Saturday, December 31, 2011

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE CAIRNS BLOG

I could talk about the world juniors or the bowl games, or the Iowa caucuses, but not tonight. I'll talk about it later, maybe tomorrow. That is it for now.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

GOP RACE IN IOWA DOWN TO ITS FINAL WEEK

Exciting times in US presidential politics! The Iowa caucuses are less than one week away, coming up next Tuesday. The latest buzz is that Newt Gingrich is sinking like a rock because of new divorce revelations from years ago. Someone needs to tell the media that this is 2011 and people get divorced all the time. 

Also, in a big news flash, apparently people in Iowa are finally realizing that Rick Santorum is a presidential candidate. Better late than never, I say.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE LED BY MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

So the Christmas weekend box office is in and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol led the way, but you can't really say that it was so great a weekend overall as the box office was only up a percent or two. Big deal. The weekend was basically good for one movie and it was the usual mediocre showing for the rest.

Anyway, so much for 2011 at the movies. Coming soon from me: my annual 2011 Box Office Year in Review.

Monday, December 26, 2011

WORLD JUNIORS ARE ON

Christmas is over and today is Boxing Day, and for Canadians it can only mean one thing -- the World Junior Hockey Championship has started in Alberta.

For others, though, Boxing Day simply means people return their unwanted gifts to the store. Such is life.

Friday, December 23, 2011

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Yes, today is Festivus. Enjoy goofing off and watching TV, folks.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

BOWL SEASON IS ON!

Watching football is all I am really doing these days around here. You know, even though there's all this criticism of the bowl games and the BCS, I think it's great there is football to watch just about every day and night during this holiday season -- even if these games essentially mean absolutely nothing.

The ESPN link to the bowl game scores is here.

POLITICAL UPDATE ON HAPPENINGS IN THE USA WITH THESE REPUBLICANS

I am now officially off for the Christmas break and thought I would provide this update on what's happening in the USA before I hibernate for a few days.

First of all, just as I predicted would eventually happen, Newt Gingrich seems to be sliding. I dunno the exact reason why. Maybe the Republicans have wised up. Maybe Newt's organizational woes are showing up at the worst possible time. Maybe it's all the attack ads against him and the gang-up against him by the other candidates at the last debate. It's probably the last sentence.

In any event, the Iowa race suddenly got more exciting. Meanwhile, the Des Moines Register has endorsed Mitt Romney. Whether that is a good thing or not for him, I don't know.

As for Congress, all I will say about them is that the Republican Tea Party wing continues to show that they are rank amateurs when it comes to politics. These folks in Congress need to make a deal on the payroll tazw and get the extension done before all the taxes go up, but these nutty Tea Partiers would rather stand on principle regardless of the consequences to taxpayers of the United States of America, come hell or high water. And in doing so they are hurting their own cause and hurting their party.

Really, guys, I thought you folks in the GOP were supposed to be the cut-the-taxes crowd. Well, if you don't do this deal the taxes will go up and President Barack Obama will be pointing the finger at you. Tea Partiers, you need to swallow your pride, save your fights for later and get a deal done for the good of the country -- before you sink your whole party. That's my comment.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

DAY OF DEATH ON THE WORLD STAGE

Earlier today Vaclav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, died.
And just tonight, news is in that Kim Jong Il, North Korean dictator, has died.

Oh, and a couple of days ago Christopher Hitchens died, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

MOVIE SLUMP IS STILL ON

More thoughts on the great movie box office slump of 2011 today. First, here's a link to my Cairns on Cinema column this week where I give my reasons why people aren't showing up.

I said the slump was due to 3D and increased ticket prices, and this was why people were no longer supporting the "same old junk" that they used to spend money on in the past. Although truth be told, they're not even really supporting the good movies, either. 

As for this weekend's box office, it looks like the grim domestic trend is continuing. Nikki Finke is reporting this weekend's releases Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (pictured) are way off their previous instalments' box office. Just 24 hours earlier Finke was claiming that pent-up demand was going to mean big audiences for both of them, but Saturday is seeing a different story play out. As for the reasons these two aren't setting the world on fire, you can look no further to my theories: 3D (both of them), increased ticket prices (ditto), contributing to people refusing to support the same old junk (two sequels). And this is definitely junk -- especially the Chipmunks. 

Memo to Hollywood: no more high ticket prices, and no more sequel junk. Please.

About the only good news is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is doing great business on the IMAX screens. But when was the last time we saw a decent action movie on screens? A long time ago, I say. No wonder it's doing so well.

Monday, December 12, 2011

WORST MOVIE ATTENDANCE OF THE "YEAR". LITERALLY

I was not at the movie theater this weekend, and from what I hear, neither were you. But if you were, let me introduce you to a fellow from Massachusetts who's willing to bet you $10,000 that the theater was pretty empty.

The word is that this past weekend was the worst box office weekend of 2011. In fact, it was worse than that -- you had to go back to September of 2008 for a weekend this terrible. The total domestic movie gross: $78 million.

To show you how bad a showing this is for the entire movie industry: one blockbuster summer movie can normally expect to make this much in a weekend all by itself.

Part of the problem was that nobody was too interested in New Year's Eve, Garry Marshall's star-studded New Year's movie that was along the same lines as his previous Valentine's Day. It was expected to finish Number One.

What happened was the critics pelted the movie with tomatoes, and then the fans didn't show up. It did finish first, in the end, but with a haul of only $13.7 million dollars! Also, Jonah Hill's flick The Sitter looked simply lame and did even less business, at $10 million.

I am planning to do my movie column later this week on the miserable box office numbers we have seen, not only this weekend but the entire year. It really has been a year to forget at the box office in 2011. My theories basically all have to do with 3D and with a populace refusing to put up with these increased ticket prices. Especially since Hollywood is insisting on sending our way the "same old, same old" all the time. 

Anyway, look for a column on all my thoughts on the box office numbers later this week.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

FIGHT NIGHT IN IOWA

Not only is it Fight Night in Toronto but it is Debate Night in Iowa. The US presidential contenders are going at it on ABC. Live blog of the event is here.

IT'S UFC FIGHT NIGHT TONIGHT IN TORONTO

Enough about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tonight is FIGHT NIGHT in Toronto, and instead of the usual hockey fights at the Air Canada Centre we have MIXED MARTIAL ARTS as Jon "Bones" Jones takes on Lyoto "The Dragon" Machida. It's UFC 140.  Here's a sneak peak at the weigh-in.



May I also add that I heard sales were kind of slow for this one. While UFC absolutely packed the Rogers Centre for their inaugural fight with Georges St.Pierre, there were reports this wasn't even sold out as of a few days ago.

Bleacher Report has a few reasons why. Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun was scratching his head about it too. I am also scratching my head because I would have thought if there was any place in North America that was a UFC hotbed, it's Toronto. Maybe people there just don't have any money. 

As for live coverage, here's the link to Sportsnet. Enjoy fight night!

Friday, December 09, 2011

ON THE BIG SALE OF THE LEAFS, RAPTORS AND FC

Here are my thoughts about the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund selling their stake in the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors, Marlies and FC, not to mention Air Canada Centre, to media conglomerates Rogers and BCE.

I dunno. A lot of people are worried that these two media and telecom giants are just going to take advantage of this acquisition to hose the public and monopolize their control over content in this country. I think people believe the new owners are going to regard the sports fans in Toronto as a bottomless pit of money to be taken advantage of, and ignore putting together winning teams. Besides, we've seen what Rogers ownership has done for the Toronto Blue Jays on the field. That's right: nothing. Just as MLSE current ownership has done absolutely nothing.

I'm not opposed to conglomerates owning teams as long as they don't hose the fans and commit to winning. In some ways, I think it would have been better for these teams if they were owned by some sole billionaire whose sole focus is winning - a George Steinbrenner type, or maybe a Jerry Jones or a Mark Cuban. Their teams may not win titles every year, but you can be sure they will make an effort to get top players. If their teams lose, you can be sure these owners will blow their tops and make changes.

But with conglomerates, they generally tend to look at teams more as revenue generators for their properties. I think in this case it all comes down to attitude. If these new corporate owners only care about enriching themselves and selling a product, that will be a bad thing. But if they care about actually having a winning product and spending the money that needs spent to do it, that's different. Look at Labatt's when they owned the Blue Jays -- they actually cared about having a winning product on the field, and made sure the team was well-financed to acquire top players. It was more than simply about beer sales for them.

I say the only way you'll make money in the long run with these properties is if these teams win. I don't think you can count on the fans to shell out for products that don't perform on the field, the ice or the court -- even if the team is called the Toronto Maple Leafs. Seriously, all this losing by all these Toronto teams is testing the patience of the fans to no end. The new owners need to pay attention to keeping their suffering fans happy, otherwise they're going to have a very unhappy balance sheet in the long run.

JAIME EDMONDSON DOES IT AGAIN: COUNTS DOWN COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S TOP TEN PROGRAMS

College football's regular season is basically over; all that is left is the big Army-Navy game tomorrow on TV and the awarding of the Heisman Trophy. After that, it's bowl season.

So, with that, I thought I would pass along this fun item which I had been meaning to post for a number of days now. Hopefully, it will also get all the "girl" posts out of my system -- for a while, at least.

As you know, this blog is crazy for Jaime Edmondson of Miami Dolphins, Amazing Race and Playboy fame. That gorgeous redhead has really done her part to make the whole sport of football fun for the fans. Last year, the ex-Dolphins cheerleader did a wildly popular pictorial where she donned outfits in the colors of everyone's favorite NFL teams. This year, in a unique twist, Jaime's part of Playboy's countdown of the top college football programs of the Playboy Era, post-1953.

Number one on their list? USC. (Which, I notice, is having some troubles as of late with the NCAA.)

As an example of what to expect, here's a photo where Jaime dons the famed maize and blue of the Michigan Wolverines. (Photo credit: Playboy.) You can see the whole countdown here, but be warned: the site is kind of not safe for work.

The folks over there at Playboy, by the way, have quite a rich history when it comes to college football coverage. Every fall, they would put out an issue where they would do a "Pigskin Preview" with a thorough ranking of all of the college football programs in the USA. It's great the folks at Playboy have remembered their heritage and it's great to see Jaime back reminding the fans how hot she is. She's also been heating up the cover of Guitar World these days, too.

What else is there to say? Jaime Edmondson rocks. I still think she should've been Playmate of the Year. Oh, well.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

ON THE US PRESIDENTIAL RACE AS IT STANDS NOW

My monthly News Watch column is now up in which I dissect the state of affairs in the USA presidential race.

Needless to say, it has not been an impressive display on the Republican side so far by either the candidates or these befuddled GOP voters. Make up your minds, folks.     

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

MORE BAD TV NEWS: ROGER EBERT GETTING GROUNDED

More bad cancellation news, this time from the ranks of public television. Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies on PBS will be going on hiatus. The reason: lack of funding.

Ebert had sent out an SOS not long ago, saying they needed a big financial angel to come through, or else the show was toast. Apparently Roger and his wife Chaz were financing the show out of their own pockets. You can't expect that to go on forever.

It's really too bad because it seemed like a good show with a loyal following of viewers. This begs the question -- what the heck are these PBS pledge breaks for if they don't keep your favorite shows on the air? Seriously, I don't get it.

A lot of people are saying they should just continue the show as a web-only venture, but that is just unrealistic -- you really do need a TV partner to be able to make a go of it with a quality production. I mean, look at Richard Roeper -- he does a lot of video stuff online these days, but still needs a TV partner for all that, too, in Reelz Channel. Anyway, I hope Ebert finds a way to finance this show so it can get back on the air before long. This news gets a big thumbs down from me.

PAN AM LOOKS LIKE IT IS GROUNDED

Despite the recent hoopla over Ashley Greene (of Twilight fame) getting a role on Pan Am, the word that just came in recently is that the network cut the order for the show, which can only mean one thing -- this show's doomed.

So much for all these Mad Men imitations on TV this season, then. The real reason I think all these shows have flopped on TV can be summed up, I think, by the following words: the Sixties are over, man.

Way over.

NHL REALIGNMENT IS TOO RADICAL FOR MY LIKING

On the heels of the BCS decision-making comes more crazy-slash-stupid decisions from the powers that be in the sports world.

As has been much-rumored or feared, the NHL went ahead and approved radical realignment today. They are scrapping the two conferences with three divisions each, and will now go to four conferences with no divisions at all. For more on the realignment, here's the release here.

Now for my own thoughts. This is really, really unnecessary and quite a bizarre-looking setup, especially compared to the other sports leagues who still have three or four divisions within two conferences. I know the NHL had to move the Winnipeg Jets out of the Southeast, but all they had to do was simply move the Jets to the Central and the Nashville Predators to the Southeast to take their place. They didn't have to go ahead with this craziness, moving teams all over the place and blowing up the divisions and conferences.

I also know there were these travel and scheduling concerns of various teams, but I think these could all have been addressed while keeping the current division format. You could have moved Dallas out of the Pacific to the Central, for example, or even the Southeast, and moved Colorado to the Pacific. 

But instead, this league went and blew the whole thing up. Now we have four conferences and they make little sense, with these southern teams all over the place. These don't even have the same number of teams, these conferences -- two have seven teams and two have eight. This isn't realignment like what the NFL did when they went from six to eight divisions. At least those divisions made sense in how they were set up. This NHL setup, though, is just nuts. Four conferences, not two? Really?!

It's crazy stuff like this that is the reason why the NHL isn't more popular in the USA. The league does this kind of realigning over and over again, and they keep on moving teams around and messing things up. First they had the six-team league, and then when they expanded to 12 teams they split them into two divisions. Then, when they expanded to 18 teams, they split them into the Campbells and the Wales and divided them into four divisions --- but instead of having the conference champions face each other in the end, they had a crazy playoff format which simply ranked all 12 teams and had them play off for the Stanley Cup. Then came the merger with the WHA, so they moved some teams again, and this time ranked the teams 1 to 16 for the playoffs! Then in 1982 they finally got around to ranking teams 1-through-4 in the divisions and had them play off, with the divisional winners meeting for the conference title and the two conference champions eventually  facing for the Stanley Cup.

Then after a number of years they changed it to 1-through-8 in the conferences, and then after that they split the league into six divisions and moved the teams around again so that Montreal and Toronto could finally be in the same division, while the southern teams could be in their own division, too. Somewhere along the line they also got rid of the Campbells and the Wales conferences and called them the Western and Eastern Conferences, but kept on awarding Campbell and Wales trophies to the conference champions and well, anyway -- now they're blowing it up again and moving to four conferences, and who knows what they will be named.

I heard they might be called the Gretzky, Lemieux, Orr and Howe Conferences. That is too hilarious. We'll probably even see these four guys handing the winning teams their trophies in the playoffs!

I'm sorry, but this kind of realignment insanity is exactly the reason why people in the United States don't take the NHL seriously. The league had a good thing going with the division alignment they already had, and didn't have to shake up things. You just watch. This new format is going to land with a thud with the public.     

I DON'T SEE WHAT THE FUSS WAS ALL ABOUT

Some interesting/weird Christmas news to tell you about from this side of the world.

About a week or so back, I attended our staff Christmas party and went up to the bar and asked for a Coca-Cola. They gave me a can of Coke -- but it was a strange-looking white can with polar bears on it. The folks at the bar assured me that, indeed, this was regular Coke, not diet Coke or something else. 

Despite the initial confusion I got used to drinking Coke out of the special white can. I guess it was all part of the company's fine efforts to save the polar bears. 

It turned out, though, that the Coke drinkers were all up in arms over the color of the cans and were complaining they were getting confused as to whether it was Coke or Diet Coke, or whatever.

The backlash got so bad that Coca-Cola finally got rid of the white cans and returned to red cans for their cola. 

Honestly, I don't see what the fuss was all about! I figured out the white Coke cans were special white Coke cans for the Christmas season easily enough, but I suppose other Coke drinkers are easily confused and get easily upset over things like this.

Are Coke drinkers really that dumb? I guess so, eh!!!! And that is my comment on Coke's white cans.

Monday, December 05, 2011

THE BCS IS STILL A JOKE

TEAMS ANNOUNCED YESTERDAY

The final tally is in for the Bowl Championship Series standings, and LSU and Alabama will meet for the national title, shutting out Oklahoma State.



Well, great -- that's two SEC teams playing for the title. Why the heck does anyone from any of the other conferences bother even fielding a football team, then, if this is what we get? Alabama already lost to LSU. Why not give a deserving champion from another conference a chance? At the very least, have some sort of system that allows them to play off against one another for a title shot?

Oklahoma State won its conference while Alabama didn't, but Alabama gets to play for the national title while OSU gets stuck with a nothing game against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. Like I said -- this is ridiculous. Teams from outside the SEC are all getting robbed under this system.

In other BCS news, I notice that the Sugar Bowl shafted Boise State, Kansas State, Arkansas, Michigan State and maybe some other deserving schools by picking lower-ranked Virginia Tech and Michigan to play in its bowl game, and this stinks to high heaven with me. Virginia Tech got clobbered in its championship game, and Michigan wasn't even the best team in its own state! Yet these two both go to the BCS!

People are ranting and raving that these two got picked because more tickets can be sold for the game.

Is this what it has come down to -- BCS bowls picking teams based on how popular they are, as opposed to whether or not they are any good? This is truly a joke. Boise State and Kansas State might as well not even have football programs if this is the kind of treatment they are going to get from these bowl committees. Really, why even bother playing the games? All that will happen is you'll get screwed in the end!!

I guess I should be glad to be living in a country where college football has an actual playoff system, unlike Division 1-A in the United States. The BCS really has to go.

As for the bowl game schedule, here it is.

HAROLD AND KUMAR IN 2D

Well, my latest Cairns on Cinema column is now up on my experience last week watching A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas --- except I watched it in 2D in a 2D theater! That proved to be, uh, very interesting.

Word of advice: never watch a 3D movie in 2D, because you'll miss all the special effects.

Anyway, here's that column. Have a good one. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

HERMAN CAIN THROWS IN THE TOWEL

Well, in the GOP presidential race another one bites the dust. Today in Atlanta at the grand opening of Herman Cain's new campaign office, Cain went to the microphones and announced he was suspending his campaign. No doubt about the reason why -- the Cain campaign was wilting under all the accusations of sexual harassment and so on. 

May I add I thought it was a very strange, surreal announcement. I watched the whole thing online, and it had people going up there to the podium and giving speeches saying why they wanted Cain in the White House and how great he would be for America, all completely oblivious to the reality that he was going to withdraw. Anyway, he's now out of the race. I just hope he doesn't come back from the dead the way Gary Hart did on the Democratic side after his campaign blew up on him in 1988 -- that would just mean further embarrassment.   

That leaves a Republican field topped at the moment by Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. The primaries and caucuses are getting closer: Iowa is just a month away, folks.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ON THIS CONRAD MURRAY SENTENCE

Well, today Dr. Conrad Murray got his sentence for his involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson, and California's justice system yet again proved a mockery. Murray got the maximum, all right: four years, but he'll be serving less than two years of it in total in county jail. Why? Because all the jails in California are overcrowded and have no room for convicts like him. So he'll be out in no time, making room for other, more violent offenders.

Is it any wonder that people are ticked off over this? California's justice system -- what a joke. Again.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

THE LAST WORD ON THIS MONTH'S PROVINCIAL ELECTION

Since Sunday mornings are usually the time for political talk on TV, I thought I would provide this long-overdue link to my monthly column with thoughts on the Saskatchewan provincial election results from November 7, focusing my attention on the local results of the Battlefords riding.

Also, here is my First Person Adventures on the Campaign Trail story, where I recount what it was like following the leaders during the election. Sort of like "The Boys on the Bus", except I never actually made it onto the bus: I only took the picture of it (see opposite).

As for post-election news -- there is no change to the cabinet, at least for now, and the legislature returns to work on December 5th for the Throne Speech. Meanwhile the NDP have picked Regina MLA John Nilson to serve as interim leader until a permanent leader is selected next year. 

---------------------------------------------

That is finally it for my Saskatchewan election coverage. Honestly, I don't know what will keep my interest where I am right now, as the major news has completely dried up and we are looking at no more federal or provincial elections around here until 2015. There was also no official "Black Friday" where I was here in frozen Canada, so I couldn't even cover that (although to be honest, I had the day off anyway because I had worked the previous weekend). Life is dull around here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

NBA LOCKOUT IS OVER!!!


They finally came to their senses and realized they ran the risk of turning off all their fans if this kept up much longer. The season starts just in time --- on Christmas Day, so they saved Christmas for the NBA.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

NICKELBACK

Despite all the controversy from Detroiters who wanted someone from Detroit's musical tradition, or anyone else for that matter to play at halftime of the Lions-Packers Thanksgiving game today, the folks in charge said to heck with the paying customers and chose Canadian band Nickelback. That drew protests from people who thought Nickelback was terrible and a terrible choice, etc etc. There was even an online petition.

Anyway, the organizers stood firm and Nickelback played at halftime today. Indeed, there were some people booing. All I have to say is that there is a reason why folks were up at arms over this decision: these guys are no good!

It's not that they gave a particularly lousy performance at halftime today: it was more that they were simply lousy to begin with, period! I don't even remember what the heck it was they played, and that's the problem right there: all their music is forgetable.

Please, folks in the USA, whatever you do, do not blame Canada for this. It's not our fault these guys are from our country.

Oh, and I understand they play at the Grey Cup on Sunday. So much for that halftime show, then. You can't escape Nickelback, even if you want to.

HAPPY FOOTBALL DAY

It's Thanksgiving Day in the USA, and you know what that means. Lots of NFL action. And you know what that ALSO means. That's right, it's my annual excuse to put up a picture of the hottest Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader I can find.

Well, here she is. (Hey, something for the fans to be thankful, for, right?) Enjoy the games, guys.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

MOVIE BOX OFFICE: BREAKING DAWN, PLUS THE RETURN OF THE MUPPETS

I haven't really been following the movie box office too much lately, as I've been preoccupied with other more important business over the last several weeks.

Apparently, the box office was in a bit of a slump for a number of months, based on what I've read at Deadline Hollywood. But according to them, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 has broken that long slump.

It almost set the Twilight record opening, based on this report at Box Office Mojo. Not bad for a movie getting killed by the critics. It just seems to me, though, that it doesn't matter. The Twilight fans are Twilight fans and they love the Twilight movies no matter what anyone else thinks. As for guys, you won't find many of us caught dead in a theater watching it, that's for sure.

There are some predictions out there for the Thanksgiving weekend that this flick will hold the Number One spot, which surprises me a little because The Muppets are coming out. I would have thought The Muppets would just clean up and dominate, because I don't know one person who doesn't like the Muppets. 

The movie, co-written by big Muppet fan Jason Segel (who also stars in it), is getting exceptional reviews. The story is about how all the Muppets reunite to save the Muppet Theater from being razed. You'd think kids would go crazy over it, but maybe the Muppets have just been gone from the scene too long. Anyway, I still think it might do very well and rake in the dough in the end. The Muppets are due for a huge comeback.

Here's an interesting thread in the National Post all about the Muppets, with readers voting on who is the greatest Muppet of them all.

Check it out, it's fun reading. That's it for now.

THE US CONGRESS IS A JOKE

So the big bipartisan Super Committee in the USA, that was supposed to find spending cuts in the wake of the budget deal compromise and subsequent credit-rating debacle, has disbanded over their partisan differences.

Why am I not surprised? There might have been a time in US history not too long ago when the two parties could bridge their differences, but not anymore. The rot of partisan politics is crippling the US government and is splitting apart and ruining the United States. Common sense seems to have left the building.

Monday, November 21, 2011

VERY COLD NEWS FROM NOWHERE FOR THIS MONDAY: SID THE KID RETURNS, AND THE GOP STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHO TO NOMINATE

And now, another News from Nowhere from my cold neck of the woods. Yes, where I am there is snow on the ground everywhere and conditions are getting terrible already. They tell me it will warm up later this week. I'm not holding out hope. 

After watching Tony Stewart wrap up the NASCAR title in a thrilling nail-biter finish, and after seeing David Beckham lift the MLS Cup for the LA Galaxy (good luck ever seeing Toronto do that), it's been a hectic weekend of sports. What could possibly top all that?

What else -- the return of Sidney Crosby to the Penguins from a concussion. Can you believe this was the top story on the CBC News earlier today? Someone tell the CBC that Crosby plays for a team in the 'States.

Other stuff -- a big week of TV wrapped last week with the departure of Regis Philbin from the airwaves of Regis and Kelly. Definitely the end of an era. 

In other TV news and proof that TV news is going to hell, NBC News has hired media-hating Chelsea Clinton (refused to grant media interviews, etc.) as a correspondent. Why couldn't they have phoned me up for the gig?? Even I have more news and TV experience. I've even agreed to be interviewed by the press, something Ms. Clinton has apparently refused. I don't get it!!!  

One more piece of TV news to tell you about: there's an online petition that about 100,000 have signed calling for the Kardashians and their TV shows to be booted from TV.

Now, that's an idea. Here's another: why not also boot off all the Real Housewives, too, while we are at it? Seriously, reality TV is the reason why so many people would rather go surfing videos on the Web or playing Angry Birds on their iPhones.  


In the USA presidential sweepstakes, nothing has changed. The Republicans still don't seem to want Mitt Romney (pictured), who with every passing day appears doomed to be the Best President America Never Had.

Meanwhile, these silly GOPers still have no clue who else to support in his place. Apparently the Tea Partiers are starting to be bored with Herman Cain and all of his problems (just as they got bored with Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann). Their latest infatuation: Newt Gingrich.

The polls have Gingrich leading now, which is amazing since earlier this year his campaign was in the tank and his entire staff quit. Apparently, he's now possibly on the brink of beating Romney in New Hampshire, a state Romney ought to have locked up. Will this Gingrich boom last? I dunno. He still has all kinds of skeletons in his closet just waiting to be unearthed.

I think eventually this Gingrich boom, too, will pass. Something will finish him off, and these Republicans will be back supporting Michele Bachmann in no time flat, having forgiven and forgotten all her past nutty statements. Or maybe they'll finally say to heck with it and nominate Ron Paul. Apparently, he's supposed to be surging in Iowa, now, too, just like Gingrich is. It has been that sort of a race.

I really do think these hard-line GOP radicals are going to hurl the party right off the cliff if they are not careful. They're going to hand the next election to the Democrats. I still say the GOP should just nominate Romney if they have any sense at all, but the GOP seems to have lost their senses, as David Frum is rightly pointing out in New York magazine today.

Read this blurb that the death of Natalie Wood from years ago is back under investigation as the case is reopened. 

Finally, some baseball news. The Toronto Blue Jays are taking a retro page from their glory years with their redesigned uniforms. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles are reviving their goofy cartoon bird logo.

Good moves. It's stuff like silly cartoon birds that makes baseball fun for the fans. That's all for now.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

NASCAR ROARS TO A FINISH

Just a reminder to myself that there is just one race left on the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar today at Homestead-Miami in Florida. It's the finale of the Chase and it's either going to be Carl Edwards or Tony Stewart lifting the Sprint Cup.

All I want to say is I hope this NASCAR season finale doesn't end the way the INDYCAR season finale did in Las Vegas earlier this year. The race fans definitely do not want to see another scary death on the track like what happened to Dan Wheldon.

Needless to say I care about this race a lot more than I care about the current CFL playoffs, particularly because a certain team isn't in them this year. So auto racing gets my vote for one final week before I turn all my attention to the NFL. That's all, folks. Boogity, boogity, boogity! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

FRIDAY NIGHT WITHOUT THE NBA

I'm learning to live without these greedy bums in the NBA. Friday night is usually a big NBA night from ESPN at this time of year, but because these jokers are still locked out and since the NBA has cancelled even more games now through mid-December, I am reduced to watching college football and whatever else I can find on TV. Tonight Oklahoma State is playing Iowa State in an important game with BCS implications. And that's basically about it.

I'm just trying to not be bored. My main objective right now is to find ways to fill my time so that I don't find myself feeling deprived of my usual sports fix. Right now Thursdays are taken care of with the NFL, Fridays usually have a good college football game, Saturday is college football, hockey, soccer and the fights, Sunday is the NFL (and NASCAR for one final week), and more soccer (and by the way, the MLS CUP is this Sunday). And Mondays is Monday Night Football.

That leaves Tuesdays and Wednesdays as days when I need to fill some time up with something. I figure college hoops, the NHL, and poker reruns will do me fine. 

It's not as if I really care that the NBA is gone, since my favorite team the Raptors would be losing anyway. But the main reason I don't really care is because it's obvious the NBA doesn't care. My attitude, and the attitude fans really ought to take, is this: if NBA owners and players don't care about whether their games are played, why should we?

Anyway, this fiasco has completely messed up the TV schedules of the NBA rights holders and you can see from this article what their alternative plans are. 

All in all, I should be fine as long as football season lasts. Let them eat cake, that's what I say about the NBA owners and players right now.

UPDATE: Well, that college football game sure had major BCS implications, now, didn't it? Happy times for supporters of Iowa State, winners in double-overtime 37-31. Who cares about the NBA when you have games like that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

PLAYERS REJECT OWNERS' OFFER, NBA SEASON IN BIG TROUBLE NOW

All in all I am not surprised by what happened today, I was totally prepared for the bad news. The NBA players union rejected the owners' latest offer -- and furthermore, they are decertifying the union and taking the league to court. All I have to say is this is likely to put the whole NBA season on the scrapheap. I just don't see any real possibility for a deal now. Enjoy college hoops, and the NHL, folks, because there isn't much else to look forward to once the NFL ends.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

UFC ON FOX WAS A KNOCKOUT

First of all I want to congratulate UFC president Dana White for bringing his sport to prime time TV with the UFC on FOX. This is not only great for mixed martial arts, but great for the fans and an excellent way to promote the sport and keep in in the public eye. So I hope this continues for a long time to come.

I also want to thank Dana White, for another reason. By putting tonight's Heavyweight Championship fight in Anaheim between  Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos on in prime time instead of Pay Per View, he saved fight fans TONS of MONEY that they otherwise would have been forced to shell out. For that, fans are very thankful on this night in particular...

... because IT WAS A LOUSY FIGHT. Dos Santos knocked out Velasquez in the first round in swift fashion to gain the heavyweight title. So, yes, it was a good thing this was on free TV in prime time, because otherwise a lot of fans would have completely wasted their money.

So, thanks again, Dana White, for looking out for the fans and saving them money! Better luck next time.   

Thursday, November 10, 2011

RICK PERRY OOPS, JOE PATERNO FIRED, AND OTHER NEWS FROM NOWHERE

In a week when Silvio Berlusconi walks the plank in Italy with that country's debt levels out of control and threatening to sink Europe, here is my latest News from Nowhere on this side of the earth.

Well, after a heavy week covering political wins and losses in Saskatchewan, you would think I would be ready to be done with politics for a while.

But no. Instead I watched the hilarious CNBC Republican presidential debate from Detroit. If you missed it, believe me, you really missed out.

First they went after Herman Cain on all these latest sexual harassment allegations against him. He got big applause from the audience for denying those charges. But that was nothing compared to Rick Perry, who embarrassed himself when he made a case for eliminating three federal US departments, only to forget which one of them to eliminate. He couldn't remember the third one, and even said "oops."

My goodness. If it is possible for a presidential campaign to end because of a bad debate performance, this was it. This has to rank as one of the worst debate gaffes ever.

Anyway, as I have said before -- why the heck don't these Republicans simply get on with nominating Mitt Romney already? He's clearly the only one of the bunch who's electable. He's clearly not a lunatic. Moreover, it's also clear he's the only one who can actually hold his own in a televised debate after last night's display of incompetence by Rick Perry!

Yet these GOP voters still can't make up their bleeping minds whether to vote for him or not. Get on with it, folks.  

Other news: Penn State University is in an uproar today over all these terrible criminal sex and abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, all involving children. Joe Paterno was fired as head football coach last night, apparently for not doing enough to report it or stop it when he was told of it. He went to the athletic director and a vice-president at the university with what he was told. Both of them are now charged with failing to report it to authorities. What Paterno should have done was call the cops in the first place. He didn't, and now he's out of a job.

Now you have these students protesting and demanding Paterno be reinstated, which kind of misses the point in my view. Paterno had a responsibility as head coach, as a leader, to intervene and call in the authorities, and just didn't do it. So he had to go, in spite of all the rest of the good things he did during his coaching career. Anyway, it is a very sad situation, and the revelations of what went on are getting to be very ugly, with rumors being reported now of the university possibly covering it up. If that really happened, then this university is going to be in big trouble.

Finally I want to say that I am really starting to miss the NBA, there is literally nothing interesting to watch as far as sports is concerned these days on the weeknights. Talks went on Wednesday and there seems to be some movement and more reason for optimism, but there is no deal yet. Again, just as I said with Mitt Romney: get on with it, guys. Do a deal and get it over with. We sports fans are suffering right now.

And some fun news to end on now. The Miss World contest was last weekend, and guess who won the whole thing? That's right  -- Miss Venezuela won it all. Again. Venezuela is DEFINITELY still the home of the beauty queens! (Oh, and there was a lot of picketing outside by uptight protesters.)

That's all for now.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

WSOP HAS A CHAMPION

I ended up not staying up late to see the end of the World Series of Poker final table on ESPN -- I guess I was too tired after all that election coverage the previous night. In any event, the final heads-up matchup lasted a very long time and saw several lead changes.

Pius Heinz ended up the winner and becomes the first German to win the Main Event title. He collects both the WSOP bracelet as well as $8,711,956. For a full live-blog recap of the final night at the Rio in Las Vegas, here's Tao of Poker.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

WSOP MAIN EVENT FINAL THREE GO AT IT TONIGHT

Just a reminder to the whole wide world that the World Series of Poker final table resumes tonight with the final table of three remaining players tonight in Las Vegas. Updates here, and live coverage here. They're also doing inductions to the Poker Hall of Fame prior to the final table tonight.

It's the culmination of what has been an absolutely terrible year for poker in the US of A, but at least this tournament has been good for getting peoples' minds off of the Internet poker situation and has provided a lot of excitement. As well, the live TV coverage this year from ESPN has been excellent.

(Except in Canada, where TSN didn't even bother to show us the final table coverage on Sunday, forcing the poker fans to follow the action on the Web instead. Typical. They don't show enough NCAA football games up here either.)

Who will take home the grand prize: Pius Heinz, Ben Lamb or Martin Staszko? We shall soon find out.

UPDATE: Lamb busted out in third place and right now it's a tug of war between Staszko and Heinz.

Monday, November 07, 2011

HUGE VICTORY FOR BRAD WALL AND THE SASKPARTY

49 SEATS TO 9!!!! Even NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter lost his seat. Biggest popular vote landslide in Saskatchewan history (64 percent)!

Story from the CBC. Story from the Star-Phoenix. More about the results soon.

SASKATCHEWAN ELECTION NIGHT

Well, it's finally here. Election Night. The results will come in beginning at 8PM CST. That's 9PM Eastern, 6PM Pacific for the rest of you out there. And no, I am not expecting a long night.

I'll be helping with the News-Optimist election coverage which you can find here. Also, here are links to the other election coverage:
CBC News
Star-Phoenix
Global TV
CTV
CKOM
Sun News Network

I'll post results here eventually, but those are your best bets for the live breaking coverage. Enjoy, political junkies.

DR. CONRAD MURRAY FOUND GUILTY

The big verdict came down today. Guilty of involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson. And it all ended with Dr. Murray being escorted out of the courtroom in cuffs.

The story here. More later.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

WORLD SERIES OF POKER FINAL TABLE TODAY

We interrupt live continuing coverage of the situation in Greece to let you know that today the World Series of Poker Main Event goes to a final table in Las Vegas! The way it will work today is nine players will play down to three remaining, and then the final three will play Tuesday for the title.

The format last year had them playing down to two on Saturday and then reconvening on Monday with heads-up play. I think the WSOP wanted to avoid a situation like last year, when the two chipleaders Jonathan Duhamel and Joseph Cheong decided to get it over with before heads-up play even began  and went all-in for the biggest pot ever. Heck, there's no glory in finishing second anyway, so why not go for it all right away. Cheong lost the pot, busted out soon after in third place and it led to a very boring heads-up showdown with Duhamel having an absolutely insurmountable chip lead on John Racener. Needless to say, it ended pretty quickly. In short, it made for very dull poker. At least with the way it is set up this year, you figure there will be more drama going to Tuesday with three players still in it.

PokerNews has final table coverage here. Also, the live stream is back up here.

Friday, November 04, 2011

BRAD WALL TALKS TO EZRA LEVANT

I have to say that I've really enjoyed what Sun News Network has been doing this fall with their "Election Season" coverage of the provincial elections all over Canada. They are basically giving the provinces their due and going from place to place providing election coverage, and I think it's great. It's really putting that news operation on the map.

Next week, they're planning to put up a similar effort in providing live results from Saskatchewan, which may seem a little surprising since there is hardly any interest in this foregone conclusion of an election. I haven't even seen many blog posts about it anywhere from too many political people -- meanwhile, there were lots of people out there commenting on the Ontario and Manitoba votes. Still, I think it's good that Sun News is showcasing Saskatchewan and showing the rest of the country the interesting political scene here.

Today, Ezra Levant of Sun News was on the banks of Wascana Lake interviewing Premier Brad Wall, and you can see that here.

NEWS FLASH: ELECTION IS STILL A BLOWOUT

Well, the latest poll numbers are in for the Saskatchewan election, and they remain about as bad as they have been before for the NDP. In fact, it's even worse: the Saskatchewan Party has an unheard-of 40-point lead! The numbers are 66 to 26 percent.

I gotta say, this really looks ridiculous, and we are looking at the biggest rout in the history of Saskatchewan on Monday. It'll possibly make the 1982 Grant Devine "Monday Night Massacre" look like a minor flesh wound. But I think this poll is on to something about where the public is at in Saskatchewan. You know, the final results could still end up closer, but I have to say, even a 30-point margin would be damaging to the NDP. Even a 20-point spread would be a terrible result. There is nothing good about the situation the NDP is in today in Saskatchewan three days to the big vote.

Here's the story on the poll numbers from Praxis Analytics' poll for the Leader-Post and Star-Phoenix. Also, here's Murray Mandryk's take on the whole situation. 

Also, here is my analysis of the state of the campaigns in the Northwest region heading to election day.   

Thursday, November 03, 2011

ON THE GONG SHOW IN GREECE

Enough about the election in Saskatchewan. Now on to some talk about the situation in Greece, which is really getting to gong show proportions. The scary thing about it all is that the whole European economy, not to mention the world economy, might be riding on what is happening.

First there was the idiot decision by Prime Minister George Papandreou to put the issue of a debt deal to a referendum, only to back away after a hostile market reaction and some heavy lobbying from Euro leaders like France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel. Actually, it kind of sounds as if they read them the Riot Act.

Also, you had the opposition storm out of Parliament, and now it looks like they're going to try and vote non-confidence in the prime minister tomorrow. All in all, this looks like a mess.

I think everyone needs to take a step back, and try and restore sanity right away to the parliamentary situation for the greater good of Europe and the whole wide world. The world's stock markets don't need this chaos from the Greeks, they need some order restored. Maybe it will do Greece a lot of good in the long run if they kick the current prime minister out, but not right now. Right now they need to just get a freaking debt deal through so that the entire world economy doesn't fall off a cliff. AGAIN. Enough said.

CHANGE OF PLANS: TRUDEAU A NO SHOW

Well, when it rains it pours, and it was definitely pouring on the Liberals in Saskatchewan. This is definitely not what the local Liberals needed to win the Battlefords riding. Justin Trudeau was supposed to be in Saskatchewan today helping the Ryan Bater Liberal campaign in North Battleford and Saskatoon. It was much anticipated, even promoted on the Liberals' own website.

Unfortunately a bill went before the House at the last minute, so Trudeau had to stay in Ottawa and his whole tour ended up on the scrapheap. He never showed up.

At least, not in person. I guess he appeared by Skype at these events today. Well, I guess that's one way to use new media in politics, by making virtual public appearances.

What's worse for the Liberals was the fact that Premier Brad Wall WAS in North Battleford today, as were four cabinet ministersMy account of the day here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

SASK ELECTION: BRAD WALL, JUSTIN TRUDEAU TO VISIT NORTHWEST TOMORROW

Well, we are sort of in a holding pattern on the Saskatchewan election trail where I am, with some big political visits scheduled for tomorrow in the Northwest. Premier Brad Wall is holding a big event at the Tropical Inn in North Battleford for the Saskatchewan Party. Also due to visit Saskatchewan tomorrow: Justin Trudeau, here to help out Liberal Ryan Bater.

Last week it was Ralph Goodale in the city for a joint press conference with Bater on the Liberals' plans to cut spending. So I was there covering that. Also, here are two, yes two, of my stories on the Battlefords election candidates forum that went on last week.

It sometimes seems like I'm the only reporter in Saskatchewan who even bothers covering the Liberals on a regular basis. Anyway, it's good that Premier Brad Wall is coming here tomorrow, it'll save me from covering the Liberals yet again. 

In other election news, a new poll is meant to be released tomorrow by the Star-Phoenix and Leader-Post showing whether this race has stopped being a complete blowout yet. The last two polls done last week showed pretty ridiculous margins in favor of the Saskatchewan Party. Premier Wall has been going around downplaying them, warning about complacency and so on.

Also, I've decided to link you to some election pages with media coverage of the campaign. The Star-Phoenix page is here. The Rawlco Radio (CKOM, CJME) page is here. And the CBC page is here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

THE BIGGEST NEWS TODAY IN THE WORLD IS THAT KIM KARDASHIAN IS FILING FOR DIVORCE

THAT didn't take long, did it? It's pretty much official  -- as the headline says, Kim and Kris are kaput. Try not to let this news ruin your Halloween, folks.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

AREN'T YOU GLAD YOU DON'T LIVE THERE?

Big Nor'easter Snowtober! Snow, power outages, etc. --- what a mess.
Thankfully, none of this is happening where I am. Yet.

Happy Halloween, I guess.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

POLITICAL HAPPENINGS IN SASKATCHEWAN: FEDERAL MPs ROMEO SAGANASH, RALPH GOODALE IN NORTHWEST

Who would think that northwest Saskatchewan would be such a popular place for the politicians to visit these days?

Earlier this week we had a visit from Romeo Saganash, a northern Quebec MP and a candidate to succeed Jack Layton in the hotly-competitive federal NDP leadership race. My story on his visit to the region and his candidacy can be found here. I also understand one of the other leadership candidates, Paul Dewar, was also in Saskatchewan, campaigning with the local NDP in Regina. So a lot of NDPers have been coming here to get their message out.

As well, the local Liberals are pulling out all the stops trying to help leader Ryan Bater capture the Battlefords seat in the provincial election. They brought in Ralph Goodale for a press conference with Bater, where they talked about their policies to reign in spending. I am also told by the campaign that they have another big name planned to come to the area before the week is out. I leave it to you to speculate -- it is a very big name, indeed.

The Liberals have also lodged a complaint over one of the NDP campaign offices. The NDP call the complaint frivolous.

As for the rest of the race, two polls came out showing Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party way ahead. 

One poll had them at 60 percent while the other had them as high as 66 percent, which is really ridiculous. That would put them in Alberta PC/Peter Lougheed-type territory if true. The televised debate wasn't up to much either, most people say they didn't bother to tune in.

This really is starting to look like a runaway and the only question now is whether the NDP can salvage a respectable contingent of caucus members after November 7. Jordon Cooper at his blog had a good rundown on the problems the NDP is facing in this campaign.

I fully expect a lot of provincial election activity in the coming week around here, so stay tuned for links to more of my stories from the campaign.