Friday, March 30, 2012

Fight For The Cure

Back in the days when television was still mostly a novelty, likelier to be found in a store window than a living room, there was one program that guaranteed an audience -- Boxing.

Friday or Saturday nights, the ring bell that signaled the beginning of the Gillette theme song also signaled bartenders to turn down the jukebox and turn up the sound on the flickering grey screen over the bar.

And for a couple of hours, the new medium had audiences larger than what it enjoyed for virtually everything else it carried.

Perhaps the hope that history will repeat itself is behind the Sun News Network's decision to shift from talking political heads to those throwing punches to them this coming Saturday night.

Perhaps its just an opportunity to have some fun and support a good cause at the same time.

Ottawa based "Fight For The Cure" has been running an evening of "White Collar Boxing" for several years now to raise money for the fight against Cancer. Sometimes the combatants are legitimate boxers. Sometimes they're guys with some public awareness and a score to settle.

This year's event features Liberal MP Justin Trudeau going toe-to-toe with Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, both of whom have brought all their political and media skills to bear in hyping what's now been dubbed everything from "The Thrilla On The Hilla" to "Rumble On The Rideau". 

The two have trash talked, almost come to blows at the weigh-in and invoked every "Rocky" cliche in an effort to make this year's event the biggest fundraiser so far.

Tickets sold out long ago. But, as mentioned, you can see their battle and the multiple grudge match under-card live on SUN-TV Saturday at 9:00 PM Eastern and 6:00 Pacific.

Those driven by partisan politics or simply the value of supporting a good cause can make donations to the fight against Cancer here.

Would that more of our endless political wrangles could be settled in as straightforward a fashion.

Fight For The Cure Teaser from Media Ball on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Leafs Elimination Day

leafs eliminaio

Sorry. I’m a day late with this. But then, it does seem to come earlier every year.

But don’t worry. The CBC will still be broadcasting the team’s final two completely meaningless Saturday night games on the National network.


Well, because as far as the CBC is concerned, the Leafs are the only team that Canadian hockey fans want to watch.

I think it also saves on gas for the Hi-Def truck.

Cutbacks y’know…

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A World Theatre Day Message


Like many in the film and TV business, I come from the Theatre. It was my first love and every time I enter a live theatrical venue I feel a kind of serenity and warmth, perhaps a reminder that I’m “Home” maybe even back where I belong.

It’s not that the work I now do is less rewarding or less important. It’s just that it less often feels as rewarding and important.

Yeah, the money’s better. The audience is bigger. More people will know your name or see your work long after you’re gone. But the theatre, which evolved from religion as another way to serve the collective soul, feeds your own in a very profound way.

Most of what I am and do was discovered in the Theatre. May it ever be so.

And those values are no better expressed than in the words of commemoration offered today in honor of World Theatre Day by this year’s designated spokesman, John Malkovitch:

“May your work be compelling and original. May it be profound, touching, contemplative, and unique. May it help us to reflect on the question of what it means to be human, and may that reflection be blessed with heart, sincerity, candor, and grace.

May you overcome adversity, censorship, poverty and nihilism, as many of you will most certainly be obliged to do. May you be blessed with the talent and rigor to teach us about the beating of the human heart in all its complexity, and the humility and curiosity to make it your life's work.

And may the best of you - for it will only be the best of you, and even then only in the rarest and briefest moments - succeed in framing that most basic of questions, "how do we live?" Godspeed.” 

If you can’t get to a theatre this evening, please make the time to call one and buy a ticket for the near future. You and your work need the reminder and the restoration.

Happy World Theatre Day.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 213: Day For Night

Day for Night La Nuit Americaine

Back in the 1970’s, I had this sophisticated New York girlfriend. By that I mean she’d lived all over the world and comfortably conversed in a half dozen languages while I was still struggling to find the right words in one. She also knew more about foreign films than anybody I’d met before or have encountered since.

One night when I was in the Big Apple, she announced she was taking me to see “the new Truffaut” at a nearby art house.

I knew who Francois Truffaut was. I’d spent the requisite hours familiarizing myself with the French “New Wave” and frankly, back then “The 400 Blows” and “Jules and Jim” did not deliver the kind of movie experience I either understood or appreciated.

