Sunday, June 30, 2013


Since I was born in the early 1960s, I was alive and somewhat cognizant during Canada's "Centennial" celebrations.

There was a man, a slightly eccentric-looking man named Bobby Gimby, who led this great country's children in song, to a song he wrote with composer Ben McPeek; the celebratory tune was called "Canada".

It is a very infectious ditty, and one imprinted in our minds partly because we kiddies sang "Caaa naaa daaaaa" many times; but it was a fun to sing and not out of duty alone. We rehearsed in our little one-room school... sorry, Igloo, in preparation for a visit by the pied piper himself. I remember him being an energetic guy, one loving what he was doing. He was very animated.

Needless to say, Mr. Gimby (pronounced "Jim-bee") fell off the radar for a lot of Canadians after our Centennial year. That was to be expected. But, for those of us of a certain age, Canada's Pied Piper will never be forgotten.

By the way, I just now heard "Canada" again for the first time in decades. I think it's a great song... and perfect for kids to sing.

Of course Youtube has a video of the song...

Saturday, June 29, 2013


I was having lunch with a friend the other day and we were talking about SF television series'. A few minutes into the conversation my tuna-munching-mate said, "someone should remake The Starlost".

The Starlost, an NBC/CTV co-production from 1973-74 was a noble effort to make a 'space' series on video tape, utilizing the benefits of chroma-key and the lower production costs of producing such a series in Canada. We were not talking about remakes, exactly, but the fact that my friend brought it up was interesting -- combined with the fact that he barely remembers the 16-episode original show.

Four years ago I picked-up the DVD set of The Starlost and watched it again for the first time in years, I think of the series now as a noble failure; or, a good try but not quite there. There are some good episodes but most are okay or just plain bland.

Fine, when I watch current SF television shows I almost always react with, "what the (heck)?" To be truthful, The Starlost is not bad on those terms.

Not too many things whip me with narcolepsy faster than too-many-special-effects. Remember, only geeks like special effects over 'story'. As a matter of fact, many of them won't watch a series if there are no spaceships (of today's kewl special effects) even if it is branded as "science fiction".

I've noticed on the Web that a few comments have said "remake this series!" (with the advanced video technology we now possess). The principle is the same as the '70s effort but digital matting has made the effects process seamless; plus now we have CGI, something that was in its infancy forty years ago.

Just technical matters, of course. Technology hasn't helped or solved the great riddle of script-writing, and the all too precious story department is what would potentially separate a Starlost remake from the original, even more than 'imaging', as far as I'm concerned. (Some 'name' writers worked on the first tales of the Ark, but there were terrible time pressures caused by a late 'green-light' in turn furnishing a compressed pre-production schedule, which did not help the matter of finding shootable scripts.)

If a reboot were to be announced my first thought would be: "Why am I expecting to see more effects-laden crap?"

Friday, June 28, 2013


It's a long weekend. I had no idea, until early this morning, that this was a long weekend -- here in the great country of Canada. Because of this oversight I have nothing to do. Not true, of course.

I have two or three banked postings asking for a little going-over, which I've already mentioned...

* Disraeli Gears, a 1967 music album from the band Cream (for you young-ones).

* Blank City, a documentary on the "No Wave" and "Cinema of Transgression" movements.

* Born Into This, a documentary on writer Charles Bukowski.

This weekend I will have some time to get the above up on this here blog, even with a time-demanding freelance illustration job now on my table.

Please check back here before the end of the Canada Day Weekend (Monday night). Now I have to produce.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Stock Photo - from Toronto Sun article.
When I saw the headline "We're angrier than our ancestors" on the Toronto Sun website today, I thought it was the title of an editorial.

Whew. It's an understandable mistake, of course.

The more I think about it, that would be a good name for one of their editorials. It's true, the Toronto Sun is angrier (or "more angrier", as their devoted followers would say) than they were years or decades ago.

It may be hard to believe for some younger folk, but the Sun actually was not a bad newspaper at one time -- as in, a real "newspaper". When Toronto Sun co-founder and former editor Peter Worthington died recently he took the last of any credibility with him.

As a good friend of mine might say, "now it's run by a bunch of twelve-year-olds". (I would argue against that since the Sun is written at about a grade-3 reading level, never mind the fact that the average twelve-year-old is much more sophisticated.)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Youtube user "Crud Spews" uploaded a video which he titled "Michael Coren's unscripted & and uncensored response to a Muslim call to prayer (Adhan)".

Coren is a bigot, absolutely, but considering that he won't shut up about being a devoted and good Catholic, this video has a strange odour. That guy is full of hate -- "bigot" is too soft a word.

I remember witnessing something strange, even chilling, on Sun News a couple of years ago: After we returned to the studio from a block of commercials, host Alex Pierson said, as she held her hands up to co-host Coren, "you really scare me sometimes". In response he did a little Jack Nicholson-as-the-Joker-like shake of the head; goo hoo hoo hoo. (Is he mentally ill?)

I find it odd that Coren was not fired by Sun News, or reprimanded by the CRTC, for this childish and improper, not to mention unprofessional, behaviour...

Monday, June 24, 2013


"Yah! Enjoy the summer!"

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for beating the Boston Bruins in game 7 to win the 2013 Stanley Cup -- and saving the National Hockey League from skating almost into July. As it stands right now we're six days to next month, but game 8 would have put the cup win perilously close to July. It's rather pathetic, really.

Chicago won the game 3-2 after Dave Bolland scored the game winner late in the third period.

The NHL has to do some serious reorganizing and rescheduling to end the seasons earlier... much earlier.


"Directed by Jules White"

Now here's a series of internal moves that will increase quality at the Toronto Sun 'newspaper'...

* Toronto City Hall columnist Sue-Ann Levy is moving to Queen’s Park to "write on provincial politics from Toronto’s perspective". (Thank you.)

* Queen’s Park columnist Christina Blizzard, who will up-convert to Senior Ontario Writer for the Toronto Sun and Sun Media, "where she’ll be the voice for the little guy not only in our city but for all of the province". (Thank you, thank you.)

* 'Columnist' Mike Strobel is moving (without a bicycle, I'm guessing) to City Hall "where he’ll delight our readers by skewering local politicians as only he can..." (He'll "delight" your average dim-witted Sun-lover, all right; no argument from me.)

It's an overused saying, I know...

"That's akin to rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic." (What? The R.M.S. Titanic was an ocean liner. I think you meant to say "on a dugout... dug right through".)

Sunday, June 23, 2013


Considering that I like movies and enjoy watching them on home vid or online, I rarely listen to DVD commentary tracks. The reasons are good, and, from dialoguing with others on the subject, quite common.

In most cases the people in the audio booth have not seen the film or television series in years so they are trying hard to remember anything of substance; and often enough are just enjoying seeing themselves or their work after so much time has passed that they often don't say much over the course of the film as it unfurls before them. Or, and this is worse, in my opinion, they offer nothing more than what amount to platitudes or make comments like "look at that outfit I'm wearing". Worse than that worse is when more than one person or a party of people is in the booth and what we viewers/listeners are offered is "a good ol' time".

There are exceptions for me...

Television producer/writer/director Kenneth Johnson: A pleasure to listen to as he recounts and itemizes everything from a specific memory to what location that is we are seeing. Density is what it's all about with Johnson. I love it!

Any commentary involving director Richard Donner: The Omen; Superman (for instance). He has a great sense of humour ('look at those great titles... white on black'), and a seemingly good memory.

And... the commentary track for the 1976 feature film Logan's Run, starring director Micheal Anderson, lead actor Michael York, and costume designer Bill Thomas. It was a pleasure to listen to the three of them as they are well spoken and interesting.

The only problem is that since I waited to the last minute to sample the commentary track, and I had a busy day ahead of me, in addition to wanting return the DVD to the store as part of my travels for the day, I listened to the first 55 minutes or so... right up to the "Love Shop" scene; or a little after. (Maybe it puckered me out, and I had to stop.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013


Look at the kitty's little bow wave. She's a movin'!

Cats, to me, are awesome, but when they can swim like "Momo", they are awesomeness.

Kevan Yeats and cat Momo had to swim for their lives after the can-opener's truck fell into a sinkhole during flooding in High River, Alberta, Canada. It's a good thing that cat happens to like water, since it made the only option at least a viable one for the furry thing.

Pet human, Mr. Yeats, thought it odd that his owner liked water: Momo, an eight-month-old Maine coon cat, likes to paddle about in a bathtub full of water, or sit in the shower.

After it was clear that the two had to escape from the rapidly sinking vehicle the cat made a move. According to Kevan Yeats, “She just kinda jumped out of my arms and said, ‘Hopefully you get out, human, but I’m gone. You got me into this mess, you gotta get yourself out'".

What Momo was probably thinking was this: "It's quite possible that one of us is going to go down with this sinking waste-of-metal, and it sure as heck ain't gonna be me...."

I'd like to meet that cat; and shake her paw.

In all seriousness I'm glad to see there was a happy ending to this story.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Here's something bold, with opinions sure to send the Toronto Sun into fits of fury: Tim Kaine, a Democrat representative from Virginia, wrote an Op-ed for today's Washington Post on why he thinks that U.S. president Barack Obama should block the building of the "tarsands" pipeline (the Keystone XL project). Kaine backs up his assertion that by opposing the oil highway from Alberta, Canada, to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, carbon emissions can be lowered which would help the U.S. meet its targets and to meet a better quality of life for Americans.

The process of extracting oil from the Alberta tarsands (or "oilsands") is labour intensive and "dirty", requiring huge amounts of water and damaging to the local environment. Mr. Kaine admits that coal plants, fossil-fuel production, and automobiles will continue to pollute, but much can be done to lower the overall dirt. There has been a push in the States to using natural gas and "renewable-electricity generation", such as wind, which has helped contribute to a 9 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 2005.

Kaine explains that some folk have the attitude that 'someone will take Canada's tarsands oil if we don't, so we should be there to benefit, too'. He chooses not to go that defeatist route.

The United States of America and its gas-guzzling citizens have an insatiable need for Canada's (safe) oil... even if it has to be taken from a stone. Therefore I think that Tim Kaine's more-than-reasonable arguments will be lost in the wind.

The Washington Post...
Obama should block the Keystone pipeline

Thursday, June 20, 2013


Let me tell you sometin', Meathead.
I knew this would happen: With the unfortunate passing of James Gandolfini there are pundits about stating that Tony Soprano is the "greatest television character of all time". I would buy the insertion of the all-important "possibly", or "perhaps".

Is Tony Soprano the greatest TV character of all time?


Try: Archie Bunker, Lucy Ricardo, James T. Kirk, George Costanza, Zachary Smith....

(I must say that I cannot stand most sitcoms, but there you go.)

There is a tendency to pick recent, or recent-ish, television shows and their characters as "the best ever"; time must pass. A little 'history' needs to accumulate in order to make such bold proclamations -- forgetting subjectivity, of course.

Personally, I think the answer to the above question is a no-brainer: "Gladys Crabtree"


TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) CEO Andy Byford wants to try banning cars from the downtown part of King Street during rush hour in order to keep the streetcars moving in an efficient manner. As a proud/big walker and TTC user I say "yes!"

