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LE NEWSLETTER

June 23, 2011

 

Now THIS is the weather that I'm talking about! Welcome to summer!

The MMVAs hit high-reaching numbers of viewership this year, and all in all,
 a good show.  One of Toronto's adopted daughters, Tré Armstrongis holding a special dance class on July 10th. Pride weekendis coming up with the parade happening on Sunday, July 3rd, despite the non-attendance of Mayor Ford.  LawrenceHill defends the burning of his books in Holland and unfortunately, we lost a music magic man, Clarence Clemons of Springsteen's E Street Band.  Check out all the scoop under TOP STORIES.

TONS of both MUSIC NEWS and SPORTS NEWS, for all those sports fans out there. 

One more time - Don't forget to MARK YOUR CALENDARS and get your tickets
now for Truth & Soul: A Gospel EventCheck out the TV spot advertising the upcoming gospel extravaganzahappening on July 23rd featuring Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Mary Mary and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.  Click on the picture here for full details.

 
Remember to look for VIDEO or AUDIO in the titles of articles for some visual and sound to perk up your reading pleasure!

 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!


::TOP STORIES::

MuchMusic Video Awards: Bieber and Gaga Stir Up The Crowd

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Allison Cross

(Jun 19, 2011) And the crowd went Gaga.

The ineffable Lady, dressed in a robin’s-egg blue wig and a black leather-studded body suit, opened the 2011
MuchMusic Video Awards with a performance of “The Edge of Glory” that drew prolonged screams of appreciation from the thousands massed along Queen St. W. outside of MuchMusic headquarters.

Attendees had been gathering since Friday for a chance to get close-up views of their favourite music idols on the red carpet or onstage.

Selena Gomez, who’s dating Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber, did double duty as co-host and performer, 10 days after being rushed to a Los Angeles hospital for treatment of nausea and fatigue.

“You guys may not know this, but I love everything about Canada,” Gomez told the cheering crowd, citing hockey and Saskatchewan as among her favourite Canadian things.

Bieber shocked his shrieking fans with an unscheduled appearance at the awards.

He claimed the first trophy handed out on the show: his “Somebody to Love,” featuring Usher, tied for best International Video of the Year by a Canadian with Drake’s “Find Your Love.”

Onstage with his girlfriend, Bieber joked that he was meeting Gomez for the first time. “You’re very beautiful. Maybe we could go out sometime?” he quipped.

“Somebody to Love” also claimed the fan-voted “Ur Fave” New Artist prize.

Lady Gaga also claimed two prizes: International Video of the Year, Artist for “Judas” and Ur Fave International Video for “Born This Way.”

The only other double winner was English singer Taio Cruz, who claimed MuchMusic.Com Most Streamed Video and Most Watched Video for “Dynamite.”

The Video of the Year trophy went to R&B singer Shawn Desman for “Electric/Night Like This.” Fefe Dobson took the Ur Fave Video award for “Stuttering.”

Other performers included Canadian pop/rock star Avril Lavigne, rapper Snoop Dogg (who was also a presenter), Bruno Mars, City and Colour, the Black Keys, Down With Webster, Simple Plan, Far East Movement and Fefe Dobson.

Nominees Marianas Trench, from Vancouver, made a dramatic entrance on the red carpet in two giant clear plastic ball. The stunt earned them a roar of cheers from the crowd.

“We wouldn’t miss this party for anything,” said lead guitarist Matt Webb. “We are so happy to be here.”

The foursome from Simple Plan arrived wearing tight, tiny white shorts and T-shirts, and carrying copies of their brand new record Get Your Heart On!

Tasha Schumann, one half of Toronto’s Candy Coated Killahz, said she was thrilled to celebrate in her own city.

“This is our first red carpet. We have our first MMVA nod,” she said.

U.S. actress Nikki Reed, from the Twilight movies, stopped to take photos with shaking fans hanging over the edge of the barriers surrounding the red carpet.

Irish actor Colin Farrell, in town filming the remake of Total Recall, joined the list of presenters, which included Johnny Galecki of The Big Bang Theory, one of Canada’s top-rated shows; French house music producer/DJ David Guetta; DeGrassi: Next Generation star Munro Chambers; 90210 star Trevor Donovan; Vampire Diaries stars Kat Graham, Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder; singer/dancer Cassie Scerbo; Lebanese-Canadian singer/songwriter Karl Wolf; Canadian pop/rock band The Midway State and L.A. rock trio Foster the People, as well as MMVA nominees, Edmonton singer Alyssa Reid, GTA singer/songwriter Danny Fernandes and Toronto rock band Everest.

Galecki, who said he hoped to bowl with Snoop Dogg after the show, said he loves the attention he gets from fans for his top-rated TV comedy and was stunned by the chaos that greeted his arrival.

“There’s something about these characters, there’s a vulnerability there. People just want to be sweet to us,” Galecki told a news conference.

Other MMVA winners:

 • International Video of the Year, Group: Far East Movement featuring The Cataracs & Dev, “Like a G6”

 • Pop video of the Year: Down with Webster, “Whoa is Me”

 • MuchLOUD Rock Video of the Year: Abandon All Ships, “Geeving

 • MuchVIBE Hip-Hop Video of the Year: Classified, “That Ain't Classy”

 • Director of the Year: You Say Party, “Lonely's Lunch”

 • Post-Production of the Year: Danny Fernandes, featuring Belly, “Automatic”

 • Cinematography of the Year: Blake McGrath, “Relax”

 • MuchFACT Indie Video of the Year: JDiggz, featuring Neverending White Lights, “This Time”

With files from Bruce DeMara and The Canadian Press

Tré Armstrong Shares The Love Of Dance

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Jun 19, 2011) On So You Think You Can Dance Canada, which kicks
off its fourth season Monday, judge/choreographer Tré Armstrong is the “queen of urban dance.” But if she had followed her original dream, she’d be dancing with the National Ballet.

“I grew up as a young ‘black-erina,’” she reveals. “Ballet is the one genre I loved and I studied it for 12 years; that was what I wanted to be, the first black-erina from Canada’s National Ballet School”.

But that all abruptly ended at age 17. “My teacher came to me and said, ‘Look at all the other girls. They’re all white. You’ll never be that.’

“I was only 17 and I quit. I quit. I did it for 12 years and she killed it. Just like that. . . . I said, ‘I’m never going to look back,’ and I’m sad that I didn’t, but it was also that day that I realized, ‘I’m never going to allow anyone to hold me back ever again from something I want.’”

Or to hold anyone else back, if she can help it, which was the motivation for the non-profit Tré Armstrong Give Back Foundation, dedicated to bringing dance to youth who might not otherwise ever get the opportunity.

“When I got older I realized that I could make it accessible,” she says, “that I could encourage and empower anyone, in whatever dance style they wanted, no matter what colour, creed, race or nationality.”

The foundation was born in 2007, out of Armstrong’s New DAEI company, as in New Dance Academy for the Entertainment Industry. “I came up with this idea, ‘Why can we not just have professionals teaching people that want to learn for free? Why is it always about money?’

“I started off in one studio, 30 kids, three classes . . . now we’re at the National Ballet School, two floors, six studios, over 400 kids in more than 25 classes. All free.”

Yes, that National Ballet School, in the very building where Armstrong’s ballet dreams were dashed all those years ago. “I chose that place on purpose,” she smiles.

And that discouraging teacher, she says, is still there. Yet she has resisted the temptation to throw it back in her face. “You know what my mother always taught me? ‘Eat your humble pie; you’ll get fatter a lot quicker.’”

In retrospect, I am not entirely sure what that means. But the end result is evident, and will be even more so on
Sunday, July 10, when Armstrong throws open the classroom doors for a daylong free event to promote the program, assisted by several of SYTYCDC’s most accomplished past competitors.

Meanwhile, a whole new batch of fourth-season contenders is about to take the stage. Of the thousands who auditioned in the annual cross-country talent search, 160 will move on to Finals Week, Monday, July 4, to be whittled down to a Top 20, revealed on air the following night. The first live performance show is on Monday, July 11.

Though only airing now, the audition phase of the competition actually took place months ago, shortly after the third season wrapped.

“From September, October, we’re pulling back . . . we had maybe two weeks to rest. Then suddenly it’s November, and, like a shot, we’re flung back in.”

So what can we expect from the dancers this season? Did any of the audition cities particularly stand out?

“Oh God, it was so long ago,” Armstrong admits, “I all feels like one nation.

“Toronto actually had a lot of good people. A lot of surprising people. Montreal was still unique, but I feel I want to see more of that Montreal uniqueness come out. They need to talk to Nico (Archambault, the first-season winner) and say, ‘Nico, what did you do? What did you do to get there?’”

And in fact, this season’s fresh crop of dancers — “mostly newbies,” says Armstrong, “18 or 19” — have been paying very close attention.

“These kids have watched us since they were 14 or 15 years old, so they get it. They’re smart. They’re saying ‘Okay, I know I have a talent; I don’t know where the hell I’m going to take it, but for some reason, this show seems to be the way to go.’

“And then it’s our duties as judges . . . we have to look at these people and see beyond the clothes, see beyond the hair, see beyond the dance style and say, ‘You could be destined to be in theatre and on Broadway, but you don’t see it yet, so let me develop your acting skills as a dancer.’

“That is what the show is about. If dancers don’t grow, you don’t make it to Top 20. If you don’t excel as you grow, you don’t make it to Top 10. And if you don’t want to be a passionate professional and a success, you will definitely not be in the Top Four.”

Better to learn now, she says. Pursuing a career in dance is not for the easily discouraged.

“The dance world is a very fickle industry at times,” Armstrong warns. “Once you get into the professional world, it’s much, much worse than what we do. It’s very judgmental and you don’t have to do anything; you can just walk into the room and get cut.”

Dutch Group Threatens To Burn ‘Book Of Negroes’

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun 20, 2011) A Dutch group that purports to represent victims of
slavery plans to burn The Book of Negroes, an acclaimed novel by Canadian Lawrence Hill, because it finds the title offensive.

“We, descendants of enslaved in the former Dutch colony Suriname, want to let you know that we do not accept a book with the title The Book of Negroes,” said Roy Groenberg, head of a group called Foundation, Honour and Reparations Victims of Slavery in Surinam, said in a letter to Hill.

Groenberg said the book burning would take place on June 22 unless the title of the novel, which was recently published in the Netherlands, is changed.

The Book of Negroes is the title of an actual historical document which documents the migration of 3,000 African slaves who supported the British cause in the American Revolution and were allowed to go from New York to Nova Scotia. Many of them later returned to Africa.

“The title is not intended to be offensive, but. . . to shed light on a forgotten document and on a forgotten migration, that of thousands of blacks from the USA to Canada in 1783,” Hill wrote Groenberg in reply.

It’s not the first time the award-winning book’s title has raised controversy. Publishers in the United States and Australia insisted the title be changed to Someone Knows My Name and in Quebec, the book is titled Aminata, the name of a female slave who returned to Sierra Leone after being abducted as an 11-year-old.

The ‘Big Man’ Clarence Clemons Dies at 69

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(Jun 18, 2011) *Unfortunately we have sad news about saxophonist
Clarence Clemons of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. The “Big Man” died today (06-18-11) from complications from a stroke that he suffered at his home in Florida on June 12.

Even though after two brain surgeries last week when he was reported to be “responsive and in stable condition,” his condition unfortunately declined and he passed away Saturday afternoon.

Clemons, who was 69, is survived by his wife, Victoria, and four sons.

In support of his friend and bandmate for the last 40 years, Springsteen posted the message below online:

“By now, many of you have heard that our beloved comrade and sax player Clarence Clemons has suffered a serious stroke. While all initial signs are encouraging, Clarence will need much care and support to achieve his potential once again… This is a time for us all to share in a hopeful spirit that can ultimately inspire Clarence to greater heights.”

Read more about the life of Clarence Clemons at his Wikipedia page.

Pride 2011: Pride Aims To Be More Inclusive

Source: www.thestar.com - By Paul Irish

(Jun 22, 2011) Although Toronto’s Pride Week festival has been downsized this year, participants are being encouraged to Dream Big.

“It means a lot of things on a lot of levels,” says TK, arts and culture manager for Pride Toronto. “(The theme) reflects the size of our community — it’s big — but it also reminds people of the amount of energy and commitment needed to achieve the goals ahead of us — we still have a lot of hurdles.”

It was 30 years ago (February 1981) that Toronto police raided four gay bathhouses, arrested 300 men and sparked community protests for the rest of that winter. TK says it’s a good time to “remember where we came from and look ahead to where we’re going.”

During three months of research and consultations after last year’s event, Pride organizers discovered some segments of the queer community felt left out, especially new immigrants.

As a result, TK says this year’s festival will be more diverse, with a wider variety of entertainers and events in languages such as Farsi, French and Spanish.

Pride has also created a spirituality room in the 519 Church St. centre — a non-denominational space that will give festival participants a quiet place for reflection and prayer.

There will be a larger Trans Pride event on Friday, July 1, following the third-annual Trans March. Called GendeRevolution, it will feature a series of speakers, poets and entertainers, including The Clicks and Kate Bornstein.

Free Zone, a drug- and alcohol-free space in the Paul Kane Parkette, will now operate on both days of the Pride weekend, with a DJ, live performances and holistic services.

Family Pride returns both days on the grounds of the Church Street public school, featuring entertainment, arts and crafts, inflatables and water toys.

The Dyke March takes place Saturday, July 2 at 2 p.m. and the main Pride Parade is on Sunday, July 3 at 2 p.m., both starting at Church and Bloor Sts. and heading down Yonge St.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Toronto Jazz Festival: Walking Memory Lane With A Beat

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Jun 21, 2011) It has weathered an indifferent mayor and drug-addled musicians, not to mention five name changes, a garbage strike, SARS and G20-reduced audiences, but Friday, as it has for the last 25 summers, a
jazz festival will take over Toronto’s city centre.

The free Aretha Franklin show that kicks off the TD Toronto Jazz Festival at David Pecaut Square (formerly Metro Square) that night is expected to attract 15,000 people and shut down the King-John Sts. intersection.

That site, behind Roy Thomson Hall, brings the event back to the home of its initial outdoor concerts in 1987, after a decade at Nathan Phillips Square. The festival has blossomed into a $3.5 million behemoth that attracts more than 500,000 music lovers for a 10-day run of 350 concerts at 40 locations.

The Star asked main players for their memories of the event, which began as du Maurier Downtown Jazz, produced by Roy Thomson Hall with funds from the tobacco company.

With senior Roy Thomson Hall programmer Pat Taylor and saxophonist Jim Galloway at the helm, the inaugural festival was an eight-day affair with a $400,000 budget and 87 acts at 14 venues.

The lineup — top ticket $30.50 — included Stan Getz, the Count Basie Orchestra and Nancy Wilson, Tony Bennett and an intriguing Miles Davis-Roberta Flack double bill. A Star reviewer noted patrons walking out of the Davis set, exasperated by his electronic experimentation; but that wasn’t the only drama.

Pat Taylor: “It was such a popular show we did it twice in the same night. The formula was: Roberta could open the first show and Miles would close it, then Miles would open the second show and Roberta would close. Well, we couldn’t get Miles off the stage. She didn’t go on until 1 in the morning for her second show. The audience was screaming and she was refusing to go on. I opened her dressing room door and said ‘Listen, they’re all there. You want me to tell them that you’re not going to go on?’ So she went out, but she was not happy. I don’t blame her.

“That was quite a night. Miles was high. There was cocaine on the keyboard on the stage. It was a well received show. He played great. If he didn’t, the band carried him. It’s the entertainment business. We won’t use names, but years later we had one musician that locked himself in the (portable toilet), because he was so f----- up on heroin. We couldn’t get him out for the show. It took a patron to plead with him.”

In 1987, there was also a mishap with the Glenn Gould piano that organizers borrowed from Roy Thomson Hall for the Café des Copains stage.

Jim Galloway (artistic director, 1987-2009): “The first night it was there, Don Pullen was playing. He broke two strings and at the end of the evening the keyboard was covered with blood.... I drove him to his hotel that night and he was as nice as ninepins, but the piano was a piece of s--- and we never got it again.”

As the event expanded to 11 days, organizers continued to showcase American jazz vets, such as Joe Williams, Gerry Mulligan and Cab Calloway, as well as Canadian musicians like Jane Bunnett and the late Rob McConnell, who rank as the festival’s most frequent guests. Star critic Craig MacInnis called the offerings “a mainly mainstream roster light on experimentation and heavy on traditionalism.”

Galloway: “My philosophy was to make it as broad as possible, from the early styles of jazz right up to avant garde. And free shows were always part of the mentality: introducing jazz to audiences that might not be sure if this is what they want to hear.”

Greg Vandal, volunteer and staffer, 1987-2006: “One of my favourite shows was Dizzy Gillespie in 1988. He was up in age then and he stood up the whole concert. When he wasn’t playing, he was watching the other musicians and bopping along.”

In 1991, Taylor and Galloway purchased the festival and established themselves as the Downtown Jazz Society. Du Maurier pledged to continue providing full sponsorship as they sought out other sponsors.

Fay Olson, former executive director, du Maurier Council for Arts: “The first four years of the festival, du Maurier owned it and I was the festival administrator. Pat was still straddling two chairs; I always wanted him to get right out of Roy Thomson Hall and devote his full time to the festival, but that didn’t happen for awhile. We didn’t want to own a jazz festival, we just wanted to sponsor it. Du Maurier sold the festival to Pat and Jim for a dollar. By then it was successful and another concert production company wanted to buy the festival, but I said to Imperial, ‘Why wouldn’t you give Pat and Jim a chance at this?’ They have continued to live by our aims: affordable quality with a big free component.”

At the end of the decade, the festival faced its biggest crisis when du Maurier dropped financial support — more than half the event’s then $1.7 million budget — ahead of antismoking legislation that prohibited tobacco advertising and promotion. Unable to secure funding for an event that brought about $20 million in business to the city, organizers called off the 2000 edition.

Taylor: “Jim and I pulled a bold move: we went to the media and cancelled the festival. We hoped this ploy would work, that something would happen, but it was a high risk. I was out of work, so I went home and told my wife ‘We’re cancelling the festival, we have to downsize, we have to sell our house, let’s move out to the country.’ Our house in The Beach sold in 24 hours.”

Sean Gadon, executive assistant to then-mayor Mel Lastman: “The next morning, I went into Mel’s office and said ‘We have to do something.’ And in typical Mel fashion he said, ‘Who cares?’ That was the good thing with Mel: there was always that opportunity to sell it. I said, ‘Well, there’s a lot of people that care about this festival and it has a significant economic impact to the city.’

“Mel made the appropriate phone calls to the senior people at du Maurier. Later that afternoon, he got a call back and was informed that the funding would be restored for another year.”

Vanessa Taylor, Pat’s wife: “I think I was kind of in shock. They got another year out of du Maurier and our house was sold. We were a homeless family of five. And the market was so hot there were all these bidding wars ... for rental properties! We were able to extend our closing date, but it took us months to find another place to live.

“I’ve been with Pat since we were teenagers, so I’ve always had a lot of faith in what he’s done. I’ve seen the physical toll the festival has taken on him over the years and the sacrifices that he’s made, but he loves the challenge. All three of our sons have worked it and they didn’t get the cushy jobs; they’ve been there carting the beer behind the scenes.”

Olson: “Among the most meaningful performances I’ve heard was the Boss Brass concert in 2000 in which Moe Koffman made his last public appearance. Moe was, by then, always wearing a hat because he’d lost his hair due to chemotherapy, and when Rob McConnell raised his hands to give the downbeat for the first tune, the entire band pulled out hats of every style and description, put them on without comment and played the concert wearing their hats.”

With TD Bank as title sponsor since 2001, the festival, which had restricted ticketed events to age 19 because of the optics of pushing cigarettes on youth, began family-friendly programming. That included educational workshops, graffiti expositions and free entry to kids under 12 at the mainstage tent, anchored at Nathan Philips Square from 2000-2010. During that period, the festival, which now programs hip-hop acts, such as this year’s headliners The Roots and Shad, has brought the average age of attendees from 57 to 38.

There have been other hurdles for the fest, which is put together by seven paid staff and more than 200 volunteers. It has had to rally despite fluctuating interest in jazz, which has seen the closure of most of Toronto’s marquee jazz clubs, and the decline of American tourism because of the 2003 SARS outbreak, post-911 passport controls and the strong Canadian dollar.

Vanessa Taylor: “Every year it’s something, but last year with G20 was the absolute worst. I was at home in Cobourg and I realized that my three sons and my husband were all down at Nathan Phillips with that mayhem going on around them. I was terrified.”

But that Saturday night, after protesters and hooligans had wreaked havoc on the downtown core, the mainstage tent was a musical oasis with a packed house for Herbie Hancock’s concert. With a few hundred fans gathered, as always, outside the tent to watch for free, the only indication of nearby tensions were the occasional sounds of sirens and helicopters.

Gadon: “The heart and blood of the festival is the tent. I remember in 2004 when Wynton Marsalis played the tent, and then he left and went across the street to Trader’s Bar and played some more. He was just on fire. He was having such a good time he blew out his lip and couldn’t perform the next night at the Montreal festival.”

Last year, the festival had to shell out an unbudgeted $80,000 to accommodate musicians at 11 hotels across the city, instead of the two or three normally used, since it lost a $100,000 Sheraton Hotel sponsorship because the Queen St. W. facility was designated a G20 hotel.

Pat Taylor: “We’re always looking for stability. TD is very generous, but their contribution is 20 per cent of our budget. We still have to raise money from other sponsors and we go at risk of a million dollars in ticket sales.

