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LE NEWSLETTER

June 17, 2010

Looks like another nice weekend ahead ... perhaps humid but still sunny and warm.  And let's not forget that this Sunday is Father's Day - celebrate the men in your life who have impacted you.

Next week is the G20 summit in Toronto - while I understand the need for security measures, why do I feel like this is a lot of hype and paranoia?

So, our boy

Drake couldn't perform in New York due to the underestimated crowds that showed up.  History has been made yet again with Toronto's own rapper!  I love the fact that he was holding a FREE concert  ...  check out more under SCOOP.

EXCLUSIVE PHOTO!  My friend, Adrian Eccleston, who is Drake's lead guitar player, sent me this picture with him playing his guitar behind his head (!!) on Drake's stage during their Philly stop.  Hanging at the show were also Glenn Lewis and Slakah the Beatchild.

Also it looks like
Jaden Smith is killing the big screen in Karate Kid ... guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Film was executive-produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.  See more under FILM NEWS.

Tons of news this week ... scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!Scroll down and find out what interests you - take your time and take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!


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

::SCOOP::

Free Drake Concert Cancelled After Crowd Gets Unruly

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Colleen Long, The Associated Press

(June 16, 2010) New York —
A free concert in New York City by pop band Hanson and up-and-coming Canadian rapper Drake was cancelled Tuesday after twice as many people as anticipated showed up and many became unruly, police said.

The show started at about 6 p.m. with an opening act at Pier 17 on Manhattan's South Street Seaport, a popular summer locale for concerts. Hanson, the Tulsa, Okla., brothers behind the 1997 hit Mmmbop, and headliner Drake, whose album Thank Me Later debuted Tuesday, were to appear on stage soon after.

Organizers were anticipating about 10,0000 people but nearly 20,000 showed up, police said. Many people climbed roofs and started throwing bottles, as concertgoers smashed together toward the stage, police said.

Witness Tamika Johnson told the Daily News newspaper: “People in the front started leaving because they were getting crushed.”

The concert organizers asked the New York Police Department for help dispersing the crowds around 7 p.m., police spokesman Paul Browne said. Two people were arrested on minor charges; six suffered minor injuries, police said.

The concert was part of the “Sounds Like Paper” series presented by Paper magazine, an independent magazine focusing on arts, culture and music. The magazine apologized on its website: “Wow, the crowd was much larger than we anticipated, and unfortunately the show was cancelled. But we will make it up to you guys!”

The magazine posted several updates on Twitter during the night: “It's a total madhouse – in a good way” and “get off the roof!”

Calls to representatives for Drake and Hanson weren't immediately returned Tuesday night.

A spokesman for Drake, whose album features Kanye Westand Alicia Keys and debuted to positive reviews, told the Daily News the rapper was disappointed the NYPD dispersed the crowds before he could perform.

Hanson's Mmmbop, from the trio of brothers' album Middle of Nowhere, was one of the biggest debut singles of all time. 

::TOP STORIES::

Sarah McLachlan ‘I’m Not The Girl I Was’

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 11, 2010) Vancouver — Sarah McLachlan is like a lot of women you might know: in her early 40s, going through a divorce, still in a bit of shock at finding herself raising two children as a single mother.

Except, well, she's Sarah McLachlan, who’s sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. So she can sing about it. And boy does she ever on her album Laws of Illusion, out next week. If ever there was a McLachlan break-up album – and it can be argued there’ve been a few – this is the quintessential one.

“I’m not the girl I was, but what have I become?” she sings on Awakenings, the opening track, which serves as a sort of emotional overture for a recording that deals with the breakdown of her marriage, the desperate attempts to save it, the pain of moving on, and the glory of that too.

“Change and growth is so painful,” McLachlan said during a recent interview. “But it’s so necessary for us to evolve.”

Two years ago, McLachlan split with her husband of 11 years, drummer Ashwin Sood. The couple has two daughters, India, now 8, and Taja, about to turn 3.

“For me, it’s a very personal process,” McLachlan says about the writing these songs. “I want and need to be as honest and as present as I can and put the material out there as frankly as I can. It’s for me. It feels good. It’s cathartic and it’s a way to sort stuff out.”

It’s been seven years since McLachlan, now 42, last put out a studio album

McLachlan is speaking in a Vancouver studio, where she’s been rehearsing with her band for the upcoming Lilith tour. She’s dressed in cargo pants, a shimmery camisole and silver sandals. Her hair’s up and pinned off to the side. She laughs – a lot. She says she’s happy, very. She looks it.

It’s been seven years since McLachlan, now 42, last put out a studio album of new original material, making this week’s release a highly anticipated event. The singer, who grew up in Halifax and lives in West Vancouver, has become a recording phenomenon since her first album, Touch, was released in 1988. Among her mega-hits are I Will Remember You, Building a Mystery and Angel. She’s won Grammy Awards, Juno Awards, founded the all-women-artist Lilith Fair touring music festival (about to go back on the road simply as Lilith later this month) and has parlayed her considerable fame and wealth into philanthropic endeavours, including raising money through the Lilith tours and founding her own Sarah McLachlan Foundation, which funds a Vancouver music program for inner-city youth.

Things were all going so well, or so she thought, when she experienced the breakdown of her marriage.

“I thought I was this person, and part of that is the artifice of the fantasy that we build up to hold up the perceived reality,” she explains, having clearly given it a lot of thought. “It’s all kind of a big illusion: the white picket fence and the perfect marriage and the kids. Check that box off, check that box off, and move forward. And then it all falls apart underneath you, and you’re left to pick up the pieces and sort out, ‘Well, who am I then?’ Because I thought that’s what I was and who I was, and I’m not all that. Or that’s not my life any more and how do I move forward from there?”

With this in mind, she was thinking of calling the album Loss and Illusion, touching on its two main themes. She suggested the title to her long-time songwriting collaborator and producer, Pierre Marchand, who’s based in Montreal. He misunderstood her. Laws of Illusion, he asked? Sold.

“I like the idea that we build up these walls or rules or laws to maintain our reality, and when they fall away, you’re left with a whole bunch of illusions,” says McLachlan. “Smoke and mirrors.”

McLachlan has been working with Marchand for more than 20 years, since they first holed up for a week together in Vancouver to write Into the Fire for her second album, Solace. Their collaborations – including Adia, World on Fire and Fumbling Towards Ecstasy – have been wildly successful.

“She’s super-sweet, creative and fun,” says Marchand, whom McLachlan considers to be her muse. “She’s very inspiring”

The two are also great friends who did a lot of soul-searching together during the creation of Laws of Illusion; Marchand had been through a split about a year-and-a-half before McLachlan. “We do have a parallel drama in our lives,” he says.

For Laws of Illusion, they tried something they hadn’t done with new material before: recording the tracks “live” (the singer and band performed together in the studio rather than recording isolated tracks) in his Montreal studio, laying down six songs in less than five days. The result was fast and fresh. “It was great to be done the week, and half the record’s done,” says Marchand, who describes the atmosphere during the sessions as “a relaxed panicked state.”

The result is a 12-track album, including two songs that were on her 2008 greatest hits release. Both deal with marital dissolution, as do many of the other songs on the album, including Changes (“I can’t believe that you’re walking away from this”) and Forgiveness (“You don’t know much about heaven, boy, if you have to hide to feel”).

“It’s very pedestrian,” says McLachlan about the events that inspired the songs. “There’s nothing particularly unique about my experiences except that they’re my experiences. Two of my best friends are going through the same thing right now, so there’s lots of good juicy emotional fodder to pull from.”

Indeed, when she talks about recognizing her own patterns and making the same mistakes over and over again in relationships, or juggling a demanding job and motherhood in an effort to find that elusive work-life balance, it feels less like an interview with a superstar than a conversation with a girlfriend. Sure, she’s a gazillionaire, but tell that to her broken heart.

The album’s first single, Loving You Is Easy, was inspired by what was clearly a giddy recent experience: Finding new love, post-separation. (The man was widely rumoured to be Brett Wilson from the television show Dragons’ Den; when asked about him, McLachlan smiles and says only “hmmm.”) They’re not together any more. McLachlan is single and she’s fine with that.

“I can’t imagine being anything else right now,” she laughs. “I’m too busy. I have a full life: I have two amazing kids, I have great friends, great family. And right now, that’s plenty for me to manage. A new relationship just seems like way too much work.” She pauses. “Right now.”

Laws of Illusion will be released on Tuesday.  

The Busy (Samantha) Bee On Sex, Age And Laxatives

Source: www.thestar.com - Sarah Barmak

(June 12, 2010) As the Most Senior Correspondent on the Emmy-award-winning The Daily Show, Samantha Bee, 40, is one of the most recognized female comedians on TV. In her new memoir, I know I am, but what are you? she tells funny stories about her awkward Toronto childhood stealing cars, crushing on Jesus, and playing Sailor Moon.

You took a somewhat nontraditional path to stardom.

I didn’t always know that I wanted to be an actor to begin with. I didn’t know until my late 20s what my goal really was. I’m just glad I figured out something, because I could have been wandering aimlessly through the woods my entire life.

Does it feel like if The Daily Show never existed, you would have never found your perfect thing?

I spontaneously remembered today that when I was a little girl, I made a tape. I have an audio recording of myself doing fake news. And it is called News for Goofs. It is a news parody show that I did for myself and never played for anyone. That was how I spent my days.

So you were destined for The Daily Show.

So I kind of was, but I would not have known that, of course, at the time.

Did you really try to kill yourself as a teenager?

I tried to “kill myself” by consuming laxatives, six of them.

And Pine Sol.

Oh, like a quarter cup! It was nothing. I threw up, but I was nowhere near death. I was trying to get out of going to a wedding the next day. They thought I was on acid the whole time. Everyone at the wedding thought I was on drugs, because I looked green. Oh no, look at your face. You’re like, ‘That is sad.’ It’s just one of those dramatic things you do when you’re a teenager, and you have no intention of accomplishing the task at hand. No one dies from Correctol laxatives. It’s impossible (laughs).

You also write about sex, and how weird it can be. Do we make sex look too pretty in our culture?

It’s interesting to me how many people are into really freaky stuff. I’m always totally fascinated when I learn that people are deeply into spanking. You know what I mean? I’m like, ‘Really? Interesting! Okay!’ It’s good to know about those things, because you’re eventually gonna meet someone who wants to be spanked. And then you either go with the flow, or you don’t. I knew someone who was online dating and ended up tripping across someone’s profile and learning that they were into adult breastfeeding. Seriously. If you’re into something like that, you can’t spring that on someone on date 20.

You write that you can’t wait to get old. Are we trying too hard to stay young?

Yes I do, I absolutely do. I think that we give way too much power to very youthful people to determine what our cultural products are and how we’re supposed to look. I’m only really a functioning adult now that I’ve hit 40 and through my 30s, and I would like to take some of the power back. I feel it’s my time to shine, and yet here my dermatologist is recommending all these fillers for my face. And I’m like, listen. I’m fine. It’s fine. I don’t need to pretend to be something that I’m not. I colour my hair like a mother----er, but anyway.

Old Spice Brother Lands NBC Talent Deal

Source: www.eurweb

(June 15, 2010) *
Isaiah Mustafa, the NFL player-turned-actor who became famous overnight as “the man your man could smell like,” has just parlayed his Old Spice commercial into a new talent deal with NBC.

“We felt he was a piece of talent worth developing. He’s an attractive guy who’s just as funny and charming,” NBC Universal casting executive VP Grace Wu tells Variety.

The deal calls for Mustafa to audition for several current NBC shows, as well as new ones. According to Variety, he’ll try out for sitcoms first, although he may appear on other NBC shows like “Chuck” or the upcoming “Love Bites.”

“I grew up in that ‘Cosby Show’, ‘Family Ties’ era, and kept that going even through college with ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Friends’,” he says. “To me, they controlled comedy and dictated my life on Thursday nights. And I think that’s my strength — doing comedy.”

Mustafa’s TV resume already includes “Ugly Betty,” “Days of Our Lives” and “Castle.”

His Old Spice ad has been viewed more than 10.5 million times since it first launched on YouTube.

The Job Has To Get Done, And The Lakers Should Do It

Source: www.thestar.com - Dave Feschuk

(June 16, 2010) LOS ANGELES -
Phil Jackson has won 10 championships and 224 playoff games as an NBA coach, and both counts are the best in the history of North American pro sports.

Jackson, the
Los Angeles Lakers coach, was thinking back on all those teams, all those wins, in a short moment of reminiscence on Wednesday.

“They’re all different chapters in a very long book,” he said.

Jackson’s life is a door stopper, but Thursday night turns the page on a storyline with which the coach isn’t specifically familiar. That’s when his Lakers meet the Boston Celtics at the Staples Center, their best-of-seven championship series tied at three games piece. The occasion will mark Jackson’s first Game 7 in the NBA finals.

He has coached plenty of reasonable facsimiles, of course, elimination games and Game 7s in other rounds. And he once played in a Game 7 to get to a championship series, this back in 1973, his New York Knicks against the Celtics for the Eastern final. Little things have changed since then. The inseams of the shorts, like the salaries, have increased exponentially.

But Jackson remembered the Knicks partaking in intense analysis of game film; back then they had to get the stuff developed overnight; now they download the digitized equivalent, post-game, into the players’ personal MacBooks. But Jackson remembers the team-meeting hand-wringing as similar.

“(Boston’s) Jo Jo White was punishing us with high screen-rolls, and . . . (Jackson’s teammate) Dean Meminger was saying, ‘I don’t get any help,’” remembered Jackson. “And Red Holzman (the New York coach) barked at him, ‘The job has got to get done.’

“As you know, Dean Meminger had the game of his life in the seventh game. So yeah, it’s not any different. The job has to get done.”

The Celtics will attempt to do theirs without their starting centre, Kendrick Perkins, who injured his right knee in L.A.’s blowout Game 6 victory and will not be available. The Lakers, for their part, know of starting centres with ailing knees, although their guy, 7-footer Andrew Bynum, will continue to slog it out at something less than his maximum with a torn right meniscus.

But Thursday’s game won’t likely come down to the absence of Perkins or the presence of Bynum. Home teams have a huge historical edge in championship Game 7s; they’ve won 13 of the 16 in NBA history.

And, if you judge the teams on their body of work this season, here is what’s obvious: when the Lakers play well, they rarely have an equal. They employ Kobe Bryant, the workaholic swingman considered by many to be the game’s best player; on Wednesday Kevin Garnett, the Celtics power forward, was speaking of Bryant’s superiority as though it was an inarguable given.

They employ the Spanish-born 7-footer who has recently asserted himself as the game’s best centre, Pau Gasol. And if you want the quick answer to the difference between the 2008 Lakers team that lost to the Celtics in a six-game final and the 2010 team that was, as of Wednesday afternoon, the seven-point Vegas favourite to win in seven, it’s this: In 2008, Gasol averaged 14.7 points and 0.5 blocks a game. This year he’s worth 18.5 points and 2.67 blocks.

Boston doesn’t likely possess anything to match either Laker if both men play well; Boston’s role players haven’t played well on the road. But that’s not to say Boston, a gut-it-out veteran club that has defied the prognosticators all season, can’t win.

Garnett had one key figured out on Wednesday: “Hit first and stand firm,” he said, and the team that has won the first quarter has won every game.

Everybody sees the other elephant in the room: the team that has won the rebounding battle has also won every game.

It’s Game 7. It’s analyzed to death, even though anything can happen. But the job has to get done, and if you’re betting against the best player in the game, at home, with two 7-footers keeping the ball alive, you’re betting against history. And you’re betting against Jackson, in maybe his final chapter.

“You know, I still get up (in the morning) and say this is probably the last time I’m ever going to do this,” Jackson, age 64, said Wednesday. “It’s not only a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of stress and pain and anxiety, et cetera . . . ”

But he didn’t shut the door on doing it all again, no matter the agony.

“I think we have a built-in memory system in our bodies to forget,” he said. “It’s like mothers giving birth. Somehow they do it again even though it’s one of the most difficult things to ever do.”

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Need A Staycation?

Source: Cynthia Ross Cravit, 50PLUS.COM

(Jun 5, 2010) Feeling burnt-out, exhausted? Maybe what you need is a staycation.

Stay at home vacations -- or 'staycations' -- are the new travel trend. And it's not just higher gas costs, a volatile stock market or other economic worries that have some people rethinking their summer vacation plans.

It's also the hassle of modern travel. There's the airline and the hotel to book and the bags to pack, not to mention a host of other arrangements. And with long security lines, strict carry-on restrictions, new visa requirements and lost luggage woes, for many airline travel just isn't worth the stress.

If you've got vacation time coming, but decide to forego the expense and inconvenience of travel, here are some tips for discovering the delights of your own backyard.

Staycation strategies

No chores.
First and foremost, remember this is a vacation, not the time to get around to cleaning out the garage or organizing the closet. Take a break from the usual drudgery of laundry and grocery shopping. Clean your house once – or even better, treat yourself to a professional cleaner -- at the start of the week and then leave it alone. If you plan to cook, stock up on your favourite food items before starting your vacation.

Disconnect from the office. With so many of us reliant on cell phones, laptops and BlackBerries, it's easier than ever to keep in touch with the office even when you're jetting off to an exotic locale -- so think how much more tempting it will be at home. Try to stow away these gadgets, or if you must check in with work, keep it to a minimum. You won't give yourself the health advantages of down time if your holiday basically becomes a working vacation. (Read more.)

Tip: To give yourself more a vacation feel, you may even want to stop the mail just as you would if you were going away. Who needs to look at bills when you're on vacation?

Play tourist. Part of the thrill of travel is discovering new places. Apply this same sense of adventure to your own city. Visit the museums, amusement parks, zoos and other attractions that you've always recommended to friends who were visiting, but never got around to yourself. Buy a guidebook or check with your local visitor's bureau for new ideas or interesting tours. If you live in a metropolitan area, treat yourself to tickets for a ballgame or book a show or concert.

Try new restaurants. Branch out from your usual hang-outs and try a restaurant you've read about and been meaning to try. (If you're looking to save money, go for lunch instead; you can often get the same good food at less expensive prices.) Be adventurous and try an exotic cuisine or explore a new neighbourhood. Meet up with friends you never seem to have time to visit with.

Enjoy the great outdoors. Pack up a picnic and head to your local park -- or take in some exercise by exploring biking and hiking trails. In the evening, take advantage of any outdoor concerts or performances. Or light candles and enjoy a bottle of wine on your terrace or garden. Depending on where you live, you may want to schedule a side trip to a nearby attraction such as a wilderness preserve or a favourite beach or vineyard.

Pamper yourself. Whether it's a shopping excursion or a visit to the spa, treat yourself to a little bliss. If you're on a budget, try these luxurious beauty treatments you can make at home.

Try something new. Have some fun and book yourself into a session of ballroom dancing -- or how about belly dancing, the hot new exercising trend?

Be spontaneous. Resist the temptation to overbook yourself. Spontaneity, after all, is one of the greatest pleasures of being on vacation. Leave large blocks of unscheduled time where your only mantra is to live for the moment and allow your moods to dictate what you do.

Relax. Vacations are meant to relax and rejuvenate. Surround yourself with a stack of books you've been meaning to read, rent some DVDs and order in from your favourite take-away restaurant. Bliss!

