“Toronto, I just want to say … this is the greatest city in the world” — the double football championship of 2017

Posted: December 12th, 2017 | No Comments »

Jozy Altidore scores first Toronto FC goal as team brings home MLS Cup in 2-0 win over Seattle Sounders.

Football means one thing in North America, and another in the rest of the world.

(And even just North America north of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. There’s also Australian Rules Football, I guess, but that’s … well … something completely different.)

In the late fall of 2017, as it happens, Toronto, ON, Canada has won what some might reasonably call two football championships — one, as it were, for each of these two current meanings.

(Though each championship, it should be noted, is vastly more obscure in the United States.)

To start with, only a few weeks ago in an Ottawa snow storm the current incarnation of a team originally invented by the Argonaut Rowing Club on the western Toronto waterfront won its 17th Grey Cup — coveted ultimate trophy of today’s Canadian Football League (CFL).

Toronto Argonauts cheerleaders in warmer weather. The Argos also won the Grey Cup this year — for a double football championship in the new global city.

(Canadian and US football in this sense “both have their origins in rugby football” and are very similar, if not quite identical. Broadly, the Canadian field is larger, and a team has 4 downs to advance the ball 10 yards in the US game, but only 3 downs in Canadian football.)

For the second great 2017 sports moment in the new global city of the Great Lakes, just over this past weekend the Toronto FC has won the Major League Soccer (MLS) championship — which “represents the sport’s highest level in both the United States and Canada.”

Soccer, of course, is what the rest of the world calls football. Major League Soccer’s  “first season took place in 1996 with ten teams.”  It now has “23 teams—20 in the US and 3 in Canada.” After some rocky early years today “average MLS attendance exceeds that of the National Hockey League (NHL) and National Basketball Association (NBA).”

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What would the Incredible Canadian Mackenzie King make of Canada today, early December 2017?

Posted: December 4th, 2017 | No Comments »

St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia — only Canadian grove of academe to make it onto international list of “The 10 Wildest Party Schools In North America.” Will recent sexual assault charges against two varsity football players change all that?

GANATSEKWYAGON, ON. DECEMBER 4, 2017. [UPDATED DECEMBER 11]. Who can doubt that we are now living in challenging times — especially in those realms of fake and other news where “Canada’s top party school” also qualifies as one of the “10 Wildest Party Schools in North America”?

(Even as “Sex assault allegations place NS university’s party culture under spotlight,” where “students spend more than 7 hours on average” drinking to excess and worse every week of the academic year — just like many of the working adults they know.)

Beyond our northern borders we hear “Trump tweets: ‘I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn’” and “Germany offers to pay migrants who go back home.”

Back in the northern homeland : “Trudeau arrives in China for trade talks with Xi” (are u  listening US NAFTA negotiators? ; “Poll suggests majority of Canadians back ban on guns in urban areas” ; “Kenney mirroring Trump in rhetoric on pipelines: Notley” ; “Quebec revising winter tire rules; incentive-based approach suggested for elsewhere” ; and “White Christmas ahead, but expect mild winter temperatures: Environment Canada.” [UPDATE : And yes Justin Trudeau's back from China now. See Robin Sears on “Canada is playing the long game with China” Note Alexander Panetta as well on how “Despite Trump’s insistence the US has a trade deficit with Canada, statistics from the website of the office of the US Trade Representative — the office handling NAFTA negotiations — paint an opposite portrait.”)

William Lyon Mackenzie King (l) and one of his key mentors, William Mulock, on the occasion of Mr. Mulock’s 101st birthday in 1944.

For all of us here at the Canadian republican underground, Ganatsekwyagon branch, these current challenges have happily coincided with the long-anticipated arrival of the next installment in Dr. Randall White’s work-in-progress, Children of the Global Village — Canada in the 21st Century : Tales about the history that matters.

If you go to “Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” on the bar above (or just CLICK HERE), you will find a short introduction to this modern history of Canadian democracy, along with the “Prologue : too much geography.”

This is followed by links to the currently completed six chapters in Part I, four  chapters in Part II, and the first four chapters in Part III on the old Dominion of Canada. You will now find as well a link to Chapter 5 of PART III : THE DOMINION OF CANADA, 1867–1963, “Age of the Incredible Canadian, 1921–1948.”

US comic book, c. 1942. Thanks to Ley and Lois Smith War, Memory and Popular Culture Research Collection, University of Western Ontario.

