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LE NEWSLETTER

March 22, 2012Description: smiley%20sunny

Loving March in Toronto - Spring is here ... or is it? These warm temperatures are confusing for my wardrobe choices but otherwise, it's fantastic!

Keeping this week's news short and sweet as I work on my coverage of the
32nd St. Maarten Heineken Regatta ... with Beres Hammond as the closing headliner.

This
weeks hot topics include the scoop on: Melanie Fiona; Nik Zoricic's funeral; arts funding and the federal budget; Clara Hughes and the London Olympics; Esperanza Spalding; Lionel Richie; Kiefer Sutherland;The Toronto Second City; and the UFC hits Canada again; and so much more! Check most of these stories out under TOP STORIES.

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings. Welcome to those who are new members!

::TOP STORIES::

Melanie Fiona Makes Her Bid For The Big Time

Source: www.thestar.com - By Tony Wong


(Mar 16, 2012)
Melanie Fiona is still waiting for two gold-platedDescription: Melanie%20Fiona%20poses_small gramophones with her name engraved on them.

“I've already got a really cool place for them on my bookshelf. Hopefully, I'll get them soon,” says the Toronto R&B songstress. The stunt trophies that she was given at the Grammy Awards in February have long been returned — and in an interview earlier this month she said she was still waiting for the real deal.

“It's a great feeling going into this next phase with a sense of confidence of what I hope to accomplish,” says the singer and songwriter from New York, where she now lives.

The wins catapulted Fiona and Canada further into the mainstream of R&B royalty — a storming of the Hip Hop Bastille, now that Drake has kicked in the doors.

While Drake and DJ/producer Deadmau5 got most of Canada's attention going into the Grammys, neither has won one yet.

Fiona did it by winning the most hard core of R&B categories, scoring for Canada the best traditional R&B performance and best R & B song for “Fool For You” with The Voice Cee Lo Green.

But it was a collaboration that almost didn't happen.

“I wish I got to say this at the Grammys, but I saw him at the end of the Soul Train awards in Atlanta, we had both come off the stage, but I was too nervous to go see him,” says Fiona.

“My manager literally pushed me into his dressing room and I stumble in like it's the first day of school and he's really nice.

“I wish I had got to say this at the speech for the awards. But a few weeks later his team reached out, I was in L.A. and they tell me I have to go to the studio to lay down some tracks and that I could write my own verse. I wrote it on the way to the studio in the back of the car in the rain. And the record took off.

“It's amazing to me that something so small can result in something so big. That if I hesitated I would never have met Cee Lo at all, and everything would have changed,” says Fiona.

The Grammy win is also giving a lift to her new album The MF Life, out March 20.

While her first album, 20009's The Bridge, showcased Fiona's retro-soul sound, the second album is something of a departure.

“I wanted to create this stadium soul kind of sound. It's a larger sound that can be played in an arena. That was the state of mind I was in when I started writing,” says Fiona. Fiona points out that the MF of the album title could be her initials, or “Mighty Fine” or ... something decidedly ruder.

“It's about the good and the bad,” says Fiona. “It's all of me.”

So far the emphasis has been on the Mighty Fine angle.

The Bridge

Even before her Grammy win, she had already made appearances on everything from Regis and Kelly to Jimmy Kimmel and The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Her songs have also been featured on television shows such as Grey's Anatomy and Ugly Betty.

In 2011, she was even the celebrity model for Rocawear's national ad campaign, which included a billboard in New York City's Times Square.

Pretty heady stuff for Guyanese immigrants' daughter who grew up in North York and Vaughan, even if she was reared steeped in Sam Cooke, Amy Winehouse and Bob Marley.

Which has led to some pretty big expectations for the album, whose commercial ambitions are audible. The new tracks sound less like Sam Cooke and Patsy Cline — two singers who were some of her early influences — than something much harder-edged, something meant to take her further into the mainstream. Note the all-star collaborators: J.Cole, John Legend, T-Pain, Nas and, yes, Drake.

“The first album I was unknown and I also wanted to do it on my own merits,” says Fiona. “The second time out it's a little easier to reach out to someone like John Legend and say hey, you want to work on a song together?”

There are still songs of loss and longing, well conveyed by her soaring voice. The second single, “4 a.m.,” now in the top 10 of the Billboard R&B/hip hop chart in the U.S., details the wounds dealt out by a wayward lover (“he's probably somewhere with a dancer/ Sippin' champagne while I'm in his bed”), and it lets Fiona drive home the emotions with muscular, unrelenting vocals.

“Wrong Side of a Love Song” is her most personal track, chronicling a difficult breakup.

“Anything you hear on the album is something I've lived or related to,” says Fiona. “A lot of songs I wrote on the album I ended up living in different stages of my life.”

Likely candidates for a third single are the uptempo dance tracks “This Time” with J. Cole or “Change The Record” with rapper B.O.B. Time will tell about hits, but there's pent-up demand in the U.S. — the album was delayed by label manoeuvres for a year, and a recent, friendly interview on a New York radio station mostly dwelt upon why she isn't more famous.

You wouldn't think that would be an issue for someone whose 2010 single “It Kills Me” went all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard R&B/hip-hop chart, yet The MF Life's star-studded credits suggest the music biz has even bigger hopes for her.

The Grammys will probably help, though she says so far they haven't gone to her head. And except for a penchant for Christian Louboutins, she adds, she keeps the bling spurges to a minimum.

Her dad Imrad, a financial planner, and mother Donna, a banker, both still live in Vaughan and she says if she hadn't gone into music she would likely have gone into financial planning. She took accounting at Seneca College.

“They've always been big on being smart with money. And they are definitely typical immigrant parents, so you can imagine how it was when I told my mom I was heading down to L.A. to do music,” says Fiona. “My dad still calls me and makes sure I'm taking my vitamins.”

In her Grammy acceptance speech Fiona also gave a memorable shout-out to her two nieces Amaya and Neha, who had wished her good luck on winning a “granny” award.

The only significant cloud on awards day was the death of Whitney Houston the night before. Fiona says Houston was her biggest influence — “the very first person I remember singing as a child.”

Life post-Grammy hasn't changed much, says Fiona. Even out in New York she is relatively unplagued by paparazzi, despite famous friends and a familiar ex, CSI Miami actor Adam Rodriguez.

For all that her album seems destined to win her new attention, she says she's fine with her current level of fame.

“It's kinda cool that I'm not the star or artist yet that everyone recognizes. It's nice to have some anonymity and still be low key. This has been my own little personal triumph.”

Friends, Family Share Stories Of A 'Gentle Giant' At Nik Zoricic's Funeral

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Beverley Smith

(Mar 19, 2012) About a year ago, ski-cross racer Nik Zoricic and hisDescription: web-zoricic_JPG_1384295cl-8_small friend, Luke Leon, were chatting over a couple of beers, wondering, of all things, what people would say at their funerals. And would anybody show up?

People did show up at Zoricic's funeral on Monday. The 29-year-old athlete touched hearts in a way he could not have imagined after he died in a racing accident in Switzerland on March 10.

People started arriving about an hour and a half before services were to start at the Islington United Church, a splendid neo-Gothic shrine that let light fall softy onto Zoricic's casket, adorned with white lilies and roses.

They kept coming and coming and coming. Some people stood in the
Description: funeral-WEB_1386511cl-8_small aisles. NHL star Jason Spezza was there, acting as a pallbearer. Former Ontario premier David Peterson occupied a seat close to the front. The entire Canadian ski-cross team flew into Toronto the previous night, with Dave Duncan, Zoricic's roommate on the road for four years, left wondering how to fill the void.

Zoricic's slender, elegant grandfather, Branko, made it all the way from Sarajevo for the service, and sadly held his face in his hands as he exited the church, distraught.

Leon told the crowd: "There hasn't been a dry eye for nine days now."

So Leon talked, saying things he would not have dreamed a year ago. He remembered how Zoricic had such charisma, he would brighten a room on the most solemn day. He remembered the 28-layer sandwiches he and Zoricic used to make, sailing without a rudder, Zoricic's inventive Halloween costumes and the habit he had of wearing the same belt with any outfit regardless of occasion. He will not remember Zoricic for his punctuality.

Leon, in strong voice, recalled how everyone had a different name for the statuesque Zoricic, who stood 6-foot-3, and with his skis in his hand like swords, long hair falling to his shoulders, brows hanging over his eyes like thunder, looked like a warrior. Leon recalled how some called him Gentle Giant or Zorro or the guy who skied in blue jeans.

"He had an uncanny ability to endear himself to everyone he came across," Leon said.

To those who knew him, Zoricic embodied endless passion and fearlessness. He was a supportive shoulder to lean on, and was always ready to lend a sympathetic ear.

Family friend Steve Brown said his first sight of the Zoricics was 17 years ago at Craigleith Ski Club near Collingwood, Ont. There he witnessed a "fine-looking man with a crooked nose" (Zoricic's father, Bebe, a ski coach at the club) telling a young boy to: "Move, move, move!"

Brown said he was in awe of the talents of the youngster, and was not surprised when he made the national team. Zoricic travelled the world, Brown said, but when he returned to Collingwood, the people would say: "Nik's back!"

Dave Ellis, director of sport for Canada's ski-cross program, had to break the news of Zoricic's death to his father.

On Monday, Ellis, his voice breaking, said Zoricic finished 61st in his first World Cup with baggy ski pants, and then decided to don a skinny pair to become more streamlined. "Men wanted to be like him."

Zoricic won two medals in World Cup events and knew his career was coming to a close. The 2014 Sochi Olympics remained a final dream, a last chance at glory.

Ellis was by Zoricic's side in the moments following his crash in Switzerland.

"He left us doing what he loved to do on one of the most beautiful days in maybe one of the most beautiful places in the world," Ellis said. "We will keep our heads high."

Canada's Heritage Minister Hints At Good Budget News For The Arts

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Mar 20, 2012) Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore is hinting at some "good news" for the Canada Council for the Arts in next week's federal budget - despite the budgetary belt-tightening that is expected to deal with an estimated $31-billion deficit.

At a funding announcement in Vancouver on Tuesday, Moore lamented arts-funding cuts in other countries, and suggested that things are different here. "In Canada, we decided to increase the funding for the Canada Council for the Arts by 20 per cent, and there'll be good news in the budget coming up."

The March 29 budget has been telegraphed as an exercise in spending reduction, with departments implementing cuts of 5 to 10 per cent. For example, the CBC, which also falls under Canadian Heritage, is preparing for cuts of 5 to 10 per cent over three years, and has presented the department with plans for both scenarios.

Moore was in Vancouver on Tuesday to announce more than $10.5-million in funding for B.C. arts and culture organizations, including the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the Vancouver Fringe Festival and the Cultch.

During the announcement at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music, the minister laboured to position the Conservative government as a friend to the arts.

"Any government that says that they have a plan for economic recovery, growth and future growth that doesn't include a strong plan to support the arts is a government that doesn't have a plan for economic growth and recovery. ... Supporting the arts isn't a left-wing issue or a right-wing issue. It's the right thing to do. And it's good for Canada. And we're going to continue supporting the arts."

Clara Hughes Primed For A Soup-Er Olympic Cycling Season

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford


(Mar 20, 2012) If you’ve read any of
Clara Hughes’ recent blogDescription: Clara%20Hughes_small_small entries, you can tell the Canadian Olympic legend is in a good place as she embarks on the road to the London Olympics.

She’s even started posting soup recipes. She’s the self-proclaimed ‘Master of the Soups.' Those lucky enough to sample the results of her kitchen labours would not begrudge her that title.

But the main course is her preparation for the London Games and, according to the man who should know, her cycling coach Chris Rozdilsky, everything is right on target.

Hughes chose Rozdilsky as the architect of her cycling comeback last year after a decade away from the sport after shopping around extensively. He doesn’t sugarcoat things and said from the start "If it wasn't Clara Hughes, I would say it's pretty much impossible."

Well, he thinks it’s very possible right now.

What has Rozdilsky enthused among other things is they’ve been able to streamline her program and tap into a lot of support after trying to do everything themselves in her first season back.

Where Hughes raced as an independent last year and could not get into the big European races against the best cyclists, she’s now with one of the world’s top teams in Specialized-Lululemon. They’ve been racing this week in San Dimas, Calif and she'll soon be off for a bit European swing.

“Ever since that (signing with Specialized-Lululemon), it’s really kind of cleared her head, because now she doesn’t have to worry,” said Rozdilsky. “When she goes to a race, she’s going to be fully supported and she’s going to have teammates who are trying to do the same thing she’s doing at the highest level of sport. It’s a very motivating environment.

“Whenever they go into a race, they’re trying to win the race. It doesn’t matter who wins the race, but they’re trying to win the race for sure. That’s her. That’s what she wants to do. She’s not going into anything to participate. She’s going in to try to win whatever she’s entering.”

Rozdilsky, who works out of the PowerWatts studio in Montreal, said their setup last year “was this crazy matrix of planning and training and travelling and media.”

“That’s what kind of took the edge off her at worlds,” he said. “It was too many external things that at the end of the day it affected her performance -- and we can’t let that happen again.”

Hughes was fifth in the time trials at the world championships in Belgium and finished way back in the road race after a brave attack that provided the big excitement in what was mostly a dull affair.

“After the race, we said ‘Okay, performance was mediocre. Why was it mediocre?’ We went through the exercise of saying we’re going to change this, this, this and this.”

One of the changes is aligning with B2ten, which backed by independent Canadian businessmen helps this country’s athletes with goods and services to aid them in the climb to the Olympic podium. The group is handling a lot of the logistics, planning and management for Hughes, as well as media requests.

“We decided let’s go full speed forward, we need help, we found the people who can help us,” said Rozdilsky, adding it’s enabled him to focus more on coaching.

“We were really able to refine what she needs to do. Her body really responded well. She’s starting the season in really good shape, physically strong, physically lean, mentally ready to do battle. All systems are go.”

::MUSIC NEWS::

Grimes Dances Out Of Montreal

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen


(Mar 16, 2012) After living in Montreal for five years,
Claire Boucher isDescription: Claire%20Boucher_small living the life of a gypsy.

“I’m homeless,” says the Vancouver-born Boucher, 23, known professionally as
Grimes, from a tour stop in Florida, where she’s prepping a few SXSW appearances before making her way to the Horseshoe on March 19, touring her acclaimed new album Visions.

But she’s not minding it, citing a combination of economical and spiritual motivation as the reasons for her nomadic ways.

“I don’t want to pay rent while touring. And Montreal’s really cold and I don’t want to live there in the winter,” says Boucher.

Over the course of a 15-minute phone conversation, one gets the sense that Boucher, much like her ghostly brand of four-octave, sample-driven, Cocteau Twins-inspired, phonetically nebulous, tribal groove pop that has graced four recordings, including Visions, is as spirited and as spontaneous.

For example, Grimes began two years ago for what Boucher says amounts to happenstance.

“I started doing it because all my friends were doing it, as lame as that sounds,” she explains. “It just seems that if everyone else could do it, then I could probably do it. Once there was some buzz on the Internet and it seemed even remotely feasible to pursue it, slightly more seriously, I just sort of did that.

