Friday, July 31, 2020

Bold, Italicized, and Underlined

Game of Thrones is over, for the time being. I've heard that many fans are mighty upset at what they perceive to be a lack of quality in the final season.

"Rushed", I've heard a few times.

"Cheesy" is what I thought after I watched an episode on CTV a couple of years ago. (That network experimented with broadcasting a season. Ratings were underwhelming, apparently. Makes sense: the fans had already watched that year on HBO. And downloaded.)

To me, the one I saw looked like it might have been something made by a theatre company that had grabbed a camera and visited an old ruin.

In all fairness, watching one episode, and out of context, is hardly any way to judge an entire series (which I will not bother watching from beginning to end).

There's quite the GofT fan petition going around. It calls for a remount of the show's entire last season.

It's just a TV show. (Bold, italicized, and underlined.)


First posted as "It Is Just...." on May 21, 2019.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Must Be

Summer, 1991.
Ontario Place, Toronto

I walked with a friend whom I'd known since high school. The grounds were flat, concrete based, a parking lot, and there were lots of people strolling in the beautifully warm sunshine.

We heard swearing of a kind commonly associated with foul-mouths. My friend and I stopped chatting and observed as a gaggle of teenagers approached. They were the origin of the profanity, which continued to roll-out in processional pomp as both parties closed the distance. The metal-head black t-shirts were cool and, unfairly perhaps, looked the uniform of the profane. More audible: "F__k (this), F__k (that); F__k!"

The swear squad passed to our right. I turned to my friend and said: "Must be a Yale man."

My buddy, all too well knowing my reference, laughed out loud. (He's a loud laugher.)

As I looked back to my path ahead I noticed a hand-holding, cute older couple who were looking back at me and smiling.

Note: Guns N' Roses was playing that day at the CNE Grandstand....not that that was an indicator of profanity in the park.


First posted as "Thurston Howell's Line for all Time (Profanity Alert)" on April 28, 2019.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

I, Comic?

As modest as I can be, there is only only way to tell this story. It would be easier for me if someone else, a friend perhaps, would write the following. A third person. Easy enough for me to conjure up. But here I go:

I'm funny. At least I can be when I decide to go there. After friends, or those who do not know me, recover, they might say: "You should be at Yuk Yuk's (Comedy Club)"; "You should be doing comedy"....

The problem is, when I get on a roll I don't always know when it's time to stop. Pushing the boundaries. (Sometimes.)

A "comedian" must know when to stop. More importantly. A comedian must know his audience.


First posted as "How Much is Too Funny, Or Not? ("I, Comic") on April 26, 2019.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Innis Town Hall Presents Filmmaker Richard Kerr

Last evening I trotted down to the University of Toronto's Innis Town Hall to take in a screening of Canadian filmmaker/visual-artist Richard Kerr's work. On the bill were: WhollyHolly (7.5 minutes, 2017); Plein Air (20 minutes, 1991); Machine in the Garden (22 minutes, 1991); House Arrest (20 minutes, 2012); and Vesta Lunch (11 minutes, 1978).

It was a mix of spin-o-rama, flash-panning, and peaking....and peeking.

Having seen Vesta Lunch, I have an urge to take in a very special lunch again -- it's been a while. The slimline eatery is still there on the north-east corner of Bathurst and Dupont. (I once had breaky there with friends at 3 o'clock in the morning -- an essential and enjoyable experience.)

It must be said that Mr Kerr is one of the most humble of artists that I've had the pleasure of seeing speak.

The program was part of Ad Hoc Cinema, an experimental film series co-organized and hosted by filmmaker Jim Shedden. Last night was #17 in the ongoing presentations.

Ad Hoc's web page


First posted as "Filmmaker Richard Kerr at Innis Town Hall" on April 1, 2019.

Monday, July 27, 2020

A Forever Question: Cons and Pros

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

Sir. Many Conservatives are pro-life, but would they readily agree to aborting a fetus if it was known to be a future Liberal?

