Monday, March 20, 2023

A Forever Question: The Week That Is

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

Sir. Why does Friday come after Monday?

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Book: Music for Prime Time (Burlingame)

Music for Prime Time
- A History of American Television Themes and Scoring -

Jon Burlingame

Oxford University Press

Thursday, March 16, 2023

A Forever Question: Tethers

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

Sir. Why can't some people let you go?

Monday, March 13, 2023

Apollo/Soyuz/Me 1975!

The "Americans" again have a man-rated rocket to take astronauts into Earth orbit. It's been a while. For years NASA depended on Russian Soyuz boosters to maintain their manned spaceflight rating. The U.S. space shuttle was retired in 2011.

This then space cadet got up early one day in the summer of 1981 to witness the launch of the first shuttle launch. It was pretty exciting stuff at the time.

Perhaps the single most exciting "blast off" for me was that of Soyuz 19, the Soviet side of the "Apollo-Soyuz Test Project" of 1975. The Soyuz launch vehicle and spacecraft were somewhat mysterious entities to those of us in the west ― civilians in the west. Photographs had been released by the Soviets, some officially and others unofficially, so we knew what the machine looked like at launch ― it looked super cool, that's what it looked ― but there were no motion picture images and nothing substantial in the way of data and specifications. (Like the Vostok and Voskhod rockets the Soyuz was an outgrowth of the brilliant R-7A Semyorka, itself an upgrade of the earlier R-7 Semyorka.)

July 15, 1975: The day of Soviet and 'American' launch vehicles. I had great interest in seeing the Saturn 1B rocket lift the Apollo space vehicle, but the big draw for me, and many others, no doubt, was witnessing the launch of the Soviet machine. I sat in front of the colour Zenith television set. There was an anticipatory tension, an almost drum roll, as we waited for the scheduled launch time. When the final countdown rolled we scrutinized every piece of visual data ― there was no audio of the launch. That great Soyuz Roar would not be heard by me for many more years.

The rocket lifted; it was beautiful.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Film Design: A Designer Checks His Set Plans

Me, a very young me, in October of 1985 working on a set build in the Graveyard Shift workshop. It's really a matter of holding the architectural ruler against the blueprint to make sure the calculations are right.

That gig was a lot of fun. And I learned a lot. It's true: You make it work. There's never enough time and money, but somehow it all comes together.

Terrific shop crew: Dave Fiacconi, Chris Leger, and Mark Lang.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Book: My Uncle Oswald (Dahl)

My Uncle Oswald

Roald Dahl

Penguin Books

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Music 2-CD Set

If one is really into film scores, he or she probably knows Jerry Goldsmith's brilliant music for 1979's science fiction epic, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The production itself was fraught with problems, the primary and underlying one being that the original script was to be the blueprint for a 2-hour telefilm ― actual running time, about 95 minutes. Instead, the core idea stretched out unnaturally to a 142 minute theatrical length. Even with the new extended running time, there did not seem to be enough time for great character scenes and bits, which were the major identifying marks of the original television series; a series with a few outstanding markings, including superb and memorable music scoring. ("Tunes, man! Tunes!")

As much as I'm into the art and craft of film scoring, I appreciate film music most when it's played with the movie (picture and sound) it was designed to accompany. However, some scores do work very well as standalone works ― Goldsmith's stellar work for ST:TMP is one of them.

In January of 1980, one month after the flick's release, the original soundtrack album LP hit store shelves in my town. And I hit Records on Wheels. But just before I did, a fellow teenaged geek invited me over to premiere his unit of that particular piece of vinyl. His audio system was high-end, and when the music kicked up, at a beefy volume, I felt as though I was listening to something cosmically beautiful. That beautiful.

In 2012, La La Land Records released an "all-in" 3-CD set. I never acquired that boxed set, but I understand that all its versions, variations, and alternate cues, worked well ― certainly for completists.

In February of last year, La La Land released a new-new boxed set, this one of 2 CDs.

Some sonic samples....

The "overture" (beautiful piece)

Meet V'Ger (the composer gave an all-but inanimate object some dimension and personality)

A Good Start (the Enterprise flies off) (If you heard this on its own you could be forgiven for thinking you just missed a good movie ― you did not.)