Traffic on that street is getting worse year-by-year. I used to commute on King Street when I worked at a company downtown; now I go down there to do business and it's more of an ordeal with all the new car-spitting condos... with more and more going up all the time.

TTC chairperson Karen Stintz has noted that with the expansion of "Liberty Village" (near King & Dufferin) there is a need to make the streetcar service more dependable along the route to that area.

(To be honest, I go down there quite a bit, and as much as I admit transport in general is slow in the downtown core part of King Street, it's not too bad out near Dufferin -- pretty good, actually; no problems to report. Ms. Stintz is talking of the condos going up along King to the way to the village. She is correct. When I'm on the streetcar going along that section of King I think, "look at all the holes".)

The "erection" of Liberty Village is a whole issue by itself. I've been meaning to take pictures whenever I'm down there to show the insane amount of condo-building going on. The density is so high that it looks like a PhotoShop job... or former East Berlin in the 1990s.

Hopefully something will be done about traffic congestion on King Street; but, a close second would be the problems on Queen Street.

Toronto, downtown, is slowly but surely going more and more insane. But... we can do things to avoid being admitted to the "loony bin". It just takes brains and guts. Do we have those essential services here in Toronto? Time will tell.

I must say: The TTC's new Bombardier 204 streetcars are nice-looking machines. It'll be good to see them on Spadina Avenue and King Street. And as a regular transit user in that part of town, I look forward to riding on them.

The Toronto Star...
TTC boss suggests banning cars from downtown King St. at rush hours

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


I was in the midst of watching the documentary Wild Man Blues when I decided to take a break and check the Toronto Star website to see what was happening in the news. Front and center was the headline "Actor James Gandolfini of 'Sopranos' fame dead at 51".

Sad news, and a shocker, of course.

I was never able to get into The Sopranos, the acclaimed television series in which Gandolfini starred as "Tony Soprano", but I did appreciate the show's qualities. The man deserved the accolades he won, for he made the viewer believe.

Interesting I should be watching a doc on Woody Allen; one of my favourite quotes from James Gandolfini concerned the famous comedian: Gandolfini said that he found it odd that he was admired for his portrayal of a mobster. He clarified by saying something like, "I'm really a wimpy guy in real life... a sort of beefy Woody Allen".

I understand that James Gandolfini was a very nice man. He did much to spread the wealth with his fellow Sopranos cast, for instance. It's admirable that an actor at the height of fame should be so well-balanced, kind, and generous. You don't often see that.

The Toronto Star...
James Gandolfini of ‘Sopranos’ fame dead at 51


I can sound like a broken record with my repeated shots at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and CBC Mayor George Stroumboulopoulos, but the fact is I get my some of my biggest "ratings numbers" with my approach to those subjects. The question I'm asking myself is, am I selling out to get the (relatively) big hit counts?

Based on feedback I've received from some of my valued and appreciated regular readers, I get the impression that I don't know when to stop. But, I must explain how I feel about these two guys.

I like Rob Ford, I really do, and I'll like him even more when he's left the centre seat.

I like Strombo, I really do, it's just that there must be someone better than him out there to occupy the big red sofa seat on that CBC show. Daniel Richler, for one, would represent a huge leap in quality.

Oops, I'm doing it again.

That's enough for now, really.

(In a couple of hours, I'll be sure to check those numbers.)


In all seriousness: I have a posting on my rather late introduction to the Cream album "Disraeli Gears" almost ready to go; and one on my recent viewing of Born Into This, a documentary on writer Charles Bukowski. Almost forgot that I scribbled notes after watching a doc called Blank City -- I'm now turning it into a post.

Coming soon!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


"CBC, CNN; hmm, who next?..."
Last Friday, June 14th, I wrote a piece (here) on George Stroumboulopoulos' bad luck in the ratings department with the premiere of his new show on CNN: Stroumboulopoulos had anemic viewer-numbers, to put it mildly.

I have long thought that "Strombo", with his CBC talk show alone, is in way over his head; I fear that George will flounder in his new south-of-the-border version.

Time will tell, certainly when Stroumboulopoulos moves to its regular Friday night slot.

Writer Tony Wong of the Toronto Star did this follow-up story on Saturday...

George Stroumboulopoulos's CNN debut gets dismal ratings

Read the comments beneath the article -- I'm convinced that some dim-wits from the Toronto Sun comment boards made a migration. Some clueless comment person said that he is tired of George's "leftist views". How is he a "Leftist"?

A lot of people, neo-cons, mainly, don't even know what "Leftist" means... or "Socialist", or "Liberal". (Right-wingers really do suffer greatly.)

Too many people tie Strombo in with their hate-on of the CBC. I don't think much of the man, as I've said more than a few times, but I never think "stop wasting my tax dollars on this idiot!"

Anyway, I will make a point to try Stroumboulopoulos.


Late last night, as a thank-you to my long day, I watched the 2007 documentary Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures. It was an enjoyable and interesting film, directed by Hasko Baumann, about the famous French artist Jean Giraud, and his other selves.

Most of us, moi included, learned of the man through the Heavy Metal comics/magazine. A sorta okay animated film, produced by Ivan Reitman, was made here in Canada and released in 1981. My friends and I went to see it and most of us were a little disappointed, I think. About ten years ago I went to see Heavy Metal again at the Bloor Cinema and thought the same as I did years before: Good opening story (Harry Canyon) then hit-and-miss after that... overstaying its welcome, perhaps. Too much of an okay thing. But was John Candy ever funny "as" Den. The most memorable element of the film was Elmer Bernstein's great score.

Off track...

Some of the interview subjects include Alejandro Jodorowsky, H.R. Giger, and Dan O'Bannon. They talk about their various experiences working with Giraud, including on projects, like Dune, which never got off-the-ground.

For me, the fallout of Moebius Redux was that I want to explore, some more, the Metal Hurlant comics.

After watching the doc I did some reading on the film and discovered that what I had viewed was a BBC cut-down version called In Search of Moebius (as it was labelled). About 15 mins was cut out from the 68-minute original. There's another thing I have to find....

Sunday, June 16, 2013


There was a director who was often picked as the man to helm any 'international' big budget or high profile motion picture. His name is Guy Hamilton; he is now 90 years of age and long retired from the business.

Born in Paris, France, to English parents, he ended up staying there during the war and the Nazi occupation.

He moved to the director's chair after working as an assistant director for people like John Huston and Carol Reed. (It should be noted that "assistant directing" has little if anything at all to do with "directing", other than giving instructions. Many people move from the art and editing departments to herding the cattle... I mean, directing.)

Mr. Hamilton was, for a few years, the keeper of the James Bond franchise: Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man With the Golden Gun (1974).

In the late 1960s he was chosen as the man to helm the big-budget historical air-battle opus Battle of Britain, a film which threatened to get out of control -- which it did, finally reaching movie screens in 1969 after many delays in production.

One major movie event he was slated to guide ended up without him when cameras started rolling. That picture was Superman: The Movie (1978) which ended up being directed by Richard Donner; who did a terrific job, as many people would agree. Hamilton had to bow-out when the film's producers relocated the production, from its intended location of Italy, to England. Since he was a "tax exile", which meant one could spend just 30 days in the country, quite impractical for most films, Hamilton could not add Superman to his list of achievements.

"James Bond is that one..."
Some may argue that he was not an inspired director, although people like me would say the opposite. Guy Hamilton was known and trusted as being someone who could contain an over-sized production and get the film in the can. We often forget that this quality is a big part of getting a movie made -- especially movies of a certain super-size, where if anything and everything will go wrong, they will. Getting pages of script shot while adding something extra is always a desired combo on a film.

After all, a great cinematic moment for me is from Battle of Britain: There is a scene at night where RAF workmen wheel a Spitfire fighter from the hanger; they stop to look at the blitz on London happening far off in the distance; the close-ups on the workers' faces as the stare, transfixed, is something that is worth pages of rambling script. Those shots say so much.

Mr. Hamilton is getting a bit on in years but his memory of working on various productions including 1964's James Bond outing Goldfinger is still there. The following video was taken in 2009 at the University of Aberdeen; Hamilton converses with Janice Forsyth as part of The Director's Cut program; he tells some funny stories about Sean Connery and the making of Goldfinger...

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Last month I posted a story (here) on the RAF Museum's plans to salvage a long-lost WW2 German Dornier Do 17 bomber which had ditched on the Goodwin Sands after being shot down during the Battle of Britain. The one known remaining example of the "Flying Pencil" was discovered back in 2008 to be more-or-less intact at a depth of about 15 metres under the waves.

As luck would have it, on Monday, June 10th, the salvage crew was able to lift the Dornier to the surface; the precarious nature of the operation caused just minor damage to the aeroplane (the wing-tips and some other parts fell off during the air-frame's ascent but will be retrieved later).

This is great news for air-buffs, like me. I've seen surviving specimens of German WW2 bombers, such as the Heinkel 111 and Junkers Ju 88, courtesy of the very excellent RAF Museum in Hendon -- the Dornier Do 17 will be a nice addition.

The National Post...
RAF Museum pulls Nazi ‘flying pencil’ from English Channel more than 70 years after it was shot down


The Internet being what it is there is a preponderance of cute stuff: Cats, photos, photos of cats, video of cats...

My first response to seeing this headline "Star Wars-themed wedding photo turns Toronto couple into Internet stars" on the Toronto Star website, was to not respond at all. "Yeah, I get it; Star Wars fans and their cute little homages."

Until I decided to click.

Toronto couple Leslie Seiler and Paul Kingston accepted photographer Tony Lombardo's "brainwave" to have them run across an intersection during a lull in traffic. The newlyweds and their party snapped into inspiration and history was made: They have become somewhat of an Internet Sensation.

Good for them!

By the way, the AT-ATs ("All-Terrain Armored Transports") were popped into the picture afterwards; although I'm sure some Toronto drivers wish they had the famous Star Wars vehicles to get around the city in. "Problem solved."

The Toronto Star...
Star Wars-themed wedding photo turns Toronto couple into Internet stars


Google is in the process of experimenting with a hybrid of technologies in order to provide all-important WiFi access to remote or poor areas.

The company's Google X laboratory is engineering the low-tech/hi-tech venture (called "Project Loon") of using huge helium-filled balloons equipped with antennas, radios, solar-power panels, and navigation equipment to communicate with ground-based antennas below. While they are not powered in the conventional sense, the balloons are able to zip up or down into air currents in order to maintain some kind of station-keeping.

It all sounds good to me. This endeavour reminds me of the old "Stratovision" system, which was a technique primarily utilizing Boeing B-29 Superfortress aircraft to relay television broadcasts to remote areas of the USA. (Energize.) The principle of airborne 'television stations' is still used to promote American interests in certain countries.

With the controversies of late involving the mining of data and communications from regular citizens, the other thing that occurred to me is that the U.S. government really wants to know what is going on in those out-of-the-way places. Makes sense. After all, what are the buying habits of poor people in remote areas going to produce in regards to reliable marketing data?

The good news about this service? It's free. What a minute....

The Washington Post...
Google to use balloons to provide free Internet access to remote or poor areas

Friday, June 14, 2013


As noted by entertainment writer Andrew Ryan in yesterday's Globe and Mail; there was a "Shockingly low ratings start" for George Stroumboulopoulos' new CNN talk show Stroumboulopoulos.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, there is your answer. "Stroumboulopoulos" means nothing as a key-word in the United States of America. Even here in Canada the amiable, if somewhat awkward, host and his magic CBC talk-show George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight (formerly The Hour) consistently draw relatively low ratings. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation supports their psuedo-star-personality for reasons known only to them.

