Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

sexy witch

When I was a kid, Halloween was just for us kids. A chance to dress up as somebody else, score some free candy and play a few tricks on people. Even if you went so far as to egg somebody's front door or tip over their outhouse, nobody got too upset.

But all that's changed. Everywhere I went today, there were people in costume and somebody else who thought their dressing up wasn't appropriate.

And I'm not talking about schools where the holiday has been dubbed "Black & Orange" day (whatever that means) or have requested that kids turn up dressed as a character who symbolizes compassion and caring.

That always reminds me of the Halloween I wrapped my school Vice-Principal's house in toilet paper while dressed as an Angel (complete with tinfoil halo). The concept that one night a year of childish debauchery might permanently warp a person's character or turn them down some dark pathway just doesn't make any sense to me.

Yet, I passed a zombie stocking shelves at the grocery store only to encounter a manager taking heat from an elderly couple who felt his outfit was too offensive for a place of business.

Over at Starbucks, the guys at the window bar were ogling a 20-something walking by dressed as a "sexy nurse". One of them later admitted that this actually made him quite uncomfortable since his 8 year old was trick or treating in the same get-up. That remark was met by troubled glances among his colleagues.

Like I said, some people take this stuff a lot more seriously than it warrants.

My day was made, however, by a burly guy outside the hardware store, dressed in the black and orange of the BC Lions football team and a dead ringer for their head coach.

"Hey, it's Wally Buono!" I chirped.

He smiled back. "Thank God somebody gets it," he said. "The last three people I met said I looked like a fucking pumpkin!"

As for me, I will join tonight's festivities dressed as I always dress, as the inimitable "Sexy Screenwriter".

And that's far from inappropriate -- even if only we screenwriters know it's not a fantasy.

Have a fun Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 193: Best Episode Ever

Route 66

Somewhere around 2004, the Internet spawned a new form of media known as the podcast.

It's unofficially defined as a digital audio or video file that is episodic; downloadable; program-driven, and has a host or theme or both.

For almost as long as most people have been using the Internet, there have been streamed webcasts, radio or TV broadcasts and digital files you could download. But this was something different, the evolution of a community, one that didn't yet know it was a community, in fact was mostly individuals in cubicles or basement offices, converging audio, the web and portable media players so the world might listen to what they had to say for a change.

In Communication terms, podcasting is what's known as a disruptive technology, meaning that it circumvents or end runs the established media outlets to distribute content to an audience it assumes has enough similar interest to find and value it. In a way, it's a medium where the producers are the consumers who are also the distributors and contributors to the conversation.

Basically, podcasts are conversations held without chaperones or gatekeepers, shared to spread the conversation.

In 2005, iTunes began offering podcasts as part of its download services. There are now more than 150,000 separate titles available, some numbering hundreds of episodes updated monthly, weekly, or daily. Add the number of podcasts hosted by other sites and their pervasiveness increases exponentially.

To a great extent, the people podcasting have never been part of a recognized media outlet. And yet their ability to inform, entertain and offer intelligent opinion often surpasses those who are well paid to do the same by the mainstream media.

All those who say they'd be lost without CBC Radio, NPR, Fox News or Pajamas Media just haven't looked very hard at what's available to them for free in the form of podcasts.

In the same way that the audience has fragmented, the business of providing us with our cultural touchstones has forever fractured as well.

And if you ask me, that's a good thing.

Those of us who work in Canadian Television are doubtless aware of Anthony Marco, co-host of Diane Wild's essential and perhaps definitive weekly round-up of Canadian TV news, "TV-Eh?". Anthony does several other podcasts, all accessible from his eponymous website.

Among them is "Best Episode Ever" a look back at television series which had a popular impact on the culture that is now in its third season.

I got to help Anthony kick off that third season by joining him to talk about "Route 66", one of the series that sub-or-unconsciously got my creative juices flowing before I'd even reached puberty. You can find that podcast here as well as episode two which features MacLean's Entertainment blogger Jaimie Weinman.

Our industry has always been driven by the arrival of new voices and new ideas. And in a media world that seems to be endlessly polarizing into Fox vs MSNBC and CBC vs SUNTv in a perpetual "He Said, She Said", perspectives that inhabit other points of the compass can be more than a little refreshing.

In the same way that I hope what I had to say about "Route 66" informs the way you look at television, I hope you'll search for what some of the voices of podcasters have to offer.