The National Post Post Post

On Thursday last week I picked up a National Post newspaper. Two big surprises awaited me when I took the paper to the clerk:

* The price: $2.50
* The slight paper weight, tied in with the purchase price; which prompted the following after I later unfurled the newsprint: "Two dollars and fifty cents, for this?"

I was a little surprised at the lack of anti-Trudeau print that day. That's right. Postmedia has designated the bulk of its anti-Trudeau fish & chips ink for its certified rag, the Toronto Sun.

How much does the Sun charge at the newsstand?....

(Fit to print: The above all because the newsagent didn't carry the Globe and Mail.)


First posted as "A National Post Newspaper in Actual Paper Form" on March 31, 2019.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Keeping a Logbook for Film Opticals

Above is a half page sample from a logbook I kept when I was an optical printer cameraman/operator at Film Opticals of Canada.

Some details....

"Wetgate S-16": a blow-up from Super 16 to 35mm; in this case, the original camera negative is re-photographed to Kodak Vision 5244 intermediate stock (as an Interpositive, or "I.P.").

"Pack": filters of 5 cyan, 20 magenta, and 70 neutral density ("N.D."). This is the filtration decided upon by earlier "CX" (Cinex) colour testing.

"Cam B/U": Camera blow-up.

"L": Lens at micrometre position 1450
"C": Camera (body) at position 0835
"-20 ND comp": remove 20 worth of Neutral Density filter as compensation for the blow-up position (since the value of the light intensity is lower than it would be at a "normal" one-to-one position).

Of course, any such post-production work is now done on a computer.


First posted as "Film Opticals of Canada Logbook Sample" on March 26, 2019.

The Motion Picture Show

What one calls "going to see a motion picture in a movie theatre":

Going to a....

* "movie"
* "flick"
* "film"
* "picture"

I would have guessed that the designation used would have depended on where one lived -- a regional thing.

Recently I watched an interview with filmmaker Richard Linklater. He made a point to say: "... not, going to 'the movies', but 'the show'." That is how my film-going buddies and I referred to seeing a motion picture at the Terra or Astral theatre.

CFB Borden, Ontario, and "a small town in Texas" are many miles apart but, in the 1970s at least, young denizens of those two towns shared a particular term.


First posted as "The: Pictures; Movies; Flicks...." on March 24, 2019.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Movie Music from Western Times

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The memorable tune emanates from someone's phone.

On that theme: a western movie tune for a phone in waiting.

Pick one (even if there are many more that I am missing).

The Searchers (Steiner)
High Noon (Tiomkin)
Wild Rovers (Goldsmith)
Rio Conchos (Goldsmith)
Once Upon a Time in the West (Morricone)
and, not to forget,
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (same guy)


First posted as "I Know That Western Theme Tune" on March 23, 2019.

Friday, July 24, 2020

On the SNC Affair

On Wednesday I posted two pieces (one, two) about the state of politics here in Canada, both federally and provincially. My focus was on the behaviour of the Conservatives at those two levels of government. An old liberal friend of mine -- liberals since high school -- sent me a charged email, aimed more at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals.

After I read the email I realized it would be a shame to let it stop at my inbox. And. My friend had a career in politics. He has the inside scoop.

With permission from the author....

"Justin fell into the trap that there are anti corruption rules and “rules”. The rules eg: you can’t give bags full of cash to elected and non elected government officials since they are already well compensated and we understand that open bribery undermines democracy. These are the rules that you can not break in Canada, the US, Europe etc where the laws are normally respected.

As for places like Libya, where the SNC affair is centred, don’t really have much in the way of rule of law. The CBC reporter Neil Macdonald wrote a good article explaining how as a reporter you have to bribe every official that you meet to travel anywhere in the Middle East or get anything done at all. The bribe is expected as part of the cost of doing business. To us, it is morally wrong and disgustingly crooked.  That is how Justin’s former Justice minister Jody (a lot of “J’s” being used) saw the SNC dealings with Libyan officials.

