Category Archives: Seth On The Arts

Seth presents opinions about how others present their artistic wares.


The notion that the sun shines and the rain pours is part of Big Sun’s weather propaganda.


II: VOICE OF A RANT (you are here)

Since publishing the transcript of my delightful (yet oddly, not-yet-gone-viral) rant against biased weather journalists, which was first uttered many suns ago on my pre-podcasting-era “radio” show, Life and Seth (on SethFM), I have received a request from my former producer (also named Seth) to publish the video of that original rant here. I am happy to do so in honour of the recently retired CKNW comedic grouch, Neil Macrae, after whom ranting Seth was patterned.

But I should warn you—before I leave you to your enjoyment and agreement—that I was “broadcasting” for radio, not television, which means that, while the rant was on videotape, my attention was focussed on my voice instead of any special eye contact with the audience. In fact, the only reason the footage is on video is because my video camera possessed the best audio recorder at SethFM headquarters.

Stay cool, my friends.


II: VOICE OF A RANT (you were just here)

THE SUN BURNS I: Transcript Of A Rant

The notion that the sun shines and the rain pours is part of big sun’s weather propaganda.


I: TRANSCRIPT OF A RANT (you are here)

As summer ominously approaches for another year, and I listen as always to weather reporters proclaim its glory, I am reminded of a rant provided by myself during my radio days at SethFM. I have just taken an ear peak at it, and I can confirm that my words then are as true now (if not truer, considering global warming) as the day they were born.

Since first publishing that rant, I have received many threats (from the sun), and I have feared for my skin’s life. And so I have long resisted re-releasing my resistance material on the internet. However, I recently heard a caller into The Bill Good Show (CKNW) who brilliantly and entertainingly made her own complaints about weather reporters who insist upon decrying rain as though it’s a catastrophe. In this age of natural disasters, she asked, “Does it have to be scorching hot for people to be satisfied?”

I was delighted by this rare expression of sun resistance in our sun-obsessed culture. Bill, however—who is ordinarily a reasonable man—merely chuckled and called her “grumpy.”

Really, would you refer to Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and other oppression opposers as simply being in a bad mood? 😉

Thus, in defense of my sun-resister-sister, for the first time on the internet, I offer you now the transcript of Seth’s Editorial Rant, “The Sun Burns”:

I’ve been doing a little bit of research on journalism and what I’ve learned is that journalists are expected, nay, obligated to be impartial in their journaling. You’ll notice, for instance, when Bob Newsanchor reads the news, he says:

“Today Jean Chrétien was named Prime Minister of Canada.  He does not, however, say, “Yippee, I’m glad to see that my favourite guy, J.C., got the job!”

It is, therefore, with great confusion that I notice that one species of journalist—the weather journalist—seems to believe that they are immune to the rules of journalism; you will notice, that is, that the weather journalist believes he or she has the right to tell us whether the weather news is good or bad.  When the day is to be rain-shining, we are told that it is to be “a miserable day,” while when the day is to be sun-pouring, “it will be beautiful.”

Now I for one hate the sun, always have, and so when I hear that the weather is to be, quote, “nice,” I immediately get both my rain jacket and my singing voice on so that I can get out and do some singing in the rain.*  For 24 years, that has been my habit, and for 24 years I have been disappointed as I discover that, instead of some lovely rain, that ugly yellow disc, that I like to call the burning ball of fire, is out to play.

*Now, of course, I am being facetious: I know that all weather people revere the sun like we can’t live without it, but I wonder what gives the weather people the right to expect me to worship that same weather that they do?

As someone who likes overcast best, I feel persecuted for my beliefs.  Sometimes a passing stranger will comment to me, “What nice weather we’re having.” To which I sometimes reply:

“What nice weather?! All I can see is a burning ball of fire which is giving me cancer, is causing me to squint, and is making you, kind stranger, sweat like an ice cube in an oven convention!”

To which the stranger will reply:

“Oh, come now, we can’t complain about the heat; after all, when it was raining, we all wished for the sun to come out.”

To which I reply:

“But I didn’t complain about the rain; in fact I was out there singing in it.”

To which the stranger will reply:

“How dare you prefer the rain to the sun! You have no right to live!”

Needless to say, being a rain fan is not an easy life to live in this country of sun-o-centrics.  Indeed, I often find myself hiding my rain preferences just to protect myself from an anti-rain lecture.  But, on the rainy side, or—as the sun-o-files would say—on “the bright side,” by pretending to be a sun-o-file to avoid being discriminated against, I have been able to infiltrate some conversations of sunners, and what I’ve discovered is that many sunners have latent feelings of sun hating.

“What a beautiful day,” they’ll say out loud for the sun to hear, but then they’ll mutter under their breath, “Gosh it sure is hot,” “I’m exhausted,” “I need some water,” and so on.

Such words are calls for help.  The fact is, most people are terrified to come out of the rain closet.  You see, when it comes to weather, Canada is much more a cult than a country.  We have, that is, been brainwashed to believe that we must love and adore the sun.  Who is to blame for the brainwashing?  Why, the aforementioned weather reporters, of course.  Those quirky folks with wacky ties who stand in front of weather maps pretending to know how to interpret the weather.  Yes, it is they who tell us that sun is good, rain is bad.  It is they who have forced upon our society this one-dimensional image of weather beauty.  And it is they who must be stopped.

We must stand up and tell the weather reporters that we will no longer allow them to tell us what weather we should like and what weather we should dislike.  I’m not asking the weathermen and women to enjoy a good overcast day, I’m just asking they that don’t infringe upon my right to enjoy it.  I’m just asking that—like all other journalists—they report what they see, not what they think.

Well put, previous Seth! Well put, indeed.

Portal to the video version of this rant.


I: TRANSCRIPT OF A RANT (you were just here)


I’m currently reading Earle Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason mystery,The Case of the Daring Divorcee. It is enlightening to spend time in Gardner’s 1964 sensibilities and discoveries (including a strange “tape-recording answering machine”). Most intriguing, though, is the mind of our heroic defence attorney, Mr. Perry Mason, who wields a refreshingly logical brilliance.

I find that the authors of most modern brainy heroes don’t let us in on how their characters arrive at their profound conclusions; instead, we are to watch as they form their elusive epiphanies, but have to wait for a dramatic moment to be let in on the fun. Mason, though, is methodical and breaks down events right in front of us. Although don’t try to think ahead of him! He’s always one step ahead.

Consider Perry Mason vs Lieutenant Tragg regarding Mason’s client Adele Hastings. Perry anticipated that Tragg would bring Mrs. Hastings in front of a witness, who had seen a woman matching her description do something suspicious; so Perry had several women, of that same description, arrive in the meeting room just before Hastings was about to be identified.

The result, as Perry had planned, was that the witness picked out the first women to arrive—not Adelle Hastings—as the suspicious person. Lieutenant Tragg immediately intervened and told the witness to look at all the women: which one who was the women she had seen? Now the witness wasn’t sure: they all looked like her.

Don’t be impressed yet; watch what Mason does to Tragg next:

TRAGG (to the decoy women): You can go, all of you.

MASON: All of you can go. All of you.

TRAGG: Hey, wait a minute. I want Mrs. Hastings to say.

MASON: All right, which one is Mrs. Hastings?

TRAGG: Don’t pull those tricks on me.

MASON: Pick her out if you want her.

TRAGG: You’re talking to an officer, Perry. Don’t try those tricks.

Tragg then successfully identified Mrs. Hastings.

TRAGG: What the hell were you trying to do? Make a monkey of me? Did you think I couldn’t pick Mrs. Hastings out of that group?…

MASON: No, you didn’t have any trouble picking her out. That’s all I needed to convince any jury that the test was a fair one.

Brilliant! Like a magician, Perry had misdirected Tragg and I to assume that he was trying to further demonstrate the fallibility of witnesses by showing Tragg that even he couldn’t pick his client out of a lineup. Well, Tragg and I could prove that wrong: we could easily identify Hastings! And, just like that, Perry pulled the rabbit out of our testimony as he proved that, if his client really was the one who had been witnessed, she would have been identifiable even amongst a crowd of lookalikes.

Next time I’m on trial for a crime I didn’t commit, I’m calling Perry Mason!


I am often tempted by what I’ll call “Sudden Magic Premise Comedies” (in particular those starring adults) in which our (almost always) male protagonist is successful and charming, but possesses a seemingly tragic flaw (an overabundance of ego, shallowness, or shyness) and so is suddenly given (or cursed by) a magic power (perhaps being able hear women’s thoughts), limitation (he can no longer tell a lie), or situation (he has to relive the same day repeatedly). In almost every case, when our hero meets his magic circumstance, we begin with his slapstick comedic reaction to his plight (this is a good reason to hire Jim Carrey or Bill Murray for your lead as they can handle the humour gracefully), but the situation will eventually turn dire to the point that he will lose almost everything in his life, including, apparently, the affection of the female lead. Her role is key as she is almost unanimously unencumbered by personality or humour, but possesses an understanding of the true meaning of life and family; it is precisely that outlook that the protagonist must adopt if he’s going to escape his magic premise.

I am often seduced by these magic premises, as I am curious as to how the hero will handle what seems to me to be an intriguing situation. For instance, before viewing Bruce Almighty, in which the great Jim Carrey’s character temporarily acquires the powers of God, I was intrigued to see how he would deal out his deity magic to those around him. Unfortunately, I need to be reminded before I purchase my ticket that these movies are not meant to be philosophical or ethical commentaries: JC’s character did not, as we might hope, spend his powers on curing major illnesses in third world countries; instead, he focussed on the petty preferences of his own life. And so I was disappointed by what seemed to be empathetically-challenged behaviour from our hero, but that was my own fault for mixing up the genre for something that it’s not.

Sudden Magic Premise Comedies can—in SethBlogs’ opinion—be very good movies, but it’s important to remember their function before going in. I forgot this rule once again last night when I was drawn in by the Magic Comedy Premise of A Thousand Words, in which the protagonist, played by Eddie Murphy, is given only a thousand words to live. Intrigue me! How exactly would he ration them? What clever strategies for handling the problem would he invent? But, once again, I should have realized that this wasn’t meant to be a thought-provoking movie in the way that I’d hoped. I was therefore displeased by the results. My bad once again.

As with all genres, there are both good and bad Sudden Magic Premise Comedies (so long as we are willing to remember the limitations of the genre). If you are considering trying one out, I am at your service. Below are my rankings of the non-kid-led Sudden Magic Premise Comedies that I can remember at this time.

1. Groundhog Day (1993)

Magic Premise: I don’t want to give this one away as this movie is best witnessed without awareness of what is about to befall our hero.

SethBlogs Analysis: This movie is already highly ranked in several prestigious SethBlogs categories, such as “Best Comedy Film,” “Best Bill Murray Movie,” (tied with Quick Change), and “Best Overall Movie.” The dialogue is overflowing with wit, the comedy has impeccable timing (leaving every joke before it becomes tedious), and the existentially superior love interest possesses a rare hint of a personality beyond the requirements of the genre.

2. What Women Want (2000)

Magic Premise: Our charming, but somewhat chauvinistic hero is given the ability to hear the thoughts of all women.

SethBlogs Analysis: While there is some silly gender humour in this film, SethBlogs found the characters to be much more nuanced and human than we normally encounter in Sudden Magic Premise Comedies. As a result, the world in which these characters interact seems more believable and three-dimensional. Even the morally superior female lead possesses rare personality and even unprecedented self-doubt. Consequently, the plot is not as gimmicky as the genre would normally forgive.

3. Liar Liar (1997)

Magic Premise: A double-talking lawyer’s neglected son successfully wishes that his dad lose the ability to tell lies.

SethBlogs Analysis: This one’s all in the Carrey. Without Jim, its silliness would be too slapstick for viewing, but in the face and charm of the master, I pronounce it worth seeing.

4. Yes Man (2008)

  • Directed by: Peyton Reed
  • Screenplay by: Nicholas Stoller and Jarrad Paul & Andrew Mogel
  • Starring: Jim Carrey
  • Not-So-Bland Lady Love Interest: Zoey Deschanel (SethBlogs categorizes her as not-so-bland because she is a free spirit with some evident charm, but given the movie’s role is to teach Jim Carrey’s character to lead a more spontaneous life, she still fulfills her genre duty to take the moral high ground and to inspire him to do better)

Magic Premise: In this case, the lead’s tragic flaw is not that he is over-confident, but that he is under-existing. He is thus sentenced to say “Yes” to everything anyone ever asks of him (if he doesn’t, bad things happen) so that he will learn to take on life more assertively.