Like the incredibly infectious theme of "Route 66" it might help you -- Enjoy Your Sunday.

The episode of "Route 66" that Anthony and I discussed is also available on Youtube in its entirety. You can find it here.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Is It Safe?


Szell: Is it safe?

Babe: Yes, it's safe, it's very safe, it's so safe you wouldn't believe it.

Szell: Is it safe?

Babe: No. It's not safe, it's... very dangerous, be careful.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last few weeks (driven mostly by the dismal Fall ratings at the CBC) about when might be the better (or best) time to release Canadian content.

Some believe these series should have debuted in late October or November to avoid the massive marketing campaigns that accompany the launch of new American series.

Others predict they’d do better if they were held until the dead of winter, when the thrill of the other new had worn off, or maybe in the Summer, or on the nights major networks program repeats, perhaps even in non-Prime-Time hours, or maybe…

Oh…Stop it! Just stop!

You’re all starting to sound like Dr. Christian Szell, the Nazi war criminal in William Goldman’s “The Marathon Man”, trying to figure out if he can safely retrieve his stolen cache of diamonds.

I’ll be publishing several posts next week with my take on why Canadian show numbers are so anaemic this season. But I wanted to make one point first.

No time slot on television is safe. They’re not supposed to be. That’s the whole point.

The entire system was built to support the needs of the advertisers and the audience. The audience wants to be inspired, entertained or shown something they’ve never seen before. The advertiser pays producers to do that in order to reach the largest possible audience.

No islands of safety were embedded to serve the mediocre, the less entertaining or those who just feel they deserve a shot.

It’s a system that does not guarantee that the “Best” shows succeed. But it is one that makes sure that the audience always has a choice.

Maybe that’s not “Fair” to those who struggle to make TV shows and maybe it goes against our Canadian penchant for treating everyone with equanimity. But that’s just the way it is.

And it’s only going to get LESS fair.

The wide open Summer season of repeats has been closing for a decade. Upstart cable channels kick off new series every month of the year, maybe every week.

Netflix now has more than one million Canadian subscribers and will DOUBLE the smorgasbord of content it offers before Spring.

Others (like the Google Megalith) are about to launch their own viewing alternatives that will further fragment the audience.

And then, late Friday, Youtube announced a massive increase in their streaming channels, literally offering something for everyone.

Just what kind of channels? Here’s a partial list:

Alchemy Networks
Alli Sports
Bedrocket Media Ventures, Official Comedy
Bedrocket Media Ventures and Full Picture Productions, Look TV
Bedrocket Media Ventures & Wasserman Media Group, Network A
BermanBraun, theLOGE
BermanBraun & Rodale Inc., Vigor
BermanBraun & Rodale Inc., Taste
Big Frame, BAM
Bleacher Report
Chopra Media/Generate, The Chopra Well
Clevver Media, ClevverStyle
Clevver Media, ClevverNews
Clevver Media, ClevverTeVe
The Comedy Shaq Network
Cooking Up a Story, Food Farmer Earth
DECA, KinCommunity
Demand Media, eHow Home
Demand Media, LIVESTRONG
Demand Media, eHow Pets & Animals
Digital Broadcasting Group (DBG), Spaces
East of Center Productions LLC, YOMYOMF
Electus, Pop Culture Channel
Electus NuevOn, Latin Channel
Electus, Food Channel
Emil Rensing International, Auto Channel
EQAL, u look haute!
Everyday Health TV
FAWN by Michelle Phan
Fine Brothers Productions, MyMusic
Frederator Networks, Channel Frederator’s Cartoon Hangover
FremantleMedia Channel, Pets & Animal
Hearst Magazines, Fashion & Beauty Channel
Hearst Magazines, Car and Driver Television
Iconic, Life and Times
IconicTV, 123UnoDosTres
IconicTV, myISH
IGN Entertainment / Shine Group, START
Intelligent Television
Jon M. Chu, Dance Channel
Katalyst, Thrash Lab
Knights of Good Productions, Geek & Sundry (with Felicia Day)
Lionsgate, Lionsgate Fitness Channel
Magical Elves and InStyle magazine, Little Black Dress
Maker Studios, The Maker Music Network
Maker Studios, The Moms’ View
Maker Studios, Tutele
Meredith Corporation and Meredith Video Studios, Digs
ModernMom Channel
Mondo Media, New Animators
monotransistor, werevertumorro
My Damn Channel: Live
New Nation Networks
Pharrell Williams, i am OTHER
Philip Defranco, Sourcefed
Pitchfork TV
PMC Entertainment News
Radical Media, Education Channel
Red Bull Media House North America
Roadside Entertainment/BAC, The NOC
SB Nation
Seedwell, American Hipster
Slate News Channel
Smart Girls at the Party
Smosh/Alloy Digital, Smosh Animation
Soccer United Marketing & Bedrocket, KickTV
SoulPancake Productions, SoulPancake
Source Interlink Media, Motor Trend
Steve Spangler Science, The Spangler Effect
TakePart™ TV
TED Conferences, TEDEducation
The Bowery Presents
The Nerdist Channel
The Onion, Onion Broadcasting Company
The Wall Street Journal
The Young Turks, Town Square
Thomson Reuters,
Tony Hawk’s production company, 900 Films, Inc., RIDE Channel
Uncommon Content Partners, The Conversation Channel
Uncommon Content Partners, Taste & Access
Varsity Pictures, Awesomeness
VICE, Noisey
Vlogbrothers, CrashCourse
Vlogbrothers, SciShow
Vuguru & POW! Entertainment, Stan Lee’s World of Heroes
Walter Latham’s “Kings of Comedy”
WWE Fan Nation
Young Hollywood, Young Hollywood Network

