Saturday, December 31, 2016

Four by Three: Noodle Soup

Four by Three: Coffee Missing

Four by Three: He Saw What?

Suspect Video and Culture (1991-2017)

I first heard about Suspect Video and Culture in September of 1991, a month after the store first opened.

Included in the news given to me by a friend was the prompt to go there since Suspect has an eclectic collection. (I like films off the beaten tape path.)

Toronto's home-video scene was changed forever by the opening of this outstanding store.

Soon after I met Suspect's owners, two personable and knowledgeable guys who I would get to know over years of regular visits: Luis Ceriz and Merrill Shapiro. One of my fondest memories is from 1993: I brought the guys a box of donuts one day; Luis held an extra powdery baked treat as he showed me the store's biker-gang video selection.

I popped in to see the store today. It will close for good in about two weeks. (Honest Ed's, the building which Suspect rents space in, closed today.)

Twenty-five years.

Honest Ed's (1948-2016)

My first visit to Toronto's famous discount store Honest Ed's was in 1984. Soon after moving to the city, I made a trip as a starving student. It made some sense.

Today, thirty-two years later, Honest Ed's opened for the last time. (A stinky condo complex will probably be erected in its place.)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Brat Pack

Soon I will add more 'brat' postings, my stories of growing up in a military family.

Since the first of the few was filed more than a year ago I thought I should pack them here for easier viewing. (Click on the "In this episode" link.)

Notes from a Dependent Brat: CF-104 "Starfighter"
In this episode:
A young man learns just how loud the CF-104 Starfighter is, especially when there are five of them, flying just metres above.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (From a Dependent Brat)
In this episode:
A pint-sized cineaste learns about the 'ratings system'.

Notes from a Brat: On and Off the Ice
In this episode:
A little creep must show the world how smart he is.

Next week, on Notes from a Dependent Brat....

"Goin' Fishin'!"
A bunch of pocket fishermen decide to drop their strings in a local creek. Hilarity ensues when their mothers find out....

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Shoot the . . . Puck!

My late RCAF father had a way with words, especially when it came to his favourite sport. Watching the third period of tonight's NHL matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs reminded me of his choice of words and their unique phrasing.

(Profanity Alert.)

Even though the Pens nullified the Leafs, there was a moment when they not only controlled the play, they over-controlled the puck:

"Shoot the puck! Shoot the god damn puck! Jesus Christ, man."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Does the Average Canadian Care About Remembrance?

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.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day 2016 Introspection

While watching a telly piece a few minutes ago regarding today's U.S. presidential election, I thought:

"Clinton will win, without question....but you never know."

There's "reality" and there's "irreality". And we'll know the answer to that tomorrow morning.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Notes From a Brat: On and Off the Ice

Forty-two odd years later I must come clean:

Dyte Hall was our local hockey rink when my family lived at CFB Borden. Along with the Andy Anderson Arena, the Hall, a large brown-brick structure, one which may or may not have been a purpose-built building, was the place where my ice hockey career began and ended. It was there where I scored my few goals and let in more than a few goals (my team was a bad one). On weekends I would often saunter over and catch whatever ice hockey action was on tap; at times my favourite sport was not on the schedule ("Broomball? No!").

One of my strongest memories of the hall, besides Nancy Getty blowing a puck by me as we attempted to thwart a girls' team, is of schoolmate Mike Walker skating across the ice between the face off circles in front of my goal and delivering one of his wicked slap shots: I caught the puck in the fore of my right arm, right at the joint, effectively doing my job; unfortunately, the disc of smokin' rubber struck the seam in my protective equipment, rendering my catchers' mitt useless as it dangled beneath my now powerless arm. ("Systems Failure!") However, by shifting my hips I could get some life out of the glove. Thankfully the power loss lasted just a few seconds. A most memorable Sunday afternoon.

The most powerful memory for me of Dyte Hall did not happen on the ice:

The Base Borden Minor Hockey Association held a fundraiser one lovely weekend; one could buy a series pass in order to take in all the games, or single tickets. Since one of my friends had a pass, I decided there was an effective way to maximize its potential. My friends and I gathered in front of Dyte Hall and I, on the spot, hatched a plan:

"Okay guys, this is what we'll do.... (inaudible)."

Fade to black.

As 'author' I initiated the devious cycle. With pass in hand I somewhat apprehensively and self consciously approached the ticket table. There was no problem in executing my plan; the pleasant ladies smiled and said "thank you". Once safely through the checkpoint I made for the mens' room and passed the pass through the opened window to one of my waiting buddies outside.

Repeat once, then:

Norman was next in line; as per the by now perfected routine he entered the special transfer room and proceeded to hand off the pass. Guess who decided to relieve himself at that guessed it: Norm's dad! A man born and bred in England could only say one thing after quickly figuring out what sneaky and reprehensible act played out before him: (Something like) "You little bastard."

