Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ten things that crossed my mind at last night's Steve Martin show

1. The Jerk sure can play the banjo.

2. They've finally created a man whiter than me.

3. Actor? Check. Author? Check. Comedian? Check. Playing bluegrass music in Winnipeg on a Wednesday night? Check.

4. Seinfeld has about one month to learn the Irish harp.

5. The show is half over, and his penis hasn't said word one.

6. Someone sitting behind me doesn't like my Groucho glasses and mock arrow-through-the-head novelties? Well, excuuuuuuuuse me.

7. Steve Martin Short Stop Sign Language Arts. Gawd, I miss Chain Reaction.

8. Seriously - a jet fighter humping a maple leaf?

9. Steve is my most favorite of all the Martins: Ricky, Andrea, Dean, Billy, St., Sheen, and Purple.

10. Great show, even if he didn't play my favorite song:

Bonus! 11. I hope @pensato is enjoying looking straight into the back of my head.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Winnipeg Jets logos are just plane plain

Logical. Corporate. Practical. Sober.

Sorry, what was I saying? I dozed off.

As every Winnipegger knows by now, the new Winnipeg Jets logos are a joint venture between True North, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Reebok, Don Cherry, Casey Anthony, Amy Winehouse, Rupert Murdoch, the accounting firm of PriceWaterhouse, a panel of experts, lovers, dreamers, and stakeholders.

All designs have constraints by definition, but ask any advertiser: when you seek agreement from everyone, you end up with something that's for no one.

To me, the new Jets logos are offensive in their inoffensiveness, as corporate and bland as "I'm lovin' it."

Counterargument: "But the city has been waiting for the NHL to return for so long, we shouldn't complain about a logo." As true as True North. There is so much goodwill for this brand's return, most fans seem to be in the "the logo is growing on me" camp (yeah: like a fungus!).

It makes sense, because everyone wants to love the logos as much as they love the team's return.

I remember wanting to love Star Wars: Episode I after a long Star Wars drought, but sooner or later, even I had to admit that Jar Jar is an arsehole. But if Episode I taught me one thing it's that it's better to fall in love with the Force than to use the Force to force yourself to fall in love with the Force. Or something.

A brief summary of my beefs:

1. Where there's a stick, there's a J. 

When the hockey team kept the name, it was a nod to tradition, and the fans loved it.

Why not a similar nod to tradition in the logo?

Yes, the old logo was in need of an upgrade, but I would've still tipped my hat to tradition in terms of one element: the J.

For years, every hockey fan in Winnipeg has stared at that old Jets logo with lust in their hearts, hoping that the team would one day return and be called the Winnipeg Jets. But while they stared at that logo, they made an association: "J" = hockey stick.

So update the logo, but come on - we know the J in Jets is just as much a hockey stick as the last two Ls in Hell.

2. Where's the emotion?

The new logos are fitting in the sense that they remind me of True North itself, which brought our hockey team back by being quiet and corporate and not drawing too much attention to itself. 

But people don't fall in love with "corporate" - even corporations know they can't be corporations, which is how we ended up with the Apple logo (thank you, Beatles), the Nike swoosh, and the Disney mouse, whatever his name is.

So give us something that touches our hearts, not our minds. Yes, the logos make sense intellectually, but they're as emotionally stale as that crusty Danish in your kitchen. And if Lars doesn't leave your kitchen soon, I'd call the cops.

3. Where's the depth?

San Jose knew the shark was just lying there - all dead and flat.

So they made it come to life by getting it to swim off the shirt, all badass 3D-style.
Is our jet allowed to fly anywhere? Or can it only stay grounded on that skin-tight Speedo with the Canadian maple leaf on the crotch?

If you have to make it a jet, make it a badass stealth fighter that drops heat-seeking hockey sticks on your arse before disappearing into the night.

4. We already have a hockey team called the Maple Leafs.

So, make like a tree...and get that maple leaf outta there.

