Tuesday, June 28, 2011

There's Two Ways We Could Do This…

Benjamin Franklin's Daily Schedule:

ben franklin's schedule


Thomas Edison's approach:

"I usually failed my way to success."

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 175: Football Cops

Last week, BellMedia, owner of CTV, TSN and 26 other Canadian broadcasters, turned up at the CRTC hearings on vertical integration in the media.

They spent most of their time making themselves giddy over how all-powerful they were becoming and at how holding onto exclusive control of all their content over all manner of media platforms was the only way to achieve world domination -- er -- a bright future for Canadian culture.

And in the process, they revealed that they don't have the first clue about how vertical integration works.

No matter how smart these guys think say are, they didn't think up "Football Cops".

football cops

"Football Cops" stars NFL quarterback brothers, Payton and Eli Manning, both still earning millions calling plays for the Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants respectively.

And although they remain foes on the gridiron, they now stand shoulder to shoulder in a new series about street cops with a difference.

No, not psychic powers or impossible intellectual skills. A REAL difference!

As characters Mike Tahoe and C.J. Hunter, the brothers play former pro-quarterbacks, both raised as orphans in a home for wayward boys, who returned to the mean streets of their youth to "give something back" to the community. 

Clear-eyed and dedicated, they take on violent criminals, street gangs and international drug cartels armed with nothing more than a football.

I'm sure the American Prime-Time programming buyers for CTV are kicking themselves for not being able to get their hands on "Football Cops". But there's a reason for that…

It's the exclusive content of DirecTV and the National Football League, an inspired marketing campaign to sell subscriptions to DirecTV's "NFL Sunday Ticket" access to every single NFL football game every Sunday for the entire season. A service this American version of a BDU (cable/satellite company) offers "AT NO EXTRA CHARGE" with the added caveat -- "Get every game every Sunday on your TV, computer, cellphone or iPad".

Canadian readers of that last paragraph probably felt like they stepped into some alternate fantasy universe the moment a BDU ad included the words "at no extra charge".

God knows how any of them can contemplate the possibility that one fee allows to access content on pretty much any platform they want as well.

Why, the concept is practically -- Netflixian!

But it reveals that while Canadian BDUs like BellMedia have spent recent months contorting themselves to justify all the new charges they'd like to levy for delivering content Canadians already paid to produce or could find elsewhere cheaper if given the freedom to do so, they missed an opportunity to create some real vertical integration.

You see, BellMedia owns TSN which has broadcast rights to the Canadian Football League which kicks off next week, although barely hyped anywhere but on TSN.

And if the company had any creative skills among those mapping its conquest of media platforms, it might have come up with an equally inspired way of getting more people to subscribe to its services.

But they didn't.

Because they don't know what being creative means.

Which is one of the key reasons why their business models are beginning to show fatal cracks no amount of CRTC duct tape will be able to repair.

As "Preposterous!" as Canadians getting access to whatever content they want in any way they want might be to the boys at BellMedia, that day is already here.

It came from the same part of Left field that spawned "Football Cops".

Whatever you want at no extra charge. Now that's how you really -- Enjoy Your Sunday!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Knowing Where The Bodies Aren't Buried

mass grave

Television networks have an uncanny ability to make us believe things which aren't true.

At least twice in my own lifetime, powerful media conglomerates have whipped up patriotic frenzies surrounding non-existent threats like the Gulf of Tonkin incident and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, assisting both Democratic and Republic Presidents in getting the United States into a war.

Closer to home, entire broadcast entities owe their existence to spreading the belief that the Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup -- THIS YEAR!

While truth is always the first casualty in war and spinning it helps die-hard fans drink the Kool-Aid, building on the flimsiest veracity is what keeps broadcasters in the black.

Just recently, news helicopters and satellite trucks descended on the sleepy town of Hardin, Texas, drawn by the report of a mass grave and bloodstained house containing dozens of mutilated corpses, including those of children.

As the anchors excitedly ad-libbed around the sketchy facts they'd gleaned from "sources close to the scene", you sensed that newsroom graphics designers were already hastily reconfiguring posters from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" to augment the visuals.

This was going to drive ad revenues and ratings through the roof!

texas chain

Unfortunately (for the networks) it turned out there weren't any bodies, neither mutilated nor whole. No blood. No tiny corpses under gurney blankets. Not even a crazed psycho on the loose.

To make matters worse, it seems the original tip came from a self-described "Psychic" who had just had -- a feeling.

The pursuit of a juicy story that viewers won't be able to resist has often conspired to embarrass TV journalists. But even when broadcasters miss a story, they can make you believe they were all over it.

A couple of summers ago, a cluster of deadly tornados descended on several suburbs of Toronto. Despite having recently won $150 Million in new funding for local news, not one of Toronto's major television outlets provided spot coverage, let alone the kind of second by second tracking and warning anyone familiar with storm coverage in the United States is used to seeing.

Despite the reality of what they were actually broadcasting (detailed and confirmed by several viewers here) within a few weeks, the local CTV affiliate was running ads that included clips of the storms as it proudly (yet with humility) announced its receipt of a "prestigious" Edward R. Murrow Award for its coverage of the event.


Now, I don't know if the Edward R. Murrow Award is an actual journalistic prize judged by the rigorous standards of its namesake or just one of the many media trophies that get handed out because you paid an entry fee or promised to turn up for the ceremony.

But I do know what CTV was broadcasting while people were running for their lives -- and it wasn't the news.

In a business that operates as much on perception as reality perhaps none of that should surprise us. And yet -- not being able to separate perception from reality can lead to expectations far removed from what actually comes to pass.

This week, BellMedia took the unprecedented step of purchasing the television rights to the works of three fairly well known Canadian mystery writers.

Normally, independent producers or studios will option the rights to a literary work, be it a novel, magazine article, comic book or whatever and then convince a network to help develop or produce it.

But in its press release, BellMedia made the point that, while the works would be parceled off to independent producers, these purchases showed its commitment to bringing more Canadian content onto Canadian television, computer and mobile screens.

And while the optimist in me thought that was a good thing and was pleased to see a few Canadian novelists and their eventual screenwriting counterparts get paid for their creative endeavors; my pragmatic side was wondering why this was being treated as some kind of big deal and the cynic permanently ensconced on my shoulder saw darker forces at work.

For starters, let me make it clear that I think William Deverell, Giles Blunt and Robert Rotenberg are all terrific writers deserving of far larger audiences than their current sales numbers might indicate they have. I've read at least one book by each of them and they're all masterful story tellers.

Yet in the hard-nosed world of optioning book rights, their aggregate numbers would not be considered a safe basis for an already risky investment.

Because in the world of making television and film, a good book doesn't necessarily result in a good final product, nor guarantee even a modicum of success. Sometimes great books turn into utterly unwatchable movies.

all the king's men

In the last year I can find numbers for, 2009, Hollywood studios and producers purchased the rights to 45,181 new works of fiction. Yet the number of major releases based on literary material numbered 125, the equivalent of one day's publishing.

Some of the books that made it to the screen in 2009 had been making their way there for years, in some cases decades. In fact, only 1% of books optioned ever get to Principle Photography and some of those never find a distributor. Many more don't attract an audience and never earn a dime.

If that mathematical formula applies North of the border, what's 1% of 3? Or even 1% of the 8-10 books that fall within this deal?

You begin to ask why such a deal is even newsworthy. Twenty years ago, Alliance or Atlantis were buying book rights every day.

And in the film business, having a good story ranks far behind execution and marketing, two skill sets Canadian networks are not known for owning.

There are any number of extremely talented Canadian screenwriters who'd give their right arm for the opportunity to adapt one of these novels. There are lots of talented directors and actors and technicians who can realize those scripts. But given the track record of BellMedia's networks, you have to wonder how committed the company will be to the investment required to give these novels a fighting chance, let alone their due.

As much as I want to believe that there are new winds blowing across the Canadian television landscape and that new owners are determined to increase their commitment to Cancon, that's not what I see.

BellMedia's flagship network does not have a single new Canadian drama on its fall schedule and spent as much or more as it had in the past on buying new American product. What's more, their executives continue to harass regulators to lower levels of Canadian programming or allow them more leeway to disguise it.


If William Deverell or his Publishers have visions of hefty paydays dancing in their heads, perhaps they need to ask their assigned screenwriter, Andrew Wreggitt, how much effort CTV put into promoting his recent award winning work "Mayerthorpe". Or they could call the Writers Guild of Canada to learn how much money Canadian screenwriters are earning in royalties from BellMedia product.

So, as much as I'd like to be optimistic, I can't shake the feeling that BellMedia's press release was primarily designed to curry favor as they entered yet another round of regulatory hearings with the aim of elevating their corporate status through the perception that they actually had a commitment to Canadian content.

In the end, I think we'll discover that BellMedia purchased their book options with the help of a development fund that's either government supported or to which they are merely one of many contributors. Their development of the project will be similarly financed, as will the production.

In the real world, good films and TV shows are not made from press releases and perception, but from passion and commitment and taking real financial risks.