If you’ve purchased a HD television in the last year, it likely came with “Smart” technology, meaning it can pick up anything streaming over the Internet, be it Netflix, or Youtube, so you can watch it right on the big screen from your usual spot on the couch.

If your TV isn’t so smart, you can increase its IQ for $99 by purchasing one of these at any place that sells television sets.

Television producers never had any business making programming that was just designed to be filler or made in the hope it would find some oasis of safety, where it didn’t have to compete on its merits with whatever was programmed against it.

Now, there is absolutely no place to hide.

And that’s a good thing. A very good thing!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Men Writing Women Writing Men

bring it

On a fairly regular basis, somebody looks at a show with promise that fell on its face, a newly released set of statistics or the complaints of some frustrated artist and wonders if television would be better if more (or fewer) of a particular gender were involved in its creation.

Such was the case recently with a Globe and Mail feature by Kate Taylor entitled "You've Come A Long Way -- Maybe". Which you should read because it's very well written.

Although you do have to get past…

a) The initial statement of fact that all American TV writing rooms are "bastions of male hackdom".

b) The assertion, despite contrary interviews with several Canadians, that "there's no reason to believe the situation here is much different".

And above all…

c) That the UCLA Sociology professor supplying the "scientific data" admits he actually "has not finished compiling" all the research.

Maybe that last is just where the concept of "settled science" has brought us -- or its inclusion exemplifies what passes for journalism in Canada's purported National newspaper.

When these discussions get trotted out, they inevitably evolve into wondering whether men can really write women and vice-versa. And around that point we exit the realm of making TV shows and get into personal and societal issues that have not much to do with the reality of churning out popular entertainment.

That's because most people who are intimately involved in the production of TV shows embrace the singular truth that "A writer is a writer is a writer" and the abilities of any individual writer have less to do with what's between their legs than what's between their ears.

If somebody can write -- and more importantly write the kind of show you're desperately trying to make, you don't give a flying fuck what position they take to urinate. You just want them nailed down in front of a computer and writing.

I began my TV career at a time when a lot of women writers used initials instead of a first name so that script readers wouldn't know they were women. I always had a special soft spot for those who chose "BJ".

And while the chauvinist producers and writers that Anita Loos, Lilliane Hellman and Joan Didion first made famous certainly existed and probably still do in some places, I didn't understand exactly why this hidden identity game was still played.

Because I honestly don't remember any producer I worked for who read a submitted script and remembered the writer's name let alone thought to ask whether they were male or female. Most often, the discussions went along the line of "What about the one who wrote that thing with the thing and the dog? We all liked that one didn't we?"

True, the first couple of shows I worked on didn't have women writers on staff. But they all had female supervisors at the network level, female producers, directors and heads of various production departments. Not to mention actresses in key roles who had input into what transpired with their characters. And many of our freelance writers were women as well.

