Thursday, April 25, 2024

Flash Poem: Writers' Rights!

Writers write!
Any where
Any time
Any way

it comes naturally
sans inhibition
without limitation:

in a diary
on a script
a postcard
a napkin

Writers write!
All ways....


___

2022
Simon St. Laurent



Sunday, April 21, 2024

Air Canada A320 on Approach to Toronto Pearson



While testing my newest Canon zoom lens, I snapped this picture of an Air Canada Airbus A320 as it banked to port on approach to Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Space: 1999 is Live-Streaming on YouTube Again

Last week Shout! Studios began to live-stream the old television series Space: 1999. After I made the discovery I popped up a post with the embedded video feed. On Wednesday I noticed the stream was no longer available. Fine. I don't like to delete my posts, but delete it I did.

Shout! reactivated the Space stream. I kept my html: now below the video.

"359 watching"... go for the 360th!





In September and October of last year, I wrote a series of articles looking back at the old science-fiction/horror series Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977). The premiere piece for "Space: 1999 Days" was Space: 1999 Days ― Breakaway from Earth.

While on YouTube this past week, I noticed that Shout! Studios is live-streaming Space: 1999. As I write this, the episode running is Part One of the pulp fun two-parter "The Bringers of Wonder" from the show's second, and last, season. (Year Two was an improvement over the often-irritating Year One. It certainly was for me.)

So, if you're familiar with the space adventures of the Moonbase Alpha crew, and want to relive that experience of watching a series that you may or may not have liked when it first ran, or saw in syndication: enjoy! For those of you who are perhaps too young to know what a 'space nineteen... what?' is, or was: enjoy!

Space: 1999, for all its too-often script problems, had a look all its own. While I've never been crazy about the bland (and incomplete) Moonbase Alpha sets, certainly those of the show's freshman year, the strange new worlds depicted are often unique and quite lovely ― I call them "European Art School". All one has to do is put up with the, at times, trying storylines. And a lack a believable characterizations, but, again, Year Two is much better in that regard.

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Flash Poem: Who's Flattery?

How much is too
much flattery?

It depends on who it
is you are flattering

It might fly
or lie flat.

___

2017
Simon St. Laurent


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Enrico Nicola 'Henry' Mancini (1924 - 1994)

This morning I was reminded that the late film and television composer Henry Mancini would have celebrated his 100th birthday today. We tend to think of the maestro as the creator of the Pink Panther and Peter Gunn themes, and popular songs such as "Moon River", but previous to those impeccable hit pieces, he worked for years as a studio musician, writing music under contract for Universal Studios productions.

Below, third from the left, is Mr Mancini as he partakes in some song with a few fellow film and television composers.



Monday, April 15, 2024

Humour for a Monday Morning

Last week I told a friend that I live just a hop, skip, and a jump from Toronto's Bata Shoe Museum but I've never... set foot in there.



Some Uplifting Quotes for a Monday Morning

"You're so busy doubting yourself while so many others are intimidated by your potential."

I should send that to someone.

I'd adapt it slightly for some people I know:

"You're so busy doubting yourself while so many others are intimidated by what good things you do and have done."

Some people take one's accomplishments so personally.



Friday, April 12, 2024

Yuri Gagarin! (63 Years Ago Today)

This long time space cadet has not forgotten that today is the 63rd anniversary of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's historic space flight. The twenty-seven year old's one-orbit mission on Vostok 1 made him a name the world over. The news of a man travelling in space was exciting to this planet's masses, but it left many Americans stunned that such a "backwards" country could achieve such a feat and be the first to do so.

The USSR was not so backwards, after all.

First off, guidance control was so sophisticated that Gagarin's flight was totally automated, from the launch of the R-7 rocket to the cosmonaut's ejection after the capsule re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. The mission was controlled from the ground, with the space pilot having the option of taking over flight systems only if the need arose.

For all its successes, the Vostok 1 flight was not trouble-free. The scariest part for Gagarin was when the retaining straps holding his spherical capsule to the service module did not completely disconnect before the re-entry phase. The whole unwieldy vehicle tumbled wildly. The man on the ride thought the end was near. Luck, destiny, or some other force, eventually took control of the mission: Vostok 1 re-oriented itself into a proper descent attitude after the intense heat of atmospheric re-entry burned off the 'recalcitrant' metal strap.

