Monday, April 28, 2014

Pool Report # 4: Questions Anyone?

Okay, so what did we learn this weekend?

1. Ryan Miller can’t keep the Blues from once again going out in Round one.

2. The Dallas Stars can’t hold it together for two solid minutes no matter how big their lead.

3. Several more guys in Detroit need to retire instead of thinking about retiring.

4. Don’t embarrass LA Coach Daryl Sutter. It inspires him.

5. Columbus might just be better than those guys with all the massive marketing contracts.

And something we didn’t…

How in the world did Peter Wildman decide PK Subban would score 5 points and Brad Marchand wouldn’t get any?

Here we are a week into the Pool with four teams gone and four on the verge. Time to start questioning some of our pool strategies?

In the case of the guy in the basement, it was figuring that a team that manhandled Chicago all season had an upset edge with a star goalie finally on board. So much for that brain wave.

But looking over the standings I’m also wondering if some of the current leaders realized the NHL had moved to a bracket format this year and that their best point hopes are playing against their other best hopes as early as Round Two.

Just saying, I’ll keep the basement warm and dry until one of you gets here. This is far from over and even further from somebody starting to pull away from the pack.

My finally question is this. When did we move to only calling it “overtime” instead of the far more exciting and dramatic “sudden death overtime”?

Is it because nobody actually dies? The influence on “Hockey Night in Canada” of the CBC Drama Department’s well known aversion to conflict -- or just that Jean Claude Van Damme ruined it for everybody?

Herewith the standings. By Friday we’ll be into Round Two and the real self-examinations can begin.

report 4

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 322: Nothing Can Ever Get Better

We celebrated “Earth Day” this week, although the tone seemed far from celebratory considering all that the planet has survived.

Given where some have predicted we’d be by now, either underwater or gasping our last in a desert wasteland, you’d think champagne corks would be popping all over the place. But no.

I joined “Greenpeace” back when they were primarily engaged in saving whales. The cameraman on one of the first films I did got famous not long after when a Russian trawler Captain fired a harpoon inches from his head as he, his Bolex and a Greenpeace Zodiac came between a ship and a whale it wanted to slaughter.

It was probably this Putin punk already working to shore up the “Evil Empire” image.

Lately, I’ve had my differences with the environmental community. Mostly because –- well, no matter how hard so many of us try to live up to what they say is expected of us, nothing from their point of view ever gets better.

It’s almost as if they can’t be allowed to get better.

When I was a kid in Saskatchewan, there was an endangered species which summered there, the Whooping Crane, that everybody insisted wouldn’t be back the following Summer.

I heard this first hand from a bird guy named Bill Miner, who sometimes slept on my parents’ couch, when he came through in the Spring to count the arriving “mating pairs”.

Bill was probably the David Suzuki of his day, just not as smug and self-important.

I remember sitting in Bill’s pick-up as he scanned local sloughs with his binoculars. I believe the species was down to 17 pairs capable of laying one or two eggs per season, meaning that the chances they could ever rebuild their numbers were pretty slim.

I got to see the great birds up close and hear the signature whooping that gave them their name. But I also got to see the thrilled expression on his face after he’d waded into a thicket of reeds and found some nests with eggs.

He was hugely excited because the Cranes were hanging in. They still had a chance. And that was a very good thing.

These days, the Whooping Cranes are back to several hundred mating pairs. Still endangered to be sure, but making steady progress back from the brink.

This past Earth Day, however, I awoke to CBC News announcing that the Harper Government were removing the Humpback Whales on the Pacific Coast of Canada from the endangered list. Only this was a “slap in the face” to environmentalists.

It apparently was a cynical move to assist the dastardly oil companies building a pipeline to the coast, taking away one more obstacle to its construction. Trading the health of the planet for the well being of some soul-less corporation’s bottom line.

CBC even trotted out a woman who acknowledged that Humpback numbers had increased, but that only increased the number of instances where these magnificent animals would be rammed to death by the evil captains of behemoth oil tankers.

Her intensity made me wonder if her impression of Sea Captains was primarily based on Dennis Hopper in “Waterworld”.

But then, I remembered that the environmental movement has changed from the era of Bill Miner and the early days of “Greenpeace”.

These are now people eternally focussed on Doomsday scenarios who won’t even engage in civil discourse because the science is settled and everybody who doesn’t think the way they do is an idiot. A dangerous idiot.

And yet…

Unreported by the CBC was the fact that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (a non-governmental body) has recommended dropping the Humpback from the endangered list since 2011 as upwards of 180,000 non-calf whales are now regularly travelling the migratory routes between Mexico and Alaska.

Our National broadcaster also ignored both such official voices as the director of the UBC Fisheries Centre, who thought the public should be “pleased” by the Humpback’s progress, along with the anecdotal evidence of BC Whale Watch operators who noted that while Humpbacks used to be rare, last year they accounted for 30% of the whales sighted.