Is there something more Winnipeg-based you could put on that shirt? You can put a Cheese Nip in its place, for all I care: but the maple leaf is taken by the very city Winnipeggers pride themselves on not being.


Oh, True North: we wanted logo love, and you gave us the business. We'll get over it. One day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to get hired in the TO ad business: CreComm grad

Molson-Coors' ad campaign hit a little too close to the mark.

Planning a big move to the Big Smoke?

If you want to get ahead (or a head) in advertising, Jeff Bjarnarson - CreComm grad and lead project manager at Stone Canoe in Toronto - has some advice for you:
    • Most job sites are a waste of time - and not even applying to the specific company's site seems to work
    • Cover letters must "look" good, but no one really appears to read them
    • Give yourself six months to a year in your search
    • It's a numbers game: rapid-fire off hundreds of resumes/cover letters - and make your subject line and email flashy
    • Apply to a president or VP directly
    • Add everyone who you can to LinkedIn.
    When do I start?

      Monday, July 25, 2011

      Here's to you, Mr. J. Croft Petersmeyer III

      Elisabeth and Croft Petersmeyer Jingleheimer Schmidt.

      I love the smell of roasted student in the morning.

      I had a great time on the weekend attending my first former-student wedding - the former student being Croft Petersmeyer, who had the misfortune of being in the first CreComm class I ever taught, and the good fortune to marry Elisabeth Mague. All's well that ends well!

      Even better, I got to make a short speech at the wedding. And it went something like this (cue wavy lines and dream music):

      A salute to being Petersmeyeresque: 

      I’m Croft’s friend and before that I was his college teacher. This is a big day for Croft but it’s a bigger day for me – because this is one of the few chances I’ve ever had to tell a former student what I really think of him. In public. 

      Croft asked me to write jokes, so I brought along his report card. And I will read aloud from it: Advertising: C. Public Relations: C. Journalism: C. TV: C. Radio: C. Teacher’s comment: If you let me speak at your wedding, I’ll change these marks to As.

      When Croft was a student, he once told me that he was either going to get an A+ or drop out of school. So, congratulations, Elisabeth – you’ve either got the best husband in the world. Or he’s going to disappear on the honeymoon and you’ll never see him again.

      I know – and Croft knows – that he graduated, got hired at Pollard Banknote, and is getting married for one thing and one thing only: his looks. Ladies and gentlemen: have you ever seen a lovelier blushing bride than Croft Petersmeyer? I hope I sweat like that when I get married.

      It’s hard to tell if Croft’s blushing, because his face is always red. The man is a human thermometer. And the long-range forecast is for high blood pressure.

      They say the first impression is the lasting impression – and the first impression with Croft is, “What the hell did you say your name was?”

      Imagine the magical moment when Elisabeth told her family, “I’m in love with Croft Petersmeyer.”

      “We all love Kraft Peanutbutter.”

      “No: Croft Petersmeyer.”

      “Peter Croftsmeyer.”

      “No: Croft Petersmeyer.”

      “Meyers Croftpeter.”

      “No: Croft Petersmeyer.”

      “Cracked Weisenheimer.”

      No: Croft Petersmeyer.


      “Close enough.”

      Elizabeth will not be taking Croft’s last name. Good decision. Elisabeth is a great name. Sounds like royalty. Queen Elisabeth. Then you tack Petersmeyer onto the end – Queen Elisabeth Petersmeyer. That’s just a German rapper.

      Croft is disappointed because he wanted Elisabeth to take both his names, so he could say, “I’m Croft Petersmeyer, and so is my wife.”

      Croft told me not to worry if no one laughs, because half the audience is French.

      Croft is an intense guy – because he cares so much. Some would say too much. Croft’s class once got me to pretend we were going to have a test, just to make his head explode. He walked into the class and I announced the test. And I wish I could say I was surprised when his head actually exploded.