Canada, like all true democracies, has the anti bribery laws on the books for corporations. When caught, a deal is usually reached to settle matters out of court. Pay a fine, say sorry and move on. Especially when thousands of jobs in Canada are involved :)

Justin wanted the usual plea bargain, she did not. Well, what do you do?! Enforce the letter of the law like the former Justice minister wanted, after all she was a former Crown prosecutor, or cut a deal and make it all go away.

Every other democracy turns the old blind eye to these when dealing with countries in the Mid East where corruption is part of the daily culture. If she followed the true parliamentary tradition she should have quit cabinet in the first place.

Cabinet solidarity means that if you can’t or won’t back up the PM publicly on an issue, then you must resign cabinet and sit as a backbencher giving up the extra pay and perks.  She only walked when Justin shuffled her out of Justice and she got angry.

Justin now realizes that Prime Ministers can’t always be the nice guy and get everything they want. We both know Pierre knew that :)  I think Justin will learn a lot from this experience and he will be a better leader for it.

As for Queens Park...we lived through this train wreck 20 years ago with Harris and it took ten years after he left office to clean up the mess that he left from all of his wasteful cuts and free handouts to big business."


First posted as "A Response of Note to My Political Pieces of Late" on March 22, 2019.

But a Naked Number

"Statistics are always part of more statistics."

A statistic by itself, removed from context, is but a naked number.


First posted as "Me On Statistics, and More Statistics" on March 16, 2019.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

A Comet Tale

With much of the Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet ordered to stand down for the time being due to two hull-losses seemingly attributable to the same malady, I was reminded of a similar incident from the mid 1950s.

The British de Havilland DH-106 "Comet" was the world's first operational commercial jetliner. It had entered service in 1952 with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation, now British Airways) and things looked good for the revolutionary aircraft. Unfortunately, between May of 1953 and April of 1954, three machines were lost to apparent metal fatigue: two from BOAC and one from South African Airways. The entire Comet fleet was grounded for what turned out to be four years.

What happened in the interval was that William Boeing's company was able to get its own Model 707 jetliner up to speed. Commercial aviation history had been changed.


First posted as "A Twist of Commercial Aviation Fate" on March 13, 2019.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

TIFF's Ten Best Canadian Films

From the Toronto International Film Festival's most recent ranking, from 2015:

1. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)
2. Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)
3. The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
4. Jésus de Montréal (1989)
5. Léolo (1992)
6. Goin' Down the Road (1970)
7. Dead Ringers (1988)
8. C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
9. My Winnipeg (2007)
10. (tie) Stories We Tell (2012)
10. (tie) Les Ordres (1974)

Fine. Dandy.

However, I can't take the list seriously with its two serious omissions:

Starship Invasions (1977)
The Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck (1975)


First posted as "TIFF'S 10 Best Canadian Films" on March 11, 2019.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

American Movie, Twenty-One Years On

American Movie (1999) is one of the great American movies. It's a documentary, but its characters are classic. Perhaps it's not much of an exaggeration to claim that no narrative film scripter could come up with such an absorbing storyline, forge equal pathos, and, again, render a stellar variety of characters in one go.

The picture also acts as a social document, time and place not important. The film's title is part geographic guide. As much as Mark Borchardt, the man who must make a film, alcohol money be damned, speaks of the American dream and its fulfillment, he realizes if not fully accepts its artificiality and irrepressible elusiveness. There's really nothing all-American about American Movie. To achieve artistic recognition is simply a common romantic notion without borders and not one tied specifically to American dreamers. It's a story about people....of Everytown of Anyplace. Borchardt's drive and ultimate prize, that of getting his film finished and exhibited, are a mark of his character, not of geography. After all, beer is available all over.

The labour-intensiveness of making motion pictures is such that those without a modicum of confidence and drive could more easily sit in the easy chair to watch someone else's filmmaking.

Borchardt finishes his film and presents it to a seemingly enthusiastic audience. He did it.

