Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trump At The Post

While reading the Washington Post this morning I was reminded that U.S. president Donald J. Trump considers himself a "stable genius".

Sorry, Mr. Trump.

Horses are much smarter, and: they actually have horseshoes.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Football Fight Music

Speaking of the 2018 World Cup: While watching the Croatia vs. France match yesterday I noticed a television commercial, a form of which I normally ignore, for IKEA. I remember this one from its first run of a few years ago: It borrows music from the Star Trek episode "Amok Time". I don't know if it's a sampling of the original, or a re-recording mimicking those memorable bars of "Star Trek Fight Music".

I wrote about composer Gerald Fried on March 3rd:

Film and Television Composer Gerald Fried


When I hear that music I want to kick a football down the pitch towards an opponent's goal net, and 'challenge' some of their players on the way there....


Post 2018 World Cup

Croatia did not win the grand prize but they were definitely the story. And what a story it is. (I sense a book and lots of articles.)

Here in Canada, CTV's coverage was okay but it could not match the work done in previous World Cups by the CBC. For one thing: Having four, five, six analysts in the television studio was not needed.

Next: 2022 World Cup football.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Found Stanley Kubrick Lost Screenplay

This Kubrick fan first thought this news as "Fake news! Fake! Fake!".

From The Guardian newspaper:

Lost Stanley Kubrick screenplay, Burning Secret, is found 60 years on


I wonder what the master filmmaker would think of Donald J. Trump if he were alive today. (Kubrick did not like intellectual laziness.)


Saturday, July 14, 2018

T-Minus 16 hours to 2018 World Cup Final

France will battle Croatia tomorrow for World Cup dominance. I support both teams, if that's possible.

Croatia: for their terrific and inspiring rise to the final match.

France: well, they're France. I remember Zinedine Zidane's wonderful effort against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final. It was this match, probably more than any other, that got me into football.

By about 1pm tomorrow, Toronto time, one side of me will be really pleased.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Most Beautiful Game - Match Point!

Having watched about ten matches of the 2018 World Cup has convinced me that football is indeed "the world's most beautiful game". Ice hockey, as much as I love it, is, unfortunately, represented by the NHL here in North America. To me, the National Hockey League has too many problems; including but not limited to: too many teams, and representation in soft-ice markets -- ice hockey in the southern U.S.? (Gary Bettman knows! He always knows!)

International ice hockey I much prefer, mainly because of the larger, therefore more proper, ice surface.

The World Cup match yesterday between England and Croatia was bloody exciting!

This coming Sunday: The deciding cup match between France and Croatia.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Films of Influence on Me

Film director Martin Scorsese has teamed up with Steven Spielberg and Universal Studios to help preserve some early American motion pictures which exist only on (highly unstable) nitrate-based film.

In this article Scorsese talks about films that have influenced him; his big three: On the Waterfront; Citizen Kane; and Shadows.

This non-working filmmaker, if I were a working filmmaker, too would pick Orson Welles' Kane and John Cassevetes' Shadows as two that have influenced me. Mr Scorsese's picks got me thinking:

Metropolis (1927)
Battle of Britain (1969)
Five (1951)
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
Der Schweigende Stern (1960)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)


There are more, no doubt.

Television I grew up with would also be a big influence: a later post.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Notes from a Dependent Brat: Out of Gas!

My dad and I were driving back to Iffezheim from the base, CFB Baden-Soellingen. We had passed Hügelsheim and were on our speedy way when the Austin suddenly began to hiccup and hesitate. My dad laughed and said "we're out of gas". (I thought it odd that he did not refill before we left the base; there was an Esso station right near the gate.)

He pulled the famished vehicle over to the side of the road. We were waiting for no more than a few minutes when a car pulled off and parked just a few feet ahead of us. The car sported an oval "CDN" sticker. A servicewoman got out to see why fellow Canadians were stalled to the side -- it was our CDN that did the trick.

She went off and returned minutes later with a gallon of fuel.

Brothers and sisters of the Canadian Armed Forces!



Monday, July 9, 2018

My Prediction for 2018 World Cup Winner

France.


