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!

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 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


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

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

Randy Bachman The REAL First Chord of "A Hard Day's Night"

Here Randy Bachman plays George Harrison's elusive opening chord on "Hard Day's Night", courtesy of Giles Martin.

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?

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

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)

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.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Goodbye to Auld Yonge Street

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."

Click to enlarge- it's worth it

How this area looked in April 1955...

Future Ellie Condo Complex- 5220 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 Ellie condo 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.