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LE NEWSLETTER

May 31, 2012

Is it already June? Does that really mean that summer is almost here? Can I stop crossing my fingers with the anticipation? I think so ...

I've got an exciting new event for you to mark on your live music calendars!
John Campbell has scheduled a CD release concert with some of your favourite soul tunes on June 13th! Get on the soul train now and plan a night out with John at the Lula Lounge (come a little early and have dinner too!). See HOT EVENTS.

Also more concert news in that
Lalah Hathaway is coming to Toronto on June 10th at the Courthouse! Exciting news for all music lovers - don't wait to get your tickets because this hot concert is at one of the most majestic venues in Toronto. AND if you would like to win tickets, please send your name and full mailing address HERE and answer the question: who is also performing the same night? See answer under HOT EVENTS.

Don't forget to check out the tags that have
VIDEO on them so you can watch music videos and/or film trailers!

In this weeks news: Kenny Moran scores with J-Lo hit, Goin' In; highlights from this week's Stylus Awards; as mentioned last week, D'Angelo lights up the stage again and with a new CD; Canadian Ryder Hesjedal wins one of cycling's major races for the first time; Ragtime featuring my friend thespian Thom Allison wows audience; and much more. Check it all 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!

::HOT EVENTS::

JUNE 10:: Lalah Hathaway In Concert

Her name is legendary.
Her music is timeless.

Her lyrics touch you at the core.
Her voice possesses rich warmth that soothes your ears and holds you close.

She is
Lalah Hathaway. And she's coming to Toronto! Her tour has received rave reviews globally so don't miss your chance to get on board this soul train on Sunday, June 10th at the Courthouse (details below).

The daughter of the great Donny Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway made a good impression with her debut recording Lalah Hathaway in 1990. She not only displayed poise, confidence, and good technique, but was also versatile enough to do more than just light urban contemporary ballads. Her stage shows included jazz, pre-rock pop, and even gospel, and Hathaway later appeared on Black Entertainment Television doing jazz and fusion.

A trained pianist and vocalist, she is a graduate of the
Berklee School of Music and her career has spanned two decades. 21 years after the release of her first LP, her career continues to thrive. Lalah kept, and continues to keep busy by recording and touring with several acts including George Benson, Take 6, Marcus Miller, Rahsaan Patterson, Mary J. Blige, The Winans, Gerald Albright, David Sanborn, Carl Thomas, Angie Stone, Robert Glasper, Donald Lawrence, Eric Roberson, Grover Washington, Esperanza Spalding, and just recently, Prince.

In 2008, Lalah released her 4th solo album Self Portrait on the renowned Stax label, which debuted in the Top 10 on Billboard’s R&B charts, and to date is her most successful CD. Opening with lead single “Let Go,” the 12-track set is best described as a journey from heartache and pain to awakening and renewal. Self Portrait garnered Lalah her first
Grammy Award nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance with mid-tempo slow jam “That Was Then.”

Lalah understands who she is as an artist and continues to remain consistently true to her vision in song and lyric. Lalah looks to the future of music by embracing the zeitgeist of her present. "My hope is to continue to make timeless art for people…in a way I feel like my dad came here in part so that I could get here- and I am here so that he can stay here. I was born for this."

Danny Marks

Danny Marks is the current holder of the Toronto Blues Society's Blues with a Feeling Award for lifetime achievement in music and broadcast. This iconic rocker's roots go back to the sixties as a founding member of Capitol Records' group, Edward Bear. After a span as a journey man session musician throughout the seventies, Danny settled in to the club scene, establishing a cult following as a genre bender in music and humor.

A house band gig at Toronto's famed Albert's Hall led him to host his own nation-wide TV show, Stormy Monday. Through the eighties, Danny starred in CBC radio's hit series the Hum Line. Most recently, Danny Marks recorded two original music albums, Guitarchaeology and True, before paying tribute to Toronto's R&B roots with Big Town Boy in 2005. Danny's in his fifth year as the radio host of JAZZ.FM91's Saturday night blues show, bluz.fm.

 

JUNE 13:: John Campbell ‘Soul Impressions’ CD Release Concert

Adult contemporary soul singer/pianist
John Campbell releases his sophomore album "Soul Impressions" showcasing soul/jazz versions of covers from Phil Collins to Lady Gaga, from Pink Floyd to Bob Marley. With a voice like Seal and a delivery like Luther Vandross this album is already receiving rave reviews and the show is not to be missed.

Fall in love with new and timeless classics all over again with his unique and sophisticated arrangements of
Pink Floyd’s, Wish You Were Here, Lady Gaga’s, Bad Romance, In the Air Tonight, Superstition and many more. Joined by German-born, New York–based Anne L. (bass) and premier Toronto drummer Vito Rezza, audiences will experience soulful musical enchantment. Performing songs from his new CD Soul Impressions, John and his gifted trio will take you on a musical journey you won’t soon forget!

John says, “
I’m excited to announce the release of my latest CD “Soul Impressions”. It has been a long time coming and I’m thrilled to share it. I thought I would share with you my take on a few the hit tunes that have moved me and others. Songs that over the years of performing live have made “soul impressions” on me and those I’ve had the privilege to perform for. It was a joy to make, and now a joy to share. Much love.”

John Campbell has been working his magic for Toronto audiences for over a decade at the city’s premier entertainment venues. Putting his own spin on everyone’s favourite songs, fans have compared his rich baritone voice to those of Seal, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross and Donny Hathaway and his piano skills to those of Ray Charles.

"It sounds amazing John!!! Wow! I just love it. Your voice is just stellar....great great job!!"
-Jann Arden, singer/songwriter

To LISTEN to some of John's music click HERE.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13
JOHN CAMPBELL ‘SOUL IMPRESSIONS’ CD RELEASE CONCERT
LULA LOUNGE
1585 Dundas Street West
Toronto ON, M6J 1T9
Door time: 7:00 pm
Show time: 8:00 pm
Admission: $20 at the door $25 with the CD
Click here to buy advance tickets
Green P Parking
www.lulalounge.ca
For more information visit: www.johncampbellmusic.ca

::TOP NEWS::

VIDEO: Jennifer Lopez Performs "Goin' In" in the American Idol Finale

Source: Dawn Langfield and Kenny Moran


Many of you saw J-Lo’s performance on the American Idol season finale last week. What you may NOT know is that the song is brimming with
Canadian content. Toronto’s Kenny Moran of NuVintage Music (now relocated to LA) was the Mix Engineer on the track ‘Goin’ In’ featuring Flo Rida! The track is the feature release for the upcoming movie Step Up Revolution (trailer below). Step Up Revolution is next installment in the Step Up franchise, which is set against the dance culture in Miami.

As I mentioned, in the Idol finale on May 23, J-Lo performed "Goin' On” which I’m sure will be heavily mixed into the rotation at dance clubs
around the globe. She sang mostly live (with some lip syncing) for the Idol performance while the audience went into a frenzy.

Congratulations Kenny!

Stylus Awards Honour The Weeknd And More

Source:
www.thestar.com

(May 29, 2012) Lissa Monet took home the local honours as Toronto DJ of the Year and Montreal's Keith Dean
took the prize for Fan Choice Club DJ of the Year on Monday night at the Stylus Awards, devoted to selecting the best in DJ and club culture in Canada.

The Weeknd took three awards — Fan Choice Artist of the Year, R&B Single of the Year for “High for This” and Artist Mixtape of the Year for House of Balloons — in total at the event (marking its seventh year) at the Danforth Music Hall.

Among the other winners: Drake's “The Motto” (featuring Tyga and Lil Wayne) as Hip Hop Single of the Year; “Hello” by Martin Solveig feat. Dragonette as Dance/Pop Single of the Year; Noah “40” Shebib, T-Minus and Nikhil Seetharam as Producer of the Year for “I'm On One” by DJ Khaled feat. Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne.

See
stylusgroup.ca for a full list of winners.

Amen! (D'Angelo's Back)

Source: www.gq.com - By Amy Wallace, Photograph by Gregory Harris

(June 2012 issue) He was once hailed as the next Marvin Gaye. Then, after his ripped body threatened to overshadow his music, he vanished into addiction. So what the hell was he doing recently singing his heart out in a Pentecostal church in Stockholm? And how are his abs? Amy Wallace witnessed D'Angelo's ecstatic return to the stage—and hung out with the master of the sacred and the profane as he finishes his first album in a dozen years.

The massive weight gain didn't make Michael "D'Angelo" Archer see the darkness that was looming. Neither did the hermit-like isolation, the shattered friendships, the years wasted without a new record in sight, or even the car accident that nearly killed him. By the time he careened off a lonely stretch of road near Richmond, Virginia, in September 2005, hitting a fence and rolling his Hummer three times, he'd already failed two stints in rehab—including one where his counselor was Bob Forrest, the guy on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Bob had been cool, D'Angelo says, but his message of sobriety didn't take. "I went in under a fake name so people wouldn't know who I was, right?" D'Angelo tells me, in his first sit-down interview in twelve years. "So, you know, Michael never got treatment. It was this other character that was in there. And the moment I left, I went straight to the fucking liquor store."

Which helps explain why, months later, high on cocaine and drunk off his ass, D'Angelo found himself ejected from his car on that balmy Virginia night, hurtling through the pitch-blackness, flying. When he hit the ground, he broke all the ribs on his left side—and dealt another blow to his foundering career. Once he'd been the heir apparent to the giants of soul: Marvin, Stevie, Prince. (The rock critic Robert Christgau was so transported by D'Angelo's live show that he called him R&B Jesus.) But shortly after the wreck, discussions ended with several top music executives, including Clive Davis at J Records, who'd been considering signing him to a $3 million contract. Then D'Angelo's manager told him he was done with him, too.

Still, D'Angelo couldn't feel the bottom, even though it was right beneath him. He shows me how close, reaching toward the floor with his well-muscled left arm, the one inked with 23:4, for the Twenty-third Psalm. It's early March, just a few weeks after he's finished a sixteen-day mini-tour of Europe—his first live performances (not counting church) in more than a decade. We're sitting on a black leather couch in a Manhattan recording studio on Forty-eighth Street off Broadway, a quiet sanctum despite its proximity to the circus of Times Square. Through a bank of windows is the room where he has recorded many songs for his (very) long-awaited third album. Dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt, his hair in short tiny braids, D'Angelo looks good at 38—more solid than in his famously shirtless six-pack years, but clear-eyed and radiantly handsome. "I didn't really think I had a problem like that," he says, taking a hit off a Newport. "I felt like, you know, all I got to do is clean up and I'll be fine. Just get in the studio and I'll be fucking fine."

What finally made him see, he says, was the passing of J Dilla, the revered hip-hop producer, on February 10, 2006. They'd just talked on the phone, D'Angelo says, when suddenly, J Dilla was gone at 32 after a long battle with lupus. It was like a blinding light had been switched on. Why did so many black artists die so young? He'd been haunted by this thought for years. Marvin. Jimi. Biggie. "I felt like I was going to be next. I ain't bullshitting. I was scared then," he says, recalling how shame engulfed him, preventing him from attending the funeral. "I was so fucked-up, I couldn't go."

Shame, guilt, repentance—D'Angelo knows them well. To say that he was raised religious doesn't begin to capture it. He's the son and the grandson of Pentecostal preachers. To D'Angelo, good and evil are not abstract concepts but tangible forces he reckons with every day. In his life and in his music, he has always felt the tension between the sacred and the profane, the darkness and the light.

"You know what they say about Lucifer, right, before he was cast out?" D'Angelo asks me now. "Every angel has their specialty, and his was praise. They say that he could play every instrument with one finger and that the music was just awesome. And he was exceptionally beautiful, Lucifer—as an angel, he was."

But after he descended into hell, Lucifer was fearsome, he tells me. "There's forces that are going on that I don't think a lot of motherfuckers that make music today are aware of," he says. "It's deep. I've felt it. I've felt other forces pulling at me." He stubs out his cigarette and leans toward me, taking my hand. "This is a very powerful medium that we are involved in," he says gravely. "I learned at an early age that what we were doing in the choir was just as important as the preacher. It was a ministry in itself. We could stir the pot, you know? The stage is our pulpit, and you can use all of that energy and that music and the lights and the colors and the sound. But you know, you've got to be careful."

In 1995, when D'Angelo—or D, as he's known to his friends—released his platinum--selling debut album, Brown Sugar, he looked, on first impression, like the rappers of the time, with his cornrows, baggy jeans, and Timberland boots. But when he played and sang he instantly stood apart, a self-taught prodigy in touch with the ultimate muse. His groove hearkened to something purer, and whether crooning or caterwauling, he performed with fervor, like he was channeling the masters. A musician's musician, he played his own instruments, arranged and wrote his own songs. He was only 21 years old.

Many would rise to praise him—not just critics, but his peers. Common, who calls D "one of the most impactful
artists of our day and age," remembers being in his car when "Lady" first came on the radio. "I was calling people and saying, 'Have you heard this?' " he says. George Clinton, the godfather of P-Funk, compares D's second album, Voodoo, to Gaye's groundbreaking What's Going On. And Eric Clapton's reaction to hearing Voodoo was captured on video. "I can't take much more," he says, reeling. "Is it all like this? My God!"

But for many, it was skin, not just music, that helped D cross over from R&B maestro to mainstream sex object. In 2000 he released the smoldering video for "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)," an instant sensation that made fans everywhere, especially women, lose their lustful minds. It's easy to find on YouTube: 26-year-old D'Angelo, naked from the hip bones up, staring straight into the camera, licking his lips and writhing in ecstasy. The video propelled him to superstardom—but it claimed its pound of flesh. D struggled mightily with the way his body threatened to overshadow his music. Then he all but disappeared.

"Black stardom is rough, dude," Chris Rock tells me when I reach him to talk about D. "I always say Tom Hanks is an amazing actor and Denzel Washington is a god to his people. If you're a black ballerina, you represent the race, and you have responsibilities that go beyond your art. How dare you just be excellent?"

After Brown Sugar went platinum, Rock put D'Angelo on The Chris Rock Show. Later, when D was mixing Voodoo, Rock hung out some in the studio. No surprise, then, that the first thing out of Rock's mouth after "Hello" is a joyful "He's back!" But he adds a sobering downbeat: "D'Angelo. Chris Tucker. Dave Chappelle. Lauryn Hill. They all hang out on the same island. The island of What Do We Do with All This Talent? It frustrates me."

I tell Rock that Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, the drummer for the Roots and one of D's closest collaborators, has ticked off much the same list. Questlove has a theory about what happens to black genius—what he calls "a crazy psychological kind of stoppage that prevents them from following through. A sort of self-saboteur disorder." Rock says he understands.

For a black star, Rock says, "there's a lot of pressure just to be responsible for other people's lives—to be the E. F. Hutton of your crew. Everything you say is magnified. I mean, street smarts only help you on the streets. Or maybe occasionally they will help you in the boardroom, but boy, you wish you knew a little bit about accounting." There is pressure to be original but also pressure to be commercial, to make money, to succeed. Sometimes the two run at cross-purposes.

I ask Questlove what he thinks has held D back. He says it's not just the way "Untitled" turned D'Angelo into "the Naked Guy," though of course that didn't help. It's something bigger. "We noticed early that all of the geniuses we admired have had maybe a ten-year run before death or, you know, the Poconos," he says. "That renders D paralyzed. He said he fears the responsibility and the power that comes with it. But I think what he fears most is the isolation"—the kind that fame brings.

Questlove believes D's "eleven-year freeze" must end, not just for the artist's sake, but for the culture's. "I've told him: He is literally holding the oxygen supply that music lovers breathe," Questlove says. "At first, it was cute—'Oh, he's bashful.' But now he's, like, selfish. I'm like, 'Look, dude, we're starving.' When D starts singing, all is right with the world."

Michael Archer grew up not knowing Jesus' name. To some black Pentecostals, God is known as Yahweh and the son of God as Yahshua or Yahushua. "We would go to other churches and people would be saying 'Jesus,' " he recalls. "I was like, 'Who are they talking about?' " The piano, on the other hand, was something he understood innately. At 4, he taught himself to play Earth, Wind & Fire's "Boogie Wonderland."

When he was 5, his parents split, and the boys went to live with their father. "Mom was struggling," he says of his mother, then a legal secretary. Michael played the organ at his father's church and helped lead the choir. When he was 9, however, his dad "was battling his own demons," and the boys went to live with their mom for good. After that, "me and my father really didn't have much contact with each other."

In those years, Michael was drawn to his maternal grandfather's Refuge Assembly of Yahweh, up in the mountains outside Richmond. The region had been a hub of slave trading before the Civil War, with Richmond being a place where 300,000 Africans and their descendants were sold down the James River. Then and now, church was a place where loss could be mourned, pain salved. But what attracted Michael was the way fire and brimstone infused the music. In the temple, Michael saw his elder brother Rodney speak in tongues; he witnessed healings and exorcisms. At one Friday-night revival, he noticed a woman in a pew a few rows up. She was acting strange—tugging at her clothes, foaming at the mouth, ripping at the Bible. "She was possessed. E-vil," he says, breaking the word in two. "It was a long, hot, steamy night, and that demon disrupted it." He recalls his grandfather and the other ministers praying hard as the woman crawled on all fours, screamed, and ran outside to jump on the hoods of cars. "The demon was raising holy hell, and my grandfather came outside. He had big hands, and he didn't say a word. He just—" D'Angelo raises his palm to me—"and she falls out. That's it. End of story."

Already Michael was developing into the musical connoisseur that D'Angelo is today. His Uncle CC was a truck driver who moonlighted as a DJ, and he had a huge record collection. This was the beginning of what D now calls "going to school"—delving deep into jazz, soul, rock, and gospel history, from Mahalia Jackson to Band of Gypsys, from the Meters to Miles Davis to Donald Byrd, from Sam Cooke to Otis Redding, from Donny Hathaway to Curtis Mayfield to Sly Stone to Marvin Gaye. When Michael was 8, Gaye had just made a comeback with "Sexual Healing" and won two Grammys. "Everybody was talking about him," D'Angelo recalls. "Everybody." So just after Sunday sermon on April Fool's Day 1984, when Michael learned Gaye was dead at 44—shot by his own father—he was crushed.

That night, D'Angelo had the first of many dreams about Gaye. It was in black and white and took place at Hitsville U.S.A., Motown's Detroit headquarters. D was playing piano while a bunch of famous Motown stars milled about, waiting for Gaye. "When he finally showed up, he was young, very handsome, the thin Marvin. Clean-shaven. Very debonair," he told an interviewer back in 2000. "He came straight to me and shook my hand and looked me dead in the eyes, and he said, 'Very nice to meet you,' And he grabbed my hand and wouldn't let go."

After that, whenever Gaye's music came on the radio, Michael felt a chill. The opening bars to "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" made him get up and leave the room. It was as if the power in Gaye's music had been linked, somehow, to his tragic end. "I would be petrified," he says—so petrified that his mother took him to a therapist. But the dreams of Gaye—himself a preacher's son—didn't go away until Michael turned 19. That was the year he changed his name to a moniker inspired by Michelangelo. That was also the year that his demo tape found its way into the hands of Gary Harris, then an A&R executive at EMI Music.

At their first meeting, D played a little Al Green on the piano and appeared to be just another "young kid with a lot of mystery." Earlier, Harris had seen a video taken at a talent show when D was 8. "He's playing the chords from 'Thriller,' and then he starts singing: It's close to midnight. Something evil's lurkin' in the dark. He was killing it," Harris recalls. "We used to call it 'getting the spirit' in church. He's the rarest of breeds: a genuine live attraction."

The church warned D'Angelo against secular music. "I got that speech so many times," he says. " 'Don't go do the devil's music,' blah blah blah." But his grandmother encouraged him to use his gifts as he saw fit. Not long after Harris signed him, D dreamed his last Marvin dream, this one in color. "I was following him as a grown man," he tells me. "He was a bit heavier, and he had the beard. He was naked, and all I could see was his back and that cap he used to wear all the time. And he got into this whirlpool Jacuzzi with his wife and his daughter and his little son, and that's when he turns around and looks at me. And he goes, 'I know you're wondering why you keep dreaming about me.' And I woke up."

Angie Stone, the soul diva who sang backup vocals on Brown Sugar, says that from the moment she met D, "I knew a superstar was on the rise." But "there was an innocence there that if we weren't careful was going to get trashed," adds Stone, who became romantically involved with D during that period and remains fiercely protective of him. "It's not a little bit of God in him. It's a lot of God in him. Sometimes when you have that much power, Satan works tenfold to break you."

As D'Angelo caught fire in the mid-'90s, the star-making machinery worked overtime to mold him into a bankable headliner. Stone remembers an event in Manhattan in September 1996 that was billed as Giorgio Armani's tribute to D'Angelo. Stone—thirteen years older than D—was three months pregnant with their son. They headed to the event together in a limo, but as they neared the venue where D was going to perform, it suddenly pulled over. "He was asked to get into another car, where he would be escorted by Vivica Fox," Stone says, her voice breaking slightly. The lissome Fox had just appeared with Will Smith in the blockbuster Independence Day. "It was a Hollywood moment. They wanted a trophy girl. I had to walk in behind them to flashing cameras. It started the wheels turning of what was yet to come."

The A-list was circling now, wanting a taste of D's authentic flavor. When Madonna turned 39, she asked him to sing "Happy Birthday" at her party. One press report had her sitting on his lap and French-kissing him. In fact, two sources say that ultimately D rebuffed her advances at another gathering not long after. At that event, the sources say, Madonna walked over and told a woman sitting next to D, "I think you're in my seat." The woman got up. Madonna sat down and told him, "I'd like to know what you're thinking." To which D replied, "I'm thinking you're rude."

But the lure of fame was constant, the temptations everywhere. While his label hoped for a quick follow-up album, D retreated, citing writer's block. He would later say that the birth of his first child, Michael Jr., got him back on track, but Voodoo—partially written with Stone—would be a full five years in the making. D fathered a daughter, now 12, with another woman, and has a third child, now almost 2.

Three weeks after its January 2000 debut, Voodoo hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Some early reviews were tepid (only later would Rolling Stone list it among its 500 best albums of all time), but it sold more than a million units in five weeks (and 700,000 since). The record would eventually win two Grammys, for best R&B album and best male R&B vocal performance for "Untitled." But as D began to fall apart, the video would be the only thing many fans remembered. "The video was the line of demarcation," says Harris. "It sent him spinning out of control."

Paul Hunter, the director hired to make the video, says his work was misunderstood: "Most people think the 'Untitled' video was about sex, but my direction was completely opposite of that. It was about his grandmother's cooking."

I've stopped by Hunter's office in Culver City, California, to hear how D'Angelo came to be filmed bare-chested (but for a gold cross on a chain around his neck), wearing only a pair of precariously low-slung pajama bottoms, looking like a wolf circling a bitch in heat. Illuminated from every angle, he spins very slowly as the camera fetishizes his every ripple and drop of sweat. I've imagined a lot of things that inspired the song's rousing lyrics (Love to make you wet / In between your thighs cause / I love when it comes inside of you), but collard greens weren't among them. Hunter is quick to explain that he, like D, was raised in the Pentecostal church.

"When I used to sing in the choir," Hunter says, "after the rehearsal, you go in to eat. I remembered seeing the preacher looking at a lady's skirt one week and then, the next Sunday, talking about how fornication is wrong." Such mixed messages about the pleasures of the flesh were intertwined with the pleasures of the palate—part of the same sensual stew. "So I was like, 'Think of your grandmother's greens, how it smelled in the kitchen. What did the yams and fried chicken taste like? That's what I want you to express.' "

The video was the brainchild of co-director Dominique Trenier, D's manager, whose goal—some still see it as a stroke of genius—was to turn his client into a sex god. D'Angelo had been working hard with his trainer and was cut down to muscle and bone. Never in his life had D been this taut and virile, and Trenier seized the opportunity to create a true crossover artist without losing his loyal base. Initially, Hunter says, to capture the heat they were hoping for, "we were going to build sort of a box for a girl to come and mess with him. We all said, 'Well, how can we push it?' "

But when the shoot began at a New York City soundstage, the fluffer turned out to be unnecessary. D's memory was all he needed to bring it home. The video may have looked like foreplay, but it was actually about family, Hunter insists—about intimacy. Later, when I tell D'Angelo this, he says, "It's so true: We talked about the Holy Ghost and the church before that take. The veil is the nudity and the sexuality. But what they're really getting is the spirit."

The shoot took six hours, and it changed D's life. Trenier got his wish: Thanks to D'Angelo's luscious physicality, albums started flying off the shelves. But the trouble began right away, at the start of the Voodoo tour in L.A. "It was a week of warm-up gigs at House of Blues just to kick off the tour, draw some attention, break in the band," says Alan Leeds, D's tour manager then and now. "And from the beginning, it's 'Take it off!' "

Questlove, the tour's bandleader, was alarmed. "We thought, okay, we're going to build the perfect art machine, and people are going to love and appreciate it," he says. "And then by mid-tour it just became, what can we do to stop the 'Take it off' stuff?"

