Tuesday, May 30, 2006

everything you always wanted to know about the caloric intake of the british military in 1814 (*but were unafraid to ask)

Fort York Skyline
Caught little of Doors Open on the weekend. Got a late start on Saturday, so I drove down Jarvis, figuring there might be enough time to crawl from mansion to mansion. Long lines at 3pm scuttled that idea. My mind raced to figure out any location that wouldn't be overwhelmed.

Cue my first visit ever to Fort York.

I arrived in time to latch onto the final guided tour of the day, a trip around the barracks. The group started with around 10, ended closer to 25. One family was mildly annoying in the first barrack as hey fiddled around with loud, static-filled walkie-talkies while the guide was speaking.

When discussion came to the enlisted soldier's diet, a stern-faced, baseball-cap wearing woman had a stream of questions about the "caloric intake" of a soldier. She seemed distressed that they ate so little. She also barked at the walkie-talkies. She then made a lengthy speech about class warfare, before returning to "caloric intake". The guide appeared to take this in stride.

We moved over to the officers' quarters. When question time rolled around, another question about the officers' "caloric intake". Some heads began to be scratched.

The last stop on the tour was the kitchen behind the mess hall. Take a wild guess as to the first question, its source and and least two words used in the query.

Cue the rest of the group rolling their eyes or stifling laughs. Can't make this stuff up.

Blockhouse Shine

After the tour, I wandered around the rest of the grounds, finding cool relief from the heat in the blockhouses. Shockingly, none of the exhibits made any mention of "caloric intake". - JB

Monday, May 29, 2006

reason #353 I should bring my camera everywhere (especially when there's a ttc walkout)

The view from my department's 10th floor office of the gridlock on the southbound lanes of Yonge. A solid line of cars to the horizon. One of the reasons I'm glad I live within walking distance of work. Saw some road rage on the way in, due to drivers unfamiliar with the fine workings of the Yonge/Soudan/Berwick intersection (a van stopped in the middle of Yonge produced a symphony of horns). - JB

UPDATE #1: It's almost 11 AM and traffic is still crawling down Yonge. Wonder how many people decided to chuck it.

UPDATE #2: Coming back from lunch around 1, there were still a few confused souls asking a TTC staffer by the SW Yonge-Eg entrance to the subway station why there was a barricade in front of the escalator to the station. Traffic on Yonge has returned to normal.

UPDATE #3: Surfing the web, Toronto is mad. Very mad. If comments are taken literally, lynch-mob mad. I originally had posted some comments asking people to catch their breath, thinking maybe the heat was aggravating everyone's tempers. New conclusion: wow, did the TTC union pull a boner this time. People are pissed off enough to start tossing words that make me queasy ("privitization"). Recent PR fiascos from both the union and the TTC on a variety of issues are further blackening mass transit's eye in TO.

UPDATE #4 (4:15 PM): Looks like limited service will resume this evening, with full service back up tomorrow.

One thing that makes me laugh and cry at the same time while reading comments across the web: the number of people using this as an excuse to blast the "left-wingers" in City Hall and in general. That style of blame-gaming fills me with disgust, where political platitudes outweigh the issues at hand. I just heard David Miller on CBC and he didn't sound like somebody rubbing his hands with glee over what happened today. Those comments, more than anything else, wanted me to hope that there were cooler heads out there, that it was a bad day and we move on. To what, I can't answer.

Anybody want to lay bets on what the cover of The Sun will say tomorrow? Or where in the city the first burning effigies of TTC workers will be paraded?

LAST WORD: Transit Toronto has an excellent summary and view on the day's events.

Friday, May 26, 2006

walking at liberty

After reading their site for awhile, I went out on a Toronto Psychogeography Society walk last night. An article in the Globe this weekend was the final push I needed to check them out.

Last night's trek: Liberty Village.

Chairs In The Mist
Near the Toy Factory Lofts, we wandered by a warehouse full of tables, chairs and antique furniture. The haze in this picture is due to the dust encrusted on the window, likely from the heavy construction in the area.

