Signs of Spring amidst Revision and Marketing

Ides of March. For Americans, the taxman cometh. We’re waiting for spring, a spring the weather gurus tell us is going to be delayed. No one told the buds on the chestnut trees out front. They started to swell before the deep freeze ended.

Work goes on. Marketing and revision of my work-in-progress. In June, I’m joining Barbara Kyle’s Master class for revision of my first thirty pages.

The Child on the Terrace is still in advanced copy mode but soon I must send the final changes to the publisher. Most of my  reviewers, busy people all, have yet to get back to me.

Revision is difficult work, akin to juggling multiple objects rather than a simple set of coloured rubber balls. I’ve been following a blogger, Janice Hardy who calls her site Fiction University. She is half-way through a month of blogs on the process and very useful they are. Today’s is here, but all the previous blogs plus a great deal more is available on her site. Well worth multiple visits.

This week I attended a dinner and lecture at the Canadian Club. The speaker mentioned a local artist, long-deceased, named W.A. Goodwin. As it happens we have one of his watercolours. When I bought it, I investigated him and found a lengthy newspaper record. He lived to almost 100 years old and was a well-know citizen. I did some of his family genealogy as well. Magpie that I am, I kept it all.

After the meeting, the manager of the local museum called me and asked to see it. The museum is mounting an extensive show from an archive of material the researchers acquired on loan from the family. I was pleased to contribute our painting and some of the information I’d gathered to their archive. Find the museum here:

The museum created a Facebook page for W.A. with pictures, paintings, diary entries and more. An interesting and charming page.


Buds on chestnut trees, March, 2015

Buds on chestnut trees, March, 2015






Book Review: The Judgement of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that gave the World Impressionism

I’ve just finished reading Ross King’s The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism (2006). The painters of Impressionism had always interested me, so I was happy to find a writer who placed them in their world, and explained the influences that shaped their work. Ross King does that in a very readable book. My only quibble is with the dearth of coloured plates. Expensive, I know, but I wanted to see more.

The most interesting personality King reveals is that of Meisonnier, a painter, obscure until he began to play a role in King’s book, but a giant in French 19th century art. King contrasts his story, one of success and riches, of obsessive painting and repainting, of intense research into such unlikely subjects as equine locomotion—at one time he built a small railroad on his property and used it to make hundreds of drawings of horses as they ran alongside— with that of the Impressionists, obsessed with light and colour and painting in the open air, and catching the fleeting beauty of a sunrise or a day in the park. Meissonier emerges from King’s pages as a fully realized character, with all his flaws and genius.

King writes so well, I was disappointed when he, or rather events, ended the story with the last Impressionist exhibition. He has gone on to write about The Group of Seven in Defiant Spirits, and more recently Leonardo and the Last Supper, the latter winning him his second Governor General Award. The first was for The Judgement of Paris. Defiant Spirits  is next on my list.

Interest in art history has led me to The Great Courses, and Professor Richard Brettell, teaching From Monet to Van Gogh: A History of Impressionism, an audio-visual course, and excellent companion to King’s book.

Egypt’s Children

They are there by the thousands, the children of Egypt, a country with 2/3 of its population under 30 years of age. They have been born and raised entirely in the shadow of Mubarak’s regime. Huge numbers are illiterate and poverty-stricken. What they have developed in the past few weeks is hope, hope for a future without secret police, without tyranny, without fear. Today, they waited for hours in Liberation Square, singing and dancing and chanting, believing that when Mubarak spoke it would be to resign.

When he spoke it was to stunned silence, and then boos and then renewed chanting for him to leave, leave, leave. Mubarak came to power as a war hero, although I am unsure why, as both his wars were losses to the Israelis. He had until today, the support of the army, and the old generals. Today, he gave operational power to his  friend,  a man who had save his life, perhaps whom he trusted to do his bidding, another military man. The people in the square saw another old man.

Today also, a soldier in the square put down his rifle and joined the people. The rest of the military will have to choose whom to support: the old men in the palace, who rule like kings, or their brothers and cousins and sisters in the square. For the army is young too.

Mail-order houses

Beginning in 1908, mail-order homes were advertised in the catalogues on both sides of the US-Canada border. They were wildly successful on the prairies, where sod houses were replaced with houses that came on the train, all materials and plans, to be erected by a carpenter on site. One company, the Canadian Alladin Company, sent the entire house, packed flat, all the pieces numbered, for easy assembly. The T. EAton company began selling houses from its 1910 catalogue, but only in the west. The article at the link above, has more information.

Growing up, I lived in houses built by the Ontario Hydro for its employees. I assumed they were built on site, according to plans form the company. However, one source indicated that the Ontario Hydro was a purchaser of the mail-order houses.

Madness in Iran

Iranian woman could be executed this week, son says – The Globe and Mail.

It’s so horrifying, it’s hard to keep writing about it. I can’t imagine living it. Sakineh remains in that hell-hole of a prison, at the mercy of authorities who have no sense nor compassion. Ramadan ends so her son, who hasn’t seen her for weeks, believes she will be executed sometime after Thursday.

An idiotic British newspaper publishes a picture purporting to be Sakineh without a headscarf. It isn’t; it’s another woman, but the sadists in that prison lash her 99 times, again. How much can one woman endure? The Iranians do all this in the name of religion. I don’t believe it. I think the people in charge have the same sadistic, murderous minds and souls that Nazi concentration camp guards had, and in a better world, they would be the ones in the prisons.

