Monday, December 26, 2022
Sunday, December 25, 2022
(After reading that, pretend you have a faulty memory. This is more correct: "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.
Saturday, December 24, 2022
As is the tradition in that great nation, opening the boxes and wrappings is done the night before. A then little one, me, not only did not complain but decided then that Germany is one great nation. I remember well one Christmas where our landlord and his wife came up to say hi and to present us with presents. I remember mine: a Matchbox toy of an early 20th century automobile.
Roll back a few years to my first Christmas in Germany. Santa Claus back in 1960s Deutschland was not a big thing ― if you'll pardon the expression. Saint Nick, however, was. Well, let me tell you what that man did to this then five year old. I remember being summoned by my parents to the entry way of our apartment. Standing beside the door was a tall figure, a woman (probably a teenager), dressed up in full Saint Nick attire. My mother said "look dear" as she pointed at my shoes which were parked neatly on the mat. I saw it, an inanimate thing in one of my shoes... a lump of coal. ("Noooo!")
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Sunday, December 18, 2022
Saturday, December 17, 2022
The equipment was already "old" but that did not stop producer Irwin Allen from utilizing them for his futuristic television programs. (Makes sense; 1960s aliens in silver face paint no doubt would operate 1950s Earth equipment.)
By the way, the panels appeared in the television series Lost (2004 - 2010). My guess is they are still available for rent.
When designing my (as of yet unfinished) short film Hyper-Reality, I used the panels in question as a guide. The story requires a retro look. I had a lot of fun conjuring up this piece of fanciful equipment, but credit must go to Dennis Pike for the hours of construction, and wiring the many light bulbs ― "blinky lights" necessary to sell this machine as coming from a 1960s Irwin Allen television program.
The photo affixed above features a crew member operating a piece of projection equipment.
Tuesday, December 13, 2022
Sunday, December 11, 2022
Friday, December 9, 2022
Sketchpad on the lap. The 'radio' tuned to ZoomerRadio. Think of characters.
A few thumbnails pop onto the paper.
Who is this guy? How did his parents name him? I'm going to use him; I know just the project. He'll be a star.
I can imagine who he might be: He hangs around on a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway station platform ― specifically "St. George" Station ― but never actually boards a train. He stands there, in some sort of spiritually lost limbo, not sure in what direction to travel, and not sure if he wants to leave, if at all, via the "Bedford" or "St. George" exit.
With further imagination I begin to believe he's a former University of Toronto student; Law was his first course, but switched to Engineering Science after he figured it might be easier. It wasn't easier. And now he's drawn back to this place. Life takes an unexpected course. Can he go back and try it all over again? (That outfit he wears tells me he was the water boy for the Varsity Blues football team, circa late-eighties.)
I speak with a TTC inspector who stands on the "southbound" platform. It is important for my own sanity that I ask the big question.
"He's here almost every time I'm at this station", I offer.
The inspector answers, without editorial or judgement: "His name is Dennis."
Yes. Dennis. Dennis shall be his name!
Monday, December 5, 2022
Sunday, December 4, 2022
that we last met...
under that ship's
crane as it unloaded
a shipment of cheap
products from the "orient"
however, as you remember, but
perhaps you don't
that crane did drop its
And with that bad luck,
it's not possible for
you and I to ever meet
under that crane, or
anything else again.
Floating through Wikipedia, as I'm prone to do once I'm on a rolling wave, I went from "shipping" to "Bermuda Triangle" to "Sargasso Sea" and ended up on "The Lost Continent (1968 film)". That entertaining motion picture, produced by Hammer Films, wonderful Hammer Films, and Seven Arts Productions, captured me when I first saw it in my early teens.
I read its Wiki entry....
Saturday, December 3, 2022
This information junkie needed to clear his head while enjoying dinner this evening. A submarine dive video did the trick.
Two GoPro cameras were attached to the deck of HMS Torbay in May of 2017. Spectacular footage it is. Thanks to the video's producer music wasn't laid in. ("Please. No Hans Zimmer, please no.") It's so much nicer to hear those waves sliding and gurgling over the topside as the machine fills its water tanks.
Two months after this video was taken, HMS Torbay was decommissioned by the Royal Navy.
I'm wondering if YouTube has any episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea aboard. (The submarine Seaview was decommissioned by ABC in 1968.)
Friday, December 2, 2022
There are a few "Alien" characters in the (as of yet) uncompleted 35mm short film, Hyper-Reality.