I figured the film would be a bit of a slog. But I liked going to movies and I liked her, so off we went.

By the end of the opening shot, I was enthralled. And when the final credits rolled I loved the thought of making movies more than I ever had before.

The title of Francois Truffaut’s “La Nuit American” is the French term for underexposing exterior scenes (usually shot in bright sunlight) so they appear to be taking place at night. Day for Night.

It also reflects some of the film’s themes, “What’s more important, life or art?” and “Where does the real world end and fantasy begin?”

When you make a film, the intensity of the work, the long hours and personal demands made by the schedule soon warp the reality you used to live in.

Your life prior to joining the company and commencing production fades into the background as the borders of a new reality take shape around you.

The work becomes all-encompassing and your co-workers become your family. Like soldiers in combat, cops in a rough neighborhood or a team in the playoffs, little exists beyond the task at hand.

But “Day for Night” is also a passionate recreation of the sheer joy of making a film, particularly in a montage sequence that blossoms at a point when the lives of the cast and crew are showing the pressure of the Real vs Unreal conflict.

There is simply no more beautiful film about the making of film.

If you haven’t ever seen “Day For Night”, do something wonderful for yourself and see it. If all else fails, it is available in its entirety on Youtube.

And to either whet your appetite or remind you of what makes movie making so damn special, here is a short documentary on the making of the film followed by that memorable montage.

Enjoy Your Sunday…

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Collective Vengeance of Rutherford B. Hayes


If there’s one thing of which writers working in television are painfully aware, it’s that you have to do your research.

No relying on what you sorta remember from high school, using that great story your aunt told every Christmas or even Wikipedia. Don’t get your facts straight, somebody’s gonna call you on it.

You’ll soon discover the quote you credited to Shakespeare was written by a beat poet who wants royalties. Your aunt’s tale was the plot of a Warner Brothers film unseen since 1952. And Wikipedia is about as reliable as the user photos on a dating site.

Sometimes the comeuppance arrives as a letter pointing out the gun your hero used fires five shots not the six your story needed. Sometimes its a hilarious tweet fest exposing your complete misunderstanding of current urban slang for sex acts.

No matter the message or messenger –- it’s embarrassing – and potentially costly.

Unfortunately, not doing your research often seems to come with the territory when you hold a prestigious government job.

This cop show I once worked on had an episode wherein a nuclear plant suffered a power outage that almost caused a meltdown.

Our cop heroes worked the terrorist angle, only to discover the culprit was a small time crook knocking out burglar alarms.

Nice little “didn’t see that coming” plot we all liked, although we worried about recreating a Nuke plant control room on our budget.

Then our crack locations team discovered a nearby nuclear facility had an exact replica control room used for training and were more than happy to share.

I went along on the survey and asked the power company guide if there was anything in the script that didn’t track with reality.

“All of it!” she said. “But it’s just a TV show, right?”

Then I learned that nuclear plants don’t draw power from outside because they can’t afford to be compromised.

I called my producers and the network. But they liked the script the way it was and figured that 99.9% of our audience didn’t know how a nuke plant worked either.

The show ran and they were right. Not one note of correction or derision arrived.

And then I got a letter from a major American intelligence organization, complimenting the episode and requesting a copy to be used in training their agents.

I wrote back, explaining why our “terrorist plot” couldn’t be replicated in the real world.

I received a very firm reply demanding immediate compliance with their request or the consequences would be severe.

Truth was not going to stand in the way of a good story.


Last week, President Obama made a speech designed to imply those opposed to some of his policies were social or technological Luddites, part of a long tradition of people unable to recognize progress when it was staring them right in the face.

He mentioned those who laughed at Columbus, didn’t see a future for the automobile and stated that the reason America’s 19th President, Rutherford B. Hayes, wasn’t on Mount Rushmore was because he had poo-poohed the invention of the telephone.

The quotes he used were all quite humorous in a “We’re all so much smarter than those people” way. Only problem was –- none of them were accurate.

In fact, they could all be found on a Wikipedia page listing “Incorrect Predictions” where many were falsely attributed or taken far out of context.