But that doesn’t fit the “We’re all hopelessly doomed” narrative does it? And it makes me wonder why…

Why nobody concerned with the environment was bothered that while Evil Stephen Harper was harpooning whales for the oil lobby, US President Barack Obama increased his carbon footprint by 350 tons just by flying to Japan on Earth Day.

And even if the President had reason to go to Japan, was it responsible of environmentalists themselves to fly Andrew (Spiderman) Garfield and his celeb gal-pal from LA to Malaysia to kick off Earth Hour two weeks ago and make sure they were back in LA to bring the event to a close on the same day?

How come none of these happy warriors mind that spokesmen like Harrison Ford fly two hours down the California coast to visit a favorite burger joint or that Al Gore is constantly photographed getting off a private jet and walking to a private limo?

Wouldn’t the optics be a whole lot better if Al once in a while flew commercial and got into a Tesla?

Why are the rest of us required to sacrifice while those “in the know” about how bad things are still hop-scotch the world with luxurious impunity?

This Earth Day, even the group that Gore uses to support his “Inconvenient Truths”, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change went on record to say that his claims that extreme weather was far more common now than ever before were primarily full of shit.

I think you might find some of what’s really driving the drive to never have any good news in what follows. And it doesn’t raise my own confidence that we’re being told the truth in the first place...

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Pool Report #3: Hockey Players Are Different

Some, like perennial tough guy Jason Too Too, constantly find a way to make your day.

Some, like Sydney Crosby, the most selected player in this season’s Stanley Cup Pool…

…make you wonder what constitutes star status these days.

Even in the early going, there seem to be a lot of relative unknowns and those we thought we knew showing a different side of themselves and I’m not just talking about the CBC’s Ron Maclean.

Do you get the feeling he might be ready to step aside since his heir apparent (Strombo) could be the last guy to complain about French referees giving the Habs an edge?

But then, would a controversy free HNIC be worth watching? Is it even worth watching now? Am I the only one sensing a mood of defeat as the country’s flagship broadcast entity drifts toward its last publically owned Cup Play-by-Play?

There seems to be a ton of energy at the also about to be hockeyless TSN and on NBC. Not so much at the Mother Corp.

The sideshows surrounding the playoffs aside, the games on the ice have remained terrific. The Blues vs Chicago is turning into a classic match-up. Dallas and Anaheim suddenly got real fun. And who in their right mind expected Columbus and Minnesota to so awesomely refuse to accept underdog status!

But that’s what makes the Stanley Cup playoffs so damn awesome.

Montreal is through to Round Two and a couple more teams may well join them by the time Monday’s Pool report drops.

And there are already some major changes there.

Todd Gordon has shot to the top with Will Dixon and Larry Raskin trading their Place and Show positions from last week. Still anybody’s Pool. Even the loser in the basement.

Like Sydney some of us can take a while to make an impression.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Poop It Forward

A few weeks ago, I was walking my dog in the deep woods. It was a quiet, rainy afternoon and she was roaming around in the bushes, checking out the smells.

She suddenly stopped, overly interested in something I figured might be smell-worthy enough to roll around in. When she didn’t respond to the “leave it” command, I walked over.

Indeed it was a mouldering poo. But one from which protruded a popsicle stick emblazoned with a tiny orange flag that read “Shame”. 

We were about six feet from a popular hiking trail, habitat to all nature of wild creatures and a couple of clicks from anything resembling civilization. Yet, someone had chosen this well-hidden dog dump to make a passive aggressive example of someone they probably had never, nor would ever meet.

And to what point?

Well, you got me. Maybe it appealed to their inner Dr. Suzuki.

Maybe it was their way of making a statement about the urban blight of people who don’t pick up after their pets, albeit in a place exceptionally rural that sees far more bear and deer spoor than the canine variety.

Maybe it was a form of installation art for which they’d gotten a Canada Council grant.

What it suggested was somebody who took the time to make these flags, journey to the middle of nowhere and tramp around in search of a place to exhibit this particular talent where it most likely would go unseen.

Therefore, quite possibly a Canadian writer-producer used to dealing with the CBC.

What it wasn’t, was the work of anybody who actually cared that much about anything beyond pointlessly making themselves feel better.

There seems to be a lot of this pointless, just making yourself feel better around these days. I get a daily Facebook and Twitter feed full of outrage about all manner of issues that would normally never pass through my field of vision.

I honestly couldn’t care less about most people’s forms of intolerance. I used to be. But Facebook made me realize that the majority posting their cause celebre are just re-posting what their friends are re-posting as a form of tribal acknowledgement, haven’t bothered to read below the fold or don’t realize their bugaboo made the rounds years ago and/or has already been debunked.

It’s their Internet version of that little orange “Shame” flag.

As a dog owner, I pick up after my animal. But sometimes she finds a spot in the darkness or tall grass where I don’t see her go or can’t find what was left behind.

Does that make me feel bad? For about ten seconds. Because I know whatever was left is bio-degradable all on its own, won’t be there after it rains -- and hey, I tried.

You’re just not going to find them all.

