Friday, May 31, 2013

Pool Report: The Final Four

The Conference Finals commence tomorrow. Boston vs Pittsburgh in the East and LA vs Chicago in the West.

While up here on the grassy knoll, I await the man in Dealey Plaza to open his umbrella. Because also moving into the finals is Referee Brad Watson, the man who’s non-calls sealed Toronto’s fate.

As I predicted after the Toronto debacle, all the elements remain in place for a pre-determined in the NHL boardroom Boston/LA ealing of America Stanley Cup Final with blind Brad slowing the bubble-topless limo carrying the Hawks and Pens as it approaches the railway overpass…

You may not be buying any of this, but somewhere at the Toronto Star, a frazzled editor, desperate for readership is pulling my resume from a dusty filing cabinet and wondering whether I can stretch the Rob Ford saga for another week.

However, were such a conspiracy actually in the works, it would require some spectacular games through Round Three for dominant teams like Chicago and Pittsburgh to fall by the wayside. And that could get quite entertaining.

At any rate, Wil Zmak continues to dominate the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, still dogged, however, by David Kinahan, Eric Anderson and –- Larry Bambrick? Hey, where’d he come from?

And for those not given to conspiracies –- there’s Will Pascoe, previous two time winner, starting to make his move and still with a full roster. Referee Brad might be the only thing that can stop him. 

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Make Your Own Mayor Ford Crack Video

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The story that just won’t go away –- or –- just keeps on giving in Canada these days is that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was allegedly videotaped smoking Crack cocaine. The website Gawker broke the story and launched a $200,000 crowd-funding campaign to buy the footage.

Meanwhile, two Toronto Star reporters also said they had seen the same video but refused to pay for it since cheque-book journalism isn’t ethical. However, launching a campaign of character assassination based on unsubstantiated sources apparently is, and things have grown from there.

I had my own personal run in with the Toronto Star making stuff up several years ago. Back then I was on a TV magazine show called “Pizzazz” and when we were ready to launch, the local press was provided with an information package that included a tape of the pilot, lots of pictures, cast quotes and episode guides on which to build their reviews.

The Star review was scathing and humiliating. Problem was, its content revealed the TV critic had never watched the tape we sent. The show reviewed had no relationship to what we had created and provided.

The folks at the network (Global) being media savvy themselves, knew you didn’t go to war with people who bought ink by the barrel and tried to work the back channels to get another review, maybe a feature story that might undo the damage.

My approach wasn’t as civilized. I called the editor of the paper and told him his newspaper had printed lies. He called the reviewer into his office, found out what she had done and relieved her of her duties. She was made to apologize to me personally and the creators of the series.

Later in life, she learned from the lesson and went on to become a pretty good journalist. The network was royally pissed at me for going behind their backs, but we got over it and later I learned that they were genuinely appreciative.

Whatever rapprochement they officially made with The Star was above my pay grade. I do know that no apology or retraction was ever printed.

So maybe you’ve only got my word that any of the above happened. Except that I can prove it, if I have to.

Anybody who’s an adult realizes that when it comes to hard news and people in power sometimes the press goes on fishing expeditions, laying out assumptions or unsupported information in the hope of getting somebody to talk.

What’s struck me about the Ford Affair is how concerted the efforts have been to defend the original allegations. Among these was a story printed last Saturday with the headline “Digitizing A Fake Rob Ford Video is a Technical Impossibility”. You can read it for yourself here.

Now, I work in the film business and I knew that was bullshit.

But it was a question people who really want Rob Ford gone were discussing in my social media streams. And no matter how hard I tried to explain that fakes were easy and the tools were readily available and cheap enough for even a low level drug dealer to afford, I was excoriated for having that opinion.

So here’s the proof.

The video that follows was made by a guy in Ajax who paints cars for a living and isn’t a trained video professional. He accomplished it in less than an hour.

Does this suggest that the Gawker/Star claim is false? I can’t say. Does it suggest somebody might be trying really hard to unseat the mayor? Maybe.

Decide for yourself. Nothing pisses off the media more. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pool Report: It Was 20 Years Ago Today

Something just didn’t feel right this morning. I woke up under a cloud even though the Sun was shining. Everything seemed misplaced, disjointed. I just couldn’t shake off the sense of doom.

I figured maybe I just wasn’t in the mood to write this morning’s Infamous Writers Hockey Pool report. But although the Senators and Rangers have both breathed their last, nothing about that should have afflicted me.

