Monday, April 30, 2012

Pool Report: Week Four Begins

In all the years the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool has been augmenting the Stanley Cup Playoffs with fun and suspense, this might just be the very first time Will Dixon is not walking around muttering, “I suck! I so suck!”.

Yes, there he is, nipping at the heels of Larry Raskin (not the first time that’s happened I’m sure) and looking like he might ride a hot goalie all the way to first place.

They both have the same goalie?


Well, this might get real interesting…

Another thing I found interesting over the 2nd Round games was how hard CBC announcers tried to whip up interest in all these “unknown” players from  “unknown” teams Canadian fans seldom see because of the net’s slavering over bottom dwellers like Montreal and Toronto instead of where the real talent lies.

“Fans in British Columbia might remember Shea Weber from his days with the Kelowna Rockets.” …as opposed to several all star seasons in Nashville.

“Drew Doughty, the pride of London, Ontario!” …and those Vancouver Olympics CBC probably thought nobody got to see because it wasn’t broadcast by the Mothercorp.

Meanwhile, there are a ton of Leaf diehards like me quietly enjoying the contribution of all those guys recently deemed “not good enough” to play for the Buds.

Nazeem Khadri, I got one word for you, dude –- Vancouver!

And for those thinking that there’s no “Canadian” team in the 2nd round, here’s a reminder. Phoenix has 15 Canadians playing.

So “Go Yotes, Eh?”

Maybe Dixon and Raskin are onto something…

go yotes

For the rest of us, the Pool standings as of this morning:


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 218: Caine’s Arcade

Like so many Kodak cameras, the Brownie Starflash sold well in its time, making it rather common for collectors today.
Not so common is this two-tone version, available only as a premium and not for retail sale. It sports appropriate Coca-Cola colors as well as a "fishtail logo" decal on top.
The original black Starflash was introduced in March of 1957. Other colors followed a year later. Production of the Coca-Cola model began in October 1959, and this example was made in November of 1959.

Up to the age of 10, my creative output was primarily rendered in pencil or crayon. Then my dad came home from a business trip to New York and presented me with a Kodak Starflash camera.

It was more flashbulb than anything else. But it took great snapshots and pretty soon I was the Ansel Adams of Regina’s South End.

Luckily, I had a paper route to pay for all the film, flashbulbs and processing I burned through. Even luckier, somebody at the store that developed my pictures took pity and signed me up for their “Kids Kamera Klub”.

That allowed me to turn up on Saturday mornings with a roll of film I could develop for free while learning how to take better pictures from a pimply faced kid in their darkroom who kept reminding us Klub members to carry our camera at all times, cause you never knew when the perfect moment might come along.

It also got me a free subscription to PHOTO magazine, which, as an added bonus to an adolescent boy, was chock full of tastefully lit nudes. It was always fun to haul out a copy in study hall and imagine those perfect moments while the teacher thought it was f stops you were boning up on.

Yep, every kid needs a creative outlet. And that admonition about being prepared for the perfect moment is no less important today.


A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a Youtube clip entitled “Caine’s Arcade” and made a note to make it my video post the following Sunday.

It’s a terrific little film about the power of one kid’s creativity, exploring the cardboard arcade 9 year old Caine Monroy built in his dad’s East LA used auto parts store.

His first customer turned out to be a struggling filmmaker named Nirvan Mullick, who just happened to have his camera with him to capture the moment.

But within days, the short went viral and I figured it would be “old news” to my hip, cool and utterly media savvy readership. So I let it go, until I learned what had happened after Mullick’s video went online.

Not only did it rack up a few million views, but the paean to the power of a child’s imagination caught the imagination of enough people to profoundly change the lives of both the filmmaker and his subject.

As a token of thanks to Caine, Mullick had posted a link along with the video that allowed viewers to contribute to the kid’s education. Barely a day later, the scholarship fund had topped $120,000.

Within a couple more, it had spawned what can only be described as crowd-sourced education, with kids posting creations the video had inspired them to share and adults recounting the importance of creativity in their own lives.

