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.


It's Coffee Time, Again

Coffee. Seeing that word makes me believe that I sometimes drink too much, even if it's just two mugs-full per day.

I just got to work; to the kitchenette and coffee....


From April 24, 2016:
Tips for French Press Coffee


My favourite coffee shop, of the franchise kind, has to be Second Cup.

I stopped by my local SC store yesterday to grab a half pound of ground Colombian medium roast coffee. After the order was filled by the worker lady she handed me the bag of gold, and a piece of paper; on it were some handwritten notes:

Tips for French press coffee;

1. Steep coffee in water for 6 to 8 minutes

2. Wrap French press in a tea towel while brewing to preserve warmth

3. When ready to press; do so Gently & Slowly

4. Immediately pour your coffee out after pressing


I was impressed. What service!

The "tea towel" advice is good. I find that the coffee cools quickly after brewing; if I let it sit in the press for any length of time I'm racing to empty my mug.

Coffee from a French Press is pretty fine. Which reminds me....


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Letters to the Editors

Once in a while I will write letters to the "Letters to the Editor" section of various newspapers. This needle-pinning "Lefty" most often gets published by right-wing dailies. Go figure.


With the Toronto Sun about to close its doors, or rather, Postmedia, its new owners, will shutter the Sun, I thought it time I reprint an earlier column of my own.


From April 12, 2016:
A Letter to the Editor: Toronto Sun

I can't believe it was seven years ago that I had the following letter published in the "Letters" page of the Toronto Sun (March 24th, 2009). The years know only Warp Factor 9; there's no other setting, apparently.

When I pressed "send" I had a gut feeling the paper would print it, even though the piece is almost 300 words in length -- double what they usually accept.

My letter, along with another writer's, was given its own space away from the pack. Kudos to the Toronto Sun "Letters" editor for keeping it intact, with just a couple of small edits (which I think improved the flow of my piece in those places).

The subject: There was a funny guy by the name of Greg Gutfeld who worked for Fox News. He thought he was being cute by slagging Canada and its outstanding military. I doubt Gutfeld knows much about Canada over and above the stereotypes; he probably thinks we're all Leafs fans up here.

To paraphrase the great Elwy Yost: Dim the houselights, and cue the Rózsa trumpets!


THOSE IN THE KNOW GET IT

Like many Canadians I am rather disturbed by the ridiculous, caustic, and childish comments from Fox News Red Eye host Greg Gutfeld and his merry band of oblivious panelists.

But when Gutfeld mocks Canadian Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie's name by saying "an unusual name for a man," then you know he is not to be taken seriously. And certainly not as a satirist as he claims to be. U.S. servicemen and women know the score.

While in England a few years ago I was travelling on a train and a group of American F-15 fighter pilots were in the particular car where I was sitting. Almost immediately several of them introduced themselves and welcomed me aboard. One particular pilot and his weapons officer took me under their wing and we struck up a pleasant conversation. I told them my own father was in the Canadian air force and this seemed to give us a connection. The young fly-boy said, "you guys have great pilots ... we fly with you all the time." Another chap, a cool customer who ignored a drunk who tried several times to ruffle his feathers, told me he had recently been on a pilots' exchange program in Goose Bay and had a lot of fun flying with Canadians.

When we disembarked, the Americans helped with my luggage and wished me a pleasant trip.

My point? Well, we Canadians are understood by those who are in the know. Gentlemen like those I met have the utmost respect for our military and what it represents.

It is an argument or concept not understood by Gutfeld and only helps undermine his whole ignorant and feeble rant.

SIMON ST. LAURENT
TORONTO

(Our military: Underfunded, under-equipped and just outstanding)



___


Postmedia's National Post will continue on; for a right-wing paper it's not too bad.


From April 13, 2016:
An F-35 Lighting II Strike in Letters

Yesterday I posted a piece about a letter of mine that was published in the Toronto Sun "Letters" page back in 2009. I was excited when it was printed and I'm excited now even thinking about it.

The excitement continues: Some folk in Ottawa and the RCAF want the Lockheed Martin F-35 "Lightning II" fighter jet really badly; so much so that they're willing to pay for it. "Pay" is about it. This military aviation enthusiast, one who admits he has not actually flown the aircraft, thinks the ever escalating price-tag is insane and that Canada should pull out of the F-35 program. (Keep in mind that whatever quantity of aircraft Canada may settle on in the end does not mean those machines will all be up and running at any one time. Key term: "Hangar Queens." Yeah, kinda like that smartphone you bought that one time. Except this one flies a little better.)

