Saturday, November 30, 2013

Quebec, Canada, Politics and the Vote _ and some long forgotten history

I finally got to Montreal City Hall and their archives yesterday and sat under a framed 1947 photo of Camelien Houde, the Mayor who fired my grandfather from City Hall in 1930, and flipped through the files belonging to the Ligue des Droits de la Femme.

Except the original name of the organization was not this one. It was called the Provincial Committee for Feminine (Woman) Suffrage..

I've spent a lot of time investigating the Montreal Suffrage Association and written about it on this blog (and in an upcoming article for Quebec Heritage News).

Just like Britain's much more illustrious WSPU, the Montreal Suffrage Association (1913-1919)  tried to control its own legacy.

All that's left of this organization is newspaper articles of the World War I era and a box of documents including their minutes, which were deposited with this Ligue des Droits de la Femme by Carrie Derick (the MSA's President) in the 1930's.

The story goes (because Derick created the story) the MSA disbanded in 1919 because their  mission was accomplished, federally when Canadian women got the vote in 1918 - and because a new bilingual entity was needed to fight for woman suffrage at the provincial level.


But I found a letter to the editor in 1919 from a former member of the Montreal Suffrage Association claiming that the disbandment was done unilaterally  by a few leaders, at a meeting no one attended.

Hmm. So I'm skeptical.

The MSA had never been a democratic organization, as I've written about here. It was mostly Carrie Derick's baby, even if the story goes (again) that she only RELUCTANTLY agreed to be that organization's President.

(I found a bizarre little news clipping just lately showing that one year later in 1914, Derick (with Julia Parker Drummond) tried to start a National Organization, (yet another one.) the National Union of Canadian Woman's Suffrage Societies..)

So, it comes as no surprised to me that this new Provincial Committee has only 3 former members of the Montreal Council/Montreal Suffrage Association: Derick, Ritchie England (both England and Derick were former Presidents of the Montreal Council of Women, the organization that 'spun off' the Montreal Suffrage Association in 1912 ) and Mrs. Walter Lyman, (Reverend Schrimger's daughter) who was active with the Montreal Council, too.

Derick and Richie England sign in at the first meeting of the Suffrage Committee.  Therese Casgrain wrote in her 1971 autobiography that she deeply respected Ritchie England. (Ritchie England opposed conscription in 1917 and actively supported Laurier and so she almost got impeached by the Montreal Council of Women for disloyalty. Derick, a cagey politician, managed to steer clear of controversy, often using double-speak. Two reporters, from the Herald and La Presse also attended)

In other words, they kept the head and chopped off the rest.

They got rid of the Temperance types and the Ministers of the Cloth and the silly old English spinster school teachers :) (All this has been forgotten.)

That's why the MSA had to disband, to get rid of the racist element that was so prominent in the organization.

The Ligue  des Droits de la Femme, however,  is heralded in history here in Quebec because that organization finally won Quebec women the vote under Therese Casgrain in the late 1940's.

My job, now, is  to read more of the minutes from the early days of the Ligue or Committee (not many available from the early days) and to compare them to the minutes of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

I can already see the two governing styles are very different..

The Montreal Suffrage Association, made up entirely of members of the Montreal Council of Women, tried to keep 'official style' minutes, of their official-style board meetings, with motions and 'in favours' and first and seconding and such.

These first minutes of the new bilingual suffrage Committee are very informal, and seem to be written by Gerin-Lajoie, the head of the new organization and not by a 'secretary' a few days after the fact.

Carrie Derick appears to have taken a back seat here on the Committee, to Lajoie..

And Mrs. Pierre Casgrain was a member from the start in 1922.. that would be Therese. (I hadn't thought so.)

The members of this new Committee appear to be businessmen, Birks and Sam Bronfman and even a Mr. Frederick Hague, Mountain Street, who is the father-in-law of the Mrs. Hague I met researching my British grandmother's story at Changi. (Looking for Mrs. Peel.) Small world. I know he was a banker.

 Guerin-Lajoie's fonds are in the Quebec archives, around the corner on Viger.

 I've checked them out a couple of times last year and these fonds are truly delightful, full of fun documents revealing that Mrs. Gerin Lajoie was a gifted writer and a very pious Roman Catholic, determined to reconcile her religion with her feminism. (She wrote letters to all kinds of religious leaders all over Europe for support.)

In the end, in 1926,  she had to give up the suffrage advocacy. Monsigneur Roy told her to. Therese Casgrain took up the fight - and successfully.

I am related to both Monsigneur Roy and Therese Casgrain, I believe. How bizarre.

Gerin-Lajoie's handwriting on a document from her fonds. (Apparently copyrighted to a religious order but I have not been able to reach them to ask about this..they don't answer.)

Gerin-Lajoie was President of La Federation St. Jean Baptiste, a French Canadian Social Group that split off from the Montreal Council of Women in the early years of the 1900's.

It's a complicated business...Below, Margaret Nicholson of Tighsolas, Threshold Girl Votes for the first time in 1921.. This was the first full election after the Act to Confer the Electoral Franchise on Women of 1918.

Margaret lived to a ripe old age, but she never lived to vote in Provincial Elections. She died in 1944.Well, maybe she did, once.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Black Friday, Messina and Marketplace Exposes

A patio with a view. When we were in San Francisco two years ago I checked the grocery store prices. The Whole Foods in Haight Ashbury wasn't all that more expensive than my local IGA, but with much better quality meats.