D'Angelo felt tortured, Questlove says, by the pressure to give the audience what it wanted. Worried that he didn't look as cut as he did in the video, he'd delay shows to do stomach crunches. He'd often give in, peeling off his shirt, but he resented being reduced to that. Wasn't he an artist? Couldn't the audience hear the power of his music and value him for that? He would explode, Questlove recalls, and throw things. Sometimes he'd have to be coaxed not to cancel shows altogether.

When I ask D about this, he downplays his suffering. Watching him pull hard on another Newport, I realize that he finds it far easier to confess his addictions than his insecurities about his corporeal self. Self-destructing with a coke spoon—while ill-advised—has a badass edge. Fretting over what Questlove has called "some Kate Moss shit" seems anything but manly. If given the chance, he tells me, he would absolutely shoot the video again. But he does admit to feeling angry during the Voodoo tour.

"One time I got mad when a female threw money at me onstage, and that made me feel fucked-up, and I threw the money back at her," he says. "I was like, 'I'm not a stripper.' " He was beginning to sense a darkness beckoning. He recalls a particular moment onstage at the North Sea Jazz festival in 2000. The band was in the middle of "Devil's Pie," his song about the spell fame casts upon the weak—Who am I to justify / All the evil in our eye / When I myself feel the high / From all that I despise—when he felt an ominous presence in the crowd. "That night I felt something that was like, whoa," he tells me. E-vil.

On the last day of the eight-month tour, Questlove says D'Angelo told him, "Yo, man, I cannot wait until this fucking tour is over. I'm going to go in the woods, drink some hooch, grow a beard, and get fat." Questlove thought he was joking. "I was like, 'You're a funny guy.' And then it started to happen. That's how much he wanted to distance himself."

While the tour was a success, both critically and commercially, it left D broken. "When I got back home, yeah, it wasn't that easy to just be," he says. "I think that's the thing that got me in a lot of trouble: me trying to just be Michael, the regular old me from back in the day, and me fighting that whole sex-symbol thing. You know: 'Hey, I ain't D'Angelo today. I'm just plain old Mike, and I just want to hang out with my boys and do what we used to do.' But, damn, those days are fucking gone."

Upon his return to Richmond after the Voodoo tour, D stepped into what he calls "an avalanche of shit." First he lost a few people who were close to him, including his Uncle CC, whose record collection had been the bedrock of D's musical education, and his beloved grandmother. After that, "I just kind of sunk into this thing."

It's not that D wasn't working, exactly. "I was in the studio," he says. "But I was also partying a lot. A little too much." He liked cocaine, he says, "because I could be a bit of an antisocial. It made me really open up and talk." But the problem with doing coke, he says, is "you can drink like a fish and it don't bother you. It was good in the beginning, but it got out of hand." For the first time, he says, "people started to go, 'Yo, man, you've got to get it together.' "

Executives at his then label, Virgin, were exasperated. Momentum is money in the music business, and D was squandering his. Sometime in the mid-2000s, Virgin and D'Angelo parted ways. Then D had a falling out with Questlove, who'd played a track off the album-in-progress on an Australian radio station—a cardinal sin in D's eyes. Things had begun to unravel. In January 2005 a bloated, bleary-eyed D'Angelo was arrested in Richmond and charged with possession of cocaine and marijuana and driving while intoxicated. Trenier, horrified by the mug shot that appeared in press accounts, drove from New York City to Richmond to pick D up—then drove him to California so D wouldn't have to be seen in public in an airport. Soon, D was in rehab at the Pasadena Recovery Center. But he wasn't listening.

The near fatal Hummer accident came in mid-September of that year, after D had received a three-year suspended sentence on the cocaine charge. Still, he didn't think he'd bottomed out. Only five or six months later, after J Dilla's passing, would D finally reach out to Gary Harris, the man who'd first signed him. D told Harris he wanted to talk to Clapton, with whom he'd performed a few times. Harris tracked down a number. "I was like, 'Yo, I need some help,' " D recalls telling Clapton, who founded the Crossroads treatment center in Antigua. D would be welcome there, Clapton said, but it would cost $40,000. Harris called a former boss of his: Irving Azoff, the famed personal manager, who didn't know D but knew his work. Harris says Azoff agreed to cut a check.

Getting D to Antigua was an odyssey in itself. First off, he had neither a driver's license nor a passport—a challenge when trying to board an international flight. Second, while he'd begged for this intervention, his commitment to it waxed and waned. When Harris first arrived at D's Richmond mini-mansion on a Sunday in late April 2006, the kitchen was littered with empty alcohol bottles, and D was a mess. "What should have taken a day took four days," Harris says, recounting their journey from Richmond to Charlotte to Puerto Rico, where "it took me two days to get him out of the hotel." Even once D was admitted to Crossroads, Harris says, "he was calling everybody he knew to get a ticket out." At his first two rehab centers, D had been able to evade and outsmart the counselors. At Crossroads, he was forced to deal. "It was like sobriety boot camp," he says. "They are up in your shit."

After his month in Antigua, it still took eighteen months for D to ink a new deal, this one with J Records (which would become RCA) in late 2007. But even then, in D's world, nothing happens quickly.

Everyone around him knows about D-time, a pace so slow that it could test even the most patient saint. Over the next few years, there were creative stops and starts. There were also setbacks. On March 6, 2010, D was arrested and charged with solicitation after offering a female undercover police officer $40 for a blow job in Manhattan's West Village. He reportedly had $12,000 in cash in his Range Rover. Asked to explain, he says, "It was just me making a stupid decision, a wrong turn, on the wrong night." He adds, "I'm not the role-model motherfucker. Look at all the shit that I've been in."

Questlove and D were back in touch now, but the drummer admits he kept D'Angelo at arm's length. For a while it seemed they'd only talk after someone died. Michael Jackson's passing had them on the phone in 2009. Then, in 2011, just hours after Questlove missed a call from Amy Winehouse on Skype, she, too, exited the stage. "D's the first person I called," Questlove recalls. "And I was just honest, like, 'Look, man, I'm sorry. I know you're thinking I'm avoiding you like the plague.' I just said plain and simple, 'Man, there was a period in which it seemed like you were hell-bent on following the footsteps of our idols, and the one thing you have yet to follow them in was death.' " He told D that if he'd gotten that news, it would have destroyed him. "That was probably the most emotional man-to-man talk that D and I had ever had."

Such honesty was only possible, Questlove says, because D'Angelo was finally getting his act together. He'd kicked his bad habits—well, most of them. "Any person who's dealt with substance abuse, it's an ongoing thing," D tells me. "That's the mantra—one day at a time—right? So you're going to have good days and bad days, but for the most part, I have a grip on it." He feels the forces of good are on his side now. "I don't know why it didn't happen sooner. It's just the way Yahweh ordained it."

His newfound discipline is evident in the way he has thrown himself into studying a new instrument, practicing for five and six hours a day. "The one benefit of this eleven-year sabbatical was he used 10,000 Gladwellian hours to master the guitar," says Questlove, who compares D to Frank Zappa. "He can play the shit out of it, and I don't mean no Lil Wayne shit."

Alan Leeds, the tour manager, senses a conscious decision on D's part to push beyond the beefcake. "I wonder if that isn't partially a way to take the attention away from that Chippendales shit, because when you're standing up playing guitar, there's a little less attention to what you're wearing and whether it's on or off and having to choreograph your moves," says Leeds, who's previously worked with James Brown and Prince. "It prevents you from having to calculate that shit."

Still, D is back in the gym, and it's not just vanity that's tugging at him. He knows physical presence is key to any live performance. And though he's still finer than fine, with swagger to spare, he's no longer the chiseled Adonis from the "Untitled" video. Eating little more than fish and green apples, D's been working to trim down his five-foot-seven frame, which just a few months ago had topped 300 pounds. In January, on the eve of his European tour, his managers told me he still had another twenty-five pounds to go. Which is why when I boarded the plane for Sweden, I wasn't surprised to see D's personal trainer—Mark Jenkins, the same one who got him into underwear-model shape twelve years ago—a few rows up.

When you haven't been onstage in more than a decade, a lot of things go through your mind. For D, it boils down to a question: Is this really happening? Backstage in Stockholm, before he steps into the light, the rumble of his fans tells him the answer is yes. Fittingly, this venue is an old Pentecostal church. Packed into pews, where red leather-bound hymnals are stacked neatly for Sunday worship, the audience of 2,000 is excited to the point of near levitation. No one was sure D would show tonight, and in fact he almost didn't. He missed two flights before his managers finally delivered him to Newark airport. "He Got on the Plane. Praise Jesus," Tina Farris, his assistant tour manager, would blog later. "The knot in my stomach is slowly unraveling."

When he finally takes the stage ("In a minute!" he teases the audience from the wings. "In a minute!"), he sports a black leather trench coat that hits his black pants mid-thigh and a big-brimmed black hat. He calls this look Chocolate Rock. His hair is arranged in two-strand twists, and silver crosses hang on chains that bump against his chest. Also around his neck is the strap of his black custom Minarik Diablo guitar, named for its devilish horns.

He steps into the spotlight, the guitar slung low, his face aglow. If you could somehow access the voltage in the air, you could turn on all the lights in Scandinavia. First, the strains of an old song, "Playa Playa," cut through the din. Then a Roberta Flack cover—"Feel Like Makin' Love"—and then, seamlessly, a bluesy new tune, "Ain't That Easy," whose lyrics acknowledge, I've been away so long. The crowd catches the double meaning and roars as D peels off his jacket, revealing a black undershirt and sculpted arms. He glides through a mix of the old ("Chicken Grease," "Sh*t, Damn, Motherf*cker," a cover of Parliament's "I've Been Watching You") and the new (the infectious "Sugah Daddy," and "The Charade," a battle cry that D says "is telling the powers that be, 'This is why we are justified in our stance' "). Is he rusty? A little. But his presence grows with each song.

At one point, he grabs the hem of his wife-beater with both hands and tugs it up—one, two!—in time with the song. The brief reveal of his midsection is a flashback to the trying days of 2000, but it's 2012 now, and the shirt stays on. When the band rips into its encore, "Brown Sugar," it feels like D has rounded third base and is about to slide to safety. "Good God!" D yelps, kicking the mike stand away, then catching it with his foot before it flies into the audience. "Give my testimony!" he shouts, blowing kisses from the stage.

The show is a triumph, and soon Twitter and Facebook are on fire. He's really back—no longer a specter. D's band—he can't decide on the name, but he's considering the Spades—radiates happiness and exhaustion as they load onto the tour buses, nicknamed the Amistad I and II after the slave ship. The next night he fills a 1,600-capacity club in Copenhagen, and afterward the buses leave on D-time—a full twelve hours behind schedule. By the time they arrive at the hotel in Paris on Sunday, January 29, sound check for that night's show is just three hours away. Still, despite having traveled 760 miles across Denmark, Germany, Belgium, and France, D and his trainer head directly to the tiny hotel gym. Coincidentally I'm there, too. I ask if D wants privacy. He does. As I head for the door, he steps wordlessly onto the treadmill, a weary man with many miles still to go.

But that night, at the tour's first 5,000-seat arena, Le Zénith, D'Angelo is revived. Toward the end of the show, after a medley featuring snippets of the melodious, bumping "Jonz in My Bonz" and the gospel-fueled "Higher," he hits a single percussive note on the piano that reverberates and fades away. Then he hits it again, and all of us in this cavernous hall begin to scream. It's the beginning of "Untitled," which he didn't perform in Stockholm or Copenhagen—which he hasn't played in public, not once, in a dozen years. After a few bars, D stops abruptly and stands up. The crowd cheers as he leans on one end of the piano, his chin in his hands, catching his breath. What happens next is the most soulful, palpable connection I've ever felt between an artist and an audience. As D sits back down and starts to play again, the audience spontaneously begins to sing. How does it feel?—four words coming from thousands of throats, urging him on. He responds gratefully, "Sing it again, sing it again." And they do, loudly, prettily, right on tempo: How does it feel? "Oh, baby, long time," he sings, "that this has been on my mind." People are crying, swaying, raising up their hands. I'm one of them. It's impossible not to be overcome as this sexy anthem, this source of so much pain, is transformed before us into a crucible of love. "Thank you so much," he says, his fingers fluttering on the keys as he brings it home. Then he stands up, kisses both his hands, and opens his arms to the crowd. The blue lights go dark.

I'm reminded of something Angie Stone says about D. "D'Angelo is always going to be D'Angelo," she tells me. "You can't take too much away from the gift itself. I'm sure there's still some fear there, because it's been a long time out of the spotlight. And when all the spotlight he'd got lately has been negative, there's a rebirth of some kind that needs to take place." God willing, we've all just witnessed it.

Upon D'Angelo's return to New York City in mid-February, his friends and colleagues began to worry a little. D-time speeds up for no man. Russell Elevado, D's longtime engineer, told MTV Hive that D wanted to finish his album "as soon as possible, but once he gets into the studio he gets into his own zone.... Altogether there's over fifty songs that he's cut since we started. I think he wants to put twelve songs on the album."

Questlove tells me the same thing. "To get five songs out of him, we had to throw away at least twelve that I would give my left arm for," he says. "I don't mind that, because I literally feel he is the last pure African-American artist left." Still, as weeks pass, Questlove admits, "My first fear was him not doing this at all. Now my new fear is, okay, the tour is over. Now what?"

For nearly a month, D mostly holes up in his apartment on the Upper West Side. Jenkins comes by regularly to sweat D in his private gym. He fasts for a few days, and the weight is coming off, but it seems D is headed back into his pre-tour cave. Only music persuades him to go out. Late in February, after he and D go to see Björk together, Questlove addresses a tweet to the Icelandic artist, saying, "amazing job last night. even D'Angelo was mind blown & he leaves the house for NOBODY."

So when will he release his new album? D can't say for sure. His managers and his label are pushing hard for September, before the Grammy deadline. But nobody's banking on it. Sounding like a man who's all too familiar with D-time, Tom Corson, RCA's president and COO, says simply, "This year would be nice." In mid-April, D and his band are back in the studio, this time in Los Angeles, supposedly adding the final touches. But everything hinges on D letting the music go.

"I'm driven by the masters that came before me that I admire—the Yodas," D tells me, using the term he and Questlove have coined for their heroes. He tells me of a music teacher who told him that when classical composers like Beethoven made music, "people didn't understand it, and it got bad reviews," D says, recalling how his teacher said Beethoven responded: "He's like, 'I don't make music for you. I make music for the ages.' "

That's all well and good, Chris Rock says—as long as D actually releases his music. "You've got to earn it, man," he tells me, adding that the only reason fans aren't disappointed by Jeff Buckley, the celebrated singer-songwriter who recorded just one album, is that he drowned. "Body of work, babe. It's all body of work at the end of the day. I mean, the only way D's going to be a great artist with the output he has now is if he dies."

I can't help but think about J Dilla, whose death was the pivot, D says, on which his comeback began to turn. Dilla was the ultimate underground artist—prolific beyond compare, a legend in the hip-hop world. When he died, he'd made so much music with so many people—from De La Soul to Busta Rhymes to A Tribe Called Quest—that his legacy was secure. For all of D'Angelo's otherworldly talent, for all the passions he distills and reflects when he's in front of an audience, for all his perceived connections to Beethoven and Michelangelo and Marvin, and yes, to Jesus himself, the same cannot yet be said for him. Can Dilla, the overachiever, spur the underachiever to reach his true potential?

Back in the Times Square recording studio, I tell D I want to read to him something from a fan who posted recently on Prince.org, a site frequented by devotees of all things funky. The fan is worried by reports that D is trimming down, he writes, because of the havoc the "Untitled" video wrought: "While it's cool that dude is getting in better shape, I hope he's not trying to get back to the way other people picture him or want him to be. Dude just needs to get his head straight."

I look up from the page. "Is your head straight?" I ask.

"Straight," D'Angelo says, his eyes locked on mine. "Yes, my head is straight." Just because you're black, he adds, doesn't mean you have to look or sound a certain way, "or, you know, act ignorant or what have you, whatever the fucking gatekeepers have us doing because they think that that's the formula to make money. And a lot of motherfuckers, they just fall right into line." D has a term for artists like this: "minstrelsy." If he's learned nothing, he's learned this: He's no minstrel.

I ask him about Internet reports that the new album is called James River, after the Virginia waterway whose swampy banks provided hidden refuge for escaped slaves. No, that's no longer the title, D says, but he doesn't say what is. I let slip that I've heard about another new song he's written called "Back." I just want to go back, baby / Back to the way it was, it goes. And then: I know you're wondering where I've been / Wondering 'bout the shape I'm in / I hope it ain't my abdomen.

I tell him I'm impressed that he's addressing his body directly, using wry lyrics to confront and reclaim this difficult chapter of his life. He murmurs a thank you, but he looks a little unsettled. "Wow," he says, when I ask if the song will appear on the album. "I don't know if that's going to make it."

Later, when I reach Janis Gaye, Marvin's second wife—and a longtime D'Angelo fan—I tell her about the dreams D had of Marvin, and she isn't surprised. Her own children dreamed of Marvin on the night he was killed, and D is just a few years older. "Marvin is a protector, and I'm sure there was something in Marvin's spirit that saw something in D'Angelo's spirit," Janis says. I tell her about Rock's stern admonition that D needs to step it up, and she agrees. She even has a suggestion: "He should go to Marvin's Room, the studio that Marvin built," she says of the famed studio on Sunset Boulevard where Gaye recorded many of his hits. "Go in and take his fifty songs. Not to sound kooky or out there, but Marvin will help him to choose."

Canadian Cyclist Ryder Hesjedal Comes From Behind To Win The Giro D’italia

Source
: www.thestar.com

(May 27, 2012)
Ryder Hesjedal won the Giro D’Italia in dramatic fashion on Sunday and became the first Canadian to win one of cycling’s major races.

Hesjedal won the race after overtaking Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez in the race’s final stage, a time trial.

The Victoria native came into the day trailing the Spaniard by 31 seconds, but Hesjedal finished the 30-kilometre stage in 34:15 to win by 16 seconds.

Hesjedal had already made history earlier in the race by becoming the first Canadian to hold the pink jersey as the overall leader.

Now the 31-year-old is the first Canadian to win one of the three famed Grand Tour races.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was among the Canadians celebrating Hesjedal’s victory.

“This remarkable win in one of bicycle racing’s most gruelling competitions is a testimony to Mr. Hesjedal’s training, endurance, skill and competitive spirit,” Harper said in a statement.

On Twitter, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong praised Hesjedal’s achievement.

“Congratulations to @ryder_hesjedal on his incredible victory in the #giro. Gotta love it when the best man wins,” tweeted Armstrong.

Toronto cyclist Michael Barry added: “Emotional moment watching the Canadian flags go up in Milan and hearing the anthem. Congrats @ryder_hesjedal You’ve inspired us all.”

Thomas De Gendt of Britain finished third overall, one minute 39 seconds behind Hesjedal. Defending champion Michele Scarponi of Italy was fourth.

Marco Pinotti of Italy won the stage in 33:06. The final stage was shortened by about a mile because of road work.

Review: Ragtime

Source
: www.thestar.com - By Richard Ouzounian

Ragtime
Book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Directed by Jackie Maxwell. Until
Oct. 14 at the Festival Theatre. 1-800-511-SHAW.

(May 27, 2012) NIAGARA ON THE LAKE, ONT.—There’s a moment in the first act of
Ragtime, which opened Saturday night at the Shaw Festival, that is guaranteed to send chills down your spine, fill your eyes with tears and make you rejoice at the power of theatre to move us.

Thom Allison, as Coalhouse Walker, the ragtime pianist with big hopes for the future, is singing of the world he envisions for his woman and their infant son in the exquisite song, “Wheels of a Dream.”

As he sings the words, “Beyond that road, beyond this lifetime,” eyes shining, voice swelling, he flings out his
arm towards the vision he sees ahead and in that split second, Allison becomes the great new leading man of Canadian musical theatre.

Allison is the heart and soul of this production of Ragtime. His passion and commitment drive the work whenever he’s on stage.

His colleague Kate Hennig is equally impressive. She plays anarchist Emma Goldman, one of the real-life people that author E.L. Doctorow used throughout his novel of racial, political and social change set in the America of the early 20th century.

To be honest, I have disliked every other Goldman I’ve seen in the past. They were so busy trying to play eccentric that they lost their real reason for existence.

That doesn’t happen with Hennig, one of the smartest women on the stage today. She concentrates on what Goldman is preaching, the messages she’s trying to convey and she does it — like Allison — with full commitment.

And the end result, ironically, is that she creates a totally complex character who holds our attention at every entrance. She embodies the true message of Ragtime: you are what you believe in.

Unfortunately, there are too many other people in Jackie Maxwell’s production who aren’t on the same wavelength. We get a lot of generic emotion — some of it intense, to be sure — and a cut-rate version of the multicultural panorama that filled Frank Galati’s original 1996 production.

The show itself (book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty) remains an enthralling work and if you’ve never seen it, it’s worth a trip to Niagara to catch even this flawed version.

But looking at the superb achievements of Allison and Hennig (as well as the smaller but striking ones of Julie Martell as a saucy Evelyn Nesbitt and Kelly Wong as a darkly driven Houdini), it’s all too easy to see where the problems occur.

Jackie Maxwell’s direction (coupled with Valerie Moore’s choreography) is, on a physical level, perfectly OK. The action moves smoothly, you always know where you are and most pictures are pleasing.

Sue LePage’s scaffolding set works fine, except that one major upstage catwalk is so far away from the audience that everything there seems remote. The decision to put some major numbers up there is damaging.

Alan Brodie’s lighting favours too much darkness, especially in those brief cameos identifying historical figures, when we can’t even see them, let alone figure out who they are.

Paul Sportelli’s orchestra is, as always, splendidly articulated, but I kept wanting more power at certain key moments. It’s all a bit polite, like the whole show.

Because there’s something vital missing in Maxwell’s direction. It seems like the show just isn’t in her DNA. She understands the political message, but she doesn’t really feel it in her guts and that’s why she’s been unable to convey it to many of her cast. Alana Hibbert’s Sarah lacks any real fire, Evan Alexander Smith’s Younger Brother has nothing of the embryonic revolutionary inside him, etc.

Then there’s also the ongoing problem of the Shaw Festival ensemble. Quite frankly, people are cast in roles they’re not right for, just because they’re good and faithful company members.

Patty Jamieson makes something sympathetic out of Mother, but she just does not have the vocal lung-power needed to make her climactic song, “Back To Before,” the incredible moment of cathartic revelation it ought to be.

Jay Turvey’s immigrant Tateh, who becomes a movie producer, sings as sweetly as he always does, but has none of the dramatic weight the character needs. Too often, you feel you’re watching Paul Lynde play Tevye.

Don’t get me wrong, the show delivers a solid experience and, thanks to the likes of Allison and Hennig, often much more than that. But it’s ultimately just a good production and we were all expecting something great.

::MUSIC NEWS::

Cadence Weapon On A Path All His Own

Source:
www.thestar.com - Ben Rayner

Cadence Weapon
Hope in Dirt City (Upper Class)

(May 28, 2012) Although
Cadence Weapon is a seasoned hip-hop veteran at 26 and a reasonably known
quantity here in Canada — especially in his hometown of Edmonton — he's yet to receive the props he genuinely deserves beyond our borders.

Put money on that changing thanks to Hope in Dirt City, the unpredictable MC's third album proper. There's nothing else quite like it happening in hip hop right now, which should earn Roland Pemberton III some decent mileage within the international underground as a bona fide, trend-oblivious rap trailblazer.

Moving on from the gnarly electro buzz of 2005's pugilistic Breaking Kayfabe and the dancefloor-friendly thump of 2008's Afterparty Babies, Hope in Dirt City enlists a coterie of live musicians — DVAS' Jered Stuffco, Pemberton's saxophonist uncle Brett Miles and Gordon Lightfoot's drummer son, Eric, among them — to bring a more relaxed and organic vibe to the proceedings. “Relaxed” doesn't mean “soft,” mind you, as the record has its share of hard-bitten, hard-driving moments in cuts like the snarling jazzbo freakout “Jukebox,” the feisty Buck 65 tag-team romp “
(You Can't Stop) The Machine” and the low-slung, Dirty South-ish “Hype Man.” The stylistically eclectic album program also finds time, however, for lazy reggae jams (“Small Death”), wistful love songs (“No More Names (Aditi)”), creepy/druggy downtempo IDM (“There We Go”), loping disco (the Bowie-checkin' “Crash Course for the Ravers”) and ‘80s-inflected New Wave soul (“Hope in Dirt City”).

