Wednesday, December 31, 2008

vintage marvel super-heroes ad of the day

Vintage Ad #618: Grit '73
Source: Marvel Super-Heroes #34, January 1973.

No geeky newsboys for Grit as the 1972 holiday season neared, just a parade of prizes in green and red. Perhaps the paper hoped the colour scheme would appeal down-on-their-luck or tight-allowanced readers desperate for money or economic gifts to give at Christmas?

But wait, isn't this comic book dated January? Wouldn't the holiday season have been winding down to a close or over by the time this issue hit the stands? Nope. Since comic books were dated two to three months after they hit the newsstands, the January 1973 Marvel lineup would have hit newsstands closer to Halloween than Christmas. Wikipedia provides a brief explanation.


Originally published in Tales to Astonish #79 (May 1966), The Titan and the Torment! (story: Stan Lee, art: Bill Everett over Jack Kirby layouts) picks up where our previous look at ol' Jadejaws left off. Konrad Zaxon (evil!) aims his "Organic Energy Attractor" at the Hulk with the hope that once our misunderstood hero is dispatched, nothing will stand in the way of world conquest!

Poor Zaxon never had a chance, his battle with the Hulk akin to the swordsman sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Dying accidentally from your own invention on page two is not a pretty way for a potential world overlord to go. Checking Zaxon's online profile reveals that he hasn't been seen since 1966. It also raises questions about the Hulk's skill as a medical examiner.

As for the rest of the story: army chases Hulk, Hulk decides ripping rails from a desert train lines provides him with weapons, oncoming train happens to have Hercules as a passenger, mayhem and wonderful sound effects (RUMPPH! KRAK! BAR-OOOM!) ensue.

Originally presented on my defunct comic book ad site on December 31, 2008 - JB

Monday, December 22, 2008

wexford or bust

How Many Eggs and Oranges?
Awhile back, I floated roadtrip out to Scarborough among some friends, based on a walk along Lawrence Avenue that a few had done several years ago. One element from that trek occasionally surfaced during conversations about Scarborough: an image of a stern-looking man used on the sign for The Kirks, a side lounge for the venerable Wexford Restaurant.

This required investigation.

54 East
Rexall Living Room
Before eating, we checked out 54 East. Located in a former drug store, the space is part local history centre, part gallery. The main exhibit spotlighted the musical heritage of Scarborough. Thousands of records were pressed in the area, some on labels whose names derived from the neighbourhood (e.g. Birchmount, one of Quality's subsidiaries).

Oh, Canadiana!
Most of these albums passed through my family over the years (this copy of Lightfoot! looks much healthier than mine...).

Eggs and Oranges A Few Eggs Ago...
Breakfast All Day at the Wexford Restaurant
This year marked the 50th anniversary of the first cracked eggs and squeezed orange at the Wexford. The walls celebrate its connections to the community, through mock street signs and historic images. The 1960s-70s era family restaurant decor and a sticker at our table touting the rice pudding quickly comforted us. I was reminded of a recent breakfast experience I had with Amy at The Lumberjack in Windsor, though the Wexford's surroundings weren't quite as rustic. Not the type of place to go to for culinary wizardry, just good comfort food that has kept customers satisfied for eons.

As for what we ate...

French Toast and a Side of Home Fries
Alison - french toast and a side home fries. She determined it was the best french toast she had ever sampled.

Back Bacon and Eggs
Dylan - back bacon and eggs.

Sausage and One Egg
Nadia - sausage and one egg, with a dash of pepper.

Ham and Eggs
Me - ham and eggs.

The Wexford was pricey for greasy spoon fare (our dishes hovered around the $10 mark), but was worth the cost taste-wise—we left with happy stomachs. Fresh orange juice helped wash everything down. The coffee cups disagreed on how many eggs had been cracked or oranges squeezed.

From Greece to Wexford
Nearby, a pair of murals celebrated the journeys of immigrants to Wexford, utilizing subway map-style graphics.

