Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 171: My Album For The Summer


I was never much for Mixtapes. My friends had tapes for driving, for being at the beach, for the script they were writing and different ones for the different girls they were dating.

They still do the same with their iPod Playlists or spend a lot of time thumbing the "Shuffle" button. But I've always been monogamous to one album at a time -- at least for one summer.

I think it all started with the Beatles "Rubber Soul" which just so perfectly fit me and the summer with which it coincided. Not every summer since has seen the crowning of a new champion.

It's tough to find a record that has something for driving with the windows open, lolling on the beach and slow dancing by the fire. And in addition to all that, the perfect summer album needs tunes for those moments when you try to put the last year in perspective or get inspired for what you want to do in the months coming up.

That's why most of my buddies had mixtapes. But I've always let some artist do the work of song selection and I've found that singling out one who seems to touch on all my needs is far more fulfilling. In some ways, I think it also leads you to appreciating an artist and their talents even more.

Over the years my summer albums have included "The Lovin' Spoonful", "The Doors", "Rush", "Springsteen", "Wilco", "Shaggy" and "The Jayhawks" (on tour across Canada this summer -- don't miss 'em).

Four years back I blogged about selecting Miranda Lambert's magnificent album "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" as the perfect summer record and look how well that worked out for her -- multiple gold and platinum albums, a fist full of country music awards and married to country star cutie-pie Blake Shelton.

So take my word that this summer's selection is well-worth the listen.


Brad Paisley's "This is Country Music" is as close to a concept album as Country music gets. Although I don't know for certain, I think it was inspired by Paisley's read of the room in which he received one of his several "Male Vocalist of the Year" awards. I'm not sure which one because this guy gets handed trophies so often he's kind of Tom Hanks with a hat.

After one of those shows, Paisley wrote:

"I am so proud to do this for a living.  See, country music is unique.  It is brave.  It is not afraid to deal head on with subjects like disease, death, religion, drinking, family or anything else that qualifies as life.  It isn't above its fans.  It is about them.  It is the soundtrack to my life, and probably yours.  As its recording artists, we are given the dog-tags from family members of fans who die in battle for our country.  We are there in song at the most impactful moments of our fans' lives.  We are loved unconditionally, and we are given loyalty beyond what we deserve.  This is country music."

It also feels like an album that took a long time to put together. Paisley actually debuted the title song at 2010's CMA broadcast -- yet the final version only hit store shelves this week coinciding with the release of the single "Old Alabama" which he sang live at last month's Academy of Country Music Awards, joined onstage by the historic band referred to in the lyrics.

That length of time might have been necessary to allow Paisley to share vocals with such artists as Carrie Underwood, Don Henley, Blake Shelton and Clint Eastwood among the many more. Or it might've just taken that long to figure out which well-known riffs, vocal inflections or lyrical stylings would best conjure some of the greatest moments in Country Music.

I guess in a lot of ways, this is Brad Paisley's own personal Mixtape.

But even if you're not sufficiently countrified to appreciate all the nuances, it's a great Summer album. Brian Wilson would be envious of the beach/top down potential of "Workin' On A Tan" or "Be The Lake". There's fun stuff like "Camouflage" and "Don't Drink The Water" and more than a little slow-dance gold in "New Favorite Memory" and "Love Her Like She's Leaving".

My current favorites are -- "A Man Don't Have To Die" which says more about the current state of the economy, religion and political discourse than you'll get from all sides of the media while also including lyrics like:

"There's a place out by the, airport where the girls dance just for you. But all you are is drunk and broke and lonely when they're through."

And then there's "Toothbrush" a song not only about the simple things, but exhibiting how easy it is to do product placement without anybody hardly noticing while giving your sponsor a reason to swell with pride.

I'm going to give you a double dose of "This is Country Music" here. Partly because I wish I could share the whole thing and mostly to exhibit the range of what's included.

Here's Brad Paisley performing the title song from the 2010 CMA Award Show and the new single from April's Academy of Country Music Awards.

Think about making it your Summer album too. And Enjoy Your Sunday.

"Old Alabama"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Goes To The Finals!


Well, here we are! And how can you not be excited by this matchup?

Boston, following an absolutely fantastic game against Tampa, rises as the Beast from the East to tackle Vancouver. An original six team that hasn't drunk from the Cup in 21 years versus one carrying the banner of a nation and representing a city that has never even held the goblet.

The stories within the story that will unfold over the next 4 to 7 installments are legion.

Boston Goalie Tim Thomas travels to the arena where one puck took away his dream of Olympic Gold to set things right. In the opposite net, they guy wearing that coveted medal, still feeling the need to prove to some that he deserves it.

Up front for Vancouver, the indescribable Sedin twins, unmatched at their ability at breathtaking playmaking, embodying the speed and sheer beauty of the game. Facing them, names like Krejci, Ryder and Lucic, known as much for toughness and tenacity as their eminent scoring skills.

Monsters like Raffi Torres and Zdeno Chara, who eat pain for breakfast and dish it out for lunch and dinner. Busted heroes like Bergeron and Kessler who simply refuse to quit. And up and comers named Tyler Seguin and Dan Hamhuis that nobody expected to shine so brightly.

