Thursday, February 28, 2019

Ontario's Top Rat City

The news is out about Toronto ranking a prestigious number one in the province: most rats.

As far as I know, Toronto may have a high population of cats: put them to work. Throw in a few mean cats: queens.

Let's stir things up.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Nerd Night Love Fest

Tomorrow evening at the Tranzac Club, here in Toronto: Nerd Nite Love Fest

Talk # 1:
Love sucks: how leeches became the world’s most formidable blood feeders
by University of Toronto professor Sebastian Kvist

Talk # 2:
Unbreakable Toys Are Good for Breaking Other Toys: A Star Wars Story (Also a Lego story, a GI Joe Story…)
by Toronto-based writer Gary Hilson

Admission: $10 at the door.
Doors open at 7pm.
Nite begins at 7:30pm.
Thursday February 28th at Tranzac Club.

Tranzac Club
292 Brunswick Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5S 2M7

Some Strange Force Awakened Me

On Sunday I mentioned here about making my way through Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- at that point to the 77 minute mark. I kept my mouth shut at the time, but the reality is I had a bad feeling about it.

Last night I pushed my way right through to 127 minutes. My cut out happened when I heard a baton waving over the end credits.

What a load of rubbish. With a lame villain and a skiff-full of flat characters. (A trash compactor?) I knew they were Star Wars characters because their cute little outfits said so.

By the way, the actress who played Rey had a bad habit of glancing at the camera lens.

Han Solo gets offed. That I did not know. I got the feeling it was done to shock the audience rather than with any regard or plan for the greater franchise story arc.

Guys. It's a lightsaber, not a hand phaser.

In my previous piece I noted that TFA feels like an "elaborate fan film". A friend told me afterward that he thought my point was a good one. Seeing the (off) balance of the flick last night convinced me my friend is right.

I'm now done with Star Wars. I was done with it during a DVD's opening crawl of 1999's Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but I slipped a little bit. However, the franchise will continue on without my interest. My advice: Get an intellectual director in there. The fanboy (sounds like) baggage has to go.

"If we can destroy the oscillator, it might destabilize the core and cripple the weapon." Oh, please, show me how!

(Forgot to mention: Many Sarcasticans died to bring us that review.)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Is It That Rare a Disease?

An advert pops up on the television. One for "rare diseases". "One in twelve Canadians suffers from a rare disease."

I did not know that.

Is "diarrhea of the mouth (or keyboard)" a rare disease?

Monday, February 25, 2019

A Forever Question: A Business Matter

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

Sir. Why isn't every man called a "business man"?

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Oscars are on Television This Evening?

Last night I watched the first 77 minutes of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I needed a force just to keep me awake.

My biggest takeaway from what I've seen thus far of TFA: It feels like an elaborate fan film.

I've heard Roma is very good. Whether it wins the Best Picture or not is irrelevant to me. I get the impression it "thinks".

Saturday, February 23, 2019

"Just Throw a Song in There"

An old friend of mine told me yesterday that songs are often used as "scoring" in drama series television today. I don't watch much in the way of TV programming but even I've noticed that lazy (and cheap) trend.

As my buddy states: "... a lot of TV shows now like to throw in an original contemporary song (probably over a closing montage of characters opening lockers, sitting in cars, looking in on patients, and so on.)"

Brilliant filmmaking.

Friday, February 22, 2019

"Four in the Cosmos" - Soviet Space Program Short

Studying up on the Soviet space program is one of my research pleasures. The above 20 minute film from 1969 is a fine if unrevealing motion picture document on the Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 orbital docking from January that year.

Used to good effect is Georgy Sviridov's brilliant orchestral piece, "Time, Forward!", originally composed for a film of the same name just four years earlier but already finding a life outside its original intent. (It rolls with driving steel works machinery rhythms similar in collective spirit to those of Alexander Mosolov's 1927 piece, "Iron Foundry".)

My Russian is non-existent, so I asked a Russian friend of mine to translate the screen chatter in basic terms: He said that nothing much is revealed; in particular, the voice-over is a "near-to-empty official story of the flight"; nothing to give anything away. (Not advertised was Soyuz 5's bumpy return to Earth.)

As short-form filmmaking, Four in the Cosmos is effective and at times almost poetic.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Stirling Silliphant on Writing (and Writing)

"The secret to writing is to write, write, write and then write some more, and then write some more."