SethBlogs Analysis: There are some painfully silly moments in this movie, but Carrey’s standard brilliance, along with a likeable collection of co-stars, provokes approval from the SethBlogs staff.

5. Bedazzled (2000)

Magic Premise: This time our hero’s tragic flaw comes from his dorky demeanor, which is stalling his efforts to attain his dream girl. Thus he sells his soul to the devil in exchange for seven wishes with which he hopes to improve his manliness so that he can impress his love.

SethBlogs Analysis: There is some confusion about human tendencies here (for instance, when Brendan’s character wishes for the ability to be the sweetest man on earth, our hero becomes annoyingly sickly sweet, but of course a truly sensitive person would be aware of how to avoid being annoying.) However, some genuinely funny moments combined with Brendan Fraser’s incomparable pathos make this a worthwhile viewing, in SethBlogs’ humble opinion.

6. Bruce Almighty (2003)

  • Directed by: Tom Shadyac
  • Screenplay by: Steve Koren & Mark O’Keefe and Steve Oedekerk
  • Starring: Jim Carrey
  • Bland Lady Love Interest: Jennifer Aniston (another colossal misuse of a comedic talent here as Anniston’s character lacks even of a hint of the personality that the actress is capable of portraying)

Magic Premise: Bruce gets to borrow God’s powers for a while.

SethBlogs Analysis: This is one of the most silly in the genre that’s still worth seeing. While it is philosophically agonizing to watch, the cast—led by our Jim—is charming and funny enough to keep the SethBlogs’s eyes on screen.

7. Shallow Hall (2001)

Magic Premise: The lead’s tragic flaw in this case is right there in the title: he’s so shallow that he only sees women for their looks, and so he is given the power/curse to see women only for their inner beauty.

SethBlogs Analysis: As always, the writer-director combo of the Farrelly brothers mix some offensive humour into a comedy with heart. Shallow Hall is both mildly insulting and compassionate to the less fortunate in appearance, and so has just barely earned SethBlogs’ approval.

8. The Invention of Lying (2009)

Magic Premise: Gervais’s character lives in a world where no one has ever thought to lie; everything changes when he suddenly one day realizes the power of deception.

SethBlogs Analysis: This movie is all premise and no pay off. The writers confuse the inability to tell lies with an insistence on oversharing. Gervais spends time being funny, but as with all of his roles, he eventually returns to his most famous persona, David Brent from The Office (which is always enjoyable, but distracting when he’s supposed to be playing a different character). SethBlogs does not think this movie is worth seeing, and yet the premise is so interesting, that even now we want to go back to that world to give it another chance.

9. A Thousand Words (2012)

Magic Premise: Murphy’s charming, but double-talking literary agent persona is taught a lesson by a magic tree who limits him to approximately a thousand words for the rest of his life.

SethBlogs Analysis: Perhaps the promise of the premise has led me to unfairly dislike this film for dealing with its intriguing thought example in such a silly way. For instance, to facilitate the comedy of a particular moment, Murphy’s character repeatedly wastes many precious words to complete the scene’s comedy, but for the drama of another situation, he refuses say a word to stop his simple, but pure wife from misinterpreting him to catastrophic results. Nevertheless, Murphy plays the part well and there is one scene that got the whole SethBlogs team laughing.

10. Evan Almighty (2007)

  • Directed by: Tom Shadyac
  • Written by: Steve Oderkerk
  • Starring: Steve Carrel
  • Bland Lady Love Interest: Lauren Graham (once again, this is a mighty waste of talent as the ultra-funny Graham stays on formula and never utters a breath that isn’t morally superior and devoid of personality)

Magic Premise: In this rare Magic Premise sequel, Bruce Almighty’s rival, Evan, gets to play a Bible character as God sentences him to be a modern-day Noah.

SethBlogs Analysis: This is one of the top ten worst movies that SethBlogs has had the displeasure of witnessing. It is relentlessly silly and contrived without a hint of funny.


