Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas, Everybody!

lighted christmas tree

It’s been a tough year for a lot of people on a lot of levels. But it’s also been a year when our better natures came to the fore.

There is Peace this night in places that have not known it for years and millions tasting freedom for the first time in their lives.

I don’t know if the good guys are winning, but we’re certainly holding our own. And a season born out of hope for the future feels more hopeful than it has in a while.

I hope this Christmas makes all your wishes and dreams come true and its spirit carries you through the year to come.

Thanks so much for continuing to drop by The Legion. I hope I can continue to give you a reason to do that.

As the duo in tonight’s carol symbolizes, it’s all a matter of setting your sights on perfection while not forgetting where you come from.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

In The Spirit Of The Season…

Every year, there seems to be an escalation of what’s been called “The War On Christmas”. Somehow a season that’s all about peace, goodwill and generosity gets construed by some as being an “offensive” concept to somebody else.

Yet for all the “Holiday Trees” and “Best of the Season” cards, I can’t recall ever meeting anybody of any race, creed or religion who got even a little sideways over me or anybody else celebrating Christmas.

And if you want proof that the entire premise of the anti-Christmas argument is bogus, you need look no further than this note posted in the window of a New York Chinese restaurant, directed to its Jewish clientele…

christmas sign

Merry Christmas! 和平 And Shalom…

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 2011 Legion Christmas Concert


On Christmas seasons past I’ve waxed poetic about the school concerts I was part of as a kid, posted reader favorites and taken you on a cross country winter tour.

This year, I wanted a Concert with a definite Canadian theme.

Maybe just because that wasn’t reflected in any of the seasonal specials offered by our nation’s broadcasters via Russell Peters, Justin Bieber or even the folks at CBC tasked at keeping the home fires burning.

Kevin O’Leary as “Scrooge”! Srsly? Is that merely a lame joke or just more pointless cross-and-self-promotion?

Thing is, Canadians feel a certain ownership of Christmas. We’ve got the snow and the trees and both official North Poles (geographic and magnetic). Our immigrant population has embedded the Christmas traditions of every single country of the world.

Both the White House and Buckingham Palace officially import our chocolates and candy for the season. We send New York’s Rockefeller Centre its tree. And without ex-pat Canadian writers most Christmas parties would roll away the shrimp tray at sunset in LA.

We began celebrating Christmas 200 years before there was a Charles Dickens to codify the traditions and 300 before Coke rebranded Santa.

In 1643, Jesuit Missionary Jean de Brebeuf penned one of the first Christmas carols and the first written in the language of the Huron/Wendet people he was trying to convert.

The monk was martyred a short time later by the Iriquois, but his carol lived on to be translated into English in 1926. Now sung in many languages in many churches it reflects both Christian and Aboriginal spirituality…

“Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn, Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria”

The best selling Christmas album this season is by Canadian Michael Buble, arranged and produced by fellow Canadian David Foster. Among its tunes is “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” by Broadway Composer Meredith Willson.

“There’s a tree in the Grand Hotel and one in the park as well…”

And a lot of people claim Willson wrote those words while vacationing in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia where he stayed at the Grand Hotel which had a tree in the lobby and where his room overlooked another decorated tree in Frost Park across the street.

Further proof of our special connection to Christmas.

And to close, a brand new Christmas song by Sarah McLachlan and the students of her Vancouver Music School. I have a feeling this will be a seasonal tradition by next year.

Christmas in Canada. The Giving never stops.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Ripple Effect

can't do this

Situated amid my social media hubs are two distinct groups of filmmakers.

One makes a living working in the production industry while the second group is either breaking into the business or pinning their career hopes on the future of new media platforms.

Both are intelligent and media savvy, updating regularly on the industry while spinning this news in whichever direction they hope the zeitgeist will respond –- responses that will impact the futures in which they are personally invested.

One such topic arose last week when Comedian Louis CK produced and released his own stand-up special online. At $5/purchase, CK gave buyers multiple downloads and streams of his show and rang up $200,000 in profits virtually overnight.

His venture eliminated all the media middlemen from development executives to distributors, all of whom take a cut of the work of most artists.

What’s more, no one had interfered with, attempted to enhance, censored or appended any other agenda to his artistic vision.

Louis CK had, in this single bold move, end run the gatekeepers and turned a quick dollar – the double Holy Grail for most media artists.

As CK described the process, “I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me”.

The initial reaction among the non-mainstream set was that this was a “Game-Changer” finally opening the floodgates of internet media sales for all.

Meanwhile, the established applauded Louis CK’s success while pointing out he was an established artist who had garnered fame (and therefore the ability to exploit it) via mainstream television.

I tend to think they’re both right.

And they’re both wrong.

That’s because while our attention is always drawn to the big splash a rock makes when it lands in a pond, it is the ripples of the impact that change the surrounding environment.

What’s become clear over the last months is that both producers and consumers are realizing what threatens the current way shows are delivered while undermining piracy is price point and accessibility.

We’ve become an “On Demand” culture in which exposure drives audiences to seek content it has missed, can’t afford at the studio/network dictated price or doesn’t have access to because its geo-blocked or just unavailable.

It’s true that Louis CK has a high level of brand awareness because of his previous Stand-up specials, talk show appearances and the FX network series “Louie”. But his public profile is not as pervasive as some might think.

For all his appeal to a hip comedy crowd, “Louie” rarely attracts more than 700,000 weekly viewers and averages about 2/3 that audience in repeats.

Indeed, the show only found a place on FX because CK traded total creative autonomy (no network notes) in exchange for making his series at a MUCH lower budget than their other programming.

CK also told NPR this week that he has never made any money beyond his upfront fees for ANY of his previous specials.

So – Big Time TV Star? No.

And while this success at marketing his exceptional talent may finally earn him a decent pay check, it could mean much more for other comics while spelling trouble to HBO, Showtime and other Pay and Specialty networks who depend on comedy specials to draw an audience.

If Louis CK can sell 100,000 downloads in 4 days, what numbers might Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Russell Peters or even Russell Brand rack up?

And where do the networks depending on these stars turn if they are no longer available to them while competing online for the same audience?

Does it mean previously under-exposed comedians will now get shows or do networks break the bank to hang onto the big stars and their audiences?

And will audiences continue paying or even pay more to keep the current gatekeepers in business?

Dan Harmon, showrunner of NBC’s “Community” has suggested that he could deliver a 13 episode, uncensored “direct to viewers” version of his show for $50/subscriber.

But does that make sense to an audience who can already access the broadcast version, purchase a 20 episode NBC season for less than that via iTunes or wait for a DVD box-set season marketed for even less?

And what if Louis CK uses his newfound audience database to market his own slate of favorite, unknown or under-appreciated comics? Where do the networks turn then?

New Media advocates would suggest they will turn to them and that Louis CK’s marketing coup will convince investors that their product can be similarly marketed. But can it?

Louis CK’s show was developed over months of concert engagements, honed by an experienced master of Stand-up. The production itself was budgeted at $170,000 and filmed over two nights at New York’s Beacon Theatre, a venue that could draw exactly the right live-audience demographic.

The finished show is as polished as any HBO Special, for CK understood one thing many championing New Media do not.

Audiences know the difference between professional and crap.

And what they will endure for a few minutes of YouTube video or webisode is not what they will reach into their pockets to pay for.

CK then further invested $32,000 in a website that could correctly service the product while spending more to allow credit card and Paypal sales.

Therefore, anybody following the same model needs to come up with almost a quarter of a million dollars just to get into the game. For most of the new wave that’s not anywhere near a number that can be confidently crowd funded.

Yet this and other trends in online marketing may convince risk friendly investors to begin kicking their tires.

Last year, Lee Goldberg, an American author unable to sell any of his 15 novels to a publisher, dumped them all on Amazon’s Kindle site and 12 months later had earned $300,000 after fees and expenses.

Meanwhile, previously published British Psychologist Richard Wiseman discovered he couldn’t find a US publisher for his new book “Paranormality” unless he reversed its central premise that ghosts and psychics were bogus.   He went the kindle route as well – and suddenly had a mainstream best seller on his hands.

And then there’s “Lamb”, a barely known electronica duo from England who’d broken up in 2005. No record company would even advance them enough to cover the meagre studio costs of a comeback album. So, they announced they were back and took pre-orders online, tripling all of their past sales before they’d even stepped into a studio.

So the money is there.

Provided you have a product someone wants.

Provided you offer it a price that will both turn consumers from Corporate product and dissuade them from piracy.

And perhaps most important, provided you make it available in a format that does not restrict either your customer’s usage of the product or their ability to share it with their friends.

Ultimately, I don’t think “Louis CK Live At The Beacon” is a game changer. But if you follow where its ripple effect leads, you may begin to see major changes taking place.

And I think that means the New media crowd must start approaching the future much more pragmatically, while those already established need to consider that the system that’s always worked for them may soon begin to crumble.

Here’s an outtake from Louis CK’s Special. You can order your own copy of the full show here. Trust me, it’s well worth your time and money.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

“You Gotta Believe. Every Day.”


I’ve never been a fan of the Denver Broncos. No reason really. The Philadelphia Eagles just got to me first.

But then the Eagles hired a quarterback named Michael Vick and I signed off for reasons I’ve related previously.

Since then I’ve bounced around the League like a CFL wide receiver trying to make the practice squad, spending time rooting for New Orleans, Green Bay, Oakland and Buffalo.

Then along came a guy named Tim Tebow.

Tim was a star at the University of Florida where he won the coveted Heisman trophy in his sophomore year. On graduation, he was drafted by the Broncos. But nobody seriously considered he’d have a noteworthy NFL career.

Without going into details that would put anybody but football-geeks to sleep, Tebow’s skillset is better suited to the wide open game of the CFL than the way the NFL plays.

But he came to national attention after admitting to be a virgin in a televised post-game interview and then agreeing to do a Pro-Life commercial with his mother that ran during the Super Bowl.

Now, Tim had a particular and personal reason for being Pro-Life. His parents were Baptist missionaries in the Philippines when he was conceived and during her pregnancy, his mother experienced complications that threatened her life. The doctors recommended an abortion. She refused.

Between that and his homeschool upbringing, Tebow developed a strong set of Christian values – values that don’t fit the current template for sports heroes and celebrities.

That’s led to a lot of mocking the man and a gang of pundits piling on with expert opinions on his lack of technique and/or football smarts.

Through all of it, Tebow has continued to profess his faith, openly pray on the sidelines and – win football games.

He began the 2011 season as the Broncos’ backup quarterback, moving to start after Denver had lost five of their first six.

Since then, he’s quarterbacked them to a division leading 8-5 record, virtually all of those wins coming after being down by several points in the final quarter.

Yet, somehow, all of that success had made him an even bigger target for those who don’t much care for what people like Tim Tebow stand for.

And it has led to a lot of discussion about whether religion has any place in professional sport and how anyone could believe a Supreme Being has any interest in the outcome of a football game.

All of which completely misses the point.

Now, I’m a Christian, albeit not a very good one. And maybe for those reasons or a lot of others, I don’t hold with some of what Tim Tebow stands for either.

But that doesn’t stop me from admiring what he does.

At its core, football, and just about every other professional endeavor, is about character and believing you can overcome whatever adversities you face.

As Tim Tebow has often said, “If you believe, unbelievable things become possible”.

Whether you believe your fate is in your own hands or those of an invisible friend, the process is the same – you just never stop believing.

That flies in the face of the multitudes who would prefer you fail, for their own selfish reasons or just because unexplained success or achievement that hasn’t been pre-approved only makes their failings and inadequacies appear even larger.

But the rule still holds. You get nowhere without believing completely in something.

The following is Tim Tebow in a hopeless situation last Sunday. He’ll be in an even more impossible today against the New England Patriots and Tom Brady (who’s generally accepted as the embodiment of Satan in places like Buffalo).

Oh, ye of little faith – pay attention! This guy is onto something.

Lazy Sunday #200: The Bloody Olive

I’m thinking that 2011 was the year that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be.

One of those, “The ‘War on Terror’ 2000s are over with Bin Ladin dead and troops out of Iraq and the 2010s haven’t decided what their theme is yet –- so… we’re just marking time…?”.

Think about it –- Newt Gingrich is running for President and Prince is on tour. Does that make it 1995 all over again?

The most anticipated film of the year is a silent movie. Are the 1920’s about to come roaring back?

Wait. Unemployment is skyrocketing, everybody’s in debt and the banks are collapsing. So it’s like the 1930’s, right?

Time Magazine names “The Protestor” their Person Of The Year. Then it’s the 60’s that are on the horizon?

Man, I hope so. I can still fit into that fringe jacket in the closet and I look bitchin’ in it too!

In searching around for something that symbolized this confusion, I found a wonderful little film by Belgian filmmaker Vincent Bal.

It was filmed in 1996, in B&W and as an homage to film noirs of the 1940’s and 50’s, so it fits our schizophrenic present to a T.

And it takes place at Christmas, so that works too!

Please don’t try to figure it out until the end –- because, trust me, you won’t.

It’s very 2011. But a great way to –- Enjoy Your Sunday!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Saving The Rain (Coast) Deer


No matter where you live in Canada, there are usually wild critters nearby.

A few years ago, I bought a farm about 40 minutes from downtown Toronto, soon realizing it was also home to rabbits, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, herds of deer and the occasional Lynx or Bobcat.

Bears regularly rooted through the garbage in nearby towns, much like the one discovered yesterday in a Vancouver dumpster usually home to junkies and disowned NHL Goalies.

The bear was quickly tranquillized and transported to the relative safety of the Squamish Valley.

From the reactions of the crowd in the above video, you can tell that many Canadians have a warm spot for the animals that surround us.

Like all those who live in proximity to wildlife, we tend not to anthropomorphize them. But we also seem more aware that they’re sentient creatures as unsure of us as we are of them, but with similar needs and frailties.

Which brings me to a story that occurred a little further up the rainy West coast.

Fisherman Tom Satre, of Sitka, Alaska, was out with a charter group when the four black-tailed deer pictured at the top of this post swam to his boat and began circling it.

Satre realized they were tired and cold and likely had been in the frigid water for some time. He and his charter group immediately hauled them aboard.

The deer collapsed on the deck as Satre turned his boat for shore.

According to Satre, “Once we reached the dock, the first
buck we pulled from the water hopped onto the dock, looked back as if to say 'thank you' and disappeared into the forest.”


With a little help, the others followed, leaving everyone aboard with the impression that animals normally terrified of people had realized people were their only hope for survival when they got into trouble.

It’s an impression more of us should work at fostering.

Trilogy Updates


In which we attempted to discern the likeliest Summer Blockbuster flop of 2012…

There were a lot of votes for “John Carter” since nobody can quite figure out to whom or on the basis of what Disney is marketing it.

Watching the latest trailer makes you realize how much of this franchise has already been “borrowed” by previous Blockbusters. And using the Led Zeppelin inspired theme for previous flop “Godzilla” doesn’t help.

Others suggested nobody needed a superhero reboot barely 10 years after it was last done. And since Marvel won’t veer much from comic gospel, what audiences have not already seen of “The Amazing Spiderman”, they’ve experienced in video games.

But the consensus pick was “Total Recall”.

Personally, I never got the popularity of the original. And veering closer to Philip K. Dick’s original story, “I Can Remember It For You Wholesale” may sound laudable, but...

Banking on the “which memories are real and which aren’t” might work in the internal world of print but that scenario might be a little inside when you need more than 100 million people to buy tickets just to break even.

Add a director with dreck like “Underworld: Evolution” and “Live Free or Die Hard” on his resume and you begin to sense a disaster of biblical proportions. They don’t even let this guy helm the franchise he INVENTED anymore!

No trailer available for “Total Recall” yet. So I guess we gotta go with this…


This post questioned some of the high end Christmas gifts being advertised this year and wondered if somebody could top the Million Dollar Porsche Advent Calendar or the completely pointless Neiman Marcus 20 sq. ft. edible gingerbread house.

I got lots of other items from the Neiman-Marcus catalogue – my fave being the celebrity designer hosted tequila party for 75.

But other items reflected a mean-spirited and even flat out hatred for Christmas like the Martha Stewart Animated Snake Wreath.

However, when it comes Christmas cruelty, I don’t think you can top this – the puzzle locked toilet paper dispenser.

Srsly people! The season is supposed to be about caring…



Finally, I directed you to two worthy Christmas Charity initiatives backed by members of the Canadian Showbiz community.

In return, I got a couple of official looking reminders that Justin Bieber has a Christmas Special on CTV December 22nd, with all proceeds going to his BELIEVE foundation.

Actor Tom Jackson continues his Christmas tradition of criss-crossing the country performing in support of local food banks and community services. You can find out when he’ll be near you here.

But my favorite link came via the band Canada supposedly loves to hate –- “Nickleback”.

Seems Chilliwack rockers “Pardon My Striptease” recently released a single to help the BC Children’s Hospital, where lead singer Andrew Putt’s one year old daughter Lilee-Jean had undergone lifesaving treatment.

Their song “Pray (For LJ)” had begun selling when the band challenged another local band, “Nickleback”, to match the money it raised.

“Nickleback” accepted the challenge and now “Pray (For LJ)” has passed their own new hit “When We Stand Together” as the top selling Canadian song on iTunes.

So far, Nickleback has donated $50,000 to the BC Children’s Hospital.

Now that’s making a difference! And you can make it a bigger one by purchasing the song for only 99 cents on iTunes.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 199: The Water Commercial

On one level, I understand the popularity of bottled water. Convenient, portable, available, etc.

But on a lot of levels, I don’t. It’s water. It’s as close to free as you can get at home. You can put it in a bottle yourself and save looking for a store and lining up behind all those people buying lottery tickets.

Where the concept completely loses me is when I’m standing in front of the cooler staring at an array of twenty different brands and bottle shapes.

What’s the difference? It’s water.

That said, if I’m ever in France, I will be looking for one brand in particular.


Because their commercials always make me smile. Enjoy Your Sunday.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

These Things Come In Threes: Part Three


A few years ago, I asked a showbiz friend of mine what he’d like for Christmas. He said, “How about a couple hours of your time?”.

A week or so later, just before Christmas and on one of the coldest nights of the year, he called and told me he needed those hours and he wasn’t taking a rain check.

I turned up at his place to discover about a dozen other people he hung around with, all of us wondering what the heck was going on.

We soon learned that he and his wife had gone out and bought a few dozen pairs of mitts, toques and blankets which his kids had carefully wrapped around an inner core of dried fruit, candies, toiletries and a booklet of free hamburger meals.

We each got an armful and were instructed to hit the streets until we found people who could make use of the gift.

We froze our asses off, wandering parts of town most people don’t frequent at night until all of our bundles were delivered.

Every single one of us volunteered to help the next year.

We all try to do something for those in need during the Christmas season. But every now and then somebody steps up and does something special. Something you wish you’d thought of. Something you know will make a big difference in the life of somebody you don’t even know.

Sometimes people in this business do things unrelated to it that make you very proud.

If you listen to Diane Wild’s “TV-Eh?” podcasts or visit the website of the same name, you’ll be aware that she has been gathering items from others in the Canadian TV game for an auction to benefit Kids Help Phone, an organization that offers anonymous and confidential phone and online counselling for kids with a problem and nobody to talk to about it.

That auction launches Monday. Please check Diane’s website then and bid on something.

Meanwhile, Lifestyle director extraordinaire, Catherine Swing, is hoping you’ll contribute to Walls of Hope Canada’s new initiative, “The Dream Room”.

Walls of Hope is an organization that renovates and customizes homes for people in need and “The Dream Room” will help children facing a terminal or life challenging illness, providing them a special place of their own within their family home.

I spent a great part of my own childhood in hospital or sick at home and I know from personal experience how much of a difference it makes to have a space that reflects your dreams and aspirations rather than the reality you’re facing.

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, Walls of Hope is hosting their second annual “Hard Hats & Halos” Gala in March. Tickets would make a great Christmas present to anybody you know – and especially those who love renovation and makeover shows.

hard hats

If you know somebody in Canadian Showbiz doing something special to help those less fortunate this Holiday season, email, tweet or comment here at the Legion and we’ll pass the information along.

I’ve been looking for third suggestions on today’s posts. But in this case we’ll add all the links submitted to an update that will publish Monday.

These Things Come In Threes: Part Two


The Rich are different from the rest of us. Always have been.

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of producing and directing a TV pilot partially shot at Vieux le Vicomte, the magnificent French castle pictured above at Christmas.

The place was overwhelming in its opulence, with expansive gardens, fountains and statuary. More overwhelming when you learned that it had been built for a family of three.

Vieux le Vicomte was the blueprint for the Palace of Versailles that stands just a few clicks down the road, with mansions of similar stature dotting the landscape as you travel between one and the other.

Each of these places required thousands of docile peasants to finance, maintain and service, people who lived lives of poverty and desperation.

Well, nobody says life is fair. But being amid those stately homes sure made it easy to understand how the French Revolution finally came along.

These days, we pride ourselves on being more thoughtful, empathetic and aware.

But we’re not.


With millions losing their jobs and homes or living under crushing austerity measures imposed to protect banks and financial institutions who either manufactured or were too dumb to predict the economic crisis, Porsche has designed a unique gift for those who still have a little cash left to spend on bling.

For only $1 Million, the automaker will supply you with a 6 foot tall aluminum “Advent Calendar” which, unlike the dollar store ones which dispense a single chocolate each day before Christmas, has something else inside its little windows.

Stuff like a Porsche Stopwatch, a full Porsche Kitchen and motor launch with a 525 HP Mercury engine.

Pity the Porsche designers didn’t consider that anybody who’d spring for one of these likely isn’t much of an Advent observing Christian.

Meanwhile, all those Canadian politicians either screaming about or claiming they’d done all they should for the slowly freezing to death and sewage drinking people of Attawapiskat this week will all be bellying up to the sumptuous seasonal cocktail buffets in the days to come, as they enjoy the hospitality of various government departments and foreign embassies.

I’m told the spread laid out by the Freedom of Speech, Votes for Women and Gay rights supporting nation of Saudi Arabia is one no MP misses –- none.

And hey, maybe they’re just hoping to change some minds, maybe convince somebody to spring for a gift for our hungry and homeless.


Maybe they could kill those two birds with one stone and purchase the Neiman Marcus Edible Gingerbread House – only $15,000.

Said house measures over 20 square feet with a six foot ceiling and is constructed of 381 lbs. of gourmet gingerbread and 517 lbs. of royal icing, not to mention giant cookies, lollipops, mints, gumdrops and the like.

No word on whether Gingerbread improves the taste of raw sewage.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t enjoy Christmas or spend their money in the way they want. But sometimes the wilful blindness to the what’s going on in the rest of the world just beggars belief.

Let me know your own “Most Inappropriate Christmas Gift”. Email, Tweet or add a comment. It will be added to an update of this post on Monday.

These Things Come In Threes: Part One


I’m looking for some feedback on a few topics.

So, I’m posting three different questions today offering two-thirds of a trilogy and letting you fill in the final piece.

Two Summer Blockbuster trailers were released this week and if they are any indication, 2012 could finally be the Summer when Hollywood reverses the tent pole feature concept that started way back in 1973 with “Jaws”.

First trailer up was, “The Three Stooges” by the eminently talented Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who have given us such brilliant comedies as “There’s Something About Mary”, “Dumb and Dumber” and the highly underrated “Kingpin”.

The Farrellys have been working on this project, a personal homage and labor of love, for 15 years, waiting for just the right combination of elements to ensure its success.

At one stage in its development, press leaks indicated the cast included Jim Carey as “Curly” and Sean Penn as “Larry”. That smacked of brilliance to me and I was really looking forward to what promised to be a very special film.

So I was surprised when first Penn and then Carey departed. I wondered if the financing had gotten shaky or somebody at the studio wanted the film to resonate with a younger, maybe edgier comedy audience.

And then I saw the trailer…

Instead of a movie about “The Three Stooges” what the Farrellys have constructed is their own version of the comic shorts they loved as kids.

Nuns in Bikinis? The cast of Jersey Shore? Srsly…?

I’m predicting major tankage.

But I’m not sure “The Three Stooges” will do as badly as “Battleship” which released an updated (and presumably more polished) trailer this week.

If you recall the once last summer concentrated on the films characters and relationships revealing that it actually had neither.

It was also clear that the studio had paid Millions to Hasbro for the rights to a game that had nothing whatsoever to do with the finished film.

Something similar happened with the 1996 Demi Moore movie “Striptease” based on Carl Hiaasen best seller. When Hiaasen saw the rough cut, he offered to give the studio back what they’d paid him so he could sell the book to somebody who might shoot the story he’d actually written.

But maybe Hasbro handed over more than the title to a far from engrossing or dramatic board game. From the looks of things, the film includes a few of the Transformers toys they haven’t yet managed to place in that franchise.

Not to mention the chance to reuse all the CGI wireframes from any number of mayhem riddled films of summers past.

I’m sure there’s also a Liam Neeson action figure in the works to enhance the marketing.

Judge for yourself.

So – if these things come in threes – as disasters often seem to – let me know what you think the third big budget stinker of Summer 2012 will be. Email, tweet or register a comment. I’ll post the consensus choice in a Monday update.

Just when you thought it was finally safe to get out of the water and go see a movie…

Friday, December 09, 2011

How Does That Go Again…?


‘Tis the season when people gather for Christmas parties, office holiday get-togethers and roam the malls dressed in Charles Dickens hand-me-downs, all singing the traditional songs of the season.

And there’s not much worse than launching into one of your favorites and realizing you’re belting out Mariah Carey’s version while everybody else knows the real words.

Therefore, please click the link below to find your own downloadable and printable (PDF format) song book of Christmas classics.

No more “Jeff’s nuts roasting on an open fire” or “Get dressed you married gentlemen”. Now you’ll be doing the lines as written.

And isn’t that what a lot of screenwriters wish for at Christmas?

h/t The Sagacious Iconoclast

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Not So Little Drummer Boy

Winnipeg and Manitoba have a long and storied history of spawning some of Canada’s greatest musicians.

From Chad Allen & The Expressions (aka “The Guess Who”) to the legendary Lenny Breau, through “Bachman Turner Overdrive” and “Red Rider” to the “Crash Test Dummies”, Chantal Kreviazuk and Susan Aglukark – it’s been one mid-country hit after another.

Am I the only guy who still remembers “Gettysbyrg Address”?

Well, the music hasn’t stopped.

Get into the Christmas spirit with Winnipeg’s new “Golden Boy” Sean Quigley, a high school kid with a monster Christmas hit on his hands – hands which are somewhat magical when it comes to drumming.

Bing and Ziggy never sounded this good…

You can download a copy of Sean’s updated Christmas carol here.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Return


Honolulu -- December 7, 1941. 2,403 Americans were killed during the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, including 58 aboard the USS Utah.


Honolulu – December 7, 2011. 70 years later, a sailor holds an urn with the ashes of Pearl Harbor survivor Lee Soucy.

Soucy, who died last year at the age of 90, wanted his ashes interred with his lost shipmates inside the USS Utah.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Who Says You Can’t Ski In The City?


There are people who live to ski. And this time of year can be rough on a lot of them.

Winter’s here. But it’s not. There’s snow. In some places. Fresh powder way up in the mountains. Grey slush in the city where you are.

What’s a guy to do?

Ski the city…?

You can’t ski a city.

Can you…?

Last year, Canadian ski movie filmmaker Dave Mossop (Green Cap) and buddies JP Auclair (visor), Rory Bushfield and Andrew Hardingham decided to see if that concept would fly.

Using the streets of Nelson, Trail and Rossland, BC, they put together one of the most spectacular ski sequences you’ll ever see.

Has the age of “urban skiing” arrived?

You tell me.

JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Lazy Sunday # 198: Tuba Christmas


There are basically three kinds of Christmas traditions.

There are those everybody is familiar with, Midnight Mass, Santa Claus, the tree and the gifts, turkey and stuffing.

There are those that evolve within families, recreating the moments everybody treasures from Christmases past.

And then there’s the third kind. The kind that don’t make a lot of sense – but still keep coming back year after year.

William Bell was born on Christmas Day, 1902 and went on to become the premier player and teacher of the tuba for most of the twentieth century.

He began his career with John Philip Sousa and went on to play with the New York Philharmonic and help found the NBC Symphony orchestra.

Among Bell’s protégés was Alec Wilder, a mostly self-taught composer who wrote eleven operas and composed Jazz pieces for odd combinations of instruments.

Wilder also loved Christmas and published the first arrangements of Christmas carols for – of all things – the tuba. In an odd twist, he died on Christmas Eve.

Among Wilder’s protégés was Harvey Philips, who thought it would be a great idea to have as many tuba players as he could find play Wilder’s arrangements to honor Bell on his birthday.

The first Tuba Christmas was held on the ice rink in New York’s Rockefeller Center in 1974. More than 300 players gathered to play various instruments of the tuba family, including sousaphones and the euphonium. One or two brought along the rarest members, the helicon and the serpent.

The concert was a smash hit and has been repeated every year since. It also spawned Tuba Christmas concerts in thousands of cities all around the world.

In every case, the organizers try to find as many players as they can ranging in age from school kids no bigger than their instrument to octogenarians who have played it all their lives. The sizes of the orchestras range from the official minimum of 4 to several hundred.

A lot of people don’t find the sound of the tuba all that pleasant. But I’m here to tell you that in a bunch they are something to behold.

It’s likely there’s a Tuba Christmas concert happening near you this Holiday Season. I have a feeling that if you attend once, Tuba Christmas will become one of your own seasonal traditions.

Someday, it might just become one of those that everybody associates with Christmas.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Tuba Christmas from Christopher Polydoroff on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Christmas Parking Trick


All you people running a top-notch Canadian productivity website need to pick up this post, because I just discovered a way to save about two hours on every Christmas shopping trip.

You know what it’s like out there this time of year. The stores and malls are jammed and the parking lots and parkades are even worse.

A guy can drive around for an eternity trying to find an empty space. In the process, you deal with people who won’t let you into traffic, block your path as they wait for a spot to open up in some special territory they’ve staked out – or worse – whip into the space you’re signalling to enter and then claiming they didn’t see you.

By the time you finally park, the stores are about to close and you’ve lost whatever Christmas spirit you might have had.

This afternoon, I headed out to start my Christmas shopping, fully prepared to spend about half the time I’d allotted to making circuits of the parking lot.

My first stop was a parkade, one already so jammed the machine wouldn’t let you take a ticket until the traffic arm at the pay booth raised to let somebody else exit.

When I got in, I joined the long line of cars making the trek to the roof, not finding any spaces along the way, slowing to trail anybody carrying packages and generally eating up the day.

Turned out the roof was full. So we all played follow-the-leader back down, hoping to find an open space before the guys coming the other way.

And then I saw him.

He was an older man, obviously confused, clicking his key flob around the top floor. He was trying to find his car.

I rolled down my window and confirmed he couldn’t remember exactly where he’d parked.

“Get in!” I said, “We’ll find it together.”

He seemed relieved, happy for the help. I admitted that my motives were not pure. When we found his car, I got the spot.

Five minutes later we found it. And two minutes after that I was in the elevator while everybody else kept circling.

By the time I hit the mall, I’d perfected my technique. I just drove up to the entrance and waited for somebody loaded down with shopping.

“Hey!” I called. “Need a ride to your car?”. The guy I’d targeted appeared caught off guard by the offer. But the woman behind him was no slouch.

“Are you serious?”. I assured her I was. Five minutes later, she was on her way and I was parked and heading for the store.

Now, I realize this could quickly become a viable MO for rapists and muggers, but I’m counting on the spirit of the season to trump all that.

Both the people I helped (and who helped me) remarked that a stranger lending a hand made them feel like Christmas was just around the corner.

I could say the same thing.  Now if I could just find somebody dying to string lights…

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Test


It was a busy day in Heaven with a long line waiting outside the pearly gates.

Toward the back, a man waited nervously, watching St. Peter as he spoke privately with each new arrival, gesturing some through the gates and some the other way.

The man wondered what he’d be asked, certain he’d lived a good life, but now in this final moment worried that he’d done something that might bar him from paradise for eternity.

No. His life had not just been good. It had been exemplary.

He’d never said a bad word about anyone. He’d obeyed all the rules. Whenever he’d come across trouble or strife he’d turned the other cheek, walked away, kept his own council and never once caused anyone a problem.

And he sensed St. Peter already knew all that when it was his turn at the front of the line. The elderly gatekeeper regarded him with warmth and a tangible feeling of love, saying nothing.

The man returned the saint’s smile. “I’m not sure what to say.” he said, “I’m pretty sure I did everything the good book says I should. I followed all the rules.”

“Well, there are a lot of good books.” St. Peter said, “And a lot of rules made by a lot of people with good intentions. Up here, there’s just one question. One test.”

“What’s that?” asked the man.

“Let me see your scars.”

The man was suddenly filled with excitement, certain he’d soon be in paradise. “I don’t have any scars!” he said, “Not a single one.”

St. Peter’s eyes darkened, now full of sadness, as he stared at the man with immense disappointment.

“Really? Could you not find one thing worth fighting for?”.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?


Given all that’s going on in the world, you can be forgiven for missing things.

Given how many causes are crying out for your attention, you should feel no guilt over the ones that skipped past without your noticing.

But sadly, much of what fills us with anger, sadness or regret, goes on because those we elect or otherwise charge with addressing them, don’t do the job we thought they were doing.

Millions lose their homes, their jobs and their life savings because those overseeing the integrity of the financial markets didn’t.

Aboriginal Canadians suffer third world living conditions because generations of politicians have opted for expediency over simple decency.

And so it goes, through all aspects of human endeavor, when “doing the right thing” is set aside for not doing anything or hoping nobody notices the wrong that was done instead.

Obama cowboy hat

One week ago, US President Obama pardoned a couple of turkeys in a traditional Thanksgiving show of compassion before the annual national decimation of the species.

It’s a cute ceremony, enjoyed by all, that reminds us that we may be carnivores, but we’ve still got some compassion for our fellow creatures.

What slipped under the radar is that just prior to the quaint White House ceremony, the President signed a bill lifting a six year ban on the slaughter of horses, a ban he himself had pledged to make permanent.

Why? Probably for the same reason the practice goes on in Canada. Farmers and ranchers are strapped, caught in the economic squeeze and have no choice but to sell once valuable thoroughbreds,rodeo stock or pets to the slaughterhouse.

The alternative is even less palatable. Every year, thousands of horses are released into the wild where they starve or are torn apart by predators.

Both Canada and the US are nations with a long history of dependence on the horse. The animals have just as long been symbols of our heritage, our sense of compassion and even our love of freedom.

Most are now brought into the world to entertain us. They race. They rodeo. They’re ridden for recreation. And they deserve a better fate.

There are charities that rehabilitate thoroughbreds at the end of their racing careers, such as The Exceller Fund, named for a stallion who beat two triple crown winners during his storied career – and then was butchered when he couldn’t run anymore.

There are also dozens of charities working tirelessly to find homes for horses whose owners can no longer care for them.

But, as in so many other parts of our society, more could be done.

But it seems that if it’s something that can slide under the radar or make somebody in charge a larger dollar, doing the right thing, the decent thing, gets ignored.

Leading the fight to have the President repeal the recent pro-slaughter bill and replace it with the one banning the practice are a couple of young ladies known as “The Barbi Twins”.

shane and sia 1

Shane and Sia Barbi made their names as Playboy centerfolds. But in real life, they’re horse trainers who have long advocated for both the rights of animals and an end to turning horses into commercial meat.

They’ve already released an award winning documentary entitled “Saving America’s Horses” and are behind a petition demanding the new law be repealed.

Given that 70% of the American public is opposed to the slaughter of horses and it’s an election year, I’d say doing the right thing might stand a chance this time.

But as in everything else, the guys in charge only move when they’re pushed.

Please take a moment to advocate for creatures who can’t speak for themselves. Nobody will thank you. But then, that’s not what it’s supposed to be about – is it?