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why i'd make a lousy politician

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"Better news: Social Services Minister Frank Drea shuts out the hoopla in the Legislature over the alleged budget leak by reading the Racing Form." Photo by Jeff Goode, May 1983. Toronto Star Photographic Archive, Toronto Public Library, TSPA_0044604F. As anyone who reads my work may have noticed, I often write about political history, especially when it's relevant to current events. This section of history is filled with the elements that inspire storytellers: heroes, villains, tortured protagonists, inspiring ideas, depressing reality, sudden twists in fortune, backroom intrigue, and all other kinds of drama.  What I try to avoid, especially when drawing parallels to the present, is armchair quarterbacking. I don’t want to come off as someone who has the answers to everything but never actually attempts to fix what is being criticized. The person who growls a lot with plenty of bark but no bite. Which sometimes makes me wonder if, to back up my convictions, I should con

goodbye 1921, hello 1922 (or is it goodbye 2021, hello 2022?)

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  Buffalo Times, December 31, 1921. Warning: this post will mix historical material with working out some thoughts about the present.  After the roller coaster of 2021, this cartoon feels equally at home now as it did a century ago.  Brantford Expositor, December 31, 1921.  After digging through some of the New Year's sentiments and sketches from that era, it's stunning how many only require minor adjustments to reflect present-day concerns and feelings - in many cases, you can replace the continuing repercussions of the First World War with COVID-related issues.  Regarding this front page cartoon, we're still dealing with housing insecurity, while you could swap labour disputes for the changes brought on (hopefully for the better in the long run) by the pandemic within the current labour force, and business depression into the insecurities surrounding operations under ever-changing conditions. Buffalo Times, January 1, 1922. In short, don't lose your head when predicti

i'll be home for christmas, the album

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Feeling nostalgic this holiday season, I'm diving into Christmas records that my family owned when I was a kid.  And now, the other Christmas record I put on repeat as a kid, I'll Be Home For Christmas , which was produced by one of the largest purveyors of "junk" records. Pickwick was a budget label which hit its peak during the 1960s and 1970s. They released anything from covers of current hits by anonymous studio ensembles to re-releases of albums from major labels that dropped a track or two. Quality was not always Pickwick's highest priority. My guess is that this record was purchased at a discount department store in a sale bin.  In this case, just as Christmas Pleasures used Columbia's catalogue, this 1976 album digs into Capitol's vaults. Since, being a Pickwick product, this album only has ten tracks, let's plow through all of them... SIDE ONE Dean Martin - Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer This track amused me as a kid, having already sens

drink your way through the holidays with the new yorker, 1976

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Leaf through any mid-20th century general interest magazine and you'll fine tons of booze ads. For example, many 1950s American publications provide an education in just how many varieties of bourbon were available, targeted to every class and taste preference.   This edition of the New Yorker is chock full of booze ads, many of them with a holiday theme.  Ready to wander through a 1970s ad executive's cabinet as you open the Christmas cards slipped through your mail slot? Let's go! (DISCLAIMER: I am not responsible if you decide to sample each of these fine liquids while browsing this collection of ads. This post only contains ads related to the holidays or nearly related to the holidays. Trust me, there were plenty of non-Christmas booze ads in this issue.) O Tanqueray Gin tree! O Tanqueray Gin tree! How lovely are thy bottles! Then as now, you might choose to give a nice bottle of scotch in a fancy gift box. Some brands, like J&B, went for historical illustrations (

christmas pleasures, side two

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  Feeling nostalgic this holiday season, I'm diving into Christmas records that my family owned when I was a kid, starting with a late 1970s dive into Columbia Records' vaults, Christmas Pleasures. Click here for side one .  Mitch Miller and the Gang - Winter Wonderland       Ah, Mitch Miller. On the one hand, the man had an ear for hits, turning Columbia Records into a pop powerhouse during the 1950s. He helped shape the role of a record producer, transforming it from a passive to active role in the studio. On the other hand, he had a fondness for schlock, and resisted signing rock acts, leaving Columbia behind in that genre until the mid-1960s. And then there was Sing Along With Mitch . Growing out of a series of albums that started in the late 1950s, Miller welded large vocal ensembles with old-fashioned tunes that listeners could sing along with. They sold well with older audiences, leading to an NBC television series which ran from 1961 to 1964.  How square Sing Along Wi

christmas 1921: seasonal scenes from buffalo newspapers

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  Buffalo Times, December 18, 1921. To compensate for not being able to visit Buffalo anytime soon (thanks Omicron!), I'm settling for flipping through the pages of the city's newspapers during the holiday season a century ago.  OK, that's not the entire truth. Awhile back, I spent a few days down a rabbit hole leafing through the Sunday editions of the great selection of early 20th century Buffalo papers found on Newspapers.com. There was a plan to begin a regular series of posts on Sunday papers of the era, focusing on a century ago, but the time wasn't there. File this idea under "projects for 2022." Still, material like this awkward shot of Santa hovering over a sleeping girl didn't deserve to be left in the can this holiday season. Illustration by Dan Smith, Buffalo Times, December 18, 1921.  A children's kingdom of toys and fairy tales, with characters ranging from classic comic strip character Krazy Kat to dolls that are inappropriate to own a c

christmas pleasures, side one

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"It remains not only acceptable, but in fact popular, to dump on Christmas music. It is the boring, predictable music-nerd equivalent of foodies who go out of their way every November to point out that “turkey sucks, actually” (which is, for the record, a lie). Holiday music is, by definition, the only genre that’s cordoned off into a little sliver of the calendar, and, even then, people argue that the sliver isn’t sliver-y enough." - Rebecca Alter, " Christmas Music is the Best Genre of Music ," Vulture, 2020. How I feel about holiday music depends on the day, the song, and the interpretation. Sometimes I'll hear a truly wretched Christmas song and wish some Scrooge had blown up the master tape. Other times, a good song can lift my mood and make me appreciate the season. Or, like many people, Christmas music will invoke childhood nostalgia . In my case, that means the handful of records my family pulled out when we decorated the Christmas tree. One of my favour