Sunday, July 31, 2011

Annie Daredevil Woman

Annie Edson Taylor preparing her historic trip...Image via Wikipedia

On her 63rd birthday Annie Edson Taylor went over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Not your average birthday celebration - particularly when you consider the fact that she was the first human 'person' to try it.

(As opposed to a cat 'person', which I will explain shortly.)

She was the original 7th decade girl daredevil.

She didn't start off in life as a daredevil though. 

Born on Oct. 24, 1838 in New York, she grew up  rich, pampered and much loved.

She studied to be a teacher and married young.

Unfortuantely, when she was 25 her husband was killed in the American Civil War, her only child died and the wheels fell off her comfortable life.

Annie spent the rest of her days trying to put them back on.

She wandered North America, from Mexico City to Chicago  to Sioux Ste Marie  teaching dance and music.

 Somewhere along the line she came up with the idea of earning fame and fortune by going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

 With this iidea in mind she accumulated a manager and a cat.

 She sent her cat over the Falls first to see if anything could survive such a trip.

 In light of what happened later she probably should have sent her manager over - in a cheaper barrel.

 Anyway the cat lived.

Two days later on Oct. 24, 1901, Annie was rowed out to the centre of the Niagara River, (see the picture above), helped into her sturdy oak barrel and set adrift.

Her manager, whose name was Frank Russell, made sure the stunt was well advertised and thousands came to watch as the barrel was tossed over the edge of the Falls and into the mist below.

 Annie survived her plunge over the Horseshoe Falls but it didn't bring her fame and fortune.

The scoundrel, Frank Russel, ran off with her barrel and most of her savings.

 Her final years were spent posing for photographs with her wonder cat  and selling souvenirs while she moonlighted as a clairvoyant, and unsuccessful novelist and filmmaker.

 And I have to tell you, that sounds like a lot more fun than the barrel over the Falls thing.

She died in Niagara County, New York on April 29, 1921 and is buried in the 'stunter's section' of Oakwood Cemetery, Niagara Falls, New York.

And, sorry, cat lovers, I don't know what happened to the fuzzy, fearless feline.

Next:  Ho for the Klondike

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Addie Christiansen

Technical illustration shows early balloon des...Image via Wikipedia

Mrs. Addie Christiansen, age 22, died on August 22, 1898.

Mrs. Christiansen was a parachute performer.

That day, much to the delight of thousands who had gathered to watch, she had been performing on a trapeze that was attached to a hot air balloon above a resort at Jamaica Bay, near New York City.

Her husband was a balloonist but according to the news at the time, had tried to dissuade his young wife from such daredevil activities.


 Anyway, it was reported that she constantly disobeyed him and had actually, over time, become his rival.

Families loved to come to the shore of Jamaica Bay and watch the aerial escapades of the pretty young woman in her colourful bodice and tights.

 Addie often threw kisses to the children in the crowd below before she ended her show by leaping into the air and parachuting to the ground.

But the last kiss was thrown on that fateful day in 1898 when the parachute became entangled in her costume and she fell 200 feet to her death.

I came across Addie Christiansen's story last week in an 1898 newspaper that was being catalogued at the St. Catharines Museum.

As we poured over the short report I think our main question was, "What was she thinking?"

 Someone said, "Maybe it was better than being in the kitchen with eight screaming kids."

We laughed but the truth is that we don't often think of the lives of women of that era as being much more than 'kinder k├╝che kirche'.  (Home, children, church.)

However, the 'fin de cycle' was a time of great social change.

By 1893 women in New Zealand had won the right to vote and the movement was taking hold in other parts of the world.

It was also a time of economic struggle and the combination of hard times and liberation seems to have produced a number of unusual women.

A Niagara Falls story next time.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Strange Women Lying in Ponds

Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government?
Ha ha!
That would be as silly as someone winning a majority government in Canada having only received the votes of 25 % of the population.
Ha ha!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Leashing Sexual Predators

Tim Hudak.Image via Wikipedia

Conservative Party leader, Tim Hudak, wants to put registered sex offenders on an 'electronic leash' if he is elected premier of Ontario.

That would mean 14,000 people walking around the province with ankle bracelets.

 It would cost $51 million.

When I first read about it, I snorted and thought, "What an election gimmick!"

I fired off a comment about how it would be cheaper just to pin a scarlet 'P' (P for pervert) on each of their toques.

 But it has bothered me ever since.

14,000 registered sex offenders in Ontario.

That is a lot of sick, dangerous people and my understanding is that at present we have no way of curing them.

They really do walk among us.

So how do we protect their rights and protect the citizens of Ontario at the same time?

I don't know about your common sense, but mine tells me that If sexual predators are dangerous and can't be cured, they shouldn't have the same rights as the rest of us.

An ankle bracelet isn't a cure or even a whole lot of protection.

But it might be a step, (sorry for the pun), in the right direction.

Interesting, Mr. Hudak, but where would you get $51 million?

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lemmings, Line up In Niagara

View on Oberammergau from Mount LaberImage via Wikipedia

In 1988 the road to Oberammergau was quiet.

It wasn't one of the Passion Play years.

As we bicycled through the bucolic countryside I remember thinking how much more isolated it was than most of the other Bavarian villages.

The people of Oberammergau are convinced that their village was spared from the plague in the Middle Ages because God chose not to send them His punishing pestilence for some reason.

I suspect it is more likely that the village was so far out of the way that anyone who was sick died long before they arrived and the villagers themselves must have been self sufficient enough that they didn't need to travel elsewhere.

Which brings me, oddly enough, to the Niagara Health Care system.

We have a problem here. 

People are still dying of C. difficile and as of today two health care workers have also gotten sick.

Worse still a new superbug has appeared.

This year, the Niagara Health Care shut down the emergency trauma centres in the smaller communities. 

The will of politicians on a cost cutting mission, not the people.

A giant new hospital is set to open in Niagara in 2012.

We're going big instead of small.

And that worries me.

I have a feeling that if we don't get the lesson of Oberammergau, we're going to see more and more of these outbreaks and not just in Niagara.

Race you to the cliff?

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Sweet Rudy

This is Rudy.

He lives next door.

When his master was dying of cancer last year, 

Rudy stayed on his bed constantly during the last few difficult weeks,

so protective he even growled at the nurse.

He's just that kind of a guy.

He's staying with me this week because his mistress is away.

My neighbour gave Rudy one of her husband's sweaters to lie on

because he seemed very depressed after the death.

She said it really helped.

This is Rudy today, running towards me when I call his name.

I love this valiant little dog.

Today Flynn and I are taking him to the stinky horse barn.

Then after supper maybe we'll go to the North Pelham

ball park and sniff around the garbage cans.

I ask you,

could life possibly get any better than that?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Segregating the Menstruating

Muslim girls on friday in the mosque, TulehuImage via Wikipedia

The Ku Klux Klan believes in the supremacy of the white race and would like to see our society move back to a time when "niggers" had to sit at the back of the bus.

Imagine that 80% of the student population of a certain school in Toronto is racist.

 Should the Toronto School Board allow weekly 'Klan' meetings in that school during school hours in order to meet the needs of those  students?

No answer is necessary.

The idea is ludicrous. 

And yet, there is a group that believes in the supremacy of one group of students over another and they really do have the permission of the Toronto School Board to hold weekly meetings at a Toronto School during school hours.

 A group that considers some Canadian children 'unclean', segregates them and forces
them to be non-participants at the back of the room.

The Board says that due to the large number of  students at the school who belong to this group, the meetings are necessary.

At Valley Park Middle School every Friday afternoon, a conservative Imam, (an Islamic religious leader), meets with Muslim students in the school cafeteria for a prayer service.

The young men are in front, the young women kept behind them and any menstruating young women, (the unclean), are at the very back, allowed to attend but not take part.

It is important to note that the Canadian Muslim Congress is against this.

 “We believe Islam does not make (Friday prayers) compulsory ... they can be postponed until later in the day," Terek Fatah, founder of the Canadian Muslim Congress said, adding his group is also opposed to the treatment of the girls.

I agree with the Muslim Congress.

Canadian Public Schools must uphold and be seen to uphold the basic rights of all students.

In my opinion the Toronto School Board needs to rethink its policy.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Grave Faces VII

I'm always shocked by the number of slovenly child angels.

Doesn't anyone check them on the way out the door in the morning?

This one has pulled on a robe about four sizes too big.

Not that he is concerned.

Like most small boys he's more interested in what he is doing than in how he looks.

And by the way, he is writing something.

But whatever he had to tell us is long gone, the granite slate brushed clean

by decades of wind, snow and ice.

I mentioned in my last Grave Faces post that faeries are far less common than angels

in graveyards.

They do, however, dress more modestly.

Faeries are mischievous sprites, not always on the side of good,

and they predate Christianity.

I often wonder about the beliefs of the families that leave a faery in

charge of a burial site.

How deeply would you have to scratch some Christians to find a pagan?

Anyway, this one is pretending to be asleep.

Like the child who is buried under her.

Toddler angels often set out on their daily mission naked. 

At least this little fellow who is playing his fiddle so merrily, was able to grab a loin cloth.

Clothed or not, he seems to be saying that death is nothing to be sad about.

Easy enough for angels to say, I suppose.

Adult angels take their work, and their wardrobe much more seriously.

This fully clothed and lovely young angel's job isn't to tell us anything about heaven.

She is telling us about earth and mourning.

And we instictively recognize the path she is on.

This is the necessary time before 'the letting go'.

At first glance these two appear far too young to be employed in a cemetery. 

But consider this, they are still with the child they were called to watch over

 long after her grave has been abandoned by all who knew her in life.

Not so young after, all.

This isn't a very good photograph but I just had to include it because he looks so guilty.

He's obviously just returned from a dip in a nearby puddle.

And he wasn't expecting me.

But then I wasn't expecting him either.

A lovely end to my walk.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

C. difficile in Niagara

Micrograph of a colonic pseudomembrane in pseu...Image via Wikipedia

I'm ashamed of myself for not paying closer attention when the wheels first started to fall off the Niagara Health Care System.

For years I've been reading letters to the editor in the St. Catharines Standard about how dirty the St. Catharines General Hospital is.

To tell you the truth, some of the letters were so unbelievable they caused me to think the writers were exaggerating.

I remember one letter in particular that described blood being left on the floor of a patient's room for days before the overworked cleaning staff got around to mopping it up.

Now I have to accept the fact that those letters might have been true - because Niagara is in the midst of a frightening C. difficile outbreak even though

a)  C. difficile isn't contagious. It is caused by fecal matter being transferred from one person or surface to another.   

 b) a person can get it only if antibiotics he/she is taking have killed off another kind of bacteria in his/her intestines.


It doesn't sound as if it should be a great problem.
But it has killed at least 17 people in area hospitals since the end of May and many more are sick.

The situation reminds me of the Listeria outbreak in Ontario in 2008. 

That deadly bacteria was hiding so deep inside the meat cutting machines at Maple Leaf Foods it was almost impossible for the company to find it.

I wonder if C difficile is like Listeria, left unchecked for so long, it now lurks in dark, hidden  places, impossible to find and remove even with the most stringent of cleaning programmes.

I don't know the answer to that but I do know that I'll agree to more cut backs

in health care as long as they only involve the folks at the top.

Then there will at least be some justice for the dying and the dead.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bare Naked Old White Women

I'm not easily shocked.

Just kidding.

Most of my waking hours are spent being shocked by one thing or another. 

That's why I blog as often as I do.

I don't like to suffer alone.

But I have to tell you that I was more shocked than usual  when I found that some people

 have been going to my Authentic Old White Woman art blog site hoping to see pictures of

naked old white ladies.   (

You see, I made the mistake of calling one of the blogs 'Bare Naked Stress'. 
I thought it was a pretty good title for a blog about teaching.

But when the Google search engine crawled through AOWW it saw the words,

Old, White, Woman, Bare, Naked, and because Bob's your perverted uncle,

 it immediately sent every weirdo with the hots for droopy boobs and saggy buns to  my site.


Just when I thought it was finally safe to leave the curtains open.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

The Heart of a Nation - a Commentary

Start and finish line, Terry Fox Run, Burnaby,...Image via Wikipedia

For a second day the duke and duchess have been wrapped

in a warm Canadian embrace in a country celebrating

 its 144th birthday and which has the British/Canadian crown at its heart.   

 Peter Hunt, BBC

I'm glad they are having a nice time but I find this statement arrogant.

It is as if the Brits lost interest in us when silk hats replaced hats made with beaver fur in the 1800s and haven't bothered to learn any of our history since then.

I could list a few of the millions of people and things that are at the heart of Canada, i.e., Terry Fox, the Unknown Soldier, Dieppe, Vimy Ridge, Poundmaker, Molly Brant, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Louis Riel, Champlain, Laura Secord, Tommy Douglas, Rocket Richard, Margaret Lawrence, the Rocky Mountains, the Chilcoot Pass, the Plains of Abraham, etc.,

but I wouldn't put the crown of England there.

Tradition, for better or for worse, has placed it at the head of our parliamentary system.

The heart of our country is a different matter.

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Saturday, July 2, 2011

What A Day!

 How to wear your underwear patriotically!

Canada Day in Pelham.