Saturday, August 31, 2013


While taking a break from my work this afternoon something reminded me of two early 1980s television series' in the style of the feature film Raiders of the Lost Ark. They are Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982 - 1983), and Bring 'em Back Alive! (1982 - 1983). The latter had actually been in development before the Steven Spielberg-George Lucas hit movie from 1981. More about these two shows later; I watched them very casually when they ran....

After calling-up the opening titles from the above I found myself linked to the opening titles to the half-hour animated show Battle of the Planets (1978 - 1979).

Originally one specific season of the Japanese program Gatchaman, Battle was adapted from the import by producer Sandy Frank after the mega success of 1977's Star Wars and modified since there was a wee problem: Gatchaman was a very Earthbound show; every episode except one. Needless to say, in order to advertise Battle as a space-action show, something had to be done to make space travel a more regular occurrence. That is why the same footage of the flying-machine Phoenix leaving our planet was used in almost every installment of the Americanized version.

There was another wee problem: The Japanese original featured lots of violence; in order to market the new version for American youth the regular episode-to-episode violence was cut out ("the city's inhabitants were all safely evacuated in time") leaving holes in the running times... Which lead to Sandy Frank Entertainment animating and adding the '7-Zark-7 and Center Neptune' scenes in every episode in order to refill the show's proper length necessary for broadcast. Having "Zark" modeled after Star Wars' R2-D2 was another touch added to catch the kids.

Whatever happened behind-the-scenes, though, Battle of the Planets turned out to be very successful for Sandy Frank.

Check out the classic opening titles featuring Hoyt Curtin's super-catchy theme music (no doubt almost every parent who had kids back in the late 1970s knows this music very well)...

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Paul Newman and his boys; from Slapshot (Dir: George Roy Hill - 1977).

Today I learned that there is a book called "The Making of Slap Shot: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Hockey Movie Ever Made". Written by Jonathon Jackson and published in October of 2010 this book about the production of the great sports movie from 1977 is already on my reading list. As a matter of fact, it's about to be bumped up a few notches, past "Godzilla on My Mind"... okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but the point is made.

Slap Shot is my favourite sports movie; even more so than The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island (1981).

Book Review: The Making of Slap Shot
by Rebecca Dobrinski of "The Hockey Writers"...


The ever eloquent and lucid George F. Will has something to say about U.S. President Barack Obama and the impending military strikes on Syria allowed by rhetoric and bending the truth of the law.

I am hardly equipped to even paraphrase Mr. Will, so I'll send you straight to his current column for the Washington Post. He almost single-handedly makes up for all the ignorant Conservatives in America simply because he is hyper-aware... as opposed to being hyper-clueless; which is the mark of your average neocon, especially the kind on right-wing newspaper comment boards (hello, Toronto Sun). Where I am equipped with an "informed opinion", as writer Harlan Ellison so puts it, I am more often than not in disagreement with Will. But my admiration for the man is based upon his sharpness of thought -- something you rarely see from the right. (This is unfortunate. Politics would be a little bit more interesting if certain people were actually informed. "Information"; what a concept.)

As for the issue at hand, the upcoming military action by the U.S.A. against Syria: Not one of these again. Limited bomb and missile campaigns are all but useless. There is something goofy about cruise missile launches from warships during 'not serious' military campaigns. As much as I'm interested in the subject of air power, that military arm is, by itself, ultimately ineffectual unless there are lots of targets sporting colourful signs stating, "Hit Me!" (There are targets of this type in Syria, it's just a lot harder to make a real and strategic difference, as the strikes on Libya a few years ago proved. A lot of ordnance is fired off or dropped but the gains are often frustratingly small.)

Boots on the ground! Until then, turn off. President Obama must reach past his own verbiage at a time like this.

The U.S. should keep any militaristic thoughts out of Syria. It cannot afford another one of these scenarios.

The Washington Post...
Obama is talking America into a war

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Toronto Sun columnist Simon Kent is against those who are against expansion of Billy Bishop Airport. He conveniently forgets to mention (he probably doesn't even know) that an airport, by its very nature, has a huge 'footprint'.

Aircraft noise and smell (fuel) are issues, but there are others...

Kent states, "Opponents are warming up and already expressing doubts over the modest proposal by Porter Airlines to add 168 metres to either end of the tarmac."

No. First of all, that measurement, for those who have a hard time with metric distances, is an over 500 foot increase in the airstrip's length. Anyway, the lengthening invites larger aircraft -- jets -- which will up the overall capacity for the airport (which, of course, is the whole idea; hello, Porter Airlines). I'm not against this on the surface but the major problem is that Billy Bishop Airport lacks multiple access points; roads which are essential for the amount of traffic that a larger facility demands. Anyone who lives in Toronto and is familiar with the current mainland-island connection knows that the intersection of Bathurst and Front Streets is "impossible", never mind what will happen, not might happen, with airport expansion. Believe me, it wouldn't beeping stop: Service and transport vehicles, fuel tanker trucks, personal cars; the commotion, constant commotion, would be immense.