Stroumboulopoulos premiered on the cable news network this past Sunday night to just 192,000 total U.S. viewers. Less than half that amount was from the all-important 25-54 demographic. (If a poll were taken of that demo I'm sure the vast majority would have no idea who George is.)

Of course, these factors are not indicators of quality, but...

My first reaction, upon hearing months ago that Mr. Strombo was being transplanted to the super news network south of the border, was one of confusion: "Why?... That makes no sense."

In fairness fortunes could change for CNN and their new man when the show moves to its regular Friday at 11 p.m slot. An audience takes time to build; maybe.

The Globe and Mail...
George Stroumboulopoulos’ CNN show off to shockingly low ratings start

Thursday, June 13, 2013


Toronto mayor Rob Ford is a piece of work, for sure. No argument. The fact that he today voted against giving city money to Pride, the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, along with other worthy organizations of arts and culture, is no surprise.

This is not the first year he's done this. This time round he had two buddies-in-line: Three blind mice, in total.

Some people have been quoted as being disappointed in the mayor's negative vote. They must realize, and I'm sure they do, that Ford does not understand "art". ("Art Eggleton?")

I feel sorry for the man. His small-minded attitude makes him miss out on what a city like Toronto can offer in expanding and enriching the mind. (Sorry, Rob, the Toronto Maple Leafs do not count... plus the fact that they continually count themselves out.)

The Toronto Sun and its faithful 'readers' will, no doubt, love this latest news of Ford's desire to deny cash to any kind of useless arts organization but we're talking of people who are simpletons, for the most part.

Someone should take Rob Ford to the "Ballet" and introduce him to Stravinsky's "Petrushka"....

The Toronto Star...
Mayor Rob Ford votes against funding Pride, TIFF, symphony


Last night I watched "The Slaver Weapon", an episode of the 1973-74 Star Trek animated series. Having not seen this installment since way back, possibly four decades ago, allowed me to approach the material with a more-or-less open mind -- the only contaminating factor would be the name of the show. Last Friday I wrote a prep piece on this episode and my anticipated viewing, here.

There  is no need for me to recount the moments or plotting of the show since that is readily available to the reader by using a few clicks of the mouse, and a little keyboard action. (I did some work for the reader: energize.) This posting is more about my impressions on the episode after seeing almost nothing of the program in years. (It's like having been in a Slaver Stasis Box... maybe.)

I enjoyed "The Slaver Weapon" and, as part of the fallout, I gained a renewed respect for the animated Trek. Science fiction writer Larry Niven wrote the script by adapting his 1967 short story "The Soft Weapon". The advantage in adapting a literary piece for your television series is that you are getting the pick-of-the-litter. In the case of this episode, the jump in quality is unmistakable.

Although, needless to say, the animation by Filmation is very limited the series' ideas still come through, and do so with some style. The original actors do the voices for the beloved characters, which helps the rather static and inanimate faces get the points across without the viewer having to do too much "in-betweening". The backgrounds are at times rich and lovely, a benefit of being able to illustrate anything you want in the inexpensive medium of paint-on-acetate. Due to the very limited budget of a Saturday Morning Cartoon, tricks are used to save on expensive man-hours: in order to conserve on actual animation the producers could let a character's voice-over run the show as the camera slowly panned on a background; and the characters remained still as they talk away.

"The Slaver Weapon" has a few good lines; humour successfully made the leap over from the original series. As any casual fan or viewer could tell you, witty lines are but one of the many hallmarks of Star Trek (the original, not that anyone would think otherwise). In this one, Uhura has a great quip about a particular Kzinti crew-member.

One thing that struck me now that I'm a more-or-less fully-functioning adult person is how adult this episode is in its ideas and richness of story-detail (certainly for a 25 minute episode). The interplay between the arrested starship crew and the renegade Kzinti contains the expected battle-of-wits, and although trapped by the limiting formats of episode length and basic animation, the scenes have some snap. Mr. Spock, Sulu, and Uhura swap technical info and barbs amongst one another, sans subtle facial reactions, but somehow it all works. There is an inherent dryness brought on by the need to tell a fair bit of story in a short time frame, but things move at a clip -- this may be one of the more kiddie-friendly aspects of the animated Star Trek.

All in all, it is weighty and challenging stuff for Saturday-morning-kids. I'm assuming, of course, that "The Slaver Weapon" is representative of the series' qualities as a whole; considering its own uniqueness' -- such as featuring just three members of the Enterprise crew and a lack of Starship Enterprise.

Now that I've had my special little screening, I want to see more of the animated Star Trek series.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


My wish to post something on this blog everyday has been met, for the most part, these last few weeks, but unfortunately a couple of things of prime importance have dimmed the idea in recent days.

I have a couple of postings banked (just needing a going-over first). For now, here are some bits & pieces...

* Late last night I watched Lars von Trier's 2011 film Melancholia. "Outstanding"; one of the best films I've seen in years is all I can say right now, before I collect and formulate my thoughts into something more. As per my usual, I don't make an effort to find out what a given film's story is before sitting down to watch (to make a more enriching, or not, viewing experience). And in this case I'm very glad I did not read the DVD case's liner notes, which ended with this: "... Meanwhile, a planet called Melancholia is heading directly towards Earth threatening the very existence of humankind..."

* I'm becoming (almost) addicted to instant coffee. Like sex, it's almost too convenient.

