Sunday, March 09, 2008

Local Flavour, Part One: Reading is Fundamental

Ha ha ha ha, okay, that was my fault. When I'd said 'tomorrow', I was operating on the erroneous assumption that I'd be at home. My bad!

Anyway, so here's the deal. I was bequeathed a better digital camera this past Christmas; it's not a new camera, matter of fact we've had it kicking around for years now, but it's damn sure newer and more technologically advanced than the two-megapixel fossil I'd been using to that point. So a new camera, which meant a new memory card, which meant some shuffling of the old memory card data -- and ultimately in my oh-boy-new-tech exuberance I shunted all my older pictures into various folders and subfolders, figuring I could always get around to them later. Well, it's certainly later now!

The gist of this is that I've got a whole variety of locally-themed pictures that are just kicking around, images from various points in time last year that are at least worth passing mention. I'm sure I'd intended to post all of these here when I initially took them, but they never quite got transferred -- or sorted, or resized, or uploaded, or whatever else can be done to pictures between taking them and posting them. So I've gone back through the old folders, grabbed a bunch of neat hitherto-unposted shots, and here we are.

This will be part one of a three-part series; it was originally all going to be in one post, but then I looked again and realized that I'd picked out about sixty images. Sixty images in one post would be all kinds of silly, in terms of loading time and post length and pretty much any other criteria you'd be using. As such -- part one!

For this, our first installment, the general theme is written correspondence. Occasionally when you're out and about in the city, you'll come across a message written somewhere; maybe somebody is trying to tell you something, maybe the city has a rule in place, maybe an aspiring tough is marking their imaginary territory, maybe someone out there has just ran out of medication. Whatever the case, it's always important to keep your eyes open.

Like, for example, one day you're downtown and you happen to be walking towards a nearby mailbox; you take a glance at it and notice out of the blue that it's festooned with homemade stickers. One sticker has a crude face on it, another sticker is of a smiling jellybean or something, a third sticker is doing a pretty good impression of moss -- and then one affixed adhesive appears to carry a declaration, a message of such importance to its creator that he or she had to express it as best and as soon as he or she could.

That message?

Oh. Huh. Well. Okay then.

It's... not a very effective deterrent, is it? I think I'm actually more likely to buy from Starbucks with this mental image in place. I don't even like Starbucks, but I think I'd be powerless to resist them if they made Christopher Walken vs. Army of Midgets the thrust of their advertising campaign.

(The midgets represent small business!)

I worked downtown for the majority of last year, so it was a given that every so often I would run into improvised forms of public address. This particular day, somebody had grabbed a piece of white sidewalk chalk and written 'ANOTHER EMPTY BUILDING' lengthwise along an empty edifice; I had a go at photographing it, but the hell if there was any way to fit that into a single shot. Alas! Sometimes the content is lost in the delivery.

No such problem with this shot, however:

That's charming, isn't it? Way to celebrate, guys!

(Good thing the city banned minors from buying spraypaint; it makes the graffiti all the more special for them once they hit legal age. Go know!)

The subtext is staggering, of course; think about it, these are our graduates. These are our leaders of tomorrow, the enlightened success stories that our education system is producing. You can imagine the kind of graffiti you would get from the kids that don't graduate.

In fact, now that I think about it:

This is exceptional. You'll get a kick out of this one.

Ouch! Ha ha ha ha ha ha--damn, man! That can't have helped the courtship process any. Where would young love be without a healthy dose of awkward silence from time to time?

The timeless concept of 'wrong place at the wrong time' has never been better expressed than here, because that garbage bin definitely lost a fight with something. A wayward truck? A flock of highschool graduates? One particularly frustrated Burger King employee?

I dutifully took a few pictures of the wreckage, idly wondering what exactly leveled this sucker, when I finally noticed the homemade bumper sticker nestled under the rim.

The plot thickens!

I don't know whether that sticker was intentional or incidental, but it must have been some pretty impressive foreshadowing nonetheless. Sorry, garbage bin; victims of art crimes rarely get any sympathy.

D'awww. You're welcome, Ricky Receptacle! What a nice guy.

I guess the secret to a long, disaster-free career as a garbage bin is offering superior customer service. I mean, I can't even imagine how old this thing is. Especially considering that this receptacle sits in Fort Richmond Plaza, the very same south Pembina strip mall that boasts the following sign:

You're... you're kidding, right?

I mean, yes, it's perfectly valid to want to warn us about a speed bump. That speed bump could be dangerous! But I'm pretty sure that -- somebody check me on this, I'm pretty sure -- Canada converted to the Metric system. Around, say, 1970.


(Yes, yes, this is that Outdoor Media Group again -- but it would take years before I could read 'OMG' and have my first thought be 'Outdoor Media Group'. Perhaps you have noticed that I use the internet!)

Yeah, I... don't know what this one even means. You can see these pop up every so often downtown, contextless sentence fragments sellotaped to whatever open space doesn't have a concert flyer on it. Maybe somebody sets up scavenger hunts with them.

Hypothesis: cyclists can't read.

Hypothesis confirmed! Thanks, cyclist!

Oh, Jesus, these pictures. I'd forgotten about these. Okay! This has a bit of setup to it, so bear with me.

I'd mentioned I was working downtown until a few months ago; my auto mechanic is also located downtown, so the day I took my car in to be winterized I had the privilege of driving and walking to work instead of taking the bus. This led me on a different route than usual, coincidentally leading me right past the old roller-rink on Portage. I ended up taking a picture of it just for the heck of it.

