Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1,613: random notes

Assorted bits and pieces that have gathered dust for awhile...

***

Back in August, I went to the ninetieth anniversary celebrations at the Music Hall on Danforth. It was difficult to resist the lure of seeing a silent movie with live accompaniment for a loonie, even though I had a pile of work to do that night.

Two problems during the evening:

1) The number of speakers before the movie should have been cut in half due to the ludicrous amount of shilling for an upcoming production of the Toxic Avenger musical. By the third or fourth pitch to see Toxie sing, I came this close to fleeing. I waited for a dignitary to fall to their knees and plead with the audience to buy tickets for the musical like a televangelist sobbing for money.

2) The DVD froze around the middle of the film. The piano player improvised as the film moved at a rate of one frame per minute, but even he threw up his hands when the pace crawled to a standstill. At least one cry to fix the machine came from the audience, which soon prompted an intermission. It was smooth sailing for the rest of the night.

***

Commom Green Damer Dragonfly
Common Green Damer Dragonfly. Taken at Point Pelee, August 3, 2009. Placed here for no particular reason.

***

Disagreeing with the way David Miller has governed Toronto is one thing. Some comments left on local media sites since Miller announced he won't run for a third term are mindboggling—they feel like the antics of s**t-disturbers or sad cries for attention from lonely, embittered people chained to their computers.

Oh dear, the latter succeeded...

***

Memo to self: when visiting the Leslie Spit after sunset in late August, bring plenty of bug repellent. Other than that, it's a lovely spot to spend a Saturday evening in the summer with fellow psychogeographers.

One stumbling block: the start of the walk coincided with the end of an evening charity run. I discovered this when I reached a police stop at Leslie and Commissioners. Suffering from my usual state of nervousness whenever doing something technically against rules of any sort (the spit officially closes at sunset), I told the officer I was headed to T&T on Cherry Street. After taking the roundabout route to the spit, I met up with those who had biked to the park entrance and we waited for the last batch of runners to stagger by before heading in. My level of paranoia was, as usual, unjustified—nobody said anything about our presence.

Orange Sky
The glow of the city

We stopped by the lighthouse, where another group had come to rest. They were stunned when they learned we had walked down to the tip. The bugs put a slight damper on a celebratory birthday drink for one member of the expedition, but it was a relaxing spot to spend the evening gathered around candlelight.

***

Latest post on Torontoist: corn syrup, CFRB and hockey.

Monday, September 28, 2009

1,612: thankful? what, me worry?

Vintage Ad #927: Thankful? What, Me Worry?

While researching an upcoming Historicist piece this past weekend, I stumbled upon this odd notice from the business section of the October 12, 1936 edition of the Mail and Empire. No idea what the backstory is, other than it appears to involve mining speculation.

Johnny did pretty well for himself after he changed his name soon after his assumption of mascot duties at Mad magazine in the mid-1950s. The fame he achieved made up for past jobs in the advertising world, which included promoting soda pop and painless dentistry, portraying a victim of a deficiency disease, and assuming the role of assorted grinning idiots. - JB

Friday, September 25, 2009

1,610: why do alien warlords like levi's?



Another example of YouTube proving long-term childhood memories are correct: a Levi's ad that stuck in my head for years featuring a slightly creepy alien warrior who uttered "LE-VI-ZUH!" a lot and chuckled at the end of the commercial. I'm not surprised that I don't remember the wussy human.



The warrior made at least one other appearance, shown above. The jean-makers animated ads from the late 70s/early 80s are stunning in their design, rotoscoping (basing the animation on human models) and overall quirkiness (A farmer who shows great pride in his denim crop? How would jeans have fit humans if we had physically evolved in different ways?). - JB

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

1,609: photo du jour

Speckled Swan Gourds
Pardo Villa Acres, Pardoville (near Blenheim). Photo taken September 7, 2009. - JB

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

1,608: vintage detroit monthly ad of the day

Vintage Ad #925: Romantic Dining Under a Painting of Smoking Dogs Playing Poker

You've been waiting all day for this. A nice, romantic dinner with your beloved, where love is in the air as you gingerly tear into a rack of meaty pork ribs. Neither of you will care if sweet BBQ sauce drips onto your chic blouse or comfy sportcoat—it's being together in the moment that matters. Your relationship is sealed under the gaze of smoking dogs playing poker.

