Tag-Archive for » nostalgia «

Rush: Subdivisions (1982)

I was never a raving Rush fan, but I do like a couple of their tracks.  This video is particularly irresistible because it features plenty of footage of 80s-vintage Toronto, including areas of northwest Scarborough that were well-known to your correspondent in younger days.

Fun fact: The glasses-clad L’Amoreaux Collegiate student in the video is one Dave Glover, now co-proprietor (with wife Sue) of The Human Bean coffee house in Cobourg, Ontario.

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A tale of three ships

House flag, Canadian Pacific Steamships. Manufactured by Porter Bros Ltd, c. 1955. (National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Pope Collection, Item #AAA0189)

A fascinating look into the lives of three vessels of the former Canadian Pacific Steamship Company (and its Atlantic subsidiary, Canadian Pacific Ocean Services) suggests that perhaps the CPR was the world’s greatest travel system, after all.

RMS Empress of Australia

Type: Ocean liner
Launched: 20 December 1913
Owner: 1913-19 Hamburg-Amerika Line (1913-19), P&O Line (1920-21), Canadian Pacific Steamship Co. (1921-52)
Tonnage: 21,861 gross register tonnage
Length: 615 feet
Beam: 42 feet
Speed: 19 knots
Capacity: First class, 400; Tourist class, 150; Third class, 635
Crew: 520 officers and crew

Originally built as SS Tirpitz for Hamburg-Amerika line, but outfitting was interrupted by the Great War.  Claimed as war prize by the United Kingdom, operated by P&O Line for a year, then bought and refitted by CPR.

Claim to fame #1: Docked at Yokohama, Japan, on September 1st, 1923.  At 11:55am, while the ship was preparing to get underway, the city was rocked by an earthquake (now known as the Great Kanto earthquake) measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale.  The temblor continued for a duration of four to ten minutes and caused many buildings to collapse instantly; noontime cooking fires also set off up to 88 separate blazes across the city.  Tokyo was similarly devastated by the quake and its own series of fires.  All told, the quake was thought to have killed approximately 105,000 souls. Sections of Empress‘ pier collapsed, dumping families and well-wishers into the harbour; the ship lowers boats to recover them.

While attempting to move away from land (and fire), the ship’s screws got fouled by the lines of another vessel.  Empress sends an SOS and received a tow out of the danger area—where an oil-slick fire was spreading across the water.  After her navigation was restored, Empress remained in the vicinity and acted as a hospital ship and marshalling point for refugees, dispatching her boats to take in the afflicted.  She was able to remain on station for twelve days due to resupply from the Empress of Canada, another CP ocean liner which arrived just three days after the quake.  Most of the refugees were taken to Kobe, where the Japanese government had set up a relief station.

Ultimately, Empress of Australia and her crew were responsible for evacuating and caring for over 2,000 refugees in the wake of the disaster.  Captain Samuel Robinson (see photograph) was awarded seven honours from the United Kingdom, Japan, Siam and Spain, for both saving his ship and assisting the relief effort.

(Compare and contrast with Empressmodern-day counterparts following Haiti’s devastating earthquake.)

Claim to fame #2: When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth embarked on their 1939 Royal Tour of Canada and the United States, Buckingham Palace selected RMS Empress of Australia as the royal yacht.

Claim to fame #3: As a commander in the Royal Naval Reserve, Samuel Robinson (her first captain) was entitled to fly the blue ensign rather than the red ensign usually flown by civilian merchant and passenger craft.

Claime to fame #4: The ship was painted grey and pressed into service as a troop transport for the Second World War (and Korea).  Despite criss-crossing the world, she fortuitously avoided major combat damage, but never returned to glamorous passenger service.  Empress of Australia remained a grey-clad troop transport until finally heading to the breakers in 1952.

