Wednesday, July 31, 2013


To follow-up on my previous posting today (here) on director Susan Seidelman's 1982 first feature film Smithereens, I thought I should grab the particulars from Youtube and embed them in this blog.

As I stated earlier today, I enjoyed this film and was surprised by its competence; no surprise that it launched a career....


Recently I have been going through a "No Wave" and "Cinema of Transgression" film movement phase; a few weeks ago I watched the feature-length documentary Blank City and enjoyed it very much, so much so that I've been intending to do a blog posting regarding the film. Profiled in the doc was a low-budget "first feature" film that I had heard of but had not seen: Directed by Susan Seidelman, Smithereens, as evidenced by the clips within Blank City, looked like something I would want to investigate.

Last night I did just that. Not only did I enjoy the flick but I was impressed at how good it was in an overall sense, as a story film, but also in its bits and pieces; from cinematography to directing to acting.

Richard Hell and Susan Berman
The main character of Wren, played by Susan Berman, is authentically annoying and obnoxious, lost and desperate to connect with whomever will facilitate her quest to be absorbed into the punk scene -- albeit one on its last legs, at least in New York City. Her journey, consisting of ping-pong-like movements, is painful for the viewer who has at one point in their lives wanted to fit into a culture or group seemingly unattainable.

What was no surprise to me, once I got into the groove of the flick, is how and why Smithereens catapulted director Susan Seidelman into the big leagues; as in, studio feature film with 'carded' actors: I'm speaking of 1985's Desperately Seeking Susan.

Monday, July 29, 2013


Imagine my confusion when I read this headline on today...

"Thunderstorms to rage across US after 2 die"

... which led to this headline and the story proper...

"Thunderstorms to rage across much of US after 2 die in North Carolina"

The piece was written by NBC News staff writer Ian Johnston and, as per normal, the headline would not have been authored by him, but by the editor (or online editor).

The way I understood that headline made me think that the greater United States should not suffer just because two of their kind kicked-off in North Carolina. They should take out their rage on that State, otherwise they just end up looking like rogue thunderstorms.

Also, did the thunderstorms decide to rage across the US after 2 died?....

Sunday, July 28, 2013


This morning I made the mistake of popping into a Tim Horton's here in Toronto. No, the coffee was fine, that sorta-consistent beverage they extrude, but the inside temperature of that store made me think I had stepped into an outdoor Tim's during the winter.

It was so cold in there -- the specific outlet is not important -- that I could not stop shivering from the time I sat down with my used-to-be-hot coffee to when my friend, of ample insulation, and I left a couple of hours later.

("Did you think about leaving instead of shivering and whining, Barry?")

As a friend of mine said, years ago, "people tend to think of air-conditioning as refrigeration".

Maybe Tim Horton's doesn't like loitering.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


My regular readers will notice that, lately, there has been a preponderance of postings on the old television series Space: 1999 (1975-77). Way, way back, late 1976, shortly after that series started its second and ultimately final season, I found a freshly published book with the somewhat intoxicating title of "The Making of Space: 1999" sitting in my local Woolworths awaiting rescue by a geek in shining polyester.

I rescued it, all right, by parting with $1.95 of my hard earned money, then proceeded, as obsessive young fans tend to do, to read it cover-to-cover in a short amount of time. (And yet I wouldn't read certain mind-enriching books prescribed by teachers at my high school. Hey, William Shakespeare ain't no Tim Heald, the author of "The Making of Space: 1999".)

It's been years since I've read the book but now it's time to re-open those pages. My balcony awaits, after I run a couple of errands, and spend a few minutes on a freelance job sitting on my desk -- just in case my client happens to read this posting before the end of the day.

When I finish "The Making of Space: 1999", to expand my mind, and to make amends for self-prescribed menial mental activities from my high school years I will continue with that "Euripides - Ten Plays" book sitting on the shelf.

Back on July 15th, I posted a story called "Standing up for Fred Freiberger" (here) and promised to upload the final piece, "soon". I'll wait until I finish "The Making of Space: 1999" before I do my last polish on that piece... that should be at around 2 o'clock this afternoon....

Friday, July 26, 2013


Back in March I posted a couple of times -- energize and beam me up -- in regards to artist Juan Ortiz's original Star Trek poster series. CBS had commissioned the works in celebration of the classic series, and the art prints were then offered as posters by Quantum Mechanix.

Now, for those of us who want the whole shebang in one volume, on September 3rd of this year Titan Publishing will be releasing the hardcover book "Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz".

In addition, as an alternative for those of us who may want them bigger, the artwork will be printed in larger versions in sets of four: These will be 18" x 24" plate-printed lithographs on 100-pound, satin-finish paper.

Those "seventy-nine jewels", as Paramount refers to the Star Trek series, continue to "boldy go"... and even "go boldly"....

Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz – Pre-Release Info


One of my readers pointed out to me that the Canadian telefilm Dreamspeaker is available to view on Youtube. I've talked about the film in previous posts (here and here) and I figured it wouldn't be a bad idea to link to the video for those readers who might be interested: I have embedded Part One, above.

