Monday, May 31, 2004

doors open 2004

After missing it for a couple of years, took advantage of the first non-miserable weekend of the spring to take in the annual Doors Open event.

Day 1 -Commerce Court/King Edward Hotel/St. James Church/Canadian Opera Company (Tanenbaum Centre)
Started off above King station, at Commerce Court North, once the tallest building in the British Commonwealth and currently home to CIBC private banking services (and a handy ATM). Stayed around for a brief description of the ornate ceiling and expensive floor, then headed to the Crystal Ballroom at the King Edward Hotel, the closest equivalent Toronto has to Detroit-style ruins (not the hotel, just the ballroom). Enough was left that it wasn't difficult to imagine what the room looked like in its heyday.

Faded glory

Great views of the city from the ballroom, including this one of the next stop - St. James Anglican Church.

Slowly circled around the church, staring at the stained glass and pipe organ (pictures taken of both for future stock photo use).

It's...The Bishop! (Strachan, that is...)

While in the neighbourhood, made a quick pit stop at St. Lawrence Market, surprised to still find vendors in the north hall at 2:30. Stuffed the backpack with veggies, then walked east along Front to see what was open. Ended up on a tour of the Tanenbaum Opera Centre over on Berkley, rehearsal home of the Canadian Opera Company. Thorough tour of the complex (except for the prop shop), which had previously been a Consumers Gas plant and a maraschino cherry factory.

Where opera chairs retire.

The tour included a hands-on segment, where the group was allowed to play with props and masks, most incorporating's the company's most valuable raw material, hockey tape. Didn't get my hand up fast enough to vent any latent rage by smashing a sugar plate against a door

Even the perogies have hockey tape in 'em.

Nearing 4, decided to head over to Queen West for a quick look around. The feet needed a rest, which called for a trip on the King streetcar. If it ever came...

It would have taken less time to attempt to hotwire this car than it took for the streetcar to arrive

Bounced around town for the rest of the day - Queen West, Danforth, finally a long walk along Queen East from Broadview to the end of the Beaches. Somehow the feet recovered in time for Day 2.

Day 2 - George Brown House/OCAD/Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art (temp)/Canada Life Building
Decided that shut-eye was better than waking up early, so it wasn't until 2:30 that round two of Doors Open began at the George Brown House (Baldwin & Beverley).

To the occupant of this house I owe one of my morning papers and Paul Martin his political party.

On Baldwin St, heard a faint chanting - a religious group out soaking up the sun while in meditation? Nope, just a couple of kids pitching lemonade from a red wagon, chanting in monotone "lemonade...25 cents...lemonade...25 cents...lemonade...). Turned south on McCaul and shot the cityscape. You've the CN Tower and a checkered box propped up in mid-air - OCAD's new addition.

"Look for the flying rectangle..."

So far, it's sterile inside the box-in-the-sky, all white concrete with different bold-coloured doors and window frames. Good views of the neighbourhood...perhaps too good, as you could spy at the activities in Village by the Grange (lots of sunbathers).

Next was the temporary location of the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. While its home on Queen's Park is being expanded, a cramped exhibit and gift shop has been set up south of OCAD. Still room for oddball pieces, like this one:

With the countdown to 4pm on, headed over to the Canada Life building on university. The line to the 17th floor observation area was cut off, but one was free to wander the ground floor, with its ornate office doors.

If only my cubbyhole had an entrance like this...

10 minutes left to go in the hour. Dashed over to Old City Hall, but the doors were locked. End of Doors Open for another year.

Friday, May 28, 2004

on the radio - show #1

It wasn't an auspicious start.

Hello There - John Cale
Playing the first track on the first of my summer run of radio shows went OK. No vocal fumbling when I switched on the mike. Announced the next track as The Who's I Can't Reach You. Went to start the CD player...

No sound.

The player decided it didn't like my copy of The Who Sell Out. Panic, as nothing else is going right. See, the station has new CD players, but they're sensitive beasts and not user-friendly in their operation.

Next time, I taking a tape of the old TV signoff classic, Syncopated Clock, to play in such a situation.

Never Had A Dream Come True - Stevie Wonder
Sun Watcher - Albert Ayler
My Cherie Amour - Roland Kirk
Compared To What - Roberta Flack

Grabbed the nearest disc I had, which was Stevie Wonder's Signed, Sealed, Delivered and lauched into a soul/jazz set. One mishap along the way - my Manu Dibango disc refused to play, otherwise Hot Chicken would have followed the Ayler.