The British newspaper bears considerable responsibility. What did the editors think would happen to Sakineh when they published that picture? Or do they share the same sadistic mind-set, oblivious to the suffering of their victims?

Please sign the petition

Historical Census

Understanding the Nineteenth-Century Census: historical background to the census.

The article above gives an interesting history of the development of the census in Britain, late by European standards. Even at the beginning, there were concerns that the other sources of information such as church records left out segments of the population not involved with the organized Christian religions, who would be counted in church records. Here of course the concern is that many groups, including those living in poverty, or newly immigrant will not be included.

The wealth of information available in the more than 200 years of census-taking has allowed historical studies, not otherwise possible. I fail to understand why any government wouldn’t want an an accurate census, to compare with prior years. Without it, they will be making decisions based on facts not in evidence, much, I suppose, like the unreported crimes that so alarm Mr. Day.

Mr. Day claims that there is an alarming increase in unreported crime, which he says is evidence for the need for more prisons. How he is going to put the perpetrators of these unreported crimes, who will not be charged, or brought to court, in prison, he has not explained. I notice he used census data as the source for his statistic on unreported crime.

The Census

It has been an unusual week. The conflict over the census, which cost a good man his job and lost the services of that same career civil servant to the government, has spread to interprovincial affairs, with most of the provinces weighing in on the side of keeping the long form the way it is, minus the threatened jail time. Today Jack Layton wants to sit down with the PM and work out a compromise. John Ibbitson in the Globe talks about Tony Clement “defending a false fact”. All along I thought there were no false facts, just facts and non-facts.

The Conservative government has been unable to say “we made a mistake” for all these long years they have been in government. Since they imported Guy Giorno, a former Mike Harris staffer, the attitude of the government seems to me to have become more hard-nosed, and certainly more small-c conservative. I suppose he’s on Harper’s wavelength or Harper on his. Things didn’t go well with Harris originally and I sure don’t like the retread.

The news from Iran is bleak. No word on Sakineh and now her lawyer has disappeared, his wife and brother-in-law held without legal representation. Add your voice, sign the petition.

The Canadian Census

Topic : Canada Census –

The Star this morning has a list of recent articles within its pages on the subject of the 2011 census. Many of the arguments in favour of retaining the long-form census in its present form, with the mandatory aspect, come from the folks who depend on its information to design everything from the next red hot gadget to policies governing higher education and hospitals. Young people planning a career can search for information about job prospects and health care managers on the population trends within their area. Do they need more nursery bassinets  or nursing homes?
What about power needs? The Conservatives say the state has no business asking you how many bedrooms are in your house? Do you know a better way to judge the size of a house, and its likely power requirements?

I’ve been an amateur genealogist for some years now. Long enough to have endured the privacy commissioner’s decision, now retracted, to disallow all future access to census data for genealogical purposes. It was to have begun with the 1911 census but both that and the 1916 are available online. At least, the information from the short form is.

At this time genealogy is a popular pastime. Television programs such as Who Do You Think You Are and Ancestors in the Attic have loyal followings. Future genealogists however will find their past locked away in the vaults, even if their ancestors, us, filled out the forms.

Trivial you say? Perhaps. The need for information in all government departments, in industry, in social and educational planning is not. I think it is important that we understand the make-up of our country. In short, how we are doing? The census, in place in all countries in the sphere of the British Empire since 1841, has been the source of reliable information. Why is the government so intent on fixing what isn’t broken?

Oh, and don’t tell us people have complained. Not according to StatsCan, or the privacy commissioner. We know that’s a conservative  American problem, not ours. As usual, Tories pandering to their base support and their heroes across the border.

Facts are so troublesome. No wonder the Tories don’t want us to have access to them. We might understand just how incompetent and ideologically driven they are.

Will I fill out my long form if I get one? Yes indeed. Not because I think the government has chosen the right path, but because I want future information to be as accurate as possible in the circumstances. And that will introduce my bias into their data.

Nature or Politics

One modest belch, endless green moralizing – The Globe and Mail.

Brendan O’Neill writing in the Globe and Mail this morning expresses the opinion that the crisis in the sky resulted from  the EU’s usual risk-avoiding reaction.

I’ve heard that same opinion about the recent pandemic: too much hype, too much money spent, not a “real” pandemic. Tell that t0 the people who languished in emergency rooms or intensive care units, or who watched their children die. I admit those events happen in any regular flu season as well. But if no immunizations had taken place, and the population had developed wide-spread illness, and the subsequent bacterial infections, would that have been serious enough?

The same journalists who suggest the government over-reacted would have been the ones to call it to account if  one plane had fallen from the sky, its engines clogged with volcanic dust. It was the airplane manufacturing firms that wrote the specs and  manuals. Were their cautions to be disregarded?

The pandemic is over; the skies are clearing; tragedies averted or farce?

BBC News – The eruption that changed Iceland forever

BBC News – The eruption that changed Iceland forever.

Why the Icelandic volcano eruption could herald more dirsuption – Times Online.

Volcanic eruptions created Iceland and in 1763 almost destroyed it. But in 1816, another volcano, half way round the world in Indonesia, caused widespread weather change, dropping temperatures in Western Europe and Eastern North America. Not much, just an average of a degree or two, but enough to cause widespread crop failures and famine. Eastern U.S. farmers moved West; German farmers immigrated; as did the Irish. Mary Shelley, housebound by the miserable Swiss weather, wrote Frankenstein.
A foot of snow fell in Quebec in July of that year. A contemporary account is available at the following website.

It was called the year that summer never came. Events in many countries are detailed in a Wikipedia article: