Golden era in NB

Posted on January 9, 2020
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Walter Learning died this week. The Newfoundlander who founded and directed Theatre New Brunswick’s first years was part of a group who made the1970s and 1980s a golden era in New Brunswick culture. Alden Nowlan, Leo Ferrari, Miramichiers Ray Fraser, David Adams Richards, and Jim Stewart and Premier Richard Hatfield were the principals.
Individually and collectively they amazed, outraged, entertained and focussed more national and international attention on New Brunswick than ever before.
Leo Ferrari was the St. Thomas professor who founded the Flat Earth Society. Members had titles. Alden Nowlan was the official court fool.
Meetings began with Leo stating, “The earth is flat as any fool can plainly see.”
At that point, Alden would rise and say, “I can see that.”
They concocted another stunt to introduce women to the shy Jim Stewart. They issued a statement that Jim was the direct descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded by Queen Elizabeth I. That attracted media attention around the world. There is a photograph of them planting a flag on, I think, Miramichi’s Bay du Vin Island and claiming the throne for King Jim. I think the plan worked. Jim did not become King of England but he did marry Jane.
Walter and Alden co-wrote plays performed by TNB. They included “Dollar Woman,” about how destitute people were reverse Dutch auctioned off in the 19th century in New Brunswick. People bid down to a price the province would pay them to provide a home for a poor person. A healthy, attractive young woman could go for as little as a dollar.
Alden and Walter also carried on a fake feud in the Telegraph Journal. Alden would insult Walter in his column. Walter would respond. Always attracted to a fight, people followed their exchanges providing publicity for their cause of the day.
A thing that really endeared Walter to me was that he often included an Atlantic author’s work in the touring TNB season. We saw plays like, “Head, Guts and Soundbone Dance,” about a fishing community confronting a collapse of a fishery.
Theatre New Brunswick’s first production of Godspell packed every house and had to be extended after an Anglican minister in Dalhousie tried to organize a boycott of the production, “portraying Jesus as a clown.” A final performance was arranged in, Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton. It was so packed the wall were lined and people were cross-legged on the floor. At the end, a spotlight moved from the actor Jesus crucified to the crucifix on the church wall. I don’t remember a more powerful moment in theatre.
Premier Richard Hatfield was the perfect political leader for the time. He embraced the gang and hosted parties of his own that were legendary and in tune with the gang’s joie de vie.
At the time, all the very best actors in Canada came to perform for TNB. Douglas Campbell, Ted Follows, Henry Beckman and many others were repeat performers.
Being a native Newfoundlander, Walter’s natural tendencies made him a great fit for Miramichiers. It was a sign of the significance of the theatre to Miramichiers when people were arguing about productions like “Mass Appeal,” the days after a show here. Miramichiers were a favourite audience.
Walter went on to other successes but his time with the gang in Fredericton left me memories that confirm W.O. Mitchell’s statement that “The arts are not a luxury. They’re how we know we are not alone.”
DAC

Golden era in New Brunswick

Posted on January 8, 2020
Filed Under Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

Walter Learning died this week. The Newfoundlander who founded and directed Theatre New Brunswick’s first years was part of a group who made the1970s and 1980s a golden era in New Brunswick culture. Alden Nowlan, Leo Ferrari, Miramichiers Ray Fraser,  David Adams Richards, and Jim Stewart and Premier Richard Hatfield were the principals. 

Individually and collectively they amazed, outraged, entertained and focussed more national and international attention on New Brunswick than ever before.

Leo Ferrari was the St. Thomas professor who founded the Flat Earth Society. Members had titles. Alden Nowlan was the official court fool.

Meetings began with Leo stating, “The earth is flat as any fool can plainly see.”

At that point, Alden would rise and say, “I can see that.”

They concocted another stunt to introduce women to the shy Jim Stewart. They issued a statement that Jim was the direct descendant of Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded by Queen Elizabeth I. That attracted media attention around the world. There is a photograph of them planting a flag on, I think, Miramichi’s Bay du Vin Island and claiming the throne for King Jim. I think the plan worked. Jim did not become King of England but he did marry Peggy.

Walter and Alden co-wrote plays performed by TNB. They included “Dollar Woman,” about how destitute people were  reverse Dutch auctioned off in the 19th century in New Brunswick. People bid down to a price the province would pay them to provide a home for a poor person. A healthy, attractive young woman could go for as little as a dollar.

