Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Remember November

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Confederati...Image via Wikipedia
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Ottawa

That was fast!

It's already time for November's review and update.

Here we go:

Some of the Greatest Canadians Were Americans

Remembrance Day month started off with a nod to some of our earliest veterans, the Loyalists.

I've often felt that they are the clue to the elusive Canadian identity.

A quick search of Wikipedia suggested a few characteristics of the Loyalist refugees, Larabee (1948).

What do you think?  Is this us?

a) they resisted innovation

b) they were big on law and order

c) they disliked violence

d) they were procrastinators

e) they liked to take a middle of the road position

f) they lacked confidence in the future

Oh Oh... are you squirming?

But wait! There's one more!

g) they were funny

Feel better?
Me, too.

Grave Faces III

I loved taking these pictures of the faces on some of the cenotaphs in the Niagara area.

Nothing, however, could have prepared me for the one in Welland.

I was shocked by its massive size and its warlike message. It was the last memorial commissioned in Canada to honour the dead of WW I.

It showed no mourning figures though, just a bare knuckled soldier warning that the country would fight to the last man to defend freedom.

The year it was unveiled was 1939.

The Weapon That Won the War in Europe

I laughed when my Dad told me this story.

It is one of the few I know about his experiences during WW II. He said they laughed about it too - after it was over.

And okay, I made up the part about why Hitler killed himself.

A Family Remembers

During WW 1 in small town Ontario, no one delivered a telegram to your door if a loved one was lost overseas.

My grandmother and great-grandmother had to go to the telegraph office to pick up the news of the death of my great uncle, Alexander McKay, at Vimy Ridge.

November Garden

I was absolutely charmed by this chilly, whimsical garden.

Loose Teeth at the UN

Okay so we didn't get a seat on the Security Council at the UN for the first time ever.

Who do they think we are? People who resist innovation? Law and order freaks? Procrastinators? Middle of the roaders? Scaredy cats? People who fear the future?


But hey, did you hear the one about the Canadian, the American and the giant talking beaver?

The Staples of Life

Because in my heart of hearts I'm really an NDPer who dislikes Jack Layton's policies, I usually feel like a faker when it comes to the Green Party.

I don't feel GREEN enough, or maybe at all. Anyway, I was thrilled to find a real, live, green gadget. At last I'm doing my part.

Saving the world from a few staples counts, right?

The Three Biggies

Can you eat it? Can you have Sex with it? Will it Kill you?

News o' the Week

How sexy is potash in Saskatchewan, eh?

Once I had forced myself to sort of figure out what the whole thing was about, I thought I would force it on my readers.

I'm cruel that way.

Car Insurance. What's Not to Love?

Car insurance companies are going to roll out the big guns and go after people who make fraudulent claims? I'd say great if I thought it would make a difference.

I'll eat the spy car's back fender if our insurance rates go down.


This is another story from my years in the Yukon.

Topless in a Jail in Ottawa - a Commentary

Sunday night is when I post a comment about the news of the week - if anything interests me.

The 2008 jailhouse video that was released last week certainly got my attention. I felt myself turn cold as I watched an unresisting woman being manhandled in the Ottawa Police Station.

I did understand that it was just a short clip from what must have been a long event and I really tried to find something in the news stories to justify the police actions.

After having read as much as I could about it and taking into consideration the comments by the judge I have come to the conclusion that for some reason a few police acted like sadistic bullies.

But they were only three or four out of thousands of decent, honourable police officers in the province.

My advice is to scratch that phone number for the Bandido Biker Club off your wall.  If you bother  them you might end up going for a swim in the Welland Canal wearing cement socks.

The police are still the people to call if you are in trouble.

And that's it for November. Tomorrow is December 1.

It is the beginning of the month that Christians celebrate the birth of baby Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Let's hope in His honour the threat of terrorism and the ominous nuclear sabre rattling in Korea can be resolved.

See you Friday!