Your home really can be your own bona fide retreat so long as you follow the most important tip of all: Do nothing unless it's fun!

::MUSIC NEWS::

Drake’s Fans Won’t Wait To Thank Him Later

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(June 11, 2010) What is it like to be Drake? Wouldn’t you like to know.

And now you shall. With
Thank Me Later, the major-label bow from the preordained face of hip hop, all is revealed. “Money just changed everything,” Drake raps on Fireworks, the opening track off a highly anticipated disc that leaked earlier this month but officially drops Tuesday, “I wonder how life without it would go.” The Torontonian once known as Aubrey Graham ponders frequently on Thank Me Later, an album of 14 well-considered songs that comment on his own status as a fast-rising hip-hopper who is both excitedly adored and enviously hated. He has known romantic triumph, but letdowns too. And there is a vulnerability to a former child actor who displays an inevitable cockiness.

On Fireworks, which features popping starbursts and pop star Alicia Key’s crooning, the well-hyped and extensively groomed recording artist comments that his “15 minutes started an hour ago.” Indeed there is an overwhelming sense of a fully formed phenom at work in real time: “I’m on the brink of influential,” he acknowledges on the song Thank Me Now. The Resistance hears “I’m living inside the moment, not taking pictures to save it.” And on Fireworks, “Lookin’ down from the top and its crowded below.”

All this from a 23-year-old non-musician who has yet to release his first mainstream album. Typing furiously, Drake is relating his autobiography as fast as it happens.

Reacting to the pace that sometimes kills, the singing rapper admits to some bewilderment. On Over: “I swear it feels like the last few nights we’ve been everywhere and back,” he laconically half-raps, his Auto-Tuned voice soaked with fatigue. “But I just can’t remember it all – what am I doing, what am I doing?” Then he rights himself: “Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m doing me, I’m doing me.”

Drake’s jet lag is understandable: The album was recorded and mixed in at least eight different cities, including Honolulu, and three different studios in Toronto. Guest artists include rapping-royalty members Jay-Z, T.I., Young Jeezy and Drake-mentor Lil Wayne, the incarcerated, golden-toothed tattoo canvas who, on Miss Me, comments upon his prison release date, “Damn, I’ll be gone till November.”

There are references to some of the major events of Drake’s life. On Miss Me, “gone for my surgery, but now I’m back again” refers to a basketball-related knee injury. “I went with Sprite instead,” on The Resistance, is a million-dollar shout-out to a certain clear, lemon-lime-flavoured, caffeine-free soft drink which Drake endorses for a fee. On the same song, the line “or the two guns in my face during the stick-up” is an obvious reference to a gunpoint robbery at a Toronto eatery in 2009.

A part of Fireworks refers to a short fling with the Barbadian singer Rihanna, whom Drake famously dismissed to the press as a friend, not a romantic interest.

From the second verse: “What happened between us that night it always seems to trouble me/ Now all of a sudden these gossip rags wanna cover me.”

An accidental pregnancy is revealed in The Resistance: “Plus this woman that I messed with unprotected, texting saying that she wish she would’ve kept it.”

The dominant lyrical themes however, relate to Drake’s wrestles with fame and hype. With stardom comes envy, as noted on Up All Night (“niggas with no money act like money isn’t everything/ I’m having a good time, they just trying to ruin it”). As for the pressure thrust upon the young star, Drake is conscious of a duty not only to represent the Toronto hip-hop scene (“carried the weight for my city like a cargo ship”) but to rejuvenate the genre. “Cuz while all my closest friends out partying, I’m just here making all the music that they party to.”

What is most clear is that Drake, who wonders how young one can die from old age, is prepared to man up. “I gotta feel alive, even it kills me,” he raps on the moody Light Up. “I promise to always give you me, the real me.”

Drake sees himself at hip hop’s service. Some are thanking him already; some will thank him later; and some, he probably knows, won’t thank him at all.

Bruce Cockburn - 40 Years Of Songs To Live By

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(June 15, 2010)
On Wednesday evening at Massey Hall in Toronto, Bruce Cockburn will be honoured by the Luminato Festival for his 40 years of songwriting. Cockburn and others (including Sylvia Tyson, Hawksley Workman, Colin Linden and Amelia Curran) will perform a selection of the iconic recording artist’s songs, including the ones discussed here by the man himself.

Slow Down Fast

From the album Life Short Call Now, 2006’s Slow Down Fast could be construed as a musical version of an “end-is-nigh” sign. Cockburn explains: “I have a lot of songs like that, really, over the years. Trickle Down and Call It Democracy, I would put in the same league. It’s a song where I’m saying, ‘Look at the things that are going on – are we going to address this or aren’t we?’ The answer is yes, a little of both, but I’m afraid not enough.”

If a Tree Falls

Written in 1988, the hit single and video from the album Big Circumstance raised awareness of the destruction under way in the Amazon rain forests. Cockburn speaks about the issue, and whether anything has changed. “It shifts all the time. When I wrote that song they were cutting down the Amazon rain forest to put in cattle. But that didn’t work out, and the next thing you know they’re planting soybeans. But they’re still cutting down the forests, and they’re still displacing the natives. Corn for the biodiesel trade, that’s the new big thing. You can’t win. You create all this awareness about one aspect of the problem, but as soon as you think you have a foot on top of that, it squeezes out from under and morphs into something else.”

If I Had a Rocket Launcher

Famously, Woody Guthrie’s guitar had a message written on it, “This Machine Kills Fascists.” Are Cockburn’s songs and guitars his own rocket launchers? “It’s not out of line to say these things,” Cockburn replies. “But when I wrote that song, in 1983, it wasn’t intended to be any kind of weapon. It was an expression of my own surprise at feeling so specifically a certain way, when I was confronted with the [Guatemalan] refugee-camp scene [in Mexico]. It’s about a sense of outrage. I don’t know whether I’m violent or not. I don’t know if I have the talent for it. I think probably I’m chicken, if anything.”

All the Diamonds

The image-laden song from 1973 was written in Stockholm on the day after Cockburn realized he was a Christian. He comments now on Christianity, and how he views the song so many years later. “It’s emotional, in a way. It marks a signal moment in my life. It’s there. But I have to think when I perform it now, because I don’t want to be associated with certain aspects of the Christian culture and tradition. I’m not so inclined to think of the imagery of what we associate with Christianity – the guy on the cross with the beard. It’s not so much that, as it is about what we call the Holy Spirit.”

Mama Just Wants To Barrelhouse All Night Long (1973)

One wonders if Cockburn, the activist-songwriter, wished he could be less of the important, serious guy. Are there times he’d rather barrelhouse all night long? “Yes, quite often actually,” he answers with a laugh. “I’d much rather be the fun guy than the self-important serious guy. You didn’t say ‘self-important,’ but I’m saying that.”

Lovers in a Dangerous Time

The graceful 1984 hit was later covered with success by the Barenaked Ladies. Cockburn speaks about different eras, and how none are less dangerous than others. “When I wrote that, I was thinking of kids my daughter’s age. She was quite young at the time. But, for any given individual, the world has always been a place where you could die. That’s the baseline. At times we can ignore that, more than other times. There are times when fear is in the air, and, of course, there’s always people around willing to exploit that, and enhance it, if need be.”

One Day I Walk

The country-influenced track from 1971’s High Winds White Sky refers to street-busking. Almost 40 years later, the acclaimed guitarist considers the idea of playing for passers-by coins now: “It’s a scary proposition. As something of my own initiative, I’m not likely to do that. Unless, of course, I have to do it to make a living. You can never rule these things out. If it came down to it, I would cheerfully do it.”

The Canadian Songbook: 40 Years of Bruce Cockburn takes place Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., at Massey Hall in Toronto (416-872-1111).

Miley Cyrus 'Not Trying To Be Slutty'

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(June 15, 2010)
Miley Cyrus won't be told what she should wear or what she should sing about.

The 17-year-old is releasing new album,
Can't Be Tamed, and is doing it her way, even though some say she is going to too far for her age.

“I'm not trying to be slutty,” Cyrus said in a recent interview. “I'm not trying to be like, go to the club and get a bunch of guys. . . . What I'm trying to do is to make a point with my record and look consistent, in the way my record sounds and the way I dress.”

What she wears has been put under the spotlight recently. Some thought the video for
Can't Be Tamed was too provocative, and others have criticized her for revealing too much skin in her outfits.

Cyrus admits to being partial to shorts and hot pants. But she sees nothing wrong with flashing her legs.

“I'm really comfortable with my body, I work really hard to be fit and to know that I can wear whatever makes me most comfortable. I feel more comfortable dressing with a little less, which is just how I've always been,” she said.

“Now I'm able to do that a little more freely and, also, I've just grown up to be this way too. It's not like this was me five years ago. It's me now, presently.”

Maturing is Cyrus's current mission.

She'll finally shed the blond wig of her Disney pop star persona, Hannah Montana, when that show ends this year. Then Cyrus will be free to embrace her solo stardom and sex appeal.

“When you're 11, the word you would use to describe someone is definitely not sexy, and as you get older I think you grow into that. And I think I've done that but that's not my schtick. That's not what I'm trying to do to sell records. I want people to buy my record because of my music.”

Can't Be Tamed is out on Monday.

 
Music Aids Women In Making Bold Moves

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Rehan Ansari

(June 14, 2010)
While the war trucks on in Pakistan, citizens are trying to go about their daily business. And some, such as two young women named Zebunissa Bangash and Haniya Aslam, are even making bold moves outside their gender and ethnic boundaries.

Zeb and Haniya, as they are known, are Pathan, part of the Pashtun culture. To people in the Western world and even to those in Pakistan, the Pashtun are inextricably linked with the Taliban, and hence often demonized. The two women from Lahore, both 30, have chosen music as a creative outlet, something that goes against the puritanical Taliban ethos. In Peshawar, in the northwest of Pakistan, for instance, the Taliban violently and regularly intimidate musicians.

As Pathan women musicians, they carry the burden of explaining to the world that music has deep roots in Pashtun culture.

Zeb and Haniya don’t obviously look Pakistani or Afghan or Iranian or Indian. They look like princesses who have stepped out of a Mughal miniature painting, except that they wear jeans and carry guitars. Last year, when they played live under a full moon and a night of palm trees in Karachi, a full house of 14-to-16-year-olds fell under the duo’s bluesy spell. The concert included a haunting rendition of a love song, with political overtones, Paimona.

Paimona is a rendition of a Darri-language song. Darri, a close relation to Persian, is a minority language in Pakistan and most of the audience would not have understood the words. The foreignness of the language corresponds with the distance most people in Pakistan’s largest city feel for the war-ravaged Pushto- and Darri-speaking northwest.

They first heard the song when they were children. They have produced two versions of the song, one in a jazz-and-blues style and the other in a traditional seven-beat cycle with a rabab (a string instrument).

Paimona has received a million hits this year on the Coke Studio website and their own website, and tons of mail from Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia, India, England and Europe. And so you could say the singers are a hit. Indeed, Time magazine compared them to Bob Dylan. But unlike, say, Leslie Feist, the experience of becoming a star in Pakistan differs from Toronto or New York. They usually sing in Urdu. They perform in the big cities of Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, but they must avoid Peshawar in the northwest of Pakistan, because it is dangerous for them, even though that is where their roots are.

Cousins, Zeb and Haniya went to college in the United States and have received unusual support for their music. Most women from middle-class Pakistan would not. “We have gotten crucial support from our extended family, most of which live in the northwest. A grandmother is a poet who composes in Persian, all the uncles sing, and Zeb’s father, an ex-army officer, has encouraged her vocal training with Lahore-based classical musicians for more than a decade,” Haniya says. For Haniya, he has set up a studio space in his house in Lahore.

In Karachi and Lahore, the two biggest cities, the problem of extremism and Talibanization is usually and conveniently and hypocritically referred to as a Pashtun problem. “As if extremism is a problem that’s over there somewhere in the north, as if it has nothing to do with what we here think and behave, and nothing to do with the Cold War and history,” Zeb says.

Haniya is a Canadian. Her family moved to Mississauga in the nineties because her father moved his business here. She says she wrote most of the songs in the first album, Chup, one winter watching “one particular snowbank” from her window.

For Haniya, there is a disconnect between moving from Canadian to Pakistani culture and back. At a Toronto café in early spring, Haniya says, “I just met someone who was furious about Facebook and some issue of privacy and has started a stop-using-FB campaign.” She smiles, and then becomes pensive. She says the U.S.-led war on terror has made people frantic, since the Pakistani Taliban are retaliating by taking the fight into the cities of Pakistan. “A friend of mine, a popular talk show host, a young woman, received threatening phone calls after she had criticized the Taliban on her show,” she says.

She also talks about the news in mid-March of a student in a Peshawar university who was beaten for playing music in his room by activists from an Islamist organization. He later died.

Nevertheless, they are determined to continue with their music. With their next album, they will tap into the music of the singers, poets and composers who moved to Peshawar from Kabul, escaping the 30-year conflict. The music from these Afghan émigrés is what Zeb and Haniya grew up listening to in Peshawar.

“We are very optimistic about an audience reaction that crosses borders in surprising ways. Pakistanis think we are Iranian. Indians think we are Turkish, Afghans think we are Afghans. Let’s see what they think of us in the West,” Haniya says.

Special to The Globe and Mail.

We, The People of a New Amerykah

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 10, 2010) *Tuesday night, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania crowd became citizens of a New Amerykah as Erykah Badu mesmerized a capacity crowd with her blend of soul, funk, jazz, and hip hop all rolled up in what can only be described as Baduizm.

Ms. Badu took the stage at Philadelphia’s Tower Theater at 10:10pm and the capacity crowd greeted her by standing and cheering as she walked on stage in sweatpants, a t-shirt bearing her youngest child Mars’ name, a pair of black heels and to give the outfit that extra bit of Erykah, a top hat.

They remained standing, screaming, flashing pictures as the music played and the anticipation built. A sip of tea and she began her assault on her willing victims with “20 Feet Tall” from her latest album,
The New Amerykah Part II: The Return of the Ankh and carefully weaved through songs from that album and its predecessor, The New Amerykah Part I: The 4th World War, as the crowd remained standing through the first five songs. Nearly two hours later as she finished “Bag Lady” and went into “Window Seat”, they were still standing.

“The Out of My Mind, Just in Time” tour is Ms. Badu’s latest offering for her legions of fans that have been under her spell since 1997’s
Baduizm and those she’s picked up along the way with a catalogue as diverse as the outfits she wears and monikers she goes by. The set list is filled with her most recent work, but 20 minutes into the show, she took the crowd back to 1997 by performing “On & On”, “Appletree”, “No Love” and my personal favourite, “Next Lifetime”. She returned to her latest album following an interlude about the effect that she has on the men she gets into relationships with before going into “Fall in Love (Your Funeral”)” and the playful interlude, “Loving Me”.

The highlight of the night was a soul wrenching rendition and J-Dilla dedicated performance of “Didn’t Cha Know” from 2000’s
Mama’s Gun, honouring the song’s late producer, as well as interpolating “Believe in Yourself” from The Wiz in an apparent tribute to the amazing Lena Horne. She stood center stage and belted out notes from deep within that reminded everyone in attendance of the reason they spent their hard-earned money for tickets.

She continued to pour through her catalogue, played classic drum beats on her drum machine, turned the show into a party with “I Want You” from Worldwide Underground and before saying goodnight…but that didn’t last long, because there were more gems (obvious and hidden) to be sung. Like, “Love of My Life”, “Soldier”, and “Me” and then she was gone from the stage again. Only to return two minutes later as the still standing crowd begged for an encore, to which their pleas were answered by a performance of “Bag Lady” that found her walking through the crowd, giving impromptu auditions for background singers, before heading back to the stage to close out the show with “Window Seat”.

While Erykah Badu was delicious as the main course, Philadelphia soul singer Bilal and newcomer Janelle Monae were tasty as the appetizers. The hometown boy Bilal eschewed crowd favourites from his 2001 debut
1st Born Second in favour of material from his widely bootlegged album Love for Sale and the upcoming Air Tight’s Revenge, due September 14th. Most of the audience grooved to the music and tried to make out the lyrics to the new material, but nearly bust from the seams during the opening riffs of “Sometimes” and completely came undone when he closed out with the hit “Soul Sista”.

Janelle Monet’s set was short, but filled with energy and reminiscent of the stage shows of the glory days of R&B. She slipped, slid, pranced, held powerful notes and then tipped on the tightrope during an excellent rendition of her hit single of the same name, culminating with her being cloaked by what looked like an angel of death a la the famous James Brown bit. She definitely picked up new fans, as I saw many people return to their seats following interruptions with a copy of her debut album
The ArchAndroid.

Last night’s show was just what I needed to continue my celebration of Black Music Month, a night of live vocals, entertaining stage shows and most important, soul! When I exited the Tower Theater wiping sweat from my brow, I felt like I owed Badu a couple of extra dollars, because she gave us our money’s worth and then some. If you’re a fan and this tour is heading to your city, I would advise you to get your ticket now, wear something comfortable and prepare to go out of your mind, just in time.

About the writer

Between rhetoric and reality is where you’ll find The World According to Teef. Plainfield, NJ native Al-Lateef Farmer is a self-styled social documentarian that tackles everything from politics to pop culture, Reality TV to relationships with a brand of social commentary rooted in independent thought that is unfiltered, uncensored, unforgiving, but never unreal! Take a trip to his world at http://worldaccording2teef.blogspot.com/

The Arcade Fire Reignites

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(June 12, 2010) Before the Arcade Fire was the Arcade Fire and all the baggage that name now implies, the Arcade Fire was just a very good band from Montreal.

How nice it was, then, that the original article — earnest, fallible, occasionally unsure of itself, aiming higher than most and trying very hard to please — turned up at the Danforth Music Hall on Friday night for the first of two last-minute pop-up gigs in Toronto timed to drum up a bit of pre-release buzz for the group’s forthcoming third album, The Suburbs, and to whip the live show back into shape before a summer’s worth of high-profile festival appearances on both sides of the Atlantic, not to mention a big gig on Toronto Island on Aug. 14.

On its globally regarded 2006 hit record Neon Bible and the lengthy tours that ensued, the Arcade Fire played it full-on and self-consciously epic at every stroke, conducting itself in a grandiose, ultra-emotive manner that, towards the end, worrisomely threatened ambitions to generate a tasteful, Canadian echo of the Coldplay phenomenon. It wasn’t necessarily the band’s fault — hands-in-the-air crowd pleasers like “Wake Up” make much more sense and naturally invite more of the same when vast crowds with their hands in the air are suddenly, readily at one’s disposal — but it left subtlety in short supply and it was the reason why “Neon Bible,” the one track on the album of the same name where the Arcade Fire actually pulled back and gave a song room to breathe, wound up being the standout. The Arcade Fire was in danger of becoming insufferable.

On Friday night, though, the devoted fans who’d begun thronging the Music Hall box office for single, same-day tickets eight hours before set time were greeted with a looser, altogether more human Arcade Fire that — as happens on small-venue, warm-up tours of this sort — sometimes appeared to be coaching and cueing itself through the new tunes and even relearning the old. Frontman Win Butler, for instance, had to interrupt an otherwise breathless run-up to the 90-minute performance’s encore during “Rebellion (Lies),” a pulse-quickening standard from 2004’s Funeral, to admit mid-verse that “I swear to god I don’t remember the next lyric” in front of 800 or 900 people who most certainly did.