      However, the class was very surprised when the pieces poured back together like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2.

      I’m sorry – I forgot that it’s bad luck to mention Arnold Schwarzenegger at a wedding. Don’t worry, Elisabeth: there’s a big difference between Croft and Arnold Schwarzenegger: no one wants to sleep with Croft. Probably not even you. Probably not even Croft.

      But that’s OK, because, for Croft, sex is like elves and hobbits – they only exist in his mind.

      Croft was a great student and he is a great friend. And I want to say, thank you, Croft for that. And I’d like to wish you and Queen Elisabeth Petersmeyer all the best as you embark on a lifetime of happiness together.

      Please join me in toasting Kraft Peanutbutter.

      Thursday, July 21, 2011

      Eleven new words to make your own, beyotch

      1. Ambitchous - A person who makes it to the highest rungs of the workplace by being bitchy. Like that Ronald McDonald jerk.

      2. Churnalism - Journalism, Murdoch style.

      3. Elccelerate - Trying to speed up the elevator's arrival by pressing the button over and over.

      4. Inrageous - Seemingly outrageous.

      5. Kentonkerous - Grouchy me.

      6. Laziargiast - Person who plagiarizes because he or she is too lazy to come up with something original.

      7. Non-profiteering - Excelling at the non-profit business or being a failure at the for-profit business.

      8. Parmesanier - Person who sprinkles parmesan at a French restaurant.

      9. Pliers - Plastic pliers. Get it? Awww, forget it.

      10. Tastes good/tastes bad - New descriptors for everything, whether you eat it or not. "The New York Times tastes good. FOX News tastes bad."

      11. Telephobia - An inability to pick up the phone without first checking to see who's calling.

      Tuesday, July 19, 2011

      Journalism could use some good PR right about now

      Darth Murdoch: "Apology accepted, Captain Brooks."

      Journalist: expose thyself! On second thought...

      As any PR teacher or practitioner will tell you, one of the things that happens when you start working in the PR business is that your reporter friends tease and harangue you about working for "the dark side."

      My stock retort: "PR people are more honest about their dishonesty."

      Not a bad laugh line if I do say so myself - and that's what I said before the Rupert Murdoch phone-hacking scandal. But as the scandal threatens to spread to the New York Post, FOX News, and Piers Morgan's liver, I'll say something else I've said all along:

      "Journalism could use a little PR."

      PR and J = tasty!

      If your head just exploded, hear me out:
      • PR is supposed to be about doing what's right for your organization's publics, not just doing damage control after you've screwed them over. For Mr. Murdoch, good PR would have been to not hack into murder victims' phones in the first place.
      • PR isn't just about publicity, it's also about employee communications and engagement, research, fundraising, non-profiteering (new word!), speech writing, investor relations, social media, and marketing.
      • PR advocates two-way communication between an organization and its publics. A good media outlet, like any good business, always communicates with its publics - readers, viewers, listeners, the community, staff, shareholders, advertisers, protesters, suppliers - and is rewarded for anticipating, listening, and responding to what they say. The goal: mutual understanding.
      PR people recognized the importance and power of two-way communication before there was an Internet (though we know that Al Gore invented it).

      One of the problems that caught up with the traditional media (phone hacking aside) is that most were slow to react to what "the kids" were up to on the Internet, and beholden to the gatekeeper mentality: selling morsels of information to a public that couldn't get it anywhere else.

      These days, media outlets have to practice PR in order to survive. The Public Editor at the New York Times, for instance, reports to readers on the goings on at the Times.

      The Public Editor's ombudsman role is classic PR. (Ironically, the Public Editor recently revealed himself to have a somewhat outdated understanding of PR - though earns points for admitting it and inviting us to tell him how it works.)

