Wednesday, October 31, 2018

No Respect on Halloween

Many times over the years I've been told I have a "warped" sense of humour. I got it from my late father.

"Simon. Why don't you rent yourself out on Halloween to haunt homes?"

Sorry, it's the Rodney Dangerfield in me.

Halloween Post 2017

On Sunday I posted another piece about my uncompleted 35mm short film epic, Hyper-Reality. It's Halloween today and I thought I would post an on-set photograph of the film's monster.

Actor Mike Garr rehearses a fight scene with the monster -- actually a guy in a costume that I designed and built (with some valued assistance from Erminia Diamantopoulos).

When the fight choreographer first saw the costume, she said: "I find that really disturbing."

Ask For a Poppy This Remembrance

With Remembrance Day almost upon us; from 2016:

With Remembrance Day almost upon us, I thought about a story of my own regarding that special day; and its special symbol: The poppy.

In early November in the late 1980s (I'm thinking 1989), I hopped onto a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway train car. With the seats being all but fully occupied I took the famous door position as the doors closed behind me. Sitting on the other side of the car, with his poppy box resting on his lap, and looking sharp in his uniform, was a veteran.

Immediately I remembered that a few minutes earlier I had shoved a two dollar bill (remember those?) into my shirt pocket. I approached the vet as I drew out the money. He got up from his seat and carefully pinned the poppy to my lapel. I thanked him and went back to my first position. Then, all of a sudden, and in the style of an over-directed film, several other riders popped open their purses and pulled out their wallets.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Ontario's Opening for Business Opportunities

Ontario's Bouncing Baby Boy, Premier Doug Ford, has been promising that he will be the difference between a run-down province and a prosperous one.

He's got it!

Signs at all 18 of Ontario's border crossings with our southern neighbour. Just to make sure there is no mistake that U.S. businesses and investors think they cannot work with us, Ford's inspired endeavour will start the road to cementing the big deals.


"Welcome to Ontario? Open for business? Holy cow! I did not know. I was just driving to Ontario to get some cheap goods and I learned something new and exciting: opportunities I had not known even existed before I saw that fantastic sign!"

Mr Ford is using taxpayer dollars for his childish act. He constantly criticized his predecessor, Kathleen Wynne, for taking advantage of the very same funding model, and yet he refuses to answer questions about how much his playground plan is costing.

Jumpin' Jolly Jumpers!

The Toronto Star: Ford can't put a dollar amount on his 'open for business' signs

Does the Average Canadian Care to Remember?

With Remembrance Day about to remind us again I thought it time to remember. From 2016:

While on my way to work here in Toronto this morning I could not help but notice that poppies were almost nowhere to be seen. I saw one fellow subway train traveller sporting the powerfully symbolic artificial flower.


Many years ago I watched a documentary on the World Wars where at the film's conclusion historian Dr Noble Frankland spoke of his concern that future generations could lose any understanding or appreciation of the selfless sacrifices in those devastating conflicts.

The number of people wearing poppies is not necessarily the indicator of how much of this understanding and appreciation there is out there, but to me it certainly is the domestic canary.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Fun: Wojeck Opening (First Season)

Canadians, like Brits, like to mock their own television drama programs. "Typical BBC cheapness." How many times have I heard that? Here in Canada, that statement would probably ring out as "everything the CBC makes is crap". Of course those two national networks are not the only makers and providers of television fare in their respective countries, but you get the idea.

Wojeck aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's television network between September of 1966 and March of 1968. Season one was produced in black and white; season two, colour.

John Vernon was "Steve Wojeck", a big city coroner who worked and cared for the people. With anti-BS fervour he tackled issues such as worker safety, health standards, racism, and, radical for television drama at that time, abortion.

Photographed here in Toronto on 16mm film, Wojeck's 'eye' was that of direct cinema documentary. The approach of "realism" enhanced the often excellent scripting, giving the stories some added punch. Had the series been produced on 35mm in the more conventional, and expected, studio style, it probably would not have been as effective.

Wojeck is a great series.

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Taste of Brazilian Tea

Red Rose? Only in Canada, you say? Pity...

Well, my British mother would say: "That's a rubbish tea. It's from Brooke Bond."

That woke me up.

Yesterday I tried a tea from Brazil. A friend of mine from that country gave me some sample tea bags. Dr. Oetker is not a rubbish tea.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

No One Cares What I Ate Today?

Writer Claudia McNeilly would not care,

as she illustrates through explanation in the National Post:

Newsflash: No one cares what you ate today

Social Media can clog your system....

