Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 226: The Deconstructors

Mcdonalds Advertising

It’s always easier to tear something down than build it up. Easier to take apart what’s been made than figure out how to create from nothing in the first place.

The work of hundreds making what they hope millions might enjoy is undone by one who likely has never made anything but knows how to knock it down –- or maybe just knock it.

And often this deconstruction isn’t based on what’s desired by those millions awaiting satiation. But because it just isn’t what that one guy, the deconstructionist, thought it would be.

In other words, in this age of entitlement, we’ve reached a stage where some people assume that everything must meet what they anticipated regardless of its original intent.

All needs must be subservient to my need.

This week, three deconstructions crossed my path involving actor Tom Cruise, writer Aaron Sorkin and a cheeseburger.

Cruise and his new movie “Rock of Ages” were lambasted by a TV critic because while it purported to be about music of the 80’s, it didn’t include the music of the 80’s this guy preferred and also didn’t include those big production numbers he’s used to seeing in movie musicals.

Oh yeah, and even though he’s a movie star, what made Tom Cruise think he could portray a rock star!

Short message: Movie wasn’t what I thought it should be, so don’t you go see it.

Nearby, esteemed TV critics were taking apart Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO series “The Newsroom” because while Sorkin is a well known advocate of the Left, he let the side down this time by missing some of the bases on what should’ve been a home run.

Okay. Not exactly sure when story structure had to align with ideology. But it seems we’ve gotten there.

Short message: Series isn’t what I thought it should be. So don’t you watch it.

Meanwhile, the fact that a McDonald’s Cheeseburger doesn’t look exactly as it does in its ads upset somebody else somewhere.

Short message: McDonald’s is putting lipstick on a McRib.

One of the elements essential to consensus media is that we all share the same cultural touchstones. It’s the only way sound bites and surface analysis can succeed.

Therefore, we’re supposed to come to the discussion accepting the settled cultural science.Tom Cruise is weird. Aaron Sorkin thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. McDonald’s ethics are as empty as their calories.

And there may be some truth in all of those things. But what that shorthand also does is make it possible to simply dismiss the work by pushing one overused button.

When I was coming up through the theatre, I was taught that critics were a necessary evil, guiding the public to what was best for them. But over time I learned to eliminate “necessary” as a descriptor.

Because there’s increasing proof that more and more critics consider their own needs above that of the intended audience.

The other night, I went to see “Rock of Ages” and I had a blast. Basically, if you’ve ever been eighteen years old, had a hot girlfriend/boyfriend and dreamt of being a rock star, you’ll get what it’s about.

And not being able to notch two of those three points likely illustrates how you become a film critic.

Now don’t get me wrong. “Rock of Ages” is no “Citizen Kane”. And it’s not even trying to be. It’s a movie about “sweat, ear-shattering music and puke”.

And at its core is a spectacular performance from Cruise. At times drop dead funny, at others moving and insightful. Maybe he’s not Jon Bon Jovi, but he’s close enough for Rock ‘n Roll.

After the movie, I grabbed a McDonald’s cheeseburger. The thought of comparing it to the poster at the counter before devouring it never even crossed my mind. And you know what? It tasted great.

And tonight, despite all the naysayers, I’ll be hunkered in front of the tube watching “The Newsroom”. Because even if it sucks donkey balls, the craft behind it will be superior to about 99% of everything else on television.

Score for the weekend:

Me & The Creatives: 3 Deconstructors: 0

From here on, I’m only taking guidance from people who’ve laced up the boots and gotten in the ring. The ones who’ve been there and know; as opposed to those sitting on the curb, making a list of what it’ll have to be before they’re anywhere close to happy.

Maybe you should do the same. Enjoy Your Sunday.




Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mea Máxima Culpa

pussy bull
I fucked up on Sunday night. Big time. 

Now I don’t fuck up often. Once an hour at most. And doing it large only happens maybe two, three times a week. 

But this one was notable in that it involved television, the internet and a momentary lapse in etiquette which incurred the wrath of an army of internet trolls.

Okay. Not an army. One guy. 

And not so much a troll as a pissed off fellow screenwriter –- which, believe me, can be a whole lot worse.

Said writer was in LA and I was a little further up the same coast just done watching the Season Two finale of AMC’s “The Killing” which I didn’t find as big a letdown as the infamous climax of season one. 

But it had some fairly obvious problems. God, what is it with that show’s writer room?
Anyway. Watched the repeat to make sure I hadn’t “mis-viewed” and then went online to find out if anybody else shared my concerns.

Meanwhile, down South this other writer was –- well, I don’t actually know what fellow scribe was doing. But I’m sure his Sundays are not unlike my own in Hollywood.

So I’ll assume he’d just gotten in from a full day of doing rip curls on Muscle Beach, sponged off the spray tan and olive oil combo we WGA types use to enhance pectoral definition and had cracked the twist top of a crisp Chardonnay currently on special at Ralph’s. 

He was about to settle in as his PVR unspooled “The Killing” but took a moment to scan his social media feeds first. 

And that’s when we collided. 

For I had forgotten to preface my musings with that well known internet version of the rotting lung on a cigarette pack -- the “Spoiler Alert”…

His evening lay in ruins. A Hiroshima landscape where once had stood the excited possibility of unmasking Rosie Larsen’s killer.

Not through any intent or malice. But because I had fucked up. 

He vented.

I brushed it off with attempts at humor. 

He vented back. His hurt palpable between the lines. 

I considered admitting I was an aging MoFo who doesn’t necessarily have his concentration laser-locked when the clock nears midnight. But I apologized instead.

He gallantly apologized back. We of the tribe of writers are like that, preferring our conflict remain on the page. But I knew he didn’t really mean it because by nature we’re also fairly passive-aggressive.

And it got me wondering. What are the ground rules for spoilers anyway?
William Graham of the British publication “Radio Times” recalls being excoriated by readers for giving away the ending of “Twin Peaks” –- sixteen years after the show ended.

At the other end of the scale, fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” went ballistic at the demise of a beloved character during this season’s finale and had their outrage (and spoilers) trending on Twitter before the credits had finished rolling.

I know because I got the news from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which doesn’t even broadcast “Grey’s Anatomy” but ranks trending topics on Twitter far above any economic apocalypse or outbreak of war in the Middle East in its newscasts.

Now, I’m certain that somewhere between those two extremes lies the happy medium, the point where it’s okay to talk about a TV show, a movie or who won the Gemini for best performance by a sportscaster in a new media mobile platform, without upsetting somebody who hasn’t experienced them yet.

This business used to be one where TV shows or movies ran once and then disappeared until Summer reruns or somebody opened a grindhouse theatre. If you missed it, you missed it.
When I was a kid I was sick a lot and sometimes I think I only maintained my connection to the culture because I had a friend who could act out every episode of “Maverick” and “The Munsters” almost word perfect.

But now we can get anything anytime and in almost every viewing format imaginable. But that means we’re not all watching the same thing at the same time, or even the same week or month.
How is anybody supposed to be able to take into account everybody else’s viewing priorities or know that somebody doesn’t get HBO and wants to wait until the “Game of Thrones” DVDs go on sale?

And is figuring out when the quarantine period is over complicated by knowing the vast majority of the people buying those DVDs have already seen the series online?

Has my own enjoyment of “Prometheus” been spoiled simply because I’ve yet to meet anybody who has seen it and liked it?

And what do we do about Critics? 

This afternoon I read the New Yorker review of Aaron Sorkin’s new series “The Newsroom”. And while I don’t know what happens, I’ve got a pretty clear preconception of three of the minor characters that’s gonna be awful hard to shake.

Is something gained or lost when we blinker our selection process or cloister our reactions?

Maybe the real question is, when did we become a culture entitled to enjoy popular entertainment on our own terms and not as the transitory shared experiences they have always been meant to be?

That doesn’t absolve me of harming the experience for somebody else. But it does make me wonder when and where those of us who’ve shared it discuss our reactions.

And as far as “The Killing” goes…


There’s holes in that final episode you could fucking fly an Airbus A-380 through…
Just sayin’.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Be Here Now

slaughter nick

A couple of years ago, I offered a heads up on a documentary of which I’d only seen snippets entitled “Slaughter Nick for President” made by actor friend Rob Stewart and the talented sibling filmmaking team of Mark and Liza Vespi.

“Slaughter Nick” made its debut last weekend to sold out theatres in Toronto and Belgrade, thoroughly delighting audiences on both continents and attracting interest that will soon bring it to the rest of the world.

I gotta say I’m incredibly proud to have been a very tiny part in getting the word out on such a special story.

And since I’m one for one at picking must-see documentaries, maybe you’ll take my word about the next one – and perhaps even help to get it finished.

In 2010, Welsh born Australian actor Andy Whitfield landed what he called his “dream role”, the title character in “Spartacus: Blood and Sand”.

