Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Old Newspaper Clipping: "Trekie" Fights For Mr. Spock

It's impressive, or scary, what I have in the archives. The above is something I stumbled upon recently. From early 1982, this Toronto Sun article is a sampling of the kind of press that the then 'still in production' sequel movie to Star Trek - The Motion Picture was garnering after Paramount Pictures let it be known that the beloved Mr. Spock was about to be killed-off. The producers of Star Trek - The Wrath of Khan* followed through with their plan, despite the hostile reaction from many fans. Personally, I really didn't care. My reaction was more one of: "Fascinating!"

(* While in production the film's title was first Star Trek - The Undiscovered Country then Star Trek - The Vengeance of Khan. The release title came about as there was another film in production at that time which had a similar ring to "Vengeance": Star Wars - The Revenge of the Jedi....)

Monday, February 27, 2017

"The All Night Show" Sample Video

On Monday of last week (February 20th) I posted an article of mine on The All Night Show, a CFMT (Toronto) program which ran from September of 1980 to August of 1981.

Here is a 14-minute sample video of TANS uploaded to YouTube by the gem, retrontario.com:


Sunday, February 26, 2017

My VHS Purge: Dazed and Confused

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. 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:

Dazed and Confused (1993) The Bloor Cinema, Toronto, January 1993: The house was packed and the audience reaction was one of "I'm having so much fun watching this", which threw me back to 1973 and American Graffiti. A communal screening feeling was Dazed and Confused.

I would have been the age of the film's 'kids'; part of the "freshmen" pack, even if we don't use those decidedly U.S. terms here in Canada (as far as I know). In addition, initiation rites, certainly at the high school level, and most certainly in the mid 1970s, are not a Canadian thing (as far as I've been led to believe).

Richard Linklater is one of those film directors who understands people, what makes them tick, and cultural inter-dynamics flexed by time and place. Dazed and Confused is a retro time capsule, but in an enjoyable motion picture.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My VHS Purge: Annie Hall

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. 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:

Annie Hall (1977) My favourite new film release that year and my favourite film of 1977. Woody Allen had not entirely left his slapstick behind him when he made Annie Hall, but somehow those loopy little moments work in this story for the people. I remember that opening night; out came a manager: "Folks, the theatre is almost full. There are individual seats, however." Friend Chris and I looked at one another for approval. "Why not, let's go." We found a freakish arrangement of two side-by-side seats. I sat in the corner-most front left seat while he sat immediately to my right.

That, for those who do not remember, or had yet to arrive on this planet, is how anticipated and popular Annie Hall was in 1977. And soon after the film's opening, the character herself, Annie Hall, became a bit of an item. She spawned a clothing line, of sorts: "The Annie Hall Look."

Part of the reason I picked up the VHS was the low price. Such a small price to pay for a great movie.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Notebook Find: Leon Trotsky on Creativity

While reviewing pages of my notebook, I came across notes I had made regarding the subject of creativity. One particular scribble is of a quote by Marxist revolutionary and writer Leon Trotsky: 

"Artists and writers are all familiar with the semi-trance state, half-sleeping, half-conscious, where the mind is not quite under control and memories and fantasies can reach consciousness. It is a warm comfortable place, free from self-censorship and good behaviour. It is a door to the unconscious mind and fertile ground for artistic production."

(Toronto) Worldwide Short Film Festival Program 2006

Monday, February 20, 2017

Article: Memories of Chuck

There are markers in our lives that we remember more often than not with fondness. Memories of the entertainment world make for some strong pull-backs later in life. Popular music, films, and, especially, television programs are penciled into a mnemonic diary, allowing us to get all warm and fuzzy years or decades later when someone at a dinner party states with gleeful nostalgia: "I never missed The Six Million Dollar Man. Eight O'clock on Sunday nights was my special time."

Television programs we watch in our youth and childhood are with us forever, whether we like it or not. ("Gilligan's Island? Never heard of it. I don't know what you're talking about.") However, what often happens is that when we later dip our toes into those same waters, we find the sensation less pleasing or satisfying than what our memories of the experience suggested. Times change and time moves, all but destroying sentimentality in their paths.

