Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bye 2013. Hello Future.

December 31, 2013

A couple of final things before we show 2013 the door…

First. Follow the link below for a free download of “December 31” from Country music star Levi Lowrey. For my money this is the kind of guy who might just rescue “New” Country from what’s become an endless run of “havin’ a beer in my truck on a dirt road” songs.

December 31.

And finally, it’s already 2014 in most of the World. Being a big fan of fireworks and having had the pleasure of watching the Sydney Harbour Bridge blow up one New Year’s Eve, watching the great cities of the world bring in the New Year with a bang is one of my great pleasures.

This year, Dubai promised to set a world record for the biggest fireworks display ever. And I think they might have just done it.

Here’s hoping that 2014 comes in as big and continues to burn as bright where you are tonight. See you next year.

Log Rolling Out Of 2013

As many do on the last day of the year, I look back on what’s been accomplished, achieved or survived over the previous 365. Recently, that’s led me to publishing my own “Top Ten” list of what I thought was best here at The Legion.

Because –- God knows –- nobody else will…

If there was a theme here in 2013, it appears to have been breaking away from cable and in the process from supporting a Canadian broadcast industry that doesn’t go much out of its way to support Canadians, let alone offer them anything either definitively national or innovative.

But there’s other stuff too. And I hope none are too hard on your head if reading is about all you can handle on the first day of 2014.

Thanks again for visiting so often in the past year. I’ll do all I can to keep you coming back.

In no particular order…

More Reasons To Cut The Cord

A Classy Reason To Cut The Cord

Enough With The Geo-Blocking

More Stuff You Can’t See In Canada

Canadian Artists Matter – Someplace Else

Sometimes Its Not Just A Movie

The Whiff of Desperation

The Knows It Alls

The Cop Who Captured Lee Harvey Oswald

The Impossiblist

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Classy Reason To Cut The Cord

There used to be a lot of Art on television. Networks like A&E and Bravo were once home to classic plays, symphony, opera and dance. Even our national broadcaster, the CBC, prided itself on bringing the best of Stratford, The Canadian Opera Company and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to far flung audiences with little chance to attend the brick and mortar venues themselves.

Not so much anymore.

And even as the debate over unbundling cable begins here, no one is stepping up to offer Canadian viewers a reason to continue it via programming with a little more heft than “Duck Dynasty” or “Real Housewives of Vancouver”.

To date, those who’ve given up on choosing between being challenged on the value of a storage locker or watching reruns of “Flashpoint” for the umpteenth time have had to rely on the likes of Netflix for something new or different.

And while the exponential growth of that company and other video aggregators poses a threat to Canada’s “do as little as possible” broadcasters, a new service has arisen that could be a game changer for many cable subscribers.

Digital Theatre has arrived from the unchallenged home of English language theatre offering classic plays, popular musicals, opera and dance from Britain’s premiere venues.

Want to watch “Macbeth” from the esteemed Liverpool Everyman company featuring David “The Walking Dead” Morrissey? How about the recently acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company production of “As You Like It”?

Does your taste run toward David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf in the West End production of “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night” or “La Traviata” via the Royal Opera Company?

How about brilliantly staged versions of “Merrily We Roll Along” or “Into The Woods”. Or the latest from cutting edge companies such as The Royal Court or Young Vic companies. 

All are now available via an online link and at a fraction of what you’ve been paying for the same thing at your local mutliplex. And certainly more economical than what you have been shelling out for all those bundled channels you never watch.

Unlike Netflix, Digital Theatre charges per selection with options to rent or own in SD or HD. And it’s also available for tablet and mobile platforms.

And while our broadcaster conglomerates argue against bundling in an effort to hold onto the status quo, it’s clear that the audience now has one more reason to opt for a system in which they only pay for what they actually consume and have it available when it works best for them and not some network programmer or sponsor.

One more reason to cut the cord completely –- with many more to come…

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 305: Chess Boxing

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me…”

Around 1983, Tim “Jesus Christ Superstar” Rice teamed up with ABBA frontmen Benny Anderson and Bjorn Ulvaeus to create a stage musical entitled “Chess”.

It was a musical version of the Cold War, debuting a year later for what would be a three year run in London’s West End and spawning one massive hit song, the darkly physical “One Night in Bangkok” (excerpted above).

Now, the game of Chess which mimics the strategies and tactics of warfare has long been a cinematic and dramatic metaphor for all manner of conflict.

Except maybe for another oft used cinematic and dramatic metaphor for conflict -- Boxing –- at least until recently…

Perhaps inspired by the Wu Tang Clan’s 1993 hit  Chessboxin’ or a French comic book that came along ten years later entitled “Le Froid Equateur”, Dutch fight promoter Iepe Rubingh staged the first Chess-Boxing match in 2003.

Ten years later it’s become a fast growing sport with International championships in three weight classes decided a month ago in Moscow, a competition made up of, as the song from “Chess” says “a little flesh a little history”.

Now, this may all be simply symptomatic of the bastardization of careers that we’re all seeing, wherein you aren’t just a screenwriter or director but the guy who also has to raise the financing and distribute your finished film.

And I don’t know if other hybrid sports are in our future, such as Sudoku/Baseball or NASCAR/Checkers, but I’m told that Chess-Boxing has revitalized the fading attraction of the sweet sport, with former heavyweight champ Valery Klitschko now one of its leading competitors.

Could be that TSN’s hockey-less future will be saved by appealing to those who get their  “kicks above the waistline, sunshine”.

Here’s how this fascinating new game works. Enjoy your Sunday.

And here’s that signature 1980’s show tune, in case you’ve been missing it…

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Legion Christmas Concert

Every Christmas since this blog launched, we’ve put on a concert. It’s my own nod to the small town celebrations that were a highlight of my prairie upbringing -– and also introduced me to the show business.

We’ve done everything here from reliving one of those school shows to collecting the favorite carols of other bloggers, to parades of lights and mail in requests.  Just punch “Christmas Concert” in the search box above and you’ll be inundated with all things Christmas.

This year, I wanted to offer some new songs of the season along with a couple of chestnuts revitalized by new voices. One of the fascinating things about Christmas is the way we keep re-birthing the spirit of the season.

But then, I think that was the whole point from the beginning.

I hope you like this year’s selections and perhaps discover a tune or two that become part of your Christmas seasons to come.

Thanks to all of you who keep visiting the Legion and growing its reach. I hope I continue to keep you entertained or informed or at least give you some reason to keep coming back.

May this Christmas be the merriest you’ve known and the new year bring all you desire.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lazy Sunday #304: Hope For Paws

Dusty and her friends

This is my sheepdog Dusty playing with a bunch of her pals. Something we do everyday to get us both out of the house and socializing. Me with the neighbors. My dog with her buds.

I’m a big advocate of writers owning dogs. And in some ways, this post is an extension of this week’s ideas for those who are hard to buy for at Christmas. Because you can’t give the writer in your life a better gift than a dog.

And here’s why…

1. It’s well known that when a writer goes to work and gets on a roll, he enters what’s known as an “Alpha state”. Brain waves slow. Awareness expands. Creative energy flows. Fears vanish. You experience a liberating sense of peace and well-being.

