Updated Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Glorious Abyss

Happy Black and Orange day!

Call me old-fashioned, but I remember growing up in a time when All Hallow's Eve was actually a time of fun and excitement - being let loose to run free in the night, to be scared silly by neighbours and strangers alike, to explore a world that was normally NOT MINE.

I was a kid and the world of 'past 9pm' outside was a stranger to me - and like any brazen young kid in a mask and plastic Freddy claws, I reveled in the exploration. Me and my friends would run through graveyards, daring the dead to eat us - screeching when the older kids would jump up from behind tombstones to try and steal our candy.

Sometimes they did too. I remember a few Halloween's coming home with next near to nothing because we'd been a little too boisterous in our tempting of the fates - or in this case, the 16 year olds. And though it sucked, we knew that this was the price of admission - not that you WOULD have your candy stolen but that you COULD. We'd all heard stories, we all knew people who'd had it happen, but we didn't care. The ADVENTURE is what called to us.

Halloween is like my Christmas. No, scratch that, Halloween IS my Christmas. The one holiday of the year where I remember being and feeling free. Free to run through the streets at 10pm, tatters of a ghost costume whipping in the wind behind me, begging for candy from strangers. No parents, no rules, no fear.

No fear.

In a time where so much could go so wrong, in a place and time where we would be the most vulnerable, we had no fear. On this one night, in this one place, this one unwritten rule was respected above all others - yes, even the candy thieves. From house to house we went, doing our best to scare our neighbours into giving us the REAL treats (the pop and chocolate!) instead of the crappy bowl by the front table. But we never felt fear. These strange people greeted us with spooks and smiles but we never knew any real cause to fear them.

Our world has changed since those days and so many of us live in fear of the people next door - at least, that's the sense I'm getting as I hear parents at work talk about sending their kids out alone for Trick or Treating. But if you look hard enough, you can see it, see it in the parent's eyes. The sadness. The remembrance of what Halloween used to be and the frustration that their kids can't know that same rush of freedom and innocence.

Then again, maybe I'm projecting.

Maybe Halloween has always just been about the candy and I found something deeper in it. Hidden in the darkness, a celebration of everything good about Humanity. A deep bond of trust for a kid growing up in an untrustworthy world; A night of acceptance and freedom and excitement free from the world of order, where screaming into the abyss was expected and encouraged above all things.

And when the night was over, when our arms ached and our pillowcases bulged, when the last light went out, we scampered across the pavement - soaking in the sweetness of rotting leaves and damp earth, following the trails of moonlit pavement to the warmth of our homes. The safety of our own front door where we returned as kings with treasures from far off lands.

No thing has ever tasted so sweet as that first victorious chocolate bar, that single wrapped caramel. And though my mom was careful to take it away from me, put it high up so that I wouldn't gorge myself to sickness (which I would've done, natch) - she was always careful to allow me to enjoy the experience, to feel that sense of success, to taste sweet victory before being ushered up the stairs and off to bed.

I see this day, the fear people share for it - and I understand it. It's the fear of the unknown, it's the fear of the darkness, the fear of each other. Yet, I believe, that now is when we must face those fears together. When we should send our kids out into the world, to learn about it, to explore it and revel in their freedoms - even if it is only for one night.

Because, deep down, that's why Halloween was created. We need that release. We need a night to buck the system, to stretch our voices and our legs, to be out there, tactile in the world and maybe - just maybe - have a chance to make up our own minds about what to be scared of.

Happy Halloween all,
Brandon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Life Lesson #741

I went out to Playback's Innovators Forum today; Took a day off work to attend what promised to be a very interesting session with some very interesting writers. Long story short (and without dropping too many names) I got to meet some great writers who were more than happy to answer my questions and share their experiences in the industry.

All-in-all, I have to say that it was a pretty positive experience from beginning to end.

With one minor exception. You see, I kinda screwed up.

There was one writer I was really interested in talking to, one that I'd been researching - trying to think of good questions to ask and cool things to talk about: Mr. James Manos Jr. - Creator of a little show called Dexter.

So, good news: I did my research and when I saw him walking around amongst the crowd, I mustered my courage and approached him. Big smile, big handshake. "Excuse me, are you Mr. Manos?" To which he replied "Yeah I'm Jim Manos". He seemed very cool, very chill and so I proceeded to try and chat with him.

Bad news: I bombed big time. I'm not exactly sure where or how it happened but I got about two questions out before felt enveloped by this wave of self-conciousness. All the questions I had in my mind went blank and, frankly, I panicked. Not entirely sure why I did, but let's just say I got an insight at how good LA Writers are at extracting themselves from awkward situations.

He politely downed the rest of his coffee, looked at his mug, said "excuse me for a moment" and disappeared. It was then that I had the sudden burst of self-awareness that as he walked away, well, he wasn't coming back.

Not that I blame him at all, he saw the fear in my eyes and took off. I would've done the same.

I've been thinking a bit about it - why was I suddenly so intimidated by this guy? Was it that he had made a show that I was a fan of? Was it that I was standing before someone who'd somehow made it to where I want to be (creator of his own show?)? Was it simply nerves?

Or maybe it was the fact that I knew too much - had invested too much or expected too much - to simply let a conversation be just that: a conversation.

Anyways, I don't want to self-analyse too much - or beat myself up about it - but I will say this: I learned 3 very important things from him in that very short meeting.

1) He didn't start writing until 35 and he never went to writing school.
2) When asked, his main piece of advice (outside of "don't get into this business") was to get out there and live life, meet characters and gather material for your stories. On a side note, it's something I can agree with in principle, but I'm not going to put the career I want on hold for 10-20 years just to go backpacking around the world.
3) There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to handle a conversation. The deer in headlights look - well, it's a bit of a momentum killer.

I guess you could also say I learned a bit about the art of getting out of awkward situations. I don't really drink coffee... but maybe I should start.

In other news, I had a really insightful chat with Peter Rowley about pitching shows and how best to find the core of what you're trying to sell. I'd been coming at it from the angle of all these cool things that I'd wanted to have happen, all these sweet details and twists I'd worked out for the season and I was getting frustrated trying to fit it all into my pitch (let alone my logline).

Peter was honest and he said something that made a scary bit of sense. Essentially it went something like this: 'Even if they hire you to make your own show, what they really want is you, they want your voice and everything else - any episodes you've written, bios, bibles, etc. - is in the trash. They want to have input, they want to re-break it from the ground up.'

So, what it forced me to do was pull everything off it and ask what my show is really about. What is at the core?

Outside of all the Horror and creepy stuff, outside of the darkly comedic tinges, it's about our quest for self-discovery; about the family we make for ourselves along the way. The family we get to choose.

Now that I've got the beat sheet done and the rough outline's in the bag I'm starting to feel pretty confident about starting my first draft. I know what I want, the steps are there, the flesh is on the bones - now it's just a matter of trying to find the lightning with which to zap this thing.

Will it live? Guess only time will tell.

Cheers,
Brandon

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Post-Writing High

I am literally shaking with excitement. I've just managed re-break my show Savage Knights into a one-hour pilot.

Those who know me know I've been struggling with this thing for damn near 3 months, trying to figure out how to fit all 2 hours of the story I wanted to tell into a 1 hour pilot.

I woke up this morning deciding to go all in - I was going to beat this sucker down if it killed me. So I started re-reading my pilot script for the 30th or 40th time and that's when it hit me - that's when I realized that I had been wasting this fantastic opportunity. You see, in my original script the teaser is this really cool setup for a story but in my rush to tell the bigger picture, I ended up starting the story 6 months later. (and, as Peter Rowley put it after reading it, somehow crammed 3 seasons worth of story into 2 hours...)

I had set up this great emotional resonance and then lopped it off at the wrist by jumping so far ahead.

So I sat here asking myself: why not follow this scene into act one?

And it was like the cork popped off the barrel. It came gushing out of me in a fucking torrent. Holy Shiat.

