A pleasant surprise…

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The weather since Christmas has been quite brutal at times, with sudden swings above freezing at others. The past week saw the sky completely clouded over, and only now has the Sun reemerged to cheer us up once more.

I couldn’t wait that long, and decided to go out for a spin yesterday morning up to Owen Sound, to see the Tom Thomson Gallery. I had never been there before, but Monday’s story in the National Post had me quite intrigued as to their current exhibition relating to the death of Thomson in July 1917. A macabre centennial, which once again raises the question: Was Tom Thomson murdered?

So I consulted Google Maps, which suggested this as the best route:

The roads were snow-covered, but without any suggestion of black ice, all the way to Highway 6 just north of Mount Forest. After that, the way was bare all the way to Georgian Bay.

I spent 1½ hours there. It’s a pleasant, small gallery, and it has work by Thomson I had never seen before, almost all of which has been donated by his relatives. He grew up here, and apparently came back often after he had moved to Toronto. Besides his painting that we are all familiar with, there are also examples of other pencil and pen work, portraits of people and animals, and commercial work from his time at Grip, where he worked with five of the people that eventually formed the Group of Seven in 1920. All of it is quite revealing.

The current exhibition focusing on Thomson’s death, and recent work by forensic artists on the skull from the body found in his ostensibly empty grave in Algonquin Park, was rather fascinating. The artwork was somewhat strange, but the accompanying video was well worth watching.

There was another video exhibit called Floating World, which consists of an art film done as a triptych. No words, but rather eerie music, and strangely fascinating. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated. I gather that Owen Sound has a thriving artistic community, and that must have contributed to the excellence this gallery displays.

The Gallery has free admission, with donations suggested. There is a small gift shop, but not that wide a selection. It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re ever up that way.

The drive back was much smoother, as the roads had almost completely dried off by late afternoon, with the exception of a short stretch through Millbank once I had reentered Perth County. It was a good day.

It was a different world then…

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Does anyone remember this picture? If so, you were probably in Montréal in 1967, having the time of your life. I certainly did, and the atmosphere was optimistic everywhere, or so it seemed.

The prices were certainly different:

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$1.80? Wow! It appears some things have shot up faster than the rate of inflation!

There are lots of other sites out there that cover expo67 in much greater detail, and Google can take you there very efficiently. I can only talk about impressions gained, which have lasted a lifetime.

I mentioned optimism. It felt like anything was possible then, as we felt when watching this film at the Ontario Pavilion which went on to win an Oscar the following year:

Watch it, and see how much has changed this past fifty years. The film looks as if it’s in need of restoration, which it deserves to have done. When it came out, every Hollywood studio bought a print to show to its executives and producers, in order to show what film could do. The split-screen techniques are still stunning.

The signature tune went on to become quite popular, effectively becoming the provincial anthem for many years. Here’s the full version, with the picture showing the album cover that came with the record:

Somehow, something went missing over the years since then, which is a great pity. The younger generations simply don’t understand what we enjoyed then, and much of it is just not available on the Web for them to tap into.

The 8 November train wreck…

United States presidential election results by county, 2016

Now that was a shock. Pierre Trudeau once said that living next door to the United States is like being a mouse sharing the same bed as an elephant: no matter how little the elephant moves, you can’t help but feel every shift it makes. So it’s only fair to ask, “What the hell just happened?”

If I were a US citizen, I would have voted for Hillary, despite her excess baggage. However, we have to deal with the cards that have been dealt, so let’s analyze why this took place.

The first thing that pops out is that Trump’s victory came from heavy turnout amongst white voters. The New York Times has published a pair of maps showing by county the vote swing to the GOP from 2012 compared with the respective concentration of white people. It closely matches the US Midwest, Rust Belt and the Appalachian region. Some counties did move away to the Democrats, but that was in states where it made no difference. What could have caused this swing to him?

Taking a look at what has been written so far, there are some demographic and economic factors that have come into play:

  • 20% of all men in the US between the ages of 20 and 65 have not had paying work in the last year, and 7 million men between the ages of 25 and 55 are no longer even looking for a job. This is huge, and mostly arose from globalization causing many factories to close in the Midwest, and rural counties in general have gone into economic decline.
  • Baby boomers started reaching retirement age in 2011, and this will continue to roll out until 2028. Aging leads to greater needs for health care, and the Affordable Care Act‘s implementation has been leading to higher insurance premiums, together with the IRS assessing penalties for not having coverage. Since they don’t have Canadian-style coverage, this can become quite expensive.
  • Real per capital disposable incomes have hardly increased since 2007, and income inequality has become extremely pronounced, as noted by a report from the Brookings Institution.
  • The Democrats’ path to success in the last two elections has come from a coalition of minorities, millennials, women, gays and lesbians, especially in the more urbanized states. Advice given this year to that party’s strategists not to ignore the white working class appears to have been ignored.

