Archive for October, 2011

Ruffus Christmas Carol – Help Us Get It Done

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

The holidays are fast approaching and I made a promise last year that our Ruffus The Dog’s Christmas Carol would be finished and released by then. Here’s how you can help make it so.

When we started the project we attempted, through Indie Go-Go, to raise the full $8,500 we expected we could scrape by on to make the whole thing work and release it to the world. We only managed to achieve $2,090 but that generosity from our supporters convinced us to carry on and go ahead with the shoot. I’ve blogged about that before – here and here and here – and here’s our original Indie Go-Go pitch.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Ruffus show itself you can find all the original episodes on the official Ruffus The Dog website or on our YouTube channel.

Well now, after almost a year of gradually, inexorably (if not continually) working on the post production of the show we are coming down to the wire. The many favours and dedicated sweat equity contributed, in addition to the much needed cash, have carried us almost to completion but once again we find ourselves in need of real money to ensure the project gets finished at the level of quality it deserves and to enable us to release it to the world on time for the holiday season.

So we have launched this 2nd round of Indie Go-Go funding.

We’re trying to raise at least $3,000 to cover further post-production costs, DVD and bandwidth expenses, and a pantload of promotional work.

There’s going to be a screening at the Revue Cinema (I’ll be posting more info on that later) with the proceeds going to support the Toronto Public Library Foundation.

The show will be released online for free streaming and downloading with the option to buy DVD copies, songs, posters, calendars, t-shirts and (hopefully) a graphic photo-novella. But it’s gotta all be done and ready for release before December 15th.

Our clock is ticking.

If you can contribute that would be freaking awesome. If you can’t you can still help us with word-of-mouth, just telling people about the project.

Mention us and link to our Indie Go-Go page on your own blog, your Facebook wall, your Twitter account, or maybe just stand on the street corner with one of those sandwich board signs whilst ringing a bell and wearing a funny hat. Whatever it takes.

Full Disclosure: When I refer to “we” on this project I am mostly referring to “me”, since I’m the guy who has always chosen to wear too many hats. Hey – I got a fat head – might as well use it, right? But I always say “we” because I am not a one-man-band; I rely upon and have benefited from the extraordinary generosity of my friends and family – all of them colleagues and collaborators in this work with me. I couldn’t do a thing without them.

Thanks in advance for your generosity. If you have any comments or suggestions or if you have any questions please feel free to post them here or via email.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back in the basement and keep working on the show.


Wordstock, Foodstock, Taking Stock

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I’ve been meaning to blog about these things for a while now and it kept getting put off. This is just a recounting of some of the things I did recently and not-so-recently.

First up was Wordstock, a festival in Collingwood that celebrates the written word. I was invited by Janet Fairbridge (a friend and colleague from my CBC days) who, in concert with Silann Kaduc, produced their Off The Page cabaret night. It was a blast!

Sean Cullen hosted the event which included readings from Lee Maracle, music from John Somosi and a great band called Snack!, the Toronto Poetry Slam Team, and in the middle of it all was Césan d’Ornellas Levine painting up a storm. Césan’s finished canvas was auctioned off at the end of the night with the proceeds going to support the Wordstock Festival.

I was there as Ruffus and got to engage in some wonderfully silly banter with Cullen before giving the crowd a sneak peek at some clips from our Christmas Carol. Sean is always hilarious and he had me snorking into my microphone or hooting loudly from the back of the room throughout the night.

The whole thing was a lot of fun and I got to meet up with a lot of great people and later at a party Stuart Ross and I had the opportunity to reminisce about the late bp nichol, whom I had known from my days on Fraggle Rock.

So thank you, Janet and Silann for including me in the festivities.

The other event I attended recently was Foodstock, organized by Chef Michael Stadtlander and a host of about 100 other great chefs from across Canada in support of the efforts to stop th edevelopment of a mega-quarry that threatens to destroy 2,316 acres of prime agricultural land in Dufferin County.

What better way to draw the support of the people than to feed them.

The lines of hungry activist citizens wound through the trees of this beautiful landscape and we indulged in a seemingly endless stream of delicious cuisine based on the foods grown and raised locally.

We also met up with a bunch of friends we hadn’t seen in a while.

Good food and a good cause. And a shit load of mud.

The taking stock part of this blog post is my lack of attendance at the ongoing #OccupyTO action which has taken up residence in St. James park and continues to grow. I haven’t been wholly neglectful of our local Occupy protests, I just haven’t shown up in person – yet. I’ve tweeted my ass off (for what that’s worth) about #occupyTO and #ourwallstreet and I WILL be getting out there soon. This is part of a much larger global movement that holds the promise to change our world for the better.