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Toronto's Former Runnymede Theatre

On Bloor Street. I remember seeing Star Trek: The Voyage Home at this old cinema. October of 1986. While I waited in the ticket-holders' lineup the previous screening's crowd exited, and in the stream was an old friend (the friend I first saw Star Wars with). Chris offered: "It was wonderful. I think you'll really like it."

Now a wonderful Shoppers Drug Mart occupies the space. And I don't like it.

Toronto's Former University Theatre

On Bloor Street. I saw many a film there, the first of which was The Black Hole. Now the large space is little more than a black hole while it awaits new owners.

I thought I saw a "demolition" notice on the main doors.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Toronto Municipal Politics and the Future

As I noted in one of my posts here yesterday, Torontonians went to the polls.

Incumbent mayor John Tory won in a landslide.

In my riding of University-Rosedale, Mike Layton easily took this new combined ward: Ward 11 is made up of former 19, 20, and 27. (That's too many.)

Toronto's economy is huge. There's been talk recently, serious and otherwise, of this city breaking away from the great country of Canada and becoming its own republic. Not a bad idea. Imagine me as a member of the Ruling Council.

Justin Trudeau enters the council chamber and asks: "Is this the ruling council?"

Monday, October 22, 2018

Big Screen, Small Screen, In-Between Screen


They got me thinking about Bananas, Woody Allen's classic comedy film from 1971. I realized that I've seen that picture a bunch of times: perhaps a dozen; perhaps more than any other.

On the big screen: the first time I saw it was at CFB Borden's Astral Theatre in 1974 when it was double-featured with another classic Allen, Sleeper.

On the small: I remember videotaping Bananas off of CHCH in 1982; multiple viewing ensued, often with friends.

Why would I watch one film so many times?


Toronto Hosts an Important Election

Today is election day here in Toronto. A city council simplified to just 25 wards by a simplified Ontario premier is ready to be reorganized by an electorate.

My own riding of University-Rosedale is a hotbed for the "granola-crunching, cappuccino-sucking" crowd. Really.

Something just occurred to me:

Perhaps a riding name of "Valerie Rosedale" would be more appropriate.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Sunday Fun: The Starlost Opening

Produced here in Toronto, Canada, but actually an NBC initiative, The Starlost (1973 - 1974) helped fill an epic hole left after Star Trek finished its original run in 1969 (but continuing to burn up the "stripping" markets). The program from day one was to be produced on videotape in order to save money and to allow for extensive, and inexpensive, chroma key work: enhancing sets and backgrounds in addition to the expected "space" element. NBC set up a coproduction deal with Canada's CTV network, allowing for further budget savings. It should be mentioned that Glen-Warren Productions at that time was one of the most sophisticated and well-equipped television facilities in existence; one reason why key parts of Network (1976) were shot there.

Why do I know so much about this series? As part of my ongoing research on Canadian television programs The Starlost was an obvious target. I've interviewed many people associated with its production, and ultimately wrote the insert liner notes for the show's DVD release -- which I describe here.

Whatever. In September of 1973 my space-cadet friend and I sat down in front of the colour console in great anticipation. I stuck with the series but was not disappointed when it failed to be renewed for another season.

One of the most memorable things about the opening titles -- in this case from the episode "Mr. Smith of Manchester" -- is the catchy theme music.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

12 Ways Star Trek Amazed a Fan

A friend sent me the above video. For some reason, unproven, he felt that I would be interested in how some bloke discovered Star Trek (1966 - 1969).

12 Things About Star Trek That Amazed Me When I First Saw It was put together with some honesty and heart. The author's voice helps sell it.

Many of us have stories about how and when we found a television series that appealed to our senses and grabbed us by the trouser and skirt bottoms. Be it Star Trek, All in the Family, Full House, Seinfeld, Twin PeaksLost, and so on.

Obviously a SF series, the subject of this post specifically, has a few show-piece departments; hence the "12 Ways/Things".

Friday, October 19, 2018

Amazing Stories to Be Revisited

Steven Spielberg's television series Amazing Stories was announced in 1984. I remember listening to the radio and feeling a little excited that someone was going to produce a weekly anthology television series based -- I thought -- on the old science fiction and fantasy pulp magazine of the same name.

September of 1985 arrived promising an exciting premiere of this highly anticipated series. A couple of friends came over to my res to share in what we students hoped would be a televideo experience to write home about.

It, "Ghost Train", was anticlimactic.

"That's it?!"

"That's Amazing Stories?"

"A train and a house?"


The opening episode's paper thin story did not bode well for the series. The three of us were underwhelmed.