For purely technical reasons, man and spacecraft did not land together on USSR soil, as a soft landing had not yet been perfected by the Soviet engineers. The only way to ensure complete success, not to mention comfort, was to have the cosmonaut land via parachute away from his capsule. By the way, this aspect of the flight had been kept secret, and for a good reason: Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) rules dictated that the pilot had to land in his or her vehicle, otherwise it was not a complete flight ― the secret got out when Gherman Titov admitted out loud that he had separated from his rapidly descending Vostok 2 capsule. (If one were to acknowledge and accept the FAI's requirements to the letter, it was actually U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard who accomplished the first manned space flight when he flew in his Mercury capsule just a few weeks after Gagarin's trip.)

The Soviet Union's space-travelling star landed in a farmer's field. Mission accomplished!

"Yuri Gagarin!"


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Flash Poem: You Must Find Yours (Good Luck!)

They did
you see

They said
to me

Behold!

Bliss dropped from
the sky

But I

know not where
... nor why.

___

2017
Simon St. Laurent


Friday, March 29, 2024

Twilight Zone Versus the Ants (The Outer Limits)

For some, the issue of which is the better television series is of the utmost importance. I like both equally, and, they are actually two different shows once one gets past the anthology format, which both share equally.

The Twilight Zone (1959 - 1964)
More fantasy than science fiction.

The Outer Limits (1963 - 1965)
More science fiction than fantasy.


I have a first-hand story regarding that great often-fought interdimensional and interstellar battle.

Years ago I was visiting my neighbour. The food and drink came out, but nobody got drunk. The ensuing discussions were of the type expected at a friendly get together.

It happened. Scott, boyfriend of my neighbour, seemed to have a problem with my holding The Outer Limits in the same esteem I did The Twilight Zone. "Oh, come on, man. The Outer Limits was so bad. There was that episode that was so typical. The one with the robot boxer."

A challenge! I was thrown straight into the ring: "That episode was called 'Steel'. It starred Lee Marvin. And it was a Twilight Zone episode."

Passion. The fists flew.

Well, he pointed: "You're wrong." And continuing variations on that theme.

I went back to my apartment, and from my bookcase I pulled The Twilight Zone Companion (Marc Scott Zicree).

Back to the battlefield!

With the book opened at the proper page, the chapter on "Steel", Scott's jaw dropped. In the manner expected of a soul converted by a well-placed "K.O.", he emitted a feeble, but emotive: "This is a conspiracy." (Emphasis his.)

On such matters, don't argue with Uncle Simon.

No. "Uncle Simon" is a Twilight Zone episode.






Thursday, March 28, 2024

An Answering Machine Easter Egg

Many years ago my roommate at the time and I decided to have some fun: we recorded a message for answering machine which could be best described as "daring".

Dave had a four-track audio recorder; it used cassette tape, the kind of tape used as the 'outgoing' message on my Panasonic answering machine. Inspiration hit the two of us fast and hard. We wrote the script quickly and prepared to record the message. In my music collection I have a CD titled "Hollywood's Greatest Hits Volume Two". On one track Dave and I laid down Elmer Bernstein's theme from the 1956 opus The Ten Commandments, specifically, the pastoral passage right after the bombast proper ― the background music we hear playing under the voice of God.

Next: Dave's recording of the voice of God. His voice was better than my nasally own for this important document. After we had the two tracks down it was a matter of giving the commanding orator some reverb. (A dry voice track would inspire no one, no matter how persuasive the text.)

We were very happy with our effort.

As the British would say, "the show went out".

The reaction was much greater than what we were expecting. Callers who got the outgoing message thought it was very funny, hilarious. What happened was the word quickly got around about our answering machine commandments. People would call just to hear the message, and since Dave and I were busy guys, chances were that they would get the machine.

A mutual friend went into hysterics when we gave him a live playback, but after he regained his composure, he told us his concern that some folk might not find our commandments humorous.

After some time Dave and I pulled the work. Unfortunately it's gone; we know not where.

Here is a transcription, not scripture:

"Luuuke. I mean....Mosesss. Thou shalt leave a message at the tone. Leave thy name and numberrr... (at this point Dave's voice speeds into a 'Maxwell Smart') ... And when I get a chance, I'll call you back!"


Friday, March 22, 2024

The Cuban Missile Crisis: At The Brink (PBS, 1992)



Tonight while looking for 'history' videos to watch on YouTube, I stumbled upon the above hour-long program. First broadcast by PBS (Public Broadcasting System) on October 14th, 1992, thirty years after the events it covers, The Cuban Missile Crisis: At The Brink is a solid and fascinating look at how close humanity came to the checkout counter.