Some programs are exempted, of course. For me, one of these survivors is a short-lived live-to-air production by the name of The All Night Show, which ran from September of 1980 to August of 1981 on originating station CFMT (“MTV”, or "Multilingual Television"), UHF channel 47. Having sampled some bits recently – bits are all that survive – I was more than surprised at how reputable my memories of the show were.

Chuck the Security Guard was the host of TANS. The premise was that the station's dependable night-shift security staff of one had the run of the station in the wee hours, the all hours, of the night. The guard with video-switching abilities would run episodes of old television series' like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone (they were just 15 years old then), industrial films from some years past, Betty Boop cartoons, old movie trailers, and independent shorts. Having time to kill between the programmed materials, Chuck joked around with the off-screen, never to be seen, Ryerson the Cameraman, and with him staged gags or bits that U.S. late night host David Letterman would popularize coast-to-coast in the following years. There was one bit I remember where the guys trekked from the studio proper to the building's roof. From there they aimed the television camera at a phone booth that was on the opposite side of the street below. Guess what they did....

In reality, Chuck was played by Toronto-based actor, writer, and comedian Chas Lawther. Although reserved in real life (in the interviews I've seen him in), Lawther was having the time of his life while in front of the TANS camera. In his sporty but standard duty uniform and white sneakers, Chuck now bears some resemblance to Pee-Wee Herman. No doubt his slightly lanky build furnishes some of the visual similarities, but, unlike Pee-Wee, Chuck is an adult while still exhibiting some child-like mannerisms and enthusiasms. Watching TANS today convinces me that this way of playing the character was the right one. After all, don't we like it when someone looks as though they are enjoying themselves? The byproduct is we, the viewers, enjoy ourselves.

Occasionally he would be asked, usually through a letter he read on camera, to say hi to someone such as a faithful viewer. To oblige he would stand, take on a professional security guard pose, point, and yell “hey, you”. Chuck's always welcomed call of "hey, you!" quickly became the signature piece, for both the character and the show.

Speaking of characters, the guest stars of Paul Del Stud and Fran the Nurse were always a special treat. You never knew when one of them was going to show up to visit with friend Chuck. Fran seemed to be forever knitting and Paul was perpetually shooting off his mouth about 'this is how it is'. Great stuff for a teenage viewer.

This was the tone of a typical evening with the dynamic security guard and his all night show. Unfortunately, it all came to a crashing halt after one season. The show we slowly but surely discovered and grew quickly to love deeply was canned by the suits at "Chuck's" station, CFMT-MTV. I remember an interview with one of the head honchos soon after he cut the strings. He spoke words of finality I shall never forget: "This station has to start thinking about making money." From a financial standpoint the decision made some sense, perhaps. The fact is that even though we saw only Chuck, and heard only Ryerson, there was a crew in the control room and studio.

I do understand these words, the order in which they are assembled, and what they mean – they are straight to the point, without subtext, and are non elusive or evasive -- but I also understand that when you have a 'hit' like TANS, it can end up paying dividends to the producing company. In fact, media ratings systems at the time pointed out that Chuck was bringing 'em in. The problem for CFMT was that franchise companies, like Pizza Pizza, weren't sure they wanted to buy late-late night advertising slots. For the duration of the show's existence there were lots of commercials for small businesses, which are great and valued customers but they don't pay the big dollars. The All Night Show needed a little more time to build a strong advertising base, stocked with at least one big customer. “Chuck's” solid viewership numbers certainly would have allowed the station's sales department to charge commensurate ad rates, but it was not to be.

CFMT continued to promote the show after the cuts, but without Chuck at the switcher it was not the same. It could not be saved with a line of 'Hey, don't fret, you can still watch your favourite oldies on CFMT's The All Night Show!'. Like many Chuck fans, I tuned into the new version and saw the opening title card; an old series or short came on; I pressed the 'off' button.



We dedicated viewers loved the show's original format. It was a major part of its appeal. It was live!

And it still lives.


Note: A much "electronically simplified" version of the above piece premiered in Toronto-based writer Greg Woods's print publication The Eclectic Screening Room, issue 21.