Just to make sure, we got together for the following two episodes: "The Main Attraction" was an extended one-gag show; "Alamo Jobe" was best described as a counterfeit edition of a Classics Illustrated comic. But a very boring one. There was no risk of it ending up well-thumbed.

We did catch another episode: "The Mission", a Spielberg-directed overwrought and too-long run-up to a ridiculous ending. That's it? "Mister Spielberg?" (It was advertised as an "one-hour special", which in television series parlance generally means "two times longer crap".)

Mister Spielberg's Fantastic Television Picture Show needed some stomp and what was seen in the pages of the 'source' pulps. Fluttering whimsy is good for an episode or two; anything more gives the audience the impression that the filmmakers don't know how to fill a half-hour "SF & Fantasy" time slot every week.

A minor quibble, but one in synch with my criticisms: John Williams' theme music was wildly inappropriate.

Over the next week or two I will be revisiting this series -- a few episodes to give me a new perspective. Hopefully my reviews here will be every bit as amazing.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Apotcalypse in a Puff of Smoke, eh?

The end of a civilized Canada did not come.

Canadians did not awake with reefers dangling between dry lips.

Convenience store owners did not become instant millionaires.

Zombies have not increased in number.

And some thought it would all end....

Smoke another one, my friend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Notes from a Dependent Brat: That Tasco

It was dark, and it was getting cooler. Glen and I wore our light jackets but no doubt the falling air temperature initiated our shut-down procedure for the night. In the early/mid 1970s CFB Borden was a great place for peering into the heavens. Light pollution was almost non-existent; stars and planets waited for my two-inch Tasco telescope.

That refractive lens system apparatus served me well all those years ago. My parents bought it for me in 1970 at the CFB Baden-Soellingen PX ("Post Exchange") in then West Germany for $25.00. Now I can say that that now $164.00 was money well parted with -- the Tasco did not stay in the closet. It even came with a "Sun" filter, for, you guessed it, looking at the sun. One memory I have is of standing behind the celestial device on our apartment balcony in Iffezheim observing our star.

I noticed a star burning bright high up on the horizon. (Bearing: North by North West.) Before collapsing the telescope's tripod legs, I wanted to check out that light. Glen stood nearby doing something now lost to time as I aligned and refined.

"It's Saturn!"

My observatory pal volunteered to confirm my findings. "Far out!"

Yes it was.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tomorrow is a New Day in Canada

I just finished washing a sink-full of bongs.

That's code for: Tomorrow, October 17th, Cannabis will be legalized here in Canada. One can puff away.


Puffin' the magic draggin'.

I don't smoke, and I won't suddenly light up just because it's legal.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Admiral Scheer's Rudderless Flotilla

Andrew Scheer, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, is claiming he would have negotiated a better USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) deal than what the ruling Liberals managed.

The guy can't even manage his own party: a gaggle of leaky ships.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday Fun: Square Pegs Opening Titles

By 1982 my television viewing was more or less down to movies and public affairs programs, with a dash of the NHL. September brought a new and interesting half-hour sitcom that got some of my attention span: Square Pegs. CBS might have been accused of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole of a television schedule. The series lasted one season: in this case, 20 episodes.

Why did I watch? It may have been due to the fact that one of my best friends was a fan. During our Friday or Saturday night pick-up ice hockey games, Mark would recount to us lacing-up lads the latest in the high school activities of the Square Pegs gang; almost all of whom, I should add, were actually of high school age.

My admission: Tracy Nelson. Perhaps it's an exaggeration to say that her character of Jennifer DiNuccio was the only reason I'd waste a half hour of my life almost every week, but she certainly did not hurt the eyes. Those eyes! She was also funny: "Gross me out."

One of the best characters was Johnny "Flash" Ulasewicz, played by Merritt Butrick. He looked a tad too old to be in high school and he was. His manic moves and utterances were instant sellers.

Looking at it now, Square Pegs is very '80s. A totally different head... totally.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Halloween 1978 - 2018

I just saw a television advert for a new movie. It sounds familiar. There was a movie in 1978 with the same title.


John Carpenter's pumpkin head was a fine movie: a pumpkin with a brain. I have not seen the flick since 1991 -- as part of research I was doing on horror films -- but my main reaction at the time was I felt I was watching a film with some class.

What easily could have been another paint-by-numbers horror film, Halloween felt classic. As for Halloween '18: we'll have to wait and see if its filmmakers can cut out their own....

Friday, October 12, 2018

Lay Off the Leafs! Will I?

A friend is concerned I'm spending too much time these days fantasizing about the Toronto Maple Leafs' fortunes this year.

