On July 31, 1952, Ross Reid was born. The future St. John's East MP's name comes from two prominent business families - the Reids, who built the Newfoundland Railway; and the Rosses, from New Brunswick. Although he held St. John's East for just one term, much of his adult life has been in politics. He worked in the Prime Minister's Office under Brian Mulroney, and emerged as a candidate for the federal Progressive Conservatives, defeating New Democrat Jack Harris in 1988. Reid became minister of fisheries, briefly, before the Tories were routed in 1993. Reid has been involved in international development work, and more recently has been an influential but largely unseen force in the provincial PC party and government. Earlier this year, he left his position as deputy minister in the office of Premier Danny Williams to devote himself full time to the Tory campaign for the October general election.
On July 30, 2006, Top of the Pops signed off from the BBC, after a 42-year reign. I'm still surprised that TOTP had dwindled to the point that it was irrelevant; clips I've seen over the years were often schlocky and not a little fake (lip synching was definitely OK, even haphazard attempts), but it was an institution. The site is still up, with a spinoff blog still going. Top of the Pops had the good luck to launch as the so-called British Invasion was gearing up. According to this Wikipedia entry, here are the Jan. 1, 1964, opening-show acts, in order: The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, the Dave Clark Five, the Hollies, the Swinging Blue Jeans (you may not remember the name, but you may remember "Hippy Hippy Shake") and, yep, the Beatles. Quite the setlist.
[Surf's Up, as publishedin the St. John's Telegram on Thursday, July 19, 2007, and posted here belatedly. Click here to read more columns.]
Twenty-five years ago, one of my biggest hobbies was photography. I had dabbled with darkroom techniques in high school, and was fascinated with what I could do with my handy-dandy Pentax. I took it all over the place.
This was not a cheap hobby. As a university student, I parked a chunk of what I could earn in part-time jobs toward keeping the hobby going. My biggest expense was, easily, developing.
As I recall, I needed a $20 bill each time I took my film for developing (at the Sooters counter in Giant Mart, in Churchill Square, for what it’s worth). The money covered printing doubles for a large roll, and I think a new roll of film came as part of the deal: a nibble to keep the habit going.
Parting with twenty bucks then was even more dear than today, but I felt it was worth it. I loved peeling open a newly returned envelope and then sorting through the pictures. This was long before one-hour developing got cheap. There were usually underexposed and overexposed prints – the hazards of experimenting with a camera. But there were, usually, real gems, the shots that made you want to get out the camera all over again.
I miss those moments of discovery, because in the digital age, there’s no such thing as a delayed response. Instead, you get the "Ahhh!!" or "Ewww!" moments pretty much as they happen.
The biggest shift within a generation, though, is just sheer volume. Because film and developing were pricey, we thought carefully before we pushed the button.
Now, we delete as we go, and we think nothing of shooting anything.
And, it seems, we spend a lot of time shooting nothing. I get that impression, that is, when I browse through accidentally discovered galleries on Flickr, Facebook and the like. I gravitate to the beauty (more on that in a moment), but I always wonder why people post their out-of-focus shots, or pictures that, really, have nothing in them.
We used to try to cram something into pictures – and into home movies, too. One of my former bosses told me about the movie camera that his father bought in the late Fifties. Film for that beast was really expensive – and there wasn’t much film on a spool, either.
Consequently, he recalls that many of the family films consisted of very short clips (10 seconds or so) of everyone crowded around the dinner table, waving madly at the camera as it panned by. As much as possible was crammed into a roll before it was sent off for processing.
Photography was approached in much the same manner. A camera was taken out for special celebrations and occasions, like weddings, Christmas, birthday parties, family vacations. When every exposure cost a pretty penny, you made very careful choices.
Parental photographic math
An exception, I guess, involved new parents. If the math of my friend Jonathan is true, new parents will shoot hundreds of pictures of their first child doing just about anything (first frown, first crawl, first french fry, etc.). The second child gets about a tenth of the photographic attention, and the third gets a tenth of that again.
With a digital camera, the novelty of parenthood can still wear off – but at least there’s no disincentive about the cost.
I hope I’m not coming across as being overly nostalgic for the old ways of shooting and developing. I much prefer the liberty that comes with playing with a camera on a whim, and shooting endlessly, looking for just the right expression, the best lighting, or that magic of a moment that passes by all too quickly.