It’s obviously way more fun than anything else I could possibly do.

“But once it started going, I definitely pushed it.”

Recording strictly on her own, Boucher used a Roland JUNO 6 vintage synthesizer and other gear to create her first dazzling work, 2010’s Geidi Primes, instrumentation she’s since stuck with for her follow-ups Halfaxa (also 2010), last year’s Darkbloom and this year’s Visions, likely to be a Polaris Music candidate when the long list is unveiled on June 14 in Vancouver.

Not surprisingly, British indie label 4AD, initial home to The Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance, as well as current signings tUnE-yArDs and St. Vincent, among others, came calling, signing Grimes for the world save for her local label, Outremont, Que.’s Arbutus Records.

“I can’t imagine anything being a better fit, really,” says Boucher of the 4AD signing. “Everything about it has been very smooth. Like it should be.”

The only aspect of the new deal she has slight reservations about is her inability to release new music as quickly as if she remained an independent artist.

“It bothers me a bit,” Boucher admits. “If I do a collaboration with a friend, I have to run it by everybody and there has to be these big talks about when it can come out, when before it was, ‘okay, let’s do it.’”

However, she also realizes that delays have their advantages.

“At the same time, I think it’s a really good thing, because instead of just putting out music whenever I want, and putting out everything, I’m going to think about it a lot more, and I think it’s forcing me to mature. I like the idea of censoring myself and spending a bit more time with stuff.”

Currently she’s learning what it’s like to work with a band, as Grimes’ tourmates — Born Gold — are joining her onstage. Is it a difficult adjustment to adapt solo music to a group?

“They just get up and do what they want, because I can play by myself,” Boucher replies. “I trust them. They just make it more psychedelic and dance-y. Like one guy, he just changes my vocals and live samples some of this crazy stuff. It didn’t seem very hard. The first couple of shows sucked, but then it was good.

“I think it was mostly me that made them suck, anyway.”

Boucher is equally flippant when it comes to the titles and meanings of her songs, which are often just a collection of symbols, or wordless meanderings.

“They’re all about shit in my life,” she states. “I distort things as much as possible so people can’t figure out what it’s about.

“But it’s all about shit from the last couple of years: I wanted this album to be about everything I hate about my life, dealt with, done, and the idea that everything is starting fresh, I guess.”

Boucher says Grimes is all about the dance, anyways, and if her music can inspire a case or two of happy feet, so much the better.

“There’s nothing more beautiful than dancing,” she states. “People are meant to dance. They should dance. And if I can make people dance, that makes me really happy.”

As for her own ambitions, Boucher — who is about to tour Europe — keeps them simple.

“I just want to not work in an office. As long as I can make music, I’ll do that. I want to work in films and stuff, too. Anything where I can be creative and not have to wake up too early, is good by me.”

A Solid Landing For The Shins

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

Port of Morrow
The Shins (Aural Apothecary/Sony)

(Mar 19, 2012) On Tuesday, the
Shins will issue a new album, Port of Description: WEB-goods-dotw-_1385800cl-8_smallMorrow. It's an effortlessly melodic indie-style pop album - some of it spacey, some of it sparkly, and some of it breezy.

The band has gone through some changes since its last album, 2007's Grammy-nominated Wincing the Night Away. The biggest change being that the band is no longer a band.

Yeah, boom. James Mercer, the song-writing singer, broke away from original members Jesse Sandoval, Marty Crandall and Dave Hernandez, choosing to work with a new cast instead. Mercer had long admired auteurs such as Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) and Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) - sort-of soloists who presented themselves as a band, working with a fluid lineup of collaborators and the kindred spirits of the moment. He'd been afraid to make that sort of leap of independence himself, until, clearly, now.

I can't say whether all that had much effect on this record. The first track, The Rifle's Spiral, is strong. (As are most of the opening songs on the Shins' records, come to think of it.) The beat is muscular, almost dancey. The electro-twitchiness and Mercer's high-voiced use of the word "sublimate" give it a progressive feel. The verses sound like Sam Roberts on ecstasy.

I can say that Port of Morrow was produced by Greg Kurstin, whose name you'll find in the liner notes of albums by popsters Lily Allen, Sia and Kylie Minogue. And, yes, Port of Morrow has its catchy moments.

But you knew that, having heard the sublime first single, Simple Song - a grand, shimmering gem. It's the best song here, and lyrically representative of the album as a whole. "You know things can really get rough if you go alone," Mercer sings, visions of soundtrack placement in the back of his mind. Zach Braff, are you listening?

It's Only Life keeps with the sympathy and advice: "You want to hop along with the giddy thong through life. But how will you learn to steer when you're grinding all your gears?"

Everything sounds fantastic, have to say, and the arrangements are deftly done. September recalls the alt-country textures of Beck's Sea Change disc. No Way Down swirls upwardly in a euphoric way. You have to think that Mercer took some notes while working with Danger Mouse on their 2010 Broken Bells collaboration.

Wouldn't it be nice, Brian Wilson once supposed, to live together in the kind of world where we belong. Port of Morrow is a nice record. Mercer, 41, cements his status as a savvy song-crafter (to the point of hovering dangerously over Hall and Oates' territory on 40 Mark Strasse). He credits the disc's general upbeatness to his tranquil personal life, and the album is the first Shins release on his own label, after three with Sub Pop.

Mercer clearly is in a good place, then. It shows.

Hip-Hop Stars Shine At SXSW Festival

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Chris Talbott, The Associated Press


(Mar 19, 2012) Lil Wayne was feeling inspirational while making an appearance at
South By Southwest. Snoop Dogg admitted he was too high to notice he was performing on a stage six stories tall that looked like a vending machine. And rumours that Eminem would make a surprise appearance continued to swirl around 6th Street.

Hip-hop stars completed a near takeover of the music conference and festival overnight Thursday and early Friday with Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, B.o.B., T.I. and Wale all playing bass-booming showcases just blocks from each other into the early morning. And later in the day, Nas would be the subject of a Q&A interview and 50 Cent was expected to headline the Shady Records showcase where he would perform his iconic album Get Rich or Die Tryin' live in its entirety for the first time.

Posters teasing Lil Wayne's concert at Austin Music Hall appeared Thursday all over town and Weezy was in high spirits as he played his hits, introduced fellow rappers Chanel and Birdman, kicked off a partnership with Mountain Dew and introduced his new clothing line.

"If you get anything from me, it's to find your name and do you because, ladies and gentlemen, that's what I do," he told the crowd in what he said was a commercial for the new soft drink partnership.

As Weezy wound down, Snoop Dogg held court about six blocks away. There, he regaled reporters with tales of his love for the long-gone sour-cream-and-onion Doritos rather than the new "JACKED" flavour he was promoting, his requirement that the company give him a couple of vending machines so his friends can have some and how he couldn't see the five-story stage on which he performed a set that stretched into Friday.

He also didn't exactly deny he's reuniting with Dr. Dre at Coachella, talked about a new project with producer Diplo, his upcoming movie release in June with Wiz Kalifa, gave a shoutout to Virginia Commonwealth basketball coach Shaka Smart and talked of sharing a bucket of fried chicken in Amsterdam with Willie Nelson.

He also explained hip-hop's takeover of Austin and the big-money deals he, Lil Wayne and Jay-Z - who was brought to SXSW on Monday by American Express - are landing.

"You know, it's a hip-hop world," Snoop said in an interview as he stretched out on an orange couch at Carmelo's in a Texas Longhorns basketball jersey next to a surreal 5-foot-tall snack bag. "I don't mean that in a cocky way, I mean that in a real way. If you watch TV, anything that's got to do with a commercial or selling something, it's hip-hop orientated, whether it's the music we personalize, the artists involved, even attention on football and basketball. Whatever it is, it's trying to be something that's hip-hop."

Young Jazz Star Esperanza Spalding Pays Homage To Her Elders

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Marsha Lederman

(Mar 18, 2012) Esperanza Spalding is on the phone, from herDescription: spalding19rv2_j_1385651cl-8_small apartment in New York, talking about her new album, Radio Music Society. Specifically, she’s going on about the American Music Program horn players who appear on several tracks.

“These kids are 16, 17, 18, even younger,” she says. “I think the youngest kid in the band is 14, he’s an alto player. And they’re studying the music. They’re living it, they’re breathing it, they’re playing it.”

This reminds her of a pianist and trumpet player she heard recently. “They were really young, and they would play so much!” she says. “They were amazing, and when I met them, I immediately thought of the people that say jazz is dead. I thought: Impossible! These people are here.”

Ironically, Spalding herself is, at 27, frequently cited as an example of how much promise the younger generation of jazz musicians holds. After winning a slew of critics’ polls, the bassist and singer stunned the Grammy audience in 2011 by becoming the first jazz musician ever to win the Best New Artist award. The Obamas are big fans – Spalding performed when the President was awarded his Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 – and she is probably the best-known “young” jazz star since the emergence of the Marsalis brothers.

But there’s a difference between being known and being heard, and Spalding finds it frustrating that mass-media radio and television offer only a “thin slice” of the riches available.

“There’s all this music, that’s here and alive and well and thriving,” she says. “How do we connect the dots between the public at large and all this incredible music?”

It would be tempting to suggest that she made her pop-friendly new album Radio Music Society to address that gap, but the truth is a bit more mundane. In 2009, as she planned for the follow-up to Esperanza, her major-label debut, she found herself looking over four years’ worth of songwriting.

“I thought, oh, I see some patterns in the material,” she says. “It would be cool to organize them into two halves of the same project, one being this sound with strings and a more intimate kind of vibe, and then this other sound, with horns and a more extroverted vibe.” The first half of the project was released last year as Chamber Music Society, while the second half comprises Radio Music Society.

The new album finds her working with a wide range of collaborators, from jazz pianist Gil Goldstein to rapper Q-Tip on the arranging and production end, to such players as saxophonist Joe Lovano (who taught Spalding when she was at the Berklee School of Music), African guitarist Lionel Loueke, and R&B singer Lalah Hathaway. Given her own impressive profile in the jazz community, it isn’t surprising to find so many A-listers on the credits sheet; what is striking, though, is how humble and star-struck she remains when it comes to her jazz elders.

Take, for instance, Jack DeJohnette, a veteran of Miles Davis’s band and the drummer in Keith Jarrett’s long-time trio. “We did a couple of gigs together, and both times we really connected,” she says. “We connected people-wise, and music-wise, and he asked me to play on his record.”

Spalding wanted him to play on her album as well, but hesitated to ask. “I didn’t want to seem disrespectful,” she explains. “He asked me to play on his record – it’s not the same as me asking him to play on mine. But I sent him the music, and I said, ‘Okay, here are these songs. Would you be into playing these on my record, because I hear you for this and this and this reason.’ And he said yes.”

Perhaps the most nerve-wracking request for approval had to do with the song Endangered Species. It was originally an instrumental that Wayne Shorter had composed for his 1985 album Atlantis. Spalding wanted to sing it, and so wrote lyrics for the tune, but in order to record it needed Shorter’s approval.

“He doesn’t like people writing lyrics to his songs,” she says. “I had to run them by him before we could do it. And he said, yeah, go for it. He liked them.” Still, the whole thing left her feeling a bit like a kid playing in the grown-ups’ world.

“I was so just painstaking with every word, and every combination of words,” she says. “I wanted it to be perfect, as perfect as I could do. I mean, a more experienced, masterful poet surely could have done a better job, and probably in 10 years I’ll look back and go, What? It looks like a five-year-old wrote that.”

She laughs. “But that’s okay. Because ultimately, Wayne said okay. So for now, it’s okay. And that’s the main thing.”

Lionel Richie’s New Album Is Country, But Don’t Tell Him That

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

(Mar 20, 2012) Before Lionel Richie began work on his new album,Description: WEB-lionelritch_1386858cl-8_small Tuskegee, he sat down with Tony Brown, the head of MCA Nashville. The idea behind Tuskegee would be to remake some of Richie’s best-known songs as duets with an assortment of country artists, and Brown promised Richie that he’d have first-class support in the studio.

“They kept telling me, ‘When you come to Nashville, Lionel, you’re going to meet some players, and they’re the best in the world,’” says Richie. “And I couldn’t wait. I said, ‘Well, you book them for me,’ and Tony Brown said, ‘They’ll be waiting on you, man.’

“Well, I walk in the door for my first session, and I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “The guys in the room were the same ones who played on [my] Can’t Slow Down album.”

Richie laughs. If ever anyone had wondered how the Brick House-building former Commodore could move from R&B to C&W, here was the answer. “What they said was, the music business didn’t die, it just moved to Nashville,” he says.

In a strange way, Richie was born for that kind of crossover, because he never accepted the concept of genre boundaries in the first place. “When I got into the business, I missed one very important lesson: I didn’t know there were categories,” he says. “So when I listened to the radio, I listened to the radio.

When he was growing up, in Tuskegee, Ala., that meant listening to WBAM in Montgomery. “They played Patsy Cline, and they played Johnny Cash,” he says. “I didn’t know that that was country music. I just thought it was a bad-ass song, you follow me?”

Later, after he’d enrolled at the Tuskegee Institute and joined the Commodores, he still refused to be tied down by other people’s notion of stylistic limitations.

“The only difference between this Sail On, with Tim McGraw, and Sail On by the Commodores is a steel guitar,” he says. “What did we have in it when I did the Commodores song? We had a steel guitar in it, and took it out because we thought that might be too radical.

“What I’m saying to you is, it was there already.”

In the end, says Richie, what he enjoyed the most about recording in Nashville is that the stereotype of it being a “country music” town isn’t true. “Nashville [is] a songwriter’s town,” he says. “I think what I’m enjoying most is the celebration of the songs.”

Jamal Sticks To Sweetness, But Benn And Denk Do Better

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Goddard

Jazz
Ahmad Jamal
Blue Moon: The New York Session (JazzVillage)

(Mar 19, 2012) Jazz masters play lyrically when it suits them or theDescription: Ahmad%20Jamal_small music calls for it. Not Ahmad Jamal. The pianist's tunefulness is non-stop, an incurable habit that's felt even when the rhythm section behind him sounds as jacked up as it is on “This is the Life” from his new album.

Jamal — born Frederick Russell Jones 81 years ago — has taken his share of lumps over his career due to this inherent sweetness in his playing, with hard-hearted critics suggesting it shows a distinct lack of testosterone. “I Remember Italy,” one of the three tunes on Blue Moon composed by Jamal, has the very kind, readily remembered melodic shape perfect for a perky TV sitcom.

To his credit, Jamal knows how to wrap things up neatly — not always a popular approach in jazz. He's also good with intimacy, having started as a cocktail pianist at Chicago's Pershing Hotel; his subtle touch and warm sound are nicely captured by the pianist's familiar sound engineer, Todd Winmill.

