Friday, April 29, 2011

Reflections on the Royal Wedding and Royal Trivia

FRIDAY, APRIL 29, 2011

Today was a historic day for the British monarchy.  Millions of bleary-eyed people in North America and elsewhere woke up early to view the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  They revelled in the pomp and ceremony of a royal wedding and they engaged in some serious celebrity watching.  In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron, he of the severe cutbacks, allowed everyone a day off, a distraction from harsh economic realities.  Yes, it was definitely bread and circuses.  Nevertheless, after a Great Recession, a nightmarish tsunami/nuclear disaster in Japan and unrest in the Arab world, such a distraction was welcomed by many people.
It was rather petty not to invite Tony Blair to the wedding.  He played such a big role at Diana’s funeral.  There are not very many living former British Prime Ministers, only four.  They should have all been invited – not just Margaret Thatcher and John Major.  The fourth one is Gordon Brown.
There are, of course, no guarantees of marital bliss, but this couple appears quite comfortable with each other.  I couldn’t help but notice the little glances of understanding they gave one another.  It would seem that this union has a bar better chance of succeeding than the ill-fated one of William’s parents, Charles and Diana.  By the way, though, Charles and Di did start the tradition of the kiss on the balcony.
On the day of the royal wedding, Number 16 presents some great royal trivia.


Catherine Elizabeth “Kate” Middleton was born on January 9, 1982.  She was 29 years old when she and Prince William took their vows at Westminster Abbey today.  William and Kate will now be known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  When William ascends the throne, Kate will become the sixth queen consort in British history named Catherine.  The list includes Catherine Valois (1401-1437), daughter of Charles VI of France, wife of Henry V of England; three of the six wives of Henry VIII - Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536), Catherine Howard (died 1542) and Catherine Parr (died 1548) - and Catherine of Braganza (1638-1705), the Portuguese Catholic wife of Charles II.
It’s a good thing William didn’t marry Kate’s younger sister, Pippa Middleton.  Queen Pippa just doesn’t sound regal, does it?  Actually, Pippa is just a nickname.  Philippa is her formal name.


Charles and Diana

William’s father, Prince Charles, married Lady Diana Spencer on July 29, 1981 at Saint Paul’s Cathedral.  Diana, born July 1, 1961, was only 19 years old when she wed the 32-year-old Charles.  The couple formally separated in December of 1992 and divorced in 1996.  Diana died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. 

On April 9, 2005, Prince Charles married Camllla Parker Bowles in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall.  This was followed by a Church of England service of blessing at St. George’s Chapel.  Upon their marriage, Camilla was given the title of the Duchess of Cornwall. 
Born July 17, 1947, Camilla is slightly older than Charles (born November 14, 1948.  At the time of their wedding, Camilla was 57 years old and Charles was 56.  When ascends the throne, Charles will be the first divorced British monarch since King Henry VIII.  He is the longest-serving heir apparent in British history, recently overtaking the record of the son of Queen Victoria.  When Victoria died on January 22, 1901 at the age of 81, her son, Prince Albert Edward, became King Edward VII at the age of 59.  Edward VII reigned until his death on May 6, 1910 at 68 years old.


Elizabeth and Philip

Queen Elizabeth II (reigning monarch since 1952) was born on April 21, 1926. On November 20, 1947 at the age of 21, she married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark at Westminster Abbey. At the time of her marriage, she was known as Princess Elizabeth. Just before the wedding, 26-year-old Philip was given the title of Duke of Edinburgh. 


Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon on wedding day

Prince Albert, Duke of York (the future George VI) married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon at Westminster Abbey on April 26, 1923.  Born August 4, 1900, Lady Elizabeth was 22 years old at the time of her wedding to Albert (known as Bertie.)   Upon their marriage, she became the Duchess of York.
The shy, stuttering Bertie unexpectedly became king when his older brother, Edward VII abdicated to marry the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson in 1936.  Bertie became King George VI and Elizabeth became the queen consort.  George VI reigned until his premature death on February 15, 1952.  Widowed at the age of 51, Elizabeth she took on the title of Queen Mother when her eldest daughter became Elizabeth II.  The Queen Mother died on April 2, 2002 at the ripe old age of 101.

Prince George, Duke of York (son of Edward VII, grandson of Queen Victoria), found himself second in line to the throne when elder brother, Albert Victor (known to the family as Eddy), died of pneumonia on January 14, 1892.  Albert Victor had passed away only six weeks after his formal engagement to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (known as “May”) in November of 1891. 
In their shared bereavement, George became close to May.  A year after his brother’s death, he proposed to her.  With the approval of Queen Victoria, they married on July 6, 1893 at the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace in London.  Born May 26, 1867, the bride was 26 years of age (considered quite old for a bride of that era).  The future KIng George V was 28.
After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, George and his wife became the Prince and Princess of Wales.  On May 6, 1910, George’s father, King Edward VII, died.  George ascended the throne as George V and Victoria Mary of Teck became the queen consort.  When the new king noticed that she signed her name “Victoria Mary,” he requested that she drop one of the names.  She chose to be called Queen Mary, preferring not to have the same name as George’s grandmother, Queen Victoria. 
George V reigned until his death on January 20, 1936 and his widow officially became the Queen Mother, although she did not use that title.  She was referred to as Her Majesty, Queen Mary.  It is interesting to note that for a brief time after the death of Mary’s son, George VI in 1952, Britain had three generations of living queens.  There was the new reigning monarch, 25-year-old Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother Elizabeth and Queen Mary.  Queen Mary died on March 24, 1953 at the age of 85. 


Edward and Alexandra in 1863

Prince Albert Edward, son of Queen Victoria, married Princess Alexandra of Denmark at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on March 10, 1863.  Albert Edward (known as Bertie) was 21 and Princess Alexandra was 18.  After their marriage, Alexandra became the Prince and Princess of Wales.  When Bertie became king in 1901, he chose to be called Edward rather than Albert Edward as his mother had wanted.  After Edward VII’s death in 1910, Queen Alexandra lived another 15 years.  She died at Sandringham House on November 20, 1925 at the age of 80.

Queen Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, on February 10, 1840 in the Chapel Royal of St. James Palace.  Victoria was 20 years of age, as was Albert.  The tradition of a white wedding is commonly attributed to Queen Victoria who wore a white dress at her wedding.  She decided to wear a white gown in order to incorporate some lace she possessed.  The wedding portrait was widely published and many brides chose imitate her.

