Tuesday, April 27, 2004

interview with the tortoise

Was flipping through Time magazine at work last week and one obituary stood out from the others. Timothy the Tortoise, a British Navy mascot who witnessed the bombing of Sevastopol during the Crimean War (in 1854) has died in her early 160s. Yes, she - according to the article, Timothy's true gender wasn't discovered until "an ill-fated mating attempt in 1926".

Before she died, the Warehouse sent a reporter to interview this living piece of history.

INTERVIEWER: Timothy, you're the last survivor of the Crimean war. How does it feel to be the last witness of that incredible event?
TIMOTHY: (makes tortoise sounds, nods head slowly)
INTERVIEWER: So you got a real charge out of the Charge of the Light Brigade?
TIMOTHY: (hides head in shell)

INTERVIEWER: Sorry, you've heard that joke for 150 years, must be tired of it by now.
TIMOTHY: (pops head back out)
INTERVIEWER: I understand you were one of the first women to join the navy, though nobody knew it at the time.
TIMOTHY: (more tortoise sounds)
INTERVIEWER: You wanted to see the world, rather than stay at home with the eggs. How did you feel when your cover was blown?
TIMOTHY: (more tortoise sounds, nods head)
INTERVIEWER: You now felt you could be a role model for the lasses, should you could handle the rigours of war, even if it was in a supporting role. Who was the most admirable officer you served under?
TIMOTHY: (stares blankly)

INTERVIEWER: The memory isn't what it used to be. Pity. Let's think of something you might have stronger memories of...what's your take on Posh and Becks?
TIMOTHY: (makes sound vaguely like a snort)
INTERVIEWER: Alright, alright, sorry about that question. You wanted to talk about your historic legacy, not about a story you're tired of hearing about 24/7. But it is the news of the day...
TIMOTHY: (starts crawling away)
INTERVIEWER: Before you go, one last question. Any secrets to living such a long life, to enjoy over 70 years of retirement as you have?
TIMOTHY: (makes muffled sounds, but continues to crawl away)
INTERVIEWER: "I'm a tortoise, think about it!" Hmmm, what could she mean by that...better consult the research department about tortoises and their habits.

Monday, April 26, 2004

talkin' loud (and sayin' nothin')

There are times whenever I'm driving between Amherstburg and Ontario where I've gone through all the CDs I brought along for the trip or the other drivers are too insane to take your hand off the wheel for more than a second to change the CD. Unfortunately, the radio landscape is bleak. Lots of signals come in at night, but most provide entertainment for all the wrong reasons.

Usually I can get away with CBC, but when the odd program sends my ears screaming, it's time to wander the dial. FM usually proves hopeless, one cookie-cutter, tightly-playlisted station after another. Over to the AM dial, where many a strong signal is wasted on nationally-syndicated talk shows. All these stations from far-flung locales like St. Louis, Philadelphia, Nashville, etc, which could provide interesting windows on what's going on in those locales. Still, I may stay on a station for a few minutes to see how much lower the pole has fallen.

Things you notice after checking out a few of these cheap air-fillers:

1) Those callers who froth the most usually reveal their ignorance of the subject at hand by getting their insult terminology wrong. For example, if you're going to bash someone for being too far to the left for your liking, the insult to use is "commie" or "pinko", not "Nazi" or "neo-fascist", which are more appropriate for the person calling in.

2) Every third caller will be an old grump who wants to the good ol' days, when food was bland and prejudice was
cool.

3) Every fourth caller is there to inflate the host's ego.

4) Most US talk show hosts sound as if they attended the William Shatner Academy of Dramatic Pauses. Through generous use of dramatic spacing, they can stretch an item that should take 30 seconds to read into a 5-minute melodrama. These pauses must be accompanied by a tone of outrage, no matter how small the item is.

5) Commercial breaks will contain no local content, unless it's a station from Soviet Canuckistan. The ad selection will always include Larry King promoting a pseudo-health product (all of which sound alike, be it garlic tablets or orange juice), death-related topics (funerals or wills) and Hooked on Phonics. If it's a particularly right-wing and/or religious station, add in promos from groups like Focus on the Family.