Needless to say I "heard" about it all afterwards, and Norm, being the son of a Brit in the Canadian Armed Forces, no doubt "got it" afterwards.

You must not forget, dear reader, that although the punchline did not involve me directly, I'm the fellow who drew up the plan. I was, as Wally Cleaver may have stated, the "little creep!".

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Human Nature and Remembrance Day

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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween

There is a move by many Canadian police forces to paint their new cruisers a Number 7 grey. It looks to me like this is being done to render the vehicles as bad-ass to regular citizens. (Adam West, as Batman: "Citizen!")

No doubt these creepy cruisers are meant to intimidate. Police vehicles for a battlefield....

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Scoring Air Force One?

Donald J. Trump, White House hopeful, often uses the theme music to the mundane 1997 Harrison Ford-staffed "thriller" Air Force One when marking his return to the mortals.

Composed by the late, great Jerry Goldsmith, this fitting music for a president has been used for years now by the Detroit Red Wings hockey club for their home-game player introductions. However, Mr Trump feels he is more worthy to be blessed by its triumphant and patriotic proclamations -- in this case, "great leader of the free world".

Mr Goldsmith's tune takes flight as the orchestra's brass section calls a Copland-style curtain raiser, then floats with Elgar-like pomp. Many Trump faithful have said that when the grand man descends from the sky, or rolls into town, and the moving march belts from the rally loudspeakers, they turn to tears. It's possible the seemingly simple Donald has revealed just how powerful the Air Force One theme actually is when used in a proper context: That of the great leader dropping from the clouds in his flying machine (or tricycle) to stir his followers.

It is a marvellous piece of stirring music. Trump or no Trump.

There is one fly in the ointment, however: Gail Katz, producer of the film, is not impressed by the music's skyjacking for pseudo-political uses; presumably, neither is the Goldsmith estate.

If Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wins the election on November 8th, and this outcome does look likely at this point, to introduce her victory speech she should play the theme to Air Force One. Really loud!

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Great Quote From a Filmmaker

Robert Rodriguez, maker of such films as El Mariachi and Sin City, dispensed one of my favourite bits of advice regarding the "biz":

"Trust me, there are extreme benefits to being able to walk into this business and be completely self-sufficient. It scares people. Be scary."

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Baden-Baden, West Germany, Guidebook (circa 1970)

Baden-Baden, Germany, is beautiful. It was near that historic town where I spent four years of my childhood and the memories are strong, especially when I look at pictures in this guidebook from the time I was there.

Welcome to Baden-Baden in Der Schwarzwald, and these sample pages:

The photo immediately above is of the Rastatt pool. It is where my swimming skills were fine tuned by my swim coach mother. The pool complex was, and still is, I'm sure, a great place. (If the kid who stole my Fina swim ring reads this he should feel bad. At least he had the courtesy to replace my new one with his old one.)

The racetrack above is in Iffezheim and it's just a few minutes' walk from where I lived. Not only did I see a few horse races at the track, but there was a smashup derby held one night by we Canadians which was a lot of fun. (Cars smashed up, not horses.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

National Aeronautical Collection Guide (circa 1970)

I love aircraft. Growing up on and around military airbases tends to make one interested in the subject of aviation in a small or big way. Check out these samples below from the archival guidebook for the National Aeronautical Collection (based in Ottawa, Canada).

Post script: The museum is now called the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Star Trek Premiered on NBC 50 Years Ago Today

I'm old enough to have remembered Star Trek first airing but I must have missed it. Maybe my parents saw the trailer on CTV for the opening episode, "The Man Trap", and its great and scary monster, and made the decision to make sure I missed it.

The charade had to last but a few weeks: In October we left for West Germany, and I don't remember ZDF, ARD, or the French channels, running the program. (However, I did watch the telefantasy series' Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Invaders, and The Prisoner on French television. I've since learned that the French like 'spacey' stuff.)

Trivia: CTV (Canadian Television) actually opened the series two days before NBC, on September 6, 1966, effectively the "world premiere".

I first saw Star Trek in June of 1970. My British cousins were watching it on BBC2 -- in colour -- and I joined them in silence while visiting. (I remember the episode being "A Taste of Armageddon"; it has a strong visual identity, like so many of its fellow eps, which makes for easy identification later on.)

Back here in Canada, CTV's flagship station, CFTO, began its long run of "stripping" Star Trek. In September of 1970 a regular Monday to Friday at 5 p.m. screening schedule started the magic for many of us. What is this exciting, striking, beautiful, and colourful show?, I must have pondered at the beginning as I got lost in Trek's vortex. This was a communal experience for many viewers, for in the syndication market it was a true "water cooler", certainly "water fountain", show.

Maybe I'll actually get Star Trek on home-vid someday. A good friend of mine was surprised recently to learn that I don't have the series stored in any form: "You don't even have it as downloads?"; to which I responded with, "I don't like it that much!" (so I claimed).

