Friday, December 30, 2011

All the best and worst to you and yours from '11

Best stuff I found under my house (below)

Best TV show
Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey, depending on whether I feel like sword-fighting or knitting.

Most welcome return to the small screen
Beavis and Butthead

Best TV show on which to play catch-up on DVD/download
Modern Family

Best news app
Zite - the magazine that gets smarter each time you read it.

Best design-fetish app

Most-promising new app
Jildy - organizes Facebook the way Facebook can't do it itself.

Best photo app
Instagram (sorry, Liz Hover)

Best social add-on to traditional media app

Most promising game app/trend
Shadow Cities - Adding a virtual game atop your reality

Best "What have I done with my life?" moment
Summly app is created by a 16-year-old

Best book
The Idea Writers by Teresa Iezzi - the present and future of advertising.

Best new friend (below)
The sunshine that shines on my throw rug and creates a concerned face that sometimes gives me advice.

Best movie
Bill Cunningham New York

Best superhero movie
X-Men: First Class

Funniest superhero

Best first-half of a superhero movie
Captain America - better as a wimp than a hero.

Best album
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

Best song
Anna Calvi - Desire

Best sign (below)
Best restaurant

Best bar 
The Grove

Best menu item at a bar
The Yellow Dog's steak sandwich

Best beer

Best wine

Worst new local-TV trend 
Morning show traffic coverage, starting at 6 a.m. In Winnipeg? 

Worst ongoing local-TV trend 
Awkward banter 

Second-best sign (below)

Scariest robot (below)
Going the way of the newspaper
The physical classroom

Best way to reboot education
General Assembly
Stanford free classes 

Best class debate
Do ghosts exist?

Best student

Worst service
Pharma Plus, Corydon

Best service
Friendly and helpful Starbucks drive-through window staff at the Taylor location. 

Friendliest robot (below) The giveaway: the pet cat.

Best nemeses
The Man
Anonymous commenters
Parking-meter readers

Endangered species

Best job trend
Starting your own business instead of workin' for the man.

Worst job trend (below)
Confidential company seeks anonymous employee for unstated salary.

Best PR
Obama kills Osama

Worst PR
Netflix changes its business model

Worst journalism
Rupert Murdoch

Best console game
Portal 2 for Xbox

Best podcast
Joe Rogan
Best Halloween costume - student (below)

Most worthwhile learning curve
Facebook Pages/ads

Scariest social media to lawyers and other people who know nothing about it

Best sign that someone knows nothing about Twitter
"I don't care what Ashton had for breakfast."

Social-media trend that needs to go
QR codes

Best social-media meets national-TV moment
My Facebook comment gets a shout-on on NBC Nightly News as part of its Steve Jobs TV coverage.

Best Halloween costume - teacher dresses as casket to show the students where there education and careers will eventually lead them.

Best new Christmas tradition - A snifter of balls at the Style Council.

Best live stand-up - Marc Maron at the Chicago Mayne Stage

Best Twitter buzz
The day I tweeted that I found this at The Forks:
Greatest return - Dancing Gabe and whatever that team he cheers for is called.

Best toy trend (below) - Disrespect meets obscenity

Worst logo
The Winnipeg Jets, 2011

Best logo
The Winnipeg Jets, 1973 to 1990

Best TV ad

Best print ad

Worst urinal ad
Government of Canada's use of the color yellow and the word "tool" to sell its apprenticeship grants. He said, "Tool." Huh-huh, huh-huh.

Best imitation of myself

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My 10 fave films of 2011 are all documentaries

The best film of the year: Bill Cunningham New York.

Given the choice between Transformers 3 and reality, I choose reality.

That, and better access to more kinds of films than ever (thank you, Apple TV!), means that each and every one of my top 10 films this year is a documentary.

As well, a number of these movies showed up on TV, but are among the most riveting films of year. I'm not going to punish them for committing the crime of not appearing on a large screen in front of texters, sexters, talkers, and troubled teens.

1. Bill Cunningham New York
A touching portrait of the veteran New York Times' street-fashion photographer, the film has a great subject, timely hook, and its own Rosebud when Cunningham breaks down under a particular line of questioning. The documentary about the man is so much better than the oft-mentioned (though self-congratulatory and delusional) documentary about the institution, Page One.

2. There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane (HBO)
What made Diane Schuler drive almost two miles on the wrong side of the highway, killing herself and seven other people? This documentary methodically answers the question, and what starts out as being seemingly complicated ends up being something that might be very simple (though no less sad). 

3. Woody Allen: A Documentary (PBS)
Three hours and 15 minutes of pure bliss, including all kinds of things we didn't know about the reclusive filmmaker: he has always used - and still uses - his favorite typewriter, hates his film Manhattan, and doesn't care about shooting multiple takes, because he'd rather be at home watching the Knicks.

4. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
I do a pretty mean Werner Herzog impression, but I stopped doing it about 10 minutes into this fascinating documentary that takes us into the Chauvet Cave of France, where Herzog was one of the very few who got to chronicle the perfectly preserved cave and earliest-known human paintings. What were these people like? What are the origins of the ancient bones? And what does it say about us?

5. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
Julius Caesar himself would marvel at the inner workings of an influential but troubled rap group. It boils down to Q-Tip versus Phife Dawg, who notes that "Q-Tip wanted the group to be Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest, like Diana Ross and the Supremes. I'm Florence Ballard? Get the f- outta here."

6. Project Nim
Why it's not a good idea to treat a chimp like it's a human and then abandon him.

7. The Elephant in the Living Room
Why it's not a good idea to treat lions and snakes like they're humans and then abandon them. Small beef: the movie should be called "the Lions in the Living Room," as (disclaimer) no elephants appear in the film.

8. Klitschko
I have virtually no interest in boxing, but this movie grabbed me by my boxers and pounded me in the face - great interviews with the Russian boxing brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, their parents, opponents and hidden camera footage of Don King trying (and failing) to sign the brothers by pretending to play Mozart on the piano.

9. Bobby Fischer Against the World
Was chess master Bobby Fischer a genius, madman, or crazy like a fox? Fascinating exploration of one of the world's most celebrated and mysterious characters.

10. Urbanized
Third in the Helvetica/Objectified design trilogy, Urbanized looks at the best way to design a city. It's not too late for Winnipeg, especially if we can replace Katz with the Mayor of Copenhagen.

Honorable mentions:
  • Tabloid- Why real life is stranger than anything a tabloid could make up.  
  • Senna - Another great profile of a man and sport I thought I cared nothing about.
  • The Black Power Mixtape - The Swedes visit the U.S. Black Power Movement in 1965.
  • Umbrella Man - Errol Morris' six-minute documentary on the mysterious man at the JFK shooting is shown here in its entirety.
  • Transcendent Man - In the near future, we'll all be part machine and immortal.
  • The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - The clever Morgan Spurlock doc about how product placements work.
  • Bad Writing - A fun DIY doc about how one becomes a bad writer.
  • How to Die in Oregon (HBO) - The lives of the terminally ill who, in Oregon, can choose to legally decide when it's time to go.
  • The Suicide Tourist (PBS) - Ostensibly an episode of Frontline, but really one of the richest and most-moving documentaries of the year. A terminally ill American goes to Switzerland for his scheduled suicide.

My five fave albums of 2011 (and more!)

1. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Everyone else's favorite album is also mine. Tuneful, political, and timely: a bloody masterwork in every sense. And I'll be damned if I can't hear a little Surfin' Bird in the single, the Words that Maketh Murder:

2. The Streets - Computers and Blues
After a couple of weaker albums, Mike Skinner returns to winning form in his last outing as the Streets. The most fun and funniest album of the year. Out without a blink:

3. Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia
Baroque meets disco meets showtunes meets pop meets - a saxophone! - in a glorious burst of 80s-style English romanticism with a vaguely political subtext: love for all and all for love!

4. Thomas Dolby - A Map of the Floating City
A shock comeback from Mr. She Blinded Me With Science himself. A strong, organic, and considered work of subtlety and intelligence with nary a hint of nostalgia. As Spice Train proves, even smart people like to get down sometimes:

5. Limousines - Get Sharp
An over-the-top dance-party gross-out from the album cover (close-ups of our heroes' mouths with bubbles coming out) to the insight that Men Without Hats had a decade earlier ("Internet Killed the Video Star") to the line (in Very Busy People, below) involving "masturbat(ing) to these pixelated videos of strangers f-ing themselves." Goofy and dumb fun:

And the rest:

Best album title
Bob Geldof - How to Compose Popular Songs that Will Sell

Best album cover
Battles - Gloss Drop

Worst album cover
Limousines - Get Sharp

Best grammar
The Sounds - No No Song: "Excuses is all I ever get from you!"

Best pronunciation
Anna Calvi's pronunciation of "sky" as "skoy" on Desire.

Worst cash-in
Kate Bush - Director's Cut - bad re-recordings of old songs and supposed "remasters" of other CDs, which sound exactly the same as the originals.

Best question
British Sea Power - Who's in Control?

Best old album I discovered in 2011
Bob Dylan - Desire

Best little concert
Men Without Hats - Casino Regina

Best big concert
Prince - MTS Centre

Best wake-up call to the music press
Rolling Stone puts Canadian band Sheepdogs on its cover, and the band gets a lousy 2,000 "likes" on Facebook.

