Saturday, October 31, 2009
Ten things that cross my mind when I go to the downtown Y
1. It's not fun to stay at the YMCA.
2. I can't wait to get off of this treadmill and go home, so I can eat French fries and pie!
3. Memo to men in change rooms everywhere: you should never, ever walk up stairs when you're totally naked.
4. A nude, 60-year-old man with a giant potbelly who combs the few remaining strands of his hair in front of a mirror in a public restroom isn't accomplishing what he's setting out to do.
5. If you're on a cell phone while you work out, you're not working out hard enough.
6. Singing out loud to the song playing on your iPod is an awesome idea - if you want everyone in the gym to think you're insane.
7. Shall I take a dip in the Swine Flu whirlpool today?
8. You know that slimy pool of liquid left behind on workout machines? It doesn't taste half bad!
9. Dear behemoth who leaves the weight machine on 500 pounds: if you can lift 500 pounds, you win - you never have to go to the gym again.
10. I love the smell of dead raccoons and rotten cabbage in the morning!
Ten great things about Central Canada Comic Con 2009
2. The chance to see grown men clutching autographed Adam West glossies in their quivering hands:
3. Noticing that the guy who plays Chewbacca looks just like him in real life:
4. Wondering whether this is a great portender of doom, a kick-ass costume, and paint that will never, ever come off, no matter how hard he scrubs:
5. Remarking that homemade costumes are like homemade greeting cards: better than anything you can buy in a store, heartfelt, and...where the hell does someone get the time?
6. Capturing a man in the audience shouting, "Now there's a woman!" when he sees She-Hulk:
7. Noticing the look of fear in Dirk Benedict's eyes as he wonders, "Will this be an A-Team or Battlestar Galactica stalker?"
8. The chance to hang with Ghost Rider and his homies:
9. Noticing that, when juxtapositioned with the restroom signs, Rorschach and Silver Surfer make strange bedfellows indeed:
10. The chance to ask yourself: is this "comic book," "sci-fi," or "creepy?"
Friday, October 30, 2009
A little Halloween drama to start your weekend...
Remain calm, stay where you are, and do not panic. Cover your head with your hands and stay close to the floor. You have been warned....
- Thor Blondal and Rachel Hawryluk's Monkey's Revenge.
- Melanie Dueck and Jarrett Moffatt's Haunted House of Horrors.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Save your local music store!
I got stood up twice at the King's Head yesterday, and I'm the better for it.
Maybe I wasn't technically "stood up:" one of my friends took ill and the second had an important meeting at work. And I did need to be downtown anyway, so I could come in third at music trivia night and get heckled for winning a box of crayons and Dave Coulier CD called "Songs in the Key of Beaver." No, you can't borrow it. Don't even ask.
But even better than that: I needed to kill time, so I headed over to one of my favorite homes away from home, Into the Music: just a hop, skip, and jump away from Red River College's downtown campus and even closer to the King's Head.
When I got there, I was surprised to find that not only was the store open after hours, but that a Canadian musician named Dan Mangan was performing this lovely ditty - "the Indie Queens are Waiting" - on the little stage at the south end of the store with his winsome band:
It's fitting that Mangan mentions "the local record store" in the song; because I grinned ear to ear as I listened to the song and soaked up the store's magical atmosphere: outside, rain. Inside, loners looking through CDs, moms holding kids, employees grumbling that they were now well into overtime hours, and a woman in a fuzzy polar-bear coat. My peeps!
I've written before about my love affair with the music store and record collecting (here):
"When I was a kid, the record store was a place that I - and every other 15 year old - went to get away from the family.Indeed, hanging out at Into the Music yesterday made me not only hum "In Between Days," but to consider the much-hyped "Save Local TV" campaign and wonder why there isn't a "Save Local Music Stores" campaign to drum up government funding and local support for something that may very well be gone before TV ever vanishes.
"There were entire summers that I spent hanging out at Records on Wheels on Portage Avenue, where I'd listen to the British imports, talk to folks as aged as 25 about what was cool to listen to (no older brother meant I had to do the legwork), and meet potential girlfriends (they all looked like the Cure's Robert Smith, but - hey - beggars can't be choosers)."
I might be a hypocrite for celebrating the local music store on the same day I bash newspapers, but to me there's a difference; the local music store is more than just a harder-to-navigate iTunes: it's an art gallery, a performance space, a refuge from real life, and the original, bricks and mortar Facebook with old-school, flesh-and-blood friends.
In larger cities, that's allowed great music stores thrive - like the incredible Amoeba Music in San Francisco. But many haven't been so lucky, like the late, great Let it Be Records in Minneapolis, now a sad mail-order version of its former great self on Nicollet Mall.
In Winnipeg, we're lucky to have two, great music stores: Into the Music and Music Trader. At Music Trader, the staff know enough about great music to compliment me when I buy CDs by the Dictators and the Adverts, and I can glance up at the checkout till to see my glowing, bald head on one of the Polaroid pictures of their clientele they have displayed around the store. Great idea! Err....the Polaroids, not the glowing, bald head.
It's also the only store in town where the guy working at the checkout writes down the CDs I've bought, so he can e-mail the lead singer of the Epoxies and the young woman sorting music asks me where I got my jacket. It's enough to restore my faith in youth, music, and the Canadian way of life.
Take it away, Robert Smith!
Who is the Plato of Princess Street?
My new, favorite sign is scrawled in crayon onto the scaffolding outside the Public Safety Building.
The next time you have a really crappy day, just remember:
Ahhh, I feel better already!
Is On7, offbase, offputting, and offtopic?
That is, other than to say that "On7" sounds like some old guy's idea of a hip, Internet-sounding name to lure the 18 to 35 demographic to a tabloid on the Lord's Day.
As a college instructor, I can tell you that the Free Press has its finger on the pulse of this demographic, which is just itching for more news in paper format, not to mention the ability to finally have day-old sports scores at its fingertips.
"Screw these iPhone apps," they say in unison, "we want more paper, and we want it yesterday!"
Equally useful is that On7 will only be available at convenience stores and bright, orange vending boxes, the better to get us to look up from our car seats where we're already busy driving, listening to music, talking on the phone, texting, eating lunch, and crashing into other cars.
