Tuesday, January 30, 2007

great moments in 1980s television advertising

It's a body-shakin', "man!"-overloaded, horrifyingly stereotypical ad for all those songs that radio programmers never let flower children, or their descendants, forget!

That, or a record executive's fingers were itchy from deciding how to repackage White Rabbit and A Horse With No Name that week.

As the 1980s drew to a close, it was hard to ignore the constant reminders of what happened in popular culture 20 years earlier. The emergence of classic rock radio stations, TV retrospectives on the summer of '67, the return of hippie imagery, etc. The wheels in the heads of executives at companies specializing in albums sold on television began spun, hoping to capitalize on boomers entering their forties. Cue one late 60s/early 70s after another, many similar, most available as four records or three cassettes.

In the race for the cheesiest ad, Freedom Rock stood above the rest. Watch and believe! Soak up the authentic acid-drenched dialogue delivered by ultra-convincing hippies!

This ad left impressions that lingered on for years. Anytime something stereotypically hippie came to our attention, it was a safe bet my sister or somebody at school would ask "is that Freedom Rock? TURN IT UP!"

Seeing this for the first time in years, what strikes me, beyond the bad acting, is that the album was available on the newly-emerging compact disc. TV albums were still available on 8-track at the time, a format which would have better suited the pitchman's van.

Unless 8-track sales were reserved for the likes of Red Sovine...

No question, this was my father's least-favourite TV record ad, though Max Bygraves was a close second. The mere mention of the name "Red Sovine" was enough to induce groaning, disproving the ad's claim that everyone loved Red. I'm just miffed they don't play a clip of the ultra-maudlin Little Rosa. - JB

Monday, January 29, 2007

winter interlude

Sit back, relax and enjoy my first attempt at posting a video on YouTube, featuring friends going for a skate down at Dundas and Bathurst yesterday afternoon. I forgot if this was before or after I fell over a mound of snow on the side of the rink.

In other words, welcome to my first experiments with the movie function on the official Warehouse camera. We're talking the type of moving picture that was popular around 1897.

Filmed January 28, 2007, Toronto - JB

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

east end educational edifices

Last week's TPS wanderings wound up at U of T's Scarborough campus for the opening of Post Object at the Doris McCarthy Gallery. We hopped on a free bus shuttle from downtown and divided our time between the show and exploring the surrounding building.

Locker Block (1) Locker Block (2)
One thing you quickly notice: lockers. Lots of lockers. Block upon block of lockers.

Simply Pink
What educational institution is complete without a jug of Simply Pink?

Barred from the Library
We passed half-a-dozen or more doors to the library, but all were locked. The bars in the window and empty aisles make it look like these copies of books are serving time.

Veterinary Medicine Seminar The More Things Change About Campus Days of Action...
Left: Eddie Murphy, the idol of veterinarians everywhere. Right: the more things change...we swore we'd all seen the exact same signs in our university days.

UT-Scarborough by Night
Exterior shot near the bus stop. Both buildings we wandered through reminded us more of shopping malls than educational institutions.

Can o' Cashews Are These Boots Made For Walkin'?
A couple of discoveries on the walk home after the shuttle bus returned us to downtown. Left: a giant can o' cashews. Right: a window on Spadina, with boots that were made for walkin'.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

master the elements

Master The Elements, Then Run In Fear
This ad has been plastered all over the city for the past month and something about it unnerves me. Amy thought the expression in her eyes didn't match her smile. Maybe it's the almost evil, Joker-like grin peeking through the snow. It could be she has snuck up to a car windshield, trying to scare the crap out of the driver before she swings the axe behind her back.

Or maybe she's just happy that the Head and Shoulders is working and she's pushing away snowflakes, not a mound of dandruff.


Self-promotion department: A look at the King Edward Hotel in 1934, over at Torontoist.

Monday, January 22, 2007

unusual restaurant names department: greedy kitty

While winding down this week's Psychogeography trek, we discovered at Dundas and Huron one of the strangest restaurant names we'd ever seen.
Greedy Kitty Restaurant
Our jaws dropped. The kitty's obviously trying for the sympathy ploy as it begs for more food...or is hoping to win customer sympathy with its innocent eyes...or maybe it's a young fox pretending to be a kitty in the hopes of gaining more grub.

The Generous Nature of the Greedy Kitty
The backside of the sandwich board. We were impressed by the greedy feline's generousity when it came to beer prices.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

the backstreets of toronto: larch street

After a break of a few months, time to ease back into exploring the city's backstreets with a short trip through Chinatown.

Larch runs a short distance, from Grange Ave to Dundas St W. Haven't been able to find much history about the street, other than it existed with its current name in the 1880s.

Larch St (1) Larch St (3)
Our journey starts at the south end. On the left is the complex at the the northeast corner of Larch and Grange, which reminded a fellow walker of an old hotel. On the right are the buildings opposite Larch - if anyone can translate the signs, leave a comment.