As I've mentioned before, French-Canadian filmmaker Claude Jutra directed Dreamspeaker. The 75-minute film appeared on the CBC anthology program "For the Record" back in January of 1977, and I was there as a young teen, watching, and was ultimately moved.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Last night I finished reading the novel "Dreamspeaker". Written by Cam Hubert, the book is as touching as the tele-film version I saw back in January of 1977 on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) anthology film program "For the Record".

I don't think I've seen the film since that time but the novel strikes me as being a more-or-less direct adaptation of the film script -- it was freaky how I would often anticipate the upcoming 'scene' or bit of dialogue just before it was revealed in the book. That makes me think the original film made quite the impression on me.

I posted a blog entry a few days ago (here) wherein I mentioned that once I read the book I would probably want to again see the Claude Jutra-directed Dreamspeaker film: Looks like my guess was correct.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Deleted scene from the third-season episode "Elaan of Troyius".

A friend sent to me this morning a link to a article online (from about a Star Trek fan who has been restoring 35mm film clips that were sold, starting back in the late 1960s, to the Trek public.

These clips were trims from the editing rooms that Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry scooped-up and sold through a company he set up called "Star Trek Enterprises" (later called "Lincoln Enterprises"). Very often the original camera slates were included as part of the clips sold. The positive-print 35mm frames would have been individually cut and mounted into slide holders.

Roddenberry's actions were questionable from a "studio policy" point-of-view but what this means today is that Star Trek survives in film-frame-clip form in addition to the final cut episodes.

Here is the link sent to me by my conscientious friend...

Restored Behind-the-Scenes Flickr Stream Will Make You Fall in Love With Star Trek All Over Again

Monday, July 22, 2013


With all my recent postings regarding the 1975-77 television series Space: 1999, now it's time for some ink on its music. Like many young men I liked the show and bought as much tie-in material as I could find: The Charlton "Space: 1999 magazine" was one (I bought a few issues, including the first), but no model kits at all as the Airfix "Eagle Transporter", for instance, never made it to my town. (The Eagle was the only model kit that I would have been interested in anyway.)

One element of Space: 1999 that I like, although more then than now, is the Barry Gray music scores. When RCA records released an "original television soundtrack recording" vinyl record LP of the Gray music I snapped it up... well, when I saw it in the bin at Sam the Record Man, that is. This would have been late 1976. I remember playing it for the first time at home and being a little disappointed in the music selections. After I had grabbed the record in the store and flipped it over to the back side I scanned the track titles. These were all named after episode titles (no track called "Koenig Pops His Top, Again" or "And Yet Another Explosion") and after spinning the vinyl I realized that the titles were arbitrary; there was no music from "Breakaway" on the cut called "Breakaway". And the cool 'travelling' music from "Dragon's Domain" was not on there -- I did not know at the time that the piece was called "Adagio in G-minor" and it had been written by a composer named Tomaso Albinoni... although that attribution is debated today. Also, I had seen the Norman Jewison picture Rollerball (1975) and remembered the tune being used there, too. To top off the Confusion in F major, there were two "that's not from the show" moments while listening to the album for the first time.

The album jacket opened.
Once I got past the little surprises including the rather brief track lengths -- there was a lot of looped "bing bong boong baa, bing bong boong baa" gobbling up valuable time between each cut -- the album was a fan's fix.

I still have the record; it's packed away in a box somewhere (I know where). One of the very few times I have pulled it out in the last thirty years was back in the summer of 1994 when I had friends over at the house. We played the record on my Akai direct-drive turntable and considering we were no longer fans of the program -- some of us may have been mild ones at best back when Space: 1999 originally ran -- we had a warm and fuzzy time that evening.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


A typical over-inflated Hollywood movie. (White House Down)

Rafer Guzman of Newsday outlines certain Major Motion Picture releases of this year and wonders if 2013 is the year of the high explosive. Movies of high investment and expectations are as old as the hills, but with production inflation through the roof, combined with witless scripting, more loaded pictures are going bang-bang.

As briefed in the Newsday piece, here is the list of uncontrolled detonations so far in 2013. (Note: the "Net" is about 40-45 percent of the published "Gross", so the damage is worse than one might think.)...

The Last Stand (released: Jan. 18)
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Gross: $37.1 million

Parker (Jan. 25)
Stars: Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez
Gross: $17.6 million

Beautiful Creatures (Feb. 14)
Stars: Alice Englert
Gross: $60 million

Jack the Giant Slayer (March 1)
Stars: Nicholas Hoult and Ewan McGregor
Gross: $197 million

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (March 15)
Stars: Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi & Jim Carrey
Gross: $22.5 million

The Host (March 29)
Stars: Saoirse Ronan and Diane Kruger
Gross: $48 million

After Earth (May 31)
Stars: Will Smith and son Jaden
Gross: $199 million; only $59 million, domestic (U.S.)

The Internship (June 7)
Stars: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson
Gross: $63 million

White House Down (June 28)
Stars: Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx
Gross: $69 million

The Lone Ranger (July 3)
Stars: Johnny Depp.
Gross: $76 million as of last week

I'm going to start my own awards show: "The Barry Smight Snore Awards". The winner in the "motion picture" category in the above pack, based on the synopsis' published in the linked story?...