And he repaid the honor, imbuing the legendary rebel gladiator with a grace and sincerity that made the series a worldwide hit.

But at the end of the physically gruelling shoot, Whitfield was afflicted with pains that simply wouldn’t go away and ultimately diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The actor fought as hard against the disease as he had opponents in the fictional forum of ancient Capua. And as a sign of the high regard they held for him, the production company set aside an already scripted second season to film six prequel episodes, buying the time he needed to get his health back.

But that was not to be. And after being part of the process to select the actor who would replace him, Andy Whitfield passed away in September of last year.

But that’s not the end of the story…

When he was first diagnosed, Whitfield decided to face the disease the way he had approached everything else in his life, facing down fear and living in the present whatever the outcome.

He recruited award winning filmmaker, Lilibet Foster, to record everything that happened. And that film is now seeking backers to complete what promises to be a powerful and uplifting work.

At this point, “Be Here Now”, titled for the tattoo Andy Whitfield wore on his arm, is more than halfway to its goal. But it could use your help. I doubt you will regret the contribution.

You might think there’s no connection between a film about an unknown Canadian actor whose unheralded work sparked a revolution and one about an international star losing his life to Cancer. But there is.

Both illustrate that no matter who you are your life and your story matter little to those who presume to know what truly touches and moves an audience.

They also reveal that filmmakers who care can always find a way past the gatekeepers and bring us the hope and inspiration we all so desperately need in our lives.

You can make your investment to “Be Here Now” here. And here’s a sample of what you will bring into the world as a result…

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lazy Sunday #225: The Wiener’s Circle

We all know the difference between reality and what we see on TV.

Or we used to.

TV’s gotten better at mixing up or hiding what’s real and what’s not. What we thought were “reality shows” are now being exposed as just as manufactured as their competing dramas.

Even news shows blur the lines to stir up a little excitement.

This week MSNBC anchor Martin Bashir read a story of Republican Candidate Mitt Romney embarking on a bus tour Bashir felt might go awry. This was followed by shots of buses blowing up.

Bad joke? Unfulfilled hope for a better lead? Either way, nothing to do with news –- and not much with entertainment either.

And most of the other networks are not any better. On Friday, ABC’s coverage of Nik Wallenda’s tightrope walk across Niagara Falls kept insisting “this has never happened before” omitting mention of the dozens of daredevils who’ve done the same stunt.

It’s as if TV is making a concerted effort to make sure we don’t know what’s really going on.

Case in point – The Wiener’s Circle, a Chicago burger joint famous for the way its staff insults its clientele.

This week Conan O’Brien did an extended segment on the Weiner’s Circle that’s gone viral – and it’s funny as hell.

But the reality of The Wiener’s Circle is something quite different.

Here at “The Legion” we show you both sides…

Even if the truth hurts -- Enjoy Your Sunday.

From “Conan”:

From “This American Life”:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

We Got A Winner!!!


It’s a Hollywood ending. The Kings are Kings. And as we writers all know –- it’s good to be the King. Because in Hollywood, Content is King.

And in the end, the Kings became Kings because of what Martin Luther King called the Content of their character.

The last team anybody thought could win it all, never gave up or gave in. Working as a team, they beat the top three seeds in the West and defeated the gritty, experienced champions of the East.

These guys earned it. And deserved it. They epitomized what Sports Champions are supposed to be. Good on ‘em!

And good on the winners in the Sixth Annual Infamous Writers Hockey Pool in what’s been a crazy and unpredictable year!

David Kinahan takes the PROPS competition by a single point over a pack of second place entries!

In the Big Contest…

Not that this wasn’t obvious for about a week…

Maurey Loeffler finishes First!

What can I say. Good Saskatchewan Boy!


John McFetridge and Mike Vardy tie for 2nd in a dead heat.

I'll be in touch with all the winners over the next couple of days and Maurey’s address will be passed on to all poolies, so the booty of their choosing can be delivered to him.

The Legion will take care of rewarding our two 2nd Place finishers and the Props winner.

And then the 2011-12 Season will be a wrap.

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

And for those hungry to redeem themselves, the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool will be back for a Seventh Season next April.

Perhaps finally featuring my beloved Maple Leafs…

Too soon?

Well, we can dream.

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

Your final standings:


Monday, June 11, 2012

Pool Report: Week Ten Begins


So here we are. The final two teams raging against the dying of the light – which sadly, comes this week.

It’s said of death – “For each of us, there comes a day that is like any other – only shorter.”

