Thursday, January 31, 2019

Pierre Trudeau on Canadians

"Our hopes are high. Our faith in the people is great. Our courage is strong. And our dreams for this beautiful country will never die."

I'm all misty-eyed.

Remembering "Bay City Beat"

When I was in film school in the mid-eighties a television series ran which was "all the rage". A fellow classmate said: "It's really stylish." That's how I first heard about it.

Miami Vice was cool, smooth, and stylish. Not so much that I was compelled to watch it on a regular basis, but it was not of the usual TV drama fare at the time -- 1984 -- and different certainly from any other cop show. And it made stars of Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas.

It was also influential.

On the southern Ontario, Canada, front in 1985 came Bay City Beat. Produced out of the facilities of CKVR television in Barrie, it was decidedly low grade -- and shot on videotape. With friends I sat and watched one episode. There was no need to do any more time. The acting was earnest but the scripting was poor. The series leads spilled monologues and most of the time, it seemed, sat at desks; and talked on the telephone. That's what I remember most.

I ask: Does anyone else in the neighbourhood remember Bay City Beat?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Pierre Trudeau on Society

"There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian. What could be more absurd than the concept of an "all Canadian" boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which creates intolerance and hate."

He was good!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

From the Left and the Right

Last evening I was in a conversation with a gentleman whose father flew on Lancaster bombers during World War II. Briefly we traded some stories as my father too flew on the "Lanc". I sent the gent a link to a blog piece I wrote three years ago now relevant to our chat.

I write a post and I move on. Yesterday I was reminded of a 'comment conversation' at the bottom of the post in question. A pompousass wrote the following:

"Post WWII advancements in technology have produced many wonderful toys, the most practical of which, at least for many in this increasingly disconnected world, might be the "Electric Monk Mk II": It does their thinking for them, so they don't have to."

Monday, January 28, 2019

A Forever Question: An Irish Spring?

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

Sir. Why does a fresh bar of soap make a bathroom smell so good?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

It Still is Called "Imminent Peril"

Context is important. Write something three years ago when a certain person was 'harmless', then, when that someone becomes the "leader of the free world", that piece becomes more relevant.

From February 9, 2016:

It's Called "Imminent Peril"

Hot off the press:

"It is an incontrovertible truth that the civil institutions of the United States of America have been seriously affected, and that they now stand in imminent peril from the rapid and enormous increase of the body of residents of foreign birth, imbued with foreign feelings, and of an ignorant and immoral character, who receive, under the present lax and unreasonable laws of naturalization, the elective franchise and the right of eligibility to political office."

When was the above written? It was part of a speech given in Philadelphia at the first national convention of the Native American Party; the event was held in the year 1845.

While the quote may give one the impression it comes from the pen of Donald Trump, it reads as a little bit too articulate for The Donald.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The 10 Best Countries to Live In

The news is in, from the "2019 Best Countries Report"; for what it's worth:

1. Switzerland
2. Japan
3. Canada
4. Germany
5. United Kingdom
6. Sweden
7. Australia
8. United States
9. Norway
10. France

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Jonas Mekas Dies at 96

Late yesterday morning a friend gave me the news that Lithuanian-American filmmaker and writer Jonas Mekas had died. (I had just finished a few minutes of online newspaper reading and did not see any news bits on his passing. It had not yet hit the mainstream media.)

He was called a documentarian, an experimentalist, but I preferred to call him an "exploratory" filmmaker.

One of my favourite Mekas works is Notes on the Circus (12 minutes, 1966). It starts. "I get it. He shot film at a circus." But after a few minutes it becomes hypnotic.

This film school graduate imagines that Jonas Mekas would have been a fascinating lecturer and guest instructor.

From The Guardian: Jonas Mekas: how a Lithuanian refugee redefined American cinema

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Too Many White Helmets and Not Enough Yellow?

Here in Ontario, Canada, we hear from time to time about employers having a hard time filling skilled-trades positions.

Recently I got some from-the-front-lines corroboration on that issue. I was speaking with a project engineer, a young guy, and he said "there are too many engineers and not enough actual workers".

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

From the Bookshelf: On the U.S. Constitution

From Robert A. Dahl's How Democratic Is the American Constitution?, a sampling of the book's Introduction:

"And if our constitution is as good as most Americans think it is, why haven't other democratic countries copied it? As we'll see . . . every other advanced democratic country has adopted a constitutional system very different from ours. Why?"

That's one heck of a hook.

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Forever Question: An NFL Pay Imbalance

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

Sir. Why isn't Tom Brady the NFL's highest paid quarterback?