Larch St (4) Larch St (5)
Most of Larch is occupied by public housing, opened in 1996, that curls around from Grange. The west side of the street is shown on the left, east on the right (note the leftover election sign). As Richard Milgrom wrote in East/West: A Guide to Where People Live in Downtown Toronto:
Both buildings are three storeys high, fitting with the scale of the neighbourhood. The address the streets by providing many of the units with their own front doors, and the apartments on the east side of Larch are clustered around a semi-public courtyard. The project was constructed on top of a separately owned underground parking structure that was designed to serve businesses in the area. This complicated the development process and, despite the establishment of local working groups to discuss the concerns of residents and business owners, the project took almost ten years to complete. (126)

Larch St (2) Larch St (6)
Just before reaching Dundas, cars have to turn into alleys on either side of the street, as a concrete barrier suddenly blocks off Larch. Pedestrians have no problem carrying on.

Larch St (8) Larch St (9)
This barrier turns out to be the Larch St parking lot, into which all traffic coming off of Dundas must go into. On this day, foot traffic was heavier on the ramp than vehicular.

Larch St (12) Larch St (10)
One of the few Green P signs in the city with other lettering included (there are several others around Chinatown). Larch comes to an end next to a business many other streets wind up at across the country - Tim Horton's.

Larch St (11)
Looking across from the north end of the street along Dundas, including a building with possibly obscene graffiti.

Photos taken January 13, 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

pepsi's idea of pop art

Vintage Ad #147 - Pepsi Pop Art
Call these Pepsi cans cool, an 80s hangover, corporations trying to be hep to the jive, whatever. The classic summer archetypes are there: surfing, parties, neon, girls in sunglasses. I dimly remember seeing these on shelves, though I don't recall if we ever bought any.

Available throughout the summer of 1990, Pepsi Cool Cans are the basis of an urban legend, specifically that stacking the black neon cans would reveal a word in the background that could end civilization as we know it. Pepsi officially denied subliminal messages, but one never knows. Stereogum has a short piece on the cans, whose TV pitchman was Young MC, fresh from the success of Bust A Move.

Source: Sports Illustrated, May 14, 1990

Monday, January 15, 2007

dim summary

Some people spend their Boxing Day battling crowds to find that hot advertised item that each store carries only two units of. Some use it as a day to recover from the meal the night before. Some lock themselves in their room and play with their presents.

Me? Meet up with my sister for dim sum at the Wah Court in Windsor.

Lessons learned over the years:

1) 11:30 is the ideal time to arrive. Arrive earlier and the servers aren't roaming around with trays - dim sum isn't as much food when you have to order from a sheet. By noon, the room fills and lineups start at the door.

2) If you see mango pudding, grab it, even if you've just started to sample steamed shrimp specialties. One of favourite desserts, the mango pudding seems to make the rounds less frequently than other sweet items.

3) We can't be persuaded to grab a order of chicken feet. We don't think they're disgusting, just not worth the puny yield...or maybe it's memories of Dad grousing about this when he tried them for the first time at a local buffet...or maybe we're in denial and it is because they are chicken feet.

A small sampling of what we ate:

Dim Sum (2) Dim Sum (3)
Dim Sum (4) Dim Sum (5) Dim Sum (6) Dim Sum Thumbs Up
Top row: shrimp har kau, baked BBQ pork buns. Middle row: Vietnamese spring rolls (first time we'd ever seen these carried around), stir-fried sticky rice (in a banana leaf). Bottom row: baked custard buns, Amy giving the meal a thumbs up.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

vintage street & smith college football ad

Vintage Ad #122 - Scoreline Man!

Look down there, buried in that pile of sports magazines!

Slower than a snapping turtle!

Less powerful than a broken-down Geo!

Able to push copies of the Football News out of the way with extreme pain!

It's a double chin! It's a cheap cap!

It's Scoreline Man!


As the 1970s rolled into the 1980s, the number of handicappers ("experts" who promised to analyze sporting events, mostly football, to help their clients place winning bets) who advertised in the major college and pro football yearbooks rose rapidly. Services varied from phone lines providing the latest scores and quick tips, such as today's pick, to handicappers proudly showing off their luxury automobiles in Las Vegas to boast how their prowness for prediction made them wealthy. The proprietors ranged from dudes who later fled to Central America to the founder of the Psychic Friends Network (remember the Dionne Warwick informercials?).

These ads reached their peak in 1984, as handicapping companies snapped up newly-available full-colour ads. Cheap line drawings gave way to debonair businessmen, fans leaping from their Laz-E-Boys and busty babes. This Scoreline ad is one of the few that hints at being intentionally humourous. Our super-slob needs a phone badly - otherwise, he'll accidentally incinerate himself with his next cigarette.

Note the lesson in how to spell "Texas".

Source: Street & Smith College 1984 Football Yearbook 

Monday, January 08, 2007

one fine christmas afternoon in amherstburg (2)

Park House Park House Sign
The Park House is one of the oldest homes in the region, originally situated along the Rouge River in present-day Detroit. When the original Loyalist owners decided to move to Upper Canada in 1798 (after Detroit was permanently turned over to the US), the house was floated across the Detroit River and erected near Dalhousie and Gore. The building remained there until 1972, when construction of Duffy's Motor Inn resulted in its move north along Dalhousie to its present location at the north end of Navy Yard Park (later expansion by Duffy's resulted in the move of another historic building, the Gordon House).

Fort Malden Road - Closed Fort Malden Road
Fort Malden National Historic Site contains a portion of the originally military grounds - the site was subdivided in the early 20th century after periods as an insane asylum and lumber mill. Though the full site will likely never be reestablished (General Amherst High School would have to be knocked down), land adjoining the park has been reclaimed. Fort Malden Road used to have several homes on it, but one by one they vanished. I hadn't noticed until this trip that the road had been integrated into the park.

I was tempted to hop the fence. Growing up, the park was often wide open for walkers along the river. Local kids used the trenches in then winter for sledding, even though the steep sides meant one came to a dead stop at the bottom. This practice ended years ago to preserve the site.

Amherst Stone Rules for Entering General Amherst High School
Two signs at the high school. The plaque on the left commemorates the near-demise of Amherst in 1991, or "school accommodation crisis" as it is gently worded. Long story short: the space was shared by public and separate schools in the wake of full funding, the public board planned to turn over the building to the separate board, the public school students walked out for a couple of weeks, a deal was worked out where public board kept the building, separate board got a new building in LaSalle. Where was I during the walkout? Doing what I suspect many classmates did: staying at home, watching cartoons.

The signs on the right list a couple of school regulations. The food rules were always a little odd. Once, I was stuck in the front office one lunch hour selling sports tickets. Since I couldn't go anywhere else, I brought my bagged lunch with me. As I tore into it, the principal came up to me and asked what I was doing. Apparently it was illegal for students to eat in the outer area of the office, but perfectly OK if I wolfed down my sandwich at the principal's desk. I don't remember if Dad ever decided to see what would happen if he ate his midday meal down there on a free lunch hour.

Mount Beulah Lighthouse Baptist Church

The walk wound down with a stroll down King St, which was my primary walking route to high school. The street is notable for the number of historical churches along it. On the left is Mount Beulah Church, whose exterior looked the worse for wear in the early 90s. Time has been kind to the building - the exterior used to be white, with a plain orange-brown nameplate where the cross above the door now sits. The building was constructed in 1874 as a school for African-Canadians, then segregated from other local schools.

On the right is Lighthouse Baptist Church, built in 1875 by the Roman Catholic church. Used as a parish hall for St. John the Baptist church (which lies to the east and dominates the neighbourhood), the building was sold to its present congregation in 1971.

Story of Nazrey AME Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church/North American Black Historical Museum
Built in 1848, Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church was one of the terminals of the Underground Railway, a safe haven for those who had crossed the Detroit River to escape southern slavery. It is now part of the North American Black Historical Museum.

Friday, January 05, 2007

bud man, OH YEAH!

Vintage Ad #120 - Bud Man!
Bud Man has rubber face with no place to breathe! OH YEAH!

Bud Man has chin like Brian Mulroney! OH YEAH!

We called Duffman for a comment on the man who possibly inspired him, but the only reply we received was "Duffman doesn't talk for free! OH YEAH!"

Apparently Bud Man has fought for truth, justice, fermented barley and large breweries since 1969. OH YEAH!

Source: Sports Illustrated, June 10, 1991

Thursday, January 04, 2007

one fine christmas afternoon in amherstburg (1)

Looking for something to do while Mom was busy making Christmas dinner and before relatives began to arrive, I grabbed my camera and walked around town.
No Whoppers Today
First photo stop: the former Burger King on Sandwich St. Other than fewer chairs, the dining room looks as if it could still be in operation.

Drive Thru Drinks
Care for a drink?

Ike's Plaza Ike's Plaza (II)
A few steps north is Sir Isaac Brock Plaza, built when business was booming in the south end of town. Among its tenants over the years: Valdi Food Stores, Donut Delite Cafe (the only donut shop in town for years - Dad often brought home bags of their thick, cakey cherry crullers) and SAAN. Of the seven business listed on the sign above, only three are current tenants (Dollarama and the two restaurants).

Amherstburg Holiday Light Posts Navy Yard Condos
After snooping the remnants of A&P (seen last post), I walked along Dalhousie St into downtown. The left picture shows the Christmas tree decorations that have adorned Amherstburg for years. Note the style of sign marking Gore St.

On the right is the Salmoni Place condo project. The site was formerly the Salmoni Building (1849-2004). Over its lifespan, the building was home to hotels, restaurants and a Stedman's. It sat vacant for years after its last tenant, the Navy Yard Restaurant, closed, with aging spray paintings in its front windows. The demolition was controversial, as referenced in an Ontario Heritage Connection article on protection of heritage properties.