Sunday, December 31, 2017

Saturday, December 30, 2017

I Missed the Return of Death Probe

News this past week of actor Heather Menzies' passing made me think of the science fiction television series Logan's Run. Even though I had seen her in 1965's mega-hit musical feature film The Sound of Music, it was in that television show that I took note of her. Then I remembered that I almost never watched it; when I did, it was in a casual way, unfocused and in little bits. (At the time I felt the series never lived up to its potential.) I ignored Logan's run simply because I was growing out of watching television as appointment television.

When does one slow down on watching television? I'm speaking of American prime time dramatic programs -- or sitcoms, which I almost never watched. Even with the litany of kids' things many of us in that time of our lives still managed to clock a lot of TV. But the ritual stops as we discover other things on our road to maturation. Or whatever.

I started to drift away in my mid to late teens. For example, this once regular viewer of The Six Million Dollar Man didn't watch the show's fifth and final season (1977 - 1978). I remember popping down and into the rec room one evening to grab a book from the bookcase and caught my siblings watching the follow-up episode to "Death Probe": "Return of the Death Probe." I turned to them and said, "you're still watching this?". Their even more youthful faces than my own beamed enjoyment. There on the television rolled what appeared to be an armoured go-kart, somewhat like the first model.

An admission: I enjoyed "Death Probe", even if it featured a cruder version of machine compared to the sequel vehicle of destruction. This then youth knew the Death Probe concept was rubbish, but, as was the case with more than a few Six Million episodes, there was a fun comic book vibe to "Death Probe".

But, my times were changing.

One day in 1995 I got a nasty wake-up call. A few of my coworkers emoted shocks and 'tears' as they recounted the latest episodes of Chicago Hope and ER. I stood in awe and bemusement as my mug of coffee got cold.

"Death Probe", first or second story, started to sound appealing.

Friday, December 29, 2017

My Father's Crewmates on Lancasters

A few weeks ago I awoke to an email from a contact of mine in England. He emailed me with some interesting news. I was moved.

Very soon I will post a piece with more detail.

For now, here is a listing of the Royal Air Force No. 626 Squadron crew in question:

Pilot Officer A R Screen - RAF - Pilot
Flying Officer R J Lovell - RCAF - Navigator
Warrant Officer E A Ellum - RAF - Wireless Operator
Flying Officer D H Mitchell - RCAF - Bomb Aimer
Sergeant W R Bradley - RAF - Flight Engineer
Sergeant H W St. Laurent - RCAF - Mid-Upper Gunner
Sergeant C Rodger - RCAF - Rear Gunner

Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Dunkirk" Beached

Two days ago I got around to watching the 2017 Christopher Nolan "epic", Dunkirk. Generally I was unimpressed.

While watching the film I got the impression that director Nolan did not know his story, or he lost it during the production or editing phase.

There is some parallel cutting that, while fine on its own as an exercise, adds little to the greater narrative.

There are some interesting bits -- like an appreciation of a fighter-plane's loitering time, and what happens when a ship sinks -- but the film as a whole flies over what happened on that beach. Where are all the ships and aircraft? And soldiers?

By the way, Junkers 87s did not release their bombs like that. They were dive bombers. Also, level bombers could not hit ships with the frequency depicted in the film.

The various characters read and resonate as real people -- Nolan has stated that he wanted to render a documentary feeling. There's a downside. As is so often the case with war films -- men in matching uniforms and haircuts -- it's sometimes hard for the audience to keep track of and quickly identify the characters.

One thing I particularly liked about Dunkirk was the casting of appropriate-age actors. Those guys were young. My dad was a teenager when he flew on Lancasters with RAF Bomber Command.

Dunkirk could have been a great film. Perhaps someone should try again with Dunkerque.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Memories: Warping Backward in Time

Christmas is great when you're a kid. This morning I thought about my favourite memories. Quickly I nailed one: 1970.

(After reading that, pretend you have a faulty memory. "He posted about the Christmas of nineteen-ninety.")

My favourite present that year was the AMT "Star Trek U.S.S. Enterprise Space Ship Model Kit".