      More examples of PR and J:
      • The Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe
      • Special events, speakers, and seminars at the News Cafe 
      • Responding to readers' comments online 
      • Distributing your paper for free at seniors' complexes
      • Posting an online poll
      • Asking readers for story ideas
      • Making donations to charitable causes
      • Holding editorial meetings in public
      • Offering a journalism award at Red River College
      • Criticizing one's own newspaper for getting a story wrong
      • Awarding or praising a journalist for a great story
      • Covering the news that's most important to readers
      • Ensuring that every community gets covered by your media outlet
      • Holding a focus group
      • Monitoring social media
      • Writing and making available a mission statement and code of ethics.
      Give in, my reporter friends. You do not know the power of the light side!

      Monday, July 18, 2011

      The 10 worst summer jobs in Winnipeg

      See number four.

      1. Paddlewheel rower

      2. Scrubbing the Slurpee machine once a summer whether it needs it or not, 7-Eleven

      3. Dead polar bear disposal, Assiniboine Park Zoo

      4. The Golden Boy's personal undercarriage polisher

      5. Hackey sack target, Winnipeg Folk Fest

      6. Hair blockage removal, Splasher's Indoor Pool and Waterslides

      7. Weiner tweeter, Skinners

      8. Greeter, Libyan pavilion, Folklorama

      9. Buzz and Boomer plucker, Winnipeg Blue Bombers

      10. Mustache groomer, Burton Cummings

      Friday, July 15, 2011

      How to write good: Part V - Wrapping it up

      All written works must come to an end sometime - even mediocre writings about a boy wizard who became a man at the hands of a house-elf almost twice his age.

      When you write, you will roll into the fetal position, suck your thumb, and whimper - right around chapter two when you come to the realization that you have no way to finish what you started (no dirty jokes, please).

      The problem is that you can't just stop a story dead in its tracks and expect everyone to think that it's awesome, unless you're writing the novelization of the last Sopranos episode.

      But finish your story you must, so you can move on to doing something productive with your life, like painting your house, solving the U.S. national debt problem, or tweeting your Weiner.

      First, a distinction between "news" and "fiction:" fiction is something you make up and present as fiction, and news is something you make up and present as news.

      How to end your news story

      If you're a journalist, you have three ways to end your story:

      1. Remains to be seen.

      2. Rode into the sunset.

      3. Just fading your story out to nothing, inverted pyramid style, because studies show that readers of fine journalism only read the first letter of your headline. So make that first letter count: no RSTLNE, just like Wheel of Fortune.

      How to end your fiction

      1. It was all a dream.

      2. That dude was actually dead.

      3. It all took place on planet Earth.

      4. He could finally read his books, but his glasses broke.

      5. The furry creatures jumped up and down with glee as our heroes toasted themselves on a job well done.

      6. It was a story within a story.

      7. It was his sled.

      8. The beginning was the ending.

      9. The narrator's sanity/perspective is in question.

      10. A lion rushed in and ate them (as advocated by O. Henry):

      And that wraps up our week of writing good.

      I hope you enjoyed reading as much as...a lion just rushed into the room. He's eating my leg! This is not going well. I'm halfway eaten. I wonder where I left my cell phone. The air is really thick with irony on this one. Did not see this coming. Not what I had in mi

      Thursday, July 14, 2011

      How to write good: Part IV - Covering the news

      As everyone knows, there are only three ways left to cover the news:

      1. Hack into phones.
      2. Aggregate the reporting of other journalists, who hacked into phones.
      3. Expose other journalists who hacked into phones by hacking into their phones. 

      I've left out "tweeting," because you don't need to hack into any phones to tweet, and there are only subtle differences between how a "normal citizen" tweets and how journalists tweet:
      Normal person: "Had eggs for breakfast this morning."
      Journalist: "Wish I could afford eggs for breakfast this morning."
      But what are you supposed to do if you actually have to write an "article" from scratch based on "the facts?" Lord, no!

      First of all, forget all about inverted pyramids, meat before attribution, names making news, being objective and dispassionate, the five Ws, verifying that your mother loves you, and finding balance, which are strictly for suckers.