Animals, particularly dogs, gravitate to those generating alpha waves, generating their own as well as they curl up nearby to enjoy the same sense of peace and well-being. Their alpha state in turn supports your own. Creative energy expands. You write more –- and sometimes better.

2. Writing can be a lonely profession, especially once you begin to make a living at it. With a dog snoring next to you, you feel less alone, again enhancing the writing experience, making it less a chore, less a thing to be avoided.

3. Much as we writers laud our ability to party, to knock back shots with the best of them and otherwise keep up with our fellow man, we don’t really. Some of us lock ourselves away for days to break the back of a story or overcome that brick wall we built in Act II.

A dog forces you to get out, three or four times a day at least. He could care less about justifying a character’s motivation. He’s more interested in sniffing out who’s been running through the park before he got there or making some squirrel realize he belongs back in the trees. His priorities are not yours and in making them yours for the brief time you’re out for a walk, you let your subconscious go to work on what’s holding you back.

It’s like sleeping on a problem without the need of a nap. You return to your work refreshed, oxygenated and with a few insights you didn’t have before your animal forced you away from the grindstone.

4. The opposite sex is attracted to anyone who exhibits care and concern for an animal. It’s related to that adage that you can judge a person best by how he treats those who can do nothing for him. Just as you think twice of going out with somebody who is nasty to waiters or a store clerk, you feel closer to somebody who’s kind to animals.

I could go on. But then you’d miss the thrill of discovery as a dog enters and then transforms your life for the better.

too cute puppy

What’s more, you can find a dog in any price range and suited to whatever lifestyle or self-image you inhabit.

Often, they can be had almost for free and any dog owner will confirm that some of the best are “rescues”. Dogs who have been abandoned or have otherwise found themselves without a caring human in their lives. Their sheer exhilaration at finding a “forever home” translates into the most powerful of bonds.

Animal rescue organizations can be found in virtually every city or town. Or you can access an organization like “Hope for Paws”, a group who searches out the utterly lost and returns them to the love and companionship they miss more than food or shelter.

At this season of giving, give a thought to giving a home to a creature who will give you so much more in return. You will never regret the decision. It’ll make you a better person and a better writer as well.

Enjoy your Sunday…


Saturday, December 21, 2013

For The Person Who Has Everything Pt.2

http://www.thepeoplesvoice.org/TPV3/media/blogs/blog/8/super-rich-toys.jpgWhen you come right down to it, the answer to the Christmas gift buying conundrum, “What do you get for the person who has everything?” is really quite simple.

You buy them something they can’t possibly have –- because it hasn’t even been invented yet.

And thanks to websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, that’s easier than it’s ever been while fitting every budget from workplace secret Santa to those tired of the same old designer bling.

On these sites, you can buy your giftee everything from the latest tech to an organically bound book of poetry to a campaign to stop bullying.

And whether the gift that results from your investment on their behalf is a successful feature film or a cupcake franchise that totally flops, you’ll have given them something nobody shopping at the mall can –- the chance to be part of something innovative and unique.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned making movies and TV shows, it’s that a lot of the people who put money into them don’t really care if they make a truckload of money in return. Some of them don’t even care if the project bombs or isn’t even very good. They just like being part of the ride.

I once had dinner with a couple who had spent years financing failure after failure on the legit stage. They couldn’t have been happier with their terrible investments. The hallway of their home was lined with posters, a literal gallery of inept production.

But each one came with a story of a sparkling opening night, a charming actor who had joined them for lunch or having the only existing reel-to-reel tape of the original cast album.

In a world where it’s getting harder and harder for most people to feel unique, you’ll be offering your friend the opportunity to stand out in a small way, while simultaneously helping bring something unrealized into the world.

And that should make both of you –- as well as the person whose dream you’re supporting feel very much in the Christmas spirit.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

For The Person Who Has Everything Pt. 1

We’ve all got one or two people on our Christmas lists who are impossible to buy for. Either their material needs are fully met and you can’t afford what they might appreciate – or – you just have no clue what they consider worthwhile.

So for the next couple of days, as the pressure builds to find them something, I’m going to suggest some different approaches to gift giving you might find useful.

First: It’s the thought that counts.

I get a lot of cards this time of year from business associates letting me know that in lieu of the traditional bottle of wine or embossed letter opener, their company has opted to make a charitable donation to some worthy cause. And who can argue with that?

But it sometimes comes off as self-serving (to make the giver look good) and doesn’t really involve or maybe even relate to the person on whose behalf they’re gifting.

A few years ago, a guy I worked with put his own spin on this. He announced he was giving out care packages to the homeless and invited his clients over for a drink. What we didn’t know is that we were doing the distribution and hit the streets with him in search of those in need.

It was a night before Christmas I’ll never forget.

Gifting the person who has everything in this way. Making them a partner in a cause for which you volunteer not only provides an experience they otherwise might never have had. And it tends to recruit them for the cause.

Since that year, I’ve set aside one night prior to Christmas (usually a cold one) to head out with some bundles to warm somebody’s predicament at least a little.

This years package contained a toque, waterproof mitts, thick sox wrapped up in a cheap but cozy thermal blanket with a Tim’s card credited with enough for a hot soup and sandwich combo or enough coffee refills to buy the user a few hours of uninterrupted shelter from the cold.

And the packages handed out this year were multiplied by one of my “giftees” doing the same thing with his kids a few days later.

The Spirit of Giving is what makes Christmas special for most of us. And you might introduce your hard to buy for person to those using foodbanks, trapped in hospitals or otherwise struggling to get by.

And most people, once face to face with a those in need and feeling the personal satisfaction that comes from helping out, tend to find their own way of replicating the experience.

You’ll give someone hard to buy for a gift that keeps on giving for all concerned as well as one the one on your list will never forget.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Keith Makes It To 70


I’m old enough to remember seeing the first Rolling Stones album placed in the window of Regina’s Woolworth’s store, the place where all we local hip teens bought all our records.

It was 1964 and while I liked “Not Fade Away”, their first hit in my neck of the woods, I had already taken umbrage with the Tigerbeat and Teenbeat magazine insistence that they were the guys who would knock The Beatles off their perch.

In those days you took sides. Not necessarily in a Tupac/Biggie Smalls way. But you just didn’t buy the records of anybody who threatened your icons.

My ambivalence toward The Stones continued through at least the first decade of their career. While I’d been devastated by the deaths of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janice Joplin, the overdose/murder of Brian Jones had been of little consequence.

I liked more of their stuff by then, but they were still on my musical fringes, the kind of band you associated more with the darkness of Altamont than the warmth of Woodstock.

Then in February of 1977, Keith Richards was arrested in Toronto, charged with possession of heroin for the purpose of trafficking. His passport confiscated, he was forced to hole up in the city for a few weeks until a legal way could be found to get him home.

It was a bitterly cold winter and I was doing some play at the time that left me dashing for a streetcar I’d have to wait an hour for the next one if I missed it. One Saturday night, worn out from two back to back shows, I missed it.