Alden and Walter also carried on a fake feud in the Telegraph Journal. Alden would insult Walter in his column. Walter would respond. Always attracted to a fight, people followed their exchanges providing publicity for their cause of the day.

A thing that really endeared Walter to me was that he often included an Atlantic author’s work in the touring TNB season. We saw plays like, “Head, Guts and Soundbone Dance,” about a fishing community confronting a collapse of a fishery.

Theatre New Brunswick’s first production of Godspell packed every house and had to be extended after an Anglican minister in Dalhousie tried to organize a boycott of the production, “portraying Jesus as a clown.” A final performance was arranged in, St.Dunstans Catholic Church ( https://stdun7.wixsite.com/stdunstansparish ) in Fredericton. It was so packed the walls were lined and people were cross-legged on the floor, in the aisles and in front of the pews. At the end, a spotlight moved from the actor Jesus crucified to the crucifix on the church wall. I don’t remember a more powerful moment in theatre.

Premier Richard Hatfield was the perfect political leader for the time. He embraced the gang and hosted parties of his own that were legendary and in tune with the gang’s joie de vie.

At the time, all the very best actors in Canada came to perform for TNB. Douglas Campbell, Ted Follows, Henry Beckman, RH Thomson and many others were repeat performers.

Being a native Newfoundlander, Walter’s natural tendencies made him a great fit for Miramichiers. It was a sign of the significance of the theatre to Miramichiers when people were arguing about productions like “Mass Appeal,” the days after a show here. Miramichiers were a favourite audience.

Walter went on to other successes but his time with the gang in Fredericton left me memories that confirm W.O. Mitchell’s statement that “The arts are not a luxury. They’re how we know we are not alone.”

DAC

 

Foster children need affection

Posted on December 10, 2019
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December 10, 2019

New Brunswick children in foster or group homes are being horribly neglected and abused by the structure of the system that is supposed to rescue and support them. The Telegraph Journal’s series Broken Homes is a heart wrenching eye opener. Mike Landry and Michael Robinson with a side commentary by Nathalie Sturgeon, the young editor of the Kings County Record, reveals a system with little provision to provide affection and inclusion for its charges.
Ms Sturgeon writes of becoming a foster child at the age of six and her experiences in the system until she was adopted by loving, adoptive parents when she was 12.
We’ve all heard the statement that love is the answer. Children, especially those separated from their birth parents, desperately need more of that, not less, in any program that takes charge of their care.
People like the parents who adopted Ms Sturgeon, a messed up kid coming into her teens, should be engaged by the department to advise, coach and recruit people like themselves to care for New Brunswick’s charges. Such people know how to treat people as people, not prisoners, numbers or statistics.
I’ve long said that, so long as one child goes to bed cold, hungry or frightened, we cannot call ourselves civilized. I must amend that to add feeling lonely and unloved.
This is not to suggest social workers don’t care. I’m sure many if not most of them are suffering something akin to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder trying to save kids in a system designed and financed to fail. I can’t imagine surviving working in that system.
The series demonstrates the necessity of an aggressive press to a healthy democracy.
The Telegraph Journal is doing its job on this issue.
Let’s hope the rest of us do.

