Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The King's Depths

Introduction: The following piece I wrote on October 6th, but after completing it, and just before pressing the "upload" button, it struck me as being in bad taste given what little we knew of the U.S. president's overall condition at that time....

U.S. President Donald J. Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Medical Center on Friday, not after already being tested and confirmed as COVID-19 positive, but after feeling unwell throughout the night. He was advised to seek serious medical treatment, immediately. The president has long downplayed the severity of the virus, and has ignored the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans. Deaths but a little inconvenient: for him, and for the people who've died. Yesterday he exited Walter Reed and took a joy ride in his armoured vehicle to show his faithful, who stood outside with their banners of support and reaffirmation, that the king had beaten the unseen and not-real plague.

Later in the day Trump went home triumphantly to the White House and waved with laboured breath to the crowd. All was good again in the Great Kingdom.

If this were a Brothers Grimm story, how might it end? Most of us would not wish something like this on Mr Trump, but, given his mean nature toward his fellow man and woman, one can have fun with a fanciful tale....

"King Trump, while dining late one night on food fit for kings, felt a great disturbance in his belly and breast, a rumbling of which he recalled from days and nights before. He sweated all over, and he gasped for life. His minions rushed him to the town's physicians, who, with armour and tools, battled for him through the night, only to lose the king of kings in the darkness.

His faithful villagers did not fret for long at the sight of their immobile once-proud King. They ate him all up."

Post Script: I understand that this tale is even darker in the original German.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Movie Admission: It's No End of the Line

Going through the archives uncovers interesting bits from one's past. The above is my admission ticket to a standout film from 2006's TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) event:

End of the Line

Talented Montreal-based filmmaker Maurice Devereaux had made a few feature length films, but End is his best, a summit of sorts; a horror film of some real horror.

The screening I attended at the now-gone Cumberland 3 cinema caused some serious audience jumps. I remember having a smile on my face at times. A smile brought on by a film made out-of-pocket by a dedicated Canadian filmmaker who showed his Hollywood big brothers how it's done -- big budget not needed. Without studio-mandated script notes to get in the way, End of the Line pleases through singular vision.

Two people in my immediate circle of friends have a copy of the flick on DVD. I'm guessing home video sales were good.

Joe Kubert Original Panel Art (1963)

 A friend of mine is a comic book collector and no minor authority on the subject as a whole. Last summer he asked me to take some snaps of three panels of original art from Our Army At War, a comic book anthology series that ran from 1952 to 1977.

The three pics below are from issue 133, published in August of 1963, and feature the fine artwork of Joe Kubert (and the story script of Robert Kanigher).

From top to bottom: pages 11, 12, 13.

As of this writing, these panels are on auction. ("Six thousand dollars?! I'm in the wrong business.")

Monday, December 28, 2020

Picturing: A Flowery Moon (Toronto Tonight)

A Forever Question: Two Words in One!

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

Sir. What does "alot" mean?

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Picturing: Late Sunday Afternoon Moon (Toronto)

Football Gives the Boot to Ice Hockey

While working away here at home I'm running Premier League football matches. The one playing right now features Liverpool F.C. and West Brom. (Liverpool is leading 1 to 0 at about the 40 minute mark.)

My football streaming habit is changing me.

Courtesy of there are sports of all kinds. But ice hockey, my "absolute favourite team sport", has been taking a hit. I can no longer watch it. One of my teachers in art school was a Brit; a lady from London. She said to the class one day, something off the topic of artistic rendering: "No team sport is as exciting as ice hockey."

But I'm losing to football.

I wouldn't care if the NHL (National Hockey League) folded. Actually, for me, that league, with its dinky-sized ice surface and its predilection for fistfights, cannot compare with international or Olympic ice hockey. Yeah, the good ol' NHL game. Many times I've heard people say, "I can't stand the fighting". Not often have I seen football players duking is out. They know they're playing on the pitch, not the playground.

Back to the match....

Sunday Fun: The Interns Intro (1970) Repeat

How I discovered The Interns I do not remember, but I do remember making sure I caught the CBS medical show every week on the Sony black-and-white portable upstairs. To this then young one the subject matter was adult at times -- there was an intense episode which featured a prison -- but for some strange reason I could handle the material, even if no doubt I did not always understand it.

Seeing this intro brought back the memories, sometimes in "chill" form. I remembered so much of it, especially the climactic bit where the intrepid young medics run into Broderick Crawford.

