking for steady work.

The couple loved tango, Gypsy music, opera – "Music that we were brought up with, that was part of us," says DeSotto. They bundled it up into an accessible format, with the help of two willing collaborators. "We never thought it would be successful. We thought we were doing this for ourselves, for our own amusement."

The idea caught on quickly. "We played 70 concerts in the first season, and we sold 50,000 CDs in the first two years," DeSotto recalls. Now, with six albums under their belt, and two major tours – including a 10-day whirlwind though China – completed since September, the group has added a lot of new repertoire, but has never abandoned the focus on musical fun.

"We live in such a complicated world," DeSotto says. "Like movies, theatre, books and TV, music can also be a means of escaping all that, and that's what I'm all about."

Not that crossing over into other genres has anything to do with compromising on quality. "All music that's done really well is high art, and that's what we've always prided ourselves on," De Sotto states.

Not that a bit of hijinks doesn't help, too.

Just the facts
WHAT: Quartetto Gelato, with Ethel
WHEN: Saturday at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W.
TICKETS: $20-$50 at 416-408-0208 or www.rcmusic.ca

Rapper Taps Into Hip-Hop Roots To Craft Pop Hits

www.eurweb.com - By Mariel Concepcion

(January 15, 2010) NEW YORK (Billboard) – Rico Love has penned R&B smashes like Keri Hilson's "Energy" and Pleasure P's "Boyfriend No. 2." But when you ask the Milwaukee-born performer/songwriter/producer why he's able to create such love-struck tunes, he offers an unexpected reply.

"My creative process is really that of a rapper's because I started off as a rapper," says Love, who was born Richard Butler Jr. "The first thing I do is listen to the beat. Then, usually nine times out of 10, the melody and the words immediately come into my head. It's second nature to me due to my years of free-styling."

For example, Love says he wrote Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams" in 15 minutes and "Radio" while she was "in the studio, watching." For the former track, Love recalls, "I just heard the beat, went in there and sang the whole song. I never write anything down -- I just kind of memorize as I go. Being that quick again comes from rapping: thinking up things on the spot."

Since Love started merging his hip-hop and R&B creative processes, he has written tracks for Chris Brown, Omarion, Marques Houston and Usher. Those credits include Usher's much-celebrated "Throwback" track from 2004's "Confessions" album, which was Love's first major placement.

"I can't take credit for the concept of that song," Love says. "When I got the Just Blaze beat, the hook was already there: 'You're gonna want me back.' And since Usher was going through a very public breakup, the song's direction was kind of obvious."

Love's credits also include pop newcomer Leighton Meester's lead single, "Somebody to Love" featuring Robin Thicke, and Natasha Bedingfield's "Love Like This." And he contributed several songs to Mario's latest album, "D.N.A.," including current single "Thinkin' About You." Love is collaborating in the studio with Kelly Rowland, Nelly, Jamie Foxx, Usher and Sean "Diddy" Combs, whom he describes as his biggest musical inspiration.

Having crafted the theme song for the 2008 film "Sex and the City," Love plans to expand his songwriting to include TV shows, commercials and more movies.


Shuttling between his mother's home in Milwaukee and his father's home in New York's Harlem, Love began writing poems. As a member of Milwaukee's African American Children's Theater, he performed in plays like "A Raisin in the Sun." He was introduced to rap in his early teens and counts Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Queen, his favourite band, among his musical influences.

Love owes his songwriting career to a financial aid snafu while attending Florida A&M University as a journalism student. The mix-up spurred him to leave the university after nearly three years and head to Atlanta to pursue a rap career. His first gig came by way of friends and producers the Corna Boyz. They were working on a remix for Usher and asked Love to rap on it. Usher liked what he heard and offered Love an artist deal with his former J Records-distributed label, US Records.

Though he's busy writing songs for others, Love hasn't forgotten how to flow. He recently rapped on Fat Joe's "Aloha" single. And though he doesn't plan to release his own rap album anytime soon, Love says he intends to do more guest spots as he hones his writing skills.

"I just want people to become more familiar with the Rico Love brand," he adds. "I want to earn people's respect -- not by bragging but through hard work; grinding and firing. People are going to hear and see a lot of me in the near future."

Cellist Has To Fight To Be Heard

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

Rachel Mercer
At Jane Mallett Theatre in Toronto on Thursday

(January 20, 2010)
Rachel Mercer is a petite Canadian cellist whose name became attached to a very big number this fall, when she won the use of the Canada Council's “Bonjour” Stradivarius cello, valued at $8-million. Mercer brought her precious timber, which she can use for three years, to the stage of the Jane Mallett Theatre on Thursday, for a Music Toronto recital with pianist Minsoo Sohn.

She said at the start of the show that the hall and Music Toronto had been an important part of her formation as a music student (she's now 30), and that a recital there realized one of her dreams. From that point of view, the concert was a success before it began.

There were many beautiful moments in her program of hefty sonatas by Beethoven, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff. In some ways, she and Sohn seemed to share a real rapport, though in others, they had one of those relationships that seem ideal to those immersed in them, baffling to those on the outside.

Mercer strikes me as a very pure type of chamber musician. Her reading of many passages was quite personal, but did not assert the player's will as a distinct force working upon the music. She gave herself in perfect service to whatever she made of the score, and never once resorted to a grand gesture to get our attention.

Sohn may be a terrific partner in some chamber-music situations, but on this occasion he seemed like a more natural soloist. Much of what he did might have been glorious in a solo recital, or a performance with orchestra. But on Thursday he played at a scale that was consistently out of proportion with his partner. He regularly swamped her with his big Steinway grand, and crowded her often subtly expressed thoughts.

It could be that Mercer ought to have shown more presence. At times she made a lovely tawny sound on the 1696 Strad, with plenty of depth in quiet sections, but the instrument almost never seemed to bloom fully. It can be a study in itself to know how get the most from a fine old string instrument. Many are stubborn old beasts that demand special handling, and Mercer may still be learning how to provide it.

She said she was a fan of slow movements, and these turned out to be the most satisfying episodes in this overmatched partnership. The adagio in Beethoven's Sonata No. 5 in D major, Op. 102 , felt like a real-time exploration of an undiscovered place. The players peered deeply into the music's spookiest corners, without attempting to constrain our response. The agonized recurrent hush that marked the largo of Shostakovich's Sonata in D minor, Op. 40 , came across with all its tragic understatement, underlined at times by Sohn's insistence on the simple, pig-headed accompaniment figure that stubs away at the protagonist's pain.

I'd like to re-encounter Canadian Mark Nerenberg's recent I Thirst on some other program, more amenable to its sparse and spacious meditation on four descending chords. Its quietude was promptly erased by Rachmaninoff's massive Sonata in G Minor, Op. 19 , which brought the imbalance of these partners to a head. Sohn played much of this piano-heavy sonata with flair and skill, but overwhelmed Mercer far too often. By the middle of the piece, I wished I could magically reconfigure the scene, and have her alone on the stage, playing a solo piece by Bach or Kodaly. The encore, Rachmaninoff's silky Vocalise , restored her to a more prominent role, and hinted at further, half-hidden reserves of sound in the Strad.  

Heart-Sore From Start To Finish

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

Hawksley Workman

(January 19, 2010) The Group of Seven taught us that art is something that comes to you on a northern lake
, and for a long time that lesson seemed as dated as elocution classes. But a roots-minded musician may go where a hip urban painter may not, and so it came to pass that Hawksley Workman holed up in Huntsville, Ont., last winter to pull together his 11th album in as many years.

It's a heart-sore yet vigorous collection of songs about the end of love and the mess we're in, salted with playful numbers about bikes and little mosquitoes alone in a harsh world. It feels like it was made quickly, as the spirit dictated – you can hear the piano stool's creak through the opening track – but sometimes things come out fresher when they're not put through too fine a sieve, and this is one of those times.

The governing aesthetic is romantic in the open-armed, savour-it-all sense of the word.

Song For Sarah Jane faces a ruined love with the conviction that “something remains,” as Workman floats a straight, memorable tune over slow-marching piano chords. French Girl in L.A. rides a dirty bass into a poppy, evocative kind of dance rock. Depress My Hangover Sunday surveys the aftermath of a night in the waning days of a relationship, and the music's terse, funky groove wrings from Workman a few ragged squeals worthy of James Brown.

You Don't Just Want To Break Me (You Want To Tear Me Apart) strings its umpteen choruses together all at the end, as Workman's excitable voice climbs a stairway to an acid-rock apotheosis with gospel choir. And the Government Will Protect the Mighty, a chunky post-bailout / Afghan war / eco-disaster blues, compresses a lot of ills into a single satisfying complaint.

The perils of working quickly may show through in Chocolate Mouth, an attractively messy tune whose lyrics seem a bit unfocused; and in Workman's occasional willingness to accept the default option. The jaunty, buzzed-out (The Happiest Day I Know Is A) Tokyo Bicycle, for example, suddenly becomes humdrum when the noodling guitar solo starts, exactly where such solos usually do.

Before this record came out, I thought Workman was chronically overextended, and maybe he is. But one good thing about being prolific is that when the muse chooses to be generous, as on this disc, you're tuned up and ready to go.

Hawksley Workman plays the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, Ont., on Feb. 6, and begins a 22-concert national tour on March 5 at the Sid Williams Theatre in Courtenay, B.C.  

New Home A Place To Sing Praises Of Our Songwriters

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(January 20, 2010) The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame is on its way to having a permanent home.

At Tuesday's news conference to announce 2010 inductees, organizers also tabled plans to create a lasting exhibitioner archive at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.

"It's a ready-made facility, so we would not have to raise $30 million to construct one," explained Hall of Fame executive director Dominic Denny of the choice of the North York venue.

Additionally, the project could "elevate the facility," which has a lot of underused space, "by regenerating commerce and traffic in the neighbourhood and bringing tourists," he said.

The plans, which were not unveiled in detail, also call for music and educational programming by the Hall of Fame.

Legendary rockers Rush and Robert Charlebois (with five songs apiece) are among 11 influential songwriters to be feted at the sixth annual gala at the centre on March 28.

"Each of these artists have helped define Canada's musical legacy" said Hall of Fame president, country artist Sylvia Tyson.

"It seemed like a great combination. I think there's a sensibility with the two that makes a great deal of sense: it's Canadian rock 'n' roll."

The compositions making the cut are Rush's "Limelight," "Closer to the Heart," "The Spirit of Radio," "Tom Sawyer" and "Subdivisions." Charlebois's "Fu Man Chu," "Les Ailes d'un ange," "Ordinaire," "Demain l'hiver" and "Lindenberg" will also be included.

Six songs by other artists are also being inducted, including Vancouver composer Dolores Claman's "The Hockey Theme."

Released in 1968, the tune is often referred to as Canada's second national anthem and was played on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada until CTV purchased the rights in 2008. Rush drummer Neil Peart recently recorded a special rendition of it for TSN.

"It really is part of the fabric of Canada," Denny said of Claman's theme.

Claman is slated to be at the induction gala, as are Rush members Peart, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson.

Rush wasn't at Tuesday's event but asked Hamilton musician Jacob Moon to play his version of "Subdivisions" in their absence.

"These guys are on equal footing with any other songwriter in Canada, just in a different style – a more progressive rock style, but still just as valid," said Moon, who was noticed by the band through a viral online video of him playing "Subdivisions."

Montreal musician Vincent Vallieres played Charlebois tunes at the news conference, calling himself "a big fan."

"He's a great singer-songwriter and he's also a great performer who changed the course of the rock 'n' roll music in French."

The other entries are: "Come Josephine in My Flying Machine" (Alfred Bryan and Fred Fisher); "Des mitaines pas de pouces" (Ovila Légaré); "(There's a) Bluebird on Your Windowsill" (Elizabeth Clarke); "Deux enfants du même âge" (Germaine Dugas); and "J'entends frapper" (Michel Pagliaro). Recorded-sound archivist Edward B. Moogk, and Quebec impresario, producer and agent Guy Latraverse will receive Legacy Awards.

This year's inductees were chosen after a year of negotiations by a committee of music publishers, journalists and songwriters from songs that are at least 25 years old.

With files from The Canadian Press

National Arts Centre Orchestra And Dancers Offbeat, Entertaining

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Terauds

(January 18, 2010) The Toronto Symphony Orchestra took the weekend off from its ongoing Mozart@254 festival, leaving the stage to 45 members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, their music director Pinchas Zukerman, baritone Russell Braun and two dancers from New York City's modern Lar Lubovitch Dance Company to bring a short, off-beat and nicely performed contribution to Roy Thomson Hall on Saturday night.

Because this was a casual concert, there were about 20 minutes of chatting hosted by Eric Friesen in the 90-minute program that featured two of Mozart's most popular works: the slow movement of the Clarinet Concerto and the full "Turkish" Violin Concerto (K. 219).

The evening opened with something completely different: a 15-year-old, eight-piece cycle, Songs for an Acrobat, commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra from Linda Bouchard. In his introduction, Friesen promised to tell us what the link to Mozart was but didn’t follow through. That's too bad, because I couldn't find any relationship between Mozart and this atonal musical world that puts into words and music the seven stages of grief described by the late Elizabeth Kübler-Ross: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance.

Braun shaped Bouchard's long and demanding vocal lines with power and finesse. The orchestra was a bit soft-edged in its reading of Bouchard's fragmentary, shattered instrumental riffs.

The evening then turned to Mozart. Principal clarinet Kimball Sykes made smooth work of the solo in the sole Clarinet Concerto movement while dancers Jay Franke and George Smallwood depicted brotherly love and affection in a smooth flow of modern dance. We also weren't told why we couldn't listen to the whole of this piece—Mozart's final work for instrumental soloist and orchestra, and one of his best.

Zukerman spotlighted his own skills on the violin in the closing concerto. It was a clean, unaffected reading of a much-loved piece.

Simon Cowell's Empire Grows

Source: www.thestar.com - Meera Selva, Reuters

(January 20, 2010) LONDON–Music mogul Simon Cowell has formed a long-term venture with Sony Corp's Sony Music Entertainment to produce music, television and film, beginning with the U.S. version of hit British show The X Factor.

The new venture, called Syco after Cowell's record label, will own the existing Syco television and music assets including global TV franchises The X Factor and Got Talent, and star singers like Leona Lewis and Susan Boyle.

According to the Financial Times, which first reported the deal, Sony Music will exchange its 100 per cent ownership of Cowell's record label for a 50 per cent share of a broader venture.

The announcement follows shortly after Cowell, one of the most powerful figures in television and pop music, said he was quitting the top-rated U.S. Fox TV show American Idol to launch The X Factor in the United States.