Best comedy music performance
Colbert, Fallon, and Hicks sing Friday on Late Night

Surprisingly good comebacks
Thomas Dolby
Lindsey Buckingham

Surprisingly bad collaborations
Jay-Z and Kanye West
Lou Reed and Metallica

Best book about music
Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to its Past by Simon Reynolds

Good song/ap combo
Polyphonic Spree's Bullseye

Bad song/ap combo
Bjork's Biophilia

Best music app
Band of the Day

Best music mag in print form
Q Magazine

Worst way to enjoy music videos
With preroll ads on YouTube

Best way to enjoy music videos
Downloaded from iTunes on your iPad

Most disappointing album
TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

Most mature album from a kid
Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know

Best new artist
Anna Calvi

What are they smoking in England?
Oasis brothers
Lana Del Rey
Military Wives Choir

The video that YouTube should feel stupid for censoring
Battles - Ice Cream

Best video
Deer Tick - Main Street

Most-depressing song
The Unthanks - Last

Funniest song
Art Brut - Clever Clever Jazz

Upbeat song with downbeat message
Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks

Haven't I heard that song before?
Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks versus Peter, Bjorn, and John - Young Folks
Lady Gaga's Born This Way versus Madonna's Express Yourself

Best Compilation/Tribute
Rave On - Buddy Holly

Best TV Theme Song
John Boutte - Treme

No need for a greatest hits

Need for a greatest hits

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My five fave songs of 2011

1. Anna Calvi - Desire
Calvi meets the Devil, God, and Roy Orbison in a heavenly fire. Swaggery, confident and the biggest and best key change of the year at 2:32.

2. The Streets - Soldiers
A killer chorus and nod to Dame Judi "rhymes with fence" Dench. Result!

3. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Idyllic summertime folk rock, rife with images of working yourself sore in an orchard and waiting tables. Features my least-favorite word "unique" and the best harmonies of the year at :46. How about dem apples?

4. New York Dolls - Fool For You Baby
Like he did as Buster Poindexter in Oh Me Oh My (don't click on the link, I beg you), David Johansen salutes idiots in love. Like all true-idiot love, the song fades out too soon.

5. Mates of State - Palomino
Lord help me, but I love a good round song. As long as Mates of States keeps writing them, I'll keep singin' along in the shower, Palomino.


The Sounds - Something to Die For
Battles - Ice Cream
Art Brut - Clever Clever Jazz
Blancmange - The Western
Book of Mormon Cast - I Believe
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Same Mistake
The Go! Team - Buy Nothing Day
PJ Harvey - Written on the Forehead
The Unthanks - My Laddie Sits Ower Late Up (Not online? Huh?!)
Limousines - Internet Killed the Video Star
Patti Smith - Words of Love
Patrick Wolf - The City
Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks
The Strokes - Under Cover of Darkness
British Sea Power - Who's in Control?
Raveonettes - Forget That You're Young
Buffalo Tom - Guilty Girls
Steve Martin/Paul McCartney - Best Love
Grouplove - Colours
Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Heart in Your Heartbreak
Deer Tick - Main Street
Jim Jones Revue - High Horse
Funeral Party - Finale
Manchester Orchestra - Virgin
Thomas Dolby - Spice Train
Lindsey Buckingham - That's the Way That Love Goes

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Polar Express takes a Hutter-right

 Thou art making a grave mistake.

If you live in Winnipeg, at some point someone will encourage you to take a train to B.C.

It's good advice. Take it.

In addition to the great scenery, you get to speak, eat, and sleep with a variety of people with whom you'd never otherwise get the chance.

For instance: I got to sit next to an Amish family from Pennsylvania, who spoke virtually no English. Though I couldn't tell what they were saying, the guy in charge was an elderly, stern grandfather-type, think: the grandfather in Witness.

Around hour 30, I stopped caring about the scenery and started contemplating using my pillow to smother everyone around me for emitting sounds, odors, and other unspeakable crimes against my senses.

Just then, a little girl came walking down the aisle by herself, just like Betty Lou Who. She saw the grandfather, her eyes widened, and she gasped. 


Everyone in the car cracked up. Even Santa himself was powerless to resist a smile.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to give yourself the gift of humiliation this Christmas

 I want my MTV!

When I was a kid, my favorite Christmas present every year was a stack of records from my Aunt Peggy and Uncle Charlie in Toronto.

That whole side of the family worked for the music business, which was perfect: I love music and - even better - it was the one gift I was allowed to open early (with my parents' permission).

One year, my dad was at work, suing people and doing whatever lawyers do, when the parcel arrived at home. I couldn't wait to tear into it, so I gave him a call to get the green light.
"Hey, dad, the records are here. Can I open them?"

"Who is this?"

"Dad - come on: can I open them?"

"I'm sorry - who are you?"

"Dad - stop being such a jerk!"


