Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 351: Zombie Roaches

I finally figured them out.

For as long as I’ve been an adult, I’ve been confounded by bureaucrats. I’m sure that at a certain level they’re wonderful human beings who enjoy their friends, love their families and when it comes to most things are no different from you and me.

But mostly they’re the bane of our existences, quietly gathering in windowless rooms to construct some arcane policy or design a new form to fill out that will leave the rest of us confused at best and broken of wallet and spirit at worst.

No matter who we elect to govern, they remain, impervious to examination or elimination.

And somehow their numbers continually increase. Even more mysteriously, they thrive while the very industries and enterprises which they regulate struggle or wither.

But a trio of recent events has finally explained they and how they operate to me.

The first part of the puzzle arrived in the form of several videos of MIT professor Jonathan Gruber bragging on how important and integral he was to drafting the US Affordable Care Act (commonly known as “Obamacare”).

Whether or not you embrace the way Americans have chosen to dispense health care, it was still unsettling to watch a bureaucrat relate the process of concocting a law in a manner so obtuse nobody could see its flaws or understand how it really worked.

The impression given by Gruber is that this is the only way the rest of us can be correctly governed. Because not only do we not know what’s good for us, we’d be opposed to such good if the process were open and honest.

It’s like the way Telefilm and the CRTC work in Canada, convincing us high ratings or box office numbers are not the real measure of success and/or that the Canadian broadcast system has the best interests of artists and audiences in its dark and venal heart.

The second piece of the puzzle arrived in the form of a comment by an American journalist outraged at Gruber’s assertion that “You can’t handle the truth”.

He described bureaucrats thus, “They make life more complex. And then they become this leeching new class of people who profit from the very complexity they are imposing on society”.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Why else would somebody sit in a windowless room pushing paper all day –- if there wasn’t ongoing financial security waiting at the end of the process?

You ever notice how hard it is to fire bureaucrats, even when they cost us billions by screwing up? And what else but some kind of sinister manipulation of the system allows that to happen?

Ever notice how the number of Canadian films (for example) decline year by year while the number of bureaucrats supervising their production or financing increases?

It used to be you’d go to film or television celebrations and meet other artists. Now it’s primarily people with government jobs partying beyond the velvet rope.

Part three dropped into my lap today while attending a TED conference. It was a talk about parasites.

Which, when combined with puzzle piece one and puzzle piece two, explains everything.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 350: Burnsy

Every Canadian has gotten a traffic ticket or worse from a cop who looked like Pat Burns. A face that said, “Seen it all. Heard it all. Nothing you’re gonna say or do will surprise me.”

In fact, Pat had been a motorcycle cop for a few years in Gatineau, Quebec before he found his true calling –- coaching hockey. And ironically, he was brought into the game by the same Hockey God, Wayne Gretzky, who would break his heart a decade later.

Burns began his coaching career with the Gretzky owned Hull Olympiques in 1984 and was hired as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens four years later, taking them to the Stanley Cup finals in his first season.

In 1992, Burns came to Toronto to coach the Maple Leafs becoming the match that sparked one of the most explosively joyous seasons in the team’s history.

At that point, hockey crazy Toronto had been without a Stanley Cup run for 25 years. The city had endured a quarter century of defeat and humiliation. Burns put an end to all that with the help of stars like Doug Gilmour, Wendel Clark and Felix Potvin.

They got within a game of the final. A Canadian classic showdown with arch-rival Montreal stolen by a blatant missed call on the aforementioned Wayne Gretzky.

As devastating as the loss was to Leaf fans, Burns had given the city back its self respect and no man was more greatly loved among those wearing the Blue and White.

At the time of that Cup run, I was writing and producing “Top Cops” for CBS, a series that dramatized true crime stories. Doug Gilmour’s sister-in-law worked for us and his dog Harley used to come in with her of a morning and curl up on the couch in my office until Doug picked him up after practice.

That led to us calling Pat in to see if we could do one of his stories on the show.

I was expecting a tough, no nonsense intimidating guy. But the one who arrived was funny, personable and engaging. And while we wanted to tell the story of Pat going undercover in a Maximum security prison to bust a drug operation, he demurred, saying it wasn’t that big a deal.

Now even those unfamiliar with prisons knows how dangerous it must be for a police officer to be locked inside, unprotected amid a population where there’s a very good chance he could be recognized.