Out West, the Hawks and Wings are involved in an epic contest. And I mean, epic in the best, non-teenage girl sense. On the coast, the Kings and Sharks are going to Game Seven. How great is that?

So I should have been excited about where the Playoffs might go from here. No, it was something else…

And then I remembered. It was 20 years ago today…

Twenty years ago, referee Kerry Fraser looked the other way and didn’t see Wayne Gretzky viciously cut the most holy Maple Leaf of all time, Doug Gilmour, the incomparable “Dougie”, with his stick.

It was overtime in Game Six of the conference final in LA and the Leafs had the Kings on the ropes. One goal would send them to the Stanley Cup final against the Montreal Canadiens. It promised to be the dream matchup final of all time.

But Kerry didn’t make the call. And then, seconds later, the player who should have been cooling his ass in the penalty box scored.

And then they killed us in Game Seven and the dream died.

Twenty years ago today, Kerry Fraser became the most hated man in Leafs nation –- and so far no true blue Leafs fan has gotten over the tragedy.

And today I sit in the basement of the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, ironically 99 (Gretzky’s number) points behind the leader, Will Zmak, who has a lot of Kings on his pool team.

No wonder I feel so crappy.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 274: I Drive Your Truck

On June 21, 2006, Staff Sergeant Jared C. Monti, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, US Army, led a 16 man patrol on an intelligence mission in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.

The patrol was attacked by 50 enemy fighters and almost overrun. Monti personally engaged the enemy, directed his men to a defensive position and called for fire support, accurately targeting combatants who had closed to within 50 meters of him.

Staff Sergeant Monti then saw one of his men was lying wounded and calling for help in the open ground between him and the advancing enemy.

With complete disregard for his own safety, he made three attempts to rescue his comrade before being mortally wounded, sacrificing his own life to save a fellow Soldier.

For this act of uncommon valor, Jared Monti was awarded his country’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.

This is Memorial Day weekend in the United States, and across the country, flags will hang from front porches and open windows to honor those who serve or have served and those who have fallen in the service of their country.

Many of those homes will display a second flag. A simple one with a red border on a white field enclosing a gold star. This is the flag presented to parents whose son or daughter lies among the fallen.

Two years ago, one Gold Star Parent, Paul Monti, Jared’s father, appeared on the local NPR station in Oxford, Mississippi to talk about what it was like to have a son killed in action.

Among the things Paul Monti discussed was Jared’s truck. How he still owned it and still drove it from time to time.

“It’s got his DNA all over it. I love driving it because it reminds me of him, though I don’t need the truck to remind me of him. I think about him every hour of every day.”

Paul Monti went on about the truck in detail, it’s connection to his loss and what it symbolized to him.

Not far away, in Nashville, Tennessee, songwriter Connie Harrington listened in her car, forced to pull to the roadside as her eyes welled up with tears. She frantically scribbled down every detail she could, went home and wrote a song.

Last month, that song, “I Drive Your Truck”, sung by Country star Lee Brice, reached number one on the Billboard charts.

Among the people who heard it was a woman who called Paul Monti. Her son had died in the same battle as his son –- and like him she assuaged her grief by driving his truck.

This weekend, give a thought to those who serve and those who grieve the fallen.

And Enjoy Your Sunday. 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Approaching The Heart Of The Dragon

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Three years ago, I wrote a post entitled “Sometimes The Dragon Wins” which still regularly turns up on the ‘most read’ lists for this blog.

That post told the story of the night a Toronto bicycle courier named Darcy Allan Sheppard died during a confrontation with Ontario’s former Attorney General, Michael Bryant.

There was a lot about that night, the investigation and the subsequent decision not to prosecute Mr. Bryant that troubled a lot of people at the time and continues to trouble them to this day.

It felt like a travesty of Justice and seemed that the truth about how blood came to be spilled along Toronto’s fashionable “Mink Mile” would never be revealed.

Sometimes the Dragon wins…

And sometimes the Dragon’s smug and arrogant nature, his certainty of his power and the maze of regulations and political relationships he contrives to protect his lair work against him.

Sometimes one who is pure of heart breaches those barriers and causes the Dragon to tremble.

Last week, Allan Sheppard Sr. (Darcy’s father) held a press conference to describe his ongoing search for the truth surrounding his son’s death. It is a tale of silenced cops, eye witness testimony dismissed and lawyerly machinations that most believe could never happen in this country.

That press conference can be found here.