Seeking shelter, I wandered into a small restaurant to get a drink and a bite. There was one occupied table at the back, a half dozen folks who’d clearly been there a while.

My food came, followed shortly by a froggy voice with a British accent calling from the table, “You eating by yerself, mate?”. It was Keith Richards.

He waved me over with a cigarette, instructing the gathering of wives, lovers and friends to make a place.

He was emaciated, clearly strung out and you got the feeling the others were more dedicated caregivers than acquaintances, making sure he was both protected and –- handled gently.

I missed a couple more streetcars that night, listening to astonishing stories, addled rants and enduring long silences where the looks among his companions telegraphed “Should we take him home now?”, “Is he taking a turn?” etc.

I left first, appreciative of our time together, but haunted by the feeling that the guy was not long for this world, no matter how adept and compassionate his entourage might be.

Keith weathered that crisis, returning to England for rehab a short time later. My next close encounter with him was more than a decade later when I went to see the IMAX Rolling Stone feature “At The Max”.

Two obviously long-time Stones fans sat in front of me, almost as high as Keith had been during our brief encounter. But even they were as astounded as I by the film’s first shot of the band in the wings prior to taking the stage.

The first thought that went through my mind was “My God, how many German sheep hormones have these guys been shooting?”.

Like many of those who have had the pleasure of that amazing concert film, the high point was the Keith’s performance of “Happy” before the Intermission. One of the guys in front of me was so moved, he turned to his buddy and said, “Keith’s so good they should give him TWO songs”. I’m not sure if his pal nodded or simply nodded off.

But again, I departed with the feeling that Keith could not last much longer.

I’m so pleased my diagnostic skills are so sadly lacking.

Keith turned 70 today and threatens to verify the belief of some that after the human race disappears, the planet will be inhabited by two life forms, the cockroach –- and Keith Richards.

And if that’s the case, I for one will be enormously “Happy”.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 303: Singularity

Goodbye world. The universe could be about to collapse on us according to scientists in Denmark. Source: Thinkstock

Apparently –- at least according to some scientists in Denmark –- the Universe has begun to collapse.

Now, if you’ve read anything about the Big Bang Theory, you know a lot of scientists believe that will eventually occur (and use your best Carl Sagan voice here) “in billions and billions of years…”

Only these guys in Denmark have done some calculations and think it might be a whole lot sooner.

Not, as in, take a pass on the Christmas shopping or forget setting something aside for your grand-kids college fund sooner. But sooner.

Now let’s not forget that exactly five years ago today, in 2008, Al Gore assured us that thousands of climate scientists had concluded the artic would be completely ice-free by last Summer. And, well, look out any window in the Northern hemisphere this morning and it’ll give you some idea how accurate those smarty pants scientist guys were.

At any rate, the end is nigh –- or as nigh as it’s ever gonna be for most of us -- and it might be worth your while giving some thought to Life and Death and Eternity and how you and those you love fit into that picture.

But since getting your head around such weighty issues at Christmas can be a bit of a struggle, filmmaker Eric Hurt has done the job for you, in a brilliant short film entitled “Singularity”.

Prepare to be blown away.

And Enjoy Your Sunday…

Singularity from Eric Hurt on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Something For The Weekend

Lovely as the traditions of the season are, let’s all admit, it’s easy to slip into a rut.

But it’s also easy to turn all that around. Some thoughts for the weekend…

Monday, December 09, 2013

Flying This Christmas?

You might want to consider buying a ticket from the airline I take whenever I have the option…

Some airlines claim to be “The World’s Favorite” or promise to “fly the friendly skies” or assure you you’ll “fly with friends”; all hoping to offset the aggravations and annoyances that have become synonymous with air travel these days.

Some offer you a complimentary drink in their lounge, no charge for your first piece of luggage or a free headset for in-flight entertainment.

Others attempt to exemplify the best of their heritage through exotic menu items or flight attendants in traditional dress.

But only one goes this far to let their passengers know how much they are appreciated. For this reason, and many more, you might want to consider a Canadian airline that truly reflects the country they call home.


Sunday, December 08, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 302: Reach Out Worldwide

Often it seems that only in losing someone do we discover how special they really were.

For most, Paul Walker, who died last week, was the star of a phenomenally successful film series that was more about cars than characterization.

Immediately, the media seized on the “lived fast – died young” meme to frame the story of Walker’s life, apparently unaware that he was so much more than a good looking action hero just as the “Fast & Furious” movies were about more than drag racing.

They made a visceral connection with fans who, like the aficionados of martial arts films, know that it’s the action scenes in such films that define and delineate characters. And those fans had lost an icon.

What’s more, the F&F franchise created a family of outsiders with their own special codes of honor and loyalty. And those drawn to that sense of belonging had lost a brother and a friend.

Then we learned that Walker was less about Hollywood success than using the assets success gave him to make the world a better place.

When he wasn’t shooting a film, Walker’s time and energy were dedicated to an organization he’d founded known as “Reach Out Worldwide”, a network of professionals with first responder skill-sets (EMT, paramedic, firefighting, and healthcare) providing expertise when disasters strike.

Designed to quickly respond to need and suffering, ROWW was responsible for establishing one of the first field hospitals in Haiti after its earthquake and to date has responded to earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and tornadoes all over the planet.

And Walker wasn’t one content to be the fund-raising face of the organization. More often then not, his were the first boots on the ground, tirelessly providing aid for disaster victims, many of whom never knew they were being cared for by a movie star.

In the wake of his death, Walker’s family asked that donations be made in his name to ROWW. And if you’re of a mind, you can do that here.

Or you can buy a DVD copy of “Fast & Furious 6” when it’s released next week, as a portion of its earnings will go to funding the humanitarian work Walker supported.

With the season of giving upon us, it might be fitting that we in the business do what we can for one who was part of “La Familia” as the Fast and Furious characters were fond of saying.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 301: Shaybu Shaybu!


Well, this is going to get interesting…

For those not paying attention. This week Rogers Communications, considered by most to be somewhere around number 3 or 4 in the TV broadcast hierarchy in Canada, took $5.2 Billion it had squirrelled away (probably from exorbitant roaming charges) and bought 12 years of exclusive rights to NHL hockey on every conceivable platform.

Almost immediately, a wringing of hands began over what this might mean to Canadian broadcasting as a whole and the venerable CBC in particular.

Y’see for years, CBC, home to Saturday’s “Hockey Night in Canada” twin bill of games and most of the playoffs, has claimed that Hockey and the money gusher attached to it was what allowed them to make “great” Canadian television.

It also allowed them to make fewer shows overall since it had 3 months of Prime Time taken up by the Stanley Cup Finals. Encouraged them to make cheap spin off hockey related reality shows like “Battle of The Blades”, “Last Man Standing” and the soon to debut “NHL Revealed”. Not to mention green-lighting countless documentaries and MOWs about the Canada/Russia series of 1972 and Don Cherry.

Now, it seems, they’ll have to do something else -- as well as find a way to pay for it.

