Sunday, September 25, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 437: Live TV

A couple of days ago, the University Professor down the street (and originally Oregon) asked if she could drop over tomorrow night to watch the Presidential debate. Being an academic type, she's never owned a television.

On hearing this, the elderly couple across the way, who've given up cable because "there's nothing worth watching anymore" asked if they could come by as well.

Now I could've mentioned that the debate is streaming online, but the Professor has a cellar of great organic wines and I know the folks across the way have been baking apricot cakes, so why not share my old-timey cable access.

Earlier today, while in a meeting, I realized I was going to miss the kick-off of the Seahawks game. I mentioned it to one of the people present, who promptly offered his iPad, equipped with an app which would make sure I didn't miss any of the action.

There was a time when our Cableco's had a stranglehold on live news and sports, two of the main reasons most people come up with as an excuse not to cut the coaxial media umbilical cord.

But that's just not the case anymore. I watched a chunk of the Charlotte riots this week on a Livestream feed while in the middle of the ocean on a ferry.

As I accessed that link just now, I realized they're streaming the Morongo Pow-wow in their arts and entertainment section, along with the National Book Festival, a Hip-Hop Concert and a lecture by George R.R. Martin from Medill Northwestern University, plus a few dozen other arts related events.

Currently showing on television from the fancy-schmantzy artsy-fartsy CBC -- pictures Vancouverites have taken with their iPhones...

And for that cultural reflection of the nation we pay a billion plus in taxes on top of our cable fees.

This week Youtube updated their own LIVE channel, which you can access by simply going there and searching for "live". Once you subscribe to the channel, you thereafter just click on it from your drop-down list.

That's where you can watch Monday's debate. But if you check out the other offerings, you'll notice something else.

Sunday afternoon used to be the bane of couch potatoes. If you weren't into football, you were pretty much reduced to watching evangelists or infomercials, maybe a gardening show.

It was those hours of television drought that eventually brought forth the 500 channel Universe. And it's the 500 Channel Universe's inability to survive without programming endless repeats of its niche offerings that is driving viewers to look for other options.

Were I addicted to the NFL, which I sorta am, I could get the entirety of its games (live or replay) condensed games, archives and downloads for a price not far removed from what I have to pay to get all the broadcast and sports networks required to follow a full Sunday's football on cable television.

Plus I could watch them at my leisure, not crammed into one afternoon and without clicking back and forth and overworking the PVR while missing a lot while clicking.

But were I anti-football and anti-repeat, I could still go to Youtube Live and find:


European Motorcycle Racing

Australian Rugby

South African Cricket


Clinton and Trump Rallies

Computer Gaming


A Gaming convention

An Electronics Trade Show

Wildlife cams

The International Space Station

And of course -- kittens

Were I to cut my cable, maybe only to make a statement against Cableco's who won't support Canadian content, I might miss the stuff that will tomorrow pass for "water cooler" comment.

But I may just be able to hang around said watering hole talking about things my workmates either didn't know about or wished they'd watched instead of the pictures people took with an iPhone.

And it's definitely a better way to...

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 436: Taking Flight

I should've been born closer to the Equator. No matter how long or hot the Summer months have been, I hate to see them fade away.

And (around here at least), they're fading fast. The nights are colder. The days are damper. The dog still wakes me by her clock, the sunrise, but that first light is coming later and later. 

Today, however was a throwback to and we got out early to enjoy it. 

Only to see so few people doing the same.

Oh, they were out there. Talking or texting on their phones. Sitting on their front steps tapping away at a tablet. Cruising through the park, searching for Pokemon.

Now, I'm not saying that there isn't a creative element to many of those activities. But I've begun to wonder what filling our lives with somebody else's imagination does to our own.

Maybe it's no different than me finding a weathered copy of "Tarzan The Ape Man" and spending most of a long ago Summer reading it in a treehouse, while imagining I was in deepest, darkest Africa.

Maybe today's airborne pixels approximate the beams of projector light in the Roxy Theatre or The Broadway that inspired me to seek a career creating the same kind of experiences.

But somehow I don't see kids putting down their devices and then continuing the story, the game or the input they're received in another way.

I hope I'm wrong. But sometimes I think we're losing the ability to imagine, to see a story as parable for something in reality instead of a literal stand-alone tale.

Canadian writer W.O. Mitchell has a wonderful book entitled "The Vanishing Point" which includes a great sequence where a kid in a one room classroom transforms a boring exercise about drawing perspective into an abandoned exhibition of imagination.

I just don't want to see people lose that.

And neither does filmmaker Brandon Oldenberg, who has created a sweet little cartoon about discovering the power of one's imagination and "Taking Flight".

I hope it fires your imagination.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Taking Flight from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 435: Rollergirls

I began my first working idyll in Hollywood the Summer of 1979, after teenage years steeped in images of surfers and muscle cars, the music of "The Beach Boys" and TV shows filmed on the Sunset strip.

Los Angeles was still pretty much like that. Thankfully, the Disco sound that had drowned the surf guitars had finally given way to "The Eagles" and Punk. But otherwise, Farrah Fawcett was still the hottest babe on TV, Disneyland still had "E" ticket rides and the surf was always up.

Beautiful big haired blondes were everywhere. But what I hadn't expected was that many of them had traded their knee high boots and stilettos to move around on wheels.

Everywhere you went, stunningly attractive young women were zooming past on roller skates.

