Tag Archives: Lewis Carroll

Some Oscars People Aren’t Talking About Today…

I was one of a very few people who didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night.  To be honest, watching a bunch of people wearing shoes that cost more than I spend on food in a month doesn’t excite me.  I also prefer books to movies…always have.  That being said, I decided to do an Oscar piece today, but I am dedicating it to “Oscars” I find infinitely more interesting than the Hollywood ones:

1. Oscar Brand.  Born in Winnipeg in 1920, Brand moved to the U.S. as a young man.  In addition to being a folk singer, songwriter, and author, Brand is also the host of the longest running radio show with the same host: Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival has aired on New York’s WNYC-AM almost every Saturday night since December 10, 1945.  From 1963-67, Brand hosted a Canadian TV show called Let’s Sing Out! which featured previously unknown Canadian singers such as Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot.  Another one of Brand’s numerous claims to fame was serving on the original board of the Children’s Television Workshop, which was behind the creation of Sesame Street.  It is said that the “Oscar the Grouch” character is based on Brand.  Over his long career, Brand has composed more than 300 songs, and released nearly 100 albums.  His songs have been used in movies, TV and stage productions, and even commercials.  Brand is the author of seven books, including Songs of ’76: A Folksinger’s History of the Revolution.

An Oscar Brand album cover from 1961...

2. Oscar Howe.  Born on a Plains Indian reservation in South Dakota in 1915, Howe overcame physical and emotional obstacles to become a well-respected artist and sculptor.  The young Howe began drawing before age 5, but was discouraged by his father, who confiscated his pencils and proclaimed art “foolish”.  Howe switched to using charcoal from the stove, and when that was also taken away, used sticks to draw in the dirt.  Like other natives at that time, Howe was sent to an Indian school, but was sent home at age ten because he had a severe, disfiguring skin disease complicated by a case of trachoma, which threatened the boy’s sight.  There was no money for medical treatment, so Howe used commercial soap every day for months until his skin cleared up, and the eye affliction abated.  He went back to school, graduating in 1933.  After securing a job on a road crew, Howe came down with tuberculosis…this led to his enrollment in the Sante Fe Indian School, where he was chosen to participate in an art program known as The Studio.  Howe’s first painting sold for 50 cents…half the money went to the school.  After graduation, he taught art at the Pierre Indian School, the school that had sent him home.  Howe later was an art instructor at the Pierre High School.  After serving overseas in WWII, Howe became Professor of Art at the University of South Dakota.  In 1958, he sent one of his most innovative paintings to a national Indian Painting Competition at the Philbrook Museum.  It was rejected as not being a “traditional Indian painting.”  He sent a scathing letter to the organizers, which was enough to move them to change the rules to allow for individuality.  Howe died in 1983. 

The title of this Howe lithograph is unknown...I like it...

 3. Oscar Pistorius.  Pistorius is a Paralympic athlete known as “the fastest man on no legs” and the “Blade Runner.”  Born in South Africa in 1986, Pistorius was missing both fibulas, so a decision was made to amputate his legs halfway between his knees and ankles when he was 11 months old.  As a boy, Pistorius didn’t let what many considered to be a disability slow him down…he played rugby, water polo, and tennis in school, as well as being on the wrestling team.  After sustaining a serious rugby knee injury in 2004, Pistorius was introduced to running, and hasn’t stopped since.  He holds the world Paralympic records in the 100, 200 and 400-metre events and has competed against “able-bodied” athletes and won.  Pistorius’ career has been filled with controversy because some people in the sports community felt that the Cheetah Flex Foot prothesis that he uses to run give him an “unfair advantage.”  After failing in his bid to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, Pistorius is now focussing on training for the 2012 Games in London.  When he’s not training, Pistorius will be modelling, having signed up to be the “face” of Thierry Mugler’s men’s fragrance, A*Men.