Strip malls rule Lawrence around Wexford, most anchored by grocery stores offering tastes of cuisines ranging from Caribbean to Korean. Middle Eastern food stores dominate, with Nasr Foods and Arz Fine Foods the largest of the lot. We checked out a couple of stores, sampling sweets that may provide an excuse for a return trip.

Ring Road Plaza
On our way out to the Steeles/Middlefield branch of T&T, Dylan caught a glimpse of a semi-circular plaza at Lawrence and Markham Road. We investigated Ring Road Plaza and discovered goodies like Monkey Brand black tooth powder.

Ring Road Plaza Mosaic Hardware
Design elements included mosaics near the grocery store and hanging signs that appeared to have greeted customers for decades.

All photos taken November 22, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

don't go home without it!


Don't Go Home Without It
American Express used to remind customers "don't leave home without it." At Donlands and O'Connor, Paan-O-Rama puts its own spin on the old credit card slogan.

Bonus feature: Stephen King, American Express pitchman.

Photo taken December 4, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008


Back in the early 1990s, I regularly taped the Friday "Viewer Mail" segment of Late Night With David Letterman and any skits that followed. One segment Amy and I continue to quote from is a showcase of odd-but-real video tapes. Archaeological expeditions through the valley of YouTube have unearthed several of the videos that Dave took potshots at, but evidence of others remains lost to time, unless the tape this segment was preserved on is found.

Among the highlights:

  • A tape for pipe smokers, where the host extols the virtues of the "brotherhood of the briar". A smoker passes by, prompting the host to greet him with "Hi Bob, nice pipe!"

  • T-Bone's World of Clowning, an introduction to the art. A man tells T-Bone that he'd like to know more about clowning. The clown's response, uttered in a stilted, wow-can't-you-tell-I'm-not-reading-cue-cards-manner: "Really? Acrobatics is a skill I really enjoy! Let's make a deal!" (to which Letterman notes "yeah, they're pipe smokers.") While the exact clip doesn't appear to be available on the web, the video above looks as if it may come from the same source.

  • An anti-smoking program where Larry Hagman reveals the mini-pocket fan he carries to blow offensive smoke away and provide smokers with a brief burst of cool air (Letterman: "I have an even bigger fan to keep Larry Hagman away").

  • An exercise program based on the art of juggling. Cue a hefty dude in grey sweatshirt, valkyrie wig and heavy rouge semi-operatically extolling the audience to "juggle your way to health and beauty/juggle your way to beauty and health." Letterman compares the juggler's beauty to Madonna.
  • Omar Sharif provides tips on how to play bridge. "Now through the electronic miracle of video cassettes, you will be my partner" (to which Letterman responded "now through the miracle of the eject button"). My grandmother was a bridge enthusiast, which earned her the most media exposure in the family in the late 1980s when the results of her weekly bridge club were printed in the local paper.

  • Willard Scott demonstrates the fine art of toenail clipping for The Farmers' Almanac.
  • The piece-de-resistance, the video that never fails to make either of us roll on the floor, is a segment from a parenting guide called It's Potty Time. Two over-enthusiastic parents sing about their "super-duper pooper" of a daughter, accompanied by a marching miniature man who may have failed an audition for Harold Hill in The Music Man.

    The producers had the best of intentions for making a useful toilet-training video...but a musical ode to learning how to poop is going to come off as bizarre under any circumstances. Besides, a mini angel/guide/clown/peeping tom that comments and makes rhymes about excrement? Creepy.

    I think I'd rather have my child trained by Mr. Hankey.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

bonus features: come be pampered


Like DVDs of motion pictures, sometimes posts I write for other web sites merit bonus features. Before browsing this entry, read "Vintage Toronto Ads: Come Be Pampered", posted on Torontoist on Nov 25/08.

Vintage Ad#669: House of Fuji-Matsu
Sources: The Toronto Star, February 29, 1956 (left), The Toronto Star, February 23, 1956 (right)

A pair of ads for Toronto's first Japanese restaurant, the House of Fuji-Matsu (operated 1955 to c. 1958-59). Based on the ads I've unearthed, the house specialty was sukiyaki, the Japanese dish most often found in mid-century cookbooks whenever the editors wanted to present something slightly exotic. My lone experience eating sukiyaki came at one of the cheap sushi joints in The Annex and I wasn't that enthralled—maybe it was the runny egg that didn't mix well with the other ingredients.

Vintage Ad #670: Tanaka '87
Source: The Toronto Star, February 6, 1987

The last trace I found of Tanaka of Tokyo while digging through the local newspaper archives was an ad included among other restaurants pitching themselves to lovebirds for Valentine's Day in 1987. At least they spelled "Tokyo" correctly in this one.

Tanaka appears to be have remained on Bay until 1990, then spent its final year of operation on King Street in the Entertainment District...where my sister dined on her grade 8 class trip to Toronto. She remembers little about the meal other than the name.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

beware the kiosk people

Labelscar has a nifty piece on one of the annoyances of the modern shopping mall experience: obnoxious kiosk salespeople. You know the type: usually selling skin cream or cell phone accessories from a cart in the middle of the corridor, using every attention-grabbing tactic possible to make innocent shoppers test their wares. The "grab" can be literal, as family members have learned - I have seen Amy take as wide a walk as possible to dodge skin cream sellers reaching out to her at Oakland Mall in suburban Detroit.

Of the five types of obnoxious kiosk listed in the article, the only "the blanket people" haven't attempted to lure me in. Being asked to feel a blanket out of the blue has potential for creepiness—I imagine a "Sprockets"-style sales pitch:

BLANKET PERSON: Hi there, wanna touch my blanket?
INNOCENT SHOPPER: (mumbles) Pervert...

As for being chased by a salesperson, that hasn't happened to me yet. The last time anyone followed me in hot pursuit on foot in the US was back in high school, when a panhandler in Ann Arbor was so determined to receive spare change from me that he kept at it for a block-and-a-half on Liberty Street. His belligerent tone made it seem like he wanted more than a handful of coins, so I walked faster, then ran out into traffic to cross the street, which finally shook him off.


Ever wondered who owns the Danforth?

Who Owns the Danforth?
Question answered.


This week's Vintage Toronto Ad: Two guys named Ted Rogers. - JB

Sunday, November 30, 2008

warehouse holiday gift ideas department

Vintage Ad #674: Garden of Eating (1)
Back in the spring at the ever-wonderful Elora Festival book sale, I purchased a stack of 1950s Gourmet magazines. The December 1958 issue featured a lengthy "Garden of Eating" gift section devoted to specialty food producers. Over the next few weeks, you will tempted by tasty treats from half-a-century that may inspire you to bestow a 5-1/2 lb drum of roux on your loved ones—it would be quirkier than a run-of-the-mill Hickory Farms sampler!

Friday, November 28, 2008

just as cary grant finds himself holding the knife...

Over the lunch hour yesterday, I popped into the neighbourhood used record store and picked up a pair of soundtracks: The Producers (original film version from the 60s) and North By Northwest. I usually test out additions to my CD collection on the road, so when I needed to head out to the east end to snap photos for a future article, I brought along the disc pictured at left, Bernard Herrmann's score to one of my favourite Hitchcock flicks.

Driving home along Danforth, I noticed a police car with all lights flashing race up behind me...just as the soundtrack reached the scene where Cary Grant suddenly finds himself holding a knife lodged in the back of a diplomat at the United Nations.

My heart jumped out of my body and performed acrobatic stunts I haven't been able to do since grade two.

I pulled over to the side to allow the police to race to their emergency and to chuckle at how the music and traffic had coincided so perfectly.

"Oh no, Mr. Thornhill. There is no such person as George Kaplan"
Not the right scene, but the photo was handy

But I shouldn't have been surprised by my reaction. Often when I drive alone, I imagine the music blaring at 11 through the speakers as the accompaniment to a movie scene, usually a title sequence or what Roger Ebert refers to as the "semi-obligatory music video" moment. Someday I expect to see text credits rolling across the windshield. Scenic roads frequently invoke this, as does playing Iggy Pop's "The Passenger" while driving past downtown on the Gardiner Expressway at night.

ren cen then and now

Vintage Ad #673: It's What Inside That Counts
Source: Monthly Detroit, July 1978

Now: Check out Spacing Toronto for a recent tour of the complex, now home to GM's world headquarters. - JB

Monday, November 24, 2008

lining up for the ago's reopening

Waiting to Get Into the Art Gallery of Ontario Reopening - 3:15 PM Sunday Lineup Along McCaul Street

Art Gallery of Ontario, Northwest Side
For its recent reopening and public introduction to its Frank Gehry-designed additions, the Art Gallery of Ontario offered free admission for the inaugural weekend. Due to other commitments, I wasn't able to check it out until the Sunday. I arrived around 2:30 to find a line running down McCaul Street that curved onto Grange Road. Feeling hungry, I decided to eat a late lunch then return to assess the state of the line.

The top picture was what I returned to at 3:15 - the line had curved back onto McCaul and now stretched about a block further south. Since the AGO is maintaining a free admission night (unlike the Royal Ontario Museum, which I've only been to once since its star-architect addition opened), I figured it would be more relaxing to wait a few weeks to take in the changes.

Photos taken November 16, 2008 - JB

Friday, November 21, 2008

tell the people what's going on

Vintage Ad #647: The News Tells the People What's Going On
Absent is the slogan I associate with the News, which Dad quoted endlessly: "If you read the News, you know."

William Giles served as the paper's editor from 1977 to 1983. Apparently he earned the nickname "Armpits" due to a hands-behind-his-head portrait than ran with his columns. During his tenure, the News was locked in a circulation battle with its rival, the Free Press. The two papers entered into a joint operating agreement in 1989, with the Freep emerging as the higher-circulation paper.


As a kid, I preferred the Free Press, probably due to a more attractive package. I was drawn to newspapers early, due to the high volume that flowed through our home. How many, you ask? Here's a snapshot of what the family newspaper consumption looked like while I was in high school (early 90s)

Detroit Free Press
Detroit News
Globe and Mail
Toronto Star
Windsor Star

New York Times (Sunday)

Amherstburg Echo
Metro Times

These were peppered over the years with papers picked up on vacation (usually the Toledo Blade with its "Peach" section and Toronto Sun) and a brief spell of curiousity with the National Post (Dad geared down to weekends-only quickly, then dropped it entirely).

Dad went through each paper twice: when he received it and when he clipped out articles for his students to use for research. He laid an old, ink-stained tablecloth on the kitchen table, flipped on the radio (either CBC Stereo for music/arts or WJR for sports), laid out a pen and scissors and began clipping away. Besides the research material, he preserved recipes for Mom, oddball items for me and a two-year supply of Canadian-money-at-par coupons for Armando's Mexican restaurant. I sat at the table and bugged him if I had nothing better to do, often reading aloud one of my Sports Hall of Shame or bad movie books.

Once a box or two of clippings amassed, he organized them by general topic on the basement floor, took them to school and placed them in their ultimate resting place. By the time I reached high school, declining enrolment led the administration to turn over a former business classroom as his sorting room. This came in handy as a hiding spot whenever Amy and I skipped assemblies and motivational speakers we had no desire to see. By the time Dad passed away, the collection filled the sorting room, the back cupboards of two other classrooms and several filing cabinets. Almost up to the end he clipped away, admitting at times it may have been a tad obsessive, though hundreds of students would disagree. It would have been nice to preserve the collection, but space, developments in digital preservation and I suspect copyright issues would have torpedoed any attempts to find a new home. There are times when I'm writing historical pieces that I wish I had a box of his clippings handy to save time hitting dead ends in digital archives.