Whether or not the Dragon wins again depends on how much or how little you care.

UPDATE:

Here are the Statements from the 19 eyewitnesses the Special Prosecutor chose to ignore in deciding the case.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Google Glitch

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I’m a big fan of Google. Use it every day. Several times. I appreciate its ability to help me find what I’m looking for, read mail, translate foreign languages, provide a space on which to write this blog and all the other magical things that Google and its apps do.

I understand and fully accept that in order to provide me with all this help, Google injects my IP address with some kind of tracker bot that records where I’m going and what I’m looking at so they can build a profile of who I am and then sell me stuff.

This apparently works for Google too. Last year they made upwards of $30 Billion from companies who wanted their ads targeted at the people most likely to buy something from them.

That’s considered a win-win for all concerned and so much better than the scattergun approach of television.

But lately I’ve noticed a glitch in Google’s sales strategy that might reveal that Google doesn’t know as much about me as they’d like their paying customers to believe they do.

A few months ago, I needed to get my hands on some stock footage with very specific parameters.  Having exhausted my usual sources, I went online and spent hours searching and refining my search terms until I finally found exactly what I was looking for. And I bought it.

But months later, Google is still filling the sidebars and top lines of my browser pages with ads for video footage sources. They don’t know I’ve already made a purchase and am no longer in the market.

Maybe they suspect I’ll be looking for something similar someday. And I might well be. But here in the real world, I’ve found a new name to add to my list of usual suspects. It might be a very long while before any of my cash goes to somebody new.

A few weeks ago, I also needed some emergency repairs and Google helped me find a local and reliable provider of such services. In the process I also contacted a Google suggestion who wasn’t as professional as I had expected. It was a bad experience quickly resolved in the real world by my hiring somebody else.

But every time I open a browser window these days there’s an ad or three for the guy I know I’ll never deal with again. And while I may take some satisfaction that this SOB is wasting whatever fraction of a penny Google is charging to put him in my line of sight on a regular basis, it’s annoying to be constantly reminded of him while I’m trying to watch midget orgy porn.

Once again, Google doesn’t know I’m no longer in the market. Nor, apparently, despite all their demographic data, have they discerned the first clue on what I look for in the people providing my goods and services.

Now please don’t assume this is something that keeps me up at night or has me questioning whether to hang onto my Google shares. In a way, it’s rather comforting.

Because in addition to Google’s off-side ads, I’m daily bombarded with social media traffic warning me that the machines are slowly taking over. That Jason Kenney or Eric Holder knows exactly what I’m writing and emailing and Skype-ing about. That pollsters know how much I care about an issue and how I’m going to vote.

And it’s just not true.

I think it’s got something to do with free will…

Pool Report: Probably Not

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Every time Ottawa gets into the playoffs, somebody somewhere asks why they are never “Canada’s Team”, the one fans of other Canadian clubs flock to as their own heroes fall by the wayside; the banner carrier of a nation desperate for the Cup.

Now we know the answer to that question.

Asked following Wednesday night’s 7-3 drubbing by the Penguins, if his Senators could rebound to win the series, Captain Daniel Alfredsson responded, “Probably not”.

There you have it.

Imagine being a hard working Ottawa fan (Seriously, there are people in Ottawa who work) who has managed to get your raw and calloused hands on a couple of $125 upper bowl in the rafters seats for Game 6, already booking an hour or two of overtime so you can cover the $11 parking pass at Scotiabank Place as well as a couple of $8 beers and overpriced snacks. Is your passion well placed?

Probably not.

Imagine being standout Ottawa Goalie Craig Anderson, rookie sensation Cory Conacher, the remarkably talented Eric Karlsson or Jason Spezza, who missed 43 of the shortened season’s 48 games to injury and still fought his way back into the playoff line-up. Would you want Danny leading you into battle?

Probably not.

Time to pack up the skates, go back to Sweden and get started on that Lingonberry farm, Crusty. We all suspected you never really had what it takes. Now you’ve proven it.

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Nobody gets to the Stanley Cup final without passion. And despite being in a far worse position than Ottawa, passion is at the forefront in New York, where an embattled coach sits his best player in a do or die game – and ekes out a win.

For years we’ve enjoyed John Tortorella’s feuds with the press. But it’s clear the guy never stops fighting for his team, taking everyone to task, even getting under the skin of the league’s notoriously slow to anger officials.

That’s what never quitting or giving up is all about. Do us all a favor Ottawa and pack it in tonight. Nobody believes in you anymore and a lot of pool players are tired of you giving Pittsburgh the opportunity to just keep racking up points.