Now Trump may be an arrogant bastard, but he appears to have been an evil genius in recognizing that the above factors have intersected in making a significant group of voters feel that they have had a raw deal, and that their concerns deserve attention as well. The extremists among this group of voters have led professional politicians to treat them as being racists and misogynists, but that is a superficial analysis that ignores the root causes. Trump appears to have addressed this in a rather outrageous, but still effective, manner.

There are other issues to consider:

  • This campaign has been quite abrasive, which has caused total voter turnout to decline from 2012. Both sides seem to have declined equally, but the distribution of the remaining votes has had significant and varying impact on the different states.
  • The Democrats’ dependence on the more urban areas appears not to have been matched by their ground game, as their decline in turnout appears to have been concentrated there. That was disastrous.

These results will lead to some very interest developments these next few months. Stay tuned.

The campaign is coming to an end…

The UK is finally going to vote on Thursday whether to Leave or Remain in the EU. I prefer them to stay in, but it looks like it might be a very close result.

Unlike here in Canada, the Brits dream up some very intelligent campaign materials. Here is a selection.

For the Leave side

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That is a rather nice slogan. Another group has come up with a Leave bumper sticker that is quite well-designed.

For the Remain side

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If only we could see stuff like that here!

A week of wander in Ottawa

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It’s been a while—ten years, in fact!—since I have ventured down this way. As you know, several things had intervened against such a move in the interim, but they are now of no concern. However, there were some unexpected events along the way.

“Ce chrisse de pile a décâlisé mon tabernac de char!”

I knew that the first challenge was to get through the GTA before the morning rush hour started to take its daily toll. Last Monday, though, saw several extra mishaps that really slowed the traffic down. First of all, an accident on the 401 just before the Guelph Line backed up eastbound traffic all the way to Highway 6 (which did not move again for an hour), and then the radio announced that a tractor trailer jack-knifed near Leslie Street, which shut down all the express lanes. As it was approaching 9am, and having been on the road since 6:15, I pulled onto the 400 and onto Finch to grab a breakfast at the first Tim Horton’s that I would come across, which was at Jane and Finch. When I returned to the car, I discovered much to my chagrin that the battery had died! Groan…

I called out for a tow truck. The first vehicle to arrive was equipped for battery charging only, and that did not work. The real tow truck was then called, which took me to a Canadian Tire at Dufferin below Finch. Analysis revealed that it was indeed the battery (original, and almost ten years old) and not the alternator that was at fault. And, by the way, the serpentine belt was about ready to go as well! Oh well, it had to be done.

Once back on the 401, construction persisted throughout Durham Region, as well as between Mallorytown and Brockville. I did not begin to relax until I got on the 416 for the last stretch to the Capital.

A relaxing couple of nights

I had booked into a bed-and-breakfast in Sandy Hill, just east of downtown. Quite a nice location, as you can see.

There were three bedrooms: one double and two queen beds, all fully booked. I had the double, which was nice and quiet. The Byward Market was about ten blocks to the west, or about 20-30 minutes’ walk. Most tourists were in town for the tulip festival, but my ambitions went further afield.

The watering hole for the next two nights was the Aulde Dubliner in the Byward Market. Great ambience, cheerful staff, good beer, and little mention of politics at all around the tables—even then, only US politics were being discussed, with much shaking of heads. That was good, as I did not want to find myself in any places being occupied by the Grits and other Ottawa junkies! After all, this was a vacation!

Tuesday was spent trekking through the downtown, starting at the National Gallery and ending at the Canadian War Museum, wandering around through each one:

There were stops along the way at Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court of Canada, and the National Archives. I didn’t take a tour on the Hill, as you have to get tickets offsite and then go wait in line. The Supreme Court had English tours every hour on the hour, but I just missed the one for that hour and felt like moving on.

There’s a lot of construction on the Hill these days, with the West Block being refurbished and both the West and Centre Blocks’ exteriors getting a thorough cleaning. I hear the Centre Block will be closed after 2017 for massive interior work to be done. Most statues have been removed on the Hill right now, or access to them has been blocked because of the construction activity, but some interesting ones are still available. The best example is the one of Mackenzie King by Raoul Hunter, who was once an editorial cartoonist from 1956 to 1989 at Le Soleil in Quebec City:

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Wednesday found me exploring the various parkways maintained by the National Capital Commission, where you feel compelled to follow the speed limit so as not to miss any of the wonderful views. Afterwards, a visit to the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum:

Into Québec

Wednesday and Thursday were spent wandering through Gatineau Park, admiring the various lookouts and winding roads throughout:

And, of course, there is Kingsmere, where Mackenzie King lived and retired. His retirement cottage, The Farm, is off-limits as it is occupied by the Speaker of the House of Commons, but the other two establishments (one from his younger days, as well as the later one built when he became Prime Minister) are open to all, although the black flies are now starting to come out:

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Wednesday and Thursday nights were spent at the Comfort Inn just off Boulevard St-Laurent. Relatively cheap, in the middle of an industrial area. It has seen better days, but it was OK for a short stay.