Final note: In the "Meet V'Ger" sample piece one can really hear a pipe organ. The instrument heard here is housed at the 20th Century Fox Studios Scoring Stage (now the "Newman Scoring Stage"). Composer Goldsmith wanted to utilize this special instrument, so he recorded his score at Fox, even though ST:TMP was a Paramount picture. The subsequent original-batch Trekkie feature films all had their respective scores recorded at Paramount's "Stage M", a music stage with a history in that most of the original Star Trek television series' music was recorded there. (Stage M was closed in 2006.)

I've not bought the 2-CD set. I'm just too cheap, I guess.

Monday, March 6, 2023

It's in the Code, Bro!

I remember the first time I heard the term, "Bro Code". ("What's that?")

My first conversation about the “Code” took place a few years ago while I was chatting on the telephone with a good friend. A pleasant discussion broke out, and minutes later it was resolved with the following exchange:

I wouldn’t steal your girl. That’s not right.

Why not?

It’s the Bro Code, man.

Good code!

A Forever Question: Not Enough

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

Sir. Why do some politicians try too hard?

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

TV Titles: The Shulman File

"Look at you. You're a bunch of weirdos!"

So explained Dr Morton Shulman to his crowd of guests as he rocked back and forth in his comfy office chair. In that week's case his invited targets were into fetishes. One mustached guy in particular wore a half-face masquerade mask and would express himself by answering the show host's questions with a simple question: "In what context?"

"Morty" was not afraid to stick it to his special guests, be they politicians, labour union leaders, or an assortment of the offbeat.

The embedded video clip above is from a show titled: "UFO's and Psychics. Fact or Fraud?" (1983)

The Shulman File premiered in 1977, and from that point onward I watched on a regular basis. It did not matter to me what any given week's theme was. After all, there was that great theme tune to get one in the mood for some television fireworks.

Then Toronto-based CITY-TV was a great station at one time. In its mix of creative programming sat a controversial presenter. Morton Shulman, politician, physician and coroner, stirred things up, but did so from an intellectual platform ― not sensationalism for the sake of sensationalism, and ratings (as in Bill O'Reilly).

It would be nice to see complete episodes; there are bits and pieces to enjoy on YouTube.

We need a show like The Shulman File today to grill our surfeit of "weirdos".

Monday, February 27, 2023

A Forever Question: Placement

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

Sir. Should the last refuge of a scoundrel be first?

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Books: Sampling of War and Warfare

A gent I follow on Twitter is a historian and PhD candidate. James Jefferies puts up some interesting tweets, one recently was a snapshot of several WW2 aviation books in his library. This eventually inspired me to do the same, even if I was clumsy and included 'contaminating' books from the ground and sea.

Above is just a small sample of my collection. As an RCAF member in the RAF, my dad was aircrew on Lancaster bombers: hence my interest in the Allied bombing campaign.

On one of my trips to England I spoke with author Martin Middlebrook ― I just rang him up ― and he was very pleasant, and helpful in my research. When I eventually got back here to Canada I found a piece of airmail awaiting me from Mr Middlebrook. He supplied me with some additional information based on our conversation. What a nice bloke.

Monday, February 20, 2023

A Forever Question: This Little Pinky Says

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

Sir. Shouldn't David Vincent tell us that the Invaders are here, and that they have taken human form?

Friday, February 17, 2023

Me on Cat Value

"Cats are not boring... they provide hours of entertainment fun."

I know cats.

Monday, February 13, 2023

A Forever Question: Reverse Rolls

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

Sir. Is it possible to be a little downnity?

Sunday, February 12, 2023

CD: The Man-Machine (Kraftwerk)

The Man-Machine


Capital Records, Inc

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Book: The Movie Book - Big Ideas Simply Explained (Green)

The Movie Book
- Big Ideas Simply Explained -

Dan Green

DK, Illustrated Edition

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A Forever Question: Fluidity

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

Sir. Is there such a thing as "intellectual viscosity"?

Monday, January 30, 2023

A Forever Question: We What?

