Friday, May 10, 2024

Quote: Author Tom Holden on the Creative Type

“For some reason in our modern, sterile and sometimes harsh world, creativity is something that is frowned upon. Never be ashamed of this talent ― it marks you out as different from huge swatches of the population.”


Monday, May 6, 2024

Notes from a Brat: RCAF Hercules ― Trips of Notes

A "flip" on a Canadian Armed Forces CC-130 Hercules built some of my fondest memories. As a military "dependent", or "brat", one gets occasional lifts on transport aircraft. In my case, a trip to England from West Germany, and back again, involved hopping onto a Herc.

Kids, brat kids, don't care about the luxury of a commercial airliner as much as the raw and open power of four Allison turboprops propelling noisily a military transport aircraft. During takeoff, especially, the racket is invigorating. But, my mother hated it. I can still picture her sitting opposite me. She slumped in her seat, obviously hoping the flight would be brief.

I remember a flight back to West Germany out of Gatwick Airport. The aircraft was packed: service people and their families, and individuals, occupying all available seating ― there is no designated seating on a Herc, by the way; no seat 12A. As a matter of fact, the seats would be better described as "webbing". As I sat against the forward starboard bulkhead, the flight suddenly, and without any warning, became a joy ride. We shot straight up from our seats and seconds later we were dropped with great force back down. Mere inches from my right foot a blur and a great sound: "Clack-cla-ClackClack!" The tethered cargo retaining shackles that were normally affixed to the bulkhead immediately beside me had also risen during the aircraft drop, but instead of falling back into position, they fell to the floor, missing me... barely. I asked my dad years later about that incident. He remembered it, too:

"If those hadda hit you there would've been hell to pay."

"What happened?"

"The loadmaster wasn't doing his job."

My sister served in our Forces for a few years in the 1980's. She was stationed for some time at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta. "Maple Flag", a training exercise, is hosted at the base every summer. A participant in these games is the Hercules. One day a compatriot asked Karen if she wanted to jump on board. She said yes.

During Maple Flag, Hercs will execute a series of evasive maneuvers. This process involves the pilot (a "Herc Driver") putting his or her machine into various attitudes: skids; power back; power full; turns; and so on. The idea is you are being attacked and such changes in the aircraft's flight attitude increases your chances of survival. During the twists and turns, flares are dropped in order to help 'confuse' any intercepting missiles.

It was hot. The Herc flew its special maneuvers over prairie fields. Karen started to feel unwell. It was too much for her system; too much to take. It was bound to happen.

As she held the special receiving bag in front of her mouth, she unloaded. A steady stream of stomach contents. A crewmember rubbed her back.

The aircraft landed back at the base. Karen: "The most humiliating part was I had to carry my bag of vomit off the plane."

I asked her recently who the crewmember was. "It might have been the flight engineer." I doubt it. He would have been in the cockpit, with the pilots. It was probably the loadmaster.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Leafs Fans Fail Leafs History

"Go ahead, sir. I'm in no rush."

My offer went appreciated but ultimately rejected.

The bloke explained his position: "I'm in no rush, either. There's no Leafs game to watch tonight."

I told him that I'm old enough to have remembered the last Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup victory had I seen it, but I was living overseas in 1967. My memory was in full swing by that point.

As I explained to the gent, "I could tell people that I saw the Leafs win the Stanley Cup". (What a claim that would be. With beer and pretzels.)

Then depression set in. That was a long time ago!

Sorry, Leafs fans. Fallen to the cracks of history.

Leafs Fan Perspectives

Some readers could be forgiven for getting the unmistakable impression that I don't like the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last night, that 'storied' NHL club was eliminated in the first round by the Boston Bruins ― stopped from participating in the race for professional team sports' most beautiful championship trophy, the Stanley Cup. Yet again. When I got an alert indicating the game's final score, I celebrated immediately: I had a cigarette.


As I'm prone to say at times: "Perspective!"

A story about this hockey fan in 1971....

