Society & Culture

Diana 1961-1997 (Aug. 31/17)

Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales died at the age of 36. She was the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and 15 times great-granddaughter of King Henry VII. She was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, also 15x-great-grandchild of Henry VII.

Diana’s line comes from Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII. Charles traces his ancestry from Henry VII’s heir, Henry VIII…

David Duke and Donald Trump (Aug. 14/17)

David Duke said “we’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” during the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville VA on Saturday. David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, using the president’s name as justification – that’s ballsy, I thought…David Duke praises Trump cnn

Canadian Songs (June 30/17)

So, for Canada Day, I looked for Canadian songs that evoke a sense of place, of history. Those songs that everybody knows a few lines of, to sing at public events and maybe around campfires.Canadian flag on porch for Canadian songs

The anthems, hymns, folk songs and popular songs that have become ingrained in our national psyche. The nation’s songbook, I suppose…

Un-American Affairs (Mar. 3/17)

Marya Mannes on out of my time book coverFrom More in Anger (1958), a collection of essays by American social critic and satirist Marya Mannes. From 1904 to 1990, her life spanned most of the 20th century.

A fictional life-story of a man who, Mannes says, “drew strength” from the “poisoned climate of McCarthy”. Just change a few words and, maybe, ‘plus ça change…’?

If you should come across Charlie Mattson and his family barbecuing in the back yard of their Darien home, you would think they came straight off the cover of the Saturday Evening Post…

King George VI (Feb. 6/17)

Sixty-five years ago today, Great Britain’s King George VI died at the age of 56. The King is dead, long live the Queen…

First Hundred Hours (Jan. 24/17)

In his first hundred hours – from midday Friday to this afternoon, President Donald Trump has been busy… Trump_first_day_as_President signing orders and nominations-wikipedia

Four Strong Winds (Dec. 7/16)

Ian_and_Sylvia_1968 publicity photo-wikicommonsI’ve been thinking about Ian Tyson lately. With the recent death of Leonard Cohen, the songs and the songwriters of Canada – and an era – have been heard a lot.

One song that often sneaks into my head is Four Strong Winds, the most evocative, and most Canadian of songs. Written by Ian Tyson, recorded by Ian & Sylvia in 1963, then by almost everybody else…

Royal Wedding Anniversary (Nov. 19/16)

duke-and-princessHappy anniversary, Elizabeth and Philip. November 20th marks 69 years since their wedding. Four children, 8 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren. Three heirs apparent to the British throne – son, grandson, great-grandson…

Secret Path (Oct. 24/16)

Chanie Wenjack died October 23rd 1966. He was twelve. He and two other boys ran away from their residential school, taking a Chanie Wenjack the secret path jeff-lemire-cbcsecret path north into the bush. They wanted to go home.

The other boys succeeded. They found their uncle’s cabin and stayed with him. But Chanie’s home was much farther away. He didn’t know where exactly, so he left on his own to continue walking until he found it…

Trump Imagery (Sept. 30/16)

What is the appeal of The Donald as president? Trump imagery over Trump policy, I suspect. But why? Reading The Englishman’s Boy, I got a clue from a 1923 fictional Hollywood studio boss:

trump-imagery-tv‘Last year Mussolini marched his Blackshirts on Rome and the government, the army folded. The government possessed all the material force necessary to prevail, and yet they gave way to a few thousand men with pistols in their pockets. Why? Because Mussolini orchestrated a stream of images more potent than artillery manned by men without spiritual conviction’…

Pen Name Mysteries (Aug. 23/16)

Amazon link for The Cuckoo's Calling
Click to buy on Amazon

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb are pen name mysteries by famous authors I’ve never read. Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rawling of Harry Potter fame and J. D. Robb is the romance writer Nora Roberts. Both books, I think, are excellent.

The Cuckoo’s Calling introduces Cormoran Strike, private investigator. He has had a recent run of bad luck in business and love. Then he gets a new case. It promises to pay well, but seems to him to be more a matter of reassuring his client than of investigating a murder…

Olympic Games of Chance (Aug. 3/16)

Two days to the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies, and the games of Rio_de_Janeiro_bid_banner_2016_Summer_Olympics-rodrigo-Soldon-wikicommonschance are still being played. The Zika virus, polluted water venues, and a bacterial risk to horses.

Glanders is a contagious fatal equine respiratory disease. Humans can contract it too. In the past few years, hundreds of Brazilian horses have been killed to stop its spread… You’d expect a story like this would get a lot of coverage. It didn’t. There’s been too many other things going wrong in Brazil….

Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel (June 29/16)

nf-book-of-remembrance-130
Nfld Book of Remembrance pg 130

Below is a list of the Newfoundland Regiment soldiers killed at Beaumont Hamel on July 1, 1916. There are many more; those killed in the lead-up to the battle, those who died of their wounds, casualties in other regiments that also went over the top. A list that included all those would be massive. Far shorter would be the list of those who survived.