"Come on you bonehead. I want to open these records. Mom! Dad's being a jerk!"
My mother came to the phone. 
"Hello? Oh sorry: Kenton thought you were his dad."
I walked to my bedroom, hid my head under the pillow and moaned, knowing that I'd probably just called the Minister of Justice a jerk and a bonehead.

I opened the records that night. I sat and listened to them, but I couldn't enjoy them; they all sounded like humiliation.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The only other Christmas albums anyone needs

Last year, my Christmas present to everyone that no one asked for was a list of "The only Christmas albums anyone needs."

That spurred countless comments, emails, and tweets (translation: 10 or 11) telling me that I missed a classic. So, I bought a pile more - as recommended - and I'm ready for the inevitable sequel: "The only other Christmas albums anyone needs."

I still maintain that there are more bad Christmas albums than good ones (and I include anything by Boney M or with the words "A Very Special..." in the title) and that good music is good every season, and bad music is bad every season.

With that in mind, here are the only other essential Christmas albums you'll ever need. Until next year's list.

1. The Supremes - Merry Christmas

The unheralded Christmas classic that sounds like Phil Spector produced it (he didn't) and notable for Diana Ross' awesome early career performance on "Little Bright Star" (top of blog post) and the worst version of "Silver Bells" ever recorded. Still: overall it's a keeper.

2. Stevie Wonder - Someday at Christmas

Nothing on the album was written by Wonder, but his vocals are in top form on the title track and - believe it or not - "Ave Maria." 

3. The Whispers - Happy Holidays to You

I don't know a lot about this band (that's what Wikipedia is for!), but "This Christmas" and the title track are solid gold. 

4. The Beach Boys - Christmas Album

I hate the Beach Boys, and anyone who says that they're better than the Beatles is insane. However, this collection has its fans - I get it, but I still find most of the songs pretty bland. It's here for "Christmas Day" and "Little Saint Nick" and the very real possibility that I just can't hear what everybody else does. 

5. Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas

No depressing Christmas is complete without the most-depressing music for the most-depressing kids' cartoon ever. Make sure you're not close to alcohol or sharp objects before you press play.

6. Willie Nelson - Pretty Paper

Equally depressing as Guaraldi, and probably for fans only, but the album's emotional wallop actually comes from Nelson being very, very bored, very, very high, or both. 

7. Emmylou Harris - Light of the Stable

Dolly Parton and Linda Rondstadt aren't particularly surprising cameos, but you have to sit up and take notice when they appear together - with Neil Young (on the title track). 

8. John Fahey - Christmas with John Fahey (Vol. I and II), The New Possibility

Lovely but very hard to find. The good news: he's got a glut of Christmas songs and albums, and they're all lovely.

Numbers nine and 10? Still looking. Your suggestions, please.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eleven new words that all the hep kids are using

1. Aunty Christ - Your aunt, who upon being told that you have a fatal disease, says, "I'll pray for you."

2. Bumprov - What a cheerleader does when she can't remember the routine. 

3. Changent - A double agent.

4. Decembeard - Matt TenBruggencate's idea to replace "Movember" once and for all.

5. DisPinterest - Having no interest in new social-media apps.

 I'm unmoved. DisPinterested, if you will.

6. Fattering - Complimenting a person on his or her rotundness.

7. Fucanuck - A word uttered by one who blames Canada.

8. Manitles - Male privates. In the army. Ahem.

9. Protestexy - The glamorization of protesting. See: Time's Person of the Year.

10. Voluntold - "I was voluntold by my mother to take out the garbage."

11. Walmartians - The alien species found aimlessly wandering the aisles of multinational retailers.

Bumprov at :24.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RRC student launches new Winnipeg podcast

Got a major jones for podcasts? Then watch a major podcast by Jones.

I give you CreComm student Tristan Field-Jones' first-ever On the 'Peg podcast:

Tristan is working on this podcast as part of his Independent Professional project, a year-long CreComm course in which students develop an original and meaningful project that they propose, complete, and market independently.

You can like On the 'Peg on Facebook; the next episode will be available in the New Year on iTunes. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's a sketchy day in the neighborhood


Of course, I'm talking about my Flip Video technique and inability to laugh away from the mic, not this year's CreCommedy class making a group of invited dignitaries from other classes (and each other) laugh with their sketch-writing and acting prowess.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who says writers can't draw?


Who says a writer can't draw? Certainly not me, after marking some pretty awesome storyboards from my first-year advertising class.

A small sample of the artistic genius (each frame is from a separate storyboard):

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blinded by 12 new words, many starting with D

 See number 5.

