Wednesday, June 13, 2012

If I Were a TV Network Executive

image Dear Solitary Reader,

I’ve had a lot of time to sit and think lately, as my foot recuperates, and although I’ve been rediscovering blogging, I’ve also been paying more attention to the TV than I usually do; as a result I have a flurry of television images whirling around in my head, so it’s probably no surprise some of them are starting to mix and match.

Also as I sit and languish I look at my life’s career path, and I daydream of something different. I could leave the exciting world of property assessment, and start out on the road to becoming what everyone wants to be when they grow up, a television network exec!

But how? I’m starting out late in life, how am I going to distinguish myself from the cotillion of other faceless would-be executives? I need hooks! Not pirate hooks, although that would be cool (as long as it was an affectation, and not a necessity), I need something to get their attention and show them I could be a force majeure in the world of Television. But what to do?
And then it comes to me. I can do what every 80s television executive did when they got stuck for an idea: television cross over!

So without further ado, I present my hooks.

Old Spice Commercials + Dune

There have been a couple of Dune mini-series on TV and I’ve been a fan of both of them, not to mention the 1980s movie. I’ve read the first couple of books and have a handle on the world. I mean one of the coolest things about this series is that it is the first I can recall where people got to wear personal force fields; and as someone who likes his personal space, that’s gold. There’s a rich history in the world as created by Frank Herbert, and continued on to relative degrees of success by his offspring. It’s obviously time for this franchise to make its return to television.
But like all good TV Execs, I can’t just sit back and let the people who are paid to be creative do their work, I have to put MY stamp on this thing, and as I look across the vast realm of TV land I see it; it’s so obvious I can’t believe it hasn’t been done already.
Look at your screen. Now look at me. Look back at your screen. Now look at me. That’s right. One of the most popular advertising campaigns in recent days is the Old Spice series of commercials and correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there this thing in the Dune universe (Duniverse? Ah yeah) about spice?

This is golden people. It has to be done. When I become a TV Executive, this is getting done.

This is golden people. It has to be done. When I become a TV Executive, this is getting done. It’s only natural for the Old Spice guy to be Muad’Dib, prophesized saviour... I mean have you seen that guy? If anyone on the planet is destined to be a messianic figure it’s him (and I say that without any bromancing or man-crushing).

And also, Dune is like hot. People will need deodorant.

The Old Spice must flow.

Game Show of Thrones

One of the more popular television series of late has been HBOs Game of Thrones based on the popular, and now much more so, series of novels by George R.R. Martin. My plan will be to use this very popular series to bring back one of the long floundering niches of television: The Game Show.

Every episode will have one of the main characters of Game of Thrones, in character, on one of the age old popular television game shows.

Tyrion on Wheel of Fortune, Varis the Spider on Jeopardy, Cersei Lannister on The Bachelor (it’s a reality show, but that’s extra points really), this stuff is Lannister Gold!

And just like the TV series, Game Show of Thrones will have plenty of nudity and sex – just like backstage of The Price is Right back in the day (before they had Bob Barker spayed and neutered).

The Muppets + Star Trek

My next totally awesome idea will be to take two of my television life’s greatest franchises and smash them together thereby increasing their awesomeness exponentially.
While I’ve been laid up I’ve been rediscovering my love of Star Trek. I’ve been watching pretty much every incarnation and although I’m not a great fan of Voyager and Deep Space Nine, I can lose time with pretty much any character from any of the franchises. Star Trek did wonderful things for sci-fi. With the popularity of the latest JJ Abrams directed movie, now’s the time to capitalize.

Growing up, I was a fan of the Muppets. Now I’m older. I’m still a fan of the Muppets. The Muppets are TV’s Twinkies, they never get stale. And Muppets already have space experience; after all Gonzo is an alien, and need I mention Pigs in Space and Deep Dish Nine?
Also let’s face it. Farscape isn’t coming back, so television totally needs a human/Muppet space television program.

My vision for this show isn’t your typical light hearted Star Trek fare, at the end of each episode everything won’t be back to the way it was before. Picture this:

Star Date: 90210 (hehe) Captain’s Log.... The latest incarnation of the USS Enterprise, Destroyer Class, begins a new mission in the 32nd Century to try and recreate the long lost federation of planets under the auspices of the New Federation, a collection of about 40 planets or so. The crew will be a mix of human and Muppets and the mission will be to recruit new planets into the Federation and each episode, or story arc, will be trying to bring in a new planet.