Meanwhile, over at Rogers, a lot of Cancon will almost certainly be shunted aside so that their City-TV channels can broadcast hockey along with the multiple Sportsnets, since Rogers is committed to making every single game played by a Canadian team available nationwide.

Sample hockey schedule.

That means up to seven games on any given night on competing channels and as many as three in a row on any one outlet.

This might strike some as overkill and have others wondering if there are really enough guys living in their parents’ basements in Burnaby and Woodbridge to attract well-heeled sponsors.

But it’s something Rogers had to do since competing (and so much better at broadcasting hockey) Sports network TSN would’ve been the keeper for most fans when cable unbundling begins.

It also prevents fans from opting for the NHL’s online streaming service “Centre Ice” which blacks out games available on local TV since now everything will be available on local TV.

Gee, I wonder if anybody at the NHL realized that Canadians would have no use for their online package anymore, meaning it will have to be funded by 8 guys in Boston, 3 in New York and whoever is watching at Wayne’s house in Phoenix.

Oh, and of course –- Rogers also needed you to be able to access games on your phone so they can sell more of those. And golly, who doesn’t lust for the thrill of end to end rushes on a 3” screen with a virtually invisible puck.

Hey, are we about to see the return of the infamous “glowing puck” of 1994? And if we are, how many Billions will Rogers have to pay Fox for those rights?

Also --  with $5.2 BIG going out the door on this one deal, will we soon see Rogers going back to the CRTC, hat in hand, to ask for some breaks on the money they currently have to spend on dramas and comedies? Or to “pretty please” bump up their subscription rates? Maybe higher charges for data packages?

I’m thinking that this might actually be one of those cases of corporate over-reach that ends up burning the guy with the deepest pockets more than the competition.

Anybody remember what became of the massive deals that were AOL/Time Warner, Daimler/Chrysler, Snapple/Quaker, and HP/Compaq from which all involved are still struggling to recover?

God knows, it could be quite a while before anybody owning Rogers stock sees another dividend check. And what happens to ad revenue when the hockey market is fragmented over so many games, night after night after…

Rogers just might have to feed the beast with new teams and a population as hockey mad as we are. And where would that be?

Wait. I know…

Shaybu, Shaybu.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

For those who don’t speak Russian, the lyrics are as follows:

Shaybu! Shaybu! Victory will be ours!
Shaybu! Shaybu! Guys, we are with you!
If we have to, we’ll score even more!
Shaybu! Shaybu! Russia is behind you!
Shaybu! Shaybu! Guys, you are strong!
We are the Russian team! We are are the Red Machine!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 300: Go Riders!

Later today, I will pick up a couple of growlers from a local brew pub and venture into a Tiger den of Hamilton fans more adept at tailgate cooking than rooting for a winning football team –- like mine.

And I shall feel no fear of losing the wagers I will be offered, for I come from the Valley of the foot-bally Green Giants where our motto is…

The Tiger Cats will venture into said Rider Valley this evening where the predominant colors will be green –- and white…

A blinding, arctic white…

A man sits on the sidewalk at the Grey Cup parade held on Albert St. in Regina, Sask. on Saturday Nov. 23, 2013.

Poor Kitty.

Cold Kitty.

Little Mauled up Fur…

No, it won’t be pretty. Somebody should really call PETA.

Go Riders! Grey Cup 101! Nothing like winning at home!

Enjoy your Sunday.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Syd Field


In the Summer of 1979, I was hired by a couple of producers in Hollywood to write a movie.

I was still mostly acting back then, but I had a couple of Canadian writing credits and for one reason or another they either liked my stuff or I came cheap.

The initial excitement of “making it” wore off in a couple of days as I met a handful of fellow screenwriters about my own age. They usually had about the same number of produced titles as I had –- with one difference –- I’d actually heard of the movies they’d written while nobody in LA had seen anything of mine.

About to get an insecurity complex, I decided to spend as much time acquiring the writing education I’d never had as I did writing. And I soon found a slim volume by a guy I’d never heard of named Syd Field.

To be honest, hardly anybody had heard of Syd in the Summer of 1979. His book, simply titled “Screenplay”, had just come out and LA was not yet a breeding ground for script gurus and screenwriting conferences.

I read Syd’s book and frankly was a little put off by it. Because it made the craft of writing look so damn simple and the process of creating a story as step by step as changing the washer in a faucet.

I felt duped. But I also had the nagging suspicion he knew what he was talking about. Because when I applied his simple “paradigm” to my own script –- it got a lot better.

A week or so later, I saw an ad for a weekend course Syd was teaching based on his book and signed up. I think it cost me about 40 bucks -- not to mention two whole days away from the beach and exploring old movie haunts.

The class was small, maybe a dozen people sitting around a chewed up set of tables on mismatched chairs, while Syd mapped everything he’d written about on a blackboard.

The other writers seemed as sceptical as me. We had sweated blood and banged our heads against IBM Selectrics for years trying to churn out something decent. And this teacher, who wasn’t even one of us, more accurately a guy who basically wrote coverage, was making it sound as easy as snapping together the pieces of a hot rod model kit.

But once again, when you applied his theories and tried out his suggested adjustments, not only did the scripts get better but they seemed to suddenly push all the right buttons for the studio guys.

I figured Syd Field might be onto something.

A year later, back in Toronto with Syd’s dog-eared book of wisdom now opening all kinds of doors for me, the newly forming Writers Guild of Canada asked me to organize some writing workshops.

The first call I placed was to Syd, who was genuinely excited to come to Canada in the middle of winter to espouse his approach to writing.

He was a wonderfully down to earth guy, not at all inflated by his growing success, even though his book was now flying off the shelves in a world where everybody and their dog walker seemed to be “working on a screenplay”.

And when his workshop was done, the Toronto conference room seemed evenly split between those who felt they’d had their eyes opened and those insisting he was selling some kind of snake oil.

Oddly, none of the snake oil crowd ever amounted to much.

But a lot of the ones who continued to follow Syd’s “rules” made out like bandits.

By the time he passed away yesterday, Syd Field had spawned countless writing careers that have resulted in both personal fortunes and Billions in earnings for studios large and small. His list of former students who have won Oscars, BAFTAs, WGA and WGC awards and even a few Genies and Screenies is formidable.

Yet to the end he remained an easy going guy who just wanted writers to have an easier time creating better movies.

There are those who moved on to other script gurus, including myself. And there are many who blame Syd’s Paradigm for making so many films simplistic and predictable.

But that dog eared copy of “Screenplay” from 35 years ago still sits next to my computer and still gets cracked open now and then. 

For those writers inspired by Syd know that it wasn’t his rules that made movies bad. Because like all things creative they were merely a rough map, a line of torches in the darkness, simply showing a path you could then walk in any way you chose.

Syd, like Joseph Campbell, John Truby and Robert McKee, understood that human story telling has a biological component. Its structure is embedded in our DNA. Understanding that while the Human Genome has only 23 markers, each of the billions that are its product have our own unique and original story.

Syd brought millions of stories into the world, including my own. And for that, I, and anyone else who writes, owes him an endless debt of gratitude.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Slaughter Nick for –- Mayor?