Likewise, scattered imperfections in the sound mix and rare, almost undetectable imprecisions during the moments when all eight players onstage would lock in crescendo towards yet another of the Arcade Fire’s earth-moving climaxes occasionally betrayed the tiniest of tiny chinks in the Bono- and Bowie-gilded battle armour of a band that already knows how to slay on the gargantuan scale of a Lollapalooza or a Glastonbury.

Such public intrusions of the earthly, day-to-day business of working musicianship into the supposedly “fairytale” existence of the Arcade Fire were not the only flashes of modesty lending a renewed sense of occasion to Friday’s performance. The new material debuted from The Suburbs — due Aug. 3 via Merge Records — exhibited a lightness of touch and a capricious embrace of traditional rock ‘n’ roll momentum heretofore alien to the Arcade Fire esthetic.

“Month of May” — already being streamed online — stormed ahead with far more dogged, punkish, top-of-the-beat aggression than we’re accustomed to hearing from the band. “We Used to Wait” had a 12-string jangle almost breezy enough to qualify as a Tom Petty tune. There were other new tunes, variously dubbed “Ready to Wait” (more breeziness by Arcade Fire standards) and “Rococo” (an ornate, swaying march) and “Modern Man” (tuneful and dripping with sarcasm) but all kinda “fun” compared to the ululating dramas about death and war that have come before — and that, in all fairness, had the crowd throwing its hands in the air more than any other crowd I’ve recently witnessed.

“We’ve had some of our best, favourite shows in Toronto but, Jesus Christ, you people play close to your chests,” said Butler toward the end of the set, but he wasn’t disappointed with the room’s reaction. Nor should he have been: I see a lot of shows where the crowd automatically goes through the motions of enjoying itself without really displaying any of the signs that suggest it’s genuinely enjoying itself, but this was one of those gigs where the energy, properly harnessed, probably could have lifted something off the ground.

It felt like we were in the Air Canada Centre watching Nickelback do “Photograph” when the band finally got around to “Keep the Car Running.” You were reminded, at the end of it all, that the Arcade Fire is indeed a very good band from Montreal.

New Pornographers Refresh Their Pop

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(June 13, 2010) Ten years ago, Carl Newman sat down with the folks from Mint Records to discuss the rollout of a little labour-of-love record that he’d put together with a bunch of musician friends from Vancouver and was struck by the mood of cautious optimism ’round the label’s offices.

Mint seemed uncommonly enthusiastic. The first
New Pornographers album, entitled Mass Romantic, was “so good I think we can make our money back,” Newman recalls Mint co-founder Bill Baker saying.

“It didn’t even sound insulting to me,” he laughs. “‘You think we can sell 2,000 of these babies?’ It might sound like bullsh--, but we had no delusions that anything was gonna happen, and when it did start happening I was so shocked.”

Happen Mass Romantic did. Waves of positive reviews from both sides of the Atlantic poured in from such esteemed sources as Rolling Stone, Spin, Entertainment Weekly, Q and NME, and suddenly the New Pornographers had a sold-out tour on their hands. Although no one involved had initially conceived of the project as a “real,” ongoing band, it became one very quickly. Albeit one that required, and still requires, much juggling of schedules to convene.

A decade and five albums later, Newman — who swung through town recently with his niece and fellow Pornographer Kathryn Calder for a day of press before the band’s show at Sound Academy this Tuesday — remains slightly puzzled at how it all came together.

“I remember Mint saying ‘You guys gonna tour this record?’ and me saying ‘Probably not,’” he says. “And then they said ‘Are you gonna make another record?’ And I was just, like, ‘I can’t think that far ahead.’ I was just so pleased to be finished because Mass Romantic had taken a couple of years from beginning to end — not because we were working on it the whole time but because other people were busy and nobody really took it seriously.

I took it seriously, but only in that I wanted to get it done. It wasn’t like I wanted to get on with my rock career because there was money to be made. The light at the end of the tunnel was finishing the record. It wasn’t selling the record and getting critical praise. I guess that’s what made the whole thing sweeter.”

The New Pornographers — an indie “supergroup” consisting of Thee Evaporators’ John Collins, ex-Limblifter bandmates Kurt Dahle and Todd Fancey, filmmaker Blaine Thurier, Destroyer mastermind Dan Bejar and American alt-country sweetheart Neko Case — are still no strangers to critical accolades or record sales. The band scored the highest chart position of its career, in fact, when its latest album, Together, debuted at No. 18 on the Billboard album chart last month.

If there was a bump on what has otherwise been a smooth road to unexpected success, it was the mixed reception accorded the group’s previous record, Challengers, in 2007.

That album dared stray from the joyous, witty power-pop that New Pornographers fans have come to know and love, slowing the tempos and drawing Newman and Bejar’s artful songwriting out to new lengths for a surprisingly introspective outing. It’s probably the band’s most interesting record, but not everyone was pleased. The honeymoon with the press was over.

“I’m kinda glad we had that backlash from Challengers. It really split people,” says Newman. “People either thought it was our worst or they thought it was our best and, y’know, that’s not really a bad reaction to have. It’s better than everybody going ‘It’s okay.’

“I felt like the indie-rock press had kissed our ass for so many years — we’d never gotten below an ‘8’ from Pitchfork and we even got the hallowed ‘9’ for Twin Cinema, which is like the Holy Grail. We’re talking Animal Collective, Modest Mouse and Radiohead (territory)” — bands held sacred, for a time at least, by the indie-rock cognoscenti.

“But then people started turning on us with Challengers and it made me feel kind of defensive. That’s how I felt when we made Mass Romantic. Nobody was with us. It’s not that everybody was against us, we were just on our own. And after finally having some kind of backlash, I kind of liked that we were the underdogs and we had something to prove.”

He’s unapologetic about Challengers (looking back, he says, “I might make it more mellow”) but Newman’s response while writing and recording Together in his adopted hometown of Woodstock, N.Y., last year was to accept “that we’re always gonna sound like us” and to once again steer his bandmates in a more rock ’n’ roll direction.

The album thus has a familiar New Pornographers feel to it, although Newman’s current fascination with the cello — he’s a big fan of the Move and E.L.O. — gives Together a sonic flavour apart from the rest of the catalogue. He’s even lured his friend Ben Kalb away from Broadway to supply cello full-time to the band on the road.

This tour is also the first to feature the entire New Pornographers line-up. Case is back on board after numerous interruptions over the years to pursue her skyrocketing solo career and, for the first time, co-songwriter Bejar is leaving the comfort of his home to play with the band on the road. Coupled with the more user-friendly Together, that should be enough to placate the Challengers haters.

“I don’t want to say it was, like, a ‘get back’ album,” says Newman. “I think on Challengers I really wanted to move in a different direction, and I feel like it’s been like that from the beginning. I was proud of Mass Romantic, but I thought ‘We can’t keep making Mass Romantic.’ Even Electric Version, I felt, was a bit too similar. That’s why Twin Cinema was a step off in a new direction and Challengers was even more.

“We’ve already done our weird record that people backlashed against, so now we can do whatever the hell we want. You have to make your backlash record. You have to make your Wowee Zowee.”

Diddy Predicts U.K. Hip-Hop Invasion

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(June 11, 2010) London — British hip-hop is on the verge of making it big in the United States, according to one of the top names in the genre, Sean “Diddy” Combs.

The U.S. rapper and producer said he believed that British MCs and producers had finally found their own voice.

“I think in the past maybe some of the U.K. hip-hop artists weren’t as authentic to where they come from,” Mr. Combs, who goes by the name Diddy, told the BBC.

“It’s all right to be from the U.K. and it’s all right to talk about what you want to talk about and not try to sound or be like somebody from the U.S.”

There is now a “self-pride in U.K. hip-hop,” he added. “That’s the starting point. Hip-hop respects something that’s authentic.

“Just like the way in the U.S. it took time for the south and the west coast to break, it’s the same thing and I just think that U.K. hip-hop is on the verge of breaking.”

British acts are already making inroads into the U.S. music market, the world’s biggest.

According to Billboard, Jay Sean led the way by becoming the first British urban artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Down” in October 2009.

Taio Cruz followed him in April with “Break Your Heart“.

Last month N-Dubz signed a U.S. label deal with Island Def Jam.

Mother Gaga Strikes Again

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(June 8, 2010) She isn't a pop act, she is a performance artist, Cyndi Lauper once said of Lady Gaga. “She herself is the art. She is the sculpture.”

Gaga’s current album, Fame Monster, hungry for another hit, has struck again. The audacious pop star has released a video for Alejandro, her Abba-admiring current single. Directed by Steven Klein and choreographed by Laurie Ann Gibson, the nearly nine-minute epic is a eye-popping montage of Catholic imagery, militaristic leather, provocative allusions, general eroticism, stylistic homages and shirtless male dancers with bowl cuts.

“She likes epics. It fits her personality. We combined dance, narrative and attributes of surrealism,” Klein, a fashion photographer and Madonna collaborator, told Rolling Stone magazine. “The process was to express Lady Gaga's desire to reveal her heart and bear her soul.”

Gaga also reveals a toned, pale physique in a scene involving the dancers, army cots and sexually suggestive physicality.

Stylistically, the mostly black-and-white video references Madonna’s Like a Prayer and Vogue. But where Madonna wore a conical brassiere, Gaga ups the calibre with machine-gun barrels stemming from her cups.

And where the singer’s previous Telephone video called collect to Tarantino, the Alejandro clip seemingly includes a salute to Bob Fosse, complete with Gaga looking better in a pantsuit than Hillary Clinton ever dreamed possible.

Former Hole Bassist Goes Out Of Her Mind

Source: www.thestar.com - Jennifer Hunter

(June 12, 2010) Her website elaborates her initials: MAdM. She says it’s always how she signs her name, an unconscious variation of Madam — this child of Montreal, whose long, wavy, red hair hints of a romantic Pre-Raphaelite painting.

At 38,
Melissa Auf der Maur is leading an enviable life. Not only is she beautiful, she is a prominent musician, a former bassist with Courtney Love’s band Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins.

She is speaking — and playing two songs — this week at IdeaCity, focusing on how she learned to create, produce and market her art, with emphasis on women doing it on their own.

Auf der Maur was born in 1972 in Montreal during a time of intense political dynamism: the Parti Quebecois had just been formed, Jean Drapeau was still the mayor and the city was a place of great cultural vibrancy, with films like Mon oncle Antoine and nationalistic songs by Gilles Vigneault.

Her father Nick was the city’s bon vivant with a mannered walrus moustache, a journalist for The Gazette and a city councillor. (He died in 1998. Auf der Maur describes him as an enormous character, a man with a huge “love of life” who always preferred classical music to anything remotely rock ’n’ roll.) Auf der Maur recalls that his Swiss mother could yodel vigorously and thought of her son as a reincarnation of a Swiss saint, St. Nicholas. “She believed in magic,” Auf der Maur says, something that had an impact on both her and her father.

Her mother, an American named Linda Gaboriau, was Montreal’s first female DJ and became a translator of Quebecois literature. One of her Michel Tremblay translations, For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again, will be performed at Stratford this summer. From her own connections to the world of music she introduced Auf der Maur to Led Zeppelin and bands from the 1980s.

“I had phenomenal parents and a phenomenal upbringing,” Auf der Maur says.

As part of the small English elite in Montreal, she played with poet Leonard Cohen’s daughter Lorca and became pals with Rufus Wainwright, son of McGarrigle sister Kate (who died earlier this year) and Loudon Wainwright III.

As young adults she and Rufus roomed together and have remained fast friends. “We grew up in an elaborate scene. There was quite a mystique around our parents; there was the sense that we were part of the same clan.”

She went to art school and in her early 20s decided to play the bass — her father bought one for her 21st birthday.

Her musical career took off after she met Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins — a friend threw a beer at him at a Montreal concert and she went up to apologize. That fateful night led Corgan to introduce her to Courtney Love, who was looking for a new bassist. Hole’s previous bassist, Kristen Pfaff, had died of a drug overdose, just a year after Love’s husband, Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, committed suicide.

Auf der Maur hasn’t seen Love for years, and claims not to know her intimately, but speaks of her with respect. “She was an incredibly well-read person,” much more intellectual than she is perceived by the gossip magazines.

What she learned during her five years with Hole gave her poise, showed her how to work intensely on the road and eventually led to a gig in 2000 with the Smashing Pumpkins.

But in the past six years Auf der Maur has been working on her own music, creating two albums, the first called Auf der Maur, the second OOOM, which stands for Out of Our Minds. The latter is not simply a music project — it includes a 28-minute film and comic book. In one scene from the film, Auf der Maur gets out of a car that she has crashed and there is blood oozing down her arm. I tell her that as a mother I feel worried. She laughs and says her mother had the same response.

She says the film — screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 — has a Jungian feel. One of her heroes is film director David Lynch, who often travels the subconscious and comes up with symbols such as those in his book inspired by transcendental meditation, Catching the Big Fish. Lynch says that ideas are “like fish. If you want to catch little fish, you stay in the shallow water. But if you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deeper.”

Auf der Maur, who lives in upstate New York (she has dual citizenship and maintains a home in Montreal) with her boyfriend, filmmaker Tony Stone, says OOOM was the most challenging thing she has done.

“This past year I’ve worked harder than I’ve ever worked,” producing OOOM herself, without record-company backing. “It’s been exhausting.” OOOM became “a wild beast, a multimedia opportunity” that allowed her to “work as an artist and creative person” and as a business person.

“I decided at the beginning that I wouldn’t feel satisfied until I tried to tackle the whole thing myself. It’s the hardest learning curve of my life.”

Melissa Auf der Maur appears between 11:40 a.m. and 1:40 p.m. on Wednesday at Idea City. For more information, go to www.ideacityonline.com.

Metric Joins The Vampire Music Club

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow

(June 16, 2010) Vancouver —  
Emily Haines pokes her head around the door of the rustic cabin and blinks in an attempt to get her heavily shaded, fake-lashed eyes used to the sunlight.

In a thin grey hoodie, skin-tight black pants and three-inch stiletto ankle boots, she isn’t exactly dressed for the woods.

Still, she looks less incongruous than bandmate James (Jimmy) Shaw. He almost appears afraid of the bucolic surroundings, hiding behind his Rayban Wayfarers, collar pulled up, hopping from foot to foot.

Luckily, their demeanour couldn’t be more appropriate: They are in this North Vancouver wilderness – along with the remaining half of Metric, Joshua Winstead and Joules Scott Key – to shoot the music video for their latest single Eclipse (All Yours).

The song will grace the soundtrack of the next film in Stephanie Meyer’s vampire series, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

If that seems like an odd gig for Toronto’s ultra-indie rock combo, it’s worth noting that the Twilight franchise has made a point of cherry-picking cool tunes for its soundtracks. Thom Yorke, Bon Iver, Lykke Li, Jack White – other alt artists connected with the series – don’t lack for credibility. (Meyer herself is a known indie chick, going so far as to thank the bands – particularly the English rock bank Muse – that influenced her writing in the back pages of each book.)

Nonetheless, the invitation for Metric to become part of this vampire music club, came as a huge surprise.

“We got a call from our manager saying ‘We have secured a possible spot for you to write the theme song to the next Twilight film,’” recalls Shaw. “At which point I hung up the phone and pretended that it never happened, because it was obviously a lie.”

The offer, it turned out, had originated with the composer attached to the third movie, Howard Shore, the celebrated Canadian musician best known for his work with David Cronenberg and on The Lord of the Rings films.

And he was looking for more than a Metric song to splice into the soundtrack – he wanted the band to come up with a new piece that would flow directly out of his score, creating the theme song to the entire film.

Haines says she didn’t hesitate to accept: “This was Howard Shore – I think the best composer working in movies out there right now. Okay! Already that’s amazing.

“And I actually think the character Stephanie created is one of the more insightful representations of what it really feels like to be a young woman,” she adds. “So often as a teenage girl you get this version of your life that’s like this pink world – as though you’re superficial and it’s all malls and shopping. If I’d been asked to write the Hannah Montana theme, I probably would have said ‘I don’t think that’s really for me.’ I wouldn’t have been able to do the job.”

At the suggestion that this may be a commercial step too far for Metric fans, Shaw rails: “I didn’t say yes to Twilight for money. I said yes to Twilight for the experience of writing with Howard Shore and being a part of a cultural phenomenon that happens maybe once very 20 years. Why would you say no to that?”

Not that he enjoyed having to deal with the corporate mindset. “I’ve learned that I am really happy that we are completely independent and don’t work with major companies on any level,” he admits, exasperated with the endless e-mails and phone calls and meetings over every tiny detail.

In contrast, writing the song was a very straightforward process, Haines explains. “Howard said, ‘Here’s the key, here’s the progression, here’s the rhythm, here’s the script, here’s the scene…’ And Jimmy and I sat down at the piano, which is the way we always work, and the first thing I said was,” – she switches into song for the opening lines of Eclipse – “All the lives always tempted to trade/Will they hate me for all the choices I’ve made.”

“It was just like, ‘I feel that, I relate to that.’ It wasn’t a stretch.”

In the video, Haines plays herself, holed up in a tiny log cabin with a piano, writing the song. Though she’s reticent to give away too much, the plot includes the rest of the band coming to Haines in dream sequences, as well as specific shots intercut from the movie. Originally, Twilight star Kristen Stewart was going to join Haines in the video, but scheduling conflicts meant she was out of the country. Shooting in four locations around Vancouver, the video’s look is intended to mirror the British Columbia landscape that serves as backdrop to the films.

Haines says she is “stoked” to see what comes of the project – and has no regrets. Her only fear going in was that the Twilight team wouldn’t like what they came up with – but they loved it.

“I’m actually really surprised,” she admits. “I’m not used to things playing out for Metric like this – we usually get the rockier path. Maybe this was just one of those times when things converged.”

For Shaw, the key was believing the production team when they kept telling the band they wanted them to stay true to themselves.

“They said to us a bunch of times, ‘We wanted you because we wanted it to sound like Metric, so don’t make it sound like what you think we want, just make it sound like you guys,’” he says – before giving the earth a kick and adding with a wry smile, “Just make the chorus a bit happier.”

'Glee' edges 'Twilight' to top Billboard 200

Source: www.thestar.com - Keith Caulfield

(June 16, 2010) It was Team Jacob and Team Edward versus the Gleeks this week in the race to No. 1 on the
Billboard 200 chart, as the Twilight Saga: Eclipse soundtrack went up against the latest instalment of the Glee soundtrack series, Journey to Regionals.

Well, Gleeks rejoice! The Journey to Regionals EP debuts at No. 1 with 152,000 sold in the U.S. according to Nielsen SoundScan, besting Eclipse at No. 2 with 144,000.

The new Glee set is the fifth soundtrack album release from the TV series launched a year ago on Fox, and the third set to hit No. 1, following The Power of Madonna and The Music: Volume 3 — Showstoppers.

The chances of Journey to Regionals holding on to the No. 1 slot next week, however, are virtually nonexistent, as a certain red-hot act is primed to explode atop the tally.

According to industry sources, Drake's debut full-length studio album, Thank Me Later, which hit stores Tuesday, is projected to sell in the range of 425,000 to 475,000 — if not more — by week's end on June 20.