Speaking of Pools…

Will Zmak (with the assistance of Jonathan Quick) has taken a hefty lead in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool. But everybody in the top ten is still within striking distance and there are a couple of dark horses further down the list that we may hear from soon.

More Monday when most (if not all) of the 2nd Round series will have been decided and Daniel Alfredsson will have held his tearful, yet strangely unmoving, retirement press conference and be out piling his Ikea bedroom suite and rack of old game worn sweaters at the curb.

Anybody want a souvenir?

Probably not.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ships Without Sails

Ray Manzarek

It takes more than one great musician to make a great band. But often, and sadly, the culture picks one face from the disparate talents that have somehow found one another and meshed. And then the band’s legend is forever seen through the prism of one personality.

I remember the day Jim Morrison, lead singer of “The Doors”, died. He was the third of a great Rock Trinity to pass within months of each other, following Jimi and Janis. And like the previous two it seemed a given that the band he had fronted would die with him.

But they didn’t. And although “The Doors” had been gravely wounded, they continued to make great music. Different music in many ways to be sure. But music that revealed just how much talent had resided just outside the spotlight that had been so narrowly focused on Jim.

Three months after Morrison’s death, “The Doors” released a new album, “Other Voices”, which sounded the way they had always sounded. But also Different. Renewed.

At the heart of that album and those that followed, was Ray Manzarek, who died yesterday at the age of 74. Manzarek provided both keyboards and Bass for the band, supplying the latter via the same keyboard and in the process creating the group’s signature feel.

Manzarek’s list of accomplishments after “The Doors” is long and impressive. But I remember him most from the first single released after Morrison’s death, when everyone insisted the band had been silenced.

Despite what we’re told, a lot of lives have second acts.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Canadian Artists Matter –- Someplace Else

God is a gangster

Over the last couple of years, this blog has followed the progress of “Slaughter Nick For President”, the terrific Canadian documentary that continues to win awards and thoroughly entertain film festival and art house audiences around the world.

“Slaughter Nick” tells the remarkable story of how a trashy Canadian TV series played a central role in the overthrow of a murderous dictator and the only bloodless revolution of the 20th Century.

Despite such historical significance and a tale told with great humor and trademark Canadian humility, the filmmakers got very little support from either the powers that be in Canadian film and television or information media.

As an example, the Toronto Star wrote a feature article raving about the movie –- published the day AFTER it had completed its run in a Toronto cinema.

I guess everybody at the Star was concentrated on a mobile phone video of the mayor which may or may not be authentic and the paper will have to pay $200,000 to drug dealers to obtain and confirm.

But that’s the way artists are regularly given short shrift in Canada. As a friend of mine, rocker Bob Segarini said sometime in the 1980’s –- “How come it takes the Toronto Star one line to say ‘Bob Segarini plays boring music’ but a full page with a picture to say ‘The Eagles play boring music’”?

And now, “Slaughter Nick” has company on the world stage.

Another buddy of mine (trust me I know everybody) actor Nick Mancuso has evolved into an accomplished playwright. And like a lot of accomplished Canadian playwrights, he’s found it difficult to get Canadian theatres to mount his work.

So he has had to go it alone to bring plays like “Hotel Praha”, “The Death of Socrates” and “God is a Gangster” to Canadian audiences.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing all three of those works as well as filming “Socrates”. They’re all thoughtful and challenging pieces. Apparently the kind Canadian theatres trumpet in their press releases and grant applications as the work they see as essential.

But when’s the last time you saw protestors marching on a Canadian theatre because a play had ignited a national debate or police protecting a theatre company from death threats and retribution for their artistic expression?

And yet that’s what’s happening at the National Theatre of Timisoara in Romania over its production of “God is a Gangster” (pictured above).

It’s long been my belief that there’s a wide chasm between the Art our government funded institutions insist Canadians want to see and what might actually connect with local audiences. There is, in essence, a barrier that prevents us from hearing the stories about ourselves that Canadian artists want to tell.

One wonders if its because those in charge of the Arts here are aware of the talent and skill of our artists and don’t want to risk people flooding the streets after their passions have been awakened like they did in Serbia (“Slaughter Nick”) and are now doing in Romania (“God is a Gangster”).

Suddenly, we’re bad-ass heavy dudes on the world stage while having fewer stages on which to strut our stuff here at home.

