Friday, December 31, 2010

Mark Twain and New Year's Resolutions

Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual. Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink, and swore his last oath. To-day, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient short comings considerably shorter than ever.

- Mark Twain
Mark Twain’s acerbic observations about New Year's resolutions were published in the Territorial Enterprise on January 1, 1863.  As usual, Twain made his point with eloquence, wit and flare. Nearly one hundred and forty-eight years later, his ruminations about human nature remain just as scathing and just as accurate.

Human nature certainly hasn’t changed since Twain’s day.  It’s almost 2011 and we’re still battling the same old demons.  Every New Year’s, we dutifully make resolutions that we can not or will not keep. We resolve to lose weight or we vow to quit smoking.  Most of us are sincere.  We do strive to improve ourselves.  Our intentions our laudable and there is even great merit to the whole exercise of making New Year’s resolutions.  After all, we do need to take stalk of ourselves and the beginning of a New Year seems like the appropriate time for introspection and soul-searching.

So is that why we do it?  Is it only for the sake of introspection that we put ourselves through this annual ritual?  Well, that certainly is part of it, but there is so much more.  We make resolutions because we have a psychological need to start over, to wipe the slate clean.  It’s cathartic and it gives us great solace and comfort even if we know we are setting ourselves up for failure. We rationalize that we can always try again next year.

There is also an element of guilt involved in making New Year’s resolutions, a desire to make up for our transgressions. We tell ourselves that maybe one of these years we’ll get it right.  In the end, however, most of us succumb to temptation.  We return to our old ways because, although the spirit is willing, the flesh is indeed weak.

I do think, however, that Mr. Twain is a tad too harsh on us mere mortals.  Even if we partially succeed in keeping a resolution, isn’t that an achievement in itself?  Suppose we resolve to read one book every two weeks.  Haven’t we made progress if we read at least one book a month?  Suppose our goal is to shed twenty pounds. Isn’t it preferable to lose ten pounds rather than none at all?

Mark Twin wanted to expose hypocrisy and his intent was to criticize the many people who just go through the motions when they make New Year’s resolutions.  I agree wholeheartedly that such behaviour is not admirable. Still, if I were able to converse with the eminent author, I’d I remind him that some people sincerely want to improve themselves.  They may not succeed, but at least they make an effort.

Perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look at the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions. We tend to associate resolutions with ridding ourselves of bad habits.  That’s fine and dandy and I’m not suggesting that we should completely abandon that approach.  Can’t we, however, be a little bit more original and creative?  Isn’t it time to be more active than passive?  Why not actually do something we’ve only dared dream about before?  These are questions to reflect upon at the dawning of a New Year.  As for myself, perhaps I’ll just resolve not to make any resolutions.

Note:  The Territorial Enterprise is a newspaper in Virginia City, Nevada..  Mark Twain worked there in the 1860s.  Founded in 1858, It has the distinction of being Nevada's first newspaper.  Its motto is "In the Spirit of Mark Twain".

Whatever your plans tonight, have a safe and enjoyable New Year's Eve.  See you next year.

- Joanne

Monday, December 27, 2010

Marlene Dietrich, passionate foe of Nazism


Ameica took me into her bosom when I no longer had a native country worthy of the name, but in my heart I am German – German in my soul.

- Marlene Dietrich
Today is the 109th anniversary of the birth of the great singer and actress Marlene Dietrich. She was born Marie Magdalene Dietrich in Schoneberg, Berlin, Germany on December 27, 1901, the daughter of a policeman. In 1929, when Marlene was 27 years old, director Josef von Sternbert cast her as Lola-Lola, the sultry female lead in Der Baue Engel (The Blue Angel). The Blue Angel, released in 1930, was Germany’s first all-talking film and it made Marlene Dietrich a star. After the resounding success of The Blue Angel, von Sternbert brought her to Hollywood and signed her with Paramount Pictures.

Marlene become the ultimate femme fatale of the silver screen in the string of von Sternbert films that followed. She starred in movies such as Morocco (1930), Dishonored (1931), Shanghai Express (1932), Blonde Venus (1932), The Scarlet Express (1934), and The Devil Is a Woman (1935).

After Adolf Hiltler’s rise to power in Germany in 1933, Marlene refused to work in her own country. She bravely renounced Nazism. During a wartime interview broadcast from Britain to Germany, she declared that, “Hitler is an idiot” and implored Germans not to sacrifice themselves. In 1937, she became a citizen of the United States and during World War II, her contribution to the defeat of Nazism was selfless, determined and indefatigable. She made hundreds of personal appearances before Allied troops between 1943 and 1946. When visiting U.S. soldiers in Germany, she put herself in danger, placing herself very close to German enemy lines. When asked why, Marlene replied that it was the decent thing to do.

There was an terrible incident in 1960 when Marlene Dietrich visited the city of Berlin. Neo-Nazis carried banners reading “Go Home Marlene” and they spat upon her. In 2001, the 100th anniversary of her birth, the city of Berlin issued a formal apology for the incident.

After the war, she appeared in such acclaimed films as A Foreign Affair (1948), Witness for the Prosecution (1957), Touch of Evil (1958) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961). She continued to be a popular nightclub performer and gave her last stage performance in 1974. He last screen appearance was in Just A Gigolo (1978). Marlene Dietrich died in Paris, France on May 6, 1992.

It must have been very difficult for Marlene to take such a strong stand against Nazism and it couldn't been easy to be a woman with a thick German accent in the United States during the Second World War.

Click on the link below to watch a video tribute to Marlene Dietrich.


What would you get if you merged coffee giants Tim Hortons, Starbucks and Second Cup?


A new company called Timbuktu.

(By the way, there is such a place as Timbuktu. It is located in the West African nation of Mali. Timbuktu in French is “Tombouctou” and it means “well of the woman named ‘Bouctou’”. “Bouctou means “belly button.” Therefore, Timbuktu takes its name from a woman who owned a well and was called Bouctou because of her large belly button.)



Congratulations to Team Canada for winning their first game of the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, New York. They defeated Team Russia by a score of 6-3.

- Joanne

Saturday, December 25, 2010




For unto to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11

Here are some notable Christmas Day births and deaths.


Hotel mogul Conrad Hilton was born on December 25, 1887 in Socorro County, New Mexico Territory, U.S.  From 1942 to 1946, he was married to Zsa Zsa Gabor. Hilton died in Santa Monica, California on January 3, 1979. He was 91 years old.

Humphrey Bogart, one of my favourite actors, was born on Christmas Day, 1899. Bogie was born in New York City, the son of a Manhattan surgeon and a prominent magazine illustrator. He died of cancer of the esophagus on January 14, 1957 at the age of 57 in Los Angeles.

Robert L. Ripley, cartoonist and creator of Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, may have been born on Christmas Day. There is some confusion about the date of his birth. We do know that he was born LeRoy Ripley in Santa Rosa, California in 1890. Some sources list his date of birth as December 26 while others list it as December 25. There has been some speculation that the eccentric Mr. Ripley may have changed it himself to Christmas Day.

Robert Ripley died in New York City on May 27, 1949, three days after suffering a heart attack during the broadcast of the 13th episode of his Believe it Not! television series. The theme of the episode was death and death rituals. It featured a short sketch about the background of the famous bugle call Taps (also known as The Last Post). Near the end of the program, during the playing of Taps, Ripley passed out on the floor. The show was not yet over, but Ripley could not continue.

Singer Jimmy Buffett was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi on December 25, 1946. He celebrates his 64th birthday today.

Actress Sissy Spacek also celebrates a birthday today. She was born Mary Elizabeth Spacek on Christmas Day 1949 in Quitman, Texas. The 1980 Oscar winner for Best Actress (Coal Miner’s Daughter) turns 61 years old today.

Baseball’s Rickey Henderson was born in Chicago, Illinois on December 25, 1958. During his major league career, Henderson turned stealing bases into an art form and was one of the game’s greatest lead-off batters. He played on the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays World Series championship team. Happy 52nd birthday, Mr. Henderson!

Country singer Barbara Mandrell was born in Houston, Texas on Christmas Day in 1948. She is 62 years old today.

Two sons of the late former Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Trudeau, were born on Christmas Day. Justin Trudeau, who is a Member of the House of Commons for a Montreal riding, was born in Ottawa, Ontario on December 25, 1971. He turns 39 years old today. Justin’s younger brother, Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau was also born on Christmas Day in 1973, also in Ottawa. He celebrates his 37th birthday today. Alexandre is a filmmaker and journalist.


French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec City and “Father of New France”, died on Christmas day in 1635.

Singer James Brown, known as “The Godfather of Soul”, died on December 25, 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia. He died in an Atlanta hospital after suffering from pneumonia. He was 73 years old.

American actress and singer Eartha Kitt passed away on Christmas Day in 2008 at the age of 81. She died of colon cancer.  Born Eartha Mae Keith on January 27, 1927 in the small town of North, South Carolina, Orson Welles gave her her first starring role in as Helen of Troy in his stage production of Dr. Faustus. Welles described her as “the most exciting girl in the world”. Eartha performed the Christmas song, “Santa Baby”. To watch a video of Eartha singing Santa Baby in 1953, click on the link below.

Baseball's flamboyant Billy Martin died in a one-car accident on December 25, 1989 in New York State, near his farm in farm in Port Crane in the Town of Fenton. Martin and his friend, William Reedy, were in a pickup truck. Billy Martin was 61 years old.

Six-year-old beauty queen, JonBenet Ramsey, was murdered on Christmas day in 1996. Her body was discovered in the basement of her parents’ Boulder, Colorado home. The shocking crime created a media frenzy and the tabloids had a field day.

Singer and comedian Dean Martin died in Beverly Hills, California on Christmas Day in 1995. Dino was 78 years old.

A Merry Christmas to one and all from Number 16 and all the best during this holiday season.

- Joanne

Friday, December 24, 2010

Clement C. Moore : The Reluctant Author


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
These are the opening lines of the famous poem A Visit from St. Nicholas. The presumed author of the poem is Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863), a scholar and professor at Columbia College, now Columbia University.

A Visit from St. Nicholas was originally published anonymously in a newspaper, the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823. Clement C. Moore later acknowledged that he was the author, although his claim has been questioned in academia.

According to writer and historian Don Rittner, Moore was cited as the author of A Visit from St. Nicholas, for the first time in the December 25, 1838 issue of the Troy Budget newspaper.  He did not admit to authorship of the poem until 1844 when he was 65 years old and it was published in an anthology of his own poetry, apparently at the insistence of his children.

A Visit from St. Nicholas provides the first detailed description of the physical appearance of Santa Claus, his sleigh and his reindeer. It includes the number and names of the reindeer.


Tonight is Christmas Eve and I would like to pay tribute to a great Canadian who was born on December 24th at the dawn of a new century. Today marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of Joey Smallwood, the first premier of Newfoundland and a Father of Confederation. Born Joseph Roberts Smallwood on December 24, 1900 at Gambo, Newfoundland, he was the eldest of 13 children. The family was poor and Joey’s father, Charles Smallwood, was an alcoholic.

Joey Smallwood became a journalist and began his career in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. He moved to New York in 1920 and spent five years there working for The Call, a socialist newspaper. Smallwood returned to Newfoundland in 1925 and became a union organizer. In the late 1930s, he hosted a popular radio show devoted to Newfoundland’s history and cultural traditions. His radio name was “Joe the Barrelman”.

Smallwood’s reputation as “The Barrelman” helped him become director of the Newfoundland Confederate Association, which advocated Confederation. He campaigned vigorously to bring Newfoundland into this country and he succeeded. In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador became Canada’s tenth province. Smallwood served as premier of the province for over 22 years, from April 1, 1949 until January 18, 1972.

The latter years of Joey Smallwood’s life were very difficult ones. He suffered a major stoke in 1984 and lost his speech. He also experience financial difficulties. Nevertheless, he devoted much of his time and energy to producing The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. The first two volumes were published in 1981 and 1984. The second volume was release two months before Smallwood’s stroke and work was suspended until 1987. The five-volume set was finally completed in 1994.

Joey Smallwood did not live to see the publication of the fifth and final volume of his encyclopedia. He died in St. John’s, Newfoundland on December 17, 1991, a week before his 91st birthday.

To listen Peter Gzowski interview Joey Smallwood in 1973, click on the link below.

I visited Newfoundland in the summer of 2001. I was captivated by the rugged beauty of the province and the friendliness and hospitality of its people. Newfoundlanders really have a sense of community. While I was there, a benefit concert was held at the Mile One Centre in St. John’s to aid some victims of an apartment fire. For $15 dollars, I enjoyed hours of Newfoundland music and entertainment.

For those interested in Joey Smallwood, I highly recommend a 1998 novel by Wayne Johnston entitled The Colony of Unrequited Dreams. It is a fictional portrayal of Smallwood’s life.

- Joanne

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Alastair Sim and Scrooge


Every year at Christmas, I watch Scrooge, the 1951 classic starring Alastair Sim.  It has become a Yuletide tradition for me. I always enjoy watching Sim play Ebenezer Scrooge in this wonderful film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, the 1843 novel by Charles Dickens. I can`t find enough superlatives to describe Sim`s portrayal of the cold-hearted, greedy businessman. It is the performance of a lifetime.

The Scottish-born Sim is obviously better known in Britain than he is here in North America.  Born in Edinburgh on October 9, 1900, he had a great interest in the spoken language and served as the Fulton Lecturer in Elocution at New College, Edinburgh University from 1925 until 1930.  His first stage appearance was in a production of Othello at the Savoy Theatre in London.

A great character actor, Alastair Sim went on to star in many British films and in many stage productions. In the course of his illustrious career, he appeared in 61 films and 46 West End Productions. Comedian Ronnie Corbett, a fellow Scot, described Sim as "a sad-faced actor, with the voice of a fastidious ghoul" in his autobiography High Hopes.

Despite a lengthy and successful acting career, Alastair Sim is remembered best for his role as the miserly Scrooge. He died in London, England on August 19, 1976 at the age of 75. By the way, although there is a colour version of Scrooge, I much prefer the black and white version. It captures the mood of the film much better.


I was tidying some files in my fling cabinet when I came across a folded piece of paper with the following gem written on it. I don’t remember who gave it to me or when I obtained it, but I would like to share it with you. I hope you find it amusing.

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring.

Therefore, according to EVERY historical rendition depicting Santa’s reindeer, EVERY single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a girl.


I quickly discovered that the above little blurb appears elsewhere on the Internet. Some people have actually discussed online how scientifically accurate it is. Here is a reply from Urban Legends to those who asked if all of Santa’s reindeer were female.

Well, look. If we’re really going to let science be our guide in this matter, the first thing we have to admit is that reindeer don’t fly, let alone haul a jolly fat elf around in an airborne sleigh. And if we start down that slippery slope, there’s only one conclusion we can possibly reach: Santa Claus doesn’t exist. That way lies madness.

But there’s a loophole.

It is a fact, reindeer experts say, that both the male and female of the species have antlers. It is also a fact that while most cows retain their antlers until spring, most bulls drop their antlers by early December. Which is worrisome, I know, but the key word is most.

The experts go on to explain that some younger bulls, depending upon hereditary and environmental factors, may keep their antlers well into spring – even as late as April.

So it is plausible to suppose that, if for the sake of argument, there were a Santa Claus, and if, for the sake of argument, he did circumnavigate the globe in a reindeer-powered sleigh every December 25th, then at least some of those reindeer – including one in particular with a shiny red nose – could be males.

Chalk one up for tradition, if just barely.

The final word is mine. I strongly suspect that the author of that reply is male.

- Joanne

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Dance in the Snow


Well we danced in the snow, my love and I
On a windswept night when we were still young
And we whirled and we twirled beneath the sky
And we did not stop till our song was sung
Huffing and puffing, we fell to the snow,
Our eyes full of wonder, our faces aglow
And we laughed while our breath rose in the air
And specks of white crystal dotted our hair
Hearty of spirit and ruddy of face,
We huddled warmly in winter’s embrace
The world was our sanctum, a place for two
And life was so cozy hidden from view
Revelling in our fancy, we paid no heed of time
It came upon us slowly and grabbed us from behind
Then suddenly we shivered in chills of northern clime
For now the spell was broken, to this we were resigned
Hand in hand, we trudged along, on homeward with a sigh
Snowflakes tingled on my tongue, a teardrop in my eye
Then I marvelled how moments and snowflakes slip away
Like wispy little visitors, never meant to stay 
Wondrously woven bit of lace, fragile and pristine
Truly they are works of art upon the earthly scene
For as each tiny snowflake must bear its own design
So it is with moments, the ones of yours and mine

- Joanne Madden


Today marks the Winter Solstice. We will have the shortest day and the longest night of the year. After tonight, the evenings will become brighter. That, dear readers, makes me very happy.  To celebrate the first official day of winter, I have presented the above poem, “A Dance in the Snow.” I wrote it several years ago.

It is noteworthy that this year, the Winter Solstice coincides with a full lunar eclipse.


There are some notable birthdays today.  Actress, writer, political activist and fitness guru Jane Fonda turns 73 years old.  She was born Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda in New York City on December 21, 1937.  Jane is the daughter of iconic film and stage actor Henry Fonda and his second wife, Frances Ford Seymour.  Frances Ford Seymour was a Canadian-born socialite (She was born in Brockville, Ontario).  On April 14, 1950, when Jane was only 12 years old, her mother, suffering from mental illness, committed suicide on her 42nd birthday.

To view Jane Fonda's blog, click on the link below.

Former talk show host, writeer and media personality Phil Donahue turns 75 years old today.  He was born Phillip John Donahue in Cleveland, Ohio on December 21, 1935.  Happy 75th, Phil!

Rocker Frank Zappa was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 21, 1940.  If were alive, he would be celebrating his 70th birthday today.  Frank died on December 4, 1993 of prostate cancer at the age of 52.  Zappa and his wife, Gail, had four children whom they named Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen.  All I can say is that the Zappas sure didn't have an affinity for conventional names.


There is a James L. Brooks film playing at theatres called How Do You Know. There is no question mark at the end of the title. Punctuation is brazenly disregarded. It shouldn’t be. I’m not just nitpicking. There is a valid reason for all those little question marks and commas in the written word. A comma in the wrong place, or the omission of a comma, can alter the meaning of a sentence completely. The following sentence is a perfect example.

Let’s eat, Grandma.

It’s an innocuous sentence. The speaker is merely imploring his or her grandmother to have something to eat. However, remove that little comma and the sentence takes on an entirely different meaning, one that is extremely sinister. It becomes Let’s eat grandma. When you take away the comma, you take away a brief pause. That brief pause can change the message you are conveying.

In the case of a question, we put an inflection in our voice when we see a question mark at the end of a sentence. It alters the way we read the sentence. It affects our verbal and written communication. That is why I am disappointed that there is no question mark at the end of the James L. Brooks film title. It should be How Do You Know? and those responsible for the film should know it!


What did the large chimney say to the small chimney?


You’re too young to be smoking.



The Toronto Blue Jays lost out in their bid to acquire Zack Greinke. Greinke went to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Jays recently dealt their ace pitcher, Shaun Marcum, to the Brewers. Now the Brewers have both Marcum and Greinke. Well, at least the Yankees didn’t get Greinke! The Brewers are in the National League so the Jays don’t have to worry about them too much.

How bad can it get for the Toronto Maple Leafs? How low can they sink? They lost to the Atlanta Flames last night at the Air Canada Centre by a score of 6-3. Leaf Nation is getting extremely restless. Chants of “Fire Wilson” began during the first period.

I don’t know that firing Ron Wilson will change much. The Leafs have a horrible team and that’s all there is to it. Worst of all, they have traded away important draft picks. There doesn’t seem to be too much brightness in their future. It’s really sad.

Nevertheless, something will have to be done soon if the Leafs continue to lose. Wilson seems to be the most likely candidate to shoulder the blame.

- Joanne

Saturday, December 18, 2010

NUMBER 16 EXCLUSIVE : Don Cherry, Mike Harris and Rob Ford meet at a pub


Number 16 has another exclusive for you.  On December 9, 2010, Joanne Madden published transcripts of a phone conversation between Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Your intrepid reporter will now release transcripts of a conversation she overheard between Cherry, Ford and former Ontario Premier Mike Harris at a pub in Mississauga.

DON CHERRY:  This is great, guys. I’m so glad we could get together over a few pops. You two are my new best buddies.

MIKE HARRIS:  Well, thanks for inviting me, Don. But could you tone it down a bit? I wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea . . .

(The server comes by to take their orders)

SERVER:: Hey Grapes, how are you?

DON CHERRY:  I’m fine. Me and the boys are just shootin' the breeze today.

SERVER:  What can I get you?

DON CHERRY:  I’d like a Molson Canadian. (turns to Mike Harris and Rob Ford) Hey guys, why don’t you order a Molson Canadian too? We need to support Canadian products.

MIKE HARRIS:  Don, I seem to remember that Molson merged with Coors about five years ago.

DON CHERRY:   Doesn’t matter, Mike. Any beer called Molson Canadian is all right by me. So anyway, Mike, what have you been up to lately? Did you ever consider running for the leadership of the Conservative Party once the Dear Leader quits politics?

MIKE HARRIS:  Well, you know, Grapes, I think I’ll stay retired. Besides, my French isn’t good enough to be prime minister.

DON CHERRY:  Yeah, I know, we always have to please those French in Kwee-bec. There’s only one French hockey player I ever liked. He helped Paul Henderson score the winning goal when we took it to those Ruskie Commies back in 1972. You know, Yvan Cournoyeay . . . Courney . . . (clenches his fist in frustration). I hate those (expletive deleted) French names!

ROB FORD:  Don’t worry Don, Foster Hewitt had trouble pronouncing that name too.

MIKE HARRIS:  (Rises from the table) Excuse me, gentlemen. I have to visit the little boy’s room for a minute. I’ll be right back.

ROB FORD:  (Turns to Don Cherry and lowers his voice) Listen Grapes, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t encourage Mike Harris to run for the Conservative leadership. I’m thinking of running for the Tory leadership myself – sometime down the road, of course. I want as little competition as possible.

DON CHERRY:  Really, Rob? I didn’t realize you were so ambitious. I think you’d make a great prime minister. Once they see what you can do for Toronto, they’ll want you to run the whole country. The sky’s the limit, Robbie old boy. They’ll be begging you to go for the top job. We’ve got to stop those wimpy Red Tories from taking over the party again and you’re just the man to do it.

ROB FORD:  I know. That’s just what I’ve been thinking, Don. So I’ve even started taking French lessons. How do you like that? Me, Rob Ford, learning to parlez vooo so I can be prime minister!  (He puffs himself up proudly.)

DON CHERRY:  Prime Minister Robert Ford. I like the sound of that!

ROB FORD:  Shhhh . . . Mike’s walking back to the table. I don’t want him to hear any of this. Don’t tell anyone else either. I don’t want people to know about my plans yet. This is all between you and me, Grapes. Don’t go telling Ron MacLean on Coach’s Corner about what a great PM I’d make - not yet, anyway.

DON CHERRY:  Mum’s the word, Rob. My lips are sealed.

MIKE HARRIS:  (Sitting down) Your lips are sealed? Why, Don and Rob, are you keeping secrets from good old Mikey?

DON CHERRY:  Nah, Rob here was just telling me about some stupid thing George Smitherman did. He doesn’t want me to spread it around.

ROB FORD:  Anyway, amigos, this has been fun.

MIKE HARRIS:  Yeah, we should get together once a month and shoot the breeze. But you know what, I have to leave soon. Sorry, guys.

DON CHERRY:  Where are you going, Mike?

MIKE HARRIS:  To the library. (pauses and sticks his hands our defensively). Don’t worry, guys. I don’t normally hang around libraries. But it’s almost Christmas, and I’ve been asked to read my favourite book, Mr. Silly, to some kids at the library. I couldn’t turn that down, could I?

DON CHERRY:  All right, Mike, we’ll give you a mulligan on that. But in the future, stay away from libraries. Real men don’t go there.

ROB FORD:  I’ll drink to that. Let’s have a toast.

ROB FORD, DON CHERRY and MIKE HARRIS:  (clinking their beer bottles in unison:) To real men like us!

Note: This has been written with tongue firmly in cheek.


