andrew burke





Bloomsday Halifax: Plumtree!

Posted on: 2024-06-26

I'm stepping out from the episode-by-episode breakdown of the Bloomsday Halifax project to highlight one of the more obscure coincidences that made Halifax a natural choice to stand in for "Ulysses".

A recurring symbol in the book is "Plumtree's Potted Meat" a real-life meat paté processed food product from the time with a fake terrible ad, posted in, of all places, the paper's obituaries section. The ad and its jingle keep showing up in various points in the book, and it turns out the Blooms even have some in their kitchen at home.

I made Plumtree's Potted Meat a collectible virtual item in the app:

You have found: Plumtree's Potted Meat. What is a home without Plumtree's Potted Meat? Incomplete. With it an abode of bliss.

I got a bit carried away with my obscure cross-references in this image though. What is that text at the top? That isn't a very 1904-looking logo.

Well, Plumtree is also the name of a band from Halifax, part of the early-90s Halifax Pop Explosion alongside Sloan, Thrush Hermit, Jale, and the Super Friendz, and that's their logo. It was a connection I couldn't help but make.

Plumtree is probably most notable for their song Scott Pilgrim:

The song (which sounds so very early 90s and looks so very Nova Scotia) got into the head of then-Haligonian Bryan Lee O'Malley (there's a Joyce-appropriate Irish name!), especially the line "I will love you for a thousand years". O'Malley ended up using the name for the main protagonist of his epic graphic novel series. The comic/manga was turned into an epic 2010 film by Edgar Wright, where the title character was played by Michael Cera.

Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim wearing a Plumtree t-shirt

Did anybody notice me making this connection? Probably not. This makes it a lot like many of the obscure and self-amusing connections Joyce put into his novel. Come to think of it, Edgar Wright likes to put lots of connections and symbols and meta jokes in his work too, sort of like a nerdier, more hyperactive Joyce. That must be one of the reasons I like both of these artists.

Another thing that resonates for me is that the books and the movie are set in a late-90s/early 2000s Toronto, focusing on the Annex and the Bloor/Yonge area, very much where I spent a lot of time myself in my 20s and 30s. Lee's Palace, Sneaky Dee's, Honest Ed's, Metro Ref, even the Pizza Pizza on Bathurst. Many of these are gone now, and some even needed to be recreated for the movie. It's a bit like Joyce meticulously recreating a lost Dublin from decades before in Ulysses.

A bit. Maybe. Well it works for me.

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