One of my favorite books of the last decade, for example, will finally make it to the screen this fall.

When I first read Michael Lewis' "Moneyball" I could instantly see the movie. It was smart. It was funny. It had an incredible feel good ending. Despite its appeal to a narrow niche of baseball statistic nerds, it made that world enormously entertaining for everybody else.

The book became an instant best seller and ignited a studio bidding war. Yet it has taken eight years to get onto the screen.

A-list directors came and went. Shoot dates constantly shifted. Financing got shaky. The screenplay went through numerous drafts and bears the final credits of two of the highest paid and most admired writers in Hollywood, Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin.

In the end, there are some who believe it only got made because Brad Pitt and a stellar supporting cast hung in because of their own love of the original material.

But despite all that -- most people don't think "Moneyball" will be a hit. Its backers are resigned to waiting quite some time to make their money back -- let alone maybe make a few bucks.

But the studio is still pulling out all the stops to promote the film. Everybody involved remains passionate and committed and willing to continue the risk.

And those attributes are not the first that come to mind when I watch BellMedia executives like Mirko Bibic and Kevin Crull lay out their corporate master plan for the CRTC. Plans that really have nothing to do with championing Canadian artists or film-worthy literature or even understand that for some things to succeed what once worked needs to be done differently.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 174: Release The Hounds


I really like Sheepdogs. I've owned a few, befriended several more. And they all seem to match my own basic world view. Have fun. Try to get along. Don't take what people think of you too seriously.

I'm not exactly sure what first attracted me to them. But I have a theory that they remind me of my first favorite toy, a kind of rocking horse thing of a character named "Punkinhead", whose copyright clearly lapsed sometime before this guy came along.


I also really like Saskatchewan. Because I grew up there.

Saskatchewan can be a dismal place. Sometime around February, when you wake up to your 40th straight day of temperatures below minus 40, it can make you wonder why God doesn't like you very much.


But then Summer comes and you watch a sunset with a Pilsner in your lap and your back to the Midwest night and you feel like maybe you're in the best place anybody could be.

So imagine my excitement when I heard that there was a band from Saskatchewan called "The Sheepdogs".

Excitement heightened by seeing a picture of them and realizing that bands from Saskatchewan in 2011 look EXACTLY like Bands from Saskatchewan did during my rock 'n roll youth of the late 1960's.

The Sheedogs

Y'know, it might be that the Fountain of Youth is actually hidden somewhere in Saskatchewan -- made harder to find because it's frozen solid for eight months of the year.

Anyway, it turns out said musical "Sheepdogs" are now finalists in Rolling Stone Magazine's "Pick the Cover" contest, in which you vote online for your favorite band and they end up on the cover of Rolling Stone garnering all the attendant fame and fortune Dr. Hook used to sing about.


And given what I've been hearing about all the DRM shackles that'll become mandatory should the new Copyright Bill (C-32) pass unmolested. Given that all the major Canadian Music labels have been officially outed as seriously screwing their artists. And taking into account the new CBC Fall schedule. I decided that it is imperative that "The Sheepdogs" win this contest and get to escape the country.

I mean, seriously, C-32 will pretty much hand over all their creative rights to some record company middle man. Even if they earn royalties, they'll never see a penny of them. And a couple of years from now, they'll be just like Tom Cochrane, singing "Life is a Highway" twice nightly in some Casino showroom while the CBC uses whatever hit they had as the contestant audition piece for the next season of "Cover Me" -- which by then, along with "Battle of the Blades" will be all that passes for Canadian Content on the tube.

You can vote for "The Sheepdogs" here. And it's imperative that you do.

Not only because it'll help some Canadian artists get out of the country while the gettin's good. But it'll prevent Rolling Stone from losing what's left of its credibility and turning completely into "Tiger Beat".


Seriously, "Rolling Stone" -- ??? Whatever happened to the guys that discovered Jimi and Janis? Remember who championed Daniel Ellsberg for revealing "The Pentagon Papers"? Are there no more Ralph Steadmans and Hunter S. Thompsons left in America?

Or maybe they're all in Saskatchewan, helping "The Sheepdogs" pack and get across the border so real rock 'n roll can be heard in the world once more.

Whatever you think of "The Sheepdogs" music, vote for them. Give a fellow Canadian artist a chance.

Release the Hounds. And Enjoy Your Sunday.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Winners & Losers

van burns

And so it ends…

Vancouver crashes and burns. Literally.

Boston wins the Stanley Cup. Deservedly.

And for the record -- what happened in Vancouver last night doesn't have anything to do with hockey.

Of course, I'm talking about the aftermath of the game.

But I could be talking about the game itself.

Vancouver should have won. Could have won. But it was clear that Boston wanted it more.

boston wins

For all the skill and finesse required by the greatest game, it requires something more, something that's come to be known as "a willingness to pay the price".

And for all their laudable traits, Vancouver seems to have a goalie more full of self than team, a coach with only one game plan and a couple of guys up front who think talent is all it takes.

It isn't.

As for the city. I know that wasn't the real Vancouver last night. But let's be honest. It sorta was.

van fans

For too long, you've been too willing to ignore the problems because a slight turn of the head lets you focus on all the surrounding beauty instead. I realize it might crush your buzz, but it's time to deal with the gangs and the drugs and entitled takers in your midst. Otherwise the only world class cities you'll be compared to will be Baghdad and Kabul.

On the positive side, more than 2000 ordinary Vancouverites are on the streets this morning helping with the clean-up. Others set up a facebook page that already hosts thousands of pictures of the rioters, hundreds of whom are waking up to find their photos already name-tagged and captioned by friends or family unwilling to co-sign their bullshit.

It's a start.

And on the more positive side -- we've got WINNERS!!! in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool.

boston wins 2

DONOVAN FEURING takes the PROPS competition with 5 correct picks out of 6.

In the Big Contest…

Drumroll please…

Tim Stubinski finishes in First.

Mark Leiren-Young takes Second

And Carleen Kyle is Third.

I'll be in touch with all the winners over the next couple of days to get snail mail info and (once the Posties are back to work) Tim's address will be passed on to all you poolies, so the booty of your choosing can be delivered. The Legion will take care of rewarding 2nd and 3rd Place plus the Props winner.

And we'll be done for the 2010-11 Season.

I hope you all had fun and the Pool added a little something to your enjoyment of what's already the best Championship series in professional sport.

Ignore all the essays and editorials that will no doubt swirl over the next while linking Hockey to Hooliganism and what it all has to do with "The Media".

Those of us who work in "The Media" know they've always got to make it about themselves.

Don't worry.

Hockey, pretty much in the form we all love it, will be back next year. Actually, exhibition games begin in just 3 months.

And the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool will be back for a Sixth Season come next April.

I hope you'll come back as well. It's been fun having you around.

Your final standings:


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Rise and Fall of "KvonFinckyCRTC"


Gallows humor, making fun of the people who control your life and Satire have been around about as long as there've been those whose circumstances dictated they laugh to avoid losing either hope or their minds.

The literary version of Satire -- the word comes from the Latin "lanx satura" and literally means "a full dish of various fruits" -- has long been recognized as a more or less respectable way to ridicule the vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings of a society, with the intent of shaming an individual or a specific group into cleaning up its act.

Therefore, although satire is meant to be funny, its purpose is constructive criticism -- and we see that in a lot of popular television like "South Park", "The Simpsons", "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report".

Apparently, however, these basic understandings don't apply in Canada, or within what generally is described as "The Social Media".

A couple of weeks ago, a new face popped up on Twitter. It was the face above attached to the moniker "KvonFinckyCRTC".

Now anybody with more than two functioning brain cells would have made the connection with CRTC Chair Konrad von Finckenstein while being aware that the Chairman and former federal judge would not likely be the actual person behind a handle like "KvonFinckyCRTC".

Somebody was just having a little fun. Poking the bear. Speaking truth to power. Having a laugh at the expense of a well known (at least within the Canadian broadcast industry) Public figure.

I've never met Konrad, but I'm sure he's quite a fine and respectable gentleman, obviously very intelligent and capable, probably loves dogs, although he strikes me as more of a "kinder to cats" person.

But if you're a Canadian artist or creative technician working within the film and television industries regulated by Chairman von Finckenstein, you've watched his commission oversee either a severe marginalization or the complete destruction of your career.

And if you subscribe to cable TV in Canada with its escalating costs, pay through the nose for a mobile phone or simply wish you had the same freedom to watch a movie any American just across the border from you can watch without a hassle on the internet -- well, you're confused as to why the head of a government agency mandated to protect the needs of the consumer, instead consistently protects the needs of those gouging average Canadians for every penny they can get.

I don't know who invented "KvonFinckyCRTC". But first I got a couple of messages to check him out and then an invitation to contribute to his tweets. I was asked to pass along the "sign in" codes to anybody I thought might get the joke and have something to contribute.

And I did.

Immature? Pointless? Career Suicide? Maybe. But anybody who knows me knows that I honestly believe you can't put a price on a good time.

I have no idea if anybody who alerted me to "KvonFinckyCRTC" or passed on the account access or got it from me feels the same or ever submitted a Tweet. I have my suspicions in a couple of cases. But I honestly don't know.

I just really liked what I was reading. It was smart. It was passionate. It came from a good place. And a lot of the stuff made me laugh out loud.


For while there was no intention to "satirize" the Chairman (and by association the Commission) via a particular political direction or artistic agenda; and despite the fact that nobody creating this online persona had been instructed in how the character would operate -- a distinct and completely recognizable character emerged.

Rather than the aloof and often seemingly arrogant and insensitive bureaucrat, given to "in-camera" meetings with corporate megaliths and those he publicly describes as "The Right People". Despite the public diffidence he has repeatedly shown to the guilds, unions, advocacy groups and individual consumers trying to refute the bald faced lies told in those secret meetings. Besides all that, what emerged was a man as confused by the workings of the industry as most of us. But as Captain of the ship, he remained determined to drive it full speed into that iceberg up ahead.

The first tweet I read from "KvonFinckyCRTC" mourned the passing of Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian bemoaning the fact that he now had to come up with a "Plan B" for Canadian Television.

Now, I don't care who you are. That's funny. And so's this…


I kicked in one of my own, in which "KvonFinckyCRTC" noted being in discussion with "Hockey Night in Canada" over the lack of Canadian content on the Sedin line. The matter was resolved when CBC simply registered the program as a Swedish co-pro with American stars.

Now that's about as inside the Cancon TV beltway as you can get. But it makes sense to all the out-of-work Canadians dismayed that one topless Canuck Cutie working in Budapest on "The Tudors" or "The Borgias" makes the show Canadian but a massive Canadian presence in both cast and crew on AMC's "The Killing" earns it no recognition for supporting the industry.

Over the next few days, "KvonFinckyCRTC" mused that maybe mobile rates had to be higher given all that wire somebody had to string, carped about a Commissioner who likes bush pilot shows taking everybody out for Beavertails and whined about the lack of respect he got from broadcasters -- in his decades on the bench it seems no one had ever told him to "go home and get your shine box".


And then…

One morning…

"KvonFinckyCRTC" was gone.

He'd been erased from Twitter.


A couple of days later, I was told that the official cause of death was a message from Twitter that the account had been suspended for "Impersonation". Those tracing the list of his fans noted that he reached terminal stage a couple of hours after being "followed" by somebody within the CRTC.

I wasn't enormously upset by the passing of "KvonFinckyCRTC". Hell, like everybody else, I'd barely gotten to know him. But I did find the way he went somewhat sad.

For while Twitter sells itself as an innovative communication tool allowing like-minded people to connect with each other and share their interests, it might be that their drive to monetize has them looking to garner some favor or respectability.

I'm sure most would consider it a good thing if Twitter closed the accounts of the Iranian secret police who pretended to support the Green Revolution in order to nab students in that democracy movement, but I don't think that ever happened.

And I notice that a whole slew of celebrities still append their names with "The Real" so people don't confuse them with numerous fakers confusing or misleading their fans.

It might be a step in the right direction if you couldn't send women you barely know pictures of your junk on Twitter too. Although I'm sure those filters might also preclude innocent civilians from sharing pictures of their dogs or folks in Syria from getting pictures out to the world of soldiers gunning them down.

I'm sure there would be few opposed to Twitter making it tougher for guys my age to get 14 year olds to meet them at Starbucks. Heck I'd be ecstatic if they just stopped that asshole with the egg logo from telling me where I can buy the product I just mentioned in a tweet.

But nope -- they shot the court jester and the class clowns instead.

And in the process Twitter revealed that, like the kind of regulation "The Realz Konrad von Finckenstein" engages in, the minute you start looking after one set of stakeholders to the point where the service doesn't actually do what it was designed to do, you kinda make it pointless.

Or maybe this has nothing to do with Twitter.

Maybe the legitimate Chairman of the CRTC feels just as overwhelmed and out of his depth as those behind the fake one made him appear.

Maybe he didn't want people knowing about the secret CRTC Netflix account or that he likes it when certain staff members wear hotpants.

Could it be there was a kernel of truth in the Prime Minister insisting on a "must-carry" license for "The Cat Channel" or that Video on Demand numbers had to be kept secret because the BDU's didn't want institutional investors knowing most of their profits come from peddling porn?

What I do know for certain is that somebody has a really thin skin or might be feeling very uncertain about their own personal regulatory future.

It can't be easy campaigning for regulatory control over OTT services and the Internet when PM Harper's personal appointee to the CRTC, Tom Pentafountas, speaks to the Western Association of Broadcasters in the same Banff Ballroom where you'll make that pitch and assures them the CRTC will take a strong stand against "the root of all evil, anti-competitive behavior".