Toilet #1 Toilet #2
Down by the Gardiner, we wandered into an abandoned building. I had never really in one before, though I've been curious about sneaking into one ever since discovering various sites on Detroit's abandoned gems. My overactive spider-sense kicked in early - a few initial creaks from a corner sent half the group scurrying out of the building. When nothing popped out, we wandered back in within a few minutes. Though there was enough light filtering through to not make it a blind trip through the building, most of the items required a snapshot or two to figure out what we wandered by. The property had been vacant for some time - shattered windows, dust-covered floor, remnants of furniture, etc. A major find: a pair of toilets that wouldn't have been out of place in Trainspotting.

Up A Level
The ground floor included this raised level.

Office Set
The remains of an office on the raised level.

The Vehicle of Eyes
Besides abandoned office furniture, there was this "eyes"-ful of a vehicle.

There are more pictures on Flickr.

Definitely going to check out future walks... - JB

Thursday, May 25, 2006

death of a 1960s hotel

Death of a 1960s Hotel
Among the many things I did over the long weekend was snap some shots of the Inn on the Park demolition. Once the abode of the jet set, the hotel gradually declined until its closure early last year (though my family stayed there a few times in its Holiday Inn phase and found the rooms were fine enough for them).

The following pictures were shot under wind tunnel conditions. The grey, drizzly skies felt appropriate while looking at the remains of the complex.

Boarded Up Peeling Away
Until I drove around the site, I hadn't realized just how run down the exterior had become, especially on the side walls at the back of the east tower.

To Check In No More
The lobby entrance, facing Eglinton. Note the crooked light.

Graffiti artists making use of a temporary canvas, next to a site directory.

I almost succeeded in creating enough shadow to shoot this picture of an interior sign by the east side ballroom entrance. Almost.

Coming Soon: Retirees
The fate of the west tower (in front of the east). The rest of the property is slated to become a car dealership.

There are more photos on Flickr.

The Toronto Star's Christopher Hume on the start of the demolition.
National Post article outlining its history.
Commentary from Spacing.
Notes from the Urban Toronto board, including a 2005 obit for the complex from Toronto Life.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

gourmet's gallery: president's choice diet pomegranate sparkling soda

One of the latest crazes in the drink aisle is pomegranate. Previously known as either an ingredient in Persian dishes or that funny red fruit that's neat to pluck the seeds out of, many companies have jumped on the bandwagon to promote its antioxidant levels. I'm waiting for the inevitable Larry King pomegranate AM radio ad.

Loblaws has jumped into the fray with half-a-dozen pomegranate-based or related products, including today's test subject.

Aside: Loblaws' attempts to compete with Wal-Mart have turned me off. I used to like their grocery chains the best, but now...meh. Business papers have reported on Loblaws' struggles with their supply chain, as the company has moved too quickly into building Real Canadian Superstores. These problems are glaring whenever you walk into their stores: half-empty shelves, items in permanent disarray, specials not in stock, etc. The household items I have tried lack quality (storage containers with lids that won't stay on, socks with holes after one wear). Stores that shut down deli counters and store vegetables away long before closing time, especially odd given Loblaws does not run 24-hour stores like Metro/A&P (Dominion) or Sobeys. They also appear to be cannibalizing their own stores - I will be amazed if the Millwood/Redway Loblaws is open this time next year, as it's a ghost town on my rare trips there.

It's also interesting to note that Loblaws has closed most of their smaller neighbourhood locations in the past decade, embracing giant suburban stores, while smaller stores owned by Metro/A&P and Sobeys are opening or renovated. Based on a recent report in the Toronto Star, Loblaws may be learning a lesson as it looks at a new, half-superstore sized downtown store design.

Package Notes: Bubbly background with a sliced, high-contrast pomegranate. Note that it's "naturally flavoured", which I should have taken as an omen.

What It Tastes Like: Medicinal. Tried the first one warm and it tasted like carbonated cough syrup. Cold, it tasted like cold carbonated cough syrup. It even has the magenta hue of cherry Robitussin.

There are fruits I prefer artificial flavour over real, such as grapefruit. Pomegranate does not appear to fall into that category, unless the artificial sweeteners add that bouquet of Benylin.

Would You Buy It Again?: Not unless I require a chaser the next time I have a hacking cough.