Jamal's supporters try to give him some true grit-by-association, pointing out that cool customer Miles Davis said, “all my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal.” But Jamal has never courted jazz's rebel bad-guy image. Instead, he inevitably plays the sweet-tempered, tuneful Good Cop to the rhythm section's hard-nose Bad Cop. This back-and-forth male bonding notion is played out on the YouTube clip hustling “Blue Moon,” where the pianist is swapping laughs with his rhythm section that includes percussionist Manolo Badrena as well as drummer Herlin Riley and bassist Reginald Veal.

Blue Moon is pleasant, not great, and the nine songs inside indicate he's on the same track he was in the late '50s with the live recording at the Pershing Lounge of his breakout record, “Poinciana,” which stayed on the pop charts for around two years.

With One Direction, The Wanted, Boy Bands Back On The Music Scene

Source: www.thestar.com - By Mesfin Fekadu


(Mar 20, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — It seems like we can never say goodbye, bye, bye to boy bands.
Description: one%20direction%201_small

A decade after ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys dominated the entertainment world, boy bands have returned and are making a comeback.

One Direction, the British quintet that placed third on the U.K.’s X Factor in 2010, will see its album Up All Night debut high on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart this week. The Wanted, another U.K.-based quintet, is spending its second week at No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart with the jam “Glad You Came.”

Big Time Rush, a four-member boy band that also has a hit Nickelodeon show readying its third season, recently wrapped a sold-out tour at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, and will embark on a larger U.S. and Canadian trek this summer. And Mindless Behavior, formed by the man who discovered Lady Gaga — record executive Vincent Herbert — debuted at No. 2 on the R&B charts in late 2010 with its album #1 Girl, and has toured with Janet Jackson and Justin Bieber, among others.

“It’s just exploding,” said Ernie D., the creative director and on-air personality for Radio Disney. “It’s really amazing to see, especially on my end, hearing all the calls from the listeners. ... So that fever is definitely growing for sure.”

It’s reminiscent of a time when ‘N Sync battled the Backstreet Boys as music’s top act, selling millions of albums and concert tickets, thanks to the millions of girls who invested time, their parents’ money and screamed pleas for their favourite boy band. ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys, who rose to fame in the 1990s and carried that through the new millennium, were followed by others successful boy bands, such as 98 Degrees, O-Town and Dream Street.

Before that, it was New Edition who exploded on the scene in the 1980s, followed by the massive success of New Kids on the Block. And before that, there was the Jackson Five and the Osmonds, and so on.

The Jonas Brothers made it big in the mid-2000s with its hit Disney TV series, films and albums. They started to fade years later, though, as the oldest, Kevin, got married, and Joe and Nick launched solo careers.

But now, there are various boy bands releasing music simultaneously, helping drive each other to the top of the charts.

“It’s giving us that little competition that makes us want to go further and excel further than we are right now,” said 22-year-old Carlos Pena Jr. of Big Time Rush.

“It’s cool to see more boy bands, but us, Mindless Behavior, we want to show the fans what we got,” said Mindless Behavior’s Prodigy, who is 15. Roc Royal and Princeton — both 14 — and Ray Ray, 15, round out the group.

Big Time Rush recently had its TV film, Big Time Movie, reach over 13.1 million total viewers when it debuted on Nickelodeon two weeks ago. They also released an EP of the same name to accompany the film, which features cover versions of classic Beatles songs.

The group members said they weren’t excited about being coined a “boy band” when they debuted in late 2009.

“We hated that term to start with,” 21-year-old James Maslow said.

“Because the term hadn’t come back yet,” added Kendall Schmidt, 21. “We kind of feel like we paved the way for it to come back.”

The foursome — which includes Logan Henderson — has released two albums. Their last tour featured One Direction as the opening act.

“We want to support other boy bands as well because we really want that whole genre to come back,” Maslow said.

Other boy bands on the verge include Midnight Red, formed by RedOne, the producer behind Lady Gaga hits like “Just Dance,” “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance.” Midnight Run will release a single next month, and an album later this year. Beyoncé, who recently launched her production company Parkwood Entertainment, said she plans on putting together her own boy band. And the British quartet JLS, the runners-up on the U.K.’s X Factor in 2008, has released three top-selling albums in Europe, collecting five No. 1s; they have plans to release music in America.

“There’s always going to be a market out there for teenage girls and girls in their early twenties that have this desire (for boy bands) ... and eventually they grow with the bands,” said Howie Dorough of the Backstreet Boys, who recently released his solo debut, Back to Me.

The Wanted, whose members range in age from 18 to 23, has released two albums in the United Kingdom; its U.S. debut is out on April 24. At last month’s Brit Awards, The Wanted’s “All Time Low” lost best British single to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” currently No. 28 on the Billboard chart. One Direction, whose youngest member is 18 and oldest is 20, have signed up to do a Nickelodeon show and will perform at next month’s Kids Choice Awards; Big Time Rush is also slated to perform.

Radio Disney’s Ernie D. says the new crop of boy bands are finding success much faster than groups in the past.

“The way it’s happening now, it’s a little more sudden than last time. Because back then you had to build your fan base, get a following. Now with all social media, you have a fan base immediately ... (and) as soon as you nail that fan base, you’re on the rise for sure,” he said.

“Bands like One Direction and The Wanted, they’re just coming out of nowhere and it’s kind of taking everybody by surprise.”

MUSIC TIDBITS

Beyoncé To Return To The Stage In May

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 19, 2012) ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Beyoncé is set to return to theDescription: Beyonce%20performs%20during%20the%20American%20Idol%20Grand%20Finale_small stage for the first time since giving birth to daughter Blue Ivy. The Grammy winner will perform three concerts in New Jersey in May at Atlantic City’s Revel Resorts. Revel said Monday that the shows will be held over Memorial Day weekend for the premiere of the $2.4 billion resort. Beyoncé gave birth to her first child in January. She is married to rapper Jay-Z. Tickets for the May 25 through May 27 concerts go on sale April 6. Beyoncé will perform in the Ovation Hall, which has 5,050 seats. The singer released her fourth album, the platinum-seller 4, in June.

Junos 2012: Simple Plan To Play Awards Show

Source: www.thestar.com - By Nick Krewen


(Mar 16, 2012)
Simple Plan has a gig at the upcoming Juno Awards. Description: Simple%20Plan%20acc_smallThe band joins a lineup that also includes Blue Rodeo, City and Colour, Deadmau5, Feist, Hedley, Hey Rosetta! and Nickelback. Hosted by William Shatner, CTV will air the Junos live from Ottawa on April 1. Simple Plan will receive the 2012 Allan Waters Humanitarian Award at a gala held the night before the televised broadcast. While Drake and Michael Buble have a combined seven nominations heading into the awards, neither Canadian star will be able to attend the show. Drake — who hosted the show last year and is tied for the lead with four nods including album and artist of the year — has a performance scheduled in Manchester the same night as the April 1 gala, while Buble is set to perform in Brazil. Organizers have said it’s also unlikely that Justin Bieber, who is nominated for two Junos, will attend.

Rihanna Says Chris Brown Collaboration “Made Sense”

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 16, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — People have been scratching theirDescription: Rihanna%20performs%20at%20the%2054th%20Annual%20Grammy%20Awards_small heads over Rihanna’s musical collaboration with Chris Brown, but says it “made sense” and it’s “innocent.” Brown appears on a remix of her song “Birthday Cake” and she appears on a remix of his “Turn up the Music.” Their music union is noteworthy because Brown is still on probation for the assault of Rihanna three years ago. Rihanna says it was her idea for Brown to appear on her song because he’s “the hottest R&B artist” right now. He then asked her to be on his song. She says the partnership allowed fans to come together, adding: “There shouldn’t be a divide. ... It’s music, and it’s innocent.” She made the comments to Ryan Seacrest on his radio show on KIIS-FM in Los Angeles.

Estelle Talks About Love and Music with S2S

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 19, 2012) *Estelle just released her third album, “All of Me” inDescription: Estelle_small February, sharing all of her with the world. The British born singer was candid in the April, 2012 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine about her life and being a woman whose been through a little heartache and pain. She tells other women it’s all a part of life and not to hide from love. “Don’t run to it because that’s the only situation that showed you love, make sure its worthy of your love. I look at it and I’m like, ‘You couldn’t tell me he wasn’t gonna stick around?’” Her latest album, a hit of course, features music with Chris Brown, Janelle Monae and Rick Ross. Also in the latest issue of S2S, on sale now, Trina Braxton gets real about her rocky marriage with husband Gage and how it was slipping down a road of no return. Eric Benet talks about why men cheat and love after Halle Berry.

R. Kelly Adds Chapters To ‘Trapped’ Saga

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 21, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Get ready for more drama from Sylvester, Twan and Pimp Lucius — R. Kelly is delivering more chapters of “Trapped in the Closet.” The outrageous musical series started off as five videos for the R&B singer’s dramatic cliffhanger songs in 2007. It quickly became a cult classic, and he added more chapters, put the accompanying videos on a DVD and also teamed up with IFC to premiere it. For the next chapters, Kelly is teaming up with IFC again. He said in a statement Wednesday: “The Alien is back and it has brought friends along.” He also called the series “not of this Earth.” Kelly has a new album due soon as well as a memoir due out in June. It’s unclear when the new “Trapped” chapters will debut.

Lauryn Hill Books first UK Show in Five Years

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 21, 2012) *Lauryn Hill will head across the pond next month for her first UK concert since 2007. The formerDescription: lauryn-hill_small Fugees singer will play a one off show at Indigo2 in London on April 14th. Tickets will go on sale on March 23 at 9 a.m., through LiveNation. After laying low for years, Hill has toured consistently since a brief 2005 reunion with the Fugees. Her most recent performance was at the Warner Theatre in Washington DC this year, where she debuted a new song called “Fearless Vampire Killer.” Listen below.

::FILM NEWS::    

Hunger Games Canadian Premiere Gets A Special Guest, Courtesy Of Ellen DeGeneres

Source: www.thestar.com - By Barbara Turnbull


(Mar 19, 2012) When
Hélène Campbell got the call last week that there was a set of life-saving lungs for her, she admits one of her first thoughts was about her ticket to this year’s hottest Hollywood movie, opening tonight in Toronto.

“Ah! I won’t be able to go to The Hunger Games premiere!,” is the thought she shared on her blog post today at alungstory.ca.

But she will be at the premiere tonight, taking the red carpet with actors Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and Alexander Ludwig at the Scotiabank Theatre, courtesy of talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

“Our friends at Lionsgate are going to send you and a friend to The Hunger Games movie premiere in Toronto,” DeGeneres told the shocked woman via Skype on Feb. 16. Campbell came to the talk show host’s attention after launching a Twitter crusade to boost organ and tissue donations. Even Justin Bieber joined the movement.

This morning Campbell tweeted to Ellen’s show “My brother and I are SO excited to see The Hunger Games tonight, my oxygen has been cranked up all day.”

On March 11 at about 3:30 a.m. Campbell, who was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis last October, received the call every one of Ontario’s 1,500 people awaiting an organ transplant at any given time longs for — that there is a match.

Campbell’s transplant surgery, which was set for 7 a.m., was cancelled at 6:58 a.m. when it was deemed the lungs were not suitable.

Campbell, 20, took the last-minute cancellation in what’s become her trademark stride: “I knew it wasn’t my time yet; they weren’t the perfect match,” she blogs today. “I felt sad, but not for myself. I was grieving with the family who had just lost someone.”

Campbell is approaching 10,000 Twitter followers, has an ongoing campaign in her hometown of Ottawa and an army of fans now after Don Cherry to bring the awareness crusade to Coach’s Corner and Hockey Night in Canada.

Her delightful quips are mimicked by thousands. Organ and tissue donation being a “DeGeneres thing to do” has been a tagline on many of the tweets on her Twitter hashtag #beanorgandonor. Now supporters are calling on @RealDonCherry and @coachscornercbc to help “ice the shortage.”

Before Campbell started her campaign in January, there were typically 50 online registrations a day at Ontario’s beadonor.ca.

Bieber responded on Jan. 21 and there were 193 new registrations that day, with a further 1,567 in the week following. On Feb. 16 Campbell appeared on Ellen DeGeneres; show, prompting 1,800 new registrations over the next two days and another 3,227 over the next week.

The daily average has been about 180 since. The province also has an online ad campaign, which is impacting the numbers.

Trillium Gift of Life Network, the provincial agency mandated with organizing organ and tissue donation and transplant, just announced Ontario’s registration rate, which has been stagnant at 19 per cent for years, is now at 21 per cent.

Telefilm Invests $9 Million In New Movies, Including Kurt Russell Film

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Goddard

(Mar 20, 2012) MONTREAL — A heist flick starring Kurt Russell, MattDescription: Kurt%20Russell_small Dillon and Jay Baruchel is among 11 new English-language films getting funds from Telefilm Canada.

The federal film-funding agency will pump a total of $9 million from its Canada Feature Film Fund into projects from across the country.

The Black Marks, which stars Russell, Dillon and Baruchel, is the story of Crunch Calhoun, a third-rate motorcycle daredevil and semi-reformed art thief who agrees to pull off one more lucrative robbery.

But the plan to steal a priceless book leads to another far riskier plan in the movie about brotherhood, honour and revenge.

The Black Marks is written and directed by Jonathan Sobol for Darius Films.

Other films include the psychological thriller Whitewash, which is produced by Montreal’s micro_scope, the production company behind the Oscar-nominated Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar.

Others include the comedy Random Acts of Romance, about people in extreme relationships, and the sci-fi Space Milkshake, about a mutating rubber duck named Gary who wants to take over the universe.

There is also Roaming, about a reclusive game designer dealing with autism; 13 Eerie, where six ambitious students compete for a trainee spot with the FBI; the aboriginal dramas Maina and The Lesser Blessed; Mad Ship about a quixotic quest by a Norwegian immigrant; and My Awkward Sexual Adventure, which details the efforts of a conservative accountant who enlists an exotic dancer to win back his girlfriend.

Rounding out the list is Rufus, about a boy who might — or might not — be a vampire.

Susan Sarandon: Still sexy at 65

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Johanna Schneller


(Mar 16, 2012)
Susan Sarandon is quick to mention that she’s “notDescription: WEB-sarandon_JP_1385523cl-8_small much like Sharon,” the character she plays in the new film Jeff, Who Lives at Home, which opened yesterday. But that’s obvious. Sharon is the movie’s B-story, a disappointed beauty who thought she would live a life of “kissing under waterfalls.” Instead, she’s an office drone and an exhausted single mother of two man-children – “one of whom [Pat, played by The Office’s Ed Helms] has gone through the checklist – job, wife, house – and is miserable; and the other [the title character, played by Jason Segel], who seems to do everything wrong,” Sarandon said in a phone call last week.

The A-story of the film, which was written and directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass, centres on Jeff, a stoner who believes in destiny. It unfolds over the one fateful day when he gets everything right. (Segel, whom I don’t always love, is unusually moving here; I was surprised to find myself in tears.)

Sharon is rewarded, too, with a moment of grace. I left feeling hopeful, not just for the characters, but for the future movies the Duplass brothers may make – between this film and their last, Cyrus, they’re proving to be a rarity among filmmakers, thirtysomething men who seem to care, and write empathically, about women over 40.

