Tuesday, November 29, 2005

the $99.95 timex computer



 From the early days of home computing, when every company with the slightest foothold in the electronics industry jumped into the field. Few friends at the time who had computers - most had the plug-into-the-TV variety pictured here (most of which were Tandys). The height of technology for most kids in A'burg in '82 were arcade games at the bowling alley or Speak and Spell.

Note the memory add-on - 16K of RAM for an extra $49.95! Power within your reach!

From Obsolete Technology site, an overview of the Timex Sinclair 1000 (1982-83). It was the North American version of the British Sinclair ZX-81, evidently a better doorstop than computer. - JB

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

come up to the blue of canada, and enjoy the 1984 detroit tigers



An indication of how much beer advertising has changed in the past 20 years. Don't think I've ever heard anyone wax poetic about the clean, clear outdoorsy feeling that comes over them while knocking back a Blue.

Take a gander at that bottle...were stubbies still in production in '84, when this ad appeared? Or did Canadians keep them in the Great White North?

Note that the importer was located in suburban Buffalo. Was Blue western New York's #1 imported beer?

Many memories of the 1984 Tigers, the last edition of the team to go to the World Series. They stayed in first place all season long, driving the growing number of Blue Jays fans crazy (the Jays were less than a decade old). Watching Jack Morris throw a no-hitter on the NBC Game of the Week. Going to see my second baseball game at Tiger Stadium (forget the results). WDIV sportscaster Al Ackerman's catchphrase that stuck to the team: "Bless You Boys". My beloved Tigers jacket from Montgomery Ward. The burning police car during World Series celebrations. Heady times for a nine-year old baseball nut. - JB

Sunday, November 20, 2005

some of my best rats are friends

While on a stroll downtown a few months ago, I picked up a cheap bound volume of Maclean's magazine, covering the first half of 1979. You'll see plenty of material from this tome when the federal election finally drops, as these issues cover the campaign that led to Joe Clark's minority government.

(Yeah, I know the 1980 election is a closer parallel to one we're about to have, but I work with what I have!)

Until then, and until the sun engulfs the earth, I'll dig into these magazines to highlight the ads, as they tell us as much about the time as the articles do. Full-size versions of these ads will also appear on my Flickr site.

Let's begin with a CBC Radio teaser from the January 29, 1979 issue:

If only Ed Grimley was pictured with the singing rats. That would have been comedy gold. Short would have been in his second season onstage with Second City when the show aired.

We're sad to report that the all-rodent musical craze this show spawned lasted 36 minutes in the summer of '79, when the SPCA cracked down on a Montreal theatrical company that used real singing rats during a production of Marat/Sade.

No info on the web about this show, though Google suggests I should check out "some of my best rates are friends". Does anyone know anything about this production? Should CBC have rerun it during the strike?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

gourmet's gallery: president's choice cacciatore cooking sauce

Amidst the gift basket catalogues, photographic equipment flyers and banking sell sheets that have littered my morning paper lately came an old friend, the Insider's Report. Though not as fun to look at since Dave Nichol was dumped years ago, for grocery addicts like me, it's something to look forward to each quarter.

One question crops up everytime: which product to try first.

Simmer sauces are flooding the aisles, a godsend for the time-strapped. Instead of waiting until the weekend, fiddling with 756 spices or cooking late into the night, now you can whip up a semi-gourmet meal in minutes. Most beat the pants off Chicken Helper. Cacciatore sounded like the safest bet out of the three new PC sauces Loblaws has introduced (the others being Mushroom and White Wine, which is next on the list, and Stroganoff, a dish I've long resisted after too many bad cafeteria renditions).

Package Notes: Italian-flag influenced colours. Appetizing picture of chicken mixed with sauce on a bed of farfalle. Eye-pleasing layout on label, an element Loblaws has long excelled at. Just compare a PC or No Name label with, say, A&P's Equality/Master Choice (though I like the new uniform look of Sobey's Compliments line).

The Insider's Report offers this description:
Cacciatore offers authentic Italian flavour. Diced tomatoes, red and green peppers, balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices. Terrific with chicken over pasta.

What's It Like?: The sauce is full of the promised ingredients, with a chunky texture. Not heartburn-inducing. Strong hint of tomato paste.

Would You Buy It Again?: Sure. The tomato paste hint isn't as strong as bad spaghetti sauces, and it's a nice base for adding other ingredients (I recommend mushrooms or zucchini). 

Thursday, November 10, 2005

the backstreets of toronto: kensington place

Most weekends, I take a "Sunday Constitutional" walk downtown. The route rarely deviates - start at Osgoode station, head out Queen West, then backtrack through Kensington Market. Any health benefits are usually reversed by snacks along the way - try resisting a warm pupusa or empanada on Augusta or goodies from the bakeries along Baldwin. Vendors and pedestrians vie for space along the sidewalks. Crowded, but cozy.

And full of short side streets to wander.

