Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Little Illiteracy

It's a little hard to see in this shot, I know, but this the intersection of Ellesmere Road and Victoria Park Avenue on what was once the border of North York (right) and Scarborough (left). I've come to refer to it as Dumbass Corners, because every single day, almost without exception, the driver on this bus has to tell some brand new, slack-jawed idiot that this is a double fare express bus, and this invariably takes three attempts and most of a minute to accomplish.

Not really a big deal, but I used to vent a lot on this blog, so what the hey. :)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Pink Panther and Sons

When I was a teenager and Saturday morning was still a sea of cartoons, Hanna-Barbera came up with a single-season offering that really caught my imagination. I'd go so far as to say it really stepped up my desire to be an artist and animator. The show was The Pink Panther and Sons, and recently, I found the show's model sheets for sale on eBay for about $20 US. They arrived yesterday.


These must be from when the show hadn't quite gelled yet, because I do notice some deltas from the show I remember. The first and most profound is that the sheets give the title of the program as "The Sons of the Pink Panther". By the time it aired, it had acquired the somewhat more uptown moniker "The Pink Panther and Sons".

The show largely centred around a group of anthropomorphic panther kids; a club who collectively called themselves The Rainbow Panthers, for obvious reasons, seen above.


As another delta, several of the male characters are shown here with whiskers sprouting from their upper lips, as the Pink Panther himself has (namely his two sons at the left, Pinky and Panky, and Punkin down at the end). These were omitted when the show aired; probably because it was decided they made the characters look older than they were intended to be.

As their typical collective antagonists were a crew of lions; a bike (as in bicycle) gang called The Howl's Angels. Somewhat incongruently, the gang's undisputed leader was called Finko, with Howl as basically his toadying second-in-command. Pinky and Panky are included here to provide a scale key between the two sets of characters.


The show's most central character was the Pink Panther's son, Pinky. (It's worth noting here that while the Pink Panther made occasional, voiceless cameos on the show, no mother for his sons was ever shown or even mentioned.) Pinky was the unofficial leader of the Rainbow Panthers and shown to be a rather average kid... a reasonable athlete, a good-natured friend, a brave but not foolhardy kid who did what was necessary. Ages were never stated but he came across as slightly older than the other kids in his gang, or at least, more mature. As I noted above, the visible whiskers vanished from the design by the time the show was animated.




The other eponymous "son" was Panky, who was a toddler with a very basic grasp of language. He actually did very little in the course of the show, though a couple of episodes centred around him... mainly as a plot device, though, for action on the part of the older characters. When he was given the spotlight, he was portrayed as full of wonder at the world, and rather stubborn. One of the changes made to his design was the addition of a bright yellow shirt (which can be seen in the colour key image at the start of the blog entry). Perhaps they thought just wearing a diaper made him look too naked... rather ironic, given his older brother and most of their friends didn't even wear pants.




One of the two female characters in the gang was Chatta, a bookish know-it-all who delighted in using big words and circuitous language. She was portrayed as having a bit of a crush on Pinky, which was, to some extent, requited; they were shown to be dating casually in a few episodes.



Another interesting delta here... The other female panther, shown below, is depicted as named "Gizmo". By the time the show aired, that had been changed to Annie, with Gizmo having morphed to her last name, "O'Gizmo". She was the only character whose last name was given on the show, other than Pinky and Panky, whose last name was, of course, "Panther". Annie was a young genius inventor who got mixed results... some of her inventions worked just fine; others were considerable flops. She was, at the time, probably my second favourite character on the show. I think, by now, I'd probably call her my favourite. She had a definite personality that was shown as a little deeper than most of the others. She seemed to associate slightly more with Punkin than she did anyone else, but given there were only 26 episodes across 13 shows, that might simply be a result of the relatively low sample size.



Speaking of Punkin, here he is. At the time I started catching the show, he was the hook for me. I loved the design and the kind of vulnerability of the character. He was depicted as just a little bit dumber than most of the others, and given the verbal tick of recurring spoonerisms, nearly every time he spoke. He was my favourite character back in the day, but in retrospect, there really wasn't much to hook onto aside from the visual appeal of the design, and as I said above, I'd probably have to say Annie's moved into my #1 slot since then.

Sorry, Punkin. :)



Probably my least-favourite character was Murfel. He had a speech impediment that made him largely unintelligible for the most part, and whenever he spoke it was typical for one of the other characters to repeat his line after saying something like, "You said it, Murfel;" blah blah blah. He was slow, uninteresting, and clearly an almost direct lift of Mushmouth from the Cosby Kids. I never saw the need for the character except to make the group slightly bigger and have a character whose pelt was green.



Rounding out the Rainbow Panthers was Rocko, shown here as having what I suppose is the nickname "13", though he was never called that on the show. He wore the number on his shirt, but that was far as that went. Rocko was obsessed with boxing and spoke with what I suppose was a stereotypical Bronx accent. The show depicted him somewhat unevenly as being alternately bold, as one would expect of someone self-confident of his ability to defend himself; and then inexplicably cowardly. I tended to head cannon his boldness and discount the cowardly version; it made him more interesting, because he didn't have much else.




Now we come to their usual antagonists, the Howl's Angels, a gang of lions. While the kids of the two gangs were generally shown as rivals, they were not above being cordial and social on occasion, with the Howl's Angels' female character, Liona, though herself hard-bitten, shown to be rather friendly with Pinky in particular, and kind to other characters when she felt the Angels were going too far in picking on them.

First, their leader, Finko. He was, as you might expect, loud, blustery, selfish, arrogant, violent to subordinates, kind of dumb, and possibly the singularly most interesting character on the show.



Next, his 2IC, Howl, the head of the bicycle gang, who, for some reason, all wore various cooking utensils on their heads; these being plucked from the junkyard where they maintained their clubhouse. Howl was voiced by Marshall Efron, the only character on the show whose voice actor I could personally identify. He was, in most regards, a subordinate echo of Finko.



And lastly, Liona, the only thing that gave the Angels any touch of class or heart at all. She was shown to be romantically interested in Pinky, and was shown on at least one occasion to go on a date with him, and so was at least an ostensible rival to Chatta for Pinky's attentions. She was an odd fit for the Angels as she seemed to have no romantic interest in either Finko or Howl, and freely criticized them. She tended to be what little voice of reason the gang had.



The show only lasted the one season and didn't seem to generate much buzz, but I took it to heart and managed to video tape all the episodes, aside from the first five minutes or so of one. Once the show went off the air at the end of the season, I don't remember ever seeing it re-run. It had some interesting quirks... the panthers and lions seemed to be the only anthropomorphic species but were shown to be completely accepted by, and at home with, the human characters who made up most of the population. The show was never stated to be in Los Angeles, but given that Tommy Lasorda, "manager of the Ducksters", had a cameo in one of the episodes, it would be hard to imagine it was set anywhere else. Episodes ran about ten minutes or so, two to the half hour, and tended to focus around the problems of one character or another to be solved by the gang's cooperation. On the whole, they come and go so quickly it's hard to become bored; the writing was usually bright and amusing; and since the episodes were so brief and the cast of characters so broad, none of them got enough exposure to wear out his/her welcome, with the possible exception of Murfel. To the best of my knowledge, the show was never released on video or DVD by Hanna-Barbera, but if you're interested, a number of the episodes in surprisingly high quality (so good I'm left wondering if the show has been remastered and released in a digital format) have been recently posted on YouTube. They're quick, fun, and still enjoyable, and now provide an interesting look at tweener childhood back in the 1980s, a world of video games and walkmans but not yet one of the internet or smartphones. Have a look... Here's the theme song, and a couple of the episodes I happened to particularly like.







Friday, June 08, 2018

Binds that tie

I haven’t had much to say here in years. God knows if I will now. Times were, three or four people checked in on me here during the week, but I guess I’ve long since let them down. But it occurs to me just to fire something off into the darkness.

So right now I’m working contract for a government ministry. I’m coming up on five weeks left, with no extension or other job prospect in sight… though believe me, I’m trying. I’m a little scared. I’ve been here before and I don’t like it, and I’d give a lot to just find something solid again and settle into it for several years. It almost seems like those jobs aren’t available anymore. At least not to me.

But, like I said, I’m trying. I actually got a face-to-face interview about three weeks ago (spoiler alert: they’ve since gone with another candidate). It wasn’t a bad commute; one twenty-minute bus ride to about six minutes and two stops of subway time. I’ve certainly had worse commutes. And the work sounded interesting and rewarding.

So an interview was booked for 4 in the afternoon. Strictly speaking, I work till 5, but within w hours or so, you can book off for “appointments” and make up the time later. So I did.

So now comes the fun part. Just before leaving, like an hour or two before, I review the email one last time to make sure I’ve got my names and everything straight. And I see this one, tiny, tucked-away line I missed in the five or six other times I read the email. To wit: “This is a formal interview so please wear a suit.”

Ohhhhh fffffuuuuuuuudddddggge. Only I didn’t say “fudge”.

So I’m already at work. And even if I had read that and understood that earlier, that’s still rather a tall order. I mean, I’m at work. If I show up in a suit, they’re going to kind of know I’m buggering off early to try to get another job. So in my opinion, it’s kind of a prick move in the first place. Unless the office environment is absolutely like working in a bank headquarters, why the hell would this be an interview requirement?

Anyway, so now I’m scrambling to salvage this. I went on the net to see if there was anyplace near the interview site were I could at least snag a tie. There was. Winners. Yeah, Winners. So I get onto the subway, take that six minute ride, get off, spend ten minutes trying to find the entrance to the bloody Winners, then try to find the ties, and then try to decide what looks best with the dress shirt I have on. I bought a tie for twenty bucks.

Okay… I don’t know how to tie a tie. I used to, like, 25, 30 years ago, when I was frequently going to friends’ weddings and stuff, but those days are long past. So I make my way to the food court and find the men’s room. I lock myself in a stall and fire up the internet on my phone, praying I’ll get enough bars to look up HOW TO TIE A WINDSOR KNOT and get this party started. And I do. I pick this graphic, set the phone on my shoulder bag, and then start looping and flipping and knotting.

Time’s a-wastin’. Twenty minutes to go till the interview.

The first two times I try it, the knot comes out wrong and too far down the tie on try number one, and then just too far down the tie on try number two… so at least there’s measurably improvement. Finally I pull the tie way out to the wide side and do it again, and success. I have achieved full Windsor plausibility. So I dash out of the men’s room and back up onto the street, where, of course, a simple one-street crossing now becomes a three-street diversion because of construction. But I did finally make the interview with a decent-looking ten minutes to spare. Not that that got me the job, but hey, at least I managed to pull all that off. I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but I’ll always have that amusing, and faintly satisfying, little story to tell in a nod to my own resourcefulness.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Home again

You can see for yourself, right here on this blog. On May 12, 2006, I bought a Canon Powershot S80. If I remember correctly, it cost me in the neighbourhood of just shy of $600. It was a marvel at the time and to me, it still is.

Not quite two years later, early in January of 2008, I bought a second-hand Powershot G9. Partly to defray the cost, I sold that S80 to P-Doug for (again, IIRC) $200 on January 26.

Yesterday, as a kindness, he gave it back to me.

It seems strange to say, given I owned it for only 20 months, that it's "home" again. After all, P-Doug owned it for nearly exactly ten years (!), six times longer than it was mine. But I genuinely loved that little S80 and I lamented selling it even before I handed it to him. It was a perfect handful. It took wonderful photos of nearly everything under the sun across two blazing summers, countless little incidental things at work and out and around town, and was literally attached to my hip for almost two years. I counted up once, and I took an incredible 32,000+ photos with this camera during the time I had it. It looks, if the file count is accurate, that took another 5,000 or so. So this camera's probably taken between 35,000-37,000 photos and videos across almost 12 years, and seems to be in pretty much the same shape it was the day I got it, less a paint scrape and screen blemish or two.