The painting may be gone, but Tunnel Bar-B-Q carries on.

Detroit Monthly ran the same review of TBQ for years: "For many Yanks, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel is a long driveway to this rib shack. Big meaty ribs, oversized salads and diet-shattering desserts. The decor is Early Franchise."

***

Also in the June 1986 issue of Detroit Monthly:

* A profile of longtime WJR morning host J.P. McCarthy, a Detroit radio institution from the early 1960s until his death in 1995. McCarthy was usually on in the car at the start of long roadtrips—he always talked about his golf game. Other elements I remember: "Gee, I Didn't Know That!" (spoken like an old radio jingle), the gong for Farmer Jack savings time, the electronic music for "Computer Kickoff" (a syndicated preview of that week's football matches), and Paul Harvey advertising one product or another. He also hosted the station's main interview program, Focus.

As "the great voice of the Great Lakes", WJR was the classic full service radio station—strong news department, local personalities, thematic music programming (usually Patterns in Music or Kaleidoscope in our car), and a healthy sports lineup (Red Wings, Tigers, Wolverines). Now it's just another right-leaning talk radio station. Rerun of McCarthy's lesser golf conversations would be finer listening than thirty seconds combined of current station stalwarts Rush, Sean and Dr. Laura.

* Several features related to the fifth edition of the Detroit Grand Prix, highlighting costs ($25,000 for a corporate suite at the Renaissance Centre, anyone?), drivers who earned millions, and a photo spread of very 1980s spectator fashion.

* A newcomers guide for residents moving to the Detroit area, including "loony landmarks" (the giant Uniroyal tire on I-94 by the airport and the oil tank painted like a baseball on I-75 near the Rouge River that was later turned into a basketball) and "native customs" (regional quirks like party stores, street name pronunciations, deep potholes, Chaldeans, etc).

***

Sidenote: at some point during 1985-86, the magazine changed its name from Monthly Detroit to Detroit Monthly. Why bother?

Shameless Self-Promotion Department: Over on Torontoist, snapshots of North York in the 1960s, and where to celebrate your stunning Shakespearian performance in the 1980s. - JB

Friday, September 18, 2009

1,607: calling all liquor historians!

Ancient Bottle of Marie Brizard Creme de Menthe (1) Ancient Bottle of Marie Brizard Creme de Menthe (2)
Click on photos for closeup.

One useful task accomplished while resting at home over Labour Day weekend was a long-overdue cleaning-out of the family liquor cabinet. We're not known for overindulging in booze, so bottles of alcohol tend to stick around for years. Mom was certain that a few bottles near the back predated me, possibly back to the late 1960s.

Among the ancient treasures we found was a bottle of Marie Brizard creme de menthe of indeterminate age. If any liquor historians can date this bottle based on the pictures above, I'd love to hear from you. - JB, bottles held aloft by GT

Thursday, September 17, 2009

1,606: sun on the run: bonus features

Before reading this post, check out the original article on Torontoist.

Brunny
In case the fine print is too fine—left to right: Ben Wicks, Paul Rimstead, Peter Worthington. Photo by Norm Betts. The Toronto Sun, October 24, 1972.

Paul Rimstead wasn't kidding when he said the other papers paid next-to-no attention to his mayoral campaign. Passing references were made to him in the Globe and Mail, while the Star couldn't resist a potshot or two. Case in point: Jack Miller's television column from the December 1, 1972 Star, which noted Rimstead's appearances on CITY:

The station even managed to present him in a suit—a nice blue suit—as part of a male fashion show on the afternoon Sweet City Woman series this week. It’s rumoured he’ll be wearing a suit again for tonight’s debate, indicating he takes CITY even more seriously than they take him (which is more seriously than most people take him).

This attitude may partly explain why Rimstead was not thrilled when the Star asked him for a three hundred word summary of his platform instead of a spot on a candidates forum beside David Crombie, Tony O'Donohue and David Rotenberg.

From the November 23, 1972 edition of the Star:

The Toronto Star asked me if I would like to outline my platform today in 300 words. I have declined, because it would not have nearly the impact of fair treatment and an invitation to last night's forum.

Oh well, that's show business. The Empire Club excluded me, too.


1972 Mayoral Logos
Logos for the three frontrunners in the 1972 mayoral race. The Toronto Sun, December 4, 1972.

The 1972 mayoral race will probably pop up in a future installment of Historicist, as it was one of the key elections in Toronto's history. The Toronto Life covers from the campaign alone are worth an article.

***

It shouldn't come as a shock that I wrote an archive column for my university newspaper. I loved leafing through the bound copies of back issues and seeing how student attitudes had changed over time, or which political columnists and figures writers loved to take pot shots at. Through the 1970s and 1980s Lubor Zink's columns were a favourite target due his zealous Cold Warrior persona. Since Guelph didn't have the Sun on microfilm, I asked Dad about Zink's writings. His assessment was that Zink was overzealous in his battle against Communist states and sympathizers, but felt that a few of his criticisms proved correct in the long run.

Still, any long-term truths are buried in an onslaught of unceasing vitriol that may provoke laughter in anyone other than die-hard Commie hunters. As former Telegram colleague Fraser Kelly summed up Zink in a July 1, 1972 column for the Star: “Those of us who know him well find him to be warm, kind and clever. We also consider him to be obsessed by the Communist menace.”

As for Zink's campaign against "Trudeaucracy"...hoo boy. Read for yourself. If you hate PET, you're in for a treat. If you love/respect PET, you're in for a comical treat.

Zink's stronger-than-expected result in the 1972 election was helped by chaos in the NDP camp. Economist/political activist Mel Watkins was slated to run in Parkdale until the party gave the boot to Watkins' Waffle faction. A last-minute scramble for a replacement candidate ensued.

***

As for Peter Worthington, the strong feelings that his campaigns evoked are best summed up in a photo:

We Want W
Photo by Nancy Ackerman. Source: The Globe and Mail, August 29, 1984.

Nearly all of Worthington's fellow Sun columnists were effusive in their praise during his runs (only Douglas Fisher was willing to admit his chances of victory was less than 100% certain). Here are a few words from Worthington's successor as Sun EIC, Barbara Amiel that appeared October 10, 1982:

What distinguishes the B-G campaign is not the facr of an independent candidate—Peter Worthington—running for office, but a candidate with independent ideas. For whatever the voters of [Broadview-Greenwood] may think of Worthington’s free-market, free-enterprise support of individual initiative and responsibility, there is no quibbling with the absolute fact that he offers a clearcut alternative to the various shades of state socialism now offered by all political parties...The party system will survive. But it will survive more strongly if the voters in Broadview-Greenwood, that strange amalgam if a thousand-and-one Canadians of every political shading, put down their ideological differences and personal animosities in favour of telling politicians of every hue and persuasion that the time has come to give meaning to the diversity of ideas.

Sorry to you inform you Barbara, but that byelection didn't alter the face of the political landscape, though Worthington was within two thousand votes of victory. The seat was up for grabs after Bob Rae switched from federal to provincial politics upon his victory in the Ontario NDP leadership race. Most of the riding had voted NDP since 1965 (when it was part of Broadview) and continued to until Liberal Dennis Mills won in 1988. Following a renaming to Toronto-Danforth around 2000, the riding returned to NDP hands when Jack Layton defeated Mills in 2004. - JB

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

1,605: vintage family circle ad of the day

Vintage Ad #906: Look What You Can Do With One Can of Spam

Would Dagwood Bumstead be proud to devour this thrifty tower of sandwiches?