Let’s hope that reality takes another hit this week in Regina, where “Slaughter Nick” opens for a two day run. Turn up and make that run last THREE DAYS, Regina! It won’t be the first time you’ve launched movements that have changed the country.

And if you speak Romanian, you can hear a little more about “God is a Gangster” here.

Pool Report: The Looooong Weekend

Ottawa Senators' Marc Methot (3) and Pittsburgh Penguins' Kris Letang battle during the first period of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Stanley Cup semifinal NHL hockey series on Sunday, May 19, 2013, in Ottawa

It looks like more than the earth moved in Ottawa this weekend as the Senators shook off whatever had been weighing them down (I don’t think it was Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin) and gave Pittsburgh some push back.

Same thing happened on the West coast where earthquakes are more common as the Sharks sent some tremors through the Kings.

Both games went to overtime (one a double) and both saw a home crowd going home happy.

But with Ottawa pulling one out as the clock neared midnight, a lot of us will need naps before we re-open the beer chest and start shooting off rockets to celebrate whatever happened today that made us name it after Queen Victoria.

Is she the one that used yell drunken insults at the players from Harold Ballard’s private Leafs box?

Anyway, elsewhere, Detroit let Chicago know they also won’t be a pushover and New York is –- uh –- maybe poised for what might be the first coaching registry on the Richter scale.

If the NHL does one of these for Round Two, I bet the Big Apple segment has a lot of swears…

Seriously, Ottawa? “Hip-hip-hooray”? Maybe that tradition of Public school sportsmanship is why we still celebrate Queen Victoria.

Anyway, Will Zmak is still the pool version of Royalty with David Kinahan, Jon Brooks and Larry Raskin assaying the roles of various characters from Downton Abbey.

Next update Friday in what might just be a shake up week for some of the leaders.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 273: TUSK

Fleetwood Mac

Let’s be clear. What makes a great band are great songs. And what makes a great song is a great band. Powerful, headstrong artists who know what they want but are willing to bend. Musicians not afraid to break up or make up over what they see as musical truth.

One of those great bands is currently in the midst of their Canadian dates on what will likely be their farewell tour. They played Calgary last night and Vancouver tomorrow with a final date in Montreal mid June.

Fleetwood Mac.

I spent most of 1979 in Los Angeles, where their 2 year old and maybe best album, “Rumours”. was still in heavy rotation on virtually every radio station. It was a record which perfectly captured a time of big hair, velvet pants, pirate shirts and leather.

“Rumours” has been described as a diary of the personal disintegration of a great band and the death of the 60’s. Band member marriages collapsed and professional relationships fragmented during its creation. A creation that coincided with the Manson murders and a growing realization that the counterculture dream had spawned something darker as well.

When most people reflect on Fleetwood Mac today, what they recall are the gentle love songs and ballads. “Landslide”, “Silver Springs”, “Sara”, “Rhiannon”  and “Go Your Own Way”.

But despite the rumours of their death, Fleetwood Mac were not quite finished. Great artists overcome.

Kris Kristofferson, also at the height of his career in 1979, once said that the ability to overcome is what differentiated artists from the rest of us. “When most guys get dumped by their girlfriend or their dog dies all they got is loss. I get a song.”

And thus in late 1979, Fleetwood Mac released a new album entitled “Tusk” whose title track might just be the strangest song ever to crack the Top Ten.

Mick Fleetwood, the band’s drummer, claimed the signature riff was one the band had used for years to prime themselves before going onstage. Its infectious, driving, tribal rhythm was combined with an accordion and what can only be described as a bizarre vocal performance from Lindsay Buckingham.

What’s more, in a moment of either sheer genius or desperation, Fleetwood and Buckingham decided to include the USC marching band in the final mix, solidifying the former’s Drum God cred and the latter’s reputation as a brilliant studio producer.

The result was an earworm tune of the highest order, one that is nigh impossible to escape.

I hope you get a chance to see “Fleetwood Mac” live. They are a magnificent experience and a chance to hear music that for reasons good or bad doesn’t get made much anymore.

And if you don’t, may what follows inspire you to rediscover one great band.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Teflon Dons

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It’s well known that Power can corrupt. But what few understand is that sometimes Power corrupts without meaning to, which is why those who wield it need to be so firm in its use.

In March of 1980, John Favara of Howard Beach, NY, drove into the alleyway behind his home. Suddenly a mini-bike driven by a 12 year old boy jack-rabbited from behind a dumpster. Favara couldn’t stop in time.