"That airport near Canary Wharf was officially opened on Nov. 5, 1987, after heated debate and handled just four airlines going to just Brussels, Paris and Plymouth. Today it is a spectacular success and home to 10 airlines, serving 43 destinations and carrying as many as 10 million passengers annually."

Again, he loses. London City Airport has efficient road access and is more than a little distance away from the city-centre, so his comparison is inauthentic.

Either Simon Kent does not know what he's talking about, or it's the usual neocon, Toronto Sun propaganda; and you're an "idiot" if you are against airport expansion. Didn't you know? Well, I'm safe because I would like to hear the various assessments and, based on my already-in-place great interest in civil aviation, I will make my own decision. But, for now, it does not look good.

"If Toronto is to keep growing and keep connected to the wider world, a second airport is essential."

Oh, really? I did not know that. And it's somewhat surprising that Simon Kent knows....

Turbulence lies ahead in Billy Bishop Airport debate

... I find it comical that the Toronto Sun photo editor chose a picture which obviously was taken on a smog day. That gets a grand "lol".

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


"Take off, eh? You hoser!"

I've never understood why sports teams feel they have to reconfigure after almost winning the grand prize: Stanley Cup, Gold Medal, Pennant, whatever. The fact is the stick just happened to fall on the wrong side, in most cases. That is why they happened to lose the championship. Obviously they made it that far in the league or tournament run because they are good.

So, what we have here is the USA Hockey team working through the tryouts trying to get that magic assemblage of men for next year's 2014 Winter Olympics. Yes, Sidney Crosby scored the game and series winner in overtime back in February of 2010 to take the Gold for Canada, and also to make the USA Team players eat their words from minutes before ("We're going to win the Gold Medal." Something like that; arrogance of that ilk.)

The fact is, however, the American club lost a very close game and series... the Medal type was determined in that game's overtime period. So why are they looking for the magic dream team?... Which doesn't exist, anyway. Chemistry -- the "Miracle on Ice" proved that, once and for all.

Having said that, I do realize that players have to be evaluated for the new squad.

By the way, why is U.S.A. Team player Patrick Kane saying this?...

“It’s gold or bust for us this time around.”

It is?....

The Washington Post...
A new approach marks USA Hockey tryouts ahead of 2014 Games


... Why, in Pinewood, England, U.K., of course; as the home base. Shooting will happen also in countries far, far away.

It's a shame that Pinewood Canada, here in Toronto, was not picked as rebel... I mean, home base for the next Star Wars movie. Those sound-stages could use the occupancy, Toronto film crews could use the work. I'm sure that that complex was discussed as a possible centre; it's just as possible the type of work would be too much for what Toronto crews are used to, and, the Canadian Dollar is too strong, and has been for a while. (To be honest about it, I can't picture a schleppy Toronto film crew working on a Star Wars movie.)

Hopefully the next Star Wars script will get as much attention as the shooting locations....

Story from Variety...
Where in the World Will the New ‘Star Wars’ Films Shoot?

Monday, August 26, 2013


Gilbert Taylor, in 1976, on location for  Star Wars.
Camera-minded people like me were saddened by the news of veteran cinematographer Gilbert Taylor's passing this week. Looking over his list of credits made me appreciate the "lighting cameraman" even more; I'm familiar with what he shot but there were some reminders: Repulsion, for one (from 1965).

Talking about an image is almost as futile as trying the same with music, but here it goes....

The cameraman with a long career worked effectively in both colour and black & white.

Monochrome goodness: Look at Dr. Stranglelove (1964) and A Hard Day's Night (1964) as evidence of one film lit using lots of "heads" (the former) and one lit by optimizing what was there (the latter)... I'm exaggerating, of course, since Day's Night would have had supplementary lighting; but it looked Cinema Verite. (Taylor was hired by Roman Polanski to shoot Repulsion due to his work on Dr. Strangelove.)

Now for colour: The Omen's chill effect was, in a large way, generated by Taylor's lensing. A friend of mine calls it "drizzly photography", and I think he is right. That wasn't a southern California production; and an Englishman knows how to play-up what attributes his homeland offers.

Star Wars (1977) was the big bang; meaning the film that put Gilbert Taylor on the map for us, at least "name" wise. I've long been a fan of the lighting plan in that film. That movie glows. To see this, one has to get an 'original' print of Star Wars -- creator George Lucas had the film's image "cooled-off" when he did the 1997 re-release abortionation.

Like many people who worked for years in the highly stressful and competitive film business, Gilbert Taylor lived a long life: 1914 - 2013

In the War Room - Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

BBC quality obit on Gilbert Taylor...

A surprisingly feeble Wikipedia entry...

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Current host of Saturday Night at the Movies, Thom Ernst
As someone who remembers when Saturday Night at the Movies premiered on OECA (Ontario Educational Communications Authority, now TV Ontario) back in 1974, I find it hard to read Toronto Star entertainment columnist Peter Howell's article on the demise of the long-running program.

I remember looking forward to the movie picks for the week, plus the extras, like interviews with actors and behind-the-scenes people, and the serialized Republic serials (like The Mysterious Doctor Satan). One of the major perks of watching SNATM was the show's host: Elwy Yost, the one and only.