Banks’ dangerously neglect clients

Posted on November 17, 2018
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The major banks and credit card companies are carelessly dangerous in the treatment of their customers. For example, when I once found a lost credit card card (National Bank) I called to report it and was INSTRUCTED to take it to a police station. The operator also refused to inform the owner of the card that it had been lost and found. The bank simply could not be bothered to help him avoid being left with no ability to pay the next time he incurred a bill for perhaps a meal or a night’s accommodation.
My bank, the Royal, just performed a series of totally incompetent, thoughtless, serious stupid actions that could have put me in serious trouble.
For several years now, I have had an RBC Bank account and VISA credit card.
One irritation is that, when I leave our leased condo at the end of April each year, I cannot notify VISA or the bank of my home address because gas stations and other vendors won’t accept the card on my way home if I do. I have to remember to change the address when I cross the border. By that time, on several occasions now, the bank has sent a new card to the Florida address after I am gone. I’ve spoke to both VISA and RBC about that but they will not allow me to set a future date for the address change.
That happened again this year. I received no notice in Canada that my US VISA card had expired and the one they sent to Florida had not been activated.
When I got into the States, the card I had didn’t work. Fortunately for me, I have an RBC client/debit card so I was able to use that. When I got to Florida, the replacement card mailed last spring was there but cancelled when I called to find out why the card I had was being declined.
I had to wait for a new card and activate that.
That worked fine for over a week and then, on Wednesday, I was trying to buy theatre tickets online and the card was again declined.
I thought perhaps it was a flaw in the theatre pay site but, next day, it was again declined at a grocery store and a restaurant.
When I called VISA’s service number and went through the normal interminable wait, they said they couldn’t do anything or tell me anything. I had to call the bank.
When I finally got the bank, I was told that, because I had not used the card to buy online before, they had called me to verify it was me. THEY CALLED MY NEW BRUNSWICK NUMBER. This after just having gone through the rigamarole of issuing the new card and establishing my move to the Florida address.
When I didn’t answer or call back from New Brunswick, they just stopped the card.
They have both my addresses and phone numbers in their files and we communicate regularly via email. They will even email me when they want to tell me something to let me know there is a message for me inside their secure web site. They could have checked the past record of my previous card number. The statements would have revealed I often make ticket purchases on line.
They could have reviewed our previous messages.
They could have called the Florida number.
They could have emailed me.
They just stopped the card.
Is there any way this could be considered the behaviour of a bank that gives a damn about the safety and security of their customers?
It solved their security issue but created a big one for any client.
Les plus ça change. This is the same bank that, years ago, had a dormant account and, not being able to find the owner, passed on the balance, as required, to the Bank of Canada.
In those days, I used to get the local dormant accounts list from the Bank of Canada lists and publish them so readers could see if they or a relative had any money coming.
One year, a name on the list was Frances Fish. For non-Miramichiers, Fish was the first New Brunswick female lawyer and a famous local practitioner. She was deceased by time I came to Miramichi, but even newcomer I knew of her. It would have taken one phone call to any local law firm to find her descendants.
I’ve had excellent relations with Royal Bank staff across the country for 66 years. The people on the ground have been great but the policy makers at the top are negligent of their client’s safety and security to an extent that should be criminal. There is an ombudsman for the banking industry but to so much as get an apology much less a change of policies would take a good half year to pursue.
I can at least tag my Member of Parliament, Pat Finnigan, so he is aware of the callous, careless, thoughtless treatment of their clients.

Legs, thighs, owner benefits

Posted on January 25, 2018
Filed Under Cadogan's Laws, Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy | Leave a Comment