Hayes, for example, a career politician who enlisted on the Union side in the Civil War, was wounded five times in combat and came out of the conflict with the rank of General had, in fact, been the first President to install telephones in the White House. He was also the first to require his staff to use the typewriter.

Now, you can’t blame the President for that oversight. He’s got a lot on his plate and depends on a team of political strategists and speech writers to prep his public appearances.

They’re the ones who didn’t do the research. And their oversight, as the country gears up for an election, spawned an internet meme that became an overnight sensation, with Rutherford B. Hayes himself responding to the current President’s criticism.

Hayes 1

A meme that not only allowed the President’s detractors to poke a little fun, but to use the original mistake to prove the President’s critics were as hip to technology as his side.

Hayes 3

And what’s more could use it just as effectively to imply the guy in charge might not know what he was talking about on a lot of levels.

Hayes 2

Movie Star John Wayne was once quoted as saying, “Life’s tough. It’s tougher if you’re stupid.” And that’s never been truer than now, when virtually anybody with a web connection can instantly fact check what you’re selling them.

This morning, for example, I received an email request to invest in a film supporting the Occupy movement. Which, through the wonders of technology, I could do with the click of a key.

But via the same keys, I’d already read a CBS News report of an Occupy member saying the only way they can gain respect is by killing a few cops, as well as reports of New York cop families already receiving threats if Occupiers are arrested.

Kind of a long way from having those who trashed the economy brought to justice, isn’t it?

Do I really want to send money to publicize people thinking about killing cops –- and maybe their kids?

It’s become a tougher world in which to get people to drink your Kool-Aid, especially for those of us mixing the fictional version every day.

And the minute an audience realizes you’re playing on their ignorance, they begin looking somewhere else to suspend their disbelief –- or just find something else to believe in.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lazy Sunday #212: Remember To Breathe

Okay, so we’re all done being Irish for another year. And more than a few of us, dealing with the after effects are vowing to maybe be a little ‘less’ Irish next St. Patrick’s Day.

Maybe it’s time to consider trying on somebody else’s heritage.

So, how about mine?

I was born in Alberta. I left when I was 3 for the “home” province of my allegiance now –- Saskatchewan. But every time I travel to our second most Westerly jurisdiction, I still feel that I belong.

Like some of the Irish, however, Canadians can be quite sectarian. And Alberta is oft maligned as “redneck”, “right-wing”, “stupid rich” or addicted to dirty oil.

But that just isn’t the place I know or experience when I visit.

From an artist’s point of view, it’s odd that theatres in the country’s center of the intellectual and artistic universe are struggling, while many in Alberta have had their best seasons.

Toronto playwrights and dramaturges fret that a play about a fictional prime Minister might court disfavor while a Calgary  company drew raves with a show critical of the oil patch that was sponsored and supported by several oil companies.

Despite the negative memes, this is a place unafraid of controversy, eager to try on new ideas and willing to take risks.

It’s also breathtakingly beautiful.

This would be a great year to explore Alberta for yourself. For starters, it’s the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede, one of our most spectacular annual parties.

And there are literally hundreds of other things you can’t find anywhere else, from the world’s best dinosaur museum to pristine glacial lakes.

You might even be pleasantly surprised by what you encounter on visiting the Tar Sands.

My last trip through Alberta, I found a baseball cap inscribed “Canadian by birth. Albertan by the grace of God”.

It’s a sentiment most who visit will share.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

(Hit full screen and remember to breathe)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Pat’s!


I’m not Irish. But I was married to an Irish woman for about a dozen years, so I have a very clear idea of why you guys need to drink!

It’s become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition around here to share some of Ireland’s humor. Feel free to share it as freely as you share the Bushmill’s and Guinness…

Syria’s President Assad was sitting in his office wondering whom to oppress next when his telephone rang.
"Hallo, Mr. Assad!", a voice with an irish lilt said. "This is Paddy down at the Harp Pub in County Sligo. I’m ringing to inform you that we are officially declaring war on you!"
"Well, Paddy," Assad replied, "How big is your army?"
"Right now," said Paddy, "There’s myself, Seamus Murphy from down the road, me cousin Sean and the dart team. That makes eight!"
Assad smiled. "I must tell you, Paddy, that I have one million men ready to fight at my command."
"Saints preserve us!" said Paddy. "I'll ring you back!"
Next day, Paddy called again. "Mr. Assad, the war is still on! We’ve managed to acquire some infantry equipment!"
"What equipment would that be, Paddy?" Assad asked.
"We have two combines and Murphy's tractor."
Assad sighed. "I have 16,000 tanks, 14,000 armored personnel carriers and I've increased my army by a half million since we last spoke."
"I see…" said Paddy. "I'll get back to you."
Sure enough, he rang the next day. "Mr. Assad, the war’s still on! Harrigan's fit a shotgun to his ultra-light so we’re airborne and four boys from the Shamrock Pub have joined us as well!"
Assad cleared his throat. "Paddy, I have 1,000 bombers and 2,000 fighter planes. My country is surrounded by laser-guided, surface-to-air missiles. And since we last spoke, I've increased my army to TWO MILLION!"
"Ah, you have, have you…", said Paddy, "I'll ring you back."
And true to his word, Paddy called again the next day. "Top o' the mornin', Mr. Assad! I am sorry to tell you that we’ve had to call off the war."
"I'm sorry to hear that," said Assad. "Why the sudden change of heart?"
"Well," said Paddy, "We had a long chat over a few pints, and there's just no fookin’ way we can feed two million prisoners."


Monday, March 12, 2012

Quick! Look Over There!


Barry Kiefl has written a few terrific guest posts here at The Legion. The first was in response to his winning the 4th Annual Infamous Writers Hockey Pool.

(Incidentally, Year Six of the nation’s funnest hockey pool will commence here at The Legion in 4 weeks time.)

After that, Barry turned to what he does best, divining what is really going on in the secretive world of Canadian broadcasting. His three parter on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation might just be the smartest thing we’ve ever posted around here.

(Not sayin’ much I know – but still…)

But now you don’t have to come to The Legion to learn what Barry knows about Canadian media. He has his own Blog “Canadian Media Research”, today presenting detailed research that suggests Canadians are a very long way from abandoning traditional TV for the untethered life of online and over the top media.

As with everything Barry writes, it’s a great read. And if you’re in Canadian show business you should make a point of staying current with the kind of background information our major players and government agencies rely on in determining their next moves.

So, head over to Barry’s place today and add it to your list of essential sites in the months to come.

(But don’t forget who brung you to this dance – and start figuring out your Playoff picks, because this year’s pool is going to be the best ever.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 211: We All Start Out As Fans

Every artist begins by admiring another artist, then imitating them, then breaking away to find their own voice, their own style, their own vision.

There was probably a time when Banksy wanted to be just like Picasso. At some point in his life Aaron Sorkin likely sat in a Broadway Theatre wondering how he could move an audience like Edward Albee or Neil Simon. Kids first sparked by Luke Skywalker or Captain Kirk now write, direct and star in "Game of Thrones", or "Mad Men" or "The Republic of Doyle". 

Sometimes we stay within the genres that were our first love. Sometimes we end up worlds away. But we never lose that connection with those who first showed us the way.


This week, it was announced that Garth Brooks will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame after the most phenomenal career achieved by any artist in that musical genre.

In the eleven years between April of 1989,  when he released his first record, and October of 2000, when he announced his "retirement", Brooks sold more than 100 million albums. And while a lot of artists have laid claim to the "hardest working man in show business" moniker, seeing a Garth Brooks concert would convince anyone that James Brown, Prince, The Rolling Stones and even Bruce Springsteen need to take take a backseat.

His stage presentations are sprawling, theatrical affairs designed to thrill, surprise and utterly overwhelm the audience. And the reason for that is, as a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma, surrounded and drowning in Country music, Garth was a fan of KISS.


He bought all their albums, drank in as many live shows as he could get to and even wore KISS make-up. What KISS taught Brooks, and what lingered after he moved from New York City Glam-Rock back to his country roots, was that you had to give 100% from opening curtain to final encore. You had to leave them not wanting more but knowing that nothing more was possible.