What this means is perhaps I should finally grab that digital box converter for my analogue television, so I can watch the final installment of Saturday Night at the Movies. No doubt the TVO website will upload the program a day or two after, like they do with other fare they show, but tradition, imagined or otherwise, would dictate that a farewell program such as this must be seen live -- to bookend an outstanding series.

Last November when the network announced that they would be eliminating Saturday Night at the Movies at the end of its 2012-13 season, their news release contained a brilliant headline worthy of dialogue from an Ed Wood flick: "“TVO Announces Plan That Looks to Future." No! What, as opposed to the Past? That, ladies and gentlemen, may sum up perfectly the mentality at TVO these days.

Saturday Night at the Movies, when going to the movies meant staying in: Howell


A first season Star Trek episode penned by the late horror scribe Robert Bloch has something within it which the writer probably did not describe as such in his original teleplay. All the times I've seen "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" I never noticed that certain something before, but when you see particular still-frames there can be no denying that the Trek art department pulled a fast one on the network sensor... I mean, censor.

I apologize to all the lady readers to this blog, but I'm sure you have a sense of humour. Jean Messerschmidt, the network censor in question for NBC during the years of Trek's production, must have had one.

Great pulp episode, by the way. My brother and I agree that all the many ingredients in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (such as; a big tall android, mad scientist, beautiful androidess, subterranean catacombs, ice & snow planet, 'bottomless' pit, and an android duplicating machine) ask for everything from original poster art to an original novel. A "Doctor Korby" novel could be interesting -- and I don't consider myself a Trekkie. Yeah, right....


A book I am reading at the moment is called "Captured - a film/video history of the lower east side". Within are many essays written by people who were "there"; the Lower East Side of Manhattan Island, NYC, back in the 1970s and 1980s during the "No Wave" and "Cinema of Transgression" film movements. Some names might be recognizable to you, if you are into those 'schools': Nick Zedd, Richard Kern, Jim Jarmusch, Steve Buscemi, Amos Poe, and Jonas Mekas.

The chapter "Why I Left the 'Cinema of Transgression' Behind, Or Why It Left Me", was written by underground filmmaker Casandra Stark Mele. The way she opened up her article caught my attention and got me thinking before I had a chance to continue reading...

"The Bright Side

As a young woman, I fled the self-destructive atmosphere of my hometown and came to New York to attend art school."

Attending art school is not what felt provocative to me, it was this: "... I fled the self-destructive atmosphere of my hometown... "

I'm guessing this emotion or feeling is not that uncommon, especially among creative types.

Terrific book/document, by the way.


"Captured - a film/video history of the lower east side"
Phil Hartman and Clayton Patterson; foreword by Abel Ferarra.

Seven Stories Press
New York

Friday, August 23, 2013


Frankie Avalon has always struck me as a gentleman type, former heartthrob or not. Next month he turns 73 years of age. Wow. The first time I took note of who he was, would have been around 1972 or 1973, when the star crooner was in his early 30s and still a young man. This note-taking session would have been a talk show like The Mike Douglas Show or Merv Griffin. Annette Funicello, Avalon's frequent costar of the "Beach Party" movies, was his co-guest on this same talk show installment.

While best known for his signing voice, Frankie Avalon first came to the public's attention as a young trumpeter. As a matter of fact, as actor he appeared in producer-director Irwin Allen's 1961 fun feature film Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, where in one scene in the submarine Seaview's mess hall, Avalon rambunctiously plays the trumpet as Barbara Eden dances (non regulation) with equal energy. Absolutely serpentine! (By the way, Avalon's voice did 'appear' in the film; he sang the title theme... which sounds a lot like The Beatles' "Octopus's Garden". The other way around, actually.)

One of the actor's most memorable roles was as Ray Milland's son in Panic in Year Zero! (1962).

Avalon went on to act in less serious fare, namely the entertaining Beach Party movies; Beach Blanket Bingo ("Where two-thousand bodies hit one-thousand blankets.") These flicks hold special appeal to me since they remind me of similar experiences in my youth. Okay, I will come clean: I was just the 'beach water boy' -- which may or may not be the reason why I have a soft spot for Muscle Beach Party....

The Toronto Star...
Frankie Avalon on beach parties, the simplicity of the past, and Annette Funicello: The Big Interview

Thursday, August 22, 2013


For a long time I have harboured a question: Is America (as in: the United States of America) really a "free country"?

Of course it's not. Neither is my country of Canada. The issue of what constitutes freedom is more complicated and detailed than the lone word "freedom", of course, but the question is a good and vital one; especially considering that we stick the grand proclamation to our respective flags, often with nary a doubt.

Yesterday, Pfc. Bradley Manning, now former soldier of the U.S. Army, was handed his sentence by the court judge: For giving classified information to WikiLeaks, the young man will serve 35 years, with eligibility for parole in seven. I agree with those who feel that Manning broke the law. He recklessly freed what could be potentially damaging information to an organization which prides itself on public-domaining any and all data -- some of which probably should stay "secret". (Note: Overall, I like WikiLeaks. Their existence keeps certain people, the 'right' people, nervous. Excellent.)

But, and it's a big one (I love saying that), Manning's sentencing raises some good questions; the big one is: Has government secrecy gone too far? The fear is that anything can be considered "secret" by the powers in charge. Yeah, generally to protect 'stupid old white men' in charge. The top dogs are allowed to get away with murder; literally. Thousands; tens of thousands; hundreds of thousands; millions have died due to 'executive' orders.

So... is there retribution? Of course there is; ask Bradley Manning....

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank nails some good points to the wall...
Bradley Manning’s sentence and the zealous national-security state

And Bradley Manning's attorney, Lt. Col. David Coombs, said this yesterday at a press conference, after the sentencing...

“The cancer of over-classification is threatening the very fabric of our free society... Over-classification hinders debate. It hinders what we know about our government. It hinders finding solutions to common problems [such as] how do we keep our way of life in a post-9/11 world.”

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


This non-sports-idiot had not heard of former TSN personalities Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole until I read yesterday that "Skippy" was dissing their new job as hosts on Fox Sports Live.

Marc Price played Irwin "Skippy" Handelman on the horrible sitcom Family Ties (1982-1989). Fine; he did not produce the show, he was employed as an actor. So there is no need for comments like "he was in a crap series"; or, "he's a washed-up actor". The fact is Monsieur Price went on to do some producing for television while maintaining some sort of a profile as a stand-up comedian; which leads me to....

The stand-up comedian is not funny, I don't feel, in the way he knocks people and races. Check this out; it's Price's Twitter...

Forgetting a particular racist tweet, for a moment, he manages to use both the "F" and "C" words (with bad grammar, no less). Distasteful and unnecessary, never mind judgement with the subjective question of whether or not Price is funny.

Vulgar "man".

The Toronto Star piece which made me read further...
Skippy from Family Ties not impressed with Jay Onrait, Dan O’Toole on Fox Sports Live?

Monday, August 19, 2013


Sitting still and idle is not my style, but today was a day where I had to sit constantly; hour after hour. Without going into too much detail, I am paying for it right now. "Walk it off." (I've never understood how people can sit for hours on a regular basis; watching television, for instance.)

In the past week I have sat for a couple of hours here and there watching movies, and a TV episode...

El Mariachi (1992) - As good as ever; launched a career.

The Living End (1992) - My first viewing of Gregg Araki's breakthrough flick; not my 'arena', exactly, but a very good film. Years ago I saw the director's Totally Fucked Up (1993).

Metropolis (1927) - That was easily my sixth or seventh time seeing Fritz Lang's uber-epic, but my first time with the 'full version'; even more terrific; great score!

UFO episode "Confetti Check A-OK" (1971) - Outstanding; reminded and convinced me that another series/season of that show should have been made instead of initiating the feeble series Space: 1999.


Like many people I grew up having both a cat and a dog in the house. While I do like dogs very much, I gravitate towards the feline side of pet ownership: Cats are complex animals and are unique in that no two specimens are exactly alike. As a rule they are immensely cute, I think, but it's the little personalities that get me. I'll put up with their 'nonsense' only because I know that deep down they are laughing at me and my kind.

Norris, a two-year-old tabby cat from Bedminster, Bristol, England, is an authentic and practicing cat burglar. The wee beastie has pilfered assorted items from his neighbours: Dishcloths, sports bras (?!), T-shirts, pizza, German sausage... Shall I go on?

I'll let the Guardian explain...

Cat burglar lands owners with a pile of stolen goods

Sunday, August 18, 2013


Months ago I read a news story somewhere online about the "Vela Pulsar Cassiopeia A supernova" and saw the attached photograph. What I think I saw was: Robert Fripp rocketing in his guitar through interplanetary space... or was it Pete Townshend?....


Those of us who even just casually watched the CBC series Man Alive, were saddened to hear the news of Roy Bonisteel's death. He was the first and by far the best host of that long running standout television program; his tenure covered twenty-two years, 1967 to 1989. Peter Downie took over after that but, as nice and pleasant an onscreen personality as he was, the show was not the same -- which only reinforced just how good Bonisteel was as host. His presence, I think, was one of sympathy for the subject matter; as a series whole and for a particular episode. (The series' filmmaking was also of a high quality.)

I suppose that my rejection of organized religion at an early age lessened any attraction I might have produced for a series seemingly ensconced in 'the church'. Man Alive's humanity should have registered more with me; after all, "humanity" is something I've long been interested in; "church of", or not.

Now, of course, I want to see some samples of Man Alive. Typical.

Toronto Star...
Roy Bonisteel, former CBC television host, dies at 83


Saturday, August 17, 2013


The U.S. government has officially acknowledged that the much mysterious "Area 51" does indeed exist, but not as a repository for U.F.O. material such as flying saucers and Calcinator Death Rays.

Washington Post correspondent Richard Leiby commits an interstellar sin: He refers to veteran writer Harlan Ellison as being from area "sci-fi". Also, check out what Mr. Ellison's take is on people who think "we we are regularly visited by aliens and that they are at Area 51"...

