Wednesday, May 17, 2017

INTERVIEW with Author Francisco Cordoba


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Today I continue my monthly interview series with another up-and-coming author, Francisco Cordoba. Francisco is the author of the upcoming Horsemen of Golegã. Let's get down to business!

THE WRITER!

A passionate romantic and obsessive equestrian, Francisco Cordoba has been writing for as long as he can remember. However, it’s only in the last few years, since completing his Master’s Degree in Linguistics, and suffering regular chastisement from his wife, that he has dared to fully unleash his muse. He loves writing about romance, relationships, adventures and sex.

Francisco lives a largely reclusive life tucked away in an old farmhouse, somewhere, with his wife, teenage son, four cats, two dogs, horse, ducks and chickens. He freely admits to loving them all, although he refuses to allow more than three bodies to occupy his bed at any one time. His six-book slightly erotic, paranormally romantic, mysteriously suspenseful, thrillingly adventurous, and possibly fictional debut series, The Horsemen of Golegã, will be self-published soon.

THE INTERVIEW!


What is your guilty pleasure?
Roast beef. My wife has a magical way with roast beef. She makes this incredible piece of meat, with potatoes and carrots, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, and Yorkshire puddings (well, I make the Yorkshire puddings). Then I sit back with a glass of a particular Spanish wine I like and eat far more than recommended.

Most of the time we eat like rabbits, so the three or four times a year I truly go overboard isn’t too bad. Is it?

Where is one place you’d like to visit that you haven’t been to before?
There are many. But right now I’d like to visit Canada’s far north. Before I die, I’d like to visit one place that’s truly wide open and out of reach. I’ve always had this dream to visit Baffin Island in July.

What do you think makes a good story?
Emotion. Real emotion that comes from the lives and actions of characters as they interact with each other and the world around them.

In The Horsemen of Golegã, Candice and Bosanquet are the main characters, but there are a lot of secondary characters woven through the fabric of the stories. Can you give us a little insight into some of them?
Whew.  Well, I don’t want to give spoilers, but I’ll see what I can do.

Fiona Mason is Candice’s best friend. Before the series starts, the girls shared an apartment in Calgary, Canada. Fiona is a much bolder character than Candice, but she comes with her own set of baggage. She also gets her own story in the next series.

Maddie Tavares is Candice’s other friend and although very young, she’s had her share of battering by life. Maddie has a secret which she hides very carefully from everyone. Maddie will also get her own story.

Bosanquet has three close companions: Salazar--the enormous, silent and damaged man he calls ‘brother’; Anjo--the young Healer who lives on an emotional precipice; and the elderly and bad-tempered Diogo--whose deteriorating health and painful past cause him to erect massive emotional barriers between himself and the people who care the most.
These are the particular friends of our Main Characters, but there are many more interesting players who pop in and out of their lives.

Would you like to be a writer full-time?
Yes. I’ve had many other jobs, and they were great for a while, but much of what I’ve done in life as been teaching others how to do the things that I love to do, which hasn’t left me much time for actually doing. I want my chance to do now. Teaching may be a noble profession, but it’s no longer fulfilling for me. I want my chance to create.

THE LINKS!

Website and Blog: http://franciscocordoba.com/

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Monday, May 8, 2017

A-to-Z Reflections 2017


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So here we are at the end of another A-to-Z blog hop. This was my third time completing the "challenge," and I believe my most successful one so far, at least in terms of page views and engagement. I have a few takeaways from this year's experience, which I will now list in no particular order:

I Really Enjoyed My Theme This Year

I think other people did, too. People like weird trivia and history, and weird trivia about something people kinda know but don't know much about is a fun topic. My previous themes about stuff I'm afraid of and characters from my books I've never published were pretty weak, but everyone knows what Canada is, so they're more likely to click on the links. Plus, I can save this posts and refer to them in the future, because they're fun stories that are not time-sensitive or context-dependent.

I Miss the Linky List

Posting in the comments wasn't terrible, I suppose. Yes it was an extra step but it's not the end of the world. But what I really missed with a big, complete list with the topics highlighted where I could scan through blogs at my leisure. I could pick out topics I knew might interest me right away (humour, gaming, history) and start with those. With the commenting/link system it was just a shifting mess every day. It was a big crapshoot as to what you end up with. I actually didn't discover some of my favourite blogs of the bog hop until the last week of April, because I just hadn't seen them anywhere else.

