The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Name:
Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Sunday, August 28, 2005

CBC Lockout Irony

CBC IRONY

John Webb, the Manitoba president of the Canadian Media Guild, wants to stay in touch with locked out CBCers. He sends out a daily update, but apparently people have been missing it. So he's telling everyone (http://cmgmanitoba.com/) to look for it on their computers ... under Junk Mail.

We couldn't make this up if we tried.
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MARY LOUISE PARKER AND MOSQUITOES

The biggest female role in Brad Pitt's new movie, The Assassination of Jesse James, has gone to Mary-Louise Parker, who is no stranger to Winnipeg. She's been cast as Zee James, the outlaw's wife.

The latest schedule calls for the film crew to come to Winnipeg Oct. 22 for a five day shoot. She filmed the made-for-TV movie Vinegar Hill in this city last year, and she has strong memories of the shoot. As reported in Variety: Mary-Louise Parker was in Winnipeg "in the middle of a field getting eaten by mosquitoes" when she found out via email that she had been nominated for her supporting role in "Angels in America." (Jul 15, 2004)

Jimm Simon, the owner of a house in Stonewall that was used in the shoot, remembers it well:

"The big day started at 4:30 a.m. when the exterminator arrived to begin fogging the entire yard with malathion so the "stars" wouldn't be bothered by bugs. (He had quite a nasty hacking cough) By 5 a.m. the yard looked like an old Star Trek set with about 5 feet of chemical toxin smog and a guy in the midst of it, bereft of all safety equipment spraying away with a diesel engine fogger that sounded like a small plane landing in the yard."

It looks like Mary-Louise Parker survived the exposure to nerve toxin and is thriving.

[Here's a bit of trivia for you. Who was the first person to play Jesse James in a film?Answer: His own son, Jesse James Jr. - in Jesse James Under the Black Flag (1921) and Jesse James as the Outlaw (1921).]
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METROPOLITAN THEATRE

There's talk of a big announcement coming regarding the Metropolitan Theatre.

Don't be surprised if it turns out to be the "world's first animation art museum". Winnipeg art dealer David Loch has been working on it for several years. He says such a museum could feature artwork by [Winnipeg-born animator] Charlie Thorson-- who drew Snow White for Walt Disney, and designed the prototype for Bugs Bunny (and even named this world-famous character) for Warner Brothers--films by Oscar-nominated Cordell Barker, and even momentoes of Homer Simpson who was made an honorary citizen of Winnipeg in 2002. (A closer connection is Ned Flanders' potsmoking Canadian counterpart who lives in Winnipeg, as seen in Midnight RX, the first new episode of 2005. )
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THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT
Monday, August 15, 2005 The Black Rod

Canad Inns has run into some big financing problems, and why do we think this is related to the demise of the Crocus Investment Fund...Plans to build a four-star hotel in Grand Forks was first announced in the summer of 2003....not a single shovel of dirt has been moved. The money's dried up and the city is still waiting for the architects to file some plans.

The Mayor of Grand Forks says he's still confident that construction will begin this year. But he's a desparate man. The Canad Inns Hotel has been dangled in front of his citizens for two years now as a symbol of growth and regeneration. Sort of like the new Hydro Building in downtown Winnipeg.

Wed, Aug. 17, 2005 Grand Forks Herald
The permits Canad Inns needs for its Alerus Center hotel and water park complex are ready, according to Grand Forks administrative coordinator Rick Duquette. Essentially, all officials of the Manitoba-based company need to do now is pay for the permits and construction can begin.
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Aug. 15, 2005 The Black Rod
You remember that this past December Canad Inns was blowing the horns over another big project---another hotel and water park right here, or rather, right beside, Winnipeg. The new entertainment complex would be part of the plans for a new stadium on land owned by the Red River Ex in Headingley.

Haven't heard much about that hotel, either, have you? It seems the feasibility study came back - saying it was feasible to study it some more.

Aug. 25, 2005 The Winnipeg Sun
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers could end up with a new stadium downtown -- but only if it's the right deal for the club and the city, says team president Lyle Bauer. "We've never been pigeon-holed into one spot," Bauer said yesterday. "It just has to be with the right business model and with revenue streams to support the capital that will be required."

*Ahem.*

Dec. 21, 2004, 8 months ago, Winnipeg Free Press
New Stadium Planned;
The football club, Canad Inns and the Red River Exhibition Association are launching a study on the feasibility of building a major sports and entertainment complex. It would be built on land owned by the Red River Ex, on the west side of the Perimeter Highway, near the Assiniboia Downs race track...
*************
The Black Rod has already reviewed the 3 major factors that have slowed momentum for the Red River Ex-backed project:

1) Canad Inns no longer has the option of turning to Sherman Kreiner and the Crocus Fund board for support.
2) The Track was denied a casino licence which we always said was the hidden factor that would help drive a crowd to the waterpark/hotel/stadium project and to the Ex's planned fairgrounds.
3) The Bomber's losing season has diminished enthusiam for a new stadium they still won't fill.
A consultant is expected to release a report on as many as a dozen site options in October.

Friday, August 26, 2005

FLQ Victim to Paul Martin: Reconsider your choice

After listening to Bruce Vallance of Winnipeg tell his story we contacted him to expand on his experience when he was caught in a 1970 FLQ terror bombing. Here is his account to us:

Good Morning;

Thank you for filling me in. I'm afraid that I'm sadly uninformed.

The reason I became involved in the debate is that I really believe that this lady is a bad choice for the position. While she is undoubtedly very intelligent and well educated. her only accomplishments and suitability for the position is that she is a black female television reporter who speaks five languages. I for one don't think that it's enough.


We have just had an ethnic female television reporter filling that position and she and her arrogant husband were an absolute disaster. The Queen herself is far more approachable and down to earth than was Ms Clarkson.

As for the FLQ being glossed over; that entire period is very poorly documented in the public record. In order to save James Cross' life the terrorists were allowed to leave the country and fly to Cuba, That, from Mr. Cross' and a human point of view was a terrific idea. What I fail to understand is why these people were not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law when they quietly returned to this country a few years later.

No I never received trauma counseling after the events. Nor did I receive ant special compensation. The thing that has bothered me all my life since is that my wife was at home with two small children and up until the day she passed away six years ago she was never officially informed by the government that I had been injured. She found out about it from a young newspaper reporter who knocked at our door on Sunny side Ave. at 7;30am the morning of the incident.


I am forever grateful to that young man. He stayed with her and the children all day, constantly phoning and trying to get information about my where abouts and condition. They were unable to get any information and until I walked in at six that evening, having refused to remain in hospital over night she had no idea if I were alive or dead.

I attended Jean's funeral and as a tribute to that fine lady, I would like to tell you about her daughters. When the blast sent me across the room, I must have bounced off the equipment that ran up the center of the room. As a consequence, I had huge bruises on my upper thighs, hips and stomach. I was limping badly and had to use a cane to walk. I tried to enter the church unobtrusively and sit in the rear. I have no idea what drew attention to me unless it was the limp or maybe my dress uniform, but all eyes were suddenly upon me. Jean's daughters turned to see what the commotion was all about and upon seeing me rose and escorted me to the front of the church to sit with the family. They also insisted that I accompany them to the cemetery and later to the reception. They seemed more concerned with me than with themselves.That is a sample of how that lady raised her children.

Finally. I would simply ask Paul Martin to reconsider his choice for GG. There are any number of women or men in this country whose accomplishments far out weigh his current choice. I harbor no animosity for Ms.Jean, but because of her obvious sympathies for the FLQ I really think she is an inappropriate choice.

Thank you I hope this is what you are interested in.

Bruce

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A History Lesson for Paul Martin about the FLQ

We had no intention of writing about Michaelle Jean. Since her and her husband's close associations with Quebec separatists was revealed, so much has been written about them that we figured there wasn't anything we could add.

That changed on Tuesday.

On Tuesday we got mad.

On Tuesday, radio host Roy Green, who is filling in for vacationing Charles Adler, read an email from a Winnipeg man named Bruce Vallance. It was chilling. And for the first time we understood why all decent citizens in the country oppose the appointment of Michaelle Jean.