Yet again on a foggy day at the edge of the northern woods we eventually stumbled into Dr. White and his captivating business manager (in her freshly cleaned white faux fur winter coat), at the Tim Horton’s across from the local park.

We explained how we understood that William Lyon Mackenzie King, grandson of the 1837 Canadian rebel leader William Lyon Mackenzie (and still Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, 1921-1926, 1926-1930, 1935-1948), was the “Incredible Canadian” in the title of his latest installment. And we asked Dr. White what he had finally taken from his encounter of the past number of months with Mackenzie King — the “profoundly eccentric, even creepy and worse … dead-mother-loving, lifelong bachelor spiritualist with a Harvard PhD … with all his strange and even crazy as well as brilliant political sides”?

Dr. White just said : “Well this is by far the longest chapter in the book so far. I think I can safely predict no future chapter will be at all so long. And I guess that says something (if not everything) about how Mackenzie King strikes me.”

More top party school action at St. FX — “Bishops’ Ball dance-off (Gordon La)” : and tks to Maclean’s website.

He took a bite from a Boston cream donut and pronounced it astonishingly fresh but lacking in cream. Then he added :

“In 1952 Bruce Hutchison wrote  ‘The mystery of William Lyon Mackenzie King is not the mystery of a man. It is the mystery of a people. We do not understand King because we do not understand ourselves … The full knowledge of both may be some time off …’”

He took a long gulp of regular coffee in the new seasonal cups and continued :

“It is still some time off, no doubt, even today. But we’re getting closer.” When we asked what he thought Mackenzie King would make of our challenges today — a strange US president, a deranged regime in North Korea, Brexit in the UK, a still massively unstable Middle East, climate change, Canadian pipelines, Russia and cyber security, etc, etc, etc — he just laughed and said he had to get back to the office (even on a Sunday afternoon).

Toronto hurray for Ricky Ray .. and Meghan Markle from “Black Beverly Hills”

Posted: November 28th, 2017 | No Comments »

Ricky Ray at the Grey Cup game in Ottawa, Sunday 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson.

Toronto residents, some would say, have two particular reasons to thank the Golden State of California in late November 2017 :

(1) Ricky Ray from Happy Camp, CA: To start with, Ricky Ray, the quarterback who has just led the fabled Toronto Argonauts to their 17th Grey Cup (venerable prize of the Canadian Football League), was born in a place called Happy Camp, California.

A short account of Ricky Ray’s hometown on the net offers some greater understanding of the world that made the ultimate Canadian football champion (four Grey Cups : two with Edmonton and now another two with Toronto) :

“Along the banks of the mighty Klamath River in far northern California rests a sleepy mountain town. Steeped in history, fraught with lawlessness, altered by industry, and even haunted by the legend of Bigfoot himself, the oddly-named settlement of Happy Camp has beckoned eclectic groups of miners, adventurers, and mysterious lone wolves throughout its tumultuous history.”

As far as this year’s quite astounding Grey Cup game in the Ottawa snow itself goes, even some Toronto residents will agree that Shadoe Davis from Winnipeg has a point in “Did the Argos win or did the Stamps lose?” Still, I live in Toronto. I’m happy the Argos did actually get to take the Grey Cup home.

(2) Meghan Markle from “the View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, sometimes known as ‘Black Beverly Hills’” : Judging from Toronto TV and other media today, the absolutely crucial local news right now is —

Toronto in the early 1970s, before either Meghan Markle or Prince Harry were born!

How Meghan Markle and Prince Harry fell in love in Toronto: The timeline of a royal romance … From stepping out for the first time publicly at the Invictus Games to rumoured last-minute flights to visit each other, we go through Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s courtship in Toronto.”

As various friends and family can tell you (to everyone’s immense boredom etc), I very definitely do not believe that the British monarchy has any official, legal, and/or constitutional future in the modern “free and democratic society” we are so lucky to inhabit in Canada today. And in any case the Prince Harry Meghan Markle will be marrying this coming spring 2018 is unlikely to succeed to the throne. (Though that is also no doubt what some people once said about the stammering young man who eventually succeeded his abdicating brother as George VI.)

Yet even a fool such as I in these matters can agree that there is something genuinely new and intriguing about Meghan Markle in the history of British royal marriages. It’s not just that she is American, divorced, and Catholic — all anathema to earlier generations of the current British monarchy that descends from the 18th century German prince, George I.

