Tuesday, July 31, 2007

introducing kira

Yes, we're ramping up the cute factor on this site...

There isn't a grand tradition of pets in my family. Actually, there's no tradition - my parents were never keen on the idea, Amy never clamoured for one and I was afraid of dogs for 20 years.

So it came as a surprise when Amy called me late last week to provide the play-by-play on her search for a new kitten that she could hear, but not see. Seems Gavin found a kitten (soon named Kira), likely abandoned, and brought her home. Amy seems to be warming up quickly to the new addition to the family, if getting used to the idea of concepts like kitty litter.

More pictures - JB, photo by AT

Monday, July 30, 2007


Previously on Roadtrippin': So much for scrapple.

Day 6: Pittsburgh, PA (Part 1)

The day began with grocery shopping around the Shadyside and East Liberty neighbourhoods at Trader Joe's and one of Giant Eagle's Market District stores. The weather proved a hindrance during the day, as intermittent showers cut down on the amount of walking I planned to do.

Oakland This Way
Early on, I discovered I didn't need to look at my city map to find my way around. The city's main neighbourhoods are well marked, thanks to the signage shown here. Many point to multiple neighbourhoods - imagine if you were at Queen and Spadina and a similar sign pointed you to Yorkville, The Annex, Cabbagetown, The Danforth and The Beach. I tossed the map in the back seat and let the signs guide me...and they didn't let me down.

Tarish Studios (1)
Heading west towards the core of the city, Penn Ave is lined with murals and artwork on buildings, such as Loud Silence, found at the corner of Fairmount. More about the artist, Tarish Pipkins.

Celestial Weaving Girl (1) Fabric of the Community
Two more Penn Ave murals, both part of the Sprout Public Art program, which has been responsible for over 30 works around the region. On the left is Celestial Weaving Girl (Lucas Stock, 2006), the right Fabric of the Community (Jackie Kresak, 2004).

Wholey Kickin' Chicken Primo Imported Pasta
I spent a couple of hours in the Strip District, which historically was home to manufacturing, then food wholesalers. Some of the latter remain, but the area, especially along Penn and Smallman, is full of small stores, restaurants and food vendors. If I lived in Pittsburgh, I could easily imagine doing much of my food shopping in the neighbourhood.

A break in the rain allowed time to roam from store to store. Alas, I didn't try the Kickin' Chicken at Wholey's. One surprise at a pasta store: the import section included a wide selection of a prestige Canadian brand, pictured above.

Steely Wisdom One Use for an Old Firehall
Left: The joke of the day. Right: From the "how to reuse a lonely firehall" department.

Acme Banana Co. Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction and Sales Building
Left: Where Wile E. Coyote (super genius) buys his bananas? Right: Possibly the first time I have seen a building adorned with the phrase "fruit auction" (anyone know if there are similar signs at the Ontario Food Terminal?).

Cafe On The Strip (2) Cafe On The Strip (1)
Italian Wedding Soup Baked Eggplant Sandwich
After dithering over several choices, I settled on Cafe on the Strip for lunch. Started off with an excellent Italian Wedding soup, full of chicken, bacon, meatball and fresh cheese. It tasted like it hadn't been anywhere near a can or plastic pouch. My main was an eggplant sandwich. The non-breaded slices of veggie melted in my mouth, going down like butter. I'll try to avoid any sexual comparisons to what my mouth was feeling at the time.

It may have been the tastiest meal of the trip.

As usual, full set of pictures on Flickr.

Next: Carnegie a-go-go - JB

Sunday, July 29, 2007


If you grew up with Detroit television from the mid-1980s, today's clip is an ad you inevitably ran across. This Father & Son campaign is still going strong, though our handymen are now rendered in goofy 3-D computer animation. - JB

Thursday, July 26, 2007


A1A Coin Laundries
Did they really like their machines twice over, or did they really like their drive down the Florida highway?

Photo taken on Danforth, east of Greenwood July 19, 2007 - JB

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Toronto's budget cut fun rolls along, as the Toronto Public Library announces its rollbacks. So much for Sunday library runs. It was touching to see one councillor admit their naivete about the fallout from last week's tax vote.