6) When there is a local newscast, the only stories covered will be the latest homicide/major arrest and the tiniest tidbit of news about (name of musician/fancier of chimps and children banned from this website).

7) When all else fails, callers blame the Jews/Muslims/Non-Believers/Feminists/ Homosexuals/Educated Elite/Illumnati/the guy who invented the parking meter/aliens from the planet Krang-Kor and other grand conspirators for all our miseries ("Yeah, Bob, first, may I say I think your show is the best! I just wanted to say that I stubbed my toe, but it's the Krang-Korians that caused the porn video, sent by them to tempt me into damnation, to be in the way. It's all a conspiracy, Bob!")

Saturday, April 17, 2004

random notes

Other Things That Used To Be
An e-mail from Nat reminded me of one other chain whose former locations are easily identified - Red Lobster. While in university, I used to go with my friend Dayna once a year to splurge at the Red Lobster at the bottom of Gordon Hill. The building still looks like it should be tossing garlic cheese biscuits to those who enter, but it's been home to the Guelph Animal Hospital for awhile. The other ex-RL I know of in that area is a 50s diner in Cambridge on Hespeler Rd, where the major change was a paint job.

I Asked Her For Washer Fluid, All I Got Was Kill Bill 2
Yet another night where one intention leads to something completely different. Headed over to the local branch of my employer to stock up on windshield washer fluid for a weekend roadtrip. Didn't feel like going home, so I stopped at nearby electronics stores to check prices on VCRs. Mine went up to the great videotape library in the sky the other night, thanks to a tape that wouldn't come out. When it decided to emerge from its happy place, it brought the loading mechanism along for the ride. Lesson to all - never watch video tapes with public domain material on a VCR that does not have manual tracking control.

Still didn't feel like heading home, so I drove up to Fairview Mall to catch Kill Bill 2. I suspect this had been in the back of my mind all day, after the glowing reviews in the morning papers. Stood in line to get into the theatre, which was 75% teenage guys peering out the window commenting on the girls in the food court below. The ones next to me were fixated on a woman with a clipboard and short t-shirt. I didn't blame them.

Once in the theatre, one guy got up twice to announce the score in the latest chapter of the Battle of Ontario (Leafs won 2-0). The guys behind me wondered if the Raptors would ever receive the same attention - don't think they were hockey fans. Trailers followed, with a collective groan when the first one was revealed to be Seed of Chucky. Odd thing about the cheapo Rainbow chain - they don't waste 10 minutes on ads, just head straight into the trailers.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

cloney times and crawl-space dwelling magazines

Gee, I Wonder What That Used To Be...
I'm sure you've seen them - former locations of well-known or deceased chains that the current owners have barely been able to hide their former identity. Some only go as far as changing a letter or two, like most of the former Coffee Time locations in Toronto (expect a photoessay before the summer is out, if I remember where the Coffee Lime is). Here's a site that tracks down many of these alternately funny and sad pieces of the urban landscape. Toronto is well represented, with at least three places I pass regularly (the Country Site Cafe near the Gladstone, the Chinese Hut at Kennedy & Ellesmere and the Harty Market on O'Connor).

President's Choice Memories of The Crawl Space Sports Yearbooks

As mentioned briefly last time around, I've started the long task of going through my father's musty collection of old sports yearbooks. I used to spend hours pouring through the Street & Smith Baseball books from the 70s, asking him about the skills of the players pictured. Often it was mid-range players who were pictured year-after-year - they loved using the same shot of Enzo Hernandez.

Most of the yearbooks were football, the sport you couldn't tear him away from (I tried to develop an interest, even playing for a year in high school, but hockey and baseball were more my speed). He'd collected them since childhood and they managed to be one of the few collectables my grandparents didn't dispose of. He always said that they had a stretch where his things had to be "educational" so out went the comic books (which sounds like it would have been early 50s issues of Blackhawk), wrestling mags and sports cards (he claimed to have had two 1952 Topps Mickey Mantles, which might have funded another year of university). When it came to football I liked looking at the ads, especially the cheesy headlines used by gambling handicappers ("If you haven't heard of Danny Sheridan, you've been dead for five years!"). Gamblers, bizarre posed shots and the musty smell from their storage place gave these yearbooks character, especially is the lesser-branded ones where literary value was dubious.