So while I often heard "This script is a piece of shit", I don't recall anybody ever suggesting that it could be made better if a woman were hired instead of a man to do the rewrite. Or a man brought in if said "turd" had been deposited by somebody of the lady persuasion.

key to writing

I have no doubt there are a ton of women writers both my age and younger with unimpeachable stories of how they were used and abused and sullied by the world of television. But I'm just as certain those tales can be matched by any man in the profession.

Television is simply an equal opportunity user and abuser where, as the man said, "Good men (and women too) die like dogs!".

Yes, I know what the stats say about the percentage of women in writing rooms and how those numbers either don't seem to improve or do for a season or two and then backslide. And I can't explain it anymore than I explain why the team with the highest paid or best players doesn't always win the World Series.

If I had to come up with a reason, I'd say it had something to do with which showrunners have shows this season -- and what kind of shows the networks felt their audiences wanted.

That's because when I'm putting together a staff or making a list of writers I want to use, my only consideration is "Who can write the kind of scripts we need?" and that list gets further shortened by "Who's available?", "Who's reliable?" and "Whose quote can I afford?" -- or more accurately of late, "Who'll work for scale?".

I might get an additional list of writers the network or production company(s) want me to use. Often those lists include writers who are right for the show. And sometimes they include writers who are owed favors or have a contractual commitment the prodco or network can burn off if I hire them.

Sometimes the corporate lists include close friends, boyfriends or girlfriends. I try to shortlist the writers I think are right for the show.

And then the network puts a checkmark next to who's right for them.

And if you work in Canada, there's somebody from the government also wanting your staff to reflect some undefined (or indefinable) gender, regional or diversity target.

What I'm trying to say is, with that many different agendas being addressed, nobody is busy painting a "No Girls Allowed" sign to nail on the clubhouse.

Perhaps more important, no matter the final make up of your writing room, some demographic will be in the minority.

I just know there's always a point where I feel like a high school student council entertainment coordinator setting out to book "The Travelling Wilburys", who's ultimately thrilled that he found a pretty tight little "Bon Jovi" cover band.

traveling wilburys 

Yes, women currently only comprise 32% of the membership of the Writers Guild of Canada. But then, only about 15% of the entire membership is working at any given time. And yes, a lot of that membership (both male and female) don't get writing jobs or even job interviews because they don't have a lot of produced credits to prove they know their craft.

So, it would seem the real problem might be the lack of work opportunities that would provide production experience for Canadian screenwriters overall.

But if someone like Kate Taylor wanted to write about that, she'd have to start questioning the resistance to producing Canadian scripted shows that comes from companies like the one which owns her own Newspaper.

How many scripted shows is CTV (like the Globe & Mail a property of Bell Media) producing this year? One.

One which has a woman co-showrunning it.

Indeed, despite Ms. Taylor's assertion that "the situation isn't much different here", virtually every flagship show on Canadian television has a woman in charge of its creative decisions.

"Flashpoint" at CTV. "Rookie Blue" at Global. "Lost Girl" at Showcase. "Call Me Fitz" at HBO Canada. "Living In Your Car" at TMN. Not to mention "Little Mosque", "Heartland" and "Being Erica" at CBC.

Hey, wait a minute… Should Ms. Taylor consider a think-piece asking if all those shows created and/or run by women is the reason ratings for Canadian TV series have gone into the tank over the last couple of years?

Of course not. Because too many series created and/or run by men, "Endgame", "Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays", "Thirteen" and "The Bridge" have all tallied much worse numbers.

A woman writer I know once stated her belief that women network execs preferred male writers because they did not like having story conferences with women writers who might be smarter than them and male writers were also more "flirt-worthy".

Either of those assertions make me shudder on a whole bunch of levels.

The truth is -- the sex of your staff has nothing to do with the quality or entertainment value of your finished product. That's determined by level of talent alone.

And then, no matter what your sex or sexual preference, every writer can only pray (or "hope" if praying offends their belief system) an adequate audience finds and then keeps coming back to the show.

And even then -- you stand a pretty good chance of being cancelled.

As to "Can men really write for women and women for men?" -- that's pure Bullshit; the kind of intellectual nonsense reserved for network executives working on a doctorate in creative obfuscation.


For proof of how false and facetious this argument is, I'd ask you to surf over to Netflix and call up Season One of "Californication" Episode 12. Go nine minutes in to a conversation between a bride to be and her best friend moments before the march to the altar.