So many announcements in the past few months about transit and other infrastructure improvements, then suddenly the city heads in the opposite direction. This is when political posturing all around makes my stomach turn somersaults (but most of my ire is directed at the "opposition" faction of council, followed by the province). Should be fun times around here until the provincial election in the fall.


I felt the love of my fellow drivers twice last night. Both times I was waiting to make a left turn at a stop light, with wide trucks and SUVs doing the same opposite me, at angles where I didn't have a clear view of oncoming traffic. Both times the drivers behind me were breathing on my bumper, honking their horns. I doubt their view was much better. I figure it's better to wait until I can nudge enough to see for sure than have a last-minute oncoming car drive into me.

The first time (Eglinton and Pharmacy), the driver behind me nearly sideswiped me while trying to get ahead of me on the turn, yelling obscenities out the window. The second time (Don Mills and Gateway), there were obscenities and finger gestures. I noticed them follow me into the 7-11 parking lot, still yelling. I decided not to stop at the that convenience store, driving straight through the parking lot and back onto Don Mills. I wasn't up to a confrontation.

All this rage for 15 to 30 seconds of time. I value my life, not somebody else's impatience.


Impatience Department, Part 2: As usual, my bus into work was crowded this morning. The closer you get to Yonge, the larger the crowds. I often wonder if commuters at Redpath and Eglinton realize that they would be better off walking 5-10 minutes to Yonge than waiting the same amount of time or longer for a bus they can squeeze on or fight with the driver when they don't believe standing in the front doorway blocks the driver's view.

This morning, the bus had to stop at Redpath to let off a passenger, barely affecting the sardine can effect. There was no room to let anyone on in the front. One middle-aged office drone decided to try and slip in the back door, but the driver noticed and repeatedly asked him to get off (Eglinton buses don't run by the honour system). The passenger protested that he had his fare, but relented and got off, yelling "A**HOLE!" towards the front.

The bus pulled away.


On a lighter note, this week's Torontoist post shows that the province has always been a little confused about TO. - JB

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Vintage Ad #282: Peter Sellers Sings TWA
I was flipping through an old issue of Sports Illustrated when this ad caught my eye. The pitchman looked vaguely familiar, so I did a quick check on the web.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's Peter Sellers, airline pitchman.

As usual, Sellers disappeared into character for this campaign. This print ad and TV commercial feature "English toff" (as DVD Times called him) Jeremy Peak-Time. Other characters included Vito de Motion and Thrifty McTravel - figure out what ethnicities they represented. Apparently Sellers' superstitions reared their head during the production of these ads - nobody on the set could wear purple.

Sellers was nearing the end of a long dry stretch at the box office, which reversed when he resurrected Inspector Clouseau in The Return of the Pink Panther later than year.

Link: 1975 Time story on TWA management troubles, which fleetingly reference this campaign, calling it "controversial"

Print ad source: Sports Illustrated, March 24, 1975 - JB

Monday, July 23, 2007


(hey, it's a catchier title than "Vintage Batman Ad of the Day"...)

Vintage Ad #296: Fruit Stripe Sweepstakes
Can you all of the things that are wrong in this Fruit Stripe ad? So what if the contest closed on Halloween 1979? I might even think of a prize for the most things wrong...say, a pack of Fruit Stripe (alas, the Warehouse does not have the budget to offer a trip to Disney World or 20,000 packs of gum).

This, along with other Fruit Stripe ads, are among those that stick in my mind from my first comic book collection. That collection, mostly consisting of Gold Key/Whitman funnybooks, met its demise in a yard sale sometime in the early 80s.

Source: Batman #316, October 1979 - JB

Friday, July 20, 2007


Birthday Eve
Started off the day with a cheese and zucchini run to St. Lawrence Market (this wasn't the intention; it was all I bought). Originally, I was going to stop at the new market at the Brick Works on the way down, but parking was impossible.

The Last of the Victory  Cafe Pancakes
Trip #2 downtown was brunch with friends at the Victory Cafe. The sky couldn't make up its mind what it wanted to do, so we grabbed two tables by the window, which proved a perfect spot. I indulged myself with a huge plate of blueberry-banana pancakes - the remnants are pictured above. You can see me working my way through the meal.

