Saturday, August 19, 2017

Tonight on CBC's "The FIlmmakers": Double Happiness

Episode five of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's ongoing series The Filmmakers is "Double Happiness". It starts at 8:30pm. The feature film Double Happiness is on at 9pm.

I should give the flick another chance. I first saw it at the Toronto's Bloor Cinema back in 1994. As I departed the theatre with a friend we bumped into my neighbour; she was leaving with a friend who happened to be Chinese-Canadian, the kind of viewer that filmmaker Mina Shum wished to capture with her film about the lives of two young Chinese-Canadian women. Well, during our discussion it became clear that none of us liked the film -- it did not even ring true for a certain viewer.

The film did get accolades at the time of its release.


John Waters Make Trouble

Much of what filmmaker John Waters says makes me laugh. Much like Woody Allen. (Much of what they say rings true.)

In 2015 Mr Waters delivered a commencement speech to graduates at the Rhode Island School of Design, and his patented sense of humour, at times subversive, helped propel his life advice to viral status.

I, of course, was not surprised.

Courtesy of John Waters - Make Trouble (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill). Some:

"Okay, I'm supposed to inspire you. How's this? Somehow I've been able to make a living doing what I love best for fifty years without even having to get a real job."

Close to home:

"A career in the arts is like a hitchhiking trip: All you need is one person to say 'get in', and off you go. And then the confidence begins."



Friday, August 18, 2017

Among the Brats - A Force From Canada

Over the years I've found out just how many Canadians in the arts come from a "military brat" background -- specifically, a dependent of a father who served in the Canadian Armed Forces (Royal Canadian Air Force / Canadian Army / Royal Canadian Navy).

We are a proud bunch. "We"?....

* Bryan Adams (musician)
* Douglas Coupland (writer/artist)
* Michael J. Fox (actor/activist)
* Tom Green (comedian/actor)
* John Kricfaluci (animator/writer)
* Ann-Marie MacDonald (writer/actor)
* Simon St. Laurent (arts entity)


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tomatoes on the Wall

Rotten Tomatoes dot com has a list of the top 100 films of all time. I saw a news piece on the telly about what films made the list. Scenes from Orson Welles' 1941 masterwork Citizen Kane played as a background for the story. What struck me about seeing Kane in that context was how modern, or recent, it looked. Some folk could be forgiven if they thought it was a new movie, or television series, for that matter, that had been shot in black and white, and not a 76 year old picture.

Citizen Kane was not only influential because some people say it was but its DNA strands are in so much of what has come along since 1941 (even when filmmakers are just copying the copyists).


The top ten portion of the Rotten list, picked from a large field (critics average):

1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. Citizen Kane (1941)
3. The Third Man (1949)
4. Get Out (2017)
5. Mad Max: Road Fury (2015)
6. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
7. All About Eve (1950)
8. Inside Out (2015)
9. The Godfather (1972)
10. Metropolis (1927)


My top ten list would include numbers:

1.
2.
6.
10.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

News of the King's Death

On the news this morning was a trivia-bit reminding us that Elvis Presley passed on forty years ago today. 'They' say that you remember where you were and what you were doing when you hear a certain piece of news.

I was sitting in a friend's luxurious basement rec room watching the colour console television. (He was upstairs with his family at that moment.) On the tube came CFTO news. The breaking headline was "the King is dead".

At the time I was into 1950s pop/rock, so the story carried some resonance for me.

That was forty years ago?


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Those Magnificent Brats and their Base Theatres

One of the great things about growing up a military brat is having ready access to the "base theatres". These movie theatres, at least during the years I was a brat, are almost repertory, or "second run", houses. For me, the mix of pics was movie bliss. I will go into more detail in a future article.


From May 2, 2016:
A Nightmare on Elm Street (From a Dependent Brat)

The Astral Theatre in CFB Borden, Ontario, was a veritable movie funhouse of eclectic and varied flicks, old and new. In essence it was a rep cinema. Most new and big releases, and anything of prestige, were on the other side of the base at the mighty Terra Theatre.

One of many films I saw in or about my thirteen year had a very special trailer. A preview which ended up haunting me: Triple Avalanche of Terror

The hook was a certain sustained shot that was more important to me, ultimately, than the variety of quickly cut clips that followed. This affecting scene -- shot in a mental institution, apparently -- was the real keeper. While substantial image grain danced before our eyes, an ominous voice-over explained that 'this man watched Triple Avalanche of Terror and went insane'. (Really? Seriously.)

A straight-jacketed wretch squirmed as two attendants hovered over, comforting him as he did the bit of business taught in acting school when one wants to evoke "crazy". "No!...No!!..."

As advertised, in order to watch the film one had to accept an insurance policy before entering the theatre. Cool. It's not something I'd want to have to cash in, but cool.

I bought it, the preview, that is, so much so that I knew I had to see the film, even though it was to be a midnight presentation. Oh, no.

As we left the theatre after watching the now forgotten feature presentation, my friends and I discussed the trailer, that spooky trailer. One friend, Glen Scott, seemed to know that we'd been had:

"It's a publicity stunt!

"It's a publicity stunt!", he reiterated as the rest of us, in his eyes, were overly concerned that we too would go insane.

But, we all agreed: Must see movie.

This is where trouble followed.

The next day I raved enthusiastically to my mother about the nerve-splitting trailer I had seen, and in the process I let it out that the anticipated movie itself was to be shown as a late-late show. She wasted no time in saying "no". When the day got closer, I asked again:

MUM
No.

ME
Mum, I wanna see Triple Avalanche of Terror!

MUM
I told you, you're not seeing it.

ME
Why not?!

MUM
Because...I don't want you prancing about at all hours of the night.
Now that's final.

("I guess I'm not going to be seeing Triple Avalanche of Terror.")

I wish I had possessed the verbal wit of Family Guy's "Stewie": "How dare you deprive me of some devilishly gruesome entertainment. I shall be forever stunted by your absolute malicious disregard for my personal development!"

I didn't get my mother's reasoning. Geographically speaking, the Astral was not far from Elm Street, our street. The route consisted of a quick walk to School Street, then along Maple Drive; up a little further was the palace of dreams.

How was the Terrible Avalanche, you ask? The next day I asked Glen what he thought. After all, he and the gang were allowed to walk about at all hours of the previous night.

"It wasn't very good."

Of course, to a pre-teen, that was code for: "It was awesome!" Either that, or I was becoming concerned for Glen's sanity.

"Carry On Camping is on this Saturday?" I was allowed to see that one, however. Not a lot makes sense when you're a kid. (Those of you who have seen that British comedy classic, or just about any Carry On movie, for that matter, will know what I'm getting at.) Now I know why Camping was acceptable fare: It was shown during regular business hours. The prevailing issue wasn't so much one of content.

The Astral, along with all the PMQs (houses) on Elm, School, Hemlock, and Maple Drive, is now gone as that part of CFB Borden was razed a few years ago, but my memories of that special dream-maker always remain strong -- even if a certain title is missing.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Jetting into the RCAF

Canada's military (the Canadian Armed Forces) is looking to replace the CF-18 fighter jet, which has been in the service of this great country since deliveries began in 1982.

The CF-18 was selected to replace the Canadair-built (Lockheed) CF-104 "Starfighter". By 1987 the changeover was complete.


From September 20, 2015:
Notes from a Dependent Brat: CF-104 "Starfighter

Writing my recent piece (here) on the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) Canadair CC-106 "Yukon" transport aircraft stirred up more memories regarding my "brat" past: Memories about RCAF Station/CFB Baden-Soellingen (4 Wing).

Back in those days, the mid-late 1960s and early 1970s, the RCAF's main front-line jet fighter/interceptor was the CF-104 "Starfighter". Built under license (from Lockheed) by Canadair at its Cartierville Airport plant in the Montreal suburb of Saint-Laurent, the "one-o-four" went on to enjoy a long life with Canada's Finest Service; eventually being replaced by the CF-18.

With such a high-performance aircraft, especially one originally designed for high-altitude interception but re-geared for a low-level strike and reconnaissance role, there were bound to be more than a few accidents. During the years I lived in Iffezheim, West Germany, 'we' lost several 104s from 4 Wing. The most memorable incident happened in July of 1969 when two collided over the countryside. I remember vividly my father darting off for two weeks as part of the recovery/investigation team and, upon his returning, with redundant bags of sugar and other such foodstuffs, him recounting the commotion at the crash scene when they arrived: "It (a farmer's field) was crawling with Polizei". Apparently the two jets "locked wings" which sealed their fate; one pilot managed to eject while the other went down with his machine -- some of what my dad described about the impact site was pretty gruesome.

There was another: Soon after I got to school one morning my teacher told the class that a Starfighter had crashed not long after we had been bused in. (My family and I lived off-base, and not in the local "PMQs" [Private Married Quarters]. I have long been thankful that my parents wanted to live with the Germans, and not in a semi-sheltered environment called "Kleinkanada". There were lots of Canadian kids in my neighbourhood -- offspring of other smart parents.) If I remember correctly, that pilot managed to eject safely from his aircraft, despite the fact that he was in "take-off" mode.

Perhaps my fondest memory regarding the CF-104 Starfighter is of the machine's sound; that sound. One would hear the roar of jets in formation, and look up to see whether they were Canadian or German -- the Luftwaffe, too, operated the Starfighter. One beautifully sunny day my Grade 2 school teacher walked us out to the airfield; why exactly I did not know -- I'm sure Mrs. Gunnery said something, but I could not have been paying attention (surprise?). Upon taking position at our stations my school mates and I looked off over the flatness of the strip to the horizon. Suddenly there were several descending trails of black smoke which, of course, I was familiar with; moments later I noticed a series of landing lights seemingly suspended over the field. Suffice to say the 104s were flying very low, just over the deck, as they raced past us: What a noise! I love jets, and the racket they make, but really!

Ah, yes. The blessedly interesting life of a brat....

Stay tuned, Brat Fans, for my next blog posting. Same Brat Time; same Brat Channel!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

First Name Origin: My Name

Yesterday I had a conversation with someone about the origin of my name. "My parents gave it to me." No reaction.

I got serious and looked it up.

"Simon" is Hebrew in origin. Its meaning: "To be heard."

My parents must have known something.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Adulthood Can Be

For most, adulthood involves being an adult about it. But for filmmaker, writer, and comedian John Waters adulthood is:

"I'm so lucky to be having a happy childhood as an adult."


Thursday, August 10, 2017

John Waters Quote on Life

Filmmaker, author, and comedian John Waters is someone I admire; he designed a career and built it a brick at a time -- never deviating from the blueprint.

The man is sharp:

"Life is nothing if you're not obsessed."


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Motivation Question

Yesterday I posted a quote from Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.

What separates the 'talkers' from the 'doers'? Free admission: I fit comfortably into both camps.

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard a certain line from people who want to do but don't: "I have nothing to say."

Perhaps that is the key to motivation -- or lack of motivation.

Mr. Jobs had a lot to say; and he knew he had a lot to say.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Steve Jobs Knew the Deal

The late Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder, and its later rejuvenator, was aware of the why and how of his own mega success:

"Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: that everything around you that you call 'life' was was made up by people no smarter than you . . . the minute you understand that, you can poke life; you can change it, you can mold it, embrace it, make your mark upon it. Once you learn that....you'll never be the same again."


Monday, August 7, 2017

Movie Endings of Memory

Divine Trash, Steve Yeager's 1998 documentary on filmmaker John Waters, is fine. The articulate subject talks about how and why audiences remember a given film's punchline. This theory readily applies to Waters' own 1972 frolicker, Pink Flamingos.

Here are some movies which contain some of my favourite endings. I spent little time doing intra-neural research but here's a starter pack:

* Bicycle Thieves (1948)
* The Time Travelers (1964)
* Land of the Pharaohs (1955)
* Chinatown (1974)
* Papillon (1973)
* Nights of Cabiria (1957)
* Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (1969)
* King Kong (1933)
* Slacker (1991)
* Pink Flamingos (1972)


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Trek to Possible Blu-rays

Yesterday I wrote about not looking for but finding the Battlestar Galactica miniseries on a heavily discounted DVD set:

BSG Miniseries from the Discount Bin

Today, while listening to the radio, I heard a brief story which mentioned that Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered thirty years ago next month. Thirty years ago. I remember that night well. Two friends came over and we watched the horrible two-hour opener, "Encounter at Farpoint".

I doubt I will have the spunk required to generate a 'ST:TNG, 30 years celebration' piece when the proper time comes.

This all reminded me that when I was reading a media magazine a few months ago, I happened upon a piece about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans demanding a Blu-ray up-rate job -- just like what Next Generation had received. Because that series was post-produced electronically on video (in order to save money overall and to allow for more visual effects, and at a lower cost than what the original series had been saddled with), the drawback was that in order to release the series on a high-definition format, all the camera rolls, of visual effects and general live action material, had to be re-transferred --- this time around to HD instead of the original production's 1-inch or Betacam "standard def" process. To boot, the visual effects elements all had to be re-composited. Keep in mind that there are seven years-worth of episodes.

The decision to 'reprocess' Next Generation for high-definition cost Paramount's home entertainment division a lot of money; man-hours and time. As the reader can imagine, even for those who don't know an original camera-negative from a Panaflex, it was quite the effort.

The article about DS9's hoped-for Blu-ray release stated that sales of ST:TNG's Blu-ray set have been "underwhelming". (The fact that it's not a very good series might have something to do with it. Fans-only.) Deep Space Nine's fan base, however rabid, is too small to warrant a whole series up-convert. (A friend of mine loves that series, but he admitted to me recently that his DS9 DVD set is most sufficient.)

My guess is Paramount will not discuss the issue of further archival Star Trek Blu-ray releases. It's a numbers game. And a certain precedent will close the tables.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

About "Last Night"

This is perhaps the most time-sensitive posting I've done.

At this very minute the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is running Don McKellar's 1998 apocalyptic film Last Night. The image quality is terrible. The best way I can describe it is that it looks like "up-resed" Pixelvision.

I worked for years in film and video "imaging". What happened to the interpositive? Or the cut negative? Did they meet their untimely end?


BSG Miniseries from the Disount Bin

This non-collector of DVDs has been known to grab select titles if they are marked down to a reasonable price; like $2.

"Battlestar Galactica - the miniseries." Why not. A friend brought it over to the house a few years ago; the best I can say is I made it to the end.

When I get some free time I'll give it another shot; although, it doesn't look good. On the DVD back screams New York Magazine: "Superior to the original."

That's like claiming that Lost is superior to The New People.