I've been writing ever since - just finished my beat sheet. It is awesome. It's like everything i wanted to say came out of me onto the page, I found less clunky ways to set things up, I found ways to reveal things in ways that were more relevant to the characters.

It's just so much cleaner - leaner, faster.

I'm giddy - absolutely high as a kite right now as I re-read this thing.

Though I can't help but feel kind of mad at myself too because the answer was so simple. I've been killing myself trying to figure out how to make it all work, how to move things this way or that, how to condense things.

In the end I just shoved it all aside and continued telling the story I wanted to tell, letting everything else come out when it felt right.

And it works! Oh man. I haven't felt this good in a long time.

Okay, I'm off to work on the outline now. Gotta start to build on these bones.

But seriously, Holy Crap!!

Cheers!
Brandon

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Let's talk promotions

I've heard this one screeched from the back-benches for quite a while now, how Promotion in Canada is HARD. How we kill our own productions by sinking money into them to make'em but not to promote them.

Let me just say, right now, that promotion in Canada isn't Hard. I can tell you this from experience that it's the easiest thing in the world, it just requires leg-work and passion. There's no complicated formulas, there's no aligning of stars, it's just a matter of getting out there and beating the streets.

Canada is a different beast than the States, we don't 'clump together' in the same ways. We don't have the same interests. We don't have the same view of 'sales'. The moment we hear a sales pitch, our hackles go up. Just ask any telemarketer how hard selling things on the phone is in Canada versus the US. I've been a telemarketer, let alone a door-to-door salesman, and I can tell you that we're quite a suspicious lot.

You have to campaign from a place of passion in Canada; grass-roots, word-of-mouth.

It takes far more time to promote something here. And I think that's something people don't understand. You need months, not weeks, to build interest in Canadians. A steady drumming or undercurrent. The American markets can cheat this by brute-forcing it. They have the money to bombard you until you don't have a choice but to let it enter your skull.

We don't.

Promotions in Canada, good, solid promotions, take time.

And that's why I think if we're making a show in Canada, if it's something we think people should be watching, we should be out there banging on doors. Whenever we're not writing we should be fighting with radio stations and TV stations to let us come on and talk about it. Hit the free University radio stations, they LOVE to have a reason to promote things.

I just found out last night that there's a Season 2 of Durham County in the works. A whole other 8 episodes coming down the pipe. I don't know about you, but I LOVE this show. I think it's one of the best things we've ever had on Canadian Television.

How the hell is this not national news? Why aren't people spreading the word? Pushing the box set? Getting off their asses?

You can't just write it or direct it or produce it or broadcast it and turn the page.

What kills me the most is the simple lack of business acumen that's going on out there. These people are literally throwing away money. Seriously, grab a handful of cash and torch it.

Royalties, DVD sales, Ad Space, you name it.

How can people be saying that they're in the 'business' without understanding that fundamental connection? That watering the plant now brings fruit tomorrow?

And that's why articles like James Adams' "Gross's Passion No Porky's" pisses me the fuck off.

Promotion takes work. So when I see an article that seems only designed to slam the film - one that's not even a review; that literally starts off by calling the film a 'failure' - it's a stake in the heart and a slap in the face to all the people who worked on it.

Never mind the content - I haven't seen it yet, won't judge - the film pulled in $847,522 in Canada in its opening weekend. Not too damn shabby. THAT deserves some respect, if not for the film and the people who made it then for the audience who paid that money to go and see it.

I mean, hey if you saw the movie and you think it sucks, that's your bag. Write a review.

But don't go out there and slam a film that EARNED it's 2nd place opening.

I've written a little protest piece - inspired by Karen's urgings on Ink Canada - to see if we can't help undo some of the damage done.

PAUL GROSS HAMMERS OLIVER STONE
George W. better watch his back, the Canadians are coming and only the forces of Heaven and Hell seem able to stop them.