I'm getting a lot of Black Friday adverts on my smart phone. Black Friday is the huge discount shopping day in the U.S. where Americans flood the stores for Christmas bargains.

Canadians, too, flood these same American stores.

My late good friend Lise would go every year with her daughter and son in law to Messina New York to buy ALL their Christmas presents.

And then she'd recite me the prices.

She was one of these savvy shoppers who kept prices in her head, even specific food prices.

She knew what products to buy and what products not to buy in the US. Basically, packaged goods are cheaper in the US compared to Canada, healthy foods not.

(That explains why Americans are so big: junk food is super CHEAP. Healthy food relatively expensive.)

Emboldened by my bargain-hunting friend, by husband and I drove to Messina New York a few times to buy food, mostly, but didn't feel that it was any bargain at all.

You see,don't eat as a rule eat junk food or cook with much pre-packaged food.

We prefer Burlington VT as a weekend destination, but that's a pretty place with pretty prices on everything. We don't go there to save money.

Now, a few days ago the CBC's Marketplace Program ran an irksome expose showing how prices in Canada were so much higher than prices in the US, comparing the prices in border towns.

Americans pay less than Canadians  for just about every product, even products MADE IN CANADA. Usually around 30 percent less.

Going over the bridge at Cornwall Messina. (The Natives charge a 3 dollar toll each way.)

Tell me something I don't know! (I remember my friend Lise holding up a box of soup mix in a Burlington grocery store, one marked MADE IN CANADA and telling me it was 2 dollars cheaper than at home.)

The CBC journalists asked the merchants, the big box sellers, like Walmart why this is the case, why we Canadian paid more for everything.

 The rote reply was that our bilingual packaging cost more (I wonder if that goes for American packaging with Spanish labels).. and our transportation and our triffs ...and on and on.

I've heard it all before. Over the years. The many, many years.

We've had a free trade agreement with the US for decades. The Conservative government was elected in the 1980's due to this deal. I recall the huge FRONT PAGE editorial the day before said election proclaiming in bold lettering why we average Canadians would benefit from NAFTA.


The sad fact is: the global mega-corporations  charge more for products in Canada because THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT.  Free trade deal or no free trade deal.

 (And the experts interviewed on Marketplace the other day said as much.. It's called National Inflation or something..Nation Gouging. I can't recall the exact cynical marketing slogan.

As demographics reveal, most Canadians were not born yesterday.

Older Canadians like me have long given up on the price wars... the illogic of it... trying to figure out why prices in Canada have stayed 30 percent higher than in the US, even with our dollar rising to par over the years - and staying there.

(The Canadian dollar was at 70 percent of the value of the US dollar for a long time. Somehow it got in our collective Canuck heads that we ALWAYS pay more for stuff, compared to Americans. (And we have health care and good social programs, so somehow was fair -as if the marketplace is 'fair.')

I myself only get flustered about it when it comes to books I want to buy.

The pretty artist's colony town (small like a Hollywood set) at Bristol Vermont.

But after reflecting on the Marketplace Expose for a few days, I realize I've got it all WRONG.

And so did the CBC Journalists.

They were asking the wrong question.

The question isn't "Why are Canadian Prices so High?"

The question is: "Why are American Prices so Low?"

And that is easily answered.  I think, at least, after reading a lot of John Locke and Adam Smith recently.

Imagine what would happen if suddenly one morning Americans woke up to Canadian prices on all their goods, especially their cheap salty  pre-packaged junk food products.. their comfort food.

Especially in down and out districts like Messina.

There would be riots in the streets within two days, no kidding.

Many Americans don't have much right now, but they do have CHEAP stuff, especially on Black Friday.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Two Cosmological Events in one night

The first snowfall of the season.

That means TWO cosmological events in one evening.

The first is this snow: about as predictable as it gets. ICK!!! Proof that nothing ever changes!

The second a meteorite, falling to earth over my head about 8 pm last night. Proof that the future is unpredictable..

I heard a boom as I read in bed and rushed out of my bedroom to see that all was OK.

I resisted the urge to go downstairs to see if the garage ceiling had fallen in. Too lazy, I guess.

I went to Twitter and entered "Montreal Earthquake" but nothing. Of course this wasn't an earthquake.

Plenty of Twitter users all over Western Quebec had heard the boom and some were tweeting inquires.

Then I forgot all about it.

Then my husband phoned from work and asked if I had heard a large boom.

I replied Yes, a couple of hours ago.

He said a couch sized meteorite fell to earth near our home.

I thought WOW, envisioning a rock the size of the Edwardian Chesterfield in our living room crashing into Mount Rigaud, nearby.

But then I realized from news reports that no couch-sized rock crashed into my neighbourhood, or there would have been a much louder and longer noise, and perhaps mayhem.

And indeed, it was just a sonic boom heard from here to Ottawa.. and some people (all over  the North East saw a blue flash in the sky, but no one recorded it.

(That's hard to believe in this day and age. What, no Russians with dash cams?)

I should have been outside recording the first snowfall of the year instead of  reading about the Enlightenment and how the evolving understanding of the Cosmos changed philosophers' views of how people should live.

Anyway, I entered my story on my Facebook page (before I realized it was a boom and not a crash) and my cousin who works at NASA sent me a message saying the meteorite evaporated in the atmosphere, but some pebbles might have fallen to earth

She said  they'd be out in the morning looking for such pebbles.

So this overnight snowfall  is a bummer for the scientists, as they won't easily find any pebbles under this snow.

If they come to my backyard I'll offer them a soak in the hottub.

This morning the headlines claim a Meteorite MAY have fallen to earth. DOO doo DOO doo Doo Doo.

(That's the X Files theme, by the way.)

SO if I see any beautiful government agents snooping around my back yard...

Snow on the Hottub. A portent! Our heating bill won't be sky high next year, the insulated cover works well!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I Just had to Show You.

 My cat Fou Fou (and my husband) taken by a Samsung Note with only the light from the fireplace.

I blew the fuzzy pic up on my phone only to see all these WONDERFUL colours in my cat's coat.

Looks like Dutch Impressionism. Is there such a thing?

The dark is Dutch, the points of colour, impressionist. But then again Impressionism is all about the diffusion of light,  isn't it?

Icons and Imagery and School Yard Prisons

 Notre Dame de Bonsecours in Old Montreal, the Church in Suzanne by Leonard Cohen

Me and my son in front of a famous place.. Vegas? I can't remember.

Cupola. I like the word. CU PO LA. I first read it in Russian Novels. I probably first saw one in the movie Dr. Zhivago.

And today I can see plenty of them on YouTube, on those nice HD tours average people take you on.

There's a spectacular 2 hour video of St. Petersburg, the Venice of Russia...

One of the sunniest places on Earth the tour guide on said video proclaims.

Those spectacular cupolas, apparently, are the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire, or at least of Byzantine Empire Flavor. (Many other Byzantine treasures are in the Old Venice, taken there by Crusaders.)

No wonder these structures seem so exotic to me.

And the churches inside! My gosh. And those Eastern Jesuses are so Nureyev-like. with those huge dark eyes..

Now, having read lots of Russian Novels early in my career, I often read the word "icon" but I didn't quite understand what an icon was. I thought an icon could be any religious symbol.

Well, I just learned icons are portable paintings of religious figures. (Took me long enough!)

The Catholic church tried to get rid of icons in the 800 period (I think) but it didn't work.

Citizens and clergy alike felt that these images protected them from bad people. So they in turn protected their icons, carrying them off to safe places during this campaign.

The Orthodox Churches don't like statues apparently. (I guess it is hard to carry of a large marble statue).

The Protestant Church got rid of all their icons, seeing them as Paganish.

Indeed they got rid of all paintings too.

(And Protestant Reformers smashed up a lot of other people's art treasures as well.)

Hmm. I was brought up 'pagan'.. well, actually with no religion... and that was thought of as "pagan" but of course that is a very narrow view of things.

 Sometimes I jotted "Anglican" in the box that asked about religion on various school forms..that's because, I guess, my father told me to. He had been born in Malaya, so he had been raised by Hindus and Buddhists, "the help" but had gone to Prep School in England. He had no religion but got very mad is you said anything against any religion. His mother had been the daughter of a Methodist Minister who had attended a co-ed Quaker School in the North of England.

I attended  a Protestant School in Montreal in the 60's that had mostly Jewish students.

The school was an austere little box - like all school buildings of the era it was designed to optimize containment and supervision, so, in short, it was constructed along the lines of a prison.

(I often had bad dreams about that building at night.)

(I arrived at this school late in November and I couldn't yet read and I was put up in front of the class and asked to read a bit from the Bible.. They who go out in the sea in ships, but I couldn't yet read, so the teacher stood behind me and whispered the words ...So talk about a traumatic beginning to school... )

In later years, when I visited the Catholic School up the street with my neighbour, I marveled at the life-size statue of Mary in the Vestibule.

Anyway, I've been researching and writing about the lives of Scottish Presbyterians, The Nicholsons, for my e-books Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster.

They are my husband's ancestors and they left behind about 300 letters from the 1910 period.

I've read all the letters, researched the background to them, so I know all about these people's thoughts and dreams, their strengths and weaknesses;what I am not able to understand is their religious conviction.

They don't write about it, it is so close to them, so much a part of them.

Yes, they go to Church, sometimes twice a day. They make fun of Methodists and Quakers and criticize any Minister who has the audacity to deliver a boring sermon.

(I have a nasty photograph of party where they are imitating a Quaker Revival Meeting.)

But they don't talk about their faith, per se.

They have many relations who are Ministers of the Cloth and I have some of their letters, and these letters are full of fire and brimstone so I can get an idea of what these Presbyterians heard while sitting in their pews at church.
But in many ways the Nicholsons were modern-day, and they did not approve of 'the old way' of preaching.

In fact, they are feuding with one Dr. Kelloch, a veteran preacher from Richmond.

In 1909 Margaret writes in a letter that she is being shunned by the church missionary society ladies and by Mrs. Kelloch specifically.

(I can ONLY guess as to why. I suspect it is because Margaret is an opinionated new woman who is all for woman suffrage and doesn't spend too much time doing charitable work, despite the fact her husband is away and she has no other obligations.)

I must say I'm glad for all the paintings and statues and icons in the Eastern (and Western) churches. Now that I have YouTube and HD TV.

There's so  much beauty to behold in them and I am a big fan of the Virgin Mary and all her other Goddess incarnations, like the Egyptian Isis.

But yesterday, I listened to a lecture that  shed some light on why the Protestants may have despised icons so.