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Guy Maddin on the Money

"Trying to raise money is time-consuming and humiliating. I'd rather shoot (at) the precise moment I have just enough dough. That moment varies from project to project, although I'm getting more and more impatient as I age and find myself happy to locate that moment sooner and sooner."

And with money-saving digital technology, "that moment" comes sooner and sooner.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Guy Maddin on Film's Slowness to Freedom

"It's funny how film is the slowest art form to adapt to freedom. It's had freedom all along. It could've done whatever it wanted to. You know the same freedom that do-it-yourself punk and post-punk musicians had in the late 70s and ever since. That's about the time I started getting interested in film, and I assumed that film would be moving along with the other pop culture forms. Its finally done it but it's taken decades for it to catch up just to basement band level."

Portable, high-quality, and cheap, imaging technology has allowed film to catch up to the other pop culture art forms, certainly in a mass accessibility, but he is right. What I find is one can do anything he or she wants but too often the same now-dreary thing is what we get.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Life Declutter Program

A decluttering specialist speaks, and I listen.

Life is about clutter. Declutter that desk. Piling items on flat surfaces, like a desk or table, is a human tendency. We all do it. I worry about the soul who's work desk has nothing on it. No work on this desk!

I decide to declutter: Get rid of the girlfriends (need just one); keep handy one pencil and one pen; books to the bookshelf; consolidate memos, or just toss (2017?); and on. Maintain!

The most difficult element of decluttering is maintenance.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Toronto Sun Postmedia Rubbish

The Toronto Sun is known for hiding, and hiding from, the truth. Its faithful readers are exposed constantly to misinformation and disinformation. Some stories are held back. Carefully selected information is edited and cycled over and over, from columnist to columnist. (Emphasis on "editorial".) A blitz of fibs.

Yesterday I read a freelance piece published in yesterday's Sun that surprised me in its blatant use of misinformation, Remembering Canada's dangerous foray into nuclear weapons.

Writer Robert Smol starts early with some explosive rubbish.

"Fifty-five years ago — on Dec. 31, 1963 — the Liberal government of Lester Pearson formally acquired American-controlled nuclear weapons for use by the Canadian military."

First of all, the RCAF took delivery of Boeing CIM-10 Bomarc missiles in 1963 under Pearson's Liberals, but the ball first got rolling when the government of John Diefenbaker -- a Conservative government -- agreed to take the Bomarc system. (The Conservatives waged an intraparty battle but ultimately decided against a nuclear-tipped missile; although Pearson was at first against the nuclear option, he changed his mind. The Liberals won the 1963 federal election.)

Smol somehow equates -- he is writing for the Sun, after all -- the above with Liberal incompetence and deceit.

That's only the beginning. It gets worse.... (Example: Canada must enjoy a mutual defence system with the U.S., contrary to what Robert Smol thinks. And the Conservatives have been every bit as "dependent" as the Liberals on the matter of "defence dependency".)

By the way, the Bomarc missile was phased out in 1971, under Pierre Trudeau's Liberals.

This is perhaps my favourite point of Mr Smol's:

"Politically, I must admit that Liberal governments of the 60s and 70s were shrewd!"

It's the bold use of the exclamation mark that does it for me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Back to the Soundtrack of My Life Bin

In a posting I wrote recently I mentioned the 1965 film Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Ron Goodwin's theme tune is an earworm, and it got me remembering how I discovered movie tunes.

From March 19, 2017:

The Soundtrack of My (Youth)

When I work on projects at home I will listen to music, or, if my task requires little concentration, spoken-word discussions or narrated pieces. Yesterday while looking for stuff to download from the wonderful BBC radio podcast site I noticed that British film reviewer/writer Mark Kermode had recorded a four-part series called "The Soundtrack of My Life". I listened to the first part last night.

Titled, simply enough, "Soundtrack Albums", the piece involved Kermode's memories of discovering film scores and soundtracks. He talks of his first, then goes on to interview several filmmakers and composers.

I remember my first soundtrack album. It was from a film I had seen just months before, in 1975, at the Terra Theatre in CFB Borden: Rollerball.

Later, as I perused the LP record bin at the PX (Post Exchange) in Borden, I happened across the Rollerball soundtrack and learned then that there was a tie-in record. I bought it on the spot. This LP was not an original soundtrack in the traditional sense, but a compilation of music: A mix of Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Bach, and two more-contemporary pieces by Andre Previn composed specifically for the film. One of the catches for me was Tomaso Albinoni's "Adagio"; I remembered that it was used quite effectively in the Space: 1999 television series episode "Dragon's Domain", which I had also seen just a few months earlier. Now that I think about it, I played the Rollerball record a lot. It was not my introduction to recorded classical music -- my parents had a good selection from that domain -- but the choices, no doubt by the film's director, Norman Jewison, seemed to be a perfect blend for this then young listener.