Several nights ago, I was hooked as I looked at friends’ galleries posted to Flickr and other sites. Remember how I said that there are endless shots of nothing online?
Well, that’s true. But … there’s also gold out there, and not just sentimental shots of family and friends and the places where they live. None of these people is a professional photographer, but a few of them could definitely sell their work. All of them had crafted something cool, with pictures ranging from dusty streets to brilliantly lit forests to dank churches to children making supper. All of them found the beauty in the mundane.
On July 29, 1964, the Canada Student Loans Act passed through parliament. The massive expansion of financing for post-secondary education came about in that era for a number of reasons; surely, though, one of the decisions that most influenced things was the creation of an interest-free student loan program.
In the late Seventies, there was a flood of new music going on ... and I was into it. A lot. And while Elvis Costello and Talking Heads and the Police and all that was exciting, I'll cop to being more than a passing fan of bands that had supposedly passed their prime years earlier.
Indeed, my 14-year-old self thought all of these guys were ancient. Ancient. I realize, of course, that I'm a fair bit older now than all of them were then. At that point, Ray Davies was 35; Pete Townshend 34; Robert Plant 31. In any event, Doors nostalgia kicked in a little while later, the "classic rock" radio formula was pretty much invented (and, to its shame, scarcely changed since), and the geezer bands knocked one compilation out after another.
At the time, though, I bought these records, and played them continually.
Led Zeppelin: Hot Dog. In Through the Out Door seems, in retrospect, like the soundtrack of the fall of '79. Didn't think this would be the end of the road. Looking back, with just seven tracks, it doesn't seem like much, but I love running through it, and Hot Dog is still a hoot.
The Kinks: (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman. The disco groove sounds more obvious with distance, but Superman is not too dated. (The opening riff also sounds like it got nicked a few years later by Survivor for Eye of the Tiger.) More tuneful than anything punk was dishing out, but just as immersed in Seventies malaise.
The Who: Won't Get Fooled Again (Live). From The Kids Are Alright, which I played enough for my parents (at least once) to ask for something else on the stereo I had put together in my room. Punk may have been bitting at bloated rockers, but the Who - and at this point they were arguably at their most bloated - could cut through it in style. Besides, that stuff about "Meet the news boss, same as the old boss" turned out to apply to that trend, too, didn't it?
The Rolling Stones: Shattered. I didn't realize until a few years later (when, to borrow a phrase, the Stones were sucking in the Eighties) that Some Girls is quite a good record, with nods to the discos and to the edgy punks telling them to piss off. Shattered is my favourite Stones tune from the period.
Paul McCartney & Wings: Arrow Through Me. To be truthful, I didn't and still don't much like Back to the Egg, although I can hum along to Arrow Through Me. I read a piece a month or so ago about Wings, and how Back to the Egg was to have been a relaunch of the band, with the musicians filling up on new wave and reggae as recording began, expecting that would be Macca's direction. None of that, of course, wound up on record; pity. Makes you wonder.
A five-song playlist is filed to this blog each Saturday. Click below to see others.
How good is your knowledge of Simpsons trivia? Take this CBC.ca test and see. (I - ahem - got nine out of 10 ... which is a relief, given the hundreds of hours I've invested in this show over the years!)
Before the "In ur" fad burns itself out ... if it hasn't already ... here's a shirt that lets u, um, you do your own thing ... with a marker. As seen here. Click on the T-shirts tab below to see more postings like this.
It's shot - not entirely well - from one camera position, but it's still hard to take away your eyes from this, a video of scores of inmates in a Filipino prison dancing in unison to Michael Jackson's Thriller, with much the same choreography as the original video.
On July 24, 1967 - 40 years ago today - French president Charles de Gaulle touched off a diplomatic row - and a powerful nerve in Quebec - when he said, "Vive le Quebec libre" to a crowd in Montreal. De Gaulle had come to see Expo 67 for himself; the uproar contributed to him cutting his state visit short. Watch CBC coverage of the day here, including de Gaulle's emphatic phrasing. Toronto Life magazine picked the speech as one of the 10 great moments in Toronto history ... which may seem odd, until you remember the exodus that left Montreal for the GTA in the years that followed.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.