R.I.P. Bob Feller

Baseball has lost another great. Bob Feller died of leukemia in Cleveland, Ohio on December 15, 2010. He was 92 years old. The Hall of Fame pitcher was born in Van Meter, Iowa on November 3, 1918. His father built a baseball diamond on the family farm and the young Bob was recruited to play on a team his dad put together.

Bob Feller made his major league debut in 1936 and played for only one team his entire career – the Cleveland Indians. He retired in 1956 with a win-loss record of 266-162, an earned-run average of 3.25 and 2,581 strikeouts. Feller played 18 seasons in Cleveland (from 1941 until 1945, he served in the U.S. Navy). Although Bob failed to win either of his two starts in the 1948 World Series, his Cleveland Indians defeated the Boston Braves 4 games to 2 in the October Classic that year

Nicknamed “Rapid Robert” and “Bullet Bob,” Bob Feller had a wicked fast ball that was known as “the heater from Van Meter."  In 1962, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown in his first year of eligibility.  This farm boy from Iowa will be long-remembered.
- Joanne

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Wright Brothers


The chilly December day
two shivering bicycle mechanics from
Dayton, Ohio
first felt their homemade contraption
whittled out of hickory sticks,
gummed together with Arnstein’s bicycle
cement,stretched with muslin they’d sewn on
their sister’s sewing machine in
their own backyard on Hawthorn
Street in Dayton, Ohio
soar into the air
above the dunes and the wide beach
at Kitty Hawk.

-  John Roderigo Dos Passos
From The Big Money [1936]. The Campers at Kitty Hawk
That chilly day in December was December 17, 1903.  The “two shivering bicycle mechanics” were Orville and Wilbur Wright, two brothers from Dayton, Ohio.  Wilbur, the older of the brothers, was born near Millville, Indiana on April 16, 1867.  Orville Wright was born at 7 Hawthorn Street in Dayton on August 19, 1871.  They made history together, 107 yrears ago today.
The Wright Brothers were the sons of Milton Wright, a clergyman from Indiana, and his wife, Susan.  They had two older brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin, and a younger sister, Katharine.  The family was required to move often due to Milton Wright’s duties as a minister, and later a bishop, in the Church of the United Brethren of Christ.  In fact, the Wrights moved twelve times before settling in Dayton, Ohio in 1870.  Although they moved again in 1878, they never sold their house on Hawthorn Street in Dayton.  It was a constant in their lives and they kept returning to it.  To view various photos of 7 Hawthorn Street, click on the link below.
The Wright Brothers built a flying machine in the back room of their bicycle shop in Dayton.  On the morning of December 17, 1903, they took turns piloting and monitoring the powered Wright Flower I in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.  Orville was the pilot for the first of the four flights.  The first flight lasted 12 seconds and 120 feet.  On the fourth flight, Wilbur travelled 852 feet and remained airborne for 59 seconds. 
The afternoon of their historic flight, the brothers walked 4 miles (6.44 km) to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and sent a telegram to their father back home in Dayton.
Success/   four flights Thursday
morning/  all against twenty-one mile
wind/  started from level with engine
power alone/ average speed through
air thirty thirty-one miles/   longest fifty-nine
seconds/   inform press/  home Christmas

- Telegram to the Reverend Milton Wright,
from Kitty Hawk, N.C. [December 17. 1903]

Some interesting facts about Orville and Wilbur Wright and their family:
* Orville and Wilbur were the only members of their immediate family who did not receive a high school diploma, attend university, or marry.
* Wilbur Wright died in Dayton, Ohio on May 30, 1912.  He was only 45 years old.  Orville Wright died on January 30, 1948 in Dayton at the age of 76.
* The Wright Brothers` interest in flying was sparked by a rubber-band powered toy helicopter, a childhood gift from their father in 1878.
* None of the Wright children was given a middle name.  Wilbur was named after Wilbur Fiske and Orville for Orville Dewey, both of whom were clergymen that Milton Wright admired.  Friends of Wilbur and Orville Wright called them “Will” and “Orv.”  The brothers called each other “Ullam” and “Bubs.”

In most traditions, The Twelve Days of Christmas consist of the festive days beginning on Christmas Day and ending on the night of January 5 (Twelfth Night) followed by the feast of the Epiphany on January 6 (the celebration of the arrival of the Magi, the Three Wise Men from the East).  The night of January 5th, the eve of the Epiphany has been traditionally a night of merriment and revelry; hence, the title of Shakespeare’s comedy, Twelfth Night.

Edwin Encarnacion is back with the Toronto Blue Jays, but he won’t be playing third base.  This time,  the 27-year-old Dominican will be the designated hitter.  The Jays are going to experiment with Adam Lind at first base.  If Lind can’t handle the job well enough, then he and Encarnacion will switch positions. 
I just hope that Bautista doesn’t end up playing third base regularly.  He prefers to be in right fielder.  He has a good throwing arm.  The Jays need to acquire a third baseman, a catcher and a closer.  I suppose that’s easier said than done.  However, those positions have to be filled.
The Jays are still in the hunt for pitcher Zack Greinke.  He’s going to be difficult to acquire.  The New York Yankees are one of the many teams in the competition for the right-hander.  The Yanks signed pitcher Chen-Ming Wong yesterday.
- Joanne

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Farewell to the Canadian penny?


See a penny, pick it up
And all the day, you’ll have good luck

I was taught that little ditty as a child.  Now it appears that the lowly penny is on its way out in Canada, a victim of inflation. Yesterday, the Senate’s finance committee recommended abolishing the one-cent piece. Soon it may no longer be legal tender in this country.

The price of producing a penny today is 1.5 cents. That means it costs the government a penny and a half to produce and distribute a coin that is only worth once cent. According to the Senate committee’s report, the penny has shed 95 per cent of its purchasing power since its introduction back in 1904. Economically, it makes no sense to have a one cent coin.

Many people regard pennies as annoyances. They accumulate in wallets, purses and pockets. Vending machines don’t accept them. They are spurned and rejected everywhere. They end up in drawers and under sofa cushions. In the words of Senator Richard R. Neufield, deputy chairman of the of the Upper House’s finance committee, “The fact is, the penny is not much use anymore.” Logically, it makes no sense to have a one cent coin.

So why wasn’t the penny abandoned years ago? I suspect it has something to do with the folklore associated with the copper coin. Reason and common sense say that the penny is just a nuisance. It’s not needed anymore and it is not worth the expense to taxpayers. And yet, there is something mystical and magical about pennies. It is reflected in our language.

We talk of “pennies from heaven” and “a penny for your thoughts.” We constantly use expressions such as “penny-pinching” and “penny wise, pound foolish.” When we feel low, we say that we “feel like two cents.” We wear penny loafers and we have to “get our two cents in.” However, I strongly doubt that any of this is enough to save the penny. After all, we still “dial a number” even though phones haven’t had dials for many years. Let’s face it. We are never going to say “a nickel for your thoughts.”

Oh yes, there is one other factor that is certain to hasten the penny’s demise. Businesses will be able to round off the prices of their goods. That means that prices will increase, albeit slightly. Still, all those pennies add up.



Hey, the Leafs won another game last night. They defeated the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place in Edmonton by a score of 4-1. Now they head for Cowtown to play the Calgary Flames on Thursday. Their western road trip continues.


I see that pitcher Cliff Lee has agreed to a $100 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. I’m surprised. I really thought the Yankees were going to land the 32-year-old left-hander. Now that the Phillies have him, their starting rotation seems quite formidable. Lee will join Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

I’m pleased that the Yankees weren’t able to add Cliff Lee to their roster. The Jays won’t have to worry about the Yanks as much - at least for now.  It’s going to be difficult enough to compete with the Boston Red Sox now that they have Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.

- Joanne

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

George VI, The Accidental King



A fool must now and then be right, by chance.

- William Cowper
From Conversation {1782}, 1. 96


Hey Sixteeners, if you want to have some Yuletide fun and you enjoy a challenge, try my Christmas television quiz. Just go to my TV website at


King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth, was born on December 14, 1895. Today marks the 115th anniversary of his birth. Born Albert Frederick Arthur George, this great-grandson of Queen Victoria was commonly known as Bertie. On December 11, 1936, Bertie’s brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in order to marry a twice-divorced American commoner named Wallace Simpson. Suddenly and unexpectedly, Bertie was thrust into the spotlight. He was an accidental king, but a king just the same. Shy, awkward and left-handed, Bertie did not relish being the focus of attention. He struggled with a speech impediment and his stuttering made speaking in public a hellish experience for the new king.

George VI ascended to the throne at a very troubled time. There was a world-wide economic depression. Hitler and Mussolini were firmly in power and involvement in a global war loomed closer all the time. Just days before his fortieth birthday, George VI became King of Great Britain. He and his wife, the future Queen Mother Elizabeth, helped to guide Britain through some of the darkest days of World War II.

George VI died in his sleep on February 6, 1952 at the age of 56, the immediate result of a blood clot in his heart. It was also revealed that the king had lung cancer. His 25-year-old daughter, Princess Elizabeth, was vacationing in Kenya at the time of her father’s death. She prepared to return to London immediately, but a thunderstorm delayed her flight. Upon her return, she took the Royal Oath and became Queen Elizabeth II.

George VI is once again the focus of attention. There is a new film about his struggles with his speech impediment. It is called The King’s Speech and stars Colin Firth in the lead role. I certainly plan to see it.

Click on the link below to watch a video of a 1937 newsreel of the coronation of George VI. Note that the announcer declares that Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada and Mounties are in attendance.



Well, what do you know? The Leafs are on a bit of a role. They have won three of their last five games with victories over Boston, Washington and Montreal. They have a date with the Edmonton Oilers in the Alberta capital tonight. Nazem Kadri is still looking for his first NHL goal. Will tonight be the night?

- Joanne

Monday, December 13, 2010

Emily Carr



It is not all bad, this getting old, ripening. After the fruit has got its growth it should juice up and mellow. God forbid I should live long enough to ferment and rot and fall to the ground in a squash.

- Emily Carr
Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr
Entry for December 12, 1933

Emily Carr, the great Canadian artist and writer, came into this world on December 13, 1871.  She was born in Victoria British Columbia, 139 years ago today.  On the day before her 62nd birthday, she wrote the above reflections on aging in her journal.

As a painter, Emily Carr was remarkable in her interpretation of the native peoples and forests of her home province of British Columbia. A CBC archival entry identifies her as “fiercely independent and complex.” It describes her as “a rebel, a recluse and a feminist before her time.” In a journal entry in 1937, she wrote, “The men resent a woman getting any honour in what they consider is essentially their field. Men painters despise women painters. So I have decided to stop squirming, to throw my honour in with Canada and women.”

On March 2, 1945, Emily Carr died at her home in Victoria. She was 73 years old. To listen to some reminiscences about Emily Carr (including those of A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven), click on the link below.


Today marks a grisly event in the annals of human history. 73 years ago, on December 13, 1937, Japanese forces overran the city of Nanking (now known as Nanjing). Shameful atrocities occurred during a six-week orgy of plunder, rape and bloodshed.  Thousands upon thousands of Chinese civilians were killed and many women were coerced into sexual slavery. The final death toll of this bloody rampage was 300,000.  For the surviving victims of the horror, now aged and frail, Nanking’s nightmare never ends.

Despite the passage of more than seven decades, this piece of history must be told and it must be recognized. We need to remind ourselves that history is not always filled with glory and adventure. Too often it is ugly and gruesome. We delude ourselves if we fail to acknowledge our acts of inhumanity. To varnish history is disingenuous, but to deny history is far worse. It is skulduggery of the highest order. It is also unfair to future generations who deserve historical accuracy

That is why Iris Chang, a woman whose parents escaped from wartime China to the United States, made it her mission to reveal the truth about Nanking. Chang was haunted by stories she had heard as a child. At the age of 27, after reading an account of the Nanking atrocities, the young writer felt compelled to go there. She visited the city and scrupulously researched the events of 1937. She interviewed the survivors, some who were mere children at the time, and recorded their heart wrenching stories for posterity.

Iris Chang’s research resulted in a remarkable book entitled The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. Her book sold more than half a million copies and Chang gained recognition in America. Through her tireless determination and devotion, she brought the brutal truth to light.

The Rape of Nanking did occur. It is not a myth. It is not anti-Japanese propaganda. However reprehensible, however sordid, it is a fact of human history. Western journalists were at the scene and they described the horror that befell the then-Chinese capital. Acts of barbarism were committed openly and brazenly. A British reporter who witnessed the slaughter compared the Japanese soldiers to Attila and the Huns.

This is neither to denigrate nor vilify the Japanese people. Japan gamely and admirably rebuilt itself after World War II. It endured the massive destruction unleashed on it by two atomic bombs and is the only country to have experienced the horror of a nuclear attack.. Indeed, the tragic and unimaginable suffering of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is well documented.

No country is immune to evil and none has a completely unblemished record during war. We only have to look at Canada’s treatment of Italian and Japanese Canadians as an example. It is also fair to point out that China has blemishes in its past and that present day China is not exactly a paragon of human rights. Remember what happened to Tibet? Remember Tiananmen Square in 1989?

This, however, does not relieve Japan of its responsibility. The Japanese government must still be called upon to formerly acknowledge and apologize for the devastation that was wrought upon the city of Nanking. Just as Germany has faced up to Hitler and the Holocaust, it is time for Japan to confront and come to terms with its past. Only then can there be true reconciliation and acceptance. Only then can Japan exorcise its demons and rid itself of the lingering ghosts of Nanking.

In July of 2007, the Congress of the United States passed Resolution 121 condemning Japan’s sexual enslavement of women during World War II. Congress urged Japan to reconcile with its Asian neighbours “through an honest review of history.” It demanded that Japan “formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner.” The lower house of the Dutch parliament unanimously passed a a motion on November 20, 2007 urging Japan to financially compensate the women forced into sex slavery during World War II.

Canada’s House of Commons followed suit with its unanimous passage of Motion 291 on November 28, 2007. Motion 291 urged the Japanese government “to take full responsibility for the involvement of the Japanese Imperial Forces in the system of forced prostitution, including through a formal and sincere apology expressed in the Diet to all those who were victims."  The ball is now in Japan’s court and the world is waiting.

- Joanne

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Last Executions in Canada


"Some consolation."

- Ronald Turpin’s terse reply after being informed that he and Arthur Lucas would probably be the last people executed in Canada.
The last executions in Canada took place 48 years ago today on December 11, 1962. Two killers were hanged at Toronto’s Don Jail. They were Ronald Turpin, 29, who had been convicted of shooting Toronto police constable Frederick Nash, and 54-year-old Arthur Lucas, who had been convicted of killing an FBI informer named Therland Crater. Crater had been hiding out in Toronto while waiting to be a key witness at the trial of a drug lord in Michigan and Lucas, an American, had travelled to Ontario to kill him.

Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin were hanged just after midnight in the gallows of the Don Jail. The two men were placed back to back on the trapdoor and hanged together. No one has been executed in Canada since that December day. Lucas and Turpin hold the dubious distinction of being the last of many to go to the gallows in this country.

According to Amnesty International, there were 710 executions in Canada between 1867 and 1962. Between the years 1892 and 1961, the punishment for all murders in Canada was death by hanging. In 1961, the crime of murder was divided into capital and non-capital offences.

In 1966, capital punishment in Canada was restricted to the murder of prison guards and off-duty police officers. On July 14, 1976, the House of Commons voted to abolish capital punishment for first-degree murder and replaced it with a life sentence without possibility of parole for 25 years. Canada retained the death penalty for military offenses such as mutiny and treason until 1998. On December 10th of that year, legislation was passed removing all references to capital punishment from the National Defence Act.

To watch a video about the executions of Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas, please click on the link below.

To watch a video about the vote to abolish capital punishment in 1976, click on the link below.

Here are some interesting facts about capital punishment in Canada and the United States.

* According to The Canadian Encyclopedia, under pre-Confederation British law (which was in effect until 1859), “some 230 offences, including stealing turnips, were punishable by death.” By the year 1865, only murder, treason and rape were capital crimes.

* The abolition of capital punishment from the Canadian Criminal Code in 1976 has not resulted in an increase in the murder rate in Canada. According to Statistics Canada, the murder rate has been generally decreasing since the mid-1970s. In 2009, the murder rate in Canada was 1.81 homicides per 100,000 population. In the mid-1970s, the Canadian murder rate was around 3.0 per 100,000. Statistics Canada reports that the number of murders in Canada in 2009 was 610 as compared to 611 in 2008.

