Monday, June 28, 2021

A Forever Question: Peeling Off

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

Sir. Can someone be a burnt orange?

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Lynch and the B-36 "Peacemaker" (Repeat)

Three weeks ago I watched a fine documentary on one of cinema's most highly regarded filmmakers. David Lynch: The Art Life reveals something interesting, at least to me: David Lynch appears to have an affection for the Convair B-36 "Peacemaker". This historical aircraft has long been a favourite of mine.

My introduction to Strategic Air Command's long-range heavy bomber happened in early 1977 when I watched 1955's Strategic Air Command on late night television. No doubt I had known of the machine before that viewing, but it was the VistaVision (on NTSC television) picture that took me up high.

In The Art Life we see a few instances, and versions, of the B-36: A tiny wooden or pewter model sitting on a windowsill; a Lynch painting, albeit one where he eschewed the plane's six propellers (and four jet engines); and Lynch himself holding a large model.

This attachment by the director would make sense as he was born in 1946, and the Peacemaker was in operational service with the USAF between 1948 and 1959. Perhaps David Lynch saw Strategic Air Command when it hit theatres.

Film directors often are aviation fans. Stanley Kubrick was one; George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have also expressed affection for flying machines.

Where does that put me?....At a much lower altitude.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The Soundtrack of My (Youth) - Repeat

When I work on projects at home I will listen to music, or, if my task requires little concentration, spoken-word discussions or narrated pieces. Yesterday while looking for stuff to download from the wonderful BBC radio podcast site I noticed that British film reviewer/writer Mark Kermode had recorded a four-part series called "The Soundtrack of My Life". I listened to the first part last night.

Titled, simply enough, "Soundtrack Albums", the piece involved Kermode's memories of discovering film scores and soundtracks. He talks of his first, then goes on to interview several filmmakers and composers.

I remember my first soundtrack album. It was from a film I had seen just months before, in 1975, at the Terra Theatre in CFB Borden: Rollerball.

Later, as I perused the LP record bin at the PX (Public Exchange) in Borden, I happened across the Rollerball soundtrack and learned then that there was a tie-in record. I bought it on the spot. This LP was not an original soundtrack in the traditional sense, but a compilation of music: A mix of Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, Bach, and two more-contemporary pieces by Andre Previn composed specifically for the film. One of the catches for me was Tomaso Albinoni's "Adagio"; I remembered that it was used quite effectively in the Space: 1999 television series episode "Dragon's Domain", which I had also seen just a few months earlier. Now that I think about it, I played the Rollerball record a lot. It was not my introduction to recorded classical music -- my parents had a good selection from that domain -- but the choices, no doubt by the film's director, Norman Jewison, seemed to be a perfect blend for this then young listener.

My next album was the music to Space: 1999, which I was a little disappointed in, and a couple of years after that was Battlestar Galactica. (What's with all the sci-fi TV crap? Oh yeah, I was young.) A side note to the latter score: When I listened to it again, many years later, I couldn't help but notice the William Walton influence. This really comes through on one piece in particular.

No, I did not get the soundtrack to Star Wars in 1977. What turned me off of buying it, I think, was my honest and raw reaction after a friend of mine lent me the two-LP set a few weeks before we saw the movie. (The album was actually available before the movie release itself in some markets.) As I had discovered Miklos Rosza's Ben Hur music the summer before -- courtesy of my dad's original 1959 "Stereophonic" pressing of that album -- the Star Wars music on its own sounded rather lame. When I returned the album to my friend I mentioned that I found the music to be "watery" and didn't even bother turning the first LP over to play "side 2". (He too was not impressed. After all, this was the guy who got me into the German band Kraftwerk.) Of course the music plays wonderfully well with the film and is a classic film score. Film scores, as composer Gerald Fried noted in an interview years ago, generally don't stand on their own as music. This is not a failing, of course, since they are designed, quite designed in fact, to play with picture and other audio elements. Those audio tracks can get quite crowded. Some scores do work on their own; it doesn't mean they are better scores, just that they can be listened to away from the movie. I've since acquired the Star Wars CD and I like the background music much better now as a standalone....the few times I've given it a spin. Oh, I bought the LP version in 1982.

The first 'original music' film score soundtrack LP that I remember getting was for Alien. I was very impressed, even though I had not yet seen the film. Speaking of film composer Jerry Goldsmith, for that's who I was speaking of in that case, later in 1979 he would produce his brilliant music accompaniment for Star Trek - The Motion Picture. (It's the best part of that slightly underrated film, I think. The theme tune, in particular, is one of the greatest of movie anthems.)

What's with all the sci-fi movie scores? Well, for starters, there's the LP to Patton.