To validate my feelings on the matter, here is a letter I had published in the National Post back on April 13th, 2012.

Cue the jug band. And don't forget to pass the hat around....


Re: Good Aircraft Are Worth The Cost, letter to the editor, April 11.

While I appreciate Major Charles Hooker’s opinion on the subject of Canada possibly acquiring the F-35, I have a big question: How do we know the F-35 is “the best aircraft available (in the procurement time frame)”?

The fact is, the F-35 is unproven. Give me a wad of cash and some dice and I’ll decide for you — the difference being, I won’t charge to toss the dice. Huge savings, guaranteed.

Simon St. Laurent, Toronto.


Protection Copy

For your reading pleasure, here is one of my more popular pieces -- in spite of the lame title. "Rubbers" might have been more fitting;


From April 11, 2016:
Play it Safe Again, Sam

After I posted admissions regarding my lack of activity in the now shuttered Brunswick House, I remembered an odd, though hardly unexpected, experience from The Madison Avenue Pub. (“The Maddy" is a hot spot for local students, not just those from the University of Toronto, and professors and Annexians alike.)

Years ago, when I was a regular occupant of the Maddy, I witnessed a potentially ugly incident. One night as I was leaving the establishment after soaking down with friends of mine, I heard a provocative discussion happening in real (but a bit blurry) time on the stairway leading from near the main entrance up to the second floor:

"Man! Give him his rubbers back!" Again: "Man, give him his rubbers back." And: "Come on, man!"

Remembering that I was carrying several packets of condoms in my left back pocket I made an offer to the swaying young bloke amongst the three who clearly was operating sans "rubbers". My kindly gesture might give the lad a night to remember.

"Hey. These are yours. They should last you the night." While tossing a "Thanks, Man!" he extended his right arm but inexplicably missed my personal space. I helped by intercepting his hand, a dance much in the way a Soyuz-Progress spacecraft might mate with the International Space Station. The cargo had been delivered. "Contact."

My hope was he would not notice the expiry date; that the alcohol had disconnected any primal urge to check the potentially prize-winning numbers on yellowing packaging.

As I took the two steps down to the main floor, I turned and looked up to my grateful pal: "Have fun....but be careful."

I spun a half turn toward the opened exit door but a sweeping voice chased me: "What'd'ya mean, be careful?"

I wasn't so inebriated that I could not walk an uncountable pace. That was all I heard. No more "what?". He had probably already forgotten me.

As I walked north on Madison Avenue, a young man – they all seem young after you've punched a third decade in the head – approached with measurable non-precision and puttered a question to my broadside as he wobbled around me.

"Hey, man. Do you got any rubbers?"

"Funny you should ask. Sorry, Sam, I just gave the last of them away. Have a good night."

(I should have gone into business for myself. A tall, skinny, well-dressed, in a Metrosexual way, and sober guy is of the sort that must be equipped with condoms-for-sale. It all makes sense.)













A clarification: The above story is a work of creative fiction based on actual events. Not all details are authentic and certain liberties are taken in order to tell an entertaining story; I hope. ("Reality" drifts to the mundane.)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

From a Dependent Brat: Hercules Lifts

For some reason I did not originally post the following piece under the "From a Dependent Brat" banner.


From April 9, 2016:
Hercules: Magnificent Transporter of the RCAF


For a Canadian Air Force Brat it is not an uncommon privilege to enjoy a trip on a transport aircraft like the Lockheed CC-130 "Hercules". This hitch-a-ride in the RCAF is referred to as a "flip". If there's space beside the cargo a serviceman/servicewoman and their dependents can hop on, but this cannot happen with just any flight, obviously: In the 1970s my dad escorted a cargo of explosives aboard a Herc on an overseas flight to England.

After many years my experiences flying on this machine are still vivid and memorable. "An Air Pocket Over Europe: film at eleven!" Soon.

This past Tuesday a CC-130E Hercules made its final trip after 50 years of service, leaving 8 Wing CFB Trenton for the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. This story is described in County Live.

My father served with the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force (and the Canadian Armed Forces), and my mother served with the Royal Air Force. I served with no air force. Great.

At least I was a brat.

Saturday, 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 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.