Turns out -- that was the exact day they flattened it.

So in the afternoon, on my way back to pick up my car and head home, I passed by the same spot again and -- welp! There it was.

Yeah, huh. Go figure.

It was all very serendipitous, but of course I had no way of knowing they would knock it down right after I passed by that day; I had actually taken the original pictures for an entirely different reason.

You see -- that parcel of land, as you probably know, had been recently purchased by the University of Winnipeg. And to make sure nobody had missed this development, the University of Winnipeg had put a big ol' sign up next to the fence.

Take a look at the sign as it read that morning. Behold as I beheld, and see if you notice anything wrong with it.

Now, if you're like me, you picked out the incorrect usage of the plural immediately and on your first glance. Ah-ha! The use of 'tomorrow' in this particular sentence is possessive, not plural, and the resulting requirement of an apostrophe before the S has been overlooked and becomes conspicuous in its absence! Ah-ha! A fleeting but tangible rush of elation for successfully displaying intellectual superiority over the promotional material of an accredited university!

Okay, fine. That's all very nice. Now take another, longer look at the sign.

If you're like me, the first thing you noticed was 'TOMORROWS'; that means, if you're like me, it was only after another couple of seconds that you did a doubletake and realized that the sign reads 'UUNIVERSITY'. The Uuniversity of Winnipeg.






So when I came back past the site after work that day, I was encouraged to see that they had remedied the problem; somebody must have informed them that their sign was wrong, because within that same day the university staff had made the necessary corrections and had issued a replacement sign.

Hey, everybody makes mistakes! A university education doesn't magically confer infallibility; people are people, after all, and given a second chance most anybody will gladly correct their former mistakes and move on.

Yessir, a happy ending after all; these are sharp people, very well-educated, and we can rest easy knowing that the higher standards expected of post-secondary education are justified by--








Hrmm. Ahem.

In conclusion, there's always something interesting to see in Winnipeg; it's just a matter of looking around every so often. It's good to keep an eye out! Keeps things fresh.

As I'd said, this was part one; parts two and three are to follow, but today marks the release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl (!!) and as such I can't reasonably lay out a timeframe for future posts. You understand, I hope.


Anonymous said...

Holy s*** was that funny. Three parts won't be enough to satisfy, though. I think you need to release a book of these.

I, too, am now tempted to buy something... anything... from a Starbucks just to test the hypothesis.

James Hope Howard said...

Dude, I know! Like you'll be standing in a Starbucks, ready to place your order, and the second you reach the counter the store is suddenly overrun by hostile midgets--midgets dressed like, hypothetically, we'll say pirates.

And just as the dread midget pirates break through the hastily barricaded door and point their cutlasses at the clientele, you finish your order -- a double mocha whipped cream whateverchino -- and BOOM Christopher Walken bursts through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man and just starts Falcon Punching anything with an eyepatch or bandana.

"Yarrrr!" the midget pirate captain blurts out in frustration, waving backwards to signal the retreat of his remaining forces. "We'll get you next time, Christoph-arrr Walken! Just you wait!"

Of course, now that I've said that, it'll mean that I'm quietly and vaguely disappointed the day I finally do order something from a Starbucks.

"Huh. Well, it's coffee. It's okay, I guess... I mean, I paid like four bucks for this. I was expecting, I don't know, attack midgets."

Anonymous said...

To play devil's advocate (whew, did it correctly), I remember back in grade school, every class and every semester, each teacher had a completely different idea of the use of an apostrophe in the possessive form. I would continue to get grammar errors due to the ever changing rule on this.

Still amusing though.

Romeo Morningwood said...

HA! I must admit it is weird to see hometown, urban, blight in the Blogosphere.

That being said, your pictorial expose has truly captured the desolate, mindnumbing, 'greyness' of Whateverpeg.
"One 'MEH' City"

Thank you for reminding me to lower my expectations.

I actually volunteered at Take Pride Winnipeg for several years in a Quixotic attempt to eradicate graffiti..
my suggestion of punishing offenders with digital amputation was met with a tepid response from half of the board members.

Both of my daughters furthered their edumacation at the UU of Dubs. Luckily neither of them were over-exposed to the FFaculty of Ingelash.

SpaceSquid said...

How would Walken possibly have time to kill that many midgets? Or does he do it "Meet Joe Black" style?

Sheena said...

Oh crap. My U of Winnipeg BA diploma has a typo on it...
Humiliation to this day...

Anonymous said...

vidstudentBrawlCode=0387 8435 7168


James Hope Howard said...

MMK hasn't even gone online with Brawl yet and it isn't actually his Wii. (MMK will get back to you on that.)

Also, OH GOD UNIVERSITY OF WINNIPEG DEGREE TYPO. I had no idea such a thing was possible, and I could not have made that up if I tried because nobody would have believed me.

Anonymous said...

There's a certain logic there... since Winnipeg starts with a "W" they must have thought University should also start with a "double U."


Anonymous said...

There is a third error on the sign: the use of superfluous "quotes" around the phrase, what was it, "growing for tomorrows [sic] needs". The quotes imply that the exact opposite is true.


Ben Century said...

Just stumbled upon your blog and I'm loving it! The "Outdoor Media Group" signs I've seen around Winnipeg really get me going, especially the ones that say "OMG Winnipeg".