The British government has begun the process of reviewing the ancient rules of royal succession.  It’s about time!  The rules are antiquated and discriminatory.  British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg declared that the current practice of putting male children ahead of their sisters “would strike most people as a little old-fashioned.”  I would go much further than that and used the word “archaic.”  If the first-born child of William and Kate is female, there is no reason in the world why she shouldn’t inherit the throne.  Three of the greatest British monarchs have been women – Elizabeth I, Victoria and Elizabeth II.  Their reigns have been long and successful. 
The 1931 Statute of Westminster stipulates that no change can be made without the agreement of all the 16 Commonwealth realms, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica.  Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is cool to changing the rules.  Harper told the Vancouver Sun that he doesn’t think Canadians “want to open a debate on the monarchy or constitutional matters at this time.  He said, “That’s our position and I just don’t see that as a priority for Canadians right now, at all.”  Harper also stressed that the next to people in line to the throne, Prince Charles and Prince William were both men.
Keith Vaz, the British Member of Parliament for Leicester East, has introduced a draft law to Parliament which would allow female offspring equal rights to the Crown.  Vaz is very critical of Stephen Harper’s position.  He said, “I am disappointed in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s response to the debate over succession.  The question of whether women should have equal rights to become heir to the throne is a very important one, based on the fundamental principle of gender equality.  Canadians must be given a chance to discuss it.”
Vaz’s Succession Bill will be read for a second time in the British House of Commons on May 13.  Other constitutional monarchies have gotten rid of preference for males in their succession laws.  These include Sweden in 1980, the Netherlands in 1983, Norway in 1990 and Belgium in 1991.  Britain, Spain, Japan, Monaco and Luxembourg continue to maintain male preference in their rules of succession, known as “primogeniture.”

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, primogeniture is “an exclusive right of inheritance belonging to the eldest son.  It is derived from the Latin “primus” (first) and “genitura” (birth).

Congratulations to Canada’s Patrick Chan for his magnificent performance at the World Figure Skating Championships in Moscow.  The skater from Toronto captured the gold medal and he was really dominant, setting a record in his short program with an amazing score of 93.02.  With the hockey playoffs in full swing, Chan is not getting the attention he deserves.  If he were a hockey player or a baseball player, he would be the toast of the town. 
- Joanne

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Salute to England and the English on St. George's Day: Tea and Crumpets Anyone?


There’ll always be and England
While there’s a country lane
Whenever there’s a cottage small
Beside a field of grain.

- From the 1939 song “There’ll Always be an England

April 23 is a day that belongs to England and to the English. It is the feast of St. George, the dragon slayer, who is the patron saint of England. It is also the birthday of William Shakespeare, England’s greatest writer, who was born in Stratford-upon--Avon in 1564.

St. George slaying the dragon; painting by Gustave Moreau

I have visited England twice in my life. I’ve been to London, Stratford and Bath and I’ve taken a bus ride through the rolling Cotswolds Hills in west-central England. The Cotswolds are very picturesque and are sometimes referred to as the “Heart of England.” George Harrison of Beatles fame had a home there at Henley-On-Thames. On December 30, 1999, an intruder broke into Harrison`s Oxfordshire mansion and stabbed him and his wife, Olivia. They both survived the attack.

The beautiful Cotswolds

There is a great deal of England that I have not seen. In particular, I would like to see the Yorkshire moors. In the summer of 2000, I spent a rainy afternoon in Bath where I was fascinated to see the Roman spas. I am a Jane Austen fan and Bath is the setting of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. In those novels, Austen’s characters frequent the Pump Room. I was excited about visiting the Pump Room because it is the social hub in those novels. Austen’s characters go to the Pump Room to be noticed and to meet others.

There is so much I admire about English history, literature and tradition. Nevertheless, there one area in which I think England is deficient. It cannot compete with French and Italian cuisine. It just doesn’t produce the culinary delights of countries such as Italy, France and Greece. England just doesn’t have the climate and it doesn’t have the Mediterranean Sea. Beyond fish and chips, Beef Wellington, English muffins and meat pies, what is there? It’s a matter of culture too. The English don’t have the same attitude toward food as the French and the Italians. Their tastes and their habits are entirely different.

As a tribute to the land of Shakespeare, the Bronte sisters, John Milton, John Lennon and Winston Churchill, Number 16 proudly presents a variety of interesting and provocative quotes about England and the English.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

- William Blake (1757-1827), English poet
From Milton [1804-10} ‘And did those feet in ancient time’

It’s not that the Englishman can’t feel – it is that he is afraid to feel. He has been taught at his public school that feeling is bad form.

- E.M. Forster (1879 – 1970), English novelist
From Abinger Harvest [1936] “Notes on English Character”

England’s not a bad country . . . It’s just a mean, cold, ugly, divided, tired, clapped-out, post-imperial slag-heap covered in polystyrene hamburger cartons.

- Margaret Drabble, English novelist
From A Natural Curiosity [1989]

This royal throne of kings, this sceptre isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

- William Shakespeare
From Richard II  [1595], Act II, ii

Englishmen never will be slaves: they are free to do whatever the Government and public opinion allow them to do.

- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
From Man and Superman [1903]

The English are busy; they don’t have time to be polite.

- Montesquieu (1689-1755), French political philosopher
From Pensees et fragments inedits, volume 2

In England there are sixty different religions and only one sauce.

- Attributed to Francesco Caracciolo (1752-1799), Neapolitan diplomat

Mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun

- Noel Coward (1899-1973), English dramatist and composer
From the 1931 song, “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”

Oh, to be in England
Now that April`s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware.
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England – now!!

- Robert Browning
From Home Thoughts from Abroad


And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified.  He is risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him."

- Mark 16:6

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. For Christians it is a day of hope and renewal. To all who celebrate this joyous holiday, Number Sixteen wishes you a Happy and Blessed Easter.

- Joanne

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Legend of Bill Barilko


Bill Barilko disappeared that summer. He was on a fishing trip.
The last goal he ever scored won the Leafs the cup
They didn’t win another until 1962, the year he was discovered.
I stole this from a hockey card I keep tucked up under
My fifty mission cap

- From the song "Fifty Mission Cap," recorded by The Tragically Hip,
written by Robby Baker, Gord Downie, Johnny Faye, Paul Langlois and Gord Sinclair

Note: A fifty mission cap is a World War II style U.S. Army officer`s cap.  It is a cloth cap with a visor.

Today is a momentous anniversary in the history of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Since the Leafs are out of the playoffs again this spring, let us take comfort in the glory days of this storied franchise.  Let`s go back 60 years to April 21, 1951.  That was the day that Bill Barilko scored the winning goal against the Leafs`arch-rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals.  At 2:53 of the first overtime, Barilko fired a shot over the shoulder of Montreal goalie Gerry McNeil.  As he celebrated a Stanley Cup victory with his teammates, Bill had no way of knowng that he would never score another NHL goal. 

Barilko`s overtime goal was immortalized by the popular Canadian band The Tragically Hip in the song "Fifty Mission Cap" from their 1992 album Fully Completely.  The group`s lead singer, Gord Downie, stated "There must be something in Bill Barilko that people relate to.  We are all united in tragedy."

To watch a video of The Tragically Hip singing "50 Mission Cap," click on the link below.

William "Bill" Barilko was born in the mining town of Timmins, Ontario on March 25, 1927.  He was the second of three children of Eastern Europeean immigrants to Canada.  He had an older brother, Alex, and a sister, Anne.  His father, Steve Barilko, found work as a cook in various mining camps.  Bill did not do well academically and he quit school at the age of 15.  If he hadn't become a hockey player, he too would probably would have found employment in the mines.

As a young boy, Bill was origninally a goaltender.  He could not skate fast enough to play centre and lacked the abillity to skate backward as a defenceman.  His childhood idol was Leafs goaltending great Turk Broda.  Although Barilko became quite proficient as a goalie, he was transformed into a position player for practical reasons.  He wore thick eyeglasses and was more likely to break them playing goal.  His parents could not afford to continually replace his glasses.

In February of 1947, young Bill Barilko was called up from the Hollywood Wolves of the Pacific Coast Hockey League to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The truth is that Bill did not have a Hall of Fame career in the National Hockey League. The defenceman was definitely not a prolific scorer and his statistics are not particularly impressive.

During his five seasons with the Leafs, he scored only 26 goals. Yet, as author Kevin Shea points out in his 2004 book Barilko – Without a Trace, Barilko “played an integral role” in four Stanley Cup championships won by his team (1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951).  In a 1967 interview on Hockey Night in Canada, Turk Broda was asked to identify the best defenceman ever to play in front of him.  He named Bill Barilko.

Just over four months after scoring his celebrated goal, 24-year-old Bill Barilko embarked on an ill-fated journey that would cost him his life. On the morning of August 24, 1951, Bill accompanied his friend and dentist, Henry Hudson, as they set out for a weekend fishing trip in Seal River, Quebec (a remote river on the east side of James Bay). The single-engine aircraft (Dr. Hudson’s Fairchild 24 floatplane) never returned. On the trip home, it just disappeared without a trace. A massive search involving several Royal Canadian Air Force planes failed to locate the two men.

After Bill Barilko`s untimely disappearance, the fortunes of the Toronto Maples Leafs changed dramatically. While the Montreal Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings became the dominant teams of the 1950s, the Leafs struggled for much of the remainder of the decade. In the 1957-58 season, Toronto even endured the humiliation of a last place finish.

After an 11-year dry spell, the Leafs finally won the Stanley Cup again, on April 22, 1962. By an uncanny coincidence, the remains of Bill Barilko and Dr. Hudson were discovered on June 6 of that very same year. Helicopter pilot Ron Boyd located the two men in thick bush about 160 km. (100 miles) north of Cochrane, Ontario. Their skeletal bodies were still strapped into their plane`s cockpit. The cause of the crash was considered to be a combination of poor weather conditions, a lack of piloting experience and overloaded cargo.

The Toronto Maple Leafs left a sign at the crash site. in honour of Bill Barilko and Dr. Henry Hudson. It reads ``At this location, August 26, 1951, hockey player Bill Barilko and dentist Henry Hudson lost their lives. Rest in peace.`` On June 15, 1962, with family and friends in attendance, Bill`s remains were finally laid to rest in his hometown of Timmins.

The Maple Leafs officially retired Barilko`s Number 5 and Ace Bailey`s Number 6 on October 17, 1992. Bill`s sister, Anne Klisanich, helped hoist her brother`s number 5 to the rafters at Maple Leaf Gardens. By the way, Barilko only wore Number 5 on his sweater during the 1950-51 season. When he debuted with the Leafs, he was assigned Number 21. He wore Number 19 for the 1948-49 and 1949-50 seasons.

To watch a video tribute to Bill Barilko, click on the link below.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Don Johnson and the Age of Stubble


Johnson in Miami Vice days

It’s fascinating to study fads and fashions of different eras. We can look back and smile at the mullet hairstyles of the 1970s, the love beads of the 1960s or the poodle skirts of the 1950s. It was in the 1980s that actor Don Johnson became the poster boy for stubble. In his role as Sonny Crockett on the wildly popular television series Miami Vice (1984-1989), Don wore nifty pastel-coloured outfits and a constant five o’clock shadow.

In the spring of 1986, an electric razor called the Stubble Device became available that allowed users to shave while maintaining permanent facial scruff. The shaver was produced by the Wahl Clipper Corp. of Sterling, Illinois in the hopes of cashing in on the popularity of the Miami Vice detective. It sold for the price of $29.95 and was originally known as the Miami Device. The company changed the name because it feared a copyright infringement lawsuit from the producers of Miami Vice.

Stubble used to have quite an unsavoury connotation. It was always associated with pirates and convicts. In old movies, the only men with facial stubble were criminals or sea captains. For his Academy Award-winning role as the hard-nosed gin-drinking river boat captain in the 1951 movie The African Queen, Humphrey Bogart sported stubble.

Bogart with Katharine Hepbun in The African Queen

When Richard Nixon debated John F. Kennedy on television during the 1960 U.S. presidential election campaign, Nixon was hampered by his dark five o’clock shadow. Those listening to the debate on the radio expressed a more favourable impression of him than those tuning in on television. Today it seems the attitude toward facial scruff has changed dramatically. Many women, not including myself, find stubble attractive. I just find it, well ... scruffy. Not only that, but it pinches.

Many men believe that scruff makes them look tough and manly. It also gives them a convenient excuse not to shave as often. I see very few clean-shaven professional athletes these days. Most sport chin beards, goatees or some form of scruff. The world has sure changes since former Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltender, Bruce Gamble, caused a stir with his long sideburns. Coach Punch Imlach made it clear that he was not pleased with the sideburns. If he were alive today, Imlach would be appalled that NHL players grow playoff beards and some resemble lumberjacks.

Bruce Gamble (with sideburns) in goal against Bobby Hull and the Chicago Blackhawks

Stubble lovers face a problem when their facial hair turns grey, as 61 year-old Don Johnson’s has. You can colour a beard with Just for Men, but can you colour stubble?


As usual, on Tuesdays, Number 16 presents a list of ten palindromes.

1. refer

2. Sit on a potato pan, Otis.

3. Lee had a heel.

4. Norma is as selfless as I am, Ron.

5. Gateman sees name, garageman sees name tag.

6. Dee saw a seed.

7. I saw desserts; I’d no lemons; alas, no melon. Distressed was I.

8. Sleep on no peels.

9. Stella won no wallets.

10. Bird rib. 

- Joanne

Monday, April 18, 2011

Madame Tussauds : The woman behind the wax museums

MONDAY, APRIL 18, 2011

Marie Tussauds lived an extraordinary life. The founder of the famous London wax museum died 161 years ago.  Born Anna Marie Grosholtz in Strasbourg, France, she was the daughter of a German soldier. Her father, Joseph Grosholtz, was killed in the Seven Years’ War, about two months before Marie’s birth in December of 1761. Her mother, Anna Marie Walder, found employment as housekeeper to Dr. Philippe Curtius in Berne, Switzerland.

Dr.Curtius, a physician, was skilled in wax modelling, which he used to depict anatomy. The good doctor relocated to Paris in 1765. Two years later, when Marie was 6 years old, she and her mother joined him there. In 1770, Curtius opened a museum featuring life-size wax figures. The exhibition was well received and became a popular attraction among Parisians and visiting royalty. It was moved to the Palais Royal in 1776.

Dr. Curius opened a second exhibition of his wax models in 1782 on Boulevard du Temple. It was called “Caverne des Grands Voleurs” and can be described as a forerunner to the eventual chamber of horrors. Young Marie became Curtius’ prodigy. He schooled her in the art of wax modelling and she proved to be immensely talented. By 1778, she was experienced enough to create wax figures of the renowned philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the great French writer, Voltaire.

In 1780, Marie was appointed art tutor to Madame Elisabeth, the sister of King Louis XVI. For nine years, until the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, she lived in the splendour of the Palace of Versailles. During the “Reign of Terror” that followed the revolution, Marie was arrested and imprisoned due to her association with the royal family. Her head was actually shaven in preparation for execution by guillotine. Thanks to the intervention of actor, dramatist and revolutionary Jean-Marie Collot d’Herbois, however, her life was spared. She was later assigned the gruesome task of creating wax death masks from the severed heads of the victims of the guillotine.

When Dr, Curtius died in 1794, Marie solely inherited his two famed wax museums. In 1795, Marie married an engineer from Macon named Francois Tussauds. By 1800, she had given birth to a daughter, who later died, and two sons, Joseph and Francois. During the Napoleonic Wars, there was disorder and instability in France. Due to the country’s economic decline, visitors to Marie’s wax exhibitions dwindled. In 1802, concerned about her future, Marie crossed the English Channel with her elder son, Joseph, and her collection of wax models. Francois, the younger son, joined them later.

Marie never returned to France and she never saw her husband again. For 33 years, she lived a nomadic existence touring the British Isles. In 1835, tired of travelling, she finally established a permanent home for her wax exhibition on Baker Street in London where she continued working until eight years before her death. In 1838, she wrote her memoirs.

Madame Tussauds died in her sleep in London on April 16, 1850. She was 88 years old at the time of her death. Marie’s two sons inherited her collection and they, along with her grandchildren, continued the business. In 1884, decades after her death, Marie’s museum was moved from Baker Street to its present location on nearby Marylebone Road.

Madame Tussauds legacy survives in the many Tussauds wax museums throughout the world. In November of 2010, I visited the branch in Las Vegas. The Vegas attraction is interactive and American-oriented. You can have your photo taken with wax figures of JFK and Jackie or with President Obama in the Oval Office.


What can speak every language?


An echo



Well, these are certainly not glory days for Toronto sports franchises. On April 13th, the Raptors ended their miserable season with a 97-79 loss to the Miami Heat. The Raps finished with a mere 22 wins amid talk of trading their star player, 7-foot Italian, Andrea Bargnani. Many questions remain unanswered involving the future of coach Jay Triano and general manager Bryan Colangelo.

- Joanne 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

WARNING CANADA! Don't give Stephen Harper and the Conservatives a majority


Don’t do it, Canada! I implore you! Don’t give Stephen Harper the majority government he so hungrily craves. I know you are weary of minority government. I realize that this is the fourth election in seven years. Before you mark your ballot on May 2, however, please consider these points.

Minority government can work extremely well with the right prime minister, one who truly respects democracy and the opposition parties. From 1963 until 1968, Lester Pearson's minority governments introduced universal health care, student loans, the Canada Pension Plan, the Order of Canada and the Canadian maple leaf flag. Not a bad record, eh?

If you think our current prime minister is controlling, secretive and ultra-partisan now, he’ll be far worse if he leads a majority government. In fact, he’ll be insufferable. You’ve seen how he has governed with a minority government. Those with whom he disagrees have had their funding cut off and documents tampered. A House of Commons committee has found the Harper government in contempt of Parliament for stonewalling on the full cost of its crime bill, including its plans for big prison expansions.

Consider that Bruce Carson, a former top advisor to Stephen Harper, was convicted of five counts of fraud. He defrauded two different banks with regard to the rental of a Toyota vehicle from a car-rental company. Although Harper has denied any knowledge of his former senior aide’s criminal past, a proper security check would have revealed the truth. Why wasn’t that done on someone who was hired to be in the Prime Minister’s Office?

What about Canada’s place in the world? Under the leadership of Stephen Harper, Canada suffered the embarrassment of losing a seat at the United Nations Security Council. Canadians are no longer as respected around the globe as we once were. We have lost our reputation as an “honest broker” and a leader among peacekeeping nations. Our environmental record is a joke.

Stephen Harper is the most ideologically-driven prime minister in Canadian history. He wants to change the very nature and character of this country. The Conservative Party, under his leadership, is not the party of John Diefenbaker, Joe Clark, Robert Stanfield or Brian Mulroney. Those men were certainly economic conservatives, but they were not neo-conservatives. They differed significantly from the far-right Republicans of the United States. Harper’s ideology is more akin to that of the Tea Party movement south of the border. The Tea Partiers are his soul mates and he would be right at home with them.

It is noteworthy that during this election campaign, the Conservatives unveiled a flashy 60-second ad titled “Our Country.” The ad bears remarkable similarity to an ad used by former Minnesota governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty has Tea Party support and his ad is a panorama of patriotic moments in United States history. It is a display of America’s geographical beauty and the military might of its fighter jets, set to orchestral music and a speech by Pawlenty.

Not surprisingly, The Conservative Party’s “Our Country” has an almost identical theme. It features clips of the 1988 Olympic torch relay, Paul Henderson’s 1972 goal, fighter jets, marching soldiers and views of Canada’s geographical splendour.

A Harper majority will continue to spend your hard earned tax dollars on jails and fighter jets. This money should be spent on health care and education. If you are truly concerned about poverty or the environment, don’t expect a Conservative government led by Stephen Harper to do anything about it. These are not priorities for this government.

Diefenbaker, Clark, Stanfield and Mulroney never would have killed such a valuable resource as the long-form census. They never would have been so unconcerned about the environment. They had some decency, some degree of social conscience.

The Harper government likes to take credit for steady economic leadership. The Conservatives point to how well Canada has weathered recession. They consider themselves to be good economic managers. Don’t forget, however, that this country had a budget surplus when Paul Martin left office. It now has a large deficit.

The Tories were quick to associate themselves with stimulus programs that helped Canada recover from the recession. They portrayed “Canada’s Economic Action Plan” as a “Conservative” economic action plan. Remember, however, that the money for stimulus programs came from you, the taxpayer. Remember too, that conservatives do not generally support spending money on public works. That is considered Keynesian economics. Keep in mind that Canada weathered the storm of the recession better than most countries because of the regulations on our financial institutions. Conservatives are ideologically opposed to such regulation.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has wasted millions of taxpayers’ dollars on F-35 fighter jets, prisons and a G20 summit in Toronto. The G20 summit was a $1 billion boondoggle. It was unnecessarily inflicted on Toronto and it transformed Canada’s largest city into an armed camp. The summit should have been held at a military base, not in the centre of a large metropolis.

Don’t expect a majority Harper government to protect Canada’s precious health care system. It will implement cuts in health spending and in social programs in order to pay for tax cuts for large corporations. As head of the right-wing National Citizens’ Coalition, Stephen Harper supported private health care.

 If you support gun control, you should be concerned about the fact that Stephen Harper is determined to scrap the long gun registry.  The prime minister makes no secret of this and he clearly reiterated his intention during the television debates.  If his government wins a majority, you can be sure he'll do everything in his power to abolish the registry.  This will result in more guns falling into the wrong hands.  It will mean more gun-related deaths in this country.

This week, I watched both the English and French language debates. Yes, Stephen Harper appeared reasonable, calm and collected – but look beneath the surface! Did you notice, for instance, the contemptuous manner in which he looked at his political opponents? While they spoke, he stood there with a smirk on his face. There is no doubt that the Tory leader has been placed on a leash and that the Conservative Party is running a tightly-controlled campaign. This, of course, is classic strategy for a front-runner.

Harper has limited the number of questions he will answer. He keeps stressing that this election is unnecessary and sticks to his mantra that the only thing people care about is the economy. Democracy, it seems, is just an annoying inconvenience. The campaign is merely something he has to endure in order to achieve his goal of a majority government.

Don’t be fooled by negative ads and simplistic slogans such as “tax cuts” and “tough on crime.” Don’t be sidetracked by Conservative fear-mongering about a coalition. Harper himself was willing to make a deal with the Bloc Quebecois in 2004. Remember that in our parliamentary system of government, the party which governs is the party that holds the support of the House of Commons. This is not an American presidential campaign. We are not voting for a head of state. It is not simply a contest between leaders named Harper, Ignatieff and Layton. We are voting for the party we believe is best suited to govern this great nation.

On May 2, restore the “Government of Canada” and reject the “Harper Government.” Our government belongs to you, not to Stephen Harper or the Conservative Party. This is a wake-up call to Canadians. Let it never be said that I didn’t warn you.

- Joanne

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Walter Riddell: The Canadian at the League of Nations who tried to stop Mussolini


In the early 1920s, Canada was a young country with a population of less than 9 million. It was casting off the remnants of colonialism and trying to establish itself as a nation. The post-World War I era presented Canadians with an opportunity to enter the world stage. This was a fitting time to join the newly formed League of Nations. The League, a multilateral international organization, was the brainchild of Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States.

Woodrow Wilson was a man of vision. He dreamed of a general association of nations to broker a lasting and effective peace. Horrified by the carnage of World War I, Wilson made the creation of a League of Nations a priority and the final point of his famous Fourteen Points. Sixty-three nations, including Canada, signed on with the League. The United States, ironically, was not a signatory.

In spite of the president’s efforts to promote and establish the League, his own country never became a member. Sadly, Wilson was unable to reach accommodation with influential members of the Republican Party. The Republicans controlled the U.S. Congress and they ultimately prevented American entry into the League. Although an ailing Wilson survived long enough to see his dream come to fruition, the League never lived up to Wilson’s ideals. Hampered from the start by the absence of America’s power and influence, it was tragically incomplete.

The League of Nations came into existence on January 10, 1920 and was based in Geneva, Switzerland. Switzerland was an obvious choice for the League’s headquarters. The Swiss were neutral and Geneva was the city where the Red Cross was founded. From the outset, Canadians played an active role in the League of Nations. Montreal-born businessman and philanthropist, Sir Herbert Ames, was the League’s first Financial Director. He held the position until 1926. Renowned Canadians such as future prime minister Lester B. Pearson and future governor general Georges Vanier played significant roles at the League during the early years of their diplomatic careers.

Fist Assembly of the League of Nations

Canada's delegation to the League - 1920

In 1927, Vanier held the rank of lieutenant colonel and was sent to Geneva as a Canadian military advisor to the League of Nations on disarmament: He left in 1931 to take a diplomatic posting as High Commissioner in London. Vanier went on to become Canada’s first governor general from Quebec. Lester Pearson participated in sessions of the League of Nations in 1935. For Pearson, this served as a launching pad to an outstanding diplomatic career which culminated in his winning the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize.

Canada had an excellent opportunity to exert its influence when it served on the League’s council from 1927 to 1930. Although the League of Nations was often ineffective and its members unable to agree, Canada did have its successes at the world organization. One occurred in 1929 when the Canadian representative on the council, Raoul Dandurand, proposed improving the League procedures in overseeing the treatment of linguistic and religious minorities in Eastern Europe. It is interesting that in 1924, Dandurand uttered the classic statement of Canadian isolationism when he declared, "We live in a fire-proof house, far from inflammable materials."

In the 1930s, members of the League were unable or unwilling to stop the aggressive actions of Japan, Italy and Germany. One Canadian, however, made a noteworthy effort. His name was Walter Riddell and he was the leader of Canada’s delegation to the League. Riddell’s actions put him on a collision course with the government of Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

Walter Alexander Riddell was born on August 5, 1881 in Stratford, Ontario, the son of a locomotive engineer and ardent labour activist. The young Walter and his family migrated to Denver, Colorado in the 1880s, but returned to Canada in 1892, this time to a Manitoba farm. Riddell’s father had a hunger to work the land and become a pioneer-settler. He moved the family to a homestead north of Boissevain, Manitoba where his growing son soon experienced the hardships and challenges of pioneer life.

After graduating from the University of Manitoba, Riddell spent a year as a student missionary in British Columbia. Later he was given charge of a mission in Weston, Manitoba, just outside of Winnipeg. Much of Weston’s population was comprised of Old Country Labour and was of a decidedly leftist bent. When citizens came to the mission house, they were eager to put forth their opinions on Marxism - as soon as they had dealt with their spiritual welfare, of course.

Walter Riddell went on to attend Columbia University and he eventually received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1912.  He became a clergyman, scholar, public servant and labour specialist. This multifaceted man was also an accomplished author. He wrote about the early social history of Quebec. One of his books, The Rise of Ecclesiastical Control of Quebec, was a major authority on the subject for many years.

In 1919, W.A, Riddell was appointed Ontario’s first deputy minister of labour. During his short term as deputy labour minister, Riddell made his mark by playing a role in drafting the provincial Mother's Allowance Act and the Minimum Wage Act. In May of 1920, he left Toronto to begin a long and distinguished career as a diplomat. Riddell went overseas to serve as Canadian delegate to the International Labour Organization in Geneva where he led the Immigration and Employment Section. It was, however, during his tenure as Canadian Advisory Officer to the League of Nations, that Riddell made his greatest impact.