Perhaps he's right.


First things first:

Hey, there's Leafs forward Auston Matthews! I should walk over, push him down, and kick snow in his face.

In all seriousness. Woody Allen could make that funny. Time to get back to the creative stuff.

After all, we know what will happen; the Copy & Paste: The Toronto Maple Leafs will play a decent, or even excellent, season only to be ejected early during the playoffs.

It's the Leafs!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Douglas Dakota C-47 Goonie-Bird Mug Shot

The above plastic mug I bought at the 1989 Hamilton Air Show. Funds raised from the sales of the drinking implement went towards restoration of a Bristol Fairchild Bolingbroke, which at that time was a rescue bird (a fuselage). Money well spent, I think.

The mug's text:

Douglas Dakota, C47, Goonie-bird, etc.
Carried anything that would go through the door, and a few things that wouldn't -- like a new wing for another Dak'. When they couldn't land, the cargo was dropped or kicked-out by guys specially recruited because of their big feet. They were called 'kickers', of course. Daks were built to last, you could break them, but they never wore out.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Toronto Sun Screens UN Climate Change Report

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report was released on Monday and newspapers and other media outlets picked up the news immediately. Not the Toronto Sun. No surprise.

Finally, they released the news to their faithful today. Not in news form but as a series of editorials: Regular Sun columnists Lorne Gunter and Lorrie Goldstein put their patented spins on the subject. Needless to say time was needed to give the somewhat disturbing news some spin. The Sun cannot allow such a report to be released without editorial.

By the way, I can't let this go: Today's edition of the Toronto Sun raves and praises the work of Ontario Premiere Doug Ford and his first one-hundred days in office. And, as usual, Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, is a joke.

This minor political news junkie should get an online subscription to the Toronto Sun. I need the Angry View for that dose of reality.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Right Here, Right Now, All Right!

On Friday of last week the National Post newspaper published a excerpt from Stephen J. Harper's new book "Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption" (2018, McClelland & Stewart). The former Prime Minister of Canada has a few opinions which are being lapped up by our right-wing press. Anthony Furey in today's Toronto Sun hails "Right Here, Right Now" as truth. The kind of truth that nobody outside the Sun would dare reveal.

Here is a morsel I drew from the Post's sampling....

"So here is my re-examination in a nutshell. A large proportion of Americans, including many American conservatives, voted for Trump because they are really not doing very well. In short, the world of globalization is not working for many of our own people. We can pretend that this is a false perception, but it is not. We now have a choice. We can keep trying to convince people that they misunderstand their own lives, or we can try to understand what they are saying. Then we can decide what to do about it."

As we are well aware, yes. Harper hardly reveals anything new here, but he has the floor.

From Mr Furey's book review it is clear that Stephen Harper has a few issues with our current leader, Justin Trudeau. As I wrote here Canada's 22nd prime minister was clearly devastated by the results of the last federal election when "Justin" and his Liberals emerged triumphant.

That I will remember at times as I read "Right Here, Right Now: Politics and Leadership in the Age of Disruption".

Monday, October 8, 2018

Creative Writing Process: The Idea (!)

A blog post starts with an idea. ("Thank you. I did not know that.") In the above case I was watching an episode of The Agenda - with Steve Paikin, TVO's most excellent public affairs program, when a certain guest refused to answer a question in a straightforward manner. Mr Paikin called her out on it. He said something along the lines of: "Nice answer . . . but at no point did you answer my question."

I did not carry the idea past the above scribble which I had scratched down during the program. The bottom-of-screen graphic said: "Reviving Ontario's Liberal Party - Time for a Refresh."

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday Fun: The Interns Intro (1970)

How I discovered The Interns I do not remember, but I do remember making sure I caught the CBS medical show every week on the Sony black-and-white portable upstairs. To this then young one the subject matter was adult at times -- there was an intense episode which featured a prison -- but for some strange reason I could handle the material, even if no doubt I did not always understand it.

Seeing this intro brought back the memories, sometimes in "chill" form. I remembered so much of it, especially the climactic bit where the intrepid young medics run into Broderick Crawford.

The cast: Mr Highway Patrol, of course; Christopher Stone; Stephen Brooks; Hal Frederick; Sandy Smith; Mike Farrell; and Skip Homeier. (Even then I was familiar with some of these actors as I had seen them in other television series'.)

The Interns and I enjoyed just one season.

Trust the Toronto Maple Leafs to Explain Schadenfreude

Last night I posted a piece (live!) about the Leafs falling behind to the Ottawa Senators. As I noted there I stopped watching the game at the mid-way point. This morning I awoke to the news that the natural order of NHL things resolved at 5 - 3.