Monday, May 22, 2006

wendy's tackles soviet fashion shows

Wendy's was on an advertising roll in the mid-to-late 80s, hitting gold with the "Where's the Beef" campaign. Two others stick out in my mind: one where a customer is told to "step aside, please, step aside" and today's find, 1985's "Russian Fashion Show". None of these drew my family into Wendy's (we were Harvey's diehards until they changed the fries), but they lingered on in memory. Ask my sister how many times I've brought up this ad with no provovcation.

Some background on this commercial, from Bernice Kanner's 1999 book The 100 Best TV Commercials:

The commercial, called the best Cold War spoof since Dr. Strangelove, first aired during the week of the Reagan/Gorbachev Geneva conference. Viewers flooded the company's Ohio headquarters with complaints that it could jeopardize the preace process. "People don't really take commercials like these seriously," director Joe Sedelmaier said. "They recognize it's all in the spirit of fun."

The commerical was inspired by the classic movie Ninotchka, in which Greta Garbo was supposedly amazed by the freedom of choice Americans enjoyed as contrasted with the lmited choice Russians have. The model in the spot, which cost $250,000, was actually a man, Howard Fishler, whom Sedelmaier had used to play a woman once before in an Alaska Airlines spot. They shaved Fishler's eyebrows off and put a wig and glasses on him. Originally Sedelmaier sought three models but on the day of the shoot he decided to use the same one and have "her" wear the same thing each time.

"Russian Fashion Show" was shot at the South Shore Country Club in Chicago, its great Byzantine columns creating the aura of the old tsar's palace. Russian lettering on the banner around the promenade actually said, "Keeping your teeth clean at all times is important."
Sadly, the grey potato sack was not the hot fashion of 1985. - JB

Thursday, May 18, 2006

the revenge of jiffy cooking

Jiffy Cooking
Back in 2003, I looked at some of the divine dishes to be found in 1960s Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks due to be purged during Christmas housecleaning. I hung onto 1967's Jiffy Cooking for pure novelty value, as well as how much it reveals about its era.

Besides the dishes mentioned in the original entry, consider these for your next shindig. Shockingly, none of today's recipes involve frankfurters.

Canadian Bacon Stack Ups
Canadian Bacon Stack Ups - layers of ginger-infused mashed sweet potatoes between slices of Canadian Bacon, topped with canned cranberry sauce. "...served with crisp relishes and asparagus spears make a picture-pretty dinner for the hungry family."

Dip A La Spaghetti - dry pasta sauce mix, sour cream and green pepper, recommended as a dip for "crisp vegetables" and Fritos.

Tamale Heros
Tamale Hero Sandwiches - canned tamales tossed on top of sub buns. The picture above is described as "An informal teen-age record party - teen-agers will devour the Tamale Hero Sandwiches, hot from the oven. What better partners than corn chips and pickle-sickles."

Repeat after me: pickle-sickles.

Possibly where my first roomie in university was inspired to make Chef Boyardee sandwiches (unheated ravioli straight out of the can, thrown onto dubious-looking bread).

Boston Beanwich - grilled cheese, but with added baked beans and crispy bacon. Voted Artery-Clogger of the Month by the American Medical Association, September 1967.

Quick Chicken Veronique - "Almost as simple as opening two cans"...the tins being prepackaged chicken a la king, mixed with wine and green grapes!

Yam and Sausage Skillet - "Orange-flavoured gelatin glazes and glamourizes this quick supper of Yam (canned) and Sausage (breakfast link) Skillet. And what it adds to the flavour!"

Yam and Sausage Skillet
I dunno, you be the judge as to how glam this dish is.

Quicky Crullers - Pilsbury crescent rolls perforated, deep-fried, then glazed. Did Tim Horton's rediscover this recipe when they moved to pre-baked donuts?

Chef's Salad in a Roll - One should not deeply ponder the implications of this dish.

Chevron Rice Bake
Chevron Rice Bake - "...features canned luncheon meat in a topnotch way! Clove-studded peaches add flair to the curry-rice mixture - perfect for serving to a group." Note this mishmash also includes eggs, frozen peas and cream of chicken soup. Unconfimed reports indicate the BH&G Test Kichen threw together a week's worth of leftovers for this one.

Scandinavian Sandwich - yes, the combination of Kraft singles, bologna, English muffins and canned green beans conjure Vikings, fjords, little mermaids, Ingmar Bergman and ABBA. The Vikings may have set fire to anyone offering this snack.

Devil's Chowder - consisting of cream of celery soup, creamed corn, deviled ham and milk, the only devilish connection I see is as a fake vomit mixture for a low-budget Satanic possession flick. - JB

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

ye olde etobicoke street sign

While driving along Kingsway near Royal York on Saturday, came across this oddity.
Old Etobicoke Road Sign (2) Old Etobicoke Road Sign (1)

Was this a typical Etobicoke or Kingsway neighbourhood design? This combo now appears to serve as lawn decoration, as a later set of standard Etobicoke signs also mark this intersection.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with road signs. Toronto was a smorgasbord, with the variants of the classic Toronto white sign, the differing blues of Etobicoke, York, North York and Scarborough and the green in Leaside and East York (though the later blue "EY" signs weren't a bad replacement).

Essex County was full of variations. I loved old metal signs that looked out of place with the new (rusted large signs in Anderdon, long skinny signs that barely hung onto their wooden poles in Colchester, classy black and white in St. Clair Beach, decaying Toronto-style white in Kingsville) or rural signs with lettering that either appeared to be hand-drawn (Colchester North) or punched out on a stencil (parts of Gosfield South). The weirdest, yet practical were the street markers that doubled as mini street lights in Tilbury. Time and modern safety considerations made most of these go the way of the dodo.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

the backstreets of toronto: boswell avenue

This installment takes us to the residential streets of the East Annex, where 19th century homes run smack into modern shopping in Yorkville.

Most of the historical information in this entry comes from an October 1993 Toronto Historical Board Report, East Annex Heritage Conservation Study.

The street was named after Arthur Radcliffe Boswell (1838-1925), lawyer, 14-time commodore of the Royal Canadian Yacht Club and mayor of Toronto 1883-84. Boswell's main accomplishment in the latter role was taking care of the city's 50th anniversary celebrations in 1884, as described in Victor Loring Russell's Mayors of Toronto:

Involved in the preparations from the beginning, Boswell received a great deal of praise for his handling of the official duties, and during the public events was the epitome of the congenial host, attending all the events from early morning until late at night. Immaculate, yet robust and extremely enthusiastic, Mayor Boswell was the hit of the fair. (110)

When laid out in 1874, the street was called Victoria, retaining that name until its annexation to Toronto in the 1880s. Early residents were mostly builders, as the street developed into a working-class area. As of 1993, over thirty 19th century buildings remained.

Before starting down Boswell, I found this scrap of paper along Bedford Rd. Is it a new dance craze? Arcane instructions? Secret code?

Here's the starting point - we'll get to the "No Exit" later on, since the map suggests Boswell goes through. Also note the old blue street sign on the house. Many of these still survive around the city - does anyone know how old they are?

The view looking east from Bedford.

A sampling of homes. Many carry THB plaques, from a mid-80s sweep of the neighbourhood. When the street was blocked off at Avenue, street parking was eliminated, causing many homeowners to build pads in their front yards. The THB felt this twas detrimental to Boswell, as it became the street with the fewest trees in the Annex.

The home on top screams of a building that would found at a "pioneer village" in areas where similar residences met the wrecking ball.

This building is the odd man out, sticking out among the homes shown above. I wonder if the builder caught wind of the THB's proposed guidelines for the district.

New buildings or additions should recognize the small scale of neighbouring buildings and not over-power them in height, scale and other design feature.

The small scale of the buildings on Boswell is what gives character to this street. The original details of the buildings are simple, yet based on a sense of proportion and a ratio of window size to building face which should not be altered. On even the smallest lot there is room for a front garden. (120)

As for why Boswell was blocked off, the THB report notes this happened after "a car accident and a personal injury which raised community concern about safety on the street with the rise in traffic on Avenue Road." No date or extent of the injuries was given. Use your imagination for the best/unhappiest scenario.

A parkette now marks the end of Boswell, a place to sit at the end of the walk. If you're too pooped to carry on, head to the bus shelter.

Photos taken April 2006.

Monday, May 08, 2006

road stories department

I spent most of the weekend on the road: Saturday in the Buffalo area, Sunday roaming through Wellington and Dufferin counties. Not much to report about Saturday, other than I find a $2 copy of Time Out London's Cheap Eats guide, which should prove valuable a month from now.
Sunday began with brunch with a friend in Guelph, which served up two of my weaknesses: eggs benedict and back bacon. After, I headed north of the city, destination unknown.

