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July 8, 2010

Hello to all my loyal and devoted distribution!  It's me, Dawn - the woman behind the newsletter.  (Hey, it's very possible that not everyone knows this ... )  I wanted to take a time out to say thank you for your unwavering support, your kind words of encouragement and for forwarding my newsletter to your friends and family.  I'm coming up with ways to improve and streamline this newsletter for you which may mean a little change of focus and hopefully changes that you will not only notice and support but will make this a more useful tool for you.  I'm simply at the idea stage and want to make this a more personal experience for both of us.  Thanks to a new friend who has given me some divine guidance in this area. 

Speaking of supporters,
Elaine Overholt has been such an incredibly supportive reader and professional support for me.  Not to mention that she is exceptionally talented and has influenced so many famous people that we all know as well as ordinary people in her voice training seminars and DVDs.  NOW, she has her own TELEVISION SHOW (entitled BIG VOICE) which premieres this coming Tuesday on the W Network.  Please check out what the show is about under SCOOP

Now,  I must mention again
Sheryl Crow's newest release, 100 Miles from Memphis!  This newest product from Sheryl is personal and reflects her roots.  Check it out folks!

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


Big Voice Sings On W Network – Tuesday, July 20 and 27, 2010

Source:  www.mediaincanada.com - by Melita

A vocal coach who has worked to strengthen the pipes of celebrities like Renée Zellweger and John Travolta is helping train women in the GTA in a new series for the W Network, debuting this July.
Elaine Overholt, who has an impressive resume and has even helped train a few Oscar winners for their roles in musicals like Chicago,  puts her skills to the test in Big Voice, a 30-minute series produced by W Network and Toronto-based Lenz Entertainment. Each week, a team of experts - stylists, choreographers and photographers - gives a performance makeover to a woman who aspires to sing on the stage of a nightclub or to sing a duet with a celebrity.

BIG VOICE with Elaine Overholt - Series Premiere on The W Network

What would happen if
Elaine Overholt's* passion and teaching techniques were passed along to everyday women who always dreamed of performing, but lacked either the confidence or the opportunity to perform in front of an audience, be it big or small?

BIG VOICE produced by Lenz Entertainment, takes these everyday women on an incredible journey, that begins with 5 weeks of vocal boot camp and culminates on stage, where they face their fears and live their dream.

Watch the series premiere on The W Network:

Tuesday July 13, 2010 8-10pm - 4 episodes
Tuesday July 20, 2010 8-10pm - 4 episodes
Tuesday July 27, 2010 7:30-10pm - 5 episodes

Note from Dawn: I’ll always remember watching the Golden Globes when Richard Gere thanked Elaine Overholt PERSONALLY for being his vocal coach during the filming of the movie 'Chicago'!

to a woman who aspires to sing on the stage of a nightclub or to sing a duet with a celebrity.

Sheryl Crow’s ‘100 Miles from Memphis’

Source: Universal Music Canada

Sheryl Crow, the title of her seventh album isn't just a location; it's a state of mind. "I grew up in a small town 100 miles from Memphis, and that informed not only my musical taste, but how I look at life," she says. "The drive to Memphis is all farmland, and everyone is community-oriented, God-fearing people, connected to the earth. The music that came out of that part of the world is a part of who I am, and it's the biggest inspiration for what I do and why I do it."

SHERYL CROWS's '100 Miles From Memphis' will be released everywhere on July 20th, or you can pre-order it on iTunes now and receive a bonus track HERE.

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ‘100 Miles From Memphis’!

Sheryl Crow explains that the way 100 Miles From Memphis was recorded is crucial to its slinky grooves and rolling rhythms. Produced by Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley ("I knew they could get that old soul feeling with authenticity," she says), and cut mostly live with a regular crew of musicians, the album presented a new set of challenges for her as a singer and a songwriter.

"This wasn't like any other record I've made," she says. "We cut two, three, sometimes four tracks a day, for ten or twelve days. We wrote a lot of music, and then I had to write lyrics later, to catch up. That was definitely a new experience, feeling like I had to do homework. It was super-daunting."

What emerged was a set of songs that are unusually open and direct for someone often celebrated for the care and craft of her writing. "This music called for emotion, a place of sensuality and sexuality, and that's a little challenging for me," she says. "Sometimes it's easier for me to hide behind more intellectual lyrics. So it was a great stretching experience to show more vulnerability in my writing."

Though the album features a tighter focus on Crow's voice than ever before, a few high-profile guest stars did stop by the sessions.  When she cut "Eye to Eye," with its loping reggae groove, there was only one guitarist she could imagine adding his signature slashing riffs to the mix-her old friend Keith Richards. "He has been such a champion for me, and the Stones gave me so many breaks along the way, from very early on," she says. (When Richards recorded his part at Electric Lady studios, the New York City facility built for Jimi Hendrix, he started reminiscing about the incomparable guitar wizard; "we were all like little kids at story hour," says Crow.) Citizen Cope appears on a hazy, impassioned duet of his "Sideways," a song Crow says she has long wanted to record and one of several string-heavy arrangements on 100 Miles From Memphis.

Another guest confirms her appeal across generations. A Memphis native named Justin Timberlake dropped by one of Crow's sessions at Henson Studios in Los Angeles (the former A&M studio), and offered to contribute background vocals to a version of Terence Trent D'Arby's 1987 smash "Sign Your Name" that was being recast in the style of Al Green, right down to the distinctive thud of the Hi Records drums. "He's hysterical and super-smart, and he knows a lot about a lot of different kinds of music," Crow says. "I'm totally impressed in every way."

The final surprise, for both the singer and the listener, came out of a run through of an obscure Marvin Gaye song called "It's a Desperate Situation." The melody reminded Crow of "I Want You Back," the Jackson 5's breakthrough 1970 hit, and she started singing those words. Her natural vocal range sounds uncannily like Michael Jackson's, and when Bramhall and Stanley heard it, they insisted on recording the song then and there. The album's "bonus track" was done in one take; they even had to add the song's introduction afterwards because they had gone straight into the lyric.

Crow, of course, first reached the spotlight as a back-up singer with Michael Jackson, and adds that "I Want You Back" was the first single she ever bought.  "It wasn't a conscious choice to do an homage, but it wound up being a very bittersweet thing," she says. "Michael's death brought a lot of stuff back for me, so it was nice that we could include this."

For Sheryl Crow, 100 Miles From Memphis is the right album at the right moment. "My last record (2008's Detours) was pretty political, extremely personal, and more lyric-driven," she says, "so it seemed like a great time to do something soulful and sexy and more driven by the music." It took a lot of years, but with this set of songs, she finally made it back home.


Exclusive Video: Melanie Fiona's Great Performances

Source:  By Karu F. Daniels

(June 29, 2010) If you don't know it yet,
Melanie Fiona is a force to be reckoned with.

Last year was a whirlwind year for the 26-year-old R&B singer-songwriter, with many career highlights, including collaborating with Kanye West, John Legend, The Roots and the release of her eagerly anticipated debut opus, 'The Bridge.'

This year, the Canada native was nominated for four BET Awards and received Grammy, Juno, and NAACP Image Award nods.

To close out Black Music Month, Blackvoices.com asked the SRC Records/Universal Motown star to perform an acoustic set, showcasing her true vocal dynamism and her musical excellence.

Eric McCormack: Onstage Reunion For Former Will & Grace Star

Source: www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski

(July 05, 2010) It'll be a reunion of sorts for TV star Eric McCormack when he returns north of the border to take the lead in the theatre staple Glengarry Glen Ross in Vancouver later this month.

The former Will & Grace star says he'll be among pals when he stars in the classic David Mamet tale about cutthroat real estate agents at the Arts Club Theatre.

“It's been a long time gestating (and) the cast, we're all old friends,” the L.A.-based McCormack said recently while attending the Banff World Television Festival.

“Bart Anderson and I went to theatre school together; Gerry Plunkett, his wife and I went to theatre school together; my friend Vince Gale, we did Dracula at the Arts Club 16 years ago. These guys have known each other a long time, we are ready to play these parts and I can't wait to sink my teeth in it.”

It'll also be a return to his first love, the stage. The Toronto-bred McCormack cut his teeth in musical theatre and describes his high school self as akin to the fictional singing-obsessed teens on the TV show Glee.

Since then, he's weathered ups and downs in his acting career, but revels in the fact he's been able to dabble in each of the diverse fields he once envisioned for himself as a starry-eyed kid.

"My dreams were always scattered," says McCormack, who will head to Toronto in the fall to accept a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.

"I wanted to be Maxwell Smart (on TV's Get Smart)and I wanted to be on the Stratford stage and I wanted it all. Eventually I wanted a sitcom and so, to be able to keep playing in all those ballparks is pretty fun."

McCormack shot to international fame with his Will & Grace role as tightly wound gay lawyer Will Truman, and four years after the show's demise he openly laments not being able to follow up with another hit show on prime-time TV.

Last year, the actor believed he'd scored a long-running smash in the TNT series Trust Me, a dramedy about advertising that co-starred fellow Canuck Tom Cavanagh (it aired in Canada on Super Channel). It was cancelled after 13 episodes.

“I was so proud of everything about that show and yet it just didn't take off,” McCormack says.

“It didn't have much of a platform and when it went down, after only 13 (episodes) I was so sad. I really was, because it was exactly where I wanted to be. Having played a big network show I was quite content to be on the cable show with two million people watching because I loved the actual show itself.”

Besides his upcoming stage outing, McCormack is working on a range of other projects.

There's the outrageous Funny Or Die skit making the rounds online, in which McCormack plays a sex-ed teacher out to warn high school teens about “finger babies.”

He just completed filming a supporting role in the Canadian feature Textuality, also featuring Sex and the City hunk Jason Lewis and 24's Carly Pope.

And then there's his foray into feature film production with a screenplay he's co-written based on former Toronto Star columnist Linwood Barclay's book No Time for Goodbye.

He would appear in the film as well as produce, provided he can find the right actress and drum up public funding help from Telefilm.

“It's a great thriller. And with the right actress I think it could be a great little independent,” says McCormack.

McCormack says a more mature Canadian film and TV landscape is making it easier for him and other expat stars to work in their homeland after finding success elsewhere.

“There's just more to come back to,” he says, adding that he developed a show for the CBC a year and a half ago that the network abandoned.

“(Before), if you wanted anything beyond the Canadian players, you simply had to go south. And now a lot of people go south because they've had success here, that's the difference. It's a big difference.”

America Discovers Our Marco Polo

Source: www.eurweb.com - Christian K. Pearce

(July 04, 2010) With Drake blowing the roof off Toronto’s hip hop profile, it would be easy to miss the inroads that local producers have also been making. While Scarborough’s Boi-1da has been laying the foundation for crossover hits by the likes of Kanye West and Eminem, Richmond Hill’s Marco Polo has been carving out a space for himself and his city beneath the surface.

The hip hop refugee — in 2001, MP left friends and family in T.O. to advance his career and connect with rap legends in N.Y. — has put out three LPs in less than two years, becoming a go-to beat-maker for hardcore lyricists.

His influences are clear — early, gritty Gran Manzana underground — but so too is his independence. Rejecting hip-hop clichés, he eschews materialistic ambitions and intoxication, rocking simple attire sans bling and dieting on caffeine and nicotine instead of firewater and weed during lengthy studio sessions.

“I was drawn to Marco's production for his tasteful sample selections laced over driving beats,” says Dru Ha, founder of Duck Down Records, which MP now calls home. “To me that's always been the ‘boom bap’ hip hop sound that we have been drawn to. Marco finds a way to consistently deliver that style.”

Marco Polo, praised recently by XXL magazine for his “dark, sample-laden productions,” leads a young pack of local producers — which includes Rich Kidd, Frank Dukes, and Moss — who prioritize making heads over making their pockets full. As police cars smouldered just blocks away on G20 last Saturday, a relaxed Marco settled into a couch backstage at Queen West’s Great Hall, sparking a Newport as he powwowed with The Star hours before his “Beat Showcase” concert, and days before the release of his compilation disc, The Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo.

Explain your decision to leave Toronto for New York, and some of the challenges you faced in those early years?

There were a lot of challenges. It was really intimidating to leave Richmond Hill and Malton and all the areas I grew up in, to go to Queens where I first lived, and then work in the studio, the Cutting Room, that was recording all that early Rawkus stuff that was essentially gonna turn in to classic albums, like Mos Def (Black on Both Sides), Reflection Eternal (Train of Thought), and Pharoahe (Internal Affairs), and to be around them instantly.

From being at the Harris Institute for the Arts in Toronto, to them promising me an internship in the industry and that really not working out, to taking it into my own hands and ending up (in NY) literally a month later was very intimidating. But it was the greatest thing I ever did because I was rubbing elbows with the exact people I wanted to work with right away. And I was giving them my beats, and I didn’t hear anything back in that initial stage for like six months. I would find my CDs in the garbage and I’d be like, “Okay, that’s what’s happening.” But I just get kept working on my beats, passing them out, and eventually I connected with some people, and one of them being Masta Ace.

What are the best and worst things about Toronto’s hip-hop scene nowadays?

One of my issues with the Toronto scene is we definitely like to pay a lot of attention to what New York and the other big markets are doing. And we have our own unique flavour to offer, and I think it’ll be cool to see a bit more of that. Sometimes when I come back and listen to Flow I feel like I’m listening to a manifestation of Jay-Z or Lil Wayne, and that at times can be frustrating … The best thing is we got a lotta dope s--t! Obviously I’m biased, but just based on the line-up of producers I have in this event: we’re not good Canadian producers, we’re good producers.

What’s it like being signed to Duck Down Records?

It’s great man. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to put out consistent projects on the best, or one of the best, independent labels to exist… They definitely take chances on up-and-coming artists, and I’m an example of that. ’Cause putting out projects like Double Barrel and eXXecution in 2010 can sometimes not be financially rewarding, just cause of the way things are. So for them to support the things that I do is big.

What’s the concept of Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo?

It’s definitely a compilation album. When I do the Port Authority series, I consider those official albums that I make top to bottom to connect and flow as a cohesive project. The Stupendous Adventures of Marco Polo is really a collection of songs from about 2004 to the present — a lot of good material that missed deadlines.

DJ Premier is your favourite producer. What have you learned from his example?

The thing I’ve learned the most from Primo is to be a stubborn son of a bitch, and just do what you do in any situation. And I think he gives me hope in major label situations, because when he comes to the table to do something left field like Christina Aguilera, he’s not changing his s--t – he’s doing Primo beats for Christina Aguilera.