As far as I can tell, there are three major classes of standard action movie:


In this case, like a musical, every moment is a set up for the action aria. Usually, a pure action movie will feature an actor known for his (and very occasionally her) martial arts skills or bubble-muscles (or both), such as Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, Jean-Claude van Damme, or all-time leader, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The dialogue often features wooden pre-and-post-violence-catchphrases such as “Time to take out the trash,” or “That hit the spot.” At the same time, such films are often sanitized in the sense that there is a small amount of blood and gore in proportion to the impressive volume of shooting and killing; as a result, the victims of the violence are not sympathetic figures, but instead merely stunt men. The relationship between good and bad, meanwhile, is cartoonish, but satisfying to those of us with simple hearts.


Here the scenario is king as our hero is caught in a tricky situation that he (or occasionally she) has to escape or resolve. The action can be impressive, but is directed by the necessity of the plot and so makes each obstacle that our hero must defeat exciting and significant. Our hero’s moxie, however, is more crucial than his martial arts skills. Consider Die Hard or much of Harrison Ford’s work. Once again, the good guy is juxtaposed with a bad guy who does evil things to people’s grandmothers, but since the focus is as much on the brains and personalities of both sides as it is their swinging back kicks, it is easier to invest oneself in the characters. And our hero and villain’s humour is usually more wit than punch-line-based.


In this case, the story is once again significant, but it is usually dark and blurs the distinction between good and evil. The action, when it happens, is harsh, loud, and disconcerting. The action hero again doesn’t have to be a black belt in anything, but he (and very rarely she) must be ready to be moody about a dark past. Dim lighting throughout the film often causes the protagonist’s morose mood to infect ours, as does the disconcerting violence, which features grisly death, rape, and torture. The characters are generally humourless (who could blame them?), as they’re rather focussed on revenge at the moment. Films such as Law Abiding Citizen and Payback are classic examples.

When done skillfully, all three genres can produce work that I like, but it has come to my realization that I generally prefer situation action movies because I find them to be a fun place for my imagination to play. I appreciate the fact that they don’t take themselves too seriously, deriving their humour from wit and personality traits as opposed to the slapstick death of a pawn character or a clichéd punch-line. The heroes usually endear themselves to me to the point that I actually care about what happens to them when the action starts. (Rank 1 on the action genre list.)

In contrast, pure action movies, whilst also not taking themselves too seriously, are rarely able to provoke any connection between the hero, the action, and me. The violence is so constant and unlinked to a recognizable scenario or character I care about that I find myself bored with the constantly flashing movement on screen and the noise reverberating in my eardrums. (Rank 3.)

Meanwhile, gritty action films work hard to connect us with the characters, but, since they have such ambiguous morality levels, they’re not particularly likeable. And, because the story is told with a dark and pessimistic tone and often involves serious and controversial subject matter, I find myself less entertained as I am sad about the world. The action itself, meanwhile, is so raw and blood-spattered that it’s not particularly pleasing to view. Nevertheless, given the dark story takes on some challenging subject matter, it generally at least provokes my disconcerted brain to have some unexpected thoughts. (Rank 2.)

These distinctions are helpful, I think, because they can allow us (even if we’re not always conscious of them) to select the type of movie that best suits our taste buds. Moreover, it would be helpful for movie critics to keep genre conventions in mind in order to avoid unfairly condemning a movie for having too much or not enough action, humour, character development, complexity, or gravitas. For instance, when watching a pure action film, it would be unreasonable to expect the same degree of character development as in Citizen Kane, because that is not its function. Rather, a pure action should be judged based on its successful implementation of the genre’s key elements.

At the same time, it is rather irritating to me when an action movie tries to reap all the benefits of each genre, and ends up being none of them. Consider Safe House, which I took in last night. It brands itself as a gritty action, and certainly it possesses sufficiently dark themes for that (I was definitely good and depressed as I watched). The hero (played by Ryan Reynolds), per specifications, is under-appreciated and faced with difficult decisions in which he has to choose between love and work. And we have plenty of brutal, cold-blooded killing, along with a realistic scene of torture (the actor-victim, Denzel Washington, explained afterwards that he allowed himself to be water-boarded—albeit briefly—so as to get the good grit). Fine. Gritty action it is: my thoughts were primed for provocation.

But then the movie quickly turns into a situation flick where our quick-thinking hero has to navigate the Safe House world using only his brilliant maneuvering, reluctantly bonding with his sometimes-prisoner in a formulaic father-son, mentor-student relationship. And the action, itself, while dark and extreme like a gritty movie, is constant, gratuitous, and sometimes even nonsensical, featuring indiscriminate and hopeless shooting by the enemy, lots of fancy fight moves, and virtually pain-free car crashes, all meeting pure action requirements. Thus, even though the movie tries to get the intellectual credit for being gritty, it actually relies on the conventions of pure and situation action to entertain us. The result is an unharmonious blending of genres that is too dark to be enjoyable and too silly to be interesting. Whereas I was initially sympathetic to the protagonist because of the frightening situation he is caught in and the invocation of various situation-action conventions, the paradoxical mixing of gritty with silly eventually deflated my concern as I could no longer take the film seriously.

EPILOGUE: I also recently watched the situation action movie Man on a Ledge, which officially will get much lower marks from the critics because it is an unashamedly lowbrow movie (featuring some implausible moments and unnecessary cleavage). To me, it’s underrated redeeming quality is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Instead of genre-hopping like Safe House, it stays consistently in its own lane. Consequently, by knowing its limitations, it succeeds at being something; whereas, by trying to be everything, Safe House fails to be anything.


Sadly, those in charge of directing sports broadcasts seem to be more interested in the arts than sports. (Perhaps sports’ fans only recourse is to send our athletes in to direct their operas.)


III: ALL-STAR BABBLE (you are here)

Dear CBC Sports:

Unlike many snobby viewers such as your Don Cherry (who lament the lack of standard hockey violence), I enjoy taking in the NHL’s annual lighthearted skill-a-thon known as the all-star game. In contrast with those who can’t bare the uncharacteristically free-wheeling pace, I appreciate the players’ efforts to entertain me with lots of fancy goals. And why not?! The intensity-connoisseurs get their way every other game of the year, can’t we skill-fans have this one moment on the scoreboard?

Apparently not, CBC Sports, since you decided that the game wasn’t interesting enough to keep the fans’ attention. So, instead of providing the usual exciting live-action commentary (“he shoots, he scores,” etc.) from your expert broadcasters, you spent the game showing off your mic’d up technology and access to the players by interviewing them while the game was being played!

“So, Bobby,” your announcer asked one all-star while another was about to score the goal of the game, “how are you enjoying the game so far?”

These meandering mic’d moments might have been interesting if they weren’t muting the coverage of the play I’d tuned in to witness. I’ve ranted it before, and I’ll rant it again: there’s nothing wrong with these alternate perspectives, but there’s also nothing wrong with recording them and waiting till a break in the action to show them to us. Patience, my broadcasting friends. When you impose your instant-access distractions on the live action then—instead of accentuating your fans’ experience—your broadcasting toys take precedence over the game that brought us to your channel.

I think the problem here, CBC Sports, is that you recognize that social media is a big deal right now—and so you want to harness it’s all-access power—but you don’t quite understand why it’s so successful. So let me clarify: yes, this new everybody-tweets world means we’re used to hearing the everyday thoughts of previously inaccessible celebrities. But that doesn’t mean that, in the middle of our maiden viewing of the new movie, Battleship Vengeance, we want Johnny Superstar to tweet across the screen how he completed that big stunt. That would actually disrupt our experience. Save that stuff for when we’re not concentrating on the plot (like on a separate Twitter feed or in the DVD Special Features).

As it was, CBC Sports, your version of the 2012 NHL all-star game became a fast-paced Facebook after party before the game was even over, and I did not care for it.

Good day to you, CBC Sports!


III: ALL-STAR BABBLE (you were just here)


Sadly, those in charge of directing sports broadcasts seem to be more interested in the arts than sports. (Perhaps sports’ fans only recourse is to send our athletes in to direct their operas.)


II: DISPLAYS OF THE YEAR (you are here)

I couldn’t have said it better myself in my April 2011 blogging, THE ARTFUL SPORTSCASTER I: EMPTY NET WORK, when I noted that sports broadcasters sometimes let their yearning to be artistic (and to use all of their broadcast toys) block the subject they’re supposed to be covering.

For instance, some hockey broadcasters enjoy showing us exciting events of the game from a camera positioned behind the defending team’s net (instead of the standard and all-illuminating side-overview shot).

Now, if the hockey game were an art show, I would tip my sherry to the broadcast poets, as their keyhole view offers us an unusual, mind-bending visual.  The problem is that, for earnest hockey fans, this perspective-shifting angle corrupts our ability to follow the play, itself (which may, in fact, have been the basis for our viewing in the first place).

As I have pleaded with the hockey broadcasters many times, I wish they would save those unique shots (and disruptive close-ups of players with the puck) for replays and special after-game compilations, but during the game, relax, and let me watch my favourite sport from the perfect vantage point and leave me alone about it.

But it gets worse.  I’ve recently broken open my copy of the greatest hockey ever played, the Canada Cup 1987 tournament, featuring the Great Wayne Gretzky, in his prime, setting up the Magnificent Mario Lemieux in his early-career awakening.  The first game has already left me hollering at the director, who in the heart of the play, enjoys stepping away from the action to show us live shots of the Canadian coach watching on!  Now I’m not particularly interested in watching someone else watch a game at the boringest of times, but in the middle of the greatest hockey ever played, I certainly don’t want to be staring at someone else staring at what I would in fact like to be witnessing!

All of this is relevant to our current New Year’s Eve moment in time, because today is a day in which many sports broadcasters enjoy presenting to us their “plays of the year.”  Unfortunately, those assigned to put together said plays are not necessarily sports fans, but seem instead to be music video and editing specialists, and so they pack the imagery—that would have entertained on its own—with stops and starts and assorted effects to wow our artistic eyes, while leaving our sportsfanship disrupted.

I know that it is too late to stop this year’s exhibition of sports broadcasting artwork, but I would like to make a New Year’s Resolution by proxy to sports broadcasters to excommunicate this distracting editing from all future sports presenting.  This request carries with it the same obligations (and guilt in failure) as a resolution made for oneself.

(Actually, now that I consider it, I think New Year’s Resolutions by proxy are going to be the next big thing: this way one can make plans to better the world without having to do the work on the other side of the resolution.)

Merry Nearly New Year from all of us at Sethblogs!

For more Sethblogs discussion of Broadcasting interference in the future, see THE ARTFUL SPORTSCASTER III: ALL-STAR BABBLE.


II: DISPLAYS OF THE YEAR (you were just here)


Sadly, those in charge of directing sports broadcasts seem to be more interested in the arts than sports. (Perhaps sports’ fans only recourse is to send our athletes in to direct their operas.)


I: EMPTY NET WORK (you are here)

As the hockey playoff season toys with addicted viewers such as myself, I am reminded of a tragic flaw possessed by certain hockey broadcast directors. Often, the best moments of a game are brought to us by its final minute—in particular when one team has a precarious one-goal lead over the other. On such an occasion, the team that is behind will trade in their goaltender for an offensive player. My concern, then, is with NHL broadcasters, who—in such a crucial moment—insist on cutting our view away from the frantic play so that we can witness the vacating goalie on his journey to the players’ bench.

Given the frequency of one-goal games that yield this scenario during an NHL season, you would think that somewhere between 99 and 99.9% of NHL fans would understand and believe the play-by-play commentators when they tell us: “The Canucks’ goalie has left his net for an extra attacker.” Nevertheless, the broadcast director—who apparently hates to see a relevant image go to waste—often invades our viewing of the excitement so that we can verify that the announcer isn’t lying to us:

“Yup, I see the goaltender is, as described, skating to the payers’ bench.”

For the skeptical, hearing impaired, or otherwise confused fan, I wonder if 2011 broadcast technology might allow a wee “picture in picture” to show the detail of the goalie leaving his cage? Yeah, I think that might to do it. But, if not, personally I think it’s worth allowing the estimated* .1 to 1% who are confused to ask their fellow viewers for assistance.

*Note: these statistics are based on a double blind guess by this author.

Perhaps broadcast directors have trouble making this obvious decision because they fancy themselves to be artists instead of documentarians. It’s the standard blunder: when the author of any tale gets too caught up in the artistic tricks of his or her craft then they can easily lose perspective on the actual tale they’re depicting.

The same infliction sometimes overcomes sports broadcasters who put together “plays of the week” as they are overcome by an urge to smother the footage with special effects. As a sports fan, I find these various digital treats make it difficult to follow the plays that I’ve come to watch.

The only solution I can think of to this problem is for a boycott. I suggest we all turn off our TVs when broadcasters ruin our view with unnecessary closeups. Yeah, that’ll show ‘em!