In real life, of course, Sarandon is nobody’s B-story. She’s the North American Helen Mirren, a smart, vital, outspoken star who was sexy as an ingénue (in 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show), sexy in her 40s (in the films that cemented her appeal, including The Witches of Eastwick, Bull Durham and Thelma & Louise), sexy as a nun (Dead Man Walking, which won her a best-actress Oscar), sexy on TV (with guest-star spots on Rescue Me and, lately, 30 Rock) and now is sexy at 65.

The eldest of nine children, Sarandon was born in New York City and went to Catholic schools, including the Catholic University of America. Politically savvy, she spoke up for Haitian refugees while presenting an Oscar (to the displeasure of the Academy), was arrested during a protest against police brutality, supported Ralph Nader’s run for U.S. president in 2000 and lauded Canada for legalizing same-sex marriage.

During her 20-year relationship with the actor/director Tim Robbins, who is 12 years younger, she greeted their age difference with a shrug, and when they split in 2009, she kept her feelings to herself. (They have two sons in their 20s, Jack and Miles; Sarandon also has a daughter, the actress Eva Amurri, 27, from her relationship with the director Franco Amurri.)

She’s also a co-owner of Spin, a chain of, of all things, Ping-Pong clubs, with a branch on Toronto’s King Street West. She opens our conversation by asking me if I know about it. “I’m a propagandist,” she says, laughing. When I ask, “Why Ping-Pong?” her answer seems characteristic: “I love it because it cuts across age, gender, body type, expectation,” she says. “A little girl can beat a big football player.”

Unfortunately, even Sarandon hasn’t escaped the steep drop in juicy roles that befalls most actresses her age. “I’ve always played character parts; I’m just doing more of them now,” she says. “You can think of me as a temp who comes in to fill a need. Or you can say I’m diversifying my portfolio. As long as I’m having fun, it’s nice not to have to be in every scene. Now, would I like a big fat role? Of course, if it’s something interesting. Have I turned down a fabulous romantic comedy? No.”

She said yes to Jeff because, “I do know what it’s like when you’re the Wendy to everyone else’s Peter Pan,” Sarandon says. “You’re the enforcer: ‘Stop playing touch football in the house at 11 p.m. on a school night and go to bed.’ Sharon’s worn out. She dislikes herself as much as her sons dislike her. Any parent knows that moment where you love your children to death, but you do not like them. You’re lying if you say you don’t.”

She was also intrigued by the Duplass brothers’ way of working (they were early practitioners of the so-called mumblecore style), with small budgets, partly improvised scripts and multiple cameras. “It’s a loving set,” Sarandon says. “They love you, and you want to please them. There’s nothing worse than hating the director and feeling like a whore when you’re working.”

Ah, there’s the tell-it-like-it-is Sarandon we love. When has she felt that? “Well, I’m not going to say who,” she answers. “But for me, the seductive part of the job is the collaboration. Some directors want to plug you into whatever they’ve storyboarded, or give you line readings, or isolate people from one another. That’s not a successful way into the music of a scene, to finding the surprises that can happen when actors are made better by one another. But Jay and Mark trust that you’ll be good, if they create the right atmosphere for it. And they play Ping-Pong.”

Despite the dearth of lead roles, Sarandon is enjoying this phase of life. “I’m liking being educated by my kids now,” she says. “They’re sending me books and music. Through them, I’m revisiting the questions I had at their age. Both my boys are of the Jeff school” – pondering life’s questions. “Miles, who’s in a contemplative-studies program, just texted me passages from Siddhartha – ‘Do you know this book, Mom?’ Well, yes, but I haven’t read in a while. So that’s fun.”

Asked what she knows now that she didn’t know 20 years ago, she ticks off a list: “I’ve learned that beauty is not about being perfect. It’s the imperfections that make you beautiful. I’ve learned that if you can make it to dawn, things will get better. And I’ve learned that when you think life is over, walk it off. Keep moving.

“I’m also not as worried about my kids making mistakes as I used to be,” she continues. “Now I think, ‘I guess he has to be in a high-maintenance relationship – I wonder what that will teach him?’ Or, ‘A gap year, hmm, maybe he needs it.’ I’ve always thought things reveal themselves in time. But as I get older, my perspective gets even wider.”

She’s also getting more rest – “not enough, but more” – and enjoying not having to be home for dinner every night. “It’s funny, though, it’s just like when I first got a cordless phone, but I would still stand and talk right by the phone charger,” she says. “I still find myself coming home at 6 p.m. The hands-on-mom habits are hard to break.”

Now her daughter is navigating the rocky shoals of being an actress with both a brain and a killer body. Recently, she did a season-long turn as a stripper on Californication. But if Sarandon was fazed by watching her first-born wriggling topless on TV, she doesn’t show it. “Eva’s been working for a long time,” she says. “Then she went to Brown. Now she’s done a TV pilot, and she’s hoping it will get picked up, because she just got married, and she wants to have a regular schedule. Her choice of a partner is brilliant, by the way; I’m really happy with that. My main worry is that privileged kids often don’t have a passion. So as long as mine are interested in something, I’m happy for them.”

That sounds a little evasive, and Sarandon cops to it. “Look, it’s a hard business,” she says. “Anyone who wants to stay in it has to find a way to deal with disappointment, and with the mediocrity that gets rewarded. The emphasis now is on being famous instead of doing good work. A lot of people are enjoying their 15 minutes who aren’t particularly talented. Producers want someone with so many Tweets or whatever. You have to get used to the idea that decisions are often made on very superficial bases.

“But it’s always been that way,” she continues. “If you’re looking for justice, for talent to be rewarded, you’re barking up the wrong job.” She laughs. “Fame is not about who’s best. You have to make peace with the frustrations and rejections.”

Sarandon’s had her share, she says. “But I love the process, the challenge. You never feel you’ve won – you always think, ‘I could be better.’ That’s very seductive. And I like the world. I get to delve into these microcosms and incarnations. Without acting, I never would have learned about science or baseball or the death march in the Philippines. For me, it’s a good job.” She laughs wryly. “And who’d have thought it would be secure? Look at all those people who thought they’d made a safe career choice, thought they’d have a pension. Now they’re laid off, and I’m still working.”

Most things Sarandon says ring true. But her last line sounds especially so: “I really like,” she sums up, “making people feel something.”

FILM TIDBITS

TIFF 2012: Festival To Spotlight Films From Mumbai

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 16, 2012) The Toronto International Film Festival is putting the spotlight on Mumbai. Artistic director Cameron Bailey says the festival’s “City to City” program will showcase filmmakers living and working in the Indian metropolis, regardless of where their films are set. That’s a change from previous editions, when the program featured films set in a specific city and made by filmmakers from that urban centre. Bailey says local independent films are emerging to counter Bollywood’s flashy commercial offerings. The program’s lineup will be announced in August. The 37th Toronto International Film Festival is set to run Sept. 6 to 16. Past cities featured in the City to City program have included Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Buenos Aires.

Dan Aykroyd And Chevy Chase Plan New Movie

Source:
www.thestar.com - By Paul Irish

(Mar 21, 2012) It’s the type of Facebook post that puts a smile on the faces of all those who loved the so-calledDescription: Dan%20Aykroyd%201_small Golden Years of Saturday Night Live: Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase are sitting down to scribble out a script for a new comedy movie. Although Chase was only around for the show’s initial season in 1975 (and Aykroyd not much longer) many consider the first cast — including Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and John Belushi (both deceased) — as the yardstick for all others to be measured by. Both comedians have had fairly successful solo film careers but fans would love to see the two paired again — perhaps with other SNL alumnus from different decades (Mike Myers?) — for a few laughs. But that’s putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Right now, all fans have to go on is the short, cryptic message posted on Akroyd’s site on Monday: “Chevy (Chase) and I are about to start work on a script concept for a comedy movie. Cannot say too much about the concept, but the joy of working with him again is one that I am extremely excited about. Chevy is one of my favourite people, and one of the greatest anarchistic and physically committed comedians in the business.”

::TV NEWS::    

Kiefer Sutherland Still Has The Touch

Source:
www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(Mar 21, 2012) About a month ago, when Touch got its early TV preview, I was cautiously enthusiastic. IDescription: Kiefer%20Sutherland%20tries%20to%20communicate_small expressed some doubts, amid my rapturous ravings, as to whether they could keep up the level or for that matter even the amount of the writing.

I’m now another two episodes in — the second airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on Fox and Global — and I’m still raving. And still worried.

Touch is a terrific new show, quite unlike anything else on TV, interweaving five little sub-stories into one integrated, cross-related plot line, held together by the linking framework of struggling single dad
Kiefer Sutherland coming to the aid of total strangers under the arcane instruction of his silent savant son.

And if you think that paragraph was hard to follow . . .

Actually, showrunner Tim Kring (Heroes) and his writers do a remarkably clean job of switching back and forth, and then connecting the variant threads. Each gets its own sentimentally happy ending — somehow stopping just short of precious and cloying.

And, more than anything else, there is the estimable Sutherland himself, the show’s solid anchor in much the same way he carried us through the endless, often ludicrous real-time crises of 24.

But this time he gets to smile. And to cry. And, on least two occasions in the first three episodes, to actually lose a fight. Jack Bauer would have been appalled.

“The character was so vastly different and the tone of the piece was so vastly different that that was part of its appeal,” Sutherland allows.

“They are both fantastic opportunities. I mean, the opportunity that I had in 24 to have to repress all of this stuff and carry that with me informed the character beautifully for me. To be able to have the antithesis of that and this opportunity now, where he can openly show and have an emotional reaction to what is actually happening at this exact moment, is another fantastic opportunity.”

Where 24 was relentlessly pessimistic, Touch is all about hope, and the innate warm-and-fuzziness of a safer, saner, idealized world. Where 24 piled coincidence upon convenience, Touch is all about the coincidence, which turns out to be not nearly as coincidental as it appears.

“I have been very interested in this theme of interconnectivity for a long time,” says Kring. “Heroes . . . had that theme. And this is really a chance to continue, I guess, what you would call social benefit storytelling, the idea of trying to use archetypal narrative to create and promote a positive energy in the world.

“I think the consciousness, if there was a consciousness shift in the country after 9/11, was this awareness that what happens there does affect us (here), and that people from 10,000 miles away would fly planes into our buildings was as a result of, you know, this globally connected world.

“The emerging story of our time, I think, is that we are more connected to one another than we ever thought or knew. And I think it’s being borne out by the whole social networking world that we live in. And it feels like we need to figure that out in order to solve the bigger problems that we all face.”

But the question remains: How long can it last?

Kring’s citing of Heroes overlooks the fact that the once-inventive superpower drama hit a kryptonite brick wall in its second season. Kring seemed creatively to just run out of steam — what I like to call the “Ryan Murphy Effect,” in reference to the similarly rapid disintegration of Nip/Tuck and Glee.

And Touch, as I mentioned off the top, eats up and spits out potential plot lines a half-dozen at a time.

I want Touch to work — I very much want to see more. It takes all the way up to the end of Episode 3 to fully establish the back-story and overall context. From this point on, the viewer will be dropped into the middle of all these correlated complications and pretty much left to fend for himself.

And, once again, it will be Kiefer to the rescue, as the Toronto-raised actor applies his considerable personal popularity and proven co-producing savvy to maintain our invested interest while we struggle to keep up.

It’s worth the effort: both his and ours.

Sara MacIntyre: Canadian TV's Newest Villain

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By John Doyle

(Mar 18, 2012) It is often said that we don't have a star system inDescription: doyle-mcintyre2_1386468cl-8_small Canada. This is hooey.

All you have to is be really, really irritating, and you're a star in this neck of the woods. Last week a new star emerged, a deeply aggravating woman. It led me to think about vexatious women on TV.

When this TV season started, all the talk was about strong women characters emerging on shows by, for and about women. This is, in general, thought to be a good thing. Many of the shows fizzled and the lingering memory of this phase of network TV development is bound to be the number of exasperating characters. Like Whitney Cummings on Whitney.

But while Whitney is merely silly, the truly interesting women characters are either villains or victims. It's the victimhood-addicted who are forgettable. So let's start with the new star, the villain.

Sara MacIntyre, B.C. Premier Christy Clark's new director of communications, is one such star who emerged last week. A set-to with local media went from testy to hostile to absurd, and the footage [http://watch.ctv.ca/news/latest/press-cut-off/#clip638850] went viral. If you haven't seen it, you must. At an event in Vancouver attended by Clarke, MacIntyre pushed her face in front of the cameras and said, "Guys, the Premier is not taking questions today." The ensuing argument was toxic.

It's tremendous television. MacIntyre, all gum-chewing, hair-swinging, finger-wagging, mall-rat malice and attitude, expressed her utter contempt for the reporters and TV crews with aplomb. She was so sharp it looked like she'd even cut herself if she happened to look at herself. The idea that a reporter might want to ask the Premier a question was, to her, so patently outlandish that one imagined her cackling with derision in her dark lair after the event.

Reaction to the infamous incident was fascinating. Local reporters in B.C. bemoaned the fact that Ottawa-style media-handling was being imported to B.C. (MacIntyre previously worked as press secretary to Our Glorious Leader, as if you couldn't guess.) CTV Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife went on the air to report, with sadness, that in Ottawa the MacIntyre attitude is the Harper's government's tactic with the press, day in and day out. No respect. A media expert was interviewed about MacIntyre's attitude and pronounced it a disaster. A CTV reporter in Vancouver condemned the hostility to the press as undemocratic, a rebuke to voters who want to see politicians questioned.

This is all very well and good, but what really matters is that we have a new female, grade-A villain. Someone so utterly obnoxious and real that one hopes MacIntyre sticks around for years, aiming her gum-chewing, screw-you disposition at the TV cameras all over the country. British Columbia should not have this phenomenon to itself.

By the way, I'm astounded that Christy Clark feels the need for an absurdly badass media handler. Like many who have written a thing or two for the country's newspapers, I've met Clark several times. For years, all my visits to Vancouver included an appearance on her radio show. Clark was a great interviewer - shrewd, smooth, knowledgeable and charming. The brief post-interview chats were always informative and entertaining. So the idea that as Premier she needs an attack dog for media matters seems crazy.

And yet I hope she doesn't ditch this new rogue termagant. Sara MacIntyre is a villain, and much more gripping on TV than anyone in her position who takes the bland approach.

Like most things to do with politics, it's best to think of the situation as an ongoing TV drama. Most things that matter in politics happen in front of the TV cameras.

On TV, female villains are captivating. On Smash, a drama about the drama of creating a Broadway musical, the expected star was Katharine McPhee, playing the nice, talented Mid-Westerner Karen Cartwright. But as the series has progressed, it's her nemesis, the buxom, scheming Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) who is the one worth watching. Because she's as nasty as all get-out. On GCB, it's not the alleged heroine, Amanda (Leslie Bibb), all reformed mean girl and victim, who makes the show worthwhile. It's all those vicious women who are out to destroy her.

