May 19, 2011
Ahhhh the joy of a long weekend (in Canada). The temperature is supposed to warm up so get out there and enjoy the many things happening around your city. It's almost patio season so check out some of your choices under OTHER NEWS.
One of the highlights for me will be Revival tonight, a special fundraiser called Congo Classrooms for a Brighter Future, featuring an array of talented artists including Grammy Nominated and Juno Award Winning R&B Singer Glenn Lewis, Juno Award Winning Performing Producer Slakah the Beatchild, R&B Singer Melanie Durrant, Wade O. Brown & The A Team, Art of Fresh, and many others. The amazing line up has been all over Facebook and will come together at the renowned Revival Bar (783 College Street) in Toronto to raise funds and awareness for the Phase II construction of 3 new classrooms for the Kahuzi-Biega Environmental School. Doors open at 7:00 pm and you can get your tickets at www.great-apes.com or at the door. Don't miss the opportunity to see this HUGE line-up all on one stage in one night!
And another HUGE and special event coming up in July so MARK YOUR CALENDARS and get your tickets now for Truth & Soul: A Gospel Event! A gospel extravaganza happening on July 23rd at the Rexall Centre featuring Yolanda Adams, Donnie McClurkin, Mary Mary and the Mighty Clouds of Joy. Wow! It's all part of the BlackCreek festival ... check out the details below under HOT EVENTS. Stay tuned for more special announcements with respect to this concert.
For those hitting the roads, don't forget that the Gardiner Expressway is closed both ways this weekend - all weekend. Speaking of the roads, celebrate safely and don't drink and drive.
Don't miss out on the diverse entertainment news this week so get on to it and
The Date* - Truth & Soul: A Gospel Event – Saturday, July 23
The BlackCreek Summer Music Festival presents “Truth and Soul: A Gospel Event,” starring gospel greats Yolanda Adams, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin, and The Mighty Clouds of Joy.
An undisputed gospel siren, YOLANDA ADAMS is one of the key figures of the genre’s bold renaissance, one of gospel’s most transcendent ambassadors. Since her 1988 debut, the acclaimed and uplifting Just As I Am, Adams has been wowing gospel audiences all over the world — extending her magnificent reach without watering down the message. Hailed as the most versatile contemporary gospel singer since Aretha Franklin, Adams has won several Stellar awards (gospel’s highest accolade) as well as two Grammy nominations, a Soul Train Lady of Soul award, and an unforgettable live performance spot on the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards telecast. Her “bring-the-crowd-to-their-feet” reputation has now become the stuff of pop legend. Joyful, uplifting, inspiring, affirmative, exuberant, playful, and universal in its appeal and intention — that is the music of Yolanda Adams.
Siblings Erica and Tina Campbell’s groundbreaking, chart-topping duo MARY MARY has never wavered from defying convention to fulfill its mission: sending uplifting messages through music and words that are relatable to everyone. Mary Mary has earned 3 Grammy Awards, 2 American Music Awards, an NAACP Image Award and a BET Award. Their debut album, Thankful (2000), went platinum and won a Grammy; the follow-up, Incredible (2002), was certified gold; 2005’s self-titled album peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard 200; and 2008’s The Sound hit No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and No. 2 on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop chart. After only nine weeks at radio, the lead single “Walking” from Mary Mary’s sixth album, SOMETHING BIG, is already in the top 10 at Urban AC and is steadily growing. SOMETHING BIG resonates with a fusion of sound (R&B, hip-hop, dance, pop, gospel and jazz), empowering messages, and their signature crystalline harmonies.
DONNIE McCLURKIN creates profoundly uplifting music for the soul and formed both the McClurkin Singers in 1979 and the NY Restoration Choir in 1989. He was signed to Warner Alliance Records as a solo artist where he recorded his pivotal self-titled album. Oprah Winfrey invited him on her show, which catapulted his CD to #4 on the gospel charts, recognition beyond the church world and gold + sales. McClurkin soon signed to Verity Records where his first CD, Live in London and More, far surpassed his solo debut thanks to secular radio embracing his gracefully reassuring “We Fall Down.” The song met with international acclaim, made the Top 40 of Billboard’s R&B chart and rocketed past platinum sales of over one million copies, instantly making McClurkin among gospel’s best-selling artists. He has earned a trophy case full of Dove and Stellar Awards, two Grammys, and an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Gospel Artist.
Contemporary gospel’s preeminent group, THE MIGHTY CLOUDS OF JOY, pioneered a distinctively funky sound that over time gained acceptance even among purists, pushing spiritual music in new and unexpected directions. The Mighty Clouds was one of the first gospel groups to incorporate R&B techniques, such as drums and stylized choreography, and became known as “the Temptations of Gospel.” Through the years the group has released more than 30 albums, won 3 Grammy Awards, were the first gospel act to appear on Soul Train, and has performed as many as 200 concerts a year and with such esteemed artists as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, and the Rolling Stones.
SATURDAY, JULY 23
TRUTH & SOUL: A GOSPEL EVENT
Rexall Centre (York University)
1 Shoreham Drive
Tickets: $47.50 - $156.00; BUY THEM HERE
Directions and parking info HERE
Down With Webster, Fefe Dobson, Shawn
Desman Lead MMVA Nods
Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press
(May 18, 2011) TORONTO — Down With Webster, Fefe Dobson and Shawn Desman each nabbed four nods as nominations for the MuchMusic Video Awards were announced Tuesday.
Toronto rapper JDiggz and pop-R&B crooner Danny Fernandes received three nominations apiece for the June 19 bash.
The show will be co-hosted by MuchMusic VJs and teen star Selena Gomez, who received two nominations.
“This is huge,” said Down With Webster's Cam Hunter when interviewed live on MuchMusic following the announcement. “We're on fire right now.”
Other Canadians to receive two nominees included Arcade Fire, Abandon All Ships, Drake, Justin Bieber and Metric, while Americans Britney Spears, Eminem, Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars also took two nods apiece.
Mars – who had seven nominations at this year's Grammy Awards, second only to Eminem – is among the acts booked to perform at this year's MMVAs street bash, along with Lady Gaga, the Black Keys and twice-nominated pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne.
The 26-year-old Lavigne made a splash at the show way back in 2003 when she mooned the crowd with the letters “MMVA” scrawled across her backside.
Almost all of the evening's most-nominated artists will compete for best video, with Dobson, Desman, Down With Webster and Fernandes getting nods alongside former So You Think You Can Dance contestant Blake McGrath for the award.
There will be some fresh blood at this year's show, too. First-time nominees include Neverest, JRDN, P. Reign, Candy Coated Killahz and Shad, the London, Ont., rapper who beat Drake in the category of best rap recording at this year's Juno Awards.
Eighteen-year-old Edmonton-born singer Alyssa Reid, nominated for pop video of the year, struggled to find the words to describe her excitement when interviewed on MuchMusic.
“This is a big moment for me,” she said. “I'm shaking. Thank you so much.”
Passes to the typically raucous MMVAs are always a hot ticket.
In recent years, excited tweens have lined up around the block at Much's Toronto headquarters to secure entry to the show. Wristbands this year will be given away on June 10.
Legends Are Born When Young Athletes Die
Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly
(May. 16, 2011) This is one of the ways a sports icon becomes a legend.
By dying tragically, and young.
Unless you closely follow the world of distance running, you had probably never heard of Sammy Wanjiru until news of his pointless death began to spread Monday morning.
Wanjiru was only 21 years old when he won the marathon at the 2008 Olympics, the youngest person ever to do so. He annihilated the field in sweltering Beijing, recklessly pulling away from his final marker with six kilometres to go. He entered the National Stadium alone and in record time, announcing himself as the new king at that distance.
As the first Kenyan to win the Olympic marathon, he became that nation’s pre-eminent runner and, therefore, its biggest celebrity.
It was a testament to Wanjiru’s popularity that, in a country divided by ethnicity and ridden with violent political tension, he was a widely beloved national hero.
Distance runners often don’t come into their own until their late-20s or early 30s. Wanjiru, 24, had the talent to dominate his sport for another decade. And then fame interceded.
Wanjiru died late Sunday night after either jumping from or falling off a second-floor balcony at his home in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Details of the accident were patchy. Police accounts agreed that Wanjiru died after some sort of domestic incident.
The most plausible account had Wanjiru’s wife, Triza Njeri, walking in on her husband and another woman in their bedroom. Njeri walked out of the room and locked the door behind her. In an effort to intercept his wife as she left the house, Wanjiru attempted to jump to the ground several metres below. He died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
It was the latest in a series of incidents that, along with injury, had interrupted Wanjiru’s running career in the lead-up to the 2012 London Games.
Five months ago, he was arrested after brandishing an assault rifle and threatening to kill Njeri. The couple reconciled, but Wanjiru was facing a court date in a week’s time. In January, he rolled his vehicle in a one-car accident. There were rumours that he had begun to drink.
Tellingly, only hours after Wanjiru’s death, Kenya’s vice-president was calling on the national sports bureaucracy to establish a program that would teach its young stars — almost all of them runners — how to cope with celebrity.
“He could not deal with all the luxury. It all went too fast, too much money,” Dutchman Jos Hermens, who manages some of the most successful African runners, told the Associated Press on Monday. “You could not say anything bad about him. He just could not deal with it all. He was a lion of a man, and he departed us in much the same way.”
Read that last line and your mind drifts instinctively to NHL enforcer Derek Boogaard. Here’s another athletic star lost in his prime, though the cause of that sudden passing is as yet unknown.
It does seem plausible that something about the hockey life — whether it was the result of head injury or the same sort of temptations that may have undone Wanjiru — contributed to his death.
Boogaard and Wanjiru had nothing in common. Physically — one man gargantuan, the other elfin — they couldn’t be more opposite. But they are now being described in the same sorts of hagiographic terms reserved for fallen heroes. Both men are lions now that they’re gone.
There is something mythic about the potency of youth and its intersection with death. It freezes a person in time when their powers are greatest.
Baseball has Lou Gehrig. Football has Pat Tillman. Basketball has Len Bias. Soccer has the Busby Babes. They’ve made movies about everyone mentioned there.
It won’t be any comfort to the families left behind, but this is the highest rung in the public imagination. No athlete is more fondly recalled than one who never had the chance to fade.
Chris Brown Leads BET Award Nominations With Six
(May 18, 2011) *Last year at the BET Awards, Chris Brown broke down during his “Man in the Mirror” tribute to Michael Jackson. This year, he’ll return as the top contender at the award show with six nominations.
The singer is up for best male R&B artist, viewer’s choice and video of the year for “Look at Me Now.” He’s nominated twice in the best collaboration category for his No. 1 R&B hits “Deuces,” featuring Tyga and Kevin McCall, and “Look at Me Now,” with Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne. Brown is also nominated for best actor for his role in the heist thriller “Takers.”
Lil Wayne follows Brown with five nominations. Three of Lil Wayne’s nominations come from his guest appearance on Brown’s “Look at me Now”; Lil Wayne is also up for best male hip-hop artist and viewer’s choice for “6 Foot 7 Foot.”
Kanye West, Drake and Rihanna are up for four awards each.
Other nominees for video of the year include Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair,” West’s “Runaway,” B.o.B’s “Airplanes,” Keri Hilson’s “Pretty Girl Rock” and Marsha Ambrosius’ “Far Away.”
Willow is also up for best new artist and the YoungStars award. Nicki Minaj, Bruno Mars, Trey Songz, Cee Lo Green and B.o.B also received multiple nominations.
Alicia Keys will perform and comedian Kevin Hart will host the award show. It airs live on June 26 from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Below, the full list of nominees:
Best Female R&B Artist
Best Male R&B Artist
Cee Lo Green
Cali Swag District
B.o.B. f/ Haley Williams of Paramore – “Airplanes”
Chris Brown f/ Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes – “Look at Me Now”
Chris Brown f/ Tyga & Kevin McCall – “Deuces”
Waka Flocka Flame f/ Roscoe Dash & Wale – “No Hands”
Rihanna f/ Drake – “What’s My Name”
Kanye West f/ Rihanna – “All of The Lights”
Best Male Hip Hop Artist
Best Female Hip Hop Artist
Video of the Year
Marsha Ambrosius – “Far Away”
B.o.B. f/ Hayley Williams of Paramore – “Airplanes”
Chris Brown f/ Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes – “Look at Me Now”
Keri Hilson – “Pretty Girl Rock”
Willow Smith – “Whip My Hair”
Kanye West f/ Pusha T – “Runaway”
Video Director of the Year
Best New Artist
Karen Clark Sheard
BeBe & CeCe Winans
Taraji P. Henson
“Death at a Funeral”
“For Colored Girls”
“The Book of Eli”
“Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?”
Subway Sportswoman of the Year
Subway Sportsman of the Year
Coca-Cola Viewers’ Choice Nominees
Chris Brown f/ Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes – “Look at Me Now”
Lil Wayne f/ Cory Gunz – “6 Foot 7 Foot”
Mindless Behavior – “My Girl”
Nicki Minaj f/ Drake – “Moment 4 Life”
Rihanna f/ Drake – “What’s My Name”
Trey Songz f/ Nicki Minaj – “Bottoms Up”
Cee Lo Green
Best International Act: Africa
2Face Idibia (Nigeria)
Angelique Kidjo (Benin)
Fally Ipupa (Congo DR)
Teargas (South Africa)
Best International Act: UK
Gerald Tooke Was A Master Of Stained Glass
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Ron Csillag
(May. 12, 2011) In the 12th century, the monk Theophilus wrote a short how-to guide on stained glass windows. “If you want to assemble simple windows,” he advised, “first mark out the dimensions of their length and breadth on a wooden board, then draw scrollwork or anything else that pleases you, and select colours that are to be put in. Cut the glass and fit the pieces together with the grozing iron. Enclose them with lead cames and solder on both sides. Surround it with a wooden frame strengthened with mails and set it up in the place where you wish.”
Gerald Tooke epitomized how little the art of stained glass has changed over the centuries. Among Canada’s leading practitioners, Tooke created expressive, jewel-like work that is prominently displayed in houses of worship and public spaces across the country.
A wizard with light and colour – essentially, he painted with light – his precision was legendary. In a church for example, the four cardinal directions and the time of day the sun would hit the glass were meticulously calibrated. “He worked it all out,” said his wife, Joan, also an artist. “If your services were at 11 o’clock, he wanted the window to be the best right then.”
Though his work reflected profound religious themes, he was not especially religious. He converted from the Church of England to Roman Catholicism and studied with Jesuit friends, then returned to his Anglican roots. “His religious nature was best expressed through his love of liturgy, good church music and art,” said his wife. “Gerry often talked about the loneliness of the studio, [that] this is necessary for the creative process and the realization of the spiritual component in the work.”
He knew that few people go unmoved when they sit bathed in the hues of stained glass.
Tooke’s personal convictions “and the strength of his character were highly visible through all of his work,” said Toronto stained-glass artist Sarah Hall, who knew him for more than 20 years. “This was often on a monumental scale, as his expansive windows at [Toronto’s] St. Augustine's Seminary attest.” At 1,200 square feet, the St. Augustine window, along with one other commission, was his largest work.
His commissioned projects, said to number around 100, may be seen in St. Boniface, Man., and Winnipeg; in Mount Allison University Chapel in Sackville, N.B.; and a number of locations in Hamilton, Guelph, St. Catharines and Toronto, including at Ontario’s legislative buildings, Calvin Presbyterian Church, St. Mary’s Anglican Church, and Congregation Habonim synagogue. He also did residential installations.
Tooke, who died of leukemia in Port Hope, Ont., on April 29 at the age of 80, “was one of the champions of modern stained-glass design in Canada,” said Shirley Ann Brown, a York University fine arts professor and founding director of the Registry of Stained Glass Windows in Canada.
“He combined a deep appreciation of the colour and texture of the materials with which he worked with an understanding of stained glass as a contemporary art form,” said Brown. “He always considered the transforming effect of the coloured light cast by a stained glass window to be an integral part of the nature of the medium and the design process.”
Tooke also taught stained glass art at community colleges and was a fierce arts advocate, especially in the area of how artists are taxed in this country. It was one of the pillars of his seven-year stint as national director of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Gerald Ernest Tooke was born in London, England, in 1930 to a civil servant father and stay-at-home mother who came to fear for their son’s safety during the Nazi bombardments of 1940-1941. They considered sending the lad to Canada, as many had done. But when a German submarine torpedoed the steamship City of Benares, which was carrying 90 British children to Canada, killing 77 of them, the Tookes thought better of the plan. Young Gerald stayed.
For five years, he studied stained glass at the Canterbury College of Art and apprenticed at Canterbury Cathedral, where some of the panels date back to the late 12th century. He served as a Royal Air Force radar officer before coming to Canada in 1954. Six years later, he won a national commission for a window at Woodgreen United Church in Toronto (which is 60 feet high). His work from the 1960s combined abstract figures with two-dimensional backgrounds, explained Brown. Later, she noted, he moved to a more non-representational style, employing the varieties of glass available to the artist today, including flat antique glass and thicker slab glass.
The latter is employed in a 150-square-foot work in the Macdonald Block of Ontario’s legislature building, unveiled in 1966. The slab glass is an inch thick, held together with epoxy resin, and lit with fluorescent lighting. But Tooke, by this time president of the Ontario Craft Foundation, and other stained glass artists were labouring under prohibitive duties levied against fine glass. So he went to see his MP about it.
The MP, Donald Macdonald, a Trudeau-era cabinet minister, was so impressed with the young artist’s tenacity (the levy on fine glass was eventually lifted) that he hired him as a special assistant. “He had a very good manner,” Macdonald recalled. “He was highly intelligent, cheerful. He had a light touch.”
The political bug bit and, in 1971, Tooke ran as a Liberal in Ontario’s provincial election. He lost “disastrously,” as he put it, to the Conservative candidate, and went on to help found the Canadian Crafts Council.
As one of the youngest directors of the 570-member Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, he took the oldest national arts organization in the country from being a mere state of mind to actual premises in downtown Toronto, with a permanent gallery, meeting place and business headquarters. He was responsible for exhibitions (he personally curated 12), operations, budgets and advocacy.
Tooke spent months meeting with officials of the federal Finance Department to devise a fair taxation policy for visual artists, statistically still among the lowest wage earners in Canada, to mixed results.
His artistic technique showed little change from the time of Theophilus. He began by drawing a pattern on a large piece of brown paper. Every actual-sized piece was then cut out and coded by colour. He hand-painted each piece of glass and did the framing and leading. And it had to function as a window, so it couldn’t leak.
Whether the window depicted the Stations of the Cross or Jewish themes, Tooke plunged into studying religious symbols. “He loved the research,” his wife said.
In Port Hope, Tooke was deeply involved in the local cultural life. He was a member of the local branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, active in the Art Gallery of Northumberland and chaired the Port Hope Cultural Advisory Committee.