I started reading newspapers while I was still in single digits. The entertainment section and comics were my launch pad (I liked the movie ads and Starweek). Soon I moved into the sports section, probably during the Tigers' 1984 pennant race. The rest of the paper grabbed my attention around the start of high school - I flipped through the morning dailies in Dad's classroom before heading off to home room.

I rarely pick up either of the Detroit dailies on visits home due to their reduced content. Trying to puff up a weekend edition with four-page sections does not make a satisfying read.

Source: Monthly Detroit, August 1978 - JB

Thursday, November 20, 2008

blooming babies (by mennen)

Vintage Ad #660: Blooming Baby Powder
Some people find baby faces blooming from flowers or vegetables adorable. Some people make a significant amount of money from this concept. Some people find the concept creepy and skin-crawling.

Why can't I get the "by Mennen!" jingle/stinger out of my head?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

southern sojourn 3: all the way to memphis

Camp Modern Cottages (2)
We all agree that Bowling Green, Kentucky was one of the low points of the trip. Perhaps we should have taken a derelict motor court on the outskirts of the city as a sign. The Everly Brothers may have thought Bowling Green had the prettiest girls they ever saw, but nothing went right for us inside the city limits. We were looking for a place to grab a quick lunch, but every road I took led into residential neighbourhoods or out to the middle of nowhere. Downtown was a dusty construction zone, the university a haven for monster speed bumps. Nary a pretty girl wandered by.

On our way back to the freeway, we came upon a Waffle House. Never having been to one before (the closest locations to Detroit are in Toledo), we figured it was worth a shot. We stepped in the doorway and Mom's jaw dropped to the floor. Imagine the messiest diner you have ever been in and multiply the dirty dish factor by five. The Toronto Board of Health would have had a field day with the state of the kitchen and tables. One look at Mom's horrified expression and I knew we'd be running with our lives back to the car. For the rest of the trip, we couldn't resist making wisecracks anytime we passed a Waffle House...which happened approximately every five minutes.

Portal Grouping (1)
Art ("Portal Grouping" by Philip Van Der Weg) on display at the Tennessee welcome centre on I-65. The drive towards Memphis was smooth and uneventful, apart from taking a sneak-peek drive through Nashville. As we neared Memphis, the smooth, sculpture-like shapes of the kudzu along I-40 caught our attention. Stunning yet creepy, but more on that in a future entry.

We stayed at a Drury Inn on the east side of the city. Mom had stayed at one in Michigan and gave it a thumbs-up, while I was attracted by reasonable prices and perks like free booze in the lobby during happy hour. When we arrived, we noticed signs on the front door and in the room warning of a rash of recent car robberies. We left a tin of mints in the back seat to give any potential break-and-enter perpetrator something for their trouble.

Central BBQ (2)

Central BBQ (3)
Since we couldn't eat in Memphis without sampling some barbecue, we checked out a branch of Central BBQ not far from the hotel. It was a sight straight out of the Not Fooling Anybody website, as few alterations were made to its former incarnation as a Red Lobster. I half expected a waiter in Hawaiian gear to toss us a basket of garlic cheese biscuits. Alas, no sign of them on the menu.

Central BBQ (5) - Half Chicken
Amy went with the half chicken, accompanied by beans and mac n' cheese. The required cheap white bread (in the form of buns) came with each meal.

Central BBQ (6) - Rack of Ribs
Mom ordered a full rack of ribs to share, sided with beans and coleslaw. We tried it half "wet" (with sauce), half "dry" (with rub). Mom preferred the former, I liked the latter. Both were tasty and meaty.

Central BBQ (7) - Pulled Pork
I had the pork plate, served with beans and greens. My stomach was very happy with the mound of smokey goodness, washed down with several cups of ice tea.

Next: Elvis and Otis

Thursday, November 13, 2008

bonus features: a wartime letter

Like DVDs of motion pictures, sometimes posts I write for other web sites merit bonus features. Before browsing this entry, read "A Wartime Letter", posted on Torontoist on Remembrance Day.

