Archive for October, 2010

Carry On, Wayward Sons of Sunnyvale….

Posted: October 27, 2010 in events, TV

Last Thursday night was incredible, as my younger brother and I sat and watched three Canadian TV icons perform at TCU Place in Saskatoon.

Specifically, we watched the Trailer Park Boys take the stage in a two-hour show.

Dubbed “The Ricky, Julian and Bubbles Drunk, High and Unemployed Tour”, Canada’s favorite drinking, smoking, swearing, dope-growing boys out of Nova Scotia put on a show that can only be described as a live and in-person version of the original TV show.

The premise of the comedy act is that all the guys are broke and looking for ways to make money; not that different from any past seasons of the show. Ricky wants to open a school to teach people about growing dope, Julian lowers his standards way, WAY down and photos are shown of him working for Randy, but Bubbles’s way of trying to hit it big is pretty much the running theme of the live show.

What Bubbles is trying to do is put together an audition tape for an upcoming project by Jackie Chan, and to do that he gets Ricky and Julian to help him stage reenactments of Apollo 13, play Are You Smarter Than A First Grader? with audience members and host Bubbles Idol with more people in the crowd.

I won’t go into so much detail, but overall the show was a fucking blast. It’s a great mix of character acting on the part of Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, audience participation and comedy that is 100% uniquely Canadian and true to Trailer Park Boys.

Among the highlights:

– Ricky getting a piss jug stuck to his hand at the start of the show
– Julian’s 400,000th moneymaking idea: selling BBQ hot dogs to audience members that were willing to part with their $10
– Ricky’s answers during Are You Smarter Than a First Grader?
– Julian working the camcorder during the game and focusing in on one girl’s ‘ample assets’

Just an amazing show and all three guys have to be commended for their hard work.

But the best part was afterward, as Brendon and I made our way behind TCU Place and waited with a group of about 20 other fans to meet the guys.

Mike Smith & myself

Sure enough, Mike Smith (Bubbles) was the first one out and I managed to grab a photo with him. I will say that even though he was gracious, easy to talk to and more than willing to pose for photos and sign autographs, I got the feeling that Smith is ready to put the Bubbles character on the shelf permanently. Perhaps he’s come across enough people in the past that don’t decipher Mike from Bubbles and expect him to be that kitty-loving, googley-eyed bastard outside the show. To him, it’s a character and nothing more. I respect that though, cuz the biggest fear out of playing a well-known TV character for nine years is that you’ll be typecast in the future.

John Paul Tremblay, myself and Robb Wells

Admittedly, I’m a bigger fan of Ricky and Julian so when Robb Wells and John Paul Tremblay came out and started meeting people, I was psyched and completely marking out. Nevertheless, I kept my cool when meeting the pair and both guys signed my Scarface cap I was wearing. And of course, the photo I took with the guys will be the coolest image I’ll have ever taken part in, unless The Undertaker or Wes Craven is cool with a photo op someday. Robb and John were very friendly, approachable and down to earth guys and they seem genuinely grateful for all the success that they’ve had with Trailer Park Boys over the years. Julian particularly liked my Scarface cap and he wanted to make sure he signed big next to Tony Montana’s head.

Overall, it was a very cool night that started with a very funny comedy show and ended with a meet and greet with three of my all-time favorite TV characters. Definitely one for the record books, folks!

Just Let This End Already…

Posted: October 21, 2010 in local, news

So if you live in Outlook or anywhere near there, the big agriculture issue right now, and has been for the last five months is this whole Namaka Farms feedlot proposal. In a nutshell, the Thiessen family has gone to the RM of Rudy and proposed a vision for a feedlot operation to eventually house up to 36,000 head of cattle. There are those for it and those against it, and two public meetings were held over two back-to-back Thursday nights in June.

Now, the RM is reaching their decision and will hold one last public event tonight in the Outlook court room. There really is no official word on what is going down in this meeting, but it’s being said that the RM councilors will either be voting or have already reached a decision on the proposal and will simply announce it.