After peaking in the mid-1970s, the homicide rate generally declined until 1999 and has been relatively stable since. Gang-related homicides, however, have been on the rise since the early 1990s and accounted for almost 1 in 4 homicides in 2008.

 - Statistics Canada

Here are some facts as quoted from the United States Bureau of Justice.

* In 2009, 52 inmates were executed: 24 in Texas; 6 in Alabama; 5 in Ohio, 3 each in Georgia, Oklahoma and Virginia; 2 each in Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee; and 1 each in Indiana and Missouri.

* 51 executions were by lethal injections, 1 by electrocution.

* From January through November in 2010, 12 states executed 45 inmates.

* According to FBI statistics, there were 13,636 murder victims in the United States in 2009 and 10,496 of those victims were male.

* According to FBI statistics, the “murder and nonnegligent manslaughter rate” was 5.4 per 100,000 in the United States in 2008 and 5.0 in 2009.



The Toronto Blue Jays will have to do without pitcher Scott Downs. The 34-year-old southpaw has gone to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. A free agent, Downs signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Angels. He will be missed in the Blue Jays’ bull pen. Left-handed relievers of Downs’ calibre are not easy to come by.


The Toronto Raptors lost their third straight game at the Air Canada Centre last night by a score of 123-116. Their record falls to 8-15 for the season as they continue to struggle.

- Joanne

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tribute to John Humphrey

There is a fundamental link between human rights and peace. There will be peace on earth when the rights of all are respected.

- John Humphrey

How often do we think about the value of human rights? I’d venture to say that most of us who live in free and democratic countries don’t spend very much time in our busy lives to focus on that subject. We sure would if we were suddenly deprived of those rights. I regret to say we had a taste of that recently here in Toronto during the G-20 summit when martial law was virtually in effect in our city. It wasn’t pretty, as most Torontonians will attest.

I mention this because 62 years ago today, on December 10, 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed as a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly. Many people are aware of Eleanor Roosevelt’s role in that great achievement. The same cannot be said about John Humphrey, a Canadian law professor and Eleanor Roosevelt’s collaborator on the Universal Declaration. Most people, including Canadians, would draw a blank if asked to identify him.

I think John Humphrey deserves some attention and that is why I have chosen to reflect on him today. John Peters Humphrey was born in Hampton, New Brunswick on April 30, 1905. In addition to being a lawyer, he was a diplomat and a scholar.

Humphrey was called to the Quebec Bar in 1929 and joined the Faculty of Law at McGill University in Montreal in 1936. In 1946, he became director of human rights for the United Nations Secretariat. That same year, he was asked to work with a committee of the United Nations Secretariat to help the UN draft a statement on human rights.

The chairperson of the 18-member committee was Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States. It his capacity as a member of the committee that John Humphrey, with the help of others, wrote the draft for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eleanor Roosevelt famously referred to the document as the “Magna Carta of Mankind.” It should be a source of great pride for Canadians that one of us was the author of such a great legal document.

John Humphrey served as director of the UN Human Rights Division for twenty years, until his retirement from the United Nations in 1966. He returned to McGill University and remained there until 1994. In the later years of his life, Humphrey continued to be active in international affairs and the promotion of human rights. He investigated human rights abuses in the Philippines and represented Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese soldiers during World War II.

John Humphrey died in Montreal on March 14, 1995. It should be noted he did not originally receive full credit for his contribution to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For years it was thought that a French delegate drafted the Declaration. It wasn’t until later in Humphrey’s life that a first draft of the document, in Humphrey’s handwriting, was discovered. In 1974, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada and he was given the United Nations Prize for human rights advocacy in 1988.

John Humphrey was a great man and a great Canadian. He should not be forgotten, nor should his achievements. This is my small contribution to the preservation of his legacy.



The Toronto Maples Leafs lost another one last night. The sad sack Leafs lost 4-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers before a home crowd at the Air Canada Centre. They are now nine points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of the NHL.  As the horn sounded to end the game, some waffles were thrown to the ice by a disenchanted Leaf fan(s) prompting Philadelphia defenceman Chris Pronger to ask with bemusement, "Who brings waffles to the game?"  One of the waffles hit the stick of Leaf defenceman Francois Beauchemin.  Given the state of the Leafs, you either have to laugh or cry.

- Joanne

Thursday, December 9, 2010



Number Sixteen has obtained secret tapes of a private telephone conversation between Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry. In an exclusive, Joanne Madden has decided to release the transcripts of these tapes. Your humble scribe refuses to reveal her sources. She will not compromise her journalistic integrity.

DC:  Hey, Rob, Donald S. Cherry calling. Congratulations again on bein’ mayor, eh.

RF:  Thanks, Grapes. It was an honour to have you put the chain of office around my neck. I loved the way you said I was going to be the best mayor this city ever had. Then you told all those left-wing kooks to put that in their pipes.  You really let them have it.

DC:  I sure put them in their place, didn’t I? All those pinkos in the media. Somebody had to stand up to them, those (expletive deleted).   I’ve been wanting to tell them what I think of them for years.

RF:  Yeah, especially all those (expletive deleted) CBC types. Our tax dollars go to all that left-wing propaganda. CBC stands for the Communist Broadcasting Corporation. I hope that nice Steve in Ottawa cuts some more funding from them. The only ones who watch that CBC garbage are the downtown elites and artsie fartsies. The gravy train has to stop. The CBC is bleeding the taxpayers dry.  Private enterprise always does it better.  We don't need a public network anyway.

DC:  (Clears his throat uncomfortably)  Ahem. . .

RF:  Ooops . . . sorry Don, I forgot. You work for the CBC.

DC:  Um, why don’t we bash the Toronto Star instead?

RF:  Yeah, that socialist rag makes me sick.  Real men read the Toronto Sun.

DC:  Hey, Rob, who bugs you most – NDPers or Marxist professors?

RF:  I can’t stand either. They’re all a bunch of intellectuals. They don’t understand ordinary people who are being taxed to death.

DC:  Yeah, too much education, that’s the trouble with them.  Too much book learnin’. The only intellectual I have any respect for is Ken Dryden because he was a good hockey player. But now he’s just another pinko politician. To bad he's an (expletive deleted) Liberal.

RF:  I can learn so much from you, Don.  You have real experience.  You're a self-made man.  And you're such a sharp dresser.  I hope to be an icon like you someday.

DC:  No offense, Mr. Mayor, but I think you could use some fashion advice. Your suits are a little bit ill-fitting. Why don’t you give my tailor a call? I know everyone can’t be as stylish as me. But now that you’re mayor, Rob, you could spruce up your wardrobe.

RF:  I really liked your pink blazer.

DC. Like I said, I wore pink for all the pinkos out there on their bicycles and everything.

RF:  Don’t worry, Don. I’ll show them. Now that Rob Ford is mayor, the war on cars is over.  My motto is "Four wheels good, two wheels bad!"

DC : You tell 'em, Rob.  (Pause)  Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t we go for a beer at that there pub I like in Mississauga. I wonder what Mike Harris is doing these days. We could ask him to join us.

RF:  Good idea. We could sit around and bash all those European hockey players.

DC:  Now you’re talkin’. Nothin’ I like better than to hoist a few brewskies and bash those chicken Swedes. Then we can toast all those good Canadian boys, especially the ones from Kingston like Dougie Gilmour. Hey, Rob, you know why the Leafs can’t come up with a winning team? Too many Europeans like that goalie they got. What’s his name? Gustav... I can’t hardly pronounce it.  See what I mean, Rob.  We don't need them in the NHL.  Their names are too hard to pronounce.  And they take jobs away from good Canadian boys.

RF:  Yeah, I can't stand all those wimpy players who don’t want to fight.

DC:  Now you’re really talkin’ pal. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, Robbie old boy. Too bad you’re not from Kingston. Ya know, I haven’t told many people this, but I have a dartboard and I throw darts at a picture of the winner of the Lady Byng trophy . . .