I was not surprised.

How does one explain "Schadenfreude"?

A Winnipeg Free Press article opens up the subject in a piece from 2013. Historical context: during 2013 Stanley Cup playoff action the Leafs blew a substantial lead to the Boston Bruins in the third period of Game 7, losing in overtime. It was rather sweet.

TORONTO -- When the Toronto Maple Leafs blew a third-period lead and stumbled out of the NHL playoffs, much of the rest of Canada revelled in sweet, sweet schadenfreude.

Yes. That Schadenfreude.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

The Toronto Maple Leafs is a Tradition (And a Verb)

There's a game at the ACC tonight. I had forgotten until I saw some Leafs fans -- the outfits gave them away.

The second period started -- a good place to pick up the action -- and there were goals. Ottawa was up 1 to 0 but Toronto scored quickly, then again to go ahead by one.

Then it happened. It had to happen. History says it will happen.

The Senators came right back and banged in two within no time at all. The goals were funny to me: I laughed out loud at the Leafs' patented ineptness. Ineptness in the form of non-existent defence. I remember hearing this about them last year; they had some scorers on the front line but no back stoppers or disruptors of any note. (For those of you who are reading this and don't know the beautiful game of ice hockey, a defensive line is very important.)

The Toronto Maple Leafs carry a tradition. So too do I: I stopped watching ten minutes in when the Schadenfreude kicked in.

Here we go again!

Friday, October 5, 2018

A Happy (Meal) Thanksgiving Weekend

"Have a nice Thanksgiving weekend!"

The only response I have to that is:

"Thanks! You too! It's the one time during the year that I set foot in a McDonald's."

Okay. Okay. It's not that funny.

The real story is I've not stepped into a store of that fast-food franchise in about fifteen years. How hard it is for me to resist those Golden Fries (but how easy it is to admit I can resist). The New Yorker (magazine) did a feature piece a few years ago on how those famous fries are made: from potato to plate (box). It was mouth-watering.

There's a new, and rather fancy, McDonald's location not far from me here in Toronto.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Go West, Mad Man!

Ontario’s great intellectual premier, Doug Ford, is headin’ out to Alberta to rally around United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney and their hatred of the federal carbon pricing plan.

But before Ford left this province he left a message of some importance….

“We’re going to stand up to Justin’s [sic] Trudeau’s tax and spend policies. We’re going to get Trudeau’s hand out of your pocket and start putting money back into the taxpayers’ pocket.”

The election campaign is over. Does that guy even know what day it is? (Yeah, time to go to Alberta.)

Here We Go Again, Eh?

The local press and fans are positively positive the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to go all the way this year: a Stanley Cup victory.

I've aged along with these grand proclamations.

Even fans and the press fail to learn from history.

Not me.

My prediction: The Vegas Golden Knights will win Lord Stanley's beautiful cup in June of 2019.

The byproduct: That sparkling ice hockey club will show the Leafs how it's done.

Remember: Pathos

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Lockheed Martin F-35 is Not Common-Sense

The National Post’s partisan afterburners light up today with a column by David Krayden on the issue of a replacement fighter for Canada’s RCAF.

The former public relations man for the Royal Canadian Air Force makes some fair points -- pick a machine and let’s go, for example -- but he is wrong, I think, on what fighter should replace our aging CF-18s.

Mr Krayden notes:

“I was working at the House of Commons at the time for the Official Opposition defence critic, who thought the decision to participate in the development, and eventually, the procurement of the F-35, was a refreshing but rare moment of common-sense, non-political defence planning on the part of the government.”

With such a purchase, what is required is not “common-sense” but an “informed opinion”. What I sense is happening is the given government has suspicions about not only the F-35 program’s ridiculous financial costs and technical problems, but the performance specs and performance data -- including maintenance and support costs. Don’t look too closely.

Yet Another Version

"I call him 'Maple Trump'."

That is how a friend of mine describes Doug Ford. That he told me yesterday after I posted yet another piece about Ontario's deliciously angry leader. The Man for the People; His People.

People Like Me Need Not Apply.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

I Thought Doug Ford Was For the People

Today, Ontario's bizarre premier, Doug Ford, announced that he and his Progressive Conservatives are planning to repeal Bill 148. Also known as the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, the bill was a fine bit of legislation passed in November of last year by former premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals to help "people" who are part-time, contract, or minimum wage workers.

Yes, I know, Mister Ford. They are the riffraff of Ontario's labour force.

For the People!