Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Toronto entertainment/television journalist Bill Harris spoke up about an issue which I find has been omitted in stories about the passing of actor/writer/comedian Harold Ramis: The talented Mr. Ramis was in the first season of the brilliant sketch comedy series Second City Television (SCTV), which ran back in 1976-1977. Not only was he "head writer" for the premiere season but, because of the fact he was so memorable ("that's socialist talk, Tom!"), Ramis seemed to have been involved with that show longer than he actually was. Missing just the first few episode premieres, I watched "Second City" (as it was itemized in TV Guide at the time) during that first year, and when the second season started in 1978, I remember being disappointed that Harold Ramis was missing in action.

The multi-role man went on to a prolific career in film and television... this part is being reported in the obituaries on Ramis, but for some reason his SCTV work -- which introduced me to him -- is being neglected, if mentioned at all, in these tributes.

Thank you, Mr. Harris...

Don't forget SCTV when admiring the lengthy resume of Harold Ramis

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


The Toronto Sun 'newspaper' has a reputation for being lowbrow, to put it mildly, but even they can outdo themselves: Right wing rags are known for picking unflattering pictures to illustrate any given person they have a hate-on for. With digital video and its high quality imaging, and the rapid fire picture taking capability of 'still' cameras today, one can pull a frame which best marks that moment when someone does not look their best. With its story on Toronto police chief Bill Blair, and councillor Doug Ford's quest to knock down the man via initiating an investigation by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, the hateful Toronto Sun uploaded to their website a special frame. No doubt their brainless, not to mention easily amused, faithful are loving this...

Over at the Toronto Sun's mortal enemy, the Toronto Star, there are ladies and gentlemen; and real journalists...

The Toronto Sun is in serious financial trouble. The question, "what came first, the chicken or the egg?", does not matter. Any journalistic integrity they may have had at one time has been removed by a trashiness which only serves to flush them down even faster. (An apt metaphor.)

What will happen to the Toronto newspaper landscape when the Sun does go under? Nothing; there will still be three major Toronto dailies....


I was going to title this piece "Toronto Sun Dung", but then I realized it's not good to give away the joke right off the top.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Earlier today, here, I posted a bit in regards to Tim Hortons eliminating certain items from their menu in order to speed up counter service. A commenter wrote the following in response...

"Faster service would be more likely if they hired more counter help! Like, DUH!

Unless they have to offset paying for additional hands by getting rid of production costs for certain obscure items on the menu, I can see that. But the slow service is also due to the fact that they offer way too much on that menu as it is. If you're going to offer so many things, be sure you have the proper manpower in place to do it.

It's like inviting the football team over for dinner when you only have a jar of pickles in the fridge."

I wrote a reply, and after I noticed how long it was, I decided to make it a posting in order to bring it to the front counter. My own comment...

"Your points are good ones.

At one time, for a time, I would get the toasted-bagel-with-cream-cheese. My habit was broken when I found that I was biting into a warm bagel, not a toasted one. I asked a lady behind the counter one day why bagels were no longer 'crunchy'. Without missing a beat she told me that head office issued one of their procedural notes saying that the toasting time was to be reduced to something like 27 seconds. Great! A brilliant method to retain and win-over customers!

Another Tim Hortons I would occasionally pop into had a manager with an attitude. (In earshot: "Who in the hell asks for decaf in the middle of the day?" Great! A brilliant method to retain and win-over customers!)

While I have found that the manpower issue varies from store-to-store, I agree with you that there are too many "things" on the menu. And there are not dedicated sandwich-makers in the stores; often the girl or guy on the cash has to don the gloves, and walk over to prepare the item.

To boot: I'm sure Tim Hortons head office is bitching about the fact that they will soon have to pay a whole $11.00 an hour. (Oh, no; that 75 cent per hour pay increase per head will upset their shareholders. This world is so unjust....)"


An online vote on today's Globe and Mail website...

Is faster coffee service worth giving up the Timbit Dutchie, Walnut Crunch and Cold Stone ice cream?

* Yes, I want coffee!
* No, not the Dutchie!
* Seriously?

... I would add:

* I shan't miss items that I never knew were on the menu in the first place!