A friend sent me a collection of old newspaper and magazine ads from the past century. Some things change. One doesn’t.
Modern day ads don’t promote the health benefits of cigarettes, cocaine or alcohol and opium tonics. Women’s legs and thighs, however, are still a prominent feature of many ads and commercials. Even ads for women’s shoes often feature legs and thighs up to the point where they are no longer thighs but hips. Don’t misunderstand. I am not offended. The female form is the most delightful in the world to me.
It did remind me of the sales training I had as a junior space cadet (advertising space sales rep) at Southam in the early 1960s. Every rep took the Don Scott sales course in a never-ending series of weekly sessions. When the course finished, it started over. Even the most senior sales veterans took it over and over.
The foundation of the course was that customers really only want to know “What’s in it for me?”. The term for that was owner benefits. The qualities of the product or service the rep was selling were whatever features produced those owner benefits. They were known as good qualities. The students were challenged to come up with answers to the questions posed by the course instructor.
The consensus was always that the ultimate owner benefit was a happier sex life.
Even a restaurant tumbler had to have good qualities that would lead to that. A tumbler sturdy enough to survive being dropped would reduce costs, producing more profit, allowing the proprietor to pamper himself and his wife more generously leading to a happier sex life.
There were, for course, techniques involved in getting the prospect to see the owner benefits and good qualities. The first was to get his attention.
In my first class, when we were asked how we might do that, one of the oldest, most experienced and most successful veterans, offered up, “Jump through his window and p**s in his ink well?”. While that would undoubtedly be effective, the consensus was always that sex is a sure fire attention getter. It doesn’t actually sell as many people think but it does get attention.
It’s all driven by our chromosomes which are not our friends. They really don’t care about anything but reproducing themselves. We are just their carriers. They have always driven both men and women to do things that endanger their lives, their careers, their families and their assets. One thing chromosomes want is new genes. Male chromosomes drive men to spread their seed as far and wide as they can. Simple mathematics dictates that the more progeny there are out there, the more likely some will survive. Female chromosomes want a variety of genes too but, because women’s role in reproduction is a much bigger commitment, their chromosomes motivate them to keep a partner around to help raise the children. They are no less likely to seek variety but they are more careful to preserve the partnership whether that partner is the other parent or not.
What this all adds up to is that there are primarily two things going on in the world. One is sex. The other is foreplay. A corollary of that is there is only one game going on in the world and that is the power game. The acquisition of power is foreplay. Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s Secretary of State said “The ultimate aphrodisiac is power”. Lord Acton intelligently pointed out that power corrupts. Those two points account for both the extra prevalence of sexual attraction in fields of power like politics, business and entertainment, and the abuse of power for sex.
I wondered for quite awhile why it was that women’s legs, thighs and breasts were almost as common in advertising directed at women as at men.
Recently I read a quote to the effect that when the only power a woman has is sex, she tends to learn to develop that power to the best of her ability. It’s a variation of Abram Maslov’s observation that “If the only tool you have is a hammer, after awhile everything starts to look like a nail”.
Traditionally women have been susceptible to advertising that suggests a product or service will make them more desirable and, therefore, more powerful.
All of this evolved over millennia when men had most of the tools of power which in turn motivated women to be attractive to it.
Now that women have their own political and financial independence and power and are seizing their own sexual independence and power, advertising is changing. We may start to see advertising aimed at women showing young hard bodied men draped over the hoods of cars (if we still use cars) and a woman CEO in a power suit sitting at the head of the board table while attentive men hang on her every word.
It seems likely that women will continue to have more power in the near future. Women have made up 80% of the graduating classes of journalism schools for some 50 years now. They represent the majority of university graduates. They have tended to develop social skills more relevant to the Information Age than have men.
I am already seeing some amusing issues powerful women are encountering. Maureen Dowd, the deadly New York Times columnist, wrote a doleful piece a few years back about how her successful women friends were having difficulty finding mates who could keep up with them as they moved up the power ladder. She wondered what they could do.
They’ll do the same thing powerful men did for centuries. Some of them will find equal or complementary mates and have successful relationships. Some will take lovers and whatever the male term for mistress might be. Some will divorce and perhaps engage in what a feminist friend once referred to as serial monogamy.
Some of their lower ranking male mates will find fulfilment as house husbands or in personally challenging and satisfying careers. Some will hook up with one of their personal trainers, yogis, or soccer mom acquaintances and live happily or resentfully ever after on their martial property settlements and alimony.
What was sauce for the goose will become sauce for the gander.
And the marketers will continue to find ways to convince us that the realization of all our fantasies depend on the purchase and regular use of their gluten free, organically raised, antibiotic free, steroid free, modified Mi’kmaq stem cell tanning injections.
On we go! DAC

Immigration essential to progress

Posted on January 12, 2018
Filed Under Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy, History & Culture | Leave a Comment

As a kid, just after WW II and the Korean Conflict, as it was called, I saw Toronto dragged kicking and screaming into being one of the greatest cities of the world. Wave after wave of immigrants shocked and angered the waspish southwestern Ontario populace.
First came people from countries occupied by the Axis during the war. Many of them were Dutch. They had an official label, displaced persons. That was abbreviated to DPs and was a somewhat pejorative term. They were poor and so desperate, they would work until they could afford to buy a bit of land, generally cheap because it was the worst. Just north of Toronto, that was a swamp called The Holland Marsh. Around Durham, 100 miles north, where I grew up, it was essentially gravel covered with a bit of stingy topsoil.
The DPs turned the swamp into the most fertile land anywhere near the city and started getting more than one crop of wonderful vegetables per year from it. Around Durham, they dug out the basements of old farm houses, covered the dirt floors with crushed stone, whitewashed that and put boards on top it it to get to their shelves of preserves and central heating they installed when they could afford that.
The whole family got up early every morning to do chores before school. As time went by, the farms and the families became prosperous. Ontarians’ opinions of them changed to respect and admiration.
The next big wave was Italians. They took the most menial jobs as labourers in construction and factory workers. They ate garlicy lunches and were often dirty riding the Toronto transit home from work. They made wine and drank it in their yards after work. They went out at night. They were labeled Wops. The school yard joke was, “Why do they call Italians Wops? Because God took a handful of sugar in one hand and a handful of shit in the other and went WOP!”. It actually came from a term they used for each other which came from wine gone flat.
Within a few years, every young husband in Ontario had his own spaghetti sauce recipe that involved simmering it on the stove for days or weeks. People went out and ate pizza and Joe Piccinini was on Toronto City Council and became an icon of the city.
Next came Hungarians, after the failed anti-communist revolution there in 1956. They cooked odiferous food and sat on their front steps drinking which brought police who arrested them. They were similarly disliked and labeled Honkies.
Within a few years, every young housewife in Ontario had to have her own personal cabbage roll recipe.
Subsequent waves from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa arrived. Doctors drove cabs while their wives were hotel maids. It became almost a rule that convenience stores were run by families of Vietnamese.
The process has continued all my life. As it did, Toronto became one of the strongest cities and most successful cities anywhere.
Through all of that and before, Chinese immigrants arrived and fanned out all over the country running laundries and restaurants which included Chinese as well as Canadian cuisine on their menus.
This was not a new phenomenon in my lifetime. The Irish arriving in the mid 1800s were treated as badly and worse than the others.
The one thing all these waves of immigrants shared was they were poor and desperate and determined to find a better and safer life not so much for themselves but for their children.
They did and do far more for our country than well to do immigrants do although we got some fine citizens who came to avoid the Vietnamese war.
Immigrants and refugees from developed countries like Holland, Italy and Hungary, made the transition more quickly and easily than those from undeveloped and more disorganized countries but most of them, within a generation or two, become proud, dedicated Canadians.
The only ethnic group that has consistently been shoved aside is the original occupants, our First Nations.
We may even be making some progress there.
The most powerful nation on earth, the U.S. could never have become so without continuous, huge waves of immigration from all over the world.
In the Pierre Elliott Trudeau era, the McDonald Commission concluded that, to be globally competitive, it was essential that Canada reach a population of 100,000,000 as quickly as possible. Since then, birth rates among native born Canadians have fallen making immigration even more essential to that objective.
I have never feared, as some do, that immigration would dilute and destroy our Canadian values. Those values have evolved steadily over my lifetime almost all for the better. First generation immigrants may dislike some of them but the second and third generations are enthusiastic supporters of our rights, freedoms and governance. They often appreciate our values more than some of us who have come to take them for granted.
Canada is on the right track with immigration. DAC

Marijuana regulation lunacy

Posted on January 2, 2018
Filed Under Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy | Leave a Comment

Accusation. Do politicians all go nuts once they win government and influence over large bureaucracies? It seems so. Recreational cannabis use becomes legal in Canada July 1. Governments have gone into a feeding frenzy launching claims for shares of the tax revenues that will result. Bureaucracies are setting up retailing operations and crying the blues and about the huge staff increases and large budgets they will need to detect and police marijuana consumption.
Marijuana use is not a new development in Canada or New Brunswick. When I was printing UNB and STU student publications in the early 1970s, dealers were in the elevators in co-op apartments. Delivery was just a phone call and minutes away. The Student Union Building included a cloud of smoke that increased month by month until the annual police sweep in February.
When medical marijuana became available in Canada, local dealers quickly matched and undercut the government price causing many patients to skip the paperwork and deal locally.
It is ridiculous to pretend to be gearing up for a huge new market. It has been here for decades and anyone who wants it gets it easily. Government is going into a market already efficiently served and planning to compete with (Can you believe it?) 11 government operated mall stores for New Brunswick.
That is just about as stupid a barrier to success as a bureaucracy could devise. With one store in Northumberland County, people in Escuminac and Doaktown are going to drive to Douglastown to pay more for pot?
Meanwhile, police are going to spend money to train officers to detect marijuana use and control the supply? Isn’t that what they have been attempting to do with spectacular lack of results for 50 years? One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Spend twice the money to do the same thing might qualify as criminal insanity.
Politicians and bureaucrats must know they cannot control marijuana use. Legalizing was a wise surrender by the federal government. Provincial and municipal politicians and bureaucrats seem to be deluding themselves that they can still legislate controls they have never been able to enforce and will be unable to now.
Marijuana is as close to a harmless drug as there is. It not addictive, permanent, progressive or irreversible. It will be a panacea for seniors with the attendant permanent aches and pains of age. They will be so much better off using cannabis instead of addictive and potentially deadly prescription drugs.
NOW HERE IS THE REAL INSANITY!!!
While politicians are drooling over the revenues they hope to pocket and empires they hope to build to deal with marijuana, North America is beset with an opioid epidemic that is the worst killer since AIDS.
At a time when it is essential that governments and bureaucracies must be concentrating their brains, staff, talents, energies and resources on an opioid massacre, they are marshalling an army against a non-existent problem.
The feds want to get the criminals out of the business although I suspect most pot sales are by mom and pop local growers, not international drug cartels or gangs. They want to also discourage pot use by minors which is a somewhat vain hope. Apparently cell phone social media and computer gaming are bigger deterrents to pot smoking than laws and enforcement.
What they might do is just hand the whole thing over to pharmacies or tobacco stores and turn their efforts to forcing the pharmaceutical industry to pay the costs of reducing opioid abuse.

Christmas memories

Posted on December 5, 2017
Filed Under Memories | Leave a Comment

Michelle suggested I should write about my Christmas memories so younger members of the family could know a bit about where I came from.
When I was eight, Dad bought the Durham Chronicle and we moved to the small town of Durham about 30 miles south of Owen Sound on Highway 6.
Two years later, when I was 10, he bought this real stone house on Lambton St. a few blocks East of the main town intersection with Garafraxa. He was not at all well off but it cost only $12,000 and the back half was rented to Doctor Jamieson whose father, David, also a doctor, was speaker of the Ontario Legislature from 1915 to 1919. The speaker’s chair was still at the top of the stairs to the second floor and stayed there until the family finally took it away.
There was also a medium grand piano and a real grandfather clock with weights, chimes on the quarter hour and phase of the moon signs. The piano and clock stayed.
The house had occupied a half block of land. At the back were two garages which had been stables with lofts for the hay and a stone room with no windows for the manure.
Dad sold off two side lots to help with the price. There were two coal furnaces, one with a stoker bin. One of my chores was to remove the ashes and clinkers and keep them supplied with coal.
There were real fireplaces in the living room, dining room and master bedroom. Only the living room one was still in use.
Mom and Dad’s best friends were Fred and Edith O’Brecht and John and Amy Jarratt. The O’Brechts had a local dairy. John Jarratt was the school music teacher and director of the Durham High School Girls Drum & Bugle Corps which was the Junior Girls national champion for three consecutive years when I was in my early teens.
My Christmas memories revolve around that living room with the women warming their backsides in front of the fire while John sat at the grand piano playing folk and show tunes for hours on end as long as the others made sure there was always a stein of beer beside him.
Mother also had a large collection of 78 rpm albums of folk music and negro spirituals. Mahalia Jackson, Miriam Makeba, Burl Ives and the like were the sound track of our social lives.
Other party regulars included John Bergenheimer, a Danish immigrant photographer. He brought a Danish liqueur which I curiously got into one night. The bar was in the kitchen and unattended. It tasted like a combination of rotten fish and methyl hydrate and put me off experimenting with booze for several years.
One night, they ran out of wood for the fire place. A couple of the men went out to hunt for some. They found a broken telephone or power pole lying along the side of the town hill. It had been replaced and left behind. They opened the trunk, rigged up a rope to drag it along behind and brought it home.
They had neither the right equipment nor the inclination to cut it up so they just dragged it into the living room and stuck one end in the fireplace.
Not long afterward, the whole town police force, one man, Paul White, turned up to investigate. He had seen the odd tracks in the snow down the main street, through the main intersection and up and into our house.
He joined the party.