The debate over Jean's suitability to be Governor General, and Paul Martin's spectacularly bad judgement, has been oh-so-Canadian. Academic. Scholarly. All about "sovereignists" ( that polite word for separatists) and their attraction for the Quebec political and social elite.But Bruce Vallance reminds us about what is missing from that debate, that something we all knew was there but couldn't put our fingers on it until now.

Here's that email that Adler read on August 17th although he apparently did not mention it came from a Winnipegger;

Charles;

I visited the site and watched the film clip. To say that I'm offended is to understate the case. The people she is cavorting, laughing and toasting with are some of the same people who tried to kill me.

During the FLQ crisis I was stationed at Canadian Forces HQ in Ottawa. The bomb they placed outside of my office window was meant to kill those in the room and I suppose make a statement.

They succeeded only too well The lady they killed was not only a co-worker, but also a friend.

After I picked myself up off the floor some thirty feet from where I was standing I saw my friend laying on the floor. I remember kneeling in a pool of her blood trying desperately to staunch the flow. Her eyes seemed to be pleading for me to help her.

This tiny middle aged French Canadian single mother of two who had been so happy. She had been talking for several days about her up coming vacation. The first in twenty years. Now she lay struggling to breath through her torn throat. Desperately I tried to staunch the flow of blood. I watched as the light in her eyes slowly dimmed and then disappeared. Here was a grown man and soldier kneeling in the welter of her blood crying like a baby as I cradled her in my arms.

My next conscious memory was lying on an operating table as a young doctor probed my back and side for glass. He continuously apologized for the pain, but explained that he couldn't anaesthetize me because I had to be able to tell him when he pressed on a shard of glass. It took 43 stitched to close my wounds. I still occasionally have pieces of glass surface.

Am I offended? You bet I am offended. This appointment is an insult to me and to Pierre La Porte and most importantly to Jean D'Arc St Germaine.

Paul Martin has insulted all of Canada including the people of Quebec.

Bruce
*************

This should be printed on the front page of every newspaper in the country. It should be in bold print in the front page of the Winnipeg Free Press so that Paul Martin couldn't help but read it during his stay in Winnipeg.

Compare this message with that weasely statement issued by Michaelle Jean which was so carefully crafted by spin doctors that it, more than anything, confirmed the worst innuendo about her. Is there a soul in Canada that's not convinced that she and her loving husband voted to break up Canada the first chance they got?

But that's not the point.

After reading this message Canadian's understand viscerally that the debate over Michaelle Jean's suitability to be Governor General isn't about her consorting with separatists.

It's about consorting with terrorists.

**************

Before we continue here is a brief history of the terror brought to our country by the FLQ.

Wilfred Vincent O'Neil was the first to die at the hands of the FLQ. Wilfred Vincent O'Neil, 65, was a night watchman at an army recruiting centre in Montreal. He died April 20, 1963, when a terrorist bomb blew up in his face. He was one month away from his pension.

On April 19, 1964, some of the FLQ raided a gun shop in Montreal for weapons. They murdered store manager Leslie MacWilliams, 56. Has Michaelle Jean ever toasted Mr.MacWilliams' memory?

The FLQ sent a bomb to La Grande, a Quebec shoe manufacturer, to show their solidarity with the union that was having some troubles with management. Therese Morin, 64, the secretary to the general manager was killed when it exploded in the office May 5, 1965. She had just returned from lunch. Will we see a Lafond documentary about innocent Quebecers like her murdered by his pals?

Mrs. St. Germaine, 50, was third to die at the hands of the terrorists. She was an operator in the communications centre. Two others were injured. Bruce Vallance was one of the survivors.The FLQ terrorists were reportedly shocked and ashamed by the death of watchman O'Neil. They didn't want to kill innocents. But as the years went on, they grew hardened by the carnage.

Canada recoiled in 1963 when Sgt. Major Walter Leja, 42, had both hands blown off as he was trying to defuse the last of three FLQ bombs in a mailbox in the Westmount region of Montreal. The bombers were just warming up.

In 1966 a manifesto " Revolutionary Strategy and the Role of the Avant-Garde", prepared by the FLQ laid out a strategy of bank robberies, bombings and kidnappings leading to a Marxist revolution.

3 years later they were well into their plan when they placed a bomb in the visitors gallery of the Montreal Stock Exchange in the midst of 300 people. 27 were injured, and amazingly no one died. By then the FLQ wasn't even trying to minimize casualties.

By June, 1970, the FLQ was planning the kidnapping of foreign diplomats. Plots against the U.S. consul and the Israeli consul were broken up. The British diplomat Robert Cross was kidnapped; he was rescued. And finally Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte was kidnapped and murdered--and the government finally stopped their reign of terror.
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Canadians instinctively understand that terrorists must be shunned and fought, not toasted and discussed and "understood".

So the Jean's are separatist sympathizers. They are attracted to the bad boys. That's 'terrorist chic" a term coined when the leftists flocked to the Black Panthers in the Sixties.

But while they like the sexual stimulation of being around real terrorists, and they like the intellectual stimulation of the debate over separatism, they can't grasp the way real people view terrorists, with anger and disgust.

It's that disconnect that disqualifies them from any valid rationale that they somehow will be "warmed to" by Manitobans or anyone else in this country, despite what Mr. Dithers told the Free Press today in their warm and fuzzy exclusive.

The Free Press should have challenged him immediately. Would we send an Ambassador to Israel who toasted and partied with Abdel Aziz Rantisi (the head of Hamas before Israel killed him) ?

Now compare that expected reaction, to the emotions felt by a generation who were victims of the terror, who remembers what the FLQ were, what they did, what they tried to achieve, and how unrepentant they are.

Need we remind you that the murder of Mme. Jean D'arc St Germaine remains unsolved, and there is no statute of limitations on murder.

Perhaps the PM can prevail on his appointee to at least tell the RCMP what her dinner guests might have said about the good old days, that could lead to the solving of this case and to justice.

Then we could have confidence in the judgement of Mr. Martin and in the integrity of the people he is trying to tell us all, represent the best about Canada.



Tuesday, August 23, 2005

DUMAS ESCAPED POLICE TWICE, MSM REPORTER WON'T REPORT

New details have come out about the day that Matthew Dumas was shot to death by police.

Elisha Cumbers, a features writer with the Canwest Times, an affiliate of the Winnipeg Free Press, has been following up our exclusive story "Daddy, They're Beating Him Up"
http://blackrod.blogspot.com/2005/04/exclusive-daddy-theyre-beating-him-up_24.html

She spoke with a police officer on the QT. Her source confirmed the gist of our exclusive story, and added some graphic new details.

He told her:
"Police had Dumas in hand and led him to the back lane... Dumas escaped (the) police grip by assaulting the officer. He ran for the back lane, where two officers attempted to subdue him and had him in their hands again, but he again escaped."

As we reported on April 24th, police caught up to Dumas on the stoop of a house on Dufferin Avenue after a brief chase that began when he took off as two officers walked over to talk to a group of youths. The police were looking for suspects in a reported robbery in East Kildonan who were dropped off by taxi in the Dufferin neighbourhood.

We told how the resident of the house saw a police officer take Dumas by the arm and lead him into the lane. The man went into his home and seconds later heard his daughter cry out "Daddy, they're beating him up!". The unidentified police officer fills in the vital interval between when Dumas was led away and when he was seen fighting with police.

Cumbers says she's not going to print with her source's story.

She believes that police were at fault for not handcuffing Dumas after he was lead away from the house. She argues that somehow Dumas was "under arrest" the moment he broke away from the first police officer, demonstrating again why reporters should never pretend to practice law. She doesn't explain how the cops could slip the cuffs on a young man who successfully struggled free from three officers before running off trying to escape.

It looks so easy on CSI New York.

This is the second reporter who has confirmed our findings that Dumas fought off police and took off running in a circle through yards in the neighborhood, with the cops in hot pursuit.

Yet this important detail is omitted from their media outlets while at the same time, both reporters have argued with us that the armed Dumas was not a threat to the cops and that the Winnipeg Police Service is at fault for his death.

Why the public has not been given full information, can only be because the bias of big brother media has become so pervasive in city newsrooms, that those in charge truly believe the public cannot handle the truth and that vital facts must be filtered out of stories.