No matter who you are, you'll be instinctively aware of the utterly female truth in that scene -- a scene written by a man ("Californication" creator Tom Kapinos) and at the same time using language no male writer in his right mind would ever drop into any moment populated by drunk Australian Rugby players.

Good writers get it. They understand people. Whatever their sex, they know what makes the other tick. And they are intimately aware that unlike government bureaucrats, network executives or perhaps newspaper journalists, that each writer comes with a particular skill set that isn't replaced simply by bringing in a "different" writer.

Whether the works of William Shakespeare were written by Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe or the Earl of Oxford; whether the real author of those plays was a gay man or noblewoman using a pseudonym, the reality is -- that sonovabitch could write. Men and women both.

Are the men in scripts by Nora Ephron, Diablo Cody or Shonda Rhimes underserved by their author? Do the women of "The West Wing" and "The Social Network" come off less than real because Aaron Sorkin is a guy?

No. What determines character depth and worthy content is talent. And talent is not a quality reserved for those of any sex, race or age.

So, could we stop all this nonsense and just make sure that the best people get the jobs? And maybe we could also ask that companies like the one Kate Taylor works for start supporting the creative endeavors of a few more of them.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 191: Red Solo Cup

Country Superstar Toby Keith describes "Red Solo Cup" as, "The stupidest fricken song I've ever recorded!". It's also turning into one of his biggest hits, as well as the audience participation highpoint of his live shows.

And he's right. It truly is a stupid song. But it's also fun and catchy and hard to get out of your head -- although I don't think you can really dance to it.

But it also resonates with something which every screenwriter wrestles.

We're all familiar with the light and flexible plastic container manufactured in a variety of colors by the nice folks at Solo (trademark registered, I'm sure). And what's becoming more familiar to fans of the Country genre is how many artists are now working product placement into their songwriting.

To be sure, Country crooners have always sung the praises of products they used or admired or knew their fans used or also admired. Everything from Ford pick-ups to Kenworth Semis, Lone Star Beer, Jimmy Dean Sausages and pretty much anybody sponsoring a NASCAR team has been immortalized in song.

But lately, the line of embedded products has crossed over into what passes for the mainstream. Items that can be found in any supermarket.

When last I posted an attempt to coax my readership into the pleasures of Country Music, I mentioned some of the product placement in Brad Paisley's latest Platinum-at-least offering.

But here's the thing.

It's all over the dial now.

And it isn't hurting the content or enjoyment of the product into which it's embedded in the least.

Now, I don't know if this trend is driven by advertisers searching for the audience that now deletes them from their PVR viewing, or it's coming from artists trying to make up for the continuing downturn in music sales. But if it means I've got something new to bop along to in the car and it keeps Toby recording -- well, where's the harm?

And maybe "Red Solo Cup" doesn't meet the normally exacting creative standards of the man who gave us "Who's Your Daddy", "Beer For My Horses" and the "Shock'n Y'All" album. But then, Garth Brooks practically begged his record label not to release "Friends in Low Places" and absolutely hated the song until it pole vaulted him into selling out 100,000 seat stadiums in 3 to 5 minutes.

By the time he was playing those shows, he'd added new verses and turned the tune into a show stopping set piece.

We, who write, often overly concern ourselves with what best exemplifies our artistic image of ourselves or whether our protagonist will be corrupted if he holds a can of Coke or Pepsi or the producer wants him to hold one while we scripted him holding the other. Toby Keith has found the solution.

Just pour whatever you're drinking into a "Red Solo Cup" and proceed to party.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let's See Who The Boys In The Backroom Will Have

backroom deals

Every time politicians vote themselves a salary increase or new job perks, the argument is always: "If we don't, we won't get the best and brightest running for office." My response to this rationale has always been: "How come that hasn't worked so far?".

No matter which side or sidestreet on the political divide you've chosen to park, you're either openly or secretly aware that it's not just the "other guys" who consistently run incompetent dipshits for Public office.

We've all voted for people who promised to clean things up and didn't, level the playing field and tilted it or guaranteed hope and change that never arrived.

In just the last week, Ontario re-elected a Premier who has openly and unapologetically lied to its citizens and an American President sympathized with those occupying Wall Street while continuing to refuse to criminally charge "the banking folks who did some very bad things".

