Monday, July 29, 2019

Another mass shooting in the USA

Ho Hum!  It's a sunny summer day.  There's another mass shooting in the US of A.

According to CNN, a six-year-old boy, a 13 year-old girl and a man in his twenties were killed last night when a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in northern California.  The 19-year-old gunman purchased his AK-47 style rifle legally in Nevada on July 9.  At least 12 others were injured before the killer was shot to death by three police officers.  The victims, whose conditions ranged from fair to serious, were taken to taken to nearby hospitals.  Seven patients with gunshot wounds were transported to Santa Clara County Health System.  Their ages ranged from 12 to 69.  One was in critical condition.  Authorities are searching for a second suspect whom some witnesses claim was involved in the shooting.

It's worth noting that an Instragram post bearing the suspect's name referred to a white supremacist book.   Of course, white supremacists by Trump crowds shouting "Send her back!"

The whole incident absolutely sickens me.  Assault rifles should be banned.  These mass murders have become routine in America.  Innocent people (including children), enjoying a food festival on a summer day, should not have to fear for their lives.  Is this what America has become?  Donald Trump and his Republican lackeys will offer their thoughts and prayers.  Thoughts and prayers are good, but they are not good enough.  Much more is needed.  There must be tighter gun control and more background checks or these shootings will continue unabated.  They'll be more Parklands and Sandy Hooks and Las Vegas shootings.  Don't accept this.  Push for gun control legislation.

America, it's time for action.  Do you want to live this way, fearing for yourselves and your children?  It's time to stop this insanity by voting Trump and his Republicans lackeys out of office in November of 2020.  Tune out the National Rifle Association.  The NRA has blood on its hands.

I am disgusted and saddened beyond words by what happened in Gilroy, California on Sunday, July 28, 2019.  Don't be numb to gun violence.  Don't meekly accept that this is the new reality.


- Joanne

The 10 Most Bankable British Actors

Here is an infographic on the most bankable (and least bankable) British actors.  If you are a fan of British cinema, its facts and statistics should be of great interest to you.  I hope that all film lovers find it useful, informative and entertaining.  

- Joanne


Using data from the 50 highest grossing films, spanning from 1993 to present day, price comparison experts Money Guru analysed which British actors offer the best Return On Investment (ROI) based on their Box Office sales as a leading actor and the respective film budgets. They uncovered that Dame Julie Andrews is the most bankable British actor, offering a staggering 785% ROI and £6.85 for every £1 spent ($8.53 for every $1 spent). 

Here are the 10 most bankable British actors.

Dame Julie Andrews has claimed the title for the most bankable British star, offering a staggering 785% ROI (and £6.85 for every £1 spent) when looking at her worldwide box office sales as a leading actress in nine films. Andrews boasts a career that guarantees sales, with notable films including Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music.
The second British film star that drives cinema sales is another actress, Dame Julie Walters, with her huge 737% ROI generated over two Blockbusters. Throughout her career, she has been nominated for two Academy Awards and won a Golden Globe, while also boasting an extensive TV portfolio. While she is a household name within the British film industry, most of her popularity is generated as a supporting star. Yet, compared to Daniel Radcliffe’s 11 films, Walters will get you £6.36 for every £1 spent in just two films.

In third place is another actress, Dame Maggie Smith, with an ROI of 712%. Her ROI was calculated from her starring in seven notable films as the lead, such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and The Lady in the Van. Additionally, she also offers £6.11 for every £1.

Female British film stars are a better investment than their male counterparts

Surprisingly, it’s the British actresses that offer 15% more value than the British male actors.
In the past few years, there have been high-profile salary discrepancies in the film industry - particularly between male and female stars. It has previously been reported that the world’s 10 highest paid actresses make less than half of the 10 highest paid male actors, when totalling their combined salaries. While gender pay discrepancies are still very much a hot topic, Money Guru’s research suggests that female stars are more likely to produce a hit than their male counterparts.
Only two male actors make the top five list of actors offering the most value, Daniel Radcliffe and Rowan Atkinson. Whereas, Dame Julie Andrews, Dame Julie Walters and Dame Maggie Smith are the top three British film stars that guarantee Box Office success (based on their previous performances).
Previous reports have found that actresses played only 32% of the characters in the world’s top-grossing films of the 21st century, with fewer subsequently cast in lead roles.

Similarly, according to Forbes, the 10 highest paid actresses in 2018 earned a staggering £443 million less than the highest-paid actors. A notable example of the pay discrepancies occurred in 2018, when Michelle Williams received $1,500 for the reshoots of her role in All the Money in the World, compared to the $1.5 million salary of her male co-star, Mark Wahlberg.

‘Mr Bean’ is one of Britain’s most successful actors

Closely following suit to the most valuable actresses are Daniel Radcliffe and Rowan Atkinson.
Daniel Radcliffe is Britain’s ‘Chosen One’ when it comes to male actors with an ROI of 665%. Starring in 11 films, including the Harry Potter film series and The Woman in Black, Radcliffe guarantees Box Office hits and £5.56 for every £1.
However, closely following suit is Rowan Atkinson - otherwise known as the country’s lovable, Mr Bean. Despite stiff competition from Oscar winners, Atkinson is the fifth most bankable actor. His ROI sits at 628%, based on Box Office sales of five films, also offering £5.28 for every £1.
Atkinson’s combined Box Office sales total nearly £1 billion and he has starred in a number of popular TV shows and films, including the Mr Bean and Johnny English franchises.
Other stars making an appearance in the top 10 most bankable include the aforementioned Kate Winslet - boasting 12 films in the lead role - and Sam Worthington, starring in five blockbuster films.

Oscar wins do not guarantee Box Office triumph

The Academy Awards (otherwise known as the Oscars) are considered to be the most prestigious film awards for actors. While the awards are an honour, they do not ultimately spell Box Office success, according to Money Guru’s study. 
When analysing the Box Office success of British actors, Money Guru found that Russell Brand is more likely to bring in sales and provide a better ROI than Oscar winners, with lead roles in the likes of Get Him to the Greek and a supporting role in the hugely popular franchise, Minions. 
Brand’s ROI stands at 226% from just three films, compared to Academy Award winner, Sir Ben Kingsley, who offers an ROI of 208% from eight lead roles.

The 10 Least Bankable British Actors

Steve Coogan is Britain’s least bankable actor

According to the Money Guru study, TV and film star Steve Coogan is Britain’s least bankable actor, based on his Box Office success when cast in the lead role. While his career spans almost 40 years - with four leading roles, including Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa - his average ROI sits at 86%. While Coogan provides £0.13 for every £1, he is well known for his supporting roles in Minions, the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Surprisingly, Ewan McGregor and Jude Law are the second and third least bankable Brit actors, with ROIs of 144% (£0.44 for every £1) and 149% (£0.49 for every £1) respectively. McGregor has starred in 25 films as the lead, including Oscar winner, Moulin Rouge, and Trainspotting.
Similarly, Jude Law boasts 10 lead roles and has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for Cold Mountain.
Notably, only one actress, Helena Bonham Carter, made the Money Guru list of Britain’s least bankable actors, further reinforcing that actresses offer a better ROI than male actors, and should be considered for more leading roles.

So, the results are in. If you are looking to create a future Box Office hit, it’s worth noting that the top 10 British actresses offer 15% more value than the top 10 male actors - despite making less than half the money and starring in 68% less leading roles.

Standout Stats

  • Dame Julie Andrews is the British actor most likely to guarantee Box Office success, with an ROI of 785% on films with her cast at the lead.
  • Daniel Radcliffe is the British male actor that will guarantee Box Office success (664% ROI) - largely 
  • due to the success of the Harry Potter franchise - closely followed by Rowan Atkinson (628% ROI) and Sam Worthington (622% ROI).
  • ‘Mr Bean’ is one of Britain’s most successful actors. Rowan Atkinson is the fifth most bankable actor. His ROI sits at 628%, based on Box Office sales of five films, also offering £5.28 for every £1 spent ($6.58 for every $1 spent).
  • Surprisingly, women are most likely to ensure a Box Office hit, with Dame Julie Andrews (785% ROI), Dame Julie Walters (737% ROI) and Dame Maggie Smith (712% ROI) in the top three. Kate Winslet (583% ROI) also features in the top 10. 
  • The top three actors most likely to guarantee Box Office sales are women, which is surprising as women are only cast in 32% of leading roles in the film industry.
  • Steve Coogan (86% ROI) is the British actor least likely to guarantee Box Office success, followed by Ewan McGregor (144% ROI ) and Jude Law (149% ROI).
  • Russell Brand (226% ROI) offers a better chance for bigger Box Office sales than Oscar winner, Sir Ben Kingsley (208% ROI) and Oscar-nominated, Jude Law (149% ROI).
  • Oscars wins do not guarantee Box Office triumph. Russell Brand with an ROI of 226% is more likely to bring in sales and provide a better ROI than Oscar winners. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Why Canada needs high-speed trains

Why is it so expensive and onerous to travel within Canada?.  It should be much easier for Canadians to explore Canada and enjoy the beauty of their own country.  From sea to shining sea, the Canadian landscape is a panoramic spectacle, but it's often less costly to hop on a flight to Europe than to to fly to other Canadian cities and provinces.

Furthermore, why doesn't our country have a network of high-speed trains.  After all, Canada was built on the promise of a railroad from east to west.  The late author/historian Pierre Berton referred to it as our "National Dream."  So, it is ironic that there is a lack of modern high-speed rail service in this country.  We are in dire need of a high speed train service like the ones overseas, especially in areas such as the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor and in Western Canada, particularly between Calgary and Edmonton.

Unfortunately, plans for a high-speed train from Toronto to Windsor were cancelled by Premier Doug Ford's government.  The project had been approved by Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government in 2018 with an initial budget of $11 billion dollars.  By the year 2025, the trains would have run along the 401 corridor from the GTA to London, Ontario in just two hours, at speeds of up to 250 km/hr.  Then, along came Ford (Groan!), whose budget cuts deprived the people of Southwestern Ontario and the Toronto area of the convenience of using high-speed rail for family visits and commuting to work..  As a result of this penny-pinching foolishness, Ontarians were robbed of benefits of decreased travel time, the creation of new economic opportunities and the reduction of congestion and greenhouse gases.  The service along the Toronto-Windsor corridor would have attracted visitors and business to a growing region with a population of 7 million.

It hasn't always been this way.  From October 31, 1965 until October 29, 1978 (about 13 years), the Canadian National Railway (CN)) provided express passenger train service in the Quebec City-Windsor Corridor.   The brand name for the service was Rapido.  It began with a Montreal-Toronto route, which was extended to Montreal-Quebec City and later to Toronto-Windsor, Toronto-Sarnia, Toronto-Ottawa and Montreal-Ottawa.  The service ended when CN transferred its passenger service to a government-owned company, Via Rail Canada.

On that Halloween day in 1965.the brand new Rapido, rolled out with much fanfare  Every seat was filled on the inaugural run for what was advertised as North America's fastest inter-city passenger express service.  CN promoted the service with the slogan "From downtown to downtown in just four hours and 59 minutes."  Travel time was decreased from the Toronto-Montreal route by one hour and 16 minutes.

In a CBC radio interview, Rapido conductor Harold Watkins proudly declared, "There's no comparison between the Rapido and our older trains.  The older trains are just like the horse and buggy.  They've had their day."  In a November 8, 1965 article in The Globe and Mail, Bruce West gushed over the Rapido.  He wrote: "The Rapido is more comfortable than most airliners and with a running time of 4 hours and 59 minutes between Canada's largest cities, it doesn't fall a great deal behind the downtown-to-down elapsed time of traveling by air.  From now on, I'm quite sure, the tortoise is going to give the high-flying hare a good run for its money."

In 1965, the price of a one-way coach ticket on the Rapido was $8.  On Fridays and Sundays, the fare jumped to $9.50.  The cost of parlour car tickets ranged from $15 to $19 with a meal included.  "Bistro" cars were sometimes featured in Rapido service trains.  These cars were festooned with red bulbs.  There was piano-based entertainment and alcoholic beverages were served.

Below is a photo of CN Rapido service at Pickering, Ontario in 1968.


So, what went wrong?  Why was high-speed railway travel abandoned in Canada?  Why did we revert to what conductor Harold Watkins compared to a horse and buggy?  Not surprisingly, it was a matter of economics.  CN tried to maintain its passenger service but continued to lose money during the 1970s.

During the 1974 federal election campaign, then-prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau promised a Canadian version of Amtrak, so that passenger rail could be saved from the competitive juggernaut of cars and airplanes.  That was the reasoning behind the formation of Via Rail Canada, first as a division of CN and later as an independent Crown Corporation.  As it turned out, Trudeau's Liberal party was reduced from a majority to a minority in 1974 and Via failed to live up to his lofty expectations.

With such a huge country geographically, it's imperative that Canadians become more familiar with regions other than their own.  High-speed rail is a fixture throughout Europe, Japan and the east coast of the United States.  Why is it that Canada is the only G7 country without a high speed rail system?  Japan has its Shinkansen network, first built in 1964, while France boasts its extensive intercity state-owned Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV).

Below is a 2014 photo of a TGV train leaving Nice, France.


A 2017 article in VICE magazine was headlined "High-Speed Rail is One of Canada's Biggest Failures."  Anthony Perl, a professor of urban studies and political science at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, called Canada "the word's leading laggard when it comes to high-speed rail."  "Even Kazakhstan, I don't mean to pick on them," he said, "has a very successful high-speed rail service."

It seems that governments in Canada are too afraid to take on the costs and the debts incurred.  Canadians are paying the price for this short-sightedness and cowardliness.  Ryan Katz, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa, told VICE: "When governments in the '60s and '70s were more likely to see an expense like that as a big public benefit that was tied into the national interest or other types of modernist objectives, those costs seem justifiable."

It's a pity that Canada has not invested in high-speed trains.  They are more environment-friendly than planes and more economical.  Furthermore, much of the the hassle of airport security can be avoided by travelling by train,.  All aboard!


* CN introduced a Turbo train between Toronto and Montreal in 1968.  It was given that name because it was power-driven by a jet turbo.  On its maiden run, however, the train crashed into a truck near Kiingston, Ontario.  It continually experienced technical problems and was cancelled in 1982.  The Turbo train was expected to reach speeds of 200 km/hr as compared to the Rapido's top speed of
143 k/hr.

* In the United States, the state of California is well on its way to having a clean and green high-speed railway network.  The publicly funded California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR or CHSR) is under construction.  It was established by the California State Legislature and approved by voters in 2008.
Construction began in 2015 after a groundbreaking ceremony in Fresno.

* China has built about 20,000 kilometres of high-speed tracks.

SOURCESVICE, "High-Speed Rail Is One of Canada's Biggest Failures,' by James Wilt, June 26, 2017; CBC Archives, "1965: All aboard the Rapido!"; blogTO, "High speed train between Toronto and Windsor has been cancelled," by Lauren O'Neil; Wikipedia

- Joanne