On Fryer St, we stored them in the crawl space, along with Mom's preserves, Christmas decorations and 60s genre paperbacks. They smelled musty but stayed in reasonable shape. When we moved to Crownridge, we moved them to the new crawl space. They quickly grew damp, which ruined those near the bottom of the boxes. Didn't think of the effects of the nearby sump pump. Some of the oldest yearbooks had to go, damp with mould. They sat, unread but dry, in the shed. When Dad passed away, I decided these would be something I'd wait a few years before deciding what to do with them.

Though they contain many childhood memories, the future doesn't appear to have physical room for these. I might hang on to a couple, but most will be put up for sale. Those too far gone in the preservation department, due to lack of covers, heavy rips or missing pieces, I'll hack up to use pictures and advertising for clipart.

Thanks for keeping them for so long, Dad.

Monday, April 05, 2004

new york stories (3)

A little Big Apple housecleaning before plunging forward...

I sent the titles of the episodes of Hasta En Las Mejores Familias over to Kiersten for translation. These shows make a little more sense now, though still bizarre:

Show #1 - Mi pareja me hablo tanto de su amigo, me enamoré de él.
My partner talks so much about their friend that I've fallen in love with them (the friend).

Show #2 - Mi madre ama a su pareja y a mi me hizo a un lapo.
My mother loves her partner and she puts me aside.

Show #3 - Me gano la vida como payaso, pero mi hijo no me accepta.
I enjoy life as a clown but my child won't accept me.

Moving on...

Day 3
Me - Greenwich Village/Soho/Union Square
Amy - Soho/Upper West Side
Together - Curry Hill/Little Italy/Chinatown/City Hall


The split day, where we wandered off to do our own thing. Both of us avoided the St. Patrick's Day parade, but saw enough people decked out for it to get a feel for it. Lots of big green hats, makeup, buttons, etc. I might have checked it out, but for security reasons backpacks were banned (plus read some groups were prohibited from marching). Some Orangemen ancestors might have turned in their graves had we gone.

I started off by walking south on Lexington, towards Gramercy Park. Passed an armoury, where a group in Civil War-era uniforms prepared for the parade. Wound up at the park, the largest private green space in town.

Weaved over to Greenwich Village, first with a stop for a quick bite at Gray's Papaya. This must be the home of the cheapest meal deal in town - two hot dogs and a large fresh fruit drink for less than $3, the "inflation special". Headed back and forth along the side streets, using Bleecker as my home base. Snapped shots of several places Elizabeth and I went to last time, but never had to chance to shoot. Scored on several cheap books at a store on Carmine St whose name would normally make me flee in terror...

(image to be restored at later date)
There's a hint of a joke in there, as if it truly lived up to its name, several authors should not have been present (hello Robert Crumb).

Slowly ambled on in the snow towards Soho, where I ran into Amy, who'd been merrily window-shopping. We agree we needed a rest and headed back to the hotel to collapse for an hour.

We split off again - she headed to the Upper West Side, while I followed a lead on a CD store on W. 18th St. I'd never found a used that matched the fun of digging through my haunts in Detroit and Montreal. Flipped through the Yellow Pages, saw a large ad for Academy, decided it was a destination.

Finally found the gold mine. All I'll say is (a) they had a decent 4/$10 bin and (b) I walked out with the type of bag they usually give out at fashion stores.

We met back up for dinner and decided to sample one of the Indian restaurants on "Curry Hill". Ended up at Udipi Palace, which advertised itself as "Kosher Indian Veg Cuisine". Another hit, as Amy discovered she liked dosas (she had one with cheese, I had one with spinach). Used more caution in ordering than the night before, but still walked out stuffed.

To burn it off, we headed down to Little Italy, starting off at the same spot on Spring St we'd run into each other earlier. She gave into temptation for NY cheesecake and we stopped at a little cafe in the heart of the Little Italy strip on Mulberry. In middle of our dessert, two guys walked in who looked like they came out of a casting call for a Martin Scorsese flick. You couldn't have picked two more stereotypical-looking mob types. Dark suits, chat with the owner, gratuitous use of "capeesh"...all the ingredients were there. I stifled the impulse to go BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

After dessert, we continued wandering south, through Chinatown towards City Hall. Lots of security stations around the latter, giving the area an eerie feel. Only saw a few people walking by, began to feel like I was in a spy thriller with all the alleyways. Called it a night there, except that I got off at Astor Place to take one last look at Kim's. Walked out with two more DVDs. Lots of drunk students out in the East Village that night.

Had to get up bright and early the next morning to catch the train back to Toronto. The ride back flew by faster. Sleeping for half of it helped. We lost oour stretching room when we hit Canada, as our car was closed off. Wound up by teens who liked playing with matches. The smell was too much, so Amy snapped at them. We arrived on time, dropped off

FIN - JB, with help from AB, KE

lick it up

Made a trip to the gym this evening. Thirsty as hell after a decent workout. Had craving for a shake to restore the calories I just worked off. Headed across the street to Licks, where I was the first customer in ages.

Licks is a regional burger chain whose menu includes veggie burgers that could almost convince me to give up beef. Their schtick is employees who chant, sing, etc as they prepare your food. Annoying at times, amusing at others. Tonight was the latter. It sounded like they were so bored out of their skulls before I showed up that any excitement would. Out came the cowbell and several serenades...

Decided to have a shake with mango sherbet as the base. One of the girls behind the counter insisted I try her variation, using Sprite instead of milk for a smoothie-like drink. What the hey - it would go down better than a pure shake. Another girl pooh-poohed the idea, insisting I'd get a refund if it was crap. It wasn't. I might have joined in the goofiness more if I wasn't slightly dazed from peddling for 45 minutes.

Their energy level was so high, it was as if they'd inhaled too many solvents cleaning the joint. Better to see that attitude than folks shooting daggers out of their eyes as the last hour of work approaches (a feeling I knew all too well during my fast-food slave days on beautful Bob-Lo Island).

silly product names department

Question: A Lassy Mog is
(a) the Scottish sister of John Candy's character in Spaceballs
(b) someone's misspelling of "mossy log"
(c) the next big thing from the UK
(d) a new cookie from Loblaws

If you said (d) congrats. If you said (a), I don't think any of the studios are in the market for a sequel.

Some products live on in our memories, if only because we can't forget how dumb the name bestowed on them was. Some of the ones that stick in my mind:

Bubba Cola - available at the Sav-A-Lot grocery chain in the States. Typical generic cola, which passes my test for drinkability, which requires it taste better than Master Choice or Chateau. Accurate description of what the stuff will do to you. Better than the name implies. Other bizarro-world named sodas from this chain include Tubz (root beer) and Patch (strawberry).

Tofurkey - sounds too obscene.

Memories of Cedar Springs Sauce - the President's Choice folks trawl the world for memorable sauces. Lyon, Agra, Singapore, Thailand, Cedar Springs...for the curious, Cedar Springs is a tiny town south of Chatham, Ontario, in the heart of the onion belt. Nothing exciting going on there. Too bad nobody came up with these sauces:
* Memories of Hamilton - glaze sauce for beignets, invented by a Mr. Horton
* Memories of Quebec - thick cheese sauce with bits of curd, excellent for poutine
* Memories of Sarnia - thick sauce made out of mysterious chemicals

Batchelor's All Day Breakfast - in a can! British product which contained "chopped egg nuggets" along with beans, sausage and bacon. Thought about bringing one back as a conversation piece. Likely now on the international list of weapons of mass destruction.

Goo Goo Cluster - a southern favourite, a chocolate-covered mix of all sorts of sugary stuff. Good, but won't cause you to make baby noises after downing one, though you might grow as chubby as a baby.

Frozen Faggots in a West Country Gravy - another UK product, some sort of frozen meatball. Not that there's anything wrong with that...this product has an infinite number of double-entendres wrapped up in its name.

Gassosa - what the drink might give. A form of Italian lime soda, less sweet than Sprite or 7UP.

Ugli Fruit - sometimes seen with the politcially-correct moniker "Uniq fruit". The true name doesn't lie, though it's hard to determine which is uglier - ugli fruit or 50s-60s baseball pitcher Don Mossi.