By not reporting the actions of Dumas on that day, MSM in Winnipeg promotes the notion that a man with a prior criminal record, in breach of probation, suspected in a robbery, who fought off apprehension and escaped, refused to obey commands to drop his weapon and stop, and was still advancing on police despite being pepper-sprayed, somehow - is a victim of trigger happy police.

Race, the age of the suspect, and second guessing the decisions of cops in a life and death confrontation on a North End street, took precedence over reporting the facts. Then the Terry Nelson's of the world cry racism - even when the cop who was forced to shoot the suspect is himself Metis.

If this was a situation like that of Abe Hiebert, who died in an unwarranted police shooting in his own North End home a few years ago, The Black Rod would just as readily make sure the facts that cleared the deceased were front and centre.

The fact is, any suspect who fights cops, brandishes a weapon, is surrounded and refuses commands to surrender, is a victim only of his own decisions.

And the public interest is the victim of the decisions of reporters and their bosses in the selective reporting of this shooting by MSM.
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Our email contained a big surprise Monday morning when a Toronto Star columnist, Antonia Zerbisias said she wanted to share our last post, Our Plan To Save the CBC After Klymkiw, with her readership via her blog http://thestar.blogs.com/azerb/.

As well Kate featured our story on her blog http://www.smalldeadanimals.com under the heading Race to the Bottom.

We welcome our new readers from across the blogosphere coast to coast and look forward to your feedback.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

OUR PLAN FOR THE CBC'S FUTURE WITHOUT KLYMKIW

His boss at the CBC called him "larger than life, a take-charge, can-do, go-to guy, experienced and decisive, with boundless energy and enthusiasm". He was the "golden boy" come to lead the national broadcaster to glory.
On Wednesday, he called it quits, but the local media barely noticed his exit from the national scene.

But not The Black Rod.

Slawko Klymkiw's journey through the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is almost movie-of-the-week material, the kind he himself would commission for the Mothers Corps.

And if you believe that, then you will also believe the many accolades bestowed upon the man whose decision "to accept an invitation to take up a new, exciting and very different professional opportunity" happens to coincide with the current lockout that many say is the death knell of the CBC as we have known it.

Or, about the same time senior brass decided the NHL method of labour negotiation, a.k.a. starve the bastards out, was the only alternative to even more years of decaying revenues, self-centred programming and downward-spiralling ratings.

Or, a.k.a. exactly what Klymkiw had delivered in his 9 years as Executive Director of Network Programming for CBC Television.

Slawko was the big star at Winnipeg CBC's 24 Hours in its local heyday, even if he never appeared on-camera. You remember, the days of Marv Terhoch, Sandra Lewis and Kevin Evans, when the nightly 24 Hours newscast drew upwards of 135,000 viewers. When CBWT Winnipeg was the jewel in the public broadcasting crown, the only city in the country where CBC was top station.

How do they do it? pondered the Toronto brass. And the answer came back --- it's the Uke.
Slawko built his reputation on "award-winning" documentaries, back when people cared about documentary-style television.

Before departing for the centre of the universe, Slawko had one last gift for Winnipeg; he created the I-Team. His image was not tarnished when the first I-Team story was scooped by Gordon Sinclair (say, whatever happened to him?) and the Free Press upstaged the heavily publicized debut story. Luckily for Slawko, he left just before the documentary bubble burst.

Hmmm. He always had a knack for knowing when to leave.

Slawko was brought in to work his wonders in The Big Smoke. He couldn't work a miracle though and failed to bring the Toronto CBC news back from the dead.

He helped create CBC Newsworld and served as Head of News Specials, Senior Executive Producer of Programming, and later as the head of the network. His biggest accomplishment was keeping CTV's Newsnet out of the breaking news business and out of competition for 10 years.

News on CBC went down the toilet in the Nineties. After being toadies for the Tories during Meech Lake (the local service being the lone exception), they angered Mulroney by being scrupiously objective during the Charlottetown referendum debate. He cut funding in '91 and the CBC began a series of dumb moves which sent the network into its current death spiral.

They adopted a "regional" perspective (which in Manitoba meant ignoring Winnipeg), they moved the National to 9 p.m. and started 24 Hours News at 5:30, confusing viewers who were not about the change their viewing habits; and they went through a "diversity" phase where every story was about some affirmative action program, dissaffected minority, or a feel-good, do-good, aren't we wonderful pollyannic tearjerker.

We'll have to wait until CSI: Front Street to find which ideas had Slawko's fingerprints on them, but he had motive and opportunity for the fatal cuts of 2000 which cut local newscasts in favour of a supper hour national cast. For by then, Slawko had become head of network programming which meant he called the shots on entertainment shows, and he needed money to play.

Slawko was never at a loss for ideas. As Richard Stursberg, Executive Vice-President put it, "He truly was the architect of the schedules that embodied the transformation of the network over the past several years."

And how we remember:

In 2003 it was "guerilla programming" where they unravelled "five seasons" of programming in a row: television, comedy and drama series, holiday programming, news series and specials, and hockey playoffs.

In 2004 it was "high impact programming" which apparently consisted of TV movies, The Great Canadian contest and a mini-series.

OH, you don't remember. Sorry.

Canadians continued to tune out in record numbers. But "ratings alone are a lousy measure of how well a public broadcaster is fulfilling its mandate" said Klymkiw. CBC shows had to "serve a public purpose":
"Our role is to host the Canadian conversation. To give voice to Canadians in all their diversity, telling our stories, celebrating our heroes and educating our kids through news information and high impact distinctive programming."

Unfortunately for Slawko fewer and fewer Canadians felt CBC wanted to hear what they had to say and CBC increasingly finds itself talking to itself.

The "purpose" of his leadership resulted in the speed of sound descent of CBC's Canada Now. The 6 O'clock newscast went from No. 1 in the 80's, to No. 2 in the 90's, to No.3 with barely 17,000 viewers and hearing the footsteps of the revamped CITY-TV news with Lisa Saunders, who seemingly is not finding her lack of award-winning recognition or a leather wardrobe to be an impediment to delivering a newscast Winnipeggers want to watch more than seeing what Hurricane Krista is wearing tonight.

Oh, and did we mention that the great programmer turned down the huge comedy hit Corner Gas? yep, who needs 2 million viewers ? Let CTV HAVE them, we got um, er, eh, uh, ... Slawko's mantra was "momentum, momentum, momentum". Ya, that's it, momentum.

He lost it and he quit.

He wanted the job to replace Harold Redekopp as vice-president. He didn't get it. Stursberg did. And as an insider, Klymkiw knew about the planned lockout for months.

Not that you'd know it by reading the local press, but Klymkiw has been appointed as Executive Director of the Canadian Film Centre.

Oh and a curious sidebar. Stursberg said "I also think his new employers are very lucky to have him". That's a bizarre statement considering the CFC website lists Stursberg as -- yep, on the Board of Directors of CFC and therefore, the distinction of being Klymkiw's old and NEW employer, simultaneously.

Klymkiw left because he knows this is the end for the CBC. Just like he left the Peg when it was the end for documentaries. But like an addict to a North End alley, he will not really kick the CBC habit as CFC students and films under his "leadership" will end up being foisted on the taxpayers when the public broadcaster hires Slawko's next generation of "award-winners" and pays to air their films that no one would pay to see in the theatre.

People are already giving feedback. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, they love listening to CBC FM without announcers. They're willling to try a CFL game with no colour analysts even if the CFL can't wrap their head around the concept (first tried by NBC in a Jets - Dolphins tilt year ago).

Nobody is organizing to force the government to end the lockout. A poster on CBCwatch.ca said it best.
"Uninterrupted music from little-known entertainers is superior to endless chatter from urban socialists, academia nuts and cultural elitists who view their unfettered access to the public trough as a God-given right."


It's like nobody cares.

But we do. The Black Rod is not joining the pile-on CBC crowd.

We see this as an opportunity for CBC, maybe its last opportunity, but an opportunity to change and regain its place in broadcasting. People in the media are mystified that CBC is not fighting. No attempt to put on a national news broadcast. No use of available feeds. Not like in the old days of ACTRA wildcat walkouts, the strike by cameramen, etc. in the 90's.

