Monday, October 29, 2007

literary graveyard

Literary Graveyard
A small sampling of the tombstones listing the fates of famous writers in the window of Type, across the street from Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Of the authors selected, I almost saw Kerouac's final resting spot in Lowell, Massachusetts on a roadtrip a couple of years ago. Almost, but not quite.

Why am I picturing Berryman's demise as a Warner Brothers cartoon?

Photo taken October 28, 2007 - JB

Friday, October 26, 2007

coin collector specials and talking monsters, oh my!

Vintage Ad #101 - Coins and Monsters
Our shocking sensation of the day features two staples of comic book advertising: the coin dealer and the monster toy. We won't dwell on the former, mainly because my only brush with the coin-collecting world came when Dad insisted I horde Canadian mountie quarters. I suppose I can use them as my emergency laundry machine fund.

This magnificent monster sounds so wonderful, yet you know there's a catch somewhere. A few guesses as to the secrets the monster protects:

Guess #1: He may be 4' tall, but is no more than an inch or two wide.
Guess #2: The ad neglects to mention your lovable new friend requires inflation.
Guess #3: The "special design instrument" to make him talk is a 24-page guide to ventriloquism.
Guess #4: Based on the monster's stance, this was the vendor's attempt to salvage a failed line of football star statues with a fresh coat of paint. Check out the poses found in many 1960s gridiron magazines or on sports cards to see what I mean.

Source: Strange Tales #158, July 1967 - JB

Thursday, October 18, 2007

dine with me and your drink is free!

Red Creatures Bearing Free Drinks
An interesting invitation?


Beware red stuffed creatures bearing free beverages?

Stouffville Market, October 13, 2007 

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

bird on a bender

On Sunday, along with two intrepid explorers, I headed down to Buffalo to check out Doors Open Niagara. A full post is coming (Squiddity has a nifty take on the day), but here's one of the weirdest moments of the trip.
While walking towards Buffalo City Hall, we noticed an odd combination of items on the sidewalk:

Bird on a Bender (1)
One empty bottle of booze, one partly-squeezed lime, one dead bird. Coincidence or connected? If the latter, the line of tragic events is easy to follow:

1) The bird had a rough day and finds solace in a flask left behind on the sidewalk.
2) The bird notices a barely-used lime slice and decides it would add a nice twist.
3) Either the bird realizes too late that booze, lime and birds don't mix, or decides in his alcoholic haze to end it all by slamming into the Statler building at MACH 3.

Bird on a Bender (2)
The fatal wedge of lime?

I apologize to Leonard Cohen for the last words on this tragedy...

Like a bird on a bender
Like a butterfly in a fender
He felt pain
On his way
To break free

Photos taken on Genesee St, Buffalo, October 14, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

zing went the zingerman's of my heart

Once a year, Amy and I splurge at Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor. Thanksgiving weekend's summer-like weather provided a good excuse to devour high-quality sandwiches on their patio.
Downtown Ann Arbor was awash in maize and blue. Almost all university-age people we passed were decked out in yellow and blue t-shirts, as the Wolverines battled their next door neighbours, Eastern Michigan. We drove into downtown via Geddes, a scenic route which conveniently dodged game traffic.

Zingerman's Salads
A display of salads, which we were given free samples of. Our faves were the smoked trout salad and the chicken paprikash.

#67 Jon & Amy's Double Dip
I chose the #67, Jon & Amy's Double Dip: "Zingerman’s corned beef & Niman Ranch pastrami, Switzerland Swiss & Wisconsin muenster cheeses, hot & regular mustards on pumpernickel & rye breads." Basically two sandwiches merged into one, without extra bread in the middle. Heavenly.

#76 Thad's "Yes I Can"
Amy went for the #76, Thad's "Yes I Can": Grilled Amish chicken breast, Wisconsin muenster cheese, roasted red pepper sauce & lettuce on grilled sourdough bread." This sandwich received a big thumbs-up.

A Selection of Teas
We guzzled several cups of ice tea from their trio of unsweetened blends. I was partial to the peach rooibos, while Amy liked the bergamot black.

Ginger Jump-Ups
We finished off with a couple of treats: a brownie and a ginger jump-up (chunks of ginger in a molasses cookie). Note the happy ginger root on the pogo stick on the wrapper. As this picture demonstrates, it quickly jumped out the wrapper. Amy later bought a pack to take home.

Afterwards, we wandered across the street to a farmers market. Endless baskets of fresh-looking poblano peppers and baby white eggplants. So tempting to sneak a few by customs ...until my common sense kicked in.


Postscript: Later on, we headed up to Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi for some advance Christmas shopping. Unfortunately, the store we specifically wanted to go to, the Discovery Channel's retail outlet, had left the building. We checked out the new wing, where our eyes popped at the prices in the new additions, especially Nordstrom. My eyes also bulged at the number of bad facelifts that passed by.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

bonus features: the 1955 ontario provincial election

Before reading this, check out this week's trip back into the city's history over at Torontoist, spotlighting the 1955 provincial election and one nasty battle downtown.
Vintage Ad #376: McMahon's the Man
The main ad for the second place finisher in York Centre, North York reeve Fred McMahon. Note how the ad plays upon his family and war experience. Source: The North Toronto Free Press, June 8, 1955.

Vintage Ad #374: Your Humble Candidate for MPP
While researching the 1955 campaign, this ad was the most mirth-inducing. Not many candidates have seriously campaigned on the premise that they are the greatest Canadian that ever existed (though the thought may have crossed Brian Mulroney's mind). Truly a modest ad.

Not all was humourous with our champion.

The Globe and Mail ran daily profiles of each riding within Metro Toronto, spotlighting the backgrounds and platforms of the candidates. Here's what the May 28th edition had to say about the champion, who ran in Eglinton:

Egomania appears to have been the least of his problems. Given the last platform, I doubt he would have coped well with the face of the city two decades on (perhaps he delved too deeply into researching his opera or suffered from overexposure to vibrations from timepieces). He finished in last place, with 317 votes. An attempt to run federally as a "Liberal Conservative Coalition" candidate in 1957 garnered fewer votes.

Ad source: The North Toronto Herald, June 3, 1955 

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

a sampling of small party signs

Signs for Other Political Parties
A few pictures of signs from the other parties hoping for votes tomorrow. Note that all of these parties lean towards the right - I never came across any minor left parties during my travels over the past month.

Clockwise from the top left:
* Family Coalition Party (near the Markham Fairgrounds)
* Freedom Party (Hwy 8, on the edge of Sebringville)
* Libertarian Party (near River Canard)
* Reform Party of Ontario (Hwy 21, near Forest)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

white night white heat

Nine-and-a-half hours on my feet - my key statistic for this year's Nuit Blanche.
I missed last year's inagural edition, so I don't have the same sense of letdown that marks many accounts of the evening. My overall impression was that even if the art was a mixed bag, it was still a good opportunity to wander around the city in a nighttime party atmosphere and observe the reactions of others, at least until a combination of sore legs and non-existent streetcar service kicked in. One thing's for sure: crowds were definitely interested in checking out what was on view.

Survival kit:
* Notepad, to mark down where I was, in case I didn't get around to writing this post unitl Christmas
* Official Program, to provide rough ideas of where to go
* Multi-pocketed corduroy jacket, to hold the first two items
* TTC day pass
* Camera

Cumberland Crowd (2)
9:15 PM: Hopped off the subway at Bloor and began my evening in Yorkville. My jaw dropped at the sea of humanity covering Cumberland St. A long line stretched from the far western entrance of Bay subway station to Bellair St, almost touching Bloor. I'm guessing most were curious for a glimpse of Lower Bay station, which was being used for an installation. I scampered up the boulder next to the station to survey the landscape. A few foolhardy drivers tried to make their way along the street, which led to Wayne's World-esque cries of "Game Off!" along Hazleton. Decided to leave this exhibit for later and wander in and out of nearby galleries. The only line I joined headed into Heliconian Hall for secular confessions (what mine was shall remain a mystery...).

Apples in the Night
10:35 PM: A few businesses took advantage of the crowds. The Cookbook Store offered up samples of apples and apple-based goodies. Around the corner, films were projected above a fashion boutique. I tended to enjoy many of the unofficial tie-ins throughout the evening.

Bride and Carcass (1)
11:07 PM: Church St was closed off south of Wellesley for Nightless City, described as a "red light district" but more of an excuse to close the street down (if only other streets had been able to do so...). I arrived in time for a performance art piece, where a woman in a bridal dress caressed an animal carcass. "She's rolling around with a dead animal...that's gross!" piped several onlookers, which piqued my curiousity (along with a feeling, not confirmed, that the artist resembled someone I went to university with).

Metropolis 2007
11:37 PM: These boxes (Metropolis) along St. Thomas St reminded me of the sensory-deprivation tanks from Altered States. Intended to suggest how architecture could provide refuge against overwhelming forces, I thought back to either the singing boxes on Monty Python or Pete Seeger's Little Boxes. A few teens had fun asking the artist a steady stream of questions over a walkie-talkie, trying to determine which box they were in (hint: the one hanging on the left was structurally unsound to support a human being).

Artist at Work
12:15 AM: Artist at work at the Gardiner. On the one hand, it was nice that the full collection was open for browsing, unlike other participating institutions (hi AGO!). On the other hand, approaching the staircases or seeing what the musicians on the top floor looked like were next to impossible. Needing to escape the crowd, I enjoyed the hurdy gurdy man playing in the outside entrance plaza. Music does soothe the savage beast.

Event Horizon (1)
1:05 AM: After checking out the teacher's dance (good slow dance music choices, such as Isaac Hayes' version of Walk On By) in Hart House, I headed towards the fog rising from King's College Circle. Event Horizon portrayed the coverage of a UFO crash in the middle of U of T, complete with faux news coverage. There was a swift-moving line to check out a tent containing what emerged from the crash, which divided web opinion - cute or a silly letdown? You be the judge.

ThunderEgg Alley (3)
1:45 AM: Finally reached Zone B, where my first stop was ThunderEgg Alley: A Dumpster Diver's Paradise, found at the end of a dead-end street. A comment on consumer waste, a city dumpster was transformd into a cheap hotel with all of the trimmings: a concierge, room service, boutiques and a spa (pictured above). I managed not to fall off the side of the dumpster or drop my camera when I climbed up to look in at the deluxe guest room. One of the more enjoyable installations of the night.

31 Baldwin Street to Beverley and Cecil Streets (1) End of the Party Party (1)
2:00 AM (left): A project from Brooklyn moved the contents of a home from Baldwin Village to the corner of Beverley and Cecil. When I arrived, the artists were talking to a security guard to search for a person in an altered state of consciousness who walked off with pieces of the installation. My legs were starting to tire, which made the living room portion look oh-so-comforting. I wandered into the building behind the installation, the Polish Combatants' Association, which had an interesting display of WWII Polish army uniforms and paraphenalia.

2:20 AM (right): Next stop was the Art Gallery of Ontario. Unlike the Gardiner, it was not wide open, which would have been appropriate given the theme was "goodbye party" (next week, it shuts completely for eight months to finish its current expansion). Instead of a last glimpse at the Henry Moores for awhile, an area was set up for passers-by to write goodbye cards. Another room was reserved for a DJed party, complete with screens showing a yule log video, but not much appeared to be happening, so I moved on. I poked my head into Cinematheque Ontario to check out 1916's Les Vampires, accompanied by a live pianist. Unfortunately, it was standing room only, so, again, I moved on.

Video Games!
2:37 AM: Free video games in Grange Park. There wasn't a lineup, so I was able for play a couple of rounds of a racing game. A chance to rest and have a little fun at the same time, especially since the games were at my level (racing, pinball, Ms. Pac-Man).

After this, I wandered towards Zone C. I was starting to feel a little worn, but figured there would be enough ahead keep my brain distracted.

3:00 AM: Walking along Queen West, the Nuit crowd mixed with those emerging from bars and clubs. Not quite the ocean of people I saw in Yorkville (you could squeeze onto the sidewalk), but still busier than a regular Saturday night. I considered hopping on a streetcar to Trinity-Bellwoods, but all appeared to be headed east. Near Spadina, I saw a white limo door open. Out came a steady stream of spew.

3:05 AM: Overheard at Queen and Augusta - "I'm freakin' out, don't you f**kin' understand? I need to smoke!" Guess the crowd and withdrawl were a bad mix. Observing the stream of bypassers was entertaining, with no one sounding too aggressively blitzed. For several blocks I walked behind a group decked out in contrasting neon flapper wigs, bright wings and goth clothing.

Flourescent Dome The Late Great Pom-Pom Exchange
3:23 AM (left): Reached Trinity-Bellwoods park. Not much was happening by this point, other than a few silly summer camp-style tents and plenty of Scotiabank-related booths (the latter would definitely fall among the evening's items that raised the ire of this piece - I'm good at tuning such corporate advertising out). It felt as if there had been activities earlier which had wound down. Fluorescent Dome was intended to serve as "a beacon for the city", but the only signal I got was that I should have gone back to Zones A and B.

3:50something AM (right): I carried on westward, popping into the occasional crowded gallery. Weariness started to tell on bypassers, some showing the same lack of enthusiasm about this zone that I felt. One exception was a jam-packed Knit Cafe, where a crowd was busy making pom-poms.

Scoops for Barbapapa and Barbamama
3:50something AM: Ah, Barbapapa. Had nothing to do with Nuit, but what the hey?

I attempted to check out a workshop at Mercer Union, but missed the session by a few minutes and didn't feel like waiting 25 minutes for the next one. I headed down to King, hoping to catch a streetcar and avoid jams on Queen. Bad move - no service on King during the 4 o'clock hour, so I kept walking, to the detriment of my feet (I know, I should have flagged a taxi, but I had a day pass to use up, darn it!). Wound my way back up to Queen to catch a streetcar at Trinity-Bellwoods. After 10 minutes of waiting, I moved on, figuring I'd catch on car at another stop. I made it, very slowly, to Osgoode station without seeing a single eastbound car (at three westbound cars passed me).

I nearly let out an unearthly sound when I sat down in the subway.

The Ghost Station (1) The Ghost Station (2)
5:25 AM: Using the last of my strength, I headed back to my starting point to see if there was still a lineup to get into Lower Bay, aka The Ghost Station.


I headed down, the first time I had ever been in the fabled station/filming location. Two cars were stopped, with rattling sounds all around, made more effective when a train rumbled above. I like how the eerie glow of the car number turned out in the picture on the right.

My final stop was at the Toronto Reference Library. I paid no attention to the displays, making a beeline for a set. I didn't even mind that they were running Ghost for the weary souls. I stayed for half-an-hour, then headed home.

Sunrise in Leaside
6:40 AM: The home stretch. The sky moving from black to blue. Good morning Leaside! I had survived the night, worn and weary.

Only six hours until I got up for Word on the Street!

Full photo set of the evening.

All photos taken September 29-30, 2007