It seems in the late Middle Ages, everyone and his donkey was seeing miracles happening around these icons, bleeding eyes and such, and that was causing all kinds of problems for the Church.

What was a miracle? What was a marvel? What was REALLY going on here, superstition, magic, PR style manipulation?

So maybe it was just easier to get rid of images all together - and to focus on the Scriptures...The Word.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Meaningful Glows and Chilling Forecasts

Every since Ancient Greece, we have divided human behavior into at least two realms, the rational and irrational.

But is there much of a division?  (Sorry all you Enlightenment Thinkers, for my asking of this impertinent question.)

Here's a very rare picture, for my family. A blaze in a fireplace. My fireplace.

Nothing special about this image.

 It's iconic. It's archetypal. But it's also homely and ordinary.

It's an image that is  comforting, and a little mysterious, and a little scary, after all, it is FIRE and fire is a bit unpredictable, like an irrational being, human or god.

But this lovely civilized blaze, his suburban blaze that my husband started last night, is the first hearth fire we've had in our house ever - and we've lived here since the year 2000.

That's because my husband got a migraine headache one time after sitting in front of a fire (in our old house) and he's refused to allow one since. Not a particularly rational response, but not an entirely irrational one either.

A flight or fight response, I'd think. An animal response.

(Migraines are not fun, apparently.)

So, this fireplace lay 'fallow' for years. An ugly hole in the wall.

My husband was never 100 percent sure that chimney fires cause his migraines.

In fact, there was a more  rational part of him that suspected it was the BEER he drank in front of the fireplace that gave him the awful headaches.

(They started to put additives in the beers around then.)

So a couple of years ago, when Hurricane Sandy was on its way to the North East, we had a chimney sweep clean out the fireplace and dried off some old logs that had been stored in our yard by the previous owner.  Just in case.

Sandy stayed away and we didn't start any fires then or since.

Yesterday evening, my husband  dared to light a fire, why? Because I asked him to - and because the memory of that particularly terrible migraine from 15 years ago has finally faded away.

I asked him to do this because I had taken a peek at the weather forecast on my Samsung Note and had seen that it was cold outside, about -10 and about to get even colder at night, falling to -13.

In November! In Quebec! When it could just as easily be 13 degrees ABOVE Celsius. That's our unpredictable weather. It's enough to make you crazy.

This weather forecast depressed me and I got even more depressed looking at the long term forecast that predicted a HUGE snowstorm in the middle of the week, when I have a meeting in town,  and lots of really frigid weather until WELL PAST THE NEW YEAR.

Lighting a fire was my IRRATIONAL response to this chilling weather forecast..

Hearth fires do not heat the house, after all ; they draw cold air into the house. Especially our house, our poorly insulated 1970's mess of a house.

(And the truth is, cold weather in November in Quebec is a good thing, where most houses are run by electricity. No ice storms, like in 1998 where we had no electricity for 16 days - and two kids and two dogs to cart from safe-house to safe-house.

So, cold weather here equals no broken branches, no power outages. (Just a higher electricity bill next year.)

But the thought of  a  hearth fire is strangely comforting, even to a Boomer like myself -and I lived in homes without fireplaces growing up, duplexes with fake plaster-cast fireplaces that didn't function at all.

The homely hearth is an archetype I can get into.  Especially around Christmas. (And they've already got the Fireplace Channel up on the Satellite Grid.)

As you can see from the picture below, my husband I and I enjoyed the sweet blaze last night.

And, no,  he didn't get a headache,so we can fire away all winter.

He watched the Grey Cup football game with the sound turned off on McLuhan's electronic fireplace in the corner of the room, as I listened to a lecture on paradigm shifts and Science and Magic and Religion  over the laptop.

I'd just finished the lectures on  Witchcraft and  Alchemy and was heading into  the Age of Reason, Newton and such.

So our civilized, suburban hearth fire had a particularly meaningful (and mischievous) glow for me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Apocalyptic Language and Freezing Rain

No one watches the weather more than I do. I live in Canada and I have that SAD syndrome, where my moods go up and down with the sunlight.

But as I wrote in a post a few days ago, I think the Weather NEWS  is getting Weird...and that isn't only when there's a weather emergency.

Today there's a winter storm in the Eastern US. Ho Hum. Get your snow tires on!

But look at the headlines of today. (It's been going tabloid for a while..but hey, now it is positively Apocalyptic.)

Here's the weather map for today's storm. Like Dante's Circles of Hell.  And of the course the advertisement.  It's cute on the surface, about selling brellies, but it also warns BE READY.

And even a little 'filler item" has the headline Is this the Scariest Swing on Earth?

What's that famous book that woman... that claims that before  a certain big earthquake (Milan?)people believed the weather measured the good and evil in a society, but then it changed because the Powers that Be handled the cleanup as  an event that had nothing to do with the mysterious realms, and weather (oops) whether God loved you or not. It was all dealt with as a random act about tectonic plates.....

Don't recall the name of the book or author. But she was referring to the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755,  that catastrophic event during the Enlightenment that apparently led Voltaire to re-examine the nature of good and evil.

(I just read a bit of Candide the other day.. maybe this is why I decided to write on this topic. )
And Rousseau and he apparently argued about this earthquake:

Rousseau said that if man had remained in his state of nature he wouldn't have gotten in the way of the earthquake, an argument scientists use today when discussing tornado alley issues.