Cowell, 50, whose sardonic comments and exaggerated scowl as a judge on the shows have made him one of the biggest stars on British and U.S. television, has said he would be both a judge and the executive producer of The X Factor.

"I have had a fantastic relationship with Sony for many years and I'm delighted we are launching this venture together," Cowell said in a statement.

The X Factor launches in the United States in autumn 2011.

American Idol creator Simon Fuller, meanwhile, recently announced plans for a new entertainment company after he left CKX, the group which owns the American Idol format.

According to reports, he will continue to receive 10 per cent of profits earned by the show.

British media have portrayed the moves by the two Britons as an escalation in their professional rivalry as The X Factor prepares to go head to head with American Idol in the key U.S. market.

Fuller launched legal action against Cowell in 2004, claiming his X Factor show copied the Pop Idol format, but the case was eventually settled out of court, and the two have collaborated since on several shows.

Grammys To Honour Michael Jackson In 3-D

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 20, 2010) *A posthumous tribute to Michael Jackson will be presented in 3-D at the Grammy Awards on Jan. 31, the Recording Academy announced Tuesday.

The unprecedented salute will include a 3-D film clip the singer made for his hit “Earth Song” before his death on June 25. The video was to be included in his comeback concerts that were scheduled to begin in London in July 2009.

Co-executive producer Ken Ehrlich said will be the first time an awards show will feature 3-D.

Usher, Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson will perform alongside the footage. Jackson will also be honoured with a lifetime achievement award during the show.

Last year, Grammy producers wanted Jackson to participate in the telecast to mark the 25th anniversary of “Thriller.” Ehrlich had presented several ideas for performers, including Justin Timberlake and Usher, all of which excited Jackson. But in the end, he declined the show’s invitation.

“He just wasn’t ready for it,” Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich, who produced the televised memorial to Jackson last year, was with the singer the night before he died — and that’s when he first saw the 3-D clip of “Earth Song,” a call to action about the destruction of nature and animals by man.

“There are these incredible images of the beauties of nature, and then they are seen through the eyes of a little girl, and that girl falls asleep and when she wakes up, she is witness to the destruction of nature,” said Ehrlich. “It’s all about questioning what our values are.”

While a part of the clip was shown in the recent movie documentary “This Is It,” Ehrlich says the Grammys will show the full piece in 3-D. He said TV viewers will need 3-D glasses to experience the full effect of the clip.

2010 Could Be Busy Year For Digital Music Mergers

www.eurweb.com - Antony Bruno

(January 15, 2010) DENVER (Billboard) – Think last year's acquisitions of iLike, imeem and Lala marked the end of consolidation for digital music services? Think again.

Gradually thawing credit markets and an increasingly competitive digital music landscape could make 2010 a banner year for mergers and acquisitions.

Apple's purchase of Lala in December lends a greater degree of legitimacy to the "cloud-based" access model for music distribution. And that deal, along with MySpace's purchase of iLike and imeem, will consolidate innovative features into a single, well-financed service -- which is surely better for the recording industry than watching them die on the vine individually.

"I see it as a positive sign," says David Ring, executive vice president of business development and business affairs for Universal Music Group's eLabs. "If they cannot or choose not to go it alone, that's OK. Maybe they need more economic backing in order to make something into an enterprise of great worth. I'm encouraged by the interest in the acquisition of various music services."


Expect to see Apple and MySpace continue their respective buying sprees. MySpace Music wants to expand quickly into areas like merchandise sales and concert ticketing and has more cash than it has developers. And Apple, for all its dominance in the a la carte download space, is playing catch-up in areas like social media, discovery and recommendations.

Meanwhile, Google is said to be eyeing a stronger digital music presence not only to beef up its music search results features but potentially to expand into additional music services for devices based on its smart-phone operating system, Android. In fact, Google reportedly considered buying Lala before Apple snatched it away.

Microsoft is not only relaunching elements of its MSN portal to improve its search and social networking features, but may also be seeking ways to jump-start its struggling Zune service with an acquisition in perhaps the mobile or Internet radio space.

Amazon's MP3 store is emerging as a strong, if still distant, second to iTunes in the digital download market, but it doesn't have streaming or social networking capabilities. And Facebook remains curiously absent from digital music outside of a partnership with Lala for virtual gifting.

Other potential buyers include device makers like Nokia, which may want to replace its Comes With Music subscription service with an on-demand streaming option, and Sony, which may want a music access solution to add to the range of media services it plans to launch on the PlayStation Network this year.

Even big-box retailer Best Buy may aim to add to the stable of entertainment services it's seeking to bundle into devices sold at its stores beyond Napster -- which it acquired in 2008 -- with an Internet radio or music recommendation technology.


Likely acquisition targets include technologies and services that address specific areas of the digital music business that a would-be contender would otherwise have to build on its own to be successful.

At the top of this list? Search and recommendation features.

"In the world of on-demand, all-you-can-eat streaming services, what to listen to is even more meaningful than getting access to the music," says Tim Chang, a principal at Norwest Venture Partners in Palo Alto, Calif.

A particularly tempting takeover target for companies seeking this kind of functionality is Pandora, the customizable Internet radio service that built its own music recommendation engine called the Music Genome. Having finally sorted out a years-long royalty dispute with SoundExchange, the company has clarity on music expenses through 2014 and expects to turn a profit this year through audio ads and premium subscription options.

Other companies mentioned in the search-and-discovery space include the Echo Next and Blip.fm. Kleiner Perkins' iFund, meanwhile, invested an undisclosed amount in music ID service Shazam in hopes of building it into a mobile music powerhouse, which makes it both a potential acquirer and acquiree.


Portability is another area of great interest, mostly driven by accessing music through mobile phones. MySpace Music, for example, cited imeem's mobile app as one of the reasons it wanted to acquire the company.

But today's collection of iPhone app developers aren't seen as likely acquisition targets. Not many make more than a few million dollars per year in revenue, and their technology isn't seen as particularly compelling, providing little incentive to buy them out except to acquire personnel and executive expertise.

However, such mobile streaming music services as Slacker -- which last year shifted from offering its own portable device to focusing fully on mobile phones as its core strategy -- and the highly praised Spotify are another story. As smart phones become more advanced and wireless networks more reliable, the concept of streaming music to a phone rather than downloading and transferring it is becoming an area of great interest and likely one that will result in several acquisitions this year, although Spotify's estimated $250 million valuation may be too pricey for potential buyers.

Another company to watch is Melodeo, which offers the nuTsie service that lets users stream their PC-based music library to their cell phones. Currently, users can access only a random stream of their library, in order to comply with webcaster licensing rules, but an on-demand version is in the works. Sources say Melodeo is in negotiations with at least two companies that lost the bidding war over Lala, along with other potential suitors.


As for social music services, there's no shortage of speculation about MOG, a relatively newer entrant that launched a $5-per-month streaming service in December. MOG would give a potential buyer not only a well-received on-demand streaming music service but also an established music-focused social network and advertising network integrated into more than 300 other music-related blogs.

Aside from these big-bucket needs, there's a host of additional functionality that digital music services are looking for that they could easily get through buying existing companies. There's lyrics information and interactivity through Tunewiki, ticketing and event services from the likes of Eventful or Jambase, playlisting technology from Project Playlist, guitar tabs, karaoke, music videos and more.

"They are more likely to be ingredients rather than stand-alone businesses," says Mike McGuire, research vice president with technology research/advisory company Gartner in San Jose, Calif. "The things that add to the experience are where we are going to see more roll-ups and acquisitions."

(please visit our entertainment blog via www.reuters.com or on http://blogs.reuters.com/fanfare/)


Lauryn Hill’s Tour Bassist Shot and Killed


(January 14, 2010) *Authorities in California are looking for suspects in the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old man who played bass and toured the world with singer Lauryn Hill. The California Highway Patrol says Dewey Tucker was found dead in his vehicle Tuesday night while he was en route to band practice in Oakland. At press time, investigators had made no arrests and believed Tucker was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. They say he had no criminal history. Tucker’s parents say their son was engaged and was an outgoing young man who lived to play music, according to the Associated Press. Tucker performed with Hill over the past couple of years and played with Oakland hip-hop group the Coup. He was also a member of the Greater St. Paul Baptist Church band in Oakland.

Jay-Z, U2 Record Song For Haiti

Source: www.thestar.com

(January 20, 2010)  Here’s how three superstars write and record a new song for Haiti: Jay-Z and producer Swizz Beatz, who has worked with everyone from Alicia Keys and Beyoncé to Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani, decide they want to do something for the victims of the Haiti earthquake. Swizz Beatz calls U2’s Bono, who promptly comes up with a title phrase over the phone. He gets the rest of U2 together in a studio, where they promptly “wrote a song, finished, recorded, and sent it back” to Jay-Z and Swizz, U2 guitarist The Edge told Dave Fanning of Irish radio station 2FM. (Listen to the full interview here.) Whether the song (whose title has not been revealed) will be released as a charity single is not yet known, but given Bono’s and Jay-Z’s involvement in the Hope For Haiti telethon airing Friday night on multiple TV networks in the U.S., Canada and Europe, it’s plausible that the song will debut then.

Kandi Burruss Signs with Asylum Records

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 20, 2010)  Singer/songwriter and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member
Kandi Burruss has signed with Asylum Records through her label, Kandi Koated Entertainment. Her as-yet-untitled album, due this spring, will feature production by Jazze Pha and Drumma Boy, among others, as well as guest cameos by label mate Gucci Mane, Rick Ross, Rasheeda and Tameka “Tiny” Cottle. Tiny, star of BET’s reality series “Tiny and Toya” and the girlfriend of rapper T.I., was a member of So So Def girl group Xscape along with Burruss.


Avatar Flies High At The Golden Globe Awards

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 18, 2010) BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.– The science-fiction blockbuster Avatar won best drama at the Golden Globes and picked up the directing honour for James Cameron on Sunday, raising the Titanic filmmaker's prospects for another Academy Awards triumph.

It was a repeat of Cameron's Globes night 12 years ago, when Titanic won best drama and the directing prize on its way to dominating the Oscars.

This time, though, instead of being "king of the world," as the Canadian-born Cameron declared at the Oscars, he has become king of an alien landscape, elevating space fantasy to enormous critical acclaim.

"Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other, and us to the Earth. And if you have to go four and a half light years to another, made-up planet to appreciate this miracle of the world that we have right here, well, you know what, that's the wonder of cinema right there, that's the magic," Cameron said.

Winning the dramatic-acting honours were Sandra Bullock for the football tale The Blind Side and Jeff Bridges for the country-music story Crazy Heart. The crowd gave a standing ovation to Bridges, a beloved veteran generally overlooked for key Hollywood honours.

"You're really screwing up my underappreciated status here," Bridges said.

The son of late actor Lloyd Bridges, Bridges thanked his father for encouraging him to go into show business.

"So glad I listened to you, dad," he said.

Bullock cited Michael Oher, the Baltimore Ravens rookie lineman whose life is the subject of The Blind Side. She plays a wealthy woman whose family took in the teenage Oher after discovering he was homeless.

"If I may steal from Michael Oher, I may not be the most talented, but I've been given opportunity," Bullock said.

The acting prizes for musical and comedy went to Meryl Streep for the Julia Child story Julie&Julia and Robert Downey Jr. for the crime romp Sherlock Holmes. The supporting-performance Globes were won by Mo'Nique as an abusive welfare mother in Precious and Christoph Waltz as a gleefully bloodthirsty Nazi in Inglourious Basterds.

Downey thanked his frequent producing collaborator Joel Silver, the "guy that's only restarted my career 12 times since I began 25 years ago."

The Vegas bachelor bash The Hangover won for best musical or comedy, bringing uncharacteristic awards attention for broad comedy, a genre that often gets overlooked at Hollywood honours.

"I just want to thank my mom, who supported my decision to become a director when she realized I wasn't as smart as my two sisters," said Hangover director Todd Phillips.

As he accepted the directing Globe, Cameron had kind words for ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, nominated as best director for The Hurt Locker.

"Frankly, I thought Kathryn was going to get this. She richly deserves it," said Cameron, whose Avatar has taken in $1.6 billion worldwide, second only to Titanic with $1.8 billion.

The Globes marked a dramatic turning point for Mo'Nique, who was mainly known for lowbrow comedy but startled audiences with her ferocious performance in Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" By Sapphire.

Mo'Nique had gushing praise for Precious director Lee Daniels and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, a best dramatic actress nominee at the Globes with her first film role, playing Mo'Nique's abused, illiterate daughter.

"Lee Daniels, the world gets a chance to see how brilliant you are. You are a brilliant, fearless, amazing director who would not waver, and thank you for trusting me," Mo'Nique said. "To Gabby, sister, I am in awe of you. Thank you for letting me play with you."

Streep's competition for best actress in a musical or comedy included herself. She also was nominated for the romance It's Complicated.

"I just want to say that in my long career, I've played so many extraordinary woman that I'm getting mistaken for one," Streep said. "I'm very clear that I'm the vessel for other people's stories and other people's lives."

Waltz, a veteran Austrian actor who is a relative newcomer in Hollywood, won the supporting-actor Globe in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

"A year and a half ago I was exposed to the gravitational forces of Quentin Tarantino," Waltz said. "He took my modest little world, my globe, and with the power of his talent and his words and his vision, he flung it into its orbit, a dizzying experience."

Though one of Hollywood's biggest parties, the Globes bore sombre reminders of tragedy in the real world, many stars wearing ribbons in support of earthquake victims in Haiti.

The blockbuster Up came away with the award for animated film. Pixar Animation, the Disney outfit that made Up, has won all four prizes for animated movies since the Globes introduced the category in 2006. Past Pixar winners are WALL-E, Ratatouille and Cars.

Up features the voice of Ed Asner in a tale of a lonely, bitter widower who renews his zest for adventure by flying his house off under helium balloons to South America, where he encounters his childhood hero and a hilarious gang of talking canines.

"When it came to finding the heart of the film, we didn't have to look very hard," said Up director Pete Docter, whose film also won for musical score. "Our inspiration was all around us. Our grandparents, our parents, our wives, our kids. Our talking dogs."

Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner won the screenplay honour for Up in the Air, which Reitman also directed. The foreign-language honour went to The White Ribbon, a stark drama of guilt and suspicion set in a German town on the eve of the First World War.

The Montreal-born Reitman said the people he most wanted to thank were his parents, Genevieve Robert and Ivan Reitman. Ivan Reitman was a producer on the film.

"You taught me how to be the man that I am, you taught me to be the storyteller that I am," he said.

"Dad, I'm so proud to share to this movie with you, to have credit together on this film, to produce with you. I hope we get to do many more. I love you. Thank you for everything."

