Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Tears of Old Mary

I was looking at pictures of religious statues last week and came across a Kitchen Madonna.

They are charming statues of the Virgin Mary holding a broom or doing some other form of house work.

They are meant to be kept in a woman's kitchen, hence the name.

Of course it is the Goddess, but I won't tell the Pope if you won't.

Anyway, at this point in my life, my concern isn't with my kitchen,

although maybe it should be.

My concern is with aging and mortality.

I began to wonder if the face of the Virgin ever got old.

Was she also the Crone?

Surely She would understand the pain of aging and death.

I haven't done any art since my elderly father died last September

but the muse is back.

I decided to draw Mary as an old woman.

What I saw when I finished wasn't  a Lady of Sorrows.


Mary has an attitude!

And I have a feeling if you catch the tears of Old Mary

you'll be blessed with courage and creativity for all your days! 


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dark Days for Dorothy

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

Chapter 4  The Vegetable Kingdom,  Chapter 5  Dorothy Picks the Princess,
Chapter 6  The Mangaboos Prove Dangerous  Chapter 7 Into the Black Pit and Out Again

Dorothy and the Wizard discover that the Mangaboos are non-human vegetable people that grow on large plants.

They are taken to a garden by the Mangaboo Prince to observe the planting of the dead sorcerer.

While observing this practice they happen to notice that the next royal ruler is ripe and ready to be picked.

Not realizing what his captives have seen, the old Prince tells them to prepare themselves as they will soon be put to death.

Dorothy and the Wizard escape and pick the ripe Princess from the plant upon which she is growing, in hopes that she will spare them.

But after she takes over and sends the old Prince off to be killed and planted, the new Princess decides to sentence Dorothy, the Wizard, Zeb and the animals  to death by forcing them into the dreaded black pit.

The Mangaboo vegetable people are all adults. 

The children grow as the fruit of a rather sturdy plant and do not come to life until they are picked when they are adults. 

"On some of the bushes might be seen a bud, a blossom, a baby, a half-grown person and a ripe one; but even those ready to pluck were motionless and silent, as if devoid of life."

Dorothy, a child who is seen and heard, doesn't fit into this world.

Consequently she, the Wizard, Zeb and the animals are pushed into the  black pit.

(In our world, the place where complete freedom dies and where a child learns to conform, i.e., school.)

 They find themselves on a dark and frightening path but it buys them some time.

"It isn't a bad road," observed the Wizard.

"... it is dark; but we have our lanterns to light the way, so I propose we start out and discover where this tunnel in the mountain leads to."

And the reader breathes a sigh of relief knowing that time is the only vehicle through childhood.

As the chapter ends, much to their surprise, they emerge out of the darkness into a beautiful countryside.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bringing on the Wizard

 Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

Chapter 2  The Glass City & Chapter 3  The Arrival of the Wizard

Dorothy, Zeb and the animals continue to fall towards the centre of the Earth. When they land the inhabitants accuse them of causing the rain of stones that damaged their glass city. They are taken to the House of the Sorcerer.

The Wizard of Oz arrives in his hot air ball balloon and the Sorcerer threatens to kill them all.  The Wizard takes out a sword and kills him.

Anyone who has read the Oz series knows that L. Frank Baum takes the Dorothy character as far as he can and then gets rid of her - not by refusing her entry to the fairyland of Oz because she has grown up, as is so common in many stories of this type, but by having her move to Oz permanently.

The problem for the reader is that once in Oz she'll never grow older and reach menarche.

And Dorothy is only interesting as long as she has real problems to which real girls can relate.*

Luckily this story occurs before she is invited to live in Oz.

Here she deals with one of the biggest problems facing 11 year old girls  - an 'unreasonable' adult. 

Note that she takes the grownup to task - and gets away with it.

"Why did you wickedly and viciously send the rain of stone to crack and break our houses?" he continued.

"We didn't," declared the girl.

"Prove it!" cried the Sorcerer.

"We don't have to prove it," answered Dorothy indignantly. "If you had any sense at all you'd know it was an earthquake."

Dorothy 'rocks', as my students used to say.

The Wizard of Oz also 'rocks' in this book.

He admits he isn't much of a wizard, (father figure):

"No," answered the little man, you are quite right. In the strict sense of the word, I am not a wizard, but only a humbug."

But he understands that 11 year old girls, even as they take their first steps towards becoming women, still need protection.   

So the wizard lost no more time, but leaping forward he raised his sharp sword, whirled it once or twice around his head, and then gave a mighty stroke that cut the body of the Sorcerer exactly in two.

He is the archetypal 'good father', guiding, advising, encouraging, protecting - but not controlling Dorothy.

He's come a long way from his days as 'Oz the Great and Terrible' in the first book.

These chapters end with the burial of the dead sorcerer who appears to more vegetable on the inside than human.

*Dorothy appears in later books but usually in a secondary role. L. Frank Baum introduced other much loved characters like Betsy Bobbin and Trot to take Dorothy's place.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Young Girl's Journey to Oz

The original 1908 cover to Dorothy and the Wiz...
The original 1908 cover to Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum. Designed by artist John R. Neill, reproduced for a modern facsimile edition. Now out of copyright. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter 1

The Earthquake

The story opens as Dorothy is on her way to meet Uncle Henry at Hugson's ranch just outside of San Francisco. Her second cousin, a boy named Zeb, has come to pick her up.  Dorothy and Uncle Henry plan to return to Kansas the next day, but during a massive earthquake, the ground opens and Dorothy and Zeb fall deep into the earth.

Judging by the illustrations Dorothy appears to be a young girl who hasn't had her first period.

The surprise to modern eyes and the magic to young female readers is that she is unaccompanied by an adult and that the train has dropped her off at 5 o'clock in the morning in the dark and misty countryside.

"The train from 'Frisco was late. It should have stopped at Hugson's siding at midnight, but it was already five o'clock and the dawn was breaking in the east ..."

L. Frank Baum published this story, the 4th in the Oz series, in 1908, two years after the great earthquake in San Francisco.

The fact that the earthquake prone California setting reflects the way the earth seems to be always shifting under the feet of a pubescent girl speaks to the author's keen understanding of human nature.

If you have been, taught or lived with an 11 year old girl you'll know what I mean.

"... all night long there were times when the solid earth shook and trembled ..."

The author has a wonderful grasp of the the intelligence and courage of young girls as they journey towards womanhood, (the tragedy of the series is that Dorothy was never allowed to grow up and get that first period), but on occasion he seems to remember the norms of society and throws in a little something to placate his conscience.

"The horrible sensation of falling, the darkness and the terrifying noises, proved more than Dorothy could endure and for a few moments the girl lost consciousness.  Zeb, being a boy, did not faint ..."

And so chapter 1 ends, Dorothy is unconscious and she, Zeb, the carriage, Zeb's old horse, Jim, and Dorothy's cat Eureka are falling deep inside the earth.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Arresting Americans

The Integrated Cross Border Law Enforcement Operations Act now makes it possible for American officers to cross the border into Canada where, as the act states, they have "the same power to enforce an act of Parliament as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police."

This means they'll be armed and have the powers to arrest suspects in Canadian territory.


Hmmm. Let me see if I have this right.

During the first year of our celebrating a time 200 years ago

when our ancestors fought armed Americans

back to their side of the border

because we prefer to be independent

the Conservative Party of Canada

has invited them back.

This is not a good thing.

It's a creepy thing.

The only armed police on our streets should be Canadian.

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Friday, July 13, 2012

Project Family History

My family seems to have been very good at taking pictures,

not so good at getting them into albums.

Or writing the who, where, why, what and when on the back of each photo.

When I left the farm I brought everything with me.

I had to use this wall organizer for the hundreds of loose photos.

Each pocket has a title like  Mom, Dad, Dad War, 1950s, 1960s, Farm, etc.

My mother's albums were fairly easy to put together.

I am familiar with the people and places.

I really enjoyed this.

Here she is as a young woman in her backyard

in downtown St. Catharines, probably in the 1930s.

Her father's family came to this area from the US

because of the American Revolution.

I'm very proud of my U.E. status.

This is the contents of the Dad, War pocket which I'm working on now.

Unfortunately he didn't write much of the back of his pictures.

And none of the places and people are familiar to me.

His sister did save all of the post cards he sent home.

Most just tell his family that he is well.

Some items are easy to identify but I have no idea of the story behind this.

Maybe that's a good thing.

Some people are easy to identify.

He was stationed in the Caribbean before being sent to England
 in preparation for D Day so perhaps
 the Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited the troops.

The few albums that my parents had are so old the paper is crumbling.
I'm taking them apart and putting the pages in archival plastic
before I put them together again.

The old covers are astonishingly strong though.

Much like the family history found within.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Making Ontario Teachers Healthy Again

When the government cuts the number of sick days allotted

to Ontario teachers the only possible response is

for teachers to cut some of the things
that are making them sick.

Start with those insane report cards.

This is my grade 6 report, marks page first. 

I was an okay student but obviously by February the glow had worn off.

And it was the year I noticed boys - which didn't help.


I managed to earn 57 in composition and grammar and 53 in spelling.

Now read the teacher's comment:

Frances needs to give extra time and effort to English subjects.

It put the responsibility on me. 

I had to smarten up, not my teacher and not my parents.

Now notice the side titled 'Citizenship', i.e. work habits, social habits.

Only if there was a problem was the teacher required to mark an X.

And that was it.

My whole report card.

Nothing more needed to be said.


Dump the reports and come up with something more realistic.

Do it now while you have some leverage.

They aren't paying you enough.

(And they sure as hell ain't gonna be giving you the days to recover
if you get sick!)