Bounding up to the number 2 position in it's opening weekend - stopped only by the hallucinogenic Heaven/Hell flick 'Max Payne' - Passchendaele kicked sand in the face of Oliver Stone's presidential bio-pic W. as it blew past the competition.

The Canadian film by director-actor Paul Gross pulled in a solid $847,522 in its first weekend, leaving W. limping into 6th position with $601,240 (Source: http://www.tribute.ca/movies/boxoffice.asp)

"We're thrilled with the box-office," said Carrie Wolfe, Alliance vice-president of marketing, publicity and promotion, yesterday in Toronto. "Canadians across the country have embraced the film".

Though not everyone is lining up to join in the celebration, some chose a more introspective and some might say 'modestly-Canadian' approach to mark the occasion.

"Is it a commercial blockbuster like a Quantum of Solace [the new James Bond film opening Nov. 14]? It's not - but I don't think it was intended to be," says Howard Lichtman, a veteran Toronto-based box-office analyst. "If you take the just-under million dollars it generated and divide that by the average ticket price, there's still an awful lot of people that went to see a Canadian piece of history. Which isn't too bad."

Passchendaele is in theatres now across the country.

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Sweet Side of the Bitter Pill

The Harper Minority did not earn itself a mandate last night - but I would dare say that the Arts and Culture community has.

In an election where we (writers, musicians, key grips, sculptors, painters and more) were successfully played against the masses as "effete elitists" we learned, first-hand, just how wide the disconnect between 'Arts' and 'ordinary Canadians' has become.

And yet in the wake of it all a new challenge has been laid before us - a challenge I think we all should be more than happy to accept.

You see, having talked to the people I know, having scanned MANY of the CBC message boards (and weeded out the Trolls) there's still a disconcerting amount of people in this country - otherwise active, engaged Canadians - who just don't 'get' what we do.

And if those who're active and engaged in the system don't seem to understand our role, how then can we hope that those with little interest are faring better?

Plainly, that is something we're going to have to change. We can't just be jumping together, rallying at that CBC when the threat looms large - and, to be clear, I don't mean that as any sign of disrespect.

I just believe that we have to keep that threat from ever gathering in the first place.

I've also come to understand that we're going to have to do that with gentle nudges, not sledgehammers (something I admit I've been guilty of as I flailed around and tried to catch my bearings). We're going to need concerted efforts by us all to maintain an active presence in the lives of the people we hope to entertain.

Because, even if we get rid of the emotional side of things, the 'beauty of Art' arguments - hell, it just makes good business sense. We who are trying to make a living off of entertaining CANADA and CANADIANS should know our market more and know our market better.

Essentially, we need to do what we do best: Communicate and Listen.

Go grass roots.

And I don't mean to take away from those who're already doing that (I'm looking at the Department of Culture and Vote for Environment who both brought forth valiant efforts and should be proud) - I mean to take a solid look at what's working and what's not. Where was Harper's divisive message the most effective? Who was he targeting and why did it work?

Hey, maybe we need to get more Stompin' Tom out there (did anyone think to ask him what he thought of being called 'elitist'?).

The good news is that we don't have to rush this. We don't have to take our already battle-weary bodies and hoist them up and try to mount a decisive front against Harper's assault. We don't have to hastily educate our own about how they're under direct attack and why they should care.

We don't have to try and undo years (or decades) of passive indifference in 37 days.

Now is the time for us to rise to the challenge we have been given.

We've been told, in one way shape or form, that we need to do better. We need to reach these people and show them that the Arts are as essential as the weekend. As essential as the chance to escape our daily and weekly burdens. That it's relevant and fun and needed - that it truly is the voice of the 'ordinary Canadian' even if there really isn't an 'ordinary Canadian' anymore.

Now more than ever we've been told exactly what we need to do - and not many are lucky enough to be sent such a clear message.

We need to connect.

Lucky for us: That's what we do.

Yes, the real work is just beginning - but somehow, I can't help but find that new-found purpose exciting. It's not going to be pretty, its not going to be easy, but change - real change - rarely is at first. It's time to dig in and start rebuilding the roads.

