Monday, February 16, 2009

‘Blessed, honored, grateful, humbled’

That’s what you’ll feel after watching “Friday Night Lights” – so why aren’t you watching it?!

Feeling a little empty after the Super Bowl? Yeah, me too, and not just because I’m a Cowboys-then Ravens-then Cardinals fan. Luckily, there is solace in the Best Show on TV, “Friday Night Lights,” which continues to struggle in the ratings despite NBC’s promotion attempts before its return to network TV on January 16th. (The entire third season has already aired on DIRECTV in the U.S.)

The character of Brian “Smash” Williams left the show last week, having successfully gained a mid-season entry to college football after a late-season injury last year. The title quote of this item is from an article actor Gaius Charles wrote about his experience playing the character:

. . . it really didn’t hit me at all until I filmed my final scene with Kyle Chandler [who plays coach Eric Taylor]. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we filmed it on my final day on set and it was the last setup of the night. I remember sitting in my trailer, trying figure out: What exactly should I play? How much should I play it? All that “actor stuff” that goes out the window when you realize life has given you everything needed to capture the truth of those vulnerable moments.

The departure of Smash is a loss, but luckily all the young characters and actors on the show are really good. I have a soft spot for Landry, played by Jesse Plemons (can you imagine having no athletic ability and having to carry the name “Landry” around in Texas?) and, God help me, Tim Riggins (played by B.C. actor Taylor Kitsch).

This week’s show saw the return of paralyzed quarterback Jason Street. We haven’t seen Street since last season, when he made the completion of a lifetime, impregnating a waitress in a one-night stand despite being told that impregnating anyone was nearly impossible. The baby has since arrived, but the mother isn’t living with Street. He believes it’s because he doesn’t make enough money as a part-time car salesman, which is probably at least partly true.

Much of the episode is devoted to Street and Riggins’ scheme to flip a house in an attempt to put together some cash for Street to start a proper family life. Street tells the baby’s mother of the plan, which she promptly denounces as crazy, and informs him that she is moving back east to live with her parents, though he is welcome to visit his son at any time. After she leaves, Riggins comes out of the house and asks what she said. Watching Street swallow his pain and say “Great, she’s really excited” made me cry.

Still not enough? How ‘bout this endorsement:

Hot Imaginary Football Coach: Kyle Chandler

I think the power of Kyle Chandler is best understood via this story: My friend L and her husband Mr. L were in a bit of a sexual dry spell. Then they rented the first season of Friday Night Lights on DVD, and suddenly it was all sex, all the time. The turn-on was mutual. As L put it, “We were both just so aroused by Kyle Chandler’s incredible manliness. Maybe technically he was more ‘inspired’ than ‘aroused’—but hell, he was also a little aroused.”
--”10 Hot Valentines,” Jessi Klein, The Daily Beast

So that’s what you’re missing when you’re watching Larry King or worrying about paying your bills or whatever the heck you’re doing. Seriously, you must be watching 10 hours a week of crap. Why not dump one of those hours of Seinfeld reruns or lame politics shows and replace it with something truly amazing, touching, inspiring and – by the way – family- and faith-affirming?

Vancouver-based gossip blogger and ETalk contributor Elaine “Lainey” Lui is also an FNL booster. This is from her website Friday:

One day, one day they will look back, and they will finally see the brilliance of this show. And they will be sad that they neglected it. And we will say – we told you so.

Why look back, when you can watch it now? Now, now now!

"Friday Night Lights" airs Friday nights at 9:00 p.m. on NBC and E! in Ontario.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

“I’ll come to YOUR house and chew gum”

Ashes of Letterman rise from a Phoenix

I stopped watching Letterman years ago, because it seemed to me that he had become a cranky old desk jockey who couldn’t be bothered to make much of an effort to entertain the millions who inexplicably continued to tune in to him every night. He seemed bored, his comedy bits stank, and he had become a bitter Bush-hater to boot.

But Letterman’s brilliant handling of the monosyllabic Joaquin Phoenix last night has caused me to reconsider. I found it riveting from beginning to end. Even Phoenix had to repress himself from laughing at a few points.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Great Moments in Journalism Dept.

Toronto Star-owned freebie now written by unpaid interns

In one of the more creative ways to save money, the Toronto Metro laid off all its staff writers and hired unpaid interns to replace them.

Union president, Brad Honywill, doesn't think this is such a good plan. "In this kind of environment, layoffs are inevitable," he said. "But we reject the notion they can fill jobs with interns hired three days beforehand."

Metro's group publisher for English Canada, Bill McDonald, has a different take: "We made a small adjustment to our staff. We're managing our business in these economic times." He also said that "content partnerships" will be responsible for providing some stories.

The news comes just a couple weeks after the Metro in Spain was shut down. Apparently, there are no interns in Europe.

This is the same Metro that sold its entire front page to the Ontario Fiberals during the 2007 election. So the loss to “journalism” is probably not that great. But what would Holy Joe Atkinson think of exploiting unpaid labour to pad TorStar’s bottom line? Probably not much.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Rae’s Only Constant: Arrogance

Why does a sexagenarian who is still figuring out who he is get to call Stephen Harper a hypocrite? Because he’s better than you

In exchange for the $1.50 I dished out for a paper copy of the National Post today, I was treated to a s***-eating screed addressed to the Prime Minister from Robert Keith Rae, aka He Who Will Never Be Prime Minister, accompanied by an approximately 15-year-old photo of Bob.