White House Down.


The Toronto Star...
Why 2013 is the year of the movie bomb

Saturday, July 20, 2013


For over two weeks Toronto has been in a bubble of very high temperatures and humidity. Until last evening when a rain storm crushed the heat by a few degrees, it was a disgusting experience for us Torontonians.

Too much information alert: There were times where I was showering three times a day and changing into fresh clothing after each. For me it was the only way to stay sane after my various sojourns outside. No, I don't have air conditioning in my apartment; just a nice fan.

All blog-bitching aside, I don't mind the heat too much. It's all relative; some friends of mine despise the extremely high temps and humidity, and pray for the cooler air of the Fall. Which, given the speed at which 2013 is going by, is fast approaching.

The mercury will be falling down to about 16 degrees Celsius overnight. That's the lowest it's been for a while. Perfect for sleeping....

Friday, July 19, 2013


For those of us who reside in Toronto's lovely "Annex" neighbourhood, Honest Ed's discount department store, on the south-west corner of Bathurst and Bloor, is part of the scene even if many area residents hardly step inside its sprawling interior. I've been in there a lot lately to pick up food like rice and pasta.

This past week it was announced that Honest Ed's has been put on the market for any interested buyers, even if the building itself will probably not be the drawing card... wink, wink.

Translation: A developer will snap-up the building and announce that they plan great things for the Ed's discount brand name; further translation: 'They' will turn around, demo the structure and build a condominium tower complex.

Hopefully this secret plan will be thwarted by the city and the local residents' association.

And then I woke up....

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I copped "Ring Around the Bathtub" from a friend of mine. That mocking title about sums up Space: 1999's most rotten episode "Ring Around the Moon". As I mentioned yesterday (here) I watched that worst-of installment last night. Actually, I watched 30 minutes of the 50 late last night, and the final 20 tonight.

For as much as I like to point out its badness, I find myself being strangely drawn toward "Ring". There is something I cannot explain about its appeal. Maybe lines like "This is Triton's universe..." keep drawing me back, time and time again. In multiple orgasmic pleasure. By the way, the proper line should be: "This is Triton's galaxy." (This kind of ineptness, unfortunately, happened far too often on Space: 1999. Science fiction as perceived by people who don't understand science fiction -- which is probably why the series worked best as "horror".)

The film editing in "Ring" is rough, giving the viewer the impression that there were problems in editorial. The inter-cutting between scenes is often awkward and disjointed; as though a scene or two is missing.

The script is also "off". The beginning of the episode has one of those crew-members going berserk. Fine. But this serious matter goes on for two minutes before Dr. Helena Russell yells to Sandra Benes, "Sandra, call security!" No! What took you so long? Not Russell but anyone in the area! Who did Benes call first?... John Koenig (?!).

Perhaps the biggest problem with the episode is the awful acting, especially by Martin Landau; even the usually above-the-fray Barry Morse suffers from unconvincing deliveries. (In all fairness, Morse thought he was working in a nuthouse with this program. Morse left 1999 at the end of the first season, telling the producers something like "I'm going off to play with the grownups now".) The one person who shines here is Barbara Bain as Dr. Russell. Her performance is restrained, and applicably subtle. The good news is that Bain had a chance to show her stuff in the slightly improved second year of Space: 1999.

There is one element in "Ring Around the Moon" which is outstanding: The music; not composed by Barry Gray in this case, but by Vic Elms and Alan Willis. Its sparseness and rawness adds to the out-of-whack nature of the episode's story-line. As a matter of fact, the score's "beat" would foreshadow Derek Wadsworth's vibrant and fitting music for series two.

(For me, and I've blogged about this before [here], Barry Gray, as much as I love his work on previous Gerry & Sylvia Anderson programs, was clearly not into this series -- one indicator of this is that the composer reused themes he had originally written for the 1969 Anderson feature film Doppelganger [Journey to the Far Side of the Sun]. One can also hear a major smack of his theme for the 1968 film Thunderbird 6 in the 1999 title music.)

Like a few episodes of this series, "Ring Around the Moon" is best viewed at 2 o'clock in the morning, I think. Which will be the time of the day when I'll watch this one again....

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


What episode of Space: 1999 (1975-77) should I watch next? In perpetuation of my Space: 1999 theme, I should screen another episode and comment.

"Earthbound" I watched then discussed briefly (here) the other day and noted that that episode is one of the rare outstanding installments of the forty-eight, so to contrast maybe I should watch one of the worst of the pack: While there are a few, the one that comes to mind is "Ring Around the Moon". Nothing comes close in the Space world to that one for general poorness. (Star Trek has "And the Children Shall Lead".)

So, unless one of my devoted readers can suggest a better pick than "Ring Around the Moon" then that's what I'm going to view tonight at "eleven". Stay put for the review in a day or two; or feel free to tell me that my final choice from 'bad Space: 1999 episodes' is the wrong one.