Much credit to American Movie's success must go to filmmakers Chris Smith and Sarah Price for being there for the man with a plan; the story was told whether someone was there to capture it on film or not. How many Borchardts, Mike Schanks, and Uncle Bills were lucky, or unlucky, enough to have been recorded for the big and small screen, not to mention the public record? Smith and Price had to assemble their footage, seventy hours worth according to them, but the selection of scenes and the reveals within show storytelling prowess. Perhaps the storyline here was inevitable. The documentary filmmakers just had to chip away at the marble. It really was a case of showing up.

American Movie is a precious document.

A question to wrap: With the ubiquitous digital filmmaking tools of today, are there even more Mark Borchardts? (Perseverance and dedication are digital-free.)


First posted as "American Movie, Twenty Years On" on March 7, 2019.

Monday, July 20, 2020

A Forever Question: Dishes

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

Sir. Would not "put food on the table" work better as "put food on the plate"?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

When There's No 'Vision', Throw in a Song

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.


First posted as "'Just Throw a Song in There" on February 23, 2019.

A Tale of Two Soyuz

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.


First posted as "'Four in the Cosmos' - Soviet Space Program Short" on February 22, 2019.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Uncle Who?

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


First posted as "Mark Kermode's Picks for Best Picture Oscars" on February 18, 2019.

Boomer of a Cat


First posted as "Toronto's Coolest Cats: Boomy" on February 18, 2019.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Bob the Cat Remembered

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.)


First posted as "A Cat Scratch Fever Film Review" on February 13, 2019.

From Beautiful Downtown Barrie, Ontario....

When I was in film school in the mid-eighties a television series ran which was "all the rage". A fellow classmate said: "It's really stylish." That's how I first heard about it.

Miami Vice was cool, smooth, and stylish. Not so much that I was compelled to watch it on a regular basis, but it was not of the usual TV drama fare at the time -- 1984 -- and different certainly from any other cop show. And it made stars of Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas.

It was also influential.

On the southern Ontario, Canada, front in 1985 came Bay City Beat. Produced out of the facilities of CKVR television in Barrie, it was decidedly low grade -- and shot on videotape. With friends I sat and watched one episode. There was no need to do any more time. The acting was earnest but the scripting was poor. The series leads spilled monologues and most of the time, it seemed, sat at desks; and talked on the telephone. That's what I remember most.

I ask: Does anyone else in the neighbourhood remember Bay City Beat?


First posted as "Remembering 'Bay City Beat'" on January 31, 2019.

Toronto Star Photographer Visits Desilu Stage 10

Reg Innell was a photographer who worked for the Toronto Star. His assignment in June of 1966 was to visit Desilu Studios stages 9 and 10 (now Paramount 31 and 32) and cover two Canadian actors who were starring in a new science fiction dramatic television series. We now know those actors: William Shatner and the late James Doohan. And the show: Star Trek.

After Innell's death last year his negatives were donated to the paper, and were rediscovered by Toronto Star video producer Kelsey Wilson.

As was the case with anybody who visited the Star Trek stages before the show had even aired, they had no idea what would become of the show in the years to come.

The episode in production when Mr Innell visited Desilu's Stage 10: "The Man Trap"


First posted as "Toronto Star Photos Taken on the Set of Star Trek" on January 12, 2019.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

It's a Beautiful Day


First posted as "Artwork: Morning Meeting" on January 18, 2019.

Note on the U.S. Constitution

From Robert A. Dahl's How Democratic Is the American Constitution?, a sampling of the book's Introduction:

"And if our constitution is as good as most Americans think it is, why haven't other democratic countries copied it? As we'll see . . . every other advanced democratic country has adopted a constitutional system very different from ours. Why?"

That's one heck of a hook.


First posted as "From the Bookshelf: On the U.S. Constitution" on January 22, 2019.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

I Painted This in January of 2019 for the Year 2020


First posted as "Artwork: Shakin' Life's 'Stuff'" on January 8, 2019.

Film for Musique Concrète

In late 1987 I was commissioned by American-Canadian composer Michael Horwood to make an experimental film to run with his musique concrète piece, "Motility".