Police and witnesses concurred that it was a tragic accident. But Favara worried that he might still be in serious trouble. Y’see, the kid was the son of John Gotti, New York’s reigning Mafia Godfather.

Gotti was known as “The Teflon Don” because no matter how hard law enforcement tried, they couldn’t convict him of any crimes. And while it was reported that he had not ascribed blame for his child’s death, either publically or privately, Favara decided that moving might be the smart thing for him to do.

Unfortunately, he didn’t move fast enough.

Shortly after the accident, he was dragged into a van by several men and never seen again. Through wire-taps and confidential informants, police became reliably certain he had been abducted by underlings in Gotti’s Gambino family, brutally slain, dismembered and disappeared.

The Godfather didn’t have to make his desires known through direct deed, word or action. His followers knew what he expected.

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There’s currently a scandal brewing with the Internal Revenue Service in the United States with journalists and partisans desperate to find links to the highest office in the land.

It’s the latest in a series of scandals nobody has so far connected to the Oval office or the President’s inner circle.

Except maybe by the few who realize direct connection is not how true Power works.

In 2011, leading up to the 2012 Presidential campaign, Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot made a large financial contribution to the Mitt Romney campaign.

The Obama campaign immediately labeled him a wealthy individual with a “less than reputable reputation”. He soon learned that a campaign research firm was trying to access his divorce records. Days later, the IRS began audits of VanderSloot, his wife and his business.

The audits lasted 20 months, resulting in no fines or penalties. They found nothing amiss. But they cost VanderSloot, who had never had a previous IRS issue in either his personal or professional life, $80,000 in legal fees and claimed what he called untold damage to his personal and business reputation.

Read the full story here.

John Gotti was eventually brought down when his most trusted lieutenant, Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, decided he wasn’t taking the fall for everything they had done together.

Now, I’m not sure if Hillary Clinton will one day decide she’s not taking the rap for Benghazi or some other well known Washington name or IRS underling in Cincinnati will opt out of their oath of Omerta or refuse to fall on their swords for some greater good.

But I do know that retaining a Teflon coating requires that a lot of people who know what’s “expected” of them take an undeserved and potentially lethal hit for their loyalty. And I’m feeling that, no matter their political leanings, such magnanimity is not what most true believers signed on for.

Pool Report: Putting The Whistles Away

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There’s a saying coined in the days of firewagon hockey, usually uttered late in a game. “The Refs are putting the whistles away”.

It means they’re not calling penalties anymore. Usually the reason for that is because the heat of the battle has risen to a level where virtually every point of contact is punishable and if penalties were called there would be nobody left on the ice to finish the game.

But it still reveals a certain lack of integrity designed to insure that the most deserving team wins.

As a kid, it used to bother me that penalties weren’t called while teams were still assessed for icing the puck or being offside. I mean, if you’re not enforcing one set of rules, why are you holding up play to enforce the others?

And something about the way whistles are being put away during this Stanley Cup Playoff is starting to bother a lot of people.

Fr’instance, why is a player assessed a penalty (and perhaps a suspension) for head-shotting a player whose head was nowhere near where a player’s head is supposed to be…

…while no penalty is assessed for either elbowing or intent to injure when a player is brutally attacked right in front of an official?

There’s a great discussion this morning over at Puckdaddy about the inconsistent manner in which the NHL polices its game, inconsistencies which include suspensions for clearly legal hits with bad outcomes while recidivist bad apples get repeat passes.

It’s the kind of thing that not only drives fans nuts but reinforces the speculation I once heard from a Vegas Sports Book employee that the Stanley Cup might be the most fixed trophy in sport.

I certainly don’t believe that’s the case. But if Boston, a town in need of a hug, and LA, a franchise cheated out of the full season its fans were due by the NHL lockout, end up in the final -- and referee Brad Watson is officiating –- I’ll be given pause.

That said, there is clearly no hanky-panky involved in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, where yours truly, its only overseer, has officially been eliminated and will soon take up his rightful place in the basement.

Although I’m somewhat troubled that Will Zmak is atop the list as we conclude week three of competition. Why (past chokes aside) does a guy from the Bay area have no Sharks on his team but a couple of the home side much reviled Kings?

Do perhaps he and I frequent the same Sports Book…? We may know more by Monday. See you then.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

The Coolest Canadian Ever Comes Home

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For the last six months, me and about 750,000 other earthlings have been following the daily, sometimes hourly, tweets from International Space Station Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield.