So, yes, it's a bit of a hodgepodge and dense enough that the first couple of listens leave your head spinning. But despite the occasional lull, Hope in Dirt City generally leaves you rather awed at how far Cadence Weapon has come as a recording artist, not to mention as an MC (and sometime singer) with wit and invention to spare. He rarely attempts the same flow twice in a row here, so Pemberton is clearly driven to push himself as a rapper as much as a composer and producer. You'll be hearing a lot about this one.

Top track:
Hype Man.” Smoked-out and nasty.

VIDEO: Call Me Maybe Sparks Business Card Icebreaker

Source: www.thestar.com - By Bruce DeMara

(May 25, 2012) It may seem crazy but Canadian pop diva Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit has added a new twist to the dating game.

The Washington Post has declared the Mission, B.C. native’s new hit, Call Me Maybe, the front-runner for “song of summer 2012.” The catchy pop tune is number 2 on iTunes Top 100 and Billboard’s Hot 100. It’s also hit number 1 in Canada, Australia, Ireland and the U.K.

Now enterprising would-be suitors — mostly male, it seems — have appropriated the song’s opening lines, “Hey, I just met you / and this is crazy / but here’s my number / so call me, maybe” for business cards that can be used in social situations to, um, hook up, maybe.

“Call me maybe business cards are officially a thing” reports Sean Copeland (@b1057sean) on Twitter, where a slew of variations in different fonts and styles have recently been posted.

While Twitter and Facebook aficionados agree the business cards are the latest phenom, not all agree — mostly women, it seems — that it’s likely to inspire them to make the connection.

“‘Call Me Maybe’ business cards? Really? Well at least it will identify annoying losers on first meeting,” one Tweeter noted.

hahah call me maybe business cards. I feel like if a guy gave these out girls would just have to call him
because it’s so awesome,” another countered.

Whether the “call me maybe” business cards replace the old “this drink is compliments of the guy at table 14” or not, the song itself is already sending Jepsen’s career soaring into the pop music stratosphere.

This year is already shaping up to a game-changer for Jepsen, 26, whose singing career got a major boost after placing third on season five of Canadian Idol in 2007.

Jepsen was recently picked up to open for Stratford native Justin Bieber during his four-month North American tour which begins September 29 and ends on Jan. 26.

Bieber and Jepsen are slated to perform at the Much Music Video Awards in Toronto on June 17.

In February, Jepsen signed with Schoolboy Records, the label owned by Bieber and business manager Scooter Braun.

Del Bel Powered By Nervous Energy

Source: www.thestar.com - By Ben Rayner

(May 25, 2012) This city of ours has a transatlantic multitude of tastemaking ears bent its way these days, yet there’s still the odd Toronto act doing heavyweight-class work that manages to fly beneath the radar in its hometown, let alone Canada at large or the rest of the wired-in world.

Gloomy downtempo duo Sissy is one, recently resurgent 905 ne’er-do-wells the Mark Inside another. Digits probably merits a mention here, too, although Alt Altman’s relocation to the U.K. last year lately seems to be bearing fruit in the form of a minor, international eruption of Next Big Young Electro-Thing hype.

Sprawling pop-noir ciné-orchestra
Del Bel — opening next Friday for Bry Webb at a Wavelength event at 918 Bathurst — is a particularly easy local musical cause to get behind. That’s not least because so few people have yet to hear its spellbinding debut, Oneiric — one of the most accomplished albums, Canadian or otherwise, released in 2011 — but also because the Del Bel camp has kept on cranking out the quality tunes at a relentless pace, since that beautifully black and unshakable album’s quiet November release on London indie Out of Sound Records.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the arrival of a just-as-good EP Diane, by spinoff ensemble Chrome and the Ice Queen; a mini-album of remixes by Guelph’s Kazoo! DJ crew; and, most recently, a striking digital-only duet, “No Cure for Loneliness,” by Del Bel vocalist Lisa Conway and former Constantine Bry Webb, in whose band, the Providers, bandleader Tyler Belluz can sometimes be found playing bass.

And there would be more, trust us, if Del Bel had its way.

“I’m really poor so I have all these amazing ideas but I don’t know if I can follow through with all of them,” laughs Belluz over drinks with Conway — his creative foil, comedic sparring partner and sometime Ice Queen — on Spadina Avenue.

It took classically trained double-bassist Belluz a good 18 months to complete Oneiric in the first place, gradually corralling the record’s many contributors — a Who’s Who of local indie types from Do Make Say Think, the Happiness Project, Entire Cities, Sunparlour Players, Flowers of Hell and Ohbijou — in living rooms (and at least one barn) to bring his evocatively eerie, soundtrack-style compositions to vivid life.

David Lynch-loving chanteuse Conway was the key ingredient, however. Belluz had been an admirer of the West Coast expat’s powerful voice since inviting her to play with him for a few painfully empty shows a couple of years previous, so he eventually entrusted her, despite Conway’s misgivings, with the task of adding lyrics to his finished instrumental pieces.

“Those dead shows, as soon as I started to rehearse with her or practise songs that she was almost making up on the spot, the tonal quality of her voice just blew me away,” enthuses Belluz. “I wouldn’t have asked anyone else to sing on the project.”

“The process is definitely backwards and involves a lot of trust on Tyler’s part, too, because a lot of my parts, he would hear as they were being recorded on the final version. It was just ‘Do whatever you want,’ ” says Conway, who periodically fretted that her contributions were going to be “invasive and offensive.

“It was a really interesting writing process and exercise for me because I had to figure out a way to complement things that were finished. And there were a lot of restrictions, which was really good in some ways but also challenging because the forms were already set. I had to just work around what was already there. There was no ‘I wish this was longer.’ It couldn’t be longer.”

Although some 15 people feature on Oneiric — the title, fittingly, refers to a dreamlike state — Del Bel has since settled into existence as a nine-piece live band.

It’s not easy corralling that many players with multiple obligations of their own for dates, mind you, but the group, minus a couple of regulars, did just manage to pull off “our first and biggest tour” of points east of Ontario. Both Belluz and Conway — a classically trained violinist who still looks vaguely terrified when she sings in front of people — confess they’re still adjusting to their first foray into the world of pop music, but they have undeniable creative chemistry.

The recent Chrome and the Ice Queen EP, Diane, put a compellingly smoky, almost trip-hop spin on Del Bel’s brooding atmospherics, while an album of Conway’s ballads “reorchestrated for a drum machine, two vocalists and three strings” is in the works for the fall.

“Until fairly recently, I’ve felt more like a violin player who also sang,” says Conway. “I don’t really like performing, I don’t think. Or I’m not really comfortable. I really enjoy singing and I must enjoy performing, but I’ve never been comfortable being, like, a ‘jazz hands’ kind of performer.”

“I came from a very strict classical background where I had to play perfectly, always, and if I didn’t play perfectly, I was shunned,” says Belluz. “You wouldn’t be able to work. I wouldn’t get work. So for 15 years I’ve been mastering this instrument, learning just bass technique.

“This allows me to escape, personally. I don’t have to think and I can just do, as opposed to ‘Oh, my God, I’m gonna get fired’ or ‘I’m not gonna get hired anymore.’ ”

VIDEO: Omarion: New Look, Fresh Material on Rick Ross’ Label

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 25, 2012) *As previously reported,
Omarion Grandberry, the R&B singer/actor/dancer and former member of the teen group B2K, was announced as the latest signee to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group imprint on Warner Bros.

And finally, after his solo career had stalled, the 27-year-old is back with new music – and a new nickname: “Maybach O.”

The changes that I needed to make?” Omarion told Billboard.com. “I made them.”

As Omarion preps his first batch of material for Maybach Music Group, his debut single, “Let’s Talk,” received a video on Wednesday (scroll down to watch), a new mixtape is on the way, and he says that he probably has at least two tracks on the forthcoming posse album “Self Made Vol. 2.”

And more changes are to come.

“I’m writing more. I’m dancing different. And I really want to entertain the people,” says Omarion. “I think that people didn’t foresee this move for me — that people were like, ‘Oh, what’s up with Omarion?’ Omarion fell off this, Omarion did that. What’s gonna be his next move? This is my next move.”

When it hit stores on June 26, “Self Made Vol. 2″ will give hip-hop fans the first taste of a Maybach Music Group with a veteran vocal presence handling the hooks. And while a new solo LP could take a while for Omarion to finalize, the singer says that his next project will be an emotional one. “I’m singing from my gut, I’m singing from my heart, and it’s just gonna be passionate music,” he promises. “I feel like I’m bringing back what I’ve done, but in a bigger and better way.”

Video: Ladies and Gentlemen … Put Your Hands Together For … Sheila E!

Source: www.eurweb.com - Ricardo A. Hazell

(May 25, 2012) Well, what’s there not to say? She was a musical prodigy darn near since birth and, we’re
sure you all know about the whole Prince stint, as well as the slew of solo hits she has to her credit.

Recently the musical impresario sat down with EURweb.com’s Lee Bailey for a conversation about this and that. Practically everything except sneakers and hats. First and foremost though, she talks about the Playboy Jazz Festival as well as her music and a troubled event in her youth that inspired her. However, upon doing research for the interview we came across a piece of information that even we didn’t know about. An Emmy nomination?

“I got a call from Bounce (TV network), as well as the White House, to be musical director for a performance called Fiesta Latina for TBS and Terrence Swift, and other people from Bounce, asked me to be one of the producers as well,” she explained. “It was very cool to be honored and be acknowledged in that way for the first time ever, being nominated for an Emmy.”

Being nominated is one thing, but winning is another. It’s likely we didn’t hear more about it because she didn’t get the award.

“It’s pretty ironic actually,” said Sheila. “Everyone always asks me if I wasn’t playing music what would I be
doing with my life. I was running track early in my years and I was breaking track records in sprint running. I was training and I wanted to be in the Olympics. I thought I was going to be able to win a gold medal and my mind was pretty much set on ‘this is what I want to do’. I loved running track, and I loved sports. I got that part from my Mom. The Emmy that I lost, and I can’t remember his name, I lost to the man who did the Olympics. So, it was great to lose to him. It’s the Olympics. ”

By the way she lost to composer John Pearce, musical director for the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Sheila E. (The E is for Escovedo) has performed with so many talented, Rock and Roll hall of fame bound, musicians and in renowned venues that it is a bit hard for one to fathom that she would be in awe of any event. However, she told us that playing at the legendary Playboy Jazz Festival is a little different.

“You grow up and you see on television these performances where someone has played the Hollywood Bowl,”
she explained. “I didn’t live in Los Angeles, I grew up in the Bay Area, so to see it on television you see all the greats performed there. Then, when you finally drive up to the actual venue and see this historical place where you’re going to perform, and the great thing is for it to be called the Playboy Jazz Festival. It’s music! It’s part of the foundation of who I am as an artist, growing up listening to Latin jazz because of my Dad. It’s just an incredible place to be and I’m just honored and thrilled to be a part of it for so many years.”

Part of the reason why Sheila has so many fans from different backgrounds is because she is great at playing a multitude of musical styles. So, what can attendees at the Playboy Jazz Fest expect? The unexpected, of course.

“Actually, I have five different bands. I put bands together, like I’ve done for Beyonce, Prince and whoever. So people call me to put bands together or, for corporate things that I do, I just love playing music so much. Sometimes it just depends on whose available. My band members are incredible players, and they play with so many different people that I had to have like 5 bands. Some for just Latin jazz or salsa music, maybe one for some R&B or funk music, some Sheila E music. This band (that I’ll be playing with) is a band I put together more recently, I’d say about a year. We’ve been playing, on and off, for about a year now. It’s a great group of people that I think everybody is going to enjoy and, yes, my Dad (percussionist Pete Escovedo, a legend in his own right) will come and play a song or two with me. I gotta have Papi there.”

“You’re going to hear music that has inspired me over the years as far as me being an artist,” she continued. “My genre of music is very eclectic. I might play some Latin jazz, or just go into a spontaneous jazz thing. That’s the thing about coming to one of my performances. Not every show is the same. The majority of my show is improvising. I can have a set of songs that we’re going to do, but a lot of it is just enjoyment. Part of it is interacting with the audience. I bring people up on stage. There’s a lot of improvising and that’s what keeps it fun for me. I don’t play the same thing all the time.”

For those that don’t know the Hollywood Bowl is … well, a bowl shaped outdoor venue in, where else, Hollywood … at the base of the Hollywood hills. It has been the home to the Playboy Jazz Festival for 34 years. We asked Sheila what unique challenges does playing outdoors present.

“One time I was playing on a tour with Ringo (Starr) and it was so hot that I had to be taken off the drums. The paramedics were there. That was the first time that ever happened. It wasn’t only the heat, but also the heat from the lights. I like it being hot, but temperature does play a role in how I play. When it gets cold outside, and it starting to get cold, and I’m playing the drums, because of the moisture on the drums you actually have to play harder. It doesn’t give you something back because of the moisture in the air.”

We understand not everyone can get out to Hollywood to check out the Jazz Festival to end all jazz festivals, but if you’re hankering for some Sheila E sounds then there is good news.

“I did want to mention that the E family has out a new CD called ‘Now and Forever’. We have such guests as Earth, Wind and Fire, Joss Stone, Raphael Saadiq, Joyce Gibbs and Israel Hoover.”

One of the incredible things about being in this line of work is finding out things about people that you otherwise would have never known. Sheila told us about her charitable endeavor, which is no big surprise really. Many artists have charities. It’s a widely recognized tax shelter. But this one goes much deeper than that. Way deep!

“People can go online to my foundation,” she explained. “It’s called elevatehope.org. We raise money and use that to bring music to children in foster care. It’s to give them tools and give them hope to be creative and express themselves. One reason that’s important to me is because my Dad, for a couple years, he was left in an orphanage. Early on he put all our instruments in the car and said ‘As bad as we have it, even though we’re on welfare there’s always someone who is worse off than we are. So, let’s just go to these facilities and play for the kids and give them something. I know how it feels.’ My manager and I did Elevate Hope together. We found that the more people we talked to, more than half were molested or raped. I was raped at the age of 5 by a babysitter, and she was molested as well. Music was one of the healing parts of my life. It’s not like a book that we just read. We understand because we went through the same things. We know how music helped us to heal. Some of them have been so abused that they don’t know how to communicate and they don’t know how to express themselves. Music is a speaking piece for them to allow them to break down those barriers and those walls.”

If you want to catch Sheila at the Playboy Jazz Festival, along with Ramsey Lewis, Boney James, Robin Thicke, the Dap Kings and many, many others, there’s still chance. The fun doesn’t start until June 16th and runs through the 17th. Log onto www.elevatehope.org to find out how you can help bring music to a child who really needs it.

Marsha Ambrosius Talks About Her Roots From B-Ball to Music

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 27, 2012) *
Marsha Ambrosius bragged about her baller skills in a recent interview with Sister 2 Sister.

The now solo singer – once part of Floetry – explained that when she came to America from Britain over a decade ago, she never expected her life would turn out the way it is.

She started out pursuing a basketball dream, but quit after sustaining an injury. It seemed as if that might have been the change she needed in life as her dreams came to fruition.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen when I came to America. I was just like, ‘Oh, I’m doing this poetry thing,’ and then before I knew it I had a deal and I was living in Philly,” she said. “Then 12 years later, I still live in Philly; I can’t get out.”

Marsha credits her foundation and support system for getting her to where she wants to go. Her parents have always been there for her.

“If I told them I was going to be an astronaut they would be with it. I have those parents, like, ‘You want to do it? Okay, go in it 100 percent.’”

At first hesitant about Marsha’s change, her father was heartbroken over her sudden career path.

“He was upset because he didn’t know if I was going to take the music thing seriously and I told him if I did the music thing, I’m going to work with Michael Jackson and he was like, ‘Psht whatever’ and then I called him back a couple months later and I said, “Guess what, sucka?”

Marsha had the opportunity to write Michael’s song “Butterflies” for his 10th studio album Invincible. “There would never be anyone like him,” she said.

Check out the full interview at Sister 2 Sister.

Marsha Ambrosius Talks About Her Roots From B-Ball to Music

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 27, 2012) *
Marsha Ambrosius bragged about her baller skills in a recent interview with Sister 2 Sister.

The now solo singer – once part of Floetry – explained that when she came to America from Britain over a decade ago, she never expected her life would turn out the way it is.

She started out pursuing a basketball dream, but quit after sustaining an injury. It seemed as if that might have been the change she needed in life as her dreams came to fruition.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen when I came to America. I was just like, ‘Oh, I’m doing this poetry thing,’ and then before I knew it I had a deal and I was living in Philly,” she said. “Then 12 years later, I still live in Philly; I can’t get out.”

Marsha credits her foundation and support system for getting her to where she wants to go. Her parents have always been there for her.

“If I told them I was going to be an astronaut they would be with it. I have those parents, like, ‘You want to do it? Okay, go in it 100 percent.’”

At first hesitant about Marsha’s change, her father was heartbroken over her sudden career path.

“He was upset because he didn’t know if I was going to take the music thing seriously and I told him if I did the music thing, I’m going to work with Michael Jackson and he was like, ‘Psht whatever’ and then I called him back a couple months later and I said, “Guess what, sucka?”

Marsha had the opportunity to write Michael’s song “Butterflies” for his 10th studio album Invincible. “There would never be anyone like him,” she said.

Check out the full interview at Sister 2 Sister.

Steven Page, Craig Northey Among Acts In ‘Sgt. Pepper’ Anniversary Concerts

Source: www.thestar.com - By Victoria Ahearn

(May 29, 2012) As a kid in the ‘70s, former Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page remembers strapping on giant Radio Shack headphones, lying on a white shag carpet and incessantly listening to his parents’ mono copy of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Sometimes the headphone jack would dislodge a bit and he’d hear just the reverb or bass guitar, allowing him to identify individual instrumental parts on the tunes that formed what’s widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time.

“That changed the way I looked at music forever, the way I could be able to look at symphonic music or vocal harmonies or whatever else ever since,” the Toronto-bred Page, who’s working on a fourth solo album, said in a recent phone interview.

“Listening to Beatles records ... made me want to make records.”

These days, Page considers himself “a total Beatles nerd” who’s been known to get caught up in such debates as whether Paul McCartney is playing an Epiphone Casino or a Fender Esquire guitar through a Selmer Zodiac on certain tunes.

He’ll get to celebrate that side of himself as he and other artists perform reinvented versions of Sgt. Pepper’s colourful songs — from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” to “With a Little Help From My Friends” and “A Day in the Life” — in three Art of Time Ensemble concerts at Harbourfront Centre’s Enwave Theatre in Toronto.

The first concert is on Thursday, the 45th anniversary of the album’s June 1, 1967 release. Performances are also slated for Friday and Saturday.

Backed by a 12-piece band under the artistic direction of Art of Time founder Andrew Burashko, Page will sing all tunes from the Beatles’ eighth album alongside Andy Maize (Skydiggers), John Mann (Spirit of the West) and Craig Northey (Odds).

Page will sing most of McCartney’s parts.

“McCartney can really scream up high and when you’re working with Andrew, one thing is he rehearses like crazy,” said Page. “We go in and rehearse from 10 to seven every day and then go and do sound checks and shows, so by the end of the week your voice, if you’re not really taking care of it, it can be tough on it.

“So I get a little big nervous about that, when it comes to singing ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ which is really high, and then trying to do something delicate like ‘She’s Leaving Home.’ But I’m up for the challenge.”

A group of master pop, jazz and classical composers have “gone to town” on the new arrangements, said Burashko.

But they’ve kept the original melodies, lyrics and harmonies intact to respect what Page called the “sacredness” of the album that won four Grammy Awards.

“They’ve played off so many cool elements in the music and then referenced it and gone somewhere else with it. It’s quite interesting,” said Vancouver-based Northey, who will sing most of John Lennon’s parts in the concerts.”

“It makes you listen to the originals in a different way — they seem so concise; when I listened to them otherwise I thought, ‘Wow, they’re really on drugs. It’s awesome.’ But now they seem so together,” he added with a laugh.

This is the Art of Time’s second Beatles tribute concert after its sold-out 2009 reimagining of the Abbey Road album that also included Maize and Page, who’s worked with the ensemble since 2008.

“The Beatles are probably the greatest musical influence on me, or they’ve been a bigger part of my life than any other music,” said Burashko, noting he first heard the Fab Four in Italy in ‘73, when his family was en route to Canada from the Soviet Union.

“It was the first time I heard pop music. I would’ve been seven, and I just went mad for it, and to this day I listen to the Beatles on a regular basis.”

Yet Sgt. Pepper’s was not his first choice when he thought of organizing a second Beatles show for his music ensemble, which puts on various concerts.

“Only because it’s so iconic,” said Burashko. “But partly it made the most sense because aside from Abbey Road, it’s the longest record — aside from The White Album, which is too long, too ambitious.

“So this makes a nice full evening, Sgt. Pepper, and just the songs on the album really lend themselves to reinventing, within reason.”

VIDEO: Do Musicians Ever Get Tired Of Their Own Hit Tunes?

Source:
www.thestar.com - By Nick Patch

(May 29, 2012) New York indie-pop outfit Fun set the world on fire with the No. 1 single “We Are Young.” But
months after it topped the charts, no one would blame the trio if the tune had them feeling a little burnt out.

After all, even those among us who celebrated the song’s ceaselessly contagious chorus (“set the world on FI-YA!” is a hook hefty enough to reel in a white whale) might have tired of the track once it achieved supermarket-stereo ubiquity.

So how would you feel if you performed the song every single day?

For their part, however, the members of Fun say they’re still having a ball each and every time they take the stage to perform their signature hit.

“That’d be really dumb on our part to get tired of it,” front man Nate Ruess said during a recent interview in Toronto.

“Watching the way people react (when we play it) makes it hard to get tired of it,” added guitarist Jack Antonoff. “Not to sound like a total cheesebag, but when you see people get excited and go, ‘Oh my God, this is the song that I’ve been singing for a long time’ — it’s cool, because we were those people at one point.”

But of course, they are young.

While they’ll rarely admit it publicly, many artists reluctantly concede that over time, performing their biggest hits night in, night out can wind up feeling like a chore. And the reasons for that weariness are numerous.

Sometimes, the sentiment of a song written years — or even decades — before will no longer resonate, or a band will simply change its mind about the value of a tune. The setlist resource website setlist.fm, for example, tracks 510 instances of R.E.M. performing “The One I Love” between 1986 and 2008, compared with only one recorded occasion on which they saw fit to perform “Shiny Happy People,” a chart hit that was poorly regarded by critics and even bashed by Michael Stipe himself.

In other cases, a band will feel it’s outgrown the stylistic hallmarks of a major hit written in the fledgling stage of its career — consider Radiohead, the British rock innovators who hardly ever tackle their breakout blast of jagged angst, “Creep,” in front of an audience anymore.

And sometimes, of course, artists just get plain tired of playing a song. “1234” represents Toronto-based songstress Leslie Feist’s biggest hit to date, but you could count on one hand the number of times she performed the jaunty tune on her most recent tour.

It becomes especially hard when a song endures over decades — how many times, for instance, has Sting pleaded in falsetto to turn on that red light?

“I’ve sang ‘Zombie’ so many times that I actually feel like a zombie,” Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan has joked, referencing the band’s impossible-to-kill 1994 single.

“We’ve been doing our old hits for so long, you feel like you’re stuck in a loop or something, so with new material you feel very much alive.”

The catch-22, of course, is that the vast majority of audience members at a given show are most primed to hear those trademark tunes — sometimes, those songs are the only ones familiar to casual fans enticed into buying a ticket by fond memories of a major radio hit. And artists stubbornly refusing to give the crowd what they want can sound a bum note.

As a result, it doesn’t take long for some artists to grow to resent the very songs on which they’ve established their careers.

“It does have to do with the expectation that (your hits) are going to be in a show, and that people are buying their tickets expecting to have those songs included,” said Ottawa-reared singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn in a recent telephone interview.

“And if you don’t include them, there’s dissatisfaction, so there’s pressure around it. And that’s what creates the distaste for (playing the hits).”

It’s probably not hard to guess which songs Cockburn has intermittently soured on. There were times when he probably would have liked to blow up his 1984 tune, “If I Had a Rocket Launcher,” but it was actually 1979’s “Wondering Where the Lions Are” — still the biggest hit he ever had in the U.S. — that really made him snarl.

“I got to really hate that song after a while,” he said. “And then I just let it lie for ... a period of years where I really didn’t perform it, or hardly ever did, and it came back. And I enjoy it now again.”

Indeed, that’s the most common cure for hit fatigue — spending some time apart.

Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy grew understandably tired of performing the Toronto band’s 1987 breakthrough “Try” — its refrain, “oh night after night/ Oh it’s crazy,” took on different meaning after reaching for those high notes on every show on every tour.

“I got sick of that song so bad for a while. After about five years, I went: ‘Oh my God,’” Cuddy said with a laugh during a recent interview.