I heeded that advice very early: When I was around six years of age I wrote a story about Kaiser Wilhelm II piloting a BlĂ©riot aeroplane. It was a short piece; and funny, if my parents' reaction was any indicator. (It may have been due to my inspired "mashup".)

Monday, February 18, 2019

Mark Kermode's Picks for Best Picture Oscars

British film critic Mark Kermode is charged. And pleasantly opinionated. His opinions on pictures are not run-of-the-mill, nor predictable. He's one of the more interesting film critics out there.

His article for the Guardian newspaper is interesting to me in that I have zero-cola interest in the Oscars and what wins "Best Picture" for any given year. As evidenced in the piece when Mr Kermode reveals that Steven Spielberg's 1982 tear-jerker ET the Extra-Terrestrial did not win the top pick during the 1983 Oscar ceremonies. I had just assumed that it won.

For all my claimed and projected ambivalence about the Oscars, I agree with him on Vertigo and 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Nine films that should have won best picture at the Oscars - The Academy’s biggest oversights and most controversial choices from nine decades of ceremonies

Toronto's Coolest Cats: Boomy

A Forever Question: Double What?

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

Sir. Why is a "W" instead not called a "double vee"?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sunday Fun: The Kids in the Hall Opening

Front of house admission: I never found The Kids in the Hall particularly funny -- what I saw of it. Not so for some friends of mine when the show originally ran (1989 - 1995). "Did you see the Kids last night?..."

A coproduction of the CBC and HBO, the shows were recorded live-to-tape in front of a studio audience here in Toronto. Some segments, generally location shoots, were produced on 16mm film. Torontonians will readily recognize locations done for the opening title sequence.

The show's major exec was none other than Saturday Night Live's Lorne Michaels, who also functioned as fellow Canadian to the Kids: Dave Foley; Kevin McDonald; Mark McKinney; Bruce McCulloch; and Scott Thompson (to me the funniest of the bunch).

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Re Designing Set Sketches for Graveyard Shift

Graveyard Shift, a Canadian horror film released in 1987 (but shot in late 1985), has a bit of a following. I get the impression it has a few fans in France. Over the last few years I've written the occasional piece on my involvement with the film that bears no relation in any way to the Stephen King novel.

From January 15, 2017:

Film Design: Set Concepts for "Graveyard Shift"

Several times on this blog I have posted pieces about my involvement with the 1987 Canadian horror film Graveyard Shift.

Graveyard Shift

My Old Sketchbook: Forest Lawn Cemetery

The drawings above are of several I rendered in order to find a design for the film's featured mausoleum/cemetery set. As the film was of a very low budget (approximately $150,000 in 1985, probably around 2 million in today's production dollars), I had to strike a balance between something that took up some space but not too much space -- the bigger the structure the higher the cost.

What I chose as a final was a blend between drawing numbers three and four. The bottom one would have taken up "too much space".

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Vic Fedeli's Inability

An open question:

Why does the current Minister of Finance of Ontario not answer a direct question? Vic Fedeli, the right hand puppet of Ontario premier Doug Ford, resorts to slogans when 'answering' simple, easy to understand, honest questions from top-notch journalists.

Steve Paikin of TVO's The Agenda had a good one for the minister. Not a direct answer was heard. Paikin asked again. The same non-answer. A slogan. ("Fifteen billion!")

Cynthia Mulligan of CityNews asked Fedeli a question yesterday during a news conference. One would expect an answer, but Ms Mulligan got none. "You didn't answer my question." The Minister of Nothing Much gave the same sloganized response ("Twenty-three thousand!"), then walked from the podium. A job well done.

Ontario's Conservative government is demonstrating how it's done. Funny, considering they keep reminding us, over and over again, how dishonest the previous Liberal government was.

Ya get what'ya pay for, folks!

It May Be The Dreariest of Team Sports (To Me)


While not "basketball tall" I've long been asked if I've played that display which some call a sport. In elementary school, phys ed involved tossing the odd game of nonsense. My sportsbrain, what there is of it, has no interest in dribbling and dunking. Admittedly this may be attributable to my inability to walk and bounce a ball. As any basketball fan or player can tell you, ya kinda gotta be able to do both simultaneously if you wanna play, never mind excel, on the court.

Speaking of "court".