No matter how much we flattered and cajoled, you could see Burns gently but firmly dig in his heels and we realized that his past life was in the past and all that really mattered to him was the here and now.

A couple of years later, I was sitting behind the Leaf bench in LA as they were getting their butts handed to them by Gretzky’s LA Kings. I began berating him for something and he turned to give me the finger.

I don’t know if he recognized me or not, but Leaf Manager Cliff Fletcher was sitting nearby and when Burns was fired two days later, I concluded that Fletcher had reasoned, “Gee, if one of those idiot fans in LA can see we have a coaching problem, maybe we do have a coaching problem.”

But my intrusion on Burns career didn’t slow him down. He moved on to Boston where he won his third “NHL Coach of the Year” trophy. And not long after he took the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup.

Burns passed away from Cancer in 2010. And tomorrow he will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, a city that still loves him more than any coach the Leafs have had before or since.

No matter what some idiot fan in LA might have to say.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Return of the Drive-In Movie

Johnny Rockets Drive-In

Search “Drive-In” on this site and you’ll find out just how much I love Drive-In movie theatres.

They were big when I was a kid and you attended pre-pyjama’d so you’d nod off after the first feature and your folks could steal a little Mommy-Daddy time.

In my teens they were a necessity, for all those reasons that Drive-Ins remain the stuff of legend and burrowed a special place in our now no longer teenage hearts.

But with the rise of the VCR, DVD other new technologies of convenience as well as the changing economics of the movie business they went away.

At one time, there were over 5000 Drive-In theatres in Canada and the US. Barely 6% of them are still hanging on.

And with the advent of cheap HD home screens and Surround sound, not to mention online access to pretty much any genre that used to be the date-movie-make-out-inducing reason d’etre for their existence, nobody believed the Drive-In would last.

But their number is about to double.

The Johnny Rockets hamburger chain has announced it will construct more than 200 new 500-700 car Drive-In theatres over the next three years.

The venues will feature 4K digital projection, high quality sound as well as access to a wider menu than is offered at most theatres and the option to have your snacks delivered right to your car.

All of this is great news for people who love the Drive-In experience. And it could be beneficial to all movie-goers since those audience members who insist on talking, texting, taking a phone call or updating Facebook during a movie won’t be intruding on you anymore.

But it might also be great news for those of us who make movies as well. As late as the 1980’s and early 90’s, it was still possible to finance a genre picture with not much more than Drive-In audience appeal.

Much of the teen horror, low-budget action and cult canon had its origins in cobbling together a deal with Drive-In chains. And who’s to say that won’t be possible with a company that has deep research into the interests of their own customer base.

Links between the makers of consumer products and movies have been around for a long time. And I’m not talking about the free toy promotions that fast food outlets regularly coat-tail to blockbuster features.

Pizza companies have included package codes that access either film downloads or VOD features. A microwave popcorn maker is running one such promotion right now.  So it seems plausible that product placement could easily evolve into direct funding of films that might play into some hamburger chain’s demographic.

What all this underscores more than anything else is that some corporations still understand the profit potential and power of movies and in getting behind a distribution model that works for them, could be creating new markets for us.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 349: Farmer With A GoPro

I grew up in the middle of the Canadian prairies. Farm country as far as the eye could see -– which, given the 360 degree horizon, was about as far as it’s possible to see.

Everybody you knew either farmed or depended on farmers for their livelihoods. Sons of toil raised from tons of soil to sort of quote P. G. Wodehouse.

And although the growing season was short, it encompassed all twelve months of the year.

In Winter, farmers prepared, repaired equipment, readied the seed, stocked up on fertilizer, pesticide and herbicide.

In spring they planted, hoping the last snow had really been the last.

In Summer, they sweated. Praying for more rain or less hail.

In Fall, they harvested 24/7. Wives and kids were pressed into service. Every free hand and each minute counted to bring the crops in before the cold returned.

And all of this took place far from the public eye. Nobody saw how hard they worked or how long –- just so the rest of the world could eat.

A few years back, while visiting Saskatchewan, I noticed that while little about the job had changed, some of the tools had.

Farmers called up weather forecasts on their Blackberries. Supplies were ordered over diner eggs and coffee on an iPad. Tractors now as big as Transformers were tricked out with GPS screens and Sirius radios (tuned to Outlaw Country or the Rider game of course).