First, Canadian actor Rob Stewart saved Serbia from a brutal dictator. Now the city of Belgrade wants him to run for Mayor.


Maybe Toronto should think about hiring him. I mean, well, they could do worse…

And it would be a shorter commute for him from Brampton.

More important for you Canadian film and TV types, this is how you engage an audience and make them want to see your movie.

Rob Stewart helming one of the great cities of Europe? As with so much of this amazing Canadian story -- weirder things have happened…

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 299: Screenwriters


Screenwriters. You can’t make a great movie or TV series without one. They are the spark which ignites the creative flame.

The image we screenwriters have of ourselves and our trade is an almost holy one. Dedicated. Ethical. Seekers of truth and lucid communicators of the human condition. The smartest guys in the room. But quiet about it and not at all stuck up.

We are the reason everybody else works.

Steven Spielberg steps onto the stage at the Academy Awards and intones, “In the beginning there was the word…” and the rest of the auditorium silently nods –- and we know he’s giving us the props we deserve –- and hope our quote ticks up, when that mantra is repeated at our next meeting.

We attend endless seminars and conferences where those with recent credits or a bundle of past triumphs speak in hushed tones about “the craft” and “passion”.

We laud those fellow scribes who were blacklisted for refusing to water down their vision. We toast those who never gave up no matter how often they were put into turnaround or had their series cancelled before it was given a chance.

We’re all about courage and determination and not going home until it’s perfect.

And several times a year one of us writes “Sharknado”.

“The Lone Ranger”

“A Good Day To Die Hard”

“Battleship”, “Alien 3”, “Green Lantern”, “Red Sonja”, “Xanadu”, “Super Mario Brothers”, “Catwoman”, “Battlefield Earth”, “Megaforce”…

I’d include all the Canadian films Telefilm has pumped tens of millions of your tax dollars into, but I wanted to mention titles somebody has actually heard of.

As Screenwriter William Goldman, a worthy role model and, let’s face it, pretty much a God to most of us who share his trade, said in his inimitable “Adventures in the Screentrade” -- No studio executive ever goes home to his wife and says, “Guess what, honey! We decided to make ‘Megaforce’!”

Except that one of them did.

And some screenwriter wrote it.


And likely got a development deal for “Megaforce II – The Return of Ace Hunter”.

And I’ve always wondered who these guys are. Where do producers find them? And what makes development execs fall under their spell, never asking the tough questions they level at the rest of us?

Who decides to park “craft” in a drawer for the weekend and churn out “Identity Thief” or “The Last Exorcism: Part Two”?

Who’s the guy pissing on Dalton Trumbo’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, muttering “Paddy Chayefsky was a hack” in Starbucks and not wearing their cardigan over their shoulders with the sleeves tied in front?

Well, I think I’ve found him. And he’s all too real and unsettling.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

More Stuff You Can’t See In Canada

In the Somalian city of Barawe this week, the terrorist group Al’Shabaab sent trucks with loudspeakers into the streets ordering people to turn in their televisions and satellite dishes, deeming that watching TV shows harmed their spiritual lives.

Halfway around the world in North Korea, 80 people in 7 cities were rounded up and executed by firing squads. They had been found guilty of watching TV shows beamed from South Korea, such programming having been determined to “cause changes to people’s mindsets” by the government.

One of the programs designated as most harmful in this regard was “Desperate Housewives”.

Luckily, nobody’s confiscating flat screens or frog marching audiences into soccer stadiums in Canada for public dispatch –- at least not yet. But everywhere you look, somebody here is throwing up even more barriers to prevent you from seeing all kinds of new programming.

Last Friday, Amazon, purveyors of books, DVDs, music and just about anything else you might want to buy online, debuted two new sitcom series for those who subscribe to their “Amazon Prime” delivery service.

Two things before we go any further:

One –- we need to come up with another term to describe TV series that you don’t necessarily have to own a television to watch.

In the same way that you can’t call Netflix a broadcaster because they don’t program or schedule anything, just letting you initiate the process and get what you want when you want it like any video store or Vegas hooker; we need a term for shows never intended to run first on Global and then on every fricken Shaw owned channel forever or until people stop believing everybody still drives a 1989 Ford Focus and has never heard of a cellphone.

And Two –- somebody needs to explain to me how “Amazon Prime” in the US gets you same day free shipping plus monthly free downloads of movies and music as well as specially produced “shows” –- while “Amazon Prime” in Canada gets you same day shipping if your entire order is in stock and it isn’t a statutory holiday.


Friday, Amazon debuted “Alpha House” written by Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau, which stars John Goodman and (Canada’s own) Clark Johnson and “Betas” featuring Joe Dinicol (also Canadian) and some guy in the writers room with a wonderfully twisted string of dark one-liners.

But you can’t see them in Canada.


Amend that. You can see the pilots by going to Amazon.com (not .ca) and clicking Amazon Prime. But if you want to follow where those shows go from there –- well, you’re outta luck.

And you’ll be further out of the pop culture loop a few months from now when Amazon debuts the first of its dramas –- “The After” the latest creation from Chris “X-Files” Carter.

And there will be many more since a company that’s basically a big mail order warehouse currently has more original drama and comedy pilots either shot, shooting or about to go into production than all of Canada’s broadcasters put together.

Almost daily now, I get email reminders from the CRTC (Canada’s Al Sha’baab and Kim Jong-un wannabees) that they need to hear what I think about the state of Canadian television. Well, how about this…


And not only has the industry been smothered to death because our over-protected broadcasters never felt the need to actually make very much content, let alone content desperate to attract an audience; but it’s going to have a tough time reviving because we can’t even watch what other countries are making that we have to compete with.

It won’t be too long before we’re as behind the times and out of touch as Somalia and North Korea.

Check out “Alpha House” here. And watch “Betas” here. And do it before they come for your screens or suggest something’s been done to alter your mindset and you’d best hurry over to the soccer stadium.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 298: Canada’s One Man Army

Canada is notorious for ignoring its heroes. There’s something about the national psyche that strives for anonymity. We don’t want to be noticed, singled out or made a fuss over. And we go out of our way not to tell the stories of those among us who would be celebrated in other cultures.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. And if any Canadian broadcaster programs a movie about our war veterans it’ll probably be that inexcusable piece of shit “Passchendaele”, which has little to do with history and even less relationship to the real Canadians who fought in the First World War.

But our participation in WWII, when we took a larger and more important role is even less a subject of Canadian films and TV. The fact that the dwindling number of warriors from that generation have never seen their stories told onscreen is nothing short of a national disgrace.

It leaves the impression that we might have been there and maybe did our part and all. But it wasn’t like we did anything anybody else couldn’t or wouldn’t have done.

And while we smugly snigger at Hollywood’s war heroes, the cornball patriotism of John Wayne, the undefeatable heroes portrayed by an endless stream of stars; the truth is that there was one among us who would make even Chuck Norris hang his head and whisper, “I’m not worthy”.

You’ve probably never heard of Leo Major. And once you have I guarantee you will feel two emotions:

1) Disbelief that this man’s name never came up in any history class you ever took.