Tonight, on the CBC: The Filmmakers - S01, E03

On July 22nd I posted this:
CBC Tonight: The FIlmmakers - Atom Egoyan

E02 (episode 2) was last Sunday night; the featured Canadian filmmaker that night was Sarah Polley. I missed it. Polley is a fine filmmaker, "Canadian" or not. I've seen her three feature-length films: Away from Her; Take This Waltz; and Stories We Tell. (Just Waltz was weak. It's what I refer to as a "Make Work Project".)

Tonight, at 9pm, is E03: "Last Night - Don McKellar"

Something my brother said to me a few years ago: "McKellar is really talented!" (Expletive deleted.)


A Purrfect Relationship

Yesterday I read an article on how the domestic cat is one step away from world domination. Of course they are everywhere, even on the high seas.

There is some debate among those who study cats in an academic way as to how humans and cats have learned to get along with one another. There are other animals that we have managed to domesticate but the cat is the least afraid of us.

There is one thing that cats are unarguably not afraid of: our pocketbooks.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Forest of Crackerboxes

Whenever I see pictures or video material of Toronto's downtown skyline I get sad. (Sorry, I needed to use a catching word.)

All those condominium towers; up and going up. The image almost looks like a deliberate composite showing what the city skyline would look like if "things" got out of control.

Well, they have.

A few months ago I came across some pictures I took of Toronto when I was on one of my visits to the Toronto Islands. That volley was snapped in September of 1990. If it weren't for the fact that the CN Tower and the Skydome were there in the photographs, I would not recognize it today.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery - ST:D

Today, on the Toronto Star's website:

Star Trek: Discovery was delayed to protect quality, says producer

Which, based on many, many precedents, could very well translate as: Nobody has a vision, except the show's first executive producer (Brian Fuller), but he was turfed because a committee with a new vision came along, and many people were replaced, with new people taking over who have no clue as to what Star Trek is about.

A real cynic might say that the line from new Star Trek: Discovery executive producer Alex Kurtzman is code for: "It's a dog, folks, but we can't admit that to you."


Monday, July 31, 2017

A Match of Games

Shocking news today: A hacker, or hacking group, broke in and stole a script to an upcoming installment of Game of Thrones.

That material has as much value to me as next season's unreleased NBA schedule.

I saw an episode of Thrones last year when Canada's CTV network ran a season. Even basketball is more exciting. And it has more-interesting characters.


(Note: The original posting stated that the stolen material was unreleased episodes, not a script.)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Calling Up Mary Hartman

One of two books I'm reading right now is an autobiography titled "Norman Lear - Even This I get to Experience". The film and television writer and producer knows how to tell a story in book form.

Of course he talks about the creation of my favourite television series, All in the Family, but not neglected are some of his other 1970s tele-tubes such as Good Times and One Day at a Time. Back in the day, these half-hour comedy hits were pretty hard to miss. However, there was a Lear show that I ignored, completely, even though I was aware at the time that it was garnering some raves and more than a few viewers: Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

Today I read the book's pages dedicated to the creation, production, marketing and distribution, and controversies, of Mary. (I had no idea that "that" was the show's premise.)

Now I have an almost 'I don't have a life' obsession to see it.

In preparation for this piece, but after I wrote the above, I learned that Shout! Factory released Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman on DVD.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

On the Chalkboard: At the Front of the Class

Sometimes after I write a piece I feel I must chalk it up to the creative experience.


From April 14, 2016:
The Creative Writing Class

When I was going to high school, many and still-classified years ago, there was a push afoot to open up the curriculum and introduce programs not just "three Rs". One I took was Mr. Kelly's terrific "Creative Writing" class. It was a challenging but comfortable affair which nurtured the writing soul in me, and the souls of my fellow future Flauberts. ("Floberts? Doesn't he play for the Leafs? If he does he can't be very good.")

At the end of the year Mr. Kelly organized an "Academy Awards" for best writing in various categories. Over the course of a week or so we were to go through our classmates' writing files, which were open for all to see and review, and then make nomination lists. Mr. Kelly showed us an example of the trophy itself, a modified liqueur bottle. ("I want that bottle.")

One day I could hear a group of huddled students laughing and whispering. "This is so funny! He's hilarious!" Once I overheard this I sniffed and went back to my own writing, looking for just the right word.

Days later was Awards Day.

The air was tense with multiple categories.

"The Award for Best Male Humourist goes to....Simon!"

"Who, me?!" (Of course.)

I walked rather self-unconsciously to the front of the class to accept the award. I had been building, cultivating, a reputation for being 'out there', so I thought that since my fellow award winners thus far were self-consciously accepting their well-deserved trophies but not saying anything outside and above of "thanks", I should put my own spin on the festivities:

Once the prize was securely in my hands, I said, half-seriously: "I have no one to thank....it was just me."

The class laughed, so too did Mr. Kelly, and immediately I thought, "Gee, I guess I'm not just funny looking".

It was a good class; a good bunch; good times.



Post Script, and "as a comic, in all seriousness", as Bobby Bittman was prone to say: Brian Kelly was one of the outstanding teachers in my years of schooling.

How We Peg Things (A Banana in the Head)

"A Book Report."

William Barker Elementary School - CFB Borden - Early/Mid 1970s.

During recess one day I was talking with a friend about a book report that we had to produce. During this conversation I looked down at the concrete below me. There was a banana peel.

When I hear or read "book report" I think of bananas. And banana peels.

Time for a banana....


Friday, July 28, 2017

A Moment of CKVR (and SCTV)

Summer 1984; with friends I attended a special live-to-tape recording of a one-off television program.

During a break in the process I paid a visit to the mens' room. Before leaving I looked in the mirror and licked down a section of bang. Perfect.

I reached for the door but before my hand connected with the handle the door flew open, so fast that the bottom corner connected with my right big toe.

Hey, it's Kevin Frankish. Who looked up at me, the only possible angle from his vantage point, and said: "Saw-ree."

In my best Johnny LaRue I answered: "Little creep!" (Just kidding, of course.)


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Happiness by Aristotle

"Happiness is the exercise of vital powers, along lines of excellence, in a life affording them scope."

-- Aristotle

Motivation Inspiration from Goethe

"At the moment of commitment the entire universe conspires to assure your success."

-- Johann Wolfgang Goethe


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hey, Let's Make a Musical About It!

Beautiful - the Carole King Musical is currently playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre here in Toronto; and is scheduled to do so until September 3rd. There are adverts everywhere: radio, television, and on the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission).

I'm a King fan, and maybe I should get off my butt (and "but..."), pull open my wallet, rather, siphon a substantial sum from my bank account, and see the show.

All these musicals get me thinking: It makes sense that a musical is produced about a musician or based on a piece of music, but why are there ones about odd things? On that theme, why hasn't anyone done a musical about pest control?


Monday, July 24, 2017

Sold a Bag of The Goods

Ten o'clock in the evening may be too early to hit the silk. Woke up at about a half past four this morning.

Forget it; it's not going to happen.

Arise, make a coffee, pop on the television and watch that CBC show called The Goods. I'd seen the adverts but not the actual deal.

At least my caffeine-based drink was good; the cast of The Goods needs decaf. "Slow down, guys." Anyone who knows me must know I'm serious when I say something like that. They are trying too hard. So too are the show's producers.

It finished. Then came the morning's news via the CBC's Radio One (99.1 FM). On my television?....


Sunday, July 23, 2017

What Canadian FIlm is This?

Whatever it's called I saw it about fifteen years ago on the CBC, late night. The premise is, at least the way I remember it, and I did join the flick in progress, a T-shirted, beer drinking, bearded male in his thirties plays and narrates home movies live-to-film.

We hear his French-Canadian-inflected voice: The man talks a bit as he changes reels on the Super-8 film projector; when the film is threaded he starts the projector. We see the lab-spliced Kodak white film leader run, and a few seconds later, just like the real deal, we have 'picture'. This happens a few times throughout the movie.

This proud researcher admits that he has come up empty handed. (I also admit that my efforts have been perhaps cursory at best.) Any help identifying this Canadian unknown classic would be much appreciated.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

CBC Tonight: The Filmmakers - Atom Egoyan

At 8:30pm tonight, on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, is part one of a new half-hour interview program I never knew existed until minutes ago:

The Filmmakers (interviews with Canadian filmmakers of the last 20 years)

Tonight's episode: "The Sweet Hereafter - Atom Egoyan"


The New Doctor Who

I found out this past week that the next "Doctor" will be played by a woman. It's about bleedin' time!

While I did clock some episodes in the new Doctor Who's first season (2005) I do not watch the show, but I know when it's time for a long-running television series to change with the times -- even when it's behind the times.

et prudentem in femina dolor


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Employing a Question of Labour

Some parties here in Ontario, Canada, are whining about a proposal by the Kathleen Wynne government to raise the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 per hour.

It's not just small businesses that are worried about the admittedly substantial in-one-shot increase, but big ones too.

What? Why?

How?

In 1981, while I whistled while I worked at CGE (Canadian General Electric) my efforts were rewarded with a rate of $8 per hour ($20 today). In 1984, as I did some last minute saving-up for school, the Radio Shack warehouse paid me over $6 per 60 minutes. (In both cases I was not 'union'. It's a brain-busting case, I know.)

Dirty little secret: Today, 2017, many if not most companies of industry pay "staffing" agencies 17 - 19, sometimes more, dollars an hour per employee. These middlemen turn around and pay workers our now gorgeous minimum wage.

Go figure it out.


Newton's Waste

Image Orthicon ---- Immy ---- Emmy.




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Radio from my Youthful Old Age

"At the age of ten I was already an old man."

So opened my look back at my childhood's radio mornings. When the NHL (National Hockey League) mattered to me; before I got older and let the ice age slide into my then brief past.


From April 4, 2016:
Jack Dennett, CFRB, and Me

At the age of ten I was already an old man.

My favourite radio station at the time was Toronto's "old person's" CFRB. This past week long time CFRB morning show host Wally Crouter died and this sad news reminded me that every school morning in the early to mid 1970s I would tune my Sanyo portable radio to catch the news and, more importantly, grab the previous night's National Hockey League scores from sports man Jack Dennett.

