Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Halloween Post: A Nightmare on Elm Street

The Astral Theatre in CFB Borden, Ontario, was a veritable movie funhouse of eclectic and varied flicks, old and new. In essence it was a rep cinema. Most new and big releases, and anything of prestige, were on the other side of the base at the mighty Terra Theatre.

One of many films I saw in or about my thirteen year had a very special trailer. A preview which ended up haunting me: Triple Avalanche of Terror

The hook was a certain sustained shot that was more important to me, ultimately, than the variety of quickly cut clips that followed. This affecting scene―shot in a mental institution, apparently―was the real keeper. While substantial image grain danced before our eyes, an ominous voice-over explained that 'this man watched Triple Avalanche of Terror and went insane'. (Really? Seriously.)

A straight-jacketed wretch squirmed as two attendants hovered over, comforting him as he did the bit of business taught in acting school when one wants to evoke "crazy". "No!... No!!...."

As advertised, in order to watch the film one had to accept an insurance policy before entering the theatre. Cool. It's not something I'd want to have to cash in, but cool.

I bought it, the preview, that is, so much so that I knew I had to see the film, even though it was to be a midnight presentation. Oh, no.

As we left the theatre after watching the now forgotten feature presentation, my friends and I discussed the trailer, that spooky trailer. One friend, Glen Scott, seemed to know that we'd been had:

"It's a publicity stunt!

"It's a publicity stunt!", he reiterated as the rest of us, in his eyes, were overly concerned that we too would go insane.

But, we all agreed: Must see movie.

This is where trouble followed.

The next day I raved enthusiastically to my mother about the nerve-splitting trailer I had seen, and in the process I let it out that the anticipated movie itself was to be shown as a late-late show. She wasted no time in saying "no". When the day got closer, I asked again:


Mum, I wanna see Triple Avalanche of Terror!

I told you, you're not seeing it.

Why not?!

Because...I don't want you prancing about at all hours of the night.
Now that's final.

("I guess I'm not going to be seeing Triple Avalanche of Terror.")

I wish I had possessed the verbal wit of Family Guy's "Stewie": "How dare you deprive me of some devilishly gruesome entertainment. I shall be forever stunted by your absolute malicious disregard for my personal development!"

I didn't get my mother's reasoning. Geographically speaking, the Astral was not far from Elm Street, our street. The route consisted of a quick walk to School Street, then along Maple Drive; up a little further was the palace of dreams.

How was the Terrible Avalanche, you ask? The next day I asked Glen what he thought. After all, he and the gang were allowed to walk about at all hours of the previous night.

"It wasn't very good."

Of course, to a pre-teen, that was code for: "It was awesome!" Either that, or I was becoming concerned for Glen's sanity.

"Carry On Camping is on this Saturday?" I was allowed to see that one, however. Not a lot makes sense when you're a kid. (Those of you who have seen that British comedy classic, or just about any Carry On movie, for that matter, will know what I'm getting at.) Now I know why Camping was acceptable fare: It was shown during regular business hours, which now reaffirms my mother's concern at the time. The prevailing issue wasn't so much one of content. Actually, she never objected to the films' theme.

The Astral, along with all the PMQs (houses) on Elm, School, Hemlock, and Maple Drive, is now gone as that part of CFB Borden was razed a few years ago, but my memories of that special dream-maker always remain strong ― even if a certain title is missing.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Picturing: Calling Moonbase Alpha

I stepped outside at about 6:25 this evening and saw a bright disc just above the skyline. At first I thought it was a lighting globe. After closer naked-eye inspection I realized it was the moon. And was it big! "Is the moon hurtling towards us?"

Out came my trusty Canon and its magnificent 40x zoom capability, although I didn't go that far in... out.

Had I shot that buttery moon 'raw', I would have captured a white circle, so I closed the aperture a couple of notches.

Live (at 6:27pm), from Toronto....

Another (It Happens)

She dumped me.

"I'm leaving you for another man."

I was crushed.

"Just kidding!"

I felt much better.

"I'm leaving you for another woman."

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Book: Fantastic Television (Gerani & Schulman)

- A Pictorial History of Sci-fi, The Unusual and the Fantastic -
From Captain Video to the Star Trek Phenomenon and Beyond

Gary Gerani
Paul H. Schulman

Harmony Books

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Picturing: Behind the Mitchell II

Shooting at 23 FPS's "Studio 2" here in Toronto. That Mitchell Mk II 35mm camera was owned by Film Opticals of Canada. Great camera.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Situation Satiated

I am not a nutritionist. But I am aware of my own gastronomic and gastric requirements. Vegan dishes are regarded by some as lacking in essential ingredients: meat. A few years ago I met a young vegan lady through a mutual friend. Little did I know when I was introduced to Caroline that she would almost change my dinner plate.