Mad Men won for best TV drama, while Michael C. Hall won for best actor in a TV drama for Dexter, in which he plays a serial killer with a code of ethics, killing only other murderers. Hall's publicists revealed this past week that Hall is being treated for Hodgkin's lymphoma and that the cancer is in remission.

"It's really a hell of a thing to go to work in a place where everybody gives a damn. That's really the case with Dexter," Hall said. "It's a dream job. I'm so grateful."

Dexter also won the supporting-actor TV honour for John Lithgow. Other TV winners included Juliana Margulies as best actress in a drama for The Good Wife and Toni Collette as best comedy actress for The United States of Tara.

The rain-drenched red carpet was a rare sight for an awards show in sunny southern California, stars in their finery getting damp under umbrellas as storms swept the region.

The Globes got a makeover, featuring Ricky Gervais as master of ceremonies, the first time in 15 years the show had a host.

One of his most biting quips came as he sipped a beer on stage.

"I like a drink as much as the next man, unless the next man is Mel Gibson," Gervais wisecracked as he introduced Globe presenter Mel Gibson, who made an anti-Semitic rant a few years back during a drunken-driving arrest.

Sunday's winners could get a last-minute boost for the Oscars, whose nominations balloting closes Saturday. Last year's big Globe winner, Slumdog Millionaire, went on to dominate the Oscars.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of about 90 reporters covering show business for overseas outlets, present the Globes. The show aired live on NBC.

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On the Net:


Christopher Plummer On Sex, The Last Station And Long Life

www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(January 17, 2010) If you want to generate some heat in an onscreen love scene, throw a couple of hams between the sheets, laughs actor Christopher Plummer.

As fabled Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station, Plummer co-stars with Helen Mirren as his histrionics-prone wife and muse, Sofya. When the two were shooting a key scene in the film where the pair lustily romp\s in bed amid shrieks, crows and laughter, Plummer says they needed little from writer-director Michael Hoffman.

"It was totally the two of us, really," Plummer says with a laugh over the phone from his Connecticut home. "Michael wrote it, but we added the fun. That was us. Of course Helen and I are two old hams. Leave us in a room and we'll try to do something about it."

Both Plummer and Mirren are up for Golden Globes on Sunday night for The Last Station, as well as for Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit awards to be announced later in January. The movie opens Jan. 22.

Their ardour proves that sex isn't only for the young. Plummer turned 80 in December; Mirren is 64 – almost the same ages as the characters they play onscreen.

"It's not quite over yet!" Plummer chuckles. "And particularly Tolstoy because he was a very sexual old man in spite of that horrific relationship he and Sofya had in the end, so dysfunctional. But he did take her to bed and neither of them would admit it, but the underlying passion was still there."

The movie, set in 1910, is based on history, but is anything but a dusty drama as it follows the last year in the life of Tolstoy (Anna Karenina, War and Peace). As founder of the Tolstoyan movement that preaches social equality, Tolstoy contemplates his last days and considers writing his long-suffering wife and family out of his will to give his novels and their proceeds to the Russian people. And Sofya is having no part of that.

"It's a love story," Plummer says. "It's not an historical drama. If we did it as that, it would be on television and take 26 weeks."

Toronto-born Plummer has made his name in movies, TV and onstage. Perhaps his best-known role was as the stern Capt. Von Trapp in The Sound of Music (1965), he has earned solid reviews for movies ranging from Sherlock Holmes in the Canadian movie Murder By Decree (1979) to the title character in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, now in theatres. He also lent his voice to Up (see sidebar).

Plummer returns to Stratford this spring to star as the magician Prospero, banished to an island in Shakespeare's The Tempest. And he seems tickled that Mirren will play the part as a woman – Prospera – in director Julie Taymor's film version, due out this year.

"Isn't that wonderful?" Plummer says. "I can't wait to see her in that – although I hope ours comes out first.

"I tease her immensely about it," he adds. "I said what was that island? The island of Lesbos? I adore her so, she's so much fun to be with. It's nice to be with someone who is so secure in her profession."

So is Plummer, and with good reason. And this may be the year he is finally rewarded with his first Oscar nomination. Plummer prefers not to dwell on the possibility.

"You can't think about that because it's there and you must not get excited about it," Plummer says. "The thing of awards is they are not the final result. The result is what the public thinks of the film."

Early reviews for The Last Station are mixed, but praise for Plummer and Mirren is effusive. Meanwhile, Plummer stays busy. Next year he'll be in Toronto for a brief run in Garth Drabinsky's revival of Barrymore at the Elgin, a production which will also be filmed. Plummer won a Tony Award for the role on Broadway in 1997.

"There's an idea for filming it that isn't just a boring film of a stage production," says Plummer. "It will be cinematic as well. I see there are interesting possibilities."

As for turning 80 last December, Plummer said he hardly feels like an octogenarian.

"The realization you made it to 80 is a bit overwhelming, but I feel exactly as I did in my late 50s. There's never been a difference between then and now," Plummer says, adding that his family has all lived to be "in their 100s." But he cautions, with a laugh, that "I may suddenly hit the deck."

2010 Golden Globes Recap

Source: by Kam Williams

(January 18, 2010) Let’s face it, although the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hands out annual awards in a variety of television and film categories, most people really consider the
Golden Globes a fashion show and an early indicator of Academy Award potential. Judging by this year’s results, Avatar, which won for Best Picture (Drama) and Best Director (James Cameron), emerged from the evening with the most Oscar buzz.

In the acting categories, perennial-nominee (24) Meryl Streep took home her 7th trophy for Julie & Julia, while Sandra Bullock won one for the first time in 4 tries for The Blind Side. Mo’Nique was a shoo-in for Precious in the supporting actress category, as was Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.

Lead actor-honourees Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) and Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes) appear headed for a showdown at the Oscars, although common sense says George Clooney will remain in the mix. Still, Bridges enjoy the early edge given his body of work, his pedigree, and the fact that he’s been an Academy Awards also ran on several occasions.

As for the evening gowns, most were understandably subdued, given the ongoing tragedy over in Haiti, with glaring exceptions Halle Berry and Mariah Carey turning heads in low-cut outfits ostensibly designed to draw a lot of attention to their golden globes. Rest assured, decadence and excess will be back in fashion on the red carpet by the time the Oscars roll around, so brace yourself for a perfunctory parade of gaudy baubles and gratuitous cleavage on March 7th.

Complete List of Golden Globe Winners:


Best motion picture – drama
Best performance by an actress in a motion picture – drama
Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Best performance by an actor in a motion picture – drama
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Best motion picture – comedy or musical
The Hangover
Best performance by an actress in a motion picture – comedy or musical
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)
Best performance by an actor in a motion picture – comedy or musical
Robert Downey, Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Best animated feature
Best foreign language film
The White Ribbon ( Germany )
Best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a motion picture
Mo'Nique (Precious)
Best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture
Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Best director – motion picture
James Cameron (Avatar)
Best screenplay – motion picture
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air)
Best original score – motion picture
Michael Giacchino (Up)
Best original song – motion picture
The Weary Kind (Crazy Heart)
Cecil B DeMille Award
Martin Scorcese

Best television series
Mad Men
Best performance by an actress in a television series – drama
Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife)
Best performance by an actor in a television series - drama
Michael C Hall (Dexter)
Best television series – comedy or musical
Best performance by an actress in a television series – comedy or musical
Toni Collette (United States of Tara)
Best performance by an actor in a television series – comedy or musical
Alec Baldwin (30 Rock)
Best mini-series or motion picture made for television
Grey Gardens
Best performance by an actress in a mini-series or motion picture made for television
Drew Barrymore ( Grey Gardens )
Best performance by an actor in a mini-series or motion picture made for television
Kevin Bacon (Taking Chance)
Best performance by an actress in a supporting role in a series, mini-series or motion picture made for television
Chloe Sevigny (Big Love)
Best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series, mini-series or motion picture made for television
John Lithgow (Dexter)

Host The Golden Globes? Gervais Is Laughing Already

www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(January 17, 2010) PASADENA, Calif.–Two days before hosting tonight's Golden Globe Awards, Ricky Gervais still wasn't sure what he was going to say.

"I don't know yet," the British comedy star confided to critics here at the mid-season TV previews. "I mean, I'm pretty calm because I've got very low standards.

"I don't really care what happens. They are not really going to invite me back."

Though Gervais and his comedy partner, Stephen Merchant, were here to launch HBO's new animated Ricky Gervais Show, a cartoonified collection of the their hit podcast, there was of course equal interest in what the infamously irreverent actor/writer/producer had planned for the Golden tonight.

Except perhaps for Merchant, who flatly feigned ignorance. "What are you doing?, he deadpanned.

"I'm doing the Golden Globes. Big award show. Sunday."

"And you're not going to be controversial?"

"No. I'm going to be drunk. Everyone else is."

"Someone asked me earlier, `Do you think Ricky is going to be controversial? Because there is a danger he could wind up with death threats.' Which really unnerved me, because I'm almost certain I'm going to have to take that bullet. I'm a foot and a half taller," said Merchant.

Gervais is not about to let that stop him. "Anyone who isn't concentrating will get it, so they'd better listen. They can talk when everyone else is on, but they'd better not talk when I'm on."

He was a bit less confrontational six years ago, when he and Merchant attended their first Globes ceremony to accept an award for The Office. "It all started for us in America here really, at the Globes in 2004. When we won, we couldn't believe it. And we all went up like a motley crew ...

"And apparently Clint Eastwood turned to someone at his table and said, `Who the f---k are they?'

"Which is my favourite quote ever."

The Powerful Nobodies Behind The Golden Globes

www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

(January 16, 2010) Everybody in Hollywood knows the Golden Globes are a farce. But does anyone care, and should they?

TV has turned the Globes from an insiders' affair into an international showbiz extravaganza in the past decade or so. NBC has exclusive telecast rights, paying the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Dick Clark Productions a reported $6 million (U.S.) annually for the privilege.

But what NBC is buying, and millions are watching (although fewer recently), is the proverbial silk purse made out of a sow's ear. The Golden Globes is a huge ceremony – presented as serious film and TV awards – that's tightly controlled by a tiny group whose credentials are often sketchy at best. The event is really a Hollywood love-in staged by star-struck fans at a dinner flowing with booze and oinking with fine food.

The 91 star-worshipping members of the HFPA, the most elite club in Tinseltown, are coddled because they play a major role in helping celebrities and power players get what they really want: an Oscar nomination.

The annual Globes bunfeed and broadcast, which rolls again on Sunday, comes as the nearly 5,800 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are filling out their Oscar nomination ballots. Academy members watch the Globes along with everyone else, and they can't help but be influenced by winners, tearful acceptance speeches and general levity.

Current HFPA members include real-estate agents, car salesmen, showbiz publicists, hairdressers and even a few journalists. All that is required to maintain membership is permanent residence in Southern California (so much for "foreign") and a mere four published articles per year, often in obscure publications that aren't freely disclosed.

The HFPA pretends to be a democratic operation, but it operates mainly in the dark, revealing only the names and the 55 countries represented by its members. (There are four Canadian members, one of whom, Ray Arco, also represents Denmark.)

Membership is strictly kept below 100, making it easier for studio publicists to court them with dinners, private screenings and valuable one-on-one celebrity interviews. New recruits are added rarely and only with the sponsorship of two active HFPA members. Any single member can blackball an applicant for whatever reason.

With all that lovely NBC loot, the association is able to pay for numerous perks, including two all-expenses-paid trips per year to film festivals anywhere in the world for each and every member.

The HFPA was created in 1943 by eight foreign journalists living in Hollywood, who were frustrated by their lack of access to top stars. They reasoned that creating their own awards might turn things around, and that thinking paid off.

"(The Globes) are a non-event raised to epic proportions by Dick Clark getting them a network television slot," said David Poland, editor of Movie City News, a widely read Hollywood industry blog.

Yet Poland isn't inclined to criticize the HFPA for being so good at getting what it wants. "Oddly, I feel as though beating up on the members misses the point. They are just people riding a very nice train. ... If someone told you that you could retire 85 per cent of the way and still get free travel every week you like, some of it at-will trips to exotic places to see every major star and to be treated like royalty after never being treated particularly well as a journalist in your real career, how could you say `No'?"

Poland's view is the prevailing one in Hollywood. There's a certain amount of admiration for how the HFPA has turned itself from a shunned group of outsiders into a courted coterie.

The HFPA and the Golden Globes are now such an important part of the Oscar campaign process that major press outlets are often pushed to one side so the Globes voters can spend some quality time with the likes of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Meryl Streep.

At the press junket for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in December 2008, journalists who had flown to Los Angeles from around the world had to make do with interviews from secondary stars of the film, because stars Pitt, Cate Blanchett and director David Fincher were spending all their time currying HFPA favours.

Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein takes a simpler approach than David Poland. He sees the Globes as "Hollywood's ultimate guilty pleasure" simply because nobody takes them seriously.

They are dumb fun, he wrote recently: "I suspect the Globes owe their robust health less to their value as an award season barometer than to the fact that everyone in Hollywood, even the eye-rolling studio executives who privately ridicule the group's tiny cadre of obscure international journalists, enjoys the idea of having an award show that is as raucous and silly as the Academy Awards is stuffy and tame."

The one thing that can be said about the HFPA is that it is not quite as bogus as it used to be. It cracked down on some of the more egregious aspects of the organization, such as the luxury watches and other freebies that were handed out in years gone by. And the association donates a sizeable portion of its NBC windfall to various film-related charities, which further adds to its growing appeal.

You also have to wonder, in fairness, if people should really care about how the HFPA conducts itself, if they yawn at other democratic infringements that are of far greater import. The people of Canada offer an example of such flexible morality. Millions of them apparently aren't all that bothered that the Conservative government just shut down Parliament when it was about to face some tough questions, so why should they or anyone else get excited over a Hollywood awards ceremony being less than lily-white?

But does it really come down to this? That it's okay to be just a little bit dirty, as long as the glitter hides the grime? We'll just keep right on swinging that pig's-ear purse, which gets bigger, silkier and more glitzy by the year.

Victor Garber: Jesus Got The Ball Rolling

www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 16, 2010) NEW YORK–Who could play Jesus Christ in Godspell or "Spy Daddy" in Alias with equal conviction, and shift gears from Sondheim musicals to Coward comedies with baffling ease?

If you guessed anyone other than London, Ont.'s
Victor Garber, you go straight to the bottom of the class.

For more than 35 years, Garber has been playing an enviable assortment of roles on stage and screen, earning four Tony nominations and an equal amount of Emmy nods as well.

He has danced on top of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, calmly sipped at cognac while the Titanic sank and spent five seasons trying to guide Jennifer Garner through the world of international espionage.