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, one arm of the government wants to outlaw smoking in all public places (interior and exterior) while another requested funding to hand out free crack pipes. Perhaps the hidden agenda is to get all the junkies to move to Alberta before lighting up…

Jesus Wept.

Are there no clear thinking, intelligent and passionate to do the right thing people running for elected positions anymore?

Well, of course there are.

Then, why don't they get elected?

And how come so many incompetent boneheads and brown envelope collecting scumbags do?

And why do so many who might make terrific Public servants not even consider the possibility?

Does somebody benefit from not having the best possible people in political office?

I've been asking myself these questions for a couple of weeks now, ever since a guy I've never met but come to consider a friend was mauled by a swarm of untruths and innuendo unleashed in a smear campaign against him.

Now maybe I'm taking this story personal because I've been the target of a couple of mud-slingings. And I gotta tell you, it's real hard to disprove a negative. About all you can do is say, "No, I'm not." But when a couple of people are saying "Are too!" and there's nothing on paper or even iPhone video -- well, it's time to hit the showers and hope you don't drop the soap.

For those who don't know this story, Anthony Marco, familiar to most in Canadian showbiz circles for co-hosting the weekly "TV-Eh?" podcast discussing current events in Canadian television, ran in the aforementioned Ontario election as a candidate for the NDP.

And with about 2 weeks to go in the campaign, the Ontario Liberal Party began disseminating out of context snippets from some of his other, more personal podcasts in order to brand him as everything from a Nazi sympathizer to cop hater and somebody you oughta think twice about letting near your children.

Now, from a political standpoint, Anthony and I are diametrically opposed. But I agree with about 101% of what he has to say on "TV-Eh?". More than once I've been absolutely thrilled that somebody who doesn't work in the industry can understand it as well as those working in the trenches -- but, unlike most of them, is willing to speak out about its many absurdities and corrupt practices.

Based on Anthony's insights into TV, I began listening to "Dyscultured", another podcast he does about Canadian culture and emerging technologies that should be required listening for anybody in the show businesses considering an expansion into new media -- or even just trying to figure out how to work their mobile phone.

Because of those podcasts alone, I'd have voted for the guy if I lived in his riding. For starters, unlike the Conservative party leader he was running against, he wasn't afraid to say what he stood for. But mostly, because I knew he would be somebody in the legislature who not only understood what Canadians are facing in the rapidly changing cultural and tech worlds, but could be a strong voice advocating on the behalf of both artists and audiences alike.

But the smear campaign won.

And a good man had his good name torn to shreds.

And the rest of us lost one who could've been one of the good ones.

Anthony has detailed what it was like enduring attacks that were both baseless and impossible to combat here in a log he kept of the events as they happened. On the same site you can find an archive of the daily podcasts he was doing as a candidate until the nature of what he was fighting forced him to pull the plug.

It's a must read for anybody either considering running for Public office or simply voting in an upcoming election.

We all know that politics is a rough and tumble game. From movies like "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington" to "All The Kings Men" to "Advise and Consent" to "The Candidate" to "Primary Colors" to the just released "Ides of March" we've all witnessed the drama of good men destroyed and those of lesser character succeeding.

Maybe that's the way of the world. But why do we put up with it?

Why are we willing to allow the lesser or mediocre at best govern our lives? Why do we regularly allow those who deal in character assassination, petty gossip and fear mongering to control how we choose those who would govern and lead us?

Are we that dumb? That small minded? That desperate to see somebody not much unlike ourselves tossed to the wolves?

Typically, we're told that the decision to smear somebody is made by the backroom boys in the party war rooms. It's not the people running, it's the campaign. But in the end, those elected get elected because of the campaign -- so aren't they the ones we should hold to account?

In this instance, it's clear that Dalton McGuinty, the Premier-elect of Ontario was aware of what was being done in his name to Anthony Marco. I wonder if he has the courage, the next time he speaks glowingly of Ontario Teachers at one of their gatherings, to explain why he allowed his minions to unjustly pillory a man those same teachers have chosen to represent their interests at the Union level.

Or is the Premier's real message, "I'll be your best friend as long as you don't get in my way".

And how do those of you who vote Liberal feel about your party going out of its way to unjustly ruin the reputation of a man running in a riding neither he nor you had any hope of winning?

Do you feel good about yourselves? Do you feel good about the people you give your time and money to elect?

Actually, that's a question I should be asking of anybody who supports any party. Because they've all done it.

