Friday, April 30, 2021

St. Laurent Cine on YouTube

Earlier this week I uploaded two videos to my new YouTube channel. My Contractual Obligation and April Snow Flash! are short-short films from my "a Bit Short" series.

YouTube does not allow one to personalize one's URL unless there are at least 1000 (one thousand) subscribers.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Bit Short: My Contractual Obligation Film

Like any good rock or pop star who "owes" a record company an album in order to run-out or fulfill a contract, I produced the above video to fulfill a contract, of sorts, with myself.

I have a bad habit of juggling too many projects. "Video" is now on that list. More to come, soon...

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Bit Short: April Snow Flash!

On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, Toronto received flashings of snow. On the second day, I captured a few minutes worth of footage for posterity.

While rare, April blankets of white have blessed Toronto's freshly green spring pastures. I remember April of 1975.

While I write this, there is rain and thunder, with flashes of lightning....

Monday, April 26, 2021

A Forever Question: The Ballad of Rocket Robin Hood

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

Sir. Good or bad, what is most memorable, the bad or the good?

Friday, April 23, 2021

Karel Zeman on Delighting the Audience Within

"I'm on a journey to discover the beauty of the fairy tale and I want to stay on that path, trying to find better ways to capture it on film. And I have only one wish — to delight the eyes and heart of every child."

That he did!

Karel Zeman on Artistic Creation

"For an artist there is no more serious and, at the same time, more joyous task than to create, through art, a new aesthetic, and ultimately, a new way of being."

Perfect. Great filmmaker.

Monday, April 19, 2021

A Forever Question: Star Fields

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

Sir. Did video kill the television star?

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sloganation (Repeat)

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford is looking to take the big prize come election time (on June 7th) -- if current polls are predictive.

I'm not against a change of government in the great Canadian province of Ontario, but....

Here we go: A government built of slogans; just what this large and complicated province needs.

* "The taxpayers of Ontario!"
* "Lower taxes!"
* "Stop the gravy train!"

... and possibly my favourite:

"Make this province great again!"

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Cosmonauts and Korolev

In today's edition of the BBC's online page comes a story about the USSR's earliest cosmonauts, and the engineering geniuses who launched them into space, and returned them safely to Earth.

The piece is a fine overview of the Soviet space program's first successes, and, just as importantly, it makes a point to highlight the contributions of Chief Designer Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, a man whose identity was kept secret for years.

On Monday I wrote about Yuri Gagarin and his Vostok 1 spacecraft. That flight marked man's first space trip. My fascination with the Soviet side of all things cosmos continues....

by Richard Hollingham

The Soviet Union did not have many of the same technological advances enjoyed by NASA – but that didn’t stop them leaping ahead of the Americans into space. Here’s how.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Apollo 13 - 51 Years Ago Now

Iffezheim, West Germany - April 14, 1970

"Simon, wake up....Apollo Thirteen's in trouble; they're coming back."

Quickly I awoke and began to process startling data inputted before my internal processors were at peak efficiency.

Over the course of getting ready for school I learned exactly what was known at that point from listening to the CFB Baden-Soellingen radio news. There had been an explosion on-board the Apollo 13 spacecraft's Service Module nullifying any chance of carrying out the latest mission to land two men on the moon. Now it was a matter of survival as electrical and environmental systems were quickly depleting. The third manned moon landing would have to wait.

When I arrived at the base's elementary school the talk on the playground was, no surprise, about the top news story. We were all space-race/moonshot kids so any developments of importance, especially those regarding the now troubled Apollo 13 mission, were a big deal.

Into Mrs. Quance's classroom: Through some process of elimination I was picked to stand before the class and update eager and smiling kids on the morning's most current affair. For valid reasons, I'm sure, I was considered to be the resident Jules Bergman: The red cue light came on and the floor director gave me the big signal. ("This is fun.")

The following few days were tense. We all 'prayed' for the safe return of American astronauts James Lovell, John "Jack" Swigert, and Fred Haise to the protective wrap of Earth.

In an age when the moniker of "hero" is thrown about constantly and unconsciously, for me real heroes are guys like the above. (Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard would be at the top of my space-traveller-as-hero list.)

Success came after much difficult work, which included constant calculations and recalculations, by the brilliant men and women at NASA and beyond, and by the astronauts themselves. The Apollo 13 Command Module (the capsule) splashed down onto the South Pacific Ocean on April 17th, 1970.

A couple of months ago I watched a documentary that did a fine job of retelling the tale, and after being refreshed by details and personal reminiscences from those involved with the near-tragic flight, I was moved by archival footage of the space capsule hanging from its cluster of three parachutes. Maybe part of the effect was from being taken back to a memorable moment of my childhood.


Originally posted on April 17, 2016 as "Apollo 13 - 46 Years Ago Now".

Monday, April 12, 2021

Yuri Gagarin!