RMS Empress of Britain

Type: Ocean liner
Launched: 11 June 1930
Owner: Canadian Pacific Steamship Co. (1930-40)
Tonnage: 42,348 gross register tonnage
Length: 760.6 feet
Beam: 97 feet, 6 inches feet
Speed: 24 knots
Capacity: First class, 465; Tourist class, 260; Third class, 470.  Or 700 first-class suites for world cruising
Crew: 520 officers and crew

Claim to fame #1: She was the largest, fastest and most luxurious ocean liner to travel between Britain and Canada.  Christened by Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) on June 11th, 1930.The pride of CP’s passenger liner fleet, Empress of Britain was conceived from the outset with dual roles.  In the summer she would operate from Britain to Quebec with over a thousand cabins in three classes; every winter (when the Saint Lawrence River froze), her accommodations were converted into an all-first-class arrangement with 700 suites, and she cruised the world’s tourist hotspots at a more leisurely pace.  Equipped with four screws, she could make over 24 knots in transatlantic service, where speed was important.  But for world cruising, two of her screws were removed—dropping her top speed from 24 knots to 22 knots, but also increasing her fuel efficiency; on transatlantic runs Empress of Britain consumed roughly 356 tons of oil a day, but on her 1932 world cruise consumption was a mere 179 tons per day.

Claim to fame: #2: Her captain from 1934 to 1937 was Ronald Niel Stuart, a Great War veteran and Victoria Cross winner.  As an officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, he was also entitled to fly the blue ensign rather than the merchant marine’s common red ensign.  Commanding the Empress of Britain was Stuart’s final and most prestigious sea command.  He remained with CP in senior management for a further 13 years, and was a part-time naval aide-de-camp to King George VI during the Second World War.

Claim to fame #3: In June of 1939, Empress of Britain conveyed King George VI and Queen Elizabeth back to the United Kingdom at the conclusion of their Royal Tour.  The passenger manifest for this trip was the smallest she ever carried—just 40 people, including the King and Queen, 13 lords- and ladies-in-waiting, 22 household staff, two journalists and a photographer.  She was escorted back to England by three Royal Navy warships and two from the Royal Canadian Navy.  Following her loss in October 1940, the Royal Couple sent a message to Sir Edward Beatty and the directors of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, expressing their sympathies at her loss and fond memories of their 1939 return journey.

Claim to fame #4: Requisitioned for wartime troop transport in November of 1939 and painted low-visibility grey.  An 9:20am on October 26th, 1940, Empress of Britain was spotted by a German Fw 200 Condor maritime bomber, which hit her with two 250kg bombs and strafed her three times.  With the ship ablaze and flooding, and her firefighting equipment knocked out, Captain Charles H. Sapsworth gave the order to abandon ship.  Of the 643 people aboard, 45 were unaccounted for; 32 of them were crew members.

Remarkably, Empress of Britain refused to sink, so an effort was made to salvage the ship.  Two oceangoing tugs arrived and took the hulk in tow, while destroyer escorts and Sunderland flying boats patrolled for enemy activity.  Late in the day, German sub U-32 managed to slip through the screen and put two torpedoes into the Empress‘ side, bringing her seagoing days to an end.  U-32 was itself destroyed by HMS Harvester and HMS Highlander two days later; some of the sub’s crew were rescued by these same destroyers.  They were subsequently transferred to POW camps in Canada aboard another Canadian Pacific liner, the Duchess of York—commanded by Charles H. Sapsworth.

SS Beaverford

Type: Merchantman
Launched: 28 October 1927
Owner: Canadian Pacific Steamship Co. (1927-40)
Tonnage: 10,042 gross register tonnage
Length: 512 feet
Beam: 61.5 feet
Speed: 15 knots
Crew: 77 officers and crew

Second of five general-purpose merchantmen in the Beaver class (BeaverburnBeaverfordBeaverdaleBeaverhill and Beaverbrae), initially built for CPR but eventually impressed into the war effort.

Claim to fame #1: Beaverford witnessed probably the most hopeless engagement ever embarked upon by a naval escort.  The merchantman departed Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 28th, 1940 along with the other ships in convoy HX-84.  On November 5th, 1940, the convoy was intercepted by German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer.  The convoy’s only dedicated escort—armed merchant cruiser HMS Jervis Bay—engaged the battleship but was easily outranged by the Scheer‘s larger guns.  Jervis Bay lasted somewhere between twenty-four and sixty minutes, losing 190 of her 256 crew.  (Captain Edward Fegen was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his valiant but futile defence of the convoy.Admiral Scheer eventually overhauled the trailing elements of the convoy and started taking apart the helpless merchantmen, sinking six.  Beaverford was one of the casualties, as were all 77 of her officers and crew.  Her wireless officer transmitted a final message before the ship’s destruction:  “It’s our turn now. So long. The Captain and crew of S. S. Beaverford.”

Claim to fame #2: None of Beaverford‘s four sister ships survived the Second World War, either.  Beaverburn (first of the class) became CPR’s first war loss when torpedoed by U-41 in the North Atlantic on February 5th, 1940.  Beaverdale was torpedoed by U-48 April 1st, 1941, although she achieved minor fame before that as two of her boats were used in the evacuation at Dunkirk.  Beaverhill was the only ship of the class not lost to enemy action—she went aground near Saint John, New Brunswick on November 24th, 1944.  Beaverbrae was sunk by enemy aircraft in the north Atlantic on March 25th, 1941.

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Landseaire airborne yacht

James Kightly, journalist and author of the Vintage Aeroplane Writer, shows off the glamorous postwar conversion of Consolidated PBY-5A 34045 (civil registry N69043) to a Landseaire flying yacht.  His informative and droll image captions are not to be missed.

You’ll forgive me for marvelling at the aesthetics of film photography, flying boats and pleasant company, of course.

(Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine.  February 2nd, 1950)

Mid-cabin sleeping area. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

Sunbathing on one of the Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

Lounge/bar in one of what was formerly one of the waist gunner blisters. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

On-board shower. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

Moored for port visit. Note nose gunner blister has been removed; bow is more streamlined than typical wartime PBY. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

At the saloon table, playing cards. (Loomis Dean / LIFE magazine. February 2nd, 1950)

For a fuller description of the amenities aboard these hedonistic craft, see Maurice F. Allward’s article “Airborne Yachts—Luxury Conversions of  Wartime Catalinas” in the July 1953 issue of Flight International.  Also see the full LIFE magazine archive of images of this craft, if you desire more.

Old London street scenes (1903)

The British Film Institute shares some great footage of Edwardian London over a century ago.

I get a kick out of seeing the traffic congestion (horse-drawn, not automobile) near the 3-minute mark. It should remind us that in the centuries-long life of cities, familiar problems occur, vanish and recur as our technology changes.

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The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long

I viewed Blade Runner last night, which was probably a mistake.  Whenever I see this film, I become congisant of Time as predator, stalking me; like the Star Trek villain Dr. Tolian Soren, I am increasingly aware that sooner or later, Time will hunt me down and make the kill.  When I first saw this film, I was sixteen years old, watching a heavily-used VHS tape in a friend’s basement on a tiny television.  Today I am more than twice as old as I was then; VHS and non-HD televisions have all but disappeared from the consumer landscape; the edge-of-farmland community I grew up in on north of the city has exploded into highly-developed urban sprawl; and despite the wonders of Facebook and modern social media, I have no idea what became of that particular friend.

It is not death I fear so much as the unconscious passage of time; we are all being carried along on a current whose swiftness is not always evident, forever leaving behind sights and sounds we do not realise will never be experienced again.  Some of the people, places and things we see today we will never see again hereafter; or if we do see them, they too will have been altered irrevocably by the passage of time.

Blade Runner itself is one of these things; it is no longer the film you have seen in theatres or VHS; every iteration since (laserdisc, Director’s Cut, Final Cut) has been subtly altered.  Deckard’s voiceover/narration is no longer present, for example; other scenes have been added, and some—present for theatrical release—have been deleted.  Ridley Scott’s penultimate work is still, on the whole, a thoroughly engaging and immersive film; visual futurist Syd Mead’s iconic designs are every bit as intriguing and alluring as they once were.  But there is something insidious and unsettling about the film itself slowly morphing and changing as the years go by.