Yeah right. Words. Don’t mean a thing without action.

Sometimes just showing up is the support that’s needed. We can write our rage in tweets and blogs and clever signs but in the end it is physical presence that defines any movement. You gotta show up.

And that’s what I’ll be doing. Not camping out – I’m too old and creaky and selfish to do that – but I’ll give whatever material and moral support I can. Small potatoes for some but for an agoraphobic curmudgeon it’s a relatively big deal.

So, whatever changes you want to see in the world you have to become that change yourself. Get out there. Make a sign. Make a noise. Put on a show. Show up.

And now – speaking of stock – I gotta get my ass back into my own kitchen and finish making some soup.


P. S. Another thing we did a little while back was take part in one of the Nuit Blanche works.

It was called Ride The Rocket and was put together by Kurt Firla and his colleagues.

My wife Karen and I provided and performed a bunch of puppet characters for part of their immersive and surreal streetcar ride.

It was easily the best presentation of the entire festival and that would have been true without our involvement but it was certainly a pantload of fun to play with Kurt and his team and then on the night ride the finished work.

Occupy Wall Street – The Bridge – The UNiTERS

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Ladeez and Gentlemen – the UNiTERS:

War / No More Trouble – Playing For Change

Friday, October 21st, 2011

UpDate: Yo Mills, What Are Ya Doin’?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

I’m at the cusp of a very busy time which, of course, means I am procrastinating wildly (like writing this blog post) in a nonsensical effort to kick away all the tasks I have set for myself.

Silly monkey.

The editing on the Ruffus The Dog project continues. Our version of The Christmas Carol is nearing completion and the work of promoting it is already gearing up in anticipation of our December 17th release. We’re even planning on having a theatrical screening here in Toronto to mark the occasion and celebrate with everyone who worked on it. I’ll post more on that later.

Also as part of the overall Ruffus Project we’ve been working on a series of illustrated graphic novellas based on the original shoes. These are going to be really cool and colourful publications for young readers. Sort of a mix between Classics Illustrated comics and Fractured Fairy Tales – but with a dog in the middle of it all.

Another part of the Ruffus Project is the beginning of a new web series based on the original episodes called Ruffus Rhymes. These are going to be similar to the original fairy tale episodes we’ve been posting online, just as silly and irreverent, but shorter and using classic nursery rhymes from around the world as fodder for our fun.

The Rubber Chicken Players is another web series we shot this summer. It originated from the minds of Jim Taylor and Fred Stinson and then snowballed into a collection of movie, book and theatre parodies featuring – yep – rubber chickens. The full edit on that won’t begin until the Christmas Carol work is completed but some preliminary episodes have been cut together and they are incredibly stupid – which is a good thing. When that is ready to come out I’ll be sure to holler.

My wife, Karen Valleau, has her own web series in development, a delightfully sweet project called My Kitteh! for young audiences. It’s entirely her project but I’m acting as the tech monkey for her vision.

My pal, Fred Stinson, is diligently working on his own web series with Alyson Court called Fuzzy Bunny. It’s definitely not for kids but it is all sorts of juicy, dirty, goofy fun. Fred’s writing all the episodes. I’ll be directing. I think we might be shooting next month; I’m not sure – ask Fred.

All of the above work is pretty much self-financed, with the exception of The Christmas Carol that has been partially funded through the generous support of our Indie go-Go donors – so while it takes up the majority of our time it doesn’t provide a pay cheque. You win – you lose – it’s all good. By the way, we’re going to start another round of financing through Indie Go-go to ensure the timely completion of our Christmas Carol. More on that later.

So what is it with all these fucking web series?

Hey, I’m not the only one.

Toronto boasts a very large Web Series Community creating shows like Jason Leaver’s Out With Dad, Jill Golick’s Ruby Skye P.I. – both award winners – and many others including: Tights & Fights, Microwave Porn, and Pretty In Geek. What we’re doing with Ruffus and our other projects are just a small part of a growing seachange in the development, creation and distribution of entertainment within the interwebs, spearheaded by (among others) Felicia Day’s phenomenal success with her own production The Guild.

I’ll be blathering on more about that when I have time to collect my thoughts. Eventually, as I alluded in earlier postings here, I want to redesign this site – and even change the URL – so this blog becomes a combination news aggregator and creative space with an extra little corner for the occasional rant. I know what I want it to be and how I want it to look, I just haven’t found the time to sit down and code the new pages yet. Soon.