Above are two pages of colour concept drawings I did when I was beginning to think about the look of the Aliens' "battledress". The flowing robe idea had already been established with the metallic gowns the characters wear in the first part of the film, but these sketches illustrate my roughing out the colour patterns for the battle version.
I based the idea on "Heraldry". Early on I had decided on blue and red, but it took many thumbnails ― which I will post later on ― to nail down exactly what "cut" I wanted. The final result was one of the simplest ideas; which is often the case with this sort of thing.
Thursday, December 1, 2022
In fact, 'it' started earlier: One of my elementary schools had, filed in its library's racks, copies of "The Making of Star Trek" (Stephen Whitfield) and "The Making of Kubrick's 2001" (Jerome Agel). Due to the popularity of the former, the school library had two copies of its "making of". How complex pieces of entertainment are put together makes for fascinating reading if you are interested in the art and business of film and television. (Films and television programs of the science fiction strain tend to have the making-of books; for obvious reasons, I suppose. Give me a book on the making of All in the Family, and I won't put it down.)
A few years ago I read a book about the original "Doctor Who" series. As it was a television program I watched in my youth it too made for interesting reading. I mentioned the book to a friend of mine who also grew up with Who. As it turned out, he too had read it. He cracked me up when he added: "Very often it's more interesting reading about the show than actually watching it." Very true.
(Contrary to what Globe and Mail television critic John Doyle may think, most television is best enjoyed as a television schedule listing.)
More interesting to me is the history and business of television. It's a form that occasionally, rarely, pops out a fine dramatic or comedy series. Fighting off Theodore Sturgeon's pesky "law" is essential. Somehow art is produced.
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
The Twilight Zone (1959 - 1964)
More fantasy than science fiction.
The Outer Limits (1963 - 1965)
More science fiction than fantasy.
I have a first-hand story regarding that great and often-fought battle.
Years ago I was visiting my neighbour. The food and drink came out, but nobody got drunk. The ensuing discussions were of the type expected at a friendly get together.
It happened. Scott, boyfriend of my neighbour, seemed to have a problem with my holding The Outer Limits in the same esteem I did The Twilight Zone. "Oh, come on, man. The Outer Limits was so bad. There was that episode that was so typical. The one with the robot boxer."
A challenge. I was thrown back into the ring: "That episode was called 'Steel'. It starred Lee Marvin. And it was a Twilight Zone episode."
Passion. The fists flew. Well, he pointed. "You're wrong." And continuing variations on that theme.
I went back to my apartment, and from my bookcase I pulled The Twilight Zone Companion (Marc Scott Zicree). Back to the battlefield.
With the book opened at the proper page, the chapter on "Steel", Scott's jaw dropped. In the manner expected of a soul converted by a well-placed "K.O.", he emitted a feeble, but emotive: "This is a conspiracy."
On such matters, don't argue with Uncle Simon.
No. "Uncle Simon" is a Twilight Zone episode.
Monday, November 28, 2022
Sunday, November 27, 2022
I discovered the show when it was titled, simply, Second City Television. How we stumble upon a certain television series, especially one that goes on to great heights, has long interested me. In the case of me and SCTV it all started in 1977 through my weekly scans of TV Guide magazine. For many weeks I would note the listing for something called Second City. It would appear with the numbers 6 and 41, which translated as the Global Television Network. ("Global" in those days was the new kid on the dial but it delivered a fine range of fare; unlike the plastic rubbish can it is today, and has been for years.)
One evening I decided to sit down and sample this "Second City" thing. I liked it. My fifteen-year-old head got much of the humour. I did not know it at the time but what I had watched was an episode from the first batch, which was produced at the Global studios on Barber Greene Road in Toronto.
I had to tell others of my great discovery, one I categorized as a video equivalent of David Livingstone's discovery of Victoria Falls... well, Mosi-oa-Tunya, more properly.
Mum! She'll be my first convert. As this week's episode unreeled on the chromatic Zenith, she and I sat in silence. That's right, as in "no laughter". I wanted to laugh but I realized that emitting anything even mildly resembling a positive reaction might read as lacking class to my British born and raised mum.
End credits: The next day I brought up the issue with my mother. "Why didn't you like it?", I asked, darn well knowing the answer about to come my way. My dad overheard this and became curious as to what serious discussion was playing out before him: "What's that?..."
I figured it was prudent to let mum answer: "Oh, it's called Second City. They're trying to do a Monty Python but it doesn't work."
Mum was so wrong....
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Wednesday, November 23, 2022
Monday, November 21, 2022
Sunday, November 20, 2022
By 1982 my television viewing was more or less down to movies and public affairs programs, with a dash of the NHL. September brought a new and interesting half-hour sitcom that got some of my attention span: Square Pegs. CBS might have been accused of trying to fit a square peg in a round hole of a television schedule. The series lasted one season: in this case, 20 episodes.
Why did I watch? It may have been due to the fact that one of my best friends was a fan. During our Friday or Saturday night pick-up ice hockey games, Mark would recount to us lacing-up lads the latest in the high school activities of the Square Pegs gang; almost all of whom, I should add, were actually of high school age.
My admission: Tracy Nelson. Perhaps it's an exaggeration to say that her character of Jennifer DiNuccio was the only reason I'd waste a half hour of my life almost every week, but she certainly did not hurt the eyes. Those eyes! She was also funny: "Gross me out."
One of the best characters was Johnny "Flash" Ulasewicz, played by Merritt Butrick. He looked a tad too old to be in high school and he was. His manic moves and utterances were instant sellers.
Looking at it now, Square Pegs is very '80s. A totally different head... totally.
Thursday, November 17, 2022
Monday, November 14, 2022
Sunday, November 13, 2022
Thursday, November 10, 2022
In early November in the late 1980s (I'm thinking 1989), I hopped onto a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway train car. With the seats being all but fully occupied I took the famous door position as the doors closed behind me. Sitting on the other side of the car, with his poppy box resting on his lap, and looking sharp in his uniform, was a veteran.
Immediately I remembered that a few minutes earlier I had shoved a two dollar bill (remember those?) into my shirt pocket. I approached the vet as I drew out the money. He got up from his seat and carefully pinned the poppy to my coat's lapel. I thanked him and went back to my first position. Then, all of a sudden, and in the style of an over-directed film, several other riders popped open their purses and pulled out their wallets.
Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Monday, November 7, 2022
Sunday, November 6, 2022
Some of the interview subjects explain why they joined the war. I remember the day in 1984 when I finally got around to asking my own father why he enlisted and why he chose RAF Bomber Command:
"I was pissed off. I was doing poorly in school and my mind was on the war overseas."
His rationale for joining the bomber force as a gunner was expedient:
"You got overseas quickly that way . . . It was an eight-week air gunners' course in Montreal."
(He knew that flying as "aircrew" in Bomber Command was dangerous work. Many young men, men too young, got "The Chop".)
As was the norm at the time in this neck of the woods my dad was sent to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) grounds for dispersal. From that famous Canadian site began the process of getting "shipped overseas", but as this was wartime it wasn't quite that easy. German U-boats prowled the North Atlantic in search of prey, and a steamer loaded with fresh faces was a prime and highly-prized target.
I will stop here: The above bits and pieces are stressful enough, never mind the few combat stories my dad did let out over the years. (While on one of my trips to England, as part of my ongoing research on RAF Bomber Command I spoke with historian Martin Middlebrook and he gave me some sage advice which I understood too well: "Don't ask your father. He won't tell you anything.")
A few years after the war ended he reenlisted with the RCAF and enjoyed a long career with Canada's finest service.
I left the best for last; the big "and" part of my dad's explanation for wanting to see action overseas:
"... And I wanted to get the Germans."
(A childhood friend did not come home; he died when his bomber was shot down over France. Kinda sobering, ain't it?)
Passions of the time, those were.
My father loved Germany and the Germans. We moved to West Germany in October of 1966, just twenty-one years after he flew in a Lancaster bomber doing a job he felt he must do.
Thursday, November 3, 2022
Monday, October 31, 2022
Sunday, October 30, 2022
Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Monday, October 24, 2022
Sunday, October 23, 2022
Friday, October 21, 2022
with an old friend
caught up on
I last saw him
He and I disbanded:
My friend went back
to his conference and
to do something I
walk up Yonge
"Look at all the
or already spiking
the cloudy sky)"
This town is out of
Zoning going to
The Twilight Zone
Yonge Street has
much these last few years
by Premium stacks
Before I made it
to Bloor Street I
was stopped by
a woman selling
in front of a shop
don't use facial moisturizers
but I should
The sales lady was
in top form
having worked a little sales
I know the bad
The cosmetic's test was done
on my forearm
I can imagine
With every peek into the bathroom
mirror my imagination tweaks
** return **
Simon St. Laurent