Greg's blog: The Eclectic Screening Room

Sunday, February 19, 2017

My VHS Purge: Chuck's Choice Cuts

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. 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:

Chuck's Choice Cuts (1982) As good as this tape is, it's not The All Night Show, the source. Tomorrow, Monday, February 20th, I will be posting an article on "Chuck the Security Guard" and his short-lived late-late night series, so I won't go into any great detail here. The VHS has Chuck, actually Toronto-based actor Chas Lawther, doing the kind of thing he did on TANS: Having some fun in front of the camera and showing an assortment of film shorts such as the Superman and Betty Boob cartoons, music shorts, and old movie trailers. The difference is this production was shot in a tape-house machine room and not in a small television's station control room. Also, the original show was live-to-air, which is quite impossible to do on a pre-recorded videotape. I suppose the best way to mimic The All Night Show experience would be to play this tape starting at 1 o'clock in the morning.

I grabbed Chuck's Choice Cuts in the early 'nineties from After Dark Video on Bathurst Street here in Toronto. The store itself had a fine collection of off-beat videos and a decor to match. (After Dark closed its doors years ago.)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

My VHS Purge: Carmina Burana

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. 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:

Carmina Burana (1990) No, it's not the music from the film The Omen (1976), as the overture to Carmina Burana, "O Fortuna", is so often mistakenly attributed, including by cinema scholar VIncent LoBrutto in his biography on director Stanley Kubrick, for it's the head-banger intro and extro bit to one of the greatest musical masterpieces of the 20th Century.

Written in 1935 and 1936 by German composer Carl Orff, Carmina Burana is a cantata asking for interpretation by dance company or musical group of all mixes.

This VHS tape is of a traditional performance by symphony orchestra and choir: The great conductor Seiji Ozawa leads the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Shin-Yu Kai Chorus, and Boys Choir of the Staats- Und Domchor, Berlin in a definitive performance of Orff's masterwork. It also doesn't hurt having soprano Kathleen Battle.

Whenever I played this tape my VCR's capstans would rattle.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Set Design: Concepts for "Mr Science"

Last month I wrote a brief piece about a television series pilot/demo show that I produced a few years ago. Mr Science did not have any takers but the process of writing, designing, and producing the one-off was one of those endeavours that I found satisfying on a creative level. There were problems (always), some bumps, but I learned a lot.

The main, and only, standing set was that of a science laboratory. Here is an early concept I sketched:

And here is a floor plan view of that concept:

Eventually, but rather quickly, I finalized my set design. Here is a thumbnail sketch of the floor plan and elevations:

In case the show were to sell, or if I wanted to make the set in a larger scale, I worked out some concepts for something a little more elaborate than what I conceived for the simple pilot show:

Here is a more elaborate version of the design I settled on in that it has a ceiling:

Soon I will post a photograph of the completed set.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Conductor's 8 x 10: André Previn

When I was nineteen or twenty years of age I decided to collect some eight-by-tens of orchestra conductors. Back in the days before the Internet the process of getting mailing addresses for the various orchestras was not too much of a problem: My local library, like most of the kind, had reference books for such a task. I collected several contacts. In the name of good public relations I always got a response; a large size envelope containing an eight-by-ten glossy.

André Previn was one of the few who did not autograph the photo with the all-important prefix, "To Simon". Maybe he was out of town that day. At that time he was in the middle of his tenure as the principal conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

He is to kick off my little series because he is André Previn.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Reading Television

Reading about art of all kinds is something I enjoy. What is the backstory behind that painting, sculpture, or piece of music? Having grown up with series television like most people, I was furnished with an interest in reading about that art form, even if it may arguably be a lesser art form. As for books about movies, I devoured Kenneth Macgowan's history of the motion picture, "Behind the Screen", in my first year of high school. Two years later it was Arthur Knight's "The Liveliest Art", with many more to come.