The piece bears all the marks of a man who thinks he is better, smarter, funnier and more musical than everyone around him. And to an extent, he is right. After all, how many plodding jingles have you recorded and performed on television that could compare to “We’re in the Same Boat Now?” I thought so.

As the song says “everything old is new again.” [well at least Bob resisted the temptation to quote one of his own ditties] I am no longer the Deficit Poster Boy and Punching Bag. You are. Wear it in the best of health. And rewrite all those speeches complaining about investing in small-craft harbours. Tear up those notes when Preston Manning told us all to “stop digging.” You’re shovel-ready and it looks good on you.

Now, a normal person who spent 30 years devoted to the promotion of democratic socialism before jumping to the most cynical, idea-free force in Canadian politics – for no apparent reason other than he thinks he is still the most capable, intelligent and wise person Canadian politics has to offer – might pause for a moment before accusing others of hypocrisy. Not Bob Rae. I guess that’s one of the reasons why He is Better than Us – no matter what party he is in.

That’s also no doubt why it was reported that, on the morning of the Liberal leadership in 2006, Rae admonished his supporters to remain “humble” when his expected victory came later that day. Except it never came. All the more reason we should be bloody grateful that Rae deigned to have the nomination in a reliably safe Liberal riding handed to him, and suffers the daily indignity of having to address the knuckle-dragging wrestling enthusiasts in the Harper cabinet as “minister.”

Anyhow, to Rae’s point, scarcely visible beneath the oozing scab of his own smugness. Stephen Harper is not the first politician who has found his attitudes, priorities or plans change over time.

Why, just the other day I saw Rae on TV, expressing concern about the buy-American clause in the U.S. stimulus package

“I don’t think either one of us can afford to go off on protectionist tangents,” Rae told Question Period. “We have created this integrated marketplace over several decades and there’s no going back.”
--CTV's Question Period, January 11

And this from the Toronto Star:

But Rae said Canada, which depends on trade, should not do anything to increase protectionist sentiment.

“The risk we run is that we end up offending not just the Americans but also the Europeans and all of our other trading partners,” he said.

“And you have to remember who we are. We’re a tiny country, 33 million in a big world, and it isn’t going to the same effect.

Is this the same Bob Rae who campaigned so vigorously against the original Canada-U.S. free trade agreement that was at the centre of the 1988 federal election, and the 1992 NAFTA agreement, both when he was still a devotee of democratic socialism? Alas, it was.

The Canada-U.S. free trade agreement will make rich companies richer and poor people poorer, says New Democratic Party leader Bob Rae.

Canadian and U.S. negotiators are still trying to define what constitutes unfair trade subsidies, and the Americans are sure to point to Canada’s social programs, Rae said.

Federal government representatives have repeatedly said Canada’s social programs are not threatened by the pact. But the members of yesterday’s panel oppose the pact and echoed Rae’s comments.
--Toronto Star, March 23, 1988 [from free abstract at]

An indication of the likely intensity of the coming storm was an exchange between Mr. Mulroney and Bob Rae, Premier of Ontario and a member of the Socialist-leaning New Democratic Party that opposes the Prime Minister’s Progressive Conservatives.

Alluding to American Presidential politics, Mr. Rae charged that the pact had “everything to do with the Republican convention next week and nothing to do with the interests of the Canadian economy or Canadian workers.”
--New York Times, August 13, 1992

The same boat, indeed. Start baling, Bob.

I must admit that I am little more enthused about the Harper government’s projected $60-plus billion in deficits over two years, than I was by Bob Rae’s $40-billion in deficits over four years.

When I see a news item about a tax credit to encourage home renovation, followed by commercials from banks and the government itself promoting the tax-free savings accounts implemented in the last budget, I am somewhat discom-Bob-ulated. And when I hear commentators saying that similarly unnerved conservative voters have nowhere else to go, I can’t help think: “I’m sure Brian Mulroney assumed the same thing even after the Reform party was founded.” But I am also sure that this last point has occurred to Stephen Harper who, while no saint, seems blessed with more self-awareness than Bob Rae is. (But then, who isn’t?)

Rae’s tribute to his own record conveniently leaves out Ontario’s fiscal circumstances prior to his becoming Ontario’s Worst Premier in History, circumstances for which he was directly responsible, thanks to the 1985 accord that catapulted the second-place Liberals into power. These conditions, just off the top of my head, included:

• 33 tax increases
• Massive hikes in government spending
• The hiring of approximately 10,000 additional civil servants
• Increases in welfare rates, leading to a massive increase in the welfare rolls, despite a booming economy

So when the recession came on Rae’s watch, Ontario’s government was very poorly positioned to respond. Now, there was a certain poetic justice in Rae having to clean up the mess he helped the Liberals make, but Rae proceeded to cripple Ontario further, by the implementation of 32 tax increases of his own, the aforementioned $40-billion in debt, and new burdens on job creation, such as pro-union labour legislation. He did everything short of posting signs at Ontario’s borders and airports telling investors to f*** off.

This contrasts with how the Harper regime governed prior to the current worldwide economic downturn: reducing taxes and paying down debt.

Unfortunately, Rae seems to have concluded that the Harris years vindicated both him and his policies. (Which makes you wonder why he had to switch parties if he was right along.) Bob Rae is the last person who is in a position to criticize Harper. But you will never convince him of that.

Return of the Trusty Tory has also commented on Bob’s op-ed.