There were always treats and we kids got some. Even after we went to bed, we could hear the music and singing from upstairs.
Often the party would still be going on when my brother Mike came downstairs to do his Globe and Mail morning delivery. That became a signal it was time for the adults to call it a night.
The living room was huge with glassed French doors. When the tree was up and decorated — popcorn and cranberry strings, tinsel and fragile glass ornaments we had popcorn and hot chocolate and the doors were closed until Christmas morning to keep us out from under the tree.
Christmas morning was a highly disciplined affair designed to prevent us kids from getting sugar crazy.
We woke up to our stockings by our beds. That kept us busy for awhile until our parents were ready to surface. They always included an orange, a BC Delicious apple, a small box of Sunkist raisins and then other little gifts.
Then came breakfast, oatmeal porridge.
Then we had to make our beds and tear up the bread for the turkey stuffing. When the kitchen was cleaned up and the turkey in the oven we got to the gifts under the tree.
Some of those gifts still stick in my memory. My favourite ever was a real steam engine about the size of a loaf of bread. I have a vague recollection it was related to Meccano metal construction sets. I had a ball with it until the fuel ran out. I went to Dad to see about getting more. The fuel was methyl hydrate, a serious poison with skull and cross bones label. My steam engine never ran again.
Another favourite gift came from my Dad’s sister, Aunt Katie Smith. She made felt cowboy outfits for my brother and me. They were a cream coloured base with blue on top. We got vests, chaps, and holsters. The outfits were cool but what really blew us away was that Aunt Katie had made them herself.
Another great gift was a curling sweater than Mom and Dad had made for me. They were the rage at the time, custom made by local knitters. Mine had a Thunderbird totem on the back.
To this very day, when the tree is up and decorated, there is Christmas music on the stereo, a roaring fire in the fire place and family and, or, friends sitting back with full glasses, I plop into the Christmas spirit and stay there until New Year’s Eve.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Jingle Bells!

A day of passion and torture

Posted on September 9, 2017
Filed Under Commentary, Poetry | Leave a Comment

A_R_G_H ! ! !
”Tis a day of passion and torture for Poor Dave! Michelle has gone into one of her purge and renew fits. She set out to repaint the master bedroom. That involves emptying out two of my book cases which, in her delusional state seems to her like a good excuse to purge one of my libraries. I’ve read that the nostalgia comes from the Greek and refers to the pain of going back.
An example: When I was a pubescent boy, I discovered a trove of books from my parents’ youth in our back kitchen. One of them was “The Red Ledger,” by Frank L. Packard, published in 1926. It is about a very wealthy man who had been down and out before making his fortune. During that time, some people were very kind to him. Some were responsible for his plight or were just cruel to him.
He kept a ledger.
He engages a young man, the son of one of his benefactors to assist him in balancing the ledger. He is part guardian angel and part agent of karma.
As the book goes along, he crosses paths with another agent engaged by the man with the ledger. She’s beautiful and mysterious and the whole book leads to a climax where they finally get together.
I suppose my age was a big part of why that yearning for romance so overwhelmed me.
I lost that book in our house fire in 1981. My mother, whose book it probably originally was, had contacts who could find almost anything ever published. At Christmas, 1984, she gave me another copy inscribed “To Lawrence from Marguerite and Jack, Christmas 1928”.
Purge me before I purge that!
I have a huge collection of reference books, anthologies, biographies, literature, art, music and poetry — quite a few of them still not read.
Getting into them reminds me of the hopelessness of reading and learning. I’m tortured by the knowledge that I could never read all the good books published before I was born and I’ve been falling farther and farther behind every day since.
Just dipping into the stacks from these two book cases, reignites the passions they originally inspired.
Still the romantic, flipping through a book of Emily Dickinson poems, I happened across these stanzas in “The Lost Jewel”.
“Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port, —
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! The sea!
Might I but moor
Tonight in thee!”

That, of course reminded me of e.e. cummings.

i like my body when it is with your body

i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite new a thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,
i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss,
i like kissing this and that of you,
i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh… And eyes big love-crumbs,

and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you so quite new

And

my sweet old etcetera – e e cummings

aunt lucy during the recent

war could and what

is more did tell you just

what everybody was fighting

for,

my sister

isabel created hundreds

(and

hundreds)of socks not to

mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera, my

mother hoped that

i would die etcetera

bravely of course my father used

to become hoarse talking about how it was

a privilege and if only he

could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly

in the deep mud et
cetera

(dreaming,

et

cetera, of

Your smile

eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

And then to Chaucer:

Rondel of Merciless Beauty
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.
Only your word will heal the injury
To my hurt heart, while yet the wound is clean –
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene.
Upon my word, I tell you faithfully
Through life and after death you are my queen;
For with my death the whole truth shall be seen.
Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly;
Their beauty shakes me who was once serene;
Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen.
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343 – 1400)

So, there’s a huge hunk of Saturday gone. I have once again fallen into the pit of my treasure vault of art and memories.