During that toggle-switch crisis I was a wee one, so I have no memory of it, but my mother told me years later just how scary those events were for everyone.

Just like now....

William Shatner Turns 93 Years Young



Canadian actor and author William Shatner is, quite simply, the coolest man in this galaxy. Happy Birthday to a fellow Montrealer.


Saturday, March 16, 2024

A Flip on an RCAF/CAF C-130 Hercules



Some images take us way back. The photo above, which I grabbed from Wikipedia, flew me to my "brat" youth. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules has served the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) for decades. In my day, the "Herc" was painted in the livery illustrated above, which only help feed the pangs of nostalgia.

The route of CFB Lahr to Gatwick Airport, and back again, was my trip; my "flip".

Monday, March 11, 2024

Star Trek ― Series Proposal ― March 11, 1964

click to enlarge


This ol' Trekker saw a tweet minutes ago by designer Michael Okuda. He noted that it was sixty years ago today that Gene Roddenberry produced (had typed up) his first presentation paperwork for a proposed television series. It would be, and was always called, "Star Trek".

The first pilot episode, "The Cage", would go before the cameras that November. Desilu, Lucille Ball, especially, had faith in the series concept. Lucy's star shined brightly, and still does.


Star Trek

Created by:
GENE RODDENBERRY

FIRST DRAFT
March 11, 1964

STAR TREK is...

A one-hour television series.

Action  -  Adventure  -  Science Fiction.

The first such concept with strong

central lead characters plus other

continuing regulars.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Reading: The Canadian Constitution (Dodek)



"We can identify a 'Canadian constitutional model.' Our Constitution is the envy of the world and Canadians have been involved as advisors in constitution-making in places such as South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and Israel. Yet our constitution is much more than the written documents that are contained in this book. It is the living, breathing experience of Canadians in their daily lives. It is the spirit of democracy and tolerance that makes Canada the great country that it is."

Author Adam Dodek explains in his preface why he decided to write The Canadian Constitution. His educational background ― which included McGill University and law school in the States ― along with his travels, allowed him to study the constitutions of various countries. As Mr Dodek states, he kept coming back to our own.

I'm but a few chapters in, but this document is fascinating.


Postscript: a few years ago I read Robert A. Dahl's How Democratic Is the American Constitution? Fascinating stuff.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Upcoming Book: Heaping Coals (Coren)



Last year I read Michael Coren's 2021 book The Rebel Christ, and I was impressed to the point where I felt compelled to commit my feelings to html: Read: The Rebel Christ (Coren)

Heaping Coals - From Media Firebrand to Anglican Priest is his latest book, and, no surprise, I'm looking forward to its release in October.

Reverend Coren announced on his Twitter page today that he's "read the proofs and finished the photo captions".


From the publisher, Dundurn:

"From England’s working class to high profile media personality, Michael Coren charts his encounters with people of faith, fame, and fortune.

Michael Coren writes of his life leading up to entering the seminary and being ordained. Growing up in a working-class mixed-religion family, then entering a career in media, Coren was, and in some ways still is, the consummate outsider. He records his encounters and work with Oscar-winning writers, celebrities, and authors, and his early successes as a journalist.

After marrying and settling in Canada, Coren became a darling of the Christian right, with his TV and radio shows and syndicated column. He describes his shift to more progressive Christianity and politics, and what happened personally and professionally when this occurred.

Not just a humble admission of fault, but an articulate and convincing account of a spiritual awakening."


... and a special note from Stephen Fry:

“Coren tells us the stories of his fascinating life with clarity, self-deprecating wit, and page-turning verve.”

Thursday, February 15, 2024

CD: UFO (Gray)



UFO
- Original Television Soundtrack -

Music by
Barry Gray

Silva Screen Records
2019


***

On Tuesday nights during the 1970/71 television season I was there with my parents in front of the Zenith colour set tuned to Canada's CTV network. British husband and wife producing team Gerry and Sylvia Anderson left their "Supermarionation" puppet show empire behind to launch UFO, a live-action science fiction series set on the moon's surface and here on good ol' Earth, principally in England. "U-Fo" was superior in many areas: one being the music department.