The following April a dual performance took place at Music Gallery on Queen Street West, here in Toronto, as part of a series titled "Electro Village".

Soon I hope to undertake a restoration of the 44 minute film, and possibly do a George Lucas: add layers and elements that weren't there before. (The difference being that I will offer a high-quality original version along with the new.)

"Simon St. Laurent was born in Barrie [sic], and met Horwood while taking the latter's music elective during his film studies at Humber College. What clicked between the two was St. Laurent's intense interest in the importance of the music/sound relationship to film. St. Laurent studied film and video techniques with Robert Bocking and Patrick Kearney. Besides directing and art directing TV commercials, St. Laurent has recently done set design for Graveyard Shift (released in the U.S. and England) and art direction for Dark Side, both independently produced films. Motility marks his first collaboration with Horwood."


First posted as "My Bio for a Music Gallery Programme" on January 5, 2019.

There Was a Guy Named Vader at Lucas' High School

Above, the Ballantine's Illustrated History of World War II book, "Spitfire". Authored by John Vader, the book fell into my lap in or around the year 1973. At the time I no doubt thought that "Vader" had an interesting ring to it. (It sounded mean. "Viper." "Adder.")

When Star Wars came along in 1977, a gentleman by the name of Darth Vader hit the marketplace.

Darth piloted a TIE fighter; John flew a "Spit".


First posted as "Vader Was a Known Surname Before Darth" on January 4, 2019.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Film & Television Designers Club

Over the next few weeks I plan to render three sets of designs in the style of three film and television designers whose works I admire.

They are:

Jack Shampan
Keith Wilson
Walter M. Jefferies

Each had a unique style. I will try to imitate all three, but, of course, whatever I come up with will remain my own. I have my own style, as I should.

These gents I learned of through their work on:

Jack Shampan -- The Prisoner (1967 - 1968)
Keith Wilson -- Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977)
Walter "Matt" Jefferies -- Star Trek (1966 - 1969)

All three designers are deceased but their respective works survive in cinematographic form. Mr Shampan art directed several feature films in addition to working in television; Wilson was employed mainly in television; and "Uncle Matt" started with the big screen but enjoyed a long career on the small, including a relative lifetime on Little House on the Prairie.

I smell paint....


First posted as "Film/TV Designers Times Three" on December 29, 2018.

In Search of: Found!

After I posted last Sunday's "Sunday Fun" piece, "in Search of..." (1977 - 1982) Titles, I got the urge to check out the series I hardly watched.

Picked Three:

"Haunted Palaces"

What impressed me most was the difference in styles between subject matters. "Bigfoot" was the way I remember the show being; a bit of this and a bit of that. The other two episodes took approaches befitting the material: "Haunted Palaces", lots of atmosphere; "Ghosts", a ghost hunter investigates, and this becomes the episode's narrative drive.

The question I ask myself is this: Why did I ignore in Search of... when it originally aired? Did it have to become a piece of nostalgia though reputation for me to become intrigued?...something to search for?...


First posted as "Searching for 'In Search of...'" on December 22, 2018.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Time Warp Back to CKVR TV Schedule

CKVR was a progressive television station.


The summer of 1979 was late night excitement in Barrie, Ontario, and surrounding area as "VR" ran old television series' discarded by the passage of time: Boston Blackie (1951 - 1952); Biff Baker, U.S.A. (1952 - 1954); The Outer Limits (1963 - 1965); and many more. The framework for these programs was titled "Summer Cine".

Unfortunately I have no promotional material from "Summer Cine", but I do have some from CKVR's 1992 programming year. The summer framework read as must-see: "Time Warp Television." Sparkling from within the schedule were shows of note: Perry Mason; Addams FamilyVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea; I Love Lucy; Star Trek; Mary Tyler Moore; and on....

Into the Fall of 1992....


First posted as "CKVR 'Time Warp Television' & Fall Schedule 1992" on December 22, 2018.

A Forever Question: Fuel Cells

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

Sir. Are hatred and anger perpetual motion machines?