In fact, 'it' started earlier: One of my elementary schools had, filed in its library's racks, copies of "The Making of Star Trek" (Stephen Whitfield) and "The Making of Kubrick's 2001" (Jerome Agel). Due to the popularity of the former, the school library had two copies of its "making of". How complex pieces of entertainment are put together makes for fascinating reading if you are interested in the art and business of film and television. (Films and television programs of the science fiction strain tend to have the making-of books; for obvious reasons, I suppose. Give me a book on the making of All in the Family, someone, please.)

A few years ago I read a book about the original "Doctor Who" series. As it was a television program I watched in my youth it too made for interesting reading. I mentioned the book to a friend of mine who also grew up with Who. As it turned out, he too had read it. He cracked me up when he added: "Very often it's more interesting reading about the show than actually watching it." Very true.

(Contrary to what Globe and Mail television critic John Doyle may think, most television is best enjoyed as a television schedule listing.)

More interesting to me is the history and business of television. It's a form that occasionally, if rarely, pops out a fine dramatic or comedy series. Fighting off Theodore Sturgeon and his pesky "law" is essential. Somehow art is produced.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Funnel Express at OCAD

On Thursday, February 2nd, I attended a panel discussion at OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) titled "Underground: The Untold Story of The Funnel Film Collective" (1977-1988).

Avoiding through accident or by design a strict formality usually associated with such events, the program's guest speakers, former Funnel members of various disciplines, articulated vivaciously stories recounting moments of positive charge and, at times, dissent within the ranks of a grass-roots organization, as absorbing revelation.

To have missed the The Funnel's existence and the exciting dynamics that permeated Toronto-based 1970s/1980s experimental filmmaking and/or exhibition is to be left without a full comprehension of what boundaries could be broken, how expectations could be shattered, in this province by a man or woman armed with confidence and elan and a motion picture camera. Certainly at the time the cooperative gave one the explicit impression that something expressive and valid was happening in the city's independent cinema scene, if not a "movement" in the conventional sense. But steel balls and artistic provocation in a translucent box....

Sunday, February 12, 2017

My VHS Purge: Search for Battleship Bismarck

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. 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:

Search for Battleship Bismarck (1989) Dr Robert Ballard searches for the lost World War II German warship. The pursuit and sinking of the Bismarck is a grand tale of a sea battle between two great naval forces: Britain's Royal Navy and Germany's Kriegsmarine. Search for Battleship Bismarck plays the straight documentary form: Archival footage from the war and battle; interviews with historians, and with men who fought on both sides. The stories are at times moving. One in particular is recounted by former Royal Navy seaman and author Ludovic Kennedy as he reads from his book Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Bismarck: The HMS Dorsetshire's rescuing of German sailors from oil slicked water is abandoned after a lookout spots what appears to be a U-Boat's periscope. Perhaps the most sobering story told in the film is that of a German sailor whose arms had been blown off in the final battle. He tries desperately to stay afloat and to clench a lifeline with his teeth.

Motion picture film shot from the deck of a Royal Navy warship showing the Bismarck in its death throes may be the most potent and 'truthful' footage of the documentary.

Many documentaries have been made about the sinking of the Bismarck, but Search for Battleship Bismarck carries the National Geographic mark of quality.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

My VHS Purge: The Superliners: Twilight of an Era

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. 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: 

The Superliners: Twilight of an Era (1980) What a morsel of sweet goodness this is to an ocean liner fanatic. Narrated by Alexander Scourby, the best of the National Geographic voices, Superliners tells the tale of the great liners that plied the North Atlantic between the Old and New worlds. The Queen Elizabeth 2 is filmed during a voyage between Southampton and New York City in 1979. This footage functions as a framing, and contrasting, device as it's intercut with archival film, photographs, and interviews with experts and seafarers of all sorts.

Lyn Murray's musical score sets a tone of nostalgia and longing. "Longing" in that the business of moving people across thousands of miles of water was all but superseded years before by jetliners.

I watched The Superliners: Twilight of an Era when it first aired on PBS in 1980. Years later, seeing the VHS tape for sale made for a quick sail.

Friday, February 10, 2017

"My VHS Purge" This Weekend

Last weekend I wrote two "purge" pieces on episodes from the original Doctor Who series (1963-1989), and this coming Saturday and Sunday the subject will be documentaries from National Geographic.