Three weeks later (today) Caine’s scholarship fund has evolved into a Foundation whose mission is to raise a half million dollars to “find, foster and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in kids.”

Mullick has been signed to create a TV series in which kids who create things are matched with entrepreneurs who can exploit their ideas and a Major Hollywood studio is negotiating the feature film rights to his story.

Turns out that pimply faced kid in the darkroom was right. Perfect moments do come along. But they can’t be captured unless you remember to bring along your camera.

Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pool Report: Week Three Ends


This is the point in the Playoffs I call “The Long Shuffle”. The first battle is over. Everybody’s hurting. And there’s still a round to go before the conference finals and the chance to claim any real kudos or trophies.

A week from now, nobody will remember who you beat in round one. Because you’ll be fighting for your playoff life with whoever you got in round two.

Off the ice, many at the top of the pool will begin a slow steady slide to the bottom, their best point earners no longer around. Meanwhile those who gambled on long-shots still in the hunt will commence their slow ascent through the rankings.

The infamous Writers Hockey Pool is still almost anybody’s to win.

Okay, not those of you who went all in on Pittsburgh and Vancouver. I’m talking about the other guys.

But let’s not have anybody with a lot of players still hanging around start thinking they’re some kind of hockey smarty pants! CBC doesn’t pay this guy $800,000 a year for nothing…


I’m not sure what’s funnier about that tweet, the verbal blooper or the suggestion that Hockey Night’s resident whipping boy has any say at all in what Don does on Coach’s Corner.

So let’s hurry on to Round 2, which kicks off tonight in Phoenix, with a full weekend of games to follow.

Let the Shufflin’ begin…


Monday, April 23, 2012

Pool Report: Week Three Begins

“Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Vancouver – the mighty Canucks are out…”

Yes, the piazza outside Rogers Arena is a lonely place this morning. Once filled with cheering crowds, painted faces, reeling drunks and burning cars, it has been abandoned to the waterfowl and a cold wind…

Oh, and there goes Ryan Kessler!


I’m sorry, Vancouver. I don’t mean to be cruel. I’ll let CBC News Network do that.

This morning a chipper young reporter said the Canucks loss was a good thing for Vancouver since it saves city taxpayers more than $1 Million earmarked for policing the Cup run.

It made me wonder if CBC realizes it could save all Canadians more than $200 Million by not buying NHL broadcast rights to begin with.

God knows, for those paying attention, the quality of the broadcasts on TSN and NBC have now surpassed those of their former mentor. And they don’t come with a game caller who can’t remember names anymore, a psychotic intermission blowhard nor his eunuch sidekick.

Am I the only one feeling the CBC is just tired of doing this and would rather be making a lot more episodes of “Marketplace”?

But the CBC and Vancouver are not the only mighty to have stumbled in the first round. Detroit’s out too. San Jose is gone (though they’re out early every year). And maybe hardest to bear for many Infamous Writers Poolies, so is Pittsburgh!

I’m not sure there was any recovering after Sidney Crosby’s “I don’t like them” Game Three petulance. Yesterday all 18,000 fans entering Philadelphia’s arena were handed orange T-shirts bannered “Guess what? We don’t like you either!”


Maybe this loss will mean that Sid the Kid will finally grow up. Because that would be great for hockey and its fans. Maybe it’ll mean the end of all those Crosby endorsement commercials for the rest of the playoffs. That would be good too.

No, huh? Too much to hope for? Oh, well…

At least hope still burns in the hearts of those still standing in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool. And even those who bet heavily on the Penguins can find solace in a series that was so high scoring their final placement won’t be at all embarrassing.

Four more teams will fall by the time the next pool report rolls around on Friday. But we’ll still only be a quarter of the way to crowning our ultimate champion. It ain’t over yet.

Here are the standings as week three begins:


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Pool Report: Week Two Gets A Suspension

Oh, the whining directed at Writers Pool headquarters on Wednesday…

“If my player is suspended can I pick another?”

