Monday, May 31, 2010

bonus features: the modest millionaire

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

A Gift to New Art Gallery
Source: Mail and Empire, January 16, 1926.

One mystery I didn't resolve was the exact nature of Dick Fudger's chronic illness. At first, given that he had spent winters in California, tuberculosis or another respiratory ailment crossed my mind, as the trend during the period was to send those with such diseases to the southwest in the hope that the drier climate would alleviate their misery. As I read more, it appeared health was only one of the reasons he often headed to the West Coast—business matters and family were others, since he had married in California.

Whatever malady plagued Dick Fudger for most of his life, it was played a role in curtailing his studies at Oxford and prevented him from taking on more than a ceremonial role during World War I. Perhaps it was kidney or liver disease, or a bad heart? Was the exact affliction not mentioned in any source, even fifty years later, out of courtesy, common knowledge, or to hide something shameful? I'm ruling out the latter, since no accounts after his death hint at anything scandalous.

As for the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery and Rotunda at the Art Gallery of Toronto, its grand opening ceremonies were held on January 29, 1926. Guests were treated to a musical program courtesy of the Mendelssohn Choir and the dedication of the Sir Edmund Walker Memorial Court. Among the works exhibited were several old master paintings (including two Rembrandts) on loan from British art dealer Sir Joseph Duveen. In their review of the opening, the Mail and Empire expressed their awe at the magnificence of these works and took potshots at contemporary artists:

Nothing like them has ever been seen locally. In fact, you will travel far to find eight such masterpieces from bygone days hanging together in one room. One feels again the patience and craftsmanship that used to be put into the arts, as opposed to the slap-dash methods of the present day. Just look at the gorgeous colours that have lasted through the centuries. They seem to have grown more mellow with the passage of time, richer and fuller, especially the blues and the various shades of red. The belt worn by the man in Rembrandt's "Standard Bearer" might be manufactured from the precious metal itself. Perhaps it may interest some people to know that in a picture like Bellini's "Madonna and Child", the painters used to pulverize stones in their paints to add to the richness. In the presence of "Daedalus and Icarus", than which there is no finer Van Dyke [sic] in existence, one feels that the old masters had things that the modern artists have lost, even though they may have developed new ideas and beauties.

It also appears that the gallery developed an interesting strategy towards Canadian art: only the works of dead artists would be displayed.

Friday, May 28, 2010

vintage saturday review ad of the day

Vintage Ad #701: A Digest for Intellectuals

(Click on ad for larger version)

Intellectual Digest sounds as if it was attempting to be the brainier version of Reader's Digest, or skim the alternative press much like Utne Reader did later on. The highfalutin' name likely did little to bolster sales outside of intellectuals/wannabes. Based on the issue dates that pop up in a Google search, this ad may have been a last attempt to attract readers—I'm guessing that the publication ran from 1970 to 1972. The Toronto Reference Library has a few reels in their periodical microfilm cabinets that may prove a research distraction someday.

Source: Saturday Review, May 27, 1972 - JB

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

how to be famous in the united states, 1925

How to be Famous in the United States

...or at least how one could achieve fame, according to a Toronto-based 1920s humour magazine. Illustration by Jim Taylor.

Source: Goblin, March 1925 - JB

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

bonus features: dressing up for danakas

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

Prime Minister's Seafood Platter from Danakas Palace

And now, for your eager eyes, the seafood platter at Danakas Palace that Pierre Trudeau (pictured on the left) liked so much the owners renamed it in honour of his position. Whether the story is true or not, it's not surprising a seafood platter would receive such an honour, as restaurants in the vicinity of Danakas Palace loved showing off their ensembles of lobster, shrimp and other sea creatures in full-colour ads targeted to business executives and tourists—a show of hands from anyone who's ever actually eaten the "award winning" seafood platter showcased in every Toronto visitors guide by Fisherman's Wharf since the dawn of man?

It often seems like a seafood platter is designed to look attractive and draw as much money out of a customer as possible. I won't deny having succumbed to the allure of a broad sampling of delights from the deep. During my university days at Guelph, there was a restaurant in the upper reaches of Stone Road Mall called Legends that accepted school meal plans. At the time, it was one of the few off-campus spots that took meal cards, so it often wound up being the destination for special events among my residence-mates at Arts House. It became a running joke that I'd always order the most expensive thing on the menu, which was the seafood food. A further running joke was that the platter was never the same twice—a good night might bring heartly samplings of crab, grilled swordfish and tuna, a lousy one saw a meagre serving of shrimp and a puny crab appendage arrive at the table.

Come to think of it, Legends was often unpredictable with its fare, such as the time four of us ordered blue lagoons and each arrived with a different colour. Who knew purple lagoons existed?

Here's how you can make a meal worthy of the occupant of 24 Sussex Drive, though you can choose to eat it as a salute to the current PM or your all-time favourite leader.

2 lobster tails
6 scampis
6 prawns
6 shrimps
8 crab legs
8 oysters
8 scallops
2 oz (50 g)breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
1 oz (25 mL) dry white wine
3 oz (75 g) butter
3 tsp lemon juice
1 pint (500 mL) vegetable oil

To prepare: cut the lobster tails and bend back in butterfly style; shell and de-vein the scampis, prawns and shrimps; extract the meat from the crab claws; remove the oysters and scallops from the shell and coat with breadcrumbs. Finally, wash the lobster, scampi, prawns and shrimps under cold running water and dry thoroughly.