As Maclean's put it:
"Media observers said Tuesday they're stunned the CBC hasn't tried to provide any kind of news package from non-union staff or from all the incoming feeds that are available in any broadcast newsroom."

Why the surprise? CBC are mama's boys. They've always run to government and been taken care of. No competition will do that to you.

They don't want to be the "bad guys" and fight their employees. They don't want to be Gary Bettman and be hated. So, nothing. But nothing - means the end.

On the picket line the betting line is that the lockout will last 3 months.
Even the strikers have ideas. Some are talking about a Canadian Media Guild - approved webcast of news shot and edited by the strikers to compete with CBC-TV and of podcasts for the radio crowd.

And http://www.cbcunplugged.com/ has a list of CBC worker blogs. There's already about ten.

(Speaking of those who are locked out, anchorman Peter Mansbridge joined the picket line yesterday. And no, we don't know if Krista is walking the line here or in Toronto. We think Toronto, but expect her back here soon. The CBC just cut off the dental benefits of its lockout out employees, and we don't expect them to pay for Krista's hotel room now that she isn't filing hard news stories like people standing in line for 24 hours for Rolling Stones tickets, the move to use energy efficient lightbulbs in Chinese groceries- and no we are not making this up, your taxes paid for that.)

Which brings us to opportunity. CBC has spent five or more years trying to be hip. Trying to attract "youth". Trying to be "cutting edge". And failing at every turn, ZED-TV's 46,000 strong web community notwithstanding.

Now they can do exactly what they said they want to do. Because obviously the public does NOT want a return to the status quo.

The paradigm shifted in January with the tsunami. Suddenly people could go to the web and find video of the disaster. They didn't have to wait for it to be delivered to a TV station, edited, voiced over. It was raw and immediate. Hell, even the cable news networks relied on the new technology to bring the story their old technology could not react to fast enough. That's the future of news.

CBC can be in the forefront.

No viewers nowadays? Why? Because youth get their news on the computer?
So webcast your shows. Let young viewers tap in whenever they want, day or night. Let them give feedback about the accuracy and honesty of the casts just like blogs and make changes where warranted.

No reporters? This is the era of citizen reporters. Create VLOGs.
Invite people to post video of events they feel deserve coverage. The Folk Festival. Bad roads. This weekends implosion of the old Ogilvie Mill. The video comes first, then the reporters are assigned to put it in context. We live in a participatory culture.

That's what Klymkiw said he wanted, conversation, right?

No cameramen? Give every reporter a Sony cameraphone.

Think it won't work? Just last week, James Lileks http://www.newhousenews.com/archive/lileks122204.html wrote:

"In a sense, blogging is so 2004. The next big thing will be videoblogs. You can fit a rudimentary TV studio in a suitcase -- a laptop, a camcorder, a few cables, and a nearby Starbucks with
Wi-Fi you can leech onto to upload your reports..."

That's guerilla programming, Slawko.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Dog Days of Summer

You know we're in the dog days of summer when the Free Press can't find a single news story worth reporting and, instead, devotes its front page to pictures of dogs and cats.

The Black Rod, in turn, was debating whether to write about the lockout of CBC employees or Brad Pitt. Once we asked ourselves which story would people care more about, it was an easy choice.

But then this item came across our desk, and we decided to regroup again.

Canad Inns has run into some big financing problems, and why do we think this is related to the demise of the Crocus Investment Fund.

Once the Crocus taps were shut off, the good times weren't rolling anymore. A multi-million dollar project that's been rolled out more than pyrogy dough at Alecia's is on life-support.

Plans to build a four-star hotel in Grand Forks was first announced in the summer of 2003. It would cost $17 million.

Over the ensuring two years the project grew larger and larger until Canad Inns was trumpeting The Canad Inns Destination Center, complete with a "world-class" 40,000 sq. ft. water park and 191-room hotel that will be attached to the Alerus Center. Total cost now: a tasty $50 million, U.S.

This morning, the project is still on the drawing board, and even that's held together by chewing gum and masking tape. The word in Grand Forks is that funding for the project has disappeared. Which explains a lot.

When the hotel was first announced, they said construction would start in March (2004). But that was delayed when Grand Forks residents rejected a proposal to finance a water-park next to the hotel. Canad Inns stepped up and said they would do it themselves. Canad Inns inked a deal with Grand Forks in January, 2004 and the hotel was expected to open about one year later. The Crocus Fund was still flush and talking expansion every moment.

But by the fall, Crocus was in the throes of a soul-searching internal review. In September, 2004, Canad said groundbreaking was pushed back to February, 2005. In February, Canad Inns' architect, Lonnie Laffen of JLG Architects, said he anticipated it would happen at the end of March.

March came and went, and so did April.

In May, Canad Inns President and CEO, Leo Ledohowski held a news conference at the Alerus where he introduced architects, contractors, engineers, and financiers and said the hotel would have its grand opening in the summer of 2006. Meanwhile, across town, city inspectors still had not received the final plans they needed to issue a building permit.

On May 30, like the iceberg that hit the Titanic, Auditor General Jon Singleton released his report into the Crocus Investment Fund.

In July, the Grand Forks press reported that final plans for the hotel were ready. But architect Laffen said the building plans were just for the shell of the building. Uh oh. In Crocusland that's known as a "red flag."

Canad president Leo Ledohowski said his contractors were going to speed up construction by putting up a shell before working on the interior. Even we knew that didn't sound right.

Ledohowski said his goal was to open the hotel by summer 2006. Six weeks later, not a single shovel of dirt has been moved. The money's dried up and the city is still waiting for the architects to file some plans.

The Mayor of Grand Forks says he's still confident that construction will begin this year. But he's a desparate man. The Canad Inns Hotel has been dangled in front of his citizens for two years now as a symbol of growth and regeneration. Sort of like the new Hydro Building in downtown Winnipeg.

And it may be worse than we think. If memory serves us well, the deal with Canad Inns is void if construction doesn't begin by Dec. 2005. The clock is ticking.

What might be bad new for Grand Forks could be good news for Winnipeg, though.

You remember that this past December Canad Inns was blowing the horns over another big project---another hotel and water park right here, or rather, right beside, Winnipeg. The new entertainment complex would be part of the plans for a new stadium on land owned by the Red River Ex in Headingley.

Haven't heard much about that hotel, either, have you? It seems the feasibility study came back - saying it was feasible to study it some more.

So one water park-slash-hotel project is on the shelf and another is on the ropes. That's the water park-and-spa plus 120-bed hotel announced for Headingley by Joe Paletta. Since the death of one of his principle investors in April, that project has officially been "on hold".

That means the only water park proposal still in play is the one considered least likely to succeed. The tortoise in the race of hares. We haven't heard a word about it since the flurry of water park announcements in the winter when everyone was surprised to hear that the Winnipeg Convention Centre, too, was looking at building a water park.

This is a prime opportunity for Sam - and by that we mean Sam Katz - to do something that will silence critics all across the political spectrum by fast-tracking the plan. Bring people downtown, within 2 blocks of the Graham Transit Mall, for good clean family fun.

One of the major drawbacks to the Headingley-based projects was the distance from the majority of the population. The downtown project is centrally located, will enhance downtown business, and will prove that Mayor Sam can lead the way in making Downtown a destination for families when the bears have left Broadway.

*****************

While it looks like bad news for Grand Forks, it's Brad news for Winnipeg. The local shooting for Brad Pitt's movie about Jesse James won't get underway for another month.

That gives you time to get to Calgary to audition to be an extra. Auditions are being held Aug 21 at the Inn on Crowchild. But bring comfortable shoes. When they held auditions in Edmonton, by 10 o'clock in the morning the lineup went around the Ramada Inn one and a half times! And that was before most of the people showed up.

And if you're not planning on a trip to Calgary but think there may be a need for extras in Winnipeg, here's some tips. They're looking for men with "great character looks" (beards and mustaches are huge pluses) and women with long hair.

"We'll be creating several communities in the American old west so we'll need farmers, gunslingers, Civil War amputees, gentile ladies, gravediggers, policemen, miners, cotton pickers, cowboys, and various other riff raff everyone from 5 to 95 can apply," said the casting director.

