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LE NEWSLETTER

March 25, 2010
 
Welcome to Spring(?)  Well we WERE spoiled here in Toronto with some higher temperatures earlier this month ... now if we can just hang on to them!  We don't know whether to wear flip flops or boots!   And it's Easter weekend next weekend, already!  I love when Easter comes in early April as it gives a brief, sometimes false sense of security of warmer weather to come.

I had a fairly busy week so far.  First there was the UFC's president, Dana White, in town to promote the UFC and their possible entry into Ontario.  Mr. White conducted a fan-frenzied and impassioned Q&A in front of Sears, which attracted sports fans, sports journalists and curious onlookers in the hundreds.  (See details and photos under TOP STORIES.)  I'm still undecided if I'm a fan of UFC but am certainly curious as to the huge draw of Canadian fans it has.   I dragged along with me to the UFC event, former international K1 Canadian champion, Michael "The Black Sniper" McDonald, whose career accomplishments include 3 heavyweight champion titles.  One of his many awards was presented to him by Muhammad Ali accompanied by Mike Tyson.


Then there was the BBPA's press conference announcing this year's
Harry Jerome Award winners.   My dear friend, Michael Chambers (www.michaelchambersphotography.com) was among the stellar cast of high-achievers in the illustrious category of excellence in Arts.(See details under TOP STORIES.)  

Another week of your entertainment news so have a scroll and a read.  

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

::TOP STORIES::

14 To Receive Prestigious Harry Jerome Award

Source: www.thestar.com - Leslie Ferenc

(March 23, 2010) Some will remember
Harry Jerome as a legend in his own time, an outstanding Canadian track and field superstar. In his day, he was the world’s fastest man.

Others might recall his scholastic achievements and sense of justice. But most still see Jerome as a guiding light in the black community who helped raise the social conscience of a nation.

Though long gone — he died in 1982, at the age of 42 — Jerome’s legacy lives on and is embodied in the African-Canadians who have followed in his footsteps, says Karlyn Percil, chair of the Black Business and Professional Association Harry Jerome Awards. Fourteen people have been named recipients of the 2010 award.

“African-Canadians have made significant contributions in building their towns, cities and country,” said Percil as this year’s award recipients were announced Tuesday. “Their hard work throughout the years has resulted in great achievements and we are proud to recognize these individuals’ successes. I am pleased to be a part of this important initiative and to help recognize and honour the 2010 award recipients.”

To date, almost 300 African-Canadians have received the award, including former Ontario lieutenant governor Lincoln Alexander, Senator Donald Oliver and the late human rights advocate Rosemary Brown.

Among those being celebrated this year is Order of Ontario recipient Delores Lawrence. The 55-year-old woman is founder, president and CEO of NHI Nursing and Homemakers Inc., and was recently appointed to the Ontario Judicial Council. Lawrence was described as a philanthropist and community builder. She will be presented with the Bell Business Award at the 28th annual BBPA Harry Jerome Awards ceremony to be held in Toronto April 24.

Born in Jamaica and raised in Belleville and Toronto, Lawrence has long been involved in the community, at one time serving as a vice-president on the BBPA.

Did Harry Jerome have an influence on your life?

“Harry Jerome was a role model, a hardworking, very dynamic individual who had no limits to what he could achieve. He inspired me. As an athlete, he set goals and made his objectives very clear. It’s what I do as a business person. It’s about community and giving back. For me the bottom line was to make a profit and to help as many people as I can.”

What is the secret to your success?

“I think I’ve been truly transformed by the divine. I look at my life as a messenger. I fulfil a purpose. It’s a mission. My personal mission is to help as many people as I can — the homeless, the poor, the disabled, youth, seniors, women and children, my family, friends and even strangers.”

Saron Gebresellassi, who was named recipient of the Scotiabank Group Leadership Award, said she first learned of Jerome while at university. “I know he was a pioneer in the field of athletics,” said the Saudi Arabian born 23-year-old community activist and women’s advocate who is working on a PhD at York University.

What does this award mean to you?

“It means so much. The award is my community telling me my work is important. It’s a recognition of my work and the impact it’s having. It makes me proud.”

What advice would you give to other young people as they set their goals for the future?

“Pursue a post-secondary education. ... Education will help build lives free from poverty in our community. This is the answer. This is the door.”

Other winners of the 28th Harry Jerome Award include:

•Kwesi Johnson, CIBC Academics Award

•Aaron Brown, BBPA Athletics Award

•Michael Chambers, BBPA Arts Award

•Winston W. La Rose, RBC Community Service Award

•Dr. Lisa Robinson, Sterling Dentistry Health Sciences Award

•Stanley W. Grizzle, TD Bank Financial Group Lifetime Achievement Award

•Ron Fanfair, Ontario Ministry of Citizenship & Immigration Media Award

•Hamlin Grange, BMO Financial Group President’s Award.

•Akwatu Khenti, Hewitt Associates Professional Excellence Award.

•Dr. Abdullah K. Kirumira, IBM Technology & Innovation Award.

•Dr. Andrew Knight, BBPA Trailblazer Award

•Thomas Tewoldemedhin, Flow 93.5 Young Entrepreneur Award

Dana White Descends On Toronto

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Hayley Mick

(March 23, 2010) For UFC president
Dana White, a three-hour flight on Monday from Las Vegas to Ontario – “Mecca” for mixed martial arts, according to White – did not start off well.

“Don’t say …” White said to Marty Cordova, his friend and a former major-league left fielder who spent a season with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Cordova, slouched in the leather seat of the private jet, nodded his head. He had forgotten his passport.

“We’re going to Canada motherf…er!” White bellowed, turning toward a video camera recording what would soon become his most recent video blog viewed by more than 17,000 people on YouTube as of yesterday evening, less than 24 hours after it was posted.

“Now all of you know what a f…head Marty Cordova is,” White said gleefully, pointing a meaty finger at Cordova’s face. (Video is below but be warned, it contains numerous obscenities.)

For a promoter hell-bent on convincing Ontario government officials to sanction MMA fights in the province – the largest, and most out-of-reach markets on the planet – it wasn’t the best way to kick off a whirlwind trip to Toronto.

But as a roar of about 200 fans erupted as White descended toward them on an escalator in the downtown Eaton Centre and flashed a peace sign – things started to look up.

“What’s up, guys,” the Boston native said warmly with a Southie accent. His biceps hugged by a brown sweater and shaved head gleaming, he hopped on a black stage and opened the floor to questions from a sea of fans, mostly with baseball caps and black T-shirts, but also a number of ponytails, Coach purses and toddlers.

It wasn’t long before someone raised the subject on top of everyone’s mind.

“Dana, how cool is it going to be when you sell out the Rogers Centre [in Toronto] faster than anywhere else?”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” White said over a half-dozen hoots. “Listen … I’m not just kissing your asses because you're all here right now. This place is gonna be the craziest, blow-the-roof off show ever. Fans here are out of control.”

Since they bought the struggling UFC business in 2002, White and business partners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta have a global attack on jurisdictions across North America, transforming it into a billion-dollar empire that includes video games, a growing number of gyms, and rakes in millions annually on ticket sales and pay-per-view hits for title fights such as the one coming up on Saturday night, featuring Georges St-Pierre of Saint-Isidore, Que.

Unlike Quebec, British Columbia and most U.S. states excluding New York, Ontario has refused to sanction live fights. While they haven’t closed the door completely, government officials said earlier this year that regulating MMA – which would make it legal – is not a government priority.

Yesterday at Queen’s Park, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty made it clear he is growing weary of repeatedly being asked by reporters why he won’t allow the sport in the province. “You know, in ultimate fighting you can tap out. I’m tapping out on this one,” he said, before retreating to his office.

(According to Doug Tindal, spokesman for Minister of Consumer Services Sophia Aggelonitis, the biggest holdup stems from concerns over safety issues related to mixed martial arts, a full-contact combat sport that allows a variety of fighting styles including wrestling, Muay Thai kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Fighters battle inside an eight-sided cage.)

“I’m very patient,” White said when asked if he was growing weary of politicians resisting his sales pitch. “[McGuinty said], it’s not on his priority list. It’s on his list, though. I don’t see how it’s not going to happen.”

He has hired former Ontario premier David Peterson to help argue his case. He has travelled to meet with politicians in Queen’s Park seven times in two years. He said journalists who are critical of the sport are either too old, or uneducated, to understand it’s not a safe haven for goons and the bloodthirsty fans.

He said banning MMA is like banning the NBA. He said cheerleaders suffer more serious injuries than UFC fighters. He wriggled into T-shirts that were tossed to him by fans. “It’s too small, dude,” he said of the T-shirt (size Large), that said: Sanction Ontario.

Despite his often-crude language and past incidents where he’s been quoted calling women and gay people derogatory names, many fans credited White with selling the sport in a positive way .

“He’s very good at getting people like us to watch,” Tony Omran, 20, a journalism student who travelled from Kitchener, Ont., with his friend, Marky Prior, 18, to hear White speak.

White leaves for New York today. “Marty ‘the Genius’ Cordova forgot his passport, so we’re staying another night,” he said.

With a report from Karen Howlett

Review Harlem Underground

Source: Eye Weekly - by Alan A. Vernon & Sean Kelly Keenan

Address: 745 Queen W.
Phone: 416-366-4743
Dinner for two: $80 including taxes and tip
Reservations: Yes
Wheelchair access: No (washrooms in basement)

(March 17, 2010) With our belly-busting dinner done, the only thing left to cram into our gaping maws is a massive slice of quadruple-layered Chicago-style red velvet cake ($6.75); its dense, cherry-soaked layers slathered with white frosting — easy calories that will have you lose any hope of getting into that bikini this summer.

Could anything make this meal of wickedly good grub any better? Not really. But rosy-cheeked Dane Hartsell, who breaks into a slow-moving, bluesy rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” adds a cherry on top of a perfect evening, which began with a sextet of moist and airy salt-cod hush puppies ($8.95) with golden brown crusts that belie their pillowy, well-spiced stuffing; and a pot of subtly smoky, superbly luscious ground turkey and black bean chilli ($8.95). In a made-up word: fabulicious.

And just how spicy is this soul food, you ask? Not as hot as we’d like, but say the word and master chef Mair jumps it up. Crispy spring rolls generously stuffed with meltingly tender shreds of pulled jerk pork ($5.95), with a ginger-honey dipping sauce, are exactly as described: “Yeah! You can taste it!” And southern-fried chicken wings ($8.95), crackling with a peppery batter, are perhaps the plumpest, most mouth-watering bird appendages in town.

Beef ribs ($13.95), normally a huge disappointment, make us forget about the too-fatty overcooked mess you’ll find on most plates in town. This terrific trio on Bedrock-sized bones goes down real easy when dipped into a chunky mango and Scotch bonnet-laced BBQ sauce endowed with the requisite amount of soul-burning heat. You know you’re loving it when the biggest beef you’ve got is with the completely unnecessary clump of lightly dressed spinach with an off-season tomato slice as garnish. (That's not really a slag; but advice on how to save on some food costs.)

Another hallelujah moment comes with the jambalaya ($18.95). Served in a carved-out roasted buttercup squash, its buttery mountain of rice is loaded with tender crab, shrimp and spears of smoked sausage. As if that weren’t enough, Mair tops it up with an exquisitely prepared piece of blackened catfish.

Be prepared. Harlem Underground is all about conspicuous calorie consumption. Where else would you find a Belgian-style waffle fresh off the iron topped with mushroom- and caramelized-onion pulled pork, redolent with rosemary ($11.95); an inventive twist on the southern classic, chicken and waffles. A side of chilli pepper laced syrup just another example of how completely focused Harlem Underground is.

With a quarter of the menu already scarfed down, it’s worth mentioning that Mair is not one of those lazy lards who repeats sauces and spice combos for each and every dish. Instead, he goes that extra mile to ensure that each item on the menu is a well-thought-out, glowing tribute to the Caribbean-influenced cuisine of the South.

Even traditional sides like collard greens ($4.95) in a swirl of garlic butter, have the perfect toothsome touch; and an okra and tomato fricassee ($4.50; double the price to add it over rice as an entrée) is impossibly delicate. Candied yams ($4.95) are caramelized cloud nine and house-made corn bread ($3.95) will have you asking for another order to go.

It’s hard enough to find a restaurant with five-star-calibre food. It’s entirely another to find it in such a laid-back, lounge-like atmosphere. Add to that service with a smile and live music all under one roof and let’s just say that the name may have changed, but a trip to Harlem Underground will definitely have you still feeling Irie all over.

MVP: Steve Nash, The Ultimate Player

Source: www.harrymagazine.ca  

(March 18, 2010) Canadian basketball star Steve Nash is moving behind the camera as producer of "Into the Wind", a film about his childhood hero, Terry Fox. By Robert Hercz; Photography by Jeff Newton

On this Saturday the Valley of the Sun is living up to its name, and after stepping into the photographer’s studio in Phoenix, Arizona, it takes a minute for my eyes to adjust. Even after human figures start emerging from the gloom, however, another couple of minutes pass before I realize that amongst the dozen or so people bustling about—art director, photographer and assistants, stylists and technicians—is Steve Nash.

You’d think a superstar athlete would be the first person you’d notice when you step into a room, not the last. But yes, it’s Steve Nash all right, point guard for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, perched on a stool while a stylist fusses with his hair. In the plain jeans and T-shirt he wore to the studio, Nash, unfestooned with tattoos or bling, looks very much the quiet Canadian.

He changes into a suit—at 6’3”, he isn’t freakishly tall and clothes look great on his slim frame—and sits down in front of the camera. He’s pleasant and cooperative, does what the photographer tells him, seems comfortable under the lights.

As the day wears on he waits patiently between setups, makes small talk with the crew and signs autographs for their kids, but there’s a restraint there. Nash off-court is economical in movement and speech; to anyone who’s watched him play, he seems a little smaller than life.

On-court it’s another story. “A magician with the ball” ... “flat-out sensational” ... “just makes everyone around him better” ... “35 years of age and he’s playing like he’s 25”... Those remarks about Nash in action are from a colour commentator during the first few minutes of one game last fall. There’s an improvisational brilliance to his plays, something unexpected and creative and tactical, that leaves audiences shaking their heads. Flying up the court, his long hair streaming out behind him, Nash processes basketball as if it were a very, very fast game of chess, assessing the utility or threat of the figures on the board not just by where they are, but by where they will be. That’s how he snaps his no-look passes with laser accuracy, and why (at least in Canada) he is often compared to Wayne Gretzky. 

In 2003-04, without Nash, the Phoenix Suns won 29 games and finished 24th in the league. The following season, with Nash, they won 62 games and finished first. That’s how Nash became only the third guard in NBA history to rack up back-to-back Most Valuable Player honours (in 2005 and 2006, with a close second-place finish in 2007). He’s also a six-time NBA All-Star and two-time winner of the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada’s male athlete of the year.

His accomplishments are that much more impressive because they did not come easily. Nash is not a natural, as he readily admits. “I’m inadequate in the explosive department, the jumping, the strength,” he tells me when we sit down for a talk late in the afternoon. “I have a drive and desire that’s in the top percentile. That’s my talent.”

And that work ethic, the steely self-discipline which kept him in the gym for thousands upon thousands of hours before and since he became a professional—where does that come from? Nash says he was born with it. “It wasn’t like I said, ‘I’ve got to learn to work hard’,” he says. “The discipline and the willingness to put the outcome ahead of other things in my life, that’s natural. I’m certain of it.”

As a kid growing up in Victoria, B.C., the son of an English semi-pro soccer player, Steve played soccer, of course (his first spoken word was “goal”), as well as baseball, rugby and hockey. He was 12 or 13 when he picked up a basketball, and it wasn’t because of the game. It was because his friends were playing it and he wanted to hang with them.

Maybe he should have stuck to soccer. Although Nash led his high school to the British Columbia AAA championship, his highlight reel drew rejections from over 30 U.S. colleges. Only one, Santa Clara University in California, offered him a scholarship.

It didn’t take long for Nash to prove himself at Santa Clara. He set several school records and became the first student to have his jersey retired. Anytime after his freshman year he could have jumped to a school with a better reputation but he never seriously considered it. “I really liked my teammates,” he says. “I thought I should stay and make it work. Those guys are still my friends.”

That allegiance to team—to friends—is Nash’s ruling principle. It’s the reason he took up basketball and the reason he stayed with Santa Clara. Perhaps his most telling statistic as a pro is that he isn’t a leader in points per game (he’s not even in the top 30), but in assists, where he’s been the league’s top player three times in the last six years (and never worse than third). In other words, he’s generous with the ball. He’d rather pass than shoot, something you don’t expect from someone with his relentless personal drive.

“There’s nothing better than to share with each other,” he says. “If I won an Olympic medal for swimming, who would I have to celebrate it with?” Like a bee or an ant, Nash doesn’t distinguish between himself and his group; he’s hard-wired to work for the betterment of the colony.

Their success is his. When Nash captained Canada at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, he didn’t fly first class or stay in a private room. And he slipped coach Jay Triano $25,000 fun money to distribute anonymously to the team’s ten non-NBA players.

His generosity goes beyond basketball. It’s why he won’t do product endorsements unless there’s a charitable component. It’s what led him to establish the Steve Nash Foundation in 2001, which funds underprivileged kids and their communities.

Nash also sponsors B.C.’s Steve Nash Youth Basketball League and is developing a kids’ basketball centre in Toronto. And he’s an environmentalist who has partnered with Nike to produce the “Trash Talk” shoe, made from the manufacturing scraps of other sneakers.

The opposite side of that coin is a complete lack of interest in the glitter that often accompanies a $12 million salary. Have you become fond of any luxury items, I ask him, jewellery, watches, cars... “No, no, no,” Nash cuts in. “None of that stuff. Even cars—our nanny drives a better car than I do.” (Perhaps because he’s spent the afternoon modelling clothes, he will admit to an interest in fashion. “The word for my style would be ‘evolving’,” Nash suggests. “I’m taking a little more pride in it, more interest in it.”)

Nash speaks quietly, his voice at times barely above a whisper. It’s that restraint I noticed as I watched him being photographed. Others have remarked on it too—author Jack McCallum, who spent a year researching a book on the Suns, writes of Nash’s “mysterious Canadian reticence.” Reticence, maybe. Mysterious? No.

Nash knows that living under the spotlight is part of the deal, but he also knows that the only place he is required to give his all is on the basketball court. His restraint is actually a form of integrity, his way of reminding his public, you can’t have me, not all of me; I’m saving it for my team, for my foundation, for my family. It may actually be his second-most impressive attribute. Despite the pressures exerted by U.S. celebrity culture, a huge paycheque, and responsibility for his team’s success, Nash seems like a regular guy. He’s responded to wealth and fame the way most of us hope we would.