Meanwhile, I’m going back down to the basement to work on Ruffus and take the occasional break to work on my separate adult graphic novel project, that long overdue feature screenplay I want to shoot next year and a batch of pitches for television series my agents hopes I get finished before anything else. I didn’t mention those? Yeah. More stuff.

Silly monkey.

P.S. The other thing I have to do is find a paying gig so I can continue to finance all this work and deal with the bills that are piling up. Maybe I’ll buy another lottery ticket. Yeah. That’ll do the trick.

Silly monkey.

The Revolution Will Be Digitized

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Cory Doctorow over at BoingBoing posted about Heather Brooke’s new book The Revolution Will Be Digitized.

Brooke finishes the book with a manifesto of sorts, a call to arms to press, politicos and public to confront the coming deluge of data and channel it for transparency and accountability, but away from surveillance and invasion of privacy (a delicate operation, to be sure!) and to resist using the net as an excuse for more intrusive information policy.

Sounds like essential reading to me.

Cheers. Stay informed.

David Suzuki On The Occupy Protests

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Dr. David Suzuki:

Henry James Ferry – Grounded News – Occupy Wall Street vs. Tea Party

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

Henry James Ferry of Grounded News reports from Liberty Park in New York City, comparing the growing protest movement and accompanying police response to previous Tea Party events. Concise and to the point, Ferry debunks the corporate media bulshit and points out the obvious differences between the actions of the far right and the popular revolt which is spreading across America.

Well done.

I’ve nattered on in these pages before about how Net Neutrality equals Free Speech and needs to be vigorously protected by an engaged and active citizenry. Watching the major news outlets ignore and then distort the events unfolding in New York serves as a very strong example of precisely what I was taking about.

Can you imagine what would happen if the only access to news we had was through the papers, radio and television networks?

Back in the 1960′s and early ’70′s there was still a modicum of journalistic integrity which allowed news unfavourable to the corporate classes to be broadcast and discussed freely. Reports on riots in the streets, mass arrests and use of the National Guard on campuses – as well as front line footage which brought an un-embedded view of the Vietnam war into the living rooms of America, and the rest of the world – played a decisive role in slowing the corporate takeover of U.S. democracy and ending the profitable and tragic debacle in Vietnam.

The lessons from those days was obviously learned by authorities within the police and news industries – just as it was within the music and other entertainment industries (you won’t find any anti-war songs on the Top 10 these days) – and more pervasive and monolithic controls of these information sources has been corporatized to craft a simple, bland and diverting flow of stories that pass for news and culture.

The net eludes that control and will continue to do so as long as it remains free and out of the controlling hands of corporate power and corrupt governments. Otherwise we’ll just be listening to more Justin Beiber tunes sung in reality show competitions while the few who choose to stand up against corruption and theft get the snot smacked out of them by police thugs with no one paying attention – or being able to pay attention – or being allowed to pay attention.

So – pay attention.

Thankfully we are at a cusp where the ability to control the net has not been entrenched and cannot be enforced – yet – and the lies or non-news being spewed by old media is readily being shown to the world as the truckload of rancid horseshit it actually is.

I don’t care who’s side you’re on or what your personal political perspectives are. What I do care about is the ability of everyone to engage in free and open debate. That will not be possible without a neutral net.

Net Neutrality is Free Speech.


This Is What American Democracy Looks Like

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street protest continues through it’s 3rd week and is spreading to other cities. Trade unions are joining the crowds in support. The major media outlets are only now beginning to cover the ongoing and growing protest – mostly because of the “eye candy” of police violence. Twitter and other social media have held the role of citizen journalists from the beginning.

In this video it’s more NYPD Supervisors, Deputy Inspectors, whatever (the guys in the white shirts) behaving like thugs – much in the manner of Deputy Inspector Antony Bologna who loves the smell of pepper spray in the morning. This is obviously not the way to handle peaceful protests and it is a very obvious indication that the higher ups within the NYPD retain old school views on how to deal with “hippies”.

There’s a word for people like that: Assholes.

They really are a blight on the rank and file of the NYPD. And I thought that shit went out of style back in the days of Kent State and the police riot at the 1968 Democratic convention.

I guess old habits really do die hard.

And so it goes.

P.S.Occupy Sesame Street

Steve Jobs – 1955 – 2011

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Seth Godin’s “Eulogy Of Action” says it best.

Oh – and one more thing: