Sunday, July 31, 2022

Picturing: A Doll on the Curb

A curbside scene here in Toronto's "Annex" neighbourhood.

Sunday Fun: Major Spider

"There's a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick."

Saturday, July 30, 2022

George Lucas on Directing Star Wars (On Directing)

"When you're directing, you have to get up at four thirty [a.m.], have breakfast at five, leave the hotel at six, drive an hour to location, start shooting at eight, and finish shooting around six. Then you wrap, go to your office, and set up the next day's work. You get back to the hotel about eight or nine, hopefully get a bite to eat, then you go to your room and figure out your homework, how you're going to shoot the next day's scenes, and then you go to sleep. The next morning it starts all over again."

Yep, those of you who've directed know how intense it is. On one shoot I did, as I set up a shot, I had someone hold a piece of pizza in front of my face so I could eat something.

Monday, July 25, 2022

A Forever Question: Two Fangs Too

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

Sir. Have you noticed that cats are just furry snakes, with a plumpy midsection sporting four walking sticks?

Friday, July 22, 2022

CD: Star Trek - The Motion Picture (Goldsmith)

Star Trek - The Motion Picture

Composed and Conducted
Jerry Goldsmith

Columbia Records
(this issue)

Monday, July 18, 2022

A Forever Question: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing?

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

Sir. Is it okay not to want to dance the night away?

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sunday Fun: Once a Geek, (Almost) Always a Geek

The above was posted to my bedroom wall for a few years when I was in my teens. A classic poster, I bought it in early 1977 and I still have it... rolled up in the archives.

Oh, I guess I should say what television series it collages: Star Trek

In case you didn't already know....

Thursday, July 14, 2022

David Lynch on Life Sense

"I don't think that people accept the fact that life doesn't make sense. I think it makes people terribly uncomfortable. It seems like religion and myth were invented against that, trying to make sense out of it."

Brother David!

David Lynch on Sex and the Movies

"Sex is a doorway to something so powerful and mystical, but movies usually depict it in a completely flat way."

Yep, I've long called my life a movie.

David Lynch on the Film Buff

"I'm not a real film buff. Unfortunately, I don't have time. I just don't go. And I become very nervous when I go to a film because I worry so much about the director and it is hard for me to digest my popcorn."

For one to be a filmmaker, one must consume more than just movies... which probably explains why Mr Lynch is such a great filmmaker. (He's spoken about industrial sites, pieces of wood, paint and painting, and, of course, coffee.)

David Lynch on The Drink

"I like cappuccino, actually. But even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all. David Lynch."

Just the thought of drinking coffee is appealing; even if it's not four cups of coffee a day.

Me on Life

"Once you realize and accept that life stinks, you can know it's nothing."

With respect to Woody Allen's always-funny takes on the subject.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Memory: The Education of Mike McManus

Veteran Canadian broadcaster Michael McManus passed away at the age of 91 on June 27th. Memories of his outstanding OECA/TVO public affairs programme, The Education of Mike McManus, or, simply, McManus....

I was in my early teens when I joined broadcaster Michael McManus and his guests on the OECA (Ontario Educational Communications Authority) television network. Due to my young age at the time I may not have always understood all of the concepts put forth, but I did watch.

Kudos to TVO (TVOntario) for archiving these valuable shows. For the show embedded above, a 1977 interview with Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan, "valuable" has new meaning....

McManus: But it seems, Doctor McLuhan, that this, this tribal world, is not friendly.

McLuhan: Oh no. Tribal people, one of their main kinds of sport is (about) butchering each other. It's a full-time sport in tribal societies . . .

Village people aren't that much in love with each other . . .

Ordinary people find the need for violence as they lose their identities. So it's only the threat to people's identity that (makes them violent).

It's worth watching. Concepts put forth by Mr McLuhan ring true today. (The bell keeps ringing.)

We really lack quality interviewing like this on television today. An interviewer lets his guest talk. What a concept.

Monday, July 11, 2022

A Forever Question: Not Again!

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

Sir. Is it okay not to want to be young again and have to go through this again?

Friday, July 8, 2022

Notes from a Brat: That Tasco

It was dark, and it was getting cooler. Glen and I wore our light jackets but no doubt the falling air temperature initiated our shut-down procedure for the night. In the early/mid 1970s CFB Borden was a great place for peering into the heavens. Light pollution was almost non-existent; stars and planets waited for my two-inch Tasco telescope.

That refractive lens system apparatus served me well all those years ago. My parents bought it for me in 1970 at the CFB Baden-Soellingen PX ("Post Exchange") in then West Germany for $25.00. Now I can say that that now $187.00 was money well parted with ― the Tasco did not stay in the closet. It even came with a "Sun" filter, for, you guessed it, looking at the sun. One memory I have is of standing behind the celestial device on our apartment balcony in Iffezheim, observing our star.

I noticed a star burning bright high up on the horizon. (Bearing: North by North West.) Before collapsing the telescope's tripod legs, I wanted to check out that light. Glen stood nearby doing something now lost to time as I aligned and refined.

"It's Saturn!"

My Elm Street Observatory pal volunteered to confirm my findings. "Far out!"

Yes it was.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Notes from a Brat: The Dyte Hall Gang

It's easier to come clean when forty-eight years have passed:

Dyte Hall was our local hockey rink when my family lived at CFB Borden. Along with 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' vulcanized 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 mens' 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 was the little fellow who drew up the plan. To borrow a phrase from Leave it to Beaver's Wally Cleaver, I was the "little creep".

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Notes from a Brat: Wasps

When I arrived back in Canada after an RCAF dependent's tour of duty in then West Germany I noticed some things were missing. Not in whole but in part: wasps, June bugs, and thunder & lightning.

Part Three: Wasps

At the back of the bus I heard a kid start to cry; he was sitting on the very end seat as he reached around to his backside. He had been stung by a wasp. He was seated waiting for the parked bus to finish loading up more schoolmates after a day at CFB Baden-Soellingen Elementary School, and that's what he gets for being a good and well behaved young man. I turned back to face the front and took in the sight of marshalling school kids. Not that I remember what I was thinking at that time but no doubt it was about wasps and how those buggers, even after even a modicum of human diligence and intelligence, would get you in the end....and sometimes in the end.

Wasps would build nests anywhere, it seemed. I seem to remember my German landlord having to constantly (and carefully!) remove nests from around the apartment building exterior during the summers I lived there. If there's a corner, there's room for an outpost or base of operations. I'm sure my then young brain would sometimes ask the big question: "Is West Germany all about the wasp?"

I never got it in the end. Not in West Germany, and certainly not here: "Where are the wasps?! I mean, did they stay in West Germany?"


Part One: Thunder & Lightning
Part Two: June Bugs

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Notes from a Brat: June Bugs

When I arrived back in Canada after an RCAF dependent's tour of duty in then West Germany, I noticed some things were missing. Not in whole but in part: wasps, June bugs, and thunder & lightning.

Part Two: June Bugs

"The skies were black!"

"You're exaggerating."

"Perhaps I am, a little bit. Okay, there were strips of black against blue sky. I've never again seen anything like that in my life."

My strongest such memory is of me sitting in the back parking lot of our Iffezheim apartment building. On a beautiful mid evening the darkening skies were blue, except where there were those "strips of black": mass flights of June bugs. As I sat on a concrete block I looked up at the dramatic aerial display above. Occasionally, the pretty brown little insects would drop about the ground around my outstretched feet. Mid-air collisions, perhaps. The bugs buzzed and rattled as they ended up on their backs, little feet outstretched. Of course, when one is young one looks with boundless fascination at nature; and its occasional random acts about. (As one gets older, one gets grossed-out.)

My return to Canada taught me something about nature: Canada, southern Ontario, at least, lacks June skies of certain bugs.

The skies were black!


Monday, July 4, 2022

Notes from a Brat: Thunder and Lightning

When I arrived back in Canada after an RCAF dependent's tour of duty in then West Germany, I noticed some things were missing. Not in whole but in part: wasps, June bugs, and thunder & lightning.

Part One: Thunder & Lightning

Perhaps it's due to a more temperate climate that Germany gets bigger storms than we do here in southern Ontario, Canada. Our German landlord more than once had to replace roof tiles on our Iffezheim apartment building. The wind was something. The thunder & lightning was something else. I remember my pals and I being dropped off one day by the school bus right into a lightning storm. For some reason the atmospheric tumultuousness encouraged me to run for it ― friends called from behind. Off I went, my six or seven year old legs a blur, propelling me at warp speed down the sidewalk. Not long after my sudden acceleration everything became a bright white. A super flash. I mean everything in my field of vision; there were no shades of gray. The first thing that crossed my mind: I was missed by that much. Now I've modified it to: I almost met Big Sparky himself.

(Something about after-school storms.)

Cut to a year or two later.

After a long day at CFB Baden-Soellingen my sister and I departed the school bus at the usual place, right near Iffezheim's Roman Catholic church, St. Birgitta, and we made our uneventful way home. Suddenly the lightning started, quickly followed by the thunder. As we reached our apartment door, CRACK! My normally sedate sister emitted an awful scream. ("It's just thunder!") The scream was probably more a Penny Robinson scream than one as chilling as what I perceived at the time, but the point was made.

We came back to Canada and the thunder & lightning seemed less energetic. In a way, I missed Germany.

A Forever Question: The Box

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

Sir. Can one's life be condensed into a simple "TV guide listing"?

Sunday, July 3, 2022

Notes from a Brat: RCAF Hercules and Co

A "flip" on a Canadian Armed Forces CC-130 Hercules built some of my fondest memories. As a military "dependent", or "brat", one gets occasional lifts on transport aircraft. In my case, a trip to England from West Germany, and back again, involved hopping onto a Herc.

Kids, brat kids, don't care about the luxury of a commercial airliner as much as the raw and open power of four Allison turboprops propelling noisily a military transport aircraft. During takeoff, especially, the racket is invigorating. But, my mother hated it. I can still picture her sitting opposite me. She slumped in her seat, obviously hoping the flight would be brief.

I remember a flight back to West Germany out of Gatwick Airport. The aircraft was packed: service people and their families, and individuals, occupying all available seating ― there is no designated seating on a Herc, by the way; no seat 12A. As a matter of fact, the seats would be better described as "webbing". As I sat against the forward starboard bulkhead, the flight suddenly, and without any warning, became a joy ride. We shot straight up from our seats and seconds later we were dropped with great force back down. Mere inches from my right foot a blur and a great sound: "Clack-cla-ClackClack!" The tethered cargo retaining shackles that were normally affixed to the bulkhead immediately beside me had also risen during the aircraft drop, but instead of falling back into position, they fell to the floor, missing me... barely. I asked my dad years later about that incident. He remembered it, too:

"If those hadda hit you there would've been hell to pay."

"What happened?"

"The loadmaster wasn't doing his job."

My sister served in our Forces for a few years in the 1980's. She was stationed for some time at CFB Cold Lake, Alberta. "Maple Flag", a training exercise, is hosted at the base every summer. A participant in these games is the Hercules. One day a compatriot asked Karen if she wanted to jump on board. She said yes.

During Maple Flag, Hercs will execute a series of evasive maneuvers. This process involves the pilot (a "Herc Driver") putting his or her machine into various attitudes: skids; power back; power full; turns; and so on. The idea is you are being attacked and such changes in the aircraft's flight attitude increases your chances of survival. During the twists and turns, flares are dropped in order to help 'confuse' any intercepting missiles.

It was hot. The Herc flew its special maneuvers over prairie fields. Karen started to feel unwell. It was too much for her system; too much to take. It was bound to happen.

As she held the special receiving bag in front of her mouth, she unloaded. A steady stream of stomach contents. A crewmember rubbed her back.

The aircraft landed back at the base. Karen: "The most humiliating part was I had to carry my bag of vomit off the plane."

I asked her recently who the crewmember was. "It might have been the flight engineer." I doubt it. He would have been in the cockpit, with the pilots. It was probably the loadmaster.

Notes from a Brat: A Nightmare on Elm Street

The Astral Theatre in CFB Borden, Ontario, was a veritable movie funhouse of eclectic and varied flicks, old and new. In essence it was a rep cinema. Most new and big releases, and anything of prestige, were on the other side of the base at the mighty Terra Theatre.

One of many films I saw in or about my thirteen year had a very special trailer. A preview which ended up haunting me: Triple Avalanche of Terror

The hook was a certain sustained shot that was more important to me, ultimately, than the variety of quickly cut clips that followed. This affecting scene―shot in a mental institution, apparently―was the real keeper. While substantial image grain danced before our eyes, an ominous voice-over explained that 'this man watched Triple Avalanche of Terror and went insane'. (Really? Seriously.)

A straight-jacketed wretch squirmed as two attendants hovered over, comforting him as he did the bit of business taught in acting school when one wants to evoke "crazy". "No!... No!!...."

As advertised, in order to watch the film one had to accept an insurance policy before entering the theatre. Cool. It's not something I'd want to have to cash in, but cool.

I bought it, the preview, that is, so much so that I knew I had to see the film, even though it was to be a midnight presentation. Oh, no.

As we left the theatre after watching the now forgotten feature presentation, my friends and I discussed the trailer, that spooky trailer. One friend, Glen Scott, seemed to know that we'd been had:

"It's a publicity stunt!

"It's a publicity stunt!", he reiterated as the rest of us, in his eyes, were overly concerned that we too would go insane.

But, we all agreed: Must see movie.

This is where trouble followed.

The next day I raved enthusiastically to my mother about the nerve-splitting trailer I had seen, and in the process I let it out that the anticipated movie itself was to be shown as a late-late show. She wasted no time in saying "no". When the day got closer, I asked again:


Mum, I wanna see Triple Avalanche of Terror!

I told you, you're not seeing it.

Why not?!

Because...I don't want you prancing about at all hours of the night.
Now that's final.

("I guess I'm not going to be seeing Triple Avalanche of Terror.")

I wish I had possessed the verbal wit of Family Guy's "Stewie": "How dare you deprive me of some devilishly gruesome entertainment. I shall be forever stunted by your absolute malicious disregard for my personal development!"

I didn't get my mother's reasoning. Geographically speaking, the Astral was not far from Elm Street, our street. The route consisted of a quick walk to School Street, then along Maple Drive; up a little further was the palace of dreams.

How was the Terrible Avalanche, you ask? The next day I asked Glen what he thought. After all, he and the gang were allowed to walk about at all hours of the previous night.

"It wasn't very good."

Of course, to a pre-teen, that was code for: "It was awesome!" Either that, or I was becoming concerned for Glen's sanity.

"Carry On Camping is on this Saturday?" I was allowed to see that one, however. Not a lot makes sense when you're a kid. (Those of you who have seen that British comedy classic, or just about any Carry On movie, for that matter, will know what I'm getting at.) Now I know why Camping was acceptable fare: It was shown during regular business hours, which now reaffirms my mother's concern at the time. The prevailing issue wasn't so much one of content. Actually, she never objected to the films' theme.

The Astral, along with all the PMQs (houses) on Elm, School, Hemlock, and Maple Drive, is now gone as that part of CFB Borden was razed a few years ago, but my memories of that special dream-maker always remain strong ― even if a certain title is missing.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Notes from a Brat: Out of Gas!

My dad and I were driving back to Iffezheim from the base, CFB Baden-Soellingen. We had passed through Hügelsheim and were on our speedy way when the Austin suddenly began to hiccup and hesitate. My dad laughed and said "we're out of gas". (I thought it odd that he did not refill before we left the base; there was an Esso station right near the gate.)

He pulled the famished vehicle over to the side of the road. We were waiting for no more than a few minutes when a car pulled off and parked just a few feet ahead of us. The car sported an oval "CDN" sticker. A servicewoman got out to see why fellow Canadians were stalled to the side ― it was our CDN that did the trick.

She went off and returned minutes later with a gallon or two of fuel.

Brothers and sisters of the Canadian Armed Forces!

Friday, July 1, 2022

Notes from a Brat: Fireworks!

It's "Canada Day" here in Canada: I'm reminded of "Dominion Day", its former name, and fireworks....

CFB Baden-Soellingen, West Germany, late 1960s or early 1970s: The family and I gathered, along with many other military families, on the base's airfield to partake one evening in a display of fireworks. The actual igniting part fell to the men and women of Canada's finest service ― they know about explosives, for some reason. (My dad, whose trade was "Weapons Tech Air", knew a lot about explosives; a future posting.)

The image I remember most from the spectacular aerial powder display is of one lonely expired charge that fell just metres from us as we sat prone on the grass. The guys sitting on top of the parked crash-tender near us did not seem to react; I took that to be some sort of clean bill of health.

The red still-burning charge fizzled and my attention went back to the heavens....

Happy Canada Day 2022

I am so grateful.

5 Canada Day Questions

Happy Canada Day!

A test, eh?

1. In what year did this great country repatriate its constitution? (Hint: A few decades ago.)

2. What shipping magnate was born in Halifax, of now Nova Scotia, in 1787? (His name survives today, painted on certain big ships.)

3. Aerodynamicist Jim Chamberlin moved to the United States in 1959 to work for NASA. He became the chief designer for what manned space program? (It was the second manned U.S. space program.)

4. What is the name of Canada's air force? (It's a four-letter acronym.)

5. In what year did Canada adopt its current flag? (It happened in the 1960s.)

Bonus question: Who was Canada's 12th prime minister? (This clue is closer than you think.)

Notes from a Brat: Canada Day

My mother looked through the Hammond World Atlas with me. She showed me where we were going to to be living in Ontario, Canada, once my dad was posted to CFB Borden.

The good news was that we would be surrounded by water ― "surrounded" in a Canadian sense.

What I remember most about the planned return to Canada, was this plan of mine: When I stepped onto the tarmac after exiting the Canadian Armed Forces Boeing 707 I would kiss the ground. (I was Drama even at nine years of age.)

I loved West Germany, but this kid was excited about returning to this country ― and the Montreal Canadiens.

I didn't kiss the ground after touching Canadian soil (or concrete) for the first time in four years, but I made my point.