Monday, February 20, 2017

Tales Of Minor-League Hockey Quaintness

The ECHL is North America's Tier 3 echelon of pro hockey, after the NHL and its development league, the AHL. Minor-league pro hockey is often seen as quaint and folkloric, with a hint of tackiness and a long list of failures to exude professionalism.

It's, essentially, the small-town charm of Big Dreams mixed with the reality of very low budgets.

That being said, there is no excuse for botching a jersey number retirement ceremony the way the Fort Wayne Komets did for Colin Chaulk, by acknowledging the banner was put upside down, yet still going away with raising it to the rafters:
Hopefully, everyone has learned from this experience and will have incorporated having a checklist when they are tasked with doing something important... in their next job. Most people involved should not put this event on their resumes...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Talk (About Mental Illness)

In the mid-to-end 1990s, following the telecom boom and as the World Wide Web was just beginning to be used as a means for self-promotion, companies were trying to present a more humane side by publicly showcasing the benefits their employees could take advantage of, such as an in-house daycare services (Patagonia, SAS) and gyms, multiple team-building retreats per year (Philip Morris, Distributech), State of the Union-type gatherings in exotic locations where spouses were welcome (Industrial Alliance, Toyota), etc.

For many of these companies (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Industrial Light & Magic), the ethical treatment of their employees translated into additional sales; for others, however, additional expenses meant nearing the brink of bankruptcy.

And, thus, because every major action brings forth an equal reaction, the 00s brought with them budget tightening, with organizations looking mainly to reduce what they saw as expenditures: wages, customer service, free coffee, lowering their standards from “excellence” to “satisfying” or “good enough”, extending their client base’s patience to its limit. Some cut on the big expenditures such as rent, travel or daycare. Others, such as American Apparel, saw their managers take on a more hands-on approach that was not appreciated by their employees.

What we are left with in the wake of a noble idea like #BellLetsTalk is to bring attention to such things as employee comfort and peace of mind, as work-related exhaustion and depression now accounts for 90% of mental illness in North America, among other overwhelming statistics such as:
19 Frightening Workplace Mental Health Statistics(This infographic was crafted by Officevibe. )
So when Patagonia (and Goldman Sachs, for what it’s worth) claims it has a 25% lower turnover rate, that 100% of moms return to work after maternity leave and that morale is always high, when, in Canada, a dozen of the Top 100 Employers (according to the Globe & Mail) offer family-related perks and benefits, when ten of the Top 100 Employers (according to Fortune Magazine) in the U.S. offer daycare - including five insurance companies (Aflac, Atlantic Health, Meridian Health, Baptist Health South Florida and Bright Horizons Family Solutions) - it may be time for some employers to think about certain expenses, particularly those related to employee morale, as investments in current and future productivity instead of just money thrown away.

Which brings me back to #BellLetsTalk, a smart initiative and tool in de-stigmatizing mental illness in Canada, in getting people to talk about it and trying to find solutions to the problem. Marketing-wise, it’s also pure genius, as social media was saturated with Bell’s brand name for an entire day in support of a great cause.

If only they didn’t have a couple of public-relations disasters on their hands involving their firing of medium-profile employees over their asking for help in dealing with… mental illness.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Video Of The Week: Cage The Elephant

The difference between imitation and inspiration is that imitation always pales in comparison.

Inspiration doesn't guarantee quality either; not all ideas are good, and not all good ideas turn out great in practice. But once in a while, things pan out for the best.

In Cold Cold Cold, Cage The Elephant hit such a moment; in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with listening to The Animals and The Rolling Stones a lot - and there is no way to listen to too much of them either. And when listening to Eric Burdon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards enough leads to the best 60s song to come out of the 2010s, something has gone right.

Singer Matt Shultz directed the video, which harkens back to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in theme and Eyes Wide Shut in visual style:

The video comes on the heels of a memorable performance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and a Grammy nomination for best album, for 2015's Tell Me I'm Pretty, produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Keith Olbermann And The Meaning Of The Second Amendment

Has Keith Olbermann lost it? Maybe a little. By losing his job at MSNBC for donations made to Democratic Party candidates after appearances on his show (Countdown), he has taken a turn for the more opinionated, sometimes stepping over the line in terms of fact-reporting to get his political point across. At times, that has meant he sounds as nutty as Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannitty (albeit with a totally different worldview and civil perspective), despite looking poised.

On the other hand, there were too few dissident voices in the news during George W. Bush's turn in the White House - with the consequences that we have seen (the largest foreign attack on U.S. soil, two wars, at least one of them fully unwarranted). The media had been way too lax and the entire planet suffered. I see how he would feel he needs to teach Americans the Right Way and, failing that, wanting to knock some sense into them.

All told, I think we're better off with him having some sort of wide and official platform.

Nowadays, Olbermann has a webseries called The Resistance (formerly The Closer, it was changed following Donald Trump's victory), hosted by GQ Magazine. Today's video brings home a point many scholars try to teach about but that people are too thick to open their eyes to regarding the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Video Of The Week: The Smashing Pumpkins

"Tomorrow's just an excuse away / So I pull my collar up and face the cold, on my own".
- Billy Corgan, 1995.

Winter's upon us, ice covers the streets and sidewalks - and perhaps even our hearts. The warmth is so far away, a few of us may not even get to experience it again. And in this cold, all I hear are the words to The Smashing Pumpkins' Thirty-Three, the first song Corgan wrote after the seminal 1993 album Siamese Dream which ended up as the final single released from the two-disc epic and so-aptly-titled Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.

Mellon Collie sounded tragic, and in many ways it was. It was the last record the "classic" Pumpkins line-up ever recorded, although said line-up was usually just used sparsely in the studio, with Corgan performing all instruments except drums himself, save for a piano or guitar solo here and there, courtesy of James Iha. It was also one of the harshest tours in rock history, as one 17-year-old fan was crushed to death at the Dublin show, and with touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin overdosing on heroin in New York, resulting in Melvoin's death and Chamberlin's expulsion of the group.

The band didn't stop the tour, however, recruiting studio drummer extraordinaire Matt Walker (who also appeared on later studio singles and 1998's Adore) and keyboardist Dennis Flemion; the band played the Molson Centre on September 11th, 1996 (I won tickets to the show by calling in at CHOM, the local rock station), and released the following single and video (co-directed by Corgan and then-partner Yelena Yemchuk), filmed in stop-motion and leading up to a re-enactment of the Mellon Collie album cover at the end:

Monday, January 2, 2017

Bread Face

Via The New York Times (via BuzzFeed, Vice and Instagram...) comes Bread Face, a woman who, well, uh, likes to smash her face into bread.
Is it art? Is it comedy? Is it just a weird fucking fetish? Is it just that it feels good?

If you can, look up the one where she does it over a super-salty pretzel from Brookly hipster spot Black Forest, over Jennifer Paige's 1998 pop hit Crush... as much as I love pretzels, I'm just worried she'll get salt in her eye(s).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

R.I.P. Carrie Fisher

Fuck, 2016 is a killer.

Today, Carrie Fisher was the latest esteemed member of the entertainment and arts community to pass away, the result of a heart attack suffered last week while flying from London to Los Angeles.

She was 60 years old, and is survived by her beloved puppy as well as her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, and daughter, actress Billie Lourd.

As Princess Leia Organa in the Star Wars movies, she was my first silver screen/celebrity crush. I had always dreamed of writing her into a screenplay. In terms of film writing, she, Demi Moore, Rebecca De Mornay and Deborah Kara Unger were my muses when it came to female parts; I tried writing strong, smart parts for women so that one of them would one day play in one, giving me the credibility I needed to keep making and writing movies.

My most mainstream screenplay - for lack of a better word - about a guy who loses it and starts sending dill pickles by mail, had parts for all four of them as his co-workers and bosses in a call center. It was never sold nor picked up, of course, because I am terrible at selling myself.
She will be missed.

She had recently released her autobiography. It's a fine read.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Video Of The Week: The Killers

Christmas has come and past, the Holidays weren't meant to last, but here's a remnant with a bit of a twist, to be added to the original yuletide hit list, Don't Shoot Me Santa by The Killers, featuring Ryan Pardey in the role of a murderous Las Vegas-area Santa:

It was directed by actor Matthew Gray Gubler (of Criminal Minds fame).

Other Vegas staples in the video include digging a hole to bury a body in the Mohave, an old red convertible that Hunter S. Thompson would have loved, and a shitload of sand and dirt.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Video Of The Week: Neil Gaiman & Amanda Palmer

There are troubling times, to be sure. The world is in turmoil - and not just at war. People's rights are being bought and sold everywhere, usually to the lowest bidder.

The artists we saw a buys and lighthouses, guides in the darkness, are vanishing nearly every week. One such artist, Leonard Cohen, has fortunately left behind a body of work that many will be able to draw from; this week, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman narrates the lyrics of Democracy, with his partner Amanda Palmer accompanying him on piano, and an orchestra arrangement by Jherek Bischoff that features Étienne Abelin (violin), Ola Sendecki (violin), David Schnee (viola), and Lukas Raaflaub (cello) in a video animated and directed by David Mack and Olga Nunes:

What I like most about this version is that it is straightforward, with the words up-front, ahead of all, including melody, which means they do without the cheesy keyboard, 80s electronica-pop parts.

It's the one thing I didn't like about Cohen's oeuvre: the fact that he felt he had to provide cheesy bridges for his dames-of-the-moment to sing, rather than include them in the actual body of the song.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Silent Extinction

Don't get me wrong, I signed the petition, but it's still fucked up that because people don't care enough to look into other people's situations in the Western World, they care more to act for animal rights than human rights:
In case it isn't clear, the email's subject line is "Silent Extinction".

Need we remind people that unarmed Black men are still getting shot daily by police in the U.S.?

That the sub-language and dialect of Paw-Paw (or "Missouri French") is in its last decade of existence in front of our very eyes?

Oh, speaking of French, that 6.5 million people in Québec are another generation away from losing a language they had kept alive for over 400 years because so-called Federalists' cuts in the education system have rendered those under the age of 25 unable to fucking spell and write their own fucking language?

On the daily, we are watching governments or government employees decide or participate in the silent genocide of people who have one thing in common: they are members of a community that is decidedly poorer than the ruling class of white Anglo-Saxons.

But let's save giraffes, or send whatever means of help to Congo, or start wars with Middle-Eastern countries, or threaten China with economic sanctions, or lift those with Russia. And let's keep having the media depict Cuba as a power-hungry dictatorship instead of a complete systemic overhaul that overthrew racism and corruption and is one detail away (an embargo from the world's largest exporter of goods) from thriving.

Yep, makes sense. White, Anglo-Saxon, imperialistic sense.