People Love Winnie the Pooh

My post about the origins of the famous bear was easily my post popular day of the month. Most hits, most comments, and they're still going strong over a week later. People just love that gawddang bear.



Wednesdays Were a Terrible Day for Blogging

Usually Wednesday is a good for me, but this April they were by far the slowest day of the month. I would have thought the Invention of Basketball and the Vancouver Beer Parlours would have been popular topics, but nope. They were cursed by falling on Wednesday. Though I guess I can understand why people might be apprehensive about clicking on a post called Pussy Black-Face (even though it was one of my favourites).

Twitter is Terrible

I mean, just in general. But also it's a terrible way to find blog posts. Posts are quickly lost under an avalanche of folk re-posting other people's links (not retweeting, but creating a new tweet with the same info just so they can get their name on it), or spamming their own posts over and over again. Eventually it's just too much screaming.

I Really Don't Have Time to Do This in April

April is a very busy month for me at work. I knew this and so I tried to get my posts done in advance, but I only got about half of them in before the First. So I was still researching and writing new posts while reading and commenting on other blogs, posting my links every day and replying to comments. But I was just so busy with work at the same time, it was actually pretty stressful. That's why I didn't participate last year, and I'm going to have to seriously consider whether or not I'll do it again next year.

In what I hope will become a tradition, here's a GIF of Kenny Omega doing something stupid.

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That's it. Overall I did have fun this year and discovered some really cool blogs, so I can't complain too much. How about the rest of you. What did YOU learn?
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Wild Mystery Blogger Award Appears!


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I'm not quite sure what the difference is between a "blog hop" where you tag fellow bloggers and a "blog award," but I'm going to put my shame of self-congratulation aside for a moment and say, "Yay! I was nominated for a blogger award!"

It's one of those thingies where you fill out questions and link back to other bloggers. The questions can be pretty fun sometimes though, so let's see where this leads.

It also features handy step-by-step instructions, which is nice.

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01. Post the award on your page.


02. List the rules… working on it.

03. Thank who ever nominated you for the award.

I would like to thank True North Bricks. He runs an incredible LEGO-themed blog that I discovered through the A-to-Z Challenge, and now he's going to be my hook up for all the best deals on LEGO.

04. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.

This award originates from Okoto Enigma’s Blog, which I'm not at all familiar with but you can check it out.

05. Tell readers three things about yourself.

Man, I think everyone already knows the vaguely interesting things about me. I'm from Newfoundland, I have a degree in Theatre... How about that I married my high school sweetheart? As of this year we've been together 20 years (married for thirteen). Not only that, but we actually met at the bus stop on the first day of school. We're so disgustingly cute that our hometown paper wrote a story about us.

It's a small town. News is hard to come by.

06. Nominate people.

I definitely would have nominated True North Bricks… but he nominated me. Here are a few other awesome blogs that I loved from the A-to-Z Hop.

No Love For Fatties
Her theme for the A-to-Z was Harry Potter, and she just exploded fangirl geekiness all over the place, which was so much fun. But besides HP she's blogging just about every day with all kinds of fun and funny stuff, definitely check her out. Especially keep an eye on the "Just for Giggles" tag, featuring hilarious memes, stories about underwear and more ridiculous stuff about Canada.

The Old Shelter 
Sara Zama's blog is worth it just for incredible retrospective she did on 1940s Film Noir for the A-to-Z, but there's tons of other great stuff there, too. She did a similar series on the Jazz Age last year, and the Roaring Twenties the year before that.

Atherton's Magic Vapour
Melanie is just weird, but in a good way. I think we share a similar sense of humour and weirdness. For her A-to-Z she wrote new captions on 100-year old woodcut images from the Strand Magazine, and it was glorious. A couple of years ago she wrote a full mystery novel and dressed up in character for 26 different characters from the book, so she is serious about this A-to-Z thing.

07. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.

Can I finish posting this first?

08. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice, with one weird or funny question.