The main push behind this as opposed to, say, producing "nothing" on Sundays is that the Free Press clearly doesn't want to give the Winnipeg Sun an even bigger boost on a day when it's already the dominant paper.
But, as I said in my comment on PolicyFrog's blog - hey, fun to say "PolicyFrog's blog!" - the argument for and against the Free Press competing with the Sun is pretty academic, considering that there’s now even an app for lining your bird cage and wrapping fish.
That said, here's the new On7 media kit/rate card the Free Press is hoping to use to lure new advertisers "seeking a younger target market."
On7 Media Kit1
What do you think, younger target market? Are you going to buy this thing or what?
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Mixtape: for the tragically hip on Halloween
Believe it or not, I've never been much of a hobo, ghost, or slutty nurse.
So, this year, the Mixtape Night of the Living Dead Rock N' Roll Zombie Radio Show T-shirt is gettin' it done for me - a worthy addition to my Motörhead dress shirt with skulls and crossbones.
Inspired by New York City's gritty and fun Trash & Vaudeville and Search & Destroy clothing stores, Mixtape is one of those rare New York experiences you can have without getting onto a cramped Air Canada plane, sprinting from Terminal A to B in Toronto, getting strip-searched in Montreal, ripped off by an unlicensed cabbie at LaGuardia, and stabbed and left for dead by Leonard Cohen in the Chelsea Hotel.
I was passing by the Osborne Village clothing store tonight, and stopped to take a peek in the store window. It reminded me that last year at this time, the advertising majors were working on a campaign for the store and its owner, Tracy Piche, who has an uncanny knack for knowing what the kids like before the kids even know what they like.
I've always liked the store, but I expecially like its alternative to the traditional Halloween outfit, which I've been fighting against since I was six, when my mother made me a skunk outfit - when I pulled a string, the tail went up, and everyone within a 20-foot radius ran for their lives.
I've never recovered.
Monday, October 26, 2009
All hail the king and queen of CreComedy night!
Daria Lysenko and Mitchell Clinton.
It was another great night of CreComedy laffs at the King's Head tonight, as the second group of Creative Communications students from my comedy writing class performed to a full house in as many weeks.
Congratulations to all of the night's performers - you did a great job, and you should all be proud. Mitchell Clinton was awarded top comic of the night, literally spritzing his way into our comedy judges' hearts and minds, and the hilarious Heather McGowan was named our first runner-up. The scores were mighty, mighty close indeed.
And the top six comics of the night, as rated by the judges are:
1. Mitchell Clinton
2. Heather McGowan
3. Kellen Scrivens
4. Jessica Sigurdson
5. Emily Baron Cadloff
6. Kelly Romas
Special thanks to our headliner, the always awesome Cara Lytwyn (check out her headlining set from tonight's show here and here) and event organizer Matt Cohen.
Some video highlights (sorry for laughing into the mic again...snort!):
Jessica Sigurdson, our genial host and emcee:
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Soupy Sales goes to that great cream pie in the sky
Let's pause to remember comedian Soupy Sales, who died a few days ago at age 83.
Soupy is the guy who made getting hit in the face with a pie popular. He also famously got suspended from his TV job for two weeks in 1965 for suggesting that children go into their parents' wallets and send him "the funny pieces of green paper" they'd find inside. They did. See the clip, above.
It was just today that I remembered that I'd actually met Sales a couple of times in the early 90s.
The first was when I was on a tour of NBC at Rockefeller Plaza in New York; Sales was working there as a radio DJ, and he and Don Pardo - the voice of Saturday Night Live - were among the only two celebrities on the tour who gave us the time of day (OK, Tom Brokaw did say hello, but he kept moving).
The second time was when I worked on Late Night with Conan O'Brien; I picked up the phone and it was Soupy Sales himself: "Soupy Sales for Conan O'Brien!"
"Sure thing, Soupy," I said, without so much as a clue about how to transfer a call. I always felt bad about hanging up on the guy, and now I feel even worse.
Out of respect for Soupy, please go into your parents' wallets right now, kids, and send me the funny pieces of green paper you find inside. You won't regret it!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Ten things that crossed my mind during last night's Ben Folds concert in Fargo
1. A fold across the name "Ben Folds" on my ticket stub? Tonight, the air is thick with irony.
2. If you haven't eaten at McDonald's in 15 years, maybe it's not a good idea to start it up again right before a road trip.
3. "You don't know what it's like to be male, middle class, and white." Oh, no?
4. Could it be that I'm a brick and I'm drowning slowly?
5. Would this hair color look good on me?
6. Ben Folds has replaced the members of the Ben Folds Five with a wooden box.
7. Maybe we are all alone in the universe.
8. Buy a round of beer for your American friends in Fargo, and they'll tell you over and over how much Canada rules.
9. Ben Folds + Elton John = Ben Elton?
Or folded johns?
10. I wonder if Jeff Zabudsky has read my post about me not being invited to Breakfast with the President, and whether now I'll be invited to Breakfast with the President.
Update, Sunday: I just heard from Matt, pictured onstage, above, singing "B*****s Ain't S**t" with Ben Folds and one of the most exuberant and positive young women I've ever seen singing a song with that title. He's a fan of the photo, a very nice guy, and one heckuva rapper.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I am the Susan Lucci of Breakfast with the President
I'm lucky enough to work at an educational institution where the president cares about what I - and everyone else who works here - is doing.
That manifests itself in a number of ways for RRC staff, the best being that you are automatically entered into a draw every month to have Breakfast with the President - an opportunity to join Jeff Zabudsky for breakfast at the college during the school year.
As it says on the college's website:
"The breakfasts let staff informally talk to the president and share ideas about the college with their fellow employees. Participants are selected randomly by Human Resource Services so eventually every employee at the college will receive an invitation."Hey, I love breakfast. And I like talking with presidents. That's me, they're talking about. Sign me up!
The waiting is the hardest part
Knowing that it would only be a matter of time until I was selected, I put on my fanciest shirt, tie, and jacket and waited. And waited. And watched as every person I work with got invited. And watched as every person I don't work with got invited.
I eventually removed the jacket. And the shirt. But I still kept waiting. Shirtless and shirked.