Of course, that draws people even more magnetically to him, Canadians in particular. We see our best selves in Steve Nash: modest, generous, hard-working, and likeable. Nash is okay with that responsibility, although he deflects some of it back to us. “I definitely feel representative of Canada—as should anyone who throws on a backpack and goes travelling around the world,” he says. “It’s the same thing, just, obviously, a few more viewers.”

Despite living in the United States, probably for the rest of his life (his wife likes warm places), Nash remains a patriotic Canadian. He hasn’t taken out U.S. citizenship (“I’m not opposed to it, but I wouldn’t want to give up my Canadian citizenship to get it”), and he chose a Canadian subject for the first major project by the film production company he started with cousin, director Ezra Holland.

Into The Wind, a documentary about Terry Fox, will air on ESPN in May. Fox’s heroic run has been largely forgotten in America, but it had a huge influence on Nash. Though he was only six, he still recalls the heartbreak he felt the day cancer forced Fox to give up his Marathon of Hope.

Fox’s doubts and fears, revealed in his diaries, will be a focal point of the documentary. “It’s the classic, beautiful words of an athlete,” Nash says. “One day he wrote, can I finish this, am I going to make it, should I stop, will I let everyone down? That whole self-talk that an athlete goes through—and that everyone goes through. This guy accomplished something superhuman, but he was very human.”

Nash could be talking about himself. “I never had as much belief in myself as you may think,” he says. “I didn’t walk into the NBA saying I’ve arrived, I’m going to kick butt. I walked into the NBA saying, am I good enough? And that drove me to work harder, I think.”

To general amazement in the basketball world, Steve Nash is playing like an MVP this season—as well as, or better than, at any time in his career. But he’s 36 and his playing days will not last much longer. He’s achieved everything he could ever have hoped for, with one exception: a championship. On that topic he has adopted a probably healthy fatalism. “I’d love to win. That’s the ultimate, but there’s a lot of other joy to find in the game. One team wins the championship every year. Does that mean the other 29 are wasting their time? I don’t think so.”

His talent for seeing several moves ahead has prepared him for life after basketball. He has his foundation, he’s opened two Steve Nash Sports Clubs in the Vancouver area, with more to come, and he is part owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, which in 2011 will join Toronto FC as Canada’s second Major League Soccer team. But the future that excites him most is in film making. His dream is to make features (“I’m drawn to movies about people, not explosions,” he says, listing Spike Lee, P.T. Anderson, the Cohen brothers and Almodóvar as influences) although he’ll settle for commercials to start. He hasn’t defined his precise role—“co-conspirator” is the best he can come up with at present—but there will be plenty of time for that. Only one thing really matters.

“I just want to be part of a team,” Nash says.

Of course. It’s all he’s ever wanted.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Natural Caribbean Luxury At Amanyara

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Byers

(March 19, 2010) PROVIDENCIALES,
TURKS AND CAICOS—After a few minutes looking out the enormous panes of glass that made up three of the walls of my villa, I finally figured it out.

I was surrounded by green, but there was nary a tropical flower to be seen.

This being south of the Bahamas and all, there are hundreds of tropical plants all around
Amanyara Resort, of course. But there are no riotous pink bougainvillea or yellow hibiscus or towering palm trees brought in from neighbouring islands or planted to fulfill a tourist’s idea of what the resort should look like. Instead, the tropical plants you’ll see at Amanyara are the same ones the builders found when they got here.

Similarly, when you sit in the sparsely decorated but splendid lobby areas, the only sounds you’ll hear are human voices or maybe the wind in the trees or the waves crashing on the nearby rocks. There’s no Bob Marley piped in for the masses.

It’s the way Aman Resorts does things. And it’s been good enough to put their properties — mostly in Asia — near the top of annual rankings done by the likes of Conde Nast Traveler.

THE FEEL: Reached at the end of a 15-minute dirt road, perhaps a half hour from the Provo airport, Amanyara is definitely out of the way. But most customers want things that way.

The word “zen” gets used a lot, but it’s a word that comes to mind when you look at the lobby, which is mostly open to the elements and features high, churchlike ceilings and beautiful, polished wood.

Luxury is a given. They don’t just give you a moist towel when you check in, they send private Land Rovers to get each group — or a single passenger — and hand you two fresh towels in the car. Then you get a mojito or similar refreshing drink when you arrive.

The bar is a huge, circular affair ringed by portals where you can stretch out on lounge pads and pillows and look out toward the ocean or back onto the reflecting pools; or over to the infinity swimming pool. Or you can gaze into the bar filled with enormous, rattan chairs.

THE ROOMS: There are 40 rooms in all, 23 on a vast acreage of salt ponds and the other 17 with partial or full ocean views. They’re all the same basic design; roughly a 20-by-20-foot layout with 10-foot panes of glass on three sides and a decadent bathing area and closet space behind the bed and desk. Enormous wood slats can be slid down for privacy, as well as electric “shades” that can be controlled from your bedside. The ceilings are cone-shaped, with hundreds of slats of Indonesian mahogany laid out in a pleasing, symmetrical shape and cool, triangular fixtures that cast a mellow light onto the ceiling area.

The shower is lovely. It’s 3-by-6 feet with a rainfall cascade from 10 feet off the floor, and there’s also a freestanding tub. Outside on your patio you’ll find four small sofas and tables, plus a small desk with two lounge pads and a sunken, Japanese-style table. The rooms are modern but warm, with marble floors inlaid with dark teak.

“Some companies will take 100 acres and put in 400 or 500 units,” says John Vasatka, co-general manager along with his wife, Tania Rydon. “Here, we have 40. Space is luxury and privacy is paramount. You see people coming from Toronto or New York and that privacy is very special to them.”

Other units are barely visible, if at all, so the rooms lend themselves to those craving peace. On the other hand, all that space between units means your villa might be a five- or even eight-minute walk to the main hotel for meals and perhaps a 10-minute walk to the beach.

“Aman believes in having lots of public space and spreading things out so you can blend in with the environment,” said Rydon. “There are no highrises and no bright colours on the buildings.”

THE FLAVOURS: Folks who are used to North American portions will be disappointed. Gourmands will not. It’ll cost you $42 for a rack of baby veal at the main restaurant, but it’s a wonderful, melt-in-your-mouth dish that’s served with a divine mushroom risotto and two slices of crispy Serrano ham from Spain. Most dishes run from $35 to $50, and the Chick Chang Mai is spicy, richly flavoured magic.

At lunch, try the coconut rice with fried slices of garlic for a mouth-waking treat. Braised beef short rib with Asian spices and a Thai dipping sauce is soft and moist and divine.

THE AMENITIES: There’s a spa with several types of treatment. They also have two clay tennis courts with instructions and a large workout room with the latest equipment and the same, airy feel as the rooms; with lots of glass and an intricate wooden roof pattern. You’d almost feel guilty getting sweat on the wooden floor.

The resort will arrange a snorkel or kayak trip if you like. And they do movies every night in their 30-seat theatre, which comes complete with leather recliners. It’s a great way to entertain the kids, and they’ll pop in a DVD of your own choosing if you bring one along. They also have a small but elegant library, which is bright and airy with fine books and a facsimile of the daily New York Times.

The resort is set on the edge of a lovely, remote stretch of beach that’s perfect for swimming and long, lonely walks. There also are fantastic rocks for clambering in or around.

Just the facts

Rooms generally run from $1,500 a night and up. For information, go to www.amanresorts.com or call 1-649-941-8133.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Turning The Page, A Revitalized BNL Comes Together

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - J.D. Considine

 
All In Good Time
Barenaked Ladies
Raisin’ Records/EMI

(March 22, 2010)  Of this, you may be certain: Every breakup song or dis on the new
Barenaked Ladies album will be presumed to contain Steven Page references.

Page, who was co-lead singer/songwriter with Ed Robertson, left the group in February last year, following private differences and a very public drug bust. Although the split is described as “amicable,” the history of rock ’n’ roll breakups is so full of vituperation (think Lennon versus McCartney, Van Halen versus Hagar, Gallagher versus Gallagher) that rock fans automatically expect a certain amount of nastiness to creep into the mix, or onto the lyrics sheet.

So forgive us if we assume that Golden Boy, which goes on about how “everyone sees right through you,” and I Have Learned, with lyrics such as “I’m done with you,” are directed toward a certain former band mate. With lines like that, it’s hard not to read between them.

Yet despite the snark, the music on those two songs is surprisingly upbeat. Indeed, the overall sound of All In Good Time is so rich, melodic and powerful you’d almost think BNL had gained members.

Because Page and Robertson dominated the singing and writing, BNL sometimes felt less like a band than a duo with backing musicians. That’s no longer the case, as multi-instrumentalist Kevin Hearn and bassist Jim Creeggan now share the foreground, not only providing songs but singing them as well.

But the biggest difference with the new line-up is that Barenaked Ladies sound more like a band than ever before. Everything seems more integrated, from the way the harmonies wrap around the lead vocals to the subtle shifts in rhythm, instrumental colour and intensity. Sometimes it’s played as a slow build, as on the gorgeously wistful You Run Away, and sometimes they seem almost kaleidoscopic, as with the ear-catching range of textures and riffs on Summertime. The jokey bits, such as Robertson’s toasting in Four Seconds or Hearn’s whimsical ghost-town elegy, Jerome, have more meat to them, while the love songs – particularly Every Subway Car, which roars along like a cross-town express – easily rank with the band’s best.

In short, All In Good Time is precisely the sort of revitalization this band needed to make its third decade seem as exciting as its first. In that sense, maybe we have it wrong – could it be that those Page songs sound so upbeat because they’re actually thank-you notes?

Barenaked Ladies begin their tour on April 6 in Victoria.  

Buffy Sainte-Marie Shares Her Journey

Source:  www.thestar.com - Barbara Turnbull

(March 22, 2010) After years of being out of the spotlight, Buffy Sainte-Marie is suddenly everywhere.

Starting with her new album last fall – the first in a dozen years – a successful tour with a new, all-aboriginal band, a sweep at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards, another Juno and, just last month, appearances at the Olympics and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, Sainte-Marie is hard to avoid these days.

With inductions into halls of fame, onto our Walk of Fame, lifetime achievement awards and the Order of Canada on her CV, the 69-year-old remains firmly embraced by a country richer for her decades of creativity. All this, even though she's lived on a goat farm in Kauai, Hawaii, for 43 years.

Speaking Monday evening as part of the Unique Lives & Experiences lecture series, Sainte-Marie will share highlights from a life that has taken her from a Saskatchewan reservation to New York's Greenwich Village in the heady '60s and a 1982 Oscar for "Up Where We Belong."

"It's a long flight to Toronto, but I'm coming," she says in a telephone interview from home. She discovered the Kauai property four days after arriving for a concert in the mid-'60s.

"I was a young singer with too much money. I had been travelling so much and I was too famous for my own good," she explains. Her instinct led her to the isolated property, where she's lived since and currently has 27 goats, two horses, a bunch of chickens and a cat. Her 92-year-old mother lives next door, so she keeps her trips short.

Orphaned in Saskatchewan, adopted by a part-Micmac woman and raised in Massachusetts –where she acquired a university degree in education and Oriental philosophy, then a PhD in fine arts – Sainte-Marie returned to the Prairies for a while, but chose Hawaii after nearly missing performances due to snowstorms.

With a home studio and everything she needs to create around her, she is constantly working. "If you don't see me, I'm at my busiest," she says often.

Sainte-Marie began experimenting with electronic music in the '60s, which eventually led to movie scoring and, early on, the use of computers. "I had gotten interested in the fact that there were machines that could store, remember, manipulate, change and build music. As a creative person, I thought this was thrilling," she says. When Mac computers came out, her digital art flourished.

Sainte-Marie has been writing songs since she was 3, but engaged in all sorts of other pursuits as well.

Her early outspokenness about native conflicts like Wounded Knee and Pine Ridge got her blacklisted by the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations and effectively banned from the airwaves, something broadcasters admitted to her in the 1980s.

With her radio career silenced, she turned to television's Sesame Street from 1979 to1983, educating a generation about aboriginal culture.

She continues to educate students about native American culture through the Cradleboard Teaching Project, a curriculum she developed and offers free to teachers at www.cradleboard.org.

With 18 studio albums to her credit, Sainte-Marie dodges attempts to label her style.

"From the very first album, it's been pop and blues, native American themes, peace and just stuff that is fun to dance to," she says. "Nothing holds me back, I'm always writing and recording in my home studio. I write everything down and sometimes I find something that I wrote today will go with something I wrote five months ago (or) 15 years ago. I'm an artist who does a whole lot of things and every now and then I make a record.

"Creativity has meant so much to me," she adds. "Creatures, the Creator, the Creation and creativity itself are what my life is about; it makes me happy, keeps me going."

Buffy Sainte-Marie will get the audience going at 7:30 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall. Some tickets are still available at 416-872-4255 Cloris Leachman appears April 19, Sidney Poitier will speak May 17 and Laura Bush on June 7.

Box Tops And Big Star Singer Alex Chilton Dies

Source: www.thestar.com - Alison Broverman

(March 18, 2010) NEW ORLEANS—Singer and guitarist Alex Chilton, who topped the charts as a teen and later became a cult hero with Big Star, died Wednesday. He was 59.

Chilton died at a hospital in New Orleans after experiencing what appeared to be heart problems, said his longtime friend John Fry. Fry said Chilton’s wife, Laura, was very distressed by the unexpected death.

“Alex was an amazingly talented person, not just as a musician and vocalist and a songwriter, but he was intelligent and well read and interested in a wide number of music genres,” said Fry, the owner of Memphis-based Ardent Studios.

As the teenage singer for the pop-soul outfit the Box Tops, Chilton topped the charts with the band’s song “The Letter” in 1967. Their other hits were “Soul Deep” and “Cry Like a Baby.” Chilton grew up in Memphis and formed the band with friends from school.

His short run with Big Star brought less mainstream success but made him a cult hero to other rock musicians, as evidenced by the title of the 1987 Replacements song, “Alex Chilton.” Big Star’s three 1970s albums all earned spots on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest.

Chilton said in a 1987 interview with The Associated Press that he didn’t mind flying under the radar with Big Star and later as a solo artist.

“What would be ideal would be to make a ton of money and have nobody know about you,” he said. “Fame has a lot of baggage to carry around. I wouldn’t want to be like Bruce Springsteen. I don’t need that much money and wouldn’t want to have 20 bodyguards following me.”

“If I did become really popular, the critics probably wouldn’t like me all that much,” he said. “They like to root for the underdog.”

Chilton had been scheduled to perform with Big Star on Saturday at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

“Alex Chilton always messed with your head, charming and amazing you while doing s,” the festival’s creative director, Brent Grulke, said in an email. “His gift for melody was second to none, yet he frequently seemed in disdain of that gift.”

Ann Nesby: A Healing Voice in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Source: www.eurweb.com - Thornel Jones / FortressMKTG@gmail.com

(March 20, 2010) *
Ann Nesby, the reigning Queen of Inspirational Soul, was introduced on record to music fans 19 years ago as a featured vocalist with Sounds of Blackness on the Billboard Top 5 single “Optimistic.”

Since then, Nesby has proven to be an enduring presence in Gospel, R&B and Dance music with her healing contralto fuelling 4 #1 Urban Adult singles, 3 Top 2 Billboard Dance singles and 6 Grammy® nominations in both Gospel and R&B categories.

This year, her self-penned song “Sow Love” was nominated in the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance category adding to her legacy of songs which champion compassion and love.

Behind the hit records and the critical acclaim is a woman of deep faith and caring who views her career in music as a ministry for the people.  In 1996, long before the discovery of life prolonging retro-viral drug therapies, and in the face of much criticism from the Church community, Nesby lent her artistry and financial support to people living with AIDS by appearing at Gay dance clubs offering her message of healing and by pledging a portion of her royalties from “I’m Here For You” to charities.

At that time the face of the disease was very different, but time has revealed a stark new reality. The same black women who fell in love with her songs like “This Weekend,” celebrating her love with her husband Tim, have now become the new face of AIDS. According to Black AIDS Institute – 70% of all new HIV cases are minority women of color – with no end to the epidemic in sight.

While the Church community eventually caught up to the reality of the crisis, Ann Nesby’s commitment to people living with HIV/AIDS continues. March 7th, Ann returned to Minneapolis, where she began her career with Sounds of Blackness, to participate in a kick-off event at Shiloe Temple International Ministries for The National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. The faith-based program coordinated nationally  by The Balm In Gilead, Inc. takes place March 7 – 13th and is supported and recognized by President Obama and a wide range of Religious leaders. www.balmingilead.org

“In the early days, I lost so many friends and associates to the disease that supporting people with HIV/AIDS was never a question. Today, there’s a new generation who need to feel loved and supported by their community. I’m glad that I was asked to participate in the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS.” – Ann Nesby

2010 will continue to find Ann Nesby touring in the hit stage play “The Lord Will Make A Way” with fellow Grammy® nominee Calvin Richardson as well as other high profile concert appearances. Nesby, who American Idol’s Randy Jackson called “one of the best singers in the known world,” is quietly prepping for her 20th Anniversary Career celebration for next year with a new album, an Inspirational book, and an autobiographical movie “Going All The Way: The Ann Nesby Story” in development.

Visit Ann Nesby online: www.AnnNesby.com

Ludacris, Sapp, Rihanna Light Up Billboard

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 18, 2010) *Ludacris and Rihanna reach the top spot on Billboard’s album and singles chart this week, while gospel great Marvin Sapp is on course to earn the chart’s highest album debut next week for his new release “Here I Am.’

Luda scores his fourth No. 1 on the Billboard 200 as “Battle of the Sexes” debuts atop the tally with 137,000 copies. Counting “Battle,” Ludacris (aka Christopher Bridges) has scored seven top 10 sets, including his previous No. 1s — “Release Therapy” (2006), “The Red Light District” (2004) and “Chicken N Beer” (2003).

The album also ties Luda for the third-most No. 1s among rap acts. His total brings him up to speed with the Beastie Boys, but trails 2Pac, DMX, Eminem and Nas, who each have five No. 1s. The all-time leader among rap acts is Jay-Z, with 11.

Elsewhere on the album chart, Jimi Hendrix’s “Valleys of Neptune,” is the next highest debut, starting at No. 4 with 95,000 units sold. It’s the rock icon’s highest-charting album since “The Cry of Love” reached No. 3 in 1971. The new release is a recently discovered collection of previously unreleased studio recordings Hendrix made before he died in 1970.

As for the holdovers in the top 10 this week, Sade’s “Soldier of Love” is down four rungs to No. 6, Lady Gaga’s “The Fame” is down one to No. 8 and the Black Eyed Peas’ “The E.N.D.” also drops one spot to No. 9.