“Since my guy was intentionally injured, shouldn’t I be allowed a substitute?”

And more than a few of…

“Why did I pick so many guys from Pittsburgh (Vancouver) (Detroit)!”

Yes, Life and the Playoffs are not fair. And I’m sorry things might be looking dark at the moment. But take heart. You could be this guy…

333luongo ponders

Oh, how the mighty have fallen this week! And sometimes they didn’t fall, they were pummelled to the ice.

And while I can’t help with explaining what’s happened to so many teams that seemed to have a guaranteed pass into the second round, I can clarify how the NHL goes about dispensing justice for all those attempted decapitations.

Herewith, the Official National Hockey League Suspension Guidelines:


Incidentally, if you love hockey humor and/or humor add to your favorites list. Given that we have a lot of first round teams on the brink this weekend, a few of you may be in need of a smile come our next report on Monday.

In the meantime, the standings of the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool as Week Two prepares to have its bell rung are as follows:


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beaten By A Dead Horse


Nobody’s perfect.

Least of all in television, where even approaching perfection is not enough to ensure success.

Exceptional television series are cancelled every season while those that insult intelligence, squander talent and revel in mediocrity live long and prosper. That’s just the way of our world.

It’s sad when we lose a good one, especially one that was as creatively drawn and professionally executed as HBO’s “Luck”.

“Luck” was cancelled last month following the deaths of three horses over the twelve episodes that had been put into production. Unfortunate circumstances to be sure. But not of the kind that should color our appreciation of what was accomplished.

Prior to the stable doors being closed for good, there had been an option to continue without racing and horse centric scenes. The series producers opted to make a clean break instead and shut it all down.

But it would be wrong to start a campaign to change the minds of those who put the series out to pasture. And it would be equally wrong to seek a way to revive it in a modified form.

That’s because “Luck” was a shining example of how impactful television can be, an impact that would have been rendered inconsequential by diluting its essence.

For at its heart the series was an essential exploration of the attempts we all make to find our own versions of perfection, of redemption, of healing what has been broken in us.

But if it could no longer be what it was conceived to be. If it could not provide all that it was meant to provide. Then it was right that it step aside to make way for another series that might find a way to reveal similar truths.


“Luck” was set in an arena foreign to most who watch television. It was populated with characters largely unfamiliar in our daily lives, horsemen and inveterate gamblers, corporate and organized criminals. And above all else, it was about horses and their ability to ignite something special in the human heart.

As integral as it has been to our history and culture, as loved and admired as the animal remains, the horse is a dying and disappearing breed.

We simply no longer have the need of them that we once had. Each year thousands who can no longer earn their keep are trucked to slaughterhouses, or worse, abandoned into the wild to starve.

Barely a century ago, great cities like London and New York were home to hundreds of thousands of horses who hauled everything from produce to buses and taxis.

They not only inhabited every farm in the country but were stabled in most private homes. They carried children to school, armies into battle and our heroes across the silver screen.

They were a primary source of recreation and entertainment, serving not only with their physical gifts but as companions acknowledged for the restorative skills of their gentle nature.

To some, the decline of the horse is a perfect metaphor for what is happening to the rest of our society.

For example, there are now six million fewer jobs available in America than there were scant years ago. Careers, even lifestyles which, no matter what any politician tells you, aren’t coming back.

Many of us have simply been rendered redundant, the needs of an ever growing population now serviced by technological advancement or other efficiencies.

But like the horse, the displaced are still here. And likewise, they have lost a sense of purpose, options for self-realization and perhaps even the ability to hope.

More and more one’s outcomes seem to rely on luck.

It was therefore fitting that series creators David Milch and Michael Mann used the last remaining recognizable domain of the horse as an entree into exploring those realities along with other elements our culture seems to be discarding.

Personal morality, ethical relationships, values once widely espoused and the boundaries of basic decency to other human beings and “dumb” animals were at the core of "Luck” and its story lines.