In fact, it's those female characters adducted to victimhood who are boring. On I Hate My Teenage Daughter, the two moms, victims of their nasty daughters, are way less interesting than their kids.

In the case of Sara MacIntyre, the fact that she acts like a cartoon villain, but is authentic and not a TV character, makes her antics all the more delicious. I can't wait for the next episode of her venom-filled adventures on TV. At last, a new Canadian star has emerged.

‘LIVE! with Kelly’ to Broadcast From Banff National Park

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Mar 5, 2012) BANFF, Alta.— One of the most popular American TV talkDescription: WEB-ripa_JPG_1381594cl-8_small shows will get a bit of a Rocky Mountain high when it comes to Banff National Park this April.

LIVE! with Kelly plans to broadcast from The Banff Centre, a national arts training school, in Banff, Alta., from April 2 to April 5.

The show's executive producer says celebrity actress and host Kelly Ripa and her co-hosts also plan to enjoy some of the area's winter sports.

Michael Gelman says their activities will be broadcast to the millions of viewers who tune into the show every day.

LIVE! airs on CTV in Canada, and Gelman says Canadians are some of the New-York-based show's most loyal and enthusiastic viewers.

Ripa and her now retired co-host Regis Philbin broadcast four shows from Prince Edward Island in July 2010.

“This will be our first visit to Alberta, and the majesty of the Canadian Rockies will be a stunning setting for the shows,” Gelman said in a release.

The area's tourism association is also looking forward to the visit.

“We look forward to welcoming Kelly, her guests and the entire crew ... to Banff National Park,” said Julie Canning, president of Banff Lake Louise Tourism.

“It is truly an honour to have Kelly showcase the magic of Canada's first and finest national park to her audience.”

Cast of ‘A Different World:’ Where are They Now?

Source:
www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 20, 2012) The show, which debuted in 1987, took us into the lives of teenagers at a fictional HBCU called Hillman College in Virginia.

The series primarily focused on Southern belle Whitley Gilbert (Jasmine Guy) and mathematics whiz Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison).

The show, which aired on NBC, was well known for touching “touchy” subjects like AIDS, race and class.

But since the show ended in 1993, many of the main characters on the show have disappeared from the tube and the big screen.

Our partner site,
MadameNoire, decided to take a look at some of the actors on this show and ask, Where are they now?

Actor#1:

Dwayne Cleophus Wayne. Kadeem Hardison’s character was clearly a fan favorite with his flip-up sunglasses/glasses that everyone was wearing back in the day and his kind heart. He was the nice guy everyone was rooting for (remember the wedding episode?). After doing a lot of movies like A Vampire in Brooklyn with Eddie Murphy and shows like Between Brothers, nowadays, you can catch him doing a lot of TV guest work. He was a recurring guest on Everybody Hates Chris for a while as sadity and crazy Judge Watkins (I miss that show!), was Lynn’s pastor boyfriend on Girlfriends, played Fantasia’s dad in the TV movie, Life Is Not a Fairytale: The Fantasia Barrino Story, and was most recently on the NBC show Parenthood. At 46, he’s still looking pretty good.

Check out where the rest of these cast members at
MadameNoire.

TV TIDBITS

Rosie O’Donnell’s Show Cancelled By Oprah’s OWN Network

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 19, 2012) NEW YORK, N.Y. — Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network isDescription: Oprah%20Winfrey%20and%20Rosie%20ODonnell_small pulling the curtain on The Rosie Show after five months on the air. The show premiered in October to about 500,000 viewers but lost about half that audience within days of its debut. Recently, it changed the format from taping before a studio audience to a one-on-one interview setting with celebrities such as Kathy Griffin, Chelsea Handler and former Illinois first lady Patti Blagojevich. In a statement released by OWN, Winfrey thanked O’Donnell. She called O’Donnell “an incredible partner” who worked to put on the best show “every single day.” O’Donnell also was quoted as saying she loved working with Winfrey and in Chicago and “wished” the show had better ratings. The final episode will air March 30.

T.I. Joins Starz Series ‘Boss’ for Season 2

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 19, 2012) *Rapper T.I. has landed a season-long guest arc on theDescription: ti2_small upcoming second season of the Starz drama “Boss,” which begins production in Monday in Chicago. The series stars recent Golden Globe winner Kelsey Grammer as ruthless Chicago mayor Tom Kane. T.I. will play Trey, a former gangbanger with designs on a career in Chicago’s City Hall, which represents a symbiosis between politics and crime in Chicago. He is the conduit between a local Alderman and the only group powerful enough to function as a grassroots organization in the projects – gangs. T.I. was last seen on the big screen co-starring in Sony’s Takers,” and on the small screen on his VH1 reality series “Family Hustle.”

Tyra Banks to be Honoured for Contributions to Communications

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 20, 2012) *Former supermodel Tyra Banks and actress GlennDescription: TyraBanks_small Close are to be honoured in New York City next month for their contributions to the field of communications. The New York Women in Communications Foundation recognize a handful of powerful females for their achievements at the Matrix Awards, and Close and Banks are among the distinguished few in 2012. Banks was chosen for her endeavors as the CEO of her entertainment firm Bankable Incorporated. Close was selected for co-founding the website Bring Change 2 Mind, which works to stomp out discrimination against those with mental illnesses. Close and Banks join a long list of past winners, including actresses Meryl Streep and Bernadette Peters.

Meagan Good to Star in NBC Drama Pilot ‘Notorious’
Description: meagan-good1_small
Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar. 21, 2012) *
Meagan Good has landed her first regular gig on the small screen – the lead role in NBC’s drama pilot “Notorious,” reports Deadline.com. From Universal TV, “Notorious” is described as an opulent soap in which detective Joanna Locasto (Good) returns undercover to the wealthy and troubled Lawson family she grew up in — as the housekeeper’s daughter — to solve the murder of celebutante Vivian Lawson, who was once her closest friend. Good is currently working a season-long arc on Showtime’s “Californication” and will next be seen on the big screen in the April 20 release “Think Like A Man.” In addition to “Notorious,” two other hour-long pilots are toplined by African American stars: Fox’s “Guilty,” to star Cuba Gooding Jr., and ABC’s “Last Resort,” led by Andre Braugher. Additionally, Kerry Washington is the star of ABC’s upcoming midseason drama series “Scandal.”

::ARTS NEWS::

Live Wrong And Prosper At Second City

Source: www.thestar.com - By Trish Crawford


(Mar 20, 2012) The six cast members of
Live Wrong and ProsperDescription: Live%20Wrong%20and%20Prosper_small are trying to live right.

The Toronto Second City troupe is engaged in a fierce workout competition that requires them to hit the gym three times a week.

This is an effort to offset the doughnuts, junk food and late nights inflicted by rehearsals and previews of the show, which officially opens at the Mercer St. theatre March 27.

The loser who fails to make the 30-minute workout requirements will pay for the group photo of them all buff and healthy, says Ashley Comeau.

The theme of the show is the outrageous things people will do to get noticed, and how fame and attention is addictive. Probing interviews with the cast revealed the “wrongs” they’ve committed to get attention as well as their secret addictions.

Nigel Downer

Attention-getting: I once played the Old Spice Guy by lathering on a whole bunch of baby oil, using cotton balls as suds and wrapping myself in a towel. It was the Comedy Bar and a bunch of us were playing celebrities. As soon as I walked out I got a lot of laughs, more than my monologue.

Secret addiction: I’m addicted to comic books. I just bought one today. I must have over 1,000. My favourite is Ultimate Spider-Man. It’s about a child, Miles Morales, who is half Hispanic and half African American.

Inessa Frantowski

Attention-getting: I always dress up when I go out. I go the full length. I’m often wearing a man’s beard. I went to a fashion show with a friend — we were invited — looking like futuristic space chicks and people turned up their noses. We looked like Lady Gaga with absurd shoulders and spikes and silver body paint. I’m not shy about that stuff.

Secret addiction: I’m addicted to reality TV and love Dancing With the Stars. My dream is to go on Dancing With the Stars, learn how to dance and wear sparkly costumes. I’m starting a Facebook page to get me drafted.

Jason DeRosse

Attention-getting: I get naked a lot. The first time is like karaoke, after that it gets easier. The first time was about seven years ago with The Sketchersons when I pranked someone by walking out naked. When doing comedy, chiseled abs are not humorous. It’s a shock laugh. The alumni of The Sketchersons have passed the nudity torch.

Secret addiction: The only show I PVR is Judge Judy. She’s blunt, she’s no nonsense. I have no idea why I like her so much. She’s great, she’s a beautiful strong woman. I have people in my life who totally concur.

Carly Heffernan

Attention-getting: In university, I was interested in this guy. I went to Queen’s and we lived in the student ghetto in Kingston. He was sitting on his porch and I was riding my mongoose bicycle that I had since I was 12, back and forth, back and forth in front of him. I was singing, “I’m in a biker gang, I’m in a biker gang, but I’m the only member of the biker gang.” I always go for the laugh. It didn’t work.

Secret addiction: I love a nap. If I can have a nap every day at 3 p.m. life is heaven. I once woke up and told my partner that I just wanted to nap forever. But then, I realized, that would be being dead.

Ashley Comeau

Attention-getting: I gained a lot of attention in Grade 7. At church (Anglican), I got into trouble for wanting to play Judas. The reverend called my mother. It was a bit of a concern. I didn’t see the problem. Sure he’s a traitor, but it’s a meaty part.

Secret addiction: I’m addicted to romantic comedies, crappy films that not too many people want to watch. Let’s just cry a little, it’s great. I love movies with Hugh Grant and Colin Firth.

Alastair Forbes

Attention-getting: I was hired by Future Shop to dress up like Gandalf and Lord of the Rings. It was the worst. People kept coming up and asking questions about the movies. People wanted me to do Gandalf’s lines. I hadn’t seen the movie, although I have since and liked it. I thought to myself, did I really need the $100 that bad?

Secret addiction: I can’t believe no one has mentioned video games yet. I’m nerdy, geeky. I’m a hockey fan and like to play the NHL series. I have an Xbox and PS3. I spend far too much time when I should be doing something else. I also like the new Call of Duty.

Tracy Morgan: Earning Laughs At No One's Expense

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Brad Wheeler

(Mar 18, 2012) The Bronx-born comedian Tracy Morgan has carvedDescription: monQandA-morgan_1385757cl-8_small out quite a career for himself - a long stint with Saturday Night Live and currently starring in a role on the hit NBC sitcom 30 Rock, in addition to movies and stand-up. Bully for him, right? Maybe not. Morgan, in Toronto on Friday for the Canadian International Comedy Fest (which runs concurrently with Canadian Music Week), talks about music, monkey poop and bullying for laughs.

You'll be in Toronto during Canadian Music Week. There's not a big component of it with the festival, but what's your take on modern hip hop?

I think hip hop is dead. It's all pop now. If you call it hip hop, then you need to stop. Hip hop was a movement. Hip hop was a culture. Hip hop was a way of life. It's all commercial now.

Hip hop, or urban pop, we'll say, complains that it doesn't get respect from the Grammys. Is that a legitimate gripe?

They've never given it respect. They never looked at it as an art form. Just like people never looked at graffiti as an art form. They looked at it as vandalism.

And yet the Grammys use hip hop for its television broadcasts. Could we compare that with the way the Academy Awards uses comedy for its shows, but doesn't give comedy any golden statuettes?

Comedians are the monkeys of acting. When you go to the zoo, everybody loves the monkey exhibit. They play with themselves. They play with their own poop. But when they throw their own poop on you, you wanna kill them.

In your biography, you said that comedy was your way of dealing with bullies. What did you mean by that?

That was when I was younger. Comedy was a knife in which to cut through the despair of my community. Where I came from, people couldn't afford to go to the theatre. I was a funny guy in the neighbourhood. And people protect you when you're that. I was coveted.

Isn't bullying a large of comedy, though?

No. You got it all wrong. That's not what we do. George Carlin didn't do that. Richard Pryor didn't do that. We don't just grab the microphone and destroy people. You've never seen that.

I see it at the clubs all the time.

That's the clubs. That's people either on their way out or their way in. That's always been a part of comedy.

So, bullying is a part of comedy, then. Is that what you're saying?

That's not bullying. You're in a comedy club, dude. We're laughing. We're making fun. If you have the [nerve] to heckle, you should be able to take it.

I've been the target of a comedian, while sitting in the first row in a club. I didn't heckle at all.

Oh, so it's a personal thing with you. You sat in the front row and a comedian went off on you for no reason.

Exactly. You don't think that's bullying?

You shouldn't take it personally. But, okay, I don't think it's right for a comedian to be on stage with their microphone and tear into somebody in a mean-spirited way. Those are people who have been bullied themselves. I think they should get out of the business.

Do you interact with your audience?

If I make fun of somebody at my show, believe me, it's something we can all laugh at. I've never thought it was right to tear somebody's heart out. It's too easy. Besides, I've got so much messed up stuff about me and my life, I can make fun of me all day long.

Tracy Morgan appears at the Sony Centre, March 23, as part of the Canadian International Comedy Fest (March 21 to 25, canadiancomedyfest.com [http://www.canadiancomedyfest.com]).

Shrek: The Musical: The Green Ogre Goes From Screen To Stage

Source: www.thestar.com

(Mar 19, 2012) Star: In the video, it looks like there’s a headpiece thatDescription: Shrek%20disguise_small goes on first before most of the makeup. What’s the headpiece part made out of?

Poost: That’s a cowl. It’s made out of foam latex. It goes just to my shoulders and goes up around the back of my head and includes the ears, which are made out of some sort of plastic, polyresin.

Star: So what happens after the headpiece? Can you kind of walk me through the process?

Poost: Underneath the headpiece there’s also a bald cap, which is applied mostly to the front half of my head. But that kind of keeps all the sweat on top of my head and out of my face, as well as kind of creates a flat smooth surface for the prosthetics to be glued to. There are four silicone prosthetic pieces that are glued to my face with a medical adhesive. There’s a chin and cheek piece, a forehead piece, a nose piece and a bottom lip piece. And all of those are glued on and then the edges are burned away with an edging solution. And all that’s painted green with a paint that’s a mixture of glue and paint that’s used specifically for prosthetics. And then we paint over my eyes with a couple different layers of different paints to protect my eyes and kind of prevent sweating makeup off as much as we can. And then the last thing we do is we spray some Shrek freckles on, which we’ve lovingly called “Shrekcles.” And we powder everything and that’s it.

Star: Now, all this talk of glue and prosthetics, I can’t help but think that sounds really uncomfortable to be wearing on your face.

Poost: You know it’s actually not as uncomfortable as anyone would expect, including myself.

Star: You’ve mentioned sweat a couple of times. How hot does it get with all of this stuff on?

Poost: Between the cowl and the makeup on my head and then the large costume, I get very hot and very sweaty.

Star: So how long does this whole process take?

Poost: I’m in the chair at two hours till (the show begins) and it takes us about an hour and a half for makeup.

Star: When did you first have to try it to perfect it yourself?

King: We did pre-production in New York for about two weeks. So there were a couple of times that we practised it and kind of got the look down pat for what works for this particular performer.

Star: As a makeup artist, have you ever had to do anything quite as intricate or complicated as this Shrek-ing process?

King: I’ve never done a makeup that’s this complicated.

Star: What was your reaction the first time you had the full makeup put on and you got to see what it looked like?

Poost: It was really amazing. It was something that I still enjoyed looking at for at least three or four months. And the process itself I’m still enjoying watching it happen. And I feel really lucky that I get to kind of see what I would look like as an ogre.

Shrek: The Musical runs at the Toronto Centre for the Arts until April 1. Go to dancaptickets.com for information.

Dazzling Moves From A Gutsy Choreographer

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

The Calm Before…
The Chimera Project
Choreography by Malgorzata Nowacka
At Enwave Theatre in Toronto on Monday

(Mar 21, 2012) TORONTO — At the beginning of Malgorzata Nowacka’s new dance, Brendan Wyatt comes out on
Description: WEB-calmbefore2_1387213cl-8_small stage and announces he’s looking for the exit. Apparently, he’s not up to another show. He disappears backstage and we hear him shouting for a light.

It’s the unsettling entry into
The Calm Before..., a raw depiction of a psychological meltdown – an emotional electrical storm – where Wyatt’s character is confronted with his worst fears, embodied by other dancers.

Nowacka has been known for her gut-punching choreography since she exploded onto the Toronto scene 12 years ago. In the intervening years, as artistic director of The Chimera Project, she has refined her treatment of themes that focus on the dark side of human nature, and added polish to her powerful physicality.

In her new work, she attempts to step up her game with a narrative framework, in which Wyatt’s character (the Protagonist), is harassed by the Shadow (Lee “Lethal” Pham) and confused by Guides (Tyler Gledhill, Jenny Lee, Anisa Tejpar and Nowacka).

This piece is extremely gymnastic – think horizontal airborne body rolls, dangerous ballet lifts. Her signature movement has always been powerful and athletic, with crisp limb outthrusts, forceful turns and jumps, and detailed gestural language. In this work she also integrates hip-hop moves into the action, a growing trend in Canadian choreography.

For example, Pham, a well-known b-boy, does execute showy hip-hop tricks, particularly floor work where the dancer twists and turns his body while balanced only on his hands. But in the main, the hip-hop elements are blended into the movement tapestry. The choreography works well with DJ Dave “Serious” Yan’s pulsing score, which runs the gamut from throbbing squeaks to nerve-wracking static. Lighting designer Sharon DiGenova compounds the tortured mood with harsh squares and circles of light that denote the labyrinth of the subconscious.

The end result may be a sombre, reflective work, but the dancers dazzle as the Protagonist negotiates his journey into his heart of darkness.

Nowacka’s props include oranges, perhaps a metaphor for forbidden fruit, but also a favourite of jugglers. They get thrown, rolled, carried and stacked. Collectively, they are a curveball with which Nowacka confounds the Protagonist – just another element that either tantalizes or infuriates him.

Throughout the work, dancer Lee appears carrying signs delineating scenes built around one of the Protagonist’s fears – Fear of Death, Being Touched, Ridicule and the like. Fear of Love is also there, twice.

Nowacka does not take the easy route of literal exploration. Rather, she presents choreographic musings that seem to play devil’s advocate. We may be watching Fear of Being Touched, but the dancers are in constant contact. It’s as if we’re seeing the Protagonist’s thwarted desires.

In The Calm Before… nothing is as it seems. Nowacka may be flirting with narrative, but it is never straightforward, and certainly, never calm. Even the title is a mystery, it seems.

The Calm Before… continues until March 25.

Raven Symone Goes to Broadway for ‘Sister Act’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(Mar 18, 2012) *Get ready for “Sister Act” on Broadway and the starDescription: raven_symone2012-headshot-med_small is Raven Symone.

This is a different side of acting for the 26-year-old. Coming from “The Cosby Show” as a little girl to starring in a self titled Disney show (“That’s So Raven”), Symone is all grown up and is taking her skills to the big stage.

She told the Associated Press recently that the work has been nothing short of hard, with rehearsals taking place all day, every day.

“I was definitely one of the audience members dancing in the aisles,” she says. “I think it’s a wonderfully scored and directed and written musical. I’m very excited to be part of this.”

She’ll take over the role of Deloris Van Cartier, formally was played by Patina Miller, who earned a Tony Award nomination.

This won’t be the first time Raven appears on Broadway. In her very early days, at the age of 5, she did a guest appearance with “The Boys Choir of Harlem.” But she considers this occasion her debut.

“I want to do stuff I haven’t done before. I did it at 5 but I don’t remember that, obviously. So I want to do it for real — a big, crowd-pleasing show as well as working with these great people.

“Sister Act,” at the Broadway Theatre, starring Raven Symone opens March 27.

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Canada Urged To Pull Up Its Socks In Internet Economy

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Tavia Grant

(Mar 19, 2012) Canadian businesses and governments are lagging several western nations in the "Internet economy" and are being warned that they risk falling even further behind unless they take immediate and more aggressive action.

The Internet contributed $49-billion to Canada's gross domestic product last year, representing 3 per cent of the country's economy, a report to be released Monday by the Boston Consulting Group estimates. It is projected to hit $76-billion by 2016, or 3.6 per cent of GDP.

Tracking the value of the Internet is tricky business. This study measures the Internet economy by adding online consumption, investment, government spending and net exports of all Internet-related goods and services. By current measures, if the Internet were a sector in Canada, it would be larger than agriculture, utilities or hospitality.

That may sound sizable, but it lags other countries. Canada's projected Internet economy growth rate of 7.4 per cent trails other developed nations in the G20 which are growing at an average of 8.1 per cent through 2016.

"Our data point to the fact that, across every sector, we could and should be doing more," said Tawfik Hammoud, partner and managing director in BCG's Toronto office.

While economic growth in most advanced nations is expected to be slow for years to come, the Internet economy represents is a bright spot that should be tapped. The Internet economy "offers one of the world's few unfettered growth stories," said Paul Zwillenberg, a BCG partner and co-author of the report. "Policy makers often cite GDP growth rates of around 10 per cent per year in the developing markets, but they look past similar rates close to home."

Across the G20, the value of the Internet economy will almost double to $4.2-trillion (U.S.) in the next four years, or 5.3 per cent of GDP, from $2.3-trillion or 4.1 per cent last year.

Canada now ranks in ninth place of G20 nations in terms of Internet contribution to GDP. By 2016, it is expected to slide to 12th place, overtaken by Mexico and Saudi Arabia.

Canada needs a "shot in the arm" if it is to catch up to other economies, such as Australia and South Korea, which are actively improving the reach and speed of the Internet.

"It will take a ramping up of efforts" on the part of both governments and businesses, particularly small and medium-sized firms, Mr. Hammoud said. Otherwise, "Canada runs the risk of falling further behind."

The study, commissioned by Google, is the latest in a series of BCG reports on the rise of the Internet and is the first to place a value on Canada's Internet economy.

New iPad Poses Threat To Xbox, PlayStation Game Consoles

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Liana B. Baker, Reuters

(Mar 12, 2012) Apple Inc.'s AAPL-Q faster and sharper-looking newDescription: games_JPG_1384047cl-8_small iPad is drawing the notice of the traditional video game industry, as developers are envisioning games for it that have more in common with the visceral 3D shooter Call of Duty than FarmVille.

The company is also setting itself up to take on Microsoft MSFT-Q and Sony on their home turf of game consoles.

From Electronic Arts to Crysis developers Crytek, industry executives are figuring out ways to migrate so-called hardcore graphics-intensive games to the iPad. Epic Games and Namco Bandai took the stage at Apple's iPad unveiling this week to show off what they can do with an iPad that has a faster quad core processor.

With more than 55 million iPads sold to date, including 15.43 million last quarter, the tablet is quickly catching up to the number of consoles on the market: the PlayStation 3 has sold 62 million units and Xbox 360 has moved more than 65 million units. That growing user base is drawing developers who want to see their games played on as many devices as possible.

“Apple is definitely building their devices as if they care a lot about 'triple-A' games,” said Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, the studio behind Gears of War for consoles and Infinity Blade for the iPad.

The “triple-A” moniker is bequeathed to only the highest-quality video games – those with the best graphics and that cost in the tens of millions of dollars to produce. So far, not many “triple-A” titles appear on mobile devices.

Mr. Capps, who has appeared on stage at all three of Apple's iPad launches, said he is trying to push the console manufacturers, Sony and Microsoft, to come out with more powerful devices so they do not get left behind. On Wednesday, he told the crowd in San Francisco the new iPad has better screen resolution and more memory than Microsoft's Xbox and Sony's PlayStation.

While gamers today might still prefer to play shooter games at home on big screen TVs with a handheld controller, that could soon change, Mr. Capps said, especially if a bluetooth controller is developed for the iPad.

“It is quite easy to imagine a world where an iPad is more powerful than a home console, where it wirelessly talks to your TV and wirelessly talks to your controller and becomes your new console,” Mr. Capps said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the industry is bracing for change. Frank Gibeau, president of Electronic Arts' EA-Q Labels, who oversees the company's biggest games such as Battlefield 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, said the company is eyeing Apple's moves closely.

“When the iPad gets to the processing power that's equal to an Xbox 360 and it connects to a television, that's no big deal to us. We'll put the game through the iPad and have it display through the television.” Mr. Gibeau said.

EA has already brought some games from its marquee franchises to the iPad: Dead Space and Mass Effect.

For publishers, “it used to be, oh hey, it's just the Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft show, but that's not the case anymore,” Mr. Gibeau said.

Germany's Crytek, which developed Crysis 2 for consoles and PCs, is working on its first game for the iPad, due out in the spring. While that game will be puzzle-based – minus the free-wheeling pyrotechnics – the company said it could one day bring that genre of hardcore games to the device.

“As more people come to these platforms, we have to follow our fans,” said Kristoffer Waardahl, a Crytek studio manager.

While speedier iPads will soon be getting into more gamers hands, Jeremy Parish, editor in chief of gaming blog 1UP.com, said it does not necessarily put pressure on console makers to come out with a new product any faster. The Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and the PlayStation 3 came out in 2006.

“For the console makers, it has got be a little bit of an embarrassment to say that this tablet has more power and better screen resolution. But at the same time, this will not be the motivating factor to get them to jump into a new generation of consoles,” Mr. Parish said.

Yet the industry is counting on a new wave of gaming hardware in the near future. Nintendo will release the Wii U, its first console with high-definition graphics, later this year.

For now, experts are divided as to whether the new iPad will make a dent on consoles but at least one investor said he does expect sales of rival gaming products to be hurt.

“While consoles won't cease to exist, it does create pressure on them by hurting their growth and taking away some of their customers,” said Michael Yoshikami, CEO of Destination Wealth Management.

Sony spokesman Dan Race said “the PlayStation 3 business is having its strongest year ever” and the “PlayStation $249 price point is resonating with gamers and families alike.”

Nintendo's U.S. executive vice president of sales and marketing, Scott Moffitt said “Regardless of the device, consumers have repeatedly demonstrated that they care more about the experience than the tech specs.”

Microsoft declined to comment.

Apart from the iPad, Apple's fledgling TV product is also being watched closely by video game companies. Hudson Square analyst Dan Ernst said he doubts the iPad will affect console sales, but said an Apple TV with an app store could one day pose a viable threat.

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Tenting in Asia’s Golden Triangle

Source: www.globeandmail.com - C. James Dale

(Mar 9, 2012) The closest I’ve come to playing polo is wearing the
Description: w-northern-thai_1382643cl-8_small shirts. Yet here I am in the middle of a scrubby patch of grass in northern Thailand, helmet on head, stick in hand, waiting for a chance to score.

Someone shoots the ball my way. I lean over, swing, and thwack! It rolls through a maze of mallets and animal legs and dribbles past the posts. One nil. The crowd goes … well, the crowd cheers politely. My teammates and I congratulate each other. Then I give credit where credit is due: to the roughly two-tonne elephant I’m sitting on and her mahout, or keeper.

Khob khun krub,” I say to Hum, thanking him in Thai before slapping Nam Phun’s rubber-thick skin. It’s unlikely she notices.

Elephant polo, which sounds like a bastard child of colonialism, is the last thing I imagined myself doing on this trip, or even in this life. My match on this hot day in February capped off a weekend of firsts that included bathing with these gentle giants, tearing around a Myanmarese border town in a tuk-tuk, and downing shots of cobra whisky from Laos. And to think things started out so simply.

Sawadee ka, welcome,” Kookkai and Beau say in unison when we arrive at the pier for the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle. My wife and I are a little groggy after the 12-hour journey from Tokyo, but excited to be in this storied part of the world, where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet, where farmers and various hill tribes once harvested the world’s largest supply of opium and heroin. The poppies are largely gone now, at least in Thai territory, replaced by tea and tobacco, coffee and pineapples.

We board a long-tail boat and speed down the cappuccino-coloured Ruak River, floating in a watery no man’s land that divides two countries, with the hills of a third in the distance. Rounding a bend, the first of the camp’s 15 tents appear up ahead, sitting serenely on a ridge and framed by bamboo. Once onshore, Kookkai leads us up a steep set of stairs

“We apologize there’s no gym,” she says over her shoulder. “We will keep you walking though.”

No joke. Over cool, lemon grass-infused drinks, the staff outline the packed itinerary: a day trip to markets and temples in northern Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos; a morning spent riding elephants; and an afternoon at the camp’s open-air spa to chase away aches and pains.

But first, sunset cocktails. After resting in our luxurious Asian-design-meets-African-safari tent – with its views of Myanmar’s southeastern flank – we head to the bar for a drink.

Spending time with elephants is the main reason people come to this secluded spot. Thais have relied on the animals for centuries to help them succeed at war and work, but a ban on logging in the late 1980s left thousands of mahouts without a way to feed their hungry charges. The Four Seasons and another hotel support the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, a conservation group that provides a living for mahouts who would otherwise take their animals to urban areas to beg or work in entertainment. Now, the foundation’s 30 elephants spend their days digesting thousands of pounds of sugar cane, bamboo and bananas and lumbering through the jungle with tourists on their backs.

Before we get up close and personal with the pachyderms (for polo and other pursuits), we decide to visit the neighbours. A cool morning finds us motoring along the Mekong River to the Thai town of Chiang Saen, where our guide, Somkid, takes us to the local market. Outside, vendors sell barbecued fish and deep-fried chicken heads. Inside, tables are loaded with everything from lettuce and tomatoes to fresh rice noodles and meat. A woman sits crouched in one corner selling live frogs, bound into bunches of 10 by a thin piece of bamboo that’s woven through their legs. Next to her, someone hawks ant eggs.

“What do you do with those,” I ask Somkid, gesturing to what looks like a pile of tapioca.

“Sometimes you make a sauce,” he replies. “Make it a bit spicy or sour or sweet, and just mix the eggs inside, uncooked.”