Catastrophes affect men, to the extent that men populate the earth and build homes and get in the way of Nature, but the more important question is How do catastrophes affect the thinking of men?

Well, we seem to be heading backward in the US anyway... Why? I imagine because with global warning weather isn't seen as random act of Nature (or God) anymore, it is indeed about the 'good and bad' in a society.


Even scientists agree.The Rational Ones.

And that plays right into the hands of people who still have this pre-Lisbon Medieval outlook about the world.

Ironic, no?

Saturday, November 23, 2013



 I've always loved the Yeats poem Byzantium

 (so I pillaged some images off the Net)

THE unpurged images of day recede;
The Emperor's drunken soldiery are abed;
Night resonance recedes, night walkers' song
After great cathedral gong;
A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains
All that man is,
All mere complexities,
The fury and the mire of human veins.
Before me floats an image, man or shade,
Shade more than man, more image than a shade;
For Hades' bobbin bound in mummy-cloth
May unwind the winding path;
A mouth that has no moisture and no breath
Breathless mouths may summon;
I hail the superhuman;
I call it death-in-life and life-in-death.

Miracle, bird or golden handiwork,
More miracle than bird or handiwork,
Planted on the star-lit golden bough,
Can like the cocks of Hades crow,
Or, by the moon embittered, scorn aloud
In glory of changeless metal
Common bird or petal
And all complexities of mire or blood.

At midnight on the Emperor's pavement flit
Flames that no faggot feeds, nor steel has lit,
Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
Where blood-begotten spirits come
And all complexities of fury leave,
Dying into a dance,
An agony of trance,
An agony of flame that cannot singe a sleeve.
Astraddle on the dolphin's mire and blood,
Spirit after Spirit! The smithies break the flood.
The golden smithies of the Emperor!

Marbles of the dancing floor
Break bitter furies of complexity,
Those images that yet
Fresh images beget,
That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cosmologies and Supermen

I'm listening to a podcast by Cambridge Professor Alan MacFarlane, about paradigm shifts in scientific thinking....

I think he is saying that the scientists of any time usually see the world through a prism of their own world order, and even if their specialty is history, they re-construct the field  of history in that way.

I was sitting in my hot tub the other day, under the stars... My husband had suggested putting a roof over the thing to keep off the rain and snow, I said NO.

I can take a bath anywhere, I can sit in 10 below weather under the stars in my new (second hand) hot tub (until it breaks down).

We don't look at the stars very much. Even in the sububububububurbs, like where I live. Light Pollution.

Our not-so-ancient ancestors did nothing but look at the stars and the stars ordered their lives, the Cosmos.

And then machines took over...and punkits started seeing the world (and human activity) as a giant machine.

My son studied astrophysics. I just heard someone say Astrophysicists are today's shamans "The Keepers of the Unseen World."

That's what got so many early astronomers in trouble..

My son would disagree, saying he is a scientist and it's all about numbers and pure reason. Universal truths. Oh. Oh..

(He's the first to tell you that scientists in university don't spend much time learning the History of Science. Maybe this is why.)

O.K. This is a much more complicated topic than I can handle on my morning blog, on one cup of coffee, but I will transcribe a newspaper article from around 1910, about a lecture Carrie Derick gave in Montreal to a group of young men.

As I have pointed out in my blog, Derick was the most influential woman in Montreal in the 1910 era (also in Canada), a McGill Botanist, but also President of the Montreal Council of Women. She gave tonnes of public lectures to all kinds of people. She was an AUTHORITY.

She was all for woman suffrage (and was President of the Montreal Suffrage Association from 1913-1919 )and she was all for eugenics or 'the protection of the feeble-minded' as she might have put it.
Here' she talks about 'evolution' a trendy topic, although reaching the end of its days as the predominant social theory.

That's because Europe was no longer expanding in leaps and bounds.... America was on the ascendancy.

The Theory of Evolution suited European Thinkers in the 19th century, because of Europe's  wealth and imperialism. (I think this is what Macfarlane says. You can hear him here.)

Here's a bit from the article given post WWI and it ends on a religious note:

The Possibilities of Evolution

Is man as we know him the final word of the evolution serial, or will some new species of the genus homo be developed in the future? Discussing this question before the Montreal Young Men's Forum, Professor Carrie M. Derick broached a theme which has in our day aroused keen interest and much debate.

None of us are content to live in the present tense of  life. (Macfarlane claims that how we view "time and space" is critical to our world view.)

We look before and after. The long slow struggle of our race, from the man of Neandertahal type and conditions of the troglodyte period suggests that there will be a corresponding movement from the position in which we find ourselves, and the dream of a superman marks our literature.
Mrs. Wells has sketched a race of human folk whose exploits and inventions will make our own boastful attainments pale in comparative insignificance.

But the most prominent man preaching the dogma is Friedrich Nietzsche, who tells us "all beings have hitherto created something beyond themselves." His transvaluation of values has caught the popular imagination, but the egregious failure of Nietzsche to make his fanciful superman anything better than a 'blonde grey beast' should at least warn us against letting our imagination run wild in future conjectures.

Professor Derick did not fall into this snare. She preferred to state that in the human species evolution had come to the end of its tether and that what future improvements lay in store come out of variations and gifts of culture of the gifts we already possess.

This accords with the dictum of Herder who declared that the physical development of creation reached its climax in the human form and that from this vantage must grow out a corresponding moral and spiritual development carrying the race to a new consummation.