Often I’ll pick up after what somebody else’s dog has left behind. It’s not a big deal and it tamps down the smouldering animosity some people feel toward dog owners in general when they spot a pile of poo on their recently manicured lawn.

A friend from the dog park has dubbed this practice, “Poop it Forward”. Because, like I said, sometimes you’ll overlook something. And perhaps some day some kind-hearted stranger will do the same for you.

It’s much like the way we all trash a politician, evil corporation or sinister social trend without bothering to notice what the representatives of your own affiliations have been up to.

Taking that moment now and then to consider their character and actions prevents you from becoming one of those pointless losers with the little flags.

I think it also makes the world a little easier for all of us.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CBC Gets Desperate

There’s a thing out there called “The Culture of Alarmism”, a kind of social fad in which we are systematically instructed to be afraid, be very afraid -- of EVERYTHING!

You can see it daily in any Facebook newsfeed listing all the foods, religions, internet trends and politicians who are out to screw you or otherwise ruin your life.

It’s regularly on display on CNN, Fox News and most other secular news outlets, urging you to be afraid of taking planes, getting on a ferry or sending your kids to school without either a bullet-proof vest or M-16, depending on your political persuasion.

It’s not what you expect from a National Public broadcaster like the CBC.

Indeed, most of those defending the MotherCorp in her recent budget cut panic spasm, mostly defend her ability to provide reasoned and responsible journalism.

Some (including me most days) may find a certain bias in the way stories are spun at CBC News. But even then, you generally accept that they share that bias with a lot of Canadians, so what-the-hell, it’s keeping the regular customers happy.

What you don’t expect are barely disguised scare tactics. Stories designed to imply that if you’re not watching CBC doing television the way television is supposed to be done, you’re not only risking your health but your finances.

Seriously. There was a feature item repeated endlessly yesterday solemnly predicting that you could end up dead and broke or even both if you don’t turn from the evil Netflix snake in the TV garden and eat not of its poisoned fruit of “Binge-watching”.

According to the CBC, providing both sleep deprivation and Internet experts to prove its thesis, Binge-watching endangers your health and your ability to pay your other bills.

Because –- as we all must understand –- watching several hours of “House of Cards” in a row will completely destroy your sleep cycle. Something which apparently watching several hours of different shows on a variety of networks back-to-back (as the CBC can only pray you will start doing again) will not.

And it would seem that an “Orange is the New Black” marathon is far more dangerous to your health than a triple overtime game in the Stanley Cup finals or one of the current 6 hour double headers offered nightly across the entire CBC network.

Could this be any clearer?

Stay up past Midnight to watch “Strombo”, “Coronation Street” and a “Being Erica” repeat may well require you to brew a second cup of coffee at breakfast. BUT -- stay up to catch an equal number of hours from the Netflix schedule and you’ll be a broken man likely to lose your job if you don’t first have a heart attack navigating the morning rush.

Somehow CBC neglected to explain that despite these dangers, most of their current titles can also be found on Netflix. So those shows are either okay to binge-watch or can pretty much be guaranteed to put you to sleep before matters get out of hand.

And if endangering your health doesn’t put the fear of God into you, have you considered how this Netflix habit might be stealing food from the mouths of your children?

CBC provides an “expert” on this impending danger too. Although he looks an awful lot like your average CBC IT Guy and appears to be about as bright.

This fella waxes on about how close a single HD version of any Harry Potter movie can put you to your data cap. Why, watch the entire series over the same month and you could be shelling out an big bucks (bucks you probably don’t have) to Rogers or Shaw.

What he was either too dumb to reveal or CBC would rather you didn’t know for their own selfish reasons, is that:

1. The bits and bytes your CableCo sends down that little wire so you can watch CBC are identical to the ones they shoot down the same wire to your computer, iPad, AppleTV or Roku box so you can watch Netflix.

Yeah, that’s right. Instead of doing the responsible “we’re from the Government and we really are your friend” “Marketplace”-type expose and reveal that Data Caps are a crock, merely another way for Big IP to vacuum your pockets, CBC used that CRTC endorsed corporate Junk Science to scare you.

And 2: Said expert didn’t admit that if you weren’t paying for the CBC you’d probably have enough money to breach that manufactured data cap pretty much any fucking time you wanted.

This was the kind of journalism that could make some assume the CBC is already in panic mode, grasping at anything to scare you back to the big, comfy couch where they could spoon feed you all those shows you didn’t know were so good for you.

You want a real “Culture of Alarmism” just wait and see how desperate they get when this little scare tactic doesn’t work.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Scene You Don’t Write

View image on Twitter 


If you haven’t watched Episode Three of “Game of Thrones” Season Four (and intend to) stop reading this post now!!!

I won’t much discuss what occurred in “that scene” last night. But I will delve into writing or not writing scenes like it and what it does not only to the fans but those who bring the scene to Life.

Especially what happens when you give in to pressures of one sort or another to create controversy or “kick the show up a notch”.