This is a series so special that one of Canada's corporate giants has changed its name…


While in Boston, the local Tim Horton's franchises are this morning likely changing their first names to "Nathan".

APTOPIX Lightning Bruins Hockey

It's time for the BIG SHOW! And here at the IWHP that means the moment has come to unpack THE SIDESHOW! The annual Props Competition.

But to catch you up first on the feature attraction…

Tim Stubinski would appear to hold a commanding lead. But when you look down the list of which poolies still retain which players, things start looking a lot tighter. And I'm not putting it past any of the first ten names in the standings from coming out on top of the heap.

Your current standings…


As for the rest of us -- and anybody reading this who wants to get into the action, we need to pin our hopes on:


For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a little history.

Betting on sports has been around as long as there have been guys who needed to pump up their self-esteem by proving they were right about something. And for centuries money changed hands based on who won or lost a contest. Then Las Vegas and the Superbowl were invented. Pretty soon the smart guys who ran the Casinos realized that while you could make millions on who won a football game, you could make Billions with side wagers.

So Proposition Betting was created to give us sports degenerates an opportunity to blow our money on outcomes nobody in their right mind can confidently predict.

wayne gambles

You might be wagering on the coin toss (Janet Gretzky's favorite -- seen here at Caesar's Palace with absolutely non-betting husband and Hockey Great One Wayne) or if a touchdown is made by a player whose jersey number is over 30.

Props are also not one bet options. You need to pick at least a half dozen. The odds of collecting on your bet are infinitesimal. But then, you can't put a price on a good time, can you?

So here's how the "Infamous Writers Pool Hockey Props"  works…

There are six bets. All are related to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Some require sports knowledge. Some only require guts! The player with the most correct answers wins. And a special piece of Canadian Hockey memorabilia (currently treasured by Yours Truly) will be awarded to the winner.

Should there be a tie -- uh -- we'll figure that out if there's a tie.

But this contest will definitely not be decided until well after the final game!

Entry is open to all current pool players, everybody who’s been kicking themselves for not getting in on the original action and anybody else who just needs to boost their self image.

Entries must be sent to anytime between now and the faceoff of Game One on Wednesday night June 1st.

Your six Hockey Propositions are:

1. The 2010-2011 Stanley Cup winner will be decided in:

     a) Four Games

     b) Five Games

     c) Six Games

     d) Seven Games

2. The total number of goals scored in the Final series will be:

    a) Less than 20

    b) 20 to 30

    c) More than 30

3. Boston Goalie Tim Thomas enters the final round with a .929 Save Percentage. Vancouver's Roberto Luongo's average is .922. At the end of the final series, the Highest Goalie Save Percentage will belong to:

a) Thomas

b) Luongo

c) Neither

4. "Hockey Night in Canada"  icon Don Cherry always confidently predicts the winner of each game prior to the opening faceoff. For the FOURTH game of the series, he will be:

a) Correct

b) Incorrect

For non-Canadian players -- CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" is streaming all games at, usually in more languages than English.

5. The Leading Scorer in the final series will be:

a) Henrik Sedin (Vancouver)

b) Ryan Kesler (Vancouver)

c) David Krejci (Boston)

d) Nathan Horton (Boston)

e) Other

6. The Captain of the winning team is the first player to hoist the Stanley Cup and skate a victory lap. The Cup is then passed to each member of his team. And it's usually passed to someone the player with the Cup feels is deserving. The Goalie of the winning team will be:

a) One of the first six players to hoist the Cup

b) The Seventh to Twelfth player to hoist the Cup

c) One of the remaining players to hoist the Cup

Tough enough? C'mon, suck it up! How often are you gonna get a chance like this?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Week 7… Wait! It Ain't Over


Although we've got one contender for the Stanley Cup in place, the other won't be decided until tonight. So, I'm making the executive decision to hold off declaring a Week 7 leader until tomorrow morning.

This also increases my Saturday blog traffic which impresses the nice people at Google Ads -- who haven't advertised here since they found the site contains "swears" -- and also haven't told me how to collect all the money they already owe me so I can unsubscribe and move on to working with somebody with a smaller pickle up their ass.

Although I can clearly see they're going to need as much cash as they can get their hands on to pay all the lawyers they'll require for the next little while to handle this morning's Paypal suit.

Professional tribulations aside, tomorrow's post will also include the even more "infamous" Writers Hockey Pool Props Contest -- open to all current poolies as well as anybody who's been missing the fun or thinks the Hockey Gods might be on their side in the coming weeks.

The Game Continues…

Especially for fans of Boston and Tampa tonight. It's shaping up to be a great one!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Pool Report: Wk7 Begins

flying shark

If you want to understand the roots of "Western Alienation" look no further than the online pages of this morning's Toronto Star compared with the local papers from Winnipeg to the Left coast. The Sports pages to be specific.

While much of the nation basks in the glow of Vancouver's win over San Jose yesterday afternoon, the Star features minor hockey and more sophisticated fare like soccer and the French Open.

Nothing to see here…

Forget yet another wave of Olympic proportioned national pride sweeping in from the Pacific region. Ignore 5000 ordinary Canadians who flew South, not to retire or try their luck in Hollywood; but to stomp out a round of xenophobic booing by singing their national anthem so loud they even drowned some Opera Rube with a state of the art speaker system.

canada fans

Yeah, I know there are probably just as many Canadians playing for San ("No Way") Jose as Vancouver or Boston or Tampa. But that's not the point.

The point is -- when other Canadians are good at something -- why is it so hard for some people in Toronto to celebrate it?

I mean -- just forget that they're the center (sorry, "centre") of the universe for just a minute and acknowledge that the rest of the country and even some of those people who never heard of Peggy Atwood or sipped a perfectly pulled Guinness on Queen Street West might actually be making a contribution as well.

At the mid-point of the country, there are Canadians who don't even have a hockey team (yet) on pins and needles with excitement at the prospect of getting one. What does the Toronto Star feature? Editorials on the NHL short-changing folks in Atlanta.

Well -- tough. Okay, I feel for Atlanta. I was overjoyed when Nashville saved their team and even cracked a smile when Phoenix found yet another way to hang onto theirs. But when you don't have fans -- you don't have fans. It's time to move on.


And while it's tacky that the Thrashers are still selling tickets for next year, I'll bet Winnipeg would be more than happy to have 5000 Atlanta die-hards drop by anytime they damn well please to take in a game. Western Canadians are hospitable about things like that.

Hell, I'll bet the "Paris of the Prairies" will even welcome the Thrashers cheerleading "Blue Crew" with open arms.

Them Georgia Peaches are hot enough to warm up the coldest night at Portage & Main. And if you don't believe me, you might want to buy one of their 2011-12 calendars. I don't think they're going quite as fast as some might want you to believe.

blues crew

So -- Toronto -- I'm just sayin'. I know not having a decent hockey team for so damn long sticks in your throat and it's hard to start bleeding a little green (or Thrasher orange) along with the blue. But would it hurt to try?

Honest, those Western fans are nowhere near as Red-neck-y as you may have been led to believe.


Meanwhile, in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, the leader board hasn't changed but the differences have become tighter.

Tim Stubinski still leads.

My apologies to 2nd Place Will Pascoe for confusing his Vancouver picks as Sharks last week. He remains powerfully astute as always. I'm thinking that if he pulls off yet another win, the prize I mail him will be a ticket to Vegas where he'll be chained next to me at a Craps table and consistently blowing on the dice.

Alex House remains in the hunt with Carleen Kyle now only a point shy of the podium.

Game 5 in the Boston-Tampa series goes tonight. And despite what Don Cherry preaches, I've always thought Game 5 was the most important in any 7 game contest. How things go tonight could well determine which poolies remain in the overall hunt and who is done for the season.

But remember, "done" doesn't mean "like dinner" here at The Legion. With the finals comes "The Props Round" where the winning can be just as sweet.

Until Friday -- here are your current standings.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 170: The Character Project


Great artists are always looking for something new and exciting and innovative to prime their creative juices.

Among two of my favorite film artists are director brothers Ridley and Tony Scott, who, between them, are responsible for some of the finest films in contemporary cinema.

The older of the two, Ridley, has given us  "The Deullists", "Alien", "Blade Runner", "Legend", "Thelma and Louise", "Black Hawk Down", "Hannibal", "Kingdom of Heaven", "American Gangster", "Body of Lies" and "Robin Hood". Each so unlike the others they could be mistaken for the work of a completely different director.

Tony Scott's films include "Top Gun", "Beverly Hills Cop II", "The Last Boy Scout", "True Romance", "Crimson Tide", "Enemy of the State", "Spy Game", "Man on Fire", "Deja Vu", "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3", and "Unstoppable". Again works less known for a specific directorial style than their individual cinematic impact.

In addition to their films, both brothers are widely known for their documentaries, commercials, music videos and producing the hit TV series series "Numb3rs" and "The Good Wife".

That would seem enough to keep most artists busy. But last year the brothers took on Youtube's innovative "Life in a Day", a documentary incorporating footage shot by YouTube users from around the world on 24 July 2010.

And now they are behind USA Network's equally innovative The Character Project.

The Character Project, is an artistic initiative in which talented filmmakers were commissioned to create short films exploring unique American characters through the moving image.

It's the kind of project that not only entertains and unearths new talent, but inspires other artists and shows what a TV network committed to building an audience can accomplish.

Here's a sample. Enjoy your Sunday!


Ooops! Apparently this week's offering plays improperly in some bowsers. So find it here -- and then check out some of the others!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Week Six Standings


Well, they couldn't pull the clip off youtube fast enough. CBC immediately removed it from their online repeats of the game -- and apologized. Apparently some "in-house" camera over which they had absolutely no control.

And both the Canucks and the NHL issued statements "appreciating" fan enthusiasm -- but hoping it would be displayed more "appropriately" in future.

Gawd, it's the playoffs! Get over it and enjoy the fun!!!

As far as I'm concerned the young lady in question was merely reminding a dim-wit knuckle-dragger like Ben Eager, in terms he might understand, that Vancouver now has TWO and his team don't have ANY!

That could change in San Jose tonight, but I wouldn't count on it. Eager's complete meltdown and Patrick Marleau dropping the gloves are all the proof you need that the Sharks have run out of ideas and are now fighting not only a better opponent but their own long history of playoff choke-fests.

Joe Thornton, ask for a trade. You might've taken the rap for this organization for too long.

Across the continent, Boston has returned with avengeance, although it seems not as many viewers are watching those games. Could it be that "Canada's team" are winning over some of the opposition fans…?


Although this guy better be careful. The NHL is already asking a Montreal bar owner to give them $89,000 for hanging a Montreal sweater in his joint under a banner saying "Go Habs Go". And he's messing with TWO registered trademarks.

Who knows what the NY Office has in mind for these guys -- rooting for an NHL team that (according to the League) doesn't even exist.

jets original

Sigh. Can you imagine what hockey will be like once the corporations, marketing execs and lawyers COMPLETELY own it?

Arenas so quiet (and empty) that you can get some reading done during the game. Designer sweaters that change every season to maximize that revenue stream. "Hockey Night in Canada" with endless features about kids on frozen country ponds while Dan Hill sings in the background…

But by that time, those of us who just want to have fun will all be watching Lingerie Football instead!

Won't we?

news lingerie football 281109

Or --

Spending more time checking out our Pool Standings. Where…

Tim Stubinski has jumped to a commanding lead (based mostly on last night's Boston shutout, but still). Will Pascoe, in Second, is hoping his Lightning begin to strike back. And down in Third, Alex House is beginning to wonder why he found Joe Thornton so fetching to begin with.

And me -- 54 points back -- is thinking I maybe need to get back in the edit suite.

More Monday -- after a lot more great hockey and hopefully a lot less from guys in suits who think they need to run things.

Game On!


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Gentle Barn


A couple of things worth passing on crossed my desk this afternoon. The first was the current issue of New York magazine featuring insights into making television from a coterie of exceptional showrunners.

The second was an essay by Roger Ebert on Hollywood's "Summer of the Sequel".

The third was a video about cows.

And, although you might not think they have much in common, they do.

I grew up around farms and ranches, cowboys and cows, pit BBQ's and rodeos. I eat meat and I love it. And I know where it comes from and how it gets to my plate.

Most of the people I knew and know who farm or ranch have a great deal of respect for the animals in their care. They value them and appreciate their worth as both a livelihood and a way of life.

The bucking stock in rodeos often leads a better life than the boys who think they can ride them. I've seen farmers go without so a herd can get the food, medicine or shelter they need to survive.

These animals are raised by people who don't have much time for those who'd be cruel to a "dumb animal" or would harm it in the name of making a slightly bigger profit.


After I left the land, I spent most of my time around theatres and studios, writers and directors, producers and actors. I make television and I love it. And I know where it comes from and how it gets to my flat screen.

Most of the people I knew or know who make television have a great deal of respect for the products of their industry. They value them and appreciate their worth as both a livelihood and a way of life.

A lot of the people who work in television lead a softer life than the showrunners who employ them. I've seen producers and writers pull all nighters and single day page one rewrites so their crews and actors can have the pages and plot twists and depth of characters they need to make a decent show for their audience.

Those shows are created by people who don't have much time for those who'd be cruel to a "dumb idea" or would harm it in the name of making a slightly bigger profit.

But the worlds of ranchers and showrunners have changed of late. Both have been invaded by bean counters bent on wringing every last penny of profit out of the process of making movies, TV shows and steaks.

And in the process, they are costing us the humanity that made all of these enterprises ultimately uplifting and respectable and worthy.

We now have "factory farms", movies without drama and television schedules that reflect as much caution as creativity.

Yes, there are still great shows on TV, but they seem relegated to niche channels in the way truly innovative films are shuffled off to art houses.

And yes, a rancher with a small herd he cares for can still make a living. But he'll never get a shot at the best pasture land or the guys who appreciate a good steak.

Among the many fine quotes in the New York feature is one from "Sons of Anarchy" showrunner Kurt Sutter:

"Stop making decisions based on research data, and hire development executives with degrees in art, literature, and theater instead of marketing, business, and law. If people followed those two rules, TV would be a fuckload better."

And among the many wonderful insights offered by Mr. Ebert is:

"As the leadership of many studios is taken from creators and assigned to marketers, nothing is harder to get financed than an original idea, or easier than a retread. The urge to repeat success can be found even in the content of modern trailers, which often seem to be about the same upbeat film. Even The Beaver, with Mel Gibson battling mental illness, is made to look like a hopeful comedy with a cute stuffed animal."

And as for the cow video -- the looks on the faces of the rescued calves says it all. This is where the desire for profit certainty is taking us

Trust me, I identified.

I've seen those same expressions on the faces of far too many talented and creative people in the last few years as our industries become more about the deals and less about what's being dealt to the audience.

Something to think about the next time you "Take a Meeting" or meet a development executive over a steak.

Pool Report: Wk6 Begins

Toldja we were getting to the good stuff!


The conference finals are where the stars begin to shine and everybody on the ice realizes they're just four wins away from going to the big show.

Tampa's Young Guns exploded! Boston realized that the all-star goalie who got them this far is going to need some help! Vancouver found its passion for playing hard and nobody can ever call San Jose's Joe Thornton a quitter again.

We're in for some great hockey!