Government officially acknowledges existence of Area 51, but not the UFOs

Actually, any alien artifacts left Area 51 years ago to move to somewhere in northern Ontario, Canada (see picture above). The facility has been unofficially called, tongue firmly in cheek, "Area A".

There's a big wasp flying around my apartment as I write this. It must be from... it's one of them there new-fangled drones!

Friday, August 16, 2013


Hard to believe that the big black-out in Toronto -- and much more than just Toronto -- was ten years ago. August 14th, 2003 was a day most of us of a certain age will not forget. I remember what I was doing when the lights, and machinery, at my place of work shut off. My co-worker and I were tending to a specific job in-house; "clunk"; "not this again" (our building typically had unscheduled moments of power loss); a minute later, as my partner and I stood in our original positions and readied to pick-up when electricity was restored, our boss walked out onto the floor and said, "the power's off on the whole eastern part of North America" (not terribly inaccurate as it turned out).

Word came to us shortly after that the black-out could last some time. Since my method of getting home was the TTC, specifically the subway, I ended up walking home. At that time I worked downtown, so it was not a big deal to walk -- besides, I've always liked walking. Not five minutes into my stroll I bumped into a friend who's place of work was not far from me.

It was a nice walk.

Later that evening I decided to survey Bloor Street around Spadina and St. George Street: "Shadow People!" Actually, they were ordinary folk just hanging out on patios, but what a passerby heard was a wash of whispery voices emanating from undefined figures.

Power came back on in my neighbourhood at 10:29 that night.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


While looking over my own blog I noticed that the top four postings for the past week are all of the, shall we say, Sun Media ilk...





Sun Media, and its abortive offspring, Sun News Network and the Toronto Sun, are tops. I guess these hits are the result of a Yahoo Search: Using a search engine, key in "yahoo" and you get the above results.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


About a year ago I was enjoying a coffee with a friend of mine who had recently survived an automobile accident. For the first time he told me what happened after the collision, and his ejection from the car onto the pavement: "I was on a concrete block in a small concrete-block room."

I must have said something of a skeptical nature because he added, in an as-a-matter-of-fact way, "it's true, it happened to me, too".

We went onto another subject but before my brain totally shifted gears away from the near-death experience topic, the skeptical side of my mind proposed that such an image -- of a concrete-adorned room -- was probably generated by my friend's brain based on his points-of-reference. Would a child, who probably has no such imagery stored, picture a concrete room?

A couple of years ago I read an article on Canadian filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming where she recounted being hit by a car and almost dying. She said from the moment of impact it was lights out; blackness -- there were no memories of a near-death experience.

The Globe and Mail...
Why those near-death experiences may just be illusions


Linda Barnard, Entertainment writer for the Toronto Star, reviews the new Paul Schrader-directed, Lindsay Lohan vehicle The Canyons, and suggests in her opening salvo that the former child-star's "screen career is well and truly done". On the surface that comment would make sense. My take on that would be that Ms. Lohan's career was finished after she repeatedly acted like a jerk and an illicit clown off-camera.

I'm surprised that Schrader even wanted to work with Lohan, considering she has a reputation for being 'difficult', including her "tardiness". Does she think she's Elizabeth Taylor on Cleopatra (1963), or Sophia Loren on El Cid (1961)? At least Taylor and Loren were stars of some weight. "Star behaviour", as annoying as it is, can be accepted when one is a real star.

Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons a career-killing dive: review

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Tonight I was going through some video files saved on one of my USB sticks and found a documentary that I downloaded and watched a few months ago: Visions: By Fans...For Fans - Doctor Who's 31st Anniversary Celebration.

The doc was produced in 1993 by Public Broadcasting System station WXEL Television in West Palm Beach, Florida. PBS was the network which introduced Doctor Who to many Americans. Even though a few Jon Pertwee Who stories were shown in the mid-seventies, it was a dedicated and thorough presentation in 1978 of Tom Baker's take of the character that blew the market wide open in the U.S. for the British import. It should be noted that Doctor Who was shown here in Canada by the CBC way back in 1964/65; specifically it was the first series/season which was shown -- William Hartnell was the man.

Watch American Doctor Who fans in action, supporting the show that they love (and they have taste). Part One of four...

Sunday, August 11, 2013


The CRTC's ruling last week denying Sun New Network's request for mandatory carriage brings out the "Big O's" (big opinions). Here's mine...

Toronto Sun columnists Warren Kinsella and Michael "M.C." Coren are putting extra spin on the CRTC's grand verdict. Fine, they are entitled to their opinion and to display their facility for illustrating that the gavel-bonk in question is actually a good thing.

No: The problem, and they are both forgetting this, is that viewer numbers for Sun News are catastrophically low. Some programs draw barely 5,000 viewers. Current carriage for the angry network is about 40 percent. Double that and you get barely 10,000 viewers. Equals: Pathetic. Another thing that gets forgotten is that there is a finite amount of possible 'saturation' since many people, me included, do not have cable.

There can be no spin on raw data.

The fact is Sun News has to start acting like a real news organization, and demonstrate technical proficiency -- maybe then more viewers will tune-in.

As I like to say: The math is simple.