During that period, Commander Chris has deluged us with awesome photos from the Space Station, videos of what it’s like to live in weightlessness, discussions with classrooms and our most famous fictional astronaut William Shatner as well as debuting the new $5 bill.

Who knew the ISS had an ATM?

On top of that he’s sung, sharing duets with earthbound artists and offering his own celestial inspired compositions.

I can’t think of anybody who has so profoundly reminded us of just how cool and inspirational it is to explore the Cosmos.

Chris comes back to Earth tonight and one of his final missives from Space was an utterly moving rendition of David Bowie’s “A Space Oddity”.

Welcome home, Commander Chris. Thanks for the inspiration. And please accept the mantle of “Coolest Canadian Ever”. It’s the least we can humbly offer.

Pool Report: Facing Sudden Death

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We need to talk about me for a minute…

Despite the impression this blog might give, I’m quite a shy and retiring guy often described as “quiet and not taking up much room”.

I’m just another face in the crowd. Like those tens of thousands who stood outside the Air Canada Centre last night as our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs faced sudden death at the hands of the Boston Bruins.

We all understand being a fan. But being a Leafs fan is something different. We haven’t been in a Stanley Cup Final since 1967. It’s been 9 years since we’ve even been in the playoffs. Nobody said we had a chance facing the beastly black and gold bear.

But last night, we prevailed. We staved off the humiliation and humility of defeat for at least another 24 hours. You cannot imagine the joy of even that brief reprieve.

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Round One of the Playoffs is not yet over for us or the fans of New York and Washington –- and okay, Boston (*spit*).

But Tonight two of those nations will fall –- and all of us who dwell therein will have to find a way to move on, because from here on, it’s one long war of attrition.

Which once again, brings us back to –- me.

Y’see, here’s how I make my pool picks…

I input the entries as they arrive, awaiting the last legal moment to make my own. I do this for two strategic reasons: to get an idea of where other players are going so I don’t choose the multiple picked favorites and, as well, to find the gems everybody else seems to be overlooking.

Thus, I didn’t load up with Chicago because I knew Barry Kiefl had whatever points they were going to garner more than covered. I also stayed away from Pittsburgh because that’s where all the smart money was going and you seldom make any pool money following the smart money as it usually leads to a logjam where nobody has an advantage.

Continuing to pursue such apparent logic, I noted that few players were being chosen from the Western conference, in which I’d seen some pretty awesome games this season.

So I bet heavily on St. Louis, which (besides what’s in our Boxer shorts) is about all Jon Hamm and I have in common.

And then, not wanting to go with Chicago and knowing Vancouver was toast) I figured Anaheim would easily handle an aging Detroit. I mean, that Corey Perry is one focussed hockey player!

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But Anaheim suffered its own sudden death moment last night. So here we are at the end of round one and I’m down to the three Leafs I picked to show solidarity with my homies even though I doubted they’d last more than six games.

Come tonight, I could be out of my own pool! In the first round!

Or…

I could be one of the few still standing if the Leafs phenomenal run continues cause nobody else believed in them.

No wonder cheating sudden death is so much fun!

The standings as we enter Week Three of the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool are as follows:

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 272: Let Teddy Win

People these days are obsessed with conspiracy theories. Whenever something cruel or unusual happens, somebody always seems to concoct one cockamamie theory or another about what really happened and who’s probably to blame.

The Kennedy assassination when I was a kid was my first experience with the practise and 50 years later various versions of the truth behind that one are still being spun.

In the latest iteration, author Douglas Brode’s “Patsy”, it seems Lee Harvey Oswald was on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository and firing away as the official version states. Only he was actually trying to kill the men on the Grassy Knoll in order to save the President’s life.

How deep does the rabbit hole go anyway?

In popular culture, the conspiracy theory has become such a familiar meme that those with nefarious intent can use it to their own personal advantage.

Which brings us to another American President, Teddy Roosevelt, and a dark conspiracy involving Major League baseball, people in strange disguises and odd goings on at public gatherings.

This is not for either the faint of heart or those suffering from an under-developed sense of humor…

Enjoy Your Sunday.

E:60 "TEDDY ROOSEVELT'S ROUGH RIDE" from Bluefoot Entertainment on Vimeo.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To…

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Ottawa and Toronto are the only Canadian teams still in this?