Oscar Pistorius

4. Oscar Quam.  Born in Minnesota in 1887, Quam was known as “the professor of duckology.”  He started a family business making duck calls and decoys in the 1920’s, which his children kept going until 1972 (Quam died in 1969).  Quam believed in charging a fair price for his work: the average call cost between $2.50 and $3.50 in the early 1940’s (fancy inlaid ones might cost $15)…Montgomery Ward ordered 10,000 of the $3.50 ones.  Quam also taught duck calling techniques on radio shows, and wrote for outdoor magazines.  His original duck decoys were made of wood, but he later switched to cork, which was lighter.  Here’s a recording of Quam demonstrating some duck calls:

Quam Duck Calls  

5. Oscar Rejlander.  Born in Sweden about 1813, Rejlander is known as “the father of art photography” and studied art in Rome before trading his paintbrushes for a camera.  He moved to England in the mid-1840’s, where he opened a portrait studio in Wolverhampton.  Rejlander was a friend of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), and later created one of the best-known portraits of him.  Undertaking many experiments to perfect his work, Rejlander is credited with inventing combination printing (each print consists of images from several different negatives) in about 1853.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were patrons of Rejlander’s, and among others, purchased a copy of one of his most controversial works, The Two Ways of Life.  In 1862, Rejlander moved his studio to London and continued experimenting with double exposure, photomontage, photo retouching, and retouching.  He also did popular “social protest” photos of homeless street children.  In 1872, Rejlander’s photos illustrated Charles Darwin’s book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.  Rejlander died in 1875 after a serious illness.

Rejlander's "Poor Joe"...this portrait is a re-enactment of a scene Rejlander saw on the streets of London...

  I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into the world of “Oscars”…more fun for me than boring celebrities dressed like waiters!


Filed under history

A Wilde and Snowy Weekend…

I apologize for the four-day gap between posts…even though it was not a holiday weekend here in Canada, it was a busy time!

1. Sinking to New Depths.  On Wednesday afternoon, Jim looked out the window and saw a septic tank cleaning truck stuck up to its axles in the mud in our front field…very bad idea on the part of our landlord’s brother, who owns the lots next to our house and is trying to sell them!  Needless to say, no sewage was sucked that day (although I imagine the truck driver was probably throwing the S-word around pretty freely)!

2. Lost Subscriber.  I think it was sometime on Thursday that I discovered that someone had cancelled his subscription to my blog…being obsessed with stats as I am, I was upset and hurt.  Had I said something to offend him?  Was my blog quality slipping?  After second guessing his motives for a few minutes  hours days, I decided to get over it…he “just wasn’t that into me.” 

3. Parent-Teacher Conference.  While my American friends and family were eating turkey on Thursday, I was on the Stairmaster meeting with Hope’s teachers at Quispamsis Middle School.  I met with six of her teachers in five different classrooms on two different floors.  Suffice to say, whoever made up our schedule must have known I need to lose a few pounds…the first meeting was on the second floor, second meeting on the first floor…you get the gist of where this is going!  I was up and down more than the Canadian dollar!  All of Hope’s teachers were very nice, and told me what a pleasure she was to have in their classes (I’m pretty sure they were actually talking about my kid).  I was relieved because I had been dreading the encounter with some of them.  I made sure Hope was thoroughly embarrassed by giving a lot of them my bookstore business card.  I also ran into one of Kaylee’s former high school teachers (he has a child attending QMS).  To Hope’s horror, I whipped out the photo album with Elise’s pictures to show him what Kaylee’s daughter looked like!

4. Alice’s Adventures.  One of the things that came up at the Parent-Teacher conference is that Hope needs to spend more time reading.  When we got home, I took down our copy of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and asked Hope if she wanted me to read it to her.  She was unsure at first, but trudged upstairs with me anyway.  That book is quite enjoyable to read aloud, and Hope laughed in all the right places (I decided that the Mouse would have a Manchester accent).  We read two chapters Thursday night, and two more last night.

5.  Back to Work Friday.  The kids had the day off Friday because of Parent-Teacher conferences, but it was Jim’s first day back to work after his surgery.  He arranged with his boss to leave a couple of hours early in the afternoon…wanted to ease into the routine.  Hope came to town with me to hang out with her friend, Gabrielle, and go shopping.  Here’s what Hope bought for Jake at the Dollar Store:

Hope and Jake (photo by Jim)...this will be Hope's Christmas card this year...

6. The Importance of Being Earnest.  Jim and I went to see an ultra-modern version of Oscar Wilde’s excellent satire on Friday evening at the Imperial Theatre (there were references to Facebook and e-mail, and characters were checking their PDA’s).  The Saint John Theatre Company did a bang-up job as usual, delivering Wilde’s lines with the biting sarcasm we’ve come to expect from Oscar.  My favourite is Lady Bracknell’s response when Jack declares that he’s an orphan: “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

7. Santa and Snow Come to Town.  Saturday morning was bright and sunny when we woke up…surely the weatherman was mistaken about snow later in the day…Anna had to be on the West Side at noon for the Lancaster Santa Claus Parade.  After an emergency stop at the mall for black sweatpants, she arrived just in time to make it into the team photos being taken before the parade.  By then, it was snowing like crazy!  We watched the parade from the car (Hope got out…she collected the candy given out during the parade, but didn’t share with us!).