Warren Kinsella...
Is it Sun down? No, it’s Sun rise

Michael Coren...
Sun News will shine on

PS: After reading the Kinsella piece this morning I took a gander at the comments below. Awesome entertainment. (My favourite today: "Shut up stupid lefty idiot." Absolutely precious.)

I've posted before on the issue of the Toronto Sun comment boards...

Saturday, August 10, 2013


A few days ago my computer decided to go into standby mode -- fine -- but for some reason I could not get the screen to reactivate so I could shut it down. After doing some idle things around my apartment I noticed that the computer had not changed its status. I tried to shut it down but for some reason all systems were still go. (Did I press the off switch? I must have tried that.)

Anyway, I thought there was only one way to really shut the bugger down. "Pull the plug, Barry."

Oh, no. That immediately reminded me of the Star Trek episode "The Ultimate Computer" and, specifically, the M-5 computer. ("Fantastic machine, the H-P, no off switch.") Did Dr. Richard Daystrom design my computer? ("Engrams?") I made sure I wasn't wearing a red shirt, or I could very well have ended up like this...

Friday, August 9, 2013


The Toronto Star has a sense of humour. Memorable moments from Sun News Network, eh? Well, as far as I'm concerned there are too many to put in one article or blog posting. In the few hours I've watched (lately online) there were more than I could care to remember.

Instead of single moments it's more a case of Sun News being "memorable" in a broad sense. Angry, bitter, and hostile on-camera hosts, and incompetent ones at that, forever forcing the technical department, which is also incompetent, to adjust the video's skin-tones.

That is not news reporting or analysis. It's just a zoo of buffoons.

As for the affixed picture above: Yes, I saw that infamous little "interview"; the poster child of Sun News foolishness. Who is the most beautiful woman in that frame? I wonder....

Memorable moments from Sun News Network

Thursday, August 8, 2013


For a larger picture, click-on the picked-on.

The above picture was taken very recently on Ezra Levant's "Freedom Cruise". Some tweeter made a joke like, "look at all the ethnic diversity... lol".

That is very funny.

I had a closer look at the pic and noticed the woman standing on the right, addressing the guests. It looks as though she's holding a vase, or an urn. In my estimation this is asking for a 'caption contest'.

My first two...

1. "If one I.Q. point could be given the value of one basketball, then I could stuff the I.Q. points of all our special guests into this."

2. "Most of you in this room could soon end up in...."

Okay, readers: Outdo me!....

(Pardon the apparent meanness; I'm just looking for cheap laughs. Sarah Silverman has influenced me.)


Being somewhat of a creative type myself I've long believed that if you are going to put time and energy into an involved project then you might as well make something that comes from within. As a matter of fact, my sixth blog posting spoke on that issue... zap back in time.

Last evening a friend of mine sent me a link to a video on Youtube: A fan of Battlestar Galactica (the newer) manufactured a technically impressive visual effects sequence brought on by his love of that series-of-space-battles. I was going to say that he was "inspired by" BSG, but I caught myself; this fan did not make a "homage"... he made an "is". What's the point?

I emailed back to my buddy: "Very impressive. But what [is he] adding? It looks just like the show (to me). There is no personality; looks like a robot did it... the piece could get him a job, for sure. But again, why not 'blow their minds' and do something original?... even if it's outright inspired by that series."

Or, as a book I recently read on indie filmmaking stated in regards to getting you noticed by important people: 'Do something original. That still counts for a lot, believe it or not.'

I'm still impressed by the quality of the work, and I don't intend to link to this video for the sake of throwing darts -- more as a review. I'm just somewhat bemused. My other thought is: If it gives you pleasure, go for it.

Battlestar Galactica: The Battle at Helios Delta 6 -- "Brought to you byy...."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has drawn the ire of a wacko conservative group which censures his temerity in espousing gay rights on an International level.

How dare he!!!

The "REAL Women of Canada" organization has a real problem with Baird's outrageous indiscretions, accusing him of using his appointment "to further his own perspective on homosexuality". Wow. I thought I had the copyright on that 'perspective'. Not only that, but the ladies-of-expansive-intellect are pretty sure those views articulated by the minister are "at odds with Canadian values". Oh... are they, now?

That, I did not know.

I love simpletons.

The Toronto Star...
John Baird’s defence of gay rights ‘offensive,’ women’s group says

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Sydney Newman.
Doctor Who, especially its creation, has long fascinated me. I've read a few books on the development and production of the original series, including "Doctor Who: The Early Years" (by Jeremy Bentham; not that Jeremy Bentham), and "Doctor Who: The Key to Time" (by Peter Haining). I just can't get enough.

Back in December of last year someone uploaded to Youtube an outstanding 54-minute-long documentary called Doctor Who: Origins. Covered is the meeting of the television minds of BBC Head of Drama, Canadian Sydney Newman, and his staff, including writers Donald Wilson and C.E. Webber. The documentary outlines the step-by-step creation of a television series which, unbeknownst to the creators of course, would be built of superior genetic material and would keep travelling forward through time. (Let's forget the neuter NeuWho, outside of the fact it is in production fifty years after the famous Time Lord first hit the British video airwaves. Anyway, my opinion does not matter, really. Facts are facts.)

