Monday, October 31, 2005

The horror, the horror...

I realize today is Halloween so a lot of bloggers are trying to come up with links to scary sites or list of the best horror movies of all time and stuff like that. And I can't really top any of that. There's some fun stuff out there and I'm as susceptible to a good, meaningless list as much as the next person.

So for Halloween I decided to tell you the scariest thing there is about Iqaluit. It actually doesn't bother me too much, but there are others that, when they get off the plane and realize this fact, it's enough to make them turn around and head back south again.

There is no Tim Hortons in Iqaluit.

Yes, let that little bit of horror sink in. No stopping at the drive-through and getting a double double first thing in the morning. No Ice Cappacinos. No donuts. No muffins. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

You can buy tins of Tim Hortons coffee and the NorthMart and brew it yourself, but I'm told it's not the same.

I can almost forgive people coming out and not knowing Iqaluit is Tim's free. After all, there are Tim Hortons every 20 feet in St. John's. I susppect that if I were in the middle of the woods and lost, I would just have to wait for the wind to shift a bit and I could probably smell a Tim Hortons nearby. Or just follow the litter of discarded coffee cups.

Which is how I was reminded of this fact. I read this story in Maclean's which talks about finding discarded Tim's cups in Iqaluit. So how can there be a lot of discarded Tim's cups in Iqaluit if the city doesn't have a franchise?

Because when we were flying to Iqaluit I noticed that we were in the distinct minority on the plane. And not because we were white; more than half the plane was white, actually. It was that we were among the few that didn't have a large cup of Tim's in one hand, and a plastic bag containing a box filled with either donuts, muffin or timbits in the other.

You take a couple of flights coming to Iqaluit every day coming from the south, with about 75% of the passengers carrying Tim's cup and boxes and yeah, I can see the litter building up in a hurry. Especially since there is a lot of litter in Iqaluit. Kind of reminds me of the way St. John's was about 20 years ago before St. John's Clean and Beautiful got going full tilt.

I have no idea why there isn't one here. I'm sure it would do well. There might only be 6,500 people here, but that's roughly the size of Clarenville and the one they had thrived. Plus this place is the hub of the eastern arctic. There are always people coming and going. Perhaps there are concerns about costs. Cathy tells me there are no Tim Hortons anywhere in the north. Whether that goes for Yellowknife and Whitehorse, I do not know.

So there you go. If you're thinking of coming here...beware.

Last 5 on iPod
1. I wanne be loved - Elvis Costello (Best of)
2. Blow at high dough - Tragically Hip (Live Between Us)
3. Rueben - The Be Good Tanyas (Chinatown)
4. Van Diemen's Land - U2 (Rattle and Hum)
5. Last night of the world - Bruce Cockburn (Anything, Anytime, Anywhere)

Give me time...

Want to know what time it is? Why not try this pretty cool looking site.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Here comes your man - Pixies (Wave of Mutilation - Best of the Pixies)
2. Don't let the sun go down on me - Elton John and Billy Joel (Face to Face - Live)
3. Play it all night long - Warren Zevon (A Quiet Normal Life)
4. Long distance call - David Gray (A New Day at Midnight)
5. Poor man's grey - Matthew Good (White Light Rock and Roll Review)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hell is other people's music

I'm sitting quietly playing a video game, killing a Saturday afternoon while Cathy is off at a workshop, when through the walls I can hear Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney singing "Say, Say, Say".

The fact that I can remember when this piece of shit song was popular is traumatic, depressing and a further sign that I am getting old. The fact that a man roughly my age would choose to blast this song loud enough for me to hear through a wall is making me want to hide sharp objects.

Oh God, it appears to be Jackson's greatest hits...I'm hearing "Human Nature" now. I swear to God, I'm on the verge of burning a CD with some good music on it and sliding it under his door so maybe he'll play something other than this unrelenting 80s crap every weekend.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Milk, tea and oranges - Spirit of the West (Open Heart Symphony)
2. The man who sold the world - Nirvana (Unplugged)
3. Blacklisted - Neko Case (The Tigers Have Spoken)
4. Until the stars turn blue - The Corrs with Bono
5. Californication - Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Greatest Hits)

What's in a name?

If you've ever sat down with me in a bar, odds are at some point I will have started ranting about children's names. This is a significant pet peeve of mine - what parents decide to call their kids.

I'm pretty certain it started while I was working with The Packet. For a relatively small community newspaper (circulation aprox. 6,800) it gets an insane number of Letters to Santa. Easily 600 or more, which might not sound like a lot, but it is. Far more than any other community newspaper in Newfoundland, even papers with bigger circulations.

And it was while typing in some of the letters (What? You think journalism is all the thrill of the hunt and getting bad politicians? Guess again) that I noticed some of these kids had truly horrific names.

"Oh Craig. You're being so mean to those kids," you might say.

Not as mean as the parents who thought Shadoe Lake was a good name. How about Thaylor Pike (Say the name like he's a supporting character in Conan the Barbarian)? Or the two boys, Blade and Swade? Those last two? Not twins. So the mom had Blade and someone thought it was a good idea to let her call the second boy Swade. I understand there are more children with equally bizarre names.

And those are the one whose names I can remember. There were others, nearly as bad. We used to have competitions in the bars to see who could think of the worst kids name. Between Blade and Swade along with Justin Case (kid of one of my father's former co-workers) I tended to win.

I always thought these kids were doomed...that their terrible name would subject them to a life of ridicule that would be difficult to recover from. I swear, the pic of little 7-year-old Shadoe already showed a boy whose eyes looked dead. That even in the 2nd Grade, he knew what the next decade of his life was going to be like.

It was getting to the point where I was advocating that Newfoundland should have a board similar to B.C. and Quebec - where the province could challenge a parent's name for their child. That has pros and cons, of course. BC stopped parents from naming their son God. Quebec bizarrely interferred with parents wanting to call their daughter Ivory. And at what point is the government interferring too much?

Then I read Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner.

Economics books are not normally my cup of tea, but it's still a fascinating read. And controversal. One of Levitt's arguments is that a major contributing factor to decreasing crime rates in the United States in the mid-90s was the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. That those most likely to get abortions were women who didn't want children or who were poor. Unwanted children or those in difficult economic circumstances are more likely to become criminals. The fact that not as many unwanted children were coming into the world meant when that generation of criminals were coming into their "prime", about 20 years after Roe v. Wade, there were much fewer of them.

Controversal to be sure. Both the left and right and blasted Levitt's arguments. But as he likes to say "If morality represents an ideal world, then economics represents the actual world."

I also enjoyed his take on names. He was wondering if names (especially obviously black names) would be a detriment to the economic fortunes. Instead, he found that names were more likely to be indicators of economic status. And that a name's popularity tends to work its way down the economic ladder.

For example, in the 90s the five most common "high-end" white girls names were, in order: Alexandra, Lauren, Katherine, Madison and Rachel.

The five most common "low-end" white giirl names were: Amber, Heather, Kayla, Stephanie, Alyssa.

In 1980, Heather and Amber were amongst the most popular "high end" names. Poorer people seeing that successful people pick a certain name for thier children and then choose it for their own kids, hoping that it gives their kid a better chance at success.

Poorer, less educated people are also more likely to pick odd names because they misunderstand things: Levitt sites two examples: Temptress (the mother misunderstood the name of Cobsy Show actress Tempestt Bledsoe) and Amcher, which the parents got once reaching the hospital: Albany Medical Center Hospital Emergency Room.

This is all fascinating stuff to me and I really recommend the book. It helps that it's not all dry stats and dull writing. Levitt and Dubner have an engaging, accessible writing style. It's easy to understand the points they are trying to make.

But this is all a lot of lead-up to my absolutely favourite new worst name of all time. It's in the section where they talk about the radical changes taking place in the naming of black children. Including the rise in invented names. They site a woman who called a radio show upset over the name of her new niece. It was pronounced shuh-TEED.

It was spelt Shithead.

Kind of makes Blade seem quaint in comparison.

Last five on iPod
1. Can't help falling in love - U2 (Live bootleg)
2. Red light - U2 (War)
3. Right between the eyes - Garbage (Bleed Like Me)'
4. Loretta - Neko Case (The Tigers Have Spoken)
5. Tell me why - The Beatles (A Hard Day's Night)

Friday, October 28, 2005

Jack hitting the road

Newfoundland NDP leader Jack Harris is calling it a day after 15 years in the legislature. Although the CBC story doesn't say it, VOCM is reporting that he will not run in the 2007 general election.

Harris is saying its time for some new leadership with the NDP. I can't help but think that 17 years in the House of Assembly, 15 of them spent banging his head against the wall as leader of the NDP, might have also contributed. Plus, he'll be 59 by the time the next election rolls around and he does have young children, all of which I'm sure were factors.

I've met and interviewed Harris numerous times. He's a heck of a nice man. Intelligent and cares a lot about the people of the province. I'm not sure if I would have ever wanted the NDP to run the province, but I would have liked to have seen Harris had a chance to influence policy more. I'm not sure how he would have done on economics, but I think his social policies would have made things better for people.

