Monday, 22 December 2014

Power Plant Mondays - De zoeker de Zaansche Molen

This is an oil mill on the Kalverringdijk, Zaanse Schans, Zaandam, The Netherlands. It dates from 1672

It has a website!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Cover Song Wednesdays - Fairytale of New York

Just in time for the Holidays!
  • It was inspired by Sergio Leone's film Once Upon a Time in America
  • It was written by a full-time drunk in a reverie of sentiment
  • The duet included a talented red-headed singer who couldn't perform in front of an audience
  • It was recorded by an award-winnning U2 producer who didn't know how to track a pennywhistle
  • It featured an NYFD pipe and drum band pretending to perform Galway Bay (as the non-existent NYPD choir)
  • And it wouldn't exist without Matt Dillon

It is the UK's most-played Holiday song of this century - Fairytale of New York.

Katzenjammer, Ben Caplan and The Trondheim Soloists perform the Pogues / Kirsty MacColl classic Fairytale Of New York...

Here's a throwback - The Making of the Pogues Fairytale of New York

Episode 1 of 6

Episode 2 of 6

Episode 3 of 6

Episode 4 of 6

Episode 5 of 6

Episode 6 of 6

2014 can pogue mahone. Here's to you 2015!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Cover Song Wednesdays - I Did it My Way

Frank Sinatra

Sid Vicious

Dame Shirley Bassey

Maggie Thatcher by way of Spitting Image

Elvis Presley

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and ev'ry highway;
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
"No, oh no not me,
I did it my way".

For what is a woman, what has she got?
If not herself, then she has naught.
To say the things she truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way.

The lyrics were written by Paul Anka and set to music based on the French song "Comme d'habitude" composed in 1967 by Claude François and Jacques Revaux. Anka's English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Prime Mover Monday - Flanders Field Edition

A silent film that predates the Great War by a handful of years...

The World's First Caterpillar Track (1908) Silent (There's no sound)

Oh, oddly enough, this film footage is of an English military unit and it just happens to have German subtitles.

Source - British Film Institute (BFI)

Monday, 27 October 2014

Prime Mover Monday - Power to the People

Tonight there are municipal elections in every City in the Canadian Province of Ontario. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at the quaint mechanical devices that have been used to give the good people of New York City access to their power from the 1940s into the 2008 elections. The machines were made obsolete by the "Help America Vote Act" (HAVA) and are slowly being replaced.

How to Vote in New York City

Last Hurrah For Old Voting Machines

Read all about it

Monday, 20 October 2014

Wind Mill Mondays - It's clog - It's clog - It's better than bad - It's good

The polder - unique landscape under sea level
A childlike sequence that explains how the windmill is used to drain sea water from The Netherland's below-sea-level territories.

The Story of Dutch Windmills
In practical terms this is a 90 second commercial for a DVD set. But it sets the stage for what is to follow here...

Werken met Wind en Water (In Dutch only)
I love the part when the rugged windmill keeper describes that this mill pumps "hundreds of liters of water per minute" from the polder (drainage pond).

A 200 year old Dutch windmill at work.
Windmill "Onrust" (Unrest) was build in 1809.
It is still in full use for drainage, and in control of the water level of the "Naardermeer". This nature reserve (680 ha / 1700 acres) with lakes and marshland is located just east of Amsterdam.

Hoe krijgen we die polder droog?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Power Plant Mondays - Zuiderzee Edition - Woudagemaal there is?

Dear readers, in only a few short weeks sweetie and I will be clogging through the low countries. In celebration, we take a brief look at how 1920s steam technology pumps out the polders in the Netherlands...

Woudagemaal Lemmer (puur geluid !) - 4:08

Since 1920 the Woudagemaal pumping station in Lemmer has pumped water from a drainage area into the IJsselmeer Lake. Woudagemaal is the largest pumping station of its type in continuous operation. At 94 years old (in 2014) it is still capable of raising 4 million liters of water per minute from the drainage area into the IJsselmeer. A couple of personal notes:
  • I have been in lots of power station boiler rooms. This is the first one I've seen where you could eat off the floor
  • I heart the reciprocating eccentric cams. I assume they have to do with the expansion cylinders. Which suggests the cylinders are inline.
IJsselmeer Lake itself was made by damming the former Zuiderzee (which, if any English-speakers are curious, means South Sea).

Woudagemaal onder stoom

The literal translation of the title describes this video perfectly- The Woudagemaal under steam.

Ir. D.F. Woudagemaal Lemmer

Because you can't get enough of this steam-powered pumping facility. Especially "onder stoom"

The official Woudagemaal website - EXPERIENCE THE CATHEDRAL OF STEAM!

Monday, 6 October 2014

Power Plant Mondays - Down by the Crossness

In anticipation of our trip to the low countries, here's a look at a few stationary steam engines that pumped water...

The Biggest Operating Rotative Beam Steam Engine At Crossness
Designed by the Metropolitan Board of Works Chief Engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette

The Biggest Operating Triple Steam Engine At Kempton

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Hunchback Thursdays - Abandoned Gothic Castle

As my readers know I am making a Safari to Belgium with my precious sweetie. Which means the Google filter-bubble now shows me only derelict Belgium pages because it knows I am a UXer. As a countdown, I am re-posting them here for all to enjoy.

Remains of Chateau Miranda

Throwback Thursdays - Abandoned Amusement Park

As my readers know I am making a Safari to Belgium with my precious sweetie. Which means the Google filter-bubble now shows me only derelict Belgium pages because it knows I am a UXer. As a countdown, I am re-posting them here for all to enjoy.

We begin with Dadipark amusement park, Dadizele, Belgium.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Tonight we're gonna party like its 1939

Mid-Century Modernism is my favorite period in architecture. Modernism is a transitional design idiom that takes us from Art Deco and is a precursor to the International Style. I am always uplifted by the sense of optimism that Modernist buildings display. They are often grand and corporate but are never infused with the Ozymandian portent that International Style buildings instantly generate due to their inhuman scale.

Like Art Deco before it, Mid-Century Modernism had strong design cues and could be executed with economy with a simple superstructure clad in a few details executed with glamourous materials. Put away that marble – we're going with terrazzo! All of this gave the effect of great style at the lowest possible cost. It was therefore possible for any architect in almost any burgh to propose a Modernist building for a new build. Mid-Century Modernism was also perfectly suited for that most common low-cost high style Mid-Century build – the shopping mall.

Growing up in a small City with a Pop. of 250,000 I was not exposed to a great number of international design movements. But Modernism was everywhere. And I remember the sense of occasion one had going to these buildings. They were slick, clean and up-to-date. There were escalators or elevators. One was always the newest medical building. Just walking in the front door you new they would have the latest advances in medical technology. Whatever ailed you would soon be cured.

Then there were the City's two shopping malls, both executed in Modernist style. What is more exciting to a young person, or anyone, than a trip to a shopping Valhalla? And finally, in the 1960s all apartment towers were being executed in the chic Modernist style.

My real passion for Mid-Century Modernism is what I have named the “Pavilion Style”. In the Canadian City of Toronto there is an entire complex of fairground buildings called the Canadian National Exhibition. These are a fairgrounds so old that once a Crystal Palace was the main structure.

And before all of those things was the 1939 New York's Worlds Fair. And recently an amazing series of “electric city” style nocturnal time exposures has emerged. Breathtaking!

The story is great, but I recommend scrolling half-way down the page to the photo gallery. Read the story afterword and you will appreciate it more.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Carol Kaye - Better Days

Dear readers I am working on a series on Carol Kaye, the hippest session bass player of the late 20th Century. In the meantime, enjoy!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Cover Song Wednesdays - Fasten your Facebooks it's going to be a bumpy ride...

In 1974-75 Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss wrote a period blues shuffle called Bette Davis Eyes that would appear on Jackie's 1975 album, New Arrangement.

Jackie DeShannon did the music and Donna Weiss wrote the lyrics.

The song obviously had legs but they couldn't move it forward. The Pop History Dig describes what happens next...

" In 1980, Kim Carnes was a 34-year-old singer and songwriter who had experience in both Hollywood and the music business. She had begun her career at the age of 18 in Los Angeles, singing commercial jingles and doing nightclub work. In the 1960s she joined the New Christy Minstrels folk troupe where she met Kenny Rogers and Dave Ellingson, later marrying Ellingson with whom she did some joint singing and songwriting. She also produced some solo albums in the 1970s and had a minor hit or two. Her songwriting, however, was more successful — with Frank Sinatra, David Cassidy, and Kenny Rogers, among others. A duet she sang with Kenny Rogers, “Don’t Fall In Love With a Dreamer” in early 1980, became a Top 5 hit, and also had a related album, Gideon. About that time, Carnes was recording another album for EMI called Romance Dance and worked with producer/engineer Val Garay. The album charted and included Carnes’ first solo Top 10 hit, a version of Smokey Robinson’s “More Love.” Carnes and Garay then began work on a new album.

" During their search for material, songwriter Donna Weiss brought some of her songs over to the studio where Carnes and Garay were working. One was a demo for a newer version of the 1974 “Bette Davis Eyes” song. Carnes and Garay both liked the melody and the lyrics, but the total package wasn’t quite there yet. However, one of their band members — keyboardist Bill Cuomo — gave the tune a more contemporary arrangement, along with a half dozen other musicians backing up Carnes. As Carnes would later explain to Dick Clark: “It’s Bill Cuomo, my synthesizer player, who really came up with the new feel, changing the chords. The minute he came up with that, it fell into place.” Garay recalls that ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ was recorded live in a North Hollywood studio.” I think we did three takes and the one we used was take one,” he said. Carnes has also written about recording the song: “I heard this song about a year before I finally cut it. My band, Val Garay and I rehearsed it for three days before coming up with the right feel. It was a completely collaborative effort between all of us. The next day we cut this track ‘live’ with no over-dubs and got it on the second take…” The song quickly became a major hit, along with the album. In addition to Carnes’ Grammy award for the song, Garay was also nominated for Producer of the Year, but lost to Quincy Jones."

And eventually Russell Mulcahy and Kim Carnes delivered this 1980s classic....

I typically enjoy crafting erudite comments on my posts. Unusually, I herein throw my hands up and say "Look it up on Wikipedia".