801 men of the Newfoundland Regiment went into the battle. Figures vary, but about 255 were killed in action, 386 were wounded and 91 were missing. Only 68 were able to answer roll call the next day. About an 80% casualty rate…

I’ll Have Another (May 4/16)

This was first posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, May 10, 2012. This Saturday, May 7th, it’s Derby Day again. It’s the coffee mug from Kentucky Derby Museumfirst anniversary of the beginning of American Pharoah’s successful run for the Triple Crown. It’s also the 10th anniversary of Barbaro’s Kentucky Derby win…

The 1st Saturday in May, this is the mug I pour my first cup of coffee into. Last Saturday [2012] I’ll Have Another came from the middle of the pack and passed the frontrunner…

Queen Elizabeth II (Apr. 21/16)

Queen Elizabeth and corgis 1953Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday today. My mother, two years older, grew up with the Queen. From her teen years to adulthood, Mom kept scrapbooks about the Queen’s life. Clippings carefully pasted in, over-filling the large pages. There was a lot of news about the Royals. Thanks to Mom, I have a pretty good record of their lives.

Mom’s scrapbooks weren’t purpose-built for a Royalty collection. But there were those, I discovered in a second-hand shop in Sussex. Scrapbooks exactly like Mom’s but with a full-page image of the Queen on the cover. Mom wasn’t the only person with the mission of keeping a record of the Queen’s life…

Titanic: No greater love (Apr. 14/16)

Among the bodies found after Titanic sank was that of a woman, clinging to the body of a Great Dane.  Ann Elizabeth Isham had a seat in a lifeboat but was told dogs on Titanic deck, including a Great Dane typeher dog was too big to come with her. So she jumped back on board the ship. They drowned together.

This is one of the stories told in a current exhibit about the people and dogs of Titanic at the Widener University Art Gallery in Chester PA. There were at least twelve dogs on board. Three survived…

US: The New Brunswick Option (Mar. 30/16)

For disenchanted Americans, I have an escape plan that keeps with Saint-John New Brunswick-S-L-Tilley-SUE statue King's Squarehistorical tradition – New Brunswick. In case of a Trump win in the US presidential race, Cape Breton has announced its willingness to provide refuge for fleeing Americans. But New Brunswick is closer, and Americans who come here might even reunite with part of their family…

Earls of Grantham (Dec. 24/15)

Earls of Grantham coat of armsBelow is the lineage of the Earls of Grantham. The family name is Crawley, and their home is Downton Abbey in Yorkshire.

It is a fictional family in a television series I have never watched. I found family trees online, read summaries of the show and characters, and mapped out connections. I wanted to see if I could use only the internet to figure out a family history. I think I did, and it made me want to get to know them better…

Dr. George Park 1925-2015 (Nov. 28/15)

George Park Oct 2012Today, Dr. George Park died at the age of 90. He was a retired professor of Anthropology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He was my thesis advisor and he and his late wife Alice were my “St. John’s parents”.  Below is an excerpt from the introductory chapter of a manuscript that he was working on. It tells us something about his life and his way of thinking. 

My US schooling between the two World Wars was an excellent preparation for university, but left one pretty much in the nineteenth century…

Your Blues (Nov. 18/15)

Bebe Moore CampbellIf you want to do some social research on the US of the latter half of the 20th century, read Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine. It is a first novel by Bebe Moore Campbell, published in 1992. All the major socio-political movements from the 1950s to 1990s are here, seen through the eyes of individuals living amidst the turmoil generated by idealism and socio-economic changes.

It can be emotionally hard to read but it’s well worth it. At the beginning, you meet unhappy poor people in rural Mississippi in the 1950s. Right off the bat, you see that there is going to be violence and misery…

Newfoundland’s Gallipoli (Nov. 10/15)

ptes-stanley-and-george-abbot-PANL-heritage.nf.ca_first-world-war_articles_beaumont-hamel“Ptes Stanley and George Abbott of the Newfoundland Regiment were my grandmother’s brothers. I remember that picture of them at her house. My Dad’s sister has it now. They made it through Gallipoli only to be struck down at Beaumont-Hamel.” (Mike Barrett, comment)

George and Stanley were sons of Henry and Emily Abbott of Battery Road in St. John’s. When they were killed July 1st, 1916, George was 22 and Stanley 21.

At Gallipoli, about 40 Newfoundland men died. The 1st Newfoundland Regiment landed September 20, 1915. The battle had been going on since April 25th. It lasted until January 9, 1916…

Nim the Chimp (Sept. 16/15)

Amazon link for dvd

Project Nim is a film by James Marsh about Nim Chimpsky, the chimp who was raised from infancy as a human in order to explore the learning of language in non-human primates.  The film is based on the book by Elizabeth Hess, Nim Chimpsky:  The chimp who would be human.  CBC Radio’s Q interviewed Marsh about his film and Nim.

In an experiment started in 1973 by Columbia University psychologist Dr. Herbert S. Terrace, Nim grew up like a human child and learned American Sign Language…

Rodeo Kings (July 9/15)

From St. Thomas Dog Blog July 8, 2011. Sadly in this year’s Stampede, 2 horses died in chuckwagon race crashes.

