Wednesday, July 31, 2013

National Orgasm Day

Seriously? Who decides these things? I mean, isn’t every day…?


Sounds like as good a reason as any to skip out of work early. What kind of boss is going to say “No, that doesn’t sound important enough”?

But be careful. Apparently, there are still women around who fake orgasms, which never made any sense to me –- nor it seems to the guy who coined the old joke:

Q: Why do women fake orgasms?

A: They think we care.

So since it’s officially National Orgasm Day, let’s all get at it –- and no faking –- or insisting it was the wrong kind. To which Woody Allen once famous responded:

“I’ve never had the wrong kind. Never ever. My worst one was right on the money”.

And leave us not forget – Kevin Kline won an Academy Award for his…

Monday, July 29, 2013

Making Monday Bearable

I know. I know. It’s Monday. And they’re so much worse in the Summer when everything outside your window looks far more interesting and enticing.

So hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel…

This’ll help.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 283: They Call Me The Breeze

Let me do something special for you.

It’s Sunday morning. You got the time to make yourself a big breakfast. Maybe you have friends coming over for brunch so you’re getting ready for that. Or you’re already at your favorite coffee haunt, kicking back with a croissant and a Cappuccino.

The day stretches ahead with its endless possibilities, needing only the right kick to point it in a good direction.

And the kick must be suited to a easy Summer day –- effortless.

When a suspect loses a cop, the cop says he’s “in the wind”. Gone without a trace. Virtually without effort. The wind just took him.

A few years ago, guitarist JJ Cale, writer of such hits as “After Midnight”, “Cocaine” and “Crazy Mama” wrote a song called “They Call Me The Breeze” –- about a guy who lives his life without stress, agitation or conflict. Effortless.

I don’t know if that’s how JJ Cale lived his own life, which came to a quiet end yesterday. But it’s certainly how he played.

Which makes him the perfect kickstart for a day such as today.

For those with the time, an hour of JJ Cale recorded live in 1979.

And for those in a hurry, “They Call Me The Breeze”.

Keep it effortless and…

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Writer’s Housekeeping Tip

If you’re like me, the warm weather finds you taking your writing work outside as often as possible. That might be to the deck or balcony, a bar or coffee house patio, maybe just responding to a few emails from the beach so people think you’re really hard at it.

But exposing your laptop or tablet to the elements comes with some risks, the biggest being the amount of dust and airborne debris it’s exposed to.

Most of us remember to dust off our devices or blast them with a can of compressed air after a session outside. But the reality is that you need to do more than that.

At least once a week, you should clean the interior of your computer screen as well. That might sound like a daunting task, but it’s relatively simple. The link below explains the process:

Now, get back out there and enjoy the sunshine!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 282: The Deadly Dance

In the original ad campaign for the Fox TV series “Glee” the cast posed making an “L” sign with their fingers –- the universal sign for “Loser”.

Last week, the star of that series, Cory Monteith, became the ultimate loser, cutting short a promising career and departing this life as the latest celebrity victim of a Heroin overdose.

In eulogizing Cory, a lot has been written about his struggles with addiction, visits to rehab and the problems that come from being young and rich and famous.

Others have repeated the words of Comedian Bill Hicks, who codified the victim mentality and bleeding heart sympathies around drug deaths into the phrase “We’re missing a moron”.

We all know that hard drugs mask rather than solve a problem, providing a temporary relief from the user’s pain that ultimately makes the problem much, much harder to solve.

For whatever reasons, Cory Monteith either didn’t have the tools or just wasn’t smart enough to deal with his real issues and, as in all such cases, the Darwin theory eventually reproves itself.

Yet while the fans weep and the floral memorial outside the hotel where he died in Vancouver grows, not a lot of people want to talk about why he died the way he did.

There’s palpable outrage over a column in a Calgary newspaper blaming his death on Vancouver’s safe injection sites. Not because that’s where Cory took his final shot, but because it’s a well known place for out-of-towner’s to connect with dealers just by talking to their current customers.