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Topless in an Ottawa Jail Cell - A Commentary

Vest of a Bandidos member from Washington StateImage via Wikipedia

I'm afraid I actually laughed out loud when I read the comment, "I'd rather call the Bandidos for help."

The writer was referring to the Ontario Provincial Police, a group someone else had called "the biggest gang in the province".

This hysteria was in response to an article about the release this week of the 2008 jailhouse video of the wrongful arrest of Stacy Bonds.

If you saw it, you'll know the video was chilling - so many police officers and one small woman.

She was charged with assaulting a police officer.

According to the reports, Ms Bond had been visiting a friend that night and was walking home along an Ottawa street after having had a few beers.

The police stopped her and ran her name through their computer. When they found nothing they told her to go home.

And that seems to be when she made her mistake.

She went back and asked them why she had been stopped. Maybe she felt targeted because she was black. Maybe as a law abiding citizen she just felt outraged.

Unfortunately her question seems to have enraged the officers. They arrested her for public intoxication.

The rest you know. She was beaten, strip searched and humiliated, left topless in soiled pants in a jail cell for hours.

The judge dismissed the case against her.

He called the whole thing a "travesty", an "indignity toward a human being..."

At this point it is important to note that the province's Special Investigations Unit has already started to look into the behaviour of the police officers in question. The officer who appears most at fault has been banned from working with the public.

So let's get a grip.


The guys who like to murder their buddies and leave them in car trunks in the countryside.


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Friday, November 26, 2010


When I lived in Dawson City, Yukon, there was a man I avoided as if he had the Spanish Influenza. Not because he was bad looking or smelled or was abusive. I avoided him because he was so needy.

His name was Man-Who-Wanted-a-Wife. Man-Who-Wanted-a-Wife did things for people, particularly women. He majored in being helpful.

But he was so depressing and self-centered that even a few minutes in his company was enough to drive me gratefully back into spinsterhood.

This is not the story of how I discovered his nobler side.


I recognized the voice. It belonged to a teacher who lived in one of the bottom floor apartments in our 12 unit prefab building.

I heard her start pounding on my neighbour's door.

I hadn't been completely asleep. I had heard the town's fire siren wail a few minutes earlier and had debated about getting up to see what was going on. Fire was a big source of entertainment in Dawson City in those pre-computer days, but it was 11 p.m., extremely cold outside and I had to work the next day. I had decided to stay in my warm bed.

"We're on fire," I thought. "I have to get up!"

I stumbled to the closet, threw my parka over my nightgown, grabbed my mukluks and headed out the door. I could smell smoke.

I ran barefoot down the closest staircase but I pulled up short when I saw the fireman standing in the doorway.

It was Man-Who-Wanted-a-Wife.

It would be hard for any man not to look good in a fire fighter's uniform. He was no exception. I hadn't imagined him doing anything so selfless and brave. I ratcheted up my opinion

But the door to the building was open and it was 30° below zero.

"Have to put my mukluks on," I said to him through chattering teeth.

I fumbled with the long laces.

"Never mind those," he said in a manly voice as he swept me into his arms and carried me next door to safety.

Oops. I lied.

That's not what happened.

Actually he knelt down and slipped the mukluks over my bare legs and then carefully laced them up before he smiled and held the door open so that I could leave safely.

Okay, that isn't what happened either.

The truth is that give me an irritated look and said in his whiny voice, "Well, hurry up, will ya!"

What a crab.

Reality 1, Romance 0.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your Car Insurance Company. What's Not to Love?

Manhattan Life Insurance BuildingImage via Wikipedia 

Just kidding.

More likely you are horrified when you hear about never ending rate increases, the CEO Christmas bonuses and the profits they rake in year after year while we, the common people, work the ground with our bare and bloody hands trying to eke out a living in this cruel northern vale of tears.


Anyway, after working the cruel ground with my bare and bloody hands yesterday, I happened upon a radio talk show quite by accident. It was about a court case in Waterloo where two people were accused of having faked major injuries after a minor car collision.

The insurance company smelled a rat, (or rats), and hired all kinds of lawyers, engineers, doctors, etc. to disprove the claim.

The upshot was that the judge found the couple guilty and they are being forced to repay the company $150,000.

Radio listeners proceeded to phone in with stories about their fellow Canadians ripping off insurance companies.

If the stories were true, and they sounded true, then I'm sad to tell you that there are some despicable people out there.

And insurance companies are apparently starting to mount a serious counter attack against fraudulent claims.


...I guess...

Call me a cynic but I think it is about as likely - even if they catch every liar and cheat in Ontario - that our car insurance rates will go down as it is that Dalton McGinty and the Liberals will win a majority government in the next Provincial election.

In other words - don't hold your breath.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

News o' the Week

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16:  Prince William...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

News o' the Week #1

Like all Canadians when I hear the words 'potash' and 'Saskatchewan' in the same sentence I start to quiver with excitement.

So it is understandable that the country has been in a tizzy recently because of the threat of a takeover of Saskatchewan's foreign owned Potash Corporation by a different foreign company.

I know I was riveted to the CBC.

This past week Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally deep sixed the plan.

We're particular about which foreign company owns our natural resources.

And okay, I admit it. I looked up 'potash' in the dictionary.

Potash: ... substances ... made from wood ashes and used in soap, fertilizers, etc.

Anyway, Saskatchewan has a lot of the stuff, enough to keep the national soap dispensers full for 4,000 years

News o'the Week #2

Prince William announced his engagement to Kate Middleton.

As a wedding gift Canada plans to give them a giant, Inuit hand carved, beaver shaped, soap dish made out of dried moose nuggets.

And a lifetime supply of potash.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

The 3 Biggies

White chocolate is marketed by confectioners a...Image via Wikipedia

"Can I eat it? Can I have sex with it? Will it kill me?"

Our brains are constantly asking those three questions according to Susan Weinschenk, PhD, author of a blog called "100 Things You Should Know About People".

And she's right.

As a matter of fact a bizillion years ago those were the only questions the primitive reptilian part of our brains had to ask in order to survive and keep the species going.

But the 21st Century has made things a lot more complicated.

Every time your inner reptile answers yes to one of the above questions your post modern brain adds, 'but first consider this...'

Here's what I mean:

Inner Reptilian Brain: Can I Eat It?

Post Modern brain: Wait!   Does it have any trans fat? Low saturated fat? Any preservatives? Low sodium? Low cholesterol? Is it lean? How many calories? How many times did you go to the gym this week?

Inner Reptilian Brain: Can I have sex with it?

Post Modern Brain: Wait!  Is it married? Will it tell your husband, wife, partner? Is it HIV positive? Does it have AIDS, herpes or any other sexually transmitted diseases? Is it a psychopath? Is it a member of, or in any way connected to, the Taliban? Is it, or are you, likely to reproduce if you have sex with it?

Inner Reptilian Brain: Will It Kill Me?

Post Modern Brain: Wait!   Are you asking short term or long term? Is this a mugging? a fire? deep water? a fall? an explosion? an accident? Poison gas? Biological or nuclear warfare? Or is this cigarettes? alcohol? drugs? PCBs? carcinogens? pesticides? mercury, mad cow disease?


Well, today I'm here to give you the good news!

My friends, your Post Modern Brain will one day be replaced by your Retired Brain and the answers will be simple again.

The dialogue will go like this:

Inner Reptilian Brain: Can I Eat It?

Retired Brain: Is it chocolate?

Inner Reptilian Brain: Can I have sex with it?

Retired Brain: A slice of Bavarian Triple Chiocolate Cake is orgasmic and less complicated.

Inner Reptilian Brain: Will It Kill Me?

Retired Brain: If it's chocolate, do you care?

Great news, eh?

And you don't even have to thank me for this information.

Just send chocolate!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Loose Teeth at the U.N.

United Nations Security CouncilImage via Wikipedia
United Nations Security Council Chamber

I was outside supervising the school playground one day many years ago. I spotted a young girl running towards me, waving her arms and shouting frantically.

"Teacher! Teacher!" she screamed.

"What is it? What's wrong?" my voice rose in alarm.

Quivering with excitement she gave me a bloody grin and squealed, "My loose is tooth!"

I think of her sometimes when I hear or read something confusing.

Recently I have been trying to make sense of the fact that for the first time, Canada did not get a seat on the UN's Security Council .

Every Canadian journalist that I have read has blamed somebody or some group, from Islamic extremists to Hilary Clinton to the Liberal Party to our main man himself, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper.

Each is adamant that he or she has the one and only correct explanation for the Security Council debacle.

And most think that Canadains should be ashamed.

For me, sitting here in North Pelham trying to figure out why we didn't get the seat is to get lost in a quagmire of 'loose is tooth', (confusing), journalism.

But in my fruitless search for an explanation I learned that Canada has a record to be proud of at the UN, often being the only country to take a stand and vote against repressive Islamic countries and their allies, (China, Russia, Cuba, Nicaragua and South Africa) .

UN Watch, a Geneva based non-governmental organization gave Canada the highest marks of all UN members for its work in the field of human rights.

I can hold my head up.  And so can you.

Even without a seat on the Security Council.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

November Garden

"The gloomy month of November, when the people of England hang and drown themselves."

- Joseph Addison

Well that isn't much fun, is it?

 In Canada, we made our peace with winter long ago. Instead of what are evidently common British activities in late fall, Canadians go to Christmas bazaars!

I don't know about you, but I prefer the Canadian way.

Anyway, I was at a sale of Christmas crafts at a home in Niagara-on-the-Lake last week. It took place in a most enchanting and whimsical November garden. 

These are a few of the pictures I took.

"November always seemed to me the Norway of the year."

- Emily Dickinson


Even the Americans have a thing against the eleventh month.

Anyway, too bad, so sad for Norway, but hey, Canada, gray skies and drizzle didn't make her think of us!

I suppose we are the Miss January of Emily Dickinson's calendar, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, okay?

"The acrid scents of autumn,
Reminiscent of slinking beasts, make me fear"

- D. H. Lawrence, Dolor of Autumn, 1916

It was quite startling to find a life size mare standing hidden and watchful in the brown November garden.

I approached the armoured creature with care and she kindly allowed me to take her picture.

"When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained
But darlin' when I hold you
Don't you know I feel the same
'Cause nothin' lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it's hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain."

- Guns N' Roses, November Rain

  I could feel his eyes on me long before I saw where he was standing.  Tall and about my age, I thought he was most attractive.

I tried to strike up a conversation, but he said not a word.

Me thinks he had a wooden heart.


See you Monday? 

(Or maybe Sunday night which is when I usually post Monday's blog, which I suppose technically mkes it my  Sunday night blog ... hmmmm.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Family Remembers

His Attestation Papers tell us he was born February 15, 1897 in New Haven Scotland. He immigrated to Canada as a child with his parents.

He was 18 years old on January 3, 1916 when he signed up with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.

His name was Alexander McKay.

He was 5'4" with a fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He had a tattoo on his right forearm.

He was the only boy in a family of six kids. 

My grandmother's little brother.

He died during the battle of Arras near Vimy Ridge in 1917.

19 years old.

But his name has never been forgotten.

There has been an Alexander in every generation of my family since then.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Weapon That Won the War in Europe

My father, age 18

The next time you find yourself caught in a foxhole, out of ammo and pinned down by Nazi machine gun fire you'd do well to remember the lesson of Canada's most secret weapon of WWII.

My father's infantry unit landed on Juno Beach on D Day + 1.

One day in 1944 he found himself trapped in a foxhole somewhere in France. He was with his best buddy, another kid from Maple Street in Merritton.

They'd been in the hole for days and the only things they could move were their bowels.

When they looked around for something to fight with, all they had were two shovels and a pile of the stuff that usually hits the fan.

Remember when you were in grade five, how the boys used to flick gross things at each other from the ends of their pencils?