Cheers to everyone who gave a damn and still chooses to.

It's not a fight, it's not a battle, it's not a war.

It's a realization.

And time is on our side.

Brandon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

1 hour and 20 minutes

until I can jump outta here and go cast my vote.

Hope you've already paid a visit to the polls.

Anyone have any interesting stories to share?

Cheers!
Brandon

Monday, October 13, 2008

At the end of the day, it's all about you

I got an interesting letter this weekend and I can't quite get it out of my head. As it's rather timely, I wanted to post it here. I've written to the writer of said letter for permission to post it and so, until I've gotten full permission, I'm taking all personal details out of it (and they'll probably remain out unless given the go-ahead to post in its entirety).
______________________

Hey Brandon,

I'd like to comment on something you wrote on your blog last week about the Canadian leader's debate.

I watched most of the debate online last weekend, and I have to say that if the Conservatives are elected again, with a majority or a minority, it'll be a sad day for Canada.

I live in an area and a province that is without question a have not area. Many believe that the area will do better if we elect someone who's party gets into government. Here's where I face a dilemma. The Conservative candidate in my riding is someone who is very smart and, if elected, has the potential to do great things for [us]. I took a Leaders and Leadership distance course from her last year, and I got a good mark in the course. I think she can be a great leader and represent [us] very well on a federal level.

However, I have to look at the big picture. A vote for [her] is a vote for Stephen Harper. Like many smart Canadians, I do not like Stephen Harper or the downward direction that Canada has been going in under the Conservatives since 2006. I watched clips of the debate last week, and I think it's quite clear to me that Stephen Harper is apathetic and does not give a fuck towards Canadians. I've said in the past that Stephen Harper is a very calm and collected politician, but there is a difference between being calm and collected and being outright apathetic towards the general public and not acting in the public's best interests. Harper is guilty of the latter.

Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, Elizabeth May (I can dream, can't I?), it doesn't matter. As long as one of those those leaders gets elected to be PM on Tuesday, I'll be a happy guy. Anybody other then Harper has the potential to reestablish Canada as a great and proud country, both here at home and abroad.

Unfortunately, my Conservative Candidate has a very real chance of getting elected as a MP come Tuesday. After 8 years of being represented by a Liberal, many will see the need to elect someone new. Hopefully there will be some who will see the big picture and vote for someone other then a Conservative.

Which federal party has the best chance of defeating the Conservatives next week? My gut says the Liberals but I think the NDP will do well too. I haven't looked at the recent polling numbers, but I know that Harper is losing support over recent gaffes he's made.

Anyway Brandon, thanks for letting me rant.
__________________________________

Hey [ ]!

Yeah, that right there is one of the shitty things about our democracy - we can have a say in the party, but not the leader - that's where things get problematic.

In this situation it's easy to talk about things like strategic voting and pushing for any party over the Conservatives. And while I personally feel it's right at this juncture, there's another side to that story - a local side that will be felt far more acutely than one or the other Steve getting into power.

Maybe the Conservative at the local level is a good person, maybe the Liberal/NDP/Green running is an obnoxious prick who doesn't deserve or hasn't earned your vote.

What then?

I've come to realize that at the end of the day you have to do what's right for you, what you believe to be true. Maybe [your Conservative Candidate] will do great things for your town, maybe - just maybe - she's the kind of politician that also follows her heart and would be willing to stand up to her leader.

What you have to try and do - and I know this is hard - is to gauge the amount of leader within your leader. If push comes to shove - say Harper explicitly says "screw [your town]" is she the kind of person to say "no, screw you" or fall in step with the party line?

It's not an easy thing to figure out, someone's moral fiber - the strength of their character, but it's the first thing you should look at. If you know - and feel certain in your heart and mind - that this person will have your back... well then it doesn't matter what colour she flies. If she's a strong leader she will stand up for [your town] and stand up to Stephen Harper when she knows he's doing something wrong (in fact, that's something you should ask her about!).