As for next week’s Billboard 200, industry insiders foresee gospel singer/minister Marvin Sapp’s “Here I Am” album selling as many as 70,000 copies by week’s end on Sunday March 21. That sales figure may place the album into the top five on next week’s chart.

His last set, 2007’s “Thirsty,” peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard 200 but spent a lengthy 81 weeks on the chart with 710,000 copies sold to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Its long run on the charts was aided in part to his surprise radio hit “Never Would Have Made It,” which spent a staggering 56 weeks on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart between 2008 and 2009.

Meanwhile, on the Hot 100 singles chart, Rihanna replaces labelmate Taio Cruz at No. 1 with her latest single “Rude Boy.” [
Watch video below.] The track is her sixth Hot 100 No. 1 and fifth as a lead artist. Her most recent chart-topper had been as a featured vocalist on T.I.’s “Live Your Life” in 2008. Her other leaders are “SOS” (2006, three weeks), “Umbrella,” featuring Jay-Z (2007, seven weeks), “Take A Bow” (2008, 1 week) and “Disturbia” (2008, two weeks).

Grady Washington Wants to be ‘More than Friends’

Source: Pro Per Records, properrecords@gmail.com; J.R. Perry; jrperry3@yahoo.com


(March 19, 2010) *Pro-Per Records artist
Grady Washington has released his hit single “LETS BE MORE THAN FRIENDS” from his soon to be released album titled “The Grady’s Love.”

Grady’s single is getting much airplay on LOVE DROP RADIO.COM a Las Vegas, Nevada internet radio station. The single has been highly requested by listeners of all demographics on this globally heard radio station. Many ladies that are worldwide are calling in requesting “LETS BE MORE THAN FRIENDS.”

“We have received more than 300 requests to play his song per day,” says LoveDropRadio.com’s main man J.R. Perry. “Grady Washington is coming with the fire and heat. This smooth and sexy ballad has already captured global appeal in its short time of airing. His vocals will remind you of the great late Teddy Pendergrass with melodic, strong sultry tones.”

Grady Washington is a native of Detroit, Michigan and has come from a very large family of sixteen siblings. Grady is the baby boy. Grady’s older brother Gino Washington was one of the first to hit in the music industry from the Washington clan. In the 60s, 70s and 80s Gino had many #1 hit records and his nephew Keith Washington also had many hits in the late 80s and 90s. Grady’s live shows are truly amazing. He is a true entertainer at heart and coming from such a big family of music icons, Grady may be the last of the Washington’s but he is will be the first to restore soul music back to the air waves in 2010.

Grady’s single will re-open the door to real soulful ballets to return to radio. 2010 is the year for Grady Washington. His soon to be released album is smoking hot, with songs such as “ONE LONELY MAN,”“STAY WITH ME” and “WISH I CAN BRING BACK YESTERDAY” just to name a few. His hit single “LETS BE MORE THAN FRIENDS” will refresh our mind with memories of what a true slow jam should sound like. In these crazy rough times, Grady Washington has love songs that will bring the lovers closer together to love again. The stepper’s will step again and the ballers will ballroom. Everyone will enjoy the romantic feeling from this music that is so enticing to your soul that it will bring many couples to holy matrimony and many, many babies will be born into the world.

Grady Washington is a true success story and if his songs was a movie, we would want to see it again and again. The single is a highly recommended, must hear, must have song. 2010 is the year of Grady Washington. “Let The Truth Be Told” that good music has returned and “LETS BE MORE THAN FRIENDS” will be leading the pathway when it comes to power ballads like his nephew Keith Washington and his brother Gino Washington. The ladies will hear a real man sing meaningful, sweet songs that will fulfill the craving for romantic music foreplay.

Grady will set the mood for the ladies and gentlemen to get into you groove. His music will make our hearts smile again. So come get reconnected to real soul music and relax and release as Grady Washington’s smouldering hits continue to hit back to back. You will soon find yourself telling that special one “LETS BE MORE THAN FRIENDS.”

For more information, contact PRO-PER RECORDS:properrecords@gmail.com

Rufus Wainwright Interview: Grieving Singer Plays On

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(March 19, 2010) One can't walk away from a conversation with
Rufus Wainwright without nurturing the impression that the man requires a certain amount of drama to thrive creatively, if not personally.

He carries himself, for one thing, in a manner that brings to mind the title of his second album, Poses.

There's a makeup artist on hand for his most recent day of press at a Yorkville hotel and he makes a point of changing his shirt before the final photo opportunity of the day – seated, naturally, at a grand piano in his suite – with such automatic nonchalance that you figure he's been diligently doing the same thing all afternoon, just to avoid burning out any single piece of clothing in the public eye.

And when the conversation starts, he conducts much of it in profile, gazing at the view arrayed beneath his upper-level window with the poised pensiveness of a distracted movie heroine.

Thing is, Wainwright probably is distracted – has every right to be profoundly distracted – these days. He lost his mother, iconic Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle, on Jan. 18 – "looking right into her face" as she passed, according to a shatteringly bare interview he gave to Britain's Guardian just one week later. You can almost gauge the extent of that loss by the way his longtime manager starts whispering sadly about what a mother figure Kate was to everyone involved in Rufus, Inc. in an adjacent room before the interview starts.

If her death has damaged them that much, imagine what it's done to the doting son McGarrigle raised alone after his famous folkie father, Loudon Wainwright III, flew the coop when Rufus was 3.

"A lot of people ask me, `How do you go out and do interviews?' or `How do you go out and tour?'" he says. "And I say: `You don't understand Kate. She would have been horrified if I didn't get some kind of press out of this.' With her personality, she was so dedicated to the stage and to our family's success and to her children's success that I think she's smiling on both Martha (Wainwright, his singer/songwriter sister) and me that we're out working again and propagating her legacy."

Wainwright has currently saddled himself with the burden of grieving openly on the press trail because he has two works haunted – indirectly, but still directly – by his absent mother to share with the world.

One is his elegiac and elegantly tormented sixth album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu (due out Tuesday), a record of pained, confessional disburdening set to ornate classical piano arrangements light years apart from the work of his pop peers in terms of their instrumental ambition.

The other is the opera Rufus has been talking about since he released his first album in 1998; Prima Donna debuted at the Manchester Festival last summer and will make its Canadian debut in Toronto at the Luminato Festival in June.

Neither is expressly about the dominant event in Wainwright's recent life, but both were composed during the 3 1/2 years after McGarrigle was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer.

It's there in the background, though, even colouring songs on All Days Are Nights that began life long before the personal tragedy set in. The track "Zebulon" started as an ode to a fondly remembered high-school crush, for instance, but is already being invoked in the media as a reaction to the famous McGarrigle sister's passing, thanks to lines such as: "My mother's in hospital, my sister's at the opera / I'm in love again, but let's not talk about it ..."

"I don't really tackle it head-on, what was going on with her, with any of the songs, per se. But it is mentioned. And it's such a massive issue that it colours this entire section of my artistic life, whether it's in the opera or this album. And with Martha, too, with the Piaf record (Sans Fusils, Ni Souliers, A Paris) ... Once you touch on it, it's duly understood by everyone," says Wainwright.

"I basically have needed to go to the piano and give voice periodically to, you know – I'm always afraid to describe it as a kind of therapeutic process, but nevertheless it was a type of unloading that had to occur due to my personal life with my mother's health or just my professional trials and tribulations. So it was kind of like going to the confessional or something, going to see the priest – the lone walk along the beach. It was my solo time to absorb all of the things that were going on around me."

All Days Are Nights is, in fact, the "cross-section of my life over the past five years" Wainwright claims it to be, as it appends segments of Prima Donna – about an aging opera diva summoning her voice for one final bravura performance during the winter of her career – and three of the Shakespearean sonnets he recently set to music for the Berliner Ensemble. It's about as far away from conventional pop as a pop record can get, prompting one to wonder if and when Wainwright might return to the more universal – albeit still much more "baroque" than average – sounds of his early material.

"I definitely try to broaden the scope of music," says Wainwright. "I don't know if it's pop or classical or what, but I'm religiously challenging myself all the time, for better or for worse. I wish I could just relax sometimes and make some money, but I always feel like I have to prove some kind of big, profound point."

"One of my gurus in the pop world and a great friend of mine is (the Pet Shop Boys') Neil Tennant. He's read his Tolstoy and he knows his Chaucer and all of this but, that being said, he has a healthy respect for the pop world and what it's able to accomplish and how hard it is to really come up with that stuff. And he's impressed that upon me. I haven't taken up that challenge yet but it's looming on the horizon ...

"I just bought a house out near the beach in New York State, on Long Island, so there'll be a chance to sort of diffuse there. You'll get the `Surf's Up!' album, finally. Or `Surf's Down!' `Summer with Rufus.'"

Such dark humour aside, Wainwright concedes, there is much positivity afoot in his existence. He recently became an uncle to sister Martha's son, Arcangelo ("I knew that I'd either want to kill it or steal it, and it's turned out to be neither," he laughs). He's in a stable relationship with theatre producer Jorn Weisbrodt. And let's not forget, he now has one well-received opera – "the golden chalice of musical attempt" – under his belt and the confidence to tackle another. Not the least because mother Kate lived long enough to see it with him and to like it.

"Who knows? Who knows? I'm thinking something really big," Wainwright says of his next opera. "You know, many acts, choruses, dancers, murder, blood. Something really epic.

"In retrospect, I'm really shocked at how far I put my heart out there on the line with Prima Donna. I seem to have this knack for being able to accomplish that. Someone just puts blinders on me and I go and I look back and I wonder, `How did that happen?' I was really in quite a bit of peril there, emotionally. But I made it through, thank God.

"A lot of that is due to my mother. My mother really instilled in both her kids a dedication to craft that's practically medieval."

MP Shakes Up Copyright Landscape

Source:  www.thestar.com - Michael Geist

(March 22, 2010) Charlie Angus, the NDP Member of Parliament and musician, has a reputation for speaking his mind. Last week, he did more than just speak out. Angus single-handedly shook up the Canadian copyright landscape by promoting two reforms – an extension of the private copying levy to audio recording devices such as iPods and greater flexibility in the fair dealing provision, the Canadian equivalent of fair use.

The iPod levy proposal sparked immediate controversy. Canada slapped a private-copying levy on blank media such as CDs more than 10 years ago. It has generated hundreds of millions of dollars, but previous attempts to extend the levy to devices were struck down by the courts as outside the scope of the law.

The Angus bill would amend the law by expressly bringing devices within the levy scheme. The problem is that few devices these days are limited to audio. In a world dominated by multipurpose devices that play audio and video, run applications and make phone calls, it is next to impossible to separate the audio functionality. In other words, the levy ends up potentially covering everything – iPods, iPhones, BlackBerrys, Androids, iPads – even personal computers.

Creator groups were quick to express their support for the proposal, but the Conservative government made it clear it is a non-starter from their perspective. Industry Minister Tony Clement labelled the plan "nonsensical," while Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore dubbed it the iTax, arguing "consumers deserve lower, not higher taxes."

Private-members' bills rarely become law, but the levy issue seems destined to percolate for the foreseeable future. On the same day Angus tabled his bill, Bloc MP Carole Lavallée introduced a Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage Committee motion expressing support for the levy extension. It was supported by NDP and Liberal MPs (as well as the Conservative chair) on the committee, which will send the issue to the House of Commons for discussion.

While the iPod levy proposal garnered the lion's share of attention, Angus's fair-dealing motion may ultimately have a bigger impact. Under Canadian law, fair dealing permits the use of copyright works without permission for a limited set of purposes, including research, private study, news reporting, criticism and review.

Fair dealing is relied upon by the public – by students when they quote from texts, journalists in their reporting, authors writing books or reviews and scientists engaged in research. Yet because the fair dealing categories are limited, the provision does not currently apply to consumers recording television shows, artists creating parodies or satires, or businesses introducing innovative new goods or services.

Rather than adopting an exception-by-exception approach vulnerable to changing technologies, the Angus proposal merely opens to the door to other possible categories of fair dealing. In many respects, it is a made-in-Canada version of the U.S. fair use provision, since it shares similar flexibility, but is grounded in Canadian rules for determining what qualifies as fair dealing.

The approach is precisely what thousands of Canadians supported during last summer's copyright consultation since it seeks to strike a balance by ensuring that uses are fair, not necessarily free. Interestingly, while Moore and Clement were outspoken in their criticism of the levy proposal, they kept mum on the fair-dealing motion, perhaps recognizing that it is consistent with their stated desire for a technology-neutral, forward-looking approach to copyright.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. He can be reached at mgeist@uottawa.ca or online at www.michaelgeist.ca.

SXSW 2010 Artist Of The Day: Serena-Maneesh

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
By Ben Rayner Entertainment Reporter

(March 18, 2010) For the noise junkies moving amidst the South by Southwest hordes, there are few musical prospects as enticing as the long-awaited North American return of Oslo feedback whores Serena-Maneesh. There were a couple of under-the-radar shows in New York in January, but the band's five SXSW performances this week constitute the proper onstage unveiling on these shores of the Norwegian quintet's sophomore album, S-M 2: Abyss in B-Minor, which arrives in stores on March 23 via 4AD/Beggars Banquet. The eardrum-abusing outfit also plays Toronto's Great Hall on April 2, providing the perfect excuse to sit down with bandleader Emil Nikolaisen before he took the stage in Austin for the first time Wednesday night.

Q: It's been – what? – five years since your first record. Have you been working on this one the whole time?

A: From fall of 2005 on to 2006 and into 2007 was just really hectic, really intense with touring. And I really need to go quite deep back down. You start getting into the fog, the zone, and then stay there for as long as it takes, you know? It took a long time just to get restored from all this insanity the first time and I'm not the kind of guy who can always create in chaos. You perform in chaotic situations, but in the writing, if you're really grasping the essence, the full territory of the idea, you need a crystal-clear focus.

Q: I like that you've come out with an album that's meant to be listened to as an album, not just a collection of random songs.

A: That's how I want people to hear it because, these days, a lot of music is formed with some kind of specific, almost pragmatic function. Everything has to work now. It has to catch the listener now, it has to work on radio, it has to work in stores, it has to work in commercials, it has to work in blogs, it has to work on whatever Apple product you might have. But I think the music that really lasts, even if it maybe doesn't appeal to a lot of people, is the music that demands a little bit of you. If you are ... embracing the whole thing and going into it and really inhabiting a full story, you are going to be rewarded for it.

Q: The new songs have all the fogginess and noise of the old ones, but the tunes are sharper and more melodic. Did you work at pushing things towards both extremes?

A: I kind of wanted to paint the rainbow thrown through a blizzard. Through another world war. But still there's a rainbow. That's the contradiction: it's a rainbow from a battlefield. On the one side, I love Norwegian black metal and that Jesus and Mary Chain `sssssssst' sound. But on the other hand, I grew up on lots of bossa nova, Jobim and these people. Even Gershwin and Debussy, they all have this slightly impressionist but still pop sensibility.... More and more lately, it's my wish to bring that (sensibility) down into the hiss of noise-rock and still call it pop music.

The Wait Is Over For Rising Soprano Star

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds

(March 20, 2010) When she was 11 years old, Sondra Radvanovsky saw her first opera, a video of a performance of Giacomo Puccini's Tosca from the Roman arena in Verona, Italy. She was blown away by the hero, Cavaradossi, sung by superstar tenor Placido Domingo.

"I said to my mother, `I want to do that,'" Radvanovsky recalls of that fateful day. So her parents agreed to send her to voice lessons. Little did any of them realize that this would mark a determined girl's long, steady climb to the very top of the operatic heap.

Radvanovsky is now considered to be one of the top Verdi sopranos in the world. She is a regular star at the world's most prestigious houses – including the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Covent Garden in London, Milan's La Scala and the Paris Opera. As fate would have it, one of her most fervent supporters and collaborators has been Domingo, still going strong as he approaches 70.

A younger high-powered operatic friend is Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. This powerhouse duo is currently touring a program of opera arias and duets, which arrives at Roy Thomson Hall Saturday, with the Orchestre de la francophonie and two conductors, Canadian Jean-Philippe Tremblay and Russian Constantine Orbelian.

Radvanovsky and Hvorostovsky have recorded an operatic duo programme for a Delos album that won't be in stores for a couple more months, but the disc will be available for sale at Saturday's concert.

On the live programme are excerpts from dramatic, 19{+t}{+h} century roles both singers appear to have been born to sing, from composers Verdi and Giacomo Puccini. Radvanovsky will also serenade the hall with "Song to the Moon" from Rusalka, by Antonin Dvorak.

Unless they're keen opera fans, most Torontonians probably haven't heard of Radvanovsky, who happens to have lived in the GTA for nearly a decade. She was part of the Luna gala concert at the inaugural Luminato festival, and makes regular stops to sing for Classical 96.3 FM in its live, lunchtime lobby concert series, but this is her first marquee event in the city – and country – she calls home.

The soprano is looking forward to her Canadian operatic debut this fall. She will sing Aida for the first time, at the Four Seasons Centre, to open the Canadian Opera Company's new season.

Radvanovsky met COC general director Alexander Neef several years ago, when he was casting director at the Paris Opera.

"I'm so thrilled that he is making a point of supporting Canadian singers," the diva beams. "If this country's singers are not given an opportunity to sing here, in Toronto, where else are they supposed to go?"

Radvanovsky, whose powerful, dusky voice is the ideal means to embody a tragic opera heroine, is the cream of a particularly impressive crop of Toronto-based vocal talents these days. Although born near Chicago and educated in California, she can't imagine living anywhere else.

Not that she gets much time to breathe our local air. She and her manager-husband bought a property in Caledon in September. "But I've spent a total of about two weeks there since we moved in," Radvanovsky admits.

With the exception of summers off, the singer has been in perpetual motion since finishing university and winning the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions 15 years ago –"two days after my 25{+t}{+h} birthday," she adds.

It was then that the singer met Domingo for the first time. He had noticed her and requested a private audition. "He said he had never heard a voice with such beauty and suffering," Radvanovsky recalls. "He said he wanted to support my career."

The soprano says their working relationship quickly blossomed into a deep friendship. "I was even able to go to him with stupid questions like, how do you fly and sing," she smiles.

The reality of a glamorous international opera star is having to live out of a suitcase and fight jet lag. "It's really about work, work, work," says Radvanovsky. She is grateful that she had a teacher, the late French baritone Martial Singher, who mentally prepared her.

She recalls Singher's reaction after hearing her for the first time in university: "I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that you're going to have a career because you have a God-given talent. The bad news is that you have no idea how difficult it is going to be."

For Radvanovsky, the payoff is being able to share a stage with the likes of Domingo and Hvorostovsky. And the world is a finer place because of it.

Just the facts
WHO: Sondra Radvanovsky, with Dmitri Hvorostovsky

WHERE: Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

WHEN: Tonight @ 8 p.m.