Like John Belushi and so many other celebrity addicts in bands found dead in hotel rooms, Monteith may have made the simple mistake of not considering that the drugs he was purchasing on the road weren’t the same as the ones he was used to back home.

Maybe Vancouver’s safe injection sites are a humane solution for some of the problems addicts face. But like drug use itself, they mask rather than deal with the real issue.

One of the hits of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival was Sean Dunne’s harrowing documentary “Oxyana” (now available online at Vimeo). It chronicles the devastation of a small West Virginia town caused by rampant Oxycontin abuse.

You’ll find a taste of it below, along with another from a NY Times documentary by Brent McDonald on Heroin use in Portland, Maine. Usage that spiked once Oxycontin became harder to obtain.

We can either continue to write kind words and lay bouquets on the sidewalk the next time a budding talent dies, or we can finally take a hard look at what is killing them and deal with it once and for all.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Oxyana Trailer from Sean Dunne on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Knows It Alls

As predictable as the arrival of the second season of HBO’s “The Newsroom” has been the return of the “Why The Newsroom Really Sucks” meme.

Optimistically, I’d assumed that with the show’s renewal, all those who felt the obsessive need to keep watching a series they clearly didn’t like would have moved on.

But no, they were back, writing on virtually every hip cum trendy news site, online magazine and showbiz blog, allowing that while Aaron Sorkin had taken some of their past criticism to heart and maybe even rediscovered how to write women again (at least somewhat), “The Newsroom” still wasn’t meeting their expectations –- and wouldn’t meet mine or yours either.

I wrote about these people a year ago here, primarily dismissing them as disgruntled fellow scribes hoping to be noticed and hired for Sorkin’s writing room, where no one besides him does any actual script writing –- but they do get paid to sit around and tell him how he could be writing better.

I’m sure Mr. Sorkin appreciates the talents of the people in his “room” and in interviews he’s also been very kind to those who’ve maligned both him and one of the most entertaining shows on television, responding to the bricks tossed at him by saying:

“I don’t mean the critics are wrong. I just mean I don’t see it that way.”

In other words, “I’m making the best show I can. And I’m doing it virtually by myself. You don’t like it, there’s like a bazillion other channels.”

But they continue.

Sunday, I ignored them and watched the Season 2 Premiere, literally applauding at least twice the masterly manner in which the story was told. And since then, I’ve watched it again and re-PVR’d a couple of choice scenes, marvelling at how they were constructed.

It’s wrong to say that you can’t judge creativity unless you’ve done it yourself. Because there are not only some great critics, but every member of the audience engages in their own ongoing assessment of the craft being served to them.

When we succeed, they don’t touch the remote. When we don’t, well…

But this second wave on continued dissatisfaction with what Mr. Sorkin has to offer got me wondering just who these people really were. This afternoon, I got a little insight.

It was hot and I dropped into a local coffee place to get something cold and caffeinated to keep me going. It was one of those places where screenwriters like to hang and type so people think that they really are working on something.

A couple of them were dissecting “Sharknado”, moving on to express their outrage over the Zimmerman verdict, the current cover of Rolling Stone and then what wasn’t working on “The Newsroom”.

In each case they were in vociferous disagreement with the right of each of those things to simply exist.

Not just a negative opinion, but an assertion that everybody who thought otherwise needed some time in an internment camp.

As the Barista gushed stuff into my cup and I eavesdropped, I realized there was no differentiation between their level of anger and the subject matter. A murder trial, a magazine cover and a couple of disparate TV shows all engendered the same dosage of venom.

And I recalled that we live in an age of entitled outrage, where it seems everything you don’t like has to be condemned with the same overkill intensity.

Maybe it’s not that exactly. Maybe it’s that our lives are so busy and packed with multi-tasking that we feel a need to get our messages out fast and forcefully.

Maybe we’re all subconsciously aware that our collective attention spans have been re-sculpted by Facebook and Twitter and unless you speak in quick and impactful sound-bites nobody will bother listening to you or register what you’re trying to say.