"It has been a varied career, to say the least. Sometimes I look at one of my credits and ask, `Did I do that?'" laughs Garber in his dressing room backstage at Broadway's American Airlines Theatre, where he's in the starring role in Noel Coward's Present Laughter, a Roundabout Theatre production that opens on Jan. 21.

But his versatility sometimes works against him, and he's the kind of actor whose name might generate a "Who's that?" until the face reminds you of all the times you've enjoyed his work.

Everybody has a different Garber in their memory books. Some cherish his frizzy-headed soft-spoken Messiah in Godspell, others prefer the chillingly efficient Jack Bristow from Alias, while musical theatre fans sing the praises of the roles he created in Sweeney Todd and Assassins.

It has all been part of Garber's professional journey, which may have zigged and zagged wildly over the decades but has never really left its determined course. "I always knew this is what I wanted to do with my life. Always."

Garber radiates that sweet air of calm that gives him a kind of preternatural glow.

He traces the origins of his interest in acting back to his earliest days in London, where he was born on March 16, 1949, the son of Joe and Hope Garber. She was a popular TV and stage personality, with her own show called At Home With Hope Garber, and Garber remembers "all of us performing together in The King and I at the Grand Theatre."

His mother enrolled him in the children's theatre program at the Grand "and I gravitated to it instantly. I was always a hambone. Wanted people's attention. I loved performing and, fortunately, I had that outlet."

Then, at 16, "I was accepted at a six-week summer theatre training program at Hart House at the University of Toronto with Robert Gill as the teacher. I was the youngest one there."

Garber's memories of himself in those days aren't exactly charitable. "I was precocious, overconfident. I was a big kid, I had a kind of stature, but I was completely immature and foolish and I pretended to act like a grown-up." He gives a rueful chuckle. "I still do."

Gravitating to Toronto, Garber did some work with George Luscombe's famous Toronto Workshop productions, soloed as a folksinger and finally joined Peter Mann and Laurie Hood in a moderately successful group called The Sugar Shoppe.

"It was a very intense period for me and I thought that music was going to be my life. And then along came Godspell."

The soft-rock, clown-styled musical about the life of Jesus had opened to rave notices and sellout crowds off-Broadway in 1971, and a year later it opened in Toronto at the Royal Alexandra Theatre with Garber in the lead and a legendary assortment of talent that included Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Gilda Radner, Paul Shaffer and Eugene Levy.

"That show changed everything for me," Garber says. "It was a magical thing and the wonderful thing is that we all appreciated how special the experience was."

It's the relationships he remembers most, "...what it felt like to be on stage with people who were that gifted and that unique."

Alone from the Toronto cast, Garber was tapped to play his role in the film version of the show that was shot in New York the following year and he remembers that experience vividly as well – especially one sequence.

The vaudeville dance number "All for the Best" filmed its frenetic finale on top of a massive structure then being built: the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center.

"After 9/11, the memory of that had a profound influence on me. I remember it so clearly – the scaffolding, climbing up ladders because there was nothing around it. No fence, no walkway, no nothing. It was scary...and now it's gone."

The film version of Godspell wasn't a hit, but Garber is grateful for that.

"It means I got the attention but didn't get burdened with roles like Jesus from then on."

Quite the opposite. Garber's first New York role was as Oswald in a revival of Ibsen's Ghosts. After that, his career took off, with featured roles in Deathtrap, They're Playing Our Song and – most memorably – Sweeney Todd.

Garber was the original performer to play Anthony and sing the haunting "Johanna" for the first time. "Sondheim was the reason I came to New York and I'm still in awe of him. No wonder that show was a seminal experience for me."

He also partnered with Sondheim to create the role of John Wilkes Booth in Assassins, and confesses, "I've always loved being given the chance to go over to the dark side."

But with all of Garber's prestigious stage work, Emmy nominated guest appearances on Frazier or Will and Grace, and film roles like Thomas Andrews, the architect of the Titanic in James Cameron's epic film about the doomed ship – what brought him fame and fortune was a TV spy series called Alias.

As Jennifer Garner's fastidious "Spy Daddy," he reached a new public and remains thankful for it.

"It was incredibly demanding and, ultimately, rewarding, because I was working with such great people, all of whom also became good friends.

"It was a golden time. Like the Godspell time."

And now, playing the stylish Noel Coward in his semi-autobiographical comedy, Present Laughter, Garber seeks the content rather than the empty style.

"You don't normally realize what a deeply caring and feeling person Coward was. There's much more to him than people initially think. This is a story about a man at a certain point in his life who sees things fall apart and then tries to put them back together."

Is there anything Garber would still like to accomplish?

"Well," he says after a pause, "I've done a lot of TV in Toronto but absolutely no stage. I love Canada and I love working there. Stratford has approached me a couple of times in the past but it hasn't happened yet.

"I'd really like it to, but..." and he cups his hand to hear the warning of a not-too-distant clock, "tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock."

EUR Film Review: ‘The Book of Eli’

Source: www.eurweb.com - Kam Williams

(January 17, 2010) *It is 2043, several decades after a war to end all wars which has left America a vast, violent wasteland devoid of infrastructure.

In the wake of the devastating catastrophe, civilization has been replaced by a desperate, lawless society where life is cheap, and a man might lose his life over a glass of water, a piece of food, or even nothing at all.

In the case of
Eli (Denzel Washington), the only item for which he is willing to die is the thick, leather-bound book he keeps carefully-wrapped in cloth and tucked away inside his weather-beaten satchel.

Except for the telltale cross on the cover, and his occasionally spouting scriptural-sounding aphorisms like “Do for others more than you do for yourself,” he does an excellent job of hiding its contents.

For the past 30 years this Eli has been walking westward by foot to deliver the precious package to a mysterious man located in the City of San Francisco. As it turns out, this is the only Bible left in existence, and the guy he’s going to meet happens to have a printing press.

So, because this peaceful warrior knows the sacred text represent the last hope for Christianity, he is willing to fight anyone who might dare try to prevent him from reaching his destination. And when you’re negotiating your way some 3,000 miles on foot through a gauntlet of marauding gangs and bloodthirsty miscreants, this means Eli frequently has to put aside his inclinations to turn the other cheek in order to kick butt.

Directed by the Hughes Brothers, The Book of Eli is a relentlessly-grim and gruesome, post-apocalyptic saga sort of reminiscent of another recently-released adventure, The Road. This one, however, arrives imbued with heavy religious overtones designed to appeal to the Born Again demographic, at least those who could care less about the 6th Commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”

Eli proves to be ne righteous dude, especially after the plot thickens when Satan incarnate (Gary Oldman) catches wind of what’s in his knapsack. Will that character, Carnegie, and his cronies be able to wrest the Bible away before Eli reaches what’s left of ‘Frisco? That becomes the pivotal issue at the heart of the faith-based morality play.

Despite Denzel Washington turning in a trademark, charismatic performance underscored by appropriately monochromatic cinematography, the film is still surprisingly unengaging. Even the inclusion of a mother-daughter team of fetching damsels-in-distress played by Jennifer Beals and Mila Kunis didn’t help. Maybe it’s the fact that the resolution, which I won’t dare spoil, is such a multidenominational cop-out.   

Jesus as the answer, along with a bunch of other prophets.

Fair (1 star)
Rated R for profanity and graphic violence.
Running time: 118 Minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers

To see a trailer for The Book of Eli, visit:

High Life: Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Up Straight Gets ’Er Done

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell

High Life
(out of 4)
Starring Timothy Olyphant, Stephen Eric McIntyre, Joe Anderson and Rossif Sutherland. Directed by Gary Yates. 80 minutes. At the Scotiabank theatre. 18A

(January 15, 2010) Not just another heist pic, but rather a darkly sardonic assessment of how badly the best-laid plans of mice and men go astray.

Gary Yates's junkie men are more like mice, scurrying to rob a bank's ATM machine with more energy than they'd ever put into finding a job.

Timothy Olyphant (TV's Deadwood) is first amongst dimwits in Lee MacDougall's bloodshot story, drawn from his stage play, that recalls the Ealing Comedies of yore.

Olyphant's sad-sack Dick wanted to be a lawyer growing up, as he tells us in an opening voiceover.

Instead he's a morphine addict, ex-con and conspirator in an ATM heist you just know isn't going to go as planned.

Dick wasn't cut out for this cruel world, but neither are the three knuckleheads who are assisting him. They're played by Joe Anderson (Across the Universe), Stephen Eric McIntyre (The Lookout) and Rossif Sutherland (Poor Boy's Game).

The plot gets twisted but the direction by Yates (Seven Times Lucky) never does. He finds the humour in a desperate situation. It's hard to hate or even despise Dick and his stooges, because you can sense how needy they are.

The best thing about the film is its simplicity.

It's set in the 1980s, when ATMs were new and the security on them wasn't as tough as it is today (or so they say). This is a heist you can believe in.

It all goes down in an unnamed Canadian city, but it's obviously Winnipeg (where it was filmed) and – bonus Canuck points – Dick is a major April Wine fan.

So he can't be a total loser then, eh? 

Two MLK Films in the Works

Source: www.eurweb.com

(January 19, 2010)  Both Steven Spielberg and “Precious” director Lee Daniels are working on new films that delve into the personal life of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.

Spielberg, along with Suzanne de Passe and Madison Jones, is producing what is billed as the “definitive” King biopic for DreamWorks Studios, while Daniels’s project, titled “Selma,” is already causing the King family concern for its inclusion of King’s reported extra-marital affairs.

In one scene, according to the New York Daily News, President Lyndon Johnson tells FBI director J. Edgar Hoover that he doesn’t know or care “whether [King] has a gargantuan appetite for p***y or whether he just sometimes needs a woman’s touch when he’s away from home …”

In another scene at a Washington hotel, King meets a prostitute who tells him, “You look like you need some tender loving care, honey.”

“You’re way out of my price bracket,” says King.

“I’ll donate part of my fee to the cause,” she says.

Soon thereafter, Hoover’s agents are seen recording King’s sexual encounter with the woman, as well as their postcoital conversation. King’s wife, Coretta, receives a copy of the tape, with an anonymous blackmail letter.

The Nobel Prize winner actually received such a tape and letter. King biographer David Garrow explained his numerous extramarital affairs as “a form of anxiety reduction.” In 1968, according to historian Taylor Branch, Dr. King admitted to Coretta that he’d carried on a five-year romance with a married woman.

Daniels, however, says his film – from producers Brad Pitt and “Slumdog Millionaire” Oscar-winner Christian Colson – will not show Dr. King in bed with the prostitute. He believes the scene is unnecessary.

“This project is still in an embryonic stage,” he tells film site Risky Business. “But I can tell you my story focuses on the civil rights marches. It’s not about tapes and prostitutes. It’s about the African-American man who changed history.”

Meanwhile, DreamWorks just announced the hiring of Oscar-winning playwright and screenwriter Ronald Harwood (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” “The Pianist”) to pen Spielberg’s King biopic.

The DreamWorks project marks the first film to be authorized by King’s estate and gives the producers the right to utilize King’s intellectual property — including his famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered during the 1963 March on Washington — to create the definitive portrait of his life.


“Four Brothers’ Sequel in the Works


(January 14, 2010) *Paramount is reportedly in talks to follow up its 2005 thriller “Four Brothers,” with “Five Brothers,” a sequel from the same creative team of star Mark Wahlberg and writers David Elliot and Paul Lovett. The original movie, directed by John Singleton, revolved around four adopted brothers (Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin and Garret Hedlund) who reunite to avenge their mother’s death in what at first appears to be a random robbery. Hedlund would appear to be out, as his character was killed in the first movie. It is not clear which of the other actors, if any, would return. Although not a massive hit, “Four Brothers” still grossed $74 million at the domestic box office.

Sandra Bullock Gives $1 Million To Haiti Relief


(January 15, 2010) LOS ANGELES – Sandra Bullock said Friday she donated $1 million toward Haitian earthquake relief, and Madonna announced she gave $250,000 toward the effort as celebrity aid continued to pour into the devastated country. Bullock's contribution went to Doctors Without Borders' emergency operations in Port-Au-Prince, where three of the organization's existing facilities were damaged by the magnitude 7.0 quake. "I wanted to ensure that my donation would be used immediately to meet the needs of the Haitian people affected by this catastrophic event," said Bullock in a statement. Madonna's gift was to Partners In Health, a long-time medical provider in Haiti. "I urge all of my friends and fans around the world to join me collectively to match my contribution or give in any way you can," she said. "We must act now." Earlier Friday, Not On Our Watch, an advocacy and grantmaking group founded by George Clooney, Brad Pitt and others, donated $1 million to Partners in Health. The international Red Cross estimates 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in the earthquake, which devastated the Caribbean nation on Tuesday.


America's Flirting With Being Erica

www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(January 16, 2010) PASADENA, Calif.–Of the many odd and unexpected places Erin Karpluk has time-travelled on her hit CBC series, Being Erica, this could be the oddest and most unexpected of all.

Karpluk, her Erica co-star Michael Riley and writer/producer Jana Sinyor have been brought here, to American television's biannual TV critic's preview, in response to the warm and enthusiastic reception the proudly Toronto-set series has received south of the border, where it airs on the Disney-owned cable channel SoapNet.

"My family was like, `Honey, you made it!'" Karpluk says, on a couple minutes' break between print and "electronic" press. "Just being here today ... and I'm going to be on The View next week. I get to meet Whoopi Goldberg!

"I don't feel nervous, because I love this show so much. A couple of years ago I wouldn't have been ready for this. But I feel very comfortable, and I'm just thankful for the support and the way it's been received."

"You never know," says Riley. "You work on a show, and no matter where you shoot it or create it, and whatever culture you are steeped in shooting it ... you do what you do, and you hope for the best. It's like sending a kid off to school, you know? And this kid seems to be doing well, globally. We've been very lucky that way."

"I think it's been picked up by 30 countries abroad," Karpluk marvels. "I'm blown away. I had no idea that it would be like this."

It doesn't stop there. With the second season of Erica about start in the States, Karpluk has also landed a support role in the heavily promoted new CW series Life Unexpected, which debuts on Monday night. She'll be joining the regular cast, she says, four or five episodes in.

"I was very nervous to start," she admits, "because someone else is driving the ship, and I don't want to screw it up. You're there to support the other actors on the show. The series is already established and moving, and you're the new person ... But everybody's been very welcoming.

"And it is kind of nice to not be in every day. I can have a life outside, and get my taxes done, and go to the gym and go on a date ..."

Unlike her more rigorous Erica schedule, which requires her presence in pretty much every scene.

"It's very challenging when we go in to shoot," she says. "It's kind of like a five-month marathon. There's no lunch hours. We are doing press, or wardrobe fittings, read-throughs ... I set my blinders. But I'm the kind of person where I think I do my best work when I'm up for that kind of a challenge. I wouldn't give it up for anything."