My next album was the music to Space: 1999, which I was a little disappointed in, and a couple of years after that was Battlestar Galactica. (What's with all the sci-fi TV crap? Oh yeah, I was young.) A side note to the latter score: When I listened to it again, many years later, I couldn't help but notice the William Walton influence. This really comes through on one piece in particular.

No, I did not get the soundtrack to Star Wars in 1977. What turned me off of buying it, I think, was was my honest and raw reaction after a friend of mine lent me the two-LP set a few weeks before we saw the movie. (The album was actually available before the movie release itself in some markets.) As I had discovered Miklos Rosza's Ben Hur music the summer before -- courtesy of my dad's original 1959 "Stereophonic" pressing of that album -- the Star Wars music on its own sounded rather lame. When I returned the album to my friend I mentioned that I found the music to be "watery" and didn't even bother turning the first LP over to play "side 2". (He too was not impressed. After all, this was the guy who got me into the German band Kraftwerk.) Of course the music plays wonderfully well with the film and is a classic film score. Film scores, as composer Gerald Fried noted in an interview years ago, generally don't stand on their own as music. This is not a failing, of course, since they are designed, quite designed in fact, to play with picture and other audio elements. Those audio tracks can get quite crowded. Some scores do work on their own; it doesn't mean they are better scores, just that they can be listened to away from the movie. I've since acquired the Star Wars CD and I like the background music much better now as a standalone....the few times I've given it a spin. Oh, I bought the LP version in 1982.

The first 'original music' film score soundtrack LP that I remember getting was for Alien. I was very impressed, even though I had not yet seen the film. Speaking of film composer Jerry Goldsmith, for that's who I was speaking of in that case, later in 1979 he would produce his brilliant music accompaniment for Star Trek - The Motion Picture. (It's the best part of that slightly underrated film, I think. The theme tune, in particular, is one of the greatest of movie anthems.)

What's with all the sci-fi movie scores? Well, for starters, there's the LP to Patton.

I'm a fan of the late composer Jerry Goldsmith. His effect was best summed up recently by producer/writer Seth MacFarlane on a BBC radio show: "(Goldsmith) was an insanely talented guy."

There are others whose work I admire: (the great) Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Elmer Bernstein, John Williams, David Shire, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Ron Goodwin....

Decades ago I stopped collecting film scores. The odd one would trickle down onto my shelf. I enjoy film scores best when they are with the actual film. Also, scoring today, 'the state of', is pretty pathetic. I'm speaking more of the Hollywood product. While smaller films are getting some fine work in that area, most "tent pole" pictures are tracked with overwrought orchestral parts of nothing (but noise). It's been this way for years. It's hardly a requirement that a film theme should consist of a memorable 'song', it really depends on the show, but, as film director Edgar Wright states in the Mark Kermode program I listened to last night: "What's the most recent film score that you can really hum?"


Okay, I'll cheat and play The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. That just might be the soundtrack of most of our lives.

Monday, January 14, 2019

A Forever Question: Quacks Like a Luck

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

Sir. When someone says "better luck next time", isn't that the same as saying "zero plus zero equals zero"?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Further to Yesterday's Toronto Star Trek

Yesterday I posted a piece on some photographs snapped by Toronto Star photographer Reg Innell in June of 1966 when he visited the Desilu soundstages during early series production on Star Trek.

The above video tells the behind-the-scenes tale of how Mr Innell came to take the pictures and how they were rediscovered.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Toronto Star Photos Taken on the Set of Star Trek

Reg Innell was a photographer who worked for the Toronto Star. His assignment in June of 1966 was to visit Desilu Studios stages 9 and 10 (now Paramount 31 and 32) and cover two Canadian actors who were starring in a new science fiction dramatic television series. We now know those actors: William Shatner and the late James Doohan. And the show: Star Trek.

After Innell's death last year his negatives were donated to the paper, and were rediscovered by Toronto Star video producer Kelsey Wilson.

As was the case with anybody who visited the Star Trek stages before the show had even aired, they had no idea what would become of the show in the years to come.

The episode in production when Mr Innell visited Desilu's Stage 10: "The Man Trap"

Friday, January 11, 2019

My Three Predictions for 2019

After reading and hearing predictions for 2019, it's time I make my own.

I'll keep them Canada-based. (That precludes any "Trump" talk.)