But I'm busier than a cat trying to bury a turd on a marble floor this week, so this report will have to be bare bones. Hopefully I can offer more by Friday. If not, I'll post a note and a link and you can get the full treatment over at Uncle Willis' place.


Stubinski still leads with Pascoe and House close on his heels.

More on Friday. Game on!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 169: The Big Water Extravaganza

manitoba flood

I spent most of this week in an anti-histamine induced state of narcolepsy. Spring brings out the pollens and I'm allergic to a vast array from grasses and trees and whatever-else-you-got.

Judging by how much the drugstores jack up the price of a box of Clairatin this time of year, I assume I'm not alone in the affliction. But unfortunately, I've never been able to find anything that stops the torrential eyes and nose without also rendering me incapable of operating heavy machinery.

Even the most seriously "Non-Drowsy" versions have me shambling around like an extra on "The Walking Dead".

Accomplishing anything eventually becomes pointless and I've learned to just turn off the world and zone out in front of the tube until the worst is past.

But that can be just as confusing because, when I'm in this state, the line between which programs are real and which aren't can get a little fuzzy as well.

As a result, I went back and forth between coverage of the Manitoba and Quebec and Mississippi floods and a TCM Esther Williams film festival unsure where the Busby Berkley numbers ended and real human drama began.

For those asking "Esther who?" -- there's no need to feel out of the loop. She's best known these days as Lorenzo Lamas' step-mother.

But before that, in far more innocent times, she was an aqua show athlete who became a movie star in the 1940's and 50's primarily because she could -- swim.

Esther Williams' movies had titles like "Bathing Beauty", "Neptune's Daughter" and "Pagan Love Song", all of which featured a slim thread of a story wound around several elaborate swimming, diving or water related sequences.

But somehow the formula worked, for Esther earned MGM millions as audiences flocked to theatres to watch her -- swim.

On some level, it's hard to imagine somebody parlaying similar talents into a lucrative career these days. But then, there are some doing quite well in the reality field with an even smaller skill set.

It got me wondering if there might be some alternative approaches to the standard "man crumbles before the power of nature" scenario relentlessly pushed on the 24 hour news stations.

Certainly there were enough farmers refusing to cry on cue, enough volunteers laughing as they went about their neighbor-saving labors, and enough of those in grave danger not as quick as network reporters to blame government, God or anybody else for what was befalling them -- in other words, enough alternative views on the disasters -- to make you wonder if there might be a more interesting movie there than any old "torn from the headlines" story.

Maybe even one in which Esther Williams symbolized the unquenchable human spirit soaring above the rising waters…

Okay, I'll go get back on my meds now.

Enjoy Esther Williams.

And Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Week Five Standings

week 5 1

Here we go.

The conference finals.

And there is no truth to the rumor that Ashton Kutcher will be moving in to play goal for the Canucks.

Even if it would boost interest among the 18-25 demographic South of the border.

The Conference finals are the time when a lot of peripheral fans decide to take an interest.

I saw a hand-made sign in a West Coast Chinese restaurant yesterday that read "Go CaLucks!" Not sure if it was the work of somebody with spelling deficiencies, issues in the political correctness department or just gleefully and giddily caught up in the thrill of the game.

Whatever the reason, I'm sure the NY office of the NHL has already dispatched somebody to take it down.

Personally, I'm hoping the sign's creator is somebody new to the game and anxious to embrace the particular Canadian craziness that accompanies the playoffs. For my money, that's how you grow the game -- not by plunking teams in places that never see ice unless it's in a cocktail glass.

pool 5 2

For this is also the time when American mass media finally begins to notice that there's something else going on beside baseball, basketball and a football strike. And they'd still rather talk about anything else than the fact that there's also a foreign team in the running.

Therefore, Sean Avery standing up for Gay marriage gets more coverage on ESPN than all of what happens on the ice.

Like the majority of hockey fans, I don't much care for Sean Avery. But he ticked up a couple of notches for me this week. It takes guts to drop the gloves and take on another team's enforcer. But it takes real courage to stare down the hockey establishment.

Maybe if Sydney Crosby and a couple more "Good Canadian Boys" stood up with him, some of the dinosaurs of the game might finally slink off to the tar-pits.

Instead, a few have already started raising a "Spockian Eyebrow", as Fan590's Bob McGown calls it, in Avery's direction. I mean, the guy lived in the West Hollywood Gay Ghetto when he played in LA and he spent an off-season interning at Vogue magazine, don't cha know…

In a couple more days, they'll have determined his "enjoying my sloppy seconds" reference was in regard to the Quiche recipe he gave Elisha Cuthbert.

I can't tell you how much I wish David Geffen or Barry Diller would buy some struggling NHL team just so we wouldn't have to listen to this crap anymore.

As for how all this relates to the current pool standings…

Tim Stubinski, who increased his lead by two points over the week, has also been sighted in West Hollywood.

I have it on good authority that 2nd Place holder Alex House finds Joe Thornton kinda "cute".

And as for 3rd Place Will Pascoe -- well -- enough said…

Your full standings at the end of Round Two are below. I have a feeling we'll see some changes by Monday.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Pool Report: Wk5 Begins

Red Wings Sharks Hockey

Well, Boston got the job done this weekend. But Vancouver and San Jose -- "You keep me hangin' on!"