There I'd be sitting, on a chair with my Molson NHL schedule in hand ready to jot down the final scores as Dennett read them out to me. Like any good radio man, he gave you the impression he was speaking to you directly. I can still "hear" Dennett's relaxed voice: "The Boston Bruins beat the California Golden Seals by a score of seven to one."

Unfortunately this comfortable arrangement all came to an end in August of 1975 when Jack Dennett died of cancer. About this time my interest in the NHL was beginning to wane, anyway, as it does for most young men who start discovering other things: like, movies; and other things. Less than a week after Dennett passed away I was in high school.

Needless to say, CFRB is hardly the radio station it was forty-plus years ago. The market has changed. Times have changed. Now we get lots of pasteurized crap (with a Stretch Cunningham-like I.Q. of "one").

If CFRB were to go back to its olde format and sensibility I'd be ready for them in little more than ten or fifteen years.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I've Been Asking for What City?

This morning I saw a television advert for a new movie that looks an awful lot like a run-of-the-mill video/computer game.

Titled Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets it looks like one of those contraptions that begs the viewer to look at every point in the frame before the next image rolls along. (I am aware of its comic book origins. Which is probably where it should have stayed.)

While the ad wound down I could swear I saw a critical rave text piece that said something like: "The movie you've been asking for!"

I don't know about that. I've been asking for a good movie.


(Post Script: It looks to me like Valerian needs some Valium.)


Monday, July 17, 2017

A Precious Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup Photograph


Nineteen sixty-seven was a long time ago, folks. Canada celebrated its 100th birthday that year.

This year, a solid fifty years later, this great country is hitting the 1-5-0. And the Toronto Maple Leafs is celebrating the fully-solidified half century that has passed since that above photo was taken. (Half century. That's a lot of years.)

Here's to fifty more....


Sunday, July 16, 2017

From the Vandal

Interpretation keeps incontrovertibility at bay; certainly in 'art'. An acrylic painting of an apple is one thing, but a painter's acrylic painting of an apple is quite another.


From August 24, 2016:
Graphic Vandalism Graphic

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bonding Songs on Zoomer Radio

I'm whistling while I work. "Saturday Night Bandstand" on Toronto station Zoomer Radio AM740 plays in my background.

Show host Tarzan Dan played some songs from the "Bond" films.

Great!

Well, great until the first in the cinema chain played Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" (kill me now) -- before you get your knickers in a knot, I'm a Paul McCartney fan, but I think his Bond tune is one of the worst.

Then Dan played one of the best, "The Spy Who Loved Me". That's what I call a comeback.

On to the very best, "Goldfinger".

The ring was complete.

Until Tarzan Dan capped it off with "Skyfall", in my over-charged opinion, the absolute worst of the Bond songs; and one warbled by Adele.

The night the whistling stopped....


Decisions at the Imperial Six in 1978's Summer

While I was visiting Toronto with a friend in the summer of 1978 a decision had to be made: the right one could bring cinematic pleasure (not that kind of movie!), the wrong one could make us reel. We were teenagers, sponges, but James and I did want to do the right thing that beautifully warm and sunny day.

Outside the Imperial Six Theatre on Yonge Street -- remember that? those? -- we stood, monitoring the colour television monitors which unreeled clips from the movies on offer.

Should we make a bee-line for the Master of Disaster's new epic, The Swarm, or take a promised ride with some novice's Corvette Summer?

This could take some time, and it did, believe me. Deciding some years later what VHS tape should be rented from the local video store had nothing on trying to pick between two new hot summer films -- ones aimed perfectly at teenagers.

Corvette Summer, starring that Mark Hamill guy from the summer before, was not bad. Entertaining with some good characterizations.

The Swarm?! Word got around quickly regarding that disaster; James and I must have known....


Movie Showbill: Irwin Allen's Submarine Voyage Picture

While writing my previous blog posting today I noticed that I have in my picture files a poster for the 1961 Irwin Allen epic feature film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

For anyone of a certain age who saw the film there may be warm feelings and fond memories of that futuristic submarine tale.

See it now and one may be surprised to hear Ringo Starr's "Octopus's Garden" in Voyage's opening theme song.

I'm wondering if my peer, the talented blogger and author, John Kenneth Muir has treated this in one of his superior film and television analyses. I should check when I get a few moments: reflectionsonfilmandtelevision.blogspot.ca


Mums Can Be Wrong

I've not seen the CBC's comedic series Schitt's Creek in about a year. Maybe it's time I give it another try.

Try I did a year ago. With a little Second City Television and Monty Python's Flying Circus thrown in for good measuring.


From July 15, 2016:
Mums! (Aren't Always Right)

Tonight I watched an episode of the CBC 'comedy' series Schitt's Creek and I got a flashback: Seeing comedic actors Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara ply their trade in material far away beneath their talents reminded me how funny they were in the classic Canadian comedy series SCTV.