TICKETS: $65-$148.75 @ 416-872-4255

Canadians Rock Start Of Austin Festival

Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

(March 18, 2010) AUSTIN, TEX.–It's safe to say, at this point, that the South by Southwest festival would not feel quite like the South by Southwest festival without the annual, opening-day Canadian Blast barbecue in Brush Square Park.

The event, situated smack-dab in the middle of the action across from the Austin Convention Centre, has become a mainstay of the SXSW diet, growing quietly in size and profile alongside the overall Canadian presence in Texas at this time of year. In 2009, there were more than 130 homegrown acts at SXSW and that figure has grown again this year.

Canada is as established in Austin as a prolific exporter of in-demand indie talent as the U.K. or Sweden or Australia. Toronto's Metric, for instance, was Tuesday night's headliner for one of two major SXSW pre-opening parties, playing to an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 1,000 that hung on every note from its latest album, Fantasies.

Meanwhile, as the Canadian Blast party opened its gates on Wednesday and performers such as Plants and Animals, Born Ruffians, Justin Rutledge and the Beauties took their turns onstage, no less an obscure CanCon figure than Nardwuar the Human Serviette was opening his video vault – which included his latest encounter with Snoop Dogg, who microwaves a joint on camera – during an afternoon talk at the Convention Centre.

At the same time, a new documentary about Broken Social Scene, This Movie Is Broken, was making its world premiere as part of the SXSW film festival.

You'd think it might be time for us to rest on our laurels a little bit, but the goal remains to get as many Canadian performers in front of as many potential business partners as possible, says Duncan McKie, one of the Blast's organizers and president of the government- and privately supported Canadian Independent Music Association.

"We won't be satisfied unless more people come, more people see this event today, more deals are made. And we track all that.... Despite what people might think, we are highly accountable. Everything is audited....

"This is about placing your acts in the American live market, where there's still a huge amount of money to be made, even for a small Canadian band. Look at Austin. Austin's a small city but still has more clubs per square metre than probably any place in the world. But there are other towns like this, so there are lots of opportunities for small and niche Canadian bands to do well and have a career and maybe move some merchandise in the American market."

Besides institutionally sanctioned goings-on like Canadian Blast and its week-long "Canada House" set-up at the Paradise, there are myriad domestic indie labels staging showcases of their own.

Six Shooter, Arts and Crafts, Upper Class, Mint and others are all hoping to steal just a little bit of attention away from the nearly 2,000 other bands from all over the planet in town this week. "It's just more exposure for the record label," said Trevor Larocque, president of Toronto's Paper Bag Records, which has eight acts – including Woodhands, Born Ruffians, CFCF and You Say Party! We Say Die! – at SXSW this year. "If you look around at all the other indie labels in the U.S. – Merge or whatever – they've been slowly building as well, until they had a big thing and then they exploded, and then they always have big things for the rest of eternity. So we're doing that same thing so eventually one of our bands will break and we'll get noticed."

No Junk In Neil’s Trunk

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(March 24, 2010)  Talking with Jonathan Demme about Neil Young, you quickly realize you’re speaking with a fan as much as an Academy Award-winning director. “There’s no musical artist whose music I’ve enjoyed more,” he says.

The U.S. director (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, The Manchurian Candidate) was at the Toronto International Film Festival last September to discuss Neil Young Trunk Show, an intimate concert film shot largely with hand-held cameras at a pair of shows at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Penn., in 2007.

An interview with Demme reveals the depth of his relationship with the Canadian rock icon (on a professional and personal level) and the awe he has for the Hey Hey, My My man.

You’ve made two Neil Young concert films – 2006’s Heart of Gold and now this new one – which probably makes you as qualified as anyone to answer the question, ‘What makes Neil so darn watchable?’

My explanation would be, speaking as someone who loves what he does, is that he’s brilliant. He is a ferocious communicator, he’s equipped with tremendous generosity of spirit, and he’s an artist.

You stress the word ‘artist.’ What do you mean by that?

He doesn’t give a shit. He is who he is. Fortunately, he’s this brilliant, big-hearted guy.

And he seems to be able to knock off the odd tune or two, right?

I know – what the heck, he writes these great songs. And he sings in that unique voice. He moves in a way that no one else does. He plays the guitar in a completely unique style. And it all adds up to someone I love to experience.

What is your relationship, beyond the working relationship?

I dare say that, over the years, Neil and I have become friends. I love him very much in that way. We have a very nice communication, and we both love his music. [Laughs.] But also, Neil is such a cinematic person. And that may be a reason, to get back to your first question, why we enjoy watching him – because he moves with that awareness.

Is he conscious of the cameras?

I don’t think he’s conscious of it in the moment. I think he trusts ‘it.’ You know, it’s unfigure-out-able, but I think he trusts the camera and he trusts himself with the lens – on both sides of it.

What’s your appraisal of his own films?

I love his work as a filmmaker. I love his Greendale. I love crying to the last seven minutes of Greendale – that this filmmaker has made this one-of-a-kind film that moves me so much.

How did your relationship with Neil come about?

As a recipient of Neil’s work, we’ve had a relationship since 1967, when I first heard his songs on Buffalo Springfield’s first album. He’s been communicating with me ever since, in the deepest way. His stuff has such great meaning to me.

Neil contributed a song to your 1993 film Philadelphia. Is that how you two met?

Yes, I met him after that. I dared to ask him if that he ever needed somebody to make a video, please call me. At that time, he had just completed Mirror Ball, the album he made with Pearl Jam. We wound up going into Complex Studio, where he records in Los Angeles, and I filmed five songs. We ended up with a 25-minute film that was called The Complex Sessions, which never came out. I think it will at some point.

In 2003, you made Heart of Gold, a documentary and concert film of Neil at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. We can assume that Neil was happy enough with it to ask you to make another concert movie, which ended up being Neil Young Trunk Show.

We had become friends by then. During his Chrome Dreams II tour in 2007 I got a call from Elliot Roberts, Neil’s manager. He said, ‘the music is playing great. We’re wondering if we should film it, and we’re wondering if you want to come down and take a look.’ Six weeks later, we filmed what became Neil Young Trunk Show.

The film is quite different than the Heart of Gold. Can you talk about the processes of making the two films?

We made such painstaking preparations in conceiving what Heart of Gold would be like. Everything was planned – everything. Every wardrobe item that everyone wore – not just Neil – was made for the show. We had backdrops. We textured the lighting so we could have that golden hue to it. The cameras were in very specific spaces. So, it seemed that if we were going to make another film, let’s be rock ’n’ roll – let’s go with the spontaneity and surprises of rock ’n’ roll. This was going to be a rock ’n’ roll show, not a Grand Ole Opry country music show.

The film has a grainy, bootleg quality to it. How planned were the shots?

We gave the camera workers areas to work from, but no specific assignments other than to get something great – to always have something in your lens that you think is a great shot. So, we ended up with a terrific amount of great, great footage.

How arduous was the editing process?

It’s funny. When you have seven cameras going, the best shot for the best moment speaks loud and clear. You don’t have to puzzle over much. One shot is better than all the others. There aren’t actually a lot of edits with the film.

From what I understand, the music wasn’t fiddled around with much either. Why did you decide to go with the straight soundboard mix, rather than remix the music for the soundtrack?

We couldn’t compete with the immediacy and the truth of the board mix. Neil did a couple of little tweaks – something was missing and needed to be pushed up a little. But this is the same sound that everybody heard when they went to the show.

Invariably, when fellow musicians speak about Neil, the term ‘genius’ comes up. Do you agree with that?

It’s inescapable.

Neil Young Trunk Show opens Friday at Toronto’s Royal Cinema, Vancouver’s Vancity Theatre and Winnipeg’s Cinematheque, with dates to follow in Waterloo, Ont., Saskatoon, Ottawa and Montreal.

Norah Jones Takes A Stand, But Fans Like It Better When She Sits

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(March 24, 2010) No matter how much Norah Jones changes things up – by cutting her hair, dirtying up her sound, or favouring guitar over piano – her fans still cherish the same old.

On her fourth album The Fall, the one-time jazz piano student who gigs with punk and country bands in her downtime, experimented with more rock and electronica; so its fitting that in concert she’s no longer the girl at the piano crooning jazz-based tunes.

Clad in a black halter top and ballerina skirt, housed in cabaret lighting and backed by five musicians, the petite performer spent most of Tuesday’s Massey Hall show on her feet, either playing keyboards or an electric guitar.

While the capacity crowd was appreciative of the set, weighted with songs from The Fall, it was the midpoint of the two-hour set when she performed early hits such as, “Don’t Know Why” and “Sunrise” on solo piano that yielded the biggest response.

Jones, 30, had opened with “I Wouldn’t Need You” followed by a handful of other tunes from The Fall before dipping into her 30 million-selling, nine-Grammy winning catalogue. The new songs, some of Jones’s sexiest yet, are instant classics in lyric and melody, but they were hastily delivered during this show with little embellishment and Jones’s rock chick stance is uneasy; she looks like she’s borrowed an older sibling’s guitar, even if the candy apple red instrument matched her pumps and belt.

While Jones is touring for the first time without boyfriend/bassist/collaborator Lee Alexander, opening act Steven Page is nearly a year into his solo act.

The Scarborough native was his warm, witty self. He poked fun at his cocaine arrest and departure from Barenaked Ladies with a yarn about coming up with the ideal, world-uniting chorus (akin to Coca Cola’s ’70s jingle) while in jail – “I had to find a way to get kicked out of my band to spread the word.”

Playing acoustic guitar and accompanied by cellist Kevin Fox, Page, who closed with song from “a great band,” Barenaked Ladies’s “Brian Wilson,” was in fine voice. Look forward to his forthcoming album.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Want Early Tickets To Lilith Fair? Buy Sarah Mclachlan’s Album

Source: www.thestar.com - Alison Broverman

(March 18, 2010) Sarah McLachlan is about to do something she hasn’t done in seven years: release a new album of original material. Titled The Laws of Illusion, the album is still being recorded at studios in Montreal and Vancouver. Due out June 15, it will feature longtime-collaborator/producer Pierre Marchand. McLachlan’s last original album, Afterglow, came out in 2003. Fans who pre-order the album at sarahmclachlan.com will have the chance to buy tickets to the revived Lilith Fair tour before anyone else. Early buyers will also get an instant download of the song McLachlan performed at the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics, “One Dream.” The Laws of Illusion will appear just two weeks before the kickoff of Lilith Fair, which will include a Toronto stop, July 24. Among this edition’s rotating cast of artists are Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Kelly Clarkson, Erykah Badu, Sugarland, Heart, Norah Jones, Ke$ha, Corinne Bailey Rae, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, and Tegan and Sara.

Singing Fishermen Net Major-Label Record Deal

Source: www.thestar.com

(March 18, 2010) LONDON—After singing soldiers and harmonious priests, a group of English fishermen is the latest unorthodox band to sign a major-label recording contract. The Fisherman’s Friends come from Port Isaac in England’s southernmost county of Cornwall and specialize in traditional sea shanties. Universal Music said Thursday that it had signed the 10-member band after a producer spotted them performing in a local pub. They will release an album of traditional tunes and folk songs next month. Universal’s other artists include Lady Gaga and Amy Winehouse, but the label also is home to less mainstream acts including the military band of the Coldstream Guards. Other unusual acts to enjoy chart success include singing servicemen The Soldiers and clerical combo The Priests.

 

Gaga Adds One Last T.O. show

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Andy Paradise/AP

(March 19, 2010)
Lady Gaga, still on a roll on her concert tour, has added a second Air Canada Centre date and tickets have gone on sale immediately. Her July 11 date at the arena has sold out, so she will now also perform there July 12, in what promoters have billed as her second “and final Toronto show.” The fast-rising pop superstar has already played here twice promoting her debut album, once at the ACC and once at Kool Haus. Tickets for the new date on the Monster Ball Tour are available via Livenation.com and Ticketmaster.

Ottawa Appeals For Donations To Erect Oscar Peterson Statue

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(March 19, 2010) Ottawa —A fundraising campaign has been launched to erect a bronze sculpture of Canadian jazz legend
Oscar Peterson in Ottawa. Once created by sculptor Ruth Abernathy, the statue will be erected outside the National Arts Centre, near Parliament Hill. The fundraising goal is $210,000 and donors include Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal MP Bob Rae. Mr. Harper says Mr. Peterson is a success story par excellence and became a legend that has inspired countless artists around the world. Mr. Rae says he hopes jazz fans and Canadians across the country contribute to “this wonderful tribute to one of our national treasures.” Mr. Peterson, who died in 2007 at the age of 82, grew up in a working-class district of Montreal and became a jazz legend with more than 200 albums to his credit.

Video: Whitney Houston on Entertainers Who Are ‘Dark’ and ‘Characters’

Source: www.eurweb.com - Thornel Jones / FortressMKTG@gmail.com

(March 20, 2010) *Looking and sounding like the seasoned, wounded and wise diva she now is,
Whitney Houston is speaking out about the current state of the music industry and its power players. “Music doesn’t change, people change the music; they become characters instead of really displaying their gifts,” she said. “If you look behind a lot of the people that are out there that are wearing these, you know, weird clothing-I’m not talking about anyone in particular, I’ve just seen for myself-there are some extremely gifted and talented young women and young men out there who don’t have to put on Halloween costumes, just be themselves. A little extravagance, a little flair, a little sexiness or a sultriness is cool, but some of them are very dark….” Even though she’s not mentioning any names, we’re guessing she’s got Lady Gaga and Rihanna in mind with those comments. Check out the interview for yourself:

 

Julian Lennon Records New “Lucy” For Lupus Foundation

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rachel Saslow

(March 23, 2010) Lupus Now, the magazine of the Lupus Foundation of America doesn’t always attract huge stars for its cover — usually it’s a researcher or an everyday person with the autoimmune disease. But for the Spring 2010 issue, the glossy features musicians Julian Lennon (son of John) and James Scott Cook. The two men have recorded a song called “Lucy” and arranged for some of its proceeds to benefit the association in honour of the inspiration for the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” (No, not LSD. The other inspiration.) Lucy Vodden died in September after battling lupus since 2005. The story goes that Julian Lennon drew a picture of Vodden, a childhood playmate, and showed it to his father, explaining, “it’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds,” and the rest is history. According to the Lupus Now article, Lennon learned of Vodden’s death while he was working in a recording studio with singer-songwriter Cook. In a cosmic twist to the story, Cook had just written a song called “Lucy,” which is the name of his grandmother — who has lupus. For information about purchasing the “Lucy” single, visit www.lupus.org/lucy.

We Remember Gospel/Blues Singer Marva Wright

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 23, 2010) *
Marva Wright, a versatile soul singer best known for her blues hits “Heartbreakin’ Woman” [View performance clip below] and “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” died Tuesday at age 62, her former manager said. Adam Shipley confirmed that Wright died of complications from a stroke she suffered last June following a gig at the CoCo Club on Bourbon Street. Relatives said then that she had just recovered from an earlier, less serious stroke, according to the Associated Press. As a child, Wright listened to her mother sing and play piano at church. Among her childhood memories were trips to Chicago, the adopted home of New Orleans gospel great Mahalia Jackson, who had grown up with Wright’s mother. Wright released a series of albums on local and international record labels, and frequently performed in Europe and at blues festivals around the country. With her band, the BMWs, she drew large crowds for performances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

 

Big Boi Signs with Def Jam

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 23, 2010) It’s Official
Big Boi signs solo album Deal with Def Jam!!!!! More details to come…,” he tweeted at 9:40 p.m. “Ink is on paper,” he posted just a minute later. The first album under his new deal is “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty,” which has been in limbo for three years. Tracks releasing from the project so far include “Royal Flush,” which features Andre 3000 and Raekwon; “Sumthin’s Gotta Give” with Mary J. Blige; “Dubbz”; “Fo Yo Sorrows” with George Clinton and Too $hort; and most recently, “Shine Blockas” with Gucci Mane. Big Boi also told Billboard.com recently that he’s worked with T.I., Lil Jon, Jamie Foxx and B.O.B. for the album, which was originally due at the end of 2008 via LaFace/Zomba. “There’s been a lot of stops and stars with this project,” Boi told Billboard.com in December. “I’ve just been trying to make sure we’ve got the right avenues and the right brains and mindsets together to get the marketing and promoting behind it. When you work on something for, like, two years and 11 months, it’s like your baby. You want to make sure that everybody has taken the project the way they’re supposed to be taking it and the set-up is right.”

Dru Hill Fans, You Ready? Your Boys Are Back!

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 24, 2010)  *The long awaited return of the R&B multi-platinum group Dru Hill is finally here. On Tuesday, June 8, the group’s fourth album “InDRUpendence Day” will be released to the public.   The group is scheduled to make an appearance on BET’s 106 and Park on March 29 and perform in New York for the first time at Time Square’s B.B. Kings Club & Grill at 8 p.m. But the fun doesn’t stop there. On Wednesday March 31, Dru Hill will be performing on the popular showcase stage at the Apollo Theater.   Fans can expect to hear the ‘mid-tempo love ballad,’ “Back to the Future” on radios across the nation on April 20. Look out for guest appearances in a new reality TV series, “Sweat’s Platinum House” and a world tour is scheduled to jump off in May.   Visit www.druhillonline.com for more information about upcoming events, concerts and appearances.

:FILM NEWS::

The Staying Power Of Andy Garcia

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(March 20, 2010) Here's a message from Garcia: "Don't ever forget the power of dreams."

It's
Andy Garcia we're talking about and his strong, simple statement doesn't just apply to his latest screen characterization as Vince Rizzo, the troubled head of the household in City Island, opening in Toronto on Friday, but it can also resonate as a motto the 53-year-old actor has stood by all of his life.

"When I first read the script, I laughed and I cried, which is a sure way to hook me on any project," admits Garcia, heading back to his Los Angeles home after a recent day filled with press interviews. "I actually consider it an honour to play such a rich character, so full of complexities and insecurities."

But the more you talk to Garcia, the more you discover that those complexities and insecurities are also his own.

No, he's never been a blue-collar prison guard like Rizzo, but he does share "his profound love of his family" and he also relates to the character's "private dream and passion" of becoming a movie actor – although for Garcia, the moment of truth came in late adolescence, rather than the mid-life crisis it poses for Rizzo.

Although he was born into a well-off family in Cuba in 1956, they all fled to America in 1961 once it became obvious that Fidel Castro's regime wasn't going to be empathetic to people from their social class.

And though the Garcia family had to start all over once they arrived in Florida, they were able to make back what they lost.

But what was young Andy doing during this period?

"I went to the movies a lot," he says, a bit sheepishly. "From an early age I was always there. I'd go to a matinee and stay to see the picture two or three times. My parents would wonder where I was."