Meanwhile, Liam struggles mightly to do that whole "be polite as your foe retires from the field" thing, which is to say, be nice but only kinda-sorta mean it. In reality, he must be dancing a jig. He lives in Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, Harris district. If Harris stuck around for 2007 election, odds are he would have won. Harris wins the seat every time not because people there love the NDP; he wins it because they love him. With him not running in 2007, and with the demographics shift in the district the past decade, the NDP will struggle hard to keep it.

Which is a pity. This isn't a pro-NDP rant. I find their economic policies kind of wonky. But I just think it's bad for St. John's if there isn't so much as a single opposition MHA in the city, which is quite possible after 2007. Right now Harris is the only one. So if you have problem in St. John's that requires provincial government help, and the Tory MHAs aren't proving useful, then Harris is your only option.

The city really doesn't need another Tory backbencher. They're about as useful as the Maytag repairman. I recall one rural MHA telling me (and he was a Tory) that most city MHAs wouldn't know the difference between the phone and the fire alarm because they hear both so infrequently. He was exaggerating, of course. But I bet Harris' phone rings a heck of a lot more than Bob Ridgley's.

I know his loyality to his party requires Liam to hope the Conservatives win the seat in the next election. I would hope the he would realize that a St. John's with nothing but Conservative MHAs would not be a good thing.

Oh, and as for who the next leader will be, I think Randy Collins is a fairly safe bet.

Last 5 on iPod
1. Losing California - Sloan (A-Sides Win)
2. Tunnel of love - Dire Straits (Very Best of...)
3. Jenni's song - Matthew Good Band (Beautiful Midnight)
4. Naked - The Trews (Den of Thieves)
5. The impression that I get - Mighty Mighty Bosstones (Let's Face It)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

New on the side

It occurs to me that not everyone might know where Iqaluit is. Yes, it is the capital of Nunavut, but there are only about 6,500 people in the community. Hell, there are only 30,000 people in all of the territory. It's a small place. I was having to constantly explain to people last year where Rankin Inlet - where Cathy was teaching - was located. The answer, in case you're curious, is northwest Hudson Bay.

That's why I've added a map of where I'm located on the side courtesy of this website. There's actually a whole online community there, but I kind of doubt I'm going to take part in it. I just wanted the map.

I also added a link to which I found on Warren Ellis's website (As an aside, I love Warren's site, but if there is a link and he says to not look, take my advice and don't). Frappr is interesting in that it takes the maps powered by Google and from there you can show where you live on the map, include a photo and a shout out. Again, it's there to give you an idea of where I am in the grand scheme of things.

But also, by all means, take a minute and let me know where you are. I get an idea by looking at Sitemeter, but it's nice to see it on a map.

Tomorrow, a post on a particular pet peeve of mine - kids' names.

And finallly, I think I'm going to make this an ongoing thing, the last five songs my iPod has played. I find my iPod's mood interesting. Any of you who own one will no doubt be perplexed at what combination of songs are played when it's on shuffle. It's freaked me out more than once.

1. Is that all you got for me? - The Donnas (Gold Medal)
2. The gentleman soldier - The Pogues (Rum, Sodomy and the Lash)
3. Me and Julio down by the schoolyard - Paul Simon (Greatest Hits)
4. When will you come back home? - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (Cold Roses)
5. Girl in green - Blue Rodeo (Just Like a Vacation)

How to pitch, part 5

This is the final part of how to pitch a story to an entertainment editor. You've done your research, know what media you want to pitch to, have come up with a press kit, complete with photos and samples of your work. All you need now is for someone to write about you. But no one is. Why?

First, there is the inverse law of promotion. Those who need it least get the most demands for it. Those who need it most have to go begging.

For example, Great Big Sea has a publicity firm hired to screen media requests. It's rare that a paper or TV station will get a call from them offering up the boys. We have to go to them and beg for a moment of their time. They're big enough that they don't need the publicity, or can be picky about it. Which is very obvious when you say it, but it's something to keep in mind. People already know a lot about the band. The band itself is probably burnt out talking to the media (we can be annoying at times) so they're going to be choosy.

You, on the other hand, probably are unknown outside of some friends and family who think you're cool. You need the publicity, but you're going to have to work that much harder to get it. Unfair? Sure. But reporters also know what stories people are going to read. If it's a choice between Alan Doyle and you, the unknown, guess which story is going to be read or watched?

Still, there are ways you can get around this. Before you call the reporter, come up with five good ideas that you think would make an interesting story. And not your new book, cd, etc. You get to push that during the story. I'm talking about adversity you've overcome. I'm talking about scandal. Something cool that people will want to read. Your band members sold their cars to pay for the CD. You wrote your book in hospital recovering from a brain operation. You learned to paint while in jail. The actors in your play will be nude. Something. Anything.

What are some good pitches?
1. "I'm launching a series of Newfoundland Romance novels. Nothing like this has ever been done like this in Newfoundland."
"What are some of the titles?"
"Sedna's Passion, Man From LaManche..."
"Sold. When can we meet?"

It was that simple. Newfoundland romance novels are a brilliant pitch by itself. But Man From LeManche? Sign me up. We were batting romance novels sentences around the office for days. The winner? "She hadn't screamed that loud since the time she won at the bingo."

Go here to read the story.

2. "As you know, the commemoration of the Holocaust is coming up. I've got a showing at the art gallery of some paintings I did while in Israel last year..."

Again, sold. It links into a broader event that is of public interest. And she was a recognized artist in town, so it's a good combination.

3. Joel Hynes, if I recall, pitched a story about a play he had coming up at the LSPU Hall, which was based on his then unpublished novel Down in the Dirt, which had just won an Arts and Letters Award for best unpublished novel. The novel, as much as he hates to talk about it, appears to be at least partially autobiographical. Hynes himself is an interesting character once you start to talk to him.

4. "Our band is going out to play at the Youth Correctional Centre as part of a program they have out there. So we'll be giving them some entertainment, showing them how to play some instruments and showing them that there are alternatives for young people."

Nice pitch. The band was just starting out, didn't even have their own equipment. But the youth centre is a good angle and it's an interesting program.

5. Not an arts story, but happened to my co-worker, Donnie Power. A guy called and wanted a story done about minor soccer in the city. A bit dull. Donnie asked if there was a player he could focus on with a good story to tell. The guy didn't think so, so Donnie said he would see what he could do.

A week later, the guy calls back. Says the best player in the league is a 14 year old kid who arrived in the city a year or so ago from Sierra Leone. His parents went back to that country, which was being torn apart by civil war, and rescued him after he had been kidnapped by militias to fight in the war. Was that a good angle?

Are you fucking kidding me? We put it on cover and I think Donnie won an award for it.

The point is, you often don't know what you have. You may have brilliance and just be unaware of it. Brainstorm with your friends, cast members or band mates. Come up with 4-5 ideas. So when you talk to the reporter and if he shoots down the first idea, you have a few back-ups. Odds are if you keep throwing story ideas at the reporter, he'll pick one. Or will help you find an angle because he appreciates the effort.

A good angle is so important. Not just because it catches the reporter's attention, but because it'll catch the readers' attention. When I get a good story, I work that much harder at it. I know it's good and I want to spend the extra time getting it just right. I'll work at it.

That in turn shows up. The writing will be better. I'll work harder at getting it prominent placement in the paper. I'll lobby for it to be cover (in the case of The Express). A TV reporter will lobby for more time to tell the story properly. All of this increases the chances that it will be read. Remember the goal isn't to get yourself in the paper or on is to get yourself noticed. A good pitch, a good story angle, increases the odds.

So think about it. Everybody has a story. I know they do. You do. It might mean having to expose yourself more than you might feel comfortable. But if it helps sells what you're trying to do, it’ll be worth it.

A few end notes:
• Regardless, you should always call, even if you haven't done all this work. You might fluke into something. A story might have collapsed. It might be a slow week. The reporter might be a fan of your work and will give you a break. These things happen. The worst that can be said is we're not interested or don’t have time.
• If you're an author, painter or a solo act, then you have to do all the publicity yourself. But if it's a play, consider who you want to do the interviews. Who is the most articulate? Who can talk up a storm? Also, there is no need for the same people to do all the talking. If it's a play, why not have the director and the lead actor talk to one reporter, the writer and the lead actress talk to another. Mix it up.
• Having said that, generally reporters only need two people to talk to. Three at most. After that, it's just too many voices and the story can get bogged down. Unless the reporter says he wants everyone, then two is enough.
• Really think hard about the photos and how you want them done. Photos sell the story. I can't emphasize that enough.
• Figure out where you want to meet the reporter. I've done so many interviews at Hava Java (a St. John's coffee shop) that I'm surprised they don't charge rent. But it's noisy and there can be distractions. Why not pick a place that sets the mood a bit. Your house in fine, it gives the reporter something to work off. Your studio - recording or painting.
• I said reporters don't need free things and we don't. But it never hurts to make friends with the reporter. Or better still, make them a fan. Any time that Sean Panting, Colleen Power, David Blackwood, Barbara Pratt or Kevin Major wants to do a story, I'll be interested because I like their work a lot. I can’t tell you how to do that because everyone has individual tastes, but if you can, your life is a little bit easier.

So there you go, longer and more long-winded than I would have liked, but I think I touched the bases. Thanks for the feedback, the links and for reading. If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

On air

Ummm, hello to all those people apparently checking out the blog for the first time today. Behold the power of linking, as it were. Seems the "How to Pitch to an Entertainment Writer" is slightly more popular than I thought. A nod of thanks to Kirsten and Darren for linking to the article. That's where most of the traffic seems to be coming from.

There is one more part, which I should post either this evening or tomorrow. Once it's finished, I'll probably make it part of the sidebar, so people don't have to dig through the archives in order to find it.

Also, if people are curious to know what I sound like, I will be on Raven Rock this afternoon at 5 pm EST. Raven Rock is Iqaluit's rock radio station. I applied for a dj job, but because I have no board experience they didn't give it to me. However, they were impressed with my voice and bantering abilities (I was on air Saturday for a couple of hours with one of their djs and had fun) to offer me an hour or two each week to get some practice.

I can't guarentee what kind of music that will be played as I'm not sure how much control of the selection I will have, but it should be amusing.

Evil coming to St. John's...

You may doubt me, but surely God Hilary Duff coming to St. John's must be a sign of The End of Days or something. Perhaps it's in those Left Behind novels that are so popular for mystifying reasons. "And lo, when the Duff goes to the far east of North America, you shall know you are well and truly screwed."

There have been stranger acts to play St. John's I'm sure, but this is just really, really weird. I think the only humane thing to do is get a bunch of volunteers to stand outside Mile One with burned CDs of good music. I appreciate that most of Duff's audience is young girls, probably under 15 (and creepy males in their 30s), but it's still not too late to help. Put together a mix disc and hand it out. Stop the damage to the next generation before its too late.

You think I'm kidding, but when I look at all the metalheads I knews as a teenager, they're all Garth Brooks fans now. Further proof of the damage bad music can do to an impressionable mind at a young age.

Oh, and because it's on VOCM's website, and I didn't have this blog going when Canadian Idol was in full swing, allow me to add this bit of sacriliege - Rex Goudie didn't deserve to win. I appreciate the thousands of people who sold out Rex Goudie's CD release in under 25 minutes will disagree with me. I'm frankly astonished the show sold out that fast. No other Idol from Newfoundland did that well. Hell, how many Newfoundland acts can sell out Mile One, let alone in 25 minutes?

Anyway, the point is that while he has charisma to burn, seems like a nice enough guy and has a decent voice, he did stink up the joint in the last 3-4 weeks of the show. Realistically, he should have been voted off a week before, but wasn't. Still, as long as he sticks in his range, he should be ok. It'll be interesting to hear what his album sounds like.

And yes, I know I'm a musical snob. But here are the last five songs to play on my iPod, which is currently set to shuffle:
1. Medowlake Street - Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (Cold Roses)
2. The Waiting - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Greatest Hits)
3. Ticket to Ride - The Beatles (Help!)
4. Hollow - Sean Panting (Lotus Land)
5. Next Exit - Interpol (Antics)

Monday, October 24, 2005

How to pitch, part 4

This brings us to press kits. Should you bother? I think so. I’ve gotten plenty of press kits that have been helpful.

But they don’t have to be this spectacular thing that you’ve spent a fortune on. I used to get press kits all the time from movie studios who spent a ridiculous amount of money on them. High gloss packaging, with interviews and plot synopsis inside, the complete cast and crew (just in case I needed to know who the Best Boy was in the film) and a CD ROM filled with photos. And they would next day FedEx the bloody things. Think about that – how much money did they spend in mailing these things out to so much media... in Canada alone?

Do I need all of this for Dumb and Dumberer? No.

But you can do something very basic that won’t take much time, but will help your cause.

I’ve been using artists as a catch-all for painters, musicians, actors, writers, dancers, etc in these articles. But if you’re going to do a press kit, this is where things differ a bit. Depending on what field you come from, there will be different things in it.

The Basics
• Sturdy folder for containing all the info
• Basic biographical information about yourself, band, theatrical troupe, etc. And by basic I mean you name, where you’re from, education, interests, quirky things about you (more on that later), etc.
• A brief history of the project

Some people include prepared questions and answers. Can’t hurt, although I imagine it must take time. Others include press clippings, if they have any. Again, doesn't hurt.

What should be on the CD ROM? Depends. It should include photos of you. Odds are, the newspaper is going to want to take their own, but if they’re good enough and enough variety, then the paper might opt to use them. You can include actual photos in the kit, but digital ones on a CD ROM are really all you need.

Oh, and make sure everything on the cd is both Mac and Windows compatable. It might be a Windows world, with 95% of computer being Windows-based, but not in Medialand. There, about 50% of computers are Macs. So keep that in mind.

I will emphasize this point now - get someone who knows what they’re doing to take the photos. I’m not saying you have to spend $1,000 to take pics. But find a friend who you think is a good photographer, find a location to do it (outside in natural light is always best) and shoot several different poses in different locations. And think about how you want to look in the pics. Artsy, presentable, rock star scruffy, whatever.

Photography is a whole new series if I wanted to start into it. So trust me, just find someone who knows what they’re doing. Photos are very important. People read stories with photos. They tend to skip them if they don’t have pretty pictures. So put some thought into it, even though they may never be used.

Oh, and all pics on a CD should be at least 1 meg. Papers can shrink them later if they want, but 1 meg is covering your bets if they want to blow it up large on the page.

If you’re a musician, include songs from the album you have coming out. I appreciate that you’ve spent a fortune making this record and you don’t want to give away free ones. I don’t need it. Burn the songs onto a cd and include a photocopy of the liner notes. Song lyrics are good if you sing in a way that makes it difficult for me to understand what you’re singing. And you know who you are…

Why the songs? Because if I’m interviewing you, I want to know what your music is like so I can talk to you intelligently about it.

Painters – pics of yourself and of your artwork.

Dancers – pics of you dancing, which always look nice.

Theatre people – include head shots, but please give us more. Dress up in costume or do something. Make it interesting.

Writers – here’s the difficult one. Do you include a copy of your book? It might be expensive, but I think you should. I hate interviewing authors if I haven’t read their book. I feel like an idiot. And I feel rude. This person has spent months of their life writing this book; I’d like to be able to talk intelligently about it.

If you’re on a budget, feel out the reporter first and make sure they’re interested in doing a story on you before giving them the book. But do allow more lead time. If your event is Nov. 30, try and get them the book as far in advance as possible so they can read it and then interview you about it.

This doesn’t include all media, of course. I’ve had TV and movie people send me copies of their show first. On videotape, which is weird. I would have thought DVD would be easier these days, but whatever.

So this is basic stuff. Information about yourself or your group, some photos and a sample of your work if possible. If you want to, you don’t even have to send this out; you can put most of it up on a website and let reporters know its there. But for God’s sake, if you’re doing a website, do it right. Don’t let it be one of these slow loading, half-assed sites that look like they were slapped together by a six-year-old one night that you never update. There are enough of them online as it is. Put some work into it.

This brings me to another point – do entertainment reporters expect free stuff? If you ever came to The Express office and saw my desk, there would usually be piles of books, CDs, etc. And you would probably think I was a bastard for having all that stuff there and that I hadn’t done stories on most of it.

In fairness, most were from mainland companies and the artists had no connection to Newfoundland, nor were they coming here. The Express’s motto is “Local People, Local Stories.” If you’re not local, or your idea of a coast-to-coast tour is Vancouver to Halifax, we weren’t wasting space on you.

I never expected free stuff unless it helped me do my job. Books and music, yes. I don’t expect free artwork from painters, for example (although I loved those little promotional postcards that some galleries sent out. I kept as many of them as I could). The dicey one was always theatre shows. Odds are your show would open after my story ran and closed before the next Express came out. It was rare I could review one in time.

It was rare I was given tickets to shows and I tried hard not to ask. If I was offered, I generally said yes (if I could make it opening night, not always possible). I always felt bad taking tickets for a show at the LSPU Hall. It’s such a small venue I felt like by taking a ticket, I was stealing someone’s lunch money.

If you can afford to give up a couple of tickets to a show (two is best – odds are these is a wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend at home grumbling that we’re always working late and never take them anywhere.) that's great. I really appreciate them. Also remember that many journalists aren't making a lot of money, so they honestly can't afford to pay to attend every cultural event in St. John's as much as we would like to.

Use your best judgment but I will say this: I never did a story just because I was offered free stuff as a bribe and I never said no to a story because they didn’t offer me anything.

Next up, the actual pitch.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Well, that would suck...