From the beginning, Canada was regularly represented at League assemblies. Still, it was not until January of 1925 that Riddell became Canada’s permanent advisory officer. In 1931, the League of Nations faced a major crisis when Japan brazenly invaded the province of Manchuria in northern China. Although the League condemned Japan, it took no strong measures to hold back Japanese aggression. Canada also refused to support any active resistance to the occupation of Manchuria.

On February 24, 1933, the Japanese delegation walked out of the League Assembly after its approval of the Lytton Report which rejected the legitimacy of Japan's occupation of Manchuria.  A motion was then raised to declare Japan the aggressor in the conflict whereupon he leader of the Japanese delegation, Yosuke Matsuoka, stormed out of the hall proclaiming “We are not coming back.” On March 27, the Japanese government announced its formal withdrawal from the League of Nations and made it abundantly clear it had no intention of abandoning its military ambitions.

The League’s handling of the Manchurian crisis demonstrated that it was too weak to enforce its decisions. Japan had shown that it could blatantly defy world opinion with impunity. The lesson was not lost on other nations with aggressive intent. When Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party assumed power in Germany, the regime’s first significant step in the area of foreign policy was the announcement of Germany's withdrawal from the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations (October 14, 1933).

In the autumn of 1935, Italy’s Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, demanded extensive territories in Ethiopia (historically known as Abyssinia). Mussolini was emboldened by Japan’s aggressiveness in China and the ineffectiveness of the League of Nations to prevent it. He promised the Italian people a “place in the sun” and was determined to have an empire in Africa.

On October 3, 1935, the Italian army crossed the Mereb River and attacked Ethiopia. The Ethiopians were no match for the modern military might of the Italians. It would only be a matter of time before Ethiopia would fall to its European invaders. The League Assembly denounced Mussolini’s actions. Economic sanctions against Italy were recommended and a committee was duly set up to study their application.

Although members of the League were not permitted to supply goods to Italy, there was one glaring omission on the list of sanctions – oil. Oil was essential to Mussolini’s army. The Italian dictator threatened that the imposition of oil sanctions would mean war.

In the Canadian election of October 14, 1935, the Liberals defeated the Conservative government of Prime Minister R.B. Bennett. Mackenzie King was returned to power with a strong majority government. The Liberals were willing to support the four economic sanctions against Italy already recommended, but refused to recognize a binding commitment of military sanctions.

Walter Riddell was a member of the committee studying the application of sanctions against Italy. Riddell decided to take the initiative. Without his government’s instruction or approval, he advocated further sanctions. On November 2, after being advised by none other than Lester B. Pearson, Riddell proposed ceasing all exports of oil, coal and steel to Italy. The scholarly Canadian diplomat caused an immediate sensation and set tongues wagging. The “Riddell Incident” succeeded in putting Canada in the spotlight, much to the consternation of Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

The prime minister was wary of involvement in foreign wars. By the end of World War I, most Canadians had had more than enough of such entanglements, especially French-speaking Canadians. King's goal was domestic harmony and he was well aware that foreign policy issues divided Canadians profoundly. With the Conscription Crisis of 1917 never far from his mind, King certainly did not want to polarize the country yet again. His attitude can be summed up in a statement he made in the House of Commons in March of 1939, just months before the outbreak of World War II. He declared that “A strong and dominant national feeling is not a luxury in Canada, it is a necessity. A divided Canada can be of little help to any country and least of all to itself.”

Within days, Ottawa disavowed the stand taken by Riddell at Geneva. Riddell was publicly repudiated by his own government. On December 2, 1935, King’s trusted Quebec lieutenant Ernest Lapointe (the acting prime minister at the time) stated that in adding oil to the list of economic sanctions against Italy, Dr. Riddell had been expressing his own opinion, and not the opinion of the government of Canada. A front page headline in the December 3, 1935 edition of The Toronto Daily Star blared that the United Kingdom knew that Canada was not behind Riddell.

After the stir created by Dr. Riddell, Canada maintained a low profile at League meetings. On May 5, 1936, the Italians occupied Addis Abba, Ethiopia’s capital city. Four days later, the country was formerly annexed. Canada, Britain and Australia soon decided to abandon sanctions against Italy. On June 30, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie made a dramatic appearance before the League of Nations in Geneva to plead for assistance. He condemned the use of poison gas on his people which he said killed both civilians and soldiers

The following year, Walter Riddell was withdrawn from Geneva and sent to Washington as counsellor at the Canadian embassy. By 1939, the world was once again at war, a war the League of Nations failed to avert. Riddell completed his diplomatic career with a posting as Canada’s High commissioner to New Zealand in 1940. After World War II, the League of Nations was dissolved and replaced by the United Nations.

In 1946, Riddell resigned his post in New Zealand. After 26 years of diplomatic service to his country, he returned to Canada to become director of international relations at the University of Toronto. On July 27, 1963, he died at his cottage in Algonquin Park

There will always be an intriguing question surrounding the career of Walter Riddell. What would have happened if the Mackenzie King government had supported him in 1935? We can only speculate. It is, however, interesting to note that author Pierre Berton once expressed his opinion on the matter.

In November of 2001, the outspoken Berton gave his view of Canada’s wars to the Kitchener-Waterloo Record. “Three of them – the Boer War, the Great War and Korean War – we shouldn’t have been in” he declared. “And the fourth – World War II – could have been avoided if our prime minister had backed the Canadian representative to the League of Nations in 1935.” “No other country had the guts to stand up and say let’s stop Mussolini, “Berton told the Record. “When King undercut Riddell he paved the way for Hitler.”

It is debatable whether the imposition of an oil blockade would have stopped Mussolini. After all, the Americans controlled much of the oil trade and they did not have membership in the League. Furthermore, Nazi Germany was not willing to assist in blockading Italy. Whether one agrees with Pierre Berton’s staunchly pro-Riddell assessment or not, there is little doubt that Walter Riddell was a man of principle and courage. He was willing to take a stand and accept the consequences.  

- Joanne

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Robert Peary: The North Pole at last! - But was he the first to get there? And who was Matthew Henson, the black American who accompanied him?


The Pole at last!!! The prize of 3 centuries, my dream & ambition for 28 years. Mine at last.

- Journal of Robert E. Peary, April 6, 1909

Peary aboard his ship, the Roosevelt

Robert Peary and long-time associate Matthew Henson claimed to have been the first persons to reach the North Pole on this day, 102 years ago. They were accompanied by four Inuit men, the rest of the crew having retreated. Although Peary is usually credited with the accomplishment, there have been many doubters and sceptics. The veracity of his claim has been widely debated and Peary himself remains a controversial figure, often criticized for his treatment of the Inuit.

Robert Edwin Peary was born in Cresson, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1856. After the death of his father in 1859, he moved to Maine. He studied engineering at Bowdoin College and graduated in 1877. His home in Fryeburg, Maine is still in existence and is known as “Admiral Peary House.”