Of course, you might want to just grab a lawnchair and set up around the Burton Cummings Theatre. The moviemakers say they'll be shooting here at an "opera house" and , wouldn't you know it, The Burt (formerly the Walker, formerly the Odeon, formerly Victoria Hall) was built as an opera house.

No trees will be hurt in the filming of this movie.

Ben Affleck's little brother, Casey, is definitely cast as Robert Ford, the dirty little coward that (SPOILER ALERT) shoots Jesse James. That's the biggest role next to Brad's Jesse James and he better be pouring over the script because shooting (of the cinematic kind) begins Aug. 29th.

*****************
Just about the only people who won't be angling for a peek at superstar Brad will likely be the CBC. The lockout of employees started today and it looks like the brass are taking a page from the NHL owners playbook: go long.

CBC employees don't get the same paycheques as NHL players. Take a look at what CBC pays its editorial staff according to the media guild:

The starting salary for a producer at the CBC is $52,851. The starting salary for a reporter is $40,780. A senior reporter can earn as much as $75,784. The lowly researcher starts at the CBC at $29,981.

It's a tossup over how long they go before drinking the Kool-Aid and deciding to accept the unacceptable. (Note to readers from New Winnipeg : That's a "quote" from Hirohito, Emperor of Japan, Aug. 15, 1945.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

CROCUS GHOST walks SPENCE STREET

The Winnipeg media followed Lloyd Axworthy like lemmings to the sea yesterday, except the sea was actually his new piece of pavement...

...the former north Spence Street, now handed over to said Lloyd without a blueprint or a dime to back his pedestrian mall model of improving downtown Winnipeg.

Remember how the Ax redefined the core area when a federal minister to include his riding of Fort Rouge? Well, now, miraculously, 'downtown' includes his new riding - er, fiefdom- the U of W.

Former CBC talking head Jennifer Rattray, in her new role as University of Winnipeg talking head, could barely contain herself when introducing her boss as the man who was the "champion" of the mission to recapture Spence Street from the evil motorists.

This latest social engineering project led by the man who brought us the Core Area Initiative in the Trudeau era, is built on a bewildering number of twists and turns overlooked by MSM.

This is the first time anybody other than business owners are talking about the need to address safety downtown. As you will recall, last year it was certainly never an issue under the former mayor, a stance repeated by his chosen successor who openly declared while debating other candidates on CBC Radio that downtown was safe.

The only media outlet to raise the red flag on the growing dangers to pedestrians in the U of W area was The Black Rod, last February, when we reported that security guards at Portage Place, a mere 3 blocks east of the campus, were wearing body armour.

We asked how average people were supposed to feel safe when they walked the streets of downtown with the same threats facing them. Nobody publically addressed this situation because it did not fit the rah rah attitude encouraged-- nay, demanded--of all 'team players' to promote downtown Winnipeg.

Now that the multi-titled Lloyd Axworthy is involved, suddenly---- an about face.

When they surveyed the neighborhood soliciting comments about the 'benefits' of expansion of the U of W campus, to their tremendous surprise no one spoke about green space or training opportunities.

Unlike Lloyd and his well-heeled cohorts who retreat to their estates in the city's more prosperous suburbs and enclaves, people who live on streets and avenues bordering the university knew and told - that the safety on their sidewalks was their number one issue.

And voila, in a press release Monday morning the U of W claimed "an invigorated attitude toward campus and community safety". Their expert faculty and volunteer student force will patrol the area all the way to Broadway, armed with - well, nothing.

OK, armed with training in problem-solving, which will go over big with problem-causing members of the Indian Posse we are sure.

It will be interesting to see if El Commandante of this peacekeeping force, His Lloydship, ever takes a tour of duty on those mean streets with the pimply- faced sophomores volunteering to back down sniffers and gangbangers with a wagging finger.

This sudden concern about security on the streets also validates the anti-panhandler initiative of Mayor Sam Katz, which, of course, is being opposed by those darlings of the campus crowd, Benham and Gerbasi. The duo were conspicous by their absence as Axworthy and hostess Rattray gushed about the cooperation of His Worship and the sudden commitment of the U of W to improving the ability of citizens to walk the streets without feeling threatened.

While the usual Liberal Party smiley-faces- Anita Neville, David Northcott, John Angus, grinned like a bunch of... well, politicians, at Axworthy blowing kisses in Katz's direction, one of the usual suspects was not seen, nor spoken of, the entire time. That's because the migration of crackheads, aggressive addicted panhandlers and roving girl gangs to the University's doorstep is the legacy of that 'man who shall not be named.'

But we will.

Urban visionary Glen Murray, take a bow.

While the former mayor was building over-priced world-class bridges and proposing world class new deals that went nowhere, he somehow failed to see the state of the neighborhoods or to hear the panic coming from the homeowners affected by the daily deterioration of their community.

How the mighty have fallen. First the good citizens of Charleswood showed their appreciation of his civic leadership by showing him the exit door. Then the Prime Minister had to shoehorn him into a patronage position against the objections of the entire opposition. And now he's persona non grata in the city he loved almost as much as himself.

So, bidding a not-so-fond farewell to Glen Murray's vision of downtown, the University turned to an august body of experts to handle the stickhandling of the entire project. They sit as the board of directors of an "arms-length agency", the University of Winnipeg Renewal Development Corporation.

The Black Rod decided to find out who sits at the end of Lloyd's arm on this non-profit board. Readers may wish to brace themselves.

The first name on the list is not at all disconnected to Lloyd's arm, because it is the man himself. That's right, Lloyd Axworthy is advising himself on his own project.

The second seat on the board is filled by former U of W student Jim August, who you may remember as the honcho of Lloyd's last megaproject, the North Portage Development Corporation. The success of that idea is self evident to anyone who has walked the empty pedestrian mall behind Portage Place, the Promenade, which was, in its time, proclaimed as the solution to revitalizing downtown Winnipeg.

But it is the third member of the board whose role is most curious, given that Axworthy never mentioned his name yesterday even though everyone else has been talking about him for months and months now. Why were you standing at the back of the crowd ?

Step up and don't be shy, Sherman Kreiner.

Yes, THAT Sherman Kreiner.

The man of the "multiple bottom lines" at the Crocus Investment Fund himself.

The man whose leadership and vision are currently the subject of multiple, criminal and civil investigations. One supposes he has some spare time to devote to choosing what kind of flowers should go into the oversized urns on Spence, in between sessions with his lawyers to prepare for Examinations for Discovery.

The Black Rod has frequently made reference to Kreiner's dedication to the Mondragon model of anti-capitalist capitalism. Why do we sense that Lloyd Axworthy's undefined plans are going to turn out looking a lot like Kreiner's Crocus plan to rehabilitate downtown Winnipeg.

What plan, you ask??

Why, the plan set in motion one year ago with the announcement of The Manitoba Property Fund, an announcement sadly lost in the rubble of the Crocus collapse.

But before it slipped into obscurity, The Manitoba Property Fund was paraded forth with great fanfare. Crocus was throwing in a million bucks and would manage the fund and collect handsome fees. The other partners, the Workers Compensation Board investment fund and the Teachers' Retirement Allowances Fund (TRAF) were each kicking in $10 million, and junior partner Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd. was topping up the $25 million fund.Two years earlier at a Crocus Fund annual general meeting Kreiner spun his vision of how Crocus could help remake the city.

Faithful scribe Martin Cash wrote that Kreiner told shareholders that
"Crocus now has the standing in the markets to leverage new institutional investors to band together with some of its existing retail investors to form new capital pools which would allow Crocus to invest in new areas. For example, Kreiner said Crocus is keen to become active in more downtown revitalization investing."

Oh, those glory days when even boring prattle like that sounded like Shakespeare.

Last year, the development fund became a reality. The money was in the pot and Sherman Kreiner told the Free Press he would make a formal announcement in in Crocus's offices the restored Ashdown hardware store building on Main Street.

"There are a number of different reasons we had for holding the meeting here," Kreiner said. "We wanted to show what the building means to the community and the energy that exists around here."

We swear, Lloyd Axworthy couldn't have said it better.