"Well, I was lost in a different world, totally engrossed." And the stars who fuelled his imagination were the action men of the time: "Sean Connery as James Bond, Steve McQueen and James Coburn. They were my heroes."

Two other passions drove Garcia through his adolescence. One of them was the field in which he thought he would find a career.

"I studied Afro-Cuban percussion and worked really hard at it and I also became really occupied with basketball. That's what everybody assumed I'd go into."

But, as the saying goes, "If you want to make God laugh, make plans," and Garcia found all of his plans changing suddenly.

"In my senior year, I got mono really bad and it turned into hepatitis," he recalls. "It attacks your spleen, you can't run, you feel like your gut is about to burst. That was the end of the basketball career."

The normally hyperactive Garcia had to rest in bed for months, but – as he puts it – "Recovering from one virus in that limbo, another one was able to take over."

And during that long period, Garcia made the same decision that his character Vince Rizzo does in City Island: he decided to pursue an acting career.

The minute he enrolled in his high school drama class, "it was like finding somewhere I belonged. Very nurturing, very stimulating."

He went to continue his theatre studies at Florida International University, "and had some moments I was proud of and others I'd sooner forget."

After more than 30 years, he can still recall the moment he knew he had picked the right career.

"It was in a play called The Contractor, by David Storey. I was playing the character of Glendenning, who was autistic. I spent weeks and weeks, studying at Jackson Memorial Hospital where they kept all the disabled kids. It was a very powerful experience.

"I learned that you got to put in the time to get inside the heads of any people."

Garcia soon felt "it was time to fish or cut bait, so I moved out to Los Angeles," and after taking classes and marking time for a few years, he got his first break in 1984 as a gang member on Hill Street Blues.

That started a decade-long string of roles where the Cuban Garcia would usually get cast as a tough Italian cop or gangster, in films like The Untouchables, Black Rain, Internal Affairs and – most notably – his Oscar-nominated turn in The Godfather: Part III as the son of Sonny Corleone.

Garcia has a savvy way of dealing with the fact that he tackled so many roles that might have seemed similar. "You're not playing a profession; you're playing a character."

He now looks back on that golden time and when asked which film he liked the best, says, "It's like asking me which is my favourite child. They were all such blessed situations to be in."

But ultimately, he gives the nod to working with Francis Ford Coppola on the last section of the Godfather trilogy. "That was the most important to me because when I saw Part I of The Godfather, that was what really turned my head around. `Come hell or high water,' I said, `this is what I want to do with my life.'"

Another powerful and slightly different film in Garcia's career was when he played the co-dependent husband of alcoholic Meg Ryan in When a Man Loves a Woman.

"That movie was very painful to make. It's not just about co-dependency. It's about the destruction of a family and for me, family is all important.

"We have a commitment to my family, my wife and I," he says, speaking of his wife of 27 years and their four children. "I wake up as a parent every morning, not as an actor."

That's why it's fascinating to find his oldest child, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, appearing opposite him in City Island as his daughter, who's secretly stripping to pay her way through college.

Some interviews have suggested that Garcia "couldn't bear" to watch his daughter perform her striptease scenes, but he insists that wasn't the motivation behind his absence.

"My character wasn't in those scenes. There was no reason for me to be there. She needs her space as an actress. I'm proud of her as her father, but when we work together, we're colleagues."

The other great passion in Garcia's life is his native Cuba. He made his 2006 film, The Lost City, about the period when Castro took over and he's still deeply involved with the fate of those protesting against the current regime.

"Cuba is suffering and will continue to suffer until that regime is out of there and then the rebuilding process can begin. The Cuban people are a beautiful people, but they live in misery there. But I feel the time is coming now for change.

"I'm the lucky one. My parents taught me the pride of being Cuban and my family gives me a sense of purpose and an endless well of strength."

Not to mention the power of all those dreams.

Lenny Kravitz: The ‘Precious’ Interview with Kam Williams

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 18, 2010) *
Leonard Albert Kravitz was born in New York City on May 26, 1964 to actress Roxie Roker, and Sy Kravitz, a news producer at NBC-TV.

An only child, Lenny was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan until the family moved to Los Angeles when his late mother landed the role of Helen on the television sitcom “The Jeffersons.”

He developed a love of music at an early age, playing both drums and guitar by the time he was 5. After dropping out of Beverly Hills High School at the age of 15, Lenny straightened his hair and donned blue contact lenses to create a new persona, Romeo Blue.

But he only hit it big after going natural and back to his real name and irises for the release of his debut album, “Let Love Rule.” A 4-time Grammy-winner, Lenny’s hits include “Let Love Rule,” “Fly Away” and “American Woman,” to name a few.

He and his ex-wife, Cosby kid Lisa Bonet, have one daughter, Zoe, an aspiring actress whose next flick, Twelve, will be released in the Fall. Here, Lenny talks about making his acting debut in Precious, where he played John, an empathetic nurse who befriends the beleaguered title character.


Kam Williams: Hey, Lenny, thanks for the time. What interested you in playing John?

Lenny Kravitz: Well, first of all, I thought it was a great story. Then the fact that Lee’s a great director and I’m a fan of his movies. He makes dynamic films. And the script was great. I also liked Nurse John, who was really the only positive male character in the film, concerning Precious. Even though it’s only a short visit they have together, she sort of starts to come alive at that point.

KW: Did you enjoy making the film?

LK: It was a great experience. Obviously it was my first film, but you never know when you read a script, what it’s going to be like, even if you know who’s been cast. And I can say that it’s the same for making music videos or doing other projects.

KW: What did you think of the finished product?

LK: It came out so amazing! It was far more than I had imagined.

KW: How was it working with such a talented cast, Mo’Nique, Gabby Sidibe, Mariah Carey, Paula Patton, Sherri Shepherd, etcetera?

LK: Well, my scenes were primarily with Gabby and the young girls, so I really didn’t see anybody else. But working with Gabby, I realized immediately that she was amazingly talented. I could tell just by the way she’d get into the role. We’d be sitting around talking and laughing, but when Lee would say, “Okay, it’s time to get ready to shoot the scene,” she would transform at the snap of a finger as soon as Lee said, “Action!” She’d suddenly be in agony, or crying or in some deep, emotional state.” And I’d be thinking, “Wow! This girl is really incredible.” You never know where you’re going to find a great actor. Just yesterday, I was watching an interview with Martin Scorcese concerning Raging Bull, which is one of my favourite films, and he was talking about how he’d worked with a lot of guys who weren’t quote-unquote “actors,” like Joe Pesce and Frank Vincent. Scorcese was very smart in the way that he cast, because you don’t know where you’re going to find the right person who can carry a role and summon that emotion you’re looking for.

KW: Would you describe Lee as a hands-on director?

LK: Extremely! And I enjoyed that, because when I’m making my music, I’m writing it, I’m producing it, I’m playing all the instruments, I’m performing. It’s my own world where I do what I feel, and nobody tells me anything. So, I found it a really refreshing change of pace to suddenly be completely directed. It was a type of collaboration that I don’t normally have. He told me how to walk, how to do this, how to do that. Yet, at the same time, he’ll give you room to breathe, once he’s established what he wants from you. For instance, take the scene in the hospital where I’m initially sitting with Precious, smacking my lips while I’m eating that fruit salad, and her girlfriends are all talking trash. That whole scene was improvised. At first, we followed our dialogue, but we weren’t feeling it. Lee came into the room, and ripped those pages out of the script. He said, “This is what I want. I need for you to take me from A to B to C, but just make it up. Now, just go!” We did, and he loved it. But then the 7 of us had to remember what we’d just made up in order to repeat it 4 or 5 more times from different camera angles. For me, it was a lot of fun. It still was like making music, the way I interpreted it. It’s all rhythm, it’s all musical, so it was intense, but really great working with Lee.

KW: Laz Lyles noticed that you’re slated to make a movie with Ash Baron-Cohen [cousin of Sacha] called Novella.

LK: I don’t know what’s going on with that, actually. But the next film I’ll be doing is another one with Lee called Selma, in which I’ll be playing Andrew Young.

KW:: Laz wants to know if you intend to pursue more acting roles, or if you’ll just be playing it by ear?

LK: I’m playing it by ear although, although it’s a good time for me to pursue acting, I suppose since I’m enjoying having another medium in which to express myself. I’ve been getting a great response to my work. I’m sure great scripts are hard to find, but I’m definitely open, and waiting to see what comes my way.

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks, what musical heights do you still want to reach? What motivates the music you create and governs it development?

LK: What motivates it is life. Life is everything. Life influences my music and brings it forth. Life is always changing, so I’m always hearing new music. It’s the way I document my life. I feel like my best work is in front of me. I’m in the studio now, and I’m having an amazing time making this new album. It’s something I can’t help.

KW: The new album is called “Negrophilia.” Is there some sort of theme running through all the songs?

LK: It’s not written as a concept album, and the whole album isn’t finished yet, but I’m sure there will be some kind of thread, because it just works out that way. I liked the title and what the word means. I was living in Paris last year, where there’s a great appreciation of many different aspects of African culture and of black culture. The music… the art… whatever… And I kind of went with that.

KW: This wasn’t your first time living in Paris, though.

LK: No, I went to Paris in 1989 when the Americans didn’t quite know what to do with me at first. Now, all those years later, it’s kind of the same story. Not the same scenario, but kind of the same story.

KW: Larry Greenberg says, he would love to love to see a movie about Romeo Blue. Is there any chance of that happening?

LK: Hmmm… That’s interesting, you know. I haven’t thought about that, but it’s interesting, because it was a different persona, a different person, as far as I’m concerned. I haven’t thought about making a music film, but if I did, that would be a very interesting idea.

KW: Romeo Blue was an important phase you went through in getting you back to yourself.

LK: Yes, I was being somebody else. It was a part of me. I had an emotional attachment to this character, but it wasn’t me. I didn’t know whether being this half-black, half-white guy named Lenny Kravitz could work. That may sound really strange, but in essence, that’s how I felt. But then I woke up one day, and realized Romeo Blue wasn’t me. It was a part of me, but it wasn’t me. At that point, I accepted myself, my name and my background for who I am, and then everything began to flow.

KW: Do you ever feel pressure to identify yourself as black or white, or Jewish or Christian?

LK: No, my mother always told me to embrace both sides of my background. And she also taught me one very useful thing when I was going to first grade. She said, “You’re Bahamian and African-American on one side, and Russian-Jewish on the other. You’re no more one than the other, and it’s beautiful that you have all this. It makes your life all the more rich. But society will see you only as black.” I can’t remember how I felt at the time that she told me that, but later on in life I was like, “Wow!” because that’s exactly how it was. They don’t care that you’re mixed. They see you as one color.

KW: And although you understood that the world saw you that way, you didn’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed and marginalized.

LK: I’ve lived my life dealing with everybody. And that’s how it’s always been for me.

KW: Tommy Russell asks, do you think Obama will end up having a very successful Presidency like Reagan, bad at the beginning, revered by the end, or will he lack enough of an economic rebound to earn a second term?

LK: I think it’s too early to say, but I certainly hope that he will win re-election. Beyond his having made history as the first African-American president, I hope that he gets re-elected for what he does while in office, not for his skin color. I certainly believe he has the capacity.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

LK: Very! Extremely!

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

LK: Yes, but I’m working on cancelling that out completely.

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

LK: Last night.

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

LK: It’s a book that my mom had called “Black Poets.”

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0252003411?ie=UTF8&tag=thslfofire-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0252003411

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What’s the last song you listened to?

LK: One of mine I’m working on called “Love Casino.”

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

LK: Oh, wow… Wow! Honestly, today, I saw my mother.

KW: I know you’re related to Al Roker. We grew up in the same neighbourhood and went to the same grammar school.

LK: Oh, you grew up in St. Albans? I used to go there almost every weekend. In fact, after I was born at St. John’s hospital in Bed-Stuy, I went straight to my godmother’s house in St. Albans. Yeah man, I know St. Albans real well.

KW: What’s your favourite dish to cook?

LK: I have a lot of them I guess right now it’s lamb chops. I been eating a little meat lately.

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

LK: Me being in my grandmother’s yard in Brooklyn. I must have been about 3. I had this red balloon. I let go of it, and it went up into the sky and just kept going and going. I completely flipped out, because I didn’t understand why.

KW: Thanks again for the interview, Lenny, and best of luck with the new album and the acting career.

LK: Thank you.

To see the video for American Woman, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Z_fsdWYXM

To see a trailer for Precious, visit:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5FYahzVU44

Ben Stiller Still Funny, Despite Himself

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(March 22, 2010) One of the best parts of every Ben Stiller movie is watching the way that his comic heroes have a tragic victim inside them, desperately trying to break free.

But in his latest film,
Greenberg, opening in Toronto this Friday, Stiller flips the usual dynamic around and he found it a refreshing change.

“I like movies that exist on their own terms,” he says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, “ones that have comedy hidden inside them and you don’t have to go looking for laughs all the time.”

Laughs have never been a Stiller problem. Neither has popularity. Nine of his films have grossed more than $100 million and when you start rattling off the titles (Meet the Fockers, Night at the Museum, There’s Something About Mary) you can almost hear the cash registers ringing in the background.

But Roger Greenberg, like Monty Python used to say, is “something completely different.” He’s 40 years old, recently released from a mental institution and totally lacking any direction in his life.

He hurts almost everyone he comes in contact with without meaning to, leaves a trail of psychic debris behind him and still manages to be the most miserable person he knows.

How big a loser is Greenberg? He doesn’t even know how to drive a car. In Los Angeles.

“Man, I felt that character,” admits Stiller, “but he had so much specificity about him, I had to figure out where I connected with this guy.”

That specificity comes from the other way in which Greenberg is different from the typical Stiller movie. The writer-director here is Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) and he didn’t hail from the same background of free-wheeling that Stiller did.

“Noah writes like a playwright,” Stiller whispers with a trace of awe. “He comes in with a script that’s totally detailed and dialogue that has its own rhythms.

“That’s what made it a real different experience for me. I had to fill in under the words with emotion and not change them to make it all easier to say. I had to get closer to the character and not make the character closer to me.”

There’s even a scene where the one-time enfant terrible Stiller does cocaine with a bunch of kids half his age and gets into a better fight about “what makes better coke music,” Duran Duran or Korn.

And watching that scene, you suddenly realize that Ben Stiller is getting older.

“Once you’re in your 40s, you’re forced to look at where you’re at. It’s inescapable. That’s what happens to Greenberg. It’s what happened to me.

“When I literally hit that birthday, I had a moment of ‘Wow, I’m 40!’ It’s a big birthday. It’s that realization that you’re not a kid anymore. Hey, I’m already 44. I feel that as you get older, time passes more quickly.”

But don’t look for an upcoming midlife crisis in Stiller’s life.

“I don’t think getting older is a bad thing; it focuses you in on your life. For me, it’s involved getting married, having kids and trying to find the balance in life. Figuring out what makes you happy.”

Stiller also looked around at his life, saw that he had made 20 movies in the last decade (not counting voice-overs and TV shows), and decided “that I was a major workaholic and had to do something about it.

“Nobody staged an intervention or anything,” he quips, “I just realized that I very much needed a sense of being aware of being in the moment.”

So he took five months off with his family last summer and discovered “it’s only when you stop and get quiet for a moment that you can examine yourself.”

And he was surprised at what he discovered.

“I learned that I enjoyed having nothing to do. I enjoyed having time not to be engrossed with a specific task. I enjoyed being open to different experiences.”

And stepping back into the world of dramedy that he hadn’t really visited since 1998’s Your Friends and Neighbors for Neil LaBute “was a really rare and wonderful thing.

“Right now, where I’m at in my life is that I’ll continue trying to do things that creatively stimulate me.”

And even though the dozen or more projects he has in development include things with titles like Johnny Klutz, he also reveals that Aaron Sorkin is working on a script about The Chicago Seven that Stiller hopes to eventually direct.

“Yes, for sure there will be fewer big commercial comedies in my life, because you can only play in that world for so long before it becomes your reality.”

He promises there will still be bursts of surreal craziness like Zoolander and Tropic Thunder, because “each one of those is its own specific creation that eventually develops a life I have little control over.”

No, he’s talking about phasing himself out of the kind of projects that provide him with maximum bucks, but minimum satisfaction.

“Let’s face it, some of the kind of movies I make aren’t necessarily the kind of movies I like to see.”

But he considers Greenberg — both the movie and the man — an exception.

“He’s a guy who’s just trying to get through the day and he’s got a lot of pain and a lot of hurt he’s trying to deal with.

“Like all of us.”

::TV NEWS::

Cultural Confusion Is A Two-Way Street

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Bruce DeMara

(March 19, 2010) Put a newly arrived Canadian family under the same roof as a wily Indian cook and what you get is
Cooking With Stella, a spicy comedy that pokes gentle fun at culture and class differences.

You may also end up with a raging appetite.

"I hope you love the film ... and even if you don't, I can guarantee you one thing: by the end of it, you'll be hungry. People always are," said director Dilip Mehta, an acclaimed photojournalist who co-wrote the script with his more famous sister, director Deepa Mehta.

The film stars Don McKellar as a stay-at-home dad and chef who enlists the help of Stella (played by Seema Biswas) to teach him south Indian cooking while his diplomat wife works at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi.

For McKellar, the role of Michael had some interesting parallels with real life. He was working in New Zealand when contacted by Deepa Mehta, who asked him to read the script, then offered him the role just 12 days before shooting began after the previous choice for the role – another Canadian – was dropped from the project.

"The fact it was so sudden ... scared me at first. But then I thought it would work for the part and it did because I'd never been to India, had always wanted to go and sort of romanticized it in my head, like the character," McKellar said.

Having servants underfoot – a traditional part of Indian society – is part of the cultural clash that unfolds. Again, it wasn't difficult for McKellar to understand his character's discomfort.

"I always feel awkward around people serving me, for one thing. I don't know if that's a Canadian thing ... but with my liberal guilt and my background, I got that about the character."

The film also has an unconventional take on morality. Stella, in addition to being a fine cook, is also a talented pilferer who raids the well-stocked family larder, sells the booty and pockets the proceeds.

Dilip Mehta sees Stella as a "lovable rogue" and morality as something that – as someone says in the film – "like fashion, changes daily."

"I've never thought that any of the characters in the film were wicked because they're not. (McKellar's) character ... is being taken advantage of and he knows it. He's not a fool and he doesn't mind," Mehta said.

"He's also learning from his cooking guru so he sort of rides with it. Stella's giving so much in return, I think that's how Michael sees it, something he will never get from a cookbook," McKellar added.

During filming, he re-examined his own view of morality.

"When you step back and realize the conditions, it's harder to get mad at the tuk-tuk driver that tries to rip you off," said McKellar. "You never think this guy's dishonest or a crook. He needs the money and is trying to do what he can, and he's living in a system where haggling is custom."