Twice stung by Harper and former Industry Minister Tony Clement for protecting the big boys against mobile competition and rubber-stamping their demand for Usage Based Billing, I might be thinking those million Canadians who'll sign on for Netflix before Summer's end could be offering Harper, Clement et al their own choice between backing competition and going into the Gazebo building business full time.


But mostly what made me sad about saying Good-bye to "KvonFinckyCRTC" was the realization that the CRTC won't act on 12 years of interventions that long ago proved they've stunted the growth of Canadian television, but it took them less than 6 days to shut-up a bunch of guys making fun of their lack of action, their ivory towered arrogance -- and their regulatory incompetence.

I've always pleaded with the CRTC to learn what really goes on in the industries they regulate instead of listening to what well-paid lawyers tell them in closed door meetings. And if the powers that be determine that they now regulate the internet, that will become imperative.

There's some real dark territory out there in cyberspace and a lot of incredibly smart people who won't stand as silent as Canadian screenwriters while their freedoms are curtailed for the financial benefit of vertically integrated corporations.

When Aaron Sorkin was writing "The Social Network", he joked that he had to be scrupulously accurate in depicting those involved in the creation of facebook because, "I was dealing with people who knew how to plant kiddie porn on my computer".

But part of me thinks he wasn't kidding.

I'm not saying the CRTC has got the climactic scenes of "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" in their futures. But when you enslave people to a system (either as creators or end users) that doesn't serve their core interests, you're not doing anybody any favors.

Don't get me wrong. "KvonFinckyCRTC" wasn't anybody's idea of a revolutionary moment. He was just a way to blow off steam and feel a little less alone in the struggle.

But inadvertently, he revealed the true face of the CRTC, the one many of us suspected was its honest visage but hoped wasn't the case.

The history of the world shows that when legitimate grievances are silenced, the conflict tends to tick up a notch.

So I'm through giving the CRTC even the slight benefit of the doubt I once held out for them. Those guys want to control artistic expression and legitimate, completely legal forms of protest like Satire. So I don't want to hear any of them pretend that they speak for the Canadian artistic community ever again.

And I hope in reading this, some of those always-so-quiet-and-careful Canadian screenwriters might begin to realize that their freedom to say and write what they feel, no matter how innocent or innocuous or just plain stupid, might also be in peril.

Maybe they'll feel it enough to stand up for themselves and what they believe in like others did in an earlier version of the "Spartacus" tale.

There's no such thing as a well-adjusted slave.

I am "KvonFinckyCRTC"!

If you were too or you simply believe in the freedom to create Satire, please add your voice in the comment thread that follows.

Who knows how much longer you've got…

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 173: The Chase Film


The chase has always been a staple of dramatic entertainment. From "The Perils of Pauline" to "Stagecoach" to "Bullitt" and "The Bourne (whichever)" there's been no better way to exhibit the visceral impact of the media than with a chase.

It’s been kinda busy around the Legion of late. Lots of deadlines and distractions combined with the all-encompassing Stanley Cup Hockey Pool.

Made even more encompassing this season by the inclusion of a Canadian finalist.

But we’ll start transitioning out of all that over the next few days and get back to the prime directive -- making better Canadian television.

Fortuitously, our return coincides with the 2011 Banff Media Festival, formerly the Banff Television Festival, before “television” somehow became an archaic term among those busy imagining the future.

So now everything we do (even if it’s still television) seems to be part of a multi-platform new media landscape -- even when it isn’t much different from what's been around since television was considered a new medium.

But the "New Media" itself seems less in evidence as a storytelling tool than just a lot of new ways to access the same old content.

I don’t know what new ideas (if any) will come out of Banff, but I hope some of them will offer the kind of creative example of the new tools we’ve been given as what follows.

Because I’ve often felt our inability to think beyond the production models we’re all familiar with is what’s really holding us back.

This week’s video selection is a commercial for Intel, the people who make what makes most of the New Media possible.

It’s awesome in its use of material and formats that seldom seem to find a way into our story telling.

I’m not saying this is the future. But I’m thinking it’s hinting at where the future of something truly “New” might lie.

Go chase the dream. And Enjoy your Sunday…

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Week Nine Ends


Was there ever any doubt?

I mean seriously.

These are two spectacular teams playing absolutely out of their minds. It's the kind of stuff that makes the Hockey Gods recall why they wanted to become Gods in the first place. They're gonna make this last as long as they can.

And that means no matter which side you're rooting for, you need to get out and enjoy it. This is the Hockey Gods gift to you.

Last night, with the sun still high in the sky, parks and baseball diamonds all across British Columbia were filled with people cheering on their team in front of giant video screens.

Nobody in the lower mainland would think twice about seeing a picture like this and calling "Child Services"…


Most in Vancouver simply muttered, "Why didn't I think of that…?". And after the game, 100,000 people partied in the streets.

In Boston, 15 year old girls are getting Tyler Seguin tattoos, literally injecting Bruins colors into their blood, marking themselves as die-hard fans for years to come.

There's something wonderfully tribal about all this. And Main Stream Media, so what if somebody from out of town gets pissed on. Nobody's ending up with their head on a stick or being eaten by the victors.

And we all know that whoever ends up winning will be getting so drunk they'll probably piss all over themselves as well. And smile about it. So let's move on!

And we could start by enjoying the fun in stuff like this…

And this…

And maybe most important, this…

Meanwhile in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, I was once again proven prescient (my own selections aside) as one big game shook things up.

Tim Stubinski still leads, with Will Pascoe trading 2nd place to Mark Leiren Young and Carleen Kyle safely huggin' third. But hey, where did Larry Raskin and David Kinahan come from?

Still interesting as we careen into the final week.

Next report follows Game Six.

Will we be crowning winners?

That's for the Hockey Gods to decide.


Monday, June 06, 2011

Pool Report: Wk9 Begins


You know how everybody develops Stanley Cup superstitions this time of year?

Two decades after the fact, Will Dixon and I still blame ourselves for the Leafs losing their 1993 Cup ticket to the LA Kings because we simultaneously broke our cardinal rules of watching the games on the same TV sets to venture out to a Sports bar.

It wasn't an uncalled high stick that cost the Buds their spot. It was a beckoning plate of chicken wings and a pitcher of ice cold beer!

For reasons far too complex to detail, I've watched pretty much every game of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs in a completely different place in a half dozen different cities. So I can't have that exact same place wearing the exact same T-shirt superstition this time around.

Instead it's become a hunt to make sure I'm not in the same place for each remaining game.

As covered in last week's Pool Report, I saw Game One on a BC Ferry. Game Two I watched in my father's hospital room -- a room somehow continuously filled with nurses just checking that the bed was turned down and orderlies mopping a spit-shined floor.

But since the game went into an overtime that was already past visiting hours, I elected to drive to the nearest corner bar before puck drop.

You know how a car radio can cut out going down those sealed concrete parking ramps. Outages which are short but…?

Yep -- missed the big goal. One minute it's all "The way these two teams have been playing, we might be looking at a very long…" and 12 seconds later, when you're back from the Dark Side of the Moon, all you can hear is screaming and it's only seeing the guy in the ticket booth dancing that tells you who won.

It got me thinking that I need to find somewhere new and exotic for tonight's game if I want the Canuck streak to continue.

Or maybe -- they'll only win if I don't listen at all.

Wow. That's heavy.

Y'know, I've had a couple of other thoughts about this series that nobody seems to have addressed.

First, can you imagine how much this final must be eating Don Cherry alive? A bunch of Swedes, Americans and French Canadians handing his old Alma Mater their asses!

It also has me wondering about the CBC. Not only are upstart NBC's broadcasts eminently more exciting to watch but yesterday the Mother Corp's Radio division devoted a couple of hours to asking whether or not the Canucks really were Canada's team.

Among the callers were the usual suspects taking the opportunity to detail why they didn't watch television let alone hockey or condemned the game for its violence, its celebration of capitalism or for not being the kind of image the world should have of Canada.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg sold 13,000 season tickets in like 10 minutes.

And only the NHL netcam recorded who ended up with the Game winning puck.

Just sayin'

In the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool, Tim Stubinski continues to lead with Will Pascoe second and Vancouver lovers Carleen Kyle and Mark Leiren-Young tied for third. Looking at their line-ups, it'll only take a couple of Boston wins or one high-scoring game to change up the leaders.

We still got us a contest!

I'm just not sure if I should be watching. Or who gets an advantage if I don't. Or if I wear a different T-shirt. Change my underwear. Opt for a glass of Chardonnay over another can of…


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 172: Interpretation


I'm gonna try not to take a side here. But I probably will…

After Canada's Federal election last month, there was a lot of whining from the losing parties. That's to be expected. Losing hurts. It's never pleasant to discover that a lot of your friends and neighbors don't share your particular beliefs and values, especially those which you hold passionately.

That's life. It takes all kinds to make a world. And sometimes a lot of us think "otherwise" or even "wrong".