1. Banktioning - Sanctioning banks. 

2. Debt-it Card - Cards you use at points-of-purchase to buy things you can't afford.

3. Decomposers - Dead songwriters.

4. Deeprest - What you get when you lie down on a distur-bed.

5. Deucebag - Anyone who hears anything other than the word "deuce" in the song above.

6. Diss-respect - Holding put-downs in high regard.

7. Diss-stressed - Feeling ill at ease after being the target of a put-down.

8. Distur-bed - The place you lie down to get deeprest.

9. Empty-Ass Centre - The proper pronunciation of MTS Centre. 

10. Justus - Justice for ourselves and no one else.

11. Loutallica - Lou Reed plus Metallica.

12. Obeythoven - Doing everything Beethoven, the decomposer, tells you to do.

When is "something new" not?

Red? Something new!

Never mind the Sex Pistols, here's something new!

When I was a kid growing up on the mean streets of white, middle-class, Protestant suburbia, there was a magical time that came but once a year.

I could only be talking about "Charleswood in Motion Days," which had something to do with getting people out of their homes and outside together to play games of chance and introduce cotton candy and tiny donuts to their already shaky metabolisms.

At night, we'd wash it all down at the beer garden, where we'd be treated to some of the greatest bands that Charleswood had to offer. Which is to say: they sucked.

One year, the emcee offered the crowd a glimmer of hope. 

"Are you guys ready for something new?" he shouted from the stage. Desperate, we took the bait.

"Yeah!" we yelled.

"Ladies and gentlemen - here's something new!"

The band ran out and the lead singer said, "Hi everyone. We're something new!" and launched into a lame Suffragette City cover.

Which is when we realized that Something New wasn't something new - it was the name of the band. And we'd seen them play the identical set the previous year.

"Boo!" we yelled. "We want something new!"

"Thank you," said the lead singer.

The following year, we formed our own band called Nothing Special. We opened for Something New.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All hail the king and queen of CreCommedy Night '11

Hi Ho Cherry-O! Brea Perrelli tears up the room. 


CreCommedy Night '11 at Rumor's was a raging success this year, as 28 of Red River College's funniest and bravest students took to the stage to perform stand-up comedy for the first time.

That was my cue to look into the camera with a serious face and say, "Funny." 

Special thanks to Cara Lytwyn who tore up the room as our host and emcee, to all of the CreComm grads and friends who stopped by to watch and judge the big show, and to Rumor's for allowing us to crash the place.

People's choice awards

Our panel of 10 judges has spoken and selected these comics as our top five of the night: 

1. Dylan Hughes
2. Mike Tanasychuk
3. Adam Campbell
4. Brea Perrelli
5. Andrew Parker. 

Pale, gangly, specter Dylan Hughes.

Forgive my snorts and guffaws into the camera. I know it's bad. I'm working on it. Snort.

Well done all. Incidentally, the point spread is less than six marks out of 20, from highest to lowest. A squeaker that attests to the quality of the show.

A DVD of the evening's festivities will be available shortly. Watch this blog for more details. 

See you next year.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ten new words to the beleadered, beleaguered, and bebiebered

See number one. 

1. Beleadered - Having too many leaders from which to choose.

2. Blogola - Money paid to a blogger to get him/her to write about something.

3. Cashlicity - Paid publicity, just not to a blogger.

4. Dessembler - Things fall apart at Christmas. Let's rename the month.

5. Laziargist - People who steal writing because they're too lazy to do it themselves.

6. Myearacle - A year of magic and wonder.

7. Plutonic Friends - Friends without benefits living near Fukushima.

8. Prayerea - The radius affected by your requests to a divinity.

9. Tapatizer - Tapas and appetizers: together at last.

10. Whoribull - Terrible, whorish, b.s. The worst kind.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Last chance to buy advance CreCommedy Night tix

Former comedy-writing student, current big-time comic Dan Verville. 

The time is running out to buy advance CreCommedy Night tickets. The big event takes place at Rumor's on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011.

Advance tickets are available until Thursday morning from me, Kenton Larsen, comedy promoter, esq. After that, all tickets must be purchased at the door on the night of the performance.

The night features 28 of Red River College's funniest Creative Communications students making their stand-up comedy debut - three hilarious minutes of material each.

Doors open at 6:45 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m.

Buy early. Buy often.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Haunt your Halloween with sound drama for unsound minds

Tree of Death: "I give Tree of Life but one star. Bwah-ha-ha!"

Hallo, weenie.

I have the deathly duty to bring you spooky Halloween vignettes from the demented minds of the ad majors, who do the audio voodoo they do in Cathy Hanson's scary-cauldron-o-audio-production class (all rights reserved).

Approach with caution, good readers, for these horrors may haunt your heart, mind, and social-media sites for year to come. You have been warned:

1. Vignette one

2. Vignette two

3. Vignette three

4. Vignette four

5. Vignette five

6. Vignette six

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Extras! Extras! Sign up for Garrity's new feature film

Garrity at RRC earlier today.

Looking for some "extra" work?