The next few installments will explore the neighbourhood, starting with a hidden street that shares the area's name - Kensington Place (marked in green below).




According to the Kensington Alive Virtual Tour, Kensington Place, along nearby streets Fitzroy Terrace and Glen Baillie Place, was built around 1888 to provide homes for English construction workers, the first of many immigrant waves in the neighbourhood.


The gateway to Kensington Place, on Kensington Ave slightly south of St. Andrew. This marks the northern edge of the clothing stores that line the avenue, which were hopping with last-minute Halloween shoppers the day these photos were taken (more on this in an upcoming Fitzroy Terrace post).


Closeup on the entrance sign. Unless the alley has another name or is considered part of the street, Kensington Place might not intersect any other TO road. If there was a standard white sign, it's long gone - I imagine it would be one of those items somebody has stashed in a backyard or uses as home decor.


Walking up the tag-filled approach. Neighbourhood watch dead ahead.


A rare example of a DIY street sign in Toronto, suited to the neighbourhood's vibe. May no stickler from the city attempt to replace this with a newfangled large street sign!


The north end of Kensington Place, complete with a place to sit, unlike most of the market (public benches, not patios).


Here, have a seat. Grab a book from your backpack. Observe the row housing. Relax and stare at...


...the fishiest dwelling on the block.


The south end of the street. Very quiet compared to the bustle of Kensington Ave - the only action happening was a resident raking leaves. Might be ideal for NHL rink-length game of road hockey.


More tagging on the east side of the street, just before it's time to head back down the approach.


Heading back to Kensington Ave. Fruit stand dead ahead, with scientific experiments in organic decay on display.

An audio guide to Kensington Place, located at Murmur.

The stroll around Kensington Market will continue... - JB

Monday, November 07, 2005

a biscuit, a basket...

If you subscribe to a newspaper like I do, chances are you've received a flood of flyers for pricy gift baskets over the past few weeks. Usually inserted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, these catalogues offer "distinctive" arrays of nuts, chocolates, cookies, pasta sauces, smoked salmom, baby toys and other products, often from brands that only exist in the realm of gift baskets. Company names may be plain and simple (The Basket Company), personal (Peter & Paul's), brick and mortar stores (Pusateri's), punny (Nutcracker Sweet) or flat-out weird (Gift-O-Crat).

Some of the crazier basket names discovered in this year's catalogues:

Equity Shares (The Basket Company): I'm guessing a former bean-counter runs this outfit. Dividends from your $65 investment include nuts, chocolate truffles, camembert and a planter.

Patient Pleasures (The Basket Company): Nothing says get well to a friend in the hospital than $55 worth of sugary snacks, playing cards and Reader's Digest, especially when treatment dictates nourishment through a tube.

The Coxwell (Gift-O-Crat): Somehow, Lindt chocolate and $65 worth of cocoa treats doesn't remind me of Coxwell Ave. Model cars crashing into each other while turning left at Danforth would be more appropriate.

The Kensington (Gift-O-Crat): Basket companies love to apply English names with a hint of class. I think I'd be happier with a Kensington Market basket, which would be loaded with goodies like empanadas, dried beans, Jamaican bread pudding, baked goods, etc.

Decorator's Choice (Nutcracker Sweet): $125 of sweets and salmon pate in a plain black leather box. Unless it's for magazine storage, I fail to see the decorating connection. Maybe a deluxe, silver-plated paint tray?

Fond Of You (Peter and Paul's): Fondue. Ha ha.

***

All of this inspires the Warehouse to create its own line of baskets, that capture markets ignored by most basket-makers.

The 1960s Home Chef Basket
* One tin of Spam
* Three packages of Jell-O (orange, lime, strawberry)
* One container of Miracle Whip, with a special 1965-era label
* One can of creamed corn
* One large package of Velveeta
* One tin sliced pineapple with heavy syrup
* One package of Warehouse FinestTM Frankfurters with Extra Nitrates
* One bottle of Dexedrine
* A reprint of Better Homes & Gardens Jiffy Cooking (1967)(see here for more details).

The 1970s Home Chef Basket
* One fondue pot
* One bar of Gruyere cheese
* One box of Lasagne Hamburger Helper
* One can of Tab
* One bottle of Baby Duck
* One bag of Earth Goddess Crunchy Granola
* Three packages of Warehouse FinestTM Plain Gelatin
* One can fruit cocktail in heavy syrup
* One Warehouse FinestTM Riche Quiche Mix
* "101 Ways to Make Fondue and Aspic" cookbook

Factor the Fear Basket
* One can Warehouse FinestTM Earthworms with Italian Herbs
* One can Warehouse FinestTM Beetles in Ginger Soy Marinade
* One can Warehouse FinestTM Grubs in Tex-Mex Sauce
* One box Warehouse FinestTM Breaded Lemon-Pepper Rattlesnake
* One bag Warehouse FinestTM Gummy Spiders with Real Tarantula Legs
* One pint cobra venom
* One airplane sickness bag - JB