"The purpose of the fund would be to invest in real estate primarily focused on downtown, primarily focused on the historical sector of downtown, Kreiner said. The $25 million pool of equity would be expected to leverage an additional $75 million in mortgage financing. "

The money is still there, $10 million from the WCB (thank you, Wally Fox-Decent) and $10 million from TRAF (thank you, Alfred Black) and the $25 million turns into $100 million according to Shelter's Arni Thorsteinson.

So nobody should be surprised when Kreiner calls up his old pals and pitches the wonders of Lloyd Axworthy's vision as good reason to channel the money to Spence Street.

Who knows. Maybe he had it in mind all along. In developing the framework for the Manitoba Property Fund, Kreiner and his partners decided they "will use the CentreVenture boundaries as its guidelines -- the Assiniboine River to the south, the Red River to the east, Higgins Avenue to the north and Sherbrook Street to the west. "

And how convenient that the mandate went from focusing on heritage buildings like the Crocus headquarters to "a range of projects including industrial, commercial or residential and the restoration of old buildings or the construction of new ones."

Which sounds amazingly like Lloyd Axworthy's announcement yesterday.

Somebody should be counting the bottom lines for the U of W Renewal Development Corporation.

But Sherman is not the U of W's only hope for pedestrian mall funding. There's always you, the taxpayer.

Last month the federal government submarined Sam Katz at every turn over the New Deal's gas tax rebate and the mayor's insistance that the money be used to fix roads and sidewalks. Then at the event, Katz told the press the top 2 issues for Winnipeggers are the streets and safety. The feds told Katz the rules are the gas tax money must go to-- you guessed it-- so-called "green projects" that carry the union label - sustainable development.

And oh look, just a week ago, what new department did Axworthy reveal was in the plans for his restructured administration? A "sustainable development" office. To coincide with -- the anti-car, pro-transit, pro-bicycle -- new Spence Street mall.

What fate. The federal government can address both of Katz's priorities by handing the money, not to City Hall, but to the former Liberal Godfather in Manitoba, Lloyd Axworthy hisself.

Not that everybody will be happy with that arrangement, as The Black Rod reported on February 4th. Let us repeat:

"It's hard to be a sugar daddy. Nobody knows it better than Reg Alcock...But Sam (Katz) doesn't want to play. How can Reg get credit for doling out money if the damn mayor wants to negotiate about which pocket the money comes out of. Talk about playing hard to get...And then, if that wasn't bad enough, there's the Lloyd problem. You see, Lloyd has realized that in city politics the action is in real estate. So he's become a developer. And instead of handing out money, he expects to call in a few markers and start collecting the dough instead."

It may be instructive that even though Lloyd could haul back from vacation for the festivities, Reg Alcock was not there to take credit for anything,which is extremely unusual. Instead he was represented by the deep-backbench MP, Anita Neville, who hinted "the federal government is watching". No doubt Lloyd got the hint, that Reg is the one controlling the money and Lloyd better understand who the alpha male is in this town.

Lloyd may have to be satisfied with the titles Dr. /President/Champion/El Commandante in his own house, and with basking in the adulation of Jennifer Rattray and the media lemmings. Because Reg Alcock is looking out for his own security as the New Godfather.

************
A quick BWAA HAA HAA to the Free Press.

In Tuesday's paper Randall Kings wrote that "contrary to reports" Brad Pitt will be shooting his Jesse James movie in Winnipeg instead of Montreal.
Nice try, but The Black Rod reported last week that Brad was definitely on his way.
And almost three weeks ago, the full details of the shooting schedule, the audition dates and even where Brad and Angelina will be staying in Alberta were shared with our loyal readers.
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MEMO TO NEWSROOMS (FOLLOW UP) :

The Black Rod, August 6th: There's a gang war going on in the heart of the North End.

Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg Sun, CJOB, CBC, and TV newscasts, August 7th:
Man arrested for kidnapping Victim bound and beaten and stuffed into the trunk of a stolen car that crashed in East Kildonan. A suspect arrested near Main and Redwood in the north-end. Police believe the incident is gang related.

Winnipeg Police Aug. 9th:
Firearms Incident Shortly before 5:00 a.m. this morning a home in the 200 block of Cathedral Avenue sustained a number of gun shots. The residents of the home were awakened by the sound of gun shots and observed damage to the rear window. No one was injured. The District # 3 Major Crimes Unit is investigating.

CityTV reports the residents at 285 Cathedral had just moved in a couple of days earlier. Obviously bringing heat with them. The baby carriage in the front yard tells how badly this could have turned out. Police can't confirm but think this may be a gang related incident.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Will This A-List Hunk Show Up At Kelekis??

[originally posted July 21, 2005]

That wasn't the flutter of mosquito wings you heard last night; it was the sound of thousands of female hearts atwitter at the thought of Brad Pitt coming to Winnipeg to film a movie.

The Winnipeg Free Press carried the initial story yesterday, but The Black Rod (entertainment division) brings you the full story today.

Heartthrob Brad Pitt is indeed making a movie in which he plays gunslinger Jesse James. The script is based on the novel The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford written by Robert Hansen.

Shooting is scheduled to begin in Calgary on August 29 then move to Edmonton in late September. The production will wrap up in November. (Although, given Pitt's recent illness, don't be surprised if the start date is pushed back.)

Locations will reportedly be split between Heritage Park (where the Gunfighters Western Stunt Club perform the "Gunfight at the Boundary Corral" for tourists) and Fort Edmonton Park which has been booked by "a film company" around Oct. 1.

Believe it or not, right now the only definite casting is Brad as Jesse. Auditions for the rest of the cast, including the major role of Robert Ford, are still taking place. Casting directors have already read actors in LA and have opened the search to non-name actors.

Final selections may be announced this week or next. But here's a look at some of the roles the producers are looking to fill based on an audition call we got our hands on:

Charley Ford: 30s. A likeably ignorant country boy who apologizes for his failings before they can be found out. Something of a good-natured dog about him. Something hungry, grateful, and vulnerable that makes up for his general vulgarity. Easy to be around;
Robert Woodson Hide: 30-40s. Jealous of Dick's easy ways with the ladies. Sulks and moons the afternoon through over some imagined slight. An old stick-in-the-mud who is always fuss-budgeting around, telling people what they can and can't do. So crotchety and orthodox that he seems almost elderly. Stern as John the Baptist;
Ed Miller: 40-50s. His best years are behind him. He is operating on three wheels. He lives in filth and muck: mold crusted dishes stacked on the kitchen table; a cat on the kitchen cutting board licking something from the sink; his clothes are wrinkled as crumpled paper; his fingernails are outlined with filth; a corner of his mouth is stained with tobacco juice. Note: should be an actor with a weight of sadness about him;
Dick Liddil: 30s. A good-looking horse thief. A ladies' man. He flirts with Ida and Martha and seduces Sarah Hite. Mercurial, reckless and impetuous. Crime is a lifestyle choice: Dick always has a robbery in his past, anxiety in the present, and uncertainty in his future. He is charming, though; [You all saw the picture but only now do you know the true story of why Stephen Harper was dressing like a fat GAY Caballero, auditions can be sooooo humiliating]

Sheriff James Timberlake: 40s-60s. No bullshit. Ex-confederate guerilla;
Henry H. Craig: 40s-50s. Police Commissioner. Seemingly stern, but with a sense of humor. Skeptical;
Albert: 12-14. Good looking in a choir-boy way. Schooled in how to answer a sheriff's interrogation. Note: Should be able to work himself into a frenzy at the drop of a hat. We need a kid who can cry until snot runs out of his nose.


The film makers are also looking for hundreds of extras. You have until Sunday (the 24th) to get to Edmonton where you can apply at the Ramada Hotel and Conference Centre.

The Calgary call is Aug. 21st. If they need more extras in Winnipeg, remember that they're looking for men with facial hair (so get started) and women with long hair that can be braided or rolled up.

The rights to Assassination of Jesse James belonged to Brad Pitt's production company Plan B which he owned with Jennifer Aniston and his former manager Brad Grey. It's been in development for more than a year, but only got the green light from Warner Brothers in mid-June, says a Warner Brothers executive; coincidentally a week before Grey, who now runs Paramount Pictures, signed a three-year agreement giving Paramount an exclusive first-look opportunity to produce movies developed at Plan B.