So, he and “Try” went on a break.

“And now? I love it. It’s fun. It forces you go to the top of your range, the bottom of your range. It’s simple. So now I don’t think I’ll ever be fatigued with that song.”

Former Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page said his old band similarly rested early hits “Brian Wilson” and “If I Had $1,000,000” for tours at a time — but it was a necessary step to ensuring the band’s performances remained sharp.

“We knew that if we weren’t feeling it at all, that it would feel like we were sleepwalking through it,” Page said. “The audience deserved better than that.”

Our Lady Peace front man Raine Maida says his band actually eliminated some songs from their live performances entirely. But luckily, few of those banished tunes are fan favourites that crowds clamour to hear.

There’s some songs we’ll just never play — they just don’t resonate with us anymore and they don’t mean anything really to me,” said Our Lady Peace front man Raine Maida recently.

“But fortunately, a lot of the main things that people want to hear that we usually put in the set every night, yeah, they still really have a lot of value to me.

“It’s weird. I couldn’t imagine a set where we don’t play ‘Naveed.’”

There are other tricks for freshening up a stale song. Bob Dylan is famous for reinventing his classics in a live setting, a common strategy for industrious songwriters. And then there’s always that other standby for artists who can’t stomach one of their own tunes but still want to give the audience a taste: the medley.

That was the strategy adopted by genre-hopping Minneapolis pop legend Prince during a recent three-hour marathon at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, when he combined truncated versions of hits including “Nothing Compares 2 U,” “1999” and “Little Red Corvette” into crowd-pleasing mega-mixes.

But such solutions still won’t please everybody.

“No medleys please!” laughed Odds front man Craig Northey, who said he was “thankful” for hits including “Someone Who’s Cool” and didn’t tire of them.

“Sometimes I think it’s a little precious to not (play your hits). And that you should — at least — ghettoize them and put them in the encore, or find some way. But ... the only people who are allowed to do medleys that are cool are Motown artists in their sunset years.”

Indeed, many music fans are angry at the notion of highly paid musicians refusing to play the songs they’re known for.

For a fan forking out hundreds of dollars for a prime seat, parking and concessions for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a favourite artist, is it too much to ask for said artist to endure a few minutes of boredom to send thousands home happy?

“I just think it’s selfish to not play those songs that your career was built on, that people supported you through,” Canadian songwriter Jann Arden has said.

“If that’s what some of these younger acts want to do, let them go cut their own throats. I think it’s inexperience, I think it’s selfish, self-serving, narcissistic and stupid.”

Added Page: “I always get annoyed when I see that an artist who I think thinks they’re better than their past material ... We were never ashamed of our stuff.”

If there was ever a group with a rightful claim on banishing a major hit to the past, it might be the former tweenybop sibling outfit Hanson.

MMMBop” went to No. 1 in 12 countries in 1997. The video featured the pubescent trio frolicking in oversized clothes over terrible greenscreen. The song was as ubiquitous in the ‘90s as flannel, Pogs and slap bracelets, so insidiously infectious that McAfee might have made a fortune scrubbing the tune from its unwitting victims’ brains.

And yet, the Oklahoma trio still doggedly performs “MMMBop” on nearly every tour stop — impossibly high notes be damned.

In part, they want to satisfy their fans. But more than that, the trio is deeply proud that a song they wrote 15 years ago still resonates.

“It’s a little bit like a runner not wanting to wear their gold medals,” said singer Taylor Hanson during a recent interview in Toronto. “For us, we wear the gold medals with pride because we don’t see them as something that is relegated to the past.

“We’re proud of where we came from,” he added. “It’s understandable that some artists want to put (their old hits) away ... (But) what you’re saying to the fans is: you’re not a part of our history anymore.

“When you get out on stage, you need to remember that you were a fan first ... You’ve gotta remember that moment when you go onstage, and not steal it away from your fans. So that means playing old songs, new songs, and doing everything with a level of conviction and passion that will inspire that 12-year-old kid in the audience or that 30-year-old or whatever to go: ‘Damn. I love this song. I love this band.’”

VIDEO:: Sweden's Loreen Wins Eurovision Song Contest With Dance Hit

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Leonard

(May 26, 2012) BAKU, AZERBAIJAN—Sweden's
Loreen clinched the top spot at this year's Eurovision Song Contest with her dance hit “Euphoria,” pushing aside competition from a sextet of Russian grannies and a Serbian balladeer.

Juries and television viewers from across Europe awarded Loreen a total of 372 points, handing her an easy win in an event that ended in the early hours Sunday in host country Azerbaijan. Sweden will take over hosting duties next year.

Softly spoken Loreen, a 28-year-old of Moroccan-Berber descent, thanked her fans for their support.

“I wouldn't have been able to do this without you. Thank you so much,” she said after her victory was announced.

Russia's Buranovskiye Babushki garnered much public affection for their cute onstage presence, but their folksy dance ditty “Party for Everybody” couldn't quite match Sweden's more contemporary offering and ended up second on 259 points.

Zeljko Joksimovic, a Eurovision regular from Serbia, came in a distant third with his slow and stripped-down “Nije Ljubav Stvar.”

The 57-year-old pan-European competition viewed by some 125 million people worldwide is hailed by its legion of devoted fans as harmless, kitschy fun that allows Europeans to forget their differences — and economic troubles — for at least one night. The winner is picked by juries and television viewers across the continent, so a broad appeal is deemed key to success.

Amid the usual jamboree of youthful exuberance — and questionable taste — a pair of elderly acts had featured among the most high-profile contenders.

The UK's black-clad veteran crooner Engelbert Humperdinck, who Scottish comedian Robert Florence acerbically remarked on Twitter looked “like an inaccurate waxwork of Johnny Cash,” proved a flop, however, scoring a dismal 12 points. Only Norway's Tooji did worse, coming 26th with seven points.

The Buranovskiye Babushki offered a static stage show, but did liven up their rendition of “Party for Everybody” with some choreographed baking in an onstage oven.

Europe's more boring countries lived down to expectations with performances that were forgotten even before they were over. Slow ballads were very much the flavour of the evening, with Estonia arguably achieving new depths of bland.

Past the half-way mark, Romania's six-piece Mandinga mercifully livened up proceedings with a pounding musical potpourri of bagpipes and brass, extravagant wardrobe choices, and a sultry performance by lead vocalist Elena Ionescu.

Winner Loreen went for the windswept look as she battled a wind machine to belt out the club music-lite hit “Euphoria” and assay some vaguely robotic dance moves.

Once the competitive section of the show was over, Emin, the pop star son-in-law of Azerbaijan's authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev, was winched down onto the stage to perform his own song.

Emin's inclusion in the night's entertainment roster raised eyebrows and refreshed claims of the rampant nepotism that is widely said to benefit members of Aliyev's family.

Azerbaijan, a comparatively little-known former Soviet republic, dug deep to make sure it took full advantage of its rare moment in the world limelight.

The new Crystal Hall concert venue, a light-bathed arena on a point jutting out into the Caspian Sea, cost $134 million to build and was put up in a speedy eight months. Countless more millions have been spent embellishing the capital, Baku, and buying a huge fleet of brand new London-style taxis.

Such profligacy has aroused concerns about the spiraling costs involved in holding the contest in times of austerity.

“At the moment, if the costs are growing more and more every year and it needs to be more splendid, there are countries that would have huge difficulties, especially with financial situation in Europe at the moment, in organizing it,” said Annika Nyberg Frankenhauser, media department for the European Broadcasting Union, under whose auspices Eurovision is held.

Rain fell hard throughout the night in Baku, although diehard Eurovision fans were not deterred, and stuck it out on the windswept seafront promenade to cheer along their contestant in front of the big mega-screen provided.

Antigovernment activists have held a number of protests in the week running up to the final, seizing on the opportunity of the increased international media presence to draw attention to what they describe as the government's authoritarian style of rule.

On Friday, police quickly shut down a small flash mob near the competition venue, roughly dragging away dozens of demonstrators and stuffing them into waiting buses, at least of one which bore a Eurovision logo.

Three demonstration participants were sentenced to jail terms of five and six days on Saturday, while 17 others were fined.

MUSIC TIDBITS

Jay-Z, Kanye West Planning ‘’Watch the Throne’ Sequel

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Karan Smith

(May 29, 2012) *Producer Mike Dean has confirmed that Jay Z and Kanye West are planning a return to the
studio to record a second “Watch The Throne” album. The original was released last summer and released the singles “Otis,” “H.A.M.” and “N**gas in Paris.” In December, Jay Z said a second “Throne” project is a possibility: “We’re in a great place creatively. You might see a Jay, then Kanye, and a ‘Throne’ album next year… We really found our zone.” Dean is now telling QuietLunch.com that the “Throne” follow-up will begin once West and his G.O.O.D. Music label artists finish their upcoming compilation. “I’m working on the G.O.O.D. Music album, of course, and ‘Watch The Throne 2’ – it’s not started yet, but it’s coming.”

VIDEO:: Talib KweliI'm on One

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 30, 2012) The always-on-point MC, Talib Kweli comes to town on his Prisoner of Conscious tour, which is the name of his next album, which is set to be released sometime this summer. (Friday, Sound Academy).

Four Things you Didn’t Know About Sade

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 30, 2012) *One of the most popular songs on the globe is the timeless Sade. Sade, who many would confuse for a woman in her late 30s, is actually in her 50s but keeps herself looking oh so great. In a recent interview, her guitarist Stuart Matthewman dished on her 2011 concert DVD and talked about some things you may not know about the singer. MATTHEWMAN: [Laughs] The first thing is timing for Sade. When we hadn’t done a tour in ten years, or maybe we finished a tour a couple years later, and she won’t realize that it was like a year ago. She’ll think it was like a month ago. Also, she loves gardening. When she gets into her garden, it’s like time stops. Read more at Essence.

::FILM NEWS::    

Men In Black III Review: Will Smith And Tommy Lee Jones’ Alien Resurrection

Source: www.thestar.com - By Linda Barnard

Men in Black III
Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Emma Thompson. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. 105 minutes. Opens May 25 at major theatres. PG

(May 24, 2012) Dig out your shades, slick. The
Men in Black are back and darned if director Barry Sonnenfeld hasn’t zapped us all a neutralizer. I can almost forgive (but can’t completely forget) the wobbly 10-year-old sequel MIB II. Here, he gets it mostly right for this high-octane threequel of the original blockbuster.

The toylike weapons and slime-spewing off-world creatures remain, as do the shadowy alphabet Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) who team for the third time — and let’s make this the last, boys.

What’s obviously missing is the element of surprise that infused the 1997 bow of Men in Black, and no amount of cinematic trickery and wisecracks can make up for that.

Agent J is 15 years older than the know-it-all kid recruited by Agent K to don the black suit and Ray-Bans, to protect the Earth from outer-space baddies, gruesome critters and giant cockroaches. He’s admittedly weary of the game, he confesses to the ever-deadpan senior Agent K, who acts like cracking a smile is a federal offence. Where J’s purpose was once to annoy K with his puppylike enthusiasm, he’s now more interested in finding out why his partner is so darned downbeat all the time. Is there a secret behind K’s sour puss?

Time travel opens new comedic themes for this MIB. The convoluted plot has J heading back to 1969 to
prevent K from being killed by one-armed alien creep Boris the Animal (Flight of the ConchordsJemaine Clement), who keeps a poison dart-firing creepy-crawly sidekick nestled inside his palm. Boris has broken out of a maximum-security lunar prison, with the help of Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger, and aims to finish K off by heading back to 1969 to thwart J’s plan.

With a nod to It’s a Wonderful Life, J experiences a K-free future at headquarters, now helmed by Agent O (Emma Thompson) replacing Rip Torn’s Z, whose funeral kicks off the movie.

Z isn’t the only much-missed presence, but sharp-eyed fans of Frank the trash-talking pug will spot a couple of bark-outs.

Tastes of the delightfully whack MIB universe shine in a raid on a Chinese restaurant, where the otherworldly daily special says “hi” and the chef has eight arms, all of them busy. Kudos to special effects artist Rick Baker, but scenes at MIB headquarters fail to similarly amuse. We’ve seen it all before, including the outing of aliens among us. And yes, we knew Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Howard Stern were not of this planet.

With a nicely CGI-crafted, heart-stopping leap off the Chrysler Building, J travels back to the summer of ’69 as America readies for the Apollo 11 launch to find the younger version of K.

Josh Brolin does a bang-on impersonation of Jones, nailing his delivery with such authenticity, early looks at the movie’s trailer led viewers to wrongly assume Brolin was lip-synching. The trick wears thin as the movie goes on. And if youthful K expects us to believe he’s 29 (Brolin is 44), I’ve got some space land for sale on the planet Brooklyn Bridge.

The jump back in time provides comic fodder as J plays an African-American fish out of water in a less-enlightened time. But the most laughs come courtesy of a raid on Andy Warhol’s Factory where Bill Hader does a hilarious turn as the pop-art peddler. Be prepared to be charmed by Warhol party guest Griff, a wide-eyed alien innocent played by Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man). He’s a kind of interstellar unicorn who can see all versions of the immediate future, most of which utterly delight him.

Although many hands were at work in MIB III according to IMDb, screenwriter Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) gets the lone credit for the script, which includes some satisfying back story material on what may have gone on between the young K and O in the era of love beads and bell bottoms. In that regard, pretty Alice Eve (The Raven) is a wash as the young O, capturing none of Thompson’s luscious gravitas.

The final showdown comes with an interesting plot twist prior to the Apollo 11 launch at Cape Canaveral — which was still called Cape Kennedy in 1969: fail for the continuity department. But it drags on too long for an action sequence.

MIB III is the kind of summer popcorn muncher destined to please escape seekers. The good news is, you can afford to upsize a bucket of those oily kernels if you see it in 2D. The 3D is an unneeded frippery that adds nothing to the flick.

Now suit up and ride off into the sunset on your souped-up vehicles, compadres. Look into this device and wait for the flash and forget any talk of sequels, please. Move along. Your work is done.

VIDEO: Dwayne Johnson Wants an Oscar: ‘That Role is Gonna Come’

Source: www.eurweb.com - by Cherie Saunders

(May 25, 2012) *
Dwayne Johnson will be back on the big screen next fall as the character Roadblock in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” which has the group of special operatives fighting their nemesis Cobra while this time dealing with threats from within the government that threaten their existence. [Scroll down to watch the trailers.]

Roadblock – a heavy machine gunner – is the latest in a long line of characters that has made Johnson a bona fide action superstar, (He’s got “Snitch,” “Pain and Gain” and “Fast and Furious 6″ in the pipeline.), but being Hollywood’s go-to action guy was never his endgame.

The former professional wrestler wants a role that would earn him an Academy Award.

“That role is gonna come,” he said at the recent Cinemacon in Las Vegas. “I don’t know when, but it’s gonna
come. [My production company] can develop it, and we’re developing smaller roles like that right now. But it feels like when you start developing it with that in mind, a lot of times it doesn’t work out like that, so I have faith that it’s gonna come somehow, someway. I’m gonna lock into that role and it’s gonna be unexpected.”

Below, Johnson says being an action star and a box office shoe-in for family comedies is great – but he craved versatility when he left the wrestling hustle in 2000 for Hollywood.

Harry Belafonte, The Original Celebrity Activist: Projections

Source: www.thestar.com - By Jason Anderson


(May 24, 2012) HARRY BELAFONTE: SING YOUR SONG: Today’s array of celebrity activists have a tough act to follow in
Harry Belafonte, the subject of a new HBO documentary that makes its local theatrical premiere this weekend. Made by director Suzanne Rostock in close collaboration with her subject and his family, Harry Belafonte: Sing Your Song is a fitting tribute to a showbiz legend who’s never been afraid to integrate art and politics.

It was an early encounter with the American Negro Theater as a young WWII vet that first inspired Belafonte to enter acting school. Yet he first found fame as a singer, making hits out of several songs he learned from his Jamaican mother. Finding a powerful mentor figure in Paul Robeson and becoming close friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he was soon fearless in his support of the civil rights movement, often jeopardizing his career in the process. (Marrying a white woman in 1957 didn’t exactly endear him to the masses, either.)

Belafonte’s humanitarian activities continued well past the 1960s, as Rostock’s spirited doc demonstrates. Indeed, his achievements as an activist leave little room for a deeper consideration of his artistic accomplishments. Nevertheless, Bono and Angelina Jolie ought to be in the audience taking notes when the film plays May 25 at 8:30 p.m. at the Toronto Underground Cinema.

Tim Story: Underestimated, but Highly Successful Black Director

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 26, 2012) *The highest paid black director in Hollywood is still one of the most underrated and unknown
people in the industry, but “Think Like A Man” should put him on the map, right?

One Los Angeles Times blogger doesn’t think
Tim Story has the pull yet to make that impact.

The director has directed five other studio films, which have all been rightfully successful.

The writer explains that despite the huge amount of money he’s raked in over the years (nearly $1 billion), he hasn’t gained the respect he deserves among his peers.

That’s more money than Antoine Fuqua, Spike Lee, and John Singleton. He’s even worked on both “Fantastic Four” movies, one (if not the only) black director to head a major action, special effects laded film.

Despite his success with major productions, Story doesn’t quite make the cut, says the writer. Race could be a factor, however some of his work hasn’t been the best, partially due to bad acting and bad scripts.

But the writer can’t help but focus on the race factor.

Read/learn more at Shadow and Act.

FILM TIDBITS

Cannes 2012: Suzanne Clement Wins Best Actress In Sidebar Competition

Source
: www.thestar.com

(May 26, 2012) CANNES, FRANCE—Canadian
Suzanne Clement has been awarded the Best Actress prize in the Cannes Film Festival’s sidebar competition, Un Certain Regard. The Quebec actress claimed the prize for her role in Xavier Dolan’s cross dressing drama Laurence Anyways. The film tracks the story of a man trying to salvage his relationship with his fiancée after revealing to her his aspirations of becoming a woman. Clement is sharing the award with Emilie Dequenne for her performance in Joachim Lafosse’s A Perdre la Raison. The competition’s top prize went to After Lucia by Mexican director Michel Franco. Un Certain Regard focuses on new and emerging filmmakers. The winners were chosen Saturday from a slate of 20 films by a jury headed by British actor Tim Roth. Roth called the 2012 crop an “extraordinarily strong” group of films which prompted passionate deliberations. Twenty-two films from around the world are competing for prizes in the festival’s main competition. Winners will be announced Sunday.

Morris Chestnut Joins T.I. in Universal’s ‘Identity Thief’

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 25, 2012) *
Morris Chestnut has joined rapper T.I. in the cast of Universal‘s “Identity Thief.” The Seth Gordon-directed caper comedy is about a successful man whose life is ruined when a women steals his identity. Chestnut will play a Boston police detective. He joins Jason Bateman, Melissa McCarthy, T.I. and Genesis Rodriguez. Chestnut was recently seen in “Think Like A Man” and FX’s “American Horror Story.”

‘Starbuck’ Creators Win Telefilm Canada Award

Source: www.globeandmail.com - The Canadian Press

(May 25, 2012) Montreal—The two creators of Quebec’s fertility comedy Starbuck have each won a $20,000 prize from Telefilm Canada. On Wednesday, director Ken Scott and his co-writer Martin Petit landed the 2011 Guichet d’Or award. The annual honour goes to the Canuck director and writer of a Canadian French-language feature film with the highest-grossing domestic box-office sales during the previous year. In 2011, Starbuck took in more than $3.5-million at the Canadian box office, according to Telefilm Canada. Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks Studios announced last month that it’s revamping the francophone film with a new script that would set the action in New York. Scott will also direct the remake with original producer Andre Rouleau of Caramel Films onboard. Telefilm says the film will also be remade for France with Made in PM as the producer. The 2010 winners of the Guichet d’or were the creators of Piche: entre ciel et terre.

‘The Help’ to Premiere Next Month on Showtime

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 30, 2012) *Nearing it’s the one-year anniversary of its theatrical release,The Help” is headed for its TV premiere next month on Showtime. The best picture nominee, which earned a supporting actress Oscar for Octavia Spencer, will debut June 24 at 10 p.m. ET on the cable channel. Also starring Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson, “The Help” earned nearly $170 million in the U.S. box office and topped ticket sales for 25 days straight, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Kathryn Stockett, “The Help” garnered multiple nominations and wins over the recent award seasons — including nods at the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, NAACP Image Awards and the Screen Actors Guild.

::TV NEWS::    

Video: Canadian Actor Rides Mad Men Train

Source
: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(May 27, 2012) It was just supposed to be a short commute.

As far as actor
Jeff Clarke knew, it would only be a single day’s shooting on Mad Men, a simple train-ride sequence opposite series regular Vincent Kartheiser, with some seedy conversation about marital infidelity.

Wham, bam, thank you Matt Weiner.

But it turned into so much more. Clarke’s smug portrayal of philandering Howard Dawes so impressed producer Weiner and his team that another scene was added, and then another episode, and another, and another . . .

Clarke isn’t allowed to reveal how many he finally did end up shooting, or what happens in them. “There are some big things coming up,” is all he can say. “I could tell you more, but then I’d have to kill you.”

The Ontario- and Manitoba-raised Clarke figures he appeared in “every Canadian-shot American film and episodic” before relocating to Los Angeles six years ago.

A good many of these, including the Toronto-made Chicago, were period pieces. “I guess I just have that kind of face,” he allows, “a happy accident of genetics.”

The Mad Men gig was something he had long been after — “I’ve auditioned for them every season,” he says. He started to suspect that it might turn out to be more when he noticed that show-runner Weiner was spending a lot of time hovering on set.

“He’s there most of the time,” Clarke clarifies. “He’s very hands-on. But he was asking me a lot of questions. They play things pretty close to the vest, but it was clear that he had something more in mind.”

Clarke did his best to pretend to know what. “I was talking to one of the other producers, and started to suggest that it might have had something to do with ‘the juxtaposition of the suburban idyll,’ something like that . . .

“And he just looked at me. ‘It’s about two guys talking on a train.’ ‘Oh, right. That too.’

At some point, he was introduced to the actress who would play his neglected wife, Gilmore Girl Alexis Bledel.

“I came up to her and said, ‘Clearly I’m the one who married well.’ ”

Clarke himself did marry well, to Toronto Second City alum Gina Sorell, with whom he now has an 8-month-old son. Following the annual madness of Los Angeles pilot season — “when all the actors go running around town begging for work” — he and his young family are busy settling into their new home in suburban Burbank.

“For the time being,” he says, “it’s all about diapers and plumbing.”

HEMINGWAY AND THE WRONG WAY

You have been reading a lot in this paper lately about our former correspondent, Ernest Hemingway. The new HBO movie, Hemingway & Gellhorn, could be considered an audio-visual aide. It certainly can’t be considered much of a movie.

The primary problem is the casting: Clive Owen is no more “Papa” Hemingway than I am. And Nicole Kidman is, well, Nicole Kidman. The closest she comes to actual acting here is furiously chain-smoking cigarettes.

At the last TV critics previews, both actors were on hand to discuss their roles, with Owen proving at least that his failure on film was certainly not for lack of trying.

“When I took this on,” he said, “it was a huge challenge. I took a lot of time off before, to get ready for it. And I sort of did a lot of research. I read everything. I immersed myself as much as I could . . . he was very much a part you have to attack.”

Kidman had the opposite problem, a performance that could be charitably described as underwhelming.

“I’m attracted to many different roles,” she said, “but there’s times when I feel the need to play something that inspires me. And I think Martha (Gellhorn) inspires me. . . . She believed in having an opinion. And I think that’s important in this day and age, having an opinion, and being willing to stand up for that no matter who throws, you know, sticks and stones.”

Hemingway & Gellhorn debuts on HBO Canada Monday night at 9.

BACK FROM THE FUTURE

Debuting Sunday night at 9 on Showcase, Continuum is initially set about 50 years into our future, in a corporate-ruled technocracy beset by anarchist terrorists who escape into the time-stream and end up back here — or at least, Vancouver.

Hot on their trail is a supercop detective played by genre star Rachel Nichols (Star Trek, Conan, G.I. Joe), who talks about her role in an exclusive video clip.

VIDEO: MTV2’s ‘Hip Hop Squares’ Premiere Sets Network Record

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 24, 2012) *MTV2’s debut of the original comedic-game show series “
Hip Hop Squares” premiered strong this week as the network’s highest rated original series launch in the age 12-34 demo, and the most watched original series premiere among the same group in the network’s history.

The series is MTV2’s take on the original “Hollywood Squares,” but with rappers replacing celebrities in the squares.

The second episode will premiere on Tuesday, May 29th at 11pm ET/PT on MTV2, featuring appearances by comedian/actor J.B. Smoove, rappers Biz Markie, Fat Joe, Ghostface Killah and Maino, record producer and artist DJ Khaled, pro-skateboarder and “Jackass” crew member Bam Margera, comedian Donnell Rawlings, comedian Ralphie May, radio personality and writer Miss Info and host Peter Rosenberg.

Where are they Now? – the Cast of ‘New York Undercover’

Source: www.eurweb.com - Ricardo A. Hazell

(May 27, 2012) *One of the best shows of the 90s that was mostly watched by a black audience was “
New York Undercover.”

The show featured one loved black star in actor Malik Yoba.

Yoba has been featured in numerous Tyler Perry films and has played a role in various sitcoms.

He is the first actor we look at from the list of where the cast is of New York Undercover. Click on the link below for the rest.

Malik Yoba

Yoba was the very fine, very smooth and very smart Det. J.C. Williams. He was best friends with Torres,
father to “G,” and a lover of the ladies. He brought the heat and the eye candy on “New York Undercover,” and when it was over, Yoba wound up doing a little bit of everything. For instance, he did some singing (and had a lead role) in the David E. Talbert play, “His Woman, His Wife,” but he also kept on doing a lot of TV work. He had a guest role on “Arrested Development,” showed up on a series called “Bull,” had a recurring role as Joan’s love interest, Brock, on “Girlfriends,” and most recently starred in the Syphy series “Alphas.” You could also peep him in movies like Why Did I Get Married (and the sequel), Feel the Noise, and he just finished two new movies: Recalled and Caught on Tape. Yoba once said he has hopes to revive the TV series into a present-day version.

Read more at MadameNoire.

Katie Couric Brings Katie Talk Show To Citytv

Source:
www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(May 29, 2012) Last year, Citytv stepped up to the plate as a major player in
Canadian television. This year
they’ve scored a hit — several hits, actually — covering all the bases with an impressive roster of new and returning shows.

The sports metaphor would perhaps be more apt if it were hockey, amid rumours that parent company Rogers Media was interested in the eventual acquisition of Hockey Night in Canada. As if that were even a question.

Boasting of more successful returning series than any other Canadian network, City has also purchased four new American dramas and nine new comedies, with two Canadian ones in development for mid-season. There is also a new Canadian franchise for the popular romance/reality series The Bachelor.

Also joining the City schedule, two of the most-talked-about talk shows on the tube. The network has acquired Jimmy Kimmel Live in late night and, in daytime, Katie Couric’s new, eponymous talk show, Katie.

Couric was the star of Tuesday’s season preview, flying in for a quick promotional appearance and a brief chat with local journalists.

Why daytime? Why now? “I needed a job,” Couric deadpanned.

“I’ve been approached to do a talk show for quite a while. And I think I realized — even though I was very privileged and honoured to do the Evening News on CBS — the milieu that I feel most comfortable in is one that allows me to interact and to explore issues in a more spontaneous and free-form way, if you will. Creatively, this is a tremendous challenge for me.

“And it just seemed like it was good timing. Everyone has talked about the fact that there is a hole in the marketplace since Oprah’s departure — and let’s be honest about that, that’s very true. I think the notion of competing with her would have been pretty daunting to me.”

Another audience favourite Tuesday was actor Max Greenfield, breakout star of this season’s hit comedy, New Girl.

Not even he yet knows what the next season holds in store for his increasingly popular character, Schmidt.

“I don’t think the writers know,” Greenfield said. “Right now they’re taking a much needed nap. I’m pretty sure they’re still asleep. They should get up and get back to business around the middle of June.”

Of the massive slate of new comedies, one of the most promising is Partners, a “bromance” about two lifelong male friends, one gay and one straight, based on the real-life relationship between David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, creators of Will & Grace.

Co-stars Brandon Routh, the former Superman who guested on Will & Grace, and Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie came in for the preview, Urie fresh from his Broadway run on How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

Coincidentally, the book of that classic musical was written by the late Abe Burrows, who happened to be the father of Jim Burrows, the sitcom über-director (Taxi, Cheers, Frasier, Friends), who will also helm every episode of Partners.

Anticipation is also high for The Mindy Project, created by and starring Emmy winner Mindy Kaling (The Office).

A mid-season comedy offering, the unwieldy-titled How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life), co-stars two Canadians, Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) and comedian Jon Dore. Another, the White House-set 1600 Penn, co-stars Jenna Elfman (Dharma & Greg), returning president Bill Pullman (Independence Day) and co-producer Josh Gad, a star of the Broadway smash The Book of Mormon.

Of the new dramas, particularly intriguing is the latest J.J. Abrams genre show, Revolution, set in a dystopic future world where electricity is no longer possible.

Two mid-season dramas are of particular interest, both being prequels to hugely successful existing properties. The Carrie Diaries precedes Sex and the City, telling the story of a 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb). Hannibal chronicles the early adventures of fledgling serial killer Hannibal Lecter.

Ricki Lake and LL Cool J Talk It Up At Shaw/Global Upfronts

Source: www.thestar.com - By Rob Salem

(May 30, 2012) Daytime is alive . . . with the sound of talking.

On Tuesday at the Rogers/Citytv season preview, Katie Couric came to town to promote her new morning talk
show, Katie. Wednesday it was Shaw/Global and Ricki Lake.

Lake, aside from a recent spin on Dancing with the Stars, has been off the air now since 2004, and the end of her original five-year run as a daytime talk host. Now she’s back with an all-new hour, to debut on Fox and Global in the fall.

“It’s different,” she says, “because I sort of know what I’m getting myself into this time around. I don’t have anything to prove. The old show, I was cast into it. We never knew it would be the phenomenon that it was. I feel like I’m an active participant in creating this show. So it is more thrilling. But there’s more at stake, too.”

The stakes are indeed high, with Lake and Couric both in line to inherit Oprah Winfrey’s vacated daytime throne.

“It’ll be interesting,” Lake allows. “I don’t know how we’ll fit in. These shows are personality driven, and Katie’s going to do a great, hard-hitting interview (show). I can’t wait to see it. But that’s not my style. I’m sort of more the girlfriend, the Everywoman . . . people think of me as one of their relatives.

“I think there’s enough audience for everyone.”

Evening primetime has its own kind of chatter, and in the rarified realm of buddy-cop banter, no show does it better than NCIS: Los Angeles.

Co-star
LL Cool J, also in town for the Shaw/Global upfronts, says the rapport came easily to him and partner Chris O’Donnell.

“Chris and I definitely have that back-and-forth kind of banter . . . in a good way. It’s a good-natured kind of thing we do. It’s funny, because we met the first time at the (first) table read, and it really just clicked for us. We really got along well, and were kind of able to go back and forth. It’s not mean-spirited. It’s fun.

“And I think that comes from the inside. We can relate to each other in a lot of ways. We have very different backgrounds, but I think there’s a commonality that kind of connects us. There’s a connective tissue there. It works.”

It’s a different relationship altogether than he has with Linda Hunt, NCIS: L.A.’s diminutive boss-lady, on screen and off.

“She’s our quarterback. She’s our leader. And she’s amazing to work with. She’s so sweet. She reminds me . . . my grandmother was 4’11”, and Linda’s 4’5”. She’s tough, too. She’s very strict on her schedule. Her time is valuable. If she wants to get it done . . . it gets done.”

TV TIDBITS

Vanessa Williams Moves on to New Series

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 26, 2012) *“Desperate Housewives” just wrapped up the finale and beauty
Vanessa Williams is on to the next one. The actress has already got another series lined up but completely different from the last. She’s set to star in a spooky series as an evil building owner in “666 Park Ave.” “It’s about an iconic building in New York,” she explains. “And in order to get into the building, you have to make a few sacrifices. And I own the building, so you have to get through me.” Yep, sounds pretty spooky.

::ARTS NEWS::

What's On During Luminato

Source:
www.thestar.com - By Erica Salyi-Pannozzo

(May 29, 2012) Toronto's 10-day festival of the arts features theatre, film, dance music and literary events,
with a host of local and international talent. This year's fest includes a new stage production of Einstein on the Beach, a series of film screenings at TIFF Bell Lightbox and daily free events at the festival Hub in David Pecaut Square. Here we map out a daily itinerary of activities to help you navigate the best of the fest. Click here for more options and a full schedule of all Luminato events.


Friday, June 8

Einstein on the Beach
The famed collaboration between Philip Glass and Robert Wilson makes its Canadian premiere for Luminato's opening weekend. The opera in four acts hits the stage as Glass celebrates his 75th birthday, with a new stage production, the first in two decades. Runs June 8 & 9 at 6 p.m. and June 10 at 3 p.m., Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.
Tickets available at luminato.com

TIFF Screening: Absolute Wilson
Following Robert Wilson's life and career, this documentary includes interviews with peers, critics, family and friends, highlighting the influential theatre director's contribution to the art scene. On screen June 8 at 7 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets available at tiff.net


The US has coveted Canada since the War of 1812
This debate explores whether Canada is under threat from the U.S. and what can be done to avoid conflict. University of Toronto Professor Emeritus of Political Science Stephen Clarkson sounds off against Jack Granatstein, Professor of Canadian History at York University. Author and historian Michael Bliss moderates. June 8 at 7 p.m., Koerner Hall.
Tickets available at luminato.com



Saturday, June 9

1000 Tastes of Toronto
Throughout the opening weekend, the city's top chefs create new versions of street food, with a twist. This year's food fest includes Canadian ingredients as the highlight to each dish, designed to be eaten on the go, for only $5 a taste. Runs June 9 & 10 in the Distillery Historic District. Free admission.

Beethoven Marathon

Pianist Stewart Goodyear plays all 32 Beethoven sonatas in the order they were composed, over three performances, in one day. Choose from Part 1 No. 1 to 11, Part 2 No. 12 to 23 or Part 3 No. 24 to 32. Runs June 9 10 a.m., 3 p.m. & 8:30 p.m., Koerner Hall.
Tickets available at luminato.com


TSO Late Night: Shostakovich Symphony 11
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performs this "film score without a film," inspired by the Russian Revolution. Afterwards, the audience can mix and mingle with TSO members at the post-performance party. Runs June 9, 10:30 p.m., Roy Thomson Hall. Tickets available at luminato.com

Sunday, June 10

The Alpha Project
Psychic Banachek performs his new stage show, showcasing his psychokinesis, telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance and hypnotic abilities. Runs June 8 & 9 at 8 p.m. and June 10 at 2 p.m., Fleck Dance Theatre.
Tickets available at luminato.com

The New Yorker at Luminato: Aspects of Annie Proulx
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx discusses her accomplished career including works The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, which was made into the Oscar-winning film of the same name. Runs June 10 at 7 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets available at luminato.com


TIFF Screening: Brokeback Mountain
The Oscar-winning flick stars the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal and follows the 20-year secret romance between two young ranchers in Wyoming. On screen June 10 at 4:30 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets available at tiff.net

Monday, June 11

Nicole Krauss
The international best-selling author reads her new work "A Garden is an Arrangement of Light.” June 11 at 7 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets available at luminato.com

Beethoven 1-32
German visual artist Jorinde Voigt showcases a new series of drawings inspired by Stewart Goodyear's Beethoven Marathon, including a piece of art for all 32 sonatas. The exhibition runs until Oct. 8 at the ROM.

La Belle et la Bete
This multimedia performance combines theatre, film, dance, poetry, visual arts, music and virtual reality to bring the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast to life. Runs June 8, 9, 11, 12 at 7:30 p.m., June 9 at 2 p.m. and June 10 at 3 p.m., Bluma Appel Theatre.
Tickets available at luminato.com

Tuesday, June 12

Hay Festivals
Luminato partners with Hay Festivals, a global festival of literature and ideas, to bring writers together to discuss the latest works coming out of South America, Central America and Mexico. This year's panel includes novelist Valeria Luiselli, Santiago Roncagliolo and Rodrigo Hasbun. June 12 at 12 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets available at luminato.com

Irvine Welsh
Trainspotting author revisits
his original characters in the prequel Skagboys. The story follows a younger Renton and his struggles with life and family. June 12, TIFF Bell Lightbox. Tickets available at luminato.com or tiff.net

Wednesday, June 13

Playing Cards 1: Spades
Robert Lepage's new work Spades examines the theme of war, contrasting two desert cities, Las Vegas and Baghdad, at the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Runs June 13 to 16 at 7:30 p.m. and June 17 at 2 p.m., Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre.
Tickets available at luminato.com

Thursday, June 14

Saheh21
Tel Aviv's Batsheva Dance Company brings its latest full-length work choreographed by Ohad Naharin. The dance is rooted in the language of Gaga, a form of expression contrasting bursts of energy with graceful configurations, from solos and duets to group formations. Runs Juen 14 to 16 at 8 p.m., MacMillan Theatre.
Tickets available at luminato.com

Lewis Lapham
Author and publisher Lewis Lapham (Harper's Magazine and Lapham's Quarterly) and Kyle Wyatt, managing editor of The Walrus discuss Lapham's body of work and changing Canada-U.S. relations. June 14 at 7 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets available at luminato.com or tiff.net


Friday, June 15

From the Dark
Chilean magician Esteban Varela blindfolds his audience, provides them with a box of props and then leads the group to create magical feats, turning fantasy into reality. Runs June 15 & 16 at 8 p.m. and June 17 at 2 p.m., Hart House Theatre.
Tickets available at luminato.com

Love Over and Over - The Songs of Kate McGarrigle
The life and works of singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle are celebrated by family and friends in a tribute concert including performances by Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith, Amy Millan, Emmylou Harris and more. June 15 at 7:30 p.m., Massey Hall.
Tickets available at luminato.com

Saturday, June 16

Richard Ford
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author presents his new novel, Canada, following a Montana teen who flees across the border into Saskatchewan after his parents are arrested in a bank robbery. June 16 at 7 p.m., TIFF Bell Light Box. T
ickets available at luminato.com or tiff.net

Continental Conversations
Authors Linden MacIntyre, Kyo Maclear and Ayad Akhtar share their new work and look at the similarities and differences in American and Canadian literature. Moderated by Little Mosque on the Prairie's Zaib Shakah. June 16 at 2 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets available at luminato.com or tiff.net

Sunday, June 17

Screening: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
The 1920 horror film and piece of expressionist art featuring a mad carnival showman terrorizing a small provincial town is presented with live piano accompaniment. June 17 at 4:30 p.m., TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Tickets available at tiff.net

Topic Of Domestic Violence Makes For A Powerful, Poignant Ballet

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(May 25, 2012) A sombre lobby display. Red wooden silhouettes of women with plaques graphically detailing
their murders. All killed as a result of domestic violence. Silent witnesses.

Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada is making its first visit to Toronto with a very moving work.
Ghosts of Violence is choreographer Igor Dobrovolskiy’s attempt to give a voice to women killed at the hands of a significant other.

Domestic violence may seem like a strange topic for a ballet, but the powerful project began as a request from the New Brunswick Silent Witness Committee, the organization behind the red silhouettes.

Dobrovolskiy’s mandate for his Moncton-based company is story ballets. In recent years he has worked with famed Canadian playwright Sharon Pollock as dramaturge in fashioning scenarios.

The basic storyline of Ghosts of Violence follows a character called She (Anya Nesvitaylo), who’s new to the city. She has one relationship with a Young Man (Sergiy Diyanov), but he breaks it up. She then meets He (Leigh Alderson) and true romance blooms. Act one ends on that happy note. Act two is the downward spiral as He shows his violent side. The tragic ending is inevitable.

During the course of the ballet, there are three other duets, all dealing with domestic violence. She is aware of them – but sees it as something that happens to other people. The program contains written monologues telling the stories behind these other couples.

As a choreographer, Dobrovolskiy is not reinventing classical dance. Rather, he uses traditional ballet to tell his stories, manipulating the vocabulary to draw character and relationships. This makes his work very accessible because it looks familiar.

It could be that Ghosts of Violence is his best work to date. Even without reading the program synopsis, the story of She and He is clear. The glory of the ballet are the duets that detail woman as victim.

The story of She and He is told through their bodies and dangerous partnering. She is feisty and attempts to voice her disgust at his drunken behaviour, but He eventually drives her down.

Nesvitaylo is absolutely incandescent. She is a wonderful acting dancer, telegraphing her sweetness and innocence at the beginning, and her growing despair at the end. Alderson is a perfect young-man icon, but a good enough actor to show his violent side.

The other three duets use a physical prop as a symbol of oppression. With Lady M and her Partner (Janie Richard and Kyle Davey) it is a chair. Lady B (Samantha-Jane Gray) is caged by her Partner (Anton Lykhanov) with two rolling screens. In the duet of the upper-class couple, Lady T and Partner (Olena Zahkarova and Diyanov again), it is a table.

The physical images are very strong. Lady M’s hands stretching out through the slats of the back of the chair in a plea for mercy. Lady B’s body crushed between the two screens, only her lolling head hanging free. Lady T pinned to the underside of the table like a dead butterfly. And in contrast, the tender, sweet duet between She and He that closes the first act.

One of Dobrovolskiy’s finest achievements is making male dancers look mean. His does this through clenched fists, angular arms and stamping feet. The women are positioned in awkward and difficult lifts.

He also pinpoints specific movement on the part of the men to hit the instrumental accents, so there is action reinforced by music. As always, Dobrovolskiy has fashioned a fit-like-a-glove score from classical music (Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich for the lighter scenes, and raw and edgy Schnittke for the dark side).

Brian Perchaluk has designed five screens for Adam Larsen’s brilliant video projections. The latter are all abstract, yet telling. For example. Lady B’s duet is accompanied by pictures of wallpaper, but by the end of the piece, the wallpaper is cracked and peeling. A single hand then crushes a tomato, the juice running down the arm as she is choked by the chair.

Denis Lavoie’s costumes are clever. We know Lady T is upper class because of her spangled dress top. The character She is pert in briefs and top. Lady M’s simple dress puts her in working class, while Lady B is fashionable middle class. Pierre Lavoie has worked his usual magic with the lights.

With strong theatrical values, expressive choreography and committed dancers, Ghosts of Violence makes for a poignant dance experience.

Ghosts of Violence

Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada

Choreography by Igor Dobrovolskiy

At Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto on Thursday

Ghosts of Violence is performed in Toronto on May 26 at 7:30 p.m., and will be touring next season to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

In Stratford, Five Young Stars To Watch

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler and J. Kelly Nestruck

THE FORMER CHILD STAR
Tyrone Savage

Age: 27
Provenance: Born in Toronto, raised in Tottenham, Ont., based in Toronto
Festival credits: In his second season at Stratford. Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing and Duke of Gloucester in Henry V

Claudio in Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing may be Tyrone Savage’s first major part at Stratford, but the role is practically the family business. His father, Booth Savage, played the same gullible lover 20 years ago at the Louisville Shakespeare Festival. “It's a fantastic part,” the potently named thespian says. “He's twisted and turned, and it's a fairy-tale story with a great arc.”

Savage was a child star on the Kevin Sullivan-produced CBC-TV series Wind at My Back from 1996 to 2001, but if you blinked you'd have missed him in The Grapes of Wrath at Stratford last year – and you definitely missed him in The Homecoming, where he understudied the role of Joey.

This year, he will definitely be noticed acting opposite big guns Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay in the season opener of Much Ado. He hasn't turned critics' heads yet, but in Stratford circles, he's getting recognition not only for his ability to think on his feet, but for his collegial nature. “He's good-looking and can play all the smart men,” says veteran director Christopher Newton, “but he's also intensely generous and respectful of the other people that he works with.”

The dashing young actor, who dabbles in hockey, softball and cricket in his spare time, is conscious of that reputation. “It's something you need to protect,” he says. “It's a tight community, and you need to be positive in the rehearsal hall and part of the team.”

His father gave him advice once, but not on Claudio. “He told me to show up, to show up on time and to show up and be prepared to work.” And so there's your arc – what goes around comes around.

THE ANNE LOOKING FOR GREENER GABLES
Amy Wallis
Age: 25
Provenance: Born and raised in Vancouver, based in Toronto
Festival credits: Makes her Stratford debut as Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Mabel Stanley in the Pirates of Penzance

When asked her about her age – a standard question for this type of profile – Amy Wallis is hesitant to say. “I'm surprised you're asking,” she says. Later she confesses to 25 candles on her last birthday cake.

Wallis is the latest actress to arrive at Stratford having passed through the Anne of Green Gables freckle factory in Charlottetown, PEI. A couple of former musical Anne Shirleys – Tracy Michailidis and Chilina Kennedy, currently playing Mary Magdalene on Broadway – have parlayed the redheaded role into long-lasting careers, but most you've never heard of.

One of the pitfalls: being typecast into girl roles. Indeed, Wallis stars this season as the little sister Sally in Stratford's musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. But she's also the romantic lead Mabel Stanley in Ethan McSweeny's steampunk take on The Pirates of Penzance. “It's almost opera,” Wallis says of the latter, vocally demanding role.

In the end, the actress is known for her voice, not her age. (In Vancouver, she also starred as Belle in the Arts Club Theatre’s Christmas productions of Beauty and the Beast.) She'd like to do something outside of musical theatre, but she knows how to shake her moneymaker. “As an actor, you have to make a living,” says Wallis, whose mother is choreographer Valerie Easton. “I sing,” she says simply. “That's what people want.”

THE SPHINX
Cara Ricketts
Age: undisclosed
Provenance: Born, raised and based in Toronto
Festival credits: In her fourth season at Stratford. Innogen in Cymbeline and Ermengarde in The Matchmaker

“She's a great investigator of the worlds she plays in. When she's onstage, she glows from within for reasons I don't yet understand.”

So says Chris Abraham of Cara Ricketts, whom he last directed in Anton Piatigorsky's Eternal Hydra at Toronto's Factory Theatre and is now shepherding through Thornton Wilder's classic American comedy The Matchmaker, on the famous Festival thrust stage at Stratford.

Ricketts shone last season as the sexy cipher Ruth in The Homecoming, holding her own opposite heavy hitters Brian Dennehy and Stephen Ouimette (both absent this year, because they're playing opposite each other in The Iceman Cometh in Chicago).

That standout performance led to her promotion this season to her first big breeches role in a Shakespeare show. In Cymbeline, under the direction of incoming artistic director Antoni Cimolino, she plays crafty and faithful Innogen, who disguises herself as a boy to avoid being murdered by her lover's servant. “It's a trip,” she says of the role. “She grows up, and it's rather emotionally draining. There's a lot of preparing yourself mentally, before you even start the show.”

When Ricketts speaks of her ambitions, she mentions directing. Does she take direction well herself? “I'd like to think so,” the rising festival star says with a laugh.

Abraham doesn't disagree, but also points to her other attributes. “She’s transformable onstage,” he says. “I've never seen an actor look or feel so differently role to role.”

Anything else? “She's a great person to have a drink with after a hard day's work and loves to laugh. And she has a great repertoire of fab hairstyles.”

Well, then, it's official: There's no stopping Cara Ricketts.

THE EX-BOY-BANDER
Kevin Yee
Age: 29
Provenance: Born and raised in Vancouver, based in New York
Festival credits: Makes his Stratford debut as Linus in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

The boy-band thing didn't work out – and pop music's loss is musical theatre's gain.

A charismatic and industrious veteran of Mary Poppins on Broadway, Kevin Yee was part of the six-member multiracial male vocal group Youth Asylum in the late 1990s.

You may have caught him online, however, at the height of Lin-sanity, when he starred in a YouTube video called Jeremy Lin: The Musical that was featured in The Huffington Post.

Now he's repatriated – for the summer at least – and has gone from basketball-shooting Lin to blanket-clutching Linus in his Stratford debut.

“I find myself being surprised when Linus says something profound and emotional,” Yee says. “Sometimes I well up with tears, which isn't necessarily appropriate for the moment.”

The role calls for acting, dancing and singing – a triple-threat requirement that had the production's director, Donna Feore, worried. “Linus demands particular qualities,” Feore says. “But once Kevin came along, it all just seemed so simple. The guy really can do it all.”

What Yee doesn't do is stereotypes. “I'm Chinese,” he explains, when asked about his dream character. “There aren't a lot of roles for Asian performers.”

The actor, who also writes his own music and showcases it on his website, The Kevin Yee Show, says he isn't sure of his next step. “I don't think my next role is out there yet. Maybe I'll have to write it myself, for myself.”

THE CHORUS GIRL GETTING HER BIG BREAK
Jennifer Rider-Shaw
Age: 25
Provenance: Born and raised in Red Deer, Alta., based in Toronto
Festival credits: Third season in Stratford. Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street and ensemble in Much Ado About Nothing

Peggy Sawyer, the ingénue in the musical 42nd Street at Stratford, dreams of being a dancer on Broadway. Jennifer Rider-Shaw, who plays Sawyer, is also a dancer (and an actress and singer) with ambition. But that's where the similarities end. Where Sawyer reacts, Rider-Shaw is in charge. “Everything happens to her,” she explains. “I like to make my own decisions and either reap or sow the consequences.”

Mind you, Broadway did play a part in Rider-Shaw’s securing the plum role opposite Cynthia Dale. Many of the song-and-dancers in the Stratford stable are now in New York for the Stratford production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Into the void stepped the Red Deer native. “I'm grateful and blessed,” she says of her break. “I'm having more success than I ever dreamed I would have.”

Rider-Shaw's skills are bona fide: She was a finalist on the second season of CBC's Triple Sensation talent show. She gives much credit to a dance instructor in her youth who demanded a tireless work ethic. “When you're younger, you're paying for those lessons,” she says. There's no downtime in the rehearsal room.”

And now? “I'm getting paid to be in that room, to be the best I can be. You need to use all of that time.”

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

In Stratford, Five Young Stars To Watch

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler and J. Kelly Nestruck

THE FORMER CHILD STAR
Tyrone Savage

Age: 27
Provenance: Born in Toronto, raised in Tottenham, Ont., based in Toronto
Festival credits: In his second season at Stratford. Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing and Duke of Gloucester in Henry V

Claudio in Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing may be Tyrone Savage’s first major part at Stratford, but the role is practically the family business. His father, Booth Savage, played the same gullible lover 20 years ago at the Louisville Shakespeare Festival. “It's a fantastic part,” the potently named thespian says. “He's twisted and turned, and it's a fairy-tale story with a great arc.”

Savage was a child star on the Kevin Sullivan-produced CBC-TV series Wind at My Back from 1996 to 2001, but if you blinked you'd have missed him in The Grapes of Wrath at Stratford last year – and you definitely missed him in The Homecoming, where he understudied the role of Joey.

This year, he will definitely be noticed acting opposite big guns Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay in the season opener of Much Ado. He hasn't turned critics' heads yet, but in Stratford circles, he's getting recognition not only for his ability to think on his feet, but for his collegial nature. “He's good-looking and can play all the smart men,” says veteran director Christopher Newton, “but he's also intensely generous and respectful of the other people that he works with.”

The dashing young actor, who dabbles in hockey, softball and cricket in his spare time, is conscious of that reputation. “It's something you need to protect,” he says. “It's a tight community, and you need to be positive in the rehearsal hall and part of the team.”

His father gave him advice once, but not on Claudio. “He told me to show up, to show up on time and to show up and be prepared to work.” And so there's your arc – what goes around comes around.

THE ANNE LOOKING FOR GREENER GABLES
Amy Wallis
Age: 25
Provenance: Born and raised in Vancouver, based in Toronto
Festival credits: Makes her Stratford debut as Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Mabel Stanley in the Pirates of Penzance

When asked her about her age – a standard question for this type of profile – Amy Wallis is hesitant to say. “I'm surprised you're asking,” she says. Later she confesses to 25 candles on her last birthday cake.

Wallis is the latest actress to arrive at Stratford having passed through the Anne of Green Gables freckle factory in Charlottetown, PEI. A couple of former musical Anne Shirleys – Tracy Michailidis and Chilina Kennedy, currently playing Mary Magdalene on Broadway – have parlayed the redheaded role into long-lasting careers, but most you've never heard of.

One of the pitfalls: being typecast into girl roles. Indeed, Wallis stars this season as the little sister Sally in Stratford's musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. But she's also the romantic lead Mabel Stanley in Ethan McSweeny's steampunk take on The Pirates of Penzance. “It's almost opera,” Wallis says of the latter, vocally demanding role.

In the end, the actress is known for her voice, not her age. (In Vancouver, she also starred as Belle in the Arts Club Theatre’s Christmas productions of Beauty and the Beast.) She'd like to do something outside of musical theatre, but she knows how to shake her moneymaker. “As an actor, you have to make a living,” says Wallis, whose mother is choreographer Valerie Easton. “I sing,” she says simply. “That's what people want.”

THE SPHINX
Cara Ricketts
Age: undisclosed
Provenance: Born, raised and based in Toronto
Festival credits: In her fourth season at Stratford. Innogen in Cymbeline and Ermengarde in The Matchmaker

“She's a great investigator of the worlds she plays in. When she's onstage, she glows from within for reasons I don't yet understand.”

So says Chris Abraham of Cara Ricketts, whom he last directed in Anton Piatigorsky's Eternal Hydra at Toronto's Factory Theatre and is now shepherding through Thornton Wilder's classic American comedy The Matchmaker, on the famous Festival thrust stage at Stratford.

Ricketts shone last season as the sexy cipher Ruth in The Homecoming, holding her own opposite heavy hitters Brian Dennehy and Stephen Ouimette (both absent this year, because they're playing opposite each other in The Iceman Cometh in Chicago).

That standout performance led to her promotion this season to her first big breeches role in a Shakespeare show. In Cymbeline, under the direction of incoming artistic director Antoni Cimolino, she plays crafty and faithful Innogen, who disguises herself as a boy to avoid being murdered by her lover's servant. “It's a trip,” she says of the role. “She grows up, and it's rather emotionally draining. There's a lot of preparing yourself mentally, before you even start the show.”

When Ricketts speaks of her ambitions, she mentions directing. Does she take direction well herself? “I'd like to think so,” the rising festival star says with a laugh.

Abraham doesn't disagree, but also points to her other attributes. “She’s transformable onstage,” he says. “I've never seen an actor look or feel so differently role to role.”

Anything else? “She's a great person to have a drink with after a hard day's work and loves to laugh. And she has a great repertoire of fab hairstyles.”

Well, then, it's official: There's no stopping Cara Ricketts.

THE EX-BOY-BANDER
Kevin Yee
Age: 29
Provenance: Born and raised in Vancouver, based in New York
Festival credits: Makes his Stratford debut as Linus in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

The boy-band thing didn't work out – and pop music's loss is musical theatre's gain.

A charismatic and industrious veteran of Mary Poppins on Broadway, Kevin Yee was part of the six-member multiracial male vocal group Youth Asylum in the late 1990s.

You may have caught him online, however, at the height of Lin-sanity, when he starred in a YouTube video called Jeremy Lin: The Musical that was featured in The Huffington Post.

Now he's repatriated – for the summer at least – and has gone from basketball-shooting Lin to blanket-clutching Linus in his Stratford debut.

“I find myself being surprised when Linus says something profound and emotional,” Yee says. “Sometimes I well up with tears, which isn't necessarily appropriate for the moment.”

The role calls for acting, dancing and singing – a triple-threat requirement that had the production's director, Donna Feore, worried. “Linus demands particular qualities,” Feore says. “But once Kevin came along, it all just seemed so simple. The guy really can do it all.”

What Yee doesn't do is stereotypes. “I'm Chinese,” he explains, when asked about his dream character. “There aren't a lot of roles for Asian performers.”

The actor, who also writes his own music and showcases it on his website, The Kevin Yee Show, says he isn't sure of his next step. “I don't think my next role is out there yet. Maybe I'll have to write it myself, for myself.”

THE CHORUS GIRL GETTING HER BIG BREAK
Jennifer Rider-Shaw
Age: 25
Provenance: Born and raised in Red Deer, Alta., based in Toronto
Festival credits: Third season in Stratford. Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street and ensemble in Much Ado About Nothing

Peggy Sawyer, the ingénue in the musical 42nd Street at Stratford, dreams of being a dancer on Broadway. Jennifer Rider-Shaw, who plays Sawyer, is also a dancer (and an actress and singer) with ambition. But that's where the similarities end. Where Sawyer reacts, Rider-Shaw is in charge. “Everything happens to her,” she explains. “I like to make my own decisions and either reap or sow the consequences.”

Mind you, Broadway did play a part in Rider-Shaw’s securing the plum role opposite Cynthia Dale. Many of the song-and-dancers in the Stratford stable are now in New York for the Stratford production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Into the void stepped the Red Deer native. “I'm grateful and blessed,” she says of her break. “I'm having more success than I ever dreamed I would have.”

Rider-Shaw's skills are bona fide: She was a finalist on the second season of CBC's Triple Sensation talent show. She gives much credit to a dance instructor in her youth who demanded a tireless work ethic. “When you're younger, you're paying for those lessons,” she says. There's no downtime in the rehearsal room.”

And now? “I'm getting paid to be in that room, to be the best I can be. You need to use all of that time.”

Topic Of Domestic Violence Makes For A Powerful, Poignant Ballet

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

(May 25, 2012) A sombre lobby display. Red wooden silhouettes of women with plaques graphically detailing their murders. All killed as a result of domestic violence. Silent witnesses.

Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada is making its first visit to Toronto with a very moving work.
Ghosts of Violence is choreographer Igor Dobrovolskiy’s attempt to give a voice to women killed at the hands of a significant other.

Domestic violence may seem like a strange topic for a ballet, but the powerful project began as a request from the New Brunswick Silent Witness Committee, the organization behind the red silhouettes.

Dobrovolskiy’s mandate for his Moncton-based company is story ballets. In recent years he has worked with famed Canadian playwright Sharon Pollock as dramaturge in fashioning scenarios.

The basic storyline of Ghosts of Violence follows a character called She (Anya Nesvitaylo), who’s new to the city. She has one relationship with a Young Man (Sergiy Diyanov), but he breaks it up. She then meets He (Leigh Alderson) and true romance blooms. Act one ends on that happy note. Act two is the downward spiral as He shows his violent side. The tragic ending is inevitable.

During the course of the ballet, there are three other duets, all dealing with domestic violence. She is aware of them – but sees it as something that happens to other people. The program contains written monologues telling the stories behind these other couples.

As a choreographer, Dobrovolskiy is not reinventing classical dance. Rather, he uses traditional ballet to tell his stories, manipulating the vocabulary to draw character and relationships. This makes his work very accessible because it looks familiar.

It could be that Ghosts of Violence is his best work to date. Even without reading the program synopsis, the story of She and He is clear. The glory of the ballet are the duets that detail woman as victim.

The story of She and He is told through their bodies and dangerous partnering. She is feisty and attempts to voice her disgust at his drunken behaviour, but He eventually drives her down.

Nesvitaylo is absolutely incandescent. She is a wonderful acting dancer, telegraphing her sweetness and innocence at the beginning, and her growing despair at the end. Alderson is a perfect young-man icon, but a good enough actor to show his violent side.

The other three duets use a physical prop as a symbol of oppression. With Lady M and her Partner (Janie Richard and Kyle Davey) it is a chair. Lady B (Samantha-Jane Gray) is caged by her Partner (Anton Lykhanov) with two rolling screens. In the duet of the upper-class couple, Lady T and Partner (Olena Zahkarova and Diyanov again), it is a table.

The physical images are very strong. Lady M’s hands stretching out through the slats of the back of the chair in a plea for mercy. Lady B’s body crushed between the two screens, only her lolling head hanging free. Lady T pinned to the underside of the table like a dead butterfly. And in contrast, the tender, sweet duet between She and He that closes the first act.

One of Dobrovolskiy’s finest achievements is making male dancers look mean. His does this through clenched fists, angular arms and stamping feet. The women are positioned in awkward and difficult lifts.

He also pinpoints specific movement on the part of the men to hit the instrumental accents, so there is action reinforced by music. As always, Dobrovolskiy has fashioned a fit-like-a-glove score from classical music (Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich for the lighter scenes, and raw and edgy Schnittke for the dark side).

Brian Perchaluk has designed five screens for Adam Larsen’s brilliant video projections. The latter are all abstract, yet telling. For example. Lady B’s duet is accompanied by pictures of wallpaper, but by the end of the piece, the wallpaper is cracked and peeling. A single hand then crushes a tomato, the juice running down the arm as she is choked by the chair.

Denis Lavoie’s costumes are clever. We know Lady T is upper class because of her spangled dress top. The character She is pert in briefs and top. Lady M’s simple dress puts her in working class, while Lady B is fashionable middle class. Pierre Lavoie has worked his usual magic with the lights.

With strong theatrical values, expressive choreography and committed dancers, Ghosts of Violence makes for a poignant dance experience.

Ghosts of Violence

Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada

Choreography by Igor Dobrovolskiy

At Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto on Thursday

Ghosts of Violence is performed in Toronto on May 26 at 7:30 p.m., and will be touring next season to Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

In Stratford, Five Young Stars To Watch

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler and J. Kelly Nestruck

THE FORMER CHILD STAR
Tyrone Savage

Age: 27
Provenance: Born in Toronto, raised in Tottenham, Ont., based in Toronto
Festival credits: In his second season at Stratford. Claudio in Much Ado About Nothing and Duke of Gloucester in Henry V

Claudio in Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing may be Tyrone Savage’s first major part at Stratford, but the role is practically the family business. His father, Booth Savage, played the same gullible lover 20 years ago at the Louisville Shakespeare Festival. “It's a fantastic part,” the potently named thespian says. “He's twisted and turned, and it's a fairy-tale story with a great arc.”

Savage was a child star on the Kevin Sullivan-produced CBC-TV series Wind at My Back from 1996 to 2001, but if you blinked you'd have missed him in The Grapes of Wrath at Stratford last year – and you definitely missed him in The Homecoming, where he understudied the role of Joey.

This year, he will definitely be noticed acting opposite big guns Ben Carlson and Deborah Hay in the season opener of Much Ado. He hasn't turned critics' heads yet, but in Stratford circles, he's getting recognition not only for his ability to think on his feet, but for his collegial nature. “He's good-looking and can play all the smart men,” says veteran director Christopher Newton, “but he's also intensely generous and respectful of the other people that he works with.”

The dashing young actor, who dabbles in hockey, softball and cricket in his spare time, is conscious of that reputation. “It's something you need to protect,” he says. “It's a tight community, and you need to be positive in the rehearsal hall and part of the team.”

His father gave him advice once, but not on Claudio. “He told me to show up, to show up on time and to show up and be prepared to work.” And so there's your arc – what goes around comes around.

THE ANNE LOOKING FOR GREENER GABLES
Amy Wallis
Age: 25
Provenance: Born and raised in Vancouver, based in Toronto
Festival credits: Makes her Stratford debut as Sally in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Mabel Stanley in the Pirates of Penzance

When asked her about her age – a standard question for this type of profile – Amy Wallis is hesitant to say. “I'm surprised you're asking,” she says. Later she confesses to 25 candles on her last birthday cake.

Wallis is the latest actress to arrive at Stratford having passed through the Anne of Green Gables freckle factory in Charlottetown, PEI. A couple of former musical Anne Shirleys – Tracy Michailidis and Chilina Kennedy, currently playing Mary Magdalene on Broadway – have parlayed the redheaded role into long-lasting careers, but most you've never heard of.

One of the pitfalls: being typecast into girl roles. Indeed, Wallis stars this season as the little sister Sally in Stratford's musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. But she's also the romantic lead Mabel Stanley in Ethan McSweeny's steampunk take on The Pirates of Penzance. “It's almost opera,” Wallis says of the latter, vocally demanding role.

In the end, the actress is known for her voice, not her age. (In Vancouver, she also starred as Belle in the Arts Club Theatre’s Christmas productions of Beauty and the Beast.) She'd like to do something outside of musical theatre, but she knows how to shake her moneymaker. “As an actor, you have to make a living,” says Wallis, whose mother is choreographer Valerie Easton. “I sing,” she says simply. “That's what people want.”

THE SPHINX
Cara Ricketts
Age: undisclosed
Provenance: Born, raised and based in Toronto
Festival credits: In her fourth season at Stratford. Innogen in Cymbeline and Ermengarde in The Matchmaker

“She's a great investigator of the worlds she plays in. When she's onstage, she glows from within for reasons I don't yet understand.”

So says Chris Abraham of Cara Ricketts, whom he last directed in Anton Piatigorsky's Eternal Hydra at Toronto's Factory Theatre and is now shepherding through Thornton Wilder's classic American comedy The Matchmaker, on the famous Festival thrust stage at Stratford.

Ricketts shone last season as the sexy cipher Ruth in The Homecoming, holding her own opposite heavy hitters Brian Dennehy and Stephen Ouimette (both absent this year, because they're playing opposite each other in The Iceman Cometh in Chicago).

That standout performance led to her promotion this season to her first big breeches role in a Shakespeare show. In Cymbeline, under the direction of incoming artistic director Antoni Cimolino, she plays crafty and faithful Innogen, who disguises herself as a boy to avoid being murdered by her lover's servant. “It's a trip,” she says of the role. “She grows up, and it's rather emotionally draining. There's a lot of preparing yourself mentally, before you even start the show.”

When Ricketts speaks of her ambitions, she mentions directing. Does she take direction well herself? “I'd like to think so,” the rising festival star says with a laugh.

Abraham doesn't disagree, but also points to her other attributes. “She’s transformable onstage,” he says. “I've never seen an actor look or feel so differently role to role.”

Anything else? “She's a great person to have a drink with after a hard day's work and loves to laugh. And she has a great repertoire of fab hairstyles.”

Well, then, it's official: There's no stopping Cara Ricketts.

THE EX-BOY-BANDER
Kevin Yee
Age: 29
Provenance: Born and raised in Vancouver, based in New York
Festival credits: Makes his Stratford debut as Linus in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

The boy-band thing didn't work out – and pop music's loss is musical theatre's gain.

A charismatic and industrious veteran of Mary Poppins on Broadway, Kevin Yee was part of the six-member multiracial male vocal group Youth Asylum in the late 1990s.

You may have caught him online, however, at the height of Lin-sanity, when he starred in a YouTube video called Jeremy Lin: The Musical that was featured in The Huffington Post.

Now he's repatriated – for the summer at least – and has gone from basketball-shooting Lin to blanket-clutching Linus in his Stratford debut.

“I find myself being surprised when Linus says something profound and emotional,” Yee says. “Sometimes I well up with tears, which isn't necessarily appropriate for the moment.”

The role calls for acting, dancing and singing – a triple-threat requirement that had the production's director, Donna Feore, worried. “Linus demands particular qualities,” Feore says. “But once Kevin came along, it all just seemed so simple. The guy really can do it all.”

What Yee doesn't do is stereotypes. “I'm Chinese,” he explains, when asked about his dream character. “There aren't a lot of roles for Asian performers.”

The actor, who also writes his own music and showcases it on his website, The Kevin Yee Show, says he isn't sure of his next step. “I don't think my next role is out there yet. Maybe I'll have to write it myself, for myself.”

THE CHORUS GIRL GETTING HER BIG BREAK
Jennifer Rider-Shaw
Age: 25
Provenance: Born and raised in Red Deer, Alta., based in Toronto
Festival credits: Third season in Stratford. Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street and ensemble in Much Ado About Nothing

Peggy Sawyer, the ingénue in the musical 42nd Street at Stratford, dreams of being a dancer on Broadway. Jennifer Rider-Shaw, who plays Sawyer, is also a dancer (and an actress and singer) with ambition. But that's where the similarities end. Where Sawyer reacts, Rider-Shaw is in charge. “Everything happens to her,” she explains. “I like to make my own decisions and either reap or sow the consequences.”

Mind you, Broadway did play a part in Rider-Shaw’s securing the plum role opposite Cynthia Dale. Many of the song-and-dancers in the Stratford stable are now in New York for the Stratford production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Into the void stepped the Red Deer native. “I'm grateful and blessed,” she says of her break. “I'm having more success than I ever dreamed I would have.”

Rider-Shaw's skills are bona fide: She was a finalist on the second season of CBC's Triple Sensation talent show. She gives much credit to a dance instructor in her youth who demanded a tireless work ethic. “When you're younger, you're paying for those lessons,” she says. There's no downtime in the rehearsal room.”

And now? “I'm getting paid to be in that room, to be the best I can be. You need to use all of that time.”

::TECHNOLOGY NEWS::

Diablo III Is Hellishly Fun To Plunder

Source: www.globeandmail.com - Chad Sapieha

(May 25, 2012) The long-awaited third entry in Blizzard Entertainment’s seminal dungeon-crawler franchise caused uproar when it launched last week.

Fans were furious that they needed a constant Internet connection to play this decade-in-the-making title – in which players slowly hack their way through one monster-infested dungeon after another – even in single-player mode. The studio said the measure was vital to
Diablo III’s integrated online features, but most gamers recognized it as an increasingly common and unpalatable tactic in publishers’ ongoing war on piracy.

Compounding matters, the game’s servers proved unable cope with the millions who tried to logon simultaneously on launch day. Players were frequently and unceremoniously kicked from their games, leading thousands to give Diablo III deeply negative user ratings on influential sites like Amazon and Metacritic (a practice known as “review bombing”).

Admittedly, the game earns a demerit for requiring a constant Internet connection, an inconvenience that prevents paying consumers from playing where and when they like. But it’s been a week since launch, technical issues have been rectified, and those with reliable Internet connections (just about everyone) are now able to do their hacking and slashing uninterrupted. I suspect most will find the experience well worth the trouble.

Diablo III’s accomplishment isn’t one of innovation. Anyone familiar with the decades-old formula of placing pointer on monster, clicking to kill and then collecting loot from its corpse will note the recipe stays largely unchanged here.

Instead, the game is an achievement in elegance and refinement. Everything about it has been polished to a gleaming, almost magical shine.

Nowhere is this truer than in its art direction. The game hardly pushes any technical boundaries, but the intricacy and depth of each level is at times astonishing. I found myself lost in lushly detailed and dynamic environments that often have the look of living paintings. Decrepit ruins crumbled as I passed by, snakes and scorpions scurried away when I drew near. Assuming you can stomach the gore, which is presented with equal devotion to detail (expect some elaborately flayed monster carcasses), it’s an enchantment for the eyes.

Happily, this sophistication goes beyond the visual. Smart, accessible design lures players into exploring every facet of the game. For example, instead of being lulled into complacency with a few powerful, practical attacks, we’re gently but regularly prodded to try new abilities and enhancements as they become available. While playing as a witch doctor – a devilishly fun new character class – I found myself perpetually experimenting with fresh, smile-inducing powers, such as throwing exploding frogs at enemies and raising zombie giants to fight for me.

Looting – arguably the heart of any dungeon crawler – remains as compelling as ever. Searching every nook and cranny of the game’s labyrinthine maps for rare items can bring on weirdly satisfying bouts of OCD-like fixaction in almost anyone. Plus, we can now trade our precious plunder with other players in online auctions. Just two weeks after launch Blizzard will begin allowing players to sell their booty for real world money (a controversy for another story).

There’s little denying the save-the-world-from-Hell tale is clichéd, or that its voice acting – particularly that of series mainstay Deckard Cain, an aging scholar whose croaky wisdom is too theatrical by half – is a bit melodramatic, but this campy vibe is just part of the game’s charm.

Diablo III is, at root, a delightful throwback to an age of simpler games garnished with trimmings afforded by modern technology. It’s too bad that one of these happens to be an intrusive anti-piracy tactic, but it’s an inconvenience worth enduring to experience the expertly crafted action role-playing game that lies beneath.

Diablo III

Platforms: Windows PC (reviewed), Mac OS X

Developer/Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment

ESRB: Mature

Release: May 15, 2012

Score: 9/10

::TRAVEL NEWS::

Travel Deals: Niagara Falls Goes On Sale and More

Source: www.thestar.com - Kathryn Folliott

(May 25, 2012) Carrying on the legacy of his famous family, The Flying Wallendas, daredevil Nik Wallenda will attempt a tightrope traverse of Niagara Falls on June 15. With its new ‘Daredevil Package’, the Sheraton on the Falls puts would-be spectators right at the heart of the action, with city room accommodation for two and front-row viewing from the Horseshoe Landing Patio, the planned location for Wallenda’s wire and the end of his 550-metre walk. The package also includes a reception buffet (with cocktails) and a commemorative gift. The rate is $795 per couple. Another option, the Fallsview Daredevil package, offers a view of the walk from your hotel room, with accommodation for two in a falls view room at either the Sheraton on the Falls or the Crowne Plaza Niagara Falls - Fallsview, along with a $40 dining gift card for The Rainbow Room by Massimo Capra, or a $25 gift card for Windows by Jamie Kennedy. See sheratononthefalls.com.

DOWNTOWN DEAL IN NYC

New York is a very uptown and downtown (and midtown) kind of city, but have you ever wondered where exactly one ends and the other begins? Uptown Manhattan starts with Central Park and heads north, while downtown Manhattan starts at Union Square and runs south. Midtown, of course, is everything in-between. For most visitors midtown is the heart of the city but Lower Manhattan has its charms too, and right now NYC & Company (the city’s tourist board) is promoting a special deal with 15 Lower Manhattan hotels offering free tickets for the New York Water Taxi or daily harbour tours, plus special weekend rates that are often lower than those found in Midtown. This is, after all, the financial district, where the hotels tend to be a little less busy on the weekends. Participating properties range from the Best Western Seaport Inn Downtown to the brand new Conrad New York. See nycgo.com/lower-manhattan.

