“That’s what you mean, eh?”

Canadians Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis created the Canadian quintessential cultural touch-stones, The Mckenzie Brothers, for SCTV (1980).  Created originally as filler to both satisfy and mock network Canadian content demands, the duo became a pop culture phenomenon in both Canada and the United States. Though initially intended for Canadian TV only, some of the two-minute “Great White North” segments would find their way into U.S. versions of the 30-minute shows due to a shortage of content that week. When NBC ordered the 90-minute shows for the 1981 season, they specifically cited good affiliate feedback on the “two dumb Canadian characters” and requested that the characters be included in every program.

One of the characteristics of the pair was their exaggerated Canadian  dialect, made up of a mixture of  Ottawa Valley and Toronto dialects.  It incorporated real and imagined idiom ( Hoser – false etymology ) to satirize the expectations of Canadian culture &  image. The most famous expression is the ubiquitous “eh”.

“And we thought if we’re going to do these characters, we’re going to slow down our speech a little, certain words we’re going to over-pronounce and we’re going to tag a lot of sentences with ‘eh.’ ” – Dave Thomas

 

For an more expansive article on this topic see Toronto Star-So you’ve heard all about this Canadian myth, eh?

 

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Ottawa’s Past in Pictures : Photography as Mass Media

A view of the Centre Block in 1884, with its centrepiece the 55-metre-high Victoria Tower. After being destroyed by the great fire of 1916, the Centre Block was rebuilt with a newly-designed and taller Peace Tower. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-003340)

 Photography functions both as a Mass Medium and as content for other Mass Media. It can be used as a means of documenting  events and as an artistic medium to entertain/comment . The CBC News has been running a series of articles exploring Ottawa‘s past through archival photography. As with any form of Mass Media, these pieces of media reveal target audience, values. beliefs & ideologies, and convey intended and unintended messages.

Ottawa’s thin blue line was a lot thinner in 1912, with a much smaller police force for a much smaller municipal population of about 100,000. Back then, bicycles served as equivalent of squad cars. Police officer James Fagan is posing outside C. Poulin’s store at 324 Rochester St. (City of Ottawa Archives/CA001216)

 

The Anglo-Irish police officer in front of a French Canadian owned store reveal/suggest the cultural-socioeconomic structural lines of Canadian society . To further cement  this image a truly Canadian, note the shop window. Red Rose Tea, advertised for sale in the shop window,  is a classic emblem of Canada.  Red Rose Tea  was a beverage company established by Theodore Harding Estabrooks in 1894 in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. It is considered an iconic part of Canadian culture and many consumers have a strong emotional attachment to the brand  ( Only in Canada, eh ? Pity….. ).

Workers at the Ottawa Car Company plant on Slater Street pose with ‘Lallah Rookh,’ one of the first electric streetcars to ply the streets of Ottawa, in this 1893 photo. The company would go on to build 1,700 streetcar and rail vehicles before closing in 1947. Electric streetcars operated in the capital from June 1891 until May 1959. (City of Ottawa Archives/CA001508)

 

The white working men pose depict their social class and the style of clothing of the time. Notice the little girls to the left dressed in very adult clothes of young ladies. Childhood was seen as miniature adulthood and girls & women had roles to fill that were as defined as the men posing in the shot.

The young girls  in the following shot, infant Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and her sisters, resided in Ottawa during the WW II, they too had roles to play, even as children.  They were emblems of a social structure, a society & people under threat, and the  Yousuf Karsh portrait is intended to portray/represent a mother and her children who have sought sanctuary.

 

Princess Juliana of the Netherlands holds an infant Princess Margriet at Stornoway (later to become the official residence of the Leader of the Opposition) in Rockcliffe, their home during the Second World War. Juliana and her three girls found refuge in Ottawa after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. The Canadian government declared Juliana’s maternity room at the Ottawa Civic Hospital international territory to ensure Margriet would bear only Dutch citizenship. After the war, an appreciative Royal family sent Ottawa 100,000 tulips, spawning the long-standing tulip festival the capital continues to enjoy every spring. (Library and Archives Canada/Yousuf Karsh/PA-192854)

The potential of heroism & compassion can also be portrayed in scenes of tragedy and calamity , as the following images demonstrate.

 

 

 

Theories as to the cause of the Centre Block fire, but to this day it remains a mystery. An official inquiry failed to determine whether the blaze was sparked by arson, a careless smoker or perhaps faulty wiring. (John Boyd/Library and Archives Canada)

 

Eight people, including two children, all newly-arrived immigrants, died in the derailment. At least 50 more were injured. Many of those on board were Scottish and Irish immigrants who had arrived in Canada only hours earlier. While many residents showed up to watch the spectacle, others helped search for and comfort survivors, and opened their homes to stranded families. (Library and Archives Canada/PA-025114)

 

Clicking the images will take you( new tab) to original CBC articles which include more images and information.  Consider the values, beliefs & ideologies the that the CBC is trying to convey about Canada, Canadian culture and Ottawa,  in our 150th year.

“The Old New World” – an example of Necro- Media

 

Necro-media is the re-purposing of older forms of Mass Media & Mass Media content as content of new forms of media. In this case, photographer and animator Alexey Zakharov of Moscow, Russia, has created a superb animated short using camera projection.  The content was a series of photographs of American cities taken between 1900 and 1940. They were sourced from the website Shorpy.  

Besides bringing the photographs to life in a steampunk/Gernsback  vision, the short makes use of the aesthetic of aged damaged motion picture film and the codes and conventions of early motion picture establishing shots. The audio track is of Al Bowlly singing, Guilty, a song composed (published in 1931) by Richard Whiting, Harry Akst and Gus Kahn.

 

 

Toronto Yiddish sign survives – last vestige of Jewish enclave on Baldwin

Toronto Yiddish sign survivesWe seldom stop to think how Media Literacy is connected to history, especially when considering the mundane & commonplace  elements of life. We take for granted the shop windows with their signs, logos and advertisement claims. But what if we could see a shop window that allows us to see another time, taking us back decades into the past century ? Especially fascinating if the shop window featured a declaration in a language that is disappearing  – showing us the cultural layers of a city through text, typography & language in the form of  a piece of Mass Media that is a cultural artifact

“Butter, Cheese, Cream, Eggs — Fresh Every Day” are the unremarkable words spelled out by the Yiddish sign on the window of 29 Baldwin St. .  But the hand-painted letters, an advertisement for the former Mandel’s Creamery, are possibly the last surviving remnants of Baldwin Village’s former life as a landing spot for Jewish immigrants.

The sign is believed to date back to the 1940s, and was preserved even after Mandel’s was taken over by John’s Italian Caffe decades ago. But John’s recently closed, and a new tenant moved into 29 Baldwin. Last month, large decals announcing the arrival of a bubble-tea shop were plastered across the storefront, and the Yiddish sign was nowhere to be seen. Rumours circulated that the new tenants had chiselled it off. (Ben Spurr  Toronto StarStaff Reporter, Sun Jul 12 2015)

Media Literacy can help extend cultural awareness and a sense of history. In this case, the new tenant, the Formocha tea shop’s owner  Daniel Li, was very welcoming to maintaining the window, as had John’s Italian Cafe. The incorporation of the Jewish signage into a Taiwanese establishment honoured the past and exemplified the Canadian ideal of multiculturalism.

This was a generous expression of Canadian values. In terms of Mass Media  and Business Interest, the store’s identifiable brand has added a unique element. It demonstrates corporate citizenship that enhances the brand and reaches out to the community at large. Furthermore, this good news story provides an example of Mass Media and Marketing being used in a socially positive manner.