I'm a fan of the late composer Jerry Goldsmith. His effect was best summed up recently by producer/writer Seth MacFarlane on a BBC radio show: "(Goldsmith) was an insanely talented guy."

There are others whose work I admire: (the great) Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Elmer Bernstein, John Williams, David Shire, John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Ron Goodwin....

Decades ago I stopped collecting film scores. The odd one would trickle down onto my shelf. I enjoy film scores best when they are with the actual film. Also, scoring today, 'the state of', is pretty pathetic. I'm speaking more of the Hollywood product. While smaller films are getting some fine work in that area, most "tent pole" pictures are tracked with overwrought orchestral parts of nothing (but noise). It's been this way for years. It's hardly a requirement that a film theme should consist of a memorable 'song', it really depends on the show, but, as film director Edgar Wright states in the Mark Kermode program I listened to last night: "What's the most recent film score that you can really hum?"


Okay, I'll cheat and play The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. That just might be the soundtrack of most of our lives.

Re: Police Action, Yesterday, on the Poor in Toronto

Our society knows how to cultivate poverty, but knows not how to care for the poor.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Poem: You Must Find Yours (Good Luck!) - Repeat

They did
you see

They said
to me


Bliss dropped from
the sky

But I

know not where
... nor why.


Simon St. Laurent

Monday, June 21, 2021

A Forever Question: Movies, Movies, Movies....

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

Sir. Why do movie fanatics, the kind that seem to have few other interests, if any at all, get their backs up when you say that you don't like a particular movie?

Sunday, June 20, 2021

"Film People!" (Emulsionites) Repeat

Isaac Asimov on the Cult of Ignorance

"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."

And they defend their 'theses' with: "Your [sic] an idiot!"

Friday, June 18, 2021

From a Dependent Brat: Of Bunkers and the Rounds (Repeat)

I arrived in West Germany in October of 1966 when the war, WW2, was just two decades in the past. Because of this handy fact there were lots of 'residual matter' left lying around from that great conflict. Bunkers were common in the area I lived -- about a mile from the French border and the dividing, and all-important bulkhead, Rhine River -- for they were part of the defence of Nazi Germany. Courtesy of many years of warm and cold weather back-and-forth action, expended shell casings and unfired rounds of ammunition would constantly pop to the surface ready for us little ones to collect. These weapons of war were great and much desired collectibles. ("Hockey cards? Ha!") However, as part of our education at home and at school our superiors made it clear that we were never to touch, never mind collect, those potent pieces of history.

One could still find reminding-bits of warfare in the local bunkers, of which an example sat in a field very close to where I lived in Iffezheim. I admit that I did at least once go right up to the bunker but did not try to climb around inside as it was by then a collapsed structure. (One of my most vivid memories is of something I saw while travelling on an RCAF bus in the late 1960s; out my window, as the trees parted, was a sight to behold: a field of anti-tank traps. The scene of light-grey-toned pyramids spread orderly over the green grass was almost beautiful.)

One day on the CFB Baden-Soellingen Elementary School grounds a fellow schoolmate pulled out a large clear plastic bag to show off to our small gathered circle. In this conveniently transparent bag, one which could have been used to contain a few ounces of water and a small calibre goldfish, was a large assortment of small and medium calibre ammunition. There was a mix of fully intact rounds and empty shell casings. A veritable grab-bag of violence.

That's all....

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Lost Submarines (Repeat)

With the current news of the Argentine submarine ARA San Juan missing at sea, I'm reminded of an event that happened when I was a child living in then West Germany.

For a few days it was top of the news. I remember the graphic behind the television newsreader: A silhouette of a submarine against a simple map of the Mediterranean. On March 4th, 1970, the French Navy submarine Eurydice went missing after a dive, and after a search effort, several pieces of the ship were found as was an oil slick. (It was known at the time that something catastrophic happened when a geophysical laboratory registered an underwater explosion.)

The ship's crew all perished. As a matter of fact the French navy lost a submarine two years earlier -- it too sank in the Mediterranean. The Minerve has to this day never been found. I hope the crew of the San Juan is found alive and well.

Monday, June 14, 2021

English Is Funny That Way (On Twitter)

"NATO allies express concern over China’s growing global influence at annual summit."

I don't think I misunderstood that "What's Happening" headline, but my guess is it may read better as the following:

"NATO allies express concern, at annual summit, over China’s growing global influence."

Having the sentence end with "growing global influence" carries more punch than ending with "at annual summit"... the point being, there is a concern over "China's growing global influence".

Maybe it's just me....

Film and Television Composer Gerald Fried (Repeat)

The famous "Star Trek fight music" was composed by Gerald Fried. He jokes that his ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) royalty cheques keep coming in, fifty-one years after he wrote that percussive and driving piece for the Star Trek episode "Amok Time". ("The Ritual / Ancient Battle / 2nd Kroykah", its cue-sheet name, was reused for two subsequent episodes.) Television series such as The Simpsons and feature films like The Cable Guy paid homage and money.

Mr Fried was director Stanley Kubrick's first composer. They had known each other since childhood so it made sense that the oboist/composer and the photographer/filmmaker would get together to make some film art: Paths of Glory, for one.

For television Fried wrote much music for the shows The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Gilligan's Island, and many others.

Gerald Fried turned [93] on the 13th of February.

The man himself sent me the above photo in October of 1991 after I wrote him a very un-fan-like letter. (A Note of Appreciation.)

A Forever Question: Process

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

Sir. Should it be pronounced with the long sound or short sound?

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Two Toho Studios Monster Fans (Repeat)

The combination of Godzilla and Toho film studios makes for a formidable tag team. The famous Japanese production complex is so synonymous with the rubber-made monster that it's hard to believe that it actually has produced non monster movies.

However, the purpose of this piece is to go for the studio's biggest star: Godzilla.

In the late summer of 1988 I became friends with a chap who had been living in the same building as me for four years. We hit it off right away once we decided to converse with one another. He, Richard, was in the midst of his physics master's degree program at the University of Toronto, and I, a recent film-school graduate, was working very occassionally as a designer on films and television commercials.

How tickled I was when he told me that he was a big fan of the Godzilla pictures.

A pot of tea, a bowl of unhealthy potato chips, two geeks in front of a VCR-powered television set: Godzilla; Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster; Godzilla vs. Mothra; King Kong vs. Godzilla; Destroy All Monsters; Godzilla, 1985; you get the picture.

Richard earned his PhD, and I stomped around in the film and television business.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Mr Spock and Dr McCoy on Evil

"Evil does seek to maintain power by suppressing the truth."
"Or by misleading the innocent."

- from "And the Children Shall Lead" (Star Trek)

Mr Spock on Evil

"Without followers, evil cannot spread."

- from "And the Children Shall Lead" (Star Trek)

A Forever Question: Rev!

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

Sir. When one revs an engine, is one blessing it?

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Picturing: Bird Walk This Afternoon in Toronto

Picturing: Yet More Crackerbox Towers

While strolling down Bloor Street one day recently I could not help but notice two crackerbox towers going up. These ugly things are on the southwest corner of Bathurst and Bloor, where Honest Ed's used to sit (and give something back to the community).

Some would say that Ed's had to go, it was an eyesore. So the plan is to replace it with another eyesore?....eyesores?....

Crackerbox City (formerly known as Toronto).

Friday, June 4, 2021

Jonas Mekas on Listening

"In the very end, civilizations perish because they listen to their politicians and not to their poets."

And Donald J. Trump is no poet.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Canada Geese Remind Me (Repeat)

When I see numbers of Canada Geese up to no good in the grass, especially on an incline, I'm reminded of the "Silicates" featured in the 1966 British horror film Island of Terror. Not for a moment do I think these CGs will suck the bones out of humans....

The "Leafs Curse" May Be Its Fans (Repeat)

Leafs Nation is not elated today: Last night their beloved Toronto Maple Leafs got trashed by the Boston Bruins in game seven of the best-of-seven series.

It was just the first round of the National Hockey League playoffs, but that's all the Bruins needed to set an example. The ultimate K.O. (Knock Out) round.

"It's over, it's allll over!"

This morning I found out that Leafs star player Auston Matthews produced just one goal in those seven games. Goaltender Frederik Andersen was inconsistent. The defensive line was just a blue line. Theories are abound attempting to explain why the Leafs, who enjoyed a successful regular season, by any measure, lost engine power in just the first round of the NHL playoffs. I do not believe in curses, but, there may be some credence to a "Leafs Curse".

Maybe it's the fans. They show up and pay habitually for massively overpriced tickets, satiating the team's greedy owners, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd (MLSE). Producing a loser is every bit as profitable as producing a winner, it would seem. And keeping fans in line is easy, in more ways than one.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

So That's Why - Maple Leafs Flockery

Yesterday, before the Toronto Maple Leafs got eliminated from the playoffs last night, I posted a bit on an episode of the CBC investigative documentary series The Fifth Estate.

"Harold Ballard: Wha’D’Ya Mean Ex-Con" first aired on February 26th, 1980.

There is a great line a few minutes in delivered by Adrienne Clarkson over shots of Leafs fans lining up outside Maple Leaf Gardens....

"No matter how badly their team is playing, Torontonians still flock to fill the seats."

Agnes Varda on All You Need in Life

“This is all you need in life: a computer, a camera, and a cat."

I cannot argue with that list at all.