Yep, San Jose flubbed not one but two chances to send Detroit off to the golf course -- where in many cases they'll qualify for the Seniors discount. And Vancouver -- Man, what can you say about Vancouver…

I called a friend there after the second period on Saturday night and his wife said he'd taken the dog for a walk because "He just can't take it any more." And next morning the West Coast papers were full of pictures of how hard the Predators were checking the Canucks with editorials on how "unfair" that was.

What can I say. If winning the Stanley Cup was as easy as huggin' trees and dropping your pants at Wreck Beach, everybody would do it!

Does nobody see the refusal to quit rising in Detroit? That's what makes a Champion! They were even picked in an NBC/Versus poll this weekend as the team American fans most want to see play Boston in the finals.

I'm sure Tampa Bay will pin that to the dressing room bulletin board for inspiration. But Vancouver -- I don't know. I'm already hearing whining that even if they get past Nashville, both San Jose and Detroit look really hard to beat…

Maybe it's time for some of you guys to crack a nice Okanagan Chardonnay and find out if there are still any tickets to Lilith Fair available.

No Lilith Fair this year? Well, Valdy must be playing somewhere…

Meanwhile, back in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, where we do all our whining about co-Productions, the scratching and clawing for top spot continues unabated.

This week we have a new leader, Tim Stubinski, who bumped Will Pascoe into a second place tie with Alex House. But Carleen Kyle is one shutout or big game away from taking top spot herself.

Meanwhile, many of the once-mighty have been humbled with former winners, former leaders (and me) plummeting in the standings.

Vancouver gets another chance to settle things tonight (and back home later if they really want to increase the number of people jumping off mountains).

Detroit gets another chance to stave off elimination at home tomorrow. But whatever happens, come Friday's report, Round Two will be in the books.

See you then, here's your leader board.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Lazy Sunday #168: Dangerous

One of the first Rock concerts I saw after moving to Toronto and the first of any kind I attended at its acoustically perfect Massey Hall featured "Atomic Rooster", "Savoy Brown" and "The Doobie Brothers".


I loved "The Doobie Brothers". Hell, I still love 'em. And I've never understood why they're not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Listen to the Music", "Jesus is Just Alright", "Long Train Runnin'", "China Grove", "Black Water", "Take Me In Your Arms"… How many hit singles do you need to get recognized? Is 30 Million albums not enough? Not to mention so many years of too many tour dates that members of the band frequently collapsed from exhaustion.

And when they did, the remaining Doobies always seemed to find somebody just as good or better to fill in -- to the point that when they now do reunion shows, they've got four drumkits and Bass players outnumbering the horn section.

I'll admit, we've all got to forgive the band the Michael McDonald years. Sure they kept churning out hits but, what Record Industry genius decided you could replace hard-driving rock with blue-eyed soul?

Okay, it was the 70's and everybody was trying to spiff up in designer jeans and pull their long hair into a ponytail. But somebody needs to admit a few A&R guys were also doing way too much Coke and not enough of what gave the Doobies their name.

And admittedly, the name probably has a lot to do with why the band remains as under-appreciated as it is. What does it say to the Youth of America if that moniker gets chiseled onto some bronze plaque representing the best the nation has to offer?

Like one of their lesser known hits, "The Doobie Brothers" remain somewhat "Dangerous".

Take a listen to some of the best musicians to ever come out of the era of Classic Rock.

And -- Enjoy Your Sunday.


Somebody in the Doobie fraternity just sent a link for the band's current tour.

For those of you in Toronto or Southern Ontario, they're playing Rama on Thursday May 12th and will be in Thunder Bay a week later on May 19th.

Edmonton, July 14th and Calgary July 15 & 16.

They're also playing the Nakusp Music Festival (Just South of Revelstoke) on July 17th on a bill that includes a ton of great bands.

The Full Canada/US Summer tour can be found here.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Week Four Standings


While the rest of us were consumed with elections and Royal Weddings and keeping up a regular work schedule despite overtime sleep deprivation, it looks like Uncle Willis made it to a Predators game.

And it also looks like we finally know one of the reasons Nashville doesn't have trouble filling its arena anymore.

Because it sure isn't by playing firewagon hockey!

Whew, is that Nashville/Vancouver series boring to watch or what?

But it looks like it will be mercifully over soon. And the same might be said for the other playoff series as well. Washington's done. Detroit and Philadelphia haven't won a game. The whole second round could be over by the time the next report rolls around on Monday.

And then maybe we can get back to Major League Sports entertainment.


Although it appears the NHL kinda prefers that fans don't really enjoy the games. First, there's all those big names not playing because of head hits. And now there's a move afoot to eliminate Vancouver's notorious "Green Men" from performing their penalty box antics.

The "make the fans sit down and shut up" campaign is led by Hockey Night in Canada's own Glenn Healy, who, speaking from personal experience, did a fine job of taking his own fans out of the game on a regular basis when he played goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Now Glenn says "It's about the game, it's about the players, it's not about guys doing handstands. The league's looked into it and they're going to make some amends."

Y'know, you look at CBC's dismal record of entertaining its audiences lately, and you start to realize why a guy with Glenn's attitude probably fits in really well around there.

But if I was going to Saturday Night's game in Vancouver, I know I wouldn't be showing up in blue or white. Any Van Fans who get my meaning might want to check out the selection available here.

green suits

Meanwhile -- back at the Infamous Writers hockey Pool:

Pascoe, Stubinski and House maintain their top three status. But the rest of us are moving around like crazy. Things should begin to shake out and focus by Monday when we check the stats again.


Oh, and a reminder that I've only gotten two entries for the "Hirsute Pursuit". And while I'm not sure if drawing mustaches on pictures of other writers you don't like qualifies, it just might be good enough to take home some booty.

Entries open until Round Two is history.

And before the Green Men are history, here's a little of what made them famous.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

How Politics Works

election poster

Last night Canadians elected a majority Conservative government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

I spent most of the day leading up to that vote working for a Conservative candidate, including several hours as a scrutineer at one of the local polling stations.

After the count and the parties were over, I came home and switched on Twitter and Facebook to catch up on what I'd missed from my friends and associates. And what I found online was far, far removed from what I'd experienced all day.

There were people ranting about the results, threatening to leave the country before they were carted off to re-education camps. Others predicted the end of universal health care and an open season on abortion clinics. Others bemoaned the low 60% voter turnout, the alienation of Youth and the ignorance of various and sundry for choosing the MPs they chose.

For the most part, they aped the political panels and pundits and pollsters who have dominated our media for the last five weeks, preaching doom, building partisan niches and otherwise clawing through the entrails of what Canadians must feel in their guts.

In the end, it turned out most of those opinions were more than a little off the mark. But that didn't matter, the need to demonize and/or have a tantrum because you didn't get your way took precedence.

Among the most prominent in the Twitterverse was filmmaker and activist Michael Moore, a guy I greatly admire no matter how much we may disagree from time to time.


It was all I could do not to go all George C. Scott in the opening desert battle scenes of "Patton" on Mr. Moore's prestigious behind and scream, "You sonovabitch, I read your book!".

Because in the opening chapters of "Stupid White Men", Michael Moore tells you everything you need to know about running and winning a political campaign.

And if you want my opinion, that's all that happened yesterday.

You win elections by listening to people, by responding to what are legitimate needs and by proving that you'll do what you said you would do.

Many may not like what the minority Conservative government did over the last few years. But there was no hidden agenda. They were clear about what they stood for and they did exactly what they said they were going to do.

In 2008, I worked for my local candidate in Newmarket-Aurora, Lois Brown. Lois is one of the nicest people you could meet. Smart, funny and hard working. But even her own party didn't think she had much of a chance.

Yet she won by 6,000 votes. And after two years of continuing to work hard, she increased her vote last night to win by 18,000 votes. That doesn't happen unless people come to realize the person they're interacting with is not what the chattering classes would prefer they believe.

For all the social media whining about voter turnout, the polling station where I worked yesterday registered 300 new voters. And that's 10 polls in a riding with more than 250. Many of those choosing to exercise their franchise for the first time were young, encouraged to become engaged by Rick Mercer, social media and vote mobs.

A lot of them eyed me cautiously, wondering what a guy wearing a Conservative badge was doing hanging around as they signed up. They clearly weren't going to vote for my guy. I was the enemy.

In fact, late in the day, as I stood in the parking lot making some calls, a group of them came out of the poll and walked past.

"Hey guys," I said, "Thanks for voting."

"Don't look so happy!" One of them said, "None of us voted for you fucks!"

I shrugged. "Why would I have a problem with you voting for what's in your own best interest." I replied, "I'm not a socialist."

One of his buddies chuckled and glanced back at me thoughtfully as they left.

Next time out, I'm thinking he might actually give his vote a little more thought.

The candidate I was working for lost last night. To be frank, he deserved to lose. Working for him wasn't my idea. Somebody else thought he could use my help and sometimes Life renders you without choice. You get assigned to the Russian Front or to write an episode of "Little Mosque on the Prairie". All you can do is suck it up and do your best.

But he lost because like so many he was less concerned with the people he was being elected to serve than by the process of making the right impression and following the media scenario. The young don't vote. Everybody knows my opponent is a joke. Old ladies in retirement homes have been carrying me for years.  They won't change now.

He was wrong.

You win elections by engaging people and you keep the job by proving yourself to them. Meanwhile, the chattering classes are mostly concerned with chatter.

I don't take a lot of the venom spewed against Stephen Harper and those who chose not to vote seriously. Most in my Twitter feed come from the Toronto Arts Community where few will stand up for their own industry let alone actually get out and engage potential voters or advocate in favor of mandatory voting or to abolish the "first past the post" system.

No matter what I say or do, their chattering will continue -- until they too finally decide to put their own skin in the game.

But if any of them have read this far, and before they get back to tweeting and updating their facebook status, I hope they take a moment to listen to what their Prime Minister actually said last night -- understanding that he doesn't really have to care what they think of him for the next few years. He doesn't need to hope he can make them like him anymore. He's done with currying favor.

But unlike them, he hasn't given up on trying…

Monday, May 02, 2011

Pool Report: Wk4 Begins

dark hockey 3

I've always felt that the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs must be the hardest to play. The emotional high of just making it into the big show is over. That'll come back in Round Three for the conference championship when it's down to two teams. And it'll definitely be there for the finals.