Barry Gray had long been the producers' main scorer, and his efforts for this short-lived dramatic programme were top-drawer, injecting just the right amount of funky Hammond organ fun ― dig that wonderfully spot-on opening theme tune ― and otherworldly bizarreness and genuine heartbreak. While the series could be silly at times, with some episodes seemingly asking, "What were we thinking?", when UFO was good, it was more than good. And its background music was no small contributor, certainly in a telly-series out of this world, even when based here on Sol III.

The perfect capper to any UFO episode, especially one ending on a particularly serious note, was the dissonant and creepy end title music ― not only did it reinforce a sense of darkness that tended to pervade the show format, it functioned as a counterpoint to the (then) contemporary feel of the opening title theme.

End note: This CD of a 72-minute total running time is a fine sampling of episode scores; around five hours of music was recorded for UFO.

The Canadian Flag is 59 Today

And what a flag it is!

On February 15th, 1965, the "National Flag of Canada" was inaugurated in a ceremony on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

When I was a teenager a certain subject came up for discussion while I was hanging out with a friend. He said: "I like our flag."

Next to the "Nisshoki" (Japan's national flag), our own red-and-white may pack the most visual punch of all national flags.

She's a beauty! Let's keep honouring her....


Saturday, February 10, 2024

Angel Hair Is On Tonight

 

Recently I had a discussion with one of my clients, a lovely lady from the Philippines. When I mentioned (mentioned, yes) that I love Filipino dishes, she asked me if I've had Angel Hair.

I asked her:

"Like that from my shedding cat?"

Magic words tickled my ears:

"I would love to bring a container of Angel Hair to give to you next time we meet."

Delivered.

Did I mention that I love Filipino food?

Thursday, February 8, 2024

ReBook: Dreaming Aloud (Heard)



Dreaming Aloud
- The Life and Films of James Cameron -

by
Christopher Heard

Doubleday Canada Limited
1997


***

A few years ago a friend of mine met James Cameron here in Toronto ― it was arranged by a client of ours, a mate of the filmmaker's. Mr Cameron was very cordial and a true gent in giving my buddy, a huge fan, some time. The only disappointing part of the brief talk was when Cameron declined, gently, signing Dreaming Aloud. "I'm sorry, Carl, I can't sign that."

Dreaming Aloud is actually a good book. Christopher Heard comes across as being fair to his subject. It's far from being trash writing even when he does speak of some negatives regarding the 'animated' Canadian filmmaker.

Titanic (1997) was still in production when the book's publisher sent it to the presses, so we are blessedly spared the suffering and grating squeaks of "My Heart Will Go On". Heard would have had to go on about that song, otherwise.

James Cameron is a fascinating filmmaker and man.

Toronto Not as Cold as These Pics






Today: 6 Celsius (43 Fahrenheit)
Tomorrow: 12 (54)
Saturday: 8 (46)

Now: scary

The Mystery Books of Sunday Past (Classics)



This past Sunday, I asked two questions: Two Classic Books Need to Be Revisited

It's been a long time since I first read Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1870) and H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (1898).

Two classic books, deserving of a re-read. First, the Nautilus....

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Two Classic Books Need to Be Revisited

From a book I first read in elementary school, its first sentence....

"The year 1866 was marked by a strange event, an unexplainable occurrence which is undoubtedly still fresh in everyone's memory."


Also from my schoolboy years, a book with a most provocative opening sentence....

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water."


Without Googling, try to identify the above classic books.

As any writing instructor will tell you, you must hook the reader from page one; even better if you can do it from sentence one.

Now, to honour my post's title, I must pick one and dig in; revisit.



Thursday, January 25, 2024

Flash Fiction: Sorry, It's the Robert Bloch in Me

Bobby asked nicely: “Are you done?” All according to plan. Worn work boots dangled fresh laces a metre in front of a slab of meat and bone hooked. Bobby smiled with pride at his work. Its bold statement.


A stylish white-haired lady poured tea into an ornate teacup.

“Ma, I’ve always liked your blend of tea.”

The server smiled. “Oh, Bobby, you were always a sweet boy.” The son sipped, self consciously, as his mother continued: “I was a little worried at first; what you did to those poor little creatures when you were just two really worried me.”

Bobby sipped his hot beverage with more assuredness. “You’re right, Ma. I went on to bigger things.”

Mother had to add “Awww, sweet to the last”. She took a sip then looked concerned, hesitating, unsure if she made English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Orange Pekoe, or… something else.