2) Disdain for anyone who claims to have programmed film or television in this country and did not fight to make his story known.

What follows is a simple list of Leo Major’s character traits and accomplishments on the field of battle. As you pin on your poppy tomorrow morning and partake in the eleven o’clock moment of silence, let those acts of remembrance note that there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, just like him.

Men and women whose blood may flow in your own veins, who once walked among you as teachers, storekeepers or that quiet nondescript guy who caught the same bus home from work that you did.

They might even be one of those frail and bent 80 year olds nearby struggling to make it through one more Remembrance Day ceremony.

But their lives and their stories have been denied to you -– and you have been made lesser people because of that not knowing.

Maybe the story of one man you’ve never heard of can spark the change we need in finally beginning to tell our own stories to ourselves and realizing that we are worth telling stories about.

Learn. And Remember –- and Enjoy Your Sunday.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Brent Butt Predicts The Future

All over the free world this morning, people who believe in honesty, accountability and a certain level of decorum from their elected officials are beginning to wonder if there’s anybody worth voting for anymore.

In Toronto, a mayor who apparently embraces the “high” part of higher office, apologized for royally fucking up by promising to stop doing whatever he was doing, hire a driver and stay in his basement when he drinks.

South of the border, a President who won the Nobel Peace prize a short while ago is overheard bragging to aides about how good he has become at killing people.

Billions in tax dollars gets blown on gas plants that don’t get built and dysfunctional websites that do. And every day some new whistleblower is coming out of the woodwork to reveal how much we’re secretly being used and abused by those we elect to look after our interests.

Is there nobody left you can trust?

Well –- I’m picking Brent Butt and the comic brain trust behind the Canadian TV series “Corner Gas”.

There’s an unwritten rule that every successful Canadian TV show has to let a few politicians have cameo appearances.

It’s actually a requirement buried in the incomprehensible boilerplate in the contracts we producers have to sign in order to get money from Telefilm.


To be honest, it’s a win-win for everybody involved. The politician gets to appear human and the media turns up on set for the day, guaranteeing at least one mention in a Canadian newspaper during your run.

But a wily showrunner or subversive scribe can use these guest appearances to let the Public know what kind of person they’re really dealing with.

Last week, an RCMP investigation into Senatorial expenses alleged that Senator Pamela Wallin mighta been cookin’ her books. And while many in her home province gasped “Not our Pam!”, a few folks recalled Pamela’s cameo appearance a while back on “Corner Gas”.

Art imitating Life or vice versa? You be the judge.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Lazy Sunday #297: Higher And Higher


One morning last week, I popped into my local coffee spot for a brew and strapped into the car for a long commute. An hour later, I was still in the parking lot, mesmerized by an interview on “The Howard Stern Show”.

It’s a shame many people still avoid Stern, feeling the self-appointed “King of All Media” is just another potty mouth radio shock jock.

Truth is, the title has stuck for a reason. There is simply nobody better at getting to the heart of the subject at hand.

The interview I didn’t want to risk missing a word of in rush hour traffic was with former Van Halen lead singer and distiller of a superb line of Tequilas –- Sammy Hagar.

Hagar was there to promote a new album. But he and Stern immediately took off on a tangent, discussing how creative inspiration comes about. That led to a wonderful insight for anybody making film or television as well as music in what makes artistic collaborations work.

Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion among Canadian TV types about if/why/how come the current “Golden Age” of television might be passing us by.

Those with experience in the business have tagged everything from risk averse network executives to non-writing showrunners and a lack of time and money as the culprits.

But one issue we seldom mention is a fairly rigid “way of doing things” that has begun to permeate how we go about the production process.

Take scriptwriting as one example.

I’ve never been able to get my head around writer rooms continually located a thousand miles from or working months prior to where or when the actors and directors turn up; or those that seem predetermined to take a Marxist Collective approach to what is released from the room to the production.

TV production is by its very nature chaotic, chaos created by those collaborating adding to or subtracting from the original intent to create something seldom fully envisioned on the page.

As Nicholas Ray once noted, “It’s never all in the script. If it was, why bother making the movie?”.

Yet, this latest “Golden Age” has seen the deification of Showrunners and the sense that Mathew Weiner’s attention to detail or the writing approaches taken by Vince Gilligan or Kurt Sutter are the only keys to their series’ successes.

It’s like some kind of writers’ revenge for the Auteur theory and the possessory directorial credit. But I’d bet all of the guys mentioned above would be the first to tell you how essential the nameless background singers, roadies and groupies attendant in their bands were to what it created. 

Yet. My social media feeds are rife with scribes bitching about intransigent directors and thespians who don’t thesp as expected, those respective jurisdictions being everything from bumps in the road to an IED that has blown everything to pieces.

Oh, the other Creatives are online weighing in as well, bemoaning their own problems in making the scripts they’ve been delivered work.

On one hand, all this signifies an industry with too little shelf space and far too few opportunities for the size of its creative community. But it also illustrates a system built to maximize efficiency while insuring the impossibility that a real chemical reaction might happen.

If there is one characteristic of virtually every TV series produced in Canada, it is this –- they’re predictable. You always know where the story is heading and how the lead characters will be affected.

But predictable doesn’t make for excitement or leave the door open for the surprises that keep audiences wanting more or becoming inspired to alter the way they think about things. 

All great bands, just like all great TV series, are the result of several disparate elements combining in just the right amounts. But here it often seems that efforts are made to keep a critical mass from sparking anything not tightly pre-formulated into life.

Sadly, there’s just no basic recipe for making television. And the necessary chemical reactions can’t even begin to happen when the artistic ingredients are isolated from one another or not influencing and restructuring each other on a daily basis.

That’s hard for an industry built on copycat product to comprehend. And trying to explain the often subconscious decision-making that determines how one artist determines which hill is worth dying on and when’s a good time to step back and let another artist take point is hard in the best of scenarios.

But Hagar explained the process brilliantly and taking his cue, Stern drove the interview into all kinds of uncharted artistic relationship territory.

What’s most striking is that given the history of “Van Halen”, Hagar and fellow interviewee, bassist Michael Anthony, have every reason to be as cynical about the music business as most Canadian TV people are about their industry.

But what they serve up instead is a cheerful and accurate assessment of how artistic temperaments operate when creating something truly unique.

In a lot of ways, TV series are just bands with the various craft Creatives being its assorted players. Yes, there’s often a dominant voice or multi-level head-butting, but in the best of them, the overall power of the final product is the result of a unique chemistry being nurtured and allowed to evolve.

Maybe if we got that part together, the roadblocks arrayed against innovative television in Canada might be easier to get over and around.

Please give Sammy and Howard an hour of your time. I believe you’ll find it very worthwhile.

And… Enjoy Your Sunday.

And a taste of what comes from finely tuned collaboration.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Try And Have A “Happy Halloween!”

Funny Halloween Ecard: Happy Wear Your Lingerie in Public Day.

With so much to be frightened of in the world, it’s nice that we set aside at least one day to make fun of our fears.

But apparently not everybody enjoys the joke.