Maybe Life or technology has us rapidly returning to that stage two year olds struggle with because they just haven’t developed the communicative and mobility skills to make life function smoothly. It’s what some people call the “when all you got’s a hammer, everything’s a nail” syndrome.

Or maybe we’re all just getting stupider. Too dumb to just change the channel when we aren’t enjoying ourselves and feeling our dissatisfaction is the fault of the guy telling the story, not our own inability to see that he might be waaayyyy smarter than we are –- and waaayyyy more talented as well.

Or he just sees things as they are as opposed to how somebody else might like them to be.

So, perhaps I am saying that unless you’ve played the violin, you can’t appreciate the magic Aaron Sorkin can make with his.

Or perhaps I’m suggesting that the meme was tired a year ago and the bellyaching isn’t going to change anybody’s mind at this point. So you might as well go back to talking about things you do understand…


Liam Neesons & Bruce Willy from Peter Atencio on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fame Is Fleeting

Given a choice between Fame and Fortune, do yourself a favor and always choose the latter.

Yes, it’s true, money cannot buy happiness. But what it provides in its own shallow way really isn’t all that bad.

Fame, on the other hand, fades. Quickly. Sometimes when you still think you’re famous. People may know your name or whatever you’re famous for, but they don’t necessarily know you.

Take Matt Harvey, pitching phenom of the NY Mets. He plays in the largest media market in the world before some of baseball’s most rabid fans. Tonight he takes the mound as the National League’s starting pitcher in the MLB All-Star Game.

And yet, even New Yorkers don’t know who he is…

Like I said –- given the choice –- always opt to fill the vault. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 281: It’s Whatcha Leave Behind You When You Go…

Randy Bruce Traywick was trouble pretty much out of the gate and for all his later good fortune, has been well acquainted with trouble and troubles ever since.

Now better known as country singer Randy Travis, he lies in a coma in a Texas hospital as I write this, barely 54 but with more miles on him than most men acquire in twice that time. And whether he will live, let alone ever sing again, is very much in doubt.

But what I want to say here is less a eulogy than an appreciation of a man who is among the nicest, kindest, gentlest people you could ever want to meet and yet seems to have constantly been burdened with demons that came in endless Legion.

Travis dropped out of school in Grade nine, repeatedly arrested for car theft, burglary and getting in fights. A sympathetic judge finally agreed to assign him to the care of an older woman who ran a roadhouse where Randy worked as both a cook and a part time singer.

She began giving him more stage gigs and eventually the money to cut a demo album. But the record was turned down by every single record company in Nashville because it was “too country”.

He was a country singer too country for the home of country music.

But he kept plugging away, working as a cook by day and at any singing gig he could get at night. His bar owner manager left her husband and moved in with Travis. She was 37 and he was 17.

Some said it was love. Some that it was Mommy issues. Some figured they were trying to squash the rumors that he was gay.

In 1985, Warner decided to take a chance on the kid. They changed his name, swore him to silence about his relationship and released a record aptly titled “Storms of Life”. It would sell 4 million copies.,h=425,pd=1,w=620/randy-travis.jpg

In the years since, Randy Travis has sold 30 million records, registered a string of 16 number one hits, won Grammys and just about every statue Country music hands out as he established himself as a musical legend.

At the same time, he ran up a rap sheet of drunken fights, trashed cars, DUIs, threatening cops and other incidents of bizarre behavior including being busted in a convenience store naked while demanding somebody give him some damn cigarettes.

His personal life has been a debacle. But professionally…

He took country music to a whole other level, blending the greats of its past with the needs of its current and future audience. Travis is both one of the easiest guys to listen to and one of the hardest, choosing subject matter and vocal phrasing nobody else would touch and making hearing it that much more rewarding an experience.

He can make the cheesiest lyric create a lump in your throat and a sentiment you would never espouse something you take to your heart.