Croatia vs. England on Wednesday

I know what I'll be doing this coming Wednesday at 2pm. Something involving the 2018 World Cup.

Who will I support? Since I'm part Brit, the obvious choice may greet me right before the match. Nineteen-ninety was a long time ago.



Saturday, July 7, 2018

Military Terms

"NCO" (Non-commissioned officer)

"WO" (Warrant Officer)

Military terms. I was trading some with a guy today who's learning them. He knew the above.

"Stand-down." This former brat remembers these: my dad would come home early some summer days because it was too hot to work. "We had a stand-down."

"MP" (Hint: these guys and girls show up for work -- unlike Ottawa MPs.)


Friday, July 6, 2018

A Look Back at Horst, the Germany Fan

On September the 9th of last year I wrote about Horst, a German football fan.

With 2018 World Cup action happening as I write this it's time to look back:

Horst, the Germany Fan

I was walking down the sidewalk on my street. A older man cut in front; he was wearing a Tirolerhut, just the kind of hat sported in a place like Bavaria. Two German flags shot up proudly from each side. He must be a Germany fan. After all, the 2014 World Cup of Soccer is playing out.

At an intersection I caught up to the man and asked him if he was heading to a bar to meet other Germans and Germany fans.

With a heavy accent, the kind I can do an imitation vocally but not so much in text form, he said:

"Hi, I'm Horst." Yes, he was heading to where the action was.

I was off to another destination, so I could not join him, but he was the kind of guy I wanted to have a beer with. German beer! Talk Germany.

Germany won the cup. I was more than happy.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Shades of Gray

An old friend flew into town recently to attend a function, and to visit me -- it's been five years. After we linked up outside the railway station he looked at me and made what I perceived to be a casual observation:

"You're looking good. Do you keep a certain painting in your basement?"

Yeah, and every so often I repaint it using pigments from Max Factor.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Cheapo Johnny Cracker Orchestral Theme No.

A few weeks ago I wrote about U.S. science fiction television series' that I watched on French television during my formative years. One such show, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, was bookended by a terrific theme tune: Composed by Paul Sawtell, "The Seaview Theme" painted an aural picture of seafaring adventure (even if that adventure was at times ridiculous).

It is often said that television has entered a new "golden age" *, fine (I'll stick with my paper books), but one thing missing is the title theme; that piece of music that encapsulates the show's idea -- its heart and soul. The answer is academic: running times for one-hour programs now are short and a one-minute theme tune and title sequence eats into the story to be told. In addition, binge-watching is common, and having the opening theme play every 40 minutes is not needed given the context.

The common default today of using songs in dramatic television is cheap. Indeed, having at least the "Cheapo Johnny Cracker Orchestral Theme" play about would be something. Anything.


* TV addicts say that.


Missing Intermissions

These days when a film is well over two hours long, and many are way too long, you sit through the whole film in one go. I remember something different, from a different time:

"Intermission"

A chance to go to the washroom, and get more food and drink. These opportunities came to me while taking in pictures such as Battle of Britain, El Cid, Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Hey, I'm not cynical. Give me an intermission today so I can make an early escape from over-length 'pictures' such as....

I could have used an intermission for Forrest Gump and Avatar, to name just a few.


The Fourth of July, 2018

Today is Independence Day in the United States of America. It's a country in turmoil. But history says it will survive.

For all of Trump's bluster that he will build a wall on the Mexican border, he is actually building a wall within his own country....which he claims he loves.

Canada, the target of much of the U.S. president's hate, will remain a good neighbour.

To our neighbour: Happy Fourth of July!


Monday, July 2, 2018

The A.C.C. is the Air Canada Centre

Yesterday the A.C.C. was officially renamed "Scotiabank Arena".

It's so official that it'll remain "the A.C.C." to most Torontonians. Much in the same way the SkyDome is still "the SkyDome".