I’m not going to whine about “Black and Orange” days or what all that free candy is doing to kids’ teeth or their struggles with adolescent obesity. I’m just going to tell you a story.

This morning, while walking the dog, I ran into a costumed girl about 9 or 10 years old.

She was wearing a shredded black and white dress, a tiara featuring a skull and make-up that wouldn’t look out of place on “The Walking Dead”. And she was crying.

I also noticed that despite carrying one of those ubiquitous “kid on the way to school” back-packs, she was travelling in the opposite direction to the rest of the kids.

As she passed, I asked if she was okay. She said, “No!” struggling not to lose it completely. So, I asked what had happened and she poured out her story.

She’d worked all night on her costume, got up early to put on the make-up and still get to school on time. But the minute she arrived, her teachers turned her around and sent her right back home. Seems she might scare the other kids and that wasn’t allowed.

Now whether her teacher was well-meaning, following some prescribed School Board code, or just some crotchety old stick-in-the-mud, I don’t know.

Maybe she’s even one of those teachers you always meet in bars on the weekend closest to Halloween, tricked out in her sexy nurse costume and making you remember all over again where Eddie Van Halen got his best ideas.

But whatever her motivation, I knew she’d just tramped down hard on somebody’s creative instincts. And no matter what element of a positive nature she was hoping to accomplish, she’d succeeding in doing exactly the opposite.

I did what I could to make the kid feel better, saying how great the costume looked and how she’d scared the crap I was now scooping off the nearby lawn right out of my dog. But she wasn’t having any of it. She seemed inconsolable.

As she walked away, past all the pirates and clowns and superheroes in their store-bought outfits, I tried one last time, calling after her, “Hey, who’re you supposed to be anyhow?”.

She whirled back around, spitting out the words, “I’m the Princess of Death!”

And in that moment, I knew she was probably going to be okay. Her teacher’s attempt at making her heel to the acceptable mores of society, of moulding her to be just like everybody else had gone terribly wrong.

Instead she had sparked the kind of defiance of convention that every truly creative soul needs to survive.

The spirit of the season lives!

Have a Happy Halloween.

The Skywalker


I don’t remember exactly where and when I met Jay Cochrane. I think we both had the same agent at one time, or he was a friend of my agent, or whatever.

But he was one of those people who immediately caught your attention. Not because there was anything particularly striking about him, but because he made a point of taking an acute interest in you.

My first memory of him was at one of those cramped, smoky and quickly drunk gatherings that greet actors when they step out of their dressing rooms on opening night. We’d barely said, "Hello” when he began a detailed grilling of my performance and what he’d gleaned from the show. And when he’d finished with me, he did the same to the next performer and the next.

This was a guy who wanted to know everything about what you were doing as well as how and why you did it. For some reason, each tiny detail was important to him.

When he told me what he did for a living, I kinda dismissed him. He was a tightrope walker. Seriously? How could you make a living doing that in Toronto in the 1970’s?

Although he’d performed in Circuses, Jay said he didn’t do that anymore. He was determined to follow the path of another daredevil of the era, Evel Knievel.

A comment like that ranked up there with all those guys playing guitar for quarters on street corners who were going to be the next Paige or Hendrix. Only Jay’s dream was a little harder to comprehend.

Not much later, I was walking past the downtown corner of Yonge and Bloor on a sunny, Summer day when I heard somebody call my name. I turned to see Jay move from a gaggle of reporters and news cameras wearing a sequined suit.

I was both surprised that he remembered me as well as seeing him in the outlandish get-up. Turned out he was about to go to work, hired to walk the distance between the twin 40 storey towers of the newly erected Hudson Bay Centre on that corner.

I glanced up, spotting a thin thread of wire barely discernable against the blue sky.

“Stick around!” he said, “I want to know what you think. I’ll be down in a minute.”

And with that he and the reporters disappeared inside the complex.

I’m sure the event had been heavily promoted, but it was news to me –- and apparently most of the rest of the city, because the street didn’t seem any more crowded than usual.

A few minutes later, Jay appeared on the ledge atop the first building, picked up a long balance pole and stepped into the void.

From the street level he was little more than a speck in the sky, the wire he was walking barely visible. But anyone watching was immediately aware that there was no net to catch him if he fell – and he wasn’t tethered to any kind of safety harness.

I’m pretty good about heights, but for a chunk of the walk I had to look away. Although this was a guy I barely knew, the enormity of what he was doing and its possible consequence was overwhelming.

And his obsession with detail suddenly made sense. In his occupation, everything had to be taken into account. Nothing, no matter how inconsequential, could be overlooked. His life depended on it.

After what seemed an eternity, he reached the second tower, waved to the crowd below and disappeared. I wasn’t sure if I should wait for him like he’d asked. What do you say to a guy who’s just done something death defying? Nice work? Wonderful show? Nothing seemed adequate.

So when he finally did arrive, still sequined and smiling, I had to be honest. “I gotta tell you,” I said “I didn’t really believe you did this.”

He laughed and shrugged. “I know. I get that all the time. It’s not a normal way to make a living around here.”

Walking home later, I realized those words applied to me as much as they did Jay. Who becomes an actor in a country with no history and little understanding of show business?

But then what makes anyone with a talent or a calling think they can make others believe they are worth the investment of time or money it will take for their potential to be realized?

But we do it. Despite everything around us either insisting it can’t be done or dismissing the effort as pointless.

Jay Cochrane died today after a long and illustrious career as a Skywalker. He remains the holder of 7 Guinness World records including the longest and highest skywalks as well as a historic blindfolded walk in Las Vegas.

Never dismiss anybody with a dream. You have no idea what powers lie within them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Remember How We Forgot

Another week of writing lies ahead. And Monday is like climbing on that first machine at the gym, scanning the other machines that await and realizing how much pain stretches out before you.

Writing can be that hard.

One of the best descriptions of writing I’ve heard is: It’s like trying to remember stuff that hasn’t happened yet.

But in remembering, we always forget the pain. And with the forgetting comes the inspiration to write again.

Something special to inspire your Monday –- and maybe the rest of the week to come.

From Poet Shane Koycsan and accompanist Hannah Epperson.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lazy Sunday #296: Follow Your Arrow

About the worst thing that can happen in life is having somebody else define who you are for the rest of the world.

Yet so many people diligently work at making their version of those they dislike for one reason or another the accepted narrative, never considering what it will be like when (inevitably) Karma kicks in and it’s their turn to be painted as something they really aren’t.

Most Media thrives on the shorthand that comes from calling up a quick stereotype and letting the audience draw the requisite picture in their head. It makes the hard work of understanding who that person or group is so completely unnecessary.






Right away you not only know who they’re talking about, but a good chunk of what you’re supposed to think of them.

Take Redneck.

Where I grew up, we were all pretty much rednecks. Officially, the term describes somebody who works outside, the sun baking that body part un-shaded by a hat or shirt collar until it’s burnt red.

But it’s come to mean those who are rigid and insensitive, probably racist, most likely opposed to abortion and Gay marriage, disrespecting of free-thinking women and clinging to their bibles and guns.