What do you hope your legacy will be?

I just want people to associate my name with consistency and quality. Just like how we all grew up on Primo and Pete Rock. And growing up in Toronto every Tuesday you’d go down to Play De Record, and you could see all the records on the wall, and just based on who it said it was produced by, sometimes you wouldn’t even listen to it. You’d just be like, “Oh, Pete Rock? Coppin’ that.”

Dutch Vanquish World Cup Bad Guys

www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(July 06, 2010) CAPE TOWN - A few years ago, I went to a music festival in the middle of a farmer’s field in Holland. I’m not sure where. I didn’t drive. And like everyone else there, I drank a lot.

The highlight of the thing was a still relatively unknown Radiohead. They played in the mid-afternoon. It was overcast. They were astounding.

In the middle of their set, some idiot in front of us opened an enormous golf umbrella. It obscured the band, the stage and most of Western Europe.

The Dutch crowd grumbled. Grumbling turned into cursing. And still the umbrella stood.

An angry, over-refreshed Belgian — one of the guys I’d come with — turned Nederlandish thoughts into actions. He shoved his way through the mob, snatched the umbrella out of the gaping idiot’s hands and flung it to the ground. The crowd cheered.

A few minutes passed. A guy standing beside us said something mournful in Dutch. The angry Belgian nodded in agreement. So did everyone else.

“He’s right, you know,” the angry Belgian slurred in English.

“What’d he say?”

“He says that now that the umbrella is gone, we miss the umbrella.”

Holland, now that Uruguay is gone, do you miss Uruguay?

Probably not yet. They’re not much fun to play.

Uruguay’s boisterous urge to play the villain here has verged on cartoonish. The South Americans couldn’t have been more black hat if they’d worn capes and fielded a fullback named Vader.

The Luis Suarez handball was one thing. The unrepentant celebrations that followed it another. The withering criticism that followed only seemed to feed Uruguay’s resilience and outsider snarl.

That amazing quality was on full display during their 3-2 semi-final loss on Tuesday night.

The Dutch stuck a knife in them early — an impossible, swirling 35-metre strike from Giovanni von Bronckhorst in the 18th minute.

The Uruguayans shrugged. They marched to the other end of the field to issue a statement of intent. Defender Martin Caceres turned over to strike a ball in the air and kicked Dutchman Demy De Zeeuw full in the chops. De Zeeuw crumpled. Caceres did the old, “What’d I do?” thing with his arms and then faked a terrible maiming when Wesley Sneijder stumbled in to arbitrate.

No, not much fun to play at all.

Uruguay evened from an equally brilliant strike by Diego Forlan, who’s been the most valuable player in this tournament thus far. He’s not going to win that award, but regardless of what happens from here on in, he deserves it. I mean, Uruguay? The semifinals? Lay that achievement at the laser-guidance system Forlan calls a right foot.

In keeping with the telenovela feel that envelops Forlan’s side, it had to come apart controversially.

Just as Uruguay seemed to be taking over the game in the second half, Dutchman Sneijder snapped in a speculative shot through a crowd. It struck a Uruguay defender, narrowly missed Dutch forward Robin van Persie and skidded into the corner of the net. Replays showed van Persie narrowly offside and certainly involved in the play. But no flag was raised. The Uruguayans flipped. With respect, ask Ghana how sorry we should be feeling for them this morning.

Uruguay’s focus blurred, allowing the Dutch a too-easy third goal off the head of Arjen Robben.

With 15 minutes left, the Dutch began a premature celebration. Don’t they get horror films in Holland? Three bullets are never enough to kill the bad guy.

Inevitably, Uruguay pulled one back. The final minutes were riveting chaos. The Dutch manned panic stations and held — but only just. Once it ended, recriminations inevitably followed. The benches cleared. A brawl looked imminent. Until everyone remembered they were soccer players.

There will be plenty of time between now and Sunday to lionize the Dutch and chart their march toward history.

For now, let’s remember that at some point — and maybe not very soon — we’re going to miss Uruguay.


Living In Rihanna’s World

www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow

At GM Place Vancouver
On Sunday

(July 5, 2010) “This is a dream... Welcome to
Rihanna's world.”

The words appear on a giant screen that shows the songstress asleep in an electric blue space capsule as Mad
House plays behind.

The screen recedes and, wearing a floor-length, surprisingly demure black ball gown, Rihanna appears on a raised platform singing Russian Roulette. She cocks her finger, points at the audience and shoots.

The last time the Barbadian singer played GM Place, she was supporting Kanye West, high on the breezy pop success of Umbrella and Don’t stop the Music.

Two years later, there’s a darker edge to the music – the 2009 album Rated R was recorded following the very public blow up of her relationship with Chris Brown – and there’s nothing soft about this new show.

Jack-booted dancers carry pink machineguns, while a hot-pink tank sits to one side of the stage.

As the back projection goes into overdrive with militaristic imagery, Rihanna strips down to a pair of high-cut pale pink panties and a revealing matching jacket with oversized epaulettes – and straddles the tank’s gun.

Bang! It goes off.

Though she cancelled what should have been the opening night of the north American leg of her Last Girl on Earth tour in Seattle on Friday, citing production problems, the Vancouver gig goes off without a hitch.

Dancers in bondage gear dangle from giant silver guns, a car enters through the floor, dry ice shoots up, confetti drops down and Rihanna herself reappears after each costume change using a variety of mechanical devices.

There’s certainly plenty to look at – not least the ridiculously pretty singer and her perfect bod. When she struts high above our heads in thigh-high rubber boots and spray-on body suit, tossing her flame-red coif to the beat of Rockstar 101, she couldn’t be more convincing in the part.

During Disturbia, she’s stalked by creepy-looking, red-eyed stilt-walking beasts; Wait your Turn sees her in a rubber bra and suspenders combo while hundreds of robots march on film behind her.

The strongest tracks from album Rated R are also the best live: Hard, Wait Your Turn, Rude Boy and Te Amo. Crowd pleasers from those earlier, sunnier times – Don’t Stop the Music, Take a Bow and, of course, Umbrella – do their job.

The only jarring note of an otherwise pumping show is the over-long ballad section that threatens to destroy all the momentum that’s been building steadily. With Hate That I Love You, Rehab, Unfaithful and Stupid In Love all sung one after another and either sitting down or reclining, the energy sags despite her impressive pipes.

But once the tempo is turned back up, all is forgotten – for sure, it’s easy to be seduced by a cover of Sheila E’s The Glamorous Life, with Rihanna driving the drums herself.

Even when her final outfit – a kind of futuristic French Maid get-up – suddenly inflates, adding bizarre water-wing-like affairs to the sleeves, she manages to look cool.

She finishes with a grin, grabs her crotch, thrusts her hips forward, and shouts: “Dance bitch.”

“The dream is over,” says the video screen. “Wake up.”

Free Concert A Crowd-Pleasing End To Jazz Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(July 04, 2010) The TD Toronto Jazz Festival overcame a bumpy start to end its 24th edition on a high note with a free concert that drew traffic-blocking crowds to Yonge-Dundas Square.

Music lovers began flocking to the plaza early Saturday afternoon for the evening’s R&B double bill of
Chaka Khan and Macy Gray, marking the soft closing of the 10-day event, which officially wound up Sunday with about two dozen club shows.

Preceded onstage by Quebec gypsy jazz trio Lost Fingers, the two divas rocked the crows with their big hair, distinct voices and quirky personalities.

Khan, the more robust singer, performed first — consensus among attendees was that she should have been the headliner — cutting a swath through hits such as “Through the Fire,” “Sweet Thing” and “I’m Every Woman,” doffing shoes and amusing with banter about legalizing marijuana and buying property in Canada.

Gray was slower into the groove, with microphone feedback and unfamiliar songs from a brand new album — yet the crowd warmed to her and stuck around for smash closer “I Try.”

A hip-to-hip audience filled the square, extending across Yonge St. to the Eaton Centre sidewalk. Not since late-’90s University Ave. gigs of Maceo Parker and Bela Fleck has the festival mounted a free show with major headliners.

The event’s inaugural use of the square was an opportunity to test the venue’s infrastructure ahead of next summer’s 25th anniversary, when Nathan Phillips Square, the longtime location of the festival’s mainstage for ticketed marquee concerts, is expected to be under construction, said festival executive producer Pat Taylor.

The Metro Hall grounds are also being considered for the temporary home of the jazz festival’s 1,000-seater tent.

This edition overcame a disappointing opening-weekend crowd attributed to the G20 summit — although the nearby June 26 riot didn’t stop fans from filling the Nathan Phillips tent for Herbie Hancock. A protest at City Hall two days later delayed the Dave Young Quartet’s mainstage opening-act gig about 20 minutes.

Among the shows tongues that still have tongues wagging were the Stanley Clarke Trio, The Roots and Martha Wainwright. The Koerner Hall Series, which featured Nikki Yanofsky, David Sanborn, Roy Hargrove Big Band and Dave Brubeck, sold out or close to it, and Taylor has already reserved next year’s dates at the venue. Experimental jazz didn’t fare as well at Enwave Theatre where tickets for Dave Douglas, James Farm and Miguel Zenon stalled at about 50 per cent.

With 11 per cent of the festival’s attendees hailing from the U.S., Taylor cited the G20 specifically for the 600 or so seats that went unsold for Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Jarrett. An advisory from American officials warning residents to avoid Toronto during the summit didn’t help.

“Those shows should have sold out,” he said. “We got calls from out-of-town — the upstate New York people that we market to — about the travel advisory or being unable to find hotels because of the G20.”

Along with the $100,000 Sheraton Hotel contract the festival lost when the facility was designated a G20 hotel, the event seems well positioned to seek a rebate from feds.

“If you tell me where to apply I’ll do it,” said Taylor, standing in the midst of the crowd during the break before Gray’s Yonge-Dundas Square set Saturday. “I think that’s fiction. I just thank people for weathering the storm opening weekend — the payoff is all around us.”

There’s no word on acts yet for the 2011 silver anniversary, besides the standing invitation to piano dean Dave Brubeck and perhaps more big free shows if grants or sponsorships allow. A word to organizers, however: avoid booking concurrent shows at Yonge-Dundas Square and the adjacent Hard Rock Café, as New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott fought to maintain focus Saturday night on the café’s second floor stage, as sounds of Gray seeped in.

Seven Months Of Work, 20 Seconds Of Music

Source: www.eurweb.com - Ashante Infantry

(July 03, 2010) Trumpeter Christian Scott isn’t just blowing smoke when he says his new latest album, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, was more difficult to produce than the previous four.

Just listen to him describe what went into the introduction to the disc’s opening track “K.K. P. D” – Ku-Klux Police Department – played by guitarist (and Toronto native) Matthew Stevens and drummer Jamire Williams.

“There’s about six to seven months worth of work that went into that first 20 seconds of music,” said Scott by phone to the Star as he walked to his Harlem, N.Y., apartment.

“I wanted to make sure that the sounds of the instruments embodied the characteristics of the musical culture that permeates in the geographic area that I was trying to illuminate. I had Matthew listen to a whole bunch of music from Pulaski, Tenn., which is where the Ku Klux Klan started. Whether from white or African American musicians, I wanted him to know exactly what made the guitar sound the way it did in that area.

“Then, there was the psychology of the human being that I’m trying to speak on in this composition. What are the psychological permutations of the person that naturally hates other people without anything to substantiate that? Is there an undercurrent of self hate; and if there is, what does self hate sound like?

“What’s the easiest way to make something sound like it hates itself other than to pull the instrument apart? I said ‘I want it to sound like you’re pulling the instrument apart, but I also want it to have these qualities.’ He had to find a technique that made sense in that context.”

In representing the African Diaspora, Williams had it marginally easier, having only to trace the history of drumming from West Africa, through the Caribbean and New Orleans, to the varied styles of jazz innovators such as Baby Dodds, Chick Webb, Roy Haynes and Max Roach, concluding with the 808 bass drums of hip-hop.

“Then I had him collapse all of those rhythms into a concept,” said Scott, “and I told those two guys to make it sound like they were fighting each other musically.”

All that for 20 seconds of music?


With that kind of diligence, the cavalier attitude of many listeners seems criminal.

“My friends say that all the time – ‘You shouldn’t do so much work, because people don’t really listen to it that way.’ Even for me as musician, it’s very rare that I have the opportunity to sit down and just listen to music.

“It doesn’t really bother me that people don’t listen to music in the way that I feel they should, based on the amount of work that I put into a composition, but I’ve found when I do speak to people who take the time to listen, the conclusions that they come to about the music are closer to the core meaning of the songs.”

Since he made his self-titled solo debut in 2002, the New Orleans native (and nephew of acclaimed saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr.) has steadily garnered praise and criticism for his blend of jazz, rock and R&B which often has a socio-political bent, featured in song titles such as “Suicide,” “Litany Against Fear” and “Katrina’s Eyes.”

Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, which Scott, 27, said he has been writing music for since recording his first disc, is his most pointed disc yet, with tracks addressing abortion rights, slavery and gay marriage.

“All too often, people get away with making music that’s not really about anything; I don’t feel that that’s productive. I make the music that speaks to my experience as a means to illuminating things that I think are unjust, or as means to communicate with people.”

Scott plays a rare Toronto show at Hard Rock Café tonight as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, affording local jazz lovers a close look at the musician who is the latest to draw comparisons to iconic trumpeter Miles Davis.

“I think part of the reason I get tied in a lot with Miles Davis is because to constantly work at moving forward is synonymous with his body of work. In the beginning of my career, no one ever said it context to my sound, because in my approach to trumpet I had a more traditional New Orleans sound, which is big and brassy.

“Now I’ve actually learned from studying his work a bit more that there are advantageous to being able to play in the way that he played. I can remember being a kid and having arguments with my grandfather about the fact that I didn’t think Miles Davis could play, and I thought Clifford Brown was the greatest trumpet player in the world.

“And now it’s like the total opposite, because I realize the artistry in Miles Davis’s playing: it’s not about the notes, this guy is actually speaking to you; and he came with his own dialect. How cool is that?”

After The Hurricane: Deryck Whibley Ready For Another Grueling Year

www.thestar.com - Chandler Levack

(July 06, 2010) Usually the first week of touring is a breeze, compared to the eventual burnout that life on the road can cause a year later. But Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley is in the midst of a natural disaster.