Tooke leaves Joan (née Saunders), children Simon, Gillian and Martin, and two grandchildren.
VIDEO: Our Pop Future: Jennifer Castle
Source: www.thestar.com - Chandler Levack
(May 18, 2011) Who is she? A Toronto solo performer who used to go as Castlemusic, Jennifer Castle (and yes, that’s her real name) creates psychedelic folk music out of stirring lyricism and a hard-won heart. Her lilting, hushed voice has been featured on recordings by everyone from F—ked Up to The Constantines to Eric Cheneaux. After two self-released albums as Castlemusic, she recently released her first full length album under her own name on Flemish Eye, sending critics to breathlessly describe her arch poetry on human nature and the changing seasons.
What does she sound like? Jennifer Castle might be a woman sitting alone in her room with a guitar, but she sure doesn’t sound like one. Like her labelmate Chad VanGaalen, she has a knack for making lullabies out of harsh guitar sounds and dreamy, discordant stanzas. Like her contemporary Julie Doiron, she understands the great mystery a hushed voice has over a soaring crescendo. Her latest album centers on the great mystery that nature has over human beings, recalling Joni Mitchell and Patti Smith, augmented by steel pedal guitars and pastoral flute solos.
Where can I see her play? This Thursday, Castle headlines her own CD release party at The Horseshoe Tavern. A little bit country and a lot rock n’ roll, pay attention for the lulling single “Powers” which describes an overgrown garden as a stand in for a wounded heart.
A Reason to Live: Digits, "Smooth Liar"
Source: www.thestar.com - by: Ben Rayner
(May 18, 2011) We Canadians aren’t, by nature, a take-to-the-streets-and-start-smashing-windows breed, so it’s fitting that one of the first tunes out of the gate to tackle the displeasure with which many of our citizens face the prospect of a Conservative majority government is more of a passive-aggressive seether than a boisterous call for open insurrection.
Local electro-pop act Digits – actually just one very talented young chap named Alt Altman – has just followed up his recent, highly likeable Lost Dream EP with a low-slung, rather sinister little ditty called “Smooth Liar” dedicated to our re-elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Altman doesn’t mince words on the Digits blog, calling Harper “an odious man, to say the least,” nor does he express much love for our prorogue-lovin’ PM’s brand of democracy in “Smooth Liar.” “Walk upon the truth, boy,” he whispers through clenched teeth. “The rules just don’t apply to you / you make ‘em up as you go…How much longer you gonna keep playin’ us before we figure you out?”
Another seductive tune from a Toronto performer who’s just starting to create a wee buzz in all the right spots. Like Lost Dream, it’s available as a free stream or download on Altman’s website, www.digitsmusic.com. The Digits album, Hold It Close, is also a keeper if you like what you hear.
English Music Superstar Adele: 23, And Already The Heartbreak
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler
(May 17, 2011) She sings with a choir's strength, with a smoky, supple alto turning her sorrow into treasured gold. She has the R&B swagger of Amy Winehouse and the big-ballad poise of an artist well beyond her 23 years. She's brilliant, it's true. Still, just how in the world did Adele Adkins happen?
Make no mistake, Adele, the English superstar who sold out her concerts in Montreal on Monday and Toronto on Wednesday, is absolutely happening. Without the sex-splashed shenanigans of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, the singer-songwriter's second album, 21, has sold in excess of five million copies and sits atop charts in more than a dozen countries, five months after its release. It's a very good record - a flooring, soulful account of heartbreak - but there's more to her appeal than songs alone.
"She's relatable and, for me, she's got the best voice of her generation," says Jonathan Dickins, Adele's manager. "But I think the key for every great singer is whether or not you believe what's being sung. And with Adele, I think you absolutely believe every word coming from her mouth."
Fair enough. But I must say, while sharing a couch with the singer earlier this year, I could not believe the words coming from the likeable superstar. She mentioned her pet dachshund (dubbed Louis Armstrong) and a second one she is hoping to acquire (to be named Ella Fitzgerald). Will she mate them? "No, I had Louis's balls cut off about a year ago," she cracked.
Oh yes, madam, Adele, dubbed "the girl with the mighty mouth" by The Guardian, is refreshingly blunt. It's another of her qualities that attracts fans. When asked about her work on 21 with the eccentric Rick Rubin - one of the album's seven credited producers, Adele among them - she said she had heard a lot of different stories about him. "I started [soiling] myself, because this guy didn't sound consistent," she recalled. "But he was amazing once we were in the studio."
Adele is signed to the British independent label XL Recordings. Unlike, say, England's Leona Lewis, a pop singer with a big soulless voice and a wood-panelled personality who rose to fame on the strength of a televised talent search and subsequent major-label promotion, Adele's rise has been fairly organic. Her debut album, 19 - like 21, its title reflects the singer's age when the album was made - marked a strong beginning. The LP sold more than three million copies worldwide.
The new album's material is more polished and grand, though again it's inspired by a collapsed relationship. Bluesy opening tracks Rolling in the Deep and Rumour Has It reveal an emboldened artist. The "heartbreak superstar," as proclaimed by Rolling Stone magazine, describes her approach for 21 as "a bit more boisterous, with more swagger and attitude."
There wasn't any breakout moment, though her soul-baring performance of Someone Like You on this year's Brit Awards gave Adele a boost. Unlike her heroes Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand and Patsy Cline, Adele insists on singing her own material. "The songs I like, they convince me, and transport me off into this little world, and they make me gasp for air and hold my breath," she explained. "I don't think I could convince myself if I tried to sing someone else's songs."
With her earthiness, openness, accessible songs and golden voice, Adele is something like Norah Jones multiplied by Aretha Franklin, convincingly staking a claim to the huge mainstream ground between the underdog old maid Susan Boyle and the salacious, vamping Winehouse.
Like Winehouse, Adele can be naughty, but not in a train-wreck way: She said she enjoys a "tipple," but now keeps to red wine instead of spirits. And while she had been off cigarettes for six weeks when I spoke with her - "I'm bitter," she disclosed, "I need a smoke badly" - she has since resumed smoking.
Loyalists contacted by e-mail through the singer's online chat group include 16-year-old Paige, who finds inspiration in the artist's self-confidence: "[That] she is so comfortable with herself and her body, even though some people say nasty things, just reminds people that they can reach their dream no matter what size or shape they are."
A 42-year-old follower, who goes by the chat-group moniker Azule, admires Adele for her genuineness: "She drops the pretense. We're able to connect with her rage, grief and loss. And her vulnerability is palpable."
And so it's a tidy packet - song and true spirit, with a personable, cheeky demeanour - that galvanizes Adele's audience. Says Jeff Winskell, music director with Vancouver's Virgin Radio 95.3 FM: "Adele's songs may follow a typical pop-music formula, but they stand out drastically on a Top-40 station because of not only her voice, but the very Motown-ish arrangements. Her music is perceived as more organic, traditional and timeless, and that perception is propelled by her openness about being a real woman. ... She loves being 'her.' "
The real woman with the fake eyelashes played down her role as some sort of plus-sized role model - "It's not something I resist, but it's not something I totally embrace either" - and would prefer not to be recognized as an anti-Gaga or a Perry-opposite. "I admire artists who have that kind of fire in their belly," she said.
She described herself as a prankster, but Adele doesn't see herself resorting to hijinks on stage. "I'm not brave enough to put whipped-cream guns on my boobs," she joked, referring to the Perry's interesting choices in toppings. "I'd just be embarrassed. I'd giggle the whole time."
And she'd have a full legion laughing along with her, you'd have to think.
Chad VanGaalen: Moving To The Beat Of
A Very Different Drum
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green
(May. 16, 2011) Do you ever have the feeling that the world rotates at different speeds for different people? Whenever I talk to Chad VanGaalen, I suspect that this old globe spins faster for him than for me.
The record companies that dispense his music (Flemish Eye in Canada, SubPop in the U.S.) do so on a schedule similar to that of many other pop musicians, with a new album every two or three years (the latest, Diaper Island, comes out today). But behind that facade of unexceptional industry, there's a one-man volcano shooting out a vast and diverse array of songs and animated videos, as well as other labour-intensive projects that might be full-time jobs for any ordinary person.
Since he finished extensive touring for his Soft Airplane album in 2009, he has written and recorded enough music for about half a dozen albums, produced a couple of records for other bands, invented a new tape sampler, made music videos for himself and J. Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.) and released an EP to support Japanese earthquake relief (Your Tan Looks Supernatural). VanGaalen and his wife Sara also had a second child last year and completely rebuilt a tear-down house with recycled materials they scrounged from the Internet and the discard bins of construction sites around their hometown of Calgary.
VanGaalen does not simplify things by making roughly the same kind of music from one album to the next. His recent output has included a couple of discs' worth of garage rock songs, a collection of original folk tunes with ukulele, and two electronic albums. When he talks about this stuff, most of which he did alone, you get the impression of someone ricocheting from one thing to another, bearing down on each with full intensity. It sounds exciting, but his method has its drawbacks, as he realizes whenever he steps back from his obsession of the moment.
"I definitely need people to bounce stuff off," he says in a café© near his home. "If it were just up to me, it would be a world full of nonsense. ... If I don't have structure, I end up running aimlessly in one direction."
He used to throw a lot of different things on his albums, following a relatively straightforward song with, say, an impressionistic timbral essay on prepared piano. Critical acclaim for those efforts (Skelliconnection was short-listed for the 2007 Polaris Prize) was liberally mixed with confusion, until more worldly heads counselled VanGaalen to divide his output in ways that less eclectic mortals could understand.
"Diaper Island is definitely my most coherent album," he says. "There's not much genre jumping."
It's a guitar-based rock record, and kind of a long-repressed homage to the Sonic Youth sounds that have been echoing in his brain, he says, for half his 34 years. Their emergence now has been thoroughly transformed by his sensibility, lyrics and unmistakable, quivery tenor voice. Another pole star for Diaper Island was Roy Orbison, whose songs VanGaalen sometimes covers in concert to devastating effect, and whose vulnerable spirit seems to haunt songs like Heavy Stones.
VanGaalen says the disc's relative homogeneity is partly due to its short gestation period. He wrote and recorded all the songs in four months, with a new baby in the house, playing almost every instrument himself to a vintage four-track tape recorder.
Those months were a relatively clear episode in a multi-act recording drama, as he tried to find the way ahead after an under-satisfying stint of garage rock. If, as Michael Snow says, art is a game in which you change the rules whenever you start losing, VanGaalen's way of changing the rules often involves switching equipment.
"I thought, 'Maybe I'll get away from it all,' " he says. "So I made a classic folk album, with just ukulele and voice. Then I did an electronics album, 'cause I really love synthesizers." But the programmed beats, which seemed good while he was working on the songs, horrified him after the fact.
"So I threw away all my drum machines, and recorded several weeks of acoustic drums, and worked up drum samples from that." He's very excited about the instrumental electronic album that ensued (coming out later this year on Flemish Eye), which he describes as "the ultimate, feel-good summer record."
That's the thing about being so prolific: VanGaalen is pumped about the next record before the new one has even come out. He's probably already brewing the next project after that, in the home-studio he built and lined with wood recycled from a skateboard half-pipe he had constructed in the backyard of his former home. (He recently finished a similar boarding track in the vast basement of his new place). The studio is equipped with two baby monitors. Fortunately there are also grandparents, without whose help in child-minding, he solemnly assures me, "I wouldn't be alive right now."
"I'm definitely a less selfish person than I was before [becoming a father]," he says. "I feel a lot more focused. I used to feel that music and art made me who I am, but I'm not putting as much importance on it now."
Imagine what VanGaalen might be doing if he were going at art and music with everything he's got. You see what I mean about the speed of his planet?
Chad VanGaalen plays the Great Hall in Toronto on June 18, Il Motore in Quebec City on June 23, and the Sled Island Festival in Calgary on June 25.
Austra: A Star Is Heard
Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner
(May. 16, 2011) AUSTRA - Katie Stelmanis has for some time appeared a young woman bound for big things, and here that big thing is.
Feel it Break, the debut long-player from Stelmanis's dark-hued electro-pop trio Austra, is going to make her an indie star. It's pretty much a given. Thanks to Austra's overseas signing with the U.K.'s much-respected Domino Records, a string of closely watched gigs at the trendsetting South by Southwest festival in Austin this past March, and a couple of stunning pre-release singles and videos — “Beat and the Pulse” and “Lose It,” monster tunes both — anticipation for this record has been running extraordinarily high.
Such lofty expectations could have done Austra a grave disservice if Feel it Break were a lesser album, but fortunately it's as good as first records get. You sense you're in the presence of greatness the second Stelmanis's steely voice tears into the portentous intro to “Darken Her Horse,” the confident strut of each song only further affirms your faith and you stagger away from the whole thing wanting not just to hear all of Feel it Break again, but more of Austra in general.
It's that incredible voice, a flintier cousin to those of Kate Bush and Annie Lennox and Jane Siberry and Siouxsie Sioux, that does it. Stelmanis and bandmates Maya Postepski and Dorian Wolf wring much greater depths of songwriting and emotional gravitas from their minor-key synths and subtly walloping rhythms than most of the trendy electro-types making the rounds — there are layers and complexities to these chilly beatscapes ripe for extended investigation — but it's the otherworldly soprano at the heart of the songs that consistently place a chill in the heart.
Years spent in the Canadian Children's Opera Chorus have left their mark on Stelmanis and she's fully in command of her instrument here, often leading an overdubbed chorus of Katies in wrenchingly bittersweet harmonies that are as beautiful as they are consistently, oddly uncomfortable. Indeed, much of Feel it Break's tingly pleasures derive from its unsettling qualities. Perhaps that's to be expected, however, from a record that features the memorable lyric: “If yesterday hurts, tomorrow is worse.” Very dark, very now and very, very, very good, this one.
Top track: “Beat and the Pulse.” Sounds like a nasty night out in Berlin.
Explosive New Beef Of The Month: Tegan
And Sara Vs. Tyler The Creator
Source: www.thestar.com -
(May. 16, 2011) Odd Future, the searing-hot young rap ensemble out of Los Angeles, played Toronto on Sunday night and for a moment their acknowledged breakout star Tyler the Creator seemed determined to make an impact on as much of the country as possible. Even if that means insulting Canuck folk-rockers Tegan and Sara.
Tyler's solo album Goblin is as lauded for its sound and skill as it is reviled for its repeated rape imagery and (disputed) homophobia, but you get no points for guessing which is more important to Sara Quin, a lesbian musician (like her sister Tegan) with a heart-on-sleeve musical style.
On the duo's website she wrote:
When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry? When will they be treated with the same seriousness as racist and anti-Semitic offenses? ... As journalists and colleagues defend, excuse and congratulate ‘Tyler, the Creator,’ I find it impossible not to comment ... the more I think about it, the more I think people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular. Who sticks up for women and gay people now?
I’ve asked myself a thousand times why this is pushing me over the edge. Maybe it’s the access to him (his grotesque twitter, etc). Maybe it’s because I’m a human being, both a girl and a lesbian. Maybe it’s because my mom has spent her whole adult life working with teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault.
Tyler's hostile, response Sunday on Twitter was indeed typical of his Twitter feed, which had only hours before had targeted Canada Customs (not that he's the first touring musician to take issue with them). He had also been arrested just a few days beforehand, and of course, in his lyrics he threatens to stab Bruno Mars, who has taken it rather more in stride. If controversy still sells, though - and the Odd Future concert at the Phoenix sold out instantly - then Odd Future's frontman is probably still ahead in this game.
The Best Toronto Band. Ever. Round 1: Rheostatics vs.
Source: www.thestar.com - Doug Cudmore
(May 18, 2011) The Star's rock critics, past and present, have picked the 32 best bands in Toronto's history. Now, all this month, we're asking you to vote for the best band in Toronto's history, March Madness-style. Each day, you'll get a chance to choose between two bands. The winner moves on, the loser goes home. Today's choices:
This seminal Etobicoke band paved the way for today’s plethora of homegrown indie acts by staying true to its unique brand of loose-limbed prog-rock for 27 years. Rheostatics had only one radio hit, but in a 2000 Chart magazine poll of the Top 50 Canadian albums of all time, Whale Music (1992) and Melville (1991) ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. Their songs were unapologetically pan-Canadian but they should curry favour for dropping in such Toronto-centric references as the Maple Leafs, Kipling Avenue and Massey Hall all over their songs.
Two hip hoppers called King Lou and Capitol Q, Dream Warriors put Jane and Finch on the map. Its creators having grown up on the block throughout the ’80s, the duo’s 1991 album And Now the Legacy Begins took influence from bossa nova and hard-edged beats, sampling everything from Count Basie to Kool & The Gang. Tracks such as “California Dreaming” and “It’s A Project Thing” expressed the Warriors’ views on race and Toronto culture through pristine samples and fluid rhymes.
That's the choice of the day: Rheostatics or Dream Warriors. Email your vote here.
Odd Future Doesn’t Need The Hip-Hop Old Guard
Source: www.globeandmail.com - Joshua Ostroff
(May. 13, 2011) Support from established rappers is how most new MCs get on the block.
But the sprawling collective of young skate-punk misanthropes known as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All turned the tables this spring. Everyone from Kanye West to Mos Def, Jay-Z to Diddy gave them what’s known in hip hop as a “co-sign” — superstars praise up-and-comers to help them ascend to the next level of success. But in this case, the rap elders seem to be siphoning cred from Odd Future.
Twenty-year-old leader Tyler, the Creator boldly gripes about “co-signs from rappers that I don't even like” on his new album Goblin. It’s the first “official” label release from a do-it-yourself crew that had already freely distributed a dozen mixtapes and albums online while creating a subcultural movement through social media. They post their music on their Tumblr blog, chat with hundreds of thousands of fans through Twitter and release videos on YouTube, such as Tyler's self-directed clip for Yonkers, in which he eats a cockroach, vomits and then hangs himself. It has been watched more than 8.5 million times.
“They just killed it on the Internet. They're nothing short of brilliant with how they’ve marketed themselves online,” says Tyron “T-RexXx” Edwards, host of MuchMusic’s RapCity, who first came across Odd Future through their viral videos. “Watching them say crazy things and be funny together, I actually appreciate that. I like the fact that they all feed off each other. Tyler’s the leader but they all contribute to the overall madness. I’ve probably spent more time watching their YouTube videos than listening to their music.”
Odd Future includes rappers, producers, engineers, DJs and visual artists who collaborate in a dizzying array of permutations. At Austin’s South by Southwest music festival this past March, where Diddy declared them “the future of music,” the then-unsigned crew dove into crowds, stormed offstage and walked away as the industry fest’s biggest buzz band, a coveted crown rarely given to rappers.
As hip hop takes a turn for the safe, Odd Future has found its own niche, returning an anarchic unpredictability to a genre many argue is losing its edge. Like Wu-Tang Clan before them, the group has created a self-contained musical universe – a camaraderie and long-absent sense of danger that’s won over rappers, rap fans and the mainstream media alike.
“Years ago, that music would never get heard in its rawest form because there were producers, engineers, A&R and radio involved,” says hip-hop promoter Jonathan Ramos, whose Union Events organized Odd Future’s concert in Toronto this Sunday. “Every time it would go through one of those channels, it would get watered down and filtered. With Odd Future you’re hearing the original product, it’s like stream-of-consciousness music. People love their energy and rawness.”
Ramos adds that they’ve also attracted such widespread attention because they’re the latest act to amass a dedicated grassroots following online before entering the mainstream.
“Justin Bieber did the YouTube thing and then just joined the major label lane. Drake put mixtapes out online to generate buzz, and then took it into that lane to monetize it. But Odd Future are still in their own lane,” Ramos says. “I don't think they’re switching over any time soon.”
What separates Odd Future from their Canadian cousins is the depth of their line-up and breadth of their aesthetic. Everything is handled in-house.
“They are brilliantly consistent with their branding. Even their artwork is consistent. Some guys are just talented sonically; these guys excel in every element,” Edwards says. “They’re the special package on cable – you might get some porn and you might get the Food Network and then watch Discovery Channel.”
You might also discover some channels you don’t like. The crew has become incredibly controversial due to the occasional depravity of their lyrics, a shock shtick reminiscent of Eminem or Marilyn Manson that can veer even beyond misogyny and homophobia into disturbing fantasies of rape and murder.
“They talk about some stuff that any teenager talks about, and they talk some stuff that serial killers talk about,” Ramos says. “They don't seem to have a filter. If they're thinking it, they’re going to rap about it.”
That didn’t stop industry interest, but there was little to offer compared with the old days when a label would find a raw talent and then provide the funds to make records and marketing to make stars. Odd Future had done that on their own, landing appearances on Jimmy Fallon’s show, articles in Esquire, a Billboard magazine cover, prime festival slots and sold-out shows across North America and Europe all before selling a single song.
So when they did sign a deal, with Sony’s RED indie distribution arm, it was for their own artist-run record label with complete creative control. Though fantastic for Odd Future and fitting with their trademark self-reliance, it does further marginalize the major label machine that has been breaking down since file-sharing began near the turn of the millennium.
The Internet’s role in Odd Future’s meteoric rise, and impact on artists who will inevitably follow their self-made model, is poetically ironic.
“It’s saving music,” Ramos says, “and killing the industry.”
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All play the Mod Club in Toronto May 15.
Tyler, the Creator:
The rapper, producer and charismatic leader launched Odd Future’s mainstream invasion with his self-released debut Bastard, self-directed video Yonkers (in which he hangs himself) and a deliriously unhinged performance on Jimmy Fallon.
Tyler’s right-hand man Hodgy Beats and partner Left Brain are upgrading their free-download album BlackenedWhite for avant-blues label Fat Possum.
The progressive R&B crooner is the crew’s least nihilistic and most mainstream member, having already worked with Justin Bieber, Beyoncé and Nas.
Even more transgressive and talented than Tyler, Earl’s been missing for months. Rumour is his mom sent him to a Samoan boarding school after hearing his lyrics.
Syd tha Kid:
The crew’s sound engineer and DJ is also an out lesbian. She records Odd Future in the house she shares with her parents and quasi-member brother Taco.
Domo Genesis and Mike G:
These lesser-known MCs put their respective lyrical focus on smoking blunts and gangsta tropes rather than shocking listeners.
The Jet Age of Tomorrow:
A largely instrumental jazz-funk side project by The Super 3 producers Matt Martian and Hal Williams.
Special to The Globe and Mail
James Blake's New Adventures In Neo-Soul
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler
At Lee's Palace in Toronto, on Saturday
(May. 15, 2011) The future of pop music could have and should have waited 20 minutes or so, but perhaps James Blake is conflicted with his convictions. Or it is possible, that despite the Londoner's lovely emotive languor, he is a young man in a hurry. Whichever, at Lee's Palace, Blake's rush was unbecoming - a rare misstep from the boy-prince of post-dubstep, the monk of melodic methadone, the sultan of sweet-and-slow, reverberating music.
In a bid to foil ticket scalpers, a laborious process was put in place at the sold-out club's door, where the identification of attendees was checked closely. And so when Blake's first-ever Canadian show began, there was still a sizable amount of fans standing outside in the rain, waiting to come inside.
If they'd made it in to hear I Never Learnt to Share, the song's repetitive regret -"My brother and my sister don't speak to me, but I don't blame them" - could have been taken as an apology from an artist who is single-minded in his musical direction. With an escalating synthetic quiver and clamour and a use of feathery vocal harmony loops, Blake and his two bandmates shook room and soul with a queer, beautiful, ultra-modern music. Blake is new, but not on the cusp: He has arrived, the Sgt. Pepper of his time, bringing his vision close to the mainstream without a hint of pandering.
A 60-minute set showed off a singer-musician who until recently was known as a producer of dubstep music, an underground amalgamation of techno, reggae and shuddering, muffled bass beats. As a recording artist himself, Blake this year released an eponymous debut album, a shimmering collection featuring odd time signatures, layered, emotive vocals and shape-shifting sonic scenery. In short, the sophisticated minimalism of Blake (a classically trained pianist) represents intriguing new adventures in neo-soul music.
That his beautiful, measured cover of Feist's Limit to Your Love is Blake's calling card and the best-received number at Lee's speaks to the shortcomings in his songwriting. Still his own The Wilhelm Scream was darling - like a zero-gravity D'Angelo - with Blake's tender croons about dreams and "falling, falling, falling" flickering like the Bic lighter held aloft by one enthusiast.
The tall, slim and clean-cut wunderkind was accompanied just right by his schoolhood friends Rob McAndrews (on guitar and sampler) and Ben Assiter, the tasteful drummer who brought Jamaica to a cover of Digital Mystikz's Anti-War Dub, an encore selection which heard Blake murmuring peaceful pleas through his own muted fist.
For the second and final encore number, Blake went solo on the electric piano for another cover, Joni Mitchell's A Case of You, an elegant song in which love is measured by alcoholic volume.
After hearing Blake for just an hour, the crowd's capacity for him had yet to be reached. Indeed, the bet is that there is much more to come; there appears to be no limit to Blake's dub.
Kelly Rowland Happy with Her Music
(May. 14, 2011) *Kelly Rowland has somewhat struggled to get where she wants to be in her solo career, but with her latest single, “Motivation” featuring Lil Wayne, she thinks she may have found what she’s been looking for all along.
“I was talking to my product manager,” Rowland told Billboard. “I said I wanted people to know that this is the record, the sound I¹ve been working toward… that here I am. And she said, that’s the title. It just connected with my heart and the music as well. It stands for everything I’ve gone through and thought about for this record as a woman. It’s very strong.”
“Motivation,” her single from forthcoming album, “Her I Am,” sits at No. 4 this week on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip Hop Song charts.
And as she celebrates her career movement, she also congratulated Beyonce for being honoured this year with the Billboard Millennium Award.
“I’m so excited for my sister. Nobody deserves it more than she does,” says Rowland. “Ever since we were kids, we’ve worked hard, and she’s carried that into her solo career.”
Faux Soundtrack, But The Pleasure's Real
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Everett-Green
(May. 13, 2011) You can see it all in the first minute of the Theme of Rome that opens this faux-soundtrack album: the dusty Spanish plain (meant to look like Wyoming), the high merciless sun, the slim, short cigar in the mouth of the lip-synched drifter who may just have to kill you before the scene ends. What else could be in back of this melancholic tune, high wordless soprano, majestic guitar strumming, plush string arrangement and faintly exotic hand drumming?
Rome is a 15-track homage to the sounds and sensibility of spaghetti-western soundtracks from the sixties and seventies. Like the best tributes, it doesn't just imitate. It creates something fresh from the heterogeneous ingredients that went into the movie music created by Ennio Morricone and others.
Danger Mouse (Brian Burton), the prolific producer best known as one half of Gnarls Barkley, teamed up with composer Daniele Luppi and a clutch of Italian studio musicians who worked on many original Morricone recordings, and made Rome in the Roman studio where the master often works. In the best Italian film tradition, the voices of Norah Jones and Jack White were flown in later, from studios in Nashville and Burbank, Calif.
To the palette established in the opening Theme, the teams adds things such as celeste (the star of several instrumental interludes), backing chamber chorus, electric guitar (used more as spice than staple), and the wonderfully nimble, occasionally funky lines of Italian jazz bassist Dario Rosciglione. We'll have to wait for Rome, the Sequel to hear their take on Morricone's more lurid instrumental choices, such as jaw harp, snarling muted brass and that droopy flute in the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The album is melodic from beginning to end and addicted to mobile harmonies that often flicker between major and minor. The whole thing is tinged with a kind of melancholic mystery that's not incompatible with fun.
White's three songs, for which he wrote the lyrics, fit in beautifully with the mood of the project, while sounding unmistakably his. The Rose with the Broken Neck is like the sequel to Blue Orchid, except that it's a sad waltz in repeating rosalia form, pointed with xylophone and soft, squidgy guitar. In Two Against One, his wordy lyrics shimmer with pulpy, cinematic paranoia: "The mirror's a trigger and your mouth's a gun."
Norah Jones sounds completely transformed in numbers such as Black, sung low in her range, with a moody, mussed sound that recalls Peggy Lee, and I mean that as a high compliment. "We can't afford to ignore that I'm a disease," she sings (in Burton's evocative lyrics), and suddenly we're just an inch and an ocean away from Fever. By the end of Problem Queen, the old canard of "Snorah" Jones seems the deadest of ducks.
Like most soundtracks, Rome is partly an instrumental album, and includes reworkings of a few themes, just as a movie might reprise a tune or motif as the plot advances. The two versions of The World - one dreamy, the other a little dirty (with White's lyrics and vocals) - give a good idea of the creative rehearing that went into this album, as do the double takes on Her Hollow Ways.
In the end, Rome is about seduction. These guys want to put you in thrall to an imaginative world that runs on luxury and doubt, confidence and desire, dust and disappointment. The wonder is that they can do it with so little - sans pictures, sans words, sans everything but a few sounds in the right places.
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi
Jack White & Norah Jones
Cantors In Harmony With Toronto
Source: www.thestar.com - By John Terauds
(May 18, 2011) There might be a spiritual undertone to the singing of the national anthem at Sunday's game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros at the Rogers Centre.
This particular rendition of O Canada is going to be sung by a chorus of Jewish cantors, in town for Toronto's first-ever gathering of the nearly 600-member-strong worldwide Cantors Assembly.
It's a great excuse for the start of the first Jewish Music Week in Toronto.
Simon Spiro is the local cantor responsible for getting the sacred conventioneers to our city. He knows a thing or two about crossing over between popular culture and religious tradition.
As a teenager growing up in London, England, in the 1970s, Spiro dreamt of becoming a pop star. As is often the case, his parents had different dreams. They wanted their son to become a cantor — known in Hebrew as a hazzan, the person who leads a congregation in public prayers.
Spiro says of his father: “When he heard I had some kind of voice going on when I was 15 or 16, he said, ‘You should be a cantor.' I said, ‘No. Never!'”
Spiro laughs. It wasn't any more cool to enter the sacred world 40 years ago as it is today.
But he was so impressed by the singing and the pageantry at a big synagogue in London, that he thought he would at least give it a try.
Spiro made his parents' day by enrolling in Jews' College (the venerable school has since given itself a more politically correct name: London School of Jewish Studies), but kept up his love of all things pop.
Spiro now works full-time at Beth Tzedec, which describes itself as the largest conservative Jewish congregation in North America. It, its museum of Judaica and an associated day school occupy a campus of exuberant mid-century modern buildings on Bathurst Street, a few blocks south of Eglinton.
As host of the 64th annual Cantors Assembly convention, Spiro has had a lot to do. But his pride and joy is Halleluyah! Greatest Hits of Israel's Song Festivals. It's a blowout evening of music at Beth Tzedec's spacious theatre set for Wednesday night.
The occasion boasts a 40-piece orchestra, a retrospective of the greatest Israeli pop-song hits of the past 40 years, and a visit from YouTube favourites the Fountainheads — a gaggle of young dancing-and-singing graduates from Israel's Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, whose recent Passover musical has already received more than 250,000 views.
There is less separation between sacred and secular in Israel than in Canada, so it's not uncommon for popular songs to have Biblical words and for people to sing them at special occasions, such as weddings or bar mitzvahs.
“People are singing songs that were written in 1972 and they think that the song has been around for 100 years,” says Spiro, as he explains how the five-decade-old Eurovision Song Contest has inspired new Scripture-based songs from Israel every year.
The Halleluyah! concert picks up past Eurovision winners and entries, along with vintage video footage, as well as audience voting for their favourite of the 16 songs on the program.
If nothing else, this is an opportunity for Torontonians who wouldn't normally go to a synagogue to see and hear what goes on inside its walls.
As is the case with many Christian denominations, the cantor admits that many people no longer feel they have the time or desire to participate in public worship. Spiro hopes that Halleluyah!, the convention, Jewish Music Week and all of its associated events and concerts, might get more people curious and interested.
For him, this is a faith journey, as well as an opportunity for time travel.
Although Spiro writes a lot of his own contemporary-flavoured compositions and arrangements, his role in public worship is part of a centuries-old tradition; saying or singing certain prayers links Spiro to practice that goes back 800-900 years.
“I am saying the same words that have been said every week, some going as far back as the 11th century,” he explains.
“Now that's a connection. That's cool. I wish more young people knew they could have this kind of connection.”
More info at jewishmusicweek.com
Just the Facts
WHAT: Halleluyah! Greatest Hits of Israel's Song Festivals
WHERE: Beth Tzedec Congregation, 1700 Bathurst St.
WHEN: May 25 @ 7:30 p.m.
TICKETS: $18-$75 @ 416-781-3514 x. 218
Rock N’ Roll is Free
(May. 16, 2011) Ben Harper, from Give Till It’s Gone (EMI); streaming here. California soul-rockin’ Harper goes anthem-big like Sam Roberts, shouting from the rooftop about modern-music marketing – “pick the price you want to pay” – as he seemingly advocates a free-streaming society.
No Fugees Reunion in Haiti for Lauryn Hill
(May. 16, 2011) *After some rumours that Lauryn Hill will reunite with her former band mates (The Fugees) in a performance at the Haitian presidential inauguration, it’s been deemed a false report. “This performance announcement was unfortunately false, as Ms. Hill is currently on tour in the U.S. and will be performing in Santa Barbara, California that evening. Any reports to the contrary in the press are incorrect,” her publicist said in a statement. Although she will not be traveling to Haiti for the performance, she sends her love to her fans.
Music: Lykke Li
Source: www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner
(May 18, 2011) Swedish singer Lykke Li made an indelible first impression with 2008’s decidedly charming Youth Novels, but none of that album’s breathy groove-pop ditties really prepared us for the great leap forward taken on this year’s Wounded Rhymes LP. This one is dark and cacophonous, mingling rumbling 21st-century rhythm tracks with a noirish, half-scary/half-tragic ice-queen sensibility straight out of the 1950s. Li first made her name in North America by wowing festival crowds with her live shows, so Sunday night’s show at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne St.) is a hot ticket indeed. The $27.50 tickets sold out awhile ago, unfortunately, but this girl tours pretty hard so you’ll probably see her back before the year’s out. Grimes opens.
AUDIO: Mark Morrison to Release Third Album
(May 18, 2011) *British soul singer and bad boy, Mark Morrison is ready to release his third studio album, “I Am What I Am” this summer or fall. The set will be lead by the first official single similarly titled. The artist calls the new music a “delicious slice of soul,” so you know you gotta get it. All tracks were written by Morrison and include production from Mike City and the Co-Stars. Best known for his 1996 hit single “Return of the Mack,” the singer became a multi-platinum success with his debut album and remained at the top of Billboard charts for 41 weeks. Listen to Mark Morrison’s “I Am What I Am.”
Jill Scott Flaunts Slimmed Down Figure on Ebony Cover
(May 18, 2011) *Jill Scott is “in a good place” after losing more than 50 lbs., she tells Ebony Magazine. The Grammy winner and mother to 2-year-old Jett shows off her new slimmer figure on the magazine’s June cover. Ebony contributor Dream Hampton sits down with Scott, who opens up about the knock-down, drag-out battle with her former fiancé, her move from Hidden Beach Records and her new mission to stay fit. In her interview, she says has been working with a trainer who knows how to keep her workouts exciting. “Anything that makes me feel like I’m not working out,” Scott, 39, says. “We go outside and throw footballs, go for walks.” Click here to watch behind-the-scenes footage of Jill’s Ebony photo shoot.
Deepa Mehta films Rushdie's Midnight's Children
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Stephanie Nolen
(May. 14, 2011) Deepa Mehta steps from the shadows between two slum shacks, into the path of a young man a foot taller and 30 years younger than she is.
She plants a swift right hook on his jaw, then a knee in his gut. He slumps forward, and she pulls his limp body onto her slight shoulders and hefts.
"There," she says, brushing hands briskly against her cargo pants. "Like that."
And then one of Canada's most celebrated directors releases the body of her star and steps back into the shadows. Now her two young actors know just how she wants them to brawl, and Mehta can resume her customary on-set demeanour, a sort of Zen pixie in braids, poised to roll the camera on a pivotal scene.
The fight scene comes a few days before Mehta wraps her film version of Salman Rushdie's 1981 novel Midnight's Children. It's the largest production ever by the controversial Mehta, of the book that won the even more controversial Rushdie the Booker of Bookers prize. Because of that potent combination, the filming had to be kept ultrasecret, hidden away in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in an effort (only partly successful) to keep the fundamentalists at bay.
"He's got the Muslims," says Mehta, wryly assessing the field of people who might want to stop this film. "And I've got the Hindus."
The book is set in India and Pakistan - but it would have been a huge risk for Mehta to try to shoot the film in either country.
Cinemas in India were burned when her movie Fire was released; production of the last film in her "elements trilogy," Water, was delayed for four years after she was shut down by Hindu militants. Rushdie, meanwhile, has had few fans in the Muslim world since The Satanic Verses and the furor around the Iranian fatwa. That ruled out shooting in Pakistan.
The filmmakers soon thought of Sri Lanka, where Mehta had found a refuge to finish Water. In many ways, Colombo made a better Mumbai than the real city does - more of the century-old architecture has survived here, while much of what Mehta and Rushdie were looking for in Mumbai has been swallowed by its frenzied building boom.
But the long reach of the fundamentalists has found them here, too. Two weeks into the 69-day shoot, Mehta's husband and producer, David Hamilton, received notice from the government saying permission to film had been withdrawn after displeasure was expressed by Iran. (Sri Lanka's government, increasingly isolated from the West, has been cultivating the friendship of China and Iran.) Displeasure from Tehran was enough to shut the shoot down.
Distraught, Mehta and Hamilton appealed to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who decreed they could go ahead. So they changed the working title to Winds of Change ("Very Hallmark," says Mehta, acidly) and they have kept secret as much as they can - a huge challenge, when there are 800 extras in the crowd scenes. The Globe and Mail was the only media organization permitted to visit the set.
"We really wanted to do this film," Mehta says. "And the price is silence."
THE MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN CONFERENCE
Midnight's Children is a vividly cinematic book, but like most of Rushdie's work, had never been made into a film because of hesitancy over his reputation. The BBC tried to make it as a five-part miniseries in 1997, but the government withdrew permission for that production after Muslim protests. No one has tried to film it since.
Three years ago, however, Rushdie was in Toronto on a book tour, and dropped by Hamilton and Mehta's house for dinner - they have been friends for about seven years. She had been daydreaming about filming his Shalimar the Clown; Rushdie said, "Let's work together."
But instead of Shalimar, she said, "The only book I'd like to do is Midnight's Children."
She was aghast as she heard herself speak - she loves the book, but it's as fantastically complicated as it is adored. "I don't know why I said it - it came from some place that amazed me. It was like committing hara-kiri." Just as quickly, she tried to retract. "I said, 'No, forget I said that.' "
But Rushdie was already answering: "Done."
Hamilton, she says, was fortunately out of the room at the time, and didn't learn what Mehta had just committed them to until later.
Rushdie was initially resistant to the idea of writing the script, but, Mehta says, she insisted, fearing no one else could do it justice; she added her "director's two cents" along the way. She had huge trepidation every time she made a suggestion, or, once, added a whole scene. "You don't say to Salman Rushdie, 'I think you forgot this one scene.' "
Rushdie, by e-mail, says that turning a 600-page novel, which he wrote more than 30 years ago, into a 130-page screenplay has been "an immense challenge" but a pleasurable one. "It's a question of preserving the essence - the heart and soul - of the book, but then making a film rather than adhering slavishly to the book. Maybe I could be more disrespectful to the original than anyone else!"
Once they had a script, Mehta and Hamilton turned to the challenge of how on earth to film it: The script requires 62 different locations - with a staggering scope, from 1917 to 1974, from Karachi to Kashmir to Old Delhi to Bombay. The logistical challenges have been unending and near-Biblical.
They needed, for example, seven cobras, which were obliged to rear up and hiss in unison, next to an actor who has a pathological terror of snakes. No animal wranglers here; instead, they brought in a snake charmer. Nevertheless, two of the animals escaped. "They found one of them," Hamilton points out in the voice of a determined optimist.
The roof of a crucial location collapsed in heavy rains. They littered a meadow with fake corpses for a "killing fields" scene, and stuffed them with fish heads to lure crows - but inadvertently also drew an infestation of nasty monitor lizards.
When they arrived in the vast warehouse where they were to shoot, the temperature was more than 43 C - and their local production company had supplied three window air conditioners. Their child actors were limp and miserable. Overnight, Hamilton had 30 tonnes of air conditioning installed. He declines to provide a precise total on the film's budget.
Mehta roped her younger brother Dilip, a Delhi filmmaker, into acting as her production designer. A brooding, chain-smoking presence on set, as dour as his sister is prone to cackles of glee, Dilip scrutinized everything from locations to belt buckles for authenticity. While Colombo is more atmospherically South Asian than any of their other production options, it's also not India in many crucial ways - the people have much darker skin than those in the cities of Midnight's Children; women wear their saris differently.
"If it wasn't for Dilip, I would be dead," Mehta sighs, pacing between shacks in the slum they built. "Curtains, photographs, wall paintings, props from Delhi, the right kind of fireworks ... He's making it look right."
To add another complicating layer, Mehta brought her core crew from Canada - 20 people, including assistant director Reid Dunlop, most of them a close-knit band who have worked on many of her films, but they do not share the Mehtas' intimate knowledge of India. Filming a scene where police rampage in the slum, Mehta watches a take and then says she wants one fleeing man to jump down from the roof. Dunlop frowns - "What would he be doing on the roof in the middle of the night?" he protests.
Dilip, slumped in a plastic chair by the camera, does not look up, but interjects. "Because he's sleeping on the roof on a summer night," he snaps. Dunlop pauses, then speaks into his radio: "Let's get a guy on the roof."
Dilip also oversaw the construction of the slum on a dirt playing field abutting a real slum. The crew shot there for weeks - then they bulldozed it, and burned it to the ground. For Mehta, this was particularly nerve-wracking, since there could be no second takes.
The last of the flames went out just before dawn a few days ago, and Mehta was suddenly filled with doubt. "I thought, 'Oh my God, it's going to be crappy. What have I done? The most beloved book of all time - I'm an idiot. Salman is going to hate it.'"
She texted him to say all this. Rushdie immediately texted back: "Every time I finish a book, I think it's crap. And sometimes it isn't."
INDIA, WITH IRONY
Mehta's cast includes some big names in Bollywood, but for the main character of Saleem Sinai she chose a near-unknown, Satya Bhabha, a half-Indian, half-German-Jewish actor who grew up in England and the United States and has the mushy, ever-shifting accent to match that pedigree. Mehta had dreamed of a Bollywood megastar such as Imran Khan playing Saleem, but couldn't afford that. She heard about Bhabha (who had a brief breakout role in last year's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), saw footage of him in a play, tried him in front of a camera, and sent him to see Rushdie, who approved.
Mehta is motherly and gentle on the set, full of gifts and pats and words of praise for her actors. The theatrics of the extras - slum residents who embrace their new jobs with gusto - make her hop up and down in delight.
But she can also be impatient, narrowing her kohl-lined eyes at Dunlop over perpetual delays with the lighting. And she is demanding, barking at Bhabha when he insists on rushing an entrance in a scene that has half the slum burning.
"She is intensely emotional, while at the same time cold almost to the point of clinical in terms of getting what she wants," says Siddarth (he goes by that single name), a heartthrob in the huge Telugu and Tamil-language film communities, who plays the role of Shiva, Saleem's nemesis. Used to swooning scenes where he gets the girl, he relished the chance to play a range of emotions for Mehta. "She makes you want to be a better performer and a better technician."
Rushdie says Mehta was the "perfect" director to finally take this book to film. "It was Deepa's passion for the book that attracted me, as well, of course, as my admiration for her work. She is able to work on both an intimate and an epic scale, she has a great sense of humour as well as of history, [and] she is famously a great director of actors, including child actors."
Mehta wanders her huge set frowning in concentration, dressed in bright print shalwar kameez, or cargo pants and flannel shirt. She wears her hair - a mane of black curls streaked with grey - pulled back in braids and tied with chunky Punjabi ornaments, like a girl's. Hamilton is usually nearby, slouching in jeans and golf shirts, as unprepossessing as Mehta is striking. At 61, she looks barely past 40; the girlishness is a contrast with her air of authority. Her chin is almost always tilted up, her gaze is a challenge. Yet she also has an almost tangible shyness, as if braced at all times for disaster, or at least mild unpleasantness.
Mehta originally wanted Rushdie to have a cameo role in the film, but he deemed that gimmicky. They both hoped he would spend much of the shoot on the set, but after the Iranian threats, they scrapped that idea, too. He came to Mumbai to help with casting, and from Sri Lanka, Mehta sent him pictures every day, and he talked with the actors over Skype. "Now I hope he likes it," she frets, scuffing her feet through another delay for lighting.
The two have a similar sense of irony that unites them in their telling stories of India, the land they left so long ago and can't stop talking about. And irony, Mehta notes, is in short supply in India these days, as the country crows about its growth and successes even as the poverty that stifles half its billion citizens remains unchanged.
"It's all 'Shining India,' and you can't talk about anything but that," she says.
The film is presold in a half-dozen countries including Canada, Britain, France and Japan; it has significant Canadian investment, including over $4-million from the Canada Feature Film Fund. (Mehta says with a shrug that people are willing to invest in a project by her and Rushdie, although it seems risky, because the controversy will help market the film.) But their Midnight's Children is still without a deal for distribution in India.
Clearly this troubles Mehta, and Rushdie, too, she says. "It is a pity - because I'd like to hear what people say about it in India." Midnight's Children will be released in the second half of 2012.
Mehta plans to sleep for this entire week, then plunge into editing. Talking about seeing it all knit together as a film, she drums her broad hands on the table in front of her, sending the red and gold bangles that line her wrists jangling.
Rushdie, for his part, articulates but one hope for the film: "That it's good."
The Monday Q&A: Film
director Peter Lynch
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Gayle Macdonald
(May. 15, 2011) There are probably a sum total of 10 words uttered in the 127-minute documentary, The National Parks Project, which has its theatrical debut on Friday in Toronto. But so sumptuous was the landscape that the 52 contemporary artists recruited from across the country to collaborate on this project decided to let the inimitable beauty of nature - rock sculpture, whispering trees, a babbling brook - speak for itself.
Toronto filmmaker Peter Lynch (Project Grizzly) directed one of the 13 vignettes that make up this omnibus documentary, which commemorates Parks Canada's centennial year. The 53-year-old says it was the earthy, organic nature of the project itself that inspired each director - independent of the others - to let the images and music speak alone.
Why did you choose Alberta's Waterton Lakes National Park as your muse?
My wife's father grew up in Cardston, [40 kilometres west of the national park]. And some of my interest came from my wife's family history. Her grandfather was a veterinarian in the region, and on an even more personal level, her father's ashes are scattered there, so there is a spiritual link.
What fascinated you most about this rugged, windswept park, known as the place where the Rocky Mountains meet the prairie?
I was intrigued by the way we impose boundaries. This region borders on the edge of Montana. I was also fascinated with the built-in narrative of a place that is thousands and thousands of years old. The Blackfoot were in that region for 10,000 years, but today we tend to think of our national parks as nice little postcards, with nice white people, who have nice camping gear. I wanted to go beneath that to explore the fact we're a speck on the landscape. Yet our imprint has managed to have a profound impact. This area used to be teeming with buffalo, but with the arrival of the white man, we exterminated that species. Not to mention, decimated the first-nations culture in the region.
The music that runs through your piece was written by Laura Barrett, Rollie (Cadence Weapon) Pemberton and Mark Hamilton. Did you give them any direction as to what the musical accompaniment would be?
I thought the best way to approach this was to step outside the realm of conventional documentary, and take a more creative cinematic approach, and explore a more poetic realm. This was a short, dense experience. We were only there for five days. Music allows you to explore ideas in a more poetic, non-linear way, particularly when you're looking at something old, with so many layers. I think, at one point, I had the Blackfoot speaking, but then I just reduced it to text and music, to leave it more open-ended and expressionistic.
Some of the footage looks quite wet. Did the weather co-operate?
It rained for the first number of days and it became quite hard to film because we were always cleaning the lens. The Blackfoot we met said you guys are complaining about the inconvenience of the rain, but we pray for it. It sustains the animals. It sustains the land. It sustains us. So the cinematographer and I went out in the rain for 12 hours. Once we started to embrace it, then things started to appear on the lens. All of a sudden the park presented itself, and we got inside the spirit of the place. So many people live in cities now, it's a very imaginative way to bring these beautiful locations into our imaginations.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
The National Parks Project opens May 20 at the Royal Cinema in Toronto (and is also airing on the digital TV channel Discovery World HD). Other artists include Zacharias Kunuk, Sturla Gunnarsson, Sarah Harmer and Sam Roberts. For more information: www.nationalparksproject.ca.
Smith: The ‘So Random’ Interview with Kam Williams
Source: www.eurweb.com – Kam Williams
(May. 15, 2011) *Born in Los Angeles on May 29, 1989, Brandon Mychal Smith is a charismatic young actor best known for playing ladies man Nico Harris on the Disney Channel sitcom “Sonny with a Chance,” which was renamed “So Random” earlier this year.
Brandon discovered his love for acting at a young age when he stood in front of his 6th grade class and recited a crowd-pleasing rendition of a poem by Shel Silverstein. And after graduating from high school, he enrolled at Hampton University where he earned his degree in entrepreneurship while minoring in finance.
A versatile performer, Brandon recently competed on the ABC celebrity reality show “Skating with the Stars,” and in 2010 starred in the Disney Channel Original Movie “Starstruck.” His other TV credits include recurring roles on such shows as “Unfabulous” and “Phil of the Future.” Brandon has also guest-starred on “Bones,” “Without a Trace” and “That’s So Raven”.
Brandon’s motion picture credits include appearances opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Gridiron Gang, opposite Nick Cannon in Weapons, and opposite Matthew Perry in The Ron Clark Story. Away from work, he keeps himself busy between his many hobbies (especially roller-skating) and his charity work with organizations like the “Magic of Healthy Living Campaign” alongside First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Here, Brandon talks about his work on “So Random.”
Kam Williams: Hi Brandon, thanks for the time.
Brandon Mychal Smith: Thank you for giving me the time.
KW: What interested you in So Random?
BMS: What interested me about So Random was the great team of people that I knew were behind this project. My first love has always been drama and Brian Robbins, So Random’s Executive Producer, had produced a film called Hardball that I had wanted to be in. I always wanted to work with Brian Robbins, so when the opportunity rang I was more focused and ready to do whatever it took to land the role of Nico. [LOL]
KW: Tell me a little about the show?
BMS: So Random is your SNL mixed with a splash of 30 Rock all geared towards the cool kids and fly teens of the new millennium!
KW: How would you describe your character, Nico?
BMS: Nico Harris has the charisma and charm of a WIll Smith from Fresh Prince of Bel Air days with a dash of Denzel Smooth and a Kanye West swagger when it comes to getting fly! [Laughs]
KW: How similar are you to Nico?
BMS: Nico Harris is Brandon Mychal Smith at about 16 or 17 with much more energy and a way cooler job than I really had at that age. [Laughs] Nico and I share a love for the fashion world. And much like Nico, I’ve always loved vintage and unique clothing and cool jewellery. Nico and I also are very much ladies men. [Chuckles] The ability to charm the ladies has never been a sore spot for Mr. Nico Harris [LOL] But most importantly, Nico, as well as I, love to keep everyone laughing and having a good time!
KW: What would you say is the message being delivered by So Random?
BMS: The show’s message is that with The Power of We, you can do it to with drive, persistence, commitment, breathing and smiling. [Laughs] The Power of We is the collaborative effort, everyone coming together to help contribute and or make a positive difference.
KW: What was it like doing the reality-TV series Skating with the Stars? How much of a skater were you as a child?
BMS: Doing Skating with the Stars was a very empowering experience for me. It showed me what I can truly achieve with drive, persistence and commitment. It felt good to become physically active and to push my body to its physical limits day in and day out. If I ever have to do a superhero movie, trust me, I’ll be ready. [Chuckles] I am an avid roller skater, NOT ice skater. [Laughs some more] Big difference! Ice skating is a much more physically-demanding sport, although my lifetime love and passion for roller-skating definitely helped my confidence and ability to create on the ice skates, during Skating with the Stars. I became pretty good at ice-skating by the end of the competition, which surprised me in a great way.
KW: You’ve been in showbiz since you were 8? How have you avoided the problems that have plagued so many other stars?
To read the full interview by Kam Williams, go HERE.
Sanaa Lathan Shares Views on Interracial
Relationship and Success
(May. 13, 2011) *The beautiful and talented Sanaa Lathan is going back to her roots, so to speak, of playing characters involved in interracial relationships and is starring in the off-Broadway play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.”In fact, at this point, she’s developed an all-for-it attitude regarding racially mixed hook ups, shall we say.
“I think that at this point, 21st century, it’s like time to get on with it. I think there’s nothing wrong with dating interracially. There’s nothing wrong with dating your same gender. I think that at this point people should be able to love who they love, love is a blessing,” she told CYInterview. “I feel fortunate that I’ve gotten to play characters who happen to love. They love black men. I play a character that falls in love with a Vietnamese man. I played a lesbian character. I played a character that loved a white man. So, I just think that it shouldn’t be an issue anymore. It’s sad that it still is an issue to me. You know what I mean?”
Besides “Vera Stark,” Lathan, 39, is starring in quite a few roles, including her recurring spot on TV show, “Nip Tuck.” She’ll also be in upcoming thriller movie, “Contagion.”
As far as being an African American woman in the industry, she knows what it takes to make it and be a star.
“The first thing that comes to mind is just really, I really believe in developing. If you have a dream, I really believe in doing the work of developing of yourself, getting in. Whether if you’re a singer or you want to be a teacher or you want to be a writer, get in class, study the people who you admire, do the work to make yourself the best that you can be. I think that a lot of people think that things come easy in this life and it doesn’t always come easy. I think that the better you can be prepared through preparation and study, the better it will turn out for you.”
Read/learn MORE at CYInterview.com.
Life A Masterpiece Of Wonder, Dread And Hope
Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Howell
(May. 16, 2011) CANNES, FRANCE—Words inevitably fail any description of The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick's masterful new creation that had its world premiere early Monday at the Cannes Film Festival.
But try these: wonder, dread, hope. They're among the emotions prompted by the cascade of images in something that's closer to epic poetry than to anything resembling narrative cinema.
Malick's film, only nominally based around a troubled 1950s family headed by Brad Pitt, operates at both the micro and macro level.
It delves deeply into life’s most basic elements — earth, water, fire, air — continuing the filmmaker's four-decade fascination with how man connects (or fails to) with the natural world.
It also goes further afield in time and space than the Texas filmmaker has ever before dared, back to the days of the dinosaurs and forward into the universe beyond the known planets.
Somehow it all connects, but almost entirely on a subliminal level.
The Tree of Life is also the most spiritual of Malick's five films, so steeped in the adoration — and questioning — of unseen deities and celestial realms, it risks being misconstrued as didactic dogma.
This would be a mistake, as it would also be to refer to The Tree of Life as being in opposition to mainstream movie audiences.
While it is certainly challenging, requiring more than one screening to fully appreciate a film that Malick took years to devise and craft, it is intended as an invitation, not a rejection.
We are summoned to marvel at all that is around us, both the things we can perceive and understand, and the things we can’t.
It’s a test the film puts directly to our on-screen surrogates, the O’Brien family of Waco, Texas. This struggling post-War brood consists of an angry and disillusioned father (Pitt), a sweet and naïve mother (Jessica Chastain), and three rambunctious sons, the most difficult and questioning of them being elder lad Jack (Hunter McCracken as a youth, Sean Penn as an adult).
The O’Briens experience happiness and tragedy, success and failure, hopes and fears. The metaphorical tree of the title refers to the branching paths their lives take, as they variously follow either the father’s way of fighting the world or the mother’s way of embracing it.
Jack is a mixture of both parents, of defiance and acceptance, and thus a warring creature unto himself. But his difficult journey towards his final destiny is one we all share, as do all living creatures, from the smallest microbe to the largest thundering mammal.
