Friday, October 30, 2009

spooky lady

Spooky Lady (2)

Spooky Lady (1)

One of the latest additions to Mom's collection of seasonal decorations is this charming pumpkin-headed lady. I wonder what name Dad would have bestowed upon her, as he did with many of the human-like figures found around our house during holiday seasons.

PS: A pile of posts this week on Torontoist, including the first edition of IFOA, 1960s beverage dispensers and a diabolical intersection in North York.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

old timey games department: hallow-e'en

Games For All Occasions

“A Merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance.”

The desire to play and frolic seems to be a heritage of mankind. In infancy and early childhood this joy and exuberance of spirit is given full sway. In youth, that effervescent stage of human existence, “joy is unconfined.” But in middle age and later life we are prone to stile this wholesome atmosphere of happiness, with care and worry and perhaps, when a vexed or worried feeling has been allowed to control us, even forbid the children to play at that time. Why not reverse things and drown care and strife in the well-spring of joy given and received by reviving the latent spark of childhood and youth; joining in their pleasures passively or actively and being one of them at heart. So presuming that “men are but children of a larger growth,” the games, pastimes and entertainments described herewith were collected, remembered and originated respectively with the view of pleasing all of the children, from the tiny tot to, and including, the “grown-up,” each according to their age and temperament.

So reads the preface to Mary E. Blain’s compendium of amusements, Games For All Occasions, which I recently found during a dive through the bins of a local thrift store. Published in 1909, this copy was once owned by Helen Barrow of 53 King Edward Avenue in Toronto—if any friends or relatives are reading this post and played any of the games in the book, let me know if Helen enjoyed any of them.

After a quick browse, I knew this book could be the foundation for many posts. Since Halloween is almost upon us, why not start with suggestions for ghoulish festivities from a century ago?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

remaking st. lawrence market: bonus features

Before reading this post, check out the related installment of Historicist.

Mingling amidst meat. Photo by F. Ellis Wiley. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 124, File 12, Item 7.

The F. Ellis Wiley fond on the City of Toronto Archives website is a treasure trove of images that preserve changes in the city during the 1960s and 1970s in glorious colour. The site has preserved Wiley's organizational scheme, which allow for leisurely flips through sets of buildings (many downtown, many long gone), parks and tourist attractions. His set of pictures of St. Lawrence Market pictures from the early 1970s through late 1980s provided a springboard for a post on the changes the local landmark experienced during that timespan.

Warning! The pictures after the fold may not be suitable for those made squeamish by certain food items sold in the open. Reader discretion is advised...but you know you're going to look anyways. You survived the first picture, after all. Admit it. ADMIT IT!

Friday, October 16, 2009

backstreets of toronto: croft street revisited

Readers of this site love Croft Street. Hits still come in for the series of posts I wrote four years ago about one of the city's most interesting streets. The graffiti, murals and other decorations that line the street are ever-evolving—several of the works I captured back in 2005 are long gone. A post-Nuit Blanche stroll through the neighbourhood provided an excuse to snap a few shots of the current crop of art along Croft Street's garage doors and walls.

Croft Street October 2009 - Peace Out T.O.

A departing citizen wishes peace on Toronto before heading to the west coast.

Croft Street October 2009 - Face

Someone has to look out for the well-being of the neighbourhood.

Friday, October 09, 2009

tape from seattle

Space Needle

The first few hours I spent in Seattle made me wish I had stayed longer in Portland—call it a combination of fatigue and bad luck. After whizzing up I-5 and dropping my belongings off at the hotel, I drove into the city in search of dinner. I hadn't looked at guidebooks beforehand, figuring I'd stumble upon a secret treasure. Not much caught my eye on the roads between Seatac Airport and downtown. I wound in Belltown, where parking was non-existant. Next try was Pioneer Square, where barely anything appeared to be open and a homeless guy dogged pursued me for spare change. Frustrated (and tired), I picked up some mediocre Mexican takeout on the way back to the hotel.

Pike Place Market

My disposition towards the city improved the next morning, thanks to time Pike Place Market.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

nuit blanche 4, westbound public transit 0

Caution Art

Nuit Blanche summarizing moment: just after midnight, Sarah and I stopped by the bustling food court at Village by the Grange. Tables were filled with customers, nearly all under 30, fuelling up for the rest of the evening. The woman behind the counter at the Greek stand was in a joyful mood, knocking the tax off our hefty containers of pastitsio and souvlaki because “it was the city’s night to enjoy.”

Despite crowds and transit issues, it was a night to enjoy. The rain held off, the temperature wasn't extreme, fellow Torontonians appeared to be soaking in the atmosphere. If the art didn't grab you, the people-watching and snippets of overheard conversations did.

Inflatable Thingy at OCAD (1)

Much of our enjoyment was outside the food court on McCaul Street, which was closed off for exhibits related to AGO and OCAD. While it was busy, we didn’t feel like we were drowning in a sea of people like the disaster movie scenes we passed by to the east on the Dundas streetcar. The atmosphere was light-hearted, perhaps spurred by the mix of art students, fog machines and inflatable beings. I’ve seen or heard a long list of names applied to cloud-like creatures of Moon-een on McCaul: angels, Pillsbury Doughboys, sperm, Stay-Puft Marshmallow Men, teddy bears, etc, etc. Their charm made it difficult for many bypassers not to pose for photos in front of the inflating creatures. We also encountered a bubbly girl requesting high-fives from all—we couldn’t tell if her strong French accent was real or inspired by Peter Sellers.