“Yeah, we’re kind of in the middle of a hurricane right now,” says the singer, calling from Houston during the band’s first week of playing the
Vans Warped Tour. “There’s a lot of stuff going on and we’re not sure if we’re going to be able to play today or not.”

The hurricane is the least of the band’s problems. A week ago, Whibley was forced to pull their bus driver off the wheel after their bus crash-landed in an open field en route to Ventura, Calif. The driver had been driving drunk and has since been replaced.

“But we’ve been close to death many times,” remarks Whibley casually, who wrote the single “We’re All to Blame” after gunshots rang out at his hotel during a promotional tour with War Child Canada in May 2004 to build awareness about the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “We’re used to getting shot and bombed at. That’s kind of the way this band works.”

One week into a grueling schedule that will have the band on the road for the next year — including a Vans Warped stop at Arrow Hall Friday — Whibley says that “the Warped Tour crowds have been amazing.”

Relics of the pop-punk heyday of the early 2000s that saw bands like Good Charlotte and Blink 182 sell millions thanks to a hooky, propulsive style of punk that matched infectious energy with youthful narcissism, Sum 41, who formed as teenagers in Ajax, Ont., charted No. 1 on the Billboard charts and were certified platinum. They sold 45 million albums worldwide, thanks to the suburban snark of singles “Fat Lip” and “In Too Deep” off their hit 2001 album, All Killer No Filler.

Four albums later, Whibley is the first to admit their Canadian success story couldn’t happen today.

“The amount of support we got from our record company to let us tour and build a fan base for two years . . . they could never spend that money now. We were lucky enough that we had early success when you still could make a lot of money, enough to build a fan base around the entire world. We’re playing Vans . . . and we haven’t put out a record in three years.”

Their as-yet-untitled fifth album, which Whibley says should be out in October, is “pretty eclectic, pretty aggressive and more of an album than a collection of songs.” He cites one piano ballad as an artistic high point, “a song that’s just me and a piano that everyone will think is about my breakup, even though it’s been around for five years.”

Whibley divorced from his wife, singer Avril Lavigne, in late 2009, citing “irreconcilable differences.” He had produced and played guitar on her album The Best Damn Thing. The union had made the two a pop-punk power couple — and upset Sum 41 fans greatly.

“A lot of our fans are really excited about us breaking up. Maybe because she’s pop and I’m punk,” remarks Whibley.

But does it really matter what his fans think?

“I don’t care what they think. That’s why I married her.”

No stranger to celebrity dating, Whibley famously entered a high-profile relationship with hotel heiress Paris Hilton during the midst of her newfound celebrity in 2003, thanks to the leak of her sex tape. Though fans remember the celebutante sporting Sum 41 T-shirts during the first season of her reality show The Simple Life, Whibley says that their relationship was veritably non-existent.

“The thing is, she was never my girlfriend; we were just hanging out a little bit. It was so weird to see someone who wasn’t famous suddenly become the biggest person in the world. And I got pulled in with that, too . . .

“If you added up all the time we saw each other it was probably two weeks, but 10 years later, people still ask me what it is was like. And to be honest, I don’t really remember. It was kinda, like . . . nothing.”

The musician is currently single.


WHAT: Vans Warped Tour

WHEN: Friday, from 11 a.m.

WHERE: The Flats at Arrow Hall, International Centre, Mississauga

TICKETS: $57.50 at Ticketmaster

Video: Janet Got Nasty at Essence & They Loved It!

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 03, 2010) *
Janet Jackson enthralled the Essence Music Festival audience Friday, kept them on their feet for more than two hours and reminded fans why seeing her in concert was worth waiting two years.

From the opening notes of “The Pleasure Principle” to “Control” to “Rhythm Nation,” the Grammy Award-winning singer enticed, teased and brought her fans on a journey through her No. 1 hits.

“She was unbelievable,” said Ed Downs of Miami. “It was definitely worth the wait. I’m happy to see her make a comeback. It was impressive.”

Jackson marked her return by closing the festival’s first night inside the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. It was her first time at the festival, which runs through Sunday.

Former NBA player Anferenee Hardaway called Jackson’s performance “absolutely perfect,” and said no one could tell she had been off the concert circuit for any length of time.

“She definitely gets better with age,” he said, smiling.

Fans got a glimpse of Jackson’s new, sassy, short-cropped hair and her signature, shapely figure on the finale show of American Idol where she rocked classics like “Again” and “Nasty” and her latest release, “Nothing,” from the soundtrack of the movie, “Why Did I Get Married Too?,” which she also starred in.

But near the end of her show Friday, they were treated with even more as she depicted a risque, S&M scene with a male participant from the audience, whose hands and arms were strapped into a straight jacket as Jackson – in a flesh-toned body suit – worked him over, whip in hand.

He mouthed, “Thank you,” and couldn’t take his eyes off her, getting roars of approval, looks of envy and applause from the crowd.

Read MORE of this AP report HERE. Watch video of her show (and the “good part”) here:

Kylie Hasn’t Got Much To Say – But Who Cares?

www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine


Kylie Minogue

(July 7, 2010)  One of the oldest battles in the culture wars is about seriousness. Pop music is considered inherently frivolous because it was designed for mass consumption, to be used up and tossed away. To which pop partisans have replied that the means of production had nothing to do with seriousness of intent, and that much popular music was indeed deep, profound and culturally resonant, with examples cited from Ray Charles to the Beatles to Madonna. And so on. You could get a degree arguing this stuff (and a number of people have).

That said, there’s nothing wrong with being frivolous. If there were, why would God have given us
Kylie Minogue?

A teenaged soap star who blossomed into an internationally famous lingerie model, Minogue has enlivened the pages of celebrity gossip magazines for almost a quarter-century now. In much of the world, she’s first-name famous, like Bono or Beyoncé, but even her most devoted fans would be hard-pressed to argue that she’s a pop titan on par with those two. She’s never been a spectacular singer, doesn’t aspire to the conceptual gravitas of Madonna or Lady Gaga, and frankly has little in her 10-album back catalogue that qualifies as timeless.

But if all you want is an upbeat pop music that makes you happy and/or want to dance, you could do a lot worse than Aphrodite. The songs here are catchy, danceable, and for the most part lyrically insubstantial. Once you’ve read the title Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love), you not only know the chorus, you pretty much know the whole song. But as Kylie fans understand, a phrase like that is more than enough to build a song around.

That’s not to say the album is entirely devoid of lyrical content. The title tune stands as something of a female-empowerment anthem: “I’m fierce and I’m feeling mighty/ I’m a golden girl, I’m an Aphrodite/ All right?” Granted, it’s the sort of refrain that works better at 90 decibels than on the pages of a newspaper, but what do you expect from someone more interested in making people dance than in making points about the place of women in society?

It should be pointed out that the music on the album isn’t particularly groundbreaking. Some tracks, such as All the Lovers and Closer, cover turf already well trod by the Pet Shop Boys; others, including Get Outta My Way and Can’t Beat the Feeling, are built around sounds that ought to be quite familiar to fans of Daft Punk. But even this works to the album’s advantage, ensuring that the grooves can be enjoyed with minimal effort on the listener’s part.

As the deliriously catchy Better Than Today puts it, “Very clever people know we all need a chance/To stop our clever business, and let go and dance.” Which, as a philosophy, is so frivolous it’s almost deep. Just don’t try to get a dissertation out of it.

10 More Lilith Shows Cancelled; Kelly Clarkson Pulls Out

Source: www.eurweb.com - Richard Ouzounian

(July 02, 2010) Sarah McLachlan’s revived Lilith Tour continues to struggle with its return to the festival circuit, as organizers have cancelled another 10 dates, including a July 23 engagement in Montreal.

Lilith has also cancelled planned visits to Salt Lake City, Raleigh, N.C., Charlotte, N.C., West Palm Beach, Fla., Tampa, Fla., Birmingham, Ala., Austin, Tx., Houston and Dallas.

Shows in Nashville and Phoenix had already been cancelled.

Refunds are available at point of purchase, organizers say.

Lilith’s Toronto stop, July 24 at the Molson Amphitheatre, is still on.

As a result of the cancellations, the all-female tour may rejig its line-up slightly for the 20-plus shows that remain on the schedule.

Lilith co-founder Terry McBride issued a statement apologizing to fans. He pointed to ongoing economic struggles as the reason for the cancellations.

"We are in the midst of one of the most challenging summer concert seasons with many tours being cancelled outright," he said. "Everyone involved with the tour would like to apologize to the fans and artists scheduled to play in these markets, and express appreciation for all the support for the festival's return.

"Lilith remains the only tour of its kind, and we are confident that fans will be amazed by what each date has to offer."

Lilith — whose line-up includes co-founder McLachlan and Sheryl Crow — kicked off on Sunday in Calgary, with organizers then dismissing the questions surrounding this year's troubled incarnation of the tour as media negativity.

McBride even published an open letter on his blog addressed to the media critics he said were unfairly targeting his festival.

"What drives the passion to write negative and speculative commentary on what is a socially positive and giving festival?" he wrote.

"Why this desire to hurt and demean the efforts of thousands of people (who) simply want to give back and make our society a better place?"

But in an interview last week with The Canadian Press, McBride admitted that ticket sales for this year's incarnation of the tour — which originally ran between 1997 and '99 — had been soft.

He also said he would assess whether more shows had to be cancelled on a weekly basis.

The news didn't get better for the embattled fest when former American Idol star Kelly Clarkson announced on her website that she was pulling out of her planned Lilith performance in Cleveland.

“With the news of cancelled Lilith dates and my current progress in the studio, we've made the decision not to tour this summer,” Clarkson wrote.

“I'm going to miss seeing y'all, but I hope that when you hear what we've been working on, you'll be as excited as I am.”

Playing Around With The Standards

www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
Various locations in Montréal
On Sunday and Monday

(July 06, 2010) Allen Toussaint is not known as a jazzman but as a songwriter and producer. He was responsible for a string of hits, stretching from Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law to Lee Dorsey’s Working in the Coal Mine, the Glen Campbell hit Southern Nights to LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade. Add in the likes of Irma Thomas, Elvis Costello, Boz Scaggs and the Band and he’s been associated with almost everybody in the business.

Many music buffs know that the 72-year old Toussaint plays piano and sings, but it’s doubtful that even the most devoted fans were aware that he could improvise as stunningly as he did during his solo show at Gesù, Centre de Créativité on Sunday.

For the most part, Toussaint’s performance took the form of an “And then I wrote…” revue, with him recounting his career as he performed hit after hit after hit. He talked about Java, which became a smash for Al Hirt; revealed how Benny Spellman’s singing on Mother-in-Law led to the hit Lipstick Traces; and told the audience how childhood visits to the Louisiana countryside provided the memories that grew into Southern Nights (later a smash for Glen Campbell).

But Toussaint didn’t just play the hits – he also played with them, through pranks like sticking a few bars of Mozart into Java when nobody was looking. That bit of mischief took on a life of its own during Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky, a tune he wrote for Lee Dorsey. Branching off from the song’s monochromatic blues lick, he lurched into a bit of Chopin’s Minute Waltz, and from there free-associated through a dozen or more snippets of classics and pop chestnuts, at one point leaping from Khachaturian’s Saber Dance into Beer Barrel Polka.

You could practically hear the jaws hitting the floor.

Toussaint repeated that trick on Monday, when he and the Bright Mississippi band played the Théâtre Jean-Duceppe. This time, though, Saber Dance segued into Chattanooga Choo Choo, while the opening phrases of Grieg’s Piano Concerto somehow resolved into the Professor Longhair hit Big Chief.

But then, the whole Bright Mississippi project is about using the familiar to upset expectations. On the face of it, Toussaint and company are paying homage to tradition, performing such New Orleans classics as St. James Infirmary Blues and Sidney Bechet’s Egyptian Fantasy. How they played them was thoroughly modern, however, thanks in large part to the skittering virtuosity of Don Byron’s clarinet, and the sly funk of David Piltch’s bass lines, while Toussaint’s own playing was positively luminous.

Steve Kuhn has a reputation as a serious, cerebral jazz pianist, and deservedly so. His set at Gesù late Sunday with bassist David Finck and drummer Joey Baron was marked by thoughtful, deftly swinging, quietly virtuosic renderings of such standards as Blue Bossa and Stella By Starlight. But that doesn’t mean Kuhn is above a musical joke or two. During Finck’s solo in Slow, Hot Wind, Kuhn inserted a bit of commentary by working a bit of Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder into the piano accompaniment. Finck, however, gave as good as he got, and during the encore followed Kuhn’s whimsical vocal on The Zoo with a long, bowed quote from Nature Boy.

Droll characters, these jazz musicians.

Pharrell - The “Despicable Me” Interview

Source: Kam Williams

Pharrell was born on April 5, 1973 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the eldest of three sons to bless the union of Carolyn and Pharoah Williams, a schoolteacher and handyman, respectively. At the age of just 12, the aspiring musician started playing with Chad Hugo, a kid he met over summer vacation at band camp.   

They formed a group called The Neptunes which was discovered while still in high school by the legendary Teddy Riley who signed the pair soon after graduation.

Since then, Pharrell has embarked on an enviable career, both as a member of The Neptunes, Child Rebel Soldier and NERD and as a solo artist. Furthermore, the triple Grammy-winner’s singing, performing and/or producing services have been sought for recordings by everyone Beyonce’ to Jay-Z to Ludacris to Madonna to Mystikal to Lupe Fiasco to Snoop Dogg to Shakira to The Game to J-Lo to Britney Spears to Babyface to Usher to Busta Rhymes Gwen Stefani to Nelly to P. Diddy to NSYNC to Fabolous.

As busy as he’s been kept by the entertainment industry, Pharrell still found time to launch the Billionaire Boys Club, a luxury fashion line of clothes and accessories. Here, the versatile talent talks about his latest venture, branching into cinema by scoring the soundtrack of Despicable Me, a 3-D animated adventure revolving around a diabolical villain determined to steal the moon.

Kam Williams: Hey, thanks for the time, Pharrell.

Pharrell: Thank you.

KW: Let me start off with a question from FSU grad Laz Lyles who would like to know what it was like creating the score for this animated feature?

P: I can’t remember the last time that I was doing something creatively that I hadn’t mastered yet, in the sense of familiarity. Mastering, meaning understanding the concept of how it worked. This was something that was brand new, that I’d never done before. This was so new to me, it was like “Whoa!” It was like the next level.

KW: Laz wants to know what's been the most unusual sonic inspiration or everyday sound that you’ve incorporated into your music?