“Way back in my mind is where we want to be in 10 years. A home would be nice. Not a home like TIFF or the Toronto Symphony, we’re not that aggressive, but a home where we could do some workshops with the artists. But we’ve been fortunate, many of those events that were sponsored by tobacco companies are long gone.”

AUDIO: A Reason to Live: Cold Specks, "Holland"

Source: 
www.thestar.com - by: Ben Rayner

(Jun 16, 2011) I’d never heard of the young lady from Etobicoke who
calls herself Cold Specks until my pal Fraser, an A&R man with very good ears, and The Guardian brought her excitedly to my attention this afternoon, but it sounds like there’s something major brewing here.

I mean, listen to that freakinvoice. “Holland,” the first single issued from the London-based singer/songwriter’s recent sessions with P.J. Harvey/Anna Calvi collaborator Rob Ellis, is a gorgeously moody baroque-folk ballad built around one of the most striking and singular sets of pipes to come along in a long while. And Cold Specks – whose real name is apparently Al Spx – is clearly holding that instrument back here. Imagine what she could do when she really lets that thick-grained, impossibly soulful purr loose. It’s kind of exciting to think about.

Anyway, not sure how we let this gal get away from us, but the GTA’s loss would definitely appear to be the U.K.’s gain. Looking forward to hearing a full record. In the meantime, this is a pretty jaw-dropping first taste of the brooding fire-and-brimstone “doom soul” (her words, not mine) to come.

AUDIO and VIDEO: Jill Scott Talks ‘Light of the Sun’ on Eve of Release

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(Jun 20, 2011) *
Jill Scott’s new album “The Light of the Sun,” her first since departing Hidden Beach Recordings for a label deal with Warner Bros., finally drops tomorrow with tracks produced by music veteran Terry Lewis, as well as JR Hutson and Justice League.

In an exclusive interview with EUR’s
Lee Bailey, the singer says her fourth studio album came together a bit more organically than her previous work.

“Normally I’m kind of held on by the pen and pad, but this time it was really just a freeing experience,” she says. “I just stood in front of a microphone and allowed what came out of my mouth to come without questioning it or second-writing it.

“That’s pretty much how the entire album went down. From the first verse to the last hook, it all came out in one thought. I feel like I blacked out and came back. Something in my spirit was like, ‘Okay girl, I’m gonna help you tell the truth whether you want to or not.’”

That truth rings throughout the set’s first single “So In Love,” a duet with Anthony Hamilton. Scott says she loved the Hamilton-penned track as soon as it was first passed to her from Hidden Beach’s former VP of A&R
Charles Whitfield.  But, Jill’s own love life was so opposite from the lyrics that she didn’t believe she had the emotional truth to add her stamp to the song.

“I got the track, loved the music, loved his voice on it – love that man’s voice anyway – but I just didn’t have any warm and fuzzy feelings, so it was just hard for me to even try to sing ‘So In Love,’” she told us. “So I waited until I had a couple of warm and fuzzy feelings, and then I wrote. It took me about a year.”

The single, released April 26, went on to debut at No. 43 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart, making it the highest entry of her career on that tally. (It has since peaked at number 11.)

Asked about the warmth she maintains throughout the song’s music video, Scott says, “I had recently experienced a warm and fuzzy feeling, and I used that to get through the video.” [Scroll down to watch.]

Jill released three previous studio albums on Hidden Beach before signing a distribution deal with Warner Bros. in March. There were reports at the time that things got real messy between the two parties. They ended up settling a tumultuous legal battle which found Jill countersuing the label’s claim that she exited halfway through a six-album deal in 2010.

In the bonus audio below, she details what really happened with Hidden Beach, and explains why she’s being so hush -hush about her own independent label.

Online Post Sparks Renewed Probe Of Tupac Shakur Shooting

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By The Canadian Press

(Jun 16, 2011) NEW YORK—New York City police have begun an
investigation into an online posting supposedly from a convicted felon who claims to have shot and robbed slain rapper Tupac Shakur.

Police spokesman Paul Browne said Wednesday if police determine the post is legitimate they will seek to interview the prisoner.

The claim was posted on the website AllHipHop.com. The person says he was paid $2,500 by another hip hop mogul to rob Shakur outside a studio in Manhattan in 1994. Shakur suffered gunshot wounds but eventually recovered. He was later killed in 1996 in an unsolved slaying.

Much of the post is laced with bitterness directed at the person the writer says hired him to carry out the crime. The writer says that person has wrongly accused him of being a government informant.

"Now I would like to clear up a few things, because the statute of limitations is over, and no one can be charged, and I'm just plain tired of listening to your lies," the writer says, adding that the mogul also allowed him to keep some of the jewellery he stole from Shakur.

"I still have as proof the chain we took in the robbery," he writes.

According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, a person by the same name as in the post is serving life in prison and is housed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

A message requesting comment from AllHipHop.com was not immediately answered.

Bizarre Performance By Amy Winehouse Puts Tour In Doubt

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Jun 20, 2011) LONDON — The video is painful to watch, an artistic train wreck for all to see. The question is what Amy Winehouse is going to do next.

The five-time Grammy Award winner, whose battles with alcohol and drug abuse have long overshadowed her music career, had a very public meltdown on stage Saturday night in Belgrade, the first stop of her European concert tour.

The disastrous performance shattered the whole goal of the troubled singer's comeback tour: A renewed focus on her musical ability, not her substance abuse problems. It also raised serious doubts about whether she is well enough to perform before an audience.

Winehouse was jeered and booed as she stumbled around the stage unable to remember the lyrics to her own songs. At times she could barely stand up. She was not able to carry a tune, appearing disoriented and unaware of her surroundings. At one point she dragged over a backup singer to take the mike and sing.

The crowd at Belgrade's Kalemegdan Park was often unable to decipher even what song Winehouse was performing – a startling problem for a singer who is popular in Serbia. Many of the 20,000 fans walked out in protest, angry that they paid steep ticket prices for such a spectacle.

Serbian media called the concert a “scandal,” with the Blic daily labelling it “the worst in the history of Belgrade.”

Instead of continuing to Istanbul on Monday and Athens on Wednesday for long-scheduled concerts, Winehouse cancelled those concerts and returned to her London home. She is now holding talks that are expected to lead to further cancellations of her 12-date European tour.

The next scheduled concert is July 8 in Bilbao, Spain, but it is likely to be cancelled. The tour was to end in Bucharest, Romania, on Aug. 15.

The demanding schedule was supposed to be an important test of Winehouse's ability to stand up to the rigours of live performing.

Winehouse, 27, has been hospitalized twice for injuries suffered after fainting and falling at home, and her father said she has health problems stemming from smoking cigarettes and crack cocaine.

Her recording career has also been put on hold. There have long been plans for a follow up to her two successful albums – including the breakthrough Back to Black released in 2006 – but new material has not been released.

It has been a dramatic fall for Winehouse, whose grasp of pop and soul – along with her trademark beehive hairdo and her raunchy stage act – brought her worldwide fame and substantial sales.

Her first album Frank, released in 2003, was heavily influenced by contemporary jazz and earned her critical acclaim. Back to Black arrived three years later and was an overwhelming success with its unusual fusion of jazz, pop and soul with a heavy debt to the girl groups of the early, pre-Beatles 1960s.

It was edgy as well, with the song Rehab dealing with the health issues that were soon to sidetrack her musical career.

“They tried to make me go to rehab,” Winehouse sang on the hit. “I said ‘No, no, no.“

Winehouse has sought rehab therapy in the past after her widely publicized battles with alcohol and drugs.

VIDEO: Bruno Mars’ ‘Just the Way You Are’ Sets Billboard Record

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(Jun 20, 2011) *With a 20th week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary
chart, Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” becomes the longest-reigning debut single in the list’s almost 50-year history.

The song dethrones Colbie Caillat’s debut single “Bubbly” (2008) and Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” (2006), each of which spent 19 weeks at No. 1.

“Way” marks Mars’ debut song as a lead artist and his first to reach the AC chart. He previously charted on the Billboard Hot 100 as a featured vocalist on B.o.B’sNothin’ on You” (No. 1, two weeks) and Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” (No. 4) last year.

Before “Way” reached the chart’s summit the week of February 5, the track led Hot 100 Airplay (seven weeks), Adult Top 40 (five), the Hot 100 (four), Mainstream Top 40 (three) and Hot Digital Songs (two).

Mars’ debut album, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans,” bowed on the Billboard 200 at No. 3 the week of October 23, 2010, and has spent its first 36 weeks in the chart’s top 40. The set has sold 1.1 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

All-Female Cuban Band Has Diverse Roots

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By John Terauds

(Jun 18, 2011) The 12-member, all-female Cuban band
Caribe Girls belongs to a younger generation of Cuban musicians who are happy to honour the island nation’s Afro-Latin musical roots, while looking for new ways to express all this energy.

The group sashays into town to play a set of sizzling late-night salsa at Lula Lounge on Saturday in the third visit to Toronto by one of Cuba’s top musical acts — they have regular gigs at Havana’s big hotels, as well as a busy international touring schedule.

With the translation help of local Latin music organizer Paula Larrondo, here is an edited version of a recent email interview with Thiving Guerra, bandleader and keyboard player:

You have been together since 1999. How did you all meet each other and decide to form the band? Has it been easy to keep a stable membership?

Many of us met while studying together at art and music school. Others were members of other Cuban all-female or mixed-gender bands. It is very difficult to maintain stable membership in an all-female band because marriage and children can get in the way. It is difficult to maintain this type of artistic life because of the need to care for young children who have difficulty adapting to being separated from their mothers. But for the most part we have all been together since the beginning.

In the 1990s, there was a wave of new all-female bands in Cuba. What happened to that?

The ‘90s were boom years for all-female bands in Cuba, even though there had already been all-female bands around for many years. But, at that time, we still needed to prove that we were just as capable of producing music and capable of playing musical instruments that were always played by men, like the congas, drums, trombones and trumpets.

We have to thank the feminist movement and the government, which really has supported women and the right for all female artists to succeed. Many music graduates in the ‘90s were women.

You do a lot of touring and have been in Toronto twice already. Do you feel like you need to play “tourist” music here, or is the audience receptive enough so you can play your more advanced music?

Yes, this is our third trip to Toronto. We feel that we want to play lighter, more downtempo pieces, but what seems to work best when touring internationally is music that’s geared to dancing in pairs, that can be felt. We stay away from playing urban beats like reggaeton, which is street music that can sometimes have vulgar lyrics. We try to reach the audience with the different flavour of our music, our tropical diversity and colours, our rhythms, our Cuba.

We have a wide repertoire of sounds and we have found that our Canadian audience has big expectations and is also very receptive to our music.

How do people in Cuba react to your experiments – are they looking for new sounds, or do you have to work really hard at getting people to accept changes in the traditional styles?

A. We have to work extra hard as an all-female band, because the competition is tough. We have to play like men, and we constantly experiment with new work and new sounds, as a Cuban audience is very demanding.

Is the ultimate measure of success seeing the number of people you can get to dance every night?

Definitely, and to see our audience dancing, and getting lost in our musical rhythms.

Just the Facts

WHO: Caribe Girls

WHERE: Lula Lounge, 1285 Dundas St. W.

WHEN: Saturday. Doors @ 7 p.m. Show @ 10 p.m.

ADMISSION: $15 includes dance lesson @ 9 p.m. Details: www.lula.ca

Quebec Pop Star Coeur De Pirate Tops Bill

Source: www.thestar.com - By John Goddard

(Jun 22, 2011) The girl with the arm-length tattoo takes top billing Friday at Franco-Fête, Toronto’s premier celebration of francophone culture.

At 21 years old, Béatrice Martin mixes tumbling blond hair and sweet good looks with swirling tattoos down her right arm, a few elsewhere, and the swashbuckling stage name of
Coeur de Pirate (Pirate Heart).

“Derived from French chanson,” she once said of her music — light pop with minimal accompaniment, including herself on piano.

Two years ago, she expanded her Quebec indie fan base into a mass international following with a Top 10 album in France, Coeur de Pirate, and a charming Top 5 single, “Comme Des Enfants.”

She takes Harbourfront Centre’s main waterfront stage Friday at 9:30 p.m.

Spotlight on France” runs as this year’s subtheme through the three-day festival, which includes afternoon French-cooking demonstrations.

Featured acts include Ben L’Oncle Soul, the stage name for singer Benjamin Duterde, who gives a modern French accent to 1960s-style Motown music. He and his band open for Coeur de Pirate at 8 p.m.

Saturday’s bill headlines transplanted Franco-Ontarian pop singer Damien Robitaille, born in Lafontaine, near Penetanguishene, and now living in Montreal.

Whether playing piano or guitar, he exudes a jaunty stage presence on such good-humoured songs as “Sexy Séparatiste” and “Tous les Sujets sont Tabous.” He takes the stage at 9:30.

JUST THE FACTS

WHAT: Franco-Fête

WHERE: Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W.

WHEN: Fri. June 24 to Sun. June 26

ADMISSION: Free. Full information at http://www.franco-fete.ca

Parkdale Kids Introduced To The Sweet Sound Of Success

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By John Terauds

(Jun 20, 2011) On Monday morning, students at
Parkdale Junior and Senior Public School got a taste of something Venezuelan: a chance to join a musical revolution.

Over the past 36 years, more than one million Venezuelan children, most from economically depressed backgrounds, have seen their lives improved by a free, after-school music program called
El Sistema.

The community-based music schools help build self-confidence and foster a spirit of cooperation. They also provide growing minds with additional skills to bring into the competitive adult world.

The model has inspired offshoots around the world in communities with at-risk children.

Thanks to David Visentin, a violist and a former dean at the Royal Conservatory of Music, and Toronto businessman and philanthropist Robert Eisenberg, El Sistema is now ready to get to work in Toronto, as well.

Starting in September, 58 children from grades 1 to 4 at Parkdale Junior and Senior P.S. will meet for two hours after school to learn how to play violin, viola and cello in a small orchestra.

Sistema Toronto’s program, Playing to Potential, does not cost parents a cent. The instruments don’t cost anything, either. The Toronto District School Board and the school itself donate the rehearsal space and supervisory staff.

The school’s principal, Susan Yun, estimates that music lessons like these would typically cost a parent $10,000 a year.

After attentively sitting through a show-and-tell in the library by Sistema Toronto executive and artistic director Visentin and four other string players, the children ran over to adjacent tables to pick instruments.

The kids’ enthusiasm was palpable, so much so that an older student standing nearby asked Yun, “Why didn’t you do this when we were little?”

The 675 students at the Parkdale elementary already have two full-time music teachers as well as regular visits from a school board specialist. But this is the first time pupils in grades 1 to 4 will get instrumental lessons.

Sistema Toronto joins a growing list of music programs geared to children in the Greater Toronto Area’s at-risk communities, delivered in creative after-hours settings at local schools.

But according to Diane Jamieson, Toronto District School Board program coordinator for music, this is the first time that an after-school program has partnered directly with the board.

Most other music initiatives come from relationships between individual non-profit organizations and school administrators.

The oldest, and most successful, of these is the 13-year-old Regent Park School of Music, which has been expanding its activities beyond the downtown core.

Since 2006, internationally respected violinist Moshe Hammer has been growing his Hammer Band of violin players in the Jane-Finch area. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company identify at-risk neighbourhoods for many of their yearly outreach programs. And there are many more.

“The more the merrier,” says Richard Marsella, Regent Park School of Music executive director. “El Sistema is one of 40 models I respect and think highly of.”

Marsella reminds that even the most disadvantaged of neighbourhoods in Toronto don’t have Venezuela’s vast social and economic problems. But music does have the power to change young lives.

“There’s an interest from the public in music education and that can only be a good thing,” he says.

Egyptian Music Master Flourishes In Toronto

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By John Goddard

(Jun 18, 2011) Toronto’s
George Sawa, much praised as a medieval Egyptian music scholar, also enjoys a good dance tune.

He once applied his formidable research skills to reviving a 13th-century drum-notation system to teach local bellydancers rhythm.

Egyptian Music Appreciation and Practice for Bellydancers the book is called, complete with circular diagrams that visually explain beats to a bar.

“With this system, you can learn any rhythm within five seconds, guaranteed,” the author says.

Sawa performs free Saturday at Luminato. He opens for Cairene pop star Hakim on a bill also starring France-based Natacha Atlas — a program showcasing old and new Egyptian styles.

With most of his Traditional Arabic Music Ensemble, Sawa is to lay down the folkloric and classical roots of Egyptian music on acoustic instruments, leaving Atlas and Hakim to jump things up with electronica and other influences.

“This is a fish-scale tambourine, this one is goat-skin,” Sawa says admiringly of percussion instruments picked from his dining-room table. “All the modern ones now use plastic, which can never get the same bass sound.”

Sawa grew up in Alexandria and moved to Toronto at 23, in 1970, to flee economic stagnation and the War of Attrition with Israel.

At 64, he says he is grateful to the West. As a University of Toronto student, he obtained his doctorate in historical Arabic musicology and met the woman who became his wife, Cleveland-born Suzanne Meyers Sawa.

Only by leaving Egypt could he devote himself to the level of scholarship and musicianship he aspired to, he says. “The music library in Cairo is half of this room,” he says glancing around the dining room of his home in Toronto’s Roncesvalles neighbourhood. By comparison, he says, the Robarts Library that can get him any book he wants.

As a scholar, Sawa might be best known for his epic three-part treatise, Rhythmic Theories and Practice in Arabic Writings to 950 CE.

The work of unearthing and translating rare manuscripts, and compiling them as a coherent text took him 25 years, and won him the Egyptian Ministry of Culture’s lifetime achievement award.

As a performer, Sawa is best known as a master of the qanun, a laptop instrument with 26 sets of triple strings that can render every microtone on the Egyptian scale. He plays it as a lead instrument, a practice unheard of in Egypt.

“You still see it in the big orchestras but you don’t hear it,” he says. “They give the qanun player a teeny-weeny solo, something very idiotic like 10 seconds, which is sad.”

For the Luminato show, a sensitive issue has arisen. Normally, Suzanne Meyers Sawa plays percussion in the ensemble, but female players are considered taboo in urban Egypt.

In deference to custom, band leader Sawa is replacing his wife with Donnie Sarweh, son of band member and virtuoso percussionist Raymond Sarweh.

“I don’t want to get dirty looks from Hakim’s band, or Hakim, or the Arab audience,” Sawa says. “So we just separate for this time. It’s unfortunate.”

Luminato’s free Egyptian concert takes place in two parts. At the afternoon show, 2-4 p.m., Toronto’s Minor Empire, with guitarist and composer Ozan Boz, opens for Natacha Atlas, at David Pecaut Square, 55 John St., next to Roy Thomson Hall. On the same stage that evening, 8-11 p.m., George Sawa opens for Hakim.

Janelle Monae Multitasking – Touring and Recording

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(Jun 20, 2011) *With a style and hustle all her own,
Janelle Monae is getting ready to release a follow-up to her debut studio album, “The ArchAndroid.”

Although she’s been busy on tour and doing her thing with Bruno Mars, she’s been working hard in the studio “recording, writing, [and] playing instruments.”

She says this new album will supersede its predecessors.

“It will still be, I believe, relatable to the people. We have a really big ideas, I must say, and we’re just trying to make sure we execute them properly,” she told MTV.

She didn’t quite reveal which direction she’ll be headed, but she did say “the concepts will be very strong.”

“That’s really what I can say … I don’t plan on stopping the formula or stopping myself from creating new formulas. My message is that I want to reach the people – the people who work each and every day. I want to create music that will be their choice of drug whenever they feel oppressed or depressed. [I want to] create something that will remain timeless, hopefully, and the next generation can be inspired by it. And creating a blueprint — one where people can understand that you don’t have to take the same coordinates to get to the same destination. But it will be jamming. I will say that much. It’s gonna be jamming.”

No word yet when the new project will be released, but you can bet it’s going to be an anxious wait.

The Three Faces of k.d. lang

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Greg Quill

(Jun 18, 2011) Will the real
k.d. lang please stand up?

Artists have to change. Transformation is the very nature of art, as the Canadian chanteuse has pointed out more than once in her long career.

But few have made the same kinds of radical shifts as lang, who burst out of Alberta in the late 1980s like a cowpunk chimera in riding boots, crinoline and gingham, claiming she was the reincarnation of Patsy Cline and hamming up country music stereotypes, lingo and clichés with wicked abandon.

Who do k.d. lang's fans see and hear when she performs?

We asked some of them at lang's Luminato concert Friday night at David Pecaut Square.

Spunky cowpunk:

The voice was remarkable, her act a riot of girls-wanna-have-fun nonsense. Her debut album, A Truly Western Experience, and the follow-up, Angel With a Lariat, were unforgettable. But prospects were uncertain, until she teamed up with Roy Orbison on “Crying,” then in 1989 with Nashville veteran Owen Bradley for the breakout masterpiece Shadowland, a string-drenched evocation of country music's golden age.

Hot and sultry:

With 1992's Ingenue, it became abundantly clear Kathryn Dawn had moved on. This was adult pop of the finest order — rich, personal, confessional, full of heat and longing, and it earned lang her third Grammy and entree into the upper echelons of American pop, as well as a duets album with its statesman and godfather, Tony Bennett.

Hallelujah, she's transcendental:

Lang has found her way into more intense, spiritual territory in recent years, performing with small ensembles, big bands, orchestras and choirs, and focusing on profound personal changes — embracing Buddhism — and her Canadian roots with Hymns of the 49th Parallel, which initiated the craze for Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah,” and Watershed. Now, with the joyful country-jazz album Sing It Loud and a new band, the Siss Boom Bang, it seems k.d. lang has come full circle.

Or has she?