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Film: My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea

We've heard it said before: "When I see a movie, I want to be entertained."

One man's entertainment is another man's trip to the beer fridge.

This past weekend I watched a film which entertained me: much of its entertainment value came from the fact that it was different. I enjoyed its differences. My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea was it for 75 minutes.

What is the premise of this animated film from 2016? Besides homages to Irwin Allen's 1972 adventure film The Poseidon Adventure, which is a big part of Sinking's vertical drive, and William Golding's classic novel "Lord of the Flies", it's a potpourri of colour, texture, pop culture, psychology, and sociology. That might be the premise.

The characters were voiced by several name actors (like Jason Schwartzman, Susan Sarandon, and Maya Rudolph) but that was not important. After I got immersed into the story I didn't really care that Ms Sarandon spoke for "Lunch Lady Lorraine".

I just cared to be entertained.


First posted as "My Entire High School Sinking is Entertainment" on December 18, 2018.

Toronto Star Film Critic Peter Howell on 2001 in 50

Peter Howell is one of Toronto's finer film critics. I sense he's also a film nerd, something I've long felt isn't necessary when reviewing the motion picture form -- film to film. A more reasonable approach might be to have your average newspaper's food and art critics team up and decide what does and what doesn't work on the silver screen.

2001: A Space Odyssey is, to this food and art critic, one of the great pieces of cinema. Mr Howell feels the same way, as he's noted a few times in his column over the years. "50 things you probably didn't know about 2001: A Space Odyssey", his latest piece about Stanley Kubrick's space and humanity opus, is something to behold.

Ranking "the top films" from 1 to 10 feels goofy to me. While it's fun to list what you think are cinema's greatest, the idea of picking an exact order from such a large litter is ultimately an exercise in futility. I have a hard enough time ordering a burger and fries.


First posted as "Toronto Star Film Critic Peter Howell's 2001 in 50" on December 16, 2018.

Dope Sheet for Optical Effects (Photographic Effects)

I've posted a few times on this blog about my unfinished symphony: a 35mm short film titled Hyper-Reality. Above is a optical printing layout sheet I made in order to shoot some test sections for the film's opening title sequence.

At Film Opticals of Canada Ltd I worked as an optical printer/camera operator. For most jobs the standard procedure was the layout guys would draw up the "dope sheets" (a blueprint of sorts), but for my own film I did the pencil work myself.

The film print (struck from the camera negative) would be laced-up on the front projector, with the raw stock loaded into the Oxberry camera.

Date: don't look too closely.
Camera #: the Oxberry model 1200 optical printer
Lab: Deluxe; formerly on Adelaide Street West, here in Toronto
Stock: Eastman Kodak emulsion 5248 (perfect for shooting a test sequence, as that stock produces a negative with a resulting positive print)


First posted as "'Hyper-Reality' Optical Printing Dope Sheet" on December 15, 2018.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

A Throne Room Set Starts With a Sketch

The above sketch came about after discussing a script I was in the process of writing with a friend. I designed the set with a tight budget in mind; the walls are modular in concept, with the flats interchangeable. The idea is the set would not be built as a complete structure but would be assembled as a portion to suit a given scene, with the rest filled out on the computer. Technology allows one to do more set and scenery for a lot less money. A good example is the current television series Game of Thrones.


First posted as "Film Design: Throne Room Concept Thumbnails" on December 14, 2018.

Beauty Is....

What is beauty but a mirror outside?


First posted as "What is Beauty?" on December 7, 2018.

Friday, July 10, 2020

On Coronation Street

That television devil made me turn on the "tube" last evening.

CBC: On it was old dependable itself, Coronation Street.

A courtroom scene. Another bleedin' courtroom scene.

Every time I pop on "The Street", which isn't very often, but often enough to provide me with core samples, there is a hospital, a courtroom, or a police scene. Are the show's producers and writers that short of ideas? (Reminder: "Working class folk.")

I had to get that out of my system. My bacon, bangers, and eggs are ready....