I discovered the show when it was titled, simply, Second City Television. How we stumble upon a certain television series, especially one that goes on to great heights, has long interested me. In the case of me and SCTV it all started in early 1977 through my weekly scans of TV Guide magazine. For many weeks I would note the listing for something called Second City. It would appear with the numbers 6 and 41, which translated as the Global Television Network. ("Global" in those days was the new kid on the dial but it delivered a fine range of fare; unlike the plastic rubbish can it is today, and has been for years.)

One evening I decided to sit down and sample this "Second City" thing. I liked it. My fifteen-year-old head got much of the humour. I did not know it at the time but what I had watched was an episode from the first batch, which was produced at the Global studios on Barber Greene Road in Toronto.

I had to tell others of my great discovery, one I categorized as a video equivalent of David Livingstone's discovery of Victoria Falls....well, Mosi-oa-Tunya, more properly.

Mum! She'll be my first convert. As this week's episode unreeled on the Zenith, she and I sat in silence. That's right, as in "no laughter". I wanted to laugh but I realized that emitting anything even mildly resembling a positive reaction might read as lacking class to my British born and raised mum.

End credits: The next day I brought up the issue with my mother. "Why didn't you like it?", I asked, darn well knowing the answer about to come my way. My dad overheard this and became curious as to what serious discussion was playing out before him: "What's that?..."

I figured it was prudent to let mum answer: "Oh, it's called Second City. They're trying to do a Monty Python but it doesn't work."

Mum was so wrong....


Thursday, July 13, 2017

What's With Animals Posing as Humans?

There is a bank ("financial institution") here in Canada which seems to think that animals act like human beings and take hotel rooms and hang out in outdoor cafes.

Just recently I saw a television commercial for another company that uses the same premise. In this ad campaign is an Owl dressed in a bathrobe; a rather sporty and sharp bathrobe, but a bathrobe all the same.

I love animals, but find the idea of them trying to be 'us' absurd.  Wild animals are too smart for that nonsense.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Poetry Cornered

Poetry was at one time my least favourite written form. Times change.


From June 8, 2016:
And Then For Something Completely Different



Time Merchants

This morning I coffeed           
on Yonge Street               
with an old friend
caught up on
issues since

I last saw him
last week

He and I disbanded:
My friend went back
to his conference and
I decided
to do something I
rarely do
anymore

walk up Yonge

"Look at all the
bloody
Vertical
Cracker
Boxes!
(going up
or already spiking
the cloudy sky)"

This town is out of
control
Zoning going to
The Twilight Zone

Yonge Street has
changed
much these last few years
helped
by Premium stacks
sprouting
from holes

Before I made it
to Bloor Street I
was stopped by

a woman selling
something
in front of a shop

Cosmetics
Me?

Why not?....

No, I
don't use facial moisturizers
but I should

Perhaps
I could

The sales lady was
in top form
having worked a little sales

I know the bad
and
the good

The cosmetic's test was done
on my forearm
but
I can imagine

With every peek into the bathroom
mirror my imagination tweaks
with age

** return **

Bloor Street
away

less

eventful


****
2016
Simon St. Laurent


___

From June 28, 2016:
"The Cobbler's Cat" - a Poem

The Cobbler's Cat

It's the Cobbler's Cat
for this the
pet's got the
nicest shoes
makin' for the
finest moves

a twist in tail
the 'tude of
a Street Dude
this furry feline
don't get no
boos!

that's what's
a
Cobbler's Cat




****
2016
Simon St. Laurent


___

From March 10, 2017:
Poem: The Cat's But

My cat asked for
my homage

But

If I failed to
comply
He would pay
homage to
me and my


****
2017
Simon St. Laurent


___

From March 12, 2017:
Poem: whenever

My mind waits
on the day

While in the
daze of sleep

my mind
wanders in
a nightie
and slippers


****

2017
Simon St. Laurent


___

From April 19, 2017:
Poem: Friends Tell Coffee Time

Of Saturday it is!

Do you meet still
with availability?

Soap, water, squirrels
about my now laundry

In sanity punches....


****

2017
Simon St. Laurent



Find that Star Trek Track!

Recently I met up with a friend who I haven't seen in a few months. While we chatted about something, he interrrupted with: "Sorry for interrupting, I didn't tell you that my friend ____ is (a key crewmember) on the new Star Trek series". I raised an eyebrow: "Wow."

He told me about the problems with the production, ones which were told by the industry trades some months ago, but knowing the inside scoop allowed my buddy to editorialize: "It's a (beep) disaster!"

We ran with the theme for a few minutes. Neither one of us, two fans of the original and best Trek, one of the best television series' ever, no longer has any desire to sit down with the new. (The CTV network is running the first installment before the show proper ends up as a streaming-only deal. No deal. I do plan to watch the premiere, though.)

My Trek-mate had a good point, one which has blown up on the Internet: "It doesn't even look like Star Trek....it looks like Star Wars."

Alexander Courage's brilliant Star Trek theme, the call, is being used in the Star Trek: Discovery promos, but if it's used for the series in even the simplest way, I know that alone is not enough -- all departments are rumoured to be closed for the time being.