Ironically, she had consigned the Erica pilot to the bottom of a pile of scripts she'd been offered, the rest of them being American shows.

"But it wasn't because it was Canadian," she says. "It was because of the script. Although I honestly didn't have my head quite wrapped around it. Even when we were shooting it, I didn't quite get it."

Which was exactly where she needed to be for her role as Erica Strange.

"I always use that when I'm acting. And any time I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, I think, `The character doesn't know what she is doing.' Perfect. No acting required."

Like Erica, she's not entirely sure where it all will lead. And again, in terms of staying in character, she doesn't particularly want to.

On the other hand, the more inquisitive Riley, in his role as the enigmatic Dr. Tom, wanted to know as much as possible. Even if he wasn't yet able to play it.

"Before we shot a stitch of anything," he says, "I sat down with Jana and had a lunch and asked all of my questions: you know, who is he, and what is he, and how does he do it?

"And it was kind of like one of those good news/bad news things. The good news was, `Here's the answers to all of those questions,' and the bad news is we can't deal with any of that for the whole (first) season. So I was kind of chomping at the bit by the time we got to the end of the season. (The second season) is really a chance to kind of peek behind the wizard's curtain."

"The writing is impeccable," Karpluk agrees. "(The second season has) kind of blasted open the doors with multiple places for us to go. Any questions that you might have from the first season are answered, and then there's a million more ones that are posed. There are gasps when the scripts come (out)."

But will they keep on coming? Sinyor has already started mapping out her story arc for a hoped-for Season 3.

"I would love to come back for a third season," says Karpluk. "It doesn't happen very often for an actor to get a part like this, and to be a part of an experience like this.

"It's great. I'm having a blast."

24: Good Day Goes Bad

www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(January 17, 2010) Jack Bauer, happy at last. Say it isn't so.

Nothing against the guy, really. But in an entire week's worth now – seven seasons – of terse, angry, "We're running out of time" 24-hour crisis management, Kiefer Sutherland's stalwart spy guy has barely cracked a smile. Or gone to the bathroom, but that's a whole other story.

It happens – not the bathroom break, but the smile – in the opening scenes of Sunday night's eighth-season opener of
24 (the two-part, four-hour marathon starts at 9 on Fox and Global, and continues Monday night with an 8 p.m. start).

There is immediate concern that his face might crack.

Bauer is seen playing with his granddaughter, Terri – named for his late wife, played by Leslie Hope, who was killed way back in Season One. It would appear that for the first time in the show's disaster-driven history, he may actually get to enjoy "a good day."

Sure he will. And then monkeys will fly out of his butt.

"It felt weird to do it," Sutherland said of the smile last week on the TV critics tour.

"The only (other) time Jack Bauer smiled – and just because it happened so rarely we noted it – was in Season Three, when he had captured Nina and was flying back with her on the cargo plane and he had her in handcuffs. He looked at her and smiled.

"And that was about four episodes before he got to shoot her.

"This was a different kind of smile," he allowed. "And I must say, when we first shot it, it felt awkward for me and I think everybody else involved."

Of course, the good times can't last – we are barely past the first commercial break when things go typically, horribly wrong.

But the giddy high spirit seems to have lingered with Sutherland himself, who showed up last week on David Letterman's show wearing combat boots and a dress, having lost a football bet on the New England Patriots with "a guy who used to be a friend."

"If you get on the subway like that," Letterman joked, "I'll give you $1,000."

"Riding the subway would be easier than what I'm going through right now," Sutherland confessed. "This I think might be the most humiliating moment of my life. And I've had a few to choose from."

No one is ever going to get Jack Bauer into a dress. You wouldn't survive the attempt. But to Sutherland – who in addition to appearing in almost every scene, is the show's very hands-on executive producer – a happy Jack, however briefly, is the perfect starting point for the new season.

"(It) was such a fantastic thing for me as an actor," he said, "(putting) Jack in such a positive place at the very beginning of this series ... it gave him something to fight for.

"I think just inherently we have taken the character (to) some very dark places: the loss of his wife, the estrangement from his daughter, the death of Kim Raver's character. And one of the great things as an actor is to be able to take all those tragedies and mount those as part of the character for the following season.

"So to be able to start Season 8 with some kind of hope and give him something to really live for and fight for was a really different and kind of very exciting place to be as a character, and that really resonates ... as much as you kind of acknowledge it in the very beginning, it really has some resonance throughout the later episodes."

But in between, of course, it's pretty much business as usual. Which inevitably means lots of running and chasing and shooting, and terrorist torture and arguing with authority figures who by now should really know better than to doubt him.

Over the years, the non-stop action has been relentless. And, let's face it, at 44, Kiefer Sutherland isn't getting any younger.

But there's life in the old boy yet. "There's a kind of adrenaline that kicks in," he said. "A lot of the physical stuff that we get to do on our show is really exciting. And it's kind of in bursts. It's not sustained over a 12-hour day."

Still, it has to take its toll. "Jack Bauer is probably a little slower now," Sutherland conceded reluctantly. "And I might actually be getting slower.

"I haven't had a break from it for eight years. It's been a long time. We've been doing it for a while."

Something Sutherland was forced to confront directly at an event celebrating the show's 150th episode.

"They put together a montage from the very beginning through the 150th episode, some behind-the-scenes stuff," he ruefully recalled. "And Rodney Charters, our cinematographer, and I were sitting ... and laughing and thinking, `Oh, how cool all of this is.'

"And then, about halfway through the little documentary, they showed some pictures of us from Season 1. We realized (how much) we had aged and we stopped laughing."

But not, apparently, smiling. At least for 15 minutes tonight.

"The day's not over," cautioned writer/producer Howard Gordon.

"No," sighed Sutherland. "It's a guarantee. He's going to have (another) bad day."

Anne Mroczkowski Among Citytv Layoffs

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(January 20, 2010) Citytv has restructured newsroom operations across the country, including several cuts at its flagship Toronto station, with layoffs of a number of employees, including well-known on-air talent and production staff.

According to a story on the Citynews.ca website,
Anne Mroczkowski, an anchor on CityNews at Six, was let go on Monday evening, while the rest of the staff were informed on Tuesday.

Koreen Ott, director of marketing for Rogers Media Television in Toronto, would not comment on specific personnel matters, but other Citytv staff confirmed that Mroczkowski and at least six other news staff were laid off.

They include Farah Nasser, Lara Di Battista, Pam Seatle, Marianne Dimain, Merella Fernandez and Michael Serapio.

"It's too raw, but I think I'll be okay," said Nasser, who was an anchor at the station, in an interview outside the Imperial Pub on Dundas St. E., where Citytv employees had gathered Tuesday night.

Mroczkowski had reportedly been working at the station for 23 years, and Di Battista and Seatle were also longtime veterans of the station.

Rogers did not say how many production staff were let go, although some online estimates ran as high as 35.

Citytv's noon news program, CityNews at 5, Citynews International and weekend newscasts have all been cancelled, Ott said.

CP24, the all-news channel owned by CTV, immediately launched new newscasts at 5 and 5:30 p.m. weekdays to fill the void.

Citytv screened a rerun of the CityLine talk show at 5 p.m. Tuesday without explanation.

"This is the death of local news," said one former employee. "If Rogers, which has money, is doing this, then what do you think we can expect from the other networks?"

The mood inside the Rogers TV building at Yonge and Dundas Sts. was grim, with many employees fearful for their jobs.

"It's just awful," said one employee who was not part of the cuts. "Basically, when Ted Rogers died, so did the vision of Citytv as a national network player.

"Nobody has any vision. The bean counters have taken over and they want to turn us into Omni 3."

Leslie Sole, CEO of Rogers Media Television, said in a statement Tuesday: "Today's changes, although difficult, are necessary to align our operations with the economic and regulatory realities of our industry. We are improving our core business by tightening our operations and concentrating on the strengths of our top performing local programs."

Ott said Rogers was "restructuring our television operations to retrench and rebuild." She said about 6 per cent of Citytv's workforce across the country is affected by the cuts, which came into effect immediately at stations in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. Citytv also has a Winnipeg station.

Citytv will continue to produce morning shows Breakfast Television and CityLine across the country, while CityNews at Six and CityNews at Night will continue to air in Toronto, Ott said.

Rogers Media purchased the five Citytv stations across Canada for $375 million in 2007 from CTV, which acquired the ChumCity empire and had to divest itself of the stations due to media ownership regulations not allowing the same company to own two local stations in the same market.

The purchase of Citytv was a signal change for Rogers, which is better known for providing the cable signal than for actually running TV stations. Its previous experience with broadcasting was with community programming stations and with its Omni multicultural stations, which are much cheaper to operate than conventional TV stations that buy U.S. network shows.

As well, with only five stations in big cities across Canada, Citytv's national coverage was much smaller than the competing private networks, CTV and Global.

This is at least the second round of cuts in Rogers Communications' broadcast media division, after 100 jobs were cut in December 2008. In November, the cable giant also laid off about 900 employees, mainly in its cable and wireless divisions.

Citytv Toronto has lost a number of on-air personalities over the past year, including former anchors Peter Silverman and Jojo Chintoh.

In December, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission gave Rogers a licence to launch a new 24-hour local-news channel in Toronto. That channel has not yet been started.

With files from Noor Javed

Jeff Dunham: ‘My Goal Is To Make People Laugh'

www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(January 17, 2010) As any smart man would, Jeff Dunham lets his dummies speak for him. The world's most successful ventriloquist is maligned by critics as being unfunny, and his puppets, some say, should be strung up for political incorrectness. But it doesn't seem to matter; the Jeff Dunham franchise thrives.

“My goal is to make people laugh,” says Dunham, one of the highest-grossing touring comedians in North America. “My responsibility is to give people what they paid for.”

Dunham, a good-natured 47-year-old Dallas native, achieves his goals and fulfills his duty – and then some. A reported 6.6 million people tuned into his 2008 cable Christmas special; Dunham and his troupe of puppets have been hit upon by more than 400 million YouTube watchers; sales figures for his three DVDs top five million; and while his half-hour Comedy Central series was cancelled recently after one season, it enjoyed fine ratings.

Talk about puppets who kill. Man, oh, mannequin, this guy is huge.

I'd say 80 per cent of the TSA guys recognize me. Achmed goes through the X-ray, and they know what it is.

“It's grown to proportions that I never ever thought about,” Dunham says, from his Los Angeles home. “I had no conception of things getting to this size.”

Dunham's monster Identity Crisis Tour rolls into the Air Canada Centre this evening (Saturday), having hit Ottawa's Scotiabank Place Friday night. “Should I bring a coat?” he asks. He should, but then again warm receptions from his audiences might be enough to keep him from shivering. Go ahead and be one of the millions to watch a live video clip of Dunham and one of his star dummies, Achmed, the Dead Terrorist – the crowd laughs even before a voice is thrown in anger. The comic, who did Johnny Carson's show back in 1990, has a fan base who know what's coming: a skeletal, Arabic-accented menace who screeches “Silence! I kill you!” whenever the laughs get loud.

His other recognizable characters – called ventriloquial figures in the trade – include Walter, the discontented old coot with a sweater, bow tie and arms that are always crossed. But Achmed is the puppet that seems to get the most attention in these post-9/11 times, and you have to wonder how Dunham goes about getting a box with a dead suicide bomber through airport security. “It's become comical,” says the funnyman. “I'd say 80 per cent of the TSA guys recognize me. Achmed goes through the X-ray, and they know what it is.”

If the comedy-savvy people of the Transportation Security Administration are willing to give Dunham a free pass, others – critics and fellow comedians – are not. According to Dunham, The Jeff Dunham Show (broadcast in Canada on the Comedy Network) was cancelled because of high production costs. But critics hated it: “Not only is it deadeningly unfunny,” the Washington Post's exasperated Hank Stuever wrote a year ago, “but it defies all the known constructs of television criticism. I simply have no idea why it's on.” And from the Chicago Sun-Times: “At best, you won't laugh. At worst, you will weep for the half hour you have lost and destroy all the puppets in your home.”

As for other professional stand-ups, many of them have contempt for any of their funny fraternity who rely on props of any sort, including (if not especially) ventriloquists. “You're talking about people who talk with a hand up a puppet's ass,” says Canadian comedy impresario Mark Breslin, “and you're asking why they aren't respected?” Breslin says it with a laugh, and he's not against props himself – “I actually think Carrot Top is funny” – but he knows why comedians are down on the dummies. “They see it as a trick you do with your mouth,” he says. “They don't think it's real comedy.”

Other criticisms of the tight-mouthed-talk art have to do with stale jokes and the act's cheesy, family-friendly nature. But the most serious condemnation is that ventriloquism is seen as a cop-out. “Some comics think,” says Breslin, “ ‘that if you've got something outrageous to say, why do you have to hide behind the dummy? Just say it.'”

Dunham understands that kind of criticism.

“Other comedians see it as not being purely monological,” he says. “It's not going up there figuratively naked onstage, baring your soul.” His answer to the flack? “I'm a stand-up comedian doing what I hope the audience thinks is good material,” he states simply. “I just happen to be doing it through other characters.”

Jeff Dunham plays Toronto's Air Canada Centre Saturday at 8 p.m. (416-870-8000).


‘Hangover' Cast To Appear At Globes

www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press 

(January 14, 2010) Los Angeles — Expect a hangover at the Golden Globes. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which puts on the Globes, says the cast of the summer comedy The Hangover will serve as presenters at Sunday's ceremony, along with Felicity Huffman, Helen Mirren and Samuel L. Jackson. Other presenters include Cameron Diazhttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gif, Jennifer Aniston, Josh Brolin, Christina Aguilera, Colin Farrell, Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, Sophia Loren and Cher. The 67th annual Golden Globe Awardshttp://images.intellitxt.com/ast/adTypes/mag-glass_10x10.gif, hosted by Ricky Gervais at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, will be broadcast live on NBC.

Morris Chestnut Developing Romantic Comedy


(January 16, 2010) *Morris Chestnut and his production partner Haven Mitchell are behind the development of “Ring My Bell,” a romantic comedy for Tri-Destined Studios. The two are developing the show under their shingle Dark Skin Productions, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Mitchell has written the project, which he and Chestnut would produce with Veronica Nichols and Tri- Destined partner N.D. Brown. In addition to Brown, the Tri-Destined partners are Trey Haley and Greg Anderson.


Fresh Take On Carmen Is Spellbinding

Source: www.thestar.com -
Richard Ouzounian

(January 14, 2010) NEW YORK - If you're looking for relief from a world of grey skies and wintry winds, look no further than your local multiplex Saturday afternoon.

That's when and where you can see the Metropolitan Opera's new production of
Carmen, which is currently setting this city on its ear, live in HD.