Well, that’s not a good sign…

Although, seriously, is anybody really all that surprised by the demise of Vancouver or Montreal? C’mon. Be honest.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned watching hockey over the years it’s that hockey fans more than any others are hopelessly homers, unable to see far beyond their local or favorite since childhood team –- even when the handwriting is on the wall.

Trust me, as a Leafs addict, I know this from decades of painful personal experience.

So don’t beat yourself up too much Hab and Canuck fanatics. Your heroes are okay and soon you will be too. Nobody died. All the Players still have a great dental plan to patch them up over the Summer. And Roberto Luongo will make out like a bandit when he sells his $4.2 Million Vancouver condo.

Those who still hate him can take some pleasure in the fact that he’ll probably lose it all investing in the condo market in Toronto.

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Elsewhere, Minnesota has likewise been dispatched to a Summer of Golf, hunting, fishing and DUIs. And by Monday, we should be down to one remaining series – or looking at the matchups for Round Two.

And although I bet heavily on the St. Louis Blues this season, if they depart I won’t be saddened at missing pictures of their puck bunnies…

More important, take note of the fact that some of the leaders in this week’s standings are already down a few bodies, while many in the bottom half are still playing with a full roster.

David Kinahan leads as we go into the 2nd weekend with former leader Larry Raskin not far behind and Larry Bambrick and Eric Anderson right on his heels.

Hang in there, Poolies! There’s still a long way to go.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Streets of Vancouver Are Wet With Tears

falling tears

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Lotusland –- the mighty Canucks are out.”

Monday, May 06, 2013

Pool Report: Week Two Begins

What? Wait. Minnesota won one?

And the Islanders did too?

And the Leafs…?

Some guy we never heard of named Jason Zucker got a game winning goal? And another named Jean-Gabriel Pageau had a hat trick???

Nobody’s ever heard of these guys!!! And the smart money said none of those teams had a chance!

Yep. The playoffs are unpredictable. Which is what makes them so damn much fun.

For example -- Anybody not tuning in to Game 4 between the Sens and the Habs after this?

Something tells me the prices on Stubhub just doubled for that baby.

Meanwhile, on the West coast…

I understand committees are being formed in Vancouver and Maple Ridge to urge the currently campaigning provincial political parties to come up with a tax credit program to “Save BC Hockey”.

All of which explains why the standings in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool have shaken up a lot since Friday. Larry Raskin still leads by a single point, with a whole bunch of players who’d been way down the list on Friday now nipping at his heels.

It’s going to be an interesting week. Game on!

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Sunday, May 05, 2013

lazy Sunday # 271: Cinco de Mayo

In Canada, Summer officially arrives in three weeks on what’s known as the Victoria Day Weekend. But I’ve always been partial to kicking things off earlier by celebrating the Mexican-American holiday of “Cinco de Mayo”.

Now, Cinco de Mayo is not an official holiday in either the USA or Mexico, where the date marks El Día de la Batalla de Puebla in which an outnumbered Mexican army defeated the French who had invaded to collect some money they were owed.

It was a short-lived victory, since the Napoleon II of France soon installed Emperor Maximillian to run the place. But since Max was overthrown and executed a few years later, Cinco de Mayo is a reminder to enjoy your victories and that freedom and independence beats politics every time.

There are three things required for a Cinco de Mayo celebration. Food, Tequila and Music. So, we here at The Legion have put together a primer to making the day special.

Food – Nothing simpler to make nor tastier than a Salsa cruda.

Tequila – In its finest incarnation – The Margarita Cocktail.

And when it comes to music, you can always go for the traditional and a great Mariachi band…

…although my taste tends to Tex-Mex artists like Raul Malo and Flaco Jimenez…

So there you have it. Now get out there and…

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Bug-Eyed Fat Walrus Season Opens!

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And we’re off…

A little late today with the first set of Pool standings, I know. But we still have a couple of poolies replacing players who’ve been scratched for the playoffs, so the numbers below aren’t written in stone.

Still…

Larry Raskin is (once again) first out of the gate with Eric Anderson, Todd Gordon (a past winner), Will Pascoe (a past double winner) and Peter Rowley, right behind.

But it’s early days, with several teams only one game in.

However, when it comes to highlights, there are tons of them already. Spectacular goals. Thundering hits. Brain farts. Popped Chicklets. Trash talk.

And awesomely creative fan messages…

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We’ll have a better idea how the first round is going to turn out on Monday. So ready the beer and wings, the first weekend of the Stanley Cup playoffs is nothing short of awesome.

The standings at the end of Week One: 

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