But most important was the horse.

Several times during the first season, there was a moment when what the horse is and was literally overtook everything else happening in the complex, multi-level plot, almost stopping time to allow its appreciation.

Gambling addicts, suicidal agents, mob hitmen, jaded executives and others would suddenly become equally entranced watching a horse do no more than what a horse does –- run.

Everything those people wanted, needed at that moment or most desired in life was suddenly made physically possible right before their eyes.

It was as if the famous line uttered by Olympic runner Eric Liddell in “Chariots of Fire” were being made flesh:

“God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

The pleasure that comes from realizing perfection, or dreams, or maybe just the original intention we had for our lives.

The horses of “Luck” gave hope to the hopeless, salved the wounds of past betrayal and promised that all we’ve been told is impossible is far from beyond our achieving.


In the wake of the demise of “Luck” many stepped forward to provide an autopsy on what killed it. But none touched the real reason it had to be euthanized.

Some pointed toward ratings, although the series was actually doing far better than shows HBO had renewed in the past. In fact, according to some, it held the promise of turning into a major revenue stream for the network.

Others claimed the deaths of horses on set had drawn the wrath of PETA, insurance companies, or was a PR problem that HBO executives couldn’t afford to have.

But the reality of the production was that “Luck” not only met or exceeded all guidelines the American Humane Society sets out for working with animals on a film set, it employed professional jockeys, trainers and wranglers already working for the Santa Anita racetrack, literally the last people who would have allowed horses to be mistreated or abused.

Whoever insured the series would have taken the inherent risks of thoroughbred racing into consideration as well. And they are not insignificant.

Last year more than 200 horses and 3 jockeys died on American tracks despite everything that is done to make them as safe as possible. More horses were lost on the opening day of the English racing season this year than succumbed on “Luck”.

Yet the negative publicity regarding those events was non-existent when compared with what was focused on “Luck”.

Given the planning that goes into any action sequence shot for film or television, it’s clear no one anticipated that serious equine casualties would result from the controlled shooting environment in which the racing sequences of “Luck” took place.

But they did and that meant that the showrunners had no choice but to abandon the series. When your creative theme is the inherent value of the horse to human beings you can’t undermine it by continuing to put them at risk.

If that seems like a stretch to you, trust me it’s not.

I’ve written or produced hundreds of episodes of network action series that required hundreds of stunts. I’ve been on sets where stunt performers have been injured, thankfully none seriously. Rest assured that the Monday morning quarterbacking and soul searching which follows is of a sort you don’t want to revisit.

If anyone had died, I know I would no longer be plying this trade.


And so, “Luck” must be sent on its way with sadness but great professional respect.

If you missed it, do yourself the favor of downloading it from iTunes. Unfortunately, there is no word yet on whether it will be released on DVD or an OTT service.

The performances of Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte are masterful, supported by Dennis Farina’s understated streetwise elegance, the controlled subtlety of John Ortiz and Jill Hennessey and perhaps best of all, the magical chemistry of the boys of the Foray stables.

No matter how often you were assured the characters played by Kevin Dunn, Ian Hart, Ritchie Coster and Jason Gedrick would die broke, you wished them a better fate.

There are also beautifully shot racing sequences and superb writing and direction that consistently underscore our forgotten or disappearing values.

But mostly there are the horses and the knowledge that if “Luck” had to be sacrificed for them, it was by far the better choice.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pool Report: Week Two Begins


Okay –- are we having fun yet?

Maybe not if you’re a Pittsburgh or Vancouver fan. But if you are – are you also wondering why your team has stopped playing the game it was really good at and opted for doing something else?

And what’s got up Sydney Crosby’s ass? If you ask me it’s gas. You simply can’t drink that much Gatorade – At. Every. Single. Break. In. The. Action. – and not be suffering some major gut-busting bloat.

How many of us are already longing for a time when hockey was sponsored by beer companies. They too might’ve only filmed one commercial for the entire playoffs. But at least they had hot looking women in them. And beer.