Advance whispers comparing The Tree of Life to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey prove to be entirely apt. Malick’s film has at least two mind-blowing sequences reminiscent of 2001’s famous psychedelic “Stargate” sequence.
I’ll have more to say about The Tree of Life closer to its June 10 scheduled theatrical release in Toronto.
Common Producing His First Film
(May. 15, 2011) *After all the hub bub, so to speak, about his appearance at the White House last week, Common is trying something a little different and is getting behind the scenes a bit with a new indie film, “L.U.V.” as the producer. He’ll also be staring in the flick as well. In the film, Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, plays Vincent, an ex convict who strikes up an unlikely friendship with his introverted 13-year-old nephew Woody while attempting to turn his life around. “Vincent is a uniquely conflicted character,” Common said of the role. “I found an appeal in his desire to move past his failures and onto the right track, and the challenges that presents.” The film also features a lot of first timers and a group of other producers.
Sheryl Lee Ralph and Pharrell Williams
Trying Something New
(May. 15, 2011) *Sheryl Lee Ralph has a new role coming up this Christmas in the new holiday film, “The Lot,” starring Keith David from “Lord of the Rings.” Others to appear in the film include Omar Gooding and Eric Roberts. Production has already started. “This film is a feel good family picture and I’m proud to join the cast,” said Ralph, who is also working on a book “Redefining DIVA.” The composition is supposed to be a divinely inspired story filled with modern advice on love, live and living. And speaking of doing new things, Pharrell Williams is expanding his empire from music to help create a TV network aimed at the online generation. The producer has been named the creative director of Karmaloop TV as of Monday. The new network will feature original productions and movies geared toward 18-34-year-olds.
TIFF Wants You
Source: www.thestar.com - Linda Barnard
(May 17, 2011) There's a reason why every screening during the Toronto International Film Festival opens with a shout out to volunteers and a round of applause. They work hard - but approval-seeking types can't beat the praise. Now here's your chance to get that kind of daily affirmation of your wonderfulness. TIFF is looking for volunteers for this year's fest, Sept. 8-18. Perqs include getting the street-level buzz on the best films and a chance to see celebs up close, while getting a daily dose of TIFF excitement. For details go to tiff.net/volunteers
Ashton Kutcher Replaces Sheen On ‘Two And A Half Men’
Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press
(May. 13, 2011) NEW YORK—Acting with an imminent deadline to keep alive a hit comedy after it had been derailed by Charlie Sheen’s troubles this season, CBS and Warner Bros. Television said Friday that actor Ashton Kutcher will replace Sheen in “Two and a Half Men.”
The show goes into production this summer and will be on CBS’ schedule in the fall.
The deal apparently came together quickly, following reports earlier this week that negotiations with film actor Hugh Grant to join the show had fallen through. Kutcher is familiar to television audiences through his role on Fox’s “That 70s Show,” film roles like the romantic comedy “No Strings Attached” and for producing and hosting the prank show “Punk’d.”
A deadline on deciding whether the show would continue was looming with CBS set to unveil its fall schedule to advertisers in New York next Wednesday.
Kutcher is not as well known as Sheen but is 12 years younger and has a huge following of fans who follow him on Twitter. He said Friday he believes that “we can fill the stage with laughter that will echo in viewers’ homes.
“I can’t replace Charlie Sheen but I’m going to work my ass off to entertain the hell out of people,” he said.
Kutcher’s quote was the only mention of Sheen in Friday’s news release. Warner cut short the show’s eighth season and fired Sheen two months ago following his public implosion through hard partying and angry criticism of show creator Chuck Lorre.
“We are so lucky to have someone as talented, joyful and just plain remarkable as Ashton joining our family,” said Lorre, also the show’s executive producer. “Added to that is the deep sigh of relief knowing that our family stays together. If I was any happier, it’d be illegal.”
Lorre or CBS executives did not make themselves available to address how Kutcher would be integrated in a show where Sheen’s character Charlie Harper was the comic centre, portraying an advertising jingle writer with a playboy lifestyle not unlike the actor’s own. Jon Cryer portrays Sheen’s brother, and Angus T. Jones plays Cryer’s son.
Sheen offered his replacement a welcome on Friday — sort of.
“Kutcher is a sweetheart and a brilliant comedic performer . . . Oh, wait, so am I,” Sheen said.
“Enjoy the show, America,” he said. “Enjoy seeing a 2.0 in the demo every Monday, WB.”
Sheen used TV lingo to predict failure for the revamped “Two and a Half Men.” He referred to a 2.0 Nielsen Co. rating among the 18-to-49-year-old demographic that advertisers often speak. This season, “Two and a Half Men” averaged a 4.1 rating in that group, so Sheen was suggesting the Kutcher-led show would have half the young audience than it had with him.
Actually, Kutcher might be expected to have a younger following than Sheen and one which could be curious about his new role. The difficulty might be the older makeup of CBS’ audience in general, more Sheen’s crowd than Kutcher’s.
“He’s not a star, I don’t think, the way Charlie Sheen is,” said Brad Adgate, an analyst for the firm Horizon Media. “He’s more like a supporting cast.”
Still, Adgate said, “it’s a hit show and it’s something worth trying before you pack it in. You just never know.”
Hollywood North Wraps In Vancouver
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Gayle Macdonald
(May. 15, 2011) It's been a tough week in Hollywood North, what with Superman hanging up his Smallville cape (or, in fact, slipping into it) and the crew of Destiny meeting theirs on Stargate Universe. The two series finales signal the end of an era in British Columbia's Lower Mainland, where the Stargate franchise and Smallville have provided years of big breaks and steady work, and have helped foster an industry that's worth $1-billion annually to the provincial economy.
Tom Cruise and the Twilight series may bring giant budgets - and international attention - to Metro Vancouver. But the city owes its production reputation, infrastructure and skill set to the small screen.
"There's no doubt that television built this town," says Crawford Hawkins, executive director of the Directors Guild of Canada B.C. District Council . "This town would not exist on high-budget features."
Stargate and the Superman prequel Smallville - which wrapped Friday after 10 seasons - have been a big part of that. Now they're going off the air at the same time.
"In one sense, they're just another series, and we typically do 15 to 20 a year," says Pete Mitchell, president and COO of Vancouver Film Studios, a 13-sound stage facility which has been home to Battlestar Galactica and more recently Caprica and Hellcats. "At the same time, Stargate spawned so many spinoffs and other shows that came along with it, that it was, I would say, particularly important. And Smallville, if you were to add up the number of man hours it employed people, it was tremendous. "
For some, the loss is more personal. Brad Wright, Stargate's co-creator and executive producer, is still smarting months after the announcement of SGU's cancellation - after two seasons - with a renewed sense of outrage this week, as the final episode aired.
"It was a good show, and that's the kicker," he says. "When you do something that you're really proud of and you think everybody should be watching and you get cancelled, it's kind of frustrating."
Smallville, by contrast, had a long run. It was one of six series that Warner Bros. shot in the Vancouver area last year (one of which, Human Target, was cancelled this week by Fox in the first of the network fall line-up announcements).
"There's a tipping point or a critical mass that you really need to become a full-fledged production centre," said Michael Albrecht, vice-president of public affairs for Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. He says a sufficient crew base, plentiful equipment and purpose-built facilities are imperative for studios seeking locations - and the Lower Mainland has developed all three.
Vancouver, in fact, has become the third-largest production centre in North America, behind Los Angeles and New York. Provincial tax credits and the once-low Canadian dollar were important factors in luring productions here, but local infrastructure and expertise have kept them coming back.
It didn't happen by accident: the BC Film Commission was established in 1978 with the objective of growing a business that essentially "didn't exist," according to Justis Greene, who became the province's film commissioner that year. Things really began to change with the arrival of the network series 21 Jump Street to Vancouver in 1986 and MacGyver the following year. 21 Jump Street signalled the beginning of the city's long relationship with Hollywood producer Stephen J. Cannell, who brought many projects to Vancouver.
"He pretty much established the city as a production centre," says J.P. Finn, who started on 21 Jump Street as an assistant director and went on to produce The X-Files. "People could make a decent living ... and suddenly the whole industry started to spring up like mushrooms in a lush forest."
Today there are eight purpose-built studios in Metro Vancouver with some 60 stages, and plans for more. Thousands of people make their living in the industry, many of whom have worked on the franchises winding up this week.
"Every single actor I know did a gig on Stargate," says Bill Marchant, who about a decade ago landed his first recurring role: a billionaire with an incurable disease on SG-1.
Marchant, now head of acting at Vancouver Film School, notes that such a thing didn't exist for actors back when he was learning the craft. "Those cheesy sci-fi shows were my education. It was a brilliant place to learn the lessons that the Americans knew by rote. If you look at the early Jump Street and X-Files, you can see how Canadian acting styles have shifted toward a more naturalistic and filmic approach. It's quite a leap."
The X-Files sparked something else, of course: Vancouver's long association with science fiction. "It really did put us on the map for sci-fi," says B C Film Commissioner Susan Croome. There have been myriad films and series since, including Sanctuary and V.
"I think it's the weather," says Mitchell of Vancouver Film Studios. "Somehow it's okay to be grey on distant planets."
All that science fiction work has played a leading role in Vancouver's development as a production centre. Wright says Stargate alone (in its various forms) spent close to a billion dollars, employing thousands of people over the years.
The genre has also been key in developing what has become a world-class visual effects industry.
"Without all those opportunities on the science fiction shows, we just would not have established the visual effects centre that Vancouver is now on the global map," says Marianne O'Reilly, a visual-effects producer whose credits include SG-1, Night at the Museum and Vantage Point. "It's a go-to city."
And not just for series shot here. O'Reilly points out that the city's visual-effects houses now attract work on features shot elsewhere - for example Tropic Thunder and Blades of Glory.
As for the importance of Stargate, she says, "so many people's careers, lifestyles, livelihoods really point to that show. ... Any time a show ends, you just hope that there's another show everyone can move onto."
B.C. is losing both shows at a precarious time: The Canadian dollar is high (making it harder to attract productions north of the border) and the future of the HST (a tax the industry likes) is uncertain.
The state of the local industry will be clearer next week, when the rest of the networks announce their fall line-ups. Finn is watching particularly closely, hoping NBC picks up his 17th Precinct.
Wright has hopes of his own; that (spoiler alert) stasis doesn't mean finished.
"My feeling is that ... the concept of Stargate is too big to just let go. Somebody at MGM is going to say 'hey we've got this show; let's do something with it,'" he says. "I don't think it'll happen really quickly, but I think somebody is going to bring the show back."
Even On 'Glee,' A Tiara Doesn't Always Feel Right
Source: www.globeandmail.com -
(May 2, 2011) We be so excited. Glee’s prom show, which appeared last Tuesday, kick-started by a joyous rendition of Rebecca Black’s Friday, showcased a male prom king and queen.
But good things come at a great cost, as this deeply moral show always insists: Before Kurt, the openly gay Glee kid, was crowned queen, he ran away from the gymnasium sobbing from the “humiliation.” He was coaxed back in by his boyfriend, Blaine, who had been initially reluctant to attend because he was gay-bashed at the prom at his previous school. Then Kurt took the stage and said, “Kate Middleton, eat your heart out,” and everyone went crazy. He then slow-danced with Blaine, and the streamers fluttered and balloons fell like swooning hearts.
It was good to see Kurt and Blaine kiss a few weeks ago (even if the Ugly Betty show beat Glee to showcasing a high-profile mainstream TV teen-boy kiss, and much more hotly, last year), and now, to see them come out large, not merely accepted by peers but social superstars.
But Kurt’s humiliation brought up an intriguing point that was never developed. Why did he feel so bad? He never said.
On Modern Family last week, the gay couple Mitchell and Cam faced a similar dilemma, and discussed and dramatized it riotously and well.
On Mother’s Day, Mitchell brings Cam breakfast in bed on a tray. “It’s your day,” he says. Cam begins screaming at his husband: “You think of me as Lily’s mother! I’m your wife! I’m a woman,” and Mitchell runs, hissing at their little daughter, waiting in the wings with balloons, “Forget it, she is in a mood!”
The Modern Family couple examined their own sense of each other, then, addressing the camera, told women that they are not us. They do not want to go to our baby showers; they do not have a time of the month and they do not like pink. (“Pink likes me,” Cam quickly avers.)
Cam, played so well by Eric Stonestreet, is sensitive and bullish; emotional and pragmatic. He is both effeminate and exceedingly masculine (imposing, a football fanatic and physically daunting). He objects to being a woman because he is a man, and because being openly gay means that one has made a profound declaration of self.
In the largely ignored movie I Love You Phillip Morris (2009), Jim Carrey’s once-closeted character Steven Russell has “an epiphany” after an accident. “I’m gonna be a fag!” he yells, “a big fag!”
This revelation comes on the heels of his understanding that he can begin his life again by coming out, that he can start again as “the real me.”
So many of us have no idea who we are, or what we want. In a short story by the late great Toronto writer Daniel Jones, the author remarks of a friend (who has just left his wife) who reveals that he is gay: “I’m surprised, but hardly shocked. Rather, I am jealous that he knows what he wants, and that it is something different.”
It is this – knowing what we want – that so often eludes us. Born, then placed into categories, so many of us just drift along, ferried forward by the extrinsic definitions of “man” and “woman,” even “straight” and “queer.”
When Kurt Cobain sang “Everyone is gay” in the song All Apologies, he was speaking to the infinite possibilities manifest in all of us for change and growth, for sublime self-awareness and an acute awareness of others as not merely another (to paraphrase, wildly, French philosopher Maurice Blanchot).
Back to the prom: While gay activists are hailing this show as another triumph for actor Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt (like his Golden Globes speech in which he dared gay kids to be different, in spite of potential derision or worse), I feel that Glee’s Kurt should have done one of two things with his crown.
He could have broken it to bits like, and unlike, Lindsay Lohan’s character in Mean Girls and, instead of sharing the bits, ground them into dust beneath his Doc Martens. Or, he could have summoned the eerie Carrie vibe that pervaded this episode and started injuring the crown with his mind.
I am sick of the high road, sick of the noble abuse victim: Kurt (dressed in a kilt/skirt for this episode) is a man and, axiomatically, not the prom queen. His acceptance of the tiara does not change the meaning of his election.
Meaningful irony seldom stops bullies. “Bricks and bats,” Woody Allen once suggested (to a group of piqued intellectuals discussing how to handle skinheads). Such an arsenal helps a great deal more.
To the same kids Colfer reached out to: Do what you please, know who you are and never stop attending Krav Maga self-defence classes.
CBS Unveils Fall Schedule, Quebec Hates The Daily Show And House
Loses A Cast Member
Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar
(May 18, 2011) CBS announced its new fall schedule, and one of the big moves is The Good Wife from Tuesday to Sunday at 9 p.m. Of the new series, we're curious to see the new comedy, How to be a Gentleman, which stars David Hornsby and Kevin Dillon, about a classy magazine columnist and his personal trainer, which also has Dave Foley in the cast. Beyond that, there's Unforgettable, a cop series starring Poppy Montgomery as a detective who remembers everything and 2 Broke Girls, with Kat Dennings and Beth Behrs as waitresses who become friends. Rules of Engagement is moving to Saturday's at 8 p.m., which is an interesting move because most networks have given up on the evening as a place to show new episodes.
This story seems to be picking up some speed. Last Thursday, The Daily Show featured a piece by Aasif Mandvi looking at asbestos production in Quebec, which is still imported to countries around the world. As with most of their interviews, the mine boss was made to look pretty stupid for taking part, and according to Marketing magazine, now they're taking umbrage to the portrayal. The piece has been praised by environmental groups for shining a light on the industry.
Lisa Edelstein, who plays Dr. Cuddy on House, is leaving the series. Before it got renewed there were stories of the show looking to cut costs, and reportedly Edelstein chose to leave over taking a pay cut. How they deal with the on and off relationship between Cuddy and House is job no.1 for writers next season.
The Good Wife's season ended last night, with what looked like a little bit of happiness for Alicia Florrick. Here's an Onion piece saying it's the heir to The Wire. I really like the show, but that feels like a bit of a stretch.
Lost Girl Found By SyFy
Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar
(May 18, 2011) If strong female characters are the biggest trend in the upcoming season, U.S. science fiction network Syfy got in the game by picking up Showcase's sexy supernatural series, Lost Girl, for its schedule. Focusing on Bo (Anna Silk), a succubus who feeds off sexual energy, who learns she is one of the Fey, mysterious mystical creatures who are separated by their Light and Dark affiliations, the series is an excellent fit for the channel.
“In one year, Lost Girl has electrified viewers in Canada and around the world. We’re delighted to bring this fascinating, high-octane series, which depicts a unique world and memorable heroine, to the Syfy audience, ” said Thomas Vitale, Executive Vice President, Programming and Original Movies, Syfy.
Syfy picked up the first two seasons of the series. While the series mostly focused on 'freak of the weak' plots, it also carried forth a somewhat serialized story about Bo learning more about her past and the Fey. We're big fans of the show's first season, although the one thing we hope is that the acquisition ups the special effects budget. Sometimes the bad guys looked pretty cheesy.
Jerry Lewis To Retire From Hosting Annual MDA Telethon
Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Associated Press
(May 17, 2011) LAS VEGAS — After 45 years promoting treatment and a cure for children he calls “my kids,” comedian Jerry Lewis announced Monday he is retiring as host of the Labour Day Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon that has become synonymous with his name.
Lewis, 85, issued a statement through the association calling it “time for an all new Telethon era.”
“As a labour of love, I've hosted the annual Telethon since 1966 and I'll be making my final appearance on the show this year by performing my signature song, You'll Never Walk Alone,” Lewis said of a shortened six-hour prime-time broadcast scheduled for Sept. 4.
Lewis, a Las Vegas resident, has in recent years battled a debilitating back condition, heart issues and the crippling lung disease pulmonary fibrosis. He said he'll continue serving as national Muscular Dystrophy Association chairman, as he's done since the early 1950s.
“I'll never desert MDA and my kids,” he said.
Officials with the Tucson, Ariz.-based non-profit hailed Lewis as one of the world's great humanitarians.
More than $1 billion has been raised during Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons over the years, association spokesman Jim Brown said. And a national network of some 200 hospital-affiliated clinics has opened since Lewis became involved in the telethon.
Lewis' first live Labour Day weekend telethon in 1966 was broadcast by a single New York City television station. It raised more than $1 million in pledges.
The telethon moved from New York to Las Vegas in 1973 and had stints in Los Angeles before returning in 2006 to Las Vegas.
Last year's Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon aired from the South Coast hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip and was broadcast by more than 170 stations. It raised almost $59 million to fund research to find a cure for muscular dystrophy and ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.
The live telethon usually lasts 21-and-a-half hours. Sometimes Lewis sings or tells lighthearted jokes. He introduces guests and other performers like a ringmaster. Sometimes, he turns serious and shares stories of people afflicted by the disease or who are helped by the association. All the while, he urges donors to contribute while a tote board rings up pledge totals.