Rave reviews from all the major publications have greeted the efforts of the stellar cast, director Richard Eyre and – with a little surge of nationalist pride – Montreal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

I was privileged to see their work on Tuesday night and to say that I was blown away would be an understatement. You should consider the chance to see it this Saturday as an opportunity you dare not pass up.

It's rare to encounter an old warhorse from the operatic repertoire like Carmen and feel that you are seeing it with fresh eyes and hearing it with fresh ears, but that's just what this production does.

Eyre has moved the production to the 1930s and the Spanish Civil War, but that's not the major reason it works so well.

Eyre, Nézet-Séguin and their cast have connected with Bizet's work on a fundamental, almost primal, level, returning to its original roots as a saga of both the catastrophic nature of sexual desire and the fact that the gods have plans for us that nothing we do can ever change.

We're greeted with a black drop that fills the Met's giant proscenium, split by a jagged red lightning bolt. After Nézet-Séguin has led the orchestra through the opening ``Prelude'' with the blistering pace of a man racing to embrace his doom (which is just what Don José does), the drop separates in two to reveal a pair of young, nubile dancers who move together with a passion that seems all too potent.

Then we're into the world of Rob Howell's amazing set, largely made up of two immense pieces of masonry that can move around on a revolving stage to create pictures of stunning beauty that also create a sense of awe-inspiring dread.

Men and women are working out their destinies in a world far greater than they are, while political, social and religious forces all conspire to crush them.

The brilliance of Eyre's production – and one reason it should looking smashing on screen – is that while presenting us with a giant canvas to take our breath away, he's also able to concentrate on the intense moments of personal drama at the eye of the hurricane.

Carmen is a series of intense, two-person scenes that alternate with sudden splashes of full-stage activity, and Eyre makes those intimate moments the real knockouts of his show. Two people will often sit and sing their lives away without moving a muscle and yet you are profoundly thrilled. That is the power of great opera, just as much as the majesty and pageantry.

You need a brilliant cast, however, to carry this off and this production is blessed in that area.

After seeing Elina Garanca as Carmen, it truly seems as if she has staked a claim on the role for years to come. Not only is her vocal delivery supple, yet powerful, but her sensuality, physical freedom and sense of woman-as-destroyer are unmatched.

Eyre (with his choreographer Christopher Wheeldon) has filled the show with dance, but not gratuitously, using it as the natural outpouring of the Spanish soul, and Garanca is front and centre, giving her all, in many of these sequences.

Roberto Alagna also hits the heights as Don José, with his rich tenor tones ringing out with just the right combination of lust and anguish, while his handsome face dissolves from vain assurance to defeated madness.

The rest of the cast, including Barbara Frittoli's heartbreaking Micaëla, also rise to the heights Eyre has set for them.

The opera's final moments, however, are when it leaps into true greatness, with Eyre following the death of Carmen to reveal a logical yet chillingly unexpected tableau.

I won't ruin it for you, but once you've seen it, you will never think of Carmen the same way again. Don't miss it.

Carmen can be seen live at selected GTA cinemas Saturday at 1 p.m.

Legally Blonde In London: Infectious Fun

www.globeandmail.com - Elizabeth Renzetti

 Legally Blonde: The Musical
Music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin
Directed by Jerry Mitchell
Starring Sheridan Smith, Alex Gaumond and Duncan James
At the Savoy Theatre in London

(January 14, 2010) It was the woman who spilled her drink on several people in her row while lurching to the bathroom – in the middle of a song, mind – that first indicated London might be the spiritual home for Legally Blonde: The Musical .

She was having a damned good time, as were her many girlfriends, who screamed lustily at every appearance of Duncan James, formerly of the boy band Blue. The name of that cheesy group will mean nothing on your side of the Atlantic but makes him a large-ish star over here. Ms. Sloppy Drinks certainly thought so, and she and her friends – and women like them – have ensured that Legally Blonde: The Musical was sold out through previews, before its official opening at the Savoy Theatre last night.

It's an odd thing, that a musical which died on Broadway's brutal shores after only a short run, and which is so culturally American that the program contains a glossary explaining preppie terms, should find new life in London. Perhaps not though. Legally Blonde , based on the 2001 Reese Witherspoon movie, is as camp as Christmas, and refuses to take even one inch of its glittering pink self seriously. These are endearing traits.

Things don't begin entirely well as the first scene, set in the Delta Nu sorority, carries unfortunate echoes of Bye Bye Birdie 's idiot hymn to courtship, The Telephone Hour . (“Did she really get pinned? Did she kiss him and cry?”) Wait, though: The first song, announcing the impending engagement of our effervescent but wily heroine, Elle Woods, is called Omigod You Guys , and contains the line, “Now that a man has chosen you/Your life begins today.” There's a bit of arsenic at the centre of this sweet bonbon.

Unfortunately for Elle (Sheridan Smith), the man she loves is named Warner Huntington III, which pretty much ensures he's going to be a jerk. Having been dumped by Warner (played by boy-bander James), Elle decides to pursue him to Harvard Law School and prove herself the victor in Blonde vs. World. When a famous law professor warns his students, “Only some of you will turn out sharks, just some. The rest of you are chum,” it's obvious that the unsinkable Elle Woods will be swimming circles around him before long.

So far, so familiar. The streets of Broadway and the West End are littered with these formula “jukebox” musicals, but what could have been another joyless transfer from big screen to lucrative stage, à la Dirty Dancing , is saved by the creators' determination to turn Legally Blonde into its own sparkling beast. There's some wonderfully acid, often tasteless writing, as in the song that asks, of a slimy but stylish witness, “Is he gay or European? Depending on the time of day/The French go either way.” Even the tiniest roles, from Elle's Greek chorus of goofy sorority sisters to the dim-but-gorgeous delivery man, are polished and allowed space to shine.

It might not have worked at all if the producers hadn't found the right performer to bend and snap some life into Elle. Sheridan Smith might not seem the most intuitive choice – she's English, and famous for comic TV roles in which she plays “a slapper” of some variety or other. Those are her words, by the way, but playing slatternly sidekicks has served her well, because her comic timing is impeccable, and her accent unimpeachable. She's ably supported by her co-stars, the creamy-voiced James and Canadian Alex Gaumond, playing her idealistic mentor, Emmett.

The sloppy drinks lady was up and dancing before the curtain came down, along with the rest of the audience, and it didn't seem like one of those manufactured moments when the Lycra-clad cast practically peels you from your seat and screams “good time now!” When you're left feeling good but not like a moron, it's rare treat.

Rent: Emotional Highs From A Show With Heart

Source: www.thestar.com -
Robert Crew

Book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson. Directed by Michael Greif.
Until Jan. 24 at the Canon Theatre, 244 Victoria St.

(January 14, 2010) When
Rent first reached Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre in November of 1997, it was head-scratchingly hard to understand what all the fuss was about.

I would have bet the rent money that this harsh, fragmented musical by Jonathan Larson, who died in January, 1996, shortly before the show opened on Broadway, wouldn’t last. It was messy, emotionally unengaging and had a cop-out of an ending.

Well, the ending is still the same but I am now a fan, thanks to the touring production now at the Canon Theatre – not to mention the infectious enthusiasm of dozens of Rentheads scattered throughout the auditorium.

This time around, the show is filled with heart, with almost every musical number providing a rich emotional high. And the message – that relationships and love are not merely “for rent” but require sustained effort and commitment – comes through loud and clear.

The musical, as probably most people know by now, acknowledges a debt to Puccini’s La Boheme and centres around the characters of Mark and Roger who share an industrial loft in a rundown New York building where electricity is at best sporadic and heating non-existent.

Mark is the videographer, a detached observer of life. Roger, the musician-songwriter, has the AIDS virus and has cut himself off from humanity when in walks cocaine-addict Mimi, asking for a light for her candle.

Amid the backdrop of a dastardly landlord and former roommate who wants to evict everyone and spruce up his buildings, three very different love stories unfold. Roger and Mimi come together almost in desperation and touting a fair amount of baggage. Maureen (Mark’s ex) plunges headlong into a tempestuous power-struggle with her new lover Joanne. And the most loving and complete relationship of all involves another ex-roommate called Tom Collins and his drag-queen partner Angel.

Adam Pascal, who plays Roger, and Anthony Rapp, who is Mark, are original cast members and clearly 100 per cent comfortable with the material after all this time. What is remarkable some 14 years later, however, is the energy and freshness of both performances. Nothing stale, nothing for rent here.

Of course it helps that the rest of the cast, almost without exception, is pretty darned good too. Justin Johnston’s Angel is an absolute show-stealing delight and there’s lovely chemistry between him and Michael McElroy's Tom.

Lexi Lawson’s Mimi is part bombshell, part vulnerable little-girl-lost while Nicolette Hart’s Maureen is a mix of sizzle and temperament. After a somewhat stiff beginning, Merle Dandridge soon begins to relax into the role of the statuesque and efficient Joanne.

What seemed muddled before now seems pretty straightforward and logical. Still don’t like the ending, though.

One is left wondering what Jonathan Larson might have achieved, had he not died all too young, just before his 36th birthday.

Judith Thompson Comes Full Circle

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

(January 19, 2010) Thirty years ago, Thompson's career as a playwright kicked off in the 80-seat Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace with the premiere of The Crackwalker . Though most of the country's theatre companies would now love to premiere a play by Thompson, Canada's dark lady of drama is back at the Backspace this week with her new show, Such Creatures , a pair of interwoven monologues – one delivered by a woman visiting Auschwitz, the other by a 15-year-old girl waiting in the park for a gang of girls set on destroying her. Here's a quick look at Thompson's journey:

1980 Thompson, 25, premieres her gritty first play, The Crackwalker , set in Kingston, Ont., where she grew up, and inspired by a mentally handicapped woman she met during a summer job as a social worker with adult protective services. However, it is only two years later, in an ecstatically reviewed production at Centaur Theatre in Montreal, the city of Thompson's birth, that the play and its creator fully get their due.

1984 Thompson wins her first Governor's General's Award for White Biting Dog , a play that is her first stab at magic realism (the hero is saved from suicide by a talking dog) and the beginning of a long, fruitful partnership with Toronto's Tarragon Theatre. She would receive her second GG five years later for her play collection The Other Side of the Dark .

1990 Lion in the Streets , in which the ghost of a murdered girl tracks down her killer, premieres in a production directed by Thompson herself as part of the World Stage theatre festival in Toronto. It wins the Chalmers Award, but does not, as far as we know, inspire Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones .

1997 After a period of writing for radio, film and TV, and paying her mortgage, Thompson returns to the theatre with Sled , a mystical, murder-filled drama set in Toronto and up north. The idea for Sled came to her while cross-country skiing in Algonquin Park at dusk. The original draft was seven hours long – one for each year she'd spent not writing for the stage – but it eventually clocked in at three.

2000 Lost and Delirious , Thompson's adaptation of Susan Swan's novel The Wives of Bath , hits the screen, directed by Léa Pool. Set at an all-girls' boarding school, it stars a pre- OC Mischa Barton, Piper Perabo and Jessica Paré. It is largely remembered for the steamy love scene between the latter two.

2007 With Palace of the End , a triptych of monologues about individuals affected by the Iraq War, Thompson becomes the first Canadian to win the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, established in 1978 for English-language women playwrights. The prize included $20,000 (U.S.) and a print by Willem de Kooning. The searing play is subsequently performed around the world and also nabs an Amnesty International award in Edinburgh.

2010 After loosening her bond with Tarragon at the end of the 1990s and subsequently premiering plays at Toronto theatres big ( Habitat at Canadian Stage Company) and small ( Enoch Arden at The Theatre Centre), Thompson now finds herself back at the tiny Backspace for Such Creatures , a choice made on artistic grounds. Says Thompson: “You never get too big for the Backspace.”

Lazaridis Family Pledges $5 Million To Stratford

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(January 20, 2010) The couple followed a growing trend and served their gift up with a matching challenge to private donors and governments. That means the money will be paid incrementally as it is matched in an attempt to double the windfall to $10-million.

The gift was warmly welcomed by Stratford board chair Richard Rooney, who took a similar step this past summer, pledging $300,000 of his own funds and asking fellow board members to join him. The festival has struggled financially through the recession, posting a $2.6-million deficit in 2008 and putting 30 performances on hold in 2009, most of which were later reinstated.

“So often in history it is private individuals who lead the charge and inspire others to follow,” said Stratford artistic director Des McAnuff.

The 2010 season, which opens April 10, features a dozen shows including a Christopher Plummer-led production of The Tempest and Brent Carver in As You Like It, as well as Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

Might Be A Knockout

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(January 17, 2010)  PRINCETON, N.J.—Don't ask Des McAnuff what he did on his winter vacation this year, because he really didn't have one.

During those off months when the artistic director of the Stratford Festival might have been expected to be bagging rays on a Caribbean beach or skiing in the Alps, he's been sequestered in this quiet university town an hour from Manhattan, helping to recreate one of the major one-on-one combats of the last century.

He's just finished steering an amazing play called Fetch Clay, Make Man through its world premiere, which took place Friday night at the McCarter Theatre and having seen the show, it's easy to understand why he chose more work rather than simple relaxation.

Playwright Will Power has taken a little-known but true event – the meeting between heavyweight champ Cassius Clay and faded film star Stepin Fetchit just prior to Clay's defence of his boxing title against Sonny Liston on May 25, 1965 – and turned it into a searing examination of race relations and personal ambition.

On the surface, the two men didn't have much in common. Clay was an egomaniacal 23-year-old with a gift for faster repartee and even faster punches that could knock an opponent out before he knew what hit him. He had also joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, decisions that were negatively to affect both his career and his life.

Fetchit (real name Lincoln Perry) was 63 at the time of the play. As a once popular film star he had become rich and famous in the 1930s playing a lazy, shiftless stereotype that wound up embarrassing blacks and whites alike, but before his career crashed and burned in the 1940s, he was the first black actor to become a millionaire.

"It was a play I simply had to do," says the director, over dinner just before the play's final preview on Thursday night. "What Will was saying struck me with such force that I couldn't walk away from it."

It's fascinating to hear McAnuff put the pieces of the puzzle together. "Each man needed something from the other, something he thought would make his life complete. For Clay (as the press still called the fighter then) it was the knowledge of a secret knockout punch that he believed Fetchit had learned from former champ Jack Johnson. For Fetchit, it was the dream of staging a comeback in a film where he would co-star with Clay."

The play (and history) show us that only one man would walk away victorious and it's not really a spoiler to reveal that Clay was to knockout Liston in the bout's first round, thanks to the "anchor punch" he learned from Fetchit and that the once-great actor was to walk away a broken man, destined to die in obscurity.