Douglas Morrison Waldon Air Force Portrait and Death Notice
The material I used for the story comes from a box sitting in Mom's basement. It appears to be material my paternal grandmother collected, mostly photos and newspaper clippings. The earliest photos are probably from the 1920s, while the newest content consists of my first regular media gig, writing the monthly highlight column for my elementary school in The Amherstburg Echo while I was in grade 8. Much of the material is World War II vintage and revolves around my great-uncle Morrey.

Pilot Officer from Toronto Listed Missing
This is the notice that appeared in The Toronto Star on August 11, 1941, when Morrey was reported missing. A similar story appeared the same day in The Evening Telegram. The loss was devastating to the family. His name lived on among several nephews, including my father, who was given Douglas as a middle name when he was born the following year.

The box contains two other letters that he wrote home, but those will be saved for future Remembrance Days.

"They Died For Freedom's Sake"
Morrey was one of 26 airmen honoured by the city in a Remembrance Day ceremony the year after he died (source: The Evening Telegram, November 11, 1942).

Official Opening of Mountain View RCAF Station
While he was overseas, it appears the family journeyed east to attend the opening of an RCAF station near Picton. My grandmother is getting a crash course in how to operate a plane in the middle picture (source: The Globe and Mail, July 21, 1941). - JB

Monday, November 10, 2008

one hike, two dinners


Longtime readers may have noticed that I'm not quite as speedy as I once was in posting about things going on in this corner of the world. Writing for other sites, fatigue from increasingly busy times at my day job and a hectic everyday life in general have dented some of the grandiose schemes I've had for this blog and its offshoots (examples: brief election coverage, tales of the family summer roadtrip that will stretch into 2016, a Backstreets of Toronto sitting in "draft" for nearly two years).

So, in an attempt to play catch-up, here are a trio of recent events, all of which are fully fleshed out in their respective Flickr photo sets (hit the link on each event name):


Taking in the Landscape

Dog Regulations at Mono Cliffs Along the Trail Lower Observation Area Lounging by the Lake Stay Clear of Cliff Edges Jumping to the Crevice

Mono Cliffs: Growing out of a suggestion at a party, a group heading out near Orangeville in September to go for a hike in Mono Cliffs Provincial Park. Fueled by burgers and Blizzards from the Dairy Queen we met up at, we spent the afternoon roaming around the park, checking out spectacular views and rugged crevices. I didn't explore the latter too much, partly out of nervousness, mostly due to knees I banged up while taking out the garbage the day before. Perfect weather conditions made it difficult to tear ourselves away from a rest stop at a pond. We wound down the day at a local pub, which took the phrase "hands-on service" literally (and made a mean lamb burger).


Omakase Sushi (2) - Second Round

Zen Japanese Restaurant Complimentary Edamame Dinner Special Omakase Sushi (1) - First Round Tempura

Zen - September's dining group adventure was at a Japanese restaurant in a sketchy plaza in Scarborough. It was the type of plaza where the first thing you see after hopping out of the car is a group of men engaged in a loud, confrontational conversation. A great way to ease into dinner.

Because of the set-up of the room, we were split in two groups, so getting a sense of what everyone was sampling took a little running around. Most chose the omakase sushi set, which consisted of two platters of the chef's selections (round two shown in the main picture) and a hand roll. This was the first time I tried sea urchin and found it to my liking. Going back to cheap sushi proved difficult for sometime afterwards.


The Lazy Susan Fills Up (2)

Grand Scallop Dumpling Saucing the Shrimp Shrimp Mousse Tempura Steamed Cake with Green Tea and Lotus Seed Paste Red Bean Past Pancake with Homemade Sesame Ice Cream

Grand Chinese Cuisine: October's meal saw the group head out near the airport to sample dim sum. It didn't take long for us to play with the lazy susan on the table. Each of us chose a different dish from the various menus, most of which were stomach-pleasing. I was partial to the Deep-Fried Sesame Balls Stuffed with BBQ Duckling, Taro and Pine Seed (main picture, right) and the sesame ice cream.