This space cadet had momentarily forgotten that today is the 60th anniversary of Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's historic space flight. The twenty-seven year old's one-orbit mission on Vostok 1 made him a name the world over. The news of a man travelling in space was exciting to this planet's masses, but it left many Americans stunned that such a "backwards" country could achieve such a feat and be the first to do so.

Not so backwards, after all.

First off, guidance control was so sophisticated that Gagarin's flight was totally automated, from the launch of the R-7 rocket to the cosmonaut's ejection after the capsule re-entered the Earth's atmosphere. The mission was controlled from the ground, with the space pilot having the option of taking over flight systems only if the need arose.

For all its successes, the Vostok 1 flight was not trouble-free. The scariest part for Gagarin was when the retaining straps holding his spherical capsule to the service module did not completely disconnect before the re-entry phase. The whole unwieldy vehicle tumbled wildly. The man on the ride thought the end was near. Luck, destiny, or some other force, eventually took control of the mission: Vostok 1 re-oriented itself into a proper descent attitude after the intense heat of atmospheric re-entry burned off the 'recalcitrant' metal strap.

Man and spacecraft did not land together on USSR soil for purely technical reasons, as a soft landing had not yet been perfected by the Soviet engineers. The only way to ensure complete success, not to mention comfort, was to have the cosmonaut land via parachute away from his capsule. By the way, this aspect of the flight had been kept secret, and for a good reason: Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) rules dictated that the pilot had to land in his or her vehicle, otherwise it was not a complete flight. (The secret got out when Gherman Titov admitted out loud that he had separated from his rapidly descending Vostok 2 capsule.)

Yuri Gagarin landed in a farmer's field. Mission accomplished!

"Yuri Gagarin!"

A Forever Question: A Dollar For Your Thoughts

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

Sir. When the expression "dollars to donuts" originated, should it not have been "pennies to donuts"?

Saturday, April 10, 2021

One Thing I Love About Football Is....

 ... It allows one to watch it but still get a lot of work done.

Today's action in the Premier League:

Man City vs Leeds United (at halftime with LEE up 1 to 0)

Liverpool vs Aston Villa (10:00 am, ET)

Crystal Palace vs Chelsea (12:30 pm)

No mid-afternoon game. Good. It'll allow me to get even more work done.

Then there's tomorrow:

Burnley vs Newcastle (7:00 am, ET)

West Ham vs Leicester City (9:05 am)

Tottenham vs Man United (11:30 am)

Sheffield United vs Arsenal (2:00 pm)

That'll be another story....

DVD: Magical Mystery Tour

Magical Mystery Tour

Made by
The Beatles

EMI Records Limited

Friday, April 9, 2021

A Pretty Magical Mystery Tour (on DVD)

This Beatles fan, if not quite "fanatical" as such, enjoyed the group's foray into filmmaking, Magical Mystery Tour. While it might not be magical, it has its appeal for some of us.

"They're promising to take me away!"

Willingly I went along for the bus ride, sharing the "coach", as they call tour buses in the UK, with a sorting of interesting and odd characters. Through the frequent stops in various towns, villages, and fields, the crowd's buffoonery becomes the scenery. The production involved a lot of made-up shenanigans, and at times it shows. There is that unscripted "let's just have fun" vibe to most of the 53-minute running time. And there are those great Beatles songs to give the picture some solid ground, even if a lyric mentions a walrus and we see a "walrus", and a line speaks of a "fool on the hill" and what we get is Paul McCartney playing not so much a fool, but a bored-looking bloke standing still, on a hill.

Though critics at the time of MMT's original television showing in December of 1967 complained of being bored stiff, today's rearview mirror of some 50+ years rates the flick as an interesting, if not exactly absorbing, artifact. Unique among the telly tableau of the mid-sixties, the Beatles-authored experimental film plays better today....though many fans now still list this creative tour as a rare Fab Four trip.

The DVD contains a few extra features: I'm interested to hear what Magical Mystery Tour booking agent and organizer Paul McCartney has to say....

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Drive Them Crazy (Unfortunately)

To all those folk out there who might be afraid to take further steps....

There are people who don't like to see you succeed. If there are no putdowns, directly or indirectly, a strange silence fills the void.

Don't listen to them. Just do it to them.

Produce. Produce something. From this springs accomplishment.

Accomplishment, however small, drives them crazy. (Most unfortunate.)

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Maurice Devereaux Presents The Sawney Beane Saga

Maurice Devereaux, the talented Montreal-based filmmaker, is carrying his storytelling skills to the four-colour page. "Clan of the Devil - the Sawney Beane Saga", a graphic novel, is no minor effort to illustrate the dark tales of Alexander "Sawney" Beane, leader of a 16th century Scottish clan of cutthroats. According to legend, the merry band committed acts of murder and cannibalism over many years, their heinous spree stopped only when they were hunted down. And executed.