As a citizen, it's your duty - if you help elect her, or anyone, really - to make sure they are sticking up for you. To offer them feedback, both positive and negative, on how they're doing their job so that they can be the best kind of leader they're capable of. (I know, positive feedback for a politician!?)

It's not always easy, not always something we have the time for - but that's why its a task meant for a society, not just one person.

Anyways - my best advice is to seriously look at her, call her up and ask her a few questions. If you're considering voting for her, you have every right to her time and she will gladly make it for you (especially this late in the game when every vote matters!). If not, if you're not important enough to talk to on a phone or in person, then you have a pretty good idea of what you can expect in the future.

I wish you the best of luck. Politics is never easy (I've been learning that like crazy this last year, especially the last few months), but as long as your candidate has made you feel good about your choice, that's all that matters.

Cheers!
Brandon

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Kind Of People We Want To Be

Yesterday I managed to sneak out of work for an hour or so to attend the WGC/ACTRA Rally for the Arts and I bumped into a few smiling faces but mostly a whole lot of people I've never met before. I mean that in a good way, by the way, as it really did give me a hint of the scope of things as they stand. Combine the mass of passionate, proud Canadians with the signs and cameras and Chinese dancing dragons and... well, yeah, it was quite a sight.

And though there were a lot of speeches and lots of wonderful points made and lots of facts and figures expounded upon - there was one speech that really knocked it out of the park for me. A collection of ideas and themes that just hit home like none of the others did.

Maybe it was because it spoke to my inner idealist, maybe 'cause it vibed with the hope and love I have for my country. But when those words came out, it sparked something in me - especially this bit:

"There's so much about this country that makes it great and we all don't talk about it - but when we do, when we talk about it, THAT is culture. Culture is Canadians talking to each other about the kind of country, the kind of people we want to be". - Denis McGrath

And there, in the crowd, surrounded by artists of every stripe, I found myself getting angry - not at them, not at his words or even what they meant. I found myself getting angry at the frustration in the eyes and voices around me - that this shit even needed to be said at all.

It's something I've been feeling for a long time - even before I chose to become a writer. Back when I was a struggling promoter, trying to help young independent Canadian artists, musicians and filmmakers get noticed in Toronto.

An uphill battle to be sure, but it was fun - and sometimes heartbreaking - work.

Yet it still kills me, every time, when I hear someone I know tell me that there's no opportunities for artists in this country. To hear people who're just starting out - or otherwise - tell me that they're going to go to the States because there's just no use bothering to stay here.

That no one cares about them in this country until they make it big somewhere else.

It's why I started Canadiana Promotions back in the day, it's why I've chosen to stay here now and hone my craft as a writer. I believe in the talent in this country - the potent, amazing and intriguing characters and stories that live and breathe all around me. I believe in the potential we share - for the market that just needs a good excuse to explode. For the pride we all feel but hide under our shirts until we go somewhere else and stick a flag on our back pack. (Why do we do that? It can't just be to say 'hey we're not Americans'.)

I believe that we are just as capable and worthy as anywhere else in the world of entertaining and enlightening each other - not just as Canadians but as fellows in the Human experience.

And it's why I get so frustrated when I hear the one thing that's supposed be bringing us all together - our communal experiences and stories - being used to tear us apart. To hear a man who is supposed to be our leader, to be uniting us, pushing us against one another.

It just goes against everything I stand for. Everything I believe in.

I want to thank all the fantastic and amazing people who were at the rally, those who could only be there in spirit and all the rest who continue to work here and believe in the beauty and potential of our home.

I'm going to sign off with another quote from Mr. McGrath, something for us all to think about as election day looms large on the horizon.

"I think we all understand that times are tough, and tough times means tough choices. But when times are tough, that - traditionally - is exactly when society turns to the comfort that storytelling provides. That's when we do our most important work. Sharing stories, in words, in images - on stage in dance, in music - this is how we think, this is how we learn to be Canadian."

Cheers,
Brandon

Some Great Videos With Great Messages.