William & Kate open 2011 Stampede Parade (ctv pic)William and Kate opened the Calgary Stampede and attended the parade.  William even took part in a chuckwagon race.  I’d been wondering what they’d do. Before their visit, there had been a huge furor about their endorsement-by-attendance at what some call an event about animal abuse…

Beaumont Hamel (July 1/15)

ptes-stanley-and-george-abbot-PANL-heritage.nf.ca_first-world-war_articles_beaumont-hamelIn Newfoundland and Labrador, July 1st is Memorial Day. It’s been that longer than it’s been Canada Day. Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949. But July 1st has had special significance for 99 years, since 1916.

On July 1st 1916, 801 men of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment went over the top at Beaumont Hamel in France, part of the Battle of the Somme. Only 68 answered roll call July 2nd. Of the rest, about half were killed or missing and the other half wounded…

Royal Charlottes (June 12/15)

Charlotte-queen-and-princess-royal-Royal-Collection-TrustThe first British royal Charlotte was George III’s queen. She is best known as the founder of London’s Kew Gardens and for perhaps having black ancestry. Born in Germany in 1744, fifteen generations back in her family tree is King Alfonso III of Portugal and his mistress Madragana of Faro in Algarve, described as a “Moor”…

VE Day 70th (May 8/15)

May 8th 1945, Victory in Europe Day, marked the end of one part of World War II. War with Japan continued until two atomic bombs were dropped in July and Japan’s formal surrender was signed September 2nd.

My mother was on Dundas Street East in London Ont. on VE Day. She said when the news spread, everyone ran into the street screaming, laughing, hugging anyone at hand. They stayed outside for hours, revelling in the knowledge that the war was over. Bluebirds were flying over the white cliffs of Dover, the boys were coming home.

Coming home took time. My dad’s official discharge papers are stamped November 28th 1945, Wolseley Barracks, London Ontario…

Apples to Apples (Apr. 22/15)

TV writer David Shore was on CBC Radio’s q (formerly Q) today. He was introduced as battle-creek-cbscreator of House and Battle Creek, writer on Due South and originally from London Ont.

He described Battle Creek as premised on male friendship. Then they discussed male friends or frenemies in House. House? Wilson’s friendship with House was a big part of the show, but not vital to it. Not like the relationship between the lead characters in Battle Creek.

Battle Creek is a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright FBI agent and a cynical Battle Creek, Michigan cop. Due South was a ‘fish out of water’ buddy cop show about a quirky partnership between a morally upright Mountie and a cynical Chicago cop…

Lotto Red Chamber (Apr. 7/15)

Senate_of_Canada-wikicommons-Montrealais-2007Is the Senate a place for ‘sober second thought’ or what, in 1985, then-reporter Mike Duffy called “a task-less thanks” for political party helpers? Senator Mike Duffy is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and bribery. Investigations continue into other senators’ expense claims.

Some senators, it seems, take advantage of an already very comfortable job. How to effectively restructure the red chamber has long been discussed, to no avail. Here’s my idea. Why not appoint senators by lottery?…

‘Trifles’ of Creature Comfort (Mar. 11/15)

A 1916 play Trifles was written by American journalist Susan Glaspell. It is a murder Girl with a canary, 1765 painting by Jean-Baptiste Greuzemystery based on a real event in Iowa at the turn of the century. A man is found strangled. The sheriff and a neighbour man search the house and outbuildings, can’t find anything. Their wives are there too. They are friends of the widow, who is also prime suspect. The women look around the areas that the men consider unimportant – the kitchen and sitting room where only women’s ‘trifles’ are kept.

In the widow’s sewing basket, they find a dead canary wrapped in a scrap of silk inside a fancy small box…

World War I (Nov. 10/14)

firstworldwar.comIt seemed like a good idea at the time: that’s the explanation I come up with for why World War I started. Virtually the entire world became embroiled in war due to one disorganized act of violence in Serbia against the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife was the politically small spark that lit big militaristic hopes and expansionist dreams.

WWI historian David Stevenson said on CBC’s Sunday Edition that negotiation and compromise could have averted war. No one imagined it would be a four-year-long worldwide bloodbath…

Turcotte, the movie (Mar. 6/14)

If you live in or are from New Brunswick, if you’re Canadian, if you like horseracing, the secretariats_jockey_ron_turcotteNFB has a film for you:  Secretariat’s Jockey:  Ron Turcotte (2013).  In 1973 Mr. Turcotte, already well known in racing circles, became famous world wide as the man who rode Secretariat.

The Triple Crown has been won only eleven times since it was established as the pinnacle of Thoroughbred racing in America.  Never has a horse won it in such jaw-dropping style as Secretariat did.   And Ron Turcotte was on his back for all three rides.

As a young man in northern New Brunswick, Mr. Turcotte worked in the woods with his father and brothers…

She Loves You (Feb. 6/14)

Some things you will never ever forget.  One, for me, is Ed Sullivan introducing “these CBS-Beatles-ad-tvyoungsters from Liverpool.”  Hands clenched on head, pulling at hair, “eek, aah, oohh”.  In the living room with parents, sitting on the floor in front of the television, screaming.  Watching John-Paul-George-and-Ringo, February 9, 1964. I still can hear “well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean, the way she looks, is way beyond compare.”…

War and Peaceniks (Jan. 28/14)

“Where have all the flowers gone, and the young men gone for soldiers every one.”  Pete Pete_Seeger_Newport_Folk_Festival_2009-wikicommons-wm-wallace-photoSeeger’s song.  The death of that great warrior for peace made me think also about those for whom he became a teacher, the generation born during and soon after World War II.

Called “entitled” now, they are believed (often even by themselves) to have sold out.  They were revolutionary proclaimers of a new age of peace and love.  Now their children and pundits say they have “dropped the ball,” upgrading their Beemers instead of the world…

Mom, Christmas Postie (Dec. 20/13)

Xmas-1962In the early ’60s, my mother worked at London’s postal sorting station during the Christmas rush.  It was for a few weeks when the volume of mail overwhelmed the sorting capacity of the regular staff.   It was the only time my mother worked at a job where she had to clock in for regular hours.  It was tiring, standing up all day.  The other women told her to bring egg cartons.  She’d flatten several cartons or get the 2 1/2 dozen flats and take them to stand on…

Ford Branding (Nov. 15/13)

Tobacco companies are probably heaving a huge sigh of relief.  As far as we know, no twitter.com_catfish8888-cropcigarettes were smoked by Mayor Rob Ford.  So they do not need to distance themselves and their brands from him.

Due to the mayor’s littering, Newfoundland’s Iceberg Vodka distillery released a statement decrying drinking and driving.  Ford Motor Company has said its logo cannot be used on t-shirts made by his supporters…

Baby Prince George (July 24/13)

FB-Monarchy-Baby-nameIn the past three days, the royal baby has been born, brought home, had pictures posted on Facebook, and been named.  A boy named HRH Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge.

For two days my television was tuned to the Royal Baby Channel – whichever one had “live coverage”.  It’s been worth it…

The Queen’s Secret:  Review (July 17/13)

Amazon link for Charles Templeton The Queen's Secret
Click for Amazon

Last week I saw a book called The Queen’s Secret by Charles Templeton.  Curious to see if it was by the late Canadian journalist of that name, I pulled it off the shelf.  Yes and even better, due to my being in a Royal mood with the expected arrival of HRH Baby, the plot hinges on the line of succession to the throne.

It was published in 1986.  Its queen is a fictitious Mary III who has one heir, a daughter…

Chinua Achebe (Mar. 22/13)

Chinua_Achebe_Buffalo_25Sep2008-Stuart-C-Shapiro-wikicommonsToday, the great Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe died at the age of 82.  If you have never read his books, this would be as good a time as any to do so.  Things Fall Apart, published in 1958, is wonderful in its telling of the history of Nigeria and British colonialism…

A Nation’s Songs (Jan. 23/13)

Whatever one might think of the US of A, they got good anthems.  Watching Monday’s Presidential Inauguration, the high point for me Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir Alicia Olatuja nydailynewswas the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir giving it to the Battle Hymn of the Republic.  What a song!  What voices!  (click to hear)

Wonderful as it is, the Battle Hymn of the Republic isn’t the only great song the Americans can sing at special events.  And they all came out at the Inauguration…

HRH Baby (Jan. 16/13)

In December 2012 the line of Royal succession was changed in law to simply the firstborn of the heir.  It had previously been the eldest son.  If the first child was a girl, she was heir only if she never had a brother.  That is easy enough to grasp.  It’s a second change made by the Queen to titles that’s less well known...

Idle No More (Jan. 9/13)

Our ancestors wanted this land Canada so damned bad that they crossed the ocean, ox-in-field-hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.cacrossed the country in wagon trains, fought each other, fought the indigenous peoples, and cleared forest for pasture and crop land…

Newtown CT (Dec. 18/12)

Bonnie Parker Cigar1933 pd wikicommonsWhen smoking was still permitted in restaurants, you’d sometimes see signs:  “No pipes or cigars”.  That was because the smoke from those is much stronger.  To me, this is a way to look at gun access.  There are many valid reasons for owning a gun; for hunting, target shooting, self-protection.  Many types and models that serve those purposes well have existed for many years.

Other firearms are designed for specialized purposes.  Automatic and semi-automatic weapons, assault and sniper rifles were developed for military actions and are what you want in those situations.  But for civilian hunting, sport or protection, their capabilities are not needed…

Newtown Kids & Dogs (Dec. 16/12)

A lot of dogs in Newtown, Connecticut will be working overtime in the solace department.  There are children and adults who will need Victoria Soto and Roxie from USA Todaythe love of their pets to help them cope after losing a sibling, a son or daughter, a mother or wife.

The pets will need comfort themselves.  They too have lost a beloved member of their family.  Roxie, a Black Labrador, is one.  Victoria Soto, one of the teachers killed in Friday’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was her person…

Library Science (Dec. 12/12)

Sometimes a simple thing happens that makes you realize what you should have done.  Bancroft-Library-wikicommons-C-S-Imming-2012One day at the library, I was reshelving books that had been left out.  There were a lot of them.  Messy people, I thought, can’t even put back the books they take out to look at.  Before too long fortunately, I noticed a sign:  “Please do not reshelve books.  Survey of book usage in progress.”  Uh-oh.  I quickly unshelved those I could remember reshelving.

That day I acknowledged my inner librarian.  I have loved libraries, small and large, for almost as long as I can remember.  I now wish I’d taken Library Science at university…

Mr. Otto Kelland (Nov. 28/12)

A while back, I was looking online for a family in response to a query.  I found them.  A note on their kinship chart said the wife was sister of Otto Kelland, maker of the model fishing boats displayed at the Fisheries College in St. John’s and composer of the song Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s.  I sat back, stared at the screen and said “Wow!”

Instantly I was back in the Newfoundland Museum, the old one on Duckworth Street, about 1982…

Reading History (Nov. 21/12)

Well-written and well-researched historical fiction gives the reader a two-fer:  a good story and a history lesson that you may have slept through during school.

Recently, I’ve been living in the Tudor and Plantagenet eras courtesy of Philippa Gregory.  I started with the Boleyn sisters books, made into movies that I haven’t seen but I hope do justice to the books and their subjects.  I don’t know how it would be possible to make a bad movie out of the historical material itself and the treatment given the characters by Ms. Gregory. Next I read the novels about the other characters in the Henry VIII saga…

Poppies (Nov. 7/12)

My dad had a whole collection of poppies.  Mom kept the ones that we bought every year Black and green-centred poppiesand pinned them on the top of a wallhanging in the dining room.  Every November, Dad would just take one off the hanging and pin it to his jacket.  When I commented that annual poppy sale money supported the Legion, he said “I was in the war, I don’t need to give my money every year to those old farts.”…

Stompin’ Tom Revisited (Sept. 12/12)

Thank you CBC Radio!  Just when I think I’ll never hear anything that I haven’t heard at least once already in any given day or week,album cover My Stompin' Grounds you give me a wonderful treat. Stompin’ Tom Connors – his songs and his conversation in radio interviews and call-in shows from the CBC archives.  Last Sunday on Radio One on Inside the Music (listen here).  If you know him and love his music, you will truly enjoy this.  If you know him and think ho hum, take a listen to him talking about his life and where the songs came from.  If you have no idea who he is, listen so that you may learn about someone central to Canadian music and Canadian pride…

Olympic Eventing (Aug. 1/12)

Trying to watch the Olympics Equestrian Eventing of the past three days, I’ve performed in my own Eventing competition.  It includes the Stair Dash, Pet Hurdles and Speed Remote Handling.

It’s due to television reception, or lack of.  We now have satellite tv and I’m sure when the bugs get worked out, it will be fine.  But that hasn’t happened in time for Olympics watching.  A new box is on a truck on its way here from somewhere…

Spam (May 9th, 2012)

A lot of spam comes to blogs. That is why comments are screened: to keep the robot edit screen showing spam statsgenerated junk out. It’s held in a spam filter and must be gone through. Abundant and irritating, a few are worth the time wasted…

War of 1812 (May 2/12)

In 1814 we took a little trip – Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip’

Johnny Horton on stageWe took a little bacon and we took a little beans

And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans

We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’

There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago…

A Local CBC Solution (Apr. 18/12)

Stick with what you do well and others can’t do – that’s my suggestion for CBC Radio.  entrance to CBC Museum in Toronto broadcast centreAn example, from this past week’s Sunday Edition, the story of The Investigator, a 1954 CBC Radio play about the McCarthy Communist “witchhunts”.  Two important points:  one, the power of drama as social and political commentary and two, the power of a broadcast being heard across an entire nation at exactly the same time…

RCI The Link (Apr. 11/12)

The Link RCI logo with Marc MontgomeryThere’s a CBC Radio secret that night people in Canada know about. Radio Canada International’s The Link, produced in Montreal, airs from 2 to 3 a.m. Monday to Friday on CBC Radio One. It is available in podcasts, but is not replayed in any other time slot, unlike all other programmes on CBC Radio these days…

Fanshawe Riot:  Educating fools? (Mar. 20/12)

Burning car and London Ont. rioters St. Patrick's Day 2012Last weekend, St. Paddy’s Day, London Ont. joined the ranks of cities of fools.

Violent, vandalizing fools.  Students at Fanshawe Community College in the city’s east end overturned cars and torched a CTV news van.  Houses near the campus were damaged and several people were injured…

Dick Francis:  A Racing Life – Review (Feb. 29/12)

The back cover of Graham Lord’s biography Dick Francis: A Racing Life
calls it “warm, affectionate, yet sharp and perceptive.”  I usually read the jacket information before starting a book.  This time I didn’t.  I’m glad because I know it didn’t skew my impressions of the book.

The only word of that description with which I would agree is “sharp.”  I found the book sharp to the point of nasty and petty.  The first page puts the thesis forth that Dick’s wife Mary probably wrote the novels…

Ocean Ranger 30 (Feb. 14/12)

Ocean Ranger view from airThirty years ago the Ocean Ranger drill rig sank off the coast of Newfoundland. The entire crew, 84 men, drowned. During the night of February 14th, in a bad winter storm, the rig began listing. Emergency personnel got there but there was nothing and no one left to save. That night I was awake…

Francis Family Books (Jan. 25/12)

518hYyqdw0L._SL250_If you had the sad job of picking the topic of the last novel you would write, I don’t think you could choose better than Dick Francis did.  Crossfire, co-written with son Felix and published in 2010 by Michael Joseph, is the final book in his long and illustrious career as a mystery novelist.  He died in 2010 at the age of 89.