Who do k.d. lang’s fans see and hear when she performs?

We asked some of them at lang’s Luminato concert Friday night at David Pecault Square.

“I saw her in Nashville, more than 20 years ago. I remember American country music fans being very sceptical, till they heard her voice.”

Gabriella Sherrard, from Toronto

“I'm not a country and western fan ... I prefer her middle-of-the-road songs. I like her outlook on life, and I can understand her lyrics. I like to hear the words in a song.”

Martin Van Denzen, from Toronto

“I've followed k.d. through all her changes, from ‘Hanky Panky' through Torch & Twang and Chatelaine ... tonight I hope she does ‘Hallelujah'”

Valerie Hoiland, from Barrie

AUDIO and VIDEO: Keri Hilson in ‘Control’ on ‘SYTYCD’; Wants ‘Glee’ Next

Source:  www.eurweb.com - Cherie Saunders

(Jun 17, 2011) *Before
Keri Hilson performed her latest single “Lose Control” on Thursday night’s live broadcast of “So You Think You Can Dance,” [scroll down to watch] the starlet admitted that she’d also love to put in work on another popular Fox television show.

“Whether it’s me on it, or whether they just do an episode where they cover a song, I would be so excited to be on ‘Glee,’ because I actually do enjoy the show,” she said, adding that most young folks in her profession can relate to the series.

“We’re pretty much all theatre kids and appreciators of art. And ‘Glee’ is a very great take on what it’s like to be that kid; what it’s like to have a passion and to be looked at in some ways as an outsider, as an outcast,” she said. “But then they create this own community where it’s okay, and we’re displaying that to kids. Now they’re taking music programs out of schools, art programs out of schools. I think some kids that are watching are living vicariously through that, but they’re also seeing the importance to have an outlet. Not only do I enjoy it, I think it serves a great purpose for our youth.”

As for her latest album “No Boys Allowed,” Hilson says she still finds herself having to clarify the title.

“It doesn’t mean that I like girls,” she explains with a laugh. “It’s kinda like a new age girl power thing. It’s just saying, ‘Look, we deserve men, not boys.

“It wasn’t designed to push fellas and guys away. It was designed to first of all show women what we deserve, and teach us to stop tolerating BS,” she says. “I wanted guys to know the difference, to know what we really like, to know what we really think and feel about certain things and to just stop it, you know. Women, if we tolerate it, they’ll give it to us.”

In the audio bonus below, Hilson tries to justify her expensive shoe habit, which at one point saw her shell out $2,000 for a pair.

New Gospel Group Introduces New Twist on Old Style

Source: 
www.eurweb.com

(Jun 17, 2011) *New group, The
Nevels Sisters are bringing a new flavour to the Gospel scene this year, their debut album, “It’s My Time.” The new project will be released this summer, and Facebook fans will have the opportunity to be a part of this exciting new musical experience by helping to choose the cover for the new recording.

Fans will be able to vote for their favourite Nevels Sisters CD cover from among 5 options on the group’s Facebook Fan Page, www.facebook.com/TheNevelsSisters, by posting a comment below their favourite.

Fans can also hear “Company,” the group’s first single on their Facebook page as well. Posting a vote for the cover automatically enters fans in a random drawing for one of 25 $25 American Express Gift Cards.

Debra, Veneice, Gail and April. They grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where they sang in their father’s Church, Nevels Temple Church of God in Christ. As young girls, they delivering their special brand of praise and worship. Eventually their unique sound and distinct style caught the ear of gospel music industry leader Vicki Mack Lataillade, who immediately recognized their gifts.

“I was just amazed by their talent and energy,” says Lataillade, who struck a deal with MoLife Entertainment to bring the Nevel Sisters under her direction at Lataillade Entertainment, LLC.

Simple Plan Adds Some Complexity

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Allison Cross

(Jun 18, 2011) After releasing their third studio album in 2008,
Montreal pop-punk rockers Simple Plan took off to tour the world.

The band, known for their emotional singles “Addicted” and “Perfect,” played shows in Australia, Japan, Israel, Russia, Canada, Venezuela, the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates.

“We did about ... a year and a half of straight touring,” said the band’s Chuck Comeau, during an interview in Toronto, where they will perform at the MuchMusic Video Awards on Sunday.

“We’ve been lucky to enjoy a lot of success around the world. When we have a new record we’ve got to go everywhere, twice.”

Extended tours are an anticipated part of international fame, said Comeau, the drummer, but they leave little time to work on new material.

“We haven’t had vacation. We haven’t been able to chill out,” he said.

After a month off following the tour, Simple Plan started writing the songs in Vancouver, Montreal and Los Angeles that would end up on their newly released album Get Your Heart On!

“We spent a year, actually, writing it,” he said. “We ended up writing over 70 songs for the album. It was really important us to change how we were doing things.”

In the past, the band would start writing songs but toss one if they didn’t like its direction, Comeau said.

For their fourth studio album, which includes a collaborative track with Weezer front man Rivers Cuomo, the band committed to finishing all their ideas.

“We called (Cuomo) up. We knew he was open to the idea of working with other people,” Comeau said. “He was a fan of the band.”

Together they wrote and recorded “Can’t Keep My Hands Off You.”

“It was a special thing for us because we grew up loving Weezer,” Comeau said. “We thought it would be cool to try something different. It was the song we wrote the fastest. It kind of just came together really quick.”

There are other collaborations on the new album, which resembles Simple Plan’s earlier albums with its lighthearted, melodic sound.

The third studio album Simple Plan was darker. Lead singer Pierre Bouvier’s brother was battling cancer. Comeau had just gone through a tough breakup.

“It coloured the mood of the songwriting sessions,” he said. “We ended up writing songs that were a little more introspective (but) after playing them for a year and a half on tour, we were longing for our roots and for the fun aspect of our first album.”

Collaboration is one way to keep things fresh, and honour the band’s roots, Comeau said.

The band’s debut album features vocals from Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 and Joel Madden from Good Charlotte.

On the new album, British pop star Natasha Bedingfield sings on the track “Jet Lag,” and Somali-Canadian rapper K’Naan sings on “Summer Paradise.”

“After four records and almost 12 years together as a band, we just wanted to keep things fresh and keep things exciting,” Comeau said. “We also wanted to take people by surprise. And on a selfish level, it was cool to have talented people be part of your album.”

Another song on the new album borrows from other artists, but not the professional kind.

The band reached out to fans over Twitter and asked them to explain how Simple Plan had changed their lives.

Hundreds of responses poured in and the result is “This Song Saved My Life.”

“Ever since we’ve started, we’ve had fans tell us our music has helped them get through tough times,” Comeau said. “We wanted to write something that would talk about that.”

Twenty-five fans from across the world ended up flying to Vancouver to sing on the album.

“It really sums up for me our connection with our fans. This band is not a critic’s band,” Comeau said. “We don’t get the five-star review. But we get unconditional love from ... the fans.”

Another Decade . . . Another Sloan Road Trip

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Chris Murphy

(Jun 20, 2011) As a Canadian music institution of 20 years, the band
Sloan has pretty much seen it all . . . and then seen it all again. As a familiar pop quartet that never quite got a massive, arena-filling following elsewhere, making music can still be a pleasure, but it can also be a grind. The amiable singer-bassist Chris Murphy has kept a tour diary of sorts through the band’s recent West Coast swing and here he shares it with the Star. (Portions have appeared on the band’s website.) Sloan plays the Mod Club Tuesday and Wednesday in support of their new album, The Double Cross.

(Diary annotated where appropriate by the Star)

CLEVELAND Wednesday, May 25th

We made little laminates for everyone on the tour. We have a great bunch of guys on the road, though it is a bit of a sausage fest. Having fun people around is such an asset and we are extremely grateful.

The crew this time: Patrick Pentland (vocals, guitar), Jay Ferguson (vocals, guitar, bass), Gregory (the Goose) Macdonald (keyboards, percussion, vocals), Ryan (Testie) Grant (front of house), Chris Murphy (vocals, bass, drums), Kevin “Lamps” Hilliard (lights), Jay Coyle (merch), Andrew Scott (vocals, drums, guitar), Om Nom Nom (treasurer), Matt ??? (bus driver), Ryan (Half Moon) Haslett (guitars), Mike Nelson (tour manager).

We have had the amazing Kevin Hilliard out with us before, playing the part of MRCH commercial radio DJ Skip Lowe and polarizing fans and critics alike — repugnant, or biting comment on the state of commercial radio? This time Kevin is working lights. Whatever he does, he brings heaps of my favourite quality: joie de vivre. This time Kevin has called for the crew to wear head-to-toe yellow and purple at the shows to go with the “SLOAN XX CREW” satin jackets he had made. The rest of the crew have been really good sports about it. They all seem to love the jackets. At least one guy is not thrilled to be wearing yellow pants but he shall remain nameless.

CHICAGO Thursday, May 26th

We participated in the Onion AV Club’s Undercover series, which features a bunch of bands recording covers of songs that the AV Club deem worthy/interesting/funny in a little round former storage room in the AV Club office. There are a bunch of songs from which we could choose and if we didn’t act fast the good ones would get snatched up. We chose “Cars” by Gary Numan, which we like but I can think of songs we would have preferred to cover but they weren’t on the list. Anyway, it was fun for us and we were happy to be asked to do it. Enjoy “Strangers” by The Kinks, Wye Oak! (1)

The SLOAN XX CREW purple satin jackets arrived at the venue and the crew were finally able to make sense of their head-to-toe yellow ensemble. They look upstagingly amazing. The show in Chicago was amazing. I don’t know if it was the satin jackets or the fact that we were that much more rehearsed or the fact that there was not a tornado that night. Admittedly, the Cleveland show had been a little sleepy and was perhaps not the best place to take stock and ask ourselves why we’re still doing this. Chicago made it all seem worthwhile.

MINNEAPOLIS Friday, May 27th

We did an interview with a woman named Barb Abney for MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) and recorded three songs from The Double Cross — “She’s Slowing Down Again,” “Beverly Terrace” and “Laying So Low.” I was happy to record “Laying So Low” because it looks like it will be getting cut from our set and I’d like to think we didn’t learn it for nothing.

WINNIPEG Saturday, May 28th

The show was great. We used our pre-recorded drum intro to “Follow the Leader” as our walk-on music. I think it’s pretty effective. The lights are lower until Andrew comes in with real drums and then the lights really come on. It may seem a little Vegas to some people but I don’t think we’re in danger of being approached by Cirque du Soleil. I just looked up CDS for spelling and saw how they are doing a show based on the spirit of Michael Jackson. Cripes almighty!

For us, the American venues are often places we’ve never played before but the western Canadian venues have been the same places we have been playing for 20 years. Winnipeg is The Pyramid, which used to be The Spectrum. I know we played there as early as 1993. Saskatoon is still Louis’ Pub, a place I swore I’d never play again at least 10 years ago but we’ve played about six more times. There is nothing wrong with it but by 1999 I figured we should be moving up and was frustrated when we weren’t. I have updated those feelings of frustration to feelings of gratitude that we are playing at all.

SASKATOON Sunday, May 29th

Kevin “Lamps” Hilliard brought his bocce set and we had a fun little tournament in the hours before load in. My cousin John does security at the University and he came around and cuffed me for the camera.

DAY OFF Monday, May 30th

There was a five-pin bowling tournament in Edmonton on our first day off. About half of us are Maritimers and we’re used to 10-pin bowling where it seems you can knock something down even if you hit the gutter. This bowling also kept score for you, which is fun but Jay commented to me, and I agree, that he missed the score sheets and giant pencils. I am both a terrible bowler and a sore loser. You know who’s good is Jay Ferguson.

EDMONTON Tuesday, May 31st

Jay, Gregory and I went way out to the suburbs to play a few songs on the radio. I made Gregory drag his keyboard out there and made the technicians line him in but in the end we switched songs and he didn’t use it. Sorry, Gregory and technicians.

CALGARY Wednesday, June 1st

We played the Republik in 1992 on our first trip through town with Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra. The show this time was pretty wild. The crowd was pretty rowdy and I had a good time. Kevin “Lamps” Hilliard had a couple quibbles with the food vendor selling “east coast style” donairs outside the club after the show. We are traveling with a few experts who took issue with the use of extra ingredients including mozzarella. Donairs have meat, (very specific) sauce, onions and maybe tomatoes. This guy’s credentials included one trip to Moncton. Kevin was incensed.

We had a mini bus party with a few people including a brief appearance of the donair guy, but the star was a young woman (name withheld and maybe even forgotten) who was apprenticing to do sound (?) at the club. There was some dancing. She did a bit of “crunking” and insisted we blast “Search and Destroy” (2) and scream along like a bunch of fools. Cheers to young cool kids coming to our shows (even if they are required to be).

PENTICTON Thursday, June 2nd

We played here once before at the same venue (a hotel) but the configuration of the room was different. The show was fun for weirdness value. Sound test was like a matinee for a handful of seniors who were trying to have a nice lunch. At least one seemed to leave a new convert. At the show, people were right up to the tiny stage and one woman thought nothing of coming up and trying to take my glasses off me while I was playing. I could have handled her myself but security intervened before I had to do anything. Another guy brought his yo-yo and proceeded to whip it around. A first, and hopefully a last.

There were a few people who had driven all the way from Vancouver, who came again to the Vancouver show, and I’ve got to hand it to those people. But don’t come to too many shows; then I feel bad that we’re doing essentially the same show every night.

VANCOUVER Friday, June 3rd

Last time we were in Vancouver, it was in the throes of Olympic fever. This time it’s Stanley Cup fever. Our good friend Craig Northey of Odds fame (3) was generous enough to include us in their latest amazing project. The Odds are playing rock music at the Vancouver Canucks home games. They are up in the nosebleeds for the home games but they are at centre ice at the sold-out BC Place for the AWAY games!

The Odds have had several guest singers accompany them including Elvis Costello, Randy Bachman, Colin James, Bobby Baker from the Tragically Hip and Ra McGuire from Trooper. The talented Mr. Northey arranged for some CBC folks to come to the Commodore to video Sloan playing the intro to our song “Money City Maniacs” (4) so that it could segue into The Odds playing the main riff at one of the Vancouver games.

Jay and I went to CBC to talk to radio host and old friend Sook Yin Lee about recreating the past, namely playing “Twice Removed” (5) in its entirety for her show Definitely Not the Opera.

Our show was great fun for us. Everything was laid out so well that it was our show to ruin and I don’t think we ruined it. The production values were as high as they get for us. The sound was big and the lights were . . . plentiful. Craig Northey likened Kevin’s work at the light board to Keith Emerson or Captain Sensible. (6) Add whiplash to Kevin’s long list of ailments.

The Commodore has also been showing the Vancouver games on the big screen and they allowed us to manipulatively use their bag of tricks at the show. Our backdrop was lowered as we played our last song of the night and the Vancouver Canucks logo was projected onto a screen behind us. I think it was pretty effective but admittedly a bit pandering.

SEATTLE Saturday, June 4th

I am in a great little joint called Hattie’s Hat where there is great food, free wireless, AC (power) and bottomless coffee . . . and hopefully a private washroom. The White Album is playing and Abbey Road was before that so I am happy as a clam but it’s my younger son Santiago’s 1st birthday today, which is a little sad for me. I did sleep in until 2 p.m. so it’s bittersweet. I think I will be away for my older son Francisco’s 4th birthday in September but a guy’s got to work.

PORTLAND Sunday, June 5th

Well, every night can’t be a Saturday.

MEDFORD Monday, June 6th

We always play Seattle and Portland and the next play is always San Francisco but it’s too far to drive in one night so we need to park the bus somewhere and let the driver sleep. Our day off in Medford, Ore., at The Red Lion Inn has been a tradition for the past seven years or so. There is a multiplex nearby. We have had movie nights there. It’s kind of romantic for the whole band to do anything “extracurricular” together. There’s not a lot of hanging out together at home and it’s a fun, bonding thing to do.

We saw Avatar last time we were in Medford and Tropic Thunder the time before. We’ve been a band for 20 years and that is hammered home by some other movie memories: We all saw Reservoir Dogs together in Glasgow in early 1993 and we saw a premiere of Pulp Fiction in Chicago in 1994. In 2002, we were working in Toronto with producer Tom Rothrock and he stopped us in the middle of rehearsal and made us all go watch Standing in the Shadows of Motown. I guess he thought it might make us play better or maybe he was simply tired of watching us rehearse.

We didn’t go to the Cineplex this time but we all watched game 3 of the Stanley Cup playoffs and later, after a vote at an Irish pub Fletch beat out Midnight Run for the movie that would play that night on the bus. I hadn’t seen either movie in its entirety. I voted for Midnight Run at the Irish Pub but in the name of democracy I watched Fletch with everybody and it was pretty bad. The people who had voted for Fletch laughed loudly to make it seem like it had been the right choice. I wish we had all gone to see The Hangover Part Two or a movie from this year. It would help me organize my memories so in 20 years when I ask when did we all watch Fletch?, I won’t wonder if it had been 1985.

ANNOTATIONS

1.
Wye Oak, indie folk due from Baltimore.

2. Iggy and the Stooges classic from 1973’s album Raw Power. Memorably covered by Gord Downie and the Sadies at the Horseshoe Tavern’s 60th anniversary in 2007.

3. ‘90s Vancouver pop band.

4. Sloan song from album Navy Blues that thanks to its crunchy power has become a hockey-stadium staple. Likely known to non-fans as “that one that starts with the siren.”

5. Sloan’s 1994 album still being hailed by critics as one of Canada’s finest ever.

6. Former ’70s British punk turned artier solo artist. Don’t worry about it, he doesn’t matter anymore.

Doug E. Fresh Prodigies to Release First Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jun 20, 2011) *
Doug E. Fresh has some prodigies who are ready to follow in their daddy’s footsteps.

20-year-old
Solomon “Trips” Davis and 22-year-old Dayquan “Slim” Davis, known collectively as Square Off, have without a doubt been influenced by their father and other pioneering rappers like Grandmaster Caz and Big Daddy Kane.

“We got to rap with Big Daddy Kane. A lot of new school artists copy his flow but don’t know who he is. My father says new artists don’t know where hip-hop came from,” Trips told DNAinfo.

Possibly the youngsters are right and maybe they’ll have a chance to educate their peers through music.

The brothers have a new album in the works and a newly-released mixtape currently in circulation. They call their style, “new old school.”

“I feel like we are nothing like today’s artists. Our style and the way we do music is different. It’s a new sound like when Drake came into the game he brought a new sound,” said Trips.

The pair call themselves multidimensional artists in that they are very versatile and know how to adjust to the wave of music. They say they get that from their daddy.

In fact, their business knack and understanding of the industry has set them light-years ahead of any other young artist.

“I have an encyclopedia in my crib, and he can teach me things about the business because he has done it. A lot of the artists I look up to have come to him and asked for advice,” said Slim. “The biggest thing I learned is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work.”

Square Off, will be celebrating the release of their first album, “Money, Moet & Memories” soon.

Doug E. Fresh Prodigies to Release First Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jun 20, 2011) *
Doug E. Fresh has some prodigies who are ready to follow in their daddy’s footsteps.

20-year-old
Solomon “Trips” Davis and 22-year-old Dayquan “Slim” Davis, known collectively as Square Off, have without a doubt been influenced by their father and other pioneering rappers like Grandmaster Caz and Big Daddy Kane.

“We got to rap with Big Daddy Kane. A lot of new school artists copy his flow but don’t know who he is. My father says new artists don’t know where hip-hop came from,” Trips told DNAinfo.

Possibly the youngsters are right and maybe they’ll have a chance to educate their peers through music.

The brothers have a new album in the works and a newly-released mixtape currently in circulation. They call their style, “new old school.”

“I feel like we are nothing like today’s artists. Our style and the way we do music is different. It’s a new sound like when Drake came into the game he brought a new sound,” said Trips.

The pair call themselves multidimensional artists in that they are very versatile and know how to adjust to the wave of music. They say they get that from their daddy.

In fact, their business knack and understanding of the industry has set them light-years ahead of any other young artist.

“I have an encyclopedia in my crib, and he can teach me things about the business because he has done it. A lot of the artists I look up to have come to him and asked for advice,” said Slim. “The biggest thing I learned is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes work.”

Square Off, will be celebrating the release of their first album, “Money, Moet & Memories” soon.

::FILM NEWS::

Beginners: Making The Unfamiliar A Matter Of Family

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - By James Bradshaw

(Jun 19, 2011) The latest film from Berkeley, Calif.-born director
Mike Mills is autobiographical, up to a point. But when he cast the roles most near and dear to him, he turned to relative strangers.

Perhaps that was appropriate. The core actors in
Beginners - a film that follows the figurative start of a new life, and the beginning of a new love affair - began with personal blank slates, having never worked with each other before, nor with Mills.

On the other hand, the film's stars are familiar faces: Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, and Mélanie Laurent (of Inglourious Basterds fame) form the movie's main trio, backed by Goran Visnjic, formerly of the TV series ER.

Beginners - which opened in Toronto on Friday - hinges on a creative recreation of one of the most momentous events of Mills's real life: when his 75-year-old widower father came out of the closet and began living "five very intense, brand-new years of being gay and being very free" before he died, as Mills puts it.

The semi-fictional film, which Mills began writing while he was still mourning his father, weaves together two storylines taking place in separate time frames. In the first, Oliver (McGregor) adapts to the news of his father's sexuality, and to the even greater bombshell that his father, Hal (Plummer), is terminally ill.

In the second, Oliver struggles to maintain his blossoming relationship with Anna (Laurent), a charming French film star he meets at a party, while still laden with grief over Hal's death.

Mills's plan was not to make a memoir, but the film does dip into his past for material.