After a quick research trip to the Reference Library, the next stop was the Factory Theatre for my second show of the Fringe, Dickens of the Mounted. A well-perfromed one-man show, it revolved around Charles Dickens' son Francis, who wound up serving as a mountie for a decade, his career culminating around the Northwest Rebellion of 1885.

The day ended with a gettogether for another site I write for. Fun evening, though a lack of Strongbow at the bar kept me on a steady diet of sodas occasionally mixed with booze.

Initially, my plan was to hop in the car, head over the hills and far, far away for the first half of the day. Good plan, until the rain started once I crossed the city limits.

No Planes
One of several anti-airport signs I saw in Pickering, this one at the end of Major Mackenzie.

Despite the weather, I managed to run a few errands before meeting up with the PPP for dinner at Future Bakery. The sky cleared long enough for us to enjoy our meal on the patio. I might have gotten the hopes up of the others when I mistook pieces of melon in our pitcher of sangria for pineapple. Since the girls know my habit of regularly crossing the border and given my influences growing up, my present was a copy of How to Be a Canadian. Fear not, I'll start applying its lessons this weekend...

Overall, it was a wonderful weekend to ease my way into my 32nd year of business. - JB

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


(yes, we're a week behind, what else is new...)

Last Thursday was just another crazy summer night for me in the city.

Dolsot Bibimbop at Joons
First up, dinner. I hadn't had Korean for awhile and timing dictated something quick. I popped into Joons, which has expanded their menu to include dishes for solo diners. I tried it a few years ago, but nearly all items were geared to tables of two or more. I ordered my usual pick, dolsot bibimbab. This was one of the better ones - lean meat, crunchy rice on the bottom, decent amounts of veggies and pepper paste. The sides included a broth loaded with black pepper, a dainty scoop of chilled mashed potatoes, bean sprouts and kimchee, washed down with a Tupperware bottle of water.

Fringe Board (2) Fringe Board (3)
Next, I met up with Paul (seen here scanning the wall o' posters) and Sheila to catch my first performance of this year's Fringe, Gibberish. A one-man stand-up show, it proved a solid hour of laughs, with a stunt involving a balloon stuffed up one's back and observations about sympathy cards among its highlights.

Bright Towers, Dark Skies Mount Nacho at Old Nick's
Going into the Tranzac, the skies were sunny. Coming out an hour later, storm clouds loomed, producing colour effects on buildings like the picture on the left. The sky wasn't as odd as a trip to the area earlier in the week, when the horizon north of Varsity Stadium was lavender.

I hopped on the subway and headed over to Broadview to join the week's psychogeography walk. I arrived just in time for the sky to open up. Rather than walk through the downpour, we waited it out at a pub around the corner, Old Nick's. A few ordered nachos, whose arrival caused eyes to bulge. Definitely the tallest mound I have ever seen.

The View from Chester Hill (1)
When the rain stopped, we headed north, following the side streets along the top of the Don Valley. Somehow we missed the monkeys on Cambridge Ave. The lookout at the end of Chester Hill Rd provided a wealth of angles to shoot pictures of the downtown skyline, traffic whizzing by on the DVP and the lights casting a glow on the Bayview/Bloor ramp.

Curved for Comfort Arched Apartments
Surveying some architectural curves at Broadview and Mortimer.

Keeping Up Your Nails and Tan Summer Day Camp
Left: A trio of businesses that caught our eye at Broadview and Mortimer. How many customers proceed to splurge at the Dairy Queen across the street once they've finished their makeover?

Right: A day camp sign outside a church on Pape, north of Danforth. Definite mid-century vibe emanating from this sign. All that's missing is the promise of a talking bird that was used to lure Dad to a church camp as a child. - JB

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


If you've read my post this week on Torontoist, consider this the DVD bonus feature.

Background: I spent Saturday bouncing back and forth between home and downtown (details soon). During a window between two engagements in the core, I had enough time to slip over to the Toronto Reference Library to do some prep work for this week's article. I had decide that since Ed Mirvish had passed away, this was a good idea to post an old Honest Ed's ad. I went with a nice, round number and zeroed in on newspapers from 40 years ago this week...this way, I could work in the long-defunct Toronto Telegram. I narrowed down the suitable candidates to three ads. Two had great headline banners, but only one wouldn't require hours of Photoshop to remove the years of wear, tear and mediocre microfilm printing.

Since the ad I chose didn't have a funny-ha-ha headline, I cropped the banners from the runners-up and used them in the article. But, if you're curious to see what the full versions look like...

Vintage Ad #275: Honest Ed's Smells Out Bargains For You!
Runner-up #1 was printed exactly eight years before I was born, in the July 15, 1967 edition of the Telegram. "Geritol" is one of those brand names that automatically makes me laugh, alongside Screaming Yellow Zonkers, Cheese Willikers and Bubba Cola.

Vintage Ad #274: For Lazy Living Visit Honest Ed's
Runner-up #2 appeared in the July 20, 1967 edition of the Toronto Star. Note the blank spaces on the bottom - products were there, but so smudged that all attempts to remove the fuzz failed. Nothing says lazy living like tinned herring. - JB

Monday, July 16, 2007


Vintage Ad #268: Matchbox Super 6
When I was a kid, I tended to like old-fashioned toys, like Lego and Tinkertoy. Action figures like Star Wars and He-Man never appealed to me, which then and now sounds blasphemous. High on my list of favourite play items were Matchbox dinky cars.

For hours, I'd guide various makes and models across the basement floor, through imaginary cities made out of various products. Among the types of cities:

* Low-budget roads made from copy paper, with Dad's books stacked up to make overpasses - pocket books worked best. Nothing says childhood fun like rolling an early 70s stationwagon across an overpass whose road is supported by Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (which I remember trying to read at an early age and mistaking "goddamn" for "Gotham", which left me wondering why Batman wasn't a character in the play).

* Lego, thanks to a gray placemat with a road etched in.

* A plastic road set that I believe was made by Matchbox, complete with a gas station and parking lots.

* Majo-Kit, which I amassed a pile of. Possibly my favourite childhood playset. Besides the basic road pieces, you could buy landscapes ranging from customs booths to tourist farms. Parking meters, park benches, trees, streetside cafes, streetlights, gas pumps...everything you needed to make your own city. Assembly could be as frustrating as putting together IKEA furniture, but it was loads of fun. I suspect Majo-Kit can take the blame for my periodic bouts of SimCity addiction. This site has pictures of a few sets I had.

Of the vehicles pictured here, I had the Mini Ha-Ha and possibly the fire truck. Matchbox made up most of my collection, with only a scattering of Hot Wheels - both lines now owned by Mattel.

Source: Our Fighting Forces #163, January 1976 - JB

Saturday, July 14, 2007


The Warehouse does not accept any responsibility for misuse of this product. - JB

Friday, July 13, 2007


Asking the Police Where to Find Poets
Need help finding where poets dwell in Toronto? Ask a police officer, especially any supervising hoisting operations in the Annex, and they will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

This one of several pictures I snapped during the Poets in Their Natural Habitat field trip during the recent Scream Literary Festival. Starting at Coach House Press, walkers, under the guidance of two seasoned "poetologists", wandered through the Annex, discovering wild specimens of poets reading samples of their work. Fun idea, with the guides staying in character the entire time.

Photo taken July 7, 2007 - JB

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've been a bit tardy with the Fringe Festival this year. Chalk it up to a combination of a very busy week, no close friends performing in shows this year and the recent humid spell. Two of the freebie Monkey Toast evening shows mark the extent of my Fringing so far. Tonight I should start making up for lost time, even if this year ends up being a record low since I began checking out the festival.

If you're in the same slump, check out the reviews and audience comments at eye and Now...just remember to take any irate playwrights with a grain of salt.


Au revoir Honest Ed. I laughed at a new sign suggestion from a reader over on Torontoist - "Honest Ed: He may be dead, but you will be in heaven with the money you save." Given the man, it's easier to imagine that as a light chuckle than a sick joke.


Look for modifications to this site over the weekend. I'm slowly working my way through older entries to add tags so that eventually a "hot/popular topics" (better, funnier title ideas will be accepted) column will appear in the list o' links for those interested in certain recurring subjects (vintage ads, food, music, etc).


I tried durian for the first time over the weekend. Verdict: pleasant texture, ambivalent about the mixture of flowery fruit and meaty-cheesy that confused my tastebuds. - JB

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I Ain't Afraid Of No Hair
If anyone can come up with a good Ghostbusters lyric riff, leave it in the comments section.

This sign, located on Malden Road on the west side of Windsor, has long amused my family. It's an odd part of Windsor, full of short dirt roads intended for subdivisions that were never built. Past maps filled in the area bounded by Malden, Todd Lane, Huron Church Line and the E.C. Row Expressway with neighbourhoods that never were or barely got rolling. This has worked to the natural environment's advantage, with much of the land now earmarked as the Spring Garden Natural Area, part of a complex of parkland and reserves that included the prairie grasslands west of Malden.

Photo taken July 1, 2007 - JB

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Previously on Roadtrippin': Close encounters of the bovine kind.

Day 5: Lancaster, PA to Pittsburgh, PA

I had spent the night at a Quality Inn that looked like it was an old roadside motel in a previous incarnation (outdoor entrances to both ends of the room, long parking lot, etc). Various stages of renovation were evident, though my bathroom was definitely from another era.

Pink Shower Tile
If my bathroom tile was pink, would there have been matching flamingos by the back courtyard? Anyone want to guess the age?

Country Table Restaurant
Tiring of continental breakfasts, I grabbed my morning meal in Mount Joy, just west of Lancaster. One menu item at the Country Table caught my eye: scrapple. While I had heard of this mush-like dish, I had never seen it on a menu until now.

It was the first and last time I'll order scrapple.

My plate came with three large pieces, of which I got through most of one before deciding the taste and texture weren't to my liking. This wasn't going to be an item that improved with each bite, which was too bad, since the accompanying pancake was fluffy and didn't sit like a lump in my stomach, while the scrambled eggs were the way I like them, slightly creamy.

I Suppose It Was Inevitable Horse Garage
Left: A patriotic gas station near Mount Joy. I didn't checked how blessed the 89 octane was.

Right: A common site around Lancaster, this roadside horse shelter near Elizabethtown was one of the last I saw on the trip. Most carry the "safety" pennant shown here.

Lincoln Highway We Warned You
From Harrisburg, I headed west along the Pennsylvania Turnpike until I tired of alternately being boxed in by speeding trucks and driving through downpours. After an hour, I hopped off and drove onto the route I should have taken all along, the Lincoln Highway (aka US 30). This was the first marked trans-continental highway, running from New York to San Francisco. Most of its eastern sections were absorbed into US 30 - before this trip, the only stretch I had travelled on was on the outskirts of Chicago at the start of my Route 66 trip.

Around Jennersville, warning signs for trucks were plastered along the side of the road, thanks a steep, winding drive. There were special ramps in case any driver lost control of their vehicle.

Lincoln Highway Barn
The historic nature of the route is marked by a number of barn paintings, such as this one.

It was a smooth ride into Pittsburgh. I stayed at a Comfort Inn atop a steep, winding road, which proved a cinematic drive at night. I explored the area, getting the lay of the land of the city's eastern suburbs. I cooled my heels at a Barnes and Noble at Monroeville Mall, discovering later that this was the same mall that George Romero used as the setting for Dawn of the Dead. Had I known, I would have taken my camera into the JCPenney or mindlessly rode the escalator.

It was an appropriate end to the day, since I felt like a zombie.

Full photo set on Flickr

Next: One fine day in Pittsburgh - JB

Monday, July 09, 2007


Simpsons Character
...I may as well join in the promotional gimmick. - JB

And there you have it - White Woods Mall is no more. The piles of rubble and half-demolished sections of the west wing were gone, with only the fitness centre and a dollar store remaining. From its ashes, outlots in the back signal the property's next incarnation.

Southwest Entrance, July 2007 Southwest Inner Doors
The old southwest entrance, now all by itself. Note the orange signs - the building, construction fence and parking lot were plastered with signs indicating the dollar store was still in business.

White Woods Artwork? The Outlots
One can debate whether these large stones in the back parking lot were randomly placed, stand as a memorial, protect the fire hydrant from errant shovel operators or function as art.

Previous entries. Full set of pictures.

All photos taken July 2, 2007 - JB