Although he has defied the odds before, it’s hard to imagine Randy Travis overcoming what he now faces. But whatever comes of this moment, I hope it finally grants him peace.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

His last hit single…

And something old made new…

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Whiff Of Desperation

Over the last few days, my movie mail inbox has been inundated with missives trumpeting the joys of a movie you couldn’t pay me enough to go and see –- “Pacific Rim”.

A week ago, I did plunk down some hard-earned cash for a ticket to “World War Z”, in my opinion a not-too-shabby and somewhat original Summer blockbuster which had received lukewarm reviews at best yet appears poised to turn a profit.

Preceding it was a trailer for “Pacific Rim” which is basically about Giant Robots fighting Sea Monsters. As I watched, I recalled seeing pretty much the same movie when I was about 12 and delivered newspapers for the Regina Leader-Post.

Every year, the paper treated us, its trusted carriers, to an afternoon at the movies and on one occasion served a theatre full of 12-14 year old boys “King Kong vs Godzilla”.

We cheered like crazy when the title appeared and erupted once again with the arrival of each of the combatants. But an hour or so later, with no real story or characters to fall back on, the guys in the rubber suits had lost us and many had departed to get an early start on delivering the Saturday edition.

These days, a theatre packed with 12-14 year old boys appears to be every studio executive’s wet dream, a sure-fire way to insure that a new Ferrari will be sitting in the driveway and Christmas can be spent skiing in Aspen.

But all these emails hyping “Pacific Rim” have me feeling they’re just not so sure anymore. And when one includes a quote from a critic assuring me that director Guillermo del Toro “surpasses such contemporaries as Michael Bay”, I know they’re grasping at straws.

A few weeks back, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas predicted a coming collapse of the Hollywood system. And should that happen, if you ask me, most of the blame could be laid at their respective doorsteps.

The Summer blockbuster was undeniably their invention. Yet I can’t think of two larger talents who more pissed away the original concept and their own promise by opting to shoot projects with a brighter future as Theme Park rides and Toys R Us franchises than classic films people wanted to experience for years to come.

Even their early successes were eventually turned into Summer marketing fodder. The “South Park” episode in which both men eagerly rape Indiana Jones struck a lot of people in the film business as much closer to reality than satire.

According to some in Hollywood, the collapse theory is a cover for launching a new movie pricing system in which audiences will be asked to pay more to see tent-pole blockbusters and ‘event’ films than the rest of what gets distributed.

It’s yet another example of a failed business model attempting to save itself at the cost of everything else around it.

A decade ago that same idea got Edgar Bronfman laughed out of the top job at Universal. But with studios now producing far fewer titles at budgets where failures cause greater internal damage it appears to be an idea whose time has come.

Except, as always, one element hasn’t been included in calculating the equation –- the audience.

Already burned by too many lame sequels, repetitive plots and overdone CGI, audiences have begun turning away from the “sure-fire”, “can’t miss”, “we know what they want” formula Summer films.

Hundreds of Millions of Hollywood smart money aside, Audiences knew that “After Earth” was just Will Smith trying to make his son a movie star and “The Lone Ranger” was the next Johnny Depp ego trip and passed, costing those films and their respective studios dearly.

Add “Oblivion”, “White House Down”, “Jack the Giant Slayer” and “Beautiful Creatures” to the list and you get a clear message that jacking up ticket prices won’t even begin to solve the problem.

And I fear no amount of email bombing will save “Pacific Rim” either.

And maybe that’s a good thing.

It could well mean that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas don’t work as often. But after being bored to death by “Lincoln” and embarrassed by Chapters IV, V and VI, maybe it’s time for some new blood, new ideas and new approaches.

There’s a whiff of desperation in the Hollywood air –- one that attracts the hungry, the new predators, and signals a change. Hopefully it’ll be for the better.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

I Find It Interesting…

That the majority of the Canadian media, saw this photograph…

… and began asking all kinds of questions about the possible relationship between the Mayor of Toronto and drug dealers.