McKellar also noted the "wily servant" character is a venerable part of literature, dating back to ancient Rome and including writers like Shakespeare and Molière.

Cultural confusion goes both ways, McKellar found.

His driver in India kept asking: "`Sir, what kind of songs do you sing in the movie?' I would say, `I don't sing any songs.' And he kept bringing up it again and again," McKellar recalled.

"On the very last day when he took me to the airport, he said, `Sir, I'm going to be the first to buy the soundtrack.' He just thought that since it's a comedy, obviously there's singing. He just thought I was being coy."

What you won't see in Cooking with Stella are cows – considered sacred animals to Hindus – wandering the Delhi streets. Nor are there depictions of the poverty seen in films like Slumdog Millionaire and City of Joy.

"I was not interested in doing poor India, not interested in doing exotic India, not interested in doing Kama Sutra India. I was interested, really, in showing there's another aspect of India ... which doesn't necessarily make the news – the Toyota India, as I call it," Mehta said.

Big Love For Big Actress Kirstie Alley

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(March 20, 2010) I love you, Kirstie Alley.

I'm not ashamed to admit it. I have a plus-size crush on the famously self-proclaimed "Fat Actress." I have ever since she was skinny (due in no small part to a major cocaine habit) in her big-screen debut in the second and best of the old-school Star Trek movies, Wrath of Khan.

I liked her on Cheers. Even if the character was kind of annoying, at least she wasn't Shelley Long. Same for her own Veronica's Closet, apparently an onscreen reflection of increasing off-screen conflict.

It was right about then that she started to pork out. But I didn't mind – there was just that much more to love. A lot more, ultimately, a whopping 85 pounds more than her subsequent slimmed-down Jenny Craig weight, which forced her to secede her spokeswoman gig to Valerie Bertinelli, and now Jason Alexander (?!).

I fell in love all over again with her self-spoofing cable comedy, Fat Actress, in which she brazenly and bravely embraced her tubby tabloid notoriety and turned it around to her empowered advantage.

Kirstie Alley's Big Life, which debuts its first two episodes Sunday night on A&E, is similarly, scathingly, brutally honest – though this time it's for real.

This is not your typical "celeb-reality" vanity production. Quite literally the opposite, from the first moments of the debut episode, with Alley sitting on her bed, sans makeup, that fabulous mane of hair tied back into a dishevelled pile, commiserating with her two, refreshingly normal teenagers.

The entire family is forced to deal daily with hordes of invasive paparazzi, lying in wait for the most unflattering snap: Kirstie out shopping; Kirstie picking up her dry cleaning; Kirstie on the red carpet; and, most objectionably, Kirstie at home, puttering in her garden and tending to her vast menagerie of pets ... including a virtually inanimate dog and a large fenced enclosure full of lemurs.

I kid you not. Lemurs. Eight of them, all of which clearly adore her. Cutest furry little buggers you've ever laid eyes on. Not so much the cowardly camera-toting creep lurking in a nearby bush, like a sniper with a telephoto lens.

But Big Life isn't just about being bothered and besieged. It encompasses every aspect of Alley's oversized life, and those closest to her.

They include, particularly, aside from the kids, her next to useless burger-bellied lump of a "handyman," Jim, with the requisite professional above-the-beltline "butt cleavage," the considerable proportion of a fleshy canyon.

Kirstie has welcomed Jim into her eclectic, hectic household. This convenient proximity makes him an ideal, if reluctant, candidate to be conscripted as a workout partner. She has similarly adopted an apprentice assistant, Kyle, a fey, fresh-faced, aspiring poet she met in Wyoming and brought home for a job for which he proves woefully ill-equipped to handle.

I mean, you've got to love someone who is that all-embracing, even of herself, having fallen so publicly off the wagon, and yet still retaining the courage, conviction and self-deprecating dignity to climb back on it yet again.

It is by no means a perfect unrequited love. I balk at her avid Scientology connection, and its disputed influence on her new commercial for her own weight-loss program, Organic Liaison.

But hey, who am I to judge? I'm a good 50 pounds overweight myself (this having already lost 50). To each their own, and if it works, it works.

And then, when and if Alley gets back down to whatever she decides is an ideal size, the paparazzi will focus instead on her fellow Fat Scientologist Lisa Marie Presley (in whose former home, ironically, Alley now resides).

Of course, by then, alas, the once and future Kirstie Lite will have absolutely nothing to do with me.

Countess Proud Of Her Canadian Roots

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(March 20, 2010) What's the most surprising thing you can say about the woman known as Countess LuAnn de Lesseps?

She's Canadian.

Yes, the most upscale star of the reality series The Real Housewives of New York City, now in its third season (in Canada on Slice, Fridays at midnight) is the daughter of a Quebecois woman and a full-blooded Micmac from New Brunswick.

She's a genuine countess, by the way, whose estranged husband, Alexandre Count de Lesseps, was the great-great-grandson of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the man who designed the Suez Canal, gave the Statue of Liberty to America and did the initial work on the Panama Canal.

As for her side of the family, de Lesseps, who was born in Connecticut, not Canada, gradually pieced her history together over the years.

"My mother was from Montreal," she recalls on the phone from her Manhattan home, "and she told me she met him while he was dating someone else. But that never stops the women of my family," she laughs.

At the time, her father, Roland Nadeau, "was a wood-cutter who made 50 cents a day, so he moved to the States to start a new life." He came from a family of 13, her mother from a family of 11 and the two of them had seven children of their own.

"I guess it was cold (during) the winter nights in Canada, but not quite as cold in Connecticut," she quips.

Her parents were intent on becoming Americans and never spoke French in the household ("except to each other when they didn't want us to understand them") and the 44 year-old de Lesseps admits that she didn't discover her father's Micmac heritage until much later in life.

"I'm not exactly sure why," she admits, "but there was a period in time when people weren't that proud of their native heritage and my father was a very proud man. But over the years, fortunately, that has changed." De Lesseps herself has always proudly discussed her background.

It's enough of a leap to Connecticut from Montreal, but what started de Lesseps on the road to international nobility?

She sighs over the memories. "I was a young nurse and a small town in Connecticut was a pretty dull place. I remember thinking that there's got to be more than this."

And there was. She saved her money and set off on a three-year trip to Europe, where she worked her way into a career as a model.

"I was actually pretty sheltered," she confides. "And when I came back to America at the age of 23, I moved to New York, where I had never been. That was a whole new level of sophistication I had yet to learn."

After a while in America, she moved again to Milan and began hosting her own television program. That's when she met her husband.

"I didn't know who he was the first time I laid eyes on him," she insists. "But I knew he was it for me as soon as I met him. I left my career behind and went into the Swiss Alps. I became the wife, the hostess and I truly loved that portion of my life.

They were married for 16 years. During that time they relocated to Manhattan, where she was first approached about being on a new reality series, to be called The Real Housewives of New York City.

"My first reaction was, `No way!' but then I looked on it as a kind of adventure."

The series launched in 2008 and caused a great deal of buzz that would soon backfire.

Within a year, the press was all over the story that de Lesseps' husband had left her for another woman. The break-up is documented in Season 3, which is on the air right now.

"It's not easy, but it's the reality of my life and this is supposed to be a reality show, isn't it?"

De Lesseps now feels that her sudden celebrity "did not cause our marriage to end, but it didn't help the situation. Is it difficult to live through on camera? It's difficult to live through, period.

"You'll see me go through it all, but in a discrete way. I think discretion is a very underused word these days."

Canadian TV Creators Frustrated By CRTC Ruling

Source: www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(March 23, 2010) Although it has its bright spots, the CRTC’s landmark decision on the future of television policy is not the victory Canadian TV creators had hoped for.

Groups representing actors and producers are pleased the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission set out firm ground rules that will force broadcasters to spend on Canadian content starting in late 2011. But they’re frustrated with the laissez-faire approach the federal regulator is taking to where and when that programming appears, and what sorts of audiences it will reach.

With spending on U.S. programs skyrocketing, the cultural community is desperate to bring Canadian talent back to the forefront. For months ahead of the CRTC announcement, they attacked the spending spree going on south of the border, largely avoiding the contentious debate about whether conventional broadcasters should be able to charge cable and satellite companies for carrying their signals, the issue that has monopolized the public’s attention.

“The great loser, I think, is Canadian programming,” said Alain Pineau, national director of the arts lobby group Canadian Conference of the Arts, of Monday’s decision.

For Pineau, that’s partly because the CRTC lowered the Canadian-content requirements for English and French-language television from 60 per cent to 55 per cent “without any kind of justification,” prompting fears that fewer hours of Canadian programming will be available to watch.

Instead, the regulator is putting its might into making sure the broadcasters buy and produce Canadian shows, requiring the three ownership groups in charge of the country’s largest private networks – CTV, Global and City-TV – to spend at least 30 per cent of their gross revenues on Canadian programming each year, roughly the same level as from 2007 to 2009. No spending requirement has existed for more than a decade.

“We see this as a positive decision. It really represents a philosophical shift,” said Maureen Parker, executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada, which represents writers working in television, radio and film.

The shift is much broader, though.

The CRTC is allowing the large corporate conglomerates greater flexibility in shifting Canadian content back and forth between their conventional stations and the specialty channels higher on the dial that they also own – a major red flag for creators who feel that too many of their shows are already pushed to the margins to make way for money-making American programs.

“Global TV could hive off their drama to Showcase and not put any in prime time, which is a big concern,” said Stephen Waddell, the national executive director of the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA). “We're pretty disappointed with the decision [over all].”

The decision will also require the broadcasters to spend 5 per cent of their gross revenues on “programs of national interest,” meaning dramas, comedies, documentaries and Canadian-focused awards shows. But they won’t be told where or when to air them, and in a nod to a public that increasingly gets its television through new media, the broadcasters will be allowed to produce this content on any platform. Some shows could end up as Web-only series, for example.

“It’s great that broadcasters are being told to spend money on Canadian drama, but they’re not being told they have to air it,” said actor Nicholas Campbell, formerly of the hit series Da Vinci’s Inquest. “Instead they’ve been given free rein to dump all of their drama on their specialty channels while feeding Canadians a steady diet of made-in-the U.S. programs in prime time,” Campbell said.

Such fears were stoked by the release last week of figures showing broadcasters spent a record $846.3-million on foreign programming in 2008-2009, up from $775.2-million the year before, and far eclipsing what was spent on Canadian television. Money for Canadian drama also fell sharply – by 56 per cent, according to the Writers Guild – despite the successes of major draws such as Flashpoint and Corner Gas.

Half of the broadcasters’ programming between 6 p.m. and midnight will still have to be Canadian, including news and sports programs, though the WGC and other groups had argued that a more realistic prime-time window would be from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

“The theory seems to be that if we build supply, if we increase the volume of Canadian production and in particular programs of national interest, then they will draw audiences,” Parker said.

 

'Woman-To-Woman' Deal Settles Oprah Winfrey Lawsuit

Source: www.thestar.com - Maryclaire Dale

(March 24, 2010) PHILADELPHIA–Oprah Winfrey has settled a defamation lawsuit filed by a headmistress she had accused of performing poorly at her South African girls school, where some students claimed they were abused, lawyers said Tuesday.

The lawsuit by former headmistress Nomvuyo Mzamane claimed Winfrey defamed her in remarks made in the wake of the 2007 sex-abuse scandal at the school. The headmistress said she had trouble finding a job after.

A trial had been set to start next week, and Winfrey and several schoolgirls had been expected to testify.

A joint statement released Tuesday by lawyers for both sides said Winfrey and Mzamane met and resolved their differences.

"The two parties met woman-to-woman without their lawyers and are happy that they could resolve this dispute peacefully to their mutual satisfaction," said the statement, which didn't disclose details of the settlement.

A dorm matron at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls has been charged with abusing six students.

Winfrey has called the allegations crushing, given her own publicly stated history of childhood sexual abuse.

The dorm matron, Tiny Virginia Makopo, has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges.

When news of the scandal broke in 2007, Winfrey said she had "lost confidence" in Mzamane and was "cleaning house from top to bottom."

Mzamane claimed she didn't know about any sexual abuse.

Mzamane, born in Lesotho, formerly worked at the private Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia and was living in the city when she filed suit two years ago. She earned $150,000 (U.S.) a year as the head of Winfrey's academy.

Winfrey had planned to defend her remarks about Mzamane on free speech and other grounds, arguing she merely voiced her opinions.

Mzamane's lawyers, who noted Winfrey's huge media reach, contended listeners would think the remarks were based on facts she had gleaned from the school's internal investigation.

Winfrey, as the named defendant, would have had to attend the trial each day. She had rearranged the taping of her Chicago-based daily TV talk show, her lawyers said.

Winfrey, in court papers, said she had planned to hire nurses to serve as dorm matrons for the 150 seventh- and eighth-grade girls who were selected from impoverished backgrounds to attend her school. Mzamane instead hired eight young women from a local company called Party Design, she said.

"These young women were later found to be totally unqualified to handle the position, something Ms. Mzamane had been warned about," Winfrey's lawyers wrote.

As the school's inaugural year unfolded, Makopo attacked another dorm parent, injured three people while driving a golf cart after a champagne party at Mzamane's home and retaliated rather than apologize to girls who complained of mistreatment, while Mzamane did little or nothing, Winfrey's lawyers had alleged in their trial memo.

Forbes last year listed Winfrey's net worth at $2.7 billion. However, for trial purposes, lawyers stipulated the amount at $1.2 billion.

The academy now houses about 330 girls.

The Mother-Daughter Movie Script

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Gayle MacDonald

(March 24, 2010) Calgary television writer Heather Conkie bought the popular children’s book Harriet the Spy when her daughter Alexandra was in grade school and read it to her faithfully every night for weeks.

The story about the precocious Harriet – an 11-year-old who diligently records everything in her journal – convinced her daughter, now a 27-year-old Queen’s University’s film and media studies grad, that she was one day going to write for a living.

Recently, all that came to fruition after Disney hired not only Conkie but her daughter (Alexandra Clarke) to team up for a script of Louise Fitzhugh’s book for a live-action TV movie, Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars, which will air this Friday.

“ The great thing about working with mom is we really do know each other’s strengths well – my mom is amazing at structure and I excel in dialogue. ”— Alexandra Clarke

“I think every little girl reads the book and thinks the same thing – I’m going to be a writer,” says Clarke, who also has a degree from New York’s Parsons school of design, and splits her time between Toronto and Manhattan.

“I started writing down all my own observations on my family and friends. Harriet is unique and intelligent. She is also sarcastic and cynical. She had her own voice and was not afraid to use it. Like she says to her nanny, Ole Golly, in the book: ‘I’m an original in an age of followers.’ Mom and I both always loved that about her.”

The mother-daughter duo whipped the screenplay together over a few months, through e-mails and phone calls between Toronto, New York and Calgary (where Conkie is in her third season as executive producer and showrunner for CBC’s drama Heartland).

On three separate weekends, they met at Manhattan’s Carlton Hotel, at the corner of Madison and 29th, to drink copious pots of coffee and to collaborate – first, on finessing the outline, next, to nail the dialogue and finally to co-author the lyrics for three songs in the TV movie.

“Each time we went, the hotel upgraded us to the same suite on the 10th floor,” adds Conkie. “We wanted to write some of it in New York because that’s where the book was based [Harriet lived on the Upper East Side at 80th and 1st Avenue]. You feel a palpable energy being in that city – something we wanted to translate to the page.”

“The great thing about working with mom is we really do know each other’s strengths well – my mom is amazing at structure and I excel in dialogue,” explains Clarke.

Adds Conkie: “I’ve had other writing partners from time to time, but it’s really fun to find you have a good writing partner in your own kids.”

Shot in Hamilton and produced by 9 Story Entertainment, Harriet the Spy: Blog Wars is an unusual global movie alliance for Disney Channel, which typically prefers to work independently. Toronto-based 9 Story Entertainment’s Vince Commisso explains they originally pitched the story to various broadcasters as an ongoing series, before switching gears last year and settling on a movie version of a contemporary retelling of Harriet the Spy. (Nickelodeon did a feature-film version in 1996, but stuck to the 1960s setting; it starred Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Michelle Trachtenberg and was partially shot in Toronto.)

In this new version, Harriet is 13, not 11. Instead of working for the school paper, she writes a blog. And while her father is still a filmmaker, Harriet now decides to blog about one of her dad’s stars, a teen heartthrob (à la High School Musical’s Zac Efron) who is in a teen musical, Spy High.

“I was at Banff [Television Festival] last spring, and they [Disney] were making overt noises about partnerships in Canada with people they could do TV movies with,” says Commisso. “We interviewed 10 writers, and loved Heather and Alex’s pitch. And Disney loved the modern theme of the classic Harriet story [which has sold four-million copies since publication].”

Disney’s remake, which is directed by Ron Oliver (A Dennis the Menace Christmas), stars Wizards of Waverly Place cast member Jennifer Stone as Harriet, The Latest Buzz’s Vanessa Morgan, and Melinda Shankar and Aislinn Paul (both from Degrassi: The Next Generation).

When she was first asked to submit a script, Conkie admits she was worried “about the nepotism part of it. But I said would you mind if I do it with a writing partner and submitted some samples with Alex, whose last name is obviously different than mine.

“They loved the samples and loved that it was a mother-daughter team. After all, this is a family movie and what better way to have a family movie presented to them than to have one that is actually written by a family?”

When the 93-minute feature airs this weekend, the pair plans to see it from the familiar 10th-floor suite at the Carlton in New York. “We’re going to invite all our friends and put them up for the night,” adds Clarke.

Harriet the Spy airs Friday on the Disney Channel, The Movie Network and Movie Central. It will be broadcast later on CBC-TV and YTV.  

TV TIDBITS

‘Glee’ Cast Headed to Oprah

Source: www.eurweb.com  

(March 19, 2010) According to Entertainment Weekly, Winfrey’s April 7 program will focus entirely on the Fox musical comedy series. The broadcast will include interviews with the cast and show creator Ryan Murphy, along with behind-the-scenes footage on the set and an in-studio concert performance. Meanwhile, Oprah.com is launching a special Web page for “
Glee” on March 29. The site will feature character bios, trivia and IQ tests to examine viewers’ level of dedication to the series. As previously reported, the “Glee” cast will also participate in the White House’s Easter Egg Roll on April 5. Below, Amber Riley (Mercedes Jones) explains the story behind her performance of Jill Scott’s “Hate on Me” last season.

::THEATRE NEWS::

Who Knew Grannie: A Loving, Warm And Shallow Memory

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Crew

who knew grannie: a dub aria
(out of 4)
Written and directed by ahdri zhina mandiela. Until April 4 at Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St. 416-504-9971

(March 23, 2010) If something called a "dub aria" has you a little worried, you shouldn't be.