You are in the French-Canadian side of Ottawa here, as well as where most of the recent immigrants have settled. It’s quite a different flavour from downtown, but still revealing in its own right.

And so to home…

Friday came too soon, but it was time to head back, and I was determined to avoid the 401 as much as I could. The itinerary I assembled worked out this way:

  • 416 to Johnstown
  • Highway 2 through Prescott and Brockville
  • Thousand Islands Parkway through to Gananoque
  • 401 to Highway 15, and then down to Kingston
  • Highway 33 along the lake and through Prince Edward County
  • Highway 2 through Brighton, Colborne, Grafton, Cobourg and Port Hope
  • up Highway 28 to Rice Lake
  • across the top of the Great Oak Ridge to Highway 35/115
  • generally along Taunton Road and then up to Highway 7 until Brock Road
  • along the 407 to the 401 just before Trafalgar Road
  • off the 401 at Milton, and then going along the Campbellville Side Road, up to the Aberfoyle Road, jogging up to Highway 24 west of Guelph, and then along the Kossuth Road and Fairway Road to Highway
  • along Highway 7/8 to Stratford.

Definitely much less stress on the return trip, although the construction of the 407 East extension through Durham has really muddled up that part of the drive.

Considering all the cheap excitement in my life this past year or so, this was a well-deserved break!

Other ghosts arise from the Web…

It’s interesting what you stumble across these days when you’re searching on the Internet. I’ve known for years that the fact I lived in Acton means that all my family history as reported in The Acton Free Press in those years is now completely online. That is embarrassing enough, but I have discovered that another year in my life later on is available for viewing as well.

https://archive.org/stream/thecharleton02carl?ui=embed#page/n4/mode/1up

I’ve never hidden the fact that I attended Carleton University for a year after graduating from Acton High, but have never bothered to mention it on my résumé. After all, you only mention the places you graduate from! I have essentially treated it as my “gap year” before going to Sheridan and later heading into the business world.

However, I was a reporter with The Charlatan while I was living on campus, and all the work I did is available for the world to see. All you have to do is click on the above image, type “Ellerby” in the search box, hit “Go” and see what pops up.

The first few issues see my name misspelt as “Ron Ellery” in the masthead, but then I start getting bylines and conducted some interesting interviews, including one with the eventual winning candidate for the presidency of the Carleton University Students’ Association. Towards the end of that year, I was even editing the events section and working on layout at the printers.

Since then, I have always had a great appreciation for the work of the media, especially for those in print. Perhaps that could have been a better calling? Who knows? For now, though, take a look back at what a bunch of intrepid reporters for a minor student newspaper were up to in 1972-1973.

How about something really important?

The news south of the border is depressing right now, so let’s talk about something that people consider far more important. I’m asking about where the best fish-and-chip shops are in Ontario these days.

I dropped in on one in Toronto yesterday that I haven’t seen for quite a while. High Street Fish and Chips in North York has an excellent selection on the menu, including your choice of four different types of fish for your meal. There’s a lot of good old British-style favourites there as well! There are very good reviews on Trip Advisor.

Mind you, the fish is always fresher when it’s just been caught, and I’ve come across a couple of places that take advantage of that outside Toronto. Up in Southampton, Duffy’s Fish and Chips certainly fills the bill. Their prices have really risen in recent years, but it is worth dropping in on even if you don’t want to proceed on to the outstanding beach just down the road.

The best one I have ever come across is the one that is the most out of the way, but the meals are so good and fresh that people fly in to the neighbouring airstrip, boat in to the adjoining harbour, or rumble in on motorcycles to line up for fish that has literally come off the boat. Last summer, I went with some friends up to Killarney Provincial Park, and one day we went down to the end of Highway 637 to check out Herbert Fisheries in the village of Killarney, which is on the North Channel of Lake Huron. These are definitely the best fish and chips I have ever had, and the feeling in our group was unanimous!

I’ve heard tell of a similar operation down in Wheatley on Lake Erie, but have not gotten any details in order to check it out. That may be a project for the better weather. Mind you, other recommendations will be greatly appreciated.