But this photograph of a potential future Prime Minister and the Premier of Ontario…

…with a man charged with molesting children and producing child pornography (while in the employ of the Premier) doesn’t draw the same kind of implications or demands for explanation.

Is there some kind of double standard?

Just askin’…

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 280: Cowboy Protection

Until about the age of ten, the rodeos I attended included a gap in the action where mom would take little bro and I out to the midway for an hour while dad stayed behind to watch the Bull riding. Observing bucking Brahma bulls and the attached mayhem was deemed “too intense” for those still young and innocent.

This week, despite a natural disaster of epic proportions, the world’s greatest outdoor show, Canada’s Calgary Stampede, launched it’s 101st edition – subtitled “Come Hell or High Water”. Get your T-shirt and free song download here.

This year’s Stampede features all the essential thrills of rodeo: bucking broncos, calf-roping, bull-dogging, barrel riding and the chaotic excitement that is Chuckwagon racing.

But at its heart is the single most dangerous event ever devised to test both man and beast, one requiring not only a powerful, unpredictable animal and a courageous Bull Rider but a small coterie of men willing to risk their own lives to save his.

Back when I was being parked on kiddie rides to protect my youthful sensibilities, the men protecting the cowboys were called Rodeo Clowns. Today the term is more accurate –- Bull Fighters.

When a Rider is bucked off or gets into trouble (in Rodeo parlance “wrecks”) his opponent (the Bull) doesn’t accept that he’s won. His instinct tells him to continue to destroy everything around him that’s still moving.

The bizarre reality of Bull Riding is that a cowboy is far safer on the back of that half ton of angry hamburger than he is on the ground. And thus, going against every sane human emotion and instinct, when a rider goes airborne, Rodeo Bull Fighters run toward impending disaster instead of getting out of its way.

There may be some whose personal sensibilities will be tried by this week’s video selection. But it exemplifies some of the best of what we are, a tradition of courage and self-sacrifice that, like the Calgary Stampede, needs to be carried on.

It’s the same human instinct that put Calgary enough back on its feet to allow this year’s Stampede to proceed.

For those for whom this small taste isn’t enough, the Stampede streams live daily here.

Come Hell, high water, or whatever life suddenly throws at you, it’s comforting to know that there are still people out there willing to step up when it all goes sideways.

The guys in the white hats. Cowboys.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Make This Canada Day Memorable

Amid the BBQ’s, dogs on the beach, cold beers and fireworks listed on my Canada Day Calendar, I’m taking a couple of hours to hang some of the Canadian art I’ve purchased over the years.

In preparation, I came across a beloved miniature I remember purchasing on another Canada Day at a sidewalk sale on Toronto’s waterfront. That artist no longer sells on the sidewalk, her work now featured on the walls of some of our more prestigious galleries.

Now I’m certain that my twenty or thirty dollar purchase didn’t make a huge difference to that artist’s career. But it probably helped. Maybe it only bought a rare meal out on a summer night when she got her next inspiration. Maybe it bought the oils she used for one of the works that eventually made her famous.

The point is that when it comes to artists and money, every little bit helps. And this is a day when all of us could make a difference, no matter how small, for another Canadian artist.

It’s a busy day for most Canadians. We’re flocking to parks and campgrounds to enjoy the weather, taking in local fairs or just hanging someplace shady to have a drink.


In the process, we’ll run across street musicians, jugglers and buskers of all sorts, people starting out the same way an lot of the famous acts who’ll be filling our arenas and bandstands tonight started out.

Take a moment to stop and take in what they have to offer. Take another to find a ten or twenty in your wallet that’s just going to get blown on a couple of drinks later on and toss it in their guitar case, bucket or fish bowl.

Trust me, it’ll make a difference and mean a lot more than it ever will to Mr. Labatt or Mr. Seagram.

Make Canada Day memorable for one of the people helping to make yours better and brighter –- and someday you can tell people you were the one who got them wherever they got.

Happy Canada Day!