It was bound to happen. After she slipped me some publications on the wonderful world of veganism I decided to give the culinary component a shot ― with her guidance, of course.

Caroline cooked up a storm, and during the event, she gave me notes on what it was she was doing with what food items and ingredients, and what each and every one contributed to the nutritional indexes.

What a fabulous meal, that was; quite possibly the greatest I've ever experienced. This was the best part: When I awoke the next morning I was not compelled to run for an emergency food source. My metabolism is such that even if I chow down on something based around meat the night before, by the next morning I am more than a little peckish. Caroline's vegan plate somehow convinced my brain that I was not starving, even hours later.

After I recounted the story to another vegan friend he told me why I had felt so satiated: "She probably packed it with nutrients."

For some reason I've not been able to go off meat completely, even if it continues to be a small portion of my dinner plate. The issue of animal abuse is something that bothers me. What will it take to convince me to go over? No doubt I'm not alone in facing that dilemma.


Monday, October 23, 2023

A Forever Question: Of a Mind

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

Sir. Tun Katzen denken auf Deutsch?

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Difference Between Dogs and Cats

This morning, while doing some work here at home, I realized something very important... something that ethologists may want to consider as being important to their research.

The difference between dogs and cats:

With a dog, his or her personality is dictated by the breed.

With a cat, his or her personality is dictated by the cat.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

A Forever Question: Hey, It Happens

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

Sir. When cats accidentally bury us do they look at it as an honest mistake?

Friday, October 13, 2023

500,000 Hits on this Website

This morning I reviewed my website's traffic: 500,000 'all time' hits. What timing. While I had known my counter was about to roll to a half-million, it was still a surprise. Hitting such a milestone, certainly for a small potato like me, makes my efforts to feed this blog/site all the more rewarding.

No doubt a good chunk of those 'discrete hits' are from bots of some kind, but it would be humans, and, hopefully, and even better, internet-surfing house cats that have enjoyed reading what meanderings I've spun on the spur of the moment, or have pre-filed to the memories bank, in order to serve the great blog machine. (Leaving the site abandoned after a few postings, or just one, was not to be a part of the original plan.) For the most part I've kept that creature's immense appetite satiated over the years. Though I started this site in 2009, all but about 4,000 of that mighty 500,000 have come since April of 2016, for that is when I pulled out the writers' stoking shovel.

How apt a metaphor.

Now, what shall I write about today?....

Thank you, all!

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Picturing: An Aviation Nut Takes a Special Flight

Photo description: Me in the summer of 1995 visiting the Toronto Island Airport (now Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport) and an Air Canada vintage Lockheed L-10A "Electra" (The machine was acquired in 1937 by Trans-Canada Airlines ― now Air Canada.)

The special occasion was a series of charity flights by Air Canada. If I remember correctly, the $100.00 donation, which would buy you a seat, went to children in need. A great cause.

The flight path took us along the Lake Ontario shoreline to Hamilton, then back again. While over Toronto we flew around the downtown core.

I knocked off a few pictures during the flight. They've flown off somewhere, but I shall seek....

The above picture was taken by my Film Opticals of Canada coworker, Ian Elliott.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Film Opticals of Canada Ltd. in Business Card Form

Film Opticals of Canada Ltd. closed its doors in 2005, but it lives on for me in business card form. During my years there we produced titles and optical effects for films such as The Sweet Hereafter (1997), American Psycho (2000), and Ararat (2002).

I was one of two optical printer/camera operators. Those days! And late nights.

Of course, what "Film Ops" did then we can now do on a computer in our basement. Faster, cheaper (a lot cheaper), and with a heck of a lot less (potential) stress.

Side note: my name is emblazoned via my least favourite font. My own ego would have demanded nothing less than "Arial".

Some film and television people of note who popped by the Film Opticals facility during my days there: Kiefer Sutherland; Saul Rubinek; Jason Priestley; and Atom Egoyan. Messrs Sutherland and Priestley were super-nice guys, apparently: polite and courteous. I say "apparently" since, in both instances, I missed them by minutes. (Pardon the apparent name-dropping, but I had no other association with those gents.)

I worked on a full-time freelance basis at my favourite Toronto-based optical house from 1994 to 2000, returning a few times after that term to do some relief shooting . The company was on Fraser Avenue when I started there, but moved to Carlaw Avenue in late 1999. In my opinion the move was not a good one for the company ― this change of location was beyond their control.

Mike Smith, the main guy at Film Opticals of Canada, was full of wisdom and knowledge regarding the film business. I learned so much from him.