I'm told that at every venue he played, Brooks would wander the stadium during the sound check, finding the worst possible seat in the place. And at the climax of each show, while singing his signature closing song, "The Dance", he would direct that moving ballad to whoever was in that seat, providing emotionally for whatever part of the performance they may have been short-changed.

A few years ago, on "The Tonight Show" and at the height of his fame, Brooks got to thank KISS for what they had inspired in him. His performance on that night illustrated not only how far he'd come, but how much he owed to the days when he was just a fan.

Never forget where you come from. And Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Crayon Is Mightier Than The Narrow Mind


Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion in Canada about Internet privacy, protecting ourselves from warrantless searches and other new ways government might intrude on our lives.

But there’s a story related to the protection of personal rights that has escaped the attention of many in the Mainstream Media and was completely unreported by our National broadcaster.

For the last two weeks, teachers, law enforcement and child services in Waterloo, Ontario have contorted themselves into pretzels to justify what they did to Jessie Sansone and his family.

For those uninformed or getting their news from the CBC –- basically, the same thing -- the gist of the story is this:

Sansone’s 4 year old daughter made a crayon drawing of a gun on a kindergarten white board. She identified it to her teacher as the weapon her daddy used to battle monsters.

Springing into action, the teacher informed the Principal, who informed Police and Child Services. When Jessie Sansone arrived to pick up his daughter from school, he was arrested, handcuffed, strip searched and interrogated for three hours.

Meanwhile, other police officers descended on his house, ordering his wife to report to Police headquarters while a Social worker took custody of an infant child. They then tossed the family home –- without a search warrant.

Ultimately, it was determined that the only “gun” in the house was a plastic Nerf toy that shoots foam darts and Sansone has never owned a real firearm.

So far, Waterloo police have been tight-lipped on any evidence of Monsters discovered in the little girl’s bedroom closet.

What’s more, it seems the crayon drawing has also disappeared, wiped from the whiteboard before any record could be made of it.

In other words, there’s no proof it was ever there in the first place, let alone that it perfectly matched one used in a recent string of Waterloo Pharmacy robberies, as police initially claimed.

“Sarge, that’s a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world! Man, that kid can really draw!”

To be fair, the pharmacy robberies must have involved a much smaller gun since Sansone was forced to disrobe, lift his testicles and bend over during his interrogation.

Or maybe the investigating officers were attempting to assess just how much the innocent man’s butt-hole resembled what they see when they look in a mirror.

Unfortunately, it seems Jessie Sansone’s story is far from unique in the Province of Ontario.

It probably takes a lot to shock a worldly man like Toronto radio host Mike Stafford. But in this February 29 audio clip of other parents describing their experiences, he’s clearly stunned by what this country has come to.

Now I’ll leave what happened in Waterloo to the multiple civil suits that are no doubt looming.

What concerns me is what this says about our education system’s ability to recognize and inspire a kid’s imagination.

When every childhood scrawl or flight of fancy is interpreted as a cry for help or evidence of darker forces will our children ever feel free enough to express themselves creatively?

Everybody who makes movies, either before or behind the camera, can recall leaving a Saturday matinee and re-enacting a favorite scene with their friends.

If that instinct isn’t nurtured, it never grows and we end up with dour, politically correct films that nobody ever sees -- like a lot of what was featured on last night’s (also unwatched) Genie Awards.

Are we raising a generation that will be unable to explore its creativity and, as a result, be unable to recognize, be moved by or even enjoy the creative work of others?

Artists work to access the creative spirit in the rest of us. If it’s been extinguished, they have no way to benefit either us or the society. And we have a far less accurate internal compass to guide us through life.

W.O Mitchell’s classic Canadian novel “The Vanishing Point” includes a telling sequence in which a young man’s creativity is stifled by a teacher, pointedly illustrating the pitfalls of frustrating artistic expression.

It’s troubling that the education system does not seem to have changed in the 40 years since it was written, doubly troubling when you consider that what the book has to say also seems beyond the understanding of our teachers.

You wonder how the average Canadian teacher would react when confronted by a drawing like this…

like mommy

This is from a wonderful new website Funny Exam which juxtaposes the creativity of kids with the inability of many educators to fully appreciate and therefore encourage it.

At least the teacher in this example had the good sense to ask this little girl’s mom what was going on. She answered as follows:

“I wish to clarify that I am not now, nor have I ever been, an exotic dancer.

I work at Home Depot and I told my daughter how hectic it was last week before the blizzard hit. I told her we sold out every single shovel we had and then I found one more in the back room.

Several people were fighting over who would get it. Her picture doesn’t show me dancing around a pole. It’s supposed to depict me selling the last snow shovel we had at Home Depot.

From now on, I will remember to check her homework more thoroughly before she turns it in.”

One wonders how much personal anguish could have been saved if one Canadian teacher had simply explored the creative spark of the child in her charge instead of buckling to the suffocating culture of the nanny state.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

The International Women’s Day Slut Link


There’s been a firestorm of controversy over the last week about American talk show host Rush Limbaugh calling a woman testifying before a US Congressional Committee a “slut”.

I’ve only listened to Limbaugh once in my life. It was June of 1995 riding in a cab in Nashville. He was on the radio talking about a homeless advocate named Mitch Snyder who had become so despondent he’d hung himself.

Rush did an impression of Snyder choking and strangling as he died, interspersed with some crude jokes and laughter. I asked the driver to turn it off.

Driver: “You don’t like Rush?”

Me: “I don’t like assholes.”

To his credit, President Obama called the young woman maligned and offered his sympathies. At a press conference yesterday, he said he’d done that to send a message to American women and especially his own daughters that such characterization was inappropriate.

His critics have claimed his motives were less about propriety than politics, and frankly, I have to agree.

Less than 14 months ago, the shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords sparked a similar debate about the language used in political debate, with many on the left insisting it was “always” the other side opting for the coarse, the perverse and the violent.

Yesterday, conservative writer Michelle Malkin begged to differ:

The fact is, "slut" is one of the nicer things I've been called over 20 years of public life. In college during the late 1980s, it was "race traitor," "coconut" (brown on the outside white on the inside) and "white man's puppet."

After my first book, "Invasion," came out in 2001, it was "immigrant-hater," the "Radical Right's Asian Pitbull," "Tokyo Rose" and "Aunt Tomasina." In my third book, 2005's "Unhinged," I published entire chapters of hate mail rife with degrading, unprintable sexual epithets and mockery of my Filipino heritage.

If I had a dollar for every time libs have called me a "Manila whore" and "Subic Bay bar girl," I'd be able to pay for a ticket to a Hollywood-for-Obama fundraiser.

Self-serving opponents argue that such attacks do not represent "respectable," "mainstream" liberal opinion about their conservative female counterparts. But it was feminist godmother Gloria Steinem who called Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison a "female impersonator."

It was NOW leader Patricia Ireland who commanded her flock to only vote for "authentic" female political candidates.

It was Al Gore consultant Naomi Wolf who accused the late Jeane Kirkpatrick of being "uninflected by the experiences of the female body."

It was Matt Taibbi, now of Rolling Stone magazine, who mocked my early championing of the tea party movement by jibing: "Now when I read her stuff, I imagine her narrating her text, book-on-tape style, with a big, hairy set of balls in her mouth. It vastly improves her prose."

Wait. It gets better…

“Playboy published a list of the top 10 conservative women who deserved to be "hate-fucked." The article, which was promoted by Anne Schroeder Mullins at, included (Laura) Ingraham, "The View's" Elisabeth Hasselbeck, former Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and others.

Yours truly topped the list with the following description: a "highly fuckable Filipina" and "a regular on Fox News, where her tight body and get-off-my-lawn stare just scream, 'Do me!’”

Ms. Malkin’s full column and expanded list of slurs can be found here.

The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2012 is “Empower Women – End Hunger and Poverty”. But in most countries it is set aside as a time to honor and praise women for their accomplishments.

And maybe that means we all need to clean up our act and treat not only the women, but everybody else in our lives with the respect they deserve.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Is There A CBC "Hush Fund"?

One of the things I and most Canadian Show Business bloggers are aware of is the timidity of the creative community in which we serve.

There's a palpable terror among so many of them that saying anything "provocative" or even the least bit critical will really mess up their career path, ostracize them from the circles in which they desire to run, maybe even label them as 'troublemakers' and 'undesirables'.