"Bette Davis Eyes"
Jackie DeShannon and Donna Weiss

Her hair is Harlowe gold
Her lips sweet surprise
Her hands are never cold
She's got Bette Davis eyes
She'll turn her music on you
You won't have to think twice
She's pure as New York snow
She got Bette Davis eyes

And she'll tease you
She'll unease you
All the better just to please you
She's precocious and she knows just
What it takes to make a pro blush
She got Greta Garbo stand off sighs
She's got Bette Davis eyes

She'll let you take her home
It whets her appetite
She'll lay you on her throne
She got Bette Davis eyes
She'll take a tumble on you
Roll you like you were dice
Until you come out blue
She's got Bette Davis eyes

She'll expose you, when she snows you
Off your feet with the crumbs she throws you
She's ferocious and she knows just
What it takes to make a pro blush
All the boys think she's a spy
She's got Bette Davis eyes

And she'll tease you
She'll unease you
All the better just to please ya
She's precocious, and she knows just
What it takes to make a pro blush
All the boys think she's a spy
She's got Bette Davis eyes

She'll tease you
She'll unease you
Just to please ya
She's got Bette Davis eyes
She'll expose you, when she snows you
She knows ya
She's got Bette Davis eyes

Monday, 1 September 2014

Power Plant Mondays - The Kelenföld abandoned Art Deco power station

Kelenföld is an abandoned Art Deco power station in Budapest. Well Buda, actually. Opened in 1914, the facility is in a transitional design idiom that has Art Nouveau tendrils vining around its control surfaces and obsolete generators. Described by all who have the privilege of touring it as "electrifying", it is a thrill to witness in photographs.

Kelenföld is protected under heritage designation, although it is not being maintained in any meaningful way. It's not being preserved - it just can't be demolished. About the only heritage activity is that it is bi-annually open to the public during a Buda "Doors Open".

Control room

Source: on Flickr

More to the story...

Kelenföld in Slate

Atlas Obscura


Monday, 11 August 2014

Prime Mover Mondays - 11.363636 miles high... and then we touched down... Stilll going at, twice the speed of sound.

Most people don't reckon it, but commercial air travel occurs at a sub-supersonic speed. Say between .84 to .92 mach, for a 747. All the speed of supersonic, with none of the BOOM. And commercially feasible fuel economy.

So in the 1950s and 1960s, why did Air France and British Airways develop a plane that would travel between Mach 1.0 and Mach 2, flying at supersonic speeds around the world? Lawrence Azerrad visits this question on Buzzfeed with his essay Flight of the Concordes.

I've harvested a few YouTube videos about this once-advanced, now-scrapped, visionary airframe and rotary compressor program that achieved Mach 2 without superfans or afterburners...

At the age of eleven I watched man walk on the Moon in real time in low resolution television. Airframe programs such as Concorde promised unlimited travel potentional here on earth.

Now it's all gone.

And why? Why was the Concorde restricted to subsonic speeds over the United States?


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Cover song Wednesdays - The log driver's Waltz

Kate and Anna McGarrigle's The Log Drivers Waltz exists at the intersection of so many contemporary modes of artistic and feminist expression that it demands admiration.

Its core promise of light-footed frolicing- The log drivers waltz pleases girls completely - is a subtle allusion of erotica.

Yet it is also recursively nostalgic as it combines classic Canuck film animation with the antique logging practices of yore set against the vocal stylings of Canada's great folk sirens - the McGarrigle sisters.

The original NFB / ONF animation

And finally, a wonderful punk interpretation from Babies & Dogs, Fire, Guns, and Power Tools - Just not together

And let us conclude with a nice choral interpretation...

The Log Drivers Waltz
Pub & © Wade Hemsworth

If you ask any girl from the parish around,
What pleases her most from her head to her toes;
She'll say, "I'm not sure that it's business of yours,
But I do like to waltz with a log driver."

For he goes birling down a-down white water,
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly;
It's birling down, a-down white water,
A log driver's waltz pleases girls completely.

When the drive's nearly over, I like to go down
To see all the lads as they work on the river;
I know that come evening they'll be in the town,
And we all want to waltz with a log driver.

For he goes birling down a-down white water,
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly;
It's birling down, a-down white water,
A log driver's waltz pleases girls completely.

To please both my parents I've had to give way,
And dance with the doctors and the merchants and lawyers;
Their manners are fine but their feet are of clay,
And there's none with the style of a log driver.

For he goes birling down a-down white water,
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly;
It's birling down, a-down white water,
A log driver's waltz pleases girls completely.

Now I've had my chances with all sorts of men,
There's none is so fine as my lad on the river;
And when the drive's over, if he asks me again,
I think I will marry my log driver.

For he goes birling down a-down white water,
That's where the log driver learns to step lightly;
It's birling down, a-down white water,
A log driver's waltz pleases girls completely.

Birling down, a-down white water,
A log driver's waltz pleases girls completely.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Cover Song Wednesdays - A Day in the Life - Final Chord

Here's Beatles producer George Martin uncloaking the final chord of "Day in the life".

And here it is as played. A lot of E Maj... peddle down

Monday, 28 July 2014

Prime Mover Mondays - GEs big bet on goliath engines

In the 1990s GE developed a superclass of jet engines to power jets. If you like jet engines that have composite blades on their input sections and a transmission to enhance the pressure gain on their intermediate sections you are going to love this engine...

Miller Mondays - Arva Flour Mill

Just past the quaintly named city of London in Southern Ontario there is a flour mill that has been active on that site since 1819. Two centuries, gave or take.

There are some excellent videos documenting the facility. This one is the prettiest...