Addendum: I watched "Ring Around the Moon" a few months ago. I guess that episode could be classified as a guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Ian Tracey in "Dreamspeaker".
Back in January of 1977, as part of my ongoing super-devouring-enriched self-education in cinema, I watched a superb telefilm directed by French-Canadian filmmaker Claude Jutra. The name of this eye-opener was titled Dreamspeaker, and it was shown as part of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's "For the Record" series. (I never missed an installment of the anthology program as it was something I always looked forward to.)

The film left me moved and stunned, partly because of the young Ian Tracey's knock-out performance -- he was "Peter", the kid. As years passed I sometimes wondered what happened to him. Of course in the pre-Internet days it was more difficult to monitor an actor's continuing credits.

For years now I've been meaning to read Cam Hubert's 1978 book Dreamspeaker. I found a copy in a box of discarded "free books". Wonderful. That was about a year ago; this past weekend I decided to start digging in. When I'm done I'm going to want to see the film again, no question.


This just in: Sun Media Corp, the right-wing mouthpiece corporation, has announced they are closing eleven newspapers. The sad news is that 360 jobs will be lost. Newspapers are in trouble, as a general rule, but I have no sympathy for an organization that prides itself on being clueless.

That is no way to build readership.

Toronto Star...
Sun Media closing 11 papers, cutting 360 jobs

Monday, July 15, 2013


Gerry Anderson and Fred Freiberger pose with Series Two broadcast-sales brochure.

This could have been a tweet but I thought I would use a few more HTML units...

Last Thursday morning, 6 a.m. to be exact, my usual wake-up time, I sat down at my computer and proceeded to compose a lengthy blog posting on the debate about producer Fred Freiberger and his "ruining" of Space: 1999.

No, he did not ruin 1999 during his tenure as Series Two producer -- sorry, Space: 1999 fans...

"Film at eleven." (In a couple of days.)

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Currently I'm reading the book "Digital Babylon - Hollywood, Indiewood & Dogme 95" (by Shari Roman). There is no need for me to elaborate or explain what the book's theme is, since its full title gives it all away.

About an hour ago I started reading an interview with Dogme 95 co-creator and director, and general film director, Thomas Vinterberg. This question was asked by Ms. Roman...

"Have you been seduced by Hollywood?"

To which the writer/director of The Celebration (1998) responded...

"To suddenly have access to bigger budgets and bigger possibilities is very tempting, but creating good stories is something you can't buy with money... Of course it is an important center of the world, but sometimes with so much money, the stupidity of a project is completely ignored."

Brilliant. In an LMAO way.


To further my Space: 1999 series of blog postings, last night I sat down after dinner and watched "Earthbound", one of the preciously few good episodes from that show.

Since I know the series very well I can pick and choose what I want to watch, if I dare. When Space premiered back in September of 1975, I was there in front of the colour tube to welcome another starfield patch... even if stars were a bit on the scarce side in this one.

Despite the chintzy-looking alien 'sleeper ship' set and its even chintzier inhabitants, the Kaldorians, the episode works because of an engaging story and a great character: Commissioner Simmonds, played to perfection by Roy Dotrice, was sorely needed as a continuing foil for the bland-as-dead Moonbase Alpha regulars. Not necessarily in a Doctor Zachary Smith (of Lost in Space) way, but of full-blooded human beings. It was not to be, however.

Simmonds is the floating variable in "Earthbound". Visiting alien leader Zantor, portrayed most effectively by some dude named Christopher Lee, is an unknown quantity in a friend-or-foe sense; but having the boisterous bureaucrat producing his own sneaky threat makes for interpersonal drama that unfortunately is all too rare on Space: 1999. (Year One, that is; Year Two is a huge improvement in this regard.) This dynamic sets up and plays out the themes of "nobility" and "trust", nicely.

The episode's middle section, involving a threatened Helena Russell, suffers a little from a false false alarm -- obviously the sequence was inserted to fill out the script's page count -- but the more driven element of the narrative picks up when the Commissioner does what he feels is right; for him. The ending is potently memorable, and worthy of EC Comics. Space: 1999, the first year, is considered by many of its fans to be more horror than SF.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


"My name iiiiiis...."
The Keeper of The Eclectic Screening Room (zap), Greg Woods, has premiered a new blog titled "Gee Whiz, G Man" by posting this story: "Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be."

"Nostalgia" is now anything since last week's issue of People Magazine.

The cultural "memory" is not exactly overloaded at the memory bank.

Until I read the posting I had not realized that the writers on the long-living television comedy program Saturday Night Live were given a order to keep things "recent" (more recent than what you are probably thinking).

Hey, they must know their market.

I look forward to regular postings on Mr. Woods' new blog.

Gee Whiz, G Man...

Premiere piece, "Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be"...

Friday, July 12, 2013


Martin, Barbara, Gerry, and Sylvia -- March 14th, 1974.

As part of my unofficial Space: 1999 stream of blog postings I thought I would look for some Youtube video on film and television producer Sylvia Anderson. And that is exactly what I found; not only that but a vid file that was uploaded just three weeks ago, courtesy of Youtube user "Beau Watts".

Ms. Anderson is very candid about problems she had with Martin Landau and Barbara Bain on the first season/series of Space: 1999. (She left at the beginning of the second year.) Things got off to a bad start, some would say the show jumped the shark at this point, when the husband-and-wife team, fresh from Mission Impossible, was chosen to headline ITC's new space series. ITC chairman Lew Grade insisted that Landau and Bain lead the tales of Moonbase Alpha; Sylvia Anderson disagreed with this decision. She was right, I think, and also in her quest to assign actor Robert Culp as the series lead.

She also talks briefly -- as edited -- about the previous Anderson live-action series UFO, a far superior program to Space: 1999, in my opinion, and also about their 1969 feature film Doppelganger (Journey to the Far Side of the Sun).

I love this woman. Getting a chance to "have lunch" with her in order to hear all the wonderful stories of her career with and without her late ex-husband Gerry Anderson would be pretty amazing, I think.

Sylvia Anderson Space: 1999 Interview

Thursday, July 11, 2013


After reviewing a posting I did yesterday, titled "70s Space: 1999 and 60s Italian Space Opera" (here), I read up on the Italian Space Operetta Scontri stellari oltre la terza dimensione (English-language release title: Starcrash) and was reminded of star composer John Barry's relationship to the camp semi-classic.

As is normally the case when contracting a film composer, Mr. Barry was hired before the film was completed. I say this because the flick's special visual effects footage, which was being worked on right up to the "last minute", was obviously below par -- now that a certain film had set the new bar for Space Adventures -- and the producers of The Adventures of Stella Star (the English working-title) were understandably nervous about Barry's reaction to those shots: As the composer is one of the first people to see the completed, or close-to-completed, film with fresh eyes it would make sense that he or she would be taken aback by less-than-stellar visual effects.

So, here's what the producers decided to do to circumvent John Barry's possible "what did I get myself into?" reaction; one that could crash his spirits, affecting the quality of his own work: When it came time to spot the film with the composer they said something like, "these effects shots are just slugs for now, until the real effects are ready to be cut in".

I sometimes wonder if Barry did know what was going on; when you listen to his score it sounds as though it was done on auto-pilot. Throughout his career, the composer occasionally seemed to 'loop' his music, as though he had a bank of "John Barry-sounding scores" ready to apply to almost any film -- the Starcrash score does come across as a little too nondescript.

Starcrash is not a bad movie, all things considered.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


Commenter "Jon" mentioned The New Avengers as part of his response to my posting, "70s Space: 1999 and 60s Italian Space Opera" (here), so I thought I should look up the 1976-77 reboot series' opening titles on Youtube.

And there they were.

The episode in particular of The New Avengers from which this titles clip was pulled is "Angels of Death". For you trivia junkies: This installment was directed by cameraman Ernie Day (A Passage to India) and co-written by Terence Feely, who wrote arguably Space: 1999's best episode, the satisfyingly pulpy two-parter "The Bringers of Wonder".

Composer Laurie Johnson reworked his Avengers theme for this new version; something that disappointed me when the series premiered as I had his original tune burned into my brain. The update title music lacked the romantic and exotic punch of the original, and took on an almost incongruous martial sound. A minor quibble, yes.


While I was looking for a Space: 1999-themed photo for my previous entry (here) I found a frame-capture from the episode "The Last Enemy" which had potential for a posting all its own...

I am a fan of 1960s Italian science fiction films, especially and specifically Mario Bava's 1965 terror-in-space flick Terrore nello spazio (released in the U.S. as Planet of the Vampires). For some time now I've been meaning to do a posting on this film. Soon.

When I found the picture, affixed above, I thought of Terrore. I watched the Space: 1999 episode "The Last Enemy" a few days ago and dug the leather-bound female space warriors, in particular actress Caroline Mortimer in her space motorcycle gear outfit (helmet included). Combined with the set-styling, "Dione" in her bad-girl attire might fool viewers into thinking that this image was from a 1960s, or 1970s, Italian space opera. Which is why, for as bad as "The Last Enemy" is (in so many ways), it's almost enjoyable to watch.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Having said that (this) I have watched some 'television' the last few days, the old and the new-ish...

* A bit of A Bit of Fry and Laurie (1989-1995) -- a bit okay; hit and miss.
* Space: 1999 episode "The Last Enemy" (1976) -- "the pain... the pain."
* The first episode of Breaking Bad (2008) -- fine, but I have no desire to go any further.
* The first episode of The Walking Dead (2010) -- okay, but I have no desire to go any further.
* Two episodes of Jam and Jerusalem (2008) -- a nice show, but two's enough for me.


"Commander, I'm missing my television!"
Last evening I was hooking up some video equipment when I realized that it has been almost two years that I have been without "television".

Yep, ever since about the 26th of August, 2011, when local broadcasters switched to digital transmissions only, I have been without the capability of watching regular over-the-air T.V. (I don't have cable.)

What's really interesting about all this is that I have never pined for the ability to pop-on the tube. Never. And now it's such a part of my life that I don't remember it being any other way.

Besides, TVOntario and the C.B.C. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) upload their programs once they've been aired. The former's The Agenda, with the incomparable Steve Paikin, was always a favourite show of mine before the big switcharoo. (It's on my agenda to keep up.)

Having said all that, I will pick up a digital-to-analogue conversion box one of these days.

Monday, July 8, 2013


"Look familiar, Mr. Shatner? And it's your colour."
My main man William Shatner is writing a book on those brave and smart souls who, after the age of 55, decide to set up their own company.

The King of the Starship Captains learned of a company called Simplicity Sofas, started by a man named Jeff Frank in High Point, North Carolina. He then paid for Frank to visit Los Angeles for a 90-minute video interview. The entrepreneur said that Shatner is a "pretty good interviewer". I believe it; I've seen him ask probing questions on his show, Raw Nerve. The man is good; he does not fool around; none of this lame fluff interview stuff for the coolest man in the cosmos.

The first thing I thought of while reading this is Mr. Shatner would be very familiar with that type of furniture: it was on those, in his dressing room, that he allegedly 'snuggled' with more than a few female guest stars during production of the Star Trek series.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


"Rearrange my apartment."

That was my mission today and I must say I accomplished that and more. A friend came by to help me move some of the bigger items and once we were done it felt like my prep work paid off immensely: It took the two of us maybe five minutes to 'move this, here, and move that, there'.

(Or was it 'move this here and move that there'?)

My greater/grander point is this allows me to work more comfortably on two freelance jobs on my desk, one of which will take a couple of months. As any motivational expert will tell you, a ship-shape place makes personal and professional tasks that much easier to accomplish.

In the style of Wayne Knight's character in 1993's Jurassic Park, I'll soon have a desk with chocolate bar wrappings and pop cans strewn about. (I'm kidding, I don't eat chocolate bars and I don't drink pop. Actually, I don't look much like Wayne Knight. But I could, if I really wanted to... maybe not.)

There's more to do, a lot of bits and pieces to tackle; and they must be attacked quickly and thoroughly or I'll just end up having everything slide back down again -- two steps forward, and one back.

So... that's how I spent my Sunday.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


"I'll ask you one more time. Where is the Lone Ranger?"
Upon seeing another news headline about the new movie The Lone Ranger, I was spurred into writing something on the 1981 film The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

I remember that debacle very well. Almost everything went wrong on that picture. A temperamental and neophyte actor, Klinton Spilsbury, playing the titular part, an out-of-control budget, and a bad misstep: The film's producers sought and got a court injunction ordering TV's portrayer-of-the-masked-man, Clayton Moore, to stop making public appearances while wearing his Lone Ranger get-up.  It was a public relations disaster and a portend of things to come for the obnoxious runners of the new and improved and big budget take courtesy of Hollywood.

Star Spilsbury's voice needed to be redubbed since his voice came across as something reading lines from the script and lacked any inflection of any kind. (The deed was done by actor James Keach.)

The film's director was William Fraker, the great cameraman of films such as Rosemary's Baby and Bullitt. Unfortunately, and according to people on the set, he was not an "actor's director"; not a good thing when you are dealing with newbies such as Spilsbury and Michael Horse (Tonto).

Not surprisingly, the film was heavily promoted (given the stream of bad luck, the producers must have been flogging a dead horse). The Legend of the Long Ranger was everywhere, supported and pushed in the way the only Hollywood can: in all its unconsciousness.

All the TV 'movie shows' interviewed the cast; I remember Michael Horse coming across as being very serious, and always running his hand through his ample flowing hair, perhaps with the knowledge or feeling that this was a tough sell.

I'd watched the old Lone Ranger television series as it was still in regular rotation when I was young. But I had no interest in seeing a big-screen movie version. And I'd take an old 1930s "Oater" anytime over Modern Hollywood Stuffing. (Sure they were low budget, but they were fun. Imagine that, Hollywood!)

"Bang!" No, that wasn't the Lone Ranger's six shooter; that was The Legend of the Lone Ranger detonating -- not exploding -- at the box office: Twelve million dollars, gross (domestically); 5 million, net, against an 18 million dollar budget (prints & advertising not included).

The Curse of the Lone Ranger was off and galloping...

It returns for the new film, The Lone Ranger. "Ssssssss" (the sound of the bomb's wick frying away)....

PS: What? Walt Disney Pictures? Didn't those (characters) learn their lesson with John Carter?
PPS: Johnny Depp? As "Tonto"?

Info on the television series The Lone Ranger...

Interesting reading -- better than mine -- from "Entertainment Weekly" on The Legend of the Lone Ranger...
Who was that masked man? The Legend of Klinton Spilsbury.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Yesterday one of my readers, "Dominic M", asked me if I had read the book about the making of the classic Star Trek episode "The Trouble With Tribbles". I responded that I had read it, years ago; back in the summer of 1976. That special series was still in major reruns at the time, and would be for a few more years, so any book on Star Trek was more than welcome. I literally could not put the book down. It was written by David Gerrold, who also penned the episode, which made for absorbing reading for any Trek fan.