Yet every time one of us posts something in that vein, we're inevitably deluged with emails and tweets thanking us for saying what our colleagues felt they couldn't say themselves. Views rarely then posted in some format for public consumption.

Thus we become the perennial "man on the wire". The guy on a WWI battlefield who threw himself on the barbed wire so his companions could charge into "No Man's Land" to battle The Hun, and therefore was left entangled in one spot where he would also be an easier target than his onward charging buddies.

But without those guys battles would not have been won. 

And unless people speak up about what's wrong in the world, there's no incentive for anything to change.

The other thing I know about the Canadian creative community is that they don't watch the Sun News Network. 

Or at least -- they don't admit to watching it until one of the hosts does something deemed "outrageous" and then my Twitter feed is just loaded with tweets and re-tweets castigating whoever for whatever.

As a result, I'm never sure if the condemnations are heartfelt or merely a reminder to followers or fellow travelers that the commenter remains a card-carrying member of the herd.

Which means that I'm fairly certain nobody Showbiz related and reading this tuned in to Ezra Levant's "The Source" last night to hear his comments about the CBC.

And while some may choose to categorize what follows as just another "Right-Wing rant", names are named, documents cited and dollar amounts affixed to make the explosive argument that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation spends a significant number of tax-payer dollars silencing those who might criticize them.

If any of this is trumped up or bogus, I wouldn't want to be the Sun's Libel lawyer right now.

And if it's not, I sure wouldn't want to be the President of the CBC...


Over to you. The comment thread is open as always -- if you dare...

Monday, March 05, 2012

Time Has Come Today


Laws in democratic countries aren’t usually written to protect those involved in ongoing criminal activity.

Those kind of governments craft their legislation to protect the people, not the ruling elites or special interest groups.

And then -- there’s Canada’s proposed new copyright legislation C-11.

The stated intent of C-11 is to protect copyrights in the digital age, to ensure that those who produce creative and intellectual material are properly rewarded for their work.

Only it doesn’t do that.

Crafted to fit the needs of media conglomerates who hold copyright through their distribution deals with artists, instead of those who actually create the content, the bill continues a corporate process that rewards those who exploit and destroy the lives of artists.

In January of last year, as executives for the Canadian Recording Industry Association lobbied Department of Heritage officials and members of Parliament to plead the cause of copyright reform, they were also in court admitting that they’d been stealing from Canadian copyright holders.

Stealing to the tune of $45 Million – or rather – that was the sum agreed upon to settle a class action suit by the actual creators of music they had exploited for years despite contractually agreed compensation.

In other words, Heritage was crafting its new copyright regulations to fit the needs of admitted white collar criminals, enabling them to continue abuses of artists that have gone on for generations.

Perhaps we’ve come a long way from the day when mob guys jammed a gun in the mouth of Buddy Knox and threatened to pull the trigger if he ever again uttered the word “royalty”.

Perhaps we’ve just evolved to the point where the mob guys have law degrees and the guns have been replaced by public policy.

This morning, a photograph posted on Facebook began to make the rounds, first shared by artists who’ve been there and then by their fans – the people who elect democratic governments.


For the visually impaired, or those reading this on a mobile device:

I AM the former Lead Singer of a 60’s BAND. I performed before thousands at Atlanta Pop 2, Miami Pop, Newport Pop, Atlantic Pop. I did NOT squander my money on drugs or a fancy home. I went from 1967-1994 before I saw my first Royalty Check.

The Music Giants I recorded with only paid me for 7 of my Albums.

I have NEVER seen a penny in Royalties from my other 10 Albums I recorded. Our Hit Song was licensed to over 100 Films, T.V. & Commercials WITHOUT our permission. One Major TV Network used our song for a national Commercial and my payment was $625. dollars. I am now 72, trying to live on $1200 a month. Sweet Relief, a music charity is taking donations for me.

Only the 1% of Artist can afford to sue.

I AM THE 99%"

The note was penned by Lester Chambers, lead singer of “The Chambers Brothers”, a Mississippi quintet who became enormously successful following the release of their 1968 hit “Time Has Come Today”.

“The Chambers Brothers” released 17 albums, and their songs appeared on more than 200 compilation albums.

Their music backgrounded films, TV shows and commercials.

And yet, “The Chambers Brothers” did not reap the fruits of their labors. In 2010, Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon found Lester Chambers, then 70, sleeping in a recording studio rehearsal room. He had been living there for years.

The company that “owned” Lester’s music and diligently collected its income had a roster of highly paid lawyers and crack accountants and flew its executives to lobbying sessions with legislators on corporate jets.

Anyone who’s ever watched a documentary about a famous band knows there’s the inevitable point where the artist discovers the record company fucked them and there’s no more money.

But Canadian members of Parliament and bureaucrats in Heritage don’t need to look beyond our own borders to find identical stories.

A few years ago, I was driving with Dominic Troiano, famed Canadian rock guitarist and the composer on a series I was producing. I stuck a CD in the dash and Dom reacted to the track. It was his, but he’d never heard of the compilation album on which it appeared.

And, of course, he’d never been paid for its use.

A few years ago, the Writers Guild of Canada was forced to drop hundreds of royalty and fee payment grievances against one of the country’s largest television producers. They, like “The Chambers Brothers” could simply no longer afford the legal costs of taking on an intransigent media giant.

And the Canadian government actively participates in the copyright abuse of Canadian artists as well.

Telefilm and the Canadian Media Fund have both provided Millions of taxpayer dollars funding scripts credited to artists who did not write them but had a close relationship to the companies which produced them.

Even that paragon of national trust, the CBC, has strong-armed artists into accepting less than they were actually owed for their work.

I personally know a half dozen writers who challenged royalty settlements from the Mother Corp and ended up receiving as much as TEN TIMES what CBC executives claimed was a full and proper accounting.

A forensic accountant once told me that the only way to change what is a continuing pattern of criminal activity at the corporate level is to start charging and jailing the lawyers and accountants who help hide what companies get away with.

If that’s why the government is building all these new prisons, I’m all for it.

But an equally effective method would be to dump bill C-11, stop listening to those who have made it a practice of hiding what they owe to artists and write a bill that protects the true creatives.

If governments can argue that $12,000 in services per homeless person can save $55,000 in police and institutional costs…

If they can make the case that providing free contraceptives save millions in abortion fees, medical costs and providing for unwanted children…

Then it shouldn’t be too hard to simply write a copyright law which requires artists be compensated according to their contractual agreements with media companies and have their copyrights protected.

Time Has Come.


Sunday, March 04, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 210: You’re Not Paranoid If…


The last couple of weeks, Canadians have become increasingly concerned about the Federal Government’s proposed Internet Protection Bill (C-30).

The legislation seemed to open the possibility that law enforcement (and others) would be able to snoop on our online activities at will, raising the police-state spectre of invaded privacy and warrantless searches.

Then on Friday, in an attempt to get control of the “Robocalls” election fraud scandal, Elections Canada reached out to the CRTC for assistance.


Because among the CRTC’s powers are those of warrantless search and seizure:

As a Globe and Mail news item detailed:

“The communications regulator can investigate unsolicited calling activity without court orders. CRTC investigators can enter a company’s premises through the agency’s power of inspection without asking a judge’s permission. They also have the power to demand the production of information, including telephone records, without a warrant.”

Did you know the CRTC had that kind of power?

Does it confuse you that they’ve never opted to use it in all those recent instances where consumers complained of being maltreated by ISPs, broadcasters, cable companies and mobile services?

Were all those hearings we sat through just for show – to imply our concerns had been investigated and found unsubstantiated?

How come “Anonymous” spent its time threatening to destroy the Federal Minister sponsoring Bill C-30, when there was already a government agency – the one already policing Anonymous’ prime territory – with the powers they were campaigning against?

Maybe “Anonymous” isn’t as all knowing and all seeing as they’d like us to believe.

Maybe none of us really know what those who would invade our privacy and our lives could do if they wanted to.

Make that – already can do.

View the following and either become afraid –- very afraid, or figure out what we need to do to keep those who have no business intruding on your affairs from messing with us any way they want.

And then… Enjoy Your Sunday.