      Nope, if you want to cover the news, you just need a shirt, tie, notepad, and as many of these 50 journalism chestnuts you can cram into your story:

      1. People say
      2. Experts say
      3. Sources say
      4. Sources close to (someone important) say
      5. Spoke on the condition of anonymity
      6. Did not wish to be identified
      7. Jaws of life
      8. Ducats
      9. Remains to be seen
      10. Tweeted his Weiner
      11. Aftermath
      12. The white stuff
      13. Bogus
      14. Go Jets Go!
      15. Politics makes strange bedfellows
      16. The elephant in the room
      17. Tensions flared
      18. Had at press time not returned our calls
      19. This journalist (referring to self)
      20. Clashed with police
      21. Death toll
      22. Shooting spree
      23. Broke her silence
      24. Carmageddon
      25. (Noun)-gate
      26. Allegedly
      27. Every parents' nightmare
      28. At the end of the day
      29. Uneasy calm
      30. Political correctness gone awry
      31. Winter of discontent
      32. Sent shockwaves
      33. Bracing themselves for more (fees or whatever)
      34. Fat cats
      35. Man's best friend
      36. Perfect storm
      37. Fleecing
      38. Making a difference
      39. Raised eyebrows
      40. Up in arms
      41. About face
      42. Flip-flopper
      43. Outpouring
      44. Near miss
      45. Horror
      46. Downtown crime
      47. Thugs (England: yobs)
      48. Burn in Hell
      49. If you're a fan of (noun), then you'll love (noun).
      50. Off of drugs, and high on life.

      Wednesday, July 13, 2011

      How to write good: Part III - Making your readers feel dumb

      Every professional writer secretly believes that everyone can do what he or she does.

      As a result, it's important for every writer to make his or her readers feel stupid, so they don't start getting any fancy ideas about publishing works of their own; if the Internet proves one thing, it's that too much competition leads to free - and no professional writer wants to be/closer to free.

      Your goal, then, is to make your readers believe their education is below par and that they'll never break away from their "lives of quiet desperation," as Thoreau once said in Walden (not far from where I once lived in Cambridge).

      Thoreau? Walden? Cambridge? Why, dummy, that's the first rule to making your readers feel stupid:

      1. Mention names and places without explanation

      As sports writers and broadcasters know, this is the quickest way to keep people out of your special club - drop a name as though everyone knows who you're talking about, and provide no titles, background, or explanation whatsoever.

      "Like Vince Lombardi at the Super Bowl!" 
      I have it on good authority that "Vince Lombardi" is a joke name made up by sportscasters to cover their asses when they don't know what's going on, and that he's no more real than "the Super Bowl."  

      In your writing, drop names and places like bad habits, and your readers will believe you to be well-traveled and intelligent, while they - as Thoreau once said... Oh yeah: mix it up with the namedropping, lest your readers think you've only ever read Walden. 

      2. Only quote other writers if you belittle them

      Quoting other writers may seem like a good way to make people feel stupid, but use it with caution: you don't want your readers to start reading books by more talented writers.

      As a result, it's important to quote other writers only when you point out that they've made mistakes that you've caught.

      Passage from Moby-Dick:
      "Speak not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. Look ye, Starbuck, all visible objects are but as pasteboard masks. Some inscrutable yet reasoning thing puts forth the molding of their features. The white whale tasks me; he heaps me. Yet he is but a mask. 'Tis the thing behind the mask I chiefly hate; the malignant thing that has plagued mankind since time began; the thing that maws and mutilates our race, not killing us outright but letting us live on, with half a heart and half a lung."
      Readers: "Wow: what a great writer. I should be reading this book instead of this piece of crap."