P: That’s the thing, I like to use a lot of everyday sounds in my music. 

KW: Nick Antoine asks, what struggles have you had to deal with in your career?

P: I don’t know that there were any struggles. I’m too thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to complain about anything.

KW: Nick also asks, what are some of the tools that you would attribute to your success?

P: Education, first and foremost.

KW: You’re a person that a lot of people turn to for help producing their projects. Who is it you rely on when you need support?
P: I look to my family for support.

KW: Are you interested in pursuing further film work?

P: Sure! I’ve learned a lot from it, and it’s made me happier as a person.

KW: Which fellow hip-hop producers are you really into right now?

P: Oh man, there are so many of them. I really love what Hi-Tek has been doing recently. There’s a lot of them. I really love Diplo. I think he’s super talented.

KW: Larry Greenberg says, “I love that you are a Star Trek fan like me. Which character is your favorite?”

P: I’d say Spock, but now everybody’s on him, so, like, cool.

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says she saw you perform several years ago at the Costume Institute Ball and that you seemed almost at one with the audience. She’s curious about what’s going on with you in terms of art and sculpture.

P: Obviously, I put out “The Simple Things” project with Takashi Murakami. That was a great success, and we’ve done two “Chair” series which have really been fun. And I have a couple of upcoming art projects that I’m working on at the moment.

KW: Yale grad Tommy Russell asks, "What do you think the chances are that BP will stop the oil leak?”

P: I think the BP oil leak is probably a consequence of Murphy’s Law and I see it a warning from the universe telling us to pay attention because the Earth is our home. We’ve got to figure it out. If we don’t, we’re going to be in very big trouble.

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

P: No, I’m content.

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

The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne.

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

P: The last thing I listened to was
Janelle Monae’s album.

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

P: I see appreciation.

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

P: Oh man… I think the greatest gift one could have is more time. 

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

P: Spending time with my great-grandfather when I was about three years-old.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

P: Warming up Cherry Kellogg’s Pop Tarts.

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

P: I have one every day.

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

JK: No.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

JK: Very.

KW: Here’s a new question I just got from Tavis Smiley. Are you introspective? 

P: I couldn’t imagine not being introspective.

KW: Also from Tavis: What do you want your legacy to be, and where are you in relation to that legacy?

P: I’m afraid I’m only a half a paragraph deep into a thousand-page book.

KW: Which of your many talents is your favorite?

P: All of them, as they all are vessels of expression.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

P: Feed your curiosity, and remain a kidult forever.

KW: The Boris Kodjoe question: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

P: Having a connection with the kids who are the future deciders of life as we know it.

KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

P: By building the NERD Army

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

P: I don’t know. I’m not psychic.

KW: Thanks again for the interview, Pharrell, I really appreciate.

P: Thank you, sir.


To see a trailer for Despicable Me, visit:


Peace And Love With Ringo Starr

www.globeandmail.com - Deirdre Kelly

(July 06, 2010) NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. —  Ringo Starr is in the room, flashing V-signs as if it were 1969 all over again.

“Peace and love,” he says to the crowd assembled at Fallsview Casino’s Avalon Theatre in Niagara Falls, Ont., where he recently kicked off a 31-city North American tour. “Peace and love.”

It’s the kind of life-affirming message espoused by the Beatles more than 40 years ago, when Ringo was at the tom-toms steadily keeping time. And he still believes it now.

In fact, for his 70th birthday on Wednesday, he’s asking everyone in the world to join him in a peace and love salute at noon. You can also leave a message on the Beatles’ Facebook page or watch for tweets for the drummer on Twitter – in other words, this isn’t just a Sgt. Pepper-inspired nostalgia trip.

“It‘s a way of life,” says the world’s luckiest drummer before his concert in Niagara Falls later that night. “And I have a great life. Peace and love is something I really believe in. I’m just like that.”

He’s just like what you might imagine if, as a Beatles fan, you grew up relishing his every turn in the movies, fanzines and books that have grown out the band’s enduring legend.

His fingers are decorated with the same variety of rings that long ago gave the man born Richard Starkey his nickname. He still speaks with a Liverpool accent, despite living mostly in America with his wife of 30 years, Barbara Bach. He wears tinted shades and a head- to-toe uniform of rock ‘n’ roll cool in the form of black t-shirt and tight-fitting jeans worn with rhinestone studded black running shoes.The only difference these days, besides the absence of his ubiquitous cigarettes, is that his former mop top is a crew cut matched to a clipped beard. But that’s just on the surface.

Go deeper and you’ll see that Ringo has lately undergone something of sea-change, musically speaking.

His latest release, Y Not (so-called because he says it’s the answer to the universal question, why?) is the first-self-produced record of his career. As such, he says, it is also his most personal project, filled with self-penned songs that are deeply autobiographical in nature. They include a track called Peace Dream, a direct tribute to his late bandmate John Lennon, and the album’s first single, Walk With You, a song about the enduring value of friendship, featuring a duet with one his oldest friends, Paul McCartney. (The Cute One also plays bass on Peace Dream.)

The song talks about his life as the only son of a poor barmaid whose husband abandoned her when Ringo was still a boy. Not a particularly Fab story. “I wasn’t born a Beatle,” a truth born out by the lyrics, “The other side of Liverpool is cold and damp/Only way out of there/Drums, guitar and amp.”

“I don’t really want to write a book, even though I’ve been offered big money to do one,” he says, explaining his decision to write self-exploratory personal songs after a career crooning such hummable pop tunes like Octopus’s Garden, Yellow Submarine and You’re Sixteen.

“All they want to know anyway is the eight years of my life, from 1962 to 1970. But I’m much more than that. And I can say it in song, in just two lines, what might take me five pages in a book.”

Ringo Starr celebrates his birthday with a private concert in New York today. He plays Windsor, Ont., on July 23 and Calgary on July 28.

Young@Heart Singers Put 70-Plus Years Of Life Experience Into Every Song

Source: www.eurweb.com - Richard Ouzounian

(July 03, 2010) NORTHAMPTON, MASS.—It’s a bright, hot morning in this picture-perfect New England college town, with dozens of American flags waving in the breeze. But a particularly Canadian tune is being sung over a driving rock band.

Takin’ care of business,” strong but ragged voices ring out, “takin’ care of business now!”

No, it’s not BTO, it’s
Young@Heart, a vocal group made up entirely of singers over the age of 70, rehearsing for their appearance at Roy Thomson Hall as part of Just For Laughs on July 10.

You feel the energy even before you see the faces in the group of world-touring rock singers, which was featured in a 2007 documentary. With musical director Bob Cilman taking them ever higher, the 30-member group sings with an energy and commitment that shatters ageist clichés.

Sure, 95 per cent of the hair is grey, some of the members are in wheelchairs, and others lean on canes or walkers for support, but the sound that rings out reminds you of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir . . . if they rocked.

But let’s make one thing clear. Young@Heart doesn’t do golden oldies or “cute” uptempo tunes about aging.

“At first, people wanted to know why we didn’t do stuff like ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’ or ‘Little Old Lady From Pasadena’” says Cilman on a break. “But that’s not the direction I wanted to take the group at all.”

In fact, what he did was simple and daring. “I realized that these people grew up in the ’30s and ’40s, when singers really knew how to interpret lyrics, and I wondered what it would be like if I gave them a whole new kind of lyrics to interpret.”

The result is always intriguing, often powerful and sometimes devastating. And it’s turned a group that began as a “seniors’ recreation project” in 1982 into a company that tours the world to critical acclaim.

“I’ve been to Europe 12 times and had the time of my life,” says Jeanne Hatch, 83. “You tell me any other group I could have done that with.”

When Cilman first started taking the group down this path, there were some struggles, as the documentary demonstrates, but now the mix is seamless and the group leaps easily into songs by Nirvana or Fugazi as if they were born to sing them.

“These are people with deep feelings and enormous life experience,” says Cilman. “But they come from a generation when you didn’t talk about those things in conversation. Even now, you don’t find them discussing death or illness or loneliness, but put it into a song and it all pours out.

“I don’t keep away from the darkness in the songs we do,” Cilman adds. “It’s an honest place for them to go and it gives them a chance to respond to what happens in their lives.”

He recalls one incident in particular.

“We went to Berlin on tour and there was one company member who was 92. Everybody told me she was too weak and I shouldn’t bring her, but she wanted to go. We got to the Olympic Stadium, she stopped and told us all how she remembered being there in 1936 with her parents during the Olympic Games and how she could still recall hearing Adolf Hitler speak.

“And right there, she sang ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’ and all the feelings she had repressed for 70 years came out. A woman in her 90s, singing a song by The Clash, remembering Adolf Hitler. Incredible.”

Some of the discoveries are more delicate but equally poignant. Take 73-year-old Claire Couture, who is rehearsing Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You.” She takes past moments of abandonment and regret she had repressed for decades and puts them into Mitchell’s lyric. “Just before our love got lost, you said ‘I am as constant as the Northern Star,’ and I said ‘Constantly in the darkness. Where’s that at? If you want me, I’ll be in the bar.”

The anger with which she spit out the last five words was stunning, especially from a woman as elegant as Couture.

Afterwards, she confides, “This is the hardest song I’ve ever had to learn. Getting inside that music, those feelings, but oh, it’s worth it.”

Louise Canady is 80, a former opera singer who retired “when my husband passed,” but Cilman tried to get her to join Young@Heart.

“I said no at first, because frankly, I didn’t like the kind of music they were doing. Drug music. That’s what I called it. But then I went to see them sing at a prison and they moved the hearts of hardened criminals, and I thought yes, this is a place where I can sing again.”

Young@Heart appears at Roy Thomson Hall on July 10 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information go to http://toronto.hahaha.com.


Video: Kelis does ’4th of July’ and Talks Motherhood & Music

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 04, 2010) *Singer Kelis has a reputation for being bold and bossy. She usually gets what she wants. Just ask her recent ex-husband, rapper Nas. You would think that with that kind of attitude, she could be expected to act like a total diva. Maybe so, but it’s been four years since the “Milkshake” singer, who’s raising her son on her own since splitting from Nas, has released an album. She would have been excused had she decided to delay the album again (set for release this Tuesday, 07-06-10), but as it turns out, it was her bundle of joy that kept her on track. Here’s what she told New Music Reviews: “I was actually extremely pregnant and totally on my own when I started this album,” says Kelis, 30, who has hired help to assist with Knight while she does promotion and tours. “I had just gotten off my last label and hated the music industry. But a friend of mine from the U.K. was like, ‘You should be writing.’ So, I started writing and he started sending tracks, like the David Guetta stuff, and I just started falling in love with my stuff.” Read MORE here. Check out Kelis performing her current single, “4th of July” from the album “Flesh Tone” on NBC’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

  Ziggy Marley Comic ‘Marijuanaman’ Announced

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 03, 2010) *Reggae musician
Ziggy Marley serves as co-writer of a new comic book series based on one of his biggest hobbies. The son of legendary reggae icon Bob Marley will be working with Image Comics on Marijuanaman, which follows the adventures of an alien superhero who comes to Earth to protect the marijuana crops that his people desperately need to survive. He’ll be signing posters for the series at San Diego’s Comic-Con International on Saturday July 24. “I have been reading comics since I was a little boy in Jamaica,” said Marley. “I am very excited to be a part of Image Comics, Comic-Con and the comic book community.” Marley is teaming with co-writer Joe Casey (Gødland) and artist Jim Mahfood (Mixed Tapes) for the series, which debuts – of course – on 4/20/2011.

Black Eyed Peas Working on 3D Tour Movie

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 02, 2010) **The Black Eyed Peas are reportedly looking to give movie fans a 3D experience of their current world tour. According to Hollywood News, the pop group is said to have chosen “Avatar” director James Cameron to helm the project. “We have the biggest director, because we are the biggest group on the planet,” will.i.am told the Web site. “The Peas are filming it in South America. People will be able to see us in the theatre with the 3D glasses and everything.” The group’s European leg of their world tour wraps July 12, before heading back to the US for string of dates across the country.

  CD Reviews: African Banjo And Electrifying Keyboards

Source: www.thestar.com -
John Goddard

World Music
Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba
I Speak Fula (Sub Pop)

(July 05, 2010) Musicologists recognize the ngoni as an ancient West African predecessor to the banjo, except it was always a supportive instrument, never a lead one. Bassekou Kouyate changed that. Three years ago, he released his revolutionary album Segu Blue, featuring four ngoni players including himself. He followed with I Speak Fula, which brought him to Toronto for the first time last month with American banjo player Bela Fleck as headliners at Luminato. Much like the show, I Speak Fula delights in dance rhythms and quick, melodic fingerings that cascade like a waterfall. Stellar guests on the album include singer Kasse Mady Diabate, guitarist Vieux Farka Toure and the kamalengoni player from Salif Keita’s band, Harouna Samake. Top Track:Ladon” highlights Kouyate at his rapid-fire best.

Live Chat With Dan Hill

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(July 7, 2010) Dan Hill, the famed Canadian singer/songwriter, wrote last weekend in the Globe and Mail about the powerful impact Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird has had on him.  It's a book he has re-read throughout his life, and it was his constant companion on his recent concert tour. The novel still has the power to make him an "emotional wreck."  "The beauty of Mockingbird is that the longing for human connection and random acts of kindness keeps popping up, always when you least expect it," Hill wrote.  On Thursday (July 8) in Toronto, as one of a long list of events around the world marking this Sunday's 50th anniversay of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Hill will be part of a free panel discussion with filmmaker Clement Virgo and Toronto District School Board Trustee Josh Matlow. The event takes place in the Appel Salon at Toronto Reference Library starting at 7 p.m.; doors open at 6.


Inspired By A Glimpse Of Oppression

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(July 7, 2010) It was a chance encounter by a dusty wall in an Iranian border town that planted a seed in the mind of Afghan-Canadian actress Nelofer Pazira, which has since sprouted into her most ambitious project to date.

Pazira, then 27, was working on the set of Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar when she heard herself summoned. She turned to meet a striking pair of eyes, visible through a small hole in the wall surrounding a nearby house. “Do you want to come inside?” the mystery woman asked. A curious Pazira accepted her invitation.

Inside the woman’s home, after having explained she was shooting a film (and then what shooting a film meant), Pazira found the woman was anxious to get her hands on a burka – a shock to Pazira, who loathes the restrictive garment.

“I said to her, if she comes and helps us on the film set, I will give her a burka, but we won’t sell it,” Pazira, now 36, remembers. “She said, oh, she couldn’t leave her house.”