Look no further: filmmaker Sean Garrity is looking for extras to appear in his new feature film, My Awkward Sexual Adventure. For the record: it's a romantic comedy.

For more information, send your name, phone number, and email address to: with the subject line: "volunteer extra for Garrity film."

You'll be notified if and when the crew needs extras.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CreCommedy Night hits Rumor's on Monday, Nov. 7

Don't let the spelling fool you. 

CreCommedy Night (correct spelling!) is coming to Rumor's on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011 (not 2012, though that's futuristic and cool). 

The night features 28 of Red River College's funniest Creative Communications students making their stand-up comedy debut - three hilarious minutes of material each.

Doors open at 6:45 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and available at the door on the night of the performance and in advance from me. Don't forget to tip your teacher. 

Help me choose a catchphrase, Willis

I'm jealous of my student Richard Baschak.

It's not because he's a good looking man, nor is it his impeccable hygiene; it's because he's got the best catchphrase ever: "Thank you for the criticism."

The awesome thing about his catchphrase is that it happened naturally, when he actually thanked his classmates for ripping apart his new-product idea in last year's class. Delivered by anyone else and the phrase would've come off as bitchy or sarcastic. But for him, it was heartfelt and true. Lucky bastard.

Help me choose a catchphrase

I've been searching for a catchphrase of my own ever since. After much turmoil, I've narrowed it down to these six, and provided a little context for how each would be delivered. Any keepers?

1. Nobody cares!
I finish delivering the best class of my life. I put the whiteboard marker down, wipe the sweat from my brow, and ask the students, "Any questions?" Unbeknownst to me, the students have walked out during the lecture and the classroom is empty. I look into the camera and yell, "Nobody cares!" before storming out of the room. The studio audience goes wild.

2. Don't start without me. 
A student comes to class to tell everyone about the big marker social this Friday. "Are you coming to the big marker social, Kenton?" she asks. I look into the camera, frown, and say, "Don't start without me." The studio audience goes wild.

3. I tweet hope. 
A five-star general tells me he finds my tweets insulting. "Well, I don't know why that would be," I say, looking into the camera. "I tweet hope." The studio audience goes wild.

4. I'm more honest about my dishonesty.
"PR is corporate bullshit and journalism is the truth!" screams an unemployed newspaper reporter at me. I drop a quarter in his open guitar case, pat him on the head, look into the camera, and say, "I'm more honest about my dishonesty." The studio audience goes wild.

5. I'd rather have no hair than your hair. 
"You're bald," says a five-year-old kid on my bus. I look into his eyes with a menacing glare and say, "I'd rather have no hair than your hair." Then I turn, look into the camera, and wink. The studio audience goes wild.

6. Heavy bolsters!
I'm crossing the street. A car swerves to avoid me and hits another car just meters away. I whip off my baseball cap, turn to look into the camera, and yell, "Heavy bolsters!"

Which one should be my catchphrase? Do tell. Thank you for the criticism.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ten consistently crappy things that reliably suck

The first sign that tonight's gonna be such a lame night. 

In this confusing world in which we live, it's nice that some things remain reliably sucky.

What's riding me? What's my beef? What sucks? The usual. Thank you for asking.

1. Meter readers - Storied in song and songed in story (by me), I imagine the justification for taking the job and ticketing the good and well-meaning citizens of your hometown has got to be pretty weak indeed: "I'm just following orders," "I meet a lot of interesting, new people (who yell at me)," and "I'm the thin line between parking order and anarchy."

2. Black Eyed Peas - So painfully desperate to sell us on the idea that "tonight's gonna be such a good night," we know that tonight can be only the worst possible night of all time, played out to a badly sampled tune with loads of faux-street "Yeah, yeah, yeahs" hollered over it.

3. Hulu - It's the World Wide Web, but we're going to return it to the era of region codes by blocking "some areas" from watching our videos. Which areas? Everywhere but the U.S. Hulu: the Berlin Wall of the Internet.

4. YouTube - I've told and retold the whole story about YouTube's hypocritical copyright policy, and it still grinds my gears, not just because it's inconsistent, but because the folks at YouTube are so self-congratulatory about how progressive they are. Hey, YouTube: TubeYou.

5. Noisy neighbors with a third-grade education - I understand that lightning and thunder is bright and loud. I understand that you enjoy it, and like to cheer when you see and hear it. But please shut up. I beg you.

6. Acting _______ - If the lamest job in the entire world is "actor," pretending to be someone you're not and saying the words that someone else has written for you, then the lamest word to affix to any job title is "Acting _____." Thanks for the offer, acting brain surgeon, but I'll wait for the other guy to come back from vacation.

7. Cell phone providers - "Hi, Rogers, I can't find where I buy a U.S. data plan on your website." "Oh, you can't anymore." "Uh, OK - where can I do it?" "Only from your mobile." I hang up, try to do it and - the 3G service, which Rogers provides, is too weak to load a Web page.

8. Airlines - You pat my privates, wedge me into a tiny seat, feed me nothing, and the advertised $300 flight to England is actually $2,000 after fees. Next time: I swim.

9. "I just love the feel of the newspaper" - Lately, there's no shortage of folks longing for the simple times of day-old, gatekeeper-provided news delivered on cheap, smelly, and inky newsprint. This phrase is now officially banned for people under 25, and anyone who has even once expressed concern that we're killing too many trees. By the way, have I ever mentioned how much I miss the sound of the telegraph?

10. Prepay gas pumps - What better way to tell your customers, "We don't trust you," and those without credit cards, "We don't want your business." Even better: in the U.S., you must enter your zip code before the pump starts doing its thing, instantly disqualifying every Canadian.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Who is better than the Stones

If the Beatles is the greatest band in the history of rock and roll, Who is second best.

I'm not asking, I'm telling.

With Who frontman Roger Daltrey's Winnipeg show just around the corner, let's set the record straight: the Who, not the Rolling Stones, is the second-greatest band in the history of rock and roll.

So there.

In Winnipeg, this requires clarification: I'm talking about the Who, the great British rock and roll band with songs like "Won't Get Fooled Again," "My Generation," and "Baba O'Riley," not the Guess Who, the lame Winnipeg rock and roll band with songs like "No Sugar Tonight," "American Woman," and nothing else.

To some, the Rolling Stones will always come second to the Beatles, because they're the edgier, arrogant, bad-boy version of the lovable mop tops. The Stones took the Beatles' template, melded it with Chuck Berry, and sold it back to America at a profit, with massive stadium shows, loud guitars, and a big lips and tongue logo.

But one man's "white blues" is another man's "desperate guy in puffy shirts flapping around a stage."

To me, the Stones always seemed faux-dangerous. They had all the attitude, but were too commercially aware of what they were doing to be real Street Fighting Men.

The Who seemed truly dangerous, because they were out of control and smart. Where the Stones looked the part and had the moves, the Who had the ambition, the intensity, and what the Rolling Stone Record guide calls "internal tension," which sometimes resulted in the band members punching each other out.

It resulted in some great music: streetwise, operatic, experimental, furious, sensitive, and impossible to compile satisfactorily on a greatest hits.

The Who and the Stones have an embarrassment of great songs. The big, deciding factor for me is that the Who has far fewer bad songs than the Stones; and yeah: I'll take "Athena" over "Harlem Shuffle" any day.

I've seen both bands live twice, and the Who wins by a mile, even without two of its original members. I'll be in the front row when Roger Daltrey plays MTS Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 2. Enjoy the back of my head, suckas!

Legend has it that the Stones shelved their Rock and Roll Circus film when the Who upstaged them. Watch the Who's performance in the clip, and if you still think the Stones are better: you aren't forgiven.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CreCommedy Night hits Rumor's on Nov. 7

 Telling some jokes, just like Gilbert Gottfried did. 

The heart pounds, the palms sweat, the knees knock. You gasp for air. Finally, you walk toward the light.

Death is easy, stand-up comedy is hard.

But you don't have to tell that to Red River College's funniest Creative Communications students, who will be making their stand-up comedy debut at CreCommedy Night on Monday, Nov. 7 at Rumor's.
    The big night features 28 of my comedy writing students doing three minutes of material each, bookended by host Cara Lytwyn and headliner Dan Verville, two successful comedy-writing grads in their own right.

    Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $10 and will be available at the door and in advance (info TBA).

    A splendid time is guaranteed for all. 

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Steve Jobs made Star Trek a reality

    At Apple, Steve was Jobs one.

    In honor of the man and his inventions, I'm reposting a column I wrote a year ago about how Steve Jobs' inventions transformed a college instructor into Captain Kirk.

    Set the iPhone for stun.

    Today, I ran around from meeting to meeting in my orange, V-neck sweater, getting things done and saving the world with my iPhone, iPad, and a Jack Sack full of whatever I might need on today's season of 24.

    I was feeling good about myself until I got a glimpse of my reflection in a window and thought: "Oh, crap: I'm Captain Kirk!"

    We're surrounded by some serious sci-fi hardware. No, the cars don't fly, and the robot butler is MIA, but can you tell me that the iPhone isn't a Star Trek communicator? Or that the iPad isn't a tricorder?

    Sadly, the orange V-neck sweater is still the orange, V-neck sweater. And I haven't sussed it out yet, but the receding hairline is either a tribute to William Shatner or a dying Tribble. The green-skinned girlfriend has yet to materialize. Boo!

    The crazy thing is that I could time travel back to my technology-devoid CreComm days, haul out the iPhone, and completely blow people's minds:

    "It's a portable computer. I use it to surf the net, play games, listen to music, make phone calls..." and that's where they would've burned me for witchcraft.

