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Trevor Jones & Randy Edelman: The Last of the Mohicans—Promontory (1992)

One of my favourite pieces of cinematic music; the base tune is actually adapted from a portion of “The Gael”, written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Dougie MacLean in 1990. MacLean, in turn, was probably influenced by a much older melody which appears frequently in songs collectively known as “Las Folías de España“, widely adapted by a number of Baroque composers (Antonio Vivaldi, Arcangelo Corelli).  It has also been adapted more recently by Trevor Morris for Season 1 of The Tudors (his version is called “A Historic Love“).


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Programmatic diversity

I have no idea how Discovery’s Military Channel manages to retain viewers in large enough numbers to continue justifying their broadcast license. Every time I tune in, they seem to have programmed a show I’ve already seen—and what’s worse, they program similar items together in a block. Here’s a chunk of today’s lineup:

7:00 am — X-Carriers (60min, TV-PG, CC)

From super-computer design facilities to liquid-metal cooled, nuclear propulsion systems, the top secret future of the U.S. Navy’s most dangerous weapons are revealed.

8:00 am — Mega-Carrier, Episode 1 (60min, TV-G, CC)

Over 18,000 men and women have been brought together to build the world’s most technologically sophisticated aircraft carrier: The U.S.S. George H.W. Bush. From initial construction, to its first day at sea, follow the story of its builders.

9:00 am — Toughest Carrier Jobs (60min, TV-PG, CC)

The Toughest Carrier Jobs highlights the skill, training and commitment of the men and women who have the honor of working on what is essentially a floating city: A U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier, which is full of amazingly difficult jobs.

10:00 am — Carrier – Fortress at Sea (60min, TV-G, CC)

Life aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is thrilling, tedious, demanding and dangerous all at the same time. En route from San Francisco to the Persian Gulf, the crew’s extraordinary adventure unfolds.

11:00 am — Mega-Carrier, Episode 1 (60min, TV-G, CC)

Over 18,000 men and women have been brought together to build the world’s most technologically sophisticated aircraft carrier: The U.S.S. George H.W. Bush. From initial construction, to its first day at sea, follow the story of its builders.

12:00 pm — Sinking of an Aircraft Carrier (60min, TV-PG, CC)

Nearly a quarter of a ton of explosives are set to sink the Oriskany Aircraft Carrier during the world’s largest non-military exercise to sink a ship. Bad weather, flooding, short tempers, and grueling labor conditions threaten to halt the project.

1:00 pm — Extreme Machines – Carriers (60min, TV-G, CC)

Footage of the Navy’s huge floating fortress, the John C. Stennis, demonstrates the sophistication and complexity of today’s carriers.

2:00 pm — A Supercarrier is Burning: The U.S.S. Enterprise (60min, TV-G, CC)

A fire aboard a supercarrier detonates the ship’s weapons. The harrowing minutes that follow are packed with terror, heroism, sacrifice and courage. There are 18 detonations, 15 aircraft destroyed, 17 damaged, 28 dead and 343 wounded.

3:00 pm — City of Steel: Carrier (60min, TV-PG, CC)

The construction of the new aircraft carrier, the Reagan, vividly illustrates the remarkable scale of these floating cities and the weapons onboard. A new carrier, the Truman, is put through its paces on its maiden outing.

I like aircraft carriers as much as the next guy, but holy mackerel, that’s nine solid hours of carrier junk. Four hours devoted to carrier design and construction, three to day-to-day operations.

Enough is enough, fellas. Every single one of these shows has been aired a half-dozen times already, and they are not what we would call current. Some still feature the F-14 Tomcat, a fighter that was retired from USN service four years ago.

I seriously wonder how the channel manages to retain viewership.

V: The Final Battle (Main Title) (1984)

Barry De Vorzon and Joseph Conlan’s epic and atmospheric main title theme for the second miniseries has apparently never been released on any of the V series’ soundtracks.

The theme is used to good effect in the second clip—synchronised with the appearance of Visitor troops during Donovan’s escape attempt with his son.

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Temerlin McClain: American Airlines “Engine” & “Way of Life” ads (2002)

Perhaps it is the vagaries of CRTC-regulated Canadian television, the fact that we are not the target audience, or their transitional (and presumably, ephemeral) nature, but I don’t recall seeing either of these ad spots eight years ago.  They are meant to capitalise on patriotic feelings amongst Americans after September 11th, 2001, but they are also fairly brilliant in underlining the message that airlines are an essential component of global commerce.


Way of Life.

The director and cinematographer for these ads are geniuses. They are filled with tons of modern and old-school airline iconography; subtle nods to the decades-old liturgy of airline advertising, and the occasional subtle “screw you” to bin Laden and company.  For example:

  • Obligatory shot of arrivals and departures board with “On Time” status has become common in airline TV ads since the 1980s.
  • Aircrew in front of aircraft and cabin crew walking along jetway, both shot from extreme low angle = power and strength.
  • Baggage handlers and rampies running/moving quickly = efficiency
  • Marshaller’s clenched fist—part of “set/release brakes” and “do not touch controls” hand signals—(Engine, 00:50) = also an easily recognisable symbol of solidarity, strength and defiance; “we won’t let the bastards get us down.”
  • Mechanics servicing aircraft and pilots inspecting landing gear = we are diligent and safe.
  • Silhouetted AA MD-11 pushing back to reveal sunrise, another MD-11 leaping skyward in the background, accompanying text “the freedom” prominently displayed onscreen (Way of Life, 00:26).  This shot is pure visual poetry; the cameraman in me wonders how many mornings they spent out on an apron shooting that exact confluence of events.
  • Silhouetted MD-80 flying in golden sunrise/sunset above the Unisphere, accompanying text “anywhere” (Way of Life, 00:32).  Another superb shot where the visuals match the text.
  • The AA captain saluting passing military servicemembers (Way of Life, 00:41) is both a mark of respect for those in uniform, and a nod to past airline posters which have—paradoxically—often pictured their civilian aircrews saluting the public in their print ads.
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Random thoughts on the 2010 Winter Games Opening Ceremonies

Beautiful but occasionally odd Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics.  I generally detest these things because they are loaded with meaningless crap devoid of narrative that some art director thinks is challenging and contemporary, as opposed to something expository that might tell visitors and the folks at home something about the host nation.  So I was pleasantly surprised by the spectacle and staging.

You... shall not... pass!

Aurora borealis effects.

Aurora borealis effects.

Very neat orca effects.

Na'vi are actually self- loathing expats from Toronto, like everyone else in Vancouver.

Welcome to Lilith Fair 1998.

Most boring segment based on equally boring "Who Has Seen The Wind?", by W.O. Mitchell.


Do NOT let these people talk through your broadcast event. Ever.

One item that was a real letdown, though, was the commentary.  On CTV, Lloyd Robertson and Brian Williams should have shut their pieholes during the staged “show” portion.  Instead they were offering inane descriptions of things the camera was already showing us.  Imagine sitting through Star Wars with Lloyd and Brian sitting behind you, reciting gems like this:  “The small, heavily outnumbered Rebel Alliance strike group is approaching the Death Star.”  “Tough break for Porkins, looks like he was shot down.”  “Luke is putting aside his targeting visor and relying on the mystical properties of the Force.”   “Apparently those proton torpedoes found their way through the thermal exhaust vent to a critical system!”  Yeah, thanks.  We’re seeing the same damn images you are; just shut up and let me enjoy it.  Nothing is more annoying than guys that talk through the show.

Other parts of the ceremony were more fun.

It's Mecha-Bear! Run for your lives!

If I understand the staging correctly, in the prehistoric past, the Inuit people were attacked by an enormous Mecha-Spirit Bear, which broke up the sea ice sheets they lived on and forced them to flee for their lives.  They remember this terrifying tragedy through oral traditions passed down through the centuries.

As Paul Wells notes, the sad bit where Willem Dafoe died at the end of Platoon is engraved in our national memory.

Fiddling survived 21st century nuclear war and the collapse of Western civilisation.

Mel Gibson’s Mad Max films apparently had a titanic and enduring impact on the development of Celtic fiddling on the East Coast.

What’s with the CanCon oldsters like Bryan Adams and  k.d. lang?  lang was popular back in the Cretaceous Era when early amphibians and Teddy Ruxpin first crawled out of the sea.  Couldn’t dig up the real Leonard Cohen?  Isn’t he Canadian anymore?  Or was he busy singing at somebody else’s Olympics?  There’s a dozen slightly used hipsters from Broken Social Scene shilling pencils on streetcorners, surely they could be shaved and thrown into clean clothes for a tune or two.  Leslie Feist?  No?

Wayne's Excellent Cauldron-Lighting Adventure

When planning the logistics for Wayne Gretzky’s taxi ride to the Auxiliary Backup Cauldron, Vancouver police decided that drunken twentysomethings spilling out of bars would be more effective crowd control than a full police cordon with sidewalk barricades.

It also wouldn’t have hurt for the driver to learn where the accelerator pedal is, and what it does.  NBC had time to interview Vice President Joe Biden in the time it took Wayne to get from the Show Cauldron to the Waterfront Cauldron.

Less talking, more editing.

Vancouver Olympic Committee CEO John Furlong needed to cut his welcoming speech by about two and a half hours.  I can only imagine how much fun the years of meetings with this guy were.  He probably takes fifteen minutes just to say “Good morning” as you pass him in the hallway.

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