As nicely explained in a piece from Ms. Markle’s own hometown newspaper (the Los Angeles Times), she is “the daughter of an African American social worker [Doria Ragland] and a white Hollywood TV cinematographer [Thomas Markle].”  As Meghan Markle’s IMDb biography also explains, she “Grew up in the View Park-Windsor Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, sometimes known as ‘Black Beverly Hills’.”

Doria Ragland (l) and her daughter Meghan Markle (r) on their way to yoga class in Toronto (where Ms Markle was working on the ”Suits” TV show), just after Christmas last year.

The Los Angeles Times piece noted as well : “While sipping a coffee in the Hollywood & Highland Center [near Ms Markle’s old hood, so to speak]  Renee Heck, 58, remembered watching the late Princess Diana’s wedding in 1981. It was right after her own wedding … Heck, who said she casually follows the royal family, was familiar with Markle from her role on ‘Suits’ and was happy to see the prince marry someone biracial … ‘It’s a big deal to me to know the queen is accepting of that,’ Heck said.”

My own view is that the British monarchy would have even more strongly shown how it is open to the future if Prince William (first in line after his father Charles) had, eg, married the daughter of a maharaja from India.

Even if that had happened, I would still believe very strongly myself that the British monarchy has no constitutional future in Canada. But I agree Renee Heck from Meghan Markle’s Los Angeles hometown is onto something : It is in its own way impressive enough, in this current crazy age, that the British monarch is happy to see her grandson marry a mixed-race Catholic divorcee from the American city of dreams, where many now speak Spanish at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, far far away from the deepening swamp in Washington, DC.

Who’s having a mid-life crisis — Justin Trudeau or the Ottawa press gallery?

Posted: November 17th, 2017 | No Comments »

Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump at press conference in the White House, Washington, DC, Monday, February 13, 2017. Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP.

A week or so ago John Geddes at Maclean’s posted a heavyweight piece headlined “Justin Trudeau’s mid-life crisis.”  The crisis, it seemed, had become a favourite theme for assorted journalists and pundits covering Canadian federal politics in Ottawa.

There also seemed to be at least some obvious enough weight behind it. When Éric Grenier pondered his CBC polling studies in early October — more than a month ago now — he reported “Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are sliding in the polls, but it’s complicated.”

Much more recently (just yesterday in fact) no less liberal a newspaper than the Toronto Star published an article headlined “The economy is booming, but few Canadians are ready to give Trudeau credit, poll says … Canada’s economy is on pace to lead the G7, but just 25 per cent of Canadians describe the Prime Minister’s performance as an economic manager as good or better, and 36 per cent call it poor or worse.”

Justin Trudeau with Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest during his appearance on Live with Kelly and Ryan in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Monday, June 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Lynett.

Much more recently as well, however (again just yesterday), Bruce Anderson and David Coletto reported on a new Abacus poll : “Last month we saw a four-point slip in Liberal Party support; in our latest survey the Liberals have stabilized and would win 40% support today. The Conservatives are at 32%. Both these numbers are identical to the results last election day in 2015.”

Abacus has also reported some intriguing regional variation in responses to the question : “Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the job the federal government led by Justin Trudeau is doing?” In Quebec (51%) and Atlantic Canada (a whopping 69%!) a majority of poll respondents answered “Approve” to this question. And in BC and Ontario the Approve number was 46%. As Anderson and Coletto put it, “Approval of the government” is at least “the plurality view” everywhere in Canada but the three Prairie provinces. And only in Alberta did a majority of respondents (56%) actually Disapprove of the federal government led by Justin Trudeau.

Justin Trudeau lights a candle for Diwali in this image shared on his Twitter account, Monday, October 16, 2017.

And now just today  Éric Grenier’s CBC poll tracker (reporting “Weighted Federal Polling Averages (%) … As of Nov. 17, 2017”) is suggesting broadly comparable results. (His current averages are Liberal 37.9%, Conservative 32.8%, NDP 17.1%, Green 6.0%, and Bloc Québécois 4.9%. On his model’s assumptions these numbers would give the Liberals 177 seats in the Canadian House of Commons — seven more than a bare majority.)

Moreover, if you ponder the individual poll results that Éric Grenier has used to calculate his current averages it is hard not to notice that the Trudeau Liberals have been reported at close to their 2015 election levels of popular support on various occasions over the past few months.