Who knew grannie: a dub aria, an Obsidian Theatre Company production now at Factory Theatre, is an easily accessible mélange of poetry, music and theatre, created and directed by the talented ahdri zhina mandiela.

The grannie of the title (played by
Ordena) has just died, and four cousins are gathering to mourn her death and celebrate her life by conjuring up vivid memories of the past.

Grannie, it turns out, was the stern but loving Jamaican matriarch who had a key role in rearing all four grandchildren, now scattered abroad.

We never learn much about the cousins' current lives. In this world devoid of capital letters but replete with rhyming couplets, vilma (Andrea Scott) seems to be a well-connected politician, kris (Marcel Stewart) is a successful chef, tyetye (Joseph Pierre) is in jail and likklebit (Miranda Edwards) is living in Canada and not liking the climate too much.

There were times when I would have liked more information to get to know these people better, but this is an aria, concerned more with soaring emotions rather with earthbound facts, and presented via the popularist rhythms of dub.

Through poetry, nursery rhymes and songs such as "Brown Girl in the Ring" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," theatre, dancing and the lively drumming and percussion of Amina Alfred, an engaging picture is painted of grannie, bathed in the golden glow of memory (and in Bonnie Beecher's atmospheric lighting).

Not that grannie had an entirely easy life; her husband left her, apparently carried away by music. But there's almost no tension here, little sense of strain or bitterness.

The cast responds to mandiela's clear-sighted direction with energy and commitment, but some of the characters remain shadowy, At the centre of it all, Ordena is an understated grannie – perhaps a little too much so.

It's certainly not hard to immerse yourself in this almost unreal, lotus land of magic and memory by simply opening yourself up to it and letting it all wash over you. It's loving, warm and emotional, without ever being hugely profound. 

Rachel Weisz Wins An Olivier Theatre Award

Source:  www.thestar.com - Jill Lawless

(March 22, 2010) LONDON – Rachel Weisz added a stage accolade to Hollywood stardom Sunday, winning the best-actress prize at London's Laurence Olivier theatre awards for her role in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

The prize for a Londoner made good in the U.S. was fitting on a night that rewarded several Broadway-bound productions, including "Enron," "Red" and "The Mountaintop," a play about Martin Luther King by 28-year-old American writer Katori Hall.

Rock musical "Spring Awakening" – which travelled the opposite direction, from New York to London – took four prizes, including best new musical.

Weisz won for playing faded belle Blanche Dubois in the Donmar Warehouse production of Tennessee Williams' steamy southern drama. Ruth Wilson, Stella in the same play, was named best supporting actress.

Weisz said it had been a delight to return to the theatre after an eight-year absence.

"I think it's the greatest feeling in the world, being on stage," she said. "The adrenaline you get from it ... I think it's very good for you as an actor."

Mark Rylance was named best actor for playing charismatic rebel Johnny "Rooster" Byron in Jez Butterworth's riotous rural drama "Jerusalem." He beat contenders including Jude Law, for an acclaimed "Hamlet."

"Somebody asked me what it's like to be up against Jude Law," Rylance said. "I don't know what that experience is like. I'm sure it's very nice."

Hall was the surprise winner in the best play category for "The Mountaintop," a drama about civil rights leader King set on the night before his assassination.

The play opened in London at the 65-seat Theatre503 last year before transferring to the West End. It is scheduled to open on Broadway in the fall.

Hall is only the third woman, and the first black woman, to win the best new play prize in the Oliviers' 34-year history.

She attributed her success to King's status as a "universal hero."

"I thought that because it was an American story about an American hero, no one would want to hear it over here," Hall said. ``But I was proved wrong."

"The Mountaintop" beat the heavily favoured "Jerusalem" and Lucy Prebble's "Enron," an entertaining account of the Texas energy giant's fall.

Rupert Goold was named best director for "Enron," which opens at New York's Broadhurst Theatre next month.

The best supporting actor prize went to Eddie Redmayne for "Red," John Logan's play about artist Mark Rothko, another Donmar production that is currently running at New York's Golden Theater.

The Olivier awards, Britain's equivalent of Broadway's Tonys, honour achievements in London theatre, musicals, dance and opera. A panel of stage professionals and members of the public choose the winners.

Michael Wynne's "The Priory" – about a group of middle-class friends having a New Year meltdown at a country lodge – was named best new comedy.

The trans-Atlantic traffic continued with Debbie Allen's all-black production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," with a cast led by James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad, winning the prize for best revival. The show ran on Broadway in 2008.

Broadway import "Wicked" won the audience prize for most popular play, the only award decided by public vote.

"Spring Awakening" led the musical categories, with four prizes. Aneurin Barnard and Iwan Rheon were named best actor and supporting actor in a musical for the show, a rock adaptation of Frank Wedekind's risque drama of youthful sexuality.

A production of "Hello Dolly!" at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park won three prizes – musical revival, choreography and best actress in a musical, for Samantha Spiro.

Maggie Smith received a special award for outstanding contribution to the theatre, and producer Michael Codron was given a prize honouring his 60 years in the business.

Actor Anthony Head hosted the awards ceremony at London's Grosvenor House Hotel, attended by nominees including Law, Keira Knightley and Gillian Anderson.

Britain's theatre sector has proved remarkably robust in the recession, with theatre and other creative industries proving one of the battered economy's biggest exports.

Nica Burns, president of industry group the Society of London Theatre, said theatre "is a shining light in the continuing recessionary gloom."

– – –

On the Net: www.olivierawards.co.uk

A Moving Take On Shakespeare

Source: www.thestar.com - Alison Broverman

(March 18, 2010) Most actors graduated from playing a tree when they finished kindergarten. But in Birnam Wood, which opens Thursday at Theatre Passe Muraille, a recognizable cast of talented Toronto actors will comprise a forest.

Of course, these arboreal representations are a bit beyond being wrapped in brown paper and standing with arms sticking out like branches. Birnam Wood, the latest piece from the innovative movement-based theatre company Theatre Rusticle, is a loose meditation upon Shakespeare's Macbeth, with the story told from the perspective of the trees in the play's prophetic forest.

"But we're not doing Macbeth," Allyson McMackon, the company's artistic director as well as the director of this production, is quick to point out. "There's no `out damn spot' or anything like that." (As their promotional material states, it's "inspired by, but not to be confused with, Shakespeare.")

She's sitting in the main theatre at Theatre Passe Muraille, which has drastically transformed from the synagogue that housed last month's Yichud into a spooky abstract forest designed by Lindsay Anne Black. The stage has been raised and painted with spidery branches, bolts of torn fabric suspend from the ceiling, and a glittering chandelier hangs above it all, lending an otherworldly feel.

But the impetus to do this show initially had nothing to do with Shakespeare's bloodiest play: it came from a dream McMackon had 12 years ago. "I had this image of a woman emerging from an oak tree in a cemetery in Scotland. Eventually, it felt right to connect it with Macbeth, and here we are."

Theatre Rusticle always develops its shows as a collective, meaning there is no playwright. Rather, McMackon's directorial vision guides and shapes the performers' improvisatory work in the rehearsal studio, and the final product is a story told through a unique combination of movement and dialogue.

Rusticle's best-known productions of recent years are the Dora-nominated Stronger Variations and April 14, 1912, which were based, respectively, on a short play by August Strindberg and on the post-wreck testimony of the Titanic's telegraph operator.

Although she's tied Birnam Wood to Macbeth as a source, McMackon says, the show still feels more intensely personal to her than any other Rusticle show so far. "This is a very new way of developing work for me," she says. "The root around this work is a hugely personal one that has more questions than answers. It's a little more inside. I'm not so fast to make decisions as I have been on other shows."

Actress Maev Beaty enjoys the challenge of working with the director's subconscious, in her first role for Rusticle. "It's neat to enter in at this point, where Allyson is taking a big personal risk," she says. "This not just some gig. Every day I'm confronting myself as an artist."

Beaty isn't used to thinking of herself as a physical performer, but playing a tree has been strangely liberating for her, despite the gentle mockery of some of her friends. "My friends on Facebook have all been saying, `oh, I can't wait to see Maev's tree," she jokes. "But it's been wonderful because I've been so busy over the past few years and now I have a reason to slow down and look at trees."

And she's as proud as an elementary schoolchild to be playing in this theatrical forest.

"There's something a little bit ridiculous about anthropomorphizing in this way, but there's also something quite celebratory about it," she muses as McMackon nods in agreement.

"I feel very young when I'm doing this work."

Just the facts
WHAT: Birnam Wood

WHERE: Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Ave.

WHEN: March 18 to 27

TICKETS: $15-$25 at 416-504-7529

Marnie A Character You Won’t Forget

Source: www.thestar.com - Robert Crew

Breakfast
(out of 4)
Written by Anna Chatterton and Evalyn Parry. Directed by Brendan Healy. At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St., until April 4. 416-975-8555.

(March 24, 2010)  It begins as a simple Saturday morning breakfast.
Marnie, a large woman with low self-esteem, is in her small kitchen, slopping around in her pj’s, eating chocolate pudding and brewing coffee.

After inadvertently listening to someone in the throes of passion upstairs, Marnie starts to play a self-help tape and here things become a little creepy. The tape starts talking to her, addressing her by name, and promises to create “a new you’ and to transform her life by transforming her thoughts.

Suddenly breakfast becomes a healthy yoghurt/banana/strawberry mix. And Marnie, in a strangulated, little-girl voice, starts to share some secrets and to relive some of the incidents of her past, both pleasant and ugly.

It’s the first meal of a new day and the start of a new life. Or not.

This is the remount of a 2008, Independent Aunties show that picked up three Dora Award nominations and it is not hard to see why. Emotions flitting across her face, teetering on the edge of hysteria, Karin Randoja is devastatingly wonderful as Marnie, moving from funny to heartbreaking and back again. It’s a performance you won’t easily forget.

Voices, orgasmic noises, bananas etc. are provided by co-writers Anna Chatterton and Evalyn Parry, shadowy presences who occasionally drift on set and interact with Marnie.

Julie Fox’s set and costumes, Richard Windeyer’s sound design and Laird MacDonald’s lights all contribute powerful to the somewhat nerve-wracking quest for self that Marnie undergoes. And it’s all been smartly put together by director Brendan Healy.

It’s a play that tackles some tough issues. Is true transformation possible or is it a delusion? What is lost and what is gained?

The ending is beyond enigmatic; impenetrable is the word that comes to mind. Nonetheless, Breakfast is an eminently worthwhile, disturbingly different hour of theatre. 

::COMEDY NEWS::

Road To Second City's New Show Paved With Second Thoughts

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian

(March 21, 2010) A not-so-funny thing happened to Second City on the way to Wednesday's opening night of its latest show, Second City for Mayor: they hit a couple of speed bumps.

You see, ever since the 2006 opening of Bird Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the venerable comedy organization had been riding high, with six smash hits in a row that earned rave reviews and packed the houses with an ever-increasing number of gleeful customers.

But then came last September's Show Us Your Tweets. To begin with, it just wasn't all that funny and – more to the point – it was unfunny in a very old school way, punching out the laugh lines, leaning on the four letter-words and letting reality slide right out the window.

The audiences may not have known why they didn't like it, but they voted with their mouths by not telling their friends. It wound up being the worst-attended show in the past five years and the Second City management team replaced it sooner than they'd planned to.

To stop the bleeding, they turned to actor/director Melody Johnson, who had recently provided the company with its biggest hit in recent years, 0% Down, 100% Screwed.

She took the five existing company members (Rob Baker, Dale Boyer, Adam Cawley, Caitlin Howden and Reid Janisse) and set about finding a replacement for the departing and beloved Darryl Hinds.

Then she came up with a brainwave. Why not bring back Anand Rajaram, who had been a big favourite in three earlier shows and, since then, had become (in)famous as the "Broccoli Miracle Guy."

They plunged into rehearsals and all seemed well.

Not.

Everyone is anxious to speak as diplomatically as possible, but the bottom line is that after five weeks – halfway through the process – Rajaram left the show "by mutual consent" and was replaced by Kris Siddiqi.

It's the first time in recent memory that anyone can recall someone departing a mainstage Second City show in Toronto before it opened.

"For anyone to leave or enter midway through the process is one of the hardest things you can imagine in a collective work like this," Cawley says.

Baker agrees that the change was tough, but valuable. "Sure, it slowed us down a bit and it startled us, but it forced us to readjust and look at what we were doing. That was valuable."

On the other hand, Janisse, a veteran of three previous shows, was a bit more philosophical. "We're improvisers; that's what we do for a living. We're used to getting thrown curveballs all the time."

But what went wrong?

As I said, everyone is anxious to be discreet and keeps discussing how "awesome" Rajaram is as a performer or how they're "willing to work with him again in a minute," but if you listen closely, little things emerge.

"It's a bit like we've had two different shows," muses Boyer, while Baker observes that "Kris brought levity and fun which weren't there before," and Howden notes that "Kris has really been a great morale booster."

At the top, all that the soft-spoken Johnson will say is "it was just about different ways of working," while Rajaram says that "it's complicated to talk about. I guess you'd call it creative differences. Melody and I just come from different perspectives and that's that."

But how did all this impact on the boyish replacement, Siddiqi, flung into the eye of the hurricane?

"I was shocked and overwhelmed," he says with wide-eyed wonder, "but I got an amazing amount of trust and support from everyone."

And as the new kid on the block, he's able to provide an insight into the refreshingly different way Johnson works on a show like this.

"She always begins from a serious point of exploration and I love working in the medium of honesty. It's so much more effective than a goofy joke or a punchline. This way, people still laugh, but they realize the truth underneath."

Boyer shares his opinion: "Melody's emphasis has been on acting and reacting and truthfulness, instead of joke, joke, joke.

"Sure it's tough to play it that way. Sometimes the audiences want a dick joke really bad, but you want to say to them 'If you'll stay with me for just a few seconds longer, you'll get a real, honest surprise and a big laugh, too.' "

It's not just Johnson's modus operandi that's different. She's thrown out the venerable Second City set filled with doors and replaced it with a series of fire escapes and a more open feel.

"Why not have actors use their imagination along with the audience?" she asks. "Let's get ready for something new, try a different way of working, a different way of seeing, a different way of laughing."

Along with the rest of the company, Howden supports her director's vision. "Change is a good thing. You should constantly be taking risks and stretching boundaries. When you stay stagnant, you die."

And it's fortunate that after one slip after six winners in a row, the Second City management had the sense to bring back Johnson to revitalize the form after Tweets, directed by Sandy Jobin-Bevans.

"The great thing about Melody," concludes Cawley, "is that she's been around for a long time and knows what needs to change.

"It's not because the old style wasn't good, but everybody who's been around has seen it."

So they're marching ahead to a decidedly different drummer tackling the issue of how to run the city of Toronto.

"I love this city," enthuses the Vancouver-born Baker. "It's vibrant and beautiful and angry and trying to figure out who it is."

"It's a whole city filled with people trying to find their Barack," observes Johnson.

While this show is going to satirize every element of the process, don't look for a lot of easy topical one-liners. "This show is more about the zeitgeist of Toronto than saying 'Hey, dude, here's a Tiger Woods joke.' " Cawley adds.

Siddiqi sums it up. "Complacency is the villain, whether you're a city or a comedy company."

Let's sincerely hope that Second City For Mayor keeps those smug barbarians away from both sets of gates.

Nothing Off-Limits For Eddie Griffin - Well, Almost Nothing

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

(March 18, 2010) Having spent a lot of time here, filming movies and fathering children, actor-comedian Eddie Griffin finally makes his Toronto stand-up debut this weekend.

The Kansas City, Mo., native promises "the butt-naked, raw truth in a funny way."

The salty star of films such as Undercover Brother, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and the sitcom Malcolm & Eddie chatted with the Star briefly as he checked into the Cincinnati airport for a flight home to Los Angeles after taking care of undefined business.

Though he once lived here, in a Yorkville condo after marrying a Toronto girl (from whom he's now divorced), and claims to know the city "very well," Griffin, 41, said he has no plans to localize material for Saturday's appearance at the second instalment of
Jay Martin's Uptown Comedy Series.

"When I was in London I didn't tailor anything for London, or France, or Amsterdam. People are people no matter where the hell you go. People still want to find relationships, fall in and out of love ... that's what I've noticed as I've travelled around the world. People are just people; the only thing that's different is the form of government that leads them astray."

The entertainer, whose 2007 routine at a Black Enterprise magazine event in Miami was halted after his repeated use of the N-word, said he hasn't found religion on that term, or any other subject.

"If there are things that are off limits, why would you do stand-up?"

It was a different case with this interview: he wouldn't discuss anything personal, specifically how often he comes here to see his Toronto offspring – "a lot, baby, a lot; now you're trying to dip into my private life with my children and that will not be allowed, because they did not ask to be famous."

Never mind that some of his eight kids were featured in the VH1 reality show Eddie Griffin: Going for Broke, which aired stateside last fall.

The performer, who will be shooting Undercover Brother 2 here this summer, offered a glimpse of this weekend's routine.

"Of course, I have to deal with the first African American president. I got about 30 minutes on that dude. As he was getting elected, he was very much the African American that was out to make change. I'm still waiting on some kind of change: quarters, dimes, nickels, you know, change. He has plenty of change for Wall Street. Can Main Street get some change?"

There's a bit on his "very close friend" Michael Jackson, whose memorial service he attended. Tiger Woods gets some time as well.

"I'm not poking fun," explained Griffin, who was sued for child support in 2002 by a Toronto waitress who claimed he fathered her son after they met in a nightclub while he was in town filming the Denzel Washington movie John Q. He has said on his reality show that he has "two ex-wives and four baby mamas."

"I'm quite defending the man ... Of course, it's fair for me to defend him; as you just so eloquently put it, I'm in the same predicament."

Just the facts
WHO: Jay Martin's Uptown Comedy Series with Eddie Griffin, Kenny Robinson, Chris Robinson and surprise musical guest

WHERE: Toronto Centre for the Arts, 5040 Yonge St.

WHEN: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

TICKETS: $30.50 to $50.50 at

Ticketmaster

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Yakuza 3: Finally, A Game With A Little Character

Source: www.thestar.com - Darren Zenko

Yakuza 3
(out of 4)
PlayStation 3
$59.99
Rated M

(March 20, 2010) Young toughs, powerful bosses, bad men seeking redemption, traumatized children, lost women, nosy neighbours, wry cops ...
Yakuza 3 is full of characters and their relationships to each other, their culture and their physical place. It's a gangster story, yes, but if you're looking for Grand Theft Auto in Japanese drag, you won't find it here. Yakuza 3 is deeper, weirder and somehow gentler than any hard-man power fantasy cloned out of the GTA mould.