At the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool (probably the only place where such things are noted) the game has also changed. Maurey Loeffler has charged into the lead, well ahead of past winner Barry Kiefle and newcomer John Brooks.

But that could all change if Pittsburgh doesn’t turn things around on Wednesday night. And the way this season’s playoffs are going, who knows how many of the players we picked will still be standing by the time the next pool report rolls around on Friday.

All I know is, it’s getting rough out there. Wear your helmet.


The standings as Week Two begins:

week 2-1

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 216: Paw de Deux

What I am about to reveal will shake the film world to its core.

I have uncovered definitive proof that Jean Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol and every other one of those Novelle Vague Cahiers du Cinema Auteur Theory fucks who’ve made our lives miserable and bored our asses off for decades WERE NOT cinematic geniuses…

They were cats!

Enjoy your Sunday.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pool Report: Week One

week one 2012

It’s the morning after the opening night of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I’m in Tim Horton’s, sitting across from a fellow poolie. He’s won our competition in the past.

Like me, a guy who knows his hockey. Backwards.

I tell him he and I are tied for 4th place after three games in which the prohibitive favorites all lost. He says nothing. We both know that’s a good start. It’s just game one. There’s a long way to go. You gotta pace yourself.

“Guy in first got 12 points" I offer.

He flicks me a look, swirls his coffee. “Fluke,” he says.

“Yeah,” I reply, “Beginner’s luck.”

We sip our double-doubles in silence. Worried.

But as we conclude week one of the tournament, with one entire series yet to commence, another pool “Beginner” sits atop the standings.

Another stroke of luck? Maybe. Or maybe Karen Walton is just as precise, insightful and knowledgeable about hockey as she is about the writing game.

Traits you don’t normally associate with a Habs fan, I know. But there you have it.

With somebody oft seen in public wearing a skirt now leading our first pool report, I’m assuming it’s time for the trash-talking to begin in earnest.

Making fun of your opponents has always been a part of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with historic turnarounds taking place after the sports page report of one team’s jibe was tacked on the other’s dressing room bulletin board.

Times have changed a little. But it’ll be interesting to see how the Vancouver Canucks respond to this tweet from the Los Angeles Kings after their opening night victory.

La tweet

Ouch! Remember that “Are they really Canada’s team?” debate launched last year by CBC’s Toronto-centric sportscasters? Seems it rippled beyond the country’s borders.

This morning, Canuck goalie Roberto Luongo countered that his team has never lacked motivation. People in Boston are still rolling around on the floor laughing.

Enough little digs to get you motivated? Good! The comment thread is always open.

And the Infamous Writers Pool Standings at the end of Week One are as follows…

wk1 standings

Enjoy the feast of fabulous hockey being served up tonight and through the weekend. Next pool report is right here on Monday.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Canadian Blood On The Ice


In preparation for (or celebration of) The Stanley Cup Playoffs, you will find nothing better on the Internet today than Greg Klymkiw’s featured article in the eminent UK Film Mag Electric Sheep.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read something as insightful about hockey, Canadian Cinema and the nation’s psyche. Absorb this and you’ll gain a thorough understanding of a big chunk of who we are and why the gladiatorial tournament that begins tonight means so much to so many of us.

And if you want an even more immersive experience -- you’ve got until 7:30 Eastern this evening to sign on for the 6th Annual Infamous Writers Hockey Pool.

Free to join.

Three solid months of fun and frolic, suspense and excitement.

The chance to win amazing prizes from and rub shoulders with people either well on the inside or out on the fringes of Canadian showbiz!!!

Details in the post below this one. You won’t regret making the commitment.

But go read Greg’s awesome essay first.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The 6th Annual Infamous Writers Hockey Pool


It's the MOST wonderful time of the year…!!!

The Stanley Cup Playoffs, the greatest spectacle and the toughest trophy to win in all of professional sport!

lonely leaf goalie

And while my hapless Leafs have missed the playoffs for the seventh straight year; once again it’s time to separate the men from the fanboys and the real heroes from the poseurs.

This is the time for those with hockey smarts and the courage of their convictions to shine. Because next to getting stitched up on the bench or playing with a broken leg, the most venerable tradition in the quest for the Stanley Cup is the "Hockey Pool"!



Will Dixon and I have been organizing hockey pools almost as long as we've known each other. No matter where we were or what we were doing, we honored our on-ice warriors season after season by picking the best among them and placing a little wager.

Many seasons back, being thousands of miles apart and with most of the people with whom we regularly communicated passing through our blogs, we cooked up a plan to hold our hockey pool online. It was an astonishing success! As have been the four years that followed. And this year it'll be even bigger and better.


You join "The Infamous Writer's Hockey Pool" by sending me an email at with "POOL PICKS" in the subject line between 8:00 AM Eastern Monday (today) and 7:30 PM Eastern on Wednesday night (April 11/2012) when the first puck drops in Pittsburgh.

In your email, list the 10 skaters and 2 Goalies who make up your team. They can be members of any of the 16 teams competing in the opening round.


At least THREE of your picks must come from one team. Three skaters, two and a goalie, your choice. The point is to make a small commitment (25% of your roster) to a team you think is either going to win it all, go deep or roll up a lot of points.

The scoring is as follows:

For every goal or assist scored by your skaters you earn 1 point.

Should one of your skaters score a “Game Winning” goal, that’s worth two points.

Every time your goalie wins you also earn 2 points and you tally seven points each time he earns a shutout.

Shutouts in Stanley Cup play are rare and skaters will always earn more points than a Goalie, but this is a way of evening things up.

New this year, the pool will also award one point to a goalie who loses in overtime.

The 12 players you choose are yours for the entire tournament. As the teams your players represent fall by the wayside, they cease earning points, but their totals remain part of your total.

In the end, the poolie with the most points wins.

I'll post your team online. From then on, you can check your progress by visiting our private online pool site whenever you like. All players will be provided with a login and password so they can check their progress throughout the playoffs.

Once you're inside the pool site, you'll see all the information on the teams you’re up against. You'll also receive a twice weekly (Monday and Friday) update of the pool standings, which I will post for all the world to see here at The Legion.

See -- easy and fun!

The only thing missing is the chance to share beer and wings and make fun of each other's choices. Anybody who wants to open a Facebook group to handle the trash talk or Twitter their opponents has our blessing.

Now, playing in a hockey pool is very simple. But a certain amount of strategy is involved.

I've seen poolies pick players from teams that exited early still win because their players racked up so many points in the early going. I've also seen poolies with terrible picks come out on top because they had a hot goalie.

Like everything else in the game, it's ultimately up to the Hockey Gods.

If you're new to pools or the game, you can learn more on who you perhaps should pick for on your team by visiting TSN or Sportsnet.



Well, since gambling is technically illegal around here and Infamous Writers entrants come from several disparate currencies, your entrance fee must be something either related to your career or a sports souvenir you've acquired as a fan.

What you choose to wager is completely up to you and never revealed to anyone but the Pool Winner.

Once our winner is decided, all entrants ship him or her their prize. In the past, the winner's booty has included DVDs, autographed scripts, playoff worn jerseys, signed hockey cards and much more.


There will also be prizes for finishing 2nd and 3rd as well as our incredibly popular "Props" contest in the final round.

There are no other restrictions to participating. Just join up, pick your players and set aside your victory swag.

A lot of great Canadian artists (even some you might recognize) and hockey fans from here and elsewhere are looking forward to playing with you!

So jump in the pool!

Game on!!!!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Lazy Sunday #215: The Wall Of Death

I was maybe 12 years old when I first encountered "The Wall of Death".

It was one of those late summer evenings with the chill of a coming winter in the air. A night when school loomed in the coming week and you were trying to squeeze every last drop of the freedom and fun that had been summer.

My pals and I had escaped to the local fairgrounds, where the midway was ticking down to closing for the duration. But there was still time for a last hot dog. A last snow cone. A chance to find something forbidden or frowned upon to raise your status in the eyes of classmates while you were locked down for another year.

Back then, the midway still had freak shows and girlie shows and haunted houses to expand your adolescent horizons. But I was drawn to a wooden cylinder at the far end of the park that smelled of gasoline and echoed with the whine and backfires of two-stroke engines.

It was two stories high with a metal staircase to the top and a gangway that circled the 30 foot diameter. Overtop was a draped tent peppered with bare light bulbs that swung and bounced as the wind rippled the canvas.

Astride it were painted backdrops depicting daredevils riding the inner wall on motorcycles and go-carts. Most didn't even hold their handlebars, fearless in the face of what the Barker by the ticket window assured us was imminent mortal peril. And they even gave you a taste of what was happening inside.

Now and then a muscled guy with a pompadour and sideburns would straddle the motorcycle on the outside stage, kick it to life and ride a bed of metal rollers at full speed, so implacably unimpressed by the obvious danger that he didn't even bite down on the cigarette in his mouth to keep it from blowing away.

There was a hot blonde who came out to ride the cycle too, only she stood on the seat as it rolled beneath her, so relaxed you knew she hadn't even flinched when that flaming skull and crossed daggers were tattooed on her shoulder.

Every now and then, the wooden wall behind her would shake as the steel cables binding it squirmed and the engine noise inside peaked. Somebody was riding the wall of death.

Of course, we paid our four bits and scrambled up the metal staircase to see for ourselves. I'm sure the emotion was no different than kids my age felt 2000 years earlier climbing the steps of the coliseum in Rome or hurrying to the top of an Elizabethan bear pit.

We all want to see life challenge death and remind us that our only real enemy is fear.

Of course, in the end, it's just show biz, a trick of the light, a practiced illusion. The guy with the sideburns has a mortgage to pay. The girl with the tattoo reads a bedtime story to two kids before she goes to work and the tat comes off with cold cream.

Like Priests on Easter morning, ordinary folk whose job is to remind you that it'll all be okay in the end, there's really nothing to be afraid of. Go home and push your life beyond your own barricades of fear and walls of death.

And -- Enjoy your Sunday.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Lazy Sunday #214: It Never Hurts To Laugh

There’s been a lot of heated debate over the last week about who’s responsible for the ongoing labor problems at Air Canada. Some say it’s management. Some say it’s the unions. Many blame the government for interfering too much or not meddling enough.

Frankly, I don’t care.

I swore off flying the national airline exactly 8 years ago. Whoever is responsible for the too often grumpy, the customer doesn’t necessarily come first attitude is no longer my concern. I can get pretty much anywhere I need to fly in Canada via Westjet.

Cda Airlines Fuel

Whether my trip is last minute and urgent or burdened by unexpected complications, there’s always somebody on the staff (where everybody is also an owner of the airline) willing to do what they can to help.

It was on Westjet where I first heard cabin staff have fun with the mandatory pre-flight safety lecture, wondering how anyone could still find a seatbelt unfamiliar a half century after they became a compulsory accessory in automobiles.

Flight attendants are introduced by name and with some added, usually embarrassing, personal information.

On one flight I was on out of Calgary, passengers were directed to voice any complaints to “Cathy”…

“She’s back with us after taking a two week anger management course and we need to find out if it took ---- this time…”.

On a cross country flight, a perky Purser invited bored or noisy children to some empty rear seats where he would be teaching them to play poker. After the kids were returned to their seats prior to landing he again got on the public address system.

“I want to thank all the parents who let me entertain their kids. But it’s time to settle up. Katie’s dad owes me 200 bucks and Brian’s folks better come up with 350 big ones if they want off the plane.”

It never hurts to laugh, especially when the thorny issue of screaming kids on planes comes up.

Today, Westjet offered a unique solution…

Happy April Fools! And Enjoy Your Sunday.