      Edited passage from Moby-Dick:
      "Speak not to me of blasphemy, man (sic); I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. Look ye, Starbuck (sic), all visible objects are but as pasteboard masks. Some inscrutable (sic) yet reasoning thing puts forth the molding (sic) of their features. The white whale (sic) tasks me; he heaps me. Yet he is but a mask. 'Tis (sic) the thing behind the mask I chiefly hate; the malignant thing (sic) that has plagued mankind since time (sic) began; the thing (sic) that maws (sic) and mutilates (sic) our race, not killing (sic) us outright but letting us live on, with half a heart (sic) and half a lung (sic) (sic)."
      Readers: "Wow: What a dunce! Thank God I'm reading this book!"

      You'll notice that there weren't any mistakes, but that I dropped in a dozen (sic)s nonetheless - I don't want Herman to get too big for his britches, or for my readers to think that he's a better author than me. Herman? See rule number one.

      3. Use bits of other languages in your writing

      There's no better way to lord your authority over others than by peppering your writing with well-placed bits of other languages - for that certain je ne sais quoi. See what I did there? Awww, forget it.

      So, I ran into my friend, Heinz, the other day and had a chicken on his head.

      "Why, Heinz, do you have a chicken on your head?" I asked him.

      Heinz looked up to the sky, scratched his chin, and finally said, "Ich brauche die eier!"

      That Heinz - what a card!
      4. Make sure your readers know that every question is a stupid question

      Lastly, when you start blogging about your book, being interviewed, or showing up at book signings, you want to avoid intense questioning from actual smart people who really have lived life to its fullest and who may expose you as a charlatan, either on purpose or accidentally - also known "the James Frey problem."

      When this happens, simply mix and match your response from these retorts, as required:

      1. Look it up.
      2. Google it.
      3. All questions must be submitted in 140 characters or less.
      4. First, let's talk about that sweater you're wearing.
      5. I'll get back to you on that.
      6. Seriously, you two: was there a two-for-one sale at the boys' husky section at Sears?
      7. I'm sorry, I'm a tad hard of hearing after the bullet lodged itself in my cerebellum.
      8. Read a book.
      9. F--- you, a------.
      10. I once spoke to Oprah about that very thing.
      11. You're familiar with the theory set forth by Hobbes in Leviathan?
      12. Next question.
      13. Yes, and my book is on sale now for $50 at the front desk.
      14. Some more musings from the master monologist?
      15. Look at this panel of experts.
      16. An ill-advised display of cheek?
      17. This isn’t a writers' workshop for beginners.
      18. We've seen the best, let’s see the rest.
      19. Is suicide still a viable option?
      20. You are causing a great disturbance. As though thousands of voices cried out in agony – and were suddenly silenced.
      21. That’s no small moon.
      22. Not this ship, sister.
      23. That’s when the heroin kicked in. Boiiinnnggg!
      24. I'm kidding. That's a great sweater. I’m guessing you were once employee of the month at A&W?
      25. Aren’t we a merry band?
      26. That’s a real mark of honesty.
      27. You really bared your soul to us tonight.
      28. Dear Ndugu – today I met a bonehead.
      29. I want you to ask yourself…would Jesus act like this?
      30. How much do you weigh?
      31. I see dead people.

      Tuesday, July 12, 2011

      How to write good: Part II - the expository crap

      If you're not writing an intro, and you're not writing the ending, you must be writing all of the crap that happens between them.

      In writing, this is where you create drama by revealing the plot as slowly as possible while you endlessly practice "exposition" - pointless and boring background details that ensure you end up with a dull and expensive 200-plus page "novel," not an exciting and much-less-expensive "novella."

      Do the math: A novel = move out of your hovel. A novella = you're still eating Nutella.

      Let's face it: without exposition, Moby-Dick would just be:
      "Call me Ishmael. I was part of a crew that chased a whale and saw everyone else get killed by the big mofo." 
      As it is, Moby-Dick is 822 pages of "details and background," and not so much one joke about a sperm whale named Dick. Hello, Herman: missed opportunity!