The woman’s fear of punishment for leaving home without permission ended the encounter, but the conversation lingered in Pazira’s mind for years.

Eventually, she fictionalized it as the central event in her new film Act of Dishonour, with one notable difference: the main character, a 15-year-old rural bride-to-be, does venture out to the film set, with disastrous consequences. Through this single, seemingly harmless “sin,” Pazira explores notions of honour among families and the pressures exerted on them by staunchly conservative communities dotting the Afghan countryside.

The film’s themes should resonate particularly loudly in the West, where appropriate punishments for so-called “honour killings” have become a topic of fierce discussion of late. The goal for Pazira, who considers herself as much a Canadian as an Afghan, was to write a script that’s “understood from our [Canadian] perspective, but seen from their perspective.”

The film was scouted and shot in late 2008 and early 2009, on either side of the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. A small Canadian crew was supplemented with Tajik and Afghan locals, partly to keep budgets under control, but also “to create employment” locally, Pazira says. Aside from providing an easier insurance climate, Tajikistan offered local expertise drawn from its strong theatre culture.

Most of the people under burkas are men because we couldn’t find women to be part of the film

Pazira is best known for her starring role in Kandahar, but Act of Dishonour is a project all her own: As well as acting in it, she wrote and directed it, her first such credits for a feature film.

Born in India, Pazira was raised in a relatively liberal household in Kabul, a cosmopolitan city by Afghanistan’s standards. Her family friends were mostly professionals and the women she knew lived “uncovered,” assuming other women wearing burkas must be “village people.”

Still, it was a sheltered life: She watched “tons of fabulous Russian films, most of them black and white,” but Kabul had only one TV station that was “packed with propaganda.

“We saw nothing of the West. Everything Hollywood and everything Western was banned,” she says while indulging in the French cuisine of a downtown Toronto bistro.

When she was 16, her family fled Afghanistan because of the escalating war with the Soviets, spending a year as refugees in Pakistan before settling in Moncton, N.B.

Even in Canada, her family felt pressure to conform to the Afghan community’s social norms. When Pazira moved to study journalism at Carleton University at age 19, the rumour in Ottawa was that her father must have kicked her out. (Though some praised her for “breaking barriers”). Years later, when Kandahar was released in Canada, the phone calls started anew, telling her unapologetic father, “shame on you!” for allowing his daughter to appear in a film.

“In London, there’s [been] an explosion of honour killings,” Pazira says, shaking her head at recent stories of similarly horrific murders in Canada, including that of Toronto teenager Aqsa Parvez.

But Pazira stresses that it’s less the instinct behind this violence that should seem shocking, and more the harsh remedies – death, for example – prescribed by the stricter communal codes of less individualistic societies.

“When we think about the question of honour, we often think it’s related to the Eastern world. But the concept of honour is prevalent in all of our lives, all of the time. Nobody wants to be embarrassed in front of others. That’s what it all comes down to, basically: being shamed,” she says.

Act of Dishonour seeks to personalize that shame, placing it in the hearts and minds of sympathetic but ultimately unforgiving characters, while exploring the conditions for rural Afghan women which Pazira first glimpsed during her family’s flight from Kabul.

The main character, Mena, is played by Marina Golbahari, now 19, who was taken in by an Afghan filmmaker after he found her aged 12, illiterate and begging on the streets of Kabul. Golbahari, gifted with natural acting talent, has learned English, and is a budding star of sorts. And she related easily to Pazira’s script: When she was younger, her father had refused to let her leave their home.

“I spent a year trying to cast that role,” Pazira says. “We always jokingly say that some of the best actors are actually beggars, because they learn from a very young age to be convincing.”

Though fortunate to nab Golbahari, Pazira was nevertheless confronted with a world where women still live encircled by walls, glimpsed only rarely by outsiders. Most of the film’s women necessarily hailed from the more liberal Tajikistan, and some of them aren’t women at all.

“Most of the people under burkas are men because we couldn’t find women to be part of the film,” Pazira says.

Young Heartthrob Beats Out ‘Star Trek’ Actor As New ‘Spider-Man'

Source: www.eurweb.com - John Horn

(July 02, 2010) LOS ANGELES—The new Peter Parker has finally been revealed: British heartthrob Andrew Garfield.

The studio announced Thursday afternoon that it had cast the 26-year-old star of the upcoming Never Let Me Go and The Social Network in one of the most closely scrutinized casting decisions in recent Hollywood history.

Garfield also starred in Lions for Lambs, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and the acclaimed British miniseries Red Riding.

The fourth film in the series is planned to be a Spider-Man origin story that Sony earlier in the year said would focus on "a teenager grappling with both contemporary human problems and amazing super-human crises."

Sony, worried that a fourth film with original director Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire would be too costly, decided to scale back and reboot the series.

The studio hired Marc Webb, the director of (500) Days of Summer, to helm the project. It is due in theatres July 12, 2012.

"From the first time we saw him in the upcoming film The Social Network, to his glorious screen test, which floored all of us, we knew that we had found our new Peter Parker," Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures, said in a statement.

Among those said to be considered for the part were Anton Yelchin (who played the young Pavel Chekov in last year’s Star Trek reboot), Josh Hutcherson (The Kids are All Right), Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass), and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot).

At Odds Over Comics, Casting And Race

www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar

(July 05, 2010) A different sort of character debate has been raging in the entertainment world, centred on race and casting in comics, cartoons and films.

One of the flashpoints is the recently opened film
The Last Airbender, which is facing criticism because of the ethnicity of the actors in the main roles.

(The controversy didn't hurt it at the box office, where it took in $53.2 million U.S., putting it in the No. 2 spot in North America.)

The website
www.racebending.com has put the Airbender issue on the map and some are calling for a boycott of this live-action movie adapted from the popular Nickelodeon cartoon series, which is heavily based on Asian myths.

Gene Luen Yang, an award-winning American comic artist who created the graphic novel American Born Chinese, was a big fan of the Airbender series. He drew a comic and wrote online about the issue, explaining his disappointment with the movie's casting choices.

“I understand there's no Asian actor at all on the scale of Harrison Ford or Denzel Washington, so I could kind of see that (the studio) could be a little bit risk-averse and hesitant in investing heavily in an Asian-starring film, but that's what makes this particular movie so infuriating,” says Yang.

“With Airbender, it's not like they got big-name white actors. They're all no names, and the vast majority of the existing fan base understands that those characters are Asian and understands that the story is deeply rooted in Asian culture.”

Yang sees it as a modern continuation of “yellowface,” around since Hollywood's beginnings, where white actors played characters like Charlie Chan.

More recently, the favoured Hollywood tactic is to rewrite characters as if they weren't Asian at all. The two most recent examples were film adaptations of real-life stories, like 21 and Extraordinary Measures, where the original Asian protagonists are played by white actors onscreen..

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which was based on a popular videogame series, also came under criticism because none of the main characters were played by actors of Middle Eastern descent.

Beyond films, DC Comics has also heard some rumblings, mostly sparked by the sudden and recent killing off of the Atom, who in his most recent incarnation was an Asian character named Ryan Choi, and was often cited as a healthy nod toward diversity.

Not helping matters was when Ian Sattler, DC's senior story editor, responded to a critical question at a comics convention by saying: “It's so hard for me to be on the other side because it's not our intention. There is a reason behind it all. We don't see it that way and strive very hard to have a diverse DCU (DC Universe). I mean, we have green, pink and blue characters.”

What's interesting is that Marvel seems to be going the other way, in particular in its live-action film adaptations.

Nick Fury, originally a white character, is now played by Samuel L. Jackson onscreen, and there are reports that in the upcoming Kenneth Branagh-directed Thor, two of the gods in the Norse pantheon will be played by black and Asian actors, respectively.

Earlier this spring, there was a lot of online support for Donald Glover to play Spider-Man in the oncoming movie reboot.

The African American actor seized on a blog post at
www.io9.com suggesting that the next Spider-Man movie feature a web slinger of a different ethnic background, and created Photoshopped images, Tweeted about it and started a Facebook fan group with more than 12,000 supporters. Even Spidey co-creator Stan Lee weighed in.

(This past week, it was announced that white actor Andrew Garfield has won the role.).

Glover was in town last month for Citytv's upfront presentation and the comedian was obviously having fun with it, but he tried to stay away from identity politics and race issues, and the obvious nerve he had tapped into.

“I'm dumbfounded by the support. It kind of all happened really fast. I guess my thing is I think those characters should always be a reflection of the audience,” he says.

“I love Spider-Man. I grew up a kid very poor, with my brothers and sisters. I always felt kind of out of sorts because I was very nerdy and kids did pick on me, and I always connected with Spider-Man; he was really cool. That's it. I feel like as long as a character reflects the people that are into it, that's what most important.”

It's that identification that should be the key. The best case for diverse casting should be a business ones: keeping adapted stories true to their roots appeases the existing fan base and also hopefully brings in a larger audience.

The tricky thing is that even a critic like Yang admits that he would prefer to live in a colour-blind society.

Charges of racism in The Last Airbender have to be tempered by the fact that it's directed by M. Night Shyamalan, an American of South Asian descent. Hollywood seems to have no problem with visible minorities behind the camera.

Which just to goes to show as with most things regarding race, it's complicated.

Prince of Persia and The Last Airbender, for instance, have had to overcome bad buzz and negative reviews, and that's something that even racial accuracy can't fix.

M. Night Shyamalan's Latest Twist

Source: www.eurweb.com - Bruce DeMara

(July 01, 2010) Once upon a time, there was a fresh new face on the filmmaking scene named M. Night Shyamalan, whose breakout film, The Sixth Sense (which was actually his third film), made critics and moviegoers sit up and take notice. It was lauded for its taut suspense and twist ending.

Then came his second film, Unbreakable, which was kind of cool and smart but not as well-received. His third twisty thriller, Signs, was again suspenseful but with a somewhat less satisfying twist. Then came The Village, which was downright bad, followed by Lady in the Water, which was truly wretched — the nadir of his career to date — followed by The Happening, which wasn’t quite as bad but not particularly memorable, yet reason enough possibly to hope that things were heading in an upwards trajectory at last.

Audiences had come to anticipate his twist endings, the power of which seemed to diminish with each new title. The director was due for a change.

His latest, The Last Airbender, is — depending on box-office numbers — part one of a fantasy epic he adapted from a popular animated series, and the critics, like sharks in chum-filled seawater, are back to gleefully tear critical strips of flesh off his figurative frame. It opens on Canada Day.

Shyamalan — or Night as he prefers to be called — professes to be unconcerned.

“I take it as a badge of honour. You’ve got to be true,” said the Indian-American filmmaker in a recent telephone interview.

“Is there an artist that you remember that hasn’t had issues like that in the context of his time or her time that they were making movies of integrity? I have to just make these paintings and to think of them as paintings and pray that people like them and look at it more long-term,” Shyamalan explained.

The consensus on his films has changed over time, he insists. Drubbed upon release, could Lady in the Water be a misunderstood masterpiece?

“What do you hold as truth?” Shyamalan asks. “If I make The Village — and for me, up to that point, it was my best directing achievement that I’d ever done — and critics, let’s say, and whoever, doesn’t like it, is that the reality? And then four months later, it’s going to video and everybody likes it a little bit more. Is that the reality? Or how about today when I could not do a single interview without somebody telling me The Village is one of their favourite movies of all time? Is this the reality?”

He further elaborated: “You can’t chase the audience. That’s the end of an artist — you chase and then you become kind of like a pre-packaged thing. There’s this great saying . . . you burn really brightly and you work really hard and then you let it go. You just do that. How close can I get to that target of what’s in my head and how is an audience perceiving it emotionally and how does that work and am I getting closer and closer to the audience’s perception being the same as my intention? That’s really the only art form I’m concentrating on.”

With the allotted time far too limited to engage into a philosophical debate of reality versus delusion (and at the risk of having the interview brusquely terminated), it seemed prudent to move on.

At his daughter’s urging, Shyamalan finally tuned in to an episode of the animated TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender and had a “light bulb” moment. (The “avatar” word was removed in order to prevent audiences from confusing the film with another, rather successful title.)

“It (the film) was actually something I was searching for. I’d love to tell a longer form story on a different scale than I’ve been doing. So I was looking for something like that, something where mythology was kind of the primary subject. I love mythologies,” Shyamalan said, adding he immediately set out to land the project, write the script and get it in front of the cameras, in 3-D no less.

“I had a big resistance to (3-D). If you talked to me a year and a half ago, I would have been like, ‘no way.’ And then slowly over time . . . I felt like I get this, I know how to do this and I think this is the right thing to do for this fantasy. When you’re going into another world, this is actually where you want to use (3-D),” Shyamalan said.

As far as any quibbles about the movie lacking the kind of action that is likely to appeal to fans, Shyamalan urged patience.

“If I get the opportunity, the movies will get edgier and older. But I just didn’t want to take it away from the kids and have me make a movie that is inappropriate for a 7-year-old to see.”

Mark Ruffalo Is Also All Right

Source: www.eurweb.com - Richard Ouzounian

(July 02, 2010) Mark Ruffalo plays an anonymous sperm donor in his latest film, The Kids Are All Right (opening in Toronto on July 9), and in some ways it’s not that much of a stretch for him, because he’s been doing it metaphorically for his whole career.

Ruffalo has always been in the background, the go-to guy when you need a sympathetic shoulder for the leading lady to lean on, or a good buddy to offer the leading man a supportive hug.

He never claims the spotlight for himself, but casts a kind of deeply reflective glow that always lets the story shine through.

Or as a film critic buddy of mine once said, “He’s made more actresses look good than Max Factor.”

And he’s a damn fine actor as well.

In his latest film, he kicks it up a notch, starring opposite Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, who play a lesbian couple with two children, both of them sired by Ruffalo via a sperm bank many years before.

As the kids approach maturity, they want to know who their father is, which opens the door to a whole batch of complications, some funny, some not.

And at the centre of it all is Ruffalo as Paul, confirmed bachelor, organic gardener, low-key restaurateur and perennial practitioner of “go with the flow.”

He seems so at one with the role, in fact, that the question has to be asked: was Ruffalo himself ever a sperm donor?

“It never really crossed my mind,” says Ruffalo on the phone from his home in the country, a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. “Believe me, there were times at the start of my career when I could have used the cash.” He laughs. “And I probably would have done it if I had known they were paying 60 bucks a pop back then!”