The physical series completed, it lies in man to further his talents and invest his life along moral lines thus fulfilling the Divine intent of his creation.

The functions of human society have been compared to those of the individual selfhood: a thing of head, heart and limbs. Intellectually, modern society is vastly in advance of the Middle Ages, although, as Professor Derick said, still far behind the Greek Republic in its palmiest days. (EDITOR: This itself is an old-fashioned idea in Derick's day.)

Industrially, probably, there has never in human history been an age the equal to our own. Morally, the question is much debated as to whether genuine progress has been made, and certainly in proportion to our opportunities it has not kept the pace it should or supplied the equilibrium of forces and balances of power which moral culture alone can produce.

Hence the confusion and embarrassment in which we find ourselves at the present juncture, asking ourselves whether our modern civilization, amid all its material splendours, is doomed to crash down.

We have too lightly assumed, perchance, that civilization and progress  are powers which work for good apart from ourselves and that our trust in 'chariots and horses' is sufficient to save us.

Someone has said that the war wrote across the heavens in letters of flame the truth that there can be no human  progress worth calling such apart from the development of the individual souls.

This truth was proclaimed twenty centuries ago in the gospel.

(And then it goes on for a while about religion.) Huh. Derick's belief system seemed to be gleaned from all over the place..Well, she wasn't into Nietzsche's Superman, even if she had attended the University of Bonn.

No wonder Edith Nicholson of Threshold Girl was a friend. (Edith mentions 'stepping out' with Miss Derick a 1927 letter.) Edith was very pious.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Madness and Mad Ideas

Emmeline Pankhurst and Winston Churchill: two people, two Brits who did not like each other.

Here are their Google Ngrams... mentions in books.

Churchill's mentions outnumber Pankhurst's but her legacy is rising and Churchill's is not. Feminist scholarship!

Emmeline wrote her own autobiography in 1913, while still in the midst of the good fight.

I don't know if these two icons ever met. I did read in Annie Kenney's autobiography that one of her first assignments for Pankhurst was to disrupt Churchill's election campaign, 1906 or so. (I have to check.. He was running for a seat in Manchester.

Churchill was not amused. He did not like having the spotlight pulled from him.

Of course the WSPU hated Churchill, the Home Secretary in 1910 and wrote about his heavy handed tactics in their magazine Votes For Women.

The joke goes that Churchill had nothing against strong women (his own mother was a pill and his wife too) but he was afraid the suffragettes would take away his beloved cocktails.


I'm listening today to a lecture on Population Growth, and ideas about it after WWII. Of course, that's my era (post WWII) so I already know a lot intuitively.

Fears about over-population were a racist thing. No kidding.

I also learned that the eugenics movement didn't die right there in 1946 with the Nazis demise (as it should have.)

Indeed, programs established pre-war thrived for a while.

The fear of overpopulation was huge post war. Why? Because despite the fact millions upon millions died in WWII the overall world population still increased!

So now I understand why the Montreal Council and National Council were still dealing with the issue of the 'feeble minded' in the 1940's. (I read over their minutes last year at the National Library.)

As I have written, Miss Carrie Derick, former President of the Montreal Council of Women, Suffragist Mover and Shaker and McGill Botanist was a key force behind the eugenics movement in Canada.

She was Education Chair of the National Council of Women for a long long time, too.

Derick wanted compulsory education so that the  nation's children could be evaluated and perhaps culled.

According to the Oxford Book on Eugenics, McGill was eugenics central in Canada.

Derick used her understanding of mysterious things like Mendel and pea pods to convince her women audiences of the need for a eugenics program.

Post war, in the US, I just learned, they sterilized all kinds of people, the so called feeble minded, the criminally-insane, epileptics, and who knows who else.

 Below I have a bit from a newspaper clipping, where Derick invokes Nietzsche in a talk on eugenics.

You have to find this ironic, as Nietzsche, like so many of the other prominent influential social thinkers, lost his mind at one point.

I'd say a good 50 percent of the GREAT social theorists that are the fodder of first year survey courses at Yale and Oxford, etc., had 'nervous breakdowns' during their lifetimes.

Nietzsche waited until the end of his career. He saw a horse being beaten and went mad on the spot.

It's quite striking, really, the correlation between brilliance and madness. (Or is it a case of too much work and no play?)


An article recently posted at the Guardian claims the use of anti-depression medication is increasing in leaps and bounds, in the so called developed nations, the rich nations, especially in Nordic countries like Canada. (Unlike the US we also have medicare.)

So I guess this marks the end  of Great Thinking as we know it.

 The Unhappy Rich: Anti-Depressant use soars in Developing Nations.

Below: A nicer pic of Carrie Derick in the 1920's I found in a newspaper and an article about a lecture she gave on eugenics invoking Nietzche.

PS. This ad following is not mine, but Wordpress's.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Women in Myth

Blind Justice on the courthouse at Brockville, Ontario. I took the pic a few years ago. This Justice looks alot like the Screen Gems gal.

Here's a bit from the Eumenides of Aeschylus. I read the Orestia back in college, but not since, I recall really liking the story, although I preferred Euripides. I remember writing a paper, Euripides, mysogynist?

I can't remember taking anything away from this trilogy. Perhaps had I been in Pre-Law I would have.

So the Furies are the Old Law, the female law, based on emotion, vengeance, protection of those with blood ties.