Sunday, July 1, 2018

Notes from a Dependent Brat: Omnibus - Part Two

From March 16, 2017:

Notes from a Dependent Brat: Hockey of All Sorts

Canadian Forces Base Borden's roads are made for road hockey. They are relatively quiet. Elm Street was my hockey arena every bit as much as the base's two ice rinks, Dyte Hall and Andy Anderson. On that short stretch of roadway there were "wicked" slap shots, scintillating saves, spectacular goals, balls screaming down its length, injuries, impassioned conflict, and loads of fun.

Our road hockey season stretched as long as was rational, or sane. Like kids from all over, inside and outside the borders of CFB Borden, when spring came, certainly the warm weather, we traded-in the hockey sticks and pucks/balls for tennis balls and rackets, baseball bats and mitts. This transition never sat well with me, so one year I decided to resist even more than usual. The prime component of this grand resistance was to create something new: "Grass Hockey." My new found skills made my hockey-stick-armed friends take to the grass in the same way that baseball-mitted kids take to the grass.

We dragged the game of hockey out to an extreme length; one so long that we must have touched the start of the next road hockey season: September.

The houses on Elm Street are gone, having been razed a few years ago, as were their surrounding brothers and sisters on School Street and Hemlock Crescent, but the roads and grassy fields are still there:

Ghosts of all-season hockey-loving kids play to the calls of Echoplexed trumpets....
___


From March 24, 2017:

From a Dependent Brat: Of Bunkers and the Rounds

I arrived in West Germany in October of 1966 when the war, WW2, was just two decades in the past. Because of this handy fact there were lots of 'residual matter' left lying around from that great conflict. Bunkers were common in the area I lived -- about a mile from the French border and the dividing, and all-important bulkhead, Rhine River -- for they were part of the defence of Nazi Germany. Courtesy of many years of warm and cold weather back-and-forth action, expended shell casings and unfired rounds of ammunition would constantly pop to the surface ready for us little ones to collect. These weapons of war were great and much desired collectibles. ("Hockey cards? Ha!") However, as part of our education at home and at school our superiors made it clear that we were never to touch, never mind collect, those potent pieces of history.

One could still find reminding-bits of warfare in the local bunkers, of which an example sat in a field very close to where I lived in Iffezheim. I admit that I did at least once go right up to the bunker but did not try to climb around inside as it was by then a collapsed structure. (One of my most vivid memories is of something I saw while travelling on an RCAF bus in the late 1960s; out my window, as the trees parted, was a sight to behold: a field of anti-tank traps. The scene of light-grey-toned pyramids spread orderly over the green grass was almost beautiful.)

One day on the CFB Baden-Soellingen Elementary School grounds a fellow schoolmate pulled out a large clear plastic bag to show off to our small gathered circle. In this conveniently transparent bag, one which could have been used to contain a few ounces of water and a small calibre goldfish, was a large assortment of small and medium calibre ammunition. There was a mix of fully intact rounds and empty shell casings. A veritable grab-bag of violence.

That's all....
___


From April 22, 2017:

From a Dependent Brat: The Church of Me

RCAF Station Baden-Soellingen (retitled "CFB Baden-Soellingen" in 1968), in then West Germany, had two cute little churches parked side by side near the end of a street: houses of two denominations, Catholic and Protestant; directly opposite was the base's hospital; and at the end of the street, watching, stood the fire hall with its fire engines and crash-tenders.

When I was five and six years old my dad would take me to the RC place on Sunday mornings. I remember sitting enraptured by the sermons, specifically by their extraordinary length, especially to this then child, and by what I perceived to be utter emptiness. (It's possible I knew that some things in those sermons made little sense but had yet to hurl the word "emptiness" to describe them.)

One day, a moment I remember well, I said to my dad something in a way as to avoid any misinterpretation: "Dad, I don't wanna go to church anymore."

My dad's reaction: Laughter. The kind aimed towards the heavens when one realizes that his six-year-old is figuring things out fast. And setting firm his own well-considered belief system.

The base is now an airport. Baden-Airpark.
___


From May 22, 2017

Notes from a Dependent Brat: Fireworks

It's Victoria Day here in Canada (It's Queen Victoria's birthday). This special celebration, which I've never been able to peg to a date, made me think of fireworks.