(Nanos had the Trudeau Liberals at 41% cross-country late this past summer. Ipsos had them at 39% late September. Campaign Research reported 38% early October. Abacus said 39% later October. Léger reported 42% for somewhat later October. Ipsos said 38% for somewhat later October. And Nanos reported 38% for mid October to mid November!)

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The polite fiction that the governor general is somehow “above politics” is what really lacks credibility today

Posted: November 8th, 2017 | No Comments »

Julie Payette, who was sworn in as Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada on the banks of the Ottawa River, Monday, October 2, 2017, back when she was just an astronaut floating in space.

There seems at least some significant agreement within the Canadian federal punditocracy (which I admire a great deal) that our new former-astronaut Governor General Julie Payette badly blotted her copy book, when she gave spirited opening remarks at the recent 9th annual Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa.

I nonetheless feel driven to confess that I am one of the (I believe) growing numbers of Canadians who are not offended by anything Her Excellency said to the country’s top scientists.

I would not, myself, have said quite what she said, or in the way she said it. Eg : “Can you believe that … we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process?”

But I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) myself be an astronaut either. And it’s reassuring at last to hear someone in Canadian public life stand up for one of the various growing minority groups I count myself among — the 23.9% of all Canadians who reported “No religious affiliation” in the 2011 census.

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Homage to Catalonia : déjà vu all over again .. it may belong in Spain but this isn’t the way to keep it there?

Posted: October 29th, 2017 | No Comments »

George Orwell with the POUM militia at the Aragón front in the Spanish Civil War, 1937. He is the tallest among the standing figures. The woman crouching just by his hand is his wife Eileen.

[UPDATED OCTOBER 31, NOVEMBER 1]. George Orwell’s Spanish Civil War book, Homage to Catalonia, first appeared in print in the spring of 1938. Not quite 80 years later, some updated version of its sad story about Spanish and Catalan politics — and the harsh light they cast on the wider world of the 1930s — may be unfolding all over again.

We’re following up here on the Catalonia part of L. Frank Bunting’s October 11 report on this site : “Canadian Thanksgiving 2017, Catalonia capers in Spain, and the unbearable lightness of Mélanie Joly” (subsequently UPDATED OCTOBER 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21!).

We’re also happy enough that, just this past Friday, October 27, 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Canada’s support for “one united Spain … after the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona passed a motion unilaterally establishing a new country.”

At the same time, we’re happy as well to note the CBC Montreal report : “Catalan independence vote sparks contrasting opinions from Quebec and Canadian politicians … Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada recognizes united Spain while Quebec premier calls for dialogue.”

Beyond this we’re just observers from a distance, perched on the northern shores of the North American Great Lakes, in front of desk-top internet monitors and big-screen TVs (and with warm memories of various Spanish visits in the 21st century). And we are especially impressed with eight particular observations from much closer to the action in Madrid and Barcelona :

Celebrating the Catalan declaration of independence in Barcelona, October 27, 2017.

* “Separatist lawmakers in Catalonia were unbowed …  erupting in applause as their vote was approved with 70 votes in favor of an independent Catalan Republic, 10 against and two blank ballots out of a total 135 members.”

* “Within an hour of the Catalan vote, the Spanish Senate in Madrid voted 214 to 47 to invoke Article 155 of Spain’s Constitution, granting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy extraordinary powers to take direct administrative control over the region and remove secessionist politicians.” (As best we can make out, 24 members of the Spanish Senate are from Catalonia?)

* “Mr. Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party has its origins in the neo-Francoist Allianza Popular, which was founded by former Franco ministers after the dictator’s death.”

* “however Rajoy chooses to implement Madrid’s takeover of Catalonia, it seems unlikely that his actions will end the era of ‘disorder’ there … something close to half of Catalonia’s electorate truly favors independence; that sentiment is unlikely to wane with Madrid’s intervention … the sectarian standoff will become even uglier in the days and weeks to come … The Spanish problem … is …  The political pacts that were formed in 1978, following the death of Franco, appear to be falling apart.”

* “‘Two months ago, I would have said that 43 percent [turnout in the Madrid-repressed referendum that voted 90% for Catalan independence] was not enough,’ said Ester Romero, 25, a [Barcelona] sales manager who had come to the [pro-independence] rally … ‘But after all the oppression, after all the police hitting people during the referendum, it’s enough.’”

Catalan president (now officially ex-president) Carles Puigdemont as the Parliament of Catalonia declares independence on October 27.