And Apollo is the New Law, Male, Rational, based on Justice and protecting everyone.. (Well, everyone who is a citizen.)

And, according to the lecture I am listening to now, you need a bit a both. Ying and Yang. If you repress the Furies they will arise in force and be extremely destructive. So Freudian.

I guess this is what these Victim's Rights movements are about.. harnessing the angry hoards.

Uglier than Medusa the Gorgon..(Anyone who gives birth to Pegasus can't be all bad.)

In front of him a grisly band of women slumbers.
Not like women they but gorgons rather.
Nay that word is weak, nor can I match the gorgon's shape with theirs.
Such as I've seen in painted semblance hearst, painted harpies. but these are wingless, black.and all their shape the eye's abomination to behold. Fell is the breath.Let none draw night to them whereforth they snort and slumber.
From their eyes exuded the damndest drops of poisonous ire,
and such their garb as none should dare to bring to statues of the gods or tribes of men..

 Gorgon, or Any woman during a bad hair day.

Another fun thing I just read about. In the 400's or so the leaders of the Catholic church gathered and declared Mary the Bearer of God, exalting her.

She would be the new Eve..

Oh, well, that didn't last long, except in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where the cult of the Virgin still lives. I must get to Dubrovnic..

And except in my grandmother's house. I inherited from my aunt a little statue of Mary, that I painted up in bright colours with oil paints.

I gave her a coat of many colours: am I mixing stories here.

I wonder where she. I hope she's somewhere in the garage in a box. (My husband throws nothing out.)  I would like to resurrect her.

Here's another interpretation of that problematic Adam and Eve story: Adam is Mind, Eve is Body.. Duality. Ying and Yang.

Except why is Eve so obviously the clever one?


Mary is still exalted her in Quebec. The shrine near my house is Rigaud is in homage to HER. Notre Dames des Lourdes.

It's right nearby and I've been there but twice, the last time a couple of months ago, when the leaves where beginning to turn.

My husband and I had the place to ourselves, although there is seating for thousands, it seems.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What Makes you Happy? (Truly)

My new used hot tub my husband got for free and repaired. There are two types of women, apparently, ones who shop to relax and ones who take hot baths. Lucky, I fit into the later category. I've heard that people who have hot tubs lose interest after a few years...I wonder why.

About 20 years ago, when I had young kids and I was working as a freelance writer, or a writer on contract somewhere in the city, I would take my broken down Buick Century with the rust holes in the side and drive down to Massachusetts to an ashram for a break.

It was a cheap vacation  - and I got to go to 'kindergarten' since the New Age workshops were all about singing and writing and playing.

But when I got there I was always surprised to see the lines of Lexuses (Lexis) and otherwise pricey cars in the parking lot.

This place attracted wealthy 'older' people in droves.

I recall in one workshop a well-preserved grey-haired lady 'spilling her soul' and talking about how worried she was for her kids. You see, she and her husband were rich,  having built up a business, and she felt her children would be deprived of this experience - and suffer for it.

I remember thinking, "I wish I had these problems." My husband had been laid off three times in his job at the TV station, during the time his station went from being privately-owned to publicly-owned.

And yet I could understand. THINGS don't make you happy. No kidding.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau said as much a while back:

And that's when only a very few people had any things to speak of, but he could see the trend.

Rousseau said possessions stop giving pleasure after a short while, but losing them (even the fear of losing them) gives pain forever. Hence our consumer-age predicament.

(And recent case in point: Yesterday in the news I read that Cornelius Gerlitt, the man who hoarded all those priceless painting stolen by the Nazis, does not wan to give them up!! )

One of my favorite lines from the Nicholson Family Letters (1908-1913) was written down by Margaret Nicholson. Her neighbour, Nathan Montgomery (retired at 40) was giving up his horse and getting a car."

She was appalled (and probably a little jealous, for her husband could not afford an auto).

"Mr. Montgomery is going to buy an auto. Nothing will satisfy now. He is going to sell his horse. Mrs. Montgomery does not want to buy one. Too bad he is so foolish, don't you think? At one time he was  happy with a nice home in a nice neighbourhood. But not now."

That's right. Cars were the new prestige item among Middle Class Men in 1910. And that would continue. 

But, as everyone knows, with THINGS, there's a law of diminishing returns.  Just two years later Mr. Montgomery was looking for a newer, better car.

But sometimes things can give you real pleasure.

I bought these second hand plates at the thrift store a while back (for about 2 dollars each) and they continue to give me pleasure, every time I eat because they make my meals prettier, and every time I empty the dishwasher.

 They look a bit like this below... Yardley Eyeshadow from the 1960's.. when I was a tweenager and when I SOOOO wanted to have lots and lots of these prettily packaged paints.. for obvious reasons. No one was better than Yardley for evoking the yearnings in pubescent girls, playing on their instincts.. their natural desires.  I notice that YouTube videos showing girls how to apply eyeshadow have millions of hits, while YouTube Videos about Jean Jacques Rousseau have hundreds of hits!

This Buddha my son gave me for a birthday a while back is one of my favorite things too. I'm still a bit New Agey.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Canada's Chinese Finger Puzzle?

The other day I saw my friend, Mary Burger-flipper sitting at a cafe across the street, so I waved and stepped off the curb and almost got run over by John Options-Guy in his Porsche.

OK. That didn't REALLY happen. The guy's name was Miller; Hers  was Smith.