The book was titled, simply, "The Trouble With Tribbles"; that was followed by "The birth, sale, and final production of one episode".

Gerrold spends some time on the story outlines that he submitted to the Star Trek production office. One, titled "The Protracted Man", I found to be an interesting concept. It was rejected because the "optical" bill would have been horrendous. (The "Man" was out-of-phase; this was conceptualized as two or three figures always trailing him... images a frame or two behind, as it were.)

I never had a chance to reread my copy since I lent it to a friend a few years later and never saw it again. And he left town.

Soon, I hope to reread "The Trouble With Tribbles".


We've all been annoyed or upset at some rude cellphoners. You know the kind, people who talk and talk and talk on their cellphones, with no regard to those unfortunates around them... including sales clerks who are trying to serve them.

A woman who works as a cashier at a Sainsbury's (the Loblaws of the U.K.) store in London refused to serve another woman, recently, who would not get off her cellphone for one bleedin' minute to transact courteously at the check-out counter. Good for the clerk! And shame on Sainsbury's for apologizing (apologizing?!) to the "customer". As it turns out, social media has sided with the bold actions of an employee of the evil empire. There has been a vocal "shame on Sainsbury's for siding with such a rude customer".

I've never worked the sales desk in title but I did work at a job where I would fill-in by manning the counter. You know what? I did the same thing one time, but the male cellphoner gave me no static after I said, calmly, "sir, I will serve you when you are finished with your call". Again, he was fine. What I executed, perfectly, is the "asking for it" method of client services, but he did not react in the way I expected, and was all too ready for; he simply -- and quickly -- finished his call and "properly" presented his credit card. Things were fine.

Maybe he reacted with no reaction because he saw, across the counter, one mean-looking bastard! (It may have been my Manchester United scarf which I've been known to wear, even inside, in order to show my colours. It takes a brave bloke to voluntarily tangle with a Man Utd supporter.)

Seriously, it's a skill -- one of the few I have.

Toronto Star...
Where do you stand on cellphone etiquette?

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Rating films or putting them on a list is not my thing, not because I have anything against the process of ordering films, or anything for that matter, it's just that my brain does not work that way.

I either like the film, to various degrees, or I don't -- generally I don't. However, since my posting yesterday, GEORGE LUCAS DISSES EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, here, I gave some thought to the 'me' order of the Star Wars films.

And here's the result of my dangerous thought...

1. Star Wars

2. The Empire Strikes Back

3. Return of the Jedi

Yes, I did rate the 'prequel' films, it's possible that your Internet browser won't go down far enough to see them; I mean, they are really low. They're there... somewhere.
It does't matter, really.

I should catch you before I go: I say "Star Wars" when referring to the first SW film (no "A New Hope" for me, and that title wasn't on the print I saw back in the summer of 1977), and "Star Trek" for the first ST television series (no "TOS" designation for me, the first show is enough and all I need).


"What do I see now? I'm not sure."
Former historian and freelance writer Paul Pirie has penned an Op-ed for the Washington Post titled, provocatively enough, "The American Revolution was a flop".

While the piece is not "anti-American", which some U.S. Patriots would scream or boil after seeing that headline, and some of them may even try to read it, there is a 'perspective' worth considering.

Mr. Pirie recites some sobering statistics ("more than 2 million people were incarcerated in 2011... the United States ranks first in the world in the number of prisoners per 100,000 residents") and notes, courtesy of a report co-authored by economist Jeffery Sachs, that for all the U.S.'s immense technological and economic progress over the past half century there don't appear to be matching gains in the "happiness of the citizenry". People of that great country are reportedly anxious, caught in a maelstrom of social and economic inequity, and lack confidence in their government. Keep in mind that "Americans" don't have the rights to these concerns, but traditionally they have considered themselves to be blessed and privileged.

The last two paragraphs from Paul Pirie's editorial are sobering, but, as far as I'm concerned, hopeful. Explore Founding Father Thomas Jefferson's declarations and visions for a nation above all; and a nation, above all.

The American Revolution was a flop

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


A friend of mine popped around to my abode today and somehow -- probably by talking about movies that still look good decades later -- we got onto the subject of Star Wars; a subject of interest to my guest.

Anyway, he told me something which surprised me, after I told my friend that The Empire Strikes Back is probably the best Star Wars movie: "That's George Lucas' least favourite."

...and it continued with class.
"What? Is he insane?"

After reading Michael Kaminski's outstanding book "The Secret History of Star Wars" last year I realize it makes sense that G.W. Lucas would feel that way; in the book it is stated that the Star Wars' creator really just looked at the sequel film as a machine to make money for his pet project: "Skywalker Ranch." His attitude was that the movie should be done relatively cheaply and quickly in order to get it into the theatres as soon as possible.

Unfortunately for LucasVision, but fortunately for us, Empire director Irvin Kershner decided to spend more time, money, and care in order to make a great film.

(I'm not suggesting that spending lots of money makes a film great; but, you know what I mean.)