Goin' Out Of My Head - Wes Montgomery
1-2-3 - Jimmy Smith
Comin' Home baby - Mel Torme
Save Me - Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity
Walk On By - The Stranglers

Continuing in the same vein, then veering into organ-heavy pop. The Stranglers track was the only request of the evening, a cover of the Burt Bacharach with what seemed like the mid-section of Light My Fire tacked on.

Roses In The Snow - Emmylou Harris
This Old House - Loretta Lynn
The Overture - Carolyn Mark
Back In Baby's Arms - Patsy Cline

Bringing the hour to a close with rootsy recordings. The Cline track was a panic move after another disc dceided to be fussy.

One-Act Play - The Collectors
Basement Band Song - The Organ
Caroline, No - They Might Be Giants
Good Vibrations (demo) - The Beach Boys
Dreaming Of You - The Coral
Yesterday's Papers - The Rolling Stones
Beechwood Park - The Zombies

Hour two begins with two slices of Vancouver Rock, 36 years apart, then a mini-Beach Boys segment, then Britrock, which would have been the first set if the technical problems hadn't flared up.

Happy Go Lucky Girl - U Roy
Oh Linda - Gordon Lightfoot

Not ready to head into the feature I had planned for the last quarter of the show, picked two tracks at random from the pile o' discs in front of me.

Time Fades Away/journey Thru The Past/Yonder Stands The Sinner/L.A./Love in Mind - Neil Young
I've decided to resurrect a feature of my old show, playing old albums (often way out of print), only this time it will be one side per show. This week, side one of Neil Young's gloomy 1973 live album Time Fades Away. Secret sneaky reason for this segment: boost the CanCon and save time on putting station albums away.

Today Is Sunday - The Barmitzvah Brothers
The Walking Song - Evelyn Parry
A Million Miles Away - The Plimsouls
Sex (I'm A...) - Berlin

Was left with some time before the hour was out, so brought the CanCon up to par (the first two tracks - first was kinda cute) and some 80s stuff lying around. Collected my breath, switched on the BBC and drove home, knowing next time will be less of a battle.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

product watch: music up ramen noodles

We at the Warehouse regularly check with our competitors to see which innovative, exciting products are being showcased in their stores to gain margin, create excitement and bring customers into their shopping environment (Eds Note: This is the type of retail jargon I have to clean up on a daily basis. Now you know why we're crazy). We've purchased some of these items, and will present some of interesting finds.

There will be parameters. If it's a food product, it must be something we're convinced could be edible. You won't be seeing items like Diet Moxie, any Atkins baked goods, fermented mustard pickles or any pasta made with Papa Smurf's Special Sauce. This week, we visited an Asian grocery store in Scarborough and checked out the wide variety of ramen noodles. The Kashin company has tied their products in with everyone's love for pop music. May we present to you MUSIC UP!

Music Up Pork Ribs Flavour
Music Up Pork Ribs Flavour
Note emphasis on word "flavour", as it's clear these gals have never eaten a slab of ribs. Also suggests that they're trying to capture the flavour of something soulful or deep felt, but come off as an imitation. This is the punk/new wave band of the bunch, with the bizarrely-outfitted twins, the Converse-wearing drummer who wears her leg warmers on her arms ('cuz it's kewl) and the sexpot lead guitarist, who's on the verge of leaving the band to "find her own voice".

Music Up Minced Chicken Flavour
Music Up Minced Chicken Flavour
The flavour suggests this is going to taste like weak hamburger, which is exactly what this band looks like - an integrated pre-fab band formed in the last round of "Manga Idol". We have the two singers towering over the boy-band wannabes, including the guitarist up front who's a closet grunge fan but knows he'll never get to play dirgey guitar with this crew.

Music Up Stewed Beef Flavour
Music Up Stewed Beef Flavour
Right after Minced Chicken's album flopped, the boys split off from the girls (who went on to a short-lived career as a duo until they discovered nobody cared anymore) and decided they needed a stronger sounding name...Stewed Beef. Note the intensity in the two guys on the right. Grunge Boy can finally do his thing, while Red conjures up a watered-down version of his classic rock frontman idols. Star, on the left, didn't last much beyond the wrapper shot - he was too happy for this new, intense (and still manufactured) band.

Friday, May 14, 2004

scriptwriting attempt #247

As mentioned in previous entries, a group of us entered the Moc Docs contest earlier this year. It was first time I'd ever fully-written a script - any previous attempts to write one never went far (other than a bizarro-world piece written in grade 2, which I'll post when I find it again).

Here it is, a mocumentary look at the person who created Hinterland Who's Who...or is about the person filming it? It's not much more than a comedy skit, but it's something. Lots of thanks to the rest of the Robot Dog crew, who pitched in their five cents (especially Stevie D...his script should have received some consideration).

Read and laugh or groan...

Film begins with familiar strains of Hinterland Who’s Who, opening on a shot of empty parkland or forest, maybe a squirrel or dog running by.


A middle-aged man shuffles onto the screen, looking around at nothing in particular, like an animal popping its head out of a hole and scanning its surroundings. Notices film crew and laughs upon hearing a flute player in the crew playing a familiar tune...


He is wearing a backpack and looks like an amateur birdwatcher.

John Smiths migrate in great herds, twice a day

Subject shown in crowded subway or bus. Improvised business in background while subject looks dead-eyed in foreground. Scene switches to office tower elevator.

John Smiths will always be associated with the early days of the Canadian television industry. Members of this species are responsible for such public service announcements as Hinterland Who’s Who, Participaction, The Old Woman In The Shoe Knew What To Do, etc.

Shots of subject talking with others in elevator, then holding up elevator while one or two others in the elevator look on impatiently.

In primitive times, colleagues regarded John Smiths with reverence, and today many aging historians show veneration for this imposing and massive animal.

Shot of subject being interviewed by an academic, who looks as moth-eaten as the subject. Fingers appear onscreen, making "loser" sign. Another hand slaps the fingers away.

As is typical of his species, he shows great energy and creativity in his youth. As he matures, that energy level is lessened, leading to an increase in weight and alcohol consumption.

Shot of subject emptying flask into a coffee cup, then drinking the contents.

Coffee and fast food are John Smiths main source of food, and much of his daily activity is spent collecting them.

Shot of subject eating, with more food landing on him than in his mouth. Offers food to the crew.

One sign of aging in John Smith is a decrease in fashion sense.

Close up of moth-eaten sweater or vest. Long pregnant shot on subject, who looks up from a pile of paperwork. He gives a peeved, yet resigned, look to the crew.

John Smiths were once well-equipped to survive natural hazards, including uncooperative animals.

Subject is shown attempting to negotiate a contract with a stuffed animal or realistic hand puppet - this is one of the animals featured in Hinterland Who’s Who. The animal repeatedly slams its paw down on the contract, gesturing to indicate its concerns about the terms.

Government bureaucrat and budgetary concerns have the potential to make John Smiths an endangered species.

Subject is shown having an animated argument on the phone. After a pregnant pause, he attempts to shoo the film crew away. Motion of hands in front of camera, which moves up and down or sideways as if it is carrying on a conversation. This is the moment the film crew decides to have fun at the subject’s expense.

As a John Smith ages, his senses grow weaker.

The crew has rearranged several items at the subject’s desk, just enough to leave the subject looking first befuddled, then furious. Pregnant pause.

Species such as John Smiths need to be replaced by their young every 40 years to keep the species alive and their environment fresh.

Camera waves up and down in agreement

Younger John Smiths are sent to film schools to learn their trade and wait for the elder members of the species to go into hibernation.

Camera catches subject asleep at his desk. Members of the crew draw on the subject’s face, making him look like a pirate. While this occurs, the narrator speaks the next batch of dialogue.

The young are often left to fend on their own, with parents unwilling to pay for student loans, (starts shifting out of HWW-type voice) forcing them to work at dead end jobs, stifling their ambition, because dammit, I...(shifts back into HWW-type voice)...the call of the young has come to symbolize Canada’s wilderness because of their lonely, haunting quality...

CREW VOICE: (simultaneously with next line)
Focus, man,’ll wake him up! We’re not done yet!

(out of HWW voice) Sorry,but I want this job so bad. I always wanted to be the person behind Hinterland Who’s Who. I love that music so much! Shoot, I’m not talking in the voice...I’ve got to stay (switches to HWW voice) in the voice and tone that narrators of this species use to communicate vital information.

