gor[b] Paul Gorbould: Words and Pictures


Props from the fallen

This week saw the bittersweet bazaar known as the Royal Canadian Air Farce props & wardrobe sale. After 35 years on CBC Radio and Television, the Air Farce took its final flight.

Various Air Farce props

 It's the end of an era, not just for the show but because it was one of the few A&E TV shows to still tape in the Toronto CBC building, using the last of the once-great horde of props and costumes built by generations of CBC craftspeople. Those days are over, and they aren't coming back. (See previous posts about the closing of the Design Department, and the subsequent sell-off.)

But it makes for one hell of a yard sale!

For two days, eager staffers were invited to pick over the remains of the Farce's unique creations. There are now strange objects scattered across cubicles on every floor.

The props area had coffins, statues, a bomb, rubber chickens and more, to say nothing of rather nice chairs, lamps and picture frames. In wardrobe, you could get labcoats, capes, hockey sweaters, muumuus, a Marg Delahunty costume and about a thousand ties (which eventually sold for a buck each.) Plus everyday sweaters, suits and pants - though every pair of pants I tried on were of Roger Abbott proportions - fit me loosely at the waist but barely reached my calves. Looked like knickers.

Still, I'm a sucker for weird junk, especially if it's a part of history. In addition to the fake switches and books pictured above, here's what I walked away with:

Impules buy - for $1 - a board game called "Separatist Careers"... you can even find the original skit online on the Air Farce site.

Air Farce: Separatist Careers board game

"Just be sure to avoid the Parizeau card, or you go home a loser." Priceless! And check out the Lucien Bouchard playing piece:

Separatist Careers

And for my dollar, they threw in a free box of Lloyd Robertson Hair Rinse for News Anchors:

Lloyd Robertons Hair Rinse for News Anchors

But the crowning purchase - at a whopping $15 - was this Greek bust:

Greek bust (Pericles?)

I think it's Pericles, but I'm not sure. He's currently backfilling for our encoder, who was sick that day.

Looking through that stuff was a riot, tempered slightly by the observation that the people selling off the wardrobe collection were a soon-to-be-unemployed seamstress and a scriptwriter.

If only I had bought the fake bomb, though! That would have been... never mind.

Filed under: CBC, Television 3 Comments

Shredding, old school

Last week the folks in the offices beside mine moved out, now occupying new digs on the ninth floor of the Toronto CBC building.

They took with them the paper shredder, but I was able to find an old one - a really old one - amid the rubble of old SCSI cards, 5 1/4" disks and skeletons of BASIC programmers.

Here's the shredder:

ancient paper shredder

Handsome! But did you catch the brand name?

watergate paper shredder

Yep, "Watergate - top secret". Someone in the manufacturing world obviously has a sense of humour!

Seemed like an odd omen for Inauguration Day, though. In fact, my very first memory of television is sitting down with my parents to watch Richard Nixon depart the Whitehouse. "He was a very bad man, and now he has to go away," my mom told me.

But I was four, so what I heard was, "He lied, so now he gets to ride in a helicopter!"

Amazing, then, to watch the crowds gather in the CBC atrium to watch Barack Obama being sworn in. If you want a better taste of history, please check out the new topic we posted on the CBC Digital Archives: Swearing In: U.S. Presidential Inaugurations - we've got clips of speeches from FDR right through to Dubya.

Filed under: CBC, photos 2 Comments


Back in August, I posted some pictures from a trip to Nova Scotia, including this one:


It's from the parking lot of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs on the Bay of Fundy. I was intrigued by the concept of special spots for "alternative fuel vehicles" - particularly since there's no obvious definition. So I sent it on to the brilliant people at the New York Times' Freakonomics Blog, and they published it today. And of course they had some interesting thoughts on the idea:

Many cities, like Albuquerque, offer free parking to drivers of “hybrid, alternative-fuel, or fuel-efficient” cars. Businesses have also followed suit, reports USA Today.

But drivers of gas-only cars get annoyed, reports the USA Today article, when hybrid drivers take up the best parking spots all day, for free.

In some cases, hybrid-vehicle parking and driving incentives become counterproductive, reports The Washington Post: carpool-lane privileges for hybrid drivers, for example, have helped to clog those lanes.

I'm a big fan of the Freakonomics Blog - I enjoyed the book, and the blog is a daily roundup of the fuzzy interaction between society and numbers - just my kind of thing. But the best thing about the blog is the high quality of the discussion in the comments - a collection of smart people thinking about the way the world works, and backing it up.

Here are some quotes from the discussion of special parking for alternative fuel vehicles:

Maybe even more productive would be having a special section for SUVs to park in the most remote location of the parking lot.
So a hybrid $70,000 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid that gets 20 mpg gets a free parking spot in LA than I do in my 36 mpg Honda Civic, and gets to use the carpool lane (a much larger chunk of it, physically speaking, than I would).
That’s not just ridiculous. It’s stupid. Very stupid.
So are the alternative fuel spots.
Does it count if I have a 1920s steam locomotive driven by burning coal?
LEED, the most common system for certifying “green” construction in the United States, allows a project to earn one point toward certification if you reserve 5% of the project’s parking capacity for low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles. For the cost of a few signs, you can get a cheap point. Much cheaper than, say, improving your building’s energy efficiency.
They have hybrid emblems at eBay for $13. Slap one on the back of your car and enjoy the benefits of the special parking spaces. Unless the authorities are going to pop open your hood and confirm your drive train, you should be able to get away with it. Just depends on your personal moral tolerance for trickery
Hey, I have an idea! Make the polluting cars drive further and longer around the parking lot looking for a place to park, while the up-close parking spaces are largely empty.
Of course, you could simply pull your F-350 Ford Pick-Up into the space (if it would fit), rationalizing that you ARE using alternative fuel–after all, gasoline is an alternative to…nuclear, coal, solar, fuel cells, hydrogen, and so forth.

They even got an interesting response from the operations coordinator of Joggins.

Soon after, the picture prompted a very interesting analysis from my friend Chris Macdonald, he of The Business Ethics Blog (and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics.) He adds:

But there's another important issue here: even if it were clear what counted as "alternative" (which it's not) and even if "alternative" SUVs really deserved special parking (which they don't) there's still an issue about what sorts of values, in general, we promote through special parking privileges. Note, for example, that every parking space reserved for alt-fuel vehicles is thereby made unavailable for, say, handicapped parking. Or for parking for pregnant women and new mothers. Or for motorcycles and scooters and bicycles. A business can, of course, have special parking spots for all of the above, and still have room for the rest of us — if they've got a really big parking lot. But still, someone has to get the spots closest to the door. In making a move to promote a particular value (like environmentalism), organizations need to think not just about what values they're promoting, but about what other values they're de-emphasizing at the same time.

Seems they have these spots at IKEA now as well. What do you think - good idea, or just adding a green patina to the asphalt?

[Since I'm mentioning my past blog entries, I'll point out that green parking spots sure beat Christmas parking, and construction site parking!]

Filed under: photos 1 Comment

The stuff I live for (3)

Scene 1: Father, dropping his girls off for gymnastics in the local church basement, parks his crappy Honda Civic behind an incongruously located Maserati Quattroporte.

Dad: Wow! That's a nice car!
6-year-old: Which one?
Dad: The silver one, with the shiny crown on the front.
4-year-old: It looks like a fish. I don't like it.
Dad: Well, I like it. I'd like a car like that.
6-year-old: We don't need that. We have a car, and it isn't broken.

Scene 2: Later that day, it rains. Dad and 6-year-old buy a colouring book for the 4-year-old whilst shopping for groceries. They return home to give it to her.

Dad: Your sister and I bought something for you.
4-year-old: What is it?
Dad: Oh, just a little something for a rainy day.
4-year-old: Is it an umbrella?
Dad: No, not that. I mean, something you can enjoy on a day when it's too wet to go outside.
4-year-old: Is it rubber boots?

Scene 3: 6-year-old is describing her philosophy of art.

6-year-old: You know, when I draw triangles I make them not very pointy. That way nobody in picture world will get poked.

Filed under: Kids 2 Comments

94 unanswered BSG questions

With the conclusion of Battlestar Galactica just a week away (we're almost there!) I thought I would publish a little food for thought among the converted. If you don't watch the show, or aren't caught up, move along - we're about to go deep into nerdsville.

The following list was compiled months ago by my brilliant friend Michael Lapointe, who joins my sister and I for a weekly BSG fix when it's on air. (When it wasn't - and that was a hell of a wait, people - we've killed time with Firefly and the entire 1978 series. One more delay in season 4b and we'd have resorted to the dreaded Galactica 1980... yes, Mike even owns that.)