I'm going to make a point of carrying it around for a couple of days, at least. We're both a lot older than when we met. A lot's happened to us both since then. I don't know how much work I'll put it to, in all honesty, given the power and convenience of my cell phone, but I have a few hobby ideas (pairing it with my infrared reconned S80 to take matching simultaneous shots, for instance). But if nothing else, I can hold an important part of my life in my hand again and relive all the special moments it gave me and preserved for me.


Below: first picture I ever took with the S80, after getting in the car immediately after buying it at the Pacific Mall...



And, below, the last; a "self-portrait" of the camera, taken in the bathroom of my old apartment, just before boxing the thing up in its original packaging to sell to P-Doug that evening.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Bathurst back in business

Bathurst Street became a through street again from Lake Ontario to Holland Landing at the end of 2016.

I didn't get out there till October to follow up on that. I've been bad for that kind of thing lately. Apologies later; details later. For now, if you're still out there, here's a video that compares driving north up Bathurst and south down Bathurst in July and September of 2013 respectively, compared to doing the same now (October, 2017).


Monday, December 07, 2015

Justin, tackle the Senate

We, in Canada, have one of the worst upper houses of any democracy in the world. It has taken the worst aspects of every other system and combined them.

The Senate is appointed, not elected.

The Senate is equal to the Commons, and can block legislation without the ability of the elected House of Commons to have the final say. Even the House of Lords in Britain hasn't had this power since 1911.

The provinces do not have the same number of senators... and yet, they don't have numbers representative of their population, either.

For years and years now, everyone has been saying the Senate has to change. But no one has wanted to take it on since the spectacular failure of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords in the 80s and 90s. Fair enough. But twenty years of ignoring constitutional issues to let passions cool is enough. Time to take some matters on again.

The Senate is the biggest one. The Supreme Court ruled, not that long ago, that the government can't just adjust the nature of the Senate higglety-pigglety as it suits them. It requires a genuine constitutional amendment, meaning Parliament and 7 of the provinces representing 50% of the population have to agree and ratify it. Abolishing the Senate outright would require the unanimous consent of the federal Parliament and every province. The latter strikes me unlikely.

But the former should be possible. Most of the western provinces are keen to reform the Senate. They've wanted to for years. Ever since I was a kid, they've been floating a "Triple-E" Senate... elected, equal, effective. I used to be a proponent of this scheme but in recent years, I've cooled on it. Australia has just such a Senate, and it has, on more than one occasion, served as a second government in opposition to the House of Representatives there. We have enough problems in Canada without instituting regional blocs in the Senate obstructing national legislation re-enforced by the legitimacy that being elected would offer them. So no, frankly, and though it sounds undemocratic and regressive, I do not want an elected Senate. I'd rather see the thing abolished.

But I would like to see the provinces all have an equal number of Senators. The province I was born in, Nova Scotia, came into Confederation with 10, which it still has. British Columbia, which joined four years later, got only 6, and still has only 6, despite having almost 5 million people--5 times Nova Scotia's mere 920,000. Prince Edward Island, with just 140,000 people, has 4... 2/3 the representation of British Columbia. But the sticking point here will probably be Quebec, which clings dearly to its 24 Senators, and typically opposes having simply the same share of Senators as just any other province. Quebec, with about 8 million people, has as many Senators as Ontario, which has about 14 million people. My personal feeling is that every province should have what BC has... 6. That would be 60 Senators... 69 if we gave each of the three territories a half-share of 3 Senators each, say. Something like that, anyway.

I'd also like to see Senators chosen from a list made up by some citizen's committee--something like jury duty--in the appropriate province. Let them propose three or four people of merit from their province, and those we agree to the nomination move forward. Then, instead of the Prime Minister just picking some bag man whom he either needs to reward or buy the silence of, a federal committee of citizens--selected at random and flown in from across the country at government expense--could take a week or two and vet the names and select the candidate they feel is most deserving, and that person (or persons) would be appointed by the Governor-General to the Senate. So there would be provincial involvement and federal approval, but at the level of citizen committees. It's not an election per se, so it doesn't give the Senate an authority equal to the Commons... but it still has the sense that the country, not just the current Prime Minister, has selected the members of the Senate.

Something. Anything.

But Justin Trudeau is reluctant to take this on. The Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, has criticized him for making a bad situation worse. I partly agree, with regard to the unequal number of Senators (though I praise the idea of a five-person advisory board to propose new Senators... it's a start, anyway). Justin, you wanted to be prime minister. I wanted you to be prime minister. But part of that is holding your nose and taking out the constitutional garbage. I know it's thankless, but it's a genuine part of the job. You wanted it, you got it. And after all, your own father finally brought home our Constitution from Britain and gave us the Charter of Rights and Freedoms... considering that, how hard could it be just reforming the Senate? Now do something besides what your three predecessors did: just spray a little air freshener around this mess and pass the buck. You've resumed the dialog between First Ministers, and that's a great start. Strike while the iron is hot and you have some good will to trade on. Give us a Senate we can work with for another century or so.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Magna Carta

I've seen it.

The Magna Carta... well, one copy of it, from Durham Cathedral... is touring some of the major cities of Canada. This autumn was Toronto's turn, and we almost missed it. P-Doug brought it up some time ago but for some reason, we didn't catch on. He saw it. Larry and I realized a weekend ago we were about to miss our chance, and so we got tickets for the very last day, this past Saturday, and the three of us went. The Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest were on display at Fort York in the west end of the city.


The new visitor centre just west of Fort York itself. You can see the Gardiner Expressway that very nearly destroyed the fort in the in the 1950s till the people of the city demanded the course of the Gardiner be slightly diverted.


Looking east to the wall of the fort, and new condos beyond, and the downtown core in the distance. Rather a different view from the 1790s.


The shoreline of Lake Ontario actually used to be right here when the fort was built, and during the War of 1812. Several hundred feet of the shoreline have since been reclaimed and the fort is now several minutes' walk inland.










I think it's amusing that the Magna Carta has a "beer sponsor", seen at the bottom of this placard. But thank you, Muskoka, for helping make this day possible. :)

The first place we were ushered into was a 12-minute video presentation about the Magna Carta and its legacy, presented by Prince Charles. It also featured statements by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Andrew Scheer. It went into a clever, compelling, and gently educational animated segment narrated by Gordon Pinsent. I wish I could show it to you, but I haven't found it online.

Sorry for the low contrast in the photos that follow. Flash photography was forbidden. But my phone seems to have handled the situation well enough; the detail is there and nearly always good enough. Anything you'd care to look more closely at can be viewed by clicking on the photo and looking at its larger version.

Below is one of the surviving copies of the Charter of the Forest, a statement of the rights of the commoners to the use of the forests for their living. It's a key document in securing the idea of the rights of people in the general sense, and it was issued a few years after the Magna Carta.




And below, the Magna Carta itself. This copy belongs to Durham Cathedral in England.







Displays around the Charters talk about their enduring legacy and applicability in Canada in particular, and in other countries shaped by the British tradition.






There was an interactive display listing a dozen principles that can be arguably traced to the Magna Carta, and visitors were asked to select the three they thought mattered most. I chose, in order, Freedom and Equality, Right to Vote, and Freedom of Expression. As it turns out, those seem to be the biggest three in general, and in pretty much that order. I think it's because of those, like Winston Smith said in the novel 1984 of being able to say that 2+2=4, "if that is granted, all else follows."



Below is the original book of statues for the Province of Upper Canada (now Ontario), established in 1791. It's open to one of the very first statues passed in Ontario, forbidding the importation of slaves, and manumitting all slaves born in Upper Canada from then on at the age of 25. The card accompanying it remarks the law was the first of its kind in the Empire. I've actually held this book in my own (gloved) hands at the Archives of Ontario, many years ago.



Larry was astounded to see this... the bullet-proof vest worn in 2001 when a minister of the Metropolitan Community Church performed the first legally-sanctioned same-sex marriage in Canada. It seemed un-Canadian, he remarked, to imagine that such extreme measures were necessary... and that's probably because, fortunately, they turned out not to be. What would we think if the police hadn't made this suggestion, and a shot had rung out?