"Surely, my time will come," I said to no one as I sat in my cubicle at 6 p.m. on a Friday, hitting "refresh" on my email, hoping that an invitation would suddenly appear. Nothing.
Last year, I attended a speech by Zabudsky at an IABC luncheon at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. As always, Jeff gave a great presentation about the college's "people plan," but I could feel myself getting a little warm as he came to the part of the speech where he spoke about Breakfast with the President.
"Kenton, have you been to Breakfast with the President?" he asked in front of everyone.
"I've never been invited (long pause) for some reason," I said, to the delight of everyone around me, who seemed well aware of why I might not be invited to something called "Breakfast with the President."
I am Susan Lucci
After the luncheon, I waited some more. I put my shirt back on. Still no invite.
And that's when I started defining myself as "the guy who will never be invited to Breakfast with the President," much like Susan Lucci once did with the Daytime Emmy.
Lucci was nominated 21 times for playing Erica Kane on All My Children, and parlayed it into a publicity campaign that lasted for 21 years, until she finally won an Emmy and everyone stopped caring about her.
So whenever one of my colleagues got invited to Breakfast with the President, and they'd ask me if I'd ever been, and I'd just say, "No, I'm...the guy who never gets invited to Breakfast with the President!" They seemed to get a kick out of it, so I kept up the shtick.
People started to know me by my moniker. Statues were erected in my honor. Children took a day off of school once a month to honor my plight. Grown men wept at my tale of woe.
I was happy in my misery. Until I noticed that my colleagues were starting to go for Breakfast with the President - for a SECOND time.
"Nooooooo!" my voiceover yelled over a long shot of planet Earth.
Enough with the ironic detachment. I knew it was time to appeal to the one higher authority who could do something about my problem, and that was the president himself.
So, a couple of weeks ago, after an unrelated meeting (NOT breakfast), I couldn't hold it in any longer: "Yeah, about this so-called Breakfast with the President..."
And the president himself listened politely and chuckled as I explained my hard-luck story to him and subtly insinuated that I would be a delightful addition to an upcoming breakfast.
"I would be a delightful addition," I sobbed.
His response: "I look forward to seeing you at Breakfast with the President (long pause) someday."
So, we had a laugh, I went home for the weekend, rested my head upon my pillow, and enjoyed the sweet sleep of the just.
After getting all of that sweet sleep, I felt much better. Until I found out that another couple of my colleagues had just been called up for a second Breakfast with the President - one of whom was at the meeting where I complained about not being invited to Breakfast with the President.
"This is beyond the pale!" I shouted at her smiling face.
So I hatched my plan. I would go to Breakfast with the President anyway, uninvited. I would crash that party today in W411 at 8 a.m., and no one could stop me.
I figured I'd walk in and say something clever, like, "So, this is what Breakfast with the President looks like." Then, I would surely be invited to sit down, eat a bagel, and shut up. Luxury!
Everything was going to plan until I got this mysterious note on my desk:
"It's cute how you think I'm listening to you," says the letterhead, next to a cartoon rabbit listening to an iPod. How does a rabbit afford an iPod anyway?
"You might find this ironic," it continues. "The president's breakfast is cancelled for Thursday. Jeff "injured his ankle last night."
A legitimate injury, or a clever ruse to throw me off of the scent of bacon, eggs, hash browns, and coffee? And what did those quotation marks around "injured his ankle" mean? Hmmmmm.
I'm afraid that I may never find out. But that won't stop me from continuing to search for that elusive invitation in my junk folder, sent items, drop box, mail box, inbox, farmhouse, warehouse, hen house, outhouse, and dog house.
Until that day comes, I'll be the guy at Tim Hortons, staring forlornly out the window as I eat my bagel, imagining what it would taste like at the Breakfast with the President. I don't know for sure, but I imagine it would taste something like...victory!
Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club
The day that Citytv and CHUM came to play
Many thanks to Ryan Ghidoni, creative director at CHUM Radio, for coming to Red River College today to talk about his job, how to write great ads - for radio and all media - and to answer questions from first-year Creative Communications students about the advertising and radio business.
Later in the day, Megan Batchelor and Justin George from Citytv stopped by my first-year PR class to shoot a news segment about blogging, which will be aired as part of a series of reports on new media; the segment is expected to air on Citytv on the first week of November. Watch this blog for more details.
For the segment, my first-year PR class got to play Marshall McLuhan for a day by writing a blog about blogging specifically for the Citytv segment; the results of their labor are on my blog roll on the right under the heading, "My PR peeps - Class 3." Enjoy!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Where the wild things (and students) are: Toad Hall Toys
All classes should involve puppets, robots, and fake mustaches.
Today, my first-year advertising class and I went to Toad Hall Toys in Winnipeg's Exchange District, so students could learn more about the store, the better to write their first 30-second radio ad for a real-life retail client.
The real reason: to look at, play with, and buy some cool toys when we were supposed to be in school. But I won't tell if you won't!
Toad Hall Toys is the most magical toy store in Winnipeg - from its heritage location, complete with swinging, wooden sign, to the homey, warehouse-style interior and supercool stuff on display: planes, trains, automobiles, robots, playsets, puppets, fish, candy, science experiments, dollhouses, and books, including every kid's favorite: Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species:
On a day when you're feeling blue or want to get away from the everyday grind of life, Toad Hall Toys is a pretty great escape; you can spend hours there, and not be aware of the passage of time. Grown men have been known to walk in with purpose, on a tight timeline, only to be found six hours later in deep conversation with a ladybug puppet:
Part of Toad Hall's charm is - in this era of videogames and downloadable cell-phone apps - its undying loyalty to the retro charms of train sets, dollhouses, board games, and wooden and tin toys.
Check out these incredibly awesome wind-up tin robots:
So, how do you sell a store with so much going for it in just 30 seconds on the radio?
Easy: you start with a fake mustache, and the rest takes care of itself.
Monday, October 19, 2009
A great nighta comedy by a great buncha students
Tonight I sleep with visions of dollar signs dancing in my head.
We kicked off the first of our two CreComedy nights at the King's Head tonight with a truly awesome night of laughs to a capacity crowd, courtesy of second-year Creative Communications students enrolled in my comedy writing class.
