Thursday, March 25, 2010

one fine evening at the university of toronto

Lobby of Leslie L. Dan Pharmacy Building

advice to spam artists department

When claiming that you personally are sending an appeal for help, at least use your invented persona's name in the "from" field.

Also, while brevity is often a good thing in life, saying little about your miserable creation's help won't bring in responses from suckers.

Exhibit A: a message that slipped through my spam filter this morning, from a "Mrs. Claire Page":

I am Mrs Magret Winter am very sick in the hospital.Please contact my lawyer email: (barr_landonXXXXX00X@youdontneedtoknow.net)

But what is Mags sick with? Heart ailment? Terminal disease? Indigestion? Recalcitrant plebney? Which hospital is she in? Why is her lawyer involved?

Readers are invited to invent a suitable scenario for Mrs. Winter (and/or Mrs. Page's role in the affair). - JB

Thursday, March 18, 2010

bonus features: icy discrimination/the watermelon and the boy

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


Icelandia ran short "Ice News Bulletins" in Toronto newspapers that usually pitched the latest events or offered lousy verse about enjoyed its facilities. This one, which appeared in the Globe and Mail on January 18, 1947, tries to attract a lawn bowler (or is "Henry" a reference to another poet or an enemy of the rink?). The poet is dishonest, as headlines that week indicated some of those who tried to visit were "out of luck." Ask the girl denied entry because of her faith if she wasn't harmed or maimed.


 The tone was quite different in the ad it placed in the Globe on February 3, 1947, two days after sports columnist Jim Coleman related the latest incident of discrimination against potential customers (in this case, a Greek skater who Coleman was happy to note punched out a rink employee). I was unable to determine how far Icelandia went in taking action against Coleman. The paper continued to run Icelandia ads despite the lambasting the rink received from the editorial staff.

The city considered buying Icelandia in 1950 but found the asking price of $115,000 too high, especially for a building that required an addition to the building to bring the ice up to standard. With no fanfare, it appears the rink closed its doors the following year.

Friday, March 12, 2010

one opening night at the ballet

Adelaide Giuri as Odette and Mikhail Mordkin as Prince Siegfried with two unidentified children as Little Swans in Alexander Gorsky's staging of the Petipa/Ivanov Swan Lake for the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, 1901. Wikimedia Commons

Went to my first ballet last night. Sarah wanted to see the National Ballet's production of Swan Lake as a early birthday present. Thanks to timing, we wound up being part of the opening night crowd.

First lesson I learned: buy tickets in person at the Four Seasons Centre, thanks to a hefty service charge for those bought online and some technical difficulties that sent us to the ticket booth after it appeared our etickets had already been scanned. Grrrr.

My momentary bout of irritation dispersed when we reached the souvenir counter. Sarah cast her eye on a miniature pink ballet slipper keychain that allowed her finger to pirouette. We soon headed up to our seats near the top of the auditorium, where the view high above the action wasn't bad at all. Occasionally the perspective made the figures on stage resemble flowing parts of a deluxe music box, which heightened the sense of fantasy.

After the impressive stage design used for the prologue, the first few minutes were an endurance test as bodies flew around onstage but didn't seem to lead to anything. The score helped get me through the early patches, as I found myself tapping out certain instruments (and thinking about how Tchaikovsky's score was used elsewhere). Sarah later noted that the opening sequence felt like a warmup for the dancers, which made sense as a) I'm rarely riveted by opening drills during sporting events, and b) my attention rarely drifted from the moment the swans showed up.

While we enjoyed the performance, I'm not sure if the couple on our left did. During intermission, I overheard one say "well, at least we saw the Four Seasons Centre" in a tone which suggested a greater appreciation of the architecture than the performance. After the break, they proceeded to chat for several minutes after the orchestra resumed playing, which caused daggers to fly from Sarah's eyes. The invisible weapons proved effective.

As for me, I'm open to seeing more ballet in the future, classic or modern.

Sarah's summary: "It's so pretty...tres belle!" - JB

east vs west...hoohah

The gimmick in this week's issue of Now is a cover story pitting Toronto's east end versus its west side in a battle of which sucks the least. Of the defences provided, I found Joshua Errett's weigh-in about the west's superiority was obnoxious in its dismissal of a section of the city he finds akin to either a retirement community or "Maoist China," where dullards have lives nowhere near as exciting as his.

So the east doesn't have the cultural landmarks that stand west of Yonge, and it's inevitable some people who reside beyond the Don are boring. Bleh. I suspect Errett was going for a tongue-in-cheek treatment that came off as annoying instead of funny. Part of my annoyance may stem from not being a fan of his mean-spirited-to-look-cool-and-or-contrarian writing persona. Case in point: I felt he dropped the ball when he claimed the east "lacks that ability to reinvent itself. It is staid, which ultimately spells boring." Funny—I'm fascinated by the gradual gentrification of eastern neighbourhoods and the commercial strips along Danforth and Queen, the ethnic diversity of Scarborough's plazas, and so on. Maybe he was burned by a bad meal along the touristy stretch of Danforth or suffered a traumatic encounter with a stroller in Leslieville.

Comments published so far on the paper's website take issue with the exact definitions of "east" and "west" in the city, pointing out that the core—roughly Bathurst to Jarvis—is neither...which cued the trolls to say how pointless the entire exercise is. If nothing else, the feature provokes thoughts about what each side of the city has to offer in terms of attractions, liveability and slap-your-forehead stereotypes.

Let the battle rage away, since secretly everyone knows that soon north of Bloor will be where the arbitors of hip and happening will reign supreme!

OK, maybe I jest...but eye might be thinking along a similar wavelength. A browse through Twitter reveals another great suggestion for parodying the feature.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

so long cavalier

Last Picture of Old Car...

It survived roadtrips to Alabama, Alberta and New Mexico. It saw its front end go flying in Guelph, felt the crunch of two vehicles behind it in Burlington, and an unknown assailant give it a good bump in a parking lot in Boston. It survived a tree crushing its hood as a Halloween trick in North Toronto, a wrong way trek down a steep hill in Montreal, and a cow giving it the evil eye in Pennsylvania Dutch country. It crossed the mighty Mississippi, observed the skyline of Manhattan, took in the beauty of Banff, and dodged dangerous drivers in Scarborough. It even served as a bed when every motel in Montana seemed to be full.

But after a decade of service and almost 245,000 km of travelling, it’s time to say goodbye to my ’01 Chevrolet Cavalier. For a vehicle I think the National Post once said any proud male should be embarrassed to drive, it gave me little reason to shudder. Sporty and stylin’ it wasn’t; dependable survivor it was.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

at long last...



...Retrontario has dug up an ad I've been searching for on YouTube for years. If you were exposed to Detroit television during the 1980s, odds are good you can hum a few bars of the cowboy's jingle (and sing the missing "here dawg, come on dawg" lyric—there were several variations of this cartoon over the years).

As far as 1980s Detroit car dealers go, I'm still waiting for footage of Walt Lazar ("he's a super, super dealer"), Pointe Dodge (no catchphrase, just the same non-descript balding guy in every ad), Bill Rowan ("Noooobody. Old Bill wants the money"), and Woodrow Woody (doddering elderly dealer) to make their way onto the interwebs*.

*Before anyone asks, Mel Farr Superstar is available for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

vintage new liberty ad of the day

Vintage Ad #1,058: Driving tips from a brewery

Labatt's probably had good intentions in providing the public with tips on becoming a better driver. I know I would have lined up to try their fancy mobile testing unit at the CNE or any country fair. A crucial element of being a better motorist is missing, one that the brewer might not have wanted to publicize for fear of lost sales: drinking and driving.