Some telethon moments have made history.
In Las Vegas during the 1976 telethon, Lewis was reunited by Frank Sinatra with Dean Martin, with whom Lewis had an acrimonious split 20 years earlier. The famous entertainer best known for his slapstick humour first teamed with Martin in the 1940s to play nightclubs and television shows and to make a series of comedy films.
The association tallied Lewis' live hours in telethons at 900, and association president and chief executive Gerald Weinberg called Lewis an unparalleled advocate and humanitarian.
“All of us who've been privileged to work beside him, and the hundreds of thousands throughout the world affected by the myriad of muscle diseases MDA battles, will acknowledge in our hearts forever the unrivalled role Jerry has played in our lives and the lives of all Americans,” Weinberg said in the statement.
Lewis’s success as a philanthropist was celebrated in 2009 when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences presented him with its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The award was presented to Lewis by Eddie Murphy, who starred in a remake of one of Lewis' signature roles, The Nutty Professor.
Yabba Dabba What?
Source: www.thestar.com -
(May. 16, 2011) This will either make your toes twinkle like Fred sending a ball down a bowling alley or make you feel like Dino just jumped on a door to flatten you. Deadline.com is reporting that Seth MacFarlane is close to completing intricate negotiations to fulfill one his lifelong aspirations, to reboot The Flintstones as a film and television property. MacFarlane is the current king of prime time animation (Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show), and it makes sense that he holds the prehistoric-set series in high regard, despite the bad taste left from the live action films (The Flintstones, 1994 and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, 2000). The big question is whether the series will have any of Family Guy's raunchiness or if the various rights holders will insist on something sweeter. Part of the delay is that the various rights to the series are held by competitors, and while much of that needs to still be worked out, Deadline says the eventual series will air on Fox.
NBC Cancels ‘The Event’; ‘Law &
(May. 13, 2011) *Two prime time dramas with African American males in the lead have just been given the axe. Entertainment Weekly is reporting that NBC is passing on picking up its sci-fi action-drama “The Event” for another season. Blair Underwood starred in the show as the US president. Though the series about aliens covertly living among us started strongly for the network, it faded gradually in the ratings and, after its winter hiatus, fell below the line. “Event” averaged 7.4 million viewers and a 2.5 adults 18-49 rating once DVR use is added in, which just wasn’t enough for a costly and serialized show. Meanwhile, Dick Wolf’s attempt to move his franchise to the City of Angels failed, too: NBC has dropped Law & Order: Los Angeles, which starred Terrence Howard as Deputy District Attorney Jonah “Joe” Dekker.
Celine Show To Air On OWN Next Month
Source: www.thestar.com - By The Canadian Press
(May 17, 2011) Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion gives fans a peek into her home and work life in a new TV special that's set to air next month. Celine: 3 Boys and a New Show is slated for broadcast on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network on June 26. The network says the one-hour special follows the Montreal singing sensation and her family in and around their new home in Las Vegas. Viewers will see Dion helping son Rene-Charles with his homework, raising her newborn twins and spending time with husband Rene Angelil. She also takes cameras behind the creative process of her Vegas show, Celine. Dion gave birth to twin sons Nelson and Eddy in October and launched her Vegas show in March at Caesars Palace. Another Canadian superstar singer, Shania Twain, launched a docu-series about her life on OWN last Friday in Canada. Why Not? With Shania Twain follows the country-pop star as she attempts to recover from her well-publicized divorce from producer Robert (Mutt) Lange and rediscover her singing voice.
Forest Whitaker’s ‘Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior’ Cancelled
(May 17, 2011) *CBS has decided at the last minute to cancel its new series “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. The spinoff from Ed Bernero, which starred Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker as the chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, averaged only 9.3 million viewers since its midseason launch. Despite a high-profile — and thus costly — star, the series failed to deliver the buzz or ratings that other offshoots, such as “NCIS: Los Angeles,” have generated. CBS on Sunday cancelled “S#!* My Dad Says,” “The Defenders” and “Mad Love.”
Celebration Of Young Artistry
Source: www.thestar.com - Michael Crabb
(May 17, 2011) When Laura Moffitt stepped onto the stage of Leah Posluns Theatre in March 1981 she had no idea she was making history.
Moffitt was 11 when she appeared in the debut performance of a bold venture called The Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre. This week, with other CCDT alums from far and wide, Moffitt will be sharing memories of those early days as the company celebrates a remarkable 30 years of existence with two special gala programs at Harbourfront Centre.
“Of course, it was all very exciting,” recalls Moffitt, “but I don’t think any us quite understood how important it was. I couldn’t anticipate how it would influence who I am in such positive ways.”
CCDT was co-founded by Deborah Lundmark and her husband, Michael deConinck Smith, to fill a void. As a ballet teacher in a popular Toronto studio, Lundmark had grown tired of glittery student dance recitals. She believed talented youngsters deserved a more substantial artistic experience, working intensively in a professional-standard environment and performing works specifically choreographed to give them an authentic expressive outlet.
“It was not for the faint hearted,” says philosopher Amanda Porter, a university teacher who last year gained her Ph.D. from Western with a thesis on the ethics of humanitarian intervention.
Porter, 32, spent eight years with CCDT and will be among several alums rejoining the company on stage this week. “It was an intense, even gruelling experience,” says Porter, who was with the company on its first foreign trip — to China — in 1990. “It was five evenings a week plus more if there was a show coming up.”
In that 1981 debut performance there were 40 dancers, aged 8 to 16. Lundmark choreographed everything. Today, the company — soon to be given a new name — comprises only a dozen or so dancers in their mid to late teens. Younger dancers are accommodated in two junior, developmental programs.
The separately operated school Lundmark founded in 1983 serves as a potential entry point to the non-profit organization’s performing wings. Everything is housed in a well-appointed building at Parliament and Carlton that CCDT acquired in 1995.
Lundmark still choreographs but as her fledgling company gained credibility it quickly attracted notable outside choreographers, particularly as it evolved a contemporary movement style based on the technique of legendary Mexican-American dancer/choreographer José Limón.
Over the years CCDT members have had works made for them by such notables as David Earle, Carol Anderson, Danny Grossman, Tedd Robinson, Robert Desrosiers and many others.
Lundmark says she never planned the company as a farm for professional career dancers but, not surprisingly, many CCDT alums have moved into dance-related fields as adults, including Jordana Deveau, now Lundmark’s associate artistic director.
Brian Lawson, 23, who left CCDT in 2005, took a BFA from SUNY Purchase and will be joining the celebrated Mark Morris Dance Group in New York this fall. Another distinguished male alum, David Norsworthy, just completed his second year as a scholarship student in the dance department at Juilliard.
But whether or not they embrace dance as a lifetime calling, CCDT members have no doubt about its enduring value. “There’s things you have to sacrifice,” says 17-year-old Jennifer Morse, “but it’s totally worth it. I’m learning skills and doing stuff that’s going to affect me for the rest of my life.”
(Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre: Turning 30! May 19 & 20; Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queens Quay West; 416-973-4000 or www.harbourfrontcentre.com).
Vancouver Actor Suffers Stroke
During Performance Of 'Hairspray'
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman
(May. 13, 2011) Vancouver actor Jay Brazeau is recovering from a minor stroke, suffered backstage during Thursday night's performance of Hairspray.
"He certainly will have a fully recovery," said Arts Club Theatre Company artistic managing director Bill Millerd. "He called us earlier [Friday] determined to get back onstage."
Brazeau, 57, was playing Edna Turnblad, a role traditionally played by a male actor. It became apparent about midway through the first act of Thursday's preview performance that something was wrong.
"He seemed a little disoriented but he recovered very quickly," said Millerd. "I must say Jay was determined to go on with the show, but we called the paramedics and they just felt it was wise to take him to the hospital for a check-up."
Millerd rode with him in the ambulance and says Brazeau was already recovering by the time they arrived. He was released from hospital Friday afternoon.
Millerd, who is also directing the show, said they should know early next week when Brazeau might return to the production. Opening night Wednesday at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage may be pushed back.
There was no understudy in place - Millerd says the Arts Club doesn't have the luxury of having understudies - but by early Friday afternoon they had secured local actor Andy Toth (Company) to step in and begin rehearsing. Performances are to resume Saturday night.
Brazeau, who was born in Winnipeg, was reprising the role of Edna, which he played in the 2004 production of Hairspray in Toronto.
He has performed in countless Vancouver-shot films and television projects, as well as theatre productions. Most recently, he was the voice of Volstagg in the DVD Thor: Tales of Asgard, out this month.
On the phone with Millerd on Friday, Brazeau was "filled with suggestions" about who could replace him.
"He was in good humour," Millerd reports. "He was saying 'I'm sorry.' He was apologizing."
Lights The Path From The Ghetto To Broadway
Source: www.thestar.com - By Martin Knelman
(May 17, 2011) Once upon a time Toronto had many cabaret shows, often original musical revues. But that was 20 or 30 years ago, and now you can’t come to the cabaret because it has become an endangered species. What happened? In many cases, real estate developers found more profitable uses for the space.
But now Avery Saltzman and the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company are bringing us To Life, which is the kind of show we used to enjoy at cabarets.
Only now it is in a sit-down theatre — the Jane Mallett Theatre of the St. Lawrence Centre. So instead of sitting at café tables and sipping drinks while you take in the show, you’re sitting in a theatre seat.
But this space — which will in future be the ongoing home of the Harold Green company — is a lot more intimate than the Bluma Appel Theatre across the lobby. And the show, which I saw at its final preview on Sunday afternoon prior to Tuesday’s official opening — is charming and entertaining as well as inventive.
Maybe some of the songs are a trifle too familiar (especially the ones from Fiddler on the Roof), and it’s too bad the costumes are rather boringly tasteful.
Still, the show offers many pleasures, not the least of which are the four nimble hands on two pianos belonging to Mark Camilleri and Jeffrey Huard. All this adds up to a welcome sign that the Harold Green theatre, which began slowly and has been growing for the past few years, is here to stay.
To Life — conceived by Avery Saltzman and Tim French — celebrates the Jewish talent that was so much a part of New York musical-comedy history. Or as a song from Spamalot puts the matter with chutzpah: “You won’t succeed on Broadway if you don’t have any Jews.”
The first half of the show is especially rewarding because it delves way back into the roots of its subject, in the very early years of the 20th century, when future headliners Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker were beginning to make names for themselves. At first they were working terrain close to home — on the heavily Jewish Lower East Side of New York, and in vaudeville.
That gives the light-on-his feet young Patrick Cook a chance to summon the ghost of Eddie Cantor doing his signature number “Makin’ Whoopie”. And a delightful rising star named Gabi Epstein (in fact the only Jewish member of the four-person cast) slips into Fanny Brice mode to turn “I’d Rather Be Blue” into a knockout.
Veteran Shawn Wright (whom you may have seen in Jersey Boys) summons up the legend of Al Jolson with “April Showers.”
And Charlotte Moore, the definitely gentile granddaughter of Dora Mavor Moore, gesticulates with the authority of a Yiddish trouper and does a splendid Sophie Tucker on “Some of Those Days.”
Indeed, it seems to me that “Some of Those Days” would be a more apt title for the whole show, capturing the nostalgic flavour of the program.
The second half of the show is somewhat more conventional, relying on Jewish material from Broadway shows of the more recent past, such as Fiddler, Funny Girl, The Grand Tour and Two by Two. Highlights are two numbers that showcase the comic and vocal talents of Gabi Epstein — “Sadie, Sadie” from Funny Girl and “Miss Marmelstein” from I Can Get It For You Wholesale.
Both are Barbra Streisand showstoppers. But there is another song from Funny Girl that would have been perfect for Ms Epstein. It’s “I’m the Greatest Star,” the number in which Fanny Brice anticipates her leap from Second Avenue to the Ziegfeld Follies.
It baffles me how Saltzman and French could have opted not to include it, because more than any other number I have ever heard, that song brilliantly expresses how and why Jewish musical comedy talent broke out of the ghetto and into the mainstream of American entertainment.
To Life Continues to May 29.
Toronto Patios: King West
Source: www.thestar.com - By Kate Allen
(May 18, 2011) Spice Route (499 King St. W.)
The place: The type of studiously swank boite that features an ambiguously jazzy soundtrack and draws the collared shirts and teetering heels crew. The haute pan-Asian theme is reflected in cocktails like the “zen-gria” and dishes like Thai crab cakes.
The patio: This big yard is protected from the street by a row of tall bushes, which significantly boosts the harem-like vibe. Low lavender suede couches and woven lanterns overhead don’t hurt, either.
Must know: The patio is rammed with condo dwellers on weekends, but on a quiet Monday afternoon, the place can feel as tranquil as a spa.
Shade, Romantic, Meet market, Pricey, Private, Full menu, Good cocktails
Bier Markt (600 King. St. W.)
The place: The beer list here is fatter than the wine list at most fancy restaurants, and is broken down by country – this is a place for serious beer-drinkers, and if there was any doubt which nationality has the claim on that demographic, the menu features German treats like the wurst plate.
The patio: The narrow patio flanks a side street heavy in foot traffic. Forget people-watching, pooch-watching is the order of the day, as residents of the numerous nearby condo-towers emerge with designer doggies in tow.
Must know: Pick up a backup beer, since the taps change so often, servers sometimes have trouble keeping up.
Pricey, People-watching, Full menu, Craft beers
Marben (488 Wellington St. W.)
The place: The restaurant was redesigned with loads of reclaimed wood and relaunched last year, and has been garnering solid reviews from critics ever since. The focus is local meats and produce, and the kitchen prides itself on ordering entire animals and butchering the whole beasts themselves.
The patio: Sunny and open, but tucked away on less-travelled Wellington St., Marben is the rare spot in the downtown core where patrons can take a leisurely lunch away from peering pedestrian eyes.
Must know: The brunch offerings here are divine, but it’s still possible to walk in without a reservation most weekends and get a table – patio or otherwise – without waiting.
Romantic, Pricey, Private, Full menu, Good cocktails, New patio
Brassaii (461 King St. W.)
The place: An upscale resto-lounge that has managed to become a Mecca for flush young professionals who enjoy dinner offerings like pan-roasted ostrich with tempura onion rings or who prefer their risotto with pesto foam.
The patio: Brassaii’s patio sits at the end of a narrow brick courtyard, in front of the restaurant’s main entrance, a location that feels both exclusive and downtown-cool. The area was redesigned in late spring, and is set to open the week after Victoria Day with a whole new structure, two bars, and a fireplace.
Must know: Impress your date with insider culinary info: Executive chef Bruce Woods trained for two years in Italy and also under Toronto culinary celeb Marc Thuet.
Romantic, Pricey, Private, Full Menu, Craft beers, Good cocktails, New patio
Foggy Dew (803 King St. W.)
The place: Still in King West condo land but far enough from the madness of the supper clubs clustered closer to Spadina Ave., Foggy Dew is your basic bar – bar stools, the game on TV, buddies clustered around their beers.
The patio: Big enough that getting a table isn’t a total nightmare, and far enough from the sometimes maddening club scene, the Foggy Dew is a good default bar for times when conversation is actually important.
Must know: Beware funky-smelling nights courtesy the local abattoir just to the south, a deal-breaker for the squeamish.
Cheap, Full menu, Family friendly
Must-See Summer Events In Toronto
Source: www.thestar.com - By Sarah O’Connor
(May. 13, 2011) Looking for a great way to get out and enjoy the sunshine in the city this summer? You won’t want to miss these events:
The Worldwide Short Film Festival: May 31 to June 5, 2011
Cinephiles, rejoice. The Worldwide Short Film Festival features short films from around the globe here at home. Whether paired with a casual dinner for a laid-back date or as an excuse to play dress-up with your best girlfriends, the festival’s myriad screenings, competitions and galas all make for a great night on the town.
Luminato Festival of the Arts and Creativity:June 10 – 19, 2011
For nine days in June, Luminato floods the city with art and creativity. Encompassing dance, theatre, music, film, literature, visual arts, design and more, feeding your artistic soul is easy. Check out ticketed events like Ron Sexsmith or The National Ballet of Canada’s rendition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or roam the streets and take in the free events.
Drive-In Movie Theatre at Polson Pier: Opens May 20, 2011
Snuggle with your sweetie and take in some retro fun at Polson Pier’s drive-in movie theatre. While this is technically a family-friendly affair, if you have tinted windows, watching the movie is optional. Screens light up all week long throughout the summer, so check the website for updated shows and times. (This season’s information will be posted online after May 20.)
Toronto Taste 2011: June 12, 2011
Toronto Taste brings together some of the city's best food, beverages and entertainment in one great afternoon, all in support of Second Harvest. This year’s exclusive event takes place at the Royal Ontario Museum and is hosted by Food Network chef Bob Blumer. Foodies can indulge in culinary masterpieces created by top Toronto chefs while sampling fine wine, premium beer and other tempting beverages.
North By Northeast (NXNE): June 13 – 19, 2011
Known as NXNE, the North By Northeast music and film festival showcases emerging artists from Canada, the U.S. and beyond. The festival takes over most of Toronto’s clubs, outdoor stages and special venues (mostly in the downtown core) and this year’s headliners include Devo, Stars, Descendents, and The Pharcyde.
Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival: July 6 – 17, 2011
Canada hosts more Fringe festivals than any other country in the world, and the Toronto Fringe Festival is the crown jewel of them all. Encompassing over 10 venues and more than 120 theatre companies from near and far, the festival is a celebration of cutting-edge theatre and one of the best places to witness the debut of tomorrow’s top playwrights, directors and actors.
Beaches International Jazz Festival: July 15 – 24, 2011
Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood is the perfect setting for this free jazz festival’s beat, reggae, calypso and big band rhythms. Newcomers and living legends alike take to more than five stages and fill the air with music over 10 summer days.
Toronto’s Festival of Beer: August 5 – 7, 2011
Beer enjoys its moment in the spotlight at this popular event, featuring more than 200 lagers, stouts, wheat beers and pale ales plus a dedicated grilling tent, hosted by chef Ted Reader. Celebrate Canada’s rich brewing history and nosh on some of the city’s best barbecue.
Walrus, ROB Lead Magazine Nominations
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Susan Krashinsky
(May 2, 2011) The monthly current affairs magazine led the pack of 2010 nominees with 35 nods. Report on Business magazine, which is published by The Globe and Mail, moved to second place over all with 30 nominations, tied with Toronto Life. L'Actualite has 22.
The nominees were announced on Monday by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. It also announced that the finalists for Magazine of the Year are Canada's History, Cottage Life and MoneySense.
There are 10 nominees for Digital Magazine of the Year, a category that was introduced at last year's awards, including Macleans.ca and Enroute.aircanada.com, the website of Air Canada's in-flight publication.
The awards have also continued to open up to digital magazines. For the first time this year, many of the written categories were open to digital publications as well as print. Two new digital categories were also introduced: Best Digital Design and Best Multimedia Feature, in which Report on Business magazine gained two nominations and The Globe's Your Business magazine received one.