And so it is with Playoff Hockey. The end might arrive tonight. It might be Wednesday. All we know for sure is that come Saturday Night CBC will be showing movies everybody bought on Blu-ray years ago or can see anytime they like on Netflix.

Ten weeks ago we started with 16 teams and within the next 72 hours only one set of fans will be left standing.


And maybe it’s time to say that much as we all love hockey –- the NHL Playoffs go on far, far too long.

Mostly for broadcast reasons, there have been 2, 3 and even 4 day breaks in the action this season.

Maybe that ensures teams get more rest and players more time to heal. But ultimately it’s counter-productive.

Marginal fans lose interest. Even die-hards begin to skip games to keep up with the rest of their lives. And ultimately, the broadcasters its all done to serve don’t benefit either.


This year the NHL got a dream match-up between the two largest population centers in the US. But by the time they got there, the more-attractive-to-Americans NBA Finals had reached their penultimate pairings and hockey’s TV ratings went into the tank.

Tonight’s potential final game goes up against the first game of the NHL finals, so those ratings will get even worse.

Maybe more frightening, by the time the NHL Awards hit Las Vegas next week, its star players risk bumping into the shootouts that inevitably accompany NBA Championship wins and losses.


Vancouver might have rioted after last year’s championship loss but nobody died. Meanwhile, eight NBA fans were shot in Oklahoma City after their team WON in the Quarter-Finals!

All that said – we’ve still had some spectacular hockey and with only a few hours of it left, make sure you get enough of a fix to get you through the summer.

Short as that may be in those parts of the country where it has yet to arrive…

The standings in the Infamous Writers Pool as we go into the final week:


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 224: Green Jobbed

We all know that those in government are skilled at shaping reality to suit their purpose. Most often that’s done by playing with numbers and language.

And though we’re all aware that… “There are lies, damned lies and statistics!” and Orwellian doublespeak (“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” ) isn’t restricted to the pages of “1984” –- we keep buying into what they’re selling.

I mean, seriously, is oil that tramples on the rights of Aboriginal Canadians really more “ethical” than the stuff that subjugates the rights of women in Saudi Arabia?

I think we go along with this stuff because we really would like to believe that the people we selected to govern us are honestly trying to make things better.

And maybe they’re only human and doing the best they can. Maybe they’re merely trying to cover up their shortcomings or that our problems don’t have easy solutions.

Or maybe they had no intention of doing what they promised all along.

The following is from a Congressional hearing in Washington last week about what constitutes a “Green Job” -- the kind of future employment designed to save both the American economy and the environment.

Let’s just say the list (which begins at 3:15) isn’t quite what you may have pictured in considering how to save either one.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Pool Report: Week Nine Ends

Now, if you don’t know what this fetching young lady has to do with the Stanley Cup Playoffs, you’re just not paying attention…

That’s Taylor Stevens, an LA Porn Star originally from Toronto and a die hard Leafs fan (so she comes to her desire to finally back a Cup winner honestly).

Anyway, Taylor managed to snag seats right behind the New Jersey bench for Game Four of the Finals. She immediately tweeted her plan to distract the Devils, ensuring a Kings win. And she proceeded to do just that…

Unfortunately for Kings’ fans, Ms. Stevens appears to have provided “inspiration” instead...

For anybody who needs all the details,Taylor describes the experience here. Perhaps required listening for the CBC boneheads who conceived the unwatchable and now deservedly critically slammed “While The Men Watch” debacle.

However, the massive sports page, Twitter and Jock Blog reaction got me thinking that this might be the way to get more people Stateside to watch hockey.

Seems this season’s playoffs have been a ratings disaster for NBC with shows like “Swamp People”, “Pawn Stars” and a Mexican “friendly” soccer game all scoring far larger audiences.

But it was clear from Game 3 and 4 that most of LA’s fans took their cues more from celebrities and reality TV than an understanding of the game.

L.A. Kings fans taunted their rivals with blown up images of the Jersey Shore cast

So somebody should capitalize on that. NBC needs to create “Keeping Up With The Kovalcheks” or get the Sedin Twins on “Dancing With The Stars”. They wouldn’t even need a partner since Daniel always leads anyway.

Where’s “Cement Head Rehab” for all those enforcers chewing Oxycontin by the handful? Is there no place for “Real Housewives of Nashville” with all the players there married to Country music stars?

Why couldn’t Sydney Crosby be the next “Bachelor”? And there’s a whole ton of guys who’d have no trouble being on “Wife Swap”.