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The CPC Is Polling High; Next Election is in Oct. 2025

October 19, 2015 (the dispatched: Stephen Harper)
October 21, 2019 (the dispatched: Andrew Scheer)
October 20, 2021 (the dispatched: Erin O'Toole)

The Conservative Party of Canada and its brethren have enjoyed three consecutive losses; losses made more potent when one considers that the Liberal Party of Canada was considered to be vulnerable in the federal elections of 2019 and 2021. The final tally wrote a minority, albeit a healthy minority, in both cases.

What gives? Well, for starters, the CPC giveth away and the LPC taketh away.

Much has been made in some quarters about the fact, and it is an incontrovertible fact, that the Conservatives won more votes.

I make much of the fact, and it is a dirty little fact, that Pierre Trudeau and the Liberals won many many more votes in total than did Joe Clark and his Progressive Conservatives in the 1979 federal election.

Liberals: 4,595,319
Progressive Conservatives: 4,111,606

Guess who became Prime Minister of Canada....



Monday, January 22, 2024

Poem: Scanning Between the Lines (Overscan Set)

The Lines are out of Raster
The Raster is out of Lines

Is gone the picture tube
information in pictures
might reassemble

someplace eclectic
a placement of ideas
and thoughts electric

to home base time correction
no Minow needs
correcting for no reason

but what we
see on
the flat screen

___

2017
Simon St. Laurent

Thursday, January 18, 2024

ReBook: Star Trek - Phase II (Reeves-Stevens)



Star Trek - Phase II
― The Lost Series ―

by
Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Pocket Books
1997


***

There was an almost-filmed Star Trek II television series of 1977. It is also known as "Phase II", its original name. I remember seeing TV Guide's end-of-book yellow teletype page noting that Paramount was to produce a new ST series. This probably would have been early-to-mid 1977. Too bad the property didn't stay on television at that time, instead of going to the big screen. Star Trek works best on television.

The book Star Trek - Phase II is a good overview of the almost-series. Authors Reeves-Stevens are weakest when they editorialize, saying that the show would have failed. I disagree, even if I have the benefit of hindsight: Star Trek: The Next Generation was predicted by many to fail, but it survived. Admittedly, popping it into syndication gave it a little more time and room to breathe and find its place in the universe. Had ST:TNG been a "big three" (ABC, CBS, NBC) show it would have enjoyed a larger budget, but it also would have been more scrutinized ratings-wise. Star Trek II was earmarked as the flagship series for the planned Paramount Television Service, a network, but one on par with a syndication service and a platform that would have provided a comfort zone to its star series. A big reason why I feel that Star Trek II would not have failed: with the exception of Leonard Nimoy's Mr. Spock, since the actor was not interested in reprising his famous role at the time, it featured the original cast of characters. Any reincarnation with that stellar crew would have given the show extra impulse power.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

CD: Time Out (the Dave Brubeck Quartet)



Time Out

by
The Dave Brubeck Quartet

Columbia Records
1992


***

Although I had heard pieces like Blue Rondo à la Turk when I was a teen, it was when I took a course in college called "Great Composers" that I really took notice of master jazz man Dave Brubeck. The course's instructor, American-Canadian composer Michael Horwood, showed the class a documentary on great music through the ages. The segment on Brubeck reeled me in.

Take Five
Kathy's Waltz
Pick Up Sticks

Genius!

The coolest: man, men, and album.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Four Canadian Prime Ministers ― Liberals All



A picture from 1967 featuring Liberal Party of Canada politicians: Pierre Trudeau; John Turner; then prime minister Lester B. Pearson; and Jean Chrétien.

Trudeau, Turner, and Chrétien would become prime ministers of this great country.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Conservatives Know It All, All

After some serious research online as to what makes up a real Conservative, I've come to the conclusion that they possess great knowledge on any number of subjects. Just read the comments below any Twitter (X) posting or newspaper article that invites, begs, an angry right-winger to set the record straight, or to reaffirm what was stated in the 'above', and you'll be impressed.

They are experts on, but not limited to, the following....

History
Geography
The Sciences (don't exist)
Botany
Engineering
Technology
Metallurgy
Oceanography
Sociology
Medicine
Economics
Tectonics
Anthropology
Philology
Liberal Arts (as we all know, only Liberals take "Liberal Arts")
Cognition (?!)


Note: I left out Philosophy as that may invite Semantics; and Pragmatism.