Numerous Globe writers and editors were honoured for their work, including Kevin Carmichael, Grant Robertson, Dave McGinn, Jeff Gray, Eric Reguly, John Daly, Judith Pereira, Claire Neary and Dawn Calleja. Report on Business Magazine art director Dominic Macri is nominated a total of six times - the most nominations for visual work.
The winners will be honoured in Toronto on June 10. More than 230 judges from the foundation settled on the 379 nominees from 88 publications.
D.B. Scott, president of publishing and magazine consulting firm Impresa Communications Ltd., will receive the award for outstanding achievement. Mr. Scott also writes a definitive industry blog, Canadian Magazines [http://canadianmags.blogspot.com]. The Walrus's editor and co-publisher John Macfarlane called the blog a "public square" when he encouraged the judges to recognize Mr. Scott.
Download this file (.pdf) here.
Forbes Names Gaga ‘Most Powerful Celebrity’
Source: www.thestar.com - By Bang Showbiz
(May 18, 2011) Lady Gaga has officially been named as the world's most powerful celebrity.
In Forbes magazine's annual Celebrity Power 100 list, the “Born This Way” singer has beaten chat show host Oprah Winfrey, who has held the top spot for the past four years, teen singing sensation Justin Bieber and Elton John to top the poll.
In addition to the $90 million earnings she’s accrued over the past 12 months, the 25-year-old was deemed particularly influential due to her millions of followers and fans on social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook.
A statement from the magazine said: "Lady Gaga tops our power list not just because of her $90 million in earnings, but also because of her 32 million Facebook fans and 10 million Twitter followers.
"Those fans helped move 1 million copies of her hit single, “Born This Way”, in just five days."
Meanwhile, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Natalie Portman were among the stars making their debut on the prestigious list at 3rd, 12th and 75th places, respectively.
The spokesperson added: "If this were 10 years ago, Bieber would still be paying his dues in small clubs and schools, but thanks to the internet, he's a sensation. His first hit song, “Baby”, has been viewed 500 million times, a YouTube record."
Britney Spears and Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe were among the notable names who didn't make list in 2011, despite having appeared previously.
Forbes’ Top 10 Celebrity Power List for 2011
1. Lady Gaga
2. Oprah Winfrey
3. Justin Bieber
5. Sir Elton John
6. Tiger Woods
7. Taylor Swift
8. Bon Jovi
9. Simon Cowell
10. Lebron James
11. Angelina Jolie
12. Katy Perry
13. Johnny Depp
14. Kobe Bryant
15. Leonardo DiCaprio
16. Black Eyed Peas
17. Donald Trump
18. Dr. Phil McGraw
19. Tyler Perry
20. Sir Paul McCartney
Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry
(May 18, 2011) Yuk Yuk’s staple Trixx celebrates his sophomore DVD Trixx:Iceman with a release party hosted by Kenny Robinson. A regular of MuchMusic’s Video On Trial and Stars Gone Wild, the Toronto funnyman covers a wide range of topics on his new recording, from camping to elementary school to the differences between Africans and Asians. (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. $10. Yuk Yuk’s, Mississauga, 5165 Dixie Rd.)
Net Limps Back Online In Canada
Source: www.thestar.com - Associated Press
(May. 15, 2011) TOKYO—Sony began restoring its PlayStation Network service in Canada, the United States and Europe on Sunday after shutting down the service almost a month ago due to a massive security breach affecting more than 100 million online accounts.
Restored operations are mainly limited to online gaming, chat and music streaming services. Sony said it aimed to fully restore the PlayStation Network by the end of May.
PlayStation Network links gamers worldwide in live play. Sony shut it down on April 20 after discovering a hacker attack and said personal data, including credit card numbers, may have been stolen. But the company said Sunday it had not received any reports of the stolen information being used illegally.
While the partial service allows users to enjoy video games and online chat, Sony said consumers still cannot buy video games or other content using credit cards. “While we understand the importance of getting our services back online, we did not rush to do so at the expense of extensively and aggressively testing our enhanced security measures,” said Kazuo Hirai, chief of Sony's PlayStation unit.
Sony said about 92 million of 100 million user accounts can access the limited network service. Sony also began Sunday a phased restoration of its Qriocity movie and music services which share the network's server.
Noire: Expression Train Moves Forward
Source: www.thestar.com - By Raju Mudhar
(May 17, 2011) Is L.A. Noire literally the new face of gaming? Videogame developer Rockstar’s latest game was released on Tuesday and the while the game looks killer, it is how the game’s killers — and other criminals and witnesses — look and act that might make it the next leap forward in gaming.
For the new game, Rockstar took their open-world strengths, displayed in previous games like the Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption, and move the setting to 1940s Los Angeles. You play as police Det. Cole Phelps, who is determined to clean up the city. The big addition to the game play is that in addition to finding clues, players have to look for facial cues to determine whether people are telling the truth or lying.
The game uses a motion-capture system called MotionScan, which records and depicts actors’ expressions and integrates them into the game. So players must try to read characters’ faces to guess the right course of action, whether it’s to press a witness or to believe him and let them continue telling their story. If you choose incorrectly, the witness (or suspect) can clam up, stifling an investigation.
It’s an ingenious addition to the game, giving the L.A. Confidential atmosphere much of its deductive reasoning game play, allowing players to take part in scenes we’re very familiar too from police-procedural TV shows like Law & Order. The Q&A give-and-take has been seen in videogames before, most notably in the Ace Attorney series for the Wii and DS. In those games, the point was to find contradictions while interrogating witness on the stand, but in L.A. Noire is a step forward graphically.
Motion capture, or as it often now called, performance capture, has long been used in films, starting with creating computer-generated characters in Total Recall in 1990. The use has grown, being used to create entire films like The Polar Express and Beowulf. Andy Serkis’ performance as Gollum in Lord of the Rings films was seen as a breakthrough for using technology to depict an emotional performance. The next step was James Cameron’s Avatar, where the director helped create new technology that allowed him to see the CGI results immediately as the actors performed, to better create the exact shot he wanted.
L.A. Noire looks to be the game equivalent of those cinematic leaps forward. The motion-capture technology has also often been used in games, but usually it has been used in sports products to capture athletes’ movements for more realistic depiction in game play. MotionScan, used by Rockstar and co-developer Team Bondi, involved 32 cameras, recording an actor’s facial expression from every angle.
The game’s cast, including star Aaron Stanton who voices Phelps (and who is best known as Ken Cosgrove on AMC’s Mad Men), had to read their scripts while being recorded under the many cameras and lights.
“My first thought in seeing it — I just thought it was incredible,” Stanton told CNN.com. “I was just blown away by the detail, that this was footage from a video game.”
He’s not the only one. This year’s Tribeca Film Festival chose L.A. Noire as the first game to be presented at the festival, showing it as a 60-minute film followed by a discussion of the technology and how the game was made.
The Beauty of Bali
Source: www.thestar.com - Debra Black
(May 06, 2011) UBUD, BALI —In a family compound just outside this small town, a Hindu priest recites prayers as a young couple hold their 3-month old baby. His head is covered in holy water, then, as onlookers make a circle, he is lifted up and down by female family members. His feet are just barely grazing the ground.
This ritual is performed on every baby in Bali. It’s part of an ongoing series of ceremonies that occur throughout a child and an adult’s life, all part of the Balinese Hindu faith.
In Bali babies are considered godlike until they are six months old. They are carried everywhere to protect them against disease and the spirits of the underworld who are considered so powerful they could swallow up the baby, imprisoning them forever in their demonic world. So care is taken to protect them in their early years. They are always held in the arms of their mother, aunt, grandmother.
As incense burns and mixes with the aroma of nearby frangipani blossoms, family and friends look on. Offerings of food, flowers, rice, coins and incense sit artfully on banana leaves. A feast of a stuffed roasted suckling pig is offered to guests.
I was lucky enough to attend this ceremony – an auspicious beginning to my two-week stay in Bali. Religious ceremonies are a daily part of life in Bali where sometimes traffic stops so a religious procession can make its way down the streets. Hinduism here is played out not only in family compounds, but on street corners, village temples, even rice paddies. It’s all about balancing good and evil; male versus female.
The scene captures the essence of Bali – an island full of spiritualism, mysticism and witchcraft. Life in Bali is always about “tri hita karana” or the relationships between the Balinese and others or God and the environment, according to Janet De Neefe, author and restaurateur in her book Fragrant Rice which details her life and marriage in Bali.
“Indonesia is a cultural gem but Bali is the diamond,” said De Neefe in an interview with the Star. “It has a diverse culture that incorporates artistry with a reverence for God and nature. It is hard not to be charmed by it.”
WHAT TO SEE
Whether it’s from your beach side hotel in Sanur or the secluded beach at Padang Padang where scenes from Eat Pray Love were shot, the beach views are truly breathtaking. Tourism to nearby Kuta took a hit after the 2002 and 2005 terrorist attacks. But it has recovered, and there is a terrific surfer scene as well as fishing and diving.
No trip to Bali is complete without spending time is this quirky town which is an odd mix of expats, the worldly and not so worldly Balinese, tourists and the odd seeker revisiting the 1960s. Walk down any street and you’ll find offerings burning on the sidewalk, altars to family gods, art, and storefronts for traditional healers. Nearby is the silversmith village of Celuk and the woodcarving village of Mas.
• Gunung Batur is a volcano that last erupted in 1994. By noon it is covered in a rolling mist, but the view of it from Kintamani, a nearby village, is spectacular. At the foot of the volcano is Bali’s largest freshwater lake, Danau Batur.
• Northern Bali is often ignored, but the resort community of Lovina, known for its black sand and colourful coral, offers a quiet refuge from southern Bali’s hustle and bustle. On the way one can visit Braham Arama Vihara, a Thai-style Theravada Buddhist temple with a brightly painted Buddha and other statues. Also on the way is Air Terjun Gitgit, a 40-metre waterfall with a deep pool at the bottom.
WHERE TO STAY
For the truly rich and decadent: The Four Seasons in either Ubud or the Barong Resort and Spa or the Four Seasons in Jimbaran; the Bali Hyatt in Sanur; the Bali Inter-Continental and the Ritz-Carlton also in Jimbaran. Also just opened: a W-hotel and spa at Seminyak. Prices vary depending on season. Suites at the Four Season at Sayan, Ubud can average 460 U.S. a night. The W can cost from $270 U.S. to $720 a night. For more everyday budgets: Ubud has dozens of guest houses and cheaper hotels. Rooms at Alam Indah can cost as much as $85 U.S. a night. Or try the Artini 3, which can cost $60 to $80 U.S. or the Peneeda View in Sanur for about $111 U.S. a night. For more suggestions visit www.balitourismboard.org.
WHERE TO EAT
Casa Luna (Indonesian fusion) and Indus (also Indonesian gourmet fusion) both are run by Australian expat Janet De Neefe and her Balinese husband Ketut Suardana, Lamak (amazing gourmet fusion with incredible bar), Warung Enak (owned by same owners as Lamak, serving everything Indonesian and more), Café Wayan (which serves amazing breads and cakes as well as Indonesian fare), Bebek Bengil or the Dirty Duck Diner which is set among the rice fields. Duck is known as the specialty, but try the white fish dish with an Indonesian dry rub of spices. Pizza Bagus makes a great pie. You can go to the market in Sanur and eat Nasi Goreng—Indonesian fried rice—at a table and chairs under the stars.
WHERE TO GET INSPIRED
I woke up early my last morning and shot photographs of the sun coming up over the Indian Ocean. The spectacular turquoise sky shot with pink was like a Camille Pissarro painting—with just a hint of Salvador Dali
JUST THE FACTS
ARRIVING Cathay Pacific flies to Denpassar in Bali through Hong Kong. One can catch a flight from Toronto or Vancouver or if you’re not adverse to saving some money fly out of New York. Singapore Airlines and Korean Airlines also flies to Denpassar out of New York.
WHERE TO GO
Walk through the terraced rice paddies; visit a coffee plantation; visit Pura Taman Ayun in Mengwi, Pura Thirtha Empu where a holy spring bubbles up through black sand. Try the 11th century temple and caves of Gunung Kawi, which dates to the 11th century. Also popular are bike tours, diving, surfing and swimming with dolphins. You can take a yoga class at Yoga Barn www.yogabarn.com, spend two weeks on a yoga retreat with California instructor Ann Barros or spend some time at an ashram near Ubud called Ashram Munivara www.ubudbodyworkscentre.com/ashram. Visit Ubud market at sunrise for fresh produce. Casa Luna and Café Wayan offer cooking classes. Café Havana is a new nightclub that features salsa dancing and Latin music. Listen to jazz at Casa Luna on Sunday nights. Attend the International Writer’s and Readers Festival in October.
AVOIDING Unless you have a thing for monkeys, stay far away from the Monkey Forest in Ubud. It’s basically a tourist trap and the monkeys in the forest are downright annoying, snatching away everything from bags to sunglasses. Denpassar is the provincial capital and it’s like any other big Indonesian city.
SHOPPING Try Bali Becik, with hundreds of handmade beaded sandals in all sizes and styles.
Jean-Francois Fichot’s on Jl. Raya Pegnosekan combines a unique combination of stones and silver. www.jf-f.com. At Prapen Jewellery you can watch silversmiths work as they create beautiful traditional pieces. www.prapenjewellery.com Fabulous silk and batik pieces can be found at local stalls on the streets and from vendors at tourist attractions. Nowhere is anyone prouder of being a painter or sculpture or designer than in Ubud. The art can be delicately, intricately painted pictures of Balinese dancers or more contemporary works of art like giant sized lotus flowers. For masks and Wayan puppets try I.B. Sutarja, a mask carver in Mas.
At Hardy’s department store you’ll find just about everything from a batik fan to peanuts and cookies as well as fresh fruit, appliances and sarongs.
DANCING Dance is revered in Bali. The one I saw was a Kecak Dance and Firewalk at the Laka Leke Hideaway Restaurant. The dancers re-enacted the Hindu story of Lord Rama and the monkey god Hanuman and the search for Rama’s wife Sita, who has been captured by an evil lord. Also cool: the procession of life-size puppets of demons called “ogoh – ogohs” in towns across the island on the day before Nyepi—the Hindu Day of Silence and New Year in March.
Bautista Has Become Baseball’s
Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Griffin
(May. 16, 2011) How locked in at the plate is Jays right fielder Jose Bautista?
Consider, his most dismal at-bat this season may have come Sunday at Target Field against Kevin Slowey and the Twins: half-swing foul, checked-swing strike on a pitch in the dirt, then a weak grounder to short — seemingly unfocused and overanxious.
The extenuating circumstance, of course, was that Bautista had already hit three home runs in the game.
The 30-year-old late bloomer can be forgiven.
Bautista is no longer a sideshow performer, a novelty act from north of the border who, after a 2010 supernova of horsehide pyrotechnics, would surely disappear into the background where experts were certain he belonged.
Baseball has seen plenty of those. Does the name Brady Anderson ring a bell? How about Luis Gonzalez, who did not hit more than 15 homers until he was 30 years old, then hammered 57 in 2001 at age 33, then never more than 28 again.
The baseball brilliant Bautista, new face of the Jays clubhouse and its clear leader, has been on a roll since Sept. 5, 2009 — enough time for pitchers to make adjustments given the tremendous scouting tools available in this era of video breakdowns and statistical analysis.
Since that date, heading into the Motor City on Monday night, Bautista had played 220 games with 218 hits in 783 at-bats (.278), 80 home runs and 173 RBIs. He’s had 132 extra-base hits, drawing 146 walks while striking out 159 times for an on-base average of .399, a .659 slugging mark and 1.058 OPS.
His plate coverage and discipline stand out in a lineup that offers little, if any, protection on a daily basis.
The jury had been out on the wisdom of the decision — by inexperienced general manager Alex Anthopoulos and Rogers ownership — to trade veteran Vernon Wells and his big contract to the Angels, then use the money to sign Bautista to a five-year, $65 million deal.
“Performance wise, he’s better than he was last year, which no one expected,” Anthopoulos says of Bautista’s fabulous start. “That being said, with the contract we gave him, we certainly expected Jose to be a very good player and more importantly to bring all the intangibles that he showed us — high character, humility, work ethic, selflessness, leadership and someone who was proud to be a Blue Jay representing both Toronto and Canada.
“I think we’re all amazed that he continues to improve. Last season was incredible. I’m not sure that there are words to describe what we’re seeing so far this season.
“As for credit, first it has to go to the player. It’s up to the player to make adjustments, work hard and then go out and perform. Second, a lot of credit needs to be given to (former manager) Cito Gaston and (hitting coach) Dwayne Murphy. Jose called Cito after he signed his contract to thank him for all he did for him. So, I’d say it’s a combination of three people.”
Here is how this space ranks the top 10 hitters in baseball, with contract status from the website Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
1. Jose Bautista, Jays
Five years/$65M to 2015 + option
On a recent trip to the Rogers Centre, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who has played with and managed some of baseball’s great hitters, offered his impressions of Bautista.
“He plays the game right. He hustles. He’s good for the game, not necessarily good for the Red Sox,” Francona said. “We’ve gotten him out, but . . . you either make a mistake or he sits on a pitch. That bat comes though the zone and, man, it’s pretty. If you’re a baseball fan, it’s fun to watch. Unfortunately, when he’s on the other side, it’s not.
“He gets himself in the best position to hit. I remember hearing him talk when this all started. He said he got his foot down quicker . . . and he’s right. He’s in a better position to hit and, man, he has more good swings than a lot of hitters. If you have hand-eye co-ordination and you’re strong and quick and you have 10 good swings a night, you’re probably going to get some hits, or some homers.”
2. Joey Votto, Reds
Three years/$38M to 2013
The 27-year-old Etobicoke native has picked up where he left off in 2010, when he was named the National League’s MVP and Henry Aaron Award winner. The Reds first baseman uses the entire field, spraying hits to all corners and plays in a home-run hitter’s ballpark. Votto was the third Canadian-born MVP in history, joining Larry Walker and Justin Morneau.
Votto overcame bouts of depression, resulting from the sudden death of his father, and talked about his rise to the top after he won the MVP over a man he admires, Albert Pujols.
“I had a really, really difficult time I guess getting over the death of my father,” Votto said last winter. “It’s still difficult for me sometimes now. It’s hard when you lose someone in your life that means so much. It was a difficult 2009 and quite a bit less difficult in 2010, and I think that was definitely a big reason why I was able to stay on the ballfield every day and succeed and make progress and feel better about life.”
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
Eight years/$152.3M to 2015
The 28-year-old Venezuelan has been a star since helping the Marlins to a 2003 World Series win in his rookie year. The cash-strapped Florida franchise could not afford to hang onto him and he was traded to the Tigers in 2008. Cabrera continues to be one of the most consistent power hitters in the game, noted for his approach and preparation.