Here is what I was asked:

If you were a LEGO Minifigure, what would you look like?
I'll do you one better, here's my whole family:

I'm the guy with the hot dog.

If you could fulfill one dream right now, all expenses paid, what would it be?
Take the real-life version of my LEGO family to Euro Disney. I would dearly love to bring my kids to a Disney park, but there's no way I'm setting foot in the US for at least another four years. And hey, while we're in France we can check out some other cool stuff in Europe, too!

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A bricklayer. No, really. I loved LEGO, and this was the logical extension of my interests.

Based on your answer to question #3, now that you are grown, did you reach your goal? Why or why not?
I still play with LEGO, but that's about it. Part of me wishes I had followed through with the bricklaying, though. It probably pays better than what I'm doing now. After bricklaying, the second thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer, so I'm kinda doing that now.

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Don't give up on publishing so quickly. When I was in my mid-twenties I wrote my first novel and shopped it around, getting nothing but rejections. While I kept writing, I didn't bother trying to get anything published for ten years. Had I pressed on, I probably would have gotten something published, or maybe gotten in on the ground floor of the self-publishing craze. Either way I would be way farther ahead than I am now.

Here are my questions for my nominees: Because this is me, I changed it to one kinda normal question and four slightly more weird ones.

1 - What's your favourite book, and why?

2 - Who is your favourite professional wrestler?

3 - Favourite type of character to play in roleplaying games? If you don't play roleplaying games, how about video games? LARP? Cops & robbers? Monopoly? Do you do ANYTHING fun?

4 - You're about to be dropped into a fictional universe and be granted really cool powers - quick, which one do you want to be: A Jedi (or Sith) in Star Wars, a witch or wizard in Harry Potter, or a mutant in X-Men?

5- Favourite Canadian Prime Minister?

09. Share a link to your best post.

My favourite post on this blog was probably the original Toronto Circus Riot post, but I already re-blogged that for the A-to-Z so I'm not going to do it again. Instead I'll share my in-depth study of how Jesus Christ is a High-Level Dungeons & Dragons Cleric from my other blog, Rule of the Dice. I was really proud of that one but it doesn't get nearly as many hits as I think it deserves.


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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Daniel Radcliffe F*cks a Horse + An Apology (#IWSG May 2017)


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I'm not so much "insecure" today as I am "embarrassed."

Allow me to explain.

I was feeling really excited last month for IWSG. I had some cool big news that I was looking forward to sharing. But then something got screwed up with Blogger/Google and no one could leave comments on my post.

I was really annoyed and frustrated, and despite several efforts including contacting Google support could not figure out what was wrong. I saw lots of hits on the page, so I knew people were visiting, but there were no comments. Fortunately one eagle-eyed reader noticed there was an issue and contacted me via Twitter, otherwise I would have been extra weirded out. As it was, it just made me grumpy. The one day I had cool news and no one could congratulate me.

THAT's when I realized what I was doing, and I became embarrassed. I was sharing the news, looking for attention, and I felt ashamed. The recognition for a job well done was actually more important than doing the job well, and it pissed me off that I even felt that way. I've always told myself that I didn't need validation for my writing, that I did it for myself, and yet here I was looking for "likes" for the cheap ego boost.

So I apologize for that. Both to you and to myself.


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I never did figure out exactly what caused the commenting issue. I had no trouble with 26 other posts last month for the A-to-Z blog hop, so I know it was something in the code of that particular post (either the links or the pictures). I just couldn't pinpoint it. To be safe I'll be keeping links and such pretty light this month, just to be safe and to test it out.

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May IWSG Question: 
What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

I've said before that I write mostly fantasy so I don't have to do research, so I don't really have any cool stories from a writing perspective. However, in my old life as a theatre actor, I did do research for roles a couple of times, one of which was for the lead role in Equus.

Yes, that's the show where naked Daniel Radcliffe fucks a horse.
No, I'm not joking.

We were just doing a studio show of select scenes for class (so fortunately/unfortunately I didn't have to do the naked horse fornication bit), but I did have to learn about horses. So, the cast and the director went to a ranch for the day to learn to ride and care for horses.

It was AWESOME. I discovered I love riding horses, and I took to it pretty quickly. I'm sure some people do it all the time and take it for granted, but for me it was an eye-opening experience to be so close to such a powerful, impressive animal, and to experience even a fraction of the connection they are capable of having with humans.

I mean, I didn't have the same connection that Daniel did,
but it was still pretty cool.

Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to go horseback riding much since, but now that I think about it, it could be a fun family outing this summer. My son loves riding ponies at the fair, and we even rode a camel at the zoo. I think everyone might get a kick out of an extended horsey trip.

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The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z - World Famous Composer John Williams Got His Start In Newfoundland


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Two things:
  1. Yes, I know there are no "Z's" in any of those words.
  2. Yes, I've talked about this one before.
  3. It's been 26 friggin' days so I don't care.
Wait, that's three things.

*Ahem* Anyway. Before Star Wars, Superman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and a plethora of other hit Hollywood scores, John Williams was an up-and-coming musician serving his time in the US Army. In 1952 he was stationed at a military base in St. John's, Newfoundland (American bases were quite common on the Island at the time, due to it's strategic location as the furthest point East in North America). He was the conductor for the service band, which regularly performed at local dances in the community. 

At one of these shows, Williams was approached by a local filmmaker to score a travel film he was making for the Canadian government. Newfoundland was still a very new province at this point (it only joined Confederation in 1949), so the Government was trying to convince people to visit and drum up tourism. 

You won't hear any of Williams' later trademark sweeping classical pieces in the finished film, as he decided to base the score instead on local music. To be honest the film was so crazy I wasn't really paying attention to the music anyway. Behold "You Are Welcome," a weird look into Newfoundland right at the time my parents were born:


If you don't have 20 minutes to watch the whole thing, here are the highlights:

1. The narrator is shitfaced drunk.

He's constantly on the verge of passing out, but every time he's about to topple there's a quick cut while (presumably) a stagehand sets him back up. He can barely keep his eyes open by the end of it. Yet his diction is perfect, and he never flubs a line. A consummate professional.

2. As a tourism film it fails miserably.

The video is trying to entice people to visit, but everything looks bleak and miserable. Newfoundland's appeal has always been in its quaint rural charm, not in its attempts to be "modern." The "modern amenities" the film touts just look like prefab military bases built in the woods, because that's basically what they are. At one point they even show the local pulp-and-paper mill as a tourist attraction, because they obviously ran out of stuff to talk about.

3. The underlying theme is Newfoundland is a great place for casual sex.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but here's the basic plot of the film: Man shows up in Newfoundland, bumps into random woman, then travels all over the island with her, staying in shady motels. Apparently Canada in the 1950s was way more liberal than I gave it credit for. Not to mention they shoehorn in several shots of lovely bathing beauties by the pool as an added incentive, even though anyone actually familiar with Newfoundland weather knows it's so crappy and unpredictable that there's only like 3 weeks in August when you can actually swim outside.

So yeah, the man who would go on to win countless awards for his scores got his start on a terrible 1950s travelogue for the province of Newfoundland. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for this, because it keeps giving me chances to talk about this wonderful, godawful film.

And with that, we're done.

*Phew*

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

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My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.
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Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y - What the Heck is a Yukon Beaver Eater?


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For a long time, the Indigenous people of the Yukon territory and British Columbia on the west coast of Canada have described a huge beast, "bigger than even the biggest grizzly bear," that has been spotted tearing apart beaver lodges and devouring the poor creatures within. On the one hand, this monster is among the rarest and most obscure of cryptids (mysterious creatures such as bigfoot, yeti, lake monsters, etc), with very little information outside of native oral tradition. On the other hand, there are several very viable but surprising explanations for the Yukon Beaver Eater.

The natives traditionally called the beast saytoechin, which literally translates to "beaver eater." When shown pictures of similar-sized potential relatives to the beaver eater, eyewitnesses have uniformly identified the creature immediately: the megatherium, or giant ground-sloth.

This ugly sonofabitch right here.

The size and appearance of the ground sloth matches the saytoechin perfectly. There's just one problem: the giant ground sloth has been extinct for over 10,000 years. The beaver eater has been sighted as recently as 1989. There's a slight discrepancy in the dates there.

