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Tartuffe

Tartuffe, a play by Molière, was performed by the Dartmouth Players a community group in Halifax Nova Scotia on Nov 6, 2021, 457 years after its first performance in 1664.

Drone collage

I flew this drone over Halifax for a year or two, capturing scenes downtown and even flying out to George’s Island in the harbour. Unfortunately I crashed it into a tree while doing a job for a real estate agent.

Chebucto Big Band

I played alto sax in this band for a few years and wanted to do a video that would show their work and help them get bookings. They still use it. Because the scene was very dark I mixed video with shots from a still camera which does a better job in dim light.

Space fantasy

2.8 kids see cheap imitation of good space fantasy

Halifax Barometer
July 1978

Haligonians are regularly buttonholed by pollsters seeking thier opinions on all kinds of products from political parties to booze.

One of thes days surveyors will question local movie audiences as they line up outside a theatre:

“Good afternoon, sir, I’m with Mindless Movie Marketing. We’d like to ask you and your family a few questions. First, are you a regular movie-goer?”

“Yes, we’re typical nuclear family members trying to enliven our tawdry, lower0middle-class existance by taking in a few thrills on Saturday afternoon.”

“Then, as experienced movie fans, why are you taking your 2.8 children to see this show, a ceaep imitation of a successful space fantasy with only the barest thread of a plot, poor characterization and almost no violence?”

“Because, I’m a product of the TV generation and can barely read or write. But I am very visually sopohisticated and so are my illiterate kids.”

“Then you don’t care if the film offers penetrating insights inito the dynamics of the human condition through the director’s artistic use of dramatic devices or an actor’s sensitive interpretation of a leading character?”

“No, not particualrly. I just like to see lots of action. My kids don’t even care about that. All you have to do is flash a bunch of bright colors and play some rock music. That quietens ’em right down.”

“But what about sex and violence? Don’t you want orgies with whips and midgets?” Or how about someoby’s brains being mashed to a pulp?”
“Well that stuff is okay, but my favorite kind of violence is a bunch of shiny space ships blowing up in all different colors with great, big booming noises.”

“You like mostly colors, eh?”

“Yup. Red, green, blue– as long as they’re bright.”

“What about actors?”

“Only if they’re shiny.”

Most of the actors in Battlestar Galactica are shiny, especially the armour-plated villains. The heros are chocolate brown or burnt umber, the subdued hues denoting the seriousness of their roles.

Otherwise the whole show might have been filmed throug the tail-light lens of a 1957 Cadillac. The film sparkles. Novas glow like splintered rubies against a diamond-studded ebony background. Creamy white space jets with rally strips and smoking exhausts duel to the death while bloated, filigreed motherships with hulls of steely blue glide silently by. Pilots sweat into oxygen masks, their eyes rivetted on fluorescent green instrument panels flashing computerized drawings and terse messages like “situation critical.”

Inside the giant mothership are beautiful girls and handsome men, all clad in jumpsuits, running around and pushing buttons in frenzied panic as shiny alien beings destroy their fleet. Lorne Green gathers his metallic blue tunic with gold piping about him and grits his teeth.

This latest entry into the cosmic western genre is a poor imiatation of Star Wars. The acting is putrid for themost part, special effect are always unimaginative and so is the plot, which is bascially mankind fighting for its life while girl meets boy and boy meets dog. Still, thre’s no violence, unless you include whole planets being blown up, so you can take your 2.8 kids to the matinee without fear of traumatizing them for life.

The Disney show Hot Lead and Cold feet is far better fare if you’re looking for family entertainment. Before the main feature at the Penhorn Mall you’ll meed Thaddeus Toad of Wind in the Willows fame, a classic Disney cartoon short, that I first saw when I was ten years old. It rated four stars in my book then and still does. Toad gets clapped into prison after a romantic affair with one of the first motor cars and his friends conceive a daring raid to prove his innocence.

Unlike their cartoons, Disney films often reek of motherhood and apple pie values. Hot Lead is no exception. A pixi-like Salvation Army precher with two flaxen-haired children faces a rough and tumble battle with his own twin brother, a rowdy western gunslinger over his rich father’s estate. All ends happily as usual with the gunslinger converted, the town cleaned up and the do-gooder marrying the beautiful school teacher.

In the meantime we are treated to some very competent caricatures of life in a rough frontier town complete with devious plots and shady deals all aimed at undermining the preachers chances to win the contest.

If you’re still looking for family fun, don’t go to Redeemmer, the most mindlessly violent bore in years.