"The verbs and the actions do come from things that happened between me and my father, but all the proper nouns have been erased," he says.

The result, executed by a small film crew, is quirky and sparse, and has little of the Hollywood polish of big-budget films. The movie is melancholic, but also funny, and the laughs per minute increase as events get sadder.

Above all, it is a study of character and relationships. To that end, Mills made sure that boning up on the particulars of the story took a back seat to getting his actors comfortable and familiar.

"My rehearsal isn't to go over the script a bunch," Mills said.

Instead, he arranged "all these experiential things" for the actors to do together. He sent Plummer and McGregor off with a wad of cash to buy Plummer a flashy new wardrobe, and had them host lunches with the actors who would play Hal's gay friends.

He prepped McGregor and Laurent for their onscreen love affair too, sending them to an amusement park, having them break up with each other five times (each), and sitting them down to stare into each others' eyes for minutes on end.

For McGregor, it worked like a charm: "He's very clever," he says of Mills.

After some initial awkwardness, Plummer had a rollicking good time playing a newly gay man, with Visnjic as his young boyfriend Andy. But he found the more sombre scenes trying, and Mills thinks something almost familial grew between Plummer and McGregor.

"Every now and then, when you're playing someone as close to the knuckle as that, you do tend to be a little bit ...," Plummer says, trailing off and unable to find the right adjective, "and Ewan was so supportive."

There remained a lingering question: To what extent were the actors playing Mills, his family and friends? All involved said the character Anna does not mirror Mills's relationship with his wife Miranda July, but Hal and Oliver cut closer to reality.

Plummer gradually felt as though the part of Hal "had been written for me," and any "nervousness about not doing [him] justice" faded quickly.

For his part, McGregor said he still doesn't know what of his character's actions and emotions was real, and what fabricated, nor does it matter. But he had Mills make recordings of himself reading the dialogue so that McGregor could pore over them on his laptop.

"I did want to play him - I don't mimic him or do an impersonation of him - but I did want to feel like him because it's his story, and his words," McGregor said.

Mills, however, is less comfortable with the idea that McGregor was at some level getting into his skin.

"That makes me sort of queasy and vertiginous-feeling even suggesting that," he says.

Venice Festival Snares Cronenberg Movie

Source: www.thestar.com - By Martin Knelman

(Jun 21, 2011)
David Cronenberg is a hometown cult auteur and one of the biggest players Toronto has ever had on the global cinema scene.

So you might think that A Dangerous Method, his first new movie in four years, would be an obvious selection for the opening night gala slot at the
2011 Toronto International Film Festival — especially since it is not a horror picture.

But guess again. This movie, laden with prestige, will almost certainly be in the TIFF lineup, but not in the prime opening night gala slot.

That is because for the second consecutive year, TIFF has been trumped by a rival film festival in
Venice, which starts two weeks earlier than the younger but livelier Toronto event.

Here we go again.

Last year it was Barney’s Version, produced by Robert Lantos, that had its world premiere in Venice and turned up at TIFF just a few days later. Now we can rerun the tape and we’re seeing almost the same story playing out in 2011.

Score: The Hockey Musical opened the 2010 Toronto film festival instead of Barney, the year’s most keenly anticipated Canadian movie.

A Dangerous Method is clearly British in most respects rather than Canadian, but because Cronenberg was in the director’s chair, we’re entitled to claim it as our own. The History of Violence in 2005 and Eastern Promises in 2007, the last two Cronenberg movies at TIFF, were both big hits.

A Dangerous Method is based on British writer Christopher Hampton’s play The Talking Cure, about how Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung more or less invented psychoanalysis more than a century ago.

Set in Zurich and Vienna, it tells the story of Jung’s relationship with a woman named Sabina Spielrein, who went on to become a noted female psychoanalyst after being Jung’s patient in a sexually charged relationship.

Hampton, who won a screenwriting Oscar for Dangerous Liaisons and was a nominee for Atonement, adapted his own play. Viggo Mortensen plays Freud, Michael Fassbender is cast as Jung, and Keira Knightley has the fascinating role of Sabina.

Last week Sony Pictures Classics announced it has acquired U.S. distribution rights to A Dangerous Method. SPC was also the U.S. distributor for Barney.

But why should Toronto be eclipsed by Venice in both cases?

In case you were wondering, neither Lantos nor Cronenberg resides in the Lido nor on the Grand Canal. Nor are they among the regulars at Harry’s Bar.

Indeed, they live around the corner from one another in Forest Hill. Both are Toronto boosters, but it serves the interest of their movies to be showcased at both these important festivals on opposite sides of the ocean.

Every year the Venice festival unspools before TIFF. And out of pride, Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey are not going to hand their opening night gala slot to a movie that has just had its world premiere at a rival festival.

So they’ll be looking for another movie to draw a standing ovation while waving the maple leaf flag at Roy Thomson Hall on Thursday, Sept. 8.

It won’t be Midnight’s Children, about India’s leap from colony to independence. It’s based on Salman Rushdie’s Booker Prize novel and directed by the gifted and fearless Deepa Mehta, who gave TIFF a night to remember with the premiere of her magnificent Water in 2005.

Why not? Because her new movie, filmed earlier this year in Sri Lanka, won’t be ready in time. Mehta will be in the editing room, with a post-production schedule that goes until the end of the year. And Midnight’s Children won’t be at TIFF in the fall of 2012, either, because it is almost sure to be released in the first half of the year.

While we are on the subject of Barney’s Version, let’s take note that it will be released on DVD by eOne next week. And for those of us who saw and enjoyed the movie on the big screen but were left craving even more, the DVD delivers some delicious tidbits with half an hour of deleted scenes. Among them: a searing exchange in which Saul Rubinek, as the father of Barney’s hippie first wife, Clara, pays a horrifying visit to Barney (Paul Giamatti) after Clara’s suicide.

Bollywood Stars Get A Royal Welcome

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Ashante Infantry

(Jun 20, 2011) Indian cinema’s biggest stars have started rolling into
town, cranking up the buzz for the International Indian Film Academy festivities, which begin on Thursday.

There all sorts of unofficial events taking place across the GTA, but right now the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is Bollywood central.

As IIFA HQ, the hotel is pulling out all the stops to host the media, celebs and organizers.

That means the availability of Indian food 24 hours a day, from room service lamb curry to Raj Kapoor martinis in the Library Bar and samosas at the Delhi Deli in the concourse. The hotel itself has dubbed itself the “Raja.”

And with a diverse staff that speaks 52 different languages, there are bound to be South Asian movie buffs amongst the hotel’s employees.

“Our colleagues are very honoured to serve such guests of noteworthiness and esteem,” said Royal York spokesperson Melanie Coates, “and we always maintain our composure, but we know the Bollywood spirit must be bubbling up on the inside.”

Those arriving A-listers shouldn’t think that because they’re far from home they will be able to wander around the city anonymously.

“I get recognized far more easily here than in Mumbai because in Mumbai I’m only driving to work and back, whereas here I tend to go out on the streets,” said comic actor Boman Irani, who arrived in Toronto Sunday, ahead of his role co-hosting the awards presentation on Saturday night. “But it’s fun. Canadians are the most polite people on the planet.”

Though he’s filmed in Toronto and has relatives and close friends here, Irani doesn’t foresee an opportunity to play tourist on this trip.

“Too many commitments,” he said. “We’d rather spend that time rehearsing and brainstorming and massaging the jokes for the show. And I’m flying straight to London afterwards and starting another film.”

Irani and fellow actor Ritesh Deshmukh have hosted the awards together for the last four years.

“We do parody a lot of the films that are on view, actors, actresses,” Irani explained. “We take the mickey out of a lot of people, but we do it with a lot of fun, a lot of innocence and without any agenda. We mean no harm.

“We’re working with a script, but we do improvise a lot and adlib on stage. Nobody is spared. I have the reputation of being extremely naughty with my stage gags.”

Have any of his colleagues ever taken offense?

“There will be the odd person, the humourless person, who may have made a comment or two over the years, but by and large . . . The first gag we ever did was a whole parody on (film dean) Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek. It went over very well and once that was done the rules were set.”

Irani will spend the next few days in rehearsals — and securing promised tickets for the sold-out awards show for nearly a dozen friends and relatives.

Local Actors Cannot Catch A Break

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raveena Aulakh

(Jun 21, 2011) Lucky Sanda’s head reeled with the endless
possibilities.

“Directors, casting agents, technicians … I knew they will all be here and I thought it’ll be a great opportunity for my students to network,” says Sanda, director of the Bollywood acting diploma program at the Canadian Institute of Management and Technology in Mississauga. “I thought
IIFA would help locals actors get a foot in the door.”

Not really.

Events relating to the International Indian Film Academy started a week ago while the spectacular finale is on Saturday but local South-Asian actors say there is no access to directors or casting agents and so there is zero networking.

At least two dozen Hindi movies have been shot in Vancouver and Toronto in the past decade. In some cases, local actors were chosen for junior and character roles.

South-Asian actors had hoped to meet Bollywood celebrities at the numerous events leading up to the big show to boost those numbers but say there are too many fans vying for attention.

“There’s so much competition,” says Anandita Brar, who lives in Mississauga and has worked as a junior artist in two Bollywood movies shot partially in Toronto. “It’s impossible to even get a minute to talk to anyone.”

The 24-year-old was hoping to hobnob with some assistant directors so that “I could have shown them my portfolio. With so many movies being shot here, who knows I could have got some work.”

Bhupendra Mane, a 26-year-old actor from Toronto, has spent the last few days hanging out at IIFA-related events in the hopes of bumping into anyone who could give him work in the future.

If it isn’t fawning Bollywood fans, then it’s security guards who have kept him at bay from the people he desperately wants to meet.

“There is so much talent here too,” says Mane, who worked in Breakaway and Thank You, two big-budget Bollywood movies shot in the Toronto area last year.

Bollywood won’t need to bring as many actors as they do,” he says. “The trouble is … we don’t know how to reach out to them.”

Mane and Sanda says IIFA has already proved to be a great ambassador for the Bollywood film industry but it could have reached out to South-Asian artists too through a bit of planning.

Sanda is conducting an acting workshop in Mississauga on Sunday but isn’t sure too many people will show up the day after the big show.

Mane, meanwhile, is still excited about being at the show on Saturday but professionally, it’s been a lost opportunity.

“I’d dreamt of snagging at least a couple of movie gigs through IIFA,” says Mane. “I’ll be lucky if I can get a good seat now.”

Jig: The Cost Of Kicking Up Their Heels

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

Jig
A documentary about the Irish dancing world championships. Directed by Sue Bourne. 93 minutes. Opens June 17 at the Royal. G

(Jun 16, 2011) Who knew the world of competitive Irish dancing
revealed in Sue Bourne’s documentary Jig was a closed arena that previously shunned cameras and publicity? After all, Riverdance’s Michael Flatley, one of entertainment’s most unabashedly self-promoting showmen, hardly seems the secretive type.

But this is the competitive side of the dance, where flashy steps are closely guarded and there’s a fear the taint of American kiddie beauty pageants — as seen on the ringletted, heavily made-up little girls — would draw criticism. But Bourne persisted and was given unheard-of access to the inner circle of Irish dance.

Her camera follows nine young performers from America to Russia as they prepare for the 40th Irish Dancing World Championship in Glasgow with the dedication of seasoned Olympians going for gold. Upper bodies held ramrod straight, feet flying, their coaches hammer out orders like drill sergeants yet the wee ones never flinch under the pressure.

Take 10-year-old John Whitehurst, a frail-looking, pallid boy from a large Birmingham family who adopts a steely gaze when he dances. His parents described their first glimpse of an Irish dancing competition as being like “a Shirley Temple convention.” He’s such a little boy, but he dances like his life depends on it. In a way, it does for these kids, who all speak passionately about their love of the dance and how it has replaced all outside entertainments and activities in their lives.

Bourne also profiles Joe Bitter, a 16-year-old dance wunderkind whose family moved from California to England so he could study with a world-renowned coach who was himself an eight-time world champ and former Riverdance star. And then there’s highly ranked dancer Sandun Verschoor, a Sri Lankan-born Dutch teen who says Irish dancing “is like a drug” to him but who has plenty of self doubt about placing at the worlds.

The problem is Bourne has too many stories to tell and as a result Jig loses its focus along the way as she interviews dancers, parents and coaches. Luckily, Jig returns with drama and intensity for the final act, as she hones in on one battle for dance supremacy among 10-year-olds: sweet, moon-faced Brogan McCay of Derry, Northern Ireland versus brassy Julia O’Rourke of Long Island, N.Y.

The final 10 minutes of Jig are as worthy a thriller as anything out of Hollywood this year, culminating in, as Bourne puts it, “an astonishing example of graciousness in defeat.”

A crowd-pleaser at Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival in April, Jig is both inspiring and a cautionary tale about obsession among youngsters. Case in point: when a mother insists her daughter can’t dance on a broken foot, a tiny yet determined Irish voice responds: “I can. I can. Watch me.”

Maria Bello Is Not Afraid Of The Dark

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller

(Jun 20, 2011)
Maria Bello always tells her 10-year-old son, Jack, “I’m a different kind of mommy,” she said, laughing. “Trying to explain why I’m not a soccer mom, why I’m off to Haiti again, why I smoke. I think he’s getting it.” She was smoking as she said it, illegally, nestled on the windowsill of a Toronto hotel room, exhaling the evidence out the window.

Bello, 44, is a rule breaker, a speak-outer, a fast talker, a lean-inner. She likes a raucous laugh between takes while making serious dramas, and she never brings her characters’ turbulent emotions home with her. “Nah. I don’t work like that,” she said, in her trademark husky voice. “It’s always a creative, artistic endeavour, so it’s exciting, as opposed to depressing.”

Good thing, because playing many of her characters would keep lesser women up at night – among them, an alcohol-industry lobbyist in Jason Reitman’s Thank You for Smoking (2005), a corporate hatchet woman in The Company Men (2010) and a wife whose husband’s past catches up with her in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005). This fall, she’ll face down a carjacker in the upcoming film Abduction and take on a sexist New York Police Department in the U.S. version of the TV series Prime Suspect, airing on Global and NBC. She plays Jane Timoney, the role that revitalized Helen Mirren’s career (as Jane Tennyson).

The film that brought Bello to this hotel sill,
Beautiful Boy, is her darkest yet. (It opened in select Canadian cities on Friday.) She and Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon) play parents rocked by the news that their 18-year-old son committed a mass shooting at his university, then killed himself. (In one of those weird movie coincidences, a film with a similar plot, We Need to Talk About Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly, was a deserved Palme d’or nominee at the Cannes Film Festival and is due out in September.)

“I find that I always choose movies – or movies come to me – with issues that I’m trying to explore or bring into my life,” Bello said. “With this script – listen, everybody I know who has a teenager right now is going through hell. Their kids aren’t talking to them, or they’re screaming at them, or on drugs, or they don’t know where the kid is at night. I’m trying not to think about that, but my son’s teenage years are coming. How do you know if something is normal teenage screwed-up behaviour, or worse?”

Bello, Sheen and their writer-director, Shawn Ku (making his feature directorial debut), took care working out the parents’ contrasting arcs, so they were never in the same place emotionally at the same time: She starts out full of feeling, then withdraws into denial and anger, while he’s the opposite. “It was a great acting exercise, especially with a brilliant actor like Michael,” Bello said. “To be able to ask him every minute, ‘What do you think of this approach? Where are you emotionally, where am I?’ We and the crew basically did the movie for free, because everyone loved the story so much.”

She especially loved that it doesn’t offer a tidy answer to why tragedies happen. “As if there could ever be a reason,” she said, then continued in a mock-earnest voice, “ ‘What does it mean? What is your film trying to say?’ Oh, please.”

Bello’s never been afraid of the dark. She grew up in Norristown, Pa., with two brothers, a sister, a father who was a construction worker and a mother who was a teacher and school nurse. “My mom always said, ‘You were the most intense kid,’” Bello said. “I was always trying to figure things out. About myself, about the world. Really emotional, sensitive. I grew up in a complicated household, where emotions were on the surface.”

Complicated, how? At first, Bello tried to demur: “No, I don’t want to say.” But she could only stand not-saying for about a second. “Okay, but only because it’s such a taboo subject, I will say that mental illness was a factor. It was always such a shameful thing. Thank God there are drugs for it now. But a lot of addiction and stuff in my family comes out of mental illness. To grow up in that was interesting.”

It turned Bello into a doer. She majored in political science at Villanova University near Philadelphia, and remains active in a number of causes. She spends about a week per month in Haiti working with Artists for Peace and Justice and the activist/doctor/priest Rick Frechette, who built a free pediatric hospital, three orphanages and 32 street schools in Cité Soleil, “in the scariest slums of the Western Hemisphere,” Bello said. “Which has been incredible and inspiring and painful.

She’s also done work in Darfur for eight years (she has a tattoo of Africa on her hip), and for 20 years, has promoted international women’s rights. Last fall, she helped 17 female Haitian political candidates – “all these woman are fierce,” she growled proudly – film campaign ads, “because, if you read the studies, if women hold the purse strings, more money is spent on kids’ health and education. Rwanda, for example, which has the highest percentage of women in parliament in Africa, has one of the fastest-growing economies. It’s incredible. I think the world will shift because of women in power.”

Back home in Venice Beach, Calif., Bello concentrates on work and co-parenthood. (She and Jack’s father, TV executive Dan McDermott, split up several years ago.) “Sometimes when I’ve made a mistake with Jack, I think, ‘Oh dear God, he’s going to be in therapy for the rest of his life,’” she said. “It’s the hardest job in the world, to do the right thing all the time, or know what that even is. I’m finding that the only thing I can do is fully be myself. Whoever I am, wherever I’m at. And teach him that’s the most important thing for him as well: Be yourself. Walk your path, nobody else’s.”

As evidence, she proffers an iPhone picture of Jack’s new haircut, which he designed himself: Shaved into his towhead are three stripes and his soccer number, 5. “He loves it,” Bello said, grinning. “He walks around differently.” Everybody in his school wants one like it.

“I feel like my gift as an actor is also to fully be myself,” Bello continued. “People want to connect, they want to share themselves, they want to be themselves. I’m expressing all the stuff that most people feel but would never express, because it’s too big. But I can. So I do. Hopefully, I help other people to feel. And hopefully with Beautiful Boy, I feel for them what they never have to feel.”

Michael Clarke Duncan - The “Green Lantern” Interview

Source: Kam Williams

Born on December 10, 1957 in Chicago where he and his sister were raised by a single-mom,
Michael Clarke Duncan is a survivor who went from homeless to bodyguard to aspiring actor to a Hollywood star with an Oscar-nomination on his resume’. And his career has continued to flourish since that critically-acclaimed performance in the pivotal role of gentle giant John Coffey in “The Green Mile.”

The towering, 6’5” thespian has enjoyed a long list of credits, and is set to star in his first full-time TV role in the new drama series “The Finder,” on FOX. He also has several movies upcoming, including the independent horror thriller “The Sibling,” with Mischa Barton, and the sports drama “From the Rough,” starring Taraji P. Henson.

His recent film work includes “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li,” “The Last Mimzy” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Among his other film credits are “The Island,” “Daredevil,” “The Scorpion King,” “Planet of the Apes,” “See Spot Run,” “Bulworth,” “The Whole Nine Yards,” and “Armageddon.”

Big Mike has lent his distinctive, deep voice to such animated projects as “Kung Fu Panda,” “Racing Stripes,” “Brother Bear,” “Delgo,” “Dintopia: Curse of the Ruby Sunstone,” “George of the Jungle 2,” and both “Cats & Dogs” and “Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.”

Duncan’s television credits include guest-starring roles on the hit shows “Two and a Half Men,” “Chuck,” “Family Guy,“ “The Jaime Foxx Show,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “Weird Science,” “Married With Children” and “The Wayans Bros.” Here, he talks about his latest outing as the voice of Kilowog in the Green Lantern.

Kam Williams: Hi Michael, thanks so much for the time.

Michael Clarke Duncan: Hey, how’re you doing, Kam?

KW: I’m fine, thanks. I think the last time we spoke was when you were doing The Island.

MCD: Man, that was a long time ago. But I remember that we share the same birthday. Isn’t that right? 

KW: Almost. Mine is December 11th; yours is the 10th. But I also have a few years on you.

MCD: That’s alright. It’s all in your mind.

KW: I have a lot of questions for you from fans, so why don’t I jump right into them. Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier says: I think you’re a great actor and you should have won the Academy Award when you were nominated for The Green Mile.

MCD: Thank you, Patricia. I have to admit that I agree with her. I think I should have won the Oscar and I believe The Green Mile should’ve won for Best Picture. It was the best movie made by anybody that year, hands down.
KW: Patricia asks: Is there a movie genre or type of role that you haven’t had the opportunity to do that you would like to? 

MCD: Yes, what I have not done is play the lead in a romantic comedy. I have a comedic side and I bet people would enjoy seeing me get the beautiful woman in the end. Something like that would definitely work.

KW: Patricia also asks: What advice can you give to young people who to follow in your footsteps?

MCD: First off, have a plan. Know what you want to do, because if you don’t know what you want to do, you’ll get stuck. It’s not as easy as people think.  A lot of kids think they can just go to Hollywood and become an actor or actress. It’s not that easy. There are millions of kids who come out here wanting to act. So, you have to have a plan, and you have to stick with that plan, because it’s not going to be easy by any means. You’re aware of that, Kam, because of all the degrees you have. You had to go to school and study. And aspiring actors need to take acting classes… know your craft inside and out… and get a job when you arrive in L.A. Don’t depend on acting as your sole source of income. Work nights, so you can have your days off to attend auditions. Have something to fall back on. That’s what my mother taught me, and it’s critical in Hollywood.     