If he had donated his sperm, would Ruffalo have been as willing as Paul is to take the phone call 18 years later from two kids claiming to be his offspring?

“Probably,” he admits after a pause. “You’d want to see what kind of kids you had made without even knowing you did it. And there’s a certain kind of pride in looking at what you put out in the world in a novel way.”

Ruffalo has a way of discussing the characters he’s played as if they were friends, and Paul is no exception.

“I think he was going through his life convinced he was having a good time. There was some emptiness that he was trying to fill with work and casual relationships, but I don’t think it ever crossed his mind that it would be a family.”

He’s quiet for a moment. “You know, I was friends with one pretty famous bachelor, the kind of guy who had 22-year-old models hanging around when he was 70. And his dying words to me were ‘I wish I’d had a family.’”

Family looms large in Ruffalo’s life, the cause of a lot of his sweetest joys and deepest sorrows. No wonder this film resonated for him.

He was born in Kenosha, Wisc. on Nov. 22, 1967. (“You try having your birthday on the anniversary of JFK’s assassination every year. Boy.”) He had two sisters, a brother and a warm-hearted Italian family “where you were never in doubt for one minute that you were loved.

“I was very, very happy in those early childhood years. Kind of a golden time for me. Snowy winters, green summers. The whole thing.”

But as Ruffalo hit his teens, the family started moving, first to Virginia Beach, then to San Diego and finally to Los Angeles. And with each successive move, Ruffalo recalls, “things started falling apart.

“I think it was geographic, you lose your foundation a little bit. There’s not a lot of gravity. You’re susceptible to dangerous things. And when kids reach their teen years, a transition happens that makes them grow apart from their parents. It’s destructive but creative at the same time.”

But as one of the rocks that had held him together was crumbling, he found another to cling to.

“I had started doing a bit of theatre in high school, but when I got to Los Angeles, I chased after it. I took classes at the Stella Adler Conservatory and helped found a group called the Orpheus Theatre Company. I put my life’s blood into it, as well as all the money I made tending bar.”

He also made the round of the studios, playing small roles in a series of negligible films and TV shows, until “after eight years I had it and I moved to NY and the theatre.”

Almost immediately, he got cast in Kenneth Lonergan’s This Is Our Youth and made the impression he’d been dreaming of all along. Ironically, it led to his first big movie break, in Lonergan’s You Can Count On Me, pulling his dazzling backup routine for the first time opposite Laura Linney, who was nominated for an Oscar.

His career was really taking off when he was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumour. Although it eventually proved to be benign, he underwent major surgery and suffered a period of facial paralysis.

“The recovery was hell,” he recalls. “Not the pain, but the rumours. I was in rehab, I was an addict, I had AIDS, I was dying. Everything but the truth. People can be real s---s sometimes.”

But he bounced back, moved ahead and continued to assemble an impressive catalogue of work (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 13 Going on 30, Collateral, Zodiac, etc.)

Then in December 2008, came another blow. His younger brother, Scott, died from a gunshot wound to the head under mysterious circumstances that have never been totally resolved. Once again, Ruffalo had to rebound.

“I don’t know what keeps me centred,” he admitted. “I’m not religious, but I like to think there’s a sense of something greater than myself. I guess in my case, ultimately, it would be my art form. The ability to explore and express and mine what are essentially mysteries helps to keep me going.”

In the future, Ruffalo feels the need to return to the stage. His last performance in the Broadway revival of Clifford Odets’s Awake and Sing brought him a Tony nomination and he’s anxious to repeat the experience.

“I want to die on the stage,” is his surprising statement. “That’s where I’m more comfortable than anywhere else. If I was told I had three months to live, I’d rent a theatre and start working on something massive, maybe Hamlet, or Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

“Yes, that would be the way to go.”


Gena Rowlands, Woman Under the Influence: She had it all, the ability to give you power and delicacy at once, to be so real and yet so larger than life as well.

Giuletta Masina, Nights of Cabiria: A very great clown and a very great tragedienne. And she showed you how close together they were.

Marcello Mastroianni, 8½: He gave you the sense of watching a whole man, a whole life, a whole universe, in every gesture he made or step he took.

Marlon Brando, Last Tango in Paris: He had such power, such raw, unedited power and he wasn’t ashamed or afraid to share it with us.

Javier Bardem, The Sea Inside: I have no idea of how we acts the way he does and it fills me with respect and awe.

Tilda Swinton - Burning Love

www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(July 06, 2010) Tilda Swinton ended up “(sun) burned and bitten,” after shooting an intense love scene in an Italian field amid punishing heat for the lyrical I Am Love, opening July 16.

“It’s very natural; we’re in nature,” says Swinton of the drama’s pivotal scene where Emma, the Russian-Italian modern aristocrat she plays, begins an affair with her son’s best friend, a young chef.

“There’s something very free and organic about the experience,” adds the London-born redhead, whose milky skin was no match for the relentless Italian sun.

Directed by Italian Luca Guadagnino, a longtime admirer of the actress who later became a friend of Swinton’s (she also produced the film), the movie was a passion project for the pair, who worked for more than 10 years to get the film made.

The story about three generations of a Milan family textile dynasty was one of the more talked-about titles at the
Toronto International Film Festival last September, where it screened the week after its world premiere in Venice.

The elegant and statuesque Swinton, 49, known for her offbeat beauty and fondness for art-house movie roles, sat carefully shaded under a large patio umbrella as she and Guadagnino talked to the Star on a steamy late-summer afternoon by the pool at the Four Seasons in Yorkville.

Swinton, who speaks fluent Italian (the film is subtitled) says the characters find their own Eden when they retreat to Antonio’s rustic cottage for their tryst, leaving Emma’s stunning art deco family mansion and all it represents behind in Milan.

“It was really like Eden, beyond any kind of social grid, any kind of construct any idea of shame. There is no transgression here.”

“It’s really about being into this very intense, full emotional experience the two have together and the audience has that same feeling of expressing the act of living one another and not making a cosmetic sex scene,” explains Guadagnino of the often-graphic coupling between the two.

“Which is the experience of lovemaking,” Swinton adds earnestly. “One of the reasons why cinema does a disservice to the whole concept of lovemaking is it insists on this whole plastic exterior view. That is not one’s own experience of lovemaking. This makes the filmmaking (of I am Love) truly responsible to what it is depicting.”

Swinton plays the carefully rigid society woman of I Am Love with the same intensity she brings to all her roles, whether it’s more-commercial fare playing the White Witch in the Narnia films (she’s back in the third movie in December), or playing the androgynous title character in Orlando. She won the Oscar in 2007 for her portrayal of legal barracuda Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton, opposite George Clooney. Swinton is also drawn to performance art, once spending a week living in a glass box in a London art gallery.

Her personal life is also anything but ordinary. Swinton lives in rural Scotland with artist John Byrne, father of their 10-year-old twins, Xavier and Honor. But she has a very public relationship with actor-painter Sandro Kopp.

With her slender, androgynous looks and cropped hair, Swinton is a darling of several designers — on this day she is stunning in a dark grey, full-skirted Lavin dress that she wore with style and elegance. As Emma, dressed in Jil Sander and Fendi, Swinton explores a more traditional kind of style.

Even the art deco mansion the film was shot in adds a sense of style to the movie. In fact, Swinton says it’s “a principal character” in I Am Love.

“The film is about a milieu and the house dictates that in so many ways,” says Swinton. “That’s why people build houses like that; they build them to hold them. People wouldn’t behave like that if they lived in little houses. There is a way of behaving in a house like that. It imposes a kind of rigor on the behaviour of the people in it and this kind of heightened reality, almost a theatricality.”

::TV NEWS::\

Betty Is White-Hot In Cleveland

Source: www.thestar.com -
Rob Salem

(July 04, 2010) It’s like a sitcom “first wives club”: Valerie Bertinelli, One Day at a Time teen, rock-star ex and Jenny Craig success story; Jane Leeves, Seinfeld virgin and Frasier caregiver; Wendie Malick, ex-wife of Dream On, ex-model of Just Shoot Me . . . and television comedy’s dowager empress, Betty White, from Mary Tyler Moore’s insatiable Sue Ann Nivens, to Golden Girls’ uncomprehending Rose Nyland, to the first-ever write-in (okay, text-in) guest host of Saturday Night Live.

Forget Sex and the City, with its aging, overdressed mannequins. We’ve got some real women for you, and they’re
Hot in Cleveland.

It is significant therefore that the very hottest of these considerably more seasoned sitcom hotties is the one who has moved beyond middle-aged to aged, the venerated veteran White.

Hers is arguably the biggest character stretch, eschewing Sue Anne’s icy vanity and Rose’s childlike naïveté for something closer to Golden Granny Estelle Getty’s deadpan verbal sniping.

In Hot she plays reluctant den mother to three 40-something (or so they say) L.A. gal pals who, en route to Paris on a spontaneous holiday, are forced to land and are grounded in Cleveland.

“Ah well,” muses Leeves, “Cleveland is the Paris of Ohio.”

“No,” snaps White. “That’s Toledo.”

Former fluffy British bunny Leeves plays similarly against type as a cynical celebrity eyebrow stylist who loses all her L.A. cachet after being dumped by star client Oprah. She runs a close second to White in the snark department, but more than holds her own with the witty words of writer/producer and former Frasier colleague Suzanne Martin (Will & Grace and Broadway star Sean Hayes is also a co-producer).

And, if I may add an entirely superficial personal note, as far as I’m concerned, the ex-dancer’s still-incredible legs are alone worth tuning in for every week.

Malick is in more familiar territory as a fallen soap star in full-blown diva denial, even more archly self-involved here than she was as Just Shoot Me’s Nina Van Horn. But then, no one can touch Malick’s knack for this sort of thing, with the possible exception of the Absolutely Fabulous Joanna Lumley.

(West Winger Allison Janney puts an even more out-there spin on a similar character in the new Matthew Perry comedy, Mr. Sunshine, but you are going to have to wait until mid-season for that.)

And then there is former sitcom kid Bertinelli, the audience touchstone in all of this as an unhappily divorced mom in search of a second act, and finding it as a fledgling self-help author . . . and then, so it would seem, in the arms of a married Cleveland plumber played by former Duke of Hazzard and Smallville super-dad John Schneider.

You can hardly blame him. You cannot help but adore this woman — time has only sharpened her comic timing, and enhanced her endearing, often awkward charm. Her recent real-life rebound from acrimonious divorce and depression-fuelled overweight further fuel that emotional investment.

This is one of those rare situation comedies where every element seems to be in perfect harmony and balance, though I guess that is to be expected, given its pedigree as the first original scripted series on the American version of TVLand — in its debut there last month, the network’s highest-rated show ever.

It arrives here in Canada, better late than never, Monday night at 8 on CTV, with a repeat showing Friday at 8:30 on Comedy Network.

The initial tune-in factor is naturally due in no small part to White’s increasingly iconic status. But those who watch out of mere curiosity are more than likely to stay with the show, based on its other considerable merits. Which is, as I say, just what one would expect from its originating network, a bastion of old-school sitcom excellence now for a decade and a half.

You don’t immerse yourself in that much classic TV without learning a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t.

Star TV columnist Rob Salem would like to believe he has immersed himself in enough classic TV to know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t. Or maybe he just watches a lot of TV. rsalem@thestar.ca


Cirque’s Banana Shpeel slipping into Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(July 07, 2010) Let’s hope this second Banana has appeal.

Cirque du Soleil, in cooperation with Mirvish Productions, is bringing its latest production,
Banana Shpeel, to Toronto at the Canon Theatre from Sept. 14 through Oct. 10, the Star has learned.

A new Cirque show is usually a cause for celebration but some people might be discouraged by the fact that Shpeel recently closed in New York after a very short run thanks to some generally dismissive reviews.

I have to confess that I didn’t share the rest of my colleagues’ displeasure with the show, finding it “an amusing, engaging way to spend an evening.”

Part of my relief, to be honest, was to discover that after the notices the show had received in its Chicago tryout (“unfunny, creepy and depressing” were some of the adjectives used by Windy City scribes), it was actually quite light-hearted and entertaining.

It’s also very different. So if you expect all Cirque shows to look and sound the same, be prepared to be surprised.

Banana Shpeel is, quite frankly, an exercise in vaudeville. Baggy pants comedy, raucous slapstick, the whole nine yards. It’s something we don’t see much of lately, least of all from Cirque, but it’s done with the group’s usual panache.

My sources inside Cirque also tell me that “a fair bit of tweaking” has occurred since the New York premiere, so what we get here in Toronto will not be identical to what failed to knock Gotham on its ear.

If you’re looking for advice, I’d tell you to forget any preconceptions and prepare yourself to enjoy the show on its own merits.


Pick Of The Fringe!  These Salty Ladies Are Among The Spiciest

Source: www.thestar.com - Bruce DeMara

Pick of the Fringe!
Highly recommended.
Factory Studio Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. Next performance Tuesday at 6:45 p.m.

(July 05, 2010)  Pick of the Fringe? Well, how presumptuous! These three ladies had better be worth it. Fortunately for the audience, they are. In simple black outfits with occasional accessories, Ashley Botting, Karen Parker and Leslie Seiler are three Second City alumnae with stand-out comic chops who deliver a fast-paced series of sketches that touch on everything from casual sex, news that will make you gag to visiting African Lion Safari. And if you thought you’d heard the final word on dreadful bridesmaid’s dresses, you’re in for a treat with their closing number. These dames are confident performers who demonstrate strong physicality and a penchant for very salty language. It’s clear they’re having loads of fun and as a result, so do we.


How Do You Say 'Hilarious' In Mandarin? 'Jiang Kun'

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Guy Dixon

(July 03, 2010) China in the spring of 1978: The country is still coming out from under the devastation of the Cultural Revolution. Many of life’s simplest items and services remain hard to come by. Despite the overthrow of the Gang of Four, most Chinese entertainers don’t dare make light of everyday conditions – let alone joke about them in front of audiences.

But comedian
Jiang Kun, still in his late 20s, risks it. In a skit that he often performed onstage, a customer and the proprietor of a camera store each go through verbal cartwheels to prove their revolutionary rectitude – only a self-obsessed capitalist roader, after all, would ever buy or sell a personal photo. As the skit unfolds, they recite the requisite party slogans as they negotiate a politically correct price, and decide what would constitute a working-class pose.