If you are fascinated by the creative process, but not Doctor Who in particular, you still may find the documentary interesting, but if you are a true Whovian, then this is the cat's whiskers and highly recommended.

Monday, August 5, 2013


Star Wars on television, as a live-action series? The notion has often won my interest. Twice before I've blogged about that issue...

Star Wars TV Series

Star Wars TV Live Action

Is it possible this time, with Disney behind that universe, the idea might actually see the light of a flat-screen? The ABC television network is interested in discussing a possible series.

I'm not a Star Wars fan but I would check out a television serial version, absolutely. There is potential for more stories other than the now dreary story-line of the feature films. (I'm speaking of the 'prequel' films, obviously, not the original three. Speaking of dreary Star Wars'; the animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.)

From Reuters...

I just now discovered that there is an overview on Wikipedia on the history of the television live-action Star Wars concept...


I've never graded a film by way of its budget -- big Hollywood films don't necessarily suck and low-budget or super-low-budget films don't automatically engender raves -- but there are times, especially these summer days, when I feel I have to go after what I think is a known quantity. A couple of nights ago I watched movie-meister Roger Corman's 1957 "epic" Attack of the Crab Monsters.

I was aware going in that it was, to that point in his career, Corman's biggest box-office hit. It's easy to see why. Viewed today, understanding a little about North American film history, Attack is appreciated for what it is and tries to be -- pure unaffected movie matinee entertainment. While not without flaws, the flick is propelled to its inevitable conclusion (guess who wins), not only by director Corman, but through brisk scripting courtesy of the ever dependable Charles B. Griffith. This may be the film's real flaw although one common for feature films of slight running time; Attack is 62 minutes long. With a single-minded propulsion there is little room for anything else, story-wise. (Young people attending the matinees and drive-ins would not have cared too much. Also, I can think of a few recent films that would benefit immensely from a 62 minute "cut".)

The plot is simple: A cadre of personnel -- scientists and military men -- land on a small Pacific island to investigate the disappearance of an earlier expedition. The team, of whom Russell Johnson is a member, but not one of the scientists, studies the results of the 1946 Bikini Atoll atomic tests and in the process discovers what happened to the previous researchers. If you don't like seafood, don't ask.

(I popped out of the film just once the other night: Russell Johnson plays a couple of sequences without wearing his shirt. The actor said in an interview years ago that while auditioning for the role of the "Professor" in Gilligan's Island, he was asked by the show's producers if he would mind taking his shirt off... to see what he would look like without his shirt on. He was not too keen on the idea.)

The strongest attribute of Attack of the Crab Monsters, for me, is the film's tone: it kept me on edge from beginning to end; a sort of dramatic tinnitus. As though a surprise was always just around the corner.

The crab get-ups are not bad, actually. Physical effects and visual effects are the killer for low budget producers -- then a lot more than now -- but the filmmakers get away with a spoonful in this department. Corman tech regulars Ronald Stein (music) and Floyd Crosby (cinematography) add their rock-solid touches and, as per usual in that relationship, elevate the whole show a little above a low budget film's expected ceiling.

I'm not suggesting that Attack of the Crab Monsters is a great film, but: A friend told me a few years ago that he cares not for intellectual art... he just wants to be entertained when he goes to the movies. I'm tuned a little differently than my fast-food pal, but I could give him an answer in regards to what was in my bowl two nights ago: "Yes, I was!"

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Jon Pertwee, as The Doctor, in January 1970 "Radio Times".

As I've mentioned on this blog before, sometime and somewhere, my favourite Doctor in the long-running BBC series Doctor Who, is Jon Pertwee. As the third actor to play the doctor he guided the TARDIS in adventures through time and space from 1970 to 1974.

Even though I saw episodes of the first Doctor, William Hartnell, when they first ran, it was the third incarnation of the famous Time Lord who clicked most for me: Maybe it was the fact that in September of 1976 OECA (now TVO) started running that era of Who, specifically the "UNIT", or Earth-bound, stories within his tenure. This too maybe the reason why the Pertwee Earth-bound adventures are my favourite in the history of Doctor Who (that I am familiar with).

The great mix for me: Jon Pertwee as the Doctor; Jo Grant;  and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.

Some of my favourite Pertwee stories: "Inferno", "The Green Death", "The Sea Devils", "The Time Warrior", and "The Curse of Peladon" (non Earth-bound).


The BBC has announced who will play the next Doctor on Doctor Who. The Beeb has long made a sport of waiting to reveal the identity of the next actor to play the coveted role.

I'd never heard of Peter Capaldi, but that does not matter. It's better when a 'stranger' plays "the Doctor".

What I find interesting is that Mr. Capaldi looks a little older than what I was expecting. The actor is 55, the same age as the first man in the TARDIS, William Hartnell, when he was cast in the role.

