Crest Advertising Campaign: You Can Say Anything With A Smile

November 30, 2009

Call me a willing consumer in a key demographic of a capitalist society, but I love a good ad campaign. Crest is already my toothpaste brand, but if it wasn’t, this campaign would make me change my mind. Hell, I almost –almost– took up drinking Canadian just to support the fantastic I Am Canadian campaign.

The ad firm Saatchi & Saatchi of New York won The Gunn Report’s 2009 Best Commercial award for this campaign. It’s well deserved. If you haven’t seen it already, get ready to smile!


Best of the Web: Old Picture of the Day

November 30, 2009

I came across this blog yesterday, and I’ve already decided I’m going to check it every day from now on. The site is run by a man from Christoval, Texas; every day he puts up an interesting old photo, with a brief explanation of what it’s all about. It seems he often does weekly themes as well. He’s been regularly posting to it since March of 2007, and the back list is well organized for easy browsing. I spent over an hour yesterday just going through the American Civil War and early days of aviation posts. I know there’s hours more to be enjoyed, and I wanted to share it with you.

I promise not to intentionally lift any of his content into my own Awesome Pictures category, although there has already been a small overlap: He has a picture of General William Tecumseh Sherman on his site too, although his caption focuses less about the general (as mine does) and more about how the blogger’s ancestors fled from Georgia to Texas to escape the Union’s scorched earth tactics during the March to the Sea in 1864.

Anyway, this is a great site, and well worth a look. Enjoy!


A Play: The Artists’ Farce

November 30, 2009

I took OAC Writer’s Craft in my last year of high school. For anyone not familiar with the Ontario secondary school system prior to 2004, there used to be grades 9 through 12, and then there was an optional fifth year of courses called Ontario Academic Credits that functioned as university prerequisites. You could take as many as you wanted (although never more than four in a semester), and universities took the average of your top six OAC marks to determine your academic ranking versus other applicants.

Anyway, that’s all a little beside the point: I took OAC Writer’s Craft in my last year of high school, and I loved it. A lot of students took the course looking to boost their grade point average, but most of them ran into difficulty producing a coherent and entertaining plot under a tight deadline. I had been writing short stories and a couple of aborted novels for a number of years at that point, so I was pretty good at thinking up something quick and getting it all down in one long rush of pen and paper. Looking back through my notebooks now, most of my work hasn’t aged very well, but there are a couple of things I did then that I still rather enjoy.

The following one-scene play (I guess it could be called a skit…) is something I remember being quite proud of at the time, and so I dug it out of a box the last time I visited my parents, and I’ve given it a quick coat of polish to make it blog worthy. It’s a farce between two pretentious artists orbiting around a very fragile, very valuable sculpture. My teacher loved it: In addition to writing, he also taught music, drama, and directed the school musical every year, so big egos from not-so-big talents were familiar territory for him. This play took his fancy to such an extent that we acted it out for the class the next day. Maybe it was the fact that this saved everyone five or ten minutes of actual school work, but it seemed to be well received. Anyway, here’s the play:
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Awesome Pictures: The Great Depression Era’s Concept of Gun Safety

November 29, 2009

What is it:

This is my grandfather, Murray Anderson, in 1942 at age 17, pointing his gun directly at the photographer.

Why is it Awesome?

Okay, let’s get a closer look at this. You tell me, what’s interesting about this image? Is it the bit where you can see directly down the barrel of what is almost certainly a loaded firearm? I’ll admit, it makes for an interesting picture –especially once I was assured the photographer is not now dead and quietly buried in a shallow grave somewhere out in the forest– but what is the wider context? What can this photo tell us about the life and times of the generation that grew up during the Great Depression?

Let’s take a step back and remember what we’re talking about here. This is not a couple of teenagers horsing around with firearms. Well, okay, it is teenagers horsing around with firearms, but it’s also one of those things that disconnects the Greatest Generation from my own. Even the Baby Boomers can’t really wrap their head around the idea that in the Great Depression, you fed your family however you could. Everyone had a garden. If you lived near a lake or a river, you fished. If there were wood lots around you, you hunted. You didn’t do it because you were starving. You did it because it was something you could do to make things easier on the family budget. It wasn’t a question of desperation so much as independence.
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Notable Quotes: Alex Trebek!

November 29, 2009

Alex Trebek is one of those guys who you just know is cool in real life. I honestly think Alex Trebek isn’t playing a ‘game show host’ on Jeopardy. That’s just how he is. He doesn’t fake smile. Sometimes he’s patient with people who deserve some impatience –which a game show host has to do- but other than that, I think we’re seeing how Mr. Trebek really is. The following list of quotes only reinforces my opinion.

Most of these I found this on the internet a few years back and thought it was worth keeping. I’ve gone searching for their origin, and it seems to be from the March 2003 issue of Esquire. There’s a lot of quips and off the cuff stuff, but there’s also some real wisdom and depth. Also, I find casual swearing from a G-rated television personality very humanizing. Anyway, I think it’s a great collection of quotes, and I’m happy to have this forum to share it with you.
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The day a red-winged blackbird hit me in the head seventeen times

November 27, 2009

My first job out of school was working as a production assistant for a weekly community newspaper in a little town in the heart of Mennonite Country north of Waterloo, Ontario. One slow news day we received a call about a neighbourhood being terrorized by a dive-bombing red-winged blackbird. One of the things I love about community papers is that stuff like this gets coverage right along side politics and sports. It’s the sort of thing people talk about around the breakfast table for no other reason than because it interests them. It’s even better when it happens in your neighbourhood to people you know.

One of our reporters wanted to do the story, but we needed art. Without a photo, the story wasn’t worth a single column on page eight or nine. The challenge was that we needed a shot of it actually hitting someone: If we just drove out to the area and took a shot of the bird in the tree, it would be indistinguishable from a stock photo. We decided someone would have to walk back and forth until we could document an attack. It was a beautiful day outside, and I was literally working in a windowless closet. I volunteered to be the pedestrian for the photo shoot, and we piled into the reporter’s car and drove out to a row of houses backing onto a creek.
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My grandfather was a horse-driving milkman as a young man. This is his story.

November 26, 2009

I mentioned in an earlier post that I spent last weekend up at my grandparents, and I scanned in over a hundred old photos. Here are a couple of them, along with an essay my grandfather, Murray Anderson, wrote at some point for a local newspaper about his days as a milkman in Bracebridge, Ontario, in the late 40s and early 50s. I don’t know which one, or when, or how much of it was published. This was the draft he sent them, and so I’m republishing it at its full length with pictures from his old albums.

It’s a pretty great collection of stories about a very different world, when horse-drawn carriages shared the road with cars and trucks. I lived and worked in Mennonite Country for a year after graduating school, so it’s not a totally foreign concept to me, but somehow it never quite sunk in just how much the horse decides where it wants to go until I read this essay. Throw in the steep hills of Muskoka, and the icy winters up there, and you can see just how much a willful horse like my grandfather’s Queenie could change the whole business of getting around town.

Murray Anderson, age 24, with Queenie

A day in the life of a milkman in the 1950s

Refrigerators were non-existent for the working man. Ice-boxes were what some could afford, the rest of us just let the kitchen tap drip on the milk bottle to keep it cool in summer (also let it drip in winter to keep the pipes from freezing, but that didn’t always work – these were in the days before central heating, running water, and indoor plumbing for the working man).. Milk delivery was a 7 day a week affair in the summer months and 6 days in the winter, which meant a double load for delivery on Saturdays.
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My favourite Robert Frost poems (and not the ones you’re thinking of)

November 25, 2009

In the summer between my fourth and fifth year of university I did a four-month unpaid internship at the National Post. Without a penny to spare for recreation, I turned to the University of Toronto’s library for my reading material, and I decided to sample some of the giants of American Literature: I read Ernest Hemingway and Gore Vidal, and I devoured the complete works of Robert Frost.

Most people know a couple of Frost poems in passing. The Road Not Taken usually finds its way into your school curriculum at some point, and everyone knows the line, “Good fences make good neighbors” even if they’ve never read Mending Wall. I enjoyed them both, obviously, but those aren’t the poems that compelled me to copy them down into one of my notebooks and turn back to them in idle moments over the years. These are the ones that have stayed with me, and why:
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The Log Driver’s Waltz

November 23, 2009

For most Canadians of my generation, this needs no introduction. For the rest of you, get ready for a real treat! When I was five or six I used to watch this every morning between cartoons.

“The Log Driver’s Waltz” is a Canadian folk song written by Wade Hemsworth. The most famous version of the song is done by Kate and Anna McGarrigle and the Mountain City Four, and that’s the one used in this animated short by the National Film Board in 1979. The film is one of the most requested in the entire collection of the National Film Board.
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In 1830 some of my ancestors founded the town of Kenmore, Ontario

November 23, 2009

Last weekend I went up to my grandparents’ place in Gravenhurst, Ontario. Their health is beginning to fail, and so I decided we should find a sedentary activity to occupy our time. I went through half a dozen old family albums with them and scanned in over a hundred family photos. Many of them, and the stories attached to them, will make their way onto this blog eventually. I wanted to start off, though, with a wonderful discovery I made: Three long typewritten pages copied from who knows where, detailing how some of my ancestors founded the town of Kenmore outside Ottawa, almost two hundred years ago.
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