Lately, it seems, one prairie farmer also availed himself of a GoPro camera, finally allowing those who’ve never been on a farm in the middle of nowhere to experience how that chunk of the world puts in its time.

It’s really quite inspiring.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, November 07, 2014

The CRTC Blinks

Oddly –- given the wall-to-wall coverage accorded to the recent CRTC/Netflix showdown at the Gatineau Corral, the following has barely raised a Spockian eye-brow in today’s media reports…

Yesterday, speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade, CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais said the following:

“There is one thing I can share: ‘Regulating’ Netflix is the least of our concerns.”

WTF? After all those threats and everything? Really?

“Whether we choose to attack these disruptive services or learn from their success will be our regulatory decision to make and ours alone.”

In other words. The CRTC will do nothing on Netflix, Google, Youtube, Crackle and the rest in the foreseeable future.

Blais then went on to assert that, despite the opinion of many critics, he was not a dinosaur.

Just like Shaw, Rogers and Bell –- who don’t think they’re dinosaurs either.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

When It’s Your Turn In The Barrel

There’s an old Showbiz adage that applies to every part of life which goes something like –- “Be nice to people on the way up. Because you’re going to meet them again on your way down”.

We all get a turn in the barrel.

Your great new TV series gets a time slot where it’s crushed by the competition. The night before the movie you’ve poured your heart into opens, your star gets caught selling drugs to school kids. Your latest pitch goes into development at the CBC.

And then you’re looking around for friends to help you move on.

If you’ve got any friends left -- after your attitude and behavior on the way up was arrogant, self-entitled or otherwise boorish, selfish or dismissive.

Over the last few years, a lot of people have been troubled by the divisive language and tactics of American politics. It seemed that the contempt of one side for the other knew no bounds.

Last night, the American electorate stepped up and took a side in that battle, in the process putting their president in the barrel.

And as of this morning, the losing side has been talking about Bi-Partisanship, co-operation and compromise. Words they hadn’t used much when they were the guys with all the power.

Not long ago, a US newspaper put together a list of all the names the White House and its media supporters had used for those who were either members of the Republican party or in some way opposed to the President’s policies.

These included:

Enemy, paranoid, greedy, Bible-thumping, gun-toting, fear-mongering, racist, sexist, bigot, birther, redneck, homophobic, xenophobic, global-warming denialists, anti-science, Neanderthal, barbarian, terrorist, hobbits, member of the Flat Earth Society, Nazi, bully, Yosemite Sam hillbilly, beer-toting, pot belly, church going, small-minded, whack-job, Evangelical, gun nuts, wing nut, knuckle-dragger, clueless, Teabaggers, narrow-minded, evil, redneck freaks, judgmental, backwards, sick, anti-intellectualist, slut-shaming, slimebuckets, forced-birther, neocons, Zionist, neo-Confederate, wild nasty hard-right fringe, extremist, sewer rats, wacko birds, bitter clingers, misogynist, you suck, Obamaphobic, chirper, white nativist, crazies, creepy azz cracka, unpatriotic, white grievance, dumb, cracker, white devils, rabid, squealing political pigs, anarchist, fanatics, extortionists, lemmings, gangsters, murderers, banana republicans, fakers, ideological crusader, Cruzites, anti-government idealoges, fraud, Taliban, arsonist, suicide bombers, suicidal lemmings, spoiled children, hostage takers, overlords, Jihadist, blowhard, religious fanatic, freedom fiend, kidnappers, Jesus freaks, dangerous, troglodyte, from the Planet of the Apes, resurrection of the Confederacy, lemmings with suicide vests, anarchy gang, idiots, wife abusers, frightened white people, right-wing loonies, tea-hadist, tea-tards, segregationist, freaking retarded, morally disgusting, Confederate flag-waving, breeders, Robert E. Lee lovers, Southern white radicals, losers, violent rapist, blathering idiots, climate change deniers, way crazy, racist killers, rabid animals, Cro-magnon, cave dwellers, narrow-minded, toddler, headless chicken brigade, monkeys, morons, virus, teapub, Christofascists, healthcare repealers, gun-crazed, wide-eyed creatures, bed-wetting kidult, climate fool, Trotskyite radicalists, Dixiecrats, willfully ignorant fucksticks, anti-Obama, Huns, nutcases, pseudo-militia of gun-toting nutcases, lunatic, and radical terrorist…

That’s a lot to come back from.

No matter how big and important you’re getting in life, never forget that the barrel awaits.

Everybody gets a turn inside.

And the people you met on the way up are the only ones who can get you out.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Lazy Sunday #348: Ambition

It’s apparently been a bad week for those who dream of travelling to the stars.

Over the last few years, the US government decided that it could no longer justify the expense of space exploration and cancelled most of the NASA program that had inspired a generation and taken us to the Moon and beyond.

Thus the North American exploration of space was outsourced to private contractors and for-profit corporations. Some saw that as the death of a dream and others as a chance to make some money while keeping the dream alive.

After the launch explosion of a cargo rocket to the International Space Station and the crash of Virgin Galactic’s Space Tourism craft, the media theme has been that the exploration of Space has flamed out or been pushed far, far into the future.

In other words, the promise of my youth that I would travel to Mars in my lifetime is an empty one and I need to revise the bucket list.

Why do the News media spend so much time discouraging us?

If you ask me, it’s their way of making sure we keep watching the news instead of going out there to make it.

Because here’s a piece of news I bet you didn’t here anything about during all the exploding spaceship stories –- ten days from today, we’re landing on a comet.

For all the life changing scientific advancements the exploration of space has so far accomplished, the real purpose is to find intelligent life and maybe even find planets where we and other life forms might survive and thrive.

Because. let’s face it, the Earth isn’t going to be here forever.

As far as humans are concerned, life can only be sustained with water and comets offer a clue to not only where water might exist in the universe but could explain how the water and maybe even Life on our own planet came to be.

To answer those questions, the European Space Agency launched a probe in 2004 to chase down and land safely on a comet zooming through space.

Most of the scientists involved in what’s known as the Rosetta Mission thought the odds of accomplishing that ridiculously complex task were beyond our current technology. But they gave it a shot anyway and a few days ago Rosetta caught up with a comet and began transmitting photos of its target.

On November 12th, it will land a probe on the comet’s surface and gather data revealing not only what it’s made of but what part of the universe it came from.

It’s a pretty spectacular reminder that the human hunger to discover the truths of our existence and our ambition to overcome whatever obstacles lie in our path will not be dismissed.

You can find a great primer video on how the Rosetta Mission works here. But the NSA has also released a short video to explain why we as a species do so much of what we do.

It’s called “Ambition” and it applies to so much more than the exploration of Space.

Ignore the news. The meek shall inherit the Earth. The rest of us are going to the Stars.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 347: Deep Fried Tequila

It’s said there are two kinds of people --- those who drink Tequila and those who start to dry heave at the sound of the word. And I’ve been in both camps.

My first experience with Tequila was almost my last. I was on tour in some remote Canadian city where there was virtually nothing to do on your day off.

Another member of the cast and I found a movie theatre playing some Peckinpah film that featured the salt, shot and lemon ritual which made Tequila famous.

Only we’d never seen it before and it looked like fun. Certainly a lot more fun than we’d been able to find in our current locale.

So after the movie we found a liquor store and after searching the back, the clerk found a single dusty bottle of Jose Cuervo.  Did I mention we were in the middle of friggin’ nowhere?

We had less trouble finding lemons and salt and returned to our hotel to teach the rest of the cast what we’d learned.

I mostly don’t remember much after that. Save for the part where I hugged a toilet for what seemed like forever.

For years after that, whenever I caught even a whiff of the evil brew, my stomach would go into contractions and I had to hang onto something until the cold sweat abated.

And then somebody got me to try a Tequila Sunrise and the healing began.

I’m still careful with Tequila, as any sane person should be. But if you’re on any beach, primed to party or just need to unwind after a particularly rough day –- Tequila’s a fine place to start.

And now you can deep fry it.

I mean – why wouldn’t you…

What follows is the perfect snack to hurry your Halloween, Grey Cup, So-Long Indian Summer, American Thanksgiving or any other holiday season party into action.

I offer two recipe videos. Although the recipe is incredibly simple and the same in both. The first catches the mood Deep Fried Tequila inspires, while the second offers a more sensible approach.

Either way, you are in for a treat.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why Isn’t The CRTC Regulating Movie Theatres?

Until not too long ago, movies were delivered to theatres in heavy metal cans. They arrived on planes, trucks, trains or buses to be carted up to the projection booth and threaded onto the movie house projector.

But that doesn’t happen anymore.

Now, virtually every motion picture theatre in Canada (and indeed around the world) has been converted to digital. Kodak even recently announced that it will stop manufacturing movie film altogether next year.

The movies you pay to see at your neighborhood multiplex now arrive either on a hard drive or –- most often -- they are streamed to the theatre over the Internet -- you know, just like Netflix sends their movies into your home.

Over the last while, Canada’s Broadcast Delivery Units (BDUs) have lobbied our Federal regulator, the CRTC, to regulate Netflix and force it and other OTT services to carry a prescribed percentage of Cancon while at the same time paying into the Canadian Media Fund.

They argue that Netflix, by producing its own original content, and arriving on TV screens by way of the same cable their shows do, is operating as a broadcaster.

But if the CRTC wants to decide that Netflix’s online delivery system means they must adhere to Cancon rules, why are they not applying the same logic to feature film distribution and requiring Canadian theatre owners and/or the studios who supply them to meet the same Cancon rules and pay into the same production fund?

Because the arguments that our BDUs are using to define Netflix just as accurately define every single American, British, Australian, French (and so on) studio.

Via their 300Mb/sec secure streams, these studios or their distributors are sending content into Canada while taking huge profits from the country and returning nothing to the domestic production industry.

Every single charge levelled by those who support regulating Netflix applies to every single new feature film being beamed into the country by Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney and every other studio or distributor with a movie in a Canadian theatre.

Why do they get a pass while the CRTC browbeats Google and Netflix on behalf of the BDUs?

Why are these OTTs called “parasites” while Disney (which uses exactly the same tech to service Canadian theatres) uses its CRTC appearances to fear monger -- threatening to pull out of the country rather than see its content unbundled?

Either the CRTC is playing favorites, doesn’t fully understand how new media functions or has revealed itself once again as looking out for the interests of Canadian BDUs and broadcasters over the consumers (and film creatives) they are mandated to protect.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Lazy Sunday #346: Something From Nothing

As most Canadian networks tread the safe and narrow with their new season’s programming or once again find a way to imitate what’s been done before, HBO continues to break new ground.

Friday saw the debut of the 8 part series “Sonic Highways” featuring the band “The Foo Fighters” tracing America’s musical roots and using that exploration to inspire new music.

Each week the band visits a different city and during one week of interviews and jam sessions with local notables constructs a new song which is recorded in an iconic studio.

It’s a remarkable concept executed brilliantly. If you don’t subscribe to HBO, find a way to steal it. This is one series worth being sent to video pirate jail.

Given this week’s announcement that HBO will soon begin offering an online streaming version of its service, it’s also a reminder of how those who intend to remain leaders in the industry use creative innovation to drive their continued prosperity.

And -- how those who continue to copy rather than try something new will find themselves left even further behind.

“Sonic Highways” first episode is set in Chicago, tracing that city’s connection to the Blues through Classic Rock bands like “Cheap Trick” and punk pioneers “Naked Raygun” examining how their music reflected the city and how the city in turn evolved the musicians who made it their home.

It makes engaging connections between the generations that have come and gone in the Windy City from Muddy Waters to Grunge, climaxing with a song whose lyrics reprise the highlights of what has been revealed in the previous hour.

What follows is a sampling of the series, followed by “Something From Nothing”, the song inspired by Chicago’s musicians.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pirate Radio

By now, virtually every Canadian is aware of the stare-down going on between Netflix and our broadcast regulators, the CRTC.

But there’s a similar confrontation concurrently flying under most of our media’s radar between the self-same CRTC and a group of radio stations in Vancouver.

These stations, unlike Netflix, have their offices, control rooms and the boardroom where they meet with their accountant to sign their business and income tax checks in Vancouver. They have dozens of Canadian employees and spend most of their airtime covering Canadian issues.

But the transmitters sending their signals to audiences in BC’s lower mainland are across the border in Washington State, so they don’t have broadcast licenses.

And the CRTC has a problem with that.

Because it seems these radio stations are providing content to their Canadian audiences without an approved broadcast license.

Now what’s different about these Canadian stations is that they are all broadcasting to South Asian audiences in their native tongues.

So we’ve got yet another group who consider themselves underserved by our traditional broadcasters.

And the CRTC appears to need to bring them to heel like Netflix.

The Commission claims its main problem is that other broadcasters are losing Ad revenue to these Punjabi stations.

Kind of the same argument that’s been put forward for years by Canada’s private broadcasters with regard to the CBC. And yet we don’t see the CRTC acting on any of those beefs.

So what’s this really all about?

If you ask me, it directly parallels the Netflix situation. Broadcasters annoyed that somebody else is competing for an audience they’ve either ignored or undervalued.

While this once again exemplifies how the CRTC ignores its mandate of consumer protection to support the needs of the broadcast hegemony; it also reveals that like government bureaucrats past, they’ve realized that unless they pull on the jackboots, their power will be eroded.

Take for example, England in 1964…

Broadcasting there was tightly regulated. Whether or not they owned a radio or TV, citizens were required to pay a broadcast tax. A tax, they were assured, spent to provide them home-grown content. 

Vans with a rotating antennae on their roofs roamed the streets of British cities and towns, searching for those who were receiving radio and TV signals but had neglected to pay their tax.

Then, as now, artists were under the impression that this was how their jobs were created, nurtured and protected.

Except…

This was also the era of “The British Invasion”. An explosion of creativity in the form of “The Beatles”, “The Rolling Stones”, “The Yardbirds”, “The Kinks” and hundreds more.

But the government ran the BBC, almost the only radio and TV available, and BBC Radio allotted a mere two hours a week to Pop music.

And refused to change.

The greatest era in British musical history was virtually unavailable in its own country.

The powers in British broadcasting and government had decided that they knew better what was right for the country than the people to whom they answered.

And then –- along came “Radio Caroline”.

It’s name inspired by a Life magazine photograph of JFK dancing with his daughter Caroline in the oval office, symbolizing a playful disruption of government; Radio Caroline was a radio station aboard a ship anchored in International waters off the British coast.

Unlicensed and unregulated, it broadcast Pop music to an audience that averaged 22 million listeners per day.

The government was outraged, doing all it could to bring the ship and its backers to heel. And even though the ship was finally silenced in 1968, it changed British broadcasting and benefitted a group of artists with a level of income and notoriety they wouldn’t have had if the government had its way.

Like Netflix and BC’s Punjabi stations, Radio Caroline simply stood up for the belief that the consumer has the right to enjoy the content they want when and wherever they want it.

And if the audience and the content provider are happy with their arrangement, Government has no right to stand in their way.

Its time for the CRTC to be mothballed, so more of us can serve the audience we’re part of instead of having bureaucrats decide what we really should see and hear.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 345: All About That Bass

Paul Revere died last week. No, not the one from the famous ride. He would’ve been well over 200. This guy’s real name was Paul Dick (and yeah, if that was my name I’d have changed it too).

Mr. Dick was a restaurateur in Idaho, who played piano and dreamt of being a rock star. A dream he shared one night while picking up burger buns from the local bakery. A bakery which employed another aspiring rock star named Mark Lindsay.

The two hit it off, called up some garage band pals and went to LA where they became “Paul Revere and The Raiders”, dressed up in American Colonial duds and ready to fend off the latest British Invasion with a string of huge hit songs.

During my teen years I spent a couple of weeks on the road with “Paul Revere and The Raiders”. It wasn’t an “Almost Famous” thing. But it was fun.

Paul’s death brought back a lot of memories and I spent a couple of hours on Youtube re-listening to the songs they had made famous.

I don’t know what it is about Pop. But for all the great Classic Rock and Country that has become my soundtrack, a great Pop song still gets me right where I live.

What constitutes a great Pop song for my money is simply a song that sounds fresh and new –- and happy. Sometimes there’s a great riff or a lyric. But mostly it’s just a distillation of pure creative joy.

Somebody just going for it and having fun, not caring whether anybody else gets it or not.

But a lot of people do get it. Usually millions of them.

In the last few weeks there’s been a lot of controversy about one of this Summer’s great Pop songs “All About The Bass”.

That’s a song written by Meghan Trainor, a kid from Nantucket who dreamt of being a rock star, but figured she didn’t have the looks.

She wrote country songs for a while and then hooked up with a record producer who thought she should stretch a little.

So she wrote a song that made the rounds of hot female vocalists from Rhianna to Beyonce. But nobody bit, so Trainor and her producer pal decided to record it themselves.

Just another kid from nowhere with rock star dreams –- and like Paul Revere and Mark Lindsay –- a keen ear for what was fresh and new and happy.

Although all of that doesn’t fit with what is hip and cool and all that these days, it’s a formula that still works. Because fresh and new and happy touches something deep inside all of us.

And always will.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

And for a taste of “Paul Revere and the Raiders” try here.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 344: The Talking Dead

One of the best series on television, certainly the best at delivering suspense and horror, returns next Sunday. And this season, “The Walking Dead” promises to reveal where and how the Walker phenomenon began.

The secret of any successful series rests in either never changing anything (“Two and a Half Men”) or continually upping the stakes.

And when you make a major revelation such as the one “The Walking Dead” promises, the fan boys will inevitably be all over you if the explanation offered doesn’t fit with some obscure moment back in Episode One.

For me, that’s the reason “Lost” and “Twin Peaks” climaxed to such mass disappointment. Both had gone so far to hide what they were up to that ultimately no solution could satisfy those paying attention.

I’m betting the writers on “The Walking Dead” are smarter than that. Unless of course, their reveal is something like what follows…

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Betting On Canadian TV

Now and then, I wander into a Casino. Since I mostly live in Canada, where wagering is government run, I don’t stay long.

That’s partly because our politically correct casinos seriously dial back the fun factor, designating where you can drink and how noisy you’re allowed to be.

In addition, there are stickers and signs all over the place reminding you that there are better ways to spend your money, you might not know when to quit and you’re marginally irresponsible just by being in the place.

But my short durations are mostly because, as with all state bureaucracies, Canadian gaming locations are structured to separate you from your money as quickly as possible.

Unlike Las Vegas, you seldom see big winners in a Canadian Casino. Even people walking out carrying more cash than they came in with are hard to come by.

A Vegas Casino Manager once explained to me that this is because when the House regulates itself, it can decide how little it’s going to pay out based on its current needs.

And as we all know, our governments are constantly “in need”.

Plus -- as our Provincial Lottery and Gaming Corporations constantly remind us, their profits fund hospitals and schools and kid’s sports, so you should actually feel good about losing.

But one thing I noticed on a recent trip to my local den of iniquity was how many of the slot machines were based on well-known TV series.

Some replicate TV game shows like “Deal or No Deal”, “Jeopardy”, or “The Price Is Right”. Apparently, “Wheel of Fortune” just became the highest earning slot machine of all time.

But there are also games using images, film clips and motifs familiar to all of us from “I Dream of Jeannie”, “The Munsters”, “Sex and The City”, “Cheers” and even “Judge Judy”. And it’s easy to see the appeal.

For most players, sitting in front of those spinning reels is not far removed from watching television. And it’s not a stretch to presume they pick those machines based on both an affection for the show and the belief that Herman Munster or Jeannie wouldn’t actually try to hurt them by taking all their money.

And of course, Judge Judy always plays fair…

But it got me wondering about the other gambling industry that Canadian governments control –- the TV business.

It’s just as risky as Casino wagering, hardly anybody wins and those that do don’t usually walk out the door with much. And in some locales, lottery profits even find their way into production budgets.

So why aren’t Canadian shows on Canadian Casino slot machines? Is their no quota on Cancon there? Given how much money these places vacuum from Canadian pockets, shouldn’t there be?

Has J-P Blais not looked into this? Isn’t there a casino in Gatineau not far from the very offices of the CRTC?

A few years back, I put up a post about all the money our Lottery corporations were paying out in royalties to US studios so that they could issue scratch and sniff tickets based on well known movies.

Does anyone know how much MORE money is leaving Canada so the nice folks from the care home can be bussed in to turn over their pension cheques to “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “CSI: Miami”?

Couldn’t those royalties be going to CBC or CTV to be recycled into new Canadian shows?

Why not a slot based on “The National” where Peter Mansbridge simultaneously charms or lulls people into plugging in quarters to cover his six-figure stipend as well as re-open some foreign news offices?

If people don’t think the kids from “Happy Days” are out to empty their wallets, wouldn’t they feel the same about the folks from “Corner Gas”?

And who better to set off those flashing lights than the gang from “Flashpoint” or those whacky “Trailer Park Boys” ?

Casinos could even appeal to regional sentiments by featuring a local show. I mean, “The Republic of Doyle” could be bringing money to The Rock forever.

Everybody wants to know how we’re going to finance TV shows once most of us cut the cord and turn to Netflix. And this is the perfect solution.

Less government money going to Hollywood and a new way for Canadians to give their nickels to home-grown talent instead of routing it through Mr. Rogers and Mr. Shaw first.