Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Book: Soundtrack (Evans)

- The Music of the Movies -

Mark Evans

Miklos Rozsa

Da Capo Press

Monday, December 26, 2022

A Forever Question: Let's Not Forget

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

Sir. Did Santa spend some time with those unfortunate?"

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Trekking Back to a Special Christmas Time

Christmas is great when you're a kid. This morning I thought about my favourite memories. Quickly I nailed one: 1970.

(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

Christmas Eve Story Special: a Christmas in Germany

While listening to the radio a few years ago I heard a piece about whether or not it's cool to let the little ones open their gifts the night before Christmas. This reminded me of my childhood in then West Germany.

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!")

I, dressed fashionably in what some crude folk might refer to as a "wife-beater shirt", held both hands up to my face and started crying. My parents laughed. It was not funny.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Picturing: Looking Through the Mitchell Mk II

Film Design: Polaroid of Cosmonaut Costume Test

The Polaroid's blank space has nothing written on it, but it should read:

"Cosmonaut flight-suit costume test-fitting, Marty."

I designed this piece of wardrobe for my (unfinished) 35mm short film Hyper-Reality. Two cosmonaut costumes were built, fitted specially for the actors to play them. The above picture was taken in the film studio, here in Toronto, where we were to shoot a few weeks later.

Video: Penny The Talking Cat Plays Trivia!

I don't often visit Instagram, but there must be an algorithm that picks up on the fact that I love cats. One day I saw a particular video posting and thought: "I know that cat!"

Penny is one of many talking cats on the internet, and one of the most charming. Her interactions with her humans are always engaging, and funny.

The above embedded video is a keeper... like Penny The Cat.

By the way, I do know that such videos are silly, as Archie Bunker once said when he and Meathead were arguing about television commercials, with Archie citing an example of why that 'artform' is meant to be ridiculous and, yes, "silly": Morris The Cat commercials.

The man of letters capped off his argument with something like this: "Besides, everybody knows no cat can talk dat good."

But, Penny can....

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

A Forever Question: In a Days

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

Sir. Why does one think Tuesday is Monday?

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Sunday Fun: Alien Invaders In Toronto

Actually, they are actors dressed in get-ups I designed for my as-of-yet unfinished short film, Hyper-Reality. So, you can all relax: We are not being invaded by "cheesy" space aliens from some place out there.

The reader can be forgiven for thinking: "What are they gonna do, anyway?... Make me die from laugher?"

I would explain: "You should see the far-out equipment in their lair, hidden deep underground, beneath the very foundations of Toronto. Their machinery consists of flickering control panels based on the U.S. Air Force's IBM AN/FSQ-7 air defence computer from the 1950s. These pint-sized alien dudes came well equipped!" (Yours truly also designed their electronic apparatus.)

Yes, that's the CN Tower in the distance.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Film Design: Designing an Irwin Allen Panel

If you've seen the old Irwin Allen television shows Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, or Time Tunnel, you probably remember what I refer to as "The Irwin Allen Panel". In the early 1960s the 20th Century Fox studios prop department bought surplus U.S. Air Force equipment and made some modifications, including taking the indicator lights and hooking them up to a series of chaser-boxes, thereby producing sequenced blinking lights.

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

A Forever Question: The What?

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

Sir. Is it sometimes recommended to take the Road To Nowhere?

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Book: The Road to Wigan Pier (Orwell)

The Road to Wigan Pier

George Orwell

Penguin Books
(published in 1937)

Friday, December 9, 2022

Film Design: A Character In Thumbnail Sketch Form

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

A Forever Question: To the Brolly!

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

Sir. When it rains and pours do the Wellies come out?

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Poem: We'll Meet Again?

It was a year ago, this week
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,
my sweet
it's not possible for
you and I to ever meet

under that crane, or
anything else again.


Simon St. Laurent

Sunday Fun: Carnivorous Seaweed?!

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....

Basic plot details took me back to fantastic imagery: wrecked ships (it is the Sargasso Sea, after all); conquistadors; people sporting "buoyancy balloons" (fantastic!); pirates; priests; and Spanish ladies (marketing, my boys!).

I decided right there that I had to see this film again.

Then I read further:

"... adrift in a morass of large sentient carnivorous seaweed...."

Carnivorous seaweed?!

(Sentient carnivorous seaweed?!!)

(Large sentient carnivorous seaweed?!!!)

What the?....

Should I even click on that?

With my cursor, and some trepidation, I touched the link.

Oh, it's two separate words, links: "carnivorous"; "seaweed".

That makes more sense... and makes me feel a lot better about swimming in the ocean. (Regular seaweed doesn't bother me. Key word: "bother.")

I'll probably avoid the Sargasso Sea. But I won't avoid The Lost Continent.

Picturing: Me With a Tim Hortons Coffee (Large)

Photo: courtesy of my smartphone's lousy camera.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

An HMS Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

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

Film Costume Design: Alien Battledress Sketches

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.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and The Planets

For me, February 25th, 1989, involved having a pretty wonderful time at Roy Thomson Hall here in Toronto. With friends I went to see conductor Andrew Davis' return to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for a special concert. A fine double feature:

Gustav Holst's "The Planets"

Raymond Luedeke's "Tales of the Netsilik ― for orchestra and narrator"

I had heard "The Planets" many times before this night, but hearing it performed live made me appreciate the stellar work even more ― the choral section was absolutely heavenly! (Even considering the then crappy acoustics at RTH.)

Canadian Broadcaster Peter Gzowski told tales as narrator: his familiar voice, at least to CBC Radio listeners, complemented the material, his relaxed style most fitting.

One of my concert-mates said something interesting as we rose from our seats: "I liked the second one more."

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Reading About Television

Reading about art of all kinds is something I enjoy. What is the backstory behind that painting, sculpture, or piece of music? Having grown up with series television like most people, I was furnished with an interest in reading about that art form, even if it may arguably be a lesser art form. As for books about movies, I devoured Kenneth Macgowan's history of the motion picture, "Behind the Screen", in my first year of high school. Two years later it was Arthur Knight's "The Liveliest Art", with many more to come.

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.