In April of that year, deep in the National Hockey League playoffs, I, for some bizarre and inexplicable reason, was hopeful for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team in eternal question was playing against the New York Rangers, a good, solid club, and one coached by the great Emile Francis.

The date was April 15th, it was game 6 of the quarter final round between these two members of the "original six". The Rangers led the best-of-seven series by three games to two.

Overtime: This match, tied at 1-1, was resolved with venomous brutality when a Rangers player (Jean Ratelle? Walt Tkaczuk?) scooted down the ice over the Leafs blue-line, through a hapless Leafs defenceman (Jim McKenny?), and snapped off a quick shot. Goaltender Jacques Plante shot out his right leg, he stretched out his toes, but failed to stop or deflect the smoking disc-shaped piece of vulcanized rubber from fulfilling its Nomad-like programming. The next event was more acoustic in nature; the sound of what happens after a speeding 6-ounce hockey puck motions past a Leafs goalie at such a critical time in the NHL season. "Clank!!!"

(Forever Futility.)

I did my job quite well: I was a pro. I (got a wee bit upset).

My dad laughed, no doubt amused by a hockey-loving kid who had yet to snap out of a silly phase. I can still picture him, to my right, getting a kick out of my "upset". Translation: "Kid, it's just a bleedin' game. It means absolutely nothing in and among the grand schemes of life." (My dad was right, of course; except when his beloved Habs lost.)

For decades I've asked myself the question: "Why?" Not the question of why a Leafs goalie would fail to stop or deflect an ice hockey puck, which even an answer of "42" could not explain away, but why I would waste allegiances on a total, complete, absolute, non-achiever. This memorable match had played out mere weeks after my 10th birthday, and after the Leafs team began to brush up on all the interesting local golf courses and beer halls, I would, in guided prescience and with great leaps of maturation, shoot my affections to the Montreal Canadiens. This would pay off ― sorry for the spoiler, young ones ― and my reaction this time around would be one of: Joy.

Toronto-based sports journalist Peter Gross reported on the wireless this morning that the Toronto Maple Leafs are just one loss away from being "mathematically eliminated" from making the playoffs this year.

This cynic must admit: That loosey-goosey sports organization has been improving since 1971. By way of avoiding playoff games on a regular yearly basis they spare many a 10-year-old from having certain hopes and, more importantly, breakdowns. And from having anything of relevant interest to write about 53 years later.

(Replay: "Claaaaank"!)

Flash Poem: Whither Leafs? (Fields of Evergreen)

Whither Leafs?
To where does a withered Leaf fall?

To the manicured green grasses below
of course....


Simon St. Laurent

A Toronto Maple Leafs Yearly Celebration

Last night the Boston Bruins eliminated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the NHL playoffs. This is a tradition... a "Boston Tea Leaf Party".

"Into the harbour!"

Post-season analysis, a tradition with pundits and Leafs-fans alike:

"The Leafs have some issues to address before they can promote themselves as serious Stanley Cup contenders"... "It was a fine regular season run but it goes to show you the playoffs are a much tougher league"... "All those young Leafs players have to be convinced it's important to carry their play from the regular season into the playoffs"... "It's been said the playoffs separate the men from the boys; an aphorism which required but a few games to entomb a certain club in ice"... "The facts are incontrovertible: the Toronto Maple Leafs' icebound scramblings were not good enough."

Friday, May 3, 2024

Quote: Cats on Countertops

"Yeah, they sure are convenient, aren't they?"


Thursday, April 25, 2024

Picturing: A N/E Section of Bloor/Spadina ― Toronto

I miss this Bloor Street Second Cup store location... and, for that matter, its wonderful staff. Corporate interests are partially destroying those charming and essential parts of Toronto. This city is great, yes, but let's keep it great. Development isn't always a plus.

Apparently, an ugly condo tower will be going up. My predictor computer knew the answer. How?

Flash Poem: Writers' Rights!

Writers write!
Any where
Any time
Any way

it comes naturally
sans inhibition
without limitation:

in a diary
on a script
a postcard
a napkin

Writers write!
All ways....


Simon St. Laurent

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Air Canada A320 on Approach to Toronto Pearson

While testing my newest Canon zoom lens, I snapped this picture of an Air Canada Airbus A320 as it banked to port on approach to Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Space: 1999 is Live-Streaming on YouTube Again

Last week Shout! Studios began to live-stream the old television series Space: 1999. After I made the discovery I popped up a post with the embedded video feed. On Wednesday I noticed the stream was no longer available. Fine. I don't like to delete my posts, but delete it I did.

Shout! reactivated the Space stream. I kept my html: now below the video.

In September and October of last year, I wrote a series of articles looking back at the old science-fiction/horror series Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977). The premiere piece for "Space: 1999 Days" was Space: 1999 Days ― Breakaway from Earth.

While on YouTube this past week, I noticed that Shout! Studios is live-streaming Space: 1999. As I write this, the episode running is Part One of the pulp fun two-parter "The Bringers of Wonder" from the show's second, and last, season. (Year Two was an improvement over the often-irritating Year One. It certainly was for me.)

So, if you're familiar with the space adventures of the Moonbase Alpha crew, and want to relive that experience of watching a series that you may or may not have liked when it first ran, or saw in syndication: enjoy! For those of you who are perhaps too young to know what a 'space nineteen... what?' is, or was: enjoy!

Space: 1999, for all its too-often script problems, had a look all its own. While I've never been crazy about the bland (and incomplete) Moonbase Alpha sets, certainly those of the show's freshman year, the strange new worlds depicted are often unique and quite lovely ― I call them "European Art School". All one has to do is put up with the, at times, trying storylines. And a lack a believable characterizations, but, again, Year Two is much better in that regard.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Flash Poem: Who's Flattery?

How much is too
much flattery?

It depends on who it
is you are flattering

It might fly
or lie flat.


Simon St. Laurent

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Enrico Nicola 'Henry' Mancini (1924 - 1994)

This morning I was reminded that the late film and television composer Henry Mancini would have celebrated his 100th birthday today. We tend to think of the maestro as the creator of the Pink Panther and Peter Gunn themes, and popular songs such as "Moon River", but previous to those impeccable hit pieces, he worked for years as a studio musician, writing music under contract for Universal Studios productions.

Below, third from the left, is Mr Mancini as he partakes in some song with a few fellow film and television composers.

Monday, April 15, 2024

Humour for a Monday Morning

Last week I told a friend that I live just a hop, skip, and a jump from Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum but I've never... set foot in there.

Some Uplifting Quotes for a Monday Morning

"You're so busy doubting yourself while so many others are intimidated by your potential."

I should send that to someone.

I'd adapt it slightly for some people I know:

"You're so busy doubting yourself while so many others are intimidated by what good things you do and have done."

Some people take one's accomplishments so personally.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Yuri Gagarin! (63 Years Ago Today)

This long time space cadet has not forgotten that today is the 63rd anniversary of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's historic space flight. The twenty-seven year old's one-orbit mission on Vostok 1 made him a name the world over. The news of a man travelling in space was exciting to this planet's masses, but it left many Americans stunned that such a "backwards" country could achieve such a feat and be the first to do so.

The USSR was not so backwards, after all.

First off, guidance control was so sophisticated that Gagarin's flight was totally automated, from the launch of the R-7 rocket to the cosmonaut's ejection after the capsule re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. The mission was controlled from the ground, with the space pilot having the option of taking over flight systems only if the need arose.

For all its successes, the Vostok 1 flight was not trouble-free. The scariest part for Gagarin was when the retaining straps holding his spherical capsule to the service module did not completely disconnect before the re-entry phase. The whole unwieldy vehicle tumbled wildly. The man on the ride thought the end was near. Luck, destiny, or some other force, eventually took control of the mission: Vostok 1 re-oriented itself into a proper descent attitude after the intense heat of atmospheric re-entry burned off the 'recalcitrant' metal strap.