Anna...self-portrait after the parade...

After a nap for Jim, and a quick supper, we were back on the road enroute to the Kennebecassis Valley Santa Claus Parade, which Hope’s cheerleading team was marching in.  The coach had told the girls to be there by 5:30…we were a little late due to a stop at Co-Op for a can of tomato paste.  The parade was forming at the high school, and by the time we got near it, the road was blocked off.  Traffic was crazy!  Jim drove us to his parents’ house, and we all walked to the high school from there (about a mile, I think).  Hope got there just in time to join up with her team.  Anna and I watched the parade, while Jim followed Hope’s team in the parade, snapping photos like a paparazzi.

Hope and her cheerleading team in the parade...photo by Jim

After the parade, Anna and I met Jim back at Jim’s parents’ house…Jim’s mom made Anna hot chocolate, and some tea for me.  I was exhausted, but not as tired as Hope, who had walked another half an hour longer than I had!  She went to bed as soon as we got home!

8. Little Wendy Homemaker.  Sunday morning, I got up early…in addition to four loads of laundry, I had plans to make homemade spaghetti sauce with tomatoes from our garden.  Kaylee, Scott and Elise were coming over for supper.  Jim suggested I make chocolate macaroons for dessert…we call them “doodoo drops” at our house:

"DooDoo Drops"


I took precautions and put up the baby gate in front of the dining room door, to prevent a repeat of the unfortunate molasses brown bread incident.

9.  Ridiculous Gifts.  In between loads of laundry and cooking, I had a little time to peruse some of the many catalogues which have made their way into my mailbox.  Here are a couple of examples of what people are supposedly plunking down their credit cards for: 

Cast Iron Giraffe Toilet Paper Holder - $27.95...what kind of self-respecting jungle animal wears Charmin as an accessory? I could make him a scarf...

The Hot Seat Swivel Stool...$395...I can't have one of these because they only deliver to the continental U.S....darn!

10. That’s What She Said.  When Kaylee and Scott arrived (early, as is their custom), Elise happened to find the TV remote, and turn it on.  The big-screen TV also acts as Jim’s computer monitor, and he had been looking at his photos onscreen.  Anna and I took the opportunity to show our guests some shots from our PEI trip this summer.  Jim had several shots of some very tame foxes.  Kaylee looked at one and announced confidently, “That one’s definitely a girl!”  Anna asked, “Are you sure?”  After taking another look, Kaylee said, “Oh…I thought that was a hole…”(the poor girl inherited my eyesight!). 

One of the fox photos...not the one that fooled Kaylee!

We had fun with Elise…it had been a couple of weeks since we’d seen her.  She has added the word “flower” to her vocabulary…she had flowers on her very cute little coat that she got for her birthday.

Kaylee, Elise, Hope, and the fuzzy flower coat at Elise's 1st birthday party...

11. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce.  After simmering for a little over five hours, the spaghetti sauce was finally the right consistency.  To save a major mess, I decided to serve it with penne rigate instead of spaghetti, since we don’t have a high chair for Elise yet.  She rejected the old dishtowel I tied around her neck as a bib (it was clean, and only had a couple of holes in it!).  I also offered utensils, but she preferred to use both hands to feed the pasta and carrots into her mouth.

12. Nick Needs to Go!  Amazing Race is down to the last four teams…last night, Nick showed himself to be the whining dickhead that he truly is once again (sorry for the potty mouth, but Nick is a waste of skin).  Poor Vicki was struggling to run in the heat with her asthma, and he was telling her to “suck it up”!  She spent the episode throwing up after a food challenge, but didn’t want to quit.  When faced with finding a certain fishing boat in the dark, Nick gave up, and said he was going to go to sleep, leaving Vicki holding the ball again (she is the only one who has any, apparently).  They ended up at the pit stop without completing the task, and now have a six-hour penalty and a speed bump…it was a non-elimination round.  Please, Vicki…stop wasting your time with this buffoon…he keeps saying he’s changed, but he lies!


Filed under blogging, cooking, family, food, gardening, rants