Courtesy of a link from Fark (and kudos to the submitter for the excellent headline for the link) there is a story about a possible massive storm should Hurricane Wilma and Tropical Storm Alpha meet up later this week.

It looks like it would dump a ton of rain and snow on the north-east U.S. and into Canada. It would also likely hit Newfoundland at some point.

Which, while it would suck for most people, would doubly suck for some of Cathy's family. One of her cousin's decided to get married in Cancun in the last week or so. A lot of Cathy's aunts and uncles on her mom's side made the trip down to watch the wedding and get some sun. For various reasons, Cathy's mom passed.

Anyway, if you've been watching the news, you know that Cancun has been hammered the past few days by Wilma. Her aunts have been in touch and they're okay. They had to leave their resort and they're holed up in the basement of a school inland from the storm. Still, not a pleasent way to spend a vacation and a bit scary to boot.

They figure it's going to take several days after the storm passes for things to get normal enough for them to get back to the hotel and get their belongings (they had to leave almost everything behind) and then catch a plane home. It would be their luck to fly back just in time to get hit by Wilma a second time. That would suck.

Here's hoping that doesn't happen. But with the way hurricanes have been happening this year, who the hell knows.

How to pitch, part 3

So what’s the problem with targeting all the media? Well, first of all, do you have time to do all those interviews? They do take time if you want to do them properly and you're going to be busy with lots of stuff. You can do them over the e-mail or phone, but that’s if you’re in a pinch. I mean, I like e-mail interviews when I’m rush – I don’t have to transcribe notes. But nothing beats a face to face. So if you can, always try to do it that way. Better chemistry between the interviewer and interviewee (which is important) and you can get a better feel of where ther reporter is going with the story.

Secondly, odds are seeing your face plastered all over the place in other media is going to piss off other writers and, more importantly, their editors. Reporters and editors have elephantine memories. If you want to remain friends with them and keep getting publicity years in the future, it’s helpful to remain on their good side.

Still, it only makes sense you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Why only do an interview with The Telegram? The story could get spiked or cut to a fraction of its intended size. A promised 1500 word feature on the genius of your book might get cut to 300 words because space is tight that day.

So spreading it out – good idea.

But never tell the reporter that.

The fastest way for me to brush you off is to tell me you want the story to come out on a certain day because you’re going to be on NTV or Out of the Fog the day before, and it would be a nice tie-in.

(I’ve had this happen to me more times than I can count.)

I’m in competition with NTV and every other media outlet in the city. I’m not going to help them coordinate your big launch. I want to scoop them. I want my story out first so it looks like they’re copying from me, not the other way around. Remember, egos are in play. I want my story out so that I can show my editor all the other entertainment people copying what I did already because I look good that way. I’m ahead of the game.

So if you tell me this, no story. Just on principle, even if I like the story and I like you, I won’t do it. Because it pisses me off that I’m off secondary importance next to NTV. Petty? Sure. Deal with it.

So lie, tell them they’re the first ones you’ve called. If your story runs 3-4 times in different media, well, they called afterwards expressing an interest and you couldn’t say no and they must have just beaten me to the punch in getting it out. If it shows up in 10 different places before me, I will remember this for the next time.

Your best bet? Two papers, CBC Radio and maybe one of the TV shows. That gets you good coverage across the spectrum, but not so much that people are tired of seeing you.

I will also highly recommend The Express. Biased, yes. But it does have one of the few dedicated arts sections in the province. It covers a diverse number of arts and is also part of a chain. So if you’re from Gander or Buchans, mention that to the reporter. They’ll make a note and send it off to the community paper in that area so if they want it, they can pick it up. So you get coverage outside of St. John’s as well.

By they way, even if you don’t get a story, always send out a psa about your event. So even if you don’t get the story, word is still out there about your event. Be concise, about 25 words should do, e-mail it (call and figure out the best person to e-mail it to) and send a jpeg attachment of an image. Generally no bigger than 400 kb. Bigger than that and it slows down the e-mail, which is annoying. Smaller than 200 kb and it might not be good enough quality to run in the paper.

There’s no guarantee it will run, but hey, it might. And it’s always a good idea to have an image of yourself available at the paper. For example, with The Express, we liked to have pictures for the Now Showing section. So if we have a pic of you rocking out and you’re playing at a bar that week, we’ll run it. And pictures are very important in newspapers. People pay attention to photos. They catch the eye.

They also kill space nicely, which editors like also.

Next up - press kits.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Around Iqaluit

1. People are kind of reeling from how warm it has been in Iqaluit the past couple of days. It's getting towards late October. I certainly expected a lot more snow on the ground, for the harbour to be freezing and the temperatures to be well below zero.

Instead, as of 1 p.m. today, it was 6 degrees celcius. The average high temperature for this day is -3.1. The record high is 5.5 set two years ago. So I guess that record is falling today.

For God sake, I have windows open in the apartment today to let some fresh air in since I figure it was going to be at least April before I get to do that again. But at this rate, who knows.

I guess articles like this one, which flooded the internet in recent weeks, are just offering more proof about what's happpening in the arctic. I can remember a conversation with Cathy from when she was in Rankin Inlet. She had listened to some of the community's elders speak and they were confused and worried about the climate changes. They were losing the ability to predict the weather, as they had for decades.

It is freaking out people. Yes, there might be some more economic opportunities, but ways of life that have remained unchanged for centuries are also at risk. It's scary times.

2. I just like this editorial from the Nunatsiaq News about violence in the community. We haven't seen much of it and that's because we're still leading fairly sheltered lives up here. But speaking as someone who lives above a bar, it's certainly no problem to hear the yelling and screaming from the bar, especially around closing time.

I know that's the case with almost any bar. Hell, it's certainly the case in St. John's. But you read this and you certainly become more aware of it. It's also proof that we still have a lot more to learn about our new home.

3. And on a completely shallow note, after this evening I will no longer have to tolerate the gentle mocking of my friends as Serenity finally opens in town.

They're not the best theatres in the world, but Astro Theaters aren't too bad. We're getting most movies within a month of their release and a not bad selection. Along with Serenity, we have Wallace and Gromit continuing (alas, The Corpse Bride only stayed a week. I thought it would be here longer, so I missed it), A History of Violence and The Greatest Game Ever Played are also opening.

I'll probably see all three of the opening films. And the selection of what's coming isn't too bad. I'm pleasently happy, I must say. I might even start reviewing again, albeit too late for it to really have any impact.

At some point,, perhaps this weekend, I'll also review what TV shows we've settled on this season, and why we're giving a pass on some of the other ones we tried out.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

How to pitch, part 2

So you’re getting ready to launch your book/play/CD/art show. It’s a week away. What should you do?

Panic because it’s already very, very late in the game. You should have started weeks ago. Stick up some posters, send in a few PSAs and hope for the best. Unless you're lucky and something fell through, most reporters will already be busy with other stories.

You should contact a reporter no less than two weeks before your event, but no more than four weeks. That’s your window for contacting media. More than a month and they might forget. Less than two weeks and they're probably busy. So there is your window.

How do I contact? Well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Before we get that far you have to decide who you’re going to contact. “Everybody” is a bit of a simple answer.

You have to weight the merits of the different forms of media. If you're reading this from outside Newfoundland, a bit of basic research will show you what media is available for you to contact. Here’s a breakdown of what’s available in St. John’s.

The Express
The Telegram
The Independent
The Current
The Herald
The Muse
The Downhomer

(This is not every station in town, but those who do occasionally talk to artists)
Oz Fm
The Coast

Here and Now (basically Carl Wells or The Beat)
NTV News (something with Toni Marie)
Out of the Fog

Everyone wants television because naturally you assume everyone is watching and you’re going to hit the broadest audience. TV has other advantages. If you’re a musician, for example, you can play a song so people can hear your music. If you’re in theatre, you can act out a scene.

There are disadvantages, however. You get a limited amount of time. Might only be 30 seconds. If you get five minutes, you’re lucky. And remember, because it’s popular a lot of artists are trying to get time there. So it’s quite competitive.

Also, how many people are watching? For the last few years, for example, CBC has been getting hammered by NTV in the ratings. So it’s great that Katie with The Beat is interviewing you, but how many are watching? It’s fantastic that Krysta on Out of the Fog is doing something on you, but it’s a cable show, so no one with a satellite is going to see you.

Other than CBC and VOCM, radio is a difficult format to get time on, especially if you’re not a musician. Most are busy playing music and not promoting local arts events. So good luck if you’re not a musician. Seriously. Other than CBC when was the last time you heard a painter, dancer or author on a radio station?

That leaves print. Which, of course, there are more pros and cons.

Another caveat here…if you think I’m going to say anything bad about my former paper, The Express, guess again. The paper has its strengths and it has its weaknesses. No one is more aware of them than me. But I will not criticize it. I spent four years there and the staff are my friends. If you have a problem, tough.

So what are a paper’s strengths? You can get a lot more space to articulate what you’re project is about. I find people are more relaxed when being interviewed and there isn’t a camera videotaping everything, so you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to look on TV. Also, most print reporters are pretty good. If you’re nervous or stuttering, you don’t have to worry about every um and ah getting put in print.