Monday, October 9, 2023

It's a Special Day: Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

I give thanks for having been born to this great nation. As much as I loved living in Germany, and,  enjoyed visiting more than a half-dozen other countries, including the good ol' US of A, my heart and soul belongs to Canada.

We Canadians are a blessed bunch.

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!

Friday, October 6, 2023

A Forever Question: Minus the Claws

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

Sir. Do cats give paws?

Thursday, October 5, 2023

Space: 1999 Days ― Space: 1999, Cancelled: 1977

To be honest, I don't remember hearing that Space: 1999 had been cancelled. It probably just fell by the wayside as we geeks went on to something more interesting. The second season ended and the third season never arrived. (No doubt TV Guide's end-of-book yellow 'teletype' page made note of the show's axing. In late 1975 it was that page that announced Space's renewal for another television season of twenty-four shows.)

Clipping from Starlog Magazine, number 5.
(click on picture to blow up)

Space: 1999 was cancelled ― or left adrift ― in early 1977, or as some pundits have put it: Space: 1999, Cancelled: 1977. After two bumpy seasons of meteor storms, face-paint aliens, two-dimensional characterizations, soap bubbles, and even worse, disappointing viewer numbers, the colourful SF/horror UK-import television series finished its run of metaphysical mumbo jumbo and simple creatures not-so-great, ending up discarded mid-Atlantic. (The show never really caught on here in North America). Sir Lew Grade's, and ATV's, initiative to leave cathode ray marks through its own solar-deficient star-fields, while valiant, and not without conviction, was not to meet a successful syndication package. Forty-eight films was not enough linear celluloid to make for lucrative "stripping" (Monday to Friday at 5pm, kind of thing). If a commitment had been made to produce another twenty-four shows, more people reading this might have an idea as to what a "space nineteen ninety-nine" is. However, history has made its judgement, cheating me out of a potential conversation with someone, even someone my own age, about a "remember that show?" and leaving me with a dialogue-killing "I don't think I know that one".

It's possible that Space: 1999 was simply ill-conceived, getting off to the worst possible start, cutting itself off at the landing pads, leaving itself with enough leverage to break the Earth's moon out of Earth orbit, and sending it straight to oblivion instead of planets of interest. Going through a black hole (or a "Black Sun", in Space's case) knocked the series even further from what the audience expected. Audience expectation should never be overrated. In fact, it's important for the bottom line; the return on investment. It's a business. Introducing the viewer to something a little off the beaten astro path is fine, but any such re-education program is doomed to fail if that new way of looking at space phenomena is too obtuse, and worse, transparent. The remote channel-changer was becoming more commonplace in the mid-seventies. Treating its controllers to almost static forward narratives in the first few minutes of an episode will leave that "ep" prone to being abandoned for a mindless sitcom, and television station schedulers moving the series to a less prime time slot, or dropping it altogether midrun.

Space's second season was aware of what had come before it, and it reorganized its own DNA as best it could without becoming another series all together, and entertained that built-in audience, if leaving those fans who truly believed that the first batch of twenty-four somehow constituted profundity feeling forgotten. While Year Two, on average, was more fun and presented characters at least resembling human beings, it was saddled with that cosmic albatross around its neck: a dusty moon running at indeterminable speeds uncontrollable and, too often, misguided. And stories demanding, but not delivering, enticing drama.

No, I'm not a hater of Space: 1999, to use modern parlance. I was there, after all, to give something new and seemingly exciting, according to the prerelease publicity machine and its materials, a chance, but this then fourteen-year-old knew what constituted good drama and a sense of storytelling. I'll nuke a too-often repeated lie that we Trekkers were hostile to the new kid on the block. To use UK parlance: Rubbish! We were there with bells on! Many of us were kids, and dry sponges ― the fannish protective and reactive baggage was a few years away, at least. Keep in mind that two years earlier my friends and I welcomed The Starlost. If we became quickly disillusioned and disappointed by some strange new space vehicle, it may have been due to a feeling we were being sold VHS box cover "not exactly as advertised" content. (As collectors of physical media will tell you, what's on the covering artwork is often better than the movie itself; like finding one of those binned videotapes marked down: "Was $19.99, now $0.99!") Many of us may have gravitated back to our Star Trek reruns, which were in high rotation in 1975 - 1977, but if we ultimately rejected Space: 1999, we did so because we felt that too much promised cosmic-level quality content had been left in the promotional artwork, and in the heavens, not through any perceived encroachment on our precious star treks.

I was there.

Yes, indeed.

And I remember the fabulous sights, sounds, and, disappointments... all leading to my look back at a television series that could have been so much better, but is now wrapped tidily in nostalgia.