Proceed with the following cooking methods simultaneously: (a) Place the crabmeat in a small ovenproof dish, add 1/3 tsp garlic, 1 tsp lemon juice and half the white wine and bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes.; (b) Place the lobster tails in an oven pan, add 1 oz (25 g) butter and 1 tsp lemon juice and bake in a moderate oven for 8-10 minutes; (c) Melt 1 oz (25 g) butter in a frying pan, add 1/3 tsp garlic and the remaining wine and sauté the scampi, prawns and shrimps for 2 minutes, stirring continuously; (d) Heat the oil and fry the scallops until golden, then transfer to a small overproof dish, add the remaining butter, garlic and lemon juice and place in a broiler for 5 minutes; (e) Re-heat the oil and deep fry the oysters until golden.

To serve: arrange attractively on a silver platter, pour over the Cognac and flame. Serves 2.

Recipe taken from The Flavour of Toronto, edited by Kenneth Miller, photographed by René Delbuguet (Toronto: Four Corners, 1977). - JB

Monday, May 17, 2010

the long and winding yard sale

127 Yard Sale (2) - Stretch of Signs

I have a nasty habit of starting series of entries and never getting around to concluding them. Tales of roadtrips that stop mid-vacation, profile of local streets left hanging for several years…I’m sure I’ve annoyed a few readers over the years waiting for resolutions to cliffhangers that may never arrived. There are no guarantees this won’t happen in the future (I am a busy guy), but maybe a few of the missing pieces can be filled in.

Prime example: a roadtrip down south I took with Mom and Amy a few summers ago. We last left the intrepid travellers on the outskirts of Nashville after a leisurely drive along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Someday I promise to tell tales of Music City. Someday.

But not yet. Today's tale was inspired by a conversation at a party last week with fellow Torontoist writers about train travel and southern adventures. I mentioned a large event my family had accidentally stumbled upon…

Monday, May 10, 2010

salon signage department

You Can Only Blame Genetics for So Much...

Found in front of a salon ("Karma") on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo, April 18, 2010 - JB

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

vintage mad house ad of the day

Vintage Ad #820: Meet Snoopy, My New Pencil Pal

Given Snoopy's attempts at submitting stories to publishers (usually involving a horrible pun or cliched phrase), it seems appropriate that everyone's favourite beagle would be the Peanuts character chosen to grace a motorized pencil sharpener.

Charles M. Schulz Memorial Bench

If Snoopy can't sharpen your pencil, he will offer you a cookie as least he will if you visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.


Mad House began in the late 1950s as Archie's Mad House, featuring the usual hijinks from Riverdale. Over the years the series underwent numerous format and title changes, with the constant being the house-style art. After a period chronicling the adventures of the stylish rock band Mad House Glads, the series became a full-fledged horror title and was labelled as part of the short-lived 70s incarnation of Red Circle Comics. Under an alluring Gray Morrow cover are four tales, of which the first two are:

* Never Bother a Dead Man (story: Marvin Channing, art Jesse Santos) concerns an old man who had no time or patience for neighbourhood youth gangs who pester him. Chaney, leader of the Laughing Skulls, is determined to teach the old man, mortician Morton Millbank, "a lesson in manners." Millbank insists his "friends", the corpses, will help him ("You should never bother a dead man. They'll get back at you, you'll see.") This causes the rest of the gang to pause except for Chaney, who gets into a scuffle with the old man. Just as Chaney is about to stab Millbank, a hand from a nearby coffin grasps the gang leader, inducing a fatal heart attack. When the police arrive, all supernatural elements are dispelled...rigor mortis had set into the corpse, causing its arm to spring up. Feh.

* Demon Kiss (story and art: Bruce Jones) sees wannabe actress Valarie Lewton (take a wild guess where her name derived from) moan about wasting the past two years lounging on beaches in Malibu while waiting for her big break (go ahead, start crying about her poor, wretched state). A friend brings by a book on "demonology", which leads Val to dabble in forces she probably shouldn't have tampered with. Ol' Beelzebub shows up and offers Val her wish, in exchange for collecting he soul at the end of one year. Val's escape clause: if she kisses a stranger under a full moon, the devil will take their soul instead, as long as the stranger doesn't kiss back. You all know where this is going...Val finds a hapless shlub in her apartment building, kisses him, turns him into her number one stalker. On the day the contract is due, she is involved in a boat accident...and is given mouth-to-mouth by her admirer. Cue the brimstone...

Source: Mad House #96, November 1974. Originally presented on my defunct comic book ad site on August 8, 2009 - JB

Monday, May 03, 2010

a centennial moment

Centennial Symbol

Sculpture at Rosehill Reservoir

It's obvious that once upon a time there was a plaque in front of the atom-inspired fountain atop the Rosehill Reservoir. The only hint of the fountain's age is the centennial symbol laid into the surrounding stones. This salute to a water molecule was built after the reservoir was covered over in the 1960s for economic and environmental reasons (including fear of nuclear fallout).

Rather than the glow of nuclear attack, the reservoir and the fountain find themselves bathed in a cool green light...or at least they did on this particular evening. This was my first visit to the site and it struck me as a place you could lie on your back on the grass, stare at the surrounding apartment towers or planes flying overhead and contemplate any crazy thought drifting through your head.

More photos from an evening's stroll around the reservoir and the surrounding neighbourhoods and ravines can be found on Flickr.

Photos taken April 22, 2010 - JB