* “Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council bluntly announced: ‘…nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor.’ … Tellingly, Tusk added, ‘I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not argument of force.’”

* “The United States said Catalonia was an ‘integral part of Spain’ and that it supported Spanish government efforts to keep the nation ‘strong and united.’ … State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the two NATO allies ‘cooperate closely to advance our shared security and economic priorities.’”

* “Regional elections in 2015 returned a slim majority of pro-independence lawmakers, who took this as a mandate to push ahead with the independence drive … Analysts predict a similar outcome in the upcoming ballot” (now scheduled by Spanish President Mariano Rajoy for this  December 21, 2017).

For more than anyone ever really wanted to know about our own Canadian views on Homage to Catalonia 2017–18 click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll down below.

[UPDATE OCTOBER 31 : Meanwhile we've been impressed by Carles Puigdemont’s reaction to current events at a news conference in Brussels  — “I ask the Catalan people to prepare for a long road. Democracy will be the foundation of our victory” — and his “announcement that he would accept the regional election on Dec. 21.” See the short but sweet Thomson Reuters report “Ex-Catalan president accepts snap election, says 'long road' to independence.”]

[UPDATE NOVEMBER 1 : In the face of many other global events of deep concern, the situation in Catalonia and related places has grown somewhat quieter and will probably stay that way for a while at least. But the plot nonetheless continues to quietly thicken, in various troubling ways. See, eg : “Catalonia president Carles Puigdemont will ignore Spanish court order to answer rebellion charges ... Arrest warrant could be issued making it virtually impossible for him to stand in upcoming election” ; “Catalonia Will Not Retreat” ; “How Catalonia’s crisis is turning into a European problem” ; and “Catalonia: Fascists caught making Nazi salutes during anti-Catalan independence protest ... Far-right protesters also chanted 'Viva Franco' in reference to Spain's former dictator.”]

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There won’t be any NiqaBitch in Montreal protesting Quebec’s Bill 62 in 2017 the way there was in Paris in 2010, but ..

Posted: October 24th, 2017 | No Comments »

What is the most sensible (and democratic?) reaction to Quebec’s Bill 62, “requiring Quebecers to uncover their faces to get or receive government services”?

(In effect Bill 62 partially bans face-covering burqa and niqab headgear worn by some — a quite small number it seems — Muslim women in Canada’s francophone-majority province.)

(1) Our first sources here are four articles from the Friday, October 20 Toronto Star : (a) Quebec’s Bill 62 declares war on sunglasses (Chantal Hébert) ; (b) How Ontario politicians avoided Quebec’s burka backlash (Martin Regg Cohn) ;  (c) What a mean thing Quebec has done (Heather Mallick) ; (d) Ottawa should show courage on Quebec’s Bill 62 (Star Editorial Board).

One slightly larger context for all this is what former Ontario premier William Davis liked to call the sister provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

(Together they formed the United Province of Canada, 1841–1867. Whatever its other faults, the United Province actually managed to give itself what we would now call a democratically elected Canadian Senate in 1856, and issue the first Canadian decimal currency in 1858.)

For more than anyone ever wanted to know about our own Ontario views on Bill 62 in Quebec click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll down a little further below.

Meanwhile the Canadian debate over the ban-the-niqab in Quebec takes place in various still broader contexts. Our research assistants have looked quickly at five further groups of sources :

(2) Four additional mainstream media reports : (a) Trudeau who? on Quebec Bill 62 (CBC News) ; (b) Born-in-Canada Muslim student Masuma Khan at Dalhousie U and her support for  Mi’Kmaq people in Atlantic Canada (Huffington Post) ; (c) Nazneen Sheikh’s “invitation to progressive liberal women in Canada to champion” Bill 62 (Toronto Sun)  ; and (d) an upcoming Swiss “referendum on banning niqabs and other face-covering garments” (Associated Press).

(3) Two sources on the pros and cons of wearing particular Muslim headgear for those directly involved : (a) “Hijab, Niqab or Nothing” — a ?2008? CBC TV discussion chaired by Carole MacNeil and now on YouTube ; (b) Quebec women who’ve worn niqabs discuss province’s controversial neutrality bill (Morgan Lowrie at The Canadian Press).