* Tonight I will watch "The Slaver Weapon", an episode of the animated series Star Trek from the early '70s. I posted a briefing a few days ago, here. As I mention there, I will write and post my thoughts on seeing something, years later, from my Trekker-youth.

* Last month I wrote something on the German WW2 Dornier Do 17 bomber which was found lying upside-down underwater on the Goodwin Sands off the coast of Deal, U.K. At the time of my posting, here, a crew was readying to raise the one-of-a-kind artifact. Well, the deed has been done and with success! Terrific news, which I will comment on in the next couple of days.

* I just learned yesterday that actor/writer/comedian/etc Stephen Fry admitted that he tried to kill himself recently. To a simple person like me, that does not compute. How can someone so talented, and multi-talented, want to end it all? What I would do for even a fraction of that man's innate abilities. (The surprise at hearing this sad news was brought on by the fact that I'm about to go through a bank of A Bit of Fry & Laurie episodes.)

* In connection with the above point, I realized just a couple of days ago that Hugh Laurie is "that Hugh Laurie" from the NBC television series House, which I've seen an episode-and-a-half of. (I was not impressed although I could see what the show's producers were trying to do. Laurie is good in his role, though... no kidding.)

* In regards to the previous two points, I found out that both Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie suffer from depression -- "severe depression" in the latter's case. (At my age I'm still trying to understand why some 'things' in life are the way they are.)

* A friend's buying me lunch today; and do I ever need it: my supply of KD is almost depleted; and I must save some for tonight's dinner.

Monday, June 10, 2013


The National Post newspaper is known for some outstanding art direction within its pages (and online).

Jonathan Forani, David Corrigan, Andrew Barr, Joe O'Connor, and Richard Johnson of the Post ask whether we like "Cuddly 2009 Bieber" or "Gnarly 2013 Bieber". Choose your favourite version of Justin Bieber -- "Who do you love?"

Well, I don't really know what I think; I'm not really someone from the target market. But, what this reminds me of is King Kong Escapes. In that terrific Toho film from 1967 are real flesh, blood, and fur "King Kong", and, as created by Dr. Who ("Hu" in the original Japanese Kingu Kongu no gyakushĂ» ), "Mechani-Kong".

What the National Post should have asked, perhaps, is the question: Real "Bieber" or "Mechani-Bieber"?

Some cynics might be more direct by asking: "JustinBieber or MechaJustinBieber"?

Sunday, June 9, 2013


In these hectic last few weeks I had almost forgotten the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs were still happening. For me the National Hockey League's 2012-2013 season ended when the Toronto Maple Leafs were sent to the golf course, by the Boston Bruins in the first round. I was a happy man.

That moment reminded me of the end scene in Woody Allen's 1971 movie Bananas, where famed play-by-play announcer Howard Cosell shouts: "It's over... It's allll over!"

Last night the Bruins eliminated the Los Angeles Kings, courtesy of Patrick Kane's goal in double overtime.

So; the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks are going to fight it out in the final round for the magnificent Stanley Cup.

Too bad it's so June....

Toronto Star...
NHL playoffs 2013: Blackhawks top Kings in double overtime, advance to Stanley Cup finals

Friday, June 7, 2013


I was on Youtube looking for material on the late French animator and film director Rene Laloux when I stumbled upon yet more Star Trek. Forty years ago, this coming September, premiered a Saturday morning animated series called Star Trek.

Produced by the prolific Filmation studio, maker of both live action and animated productions, this cartoon wouldn't be confused at all with the typical fare in that coveted weekend kids' slot.

On September 8th, 1973, I was one of those kids. I had heard about the new version of the famous SF television series only a few days before while watching NBC's 'Saturday morning sneak-preview' show. When the program revealed the animated Trek, I was at first surprised and then excited; the teaser clip shown was from the episode "Beyond the Farthest Star", which would be the one to premiere this new line of cocaine. What a slow week that was.

To be honest I have not seen the animated show in years. As for "The Slaver Weapon" -- embedded and linked below -- I have but faint memories. I do remember watching this episode and enjoying it very much for its "rogue" quality -- there was no Starship Enterprise, or Captain Kirk.

A little background: "The Slaver Weapon", which first aired on December 15th, 1973, was scripted by famed hard science fiction author Larry Niven. He based it, with minor changes, on his short story "The Soft Weapon" (which I have not read, but should).

When I get a few minutes free I will watch and prep my impressions for a future posting (or insert them in the comment section below).

Anyway, if you care, enjoy!

JEAN STAPLETON (1923 - 2013)

This huge All in the Family fan was saddened last week by the news that Jean Stapleton had died. Like most I identify her with the role of "Edith Bunker", wife of television's most likable bigot "Archie". What was an almost guaranteed-to-win role, anyway, was turned into something of even more dimension by the actress.

The character of a subservient mate of a husband who hasn't a lot of nice things to say about people who are not white and Republican would generate some frustration for the average viewer. Edith Bunker could give it back, however. The way she would speak up and stand up to Archie when she could not take his crap anymore was the thing to elicit rapturous cheers from a studio audience. It was great.

Of course I'm speaking of the "moments of rebellion", but most of the time Edith would keep her mouth shut while Archie ranted and raved about how things were not right in his world. Part of the reason, it was claimed onscreen, that daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers), even before she met that "Meathead" of a husband Mike Stivic, turned out "okay" was due to Edith's ultimate influence at home. While I don't know this for a fact, feminists must have liked Edith Bunker. (Maybe not... they may have demanded she move on.)

What must not be forgotten is that Edith loved her hard-done-by Archie. She showed her husband sympathy at all the right moments; like when he came home complaining about having to endure the "weirdos" and "preverts" on the subway ride to and from work. "Oh, Archie..."