The greeting we received at Village by the Grange was much warmer than those from coffee shops on Parliament Street. While many businesses catered to the crowds in the core, potential customers checking out the lower-key exhibits in Cabbagetown found doors closing around 11—a later time than normal, but hours that probably could have extended by another hour or two. Boozy-breathed patrons gave us the heads-up on closing time at Jet Fuel, while the cleaner at Starbucks tried to tell people the store was closing in five minutes. A steady stream continued to flow in.

Public Displays of Affection - Kissbots (2)

Maybe weary staff needed kissbots like those found in Riverdale Farm. All it took was a couple of claps for the kissbots to show their love.

The exhibits in Cabbagetown, which included kissbots, video cubes and illuminated spiders, were a relaxing way to ease into the night. Not having to face crowds right off the bat allowed us to get into the mood of the evening, rather than letting swarms of people immediately make us cranky and tense.

Beautiful Light: 4 LETTER WORD MACHINE - You Probably Think This Exhibit Is About You

You probably think this exhibit’s about you, don’t you? Don’t you?

Beautiful Light: 4 Letter Word Machine drew enthusiastic call backs from the crowd in Nathan Phillips Square whenever a new word flashed during our first swing-by. On trip two, the only response to the gibberish and symbols that flashed on was a lot of head-scratching. Hard to say if the crowd was fully aware of the machine’s capability to generate nearly five billion graphic combinations or if some of the “words” flashing by were DNA codes. The description provided in the program guide was straightforward compared to those for other installations, which were so overwritten in the descriptions of artistic aims that flew over the heads of 97% of the crowd that it was hard to tell if they had been written with a straight face (I suspect...hope...not, since there were some that could have been amusing parodies of such writing).

Queen Subway Platform, around 2:15 a.m.

One of the major sources of complaints about the evening was TTC service, or lack thereof after 2 a.m. Using the subway to get around? No problem. Surface routes? Oh dear...trying to catch westbound surface routes in the core was like waiting for Godot, except that we had an engaging conversation with him during one of our fruitless watches for a Red Rocket. Three attempts to head into Zone C after 3 a.m. wasted an hour of our rapidly diminishing energy.

Attempt 1: Dundas and University. No streetcars spotted. Overheard teenage girls complain about the inability of suburban guys to find their way around.

Attempt 2: Queen and University. Several eastbound streetcars passed by. Choked on cigarette smoke from others waiting in vain for westbound transit. Taxis tried to dodge a Frisbee game taking place in the middle of Queen Street. We waited...and waited...and waited. Gave up and checked out the Zone B exhibits on Bay Street.

Attempt 3: King and Bay. Plenty of eastbound buses, occasional eastbound streetcar. Zilch going west. We waited...and get the picture. Abandoned idea to go to Zone C, headed towards Union Station.

Solutions for next year: beef up service on Dundas as a alternate route? Close Queen Street to all but pedestrians and transit (or just leave it open to pedestrians and leave the transit to Dundas, King and Harbourfront)?

Witches' Cradles (2)

Curling up in a sense-depriving witches’ cradle was so tempting...until I wondered if they would have turned me into a pod person, a human/insect hybrid, or one of the mutations William Hurt underwent in Altered States.

10 Scents

After a final stop that helped me determine which Glade air freshener to pick up on my next grocery run (sorry 10 Scents, but I didn’t think of Alice in Wonderland when wandering in and out of your scented porta-potties—with little time to ponder the contents of each can and a brain heading towards sleep, the mind tended to focus on the obvious), we hopped on the subway and called it a day just after 5 a.m. Not a peep was heard from fellow exhausted passengers. The city had been theirs and it was time to bid it adieu for the rest of the morning.


Looking for more? Besides the links posted previously, check out coverage from the Globe and Mail, Spacing, and the Star. - JB

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

vintage harper's ad of the day

Vintage Ad #905: The SAS Coloring Page

To quote my partner-in-crime: "Colour her eyes devilish; colour the flaps of her hat, her horns, diabolic: shades of red. Isn't she a pretty demoness, the SAS hostess?"

The Executive Coloring Book (presented for your pleasure at Ad to the Bone), published in 1961, was a satirical depiction of the life of a grey-suited, pill-popping businessman—the sort of client needing the kind of vacation SAS could provide. Not to mention the nineteen additional stewardesses...hmm, maybe this ad should have been printed in Playboy instead of Harper's.

Source: Harper's, April 1962 - JB

PS: Over on Torontoist, an ad for the old Thrifty's clothing chain featuring a Blue Jay who liked to water the field.

Monday, October 05, 2009

unheralded nuit blanche projects department

Shoe Comparison

What do your shoes say about the state of the economy and those who have benefitted or suffered from the recent economic malaise? Are fresh shoes a sign of hope and progress? Do well-worn shoes indicate degrees of comfort with one's position or a sign of incipient poverty? To communicate the differences between economic conditions and perceptions in Canada and the United States, shoes used in this performance art piece were acquired at shopping centres in Niagara Falls, New York and Toronto, Ontario. Participants will be encouraged to sit next to fake green plants to contemplate the theoretical artificiality of economic and monetary concepts.

Performed between 4 and 5 A.M. at Brookfield Place in Zone B, October 4, 2009

In Reality: the energy boost provided by heaping helpings of Greek food at midnight had faded by the time I snapped pictures of our shoes during a rest break. Sarah had invested in a comfy pair of walking shoes earlier in the day, which paid off during our Nuit Blanche wanderings.

A full report and selection of links about the evening is forthcoming—in the meantime, enjoy some photos, notes from the night, and suggestions for improvement. - JB