Crossfire is a great story and a family effort.  You don’t need to google anything to know the experiences of three generations of the family are in it…

Drifting into Doom:  Book Review (Jan. 18/12)

cover Drifting into Doom Earl B. PilgrimIt was a dark and stormy night when I began reading Earl Pilgrim’s Drifting into Doom:  Tragedy at Sea.  Winter rain blew at the windows and tree branches hit the house. Reading about two men drifting in a dory during a January 1883 storm on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, I got chilled and thought “I knows how you feel!”  Then I recollected myself, realized I was in a warm house, on a couch, with the wind and rain outside.  No, I had no inkling of how Howard Blackburn and Tommy Welsh felt…

Tourist Board TV (Jan. 11/12)

Last night I watched the first episode of Arctic Air, CBC’s new series set in Yellowknife Arctic Air banner cbc websiteand surrounding lands.  Tonight Republic of Doyle, set in St. John’s, returns for its 3rd season.  Major sponsors of both shows are their respective provincial tourism departments…

Musée Acadien PEI (Jan. 5/12)

Permanent gallery, Acadian history, Musee Acadien, MiscoucheIf you have a drop of Acadien blood in your veins or if you just enjoy the distinctive sound of an Acadien fiddle, a place for you to go is the Musée Acadien in Miscouche, near Summerside.

A library full of binders of historical records, drawers of documents and compilations of genealogical research…

Attawapiskat ‘Solution’ (Dec. 28/11)

In a Sun Media op-ed column this week, Jerry Agar suggests a solution for the people of house interior Attawapiskat from news.sympatico.cbc.ca 9 Dec 2011Attawapiskat, the embattled Northern Ontario reserve: leave it.

He points out that doing the same ineffective thing over and over again is, in general, a good definition of insanity…  But his solution – go to where the opportunities are – has also been tried and doesn’t work that well…

Notre Dame du Mont Carmel, Ile St-Jean (Dec. 15/11)

The church and graveyard at Mont Carmel on the west coast of PEI.  Here, the island Notre Dame du Mont Carmel at sunsetfeels like it should be called by its old name, Ile St-Jean, when it was part of Acadia.  First seen at night, it’s scary and beautiful.  The archway looming overhead in the twilight, the rows of headstones white and dark against the setting sun.  ‘Oh My God’ isn’t blasphemous here…

Attawapiskat (Dec. 7/11)

house in AttawapiskatLook at Google News today: “Send troops to help Attawapiskat.” For a month, we’ve read about the Band Chief declaring a state of emergency over the lack of housing, and Prime Minister Harper saying that millions of federal dollars have been spent in the northern Ontario Cree reserve… How much of that money was actually spent within the Department of Aboriginal and Northern Development?…

Me & Louis L’Amour (Oct. 28/11)

I stayed with my brother for a couple weeks once.  I never Louis L'Amour leather bound booksthought of him as a reader, I was the “bookworm” in the family.  In his living room was a lovely big bookshelf that he had made, filled with books.

The largest single collection was Louis L’Amour paperback westerns. I was far too politically correct to ever have read a Louis L’Amour, but they were handy when I needed a book so I started my very first one…

Prime Time (Oct. 19/11)

Last month, the new prime time tv programmes were rolled out.  Many are good.  They threw my life into chaos because I actually wanted to watch them.

Person of InterestPrime Suspect and Pan Am are my new “can’t miss” tv.  I’d seen ads for Person of Interest – wasn’t sure.  Too many kinda spooky ‘person with special powers’ series in the past years…

Recorded Campaigning (Oct. 3/11)

hand cutting off telephone connectionThis election I don’t know who I’m going to vote for. When the electioneering machine started cranking up, so did the recorded messages. You know, the taped messages that lazy and/or cheap telemarketers seem to like. Saves them paying real people in India or Moncton to annoy householders at dinnertime. This election, it seems to me, there’s been more of these recorded calls coming from candidates and pollsters. “Hi, I’m blahblah for the blahblah party and I want your vote October 6th.”…

St. Thomas Ford Plant (Sept. 14/11)

Selectivity tower at Ford plant erected 1968In Grade 11, at St. Thomas’ Arthur Voaden Secondary School, I was the only girl, and only Art student, in an English class with Shop boys.  I had read most of the assigned books already, in school or on my own.  So the teacher said for me to just get my papers in and if I had any questions to come to him.  Then he left me alone and concentrated on the boys.  There was one boy he left alone too, one who really had a hard time in school.  He could read a little bit and should have had remedial help.  But he wasn’t worried.  His dad worked at Ford…

The Public Library (Sept. 7/11)

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the library.  It was in an old house on Mainold Belmont Library in winter Street in Belmont, right near our house.  I read pretty much every book that was in there.  Then they closed it.  A bookmobile came to town instead.  It was part of the Elgin County Public Library system.  I liked it too – wasn’t as good as being able to go to the library any day you felt like it, but it was kind of exciting, knowing the bookmobile was coming the next day…

Finding a new Dick Francis (Aug. 3/11)

bookshelves with catIn need of a book for bedtime reading, looking through bookshelves – and finding a Dick Francis mystery you haven’t read.  That is true happiness.