This video shows the operation in more earnest detail. "This mill was just built after the War of 1812"...

Friday, 25 July 2014

Phunky footage Fridays - This Is a Generic Brand Video

This Is a Generic Brand Video is just that. It's written by Kendra Eash for McSweeney's Internet Tendency. No surprise, it's made entirely with stock footage. All video clips used are from

It is also very, very funny.

The original piece is published on McSweeney's Internet Tendency

Narrated by Dallas McClain.

Music: "Piano Work 02" by rysktchkw
Available under Creative Commons License from SoundCloud at

Maintenant en français — merci @thefrenchvoice

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Hotel Dieu's and don'ts

Members of the Congregation of the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph arrived in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1945 to begin planning for a Hotel Dieu Hospital (see Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal). After three years of planning, the original hospital was opened as a small maternity hospital on Ontario Street, in a large Victorian building known as the Woodruff Mansion.

Construction of a brand new Hotel Dieu Hospital began in 1950 and opened as a 125-bed healthcare facility on September 10, 1953. A new wing was later added in 1962, creating an additional 54,000 square feet (5,000 m2) of space for the growing hospital.

In 1975, Niagara Region's first and only dialysis unit opened at Hotel Dieu, leading to the opening of a regional diabetes centre in 1987, and the L.B. Herzog Dialysis Centre in 1994.

On August 8, 2005, Hotel Dieu assumed governance and management of Shaver Hospital and Niagara Rehab Centre in the city's south-end. The Hotel Dieu hospital is taken over by the Niagara Health System and opens later that year as the Ontario Street Site of the NHS, providing minor acute care.

The Hotel Dieu is now closed.

Text Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Government How Many Fingers (1981) -Name Check Edition

Here is who appeared in the work...

Filmmakers log. Prepared Alan Fox, Co-Director with Andrew James Paterson.

Mise en Scene et Artistes

INT Operating Room Control Room
Billy Bryans
Andy and Robert on Video
Paulette Phillips Nurse?
Popup factoid: On the clock, 4:30 is 4:30 am, not 1630hrs.
Popup factoid: The animation was produced in Telidon by Robin Collyer CGI director
Today we call Telidon the World Wide Web.

INT Game Show
Robert Stewart sweating panelist
Andrew Paterson gesturing host

INT Examination Room
Billy Bryans (Doctor/fingers guy)
Robert Stewart
Martin Heath (Yes, Mr. Cincecycle) (technician fiddling with knobs)

INT Elevator
Popup factoid: I demanded that special lens, although on this print it's soft under the low light. Must be the print.

INT Hallway
Mental patients - anyone remember?

On Screen CU
Popup factoid: Shot 2nd Unit. The fingers foreground are Alan Fox’s

INT Hallway
Kim Tomczak Patient Transfer

INT Operating Room
Paulette Phillips nurse at left?
Doctor Jeremiah Chetchik
Amy Wilson nurse on right

Parents Brian Burnett, Tanya Mars, Brian & Rae’s son

EXT at Brant Avenue School

INT Schoolroom
Martin Heath as Teacher
Andrew Paterson as Fascist Pastor

INT Operating Room Recovery
Robert Stewart again

INT Dance Club
George Whiteside Doorman
Annie Nicolaivich
Oliver Girling and Rae Johnston whisk Robert in.
Popup factoid: Damn Oliver, that's STILL a nice fedora!

Martin Heath & Sybil Goldstein BG dancers

DJ David Buchan

Andy Fabo, Tim Jocelyn BG dancing male couple

Remo & Rima xxxx, Kenny Baird At Podium, Ralph Roberts (BG)
Annie Nicolaivich & Duncan Buchanan, Punk Couple at wall?

Popup factoid: Primary location was the Studio at Trinity Square Video.
Today you call it CITY TV

Popup factoid: Great props by Robin Collyer. Love the callipers. Love the O.R. green.
Also love the scrubs. Anyone recall who did the wardrobe?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Prime Mover Mondays Rail Fail Teil Zwei

You will look at this clip and at some point notice a diesel locomotive is lodged in a hill. To me it appears the engineer ran down a tail track at mainline speed, jumped the derails, and went airborne. The nose of the locomotive is at least 20 feet in the air. When you see her in relation to the crane that will lift her up and swing her down onto the track you will be impressed with how airborne this crazy loco is...

Monday, 26 May 2014

Night und Dieseldays

Swedish class T 41 of 1956, Electromotive diesel! Filmed at Hamar, Norway, August 1999 at "Dieseldays". From left is blue SJ T 44 (Nohab-EMD 1969-12/645), T41 the filmstar (Nohab-EMD 1956-12/567), NSB Di 3 602 (Nohab-EMD 1954-16/567), NSB Di 3 616 (Nohab-EMD 1958-16/567), DSB mx 1001 (Nohab-EMD 1960-12/567), Di 3 621 NSB and the little loco a H-K. Porter.

Post & Footage via Knut Ragnar Holme

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Cover Song Wednesdays - Jackson Browne Edition

Running on Empty

This is the second installment of my RIP Fred Bacher posting.

Jackson Browne is very much a troubadour of my generation. There is so much going on there that it is hard to know where to start. Tonight I will turn back the dial on the wayback machine and identify what this lyric offers those of us who were there there, then.

"Running on Empty" means
  • We weren't paying attention and now we're out of gas
  • We don't have enough money and we can't afford a complete refill
  • We ain't gonna give up even tho' we're wiped out
  • And with Jackson Browne's delightful irony, we are turning into adult versions of ourselves

Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty" is very much a work that is meant to capture the esprit of the mid-twenties someone of its day.

"Running On Empty"

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields
In sixty-five I was seventeen and running up one-o-one
I don't know where I'm running now, I'm just running on

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind

Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don't know when that road turned onto the road I'm on

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind

Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don't know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that'll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave

Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too

Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind

Honey you really tempt me
You know the way you look so kind
I'd love to stick around but I'm running behind
You know I don't even know what I'm hoping to find
Running into the sun but I'm running behind

Monday, 5 May 2014

Prime Mover Mondays Nørsk Edition - World's largest Diesel Engine starting

Built in 1932, it was the world's largest diesel engine for more than 30 years.
The eight cylinder engine is still operational and produces 15.000kW (22.500hp).
Production Name: DM 884WS-150
Further information:

Friday, 2 May 2014

Quote of the day

No one ever said :"What I want is a glass slab that lets me make my own telegrams by hand"

Alan Fox

Monday, 21 April 2014

Prime Mover Mondays - 1936 Fairbanks Morse Model 32D

From the Fairbanks Model 32 fanpage

The Model 32 was the culmination of many years of improvement upon the initial Model Y design. The improvements included various cylinder head designs, increased compression, and the eventual adoption of high-pressure injection and differential fuel injectors. To differentiate various cylinder heads and methods of induction on the Model 32 engine series, letter designations A thru E were used.1

1 Fairbanks Model 32 fanpage.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

RIP Frederick Peter Bacher (April 23, 1957 - April 16, 2014)

In 1974 All the President's Men, the Watergate tell-all, rocketed to the top of the bestseller list. In that same year two young journalists were escorted into a musty archive where they proceeded to go through the minutes of years of board meetings, looking for a scoop that would blow the town apart. And they found it – in spades.

"Satanic Invasion at Collegiate?

According to the Committee of Concerned Parents, Satanism is infiltrating the schools."

Yes Fred Bacher had convinced me to launch our high school's Back-to-School 1974 with hardcore journalism.

Fred Bacher passed away on April 16, 2014 at the age of 56. One week shy of his birthday. The news reached me coincidentally during a visit to the small city that he and I had become close friends in. One that we both left for greener pastures. And when I received the information of his passing it was like a taste of a Proustian madeleine. Suddenly wonderful memories came flooding back:
  • Certainly our crude attempt to emulate Woodward – Bernstein. I can report that there is a singular feeling when one opens the minute-books and starts reading between the lines. And the hours of dull boredom are worth it when the words “Satanic Invasion” leap off the page at you.
  • Wandering the downtown streets with cameras and audio recorders, crafting our first films
  • Hours spent in libraries and book stores
  • Disco dancing with our clique. On actual disco dance floors with those colored squares that light up, a la “Saturday Night Fever”. In particular a place “across the river” in another country which was basically a dance floor in a former service garage. (Although dance floors in former garages are hip again.)
I most vividly recall Fred as our social leader in Grade 13, a matriculate year that has fallen victim to triskaidekaphobia and no longer exists. Fred introduced me to Beethoven, Neil Diamond and, most of all, Leonard Cohen. We made short films together and submitted our literary efforts to the local journals. Fred won more prizes than I. Tho' not as many as my girlfriend of the time.

Then Fred and I both did our freshman year at the local college. I have no recollections of us from that time. Does this mean we reached “an end”? I assume we drifted apart. I don't recall a falling out. Although we disagreed about John-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin's Tout va bien. Did we lose contact because of creative differences? How wonderful!

And then a year later I was attending a prestigious film school in the big city. And then I would marry and start a family and become an award-winning filmmaker. And now I do something else.

And the last I heard of Fred Bacher he was on the faculty of a prestigious liberal arts college in a different big city. And that he had a son and was an award-winning filmmaker.

And now he is gone...

Leonard Cohen's Suzanne

My condolences to the Bacher family. Especially his son Bryan.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The American Anglophile, Downton Toronto edition

The popular TV program Downton Abbey is filmed on location at the estate of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon's Highclere Castle. Having just binge-viewed Season 4, I whimsically summoned Google and began a tour of the "Folly". At its simplest a folly is a purposeless architectural anachronism. A structure the laird constructs on a difficult patch of land so that weekend guests will be surprised and delighted to find a roman temple as they reach the far west garden. And something that blocks the view of the manure pile from the path.

My time travel through the Google-verse eventually led to a delightful page on Urban Toronto. Most impressively, the posting was rich with very rare mid 19th C interior photographs.

Here's what's on view:
  • Beverley House, (images circa 1911, just prior to the house's demolition). Situated at the NE corner of Richmond and John, and replaced by Ryerson Press. Now the CityTV Building.
  • The John Gordon House on the SE corner of Clarence Square and Wellington West, later inhabited by Sir William Mortimer Clark, L-G between 1903-1905. A mid-19th C Italianate pile.
  • Government House on the SW corner of King and Simcoe (1868-1912).
  • Chorley Park, the Lieutenant-Governor's residence (circa 1915-1937; demolished in 1960)
  • Most impressively, a series of views of workers residences during the same period. Touching.
  • Flavelle House on Queen's Park Crescent
  • Ermeleigh (SE corner of Sherbourne and Wellesley)
  • Culloden House, home of John Ross Robertson, East side of Sherbourne South of Gerrard (still standing)

Monday, 7 April 2014

Cover Song Wednesdays - Walk on By

I'm delighted to report that a regular reader suggested this as a Cover Song Wednesday feature. How could we say no.

First of all - The Dionne Warwick chart-topping hit off the Burt Bacharach - Hal David Pop Meisterstuck...

Then, of all things, The Stranglers cover of same...

Prime Mover Mondays - A Google Data Center

Although a Google Data Center is a stationary object, it qualifies for "Prime Mover Mondays" because the cooling system is on an industrial scale...

Images via Connie Zhou Photography

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Cover Song Wednesdays - Cocktails for Two

I feel blessed having walked the Earth during a time when a succession of geniuses have used the Spike Jones brand to achieve both bright entertainment and evolve meta-critical pop subculture into a post-modern context. Spike Jonze, of Adaptation and such we will deal with in another context.

Here we look at the Hollywood parodist and showband conductor Spike Jones.

The tune Cocktail for Two was a perfectly workmanlike racy post-prohibition celebration of Bacchus. It was also tailor-made for the alternative genius of Spike Jones. A comedy anarchist, he occupies a place in musical history between the Marx Brothers and Victor Borge on one hand and The Tubes and Weird Al Yankovic on the other.

Anyhoo, the first rule of comedy is: if I am explaining it, I have lost the joke. Here are two "Soundies" featuring the musical genius of Spike Jones...


Monday, 31 March 2014

Prime Mover Mondays - The Packard Bentley "Mavis"

The Packard Bentley "Mavis" is the ultimate kit car. Yes, that is a 1930s Bentley racing car body. And yes, that is a WWII-era 42 liter, 1,500 bHP Packard diesel engine of PT boat origin. But no-one conceived of that as a form of transportation until the inspired British racing enthusiast Chris Williams got out his wrench set and made it all happen.

Some things that I love about this clip:
  • The flames shooting out of the exhaust manifolds
  • The fact that the car, racing on an airstrip, sounds like a WWII fighter place
  • The live steam that emerges when least expected

If you want the factual background, then visit this Wiki page

Monday, 24 March 2014

Cover Song Wednesdays - Jimmy Webb

Jimmy Webb, Cher, Art Garfunkel...

Cover Song Wednesdays - Iron Man feat. Tesla Coil

The erudite Bulent Besim sent this explanation via Google+

Couldn't help sharing this one: Playing Black Sabbath on Tesla coils with an iron guitar, standing in a Faraday suit. The MIDI signal from the guitar is routed through a fiber optic cable to control the Tesla coils.

Prime Mover Mondays - Awesome Powerful Train plow through snow

Here in the North we have lived through one hard winter. Here's a video showing how awesome it is when diesel trains push snowplows through snowdrifts...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Phunky Physics Fridays - Tesla's little secret

One of my personal projects I like to call "The Men Who Stole Niagara Falls". These are the 19th Century American robber barons who stole it - first from the aboriginal population - and second, from America herself as they trenched and tunneled it and pushed the Falls into millraces to make their fortunes.

Central to this intrigue are George Westinghouse and the genius Nikola Tesla. For it is Tesla who invents polyphase alternating current out of whole cloth. Polyphase AC makes possible transmission of electricity over long distances. Which in turn makes it possible to generate electricity on rural rivers, and transmit it to cities for industrial production.

To me Einstein and Tesla will be forever linked - because both discovered a set of pure mathematical formulae involving 4 dimensional equations. In Einstein's case it's that old chesnut E=MC2. Tesla's findings are not as mind-blowing, but they are practical and important to our industrial development. The "Power Curve" is the most formidable factor in electrical engineering. As soon as I energize my large electrical motor it draws infinite amps and zero volts. But the electrical grid is sending hundreds of volts and dozens of amps. Why doesn't the whole thing melt down?

Because of the genius of Nicola Tesla. Tesla understood these four-dimensional equations and developed electrical equipment to maintain the power curve in a null state even as massive devices were switched on and off.

In this delightful video clip we find a Tesla-phile who shows us the drawing of a Tesla Coil and then coldly observes that it would work better collecting energy from the atmosphere than transmitting generated electricity into the sky. Which I am fairly certain is what Tesla always said he was working on.

The reason I believe him, BTW - because the capacitor, spark gap and coil form an oscillator circuit. Whereas pumping electricity into the circuit would require a rectifier to bring the mains into DC.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Cover song Wednesdays - Leaving on a Jet Plane

In my quieter moments I wonder why the Internet has never inspired adulation in popular culture. As opposed to, say, "Leavin on a Jet Plane", a song which celebrates technology and its effects on contemporary relationships.

Peter, Paul & Mary

John Denver

Chantal Kreviazuk

Monday, 17 March 2014

Prime Mover Mondays - 1955 Ghia Streamline X 'Gilda' Concept Car

Who doesn't love the turbine whine of the batmobile? Well guess what? - Such a vehicle existed!

Ghia Gilda Streamline X Coupè

According to - Chrysler’s executives commissioned it in 1955 and it was designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi of Italy’s Ghia coachbuilding firm. The car was shaped to take a gas turbine, but it was never fitted with one: the Gilda toured the show circuit with a 1.5-liter OSCA four-pot, then was handed over to the Henry Ford Museum, where it sat until purchased by a Californian eight years ago for $125,000.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The TTC's new train signals

In Toronto residents are understandably annoyed when the TTC closes the downtown part of the subway system for maintenance work. This is a video that explains what work is being done to install new signals, and why it's necessary to close the line entirely to do it.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Creaky Bamboo Trains Ride the Rails in Cambodia

Here's a fun posting in the Wall Street Journal about "norrys", homemade bamboo trains that operate on Cambodia's network of abandoned rail lines. Here's what WSJ's Jesse Pesta writes:

"In Cambodia, real trains are almost as rare as bamboo trains anywhere else. The impoverished country has a network of tracks left over from French colonial days, but there are hardly any actual trains running anymore. Only one line is in service. The railway never recovered from the horrors of Khmer Rouge murder and war decades ago.

For years, the transportation gap had been filled partly by the homemade trains, known as "norrys," built of bamboo, wood and sometimes old tank parts. Today, the norrys have all but disappeared. Around the northern town of Battambang, a few cater to thrill-seeking tourists, although during one visit last year there weren't many tourists, just Ms. Lim catching a ride home."

Read the article

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Groove Tube has a Youtube Channel...

... of course it does. All us aging boomers are mining our own cultural effluvia for postable content that will bring our friends together and embarrass our children.

In this MFarrands Channel has published the movie in segments. Enjoy!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Dark Side of the Moon

With use of 'hijacked' archival footage, false documents, real interviews taken out of context or transformed through voice-over or dubbing, staged interviews, as well as, interviews with astronauts like Buzz Aldrin and others, Dark Side Of The Moon navigates the viewer through lies and truth; fact and fiction. This is no ordinary documentary. Its intent is to inform and entertain the viewer, but also to shake him up - make him aware that one should always view television with a critical eye.

This film illustrates how the truth can be twisted by the manipulation of images.
Dark Side Of The Moon is written and directed by William Karel and co-produced by Point du Jour Production and ARTE France. 

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Penn & Teller debunk anti-vaccinationists

One thing I love about medicine is that it uses a lot of science. Science is nice because it requires strict testing regimes before anything can be declared as medically accurate. And only things that are true can be used to create medical procedures. And on this blog we're all about life after being cured of a serious disease. So we like medical procedures that work.

One thing I hate about medicine is The Lancet. In the late 1990s its irresponsible editor named Richard Horton published a totally false story that linked vaccinations with an increase of a specific childhood disease. Good mothers listened to the false story, and followed the bad advice.

So thanks to well-intentioned chowderheads, diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough are on the rise again in the west. Thanks, Lancet.

I've long wanted to blog on this topic, but every internet posting only results in more misinformation being spread.

Here's Penn & debunking the anti-vaccinationists with a clever video. Being Penn & Teller they do use some potty mouth language. So consider this video NSFW

And thanks to Bill & Melinda Gates for chipping in $1.8 billion toward global immunization campaigns in countries that cannot afford to eradicate disease on their own.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Syme of the Tymes

150 Symes Road is by design in an out-of-the-way place. It was purpose built to handle solid waste for the City of Toronto, Canada starting in the 1930s. No one would want to be anywhere near the joint during its 70-odd years of operation.  But now that the operation has been decommissioned a new perspective appears...

... And here we have a rare view of municipal courage as the City's own staff have made an eloquent case for a heritage preservation designation.

I think what's most important is to admire its beautiful clean lines as an early 20th Century Deco building. Since it's built during the early 1930s it is Art Deco to period, with Art Moderne elements. But, as executed, its own architectural flourishes are by definition Streamline Moderne. The entire second story of speed-line highlight brick and round porthole windows places an ocean liner's bridge structure on a waste handling facility.

... Fortunately, a Muni agency called "Build Toronto" has munificent powers that will let it, above all other realtors, somehow cleanse the property of taggers, ravers, squatters and its brownsfield landfill to provide a heritage building in pristine state to any interested parties.

Hipsters too have embraced the space with both hands, as a breathless report in "The Grid" shows.

And naturally, those west-end busybodies at "The Junctioneer" provide a snapshot of the project status as of June, 2013.

And I'll assume we have Build Toronto to thank for this leasing brochure offering high-tech space in the squat... er, digital media campus... Metropolitan Commercial Realty Brokerage.

Finally, we have Grant Patten's UrbEx infiltration student video.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Eglinton-Mount Pleasant- House for rent.

I am posting this on behalf of a dear friend who has a place to let.

Newly Painted 4 bedroom house for rent. 2 bathrooms. Laundry included. 2 car parking. Separate entrance to a finished basement. In-ground Pool. Access to a back yard. Available Furnished or Unfurnished. Close to all amenities. Walking distance to TTC. $3800/month. Short term lease will be considered. Available April 1st.

View the listing

Thursday, 16 January 2014

In The Fight: Episode 82

"In the Fight" is a video program of the DVIDS - Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System. Although it is true I am probably a dove rather than a hawk, with our men and women in harm's way it seems appropriate to share the story of those on the front lines.

On this episode, a de-mining crew searches for hidden dangers throughout Afghanistan, a crisis action team helps bring aid to the people of Tacloban, we see how partnerships are critical to the research of the earth's atmosphere, Marines give us a glimpse of the future, and a 1st lieutenant applies her civilian job to her military duties.

I hope it's not trite to end with "Semper Fi"

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Goodbye to Auld Yonge Street

Click to enlarge- it's worth it

You don't have to travel to Detroit to photograph images of people living in dilapidated and collapsing buildings. You can find the same thing in Toronto!

On Canada Day 2013 I journeyed to the former North York area of the city of Toronto to document for the last time a stretch of 2 story postwar retail buildings. Due to development pressures, these buildings will be demolished and Condos will rise in their place.

Click to enlarge- it's worth it

The journey begins with this cute cluster of buildings that have not only survived, but are thriving.

Sapporo Sushi/ Academy of Excellence- 5469-Yonge St, North York, ON
Click to enlarge- it's worth it

I've heard they make good sushi!

Laneway at rear of 5469-5437-Yonge St, North York, ON
Click to enlarge- it's worth it

For the true urban romantic (psychogeographer, as Guy Debord would have said), a dirt laneway in such a metropolitan location presents great charm.

Mister Transmission- 5437 Yonge Street, North York, ON
Click to enlarge- it's worth it

I was drawn to this building for reasons I cannot fathom. I think partly because of the precise calibration of its dereliction... That perfectly-centered missing decor panel. The fact that a building that is going to be torn down is getting a new roof?!

It's been up for sale for over one year.

Future Condo Complex- 4917-4975 Yonge Street, North York, ON
Click to enlarge- it's worth it

Stewart Brand writes that over time, buildings learn. I would say this building has learned it's going to die. Slowly. The Conservancy Group has applied to build a complex that includes the Platinum Tower, Platinum XO, and Pearl Residences. According to Urban Toronto it has been in limbo since Jan 2009 as the developer applies for different zoning variations.

Riviera Travel Agency-5376 Yonge St, North York, ON
Click to enlarge- it's worth it

The Riviera Travel Agency is the jewel that motivated my excursion in the first place. It's such an optimistic streetfront. The beautiful typography of the signage. The obsolete logos. Vitrolite tile!

And yet that aged and decrepit roof indicates the building is being neglected..

Click to enlarge- it's worth it

Flickr member “John Fitzgerald in Toronto” had this to say about Riviera travel...
"I love the top sign. Some classic 50s-style calligraphy and some nice old fonts. I'd guess the sign is from the late 60s or early 70s, though, because the blue trim at the bottom is more characteristic of that period than of the 50s. An interesting transitional piece, as we say the Design Critics' Union meetings."

Future Centrium Condo and Hotel Complex- 5220 to 5254 Yonge Street, North York, ON

Click to enlarge- it's worth it

The City of Toronto website provides this information on the development: 

"The development, known as Centrium at North York, would consist of a 14- storey (49 metre), 150 suite hotel and a 30-storey (100 metre), 258 unit residential tower on a multi-level base building. The 5-storey (23 metre) base building would contain retail and service
commercial uses, as lobby and amenity uses for the proposed hotel and residential towers, as well as 7 rental replacement units."

How this area looked in April 1955...

Future Centrium Condo and Hotel Complex- 5220 to 5254 Yonge Street, North York, ON
Click to enlarge- it's worth it

This building was originally the North York & Weston Family Service Center. Now it's going to be the Centrium condo and hotel complex. I hope families in need still have a support organization.

Closed - 5015 Yonge St, North York, ON

The building is sloughing into a rather beautiful ruin. It's sure to be an eyesore for years to come, as no re-development plan has yet been filed with the City.

Vic-Tone Dry Cleaners- 4866 Yonge St, North York, ON
Click to enlarge- it's worth it

And we end our tour admiring a lovely sign at a classic 20th Century storefront, still surviving in the 21st Century.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Stewart Brand - How Buildings Learn

How Buildings Learn

This six-part, three-hour, BBC TV series aired in 1997. Stewart Brand presented and co-wrote the series; it was directed by James Muncie, with music by Brian Eno.

The series was based on Stewart Brand's 1994 book, How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built. The book is still selling well and is used as a text in some college courses. Most of the reviews on Amazon treat it as a book about system and software design, which tells us that architects are not as alert as computer people. But Stewart knew that; that’s part of why he wrote the book.

Historic note: this was one of the first television productions made entirely in digital--- shot digital, edited digital. The project wound up with not enough money, so digital was the workaround. The camera was so small that we seldom had to ask permission to shoot; everybody thought we were tourists. No film or sound crew. Everything technical on site was done by editors, writers, directors. That’s why the sound is a little sketchy, but there’s also some direct perception in the filming that is unusual.

Presenter/writer: Stewart Brand
Brian Eno, original music: James Runcie, Producer

©left; Anybody is welcome to use anything from this series in any way they like. Please don’t bug me with requests for permission. Hack away. Do credit the BBC, who put considerable time and talent into the project.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

11 Lost Wonders of 2013

Delicious photo of Northwestern University Former Prentice Womens' Hospital by Flickr user "htomren"

2013 was a bad year for modernism as we lost historic masterpieces to the condo wrecking ball. 

The Pan Am Worldport at JFK Airport, Brutalist masterpiece Prentice Hospital (Chicago) and Frank Lloyd Wright's Hoffman Showroom (Manhattan) are now just entries in the photo archives.

Read the rest of the story at Atlas Obscura