If you're nervous or shy, print is the best way to go when promoting your event.

A newspaper stays around longer. If people weren’t watching for those five minutes on NTV because they were channel surfing while waiting for Entertainment Tonight to come on, too bad, there was your shot. Although, I will say, if you’re on Out of the Fog people will see you ad nauseum because of how often the show repeats during the course of a week.

However, you can often find paper’s lingering around coffee shops, malls, etc for days after they come out. So people might pick up on it later.

Each paper in town also had its pros and cons. For example, The Express’s circulation is 40,000, it has a dedicated arts section and is distributed free to houses around town. Odds are, people are going to pick it up. But not every household gets one. The Independent is scrappy and controversal, but is still struggling with circulation problems. The Herald also has a solid arts section, but from what I hear, it also has circulation problems. The Current certainly gets attention with its creative covers, but it only comes out once a month. The Muse gets the university crowd, but few people off campus read it. The Downhomer has a big circulation, but most of it is out of province.

The Telegram, because it is the major daily, is the most popular. But unless things have changed since I left, they don't have a full-time arts reporter. So finding someone to talk to can be hard. Try Peter Jackson, who is the Lifestyles editor. He's your best bet.

So do your research into your media. Which ones offer the best advantage to your product? Are their particular reporters whose style appeals to you and you think would do a good job?

Dwell on this and then lay out which ones you’re going to pitch to. And remember, “all of them” isn’t as good an answer as you might think. More on that next time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

How to pitch, part 1

The more I think about this, the more I realize that this isn’t just “How to Pitch to an Entertainment Writer”, but more of a primer on what to do if you’re an artist and you want to prepare your media campaign. The pitch is an important part, but so is the groundwork you do ahead of the game. It increases your chances that people will interview you, notice your work and increase your visibility.

I appreciate that some of you are shy, hate being interviewed or getting your photo taken, but this is a necessary evil. You want people to notice your work. Media is one of the best ways to go about this. So you might as well try to enjoy it.

Just for the record, when I use the word “artist” over the next few posts, it refers to anyone in the arts – musicians, writers, actors, painters, dancers, etc. It's just for simplicity.

I’m going to mention Mark Vaughn-Jackson again. I’m not entirely comfortable doing it, but I suspect Mark has vented about this to enough people that I’m not breaking state secrets here. And I always had his words rattling around in my head when I was doing entertainment writing.

Mark gave up being an entertainment writer (and he was a good one) I suspect largely because he was bored and getting frustrated with the arts community.

If memory serves, the quote he told me was “It was getting to be ‘It’s the third week in March, it must be time for me to write yet another story on this particular festival.’” Which doesn’t sound too bad, unless you’ve written a story about the same festival for the past seven years. Then it becomes awfully dull. Without help, there are only so many ways to write the same story year after year.

Artists are generally oblivious to this, which is funny. You would think that as a group of creative people they would be aware of the danger of boredom in someone who depends on their imagination and skills to create a piece of work that people will read and enjoy. But they don't tend to be.

So the first thing to keep in mind is that entertainment writers want to write something interesting and captivating. And remember, for all the variety in the arts, odds are we’ve already written about it.

New record? There are about 50-60 new releases each year in St. John’s. I could literally write a story a week about a CD release. That gets boring in a hurry. New play? About one every two weeks. New book? I can write stories a week about book launches. New art exhibition. Easily one a week.

Up and coming bands looking for some attention, who are working on an album, but are going to be the next big thing? Oh dear Jesus, don’t get me started. Most of them break-up 10 minutes after they’re off the phone with me.

I’m being harsh, I know, but you have to realize this important point: an entertainment writer is someone who loves the arts, but its probably a bit bored and jaded. They think they’ve seen it all because, frankly, they’ve seen quite a bit. So you have to work to catch their attention. You have to be prepared. And way too often, artists aren’t.

You have to think of it this way – it’s not the Entertainment section, it’s the entertainment business section. Ninety per cent of the stories I wrote for Jiggs and Reels in The Express were people promoting a product, whether it was art, music, books, etc. If your product is going to succeed you have to put as much thought into marketing and promoting it as you did in creating it. Because if you can't make it exciting enough to make a reporter, with space to fill, want to write about it, then you're in trouble when it comes to getting the rest of the general public engaged.

And this is where most artists fail. They create it and then think magically people will flock to it. It doesn’t work that way. I wish it did.

So think what you want to do with your baby once it done. This means research. This means planning. And it means a lot more work.

Part 2 tomorrow - What media is best for you? And what are their strengths and weaknesses.

How to inflate your stats in a hurry...

....I've got two words for you....seal and hunt.

Over at Web Talk Newfoundland and Labrador they did a little poll on what people think about the seal hunt. Things were going as you might expect on a poll like that from a Newfoundland website until this past weekend. And then, well, Voila.

I don't argue the seal hunt anymore. It's not that I've changed my mind about it, it's just not worth it anymore. I've written numerous stories, editorials and columns on the seal hunt. I've gone online and argued it before. And it's genuinely not worth the spike in my blood pressure when I do it. I appreciate that I'm only 35 and maybe I shouldn't worry about having a stroke or heart attack. But if it happens in the next five years, odds are you'll find out I didn't listen to my own advice and I was off arguing about the seal hunt in the previous hours and that's what did it.

I gave up because they will never convince me and I will never convince them. It's like the old saying, "Why do you bang your head against the wall? Because it feels so good when I stop." I've been on a one-year endorphine rush ever since I stopped arguing with them.

Besides - and I know not all of them are like this - some of the meanest, rudest, most vicious, nastiest, most arrogant sons of bitches I have ever chatted with or met have been anti-seal hunt people. Keep in mind that I've been a journalist for most of the past 15 years. I've met some unpleasent people. Few have been worse than anti-hunt people.

So this is pretty much my first and only word on the hunt, for which my wife will be greatful. This is a small apartment. She doesn't need me walking around fuming and ranting....well, more than normal, at any rate...


Politically correct? Not even remotely. Still, kind of amusing. Of course, I immediately thought of Dups when I found this site. Can't imagine why...Perhaps it was the pimp costumes for Halloween (and other times, but we won't talk about that). Plus the kind-of-scary, boardline homoerotic fixation with Shaft that he has.

Still, if you want to know what your pimp name is, then go here.

For the record, mine appears to be Macktastic Welsh Shizzle.

My friends just call me Mactastic. But for the rest of you bitches, it be Mr. Shizzle.

Sigh I wonder what the odds are someone is going to gripe to me about this....

Monday, October 17, 2005

News comments...

Some random bits of snarkiness from the headlines:

1. Say, I wonder if Danny Williams' threat to quit the premiership and leave the Tories if Fabian Manning remained in the party might have anything to do with the caucus continuing to support his explusion?

"I just basically stood up and asked caucus what their feeling was, was there any change in position on Mr. Manning's status, and that hasn't changed," Premier Danny Williams said.

Sure they did, Danny. Just our curiosity, did they act anything like these toys when they were agreeing with you?

Sorry, I couldn't find a Tory bobblehead doll. And if I were better at Photoshop, I would change the hair colour and make it "The Danny" instead of "The Donald." But you get the idea. However, if some industrious person would like to make one that has one body and 32 bobbing heads, I think you might have a real selling item there by the time the next election comes around.)

2. What would happen if you threw a leadership contest and no one ran? Or how about if almost no one bothered to show up to vote? I wonder if that's what's behind the Liberal's decision to open up the voting rules for the leadership race next year?

I think it's great they've lowered the voting age to 15. I have no signifcant problem lowering the voting age in federal/provincial/municipal elections to 17 or even 16. And the bit that anyone, even if you're not a Liberal party member, can vote, really smacks of desperation. Yes, it's more democratic, but it still feels more like a desperate attempt to get some warm bodies in through the doors when the election happens. Nothing sadder than holding a race and nobody shows up.

As for Lush's assessment that they're not worried about non-Liberals trying to rig things, he has a good point. They shouldn't be. Why on earth would the Tories bother trying to rig it when Williams, barring a catastrophic collapse in the next two years, is going to annihilate the Liberals.

3. I'm curious as to how they did it. I was at the youth correctional centre this summer working on a story (fell apart just after I left the paper so it never ran) and got a tour. I was impressed with the level of security at the place and the measures they took. They also told me it had been years since there had been an escape. Ooops.

Then again, as one of the workers there told me (and I'm paraphrasing from memory): "I spend eight hours a day trying to make sure they stay put. They spend 24 hours a day trying to figure out how to escape." Guess the odds were going to balance out eventually. Pity the escapees didn't work a bit harder on the whole "Once we're free, then what?" aspect of the plan.

Depressing list

These type of lists always depress the hell out of me. I like to think I'm reasonably well read, but lists of great literary works always make me feel like I'm an illliterate. I haven't even heard of about a third of the books on this list. Dear lord.

One of the most depressing aspects of moving to Iqaluit was how many of my books (novels and graphic novels, never mind the 10,000 comics I have in storage) I had to leave behind. At a $1 a pound, it was too expensive to ship everything up, so only favourites could make the trip. Plus, well, we got a lot of Chapters money as wedding gifts, so we'll be stocking up quite a bit in the coming years.

I was pleased to see so much sci-fi/fantasy in the list, though. And the inclusion of Watchmen is astonishing, albeit pleasently so. If a comic was going to make that list, I would have guessed it would be Maus, which won the Pulitzer prize. But both are great literary works.

As for which books I've read on the list: Animal Farm, Beloved, Catch-22, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, Lolita, Lord of the Flies, Neuromancer, 1984, To Kill a Mockingbird, Watchmen.

Eleven isn't that great. I do have a copy of Snow Crash here that I've been meaning to read. And I'm sure Cathy would be thrilled if I read Lord of the Rings, but it's a point of honour at this point that I not bother. I've tried, it's crap. Good thing the movie is there to entertain me instead.

However, there are books on the list that sound interesting enough for me to consider picking up in the coming months. Something to check back on when I'm wondering what to order next from Chapters.

Well, that should surprise no one...

Once I saw this link on John Gushue's site, I knew It was going to do the test, and that the results would be terrifying. Turns out, I was right.

Comic book guru
You scored 89 Nerditude!
You know so much it's frightening.

You probably know what I mean when I talk about the Clone Saga. You probably even know what "lolfeld" means.

Hell, you're probably wearing Batman underoos right now. I know I am.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on nerditude
Link: The Comic book knowledge Test written by lamuella on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

I would be curious to see what answers I got wrong. I think I stumbled over a couple of the British questions (the quiz's creator undoubtably comes from England or is a big fan of writers from the UK). I started to laugh when I got to the hard questions and there was one there on the name of the web comic created by Warren Ellis that featured a character saying "stabby stabby Fucking stabby stabby." Because I knew it without thinking.

I haven't read a new comic in two months. I think I'm starting to lose it.

Yes, you should be scared. I am. I'm going to lie down right now.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Smoking kills...

...more than just people, apparently. Especially if you read this story. The Beverage Industry Association is reporting that at least four bars have closed since the smoking ban came into place.

When any new legislation comes into place, there are always surprises that you never expected. Even well written legislation can miss stuff. So when the smoking ban came into place back on July 1, I knew there would be a few surprises.

For example, people were still finding ways around it. I only go to a few bars, but I enjoyed the ways that both the Duke and the Ship snuck around it. Then again, people have been sneaking out of those bars to smoke things other than cigarettes for years (No one write to me complaining about this. It's not like I'm giving away a big secret here and if the RNC don't know about it, then they're idiots.)

The biggest unexpected surprise for me was how much more unpleasant it became to walk in front of bars. All the people who can't smoke in bars step outside for a smoke. It meant that walking down parts of Water Street and George Street was like a walk during a particularly foggy evening. Except this fog could give you cancer a few decades down the line.

But one thing that didn't surprise me was that some bars were going to close. Because there are always people who want to deny the current situation and turn back time. Always.

You were divorced from reality to have not seen this coming. Other cities in Canada have banned smoking in bars. Ireland banned it, for Christ's sake. So you had to know it was coming.

Maybe they did the following, but I have my doubts. But a smart association of businessmen would have negotiated the terms of surrender years ago. You know it's coming. You've tried to fight it. But governments and the general public want this. And least we forget, warp the statistics all you want, fewer than 25% of people smoke in Newfoundland anymore. So a sizeable majority want this. So why not make yourselves look good and agree to the smoking ban because you too have concerns about the health of your employees and customers. But before we do that, we have a few things we'd like to see changed. Y'know, to help us out while we take a hit for doing the right thing.

I know bars are overtaxed. They pay more to buy their booze than I would going to the liquor store. And that's just silly. The surcharge on booze is being rolled back over a number of years, but maybe they could have gotten it done in one year. I was at the budget announcement this year and the Beverage Industry Association, instead of saying we're glad to see it, complained about how long it was going to take. I saw Marcel Etheridge and a bar owner interrupt a Loyola Sullivan press conference on the smoking ban just for a bit of attention. It's the only reason I can think of do that because they certainly didn't make any friends in government that day.

No clue, I swear to God. I honestly wonder if the association is doing such a bad job, and being so obnoxious, that that's the reason why the provincial government started to reduce the number of VLTs. Just to put a few more screws into the association for pissing them off so much.

There were ways to gain concessions from the government. To make it easier for them to do business to compensate for the temporary loss of business that was going to occur with the ban. And this is temporary. It might take a year. It might take a couple of years. But after that, people will still be going to bars because they still want to be sociable, drink and have a good time.

They just don't want to deal with cigarette smoke. This is a reality. Smart businessmen would figure out a way to adapt to reality so their business could survive it. Less than cunning ones keep railing against it, even though it will do no good.

Hazard a guess which way the Beverage Industry Association is going. It seems damned and determined to continue to go down that later path, even if it means the last bar in the province closes to prove their point.

And I should feel sympathetic for them? No. People are losing businesses and jobs and that's too bad. But there were ways to avoid that. To compensate. Complaining about a done deal that isn't going to change, and that the majority don't want changed, doesn't strike me as the best business plan.

Finally, one more bit of advice to the Beverage Industry Association...really, seriously, hire another spokesman. Because Etheridge is about the most unsympathetic, generally obnoxious spokesman for any organization I've ever seen. He's terrible at his job. He makes me want to ban booze at bars.

A little bit of evil

I'm doing the relaxing thing with my wife this weekend...yes, technically when you're unemployed you're relaxing a lot more than normal. However, it's relaxing alone, which is kind of lonely. It's more enjoyable to relax with company.

However, I think I will post something this evening on the bitching bar owners have been doing on the smoking ban. I always enjoy writing about that.

In the mean time, here's a little bit of evil, courtesy of a link from Augie over at Various and Sundry. I got to level 7 so far and took a break, so I'll have another go at it later.

Oh, I did see Wallace and Gromit last night...cute. Not drop dead brilliant, but still quite cute. It did feel a little long and while there are few big felly laughs (I did laugh longer and harder at how you kill a were-rabbit than anyone else, but then again, I was older than 90% of the audience).

It'll likely get a nod for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year, but then again, it's a pretty weak year for animated movies. I'll watch the Corpse Bride later this week. And please, please, please let Serinity open on Friday. The coming soon poster for it is up. I'm going mad waiting.

Friday, October 14, 2005

That explains things

I was wondering why I was getting a spike in the number of people visiting my blog. I installed Statcounter to the site because I was genuinely curious to see who was visiting and why. It's pretty addicitive, really. I like popping around the numbers, seeing what's what.

So the increase over the past three days seems to be attributed to two things. First, I did a review of the new Great Big Sea record and when people are doing searches for GBS, I'm showing up somewhere down the line (waaaaayyyy down the line, but I'm there.) And secondly, Geoff Meeker, a media columnist with The Express mentioned me in his column this past week. So some fans of my Reload column (apparently they exist) are making their way over here.

Alas, I can't link to the column because it's not online. Which is a pity. I always liked reading Geoff's columns. Drop me a line and let me know what the latest media gossip is. Oh, and I'll try and keep the wit at the snarky, sarcastic and biting level to which you've become accustomed.

It's very weird know that people are reading this, and that the numbers seem to be increasing. I initially viewed blog writing much like I viewed writing for The Muse (don't bother with the link as they haven't done anything with the site in about a year. And just on the off-chance anyone at the Muse is reading this, there is no good goddamn excuse for not having that site up and running) which is to say you do it for the writing exercise and for a bit of the ego stroke, but you really don't believe anyone is actually reading.

I remember the first time I realized someone was reading my stuff at the Muse. It was two girls sitting in front of me on a bus, talking about what movie to see that night. One vetoed a suggestion because I trashed it the paper that week and she said I was normally right.

By the way, for the record, I think that is the first and only time I've heard a woman say that about me.

So even with the feedback and the stat numbers, I'm only just beginning to realize that, yeah, in short order, people seem to be swinging by. So I shall try my best to be at least mildly entertaining and diverting for the few moments you swing to my small corner of the net.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

It's coming, I promise

By the way, I am working on a post about how to to pitch to an entertainment writer. However, I am apparently working out a few issues in this article so its proving to be a wee bit longer than I anticipated. As in it's 2,000 words long so far and I have probably about another 500 words or so to go. And that's the first draft. Then I really ought to go through and cut some of the stuff. For example, do I really need to say some of the things I do about the pros and cons of different media outlets in the city as I know some of them are reading this blog.

I would anticipate it will be early next week before you see it. It will also run probably in about five parts so you don't have to slog through a 2,500 word post. That's just cruel. Blog writing is not unlike newspaper writing in at least one way - you have to be aware of the format in which your writing is being presented. So just like people won't read long paragraphs in newspapers, they won't in blogs (there is no hard and fast rule for this, but if I put more than five sentences in a paragraph when writing a news story, I will take another look at it to see if I can break it into more palatable bites).