For more on this topic, see THE ARTFUL SPORTSCASTER sequel coming to Sethblogs December 2011.


I: EMPTY NET WORK (you were just here)


I’ve been asked by one of my loyal readers to defend my claim that The Reader (a story “that promotes reading”) is a dreadful movie.

Let me begin by acknowledging that I have been known to enjoy bouts of teasing “Reading Propaganda.”

(Even though, that is, I certainly think books are often great disseminators of information and stories, I resist those who seem to believe that they are always superior to other forms of artistic entertainment such as movies and television.)

However, in spite of my admitted predilection for antagonizing the glorification of books, my quibble with the movie, The Reader, is not so much that it’s attempting to reinvigorate the over-stated claim that reading is the best, but instead my concern is the contrived way in which the plot pushes the point through.

Let me make the point through the aid of my friend television. On the wonderfully written television show Seinfeld, Jerry discovers one day  that his dentist friend Whatley has converted to Judaism so that he can have “total joke-telling immunity” against both Jewish people and Catholics (his current and former religious groups, respectively). So Jerry complains to a Catholic representative:

FATHER: Tell me your sins, my son.

JERRY: Well I should tell you that I’m Jewish.

FATHER: That’s no sin.

JERRY: Oh good. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about Dr. Whatley. I have a suspicion that he’s converted to Judaism just for the jokes.

FATHER: And this offends you as a Jewish person?

JERRY: No, it offends me as a comedian!

Hee, hee, brilliant!

In similar (though less brilliant fashion) my contempt for The Reader is an artistic one. If you’re going to promote a dull, unoriginal cause in your movie, at least do it eloquently, not with contrived statutory rape scenes, followed by gratuitous use of the holocaust to seem like a deeper movie than you are, culminating in the heroic arrival of the blessed saviour, reading, to give the characters’ difficult lives renewed reason for being.

I’m offended as a writer.


I’ve now seen the movie Barney’s Version (based on the book of the same name by Canadian author, Mordecai Richler). It is a well-rendered plot set to dislikable characters (led by Barney, himself, played by Paul Giamatti).

The version that Barney is telling is in contrast with that of his police detective rival, who has written a book, which claims that Barney got away with the murder of his own best friend. So it combines a touch of mystery (as we don’t know for sure whether Barney did it till the end), with a trifecta of lave-hate stories (Barney’s various marriages), along with a semi-cautionary tale of over-indulging in various vices (including hockey-viewing, which was rather enjoyable for hockey fans like me).

The mixed-timeline narrative is certainly interesting and well performed by the actors (whose aging makeup is the best I’ve seen since James Woods’ magically gained a few decades in The Ghosts of Mississippiin contrast with Kate Winslet’s magical lack of aging in the dreadful film The Reader).

However, the trouble with Barney’s Version is that almost every character is a jerk. (Exceptions included Barney’s loyal and entertaining dad, portrayed delightfully by Dustin Hoffman, along with Barney’s second wife, played aptly by Minnie Driver. The latter seems to be the butt of many of the movie’s jokes due to her silly behaviours such as constantly pointing out to people that she has a Master’s degree, but she reveals herself—against Barney’s viciousness—to be genuine and strong as she stands up to Barney’s condescension simply by saying, “Do I talk down to you like that?”) As a result of this mostly unlikeable cast of characters, it is difficult to emotionally invest in the movie.

I’m fully in favour of being entertained by villainous personalties (Jane Austen’s movies taught us that!), but this story is rarely funny (although, many people in my audience were strangely laughing at moments that I thought were too dark and mean to be humourous), and so, by time the story gets to the point where we’re supposed to feel bad for its anti-hero, I found it difficult to care. Nor was the semi-cautionary tale particularly useful to me, because I had no interest in Barney’s lifestyle in the first place.

I suppose, therefore, the film could be helpful to those considering a life of doing exactly as their cravings tell them at all times, but the story doesn’t exactly debunk the glamour of such an existence, so I’m not sure this is the show to be played at the addiction clinics either.

So, in conclusion, you have my permission to see this movie (if only for the parallel hockey timeline) as a diversion if you have nothing better to do, but you also have my approval to miss it if there is anything else playing (such as a hockey game).