Monday, January 31, 2011

Reflections on the last day of January; High Park photos



Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right

- Laurens van der Post (1906-1996), South African explorer and writer
From The Lost World of the Kalahari (1958)


Okay, readers, how long do you think Scotch tape has been around?

The answer is exactly 80 years. On January 31, 1930, 3M began marketing Scotch tape, an invention of a man named Richard Gurley Drew. Its recognizable plaid design, adapted from the Wallace tartan, did not come along for another 15 years.

If you are wondering about Richard Drew, he was an American inventor who worked for 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota where he invented masking tape in 1923. In 1930, he came up with the world’s first transparent cellophane adhesive tape. It was called Scotch tape in the United States and “sellotape” in Great Britain. After the great Wall Street crash of 1929, people were more inclined to repair torn items than to spend money on new purchases. That is why 3M was able to do well during the Depression years of the 1930s.

Richard Drew died in Santa Barbara, California on December 14, 1980 at the age of 81.


I watched the Screen Actors’ Guild awards last night and I was quite impressed with Ernest Borgnine’s acceptance speech when he received his lifetime achievement award. It was classy, eloquent and very moving. If I reach the age of 94, I hope I am as robust and active as Ernie.


Yesterday I spent some time at Toronto’s High Park. Below are some winter photos I took there.



The 58th edition of the NHL all-star game was played yesterday at RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Team Lidstrom defeated Team Staal by a score of 11-10. There were twenty goals in the game and I have to admit I didn’t have much interest in it. I really don’t care about Team Lidstrom and Team Staal. That means nothing to me.

Major League Baseball’s all-star game is much more meaningful. Fans identify with the National League and the American League. The winner gets home field advantage in the World Series. The NHL changes its format almost every year. It can’t seem to find a good one.

An all-star game is good for hockey fans and they enjoy the skills competition. It was unfortunate that the game’s biggest star, Sidney Crosby was unable to participate this year due to his concussion. Nevertheless, there should be a stable, consistent format. Why not return to the Stanley Cup champion versus the NHL all-stars? So what if every team can’t have a representative on the all-star team! No player on the Toronto Maple Leafs deserves to be on it.

- Joanne

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Disappearance of Amelia Earhart


Of course I realized there was a measure of danger. Obviously I faced the possibility of not returning when I first considered going. Once faced and settled there really wasn't any good reason to refer to it again

~ Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was one of the most admired and courageous women of her era. Born on July 24, 1897 in Atchison, Kansas, the famed aviatrix was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and she set many aviation records. Outspoken and fiercely independent, Earhart brimmed with the spirit of adventure. In her 1927 poem, Courage, she wrote that courage is “the price that Life exacts for granting peace.”

On July 2, 1937, Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, set out to fly across the Pacific Ocean in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe at the equator with their intended destination being Howland Island, a tiny sliver of land 4,113 km. (2,556 miles) away. At midnight (GMT), they took off from Laos in Amelia’s Lockheed Electra 10E and never returned.

What happened to them has been the subject of much fascination and speculation around the world. In her final radio transmission, Amelia Earhart reported that her airplane was running low on fuel. There was a massive search for the legendary aviatrix and her navigator. The search was unsuccessful and many assumed that the twin-engine aircraft had crashed into the ocean and sunk.

Although the duo’s fate is still not known for certain, clues have surfaced recently to support the theory that Earhart and Noonan made an emergency landing on a remote South Pacific island and eventually perished there. Evidence has come to light suggesting that Earhart and Noonan died as castaways on the uninhabited tropical island of Nikumaroro, about 483 km. (300 miles) southeast of their target destination, Howland Island.

Back in 1940, a partial skeleton was found on the island that matched Amelia’s description, that of a tall Causcasion woman. Unfortunately, the partial skeleton was lost. Seventy years later, however, in the spring of 2010, aviation enthusiasts discovered 3 bone fragments on Nikumaroro. Last June, researchers announced that they had also discovered some items on the island that may have been used by Earhart. The items included a knife, some old makeup and broken glass bottles and shells. In an e-mail interview from Nikumaroro, Ric Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) informed Discovery News that these objects “have the potential to yield DNA, specifically what is known as ‘touch DNA’.”

The bone fragments were discovered near a hollowed-out turtle shell that may have been used collect rain water. No other turtle parts were located in the immediate area. In December 18, 2010 Associated Press story by Sean Murphy, Gillespie is quoted as saying, “You only have to say you have a bone that may be human and may be linked to Earhart and people get excited. But it’s true that, if they can get DNA, and if they can match it to Amelia Earhart’s DNA, that’s pretty good.”

It could be months before scientists know for certain. It appears, though, that the intriguing mystery of Amelia Earhar’s fate is close to being solved. People will always wonder about her last days and what they were like. Amelia was 39 years old at the time of her disappearance.

Football (NFL)
So it's Pittsburgh and Green Bay in the Super Bowl.  I'm not a big NFL fan.  I prefer Canadian football and there isn't enough time for me to follow both.   I do, however, have a soft spot for the Packers.  Green Bay, Wisconsin is not a huge metropolis like New York or Chicago.  I hope the "cheeseheads" win.
- Joanne

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Salute to Australia


In joyful strains then let us sing Advance Australia fair.

From Advance Australia Fair, the national anthem of Australia
Composed in 1878 by P.D. McCormick

Here in Toronto, Canada, it is the dead of winter. In Australia,  however, it is the summer season and it’s time for tennis. The Australian Open is under way in Melbourne and yesterday was Australia Day, a national day of celebration and Aussie pride. 

Australians celebrate their national day on January 26 because it is the anniversary of the First Fleet of 11 convict ships from Great Britain and the raising of the Union Jack at Sydney Cove in 1788.

As a tribute to "The Land Down Under", Number 16 proudly presents some quotations about Australia.  Hope you enjoy them.

Down Under we send soldiers and wool abroad but keep poets and wine at home.

- John Streeter Manifold, Australian poet (1915-85)

In all directions stretched the great Australian Emptiness, in which the mind is the least of possessions.

- Patrick White (1912-1990), Australian novelist: The Vital Decade (1968) ‘The Prodigal Son”

Australia is a huge rest home, where no unwelcome news is ever wafted on to the pages of the worst newspapers in the world.

- Germaine Greer, Australian feminist, in Observer, August 1, 1982

Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.

- Donald Richmond Horne, The Lucky Country: Australia in the Sixties (1964)

Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.

- Charles M. Schulz, cartoonist and creator of Peanuts comic strip

When New Zealanders emigrate to Australia, it raises the average IQ of both countries.

- Attributed to Robert Muldoon (1921-1992), New Zealand statesman (Note improper use of the word “emigrate” - quote should read “immigrate to Australia”)

I’d like to be seen as an average Australian bloke. I can’t think of . . . I can’t think of a nobler description of anybody than to be called an average Australian bloke.

- John Howard, former Australian prime minister

God bless America, God save the Queen, may God defend New Zealand. And thank Christ for Australia."

- Russell Crowe's message to Australian television while clutching his Oscar statuette in Los Angeles after winning the 2000 Best Actor Academy Award. for Gladiator (Although born in Wellington, New Zealand, Crowe grew up in Australia)


* According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the population of Australia is estimated to be 22.5 million people (Canada has 34.2 million people).  The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that there is one birth every 1 minute and 44 seconds in Australia.  There is a death every 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

* The Australian National Flag (pictured at the top of this posting) was first flown in 1901. It has three elements on a blue background.  The Union Jack appears in the upper left corner (or canton) to acknowledge the history of British settlement.  Beneath the Unition Jack is the white Commonwealth Star.  Its seven points represent the unity of the six states and the territories of the Commonwealth of Austrralia.  The Southern Cross, a constellation of five stars, appears on the fly of the flag in white.  The Southern Cross can be seen only from the Southern Hemisphere and is representative of Australia's geography.

A salute to all my mates in Australia.  I hope that some of you will read this.  I would be particularly happy if a reader from Toronto, Australia contacted me or sent me a comment.   For the record, I have never visited Australia,.  I have, however, met many Aussies on travel tours.  I have found them to be delightful and fun.



Congratulations to former Toronto Blue Jays' closer, Tom Henke.  The Terminator has been elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario., southwest of Stratford.  If you are in the area and your are a baseball fan, it is well worth visiting.  I've been there.


Wayne Gretzky, The Great One, turned 50 years old yesterday.  He was born in Brantford, Ontario on January 26, 1961.  Number 99 scored more than 50 goals in a string of eight seasons from 1979 to 1987.  Despite all of Gretzky's accomplishments, he was unable to win a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings.  All of his Cup victories were with Edmonton.

- Joanne

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Robert Burns and Haggis; Latin Quiz


Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it:
Bu we have meat and we can eat
Sae let the Lord be thankit

- Robert Burns
The Kirkudbright Grace (1790), also known as The Selkirk Grace

Today is Robbie Burns Day. It is the 252nd anniversary of the birth of the great bard of Scotland.  The day of his birth celebrated throughout the world as Burns Night with Burns Suppers, poems and songs.

Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759 at Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland, the eldest of the seven children of William Burnes, a poor tenant farmer, and Agnes Broun (Robert spelled his name “Burnes” until 1784). Much of his youth was spent working on his father’s farm. Although poor, Robert was well-read. His father, a self-educated man, schooled his children in reading, writing, arithmetic, history and geography. William insisted that young Robert receive a good education and sent him and his younger brother, Gilbert, to a tutor named John Murdoch. Murdoch taught the boys Latin, French and mathematics.
As a teen, Robert wrote his first verse, My Handsome Nell, an ode to his first love. It begins with the line “O, once I lov’d a bonnie lass, Aye and I love her still”. His inspiration was Nelly Kirkpartrick, the daughter of a blacksmith and his companion in the labours of the harvest field.
He eventually left the farm and settled in Edinburgh where he associated with artists and writers. Burns was accepted by the cream of the Edinburgh literati and gained popularity.  The first edition of his poetry was published in 1786.  It was entitled Poems and was witten mainly in the Scottish dialect.  It sold out within a month.

In 1788, Robert married Jean Armour. She bore nine children, only three of whom lived to adulthood. Sadly, Robert Burns lived only until the age of 37. He suffered from ill health, possibly a rheumatic heart condition, and died on July 21, 1796. His funeral occurred on the very day that Jean gave birth to their last son, Maxwell. Jean lived on until 1834.

Two of Robert Burns’ most well known poems are Auld Lang Syne and Ode to a Haggis. Ode to a Haggis is a paean to Scotland’s national dish.

A kind of sausage, haggis consists of sheep’s entrails minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock. It is traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for about three hours, although most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing instead of the actual stomach of the animal. Haggis is served as the main course at Robbie Burns suppers. Haggis is usually served with “neeps” and “tatties” (turnips and mashed potatoes).

I have to admit that I have only tried Haggis once and I didn’t particularly like it. To be fair though, I was probably influenced by its rather unappetizing description.


A final note about Robbie Burns.  The government of Scotland is making his poetry easily accessible to the Facebook generation.  It recently unveiled a free new iPhone application for Burns fans.  The app contains a searchable data base of every poem written by Scotland's favourite son.  It also includes a brief summary of facts about the great poet.


How’s your Latin?  Here are ten Latin phrases. Can you translate them into English?

1. Carpe diem

2. Pax vobiscum

3. Ad astra per aspera

4. Semper fidelis

5. A mari usque ad mare

6. Aurora borealis

7. Tempus fugit

8. Amor vincit omnia

9. Facta non verba

10. Vox populi

11.  Fiat lux!


1. Carpe diem – Seize the day

2. Pax vobiscum – Peace be with you

3. Ad astra per aspera – To the stars through adversity (motto of the state of Kansas)

4. Semper fidelis – Always faithful (motto of the United State Marine Corps.)

5. A mari usque ad mare – From sea to sea (motto of Canada)

6. Auora borealis – Northern lights

7. Tempus fugit – Time flees or Time flies

8. Amora vincit omnia – Love conquers all

9. Facta non verba – Deeds, not words (Actions speak louder than words)

10. Vox populi – Voice of the people

11.  Fiat lux - Let there be light!

- Joanne

Saturday, January 22, 2011

All About Queen Victoria


Some big events are scheduled in the United Kingdom this year and next. Prince William will marry Kate Middleton on April 29th. In 2012, London will host the Summer Olympics and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her diamond jubilee (60 years on the throne). Only one other British monarch has reigned longer than the present queen – Queen Victoria. Victoria reigned for over 63 years. She died on January 22, 1901 at the age of 81. Since today is the 110th anniversary of her death, dear readers, I thought I would present you with some interesting facts and fascinating trivia about the longest-serving British monarch in history.

* Queen Victoria’s full name was Alexandrina Victoria. It’s a good thing that she went by her second name. Queen Alexandrina just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

* Queen Elizabeth II is Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter. At age 84, Elizabeth is the only British monarch to have outlived Queen Victoria.

* Queen Victoria spoke German before she spoke English. He mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was German-born. Until she was three years old, the child Victoria spoke nothing but German. At that age, she was taught English and French. She was permitted to read, but not to speak German

* Victoria ascended to the throne on June 20, 1837 upon the death of her uncle, King William IV. Prior to Victoria’s birth, William had fathered ten illegitimate children by the Irish actress Dorothea Jordan with whom he had cohabited for twenty years. Dorothea died in 1816. William married the German princess Adelaide in July of 1818 when he was 53 and she was 26. William and Adelaide had six children, including twins, five of whom died on the day they were born (One child survived for over two months). At the time of his death, William had no legitimate heirs, though he was survived by eight of his ten children with Dorothea Jordan. The current British Prime Minister, David Cameron, is a descendant of William IV and Dorothea.

Oh yes, the city of Adelaide in Australia was named after William’s wife, Adelaide.

When he becomes king some day, Prince William will be known as King William V (prvovided he does not choose another name when he assumes the throne.)

* On February 10, 1840, when she was 20 years old, Queen Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. They had nine children and 42 grandchildren. Albert died on December 14, 1861 at the age of 42.

The nine children of Victoria and Albert (in birth order) were Victoria, Empress of Germany, Albert Edward (King Edward VII), Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Helena, Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, Duchess of Argyll, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany and Beatrice, Princess Henry of Battenberg.

Princess Louise Caroline Alberta had a strong connection to Canada. She married John, Marquess of Lorne, heir the Duke of Argyll. In 1878, Lorne was appointed Governor General of Canada. The province of Alberta was named after her, as was Lake Louise.

* On June 10, 1840, just months after their marriage, a pregnant Queen Victoria and her husband took a public carriage ride. They were at Constitution Hill when a gunman shot at them twice, missing both times. Neither Victoria nor Albert was hurt. Their attacker, Edward Oxford, was seized by onlookers and arrested. Oxford was charged with high treason, but acquitted by reason of insanity.

* Queen Victoria carried the gene for hemophilia, a blood disorder, and passed the gene on to her descendants. Women carry the defective gene for this blood-clotting deficiency and transmit them to their sons, but rarely suffer from the disease themselves. Victoria’s third child, Alice, and her ninth, Beatrice, were carriers of the hemophilia gene. Her eighth child, Leopold, was a hemophiliac. Leopold fell on his head and died of a brain hemorrhage when he was 31 years old.

Alice passed the gene on to two of her daughters, one of whom was Alexandra, the wife of the ill-fated Czar Nicholas II of Russia. On August 12, 1904, Alexandra gave birth to a son and heir whom they named  Alexis. They soon discovered that Alexis suffered from hemophilia. The youngster was pampered and protected, but his parents could not avert every accident. Alexis had such severe pain from internal bleeding that he would pass out. Desperate for help, Alexandra turned to the “Mad Monk”, Grigori Rasputin for comfort and advice. Much to the annoyance of the Russian people, Rasputin was soon advising Alexandra on how to run the country. The Russian Revolution was just around the corner and the entire royal family was destined to be executed.



Roy Hartsfield, the first manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, passed away on January 15, 2011 at the home of his daughter in Atlanta, Georgia. He was 85 and his death was the result of complications from liver cancer. As a player, Roy spent three years as a second baseman in Major Leagues for the Boston Braves from 1950-52. He was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers and decided to retire from his playing career. He turned to coaching and spent 19 years in the Dodger organization where he worked under managers Tommy Lasorda and Walter Alton.

Hartsfield managed the expansion Blue Jays from their inception in 1977 until 1979, compiling a record of 166-318 in 484 games. He will be missed.


In a blockbuster trade, the Toronto Blue Jays sent their 32-year-old centre fielder, Vernon Wells, to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I respect Vernon. He is a great player and I wish him well with the Angels, but I think the Jays made the best move for their team. In return for Vernon, the Jays acquired catcher and first baseman Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera.

GM Alex Anthopoulos has made a very good deal. The Jays have extricated themselves from Vernon’s expensive contract and have freed up some money to sign Jose Bautista to a long-term contract. In Mike Napoli, they have an experienced catcher to turn to if J.P. Arencibia can’t do the job. Napoli can also play first base if Adam Lind flounders in that position. I am quite pleased. To me, it’s a wonderful deal for the Jays. Excuse the pun but they have covered all the bases. This Blue Jay fan is happy.

- Joanne

Friday, January 21, 2011

Colonel Tom Parker: The Man Behind Elvis Presley


And nobody told Elvis Presley what to do ‘cause he was a very strong person and we had a great relationship. And I took care of mine. He’d take care of his. And he didn’t let anybody tell him what to do.

- Colonel Tom Parker
From a 1987 interview on Nightline with Ted Koppel

Colonel Thomas Andrew Parker, the man behind Elvis Presley, died on January 21, 1997, exactly 14 years ago today. He was a man of mystery and his name is quite deceiving. It sounds like the moniker of a Southern gentleman. However, Colonel Tom Parker was actually Dutch-born and his real name was Andreus Cornelius van Kuijk. He was not a true colonel either. In 1948, then-Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis bestowed the honorary title of “colonel” upon him.

Born in Breda, Netherlands on June 26, 1909, he was the seventh of eleven children. As a boy, he worked as a carnival barker in Breda. At the age of 18, he immigrated illegally to the United States to seek his fortune. After a year in the U.S., he went back to Holland briefly. In 1929, when he was 20, he returned to America and found employment with carnivals. He eventually enlisted in the U.S. army and assumed the name “Tom Parker” in order to cover up the fact that he was an illegal immigrant.

Tom Parker began his army career at Fort Saffer in Hawaii. In the fall of 1931, he and another private were transferred to Fort Barrancas in Florida. It was then that Parker decided to go AWOL for almost five months. He did return to the military base until February 17, 1933 and was charged with desertion. His punishment was solitary confinement where he developed a psychosis. As a result, he ended up in a mental hospital and was discharged from the army due to his lack of mental health. After his discharge, Parker returned to the carnival circuit and tried to pass himself off as a West Virginian. He finally settled in Tampa, Florida where he became director of Tampa’s Humane Society and Tampa’s chief dog officer.

By 1938, Tom Parker was a music promoter and he was guiding the career of popular singer Gene Austin. In the late 1940s, he worked with country music stars such as Minnie Pearl, Canadian singer Hank Snow and June Carter. This ultimately led to his involvement with Elvis Presley. In August of 1955, Parker booked Elvis as the opening act for Snow and it wasn’t long before he took control of the rising young singer’s career.

Parker soon acquired a controlling interest in Elvis Presley’s management contract. By November 21, 1955, he had negotiated a deal for RCA to acquire Presley’s contract from Sun Records for the then-lucrative sum of $35,000. Elvis received $5,000 from the deal.

Under the management of the cigar-chomping Colonel Parker, Elvis Presley went on to become a cultural icon of the 20th century. Parker remained Elvis’s manager until the singer’s death on August 16, 1977. Parker himself died in Las Vegas almost thirty years after the passing of his famous client. The “colonel” was 87 at the time of his passing.

To view a video of Colonel Tom Parker’s 1987 interview with Ted Koppel on Nightline, click on the link below.

- Joanne

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Barack Obama, two years later


Two years ago today, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. He promised hope and renewal for Americans suffering through the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression. When the economy did not improve overnight, many turned on him. Frustrated by job losses and mortgage foreclosures, they had little patience. They expected Obama to be some kind of magician and wave his magic wand to fix everything. When he did not perform miracles, the American public and many in the media turned on him. His popularity plummeted and he was mocked.

When the economy did not improve dramatically, many Americans failed to point their fingers at the true culprits. They did not blame the Gordon Gekkos on Wall Street and their “greed is good” mentality. They did not criticize the lack of regulation of American financial institutions. Egged on by right-wing Republicans, they turned their anger and frustration on President Obama. They forgot who really created the mess. In the manner of a Harry Houdini, Wall Street and the financial institutions escaped the severe criticism they deserved.

The president has had a rough ride during the past two years. He’s aged considerably as most American presidents do once in office. The stress has taken its toll on him. His hair is greying and he often appears worn and tired. Let me be clear, however. I am not an apologist for Barack Obama or any politician. I’m not saying that he has not made mistakes. In my opinion, he has not communicated his vision of America well enough. He has not identified himself enough with those who have experienced hardship during the Great Recession. He came to office with great challenges, but he has not risen to the occasion as much as he could have.

I’m certainly not saying that Obama is a Lincoln or an FDR. No human being should be put on a pedestal and no politician should be treated with kid gloves. I just think that he could not possibly have lived up to the high expectations that were placed upon him. Accordingly, this Canadian thinks he is due for a few words of support and encouragement.

From the beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama has found himself firmly entrenched between a rock and a hard place. No matter what he does, he will never curry favour with American conservatives. Nor will he will ever convince those of a more leftist persuasion that he has gone far enough in his reforms. From the moment he took office, right-wingers have waged a relentless campaign to bring him down. With enthusiastic support from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, they have never stopped trying to prevent him from achieving his goals.

Tea Party types have painted Obama as some kind of radical socialist because he wants a more equitable society. He has attempted to close the huge and growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. He has not tried to abolish private enterprise or destroy the market economy.  Yet, they have portrayed him as some sort of Fidel Castro.

President Obama has tried to pump money into the economy in order to create jobs.  Many right-wingers have not wanted him to succeed with his stimulus plan just so they could accuse him of failing to improve the economy. In other words, they have preferred to see the economy languish rather than have Obama receive any credit. Too bad about all the unemployed and suffering Americans! Making sure that Obama is a one-term president has been of more paramount importance.  Partisanship comes ahead of country for them.

The American far-right has cast aspersions on Barack Obama. They have questioned his patriotism and accused him of not being a “real American”. They have said he was not really born in the USA and that he is a Muslim. There is nothing wrong with fitting any of those two descriptions. In Obama’s case, however, they are simply not true. Yet, many Americans, according to polls, consider them to be true. How absurd! How lamentable that there are so many “Elvis is alive!” types. How disconcerting it is that extreme right-wingers have managed to convince so many people to believe such false information.