RF: Good for you Grapes. Hockey doesn’t need a trophy named after a lady. No wonder it’s the award for the most gentlemanly player. Ha! Ha! They should call it the Sissy Award.

DC (laughs loudly). Rob, my boy, are you sure you’re not from Kingston?

Note to readers : This has been written with tongue firmly in cheek.  It is not an authentic transcript however much it may sound like one.

- Joanne

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Remembering John Lennon


I’m not going to change the way I look or the way I feel to conform to anything. I’ve always been a freak all my life and I have to live with that, you know. I’m one of those people.

- John Lennon

From John Lennon: the New York Years; text and images by Bob Gruen. Publisher: New York: Tabori, Stewart & Chang, 2005


On December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman ended the life of John Lennon.  Thirty years later, Lennon is still being mourned, even by many who were not yet born on the day he was shot.  His life and his legacy are still being discussed.  His music still resonates with young people.

This has been an extraordinary year for remembering the founder of The Beatles, a year full of milestones.  October 9, 2010 marked the 70th anniversary of John Lennon's birth (See my blog entry for October 9, 2010).  Nowhere Boy, a movie about John's early days in Liverpool, was released earlier this year and today marks the 30th anniversary of his assassination outside the Manhattan apartment building where he lived.

Three decades after his death, John Lennon lives on in his music. His songs and his lyrics will always be with us. Mark David Chapman could never have taken that away from us.

To watch a video of various announcements of Lennon's death 30 years ago, including those of Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football.and Ted Koppel on Nightline, click on the link below.


Today, December 8th is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Many people confuse the term “immaculate conception” with “virgin birth” and use the two interchangeably. This is not correct. They do not mean the same thing at all. According to Catholic doctrine, the “Immaculate Conception” means that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was conceived without the stain of original sin and was preserved from all sin. It has nothing to do with the conception of Christ.

Many Catholics females, born on December 8th, have been named Mary or variations of the name. One of them was Mary, Queen of Scots. Today is the 468th anniversary of her birth. She was born on December 8, 1542. I have always considered Mary, Queen of Scots to be one of the most intriguing historical figures.


Your word for today is parthenogenesis. “Parthenogenesis” is a term meaning virgin birth. “Parthenogenesis comes from the Greek “parthenos” meaning “virgin” and “genesis” meaning “birth” or “origin.” It refers to asexual reproduction, usually of an unfertilized female gamete (egg or mature reproductive cell), by which the growth and development of the cell occurs without fertilization of a male. It occurs especially among lower plants and invertebrate animals.


What did one strawberry say to the other strawberry?


We’re in the same jam.


Congratulations to Pat Gillick, former General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, for being elected to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. He deserves it. Now I hope that Roberto Alomar is next. Alomar should be ranked as one of the greatest second basemen ever. The late Tom Cheek deserves to be in Cooperstown too.

- Joanne

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Day of Infamy

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Address to a Joint Session of Congress, December 8, 1941

This is 69th anniversary of what President Franklin D. Roosevelt described as “a date which will live in infamy.” Fewer and fewer of us have direct memories of that day. One would probably have to be at least 74 or older to have any recollection of that day. Over nine years have passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and someday we’ll be among the dwindling few who have living memories of that day. I will always remember that 9/11 occurred on a Tuesday.

The “Day of Infamy” was a Sunday. At 7:53 a.m. on December 7, 1941, a wave of Japanese fighter planes attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. That first wave was aimed at airfields and the eight American battleships in the harbour. A second wave attacked other ships and shipyard facilities.

The air raid ended at 9:45 a.m. When it was over, the American people were left in a state of shock. On December 8, 1941, the United States declared war against the Japanese. Three days later (December 11th), Japan’s allies, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. In turn, the United States declared war on them and became officially embroiled in World War II.

Many Americans regard the attack on Pearl Harbor as the beginning of World War II. As a Canadian, I was taught that September 1, 1939, the day that Germany and Russian invaded Poland, marked the beginning of the war. I now realize that many Asians regard 1931 as the year that World War II really began. That was the year that Japan invaded Manchuria in China. It is important to remember that we are often given a very insular, western version of world history.

To watch a video about Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbour speech, click on the link below.

For the full text of the Roosevelt speech with audio, click below.

To watch a live news bulletin of the Pearl Harbour attack, click below.

I firmly believe it is of paramount importance to preserve the living memories of historical events before it is too late. Here is a video of the recollections of William Harvey, an African-American who was a cook on the USS Sacramento at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Click on the link below.



The Toronto Blue Jays have traded their ace pitcher. Shaun Marcum has gone to the Milwaukee Brewers fin return for Canadian prospect Brett Laurie. Laurie is a 20-year-old second baseman from Langley, British Columbia. In double-A last season, he hit .285 with eight homers, 63 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.

The Blue Jays will have to fill the gap left by the departure of Marcum. There is a great deal of talk about the Jays acquiring Zack Greinke of the Kansas City Royals. Greinke, a right-handed starting pitcher, won the American League Cy Young Award in 2009. The Royals will demand a great deal for him. The Jays will probably have to give up outfielder Travis Snider and pitcher Kyle Drabek. That’s a lot.

This week’s winter meetings will be interesting. I’m anxious to see what Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos will do.

- Joanne

Monday, December 6, 2010

Quotes on truth; more palindromes



A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.

- William Blake
From Auguries of Innocence
Today’s topic is truth. For your edification and enjoyment, I present to you some more quotations about truth.

Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.

- Abraham Lincoln
Letter to Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton. July 18, 1864

What is truth?

In Latin – Quid est veritas?
- Attributed to Pontius Pilate
John 18:38

The well of true wit is truth itself.
- George Meredith
From Diana of the Crossways [1885], chapter 1

Truth is a torch that gleams through the fog without dispelling it.
- Claude Adrien Helvetius
From De l’Esprit [1758], preface

In wine there is truth.

- Translation of the Latin phrase In vino veritas.


Why did the muffler break down?


Because it was exhausted.


I enjoy palindromes – words, verses or numbers that read the same backward or forward. I wrote about palindromes in my November 13, 2010 blog entry. I included a list of palindromes in that entry. Today I offer some more palindromes to amuse you on a December day.


Rise to vote, sir.

Poor Dan is in a droop.

A man, a plan, a canal: Panama.

Dennis and Edna sinned.

Are we not drawn onward to new era.

Anne, I vote more cars race Rome to Vienna.

A nut for a jar of tuna.

A Toyota.

Cain: A maniac

Panic in a Titanic? I nap.

Pets never even step.


Today marks a sad anniversary for Canadians, especially women.  On December 6, 1989, a crazed misogynist named Marc Lepine stalked and killed 14 female engineering students at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.  He entered a classroom, separated the men and women and shot the women with a semi-automatic rifle.  He blamed them for his failure to be accepted by the engineering school.

21 years have passed since that horrific day.  I will remember those 14 women and the tragic loss of their lives today and everyday.


Brian Burke, the General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, had some vindication on Saturday night. The Leafs edged the Boston Bruins 3-2 in an overtime shootout at the Air Canada Centre. Former Bruin Phil Kessel scored the winning goal in the shootout. Okay, Leaf fans, calm down! It’s only one game.


The Toronto Raptors continue their losing ways. The Raps were trounced 116-99 by the New York Knicks today. This team is not looking good.

- Joanne

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Memoirs of George W. Bush; The Pillsbury Dough Man



As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.

- Christopher Dawson (1889 – 1970)
From The Judgement of the Nations
Christopher Henry Dawson was a British scholar and a Catholic historian. His book The Judgement of the Nations was published in 1942. His words have great relevance in the post-9/11 world and in this age of terrorism. They should be required reading for the radical right wing and for one George Walker Bush.

The memoirs of former U.S. President Bush were recently published in a book entitled Decision Points.  In his memoirs, Bush admits that he personally authorised waterboarding. When George Tenet, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asked for the president’s permission to use “enhanced interrogation techniques”, Bush emphatically replied, “Damn right.”

Yes, it’s true. By his own admission, the President of the United States approved torture. Not only that, but he is completely unapologetic about it. He truly believes that he acted responsibly and ethically. “No doubt the procedure was tough,” writes Bush, “but medical exports assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm.”