CALIFORNIA FUN SPOTS

Visit California’s Fun Spots program provides discount coupons for admissions to theme parks, museums, aquariums and zoos across the state, as well as boat and train rides. Offers include a BOGO-type deal at Universal Studios Hollywood, where you buy one day and get a second day free, plus 15 per cent off tickets for IRIS from Cirque du Soleil, $10 (U.S.) off one-day admissions to LEGOLAND California and adult tickets (at kids’ ticket prices) for Sea World San Diego. See visitcalifornia.com/Fun-Spots.

BEST BUY OF THE WEEK

Princess Cruises’ latest sale offers savings of up to $1,000 (U.S.) per stateroom, plus onboard credit worth up to $100. The deal applies to more than 80 cruises to the Caribbean, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Mexico, Canada & New England and more, for departures September through December. Bookings must be made by May 29. See princess.com/sale.

Kathryn Folliott is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Prices quoted are subject to change and availability.

PICKS OF THE WEEK

Sunquest: Three-night Nassau, air & hotel, $789 (+$390 taxes & fees) (June 8). sunquest.ca

Air Canada Vacations: Ft. Lauderdale, air & hotel, $709 (+$138 taxes & fees) (June 16). aircanadavacations.com

Nolitours: Panama, air & hotel, $297 (+$314 taxes & fees) (June 11). nolitours.com

Signature Vacations: Aruba, air & hotel, $1,635 (+$330 taxes & fees) (July 16). signaturevacations.com

Transat Holidays: St. Lucia, air & hotel, $748 (+$341 taxes & fees) (June 29). transatholidays.com

Bel Air Travel: Eastern Med cruise, $699 (+$70 taxes & fees) (July 1). belairtravel.com

Sunwing Vacations: Rome (air only), $589 (+$480 taxes & fees) (June 13). sunwing.ca

Sell Off Vacations: Santo Domingo, air & hotel, $295 (+$390 taxes & fees) (June 12). selloffvacations.com

itravel2000: Barcelona, air & hotel, $1,029 (+$474 taxes & fees) (June 9). itravel2000.com

WestJet Vacations: Grand Cayman, air & hotel, $829 (+$188 taxes) (June 24). westjetvacations.com

Tour East Holidays: Eight-night Bangkok & Phuket, hotel, transfers, tours, $899 (through Oct. 31). toureast.com

What Are California’s Hot Wineries?

Source:
www.globeandmail.com - Karan Smith

(Mar 14, 2012) Tired of the limo lineups and double-digit tasting fees at Napa? We are too. So why not grab
your sunglasses and corkscrew and head to the Paso Robles region in California, which boasts one of the state’s hottest wineries.

Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the region is gaining recognition for its Rhône varietals and 200-plus wineries.

“We’re still kind of that authentic California, where the price point of entry is still very doable,” says Stacie Jacob, executive director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. “You don’t have to have a reservation to come to a winery.”

The rise of Paso is based on both wine and the fact that Napa and Sonoma are crowded with tourists, says The Globe and Mail’s resident wine guru, Beppi Crosariol. “And one of the hottest properties in Paso is l’Aventure, run by Frenchman Stephan Asseo. Amazing big reds, unconventionally blended from cabernet sauvignon and syrah.”

Asseo moved to California from Bordeaux so he could mix things up. And he has done so with success. “That really depicts the pioneering spirit that is here,” Jacob says.

Other must-visits include Eberle Winery, which started planting grapes here in the 1970s. The estate is known for its cabernet sauvignon, with piles of medals to prove it. Tablas Creek Vineyard is another success story – founded in 1989 when the U.S. and French partners found terroir similar to their French roots.

So set up camp in Paso Robles, a one-time ranch town now dotted with eateries such as Artisan, and then hit the country roads.

Second question: We’re taking our kids to New York in November and would like to stay in a modern hotel !with family suites and a nice pool, but without paying $600 a night. Suggestions?

Well, The Pod Hotel may not be for you – unless you’re still co-sleeping. But in the metropolis of everything, and Le Parker Méridien, a contemporary 725-room property a few blocks from Central Park, meets your needs.

It even has a rooftop pool, says Chris Heywood, vice-president of public relations for NYC & Company, the official marketing and tourism organization for New York. “It is lovely because it’s glass-enclosed and you can see the city.”

The hotel is also home to Norma’s, a popular spot featuring extravagant ways – foie gras French toast – to start your day. And there’s an affordable burger joint tucked in the lobby.

Oh, and about that bill. In November, standard rooms, which you can book adjoining, start at $289 (all amounts U.S.) a night; a junior suite with a pullout couch, starts at $439 a night.

Or if you can give up the pool, check out the spacious Best Western Hospitality House, a converted prewar building near Radio City Music Hall, Heywood suggests. One-bedroom suites start at $300 and two-bedroom suites start at $450.

After all, are you really going to have the energy to swim laps after exploring New York?

Karan Smith is a former !Globe Travel editor.

Special to The Globe and Mail !

::SPORTS NEWS::

Canadian Divers Riley McCormick, Emilie Heymans Earn Olympic Berths

Source: www.thestar.com - By Peter Leonard

(May 26, 2012) MONTREAL—Riley McCormick won the men’s 10-metre final and Emilie Heymans topped the
women’s three-metre event at the Canadian Olympic diving trials on Saturday.

McCormick assured a spot in his second straight Olympics this summer in London with a total score of 979.80. He had already claimed the first place before his final dive.

“I’m really excited right now and very, very happy with how things went,” McCormick said. “My last dive there was probably the worst one I’ve done in a few years, but the emotions at that point took over and I knew I had already made it. I could have pretty much just jumped off the platform.”

Photos: Olympic diving trials

The 20-year-old Victoria native still finished well ahead of runner-up Eric Sehn, who had a total score of 863.65.

“It’s not about how much I won by, it’s the fact that I’m on the team now and it’s finished,” said McCormick, who finished 16th in his 2008 Olympic debut in Beijing. “I can relax and focus for London.”

Heymans also easily outdistanced her competition in the women’s three-metre final to claim Canada’s second women’s spot to compete in the event in London. The 30-year-old veteran from St-Lambert, Que., and three-time Olympic medallist finished with a total score of 685.35. Pamela Ware came in second with a total of 617.85.

“I’m really happy because I finally competed like I was training and that was really important to me because training was going really well,” Heymans said. “I don’t make that many mistakes in training so I was really happy that I didn’t make any big mistakes in competition as well.”

She had already qualified to compete in her fourth straight Olympics in synchronized diving with partner Jennifer Abel.

“I knew that I was part of the team in synchro for sure before coming in today but I just really wanted to finish well in individual,” said Heymans, who won a silver medal in the 10-metre event in Beijing in 2008.

She also won a silver medal in platform synchronized diving in 2000 in Sydney and a bronze medal in the same event four years later in Athens.

Abel had already qualified for the three-metre competition in London and did not compete Saturday.

Sehn had a strong final to edge out Kevin Geyson for second place in the men’s three-metre final. He will have to wait until June 9 to find out if Canada will have a second spot in the event in London, as determined by FINA.

The women’s 10-metre and men’s three-metre finals will be held Sunday, and the Olympic diving team will be officially announced Monday.

San Antonio Spurs Beat Oklahoma City Thunder 101-98 In NBA Western Final Opener

Source
: www.thestar.com - Paul J. Weber

(May 28, 2012) SAN ANTONIO—Gregg Popovich wanted some “nasty.” The
San Antonio Spurs obliged, and tied an NBA record.

Not to mention left the Oklahoma City Thunder agonizing about what could have been.

Manu Ginobili scored a playoff-high 26 points and the Spurs won their 19th in a row to tie the NBA mark for longest winning streak kept alive in the playoffs, beating the Thunder 101-98 in the Western Conference final opener on Sunday night.

Obeying orders snarled by their coach in a fourth-quarter timeout to play “nasty,” the Spurs erased a nine-point deficit that stunned the Thunder, who had looked on their way to finally kicking the perception that they’re the underdogs.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 27 points. Russell Westbrook had 17.

“I talked to them about they’ve got to get a little bit uglier, get a little more nasty, play with more fiber and take it to these guys,” Popovich said. “Meaning you have to drive it, you have to shoot it.”

And when they started doing just that, the Thunder couldn’t keep up.

The 2001 Lakers are the only other team to carry a winning streak this long in the playoffs — and they did so on their way to a championship.

Game 2 is Tuesday night.

The Spurs matched the fourth-longest streak in NBA history, and with one more would become just the fourth team to surpass 20.

Tim Duncan had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker shook off a dismal start to finish with 18 points. But it was Ginobili who steered the Spurs to strike first in a highly anticipated matchup of the West’s top two teams for practically the entire regular season.

“They got us on our heels. We were not aggressive,” Ginobili said. “And in the second half, we did have it.”

On the other end, Oklahoma City’s own Big Three struggled to find its shot early before awakening in the second half. Yet Westbrook still finished just 6 of 15 and took a nasty, face-first spill late in the fourth that had the entire Thunder bench crossing the court to check on their all-star point guard underneath the opposite basket.

Westbrook appeared to favour his left leg when he got up, but he never left the game.

It was a tantalizingly close near-upset for the young Thunder, who were ousted in the Western Conference final a year ago and were in position for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs until being overtaken by the Spurs in the final month of the season.

But it was a fittingly close opener for two franchises with so many similarities.

That includes Thunder general manager Sam Presti — the architect of the Thunder’s rapid turnaround from a 23-win season to consecutive Western Conference final in just four years — getting his big break in the NBA as intern in San Antonio.

And the Thunder didn’t even need their own Big Three to keep things close.

Durant, Westbrook and Harden at one point through the second quarter were 5 of 21 — a typically ominous stat line for a trio that had been responsible for nearly 70 per cent of Oklahoma City’s points through the playoffs so far. But for all the talk about San Antonio’s superior bench, it was the Thunder’s reserves who picked up the slack.

None more so than Derek Fisher, whose famous game-winner for the Lakers on this same court in the 2004 playoffs has made “0.4 seconds” a phrase that needs no further explanation to the Spurs. Eight years later, and the oldest player in this series at 37, Fisher already met his playoff average at halftime and finished with 13 points.

Gary Neal added 12 points and was the only other Spurs player in double figures.

Harden lost in the first round of his matchup with Ginobili, who’s also a lefty and a former sixth man of the year. Harden finished with 19 points on 7-of-17 shooting but started by missing nine of his first dozen shots.

Tipping off another conference final couldn’t happen soon enough for Oklahoma City. With nothing to do but prepare for the Spurs all week — and be asked about the Spurs — the Thunder grew weary of questions about being perceived underdogs. About not having the same championship pedigree. About how they’ll possibly stop a team rolling through one of the 10 longest winning streaks in NBA history.

So repetitive were the questions that Durant, visibly annoyed, suggested earlier this week that someone instead ask how the Thunder are going “to come at” the Spurs. That didn’t stop Oklahoma City from facing more of the same at shootaround Sunday morning, when Thunder coach Scott Brooks tried quashing again the idea his team was somehow intimidated.

“They’re not going to be in awe. They’re going to have respect for them,” Brooks said. “We know we can beat them.”

They left still having to prove it.

CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon Predicts League-Wide Building Boom

Source: www.thestar.com - Bob Mitchell

(May 21, 2012)
Mark Cohon, the CFL’s 12th commissioner, signed a three-year extension in November to remain the league’s top man.

The Northwestern University graduate became the league’s boss in April 2007. In the past five years, the CFL has enjoyed resurgence in most cities with attendance increases, strong corporate partnerships, drug and safety initiatives and a groundbreaking television deal.

The Star recently sat down with Cohon, 45, to discuss a variety of topics as the league embarks on one of its most ambitious seasons ever, one that culminates Nov. 25 with the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto.

Look into your crystal ball. What do you envision the CFL will be like at the end of your second term in 2015?

Last year was the first time all eight teams were under the salary cap and that has led to parity and a more competitive product. I believe that will continue. We will have fans sitting in brand new stadiums in Winnipeg, Ottawa and Hamilton. Hopefully, construction will have started in Regina. We will have a new television deal and a strong Collective Bargaining Agreement for our owners, our players and our fans.

On the topic of new stadiums, do you see a day when there will be a new stadium for the Argos?

Definitely not within my second term. The Argos are negotiating a longer term at the Rogers Centre. But if you had a crystal ball and looked ahead 10 to 20 years, I’m sure it’s something the Argos would be investigating as part of the long-term mandate that (executive chairman) Chris Rudge is operating under.

How important is a financially-strong Toronto team to the overall health of the CFL?

We definitely need a strong Toronto team. But 15 years ago, people were doing telethons in Winnipeg and Regina. Now, they’re two of the CFL’s most profitable teams. Toronto has a great opportunity to take advantage of the 100th Grey Cup. But as a league, we can’t impact on what they do on the field. We can help them with their celebrations. But they’ve taken some major steps by getting Ricky Ray here. It could be a very exciting season for their fans.

Moncton hosted a game the last two seasons. Why not this year?

Touchdown Atlantic was run by the league and the Argos and the Tiger-Cats were the home teams. Toronto is building this season towards the Grey Cup and wants to create excitement at every home game. Hamilton is celebrating its last season at Ivor Wynne Stadium before it’s torn down (and rebuilt). These franchises needed to be in their home market this season so we’re taking a hiatus for this year.

No other team wanted to go to Moncton?

The league has to guarantee (revenue from attendance) for their home games and other teams have higher attendance figures than Toronto or Hamilton. Moncton holds about 21,000. That’s small if you want Edmonton (to give up a 35,000) home game. or B.C. (30,000) and Winnipeg will have 33,000 this season.

If there is an opportunity to go back next season it will probably involve Hamilton. We’re working with them on where they will play their home games in 2013. Can they play one or two games in Moncton? Hamilton wants to stay in touch with their fans while their new stadium is being built so they’re focusing on McMaster.

Is expansion to the Maritimes or Quebec a dead issue at least for the next three years?

Our major focus is getting back to Ottawa. If we break ground this summer, our hope is we’ll have a team there in 2014. Beyond that we need to make sure all of our existing teams are financially strong. The big issue for expansion is access to stadiums. You’re not just talking about finding owners and putting together a consortium. You’re talking about tens of millions of dollars in new stadium development.

In Halifax, there’s no stadium. In Moncton, you would have to invest $70 (million) to $80 million to bring that stadium up to par. Quebec City has 10,000 seats. It really boils down to a big development project in addition to just having a team. In Ottawa, the catalyst was finding the right owners and giving them a conditional franchise. It’s a unique situation, which is hard to replicate in other markets.

Can Ottawa succeed this time?

Absolutely. It’s all about ownership, finding guys who are community builders. John Ruddy (real estate developer), one of their owners, is a huge philanthropist. He just gave $2 million to bring back the Carleton Ravens football program. The other owners — Roger Greenberg (real estate developer), Bill Shenkman (real estate developer) and Jeff Hunt (Ottawa 67s owner) — have more invested in Ottawa than the CFL. They are city builders.

It’s a $500 million project that will transform the city. We’re also being proactive with the team, making sure they have an expansion draft that will allow them to succeed on the field and helping them hire the right people. The master plan calls for 350,000 square feet of retail space, condos, offices, cinemas and underground parking.

Argos executive chairman Chris Rudge says fans want to see his team win — but win with exciting football, not 12-7 defensive battles. Often, the East hasn’t been as offensive as the West. Is that going to change this season?

Having Ricky Ray in Toronto could be very interesting. In Hamilton, you have an unbelievable receiving corps. If Henry Burris can connect with those players then Hamilton will be a really exciting team to watch. You can never write off a guy like Anthony Calvillo (Montreal) because the core of his team is back and coached by one of the CFL’s best coaches (Mark Trestman). And Winnipeg was an exciting team last year. The East should be very exciting and competitive.

Your CFL draft was televised at 3 p.m. Why not in prime time or on the weekends when surely more people would be watching?

It was a test for us this year and we’re evaluating it. We tried to make it a social media play as well (Twitter, webcasts). The draft was a trending topic throughout the day. It created some interesting story lines. On the weekend, you might have more viewers. But this year’s draft got more media attention in addition to dialogue among our fans. Maybe we’ll go to prime time next year as a test.

When I first became commissioner, we did the draft in my office on the Internet. But the way our draft is now held, it’s put more pressure on our GMs and coaches to draft the right players. Now, fans, know these players because we’ve been promoting them leading up to it.

Why did you allow Saskatchewan to announce who they were drafting No. 1 five hours before you went live on television?

It was in the home province of Ben Heenan (No. 1 pick from Saskatchewan Huskies). It was very moving for him and his family. It was important for the team and it was important for the community. We talked about (taking the drama out of the draft) but in most drafts you usually know who is going to go No. 1. But this was a unique situation. We had a hometown boy in front of his family and at his university with 2,000 people at a breakfast that morning.

TSN liked the idea. They could build upon it and create a good story leading into the draft. We wouldn’t have done it had they not gone with the hometown guy. We wouldn’t have allowed it if there had been a trade leading up to it. We had Jabar Westerman in our studios and he went No. 2. As we develop and grow, having a draft potentially in front of theatre full of fans and media is something we’ll look at.

Montreal has invited two Canadian quarterbacks to camp but neither Kyle Quinlan (McMaster) nor Kyle Graves (Acadia) were selected in the CFL draft. Does that concern you? And is it time to mandate that a team must have a Canadian quarterback on its roster?

There’s not enough Canadian quarterbacks for all eight teams. More need to develop through the system before we can open up a spot just for them on the roster. What if there were only two, who were good enough and we mandated they had to be on the roster? It would be a challenge for all the teams.

The speed of our game is so different from the CIS. You need to give them reps and the opportunity to learn. That’s why we red shirted a spot for training camp rosters. A team can bring in a Canadian quarterback if he has another year of college eligibility left. He doesn’t count toward the training camp roster (75). Hamilton brought Quinlan in last season. This has created more profile for them along with their performance at the evaluation camp.

Any changes planned for the import, non-import ratio?

We’re comfortable with the ratio (19 non-imports, 20 imports, 3 QBs). It’s important that we have strong Canadians in our game. Every coach and GM will tell you that to win a Grey Cup you have to have strong Canadians. You have to have seven Canadians who start and some people say that puts strain on a team towards the end of the season but in the last few Grey Cups, Montreal started 11 Canadians. In 2009, Saskatchewan had an all-Canadian receiving corps except for one player. It’s really important that we focus on Canadian talent. We’re comfortable where it is but we’ll see where it goes in the next round of discussions with our union.

Is it important to attract new Canadians to the CFL?

It’s critically important, especially in a market like Toronto. Our game is part of the Canadian culture. As new Canadians grow up in Toronto it would be great for them to experience this game. There are some very diverse populations in places like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and I think we need to do more to attract new Canadians to our game.

Does the USFL starting up next season concern you?

If you look at the history of football in North America, it’s the CFL and the NFL. Those are the two leagues that have grown and prospered. We’ve seen businesses and other leagues come and go but we’re the one with a great foundation so I’m not worried about them.

Montreal GM Jim Popp has suggested more rounds be added to the CFL draft to allow more Canadians to get selected. He also wants Canadians playing in the NCAA to only be eligible if they’re not returning to school. Do his ideas have merit?

Jim can bring his ideas forward when we have those discussions with our Competition Committee leading up to next year’s draft. Obviously, we want to put our teams in better situations. If they draft someone, they need to know they’re coming up here. They are some valid points.

Triathlete Brent McMahon Qualifies For London 2012

Source: www.globeandmail.com - By James Christie

(May 27, 2012) The mathematics of the Canadian men's triathlon situation may have been baffling to everyone
except Brent McMahon.

The 31-year-old athlete from Victoria upped the total of
Canadian Olympic entries into the men's race at the London Games to a maximum three at Madrid Sunday.

How he did it was plain to him, if not others.

He didn't win the race. The count of teammates sweating beside McMahon to help him in a domestique role was precisely zero. And the position he had to finish in Madrid's World Championship Series race was undefined.

But McMahon had calculated in advance that he just had to finish ahead of Joao Pereira of Portugal, and he'd win an extra Olympic birth for Canada in the men's Olympic triathlon race.

"At the end of the day, I needed to be one spot ahead of him - that was the mathematics," said McMahon.

"The plan was to do what I do: run well off a hard bike (leg). I didn't run as fast as I wanted to, but I ran well enough and got the job done to secure the third spot for Canada."

He held off Pereira's 10-km run to place 24th in 1 hour 55 minutes 39 seconds. Pereira pushed hard on the run, before dropping back to place 28th ever all at 1:56:05.

Britain's Jonathan Brownlee was the victor in 1:51.49.

Two-time Olympic medalist, Simon Whitfield of Victoria, along with Kyle Jones, of Oakville, Ont., secured two places for Canada, based on performance over the last two years.

Sunday, it was a matter of McMahon doing it alone. He summoned up the frustrations of sitting 18 months on the sidelines with a career-threatening knee injury.

"It was daunting after a year and a half off to make up the points I needed to qualify in such a short time, but I had a huge support team that helped me build a plan and we got it done," he said crediting the boosting of coach Lance Watson, his family and girlfriend.

"I had an exact plan coming off the injury... I knew what had to be done and I executed it," said McMahon. "I have been studying the mathematics of this thing for 18 months. Everyone has been talking about it, I knew today I needed to beat one guy and I did. It looks like I have secured three spots for Canada.

The personal victory for McMahon ends a difficult, round-the-world, chase for 18 months to win Olympic points.

The 2004 Olympian added to his first World Cup win with a bronze medal at the Pan American Games, three bronze medals in Continental Cup races to go along with consistently placing well in World Championship Series races in 2011.

Switzerland's Nicola Spirig won the women's race in 2:06:35. Edmonton's Chantell Widney finished 41st (2:13:02), while Winnipeg's Sarah-Anne Brault was 43rd (2:13:36). Vancouver's Lauren Campbell did not finish the race.

Edmonton's Paula Findlay's run of five World Championship Series victories, along with Montreal's Kathy Tremblay's eighth-place World Championship series finish at the season-opener in Sydney and a World Cup win let Canada secure two women's spots at the 2012 Olympics. Triathlon Canada will be meeting later this week to discuss a line-up of athletes to nominate for the 2012 Games.

DIVING

Roseline Filion of Laval, Que., and Meaghan Benfeito of Montreal earned two Olympic nominations on women's 10-metre tower and François Imbeau-Dulac of St-Lazare, Que., grabbed a spot on men's three-metre at Olympic trials in diving in Montreal.

Filion posted the platform victory earning 724.85 points with Carol-Ann Ware of Otterburn Park, Que., second at 716.70 and Benfeito, ranked fourth in the world, third at 708.70.

"The margin of error is very small and that's why I'm so happy with my performance. I was consistent but consistent at a higher level with stronger scores," said Filion.

Ware held the preliminary lead ahead of Filion while Benfeito was fourth - and Benfeito needed to play catch-up to assure her Olympic nomination. She responded with the top score in the final. Added to her accumulated international points it was enough to keep Ware from second place in the Olympic rankings.

Filion and Benfeito had secured a nomination on 10-metre synchro.

On men's three-metre Imbeau-Dulac was first with 922.95 points to beat out 2008 Olympic team member Reuben Ross of Regina second at 902.70. Ross already had a nomination locked up on men's three-metre synchro with Alexandre Despatie of Laval, Que. Despatie had also clinched the first qualifying spot on individual three-metre.

On Saturday, Émilie Heymans of St-Lambert, Que., and Riley McCormick of Victoria each earned an Olympic nomination in the women's three-metre and men's 10-metre respectively on Saturday at the Games trials in diving.

On women's three-metre, Heymans tabulated 685.35 points for the preliminaries and final for the victory. ''My goal was to duplicate what I had been doing in training. I knew I had put in the work to do well at this event. I think my experience paid off today. The other divers had more trouble with that Olympic spot on the line,'' Heymans said.

Jennifer Abel of Laval, Que., the world championship bronze medallist, had already locked up the first springboard spot.

Heymans now has two events for London. She will also dive with Abel on three-metre synchro. The pair won silver at the worlds last year the FINA World Cup this past February.

On men's tower, McCormick scored four perfect 10's on his reverse dive in the fifth round to win the competition and earned the Olympic spot with 979.80 points. Eric Sehn of Edmonton was second at 863.65 . Diving Canada will find out in June if a second spot on men's tower will become available. If so, Sehn would get the spot.

Canada qualified in seven of eight Olympic events in diving this year.

ROWING

Canada brings home three medals - silvers in the women's eight and men's pair, and bronze in the men's eight - from the Samsung World Rowing Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland Sunday.

As promised, the women's eight race was competitive to the end, with Canada and the U.S. in a photo finish. The Americans edged out Canada only by .03 of a second to win gold in a time of 5:59.26 (2000m). Canada's silver-medal winning time was 5:59.29, and the Netherlands took bronze in 6:03.20.

