“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?

 

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.

Photographing the Self in Herself

The Toronto photographer Jennifer Toole has come a long way since teaching herself photography using YouTube tutorials. With her background in creative arts, studying musical theatre at Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts in Scarborough and a degree in creative writing from Montreal’s Concordia University, she progressed through a a series of professional photography jobs, including house photographer for Toronto’s Northbound Leather, and later Soho House. Eventually four of Toole’s images were published by Vogue Italia.

                                                                                                                         Photograph by Jennifer Toole

 

As you can see, Jennifer Toole’s work does not conform to the stereotypical manufactured images of the female form. It is naturalistic and uncompromising in capturing real beauty. It is therefore no wonder that she, in collaboration with Australian actress Caitlin Stasey, co-founded the website Herself.com , which showcases nude portraits of Ontario women photographed in natural light.

“Herself is a gesture to women for women by women; a chance to witness the female form in all its honesty without the burden of the male gaze, without the burden of appealing to anyone. These women are simply & courageously existing, immortalized within these photos. Within their words, their experiences and stories are offered on Herself in the hopes of encouraging solidarity – that maybe we as women will take comfort in the triumphs of others rather than revelling in each other’s defeats. Let us reclaim our bodies. Let us take them back from those who seek to profit from our insecurity.” -Caitlin Stasey

 

“I feel weird and abnormal for having hair, for having zits, for having to reapply deodorant, for having to pee… Women are not real on TV and in ads they are just an image.” -Chelsea Photo by Jennifer Toole

 

This site, and the work done here, breaks the confines of contemporary cultural views of the female body. It humanizes the models with personal interviews and images that are not restricted to commercial body images that re-enforce a set of values, beliefs and ideology designed to sell products based on the aspirations of manufactured beauty.

Post-natal yoga – become the woman you never were ! Did this model even give birth ? Yes,  this is a real ad, that is as close as it gets to reality.

 

The battle for a healthy realistic expectation of the human body of all genders is ongoing. The business of fashion and “beauty” products drives Mass Media in numerous forms, from advertising to entertainment. Breaking through this heavily financed culture and the constructed reality that supports it is no easy task and Jennifer Toole’s work must be both recognized and commended. Besides links provided in the post, you can see more of her work on her blog, dailytoole.

 

 

Jennifer Toole by D. Gillespie

 

 

 

 

 

Toronto is One Big Lazy Susan: Advice & Tips for Refugees

Vinay Menone, Toronto Star arts and life columnist & feature writer, offers observations on adapting to Canadian society and the specific advantages offered in Toronto.

This is a world-class city with great prospects. All you need to do is work hard and follow the rules. Don’t worry, you will — nothing elevates a human more than a second chance at life, especially when the first one was snatched away rather than squandered. When you gaze up at the CN Tower, think of it as pointing at the cosmos and the infinite possibilities now within your reach.

 

He points out the  range of food  as an example of how cultural touchstones are always near.

 

The good news: not much needs to change with your diet. Toronto is one big Lazy Susan, upon which all of the world’s spices and regional dishes are just a few twirls away. Kibbeh, tabbouleh, shawarma, mujaddara, you name it and someone is selling it. Or they are preparing it in restaurants such as Byblos, Tabule and Takht-e Tavoos. 

 

It is his observations on mass media popular culture that are of  particular interest. Menon provides the insight on how to navigate the flood of Mass Media influences and recognizes that it has value , while also being a continuum of styles, content and messages, “I’m not suggesting Star Wars or Miley Cyrus are equivalent to Shakespeare or Mozart” . He identifies the wide range of possibilities available to widening and sharing in community experience. from opera and live theatre to the the AGO, ROM, Science Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium and Toronto Zoo.

If you have children, don’t be alarmed by how popular culture shapes their interests. Music, movies, fashion, games, TV, books, these diversions only thrive in places of imagination and harmony. This is why religious extremists, like the ones you are fleeing, are so eager to impose barbaric laws that govern daily life.

“Art is a path to enlightenment.

It is the enemy of totalitarianism.”

 Vinay Menone, Toronto Star