Back on this week's chart, Christina Aguilera's fourth English-language studio album, Bionic, bows at No. 3 with 110,000. Her last effort, the 2006 double-length album Back to Basics, bowed at No. 1 with 346,000 copies sold.

Over on the Digital Songs chart, Katy Perry's "California Gurls" retains the No. 1 slot with 353,000 — up 11 per cent. The top debut on Digital Songs this week is Justin Bieber's "Never Say Never" from the new Karate Kid movie, fighting its way to a No. 15 bow with 76,000. The song also features Karate star Jaden Smith.

Rufus Wainwright’s Difficult Conceit

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill

(June 15, 2010)  “Thanks for playing along with me in the first half,” a resplendently relaxed, pink-suited
Rufus Wainwright told a still-bewildered audience Tuesday night after the first song in his two-part, one-man show, “All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu,” which kicked off its North American touring leg at the Elgin Theatre as one of the highlights of the Luminato festival.

What we had played along with were instructions not to applaud till Wainwright had left the stage at the end of the first part of the two-hour show, in which he reproduced the recently released album of the same name — a collection of achingly sad and sadly overwrought compositions built around his signature soaring baritone and flamboyant piano technique — that pay tribute to his mother, the late Kate McGarrigle, by channelling the 1920s movie diva Louise Brooks.

To reinforce the odd connection, Wainwright played the entire first set in character, draped in a long black gown with a train that crossed the entire stage, and an ostrich-feather collar that made his long neck and bobbing head look a little too like a buzzard’s.

It was a difficult conceit to accommodate, especially after a funereally slow march to the piano; it seemed longer than the first two songs.

Wainwright, no stranger to pretension, ignored the audience, keeping only his right profile visible, and offered no personal narrative link to songs whose lyrics were scuppered by his trademark, tight-lipped slur, and by his bombastic, punishing keyboard work, a mass of unresolved, rapidly arpeggiated chords that tumbled into and over one another, producing a remarkably clever sonic effect but not much in the way of melodic clarity.

If we were able — and we were not — to ignore the constant visual accompaniment, a series of montages, screened on the back wall, of a single, kohl-blackened eye opening and closing, resembling nothing so much as an infestation of monstrous anemones, we might have been more susceptible to the heartache in his renditions of “Who Are You, New York?,” “Sad With What I Have,” “True Loves” and the powerful closer “Zebulon” — the most accessible compositions in a cycle that also included Wainwright’s musical interpretations of three Shakespeare sonnets, the overly self-referential “What Would I Ever Do With a Rose?” and “Give Me What I Want and Give It to Me Now!” and “Les Feux d'artifice t'appellant,” an aria from his debut opera,
Prima Donna, which had its North American premiere at Luminato Monday night.

When Wainwright slow-marched off stage 45 minutes later, and his trailing shadow finally faded, the applause was respectfully underwhelming, the noise of an audience caught off guard, still trying to make sense of what it had just witnessed.

By contrast, and after a head-clearing intermission, the second set — all bright lights and up-beat hits, with lots of chummy banter — was a delightful breeze.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Bill T. Jones Eyes Berry Gordy Musical

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 14, 2010) *Fresh from winning a 2010 Tony Award for Fela!, choreographer
Bill T. Jones is already looking forward to working on four new projects, including a musical based on the career of Berry Gordy. Jones revealed he’s in talks to bring the Motown founder’s story to the theatre, as well as stage adaptations of three films: the 1959 movie “Black Orpheus,” 1972 blaxploitation classic “Super Fly” and the 2001 Indian film “Monsoon Wedding.” During the Tonys, Jones told reporters backstage: “We’re talking about ‘Black Orpheus’; we’re talking to Berry Gordy; we’re talking about ‘Super Fly,’ the musical, and ‘Monsoon Wedding.’” Jones, meanwhile, is featured on this week’s episode of the HBO’s series “Master Class.”

EW&F, Bob Marley Inducted into Songwriters Hall

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 16, 2010) *Earth Wind & Fire and the late Bob Marley are among the 2010 inductees into the
Songwriters Hall of Fame, which will hold a ceremony Thursday in New York City. David Foster, who will also be inducted Thursday, cited “After the Love Has Gone,” a song he co-wrote for Earth, Wind & Fire, as one of the defining moments of his career. [See clip below.] “It was the first Grammy that I had won,” the 60-year-old told the Associated Press. Former Genesis frontman Phil Collins, already a Songwriters Hall of Fame member, will receive its highest honour, the Johnny Mercer Award. Country sensation Taylor Swift is getting the Hal David Starlight Award for emerging songwriters, while other hall inductees include Leonard Cohen, Jesse Stone, Laura Nyro, Jackie DeShannon, Johnny Mandel, Matt Dennis and Sunny Skylar. The hall will also honour “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” written by Paul Simon, as it celebrates its 40th anniversary. Other special tributes include one for producer Phil Ramone and publisher Keith Mardak.

:FILM NEWS::

The Karate Kid - Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith Co-Star in Remake of Martial Arts Classic

Source: Kam Williams

Hollywood is in the midst of a full-blown revival of Eighties classics, and the latest beneficiary of that sense of nostalgia is The Karate Kid. The 1984 martial arts hit was a modestly-budgeted revenge flick about a 98-pound weakling who gets bullied by classmates after he and his mom relocate to California . But the newcomer is soon befriended by his apartment building’s Japanese janitor, who teaches the boy karate by putting him on an unorthodox training regimen that’s doesn’t involve any fighting.

Other than the setting shifting to China where the events unfold on a much grander scale, the 2010 edition of the film is a fairly-faithful rendition of the original production. The picture was directed by Holland’s Harald Zwart (The Pink Panther 2) and co-stars Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith whose combination of charming badinage and acrobatic stunt work add up to a cinematic experience every bit as satisfying as the first.

The story opens in Detroit where 12 year-old Dre Parker (Smith) is saying his good-byes to pals before boarding a plane with his widowed mom (Taraji P. Henson) who has just taken a job in a Beijing automobile factory. Popular Dre dreads moving to a country where he doesn’t know anybody and can’t even speak the language.  

Upon their arrival, he makes acquaintances with an American neighbour (Luke Carberry) who suggests they go down to the park to play some basketball. There, Dre falls in love at first sight with a cute local girl (Wenwen Han) practicing her violin on the bench. So, he saunters over to flirt with Meiying, who is very receptive to his advances and asks if she can touch his cornrows.

Their cross-cultural chemistry is not lost on an overprotective friend of her family, Cheng (Zhenwei Wang), who uses Kung Fu to give Dre a black eye while issuing the warning, “Just stay away from us, all of us!” Cheng and his posse attend the same school where Dre is about to enrol, and they proceed to turn Dre’s life into a living Hell.

Enter Mr. Miyagi, I mean Mr. Han (Chan), the Parkers’ compassionate custodian. He miraculously heals Dre’s wounds with an ancient remedy and offers to teach the lad to defend himself, Asian-style. Han then negotiates a truce with Dre’s tormentors, buying time by promising to enter his protégé in the upcoming Kung Fu competition. Okay, cue the taskmaster’s offbeat teaching methods that whip the kid into a black belt.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. A note for note remake which magically manages to make you cry at all the same emotional push points as the original.   

Rated PG for bullying, violence and mild epithets.

Running time: 140 Minutes

Studio: Columbia Pictures

To see a trailer for The Karate Kid, visit HERE

Rock Docs Take Centre Stage At NXNE Film Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - Jason Anderson

(June 15, 2010) Since so many music fans are obsessive, detail-oriented types prone to having heated
arguments over the artistic merit of various bubblegum pop 45s, maybe it’s inevitable that some of them become filmmakers, too. After all, a documentary is an often highly effective means to convince others of the overwhelming greatness and vast importance of your musical heroes, however obscure they may be.

The cinematic component of the annual music fest that hits town next week, the
NXNE 2010 Film Festival includes many efforts to evangelize on behalf of acts that are already iconic (the Rolling Stones in Stones in Exile, the Doors in When You’re Strange) or could use the exposure (Finnish folkie Pekka Streng in The Magnetic Man, the decidedly non-traditional Japanese ensemble in The Shibusa Shirazu Orchestra Live in Paris).

Yet there’s plenty more than expressions of fandom going on at the intersection between the movie and music worlds that the NXNE fest explores. Among the films that take a wider view of the music scene is the opening selection on June 16 at the NFB.

Sounds Like a Revolution is an appropriately rabble-rousing survey of contemporary purveyors of protest music. Toronto filmmaker Summer Love spent the better part of a decade following the journeys of many musicians inspired to speak out about the injustices they perceive in the world today.

While some artists featured here (like Spearhead’s well-spoken Michael Franti) have long been committed to their noble causes, it’s more surprising to see how life under George W. Bush politicized even a comedy punk band like NOFX. Of course, their idea of a protest anthem is “Idiot Son of an Ass----,” a Dubya-baiting number that Joan Baez is unlikely to ever cover.

There’s more punk attitude on display in two more fest highlights. Circa 1977: The Diodes (which screens June 17 at the NFB) exposes the history of one of Toronto’s first punk acts — in fact, the Diodes managed to release a debut album even before the Sex Pistols did. Alas, the band couldn’t sustain its early success with singles like “Tired of Waking Up Tired” and sputtered out by the early ’80s.

Director Aldo Erdic was there to document the inevitable reunion gig back in 2007 at NXNE. The band members also take time to give a guided tour of long-gone locales like the site of the Crash ‘n’ Burn, the short-lived punk club that the Diodes opened in the same building as the office of the Liberal Party of Ontario.

The story behind one of punk’s essential textbooks is the focus of Search and Destroy (screens June 19 at the Toronto Underground Cinema). The amazingly well-preserved Iggy Pop and the surviving members of the Stooges — who play live on NXNE’s stage at Yonge-Dundas Square on June 19 — describe the making of Raw Power, the 1973 album that spurred a generation of impressionable musicians to muster up their own forms of mayhem.

An occasional thespian, Iggy Pop gets behind a mixing board again to play a legendary record producer in Suck, Toronto director Rob Stefaniuk’s mash-up of vampire comedy and music-biz satire — it plays the Bloor Cinema on June 18. Along with Suck, several other features with musical themes or connections play NXNE, including A Gun to the Head, a caustic yet very engaging comedy by Vancouver filmmaker and New Pornographers keyboardist Blaine Thurier.

Another key figure in the punk movement is honoured at this year’s NXNE. The son of Jamaican immigrants to the U.K., Don Letts first made his mark with his reggae-centric DJ sets at the London punk club The Roxy. He then served as the Clash’s resident filmmaker, using his access to the scene’s main players to shoot documentaries like The Punk Rock Movie and the definitive Clash bio-doc Westway to the World.

Letts’ two most recent docs — Carnival! and Strummerville — screen at NXNE along with Superstonic Sound, a roughhewn but revealing portrait of the filmmaker and his dubstep-DJ son by director Raphael Erichsen.

Some of Toronto’s reigning rock royalty make screen appearances at the fest, too. Leslie Feist even does double duty. First, she appears in her usual guise as a musician in This Movie Is Broken, a film hybrid by director Bruce McDonald that combines footage of Broken Social Scene’s concert at Harbourfront Centre last July with a Don McKellar-scripted story about a romance between two hipsters who take in the show.

This Movie Is Broken receives its much-anticipated Canadian premiere at NXNE at the Royal on June 17 (it starts a theatrical run at the theatre later this month). Feist appears elsewhere on the same bill in The Adventures of Spaghetti Cowboy, a goofy comedy western short in which the chanteuse stars as a moustachioed outlaw named El Bandido. It’s not a bad look for her, though fans probably prefer her without the whiskers.

The NXNE 2010 Film Festival runs June 16-19 at the NFB, the Hyatt Regency, the Royal, the AMC Yonge Dundas Square, the Toronto Underground Cinema and the Bloor Cinema. Details at http://www.nxne.comwww.nxne.comEND

A Musical Family Reunion

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 11, 2010) Vancouver — Leon Bibb has shared the big screen with Sidney Poitier, performed on Broadway with Ethel Merman and sung We Shall Overcome with Joan Baez and Harry Belafonte after a civil rights protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

Bibb expects his next collaboration will join – if not top – those career highlights: on Monday night he will perform with his son, the Grammy-nominated singer-guitarist Eric Bibb, and his granddaughter Yana Bibb, an emerging singer-songwriter.

“I’ve had this dream for a long time,” says Leon Bibb, 88, sitting in his apartment overlooking Vancouver’s False Creek. “It’s going to be incredible.”

The three have performed together in a festival format, but this is different: a full-length show in Vancouver, where Leon Bibb has been an onstage force for decades. He’ll mark 40 years in the city this August.

“I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived anywhere else,” he says.

Leon Bibb was born in Louisville, Ky., and grew up in a segregated neighbourhood where everyone – save for the grocer – was black. In his early 20s, he left for the Big Apple. “Before I came to New York, I never had a conversation with a white person, ever.”

About a year-and-a-half later, Bibb had his first audition. He saw an ad seeking a “coloured performer” for a new Broadway show, Annie Get Your Gun. On audition day, the taxi dropped him off on the wrong block and Bibb ran like the wind to make it on time, bursting through the stage door and yelling into the darkness: “I’m here!” Some 200 people also waiting to be auditioned (for Rodgers and Hammerstein, no less) broke out into hysterics. But it was Bibb who got the last laugh – he got the part.

So launched a career that has featured many other roles, including a part in Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris off-Broadway, and a week subbing in for the lead. After Bibb moved to Vancouver (he visited the city to open for Bill Cosby in 1969 and liked it so much, he relocated from New York), he obtained the Vancouver rights for Jacques Brel. The show premiered at the Arts Club in 1972 and was a smash success. Its initial run was extended from one month to seven, and it has been performed many times since, making Bibb a beloved stage presence here.

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well vaulted me,” he says. “Ever since, the city’s taken care of me.”

Performing in Vancouver with his son and granddaughter, he knows, will be particularly poignant. “I’m a crybaby,” he warns, before playing a recording of a song he would like to perform Monday night. He asks that the song not be disclosed, in case he decides he can’t get through it without breaking down. It’s about the vulnerability and tenderness of parenthood.

Music has played an important role in his relationship with his son, Eric, 58, who was a child when he learned to play guitar; his first role models were the musicians who accompanied his father. “I learned a lot through osmosis, just watching him put together a concert program,” Eric Bibb said last week by phone on his way to a performance in Ireland.

By the time he was 13 or 14, Eric was being consulted by his father on musical questions – something that meant a lot to the teenager. “It was a way for him to really see me beyond being his son. It was a way for him to acknowledge that he really recognized my love of the music and even at [my] very young age was able to see that I had something to offer him. It was kind of empowering to have that position in my dad’s life.

“We have always had that link, and that has served us beautifully and continues to do so.”

Similarly, music is playing a role in Eric Bibb’s relationship with his daughter Yana, as he sits in on her recording sessions and offers feedback. “It’s a nice way to really get to know her on another level.”

Yana Bibb lives in New York, where she is recording her first CD. She agreed to her grandfather’s concert proposal immediately. “Basically, this is his legacy,” she says. “I consider both me and my father to be his supporting act for this gig.”

Leon Bibb has a long list of things he’s thankful for: that large family of his, receiving the Order of B.C., the endless run of Jacques Brel. He could go on and on. He’s a happy, grateful man.

“I’ve lived a long time – and to have had the kinds of experiences that I’ve had, if the man knocked on my door now, it would be okay,” he says. “It really would be.

“Well,” he adds, thinking about Monday night’s concert, “not until the 14th.”

Generations: Leon, Eric and Yana Bibb in Concert is at Vancouver’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Monday June 14 at 8 p.m. (vancouvertix.com).

Sook-Yin Lee: Candid With The Camera — Except For One Thing

Source: www.thestar.com - Denise Balkissoon

(June 11, 2010) The word that first comes to mind for her is “alt,” the slangy short form for “alternative.”

Coming at us from seemingly every form of media,
Sook-Yin Lee always seems to be accompanied by quirky music, dressed like a downtown gypsy, causing jaws to drop with some tidbit of personal too-much-information.

But she’s not really that alt, if alternative is meant to be synonymous with underground.

Lee’s been a national presence since she landed on MuchMusic in 1995, and has stayed so consistently — her stint as host of the CBC’s “Definitely Not the Opera” is now eight years long.

She’s world-famous, even, after her infamous performance in John Cameron Mitchell’s 2006 movie Shortbus. The CBC had threatened to fire her if she took the role of a sex therapist seeking her first orgasm, but after an international uproar drew letters from A-list celebrities, the Ceeb backed down. The film got a 20-minute standing ovation at Cannes.

Now, Lee is getting ready to debut her first feature-length film as a director, Year of the Carnivore, which opens on June 18.

Lee is a cultural Jill of all trades, and in everything she does — acting, music, directing, broadcasting — she takes a decidedly indie approach.

But the myriad bits and pieces of her persona give her a broad appeal. Child of immigrants, multiple talents, bisexual, goofy but smart, pretty and chic, keen sense of the ironic — she’s a fascinating package.

“Oh no, her?” groans Lee when told a certain film reviewer was at the Carnivore press preview. “She hated the movie at TIFF!”

Unsurprisingly, Carnivore has a sexual focus: its main character, Sammy Smalls, is an awkward early twentysomething who’s told by the boy of her dreams that she’s lacking experience in the sack. She coerces random strangers into “teaching” her, which results in a number of scenes in which the diminutive Sammy services handcuffed men in the forest.

Yes, it sounds icky, but the movie isn’t really dirty. In fact, it’s kind of sweet. The object of Sammy’s affection has his own struggles with intimacy (his mother’s death has made him a commitment-phobe) and it’s touchingly funny to see the shy Sammy acting out in a haphazard effort to find herself.

With her black hair tied off her neck to fight the sticky heat, Lee is seated at the little table in the little kitchen of her little Kensington Market house, down a little lane that most weekend tourists to the hippie ’hood wouldn’t think of traversing. She’s wearing a dark green button-up shirt and a knee-length skirt with boots, a tame combo considering the brightly hued patterns she’s known for.

It seems funny that Lee would care about a negative review. Much of her appeal comes from an exuberant do-anything attitude. Fans still approach her voicing appreciation for her decade-old stunts on MuchMusic, like the time she tongue-kissed her cat on air, or when she ate Chinese chicken feet, then put her own foot in her mouth, literally.

She took that guileless attitude over to CBC’s DNTO — one video segment on YouTube has her showcasing her flaws, pointing out her missing molars to Kensington passers-by. It’s hard to align the brazen actor who had a real orgasm in Shortbus with a creator made modest by a review.

“Some people think of me as very brave,” Lee says, “but a lot of it is me being clueless and not really realizing what I’m doing.” She credits performance — first, as lead singer for the Vancouver punk band Bob’s Your Uncle and next, the gig at Much — for dismantling a protective shell built up by years in a strict, secretive and abusive family. Sharing her history matter-of-factly with her audiences is another Lee trademark.

Her parents were both immigrants — her father a post-World War II orphan from Hong Kong, her mother an escapee from Communist China. After her maternal family had settled in Vancouver, Lee’s mother was sent out to work as a child, her salary paying the bills while her brothers went to school. The elder Lee had a number of breakdowns and was subject to bouts of electroshock therapy.

By the time Lee was in her teens she and her three sisters couldn’t handle the emotional tirades and physical abuse. “My idea of ‘mom’ is that she hugs me one day and strikes me the next,” says Lee. “I understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of somebody who is hurting you that loves you deeply, and it’s very, very confusing.”

Lee’s parents split up when she was 15. The second oldest of the girls, Lee left high school and ran away, followed by Dede, the third daughter. “I was her surrogate mom on the street, but I was too young to be a mother,” she says.

Lee began to listen to punk music and read existentialist authors. She ended up in living with “a really wonderful community of lesbians and artists who helped to show me a different colour of what women can be.” Her sister was less fortunate, falling in with “violent Chinese gangs” and dying in a car accident a few years later.

“I wish I could relive all those years,” Lee says, “redo them again as my adult self instead of in a kid way.”

She’s fond of her 67-year-old father, an engineer, who makes regular appearances on her radio show, and her remaining sisters, all of whom still live in B.C. Her relationship with her mother is more fraught.

Lee has worked very hard to understand the “how,” doing what she calls “Sherlock Holmes work” to figure out her mom’s own history of abuse. She knows the “why” is more elusive.

“You understand how somebody could become that way,” she says. “But knowing all that stuff doesn’t make you able to run like” — here she mimes spreading her arms into a welcoming embrace — “Mom!” A recent DNTO segment on “difficult conversations” recounted a recent Mother’s Day phone call after years of communicating only by letter. It was okay, and that’s the most Lee hopes for.

After such a difficult youth, even okay seems foreign to her. When asked about her house, which she’s owned for 12 years, she segues into an anecdote about how the commune-like artists’ house of her youth was torn down for by condos, making some of her former roommates homeless. She’s been gainfully employed ever since Moses Znaimer summoned her to Toronto in 1995, but speaks often of her poverty and artistic naïveté on Vancouver’s streets.

Struggles with intimacy are a repeated theme in her work, but in real life, Lee seems pretty good at solid, long-term relationships. Her best pal is an ex-boyfriend, Chester Brown, who moved from Toronto to Vancouver to be with her when she was in Bob’s Your Uncle, then moved back here with her when she started at Much.

“She’s very loyal and dedicated to people she cares about,” says Brown, a cartoonist who did the poster for Carnivore. The two shared Lee’s Kensington house for years after they officially broke up as lovers. Lee now calls him “family” and an “angel.”

 

Lee and Brown have collaborated on some comics and graphic novels, and Brown admires Lee’s multimedia skills. “She’s just willing to throw herself into anything,” he says. “I wish I could do that. She wants to do everything and she can do everything.”

Another long-term fixture in Lee’s life is her current partner, musician, poet and English student Adam Litovitz, with whom she’s lived for the past three years.

He says the confessional Lee whom audiences know is pretty much the real deal. “She’s not always just entirely spilling personal info,” says Litovitz, who occasionally plays tennis with Brown, “but she’s not a hider either. She’s really candid about what’s going on with her, and she expects you to be the same way.”

At times, her innocent approach on the radio can seem like a pose, such as her dismay that Bay Street suits weren’t interested in discussing the business district’s “soul.” Litovitz says her curiosity is true, and that her sharing of experiences is what coaxes guests into trusting her enough to show hidden parts of themselves.

“I think it’s great,” he says. “Personal things need to be explored, and she’s good at it.”

The two have collaborated on various musical projects and, along with East Coast musician Buck 65, are releasing an album of music inspired by Carnivore. Sitting around their Kensington living room, Lee and Litovitz worked with laptops and the various old instruments Lee pulled out of suitcases from her basement. The result is an uptempo collection of experimental pop, sometimes melodic, sometimes jangly, interspersed with samples, singing and the occasional rap.

Nights of musical jamming aside, Litovitz says Lee is largely self-contained. “She definitely appreciates having quiet and space. She likes being alone a lot and creating alone.”

Lee concurs, pointing again to her youth, when her mother was reluctant to let her daughters socialize. “It’s paradoxical,” she says, more than once, referring to her tendency to be both introvert and extrovert.

For all that she’ll work out her demons in public, there’s one thing Lee is guarded about. As far back as her 1990s days at MuchMusic, not one broadcast or interview makes a solid reference to the performer’s age.

“I haven’t said it,” Lee concedes. Presented with the Internet Movie Database range of “24 to 35,” she continues to demur. “They’re close. I’d rather not say. Is that okay?”

Of course. Even the most gregarious of personalities deserves one secret.

::TV NEWS::\

Plans For ‘Fox News North’ To Be Revealed In Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Joanna Smith

(June 14, 2010) OTTAWA—The details of a plan to launch a conservative television network will finally be revealed after much talk about what it could mean for political journalism in this country.

Pierre Karl Péladeau, the billionaire media tycoon who heads Quebecor Inc. and its subsidiaries, is expected to unveil his plans Tuesday for what the competition has already dubbed ‘
Fox News North’, an English-language 24-hour all-news network modelled after the provocative ratings success below the border.

The press release for the announcement at the Toronto Sun building in Toronto Tuesday refers only to a “new investment in Canadian media,” but details of the reportedly $100 million venture by Quebecor Media Inc. and Sun Media Corporation have been leaking out in dribs and drabs for the past week.

Quebecor Media Inc. filed an application for a “must-carry” licence with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission earlier this month and the company has already announced some high-profile new hires, including Kory Teneycke, the former chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as vice-president of development.

Teneycke had been working on contract for Quebecor for several months after leaving his PMO job last July, simultaneously appearing as a conservative pundit on CBC television, where he went after EKOS pollster Frank Graves by accusing him of Liberal partisan bias.

Luc Lavoie, a former spokesman for Brian Mulroney, will be helping out.

There is plenty of speculation about who else might be poached away from their current posts, including controversial CBC television reporter Krista Erickson.

Teneycke has long talked about a television network that would cater to a conservative-minded audience, and has already come out swinging against naysayers in the established media.

When retired CBC personality Don Newman wrote a blog post calling the proposed network “the absolute last thing this country needs,” Teneycke shot back through his Twitter account by calling Newman “Canada’s answer to Helen Thomas”, the 89-year-old White House correspondent who recently resigned in the wake of controversial remarks about Israel.

Teneycke defended that online barb — and his vision for the “hard news and straight talk” network — in an interview Monday.

“It’s not surprising that incumbent players — competitors — are not that interested in seeing more people on the playing field and for those who think the media is only for . . . people they agree with,” Teneycke said. “I think they’re wrong. It is for a whole diversity of voices and the public is free to make up their own minds what they read and what they watch on TV.”

Jonathan Malloy, an associate professor of political science at Carleton University, said he is less concerned about the network giving voice to right-wing views (which he believes would create healthy competition) than the idea that it would adopt the polarizing tone Fox News has brought to political journalism.

“The Fox network is not a good model to replicate,” Malloy said Monday. “The Fox network is remarkably biased, I think, by any standard and helped make American politics even more combative and even less substantive than before and I don’t want to see that model replicated in Canada.”

The company also brought in David Akin, most recently a political reporter for Canwest News Service, to be Ottawa bureau chief and Brian Lilley from private broadcasting giant Astral Media Radio, is also officially on board.

Erickson, who has raised eyebrows for being the girlfriend of Conservative MP Lee Richardson (Calgary Centre) and got into trouble for feeding questions to a Liberal MP during committee hearings into the business relationship between Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber, is also rumoured to be joining the network.

Erickson sent an email to her colleagues at CBC on Monday morning to announce her departure but declined to comment on her future and referred all questions to her Toronto-based lawyer, Chris Taylor.

“At this point we are not commenting on where Krista will land but should have an announcement in that regard shortly,” Taylor wrote in an email.

Life For Eric After Will

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 15, 2010) Banff, Alta. — It’s a little early in his career to be closing any circles, but
Eric McCormack’s award of distinction at the Banff World Television Festival Tuesday night sure has that feel about it. The first time the Toronto-born actor visited the picturesque Alberta mountain town, he was fresh out of high school, on an airplane alone for the first time, off to begin his formal theatre education at The Banff Centre’s summer program.

“I got my start [in Banff] 28 years ago this month,” McCormack says from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s so strange. I wish it was a more even number. Thirty years. Actually, what am I saying? I wish it was 20 years.”

McCormack, now famous for his portrayal of Will Truman on the hit American TV series Will & Grace, is at a bit of a crossroads. The show has been off the air for four years. His follow-up television project, Trust Me, co-starring fellow Canadian Tom Cavanagh, was cancelled after one season, leaving McCormack “devastated.” There’s been lots of work – including a recurring role this season on The New Adventures of Old Christine – but he’s still trying to find that next big project.

“I’ve really been kind of exploring ... how much I want to be a producer or a director or a writer. Or am I just content to be an actor? I’m exploring all the avenues to see where one can be happy in the next phase of artistic life.”

McCormack, 47, got his start in the business during his final year of high school, working as a bus boy at a dinner theatre on the suburban edge of Toronto. Imposing himself as an unofficial understudy, he watched the show closely every night. After about three months, he overheard the manager say that the lead was ill, and they weren’t sure if he’d be able to perform the next night.

“Literally like Eve from All About Eve, I said: ‘I know the show; I can do it,’ ” says McCormack. “And they tapped me on the head and said, ‘Of course you can, honey. You be off and you bus those tables.’ ”

The next day, McCormack was in history class at his Scarborough high school when he was called to the office. The dinner-theatre manager was on the phone, asking him if he seriously thought he could play the part. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m serious’ and he said, ‘You’re on tonight.’ No rehearsal. I had five songs and I had a dance, and it was magnificent. [The lead] never got better. I ended up doing the show for eight weeks.”

After Banff, McCormack studied theatre at Ryerson, then spent a few years at the Stratford Festival. In 1992, almost out of money, he decided to follow some actor friends out to Vancouver. He eventually landed the part of Clay Mosby on the series Lonesome Dove. The first day on-set in Alberta, he met his wife, Janet Holden, who was on the crew as an assistant director; she’s from Edmonton. “Alberta’s played a big part in my life,” says McCormack. They have a seven-year-old son, Finnigan.

In 1998, he landed the plum part in Will & Grace, a role that brought fame, fortune and an Emmy Award.

“The day after the Emmy night, I remember thinking: ‘Okay, this is the end of phase one, you can no longer just do things based on ambition and fear and proving things.’ ... There was something about having the [statue] in your hand that said, okay, nobody can deny this.”

A straight man who got famous playing a gay lawyer on TV, McCormack has found himself with a platform to speak out about gay rights (he campaigned against Proposition 8, banning gay marriage in California) and support AIDS-related charities.

He is dismissive about a recent brouhaha over whether gay actors can successfully portray straight men, a controversy ignited by an article criticizing McCormack’s former Will & Grace co-star Sean Hayes’s performance in the Broadway musical Promises, Promises. (The article called the issue “the big pink elephant in the room.”)

“[It was] one guy’s dopey opinion in Newsweek,” says McCormack. “I think if you left it alone, nobody would even have noticed it. But I also think that nobody watches ER and goes, ‘Oh come on, they’re not doctors.’ It’s a moronic approach to things.”

His success on TV has given McCormack the freedom to pursue his love of theatre. He starred in The Music Man in 2001 on Broadway (the same play he did at Banff that summer – more of that circle thing). And this summer he will star in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross in Vancouver, where he still has a home and where his family spends summers and Christmases.

The production is the result of a plan he hatched with his old acting buddies over drinks at Vancouver’s Chambar restaurant.

“For me to make a theatre commitment in another country three years down the road was a leap of faith. But this isn’t just a play and this isn’t just a cast, these are my closest friends ... and this will be like this little fantasy camp.”

The project is so important to him that when he was negotiating his contract for a pilot with ABC, he insisted that if the series were to go a second season, it couldn’t start shooting until Aug. 24, 2010.

“My lawyers said: ‘What? Why?’ And I said, because I’m doing this play in Vancouver. And everyone laughed and said that [ABC agreeing to stall] will never happen.... I held out and we actually got it in writing and I e-mailed [Arts Club artistic director] Bill Millerd one day and said, the American Broadcasting Company has just bowed to the Arts Club.”

The pilot wasn’t picked up. There have been roles on other network series, but McCormack laments that he hasn’t yet found “the one.” He’d love to do features, but Steven Spielberg’s not calling, he jokes. He’s acquired the rights to Canadian author Linwood Barclay’s novel No Time for Goodbye and he’s trying to get that made into a film. There are a lot of meetings, a lot of ideas. He may have that Emmy on his mantel, and all the financial security he’ll ever need, but he remains driven, anxious to find the next right project.

“You never don’t feel like it could all be over tomorrow,” he says. “And that’s probably healthy. You never want to get too comfortable.”
 

TiVo CEO In Talks To Expand Sales In Canada

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 15, 2010) Banff, Alta. —  The president and CEO of California-based
TiVo, Inc. says the company is “in discussions with various players in the market” to bring the game-changing TV-viewing technology to Canada in a more significant way.

“I don’t know if [initially] everything we were evangelizing was being viewed as the real next [big thing] operators were going to have to embrace,” Tom Rogers told the Banff World Television Festival on Tuesday. “I think increasingly that’s being viewed as the case, so stay tuned. We’re certainly very interested in what we can do up here.”

When pressed afterward, Rogers would not say with whom the company was speaking in Canada. But he did say the problem with making TiVo more of a force in Canada was not regulatory, but technological.

“I would say there are complexities in the technology architecture of what differs from what we do in the United States and how it’s done up here.” Rogers pointed out that CableCARDs are used in the U.S. but not in Canada.

TiVo is a digital video recorder that allows viewers to record programs, pause live TV shows, access an on-demand video library, surf the Internet, play music and more. Most significantly, perhaps, it allows viewers to skip commercials, forcing advertisers to dream up new ways of getting eyeballs on their products.

The technology has become ubiquitous in the U.S., so much so that it’s common to hear “TiVo” used as a verb – as in “I’m going to TiVo [that is to say, record] Mad Men tonight.” The term has also become a fixture in popular culture, with everything from frequent references by OprahWinfrey to a segment on The Simpsons in which the family installs a TiVo but Marge is overwhelmed by guilt at having skipped over the commercials.

In the U.S., Rogers said TiVo is working on its interactive capabilities, including developing technology that would allow a viewer who saw something they liked on TV (the example he used was a sweater worn by Jennifer Aniston) to click on it, learn more and place an order to buy it.

TiVos became available in most of Canada (excluding Quebec) through a number of retail outlets about two years ago, but not in HD – unlike other PVRs (personal video recorders) which already had a jump in this market. And unlike the PVRs offered through Canadian cable and satellite providers, TiVo charges a subscription fee. Rogers says the number of Canadian TiVo subscribers is “relatively small.”

He says Canadians are eager to have more access to the product. “We get e-mail about that all the time,” Rogers told The Globe.

“Ever since we were in retail up here we have been very interested in how we can expand our footprint, so we are certainly looking hard at how we can be more of a player up here.”

Don’t expect anything soon, however. When asked for a timeline, Rogers simply said he has nothing to offer “near-term.”
 

Gervais’ New Show Is ‘Funniest Thing We’ve Done’

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 16, 2010) Banff, Alta. —  You thought The Office and Extras were funny? Just wait for Life’s Too Short,
Ricky Gervais’s upcoming television series. “It’s the funniest thing we’ve done,” Gervais told a jammed room at the Banff World Television Festival on Tuesday. “It’s pure funny, though,” he added – minus the pathos of The Office and the drama of Extras.

The show is based on the real life experiences of Warwick Davis, an actor whose credits include the Harry Potter films and who also appeared in an episode of Extras. Davis is a dwarf, and much of the comedy stems from there: whether it’s his need to use a broom to knock down what he wants from a supermarket shelf, or being touched by people who think it’s lucky to do so.

“The real Warwick tells us these great stories,” Gervais said. “They’re comedy gold.”

The project began with Gervais and his long-time writing partner (The Office, Extras) Stephen Merchant offering advice to Warwick, who wanted to turn his real-life experiences into a series. Then they thought they’d come in as executive producers. Ultimately, they decided to make it their next project.

They gave the Warwick character “small man complex,” making him jealous, manipulative and ambitious. “He runs this company called Dwarves For Hire but he’s stealing all the other dwarves’ jobs,” Gervais said, to much laughter.

In an hour-long on-stage interview, it’s the topic that seems to get Gervais the most excited, sending him out of his chair to pantomime people patting Warwick on the head at parties.

Gervais – who touched on his father’s French Canadian roots and his early career plans to be a scientist – also talked a great deal about The Office and Extras, disclosing that Laurel and Hardy – his comedy idols – served as inspirations on both shows. “Everything began and ended with Laurel and Hardy,” he said. They taught him the importance of empathy in comedy; that you can’t laugh at somebody you don’t like.

“I wanted to hug them. I loved them more than they made me laugh. But they made me laugh because they’d take me to their world ... and everything I’ve ever done I think latched on to something from Laurel and Hardy.”

He called The Office “a huge homage to Laurel and Hardy” and said on Extras, the character of Maggie was based on Stan to the degree that actor Ashley Jensen was often given the stage direction “More Stan.”

Gervais also said he’s hugely influenced by so-called Jewish comedy, from Woody Allen to Curb Your Enthusiasm. “I think Jewish comedy is modern comedy,” he said, and quoted Larry David, who explained to Gervais that Jewish comedy is “just a lot of complaining.” (Gervais will make an appearance on the next season of Curb.)

International franchises of The Office continue to sell: there are negotiations with Turkey to do “the first Muslim version of The Office” and deals to do versions of the show in Israel, Russia, France and Germany (as well, of course, as the U.S. version starring Steve Carell).

Gervais told the industry audience that he approached that series with a longer list of don’ts than do’s: no exposition, no unnatural camera movement, no director’s jokes – all the lines had to be true to the character speaking them.

“We threw away loads of jokes,” Gervais said. “I mean half the jokes in The Office we cut out because it was either too smart for the character, it interfered with the story, or we took away a lot of jokes with Tim and Dawn because they weren’t meant to be having a good time unless they were together.”

Gervais also disclosed that the character of Tim was initially supposed to be a cross between Chandler from Friends and Norm from Cheers, but felt that audiences wouldn’t care as much about a character who was that smart. “We had to make him alienated. So no one laughed at his jokes in a room full of idiots – except Dawn.”

Gervais said when he moved to Extras, he missed playing the character of the bumbling office manager. “David Brent was a joy to play. It’s the most fun you can have. ‘Cause you’re saying the wrong thing and then you’re being embarrassed. … Andy [Millman, the central character on Extras] was less fun to play because he’s the straight man.”

Gervais, who is also in Banff to receive the Sir Peter Ustinov Comedy Award, said the most rewarding part of his many comedic ventures is their very beginnings. “Nothing gives me an adrenaline rush like having the idea.”

Speaking in front of an audience made up of television and digital media types, Gervais also discussed technology (iPhone and iPad – good; Twitter – not for him). His podcasts are hugely successful (180 million downloads and counting), and he said he does embrace technology, but stressed that even the best technology cannot replace a good story.

“I’m still more excited about two people sitting down and having a conversation à la Woody Allen than Avatar,” Gervais said.

Al. B. Sure Enough Loves Himself Some Omarosa

Source: Kam Williams

Albert Joseph Brown, III was born in Boston , Massachusetts on June 4, 1968 but raised in Mount Vernon , New
York where he was the star quarterback on the high school football team. Still, he turned down a full scholarship to the University of Iowa to pursue his love of music under the alias Al B. Sure! In 1987, he was tapped by Quincy Jones as the winner of a Sony Records talent search and, found fame while still in his teens with the spectacular debut album “In Effect Mode” featuring numerous hits, including such instant R&B classics as Rescue Me and Nite and Day.

Known for the velvety-falsetto on his romantic love songs, Al released other solo CDs while collaborating on duets with everyone from Diana Ross to David Bowie to Al Green over the course of a recording and producing career which has thus far netted the charismatic crooner numerous Grammy nominations as well as Soul Train and American Music Awards for Best New Artist. Currently, he is one of a dozen bachelors competing for the affections of Omarosa on The Ultimate Merger, a new reality series sponsored by Donald Trump.

Here, Al talks about his life and about what it was like to be on the show which is set to premiere on TV One on Thursday, June 17th at 9 PM.  

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

Al B. Sure: Don’t worry about it. How’re you doing today?

KW: Very well, thanks. How did Donald Trump interest you in competing for the affections of a controversial sister voted the #1 reality show villain of all time by the readers of TV Guide?

ABS: I’ve known Mr. Trump since he hosted I think it was my 21st birthday party on his yacht years ago. He’s an amazing guy. And I’ve also known Omarosa for a few years. She’s always been just a really sweet and kind person, very different from what viewers see on television. I’ve always admired her because she’s such a smart go-getter, so we’ve always been friends.                      

KW: Yeah, the first time I met her, I was struck both by how strikingly beautiful she is in person and by how different she is from the monster she’s been edited to look like on The Apprentice.

ABS: Exactly!

KW: But if you already know her, why go on a reality show to date her?

ABS: It’s a cultural concession too the new media. I can’t live in the past. Part of this new media is this reality forum. So something you’d ordinarily do in private, you end up doing in public for all the world to see. Then it becomes much more interesting, especially how TV One has cast a great group of guys to compete for the prize, this very dynamic woman. What’s better than that? It makes for a very positive show.

KW: I told my readers I’d be interviewing you, and the most common response I got from them was something like, “He’s more famous than Omarosa. Is this just a publicity stunt?” One even said, “Ask him, are you out of your mind?” given her reputation for being difficult.

ABS: [Laughs] I received feedback like that myself. But like I said, I know the real Omarosa. She’s a friend, a dynamic woman, and a good person. I’ve been approached to do so many reality shows that I’ve turned down over the years. But being that this was Donald Trump, TV One and Omarosa, I thought this would be great. And you never know what might happen. 

KW: Did you enjoy the whole reality show process?

ABS: Absolutely!

KW: Even being cooped up in a suite with 11 other guys?

ABS: Not that part so much, because I’m a bit of a loner, even though they were great guys, and we established a brotherhood over the course of this journey. And still, in the back of everybody’s head was the competition. But we did our best to keep it as positive as possible.

KW: No spitting on each other, like the contestants on Flavor of Love.

ABS: No, no spitting on each other, but we did challenge each other intellectually any time we bickered.

KW: Weren’t the other contestants shocked and intimidated when they learned they’d be competing against Al B. Sure?

ABS: To be very candid with you, their biggest surprise was when they came to realize that I was so down to earth, and that my door was always open to anybody who needed to talk. Despite the competition, I’m going to be your brother first. I have to be that way, because God has blessed me with the vehicle of music, the experience of life, and the spirit of discernment. So, of course, I feel responsible to share my gifts.   

KW: And how was it to look at Omarosa romantically for the first time, instead of as a friend.

ABS: You know what? She’s a very, very sexy woman. What more can I say? And sexy to me is not just the physical. I’m 42 now, so when you can sit down and have an incredible conversation with me, that’s the biggest turn-on, not the tightest jeans.

KW: Batala McFarlane asks, if you weren’t an entertainer, what line of work would you have pursued?

ABS: I would probably have been an attorney or played football in the NFL, which was my initial dream. I love football to this day.

KW: Documentary filmmaker Hisani Dubose says she loves your music and would like to know what you’re working on now.

ABS: Currently, I’m pitching a production of my own television show. I can’t reveal exactly what it is, but I’ll be talking about it very soon. I also have a website, http://www.albsure.net/, and I’m hosting Slow Jams, the #1 morning radio show. You can find a link to it on my website. I’m on 7 days a week from 5 to 10 AM playing everyone from Beyonce’ to Marvin Gaye. Besides that, my latest album is called Honey, I’m Home. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002935GM8?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002935GM8

I’m trying to bring the romance back to music. Old school… Music is meant to be a part of your blood stream, and if it doesn’t affect your bloodstream, then you may as well put it back in the shoebox underneath the bed. My godfather, Quincy Jones, taught me that the melody comes from God, and it is what it is. At the end of the day, what you put into something is what you get out of it.   

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman says, in the event you succeed in your quest to woo Omarosa, how do you think your kids will react to having her as their wicked stepmother?

ABS: [Chuckles] That’s not nice. I won’t answer that one.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks is this a show business move or an affair of the heart? I think you already answered that.

ABS: [LOL] I love these questions. They’re funny.

KW: Ila Forster wants t know what your feelings were while watching the MTV Sweet Sixteen segment that featured your son and Sean Combs?

ABS: I’m not going to comment about that. I don’t discuss my family with the press; I discuss my family with my family. If you notice, when you hear something sensational in the press about me, I don’t respond to it publicly, because a lot of things are put out there simply for the attention. Things that are meaningful, you don’t need to talk about.

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

ABS: Yeah, how are you doing Al? People, for the most part, forget to say, how are you? How do you feel today? It as if we’re robots or machines. I’m a human being just like you are. And I hurt and love just like everybody else, and people tend to forget that. I think I’m one of the friendliest celebrities around, because I’ll stop to talk to anybody who recognizes me. I don’t have a negative bone in my body. That’s why I could care less about any gossip. It doesn’t interest me. I’d rather sit down and write a song.

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

ABS: With you just a minute ago. [Laughs]

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

ABS: The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345479173?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0345479173

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

ABS: The last thing I listened to was a gospel duet by Fred Hammond and Brian McKnight called “When Will I See You Again.” It is an emotional song that really makes you sit down and reflect. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAQjlBywYio

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

ABS: I see a gentleman getting a little older and a little wiser.

KW: What is your favourite dish to cook?

ABS: I enjoy preparing salmon.

KW: What in life means the most to you?

ABS: Right now, caring for my mother, who’s been diagnosed with cancer. She’s an ordained minister and my best friend. And watching her go through this process with the chemotherapy and everything has created more strength within me as a man. We’re going to beat it together. Don’t let anyone tell you God is good. Chicken is good. God is amazing!

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

ABS: I was just having a conversation about that with my mother. I can remember way back in the day when my mother managed a dental office on Grand Concourse in the Bronx . I remember Phil Jackson, who was playing for the Knicks at the time, coming in for an appointment and bouncing me on his knee in the waiting room. He looked about 9 feet tall to me.  

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

ABS: Prayer and encouraging words change things. We’re all human. We all go through stuff. The hardest part about being a celebrity is having to heal on a public stage. That’s the worst. Imagine going through a scandal, or a divorce, or a death in the family, and running into fans on the street. Because of where my heart is, my instinct is to put my sadness aside, and give them a smile or a hug, no matter how bad I’m feeling. And the appreciation of fans can refuel your spiritual tank in those situations. But until you’re famous, people don’t realize how difficult that is.

KW: Do you ever wish you could get your anonymity back.

ABS: At times, because you might like to go out to have a meal and just chill. But I love people so much that I generally enjoy talking to everybody.

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favourite clothes designer?

ABS: I like Armani, but I have a special affinity for Kamau Holloway, the head designer for Eclectic Denim.

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

ABS: That hatred would disappear.

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

ABS: To study different genres. You have too take from each artist what works for you, and then create your own sound. You put different combinations in the mix and it becomes something unique in the end.

KW: I call it taking the best and leaving the rest.

ABS: Come on! You got it!

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

ABS: As a man who was positive, who made a difference, and who walked in God’s light.

KW: Thanks again, Al, and l hope to see at the premiere party at Trump Tower .

ABS: I would hope so, my brother.  


To listen to Al B. Sure!’s radio show, visit: http://www.albsure.net/slowjams

To see a trailer for The Ultimate Merger, visit HERE

To see the Al B. Sure! video for Nite and Day, visit HERE

A Crowning Moment For The King Of ‘Reality’

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 13, 2010) Nigel Lythgoe may be able to make or break careers on his hit show So You Think You Can Dance, but try telling that to the people running the box office for the Broadway musical he’s trying to get into. Lythgoe’s on his cellphone from New York, and figured while doing an interview, he would stroll over and pick up his tickets, arranged for him by one of the show’s stars. Alas the comps aren’t there. Don’t they know who he is?!

“They’ll give me a lifetime-achievement award,” he laughs, “but I can’t get tickets to Promises, Promises.”

Lythgoe (whose assistant eventually gets to the bottom of the ticket debacle) is referring to the Award of Excellence, which he’ll receive at the Banff World Television Festival on Tuesday. In a keynote speech on Monday, he will address his many television successes: Popstars, Pop Idol, the U.K. version of Survivor, Gladiator and, of course, American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. As a key figure in all of these shows (creator, executive producer, judge), he is responsible to a great degree for some of the biggest shows in reality television, although you’ll never hear him using that term. “I hate it being called ‘reality,’” he says. “I make entertainment shows.”

Whatever you call them, Lythgoe, 60, has done well with the genre, to say the least. After starting his career as a dancer and choreographer (working with greats such as Gene Kelly and Bing Crosby – and on The Muppet Show), Lythgoe moved into television production. He produced hit reality TVshows in the United Kingdom such as Blind Date and Gladiators, and in 2000, he became a judge on the hugely successful show Popstars, where, long before anyone had heard of Simon Cowell, he became known as “Nasty Nigel.”

Lythgoe then teamed up with Cowell to launch Pop Idol, the British precursor to American Idol. Because of his high-profile role on Popstars, Lythgoe stayed behind the cameras for Pop Idol. Cowell stepped into the nasty judge role and the rest is reality (or entertainment) television history.

Despite Lythgoe’s background, it was Cowell who had the idea to apply American Idol’s success to a dance format. It took some convincing, in fact, to get Lythgoe on board. “I said, ‘No that won’t work. No one’s interested in dance,’” remembers Lythgoe, who adds that he finally changed his mind after mulling it over with half a bottle of Jack Daniels.

“And now I’m picking up a visionary award, which is very cheeky of me, considering I said it wouldn’t work.”

It has most definitely worked. Now in its seventh season, SYTYCD attracts millions of viewers. Last Thursday’s Hollywood showcase attracted more than 1.5 million viewers in Canada alone and was the week’s fourth highest-rated show – on a week when the Stanley Cup finals were on and Glee had its season finale. The series (which introduced some format changes this season – including a Top 10 (or 11) instead of a Top 20) has launched the careers of some talented dancers, and, along with Dancing with the Stars, has helped bring the art into the mainstream and shine a well-deserved spotlight on not just dancers, but choreographers.

“If I said to you name me 10 singers, you’d do that easily,” says Lythgoe. “If I said name me 10 [living] dancers, you wouldn’t be able to do it, to be frank.” He’s hoping to change that.

Lythgoe says his greatest lesson in producing successful television was learned the hard way: failure. He talks about his follow-up to the wildly successful Gladiators, a show called Ice Warriors – basically Gladiators on ice – that flopped with critics and audiences. “It was a dismal failure to the point that I didn’t have ice in my whisky for about three months,” he jokes.

The show’s “complete and utter failure” taught him that character development is more important than spectacle. With the warriors chasing each other on ice wearing helmets, nobody knew who they were; they weren’t able to develop into people viewers could care about.

“The whole thing about the success of Idol is you are taking a burger flipper one day and turning them into a star the next day,” says Lythgoe. “It is the American dream happening before your eyes.” And with families sitting down to watch it together, and fans insisting on watching it live so the surprise isn’t ruined, Lythgoe calls it “social glue.”

Even with the staying power that shows like American Idol and SYTYCD (both of which have spun off Canadian versions) have demonstrated, Lythgoe knows people will tire of the format and he fully expects them to move on to the next thing. But, he says, they’ll be back.

“I’ve been around a long time and I’ve watched the greatest formats disappear. But it’s cyclical. This will come back. American Idol may stop in five or six years; it’ll come back again. Look at some of the quiz shows that disappear; you would never have bet that Who Wants to Be a Millionaire would disappear. It’ll come back again in years to come. We are no more than Star Search. With American Idol, it’s Star Search wrapped up in a different parcel: the same gift of bringing talent to the screen but with different wrapping paper.”

Lythgoe’s not done with the genre he has helped pioneer. Last week, he was at MTV with High School Musical director/choreographer Kenny Ortega to pitch a new series. (He won’t provide details except to joke that he and Ortega, who’s also 60, will call it “Old Age Pensioner Idol” or “Wrinkly Idol.”) The MTV executives loved the idea, Lythgoe says, but turned it down, saying they don’t make programs like that any more.

“So for all the kids who have been rejected by me,” Lythgoe says, “just let them know that even at 60 years of age you can be rejected.”
 

Captain Kirk Reveals His Demons

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Marsha Lederman

(June 16, 2010) Banff, Alta. —
William Shatner moves down the red carpet with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. Ask him serious questions and you get wisecracking answers. He’s a jokester, all right, never afraid to poke fun at himself, those Trekkers who so revere him, or anything else, it seems. But it was a much darker, more private, even tortured side of the man that Shatner revealed at the Banff World Television Festival this week. As he took the stage to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award, the actor stunned the audience full of TV types with a moving acceptance speech about his own emotional difficulties, and his marriage to his fourth wife – which he called his real lifetime achievement.

At 79, the Montreal-born Shatner remains a beloved and seemingly unstoppable force in Hollywood. Best known for his portrayal of Captain James Kirk on Star Trek, he is also celebrated for his later-life roles on The Practice and Boston Legal, for which he’s won two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.

But despite fame, fortune and wide-ranging creative opportunities, he revealed Tuesday night that it has been a difficult journey.

“My life was a series of pools of loneliness [from] which every so often I was able to emerge with some companionship, and subdue that dreadful feeling that had dogged me for much of my life,” he said. “And frequently even with the kudos I was receiving, I was not happy with the private part of my existence. But slowly I changed. The drill that life puts you through can make you or break you, and fortunately I became more comfortable with relationships and slowly evolved in reaching out to friends and family.”

Shatner has had personal troubles, to be sure. Eleven years ago, his third wife was found dead at the bottom of the swimming pool at their home. It was ruled an accidental drowning. Shatner has since spoken of her battle with alcoholism and his fight to help her.

At Banff, he suggested that he is doing well now, but that life has been a struggle. “My lifetime achievement in my opinion is really the slow acquisition of the ability to be vulnerable and needy, and to be able to accept love as well as give.”

Shatner, who will star next fall in the new TV series $#*! My Dad Says, talked about his own father’s role in his career choice. The acting bug hit young Bill after performing in a play at summer camp in the Laurentians outside Montreal. “My father proudly held me in his arms and showed me to his friends, and it was the siren song of fame.”

Shatner went on to repertory theatre in Montreal and Ottawa (where his main goal, he said, was to make $100 a week so he could pay the rent, buy food and save money for a car), the Stratford Festival, Broadway and ultimately Hollywood. He still has his hand in many projects – including a feature-length autobiographical documentary announced this week at Banff – and does not appear to be slowing down as he enters his next decade, which he called “statistically my last.” With everything he has on the go (and he says he’s in talks with broadcasters about more work), he asked: “Is that achievement or is that insanity?”

As for that Facebook site (more than 46,000 members strong) promoting him as the next Governor-General of Canada, Shatner was irreverent when asked about it: “I’m really interested. They’re trying to get me to run for it. Is it an elected office or does somebody appoint you?” When told that it’s an appointment by the Queen, Shatner made a joke about the 1970s rock group Queen.

But speaking to the industry crowd from prepared notes, Shatner was anything but flippant. Sure he’s an actor, but when he choked up as he dedicated his award to his wife Elizabeth, he seemed to have everyone in the room convinced. “My lifetime achievement is being married to her, and every day reminding myself that sustaining a marriage is in itself the achievement of a lifetime.”

The couple has been married for nine years.

“I was totally overwhelmed ... and consumed with love,” Elizabeth Shatner, who was in tears during the speech, said afterward. “It’s his lifetime-achievement award, but I would thank him for taking me on the adventure of a lifetime.”

The Banff World Television Festival wraps up Wednesday night.

Beloved Character’s Death Was Inevitable, Says Dexter Creator

Source: www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski

(June 16, 2010)
Dexter creator James Manos Jr. says it was simply the right time to eliminate one of the show’s most beloved characters in last season’s shocking finale.

Anyone not caught up on the dark escapades of the fictional serial killer Dexter Morgan may want to stop reading here, lest they spoil one of the most devastating twists to come out of the provocative Showtime series, which airs on The Movie Network and Movie Central in Canada.

“It sucks, quite frankly, when anybody dies off the series,” concedes Manos Jr., who wrote and cast the pilot but was not involved in Season 4.

“For the actual show itself, the big picture of the show, it was the right time, it was the right play. I think the writers who took over the show after I left did a really smart job. I thought they handled it really elegantly and I thought it seemed very natural and normal and the right thing to do.”

Of course, “natural and normal” are relative concepts in the world of Dexter.

Last season kicked off with the psychopathic blood-spatter analyst settling into fatherhood as he stalked a serial killer that seemed to do the impossible — juggle a picture-perfect family life with a decades-long compulsion to kill.

But when Dexter finally does away with the so-called Trinity Killer, played by John Lithgow, he returns home to find he was too late to save one last victim — his own wife, Rita. Sitting next to her in a pool of his mother’s blood is their baby son Harry. In an instant, all the normalcy that Dexter believed was finally his comes crashing down in the most pointed way possible.

Dramatically speaking, killing off Rita was an inevitability, says Manos Jr., noting that from the very beginning, he envisioned her as the key factor that could make Dexter human.

“Her bringing that humanity into his life was great, it was the purpose of it, to see whether or not he’s going to become human and stop,” says Manos Jr., who adapted the pilot from the series of Dexter novels by Jeff Lindsay. He also won an Emmy for his work as a co-producer and writer on The Sopranos.

“Is Dexter going to become so human that he stops killing? (But) we don’t want him to stop killing because we want those bad guys to go.”

Manos Jr. outlined the intricacies of building a TV show around serial killer at the Banff World Television Festival on Monday, and his afternoon session grew so popular that observers overflowed out of the hotel conference room in which it was held.

Other show creators and producers at the festival include the masterminds behind Breaking Bad, Glee, The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife.

Manos Jr. says he’s happy to report that star Michael C. Hall is cancer-free. The actor had begun treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma earlier this year but is now in complete remission, he says.

Shooting on Season 5 is reportedly underway with rumours swirling that actress Julie Benz, who played Rita, will return in some form next year.

