June 30, 2010

Celebrating Canada in the first capital

Kingston likes to boast that it was the first capital city of Canada when the Act of Union (1840) brought Upper Canada and Lower Canada together into a new colony called the Province of Canada. The governor, Lord Sydenham, helped Kingston's fortunes greatly by deciding in 1841 that the Legislative Assembly ought to be based in Kingston, then not only Upper Canada's most populous town but also its most prominent military and economic centre. In that same year a group of local Scottish Presbyterians would successfully petition London for a royal charter to establish Queen's College. But that's another story...

As it turns out when the Legislative Assembly met for the very first time, in June 1841, they actually met in the original section of Kingston General Hospital (pictured above) that had been erected in 1835 but left vacant due to insufficient funds. Kingston would be the capital city for a short time--its "reign" lasted from 1841 to 1844--and KGH was in all senses our first parliament building during that time.

Alas, for reasons of proximity to the United States and other infighting, the capital was moved around to Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, and finally settled on the mosquito-infested, isolated, lumber town that was later called Ottawa. Kingston's glory days were over, but the rush of building and expansion left Kingston with one of Canada's greatest concentration of 19th century stone buildings and a nice sense of civic history and pride. Kingston, after all, was home to our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. As for KGH, it managed to begin fully operations as a hospital in 1845 and it benefited from its association with the Queen's Faculty of Medicine that had begun in 1854.  

For its part in our nation's history Kingston celebrates "First Capital Day" every June and on each Canada Day it also swells with pride for its special part in the creation of Canada.

June 16, 2010

Oh Muffy, darling, your book is here

Last September I blogged about my discovery of "The Preppy Handbook" back in my first year of university in 1989.  The tongue-in-cheek guidebook to the good preppy life was a smash hit and 30 years on the book's editor, Lisa Birnbach, has written a sequel called "True Prep".

The book is described in promotional material as "a contemporary look at how the old guard of
natural-fiber-loving, dog-worshiping, G&T–soaked preppies
adapts to the new order of the Internet, cell phones, rehab,
political correctness, Reality TV and . . . polar fleece.
Accompanied by more than one hundred original illustrations
and photographs, and at least one recipe, True Prep promises to be a whole new, old, sensation".

You can download a 12-page blad [a marketing and sales tool, used where printed sample material is needed in advance by the sales force to sell the title. A blad will often feature sections from the finished book, including the cover artwork, page layouts and images] of "True Prep" here.

June 12, 2010

Viva les Divas

Ok, so I am showing my hand here but I adore the divas that have given us the great songs. I get a lot of flack for the fact that I embrace the stereotype of loving Judy Garland and others, but I really don't care. I am moved greatly by these amazing women who have graced us with such powerful and emotional interpretations of timeless and new songs. Here is a list of some of my favourites:

"Halo" - Beyonce
My goodness, can this woman sing! She is clearly Whitney's heir and she always breaks my heart with this stunning song.

"I Will Always Love You" - Whitney Houston
This earth-shattering version is from the 1999 Divas concert and it is testament to the great power and range  that made Ms. Houston a global sensation. With much respect...

"The Power of Love" - Celine Dion
I tend to ignore all the Celine haters (most of whom our my friends) as I adore her vocal abilities and care for her fans. 

"Happy Days Are Here Again" - Barbra Streisand
From her 1965 show "My Name is Barbra" this is the final song. How sad that there is so little class and elegance in our current world. Ms. Streisand is so gorgeous and classy. 

"I Am What I Am" - Shirley Bassey
Although written for a man to sing at the end of the first act of "La Cage Aux Folles" I have always felt that Ms. Bassey took this tune to an unparalleled level. She devastates me with her interpretation. Wow!

"Ole' Man River" - Judy Garland
I cannot think of any singer which exudes such heartbreaking pathos as Ms. Garland, especially in this powerful interpretation of a song that is certainly about the challenges of the human condition. The last minute always brings me to tears.

"O Mio Babbino Caro" - Maria Callas
Puccini's aria is delivered expertly by the legendary soprano in this later recording.  I know there may be  better versions she had produced earlier in her career, but I am fond of this version for its emotional impact rather than simply the technical aspects of her voice.



June 3, 2010

Saying goodbye to another golden girl

Rue McClanahan (b. Feb 21, 1934) passed away in New York City early this morning following a massive stroke she had suffered on Monday.

While a respected Broadway and Off-Broadway actress in her own right, Ms. McClanahan came to the broader public's attention as first as the late Bea Arthur's best friend in "Maude" (1972-1978) and then most famously as Arthur's man-crazy, Southern belle housemate Blanche Devereaux in "The Golden Girls" (1985-1992).

I absolutely adore "The Golden Girls" and I watch the reruns pretty much on a daily basis, but this is a tough loss and the show is getting more bittersweet to watch. These four consummate professionals had the best timing and sense of comedy and were a joy to behold together.  Despite knowing most of the punch lines I still find myself belly-laughing, bent over in hysterics at the antics of this golden foursome.

Thank you, Ms. McClanahan, for all of the laughs and for your unique charm and grace. May you rest in peace.

June 1, 2010

The art of misdirection

There's a great program on CBC Radio 1 called The Age of Persuasion that details the ongoing history of the art, science, and impact of advertising. If you haven't caught it yet it's probably the most informative 30 minutes you can ever spend. You will listen incredulously as you come to see how you are being shamelessly manipulated on a daily basis.

One of the most recent hard-to-swallow ads was part of GM's "Reinvention" campaign, which spawned a cynical but hilarious parody. The latter was probably far more accurate and the spoof captured the public's attitude around the staggering bailout.

Canadians have recently been subject to Maple Leaf Foods attempt to re-brand itself as "Your Local Butcher" after the devastating listeria outbreak that severely damaged the company's public image and confidence. In fairness, the original apology ads were appropriately solemn and heartfelt but the new ads trying to convince viewers that your packaged meat is prepared by a small town butcher is a real stretch. In truth, the giant processing plants are anything but down-home.  

Some my not find this a problem but I always cringe at how WalMart trumpets itself as a great American company with a great social conscience that is great for the real American family yet over 70% of its products are made in China. Furthermore, "Wal-Mart's per store charitable contributions do not match up to the amount of money a store takes in the "numerous forms of public assistance--Medicaid, Food Stamps, public housing--that often allow workers to subsist on Wal-Mart's low wages. A report by the House Education and Workforce Committee conservatively places [public assistance costs] at $420,750 per store; the Wal-Mart Foundation's per-store charitable giving is just 11 percent of that amount ($47,222). [source]"

There are so many more examples but for a hint at the insidious nature of marketers and how they work on your desires watch this illuminating TED talk by Terry O'Reilly