The cast: Mr Highway Patrol, of course; Christopher Stone; Stephen Brooks; Hal Frederick; Sandy Smith; Mike Farrell; and Skip Homeier. (Even then I was familiar with some of these actors as I had seen them in other television series'.)

The Interns and I enjoyed just one season.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Friday, December 25, 2020

A Christmas of Fifty Years Ago (From 3 Years Ago)

Christmas sure 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.

The Merriest of Days - In Moderation

Goes nicely with a little chocolate - in moderation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Corona Christmas Time (The Loveys)

My brother Peter is a talented singer/songwriter. It runs in the blood. When I was about 12 years of age I cowrote a catchy little ditty. I find myself humming it even today, at times. Three years ago I wrote another song, more a fragment, to celebrate a certain bliss.

Now to the show:

Peter wrote "Corona Christmas Time" (an Official COVID Christmas Song) for his group The Loveys.

If you listen to it and think he's a John Lennon fan, you are not imagining anything.

Oh: The lyrics are pretty biting. Good!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Book: The Twilight Zone (Grams)

The Twilight Zone
- Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic -

Written by
Martin Grams, Jr.

OTR Publishing, LLC  2014

Monday, December 21, 2020

David Beckham on Life and Living

"I respect all religions, but I'm not a deeply religious person. But I try and live life in the right way, respecting other people. I wasn't brought up in a religious way, but I believe there's something out there that looks after you."

Yeah, in my case, my accountant.

George Takei on Life and Living

"I intend to live life, not just exist."

Unfortunately, for a lot of people it's too easy to just exist.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Picturing: CN Tower Today

Sunday Fun: Fawlty Towers Opening


When I hear Mr Fawlty's name called by his trouser-wearing wife, Sybil, I know I've checked into the right hotel.

Like many great concepts, Fawlty Towers was inspired by a real-life equivalent. In the early 1970s the Monty Python gang checked in for three weeks at the Gleneagles Hotel, in Torquay, Devon (England), an establishment owned and 'operated' by a Mister Donald Sinclair. What the gang could not help but notice and ignore was their host's eccentric and irrational quirks: inhospitable behaviour. His guests, his lifeblood, seemed to annoy him to no end by way of existing in one of his suites and periodically in his dining area (and holding one's knife and fork in the wrong hands).

Springboard to a brilliant series. A one of a kind.

The sitcom, a form I generally despise, was created by former Python but always funny John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth (who onscreen would play hotel assistant Polly Sherman).

The always dependable hotel staff provided a steady stream of laughs.

John Cleese played Basil to such perfection that one might think that the actor had a little "Basil" in him. His childish rants and meltdowns were something to behold. Sybil could cut him to pieces, reminding him that he's her husband, not her very young son. "My little nest of vipers" was one of many retorts to his ruling wife; under his breath retorts were about the best he could do.

Manuel, performed to legend by German-born actor Andrew Sachs, was the inn's Spanish waiter. His understanding of the English language was but a step above my understanding of French. One can imagine the potential for errors when diners would place their orders. Basil would sometimes discipline him with a simple cuff to the head. Funny, but not funny, but hilarious.

"He's from Barcelona." Could a television series get away with lines like that today?

Imagine a show today placing an order for an episode like "The Germans". (Nein!) Actually, some furor was generated earlier this year when that classic, and very funny, episode was pulled from the BBC-owned platform UKTV. Imagine. The horror of comedy! The episode was almost immediately returned to the shelf for regular viewing.

By the way, Fawtly Towers lasted just 12 episodes; not through cancellation by BBC2, but due to Mr Cleese's understanding that there is such thing as a series overstaying its welcome.

"Go away."

Friday, December 18, 2020

Paperwork Today Told Me Something

Christmas is a week from today. How did it sneak up on us like that? The good news for me is I don't celebrate it. Ebenezer Scrooge I am not, just conservative. This year is a different case, so a plan to get to together with friends and family at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub will have to be cancelled.

I'm not a big drinker, but the Plan-B will consist of a short walk to my local Wine Rack -- the one on Bloor Street, not the one on my wall.

Video discs! On my shelf are a few movies and television series in DVD and Blu-ray form. Perhaps it's time to slip in that disc of Radio Days. That's a nice warm movie for Christmas Day. Now that I think about it... Eraserhead.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra Does The Planets

For me, February 25th, 1989, involved having a pretty wonderful time at Roy Thomson Hall here in Toronto. With friends I went to see conductor Andrew Davis' return to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for a special concert. A fine double feature:

Gustav Holst's "The Planets"

Raymond Luedeke's "Tales of the Netsilik -- for orchestra and narrator"

I had heard "The Planets" many times before this night, but hearing it performed live made me appreciate the stellar work even more -- the choral section was absolutely heavenly! (Even considering the then crappy acoustics at RTH.)