KW: You play voice of Kilowog in Green Lantern. Did you ever have to be on the set for this role?

MCD: No, I was never on the set, Kam. Martin [Director Martin Campbell] had me in a studio in Burbank. He knew what he wanted and was very specific. He’s an excellent director who really drives you and pushes you hard.

KW: Teresa Emerson wants to know whether you enjoy doing voiceover work.

MCD: Oh, of course you have to love it any time you can go to the studio in pyjamas, and the only preparation you have to do is take a shower and brush your teeth. You don’t even have to memorize your lines. The script is right there in front of you. So, yeah, I love voiceover work. It’s right up there with acting.

KW: Harriet Pakula Teweles says: Because of your size, you are often cast in a role of “The Heavy." Since that is not the real you, how difficult is it to assume that role?

MCD: It’s kind of difficult, because once people enjoy you as “The Heavy,” they want to see you as that all the time. And if you become pigeonholed, then there are only certain limited roles you can play. To help, I’ve trimmed my weight down to a solid 275 instead of being over 300 pounds.    

KW: Judyth Piazza asks: What is the most important lesson that you have learned working in Hollywood?

MCD: Save your money. Save your money, because you could be very busy for a year, but then have the next one off. That’s happened to me, but I put my money in the bank, Kam. I don’t splurge. So, my best advice about working in Hollywood is: Save your money!

KW: Judyth also asks: If you could change one thing about Hollywood, what would it be?

MCD: How they do business. Kam, if you shake my hand and tell me we’re going to do this or that project together, I’d believe you. But when I first got to Hollywood, I’d believe all the people who’d tell me they were going to put me in a movie. And I still haven’t heard back from a lot of them to this day. I don’t like it when someone can look you in the eye and lie to you, or pretend that they’re more than you. 

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

MCD: [LOL] No, I just like answering the questions posed, because people can really come up with some off the wall stuff.

KW: What is your favourite dish to cook?

MCD: I made myself some pancakes this morning that were off the chain. I have to admit that I love pancakes and vegetarian meatloaf. I am a food connoisseur, although I don’t eat pork. I’m lucky my girlfriend is a great chef, since eating is one of my favourite pastimes.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

MCD: Cheesecake! I just had some Cinnamon Chocolate Cheesecake, some German Chocolate Cheesecake and some Pineapple Upside-Down Cheesecake at The Cheesecake Factory the other night. So, I had to work my butt off the next day, because I’m trying to get in shape for my new television series, “The Finder.”

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

MCD: An accomplished actor who was homeless twice. A person who was down on his luck in Chicago in 1996, crying his eyes out on the lakefront. I see a guy who told himself: There ain’t no use in crying because nobody cares. You can either be a bum or follow your dream and try to make it. Today, I see a successful person when I look in the mirror.    

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

MCD: [Chuckles] My earliest memory is of the Christmas my mother bought me an Aurora race car set. That was the only gift I got that year, but I was the happiest kid in the world when she bought me that. I didn’t care about anything else. But that was back in the day, I don’t even know if Aurora’s still in business anymore. That and Electric Football were my favourites when I was a kid

KW: Tudor Electric Football! I had that, and an HO-scale race car set, too.

MCD: See, you know what I’m talking about, Kam. I can reminisce with you without sounding weird.

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

MCD: That’s a no-brainer. Just to have my mother’s health restored. Arthritis and other ailments have taken their toll, and she’s not as vibrant as she used to be. My wish would be to have her health back the way it was in the Sixties when she would play catch with me, throw a football with me, and teach me how to hold a bat. Yeah, my wish would be for my mother to have excellent health.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

MCD: Yes, extremely happy. You gotta remember I was homeless. Whenever I think I have something to complain about. I go outside, walk across the street and look at my home, and remind myself of the time I was living on the damn lakefront in a car full of garbage bags with clothes, and ask myself, “What do you possibly have to be upset about?” Kam, I have nothing to complain about. A friend of mine was just murdered, shot five times last Thursday as he was driving on a freeway entrance ramp. The last thing he did was dial 9-1-1. Another thing my mother told me as a child was, “Always wake up with a smile on your face, because a lot of people who went to sleep last night are not with us this morning.” So, I’m extremely happy, Kam.

KW: Looks like your mother has given you a lot of sound advice over the years.

MCD: Yeah, she’s never steered me wrong. I remember when Martin Luther King was shot and people started rioting in Chicago. My mother whacked me on my butt just because I balled up a piece of paper and threw it out the window. She asked me, “Why did you do that?” I said, “Because they killed Martin Luther King.” She said, “just think, where are we gonna buy our groceries, if they burn all the stores down?” I hadn’t thought of that.

KW: I had the impulse to riot when King was killed, too, but I was lucky to have a teacher who suggested that maybe I should channel my energy constructively and become a revolutionary student instead of a rioter.

MCD: And look what happened, from those words to you now. That teacher had a profound impact on the way you think by saying that one phrase. And then you went on to Ivy League schools. Growing up back then, people cared about you. If you misbehaved, the elders in the neighbourhood would pull your coat. You got all your degrees because of the way that your parents, your teachers and your community raised you and helped you get there. You probably had some excellent teachers who inspired you whose names you can still recall to this day, just like I did.     

KW: Yep.

MCD:  Did you know that Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan is from Chicago? His mother ran a center for underprivileged black kids in the hood. I told him to let me know whenever he wants me to speak on behalf of education. I believe that teachers committed to the community are the ones who deserve to earn the top dollar, a starting salary of a quarter million dollars a year, because they’re the ones that get the Michael Clarke Duncans and the Kam Williams ready for our careers. I’m sorry for going a little off topic, Kam.    

KW: No need to apologize.

MCD: Believe me, Kam, I’m the biggest sports fan there is, I love sports, but I’m still convinced that it’s teachers who deserve the big salaries, not athletes. When I reflect on my childhood, I could always count on my mothers and my teachers the most.       

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

MCD: I try to have a good laugh every day. Every day, Kam!

KW: Well, thanks for another great interview, Mike, and best of luck with both Green Lantern and the new TV show.

MCD: Hey, much love, Kam, and give your wife and son my regards.   

KW: Will do, brother.

MCD: Take care, man.

To see a trailer for “Green Lantern,” visit HERE.

'Jackass' Star Ryan Dunn Died From Crash's Impact, Fire: Coroner

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Jun 21, 2011) Jackass daredevil
Ryan Dunn and his passenger died from the impact of the violent car crash and the resulting fire, according to a coroner's report Tuesday.

The Chester County coroner listed blunt force trauma and thermal trauma as the official causes of death for both men. Toxicology results will take four to six weeks to complete, coroner's office spokeswoman Patty Emmons said.

The 34-year-old Dunn and passenger Zachary Hartwell died early Monday, shortly after leaving a pub in West Chester where Dunn had tweeted a photo of the pair and a third man drinking just hours before the crash. The photo has since been taken down.

Barnaby's of America manager Jim O'Brien declined through an employee to speak to The Associated Press. He told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Dunn was drinking with several friends at the bar but didn't appear drunk.

West Goshen Township police declined Tuesday to discuss the ongoing investigation in detail but believe speed may have been a factor in the suburban Philadelphia crash.

A preliminary examination of the crash site suggested that Dunn's Porsche might have been travelling more than 100 mph in the 55 mph zone when it jumped a guardrail, flew into a wooded ravine, struck a tree and burst into flames.

The 30-year-old Hartwell was credited as a production assistant for the second "Jackass" movie.

Dunn's brother, Eric Dunn, said in an e-mailed statement to the AP that his family was "devastated."

"We appreciate the support of Ryan's fans during this time, and we are grateful for your thoughts and prayers," he said. "Ryan will be greatly missed, but he will forever remain in our hearts."

Mourners placed flowers and took photos at the accident scene in West Chester, while Facebook and Twitter were buzzing Tuesday with condolences from fans around the world and friends from Hollywood to Chester County.

Among those expressing their sorrow online were Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden, reality TV star Brody Jenner and Dunn's Jackass movie and TV cohorts Bam Margera, Stephen "Steve-O" Glover and Jason "Wee Man" Acuna.

Glover tweeted, "I don't know what to say, except I love Ryan Dunn and I'm really going to miss him." Glover also cancelled six upcoming stand-up comedy shows in Sacramento, Calif., and the venue said it was issuing ticket holders refunds.

Hot Docs Chief Sean Farnel Steps Down To Embrace Reality

Source: 
www.thestar.com - by: Peter Howell

(Jun 20, 2011)  After 12 years spent watching 4,000 films in dark
rooms, Hot Docs chief Sean Farnel wants to get back into the daylight for a while.

The Toronto documentary films programmer announced on his Ripping Reality blog this past weekend, in a post reported by Movie City News, that he's leaving the docs biz for a spell and "putting my work boots and coveralls on." But he'll be open to persuasion for other film-related endeavours.

"After six wonderful festivals as its director of programming I am taking my leave from Hot Docs," Farnel wrote.

"I like the synchronicity of it, having also programmed the docs at the Toronto International Film Festival for six years prior to being recruited to Hot Docs. Five years is usually enough to get the job done (give or take a bonus year). As at TIFF, I depart with pride, having significantly advanced the programs on which I worked. It seems unlikely that we could’ve put together a better festival then we did with this past Hot Docs."

What's he planning to do next? He's not saying, but for the moment, it will be outside of a screening room. He remains loyal to docs, though.

"And so I embrace the notion of having some room to roam, to being a professional omnivore, a free agent, and at some point to taking your calls to persuade me to settle down. But, for now, when my friends back home ask me what I’m doing, how will I respond? Well, I’m putting my work boots and coveralls on, sharpening my tools and packing a big lunch. I work for documentary."

Aloha! Toy Story Revs Up For Big Screen Return

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - By David Germain, The Associated Press

(Jun 20, 2011) Woody the cowboy, Buzz Lightyear and their "
Toy Story" pals are back on the big-screen in a new adventure.

The voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Michael Keaton, Joan Cusack and other stars are featured in a "Toy Story" short film that runs before the Pixar Animation sequel "Cars 2," which debuts in U.S. theatres Friday.

"Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation" has Mr. Hanks' Woody, Mr. Allen's Buzz, Ms. Cusack's Jessie the cowgirl and the other toys coming up with a scheme to give doll sweethearts Ken and Barbie (Mr. Keaton and Jodi Benson) the trip of their dreams.

After lending his voice to the franchise's three blockbuster feature-length films, Mr. Hanks says he'll keep coming back to do the voice of Woody whenever Disney-owned Pixar wants to do more with the "Toy Story" characters.

"Are those people some brand of genius that you can't really begin to fathom?" Mr. Hanks said of Pixar, whose 11 feature-length animated films have all been critical and commercial successes. "As long as I don't develop a smoker's cough, yeah, I'm there. Whatever they need. There's only one Woody, and it's me."

Along with winning six of the 10 Academy Awards for feature-length animation since that category was added, Pixar has earned 10 Oscar nominations for its short films, winning three.

Some of those short cartoons have preceded other Pixar feature films on the big-screen, reviving a sense of the serial entertainment that Hollywood provided at cinemas in its early years.

"We really believe in the short film," said Pixar's creative mastermind, John Lasseter, who received a special Oscar for 1995's "Toy Story," the first computer-animated feature film. "One, in the case of these, it just kind of keeps new animation of our favourite characters going. Secondly, for us internally, it's a great way for us to let younger artists take the next step up in their career to try directing."

The new "Toy Story" short is directed by Gary Rydstrom, a seven-time Oscar winner for sound or sound-effects editing on such movies as "Titanic," "Jurassic Park" and "Saving Private Ryan." A veteran sound designer on Pixar films, Mr. Rydstrom previously directed the company's Oscar-nominated 2006 animated short "Lifted."

Mr. Lasseter, who also directed "Toy Story 2," "A Bug's Life," "Cars" and "Cars 2," said short cartoons allow him and the Pixar crew to keep in touch with characters they have come to consider friends.

Pixar has crafted short films for television and home video reprising characters from "Cars," "The Incredibles," "Up" and other feature hits.

"We'll come up with great ideas, little gags and stuff that are really fun, that are not necessarily appropriate story-wise for a feature film," Mr. Lasseter said. "But they're really fantastic for a short film where you would love to see the characters again."

True Legend: Epic Fight Club

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara, Entertainment Reporter

True Legend
Starring Vincent Zhao, Zhou Xin. Directed by Yuen Woo-ping. 115 minutes. Opens June 17 at the Scotiabank and SilverCity Richmond Hill. 14A

(Jun 16, 2011) Love, war, sibling rivalry and some very cool fight
scenes.

True Legend has epic written all over it.

The story begins in 1861 with an opening scene that is a masterpiece of choppy-sock action, even if it takes place in a CGI-created fortress that comes with what appears to be a bottomless pit.

A small band of warriors led by General Su Can comes to the rescue of a prince who is seconds from death. Despite being massively outnumbered, they manage to save him.

The prince, a relative of the Qing emperor, offers to put a good word in for Su to become governor of a province. But in the best tradition of a Confucian hero, Su humbly begs the prince to instead bestow the reward on his foster brother, Yuan, before riding off into the sunset to perfect his wushu fighting skills.

Su is leading a blissful life with his wife, Ying, and son, Feng, when a vengeful Yuan returns to the family home, kills Su’s father and kidnaps his wife and son. (There’s a hint of incestuous desire in Yuan’s feelings for Ying, who also happens to be his sister.)

In a showdown, Su is defeated and tossed into a raging river. His loyal wife follows. End of Act 1.

Act 2 follows the long recovery of Su, who becomes a drunkard despite his wife’s loyalty and support. With Su apparently battling mythical gods, Ying decides he’s gone mad and tries to rescue Feng on her own. Su soon follows and once again battles Yuan, winning this time despite the fact that Yuan has had iron plates sewn into his skin. But Su cannot save Ying in time.

As Act 3 begins, a grief-stricken Su, along with son Feng, has become beggar Su. They meet Su’s old army buddy, Ma, who is trying to close down a fight club run by nasty Europeans. When Feng’s life is threatened, a drunken Su rises to the challenge and defeats a slew of dirty-fighting foreigners, sending the whole lot packing. The end.

Vincent Zhao is a genuinely charismatic hero, both as the clean-shaven general and as the dishevelled “drunken master.” Zhou Xun is hauntingly effective in the role of Ying and Andy On creates a deliciously evil villain in Yuan.

Perhaps to make the film more commercially viable, director Yuen Woo-ping has given a pitifully small cameo to Michelle Yeoh of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon fame. If the aerial fighting style seems familiar, too, that’s because Yuen was the martial arts choreographer of the latter film (as well as The Matrix). He has also cast David Carradine as the evil European, Anton, a performance shortly before the actor’s mysterious death

The film has scenes that seem tailor-made for 3-D viewing, which look pretty cheesy if you’re watching it in 2-D.

There are few minor missteps, such as bringing in Europeans as imperialist villains, which feels a bit heavy-handed, and Yuan’s use of real poison (scorpions, tarantulas, etc.) to bolster his Five Venom Fists fighting technique is kind of hokey.

But bolstered by strong, heartfelt performances by the main players, True Legend is likely to appeal to an audience far broader than those looking to see some scrappy martial arts action.

FILM TIDBITS

Toronto Critics Honour Cinepix Founder

Source: 
www.thestar.com - by: Linda Barnard

(Jun 20, 2011) The Toronto Film Critics Association has named 84-year-old
John Dunning, the founder of film distribution company, Cinepix, the recipient of its 2011 Clyde Gilmour award. The award is given to Canadians whose work has enriched the understanding and appreciation of film in Canada. Past honourees include Elwy Yost and Allan King. Dunning and business partner André Link gave emerging talents such as David Cronenberg and Ivan Reitman a chance at national exposure early in their careers. “John Dunning is the unacknowledged godfather of an entire generation of Canadian filmmakers,” said Cronenberg in a statement. (His films Shivers and Rabid were produced by Cinepix.)  “I still consider him my movie mentor," Cronenberg added.

::TV NEWS::

“Tough Cookie” Is No TV Rookie

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara, Entertainment Reporter

(Jun 22, 2011) Enuka Okuma is no stranger to series television.

But past roles in Canadian teen drama Madison, police drama Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye and in the seventh season of the hit drama 24 haven’t come close to giving Okuma the exposure of starring in Rookie Blue.

With Season 2 premiering Thursday at 10 p.m. on Global and ABC, the Toronto-based series has gone seriously international, airing in more than 20 countries throughout Europe, Asia and South America. (The Season 1 is now out in stores.)

“It’s crazy. This show has been really, really successful. It’s a great feeling to be on a Canadian show, a show of my home country, that’s doing as well as it is. It’s very rare,” Okuma said.

The Vancouver native plays Traci Nash, a single mom who uses the street smarts she learned from growing up “on the wrong side of town” and dreams of one day rising from street cop to hard-nosed detective.

“Traci Nash is a tough cookie. When I first got the role, I definitely questioned a single mother’s choice to be in such a dangerous job. But the more I thought about it and talked about it with (co-executive producer) Tassie Cameron, we kind of came to the conclusion that she’s the type of woman who will not let anything stand in the way of her dreams,” Okuma said.

Cameron said the idea of a series following a small group of rookie cops came from working with co-executive producer Ilana Frank and consulting with police officers on projects like the miniseries Would Be Kings.

“Over the years . . . we kept hearing these amazing rookie stories. Everybody, whether they were SWAT guys or criminal profilers or undercover, everybody was a rookie at one point and everybody had these funny, heart-breaking, moving, interesting stories about being a rookie,” Cameron recalled.

“We started to realize that this was a very fun, rich and unmined territory. The idea was such a clean, simple, great high-concept idea. It was one of those ideas where you’re like, ‘I can’t believe this isn’t a show already,’” Cameron added.

Frank and two writers put an initial script together and the idea quickly sold to Global TV, which ordered a 13-episode season without waiting to see a pilot.

Cameron, who was attached at the time to another Toronto-based cop series, Flashpoint, was tasked with heading to Los Angeles and pitching the concept to ABC, which agreed to co-produce it.

Okuma, for one, is not surprised that audiences have embraced the show.

“Everyone can relate to that feeling of being on your first job, having your first responsibilities, facing the first moral dilemmas that you might have to face,” she said.

“It’s a cop show, yes, but it’s not a (police) procedural, so you’re getting involved with these characters and you care what’s happening to them,” Okuma said.

“Most of the audience cares about who’s sleeping with whom. That’s a big part of the appeal,” she added, with a booming melodic laugh.

Having two networks behind the show means having a budget big enough to film in 35 mm rather than video and adding elements that give the series a “prime-time” feel, Cameron said.

“It’s also pretty exciting for the actors and the crew to be involved in a show that has an audience that expands past our borders into not only the U.S. but Europe and Asia. So everyone’s game is up,” she added.

Okuma is confident the series has at least several more seasons to run because “at least within the brotherhood, you’re considered a rookie for a long time,” Okuma said.

Cameron said she wondered if the success of Rookie Blue might have been an inspiration to others after hearing that veteran actor Robert De Niro is producing a series for CBS called The 2-2, following the lives of six rookie cops on the mean streets of Manhattan.

“I had mixed emotions when I saw they were doing a show that was so similar, but I choose to see it as imitation is the highest form of flattery. There’s lots of room for two great shows,” Cameron said.

Is Dave Chappelle coming back?

Source: 
www.thestar.com - by: Raju Mudhar

(Jun 18, 2011)   He's known for creating one of the funniest sketch
shows in recent memory - and walking away from it and a $50 million deal to produce more. Comedian Dave Chappelle is reportedly in negotiations to create a new series for one of the subscription-based web watching services like Netflix, Crackle or Hulu.

The creator and star of the brilliant Chappelle's Show has kept pretty low profile following walking off the set of his namesake series during its third season. He cited many reasons, including feeling he was underpaid for the first two years of the show - which became monster DVD hits - and also because he was worried that people were looking at his often race-based comedy in the wrong way. He famously once told Time Magazine: "I want to make sure I'm dancing and not shuffling."

I saw Chappelle perform in Toronto during the stand-up tour after the show's implosion, and while he was still incredibly funny, he seemed rather paranoid and wasn't particularly clear while discussing why he decided to pull the plug.

No matter though, as I think I am with millions of people who wants to see what the comedian has in him next. By choosing to go through one of these web broadcasting ventures, he potentially bypasses creative control from meddling network executives, can be as obscene as he likes and also ensures that he gets a pretty big piece of the money pie.

It is also clear that these type of online ventures are spending. Netflix is paying over $100 million for two seasons of the Kevin Spacey-starring House of Cards and it is clear that they want to up their premium content to keep subscribers coming. Sound like it could be win-win-win - for Chappelle, for the provider and most importantly, for us fans - all around.

With ' Combat Hospital,' Elias Koteas Arrives On The Small Screen

Source: 
www.globeandmail.com - By Andrew Ryan

(Jun 20, 2011) Life has unfolded one movie role at a time for
Elias Koteas.

Although known primarily for creating indelible characters in feature films, the Montreal-born actor moves to the small screen in the upcoming series
Combat Hospital.

Koteas made his movie debut in the 1985 movie One Magic Christmas and soon after scored plum roles in the films Gardens of Stone and Tucker: The Man and His Dream, both directed by Francis Ford Coppola. His leading-man ability was established with the 1989 Canadian feature Malarek, based on the life of street-kid-turned-journalist Victor Malarek.

In years to follow, Koteas tested his range by starring in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Desperate Hours and Atom Egoyan's Exotica. In David Cronenberg's Crash he stole the show as the car-crash fetishist Vaughan. In recent years, Koteas has co-starred in such big-budget films as Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island.

