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Hello. I’m a yak

March 2, 2011


High Park Zoo, originally uploaded by losingpitcher.

Like most of us, the denizens of the High Park zoo seemed impatient for the arrival of spring last weekend.

Winter up on high

February 25, 2011
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The unwelcome howl
Of February’s wind
Amplified by the city’s
Towering skyline

The skin reels
Tugs the blankets tight
The chill wind is outside
Its harsh sound penetrates within

The brain moderates
And forces the body
Out of its nocturnal cocoon
To be exposed

The whipped wind plays tricks
On our fearful senses
It’s cold on the ground
But sounds colder it’s the sky

John Barry footnote

February 7, 2011
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When John Barry died last week, most media reports called him a “Bond composer”, or claimed that he was best known for the work he did on numerous James Bond films. I suppose this is fair – he wrote music for 12 Bond films, after all, although the authorship of the actual “Bond theme” remains murky.

I had always assumed that he was best known for writing the music for “Out of Africa” – the orchestral score has remained a radio staple, while memories of the movie seem to be fading away. He was also well known for the “Born Free” and “Dances with Wolves” scores, with the Bond stuff more of a career footnote than anything else (for the record, I think “You Only Live Twice” has the best score of all the Bond films).

But a better example of a career footnote would be his score for “The Black Hole” – what I would argue is the greatest music score ever written for a terrible movie. I’m not sure what the competition is – but it is a really great score, worthy of a far better movie. In the age of YouTube, it has become ubiquitous around the web, with commenters inevitably asking “Where does that come from?”

And course, he wrote a bunch of other stuff as well – “Midnight Cowboy”, “Body Heat”, “Zulu”, etc. But in all the various obits I read, there was no mention at all of “The Black Hole” – fortunately, YouTubers didn’t forget it:

Ducks on the Don

January 7, 2011
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Don River ducks

Let’s get on with spring already

January 5, 2011

The period between the winter meetings and the Hall of Fame announcement is my least favourite part of the baseball calendar. The excitement of the winter meetings gradually fades, and then devolves into parody (Kevin Gregg will decide this week which team he will sign with – can you stand the suspense?); and then comes the Hall of Fame debate, a nasty, unpleasant affair in which argument devolves into rants and personal attacks.

Best thing to do is try to ignore it; this time of year offers plenty of other distractions anyways. If you’re a baseball fan and can’t help yourself, all you can hope for is a warm fuzzy at the end of the process. Last year, myself and I think a lot of other fans were left cold when only one player was inducted and two just missed; this year, those two players (Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven) were inducted, while another highly-deserving player (Barry Larkin) took a big jump, and seems like an excellent bet to be inducted next year.

(The warm & fuzzy feeling was completed when another personal favourite, Tim Raines, got a nice boost as well. Long, long way to go, but heading in the right direction)

So I will stick to the positive for one day: in my 35 years as a sports fan living in Toronto, Roberto Alomar is the single most important athlete this city has had, the best player on a team that won back-to-back championships, a feat that looks even more stunning in retrospect. Right now, almost everything about the local pro sports scene is bad; the hockey team is gawdawful bad, the basketball team is horrible, the football and soccer teams are also bad… the Blue Jays are the only team generating any buzz at all right now, and although I like their future I don’t think they will compete for a playoff spot in 2011.

So we’ll just have to enjoy the moment (and it’s a nice touch that the architect of those teams, Pat Gillick, is being inducted as well). And as for Bert Blyleven, here’s a video of him getting his head shaved:

Forbidden Planet

January 4, 2011
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It’s been a few years since I last watched Forbidden Planet, but I’m feeling the urge to check it out again because the two stars, the impossibly young-and-beautiful Leslie Nielsen and Anne Francis, have died within days of each other.

This is my second-favourite sci-fi film of the 1950’s, after the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers; based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, it basically serves as the template for every episode of Star Trek ever made (it also was the debut of Robby the Robot, who was recycled many times over, most notably in Lost in Space).

I can’t remember all the similarities – the horny young dashing captain, phasers, away-teams, red-shirts, etc. – I’ll have to watch it again. But they’re just trivia and minutiae; at its heart are the impossibly young-and-beautiful lovers, and old Walter Pidgeon, both mad-and-bad but sympathetic nonetheless.

 

On and around the waterfront

September 27, 2010
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It’s now the end of September in Toronto, and I’ve been a stranger to the waterfront this year. Partly because I’m not very adventurous, partly because it’s been stinking hot, and partly because the waterfront has always been a good place to make a stranger of.

Put it was a pleasant Sunday, stuff is being built or has been built, and I’ve seen little of it, so I made a trip to the foot of Spadina to see the Wavedeck that had been built there (I traveled light, carrying only my Droid phone, so the pictures are what they are).

A familiar view from the foot of lower Spadina Avenue.

A not-so-familiar view: The Spadina Wavedeck.

The Wavedecks at Rees and (especially) Simcoe are more eye-catching, the photos not so much (I still have a bad habit of coverage the shutter on my Droid with my finger, and I missed a kid doing some tricks with his bike. Anyways, this video has some impressive before-and-after views)

Willow trees at HTO Park.

Birds.

Unfortunately, once you hit Ferry Docks, it’s back onto the sidewalk, and such beautiful landmarks as Captain John’s. Beyond that the lake shore is extraordinarily forbidding to pedestrians. But there’s stuff being built, including the newly-opened Sherbourne Common, a park/storm water treatment facility.

At the moment, the fountains at Sherbourne Common are making little puddles on the ground. But you really can walk right up to lake shore.

The other part of Sherbourne Common, still a work in progress.

The City, and people who use the waterfront, still have some details to work out.

The Port Lands are still not a place I care to visit often; they’re pretty bleak, unless you’re in to Go-Karts or year-round driving ranges. But there is an actual beach at the end of the road.

A view from the Ship Channel Bridge. Or Cherry Street Bridge, I can't remember which one.

Cherry Beach on a warm Sunday afternoon in September... and a whole lot of nobody there.

Walking from Spadina to Cherry Beach also reminded me that I’m terribly out of shape and my feet hurt, so that was that. Looking at a map, it’s amazing how little of the waterfront I’ve seen; Toronto is a big city, and when you stick to your own little neighbourhood it’s easy to forget how much more there is out there.

(case in point: like many commenters – and non-drivers – on this post, I’ve NEVER seen the Cube House, and didn’t even know it was there. Though at one point yesterday I was just a couple of blocks from it.)