No one even remotely bombed, so all of our first-time performers should feel pretty great right about now. I know I do, and that's not the beer talkin'.
Congratulations to Daria Lysenko, who was rated by our esteemed panel of comedy judges as being the best comic of the night, and who won a $50 bar credit at the King's Head for doing so. Her father would be proud!
I've posted Daria's performance on YouTube, but the quality ain't so great (my fault), and there's some idiot snorting into the mic (my fault too - it's me). However, a more wonderful, DVD version of the evening will be available shortly. Watch this blog for more info.
Special thanks to former student and headliner Dan Verville, who absolutely killed, destroyed, and tore up the room. Go to Toronto and become famous, Dan, so we can come to visit and sleep on your couch for free.
And more thanks to CreComm grad Matt Cohen for organizing the whole thing. Yay for Matt!
Tomorrow, I talk all of my students into quitting school and going on the road, and giving me 10 per cent of the take. Are you with me?
**Update: top six comedians of the night!**
As recorded on audience/judge scorecards:
1. Daria Lysenko
2. Jason Booth
3. Kiirsten May
4. Janet Adamana
5. Jill Winzoski
6. Chandra Rempel
Everybody did great on the scorecards; a scant eight marks out of 30 separated the high and low scores - incredible!
Here's an audio clip of Janet Adamana talking about Marilyn Manson. Update: my very amateur(ish?) video of Janet now on YouTube!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Forget regret, for life is yours to miss: One Day by David Nicholls
I'm a wreck. Floored. Gobsmacked. I feel like someone just punched me in the gut and backed over me with a car. Twice.
I just finished reading David Nicholls' One Day; and if the mark of a great book is that you have an emotional reaction to what you've read, it stays with you, and makes you question the very meaning of life, then this one is a classic.
Unbelievably, this book is only available from the U.K. - I got mine from Amazon.co.uk after reading a great review in Uncut Magazine. I just ordered three more to distribute as Christmas gifts to people who don't read this blog (don't tell!).
The book starts with a seemingly unpromising concept: we're to follow the lives of two students, Dex and Em, who meet on St. Swithin's Day (shout out to Billy Bragg!) and have a quick affair, as unpromising as the book's premise.
Each chapter represents a one-year leap in Dex and Em's lives; they discover what we know from chapter one: they're in love and - no matter what happens - they will always be at their personal best when they're with each other, even when they're seeing other people, getting married to other people, and outright hating each other's guts.
We have a feeling it's all going to work out, no matter what. Or will it? Note the foreboding quotes from Thomas Hardy...
Sounds predictable, I know. Sounds sappy, I know. Sounds like a terrible Julia Roberts movie (Runaway Bride II?), I know. Sounds like men need not apply. I know already!
However, the book - like all great works of art - isn't really about what it's about; Nicholls' writing is a witty, clever, and breezy read. It's only when you get to the book's remarkable postscript that you realize how difficult a trick that writing this book must have been to pull off.
It's stunning to me that a book with so many familiar conventions could shed so much light on the things we take for granted in our lives:
- That one, special connection with someone else, beyond reason, that most of us are lucky to feel just once or twice in our lives;
- The nature of loneliness and how it makes us settle for something less than our dreams;
- The difference between what we're like when we're young and what we become when we grow up;
- The cruel intervention of fate;
- And, not to put too fine a point on it, the meaning of life itself.
When the book comes to North America, it will almost surely become a terrible Hollywood movie starring Julia Roberts and Jude Law, not to mention an Oprah book club pick, which will make impossible for anyone to enjoy or to revel in its surprises for the first time.
Read it now or forever hold your peace.
The Kinks' Days:
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The best live band in Canada: the Hidden Cameras
Search Hidden Cameras on YouTube and be prepared to sit through every bad prank and - eeeeek! - "toilet-cam blooper" ever caught on film.
Look a little further down the list, and you'll find The Hidden Cameras, the most underrated, and best live, band in Canada.
The band wouldn't have it any other way.
How this 10- to 15-piece outfit - choir, violin, and glockenspiel included - is going to fit onstage at the Royal Albert on Monday, Nov. 30 is anyone's guess, but I'll be there to find out, along with the band's loyal and diverse stable of fans: the fake-ID crowd, the walker and cane crowd, and the everyone-else-in-between crowd.
The band's self-professed stereotype (says Wikipedia) is "gay church folk music." True, as far as stereotypes go.
But while not everyone may enjoy a robust singalong about getting an enema, denying the theft of underpants, and ingesting odd substances (only some of them drugs), to concentrate on the stereotype is, as Uncut Magazine says, "missing the many pleasures of the Hidden Cameras."
Among them: sunny melodies, soaring choruses, exuberant chants, and maybe even spiritual ascension and self-actualization through music, love, and Mississauga, ON.
The band's live show is a happening to behold: a Phil Spector wall of sound, onstage go-go dancing, tambourines played by audience members, and plenty of good cheer to go around.
Why, it's almost enough to make you forget that you have an 8 a.m. class the next day. Almost!
Friday, October 16, 2009
Foreboding clouds predict destruction of life on Earth as we know it
Repent, sinners, the end of times is nigh!
I snapped this picture outside of RRC today at 4 p.m.; a classic harbinger of doom if I've ever seen one.
Environment Canada says the unnerving and foreboding clouds should be with us until tomorrow, at which time we can expect a 40 per cent chance of precipitation, a 20 per cent chance of damaging winds, and a 10 per cent chance of destruction of life on Earth as we know it.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Chris Jericho reminds us all what we're doing in CreComm
I realize I've posted this before, but I think the time may be right to remind ourselves that CreComm can be a diving board to a successful career in wrestling.
Watch for the money shot at 2:30!
Thanks to Dave for reminding me that we should have changed the ad agency into a wrestling ring a long, long time ago.
How will you laugh - on a Monday night?
Here's Thor Blondal's awesome ad for Comedy Night at the King's Head, which he rehearsed, recorded, produced, and perfected in Cathy Hanson's radio class.
Click here and select "play." It's totally worth it.
Turning your cat into a eunuch can be a SNAP!
"Fixing your cat is easy. Affording it can be hard. SNAP to it!"