4. Matt Holliday, Cardinals
Seven years/$120M to 2016 + option
Maybe a surprise to some, the 31-year-old Oklahoma native has been a much-coveted star since leading the Rockies to the World Series in 2007. Traded to the A’s in 2009, he was dealt to the Cards part-way through his first season in Oakland, signing a long-term deal in St. Louis. If Albert Pujols decides to leave, the Cards will still have a bat around which to build their lineup. Holliday has posted an OPS above .900 for six straight years as one of the game’s most consistent stars.
5. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
Seven years/$154M, 2012-18
The 29-year-old San Diego native had been toiling spectacularly out of the spotlight for years with the Padres before being tossed into the cauldron that is the AL East. The slick-fielding first baseman is trying to disprove the myth of players struggling to adapt to the AL. Gonzalez has moved up in MVP voting each of the past four years — from 20th in 2007 to fourth last year. The Sox have been heating up with Gonzalez’s bat, so if Boston makes it to the post-season the left-hand-hitting slugger has a chance to continue that upward trend.
6. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
Seven years/$100M, expiring
The 31-year-old native of the Dominican Republic is clearly the top major-league hitter of the last decade, but has dropped down the list because of his current season, fraught with all the distractions surrounding a pending free agency. It’s been a circus since the off-season and may have affected his contributions to the Cards thus far. Pujols has an active streak of 10 straight seasons with an OPS over .900, seven above 1.000. Even with Holliday in the same lineup, it’s Pujols opposing managers point out as the man they don’t want to beat them.
7. Josh Hamilton, Rangers
Two years/$24M to 2012
Almost 30, the North Carolina native may be the best pure athlete in baseball, but has had to fight personal demons and a series of injuries to convince people he is for real and here to stay. Hamilton, last year’s AL MVP, is almost ready to return from a shoulder injury. He has only been able to stay healthy one season, in 2008, driving in 130 runs with a .901 OPS. He has to be on this list based on a combination of what he has done and what is possible.
8. Evan Longoria, Rays
Six years/$17.5M to 2013 + options
The 25-year-old California native is the face of the Rays offence and is continually improving. His batting average and on-base percentage have increased each of his first three seasons. He has missed much of 2011 due to injury but is back and has played every day in May.
9. Ryan Braun, Brewers
Eight years/$45M to 2015
Five years/$105M, 2016-20 + option
The 27-year-old California native has been building his resume since winning rookie of the year in 2007. His is a star on the upswing and if the Brewers lose Prince Fielder to free agency next winter, much more responsibility will be placed on his shoulders.
10. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
Five years/$90M to 2012
The Jays suffered a devastating defeat in Seattle because of manager John Farrell’s refusal to pitch to Ichiro with the tying run in scoring position. Instead, he walked the 37-year-old Japanese star. Ichiro stole second and a single scored both runs for a huge M’s win. People criticize Ichiro for his low on-base average and an OPS that has exceeded .850 only twice in 11 years, but it’s impossible to argue with 10 straight seasons of 200-plus hits — and he’s on pace for another. Maybe he doesn’t draw enough walks or see enough pitches for statistical analysts, but maybe it’s because when he swings the bat he is making solid contact most of the time. This is a hitters list.
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Rachel Brady
(May 17, 2011) Anthony Calvillo's young daughters sometimes run their little fingers over the scar on their dad's throat and want to know all about it. The three-time Grey-Cup-winning quarterback keeps his words simple: That's where the doctors cut daddy open to take out the bad stuff.
Surviving thyroid cancer in the off-season has given the 38-year-old Montreal Alouettes pivot new perspective.
There was a time when Calvillo would have considered it weak or competitively disadvantageous to let a camera crew film a TV commercial in his Montreal home, recording his family moments around the kitchen table or silly times when five-year-old Athena and three-year-old Olivia dress their 6-foot-1, 213-pound father in costumes.
But it doesn't feel like that now. Not after doctors removed his thyroid in the off-season and along with it, the cancer. Not after his wife Alexia fought off B-cell lymphoma. And not now, entering the late stages of his CFL career when it just doesn't seem like such a big deal to let opponents see him as an ordinary man.
"I've always been a guy who doesn't like his competitors to see this side of me," Calvillo said in Toronto to introduce his new commercial for Dove. "Because once they get to know me and see I'm a regular guy like them, they get more comfortable playing against me. But now that I'm older, my wife has been sick, I've been sick, we feel like we have to build our memories now. Let's show this side of myself now.
"I want my kids to remember that I played football, to be honest. They're young, how much will they remember? I want them to share in my career now."
Calvillo shocked the football community when he revealed after the Alouettes' Grey Cup victory in November that doctors discovered a lesion on his thyroid last summer, and he had kept the condition quiet and postponed surgery until after the season.
He had surgery on the lesion in mid-December and test results revealed cancer cells. So his thyroid was removed just a few days before Christmas and he had a radiation treatment.
"It didn't frighten me too much, it was more of a pain in the butt," Calvillo said.
This type of cancer usually has a good outcome. He has completed all of his treatments, but will need follow-up. Doctors declared Calvillo fit to return to training and he has been working out since February, saying he feels healthy and ready to start training camp.
"When you have those blood tests coming up, your mind plays games with you," Calvillo said. "You think negative thoughts like it's back again. But when the doctor comes to tell you everything is clear, it's a huge relief. I finally get what my wife went through."
With 68,162 yards, Calvillo is just 4,220 passing yards away from becoming the all-time leader among professional quarterbacks. Damon Allen (72,381), Brett Favre (71,838) and Warren Moon (70,553) remain ahead of him.
Last season, he threw for 4,839 yards, which would more than eclipse the record if he did that again in 2011.
"I want to share more memories with my teammates and continue to write this legacy," Calvillo said, pointing to the oversize, diamond-crusted 2009 Grey Cup ring on his finger. "People are always asking me to talk about my legacy. Well, I'm not done yet."
There’s No Soft-Pedalling In
Cycling Comeback For Hughes
Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman
(May. 16, 2011) Don’t be fooled by Clara Hughes’ remarkable results in her cycling comeback: she’s only making it look easy.
The six-time Olympic medallist is back on two wheels after nearly a decade away applying her unique skill set on two blades. She wasted no time in making her mark with victories last weekend in the time trial and road race at the Pan Am Championships in Colombia.
The wins were most significant for berths they earned her at this year’s world championships, but they’ll cut her no slack with her coach, Chris Rozdilsky.
When Hughes went searching for a coach for her cycling comeback, she didn’t want someone who would sugar-coat the challenge. She found her man in Rozdilsky, an American university hockey player turned cyclist turned uber dedicated coach with a master’s degree in exercise physiology.
“People see her results now and they’re like, ‘Oh wow, she’s killing it. She’s almost there,’” said Rozdilsky. “And I say she’s not even close because she isn’t. She’s closer, but she’s not even close.”
This is music to Hughes’ ears as she prepares for her ultimate goal: having the races of her life at the 2012 London Olympics.
“I know what I’m up against in this sport,” she said. “The depth of field for the women’s time trial and road race is so deep. For me to even think about having a chance to succeed against that field of riders, it’s going to take everything inside of me.”
Rozdilsky got the job because he unflinchingly laid out what he felt Hughes needed to do to get ready. He looked at it from every angle, poring over her past training programs and her physiological testing to look for different patterns. He wanted to see what had worked and, more importantly, what hadn’t.
He set up goals and milestones based on what the best cyclists in the world were doing. Hughes was way behind the pack when they started out.
“If it wasn’t Clara Hughes, I would say it’s pretty much impossible,” said Rozdilsky. “Because it’s a short time, every day is crucial. Her gains have to be massive to get where she needs to be.”
The way Rozdilsky explains it, Hughes was probably 40 per cent behind her chief competitors in power-to-weight ratio when he first tested her at the PowerWatts studio in Montreal, where he’s based. She’s now 15 per cent behind.
“That’s huge,” he said. “I’m comparing that to the best in the world; I’m not comparing that to domestic competitors . . . You have no idea how hard she works and how meticulous everything has to be.”
Hughes wouldn’t have it any other way. Her speed skating coach throughout her national team career was Xiuli Wang, a demanding and wise leader who brought the best out of her. She feels she’s found the cycling equivalent in Rozdilsky.
“He sees no limits anywhere,” said Hughes.
That includes the age factor. Hughes is 38. Much has been and will be made of that en route to London, but Rozdilsky doesn’t see it as an issue.
“Obviously at a certain point things start to decline, but with Clara it really doesn’t mean much,” he said. “I don’t see it as she’s how many years old. I see it as, ‘Wow, she’s got 20 years of experience as an athlete. That’s priceless.’
“How many times she’s failed over those 20 years, people, I bet their jaws would drop. And that’s what makes the athlete. If you look at her history, I’d say 99 per cent of the population would have quit years ago. . . . It’s just too hard. Failed too many times. Got injured too many times. Et cetera.
“But her, she’s so determined that she kept plugging along. She could do amazing things being average, her average. I think that’s one of the common threads among the best athletes in the world. They could still get extraordinary results with ordinary fitness.”
Hughes admits to asking herself “What was I thinking?” with regards to her comeback. She felt that during her first road race in Mexico while she raced in the peloton and watched bodies fly in crashes.
“Then I’m thinking, ‘Is this really worth it?’” said Hughes.
But those thoughts disappear in the heat of the race when competitors are dropped and she is where she wants to be, and when she’s cornering a descent and feels like she can go faster than anyone else.
“That’s what brings me back to ‘This is why I do it and this is why I’m here now,’” Hughes said. “Nothing is perfect, but oh my God, this is fun.”
New Canadian Pro Cycling Team
Off To Promising Start
Source: www.thestar.com - Cathal Kelly
(May. 16, 2011) A podium finish at a major European stage race represents a strong start for Canada’s first-ever pro continental cycling team.
Will Routley of Team SpiderTech finished in second place at the Tro Bro Leon, a one-day road race in Brittany, France on April 17. The Tro Bro was one part of a three-month spring campaign that introduced the team to the European pro race circuit.
“We did some great racing. The guys did some great performances,” team director Steve Bauer told the Star from Southern California, where he was preparing for the team’s next big project — the May 15-22 Tour of California.
But the new squad still has a lot to learn.
“We took our knocks,” Bauer said. “Learning all the different races, the way they evolve and when you need to be in front . . . takes time.
“Not that (the riders) are not physically capable to do great races. . . . It’s just kind of learning the style and learning the roads and learning the riders.”
The spring campaign — which involved 23 different races in Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Turkey — was a steep learning curve for Bauer’s North American riders.
“There’s definitely a bit of cultural difference,” said rider Ryan Roth, 28, of Cambridge, Ont. “The basic knowledge that Europeans have of cycling . . . Canadians don’t.”
Roth said gaining the pro continental designation has pushed him and his teammates to race at a higher level. They are now riding against teams that regularly compete in the Tour de France, in front of thousands of spectators, with chase helicopters buzzing overhead.
“Every race you show up to now is a big race,” he said.
While American teams have been competing in the major European stage races for years, competitors and spectators aren’t used to seeing Canadians in the peloton.
“To a certain extent it’s maybe a little bit of a novelty,” said Roth. “There are always lots of fans asking for pictures and wanting to learn about the team.”
SpiderTech is the first Canadian team to gain pro continental designation, which is just one step down from the highest level of pro tour teams (think the big Tour de France teams such as Rabobank, Discovery Channel and AG2R La Mondiale). Each year, the sport’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale, divides professional cycling teams into three categories: pro tour, pro continental and continental. Continental teams are governed nationally while the top two levels are governed by the UCI.
Bauer is a native of St. Catharines, Ont., who has worn the yellow jersey during the Tour de France, ridden on the same team as Lance Armstrong and won an Olympic silver medal. He took a long break from the pro cycling world to found a bike tour company in the late ’90s. He said he’s had lots of other job offers to join pro teams but felt SpiderTech was an opportunity to raise the quality and profile Canadian cycling. He has been managing the team (originally called Team R.A.C.E.) for four years.
“We’re focused on developing Canadians and making Canadian partners,” he said. “Successful or not, we’re going to make a difference in Canadian cycling.”
Bauer’s goal is to get pro tour designation within several years and take a predominantly Canadian team to the Tour de France. But to get there, SpiderTech will need an annual budget of about $15 million and a solid home base in Europe.
Bauer is looking ahead to the only UCI WorldTour events that will be held in Canada: the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal, both in September. All the WorldTour teams must attend those races, so SpiderTech will be racing against the best on home soil
“The great thing was we had a great finish to the spring campaign,” said rider Andrew Randell, 37, who hails from Toronto. “It shows what we’re capable of.”
Canadian Women Edge
Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press
(May 18, 2011) Niederhasli, Switzerland— Christina Julien scored her sixth career goal to lift Canada's women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Switzerland in a friendly Wednesday.
Canada's other goal was an own goal by the Swiss.
The Canadians improved to 7-2-1 this year with the victory, part of the team's preparations for the World Cup, which kicks off June 26 in Germany.
“We played very well, and we could easily have scored five goals against them,” said Canadian captain Christine Sinclair. “We're definitely showing signs of improvement which is all we're looking for heading into the World Cup.”
The Canadians were coming off a 1-1 draw with the Swiss team on Sunday in Rome, but that game was played in a rainstorm, said Sinclair.
“It just wasn't a pretty game,” she said.
Ana Maria Crnogorcevic scored for Switzerland in the seventh minute Wednesday before Sinclair forced the own goal that tied it up 20 minutes later.
Sinclair took a pass from Kaylyn Kyle and carried the ball down to end-line before firing it back across the face of the goal. The ball went off a Swiss defender and in.
Canada sealed the victory in the 59th minute when Sinclair slipped a through ball to Kelly Parker who cut towards the goal and played a square ball to Julien, who finished into the open net.
The Canadians opened their pre-World Cup camp in Rome earlier this month, and have several more exhibition matches scheduled against European squads.
Sinclair isn't participating in the Rome camp because of her duties with her WPS team the Western New York Flash. She flew to Europe for Canada's two games versus the Swiss and was scheduled to fly home Thursday.
She's been impressed by the improvement she's seen in the Canadian team.
“Every time I'm in you see the progress the team's made,” she said. “I think we're definitely fitter than we've ever been, and they've planned that, the players have worked really hard, the ones who've been in camp, and now it's just fine-tuning things in preparation for the World Cup.”
Canada opens the World Cup against Germany on June 26 in Berlin.
Switzerland didn't qualify for the World Cup.
Says Canadian Hospital Stay Almost Killed Him
Source: www.thestar.com - Neil Davidson
(May 18, 2011) Former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar says putting his faith in doctors at a Manitoba hospital almost killed him.
In his autobiography Death Clutch, scheduled for release on May 28, the mixed martial arts star describes his painful stay at a Brandon hospital in late 2009 after falling ill on a wilderness holiday in western Manitoba.
The six-foot-three, 265-pound fighter was so sick, he had to be carried to the car by his brother.
Lesnar says he suffered because the hospital's lone CT machine was broken, meaning doctors were unable to find out what was causing his stomach pain.
"I had no clue what was wrong, since they couldn't get a picture of my stomach," Lesnar writes. "The doctor didn't know either. He was waiting on the part for the machine. Time was slipping away, and I was wondering if I would ever make it out of that hospital alive.
"I put my faith in the doctors at that hospital. I shouldn't have. It almost cost me my career. It almost cost me my life."
At the time, the CEO of the Brandon Regional Health Authority said the hospital was well-equipped and modern with skilled, trained staff. But Carmel Olson added she couldn't comment on Lesnar's specific case, citing patient confidentiality.
After a weekend on morphine with no CT scan, Lesnar asked for more pain medication and he and wife drove across the border to a hospital in Bismarck, N.D.
"I have a high threshold for pain, higher than most guys, and I couldn't deal with it," he says of the agony he felt during the four-hour ride.
"It felt like I had taken a shotgun blast to the stomach, and then someone poured in some salt and Tabasco and stirred it all up with a nasty pitchfork."
At the Bismarck hospital, Lesnar said he got a CT scan in 20 minutes and was diagnosed shortly thereafter with diverticulitis, a digestive disorder. He spent the next 11 days in hospital but escaped surgery and returned to fight in the UFC.
His fighting career has been put on hold again, however, with the recent news that he is again suffering from diverticulitis.
The book expands on comments made by Lesnar in January 2010, upon his recovery, when he said of Canadian health-care: "It was like I was in a Third World country."
Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald responded to the criticism at the time by saying while she was willing to listen — and act on — criticism of the provincial health-care system, she was sceptical of where this criticism was coming from.
"This is more about partisan American politics and bashing American health-care reform, and I'm not particularly interested in getting engaged in that," she said, referring to Lesnar's stated opposition to proposed health-care reform in the U.S.
"Canada has lots to be proud of in terms of providing health care for everyone."
Venus Williams Pulls Out Of
Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press
(May 17, 2011) Venus Williams pulled out of the French Open on Friday, 24 hours after her younger sister Serena withdrew, making it the first Grand Slam tournament since 2003 without either Williams.
Venus' agent, Carlos Fleming, wrote in an email to The Associated Press that the seven-time Grand Slam champion notified tournament organizers she wouldn't compete at Roland Garros, where play starts May 22.
The 30-year-old American has been off the tour since January, when she stopped playing only minutes into a match in the third round of the Australian Open because of a hip injury. A left knee injury limited her to just one tournament over the final six months of 2010.
Serena pulled out of the French Open on Thursday; she hasn't entered a tournament since winning her fourth Wimbledon singles championship in early July. A few days later, she cut her foot on glass at a restaurant in Germany, an injury that led to two operations. The second surgery was in October, and she said she spent 10 weeks in a cast and 10 weeks in a walking boot.
She returned to practice last month and said Thursday in a statement issued by her agent that she hopes to "be back competing this summer."
The sisters are among the most dynamic and attention-drawing players in tennis history. Both were ranked No. 1 by the WTA, and they own a combined 20 Grand Slam singles titles - 13 for Serena, seven for Venus. They have played each other in eight major finals, including at the 2002 French Open, won by Serena.
But a series of health problems have limited them lately, and in this week's rankings, Serena is 17th, Venus 19th.
While the 29-year-old Serena hasn't pointed to a specific target date for her return to action, Venus is entered in a grass-court tournament in Eastbourne, England, that begins June 11. Fleming wrote Friday that Venus "is on track to be ready to play at Wimbledon," which starts June 20.
This French Open will be the third consecutive Grand Slam tournament missed by Serena. Venus, though, had played in the previous 16 in a row, and 30 of the last 32.
The only other time both Williams sisters pulled out of one of tennis' four major tournaments was the 2003 U.S. Open, when Venus had an abdominal injury, and Serena was coming off left knee surgery. Before that, one or the other - and usually both - participated in every Grand Slam tournament since Serena's first, the 1998 Australian Open.