Terror and horror all-round.

The filmmaker of Blood Symbol, Lady of the Lake, Slashers, and End of the Line, flicks involving murder, mayhem, and myth, should be well-equipped to tell the saga of "the darkest chapter in Scotland's history".

The website:

The trailer:

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Athot for the Day 2

Much too often, those who consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ (and his ethical teachings) are rotten people: a mix of hate and anger, topped with a sprinkling of vile.

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Forever Question: Meow

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

Sir. Why do cats refuse to give us the answer?

Sunday, April 4, 2021

A Sunday of Football (In Action)

Southampton vs Burnley (in progress, 2 to 2)

Newcastle vs Tottenham (9:05 am, ET)

Aston Villa vs Fulham (11:30 am)

Man United vs Brighton (2:30 pm)

Personal work (in progress, no score....)

The Trump Tank (Repeat)

In a few years, when the Republicans next take the top office, a new tank will be approved for use by the U.S. Army: The "Trump".

It’ll be an ‘unexpected’ failure. While heavily armoured, the Trump will have undersized tracks, and, even more disappointing, it’ll pack a small punch with its disproportionately undersized cannon.

The Trump is such a failure that the type is quickly passed down to National Guard units, some of which elect to paint the tanks' turrets a bright orange. But the worst indignation is this: The Trump is referred to by its crews as “The Peashooter”.

(Pardon me!)

Saturday, April 3, 2021

It's In the Sheet Aluminum

"I've often wondered about the 2 distinct philosophies to space tech between the two superpowers. The US always seemed to be gunning for more and more complex systems of tech and machinery and the USSR seemed to be more leaning towards "good enough". I think they still use rocket tech that's over 40 years old. Hmmmm...."

The above was a response to my posting from June 7th, 2016, "Yes, Russia Did Win the Space Race. And How!" (On Thursday I repeated the piece.)  The comment prompted me to respond with some details. Rereading it a few days ago prompted me to do a minor edit and repost....

There is some truth to what you state.

The USSR's rocket scientists and engineers too went for "tech", but Soviet industry was not always up for the challenge. For instance, in the 1960s the thickest gauge of sheet aluminum that the Republic could produce was 13mm, causing major problems for their moonshot heavy-lift rocket, the N-1. This deficit meant that the skin of the rocket could not be used as an integral part of the fuel tank; separate internal tanks had to be made, adding to the overall tonnage. The completed assembly came in seriously overweight, which was a contributing problem for the space engineers in their attempt to deliver a substantial enough moon-landing vehicle.

I won't get into a history piece here, for the issue is much too complicated for summation through a few simple paragraphs.

The R-7 "Soyuz" rocket's ancestry can be traced back to the 1950s, but, of course, the booster and the Soyuz spacecraft itself have been modified many times since then. Yes, it works; wonderfully, dependably well.

The "open market" of the United States of America -- and much of the West -- definitely encourages great leaps in scientific and technological progress, but it is a myth that the engineers under the Soviet system were somehow backwards, unambitious, and perhaps best suited for reorienting bowling pins produced over the Ural Mountains.

Stone knives and bearskins, not.

You may be right when you say "good enough". Over-engineering is not optimal: the US space shuttle -- in hindsight a machine that was too complex, leading to a ridiculously expensive and often unwieldy program. Hard to believe, in a way, that the space shuttle is now history. (History won't be kind to the US space shuttle program, unfortunately.)

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Yes, Russia Did Win the Space Race. And How! (Repeat)

Tonight [Tuesday, June 7, 2016] on Ontario's superlative television network, "TVOntario", plays 'part one' of the fine BBC documentary film Cosmonauts: How Russia Won the Space Race.

That great race to the island in the sky was won clearly by the USA, leaving the USSR in Earth orbit.


The contest itself was not only of note but of one note.

The Soviets were never serious about the affair. I won't go into a political history lesson here, but suffice to say, where the Americans hit the moon several times their opposition stayed in town, so to speak, establishing an outpost around Earth in the form of the Salyut (and later, Mir) space stations. On these platforms they learned about human physiology in weightlessness and conducted numerous scientific experiments.

From the Soviet Union's "feigned" moon attempt sprouted the outstanding Soyuz spacecraft, modified versions of which ferry men/women and supplies to the International Space Station today. (This space cadet considers the Soyuz "system" to be one of the great man-made machines.)

Throughout the 1960s the game became the moon: the ice hockey net; the basketball hoop; the goal line and the uprights. Easy to say in hindsight, yes, but there was a whole field to be played.

There's so much more to the story.

Cosmonauts: How Russia Won the Space Race
Tonight at 10 p.m. on TVOntario
[original post from June 7, 2016]

Sergei Korolev on the Future of Humanity

"We will vanish without a trace."

May be.