Thank goodness for SNAP - the subsidized spay and neuter assistance program, brought to us by the Winnipeg Humane Society.
I snapped (get it?) this picture of the out-of-home campaign on the bus at 8 a.m. while listening to a loudmouth scream into his cell phone, "Hey, it's Joe from the Neon Factory!!!" So, I may have just been a touch grumpy...but here goes:
While I'm sure that SNAP is a great program, the WHS notes on its website that there can be up to an eight-week wait time for your pet to "get the procedure." Not really a "SNAP," then, is it?
And does the acronym strike you as being a little insensitive to our furry friends? Sure, it's convenient for us, but is it really a "snap" for little Fluffy (pictured in the ad with her pal, Patches)? Aww, poor Fluffy!
Lastly, is "SNAP" really the sound you want to equate with the procedure?
Or am I just reading too much into this campaign on a day when I feel under the weather, grouchy at loud cell phone talkers, and just a little like I'm recovering from the SNAP program myself?
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
What's up with the U.S. healthcare bill?
It could be.
Here's how it works: errr...there are these congressmen and women and...er...ummm...they wanna public option...er...because...umm...the committee's CBO numbers....Harry Reid....reform...Nobel Peace Prize...Michael Moore...veto...take it away, Schoolhouse Rock!
So that's why a broken arm costs $10,000 in the U.S. Thanks, Bill!
Monday, October 12, 2009
Real Men of Genius: the most award-winning radio ad campaign in history
My ad class took their first shot at writing radio ads last week, and they discovered what many a copywriter has discovered before them: writing good advertising is hard.
Writing great original advertising and selling it to a client? Next to impossible.
So, here's the exception to the rule: the great Real Men of Genius campaign for Bud Light - the most award-winning radio ad campaign in history.
Written by Bob Winter at DDB Chicago, and featuring announcer Pete Stacker, Survivor's Dave "Eye of the Tiger" Bickler, and a gospel choir, the radio campaign led to an equally successful TV campaign.
At over 100 installments and counting, it proves David Ogilvy's belief that it's so rare to come up with a great ad campaign that when you actually do, you should keep using it over and over and over until it stops working.
The Real Men of Genius campaign started in 1999 as "Real American Heroes." Can you guess which event of Sept. 11, 2001 changed the themeline?
Here's the very first TV treatment:
My personal favorite:
And here's how to do it in 30 seconds:
Sunday, October 11, 2009
When the family's away, the Star Wars movies will play
I've always defended my love of Star Wars to the uninitiated and unconvinced by putting it in terms that everyone can understand:
"Star Wars is like sex: even when it's bad, it's still pretty good!"The line always gets a laugh, but I really do believe it; so much so that when my folks are out of town for the Thanksgiving long weekend I don't hang my head low and feel like I'm missing out on family time - it means I can have a guilt-free 14 straight hours of the Star Wars films.
And is that a steak I see in the freezer? Brahahahahaha! Enjoy Thanksgiving, suckas!
As I say in my Amazon.com review of Star Wars:
"To call Star Wars "technically innovative" is an understatement for the effect it had on audiences in 1977. When I saw it for the first time as a 10-year-old boy, my mouth dropped open within the first five seconds of the movie and didn't shut until well after the final credits - sheer, unadulterated joy at seeing something that I'd never seen before."
The movie felt so real when I first saw it, in my heart of hearts I actually thought that "pod racer, Tatooine" might be a viable career option.
No? Instructor at RRC will have to do, then.
So, having just watched the entire Star Wars series, Episodes I to VI in order without so much as a cranberry sauce break, here is my re-appraisal:
1.Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Overall rating:** out of *****
The most-hated episode in the Star Wars series still has some great moments: Darth Maul, the Art Deco set design, John Williams' Duel of the Fates song, light sabers melting steel, the Jedi speed walk, etc.
It's also got some of the worst: Jar Jar Binks, a big brew ha ha about signing a treaty, and the worst, most wooden performance by Natalie Portman ever captured on film.
1. The worst character in the Star Wars saga is easily Captain Panaka, who is only in the film to tell us about what he CAN'T do:
"Our volunteers will be no match for...;" "There are too many of them;" "I do not agree;" "Looks pretty bad;" "We have no army."
"But, your highness, I can't act!"
2. Taxation of trade routes, signing treaties, and congressional debates sure are boring.
3. Lots of insults about the size and weight of one's noggin. "Are you brain dead?;" "Are you brainless?;" "You humans think your brains are so big..."
4. John Williams' music makes any movie seem better than it actually is.
5. Who thought that the addition of alien buffoons with Chinese accents would be a good idea?
6. A big fish eats a little fish - twice?
7. "Doo doo;" "poo doo;" fart jokes, and Jar Jar stepping in crap - a subtle hint about where this movie ranks in the Star Wars saga?
8. Jake Lloyd can't act; but that alone doesn't explain why Anakin is the happiest, pluckiest slave in the galaxy.
9. Jar Jar Binks still sucks, especially when he says, "Okee day?" and "excweese me!" He also reminds me a lot of Omar White on HBO's prison drama, Oz - and Omar was ingesting lots and lots of drugs.
10. Why is there so little in the way of foreshadow in this film, given the title of the film? What we're left with is an expensive Scooby Doo episode. "Da rhantom, da rhantom!"
2. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Overall rating: *** out of *****
The second most-hated film in the Star Wars saga could also be called "The Kenobi Mysteries" for rethinking Obi-Wan as a gumshoe detective in the same (varicose?) vein as Angela Lansbury - trying to find the source of an errant dart.
George Lucas goes overboard with the origins here, explaining Boba Fett, C-3P0, and Darth Vader's motivations to death, giving us the most clunky romance ever committed to film, and not allowing the clones to attack until the last half-hour of the film.
But the Yoda fight almost makes up for it.
1. Turns out all Storm Troopers are from...Australia?
2. That Binks idiot doesn't say very much this time - yay! - but he's the deciding vote that gives power to the Emperor and allows the clone army to get activated. Turns out that Jar Jar is "clumsy" in the same way that George W. Bush was "clumsy."