I thought sadly that I’d read all of Dick Francis’ many novels.  Then, twice in a couple months, when library books were finished and I searched my own books for something to tide me over, I found unread Dick Francis novels.

I love mystery novels.  You get both a mystery and a glimpse into another world.  With Francis, it’s many topics but always with some horse racing, whether steeplechase or flat…

Rwanda (July 20/11)

Skull among palms in fieldSeventeen years ago, one hundred days of genocide ended in Rwanda.  It was part of a long-standing conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, two groups who uneasily co-exist in the small Central African countries of Rwanda and Burundi.  This time, from early April to July, it was the Hutu doing their damnedest to wipe out their Tutsi neighbours, family and friends…

After the bloodshed stopped, the Canadian Armed Forces invited journalists to come to Rwanda to see what they were doing.  I was lucky enough to go in September…

Oprah’s Last Show (May 25/11)

Today is the final Oprah Winfrey Show on regular network tv.  I’m sorry to see her go.  IOprah - the Farewell show (www.oprah.com) can watch her on her own network, but I probably won’t.  I’ve seen the titles of some of its lineup – a little too much health, beauty and talk for my tastes.

Oprah was the only talk show I’d sometimes turn on just to see what she was saying.  I started watching because she came on after General Hospital.  If her intro looked interesting, I’d leave the tv on…

Go Paperless! (May 18/11)

advertising flyer for "go paperless"Utility companies, governments, banks – every agency that sends us bills or statements keeps telling us to make it easier for ourselves, save trees, go green, go paperless. Make it easier for whom, save what trees?

I’m going to want a paper copy of those statements anyway. So I’m going to have to print them. So it will be paper I buy instead of paper bought by the sender. Same number of trees die.

It would save those companies and agencies the costs of postage. Yes it would. And if I were promised that those savings would be passed along to consumers in the form of lower rates or rebate, I might do it…

Death of Soaps (May 11/11)

AMC and OLTL title cards x'd outIn April, ABC announced the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live.  They will be replaced by a cooking show and a health and beauty show.  Wow, we need more of those.  Maybe they can get Dr. Gupta.  We don’t see him on tv enough…

Hats off (or on) to the past few days!  (May 3/11)

Princess Beatrice and The Hat at the royal weddingIt’s been quite a four days – perhaps best summarized with The Hat.  Everybody’s had a go at this new game.  Friday was the birth of The Hat.

Friday was a bank holiday in the UK so that everyone could watch The Royal Wedding.   Millions of us elsewhere also watched.  The Hat made its first appearance…

The Royal Wedding (Apr. 29/11)

Piers Morgan & Anderson Cooper at Buckingham Palace CNN bureauI stayed up all night and watched the pre-pre-coverage, pre-coverage, main event, balcony scene and after coverage.  I switched between CBC and CBC NewsNet, CNN, an entertainment news show and went online to BBC.

Interestingly, my husband and I stuck with CNN for the actual wedding…

The Waitress Club (Apr. 13/11)

My very first job was waitressing.   It was a street corner restaurant with booths and tables, bigger than a dinerrestaurant coffee pots but not fancy.  I had just arrived in a city new to me.

There were four or five waitresses working the day I started.  They were all older than me, ranging from their 30s to 50s.  I was 17.  I tried but I was pretty useless.  They were career waitresses, very good at their job.  Most of them helped me, but a couple looked at me with cynical eyes, as if to say “wonder how long you’ll last.”…

Tilting at Windmills (Mar. 3/11)

My mother had trash compacting and recycling down to a science before the words were part of our lexicon. cans of food in cupboardAfter she opened a can, she removed the label, rinsed it, then removed the other end of it.  Then she put it on the floor and stomped it flat before putting it in the garbage.  The label was kept with other scrap paper and used as tinder for campfires… This is to explain why I was amazed at her reaction when recycling blue boxes came to her town…

The Oscars (Feb. 28/11)

Halle Barry, Sandra Bullock, Helen Mirren - 2011 dressesThe dresses, that’s the Oscars for me.  The beautiful gowns and the ones that make you wonder ‘what possessed her?’  So anything that provides both oohs and aahs of admiration and WTFs of astonishment is worth watching.

But there’s a whole show wrapped around the dresses.  This year’s show was one of the most disjointed that I’ve ever seen.  The hosts – why?…

The King and Us (Feb. 16/11)

Duke & Duchess of Windsor, at home with pugsWallis Simpson makes me think that there may well be a God, and that He is on “our” side.  I cannot imagine what the world would look like had Edward VIII remained on the throne.  And it’s thanks to Wallis Simpson that he didn’t.