Whatever the case, I won’t be attending the meeting. For one, my brother and I have tickets to see a comedy show up in Saskatoon tonight (Ricky, Julian and Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys! FTW!), but secondly I put a lot of my own personal time into my job as a reporter, and I think I deserve to go out and have some fun and be off the clock, for a change. My buddy Tim, a co-worker and also a great writer is filling in for me.

However, I did attend last night’s meeting, which was a closed door affair held by the RM in their council chambers. This served as a last-minute forum for those with views or concerns to share them with the RM councilors.

Probably the most significant pieces of news to come out of the meeting is the fact that people opposed to Namaka’s idea put together a petition and went out gathering signatures. They reportedly received over 300 names and the results of their findings were as follows:

– 60% against the feedlot
– 10% for it
– 30% disinterested and/or having no opinion

What was interesting to hear is that some people reportedly told these petition carriers that they were told to refrain from sharing their position or views on the proposal.

But what I find particularly interesting when it comes to these signatures is that a number of them are from people who don’t live or pay taxes in the RM of Rudy. Just this past Monday night, people were knocking on my door and I live in Conquest, which is in the RM of Fertile Valley. We don’t get our drinking water from anywhere near this proposed feedlot site, so in that sense aren’t affected at all when it comes to any potential harm. How much weight can this list of over 300 names even carry if some of the signatures are from people looking in from the outside?

Wherever people sit on the fence with this issue, I think it’s safe to say that they’ll be glad when all this debating, arguing and finger pointing is over so the RM can make their official decision.

In the meantime, here’s the link to a groovy little piece of audio. I appeared on NewsTalk 650 radio this morning to discuss last night’s meeting and just some general points about the feedlot proposal with show host, Brent Loucks. In truth, I wish I wasn’t so nervous but I don’t think I was horrible. I had two pages of notes in front of me and was ready to read some of them off, but it just sounded like Brent wanted to hit on some general feedback points, which was cool with me.

If Vince McMahon was ever in damage-control mode, this whole Stand Up For WWE idea is it. I think the video on Raw this week was very well done from a technical standpoint and obviously the WWE does great things for children, charity groups and the troops, but let’s not pretend this isn’t an exercise in image control as it pertains to Linda’s campaign. Yes, some forms of mainstream media take cheap shots at WWE and wrestling in general, but most of this political coverage has focused on negative parts of the company’s past. Vince and Linda may not like it, but a lot of these reports are based on real history.

Now there are reports that this initiative and Linda’s campaign are in no way connected.  Wow, you guys smell that?  Smells like the biggest load of bullshit since Hogan said he never used steroids on Arsenio Hall.  I suppose this out-of-nowhere “Fan Appreciation Day” in Hartford, CT on October 30 is just WWE’s way of saying thanks?  Wait, wait for it.  Yup, reports are saying that, as well.  C’mon, Mr. and Mrs. McMahon, at least TRY and be honest with the voting public and wrestling audience.  Don’t try and insult people’s intelligence and then expect them to vote for you in droves and send in videos proclaiming their love of WWE.

I’d actually challenge Vince and the WWE to shed light on these “disparaging remarks” that Michael Cole mentioned in pure McMahon puppet form. Put the issues out in the open and discuss them, instead of sweeping them under the rug and washing over everything with a wholesome, family-friendly image. But no, Vince won’t do that. Instead, he expects legions of people to blindly follow his lead like a bunch of sheep and “stand up” for his company. And boatloads of people will do it, just because they watch a few hours of wrestling each week and own a few t-shirts.

In truth, there virtually are no disparaging remarks.  Some of what the media is saying has a more-negative spin on it than it should, but that’s pretty much journalism 101 – controversy sells more than stories about granting wishes to sick kids or putting on shows for the troops overseas.  The McMahons may not be happy, but a lot of these issues warrant the criticism that both the WWE and Linda’s campaign are receiving.  I haven’t read any report that I’d say was actually malicious.

Why is it our job to stand up for this company? Has the all-knowing, all-powerful Vince McMahon, who can spin history to suit his every mood and whim lost his grapefruits? I say do your own damage control, Vinnie Mac. You want your wife in political office so bad, then why not throw these “disparaging remarks” back at the media and attack the issues head-on?

Vince McMahon is a guy who’s so good at playing the victim.  He cried foul when Ted Turner and WCW were going to drive the WWF “out of business” in the 90’s, despite the fact that he used a lot of the same tactics in plundering regional promotions of their biggest talent a decade prior.  And now he’s whining about the media shedding light on his own company’s bad past?

I’m a huge WWE fan and always will be, but I won’t be led around like some farm animal and made to spout off sugar-coated praise on a company that tries to wash over its very checkered past.

Check in. Relax. Take a shower.

Posted: October 14, 2010 in events, film

Film is forever.

The audiences of today desperately need an education when it comes to great, classic cinema.  They’re much too forgetful and going out to the movies isn’t an experience anymore as it is just a way to kill a Friday night.  Everybody is herded like cattle into movie theaters to watch sparkly, emo vampires or the latest attempt to prove Jennifer Aniston can actually be a box office draw, and they lose the excitement that comes with anticipation, whether it be over the stars of the film, the director or the subject matter.

Which is why I loved my own movie experience last night

Cineplex, the Canadian theater chain has released a schedule of classic films to be shown at their theaters, booked as far as next summer.  Among the movies to be shown are iconic pieces such as The Maltese Falcon, It’s A Wonderful Life and Spartacus.  Last night, a legendary tale of terror played to a few dozen patrons and I was among them, seated smack-dab in the middle of the front row.

I watched Psycho on the big screen.

Galaxy Cinemas in Saskatoon played the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock gem and both the picture and sound were amazing.  The film itself is no stranger to me;  I bought the collector’s edition DVD long ago, but there was no way I was going to miss witnessing it in an actual movie theater so close to Halloween.

For those that have been living completely under a rock for the last 50 years, I’ll let the Internet Movie Database give you a brief description of the plot:

“A young woman steals $40,000 from her employer’s client, and subsequently encounters a young motel proprietor too long under the domination of his mother.”

That’s pretty  much it in a nutshell.  Add to that a chilling musical score, immaculate set pieces and excellent performances by Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh and it makes for an iconic film that’s still talked about today, and for good reason.

I will say that I wasn’t impressed with the Saskatoon audience I watched it with.  They mistook key scenes for comedy and their laughter really drained the suspense and terror involved.  I blame today’s movie audience in general, as I mentioned above, and perhaps these same patrons hadn’t even seen the film before.  Again, there’s the uneducated sector of moviegoers for you.

Still, it was a great experience and only served to raise my hopes of one day seeing other classic horror films on the big screen.  C’mon, how cool would it be to see The Exorcist, Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street in that fashion?

If anything, last night told me there’s hope.

For the last couple of years, there’s been one consistent complaint from older, longtime fans when it comes to WWE television.  It’s a topic that seems to come up about as many times as the Ultimate Warrior squashed his more talented undercard.

I’m talking, of course, about the WWE’s PG direction.

The summer of 2008 seems to be where Vince McMahon decided to take WWE’s programming and tone it down to fit the current format.  At the time, CM Punk and Triple H were the World Heavyweight and WWE Champions, respectively, the Undertaker and Edge were involved in a lengthy feud that included main-eventing WrestleMania 24 and ultimately concluding in a Hell in a Cell match at Summerslam and Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho were at bitter war with each other in what went down as one of the best feuds in the last decade, despite not having the platform of a major PPV to highlight their physicality and instead doing their best to draw buyrates for B shows (Judgment Day, The Great American Bash, Unforgiven and No Mercy).

Specifically, the WWE’s PG direction started around the end of July/mid August point.  In Michaels and Jericho’s match at the Bash, HBK bled heavily from a worked eye injury that Jericho focused on and in the end, the ref awarded the win to Y2J as Shawn was deemed unfit to continue.  However, just weeks later in the main event of Summerslam, Edge and the Undertaker fought a very brutal match inside Hell in a Cell that still caused fans to complain about the absence of blood in what was the final war between two longtime enemies.

There’s been a mountain of speculation and debate over why the WWE decided to go the family-friendly route.  Decreased revenues, dwindling house show attendance, lack of advertising sponsorships, etc.  Whatever the case, the company seems upbeat about playing more to younger audiences, who are more than eager to plead with Mommy and Daddy to buy them the newest Cena t-shirt or Mysterio mask.

The WWF of yesteryear...

On the flip side of that coin, the Attitude Era (also called the Austin Era) was a three-year boom period between 1998-2001 that created popularity in the WWF that hadn’t been seen since the 80’s.  Most seem to pinpoint WrestleMania 14 in March ’98 as the “official” kickoff to the Era after Steve Austin won the WWF Championship, but the timeline can be pulled back much more earlier to mid-1996 when Austin uttered that famous line at King of the Ring that put him on the map.  His feud with Bret Hart later that year and into 1997 only pushed the envelope further and it was obvious that the WWF was testing the deeper, more mature waters when it came to their product.

From that point, it was onward and upward as far as Austin’s popularity, as well as the WWF’s was concerned.  Buyrates went through the roof, merchandise flew off the shelves and arena seats were packed even at a Sunday afternoon house show in Nowhere, USA.  Guys like Austin, The Rock, DX, the Undertaker, Kane and even McMahon himself attracted viewers like never before and money flowed like water from a fire hydrant.

And then it was over.

Right around the time that WCW folded and McMahon snatched it up, interest in the WWF was waning.  There was no more competition, so Vince could sleep easier and rest on his laurels, knowing he was the undisputed king of the industry.  WrestleMania 17 was a huge blockbuster, but the product afterward was ill-conceived and left a bad taste in some mouths.  Austin’s heel turn at the conclusion of his WWF Title match with The Rock went so far against the grain that not one boo was heard in that stadium in Houston as he rained down chair shot after chair shot on the People’s Champ.  The ensuing months were also largely seen as lame when the WCW/ECW Alliance storyline was formed.  Instead of attracting big Turner names such as Goldberg, Sting or the nWo to battle the WWF, viewers were supposed to believe that guys like Booker T, Mike Awesome and Rhyno were legitimate threats.  The angle was so pro-WWF that Kurt Angle and Austin were moved into the Alliance in an attempt to balance out the stables.

So flashing forward back to today, the question is will the WWE ever go back or at least attempt another boom period like the Attitude Era?  From my own critical standpoint, McMahon and Co. seem happy about the current landscape, but is anything really changing as far as increasing money streams and fat profits go?

I’m not gonna sit here and spout off about what WWE should and shouldn’t be doing, but let’s not be blind and pretend we can’t see some of the mistakes they’re pulling.  At the top of the list is the all-important PPV buyrate dollars.  Everything as far as feuds and angles go should be focused towards building up the next PPV, but instead WWE thinks continuing storylines with PPV matches in-between are what puts food on the table for their wrestlers.  And in the face of disappearing PPV customers, McMahon thinks putting on shows twice a month and as little as two weeks apart will be what pulls his company out of lowering profit margins.  He couldn’t be more wrong and ignorant.  Again.

Looking at the buyrates from shows during the Attitude Era and then from 2009/10 is a frightening practice.

Attitude Era PPV Buyrates

Wrestlemania 14 – 730,000
Summerslam 98 – 700,000
Wrestlemania 15 – 800,000
Summerslam 99 – 600,000
Royal Rumble 2000 – 590,000
No Way Out 2000 – 480,000
Wrestlemania 2000 – 824,000
Backlash 2000 – 675,000
Judgement Day 2000 – 420,000
KOTR 2000 – 475,000
Fully Loaded 2000 – 420,000
Summerslam 2000 – 570,000
Unforgiven 2000 – 605,000
No Mercy 2000 – 550,000
Survivor Series 2000 – 400,000
Armageddon 2000 – 465,000
Royal Rumble 2001 – 550,000
Wrestlemania 17 – 1,040,000

WWE PPV Buyrates 2009

Royal Rumble did 450,000 buys (down 83,000 from 2008 numbers)
No Way Out did 272,000 (down 57,000)
WrestleMania 25 did 960,000 (down 98,000)
Backlash did 182,000 (down 70,000)
Judgment Day did 228,000 (down 24,000)
Extreme Rules did 213,000 buys (up 19,000 from 2008 numbers)
The Bash did 178,000 (down 18,000)
Night of Champions did 267,000 (down 6,000)
SummerSlam did 369,000 (down 108,000)
Breaking Point did 169,000 (down 42,000)
Hell in a Cell did 283,000
Bragging Rights did 181,000
Survivor Series did 235,000
TLC did 228,000

WWE PPV Buyrates 2010 (so far)

Royal Rumble – 462,000
Elimination Chamber – 272,000
WrestleMania 26 – 885,000
Extreme Rules – 182,000
Over The Limit – 197,000
Fatal Four-Way – 143,000
Money in the Bank – 189,000
Summerslam – 350,000

The differences are staggering.

There are pros and cons to both eras if one was to sit down and think about it.  The current PG era is lambasted by lifetime fans for being too cartoonish, too corny and going way too far when it comes to looking squeaky clean to the outside media (no blood, no swearing, Divas parading around in 1950’s swimsuits), but the WWE has found a younger audience again and parents don’t mind their kids watching their shows, ordering the PPVs (at least some of the time, it would appear) and gobbling up every last piece of merchandise that the company puts out.  The Attitude Era used to be criticized for its emphasis on sex, violence and more than its fair share of trash TV (early DX skits, Mae Young giving birth to a hand, the antics of the Corporate Ministry), but it came along at a time when the demographic shift had changed and McMahon had the stars to push his company’s popularity to the moon, resulting in engaging feuds, media attention whether it was good or bad and skyrocketing PPV buyrates.

So will WWE change its format anytime soon?  Is it possible to find another Stone Cold or The Rock and mold the company around them?  I think so.  The problem is that McMahon has his hands in too many cookie jars and there’s no structure to the company, as far as its roster is concerned.  In the 80’s it was simple.  The WWF was molded around main event guys like Hogan and Savage while the mid-card had a deep talent pool of babyfaces and heels.  Guys were built up, promoted and then booked to go against the top talent in ways that made fans and viewers tune in and part with their cash easily.  It isn’t rocket science, folks.  Today, Vince appears to be so moody that his decisions change at the drop of a hat and that structure hasn’t been there for a long time.  I said he has his hands in too many cookie jars, and by that I mean ventures like WWE Films and making sure his wife gets into office.  Let Linda get herself into politics and do away with the whole movie studio schtick which, let’s face it, isn’t putting much green into the bank accounts of anyone.  He should be concentrating on his talent, building up anticipated PPV matches and nothing more.

I truly believe times can change again.  It won’t be anytime soon, probably not for another year and a half or two years.  But at its core, it’s not even really a question of staying PG or going PG-13.  What people really want is feuds and angles between guys that have a lot of simmer before you give them the steak.  Champions that hold the belt longer than two or three months.  A PPV schedule that’s reduced both in actual shows and their price tags.  Sooner than later, McMahon will realize that recycled Champions and gimmick PPVs won’t be what gives WWE a big surge in popularity again.

At least I hope.

Hell of a birthday gift…

Posted: October 8, 2010 in film, life, Stephen King, writing

I suppose if I am to shed light on my day-to-day existence, I should share this monumental moment that ended up being one Hell of a birthday gift this past August.

My birthday (25th, BTW) fell on a Monday this year, which produced the appropriate groan of “Son of a bitch, it’s my birthday and the work week’s just starting”.  However, after powering up my Mac and opening up my email, I discovered a gem of an email that brightened the entire week, and then some.

A message from Stephen King’s office.  Yes, THAT Stephen King.  This requires some explanation, and I’m more than happy to provide it…

A little over a year ago, I picked up King’s latest collection of short stories entitled Just After Sunset (at the D&E in Outlook, of all places).  I blazed my way through it, but one story in particular caught my eye and stayed with me long after reading it.  Fast forward almost a year later, and I re-read the same story.  It was then that I became fully committed to adapting it into a short film, and I contacted King’s people requesting permission to do so.

That email on my birthday was the response I got.  It contained a contract which I was to sign, along with a witness, and I also was to include one American dollar.  On the Friday of that week, I sent everything on its way and I now have the rights to the story, which I’ve been feverishly writing notes on before I get down to scripting it.

The short story in question is called Mute.  It’s a quick read at just over 30 pages and has a total of five characters, with two of them being very minor and more of an afterthought.  Without giving too much away in describing it – although who am I to stop you from going out and reading it yourself – Mute is about a man driving along the highway in Anywhere, USA and thinking about all the trouble he’s been having at home.  He stops to pick up a hitchhiker who is deaf and mute and ends up using his new passenger as stress relief, venting about his problems and his worries about the future.  Of course, being a Stephen King story, there might be some tragedy involved and things may not be what they seem.

Mute is one of those stories that reminds me of a good Hitchcock tale.  The questions that it raises about morality and forgiveness really hooked me and the content and characters just scream “MOVIE!!!” when I read it.  I hope I can do it justice.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be shooting this just after the new year, either late in January or early February.  In the meantime, I’m looking at a pre-production cycle entailing the writing process, location scouting, casting auditions, budget raising and equipment rentals/purchases.  Oh my, the excitement that awaits me.

-DR

And so it begins…

Posted: October 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

Of all the technological advances that humankind has developed and promoted to death in the last decade, the blog is the simplest form of cyber networking and communication. I fancy myself a pretty savvy guy when it comes to keeping an eye on trends and whatnot, but I’ve never been one to keep an online journal of my various views, opinions and bursts of creativity.

Until now.

Yep, I’ve finally made the leap and decided that I’m so important and admired that people would want to read my everyday thoughts on the media, pop culture, life, work, and my life outside of work. And so, The Chronicles of Ruttle was born.

In addition to my endless rants and sometimes incoherent, nonsensical ramblings, this little chunk of the Web will be the home of my column on pro wrestling, “Blood On The Canvas”. With a Facebook page consisting of a whopping 40 fans (that’s more than three dozen!) and its other appearances on NoDQ.com and PWMania.com, “Blood” will make its permanent home in The Chronicles and branch out from here.

I don’t bombard people with pokes, likes and a mountain of applications on Facebook, I don’t text everyone with my minute-to-minute thoughts on an iPhone or Blackberry, I don’t bow to corporate music packages wrapped in the next “teen sensation” and I certainly don’t Tweet, Twit or Twat. I’m just a writer. The only thing I’m doing here is opening up the book that is my life and allowing anyone and everyone to read the pages as they are written.

It’s a speaking platform, it’s a rant-filled soapbox, it’s The Chronicles of Ruttle. As I end this long-winded introduction, let me leave you with some words of wisdom that have only made my own life easier:

Baba Booey Baba Booey, Howard Stern’s penis, Baba Booey Baba Booey

– Derek