3. The romantic scenes of Anakin and Padme romping in the countryside are uncomfortably similar to Michael Landon romping in the countryside on old episodes of Little House on the Prairie:
4. Anakin Skywalker morphs into Andy Rooney before our very eyes: "I hate sand - it's annoying."
5. R2 can fly? That would have come in really handy in episodes IV to VI.
6. A lot of those Jedis fighting in the temple look suspiciously like doughy special-effects designers.
7. Ewen McGregor fights giant insects with a spear, a la Ray Harryhausen? Cool.
8. Obi-Wan fights Jango Fett? Cool.
9. Yoda fights Dooku? Cool.
10. C-3P0 says three puns in a row as he's dragged out of the climactic battle? Uncool.
3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Overall rating: ****1/2 out of *****This film would have knocked people's socks off, had they not suffered so much through the first two episodes. From the first word in the opening crawl: "War!" and our first glimpse of the Rebel Blockade Runner in over 20 years, to the extra-crispy Anakin and Chewbacca on his home turf, this movie actually rules much more than I remembered.
1. We cut right to the chase with a monster space battle. Good call!
2. Obi-Wan finally gets some great lines: "Sith Lords are our speciality;" "Anakin is the father? I'm sooo sorry."
3. Obi-Wan finally gets his own trademarked battle stance.
4. CreComm grad Pablo Hidalgo shows up as an extra in the opera scene: the first person I know who appears in a Star Wars film. Yay!
5. The dead-Jedi montage in the film is the sci-fi equivalent of the dead-actor montage at the Oscars.
6. That Emperor can really act. His little parable, "the tragedy of Darth Plegueis the wise," is the most riveting non-action scene in the Star Wars franchise.
7. Yoda: "Begun, the Clone Wars have." So, Yoda named the Clone Wars? Right after they started? Shouldn't he have waited to see what was going to happen? "Begun, the seven-day war has."
8. Yoda and Obi-Wan should fight together more: it looks like they're having a good time.
9. Jimmy Smits raised Leia. Does that mean Dennis Franz raised Luke?
10. Once you go extra-crispy, you can never go back.
4. Episode IV: A New Hope
Overall rating: ***** out of *****This movie shows the galaxy in recession after too much irrational exuberance and Clone-War spending. Proving the old adage that intelligence borrows and genius steals, Lucas updates Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" by combining it with the Wizard of Oz and Metropolis.
1. The jokes are pretty great in this one - C-3P0 and R2-D2's dash through laser fire, R2's response to the Jawa gun, and Harrison Ford's stalling tactic in the detention block.
2. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Aunt Beru, and Uncle Owen have sure aged badly in the 19 years they've been on Tatooine.
3. The digital effects they added in the 1997 expanded editions now look more out of date than the little X-wing fighter models they used in 1977.
4. I think I might still want to work on a moisture-vaporator farm on Tatooine and drive a pod racer in the evenings.
5. If Owen Lars lived with C-3P0 in Episode II, why wouldn't he recognize him in Episode IV, when he buys him back? He shows no reluctance at getting angry at the Jawas when they sell him a droid with a bum motivator...why not when they try to sell him the droid he already owns?
6. Post-production looping was really bad a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. See: "Sand people - or worse!" or "There's something in here!" Or any scene where a British-looking guy sounds like John Wayne.
7. It's fun to whine, "But I wanted to go to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!"
8. Darth Vader never senses that his son, Luke, his former best-friend, Obi-Wan, and the droid he built himself, C-3P0, are on his home planet of Tatooine at the same time. Get a refund on that Sith sense, dude.
9. The Millennium Falcon is the space equivalent of the 1977 Chevy Nova I drove in high school. "She's got it where it counts, old man."
10. Jar Jar must've blown up on Alderaan. So the Death Star wasn't all bad! Neon Neon pays tribute to everyone's favorite, doomed planet:
5. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Overall rating: ***** out of *****Everybody's favorite Star Wars film with no ending still holds up today - a great land battle in the snow, a good double-cross by Han Solo's "best friend," and the big, crazy revelation at the end of the film that's been so repeated, copied, and parodied - it can never be used again.
1. More good jokes: "Who are you callin...scruffy lookin'?;" "And I thought they smelled bad...on the outside;" "Take it easy."
2. Hoth looks exactly like Winnipeg in January.
3. Great character growth through weird match-ups: R2-D2, meet Yoda. Han, meet C-3P0. Chewie, meet C-3P0. Leia, meet Lando. Han, meet Vader. Giant worm, meet asteroids.
4. From whining about power converters to confronting the dad he thought was dead, Luke really grows up and acts his arse off in this one.
5. Did they write the part about Luke getting clawed by the snow monster to explain Mark Hamill's post-car-accident plastic surgery between films?
6. Why does Luke remember being on Dagobah? Is there a visit to see Yoda between episode three and five that we don't know about?
7. Since Obi-Wan Kenobi was present at the birth of Luke and Leia, wouldn't his ghost know what Yoda is talking about when he says, "There is another?"
8. The relationship that develops between Han and Leia is so effective, I think C-3P0 is a little jealous. Of whom, though?
9. What happened at the Dagobah tree that makes it so evil and all knowing?
10. I always get chills up my spine when the door opens on Cloud City, Vader is at the end of the table, and Han Solo shoots at him. Does that make me a nerd?
6. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Overall rating: **** out of *****Unfairly maligned as "the worst" of the original trilogy, I've always loved the broad strokes of the final chapter - the Luke vs. Vader battle, the scooter race through the trees, the blind Han Solo fighting it out at the Pit of Carkoon, and the big resolution where Vader takes his sweet time saving Luke and sending the Emperor into the abyss.
That said, there are a million little details that drive me nuts: we're told that Luke has to face Vader, but that he'd better not; Obi-Wan is a ghost, but he's apparently around all the time; our favorite characters appear in catchphrase versions; and how do you explain Ewoks, the least-cool little people in Star Wars, after Ugnaughts and Jawas?
We also get a zoned-out performance by Carrie Fisher (high on cocaine, she later admitted) and Harrison Ford's sleepwalk through his last outing as Han Solo. He later admitted that he thought Han Solo should have died in Return of the Jedi - no doubt, the earlier the better.
1. The film sure takes its time with the setup. Each cast member has a big intro at Jabba's palace - individually!?
2. We blew up the Death Star - hooray! No, there is another. Lazy writing!
3. The Emperor gets all of the great lines. "We'll be quite safe from your pitiful band!;" "So be it...Jedi;" "Now, young Skywalker, you will die;" "You will find that it is you who are mistaken...about a great...many....things!"
4. The musical number at Jabba's palace is really, really terrible.
5. Why can't those speeder bikes just fly over the trees?
6. John Williams has written two Ewok songs for different versions of Return of the Jedi, and they both are terrible. Yub, yub!
7. In Episode IV, C-3P0 says, "I'm not much of a storyteller." In Episode, VI, he's seen spinning a gripping yarn for the Ewoks, including Millennium Falcon sound effects and a dead-on Vader breathing impression. Lying robot...
8. Why the foreshadowing about seeing the Millennium Falcon for the last time? Was Han, the Falcon, Lando, and/or his creepy co-pilot not supposed to make it?
9. Carbonite side effects: temporary blindness, putting on 10 pounds, and feeling very, very bored.
10. As long as you repent on your deathbed, you can hang with Yoda and Obi-Wan, regardless of how many younglings you killed while you were alive.
Update: I almost forgot to mention the best (only?) bit of continuity from the prequels to the original trilogy - the scene in Empire Strikes Back where Vader stops Boba Fett from shooting Chewie on Cloud City. Who's on Chewie's back? C-3P0, the droid that Vader built back on Tatooine, the old softie.
Friday, October 9, 2009
How to get rich blogging - or die trying
Now that you've been blogging for a month or so, it's time to convert that hard work into a paycheque.
Yes, here's your big chance to quit school and your job, become a professional blogger, and make as much as eight cents a month.
That's tax free, my friends.
But seriously, it's pretty easy to monetize your blog: just click on "Customize," then on "Monetize," register for Google AdSense, and get ready for the cash to roll in!
Well, maybe not at first...
Add a little YouTube, PayPal, eBay, craigslist, and Twitter to the mix - tap into your inner P.T. Barnum to harness some old-fashioned showmanship, press agentry, publicity, and gumption - and soon your blog can make you a hundred- or even thousandaire.
Where you take it from here is up to you; I love this guy's idea (see the video below) about how to make money off of product placements in YouTube videos.
Hey, does anyone want to buy one of the dresses worn in my students' Torches of Freedom video for $100? I get a 20 per cent commission on all sales, right? Hello? Hello?
Ebert and blogging
While we're on the topic, film critic Roger Ebert has posted an interesting article about blogging called "The Blogs of My Blog," which is where I found the first video on this post.
In the article (great idea, by the way) Ebert goes searching through his readers' blogs to see "what riches" he can find. He says:
"You are everyone, and you are everywhere. Collectively, you know everything. They say if you have 36 people in a room, it will be someone's birthday. I say if you have 36,000 comments in a blog, one of those posters will know who A. W. Wainwright is, or how a flagellum works, or what you will see if you stand at the edge of the universe and look out. And several will provide me with practical advice about how to improve my computer's speaking ability. "His post is worth reading for the talkbackers' comments alone - at 350 comments and counting, they alone probably represent the collective opinion and wisdom about blogging at this moment in time.
Wordle's "Beautiful Word Clouds"
One more cool thing I saw on Ebert's website: Wordle - an online tool that generates "beautiful word clouds" from the copy or link you insert into its site.
The size of the words is based on the number of times they appear in the source. Here's the word cloud generated by my blog:
Update: And the New York Times has chimed in on Google AdSense here.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
IMAX and Chicken Delight: "think big, hurl bigger"
"If you get dizzy, close your eyes and sit back. The feeling will pass."
Then again, maybe it won't.
Earlier today, I ran across this poster for an awesome "Dinner & a Movie" cross-promotion concocted in the bowels of Hell and offered up by Chicken Delight and IMAX.
After wolfing down 11 pieces of greasy chicken, fries, gravy (medium!), salad, rolls and a two-litre jug of Coke, who doesn't want to catch a 3D movie at the IMAX, the theatre chain with screens so big, you get a dizziness warning at the beginning of the feature?
You and your date can enjoy this promotion for only $31.95 and - thank the Lord - the offer is available "all day/everyday, no coupon required."
See you there on Thanksgiving!
Students thank you - and Bernays - for smoking
They're not cigarettes, they're TORCHES OF FREEDOM!
Here are first-year CreComm students Jeff Ward, Jordan Johanson, and Jeremy Giacomin making Edward L. Bernays' 1929 PRO-smoking PR campaign for Lucky Strike - cough, cough - come to life.
Warning: this video is highly addictive, causes strokes, and stunts your growth.
**Update: Yesterday, I somehow missed the team's equally entertaining re-enactment of the Green Ball - the pro-smoking campaign in which Bernays rebranded the color of fashion to match cigarette packages.
Today, I correct that wrong:
I can't wait for the big Ivory Soap-carving contest installment...
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Book larnin' versus online sarfin': where's the best reading?
Can you be a voracious reader without ever picking up a book?
The question crossed my mind today on the bus, where I was reading the awesome book, One Day. I'm normally a non-fiction kinda guy, but this book has me hooked.
Expecting my fellow bus riders to notice the book (and, of course, my great taste by association), it was instead I who noticed that they couldn't care less about my book. Or maybe anyone's.
Even the book's bright and colorful jacket didn't help - it's still no match for the glowing cell-phone screen o' pleasure. But wait: is that reading too?
If my observations are correct, and I'm Winnipeg's Burgess Meredith, loving my books while those around me prefer to read and write text messages, it makes me wonder what we should be doing at Red River College to forward reading and writing skills in students.
It comes down to two outlooks:
1. The Internet (and its henchman, the cell phone) is the natural enemy of reading, literacy, culture, concentration, learning, and all that's good and right and decent in the world.
2. The Internet is a new and better kind of reading that makes books - and all other media - obsolete; it's more engaging than books, and more intellectually stimulating than TV.
I agree with both, which is to say that I'm torn like an old dollar bill. Thank you, Screaming Trees.
Engagement versus discipline
As every instructor knows, job one in the classroom is "engagement." Whatever you can do to get students to be interested and participate is all good, girlfriend. That means that the Internet wins, right?