Having the 2014 Olympic Winter Games taking place in far away Sochi ends up producing, if you are not watching them at all, like me, a strange delay. I wake up in the morning, fire up the computer, go on the Internet and I see headlines like this...

Canadians Marielle Thompson and Kelsey Serwa win gold, silver in women’s ski cross

... my first micro thought is, "I thought they were won yesterda... hold on; these are additional medals for Canada". (Yesterday, Thursday, Jennifer Jones and her team won gold in women's curling; and the women's ice hockey team won gold against the U.S.A.)

My second thought was, "is it the Canadian women who are scooping the lion's share of metals?"

I then learned that today the Canada and U.S. men's ice hockey squads are in the semi finals. And the men's curling final is between Canada and Great Britain is also happening this day.

I'm out the door (my thought is, "I'm late") and I will find out later today what happened in regards to the above match-ups....

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Toronto mayor Rob Ford and his brother Doug are back for more: The guys of girth have a Youtube channel, called appropriately enough, "Ford Nation".

(Are they the Ford Nation? I thought their uneducated devotees staffed that thing. Those brothers certainly are a nation all their own.)

The following video was put up three weeks ago but it has accumulated just over 39,000 hits. That seems kind of low. Where is the Nation? (Cynics say that most of those hits are from the curious, and the Ford bashers... like me.)

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Jennifer Francis, a Rutgers University climate scientist, has a theory, somewhat controversial: The U.K.'s forever rain and droughts in the U.S.A. southwest may be the result of a rapidly warming Arctic.

Sounds like a pretty reasonable theory to me.

My main reason for this posting is to give myself an excuse to affix the above photograph taken back in early January by Ben Birchall. I first saw the pic a few days ago and was struck by its beauty. The scene of mother nature's power is Porthcawl Harbour, South Wales, U.K.

The Toronto Star...

Rapidly warming Arctic may be causing our polar-vortex winter
Arctic warming is driving persistent extreme weather patterns, a new theory advanced at the AAAS scientific meeting in Chicago Saturday suggests.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


We all have a list of films that we could watch over and over again. Some titles on my rather brief list include: Annie Hall; Wild Rovers; "Stanley Kubrick movies"; Plan 9 From Outer Space; and a few others. The repeaters are not necessarily movies that I consider great, although most are, but they just have that replay pleasure.

Those are the feature films.

Over the years I've watched hundreds of short films; I have a fondness and appreciation for the type. The narrative dramatic feature film is what constitutes "movies" to the general public, although documentaries have become super sexy over the last couple of decades, but I often prefer the abbreviated model.

One short flick I saw back in the mid 1980s tickled my fancy. So much so that I ended up watching it about three or four times. Claiming that after viewing the 16mm print, I just rewound and re-threaded it so I could watch it again would not be too much of an exaggeration. The film, Sky Dive!, made by filmmaker and BASE jumper Carl Boesch, was exhilarating, and I wanted another fix. While well shot in admittedly restrictive conditions, there is an emphasis on the sound work. The title song has markings of the late 1960s and early 1970s sound, but it wraps nicely the theme of the thirteen-minute short's cohesive bundle of various parachute shenanigans. The use of Franz Liszt's "Les Preludes" is brilliant, as though skydiving was the inspiration for his classic piece of music. (It was good for the Larry Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon serials, too. Maybe...) As a matter of fact it was this film that made me hyper aware of "Les Preludes" and made me want to acquire a recording, even if it took several years to do just that.

Something pressed me to make an effort to see if there was an upload of Sky Dive! onto Youtube. There is. Poetry in motion... if not free-fall. Wonderful.

And, no, I have never sky dived.

(Just one note before the show: Watching Sky Dive! on Youtube via my laptop computer makes me appreciate my original 16mm screening from years ago. That nice bright projected picture was part of the reason I was bewitched.)

Monday, February 10, 2014


Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his gang plan to knock Liberal kingpin Justin Trudeau down to size in their hope to decrease his chances of becoming Canada's next Prime Minister. Fat chance: Whether 'we' like it or not, Justin Trudeau will be Canada's next Prime Minister. I, like many, really believe that it's a forgone conclusion. The forces of change are too powerful.