And maybe, of equal importance, they've all done it with the assistance of the Main Stream Media in Canada. None of the concocted smears against Mr. Marco would have gotten past the press release stage if any of the newspapers, radio stations and TV networks reporting them hired journalists who either checked their facts first or weren't beholden to an editor beholden to assisting one of the parties.

To be fair, several did their due diligence after publishing and broadcasting the initial smears and dropped the story. A few more stopped rising to the bait in the days that followed as the Ontario Liberal Party continued to chum the waters.

But others just regurgitated what they were fed while their editorial boards had tea with the leaders trooped in to be scrutinized by the fourth estate so that each publishing empire could tell their readers who they had decided they should vote for come election day.

We long ago got rid of the corrupt and antiquated system where each voter had to publicly state their preference in favor of a secret ballot. Maybe it's time that corporate entities dependent on fat government advertising contracts also STFU and stop telling us where to mark that secret "X".

But that would mean basing a decision on party platforms and candidate qualifications rather than the spin the boys in the backroom want in play.

They're really the ones deciding who's worthy and who's not -- aren't they?

Towards the end of his essay, Anthony Marco wonders, given the trends in social media and online blogging, forum conversations and the like, where our future candidates will come from.

We all have online lives now. We've all posted a "Party On!" comment when a pal's status update says he's out drinking. Does that cost us the support of Mothers Against Drunk Driving? If we linked to a G20 riot video have we branded ourselves anti-cop? God forbid we ever hint at rolling a fattie or post a picture from a topless beach in Australia.

But what about being as innocuous as pledging support for one party when you're 18 and then changing your mind 20 years later. Does that come back to haunt you, make you a flip-flopper, indecisive or exhibiting disloyalty? The boys in the back rooms can spin "Love you, Mom!" into an Oedipus Complex if that's their intention.

And sometimes I think that's their real purpose. Not to get you to vote one way or another, but to make sure those with the smarts and the character to do what's best for their country don't win and those positions are filled with meat puppets so devoid of life experience, failures that led to insight and bad choices that made them better people that they will never question what the boys in the backroom want them to do.

After all. Cross one of the guys who specializes in spin and he can spin something against you. Even if he has to take it out of context or even better, just make it up.

Anthony Marco deserved better. And it's up to the rest of us to make sure that what happened to him never happens again.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 190: Thanksgiving Dinner

Like a lot of Canadians, I’ll spend much of this weekend in the kitchen, putting together a kick-ass Thanksgiving dinner.

Not to toot my own horn too loudly, but I’m a pretty darn good cook. And it wasn’t a skill I picked up from Mom or special classes or concentrated effort. I learned from watching TV.


When I was a kid, there was a British guy on Canadian TV named Graham Kerr aka “The Galloping Gourmet”. Kerr’s shtick was cooking a complicated gourmet meal in 30 minutes while simultaneously polishing off a bottle or two of fine wine.

He was funny and enthusiastic and given to breaking the rules of what passed for TV decorum back then, so I made a point of watching his show. And I soon realized what he was doing wasn’t all that difficult.

Meaning –- it was incredibly difficult, but he made it look far less daunting and something you could have a good time doing.

So one afternoon, while I was home with a cold, I copied down his recipe of the day and tried to recreate it.

Maybe I got lucky. Maybe my house mates were incredibly forgiving -– or just happy somebody else had done the cooking. But dinner was a hit. I never looked back.

If you ask me, the secret to cooking is not taking it too seriously. I mean, unless you’re cooking Fugu, how bad can you really fuck up?

And unlike the modern TV meme, you don’t have Gordon Ramsay or some douchey Iron Chef judge waiting to take you apart.

So, just have fun. And if having fun includes a couple of beverages, even better. As the following exemplifies…

Happy Thanksgiving! And Enjoy your Sunday…

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Lazy Sunday #189: Maximall

Famous last words, but by the end of the weekend, Life should be pretty much back to normal. 

Once all systems undergo the final pre-launch check, regular blogging will resume next week.  Lots of thoughts about the new TV season, the apparent seismic shift at the CRTC, Copyright, new production models and where it all might be leading us.

Let's hope some of it will be in creative directions like the one that follows. Click on "Full Screen" because the detail here is nothing short of amazing. And, of course...

Enjoy Your Sunday!

Maximall from Axel Tillement on Vimeo.


For those in search of something more substantial...