Uh, not really. Job two is to instill the self-confidence, discipline, and skills that students need to survive and thrive in the workplace. Can you survive and thrive if you have a two-second attention span, can't follow a narrative, and don't have the stamina to make it to the end of a book?
What's worth more to employers: your ability to finish a book or to surf the net? Reading comprehension or Internet proficiency? Quoting Herman Melville or Perez Hilton?
The New York Times says that reading comprehension is a skill that is still valued as "very important" by employers. Moreover, "those who score higher on reading tests tend to earn higher incomes." That means that books win, right?
Uh, not really. Because there are those who believe that the Internet has brought us a new kind of reading. Who's to say that the ability to quickly absorb video, words, sound, ideas, and conversation isn't as valuable as, say, the ability to read and appreciate the poems of William Blake?
The siren call of the ringtone
As the Internet slowly gobbles up all media, will there come a day when it will be unrealistic to expect a student to read an entire book, online or otherwise?
My observation is that most students still read books. But most of my students are in Creative Communications, which means they're predisposed to read. Even so, the groans that greet the assigned books in Canadian lit class get louder every year.
Likewise, most students can still put their cell phone aside during class, but every year there are more who can't resist the siren call of the ringtone - the modern-day equivalent of Pavlov and the drooling dog.
If people can't stop texting while they drive, is there any hope of stopping them from texting while they learn?
"I don't really like books," a student once (sheepishly) confessed to me. He said he liked late-night talk shows more than he liked books, so I gave him my copy of Bill Carter's the Late Shift and never got it back. His new, favorite book or a doorstop? Lie to me!
Read between the lines
The easy answer here is that we all need to do all kinds of reading for all kinds of reasons: we need to read for fun, enjoyment, entertainment, intellectual stimulation, emotional satisfaction, to advance at work, enhance our education, and simply get through life.
That means reading emails, websites, contracts, brochures, menus, ads, articles, instructions, text messages, instant messages, signs, letters, Post-it notes, and - oh yeah - books.
To deny yourself even one part of the broad sweep of reading possibilities is to deny yourself a deeper enjoyment and understanding of life.
To the library!
Monday, October 5, 2009
These are a few of my favorite press secretaries
Curl up with a hot cup of cocoa and prepare to drift off:
the White House press briefing, June 2, 2009.
Arguably the toughest job in public relations is the one in which Robert Gibbs finds himself today: White House press secretary.
The press secretary acts as the spokesperson for the president and facing the media in a daily press briefing, to discuss things like:
- What did the president do today?
- With whom did he meet?
- Why are this government's policies so bone-headed, and won't you please explain and defend them to us, jack-ass?
Journalists, of course, do the same thing, only they use a hack jacket. Just joshing, my journalist friends. Hardy, hardy, har!
George W. Bush's former press secretary Scott McClellan: never has there been a man who's looked happier to leave his job, unless you count Bush himself.
Of Roosevelt, journalists, and fecal matter
It's only been about 100 years or so that journalists have been allowed into the White House on a regular basis. As former Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon once joked when asked by the Winnipeg Free Press about the fecal matter found on his doorknob, "That's what happens when you let journalists into the building."
And that was the general thinking in the U.S., until Theodore Roosevelt came into office in 1901, and made renovations to the White House, which included a briefing room.
The previous president, William McKinley, had a small room where journalists could hang out in the White House, but they never spoke directly to the president and had to conduct interviews outside, which was still a big improvement over the days when journalists had to wait in the driveway - just like TMZ! - waiting for comment from anyone nice enough to stop to speak with them.
When it came to politics and the media, Roosevelt really got it. He was the first president to travel with reporters - the first embedded journalists! - because he knew that reporters would become his friends and allies, reporting on the country's developments through a feel-good lens that made him the face of the country and the first "movie star" president.
He also understood that politics was about entertainment, not about "news."
Ever since, American journalists and politicians have been embroiled in a love/hate relationship, where one fetishes the other, gets jealous and/or jilted, and tries to start the relationship fresh the next day.
Just like Jon & Kate!
As Vanity Fair says,
"A kind of daily Socratic dialogue, or at least an attempt at one, continues to take place in the briefing room in a method of inquiry initiated by Joseph Tumulty, Woodrow Wilson's primary aide and, effectively, the nation's first press secretary: a ritual Q&A that leads to both what the White House wants you to know and away from what it doesn't want you to know."What have you done for me lately?
In other words, the press secretary has the power - even when being hit by hard questions and, at times, humiliated by the reporters in the room. When you get down to it, the job is really about two decisions:
1. How much can and will I accommodate journalists today?
2. How much can and will I obstruct journalists today?
There's been a range of how press secretaries have answered these questions in recent times. The dark times known as, "The Bush Years."
- Ari Fleischer, was - according to Vanity Fair - "a cold fish, and a prickly one at that."
Fleischer on Letterman. Hard to ignore Letterman's references to "Monty" and "Bill Clinton" now, ain't it?
- Scott McClellan? "Sincere and earnest." And his nickname, christened by media critic Jay Rosen? "The Jerk at the Podium."
- Tony Snow? Popular and cheerful.
- Dana Perino? Glamorous and charming (and she took a mic stand in the eye for Bush when that angry dude threw his shoes at him).
By most accounts, Robert Gibbs is accessible and friendly.
What's new is the diminished power of the press and the White House's unparalleled direct access to its publics - the president's weekly radio address is now also the president's weekly online address. The White House website is shiny and new, and there's also a Twitter feed, and YouTube channel.
To bastardize a Frank Zappa song title, "Who needs the press corps?"
(One wonders what John McCain would've done - he who so famously once explained how he was getting a "whole bunch of names" and doing "a Google.")
The Obama White House is, according to Slate, making news conferences "less planned," and "calling on a wider range of reporters than the Bush team did."
"On balance, then, this White House has actually made the press conference more likely to generate useful news."From one press secretary to another...
We end with Gibbs getting advice from his predecessors on ABC's This Week. And just in case you can't get enough of seeing that flak jacket...watch for its cameo at the end of the clip.
And here's journalist Helen Thomas' view of the news conference, from the HBO documentary, "Thank You Mr. President."