The movie is being produced jointly by Plan B and Scott Free Productions (owned by Ridley Scott who directed Pitt in Thelma and Louise and Tony Scott who directed Top Gun). But it looks like it was Brad who decided to take the film to Calgary rather than make it in the U.S.

If you remember, after the trees-in-the-Exchange District debacle in Winnipeg, Pitt filmed Legends of the Fall in Calgary in 1993. And he apparently fell in love with the city and region. "It's one of the most beautiful places I've filmed. I'd come back in a heartbeat if the right project came along," he told the press while promoting Ocean's Twelve.

He just wrapped up filming an artsy-fartsy movie called Babel with Cate Blanchett in Morocco. Babel was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who reteamed with Guillermo Arriaga the writer of his films 21 Grams and Amores Perros. (Maybe he owed someone a debt or something.)

He should be headed for Calgary any day now to prep for shooting. But whether he gets to Winnipeg is another question. Don't forget that he was just hospitalized for viral meningitis. Do you think his producers are anxious to expose him to West Nile carrying mosquitoes in River City?

Just as Winnipeg lucked out with Jennifer Lopez and Shall We Dance because of the SARS outbreak in Toronto, so we may lose out on Brad Pitt and Jesse James because of West Nile, which is most dangerous to people with weakened immune systems.

Thanks for nothing, Taz.

But The Black Rod will leave you with a tip, and you don't have to thank us.

Here's a rather interesting email that came our way, and, as always, we'll share:

A source tells xxxxxxx that after Brad finishes filming in Africa, he is scheduled to shoot a film in Canada and Jolie is planning to come along! "Pitt is going to be in the movie The Assassination of Jesse James, which will be shot here in Calgary (3 hrs from Edmonton) and in Fort Saskatchewan. Brad and Angelina Jolie have rooms booked for 2 months at the Hotel Macdonald." Brad Pitt will indeed take up residence in Edmonton, to shoot numerous scenes in Fort Edmonton Park once its summer season is over. The Assassination of Jesse James have decided the big Hollywood feature will be shot in Alberta in August and September.

Keep it under your cowboy hat and don't tell anyone, eh.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Today's Topic: Attention All Newsrooms

Memo to newrooms: if you're waiting for an official police news release, it's going to look something like this:

There's a gang war going on in the heart of the North End.

At least that's if you consider drive-by shootings and firebombed houses as evidence.

In a two-week period we counted two homes on Pritchard Avenue (near McKenzie) peppered with bullets in a drive-by, one house on Magnus Avenue (just off Aikens) sporting nine bullet holes after another drive-by, and a home on Burrows Avenue (also just off Aikens) which was fire-bombed.

We can't say if this is related to the crack house smack dab in the middle of the action, or to the gent on a motorcycle who stops in regularly to make a pickup.

Or if there's a connection to the marijuana grow op discovered by police on Burrows Avenue (the 400 block), just days before the public gunplay started.

Or even if the two men taken to hospital "with lacerations inflicted by unknown weapons" after a fight in the night of the firebombing the 200 block of Aikens (that street again) was anything more, than street business as usual. But we're reasonably convinced the arrests of two men on gun possession and drug charges at a home on Manitoba Avenue was unrelated.

Still, you can never be sure.

However we hope somebody sheds some light on these tit-for-tat events before somebody gets hurt, especially somebody with absolutely no relationship to the shooters and their targets. Just look at Toronto to see how ugly that can get.

And how pathetic to watch the news media run around crying "How did this happen? Why didn't anybody stop it?"

There's enough bad blood in Winnipeg already and some of it has been spilled. Remember that there's been no official resolution to the shooting of one unidentified man June 15 near the Montcalm Hotel, nor the shooting of another man in the 500 block of Home Street a month later. That man with the hole in his leg wasn't cooperating with police, last we heard. Does that sound familiar?

The apparent gang war is unfolding some short blocks north of Dufferin Avenue which was made famous earlier this year with the shooting by police of Matthew Dumas, an event that dominated the newscasts and front pages for a couple of weeks.

But you may have missed the most recent follow up to that story given how it was buried in the newspapers with few details to flesh out the intriguing headline. It seems that the incident that precipitated the police chase of Dumas turns out to be pretty minor indeed.

One man cracked a woman in the head with a beer bottle and snatched a necklace from the neck of a man at a house on Martin Ave. in East Kildonan. This was originally being treated by police as a robbery and they were looking for the suspects to the incident when they came across four teenagers on Dufferin Avenue. Matthew Dumas was one of them, and the only one to start running when the police headed over to talk to them.

On July 7th, a 38-year old man, Derrick Bone, pleaded guilty to assaulting the woman and stealing the necklace. The Crown stayed the charge of robbery. Bone was arrested two weeks after Dumas was shot and killed. He was sentenced to one day in jail and put on two years probation, as if that's going to matter.

But the bare-bones details of the guilty plea fail to shed much light on why Dumas ran from the police. Was Dumas in the house with Bone? Why was a 38-year-old man hanging around a group of teenagers?

One thing that has been confirmed is our exclusive story of what happened to Dumas when the police finally caught up with him.

We have learned that the Winnipeg Free Press sister publication The Times has followed the Black Rod story with the same findings-only minutes before Matthew Dumas was shot and killed on Dufferin Avenue, he was involved in a fight with police officers in the back lane between Dufferin and Stella.

A police officer caught up with Dumas on the door stoop of a Dufferin Avenue home and had lead him into the lane when the fight broke out. Dumas broke away and lead police on another short chase through the neighbourhood before they managed to bracket him.

It was when he shook off pepper spray and refused to drop the screw driver he was carrying in a threatening fashion that he was shot.

The Black Rod has learned that The Times refuses to go to print with the story because it conflicts with the current version of what happened --- that the police are to blame for failing to handcuff Dumas when they caught him. This is also the reason the CBC has failed to report on the fight despite knowing the details as well.

But both mainstream newsrooms deliberately ignore the fact that police had no reason to handcuff Dumas prior to the fight in the lane.
* He wasn't caught red-handed committing a crime.
* He wasn't waving a weapon.
* He wasn't making a threat.
* He wasn't a famous criminal known on sight.
He was just a boy in a yard where he didn't live. He couldn't even be charged with trespassing since the homeowner didn't call the police. So why would he be handcuffed?

The answer is obvious. He wasn't under arrest at the doorstep.

The only thing left - not a pun - for these reporters to try, is to blame the police
A) for not violating Dumas's rights when he was found on the doorstep or
B) for not beating him into submission like he was Rodney King.

Oh wait, so far they HAVE tried to float both A and B before the public.

The tall foreheads commanding city newsrooms have forgotten the essential duty of their reporters, to gather all the facts; and their own duty, to ensure a fair and balanced report is presented to the public.

Perhaps when they finally publish option C) the truth - that Dumas fought police and fled before he could be handcuffed, drew a weapon and refused to yield to warnings - then the public may draw a more reasonable theory than the newrooms have, about how and why Matthew Dumas met his fate.
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While we're on the subject of public safety, readers have asked if someone will please alert Mayor Katz that the situation in Osborne Village east of Osborne is considered worse- yes, worse - than on West Broadway. Maybe area Councillor Jenny Gerbasi is spending too much time on Corydon to have heard the rowdy hooligans on bicycles, stepped over the derelicts, or seen the trash, filth, garbage and graffitti pile up.

Increasing numbers of marginal characters, strung-out meth-heads and other no-goodniks who hang around on Osborne Street itself, roam the streets and alleys after midnite, waiting for local pubgoers and passers-by returning to their homes or cars to menace and mug. Perhaps the next time the Biz does a safety audit someone will notice the negligible police presence in the area after dark - not counting the cruisers setting up speed traps and Checkstops for vehicles - and the total lack of decent side-street lighting that would help keep the area safe for taxpayers, renters, seniors, students and oh yes - VOTERS.
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And finally to Anonymous.

Here's the Coles Notes version of our Krista Erickson story: A woman from Texas who took shelter in the hotel that Krista was staying when Hurricane Emily hit Mexico, said on the internet she intended to write a letter to CBC complaining that Krista was rude and obnoxious to her. She also said Krista's eyewitness report for CBC was wrong.