Doctor Who: The Tomb of the Cybermen
Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon

Strategic Air Command
Taxi Driver

The Brain That Wouldn't Die
A Night to Remember

The Terminator
The Mummy (1932)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Funnel Screened at TIFF Theatre 4

On Tuesday evening of last week I attended a screening dedicated to Toronto's The Funnel Experimental Film Theatre. Held in TIFF Theatre 4 and hosted by Mike Hoolboom and Chris Kennedy, "Underground: The Funnel Experimental Film Co-op 1977-1988" was a trip back for this former Funnel patron. My visits fell into the 1984/85 season. As expected my schooling began to take over and, I hate to admit, that was it for my twice-weekly streetcar rides to 507 King Street East.

The film lineup in Theatre 4: 

Ville-quelle ville? (Midi Onodera / 1984 / 4 mins / Super 8 on digital)
DP2 (Peter Dudar / 2014 / 16 mins / digital)
The Iconography of Venus (Annette Mangaard / 1987 / 5 mins / 16mm)
Eye of the Mask [excerpt] (Judith Doyle / 1985 / 27 mins / 16mm)
Canada Mini-Notes (Jim Anderson / 1974 / 15 mins / 16mm) 

Ville-quelle ville? and The Iconography of Venus, especially, sent me back to 1984/85. For one thing, there is something about the Kodachrome "look". Its rich colour palette and the translucency of a 'reversal' stock are perfect mates to an experimental filmmaker. I'm not suggesting that its favouring by experimentalists somehow implies that Kodachrome was born of imperfect imaging technologies -- far from it. I've shot lots of that emulsion myself: Exposed properly, it could produce an image of veritable gorgeousness. (Reversal looked best when exposed about 1/3 of a stop 'under'.)

In essential terms Midi Onodera's Ville-quelle ville? is about "memory", and because it was made over thirty years ago, it too is memory; perhaps more accurately, "memories". This very well could be why this film was my single favourite of the evening.

Yes, it's all about memories. Indeed.

We, my schoolmates and I who attended the Funnel screenings, were the cool guys hanging out with the cool crowd -- so we may have thought at the time. How did we hear about The Funnel? I don't remember specifically, but as I told Mike Hoolboom after he asked me this very question during a brief chat, it was probably a case of someone at the school (Humber College) telling us about an experimental film theatre downtown. Hearing this bit of fine intelligence no doubt would have been all we needed. When you're that age (young!) you are a sponge; ready to soak it all up. "Keep it coming!" is the mentality. It seems few subjects are of no use to the up-and-coming artist.

All good and experimental things must come to an end: The Funnel ran into financial difficulties and closed its doors in 1988.

After the pictures finished rolling at "Underground" a few of the filmmakers took to the stage to speak about their experiences at the co-op, in addition to making their films.

A bonus was the free copy of Mike Hoolboom's latest book "Underground - the Untold Story of the Funnel Film Collective".

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Article sample: "Yukon Crews" - Part One

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


To be continued in Part Two of "Yukon Crews".

Toronto Summer 2017 is Fast Approaching

As my dad told me when I was in my late teens, "once you hit twenty life goes like a rocket". Toronto, these last couple of days, has gotten some winter weather in the form of freezing rain. (Winter popped its head in the door a few times this season but has been too shy to enter the room, sit down, and stay for a while.)

The pics above I took at an event here in Toronto last August: "Open Streets." That was a long and hot, and humid, summer (which started in the spring).

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Railway to Nowhere and Somewhere

Having lived for years in Nova Scotia and Germany gave me a love of railways. Better still are railways that have long been abandoned or are used so infrequently their signatures are threatened by encroaching flora.

The picture above I took from Horner Avenue here in Toronto.

My Old Sketchbook: Hitachi Boom Box

To me, nothing is mundane when it comes to the sketch. People, place, or "thing". An everyday object, in this case a portable audio device, contains many interesting contours and bits and pieces.

I was in art school at the time and it was impressed upon us to practice, practice, practice. And like most artists, I must continue to practice....always.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

My VHS Purge: Doctor Who "The Tomb of the Cybermen"

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. 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: 

Doctor Who: The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967) Long thought to be a "lost" Doctor Who, all four episodes were eventually discovered in 1991 residing in Hong Kong. (The copy was a 16mm kinescope used for foreign distribution; the original recording tapes had been erased by the BBC years before.) Considered a glorious find by "Whovians", this one works, I think, because it drips with atmosphere. The actual storyline is almost secondary; at times it seems to exist just to bump and creep along in order to fill four parts/episodes. The Cybermen are great villains, however.

My introduction in any real way, other than having read a fair bit about "Tomb" over the years, was through a British friend who told me it scared him when he saw it as a child. He may have used the word "frightened". Doctor Who certainly scared me when I was a child.

Acquiring the VHS tape allowed me to see "The Tomb of the Cybermen" and I was impressed.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My VHS Purge: Doctor Who "The Curse of Peladon"

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. 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:

Doctor Who: The Curse of Peladon (1972) For me this is the representative story of Doctor Who. It has: Freaky aliens, atmospheric settings, memorable characters ("Hepesh!"), effective jeopardy, a murder mystery, terrific lines of dialogue ("I'm the Earth ambassador!"), and just the right number of episodes to tell the tale.

"The Curse of Peladon" is perfect Who -- the 'balance of things' is just right. And as a Brit might say, "It's a cracking good story!".

Proof of purchase: I bought the VHS of "Peladon" after doing a little pricing power play. It was January of 1996; I saw the tape in HMV -- on lower Yonge Street here in Toronto -- and then made the natural progression to the great Sam the Record Man store a few doors down and noticed "Peladon" was there too, but at one dollar more in price. (It should be stated that "Sam's" almost always had better pricing.) I went up to the sales guy behind the counter and told him what HMV was charging for the same tape. The quiet man, without saying a word, pulled out his label machine and popped out a price to match the competitor's. Sold. (My wording makes it look as though I had to have that videotape of "The Curse of Peladon".)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Winter 2017 Toronto Open Screening

Here's something I learned about last evening: 

CineCycle Presents the "Winter 2017 Toronto Open Screening". The event takes place on Sunday, February 12th and it's basically a 'bring your film and we will show it' deal. First come first screened.

The sign up is at 7:00 pm and the screenings start at 7:45 pm. The works must be 10 minutes or less in length and in one of the following formats: Super 8, Regular 8, 16mm, 35mm, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, or digital file (but playable in VLC). 

CineCycle is located behind 129 Spadina Avenue, down the laneway.

It's the night of February 3rd as I write this, so there's a week and a bit to produce something.

More information can be found on John Porter's outstanding website:


My "VHS Purge" Continues This Weekend

My "VHS Purge" filings this weekend will be a little off the beaten path: Two episodes of a classic science fiction television series.

This will be the fourth volley in the "Purge" series.

Thus far, and thoroughly clickable: 

Strategic Air Command (1955) 
Taxi Driver (1976) 
The Brain That Wouldn't Die (1962) 
A Night to Remember (1958) 
The Terminator (1984) 
The Mummy (1932)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trump on a Starship

On Tuesday of last week (January 24th) I posted a piece matching certain Star Trek episode titles with Donald J. Trump. It didn't have an accompanying image, so last evening I spent a few minutes on a concept drawing for The Donald's special insignia.

I went back in time to last Tuesday and affixed the picture onto Star Trump Trek.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Graphic Design: "The Vinegar Syndrome" Logo

"Vinegar Syndrome" is a term used to describe the smell of decaying photographic film. As the cellulose triacetate degrades it emits acetic acid, which just happens to be a prime ingredient in vinegar; hence the name "vinegar syndrome".

Back in 2006 I decided to use that term for a series of film and television reviews. Immediately I wrote two: The first was for an old film, The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and the other for a then new one, End of the Line (2006). Soon I will put these up on this blog, and hopefully I will write up a few more. (More are on file.)

It's not as though I don't have any opinions. To complement my opinions I designed and rendered a logo, one which would mimic decaying film emulsion.