      When you bore your reader with pointless exposition, the trick is to  be as subtle as possible, so that the reader thinks the problem isn't that the book is boring, but that he or she is too dumb to understand your particular genius (more on making readers feel stupid in an upcoming post!).

      How to write exposition goodly:

      To see how exposition is done by the experts, have a look at this passage from my soon-to-be-published (not to be confused with "unpublished") book, Kenton Larsen's The Aliens 'Neath My Arse by Sapphire:
      “Look who’s here,” said Ishmael Roscoe, the comedy club owner, whose gruff-but-lovable demeanor betrayed his inner turmoil at having lost his brother, Ahab, to a sperm whale years earlier. 
      He straightened up, and I heard some of the snaps on his man-girdle pop. “If it isn't Christina Aguilera, the hottest and most dogged website reporter of her generation in all Winnipeg, whose sometimes prim and proper outward demeanor betrays her inner desire to be loved by a rogue comedy club owner.”
      They embraced and he gave her what from my vantage point looked to be a wet, sloppy, and somewhat hairy kiss.

      “Oh, my,” she said. “It’s not often a young, hot, dogged website reporter-slash-reviewer gets licked by a 250-pound, mustachioed, diabetic, comedy club owner hepped up on Viagra and Preparation H.”

      “And I’m about to burst!” said Roscoe, who I forgot to mention earlier had dreams of becoming a stand-up comic himself but ended up having to buy his own club with the proceeds of the insurance he received after his brother died.

      “Um, OK,” she said, awkwardly glancing down at his moist chinos. “Anyway, I’m here to interview the young comedian who became disoriented and committed a pratfall tonight, making an ass of himself, much to the audience’s delight and his chagrin.”
      Notice how I cleverly hide the exposition with things that the reader will be interested in reading about, like moist chinos. Feel free to pepper your writing with as many pairs of moist chinos as possible, and you can't go wrong.

      To pre-order my book, please send me $200 and forget all about it until the statute of limitations has expired on any possible claim you may have against me. Happy writing!

      Monday, July 11, 2011

      How to write good: Part I - the intro

      Stephen King says that anyone can be a good writer if they write for 30 minutes a day.

      I say it seems like a huge time investment. Why not simply buy the TypeDrawing iPad app and draw the word "good" out of many little "goods"(see above)?

      Over the next five or six blog posts (or maybe seven or 10 - I haven't planned it out, because planning is the natural enemy of the writer), I will provide all of the advice anyone needs to write good. Sorry: goodly.

      In the immortal words of my seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Harrington: "That's not a zero on your term paper, it's a plum." 

      Part I: the intro


      Now that I've got your attention: the most important part of your writing is the intro.

      The intro should grab your readers by the throat and kill them - well, not literally kill them, because dead people don't buy books - but jolt them out of their humdrum lives and force them to read on.

      To do this, start in the middle of the action, like the Dukes of Stratosphear (aka XTC) do with the narration at the beginning of their song, "Have you seen Jackie:"
      The puffin sipped on his herbal tea and sighed, "You can't get the buttons these days."
      Readers: "Puffins drink herbal tea? And sigh? And have trouble finding buttons? I must read on!"

      Other classic intros:  

      1. Moby-Dick - "Call me Ishmael."
      Readers: "OK, and should I call the whale Moby or Dick? I must read on!"

      2. Anna Karenina - "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."
      Readers: "Is this book about my family? I must read on!" 

      3. 1984 - "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
      Readers: "Doesn't this Orwell arsehole know that clocks don't have a number 13? I must read on!"

      4. Invisible Man - "I am an invisible man."
      Readers: "We know. We saw the title of the book. Get to the damn point already. I must read on!"