Now roller skating had been relatively popular when I was a kid. But where I grew up, all the streets were dirt or gravel so I'd rarely encountered them. The fad, which had been around since the Great Depression, was rapidly fading out and the big roller rinks where people had still gone to "dance" through the fifties were becoming fewer and further between.

When I'd first moved to Toronto, there was one remaining on Mutual Street. But I only went once. A buddy of mine had just gotten out of jail and arrived on my doorstep with a guy who'd been in for a much longer stretch and that's where he wanted to go to celebrate his newfound freedom.

I got up on skates for the first time there and mostly spent the night hugging the boards as the two Cons tried to pick up girls who could've been their moms and were smart enough to not have anything to do with them.

But California was different. This was a scene revitalized and far removed from the 1940's as well as the Canadian impulse to suggest you better wear kneepads, elbow pads and probably a helmet too.

I also realized that if I wanted to meet any of these bronzed and big-haired blondes, I needed to master the wheels myself. And so I did. And I loved it.

Around the same time, "Dire Straights" released a song called "Skateaway". It was never a hit and probably not even played much. But the pace and the rythmn replicated the skating experience perfectly.

This week, that song happened past me again and brought back memories of a great Summer and a great pastime.

I must leave you now to dig through the garage for a very old set of roller skates.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Lazy Sunday #434: Inconceivable

There's a scene in William Goldman's "The Princess Bride" where the arrogant douchebag, Vizzini, finds it "Inconceivable!!!" that the film's hero, Westley, can outmaneuver him in a battle of wits to free the captive Princess Buttercup.

Of course, Westley easily outsmarts him, proving once again that the fatal flaw in people with power is that they always think they got where they are because they're just that much smarter than everyone else.

It's a flaw astonishingly evident in both candidates currently running for the American presidency.

To offer a local example: a couple of weeks ago, Jean-Pierre Blais, the insufferably arrogant douchebag who chairs the CRTC, issued an edict reducing the amount of Canadian participation in Canadian content. And while most of the Creatives in this country found the ruling inconceivable, Blais himself could be found writing letters to craft guilds where he found the fact that they were upset even more inconceivable.

This isn't the first time an arm of the Canadian government has stepped in to gut the country's artists just when they appeared on the verge of making a breakthrough in reaching a national or international audience.

In 1981, the government of Prime Minister Trudeau the first cancelled the film investment program which had kickstarted a thriving film industry on less than 24 hours notice. A move which torpedoed dozens of films in mid-production, tossing hundreds of artists and film techs immediately out of work.

Seven years later, the government of Brian Mulroney promised a ticket levy on foreign product to fund Canadian production and blinked at the last minute when Hollywood studios objected.

In 1999, the CRTC changed the definition of what counted as Canadian content in broadcasting so news and magazine style shows were rendered equal to drama and comedy, drowning dozens of dramatic and comedy projects and costing thousands of jobs.

And who can forget the decade of CRTC incompetence that followed as time and again the needs of both Canadian Creatives and Canadian viewers were pole-axed in favor of ever-growing greed and entitlement within the broadcast community.

I can't count the number of times during that dark time where I attended meetings or conferences where Canadian public officials met Guilds and Unions face to face to insist that they were "on our side" and "things will change" -- and then nothing changed.

So Blais and the other CRTC Commissioners who backed this unbelievably short-sighted decision are no worse than those that have preceded them, appointed by governments leaning both Left and Right.

These are just the self-admiring Vizzinis of the moment.

So how do you get around them?

Well, you can go somewhere else. That works for some. Even worked for me for a long while.

Or you can fight them from here. 


With the same talents they are trying to deny the world that you have.

In my day, that was the theatre. In a time where Stratford and Regional theatres never did Canadian plays and repeatedly hired foreign talent, a community arose that eventually overcame that system, creating memorable work and launching an infinite number of long and successful careers.

There were also low-budget and later direct-to-video movies, all financed and distributed without a dollar of public money. Maybe you didn't make a lot of cash. But you worked and you got even better at what you did. And after a while you had a level of recognition and body of credits that couldn't be ignored.

These days, it's easier than ever to make and distribute something of your own. I know three guys in my relatively small Canadian city who've built their own green screen studios. Dozens more with broadcast quality digital recording, editing and post production systems. Hell, I've stumbled across teenagers who've forgotten more about CGI than I will ever learn.

If the people at Bell and Rogers or Corus don't recognize your value, you don't have to look very far to find people who will. And once you have something finished you'll quickly discover than Amazon and Netflix and their many online competitors, imitators and challengers are far easier to talk to than the gatekeepers at Canada's traditional networks.

And unlike those networks, these new entities actually have money of their own that they want to invest and don't need to go hat in hand to bureaucrats.

A couple of weeks before Jean-Pierre Blais revealed he's not really as smart as he thinks, Canadian cable provider Telus revealed the winning projects of their Storyhive web series competition.

The winner in BC is also called "Inconceivable". Written by Joel Ashton McCarthy, Rachel Kirkpatrick & Mike Doaga and directed by McCarthy -- it's as good as anything you're likely to see from any of the Boys and Girls in Suits networks.

Yes, it's nice to have the public money deals and an often national even if ever-shifting time slot. But the disrespect of what you do that comes with such perks is becoming more and more intolerable and less and less likely.

But you don't need them. 

And as inconceivable as that seems, it's as true as it has always been.

Trust your talent.

And Enjoy Your Sunday...