For purely technical reasons, man and spacecraft did not land together on USSR soil, as a soft landing had not yet been perfected by the Soviet engineers. The only way to ensure complete success, not to mention comfort, was to have the cosmonaut land via parachute away from his capsule. By the way, this aspect of the flight had been kept secret, and for a good reason: Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) rules dictated that the pilot had to land in his or her vehicle, otherwise it was not a complete flight ― the secret got out when Gherman Titov admitted out loud that he had separated from his rapidly descending Vostok 2 capsule. (If one were to acknowledge and accept the FAI's requirements to the letter, it was actually U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard who accomplished the first manned space flight when he flew in his Mercury capsule just a few weeks after Gagarin's trip.)

The Soviet Union's space-travelling star landed in a farmer's field. Mission accomplished!

"Yuri Gagarin!"

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Flash Poem: You Must Find Yours (Good Luck!)

They did
you see

They said
to me


Bliss dropped from
the sky

But I

know not where
... nor why.


Simon St. Laurent

Friday, March 29, 2024

Twilight Zone Versus the Ants (The Outer Limits)

For some, the issue of which is the better television series is of the utmost importance. I like both equally, and, they are actually two different shows once one gets past the anthology format, which both share equally.

The Twilight Zone (1959 - 1964)
More fantasy than science fiction.

The Outer Limits (1963 - 1965)
More science fiction than fantasy.

I have a first-hand story regarding that great often-fought interdimensional and interstellar battle.

Years ago I was visiting my neighbour. The food and drink came out, but nobody got drunk. The ensuing discussions were of the type expected at a friendly get together.

It happened. Scott, boyfriend of my neighbour, seemed to have a problem with my holding The Outer Limits in the same esteem I did The Twilight Zone. "Oh, come on, man. The Outer Limits was so bad. There was that episode that was so typical. The one with the robot boxer."

A challenge! I was thrown straight into the ring: "That episode was called 'Steel'. It starred Lee Marvin. And it was a Twilight Zone episode."

Passion. The fists flew.

Well, he pointed: "You're wrong." And continuing variations on that theme.

I went back to my apartment, and from my bookcase I pulled The Twilight Zone Companion (Marc Scott Zicree).

Back to the battlefield!

With the book opened at the proper page, the chapter on "Steel", Scott's jaw dropped. In the manner expected of a soul converted by a well-placed "K.O.", he emitted a feeble, but emotive: "This is a conspiracy." (Emphasis his.)

On such matters, don't argue with Uncle Simon.

No. "Uncle Simon" is a Twilight Zone episode.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

An Answering Machine Easter Egg

Many years ago my roommate at the time and I decided to have some fun: we recorded a message for answering machine which could be best described as "daring".

Dave had a four-track audio recorder; it used cassette tape, the kind of tape used as the 'outgoing' message on my Panasonic answering machine. Inspiration hit the two of us fast and hard. We wrote the script quickly and prepared to record the message. In my music collection I have a CD titled "Hollywood's Greatest Hits Volume Two". On one track Dave and I laid down Elmer Bernstein's theme from the 1956 opus The Ten Commandments, specifically, the pastoral passage right after the bombast proper ― the background music we hear playing under the voice of God.

Next: Dave's recording of the voice of God. His voice was better than my nasally own for this important document. After we had the two tracks down it was a matter of giving the commanding orator some reverb. (A dry voice track would inspire no one, no matter how persuasive the text.)

We were very happy with our effort.

As the British would say, "the show went out".

The reaction was much greater than what we were expecting. Callers who got the outgoing message thought it was very funny, hilarious. What happened was the word quickly got around about our answering machine commandments. People would call just to hear the message, and since Dave and I were busy guys, chances were that they would get the machine.

A mutual friend went into hysterics when we gave him a live playback, but after he regained his composure, he told us his concern that some folk might not find our commandments humorous.

After some time Dave and I pulled the work. Unfortunately it's gone; we know not where.

Here is a transcription, not scripture:

"Luuuke. I mean....Mosesss. Thou shalt leave a message at the tone. Leave thy name and numberrr... (at this point Dave's voice speeds into a 'Maxwell Smart') ... And when I get a chance, I'll call you back!"