If you understand half of these questions, or even read half of them, you have my sympathies (and may be the fifth cylon. Or Ron Moore.)

Spoiler alert is screaming, blinking madly and belching smoke.

Battlestar Galactica’s Unanswered Questions


  1. What exactly is the ontological status of Number Six in Baltar’s head, vice-versa, and of the Baltar Gaius encounters in Season 4?
  2. What exactly is the Cylon plan? Does it change? How?
  3. How has Saul Tigh been a “skin-job” Cylon for at least 30-40 years?
  4. What is special or unique about the Final Five? Are they “sleeper” agents?
  5. Who/what is the Cylon God? Is it actually their “human creator” reified to godhead?
  6. What exactly is Kara Thrace’s destiny that Leoben refers to?
  7. How did Kara return? Why is her Viper brand new?
  8. When exactly did the 13th tribe leave Kobol for Earth? When did the other 12 tribes leave? There is contradictory evidence throughout the series. Elosha claims that 3600 years ago the oracle Pythia wrote about the exile/rebirth of the human race. Billy claims that the city ruins on Kobol were abandoned 2000 years ago, then Elosha claims that this is the time the 13 tribes left. Sharon claims that the founders of the 13 colonies boarded the great ship in the Galleon Meadow and went to found the colonies, OR that they stayed behind and went to sacrifice people in the Tomb of Athena. Adama mentions that Zeus warned the 12 tribes of the blood price to be paid if they returned to Kobol; does this imply the 13th tribe had already left? Does this also imply that civilization continued on Kobol for centuries after the exodus? This would contradict Elosha and Boomer’s statements above. Why does Athena commit suicide at the exodus of the 13 tribes according to Boomer? Billy mentions a calamity befell Kobol and Elosha quotes scripture that a “great blaze” pursed the people. But Pythia also supposedly chronicled the original journey of the 13th tribe to Earth (complete with drawings of the Temple of Aurora from “Revelations”). Dr. Cottle’s report on the virus that kills the Cylons and found on the beacon left by the 13th tribe was over 3000 years old, when according now to Adama, the 13th tribe left Kobol. On the Algae planet, the Temple of Five, built by the 13th tribe, was at least 4000 years ago which lines up with the exodus of the 13th tribe according to Tyrol. The supernova in the Ionian Nebula occurred 4000 years ago and was witnessed by the 13th tribe on the Algae planet. The Eye of Jupiter—a marker left by the 13th tribe to point the way to earth is recorded in their scriptures. So the 13th tribe may have left Kobol at least 2000, 3000, 3600, or 4000 years ago depending upon which scene you watch. Is this intentional, OR simply a very poor attempt at story continuity? Considering the importance of mythology and the cycles of time to the show’s narrative, this is not an insignificant matter. Also how is it possible that scriptures have details about Earth without members of the 13th tribe making contact with their fellow humans AFTER Earth is settled, not to mention the map of the star patterns found in the Tomb of Athena?
  9. What exactly is Baltar’s destiny that Six keeps referring to?
  10. What is extra special about Final Fifth Cylon? Why the last to be revealed? Why is this fifth Cylon seeking redemption according to the hybrid in Razor?
  11. Why does the Razor hybrid warn that Kara Thrace is “the angel of death” and will lead humanity to its final end? OR is it Kara’s part in leading to the destruction of the Resurrection Hub that brings “death” to the Cylons that he is predicting and fears? The hybrid on the base ship that kidnaps Roslin also reports this line about Kara.
  12. Why is it forbidden for the Cylons to talk about the Final Five?
  13. What is the significance of the dream vision of Hera and Kobol’s Opera House shared by Roslin, Six, and Sharon?
  14. What is the significance ultimately of the clash between mono- and polytheism in the series?
  15. Beyond the obvious, what role does Hera have yet to play? What about Nicky? Six’s baby by Saul on the way?
  16. What happened to Earth? What year/timeframe is it?
  17. What exactly happened on Kobol?
  18. Who/what were the gods/Lords of Kobol?
  19. What happened to Boxey?
  20. Are all Cylons super strong physically compared to humans?
  21. What were the mysterious circumstances surrounding Ellen Tigh’s rescue and amnesia? What, if anything, was she hiding? Why does Six warn Baltar about Ellen?
  22. What happened to the 1300 people on the Olympic Carrier before its destruction?
  23. Is Baltar capable of “projecting” without being a Cylon?
  24. On Caprica, why are some of the cities not destroyed as Helo and Sharon wander around? Were these places spared nuclear destruction in favour of biological and neutron weapons? Since the Cylons, for a time, are rebuilding the infrastructure on Caprica, does this mean their ultimate plan is to recolonize the 12 worlds for themselves?
  25. Where did Shelley Godfrey (Number Six) go?
  26. Why is Leoben obsessed with Kara?
  27. Why does Baltar’s Cylon detector not catch Tyrol and Tigh? Or does he suppress this information? Although he seems ignorant of other Cylons, except Boomer, he blackmails her into revealing that there were 8 other Cylons in the fleet? Should we presume the 8 others do NOT include the Final Five? Who are they? Is she lying?
  28. Can a Final Five be tested by the detector in any case?
  29. Why and how have the Final Five been to Earth?
  30. Does Baltar give up testing everyone?
  31. Why does Leoben tell Roslin that “Adama” is a Cylon in “Flesh and Blood”? Could this be Lee? Zak?
  32. Why are their 12 snakes, “vipers”, in Roslin’s vision similar to the one’s recorded by the oracle Pythia? What is their significance?
  33. What exactly does “all this has happened before, and will happen again” mean?
  34.  Why is the ephemeral Six assisting in the survival of Baltar and the human fleet?
  35. Does Baltar believe Six about the Cylon God? Faking it in season 4? If not, what causes this shift?
  36. Is there any importance to the Articles of Colonization being only 52 years old in “ Colonial Day”?
  37. Did Zarek, Ellen, or someone else have henchman Valance killed on Cloud Nine?
  38. Why does Baltar “know” the ruins of the Opera House on Kobol? Why does Six say, “Of course, you do?”
  39. How is it that Baltar has/shares a vision of the future with Six—the birth of Hera?
  40. What is the significance of the piano composition by Kara’s father? Why is it so similar to the music score in scenes of Cylon base ships?
  41. What degree is Kara playing at madness in Season 4?
  42. Why does Ellen want Tigh to be Commander so much? Power? But if she’s a Cylon?
  43. What is Anders, one of the Final Five, doing left behind on Caprica?
  44.  In “The Farm”, how does Simon know that Anders is an athlete and a member of the resistance?
  45. Where did the Cylons go after Cavil announces that they have left the nuked colonies? Cylon home world? Where are the “greener pastures” that he refers to? What are the “other plans” that he refers to? Is this a change in the Cylon “plan”?
  46. What portion of Cylon civilization pursues the Galactica and the fleet across space? Surely, not all if they have their own home world?
  47. Even though in “The Hub” it is made clear that no Cylons anywhere in the universe can download, doe this make sense? Would the Cylons not have this technology on their home world and elsewhere back in the regions of space where the story began?
  48. How did the Colonials “enslave” the Cylons exactly?
  49. In “Razor”, how is it that the young Adama hears the hybrid’s disembodied voice and sees visions of the past when he sticks his hand into the hybrid tank?
  50. Who were the prisoners aboard the Gemenese ship, the Diana, in “Razor” and what was their fate?
  51. Is the promised land really Earth? OR is it just a beginning to elsewhere? Why does the hybrid in Razor use the phrase “gathered on the wings of an angel” to refer to both/either or the Colonials/Cylons?
  52. What is the link between the hybrids and the Final Five? Why does the hybrid in Razor know/prophesy so much about the characters? How does he know that Kendra Shaw seeks forgiveness for her part in a military massacre?
  53. Is the Razor hybrid, the Cylon god?
  54. Why is Leoben chosen or self-appointed to show Kara her destiny?
  55. Who is Apollo’s XO on Pegasus after Kendra Shaw dies but before Dualla takes over during their year long stint in orbit around New Caprica?
  56. Why do the Cylons want Earth to be their new home?
  57. Why do the Colonials presume that the deadly virus would wipe out all Cylons through Resurrection technology when it has been established that the Cylons need to have Resurrection ships in the first place because they are too far away from the Cylon home world to download?
  58. Where does a valuable viper Jock like Bulldog go, never to be seen again?
  59. What was the mandala-like storm? Does Kara only see it?
  60. What happens to Kara in the storm in terms of her visions of her past, her mother, and her exploding Viper?
  61. What is the symbolism of the mandala, and why does it reoccur in different contexts?
  62. How is it that Leoben knows so much about Kara’s history?
  63. Leoben claims that he is not “Leoben” in “Maelstrom”. Who/what is he?
  64. Does Admiral Adama know about Apollo and Starbuck’s affair?
  65. Why is Romo Lampkin a kleptomaniac?
  66. What is the source of the song—“All Along the Watchtower”—in “Crossroads I and II”? Why is this music a trigger? Why does this occur at the Ionian Nebula?
  67. Why is Baltar a religious cult figure in the fleet in the first place? What did he do to inspire this devotion as his manifesto is socio-political in nature? Does Baltar believe his religious B.S.? What point does he get sucked in?
  68. When Roslin mentions in court that she was saved by the blood of a Cylon hybrid child, is this news to the fleet that such a birth has occurred?
  69. What causes the power outage throughout the fleet at the Ionian Nebula?
  70. Why are the Final Four so clueless about themselves in spite of their importance?
  71. If Kara has been to Earth, why is she so vague on the details? Did she not notice that it had been destroyed? Any Earth transmissions to note while in orbit? How did she know it was Earth? Simply and crudely, by the ancient star patterns from the Kobol map?
  72. Why does Kara’s head hurt every time the fleet jumps away from the Ionian Nebula?
  73. Who were the original programmers of the Cylons?
  74. Why did the original programmers put the Cylons at risk if they sought out the Final Five according to Cavil?
  75. Why does Kara claim she had been to Earth before, as if she had never left?
  76. During the Cylon Civil War, did the warring Cylon factions simply transfer to different base ships?
  77. Do the Cylon model numbers have any importance? Do the 12 models correspond to the 12 Colonies?


            1 Cavil                         Aerilon

            2 Leoben                   Tauron

            3 D’Anna                  Gemenon

            4 Simon                     Canceron

            5 Doral                      Leonis

            6 Number Six             Virgon

            7                                  Libran

            8 Sharon                     Scorpia

            9                                  Sagittaron

            10                                Caprica

            11                                Aquaria

            12                                Picon


            Tigh, Tory, Anders, Tyrol

  1. What will the long-term consequences of giving the Cylon Centurions the gift of reason?
  2. Does Roslin suspect that Zarek is behind her being blindsided by Lee’s revelation of Classified Order 112?
  3. Does Tyrol suspect that Tory had something to do with Cally’s death?
  4. Why does Saul see Ellen when visiting Six? Guilt? Or part of the “plan” to impregnate her and produce a new hybrid child? Is Ellen the Fifth?
  5. Do the Colonial beliefs in the gods of Earth’s classical civilizations open the possibility that humanity’s birthplace is Earth, not Kobol?
  6. What does Leoben know about what happened to Kara during her two months away? Why is Kara’s part in finding Earth so convoluted? Note: Kara “dies” and disappears into a storm, reappears in the Ionian Nebula two months later claiming to have been to Earth, goes crazy on Galactica, is given the Demetrius to find her road back, finds Leoben in a Heavy Raider, who convinces her to find a damaged Basestar so that Kara can talk to its hybrid. The hybrid intimates to her to unbox D’Anna, who has seen the faces of the Final Five on the Algae planet in the hope that Final Five will reveal themselves and the route to Earth. Three of them do this unwittingly by means of mysterious music that leads them to Kara’s Viper, which now mysteriously is receiving an emergency locator signal that the Colonials can trace back to Earth.
  7. Does Leoben “guess” that Anders is a Cylon on the Demetrius?
  8. How is Kara “changed” into someone “new”?
  9. Why does Gaeta lose his leg and sing? Significance?
  10. What is God’s plan as stated by Leoben in the Raptor? Is this the same as the Cylon’s plan?
  11. How does Hera have an obsessive knowledge of Six?
  12. What is up with Romo Lampkin and his frakking cat in “Sine Qua Non”? Why does he pull a gun on Lee? Nervous breakdown?
  13. What is it about the FTL jumps which allow Roslin to see the dead Elosha and the “future”?
  14. Where is the Fifth Cylon? D’Anna claims that there are four in the fleet.
  15. Is Kara’s Viper the source of the music that triggers the Final Four’s activation and that later on leads Kara to discover the signal? Why was the signal not found earlier?
  16. Will Kara keep her promise and kill Anders because he is a Cylon?
  17. Does the emergency locator signal originate on Earth?


© Michael Patrick Lapointe, PhD

    University of Toronto,

    Toronto, Canada


How many do you think will be answered? Comments welcome!

Filed under: Television 5 Comments