Could the saytoechin be a surviving megatherium? It's not like theories that the Loch Ness Monster is a surviving aquatic dinosaur from 100 million years ago. Ten thousand years is not that long. Is it long enough for the herbivore giant sloth to develop a taste for beaver? Possible, but it's a long shot.

About as long of a shot as me getting through this post without making a crass joke.

Other, slightly more plausible if less fun theories about the saytoechin is that it could be just an unusually large grizzly bear, or a short-faced bear (Arctodus Simus), which although also extinct is at least a carnivore.

A super-weird theory is that the Yukon Beaver Eater is actually a giant beaver itself (a castoroides), which is probably the most terrifying idea of all. We're talking about a 2-metre plus (7-foot) long beaver, weighing hundreds of kilograms, that is also a cannibal? I'm glad Canada doesn't have things like poisonous snakes and giant spiders, but I think a giant cannibal beaver might be just as bad.

Yeah, no thank you.

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My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

X - Crazy Canadian Cultist Brother XII


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Edward Arthur Wilson was born in England in July of 1878. Little did his parents know that they brought into the world the messiah who would save his chosen people when the rest of the world was destroyed.

The face of the man who'll save the world.
Or just rob a bunch of dumb rich people. Either/or.

Wilson was a sea captain who traveled the world and was fascinated with religion. Any religion. He loved religion so much so that, after abandoning his wife and children, he decided to start his own. In 1924 he claimed to have witnessed visions in the South of France of the Master Twelfth Brother of the Great White Lodge of Theosophy, which was basically the Church of Scientology for the 19th century.

Instead of making up aliens though, they just stole symbols from every religion they could find.

Wilson was so moved by this vision that he declared himself to be Brother XII, and in 1927 he swindled a bunch of rich people to give him money to start up a commune called Cedar-by-the-Sea in British Columbia just outside of the city of Nanaimo. There, he started the Aquarian Foundation in preparation for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

Yup. That one.

Everything was happy and full of hippy goodness until Brother XII started calling himself the reincarnation of the Egyptian God Osiris, embezzling funds from the foundation and having extramarital affairs with other members of his colony. The Aquarius Foundation was legally dissolved in 1929, but some of Brother XII's more devote followers continue to live and work with him.

This blows my mind for two reasons: One, the cult was a legal organization to begin with, and two, even after Brother XII started stealing money and calling himself a god, some people decided to stay.
“I am the Messenger of the Fire, the Messenger of the Whirlwind, the Messenger of the Day of Adjustment. By the Wind ye shall mount to the Heavens—if ye be the children of discernment. But as for the stubborn and the deaf and the blind, the Wind of Destruction shall carry them away."
-From Brother XII's book, The Three Truths
The children of the foundation performing a spring pageant. The CHILDREN.

As time went on Brother XII started to become paranoid and maniacal, hoarding gold, rifles, and hand grenades, and fortifying his island colony. His mistress Mabel Skottowe (or Madame Z, because of course she also had a supervillain name) started abusing and torturing their followers, calling it physical "tests" to prepare them for the coming Age. Finally the remaining followers couldn't take any more and revolted against their former leader, bringing serious legal charges against him.

Brother XII responded by burning down the colony and fleeing the country.

When a caretaker returned to the ruined colony and opened the vault where Brother XII had been hiding the gold, he found a only a note scrawled on a scrap of paper:
“For fools and traitors, nothing."
An artist's interpretation of Madame Z from a magazine in the 1950s. Like I said, she looks just like a villain from a comic book.

Edward Arthur Wilson reportedly died on November 7, 1934 in Switzerland, but there are strong suspicions he faked his death and lived off the stolen money in luxury. He was allegedly sighted visiting his lawyer in San Francisco a few years later.

I know his name is technically "Brother Twelve," but the whole time I was writing this I kept saying "Brother Ex-Aye-Aye" in my head.

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My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.
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Thursday, April 27, 2017

W - Winnie the Pooh and Canada, Too


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Okay, I wrote about this one before a few years ago. But 26 posts in one month is a lot, so you'll have to excuse me for reusing it. Plus it's a great story.