For some of us, watching that sport is perhaps best summed-up by paraphrasing U.S. Justice Frank H. Easterbrook:

"Many things—beating with a rubber truncheon, water torture, electric shock, basketball game broadcasts, incessant noise, reruns of Space: 1999—may cause agony as they occur... "

The joke is a Canadian invented basketball.

The Toronto Raptors basketball team has a strong following in this city.

What the heck: Go Raptors!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Toronto Sun Columnists' Hard Day's Work

(pic of Justin Trudeau) PRUTSCHI: An entrenched habit of manipulating the course of justice

(pic of Trudeau) LILLEY: Trudeau needs to take off the gag

(pic of Trudeau) GOLDSTEIN: Trudeau’s deficit pledges were a fiscal fantasy

(pic of Trudeau) GUNTER: Trudeau promised no legislative ‘tricks’, so what’s this?

(pic of Trudeau) MALLOUGH: Small businesses will be footing carbon tax bill

The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, like most politicians, is not perfect, but my sympathies go to the miserable souls at that 'paper'.

A Cat Scratch Fever Film Review

Full disclosure: I love cats.

A few evenings ago I watched a British flick from 2016 called A Street Cat Named Bob.

Just about any film featuring, or co-starring, a furry London street denizen cannot be appraised by me with any clear and uncontaminated scratch. (I give paws.)

"It was great!"

A sweet film, directed by veteran Roger Spottiswoode, and based on a book of the same name by James Bowen about his experiences with drug addiction, street life, recuperation, and a ginger cat, Bob goes for the heartstrings -- certainly those of cat lovers.

Bob played himself. A fine little actor. (A Method actor, no doubt. He's a cat.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Bilge Ebiri on Making That First Feature Film

"Indeed, sometimes it takes that psychological shift -- to stop dreaming of the day when you're going to be a filmmaker and to start calling yourself one -- to actually get the motivation going. In early 2001, I woke up one morning, after having a particularly miserable couple of months, and said, 'Fuck this. It's time to make the first one'. I told everyone I knew that I was going to make a feature film -- just so that I would be held to it, so that I couldn't weasel my way out of it."

For some, it takes an electrical charge to get them going that would have fried Frankenstein's monster.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Joe Schlesinger (1928 - 2019)

I just heard the news that veteran journalist Joe Schlesinger passed away today. He was 90.

Not only did he have that great accent, but he flowered an abundance of gravitas when he reported on various issues. Somewhere in my VHS collection/archives I have a one-hour story he did in 1995 on a certain language issue. The piece was fair and balanced and capped with a tempered and reasoned "in all good time".

Mr Schlesinger's passing reminded me of a story I've been meaning to post on another outstanding Canadian journalist: Michael Maclear. He died on Christmas day last year.

Two greats gone in just a few months.

A Forever Question: Doing One's Job

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

Sir. Why should showing up on time not be the easiest part of any job?

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Rebekah Wise Song "Slipping Away"

Yesterday I posted a story about my singer/songwriter niece, Rebekah Wise. Above is another song from a family member with a nice voice.

(When I sing I'm often mistaken for Ethel Merman.)

Artwork Reprint: Flukey the Flower's Encroachment

Tickle My Funny Bone

A friend told me that he decided to take a stroll through Toronto's lovely Mount Pleasant Cemetery this week. While whistling as he walked, he came across something (kinda) scary.

He noticed what appeared to be a dog up ahead, which was quickly joined by "his friend". Quickly my buddy realized that they were not dogs, but two "large" coyotes....and not the Wile E. Coyote kind.

I like to laugh. This set me off: "... and I was 20 minutes away from the exit."

(Post Script: My humourist friend is from the southern United States. He relocated here a few years ago. He knows coyotes.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Auston Matthews Signs a Five Year Contract...

... with the Toronto Maple Leafs. My question: Why? I'm guessing he wants to win a Stanley Cup while he's in his prime playing years. (Matthews is 21.) Why stay with Toronto?

The good news, for him at least, is he'll make 11.634 million (U.S.) dollars per year for the next five.

All while the Leafs continue to skate in their void....

Niagara Falls: People Observing the Falls

Monday, February 4, 2019

A Forever Question: A People Race

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

Sir. With Facebook celebrating its 15th anniversary, can we now call its users a race of people?