Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Book: Treat Me Like Dirt (Worth)

Treat Me Like Dirt
- An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond -

Liz Worth

Edited by
Gary Pig Gold

ECW Press
(Updated Edition)

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Lancs Bomb Hitler's Eagles Nest and the SS Barracks

In previous postings I talked about my father's experiences during WW2 with RAF Bomber Command No 626 Squadron. Below is a photo taken during 626's final major operation of the war: The bombing of the SS Barracks in Obersalzberg, on April 25th, 1945.

Allied intelligence picked up on a rumour that hardcore Nazis were planning a 'last stand' at the barracks. The obvious bit of intelligence was to bomb it.

A force of over 350 Lancaster bombers struck.

By the way: Antifa!

Monday, April 24, 2023

History's What It's Cracked Up To Be and In Repeat

"Go ahead, sir. I'm in no rush."

My offer went appreciated but ultimately rejected.

The bloke explained his position: "I'm in no rush, either. There's no Leafs game to watch tonight."

I told him that I'm old enough to have remembered the last Toronto Maple Leafs Stanley Cup victory had I seen it, but I was living overseas in 1967. My memory was in full swing by that point.

As I explained to the gent, "I could tell people that I saw the Leafs win the Stanley Cup". (What a claim that would be. With beer and pretzels.)

Then depression set in. That was a long time ago!

Sorry, Leafs fans. Fallen to the cracks of history.

A Forever Question: To Be Determined

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

Sir. Do cats have a grand plan for us?

Sunday, April 23, 2023

More Than Just a Few Good Men

A picture from 1967 featuring Liberal Party of Canada politicians: Pierre Trudeau; John Turner; then prime minister Lester B. Pearson; and Jean Chrétien.

Messrs Trudeau, Turner, and Chrétien would become prime ministers of this great country.

Sunday Fun: Me, Punk Musick

I'm standing at a spot in Toronto, a gentleman walks cautiously up to me, more by me, as if unsure about some important profile. He slows to a stagger, and emits....

"You dealin'?"

I keep my composure but give the meek gent the respect he deserves....

"Yah, I'm dealin'. I'm dealin' bad luck! Get your ass outta here."


I've gone solo after being with Republick for years. My first Breakaway Republick album is titled: "Deal!"

Monday, April 17, 2023

A Forever Question: The Right Slice

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

Sir. What is meant by "take a peace"?

Film Post: Film Effects Artists, Toronto (1993)

L to R: Alan Peppiatt, Bob Yoshioka, Chris Ross, me, and George Furniotis.

(Missing: John Furniotis; Susan Furniotis; Brenda, the receptionist.)

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Movie Matinee: Superargo Versus Diabolicus

This was a beautiful and entertaining movie in my childhood. It played at my local cinema, the now-gone Astral at CFB Borden, a few times and I caught it on at least two occasions. Somehow we young moviegoers knew it wasn't exactly a Hollywood movie even though it was a CinemaScope and colour picture featuring fast cars, computer consoles, cool fights (the flick opens with Superargo, a guy in red tights, wrestling in a ring with a leopard man), a rocketship, and an emotive villain running his nefarious operation out of a small island.

I learned that Superargo contro Diabolikus ― brought to America as Superargo Versus Diabolicus ― was an Italian/Spanish co-production from 1966. The only actor I am familiar with is Gérard Tichy; he was in two Samuel Bronston pictures from 1961: El Cid and King of Kings. Tichy plays the villain, Diabolicus, with great delight, as I remember it. He says to Superargo: "With my brains and your strength we can rule the world!" (I would now ask: "What? Is he from a race of Atomic Supermen? Okay, I'm sure the guy can bench-press three hundred pounds, or more, and run at a fair clip, but Superargo would be a key and vital figure in helping a smart guy conquer and rule the world?")

Perhaps it's time I revisit this fine piece of matinee fare and enjoy Superargo's delightful final few minutes all over again, the way I remember them....

(Spoilers; stop here if you plan to catch the flick.)

As a clock does a classic countdown, Diabolicus tries to take off in a rocketship from his island to escape a pursuing Superargo, and a timed detonator (which will blow up the island).

Next, there is a shot, at night time, of what appears to be a pile of mud on a wet garage floor. I think: "Oh, that's the area right under the rocket booster... and the flame is supposed to be the rockets readying to fire."

Shot of Superargo running over to a control panel. He pulls a power cable, or something or other, and sparks fly. Medium close-up of Diabolicus yelling or screaming in his capsule. Back to the wet garage floor as a mass of flame licks and swirls around the pile of mud which throws about little chunks of mud.

I think: "Diabolicus is getting away; the rockets are firing." At that exact same instant, just about everyone in the movie theatre explodes with laughter.

Feeling little, I think: "What are they laugh... ? Ohh, that's supposed to be the island blowing up!"

I'm not always the brightest rocket on the island.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Rod Serling on Prejudice

"I think that the singular evil of our time is prejudice. It is from this evil that all other evils grow and multiply. In almost everything I've written there is a thread of this: a man's seemingly palpable need to dislike someone other than himself."

That's from 1967? No way, man.

Rod Serling lives on.

Monday, April 10, 2023

A Forever Question: Act Now!

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

Sir. Why is time limited?

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Paramount Pictures' Stage M (and Elmer Bernstein)

In a piece I posted last month, I mentioned a 'famous' film studio's music recording stage: Paramount Pictures' Stage M.  Many scores were recorded there, including those for: Sunset Boulevard; Psycho; Breakfast at Tiffany'sOut of Africa; The Hunt for Red OctoberGoodwill Hunting; Road to PerditionThe Bourne Identity; The IslandWALL-E; and many others. Music for Paramount television shows was recorded there, too, including episode background cues for programs such as Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.

Recordings were not limited to instrumental parts. "White Christmas", "Mona Lisa", "Que Sera, Sera", and "Moon River" are some famous motion picture songs laid down at Stage M, by artists such as Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Doris Day.

That storied recording studio is now gone, having been closed in 2006, but through all the men and women who followed the batons of music men such as Victor Young, Bernard Herrmann, Henry Mancini, John Barry, and Jerry Goldsmith, its acoustical memories live on.

The late great film composer Elmer Bernstein recorded his classic score for The Ten Commandments at "M". (He replaced Victor Young when the veteran composer fell ill.) The film itself doesn't deserve, but needs, this brilliant work.

Happy Easter!

Elmer Bernstein conducts a cue for The Ten Commandments (1956).

* Photos reproduced with permission by The Bernstein Family Trust *

Friday, April 7, 2023

Unways, An Experimental Short Film from The Funnel


In February of 2017, I wrote a piece on my experiences with Toronto's experimental film collective, "The Funnel" (1977 - 1989). My involvement with the group was from sitting in front of a screen during late 1984 and early 1985. Those twice-weekly screenings were more than worth my time, but for some reason, probably because I was in my first year of film school at that time, I did not become a member or get to know any of the gang.

One such (filmmaker) gang member was Paul McGowan.

While looking up "the funnel toronto" on YouTube last year, I stumbled upon the above short, Unways. Immediately I spent fifteen minutes sitting in front of my monitor screen soaking up the filmmaker's early-1980s Super-8 effort.

It was time well spent, as I became immersed in Mr McGowan's film; losing myself in its hypnotic flashes, its fixed stare looking down the length of a TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) subway train car. In some ways, Unways reminded me of Jonas Mekas' hypnotic 12-minute flickerama, Notes On the Circus (1966).

Paul McGowan enlisted the help of Funnel stalwart John Porter in execution of the time-lapse photographics, and for the fine audio track build, he worked with T. Michael Cluer. 

I wish more Funnel shorts were on YouTube.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

A Telephone Answering Machine's Easter Message

Many years ago my roommate at the time and I decided to have some fun: we recorded a message for answering machine which could be best described as "daring".

Dave had a four-track audio recorder; it used cassette tape, the kind of tape used as the 'outgoing' message on my Panasonic answering machine. Inspiration hit the two of us fast and hard. We wrote the script quickly and prepared to record the message. In my music collection I have a CD titled "Hollywood's Greatest Hits Volume Two". On one track Dave and I laid down Elmer Bernstein's theme from the 1956 opus The Ten Commandments, specifically, the pastoral passage right after the bombast proper ― the background music we hear playing under the voice of God.

Next: Dave's recording of the voice of God. His voice was better than my nasally own for this important document. After we had the two tracks down it was a matter of giving the commanding orator some reverb. (A dry voice track would inspire no one, no matter how persuasive the text.)

We were very happy with our effort.

As the British would say, "the show went out".

The reaction was much greater than what we were expecting. Callers who got the outgoing message thought it was very funny, hilarious. What happened was the word quickly got around about our answering machine commandments. People would call just to hear the message, and since Dave and I were busy guys, chances were that they would get the machine.