"Like all really good plays," shares MacAnuff, "it's all about the choices people make in moments of crisis. When the chips are down, how do you behave? That's how we learn what someone is really made of."

Power, a performer and artist known for his hip-hop work and solo shows as well as powerful plays such as The Seven, shows how Clay let himself be manipulated by outside political and religious forces, and banished Fetchit from his life after taking all he had to give.

It's fascinating to hear Power co-opt Clay's famous rhyming predictions ("When I'm done / He'll fall in one") and turn them into longer arias driven with a rap-like rhythm, while Fetchit's solo shuffle turns become agonized pieces of song and dance.

This compact two-hour play has all the impact of the anchor punch itself, and the reason lies in the speech where Power has Fetchit drop all pretence and admit that the fighter's strength lies in never forgetting all the pain and suffering that blacks have suffered at the hands of whites over the years.

It's a stunning reversal: the patsy becoming the victor, the butt of the jokes proving he was using the people who laughed at him all along.

In the hands of the great Ben Vereen, who makes Fetchit the most complicated and tragic of characters, this final moment of revelation becomes the stuff of great theatre.

McAnuff sets the action in a blindingly lit, sparsely furnished room resembling a boxing ring, reminding us that all of the play's conflicts are championship battles.

If there's one flaw in the evening, it's that Evan Parke, while capturing the sweetly simple spirit at the heart of Clay, fails to duplicate the charismatic ego that made him so magnetic, although it's possible to attribute some of that to an uncertain last-preview performance.

But apart from that, it's easy to see what drove McAnuff to Power's script.

One hopes that Fetch Clay, Make Man has a wide-ranging future after this Princeton debut. It certainly demonstrates that McAnuff, at his best, is a man of rare directorial skills and that he won't shy away from a fight if he thinks it has the potential for first-rate drama lurking inside it.


Bayonetta Gets Called To The Bar

www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360
Rated M

(January 16, 2010) Two years ago, when Devil May Cry 4 came out, I wrote about the dangers of the "Badass Arms Race," or BAR, wherein plain old machine guns and ninja moves weren't enough, where action-game characters had to constantly one-up each other in extreme kick-assery.

DMC4's Nero, I figured, was the atomic bomb in this scenario: not only did he have a huge gun, a swirly coat and an evil demon hand, but his giant sword came equipped with a magical motorcycle engine he could rev up to do extra motorbike-based damage to his enemies. How much further, I wondered, could the madness go?

Pretty far, it turns out. Nero was just a kiloton nuke;
Bayonetta is the megaton bomb, and game director Hideki Kamiya is the Edward Teller of the BAR.

Sexed-up to a point beyond parody – she's three-quarters leg and she licks magical power-up lollipops just like Kojak – Bayonetta doesn't just have a big fantasy gun, she has four of them: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, one for each hand and one attached to each mega-lift heel of her dominatrix boots. She doesn't have to choose between punching, kicking or shooting her enemies; she can (and does) shoot them as she punches and kicks them.

Then there's her long, black hair, which magically turns into giant boots and fists and dragon-jaws when she unleashes super magic attacks...and which is also actually her clothing – so when she's really rocking the heavy combos she's pretty much naked. Bayonetta is a witch-from-hell, she fights angels and her targeting reticule is a glowing pair of kissy-lips. She also bleeds rose petals and leaves a trail of butterflies when she runs and jumps.

Are you still with me? Okay, she can also turn into a panther.

Ridiculous, you say? I'd have thought so too, but somehow, in the context of the game, all this insanity manages to attain something like coherence.

In the Bayonetta-verse, style is will, and the crazier and more audacious your style, the greater your mojo. Style it up hard enough and space, time, physics, physiology, gravity and chemistry are playthings bending to your sheer awesomeness. In this world, Bayonetta's gear and moves aren't over-the-top; there is no top to be over, just pure escalation of style. Anything less than four guns, magic devil tresses and a panther-form, and Bayonetta wouldn't last a minute against the forces arrayed against her.

Bayonetta's beat-`em-up gameplay – though the uninitiated might not know it from looking at the constant onscreen chaos – is smooth and assured, combo flowing into combo with a satisfyingly organic feel. It's just a perfectly tuned action game, filled with big payoffs that coax you away from button-mashing and into mastery without being too uptight about it.

You've probably never woken up in the morning thinking, "Today, I'd really like to see a giant boot made of Satan's own hair kick an archangel in the face," but after a few hours with Bayonetta, you will.


In Haiti the Pain Continues But Help Finally Arrives


(January 16, 2010) *Precious water, food and early glimmers of hope began reaching parched and hungry earthquake survivors Saturday on the streets of this shattered city, where despair at times turned into a frenzy among the ruins.

“People are so desperate for food that they are going crazy,” said accountant Henry Ounche, in a crowd of hundreds who fought one another as U.S. military helicopters clattered overhead carrying aid.

When other Navy choppers dropped rations and Gatorade into a soccer stadium thronged with refugees, 200 youths began brawling, throwing stones, to get at the supplies.

Across the hilly, steamy city, where people choked on the stench of death, hope faded by the hour for finding many more victims alive in the rubble, four days after Tuesday’s catastrophic earthquake.

Still, here and there, the murmur of buried victims spurred rescue crews on, even as aftershocks threatened to finish off crumbling buildings.

“No one’s alive in there,” a woman sobbed outside the wrecked Montana Hotel. But hope wouldn’t die. “We can hear a survivor,” search crew chief Alexander Luque of Namibia later reported. His men dug on. Elsewhere, an American team pulled a woman alive from a collapsed university building where she had been trapped for 97 hours. Another crew got water to three survivors whose shouts could be heard deep in the ruins of a multistory supermarket that pancaked on top of them.

Get MORE of this AP report, HERE.

Video: President Obama launches drive for Haiti funds

Requiem For A Haitian Writer

Source: www.globeandmail.com

(January 18, 2010) Georges Anglade was a great bear of a man. If you stood for causes like free speech or the defence of minority cultures, he was a warm, embracing force. If you didn't, he was a formidable opponent equipped with a torrent of rich, terrifying language, a true model of the engaged writer.

He was one of the leading writers produced by the close relationship between Haiti and Canada. He was one of the founders of the University of Quebec in Montreal. But he was also an important player in the evolution of modern Haiti. In many ways, Montreal is one of the two cultural capitals of Haiti, along with Port-au-Prince. And as with the other writers in his situation, Georges's life enriched both Canada and Haiti. He was one of the proofs that Haiti is on the very short list of Canada's closest and richest relationships, often produced by large groups of initially unwilling exiles.

Georges's fiction and non-fiction came out of Haiti, but were marked by Canada. He was particularly known for his lodyan s, a Haitian literary form of short, explosive, comic stories, oral and written, to be declaimed on important occasions. One of his lodyan s describes a negotiation between the Pope and Castro over who has to pay what to whom in order to pull off a papal visit to Cuba, as compared to a visit by a Canadian prime minister.

Georges was central to the struggles over the last half-century to bring some sort of normalcy to Haiti. He was imprisoned in 1974, twice exiled, often lived with his life at risk, entered Haitian cabinet with the hope of improving people's lives. He was always moving back and forth between Canada and Haiti: two loves, in many ways a classic Canadian story of exile and commitment.

His last great campaign was aimed at creating a PEN Centre in Haiti. PEN-Quebec – of which he was an engaged board member – was strategic in this difficult work. It is no accident that so many of Haiti's writers live in exile. But if he could create a PEN Centre linking those in exile with those at home, he would have created some sort of safety net for those who might be in danger in the future. A writer alone in an unstable country is frighteningly alone. Writers in an organization through 102 countries have friends who will speak up and defend them.

The Haitian PEN Centre came into existence two years ago. I saw it functioning publicly for the first time at the International PEN Congress in Austria in October. Georges was its president and he was already a force, cutting across borders, with friends throughout Africa and North Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas. I knew that in my role as the new international president, he was not only a friend, but an important force for the freedom of literature.

Then came the earthquake, hours of not knowing, then the news that from beneath the rubble he had managed to call his daughter. But by the time they'd found him, both he and his wife, Mireille Neptune, were dead. It is hard to accept that such a force of nature could be stopped by nature. I will miss his friendship and his support for tough causes. But his legacy, beyond his writing and his memory, is the reality of PEN Haiti and all that he has done for that freedom of speech and thought which allows civilization to function.

Essayist and philosopher John Ralston Saul was elected president of International PEN in October, 2009. He is the former president of PEN Canada. Georges Anglade and his wife, Mireille, died in the collapse of their Port-au-Prince home. They were both 65 years old and had been married 43 years.

Erich Segal, 72: Wrote Love Story

Source: www.thestar.com - Meera Selva

(January 20, 2010) LONDON–Erich Segal, the Ivy League professor who attained mainstream fame and made millions sob as writer of the novel and movie Love Story, has died of a heart attack, his daughter said Tuesday. He was 72.

Francesca Segal said her father had suffered from Parkinson's disease for 25 years. His funeral was held in London on Tuesday.

Segal was a Yale classics professor and screenplay writer when he turned a proposed movie about two college students – preppy Oliver and smart-mouthed Jenny – into a novel. Published in 1970, Love Story was a weeper about a young couple who fall in love, marry and discover she is dying of cancer. It was a million seller guaranteed to make readers cry and critics scream.

A much bigger audience caught up with the film version, which starred Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw. Directed by Arthur Hiller, with a plaintive, Henry Mancini-composed theme song that wouldn't quit, Love Story gained seven Oscar nominations, including one for Segal for writing the screenplay, as well as Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor and Actress. It won one Oscar, for Best Music.

Segal also wrote a sequel, Oliver's Story, published in 1977 and made into a film with O'Neal again in the lead male role. Segal would later say that Oliver was based in part on a couple of Harvard undergraduates who later became well known: Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones. (He disputed that Jenny was based on Gore's future wife, Tipper).

He was adored and mocked. The famous Love Story line – "Love means never having to say you're sorry" – became a national catchphrase but provided endless fodder for jokes. John Lennon countered that "Love means having to say you're sorry every 15 minutes."

Even O'Neal parodied his earlier role. In the comedy What's Up Doc?, he responded to the famous line with the riposte, "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

A rabbi's son, born in New York City in 1937, Segal also had a long, distinguished academic career in classics, gaining a doctorate at Harvard and teaching at Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth while writing era-defining screenplays and novels. He worked on surreal popular works like the 1968 screenplay to the animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine while also publishing works on Greek tragedy, Latin poetry and ancient athletics.

Segal leaves wife Karen James, and daughters Francesca, 29, and Miranda, 20.


Tutumuch: Summer School For Aspiring Swans

www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb

Documentary directed by Elise Swerhone. 83 minutes. Limited engagement, Sunday to Wednesday at Cineplex Entertainment Theatres. G

 (January 16, 2010) So, what does it take to become a ballerina? According to 13-year-old Kayla from Calgary – prematurely wise but right on the money – most of it has to do with "determination and dedication." You can have the perfect body and all the facility in the world, but you've really got to want it to get it.

Kayla is one of nine featured ballet ducklings, some sporting teeth with braces, aspiring to become swans in
TutuMuch, the latest family friendly documentary from Winnipeg-based Merit Motion Pictures.

In a style that mixes cinéma vérité, reality television and a few drops of corn syrup, TutuMuch follows Kayla and her engaging companions as they endure the unforgiving rigours of a Royal Winnipeg Ballet School intensive summer course. Effectively it's a bunhead boot camp, serving as an extended audition for entry into the RWB Professional Division School, the same full-time program that graduated celebrated former prima ballerina, Evelyn Hart.

Over four weeks, 70 hopefuls – from preteens to flowering post-pubescents, culled from an applicant list of around 1,000 – are subjected to a progressive series of challenges that will test not just their physical abilities but, more importantly, their inner strength.

As we learn, being a ballerina may seem like a glamorous career, but the reality is daunting. Joint and muscle pain are givens. "Lots of pain; lots of gain," pronounces one of the beaming teachers. Then there are the bruised and blistered toes – thanks to those infernal pointe shoes that need beating and twisting into submission. And unlike most sports, where achievement is quantifiable, ballet is an art.

"You get to elevate your game to a new level," observes instructor Bruce Monk, assessing the summer school's benefits. But it's more than a game. In the end, for all the sweat and tears, career success will depend on the subjective judgment of an artistic director.

Producer MMP – often, as in this case, in association with award-winning Winnipeg filmmaker Vonnie Von Helmolt – has a string of RWB-centred dance films to its credit, including Ballet Girls, broadcast on Bravo! in December of 2006. Part two of that three-part miniseries focused on the RWB School summer intensive, and TutuMuch, also directed by Elise Swerhone, appears partly an exercise in creative recycling.

Among the carry-over subjects is petite, bespectacled ultra-social Alicja, who seems far less concerned about making the grade than does her doting mother. Another is an adorable 11-year-old Asian Winnipegger, Carmen, who though exhausted, still finds time to help in her parents' variety store. It's hard not to want to cheer when the fragile-seeming Carmen is accepted.

TutuMuch takes us into the ballet studio, but its dramatic threads are the personal experiences of the featured young ladies. We hear from their parents and former teachers but, most tellingly, from the girls themselves.

Some speak directly, almost confessionally into the camera. Others are observed. Roommates bond and try to reassure each other. They play games and call home. They down sundaes with unbridled relish. Although there are boys in the course, their social interactions with the girls appear minimal.

A more interesting film perhaps could have been made about boys in pursuit of a ballet career. Being a bunhead carries no particular social stigma. Boys must vault the prejudicial stereotype of men in tights. But the market for such a documentary would be minimal. TutuMuch is aimed at the majority audience of girls with dreams of Sugar Plum glory, and at the parents who must pay the price.


'Humbled' Skater Chan Aims For Olympic Gold

Source: www.thestar.com -
Rosie DiManno

(January 18, 2010) LONDON, ONT. - At around the four-minute mark of his program, about the point where Patrick Chan usually feels like "puking," he unleashed instead a furious and bedazzling piece of end-to-end footwork.

"Oooh, that's the best part," the 19-year-old enthused later, after the gold medal and title defended and the Olympic team jacket and the victory lap.

"I almost tripped at the end, if you look closely. That's how exciting it was. It almost knocked me off my blades."

Nothing, absolutely nothing, was about to knock the Toronto phenom off the top podium at the Canadian figure skating championships. His final combined score of 268.02 is a new Canadian – and world – record, surpassing the 264.41 set a year ago by Japan's Daisuke Takahashi. And it was nearly five ticks better than the 263.66 awarded Jeremy Abbott on Sunday night at the U.S. nationals, demolishing the American field. Abbott does quads; Chan doesn't. But maybe that won't matter come the Vancouver Olympics next month.