Filmed on a Toronto set replicating Kandahar, Combat Hospital follows a group of medics from Canada, the U.S. and Britain working at the only military hospital providing surgical care in Afghanistan. Koteas is once again the scene-stealer as the hospital's hard-edged commander, Colonel Xavier Marks. He spoke to The Globe last week in Toronto.

How did you prep to play Combat Hospital's tough Colonel Marks?

With a deep breath and a prayer. The role fell into my lap very quickly and suddenly I was in front of the camera. So a lot of my discovery is happening in front of the camera while I'm trying to figure out how to play him. He's a work in progress.

Are you accustomed to having more time to find a character?

Generally speaking, yeah. I love having the script and sleeping with it and getting to know a character through osmosis. On this show, it's like getting to do a new movie every week, and while you're doing one episode, you're learning lines for another at the same time. The speed is ferocious.

Is Marks like any character you've played before?

I don't feel like he is, although I'm a believer that your whole life has prepared you for the job you're about to take that comes into your life at the moment. So there's got to be a reason why he's in my life. It's an ongoing thing. Each week changes until we figure out where he is. That's part of the process of episodic television.

Does the set replicating Kandahar feel authentic to you?

It really does, man. The backlot here looks so real. I've seen pictures of the Kandahar airfield and it's amazing what they've done. The actors don't have to pretend that much when they go on the set.

Your first movie role [as an extra] was in Atlantic City in 1980. Does it feel like you've been acting for 30 years?

I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse, but every time I show up on set it still feels like the first time. I'm always open to asking myself the right questions that will give me some answers.

You worked with Francis Ford Coppola early in your career on Gardens of Stone and Tucker. What did you learn from him?

Well, I was young and ferociously petulant then and going through a lot of different things at the time. I learned that Francis and the people of his calibre always have good people around them. It's family-oriented and the movie is done with love and passion and commitment. He set that stage for me. I was very fortunate.

Was Malarek a breakthrough role for you?

It certainly was. It was definitely a wonderful, enchanting time. I was 27 and fresh out of acting school and given the opportunity for the first time to carry a picture. It was exhilarating, man. After the film was over, and it was well-received, it let me put a little swagger in my step.

Did you keep in touch with the real Victor Malarek?

I haven't seen him since the Genie Awards in 1989. I saw him doing a report on W5 recently. I'm glad to see he's still plying his trade and pushing the envelope.

Was playing Vaughan in Crash a career reboot for you?

That was great, man. I felt like I was living in a state of grace doing that movie. Just working with a brilliant director like David Cronenberg was great. It was so complicated and so cerebral. I love that stuff. I thrive on it.

After years of going from film to film, do you feel like an independent contractor as an actor?

You do get used to that idea. You don't feel like anybody has you, if you know what I mean. There's an adjustment.

Does making a TV series feel different for you?

This is very different, because now I feel like I'm in a bit of a box, because I'm in this show. It's a different adjustment. It completely consumes your life, man. You have to really be on your game.

Are you in for the long haul on Combat Hospital?

I'm taking it day by day, man. I wish nothing but the best for the show. There are really great creative people involved and the aspiration is there. If I can continue to fit into this storyline, that would be great. Although I'm obligated to be a part of the show, I don't think anyone would want an unhappy actor around if it's not working out. But it's been a blast. I'm just enjoying the moment.

Combat Hospital debuts Tuesday on ABC and Global at 10 p.m.

This interview has been condensed and edited

Canadian Hosts Expedition Impossible

Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar

(Jun 21, 2011)
Dave Salmoni is enjoying the creature comforts of home before his newest gig gets unveiled to the world.

Long a traveller to some of the remote areas of the globe, the locally raised animal handler and television host is getting his crack at wider stardom as the face of
Expedition Impossible, the latest reality show from super producer Mark Burnett, which premieres Thursday on CTV and ABC at 9 p.m.

Sitting in a park in the St. Lawrence Market hood, Salmoni doesn’t get recognized here, but that should change soon enough if Burnett’s magical touch with everything reality TV continues.

Salmoni, a Sarnia native who owns his own production company, has hosted plenty of animal-based series like Into the Pride and Rogue Nature, but the big change for him is dealing with humans in his new gig, although, they’re not all that different.

“With an animal there’s lots of poop and piss and that kind of stuff, but it’s usually at a distance and no one talks about it. These guys, every time they came across the finish line, it’s like ‘I’ve got the runs, Dave,’ Why are you telling me?” laughs Salmoni.

“Mark Burnett produced the show, and he gave them a speech — he gives lots of speeches — but in the beginning he says this is what you’re going to have to go through And you’re going to have diarrhea and he got a laugh out of it, so he ran with this whole diarrhea joke, and I swear to you, it was him opening the door for everything.”

Despite the uncomfortable updates on bodily functions, Salmoni has nothing but good things to say about the contestants on his new show.

Although the series will have to labour under Amazing Race comparisons, there are some differences. Rather than pairs, it features teams of three, and rather than travelling the world, the show is set in Morocco, chosen was for it vast terrain and disparate temperature zones.

“The only similarities (with The Amazing Race) are the ones that you would have with Survivor. There are eliminations. There are start and finish lines. There are challenges, but that seems to be what reality TV is right now,” Salmoni says. “The Amazing Race is a great scavenger hunt. This is a physical and mental enduring type of race. These people go on expeditions and get pushed way past their limits. Ordinary people doing the extraordinary and I think after watching five minutes of the show, you’ll never make the same comparison again.”

He warns that you won’t see cabs or hotels. The show is more about physical challenges, like hiking up mountains or rappelling down cliffs. He says it really lives up to the expedition in the title, with most of the cast and crew living in tents alongside the contestants, which he admits was tricky, considering how tight knit people became, although he still had a job to do.

“Initially, I felt like I was the host guy who gives you a stern warning and then kicks you off when you don’t make the cut, so I wanted to keep some distance,” he says. “But Mark said to me, ‘You’ve got to make friends with these guys. They want to be your buddy.’ But you’ve also got to be an authority figure, because when they’re breaking down — and they all did — they’re going to need you to pick them up and say, ‘You can do this. Get going.’”

Six on the City

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Jun 20, 2011) It’s amazing what a supplementary wad of corporate
cash can buy.

One thing became immediately clear during last month’s Canadian up-front presentations: given the added advantage of Rogers Media’s deep pockets,
Citytv has stepped up as a major player, certainly in terms of buying power for those still much-coveted U.S. shows.

It wasn’t so long ago that CTV was able to cherry-pick the best of the best, with Global glomming up the rest, leaving subnetwork City as the bottom-feeder.

But it isn’t just CTV versus Global anymore, it’s Bell versus Shaw versus Rogers, on a more or less level playing field.

This was made clear, as I said, during the up-fronts. But it was reiterated for me last week when City sent out a fresh batch of fall and mid-season pilots.

The big news first: Terra Nova doesn’t suck.

Debut delays and blown budgets are never a good sign, particularly the latter, given the Steven Spielberg-produced sci-fi series’ $4 million-per-episode price tag — four times that for the two-hour premiere alone.

All we had to go on up till now was a preview trailer, which made the series look more like a movie. Movies, rather, specifically Blade Runner and Jurassic Park.

And that is indeed the case, certainly in terms of production value and settings, if not actual plot, which if you want a cinematic precedent, more closely echoes 12 Monkeys, with maybe a little Stargate tossed into the mix.

When a ruined future Earth manages to tear a hole in its own space/time continuum, the surviving (barely) government starts shipping selected citizens on a one-way trip through the newly created portal to restart life 85 million years in the past.

The cast includes Life on Mars’ Jason O’Mara and Avatar’s Stephen Lang, along with Degrassi alum Landon Liboiron. Also, several computer-generated dinosaurs, some of whom are less than thrilled about having to share their prehistoric idyll.

Next up, Revenge, another show about which I was pre-emptively sceptical despite the presence, for the first time in a series, of accomplished Toronto actor Henry Czerny.

I don’t know . . . I hear “Hamptons” and I think of rich people behaving badly. Which is exactly what this show is about, with Czerny and the fabulous Madeleine Stowe (12 Monkeys again) presiding over the enclave’s ridiculously privileged social set.

But all is not as it seems. A “new” arrival (yet another Ontarian, Port Perry’s Emily VanCamp) has some buried secrets and suspicious motives of her own, and a yen for revenge, and apparently more than enough cash to carry it out.

Intriguing stuff, as guilty pleasures go.

And the hits just keep on coming. I’ve missed Tim Allen’s light sitcom touch since Home Improvement ended (as Allen told me at the time, because “the kids grew up and turned into little thugs”).

He is taking no chances on this long-awaited return, Last Man Standing, in which he presides — well, he thinks so — over a house-full of women.

Nancy Travis is as adept at busting his pseudo macho chops as Patricia Richards was in the old show, and there is the added twist of the eldest of the three daughters being an unwed mother.

Suburgatory is a half-hour, single-camera comedy that also recalls a couple of films, Juno and Easy A, and in fact that whole “smart girl who can’t relate to her peers” teen movie sub-genre.

Atypically in this sort of endeavour, the parents are the most interesting characters, as played by Jeremy Sisto (Law & Order), Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Ana Gasteyer (SNL) and Alan Tudyk (Firefly).

Two of the new City acquisitions are mid-season shows. Scandal is the latest from Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes, with Boston Legal’s Kerry Washington as an expert “crisis manager” with some intriguing ties to the White House, based loosely on the real-life A-list spin diva Judy Smith.

Again, it’s intriguing, if somehow oddly familiar, recalling both Tim Roth in Lie to Me and Sarah Shahi in Fairly Legal.

Apartment 23, or as it was originally titled, You Can’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23, is an edgier, nastier — and for my money, funnier — spin on the more traditional sitcom, 2 Broke Girls, which City also has, as part of its fall schedule (the two shows originate on ABC and CBS, respectively).

AUDIO AND VIDEO: Raven-Symone Will Not Tolerate Foolishness on her Set

Source: www.eurweb.com - Cherie Saunders

(Jun 20, 2011) *Raven-Symone returns to series television next week in ABC Family’s “State of Georgia,” which stars the 25-year-old as an aspiring actress from the south who moves with her best friend Jo (Majandra Delfino) to New York City where they pursue their respective dreams.

Loretta Devine stars at their New York landlord Aunt Honey.

“It’s gonna be interesting when people watch the show,” Symone tells EUR at a recent press day for the show, which premieres June 29 at 8:30 p.m.  “I think they’re definitely going to see a great dynamic between us.” [
Scroll down to watch the promo.]

Symone not only has a resume packed with acting gigs like “The Cosby Show,” “Hanging With Mr. Cooper” and “That’s So Raven,” but she’s also an accomplished player behind the camera, having produced 18 “Raven” episodes as well as the two “Cheetah Girls” TV movies and her 2008 feature film “College Road Trip” with Martin Lawrence.

In the entertainment business since age 2, the Atlanta native says
there’s a reason you’ve never seen her on TMZ drunk at the club, caught in a sex tape or posing for a mug shot. She credits the influence of her parents and early industry mentors in steering her clear of the Hollywood traps that land so many of her peers in hot water.

“I was very fortunate to be a part of the industry at a time where you walked on the set and it was a school,” she tells EUR. “I learned how to be in the industry from ‘The Cosby Show’ and ‘Hanging with Mr. Cooper.’ And nowadays I feel that sometimes [the set] is not necessarily [a school]. It’s, ‘Let’s get the funny, let’s get the laugh, let’s get the cuteness and put it out there.’

“And you’re getting kids that don’t really know exactly how the business works. You’re getting all this fame on your shoulders and putting people’s lives in your hands, because if we don’t show up to work, somebody doesn’t get a check – and that’s a problem.  At 15, I 
knew that, but I wasn’t burdened by it. Even though it’s stressful, I knew it was coming because somebody taught me earlier. I don’t see kids getting that lesson now.”

In fact, in the bonus audio below, Raven describes how important it is for her as a producer to school the youngins on her set, and how she once had to check a four-year-old visitor who thought she was grown.

::THEATRE NEWS::

National Ballet Celebrates Greta Hodgkinson With Flair

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Michael Crabb

National Ballet of Canada: Mozartiana, Other Dances, In The Upper Room
Until June 19; Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen Street W; 416 (toll free 1-866) 345-9595 or www.national.ballet.ca

(Jun 16, 2011) In the unlikely event that Greta Hodgkinson had
lingering doubts about how much the National Ballet treasures her, she can now lay them to rest.

This week the company is marking her 20 years of distinguished dancing by putting a “Celebrating Greta” banner above its current mixed program and featuring her in every performance of Other Dances, an extended duet for a pair of virtuoso dancers by American choreographer Jerome Robbins, which Artistic Director Karen Kain has acquired as an anniversary gift for a prized ballerina.

Robbins made Other Dances, set to Chopin piano music, 35 years ago for Soviet-trained defector-superstars Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova. Both were incomparable artists and Robbins made good use of their unique gifts. Those who’ve followed in their footsteps — relatively few — have had the unenviable task of delivering the choreography accurately while also finding ways to imbue it with personal distinction.

This Hodgkinson and Zdenek Konvalina achieve in their own way, engaging the choreography’s technical challenges fearlessly while charging it with almost conversional freshness.

Though the man is in tights and the woman in toe shoes, Other Dances is not your garden variety classical ballet duet. It’s intimate and playful. The woman is not a princess, nor he a prince. He neither worships nor courts. They dance as equals; as much from deep friendship as romantic ardour.

Robbins mines the selected four mazurkas, bisected by a single waltz, for their folkish elements. There’s an earthy Slavic tone to the proceedings and the choreography jauntily inflects the classical vocabulary accordingly, a hand-on-hip characteristic Hodgkinson and Konvalina work to full advantage.

If only Santo Loquasto’s bland, grey costumes — surely the originals were in more rustic tones — equally reflected this.

Other Dances is the centrepiece of a triple bill that opens with a revival of George Balanchine’s Mozartiana and closes with Twyla Tharp’s In The Upper Room.

Mozartiana, the great Russian-American’s last major work, was his third treatment of Tchaikovsky’s Mozart homage, the Orchestral Suite No. 4 Op. 61, this time reordered to suit Balanchine’s needs. At its centre is an enigmatic ballerina — Sonia Rodriguez at Wednesday’s opening. We meet her in a quiet, invocatory prelude but by the time the ballet has gathered full steam in the “Theme and Variations” section, she dazzles with quicksilver radiance.

In The Upper Room, propelled by Phillip Glass music and danced on a foggy stage, is a work of physical extremes and endurance; fast, furious and frenetic; just the way to bring a rich program to a rousing conclusion and trigger a standing ovation.

What’s Donny Osmond really like?

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Jun 18, 2011) What’s
Donny Osmond really like? Every time I meet him, I come a little bit closer to finding out.

He started out as the kid who initially charmed the world as the youngest of The Osmonds, later went on to conquer television with his sister Marie and probably could have run for Mayor of Toronto after his 4 appearances here in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat during the 1990s.

But now he’s back, with Marie, bringing their hit Las Vegas show to the stage of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts as a Dancap Production from July 5-17.

And it means that we get to sit down and have a lengthy chat for the third time in 6 years. First was in his dressing room on Broadway when he was appearing in Beauty and the Beast, next came backstage at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, just after he and Marie opened their smash show and now, we’re in Toronto, enjoying a quiet late lunch at Nota Bene, after the crowd has gone away.

Well, not quite all the crowd.

Osmond is sitting facing the room and, while we’re ordering lunch, I notice that he keeps glancing across from him. I turn around and discover two 50-ish ladies staring at the former pop star, enraptured and giggling.

“Do you mind if I take a minute?” he asks.

The next thing I know, he walks across the restaurant, engages the women in conversation, has them blushing like schoolgirls and poses for iPhone pictures with them.

He comes back to the table smiling. “I saw them recognize me and the restaurant was empty, so I thought they’d enjoy it if I said hi to them.”

I study him closely for sarcasm, but it’s nowhere in evidence. Donny Osmond is truly an irony-free zone.

“Okay, Richard,” he says, rubbing his hands as though settling down to work. “How deep are you gonna dig this time?”

It’s a fair question. Osmond began our first encounter in 2005 by saying “What you see is what you get,” but he quickly proved himself wrong.

Because underneath the beaming smile and seemingly endless positive energy, he wound up revealing to suffering social anxiety disorder which led him to a series of crippling panic attacks in his hotel room while Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was playing in triumph every evening.

“I’d start shaking for no particular reason, I’d find myself crying out of nowhere,” he recalled. “I thought I was having a nervous breakdown.”

I also got him to revisit the time in between the end of Donny and Marie on TV in 1979 and his recording of “Soldier of Love” in 1989, and he painfully relived that period of near bankruptcy and complete career collapse.

“Man, I don’t ever want to relive the ’80s,” he said at the time, having exhausted his negative memories.

Three years later, when we sat chatting in the lounge of The Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas before a performance of the newly-opened show with his sister Marie, the conversation was mostly about her, probably because it was supposed to have been an interview with both of them, but she wasn’t to be found.

“Hey, Marie and I are different people. Always have been, always will be. That’s part of the secret of our chemistry,” said Osmond as he watched the clock ticking towards show time.

“I’m always on time. No, I’m always early. The good boy, right?” he grinned. “She’s never late, although she does cut it pretty close.”

They’re different in other ways, too. Donny’s private life has been just what you’d expect from a good Mormon boy. He fell in love with Debra Glenn at 16 (“She had me at ‘No’. Didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”) and they just celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary. Five children and three grandchildren complete the happy picture.

Marie, on the other hand, has suffered through divorce, post-partum depression, the tragic 2010 suicide of her son and enough assorted gossip to keep her name front and centre in the tabloids at all times.

Donny wouldn’t discuss any of it. “She’s my sister. We love each other. End of topic.”

And now today, three years later again, I decide to ask him about celebrity.

“Oh man, it is a tricky horse to ride! None of us ever wanted to be celebrities. Four of my brothers started singing to make enough money to get hearing aids for the two oldest, so that they could be Mormon missionaries.

“Then I came along, joined the group and things stared getting crazy. Darn, it was here in Toronto, we were doing an appearance at CHUM, and the crowd of fans got so big we needed police to get out in one piece. I think that was 1971. I was 14 then.”

A thought crosses Osmond’s face.

“How old is Justin Bieber? 16, 17? Maybe he can deal with it better, cause he’s a little more mature than I was. I just thought it was a ride that was going to last forever and when it stopped, I didn’t know what to do.

“Would I do anything different? Maybe I would have enjoyed myself more. I don’t mean anything crazy. I’ve never been that kind of guy, even as a kid. No, I mean, just having fun performing, not worrying about the money, or the schedule, or the record sales or the fan mail or any of it.”

Osmond admits he finally came to enjoy the sheer pleasure of singing, but it took him a long time.

“The hardest part was right after Donny and Marie went off the air. It was like somebody turned off the water tap, that’s how quickly it happened. One month we had our own national television show and the next month we were doing little teeny state fairs and nobody came to see us.

“And gravity is very big in show business. Once you start sliding down, it’s hard to stop.”

But it wasn’t just the professional world that seemed to turn on the once-golden Osmonds. As the recession of the late 1980s hit, it became obvious that the financial investments largely handled by their father and brother Alan had all gone bad, causing the family to lose over $80 million.

Alan was also diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Marie went through a divorce and post-partum depression and personal tensions came close to ripping the family apart.

“Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, it finally started getting better. I had a couple of hit records again and then I got a call from a man named Garth Drabinsky.”

The flamboyant impresario convinced Osmond he was the one to star in a company of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat that Drabinsky planned to launch in Toronto and then tour across North America.

“I didn’t want to do it, although we surely needed the money. I had flopped on Broadway really badly in Little Johnny Jones back in 1982. We closed in one night. I didn’t think I could go through it again.”

He didn’t have to. Drabinsky persisted, Osmond gave in and the show was a hit. It opened just a little more than 10 years after his traumatic New York flop and he toured it triumphantly for six years.

Osmond now looks on that run as the watershed that has seen him through his middle years (he’s now 53) and will guide him for the rest of his days.

“I learned not to be afraid of the past. Not to be afraid of failure. I learned to love to sing, really love it and that’s what I’m going to do as long as the Lord will let me.”

FIVE FAVES WHO INFLUENCED DONNY OSMOND’S CAREER:

ELVIS PRESLEY – He was always one of my idols. The way he could sing, the way he could move, the way we could turn an audience on. He was great!

STEVIE WONDER – I’ve always been in awe of his musicianship and I often ask myself what he would do with a certain song.

THE OSMOND BROTHERS – They were the guys who started it all and I was just the little kid along for the ride. They taught me everything.

MARIE OSMOND – Yeah, we drive each other crazy sometimes, but that’s all good. We love each other and we bring out the best in each other on stage.

GARTH DRABINSKY – He came along when I was at the bottom and offered me a break that changed my entire life. How can I not be grateful to that man?

New Dancap Musical To Celebrate Hal Prince’s Career

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

(Jun 20, 2011) Aubrey Dan is making his debut as the producer of a
brand-new, Broadway-bound musical that will be developed and have its tryout performances in Toronto: the first time that has happened here on a major scale since the days of Livent in the 1990s.

And the property in question recalls those glory days of Toronto theatre as well.

Called
Prince of Broadway, it’s a musical based on the life and career of the legendary Harold (“Hal”) Prince, a man with 21 Tony Awards to his credit as producer and/or director of shows like The Phantom of the Opera, and Fiddler on the Roof, as well as made-in-Toronto hits like Kiss of the Spider Woman and Show Boat and countless other projects from his professional debut in 1954 through to today.