Needless to say, especially for those familiar with All in the Family, Stapleton was also a great "Dingbat". The look on Edith's face as she slowwwlyy "got it" was yet another ingredient in a great series -- my favourite of all time.

During the run of the super-popular show there was an often-quoted trivial bit which was not true -- I did not find this out until a few years later: Actress Maureen Stapleton was no relation to Jean.

Like many actors, while she was known for appearing on film and television, Jean Stapleton's first love was the stage. I am thankful that she took on the role of Edith Bunker and then played her so brilliantly.

The Telegraph...

Thursday, June 6, 2013


I just finished reading the book, 100 American Independent Films - BFI Screen Guides. It is an interesting and often eye-opening assemblage of film titles and their particulars.

Author Jason Wood speaks from all angles when reviewing; emphasizing departments depending on the particular film. Areas focused on include: Financial, distribution, notoriety, technical (film format), what the movie did for the director's career, supporters and detractors, and so on.

The book's forward explains how the list was prepared and what the criteria was in regards to the choices. One rule was "one film per director", which was probably a good idea. The downside is that readers ask "why did you pick this but not that?"

One hundred films sounds like a lot, but the list fills up really quickly, and you only end up offending some people no matter what you pick. (I understand that filmmaker Ken Burns took a lot of heat from some jazz aficionados for neglecting or leaving-out certain artists when he produced his 2001 documentary Jazz.)

All things considered, it was a fair and balanced list, which served to remind me that there are still a lot of films of that "kind" that I have yet to see... and want to see.

Have seen...

Bad Lieutenant (1992)
Pink Flamingos (1972)
Kids (1995)
Living in Oblivion (1995)
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
The Unbelievable Truth (1989)
Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)
Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971)
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)
Medium Cool (1969)
Badlands (1973)
Buffalo '66 (1998)
Gummo (1997)

Haven't seen...

Angel City (1977)
Chain (2004)
Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Hoop Dreams (1994)
Killer of Sheep (1979)
The Living End (1992)
Portrait of Jason (1967)
Salt of the Earth (1954)
Sherman's March (1986)

In total, I've seen 45 of the 100 films listed. Not bad, I guess. (I did not count films that I have not seen head-to-tail, of which there are several.)

As can be expected there are a few errors within the book. The one that comes to mind is this; from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (a terrific and fun movie): Varla (Tura Satana) did not kill Tommy (Ray Barlow) with a "karate chop to the back"; she killed him by breaking his neck.

As I said, "a terrific and fun movie".

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Every town and city needs a "village idiot". Sue-Ann Levy of the Toronto Sun takes this role to exquisite heights (as does Michael Coren).

Her column yesterday about Toronto being a "city divided" is a good one in principal, because she is clearly correct, but in typical Sun Media style she has to turn it into a mad-as-heck rant against the Left...

"Left-wing media..."
"Left-wing media..."
"Left-wing media..."
"Left-wing media..."

... I kid you not. (Is she okay?)

"The downtown dwellers, the left-wing media and the A-listers have been apoplectic for the past three years — unable to swallow the idea that he [Toronto mayor Rob Ford] won, fairly and squarely."

No, no, Mr. Barris... I mean, Ms. Levy; 'we' have indeed swallowed (accepted) the fact that Mr. Ford won, and, as you so eloquently state, "fairly and squarely". It is your inherently neurotic right-wing anger that produces this delusion. If my Lefty buddies and I have a problem with Mr. Ford, it is because of his manner of performing his duties (or not).

A simple, understandable, and palatable concept... 'we' thought, anyway.

"Toronto is a city divided"

The best part of Levy's rancid rant is her story about going to an autobody shop. The aim of her recount is rather elementary, but precious in its childishness.

Did they tell you that? Did they?!



The post title alone and the word above would suffice as my point, but I should explain...

As noted by many fans, ice hockey player equipment has grown to ridiculous proportions. Safety is one thing, as in gear protectiveness, which has benefited from improvements in methods and materials over the years, but "width" is another. Quite simply, this equipment has turned into something out of Marvel Comics. There are plans afoot to propose some changes in the National Hockey League. There should be more proposals, however.

Cesare Maniago, with the Minnesota North Stars.
The goaltenders are too wide. What used to be a good goal net size (4' x 6', and it still is, big, although you wouldn't know it) is now considered to be inadequate -- there have been calls to have the dimensions increased. No. Decrease the goalie dimensions. And get those pads back to a 10-inch width.

When I look at footage or pictures taken of NHL games from years ago my first thought is the players looked more "human". Goal keepers like Tony Esposito and Cesare Maniago looked so much better than the super-heroes of today.

Times change (as I like to say), equipment changes, players have certainly changed, but it is important to maintain some sort of proportion.

The Toronto Star article, linked below, covers a breadth of proposed rule changes in the NHL, many of which I welcome, but the "equipment issue" is the one that has long annoyed me; and you do not like to see me annoyed, I know.

"NHL players vote for mandatory visors, hybrid icing"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Honest truth: I was tired of seeing a fairly static "Popular Posts (last 30 days)". That's it.

In order to keep things more active and dynamic, I changed the setting to "last 7 days". Much as Manchester United F.C. and the (old) Montreal Canadiens have dominated their respective leagues (Premiere Football and the National Hockey League, respectively) some postings are just as immovable.

As of this entry the top ten posts from the last 7 days are...

(June 1, 2013)

(May 14, 2011)

(May 28, 2013)

(June 2, 2013)

(June 2, 2013)

(May 29, 2013)

(May 30, 2013)

(May 31, 2013)

(June 4, 2013)

(May 28, 2013)


As my regular readers know, I love to pick on the Toronto Sun 'newspaper'.

Sue-Ann Levy, one of my most precious pals at the paper playpen, wrapped up her column today with this...