I do not sympathize or empathize with terrorists in the least. However, I believe that such tactics as “waterboarding” demean the United States of America and sully its reputation around the world. They can only be described as disgraceful and shameful. The names “Guantanamo” and “Abu Ghraib” will forever live in infamy. What happened in those prisons is a sorry chapter in the history of the United States. America is better than that.


American flour industrialist Charles Alfred Pillsbury was born on December 3, 1842 in Warner, New Hampshire. He was the co-founder and builder of the company that bears his name.  It is interesting to note that Pillsbury had a connection to Canada. He spent several years in Montreal involved in various business ventures, including a mercantile company. At the time, Montreal processed a great deal of grain from the Western United States and it was in Montreal that Pillsbury really began to take an interest in the milling business.

After selling his share in a Montreal dry-goods business in 1869, Pillsbury returned to the United States. He joined his uncle, John Sargent Pillsbury, in Minneapolis, Minnesota where they founded C.A. Pillsbury and Company in 1872. It became the largest flour-milling company in the world and it revolutionized the flour industry by producing superior quality flour. The other mills in Minnesota used large buhr stones to ground their flour.  Charles Alfred Pillsbury was a great innovator and he introduced a series of gauged steam rollers that ground grain into especially fine flour.  His technique was eventually adopted by all the larger U.S. mills.

John Sargent Pillsbury later served as the governor of the state of Minnesota. Charles Alfred Pillsbury died in Minneapolis on September 17, 1899 at the age of 56.  When I visited Minneapolis in the year 2000, I saw the mansion of Charles S. Pillsbury, one of the sons of Charles Alfred. It was built in 1913 and is located in the Washburn-Fair Oaks Mansion District of Minneapolis. Click on the link below to view a photograph of it.



The Toronto Maple Leafs lost another game last night. Ho hum, what else is new? The Edmonton Oilers shut out the hapless Leafs by a score of 5-0. How sad that the Blue and White have sunk so low! It’s early in December, but if they continue to play so poorly, they might as well start dusting off their golf clubs now.

Here are the grim facts concerning the Maple Leafs. They have now lost four consecutive games. They have fallen behind the Oilers and are 28th in the standings with a record of 8-12-4. They have 20 points and are only one point ahead of last season’s pace. Meanwhile, the Oilers are improving and have great hope for the future. They have Taylor Hall and he scored twice last night.

The Boston Bruins must be hoping the Leafs’ woes continue because they have the Maple Leafs’ 2011 first-round pick from the Phil Kessel trade. Yikes! Could it be any worse for the Leafs? Well, they may be struggling on the ice, but they’re sure not suffering at the box office. 19,465 suckers - oops, I mean fans, paid exorbitant prices to attend last night’s game. Late in the game, they chanted “Fire Wilson.” A lot more than the firing of Ron Wilson is required to clean up this mess.

- Joanne

Thursday, December 2, 2010


How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
- Dr. Seuss (Theodor S. Geisel)
Where have you gone 2010? We are already into the month of December and Christmas is only twenty-four days away. As we leave the darkness of November behind, we approach the season of light. I await the Winter Solstice on the 21st of December because it marks the beginning of more light in the evening. Just four days later, the great feast of Christmas is celebrated. That, of course, is no coincidence. The symbolism is everywhere.


In the spirit of the season of light, I’d like to wish a Happy Hannukah to those of the Jewish faith. The eight-day holiday began at sundown yesterday and it ends at dusk on December 9th. It is known as the Festival of Light and it commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt about 2,200 years ago. At that time, the Holy Land was ruled by Syrian-Greeks who outlawed the study of the Torah. According to the Talmud, a small band of faithful Jews known as Maccabees rebelled and drove them from the Holy Temple. When the Maccabees attempted to light the Temple’s menorah (candelabra), they discovered that it had been contaminated by the Greeks. They found enough pure oil to last one night. Miraculously, however, the oil lasted for eight days and eight nights, the amount of time needed to procure new oil.

Here are some Hannukah quotes:

As long as Hannukah is studied and remembered, Jews will not surrender to the night. The proper response, as Hannukah teaches, is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle.

- Rabbi Irving Greenberg
From The Lesson of Hannukah: Living with imperfection

Just as Hannukah candles are lighted one by one from a single flame, so the tale of the miracle is passed from one man to another, from one house to another, and to the whole House of Israel throughout the generations.

- Judah L. Magnes


There are many alternate spellings of “Hannukah.” Here are some of the other spellings.








Readers, if you know of any others, let me know and I’ll be happy to add them to the list.


On December 2, 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Napoleon I, Emperor of the French in an elaborate ceremony at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Pope Pius VII handed Napoleon the crown and the 35-year-old Corsican-born conqueror placed it on his own head.


A report in the Toronto Star yesterday suggested that Rogers Communications is attempting to take over Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. As much as I detest MLSE for what they have done to the once-proud Toronto Maple Leafs and for their exorbitant ticket prices, I’m not so sure I want the team to fall into the hands of Rogers. Such a deal would give Rogers too much control over sports and communications in this city.


The Toronto Raptors earned a much-needed blowout victory over the Washington Wizards last night at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors won by a score of 127-108. Toronto rookie Ed Davis made his NBA debut and managed 11 points.

- Joanne

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Here's to Bonnie Scotland on St. Andrew's Day


Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birthplace of valour, the country of worth!
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands, for ever I love.

- Robert Burns
From My Heart’s in the Highlands
A toast to bonnie Scotland! What better way to do it than to quote Robbie Burns, the great “Bard of Scotland,” on the feast of St. Andrew. St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. Scots around the world celebrate St. Andrew’s Day on the 30th of November. Tradition has it that St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross or “saltire."  That is why the flag of Scotland is the X-shaped Cross of St. Andrew.

Details about the life of St. Andrew are very sketchy. According to the Christian Bible, he was a fisherman from Bethsaida, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Andrew was originally a follower of John the Baptist. He and his brother, Simon Peter (St. Peter), eventually became two of the Twelve Apostles of Christ.


The name Andrew is taken from the Greek "Andreas" meaning manly or brave.


Actor/comic Leslie Nielsen died in Florida on Sunday at the age of 84. Although Nielsen was a Hollywood star who appeared in over one hundred films and numerous television programs, his roots were distinctly Canadian.

Leslie William Nielsen was born on February 1, 1926 in Regina, Saskatchewan, the son of a Mountie. His father, Ingvard Eversen Nielsen, a Danish immigrant, was a Constable in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The young Leslie was raised in Fort Norman, Northwest Territories (now known as Tulita) where his father was stationed with the RCMP.

Leslie’s elder brother, Erik Nielsen, was a Canadian politician and long-time Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for the Yukon. Dubbed “Yukon Erik,” he was a cabinet minister in the short-lived government of Joe Clark. However, he was most prominent in the government of Brian Mulroney where he served as Canada’s deputy prime minister from 1984 to 1986 and Minister of National defence from 1985 to 1986. Erik Nielsen, a man of few words, was nicknamed “Velcro Lips” due to his unsmiling demeanour and his reticence. He died of a heart attack on September 4, 2008 at his home in Kelowna, British Columbia. Like his brother, Leslie, he was 84 years old at the time of his death.

To watch a tribute to Leslie Nielsen, click on the link below.


Football (CFL)

Congratulations to the Montreal Alouettes for winning the 98th Grey Cup on Sunday over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. It was a closely-fought game, but the Als prevailed by a score of 21-18 before an estimated 63,000 fans in Edmonton. Their victory, however, was bittersweet. Veteran Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo, the best quarterback in Canadian football, dropped a bombshell. He announced that he will be undergoing surgery due to a lesion on his thyroid. His future as a player is in doubt until the outcome of the operation.

As for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, it was a heartbreaking loss for them. The Green Riders have the most enthusiastic fans in the league and they packed Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium. It was a sea of green. During my recent visit to Las Vegas, I spotted some Riders fans at the Treasure Island hotel. I wished them well in the Grey Cup and told them that next year it was the Argos’ turn.


Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays did not win the American League MVP award. The honour went to Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. However, I must congratulate Bautista for being voted the Toronto Blue Jays’ MVP and for winning the John Cerutti Award. The Cerutti Award is named in honour of the former Blue Jays’ pitcher and broadcaster. It is given to the Jay who displays the good character shown by the late John Cerutti.

- Joanne Madden