In 1914 a Canadian soldier from Winnipeg named Harry Colebourn was travelling to Quebec on his way to be shipped overseas. He kept a detailed journal of his trip, and after stopping the night in Port Arthur, Ontario he wrote the following:
"Left Port Arthur 7 a.m. In train all day. Bought bear $20."
I'm sure you, like myself, have many questions. Here are some of the answers:
  1. He bought the female bear cub from a hunter who had killed her mother.
  2. Colebourn was a veterinarian by trade, so him trying to help an animal is not unusual.
  3. Yes, he kept the bear.
  4. Yes, he brought it with him to basic training.
  5. Yes, he took it with him overseas.
That last one is important. Colebourn was shipped overseas to fight for England and he took an honest-to-god bear with him. I don't know if his officers were cool with this, or if they just decided not to f*ck with a guy who was travelling with a wild bear.

Yeah, I dunno either, Pierre.

Though he was obviously a badass (or maybe just nuts), Colebourn wasn't an asshole. When he shipped to the front lines in France he left the bear behind at the London Zoo. After the war Colebourn did post-grad work at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgery in London before returning to Winnipeg to open his own practice. The bear remained at the zoo and became possibly the most famous ursine in history.

Did I mention Colebourn named the bear "Winnipeg" after his hometown?  Or "Winnie," for short?

A certain A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin visited the London Zoo and fell in love with Winnie. In fact, Christopher Robin loved the bear so much that his father wrote many books of stories about Winnie's adventures to entertain him. The rest, as they say, is history. And countless billions of dollars in merchandising for Disney.

Also, Milne may have eaten his son. Allegedly.

There is a statue of Colebourn with Winnie the Pooh at the London Zoo, commemorating their strange but important place in literary history. There's an identical statue in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, to bring the story full circle.



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My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V - Vancouver Beer Parlours


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Prohibition of alcohol was common in Canada in the late 19th and early 20th century, though it was managed on a province-to-province and even town-by-town basis. The only nation-wide prohibition was from 1918-1920 as a temporary wartime measure. (Maybe to ship all the booze to the boys overseas? Who knows.) The ban was repealed province-by-province through the 20s, with Ontario abolishing prohibition by 1927, though Prince Edward Island held on from 1901 until 1948.

How in god's name anyone survived on that boring island for fifty years without booze is beyond me.

The west coast city of Vancouver, British Columbia retained its liquor ban for a few more years until 1925, when the city had completely lost control of alcohol within its borders. Still technically illegal, speakeasies popped up like mushrooms on every street corner, bribing cops and officials to keep that sweet, sweet illicit booze flowing. Rather than simply legalizing it and legislating it (like Canada is currently in the process of doing with marijuana), the government of the day decided to meet the drunks halfway:

And so the Vancouver beer parlour was born.

It wasn't a bar per se. The beer parlour only served beer. No spirits, no wine, just beer. And it was the only place to get beer, too. It was still illegal everywhere else. Not surprisingly, this wasn't a problem for anyone.

This picture keeps popping up in my research but I'm really not sure if it's authentic or some modern cosplayer in a crappy fake beard.

The beer parlours flourished, becoming centres for socializing and culture (if by culture you mean getting shitfaced). People got dressed up to go out to the parlour like they were attending church or the opera. They had other weird regulations, too, like having separate entrances for "Gentlemen" and "Ladies with Escorts," specifically for avoiding the dangerous mix of men, women and liquor.

Depicted here.


This all sounds like a cute, amusing old-timey story of weird stuff our great-great grandparents did, like painting themselves with radioactive makeup and taking photos of dead children. Except that the beer parlours continued until 1971, when liquor laws finally relaxed enough to lower the drinking age to 19, allow the sale of other types of alcohol, and finally abolish that "men can't drink with women" rule.

Some classy beer parlour patrons with the ghosts of the previous patrons who drank themselves to death.

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My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U - Underground SNOLAB


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Sudbury. A city in Northern Ontario so exciting that the top two attractions listed on the tourism website is a 6-screen discount movie theatre and the slots at the local race track. However, this sleepy (and cold) town holds a surprising secret deep below the surface: Two thousand and seventy metres beneath the city lies a sprawling underground laboratory that would be an awesome secret villain lair except that everyone knows about it.

Seriously, you can get a map on their website and everything.

For you non-metric folks out there, two thousand metres (2km) is about one-and-a-quarter miles, or six thousand, eight hundred feet. In solid bedrock.

SNOLAB (the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) is located in a nickel mine in the cold Canadian north, and is the deepest clean room facility in the world. A clean room is a specialized laboratory with very low levels of dust and background radiation, necessary to perform certain very specialized and highly sensitive physics experiments. Until 2010 it was the deepest laboratory in the world, period, when it was surpassed by the 2.4km deep Jinping Underground Laboratory in China.

This has to be some sort of doomsday weapon, right?

Being located under so much solid rock provides invaluable shielding from the cosmic radiation that regularly bombards our planet but unfortunately doesn't give anyone superpowers. It does screw up physics experiments, though. To illustrate how important this depth is, SNOLAB and Jinpin receive 0.27 and 0.2 particles per square metre of cosmic radiation per day, respectively. This compares to fifteen million particles per square metre on the surface.

Seriously, how does no one develop superpowers? 

Unfortunately, because SNOLAB is located in an active mine, public tours are not available. However, their website offers a plethora of information, images and videos, and they have an extensive outreach program for grade schools. They also offer a workstudy co-op for undergraduate students. It's like they want to share science and education.

At this point I'll mention that the United States was supposed to build an ever deeper lab, but plans were abandoned after budget cuts in 2010. Ahem.

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My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

T - Toronto's Ill-Fated First Hanging


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After the bleak and controversial topics of last week (treasonous nationalism, indigenous rights, and TWO separate cases of genocide), let's keep this week lighter. Monday's topic is... public execution.

Actually, it's still not as bad as last week's posts.

Back in 1798 Toronto was a small frontier town only five years old. It wasn't even called Toronto yet, it was still called York back then. They had a brand-new jail and hanging yard on King Street, a couple of blocks east from Yonge Street, and the local authorities were itching to use it.

This is not the York jailhouse from the story. This is the old Don Jail, which has it's own history of controversy and horror.

In October of that year, a couple of Irish immigrants named John Sullivan and Michael Flannery went on a drinking binge in Toronto's only tavern. Sullivan was illiterate, but Flannery was known as "Latin Mike" for his penchant of reciting Bible verses, and by all accounts was a pretty smart guy. This becomes important later.

When the money ran out, Flannery had the sparkling idea to forge a bank note for three shillings and nine pence (worth a little less than dollar, or twenty bucks in today's money). The bank accepted it and the boys continued their bender. They were soon found out, however, and when word came of their impending arrest Flannery immediately skipped town. Sullivan was not so lucky. He was arrested, tried and convicted of forgery, and sentenced to death.

For forging the equivalent of a twenty-dollar bill.

Is this colourful old lady worth your life?

The judge's ruling was scathing:
Sullivan, may all who behold you, and who shall hear of your crime, and of your unhappy fate, take warning from your example… [I] recommend to you to employ the few days that shall be allowed, of a life spent in wickedness, in humble and fervent prayer to almighty God…
Again, the dude was sentenced to death because his friend forged a twenty dollar bill. Sullivan was illiterate and couldn't write his own name. Obviously the town really, really wanted to try out their new hanging yard.

Again this is not from the York hanging (not many cameras back then). This is from Hull, Quebec, in 1902, not far from where I now work.

The problem was the hanging yard was so new, no one actually knew how to hang a person, and nobody was willing to try. They ultimately had to give $100 and a pardon to another criminal in the same jail, a man by the name of McKnight, to give it a whirl.

(I have been unable to determine what McKnight was arrested for, or how it compares to forging a f*cking $20 bill. Would it be worse if he did something really minor like jaywalking, or had murdered an entire churchful of nuns?)

Yeah, I dunno either, Pierre.

A crowd gathered in their Sunday best to watch the hanging (this was about 210 years before Netflix), and McKnight proved he also had no clue how to hang somebody. The first time the noose slipped off Sullivan's head. The second time the knot came undone. At this point even Sullivan himself was getting annoyed and impatient. It was reported that his last words were something along the lines of: 

"McKnight, I hope to God you got the rope right this time."

Turns out he did, and the third time was the charm.

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My A-to-Z Blogging Challenge theme for 2017 is Weird Canadian Facts and History. To see more blog posts, click here.

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