As my sister pointed out to me, sandwich #4 (the Spam/bean combo) is almost straight out of the classic Monty Python skit about canned spiced ham.



Source: Family Circle, May 1975 - JB

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1,604: one fine thursday night in the city

Royal York Hotel by Night

It's been awhile since I've written about a psychogeography walk. Blame it on an inability to keep track of time—I've been lucky to post photos from recent strolls within a reasonable amount of time. Let's see if this entry will break the cycle...probably not, but it's worth a shot.

***

Last week's walk began at Union Station, where I positioned my mini-tripod to snap the shot above of the Royal York Hotel.

Simcoe Street Underpass (2)

From Union, we headed to the new underpass on Simcoe Street south of Front. The abrupt truncation of the bike lanes at Front was noted. It's grey, spare and nothing that will invoke dramatic oohing and aahing.

We stopped at Roundhouse Park to see if several vintage train cars destined to be displayed in the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre could be viewed. They were there, but under wraps. The roundhouse was a hive of activity, thanks to a raucous crowd that we initially thought was a film festival tie-in party at Steam Whistle Brewery. It turned out to be a fundraiser for St. Mike's Hospital that involved caged, costumed dodge ball matches.

We wandered into the new Leon's store at the north end of the roundhouse. The proposal had raised fears of a big box merchant ruining the historical structure, but the furniture chain has adopted well to the refurbished space. The high wooden ceiling and brick walls create a welcoming atmosphere that beats a suburban cookie-cutter store. As the store closed, we watched an employee close the giant bay doors one by one, as if the last train had departed for the night.

At the side of the store, a caped dodge ball player was having an awkward conversation with a young woman. This superhero wasn't saving the day.

Parking Entrance in Orange

A neat design covering the window above the entrance to a Cityplace parking lot, as seen on Spadina Avenue.

Viewing The Globe and Mail From Cityplace

A view of Globe and Mail HQ from Cityplace. The shot was taken from Telegram Mews, a street presumably named after the newspaper that originally occupied the Globe's present home.

Underpass of Blue Lights (1)

We ran into several spots around Cityplace where roads and passageways led to temporary dead ends. Several people emerged from the blocked off portion of Fort York Boulevard, but none were willing to tell us how they slipped in without attracting security guards (which was annoying, since a new park within the construction zone cries out for visitors). We headed down into a passage under Spadina that was bathed in blue, only to reveal a set of gates at the other end.

The walk wound down with a westward trek along Front and Wellington. Settling into a faux Irish bar for a drink, we compared the weightiness of three grand prizes offered to Guinness drinkers in a worldwide contest to celebrate the company's 250th anniversary: a trip into space, a voyage to the depths of the sea, and a recording session with the Black Eyed Peas.

I know which prize I'd want.

All photos taken September 10, 2009. Full set of pictures on Flickr.

Shameless Self-Promotion Department: Two posts on Torontoist—a look back at three Toronto Sun columnists who ran for public office and how cows aided the war effort. - JB

Thursday, September 10, 2009

1,603: brighton beach revisited

Decaying Seat

Two years ago, I wrote about a drive through the Brighton Beach neighbourhood in Windsor. Curious to see what the area looked liked as it awaits its future as the site for a new Detroit-Windsor bridge, I wandered around last weekend.



Most of the streets were blocked off with walls of dirt several years ago as the traces of former homes, businesses and street names were removed. The streets that are still open to regular traffic are shaded in blue in the map above (courtesy Google Maps - I admit I forgot to check the status of G.N. Booth Drive). While the two main streets (Broadway and Sandwich) are still fully accessible, others, like Page Street, have been reduced to driveways for the few holdouts in the neighbourhood. International Metropolis and Windsor Visuals have posted about the history of Brighton Beach—the neighbourhood's future is in the hands of the federal government after it paid $34 million in July to secure land for a new border crossing.