CFB Baden-Soellingen, West Germany, late 1960s or early 1970s: The family and I gathered, along with many other military families, on the base's airfield to partake one evening in a display of fireworks. The actual igniting part fell to the men and women of Canada's finest service -- they know about explosives for some reason. (My dad knew a lot about explosives; a future posting.)

The image I remember most from the spectacular aerial powder display is of one lonely expired charge that fell just metres from us as we sat prone on the grass. The guys sitting on top of the parked crash-tender near us did not seem to react; I took that to be a sort of clean bill of health.

The red still-burning charge fizzled and my attention went back to the heavens....
___


From July 1, 2017:

From a Dependent Brat: Canada Day

My mother looked through the Hammond World Atlas with me. She showed me where we were going to be living in Ontario, Canada, once my dad was posted to CFB Borden.

The good news was that we would be surrounded by water -- "surrounded" in a Canadian sense.

What I remember most about the planned return to Canada, was this plan of mine: When I stepped onto the tarmac after exiting the Canadian Armed Forces Boeing 707 I would kiss the ground. (I was Drama even at nine years of age.)

I loved West Germany, but this kid was excited about returning to this country -- and the Montreal Canadiens.

I didn't kiss the ground after touching Canadian soil (or concrete) for the first time in four years, but I made my point.

***



Saturday, June 30, 2018

Article Sample: "Yukon Crews" - Omnibus



Ten years ago I wrote an article about the Canadair CC-106 "Yukon" transport aircraft -- a machine I flew on as a child -- and its service with the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force). My target publication was Air Force Magazine. The book's editor was very helpful, providing parameters and reviewing my initial submission.

After receiving vital assistance from the Public Relations Officer at DND (Department of National Defence) Headquarters in obtaining initial contacts, I interviewed many people who flew the Yukon, or were aircrew. In pursuit of the story I travelled to CFB Trenton and held a group interview at the RCAF Museum.

It has to be noted that 437 Squadron, main operator of the Yukon, was completely uncooperative. One of my helpful inside contacts eventually had to admit to me, "Simon, forget it". Wonderful.

Unfortunately my piece was "killed" before possible publication by Air Force Magazine after David Adamson, Squadron Commander of 437 Squadron during the majority of the Yukon's tenure, and someone I interviewed via telephone, decided to write an article on the machine himself. I, understandably, was grounded. (Adamson, like everybody I interviewed, without exception, was very pleasant and more than willing in contributing to my research.)

I have no plans to upload my entire "Yukon Crews" piece, but I thought I would post a few paragraphs. Enjoy!

***

The Canadair “North Star” flew with RCAF Air Transport Command for a number of years. This aircraft was essentially an upgraded Douglas DC-4 powered by Rolls Royce “Merlin” engines and it was a workhorse providing movement of people and cargo. Nearing the end of its service life in the late 1950s there were discussions as to what direction to take to replace the aging, and non-pressurized, North Star. The Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 jets were now beginning to enter civilian service, with cargo versions also hitting the market, but there was some pressure to have a Canadian company undertake development of a new transport aircraft. These details are beyond the scope of this article so I’ll cut to the chase: Canadair developed the Yukon by modifying the four-engine Bristol “Britannia” airframe and matching it to a new powerplant, the Rolls Royce "Tyne 2" (which was still under development at that time).

The first flight of a Yukon was made on November 15, 1959. Deliveries to 412 Squadron (VIP) began in mid-summer 1961. Veteran pilot Bill Cars explains the process of training pilots on the Yukon: “All the pilots that were selected to fly on the Yukon were all sent to Cartierville (Quebec) and we took the ground-school. Five of us were checked out by Canadair's test pilots. I was checked out by Scotty McLean, one of Canadair’s test pilots. As soon as we had been checked out then we came back down here (Trenton) with a couple of airplanes and checked out the rest of the guys . . . one guy ran OTU (Operational Training Unit) and three would work for him. I was going back up to 412 Squadron but we took all the rest of them and converted them on these airplanes." Once the pilots were converted onto the Yukon, then began an involved trial period. Cars elaborates: "We'd go on simulated trips, raising and lowering the landing gear five or six times, flaps five or six times, and so on. This was done to simulate multiple trips. We did a few long range trips here in Trenton. We took a couple of crews and flew over to Pisa, then from Pisa down to Leopoldville, and back up to Pisa and back home again just to see how it worked on long range trips. We took turns sleeping on the airplane and that kind of stuff. It was interesting work. It kept us going that summer."
___

Canadair completed twelve Yukons for the RCAF: Two aircraft went to 412 'VIP' Squadron and the balance to (reactivated) 437 Squadron.

