Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Something Lost

In that post in which I humorously converted to humor (or attemptedly so), I mentioned that I was reading, or re-reading Barbara Kingsolver's, Pigs in Heaven. Since I only recalled fragments from my initial reading, I must say that I found it quite enjoyable the second time around. However, it left me kind of wistful, an emotion that I'm fairly sure I didn't experience the first time through. But I'm older now.

The theme was largely about Native Americans and their extended kinship relations. At least in this novel, set amongst the Cherokee of Oklahoma, they placed great value on the tribe and extended family. It caused me to feel for the first time of which I am cognizant, the hole that exists in our culture and my life. While those Indians (please permit me that term) in the book always felt that sense of belonging, I think that our English-based culture has lost that sense of connection.

We' re so flipping mobile that we can barely keep our nuclear families intact, never mind our extended families. And the concept of belonging to a larger tribal or clan has just about been extirpated. I think certain subcultures do a lot better than the dominant English culture, and I begin to wonder if our larger society is really a true society at all.

As I said, there are subgroups that do better. My Jewish DIL is very connected to all things Jewish, all of the rituals and observances, and I'm pretty sure that most of it has to do with feeling connected to a larger group. In the Jewish experience especially, that connection is not just spatial but temporal. I'm sure that it feeds a need that most of us even fail to realize that we have.

I guess we do the best we can to maintain connections; we telephone, email, Skype, and make those long flights but brief visits to stay in touch, but it's pretty much like swimming against the current. In order to maintain familial connections as best we could, a few years ago Cuppa and I moved quite a long way to be near at least part of our family. That has been meaningful and rewarding, especially in experiencing the joy of our grandchildren. It was a good move and about the best we could do to stay highly connected to at least a few people.

But it would be nice also to feel a larger connection. Somehow, nationalism just doesn't really do it although perhaps it did at one time, such as wartime — at least like the World Wars when nations became quite unified in a common cause. I suppose people research their genealogies and visit their places or origin if possible to try to make some connections, and to figure out where they came from. As helpful as that may be, I think we've still lost out somewhere along the way, and I don't think there's a cure. We've drifted too far for a do-over.

I don't suppose there's anything to do about it other than experience this momentary wistfulness and keep the connections that remain as best we can.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fixing the Past

I haven't done too much photo restoration lately, and, in point of fact, I have never done enough to become proficient, but here is a recent scan of Cuppa sitting on Santa's lap in the early fifties.

Christmas Past

And here's my attempt at restoration.

Christmas Past

I did this for her birthday, just last week. I had greater ambitions, perhaps a collage, but when push came to shove, this is the only photo that I got scanned and fixed.

An Oddity

A few of you have commented of the dyslexinicity (yes, I just made up the word) of this photo. The odd thing is that these two numbers will work for four out of six family birthdays this year. Both Cuppa and I turn 63; Nikki Dee will soon celebrate her third birthday; and, SILly will be 36. No 93's or 39's however.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Her Turn

The Boy has been getting a lot of exposure in this space lately. For one thing, he and I are alone together for most of two days of the week while his sister goes off to daycare and Cuppa gets things done at our place. On the other three days, we four are together, and life becomes a little more hectic to the point where we may not think to use the camera. So, for two days a week, if I think to get out the camera, he's the only available subject. There's also the fact that he quite likes the camera and is more than happy to stop and pose. His sister, however, usually does her best to ignore that silly clicking thing. In point of fact, I was just looking at a series of six photos, and she was studiously ignoring the camera in each and every one.

Nevertheless, it's time to share a few pics of her, all taken at Cuppa's birthday dinner.

And then there's this one. Did I ever mention that I love this kid?

Update: We were out for breakfast yesterday and made some more futile attempts to get Nikki Dee to look at the camera.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Failing to See the Humour

So, I went and done did it, and I appalled at least two upstanding Canadians who happen by here. Uh huh, I spelled "humour" as "humor", thus going against my many years of formal education and aghasting good Canucks everywhere.

My reasoning: lately, every time I wrote "humour" or "honour" or what have you, I have not been pleased with myself. Because there is no reason to write it that way, when we can simply do as the Americans and write "humor", Your Honor. You see, Your Honor, we don't say the "u" anymore — haven't for a long time as a matter of fact. Try it. Say the word "our" or "hour" and then say "humour" or "honour" in the same way. See, we don't say it that way.

I'll have you know that I think I am being very Canadian by making the switch. A long time ago, when we were largely populated by expat Yankee Doodle Dandies, our school children were taught the American way. It was only later changed by fiat, as it were, to keep us more British — stiff upper lip and all that.

Pish tosh, say I. I'm taking Canadian English back. I may even drop those silly "re" endings. I mean to say, do we go to the "theatre" or "theater", I ask you. One thing I will keep is the doubling of consonants as in "traveller" rather than" traveler". I take that stand because my understanding is that if you don't double the consonant, then you should pronounce the preceding vowel as long and not short. And who ever heard of a "traveeler"?

So, that's my rationale. Although it's common sense to me, it was still a tough decision to make. But I figure that our national identity shouldn't hinge on archaic spelling (note the two ll's — pretty sure even American spell it that way).

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mesmerized by the Tube

I don't know what he understands of it, but for some reason the boy in intrigued by Sesame Street. If I recall so was his sister at that age. Now, it's mostly Caillou for her. Anyhoo, if I want some quiet reading time, Sesame Street tends to do the trick for awhile. I don't revert to the TV often or for very long, but it makes for a nice diversion every now and then.

But, unlike sister, he's quite fond of the camera too and can hardly resist smiling for it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Of Learning and Humor

I was a teacher, but it wasn't until quite recently that I discovered that I was a visual learner. It might seem perplexing that a teacher wouldn't know that, but back when I went to teachers college, I don't even recall being presented with theories about learning styles. Perhaps I wasn't paying attention, but it would seem to me that it would have been taught in psych class, and since that was my favorite (in that year), I rather doubt that it was covered.

Once I had been made aware of them, I would have guessed that I was an auditory learner, and I would have thought that because I rather liked and learned from lectures back in university days. But I was wrong, for a test to ascertain learning styles revealed me to be a visual learner. At first, it didn't seem to square with my liking for the lecture method, but then I was led to understand that it was the professor and his face that I was focusing on and taking cues from. That actually made sense since I could do that because most of the courses that I took were in small classrooms, and I also sat near the front. I could also recall a few large lecture halls and realized that I hadn't done so very well in that sort of impersonal atmosphere where I as far removed from the prof and his or her expressions.

Here's another manifestation of visual learning. As I've mentioned previously I don't do well with names, but I am very good with faces. In my last year of teaching two female students from previous years visited me in my classroom and asked me to sign their yearbooks. Having witnessed me struggle with names in the past, they were somewhat concerned that I might not know who they were. In point of fact, whether I could recall their names that day or not, I knew them very well — exactly where they had sat and what kind of students they had been. I may have even known them better for themselves (as opposed to just names) than most teachers.

I began contemplating this topic upon reading my latest novel, Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver. You see, I was all out of mysteries, so I was perusing Cuppa's bookcase, and she recommended this title. I took her word for it, and began to read it on the next day whilst Zach slept (mercifully, he usually sleeps well and long or I would have even less hair if that were possible). It wasn't long before I let out an "Aha! I've read this already." It wasn't the words, but when a certain picture (brought on by the words, of course) flashed into my head, I realized that I had visualized the scene before: someone falling down a hole of some sort by the Hoover Dam.

However, the whole topic brings another peculiarity to mind: that of humor. Why is it that I, a visual learner appreciate word-based humor (yes, I like puns), while Cuppa, the non-visual learner (who remembers books by their titles) loves visual humor. Yes, indeedy, she cracks right up at the sight of someone falling.

On Oscar night, for example, they played a time lapse of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin sleeping in the same bed. Apparently, it was quite funny to see their gyrations. I say that because Cuppa, Thesha, and SILly were all howling unrestrainedly. Meanwhile, I sat there serious and puzzled because I honestly didn't find it funny. At least not very funny. Not howling funny. Not splitting your sides funny. Maybe a brief little snicker funny. Hmm, maybe not even that much funny.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Amusing Juxtaposition

After yesterdays little WC joke, specifically the part near the end when the writer offered to seat the lady, I was reminded of a sign that I once encountered in a restaurant. We and two other couples had driven from Sarnia to London to see Wingfield's Folly, a one -person play. Having quite enjoyed the performance, we stopped at a little restaurant on the outskirts of London before making the somewhat snore-inducing drive back to Sarnia. The establishment was decidedly unbusy, and as the usual sign about waiting to be seated was missing, we complied and chose a table. Me being me, however, it was not long before I thought I should visit the loo.

However, as I made my way toward that place of great comfort, I was greatly amused to pass the sign that would have been placed by the entrance in busier hours: "Hostess will be pleased to seat you." Given the placement, just outside the washroom doors, I couldn't help but grin. I still do whenever I happen to think about it. Like now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Wayside Chapel

A few days ago, Ginnie posted about a State of the Art ... for it's time, outhouse. It was a four seater, and it reminded me of the following joke. There are several versions on the Net, but in 1960 Jack Parr walked off his show after NBC censored one of the versions. Apparently however, he thought better of his action and soon returned. Whatever! I remembered this joke upon reading about Ginnie's four seater. If it's new to you, I hope you enjoy it. If you've heard/read it before I hope it causes you to chuckle one more time.

Meanwhile, let me say what a fine bunch you are. Your comments on yesterday's post were very careful, and quite a number of you chose to exercise restraint by just moving on silently. Not such a bad idea really.

In the days when you couldn't count on a public facility to have indoor plumbing, an English woman was planning a trip to Europe. She was registered to stay in a small guest house owned by the local schoolmaster. She was concerned as to whether the guest house contained a WC. In England, a bathroom is commonly called a WC which stands for water closet. She wrote the schoolmaster inquiring into the location of the nearest WC.

The school master, not fluent in English, asked the local priest if he knew the meaning of WC. Together they pondered possible meanings of the letters and concluded that the lady wanted to know if there was a "Wayside Chapel" near the house . . . a bathroom never entered their minds. So the schoolmaster wrote the following reply:

Dear Madam,

I take great pleasure in informing you that the WC is located 9 miles from the house. It is located in the middle of a grove of pine trees, surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people and is open on Sundays and Thursdays. As there are many people expected in the summer months, I suggest you arrive early. There is, however, plenty of standing room. This is an unfortunate situation especially if you are in the habit of going regularly.

It may be of some interest to you that my daughter was married in the WC as it was there that she met her husband. It was a wonderful event. There were 10 people in every seat. It was wonderful to see the expressions on their faces. My wife, sadly, has been ill and unable to go recently. It has been almost a year since she went last, which pains her greatly.

You will be pleased to know that many people bring their lunch and make a day of it. Others prefer to wait till the last minute and arrive just in time! I would recommend your ladyship plan to go on a Thursday as there is an organ accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds can be heard everywhere.

The newest addition is a bell which rings every time a person enters. We are holding a bazaar to provide plush seats for all since many feel it is long needed. I look forward to escorting you there myself and seating you in a place where you can be seen by all.

With deepest regards,

The Schoolmaster

Monday, March 22, 2010


After all of those climbing photos last week, Zachy finally took a tumble down the stairs. It looks like he hit the whole side of his face on the edge of a tread. I'm thankful that it didn't happen on our watch although I would think that there are to be many scrapes and bruises in his future and we will witness some of them. In fact, just today, he got himself under the table where I was sitting. Then he stood up abruptly and clunked himself a good one. There was no blood, but there were tears, and I wouldn't be surprised if he developes a big goose egg.