A mutual friend went into hysterics when we gave him a live playback, but after he regained his composure, he told us his concern that some folk might not find our commandments humorous.

After some time Dave and I pulled the work. Unfortunately it's gone; we know not where.

Here is a transcription, not scripture:

"Luuuke. I mean....Mosesss. Thou shalt leave a message at the tone. Leave thy name and numberrr... (at this point Dave's voice speeds into a 'Maxwell Smart') ... And when I get a chance, I'll call you back!"

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Book: The Bombers and The Bombed (Overy)

The Bombers and The Bombed
Allied Air War Over Europe, 1940 - 1945

Richard Overy

Penguin Books

Monday, April 3, 2023

As It's 'National Film Score Day', My Soundtrack Story

When I work on projects at home I will listen to music, or, if my task requires little concentration, interviews and 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 acquisitions, 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 at CFB Borden: Rollerball.

Later, as I perused the LP record bin at Borden's PX (Post Exchange), 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 to me. When I returned the album to my friend I mentioned that I found the music to be "watery" and didn't even bother moving on to "side 2". (He too was not impressed. After all, this was the guy who got me into the German band, Kraftwerk.) Of course, as I discovered when I saw the film, the music plays wonderfully well with picture 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 asks in the Mark Kermode program I listened to last night: "What's the most recent film score that you can really hum?"

Ahh... ahh... ahh.....

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

The King's Depths, Grimm Style

Introduction: The following piece I wrote on October 6th, 2020, but after completing it, and just before pressing the "upload" button, it struck me as being in bad taste given what little we knew about U.S. President Donald Trump's overall condition at that time. By December 30th of that year, I decided it was okay to post "The King's Depths" given that he seemed to be over his malady. With Mr Trump now in New York City for his booking and arraignment on criminal charges, scheduled for tomorrow, it may be time to repost the piece given what battle he has ahead of him....

U.S. President Donald J. Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Medical Center on Friday, not after already being tested and confirmed as COVID-19 positive, but after feeling unwell throughout the night. He was advised to seek serious medical treatment, immediately. The president has long downplayed the severity of the virus, and has ignored the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans. Deaths but a little inconvenient: for him, and for the people who've died. Yesterday he exited Walter Reed and took a joy ride in his armoured vehicle to show his faithful, who stood outside with their banners of support and reaffirmation, that the king had beaten the unseen and not-real plague.

Later in the day Trump went home triumphantly to the White House and waved with laboured breath to the crowd. All was good again in the Great Kingdom.

If this were a Brothers Grimm story, how might it end? Most of us would not wish something like this on Mr Trump, but, given his mean nature toward his fellow man and woman, one can have fun with a fanciful tale....

"King Trump, while dining late one night on food fit for kings, felt a great disturbance in his belly and breast, a rumbling of which he recalled from days and nights before. He sweated all over, and he gasped for life. His minions rushed him to the town's physicians, who, with armour and tools, battled for him through the night, only to lose the king of kings in the darkness.

His faithful villagers did not fret for long at the sight of their immobile once-proud King. They ate him all up."

Postscript: I understand this tale is even darker in the original German.

A Forever Question: Serving Right

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

Sir. Why are so many Conservatives such Cons?

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Wagner, Bernstein, and Me

This evening I re-watched a fine documentary on the late, great American conductor Leonard Bernstein; this flick, Leonard Bernstein Reflections, reminded me of an experience of mine:

Years ago I worked at an "optical house" where I was the afternoon shift camera guy. This entailed frequently working into the wee hours of the morning; using the technical side of your brain when it would rather be in sleep mode.

My coworker ― the day cameraman ― would leave the radio on for me after we discussed what it was I had to shoot and how I could shoot it. Unfortunately the radio was tuned to one of the annoying pop stations, which only served to annoy me as I tried to shoot opticals. After a few days of annoyance I decided it would be best for my sanity if I were to change the station to a classical one. Great: I could shoot film while dancing to Schumann's Symphony No 3. (Known to fantasy movie fans as the theme to the 1988 crappic, Willow.)

One night the classical station's host played a little Richard Wagner but before he started rolling the music track he talked a bit about conductor Leonard Bernstein. The maestro was quoted giving his feelings on the uber composer. Wagner was a racist, an anti-Semite, and so on: "I despise him, but I despise him on my knees!"

After I heard that, I was on my knees!