“Hal Prince is royalty on Broadway as he’s defined it in many respects,” Dan told the Star on Monday, “and he’s also a prince of a human being.”

The 83-year-old Prince will serve as co-director of his own life story, working with five-time Tony winner Susan Stroman, best known for The Producers. Stroman will also choreograph the work.

Dancap Productions has acquired the rights to use songs from all of the shows Prince has worked on in his career, which means Prince of Broadway will wind up being the classiest jukebox musical ever, with numbers from Sondheim, Lloyd Webber, Bock and Harnick, and many others.

Prince told the Star that, “When Aubrey Dan and his associates wrote to ask if I was interested in a musical theatre piece highlighting some of my favourite numbers from my shows that were successful, shows that should have been and shows that would have been, if they were measured only by their scores, I was flattered and thrilled by the opportunity. I’ve been working since 1954 and this would be my first retrospective.

“Come this fall, we will choose a cast of our favourite musical theatre performers, any one of whom qualifies as a star. What we envision is a glamorous evening of song and dance and lush costumes.”

The rest of the creative team is also strictly from the A-list, with David Thompson (the 1996 revival of Chicago) providing the book, Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years) in charge of vocal and dance arrangements, Jerome Sirlin (Kiss of the Spider Woman) handling scenic and projection design, William Ivey Long (another five-time Tony winner for shows like Hairspray) doing the costumes and Howell Binkley (Jersey Boys) handling the lighting.

Prince of Broadway will not just be a revue of musical numbers but an examination of the arc of Prince’s career, which has known failure as well as success. From Evita in 1979 until The Phantom of the Opera in 1987, for example, he directed seven major flops in a row.

Dan will produce the show in conjunction with Martyn Hayes and Peter W. Lamb.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Leaders Of The Facts On Pub Trivia Nights

Source: 
www.thestar.com - By Chloé Fedio

(Jun 15, 2011) In an age where the answer to almost any question is
just a website away, Torontonians are shutting off their smartphones and relying on pure brain power to showcase their obscure bits of knowledge. From formal leagues at chain pubs to hip lounges on Queen St. W., you can find a trivia night almost any night of the week.

Olivier Dyason’s cell phone rests on his table at the Duke of York tavern, near Bloor and Avenue Rd., but he insists it’s getting tucked away as soon as trivia begins.

“It’s usually in my pocket — I’m just waiting for a text message from a possible third player,” Dyason said.

His teammate David Wencer says that even when he’s not playing trivia he shies away from conversation-killing technology.

“I don’t do the phone thing. I really like the fun of having that really lengthy conversation. I like the satisfaction of trying to remember that obscure thing on my own,” Wencer said.

Wencer pulls out several crumpled scraps of paper from his pocket, including a list of unknown facts he wants to research later, an info sheet on the Ivory Coast and some arcane vocabulary — “The words I already know but want to appropriate more,” Wencer said.

Wencer and Dyason are regulars at the Tuesday night Pubstumpers trivia, a brand of live-hosted trivia that includes Q&As, multiple choice questions, music clips, as well as an image round. It’s free to play and pubs keep track of winners over the course of 12-week seasons for a variety of prizes. (There are weekly draft beer prizes at Duke of York, and long-time host Luke Pettigrew sporadically throws out mini candy bars to teams that answer bonus questions correctly.)

Scott McKenna, one of the two Toronto creators of Pubstumpers, first sold the trivia game to a Toronto bar in 2004.

“At that point we were pretty much begging people to do it,” McKenna said. “We were knocking on doors going, ‘We have this great product, would you like to play it?’ and there was a lot of reluctance.”

There are now 10 participating bars in Toronto and dozens more across North America. The trivia trend has also picked up at a handful of other bars with their own unique spin on the game.

On a hot Sunday night in June, it’s standing room only as 21 teams show up for the weekly trivia night at The Ossington. Teams crowd around their answer sheets and debate what it was that Adolph Hitler revealed as his favourite thing about partner Eva Braun in his last will and testament.

Was it her legs or her wit? Her cooking or her blood? There’s a collective groan when the host reveals that the correct multiple choice answer is her lack of intellect.

“That’s so Hitler!” someone shouts out.

While other teams may have wanted to believe the Nazi leader had a soft spot, Alex White and the Positrons were prepared to think the worst of Hitler.

“(A will) is the best place to make that final jab,” said team member Nate Siegler.

The six-member team is there every week and brag that it has been named season champions two out of three times. The team knows every point counts — and members prompt a fact-checking frenzy when Dublin, Ireland, is said to be the westernmost European capital after Reykjavik, Iceland. The challenge pays off when their answer — Lisbon, Portugal — is found to be correct after a quick Google search.

Over at the Drake Hotel, nearly 200 young professionals cram into the chic lounge for the weekly Wednesday night quiz. Here, trivia comes without your typical pub fare — dine on BBQ wild salmon ($26) and sip on a Sazerac rye cocktail ($13) while you wrack your brain for the answers.

The game is played in three rounds, each comprising 10 questions and three music clips. This Wednesday night, players must also identify an image of the Peculiar Purple Pieman, a villain from Strawberry Shortcake.

It’s a throwback to elementary school when you hand your sheet to the table next to you for grading. Oh, the embarrassment of not being able to recognize a clip of Britney Spears’ “Toxic!”

There are three more formal quiz leagues in the city, including the 12-team Toronto Trivia League. Participating pubs each have two house teams that compete either at home or away against a rival team.

Elaine Muller joined the Stratengers 1 team last year after she retired from her job.

It’s fun if you win, it’s fun if you lose,” Muller said. “Our team is just a bunch of misfits who like to do this.”

In the style of Family Feud, each team member is asked a question worth two points. If that person answers incorrectly, the whole team gets a second attempt for one point. Still wrong? The other team can steal the point with the right answer. Categories for each of the 10 rounds vary each week — an entire set of questions about Gilligan’s Island; a spelling bee of obscure American cities; an American Idol music round.

No matter where you get your quiz on, players say the key to success at trivia is building a diverse team so you can pull from many pools of knowledge.

“You don’t want any dead weight,” Wencer said, adding that in the end, it’s just about fun with friends. “We don’t take it seriously. It’s pretty laid back.”

Test your trivia

Can you answer these questions, courtesy of the Drake Hotel?

1. What’s the more common name for the Religious Society of Friends, a group that was born in 17th-century England?

2. In 1984, the Gillette razor company recruited members of this band to appear in an advertising campaign.

Can you answer these Pubstumpers questions?

3. What does the “M” stands for in CMYK?

4. Which of these cities is closest to the Four Corners?

Santa Fe, Tallahassee, Madison, Salem, Topeka, Juneau

Can you answer these Toronto Trivia League questions?

5. Countries by Periodic Table category: Name the country spelled by the elements Sodium, Cobalt and Molybdenum.

6. Complete the name of this musical group: ____________ and the E Street Band.

Can you answer these questions from Brass Facts at The Ossington?

7. What are the two books in the Bible named after women?

8. Also known as Seer’s Sage, what is the genus of the psychoactive plant species divinorum that can be smoked to induce a dissociative and hallucinatory experiences?

ANSWERS: 1. The Quakers. 2. ZZ Top. 3. Magenta. 4. Santa Fe. 5. Monaco. 6. Bruce Springsteen. 7. Esther, Ruth. 8. Salvia.

Where to play

The Ossington (61 Ossington Ave.) hosts trivia every Sunday 7:30 p.m. Free.
Drop in.

Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. W.) hosts trivia every Wednesday at 8 p.m. $2 per player. Drake Hotel gift certificate for winning team. Drop in.

Magpie (831 Dundas St. W.) hosts monthly trivia. Teams of up to six pay $10 to play. The winning team takes the pot. Drop in.

Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St. W.) hosts monthly Simpsons trivia. Team of up to six people. Free. Drop in. Donuts as prizes.

Pubstumpers is played at 10 bars in Toronto (more in the GTA, too). Check out www.pubstumpers.com for a complete list. Free. Drop in.

 • Three formal leagues that require a long-term commitment (no drop-ins) are Toronto Trivia League ( www.trivialeague.com), Canadian Inquisition (torquiz.freeshell.org) and Toronto Pub Quiz League ( www.tpql.com).

::OTHER NEWS::

Robert Kroetsch, Acclaimed Canadian Author, Dies In Alberta Crash

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Jun 22, 2011) LEDUC, Alta. — Canadian author Robert Kroetsch, whose fanciful tale of an Alberta man travelling the countryside with his stud horse won a Governor General's award, has died in a car accident.

RCMP confirm the 83-year-old was killed in a crash that happened at a rural intersection southeast of Edmonton near Leduc on Tuesday. Police say five other people were injured, one critically.

“He was a great storyteller and great listener and very generous and a warm-hearted person,” said Linda Cameron of the University of Alberta Press, Kroetsch's last publisher.

“He had the ability to make you feel like you were the only person around while he was talking with you.”

Kroetsch was perhaps best known for his 1969 novel The Studhorse Man, which won the Governor General's Literary Award.

The book details the often fantastical adventures of wily Hazard Lepage and his quest to preserve the bloodline of his rare blue stallion. The book is part tall tale and part mythical journey set in barns, beer halls and bathtubs and helped move Prairie fiction resolutely away from the dour realism of a previous generation of writers.

Kroetsch followed that up with 1973's Gone Indian and 1975's Badlands.

Born in Heisler in central Alberta, Kroetsch graduated from the University of Alberta, then worked in the Canadian North, several western provinces and the United States before he returned to Alberta, where he lived in a retirement community in Leduc.

“I spent many years travelling around the world, but I never left Alberta,” Kroetsch said earlier this year. “It has always been a country of my imagination. I love the stories, the landscape and the people.”

He published nine books of fiction, 14 books of poetry and seven non-fiction works.

“I would characterize Robert as a western voice, because I think the voice is different in different parts of the country,” Cameron said.

“Robert told us stories about ourselves and where we are from, and everybody could identify with some of Robert's stories and his poetry.”

Kroetsch was made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2004 and, earlier this year, received the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award.

Cameron said Kroetsch was writing right up until his death and has left at least one work in progress. Cameron said she was to meet with him later this week about his latest manuscript, a novella.

“Right now that is not anything we are thinking about,” she said. “But it is one of those things that, somewhere down the road, there might be an opportunity ... to celebrate Robert's life appropriately.”

::TRAVEL NEWS::

3 Tools To Help You Find A Hotel Deal

Source: 
www.thestar.com - Pauline Frommer

(Jun 20, 2011) It’s getting to be like that old joke about screwing in a
light bulb. Just how many websites and apps does it take to plan a vacation? With new ones popping up every day, the choices can be dizzying. But for travellers with special requirements, the increasing specialization of these resources is a boon, not a bummer. Here are two very useful websites and one app that you might want to use.

For group travellers: When Travelocity and Kayak are asked to get group discounts, they turn to HotelPlanner.com and so should you. Specializing in multi-room bookings, the website is an auction site that takes bids from some 40,000 partner hotels worldwide. The traveller inputs the needs of his or her group, such as the number of rooms (and to get a really great deal, you’ll likely need to request 10 rooms or more), hoped-for prices and availability of communal space (such as banquet halls and conference rooms). The site then farms out the request to dozens of hotels in the area the group is targeting. I test-drove it recently, inputting a request for 10 rooms in San Diego in mid-August, each under $75 a night, which I thought would be a hard-to-fulfill request as most local hotels were charging $150 a night during that period. Within two days, I’d received 51 bids, ranging from an iffy motel for $30 a night, to a very plush chain hotel for $115 (most were under $75, though). I spot-checked 10 of the 51, and found that the prices I was getting through the site were between $7 and $40 less than I would have paid for the rooms through one of the hotel-discounter sites I usually check (the greatest price differences were for the hotels at the top of the rate scale). I had similarly impressive results on searches for Orlando and London.

For “Day Of” Travellers: Procrastinators are rewarded at the nifty app Hotel Tonight. Not only is the app super fast (the creators have a YouTube video showing someone finding a hotel for the night in less than 10 seconds), the prices offered on it tend to be good, and recently the app added other enticements from its partnered hotels. These take the form of $50 coupons for local restaurants, room upgrades, bottles of wine upon arrival and more. The app covers Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.; developers say they’ll be adding more cities soon. It’s a free download that scores four stars from the 61 users who have rated it.

For Walkers and Joggers: When I travel to an urban destination, I like to explore as much as I can on foot. But urban sprawl in North America means many hotels are marooned well outside of city centres. WalkScore.com works for anybody hoping to find out if the area they’re visiting (or planning to live in) is pedestrian-friendly. I find it particularly helpful for hotels, as it returns a numerical ranking of how car-dependent you’ll be if you choose a particular property (the user inputs the address to access the information). A rank of 90-100, for example, means “walkers’ paradise — daily activities will not require a car.” Choose a property with a score of 0-24, and you can be sure that “all activities will require a car.” I tested WalkScore with a Marriott that I thought was in the heart of Tampa, but it returned a disappointing score of 45, meaning “car dependent.” A map showed me my options for restaurants, coffee joints, groceries, shopping, etc., and the pickings were slim. Yes, there were two restaurants in walking distance, but getting to them means crossing a major highway! While the site doesn’t recommend particular hotels, it is a good secondary tool if you like to stroll.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the award-winning Pauline Frommer’s Travel Guides series. She co-hosts the radio program The Travel Show with her father, Arthur Frommer. Find Pauline’s books online at www.frommers.com/pauline. Order your copy of Frommer travel guidebooks at www.StarStore.ca.

A Passage To India’s Splendour

Source: 
www.thestar.com - Henry Wismayer

(Jun 17, 2011) THE CURZON TRAIL,
INDIA—“The Kuari Pass,” says Biru, pausing for breath on the day’s first hint of flat terrain. “Tonight, we stop just below, where the trees end.” I take one look at the chasm between us and the ridgeline to which he’s pointing and decide that, for all his aristocratic privilege, Lord Curzon was a fit sonofabitch.

It has been like this for four days: flat at the top of each pass and bottom of each gorge and never in between. I’m not complaining, however, because there is reason behind my decision to tackle the trekking route that Curzon, former Viceroy of India, blazed through the outriders of the Garhwal Himalayas in 1905. On modern maps, the Curzon Trail, as this path of mud and mica has since come to be known, skirts along the western rim of the UNESCO-prescribed Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. But, ever since guide Biru, porter Nansing and I set out from Ghat trailhead, there has been little to suggest that much beyond this appellation has changed in all these hundred years.

For up here, in a corner of Uttarakhand state, 500 kilometres northeast of Delhi, is the Himalayas less-travelled. No teahouses, trinket touts or tourist clutter, just pristine forests of silver oak and people with the Tibetan faces of the Bhotia people taking scythes to terraces of multi-coloured sorghum. Nothing to distract from the idea that you are on a pilgrimage along a capillary of Hinduism’s spiritual heart: the watershed of the Ganges and fabled abode of many-armed gods.

So what if the trail’s inexorable ups and downs have brought to mind a cardiac monitor, partly because I’m feeling like I might need to be hooked up to one? As our small bandobast trundles onto the campgrounds at Dhakauni, it has been worth it: Curzon’s money-shot, the Kuari Pass, lies just over the saddle in that faraway ridge. And, like the Hindu pilgrims who have gone before us, we will value its reward more for having toiled some to get there.

Twelve hours later, I awake to the guttural “durr . . . durr” of Nansing corralling the mules. By 5 a.m. we set off up a steep switchback in the silver half-light that precedes the dawn. For the next hour and a half the metronomic rhythms of haggard breaths and boots crunching over frosted talus carry us above 4,000 metres until finally we breach the pass, proclaimed by a crimson prayer-flag that clacks back-and-forth in the wind. Looking north from here, the Home of the Gods fills the sky.

In the west serrate the jagged teeth of Badrinath; due north soar the fluted chimneys of Panch Chuli and the trapezoid of Hatha Parbat; to the east, the rounded skull of Hanuman peers mischievously over Dunagiri’s shoulder, both of them and hundreds more framed against the deep blue sky of altitude. All that moves are the monitory vultures, soaring above the Dhaoli Ganga, a scratch of opaque jade over a mile below. “I have never seen it like this,” says Biru reverently. “Not a single cloud.”

For the next two days we are in thrall to these High Himalayas. Despite Biru’s best efforts to educate me in the art of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s breathing exercises, I find that stillness, isolation and the way the mountains emphasize the silence, prove all the therapy one could possibly need. Hereon, the trekking is easy: a slow roll downhill interspersed with meditative hours spent sitting, mute and cross-legged, gaping at mountain views so spectacular that even the usually sullen Nansing, scuttling ahead with a hissing long-wave radio at his ear, cannot help but crack the occasional smile.

From the southern cusp of the Kuari nallah, the trail descends along a golden spur, dipping through fields upturned by wild boar furrowing for tubers before entering a pine forest — “jungle” as the Indians prefer to call it — that obscures the snows. Only when we emerge do we catch a first glimpse of the peak that gives the biosphere its name: the Goddess Mountain, Nanda Devi.

Across this crystal horizon, she is the undisputed queen, the glimmering sickle-blade of her north ridge preceded from the west by a monumental stairway of buttresses, sculpted so that Shiva can clamber to the top, where his consort, Parvati, is said to be waiting for him.

For the last few evenings I have lain in my sleeping bag with torch-beam trained on Bill Tilman’s account of the Anglo-American expedition that passed this way en route to putting the first mortals on the summit in the summer of 1936, fuelled by no small amount of apricot brandy. Yet while the climb was successful, the tale ends with a note of caution. On the day of the summit bid, monsoonal floods engulfed a nearby village sweeping 40 to their deaths. The Gods had taken revenge for their queen’s violation.

At 7,817 metres, Nanda Devi would remain the highest mountain climbed until 1950, when the French stuck a flag in Annapurna. But in the ensuing decade, as Everest and the other 8,000-metre giants began to topple, the world forgot about the Garhwal just as the concept of Himalayan trekking holidays was taking root. This, I pondered, at a final lingering halt to sit and stare, was why Nepal’s trails heaved, while here, in three days since leaving Pana village, we have not seen another soul.

“Very nice views,” says Biru, displaying a knack for understatement that the famously gruff Tilman would have been proud of. “Perhaps we should stay up here for another week or so.”

Tempting though the suggestion is, six days is about my lot for wild camping, and Nansing’s radio is running out of batteries. So, instead, we rejoin the world at Auli, and take a jeep north to the end of Highway 52, where the canyon cut by the Alakananda, one half of the Ganges, widens into a cupped palm. It is an appropriate place to finish: the end of the Pilgrim Road and almost the end of India — between here and Tibet there are only mountains.

Ever since the eighth century, when the spiritual reformer Shankara first propounded the concept of yatra, or pilgrimage, Hinduism’s votaries have been drawn to Badrinath. They come here to bathe in the hallowed river, and in the hot springs which are the reason for this spot’s especial sanctity.

Rising above a huge, misshapen boulder that looks like a fist raising a crooked thumb, the Badrinath Temple looks a curiously oriental oblong, its brightly painted facade embellished with swastikas. To get there, we traverse the Alakananda where it cleaves the town in two, across a concrete bridge upon which groups of sadhus huddle around little paper fires in ascetic silence. At the peak of the pilgrim season, the river throngs with these orange-clad holy men, but there is just one braving the frigid temperatures today: a sinuous mendicant who clings to a ringbolt so as not to be swept away.

Inside the temple’s central shrine, a gaggle of old women are muttering mantras before a metre-high black-stone statue of Vishnu drowning under piles of prasad and plastic offerings. On the walls, intricate carvings of elephants and avatars share space with two 1980’s security cameras and a large art-deco clock. With such grandiose nature outside, after all, why agonize over rigid beauty?

That afternoon, as Biru leads me through the town and the Bhotia village of Mana to its immediate north, it’s clear the temple is just the centrepiece of an abundant spiritual topography. Every stone and tree has a story to tell: here the cave where Vyasa composed the Mahabarata; there the stone-bridge crossed by the Pandavas on their ascent to Paradise. Shiva, in particular, seems to have got just about everywhere all at once, but whenever I raise any inconsistencies in Biru’s retelling he shrugs and offers the incontestable explanation: “But Henry-ji, that’s why they are the Gods.”

Later, wandering up the slope behind the temple, we come to a wedge of fractured granite known as the “footprint of Shiva,” encircled by a metropolis of delicate cairns. At the centre of one little theatre someone has placed a stone wrapped in three elastic bands, one to represent each level of the universe.

Indiana Jones fans will know it as a representation of a shiva lingam stone. “I understand their power now,” Indy says profoundly, having salvaged the village’s holy pebble from the Temple of Doom. And, indeed, it would take a stony heart to encounter this highest part of India without coming to understand how the physical world achieves transcendence here. As my Garhwal pilgrimage draws to a close, I know just how Indy feels.

Henry Wismayer is a freelance writer based in London, England.

JUST THE FACTS

GOING: The Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is open from April to October. The best times for trekking are either side of the Monsoon: in the Spring (April to June), the days are warm and the slopes abound with wild flowers; in the Autumn (September and October), night temperatures dip below freezing but the sky — and subsequently the views — are generally clear.

ARRIVING: The closest international airport is Delhi; Air India ( www.airindia.in) runs direct return flights from Pearson International. From there, you can take a train to the hill stations of Dehra Dun or Rishikesh. There are various agents in both towns that can arrange guided treks of the Curzon Trail, including equipment, porters and transfers to the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve. Alternatively, you’ll need to take local buses to the trek’s starting point at Ghat, still another 300 kilometres away by road. Transport to Badrinath is easily arranged at the Auli-Joshimath end of the Curzon Trail.