A Comfy Couch on Sandwich Street

Brighton Beach continues to offer up the finest in abandoned couches. Treasure hunters or connoisseurs of neglected boat hulls, car seats and furniture would have smiles on their faces after a quick scouting trip of the neighbourhood.

Blocking Wright Street (1)

I parked the car on Sandwich Street and walked west along the remnants of Wright Street. It's possible that I hadn't ventured into this section of Brighton Beach since my late teens, either on a Sunday drive with Dad or through aimless wandering. Most of the streets in Brighton Beach were never paved, so any deterioration in the road itself wasn't noticeable. The dirt blockade at Sandwich Street appeared to have been smoothed down by monster trucks and full-size SUVs.

The Wilds of Brighton Beach (1)Yellow Everywhere

Natural regeneration made the walk feel like a country stroll.

Air Monitoring Station, Brighton Beach, Windsor

A provincial air monitoring station marks the south end of Water Street. The air was full of the sound of ATVs buzzing around an open area to the west that has effectively become a dirt track. For an abandoned neighbourhood, there was plenty of life—besides the ATVs, I passed several cyclists taking a gentle ride along the gravel roads, large trucks hauling recreational vehicles, and a family enjoying a picnic around a campfire by the river.

Walking North on Water Street

The view heading north on Water Street. I don't recall there ever being much development along this street. The current growth makes it hard to believe a major waterway is steps away.

Down at Brighton Beach, Alongside the Detroit River

A short walk west on Chappus Street brings you to a tiny beach...

Tire on the Beach

...with seaweed-encrusted tires...

Looking at Detroit from Brighton Beach (2)

...and great views of the industrial behemoths of southwest Detroit.

Rugs on the Road

I walked back to the car along the remnants of Page Street. A large number of rugs were scattered on the road near Cole Avenue. One appeared to be merging with the road, providing a smoother ride for vehicles.

Judging from other articles I've read, it's possible that this could have been my last opportunity to roam freely around Brighton Beach before preparations for the new bridge begin. There's always the chance that delays due to lawsuits launched by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge (still pushing a second span for their river crossing that stumps already exist for, despite lack of government approval), bureaucracy, or money issues will leave more time for wandering on a future trip home.

All photos taken September 6, 2009. Full set on Flickr. - JB

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

1,602: photo du jour

Looking West on Wright Street (in glorious Technicolor)

A little fooling around with Photoshop produced this colourful view of one of the abandoned streets in the Brighton Beach section of Windsor. More on my Labour Day weekend stroll through this area will be coming soon...

Photo taken September 6, 2009

PS - Over on Torontoist, a look back at Labo[u]r Day weekend in Toronto before the stock market crash of 1929, and some of the textbooks available to students at local department stores that year. - JB

Thursday, September 03, 2009

1,601: tape from oregon



Vintage Ad #896: You'll Remember Oregon!
Source: National Geographic, March 1955

While I didn't wave at the Cascades like Mr. Jefferson...

Giant Bear Captures Giant Shark, Film at 11

...I was able to greet a giant inflatible bear and its catch of the morning as I left Coos Bay to begin my lone full day in Oregon. It was Memorial Day, so I kept my eyes peeled for any potential traffic tie-ups due to parades and related festivies. Luckily most towns kept their marching routes off US 101.

Memorial Day, Florence, Oregon
Decorated home, Florence, Oregon

While in Florence, I passed by a ceremony that saluted the efforts of dogs in foreign wars. The crowd made it difficult to tell if any of the honoured pooches were decorated with medals for their service in Iraq.