President Obama has not pleased his more left-wing constituents either. They have criticized him for not being progressive enough and they are disillusioned with him. They have expressed their disappointment in the president because they do not think he has moved far enough to the left. Don’t they realize he has to compromise and deal with his Republican opponents? He is not a benign dictator. He can’t do everything he wants in a democratic system. If Obama fails to win re-election in 2012, he could be replaced with someone such as Mitt Romney or Sarah Palin. Is that what centrist and left-leaning Democrats really want?

In November, the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives. That was the democratic will of the people. Unfortunately, however, the House will try and undo everything President Obama has achieved. He will have to sacrifice some things in order to preserve others. He has already had to compromise by allowing tax cuts for those making over $200,000 so he could preserve extensions to unemployment benefits. 

Yesterday was sad day for the United States. It was a sad day for the underprivileged and for those who do not have health insurance. It was a good day for the very wealthy and for the insurance companies. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to repeal Obama’s health care reform. The measure passed by 245-189. All of the Republicans in the House supported overturning the measure and they were joined by three Democrats.

Fortunately, the repeal has little chance of taking effect. The Democrats still control the Senate and it will be blocked in that chamber. Obama would veto any such measure if it ever reached his desk. Nevertheless, the result of the vote will re-ignite debate and inflame passions. It is likely to be a central issue in the next presidential campaign. If a Republican president comes to power with a Republican-controlled Congress, the health care reform plan will be in dire jeopardy. If Republicans have their way, Americans will continue to lose their savings and fall into poverty if they have the misfortune to become seriously ill.

Here are a few other points to ponder. When Bill Clinton left office, there was a surplus. After eight years of George W. Bush, there was a massive deficit, mainly due to the war in Iraq and tax cuts to those who didn’t need them. Obama inherited that mess. It was not Barack Obama who loosened regulations on financial institutions. In fact, during his presidency, he has placed regulations on financial institutions. It is certainly fair to criticize President Obama, but it is not fair to blame him for the recession or the economic mess. It takes time to dig out of an economic hole, especially one of the enormous size facing Americans. The situation would have been much worse without some stimulus to the economy.

Here in Canada, our economic downturn has not been as severe, although that is little consolation to Canadians who are unemployed and downtrodden.  The reason that our recession has not been as scathing as America's is that strong regulations have been placed on Canadian financial institutions.  It should also be noted that even our conservative government has had enough sense to realize it had no sensible choice but to impose a stimulus program.

- Joanne

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Dashing Cary Grant


Today marks the 107th anniversary of the birth of one of my favourite actors, the dashing Cary Grant. Born Archibald Alexander Leach on January 18, 1904 in Bristol, England, he was an only child and did not have the most pleasant of childhoods. His mother, Elsie Maria Kingdon, suffered from depression and was placed in a mental institution.  Her son was told that she was on some kind of holiday and never learned the truth until he was in his thirties.

After being expelled from elementary school, the young Archie Leach joined the “Bob Pender stage troupe. He performed as a stilt walker and learned pantomime and acrobatics. The troupe travelled to the United States in 1920 when Archie was a mere 16 years old, embarking on a two-year tour of the country. When it was time for them to return to England, Leach opted to remain in the United States and pursue his stage career.

After achieving some success in light comedies on Broadway, he headed for Hollywood in 1931 where he signed with Paramount Pictures and changed his name to Cary Grant. As luck would have it, Mae West chose him to be her leading man in two of her most successful films, She Done Him Wrong and I’m No Angel (both 1933).

With his charming manner, the handsome Grant went on to achieve Hollywood stardom as a debonair leading man. Some of his other memorable films include Topper (1937), The Awful Truth (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Gunga Din (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), The Philadelphia Story (1940), The Talk of the Town (1942), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), An Affair to Remember (1957), and Charade (1963). A favourite of director Alfred Hitchcock, Grant was cast in several Hitchcock classics such as Suspicion (1941), Notorious (1946), To Catch a Thief (1955) and North by Northwest (1959).

Cary Grant was married five times and divorced four times – Virginia Cherrill (February 9, 1934 – March 26, 1935), Barbara Hutton (July 8, 1942 – August 30, 1945), Betsy Drake (December 25, 1949 – August 14, 1962), Dyan Cannon (July 22, 1965 – March 21, 1968) and Barbara Harris (April 11, 1981 until his death on November 29, 1986). On the subject of his many marriages, Grant remarked, “It seems that each new marriage is more difficult to survive than the last one. I’m rather a fool for punishment. I keep going back for more, don’t ask me why.”

Despite his five marriages, Grant had only one child. He and Dyan Cannon became the parents of a daughter, Jennifer, born on February 26, 1966 in Burbank, California. Cary was 62 years old when his daughter was born. Jennifer Grant, now 44 years old, is an actress.

Cary Grant died on November 29, 1986 in Davenport, Iowa. He suffered a stroke before performing in his one man show “An Evening with Cary Grant” at the Adler Theater in Davenport. He was 82 years old.

One final note: Cary Grant never uttered the phrase “Judy, Judy, Judy” in any of his films.


What gets wetter and wetter the more it dries?

ANSWER : A towel



The Toronto Blue Jays has acquired a new relief pitcher and potential closer. His name is Jon Rauch and he is a 32-year-old right hander. The Jays have signed him to a one-year deal for $3.5 million (U.S.) with an option for 2012 at $3.75 million. Rauch is coming off a 21-save season with the Minnesota Twins. At 6-foot-11, he is basketball height.

I am quite pleased about the signing of Jon Rauch. It gives the team more options and bolsters their bullpen. Frankly, I have had my doubts about Octavio Dotel. 

- Joanne

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Notorious Al Capone


Once in the racket you’re always in it.

- Al Capnne
In the Philadelphia Public Ledger, May 18, 1929

Today is the 112th anniversary of the birth of the notorious gangster Al Capone. He was born Alphonse Gabriel Capone in Brooklyn, New York on January 17, 1899, the fourth of nine children.  His father, Gabriele Capone, came from a small town near Naples. Gabriele was a pasta maker and later a lithographer in Italy. After immigrating to the United States in 1893, he became a barber.

The young Al Capone was expelled from school at the age of 14 for retaliating against a female teacher who had hit him. He never returned to school after that incident. In between scams, Capone worked at several odd jobs. He was employed as a clerk at a candy store, a pin setter at a bowling alley and a cutter in a book bindery. He joined the Five Points gang in Manhattan and worked as a bouncer and bartender at the Harvard Inn on Coney Island, a dance hall and saloon owned by gangster Frankie Yale.  It was there that his face was slashed during a fight and he acquired the scars that earned him the moniker “Scarface”. When photographed, he tried to hide the left side of his face. 

Al Capone disliked the nickname "Scarface" and said that his scars were the result of war wounds.  He much preferred his other nickname, "Snorky" because it meant "classy" or "high class"  Capone wanted to be regarded as a sharp dresser.  He spent much money on clothes and jewellery and considered himself to be a fashionable man of good taste.

In 1918, Capone met an Irish lass named Mary “Mae” Coughlin. Mae gave birth to their son Albert “Sonny” Francis Capone on Dec. 4, 1918. The couple were married on December 30, 1918. Since Al Capone was under the age of 21, his parents were required to sign a consent form in order for their son to wed.

While in his early twenties, Capone moved to Chicago and became increasingly involved in gang activities. On January 16, 1920, the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution had taken effect, outlawing the production, transportation and sale of alcohol. During Prohibition, The Windy City was rife with opportunity to make money smuggling illegal alcoholic beverages into town. From the early 1920s until 1931, Capone headed a crime syndicate dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging liquor. He also participated in various other criminal activities such as bribery of public officials and prostitution.