Canadian Broadcaster Peter Gzowski told tales as narrator: his familiar voice, at least to CBC Radio listeners, complemented the material, his relaxed style most fitting.

One of my concert-mates said something interesting as we rose from our seats: "I liked the second one more."

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Newsflash: I Watched Newsmax (Yikes)

Earlier this evening I popped on YouTube and noticed something interesting: Newsmax was streaming live. Great. That's the news service that defeated man Donald Trump has switched to. (How dare Fox News "call" the election's winner! Even if it is a long tradition.)

Commercial: Some sporty-looking dude walks towards the camera: "They're everywhere! Liberal Democrats!" (Oh, no. That can't be good.)

Back to Newsmax. "Spicer & Co." Oh, yes. That guy. He's talking: "communism", "socialism". Someone should ask Sean Spicer to explain to his audience what those terms mean. (Does he even know?)

Lots of smirks.

There's a panel discussion. Key phrase: "Traditional American Values."

My takeaway?....Extreme bitterness that Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden.

Too slow. Before I could sign off, another commercial: "Freedom versus socialism!" (Cue Carl Stalling: "That's all, folks!")

Any Given Sunday Promo Mug (1999)

Tico Romao, a fine "independent film scholar" who I follow on Twitter, tweeted out something this morning about the 1999 Oliver Stone football-themed flick Any Given Sunday. I decided to pull out the above little item, a promotional mug, for a promotional shot.

My response to the tweet....

I was sitting in a [Toronto] pub with friends one night when a gent came around and gave us yellow plastic promotional mugs. I still have it. Works well as a pencil holder.

Unfortunately the promotional gesture didn't get me to see the film. (Football. No thanks.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Word of the Day, Week, Month, Year:


Book: The U-Boat Wars (Terraine)

The U-Boat Wars
- 1916-1945 -

Written by
John Terraine 

 An Owl Book, 1990

Book: U-Boat Ace (Vause)

U-Boat Ace
- Inside Hitler's Deadly Submarine Fleet -
(The Story of Wolfgang Lüth)

Written by
Jordan Vause

St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1990

Monday, December 14, 2020

Book: From the Atelier Tovar (Maddin)

From the Atelier Tovar: Selected Writings

Written by
Guy Maddin

Coach House Books, 1999

A Forever Question: A Load Of

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

Sir. Why are some beans jumpy?

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday Fun: Amazing Stories Opening

And then, disappointment set in. I had by September of 1985 long abandoned watching television, but Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories brought me back through curiosity, more than any expectations of seeing something amazing. Exactly one year before the series premiered on NBC, I heard the news on my radio. The super film director was moving to television.

The super film director should have stayed away.

The good news for me was I did not stick with this thoroughly unamazing show. The bad news for NBC was they had committed to a two-season run.

Joseph McBride spends a few pages in his outstanding book, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, on the trials and tribulations of making a television series with a larger than usual built-in audience. Film scripter Bob Gale is quoted as saying something which, to me, serves to sum up the problems with Amazing Stories. Something like: "(Instead of putting so much emphasis on casting name directors) they should have come up with good scripts, then [emphasis his] searched for directors."

Final note: John Williams' signature theme music was wildly inappropriate; which probably did not help matters. His tune was grand, romantic, and charged with a sense of wonder: things all but missing in the following twenty-three minutes.

Turned to a Football Match Lately

In typical me fashion, I turned on a streamed football match right at half-time. Tottenham leads Crystal Palace by 1 to 0 (nil). The other note I must make is it seems that whenever I flip to a game in progress, Tottenham is ahead -- I'm watching a lot of Tottenham matches.

The second half is starting. Can Harry Kane and Son Heung-min (and their teammates, they mustn't be forgotten) push the lead through to victory?

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Anonymous On Television Today

"Television is better than ever."

TV addicts say that.

Film Design: Corridor Rough

A corridor starts to take shape; a colour scheme will be added. Once approved, construction drawings will begin.

Film Design: Corridor Concepts

Corridor concept sketches, or noodles, lead to refined drawings. Once these are approved, construction drawings are made so the set building crew can work their magic.

I was inspired here by designer Jack Shampan's work on The Prisoner (1967 - 1968).