With shades of the verbal dodging and ducking of Abbott and Costello’s Who’s On First?, Jiang’s routine employed a brand of comedy utterly familiar to Chinese, and called xiangsheng, or crosstalk. Simultaneously showcasing deft linguistic feats, in Jiang’s hands it also turned upside down the Mao-era tenet that xiangsheng itself bordered on being counterrevolutionary.

Taking Pictures, as the skit is sometimes called in English, “was an experience that I actually had,” Jiang said recently, in a telephone interview conducted through an interpreter. “When you listen to the crosstalk, it sounds funny, but actually it was a sad story.”

Although not totally sad for Jiang, for whom it was a stepping stone to becoming one of China’s most popular comedians, his fans numbering in the hundreds of millions.

Now, Jiang is heading to Toronto, where he will be performing in Mandarin in two gala shows, on July 9 and 10, at the Toronto version of the Just For Laughs festival. Also appearing on the program, organized by Jiang himself, will be such popular xiangsheng performers as Dai Zhicheng, Shi Shengjie and Shi Fukuan, as well as mimes, sound-effects artists, shadow puppeteers and magicians from China.

For Toronto’s Mandarin community, the Just For Laughs gig presents a rare opportunity to witness a comedic master, and other impressive star acts, live onstage. For Jiang, it offers a unique forum in which to connect with one of the biggest Chinese communities outside China. And for the Just For Laughs festival, which last year hosted a predominantly Hindi comedy show, the program represents another important attempt to bring world humour to Toronto stages.

At that time, no one dared to speak out. I dared to. We got a great response from the audience. When you look, that was a small and funny thing. But at the time, I took a risk.

“I went to China two years ago, to go to Jiang Kun’s comedy festival, which was influenced, he told me, by Montreal’s Just For Laughs,” says Bruce Hills, JFL’s chief operating officer. “He was performing in front of 6,000 people in an arena. He introduced me to the major players in the Chinese comedy world, and I got a quick education in how seriously China takes comedy.”

Wherever he’s performing, Jiang doesn’t cater solely to older audiences familiar with the cult of Mao and the deprivations of the Maoist years, says Hills, but also to the younger generations of the new China. Among other things, Jiang now incorporates Internet jargon and social-media-style dialogue into his crosstalk. “His audience,” says Hills, “is really across the board.”

You could almost call him the Bill Cosby of China – if Cosby performed a complicated form of wordplay whose origins stem from the Qing Dynasty, which ran from the mid-1600s to early 1900s; and if Cosby had established himself with a routine famous for signalling to an entire nation that finally, after years of constant revolution, it was okay to exhale collectively and laugh at utter hardship.

“At that time, no one dared to speak out,” says Jiang, of the early post-Mao years. “I dared to. We got a great response from the audience. When you look, that was a small and funny thing.

“But at the time, I took a risk,” adds the comedian, who now holds the government-endorsed title of managing vice-president of China Quyi Artists Association. (Quyi is essentially Chinese folk performance, with techniques handed down for centuries. Xiangsheng included, quyi ranges from song to spoken word, and is described as something to be studied rather than merely picked up haphazardly by performers.)

Modern xiangsheng had by the turn of the 20th century become a form of street theatre, Jiang explained to me. But by the mid-1930s, it had graduated to fancier tea houses, and was performed with more of an air of sophistication. By mid-century, cross talking took a populist turn. Hou Baolin, revered as a master of the form, reworked traditional skits and cleaned up the language, making it more accessible to larger audiences. He essentially distilled the art form down to its rapid and intricate, though respectful, jokes.

“In this way, xiangsheng performances went from the tea houses to theatre stages,” Jiang says. But during the early Mao years, “the common people still didn’t accept xiangsheng. They thought it was something old, not something new.” That’s when Hou began working to “purify” the art, as Jiang explains, by removing even more vulgarities. Radio broadcasts of xiangsheng also helped the Communist government in its ambition to spread the use of Mandarin nationally.

Of course, cleaning up any art form risks eliminating the humorous bits. That’s the trick that subsequent generations of comedians, including Jiang, have faced: how to update xiangsheng, adding contemporary twists, while keeping it funny?

One unlikely person who’s been integral to modernizing xiangsheng is Ottawa native Mark Rowswell, who studied Chinese language and history at the University of Toronto in the mid-1980s before going to Beijing as a student. Eventually, he wound up performing a comedy skit at a New Year’s Eve gala on Chinese national television in the late eighties, watched by 550 million people. From then on, he was known by his stage name, Dashan (Big Mountain) and, having met Jiang, became his pupil.

Dashan’s signature role in skits is to play a foreigner who can out-Chinese the Chinese: reciting complicated Mandarin tongue twisters at double the speed of his comedic elders onstage, with lots of nuance and wordplay thrown in.

As for Jiang’s routines, there are limits to what even he can say today in his native China, despite his popularity. Sex remains largely taboo for mainstream audiences, and political humour still has no-go zones. The 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is a clear example of what remains out of bounds.

Says Rowswell, “Because xiangsheng is just comedy and language humour, it’s completely non-political. The social commentary in China is often not that direct. I mean, who wants to make fun of a massacre? But there is social commentary about corruption and other problems.”

Still, in smaller clubs, comics are testing the boundaries of political – and sexual – jokes. “The whole situation in China is a lot more diverse than I think people recognize,” Rowswell says. “There are comedy clubs, or comedy in bars, and that kind of environment can get quite raunchy, but you’d never see that stuff on television and in the mass media.”

Although Jiang routinely commands audiences of 500 million or more for his major TV specials, says Rowswell, the comedian has also been helping to revitalize live comedy. “He was one of the guys that 10 or 15 years ago said, ‘We’re doing too much TV-studio stuff. We’ve got to get back in front of live audiences, because that’s the place to bring up new and young talent.’ ”

And these days, to take it on the road as well – becoming ambassadors for one of China’s richest comedic traditions, while giving audiences half-way around the world a good hearty chuckle.

The Chinese Comedy & Variety Show Featuring Jiang Kun takes place July 9 and 10 at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 190 Princes’ Blvd., Exhibition Place. For more information, visit toronto.hahaha.com.

Louis CK: Voice of America

Source: www.eurweb.com - Bill Brioux

(July 04, 2010) You don’t often hear Louis C.K. sound so cheery. “Toronto,” he says, “is my favourite city to do stand-up.”

Known for his dark, brutally honest take on life, the 42-year-old comedian is among the headliners as part of the Just For Laughs Toronto Comedy Festival. He’ll be performing July 10 at Massey Hall.

C.K. sold out several shows at the Winter Garden last year, and had three instant sellouts at the now defunct Diesel Playhouse the year before. “Toronto is bananas,” he says. “I can’t stop selling tickets there.”

The comedian continues to hone his craft on the road despite his latest TV venture, the semi-autobiographical series Louie, which just launched on the U.S. cable channel FX. (So far, there’s been no announcement about a Canadian network pickup, but that will hardly stop fans up here — and they’re clearly legion — from getting it. Superchannel says they’re considering picking it up.)

Critics have called it a dark Seinfeld. Both shows open and close with the star/comedian doing stand-up in a New York club. Comparisons end there, however, says C.K., who agreed with one critic on a recent conference call that while Seinfeld was a show about nothing, Louie is a show about everything. “I’m just a guy on the Earth is what I really feel this show is about,” he says. “So I can talk about a lot of things.”

Like pain. The divorced dad has two young daughters and what he calls a horrible dating life, some of which will be shown to Louie viewers. “I’ve got two kids. I’m divorced, 42. I’m kind of heavy.” Most days he’d just like to stay in bed, he says, “and I can’t because I’ve got two kids standing next to my bed just eager to live another day.”

On stage or on TV, C.K. breaks his angst down into short stories based on his own life. Take his name: C.K. was bestowed on him by a camp counsellor who couldn’t pronounce his actual surname — Szekely. “It’s a Hungarian last name, and it sounds like ‘C.K.,’ ” he explains. The instructor wrote “C.K.” on his camp jersey that summer and the name stuck.

Louie is C.K.’s latest attempt at mining his life for TV. An HBO series, Lucky Louie, startled viewers a few seasons ago as a kind of taboo-breaking anti-sitcom. Some critics got it — Mike Duffy at the Detroit Free Press called it a “twisted variation on The Honeymooners or Roseanne for the 21st century” — while another dismissed it as a “toxic failure.” It even scared HBO, which walked away from it after one season.

The new comedy is more of a series of short films shot in New York and strung together with stand-up bits. C.K. writes, directs, edits, stars and does everything but direct traffic in Manhattan as he runs around with his tight little crew. “We try to have a small footprint,” he says.

Besides Seinfeld, Louie has also been compared to Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, although C.K. points out that his show is more scripted. “Curb has a definite honesty and nakedness to the character. That part is inspiring.”

Honesty and nakedness is definitely what C.K. is going for, especially in the pilot where he embarks on a date from hell. “I think the ability to show what a piece of s--- you can be and how embarrassing your life can get, I think that’s a generous thing to be able to do.”

It can also take courage, it is suggested. Sure, says C.K., cooking up a typically dark yet relevant example. Maybe the first couple of times, “then you go there and come back. It’s like explorers. These guys are on a boat, and syphilis and all kinds of things happen, and they come back with slaves and some gold. Now they know the route and they know how to get there. After a while it’s just what they do.”

Not that he’s condoning slavery, or syphilis, the comedian adds. Shooting the new series in New York means an end to the recurring character he played on L.A.-based Parks & Recreation last season. Flying back and forth would cut into his shared custody time with his kids, and there he draws the line. What he won’t give up, however, is stand-up. “For 25 years now, I’ve been on stage, working for audiences,” he says. “I’ve gotten pretty good at gauging what’s going to be funny.”

It was stand-up which led to C.K.’s first TV gig, as a writer on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. He remains loyal to his old boss. “Conan took a shot with me before anybody, before there was any proof I could do anything,” he says.

C.K. can now claim to be one of the hottest comedians around. The Winter Garden shows came after being part of the Sarah Silverman-headlined gala at Massey last year at Just For Laughs; this time he’s the headliner of his own sellout gala. Add that to the new TV show and he has a claim to being one of the hottest comedians around.

But before Conan, he was just another struggling stand-up comedian in New York. The comedy club scene was dying in the early ’90s, “and every friend of mine, everybody who I hung out with in New York, got hired at Saturday Night Live.”

That group included Sarah Silverman, Laura Kightlinger, Dave Attell and Janeane Garofalo, who all got SNL writing and performing gigs — and C.K. didn’t. “I was actually starting to rethink my whole decision of doing what I’m doing,” says C.K. “And then Conan hired me as a writer and gave me an enormous amount of power and creative control. He was a very enabling and great boss.”

The comedian spoke frankly last January at the TV critics press tour in Los Angeles on the upheaval in late night. C.K. had scored with a dynamite appearance on Conan’s old show in 2008, a bit zeroing in the spoiled and newly uncertain public, in a bit that went viral under the name “Everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.”

That bit caught the zeitgeist and got him interviewed by Time magazine, but whatever successes they’ve had together, C.K. feels O’Brien should never have taken the Tonight Show. “When I was a kid, it was Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, and it was kind of like what old people watched,” he says. “People my age watched Letterman.”

C.K. says he never understood it when Letterman wanted The Tonight Show “because he had his own show called Letterman. And when they rejected him, he went and got Letterman again. He’s doing great.

“Conan has Conan,” says C.K. “And I don’t know why you’d want to give that up just to host The Tonight Show. That’s just this old, s----y thing.”

In any event, C.K. knew things would work out fine for Jay Leno, whose show just had him visit two weeks ago (C.K. talked about marvelling at kids’ nut allergies — “when I was a kid this didn’t exist. It’s like people and nuts have lived on earth together for millions of years, and then around 2005 nuts went, ‘we’re going to start killing these folks.’ ”).

“Jay is a driven American guy. He’s working class, from Danvers, Mass., which is close to where I grew up. He’s a Boston comic, which is what I am. And he’s like, ‘This is my show.’ He’s not kidding around.

“So I don’t blame him either. He’s just holding on, and he won. I mean, it’s pretty impressive, what he pulled off.”

O’Brien, C.K. notes, is from Brookline, Mass., “two blocks from the Kennedy compound. He’s a rich, Harvard-educated, well-heeled, milk-and-honey-fed fella, and so he’ll be okay. And he’ll be the first one to tell you that.”


Tough Times, But Some Bookstores Have A Different Story

Source: www.eurweb.com - Vit Wagner

(July 04, 2010) BakkaPhoenix, the country’s oldest science fiction and fantasy bookstore, faces many of the same challenges confronting Toronto’s other independent booksellers.

Chiefly, these include the migration of customers to big-box outlets and online retailers, where discounts abound, as well as what further erosion of business the emerging e-book market will bring.

But while some of the competition is retrenching or worse, BakkaPhoenix, which recorded a double-digit increase in sales last year, is expanding. In stark contrast to the recently shuttered This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, BakkaPhoenix is readying a fall move from the Queen St. W. location it currently rents to the larger, two-storey Harbord St. digs it has purchased.

“One of the things we were looking for was space for our community,” says Chris Szego, who has managed the store for the past decade. “We already have had science-fiction book clubs approach us to see if they can hold their meetings there.

“We want to schedule writing and reading workshops. That’s something independent bookstores can be great at. We offer community.”

The store, which has relocated a handful of times since it first opened in 1972, will set up shop in the former home of Atticus Books, a couple of doors west of Spadina and within shouting distance of the University of Toronto.

“Hopefully, we can insert ourselves quickly into the mental headspace of University of Toronto undergraduates because there’s an endless supply of those,” Szego says.

U of T undergrads also represent a potentially lucrative demographic.

“When you think about the entertainment trends of the past 10 years,” Szego reasons, “they have all been speculative in nature: the rise of online, multi-player, role-playing games, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Stephenie Meyer. And it’s not just about those books. I sell far more copies of the latest Cory Doctorow than I do the latest Stephenie Meyer.”

Joanne Saul, co-owner of Type Books, is similarly upbeat. While the small chain decided to cut its losses by closing its Danforth outlet last year, the company has expanded its two remaining stores on Queen St. near Trinity Bellwoods and on Spadina Rd. in Forest Hill. Sales slumped for much of 2009, Saul says, but picked up at Christmas and have remained buoyant through the spring.

“A successful independent bookstore has to completely and utterly cater to its community,” says Saul. “That’s something we strive to do by getting engaged with the schools near us, offering literacy programs, having weekly story time for neighbourhood preschoolers. You have to make those connections with people who support you. It’s a two-way street.”

Type’s Queen St. competition stands to be lessened somewhat, with the impending closure of a Book City outlet just east of Trinity Bellwoods. But Book City general manager Ian Donker insists the proximity of the stores was not a decisive factor.

“Sales weren’t bad but they weren’t where you would like them to be after two years of being there,” Donker says. “We had a chance to sell the building, so we thought we’d do a positive thing for our bottom line. That’s just a business decision. It’s not a reflection of the book business.”

BookNet Canada, which charts sales in Canada, has reported a slight drop in overall sales this year, after an increase in 2009. But Donker reports the trend line has been the opposite for Book City, which will continue to operate five outlets.

“It has been quite a positive year so far for a lot of our stores,” he says.

The outlook is not universally rosy by any means. This Ain’t the Rosedale Library, a storied indie that has been in business for more than 30 years, was recently locked out of its Kensington Market by its landlord over unpaid rent.

Glad Day, the landmark gay and lesbian themed bookseller, issued in an appeal for financial support in the spring. Its future remains uncertain.

“Things have improved a little bit but it’s not beyond what we’d expect for the season, given that we’re coming up to Pride Week,” says owner John Scythes. “It’s touch and go right now. I’ve had a few nice orders from academia, but that won’t run the store. The walk-in trade hasn’t changed. People come and browse here and then go home and order the book on the net.”

Scythes would like the Canadian government to follow the example of its French counterpart by limiting the discounts offered by online retailer Amazon to 5 per cent.

“I can’t blame people,” says Scythes. “It’s the kind of culture we’ve created. But is it worth it if the consequence is destroying retail book selling?”

The Canadian Booksellers Association is keenly monitoring the uncertain climate to see if there are common factors behind why some of its members are thriving, while others aren’t.

“There is a combination of complex factors,” says CBA president Mark Lefebvre, who manages Titles Bookstore at McMaster University. “What’s the rent? What’s the neighbourhood?

“We’re in very challenging times. Booksellers have to find that fine balance that gives them an edge. Maybe it’s expertise. Or maybe it’s some other factor that nobody can do as well as them.”

Taking an entirely different approach is Marc Glassman, the former proprietor of Pages Books & Magazines. Driven off Queen St. W. last year by escalating rents, the veteran bookseller has rebranded his business as Pages Beyond Bricks & Mortar.

Glassman has continued to sell books through This is Not a Reading Series, the program of regular author events he runs mainly out of the Gladstone Hotel. And, following the model established by New York’s Mobile Libris, he is setting up shop at other events, including the recent Luminato and Subtle Technologies festivals. He has a contract to sell books and DVDs at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

“I’m hanging out my virtual shingle,” Glassman says. “We’re happy to sell books at the great events that are taking place all the time in Toronto. They aren’t necessarily literary events, but events that would have books as part of the mix of what they do.

“All of the kinks haven’t been worked out, but enough of them have that it’s all do-able. Obviously, we’d all like to have our own shops, but this is a viable option.”


Without Chris Bosh, Raptors Have Much Work To Do

Source: www.thestar.com -
Doug Smith

(July 07, 2010) The Raptors must now go about picking up the pieces of a broken roster after the most prolific scorer in franchise history ditched them.

But even with
Chris Bosh officially off to Miami — he announced it himself in a staged interview Wednesday afternoon — the team still has no true indication what it will get from the departure.

With the Heat still holding out faint hope of completing a majestic free-agent trifecta by luring LeBron James to South Florida to join Bosh and Dwyane Wade, a complete resolution to Bosh’s departure won’t be known until Thursday night.

That’s when James is to declare his intentions in an hour-long, nationally broadcast television show. And until he does — and until the salary cap repercussions are felt either way — it’s impossible to discern whether Bosh’s exit is strictly as a free agent or part of a sign-and-trade transaction.

Raptors officials had no comment after Bosh made his decision public early Wednesday afternoon but it would be folly to think the prospect of a sign-and-trade scenario wasn’t being bandied about.

Bosh could leave the Raptors with nothing and sign a five-year deal worth about $90 million as a free agent.

Or, if he gets Toronto to participate in a sign-and-trade deal, he could get a six-year deal worth up to $120 million and allow the Raptors to recoup something for losing the leading scorer and rebounder in franchise history.

Whatever finally transpires — and Wade and Bosh aren’t likely to sign their new deals until Friday, after James announces his intentions — Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo has a huge void to fill with his team after losing the 22 points and 10 rebounds Bosh averaged each game last season.

While the likes of Andrea Bargnani, Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack and DeMar DeRozan have proved to be competent NBA players, not having a stud in the frontcourt will be a huge blow.

Colangelo is actively seeking some help elsewhere in NBA free agency — the team will officially announce the return of Amir Johnson on Thursday — but whatever he gets won’t approach the production the team got from Bosh.

Citing his close relationship with Wade — he and Bosh broke into the league together in 2003, were teammates on the victorious 2008 U.S. Olympic team and are represented by the same agent — Bosh said he expects his new team to flourish.

“I expect us to compete for a championship,” said Bosh, who never got past the first round of the playoffs in seven seasons with the Raptors. “I think both Dwyane and I wanted an opportunity where right away we’d be competing. I think everybody wants that.”

Jack, Bosh’s closest friend on the Raptors, said he couldn’t blame the five-time all-star for seeking a new home.

“It makes sense,” Jack said after taking part in a workout at the Air Canada Centre with Toronto’s summer league team. “First of all, him getting paired with Dwyane Wade, they have two top-tier players on the same team now . . . and that should put them in contention to be the top contender to represent the East in the final.”

Jack signed a four-year deal with the Raptors last summer and knew then that the possibility of Bosh departing was real.

“Disappointed a little bit,” was Jack’s immediate reaction. “Obviously I would love to play with him again but I knew the situation coming in here. When I was about to sign my contract, me and him talked about the possibilities of the free agency thing coming up and I knew what was possibly going to happen.

“I don’t think anybody can look at him with any type of disdain on their face — they knew he gave his heart and soul to this franchise for seven great years. He just felt it was time to move on.”

The spectre of James joining Wade and Bosh in Miami grew Wednesday with several published reports suggesting he’d at least consider the Heat along with several other suitors.

“It’s no secret that myself and Chris and LeBron are all good friends . . . (but) we all make our own decisions at the end of the day,” said Wade. “Of course, we’d love to have LeBron join Miami. Who wouldn’t?”

Semenya’s Long Ordeal Over As IAAF Clears South African To Compete

www.thestar.com - Rosie DiManno

(July 06, 2010) JOHANNESBURG - Her voice is deep, in the lowest alto range for a female. Her breasts are non-existent, hips boyishly slim.

Throughout her life, when she looked in the mirror,
Caster Semenya saw a girl. She apparently never doubted her gender. Certainly her parents believed they’d raised a daughter — one who, as it turned out, could run like the wind.

The International Association of Athletics Federations was not so sure.

For 11 months the IAAF had left Semenya hanging, ever since the South African athlete crushed the field in the 800-metre final at the world championships in Berlin. Some competitors, astonished by the muscular Semenya’s overwhelming dominance in that race — a two-second margin of victory — and her dramatically improving times, complained that she had to be a he — just look at her.

So the IAAF looked. Medical experts looked. Lawyers looked.

The teenager’s mortification can only be imagined.

On Tuesday, the global track and field authorities who had ordered gender verification testing finally released their verdict, clearing Semenya to resume her career as a girl runner — perhaps as soon as the world junior championships in Moncton, N.B., on July 19.

Yet the statement issued by the IAAF was oddly imprecise, which might very well provoke challenges — at the very least fail to smother disgruntlement — from Semenya’s running opponents.

“The process initiated in 2009 in the case of Caster Semenya has now been completed,” the government body stated tersely. “The IAAF accepts the conclusion of a panel of medical experts that she can compete with immediate effect.”

Her gold medal and race times have been formally recognized and Semenya will receive an undisclosed financial “settlement” for her ordeal.

But nothing was stated flatly about Semenya — rumoured to be a hermaphrodite, meaning she has both male and female sexual organs (though the second set of genitalia could be internal) — being a female, full stop. Medical details will not be released.

“Why should they be out there?” Semenya’s lawyer, Greg Nott, told South African television last night. “Would you like your sex records to be made public?”

For the past three weeks, Semenya has been participating in a training camp in Pretoria, along with the rest of this country’s track team. She had declined interviews but her coach, Michael Seme, described his star as “unfit” physically and merely going through the motions as she waited — and waited — for an outcome to her case, a decision repeatedly deferred by the IAAF. “She can’t do any speed work or prepare to race until we know when she can compete,” Seme told reporters last week.

The waiting, the pending, is now over. Why the process took so long has not been explained. A month ago, South African Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile scrapped a press conference at which it was assumed the medical results would be revealed. That was just one more false start for Semenya, and she’s endured many since last August’s compromised triumph.

The 19-year-old released a statement Tuesday afternoon, expressing her delight at being able to race again. “I am thrilled to enter the global athletic arena once again and look forward to competing with all the disputes behind me.”

But only hours earlier, in a brief phone interview with Associated Press, Semenya had said: “I don’t feel anything.”

What she has clearly felt, all these long months, is embarrassment, as the most intimate details of her being were debated around the world, after news was leaked that the IAAF was scrutinizing her gender. Different sports federations follow different rules about determining sex. The International Olympic Committee no longer requires mandatory gender testing, though it continues to struggle in drafting guidelines to help federations handle “ambiguous” athletes who may have “disorders of sex development,” as some doctors describe the condition.

It has been a humiliating experience for the teen, suddenly famous — and notorious — for what may or may not be between her legs.

What’s not clear, and likely will never be publicized, is whether Semenya underwent any medical procedure or testosterone-suppressing treatment during her long layoff.

Nott insisted Semenya has come through her public trial with honour intact. “Caster’s dignity has been repaired by her own grace and her own strength.”

He conceded not all of Semenya’s competitors will accept this decision. A few, during the past year, have threatened to boycott races if Semenya was allowed to compete as a female.

“It’s up to them if they want to challenge it,” said Nott. “There may be athletes who do not accept her, but there has also been an outpouring of love and support.”

He further claimed that sponsors have come forward with potential endorsement deals for the runner.

“We’re going to see our golden girl in her track shoes and ready to compete.”

Serena Does It Again; Easily Captures 4th Wimbledon

Source: www.eurweb.com

(July 03, 2010) *
Serena Williams swept Vera Zvonareva in straight sets Saturday to win her fourth Wimbledon title and 13th Grand Slam championship, extending the Williams family dominance at the All England Club.

The top-ranked and defending champion American overwhelmed the 21st-seeded Russian 6-3, 6-2 in a one-sided final that lasted just 67 minutes and showed why Williams is considered one of the greatest players of all time.

Williams served nine aces, broke three times and never faced a break point in nine service games. She finished the tournament without dropping a set.

After converting an overhead smash to finish the match, Williams tossed her racket away, bent backward, looked to the sky, shook her fists and screamed.

Williams, who improved her record to 13-3 in Grand Slam finals, added to the Wimbledon titles she won in 2002, 2003 and 2009. However, this was the first time she defeated someone other than her sister Venus in the final.

The Williams sisters have now won nine of the last 11 Wimbledon titles. Venus beat Serena in 2008 for her fifth title here.

“My dream was able to come true,” Serena said after accepting the Venus Rosewater Dish from the Duke of Kent with a curtsy. “Everyone’s dream can come true if you just stick to it and work hard. This one is very special.”

Get more of this AP story HERE.

Spain Wins Tense Match To Earn Spot In World Cup Final

Source: www.thestar.com -
Chris Young

(July 07, 2010) DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA — The reigning European champions from Spain are one game away from adding their first World Cup title in history, after a thrilling 1-0 win over Germany at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Wednesday night.

Carles Puyol’s headed goal off a Xavi Hernandez corner 17 minutes from the finish broke open a display of the world’s No. 1 game at its most tense and technically proficient, and booked Spain a date on Sunday against unbeaten and untied Netherlands at Soccer City Stadium in Soweto.

Holland and Spain have met never met with so much at stake, both sides looking for their first global championship. Spain has never finished higher than fourth at a World Cup. Holland were twice runners-up, in 1974 and 1978.

The result was a triumph for Spain’s classy brand of soccer, their slick-passing possession game nullifying Germany’s counterattacking approach in a rematch of the European final two years ago. After a halting beginning to their World Cup tournament with a 1-0 loss to Switzerland, Spain has reeled off five straight victories, the last three of them by the same 1-0 score line.

German coach Joachim Low made one line-up change with the suspension of Thomas Mueller for a pair of yellow cards incurred over the previous 450 minutes. Midfielder Piotr Trochowski went in for Mueller on the right side of the attacking midfield with Mesut Ozil in the middle and Lukas Podolski wide left behind Miroslav Klose, level with Mueller for the Germany team lead with four goals. Klose’s 14 goals over the past three World Cup finals put him one behind Brazilian Ronaldo for the all-time lead in scoring.

Trochowski had Germany’s best chance in a goalless first half, his shot from distance parried out for a corner kick by diving Spain ‘keeper Iker Casillas’ outstretched left hand at 32 minutes.

On the other side, Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque benched the underperforming Fernando Torres, putting in 22-year-old Pedro Rodriguez, who this past season at Barcelona took Thierry Henry’s place. Rodriguez entered the game with a grand total of 30 tournament minutes under his belt.

Lively from the start, Pedro immediately made a contribution. His perfect through ball into the box found David Villa cutting behind the defence, but Manuel Neuer was equal to it, rushing off his line to make the save on Spain’s best chance of the first half, just six minutes in. Nine minutes later, Puyol’s free header off an Andres Iniesta ball went high over the goal. It was about the only time Spain managed to pierce a well-marshalled defence led by Arne Friedrich, until Puyol rose up with fellow defender Gerard Pique shielding him from his marker to powerfully nod in the game’s only goal.

Pedro forced the save of the night from Neuer 10 minutes into a second half in which Spain turned up the pressure, generating numerous chances and putting the Germans on the ropes. But their shooting aim let them down, Xabi Alonso missing the net twice from distance and Villa following that errant lead on another foray.

After Villa was stopped from a tight angle by Neuer, Germany finally forced some work out of Casillas, who had to be sharp to stop substitute Toni Kroos’ strong volley off a Podolski setup. But all it did was set the stage for a Spanish sweep of Germany at the Euro and now here, each by the same 1-0 score line. Same old Spain — finally.