Wednesday, February 28, 2007

yes, you need a postage meter

Vintage Ad #180 - Do We Need a Postage Meter, Mr. Smithers?
We ask the question that boggles every office, regardless of its size - do we need a postage meter?

Note the name of the boss and his appearance. Is he related to another office-bound Smithers?

Source: The Canadian Saturday Night, November 1962 -

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

dining out: seoul city

Met up with a dozen other foodies down on Queen West Friday night to try Seoul City. It was the first time in a few months I'd gone out for an organized dinner like this, a chance to sample different places and chat about food for hours. Even if the meal is iffy, the company makes up for it.
Oxtail Ravioli Soup
I made the wrong choice off the appetizer list. Oxtail Ravioli Soup sounded intriguing, but turned out to be one of the blandest soups I have ever tasted. The broth was tasteless and loaded with salt, while the oxtail, while tender, needed spice. I finish the ravioli, left the broth.

This was balanced by a French Seoul martini, containing soju, chambord, lime and pineapple juice, whose only fault was how quickly I downed it.

Grilled Octopus Salad and Kimchi Crab Cakes
What I should have ordered was the Kimchi Crab Cakes on the right (Grilled Octopus Salad is in the background). Right texture, good taste.

For the main, I went with the Bulgogi Rice Bowl. The meat was nicely marinated, but the rice/mushroom mixture could have used a shot of pepper paste. Maybe I'm too used to having the latter at Korean spots along Bloor St.

Braised Beef Short Ribs Black Cod
Two of the other mains: Braised Beef Short Ribs on the left, Black Cod on the right. The rice cake under the ribs drew raves from those who taste-tested it.

A couple of people ordered dessert, a trio of mini creme brulees, each with a different flavour (green tea, red bean and ginger). I should have skipped the appetizer and saved more room to handle a set of the creamy brulees on my own.

Verdict: attractive presentation, weak choices on my part, stick with testing the cheap Korean spots around town.

Monday, February 26, 2007

photo du jour (which wasn't happening at macdonald hall)

Bruno and Boots Lost the War
While walking back from the gym along Mt. Pleasant last week, I noticed a book lying near a snowbank south of Eglinton. It was one of my childhood favourites, The War With Mr. Wizzle, part of Gordon Korman's Bruno and Boots series of private-school hijinks (though I think Beware the Fish was my favourite of the bunch). Even now, I occasionally make references to things like Upside-Down Scrim-Cake and can dredge up lines from the back pages of my brain.

Alas, I didn't rescue it - don't need to bring every piece of my past home, tempting as that might be. Hopefully it wasn't swept away by a garbage crew.

Picture taken Feb 21/07 - JB

Friday, February 23, 2007

an adult's christmas eve in windsor (3)

Previously...(parts 1 and 2)
Capitol Dreams
The Pelissier side of the Capitol Theatre (Archives of Ontario feature). Opened in 1920, it was divided into three screens by the time Dad took me to see my first movie there. His pick to introduce me to the world of moviegoing? Oh Heavenly Dog, starring Chevy Chase and Benji. One problem: as a kid, I didn't take any human transforming into another being very well, even if the transformation wasn't fully shown. On Friday nights, when I heard the Dallas theme come on, I knew it was safe to go back into the living room because The Incredible Hulk was over. Naturally, this later developed into an interest in special effects makeup and a large collection of Hulk comic books.

As for Chevy and Benji, when the switch between characters was made, I lost it. We left the theatre and never saw the rest of the movie until it was on TV years later, by that time a family joke. Roger Ebert wasn't crazy about it either. It was probably several months before my parents decided to test milder fare on me. My spine must have stiffen quickly, as two years later Dad and I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in Amherstburg and registered no complaints about the melting Nazis (though we also laughed for years about how the Nazi with the clothes hanger who gets the medallion burned in his hand was a dead ringer for Dad).

This trio of beauties was found east of downtown, along Wyandotte St. This stretch of Wyandotte, between the core and Walkerville, is home to a variety of Middle Eastern businesses - I occasionally find pita bread in Toronto produced in this neighbourhood.

Save Our (Riverside) Drive
From roughly Drouillard Rd eastward to Lauzon Rd, Riverside Dr was blanketed with "Save Our Drive" signs such as this one. The group behind the campaign is opposed to the Riverside Drive Vista plan by the city, which aims to resurface the road and sidewalks, add bike lanes and plant additional trees.