The subject is woken from his slumber by a phone call. In a dopey state, wanders away, notices co-workers staring at him. A person mimes what has been done to his face. A look of intense rage runs across his face, as he grabs the nearest phone. A security guard arrives.

Hi guys, we’ve just received a complaint from Mr. Smith about your behaviour around him. Everyone likes a joke, but this one is interfering with business. So, how about we pack it and move elsewhere?

Flute player begins playing

Oh, and put away the flute until you leave, there’s no flute playing on the premises. Have a good day gentlemen.

Subject glares at film crew, who attempt to wrap up their film before leaving. The flute player does not put their instrument away, playing the familiar tune

For more information, contact the Canadian Wildlife Service...

May I remind you that you have been asked to leave the premises and put the flute away (points to sign - NO FLUTE PLAYING ALLOWED). Please pack it and leave the building. Please leave before you require an escort out.

The narrator, not easily deterred, continues commenting on the situation

When in danger, the elderly John Smith relies on the assistance of tougher members of the species...

As he talks, other security guards gather to usher the film crew out. The subject appears, and one remaining camera focuses on him. For the first time in the film, we hear him talk. Garbled flute playing is heard, growing fainter.

For the complete story on how to find other work in the filmmaking field, contact Employment and Revenue Canada, Ottawa.

Near the end of this line, graphics similar to those used for the Canadian Wildlife Service appear. Fade to "Canada" logo.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

dia 134: tugboat bill wants to move you

Tugboat Bill wants to move you. He really does.

The latest chapter in the shifty movers phone message saga (last chapter ws on January 6th - see the archive) found our intrepid moving with a new name and "new" spokesperson. Best Price Movers is now Athletic Movers, and Janos/Jimmy/Boris/Reggie is now Tugboat Bill. He has also lost any trace of an accent and even appears to be taking lessons in concise diction (not as many "ummmm...s" tonight). I saved it, and will dig for the tape recorder that's buried somewhere in the bunker to tape it. One of these has to be immortalized.

It's Day 134 of 2004, according to the TTC transfer. A busy one, as far as 134th days go. Pushed loads of paper of work, with one-page documents flying fast and furious. I keep praying none are lost in the shuffle (there have been close calls, but none would have been earth-shattering). Saw off Andrew (our team's coordinator), who's off to relax in Greece for three weeks. Went outside briefly at lunch, but fled back indoors to escape the sauna. Looks like we've gone from winter to summer. Saw the Groucho Lady puffing away illegally in the Yonge-Eg Centre. Got an e-mail from CFRU offering me a slot every other Friday for the rest of summer (would like to accept, but indicated at least 4-5 Fridays are washouts).

After work, headed down to the west side for dinner at the Parkdale Gang's. Dee cooked up some BBQ chicken and a food I used to hate but Dad would now be proud of for me eating: asparagus (ah, memories of him driving outside Harrow to either stop at the asparagus stands or pluck it out of the ditches). Now eating things like the green stalk, sweet potatoes, zucchini...what's next? Back to dinner, it was all good. I took over some initial layouts for posters for her play, which she flipped over (based on the frames used for 40s and 70s DC comics and 60s-70s Marvel). Have to wait for some photos before I head back to the drawing board. Kiersten woke up from a nap and we all watched the last episode of friends (loads of camoes, the funniest being Robbie Coltrane as Daphne's indecipherable brother).

Dia 134 is almost done. Chatted a little with a new friend. Debating whether to hop into bed immediately or watch some more of the movie I started last night, The Devil and Daniel Webster. A coin toss if it will start or finish Dia 135.

(coin tossed in air...)

It'll end it. Good night, see you soon and drive carefully please.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

the first day-long walk of the spring

Spring's here, time to get the legs into shape. City-length walk!

Started at Yonge and Dundas, to look for a quick bite to eat. Passed on a pamphlet being passed out at the corner, though its name should have led me to give it a glance - Personal Hygiene in Islam. Next time I'm down there, I should take one and see what other works in that series I can come up (Changing Kitty Litter in Buddhism? Tracing Salmonella in Mormon? Taking Out The Garbage in Shinto?). Fueled up on shrimp and BBQ pork udon noodles at Lantern (Elm & Yonge), then a quick skim through the newly expanded BMV on Edward. It has taken over the space next door for an increased video section, including lots of public domain cheapies. Passed on those, but did put up some old issues of Mojo and Q, along with a cheap 1959 photography annual for future clipart use.

Wandered through the Eaton Centre down to Queen, then headed west. East of Bathurst, my backpack filled up, thanks to cheap 60s Mad magazines and a couple of used DVDs. West of Bathurst, gazed in the ever-changing windows, as more galleries, gift shops and restaurants move into the area. There's a few die-hard old-man hangouts left, but one wonders how many more days they have.

Stared in the windows of all the Polish bakeries along Roncesvalles, tempted to buy anything that would undo the benefits of the walk. Resisted temptation when I figured said goodies would be a crushed mess by the time I got home. Started to feel my energy level wane, so I caught the College streetcar once I hit Dundas. Figured I'd rest a little, then end the walk with a stroll through Little Italy.

One problem: College is a mess, due to streetcar track repairs. The car didn't turn at College, so I stayed on until Ossington, then took the bus up. Uneventful ride, except for a confused guy who held up the bus when he couldn't figure out that his transfer was outdated. Figuring I could use a longer rest and fuel for my tummy, I got off at College and crossed the street to Phil's BBQ. Pulled pork sandwich. Heavenly.

Browsed in Soundscapes on the way back east. Overheard heard some funky-looking twentysomething women ask the clerk if he had any Red Sovine. Yup, the king of maudlin country trucker monologues. Another case of stifling laughter before I left the store.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

back on the air

For the first time in ages, went out to Guelph Friday night to spin some tunes on CFRU. New equipment caused slight technical snafus, but the night went well. Had proof someone was listening - got a phone call from one of my old co-workers who still has a show on the station (good to hear from ya, Big John!).

The playlist 11PM Apr 30-1:05AM May 1

The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash
Thought this would make a good opener, after seeing Dawn of the Dead.

Tear Stained Letter - Richard Thompson
In The Cold, Cold Ground - The White Stripes
Belleville Rendez-Vous (English) - Ben Charest
Desculpe, Baby - Os Mutantes
No connection between any of these tunes.

Make It Easy On Yourself - Jerry Butler
I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself - Tommy Hunt
(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me - Lou Johnson
Nikki - Burt Bacharach
Do You Know The Way To San Jose? - Dionne Warwick
A set of Burt Bacharach tunes, including two obscure original versions of well-known songs. The first one surprised me when I discovered it in a karaoke book at the Gladstone Hotel.

Seek You - Mellow
Tape Deck in His Tractor - Dottie Cormier
Rubber Room - Porter Wagoner
A Hundred And Sixty Acres - Marty Robbins
Easy To Be Hard - Hair Original Off-Broadway Cast
The Old Man's Back Again - Scott Walker
Judy Is A Punk - The Ramones
Started off as a soundtrack-related set, but then I went off the rails, figuring the Robbins tune would fit after the Cormier.

DaVinci's Inquest Theme - Tim McCauley
Creamsicle - Dave Lang
Don't Become The Thing You Hate - Destroyer
Plastics For 500, Bob - Shadowy Men
One Ring Jane - Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck
That's Just A Thought That I Had In My Mind - The Ugly Ducklings
Kick It - Peaches and Iggy Pop
The Earth Revolves Around You - Ginger
Canadian corner, to bring my CanCon up to par.

Gimme Danger - Iggy & The Stooges
The Love Below (Intro)/Love Hater - Outkast
The Walking Blues (Walk Right in, Walk Right Out) - Fluffy Hunter
The dangers and fun of love. Yes, the Fluffy Hunter tune is a double-entendre (from a collection of raunchy 50s R&B).

The Girl With No Name - The Byrds
Citizen Freak - 49th Parallel
Werewolf - The Frantics
Meet on The Ledge - Fairport Convention
The Day We Caught The Train - Ocean Colour Scene
New Enemy - Sarah Harmer
Walking In Space - Quincy Jones
Nothing in common, other than to (a) bring up CanCon some more (49th Parallel, Harmer) and (b) a long tune to give me time to start putting discs away in the library (Jones, which also connected to the Hair tune played earlier). The Frantics here are no connection to the Canadian comedy troupe, but a 60s instrumental band.