Al Capone’s influence and power grew to the point where he became a celebrity mobster.  His gang operated largely free of legal interference, setting up casinos and speakeasies throughout Chicago. Despite his illegal activities, Capone became a highly visible personality. He would say that he was just a businessman giving the people what they wanted. Capone gained infamy, however, when the public learned of his involvement in the bloody St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of February 14, 1929. Seven of Capone’s rival gang members were killed in a shootout at a garage in the Lincoln Park neighbourhood on Chicago’s North Side. Capone himself may have ordered the shootings. No one was ever brought to trial for the killings.

By 1929, however, Bureau of Prohibition agent Eliot Ness had begun an investigation of Capone and his activities. Although Ness attempted to get a a conviction for Prohibition violations, the government correctly decided that an investigation into the gangster's income tax violations was more likely to result in a conviction.

The jig was finally up for Al Capone when he was found guilty of tax evasion in 1931. He was given an 11-year sentence and heavy fines. The powerful mob boss was sent to a tough federal penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia in May of 1932. His time behind bars also included a stay at the infamous Alcatraz prison in California where he was incarcerated for 4 ½ years. He arrived at the island near San Francisco on August 22, 1934 with over 50 other convicts from the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary.

At Alcatraz, Al Capone was given no special privileges and he never saw the outside world. His tasks included sweeping the cell house and working in the laundry. He was placed in isolation for eight days after fighting with another convict in the recreation yard. While working in the prison basement, Capone was stabbed with a pair of shears by a fellow inmate waiting in line for a haircut.

During his time prison, Al Capone’s mental and physical health declined quickly due to the fact that he was suffering from syphilis. He had contracted the disease years ago, but had avoided treatment for it. Early in 1939, Capone was transferred to the Federal Correction Terminal Island in Southern California to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence. On January 25, 1947, he died in St. Louis, Missouri from cardiac arrest after suffering a stroke. At the time of his death, “Scarface” Capone was 48 years old.

- Joanne

Friday, January 14, 2011

Stephen Harper's True Calling



Deep in the bowels of a Conservative Party back room, Stephen Harper confers with his recently-appointed Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright. The prime minister is pacing the floor, clearly troubled. Nigel Wright addresses him.

NW: What’s the matter, boss? You seem agitated. Something bothering you?

SH: Nigel, I have to talk to someone or I’m going to burst. I can’t hold this in any longer.

NW: Okay, pull up a chair and tell me what’s up.

(Stephen Harper sits down slowly)

SH: What I’m going to say is going to shock you. After all these years in politics and after all these years of upholding conservative principles, I have found my true calling. At the age of 51, I have found my true calling. If I had only known sooner . . . (He holds back tears.) Sorry, Nigel. Give me a minute to compose myself. Tory men can not cry. It’s against the code. I’m counting on you not to let this get out.

NW: (Hands Stephen Harper a glass of water) With all due respect, sir, what do you mean when you say you’ve found your true calling? You’re Prime Minister of Canada. Isn’t that your true calling?

SH: (Sips some water) When I was younger, I wanted to be a famous economist. Then I became involved in politics. Now don’t get me wrong, Nigel, I really love politics. I love crushing Liberals, Dippers and leftist Torontonians. But I’ve discovered something that gives me even more satisfaction.

NW: What could possibly give you more satisfaction than stomping on Liberals or winning a majority government? I can’t imagine . . .

SH: Neither could I, Nigel, until it happened. I’ll never forget the thrill I felt when I sang “With a Little Help from My Friends".  I let loose in a way I’ve never done before. The adrenaline flowed. I was in the clouds . . .

NW: But sir, you can’t be serious . . . Have you taken leave of your senses?

SH: Listen to me, Nigel! I thought maybe I had experienced just one magical night. But then I performed again and I felt the same way. Nigel, I want to be a rock star. I want to feel the excitement of singing before an audience. I want to hear the applause.

NW: This is crazy, Prime Minister. It really is. Is this some kind of prank? Are you playing a joke on me? It’s not April Fool’s Day, you know.

SH: No, Nigel! This is my calling. I even have the right name for a singing star – Steven Tyler, Steve Miller, Steve Winwood, Stevie Wonder, Stephen Harper . . .

NW: (Throws up his hands and shakes his head) No! No! No! You can’t be serious! You must be going middle age crazy.

SH: Just listen to me for a minute, Nigel. I’m not too old to be a star. I’m younger than Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart and Elton John and Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney and Tom Jones and John Mellencamp and Randy Bachman and Robert Plant and . . .

NW: Okay! Okay! I get your point. But they started out long before they were 51.

SH: Don’t try to discourage me, Nigel. I’ve made up my mind. I’ve even thought about a name for my band. How about The Harperites? No, maybe The Blue Tories sounds better. What about Stephen and the MPs?

NW: Please, boss, stop this!

SH: I can’t, Nigel. The press always says that I lack charisma. Well, I’m tired of being charisma-challenged. When I’m at that piano, I feel charged like a battery. My charisma is earth-shattering. No more Stephen Harper the politician. From now on, it’s Stephen Harper the rock star.

NW: But sir, your party needs you. What about the election? It’s definitely coming soon. Are you going to just stand back and let Iggy get the upper hand? What about the Canadian people? They need their leader. Who will build more jails? Who will make sure that the long-form census is really dead? Who will buy more fighter planes?

SH: Yes, I know. I’ll be sorely missed, but it’s time for me to move on. Don’t worry, Nigel. I’ll leave the country in capable hands.

NW: Have you told your wife Laureen about this yet?

SH: No, I haven’t. That’s why I’m so worried.


I invite you to send interesting and funny photographs to me and I will publish some of them as my Page 16 Feature Photo.  I will not use your name if you do not want me to.  Just e-mail your photos to

Thursday, January 13, 2011

James Joyce and genius


A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

- James Joyce
From Ulysses [1922]
James Joyce, Ireland’s great novelist and poet, died in Zurich, Switzerland on January 13, 1941. He passed away 70 years ago today at the age of 58. He is widely known for his great landmark novel Ulysses (1922). His other major works include the short-story anthology Dubliners (1914) and his 1916 novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Although Joyce lived most of his adult life outside of Ireland, his Dublin birthplace remained ensconced in his soul. His experiences in Dublin were at the core of his works and provided all the settings for his stories. Soon after the publication of his masterpiece Ulysses, Joyce explained his preoccupation with his hometown. He declared, “For myself, I always write about Dublin, because if I can get to the heart of Dublin I can get to the heart of all the cities of the world. In the particular is contained the universal.”

James Joyce was undoubtedly a literary genius. The theme of today’s musings is genius. Here are some quotations on the subject.

Genius . . . is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one, and where the man of talent sees two or three, plus the ability to register that multiple perception in the material of his art.

- Ezra Pound
From Jefferson and/or Mussolini [1935]

It’s not fun being a genius. It’s torture.

- John Lennon
Interview for Rolling Stone magazine in 1970

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

- Jonathan Swift
From Thoughts on Various Subjects [1711]

Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.

- Thomas Alva Edison
Harper’s Monthly Magazine, September 1932

I have nothing to declare except my genius.

- Oscar Wilde
From Frank Harris, Oscar Wilde [1918]

Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.

- William Blake
From Proverbs of Hell


On January 13, 1968, Winnipeg-born Bill Masterton of the Minnesota North Stars was checked into the boards during an NHL game between the North Stars and the Oakland Seals at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minnesota. His injuries were so extensive that doctors were unable to perform surgery. After suffering a massive brain hemorrhage, he died two days later on January 15, 1968.

In the late 1960s, helmets were rarely worn in the National Hockey League. As a result of Masterton’s death, the movement for players to wear helmets gained considerable momentum. It wasn’t until 1979, however, that helmets were made mandatory for players entering the NHL in that season onward. How sad that it took the death of a player to help accomplish that goal!

It’s interesting to note that both teams in that fateful game 43 years ago are now defunct. The North Stars left Minnesota for Texas in 1993 and became the Dallas Stars. The Seals played their final game on April 4, 1976. The club was moved to Cleveland and was renamed the Cleveland Barons.

