Sunday, November 30, 2008
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
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.
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.
Monday, November 24, 2008
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
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
Globe and Mail
New York Times (Sunday)
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
1,444: VINTAGE BETTER LIVING AD OF THE DAY
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?
Source: Better Living, June 1953 - JB
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bonus feature - the song this entry derived its title from.
Next: Elvis and Otis - JB
Monday, November 17, 2008
1,442: SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION DEPARTMENT
A few posts I wrote for Torontoist last week:
* Ads from the day World War I ended
* Polkaroo and two Ontario premiers help launch TVOntario's new digital production facilities
* A look back at random Santa Claus Parades - JB
Scribbled at 9:52 AM
Thursday, November 13, 2008
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
1,440: CATCHING UP: A FALL HIKE AND 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):
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).
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.
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. - JB
Sunday, November 09, 2008
1,439: VINTAGE TORONTO SUN AD OF THE DAY
Budget stretcher? Sure. Nutrition? Debatable.
Growing up, Kentucky Fried Chicken was the only national fast food chain to set up shop in Amherstburg for years. Colonel Sanders stared at us from the orange-and-white boxes occasionally, or from buckets during large family gatherings. My fingers were crossed that the box arrived with a breast or wing (tasty) instead of a thigh (disgusting). While I haven't eaten a piece of KFC in over a decade, one of my guilty pleasures is an annual splurge on medium tubs of their macaroni salad and glowing green coleslaw.
The Amherstburg location was later converted into a credit union with one element the KFC lacked - a drive-thru!
Source: The Toronto Sun, September 26, 1978 - JB
Friday, November 07, 2008
Source: The Witching Hour #46, September 1974
Pick a card, any card...
The "Wizard Collusion Trick" sounds intriguing, though I wonder if it is merely the secret of how to get other budding Blackstones to purchase six decks of trick cards. For me, the term "collusion" usually conjures images of baseball owners agreeing not to sign free agents.
As for the floating head with the giant bowtie, Marshall Brodien was a Chicago-based magician whose fame came from promoting these cards on television and a long stint as Wizzo the Wizard on WGN's edition of Bozo the Clown.
The Witching Hour was the third title introduced during DC's late 1960s resurrection of horror/suspense anthologies, following House of Mystery and The Unexpected. Debuting on newsstands in late 1968, witches Cynthia (the alluring one), Mildred (the fat one) and Mordred (the crone) presented spooky stories for 85 issues until they rode their brooms into The Unexpected in the wake of the DC Implosion of 1978. Neil Gaiman later adapted these characters into his Sandman mythos as The Three. I admit I hacked this ad out of a disintegrating copy of the source issue that I cut up for Christmas cards and tossed out eons ago, so no details on the yelp yarns within other than Nick Cardy's cover was more impressive than what lay inside.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
1,438: THE PRESIDENT-ELECT'S FIRST FOREIGN VISIT
TORONTO - United States President-Elect Barack Obama took little time in making his first foreign visit after he was declared the victor in Tuesday night's election. Shortly before speaking before an excited crowd in Chicago's Grant Park, Obama made a lightning-fast stop in Toronto's Dundas Square to greet enthusiastic local supporters.
Mr. Obama did not utter a word during his visit. Secret service officials allowed the crowd to rushed up to Mr. Obama to have their picture taken with him. After several hundred snapshots were taken, the President-Elect rushed back to Chicago.
The gathering, dubbed "Welcome Back America", was organized via Spacing magazine and a Facebook thread. Several hundred showed up, nearly all excited about the turfing of the Republicans from the Oval Office. One exception was a derelict who walked up to several people in the crowd to dampen their enthusiasm. Identifying himself as a Communist, he proceed to launch a spiel on the military-industrial complex before heaping insults on a nearby friend, who he described as a "crackhead." Attempts to engage the man in a political discussion led him to wander away.
As the billboards in the square were not tuned into coverage of the election, the crowd had to rely on radio reports to stay on top on breaking news. This barely dimmed the joy of the crowd, who at various points started a conga line, broke out a bottle of champagne, and danced to music inspired by Mr. Obama. Economic realities, controversial state propositions and other concerns would have to wait for another day - the night was a chance to let go of the frustration with the Bush administration and feel a glimmer of hope for Canada's neighbour.
For a sample of photos, see Torontoist and personal Flickr sites such as this.
Photographs by JB