The lunch we eat on the drive to Myanmar seems tame in comparison – sandwiches and vegetable fried rice. Fresh from a blessing by a monk at the Wat Chedi Luang, a 14th-century Buddhist temple, we’ve crossed the border and are now silently cheering on our tuk-tuk driver as he wills his sputtering, three-wheeled contraption uphill to the Tachilek Shwedagon Pagoda.

“This is a replica of the golden pagoda in Yangon,” Somkid tells us as we walk sock-footed around the 32-metre structure, built for the faithful who are unable to make the 1,100-kilometre trip to the former capital. Rubber trees dot the surrounding slopes. On the streets below, people navigate a bustling market on the hunt for CDs, DVDs, clothing, bags, jewellery and much more, the vast majority of the products knock-offs from China.

“Even the liquor is fake,” Somkid warns us.

Happy as we were to have seen a snapshot of Myanmar, we were happier to get back to our tent in the jungle, where our days began at dawn watching a curtain of mist rise to reveal the Myanmarese countryside and listening to the free-jazz soundtrack of birds, bugs and snorting, trumpeting elephants. Most guests rely on superlatives and hyperbole to describe their time here: beautiful, gorgeous, once-in-a-lifetime. Our experience wasn’t any different. It was thrilling to amble through the forest atop the elephants, beings only God, nature or George Lucas could have created. They would stop every so often to snake their trunks up trees to snag succulent leaves or snap off a branch. “Pai, pai,” the mahouts would say, urging them forward.

So slow and languid are their movements that few guess that they can actually run, which is why I’m surprised to find myself atop one of them, charging down a field after a small, white ball. We arranged the pickup game the night before after a round of Laotian cobra whisky shots – the snake still in the bottle, a scorpion in its mouth. A team of pros, led by millionaire Texas oilman Ed Story, played the first match of the morning. Then I took to the field with a ragtag bunch of amateurs that included a business consultant from Mexico, a model from the Netherlands and a fashion photographer from London.

“I’m coming for you, Ed,” I shout toward the sidelines, seconds after I score. But the euphoria soon wears off. When the final whistle blows, my team loses 2-1. Still, after dismounting, I hint I’ll be back in March to take part in the tournament marking Thailand’s Elephant Day. Ed Story, a fierce competitor, dashes my dreams. “You did well,” he says in his southern drawl. “But you had the best elephant and the best mahout.”

I agree with him. How could I not – he sponsored the match. But between you and me, I’m confident I’ve uncovered a hidden talent, one that will surely spice up my résumé. At least around these parts.

If you go

Air Canada travellers must connect to Bangkok through Tokyo, Shanghai or Hong Kong. Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and AirAsia have daily flights from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. The drive to the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle takes about 90 minutes.

Where to stay

A two-night stay at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle (66-0-53 910-200)
!in March costs $6,000. The price includes accommodation for two, all meals and drinks, elephant training, a Golden Triangle excursion, one spa appointment per person, and round-trip transfer to Chiang Rai International airport.

The Four Seasons is also
!offering a summer deal (April 11 to Sept. 30). Stay three nights at the Tented Camp and receive a free, two-night stay at another Four Seasons property in Thailand (Chiang Mai, Koh Samui or Bangkok). Nightly rates start at $1,950.

Many Tented Camp guests start or end their visit to northern Thailand at the lush, Lanna-style Four Seasons Chiang Mai (66-0-53-298-181). Two nights in March costs $1,795, including breakfast.

What to do

Along with elephant trek-king, Tented Camp guests
!can visit indigenous people who live in the surrounding hills, including the Karens, whose women traditionally elongate their necks with brass rings. Trips to the !Hall of Opium museum can also be booked. In addition, the hotel arranges a three-country Golden Triangle excursion.

Elephant polo

The sport is played in Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India. For more information on the rules, regulations, and history, visit the World Elephant Polo Association. Thailand’s Elephant Day is on March 13. The country’s King’s Cup will take place from Sept. 12 to 16 in Hua Hin. The event has been running since 2001 and has raised $500,000 (U.S.) for elephant conservation.

Fiji’s Unassuming Side

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Barbara Ramsay Orr

(Mar. 7, 2012) The last thing I wanted to be was Florien’s lobster.

“There’s always one on every cruise,” the young officer warned us. “Last time, I thought we had gotten through the
Description: fiji22tr2_jpg_1382590cl-8_small cruise without one, but at the final dinner, there she was. The lobster.”

“Singa na lenga,” as the Fijian’s say – no problem. Even though the Fijian sun is strong, I managed to avoid the lobster sobriquet. (A German woman claimed it.) I was nicely brown except for one stripe on my back that I missed with the sunscreen, but the sun found while I was snorkelling. Luckily it was easy to cover up, because on a ship this small, it’s difficult to hide.

The Reef Endeavor carries a maximum of 168 passengers in 75 cabins. It is one of the ships in the
Captain Cook Cruise Line that takes its passengers on a journey through the remote islands of Fiji, showing them what life is like, introducing them to local culture and ecosystems.

The Endeavor left the port of Lautoka, bypassing the Mamanuca Islands. Those are the ones that come to mind when most people think of Fiji: It’s there you’ll find the island of Monu-riki, where Tom Hanks filmed Cast Away. Mel Gibson hides away on his own Mago Island, Pink and Paris Hilton holiday on private isles, and several islands are home to five-star resorts. I had already spent four days in one of the most elegant resorts in the South Pacific, Likuliku Lagoon on Malolo Island, complete with WiFi, French champagne and award-winning dining.

That’s one Fiji, but it’s not the full story. The Fiji that the Endeavor explores is not to be found in these movie-star escapes.

Our destination was the Yasawa Islands, farther out and north of the Mamanucas. The Yasawas are in postcard-pretty territory, but there are no postcards here. These are islands touched only lightly by tourism, where the other ships you encounter are small fishing boats, where the locals live much as they have for generations. They invite you to share their customs – but to tread lightly on their islands.

Bula, they say, welcome, but respect our ways.

One of our first stops was an uninhabited island with a reef and a wide natural beach, small enough to circumnavigate in 20 minutes. Except for a few casual buildings for visitors, there’s nothing here but nature. And you can visit only with permission – this is a sacred island, belonging to the Fijian chiefs with whom the cruise line has an agreement. We spent a few hours here, snorkelling, swimming and sunbathing, then returned to the ship for a chilly Fiji Gold, the local beer, and appetizers by the pool before dinner.

In the following days, we visited different islands in the Yasawa Island chain. At Oyster Bay, we snorkelled through crystal water, overwhelmed by the colours of coral and the exotic fish. We lingered on a beach bordered by jungle and flowers, under that huge Fijian sky that is a photographer’s dream. There were crested Fijian iguanas, blue herons and red-breasted musk parrots to be seen by the eagle-eyed.

One afternoon, we visited Namara Village School on Waya Sewa Island. Earlier, we had taken up a collection to donate to the school. The children sang traditional songs, performed ceremonial dances and generally charmed us. I gave away pens and pencils, and found it sobering to realize that something as simple as a pen is a special gift.

At a handicraft market on the island, there were many examples of Fijian artistry. I bought shell bracelets and a piece of handmade paper incised with the intricate traditional Fijian designs. (It’s now framed and hanging over my desk.) The Fijians are seemingly natural artists, preserving ancient designs and motifs on paper, carvings and textiles.

One evening after dinner, we boated over to Yalobi Village to take part in a church service. In this simple Methodist church, the whole island came together to give thanks. The pastor gave a rather long-winded sermon, but it was satisfying just to sit with the villagers and share their worship with the evening sun coming through the window.

On another evening, we were welcomed on Waya Island with the traditional Kava ceremony. Kava, made from pounded roots, is mildly tranquillizing drink used in welcome ceremonies and to mark important events. There is a definite protocol to drinking kava –clap your hands once, take the cup and drink in a single draft before returning the cup. It has a bitter taste and leaves the tongue feeling a bit numb, but the tranquillizing effects are negligible, at least in this tourist version. The evening continued with a lovo feast, for which pork, chicken, beef, fish and vegetables wrapped in banana leaves are cooked on heated stones in an underground pit oven. Afterward, we sat with the villagers in the moonlight and enjoyed a meke – a celebration of traditional dancing and song.

In the middle of this remote part of the world, it’s a pleasure at the end of the day to return to the Reef Endeavor’s comforts. Cabins are compact but not crowded. There’s a small spa, the dining room is spacious and the food– bursting with such local ingredients as mahi-mahi, kiwis, jackfruit, coconut, papaya and even duruka (an asparagus-like vegetable that is available only during April and May and is a Fijian favourite) –is surprisingly elegant.

When we left the ship in Port Denarau on the big island of Viti Levu, staff gathered to sing Isa Lei, a lovely song of farewell. Fijians greet you with song and say goodbye the same way. It seemed that every Fijian I met could sing or play an instrument and music is central to their lives. For the insight into real Fijian culture, for the crested iguanas and herons and tropical fish, I told them Vinaka vaka-levu – thank you very much, Fiji.

Special to The Globe and Mail

::SPORTS NEWS::

UFC Confirms July Date For Calgary Show

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Mar. 21, 2012) CALGARY—The UFC will visit Calgary for the first time on July 21, with shows in Toronto andDescription: aldo_1387172cl-8_small Montreal planned for later this year.

UFC 149, slated for the Scotiabank Saddledome, will mark the MMA organization's ninth show in Canada and its first in Alberta. More than 200,000 fans attended the first eight with more than $40-million in gate receipts.

Featherweight champion Jose Aldo will defend his 145-pound title in Calgary. UFC president Dana White said it was too early to say who his opponent will be but promised it would be a “sick card.”

White also used his Calgary news conference to announce two other pay-per-view events in Canada in 2012: UFC 152 in Toronto on Sept. 22 and UFC 154 in Montreal at the Bell Centre on Nov. 17.

“You guys are the best fans in the world ... This place has been the mecca for mixed martial arts ever since we set foot in this country,” said White.

The Toronto show — which featherweight Mark (The Machine) Hominick announced via satellite from Toronto — will be either at the Air Canada Centre or Rogers Centre.

Welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, shown from Los Angeles where he is rehabbing his knee, made the Montreal announcement on satellite.

St-Pierre, a Montreal native, said he will be able to resume full training in July and hoped he would be ready for November. When healthy, he is due to meet interim champion Carlos Condit next.

“When you get an injury like I had and you're off for a long period of time, the only thing you wish is to come back as fast as possible,” St-Pierre said. “I don't know whether it will be in the U.S. or Canada but I wish and I'm praying that I have a chance to perform in 2012, no matter where it will be.”

It will be the UFC's fifth trip to Montreal and third to Toronto. It has also held two shows in Vancouver but the city has dropped down the pecking order recently due to a disagreement over financial arrangements, including insurance.

“Not in the next two years,” White said when asked if a show was planned for Vancouver.

The UFC is also committing to three pay-per-view shows in Canada in 2013 and 2014, with Toronto and Montreal becoming fixtures on the fight calendar just as Super Bowl weekend, Memorial Day, July 4 and New Year's host annual fight cards in Las Vegas.

“Toronto and Montreal will become staple events on our calendar in 2013 and 2014. And that third Canadian event will rotate among other major Canadian markets,” said Tom Wright, the UFC's director of Canadian operations.

Wright says the plan is to hold a show annually the third week in September in Toronto in 2013 and 2014. The Montreal date will likely be the third Saturday in March — UFC 145 was slated for March 24 this year but was later postponed and moved to Atlanta due to issues with organizing a main event.

The third Canadian date would be in the summer, rotated through different cities with Wright saying Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Quebec City, Vancouver and Winnipeg are among possible venues.

But White included Calgary as part of the annual Canadian circuit for the next two years.

Wright said there were plans to meet with Vancouver city council to see if a way can be paved for future shows.

The UFC set attendance records in both Montreal and Toronto.

Alberta has proved to be an MMA-fertile market with Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald, Nick (The Promise) Ring, Nick (The Quiet Assassin) Penner, Ryan (Big Deal) Jimmo and Mitch Clarke among current UFC fighters based there.

Alberta's Tim (The Thrashing Machine) Hague and Victor Valimaki have also fought in the UFC.

Alberta is also home to several MMA promotions including Edmonton-based Maximum Fighting Championship, Canada's largest, and Aggression MMA.

The July show comes the week after the 100th Calgary Stampede.

“We think this city's going to be alive, it' going to be exciting,” said Wright. “We think if there's a city that we haven't been to in Canada ... Calgary's a fantastic place to bring the UFC.”

Said Red Deer's MacDonald: “It's a dream come true for me.”

He added the Calgary show, if he's on it, would serve as his retirement fight

The WEC, which the UFC has since folded into its parent organization, held an event in June 2010 in Edmonton.

The UFC does not typically announce fights so far into the future but Wright said early word can only help fans.

“It's all about providing visibility to these key dates on our Canadian calendar for our fans,” he said. “You know how our fans travel, particularly across Canada, to all these different events.

“Having consistency of dates and calendars, people want to be able to plan.”

The Calgary show will be overseen by the Calgary Combative Sports Commission.

Wright said tickets will go on sale for the Calgary show in the second week of May, with an announcement on exactly when set for next month.

Canada Rebounds After Giving Up Five-Point End To Beat Czechs

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(Mar 19, 2012) LETHBRIDGE, ALTA.— Heather Nedohin likes to let the horses run, while her third Beth Iskiw wants to pull on the reins.

It’s a relationship that seems to work for Canada’s back end at the
Ford World Women’s Curling Championship. Nedohin’s rink remained unbeaten with an 8-7 win over the Czech Republic on Monday.

“The difference between Beth and I is that I’m aggressive and she’s conservative, so we do have to meet in the middle and come to an agreement,” Nedohin said.

“We bicker like old Bettys. I call her my Betty and I’m Dorothy to her. We laugh like we’re two old women trying to beat each other in a game of chess. I know it’s different than what other back enders do. Other thirds may play more the role of puppet, say ‘yes’ and agree.

“I like that she has the confidence to give me a different point of view, yet at the same time trust that I’ll make the final decision and then we’re all-in to make that shot.”

There was little debate between Nedohin and Iskiw on what Canada’s approach had to be Monday afternoon when Czech skip Linda Klimova scored five points in the second end to lead 5-0.

The Canadians had no choice but to take risks to get back in the game. They went to work scoring eight points, six of them stolen, over the next six ends.

At 4-0, Nedohin’s Edmonton foursome was the only unbeaten team left in the field with a game at night versus Denmark.

“I look at the way we’ve started the last few games and we’ve been slow out of the gate,” Nedohin observed, pointing to second ends in particular. “I think we had to get mean out there. I say mean, but it’s not mad at each other.

“It’s always tough to defend a lead. We put up junk to go at it. We pushed on her to make big shots. Those are tough to make sometimes.”

South Korea’s Sun-Ji Kim and Sweden’s Margaretha Sigfriddson were tied for second at 4-1.

Kim is the early surprise at this world championship. Her team went 2-9 in last year’s world championship. With Pyeongchang winning the bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics, expect South Korea to make strides in all winter sports, including curling.

Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott, Germany’s Melanie Robillard, Scotland’s Eve Muirhead and Denmark’s Lene Nielson were all 2-2. Italy’s Diana Gaspari and the Czechs were 2-3.

China’s Bingyu Wang and Russia’s Anna Sidorova were both 1-3. Even though the U.S. had the highest shooting percentage of all teams after seven draws at 86, Allison Pottinger was still looking for her first win after four losses.

The top four teams at the conclusion of the round robin Thursday advance to playoffs.

Curling fans re-discovered at this year’s national women’s championship how entertaining Nedohin, 36, can be with her dramatic body language and facial expressions. As it often happens, Nedohin’s voice was rasping Monday on just the third day of competition.

The occasional butting of heads between Nedohin and Iskiw over strategy also drew attention at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

“In the past, we’ve had some pretty good arguments out there about different strategy calls and we definitely laugh about it afterwards,” Iskiw said.

“We room together too and sometimes we’ve come back to the room too and said, ‘This is what I was thinking,’ and we’re across the hotel room saying ‘What are we going to do next time?’ “I used to believe it wasn’t good for a skip and a third to room together, but for us it works because we get that out a little bit if we need to discuss things.”

Iskiw, 32, knows Nedohin has the final say. She chooses her time to make a stand carefully.

“Everybody is talking about how she’s emotional and I can feel that as well, when I can’t press the limits with her,” Iskiw said. “You can tell by her body language and the way she’s talking, I will step back.

“She knows unless I really believe something, I’m not going to be that strong. Unless I absolutely disagree with something, I won’t be that strong. If I’m disagreeing, I’m really believing a certain way.”

The Czech Republic is relatively new to international women’s curling. The country, which has 2,500 curlers out of four facilities, made its world championship debut in 2007.

Klimova, 23, is skipping her country for the first time at a world championship. After taking the big lead early, Klimova was unable to defend it.

“We were quite excited about the five ender and then they played really well,” the Czech skip said. “We were quite afraid I think.”

Klimova felt she spent too much time chasing Canadian stones around centre guards, instead of setting up corner guards and making Nedohin follow her.

The turning point was a steal of three by Canada in the fourth end to tie the game 5-5. With five Canadian rocks and a couple of Czech stones clustered around the four-foot-rings, Klimova’s final draw was slightly heavy. A measurement on third stones confirmed the steal of a third point Canada.

Raptors Welcome Back Calderon, Bargnani

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Robert Macleod

(Mar 19, 2012) It is a combination not often seen this season, but one that can only boost any flagging optimism among Toronto Raptors fans.

Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani.

The pairing doesn't carry the same fear factor as Stockton-Malone or some of the other dynamic duos of days gone by, at least, not yet.

But to Raptors supporters, Calderon and Bargnani in the starting lineup increases the chances for a victory. For an NBA team that has won just 15 times in 45 outings this year, that is cause for optimism.

The Raptors hope their injuries are healed and that on Tuesday night in New York against the Knicks, they'll be ready to start together again for what would be just the 15th time this season.

Calderon, who has missed five games with a sprained right ankle, worked hard in practice on Monday for the first time since the injury, and afterward said he felt fine. You never know how the ankle might feel after a night's rest, the Raptors' point guard cautioned.

But the Spaniard and his coach, Dwane Casey, gave the impression that, barring any setbacks, Calderon would be in the starting lineup when the Raptors get down to business against the Knicks and Jeremy Lin at Madison Square Garden.

Bargnani has played only 19 of Toronto's first 45 games after suffering a calf strain. When he finally returned to the lineup on March 10 against the Detroit Pistons, Calderon sprained his ankle and hasn't been able to play since.

"It's going to be fun," Calderon said about the prospect of resuming his partnership with the seven-foot Bargnani in the starting lineup. "I always like to play with him. It gives us a totally different look. It makes it easier for everybody."

It also improves Toronto's chances of winning. In games this season where both players didn't start, Toronto has a record of 9-22, a .290 percentage. In the 14 games in which they've both started, the Raptors are 6-8, a .428 success rate.

Calderon's anticipated return will mean that Jerryd Bayless, who started five games at point guard in Calderon's absence, will return to his bench role. Bayless performed admirably during Calderon's absence, averaging 21.8 points and 7.6 assists while connecting on 54.3 per cent of his shots. That includes a blistering 57.1 per cent (12 of 21) from beyond the three-point arc.

Despite those totals, Bayless said he knows his place is coming off the bench once Calderon returns.

"Jose's here, he's the starter," Bayless said.

Tuesday's game begins another tough stretch of four games in five nights for the Raptors, who return home following the New York game to battle the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday at the Air Canada Centre. The game is billed as Canadian Forces appreciation night, and to help commemorate the event, the Raptors will unveil their first camouflage-style uniforms. More than 300 members of the Canadian military are expected to be on hand for the game.

"Different," said Calderon, who modelled the new uniform - complete with camouflage-themed sneakers - following Monday's practice.

"You don't get to play with this camouflage theme, but it looks nice. I think it's a good idea, something different. I like it and hopefully it'll be good luck for us, too."

Peyton Manning Picks Broncos, Leaves Tebow In Limbo

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By Arnie Stapleton, The Associated Press


(Mar 19, 2012) The Denver Broncos got their Man. Make that
PeytonDescription: tebow-WEB_1386520cl-8_small Manning.

Pending final contract negotiations, Manning will join John Elway's Broncos with hopes of winning another Super Bowl.

So much for Tebowmania.

Still to be decided is what happens to last season's quarterback sensation, Tim Tebow.

The Broncos and Manning agent Tom Condon spent Monday working out parameters of a deal expected to be worth about $95-million (U.S.) over five years after the NFL's only four-time MVP called Elway, the Broncos' revered QB-turned-executive, and told him he had decided to come to Denver.

Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams also said Manning let him know that he had picked the Broncos. Adams released a statement Monday confirming the Titans were out of the running and later said to The Tennessean: "He called me himself and told me he wasn't coming, that he made his mind up to go with Denver."

Besides the Titans, the San Francisco 49ers had been a finalist in the chase for Manning, who turns 36 on Saturday and missed all of 2011 because of multiple neck surgeries.

ESPN first reported the record-setting quarterback instructed his agent to negotiate the details of a deal with the Broncos, less than two weeks after the Indianapolis Colts released him rather than pay a $28 million bonus.

"I think it's a great place for him," Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers said outside the Broncos' complex. "I don't think he made a bad decision. I think he made a great decision. Hopefully we can prove him right and hopefully we can win a lot of games here."

Despite being sidelined all of last season, Manning's success in the past - the Colts averaged a 12-4 record from 2001-10 - made him by far this off-season's top potential signing and perhaps the most desired free agent ever.

He was wooed to Denver by Hall of Fame quarterback Elway, who led the Broncos to two Super Bowl championships and now serves as their vice-president of football operations.

Elway, who retired from the game after winning his second straight title in 1999, never sounded all that convinced Tebow was the answer at the sport's most important position and now could trade the enormously popular but flawed QB.

Tebow energized the Broncos in leading them to the playoffs last season - and has fans all over the country - but his play was erratic.

"I wouldn't say I feel bad for him," Ayers said. "It's a business. And I'm pretty sure Tim understands that. ... We wish him luck, no matter what he does. I hope he's here. He's a great leader, a great locker room guy."

Manning was cut loose March 7 by the Colts. The move marked the end of an era, a 14-year alliance between the team that drafted Manning No. 1 overall and the QB who brought Indianapolis from football irrelevance to the 2007 Super Bowl title and a second appearance in the NFL championship game three years later.

But with Manning's rehab continuing, the Colts decided it was time to rebuild from top to bottom, and they are expected to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the top pick in April's draft.

Two days after standing alongside Colts owner Jim Irsay at an emotional farewell news conference, Manning began his free agency tour in the place it was ending: Denver. Manning landed on Tebow's turf with all the trappings of star treatment - flown to town on a chartered plane, then spending the day with Elway, coach John Fox and general manager Brian Xanders.

From there, Manning crisscrossed the country in search of a new team, as various clubs courted a guy with more than 50,000 yards passing, nearly 400 touchdowns and 11 Pro Bowl selections. After Denver, next up was a meeting with the Arizona Cardinals, and he also spent time speaking with - or throwing for - the Titans, 49ers and Miami Dolphins, with TV cameras and even helicopters often on the trail.

In the end, though, Manning decided he wanted to trade in his Colts horseshoe helmet for one adorned by a Bronco. The move would allow him to stay in the AFC, a conference he knows well and one considered weaker than the NFC at the moment, and would re-establish the tantalizing prospect of playing against his brother, New York Giants quarterback Eli, in a Super Bowl. They already have three titles in the family.

Manning-to-Denver also creates a fascinating dynamic with Tebow, only months after the former Heisman Trophy winner was the focus of the NFL regular season and perhaps the most talked-about athlete in sports, a polarizing figure both because of his style of play - as far as possible from a classic, dropback passer - and his outspoken religious beliefs.

After taking over a struggling team, Tebow led the Broncos to comeback victory after comeback victory, struggling for three quarters before starring in the fourth quarter and overtime. With an offence transformed into a spread option attack built on Tebow's running, and a strong defence that kept games close, the Broncos won the AFC West title.

Tebowmania reached its apex in the playoffs, when he threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas on the very first play of overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. The next week, though, Tebow was smothered by the New England Patriots, who easily eliminated the Broncos 45-10.

A little more than two months later, Tebow could be on the trading block.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper chimed in, saying he hoped Tebow wasn't going anywhere.

"He's a young man, right? And a year or two of working under John Elway and Peyton Manning, you know, I'm not sure any other quarterbacks around the country get that opportunity," Hickenlooper said.

Tebow isn't the only domino that could fall now that the off-season's biggest free agency question is seemingly settled.

San Francisco could decide to keep its own free-agent QB, Alex Smith, who went to Miami for a visit with the Dolphins after the 49ers' flirtation with Manning became public. If Smith does go back to the Niners, perhaps Miami will look to trade for Tebow, who played in college at Florida. The Titans, meanwhile, probably will stick with grooming Jake Locker, who was a first-round draft pick a year ago.

Denver, meanwhile, could try to give Manning some new targets, because they still have millions of dollars in salary-cap space available. The Broncos did not exactly have a wealth of wideouts last season, other than Thomas, and they lost Eddie Royal to the San Diego Chargers as a free agent.

Eric Decker struggled to catch Tebow's erratic passes, and was plagued with drops, but would seem a perfect fit for Manning's precise passing game.

Ayers said he hoped the Broncos would be able to persuade other free agents to join the Broncos, such as Manning's former Colts teammates Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark.

Running back Willis McGahee tweeted: "To all my free agents across the nfl, I think u know what time it is."

Former teammates of Elway's were just as excited, with Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe tweeting: "I think [at]Terrell-Davis and I should round up the old gang and make a comeback."

"I got my cleats," Davis fired right back, "I'll meet u [at] Dove Valley!"

Hines Ward Announces Retirement

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Will Graves, The Associated Press

(Mar 20, 2012) PITTSBURGHHines Ward believes he can still playDescription: ward_1386696cl-8_small football. The longtime Pittsburgh wide receiver known for his high-wattage smile and his bone-crunching blocks just couldn't stomach the thought of doing it in some strange uniform on some strange field with nary a Terrible Towel in sight.

“I just wouldn't feel right,” Ward said.

So rather than play for a 15th season — and his first outside the Steel City — a tearful Ward opted to retire on Tuesday and secure a legacy unmatched in the franchise's long history.

“I can say I'm a Steeler for life and that's the bottom line, that's all I've really ever wanted,” Ward said.

Ward holds every significant franchise receiving record, including receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. His 1,000 career catches rank eighth all time and he is one of two players with at least 1,000 receptions and two Super Bowl rings.

The decision comes three weeks after the 36-year-old was released by the Steelers in a salary cap manoeuvre. Ward says he was contacted by several clubs but never had any formal discussions. He insists there are no hard feelings for his release, understanding that football is a business. As if to prove the point, Ward embraced Steelers owner Art Rooney II after stepping away from the podium following the announcement.

“Thank you (Mr. Rooney) for giving a small town boy from Forest Park, Ga., a chance,” Ward said.

The former third-round pick out of Georgia was due to make $4-million next season, an expensive option for a player whose role diminished significantly in 2011 when he finished with 46 receptions, the fewest since his rookie season in 1998. He embraced his role as mentor to Pro Bowlers Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown even though he knew they were chewing into his playing time.

“I know the wideouts are going to be in great hands,” he said. “They're full of talent.”

And they're part of an offence that didn't exist when Ward made his debut 14 years ago. He spent most of his first three seasons blocking for running back Jerome Bettis, something he did better than any receiver in the league.

Over time, the Steelers evolved from the grind-it-out attack that has been the club's identity for decades. Ward's breakout season came in 2001 when he set a franchise record with 94 receptions then obliterated that mark in 2002 when he finished with 112 catches.

He made four straight Pro Bowls from 2001-2004 and seemed to get better as he aged. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2006 Super Bowl after catching five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh's 21-10 victory over Seattle, the franchise's first championship in 26 years. The Steelers added a second title in 2009 to give them six, more than any other team in the league.

Ward hoped to get the Steelers their seventh Lombardi Trophy but didn't catch a pass in a 29-23 overtime loss to Denver in the wild card round of last year's playoffs. Only one pass came his way, a dart down the sideline by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during Pittsburgh's final drive in regulation. Denver cornerback Champ Bailey swatted the ball to the ground and Ward walked off the field and into the unknown.

The former “Dancing With the Stars” champion could have a lucrative post-season career in front of a camera — he worked the red carpet during the Oscars — but he maintained after his release he could still contribute. He still does.

“I feel like I have a few more good years in me left, Ward said. ”I would love nothing more to get back to the Super Bowl.“

He wasn't willing to do it, however, outside Pittsburgh.

“I want to go down as one of the greats to wear the black-and-gold and that's how it should end,” Ward said.

Ward laughed when asked if he could go into coaching one day, taking a jab at coach Mike Tomlin, who isn't sure how Ward's passion would play in the locker room. One of the most respected players in the league because of his contributions on and off the field, Ward leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.

“On behalf of the NFL players, I want congratulate Hines on an extraordinary career,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said. “I know he will continue to be a leader and example to our men.”

Ward's already started by urging Wallace to do what he can to remain with the Steelers.

“I told Mike you may get a chance to go other places but there's not another place like Pittsburgh,” Ward said.

Certainly not for Ward. His No. 86 jersey has long been one of the team's top sellers, and his blue-collar attitude rang true to a fan base where hard work is a way of life. Ward understands the unique relationship the Steelers have with the city and to tarnish it by making a last-gasp attempt to pad his career stats didn't interest him.

“I want my legacy here to say, you know what he was one hell of a football player who gave it his all,” Ward said. “I'm truly blessed. I played in three Super Bowls, won two Super Bowls, was Super Bowl MVP ... what more could a player want out of his entire football career?”