Miller and Smith, of course, are two popular (pre-eminent?) names in English Society, indeed, in most societies, because, way back when,  Millers and Smiths were key professions. 

Except that Miller, or the equivalent, isn't a common name in Arabic. Fewer mills, you see. No water powered mills.

Not much water but lots of dry grasslands that can sustain cheap, but less efficient, animal labour.

I'm stealing this all from a Columbia Lecture by a Professor Bulliet on Itunes. The History of the World.

Bulliet, an expert in the Middle East, believes that the East fell behind the West industrially in around 1000 because 1) the West started using water power (even though they knew how to harness animal power) and the East kept using Animal Power (even though they knew how to harness water and wind power) because in the wet West, it was more efficient to use water power and in the arid East, animal power was cheapest.

Of course, these grasslands had given the East an advantage pre 1000, but the times they were a'changin'.. and the weather was getting super nice in Europe besides... so the West got a leg up on the East in 1000 because they had to improve their technology to feed the increasing population and the East didn't have to. And the rest is History, the Industrial Revolution...and the division of labour and alienation and some super-huge wars and ipods.

(It used to be that a person was John of the Brawny Guy, son of John the Scarface. And women didn't have names as they weren't important. Hell, they didn't have their own names in the 1960's. A woman was known as Mrs. John Smith. )

And what's happening now? We insist of living off fossil fuels, when the fuel of the future is like to be something else. Well, it HAS to be something else, doesn't it?

The Alberta tar sands are full of dinosaur bones, but the entire tar sands project (and putting all our eggs in the fossil fuel basket )may be dooming Canadian Society to some kind of extinction. Maybe the entire world.

So maybe we should heed Mary Robinson, who condemned the Canada at the COP 19 meeting in Warsaw last week.

For our own good.

(But wait, our entire economy has been geared toward this oil project...the only jobs are in the West.)

Looks like Canada is caught is some Chinese finger puzzle.

                                            No pain. No gain. An Alberta Landscape.

Hyperbolic Journalism and Hot Tubs

I like this: it's the warning on the cover of my second or third or fourth hand hot tub.

It's a simple, common sense warning, so you can tell my hot tub is a very very old one.

Today, the warning would have to be as long as your arm and very explicit. Drinking a mickey of vodka and getting into the hot tub in high heels by way of an unstable, ice-covered garden chair may be hazardous to your health.

(This English is illegal, however, as I live in Quebec.)

Anyway, it's windy outside. I won't be getting into the hot tub today (most likely) as a gust of wind may come and drop the heavy cover on my head, and I might fall into the water and drown!

It's windy because Montreal is experiencing the tail-end of a property-devastating weather system that spawned about 60 tornadoes in the American Midwest yesterday.

(It's not like tornadoes haven't happened before and it's not as if we haven't been warned by scientists that the worst is yet to come.)

Still, some human beings are suffering today and my heart goes out to them.

And it's not like these people live in Tornado Alley and keep re-building after every catastrophic storm.

Still,  I was upset by this headline on the CBC website yesterday.

It's a cynical headline. Clearly 2 deaths (or six as it has risen to) does not a deadly storm make.

But by putting the claim in quotes (someone said this, so what?)  the headline-writers at the CBC feel they can get away with it, even thought they know it's not good journalism.

And why not?  With respect to storms, the CBC is competing with the Weather websites that have been using more and more sensational headlines over the past few years.

So, I have noticed.

Indeed, these websites are getting kind of National Enquirer-like from what I've seen.

 Almost every weather system that blows through has the potential to be 'deadly' according to the websites.

From what I see, about 80 people a day die in car accidents in the US. Some others from guns. Etc. Etc.

The car accidents sometime make the local news, as filler.

My point: These hysterical weather-related headlines do not promote a rational discussion of the serious issue of climate change.

In fact they do quite the opposite. They promote, well, hysteria.

Deaths in WWII... An extremely deadly war.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

An Hour at the Local Bakery

One morning last week I decided to go down to the local bakery and sandwich shop, to have a croissant and listen to a podcast on the Spanish Civil War.

Bakeries come and go in the town I live in, but they mostly go. This bakery is a new venture (on the site of the old bakery) run by young people, and they have fresh pastries and tasty sandwiches, for good prices, so I don't see how the place can last.

I thought it would be a peaceful place to sit for a while, but I was wrong. There were moms with tots there and the floor was mined with little plastic toys in primary colours.

I sat in a corner table and put the Samsung Note to my ear. The lecturer was talking about Guernica, Picasso's famous painting.

Since I had the phone to my ear, I couldn't see the picture (the lecture was actually a video on YouTube) but I didn't have to.

I just looked up and saw this:

Then a brash toddler approached me and reached out his arm and screeched. He wanted my phone! (No Luddite he. He could barely walk but he knew which toy is trendy.)

Anyway, after struggling to hear the lecture about the Spanish Civil War, about the passion, the politics, the atrocities, I wended my way through the maze of toddlers and plastic toys to pay my bill.
And I saw this confection at the counter that put me in a more positive mood,

I asked what it was. A chocolate nest of cream puffs and strawberries. I ordered one for Christmas.

I plan to have a medieval meal, with goose stuffed with quince. And doesn’t this look like some decadent medieval dessert? Something concocted by a chef at Rich II’s court? I only have a few people coming to my holiday meal… so I can go greasy GOOSE.

If people don’t have enough meat: let them eat cream puffs.

I just have to find some quinces..