"That wouldn’t fit with his paper’s anti-Ford agenda."

What the?...

That's like me saying, "that wouldn't fit with his blog's pro-Ford agenda".

Ms. Levy,

Mirror much?

Monday, June 3, 2013


For quite a while I've been meaning to track-down something I remember from my childhood: National Geographic magazine, in 1969, published an issue which inside had a vinyl pull-out record that over-viewed the history of space flight.

Last week I decided to do a little investigating and found that National Geographic's website has a page on the record in question...

The 11-minute-long disc, titled, rather aptly, "Sounds of the Space Age" was an insert in the December 1969 issue, of which over six million were printed. (Wow. How many magazines get a print-run of that many today?)

It was a pretty big deal to mini space cadets such as moi; I must have played that record at least fifty times. I had remembered that it was a 33-and-a-third-speed record, but I had forgotten that Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman was the narrator.

To produce the disc, Joseph Judge, Senior Editorial staff-member of the National Geographic Society, and staff audiovisual engineer Jon H. Larimore pored over recordings from many sources, including NASA, the United States Air Force, and Radio Moscow; in the process, distilling a final 10 minutes and 51 second record. They did an outstanding job. What easily could have been a knock-it-off, run-of-the-mill effort turned out to be an aural treat outlining twelve years of space exploration by man.

The voices of Yuri Gagarin, Radio Moscow, Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and others of note are all there. We hear the flights of Sputnik 1, Vostok 1, Freedom 7, Apollo's 8 & 11, and more. Not forgotten are more serious moments, such as the Apollo 1 fire of January 1967, where astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee perished, and the death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov in Soyuz 1, just four months later.

What I remember thinking, even as a child, was how atmospheric "Sounds of the Space Age" felt at times. The specific selection of audio clips, and their editing, added to the overall effect -- a storybook, of sorts. All great stuff when you were a kiddie during the exciting and dramatic era of early space travel. This would explain the frequent listens.

I decided to pop over to Youtube to see if there were any videos of the record. There were several; the one I picked was dictated by the fact that the uploader has the same turntable as me. Cool, eh?...

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Last week I bookmarked a piece on Martin Landau, fully intending to write a blog posting, but for whatever reason, I had forgotten to do anything with it: Toronto Sun entertainment columnist Bruce Kirkland wrote a story on the veteran actor's memories of working on director Joseph Mankiewicz's 1963 epic/epic-opus Cleopatra...

"Martin Landau, 'Cleopatra' survivors"

Due to a massive cut in the film's running time, as ordered by Darryl F. Zanuck, the legendary head of 20th Century Fox, many of Landau's scenes were left on the cutting room floor (as was the case for other actors in the production).

Cleopatra is one of the few films I own on DVD, but as much as I like the flick, especially its magnificent opulence, my favourite cinema-take on the famous Queen of the Nile is probably Carry On Cleo (1964).

The recently restored 243-minute version of Cleopatra was released on Blu-ray last Tuesday.

I've long been a fan of Martin Landau's work. One of his peak performances, no doubt, was as "Leonard" in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 cracker North By Northwest. One of his weakest roles -- notice I said "roles" and not "performances" -- was that of "John Koenig" in the television series Space: 1999 (1975-1977). As much as I like Landau, I think he was miscast in this show. (Series co-producer Sylvia Anderson felt the same way; as a matter of fact, her first pick was Robert Culp -- a great choice, in my opinion.)

History was set, however, and the fact is Martin Landau did his best to carry Space: 1999. The series does continue to have a following and there is the odd convention. One such recent get-together of 1999 fans, "Alpha 2012", was held in Burbank, California, back in September of 2012. I mention this mainly because Landau made a surprise appearance (after originally having to cancel on the event's organizers).

Here is a short video called "Space:1999 - Alpha:2012 Convention Highlights"...


"It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences."
- Audre Lorde

"Rob Ford: Mayor says he’ll choose cottage over Pride parade again this year" - Daniel Dale, City Hall

Once again, Toronto mayor and intellectual heavyweight Rob Ford has announced that he will not be attending this year's Toronto Gay Pride Parade. That would make three years in a row -- the time he's served as mayor -- that he has effectively given the finger to one of this city's most special events. (I doubt he can count to "three" in one sitting, never mind having to "carry a 'one' " to the following year.)

The most exalted one has openly mocked gays and gay marriage in the past. It makes sense that he would not want to go to a festive event that celebrates something he hates (read: does not understand). It's one thing to personally have a problem with an issue, but, and it's a big one, Ford is the mayor of Toronto. If he's too dim-witted to attend the parade on his own volition, then he should be forced to attend: Pull out the baby carriage, reinforce the suspension, and start pushing...

If Baby Robert starts whining, give him a lollipop.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Toronto Sun columnist Michael Coren: "Morgentaler no hero"

Dr. Henry Morgentaler.
While I appreciate Mr. Coren's opinions on the issues of abortion and Henry Morgentaler there are details within which only serve to reveal personal contradictions in his arguments. Not lost is the internal issue of whether or not, as a Roman Catholic, he is willing and able to offer forgiveness to the controversial figure.

Despite what the always-angry columnist thinks, someone who supports the right to have an abortion is not a "zealot"; they are "pro choice". There is a big difference. In addition, I doubt they regard the right to this choice as a "sacrament of modernist, left-wing theology". (I understand that Coren feels that almost everything must be politically driven, and anyone who has an opinion which conflicts with his own is an enemy, and at best, a delusional one.)

In his column Coren goes on about the sanctity of life, which I support. I just think his argument is odd considering it comes from someone who vigorously supported the invasion of Iraq, where thousands of people died -- including, no doubt, the unborn.

But that's okay; as an atheist, I forgive him.