What happened last night on “Game of Thrones” was clearly a rape. Not the first of the series. Unlikely to be the last.

What made it shocking were three elements. The first –- what occurred was not adapted from the underlying material on which “Game of Thrones” is based. That segment of the George R.R. Martin novels is excerpted above.

Now there’s nothing wrong (at least in my opinion) with diverging from the material being adapted from time to time. But when you go completely against what the original writer intended, you’re getting yourself into dangerous waters.

Doing a 180 on the original material commits one of those “Butterfly Effect” moments from which you can never find your way back because it results in having to re-shade everything both characters are involved in from that point forward –- and not only for them but a significant portion of the audience.

There are those in Martin’s fan base today swearing off both the series and HBO for good. And I have no doubt that a lot of them mean it. Seeing a beloved novel brought to the screen is exhilarating for many genre fans. Watching it changed to something it was not hollows that attachment irreparably.

They thought you cared, HBO. You mean it’s all just been about being “edgy”?

Secondly –- the scene was a complete betrayal of the male character involved and the actor who plays him.

No doubt the character (like many on “Game of Thrones”) has an irregular moral compass. But the psychic and physical damage which previous rapes or attempted rapes have caused him had – at least we were led to believe it had – transformed him into a much more sympathetic and complex character.

This morning that actor, stumbling badly to justify the scene in question to the press, has become an internet symbol of those guys who just don’t get it, that “No, doesn’t necessarily mean ‘no’…” and those other ill-conceived arguments that just get you digging yourself in so deep you can never get out.

He thought you cared, HBO. He thought you hired him for his ability to play moral complexity. You mean it’s all just been about making him “the last guy” we thought would do this?

And the icing on that is the way your PR people have left him twisting in the wind while your show runners maintain radio silence.

Which brings me to my final point –- there will no doubt be those titillated by what happened. The “Bitch deserved it!” crowd are as prevalent on Twitter today as the naysayers and accepting apologists willing to wait and see what the show’s writers and producers come up with next.

Sometimes, there truly are network and studio execs yearning to play ball with Misogynists or do anything else irresponsible if it gets their name in the papers. God knows, I had the personal misfortune of working with one.

I once showran a co-pro series with three partners from three different countries. At some point prior to my arrival, the partner who was supposed to have no creative influence had made sure that they did and their fem executive was clear that she always got what she wanted.

Initially, we all generally agreed on the direction of things and production went relatively smoothly. But after a shake-up at this exec’s studio, it became clear she intended to take the reins.

One Monday morning, I arrived to a sheet of script notes instructing me that a better twist in the plot would be to have our hero rape our ongoing villain’s female partner. As in -- it would be completely unexpected and thus ensure that the audience stuck to the end of the episode.

I figured she must’ve been either drunk when she wrote the note or at had suffered some sort of Oxygen depletion from strapping the ball gag on too tight during her visit to some local dungeon wet room.

But I was wrong. And this wasn’t a suggestion. It was a non-negotiable demand.

Realizing the harm it could do the show, I attempted to enlist the support of the other two partners. But our second foreign partner had ceased caring, already looking toward greener pastures, and the Canadian exec (also a woman) took that typically Canadian position of going along to get along in the inane hope we could fix any audience blow-back later.

Now, being a showrunner means that your first loyalty is to the show. Sometimes that means accepting uncomfortable compromises in order to keep it shooting and your crew employed.

Such loyalty does not mean destroying what you’ve built to serve the same purpose. Because at that point it becomes a series unworthy of saving. You and your staff will all find another job. Hopefully working for a better class of people.

I emailed my objections to all the partners and challenged them to fire me because I wasn’t doing as I was told. That’s pretty much a career suicide move in the short term.

But I didn’t get fired –- at least not til the end of the season when they could issue one of those “creative differences” and “moving in a new direction” memos.

I assume we were all pleased to be free of one another. I moved on to another job. The series collapsed under that kind of mismanagement not long after.

It will likely take longer for last night to impact “Game of Thrones”. But I believe we can look at that one scene as the moment a undeniably great series either jumped the dragon or at the very least intentionally took to the jump ramp.

There is no crime with tricking an audience or playing with their emotions. That’s often the job. But it’s very wrong to betray their trust or imply that the writers and producers will always be the smartest guys in the room, thank-you very much.

The smartest guy in the room is supposed to be on their side, not that of those desperate for notoriety or a marketing edge.

Pool Report #2: Giant Killers

Zdeno Chara Laughs At Puny Humans Who Want To Fight Him

And there are two ways to take that post title. depending on which word -- “Giant” or “Killers” you place the emphasis.

If it’s the first word, you share my surprise at how roughshod the Blues have ridden the Blackhawks and the Ducks the Kings as well as how Montreal managed to easily win two away games in Tampa.

If it’s the former, you had to question the sanity of Detroit’s Jamie Smith trying to goad Zedano Charra into a fight.