The story idea is good. A man gets revenge on his former school mates by inviting them to a high school reunion, locking them inside an abandoned building and exterminating them, one by one, with various imaginative and symbolic methods.

Now comes the stupid part. To achieve some sort of intellectual respectability, the vengeful killer is cast as a psychotic priest whose pulpit pounding ravings on sin provide the rationalization for his six murders. Adding this spiritual mumbo-jumbo to the film soups up the plot a bit and allows the director to fool around with his lights to create a supernatural atmosphere of doom and foreboding but is it’s dishonest. The portrait of a religious fanatic as a potential killer may be a legitimate interpretation but this film only creates a viscious sterotype to be exploited for its thrill value.

Despite the story idea and its numerous opportunities for suspense, the film is boring. One by one the victims die by their own swords ar at least the priests’ interpretations of their sins. Except for the painstakingly explicit blood and guts scenes, the show is repetitious.

Victimes are shot, stabbed, drowned and burned as the camera fastidiously records every detail including one close-up of a maggot-infested eye. It’s enough to make you swear off meat, church and pretentious movies. Not to mention class reunions.

 

Make it candid

Make it candid

Daily News
Oct 31 1985

Picture the humble portrait photographer on assignment.

He is a fussy, worried-looking man with a permanent squint and a list to starboard caused by lugging 20 kg of equipment.

His pictures are technically perfect, which is why public relations department of Monolith Corp has asked him to photograph their newly-appinted vice president.

When he gets inside the broadloomed office he’ll draw more high-tech equipment from his bag than a physican would need to perform open heart surgery.

With the efficiency of long experience he will place tripod, lights and camera around the room while various functionaries look on.

The subject will pat his hair “Do I look alright? ”

“Yeah, you look fine,” our man will say as he consults his light meter. He’ll have to hurry to avoid a parking ticket.

He will manipulate his subject like a mannequin, raising his chin a centimeter, batting down a stray lock of hair and straightening his tie.

Then comes the moment of truth: “Well now,” he will say with manufactured cheer. A LITTLE SMILE!”

The hearts of assembled functionaries will flutter as the vice presidential mustache twitches. The photographer will press the shutter. His superb equipment will respond with an eye-searing flash. Two more flashes will follow as the photographer brackets his shots. The session will be over.

Later, the photographer or is assistant will make crisp, grainless prints of the vice presidential face as it looked at the moment of most opportune mustache-twitching.

So here, at last, is the point. All the equipment in the world won’t help you make a good portrait if all you can think of to do is ask your subject to smile.

Photographers have figured out all kinds of gimmicks to get rid of the deathly grimace that usually results on such occasions. I once read of a studio photographer who read poetry to his models. He said it made them look intrigued.

I asked a company director to recite the first poem he’d ever learned. He looked like an eight-year-old as he recalled the lines to a silly ditty about electricity. It was a good pic.

More thoughts on the manufacturing of pictorial spontaneity:

• Give our subject something to think about. I’ve asked people to perform mental tasks like counting backwards by 9s from 100 with varied results.

One young office girl looked sexy as she posed for a company head shot and revealed a suprising facility with numbers. Another stuck out her tongue.

• Give them something to sing about. People can look surporisingly angelic. One of my best-ever shots involved a lady welder who posed with her equipment and sang God Save The Queen.

• Get them to cock their heads. One of my most difficult subjects, a police chief, told me I had 30 seconds, then folded his arms and stared straight at the wall. I asked him to tilt his head about 20 degrees to the left and look directly into the lens. The manufactured quizzical expression made him look like a probing tough-minded cop.

• Pay attention to posture. I often tell subjects to keep their feet in one place and follow me with their eyes as I move around them. The subtle twisting of their bodies make the photo more dynamic.

• Hide behind your camera. Your nervousness vanishes as you look through the viewfinder concentrating on purely technical matters like lighting, depth of field and composition. When you see what you like, click.

• And here’s the best trick of all: stop playing tricks. Set up your camera, look over the top of it and smile at your subject. They’ll smile right back.

Editorial, Hants Journal

My first editorial for the weekly Hants Journal, Windsor NS

Life on a Small Town newspaper.

Hants Journal
Jan 8 2010

There’s something peculiar about people who choose to work on small town newspapers. The job is not rewarding in the conventional sense: the hours are long, critics are numerous and the pay– well let’s not talk about the pay.

So why do we do it? We can trot out all kinds of pomposities, like saving the world and shining the light of truth into dark corners but we’re fooling ourselves. In fact if we shone that light of truth into our own minds, we’d probably find something entirely different and not so flattering.