To watch a video on the history of the Oakland-California Golden Seals, click on the link below.

The Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy s awarded annually to the NHL player who best displays the qualities of perseverance, dedication and good sportsmanship. The winner is chosen by a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.



I am very pleased that Roberto Alomar is going to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as a Blue Jay. Alomar has expressed his preference to go into the Hall of Fame wearing a Blue Jay cap. A week ago, the Hall confirmed Robbie’s choice. He will indeed be the first inductee to wear the colours of the Toronto Blue Jays.

To watch an interview with Alomar talking about his years as a Blue Jay and his selection to the Hall of Fame, click on the link below.

- Joanne

Tuesday, January 11, 2011



This day should be a special day for all Canadians. In few other countries would a national hero be so neglected. In comparing Macdonald to Washington it is probably safe to say that Sir John played a greater role in forging the Canadian nation-state than Washington did in determining the nature of his United States. In addition, Macdonald was the more interesting personality.

- John Turner, 17th Prime Minister of Canada
Orillia Museum of Art and History annual Macdonald birthday dinner, January 11, 2008

Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, was born in Scotland, on January 11, 1815. Although January 10 is the date recorded in the General Register Office in Edinburgh, January 11th is the day that Macdonald and those who remember him have celebrated his birthday.

As former Prime Minister John Turner pointed out so eloquently in his speech at Maconald's bithday dinner, Sir John is neglected in his own country.  The architect of the Canadian Confederation does not get the recognition he deserves. In fact, there is a woeful ignorance among Canadians about Sir John A.  In the lead-up to Macdonald's 194th birth anniversary in 2008, a Dominion Institute poll found that more than two in five Canadians (42%) could not identify Macdonald as the country's first prime minister.

It’s quite likely that more school children in Canada can identify George Washington than John A. Macdonald.  A far greater number are able to recognize Ronald MacDonald than our first prime minister.  History lover that I am, I made certain my nephew and niece were able to identify the name “John A. Macdonald” at an early age. I showed them a ten dollar bill with Sir John A.’s portrait on it and explained to them who he was.

In honour of the 196th anniversary of Sir John A.’s birth, Number 16 presents a quiz of ten questions about our first prime minister. Test yourself and see how much you really know about him.


1. What does the “A” in Macdonald’s middle name stand for?

A. Albert

B. Alexander

C. Andrew

D. Anthony

E. Aloysius

2. Where was Sir John A. born?

A. St. Andrews, Scotland

B. Edinburgh, Scotland

C. Glasgow, Scotland

D. Dundee, Scotland

E. Aberdeen Scotland

3. Sir John A.’s son, Hugh John Macdonald, was premier of which province for a brief period in the year 1900?

A. Manitoba

B. Ontario

C. Alberta

D. Nova Scotia

E. British Columbia

4. What was Sir John A.’s occupation in Kingston, Ontario?

A. Journalist

B. Librarian

C. Professor

D. Lawyer

E. Newspaper publisher

5. Sir John A.’s nickname was

A. Kingston Johnny

B. Old Tomorrow

C. Johnny Canuck

D. Canada’s Father

E. Mr. Confederation

6. Sir John’s A.’s daughter, Mary Margaret (born 1869), had an affliction. What was it?

A. Polio

B. Blindness

C. Kidney disease

D. Heart condition

E. Hydrocephaly

7. How many majority governments did Macdonald win during his political career?

A. Six

B. None. He only had minority governments.

C. Four

D. Three

E. One

8. Sir John A. had a weakness for

A. Women

B. Bad jokes

C. Alcohol

D. Cocaine

E. Gambling

9. Macdonald’s first wife Isabella Clark

A. Drowned in 1855

B. Was an invalid and died in 1856

C. Was run over by a horse and carriage and died

D. Died in childbirth in 1856

E. Died of tuberculosis

10. What was the name given to Sir John A’s economic program in which he called for an increase in immigration to Western Canada, the building of a railway to the West and high tariffs on imported manufactured goods to protect Canadian industry? (This is a bonus question. Give yourself an extra point if you get the correct answer.)

A. The Canada First Policy

B. The National Policy

C. The Macdonald Program

D. The Canadian Economic Policy

E. The Canadian Settlement Program

1.   B.  Alexander
2.  C.  Glasgow, Scotland
3.  A.  Manitoba
4.  D.  Lawyer (Sir John A. became a lawyer in 1836.  He remained in the practice of law with a series of partners, in Kingston until 1874 and then in Toronto.  His firm was involved mainly in commercial law and his clients were businessmen or corporations.)
5.  B.  Old Tomorrow (Sir John A. was affectionately dubbed "Old Tomorrow" due to his habit of procrastinating.)
6.  E.  Hydrocephaly (A condition characterized by an abnormal amount of fluid in the cranium, especially in young children, causing enlargement of the head and deterioration of the brain.  It leads to both mental and physical disabilities)  Note: Mary, who died in 1933, was the only child of Sir John A. and his second wife, Susan Agnes Bernard, known as Agnes.  Macdonald and his first wife, Isabella, had two children: a son, John, who died suddenly at 13 months and a second son, Hugh John (born 1850, died 1929 at the age of 79).
7.  A.  Six
8.  C.  Alcohol 
9.  B.  Isabella was an invalid and died in 1856.  Sir John A. remarried in 1867, the year of Confederation.

10.  B.  The National Policy

ON THIS DAY : Walla Walla and Sweet Onions

The city of Walla Walla, Washington was incorporated on January 11, 1862.  Happy 149th anniversary, Walla Walla, from Number 16.

Did you know that Walla Walla is famous for sweet onions and that they are called Walla Walla Sweet Onions?  Over a century ago, on the Island of Corsica (off the West Coast of Italy), a French soldier named Peter Pieri found an Italian sweet onion seed.  He brought the onion seed to the Walla Walla Valley.  The sweet onion was cultivated and developed there over several generations.  Its sweetness comes from its low sulphur content.  Walla Walla Sweets are 90 per cent water.  Walla Walla has a mild climate and rich soil.

I’ve always liked the name “Walla Walla” because it sounds quite quirky. I’m very amused by the alliteration of the three “W”s in Walla Walla, Washington. Walla Walla is actually a Native American name meaning “Place of Many Waters”. Residents of the town describe it as “the town so nice they named it twice.”

Although Adam West of Batman fame was born in Seattle, Washington, he grew up in Walla Walla. He attended Walla Wall High School and later received a degree in Literature and Psychology from the city’s Whitman College.

The population of Walla Walla is only 31,350 (2008 estimate, Washington State Office of Financial Management).


I invite my readers to e-mail interesting and funny photos to me and I will publish them as the Number 16 Featrure Photo. I will not use your name if you do not wish to be identified.  Send photos to

- Joanne

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Gabrielle Giffords shooting proves United States needs stricter gun control


On Saturday, another horrific shooting spree occurred in the United States. An American Congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, 40, of Arizona, was shot in the head. She is expected to survive but her life hangs in the balance. Six people were killed in the rampage, including a federal judge, an aide to Representative Giffords and a nine-year-old girl. The tragedy happened at a political event held by Giffords outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson.

The gunman was tackled to the ground and apprehended. He is 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, a political radical with a troubled past. Loughner was charged today with two counts of first degree murder, two counts of attempted murder and the attempted murder of a congress member.

Jared Loughner is obviously a deranged individual. Last September, he was suspended from Pima Community College for posting a video on YouTube in which he ranted against the college. His parents were contacted about the suspension and informed that in order to be reinstated their son would have to “obtain a mental health clearance indicating , in the opinion of a mental health professional, his presence at the College does not present a danger to himself or others.” Six weeks later, Jared Loughner purchased the gun he would use in the shooting.