(4) Three sources on the “Niqa Bitches” in Paris, autumn 2010 : (a) NiqaBitch, Original Full Video — Two French females [one allegedly Muslim] strolling through the streets of Paris in  niqab and mini-shorts as a critique of France’s recently passed law (YouTube) ; (b) ‘NiqaBitch’ unveil themselves in Paris — Are this veil-wearing, leg-baring duo making a powerful political point, or trivialising the niqab debate? (Nesrine Malik, The Guardian, Thursday 7 October 2010 ;  (c) “Sexy Paris protest criticizes ‘unconstitutional’ French anti-burqa law” (Clarke Bowling, New York Daily News, Thursday, October 28, 2010).

“Deux femmes françaises se promenant dans les rues de Paris dans un niqab, jambes nues et mini-shorts en tant que critique de la loi récemment adoptée en France”, October 2010.

(5) 72% of “First Nations people with registered Indian status” in Quebec still “living on reserve,” but only 37% in Ontario (Statistics Canada, 2011 Census).

(6) Two sources on recent Supreme Court of India decision striking down “triple talaq” — “the Muslim practice that allows men to instantly divorce their wives” : (a) Triple talaq verdict Highlights: Modi says SC order grants equality, Rahul welcomes decision (Hindustan Times, 22 August 2017) ; (b) Triple Talaq Verdict: Muslim Women Are Cheering — But So Is BJP (Shuma Raha, The Quint, 22 August 2017).

For excessive further detail and —  again — for more than anyone ever really wanted to know about our own Ontario views on Bill 62 in Quebec click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll down below.

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Canadian Thanksgiving 2017, Catalonia capers in Spain, and the unbearable lightness of Mélanie Joly

Posted: October 11th, 2017 | No Comments »

“It’s October already and the leaves in High Park are still very green. Eduardo Lima/mEtro.”

[UPDATED OCTOBER 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21]. Just when I start to conclude that the younger generation running things these days has lost all interest in the literary graces that disciplined my own heyday, I come across a headline like : “Fall features fail to fully unfurl” — in the free metro news tabloid I like to look at with my Tim Horton’s coffee.

All liberations of this sort are necessarily fleeting, it seems. I unhappily note that the online edition of the same report by the gifted Genna Buck has been re-titled “Don’t expect great fall colours in the GTA this year, expert says … Warm weather means fewer autumn colours.”

This may be more informative in some sense, but it’s less interesting — and/or fun to read over coffee, looking out the window at the still quite green local Kew Gardens across the street!

In any case, as I thought about the many things I ought to be thankful for on the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend, October 7-9, 2017, number one on my list this year was whoever thought up the wonderfully alliterative “Fall features fail to fully unfurl,” as a title for Genna Buck’s explanation of why “It’s October already and the leaves in High Park are still very green.”

I have just two very quick further thoughts about Thanksgiving 2017 in the northern woods.

Spanish woman fighting for the Republic in the 1930s Spanish Civil War, armed with British Lee-Enfield rifle. Many thanks to Yvonne Dyer.

First, living very close to Lake Ontario as my TV watching partner and I do, the leaves on our trees are always pretty green on the second Monday in October. This unusually mild autumn is not changing things much in that respect.

Second, I never quite appreciated just how bland and unassuming our Canadian Thanksgiving is, until I spent a US Thanksgiving (fourth Thursday in November) in Kansas City, a while ago now. (I guess I prefer the more laid-back and casual way we celebrate the holiday. I also guess many in the USA would not — but then I remember as well the many others who never vote in elections, and in their private kingdoms get very serious about “live free or die.”)

Meanwhile, two more political events — one in today’s revival of Ernest Hemingway’s Spain and one here at home in Canada — are at least vaguely on my mind, as I also contemplate just how thankful I am that I live in the country I do, especially at this moment in trumpet time. (And for more than anyone ever wanted to know on all this — including OCTOBER 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21 updates click on “Read the rest of this page” and/or scroll below!)

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Ave atque vale Hugh Hefner : “one of a handful of people who most represent the sexual revolution” .. maybe ??

Posted: September 29th, 2017 | No Comments »

“Hefner works on the first issue of Playboy magazine in his Chicago apartment,” 1953. (Photo provided by Playboy Enterprises.)

Like others, no doubt, I haven’t looked at a copy of Playboy magazine for a great many years. And I never subscribed or otherwise read the articles (or looked at the photos) regularly.