These are the people who killed Captain America in “Easy Rider” and made “Deliverance” more fact than fantasy.

And they’re addicted to Country music…

And yet, the hottest song on the Country charts these days is a reminder that most of those so quickly defined and pigeon-holed don’t really belong in that simplistic box, nor -- as I’m sure you’d agree, do the others for whom we’ve found one word containers.

Nothing pure is ever simple. And nothing simple is ever pure.

To understand that, all you have to do is “Follow Your Arrow”.

And Enjoy Your Sunday.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Taking The Step From Sad To Stupid


A couple of weeks back, I expressed my reservations about the way the Obama administration was responding to the Federal government shutdown in America. Specifically, I didn’t see the benefit of making the situation worse than it already was.

I took a lot of flack for that from “True Believers” backing the administration and that’s fair. Everybody has an opinion and God knows I don’t have a lock on the right one.

But something happened this morning regarding the rollout of the Affordable Care Act that appalled me, and might cause at least a frisson of concern from even the most ardent True Believer.

Earlier in the week, an operator at one of the Health Services call centres set up to help enrol people in the program took a call from Right Wing radio host Sean Hannity.

She was friendly and polite, carefully answering all of his questions. The full 10 minute call is available here.

And for that she was fired.

Now most of us who deal with the media on a regular basis, know that if there’s push back from an interview you’ve done or statement you’ve made, it’s unlikely the media outlet will have your back.

Oh, they might do a follow up on how shabbily you’ve been treated or buy you a drink and give you a shoulder to cry on. But that’s about all.

Hannity did something very different.

Something that could positively alter this young, single mom’s life in a profound way.

For those of you who make a habit of pissing on or name-calling those who don’t share your world view, I hope it gives you pause. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll make you begin to question whether those you unquestioningly support are truly worthy of such devotion.

Video of what happened is here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lazy Sunday #295: The Four Horsemen

Governments going broke, shutting down or simply not working. Terrorists at the mall. Massive unemployment. Dollars that don’t stretch as far as they used to. Somebody’s to blame for this.

Somebody must be. My daily Facebook feed is solid with depredations committed by both the Left and Right and even those who refuse to commit one way or another. 

Are we in the “End Times”?

Is the civilization we know collapsing?

Are the frantic, Cheerleaders of Doom on CNN and Fox sensing an inevitable future or panicking because they might get unbundled from our cable packages?

Or maybe it’s something else.

Something in us as a species that we’ve never come to terms with, tried to evolve from or had the courage to face head on.

The following full-length documentary has been a major selection at film festivals world-wide. And now you can watch it at The Legion.

It might even explain why there is a “New Golden Age of Television” and/or why you’re not part of it.

But it ain’t pretty. So watch it now. And then try to…

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Exclusive Preview of Game of Thrones Season IV

I’m not really sure if this change of tone and direction will really work. But you never know…

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Cop Who Captured Lee Harvey Oswald

I was in my first year of high school when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and like many who still remember exactly where they were on that terrible day, I’ve never lost the desire to learn what really happened.

That has led to reading many of the books written about the assassination, all of them offering differing facts and contradictory theories of who or what was behind it.

Like most people, I’ve never fully accepted the official “lone guman” story. But I’ve also never found an alternative truth I can completely accept. Cubans. The Mob. The CIA. Lyndon Johnson. Texas Oil Barons. Vietnam War Hawks. Even in convoluted combinations, they never seem to logically add up.

But almost 30 years after the fact, I had the chance to meet a man barely mentioned in most accounts of what transpired in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, 1963. The beat cop who captured Lee Harvey Oswald.

In 1990, I was writing the CBS series “Top Cops”, a show in which real police stories were dramatized, hewing as closely as possible to recreating the actual events of our police cases.

The series was heavily lawyered, with network suits always worried about potential lawsuits from the dozens of real life people we were portraying each week.

That meant that final cuts were often tweaked to eliminate moments, sometimes entire scenes, that might get us into tricky territory.

Thus, we faced the very real possibility of ending up with an episode that fell short of our required running time.

The solution was to create a series of mini-documentaries of three to five minutes that could be plugged in to fill out our already multi-story shows.

One of the first subjects we found was Officer Nick MacDonald, a low-key, publicity shy and retired Dallas police officer, who had arrested Kennedy’s accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.


Nick flew up to Toronto to narrate his story and we spent a day going over what he would say about his involvement in the aftermath of the Kennedy killing.

He clearly had accepted the Warren Commission’s Official version of the events of that day and retained a veteran beat cop’s attention to detail. He didn’t care about theories or possibilities. His was the classic Jack Webb, “Just the facts, ma’am” approach.

This is what he saw. This is what he knew. Everything else was spin or speculation or something that happened somewhere he wasn’t.

But after we’d shot his narration, something he’d said kept bugging me.

The tape of Nick’s appearance on “Top Cops” appears below. It’s a no nonsense report from a pretty ordinary guy who just happened to be dropped into an event of historic proportions.

But there’s a moment –- at the 50 second mark –- where MacDonald describes being sent to scene of the murder of Officer J.D. Tippett, beginning the chase that would quickly lead him directly to Lee Harvey Oswald.

Why Tippett had confronted Oswald and why Oswald had shot him remain two of the unsolved mysteries connected to the assassination.

While Nick had made reference to police dispatchers for his prior radio calls, at this point he says, “Suddenly, I heard an unfamiliar voice on the radio. He said a policeman had been shot…”

Maybe it was nothing of import. But it was odd that in a small, close knit police department, he’d never been able to identify the voice that sent him to his unique place in history.

When I asked Nick about the voice, he became quiet for a moment, then in the same casual manner he’d told his story he said, “You know, there is one thing about that day that’s never made sense to me…”

It seems that in 1963 all the Dallas police dispatchers were women. Civilian employees who knew the city backwards and in an era with few if any female officers couldn’t be confused with other cops or detectives in a chaotic or emergency situation.

But when Nick got to work on the morning of November 22nd, he happened to walk past the dispatch office and noticed all the ladies were quite excited.

They had all arrived at work to find envelopes waiting at their dispatch stations. Envelopes containing invitations for the banquet to which Kennedy’s motorcade from Love Field was taking him.

Therefore, the women who best knew the city, the police units and Dallas police protocols weren’t on the air when shots were fired in Dealey Plaza and all hell broke loose.

All the voices on the police radios were unfamiliar that day, and well-trained cops like Nick MacDonald just did what they were told and went where they were directed.

Maybe that’s of little consequence. Maybe it’s just another in a confluence of unexpected events which usually have to coincide to precipitate a tragedy. 

Or maybe it’s something more.

Today, I noticed both a new set of revelations about the Kennedy assassination in my morning news feeds, as well as one previously accepted set of facts being debunked.

The silly season preceding the 50th anniversary of the assassination has begun.

And at this point I’ve come to believe that there’s so much confusion, constructed conspiracy and self serving drivel that we’ll probably never know what actually happened or be able to discern the truth if we actually heard it.

But Nick MacDonald’s “Just the facts”story remains refreshing and worthy of repeating.