Why was this mentally unbalanced young man permitted to purchase a gun? There were red flags everywhere about Loughner ‘s mental stability. A background check should have uncovered the fact that he was not fit to own a weapon. How many tragedies will it take for Americans to wake up to the realization that their gun control laws need to be far stricter? How many innocent people will have to die?  How many more Columbines will there need to be? How many more Jim Bradys or Gabrielle Giffords will have to pay the price for America’s lax attitude toward gun ownership.

Unfortunately, the signs are not good. In an article in yesterday’s New York Daily News by James Gordon Meek, it was reported that Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting has led some lawmakers to declare that they’ll carry weapons to protect themselves. Reps. Jason Chaffetz and Rep Heath Shuler were named.

These lawmakers just don’t get it. They continue to ignore the root cause of the problem. They don’t seem to understand this simple truth; there are already far too many guns in the United States and guns are far too easy to acquire. Instead of calling for more stringent gun control laws, Chaffetz and Shuler talk about carrying weapons themselves.

The proliferation of guns will only lead to more tragedies such as the one in Tucson, Arizona.  A vast arsenal of easily acquired firearms is a recipe for unmitigated disaster.  It increases the chances that tthe weapons will fall into the hands of a violent or mentally unbalanced person.   A lack of gun control means that guns are more likely to be procured by the Jared Loughners of this world.

Where is the American politician who will stand up for gun control? Are U.S. public officials so intimidated by the National Rifle Association that they are afraid to do the right thing? Are there any courageous leaders in the U.S. who will advocate stricter gun control in the wake of the Tucson tragedy?  Gabrielle Giffords herself has opposed gun control.  If she recovers her health, perhaps she will she change her mind and lend her support to the cause of gun control.  I'm not expecting that to happen.  Nevertheless, I would like to remind Americans that Gabrielle would not be lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life if her attacker had been prohibited from buying a gun.

- Joanne

Saturday, January 8, 2011



Hey Sixteeners, do you have some interesting or funny photos you would like to share with other readers? Please e-mail them to me at and I will select some of them to publish as my Number 16 Feature Photo.  I will not use your name unless you ask me to credit you.

- Joanne

Friday, January 7, 2011

Stephen Leacock and Humour

Humour in a world of waning beliefs remains like Hope still left at the bottom of Pandora’s box when all the evils of the Gods flew out from it upon the world.

- Stephen Leacock
Humour: Its Theory and Technique (1935)

Would you expect a Canadian economist to become one of the English-speaking world’s great humorists? Well, Stephen Leacock did exactly that. After the death of Mark Twain in 1910, this professor of economics and political science became the most popular writer of English-language humour on the planet.

Stephen Butler Leacock was born at Swanmore, England on December 30, 1869. He came to Canada at the age of six with his family and was raised on a farm near Sutton, Ontario, south of Lake Simcoe. Leacock’s father, Peter, was an abusive alcoholic. He eventually abandoned the family, leaving his wife Agnes to raise their eleven children.

After studying economics and political science at the University of Toronto and the University of Chicago, Stephen Leacock obtained his PhD in 1903. That same year, he joined the department of economics and political science at McGill University in Montreal. Leacock rose quickly in the ranks at McGill and became department head. He remained in that position for 33 years, until his retirement in 1936.

On August 7, 1900, Stephen Leacock married actress Beatrix (Trix) Hamilton. Trix was a niece of Sir Henry Pellatt, the man who built Toronto’s Casa Loma, the largest castle in North America. Leacock and his wife had one son, Stephen Lushington “Stevie” Leacock, born on August 19, 1915. Trix died of breast cancer on December 15, 1925 and Stephen was left to raise the ten-year-old boy. Born with a lack of growth hormones, Stevie was very small in stature, looked much younger than his age, and was a constant source of worry for his father.

Stephen Leacock was a prolific writer and he produced a great deal of non-fiction material. He is best known, however, for his humorous fiction. Literary Lapses, published in 1910, was his first collection of humorous stories. Leacock’s masterpiece was Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912) in which he affectionately satirized the customs and behaviour of the people of a small town in Ontario. Although Leacock called the fictional town “Mariposa,” it was a thinly-disguised model of Orillia, Ontario.

In addition to his many essays and academic works, Stephen Leacock wrote popular biographies of his two favourite authors: Mark Twain (1932)  and Charles Dieckens: His Life and Work (1933).  Yet, it was Leacock's very first book that proved to be his most profitable.  Elements of Political Science (1912), a university textbook, was translated into seventeen languages.

Stephen Leacock died of throat cancer in Toronto on March 28, 1944. He was 74 years old at the time of his death and was survived by his son, Stevie, who died in his fifties.  As a tribute to the great Canadian humorist, the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour was established in 1947. It is presented annually to the best book of humour written in English by a Canadian writer.

During my years working at the library of the Toronto Star, I became acquainted with two winners of the Leacock Award – the Star’s late humour columnist, Gary Lautens and another long-time columnist, Joey Slinger. Gary, who died in 1992, won the award twice and was such an admirer of Stephen Leacock that he named his first-born son “Stephen”.

If you are in the Orillia area, I strongly suggest that you visit the Stephen Leacock Museum and National Historic Site. It was Leacock’s summer home and is situated on the shores of Lake Couchiching. Stephen Leacock found peace and comfort there and did much of his writing in the study overlooking the lake. The house was built in 1928 on the banks of Old Brewery Bay. I have visited the Leacock home twice and enjoyed it immensely. After touring the house, you can eat at an outdoor cafe there and wander out to the boathouse.

To view a website containing information and photos of the Leacock home, click on the link below.

To view a CBC archival site and listen to the voice of Stephen Leacock reading, click on the link below.

- Joanne

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Random thoughts on a January 6th



Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

- Theodore Roosevelt
Speech before the Hamilton Club, Chicago [April 10, 1899]

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, passed away 92 years ago today, on January 6, 1919. He died at Sagamore Hill, his mother’s estate overlooking New York’s Long Island Sound. He was 60 years old.

Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901 upon the assassination of William McKinley. He was only 42 years of age at the time, making him the youngest person ever to hold the office of U.S. president. John F. Kennedy was 43 years old when he became president in 1961, making him the youngest person ever to be elected president.


Today is the feast of the Epiphany. It is the celebration of the coming of the Three Wise Men or Magi to Bethlehem. According to the Bible, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child. We all know what gold is, of course, but what are frankincense and myrrh?

Frankincense is an aromatic gum resin obtained in African and Arabian trees. It is used primarily as incense and in perfumes. It is thought to have medicinal properties and a calming effect. In the ancient world, it was used to treat depression. Ancient peoples burned frankincense in the belief that it carried their prayers to heaven.

Myrrh is also a resin, produced by small trees that grow in North Africa and in the Red Sea region. It has powerful antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. The Chinese used it for hundreds of years to treat wounds, bruises and painful swelling. “Myrrh” is an Arabic word meaning “bitter".


On January 6, 1912, New Mexico became the 47th U.S. state - 99 years ago today.  Congratulations to all New Mexicans and a warm greeting to you from Number 16.

Here are a few facts about the state of New Mexico..

* New Mexico’s nickname is the “Land of Enchantment” and this legend first appeared on New Mexico licence plates in 1941. It did not become the state’s official nickname until April 8, 1999.

* “New Mexico” is the English version of “Nuevo Mexico", the Spanish name for the Upper Rio Grande. “Mexico” is an Aztec spelling and it means “place of Mexitili,” one of the Aztec gods.

* According to the United States Census Bureau (2009 estimate), the population of New Mexico is 2,009,671, a smaller population than my home city of Toronto, Canada.

* The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 45.6% of New Mexico’s population is of Latin or Hispanic origin. That compares to 15.8% in the USA as a whole.