First posted as "Yesterday's News on Coronation Street" on December 4, 2018.

A Soyuz Way Up

Early today rose Soyuz MS-11.


First posted as "Soyuz Brilliance Up and Away" on December 3, 2018.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Plato's Stepchildren Out of Control

Much has been made of television's "first interracial kiss": the 1968 Star Trek episode "Plato's Stepchildren" featured a memorable moment with Captain James T. Kirk and Lt. Uhura locked in an embrace ending in an intergalactic kiss. This non regulation act was forced by the planet's inhabitants, the Platonians (cool name), and was not voluntary in the traditional sense.

In all archival honesty, "it" was not exactly television's first example of an interracial smooch; several others preceded it, but those instances have been lost to time and space.

Here's the breakdown....

The Platonians force some match-ups: While Kirk and Uhura dance into position, Chapel and Spock are seated and ready to interact. "Interspecies Kiss"?

The lull before the storm.

"Plato's Stepchildren" is not a good episode of Star Trek. "Bad"? As a friend said to me years ago: "It's like they had a cool set and came up with a story to use it."


First posted as "Fifty Years Ago There Was a Kiss...." on December 1, 2018.

Canadian Television Commercials, Bad

Television commercials I generally tune out, much like the programs that frame them, but here's something I noticed a long time ago: TV adverts made in the States seem, at least to this non-believer, to be far superior to those made here in (Toronto) Canada. Why is that?

A few years ago I got a first hand polling result while sitting in a diner. I faced away from the wall-mounted television set but two gentlemen, who sat apart and apparently did not know one another, enjoyed their respective plates while taking in programming from an American network: Commotion, commotion from the CRT; laughter; I looked over to the two viewers; one guy said to the other, "American commercials are so much better", to which the other readily agreed.

We Canadians do not produce stupid people who cannot tell an entertaining story -- look at James Cameron, for one -- but we just cannot make good television commercials. (I exempt Public Service Announcements, and the like.)


First posted as "U.S. Television Commercials Far Superior" on November 28, 2018.

Avatar / Ratava

James Cameron has finished principal photography on two of his long-awaited Avatar sequels? This I learned from an article in today's edition of The Guardian:

Steve Rose on film - Avatar
Break out the blue paint! Will James Cameron’s Avatar sequel tank?

Avatar did not impress me when I saw it in underwhelming and dim 3D at the Scotiabank Theatre here in Toronto, so my anticipation for more Avatar is 1D.

James Cameron's highly successful first in a now chain gang is the most recent narrative film I've seen in a movie house. Did he take the popcorn out of my movies? Perhaps not, but he took the money out of my wallet and gave back to me 162 minutes that I'll never get back.

Thanks for your enlightening piece, Mr Rose.

Good honest cynicism. Very refreshing.

But you're right. We cannot count Cameron out.


First posted as "Avatar, I Call You Over" on November 26, 2018.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Bunch Up!

Riders of mass transit systems know about "bunching". No bus for many minutes; then two or more buses all at once; then another multi-minute wait. Fine. It's the big city, after all. Traffic jams are worse; which, of course, can contribute to transit bus bunching.

There's another kind of bunching, which is avoidable: buses that speed and tailgate a lead bus so they don't have to pick up riders. Same goes for streetcars. A few years ago I found myself standing beside a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) inspector while I stirred my coffee in a King Street coffee shop. While chatting with the gentleman I mentioned this curious transit malady. He said: "(The drivers) are supposed to be self-governing." I asked if they all do. He just shook his head gently from side to side.

We think we might have bad bunching at times here in Toronto. As I read this morning in the Boston Globe, it's a big problem in that town.


First posted as "Thanks a Bunch" on November 26, 2018.

Those Pesky Status Liberals Live On

In today's Toronto Sun: A headline to a letter to the editor reads as follows....


I had "Status Liberals"? Did you, dear reader?

Remember the Status Liberals. May they live on in our memories....


First posted as "Status Liberals, In Memoriam" on November 25, 2018.