But in Round Two, the thrill has worn off. The adrenalin is mostly helping stave off the pain from bruises that won't get a chance to even start healing for four more weeks. And everything about your team and your game that is less than perfect starts to show.

dark hockey 2

I've always equated the Second Round with the Second Night of a theatrical run. Opening night is all nervous energy and the excitement of finally getting the beast on its feet. Second nights are notoriously where things screw up and you realize that you need to stay on top of your game or it'll slide away altogether.

Similarly, down there on the ice, skills once taken for granted don't seem to come as easy. Points leaders don't score. Goalies brain cramp. Grinders catch the rare opportunity to capitalize on a mistake.

Tempers fray. Discipline hiccups. You realize just how hard winning this thing is going to be and wonder if you really have what it takes.

dark hockey

I realize we've all got a busy day ahead. There's clearly a feeling that some small measure of evil is gone from the world. But depending on your partisan commitment, there's maybe a worry that the "X" you Canadians put on you ballot today might just allow some imperfection to return or remain.

Whatever your position on the political spectrum, it's paramount that you vote today.

Win or lose, standing up for what you believe is always noted and taken to heart by both the victor and the vanquished. And whether or not you agree with the final decision or not, your fellow citizens have spoken in the right way to change or continue how things are done, so let's all accept their wisdom and move on.

The wisest poolies as we near the halfway point appear to be:

Mr. Pascoe. Now leading by two points.

Mr.Stubinski. Now alone in second.

Mr. House. Now alone in third.

Oh -- and look who's up a notch to sit all by hisself in 4th!

Well handled, Sir! Well handled.

See you all on Friday.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 167: The Thomas Beale Cypher

Over the coming weeks, minions employed by our Arts Bureaucracies will meet with "industry stakeholders" as part of Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Media Fund's strategy of selling new ways to justify the continued subsidization of Canadian film.

It's already obvious to anyone paying attention that Canadian movies don't do squat at the box office. There may be good reasons for that, legitimate problems within the system that prevent Canadian filmmakers from finding a mass local audience.

pig carpet

But nobody who works for any of the government departments involved in film funding is interested in unearthing those. In fact, what they'd really like to do is bury them further by measuring success in a whole different way instead.

One of the "solutions" offered is how well Canadian films do at film festivals. And in truth, you can't open a Canadian newspaper between the time the NHL playoffs end and the first puck drop of the following season without seeing a puff piece about some Maple Bud being gushed over at some film fest, either foreign or domestic, for their "remarkable" film.

Said film will, no matter how remarkable, likely never find a local distribution deal nor be seen by anyone if it does.

And the sad fact is, not many people probably saw its festival screening in the first place.

I've travelled to a lot of film festivals, been a patron and even on the jury of a couple. And anyone who has done the same can confirm that even if your film plays any festival's largest venue and is re-screened because of audience demand, it will be seen by three or four thousand people at the most.

And most of the titles in most film festivals are seen by a few hundred at best.

That's a fraction of those who see the short films and snippets I post here each Sunday. And I'm a long way from being Youtube or The Huffington Post.

Last year, Andrew Allen, who operates a site I frequently poach from, "Short of the Week" , shot his own short, "The Thomas Beale Cipher", with creative partner Jason Sondhi and then charted how it fared at film festivals compared with the response it garnered online.

His findings are reflected in the illustration below.

festivals online

In other words, online exposure of his film had a vastly more positive effect on both finding an audience and forwarding the filmmaker's agenda of making a profit and being in a position to do his next film.

To quote Allen, "The biggest thing I learned is that giving something away to earn people’s trust and build a fan base makes selling future creations much much easier—be it a feature film, web series, or even merchandise."

Allen details his experiences here.

Of course, there are a lot of reasons that film bureaucrats would prefer to use film festivals as the measuring stick for Canadian cinematic success. For openers, it allows them to continue to fund the kind of movies they like and audiences do not. There are the perks of travel, sponsorship freebies and after-party goodie bags. With luck there's an open bar for "festival supporters" and the chance to rub shoulders with Claude Chabrol's camera assistant.

But mostly, there's that "bread and circuses" opportunity for local filmmakers to network, attend seminars and see a couple of films no one else will ever see and then feel they are actually a part of an industry -- when they're not.

As any Roman Emporer knew, people who feel part of the pageant are less likely to rise up against it.

Measuring a film's success by asking the hundreds of bloggers like me to do a head count also doesn't make a lot of sense. Our job is simply to introduce you to the work and help build its word of mouth.

No matter how beloved any artistic product is, the one who made it needs more than a thumbs up or pat on the back to survive and move on to making what comes next.

In the beginning, that's where Arts subsidies helped. But, at least in Canada, they seem to have evolved into a system whose administrators need to be supported first; a bureaucracy which strives to justify its own existence rather than making sure our artists achieve (at least) subsistence.

It's no mystery that accomplishing the latter would assure the former. What confuses Canadian artists is why deciphering that is so difficult for some.

It's certainly easier than breaking the code that Thomas Beale created.

Enjoy Your Sunday.