And just like oceans of grey text will cause people to tune out, you need to either keep posts short, or break it up with images. Otherwise, people aren't going to read you.

And really, then why would you bother with this.

Easy to like...

Not that I think for a second they care or anything, but I've looked at Great Big Sea was coming close to suffering what I like to call SOTWS or "Spirit of the West Syndrome."

In the late 80s, early 90s SOTW was one of the biggest campus bands in Canada. Wanted a good time when going to a concert? You would be hard pressed to be SOTW during their prime. They were a great celtic influenced band with some rock elements.

But as the CDs progressed, the rock/pop inflluence increased. Which, oddly enough, also increased their popularity. Radio stations started to play their records and they caught lightning in a bottle with "Venice is Sinking". But that was the high water mark. Old fans got increasingly frustrated with the disappearance of the sound they loved to party to. And, well, depending on radio stations for your popularity is a fickle business. Yes, there's lots of money to be made by having your songs played on the radio. But it doesn't take much for them to turn on you. One record without radio friendly tunes and that's it.

So SOTW faded away. They lost their old fan based and the new ones acquired from the radio ebbed away.

And I wondered if the same thing wasn't happening to GBS. They'll deny it and grumble about it, but there it is. If you ask people in Newfoundland what they think of GBS's recent output there will be a general consensus that it isn't as good as the early stuff. And the difference? The early records were a lot more traditionally influenced; the new stuff a lot more popish and radio friendly.

So to curb the grumbling, GBS has put out an all traditional record "The Hard and the Easy." And understand, this is a risk for the band. Yes, people in Newfoundland will like it. OZ and the like will give it lots of airplay. But I'll be curious to see how much airplay it gets in Toronto or Vancouver. Not as much, I think. So financially speaking, this is a big chance. Then again, I don't know how many more pop records GBS's core were going to put up with before abandoning them. Call it a turning point for the band.

And you know what? It works. I've been playing the record consistantly since I downloaded it (from iTunes) on Tuesday. It's the most listenable thing GBS had produced in years.

I talked about risk earlier, and there is still risk in some of the song selections. They are all traditional, but there have been some very well known versions of these songs. "Come and I will sing you" was memorably covered by Figgy Duff. Ron Hynes did a great version of "Tickle Cove Pond". And so on. To give the band credit, those are two of the stronger songs, especially "Tickle Cove Pond".

However, these are not, to by recollection, dramatic reworkings of the songs. If you heard the Irish Descendents or Figgy Duff do any of these songs live, GBS's version is like going to be very familiar. Which is fine, but certainly be aware of it.

Perhaps my favourite song, and soon to be a favourite during shows, is "The Mermaid". It's pure raunch that you will never hear on radio (the song is about the downside of being with a mermaid), but it's hysterical. Give Sean McCann full credit. Vocally, he pulls it off. I'm not sure if it would have been as much fun with Doyle singing it. His voice isn't...salty...enough.

The album is also a mix. It's not all party and drinking songs. There are the slower, wistful songs, although there are no real tragic Newfoundland ballads where everyone dies or has something terrible happen to them. As close as you get to that are the aforementioned "Tickle Cove Pond" (did the mare survive?) and "Charlie Horse" really, if you're a horse, this isn't a great album. Bad things happen to horses on this record.

But for listeners, it's enjoyable. "The Hard and the Easy" is the best GBS record since 1997's "Play". It only took eight years, but it's better than never. After "Save This House" SOTW never did anything nearly as good as their first three records (Maybe with the exception of "Open Heart Symphony"). So GBS might beat the SOTWS yet and have a few more records in them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Last week I stumbled on to Nancy's blog where she was debating buying a new iPod Nano. I encouraged her because I think iPod's are wonderful, indispensible toys if you love music at all. Yes, I had my problems with my iPod fatally crashing and wiping out 3,800 songs (I still get weepy over that), however with a little work and luck I've managed to recover about 75% of the music I lost. I've also learned the value of a back-up hard drive, which I now have.

However, I said I wouldn't buy a Nano, as pretty as they are, because the drive was too small. Simply, 1,000 songs isn't enough for me. I like my 20 gig iPod which can hold about 4,500 songs. I like the idea of a portable radio station in my pocket, one that plays only songs that I like. I have literally gone months without hearing a song, forgetting that it was on my iPod, then hearing it and being pleasently surprised.

So I like the big iPods.

Which is why I love these...

Go here for more information.

Now, I'm not seriously considering buying one of these. My iPod is only a year old. Plus, you know, I'm an unemployed bum so I can't afford it. However, I will serious look at one of those - or whatever version exists then - in about a year's time. Thinner, can run video, better features, comes in black and has a much longer battery life. Oh yeah. If anyone out there has about $500 to drop and wants to buy me a Christmas/birthday/belated wedding gift one of those will be awfully nice.

Interesting idea, but no...

They apparently must be spiking the water in St. John's with an assortment of interesting chemicals since I left if these two can agree on the same thing. That being the government should renovate the Colonial Building and turn it back into the province's legislature and not a historical attraction that probably no one will visit.

The province certainly is taking its time in announcing what they're planning on doing with the three major spaces vacated by the opening of The Rooms. I (along with other reporters) have been asking for years what was going to happen to the Colonial Building, the Arts and Culture Centre, and the old Museum space on Duckworth Street.

The previous Liberal government dragged their feet on it. So did the current Tory one. It was always being "studied." There are elements of the arts community that would love to see more rehearsal space or possibly another small theatre in the vacated art gallery area. And, of course, there's a group that wants to see a library downtown and views the old museum has the perfect place for it.

They are fine ideas, including Hollett's idea for the Colonial Building if we lived in the land of infinite money. Which we do not. Well, you guys don't, anyway. I'm up north where money becomes something weird.

When I read the Colonial Building idea pitched by Hollett last night, I thought it was a great idea. Then I slept on it. And came to the conclusion that, no, not really. Fun idea, but an awfully expensive one.

I don't have dollar figures for what it would cost, but it certainly involve major renovations to the Colonial Building (Granted, ones that have to be done anyway), then moving all the MHAs to the new legislature and then major renovations to the Confederation Building to fill the void left by the departure of the HOA and all the government members. And least we forget, the government already spent a small fortune on the HOA within the past five years when they wired it for television broadcasts.

So what would be the cost for that? At least $5 million I should think. Probably closer to $10 million. I'm pulling numbers out of my ass here, so God only knows what the cost would be. Perhaps more.

But here's one number I'm not pulling out of my ass - the number of times the House of Assembly sat in 2004: 60. According to Hansard, that's how many times the government could be bothered to open the House for business. Keep in mind that's not how many times each member actually went or did some real work. That's how many times the doors were open.

It's also not a particularly low number in our province's recent history. Grimes was just as bad for it. So was Tobin. Can't recall what Wells was like, but I'm sure Ed can tell me. I recall doing a research on a story a few years ago comparing how many times our HOA sits compared to other provinces. We were among the lowest in Canada if memory serves. It's also not likely to change anytime soon since, again if I recall properly, our current premier has expressed frustration about what a waste of time the HOA is as no real work gets done and he could spend his time better, doing more important things.

So I like the idea of renovating the Colonial Building and turning it back into the legislature...if only I didn't know how little it would be used anyway, how much it was going to cost, and all the other things that money could be better spent on.

Oh, and while we're spending magic money, I love the idea of a downtown library. Granted, the province can't find the money to give enough books to the already existing libraries in the province. Also the one in the Arts and Culture Centre is in such physically bad shape that it has to close during really hot summer days because it's against the law to make employees work in such unhealthy heat.

So yeah, not seeing that downtown library happening when the rest in the province have a few issues to take care of first.

As for the new rehearsal space in the ACC...sure, why not. Shouldn't cost that much.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Great Big Sprawl

The apartment is pretty much as good as it's going to get at this point. The exercise bike has been put together, which was the last piece. Everybody in Iqaluit has an exercise machine of some sort. Go figure. Perhaps people don't feel like going outside unless they have to when the temperature is -50.

We also have all the plants set up in one location, along with the humidifier and natural light lamps. A little greenery goes a long way to cheer the apartment up. Plus, we're hoping the plants might absorb some of the cigarette (and recently dope) smoke. Faint hope, but dare to dream.

Once everything was put away we finally had time to take the car and drive around the community. Even though we've been here for about six weeks, we've only seen a portion of it. So that meant taking the car up over the hill and out into the burbs. And yes, Iqaluit has burbs.

There are a lot of new houses being built in the community. And mostly nice ones. Although it's easy to spot the demarcation line of what Iqaluit was like when it was part of the Northwest Terrorities and when it became a separate territory. The older part of Iqaluit, which we live on the edge of, is a lot more run down looking. Some of the business buildings are new and modern, but a lot of the housing isn't.