And, oh, yes, the end of “The Red Ledger”.

“Myril drew back from him a little breathlessly, struggling with her disordered hair.
“Have you forgotten your warning, sir?” She demanded with dainty, mock serverity. “The crime of lese-majesty is a very grave crime, I would have you know — and I am the Princess Myril.”
“Princess? Myril? No!” Stranway cried — and caught her into his arms again. “To me you will always be — the Orchid!”.

Free speech again in peril

Posted on August 18, 2017
Filed Under Commentary, Economic & Political Philosophy, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment

Friday, August 18, 2017

There is a graphic going around Facebook that illustrates the thinking of Karl Popper.
The core of the graphic is Popper’s idea that unlimited tolerance leads to the victory of the intolerant and, therefore, intolerance.
https://i.redd.it/tlyoidfqe3gz.png
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Popper
That idea is being promoted this week in light of the events in Charlottesville where white supremacist fascists set out to block the removal of a statue of Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. They were heavily armed and chanting, “Jews, you will not replace us” as they marched.
When they encountered protesters who opposed their intention, a riot broke out and 32-year-old Heather Hyer was killed, and many more injured, when one of the white supremacists drove into the opposition ranks.
This has led to an outcry that white supremacist and fascist speech and marches should not be tolerated. Much as I hate white supremacist and fascist thinking, I cannot agree.
First of all, we have to separate the difference between speech and action. It is not what the white supremacists said that provides reason to imprison them. It is what they did. They marched, heavily armed, on and attacked and brutalized protesters. Ms Hyer was killed.
As a Canadian, I find it ridiculous that people should be able to march, more heavily armed than military infantry, anywhere in public space. Nevertheless, the current legal belief in the U.S. is that they can.
The fact that Ms Hyer was killed should make them all guilty of murder. In the U.S., if someone is killed during the commission of an indictable offence, anyone involved is also guilty of the offence. That used to be but is no longer true in Canada. One of the notorious Boyd bank robber gang was hanged with his partner when the partner shot a police office with a gun the other didn’t even know he had. They were both on the loose after escaping jail at the time.
http://www.cbc.ca/archives/entry/suchan-and-jackson-hanged-back-to-back
In Canada, we have freedom of speech but we are not allowed to call for violence against anyone. Even here, some misguided human rights organizations are trying to prevent people from expressing various kinds of ideas they don’t agree with. They consider themselves liberals but they are fascists. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck. If you counsel making expressing ideas and opinions illegal you are a fascist.
Allowing free speech does not mean you have to tolerate it personally. You can speak against it. In fact, allowing but opposing (sometimes even ignoring) disreputable ideas tends to make them fade away. It is when we try to prevent our opponents from speaking that we create a martyr syndrome that attracts other alienated members of society and helps the lunatic fringe grow.
With regard to the removal of statues of Lee and Jefferson, the Confederate president, there are again two issues.
One is that anyone who wants such a statue on their own property should be allowed to do so.
However, having such statues on publicly owned land and seats of government property implies public support for the ideas of the people represented by the statue. White supremacists have not an iota of a right to force governments to endorse such people. That is the fact that makes the Swastika waving invaders of Charlottesville perpetrators of an indictable offence.
There was a wonderful headline on the top of the front page of the August 17, Telegraph Journal newspaper. It read, “N.B. Veteran: ‘I’m too old to fight the Nazis again’ ”. The article was about Art Pottle, a 96-year-old veteran of the Canada, U.S. joint special force, The Devil’s Brigade. He said he had never expected to see the Nazi swastika on parade again.
It is our turn now to resist fascists but we can squelch their ideas and speeches without taking up arms.
We can prosecute them vigorously for their violent actions. We can damn them from church pulpits, city, provincial or state legislatures, and federal government branches. We can speak out against them in chambers of commerce, veterans groups and anywhere people gather to make clear their disgusting ideas, hate and behaviour is not acceptable, not tolerated, in our society.
As the war for the soul of the United States goes on, President Trump is encountering that kind of resistance.
That, not censorship, suppression of their speech or other fascistic measures, is the way to defeat fascists in a free society. DAC

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