How many dramatic television programs are, or will be, remembered fifty years after they hit the airwaves?

A book from my youth:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Labour Day; Ontario Style

Today's special significance reminds me of how pay has not kept up with inflation.

Here's my story: After I finished high school I scored a nice job at Canadian General Electric. I say "nice" as the pay was eight dollars per hour; my dad laughed when I told him the rate of remuneration. Even though I long had plans to go on to post secondary education, the idea of getting a good paying job the summer after graduating from high school was appealing to me. (I should note that that pay rate was for a relief worker, which is what I was to CGE.)

Here's the rub. I checked the Bank of Canada's 'cost of living' website and used its onboard conversion calculator. That eight dollars in 1981 is the equivalent of twenty dollars in today's currency.

Now, where am I going with this?

Next time you chat with a recent high school graduate, ask them what kind of pay they've been offered in their quest for a summer job; if they can even get a summer job. I'm amazed at how many young people I meet who cannot get work for the summer. They have to take volunteer work just so they have something for the resume. (Volunteer work is valued, of course, but paid gigs are nice, especially in anticipation of moving on to university or community college.)

My first summer here in Toronto was in 1985, and jobs were aplenty back then. I had two offers; I just took the first one that came along.

Just as insidious are the "staffing agencies". Companies pay them about 17/18 dollars per hour, per person, and the agency turns around and pays the worker minimum wage. (The adult rate in Ontario is $11.25 per hour. Do the math.)

It's all about keeping people poor. It's also artificial and unnecessary. These companies have to be regulated and bound with restrictions as to how much they can "skim". (Governments won't make a move because they don't care about the working poor.)

Yes, Labour Day. We have a long way to go, baby; or, even better, we have a long way to go back. Baby.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Sketch of Early 'Graveyard Shift' Design Text

Lately I've concentrated on posting samples from my recently rediscovered sketchbook. Upon leafing through the somewhat yellowed document I came across a neatly folded piece of lined writing paper:

It is a page I scribbled early in the production of the old Canadian horror film Graveyard Shift, in which I had the role of set designer. The main set, the only one, really, was of a graveyard featured as part of a music video within a film. I also illustrated some "wild" flats which appeared in a party scene.

I blogged about my role previously, here. The experience was a good one. Everything counts.

Here, in the picture below, are some bits I noodled in late September or early October of 1985:

"Jerry" refers to the film's director, Jerry Ciccoritti. "Gilda" is, I'm sure I'm not remembering this correctly, the main vampire lady.

The list of cemeteries is something I listed since I wanted to check out the real thing in preparation of my mausoleum design; a structure which would be central to the music video's graveyard set. Examples of the resulting sketches are posted here and here.

I've long been fascinated by the creative process; even my own. The above examples demonstrate how a first meeting leads to the completed job.

Check out a post I did on a contact sheet of photos I took of the completed graveyard set.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Toronto Cult Film & Video Festival (1992) Schedule

October 24, 1992

7:00 pm -- I Hate Your Guts -- Director: Roger Corman
9:00 pm -- Bust a Move -- Julian Grant
11:00 pm -- Nekromantik 1 -- Jörg Buttgereit

October 25, 1992

7:00 pm -- Black Sunday -- Mario Bava
9:00 pm -- Dracula (Spanish version) -- George Melford
11:00 pm -- Scum of the Earth -- Herschell Gordon Lewis

October 26, 1992

7:00 pm -- Fugitive Girls -- A.C. Stephen
9:00 pm -- The Sensuous Wife -- Joseph F. Robertson
11:00 pm -- The Love Feast -- Joseph F. Robertson

October 27, 1992

7:00 pm -- The Last Pogo -- Colin Brunton
9:00 pm -- Not Dead Yet -- Ruth Taylor
11:00 pm -- No Skin Off My Ass -- Bruce LaBruce

October 28, 1992

7:00 pm -- Satan's Bed -- Unknown
9:00 pm -- Der Todesking -- Jörg Buttgereit
11:00 pm -- Forbidden Zone -- Richard Elfman

October 29, 1992

7:00 pm -- Teenagers from Outer Space -- Tom Graeff
9:00 pm -- Five Minutes to Live -- Bill Karn
11:00 pm -- Deadbeat at Dawn -- Jim Van Bebber

October 30, 1992

7:00 pm -- Short Attention Span Theatre -- Various
9:00 pm -- Nekromantik 2 -- Jörg Buttgereit
11:00 pm -- Homicidal -- William Castle

October 31, 1992

7:00 pm -- Satan's Sadists -- Al Adamson
9:00 pm -- Amodeo Bingo Martyr -- Steve DiMarco
11:00 pm -- Nash the Slash: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari -- Robert Wiene
12:00 am -- Rocky Horror -- Jim Sharman


Yesterday I posted the above guide's cover.