On October 20th, 2015, the Conservatives and their dim-witted faithful will twist & fizzle.

From the Toronto Star...

Conservatives planning to undermine Justin Trudeau at Liberal convention
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are planning to target Justin Trudeau at the upcoming Liberal convention with a carefully orchestrated campaign to disrupt Liberal communications, highlight disunity in the ranks and question his leadership abilities.

Sunday, February 9, 2014


Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister, S.S. Lt. Chris Alexander.

There is definitely a war on the immigrant here in Canada. I'm not suggesting the average Canadian feels this way, but the typical neoconservative actually believes that the invading immigrants are here to take our jobs and suck off the welfare system and contribute nothing to our wonderful society. These Cons forget, of course, through ignorance of basic Canadian history, that we were all immigrants to this great nation at one time or another. As a former colleague of mine put it so succinctly: "Where did we come from?"

Oh, I forgot, silly me and my former colleague: "We were here first!" (And I'll continue to thank my lucky stars that I was here first. It's been serving me well all these years.)

Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui has something important to say...

How to read Ottawa’s latest immigration changes: Siddiqui
Latest reforms to Citizenship Act show once again that federal Conservatives never tire of demonizing immigrants.

The photo affixed to the above article has this disturbing caption...

"As Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander heralded the 'strengthening' of the Citizenship Act, he slipped in such measures as tripling the fee and giving himself the power to grant and strip citizenship."

Saturday, February 8, 2014


While I was on Youtube earlier today I decided to see if 'original' fan-film filmmaker Don Glut had anything uploaded. He has quite a few works up on the site. This lead me to a video spot by some guys who run a show of some kind titled Opie & Anthony. The specific episode that I watched is a funny bit called "Opie & Anthony Star Wars Fan Film". Soon after I pressed play I realized what their schtick is. And, in this case at least, it is quite funny...

Opie & Anthony Star Wars Fan Film

A sampling of my favourite lines from Opie and Anthony...

"Why would you do this?..."

"Good death scene, dude; you nailed it."

"They should do 'The Secret of Girls', and they all look at a vagina and try to identify it."

... I had to stop writing this posting after transcribing that last line.

Friday, February 7, 2014


I like this. An important statement, considering the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics officially open today, and a nice piece of graphic design.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


One book I finished reading a few weeks ago, and needed time to digest, was Parker Tyler's 1969 work Underground Film - A Critical History. As the respected critic writes in the book's preface (my copy is actually a 1995 reprint from Da Capo Press containing a 'new' introduction by J. Hoberman and afterward by Charles Boultenhouse) this is not an encyclopedia or index of underground cinema, but, as the title hints, a very critical look at the often neglected and misunderstood subject. (The author also notes off the top that he concentrates on the American side, even though Europe has its schools.)

What amused me more than a few times throughout the text is how Mr. Tyler is ever alight with what could be best described as "controversial" assertions. The ninth chapter in, "can the technical escape the pad?", opens up with a morsel, and one which convinced me to do this blog posting. Take it for what it's worth...

"It would be valuable to do more than try to explain the infantile psychology that motivates and dominates so much Underground Filmmaking."

Now you know the book's temperament. Parker Tyler drops the little mini-bombs, no question, but his supporting analyses are first-rate -- even if I needed time to decide whether or not I agree with him, point to point. Underground Film - A Critical History is clearly an outstanding book, but one which demands some concentration on the part of the reader; which probably explained my slower than usual pace.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


I like the Cumberland Terrace here in Toronto. Last week I took a walk through there to get from Bay Street to Yonge Street; a nice route on a very cold day. After all, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) has a station which accesses the mall: "Bay" Station.

A few days after my little trek through the Cumberland Terrace, I see this in the Toronto Star...

Cumberland Terrace a dying mall sitting on prime real estate
The shopping has never been fully renovated so it remains an amazing museum dedicated to 1974, the year it opened.

Yeah, that mall is rather quiet, perhaps static, but I'm not so sure I want to see it go just to accommodate more condos in Toronto -- even if a newer shopping block will be built. The Cumberland Terrace has something which just occurred to me: It has a 'human scale', a pleasantness.