Monday, October 3, 2022


The rowboat is leaking. I'm in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There’s a sandbar up ahead.

Made it.

The ratty old duffle bag holds emergency supplies: the infamous “desert island” physical media.

I discovered what was in my hastily-packed bag.

My discipline held to one of each:

Music: Carmina Burana
Movie: Metropolis


I just realized that while I had remembered to pack a disc player, I forgot the a/c (alternating current) plug and adaptor.

I cheated in that I had packed quite a few books: Kafka; Allen; Hesse; Kerouac; “The English Channel” (Calder); “The Pearl” (Steinbeck); “The Mysterious Island” (Verne); “Roy Hinkley’s Guide to Making Coconut-based Electronics”....

A Forever Question: Alley Cats

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Can one have fun at a bowling ball?

Sunday, October 2, 2022

I Hail Cesare!

Lee was a character. He still may be; I lost contact with him a few years ago. "Irreverent" is a word Lee would have called into being if it had not already existed.

One day over beers in the local pub Lee and I shot the breeze about our sports backgrounds. As we sat on our stools at the bar I told Lee that I had been a teenage hockey goaltender. He asked who I fancied myself to be when I stood between the pipes all those years ago. A young ice hockey player "pretending" to be one of his or her idols from the big leagues is natural, almost expected. (For me it was more a pre-teen road hockey thing.)

"Cesare Maniago."

Lee emitted his trademarked laugh, and said, somewhat mockingly: "You must have been a s**t goalie!"

I was not an "inadequate" puck-stop but that unimportant fact did not stop me from drooling a mouthful of beer down my shirt and onto my lap.

Origin: Latin. in 'not' + reverent 'revering'.

Elmer Bernstein on Jerry Goldsmith

"He's the composer I would pick if I were a film's producer."

Mr Bernstein said this in an interview in the 1980s. (Goldsmith died in 2004.)

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Tales of Television Centre (Documentary on the Telly)

Tales of Television Centre gets one nostalgic for a place of work even if one did not work there. The sprawling complex wasn't merely a place of work, just as importantly, as pointed out by several interview subjects, it was a place of immense creativity.

The BBC's Television Centre was a hotbed of television production for over half a century (1960 to 2013), and its ultimate 'reconfiguration' remains a touchy subject for some. "Why?"

With the help of British television entertainment luminaries such as David Frost, Brian Blessed, David Attenborough, Peter Davison, and Terry Wogan, the how, where, and why are covered briskly but with some necessary detail. And with a lot of smiles.

The Centre was a culture all its own. Magic was in and on the air.

I wish I had worked there. (Here in Toronto we have the CBC's boring Canadian Broadcasting Centre. Only in Canada, eh? Pity.) Many presenters (hosts), actors, comics, technicians, designers, writers, and producers are thankful they did. There's that wistful nostalgia one expects to wrap up a documentary titled Tales of Television Centre.

On a humorous final note, I must mention that one thing I found obvious in the building's architectural style was the overall 'Soviet' vibe. This point is brought up by a few interviewees. The similarities are striking. (Does it mean anything?)

Book: TV North (Kenter & Levin)

TV North
- everything you wanted to know about Canadian television -

Peter Kenter

with notes by
Martin Levin

Whitecap Books

Picturing: An Unmarked Passenger Jet Takes Off

I love flying, even on unmarked jets. Actually, it's a Bombardier Aerospace "Global 7000" being flight-tested here in Toronto.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Blu-ray: Pink Flamingos

Pink Flamingos

John Waters

The Criterion Collection

Book: Europe at War (Davies)

Europe at War
- No Simple Victory -

Norman Davies

Pan Books

Monday, September 26, 2022

A Forever Question: Halt!

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Is "Full Stop" anything like "Half Stop"?

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Sunday Fun: No Work Being Done at the Desk

A "film and television" critic and writer I much admire, John Kenneth Muir, some weeks ago posted a blog piece looking at his home office. I was impressed by his large collection of film/tv toys, models, and dolls. I felt insecure as my abode is pretty spartan, at least there's not much in the way of 'geek' elements to reveal too much about my youth.

Recently, while polishing my computer desk, I looked down and noticed bits I'd long blanked-out. One gets used to his or her surroundings and fails to notice what 'signifiers' there are; over and above the layer of dust....

For those readers who may not be familiar with the above photo's captured items, from left to right: U.S.S. Enterprise (from Star Trek); Eric Cartman (South Park), Thunderbird 1 (Thunderbirds).


Postscript: I've not seen South Park in years, but I've long wondered if the German translation of South Park's resident kid-grump is "Erich Cartmann".

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Picturing: The Donut Box in Dilemma Form

A client brought the above box of Tim Hortons donuts as a thank you for my hard work tackling an issue. My first reaction, as it did come with a large coffee, was something akin to elation. Then I realized it was a dozen donuts. Of course. It was a big box.

While I do like the odd unscheduled kick of sweets, I'm hardly a 'sweet tooth', nor do I possess the constitution to deal with a load of donuts before they begin to become day-olds. There are three sugar-trips left. Since Sunday I've managed to force down nine donuts. There's a reason I'm skinny and in fine shape. I don't eat a lot of donuts... unless required....

One thing I hate is food waste.

Monday, September 19, 2022

A Forever Question: A Chapter

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Is it the end of an era?