Another woman, from California, came to Krista's defence, but made some snide remarks about the woman from Texas. We found another witness and some pictures which supported Krista's story on CBC.

And we surmised from the remarks by Krista's California friend that the real source of the antagonism, was that the people who paid big bucks at one hotel were not happy with the hoi polloi from the cheaper hotel sharing their space and wanting a free breakfast. The Texas woman took a joking comment by Krista the wrong way and the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

And we're still wondering who Krista's "husband" is on the trip, but that's just us nosy parkers.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

TV NewsDiva in a Storm

Oh to be a young up and coming newscaster on the scene of a natural disaster. Reporting live from the chaos, the mayhem, the humanity .. and that is just covering what happened at the hotel.

What is this about, dear reader? Well the CBC, always eager to reach out for feedback, has gotten an earful - mailbox full ? - of verbiage and are now in the midst of their own storm, Hurricane Krista.

CBC-TV's local diva of the airwaves, Krista Erickson, was on vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico when lo and behold, Hurricane Emily struck. Her journalist's instincts kicked in and, grabbing her cellphone and ably tossing aside her leather bikini in favor of more conventional duds, Krista leapt into the fray and filed a report for CBC, as seen on The National.

CBC reporter Krista Erickson, on holiday in Playa del Carmen, said few people slept in the packed emergency shelter. People woke up screaming around 4:30 a.m. local time as drywall from the building's roof started to collapse, she said.
"Everyone is absolutely exhausted" and want to get back to their rooms on the resort, which appears largely intact, said Erickson


But another story behind Krista's stay in Mexico has emerged on the internet and is making its way through the newsrooms of Wpg.

While sheltered from Emily, Krista rubbed a Texas couple the wrong way and they took their complaints to the web in search of their antagonists identity.

http://mytravelboard4.com/playa/posts/3457.html

Posted by Mary and Steve on July 21, 2005 at 11:58:21:
In Reply to: pictures from Allegro <3379.html> posted by Chris R on July 20, 2005 at 20:15:09:


We were Allegro Guests as well and it was great that we were able to be in the Royal Hideaway Theater. It was so sound that you could hardly hear any wind blowning. The most annoying thing was listening to a CSC [sic]reporter from Canada complaining about Allegro guests being allowed to be in the Theater. She was an embarassment to any Canadian. She and her little group of friends were complaining to a Manager at one point that the Royal Guests should have had king beds put in for them. IT was unbelievable and the poor staff did not even know how to respond to such a ridiculous request. The staff were doing the best they could and were so organized and calm. My husband and I commend the staff of both hotels and are so mad at her behavior that we want to write a letter to CBC to complain about her representation of the station. Her name was Krista something. Does anyone know of her? What you do you guys think?

The Black Rod enjoys a good catfight as much as the next blogger, but we can report that even when it comes to CBC diva's, there are 2 sides to every story. A few days later a Californian who was there leapt to the other Krista's defense.

Posted by Crista on July 25, 2005 at 23:53:43:
In Reply to: We were there. Please read this. <3457.html> posted by Mary and Steve on July 21, 2005 at 11:58:21:


Mary and Steve,I was also there in the Theater with 60 guests from the RH and approx 350 from the 2 surrounding resorts. How can you say that the RH guests demanded king size beds brought into the shelter? That is so amazing. I guess you could call me one of her little friends, but I find your lies very offensive. If you paid attention you might have known that Krista and her husband were asleep on the stage for most of the storm. I was awake and walking around because the area by the stage was all flooded and that happened to be where most of the RH guests were. BTW the drywall did NOT fall on the stage, it fell below the stage and injured a friend of mine!


SNIP

While there may have been a clash of personalities, there was also some class warfare.

I must admit that the people on the stage playing UNO and screaming all night from your resort were VERY annoying and had to be told to shut up by the staff that was working several times. Also another woman from your resort told the man playing the awesome guitar music to shut up. Talk about nice behavior. Then the next day the people saying they wanted tio stay for the free lunch irritated me because I paid $550.00 US to stay in the shelter and what did you pay????

[Our research: Royal Hideaway Playacar by Occidental
All Inclusive Adults-only resort designed for romance, relaxing
4.5 star hotel Average price*: $538
Allegro is a 3.5 star hotel Average price*: $242]

You should really think twice before you slander people!!!!! Shame on you Mary and Steve!! My husband and I are writing a letter to the CBC telling them what REALLY happened that night. The most contact Krista had with anyone was a cell phone call to her news station. That is the real story isn't it?? Also, Krista showed me that picture of her and she looks nothing like that now!! How can you say you recognized her?? Once again shame on you both!!!!
The other Crista (from California)

It appears that the Texas couple were too quick to attack Krista's story because we have found another message board poster who verifies her report.

urbangal 07-19-2005, 11:04 PM
I was sheltered with about 200 people inside the theatre at this hotel. we had the doors boarded shut from the inside and the doors were creaking and nails backing out during the hurricane.. so much so that they had to keep renailing. the electricity went out about 9 pm and we were on a generator just for some lights. We were stuck in there without AC from about 5 pm until 7:30 am. The ceiling was leaking throughout the night and at 4:30 a huge piece of sheetrock fell down onto the stage/first row. Made a horrible sound and caused screams and panic. The water had collected and saturated the sheetrock causing it to collapse. After that they asked us to move up towards the top of the theatre. People were shining flashlights at the ceiling in panic thinking other parts were about to fall on us.

SNIP

So newsrooms are abuzz about the gossip regarding Krista. They're laughing at the hiss-up. But it looks like someone took a joke (about the beds) the wrong way. Krista has her defenders but we also obtained pictures of the damaged theatre which support her.

The only thing we couldn't explain was Crista with a C, saying that Krista with a K doesn't look like her CBC headshot. We're wondering what she looks like now. Maybe she had a makeover. Not that Krista would be alone in THAT department among Winnipeg newsrooms.

Because hot on her heels, only 700 viewers behind in the Spring book and gaining fast, was fourth ranked A-Channel which has rebranded, and is set to make a serious run at the fall ratings book and is aiming to drop leather girl to the cellar in the local standings.

This week CITY-TV debuted on Channel 8 and the improvement was immediate and obvious to any viewer, starting with - that's right - the makeover. New set, new website, new host for the flagship morning show... oh right no one knows who is joining the freshly-shaven Jon Ljungberg. "She" is debuting on Thursday morning.
Did we say no one knows? Of course we meant WE do.

A cursory review of their website on Tuesday morning revealed the secret, although by Wednesday night the profile of the new hire had been removed.

Not to give anything away, but suffice to say, on Tuesday, Erin Selby was simultaeneously on both the Channel 8 and CKY-TV websites, and the next day she was on neither. For the time being.

The hiring of former Consumer Watch reporter Selby has tongues wagging. The former model and weathergirl is a favorite with the soccer-mom set because she combines her TV career with raising 5 year old triplets. (And now she gets to babysit Jimmy Mac every morning as well). Trivia note: Selby made her TV debut on CKY's venerated noonhour kiddie cluster, Archie and His Friends.

Some viewers are upset that morning anchor Bridget Brown did not survive the cut after her new coiffe and name change. Former CBC reporter Brian Yasui has presented the news in a straighforward manner this week and the tone of the show is, well, more polished.

And that new approach was especially evident in the new 6 PM newcast. Maybe she switched water brands but without Andy Wilson to share duties, Lisa Saunders has blossomed. She was confident and smooth, and the script and story selection was aimed about 50 IQ points higher than the former version.

And to prove how serious they are about this fall campaign, CITY brass have even added a real, honest to gosh TV weathergirl, as opposed to the real (as in a meteorologist) weather reporter of the past. Now the lovely and talented Adrienne Silver is poised to be the Sylvia of the new generation.
***********************
Our spies in Hollyweird have confirmed that hunky Brad Pitt will be lensing his new flick in Winnipeg, and sooner than we had predicted. Keep an eye out for the A- Lister in the second week of September. We have learned that after a week in Calgary starting August 29th, he will be headed here before going off to Edmonton to continue his horse opera.

Maybe Krista can get an exclusive, if Lisa doesn't have one lined up already.