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North of Florence were several spots to observe sea lions. There was one tourist trap that offered a close-up view for a steep admission fee. I ended up at a park called Strawberry Hill, which made up for its lack of fruit with a scenic, craggy landscape and an occasional glimpse of sea lions in the distance. Bonus feature: declarations of love carved into the sandy cliffs.

Idaho Spud

The greatest culinary disaster of the roadtrip was an Idaho Spud, a regional candy bar consisting a marshmallow-esque "potato" covered in chocolate and coconut. The putty-like filling was grey and tasteless, making me wish that real mashed potatoes had been added in. Three-quarters of the bar found a resting place in the nearest garbage can.

The rest of the day saw more stops at scenic outlooks, outlet mall browsing, and a long wait in traffic as I headed inland to Portland. Night had fallen by the time I arrived at the swankiest accomodations of the trip, a Crowne Plaza on the outskirts of downtown. I was tired enough not to need the special relaxtion CD left on the pillows, a chain staple that Mom and Amy loved making fun of back in Toronto.

Powell's City of Books
Inside Powell's City of Books

The next morning began with a lengthy browse at Powell's Books. Their flagship store lives up to its billing as a "city of books," as I could have spent a few days roaming its endless rows of shelving. Keeping my purchase down to whatever I had room for in my luggage was tricky—too bad I didn't think to call home and ask for the mailing address of relatives in Detroit that I could have shipped books to at no extra cost. I found a fair bit of material related to Toronto, including bargain books on long gone local restaurants.

Canadian Cooking Section, Powell's City of Books

Even Canadian cuisine had its own section in the cookbook aisles, despite the intrusion of other culinary areas...

Kenny & Zuke's - Sandwiches Big as Your Head

When you're hungry and in an unfamiliar place, how can you resist the lure of signs like this?

Kenny & Zuke's - Pastrami, Turkey & Corned Beef Double Decker Combo (1)

The hyperbole wasn't overblown. The pastrami, turkey and corned beef double decker combo at Kenny and Zuke's satisified my tummy for most of the day. The lean cuts of meat retained their flavour without being dried out (purists may scoff at my habit of ordering lean at delis, but I've never been a connaisseur of chewing on globs of fat).

Early afternoon was spent in the Hawthorne neighbourhood, where I checked out two more outposts of Powell's. At the Home and Garden store, I found the perfect gift to bring back for Sarah. Amid the salt and pepper shakers were a set featuring Pepe LePew and Penelope (the cat who never met a can of strategically-placed white paint she didn't like), which were marked "salt" and "Pepe." My instincts were on the ball, based on the reaction I received back in Toronto. Before the time on the parking meter ran out, I wandered into other shops in the neighbourhood and snapped pictures of restored movie theatres.

Time had allowed a bare glimpse of Portland. Its mixture of neighbourhoods reminded me of home and left me craving another day for further exploration. While the city might not have world class draws, its comfortable atmosphere and streets condusive for strolling/driving made me feel at ease and curious as to what small discoveries lurked around each corner...

...ok, I'd go back for Powell's and the head-sized sandwiches.

Bumper Sticker Words of Wisdom (Back Off, I'm Gonna...)

Heeding these thoughtful warnings, I backed out and headed over to I-5 to join the early phase of rush hour traffic. Ahead of me was a three-hour drive to the final destination of the trip: Seattle.

Full set of pictures. All photos taken May 25-26, 2009 - JB

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

1,600: vintage evening telegram ad of the day

Vintage Ad #904: Clark's Soup is Perfect for Disembodied Heads

Clark may be long gone from Harrow (though a street still bears its name), but "the tang of vegetables in the air" remains as fields surrounding the town produce tasty treats. I may not draw out my "a-ha-a-a-a"s like this disembodied head, whose sounds may be gasps for air as much as happy soup slurping, but my stomach is satisfied whenever I return to Toronto with roadside produce from Essex County.


Source: The Evening Telegram, November 15, 1929

PS - Over on Torontoist, a plea not to steal White Glove Girls. - JB