Some of us enjoyed Blade Runner as a detective film that happens to be set in the future; we may have enjoyed the nods to film noir such as Deckard’s mid-movie narration—even if the bolted-on ending was unnecessary.  Others might enjoy it as a future movie featuring a detective as a main character, and are happier without the heavy leaning toward noir conventions.  My own sense is that the film’s own narrative precludes hasty changes to its themes or characters.  Deckard’s boss, Bryant, clearly has memories of working with him in the distant past; yet director Scott’s latest tweaks are meant to make the audience think that perhaps “blade runner” Rick Deckard is himself a replicant.  This then raises the question of how Bryant could have memories of working with replicant Deckard, who presumably has a finite four-year life span.  Does that make Bryant a replicant, too?  Or is he merely lying?  What would be the point?

It is worth remembering that Blade Runner rose from forgotten mediocrity to mass popularity in ten years as a video rental—and all of it based on the pacing and story of its theatrical release form.  Ridley Scott’s constant tweaking of his creation in later years is a strong clue that perhaps he does not understand what made his film great in the first place.  And he is not alone; the same could be said for many directors who have befouled their own creations with unnecessary adjustments.  Amadeus, Apocalypse Now, Donnie Darko, The Exorcist, The Last Emperor, and the Star Wars original trilogy are all films that have been cheapened by “Director’s Cut” editions.  Perhaps the only director’s cut I have seen that actually improved a film’s story and pacing was the extra 17 minutes in James Cameron’s Aliens—but that is the rare exception.

There is one little touch in Blade Runner that really sold me; when we see Gaff’s spinner ascend (with Deckard aboard), Gaff puts on a helmet and mic, and communicates with local air traffic control.  He doesn’t do crazy things like engage in an airborne car chase, or make sudden, erratic movements with other spinners/aircraft in close proximity.  It’s all calm, cool and collected; a lot like air traffic control today.  Contrast this with the cityscape and speeder/flying car scenes in Attack of the Clones, an inferior realisation by any estimation.

As I mentioned earlier, even with the changes, I still enjoyed Blade Runner.  It is one of the most visually compelling and completely realised science fiction worlds to ever grace the silver screen.  I just wish directors would quit fussing with their successful products decades after their original release.  Logically speaking, it is not the successful films which require tweaking; they already have a winning formula.  The ones that don’t do well, on the other hand, are the ones that need to have their stories, editing or pacing re-examined.

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Chew, if only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes!

A selection of images tagged “Blade Runner” on Flickr.

Blade Runner II, originally uploaded by SBA73.

Blade Runner, originally uploaded by Heaven`s Gate (John).

New York or Blade Runner?, originally uploaded by Joseph Price.

Blade Runner, originally uploaded by cuellar.

Meet Pris, originally uploaded by naeros.

Characters from Blade Runner at Comic-Con, San Diego, California, originally uploaded by congochris.

Blade Runner Press Event – 47, originally uploaded by spencerhooks.

In the last photo: Mad props to Joe Turkel for sporting the tinted, oversized glasses—much like his character Dr. Eldon Tyrell.  And that goes double for Sean Young, who did her best to emulate the hairstyle and wardrobe of Rachael.  Trying to look like a character you played twenty-eight years ago isn’t easy.

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Goodwood Revival 2009 by Bernie Condon

The skillful, fortunate Bernie Condon has captured some great images and rare vehicles seen at this year’s Goodwood Revival.  His efforts reinforce my conviction that a man should attend at least one Goodwood meet before he departs from this earth.

Vickers Vimy Bomber, originally uploaded by Bernie Condon.

Spitfire Pair, originally uploaded by Bernie Condon.

Racing Cars, originally uploaded by Bernie Condon.

DH Rapide, originally uploaded by Bernie Condon.

See more images in Mr. Condon’s Goodwood Revival 2009 Flickr set.

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