However, the Rolls Royce Tyne 2 engines were to be troublesome for some time along with many teething problems with the Yukon itself, which only served to hinder the model from getting up to speed and providing regular service for the air force. Pilot James Lynch, who was to become the Squadron's Chief Safety Officer, remembers: “We had a couple of interesting things with the Yukon during the trial days. We had a case where Wing Commander Roly Lloyd (Commanding Officer of the training and development stage before the Squadron was formed) was coming back from a long-range flight and as they were approaching Montreal they had problems where they couldn't disengaged the 'auto pilot'. They tried to control the airplane and the ailerons wouldn't move at all. So the only way the aircraft could be maneuvered was rudder or powered back and forth. And they had no idea on Earth what had happened. The elevators were fine too. So they were able to jockey getting the airplane down with the reductions in power and rudder and so on." Once the Yukon had landed safely an inspection was undertaken and the culprit revealed. A large water tank located in the belly of the aircraft was used for various purposes, including providing drinking water. The tank's heater, needed for obvious reasons, failed on this flight and the liquid contents froze. Unfortunately some water had bled from its container and ran down and over the Yukon's control system. As Lynch explains, "The torque tubes got coated in ice; they couldn't turn. As it turned out, when they got to the lower altitudes to land, the things freed up and they were able to land the airplane fine".

Jack Maitland, then 437 Squadron Commander and pilot, found the process of getting the Yukon into a regular routine to be very trying: “We had a difficult first eighteen months just keeping them serviceable." Many of the early problems afflicting the Yukon were due to the Rolls Royce Tyne 2 engines. Maitland gives credit to the aircraft mechanics for getting hours out of the Tynes.

Once it was clear that the Yukon had successfully made the transition to full flying status Air Transport Command could do its job. Maitland adds dryly, “we started flying it in the summer of ’61 so by about Christmas of 1962, nearly eighteen months, we were able to more or less able to depart on time. Not always, but…." According to Maitland, the first official flight of a Yukon took place on January 2, 1962 (from Trenton to Marville) so there were many months of “official flying” before a degree of serviceability was obtained.


Pilot Jack Maitland poses with his "Yuke" in Moscow.

___

Operational flying accumulates many hours for the air crews concerned, and most of these hours would be quite uneventful. Naturally, with all these trips over the years there are bound to be stories,funny ones and otherwise. To start, and due to the intrinsic nature of the Yukon which would typically be loaded with heavy cargoes, there are a few stories of the Yukon's nose going up, and not due to any takeoff procedure. Larry Byrne remembers one such story: “East Pakistan had a typhoon go through so we flew some girders for electrical towers and a bunch of blankets and stuff and that was our load. We picked them up from Trenton. My mom and dad lived in Lachine [Quebec] and I went over to their place for lunch while they were loading the airplane. My dad drove me back to the airport at Dorval; I couldn't see the tail of the airplane over the AMU [Aviation Maintenance Unit] and I said to my dad, 'oh my God, they've left without me!' So we drove around the corner of the thing and there was the Yukon sitting on its tail. They had loaded the stuff in through the side loader and they intended to push it forward. And they put this one set of girders on there and down she went. The thing that saved the airplane was they had a big wooden tie-down box in the back of the airplane and when the girders slid back they hit the box instead of hitting the pressure hull of the airplane and so they put a bridle on the front of the airplane and then slowly offloaded then lowered the thing and reloaded it properly. The only thing that was damaged was the seal on the door; and so we flew it back to Trenton and they changed the seal and the next day we were on our way to East Pakistan, and that was my check-ride. The captain was on that was Bill Cars.“
___

Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was a frequent flier on 412 Squadron Yukons. He is also credited, by some, with helping dismantle the Canadian Armed Forces; the fallout, of course, is felt to this day. Burke opines: “(but) ironically he was probably one of the easiest persons to fly anywhere as a passenger, he really was.  He just did not have any use for a military." (Author’s note: Pardon me while I go and paint some machine guns onto my lawnmower.) Bill Cars remembers flying Trudeau out one night: “He stood up in the cockpit for the takeoff but it was night and there were lights all around….soon as the Yukon went out and because there was this weird climb he just went to the back.”
___

One thing that was obvious to me was the fact that the individuals I interviewed all had fond memories about flying on the Yukon – and a lot of fun was apparent in the rapport displayed during the group interview I did as part of my research in CFB Trenton. This really showed when I thought I would ask a seemingly innocent question –  one brought on after hearing of some of the trips to a few 'hot-spots'. My question came out as: “Were you guys ever armed?” This elicited an immediate reaction from [Navigator] Bob Burke: “We had security people. My god, I wouldn't give these guys guns!”  [Flight Engineer] Bernie Hazleton chimes in with, “It's bad enough giving them a screwdriver”.
 ___

[Pilot] Doug Scott remembers the final days, “the Yukon retired on the second of April, ’71, and I retired on the ninth of April. They threw me out at the same time as the Yukon”. [Pilot] Paul Aubin transferred to the new Boeing machines when they came into service: “Going to the 707 was an ego trip but the Yukon was a great airplane, to think back….it was a wonderful experience.”

[Pilot and 437 Squadron Commander] David Adamson negotiated the purchase of the Boeing 707 which came into service with the air force in 1970 and completely replaced the Yukon the following year. Adamson found the Yukon to be “a bit of a challenge to fly” -- he admitted to me that he was always happy to get back on the ground but is very proud of the aircraft's safety record. No Yukon was ever involved in any serious accident.
___

[Pilot] James Lynch sums up his feelings on the Yukon: “The aircraft was definitely a well designed aircraft. It was a very, very nice aircraft to fly. It really was a beautiful aircraft."

The Yukon and its implementation was a memorable chapter in Canadian aviation, certainly Canadian military aviation. It was an aircraft developed and flown to fulfill a requirement laid out by our armed forces and it performed admirably – as several people in this article have noted.  Unfortunately, because so few units were produced, coupled with the fact that Canadians seem to have a hard time 'caring' about most of what we do, especially regarding our military and the many successful and historically relevant exploits therein, this aircraft is destined to be all but forgotten by all but the most die-hard enthusiasts. 

For those of us who had the pleasure or honour of flying on her as either flight crew or passenger, it was a memorable chapter. To me, the Yukon was a beautiful aircraft.

***

As I stated at the beginning of the piece, I interviewed many people involved with the CC-106 "Yukon". They are:

Jack O. Maitland, Pilot and 437 Squadron Commander (Telephone)
David R. Adamson, Pilot and 437 Squadron Commander (Telephone)
Bill Cars, Pilot, Major Ret'd (In person, and Telephone)
James Lynch, Pilot (In Person)
Doug Scott, Pilot, Captain Ret'd (In Person)
Paul Aubin, Pilot, Major Ret'd (In Person)
Larry Byrne, Pilot (Telephone)
Bernie “Shorty” Hazelton, Flight Engineer, Chief WO Ret'd (In Person)
Geoff Brogden, Flight Engineer, Ret'd (In Person)
Bob Burke, Navigator, Captain Ret'd (In Person, and Telephone)
Don Bengert, Navigator, Major Ret'd (In Person)
Phyliss Sproul Gravelle, Flight Attendant, Master Corporal Ret'd (In Person)
Georgina “Andy” Andreanopolis, Flight Attendant, WO Ret'd (In Person)


Friday, June 29, 2018

A Pressed Release: In Production; Short Film

VEC 100: A Cerebration

I won't do a Peter Jackson and reveal everything about the film before it's even released, but, I'll keep you posted.

Target release date: September 1st.