Trust me, one season of NHL players on reality shows and the Playoff ratings would be through the roof.

Those porn stars. They really are inspiring.

The standings in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool as we conclude Week Nine:


Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Pool Report: Will There Be A Full Week Nine?


Okay, this is just getting unfathomable.

And I don’t mean watching Hockey Night in Canada shamelessly self-promote by insisting that Pat Sajack is a huge hockey fan.

Guys, his wife kept turning his head toward the ice. And your network cancelled his show. Read something more than the memos from upstairs for a change.

No, what’s inexplicable is how the lowly LA Kings have quite simply pwned everybody else in the league, going 3-0 to begin each series and making one super-star opponent after another simply disappear.

Marty Brodeur, please don’t take what’s happening personal…

For those who can’t read lips: “Bullshit! Hey, you can’t make that call. Enough! Fuck! It was right under my pad. He was fucking whacking at it.”

Hey, there’s no team in front of you, Dude!

You want my advice? One word. Toronto. They won’t have a team in front of you either. But they’ll pay you a bundle to play until you’re 50! Maybe even 60!

Yep – this whole thing could be over tomorrow night. And if it is, it’ll have to be a supremely odd game to alter the current standings in the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool.

But then, far stranger things have already happened in this season’s playoffs.

Next report Friday –- maybe sooner…


Sunday, June 03, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 223: Remind Me

Every now and then we all need to be reminded to get back to the basics. That’s especially true of those of us in the arts.

A swirl of hype, marketing and manic promotion surrounds most of what we do. An endless drumbeat of what’s new, what’s the next big thing, what people are paying to see or will want next season.

You can easily be swept up in the faux excitement of trends and the need to be on the cutting edge.

In the process, it’s easy to forget that the original building blocks, the steps and stages of actual creation, are actually all you need.

That might be part of the reason so many heavily hyped Hollywood blockbusters are failing this summer. The overblown special effects and set pieces have begun to replicate the PR frenzy instead of being an integral part of the product.

One of the loves of my life is Country Music, something I embraced at a time when other kinds of music seemed more consumed by style than substance. Country was reinventing itself as well, but it hadn’t severed its connection to its basics, story and emotion.

The CMT Music Awards will broadcast this coming Wednesday, June 6th at 8:00 pm (7 Central) while also live streaming on offering multiple examples of successfully touching an audience by keeping things simple.

Among the nominees for best video, is a duet by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood called “Remind Me” that’s about as simple as videos come, two characters, no set, no costume changes and maybe six set-ups in total.

Nothing gets in the way of the story, the emotion and the song.

Let it be a reminder of what’s really important.

And Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Pool Report: Week Eight Ends


Thinking I’d like to sound intelligent for just once as these pool reports dwindle down to a precious remaining few; I stopped by the local news agent this morning to pick up a copy of “The Hockey News”.

I saw it on the rack, wrapped in plastic, and snagged a copy as a big guy came striding toward me with the same issue in his hands.

“Hey Buddy”, he said, “Have you got a large one?”

Not the kind of thing you expect to hear before you’ve even had your first cup of coffee –- even living in a cosmopolitan setting.

I’d barely formed a “S’cuse me?” when he flipped over his magazine to reveal that the current issue of The Hockey News comes with a free pair of underwear inside the plastic packaging.

Unfortunately, it seemed I was only packing a “Medium”, so he brushed past to rummage the rack.

And while it’s probably thoughtful of “The Hockey News” to supply a spare set of skivvies to Playoff obsessed fans who may have forgotten to keep up with the laundry, I never really “get” these kinds of promotions.

I mean, how does spending $4 for a magazine that includes a $4 pair of briefs help the cause of keeping print journalists employed in this day and age?

That said, the way these Playoffs are going, it looks like a lot of people who claim to be hockey experts might soon be having to justify whatever their newspapers and networks pay them.

I honestly can’t remember a Stanley Cup that got this far defying everything the smart money is supposed to know.

Anybody in the pool have Colin Fraser or Anton Volchenkov?

Two guys who scored the only goals in 60 minutes of game one of the Final series. Two guys who have each scored exactly one goal during the entire playoff run.

All of which leads me to have even greater respect for the astute hockey minds who now sit atop the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool. I’d say we already know the names in the top four will be who makes the podium this year. But when you look at their picks and how this season is going, I wouldn’t pick a winner yet.

Maybe we’ll know more Monday.

Maybe not.