But once you go up the hill, there's a modern new school and a ton of new houses. A few standalones, but a lot of town houses.

It reminds me, in a weird way, of growing up in Virginia Park. I appreciate most of you won't get the reference, but I moved to Virginia Park (Little Havana, according to some RNC people, because of the drugs and violence in parts of it) when I was five years old. It's when the subdivision was still being built. So there were lots of new townhouses and a few standalone place. And lots of mud and dirt roads as the place was still being built.

So it felt eeriely familar as I was driving through it. And it really is an unorganized sprawl. You build where you can, which means it's all over the place. I forgot to grab a pic of the Road to Nowhere. Maybe later the week.

On an unrelated note, I downloaded (via iTunes) the new Great Big Sea record this morning. I've listened to it twice so far. Give me another listen or two and I'll do up a review in the next day or so.

Entertainment writing was always one of those dicey things with The Express. I remember running into Mark Vaughn Jackson (former entertianment writer with The Telegram) and asking why he gave it up to became a desk editor. After all, it sounded like a pretty cool job. Interview musicians, actors, writers, etc and do stories about it. Get free stuff and go to shows for nothing. How bad that could be?

I believe Mark's answer was "You'll find out for yourself soon enough." And he was right, to a degree. it is a fun job and there are a lot of perks to it. Covering the Junos and the ECMAs were great experiences. But it's also harder, and more tedious, than it looks. And there is the unwritten rule of local entertainment writing - Thou Shalt Not Criticize the Local Talent. Which can drive you nuts. Honestly, when was the last time you read something that criticized a local record or theatrical production?

I did it occasionally, but I should have done it more.

Also, local arts people have almost no clue about how to pitch a story to a newspaper. There is an intrinsic belief that if you have a new show coming out or a new record that that is a newsworthy event. It isn't. God only knows how many plays open in St. John's each year, but it's got to be between 50-100. According to some old MIA stats, there is about 60-80 new CDs each year by Newfoundland artists. It...isn't...a...story.

Off the top of my head I can only think of three people who knew how to pitch a story and be persistent about it in the local arts scene: Donna Butt, Aiden Flynn and Bonnie Leyton. The rest, no clue.

One of my regrets is that I always swore, while with The Express, that I was going to do a workshop on how to pitch a story to an entertainment reporter, because so few knew how to do it. Perhaps that's something I'll work on and post in the next week or so. Just on the off-chance anyone from the local arts scene is reading this.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Heavy lifting

I've mentioned sea lifts what does it mean?

Well, most of the boats that arrive here carrying stuff come from Montreal or, more specifically, Valleyfield. You might get them from other places, but that's where the majority seem to arrive from. You can order groceries through Montreal and have them shipped up. Or, if you're like us, you can also have personal belongings sent to Montreal and have them sent up via boat.

We did both. And they arrived in three ships. The first boat arrived in late August. The other two boats - one carrying our groceries, the other carrying the car and our personal belongings - arrived about 10 days ago. So what do one of these boats look like?

There they are, waaaayyy off in the distance. They can't get much closer that than because Iqaluit has no real port. There is a wharf for small fishing boats, but nothing for the larger vessels. The difference between high tide and low tide in the harbour is about 10 metres. That means the boats can't get any closer.

There's talk about building a deep water port for the area, but it's several years off. So until then, the only way to get cargo from the boats to the community is by using barges to carry it from the boats to the beach. LIke so...

They only have a few hours a day to do this. This is pretty close to high tide. At low tide, the beach looks more like this...

So once the barges are unloaded, the stuff is piled up on the beach until it can either be delivered or picked up. We've had a couple of boxes delivered before, but with the incident Saturday morning, we got the crates on the beach and transported it back to the apartment. By the way, I'll just note that these are about a quarter of the size of the boxes that carried our personal belongings. So they would have been relatively easy to take apart, unlike the one I had to disassemble on Thursday.

Of course, not everyone picks up there stuff and transports it by truck or tractor. Some of the boxes are carted off to mining camps inland. Only one way to do that...

And that's pretty much us for us now. We have everything that we shipped up. Most of it is put away or assembled. I'll take some photos of that tomorrow and perhaps but them up on the blog. We're about as set-up as we're going to get. Which means, of course, we're going to start ordering the stuff we didn't think of. Like another lamp for the living room. And a good air purifier to try and curb some of the cigarette smoke. The plants, small purifier and lit candles aren't making much of a dent.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Bandits of Iqaluit

What a day…

8:15 a.m. – Cathy wakes me up with a “Oh, please you’ve got to be kidding me.” As I debate, in my newly awoken stupor, what she’s talking about, it becomes readily apparent. At this ungodly hour of the morning, our neighbour (not the ones having sex all the time loudly against our bedroom wall) has started playing music. Really, really loud.

And not just any old music. No, they’re playing the soundtrack to Top Gun. Seriously. Top… Fucking… Gun. And not just one of the hits like Take My Breathe Away or Danger Zone. The entire soundtrack. Who the hell still has the soundtrack to this movie 20 years later? And why would you acknowledge this fact to the world by playing it loud? At 8:15 in the morning?

8:45 a.m. I’m seriously considering murder or wondering if I can appeal to a Human Rights Tribunal for cruel and unusual punishment as Danger Zone kicks in for the second time when the phone rings. Cathy gets it. While I’m not part of the actual conversation, I think it went something like this.

Cathy: Good Morning! (No, really. She has a perky voice when answering the phone early in the morning.)
Shipping Company Guy: Hello, I’m looking for Mrs. Welsh.
Cathy: This is she.
SCG: We just wanted to let you know that your sealift came in last night.
Cathy: Brilliant!
SCG: However, there is a problem. Some people broke into your crates last night and there are items missing.
Cathy: Oh, brilliant (Rough translation” “Motherfucker!”).
SCG: So we need you to come down to the beach and identify what might be missing and let us know. And then you need to report that to the police.
Cathy: Ok, we’ll be down shortly.

All of this before 9 a.m. on a Saturday. And I don’t drink coffee.

Actually, it turned out to be not nearly as bad as it could have been. One of the first things they tell you when you have a sealift coming in is to get it as soon as its on the beach, or have it delivered right away. Because if you leave it down there, they will break open the cases and steal stuff.

Don’t ask why there is no security on the beach to prevent them from doing that. It’s just one of those northern things.

However, because they’ve been so backlogged the last week or so, and the case probably came in late, it stayed there over night. We didn’t know it was in until this morning. We’ve been expecting it all week.

So some kids, around 14-17 according to the RCMP, broke into a bunch of cases looking mostly for booze. We didn’t have any shipped up, although there was some tins of tomatoes put in a Grand Marnier box. Apparently they weren’t happy to find tomatoes instead of booze so the cans went flying across the yard.

Oh, and they ate most of my chocolate bars. Bastards. Stupid ones at that. The police caught them pretty quick but, you know, not quick enough to save my chocolate.

The good news in this is that we would have had to spend $120 to have the wooden crates shipped up to the apartment, and then spent a couple of hours breaking them down to take to the dump. Because the crates were damaged, the shipping company would have had to repair them before moving them to us. Instead, they lent us a pick-up and let us load up all the stuff ourselves and transport it back to the apartment. So we saved a lot of money and time, really.

Almost worth the loss of the chocolate, a few cans of pop and some orange juice. Reporting it to the police was comical. We had to report the loss of 17 chocolate bars, 5 cans of pop and a 1L of orange juice. Still, we were told to report it, so we did.

Everything is just about packed away now. Just about every nook and cranny has something wedged in. But I think we’re barricaded away for the winter.

But you know what the scariest part of the day was? When we got back to the apartment with the first load of boxes around 10:30 a.m., the neighbours were still playing the Top Gun soundtrack. Oh my dear lord…

Friday, October 07, 2005

Behold, strong kung-fu

I stumbled onto John Rogers site about a year ago. He was working with British author Warren Ellis in trying to get Ellis graphic novel Global Frequency made into a TV show. Sadly, the pilot was never picked up, although if you hunt around bittorrent sites you can probably find it. I recommend it highly. It had flaws, most TV pilots do. But it also had tremendous potential.

Anway, Ellis pointed the way over to Roger's blog. I was dubious since among the man's writing credits are screenplays for The Core and Catwoman (Dear Jesus). But one of the first things I read on his blog was this bit of genuis. It made me jump back from my computer and go "Yes, exactly. I might not always have liked those people, but I understood the need for them. Where the hell are they?"

Since then Rogers blog has been among my favourites online. Along with offering solid writing tips, there's also advice on selling your pitch to Hollywood (not like I'm going to need it, but still interesting), plenty of geek stuff and some outright hilarity.

There's also politics. His latest on George Bush's speech of Oct. 6 about Islamic threats is priceless. Go read it here.

"I am not spotting him eight hundred million Hindus. I call shenanigans." Brilliant.

Oh, and on the off-chance that my friend Karin - sadly trapped in deep in the heart of Republican Nebraska - is reading this, you might want to order one of those t-shirts he's talking about.