You Have a Choice from AnyoneButHarper.ca on Vimeo.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Weathering The Storm

I watched the Leaders' Debate with a great amount of interest, hoping to see something that would prove me wrong about our current PM Stephen Harper - maybe make my knees stop knocking at the thought of a Conservative Majority.

It didn't happen.

In fact, as I watched him sit there with that thin, smug smile I couldn't help but think "He knows he has this in the bag - he's just weathering out the storm".

And so he did.

Even though Jack Layton repeatedly asked him "where's your platform?", even though he pointed out that (then) 12 days from the election - the Conservatives still had not made it clear what they'd planned to do with the country...

It didn't matter.

PM Harper was only there in body, content to ride out the winds while bolstered by the knowledge that no matter what he was going to be Prime Minister again - it was just a matter of seeing if it would be a majority or a minority government.

Today, days after that lively debate where Stephen Harper coldly deflected attempts to put him on the spot, our Prime Minister has finally decided to grace us with his message.

His 'plan' if you will.

His decision to back down from his attacks on the 'elitist' Canadian Cultural sector while tossing $400 million in loans to prop up our ailing Manufacturers.

All the while plucking that one-note string, repeating the only sound bite sure to send shivers through his base: 'higher taxes'.

'What do the others offer? It doesn't matter! They'll raise your taxes! Don't rationally look at their platforms in time for the elections - trust me! They'll raise your taxes!'

It's a great way to play off our uncertainties and fears - a great way to distract us while waving only the tiniest of carrots in an attempt to shut up those who are squawking (read: the Cultural and Manufacturing sectors).

But is it enough?

As the home stretch looms on the horizon, as another day is ticked off my ominous internal calendar, I listen to my co-workers fretting about the effects of the American economy on our own; watching helplessly as the TSX drops 1100 points in a single day; wondering about what else will happen to their country let alone their mortgages, their families and more.

I listen to the people I care about and hear the worry in their voice.

And yet what advice does he offer when he finally stands before the battered masses?

He gets biblical: "As the saying goes, it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark. Which is why when the rain came, Noah didn't need to panic and he didn't switch boats."

He asks us 'not to switch boats' in the middle of an economic storm.

Of course we're just supposed to forget that our supposed leader had chosen to stay silent for months, hoping our economy - much like his political ambitions - would weather said storm.

We should forget that he stayed silent until the unrest got to the point that he HAD to say something.

We should forget that he waited until the other political parties had put forth their plans, until after he'd seen and studied and criticized them all, to step up with his idea.

Great way to show your leadership, Prime Minister.

Yet who can blame him? That's just the kind of leader Stephen Harper is.

Instead of standing at the helm of the ship, lashed by wind and rain, steering us through the greatest economic threat we've faced in a generation or more, Stephen Harper - the man who wants the majority of control in our country - would choose to huddle in blankets in the bowels of the ship, waiting for everything to fix itself, hoping against hope that nothing will dash us against the rocks in the meantime.

Only when the threat hits home for him - when the unrest around him becomes palpable - does he try to "buy voters with their own money".

Only then does he choose to waffle on his attacks against the Cultural Sector, only then does he choose to toss some money to the manufacturing sector that he allowed to wither.

This man is not a leader.

This man has not earned my vote.

In fact, only now as people would gather around their tables en masse, as they would sit and have public discourse in a traditional setting, is Prime Minister Harper getting serious.

What took him so long? Why even bother this late in the game?

Is he afraid that maybe, once we all get together, we'll realize his 'plan' is a sham? That when given the chance to talk freely and openly with one another we'll undo all his carefully laid plans?

Is he afraid we'll tell each other about Bill C-50 and share what we've learned about his immigration reforms? The ones that allow the Conservatives to 'cherry pick' the immigrants that fit their idea of what a 'proper' immigrant should be. That allow them to pull the 'qualified' immigrants out of line and leave the rest (who've patiently been waiting their turn for YEARS) to rot.