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Battle of Britain Day 2022: Book on the Battle

The Battle of Britain
- The Greatest Battle in the History of Air Warfare -

Richard Townshend Bickers

Salamander Books Ltd

Battle of Britain Day 2022: The William Walton Score

Battle of Britain Suite
- Sir William Walton's film music Vol. 2 -

Sir Neville Marriner Conducts
The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

Chandos Records Ltd

Battle of Britain Day 2022: The Film Scores

Battle of Britain
- Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack -

Music Composed and Conducted by
Ron Goodwin

"Battle in the Air" Composed by
Sir William Walton

Battle of Britain Day 2022: Battle of Britain DVD

Battle of Britain

Directed by
Guy Hamilton

United Artists

Battle of Britain Day 2022: Battle of Britain Film Extras

My dad took me to see Battle of Britain when it hit the CFB Baden-Soellingen movie theatre. We were living in then West Germany, specifically in a small town, surrounded by Germans, which somehow enhanced my movie-going experience. Not only do I love the sound of that language but in this movie the Germans actually speak Deutsche.

To illustrate how big of a deal this movie was at the time, there was a live-from-London television special one evening celebrating its premiere. German television network ARD or ZDF (I can't remember which) picked up the live feed: There were searchlights and men dressed in vintage uniforms manning an ack-ack gun placement. I could hardly wait to see the movie.

Unfortunately, producing-studio and distributor United Artists lost a lot of money on Battle of Britain. The film did not 'travel' much outside of Europe (read: the USA), which it had to do in order to make back the investment. As a tie-in documentary hosted by actor Michael Caine outlined most effectively, regular folk, including those on the Isles, could tell you next to nothing about the battle. And this was less than thirty years after the events. The idea of an ignorance of one's own history as being an 'American' thing is a false one. (Author Clive Cussler recounts a sobering personal experience in his non-fiction book, The Sea Hunters, where he was taken aback by some of his fellow Americans ― politicians in this case ― not knowing, or, more importantly, not even caring about their own history.)

Director Guy Hamilton, guiding light of Battle of Britain, claimed that United Artists lost ten million dollars (late 1960s currency) on the deal.

As a child what I liked was Battle's spectacle: The wide-screen; the colour; the music; the you-are-there vibe.

The now-defunct "Festival Theatres" repertory chain here in Toronto would screen the film every few years, and I would be there with interested friends.

As I've told people over the years, "Battle of Britain was my Star Wars."

Battle of Britain Day 2022: Battle of Britain (1969)

As part of a downsizing project [twelve] years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tapes. I've never been a big collector of movies ― my DVD library is fairly small ― but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes:

Battle of Britain (1969) A troubled production complete with massive cost overruns and a shoot that seemed to have no end, this historical aviation epic provides some satisfaction for those movie fans who want to see a breed of filmmaking that will never be seen again. No film company today could afford to make a film like Battle of Britain, at least not one using exclusively the same production methods ― much of it would be done using fake CG fakery, by people who've never taken the time to see how an aircraft, like a Spitfire or Heinkel, twists and turns in the sky. (Try YouTube.) As far as the film as a film goes: It depends on whether the viewer can enjoy a 132-minute story about a critical moment of history. The Royal Air Force's warding off of the mighty German Luftwaffe during the summer of 1940.

What one sees are grand air battles and an abundance of name-actors (at that time, of course). Christopher Plummer, Susannah York, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Curt Jurgens, Robert Shaw, and Trevor Howard are a few of those stars who play historical characters or 'average people' swept up in that pesky thing we humans almost never ask for but often get: War. In this case World War II.

A highlight of many: The Battle in the Air. It makes me a firm believer in cinema's capabilities.

Kudos must go to director Guy Hamilton (1922 - 2016) for giving a somewhat unwieldy story, one with necessary density, some personality; and for remembering the people, who are so often forgotten in these epics.

Battle of Britain Day 2022: Battle of Britain Day 1990

The poster said all I had to know. On September 15, 1990, there would be a celebration to remember on the River Thames. That of "Battle of Britain Day, 1990". This history buff did not plan my trip to coincide with the event, but I was in London, England, and would be around to attend the fireworks.

I stood among a large crowd on the river's south bank, metres upstream from Tower Bridge. The sky darkened, the vintage searchlights fired up, probing and irradiating a low cloud ceiling. All that was missing was the drone of unseen Heinkel, Dornier, and Junkers aircraft. The Blitz was terrible for London's denizens throughout the summer of 1940, so nobody was celebrating the act of war, but the repelling of invaders... German "Luftwaffe" bombers. (Since there had been no definitive and crippling blows to the Royal Air Force, necessary if Unternehmen Seelöwe [Operation Sea Lion], the invasion of England, was to have any chance of succeeding, Adolf Hitler lost interest and turned his attention to the east.)

Music blazed from sparking loudspeakers as fireworks of all colours and stripes rose streaking from a barge anchored to the sparkling waters before us. For many Brits here, this sight and sound must have been emotional. I too was feeling it: Composer Ron Goodwin's magnificent themes for the films Battle of Britain and 633 Squadron were the perfect accompaniment, and helped lift us all up high. (Aces High!)

That event was the 50th anniversary of the great battles fought in the skies over England. Now we're at 82.