From May 4, 2016:
Cue the Alexander Courage Siren

Don't be surprised if Toronto City Hall makes an appearance as Starfleet Headquarters. Imagine the jokes.

Star Trek is coming to Toronto.

It's exciting news if you're a city film tech and a Trekkie, certainly.

Production of that television franchise has gone on for way too long. Not only won't Star Trek: Whatever go away, but the latest one sets course for the great city of Toronto.

In all seriousness, "Star Trek With No Name As of Yet" is scheduled to premiere on January 22nd of next year on CBS's All-Access streaming service. It no doubt will be an even more tightly budgeted affair given that it's not on the main network, one of the "big three", but perhaps we'll witness good Trek storytelling on a reasonably regular basis for the first time in over four decades. Maybe the characters will be something more than the standard one-dimensional bores that have staffed the various programmes -- with the exception of the original, of course.

Which reminds me:

The news stories I've seen on the soon-to-be Trek utilize clips and stills from the original series; it's almost as though the other TV Treks don't exist. Psst: They don't. There's been subspace chatter about it for months. Rumour has it they all got crushed by a Class G Solar Star.

(CBS owns Star Trek, the original.)

When it first ran, I assimilated the first two years of Star Trek: The Next Generation off and on but few episodes after that. About five years ago I decided to give it another try; that was enough. No more.

As for the others, I scanned the first two episodes of each and an episode or two later. I felt no great need to deactivate any more hours of my time.

How do I know the stories are on average unimpressive given that I'm not terribly familiar with the many incarnations? Sensor readings and ship's records told me.

Will I give the new TV Trek a try? Darn right I will. It's being shot in Toronto!

"Commodore Tory!....I viewed tapes of your lectures while I was a cadet at Starfleet Academy, but I never imagined I'd ever meet you in person."


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Bernstein, Wagner, and Me

This past weekend I watched a fine documentary on the late, great American conductor Leonard Bernstein; this flick, Leonard Bernstein Reflections, reminded me of an experience of mine from years ago:

Years ago I worked at an "optical house" where I was the afternoon shift camera guy. This entailed frequently working into the wee hours of the morning; using the technical side of your brain when it would rather be in sleep mode.

My coworker -- the day cameraman -- would leave the radio on for me after we discussed what it was I had to shoot and how I could shoot it. Unfortunately the radio station was one of the moronic pop stations, which only served to annoy me as I tried to shoot opticals. After a few days of annoyance I decided it would be best for my sanity if I were to change the station to a classical one. Great: I could shoot film while dancing to Schumann's Symphony No 3. (Known to fantasy movie fans as the theme to the 1988 crappic, Willow.)

One night the classical station's host played a little Richard Wagner but before he started rolling the music track he talked a bit about conductor Leonard Bernstein. The maestro was quoted giving his feelings on Wagner. Bernstein despised the Uber composer on solid grounds: Wagner was a racist, an anti-Semite, and so on: "I hate Wagner, but I hate him on my knees!"

After I heard that, I was on my knees!....


Saturday, July 8, 2017

I'm in, if not from, The Twilight Zone

A couple of weeks ago I read a book about Rod Serling; written by his daughter Anne, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling is a revealing look at the Twilight Zone creator from the perspective of his youngest child.

Anne Serling states in the book that she did not know what her father did -- other than writing -- until she was six or seven years old, and did not watch a lot in the way of The Twilight Zone (1959 - 1964) until she was a few years older. The first episode that Anne remembers watching was "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", a superb episode, one starring William Shatner, with her father. Although that teleplay was written by Richard Matheson it still gave Anne an idea what took so much of her father's time when she was a child.

(I knew what my father did at a fairly young age; something to do with explosives, although I never saw him at his place of work, for obvious reasons: the Canadian military -- specifically the RCAF.)

There's something inherently interesting, I find, about memoirs from the offspring of a well-known figure; certainly a talented, and introspective, creator of a upper-case television program -- even if historically the competition is anemic, to put it kindly. ("Television? No thanks.")

My own positive reaction to Ms. Serling's memoirs made me re-explore some episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Confirmed.

Along with The Outer Limits (1963 - 1965), TZ is the best of its kind; that of dramatic television fantasy/science fiction.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Driver Harassment on the TTC

I was on a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) bus a few days ago and witnessed something that I could not quite comprehend:

The bus route shall remain unstated since it is not integral to the story. I was sitting near the back of the bus as the driver drove the vehicle from the station. As we made our way out the driver applied the brakes. Fine; up ahead, in front of the stopped bus in front of us, one also about to take its passengers somewhere, were three pedestrians traversing the designated crosswalk.

Suddenly, and without warning, our driver punched the bus's horn. I looked ahead to see what could have prompted the driver to honk out loud. "He's honking at the bus in front of us, at the driver who is doing the proper and procedural thing by letting the walkers cross the road?"

That is my TTC WTH story. I'm generally supportive of my 'wheels', the TTC, but I have to admit that on this occasion I was thoroughly unimpressed.