Manos Jr. says it takes guts for a show to kill a popular character, but that it also takes a strong story framework for a show to survive a twist like that.

“If you kill off one character and it kills the show it's not a well-crafted show,” he says.

‘(In writing) the pilot, you lay in a DNA. You lay in all these little bits in the pilot that ... will ultimately grow — a little bit of a relationship between Laguerta and Dexter, a little bit of a relationship between Batista and Deb, certainly Deb and Dexter. You lay in all these tiny things that you go, ‘okay, the DNA’s been laid in, it can grow, it can have a life.”

TV TIDBITS

Piers Morgan Touted As Replacement For Larry King

Source: www.thestar.com

(June 14, 2010) It looks like
Piers Morgan is the one with the talent. The British TV personality, a former newspaper editor best known in the U.S. as a judge on America’s Got Talent, is supposedly on the verge of becoming the next Larry King. The U.K.’s Telegraph says Morgan is about to sign an $8 million, four-year contract with CNN to replace King in the fall (some reports give the amount as $10 million). But other sources say Morgan, 45, is merely talking to CNN about a possible prime-time slot not necessarily King’s job. The Guardian newspaper says Morgan would continue his role on America’s Got Talent, which airs on NBC, if the CNN deal goes through but would likely quit sister show Britain’s Got Talent.

Trailer: Mekia Cox Joins Kodjoe in NBC’sUndercovers

Source: www.eurweb

(June 15, 2010) **Actress
Mekia Cox, most recently seen on The CW’s “90210″ and in the Michael Jackson documentary “This Is It,” has been cast in NBC’s upcoming spy drama “Undercovers.” Cox will replace Jessica Parker Kennedy on the J.J. Abrams series, according to the Hollywood Reporter. She’ll play Lizzy, the older sister of the female lead, who is unaware of her family’s involvement in the CIA. As previously reported, Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw star as married couple Steven and Samantha Bloom, who take on an assignment to track down a missing CIA operative. [Watch preview clip below.] Cox was one of 11 dancers chosen to be a part of Jackson’s “This Is It” tour.  She was the featured woman strutting her stuff during his performance of “The Way You Make Me Feel.” [Watch clip below.]

::THEATRE NEWS::

Jayne Paterson - A Canadian Steps Into Ms. Zeta-Jones’s Shoes

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

(June 11, 2010) Catherine Zeta-Jones is the big draw for director Trevor Nunn’s production of A Little Night Music, currently on Broadway. That’s not just because she’s a movie star – Zeta-Jones has earned excellent reviews as aging actress Desirée in the Stephen Sondheim musical and is up for a Tony Award tomorrow night for her performance.

So how difficult must it be to step up in front of a disappointed audience as Desirée when Zeta-Jones is unexpectedly absent? That’s exactly what her Canadian understudy
Jayne Paterson had to do when the star was sidelined with a virus last month, just as many out-of-town Tony voters arrived in New York to judge the production, which is up for four Tony awards in total.

At one of those performances, Paterson – whose other Broadway credits include Fantine in Les Misérables and Mrs. Wilkinson in Billy Elliot – made at least this theatre critic quickly forget about Zeta-Jones’s absence. Her touching rendition of Send in the Clowns, the most famous song in the show, choked me up.

After returning from New York, I asked Paterson a few questions about her tough gig over e-mail.

Can you give me a little background on how you went from growing up in Winnipeg to working on Broadway?

I had great teachers who gave me a lot of opportunities to sing at school in my early years. I was then cast on CTV’s Let’s Go at the age of nine. I started working professionally at a very early age at Rainbow Stage, a great training ground, as they brought in fantastic performers from all over the country to play various roles in their season… . I fast tracked through high school to head to the Charlottetown Festival to do Anne of Green Gables. That led me to Montreal, then to Vancouver, where I continued to do musicals as well as film, TV and voice-over work. I was cast in Jane Eyre in Toronto with Mirvish Productions. That show eventually brought me to Broadway in 2000. Five Broadway shows later … here I am!

How often have you had to step up to play Desirée during the run of A Little Night Music?

I’ve done about three weeks of performances as Desirée.

Many audience members are going to the show specifically to see Catherine Zeta-Jones. Is it hard to win them over?

Of course people are surprised, but I’m so happy to say that it doesn’t take any time to get them back into the show. In my opinion, Night Music is one of the most sophisticated, gorgeous, structurally sound book musicals there is.

Do you try in any way to play the role as Zeta-Jones does it, or do you offer up a completely different interpretation?

There are certain requirements in the staging that need to be maintained due to lighting etc., but within that there is a lot of room to make things your own. A great director never wants a mimic. I’ve been lucky to have that freedom.

What’s it like playing opposite Angela Lansbury as Desirée’s mother, Madame Armfeldt?

Just dreamy. Her relationship with the audience is one I’ve never had the honour of experiencing. She can read them like they were her most favourite novel, and shift and shape, snuggle and squeeze them as she sees necessary. And she is always right! Her show evolves every night! It’s a rare and amazing gift. I feel so lucky to share a stage with her.

Do you have any plans to rejoin Billy Elliot any time? Would you come up to the Toronto production to play Mrs. Wilkinson next year?

Billy Elliot was one of the greatest, collaborative experiences of my career. Stephen Daldry is a genius! It’s a great family over there. They have asked me back a few times but it hasn’t worked out due to conflicts. I’m sure I’ll be back at some point.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Malkovich Divinely Seduces In The Infernal Comedy

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Martin Morrow

The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a Serial Killer
Written and directed by Michael Sturminger
Conducted by Martin Haselböck Starring John Malkovich, Bernarda Bobro and Marie Arnet
At Massey Hall in Toronto

(June 12, 2010) With his purring voice and vaguely Mephistophelean features,
John Malkovich has frequently been tapped to play seductive villains on screen. In The Infernal Comedy, which made its North American debut Friday at Toronto’s Luminato Festival, he brings a particularly slippery real-life monster to the stage.

Malkovich portrays Johann (Jack) Unterweger, the Austrian serial killer-cum-writer, who beguiled Vienna’s literati even as he secretly strangled as many as 11 prostitutes in a 1990s killing spree. It’s a role to which the actor brings all his wit and mesmerizing stage presence, though neither quite compensates for the show’s awkward structure and unsatisfactory text.

The work, conceived by Malkovich, Austrian writer-director Michael Sturminger and Vienna Academy Orchestra conductor Martin Haselböck, is a curious hybrid of dramatic monologues and operatic arias. The conceit is that Unterweger, who committed suicide in 1994, has come back from the dead to promote a new, tell-all autobiography. His publisher has suggested dressing up his reading with a pair of young sopranos to represent the women in his life – apparently unaware of the effect they might have on this literal ladykiller.

At first, our infamous author is well-behaved. Dressed in a crisp white suit and polka-dot shirt, he indulges in patter and pours on the charm. He jokes about his Schwarzenegger-esque Austrian accent. He wades into the audience like a daytime TV host, quizzing us about our sex lives. He expounds on the complexities of the female psyche. “Vomen, they can really make me lose my mind!” he exclaims, earning this smiling sociopath one of many ironic laughs. For a time, the show lives up to its title – it’s hellishly funny.

But when the sopranos appear, singing tragic arias from the classical repertoire, Jack really does lose it. He can’t leave off pawing them, caressing them, foisting bouquets and Sachertortes upon them. And when this killer, notorious for garrotting his victims with their own underclothes, starts outfitting each lady with a brassiere, we know nothing good will come of it.

The arias, by Mozart, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Haydn and Weber, could be meant as expressions of Jack’s inner turmoil, or as the laments of his victims. In any case, they are beautifully sung by Marie Arnet and Bernarda Bobro, backed by Haselböck’s onstage orchestra – Bobro, in particular, gives a bravura performance of Hayden’s harrowing Scena di Berenice. They don’t further the piece dramatically, however; they’re just diverting interludes.

Malkovich’s Jack, meanwhile, becomes increasingly unhinged, as does Sturminger’s script. Having successfully shown us Unterweger’s disarming appeal, it now tries to be a commentary on the nature of truth. Firing up a laptop, Jack angrily scrolls through his biography on Wikipedia and critiques its errors – only to admit some of them are derived from his own dishonest writings. As the reading becomes an admitted shambles (“This is not a very well-organized evening,” Jack apologizes at one point) the show itself resorts to aimless stage business and cop-outs about Jekyll not being able to know Hyde.

Before The Infernal Comedy premiered in Vienna last summer, it had a test run in L.A. in 2008 under the title Seduction and Despair. As it exists now, the work is certainly seductive thanks to Malkovich. The star of Dangerous Liaisons hasn’t lost his gift for purveying sugar-coated evil.

The despair is another matter. Where the piece needs original monologues plumbing the agony that led this loved and celebrated writer to compulsively murder, we’re only given borrowed arias instead. We come away impressed by Malkovich’s acting skills, but feeling we’ve only scratched the surface of his character’s black soul.

The Infernal Comedy has one more Toronto performance, on Saturday, June 12. It plays the Festival Grand Rire in Quebec City on June 14.

Fences, Denzel, Davis, Memphis, Fela! win Tonys

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 14, 2010) *”Fences,” a revival of August Wilson’s drama about family, won for best revival of a play at Sunday’s
2010 Tony Awards, while its two stars, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, won for best actors in a play.

The broadcast was packed with musical performances from nominated shows, including “Memphis,” the rhythm ‘n’ blues musical set in the Civil Rights era, which won four Tonys, including best musical.

Fela!”the innovative Afro-beat biography of Nigerian superstar Fela Anikulapo-Kuti — had 11 nominations, but won just three: Bill T. Jones for best choreography, Robert Kaplowitz for best sound design of a musical and Marina Draghici for best costume design.

The final tally of winners follows:

Red – 6
Memphis – 4
Fences – 3
Fela – 3
La Cage aux Folles – 3
American Idiot – 2
A View from the Bridge – 1
Promises, Promises – 1
Million Dollar Quartet – 1
The Royal Family – 1
A Little Night Music – 1

Nominees and recipients of the 64th Annual Tony Awards follow, with recipients marked in bold and with an asterisk.

Best Musical

American Idiot

Fela!

*
Memphis

Million Dollar Quartet

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical

Kelsey Grammer,
La Cage aux Folles
Sean Hayes,
Promises, Promises
*Douglas Hodge,
La Cage aux Folles
Chad Kimball,
Memphis
Sahr Ngaujah,
Fela!

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical

Kate Baldwin,
Finian’s Rainbow
Montego Glover,
Memphis
Christiane Noll,
Ragtime Sherie Rene Scott, Everyday Rapture
*Catherine Zeta-Jones,
A Little Night Music

Best Revival of a Musical

Finian’s Rainbow

*
La Cage aux Folles

A Little Night Music

Ragtime

Best Play

In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
Author: Sarah Ruhl

Next Fall
Author: Geoffrey Nauffts

*
Red
Author: John Logan


Time Stands Still
Author: Donald Margulies

Best Revival of a Play

*
Fences

Lend Me a Tenor

7
The Royal Family

A View From the Bridge

Best Choreography

Rob Ashford,
Promises, Promises
*Bill T. Jones,
Fela!
Lynne Page,
La Cage aux Folles
Twyla Tharp,
Come Fly Away

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play

Jude Law,
Hamlet
Alfred Molina,
Red
Liev Schreiber,
A View from the Bridge
Christopher Walken,
A Behanding in Spokane
*Denzel Washington,
Fences

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

*Viola Davis,
Fences
Valerie Harper,
Looped
Linda Lavin,
Collected Stories
Laura Linney,
Time Stands Still
Jan Maxwell,
The Royal Family

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical

Kevin Chamberlin,
The Addams Family
Robin De Jesús,
La Cage aux Folles
Christopher Fitzgerald,
Finian’s Rainbow
*Levi Kreis,
Million Dollar Quartet
Bobby Steggert,
Ragtime

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical

Barbara Cook,
Sondheim on Sondheim
*Katie Finneran,
Promises, Promises
Angela Lansbury,
A Little Night Music
Karine Plantadit,
Come Fly Away
Lillias White,
Fela!

Best Direction of a Musical

Christopher Ashley,
Memphis
Marcia Milgrom Dodge,
Ragtime
*Terry Johnson,
La Cage aux Folles
Bill T. Jones,
Fela!

Best Direction of a Play

*Michael Grandage,
Red
Sheryl Kaller,
Next Fall
Kenny Leon,
Fences
Gregory Mosher,
A View from the Bridge

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play

David Alan Grier,
Race
Stephen McKinley Henderson,
Fences
Jon Michael Hill,
Superior Donuts
Stephen Kunken,
Enron
*Eddie Redmayne,
Red

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play

Maria Dizzia,
In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
Rosemary Harris,
The Royal Family
Jessica Hecht,
A View from the Bridge
*Scarlett Johansson,
A View from the Bridge
Jan Maxwell,
Lend Me a Tenor

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Jonathan Deans,
La Cage aux Folles
*Robert Kaplowitz,
Fela!
Dan Moses Schreier and Gareth Owen,
A Little Night Music
Dan Moses Schreier,
Sondheim on Sondheim

Best Sound Design of a Play

Acme Sound Partners,
Fences
Adam Cork,
Enron
*Adam Cork,
Red
Scott Lehrer,
A View from the Bridge

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Marina Draghici,
Fela!
*Christine Jones,
American Idiot
Derek McLane,
Ragtime
Tim Shortall,
La Cage aux Folles

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

*Kevin Adams,
American Idiot
Donald Holder,
Ragtime
Nick Richings,
La Cage aux Folles
Robert Wierzel,
Fela!

Best Lighting Design of a Play

Neil Austin,
Hamlet
*Neil Austin,
Red
Mark Henderson,
Enron
Brian MacDevitt,
Fences

Best Scenic Design of a Play

John Lee Beatty,
The Royal Family
Alexander Dodge,
Present Laughter
Santo Loquasto,
Fences
*Christopher Oram,
Red

Best Costume Design of a Musical
*Marina Draghici,
Fela!
Paul Tazewell,
Memphis
Matthew Wright,
La Cage aux Folles

Best Costume Design of a Play

Martin Pakledinaz,
Lend Me a Tenor
Constanza Romero,
Fences
David Zinn,
In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play
*Catherine Zuber,
The Royal Family

Best Book of a Musical

Everyday Rapture
Dick Scanlan and Sherie Rene Scott

Fela!
Jim Lewis and Bill T. Jones

*
Memphis
Joe DiPietro


Million Dollar Quartet
Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

The Addams Family
Music & Lyrics: Andrew Lippa
Enron
Music: Adam Cork
Lyrics: Lucy Prebble

Fences               
Music: Branford Marsalis

*
Memphis
Music: David Bryan
Lyrics: Joe DiPietro, David Bryan


Best Orchestrations

Jason Carr,
La Cage aux Folles
Aaron Johnson,
Fela!
Jonathan Tunick,
Promises, Promises
*Daryl Waters & David Bryan,
Memphis

The 2010 Tony Awards for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre were presented to playwright and director Alan Ayckbourn, and Tony Award-winning actress Marian Seldes.

The recipient of the Isabelle Stevenson Award is Tony Award winner David Hyde Pierce. The Isabelle Stevenson Award recognizes an individual from the theatre community “who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theatre.

This year’s Tony Honors are presented to The Alliance of Resident Theatres New York, B.H. Barry and BC/EFA executive director Tom Viola.

The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT, is the recipient of the 2010 Tony Award for Regional Theatre.

Jennifer Lawrence ‘Thanks For Raising Me, But I’m Going To Take It From Here’

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(June 11, 2010) I admit it: I felt intimidated by Jennifer Lawrence. Before we met at a Toronto hotel on Monday, I was already impressed by the 19-year-old actress. In The Burning Plain, she grabbed my attention with her thousand-yard stare and her ability to convey a compelling inner life. And in the gritty drama Winter’s Bone – a Sundance hit that opens in select cities on Friday – her performance as Ree, a supremely mature Ozarks teenager who has to track down her meth-cooking father in order to save her meagre family home, is a revelation of control. Her sense of when to hold back and when to give over is almost freakishly impressive.

And in person, well, let’s just say this is one confident young woman. She arrived in skinny jeans, a textured silk bolero jacket and snakeskin peep-toe platform pumps whose soaring, six-inch heels would defeat a lesser woman, but Lawrence never wobbled. We started out on opposite corners of the sofa, but as she talked, Lawrence unfurled her legs inch by inch, unconsciously claiming more and more of the space (that is, I’m pretty sure it was unconscious). I ended up squished in a corner, but honestly, I didn’t care – I’m a Darwinian. The species evolves, and Lawrence is clearly the next iteration.

She’s in almost every scene of Winter’s Bone, many of them harrowing. There are beatings and dismemberments, and she has to communicate pain, disgust and sorrow, sometimes all at once. Most actors are happy to tell you how they suffered for their art. Not this one. “To you it looks emotionally straining,” she said, “but I don’t get emotionally drained, because I don’t invest any of my real emotions.” Not only does she not take any of her characters’ pain home with her, “I don’t even take it to craft services,” she zinged. (For those who don’t live on movie sets, craft services is the catered snack table.)

So if she’s not using her real emotions, what does she use? Lawrence fixed me with a patient look and replied, “Imagination. I’ve never been through anything that my characters have been through. And I can’t go around looking for roles that are exactly like my life. So I just use my imagination. If it ever came down to the point where, to make a part better, I had to lose a little bit of my sanity, I wouldn’t do it. I would just do comedies.”

She paused, looking at her hands. “So many people, after they’ve seen my movies, expect me to be intense and dark, and I’m not at all. Oh, look – I forgot to take the polish off this nail.”

Lawrence was so matter-of-fact about everything, I was continually blown away. For example, on acting, she said, “I never did theatre or took classes, which I think has helped me. I just had instincts and they were right.”

On being bossy: “I don’t think I’m always right. I’m a good listener, and I’m open to being told I’m wrong. But by the time I say something, it’s already gone through the nine levels in my head, and probably it is right. So I might as well say it.”

On cutting open a squirrel for Winter’s Bone: “I should say it wasn’t real, for PETA. But screw PETA.”

On the poverty she saw in the Ozarks: “I never felt sorry for the people. Those are their homes and their families. They probably feel sorry for us because we don’t have dinner with our family every night. And yes, there are men in our movie who say things like, ‘I told you to shut up once, with my mouth.’ But there are men in this city who say, ‘I’ll be spending the night at the office,’ and they’ll be sleeping with their secretaries. It’s different, but it’s the same.”

And on working with director/co-star Jodie Foster on her next film, The Beaver: “We both walked away thinking the same thing: ‘I’ve never met anybody who reminds me of me more.’ As far as methods go, neither of us have one. Like me, she doesn’t take any of it to heart. We both think of this as a job, and don’t understand why you suddenly have to become an a-hole when you become successful at it. We’re both perfectly fine with technical directions: ‘Hunch your shoulders more, lift your head up higher.’ And we both hate b.s. directing, like, ‘Imagine your puppy just died.’ If you want me to cry, just say cry.”

At 14, Lawrence convinced her parents to take her from her native Louisville, Ky., to New York to audition for talent agencies. “They said it was the best cold read they’d ever heard from a 14-year-old,” Lawrence said. “My mom told me they were lying.” She laughed. “My parents were the exact opposite of stage parents. They did everything in their power to keep it from happening. But it was going to happen no matter what. I was like, ‘Thanks for raising me, but I’m going to take it from here.’”

Lawrence’s parents made her a deal: She could try acting if she graduated from high school first. She did, with a 3.9 average, two years early. “I never considered that I wouldn’t be successful,” Lawrence said. “I never thought, ‘If acting doesn’t work out I can be a doctor.’ The phrase ‘If it doesn’t work out’ never popped into my mind. And that dumb determination of being a naive 14-year-old has never left me.”

Lawrence got work immediately, first in commercials, then on TV shows including Monk and Medium. She co-starred in the cable series The Bill Engvall Show, and landed her first independent film, The Poker House, at 16 (she played an abuse victim). Lawrence summed up her rise thus: “From 15 to 16 I sucked, because I had no idea what I was doing. Then I slowly stopped sucking. I never think I’m above reality or exempt from disaster. But I’m a hard worker, and when I set my mind to something, it usually happens.” She now lives in Santa Monica, Calif., with her dog, a Yorkie. Her next goal is to direct. She’s convinced she’ll be good at it.

Only once did Lawrence sound like a regular 19-year-old – when she told me how her high-school nemesis, Meredith, once asked her to hand out a stack of invitations to a birthday party she wasn’t invited to. “Who does that?” Lawrence asked. “You’re just outing yourself as mean. Even the Nazis didn’t do what they did simply to be evil.” She guffawed. “I’m so happy I’m comparing Meredith to a Nazi. I hope she reads this.”

Unlike lesser mortals, however, Lawrence coolly responded to Meredith’s goading in the moment. “I started whistling,” she said, “and I walked over to the trash can and I dumped them in. Then when I had a birthday party, I invited her. I won.”

I'll say. As if Meredith ever stood a chance.

Africa Trilogy: Bold And Insightful Theatre

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Crew

The Africa Trilogy
Shine Your Eye (out of four). By Binyavanga Wainaina. Directed by Ross Manson.
Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God (out of four). By Roland Schimmelpfennig. Directed by Liesl Tommy.
Glo (out of four). By Christina Anderson. Directed by Josette Bushell-Mingo.
At Harbourfront Centre’s Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay W., until June 20

(June 13, 2010) Ross Manson’s Toronto-based Volcano is one of those companies that every great theatre city needs — bold, experimental and bubbling with ideas.

And it was an enlightened move by Luminato and the Stratford Shakespeare Festival to commission Manson to assemble a sweeping trilogy of short plays to explore a complex, ever-shifting subject: Africa and its relationship with the West.

The result is
The Africa Trilogy, written by playwrights from three continents, four years in the making and now at Harbourfront Centre as part of Luminato 2010.

Even at 3½ hours, it’s hard for
The Africa Trilogy to do more than scratch the surface of such a huge subject but there are insights to be had from two of the plays, both of which prove to be fine pieces of writing.

The first of the duo is
Shine Your Eye, written by Kenyan Binyavanga and directed by Manson. It centres on a young Nigerian woman burdened by having a famous hero for a father and seeking to find her own identity in a difficult, morally uncertain world.

Tight, well-written and poetic, it is a play filled with heart and features a fine cast led by the luminous, vulnerable Dienye Waboso as Beka and with excellent work from Karen Robinson, Lucky Onyekachi Ejim and a delightful Muoi Nene.

(There’s also great work throughout from the creative team responsible for sets, costumes, lighting, sound and video. Production values for all three plays are top-notch.)

Peggy Pickit Sees the Face of God is written by the accomplished, much-produced German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig and is a fascinating study of a husband and wife who have spent six years in Africa as part of a medical aid team and who have been invited to a welcome-home party by another couple.

It’s cleverly written (and cleverly directed by Liesl Tommy), with freeze-frame action, video, overlapping, repeating dialogue and punchy, dramatic situations, as the booze begins to flow and secrets spill out.

Again the piece has been beautifully cast, with Maev Beaty and Trey Lyford as the returning, much troubled couple, and Tony Nappo and Jane Spidell as the wine- and slap-happy host and hostess.

There are a couple of loose ends and places where you feel you need a little more detail and specificity, but it’s a powerful statement and an intriguing stylistic contrast to the first play.

Glo, however, is a disappointment.

Written by American Christina Anderson and directed by Josette Bushell-Mingo, it’s about a young author named Lydia (the oh-so charismatic Dorothy A. Atabong), who has left Africa for the first time to promote her book about growing up in a Kenyan slum. While her brother Benjamin struggles to survive back home, she is the wise innocent abroad, experiencing life in New York at a local diversity conference.

That’s it. Despite the work of yet another solid cast, the play doesn’t seem to have much to say and there is little or no development, little forward movement or insight.

Nonetheless,
The Africa Trilogy is a substantial achievement.  

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Microsoft Unveils Xbox Motion-Control To Rival Wii

Source: www.thestar.com - Seth Schiesel

(June 15, 2010) LOS ANGELES – Looking to outdo Nintendo and its popular Wii, Microsoft on Monday officially introduced
Kinect, its camera-based, motion-control game interface. The company also announced that it had redesigned its Xbox 360 game console, making it smaller and quieter, and adding a built-in hard drive and Wi-Fi.

The new Xbox, which will still cost $299 (U.S.), will be available in stores this week.

Nintendo reinvented the video game business several years ago with the Wii and its motion-sensitive controller, demonstrating that women and families who had no interest in traditional game systems could nonetheless be lured into interactive entertainment with an easy, intuitive interface. (Since late 2006, consumers have bought more than 28 million Wiis, compared with about 20 million Xbox 360s.)

Kinect, which also works with the existing Xbox 360 and is set to be released on Nov. 4 (its price has not been announced), tries to one-up the Wii by eliminating the controller.

Using advanced camera technology and software, Kinect recognizes a person who is merely standing in front of a television and allows the user to wave, lean or kick to drive a virtual car, run a virtual race or compete in a virtual dance contest. (View a video demonstration.)

At the Electronic Entertainment Expo here, Microsoft announced deals for Kinect with companies like Harmonix, creators of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, for a dance move game called Dance Central and LucasArts for an exclusive Star Wars light sabre fighting game.

Kinect Sports, Microsoft’s response to Wii Sports, will include virtual javelin throwing and table tennis.

Apple iPhone 4: Better Battery And Six-Axis Motion-Sensing

Source: www.thestar.com - Denise Balkissoon

(June 11, 2010) As you likely know, Apple CEO Steve Jobs officially unveiled the iPhone 4 at the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) on Monday — though the announcement was a bit anticlimactic given the highly-publicized prototype leak back in April —but the upcoming smartphone did manage to wow the crowds, thanks to some mighty impressive specs.

Specifically, major new features of the redesigned iPhone include a much better camera and the ability to shoot HD video; a front-facing camera, too, for live video calling over Wi-Fi; and a 3.5-inch display with four times the resolution of the existing iPhone 3GS screen. And at just 9.3mm thick, Jobs also calls the iPhone 4 “the thinnest smartphone on the planet.”

But what does the iPhone 4 mean for gamers, you ask?

Aside from the greatly improved screen, now capable of showing an incredible 326 dots per inch (dpi), Apple has squeezed a three-axis gyroscope into the device, allowing the smartphone “to detect pitch, yaw and roll, plus rotation around gravity,” explains Jobs. This technology works alongside the previously available accelerometer to deliver true six-axis motion-sensing.

Motion-sensing is already a big part of the experience in many games — such as titling the device left and right to control a race car — but adding a gyroscope takes it to the next level. To demonstrate the technology, Jobs played the classic game of Jenga by tilting the iPhone 4 forward, back and side-to-side, as well as moving around the stage, and the pile of wooden pieces responded in real-time, and with gravitational force.

Also relevant to gamers is the bigger and better battery in the iPhone 4 (now with 40 per cent more talk time compared to the iPhone 3G S), which should yield longer play between charges.

A new folders system in the operating system will let you group similar apps by type and a relevant name is automatically given to the selected apps (such as “Games”). The new multi-tasking feature means gamers might be able to do things like video chat with a friend in a small window on the iPhone while playing a game of, say, backgammon with them online at the same time.

The iPhone 4 will be out in Canada in late July. While cost for the smartphone has not been confirmed, Canada usually follows suit with the U.S. on iPhone pricing; therefore, expect the 16GB model to be $199 and the 32GB model to cost $299, with carrier commitment; Rogers, Bell Mobility and Telus have all confirmed they’ll be carrying the device, with preorders starting in a couple of weeks.

::COMEDY NEWS::

One Of China’s Biggest Celebrities Is A Canadian, Eh

Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard

(June 13, 2010) TV host, comic, pitchman, cultural ambassador and emcee, Dashan is one of China’s biggest celebrities and most recognizable faces who just happens to punctuate his sentences with the occasional “eh.”

“Most stories about me in Canadian media are a novelty item about this guy who speaks fluent Chinese,” Ottawa-born
Mark Rowswell says over the phone as he heads out to catch an early morning flight from Western China to Shanghai, where he’s acting as Canada’s Commissioner General for Expo 2010.

“A lot of Canadians have heard there’s this guy in China but they wouldn’t recognize me in the grocery store.”

And that suits Rowswell, known as Dashan (Big Mountain) to his Chinese fans, just fine. It allows him to lead something of a double life, enjoying intervals of three or four weeks working in China and equal times at home just north of Aurora, Ont., with his Beijing-born wife and two children, ages 12 and 15 in almost complete anonymity.

Rowswell returns to Toronto this week to speak at the Royal Ontario Museum June 15 as part of its Director’s Signature Lecture Series leading up to the June 26 opening of The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army.

Rowswell, 45, studied Chinese while at the University of Toronto in the early 1980s and continued at Beijing University on a scholarship. He achieved overnight stardom in China in 1988 — what he calls “a lucky accident” — by performing a comedy skit on Chinese national TV in front of a massive audience. Soon, he became expert in the tongue-twisting comic patter called xiangsheng. (Check out his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/DashanTV).

“One of the things that led to my popularity is that form of comedy, xiangsheng,” Rowswell explained. “It has a reputation for being not just telling jokes, but linguistic gymnastics beyond the ability of the average native speaker.”

His unique skill led to fans describing Dashan as being “more Chinese than the Chinese.”

Rowswell is quick to point out with China becoming more open to the West, it’s not that unusual to see Caucasians who are fluent Chinese speakers, certainly not like it was when he started working in media there 22 years ago.

“The novelty aspect is much more in Canada than in China. The novelty (of me) in China wore off a long time ago,” Rowswell says. “From the outside, it’s rather hard for the Chinese to understand that whole Dashan phenomenon; so many foreigners speak Chinese now. It’s not like I’m the only Chinese-speaking Westerner in China. There are thousands like me.”

Rowswell began branching out from comedy in the late 1990s, adding dramatic stage and TV performing to his repertoire. He’s the Chinese-speaking voice of Ford Canada in this country and has become a cultural ambassador between China and the West. His cross-cultural work led to Rowswell being named a member of the Order of Canada in 2007. The following year, he served as Team Canada attaché during the Beijing Olympics.

He’s used the Dashan character, whom Rowswell says is someone in the Jerry Seinfeld mould, as “the flip side of the foreign stereotype.”

“It’s like Manuel on Fawlty Towers,” he says of the bumbling Spaniard on the British sitcom. “That’s the international image of the foreigner. Dashan has always been on top of that. He looks foreign on the outside and inside is more Chinese than the Chinese.”

The fact the character has become beloved in China and added to Canada’s stature among the people there seems to be one of Rowswell’s proudest accomplishments.

His passion for East-meets-West diplomacy is evident, but Rowswell says he has no plans for a political future. Being a performer is what he wants to continue doing and his two-nation lifestyle is the perq that keeps him happy in his career.

“Nice and normal, that’s the balance,” he says. “It’s kind of a strange lifestyle but there is a balance to it. I am away for a couple of weeks and at home for a couple of weeks and that time in Canada is mainly family time.”

Living here with his family also lets his kids lead a normal life, something their dad’s celebrity would prevent if they made their home in Beijing.

“To live in China would be like living under the shadow of celebrity all the time,” Rowswell explains. “And being a mixed-race kid in north Toronto is pretty normal.”

His home is on four hectares, 10 minutes outside Aurora and makes a striking contrast to his life a world away.

“I look out my window and see a little stream and a forest. It reminds me how far I am from Beijing.”

Just the facts

::SPORTS NEWS::

Upset Of Spain Muddies World Cup Waters

Source: www.thestar.com - Chris Young

(June 16, 2010) CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - So far at this
World Cup, we’ve had baby penguins dying from the chill, North Koreans coming in from the cold and everyone outside watching turning blue.

Switzerland knocking the favourites out cold? Why not? It was a given that this first World Cup in Africa was going to be unique, with a narrative impossible to predict. Way up the coast from here in Durban was the first real case of that mystery showing up on the scoreboards that have gone positively frigid all over South Africa: Spain 0, Switzerland 1.

While Gelson Fernandes celebrated the only goal seven minutes into the second half, Spain’s Gerard Pique stood up wobbly, blood trickling from a cut on the side of his forehead. He looked like he’d just been hit with a frozen bar of Toblerone. Just one question, Ger — who’s your favourite now?

Brazil inherits the spot, bookies dropping them to 7-2 from 4-1 second choice, while backing Spain up the board to 9-2 or so after the game was over. Yet the Brazilians hardly looked their regal selves as North Korea frustrated them again and again with their park the Kim-mobile tactics.

Argentina, Holland and Germany have looked good, but there are caveats. Diego Maradona’s team has holes
on defence, and the young, swift Germans, who do look the scariest to these eyes, are going to run up against some elder kicking, spitting and scratching sooner or later. As for the Dutch, they’re the Dutch — nice and cuddly and orange, but their dressing room always seems to be capable of turning demonic.

England? France? Ivory Coast? Portugal? They’ve shared three points so far between them, while South Korea, Japan, Ghana sans Michael Essien, Chile and even tiny Slovenia have taken that much on their own.

Whoever you like, the Spaniards, dubbed by some the greatest team of total footballers since Johann Cruyff’s crowd — and just like Spain, they never won this thing — are behind all of those squads. It took a mere 20 minutes of watching them to recall that old Lenny Bruce joke about the unreliability of male flamenco dancers, too busy peeking over their own shoulders to get a glimpse of their own back . . . pass. Goals? We walk them into the net, they seemed to be saying.

Two cases in point: All David Villa needed was a strong left foot to test Diego Benaglia late in the first half, the ball sitting in prime position. Instead, Villa pulled it back and floated a cross to the far post where absolutely no one in a red shirt awaited. Shortly after the break, Andres Iniesta served up a perfect ball to Carlos Puyol deep in the box — he headed the wrong way. It even looked like he was trying to head it the wrong way. At the other end, Iker Casillas was probably rehearsing his next jab at the World Cup’s new ball, if not Puyol.

A couple of minutes later, youngster Eren Derdiyok’s dash turned into a Maradona press conference. The dreaded Jabulani bounced off legs (Casillas’s, scrambling back after he bowled over Derdiyok with a swinging two-footer) and hands (Pique’s, the defender also getting a leg on it and earning that gash on the head for all of it), and finally pinballed to the St-Etienne-based Fernandes to steer in from short range.

This was supposed to be the game where Spain arrived to add some flair to a tournament starving for it. They were up against a Swiss team that in its last major appearance packed it in 30 minutes into their opener as co-hosts of that 2008 Euro, Alexandre Frei taken off with a tournament-ending injury and all hope leaving with him. Zurich, Bern, Lausanne and the rest shuttered up after that — two years later, they’re staying up late to toast their biggest upset and the 22-year-old Derdiyok, whose electrifying run and shot off the post nearly made it 2-0.

It’s early, you say, and that’s true. Surely they can’t possibly go through this whole month at the miserable strike rate of 25 goals in 16 games. No World Cup ever has.

But it’s never too soon for a second-guess and a tight collar, like the one Spanish gaffer Vicente Del Bosque is wearing after leaving ace attacker Fernando Torres on the bench to start, and going with Iniesta, the oft-injured maestro who was subbed off hurt and is again now a rather large question mark.

After one trip through the World Cup order in a tournament that has required NoDoz and ski suits to go along with the obligatory earplugs sold on the streets at three times face value, one favourite is down and this much is clear: Absolutely nothing.

Uruguay Defeats South Africa 3-0 At World Cup

Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly

(June 16, 2010) PRETORIA – South Africa’s dream of extending their
World Cup run into the knockout rounds isn’t dead, but it’s looking feeble.

The men in yellow fell 3-0 on Wednesday night to a battling Uruguay squad.

The key goal was a heartbreaker, a hard, speculative shot by Diego Forlan in the 24th minute that skipped off the forehead of Bafana captain Aaron Mokoena. That deflection wrong-footed keeper Itumeleng Khune, who could only watch the ball die in mid-air and drift under the bar in slow motion.

The mood in Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium, which had until that point been a beehive of concerted vuvuzela chanting (for a change), died like Forlan’s shot.

As the second half rolled on, the South Africans’ increasingly desperate charges into the Uruguayan half continued to dissolve before they amounted to anything. Uruguay is not always the most compelling side to watch, but they know how to grind. Eventually, South Africa was dust under their boots.

Goalkeeper Khune’s night got far worse. He was red-carded for tripping Luis Suarez in the area, costing his team a penalty kick and earning himself a red card. Khune has been the team’s emotional leader in these two games, and will now miss the third with an automatic suspension.

It was Forlan again breaking South Africa’s resolve, with a perfectly placed penalty. There would be injury added to insult with a third, 95th minute score by Alvaro Pereira.

For thirteen games leading up to this night, including a battling 1-1 draw with Mexico in the tournament’s opener, South Africa had avoided defeat.

That had instilled doubtful locals with a nearly mystic belief that their team might defy odds and move well into the playoff rounds. That hope is shopworn now, and the reality check showed on the supporters’ faces here. The rush to the exits started with ten minutes left in the match.

South Africa’s only hope lies in defeating France on Tuesday – and even that depends on other results. If they fall, South Africa will become the first host in World Cup history to fail to make the second round.

French, Mexicans and Uruguayans will understandably be rooting their men on. But a country full of visitors from other nations who’ve felt the hospitality of these people for a week will be hoping South Africa can find far better form against the finalists from four years ago, and extend this party.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Avery Johnson Agrees to Coach NJ Nets

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 10, 2010) *Avery Johnson is set to become the new coach of the NBA’s worst team – the New Jersey Nets. The current ESPN basketball analyst confirmed Wednesday that he made a verbal commitment to coach the team, and that the Nets will formally announce the deal sometime today, reports the AP. Johnson coached Dallas for three-plus seasons, going 194-70 in the regular season and 23-24 in the playoffs. He guided the Mavs to the NBA finals in 2006, but was fired after a first-round playoff series loss to New Orleans in 2008. Johnson will take over a team that posted a league worst 12-70 record and set a league-record opening the season with 18 straight losses. The sluggish start led to the firing of coach Lawrence Frank after 16 games. Outgoing general manager Kiki Vandeweghe served as the interim coach for the majority of the franchise’s worst season and only the fifth 70-loss season in NBA history. The Nets will be moving to the Prudential Center in Newark for the next two years before permanently moving to their new arena, the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 2012.