Watcha Think?

I like to think that I tend toward toleration, but for quite some time I have had a problem with the veil, whatever form it takes. I see the veil as an unfortunate hangover of the worst aspects of patriarchy: men controlling their property. Although I intellectually understand that all sorts of women choose to wear the veil for religious reasons, my heart tells me that religion, or at least such aspects of it, are man made. And when I say man, I really do mean MAN.

I am thinking about the veil right now because there have been at least two recent newsworthy cases in Quebec, the province next door to ours. Each case involves an immigrant Muslim woman. In one instance, she withdrew from a French immersion class because the instructor felt that s/he needed to see her face in a language class. After complaints, that decision was upheld by higher authorities.

In a second case a woman applying for her health card was asked to remove the niqab from around her face long enough for the registrant to verify her identity. When she appealed, somewhat surprisingly, the Human Rights Commission upheld the decision concluding: “It is not a significant infringement of freedom of religion.” I say the decision was surprising because we tend to be almost over-tolerant up here.

Of course, it is wonderful and desirable to be tolerant and understanding, but any desirable trait can almost surely be pushed past the limit of common sense. Sometimes tolerance goes so far as to become ironic: for example, when supposedly tolerant people become intolerant of those whom they deem to be not tolerant enough. (You may have to read that over. )

To wit: I once followed a blog devoted to religious understanding and tolerance. The writer explored and wrote about other religions (I specifically remember a series on Islam) in a very tolerant way, which I hasten to assure you, I think is a rather fine thing. However, after she once wrote about how wonderfully American it was to see a Muslim man dressed in Americana (shorts and ballcap, I think it was), while his accompanying wife chose to wear the traditional veil (a niqab or burqa in that case, I think), I couldn't resist offering my opinion: something to the effect that I would be more impressed if she were wearing the shorts and he was wearing the veil.

However, apparently my opinion wasn't to be tolerated by that tolerant blogger because she never acknowledged me further, even though I continued to visit her blog and make really nice tolerant comments for quite some time.

Ironic, eh?

Does dear reader wish to weigh in on this topic? However, I understand that it is a sensitive issue that you might wish to avoid, and perhaps I should have done the same. Oh well; it's done. (Note: if you comment, I must say that in an if-you-can't-beat-em-join-em sort of way, I am becoming somewhat better at replying to comments. Please bear with me, however: it's a work in progress. )

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An aDOORable Boy

I didn't realize it at the time, but I inadvertently lied when I said the boy never stopped climbing. Now that good weather is here (however temporary that may be), we have discovered that Zach has a second passion — examining and playing with doors. Oh ... and being on the wrong side of them.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Swear ...

... the kid never stops climbing. Sometimes, he really does make me swear.

Friday, March 19, 2010

This is More Like It

Big deal, you say: kids playing on the porch. Well let me tell ya sumpin, this here is Canada, eh, and it's only mid March. Do you see any jackets? No, but you do see sun hats. Crazy eh?

We've had a gentle winter all things considered, our warmest and driest in 63 years, thanks to The Little Boy (El Nino — sorry if I've translated incorrectly, but I think I've read that somewhere). In the Ottawa area, we're sometimes snow-covered from mid-November to almost mid-April, but this years it's only been from December through February. The snow has been melting apace since March began and only remains in shaded areas or where it's been piled extra high after clearing — or both. In fact, I have been told that Environment Canada declared winter to be officially over last week, and it's really been over for almost three weeks now.

Compare that to these two photos which I posted on March 9, two years ago.

Digging Out

Digging Out

And look how much remained on our lawn on March 29 of that same year.

There was still plenty around on April 13, if you please.

I've often said that the main problem with winter is that it lasts too long and that I'd like it to stay away until December and be over by the end of February. Well, by golly, that's exactly what happened this year. Oh yes, we'll almost certainly have some miserably cold weather and some snow to boot, but it will pass quickly because winter is over.