But a freak time storm unleashes an age old enemy. The Borg make their return into the realm of Star Trek (hey, they brought the borg into Enterprise, I can too) and many of the Crew are taken and join the Borg hive. One such notable and lovable loss will be the Swedish Chef who will become the new Borg King – Smorgas of Borg.


Unlike when Picard got converted, there ain’t no getting Swedie back. This is dark stuff. It’s like Greg the Bunny dark.

I’d watch it, wouldn't you?

Armed with these great ideas I shall go forth into the world of television and I shall conquer. Oh, and I’ll change the name of the television station back to Sci-Fi... because changing the name to Sy-Fy was a dumber idea than any of the ones I’ve had in this blog.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Captive Audience


Dear Solitary Reader,

The world of advertising has always intrigued me. There was a time, when I was a wee lad going through the MBA program, I actually wanted to be in the world of advertising. After all I was a fairly creative fellow, wasn’t I? That’s all that’s needed in the world of advertising, isn’t it?

Well, for one reason or another, that train has sailed, and instead of finding myself a participant in the creative end of advertising, I participate in the other end: that is to say, I watch commercials (thanks to PVRs and TV on DVD not as much as I used to).

Lately I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the world of advertising: kidnapping.
First I’d like to delve into the reasons behind why advertisers feel they need to kidnap prospective clients, and I’ll point out a couple of examples. And then, like all tales of woe and wonder, I shall end it with song.

In the current day and age, with the afore mentioned PVRs and TV on DVD, advertisers have their work cut out for them; competing for the attention of a mass of people who’s attention span has rapidly declined makes the advertiser’s life a lot more difficult than it used to be. Personally, I don’t like watching commercials because they are rarely informative, are more often than not ridiculous, and only occasionally entertaining. (Notable exceptions are movie trailers and Super Bowl commercials).

Advertisers have been struggling to come up with a way to stick their finger in the leaking dyke of advertising dollars and seem to have come up with two viable solutions, one of which I approve of and the other I find deplorable.

The more socially acceptable method is called product placement. Companies are inserting their brands into popular TV shows as a way to get them air time and recognition; some companies do better than others. One successful company which comes to mind is Subway, which for a couple of seasons was all over Chuck and Community. Car companies are also on board with the program, I’ve seen a couple of humorous interplays on TV shows like Bones in which characters write in features of vehicles into dialogue, when the writers are good, it doesn’t even sound like a commercial.

A somewhat less harmless method of exposing your product to potential customers is the practice of kidnapping.

There are a currently a couple of advertising campaigns running in which companies are, for lack of a word rich in hyperbole which would aid my ridiculous point, kidnapping customers and either testing their products or force feeding them information. (Of course, let me say before I really start, as bad as these campaigns are, they’re not as disturbing as those toilet paper commercials centering around the slogan “Does a bear *** in the woods?”).

One of these advertising campaigns runs for the Bank of Montreal. Usually in these commercials, a financially distraught or confused person or persons is walking from one place to another and then BAM! all of a sudden they’ve have been transported to a room of blue where the only decoration is the bank logo and an information attendant all ready to brainwash the abductees. Uncool BMO, tres uncool.

Another example is brought to you by the fine people of Febreeze, and this one takes the cake (about 8 week old cake from the looks of the commercial) because what the people of Febreeze are doing is not just kidnapping potential customers, but also kidnapping their family, and subjecting them to random testing by placing them in rooms or vehicles full of garbage. Now I’m all for product testing, you have to be sure if that you’re stuff works before you send it out there, don’t get me wrong, but isn’t this why we test on animals?  (Kidding).

Now, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, I’m not a stupid person and I know these are just commercials – they’re not real. But, what if?

I may be envisioning a Running Man type future here, but how long before product companies actually start abducting demographically researched potential customers? The ransom? No longer a bag full of cash, but instead, picture the grieving family forced to go to its local Wal-Mart and purchase 400 packages of frozen dinners, or 800 rolls of toilet paper. Could any future be so horrible? (Okay, well, maybe one or two potential iterations of the future could be worse).