Scratch most good reporters and you’re likely to find a curious ten-year-old, a kid more likely to poke a dead cat with a stick than bury it, all in the spirit of irreverent curiosity.

We had a perfect example of small-town journalism the other day. Reporter Christy Marsters took a phone call from a woman who said her chicken had just laid what was probably the biggest egg in the whole world.

Most people would have dismissed that phone call, but Christy was swooning with delight as was the entire newsroom.

We gleefully planned how to take a picture of this alleged egg. Should we include the chicken? Would it co-operate? Was it even alive? Perhaps the owner would pose with the egg or maybe we should shoot it alone so it could be shown at its exact size allowing readers to compare it with their breakfast.

Alas, our front-page story disappeared the next day when our source phoned to say she could no longer find the stupid egg. “First time somebody ate my story,” Christy moaned.

This, believe it or not, is what we love. And so, we’re betting, do you. You’d have talked about that story and laughed about it. And in the process, if you’ll forgive our high-minded justification, we’d have built a stronger community, strengthened the ties that bind, just by talking about a chicken egg.

So here’s an assignment for the readers still with us: find us a story. Let your inner ten-year-old loose and tell us what occupies his or her mind. We promise, as seasoned journalists, to leave no stone unturned in our never-ending search for the truth behind the most irreverent inquiry.

–Stu Ducklow
Editor

Nudist camps no place for boobs

Nudist camps no place for boobs

Halifax Daily News
Sept. 18, 1985

A breast is just like an elbow, says a Halifax man recently enlightened by his experience in a nudist colony. It’s just another part of the body.

Our informant, a middle-aged businessman in metro, asked us to withhold his name. We’ll call him Bob.

Married for 25 years, Bob and his wife had become jaded vacationers, travelling through Europe and the Caribbean to various tourist spots. But 18 months ago on a vacation in London, Bob heard about a vacation spot where clothes are optional.

“It intrigued me. I asked my wife if she’d like to go.”

They left immediately for Cap d’Agde, a resort in southern France that includes four apartment buildings, banks, retail stores and several miles of sandy beach.

They arrived on a chilly day in May, she says, so most tourists were wearing clothes and everything looked normal.

But the sun rose in a a clear sky the next morning and Bob confessed to a feeling of trepidation before venturing outside their apartment. “I suppose it was something like jumping into cold water.”

He took the plunge, steppping out in his birthday suit and ran straight into his next-door neighbour. She was a beautiful lady in her 50s,said Bob, clad in nothing more than a smile.

His wife came out a moment later wearing only her high heeled shoes.

In the week that followed Bob learned some intersting things about human behaviour.

“You get real close to people. I can’t explain it — I don’t know why.

“When you take it all away you’re left looking at the person. There could be a millionaire and a pauper talking together, but you’d never know. They’re just two human beings.”

There were no sexual overtones, says Bob, and this gave a more human dimension to ordinary encounters. “One day I was looking for a grocery store and I met this gorgeous girl. But all I wanted to do was find this grocery store and all she was doing was giving me directions.”

This new-found innocence disappointed some peopel. “One beautiful model said she’d never come back again. She said nobody paid any attention to her.

“If you saw that girl on a textile beach (that’s what nudists called beaches where people wear clothes) you’d follow her with your eyes. You might say she had a cute bum or was well stacked. On a naturist beach you’d find yourself looking at her eyes and listening to her voice.

“You judge people by their character, not there bodies. As for pretty girls, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.”

Even in banks customers go naked, he says. “At least you know they’re not carrying concealed weapons.”

Staff there and in retail stores wore clothes, he says, but customers are expected in the buff, even in cloting stores where no changing rooms are provided. “There’s nothing to take off— you’re putting it all on,” says Bob. “After a week, clothes feel constricting.”

Bob says the three-mile beach was nude for about two-thirds its length with more modest bathers from outside the community confined to one end of it. There was no fence around the resort but the placement of roads and buildings discouraged access by onlookers.

You could walk from one beach to another but you’d have to have a reason for being there.”

Bob and his wife enjoyed their two-week vacation so much they booked a two-week stay at the naturist Paradise Lakes Resort in Florida through Continental Travel, of Halifax. Other travel agents also offer naturist tours.

Nudist resorts are no cheaper than normal ones, he said, but you don’t need as much spending money. Naturists are seldom tempted away by local tourist attractions and as long as they’re naked they don’t have pockets to put money in.