Congratulations to former Toronto Blue Jay Roberto Alomar for being voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. He was chosen on 90% of the ballots.

Robbie deserves this honour. He was one of the best second basemen who ever played the game. I just hope he enters the Hall as a Toronto Blue Jay. Yes, I know I’m biased. I truly believe, however, that Alomar had the finest years of his career while playing here in Toronto.


What a disappointment! What a monumental collapse! Although some might say “choke", I think “collapse” is the best word to describe what happened to Team Canada in its gold medal game against Russia in the World Junior Hockey Championship. Team Canada had a fairly comfortable 3-0 lead when the wheels fell off and the flood gates opened. The Russians scored five unanswered goals in the third period to win by a score of 5-3. For Canadian fans, it was painful to watch. It was one of Canada’s worst collapses in international hockey.

The highly partisan crowd of Canadian fans in Buffalo, New York were in a happy, celebratory mood as Team Canada cruised along with a 3-0 lead. They were shocked at how fast that lead dissipated. I certainly won’t take anything away from the Russians. I believe in giving credit where credit is due. It’s just that I can’t believe what happened. I’m still scratching my head.

- Joanne

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tribute to T.S. Eliot


I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.

- T.S. Eliot
From The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock [1917] 
What a magnificent line of poetry! I remember when I studied The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in high school. My teacher stated that he wished he had written those words. Alas, not everyone can be a T.S. Eliot.

The influential poet, playwright and Nobel laureate, Thomas Stearns Eliot, passed away 46 years ago today. He died in London, England on January 4, 1965 at the age of 76. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was the poem that established Eliot`s reputation. Prufrock was published initially by Poetry magazine in Chicago in 1915. It was then published as part of a small book entitled Prufrock and Other Observations in 1917.

Eliot followed Prufrock with some of the most acclaimed poems in the English language, including Gerontion (1920) The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Ash Wednesday (1930), and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935) which is generally considered to be his finest drama. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.

Born in St. Louis, Missouri on September 26, 1888, T.S. Eliot was the son of a businessman. He was educated at Harvard, University and then studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1914, he won a scholarship to Oxford University. In 1927, at the age of 39, he became a British citizen and converted to the Anglican Church. On the subject of becoming a British citizen, Eliot said that "My mind may be American but my heart is British."

To listen to T.S. Eliot reading The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, click on the link below.


On the same day as T.S. Eliot’s death , 45 years ago, U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson made his State of the Union Address to Americans and the world and proposed his "Great Society" program. Here are some excerpts from LBJ`s speech. Considering that we have suffered through the Great Recession, it makes interesting reading. It is also interesting to note what good shape the U.S. economy was in 45 years ago. So, let us go back to 1965 and read the words of LBJ.

World affairs will continue to call upon our energy and our courage.

But today we can turn increased attention to the character of American life.

Our flourishing progress has been marked by price stability that is unequalled in the world. Our balance of payments deficit has declined and the soundness of our dollar is unquestioned. I pledge to keep it that way and I urge business and labour to cooperate to that end.

We worked for two centuries to climb this peak of prosperity. But we are only at the beginning of the road to the Great Society. Ahead now is a summit where freedom from the wants of the body can help fulfill the needs of the spirit.

We built this Nation to serve its people.

We want to grow and build and create, but we want progress to be the servant and not the master of man.

We do not intend to live in the midst of abundance, isolated from neighbours and nature, confined by blighted cities and bleak suburbs, stunted by a poverty of learning and an emptiness of leisure. The Great Society asks not how much, but how good; not only how to create wealth but how to use it; not only how fast we are going, but where we are headed.

But we must remember that fear of a recession can contribute to the fact of a recession. The knowledge that our Government will, and can, move swiftly will strengthen the confidence of investors and business.

We can help insure continued prosperity through:

• a regional recovery program to assist the development of stricken areas left behind by our national progress;
• further efforts to provide our workers with the skills demanded by modern technology, for the labouring-man is an indispensable force in the American system;

• the extension of the minimum wage to more than 2 million unprotected workers;

• the improvement and the modernization of the unemployment compensation system.


Regular readers will know that I am an avid movie fan. Although I watch many films on DVD and on television, I still prefer viewing movies on the big screen at a theatre. However, I am becoming increasingly annoyed with the number of commercials I am often forced to sit through at Cineplex theatres. Moviegoers who go to the cinema on busy nights frequently have to enter the theatre a half hour or more prior to the actual showing of the film or risk sitting in the front row and straining their necks. That means enduring numerous ads. During the last film I attended, I must have been bombarded with 35 minutes of advertising. By the time the movie started, my mind was somewhat addled by all those ads.

Filmgoers pay good money to watch a first-run film and Cineplex charges exorbitant prices for snacks at its concession stands. Given all that, why should we have to endure a seemingly endless series of mindless commercials? It isn’t fair and I strongly resent it!  If you live in the Toronto area, I suggest that you go to the Carlton Theatre at Yonge and College Streets or the Kingsway Theatre at 3030 Bloor St. West. I attend films at those theatres and the number of ads there are minimal.

When commercials first appeared at movie theatres, I recall that audiences booed. Now we seem to be resigned to them and we watch them like zombies. As a result, Cineplex et al have sneakily increased the number of ads before a film. Movie lovers, I submit that this is unacceptable. There are alternatives and we should search for them. Furthermore, we should express our dissatisfaction to Cineplex-Odeon. At the very least, they won’t think we are so obsequious and accepting.

By the way, whatever happened to watching cartoons and short films before the feature attraction? If only we could see Bugs Bunny of Daffy Duck cartoons prior the screening of a film . . .



Oh happy day! We’re going for gold! Yes, indeed, Team Canada will be playing the Russians for a gold medal in the World Junior Hockey Championship tomorrow in Buffalo, New York. Our guys (I admit a strong bias) defeated Team USA last night by a score of 4-1. The Americans were the home team, but if you weren’t aware that the game was being played in the United States, you would have thought that Canada was the home team. The arena was awash in the colour red and with Maple Leaf flags and sweaters. A great many Canucks made the trek south of the border.

- Joanne

Monday, January 3, 2011

J.R.R. Tolkien and The Hobbit


In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

- J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit [1937], Chapter 1
Today marks the 119th anniversary of the birth of J.R.R. Tolkien. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892 in Bloemfontein in the Orange Free State (now Free State Province, South Africa). He was an English writer, poet, philologist and Oxford University academic. Tolkien is renowned as the author of classic fantasy literature. His most famous works are The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillon.

“Ronald” Tolkien was a brilliant scholar of the English language and he specialized in Old and Middle English. In 1925 he became the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at the University of Oxford. He changed his chair in 1945 to Merton Professor of English Language and Literature, a position he held until his retirement in 1959.

One day, according to Tolkien’s own account, he was engaged in the task of grading examination papers when he discovered that one student had left a blank page. On this empty page, he proceeded to write, “In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” Those words led to a myriad of questions. Tolkien needed to figure out what sort of creature a hobbit was and why it lived in such a hole. In his search for answers, he created a tale that he told to his younger children. Tolkien’s story was published as The Hobbit in 1937.

J.R.R. Tolkien was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on March 28, 1972. He died on September 2, 1973 at Bournemouth, England. Ronald and his wife, Edith, had moved to Bournemouth upon his retirement in 1959. The master of fantasy literature was 81 years old at the time of his death.


What word in the English language has three sets of double letters? The answer is “bookkeeper.”


What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?




Team Canada continued its quest for gold with a 4-1 victory over Switzerland yesterday in the quarter-final of the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, New York. Today they face a tough test against the defending champions, Team USA. It should be an exciting game.


The battered and injury-laden Toronto Raptors tried gamely to compete against the Boston Celtics at the Air Canada Centre last night. The Celtics were just too much for them and they went down to defeat by a score of 93-79.

- Joanne