PACKING: The Curzon Trail is untrammelled at the cost of convenience. You will need a tent, and gas stove for cooking as fires are prohibited. Much of the region lies at altitudes close to 4,000 metres, so plenty of warm gear and a good sleeping bag are essential. As there is nowhere to purchase food along the trail, it is advisable to stock up before reaching Ghat where supplies are limited.

SLEEPING: Accommodations in Badrinath are pretty basic, catering for the Indian pilgrims that come here in the thousands during the yatra season. For something more up-market, try the Sarovar Portico Badrinath ( www.sarovarhotels.com), where a double room costs about $107 per night.

RESEARCHING: Canadian nationals require a visa to travel to India. A multi-entry tourist visa valid for six months costs about $62, and can be obtained at VFS Global (in.vfsglobal.ca). No further special permits are required to enter the Biosphere. Garwhal Mandal Vikas Nigam ( www.gmvnl.com), a government-sponsored agency, is a good source of information on the Garhwal Himalayas. As well as running a network of guesthouses in just about every town in the region, its staff can also arrange tailor-made trekking itineraries.

::SPORTS NEWS::

Mavs’ Dwane Casey To Be Raptors’ Head Coach

Source: 
www.thestar.com - Doug Smith

(Jun 20, 2011) Outside of a glitch of unimaginable proportions,
Dwane Casey will be the next head coach of the Raptors.

The longtime NBA assistant went through a 90-minute telephone interview with members of the board of directors of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment on Sunday afternoon, according to sources, and was to have dinner in New York City on Monday with minority owner Larry Tanenbaum.

If nothing untoward came out of those meetings, the 54-year-old Casey could be introduced as early as Tuesday as the successor to Jay Triano and the eighth head coach in the 16-year history of the Toronto franchise.

Terms of Casey’s pending deal were not immediately available.

A former head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves (53-69 overall, 20-20 in 2007 when he was fired), Casey has worked as an assistant for a handful of accomplished NBA head coaches — George Karl, Nate McMillan and most recently Rick Carlisle in Dallas.

He is known for his ability to institute a consistently good defensive system, an attribute sorely lacking with the Raptors, a team that was statistically the worst defensive team in the NBA last year and one that’s never established a reputation for being hard-nosed or successful at that end of the floor.

He is generally credited with instituting one of the most effective zone defences in the league with the Mavericks, a move that helped them get past Portland, the Lakers, Oklahoma City and Miami en route to the franchise’s first NBA championship.

Casey also should arrive just days before Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo reaches another watershed mark in the rebuilding process of a team coming off a 22-60 2010-11 and a third playoff-free spring in a row.

Colangelo and members of his staff conducted their final pre-draft workouts in the New York City area, getting a look at 6-11 Czech forward Jan Vesely in a workout for a group of teams Sunday and putting 6-9 forward-centre Bismack Biyombo, a Congolese 18-year-old who played last season in Spain, through a session on their own Monday.

With so much indecision above them in the draft — Cleveland has the first and fourth picks sandwiched around Minnesota at No. 2 and Utah at No. 3 — it’s been impossible for the Raptors to get a firm grasp on who might be available at their choice.

They have, according to league sources, made efforts to move up to No. 2 but don’t have a good match with Minnesota and have narrowed their list of draft hopefuls to about four.

That group would include Kentucky guard Brandin Knight, Lithuanian centre Jonas Valanciunas, San Diego State swingman Kawhi Leonard and Biyombo with Vesely and Connecticut guard Kemba Walker as fallback possibilities.

Meanwhile, there was no word on which — if any — of the current Raptors assistant coaches may join Casey in Toronto when their contracts expire at the end of June.

Casey has had a long-standing relationship with Toronto assistant Micah Nori but it’s unclear how close he is to any of P.J. Carlisemo, Alex English or Scott Roth. Only Carlesimo is under contract to the Raptors next season but he’s been conspicuously absent from much of the pre-draft workout process and his future with the team is very much in doubt.

Hip Injury Ends Milos Raonic’s Run At Wimbledon

Source: www.thestar.com - Damien Cox

(Jun 22, 2011) LONDON—Disaster on the lawn.

Canada’s
Milos Raonic, rated a decent 33-1 shot to win Wimbledon by London bookies, was forced out of the tournament after falling and suffering a right hip injury in a second round match.

Making the day even worse for Canadian tennis, Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino, the country’s top female player and the world’s No. 44 player, was also eliminated in the early London evening by No. 29 seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy.

Raonic was up a break and serving at 2-1 early in the first set against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg when he slipped on the grass and fell awkwardly. After about a 10-minute break for medical attention, he continued and managed to hold serve.

But, limping badly, it was clear he couldn’t move, and was aced three times in the next game. The trainer came on again, and then Raonic informed Muller he would have to retire.

“I knew right away. I didn’t think I could even lift my leg. It was a pretty sharp pain,” he said. “But as time passed, with the treatment, I was able to walk a bit. But after the first serve, I could tell it was too much, at least too much for me.”

Raonic was the No. 31 seed and would have faced Rafael Nadal in the third round had he been able to continue. He left the All England Club on crutches and was taken to a local hospital to get an MRI.

“I don’t know anything,” he said en route to the hospital. “It’s too soon for a diagnosis on what it is. But it’s something pretty deep in the hip.”

The injury also puts his availability for Canada’s Davis Cup tie against Ecuador in two weeks in question.

Marino, meanwhile, jumped out to an early 3-0 lead against Vinci and was serving for the first set at 5-3, but couldn’t convert. Vinci then won that set in a tiebreak, then ran Marino all over the court in the second set, exposing the Canadian’s questionable movement to ultimately register a 7-6, 6-2 triumph.

Perdita Felicien Heads West In Hunt For Olympic Gold

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Allan Maki

(Jun 20, 2011) Eight steps to the first hurdle. Three in between. Sprint, then lean at the finish. If Perdita Felicien has run the 100-metre hurdles once, she's run it 10,000 times or more.

The difference these days is where she's running - in a new city with new teammates and a new coach. It is all part of a fresh lead-up to the competition that has broken her heart and challenged her psyche.

"For me, the best way to describe the Olympics is they're the boyfriend who avoids you," said the woman who fell in Athens, then four years later injured a foot and couldn't compete in Beijing. "You need to go after him."

That Felicien has taken her Olympic pursuit to a city known for its Winter Olympics athletes and resources has caught many by surprise. Previously, she had been in Champaign, Ill., and Atlanta with coaches and contacts she has known for some time. At the University of Calgary, where she is working with former national team head coach Les Gramantik, Felicien moves about campus to the recurring question, "What are you doing here?"

Having just finished her first full week in Calgary, the Oshawa, Ont.-born Felicien is beginning to feel more at home.

"Les and my old coach, Gary Winckler, know each other and Les is overlooking things," Felicien explained after a workout. "It's a situation where I can get the medical and training, all the benefits of working with other like-minded athletes. Everyone has really embraced me. It feels good."

One of the most compelling reasons for coming to Calgary was the presence of Jessica Zelinka, ranked the sixth-best heptathlete in the world. Zelinka and Felicien spent time together at recent Athletics Canada camps in Phoenix and Saint Kitts. They talked about working out together on a regular basis. It has been a pairing that has benefited both women as they head into this week's Canadian track and field championships in Calgary and the 2011 IAAF world championships that begin Aug. 27 in South Korea.

"With Jessica being a good hurdler, Perdita has a solid training partner," Gramantik insisted. "Stopwatches don't motivate you; a training partner does."

"Not many athletes get to race with such a great athlete in training," Zelinka said of Felicien. "It's interesting to hear what works for her."

Felicien's recent showings in Europe weren't to her liking, and she joked about her results: "I was six in three races. I need an exorcist [for being 666]."

Having finished fourth overall last year, Felicien is still a podium threat no matter where she races. Although she turns 31 on Aug. 29, there are still world-class hurdlers running fast in their mid-30s, and Felicien is keen to embrace new ways to squeeze an extra hundredth of a second off her times. Of late, Gramantik and Felicien have taken her race apart, worked on segments, then reassembled everything in a way they hope will pay off.

"Every week, we work on a different aspect. We try to get more bang for our buck. The blessing being sixth [in three consecutive races] is you know where the weaknesses are and where we can get faster times," she said. "I just want to get the end of my race coming along. It's not as sharp as it should be."

For all her successes - Felicien has been a multiple medalist as well as a world outdoor and indoor champion - the Olympics are the great "what ifs" of her career. In 2004, she was favoured to win gold but crashed after hitting the first hurdle. She carried on for the Beijing Olympics, only to suffer a bone fracture in her foot. She ended up working those Olympics as a commentator for CBC television and saw teammate Priscilla Lopes-Schliep win bronze in the 100-metre hurdles.

Lopes-Schliep is expecting her first child in September but is still planning to compete in London.

"I felt I would have been on that podium at the [2008] Olympics. Watching the medalists, it wasn't about them or being upset that they'd won. It was more about how you missed that opportunity," Felicien said. "That's human nature."

Felicien readily admitted the Olympics have a hold on her. Despite the two disappointments, she knows she's fortunate to have another go at redemption. She believes she's mentally stronger for whatever lies ahead.

"[The fall in 2004] was one of those things that got away from me. It happened, you analyze it. Yeah, it sucks. But you move on," she said. "I know what it takes to prepare for the Olympics. I've been there before. We're all great specimens. It's about the mindset."

And that's why Felicien moved to Calgary - to change things up, feed her mind. So far, everything seems to be falling into step.

"If she wins an Olympic medal, she'll be the most decorated female in Canadian athletics,' Gramantik said. "That's what she's chasing."

Suns President: Steve Nash Won't Be Traded

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Reuters

(Jun 22, 2011) PHOENIX— The Phoenix Suns again are shooting down rumours of a possible trade of Steve Nash.

Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby emphatically said that the two-time league MVP isn't going anywhere, and he added center Marcin Gortat to the untouchable list.

In an email on Wednesday, he repeated the statement he made earlier in the day to The Arizona Republic, saying, “We are not trading Marcin Gortat, period. End of sentence. We are not trading Steve Nash, period, exclamation point.”

The latest denial came after ESPN reported that the Suns were in talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves over trading Nash for the No. 2 pick in Thursday's draft. Earlier, the New York Post mentioned a possible trade to the Knicks for Chauncey Billups, a deal that made little sense unless Nash asked for it.

The 37-year-old Nash has never publicly expressed any interest in being traded as he enters the final year of his contract with Phoenix. When his contract expires, the team could use that money for free agent acquisitions if the decision is made to proceed without Nash.

A prolific user of Twitter, Nash has not mentioned the Suns or his contract status in recent tweets, mostly concentrating on his Showdown in Chinatown charity soccer match in New York City, his reaction to the Stanley Cup finals and subsequent riot in his beloved Vancouver. His Facebook wall is filled with pleas for him to come to the poster's particular favourite team, or to go nowhere at all.

It seems the only way Nash would be traded is if he asked for it. Here is what he said about the subject shortly after last season ended:

“This is my team. I feel like this is my home as a basketball player and I want to try to get back to the playoffs with this team, try to build this team into a contender again,” he said. “It's pretty simple. There's no guarantees. You can't just go out and say, ‘Hey, can you go out and trade me to this team?' It's very abstract to think of what the alternative is. But that's beside the point. I want to be a part of this team.”

He'd even entertain an extension. Nash wants to play two more seasons — somewhere in the NBA.

The Suns have had difficulty finding a point guard to groom as Nash's successor. Aaron Brooks, acquired in a late-season trade with Houston, struggled in that role and it's uncertain whether the Suns will exercise the team option for another year of the ex-Oregon star's contract.

That led to speculation that Phoenix might draft BYU's dynamic Jimmer Fredette and try to convert him into an NBA guard. Conventional wisdom, though, has them going for a power forward with the No. 13 pick Thursday night, their only selection in the draft.

A rumour about Gortat being traded so concerned the Suns that Babby called the Polish center to assure him he remained firmly in the team's plans.

Gortat revelled in his place alongside Nash on the court. Obtained in the mega-trade with Orlando, Gortat averaged 13 points and 9.3 rebounds in his 50 games with Phoenix, eventually absorbing most of the ineffective Robin Lopez's playing time.

Nash, in his 14th NBA season, averaged 14.7 points per game. At 11.4 per game, he led the NBA in assists for the fifth time in his seven seasons since rejoining the Suns in 2004. He shot 49 percent from the field and just under 40 percent from 3-point range. By making 90 percent of his free throws, he was the on-again, off-again holder of the NBA record for career accuracy from the foul line.

Distance Runner Reid Coolsaet Wants Marathon Record, Olympic Berth

Source: www.thestar.com - Donna Spencer

(Jun 21, 2011) CALGARY—Ending Canada’s drought in the Olympic
marathon and breaking Jerome Drayton’s 36-year-old Canadian record are on Reid Coolsaet’s radar.

The 31-year-old from Hamilton has arrived at a stage in his running career where his health, speed and endurance are aligning to make both goals realistic.

Canada hasn’t had a marathoner in the Olympics since Bruce Deacon was 44th at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

Coolsaet’s best marathon time of two hours eleven minutes and 22.5 seconds, set in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last September, was the fastest marathon by a Canadian on home soil and believed to be the fastest by a Canadian in 24 years.

The time was quick enough to meet Athletics Canada’s gruelling qualifying standard for the 2012 Olympics in London. It was also a minute 13 seconds off Drayton’s record of 2:10.09 set in 1975 in Fukuoka, Japan.

“My goal this year in the marathon will be to run under 2:10, which happens to also be Jerome Drayton’s record,” Coolsaet said in Calgary as he prepared for this week’s national track and field championships.

Coolsaet is running the 10,000 metres Wednesday and 5,000 metres Friday at the Canadian championships. The slim redhead wants national titles in both distances, but earning a berth on the 2012 Canadian Olympic team as a marathoner is his priority.

The Canadian championships open Wednesday and conclude Saturday at Calgary’s Foothills Athletic Park. The national championships are also the trials to determine which Canadian athletes compete at this year’s world track and field championships, Pan American Games, Parapanamerican Games and FISU (World University Games).

After the Canadian trials, Coolsaet will concentrate on preparing to race the Waterfront marathon again Oct. 16.

“I would really just like to do the marathon and the reason why is I think I could be most competitive in the marathon at the Olympics,” he explained. “If I were to qualify for the 5k or 10k, I wouldn’t be as competitive. The marathon really is my strength.

“I’m hoping my time from Scotiabank this year will solidify my spot on the Olympic team. I’d like to take a shot at top 15 or top 10 at the Olympics.”

While his time in Toronto last year was seven seconds faster than Athletics Canada’s qualifying standard for the Olympic Games, Coolsaet still has to meet the international standard of 2:15 set by the IAAF, the world governing body of track and field.

The IAAF’s period for 2012 qualification didn’t start until January 2011, which was too late for Coolsaet’s time to count. So he has to run another fast marathon in October, albeit in a time he’s proven he can achieve, to punch his ticket to London.

“I think it would be great for Canadian running in general to have a representative in the marathon,” Coolsaet said. “It’s a very popular distance. There’s elite runners, there’s recreational runners and people just trying to raise money (in the marathon), so it’s a really popular event.

“To not have anybody from Canada at the Olympics is kind of a shame.”

Coolsaet’s 2:11.22 is believed to be Canada’s quickest marathon since Arthur Boileau placed second in the 1986 Boston Marathon in 2:11.15.

The University of Guelph alumnus isn’t the only Canadian gunning for Drayton’s record. After a dry decade in distance running, the country has a crop of young men jockeying for both the national mark and one of a possible three Olympic berths.

Regina’s Simon Bairu, the Canadian record-holder in the half-marathon, is also a contender to lower Drayton’s mark. He dropped out of the New York City Marathon last November in his debut in the distance.

Bairu, Coolsaet and Canada’s other top marathon prospects Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., Rob Watson of London, Ont., and Dylan Wykes of Kingston, Ont., are all entered in the Waterfront marathon. Gillis and Wykes have both run the 42.195 kilometres in sub-2:13 times.

“About four years ago, we saw pretty deep numbers in the 5k and a little bit in the 10k and that cohort of runners are kind of moving up and really taking a shot at the marathon now,” Coolsaet explained.

He’s hoping the five men together can generate the blistering pace needed in Toronto to break Drayton’s record.

“It’s actually crazy it hasn’t been broken so far,” he said. “If any one of us were to do it in Toronto, it would be such a good stage for it to be broken.”

His time in Toronto was also good enough to send him to the world track and field championship Aug. 27 to Sept. 4 in Daegu, South Korea, but Coolsaet is not going. He has limited opportunities to run a fast Olympic qualifying marathon and he fears the heat in South Korea would slow him down.

“If you run really well there and place in the top 10 even, your time might not be good enough to really help with a spot on the Olympic team,” he explained. “Right now, it’s (all about) the Olympics.”

Coolsaet ran the marathon at the 2009 world championships in Berlin and finished 25th in 2:16:53.

Domestic marathon glory is one thing, but running against the world’s elite is a whole different level of endurance and speed.

Coolsaet acknowledges his time 2:11 now would rank him no higher than 30th in the world. The world’s top 20 are dominated by Kenyan and Ethiopian men, who routinely run a sub-2:08.

“Those Africans are murderously good,” Canadian track team head coach Les Gramantik said. “It’s a cut-throat business.”

For that reason, Athletics Canada sets a much tougher qualifying time for the Olympic marathon than the IAAF.

Athletics Canada wants its athletes to be able to compete at world championships and Olympic Games and not just show up and participate.

“I feel I can race better in a championship type of setting” Coolsaet said. “As competitive as 2:10 sounds in Canada, it’s not really a big mark on the world scene any more.

“You really have to be breaking 2:08 or 2:07 to be a real competitor with the world record being a 2:04. (But) I really think a top-10 is doable for many North American athletes.”

Video: Serena Williams in Tears After Winning Wimbledon Match

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jun 21, 2011) *Returning to Grand Slam action following a year full of
health issues, Serena Williams beat France’s Arvane Rezai 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 at Wimbledon Tuesday — then began to sob.

After serving her 13th ace to close the match, Williams buried her face in her towel and cried from her courtside chair. She was still crying as she walked off the court.

According to the AP, the four-time champion fought through a mid-match slump before asserting command in the third set with her big serve and powerful groundstrokes.

That was enough to show why she is still considered a title favourite
despite her long layoff after two foot operations and blood clots in her lungs.

Meanwhile, big sister Venus – the five-time champion who turned 31 last week – is returning to tennis after nearly five months off with a hip injury. After winning her first round Monday, she’s scheduled to play her second round match against 40-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan on Wednesday.

Below, Serena’s emotional post-match interview.

Tiki Barber Says Depression Inspired His Comeback

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Jun 21, 2011) *Football player,
Tiki Barber said he fell into depression after leaving the league.

In an HBO report airing tonight (06-21-11), he reveals that shortly after turning in his jersey, depression hit him like a bag of bricks.

36-year-old Barber, the New York Giants’ career leading rusher tried for the past few months to make a comeback with little chance to really outshine the youngins’.

With an obvious love for the game, he said football represents stability and strength in his life.

“The game never needs you because there’s always someone else to come and take your place,” he said. “But right now, I need the game.”

He continued saying, “I need to prove to myself that I can be successful at something. I know I’m going to be successful as a football player. I don’t know why. The odds say ‘No.’ I’m 36 and I haven’t played in four years. But I just know.”

Barber tried to stay involved after retirement as a NBC football analyst, a $2 million a year job, but that ended with his firing. His marriage to his college sweetheart then failed, and he was plagued with the aftermath of a relationship he started with a 23-year-old NBC intern.

All in all, Barber admits it’s hard to deal with his failure.

“I crafted this career, right?” he said. “And I had gotten to the point where I was right where I wanted to be and then I failed. It’s hard to deal with.”

Barber said after his job at NBC ended, he didn’t do anything for a solid year.

“I remember there were days where I would literally wake up, have coffee, get something to eat and sit on the couch and do nothing for 10 hours,” he said. “I started to shrivel. I didn’t have that confidence. I didn’t have the, that aura anymore.”

The interview continues at cbssports.com.

SPORTS TIDBITS

‘Blues Brother’ Dan Aykroyd To Serve As Grand Marshal At Toronto Indy

Source: www.thestar.com - By The Canadian Press

(Jun 22, 2011) Canada's original Blues Brother will be on hand at this year's Honda Indy Toronto. Actor and comedian Dan Aykroyd will serve as grand marshal for the July 10 race, which marks the 25th year of racing in the streets of Toronto. "I'm delighted to be a part of an event with so much history," Aykroyd said in a statement Wednesday. "I'm a longtime race fan and very proud to be Canadian. It'll be nice to come home and take in a spectacular day of racing." Aykroyd's career highlights include being an original cast member on Saturday Night Live, creator of The Blues Brothers and his role in Ghostbusters. A member of the Order of Canada, the Ottawa native has also been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame for his contributions to the entertainment industry. "We are delighted to have Dan on board," said Charlie Johnstone, vice-president and general manager of Honda Indy Toronto. "Dan has the type of character that resonates with all Canadians. He is a big supporter of events across the country, and he will no doubt make for a great ambassador to the Honda Indy Toronto."

CFL Back On NFL Network

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press

(Jun 21, 2011) The Canadian Football League will be back for a second season on the NFL Network. The network announced Tuesday that two CFL games per week will be broadcast in the United States. There's also an option to show additional games during the regular season and playoffs, including the Grey Cup championship game. Last season, the NFL Network carried 14 CFL games. The CFL season starts June 30, with NFL Network broadcasting British Columbia at Montreal. The Grey Cup in Vancouver, British Columbia is Nov. 27.