Peary was 24 years old when he entered the United States Navy in 1881. The young naval officer met his future bride, Josephine, at a popular dance spot in Washington, D.C. Josephine Cecilia Diebitsch was born in Forestville, Maryland on May 22, 1863. Her father, Herman H. Diebitsch, was a linguist at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. Josephine studied at Spencerian Business College and graduated as valedictorian in 1880.

Embarking on a rather progressive career route for a woman of her era, Josephine began her professional career with employment as a clerk/copyist at the Department of the Interior. After taking competitive exams, she later earned a position at the U.S. Census Bureau. At the age of 19, however, Josephine left the Census Bureau to take over her ailing father’s duties at the Smithsonian Institute, until his death in 1883. She was still working at the Smithsonian in 1886 when she resigned upon her engagement to Lieutenant Robert E. Peary of the Civil Engineer Corps of the U.S. Navy.

That same year, Robert Peary was granted a six-month leave of absence from the navy for Arctic exploration. On June 8, 1886, he and a companion, Danish Lieutenant Christian Maigaard, set out from the west coast of Greenland. They travelled by dogsled over the Greenland ice sheet for 161 km. (100 miles). The following year, Peary and Mathhew Henson went on an expedition to explore Nicaragua for a canal route survey, but plans to build the canal never came to fruition. Upon his return to Washington, Peary wed Josephine on August 11, 1888, a stifling hot day. The newlyweds travelled by train to Atlantic City for their honeymoon and then moved into a Philadelphia apartment.

Josephine Peary in Greenland 1892

In 1891, Peary returned to Greenland with seven companions, including his wife, Matthew Henson and Frederick A. Cook (the man who would later claim to have reached the North Pole before him). During that second expedition, Peary discovered Independence Fjord and found evidence of Greenland being an island. He also encountered a remote Inuit tribe, the “Arctic Highlanders,” who assisted him significantly on future expeditions.

Peary’s first attempt to reach the North Pole came during his journey of 1893-1894 in which he again sledged to northeastern Greenland. His wife Jo, six months pregnant when they set out, had insisted insisted on being part of the expedition. She gave birth to the couple’s first child; a daughter named Marie Ahnighito, at Inglefield Gulf, Greenland. Born September 12, 1893, Marie was dubbed “Snow Baby” by the press and the Inuit who had never seen a child with fair hair and blue eyes. She was the most northerly born Caucasian up to that time.

Marie Peary, The Snow Baby

Robert Peary’s second attempt to reach the pole was supported by a $50,000 gift from George Crocker, the youngest son of railroad executive Charles Crocker. Peary used the money to build the Roosevelt, an exceptionally strong new ship that would smash through ice. He sailed the Roosevelt to Cape Sheridan on Canada’s Ellesmere Island in 1905. The sledging season, however, was unsuccessful due to unfavourable weather and ice conditions. As a result, Perry’s party fell far short of its goal.

For his final attempt to reach the North Pole, Robert Peary and 23 men set off aboard the Roosevelt from New York City on July 6, 1908 under the command of Captain Robert Bartlett, a Newfoundlander. The crew spent the winter on Ellesmere Island and departed for the pole on February 28 – March 1, 1909.

It is noteworthy that when Robert Peary purportedly reached the North Pole on April 6, 1906, the man standing beside him, Matthew A. Henson, was an African American from Maryland. Henson was born on August 8, 1866. He was orphaned at an early age and set out to find a job on the waterfront when he was only about 12 years old. He eventually worked as a cabin boy on the merchant ship Katie Hines.

It was at sea that Matthew received his education. An elderly sea captain tutored him in mathematics, the Bible and the classics. Under the guidance of Captain Childs, the young Henson learned to be a navigator and a competent seaman. After the death of Childs, Henson left the Katie Hines and went back to the United States. For two years, he worked at odd jobs in Boston, Providence, Buffalo and New York.

At the age of 19, Matthew Henson returned to Washington, D.C. While working as a stock clerk at a hat store, he was introduced to Robert Peary, then a naval civil engineer. In 1897, on the recommendation of the store owner, Henson was hired as Peary’s valet for the Nicaragua Canal route survey. Matt’s position as “man servant” was short lived. During the Nicaragua journey, he proved himself to be a capable seaman who could perform many tasks competently. Peary promoted him to the transit crew.

In 1889, Robert Peary once again employed Henson, this time to assist him in Philadelphia. It was in the City of Brotherly Love that Matthew met his first wife, Eva Helen Flint. His long and frequent absences were not easy on the relationship and the couple divorced after six years of marriage. Shortly before leaving on Peary’s polar expedition of 1907, Henson married for a second time, to Lucy Ross, a bank clerk. They did not have any children

Matthew Alexander Henson accompanied Peary on eight expeditions to the Arctic over 18 years (1891-1909) and became indispensible to him. Due to racial prejudices at the time, however, he was never accorded the recognition he so richly deserved. Matthew had a great affinity with the Inuit people. He learned Inuktitut, the language of the polar Inuit, ate their food and adapted to their culture and lifestyle. He was also a skilled hunter and an expert builder of boats and sleds. The Inuit fondly referred to him as Maye-Paluq, “the kind one.”

Matthew Henson

Robert Peary retired as a rear admiral in 1911 and moved to Eagle Island on the coast of Maine. He settled in the town of Farawayville and his home there is now a Maine State Historic Site. Peary passed away in Washington, D.C. on February 20, 1920 at the age of 63. He is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery.

Josephine Diebitsch Peary lived a long life and is also buried at Arlington National Cemetery, near the grave of her husband. She died in Portland, Maine on December 19, 1955 at the age of 92. Jo was an Arctic explorer in her own right and travelled farther north over the ice fields than any other white woman. She wrote a book titled The Snow Baby (published in 1901), about the birth and early childhood of her daughter, Marie in the Arctic. She also co-authored Children of the Arctic with Marie, an account of the Peary family’s visits to Greenland.

In 1913, by order of President William Howard Taft, Matthew Henson was appointed a clerk in the U.S. Customs House in New York, a position he held until he retired in 1936. He died on March 9, 1955 in New York City at the age of 88. Although he was originally buried in The Bronx, Matthew was reinterred near Peary’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery in 1988.

The “snow baby,” Marie Peary, married a Washington attorney named Edward Stafford in 1917 and gave birth to two sons. She became President of the International Society of Women Geographers and was recognized as a respected lecturer and author. In 1932, Marie returned to the Arctic to erect a monument in her father’s memory. After the deaths of both her mother and Edward in 1955, she moved to Bowdoin, Maine and married her second husband, retired sea man William Kuhne, in 1967. Marie lived the rest of her life in Bowdoin and died there in 1978.

Marie Peary and Robert Bartlett unveil the dedication plaque on Peary monument 19

 Robert and Josephine Peary had two other children. Their second child, a daughter named Francine, died at the age of seven months. Their youngest child, Robert Edwin Peary, Jr., was a civil engineer for 40 years, he made career-related visits to the Arctic regions of Canada and Greenland where he helped design and construct military bases and radar systems. A resident of Augusta, Maine, Robert Jr. died of cancer on March 9, 1994 at the home of his daughter in Sarasota, Florida. He was 90 years old at the time of his death.

Robert Peary with son, Robert Jr.

During their expeditions, both Robert Peary and Matthew Henson fathered children by Inuit women. The existence of these children was hushed up and not widely known. The truth was finally brought to the attention of the public in the 1980s by S. Allen Counter, author of North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo. After hearing rumours of an Inuit son of Henson’s, Counter travelled to northwestern Greenland to see what he could unearth.

In Greenland, Dr. Counter discovered that Matthew Henson had fathered a son and that Robert Peary had sired two sons. Peary’s sons were named Anaukaq and Kali. Both were born aboard Peary’s ship Roosevelt. Their mother was a woman named Ahlikahsingwah whom Perry first met during his 1893-1894 expedition while taking photographs of local Inuit. Matthew Henson and a woman named Akatingwah had a son – Henson s only child – also named Anaukaq.

S. Allen Counter wrote about his findings in the centennial issue of National Geographic (September 1988). He also brought the descendents of the two explorers to the United States to visit their American relatives.

In the 1980s, an examination Robert Peary’s expedition diary and other documents placed doubt on whether Peary actually reached the North Pole. Due to a combination of navigational miscalculations and record-keeping errors, Peary may on have ended up 50-100 km. (30-60 miles) short of his destination. The truth remains shrouded in uncertainty.


Why did the thief get for stealing a calendar?


12 months



The Toronto Maple Leafs lost in a shootout against the Washington Capitals last night and all pretence of them playing in the postseason has disappeared.  This will be their seventh spring without competing in the playoffs, although they have certainly played admirably since the all-star break. If only they had performed as well during the first half of the season. Alas, that did not happen! So, it’s time to take out the golf clubs. Leafs fans will just have to watch other teams compete for Lord Stanley’s jug – as usual. 

- Joanne

Friday, April 1, 2011

Take me out to the ball game . . . It's a new baseball season!


(Baseball) breaks your heart. It was designed to break your heart. It begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.

 - A. Bartlett Giamatti, Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1988 - 1989
From The Green Fields of the Mind [1977]

It’s April Fools’ Day, spring is in the air, and baseball is back in town.  The Toronto Blue Jays play their opening game at the former SkyDome today against the Minnesota Twins.  As a tribute to the great game of baseball, Number 16 presents some amusing and poignant quotes about this wonderful sport.

If people don’t want to come out to the ball park, nobody’s going to stop ‘em.
- Attributed to Yogi Berra

Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes, or games, are created equal.

- George F. Will
From Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball [1990]

When I was six, my father gave me a bright-red scorebook that opened my heart to the game of baseball. After dinner on long summer nights, he would sit beside me in our small enclosed porch to hear my account of the Brooklyn Dodger game. Night after night he taught me the odd collection of symbols, numbers and letters that enable a baseball lover to record every action of the game.

- Doris Kearns Goodwin
From Wait Next Year

Baseball is a game, yes. It is also a business. But what it most truly is, is disguised combat. For all its gentility, its almost leisurely pace, baseball is violence under wraps.

- Willie Mays
Source: Willie Mays (Arnold Hano)

I never realized that batting a little ball around could cause so much commotion. I now know how (Charles) Lindbergh must have felt when he returned to St. Louis.

- Stan Musial
Wrigley Field Press Conference, May 13, 1958

What is life, after all, but a challenge? And what better challenge can there be than the one between the pitcher and the hitter.

- Warren Spahn

In pitching we want to produce delusions, make a man misjudge.  We fool him - that's the whole purple of the game.  The ethics of the game of baseball would be violated if man did not practice to become proficient in deception.  In other words, you can't go to heaven if you don't try to fool the batter.

- Branch Rickey
From Branch Rickey's Little Blue Book: Wit and Strategy from Baseball's Last Wise Man


Jack Norworth

Songerwriter, singer and vaudeville performer Jack Norworth composed the lyrics for Baseball’s signature song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” (music by Albert Von Tilzer) in 1908. Surprisingly, the Philadelphia-born Norworth was not a baseball fan. In fact, it wasn’t until 1940 that he even attended a Major League game. Norworth wrote the words to “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” while riding a New York City subway train. He had noticed a sign reading “Ballgame today at the Polo Grounds” and baseball lyrics came into his mind. He brought the lyrics to his friend Von Tilzer who had never been to a game either. Von Tilzer, the great Tin Pan Alley composer, wrote the melody for Norworth’s lyrics.

To listen to a 1908 recording of Take Me Out to The Ball Game sung by Edward Meeker, click on the link below.

The complete version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame is seldom heard by most people. Baseball fans are only familiar with the chorus. The complete song, however, tells the simple tale of a woman who wants her boyfriend to take her to a baseball game rather than to another popular spot.

On June 27, 1940, Jack Norworth witnessed his first baseball game when he visited Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field and the Dodgers honoured him with “Jack Norworth Day.” He first heard “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” sung at a game in 1958 at the celebration of the song’s 50th anniversary during the Dodgers’ first season at the Los Angeles Coliseum (the seventh-inning tradition dates back to 1976 when famed broadcaster Harry Caray belted out the tune for Chicago White Sox fans).

To watch a video of the late Harry Caray leading a Chicago Cubs crowd in a rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," click on the link below.

Here in Toronto, baseball fans sing two songs during our seventh-inning stretch. First we have our own little ditty called “Okay Blue Jays (Let’s Play Ball).” That’s followed by “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” with “root, root, root for the Blues Jays” substituted for “root, root, root for the home team.”

Jack Norworth spent the latter years of his life running a novelty shop in Hollywood. He died in Laguna Beach, California on September 1, 1959 at the age of 80. Although he wrote hundreds of songs in his career, including “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” he will always be remembered for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

On July 16, 2008, the United States Postal Service issued a 42-cent stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the song. Below is a picture of the beautiful, nostalgic stamp with period typography. It depicts the first six notes of the song on a music staff.


Here are a few examples of baseball jargon.

Tools of Ignorance: A catcher’s equipment

Tape Measure Home Run : An especially long home run.

Tater: A home run

Three bagger: A triple

Took the collar: Went hitless

Ride the pine:  Sit on the bench


As a child, I was a fan of the New York Yankees.  At that tiime in Toronto, we were able to watch Yankee games on Saturday afternons on a Buffalo station.  I admired Yankee greats such as Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and the rest.  When the Blue Jays arrived on the Toronto scene in 1977, they stole my heart.  When the Jays won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993, I was over the moon.  Sadly, they have not qaulified for post-season play since those heady days. Nevertheless, I reamin a loyal and steadfast fan. So far, I am impressed with General Manager Alex Anthopolous and the direction he has taken the team.  It's a new season, so let's play ball and let's go Toronto Blue Jays!

-  Joanne