Now, admittedly, both Chan and Abbott were being scored by home-country judges. But still. Even a technical judge told Lori Nichol, Chan's new coach and long-time choreographer, that the exceptional footwork sequence in his Phantom of the Opera long program should be "revered." For Chan, there was simply boyish delight. "I was able to perform and not look like I had the face of pain."

The blazing foot flourish followed hot on the heels of a late double Axel, with eight triples – including a second triple Axel – already in the bag. Chan credits his high-altitude training in Colorado Springs – a decision that led to a severing with previous coach Donald Laws – for his stamina.

"After being in Colorado, I have that confidence. I know that I could do it at altitude so there's no problem doing it at sea level."

Vancouver is definitely at sea level.

That second wind propelled Chan through the last section of a beautifully designed program that emphasizes all his strengths: speed, artistry, technical command of spins and spirals, and showmanship. The spectacle brought a full house to its feet in roaring adoration.

"I feel awesome," Chan burbled to reporters. "I am really taken aback by everything that's happened. With all the hardship I had this season, I was able to come through with a good performance here. To put on that jacket, you suddenly realize: I'm really going to the Olympics!

"I'm humbled and happy."

Just a few months ago, Chan was rehabbing a calf injury, his competitive season hugely disrupted, a disappointing and worrisome sixth at Skate Canada. "I wish I had this a bit earlier. It's kind of last minute," he said of the timing that now seems perfect as he hits Olympic stride. "I cut it a little late. But that makes it exciting. To have this performance, I'm really relieved. I'm going to look forward to training now with a bit of weight off my shoulders."

The program, he adds, can yet be tweaked and improved. He didn't like his slightly over-rotated opening triple Axel or the two other triples that followed. It was Nichol who noticed that Chan looked a bit off, warming up before the music started. "She could see my blade was a little shaky and she was exactly right. Sometimes I have a tendency to get nervous and my legs aren't under me and I start shaking. We'll look into that and ... figure it out," he said, adding with a snort, "so that I don't miss the first three jumps in my program."

Silver, and an Olympic berth, went to Vaughn Chipeur, who displayed explosive amplitude on his slew of huge triples. "That skate has been a long time coming," he said with relief.

In fact, while the combined marks secured second place for Chipeur, it was actually bronze medallist Kevin Reynolds who finished second in the free skate. The 19-year-old knocked off two quads, the toe and the Salchow.

"It's bittersweet because I was so close to that Olympic team."

Chan said he can't wait to move into the Olympic village and suck up the whole Olympic experience.

But first ... there's the indulgence of one Big Mac in his immediate future.

"My trainer will kill me if he sees me with a burger. But why not? I think I'll treat myself."

Out Of Sync Chan Surges To Big Lead

www.thestar.com - Rosie DiManno

(January 16, 2010) LONDON, ONT.–The wide-eyed shock, the almost apologetic shrug of his shoulders – Patrick Chan's body language spoke volumes.

The defending Canadian men's figure skating champion could not believe the score he'd just heard: 90.14. Way out in first place. Way out of sync with the short program he'd just skated.

A good effort, but hardly in that gob smacking territory, a range achieved with top-level execution marks on spins and step sequences.

It's called, as one observer put it, "pumping the tires'' – which is what the judges appeared to have done for 19-year-old Chan on Friday night.

But they didn't necessarily do the skater a favour, making it this easy for Chan to put a chokehold on his third national title.

And he's too forthright an individual to pretend otherwise.

"I'll be honest,'' Chan told reporters immediately afterward. "I'm sure the other skaters are shaking their heads, thinking the same thing.''

Beneath the stands, as Chan performed his Tango de los Exilados routine – stop-gap coach Lori Nichol watching from the boards – Vaughn Chipeur was following the action on a TV monitor. The No. 2 Canadian male had just skated his heart out, acquitting himself beautifully and cleanly, drawing a standing ovation from the near sell-out crowd, pulling down a season-best score of 78.87.

On the ice, Chan opened with a huge amplitude triple Axel, easy as you please, but then put his hand down to land a triple flip that was supposed to be the front end of his required combination. When that didn't work, a quick-thinking Chan followed up with a double toe added to what had been planned as a free-standing triple. So he pulled off the combo, but it was still a triple-double.

Yet he was awarded so fulsomely anyway, although Chan noted he also had a small bobble in his straight-line footwork and was so behind the music he dumped a butterfly bit on his closing flourish.

Chipeur sucked it up.

"Can't complain,'' he said of his performance, but perhaps tacitly referring to the scoring outcome as well.

Chan arrived here, at the Canadian figure skating championship, sans the coach who'd been at his side for several years, veteran Donald Laws resigning that job just a week ago. There were question marks still associated with a calf injury that disrupted Chan's season.

But Friday's effort, if not vintage Chan, should lay doubts aside as to his preparedness for the Vancouver Olympics. The teenager is just fine. "I was like a racehorse, waiting to go out.''

It was a case of the shorts in other short program disciplines Friday – as in defending champions coming up just a tad shy of field leading results.

Joannie Rochette, looking for her sixth straight Canadian championship en route to Vancouver, will be looking to overtake from behind in this afternoon's free skate, a not uncommon state of affairs for the 23-year-old from Ile Dupas, Que.

The reigning world silver medallist was in precisely this same spot a year ago at nationals, trailing, as now, Cynthia Phaneuf, the 2004 champ.

In pairs competition, a keen battle for Olympic inclusion is being waged among the three top teams.

Surprisingly, it's the injury-comeback duo of Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay at the apex, heading into Saturday's long program. Defending champions Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison are second.

Tessa Virtue and Scott Muir continue to increase their formidable lead in ice dancing.

The adored local skaters posted a season-best score to win the original dance segment.

Pairs Skating: Dube, Davison Nail Gold

www.thestar.com - Rosie DiManno

(January 16, 2010) LONDON, ONT. – Hearts banging, breath held, an announcer’s dispassionate voice – and then the tears, oh the tears.

There was high drama at the
Canadian Figure Skating Championships Saturday afternoon as stunning competition unfolded among pairs teams for an Olympic berth.

Gold, silver and bronze were at stake, of course, and that did matter. But westward bound for the Winter Games was the crux of the thing.

When it was over, Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison had defended their Canadian title with a superb, ravishing long program that, if executed equally well next month, should bring that audience to its feet as it did this one at the John Labatt Centre.

But even that gorgeous performance was a bit eclipsed by the nail-biting tension as Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay – rather surprisingly, leaders after Friday’s short program – awaited their scores, final contestants in the competition. Dube and Davison, with a season best score of 135.40 and Canadian record 198.27 overall, had obviously nailed top-of-the-podium honours, untouchable. Langlois and Hay, however, were in the battle of their lives with challengers Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin, who were third after the short program but charging strong, wildly cheered to standing O appreciation after their Piano Selection long routine.

As Duhamel and Buntin waited alongside reporters in the bowels of the arena – and it was an interminable wait, seemed to take forever – the marks for Langlois and Hay were finally delivered: 117.95, a season best, and 183.42 for the combined score. Good enough for silver, good enough for Vancouver, although the official word on that was withheld, pending an evening press conference by Skate Canada.

Bronze placement score: 109.80 and 172.18.

Duhamel buried her head in Buntin’s shoulder and wept; then both skaters were embraced consolingly by their coaches.

For 29-year-old Buntin, pervious paired with the since-retired Valerie Marcoux (11th at the 2006 Olympics), there will likely be no future Games with Duhamel. Both spoke afterwards with sobs in their throats and tears spilling over.

“We did everything we could out there,’’ said Buntin. “Tonight, there were two teams that did more.’’

Added Duhamel, 24: “That’s the best we could do right now. And it sucks. And it would have sucked whoever came third.’’

To be clear, it wasn’t the performance that sucked. The team went nearly clean – Buntin fell on a side-be-side double Axel – and definitely entertained; Duhamel was particularly valiant in holding a throw triple loop that was all crooked in the air but somehow straightened out on the landing, as if defying physics.

Langlois and Hay – on the comeback trail following her surgery for a broken fibula, metal plate inserted and then removed at Langlois’ insistence – had a couple of bobbles too, skating to Grand Canyon Suite, including a messed-up jump combination and some just barely held landings on throws. But they also squeezed out execution points by holding spins and lifts for the count-by-count duration and adding the small technical details (such as Langlois grabbing her foot in an overhead lift) that plump out marks.

“It felt like a month before the marks came up and it felt like a year in between the warm-up and our skate,’’ said Hay, of their last-up program. “It was stressful back here. We heard the crowd reaction. We knew everyone else was skating well. And then, obviously, we made some mistakes today as well.

“We knew it would be close. It was nerve-wracking, sitting there, waiting.’’

Langlois has been to the Olympics before, with previous partner Patrice Archetto. She and Hay were national champions in 2008.

Mylene Brodeur and John Mattatall finished a not distant fourth, with a score of 167.01.

The intense competition for Olympics inclusion augers well for the future of pairs skating in Canada, where this has always been a strong discipline.

“There are three great teams in Canada,’’ noted Duhamel. “Canada is lucky to have such a strong pairs program. I think that’s why we had such good skating today. We pushed each other.

“Craig and I are going to leave here with our heads held high.’’

And a postscript from the gracious Buntin: “I hope this whole Canadian team goes out and waves the Canada flag high.’’

In Praise Of Unsung Hero Amir Johnson

Source: www.thestar.com -
Doug Smith

(January 18, 2010) There is no pretense to Amir Johnson, a guy who knows what he is and what's asked of him, a basketball grinder who does not go seeking glory, caring only about doing his job.

He is energy and effort, not much flash but all kinds of substance and his contribution to a significant Raptors victory should not be underestimated.

The 6-foot-9 forward, surely the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the first half of the season for the Raptors, was instrumental in a 110-88 pasting of the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday afternoon.

He guarded Dirk Nowitzki and ran the floor, he finished at the rim and was active on the glass, and he provided a huge boost in the decisive second quarter. When it comes time for the Unsung Hero award, it has to go to Johnson.

"I know my role here," the 22-year-old Californian said. "When I come off that bench, I'm pretty much running the floor, getting guys open, getting rebounds, doing anything I can do to give our team a lift. We pretty much didn't need it (Sunday) because everybody had energy. We played hard."

But none, really, played harder than Johnson, as has been the case in the overwhelming majority of Raptors games this season. He unfailingly tries to provide a spark, seldom goes long stretches where he's uninvolved and for a team that was counting on the still-injured Reggie Evans to provide work ethic off the bench, he's filled in admirably.

"Everything he gets is hustle," coach Jay Triano said of Johnson. "Roll hard to the basket and if they don't collapse, he's going to finish the play; if they do collapse, he's going to get somebody on the weak side open for a jump shot and I think he did a real good job creating both those opportunities for us."

The Raptors were full measure for a thorough beat-down of a team that came in with the second-best record in the NBA's Western Conference. Toronto took control of the game in the second quarter and didn't cede it in the third.

They held Nowitzki in check with a variety of defensive looks – everyone from Chris Bosh to Johnson to Antoine Wright to Andrea Bargnani got a piece of him – and were never really threatened.

"It was great for us to defend our home court and we really needed to start beating good teams, especially here," said Bosh, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds, getting the last 8 1/2 minutes of the game off as Toronto won going away.

"To get where we want to go, we have to win big games and (Sunday) was a big game. We came out prepared and I'm really proud of my guys for the way they played."

The win got Toronto one game over .500 at 21-20, into a virtual tie for fifth place in the East, and was the kind of all-around effort that's been lacking at times this season.

"We played like a team," said Jose Calderon, whose excellent second quarter keyed a 34-18 Raptors run that gave them a 13-point halftime lead. "That was a great win for us against the second-best team in the West. We played for 48 minutes, everyone was ready to play and do things on the court.

"I think we beat a really good team. Every win is good but against them it's a little bit better. We owed them because of the game down there (earlier this season) – they beat us pretty good. We knew that and we were ready for them."

The Raptors had six steals and forced 11 turnovers that led to 18 points, the kind of aggressive defence Triano has been demanding.

"We kept sharing the basketball and moving, had great energy at the defensive end of the floor that leads to deflections and leads to transition points, leads to guys sharing the basketball, and I thought we did a good job in all those aspects," said Triano.

So, was it the team's best game?

"I have to watch the tape and look at it," he said. "I'm sure, as a coach, we're going to find small flaws here and there but as long as our energy's good and we keep contesting and playing at the defensive end, I think we can find ways to score."

Lesnar Returns, No Thanks To Canada

Source: www.thestar.com -
Cathal Kelly

(January 20, 2010) UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar called his recovery from a colon illness a “miracle” on Wednesday.

Announcing that he plans to resume his fighting career this summer, the former professional wrestler thanked just about everyone for supporting him. One notable exception was the Canadian medical staff who first treated him after his collapse.

It was Lesnar’s first televised interview since mysteriously vanishing from public view in mid-November. At the time, Ultimate Fighting Championship boss Dana White hinted cryptically that Lesnar’s life and career were in jeopardy. Later, he said that Lesnar had had surgery. That wasn’t true.

Wednesday, Lesnar told ESPN that his doctors informed him in October that his recurring stomach pain was due to mononucleosis.

“That didn’t sound right to me,” Lesnar said.

Nevertheless, he cancelled his upcoming title fight and headed off to western Canada on a hunting trip.

“I got up there and still didn’t feel right. I had severe stomach pain. And one night I woke up and I was in severe shock,” Lesnar said. “I had 104 (F) temperature and felt like I was shot in the guts. I went to the hospital in Canada, realized quickly that I had to get out of Canadian health care and get down to Bismarck (North Dakota), into the United States.”

Apparently, the irony of rushing back to the place where he’d first been misdiagnosed was lost on the 265 lb. wrestler.

However, this time, he said they got it right – telling him he had a ruptured diverticuli.

“I had a hole in my stomach,” Lesnar said.

He told ESPN that it was touch-and-go for weeks as to whether he would need to have a portion or all of his colon removed, ending his athletic career. He says his 11-day stay in hospital cost him 40 lbs. of body weight.

Then, in the new year, a “miracle.”

“(The doctors) were dumbfounded,” Lesnar said. “They couldn’t find any signs of any trouble with my stomach.

“I’ve had three or four different opinions. I’ve had colonoscopies (sic) done and CT scans done. There’s literally no sign of anything even existing in there,” Lesnar said. “I believe that the mind is a powerful thing.”

His boss, White, echoed the miracle theme. He said that the current plan is to have heavyweight contenders Shane Carwin and Frank Mir fight in March for an interim heavyweight champion designation. The winner will fight Lesnar in “the summer,” according to White.

“It’s been a crazy ride,” White said.


Motivational Note

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you. 

Source:  Lao Tzu