So, Solitary Reader, watch your back out there...

... but in the mean time, here’s a musical interpretation of one of these people captured by the mad whackers at Febreeze.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Like If You Like This

While cruising around the whacky world of Facebook not long ago, one of the advertisements on the sidebar caught my eye.

Usually I can ignore the Facebook sidebar; I can ignore anything.

At work I’m famous for putting Post-It notes on my monitor so as not to forget something important; and then having the ability to work behind the very same Post-It note, ignoring its supposedly intrusive presence on my screen. I’ve been ignoring Twitter since it first came out.

I can ignore like a champion.

But back to the point, the ads on the Facebook bar have caught my attention once or twice; one notable one was advertising a Canadian law firm which will help you get pardoned for various crimes, and the mug shot they were sporting was none other than Stone Cold Steve Austin.

At the time I was fairly certain they had not sought his permission, which led to a lovely little day dream of the lawyers at Canadian Pardons. Com needing their own services.

But I digress.

The particular advertisement which drew my attention was one of those lovely suggestions that Facebook likes to throw at you, in the hopes of helping you to sink even more of your free time into the maelstrom.

Facebook, it turns out, wanted to alert me that 32,325 people liked Cthulhu.

Now perhaps it’s just me, and as I’m fairly unique in many respects or so I’m told, so this is entirely possible, but I’m of the opinion that nobody should really like Cthulhu.

Best case scenario, Cthulhu is a near god-like entity, who if not hell bent on the destruction of mankind at least considers us nothing more than toe jam between his celestial toes... or tentacles... tentacle jam? Worst case scenario... well actually I can’t really think of anything worse than being tentacle jam.

I’m not really unclear about Cthulhu’s motives in all of this; after all, celestial entities being what they are they all want one of two things: a) destroy the world or b) conquer the world.

What I am unclear about is the motives of Facebook.

Now this really shouldn’t surprise anyone of course, Facebook bearing a striking resemblance to evil celestial entities wanting one of two things... frankly, at the time, Facebook’s motives were as unclear as the reasoning behind the valuation of its IPO. That’s right, I went there.

Was Facebook trying to warn me?

At first glance this didn’t seem right. Warning me of an impending invasion of Cthulhu and His Minions (doesn’t that sound like a  band you’d find backing up a late-night TV talk show host... like Craig Ferguson?) would be entirely too helpful for Facebook. Facebook is all about making sweeping radical changes without any sort of forewarning whatsoever.

Warning me of an impending invasion by Cthulhu, a catastrophic event which could shatter the timeline would be out of character with Facebook, whose introduction of its own “timeline” was almost catastrophic in its own right.

More likely, Facebook has analyzed my previous blog entries and come to the mathematical conclusion I’m a wee bit of an ass; and what do asses like to do? Why take over the world!

So with that in mind, Facebook, extrapolating from its previous conclusion, figured if I was an ass, then I would not be opposed to a major shift in the world’s governmental strategies; and it’s only a short step from not objecting to evil to helping it along. So perhaps, thought Facebook, there was a chance that if I like Cthulhu too I could join with my evil deity loving brethren and ... um... sistren in the complete domination of mankind.

And besides, I’m sure Facebook thought, if it didn’t work out all that well for me and I failed in my bid to aid my celestial overlord in his attempt to dominate and subjugate the inhabitants of my own world, the fine people of Canadian could get me off the hook; because if they’re good enough for Stone Cold, they’re good enough for me.

Well Facebook, I do not like Cthulhu. I do not go for evil entities with tentacles. No tentacle jam me. If I’m going to support any evil overlord, it will be Scorpius thank you very much.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Worst Thing Ever is Awesome

I’ve been laid up recently, having had a doctor go crazy on my left foot and it’s given me a lot of time to think. Now mostly what I’ve been thinking about is: my left foot hurts, but in between throbs some other thoughts have come to mind.

One of them has to do with the change in the English language.

Words, phrases and jargon change over time; its why we don’t speak Old English anymore (though it’d be cool if we did because I remember enough of it and I might be able to parse out what you were saying), but I have to admit it’s weird living in a time when the meaning of words and phrases shifts from decade to decade.

Here are a couple of examples:


I’m not sure what happened to the word awesome.

To me awesome used to mean something that was worthy of awe: like God if you believe in God, or a sunrise or something you didn’t see every day. Nowadays awesome means something else entirely, and it’s something not even remotely as impressive as whatever awesome used to mean.

Now, I’m as guilty of this as the next person (as long as the next person is guilty of it too, otherwise, I’m guiltier than the next person). Awesome these days generally means the same thing as cool, at least to me, which generally means something good has happened. It doesn’t have to be extremely good, it’s just good.

For instance:

Wife: Husband, supper is ready.
Me: Awesome.

Don’t’ get me wrong my wife is a great cook, but under the old meaning of awesome her cooking may not have fit the parameters and it would have had to settle for exceptional. But as Bob Dylan sang: the answer is blowing in the wind... or wait, the times they are a changing (I don’t know Bob).

So what happened to awesome? In a word: dilution.

Like anything, when used too much its effectiveness wears off. We’ve used the word awesome so much it no longer has the punch, the pizzazz, the panache it used to carry.

I blame these guys:

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were an excitable group of amphibious superheroes who often got overly excited about any number of things, the most common of which would probably have been pizza. The moment you start exclaiming pizza as awesome, the word begins to lose a fair chunk of its face value.

The Worst Thing Ever

While languishing on the couch the other day, watching A&E, I saw a commercial for a dot com company that sells stamps. The commercial began with a very serious middle age man staring earnestly into the camera, saying: “The worst thing ever is having to go to the post office and wait in line.”

The worst thing ever is going to the post office?

Now granted, even with the reputation of the modern day postal worker as someone always on the cusp of violent outburst, it struck me that, if in this man’s life the worst thing he’d ever encountered was needing to go the post office, this gentleman was doing remarkably well.

There are countries full of starving people, places where people are persecuted for religion, skin color, sexual orientation, places subjected to repeated natural disasters costing thousands of lives, leaving behind people dealing with loss and suffering on an enormous scale. All over the world there are horrible things happening to good people every day (you’re welcome for the cheer session).

And the worst thing ever for this man is going to the post office and waiting in line for stamps.

Phrases like “the worst thing ever” should probably be saved for events which have an actual shot of, were there a worldwide election ever held, being voted as the “worst thing ever.”

Now don’t get me wrong, hyperbole has its place in entertainment, but some things just stand out as stupid. But then, perhaps I’m expecting too much from a company trying to sell stamps over the internet.

These have been only two examples of a not-so subtle shift in language, and I’m sure you could thing of more if you really tried. I tried to think of more, but with the pains in my foot nothing came to mind, so if you could suggest more, that’d be awesome; it’s like, the worst thing ever trying to come up with examples...


Monday, December 12, 2011

A One Whore Open Sleigh

Dear Solitary Reader,

As someone who often dickers around with words I recognize their importance. Words have meaning. Words have power.

x-Tangent: Christmas has hit the house hot and heavy. Normally I would be doing my usual routine at Christmas, closing down orphanages, filling the work houses; you know, decreasing the surplus population. But with two children under six in the house I can’t help but get caught up with the Christmas fever.

As such, It’s not unusual to hear my daughter singing “Jingle Bells” repeatedly… time after time… over and over…. and over. Really, it was cute the first 4,000 times but its starting to wear a little thin. I’ve been running Tom’s Diner night and day through my skull, and so far its holding its own – but soon the walls will crack, like the impenetrable fortress of Helm’s Deep, and  a whole lot of of Uruk’hai in skimpy elven costumes will be jingling their bells while I weep for the loss of my sanity.

I didn’t complain when it was time to put up the Christmas tree, I didn’t even complain when it was time to put up the Christmas lights. I even risked life and limb and climbed up to the roof to put lights on the top tier (avoiding the donkey on the roof who kept throwing the damn barrels full of fiddlers down at me).

This year I caught a case of the Christmas no cream can cure; ain’t no lotion can disabuse my Christmas notion.

y-tangent: My son is awesome.

He has a pretty good voice for a now five year old. He can hold a tune as well and can sing pretty much the entire songbook from the Thomas the Tank Engine suite of music.

One thing he does not have, however, is a grasp of lyrics. He’s only five and I can already tell he’s going to be one of those peoples who sings the wrong words at the top of his lungs.

A case in point: one of the movies, as a child under four, which he fell in love with was Cars. One of the main songs from this automotive cinematic classic’s sound track was a version of Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” performed by Rascal Flats.

My son, bless his hearing, would not be cured of the idea the chorus, instead of progressing “Life is a highway/I want to drive it all night long” would sing: “Life is a highway/I want to drive it on my lawn.” Some of this was maybe his recognizing the fact he did not have his licence yet and was prohibited by law from driving on a highway, but you get my point.

Intersection: So as my daughter belts out Jingle Bells non-stop my son, in his unabashed way, has joined in with his rather liberal sense of the lyrics. For the most part his lyrical insertions are fairly innocent, with the exception of this particular song.

Where you might know the song as “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh” the pride and joy of my loins bearing the y-chromosome (and y IS the loneliest chromosome) has begun belting out loudly (and if you read the title of this blog then you’re not going to be surprised): “Dashing through the snow in a One Whore Open Sleigh.”

Because my mind wanders off in that direction rather readily, I thought of composing a tune called Jingle Balls… but I decided that because I would a) get in trouble and b) be plagiarizing someone I didn’t bother.

I tried to explain to him the real words, but he’s my son, and as Martin men we are genetically immune to common sense and/or rationality. He’s refusing to accept my edited lyrics.

It’s also hard to explain the real words when you’re laughing. Like his father he knows when he’s got the crowd hooked.

At some point I know he’s going to glom on to the real words, but until then the one whore open sleigh continues to ride the powder.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Haunted Potato, or, the Tater From Hell's Crater, or The Spud of Blood

image One day I sat upon the couch
To rest, to sit, indeed to slouch
While sitting I received a scare
For twas then I saw a tater there!
I could have said something from Plato
Instead I said: "look! A couch potato!"

But it glared at me with it's many eyes
And I felt some guilt to my surprise
For I had slain much of it's kin
Opened my maw and shoved them in
I got off the couch, said: "See ya later!"
And left behind that glaring tater.

So, to the kitchen to get a drink
But I saw it there sitting in the sink
I did not know what to think
I stood and stared and forgot to blink
I spoke aloud: " I'm too old for this crud!"
I would not fear some puny spud!

But in my heart stirred cold fear
And I thought back throughout the year
Of potatoes eaten in many shapes
Some fries, some mashed, some whole like grapes
What if the taters were amassin'
Some sort of revolt and this: their assassin!

I felt not well so I went to bed
And saw a spud resting by my head!
I admit I gave a girlish scream
Yelling: "get back spud lest I get the sour cream!"
before I could threaten it with chives
I broke out into itchy hives

After that I could not sleep
As in my dreams potatoes creeped
I tossed and turned and soon I waked
Thinking of all those spuds I'd baked
While roasting had they become Fell?
Were these ones the Spuds from Hell?

This hour of night my spirits waned
Wracked with fear my soul was pained
How could I have been the cause
Of so much pain and so much loss
These taters were right to cross my door
Spoke the tater: "Nevermore!

Like some sick version of tortoise and hare
Where'er I went a spud was there!
So much guilt! So much pain!
A potato bug assailed my brain!
I must persevere! I must recoup!
Or find myself drowned in potato soup!

Twas then he came to be my shield
My Irish ancestor from the field!
In ghostly pallor he filled my sight
Patty O'Lantern who shone so bright!
And he spoke at me with his Irish lilt:
"Are ye daft ye shouldn't feel no guilt!

Ye got to know these are just spuds
They are no reason to soil yer duds!"
strong the words spoken in his brogue
Strength to spirit from this rogue
He slowly began to disappear
To my surprise he took my fear

And in it's place a new resolve
This was just one more problem to solve
I went to the kitchen to get armed
And go to war 'gainst those who were farmed
I grabbed a cleaver and a fork
And then sat me down and got to work

I sliced. I diced. I julienned.
I was like a man possessed my friend
I chopped all night without lag
Til soon I hit the bottom of bag.
I was done! The battle won!
Now there was no need to run.

I cleaned the kitchen to the last knife
I was not brave enough to ire the wife.
Twas then I fell almost to the floor
For they were not done. There was one more.
This the leader upon my soul
This was the spirit of tater made whole!

It breathed cold fire from it's peel
All my heat it sought to steal!
It's eyes burned with malice, see
I do not lie this no fallacy!
This the tater who sought my end
I thought I was done my friend

But my spirit surged again with hope
And I thought me of a way to cope
I had a chance to win this fight
To take the day and save the night
When an evil tater must be in your gullet
What else kills evil but a Magic Bullet?

I grabbed this Prince of Hell's Potatoes
Threw in some cheese and tomatoes
An egg or two to heighten taste
I had some left over that I would not waste
I cooked this food fried in butter
And made a breakfast like no other

So that's how it all went down
The Weekend of Possessed Hashbrown
If I could make a small suggestion
Do not repeat, the indigestion
Was almost as scary
As the battle, which was, Legen-
Wait for it, wait for it- dary!




Sent from my iPad

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Fly on the Wall… of the Microwave

image Dear Solitary Reader:

While my wife is forced to sit on the couch and convalesce I’m playing Mr. Mom around the house, and the meal quality around here shows the sudden change in chefs.

X-Tangent:  This morning I nuked pancakes from the freezer for the kids’ breakfast; I do not know how long they’d been in the freezer, and I do not care. No warm toast and blueberries from ma for you this morning kids, nuked pancakes and berries which I may or may not have washed. There’s yer breakfast, if yer hungry you’ll eat it.

I’m not even going to go into supper last night. Shrivelled chicken with a side of blackened rice accompanied by a wilted broccoli/cauliflower medley (heh, I can’t cook, but I can advertised.)

Y-Tangent: Another impact of this whole gall bladder thing my wife’s been going through is an increase in the amount of fruit in the house. And where there is fruit you will often find the fruit fly (which my brain persists in calling flute fries, and then imagines a ginormous French fry flute which my imagination then eats).

The fruit fly seems harmless, little guy likes to fly stops by the fruit by and by. But like all bugs, fruit flies do not come alone – they bring friends. Not even just friends, they bring acquaintances; not even just acquaintances either – they bring flies they meet on the way to my house.

Swatting of the common fruit fly is made difficult by two things: the density of the median weighted fruit fly combined with the force x mass = acceleration formula. This can be translated to mean the mass of air, which is denser than that of the average fruit fly, combined with the force of the swatting motion causes a sudden burst in acceleration pushing the fly out of the way of the harmful motion…  an excerpt from “A Treatise on Ineffectual Swatting of the Common Fruit Fly” by English Scientist Herd Fromme-Lately.

Intersection: So this morning as I’m prepping the pancakes (that is to say putting it on a plate and putting it in the microwave, I notice there’s a fruit fly in there. I’m not sure if he was in there all night, or if he followed the pancakes in: that’s immaterial (well to me, to the fruit fly there might be a poignant difference).

Now I’m a lazy bum and a horrible father but even I know enough to try and get the fly out before it lands on the food my kids will eat. And so I make ineffectual swipe after ineffectual swipe at this fruit fly, and for some reason its like the force of air created by my swipe actually moves the fly out of the way – someone really should do a study on these things.

But after a few swipes I did not see the fly. Here I arrived at that road in that yellow wood. I could go down the path less traveled by and make the kids something else for breakfast, or I could trod the well beaten path of “I don’t see the fly, ergo I got him ergo it is safe to nuke.” I took the latter. So far it hasn’t made any difference.

But as I type this I begin to wonder. For it seems to me I saw a movie once about a man trapped in a machine with a fly and he turned into a … well fly. I think it was called “The Bus that Couldn’t Slow Down”… or The Fly…

And so I wonder: will having nuked these pancakes in the same microwave as a fruit fly begin a volutionary process (I can’t tell if it would be e-volution or de-volution at this point so I shot for the middle).

For the next few weeks the Martin household will be on watch for something horrible, because if movie history lets me down (and it rarely does) one of two things is going to happen:

  1. either one or both of my kids will turn into The Fly
  2. or even worse, one or both of my kids will turn into Jeff Goldblum.