It didn't take long for the intrepid young Canucks to substitute a shovel for a pencil and invent the 'The Great Canadian Stink Bomb'.

Eventually, thanks in part to the new weapon, they managed to scramble safely out of the foxhole.

Months later Hitler killed himself.

Rumour has it that he said it was because he just couldn't take any more shit from the Canadians.

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Grave Faces III

Merritton, Ontario

This is the face I am most familiar with. He stands worn and weather beaten at the cenotaph in my hometown.

He is unusual because he is not on a pedestal. He stands almost at ground level, signifying to the working class men and women who gather around him on Remembrance Day that he is one of them - a son, father or a brother.

But his gaze is turned away from the people.

And he doesn't speak to the glory of war or to patriotism.

He simply represents the dead.

Port Dalhousie, Ontario

This young man came home.

The zoom lens on the camera has caught a pensive moment that the casual viewer from street level would not see.

As he places a wreath at the cenotaph is he wondering about fate? How it happened that he lived while others died? 

All we know for sure is that soon he will straighten his back and turn his face to the future.

This sculpture is not so much about mourning lives lost as it is about teaching us that life must go on.

Thorold, Ontario

This proud figure stands very high, so high it was almost impossible to get a view of his face.

The war never really ended for him, his work has continued.

He epitomizes the line in the national anthem, "Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee".

Niagara Falls, Ontario

This soldier is also placed on a very high pedestal.
His helmet is off, he has taken a moment to remember his comrades.

We get the feeling however, that he thinks he will be able to rejoin the battle at any minute.

He does not yet understand that he is one of the fallen.

Welland, Ontario

This astonishing monument looms across Chippawa Park in Welland.

According to the plaque it was the last monument made in Canada commemorating World War 1. It was dedicated in 1939 on the day after World War II broke out.

The Canadian soldier is protecting a female figure from a terrible evil. His fighting stance tells us he will never give up, never retreat.

In 1939 the woman represented Great Britain and other European allies.

Today she represents Afghanistan.


Thank you to our veterans and thank you to the men and women who are in uniform serving our country today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Some of the Greatest Canadians Were Americans

Statue of a Loyalist family at Hamilton City hall, Hamilton Ontario,
Photo from "The Loyalist" website

Canada's first veterans weren't Canadian, they were American.


Well, after the French and English armies met in 1759 on the Plains of Abraham and the French were sent packing, the good folks who lived in Protestant New England were tickled pink.

Until the Brits sent them the bill.

Grumblings about things like taxation and representation grew into a full scale revolution. The problem for some of the locals was that the British Army was still a large presence in the colonies and many people who probably didn't care one way or the other about the king, did depend on the army for their livelihood.

But there was no sitting on the fence. New Englanders were forced to choose.

Those who figured the British Army was invincible and chose wrong soon found themselves in very deep doo doo.

'Tory parasites' as they were called were beaten, some were hanged. Their homes were looted and burned. Property and possessions confiscated. Women were not safe.

Fearing for their lives, many Loyalists rode north to the British outpost at Fort Niagara. 

Once there they joined Colonel John Butler.

Butler's Rangers engaged in raids and skirmishes against the Continental Army and gained a fearsome reputation.

Eventually the war ended, but not well for the good guys.

How sad when the Loyalists realized they couldn't go home.

How daunting it must have been when Fort Niagara was handed over to the Americans and the first settlers crossed the Niagara River into the wilderness that was Canada.

But not only did the Loyalists build a country, some of them, like my ancestor Francis Weaver* who fought with Butler's Rangers at age 14, lived long enough to take up arms against their former countrymen again in 1812.

The new 'Canadians' refused to be driven from their homes again.

In 1814 the Americans retreated to their side of the Niagara River where they have stayed ever since.

A veteran from the War of 1812.
Note the silver maple leaf
and Canadian flag. 

We honour the Loyalist veterans this Remembrance Day.

 *Francis Weaver died of injuries sustained during the War of 1812 but many of his descendants still live in this area. 

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