We Warned You!
The trip wound down in St. Clair Beach, where I discovered this sign by the Lakewood Golf Club at Riverside and Manning. Based on a 2005 Ontario Municipal Board report, it looks like there have been a few tussles over its fate, including a proposed residential development. Wonder what would happen if you tried to drive a hovercraft across the grounds?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

pooh for president

Vintage Ad #173 - Vote for Winnie!
1980. A crowded field in the US presidential race. For the Democrats, president Jimmy Carter, whose popularity was sagging badly in the wake of inflation, the Iran hostage crisis and other bumps in the road. For the GOP, Ronald Reagan, former movie star and governor of California. On the independent side, John Anderson, a moderate Republican who had lost in the spring GOP primaries. For the children and department stores, Edward Bear, aka Winnie the Pooh, Disneyfied classic children's literature character.

Things were going well for the Pooh campaign, with polls suggesting he might be the spoiler. However, when Pooh's nationality was discovered to be foreign, any votes cast for him were tossed out.

But anyone else mildly disturbed by the colour of Pooh's eyes, or the hypnotic effort he has on most of the children in this picture? Only the boy to Pooh's right shows the slightest sign of skepticism/resistance (it's hard to tell the expression on the reporter's face). Heck, I might have fallen under his spell, since I'm sure I had one or two pieces of Pooh clothing from Sears around that time...

Source: Ebony, August 1980

the wall art of montreal

Monkey Deciding Whether to Sit Down
Is the monkey deciding whether it's worth the risk to test out this couch?

Leonine Sunrise
More wildlife, along Rue Roy.

Plumbing Problems?
A slight plumbing problem.

Cameo Appearance by Alfred Hitchcock
Just off of St. Laurent, near Schwartz's, a cameo appearance by Alfred Hitchcock.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

one fine sunday afternoon at grenadier pond

Taking advantage of the recent Arctic blast, I headed down to High Park on Sunday to check out frozen-over Grenadier Pond with the Psychogeographers.
Skating on Thick Ice
A highly effective sign. Skaters weren't cheek-to-jowl as they would be at Nathan Phillips Square (which proved a relief to one member of our group who was adjusting to being on skates).

Ice Laneway Clearin' The Track
The long laneway cleared out to connect the main skating area with a smaller area to its north. Several shovels were left on the pond to clear out areas, creating new lanes, snow islands and oxbows.

Choppy Ice Communist Leaders of the 20th Century Hockey Pucks - Collect Them All!
Not being a proper rink, the ice was on the choppy side. Walking on boots proved no problem, even if I did fall on one slippery patch. Still, you could shoot a hockey puck around, such as this one from the rare "Famous Communist Dictators of the 20th Century" series.

Skaters and Sticks
The main skating area. I imagine the view would have been fantastic from the houses in the background. Also note the blue skies and reflection of the bright sunlight.

Ice Line (1)
Sometimes you've got to stick together.

Bank Jumping!
Later in the afternoon, several people took part in the fine art of bank jumping. Need a demonstration?

Afterwards, several of us slowly wandered into the park restaurant, downing hot chocolate to thaw out. It was debated whether mugs covered in drawings of banana slices gave the hot chocolate a subtle tropical undertone.

Full set of pictures on Flickr. More pictures and stories at Kitty Empire and Spacing.

Monday, February 19, 2007

now don't you wish you'd take the ttc or go to the game?

Vintage Ad #59 - TTC or GO to the Game
It's 1977 and there's a new ball team in town. You don't feel like battling for a parking spot to see the Jays for the first time. How will you get down there without feeling as jittery as the fellow in this ad?

How about special TTC and GO services?

Thanks to the detective work of James Bow at Transit Toronto, here is some information about this service. One account of the service, from Bill Robb:

I'm looking back through TTC Headlights and I believe this service was short-lived. Express buses to hockey and football games date back to before widespread subway service. These express services operated to ALL home games. The Blue Jay special buses ONLY operated to weekend and holiday home games. The sporting fan was used to service to all games and people would show up for weeknight games, wait and find no bus. Also these were extra fare express services and as the subway lines reached further and further out the extra fare became a tougher sell. Sunday and Holiday passes, which had been reduced in price in 1977, weren't valid on the these extra fare services, just regular TTC routes.

The reason the service was set up this way probably has a lot to do with the economics of the different sports. Football plays a relatively small number of games with large crowds. Hockey plays an intermediate number of games with small crowds compared to the capacity of many major league outdoor stadiums, but at very high percentage of arena capacity. Baseball plays the largest number of home games and traditionally depends very large crowds for the Home Opener, some key matchups and traditional holiday dates like the 4th of July (in US cities) for much of its crowds.

From Robert Lubinski:

Express buses to Exhibition Stadium home games from Union Station lasted until the opening of SkyDome. I worked at Birchmount Garage in the summer of 1988 and the express buses were still operating that year. It seemed kind of odd that express buses from Union Station to the Ex operated out of Birchmount (rather than Danforth or Davenport divisons), but they did.

I think the opening of SkyDome finished off any remaining Express services to Blue Jays or Argos home games as well as the 521 cars that had operated for games if that service hadn't ended already before that.

Source: Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 1 No 17, 1977

Sunday, February 18, 2007

secretaries in revolt, 1960s style

Vintage Ad #145 - We Want Our Apeco Roll-O-Matic Now!
A poke at anti-war demonstrators? A jab at the emerging feminist movement? A shot at hippies? An attempt to cash in on Laugh-In style signs? All of the above?

You know those cartoons that ask how many things are wrong with the picture? If this ad were one of those, the possibilities are infinite. Lists are welcome in the comments section.

Source: Time, November 14, 1969

Friday, February 16, 2007

can I become a hotel executive?

Vintage Ad #153 - Age is No Barrier to Becoming a Hotel Executive
Do these stirring testimonials inspire you to go on to an exciting career as a hotel steward? Does a borderline Hitler mustache inspire success?

Source: Male, February 1955

an adult's christmas eve in windsor (2)

Windsor Star Mural
Murals on the south side of the Windsor Star, the city's daily rag. The paper has had a rightward tilt ever since Hollinger gained control of previous owner Southam in the mid-90s (the Star currently belongs to CanWest Global). Reading the paper on trips home, I'd be depressed by the nasty tone of the editorials, the tilt of most its new syndicated columnists (hi Thomas Sowell!) and the decreased amount of local coverage.

Still, the Star looks slightly healthier than some of its competition across the river in Detroit. Over Christmas, I picked up copies of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News and was shocked at how anemic both had become under new ownerships. Both papers have been in decline for years, but they were never this bad - every section seemed to be four pages long, with barely more depth than TO's morning commuter papers. The Freep's web makeover is equally unappealing, with information mishmashed everywhere.

(Hmmm, sounds like I need to do a newspaper rant post...)

Million Dollar Sign
One of the purveyors of the fine art known as "Windsor Ballet".

Alas, The Hat's Been Stashed in the Box
The Top Hat was one of the last of its kind in the region, a genuine 50s-60s era supper club that featured old-style lounge acts, impersonators and comedians for the cocktail set until its demise several years ago. Windsor had a thriving supper club scene, with venues such as the Metropole and Elmwood Casino (now, ironically, the Brentwood alcohol and substance abuse recovery centre). There were a few years where we regularly went for their ribs, served in an old-school atmosphere (dark tablecloths, older wait staff, square chilled pats of butter, etc).

To be concluded...

Thursday, February 15, 2007

judy, judy, judy (with apologies to cary grant impressionists)

Vintage Ad #167 - Imitation of Life
Yeah, I could go the obvious mind-in-the-gutter route with this ad. The treat is to see the lengths the poorly-edited ad writer tried to present Judy as a family gift, all the while hinted at her other possible uses. It's a "burgular" deterrent, swimming aid, roadtrip companion, laugh generator and child ego-booster, all rolled into one!

Has anyone ever tried to use a blowup doll as a buoy?

It's doubtful that Judy looked remotely like her model stand-ins (note disclaimer discreetly placed in the coupon)...unless Dr. Evil had leftover Carnaby Street-era fembot shells that he needed to sell for any price.

It's appropriate that a sketchy product like this would appear in a Charlton comic, for years the low-end of the comic spectrum (history of the company from Comic Book Artist). While gifted creators worked for the company (notably Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko), Charlton (1944-86) was notorious for low pay rates and poor production quality. Unlike most comic book publishers, Charlton maintained all elements of its business in a single building, from creative to printing, with most of its money made from song lyric magazines.

Ghostly Tales (115 issues, 1966-84) was one its typical horror anthologies, hosted by "I.M. Dedd". How punny.

Source: Ghostly Tales #80, June 1970

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

who wants to be 1968 miss american teen-ager?

Vintage Ad #166 - Just the Good Ol' Girls, Never Meanin' No Harm
To celebrate Valentine's Day, this dip into the vaults leads to the wacky world of old romance comics. The Miss American Teen-Ager contest was one of several contests run out of Palisades Amusement Park, which closed three years after this ad appeared to make way for high-rise apartments. The contest dated back to 1960, which appears to be the vintage of the clip art of the girl dancing on the record.

Note the first "major prize award" listed, a 1969 Dodge Charger. That particular model became an icon a decade later, though not necessarily for wannabe pageant winners...

Just two good ol' boys, never meanin' no harm...

(As a kid, I had a General Lee playset, where you "charged" the car by swiping it backwards on the floor, then letting it go. The car saw more action racing down Lego landscapes or crashing into stacks of hockey cards then the plastic barrels that came with it.)

Girls' Romances was one of National/DC's long-running romance titles, running 160 issues from 1950 through 1971. By 1968, a mix of old and new material filled its pages, with the reprints featuring updated clothing and hairstyles and the same old hackneyed attitudes. The tales in this issue:

Secret Love: (artist: John Rosenberger) Margo is a lonely secretary who moons over her imaginary "dream man", while her friend Ken tells her to "come down from the clouds". While waiting for a train delayed by snow, she goes for a quick walk with a pickup artist named Rod. Convinced she's found her "dream man" ("Rod! Rod! Rod!"), Margo wastes the next few weeks waiting for the phone call that never comes. Ken calls, proposes marriage, they head off for a drive that takes them back to the train station, where it turns out Rod is a lowly waiter at a nearby greasy spoon who doesn't recognize her. The future looks rosy for Margo and Ken. No sudden appearance from a distraught "dream man". End line: "Oh darling, I am feeling better about you, me and the whole, wonderful world!"

Letter to a Lost Love: originally the cover story to a 1963 comic, with the non-updated portions drawn by longtime Spider-Man artist John Romita. Stella is convinced that her boyfriend Danny's kisses aren't what they used to be. Because his eyes aren't open while they're kissing, she is convinced there is another gal in Danny's life. Cue panel of city skyline with other women laughing at Stella. Most of the story is told in thought balloons, as nobody can admit their suspicions of each other. The topper is when Stella encounters another woman cattily handing Danny a letter in a department store. Cue more panels of Stella staring out the window in her nightgown. The truth comes out - Danny's ex Sue had kept all their love letters and wanted to meet him in person to return them, or else she would send them to Stella, in order to win Danny back. The plot failed. Danny and Stella lived happily ever after. End line: "The agony...the uncertainty was over at fears had blinded me to what was really in Danny's heart...a love that would never be lost again!"

My Time to Love: (artist: Jay Scott Pike) Our cover story. the second half of a two-parter, where Karen has to decide if she loves wayward "hippie" musician Kip or upstanding Ivy Leaguer Roger (chosen by Karen's mom). Kip left town to pursue his musical dreams, so Karen winds up engaged to Roger, much to her parents approval (she might even get a sportscar for her choice!) Several months later, she hears Kip on the radio, riding high on the Billboard charts. Roger arranges for a meeting between Karen and Kip to see which man she truly loves. Winner: Kip, who had left town "to prove to myself I could stand on my own"...and taken the same college courses as Roger and told Karen's parents off. Guess who Karen winds up with? End line: "When the time for love comes, a boy suddenly turns into a man and a girl changes into a woman..."


Source: Girls' Romances #136, October 1968

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

an adult's christmas eve in windsor (1)

I spent Christmas Eve roaming around Windsor, mostly walking downtown. Few people were doing the same, leaving me with a "shoot a cannon down the street and nobody will be hit" feeling.
Most of my memories of downtown Windsor stem from Sunday morning trips with my Dad to pick up a copy of the Sunday New York Times and TLS (Times Literary Supplement). The routine evolved over the years - Tidas News on Ouellette is the earliest place I can remember, followed by J&J/Y&J Variety near Grace Hospital, then Whittington's on Ouellette. In later years, this ritual evolved into a weekly trip for my parents, where they would grab a drink at The Coffee Exchange, then shop for groceries.

I found various uses for these trips over the years:
* An excuse to point my finger to direct Dad to drive down roads I had never been down before, or to see the north end of Essex County if it was a nice day.
* To buy my weekly supply of sports cards.
* To buy new comic books, when the newsstand still carried a large selection.
* To choose lunch meat for that week's lunch, or see what new products Remark Farms had (China Cola!)
* After leaving for university, a morning to hang out with the old man, even if took some effort to drag me out of bed.

Looking Down on Apparel
I parked on Pelissier, near this sign. Looks like American Apparel has moved in, though I didn't see any back pages of local newspapers adorned with their scantily clad models (hi NOW!)

Maiden Lane West Relaxing on a Mural Patio
The tri-colour heart is the logo for downtown Windsor - the city used to use a red heart, but has switched to the Transit Windsor colour scheme. Near this sign is the cafe scene on the right, one of many murals that have appeared in Windsor's core in recent years - more in the next installment.

Lazare's Sign Lazare's Windows
Fur stores were once prevalent along Ouellette, frequently advertising on Hockey Night in Canada ("at AJ 'Gus' Gervais, manufacturing makes the big difference!"). Fur-clad models roamed in front of the stores, often my father's high school students. Lazare's is one of the holdouts, with its classic sign.

Massaging Ouellette Boom Boom Boom, Let's Go Back to the Boom Boom Room
Left: Ouellette Ave has a number of massage parlours, with varying degrees of sketchy appearance. Right: A former bank (memory is telling me Royal Trust), now a club. The downtown bar/club scene is one part of the Windsor experience I've never taken in, other than driving by drunk patrons at night. Among the other buildings along Ouellette converted to clubs: the Big Boy south of Park my family occasionally had Sunday breakfast at. One thing nearly all of these places have in common: ludicrous names. I like the name of the BBM's next-door neighbour: B-Movie Ballroom, which sounds like it should be applied to an eclectic film rep house.

To be continued... - JB

Monday, February 12, 2007

they blinded me with science!

When my grandparents lived in Leaside, one of my favourite nearby places to go was the Ontario Science Centre, because what little kid doesn't like to play around with dials and buttons that make magical things happen?

I'm not sure if, until a weekend ago, I had visited the OSC this century. I know Amy and I visited once while one or the other was in university, but exactly when is a foggy memory. When a friend organized a Saturday afternoon visit, I figured it was a good opportunity to see if anything was left from childhood.

I wasn't disappointed.

The Evil Elevator of the Emissaries of Evil? The Thermal View
We started off at the Marvel Superheroes special exhibit. Access was via a dimly lit elevator, which one half expected a battle to bust through. Upon entering the main area, we hit the Human Torch exhibit, with its thermal imaging. In other words, how I'd look on a record cover, c. 1980.

Doc Ock Advengers Assemble!
Left: a life-size model of Doc Ock, with an arm you could manipulate. Sadly missing: the history of his attempts to marry Spider-Man's Aunt May. Right: one area allowed kids to colour in panels or draw their own creations. The Advengers were the cutest of the lot, especially the look of disbelief/weariness on the sword-wielding monkey.

One section of the exhibit showed films of Stan Lee discussing Marvel Comics and science. One piece of film they didn't show: Stan the Man's 1970 appearance as a contestant on To Tell the Truth. Can you pick out Stan before the panel does?

In case you were curious, the host in this clip is Garry Moore, while the panel consists of Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Bill Cullen and Kitty Carlisle.

1959 Oakville Property Assessment
After some simulated web-swinging and wall-crawling, it was time to move on to the main exhibit halls. Among the oddities: an intact 1959 Oakville property assessment, from a display on how, with the right conditions, garbage can be preserved for longer than we like.

Test Yourself Confinement
Left: Now this takes me back. Every few years, a travelling exhibit from the OSC made its way to Windsor, usually at the main library branch on Ouellette or the Cleary Auditorium. "Test yourself" boards like this one were always part of these roadshows. Right: a confinement chamber, part of the A Question of Truth exhibit on our views of differences between people and how these relate to science. This box is intended to simulate the horrifying conditions for those being transported on slave ships or extermination camp trains.

Building Up to a Brighter Future Electricity and Magnetism
Memories kicked into high gear when we reached the Science Arcade, though the space seems brighter now. Pedal power, theremins, etc. - still loads of fun after 25 years.

Mirror Image (1) Older Innovation
Left: fun with mirrors. Right: On with the new, the Weston Family Innovation Centre. Had time permitted, I may have taken a crack at playing around with creating things out of old circuit boards, telephones and high-heels. As with other parts of the OSC, I also proved my inability to play anything more advanced than Louie Louie or the opening bars of Elvis Costello's Pump It Up on keyboard, especially when causing sludge to bubble.

Poem of the Day
A poetic interlude.

A Face Rising Hands Rising
This exhibit transfixed us for at least 20 minutes. A computer took your picture, when was then formed by lights on a nearby monolith. The results had a "big brother" like feel, though I'd probably go for a benevolent expression next time. Hands proved as effective as faces in providing a decent image.

So ended six hours that flew by fast. - JB