    The future is now

    Whenever someone tells me that he or she thinks the iPhone isn't all that - too expensive, or whatever - I like to remind them that not too long ago, any ONE of the 180 apps on my iPhone would've rocked their worlds.

    (Take Shazam or SoundHound. Shazam recognizes whatever song happens to be playing and reveals the song, artist, and album from whence it came. SoundHound lets you hum a song - hum a song!!! - and it does the same.)

    Don't beam me up, Scotty, because there's some pretty wicked crap down here on Earth.

    It all reminds me of the time my friend's Dad couldn't find the fast-forward button on the TV remote control. After struggling for five minutes, he desperately asked, "How do you make this go to the future?"

    We're livin' it, baby!

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Ad majors tower over the Marshmallow Challenge

    The winners and world champions.

    How do you build the tallest freestanding structure you can using 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape and string, and a marshmallow?

    Through collaboration and teamwork. Or not.

    The Marshmallow Challenge is a design and collaboration exercise that encourages teams to experience simple - or is that profound? - lessons in innovation and creativity by building the aforementioned structure in 18 minutes.

    The marshmallow needs to be on top. Wah, wah, wah!

    As the man in the Ted video (below) says, part of the fun is that business students and grads tend to perform the worst at the challenge, and kindergarten students produce the tallest and most-interesting structures.

    The ad majors made a great go at it, and the winners (pictured at the top of this post) made a structure of 26 inches, well above the height of the average structure. Their prize? Oh yeah: there wasn't one.

    Next semester: we revisit the challenge, and the prize will be...more wealth than you can imagine! 

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Sex. Now that I got your attention, vote for me!

    Forget the change we can believe in - I just need a candidate I can notice.

    It used to be said that we should vote with our feet or our money, but in the ADD culture that is our world today, should the person who can earn our attention also earn our vote?

    Wait a sec - shiny penny! Where was I again?

    For me, the politician who broke through my perceptual screens this time - no easy task - is the one who:
    • started following me on Twitter. 
    • showed up at my doorstep - with some former CreComm students in tow. 
    • responded to my tweet - from a social!
    In advertising, this is what's known as "frequency." They say you need a frequency of three to remember an ad, and maybe it's the same to remember a politician and his or her message. 

    For your incredible ability to crack through my perceptual screens, Mr. Politician, I salute you - and award you my full and undivided...oooh, the season premiere of Dexter!

    Sorry, what was I saying?

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Twelve new words of wisdom - let it be

     See numbers one and 12.

    1. Citizen Kaner - A person who insists that Citizen Kane "isn't that good," despite (or because of) the critical outpouring it receives year after year. 

    2. Deskting - Texting under the desk in the belief that teachers can't see you. They can.

    3. Dexpert - A person who can explain the plot for every episode and/or season of Dexter. 

    4. Ereptile Dysfunction - The condition afflicting the poor dinosaurs who have trouble reproducing. 

    5. Mind-Blogling - A confusing or off-base blog or blog post.

    6. Naked Hatred - Critical comments published online by someone with a naked avatar. 

    7. Octobeard - A beard grown out early in preparation for winter.

    8. Oktobeard - A beard grown out early in preparation for Oktoberfest.

    9. Prizing Strategy - Figuring out how to get people to do something by offering them prizes. "Our prizing strategy is to give away 5,000 pounds of fish sticks for every "Like" on Facebook."

    10. Qwitter - A person who creates a Twitter account, but stops using it. 

    11. Reating - Eating while you read, or reading while you eat. 

    12. Shatizen Kane - Citizen Kane remake I hope to make, starring William Shatner.


    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Toad trip takes teach to treasure trove o' toys

    Hey, other schools: sucks to be you!

    Today, my first-year advertising class and I went to Toad Hall Toys in the Exchange District, so students could learn more about the place in preparation of writing their first ads for a real-life client.

    OK, it was also to have fun and play with toys. So sue me.

    Visiting Toad Hall Toys is one of the great experiences in the Exchange District and life; the class arrived together shortly after 11 a.m., and I staggered out alone just before noon with $65 worth of toys, books, and candy.

    What happened over the course of that hour is now a hazy blur of sugar and fizz; were it not for these photos I found on my iPhone, the entire experience might be lost to history:

    O Souperman.

    Publish or perish? Try publish and pig out!

    Being dwarfed by puppets beats being puppeted by dwarves.

    Dear diary. Excuse me - where was I, diary?

    You should never wind up a monkey.

    You should never wind up a student.

    Squirrel Nut Zippers?

    No, Geppetto. There is another.

    I'm sorry, I can't hear you - there's a banana in my ear.

    Do these taste like fish on porpoise?

    Gotta roll.