I once was called in to “assist” a friend who’d made the mistake of getting on the wrong side of a trio of Bikers. Self-preservation kicked in and I asked which of them could kick my ass the quickest in order to minimize the pain. The laughter broke the tension and everybody went home in one piece.

But this weekend’s superb exhibition of how hockey is supposed to be played should have also made it clear to fans in the six un-represented NHL cities that the reason they didn’t make the post season will take significantly more than tweaking.

Can you imagine the Leafs or Canucks even attempting to keep up with let alone outscore ANY of these teams in a 7 game series?

And just listening to the CBC commentators over-hyping every good thing the Habs are doing makes one wonder if some objectivity during the season might have helped some of us wake up far earlier.

Not that objectivity will likely intrude on Rogers trying to get more fans signing on to upgraded streaming and data plans – but it might help teams realize they really do have to try harder.

In the pool, it appears some of those who “tried harder” and didn’t go for the chalk or follow the “smart” money might be very well placed as the games progress.

As we begin Week 2, Jeff Eyamie leads with Larry Raskin and Will Dixon both within a single shutout of overtaking.

But it’s still early days for the rest of us too –- although the Sun could well have set on almost half the first round series by Friday’s Pool update, which would be some kind of record –- and far from what a revenue hungry CBC needs in this its last turn at the Stanley Cup pay window.

Things will only get more interesting on a lot of levels…

21-04-2014 1-56-04 PM

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 321: 4-20 Easter

It’s April 20th. 4-20. The famous police code for a Marijuana infraction. And a day a lot of people celebrate breaking that law.

It’s also Easter. The day a lot of people celebrate a story they feel should not be forgotten.

It’s also Passover. A time when a lot of people celebrate God sparing them from wrath for not respecting his laws.

It’s a combination that could end up being confusing.

Enjoy Your Sunday…

DJesus Uncrossed (Saturday Night Live) from razorgrind on Vimeo.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Infamous Writers Hockey Pool Report #1

Here we go, Hockey fans! Not even one game into each 2014 Stanley Cup playoff series and we’ve already got rookie unknowns showing up veteran stars, a 3OT and a coach going “nuts” on the referees.

I believe the big show has begun.

This being the first set of standings for the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool and given that two teams have yet to take to the ice, I’ll save further comment until after the weekend.

We’re a smaller group than we’ve ever been here in the pool. Given that there’s only one Canadian team in the running, I guess that’s to be expected.

So let’s just accept that the names below are the true fans of the world’s greatest game and use the extra room in the pool to have some fun.

To that end, I’m extending an open invitation to all pool participants to “guest” on one of these twice weekly reports. Just email something you want to be included and I’ll make sure it gets posted. That includes not only anything you want to write but photos, cartoons, videos and gifs.

Such as my favorite moment from last night:

Herewith the standings. Nobody gets a shout out until all the teams have had the chance to exhibit what they’re bringing to the rink.

1 Jeff Eyamie            14

2 Larry Raskin           12
Jim Henshaw          11
Will Dixon               11
Peter Wildman        8
Sugith Varughese    8
Todd Gordon           7
Will Pascoe             7
Maurey Loeffler      7
Michael Foster        7
Barry Kiefl              7
Allan Eastman       6
Jon Brooks            4

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Taking On The Government


I came of age in the late 1960’s. A time of radicalism, social unrest and mistrust of government. There were battles for racial equality. A struggle to stop a war that made no sense to most.

At that time, the American government was decidedly conservative. Those opposed to it embraced liberalism and even revolution. And it was clear –- to them at least –- that the powers that be would stop at nothing to discredit or destroy them.

Perhaps most telling, is that there were few voices in the media willing to question the government. Most newscasts reflected the “official” position on things. Most people didn’t really want to hear what those crazy, long-haired hippies had to say.

It’s easy to look back now –- post-Watergate –- and believe that there was a crusading press diligently digging to expose the corruption at the top. But that wasn’t the case at all.

In other words, it was exactly like it is today. Only with the political sides reversed.

Now, the American government leans Left, largely peopled by those who shared the now vindicated positions of the parents and teachers who once put their lives and careers on the line to stand up to a government they saw as unjust.

And now (as then) the mass of the media takes the government side, branding those opposed to its laws and regulations as crazy or misguided, not really wanting to hear what those white trash tea party types have to say.

Maybe that’s how the world works. The socio-political pendulum just keeps swinging. First Left, then Right. Then back again. Pivoting only when the power at the top of its arm can be fully identified with the opposite side.

A new documentary entitled “1971” is about to be released which vividly captures the Left-leaning revolutionary nature of that past era.

It tells the story of a group of ordinary people who broke into a Pennsylvania FBI office and stole thousands of files they disseminated to major newspapers, exposing for the first time that the government really was lying, spying on law-abiding people and up to all kinds of illegal activities.

“They saw injustice and decided they were going to act on it”.

Most of us, these days, are aware of Julian Assange and Wikileaks as well as the revelations of Edward Snowdon. Two people who similarly saw injustice and decided to act on it.

Whether they’ve made any difference is debatable. Whether they are heroes or villains depends on where you reside along the pendulum’s swing.

However, last week it was revealed that America’s National Security Agency was aware of the Heartbleed virus two years ago. But rather than moving to protect American citizens from the threat, as it was created to do –- the agency exploited the bug to more easily spy on those same citizens instead.

That pendulum just keeps swinging. And it seems those we thought we could trust aren’t much different from those whom we replaced.

Most of you are probably unaware that an old-fashioned “Range War” was almost fought in Nevada last weekend. One with armed cowboys on horseback and everything.

You can be forgiven for not knowing, since the event went virtually uncovered by most American media outlets and was completely ignored by the CBC in Canada.

The basic plot could have been from some old Randolph Scott or Audie Murphy Western. The Law came to seize an elderly rancher’s cattle, empowered by courts who had ruled him in arrears of fees for grazing his herd on land expropriated to protect the Desert Tortoise.

The rancher insisted that no damn turtle had ever been stepped on by any damn cow and his family had paid the State what he owed. Armed men took his cattle anyway. His neighbors rode to his rescue.

“They saw injustice and decided they were going to act on it”.

Forty years later, it’s the same battle being fought by people with the same belief. A belief that their government is not listening to them. The only difference seems to be who’s in charge and who’s willing to fight them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Sad news out of Australia this morning, that AC/DC has decided to hang it up after 40 tumultuous years at the pinnacle of Rock.

The retirement is involuntary, coming as the band was about to record a new album and book a world tour. But during rehearsals it was discovered that rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young, victim of a recent stroke, had suffered a loss of some of his playing ability.

Rather than finding a replacement and soldiering on as the band has had to do under tragic circumstances in the past, Malcolm’s lead guitar playing brother Angus and the rest of the band decided -– maybe it was time.

For those of you who never had the chance to see AC/DC in concert, my sympathies. This was truly one of Life’s great experiences, leaving you adrenaline maxed and with a week long case of Tinnitus. Hell, my ears are probably still ringing…

There was a time when I wrote entire scripts with Rush, AC/DC and Zeppelin blasting from my office. I truly believe the music contributed to the energy in the text that resulted. Not to mention how fast they were typed.

People don’t write to Metal anymore? Pussies.

Anyway, here’s a taste of AC/DC from their magnificent River Plate concert. If you’ve got a script to finish today, the entire concert can be found here.

Thanks for all the help, guys –- and the memories.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The 2014 Infamous Writers Hockey Pool is Open!

“It’s the mo-ost won-der-ful time of the yeeeaaarrr…”

Yep, it is! For this is when those with hockey smarts and the courage of their convictions shine. Because next to getting stitched up on the bench or playing with a broken leg, the most venerable tradition in the quest for the Stanley Cup is the "Hockey Pool"!


Will Dixon and I have been organizing hockey pools almost as long as we've pretended we were adults. No matter where we were or what we were doing, we celebrated our on-ice warriors by picking the best among them and placing a little wager.

Many seasons back, being thousands of miles apart and with most of the people with whom we regularly communicated passing through our blogs, we cooked up a plan to hold our hockey pool online. It was an astonishing success! As have been the years that have followed. And 2014 will be even bigger and better.


You join "The Infamous Writer's Hockey Pool" by sending me an email at with "POOL PICKS" in the subject line between 8:00 AM Eastern Monday April 14/14 (today) and Noon Eastern Thursday. (04/17/2014).

Now, “Technically”, that will be after two Wildcard games on Wednesday night.  But that’s a deadline far too tight for even a seasoned prognosticator like me. So we’ll take our chances that nobody gets a leg up knowing those results.

In your email, list the 10 skaters and 2 Goalies who make up your team. They can be members of any of the 16 teams competing in the opening round.


At least THREE of your picks must come from one team. Three skaters, two and a goalie, your choice. The point is to make a small commitment (25% of your roster) to a team you think is either going to win it all, go deep or roll up a lot of points.

The scoring is as follows:

For every goal or assist scored by your skaters you earn 1 point.

Should one of your skaters score a “Game Winning” goal, that’s worth two points.

Every time your goalie wins you also earn 2 points and you tally seven points each time he earns a shutout.

Shutouts in Stanley Cup play are rare and skaters will always earn more points than a Goalie, but this is a way of evening things up.

In addition, the pool will also award one point to a goalie who loses in overtime.

The 12 players you choose are yours for the entire tournament. As the teams your players represent fall by the wayside, they cease earning points, but their totals remain part of your total.

In the end, the pool contestant with the most points wins.

I'll post your team online. From then on, you can check your progress by visiting our private online pool site whenever you like. All players will be provided with a login and password so they can check their progress throughout the playoffs.

Once you're inside the pool site, you'll see all the information on the teams you’re up against. You'll also receive a twice weekly (Monday and Friday) update of the pool standings, which I will post for all the world to see here at The Legion.

See -- easy and fun!

The only thing missing is the chance to share beer and wings and make fun of each other's choices. Anybody who wants to open a Facebook group to handle the trash talk or Twitter their opponents has our blessing.

Now, playing in a hockey pool is very simple. But a certain amount of strategy is involved.

I've seen contestants pick players from teams that exited early still win because their players racked up so many points in the early going. I've also seen contestants with terrible picks come out on top because they had a hot goalie.

Like everything else in the game, it's ultimately up to the Hockey Gods.

If you're new to pools or the game, you can learn more on who you perhaps should pick for on your team by visiting TSN or Sportsnet.


Well, since gambling is technically illegal around here and Infamous Writers entrants come from several disparate currencies, your entrance fee should be something either related to your career or a sports souvenir you've acquired as a fan.

What you choose to wager is completely up to you and never revealed to anyone but the eventual Pool Winner.

Once our winner is decided, all entrants ship him or her their prize. In the past, the winner's booty has included DVDs, autographed scripts, game worn jerseys, signed hockey cards and much more.

There will also be prizes for finishing 2nd and 3rd as well as our incredibly popular "Props" contest in the final round.

There are no other restrictions to participating. Just join up, pick your players and set aside your victory swag.

A lot of great Canadian artists (even some you might recognize) and hockey fans from here and elsewhere are looking forward to playing with you!

So jump in the pool!

Game on!!!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 320: Do The Right Thing…

…because not all that deep down, we all know what the right thing to do is. No matter the situation.

And it takes so little. And it’s as easy as breathing.

I’ll let this speak for itself. Please be prepared to thoroughly…

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

CBC’s Enemies Are Not Without


It’s supposed to be the sinew that ties our nation together, the mirror that reflects us to the world while having as much local appeal as our own version of bacon.  But it’s not.

This morning –- or at least what passes for morning in my world -– the CBC announced major cuts to staff and programming, as well as completely opting out of Sports broadcasting.

In the official press release, management blamed slumping television advertising, disappointing program ratings and the National Hockey League’s decision to sign a multi-year broadcast deal with Rogers Communications.

There was also a reminder that their annual stipend from the Federal government has been reducing on an annual basis, no longer even assisted by the pretty much regular top-ups for budget shortfalls.

It’s the kind of perfect shit-storm few corporations could weather without severe damage. And doubtless, in the next days blame will be apportioned to everybody from evil, heartless Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the even more evil ghost of Ted Rogers and the beyond evil, completely heartless and Canuckaphobic NHL head honcho, Gary Bettman.

The blamers will just as doubtlessly be supported by various supposed “Friends” of Canadian broadcasting, creative guilds and all those who use such crises to further their own ends.

But the enemies of CBC do not lie without its maximum security walls. The true villains in this tragic turn of events occupy some of the most well-appointed offices inside the fortress. And either in person or in mindset, they’ve been there for decades.

Yes, the Harper Government has not been helpful in making sure the corporate coffers were always full. But neither have governments of all stripes going back as far as aged mofo’s such as myself can recall.

Back in my thespian days, let’s say 1982, I was doing a two-hander in a drafty Toronto alternate theatre during one of those “CBC’s Broke” periods. Their head of casting dropped by and came backstage afterward, gushing about the performances and how much she wished they were casting something.

I asked when production might kick in again and was told that they hadn’t held a single casting session in the past year and unless things changed soon, she might have to let someone on her multi-person staff go…

It might’ve been the moment I understood that what those more experienced in the business constantly opined –- the real problem with the place was that the people running it didn’t have the first clue about what they were doing.

Anybody who has ever pitched or gone through a fruitful or otherwise development period with the CBC has reams of stories about the confusion, the constantly changing goals and agendas, and most often -- the indecision. Indecision often comfortably cloaked in an acceptance that this is the way the world works.

I don’t think I can fully describe the impact on my life and attitude of the day I made my transition to working for an American network, walking into the LA offices of CBS and realizing ten times the primetime programming output plus development of the next season’s potential multiple of ten was housed on a single floor of far from impressive low-rise offices.

Development time there was calculated in weeks, not years. And individual executives supervised three, four, even five shows per season –- jobs on the line if but one of those should tank.

Okay, the scale’s different here. I understand that. But some things are the bedrock of any successful operation. A clear plan for the future and consequences for lack of achievement to name but two.

I don’t know that those have ever existed at CBC. They can’t when under-performing series with visibly declining ratings are regularly renewed. They can’t when “five year plans” are rebooted every 12 months. And they definitely can’t when the people at the top can’t clearly articulate their goals to those designated to carry out the orders.

As late as this far from happy morning, CBC President Hubert LaCroix was quoted as saying, “As the media landscape changes, CBC/Radio-Canada will also need to re-imagine itself.”

No, buddy. That needed to happen long, long before now.

Everybody knew a Hockey-less landscape at CBC was coming. They’ve known for years. But nobody focussed on that reality. A reality that has been faced repeatedly in the Sports division.

When they lost CFL Football, the CBC promised to refocus on Soccer and curling. They didn’t.

When they lost curling, they promised to make up the difference with leagues like the hugely popular and far more pervasive in Canada WHL and OHL, as well as University sports. They didn’t.

Those games, often pulling better numbers than CBC Prime Time programming, are still most often found on the local cable access station, if they are available at all.

So much for a commitment to tying the country together.

Why didn’t they make those changes? My own theory is that while still being the top dog in the country’s biggest sports draw, NHL hockey, anything “other” was BENEATH them.

It’s the same vibe many Canadian artists feel –- that they’re somehow BENEATH those who toil for the CBC.

The same way Canadian musicians have realized their remuneration from CBC’s online Music Service is far BENEATH what’s paid to the American artists who are the primary draw.

Today it was reported that far from unique service alone had a loss last year of $13 Million. Combined with some $50 Million siphoned from CBC Radio to cover TV’s failures, and TV’s record of only securing 5% of our viewing hours, we clearly have a management team failing to deal with the resident issues.

And, for me at least, that 5% figure further represents that the audience itself feels BENEATH those who manage the CBC. Perhaps that’s why so few of them get too exercised when Stephen Harper refuses to hand out any more Public money.

Perhaps its why CBC Management itself didn’t bother to divest any of the corporation’s vast real estate holdings to support their core business. I mean making TV is kinda BENEATH having large and lucrative land holdings.

Yesterday a good friend laid his blame at the feet of the unholy Cons, wondering how much could’ve been accomplished if the $400 Million spent on their Economic Action Plan commercials alone could have made to a struggling CBC.

It didn’t seem to dawn on him that the majority of such commercial budgets goes to purchasing airtime, the bulk of which flows to the broadcaster with the greatest audience reach.

In the physical world that’s the CBC. In audience numbers, it’s not. But either way it would seem that neither the option of giving the CBC more money nor allowing them to earn it in ad fees results in any improvement in programming.

Two final examples from this morning…

Right after making its unhappy announcement, CBC News broadcast a press conference during which Aboriginal leaders expressed their hope that the Federal government (after years of consultation) was today introducing a bill to solve decades of problems with First Nations education.

Now this is something I know a little about since one of my neighbors just got home from being part of the First Nations negotiating team and seemed pretty satisfied with the bill.

But CBC News immediately followed the press conference with a First Nations educator who admitted not knowing what was in the bill, but made it clear SHE had not personally been consulted.

She then went on to list some of the short-comings of her  own Northern Saskatchewan school, including her inability to Skype or watch Youtube, despite having a net connection that sounded a whole lot better than my own.

The interviewer admitted to not knowing much about Tech herself and continued to press for negative responses to a bill whose contents the woman had already said she didn’t know.

And there you have it, I thought.

Why bother eliciting facts or informed insight when you can just get somebody to bitch about how they “personally” weren’t getting what they wanted from the bad old government.

That seems to have become a regular feature of CBC News, which serves only to further under-inform an already uninformed audience.

Minutes later, on the way to a meeting, I tuned in CBC Radio, hoping for some expanded coverage of the CBC dilemma. What I got instead was a “Q” interview with a couple of well known Canadian artists –- recorded in 2007.

And these are the people who want me to think they are offering a RELEVANT and ESSENTIAL service I need to rally behind saving?

I think not.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Lazy Sunday # 319: Yakitate!

The first yard sale of the season appeared in my neighborhood this weekend. Still early if you ask me. But there it was, featuring that item you find at virtually every yard sale because everybody’s got one and nobody really knows how to use them –- the electric rice cooker.

For reasons which escape me, one of the simplest things to cook –- rice –- has evolved complex digitized devices designed to cook it perfectly, yet few who purchase one find it makes the process either easier or simpler if we can get them to work at all.

And so the average rice cooker resides in the back of the bottom shelf of the darkest kitchen cupboard until somebody spots it and decides it will make a great addition to next weekend’s yard sale.

And there they sit, unsold even at a couple of bucks because -– we’ve all already got one. And even if it’s got more buttons than the one we picked up at some Chinese grocery or Sanko outlet when we decided we could make our own Sushi, it remains (to the North American mind at least) completely inscrutable.

So we pass it by for that other yard sale regular we also can never get to work right –- the electric bread maker.

Maybe that’s why a Japanese television network started a contest to find the best recipe for bread you make in a rice cooker.

In Japanese, either the contest or the bread is called “Yakitate” and it’s a huge hit, especially with kids. And since many of our kids series and competition shows were spawned in Japan, maybe it’s time to dig out your own rice cooker and get a head start.

There’s a recipe included in this Sunday’s video and another one here if you’re really inspired.

If you like the end product – great! At least you’ve finally found a use for your rice cooker, allowing you to ditch your bread maker to make room for a Keurig, Sodastream or some other device that delivers a product you can already buy ready made for a fraction of its cost not to mention that of the pre-packaged ingredients.

I’m betting there will be a ton of those at next year’s yard sales.

Enjoy Your Sunday.