The eight rowing here is Lesley Thompson-Willie (London, ON), Darcy Marquardt (Richmond, BC), Ashley Brzozowicz (London, ON), Lauren Wilkinson (North Vancouver, BC), Andreanne Morin (Montreal, QC), Rachelle Viinberg (Regina, SK), Krista Guloien (Port Moody, BC), Cristy Nurse (Georgetown, ON) and Natalie Mastracci (Thorold, ON).

"It was a good race, but we would have liked to have had a different result," said Darcy Marquardt. "This definitely fuels the fires for London."

Earlier today, Scott Frandsen (Kelowna, BC) and David Calder (Victoria, BC) got back on the podium, this time as 2012 World Cup silver medalists in the men's pair.

"Our training and hard work has proved that you can teach an old dog new tricks," said three-time Olympian, Dave Calder. "We're pretty pumped and have got the countdown to London in our heads right now."

Favourites New Zealand won in 6:24.04, overtaking Canada - Beijing silver medalists - who led for half of the race and finished in 6:26.77. Greece finished with a bronze medal in 6:30.04; and Germany (6:30.79), Great Britain (6:31.60) and Italy (6:35.86) rounded out the field.

The men's eight had big hopes today after setting a world's best time in the heat on Friday. They had a decent final, but finished in third to take a bronze.

"Both Germany and Great Britain got out to a bit of a quick start on us, and not that that is surprising because we know they are quick starters and so are we, but they got up on us," said experienced coxswain, Brian Price. "It made it a little harder on ourselves from the 500 to 1500 (metres). When you don't win, you start to pick things apart - I think it's good for us to get back to Victoria and get back to our training and focus on the Olympics."

Germany's time was 5:27.47, Great Britain finished in 5:28.64 and Canada crossed the 2000-metre mark in 5:29,62.

This Canadian crew is coxswain Brian Price (Belleville, ON), Will Crothers (Kingston, ON), Jeremiah Brown (Cobourg, ON), Andrew Byrnes (Toronto, ON), Malcolm Howard (Victoria, BC), Conlin McCabe (Brockville, ON), Rob Gibson (Kingston, ON), Doug Csima (Oakville, ON) and Gabe Bergen (100 Mile House, BC).

The lightweight men's double of Doug Vandor (Dewittville, QC) and Morgan Jarvis (Winnipeg, MB) looked strong and in medal contention, until the finish when they were edged out by Denmark for the final medal position. France won in 6:22.78, followed by New Zealand in 6:24.32 and the Danes in 6:24.97. Canada's time was 6:25.18.

"We've been learning a lot this weekend," explained Olympian Doug Vandor. "We were progressively getting better and it felt really strong this morning. We tried to take the best of our first race in the heat and the best of our second race, the semi, and combine them. The only place that we stumbled was the last 200 metres today, falling apart a bit. We were leading for most of the race; it's just learning how to hold onto that lead - stay composed under pressure and do what we have to do. I guess it's a good step forward, it's better to come fourth here than in two month’s time at the Olympics."

"We are on track of reaching our medal potential goal," said Peter Cookson, High Performance Director. "We've seen improvement in some of the boats, and with the weeks of solid training coming up, leading up to London, we will be in shape for the Games."

Canada has seven boats qualified for the London 2012 Olympics. Most of the Canadian team will now head home to train, while the women's eight will stay to train and compete in Europe.

CANOE-KAYAK

- A nomination to the 2012 Olympic Games came down to one race and Jason McCoombs of Dartmouth, N.S., finished ahead of Aaron Rublee of Kamloops, B.C., to get the spot at a World Cup in Duisburg, Germany.

McCoombs finished sixth in the C-1 200 final clocking 41.415 seconds while Rublee took ninth spot in 41.727 seconds. Alfonso Benavides of Spain won the gold in 40.685.

"That race at the trials is what really gave me a lot of confidence,'' said McCoombs. "That was the first time I had raced against those guys and it was the best race I've ever had. I was pretty nervous all this week but I always try to approach each race the same way.''

In kayak, Hughes Fournel of Dorval, Que., and Ryan Cochrane of Windsor, N.S., took another step towards an Olympic nomination placing fifth in the K-2 200.

Canada can send only one K-2 team to the Games, and Fournel and Cochrane have posted better results the last two World Cups than K-2 1,000 pair Richard Dober Jr., of Trois-Rivieres, Que., and Steve Jorens of Candiac, Que.

"We came out to show that last weekend's result was not a fluke,'' said Cochrane, who earned the bronze with his partner in Poland last week. In another Olympic event final, Dober Jr., was eighth in the K-1 200 final.

On Saturday, Olympic nominee Adam van Koeverden of Oakville, Ont., produced a second consecutive medal performance on the World Cup canoe and kayak circuit on Saturday earning silver in the K-1 1,000 metre.

The race was won by Aleh Yurenia of Belarus in three minutes and 26.286 seconds. van Koeverden, a bronze medallist last week in Poland, followed closely in 3:26.672 and Eirik Veraas Larsen of Norway was third in 3:26.906.

In a very fast men's C-1 1,000 metre, Mark Oldershaw of Burlington, Ont., and Ben Russell of Dartmouth, N.S., were fourth and fifth. Oldershaw won the race last weekend to lock up his Olympic nomination. On Saturday he clocked a personal best time by three seconds at the distance finishing in 3:48.352. Sebastien Brendel of Germany was first in 3:46.677.

Judo:

Montreal judoka Amy Cotton was crowned champion of the under-78 kg category at the Moscow Judo Grand Slam, while Whitby, Ont., native Kelita Zupancic took home a bronze medal in the under-70kg class.

Cotton, ranked 15th internationally, earned gold against Mongolia's Lkhamdegd Purevjargal - ranked seventh in the world.

"Amy had three difficult competitors to face today and won each bout decisively, it’s clear she's been working hard to come back after a difficult Winter," said coach Nicolas Gill.

Zupancic, 17th in world rankings, beat Russia's Ekaterina Dengenkova but was defeated in the semi-final by Brazil's 10th-ranked Maria Portela.

"In the semi-final - against the eventual gold medallist - Kelita lost because of a Shido (penalty); that's how tight the match was," Gill said.

On Saturday, Sasha Mehmedovic and Sergio Pessoa Jr., both achieved fifth place rankings. Mehmedovic, 27, ranked 23rd in the world under-66 kg, was halted in the quarter-final by Uzbekistan's Mirzahid Farmonov, himself ranked 27th in the world.

In the under-60 kg category, Sergio Pessoa Jr. kept the heat on up to the quarter-final round. Pessoa's competitor, Mongolia's Boldbaatar Ganbat, was the only athlete of the two able to score points during the five minute match on the tatami. Ganbat won the match by yuko, which also eliminated the Canadian judoka.

TRACK AND FIELD

Heptahlete Jessica Zelinka obtained the A qualifying standards in Gotzis, Austria and could try for the A-plus standard at Vancouver's June 10 Harry Jerome Classic.

Zelinka scored 6,393 points, her second best score, to take sixth in the Hypomeeting in Gotzis where gold medal favourite Jessica Ennis of Britain broke her national record with 6,906 points.

Dylan Armstrong of Kamloops, B.C., shone in the Hengelo meet in the Netherlands to make it three shot put golds in the past five days. He started this European tour in the Czech Republic with a throw of 20.93m at the Turnov Ludvik Danek meeting on May 22nd. Next stop in Ostrava, he defeats the 2008 Olympic champion, Tomaz Majewski of Poland and 2011 World Championship gold medalist, David Storl of Germany with 21.29m on May 25th at the Golden Spike meeting. Today after just 2 hours sleep in this world wind tour, he increases his distance to 21.44m to win at the Hengelo Fanny Blankers-Koen event. Justine Rodhe was fifth at 19.38..

GYNASTICS-TRAMPOLINE

At Regina, Toronto's Karen Cockburn tuned up for the Olympics, winning her 13th women's individual title with a personal best score Saturday night.

Cockburn, 31, who won a bronze medal at the inaugural 2000 Olympics and followed up with silver medals at both the 2004 and 2008 Games, finished well ahead of runner-up Samantha Smith of Vancouver.

. "I feel like I'm right on track and I'm not getting too stressed out with the Games getting closer," Cockburn said. "I feel like I'm in a really great place right now. My routines are set and now I'm fine tuning trying to get more execution points and more flight time points."

In men's trampoline Jason Burnett of Toronto, who will be chasing his second straight Olympic medal in London, delivered a clean routine en route to his seventh Canadian title.

While Canada's trampoline team is already set for the Games the battle for Olympic spots in men's and women's gymnastics saw the top eight women earn automatic invitations to a final Olympic selection camp to be held in Gatineau, Que., at the end of June. Four more will be added to the mix.

A five-woman Olympic team plus one reserve athlete will be named following the final selection meet. The top three ranked gymnasts so far are Kristina Vaculik of Whitby, Ont., Victoria Moors of Cambridge, Ont., who and Dominique Pegg of Sarnia, Ont. Rounding out the top eight are: Ellie Black of Halifax, Jessica Savona of Oakville, Ont, Brittany Rogers of Coquitlam, B.C., Madeline Gardiner and Mikaela Gerber, both of Cambridge, Ont.

Vaculik won the all-around Canadian title last week and won three more medals in the event finals on Sunday, winning gold on uneven bars and balance beam and silver on floor.

Moors, second all around, added individual gold on floor and silver on uneven bars and Pegg, third all around, won bronze medals on vault and beam.

Competition on the men's team is even more fierce with just one Olympic spot up for grabs.

Calgary's Nathan Gafuik was the only competitor to meet the selection standard in Regina with just two more qualification events in Europe remaining for others to challenge for the Olympic berth.

Gafuik, who won the men's all-around title, reached the standard in the men's qualification round with a score on high bar that would have placed him fourth at the 2011 world championships.

In Saturday's event finals, Scott Morgan of Vancouver won three medals including gold on rings and vault. Other winners were Gafuik on high bar, Jayd Lukenchuk of Saskatoon on parallel bars, Robert Watson of Coquitlam, B.C. on floor and Ken Ikeda of Abottsford, B.C. on pommel horse.

SWIMMING

Canadian Olympians Martha McCabe of Toronto, Brent Hayden of Mission, B.C., and Scott Dickens of Ancaster, Ont., each won a gold medal at the Mel Zajac Jr-Canada Cup swimming competition, a high-calibre meets that had 10 Australian and 10 Canadian Olympians

In the women's 200 breaststroke, McCabe produced a strong second length to win in two minutes and 25.81 seconds. Tera van Beilen of Oakville, Ont., also headed to London, followed in 2:27.93..

In the men's 200 breaststroke, Dickens collected his second victory and meet record placing first in 2:13.80. Dickens is qualified for the 100 and 200 breaststroke for London.

In the men's 50 freestyle, Hayden notched the win in 22.76 while his Olympic teammate Tommy Gossland of Vancouver was sixth.

Devils Coach Pete Deboer Has Come A Long Way

Source: www.thestar.com - Kevin McGran

(May 30, 2012) NEWARK, N.J.—A year ago, thing looked bleak for Devils coach Pete DeBoer.

Fired as coach of the Florida Panthers, DeBoer worried about his future.

“Like most unemployed guys, you’re sitting at home wondering where you’re going to work next,” said DeBoer. “You’re thinking about your future, talking about selling your house.

“It seems humorous now, but when you go through something like that . . . I have a rock-solid wife who I thought kept me in a good place through that time. It wasn’t that long ago.”

Now DeBoer is coaching the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup final having remade them into an offensive team. It was DeBoer’s idea to go to an aggressive forecheck as the Devils abandoned their famous neutral zone trap.

DeBoer seemed an odd choice for Devils GM Lou Lamouriello. DeBoer, who coached the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, had failed to make any inroads with the Florida Panthers in terms of getting them to the playoffs. And the system DeBoer likes to play was at odds with the type of stifling defensive hockey for which the Devils were famous.

It turns out Lamouriello treats coaching prospects the same way he treats player prospects: If he thought you had a future three years ago, he won’t give up on you, even if another team has.

“We knew Pete coaching in juniors,” says Lamouriello. “We had players playing from his team, signed free agents from there. We knew what he did there.

“We know how highly touted he was when he came out to be a pro coach. A lot of people thought a lot of him. We played against Florida a lot over the three years. It was always remarkable how they competed no matter where they were in the standings. I knew he was a very hard coach on his players because he didn’t want to accept anything but the best out of them. That to me was a positive because he might have wanted success, maybe didn’t have the talent to get there.”

Lamouriello asked others who knew DeBoer, then interviewed him, and it dawned on the Devils GM. He had a lot of offensive players, so why not change styles.

“When I did speak to him during the summer, I was extremely impressed, first of all with his intelligence, his honesty, what he thought went wrong in Florida, whether it be personally or professionally, what he wanted to do offensively,” said Lamouriello. “It was the perfect time for our organization to maybe make a little change with the type of forwards we have, with (Zach) Parise, (Ilya) Kovalchuk, (Travis) Zajac, (Patrik) Elias, (Jacob) Josefson. It was time to loosen up a bit, but never at the expense of defence. You have to have defence no matter what to win.

“I was committed to the other end of it, trying to get it to work. He’s done a fantastic job.”

The players bought what DeBoer was selling.

“I really tried to respect the fact we’ve got Stanley Cup winners in the room,” said DeBoer. “And I’ve tried to take their input at different points.

“I have the security to do that. I’m not sure as a young coach coming into the NHL, three or four years ago, I would have had that. That has helped.”

He organized a leadership group, and got the likes of Elias and Brodeur to buy in and spread the word. There were open lines of communications, with the players free to make suggestions on how to do things better: scheduling, game-planning, special team suggestions.

“He approached me from the get-go,” said Elias. “I was comfortable enough to talk to him when I had something on my mind. Him listening, at certain times adjusting, it helps. We all have one goal in mind, that’s to win hockey games, and be successful. It’s great to have that relationship with coach.”

That, in turn, helped the Devils become a more offensive-minded team as it marched its way to the Stanley Cup final.

“He’s intense,” Elias said of DeBoer. “You saw what happened in the Rangers series. It’s great to see. He doesn’t panic on the bench or in the locker room. That helped us in the season. When we went on a losing streak, there was no panic.

“He gets his points across in a way that everybody listens, but he doesn’t have to scream. That’s nice to have. You respect that. When you know that the coach has the knowledge and he has a feel for the game and individual players, how to talk to them, when to talk to them. He can say whatever he wants, and we’ll take it because you know he’s right.”

How Blue Jays Latest Roster Moves Affect Adeiny Hechavarria

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 28, 2012) On Monday afternoon, the reeling Blue Jays announced a seemingly unusual roster change, purchasing the contract of left-hander Aaron Laffey from Triple-A Las Vegas and sending right-hander Chad Beck back to their top affiliate after one day in Texas, without being used.

Meanwhile, right-hander Jesse Chavez, who was promoted at the same time as Beck and pitched five innings in relief on Sunday, therefore rendering him unavailable for at least three more days, remained with the Jays. Beck has the fresher arm. What gives?

And Monday's unusual shuffling of the deck chairs took place one day after announcing the prior unusual roster change, with Beck and Chavez being called up to the Jays, that move coming one day after right-hander Ryoto Igarashi and first baseman David Cooper were summoned as reenforcements. How to explain?

These are becoming unusual times for the Jays as they struggle to stay within range of the rest of the deep and powerful AL East and the enticing second wild-card spot.

Here's one interpretation of what it all means for the Blue Jays in the short term:

Laffey, 27, is a fresh left-handed arm to use in middle relief out of the pen against the Orioles with five lefty hitters, led by Nick Markakis and Xavier Avery and to turn two switch-hitters around, including Matt Wieters. He won't be needed that often, but he can also pitch more than one inning when called upon.

Then into town after the O's comes Boston, with four lefty swingers led by David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez and two switch-hitters including Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Laffey was 2-1 in his last four starts, with a 2.70 ERA at Vegas. His best spring outing for the Jays had been in Fort Myers against the Bosox in mid-March. When the Sox leave, all Laffey bets are off.

Chavez, 28, remained with the Jays, even after his five-inning relief stint, because the Jays need an alternate starting option for the short-term and Beck is strictly a reliever. The Jays may, in fact, be thinking about keeping Chavez and inserting him into the rotation, depending on the outcome of Drew Hutchison's start against the Orioles, Monday night.

Chavez impressed in his relief outing in Arlington on Sunday, shutting down the Rangers for the first three innings in aggressive fashion. Meanwhile Hutchison, at 21, could clearly use more developmental innings either at AA-New Hampsire or Vegas.

The problem with sending Chavez down instead of Beck on Monday, to bring up the fresh-armed Laffey is that, barring injury, Chavez, if they wanted him to make a start at the major-league level, would have had to remain in the minors for 10 days before being recalled. He stays.

Speaking of which, the Jays may have made a mistake when they sent utility infielder Yan Gomes back to Las Vegas to bring up and make room for Beck and Chavez. They likely discovered that when Yunel Escobar injured his groin in the first inning on Sunday and aggravated it in the fourth inning, forcing manager John Farrell to resort to a makeshift defensive alignment with Jose Bautista moving to third and Brett Lawrie to shortstop.

Second baseman Kelly Johnson is already hobbled with a left hamstring issue, meaning that Omar Vizquel, the only backup middle infielder, was playing second base, Sunday. Of course, Edwin Encarnacion can also play third base but he was the DH on Sunday and that would not have solved the shortstop problem.

The Escobar groin and the Johnson hamstring are two areas for a baseball player, especially a middle infielder, that you do not want to take chances with. The Jays prefer to err on the side of caution, in any case. The solution for the Jays is that they monitor the situation on Monday night, then if they feel they have to disable one of the two infielders for 15 days, they can bring back Gomes for his versatility using the DL replacement rule.

At the same time, after Hutchison's start, the Jays can decide whether the next outing from the fifth spot -- that being Sunday aganst the Red Sox, or even pushed back to next week if they use the off-day to skip the fifth starter -- they can decide whether that start will be Hutchison or Chavez. The one of the two pitchers that is being sent to the minors can be replaced on the roster by Adeiny Hechavarria, the 22-year-old Cuban shortstop at Vegas, who can make his long-awaited debut where needed.

Hechavarria, 23, is already on the 40-man roster and is already using a contract option this year, as per his original four-year, $10 million deal. The hotshot glove man is batting .314 with the 51's, with four homers, 34 RBIs and an .826 OPS. Farrell indicated at spring training that if either Escobar or Johnson was injured and on the DL, there was a strong likelihood, the team would take a look at Hechavarria.

That time may be at hand. These are tough times for the Jays.

SPORTS TIDBITS

Canadian Adam Van Koeverden Wins World Cup Kayak Silver

Source: www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(May 26, 2012) DUISBURG, GERMANY—Canadian Olympian Adam van Koeverden earned a medal for the
second consecutive week on the World Cup canoe and kayak circuit Saturday, silver in the K-1 1,000-metre final. Van Koeverden, a bronze medallist last week in Poland, finished less than a half-second behind winner Aleh Yurenia of Belarus. The Canadian, who earned an Olympic berth at the national trials in early May, plans to compete in the next World Cup stop in Moscow. In the men’s 1,000-metre canoeing final, Mark Oldershaw of Burlington and Ben Russell of Dartmouth, N.S., finished fourth and fifth. Oldershaw, who recorded a personal-best time of 3:48.352, won last weekend to lock up his Olympic berth. Steve Jorens of Candiac, Que., and Richard Dober Jr., of Trois-Rivieres, Que. — who finished eighth in the K-2 1,000 — are still in the Olympic hunt. Canada has only one K-2 berth, for either 1,000 or 200 metres. The 200-metre final is Sunday.

Canadian Shot-Putter Armstrong Wins Gold At Dutch Meet

Source: www.eurweb.com

(May 26, 2012) HENGELO, Netherlands—Canada’s
Dylan Armstrong continued his march to the London Olympics his third gold medal in the past five days after winning the men’s shot put at the Hengelo Fanny Blankers-Koen track and field meet on Saturday. Armstrong, from Kamloops, B.C., won with a season-best throw of 21.44 metres. Tomasz Majewski of Poland was second and Rutger Smith of the Netherlands finished third. Armstrong also won a pair of gold medals in the Czech Republic of over the week. He won the Turnov Ludvik Danek meet on Tuesday with a throw of 20.93 metres and claimed gold in Friday’s Golden Spike meet with a throw of 21.29 metres. The 31-year-old athlete is rounding into form after he suffered from an arm injury earlier in the season and had a disappointing performance at the world indoor championships in March.

Boxer Johnny Tapia, Five-Time World Champion, Found Dead At Home

Source: www.thestar.com

(May 28, 2012) ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Police say five-time world boxing champion has been found dead by a family member at his home in Albuquerque, N.M. Police spokesperson Robert Gibbs says authorities were called to the house at about 7:45 p.m. on Sunday. The 45-year-old Tapia won five championships in three weight classes — the WBA bantamweight, IBF and WBO junior bantamweight and IBF featherweight titles. But his career also was marked by cocaine addiction, alcohol, depression and run-ins with the law. He was hospitalized for three days in 2007 after an apparent cocaine overdose. Tapia last fought in June, defeating Mauricio Pastrana in an eight-round decision. He finished with a 59-5-2 record. Gibbs says the death doesn’t appear to be suspicious. He says an autopsy will be performed in the next few days.

::FITNESS::

10 Great Ways to Burn More Fat

Source: By Raphael Calzadilla, Fitness Pro

You’re so busy you have absolutely no time to work out, right? Wrong. It’s important that you make the time, and I’m here to help you do it. In this busy world filled with work, family and stress, we sometimes have to use a lot of creativity to sneak in workout time.

I’ve constructed some quick tips to keep you moving, your muscles stimulated and your blood flowing in minimal time. Now, you have no excuse.

Here are my 10 fat-burning tips for people on the go:

1. When you first wake up, commit to 10 minutes of continuous exercise. Choose only three movements and perform each in succession without stopping for 10 minutes. For example, Monday you can perform modified push-ups, followed by crunches for your abs followed by stationary lunges. On Tuesday, you can perform free-standing squats with hands on hips, double crunch for abs and close grip modified push-ups (hands 3 inches apart) for your triceps. Just 10 minutes! Just take a quick breather when you need it.

2. Perform timed interval walking in your neighborhood or at lunch. If it takes 10 minutes to walk to a certain destination near your office or in your neighborhood, try to make it in eight minutes. You can also do this first thing in the morning before work as well as on your lunch break.

3. If you have stairs in your home or in your work place, commit to taking the stairs a specific number of times. Tell yourself that you’ll take the stairs six or eight times (no matter what).

4. While seated, perform some isometric exercise to help strengthen and tighten your muscles. For example, while in a seated position, simply contract the abdominals for 30 seconds while breathing naturally. You can also tighten and contract your legs for 60 seconds. Perform about three sets per area. You’ll feel your muscles get tighter in just three weeks if you do this a few times per week.

5. For about $15, you can invest in a pedometer. It’s a small device you can carry that records the amount of miles you walk per day. Each week, simply try to add just a bit more to the mileage. For example, let’s say you walk one mile total during the day in the normal course of activities. Simply try to make it two miles total the following week. Just make a game of it. You’ll burn more calories.

6. Tired at night and just want to sit in front of the TV? Try this technique: Take periodic five-minute exercise breaks and perform some muscle-stimulating and calorie-burning exercise. For example, take five minutes and perform only ab crunches. Then, when it’s time for another five-minute exercise break, perform modified push-ups for five minutes. Then for a final five-minute break, perform stationary lunges. Try to do as many as possible in five minutes and try to beat your amount of reps during each subsequent break. It won’t seem daunting because it’s only five minutes at a time, split over a 30- or 60-minute timeframe. Instead of rest breaks, you’ll take exercise breaks. You don’t really need to watch that commercial, do you?

7. How about performing one exercise movement per day for seven to 10 minutes? For example, Monday: free-standing squats for seven minutes. Tuesday: chair dips for seven minutes. Wednesday: crunches and hip lifts off the floor for seven minutes. Thursday: modified push-up for seven minutes. Friday: stationary lunges for seven minutes. It’s quick, simple and teaches consistency.

8. Want things even simpler? Take the longest route every time you have to walk somewhere — even if it’s to a co-worker’s office.

9. Double-up the stairs. Every time you take the stairs, simply take a double step, or every other stair. It will be just like lunges and the Stairmaster combined — great for the legs and butt.

10. Perform any of the above with your spouse or a friend. I’m sure you can find someone who is in the same situation. The support will give you more motivation and you just may find that you can create even more workout time for yourself.

Hey, I know this won’t make you an Olympic athlete or give you six-pack abs, but that’s not the goal. I just want to see you making an effort to improve. If you take two to three of your favorite tips above, it will be the beginning of something great.

::MOTIVATION::

We are, you might say, "brainwashed" into thinking that money is the source of happiness, while what we really need to know is that inner peace is something that comes from within.

Source:
Dalai Lama