But for a time in the late 1950s and 1960s, it was something young men my age were expected to know about and take an interest in. The recent death of founder Hugh Hefner, at the impressive age of 91, does seem a milestone of sorts in my life.

I don’t have a lot to say — and certainly I can offer no unique analysis.

I can only point to four main sources on the subject I bumped into, during a morning’s research-homage to a man who, in his own words, was “one of a handful of people who most represent the sexual revolution” in the North America where I grew up :

(1) My first source is a long obituary from the Los Angeles Times : “Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who shook up American morality with an ideal of swinging singlehood, dies at 91.” I thought it did a nice job of surveying the Hefner career in easily digested prose.

(2) “Hugh Hefner Fast Facts” from the “CNN Library” does an equally nice job of summarizing the career in even more easily digested bullet points.

(3) These days I often find Wikipedia articles much better than the reputation which preceded them for quite a while. And I found the Wkipedia article on “Playboy … an American men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazine” quite helpful in this case.

Hugh Hefner poses with "bunny-girl hostess" Bonnie J. Halpin at the Playboy Club in Chicago, June 20, 1961. (ED KITCH / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO).

(4) One thing I can remember hearing by word of mouth back in the late 1950s and early 1960s was that Miles Davis had declined a Playboy jazz award because the magazine did not have black playmates. (This changed with Jennifer Jackson in the March 1965 issue : see Josh Robertson on “A History of Black Playboy Playmates,” February 1, 2013.) Whatever the exact truth may be here, the black journalist Alex Haley (of later Roots fame) finally interviewed Miles Davis for Playboy in 1962, and the interview was published in the September issue that year. As the “Jerry Jazz Musician” website aptly opined in April 2016, Mr. Davis’s 1962 “opinions on race, politics and culture continue to be important … a reminder of the complexity of American life.” (And this seems even more to the point in the early autumn of 2017.)

From these four main sources (and a few related articles) I have assembled a quick-and-dirty chronology of top 10 non-fake facts that still intrigue me. It is followed by an extra bow to the 1962 Miles Davis interview, and a wild guess about a present-day trend Hugh Hefner at least reminds me of, that has nothing directly to do with sex. (Granting that many, many things are indirectly connected this way, of course … ) :

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If the USA can have Donald Trump as president, Canada can have Wab Kinew as leader of Manitoba NDP ????

Posted: September 20th, 2017 | No Comments »

Youthful Wab Kinew as an indigenous hip-hop rapper, back in the day.

This past Monday Dan Lett at the Winnipeg Free Press wrote : “The path that Wab Kinew is walking just became incredibly steep.”

Mr. Lett went on : “That’s an odd thing to say about a man who just won a landslide victory to become the new leader of the Manitoba New Democratic Party. But thanks to a flurry of recent revelations about Kinew’s troubled life before he became a politician, this is no ordinary political narrative.”

Four days ago Steve Lambert at The Canadian Press had further explained how : “‘It’s a new day for the NDP and it’s a new day for Manitoba,’ Kinew declared to cheers following the vote.”

Yet : “Within minutes of Kinew’s victory, the governing [Manitoba provincial] Progressive Conservatives had a web site up that highlighted Kinew’s decade-old criminal convictions, charges of domestic violence that were stayed, and rap lyrics with offensive terms for women, gays and lesbians and others.”

At least much of all this has been known for a while, and Mr. Kinew has even made political capital out of confessing old sins, and demonstrating more recent reforms. (“‘I am not the man I was,’ Kinew told delegates before the vote with his wife, Lisa Monkman, by his side.”)

Wab Kinew and his father, the late Tobasonakwut Kinew, who “dedicated much of the latter part of his life to reconciliation between the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities across North America.”

Way back in March 2016  — before Wab Kinew had even won a Winnipeg seat in the Manitoba legislature for the New Democrats — Chinta Puxley at The Canadian Press was reporting that in his youth “Kinew had been part of a rap group called the Dead Indians.”

In more mature times  : “As he became a father and his political awareness grew, Kinew saw the contradiction in advocating for an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and the misogyny and homophobia of hip-hop culture.”

There were (and still are) also many inside and outside Manitoba (including myself) who have very much wanted Wab Kinew to do well as the new leader of the Manitoba provincial New Democratic Party. He is an indigenous politician in Canada who wants to be a Canadian (and not just an indigenous) leader. And that could prove very helpful for the Canadian future, especially at this particular point in the life of the 1867 confederation, in the true north, strong and free.

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