      5. My own example - "The PR professional walked into the room, sat down in his leather chair, pulled a pipe out of his smoking jacket - red, his favorite color - lit the pipe, put his feet up on his desk, flicked some dirt off his shoes, and confidently said, "It's a win-win situation with ample parking and refreshments."
      Readers: "I love ample parking and refreshments. And reverse type. I must read on!"

      Creme de la lede

      In journalism, the intro is called "the lede" which is about as appealing to say and write as "creme" with an e on the end or saying "scrum" and "meat before attribution" in mixed company.

      Here, the same principle applies.

      Why write a boring, old lede like this?
      "A 39-year-old man died yesterday after becoming impaled on a fence while running from police."
      When you can write an exciting one like this?
      "I'll bet that John Smith wishes he wouldn't have run from police yesterday, after the fucking bastard found himself impaled on a fence."
      There are as many intros, ledes, and grabbers in the world as you can imagine. So start imagining them, and making up as many stories as you can think of - whether you're a creative writer, poet, or a journalist working for Rupert Murdoch. 

      Thursday, July 7, 2011

      Vote: why don't Sarah Palin know much about history?

      I think you're legally obligated to finish this sentence with, "Duh-huh." 

      Let's discuss. Is this: 

      2. What I wrote about here: "Is dumb the new smart?"

      4. Not enough School House Rock?

      Vote here:

      Wednesday, July 6, 2011

      Ten surprises at this year's Winnipeg Folk Fest

      You should see the mosquitos.

       1. If you're low on cash, you can pay for admission in good vibes.

      2. Barenaked Ladies banned; bare, naked ladies encouraged.

      3. They've paved Birds Hill Park, put up a parking lot.

      4. Samosa-filled Hacky Sacks.

      5. Finale is a cage match: Tegan and Sara versus the Proclaimers.

      6. Thirty-six straight hours of Dueling Banjos performed by the creepy kid from Deliverance.

      7. Ted Nugent to hunt people in the campgrounds.

      8. Emcee: a drunk and shirtless Robert Enright.

      9. You can live tweet your beaver tail and chocolate-covered banana.

      10. Free shuttle bus to Bethel, NY.

      Monday, July 4, 2011

      Ode to the meter reader

      There is a fellow dressed in yellow
      Who creeps around all day
      While others work, he's the jerk
      Who tows their cars away

      From far and wide, the people hide
      When e'er he comes around
      For they all know, his wont's to go
      And ticket all he's found

      What makes this fellow dressed in yellow
      Ply his nasty trade?
      What makes this jerk make his life's work
      To make good folks afraid?

      With my resolve, I tried to solve
      The riddles posed above
      So I asked the reader at my meter
      Where 'twas that he got off

      To my surprise, his yellow eyes
      Were actually dead and grey
      His ticket stack was damp and whack
      His waistline curds and whey

      Are you the jerk whose nasty work
      Makes men cry in their beds?
      Are you the ass whose smelly gas
      Makes children shake with dread?

      And then the fellow dressed in yellow
      For a moment scratched his head
      Looked to the sky tho' wondering why
      Then the bastard turned yellow and fled.

      Friday, July 1, 2011

      Ten reasons I'm proud to be Canadian

      This isn't one of them.

      1. Celine doesn't live here anymore.

      2. Alan Thicke? He's ours. Howie Mandel? He's ours too!

      3. Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien wanders the countryside seeking his half-brother Caine, armed only with his cool Ray-Bans and and wicked kung-fu grip.

      4. Degrassi reruns whenever you turn on the TV.

      5. Can rip off Letterman's Top 10 List, and he can't do a damn thing about it.

      6. The largest selection of skin-tight Speedos with a maple leaf on the crotch on the planet.

      7. The 20 per cent discount at participating Tim Hortons when you show your Social Insurance Number.

      8. Molson Canadian empties on the road are eyesores, many say. But at night, reflecting bright, they safely guide the way.

      9. We only ever riot when we have to - like when the Vancouver Canucks lose or something.

      10. We're damn good looking.