(Star Trek was sparking hot. The series had finished its NBC network run only eighteen months earlier. Toronto television station CFTO was running/stripping the episodes at 5pm on weekdays.)

It was not a simple plastic model kit as it was "lighted". Small light bulbs, included in the box, could be inserted into the top and bottom of the primary hull (the saucer-shaped portion) and at the front-ends of the engine nacelles (those long tubes). The former were capped by green-tinted discs, and the latter were topped-off by amber-tinted domes. My mother helped me with the wiring and the insertion of the lamps' power source: a D-cell, not included with the kit, sat in the secondary hull (the bottom tube-like section).

Building a model kit is fun, but seeing the completed AMT U.S.S. Enterprise suspended from my bedroom ceiling was a trip, and it looked great with the bedroom light off.

I remember something else from Christmas Day 1970. My dad was in the process of carving the turkey when he looked over at the Zenith television: "I'm surprised this is on today." (The episode was "The Return of the Archons".)

Fond Christmas memories.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Friend's Interesting Advice

A friend of mine in Germany emailed me some interesting, and perhaps sage, advice. He asked me if an acquaintance of ours is still thinking about relocating and expanding his company. I responded by saying "no"; my buddy said this:

"Sometimes staying is better than going forward into the wrong direction."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

So....What's With So?

There's a curious manner of answer I first noticed a few years ago. When there is a question and answer, as in a host and guest on a radio or television public affairs program or talk show, the answer to the question often starts with a simple word: "So." It's used as some kind of punctuation, but without emotion. A lead-in to a complex answer, or a simple one.

The guest or interview subject can be young or old, man or woman.

HOST: Is this your first published book?
GUEST: So....

HOST: Do you think society as a whole can be a contributing factor, can be held accountable to some degree, for this ill?
GUEST: So....

HOST: Are the Toronto Maple Leafs doomed to fail every year?
GUEST: So....

Now that I think about it, I have my own story on "so".

ME: Would you like to get down and boogie, tear up the dance floor?


Friday, December 22, 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Film Design: Bar Set Under Construction

The Hyper-Reality script called for a bar, a "hangout" for the four young police officers. I designed it in the style of a standing set that you might see in an old cop show.

What starts as a rough sketch ends up in the studio as a fully realized set -- it's a rewarding experience.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A MInor Art

I'm amused by the focus on "film". While I'm the first to say it's an art, to me it's a minor one.

Painting, sculpture, music, literature, and architecture are from the Majors; the big leagues. Film (movies and television) can include elements from the group, but the mix more often than not is a palatable mess. Too often fast food and soda pop.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Stories from a Poor Man's Jean Shephard

While listening to the radio yesterday I heard a piece about whether or not it's cool to let the little ones open their gifts the night before Christmas. This reminded me of my childhood in then West Germany.

As is the tradition in that great nation, opening the boxes and wrappings is done the night before. A then little one, me, not only did not complain but decided then that Germany is one great nation. I remember well one Christmas where our landlord and his wife came up to say hi and to present us with presents. I remember mine: a Matchbox toy of an early 20th century automobile.

Roll back a few years to my first Christmas in Germany. Santa Claus back in 1960s Deutschland was not a big thing -- if you'll pardon the expression. Saint Nick, however, was. Well, let me tell you what that man did to this then five year old. I remember being summoned by my parents to the entry way of our apartment. Standing beside the door was a tall figure, a woman (probably a teenager), dressed up in full Saint Nick attire. My mother said "look dear" as she pointed at my shoes which were parked neatly on the mat. I saw it, an inanimate thing in one of my shoes....a lump of coal. ("Noooo!") I, dressed fashionably in what some crude folks might refer to as a "wife-beater shirt", held both hands up to my face and started crying. My parents laughed. It was not funny.

Monday, December 18, 2017

"Downsview Park" TTC Subway Station

Yesterday I visited one of the new Toronto Transit Commission subway stations. I was very impressed, especially so when I boarded the train from there to come back home and was met by a good-sized crowd.

When I get some time I'm going to travel back on that new subway extension and produce a photo essay on its six new stations.