He came to the throne in 1936 when the build up to WWII was already taking place…

Losing Sgt. Ryan (Jan. 18/11)

Police in Sgt. Ryan's funeral procession, from CTV websiteTuesday morning, I turned on the tv to watch my tape of Coronation Street. On CBC, I saw the funeral procession for Sgt. Ryan Russell of the Toronto Police Force. For the next several hours, I watched the procession and the funeral. There were over 12000 police officers, firefighters, EMTs and soldiers…

Sarah Palin and Targets (Jan 8/11)

Take back the 20 mapThe first time I saw Sarah Palin on television, I was impressed. It was soon after she was announced as John McCain’s running mate for the 2008 US presidential election. She was forthright with her opinions and seemed level-headed. I liked how she talked about being a woman – and wife and mother – with a political career. I might not agree with her political beliefs but I could respect her as a politician. That’s what I thought.

It went downhill from there, pretty rapidly…

Days of our Lives and Chex Mix (Dec. 10/10)

Sammi opening Chex Mix bagHaving fallen off on my American soap viewing, I didn’t know about the new product placement on soaps until I saw the spoof of it on the Colbert Report.  I thought he had to be photoshopping the tape somehow to have Sammi extolling the virtues of Chex Mix while in a cozy little scene with some guy…

Lifeboys:  Reality television before “Reality Television” (Dec. 1/10)

Shipperies Pub, Durning Road, LiverpoolIn the spring of 1992, I heard an interview with Pat O’Rourke on CBC Radio’s As it Happens.  It was about a new kind of television show that he was making, based on the real lives of real people.   O’Rourke and his wife owned and ran the Shipperies, a long-established pub in Wavertree, a part of Liverpool in the north of England…

Pipelines through Paradise (Nov. 26/10)

starfish on fjord shore, Jack DykingaThis past October, there was a documentary by Karin Wells on CBC Radio’s Sunday Edition about a RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) to document and showcase the coastal British Columbia rainforest.  It was coordinated by the First Nation community of Hartley Bay, near Prince Rupert.  Hartley Bay and the other aboriginal communities of the area asked photographers from all over the world to come to the northwest coast to capture its essence for the world to see what is valuable about it…

People without sense to come in out of the rain (Nov. 23/10)

rack of clothes in thrift store, Sparklingdawg, Wikimedia CommonsLast week in our community paper, the St. Thomas/Elgin Weekly News, there was an article about a good and caring citizen and chiropractor Dr. Denise Colledge. For the second year, she is collecting socks for children without any. According to her teacher friends, there are children coming to school in the dead of winter with shoes but without socks. So last winter, she collected over 600 pairs of new socks to be distributed to needy children…

Remembering (Nov. 11/10)

George C Anger RCEMEI think of my father every Remembrance Day. He was a WWII veteran. He went overseas in December of 1942 and returned home in October 1945. He was a mechanic in the RCEME, a Lance Corporal. He was not a willing soldier, he didn’t leap up to volunteer as soon as Britain, and Canada, declared war on Germany in 1939. He was old enough, 22 in that year. But soldiering had not been a part of his family for many years. They were farmers and they, and the government, thought they could do the best for their country by feeding it…

Click Fatigue (Oct. 24/10)

freekibblekat.com logoEvery day I gave .6 bowl of kibble to shelter animals and 10 pieces of kibble to other shelter dogs and 10 pieces to cats. I had 2 foster dogs and 2 foster cats that I fed, walked and patted every day. These were my virtual fosters and feedings. I clicked to help every cause I could. Waking up my computer meant first doing my clicking duties…

Panhandling: Community or transaction? (Sept. 24/10)

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PanhandlerThis summer, I was driving and listening, I think, to Tapestry on CBC Radio. A man affiliated with a Cathedral somewhere was talking about panhandlers who sat near the church. His thesis was that they wanted your recognition as people, as members of our community, more than they wanted your spare change…

Introduction to Anthropology, Popular Culture and Soaps

Postcard - Cherokee danceThis picture is a postcard my mother bought, probably in the 1980s.  The back reads:  “Cherokee Indian Eagle Dance as performed in the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills, at Cherokee North Carolina.  Presented in the Mountainside Theatre against the backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains, Unto These Hills can be seen nightly except Mondays from late June to Labor Day each year.  This drama portrays the history of the Cherokee Indians from 1540 up to and through their tragic removal to the west over the infamous ‘Trail of Tears.'”  It was published by Asheville Post Card Co., Asheville NC.

I found it in a box of cards of my mother’s.  I kept it, and later noticed she had pencilled in my name on it.  She bought it for me but I guess it got forgotten.  I think it’s wonderful; it has history, culture, economics and societal adaptation in its image of public performance.   It has, in short, the elements that make up our world, and the study of it – social and cultural anthropology. And it is represented as performance – popular culture.

popular culture kitten watching horse on tv

Plays, television, books, news, ‘urban legends’ – all tell us our own stories. They reflect our reality at the same time as they shape it.  Thinking about the effect popular culture has on us and our society can be as entertaining as the entertainment products themselves.  My cat Yeti prefers wildlife shows.  She likes outdoor vistas with bright colours and large animal shapes. That tells me something about cats’ vision. For her? She enjoys it.

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Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.