Saturday, April 30, 2011

HISTORY TO BE MADE

No, I'm not talking about the election, I'm talking about the first UFC fight night in Toronto at the Rogers Centre. It's the long-awaited UFC 129! It's Canada's Georges St-Pierre against Jake Shields for the welterweight title!



Expect the fans in Toronto to go crazy -- the UFC is wildly popular up here. They sold out this event in no time flat. Makes me sort of wish I was back in Toronto -- I'm jealous because I am missing the excitement.

Hey, I'm even excited, and I'm not even that big a UFC fan. Then again, the sports I like to follow tend to be mired in labor disputes. Give the UFC's Dana White credit, they know how to run and market this sport. You can't say the same for Roger Goodell right now with the NFL.

Needless to say, no one in Canada cares about the election today, just as no one cared yesterday when William and Kate were getting married. So don't expect the ugly Jack Layton headlines to change much on Monday.

Friday, April 29, 2011

AND NOW ON TO THE BIG NEWS OF THE DAY

THE ROYAL WEDDING. What, you missed it? Me, too -- it happened in the middle of the night, so I slept right through it.

TORNADOES WREAK HAVOC

I have been watching with interest and some trepidation the tornado mayhem that has hit the southern USA. Last week a big tornado hit St. Louis and wreaked havoc on the airport. Then some big funnel clouds were seen down in Texas. Then the next night it was Tennessee. On Wednesday it was Alabama's turn, and Tuscaloosa and greater Birmingham got hit by some vicious, vicious tornadoes that destroyed entire neighbourhoods and caused some major loss of life, over 200 people. Here's some video of one of the twisters that hit Tuscaloosa below.



I actually tuned in to the live storm coverage over the Internet from Alabama as the storm was hitting Birmingham, and it was really scary stuff. The funnel cloud was just massive.

Anyway, President Obama was down in Alabama today to look at the wreckage. It's just a sad situation and I have a feeling we are going to be in for a vicious storm season in North America. It has so far gotten off to a really sad early start.

ERIN BURNETT JUMPS TO CNN

BIG BREAKING NEWS from cable TV land -- longtime CNBC anchorwoman and all-around trading-floor heartthrob, Erin Burnett, has up and quit for CNN.This on the heels of that news of Meredith Vieira quitting the Today Show. Man, what is wrong over at NBC? Are they not offering up enough money to keep their own people?

Anyway, interesting move by CNN -- good to see them do something to improve its business news coverage.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

ON THE CRAZY 2011 CANADIAN ELECTION

I haven't up until now said too much about the Canadian election. The truth is I was fed up with what I was seeing on TV about it, with all these political hacks spewing their party lines. I wrote this piece for the paper, which pretty much summed up my thoughts: that there are more important things going on in the world than this election. Heck,Wills and Kate are getting married tomorrow, even that's more important.

But I wrote that piece last week. Now, that column is all out of date and the reason is because of one man: Jack Layton. His NDP has managed to tap into the widespread disgust people have with politics as usual. People are turning to his party in large part because he isn't a Conservative, Liberal or Bloc Quebecois. People are associating these other parties with all the problems in Parliament. Add to that the fact they've run a positive campaign compared to the usual negativism from the Liberals and Conservatives, and suddenly they are capitalizing. Polls have them running second to the Tories at around 30 percent!

It looks as if the Liberals and Bloc are going to be big losers in this election. The Liberal platform is basically the same old rehashed Red Book policies that have lost the party the last two elections. Now, poor Michael Ignatieff is trotting out Jean Chretien to try and relive Liberal glory day of the past. The media rightfully see it as an act of desperation.

Meanwhile, voters in Quebec have finally wised up to the fact that their useless Bloc MPs have done absolutely nothing for Quebec, so they are taking their votes to the NDP. We could see some shock results out of Quebec on election night. One poll has them so far ahead in Montreal that I have trouble believing that the other parties are even going to keep any seats. And yet I keep seeing all these election prediction websites downplaying NDP chances when it is clear the party is going to make some stunning, stunning gains there on Monday.

As for the Conservatives, I dunno. It looks like they may not get their majority again, which means they are going to be in trouble.

I'll have more to say later, but for now, look forward to plenty of election coverage right here at the CAIRNS BLOG.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ON THE NFL'S LABOR WOES

I have not said much until now on the ongoing NFL lockout situation.

Anyway, the lockout is over --- I guess. That's what the judge ruled the other day, anyway. But the league is appealing the ruling, and for all intents and purposes this labor war continues. i wouldn't be surprised if the lockout resumes, eventually.

All in all, I am not at all happy about this situation. Football is probably my favorite sport, so any loss of games is something I will not be happy with. Why the NFL would go to war with its players when they are at the top of the sporting ladder in the USA and making money hand over fist is beyond me. Part of the reason they are at the top is because of the perception from fans that the NFL has its act together. But that's now at risk, and you can bet there will be fan resistance to paying $75 tickets to games in the future if thetre's a walkout. Really, if the NFL doesn't care about its own games, why should we? Good question.

It's not just the NFL facing labor trouble -- the NBA could be locked out this year, too. All in all, it stinks to be an American sports fan right now. What will fans do this fall - watch NASCAR? Or maybe they'll watch hockey. (Hee hee.)

Speaking of hockey -- how good have the Stanley Cup playoffs been? It seems like every night some game somewhere has gone to overtime. No wonder NBC signed that 10-year deal with plans to play up the NHL in a similar manner to the NCAA basketball tournament. That is exactly the way to go in covering this league. These playoffs are exciting stuff -- more so than the NBA which manages to make even its most exciting series look boring by comparison.

BYE BYE KATIE COURIC

She's done as anchorwoman of the CBS Evening News.

I dunno -- at the end of the day I got the impression she kind of didn't like the job, even though she was paid a lot of money. Next likely stop for her: talk show land.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

PAUL REISER SHOW OFFICIALLY ONE OF TV'S BIGGEST FLOPS OF ALL TIME

About the only side-benefit to my recent arm injury was the fact that I got caught up on a lot of TV viewing. But fat good that did me in trying to catch a couple of shows that tanked with the public so thoroughly that they are now off the air before I even have an opportunity to sample them.

The CIA spy spoof CHAOS, on CBS, lasted three episodes before getting the hook. Meanwhile, The Paul Reiser Show was cancelled after only two episodes after receiving the worst prime-time ratings in the history of NBC.

Catch the new shows quick -- if you blink, they may be gone.

HAPPY EASTER, FOLKS

And speaking of Easter bunnies:

Pictured: actress Amber Heard from The Playboy Club. Couldn't resist.

Friday, April 22, 2011

MORE ON THE POKER SITUATION

I have had a chance to calm down and take a sober second look at the whole poker situation in the wake of the US Attorneys' indictments of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute/UltimateBet.

I think it is fair to say that this has been an eye-opener to a lot of online poker players about some of the shady business practises of the big poker sites. The sites are accused of setting up phony companies that purportedly sold jewellry and golf balls and using those as fronts to move poker money around. Well, if it's true that's bank fraud and money laundering, and these guys deserve to get the book thrown at them. I think there isn't much sympathy for these companies from a lot of poker players if this is what they were up to.

But here's a question I have. If the USA had a regulated environment where online poker was legal, would we even be seeing this sort of alleged criminal activity? I don't think so, and that's what bothers me about all this -- the United States would rather pass laws like the UIGEA and crack down on online poker instead of set up a system where people could operate online poker businesses according to rules and licensing requirements, a system where taxes are collected. Poker players have been supporting this idea for a long time.

If you had a system like that set up, people could deal only with legitimate, law-abiding online poker operators, and then the crooks and scoundrels would all be out of business! But that's too simple a solution for these folks in power down there, who would rather hand down indictments and shut down online poker sites instead of create an environment where it could legally operate and where taxes on winnings could be paid.  

Anyway, the real losers in all this are the online players, particularly everyone who plays professionally or relies on poker for an income. Now people are contemplating their options, like moving to Europe or Costa Rica or the Bahamas. Or why not even move to CANADA, where even PartyPoker is still in business? (PartyPoker left the USA market when the UIGEA was passed in 2006.)

Also getting hit are your favorite poker shows on TV and some established poker tours backed by these online sites. The PokerStars-backed North American Poker Tour is cancelled completely, and the just-announced Onyx Cup that had been backed by Full Tilt is also cancelled. ESPN has cancelled all its NAPT coverage and all PokerStars-backed programming, as well as some World Series of Poker reruns, but apparently they are still going to cover the WSOP later this year. Also gone is PokerStars' The Big Game which ran on FOX, along with the Million Dollar Challenge. Also, the Game Show Network has cut back its poker lineup and is now running High Stakes Poker only on a single night, Saturday. Chances are good that show will play out the string and be cancelled. Also facing uncertainty is the future of Poker After Dark on NBC, a show owned by NBC but backed by Full Tilt. The problem for all these poker shows is that their entire sponsorship and in many cases ownership is under indictment and kicked out of the country. A lot of poker media people are now out of work as well.

In a nutshell, this is a complete disaster for poker in the USA and for the US economy. Nice going, US government. And people wonder why the economy is no good there.

This week there was a deal reached between the Justice Department and both PokerStars and Full Tilt to allow them their .com domains back for the sole purpose of refunding the money of all the US players. So maybe they'll be able to compete at the World Series after all. Still, this really has been a devastating last week for the game, and a turning point of sorts. The "Poker Boom" is over - it's the end of an era. I've gone from being outraged about it to being just sad.

Then again, why should I complain? I live in Canada where online poker is still in business. Party on, dude. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

ONLINE POKER SHUT DOWN IN THE USA

This is big, big news. The FBI and the US Attorney's office on Friday seized the .com domains of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and AbsolutePoker, the three biggest online poker operations. The founders, 11 of them, were indicted for fraud, money laundering and illegal gambling.

The indictments are under the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which, up until now, had been used to go after payment processors and shut those down. Now they are going after the actual companies. These three are now out of business in the USA and have had to shift to using the .eu instead of .com to keep their operations going outside that country.

The stories from PokerNews here and here. The reaction from Wicked Chops Poker here. ESPN Poker reacts here and below.



Wow. As someone who watches a lot of poker on TV and sees these companies advertise on TV on these live-poker shows like High Stakes Poker and the like, this is a major shock. The entire poker community in the USA is calling this Black Friday.

You can imagine the chaos this has inflicted on the professionals who play the game. Many of them live in Las Vegas and do "online grinding" at these major sites for hours on end, and actually make a very good living off of this. Now they're going to have to figure out what they are going to do to either get their money back or perhaps move to another country to play online poker.

For the record -- I think this is an outrage and an overreaction by the US government. Poker players want to play online and they have been calling for online poker to be properly regulated for a while now, so that players can play the game without any worries of bank accounts being seized or this kind of chaos happening. Now, the states are going to have to get moving to legalize online poker or else the politicians are going to be inundated with emails from irate poker players angry about this development.

People in Canada and Europe and most of the world are allowed to play online poker for real money -- so should Americans. But the Overzealous States of America would rather criminalize online poker as opposed to making it legal and regulated. Why am I not surprised?

America -- land of freedom? My foot!!!

Friday, April 15, 2011

TSN RADIO IS HERE

May the sports radio wars in Canada begin. Fun times for sports fans in Toronto as the new AM station at 1050 on the dial launched on Wednesday.

SOAPS TAKE A BATH

The big breaking news this week from the world of television is that ABC has cancelled All My Children and One Life to Live. That's right, Erica Kane (pictured, played by Susan Lucci) is dust.

This is positively shocking news and a major turning point in the history of television, because soaps have been a TV institution for decades. But we have been seeing a lot of these shows - As the World Turns, Guiding Light - go by the wayside in recent years. Now, there are just four of these shows left. This is basically a death-blow to the whole genre, but one not entirely unexpected as a lot of people had been speculating about it for the past few years.

The reason these shows are on their way out is because they are increasingly expensive to produce and the networks are finding out they can make more money in daytime on cheaper talk and information shows. That's what is replacing these soaps -- informative talk shows about food and stuff. 

Personally, I never watched the soaps and think most daytime television is a waste of time, with the syndicated shows being the worst trash and garbage out there. During the last six weeks I have been off work, I've seen way too much bad daytime television. About the only amusing daytime shows have been the "judge" shows and The Price is Right. Speaking of the latter -- I notice the networks got rid of virtually all of the game shows from daytime ages ago. Now they're finally getting rid of the soaps, too. This really is a major turning point for TV.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

FROM THE SICK BAY, ANOTHER EDITION OF NEWS FROM NOWHERE

Well, here I am with another edition of News from Nowhere, still recovering from a broken arm and typing this up very slowly with one hand. By the way, how do you like the new look of the site?

On to the news. I suppose a lot has been happening with the Canadian election still on, and the Americans pondering a government shutdown, and a new earthquake hitting Japan. I don't feel like talking about much of it, though. Eventually next week I should be able to talk more about the election, which so far has been a bit boring.

And the Charlie Sheen concert tour, prompted by his eviction from CBS, has moved on to Chicago and Ohio, and I gather the reaction there has been much better than in Detroit. But what do you expect from Detroit, the people there are all miserable right now.

Lots of rumors of big TV news anchor changes  -- rumor is Matt Lauer is quitting the Today Show, and Meredith Vieira is also quitting the show, and Katie Couric is supposed to be leaving the CBS Evening News, and Fox News has canned Glenn Beck's show.

Male viewers of Dancing With the Stars will be pleased to hear that dancer Karina Smirnoff will soon be in Playboy! Sweet! Life is good. In other Playboy news, wedding plans continue for Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris in what is sure to rival what the Royals have planned. (William and Kate are all over the news right now.)

And Bettie Page lookalike Claire Sinclair is going to be named Playmate of the Year, which kind of ticks me off because I had ranked, oh, about 11 other Playmates from 2010 ahead of her.

Sad news I learned recently- former CNN sports anchor Nick Charles is dying of cancer. An extensive writeup is here. 

And can you believe all this Donald Trump for President talk? Not everyone is amused by the prospect of the Donald uttering those famous words "Barack, you're fired!"

That is all for now.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

CHARLIE SHEEN BOMBS BIG IN DETROIT

So the big Charlie Sheen Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour has now kicked off in Detroit, and based on the angry reaction of the audience there last night they might as well pack it in. This was a "Close in One Night" effort worthy of Springtime for Hitler.

The show was apparently such a disjointed mess that people were booing Sheen off the stage before it even ended!!! Sheen at one point told an audience member: “I already got your money, dude!” For the complete blow-by-blow account, check out this article here.

I was watching Detroit TV, and the news there was showing a long parade of people trashing the show as they left the theatre. It was funnier than the show itself. Honestly, based on this fiasco Charlie needs to go begging to CBS on his hands and knees for his old job back.