The saga of Kazuma Kiryu, fourth chairman of the Yakuza Tojo Clan, continues. Now retired, he's traded in his designer suits for Hawaiian shirts and cotton slacks and relocated to the sunny island of Okinawa, where he spends his days running an orphanage set on a pristine bit of beachfront property. We all know, though, that it's only a matter of time before mobsters are pulled back into "the life." When developers of a multi-billion-yen resort development, whose interested parties involve every branch of the military-political-criminal complex, threatens Kazuma's haven our hero finds himself drawn back into the shadowy world of limousine deals, back-alley bludgeonings and ... blogging?

Yes, blogging! And golf, video games, fishing and dating. It takes more-than-intense midnight meetings and swordfights to make up the life of the well-rounded Yakuza, you know. Few games are this loaded with stuff to do. Aside from the random street fights – the alleyways of Tokyo and Okinawa are as dangerous as any role-playing game's fantasy forests, with mobsters instead of monsters – Yakuza 3 offers so many optional missions, side-quests, collectibles and mini-games (some so polished they could almost be stand-alone titles) that the central storyline sometimes comes close to being eclipsed by other pleasures.

But it never quite disappears. Even amidst the glorious clutter and clamour of the intricately detailed world and all its distractions, Yakuza 3's story keeps drawing you back into it, powerfully characterized and as page-turning as any thriller. Sure, a lot of this power comes from flat-out melodrama – I mean, the villains are foreclosing on the orphanage? But the strong script and its culture-bound network of conflicting relationships elevates it from melodrama to opera.

It helps that Kazuma's story isn't a thug story. He's a Hard Man but not a Bad Guy, at least not anymore; he doesn't start fights, but he's happy to end them decisively. All he wants is peace and security, for himself and for the children (and adults) who depend on him, and sometimes peace can only be achieved at the end of a wicked-awesome gutpunch/roundhouse combo capped off with a finishing move involving office furniture.

Really, though, the thing I love most about Yakuza 3 is its look. That's going to seem a strange stance to some, because Yakuza 3 looks really dated, almost last-gen. There's little to none of the ultra-fine-grained 1080p fidelity here, no astounding fog effects generated in real-time by fractal equations developed by NASA. The look can only be described as Classic Sega: bright, clean surfaces; vibrant, saturated colours from the true-blue of the sky to the reds on the sale banners in the shopping district. It's a Shenmue look and it's so perfect – and so perfectly Japanese – that it's impossible to imagine Yakuza 3 being improved by the application of the layer of grit that coats more "realistic" games. 

Spring On-The-Go Games For Iphone And Ipod

Source: www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman

(March 19, 2010) Spring has sprung, which means it's time for Canadians to get out and stay out – and, of course, bring along their favourite smartphone packed with music, video, apps and games.

According to Nielsen, that would be the
iPhone, and so the following is a look at five games you should snag from Apple's App Store (part of iTunes). These games also work with the iPod touch.

Plants vs. Zombies (PopCap Games; $2.99)

The insanely additive "tower defence"-style strategy game for personal computers has gone pocket-sized. Protect your home from hoards of the undead by planting the right foliage for the job. Complete the lengthy adventure mode to unlock mini-games, individual levels and a catchy music video. See if you can complete all the achievements, such as collecting all 49 plants or discovering the Yeti zombie.

Where's Waldo? The Fantastic Journey (Ludia; $0.99)

Going on a family road trip? Want to prevent the incessant "Are we there yet?" from the back seat? Hand your children the iPhone to play Where's Waldo?, a fun "hidden-object" game based on the beloved book series by British illustrator Martin Handford. Travel to 12 parts of the globe to find Waldo (and other characters and objects) well-hidden in the busy and colourful scenes.

Final Fantasy (Square Enix; $8.99)

To commemorate the 20{+t}{+h} anniversary of the beloved fantasy role-playing game (RPG), Square Enix has relaunched Final Fantasy (and Final Fantasy II) for iPhone and iPod touch, with better graphics, bonus dungeons and a revamped interface to take advantage of the portable systems' touch screens. Explore vast kingdoms, battle fantastic foes and unravel an epic story. Whether you're a longtime fan or new to the series, this 72MB download won't disappoint.

Tap Tap Revenge 3 (Tapulous; free)

Music lovers, listen up. The latest in the popular rhythm game series that challenges players to tap on the correct circles in time with music (think Guitar Hero), features more than 130 downloadable songs (Lady Gaga, Fall Out Boy and Coldplay), many modes, including online multiplayer matches, integrated chat support and numerous weapons and power-ups. A new feature lets you create your own in-game persona from hundreds of avatar items.

Stinger Table Hockey (Stinger Games; $1.99)

If you're one of the millions of Canadians who grew up playing table hockey – a.k.a. "dome" or "bubble" hockey – then this iPhone game will strike a nostalgic chord. Use your fingertips to move these stick skaters around the ice and flick to shoot the puck. Choose your teams (or create your own) before challenging the game's artificial intelligence (A.I.) or play against a friend wirelessly via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

::OTHER NEWS::

Essence Veteran Mikki Taylor to Retire

Source: www.eurweb.com

(March 18, 2010) Essence magazine is announcing the retirement of its longtime Beauty & Cover Director, Mikki Taylor.

As of March 31, Taylor will contribute to Essence as Editor-at-Large and work closely with Essence Creative Director Greg Monfries on cover concepts and photo sessions, as well as marketing events and special celebrity projects with Essence Communications, Inc, the magazine announced Wednesday.

In addition, she will focus on expanding her existing entrepreneurial ventures. Mikki Taylor Enterprises, LLC, will serve as a holding company for a number of vertical businesses, including Satin Doll Productions, a full-service image building and consulting division, and MT Communications, a strategic communications and branding corporation.

Taylor will also bring her expertise to the broader field of media entertainment in this new capacity as well.

“I am thrilled to continue to serve women of color in my new role as Editor-at- Large, with innovative platforms that showcase our beauty,” says Taylor. “Without a doubt, this is the most exciting period in the history of black women ever and I look forward to this new threshold in my career that will allow me to inspire and be inspired by women around the world.”

Taylor just celebrated her 30-year anniversary with Essence on Feb. 5. Soon after joining the staff in 1980, she became the magazine’s beauty editor. She then conceived and pitched the additional role of Cover Director, which was a groundbreaking position in the industry, and became Beauty and Cover Editor in 1986.

Essence notes:

Taylor eventually led the transition from covers featuring models to covers featuring celebrities and has worked with every African-American personality of note over the past three decades.

Throughout her extensive career with the magazine, she helped to positively impact and transform the mind-set of black women from all walks of life, including celebrities, political figures, models, mothers, students and the like. Taylor’s insightful touch helped black women to embrace their unique beauty and see themselves in ways they never imagined. Her influence on the beauty industry continues to be profound; she has provided valuable guidance to manufacturers not only on the needs and desires of Black women but also on what inspires them: Black women don’t simply shop for products — they shop for experiences they want to know.

“Mikki is truly an icon at Essence, and we celebrate her accomplishments and thank her for her tremendous contributions,” says Editor-in-Chief Angela Burt-Murray. “As an editor and personality in her own right, she has successfully expanded the boundaries of storytelling to honour the unique beauty of African-American women, and shared her knowledge in order to be of service and inspiration.”

::SPORTS NEWS::

Lauren Woolstencroft Chosen To Be Flag Bearer At Closing Ceremonies

Source: www.thestar.com - Jim Morris, The Canadian Press

(March 21, 2010) WHISTLER, B.C.—When Lauren Woolstencroft was a child she used to come home from school, then disappear into the basement.

The little girl who was born with no legs below the knee and no left arm was teaching herself how to skip.

“She was so determined even at that age to learn how to skip,” remembers her mother Dorothy. “She went down in the basement and she practised and practised until she could do it. She didn’t say anything to anybody.

“She started that determination early.”

That drive and perseverance Woolstencroft showed as a child helped push her to win five alpine gold medals at the Winter Paralympics. It also resulted in her being named Canada’s flag bearer for the Paralympic closing ceremonies Sunday.

“It’s a huge compliment,” said Woolstencroft, 28, of North Vancouver, B.C. “The group of athletes I’m among it’s just an awesome group.

“I’m super-humbled to be around them. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hold that flag. It’s pretty awesome.”

Jean Labonte, captain of the sledge hockey team, was the flag bearer at the opening ceremony.

Colette Bourgonje of Saskatoon was Canada’s flag bearer at closing of the 2006 Paralympics in Turin.

Other candidates for flag-bearer were visually-impaired skier Viviane Forest of Edmonton, who won five medals (one gold, three silvers, one bronze) and Brian McKeever of Canmore, Alta., who won three gold in cross-country skiing for the visually impaired.

Woolstencroft is a slender woman with an easy smile and stoic personality. She skis with prosthetic legs and arm.

During the week she just didn’t win her races, she crushed the competition. She won Saturday’s super-combined race by nearly 12 seconds. Her margin in the Friday’s super-giant slalom was seven seconds.

“I knew I had the potential, but to do it is something else,” said Woolstencroft, who also won the slalom, giant slalom and downhill in the standing category. “Ski racing, you can catch an edge at any moment.

“Just to be consistent like that in five races, it’s huge. It means a lot.”

Woolstencroft’s five gold are the most by any Canadian at a single Winter Paralympics. She is now tied with wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc and swimmer Stephanie Dixon for most gold medals at a single Paralympics.

She led a Canadian team that won 10 gold medals, the country’s best at any Winter Paralympics. The previous high was the six won at the 2002 Salt Lake Paralympics.

The country’s overall medal count of 19 (10 gold, five silver and four bronze) also tops any Winter Paralympic haul. Canada won 15 medals at a Paralympics twice, in 2002 and 1998 in Nagano.

When Woolstencroft skis she is calculating and precise. Even when pushing the envelope at speeds of close to 100 kilometres an hour, she looks totally in control.

Off the slopes, Woolstencroft works as an electrical engineer for B.C. Hydro. She actually helped design some of the overlays for the Olympic venues.

“I was a math-science person growing up,” said Woolstencroft. “I’ve always skied and engineering is what I fell into.

“The two do have similarities.”

A fierce competitor, Woolstencroft isn’t a very demonstrative person. An arm pump and a wave to the crowd was the most emotion she showed after her victories.

“I’m not a really showy person in general,” she shrugged. “Sometimes I should probably show my excitement more.”

Dorothy Woolstencroft said her daughter’s independent streak bordered on being hard-headed at times.

“I think she was four when she said to her father ‘you’re not the boss of me,’” Dorothy said.

Lauren Woolstencroft calls herself a “super-determined, stubborn person.”

Being born with a disability was a double-edge sword for Woolstencroft. She learned to over come challenges early and adapt to a world that wasn’t always designed for people with disabilities.

“I felt I was lucky to be born with a disability versus getting a disability later in life,” she said. “I learned to ski on prosthetic legs. I never had any other option.

“I’d rather not have a disability (but) I’m glad I didn’t have to adapt to anything. It was how I learned and who I am.”

She accepts being a role model for other people dealing with disabilities.

“I got into sport because I love ski racing,” Woolstencroft said. “It’s part of the parcel.

“I love the Paralympics. I think it’s great for people with disability to get involved in sports. If I can be an example, then it’s awesome.”

Woolstencroft then paused, and smiled.

“All those late nights skipping taught me well.”

Canada’s Jennifer Jones Wins Eighth Straight At World Curling Championships

Source: www.thestar.com - Donna Spencer

(March 24, 2010)  SWIFT CURRENT, SASK.—There have been few blemishes on Canada’s game so far at the women’s world curling championship.

The
Jennifer Jones team from Winnipeg won eight games in a row to open the tournament with consistent shotmaking throughout the lineup.

The only blips were a terrible first four ends of their opening game against Sweden and a shaky first five ends against China, but the St. Vital Curling Club foursome recovered in time to win both games.

Canada made short work of Japan’s Moe Meguro on Wednesday with a 10-2 victory.

“Whenever anybody misses, the next person is coming up with a big shot,” explained Jones. “We’re picking up for each other and we’re really playing as a team, as a unit, and that’s fun to be a part of.

“Win or lose, this week will be remembered as how well we played as a team.”

Jones had the only unbeaten rink in the 12-team field at 8-0. Canada secured at least a tiebreaker berth with the win over Japan and aimed to clinch a playoff spot against Germany’s Andrea Schopp (4-3) in the afternoon draw.

The top four teams at the conclusion of the round robin Thursday advance to the playoff round. Any ties for fourth would be solved by tiebreaker games.

“Exciting for us,” said Jones. “Usually we’re scrambling around the last day of the round robin having to win.”

Scotland’s Eve Muirhead was 6-1. Erika Brown of the U.S. was 6-2 followed by Sweden’s Cecilia Ostlund at 5-3 and Russia’s Anna Sidorova at 4-4.

Denmark’s Angelina Jensen and defending champion Wang Bingyu of China were 3-4. Norway’s Linn Githmark was 3-5, Switzerland’s Binia Feltscher dropped to 2-6 and Latvia’s Iveta Stasa-Starsune and Japan were 1-7.

Canada wraps up the round robin Thursday against Russia and Scotland. Only two teams have gone undefeated in the round robin in the history of the women’s world championship: Canada’s Colleen Jones in 2003 and Sweden’s Anette Norberg in 2005. No team has ever gone through both the round robin and playoffs unbeaten.

“If we’re going to lose a game, hopefully we lose it in the round robin,” Jones said. “I’m not big into the stats and I don’t think that really matters if we got through the round robin undefeated.”

After eight games, third Cathy Overton-Clapham, second Jill Officer and lead Dawn Askin led the field in shooting percentages at their positions. Jones was second behind Muirhead at skip and Canada boasted the best team percentage at 87 per cent.

The combination of competing in a world championship at home, plus not experiencing the wear and tear of the Olympics, are factors in Canada’s performance in Swift Current.

Half the teams in the field went through the rigours of the Olympic tournament in Vancouver last month. Japan and China in particular are showing post-Games burnout. Some teams flew to their home countries after the Olympics before returning to Canada for the world championships.

“We feel great with the ice this week,” Jones said. “It’s been pretty consistent, but even when it’s not we’re picking up on it really fast. Hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”

In the Page playoff, the top two seeds meet with the winner advancing straight to Sunday’s final. The loser drops to Saturday’s semi-final to meet the winner of the playoff game between the third and fourth seeds.

Teams aim to finish first or second in the preliminary round because they get a second chance to make the final if they lose the first playoff game, while the loser of the three-four game can do no better than bronze.

Jones has played in the three-four game in her three previous appearances at the world championship. She lost and finished off the podium both in 2005 in Paisley, Scotland, and also last year in Gangneung, South Korea.

When she and her teammates captured their first world title together in Vernon, B.C., in 2008, they won that three-four playoff game, won the semi-final and then the final over Wang.

Chan Second After Short Program At Figure Skating Championships

Source: www.thestar.com - Rosie DiManno

(March 24, 2010) TURIN – An assured and stress-free Patrick Chan has got his groove back.

The Toronto teenager, seasoned by the experience of a debut Olympics, was in fine form here on Wednesday, savouring his final performance of a felicitous short program that will now be relegated to history.

Tango de los Exilados has been good to Chan through two competitive seasons and, last time on display, it rewarded him handsomely again – second place at the world figure skating championships, trailing interim leader Daisuke Takahashi of Japan by 1.5 points.

Veteran Brian Joubert, of France, is thick in the medal mix, just one/tenth of a point behind Chan.

That sets up a mano-a-mano free skate final on Thursday.

“For the last short program, it’s definitely a good one to end on,” said Chan, 19. “I think Vancouver just helps you on all levels of confidence and elements and everything. It was finally good to be at worlds and really enjoy it instead of being so nervous about everything that surrounds it.”

In Vancouver, Chan was a disappointing seventh after the short, bobbling on his triple Axel, stumbling on his forte step sequence and even drawing a one-point deduction for finishing after his music had concluded.

But that’s all so five weeks ago.

A clean, solid and buoyant short is what Chan un-spooled at worlds, the Axel huge and steady underfoot, the triple flip-triple toe combination as good as Takahashi’s – and he’s the Olympics bronze medalist – the footwork typically polished and blade-flashing quick. It all drew a season-best score of 87.80.

“It all went by really fast. So I think that’s a good sign.’’

A year ago in Los Angeles, Chan claimed world silver behind American Evan Lysacek, the Games gold medalist who opted not to defend his title in Turin. This experience reminded Chan of L.A., where he really staked his claim to elite male figure skater status.

“I kind of got into that zone and into that flow of just enjoying myself and being in the moment, taking each element one at a time and taking my time doing each one.’’

This performance, Chan said, is what he’d hoped to lay down in Vancouver. But his training arc was just a bit off, following an early season calf injury that cost him a Grand Prix assignment.

“If I had one more month it would be great, and have one more competition under me before I went out,’’ said Chan, regretfully, of the Games timing. “But then again, it’s so different. When I look back…even a world championship wouldn’t have really helped much in preparing myself for the Olympics.’’

Though leading overall, Takahashi was not entirely pleased with his skate, which he said was inferior to the Olympic rendition.

“I know that I can do better.’’

Joubert, devastated by his missteps in Vancouver – and he’s to be given credit for sucking up that disastrous 16th place free skate by coming to worlds, while one-two medalists Lysacek and Russian Evgeni Plushenko have not – was over the moon with his performance here. It included a fine quad toe/ triple toe combination and the audience roared its approval.

“I went out to attack the program,” said Joubert. “After the Olympic Games I realized that I have to change, that I need to be the way I was before. It worked, but I am still not as confident as I used to be.”

And, naturally, Joubert took another shot at the non-quad squad, including the two men ahead of him on the scoreboard.

“The others skated well but they don’t take the risk (of doing the quad), which is a shame.

In fact, in the short program effort, there were four quads completed by the men, of varying quality. One came from Canada’s second male entry, Kevin Reynolds. The 19-year-old from Coquiltam, B.C., only received an invitation to worlds three weeks ago, with the announcement that Canadian silver medalist Vaughn Chipeur had suffered an injury and couldn’t participate.

“It was exciting being out there on the ice for the first time at the world championships. I felt the energy of the audience. It really helped with the performance.’’

The teenager opened with a gorgeous quad salchow-triple toe combination. Then, alas, he popped the triple Axel.

“It was a good start to the program but I got a little bit tense on the axel. It wasn’t the take-off that I needed to complete the revolution so it was a bit of a disappointment.”

He’s sitting a respectable 14th.

The shy Reynolds becomes animated when discussing his jumps. That’s what attracted him to the sport and he landed his first quad at age 15. Now he boasts both the quad salchow and quad toe and is working on a quad loop, which has never been landed in competition. He’s landed a few, cleanly, during practice in recent weeks.

“Yeah, I got both quads before I got the triple Axel. When I was younger, the Axel was not my favourite jump. But now I’m coming to terms with it.”