* The Toronto Maple Leafs will get eliminated in the second round of the NHL playoffs.
* The Toronto Sun will close its doors.
* Justin Trudeau and his Liberals will retain power -- this time a minority win.
* The CBC will cancel Schitt's Creek. (That's a wish, not a prediction.)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

George Lucas on that Second Feature Film

"The easiest job you'll ever get is to try to make your first film . . . After you've done that feature, then you have a heck of a difficult time getting your second film off the ground. They look at your first film and they say, 'Oh well, we don't want you anymore.'"

True. Look at how many directors there are who've never made a second film. Lucas said the above after his first feature length film, THX 1138, was released and while he was having a hard time getting the studios interested in funding his second, American Graffiti. Interesting problem, since THX 1138 is still my favourite Lucas-directed flick. (No, it's not Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. That's the worst Lucas film.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Will & Mist (09-01-2019)

2009 - That Was Ten Years Ago?

Yes it was.

Way too fast.

I'm waiting for Montgomery Scott to call: "These poor darlin's (engines) cannae take it anymore!"

We'll slow down.

That easy.

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Forever Question: The Odd Ball

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

Sir. Why can't North American football gain a foothold outside of Canada and the U.S.?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sunday Fun: The Flash (1990) Opening

Soon after arriving back in Canada, after spending a few weeks in England, I heard chatter about a television series that had premiered while I was away: The Flash

Back then it was possible to have a series sneak up on you. Given that I left dramatic television programs in my past, not being up to speed just compounded the surprise for me. (My forward scanner needed a replacement vacuum tube.)

I tried a couple of episodes and was impressed with the show's scope. (The new Flash series looks exactly like what it is: a low budget television series, but with lots of CGI -- the CGI package deal so prevalent in TV today.)

The opening titles, complete with Danny Elfman's Batmanish theme music, are pretty propulsive. (At the time I felt the "starring" bits were a little goofy.)

I'm guessing The Flash has its fans, even though the series came and went in a flash -- just 22 episodes.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

My Bio for a Music Gallery Programme

In late 1987 I was commissioned by American-Canadian composer Michael Horwood to make an experimental film to run with his musique concrète piece, "Motility".

The following April a dual performance took place at Music Gallery on Queen Street West, here in Toronto, as part of a series titled "Electro Village".

Soon I hope to undertake a restoration of the 44 minute film, and possibly do a George Lucas: add layers and elements that weren't there before. (The difference being that I will offer a high-quality original version along with the new.)

"Simon St. Laurent was born in Barrie [sic], and met Horwood while taking the latter's music elective during his film studies at Humber College. What clicked between the two was St. Laurent's intense interest in the importance of the music/sound relationship to film. St. Laurent studied film and video techniques with Robert Bocking and Patrick Kearney. Besides directing and art directing TV commercials, St. Laurent has recently done set design for Graveyard Shift (released in the U.S. and England) and art direction for Dark Side, both independently produced films. Motility marks his first collaboration with Horwood."

Friday, January 4, 2019

Game of Trump's (The Great Partial Wall)

Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, is, as most people know, obsessed with building a wall along the country's southern border.

Democrats have rejected any funding for the structure. Excellent.

Now, Trump is projecting a years-long shutdown of the Federal government -- a partial and temporary shutdown, now at day 14, is not good enough for the petulant prez. To get his wall built, he's considering declaring a "national emergency".

While watching some news footage of wall sections going up, I realized that an expensive tourist attraction is being built. An incomplete wall. A monument to a failure of a U.S. president.

("It means he put up walls.")

Vader Was a Known Surname Before Darth

Above, the Ballantine's Illustrated History of World War II book, "Spitfire". Authored by John Vader, the book fell into my lap in or around the year 1973. At the time I no doubt thought that "Vader" had an interesting ring to it. (It sounded mean. "Viper." "Adder.")

When Star Wars came along in 1977, a gentleman by the name of Darth Vader hit the marketplace.

Darth piloted a TIE fighter; John flew a "Spit".

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Looks Like Special Film Design

The structure caught my attention as I strolled along King Street East, here in Toronto.

My first thought was the building in transition looks like something that Anton Furst might have designed for director Tim Burton's Batman (1989).

Michael J. Fox on Finding Acting

"I had all the usual ambition growing up. I wanted to be a writer, a musician, a hockey player. I wanted to do something that wasn't nine to five. Acting was the first thing I tried that clicked."

Finding one's way past the dreams.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year and New TTC Transit Card - Presto!

That was the last one. The Toronto Transit Commission's final monthly Metropass issuing was of December 2018; it has now been replaced, bumped, by the Presto card.