Near Elora, I drove by this attractive site.
Meet Me At The Wrecking Ball?

I think someone decided to set up an open-air apartment in the middle of Pilkington Twp, to get closer to the land...or somebody arrange a load of crap they dumped. Here's two more shots to help you decide.
Wouldn't This Make a Great Record Cover Department Field Couch

I drove into Elora and stumbled upon a book sale held by the Elora Festival. It was the kind of sale Dad would have returned home with books by the boxload, like the Essex County Library sales of my childhood. Prices were in his range (25 cents to $3). It was day two, but a lot of wacky material remained. Overheard one person note "these look like the books I donated five years ago!" I blew $6 - you'll see the results over the next few weeks. Think 1970s Toronto and 1940s vendor-sponsored cooking tips.

Heading out of Elora, I stumbled upon my next discovery of the day.
Irvine St Bridge, Northbound View

A vintage bridge over the Irvine River. Northbound, the bridge is date 1929, southbound 1928. Until I did a little web research, I didn't realize that Irvine was the name of the stream that goes through some of the nicer parts of Elora Gorge.

After finding a stream of dead ends around Luther Marsh, I wound up on old Hwy 25. Nearing Hwy 89, the horizon was suddenly filled with three dozen wind turbines. Guess where my next destination was...

Turbine In The Shadow of The Turbine

The turbines are part of the Melancthon Wind Project, a renewable energy test site. They also serve as a religious shrine for local livestock (you may need to adjust the lighting on this pic for full effect).

Sunday, May 07, 2006

warehouse movie department presents mr. b natural

Since the Warehouse knows you love vintage educational films with modern humourous commentary, we are proud to bring you one of the loopiest representatives of the genre, 1957's Mr. B Natural.

Here's how Ken Smith described today's presentation in his book Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1970:

C.G. Conn, a manufacturer of musical instruments, sponsored this film - and what a film it is. Mr. B Natural is an elflike character played by a middle-aged woman named Betty Luster, who was probably a summer-stock Peter Pan. As Mr. B Natural, she wearts a powder blue Robin Hood cap and blazer covered with musical notes and delivers every line as if it were punctuated with three exclamation marks. Mr. B Natural represents "the spirit of fun in music" and has come to earth to help twelve-year old Buzz Turner discover that being in a school band (stocked with Conn musical instruments) can be "fun, fun, fun!!!"

Buzz certainly needs help. He's a shy bookworm who wants to get to know Jeanie, "the cutest girl in school," but lacks any skills to help him "fit in with the gang". Then Mr. B Natural appears in his bedroom and tells him he can be popular by joining the school band. "Wait'll you see the kicks you get out of it, Buzz! The glamour of the uniform! The thrill of traveling for band competition! Just like being a member of a football team!!!"

Buzz swallows Mr. B Natural's argument, and several minutes later he's playing lead trumpet at a romantic school dance, with Jeanie looking on admiringly.

This strange film has many unreal moments, but nothing tops Betty Luster for pure, inescapable insanity. She is a shrieking, grimacing menace, squealing lines such as "a clarinet's not just a clarinet, it's a happy smile!!!" (186)

For your enjoyment, here's part 1 of Mystery Science Theatre 3000's take on it...

...and part 2.

The Warehouse takes no responsibility in any sudden increase in the sales of G.C Conn instruments or anyone who decides to take up the mantle of "the spirit of fun in music" and roam the streets of out fair city decked up in musical notes (Halloween excepted, maybe). - JB

Friday, May 05, 2006

the hungarian castle fades away

Over by Brunswick Avenue came the surprise sight of a springtime stroll through the city:
Bye Bye Black Hole of Bloor (1)

Constuction boards have gone up at the old Hungarian Castle site. It looks like the "black hole of Bloor St" will soon pass into history, if this remains the plan. Until I looked at the old picture, I was also convinced a fresh coat of paint had been added, as I had pictured the top of the building as grimy black. My brain scrambled the top with the black, fence-adorned street level portion. Guess the heat seeped through my head.
The Crystal Cometh (1)

Also snapped a pic of the current state of the ROM Crystal.