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

Sir. Are humans too violent a species for our needs?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Vid Clip: TTC Subway Train Leaving Yorkdale Station

Riding the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway system: The video clip starts as the train pulls out of "Yorkdale" station, heading north to "Wilson". No, I did not record this today... today had heavy snowfall.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A Forever Question: Turn Away

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

Sir. Is it safe to leave memories pining?

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Vladimir Shatalov on Us

"When we look into the sky it seems to us to be endless. We breathe without thinking about it, as is natural... and then you sit aboard a spacecraft, you tear away from Earth, and within ten minutes you have been carried straight through the layer of air, and beyond there is nothing! The 'boundless' blue sky, the ocean which gives us breath and protects us from endless black and death, is but an infinitesimally thin film. How dangerous it is to threaten even the smallest part of this gossamer covering, this conserver of life."

A Cosmonaut's special view is true.

Alan Shepard on Us

"I realized up there that our planet is not infinite. It's fragile. That may not be obvious to a lot of folks, and it's tough that people are fighting each other here on Earth instead of trying to get together and live on this planet. We look pretty vulnerable in the darkness of space."

We are vulnerable, indeed.

Monday, January 16, 2023

A Forever Question: Mixed-up Emotions?

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

Sir. Why do the hateful hate love?"

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Soviet Space Program Short Film "Four in the Cosmos"

Studying up on the Soviet space program is one of my research pleasures. The above 20 minute film from 1969 is a fine if unrevealing motion picture document on the Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5 orbital docking from January that year.

Used to good effect is Georgy Sviridov's brilliant orchestral piece, "Time, Forward!", originally composed for a film of the same name just four years earlier but already finding a life outside its original intent. (It rolls with driving steel works machinery rhythms similar in collective spirit to those of Alexander Mosolov's 1927 piece, "Iron Foundry".)

My Russian is non-existent, so I asked a Russian friend of mine to translate the screen chatter in basic terms: He said that nothing much is revealed; in particular, the voice-over is a "near-to-empty official story of the flight"; nothing to give anything away. (Not advertised was Soyuz 5's bumpy return to Earth.)

As short-form filmmaking, Four in the Cosmos is effective and, at times, almost poetic.

Book: The Sea Shall Embrace Them (Shaw)

The Sea Shall Embrace Them
- The Tragic Story of the Steamship Arctic -

David W. Shaw

The Free Press

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

... the Budget Will Balance Itself ― In Context

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau gets some people going. A frequent attack on him is the very selective extraction of a certain quote by him; a line from a greater idea. This method is commonly referred to as "quote mining". (Out of context.)

In fact, Mr Trudeau was speaking about the Stephen Harper government's inability to present a strategy to stimulate economic growth. Economists disagree with one another to various degrees on how much such growth leads down the line to less government expenditures. The theory is that increased government revenues through taxation rolls ultimately to a decreased demand for outlays to departments such as employment insurance and welfare. Part of the PM's platform was to support infrastructure building, which hopefully would get the ball rolling and help lead to the above.

The original quote:

"The commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy and the budget will balance itself."

In its proper context the idea doesn't sound so harebrained.

Monday, January 9, 2023

A Forever Question: The Blue Mats

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

Sir. There are physical exercises and mental exercises, but are there emotional exercises?

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Guidebook: Baden-Baden, West Germany (circa 1970)

Baden-Baden, Germany, is beautiful. It was near that historic town where I spent four years of my childhood, and the memories are strong, especially when I look at pictures in this guidebook from the time I was there.

Welcome to Baden-Baden in "Der Schwarzwald", and these sample pages:

(click to enlarge)

The photo immediately above is of the Rastatt pool. It is where my swimming skills were fine tuned by my swim coach mother. The pool complex was, and still is, I'm sure, a great place. (If the kid who stole my Fina swim ring reads this he should feel bad. At least he had the decency to replace my new one with his old one.)

The racetrack above is in Iffezheim and it's just a few minutes' walk from where I lived. Not only did I see a few horse races at the track, but there was a smashup derby held one night by we Canadians which was a lot of fun. (Cars smashed up, not horses.)

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Flash Poem: whenever

My mind waits
on the day

While in the
daze of sleep

my mind
wanders in
a nightie
and slippers


Simon St. Laurent

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

A Forever Question: A Link In Time

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

Sir. Why is it 2023 when I remember 1966?