Maybe he's afraid we'll tell each other about Bill C-51 and how his government tried to sneak in legislation that would've allowed for search and seizure without a warrant or evidence - and that the only reason that Bill is dead right now is because the Conservatives dissolved the government to try and take up another election while the polls showed that they were the heavy favourites.

Or, hey, maybe he's afraid all us young'uns will get together and learn about what he had planned with Bill C-61. More than just a 'copyright reform' bill, this harsher version of the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act would've put the government into the interesting position of having to become a virtual 'online big brother' in order to A) know that we were breaking the law and B) to enforce the provisions of the law. Basically, to even know that you were breaking the law, they'd have to be watching you in the first place.

You see, Harper's been skating by on the fact that the 'Left' is fragmented and as the only 'Right-wing' party, his power is already consolidated. He hasn't needed a 'plan' until now. He hasn't had to sell himself.

His goal was a simple one: keep us all busy debating the nuances of each party while his Conservatives skate on through come October 14th. Quite possibly into a majority.

But now the waves are crashing and the wind is roaring and people are actually looking to their leader for inspiration. We want to know what he will do to save us as we're tossed about in open waters.

Yet he has no answers. No solid ground on which to land us. All Stephen Harper can do is ask you not to 'switch boats' while throwing money into the wind with one hand and clutching his tattered sweater with the other - saying a silent prayer that we won't figure that out before election day.

Look at the facts. Look at what he's done - behind our back or otherwise.

He is not a leader. He is not our ally.

Stephen Harper is bad for Canada.

And so I ask you to go HERE, put in your Postal Code and take an objective look at what is going on in your riding. Look and see if, like so many others, your vote can push any other party to victory over the Conservatives.

See if you're in a riding like Mississauga-Erindale where the incumbent won their riding by a paltry 328 votes in 2006.

See if your vote can help change the entire direction of this election.

Our Prime Minister wants us "ordinary Canadians" to weather the storm and 'not switch boats' while he hides safe and protected and smug below.

Come election day, cast a vote - cast a strategic vote - and let's stick him and his Conservatives back in the galley where they belong.

Cheers,
Brandon

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

(Scientifically) Picking your battles

Sometimes the forces, they just swirl into one of them vortex-thingies and come on by and smack you upside your political head.

Case in point: Some good folk have gotten together and gotten all damn technical and scientific on how to not only keep Stephen Harper from getting a majority, but how to flip the scales entirely and ensure the Liberals (the most likely to defeat the Conservatives overall) get a minority government.

They're doing so under the banner of keeping the Conservatives out in an attempt to save our Environment (remember that thing about the toxic lake landfills? Yeah, apparently that didn't win PM Harper any points).

With a striking - bordering on obsessive - amount of detail these folks have created a site that will allow you to look up your riding, find out not only who's running but also who's more likely to win.

Wow. Talk about doing their share of the heavy lifting!

Essentially, the site will allow you to know - should you wish to know - if voting with your heart or voting with a purpose (getting PM Harper out of power) will actually change things in your area.

I popped on by and it turns out that my riding is a 'safe' Liberal zone - I guess that means that historically it's always voted Liberal. Normally that's not my thing but hey, good to know.

http://www.voteforenvironment.ca/

"This site offers comprehensive, up-to-date riding by riding information on how to defeat Harper and his anti-environment policies."

You can't really make it much easier than that - short of showing up at people's doors with the ballots and pencils in hand.

Cheers (and much thanks to Carina Cojeen for sharing this on the Department of Culture Facebook site!)
Brandon

EDIT: After showing the site to a friend of mine, she gave me her postal code to enter and what popped up was a classic example of how splitting the vote could cause the Conservatives to get into power:

http://www.voteforenvironment.ca/node/557


The Liberals kept the Mississauga-Erindale seat by a total of 328 votes in the last election - with over 9,200 extra votes split amongst the Green Party and NDP, neither with a chance of winning - this is one of those ridings where your vote can REALLY make a difference and ensure that the Conservatives don't cover that gap.

If we can keep more seat from the Conservatives that's one less shot at a Majority Conservative government.