Film Design: Protective Utility Vest

During a script meeting for a so far unrealized project, I sketched the above. As I've noted here before, visualizing can help the writing process.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Book: Star Trek Creator (Alexander)

Star Trek Creator
- The Authorized Biography of Gene Roddenberry -

Written by
David Alexander

ROC, 1994

Book: Gene Roddenberry (Engel)

Gene Roddenberry
- The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek -

Written by
Joel Engel

Virgin Books, 1995

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Book: Captain Quirk (Hauck)

Captain Quirk
- The Unauthorized Biography of William Shatner -

Written by
Dennis William Hauck

Pinnacle Books, 1995

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Transition to Digital (Post Card from Toronto, 1999)

Optical & Digital Effects

2D/3D animation & compositing
titles - blow-ups - anamorphic

Life Before This, Highlander III, The Sweet HereAfter,
Pilgrim, The Hanging Garden, Felicia's Journey, Beefcake,
Barenaked Ladies in America, G2 (Time Warrior), Bliss,
Better Than Chocolate, American Psycho, Space Fury,
The Five Senses, The Highwayman, Jesus of Montreal

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Picturing: At the Big O (Olympic Stadium, Montreal)

Note: I had forgotten about that neck warmer. It's long gone.

December 8, 1980

Beatle John Lennon died forty years ago, today. He was murdered by an obsessive fan. I find it odd that this "fan" didn't seem to find his hero's message of peace and love.

December 8, 1980. I was in high school. That morning, as most mornings, I had Barrie radio station CKBB blaring from my Sanyo. The news came on with the top story.

My appreciation for the Beatles came a little later, but I well understood that super group and who John Lennon was and what he stood for. It seems so long ago....but like yesterday.

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Forever Question: Violence Is Violence

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

Sir. Why do humans enjoy hurting other beings?

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Sunday Fun: Project U.F.O. Opening (Repeat)

A "mid-season replacement" series, Project U.F.O. satiated those viewers who were into tales of space visitors. The NBC series premiered in February of 1978 to some fanfare, and I was there.

Project U.F.O. was a Jack Webb production, and to make sure there was no mistake who was behind this series, the man himself narrated the opening titles with his trademarked voice and authoritative, and dry as toast, diction.

A typical episode featured stars William Jordan and Caskey Swaim (or the second season's Edward Winter) investigating a UFO sighting. Over the television hour the U.S. Air Force's intrepid special team would interview each individual, who in turn, would recount their story of the event; in Rashomon-like fashion, but without outright contradiction (they did witness something not of this Earth, after all), we'd see essentially the same sequence but with variations based on that person's perspective.

Now that I think about it, the show could be dull at times, even if stories of Unidentified Flying Objects were "in" back then. (Keep in mind that Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind had been released just a few months before Project hit the airwaves....hoping to catch the wave.)

The final episode of Project U.F.O. landed in July of 1979.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Tim Horton's New Coffee Cup Lid Stares

Today I treated myself to a Tim Horton's coffee. As I went to open the little gate I could not help but notice the creepy face. Some people might be freaked out by that image.

"No way am I kissing that guy!"

"Stop looking at me like that!"

Friday, December 4, 2020

Notes From a Brat: On and Off the Ice (Repeat)

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 men's 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!".

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Thanks to Our Men and Women of the C.A.F.

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked in his recent tweet:

Many of our @CanadianForces members will be working hard to keep us safe over the holidays - and that means they won't be able to go home. To say thanks and to let them know you're thinking of them, send them a card:

Any CAF Member
PO Box 5004 Stn Forces
Belleville, ON
K8N 5W6

I did. This is an important gesture, especially for me as I come from a military family and hold our members of the Canadian Armed Forces in the highest regard.

Monday, November 30, 2020

A Forever Question: They Are Just Words

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

Sir. Must one's dear have antlers?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Match Points - Chelsea vs Tottenham

Chelsea F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur F.C. are playing. The score is nil nil, or, as we say over on this side of the pond, "nothing nothing". We're now approaching the 90 minute mark....

Hotspur has been hot and alive this year. I'm more of a Man City fan, but I hope the best for Tottenham and its loyal fans.

Speaking of hot: a friend took the lead today when he made a comment in an e-mail to me that made my day....

"... like you say, better to make something at any scale rather than remake the big stuff over and over. I really want to recruit some hot girl to be sent back in time, seduce George Lucas in university, and saddle him with two kids so he has to go get a job and never make Star Wars. We'd all be better off."

(As another friend of mine might quip right now: "Now do Star Trek....")