If I were a psychiatrist I would want to get George on my couch. I really want to know what makes that guy tick... off Star Wars fans. I'm not even a Star Wars fan, in the popular sense, but that man annoys me sometimes.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


A Russian "Proton-M" rocket carrying three satellites exploded today less than a minute after launch from Kazakhstan. Although this has been a fairly rare event for this booster type, in years, there was another in August of 2012.

Toronto Star...
Russian rocket crashes shortly after launch; troubled space program under fire

Initially designed by Vladimir Chelomey's design bureau OKB-52, the UR-500 booster rocket, of which the "M" model is a later variant, has for decades been a very dependable system, one which has made a lot of money for the Russian space industry.

However, the Proton was hardly a 'success story' in the first few years of its existence; many launches of the device had problems such as engines shutting down in mid-flight and fuel leaks. The state of affairs was so bad that many people in the Soviet space business were calling for the program to be suspended. Eventually things lined up properly in a row and a trusted payload delivery system was in place.

In the Toronto Star article, linked above, there is mention of a toxic cloud caused by the spilled burning fuel from today's failed launch. The Proton uses hypergolic fuels (in the UR-500's case, unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide) or "storable propellants". What this means is the fuel can sit in an idle rocket over some time and, unlike cryogenic-based engines (using liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, for instance), an 'ignitor' is not needed -- the two fuels just have to touch each other to start the burning process. However, these chemicals are highly corrosive, and extremely toxic to carbon-based-units (humans; us!), which is why a vehicle like the Proton is not 'man rated'. (There have been exceptions: The American "Titan II" booster utilized storable propellants and it was used to launch astronauts as part of the Gemini Program.)

To launch humans into orbit, the highly reliable "Soyuz" rocket is used. That's a great machine. (Watch one blast-off!)

By the way, rockets do blow up, the odd time -- it's to be expected. A functioning rocket engine contains a controlled explosion, after all. But when the rate-of-failure starts to climb, then there is cause for some concern.

Here is one of many videos uploaded to Youtube on today's Proton-M failure...


A few weekends ago I watched a DVD on the making of the 1967 Cream album "Disraeli Gears". This disc is part of an outstanding series called "Great Albums". We are taken through the process of making songs and compiling an album, right down to the illustration of the cover. Weren't those covers awesome?

Since I know enough about that group to fill a sticky-note the information imparted in the vid was almost all news to me. While I have been more than familiar with some of the songs for years, I would not have been able to show off and say: "Great album."

One thing I did not know, or rather, I probably did but had forgotten over time, is that guitarist Eric Clapton was a member of Cream. He is one of the vid's interview subjects and the legendary musician is very articulate and informative about his experiences with the group and how he worked on the guitar parts for songs on "Disraeli Gears".

The other two members, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, I was not familiar with by name, but through the fine efforts of the filmmakers, I understood them, their major contributions, and what they experienced: The social and political climate at the time; the state of pop/rock in general; and the characters.

Graphic artist Martin Sharp talks about his approach to the cover and its subsequent rendering. Being a bit of an artist myself, I appreciate the work and thought that goes into album covers, especially the ones that end up being as identifiable, perhaps, as the music itself. Often the artwork takes on a life all its own.

To the punchline: I listened to the complete album and enjoyed it very much as it was done in a period of music -- and a "sound" -- that I have a soft spot for. One thing that amused me was the fact that, starting in June of 1968, lyrics such as "I've been waiting so long, To be where I'm going" and "I found out today we're going wrong, We're going wrong" must have ended up being scratched into many a high school yearbook.

Monday, July 1, 2013


On a continuing Canada Day theme here is a video of something I have never seen or even heard of; "I am Canadian Anthem" (Bill Shatner's in this).


Before getting back to work here at home I thought I would check the Guardian newspaper's website...

Enter the Dragon star Jim Kelly dies aged 67

That is sad news to me. Jim Kelly was one cool dude, especially in 1973's Enter the Dragon (one of my favourite movies).

"When it [defeat] comes I won't even notice … I'll be too busy looking good."

And that you were, sir.

Mr. Kelly was first a martial artist, winning four tournaments in 1971 alone. This skill came in handy when it came time to play "Williams" opposite other cool men, Bruce Lee and John Saxon, in that classic fists-of-fury picture.

I'm balancing my rather tight schedule right now; especially considering that I have to fit-in a screening of Enter the Dragon....


"Looks like a good place for me. Excellent!"

On a Canada Day theme, along with one of my favourite animals, the domestic Cat (yes, I know Canada's national symbol is the Domestic Beaver), I thought I would do a quick search on Canadian flags and small tigers.

Yep, one thing I admire about cats is their ability to know where to find the best places to inhabit.


Last night, as I was cleaning, I found my Canadian flag; the Maple Leaf now hangs high with pride in "my place". I was not looking for the item, but obviously it was calling out to me.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians, and that includes 'new' Canadians. Something that gets forgotten by some is that we were all new at one time... our ancestors were, at least. Racism comes from ignorance.

Are "stubbies" still sold? I need to celebrate "like a true Canadian". (I used to work at Molson Breweries; I remember the squat-looking bottles very well -- I saw millions of them.)