From the Beeb...
Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi revealed as 12th Doctor

Saturday, August 3, 2013


One of my readers reminded me of a Klingon character from the original Star Trek television series. While writing my posting this morning on the recent death of Michael Ansara (here) I made sure I did a quick mental run-down on all the main Klingons featured in the show. My criteria was that they had to have a front-and-center role, and not just a background player. For some reason I had forgotten about Kahless, from one of my favourite episodes "The Savage Curtain". (Given my terms of selection, there's also Korax -- played by the late actor Michael Pataki -- from "The Trouble With Tribbles". I had not forgotten about him.)

Kahless was played by long-time stuntman/actor Bob Herron...

As described by Yarnek, from Excalbia...

"Kahless the Unforgettable, the Klingon who set the pattern for his planet's tyrannies."

How could I forget him?

MICHAEL ANSARA (1922 - 2013) - KANG!

Syrian-born American actor Michael Ansara died on Wednesday, at the age of 91.

Late last night before going to bed, I thought I would check the news headlines. I was just thinking of Mr. Ansara a few weeks ago since something reminded me of the third-season Star Trek episode "Day of the Dove" where he played just about the meanest Klingon to appear in that classic series. The actor's portrayal of Commander Kang ran the gamut from scary to charming.

He will probably always be identified most with that role, even though he acted in hours of films and television.

With Michael Ansara's passing, all the actors who played the key Klingons are gone: John Colicos (Kor, from "Errand of Mercy"), William Campbell (Koloth, from "The Trouble With Tribbles"), and Tige Andrews (Kras, from "Friday's Child").

Obituary from Variety...

Friday, August 2, 2013


Something I came across this evening on Youtube, is this very interesting interview from The Pierre Burton Show, with Canadian film director Don Shebib. The CBC taping is from 1972; at the time the director's film Rip-Off was about to be released, but Mr. Burton takes the opportunity to give Shebib a hard time about his lack of... literacy. It's done with a modicum of buoyancy, but the legendary Canadian author and interviewer asks all the right questions and at one point makes a sarcastic connecting reference from media guru Marshall McLuhan. It's quite funny. (Burton was known for this style of interviewing: As displayed in the superb 1965 National Film Board of Canada documentary Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen, Cohen is grilled in much the same way -- but not for a lack of reading.)

By the way, I've seen this episode of Pierre Burton before as it appears as one of the terrific extras on the Seville Pictures Goin' Down the Road DVD. That film is a top favourite of mine and demonstrates Shebib's skills as a storyteller -- even if he is considered by some to be less than literate.


When I saw the headline "Why filmmakers use 'shaky cam' to keep the action vague" on the Toronto Star website I went to the article immediately.

'Special to the Star' writer Jake Howell does an okay job at addressing the issue of too much 'shaky cam' in movies today. Unfortunately, there are a few factual errors in the piece; for example...

Howell states that because of an "economy" of "expensive celluloid", films in an earlier era utilized longer takes. This is absolutely incorrect: On a feature film, "film is the cheapest thing" (unless it's a really low budget affair, of course). Also, Cloverfield was hardly a "big-budget" film. In fact it was of a relatively low budget, especially for a studio picture. J.J. Abrams and company kept the budget down to a reasonable level, which only helped to increase "profitability".

Otherwise, Jake Howell's piece is of honest intentions...

Why filmmakers use 'shaky cam' to keep the action vague

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Starting Tuesday, August 6th, the busy Toronto intersection of King and Spadina will be shut down for two weeks so the streetcar tracks can be changed.

Normally what happens with such procedures is that partial shutdowns are done at the intersection, but the radical method of replacing the tracks all in one pre-fab piece demands that the whole x/y traffic be stopped. The section is pre-welded and dropped whole into place which makes it an easier job than recreating the assembly piece-by-piece on location.

This is how the streetcar tracks were all changed-over at the intersection of King and Church, back in the summer of 2004. I happened to be walking by/through when the big crane was dropping the track section into place. I wished I had my camera.

Since these days I'm down at that intersection a few times a week I will make sure that I don't miss this one.

"King-Spadina intersection to close for two weeks"


Dreary NewWho's dull cast members Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman.

As I've blogged about earlier in this blog's existence, I have never been able to "get into" NewWho (2005- ). Sure, the Doctor Who reboot show benefits from the wonderful imaging technology that filmmakers and tv-makers have access to today, but it lacks something. Something, as the Brits would say, "vital".

John Doyle, outstanding television columnist from the Globe and Mail newspaper, and mild-mannered football fan, last week treated the subject of NewWho (and new Who Matt Smith) from his own perspective: How he gave up the show at the age of 10 and, like a lot of young lads, discovered and gravitated towards sports and girls; leaving his "geek" days behind him as, at best, fond memories.

When I sample the OldWho (1963-1989) I am impressed with some standout episodes ("Inferno" and "The Green Death"), and because of these, and technology can ultimately take a back seat as far as I'm concerned, the new Doctor Who series 'looks' and feels second-rate. Sorry, NewWho fans... of all ages. (Why is it that everyone in NewWho suffers Verbal Diarrhea?)

The good news is, helping my own fond memories of the original show, the BBC is producing a dramatic television film titled An Adventure in Space and Time which will outline the origins of Doctor Who. I can't wait... TARDIS

John Doyle on Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary...
"After a half century, Doctor Who is contemporary, witty and cool"