We all interpret the passing scene differently, read into it based on our own experiences and seldom make our choices with all the facts we should have in front of us.

People! They're just not perfect. And they'll never be as perfect as you are.

But what has struck me most about the reaction is the ongoing unwillingness to realize that something has changed and that maybe something needs to be addressed in your own approach if you want to counter it.

I really don't have a problem with the young woman who put her job as a Senate Page on the line to make her personal statement during Thursday's Speech from the Throne. What she did took a lot of courage and commitment. She knew the potential price and she was willing to pay it.

Maybe her statement of hoping to spark an "Arab Spring" in this country was a little naive. But luckily she lives in a place where nobody took her off for a "Virginity Test" after she'd made her stand.

Overall, my problem isn't with her.

Moments after she was escorted from the Senate chamber, she became a hero among some in the social media. The same people who had for weeks decried Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "contempt of Parliament" were now more than happy to embrace someone who had exhibited similar contempt.

Perhaps not on the same scale or with the potential ramifications. But if you want to wrap yourself in a particular sanctimony, maybe you need to apply it to everybody and not just the folks you don't really like.

Moments after the above moment of protest, Opposition leader Jack Layton pinched his face and said the new government had clearly not taken his views under advisement in constructing the Parliamentary agenda.

Weeks after the election, he still seemed unaware that most of the country had rejected his personal version of the future.

Yeah, 60% of the country didn't vote for Mr. Harper, Jack. But 75% of them didn't vote for you. And 80% didn't get onboard with the other losing party's vision.

Maybe that means everybody needs to look in a mirror and figure out what they're doing wrong. Meanwhile, somebody has to govern on the platform that got them placed in the position of power.

You don't defeat an enemy by whining or insisting you have right on your side. You do it by getting to know them, discovering their weaknesses and using that knowledge to your advantage.

Winning is all a matter of interpretation -- as the last line of this week's video makes abundantly clear.

Think about what that message means to your own world view. And Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Infamous Writers Hockey Pool: Week 8

the fucking canucks

AAaaawwwww, is this fun or what!?!!

Just by a fluke, I had to be in Vancouver on Wednesday. And the minute I took my first breath of that clean Pacific air, I picked up the scent of something I remembered from Toronto in 1992 and 1993 when the Blue Jays were in the World Series.

I love the smell of anticipation in the morning. It smells like -- Victory!

Now don't get all envious or bent out of shape. I didn't manage to score a ticket to the game (although I tried my damndest).

But late in the afternoon as I rolled past the star-mural bedecked stadium and stared across a sea of blue sweatered guys all named "Luongo", I didn't feel bad about that.

If there was a free seat, it belonged to one of them -- one of the fans who has prayed 40 years for this moment and now gets to live it to the fullest.

I actually caught the game aboard a BC Ferry sailing up the coast, packed into a TV lounge with a massive crowd who had chewed their fingers to the quick.

There was a deafening roar at the 19 second mark when the Canucks finally scored. That shout echoed up and down the Strait of Juan de Fuca, rolling back to us accompanied by the whistles of other ships and fishing boats.

This country! Wouldn't it be great if somebody wanted to put it on television…


So Raffi Torres gets to be the first hero of this series. And who saw that coming?

Boston, you have nothing to apologize for. Both teams played magnificently. And if this series builds like all finals do, this might be the finest Stanley Cup series we've seen in a while. The Hockey Gods have truly chosen to bless us this Spring.


I'm told that while Canadian TV numbers are through the roof, they've taken a significant jump across the border and around the world as well.

In Boston, the game scored a 25.5 share. That's 6 POINTS HIGHER than last year's Lakers/Celtics NBA Final. Nationwide, NBC claimed the game had given the network their best overnight numbers in 12 years!

Hell, even Right-Wing, Football Lovin' American media pundits and Presidential candidates have taken an interest -- and they're not rooting for who you might imagine…

Here at The Legion, the competitions continue.

We've been inundated with entries for the Props Contest, thanks in no small part to screenwriter and legendary Puck Bunny, Karen Walton, whose heart sutures have finally healed after the departure of her beloved Habs. Karen encouraged her army of "Inkies" to get involved and a ton of them did.

It's so nice to see younger scribes adopting the debauched vices of their elders!

In the Main Race…

Tim Stubinski leads with Will Pascoe and Carleen Kyle clawing their way onto the podium.

Just a heads up that I've had two poolies contact me to say, "Hey, you got me down as picking this guy when I really picked that guy." So I'll double check all the entries when I get home to the files this weekend and make any necessary adjustments for the Monday report.

Until then, your full standings are: