I attended Art in the Park this weekend at Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Our local super-park and one-time home of Trinity College (1851-1925), was overrun by artists and art-lover’s in this annual exhibition and sale.
The sun was shining, children were laughing, lover’s were canoodling (that’s right, canoodling!), I had a bowl of dumplings and it seemed that everything was right with the world. But looking past the veneer of paradise, past the squirrels, black and white, gathering nuts in unity, there was subversion afoot! Not since 2001, when Mel Lastman shook hands with members of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club in an unfortunate photo-opt, has something so scandalous taken place in Toronto politics. Mel Lastman claimed to not know who was shaking his hand, and when told he was shocked to discover that there was a chance that the friendly hand-shaking bikers might be mixed up in illegal shenanigans (that’s right shenanigans – don’t judge me!) like drug-trafficking!
But here in Trinity-Bellwoods Park where I once saw a cat leap from the top of a tree, over the head of a reaching fire-fighter on a ladder-truck, something more shocking and unbelievable had taken place and was now on display.
Kids, cover your eyes…
Allegedly, Rob Ford (Toronto’s temporary mayor) had been seen standing next to Sasquatch on the shores of Toronto Island. Artist Mike Riley had captured the event and was now displaying it for everyone to see.
Rob Ford has been known to be staunchly opposed to Gravy Trains, weekly weigh-ins and so horrified by Gay Pride that he doesn’t even want to be in the city in case he might catch homosexuality, but when graffiti artists began depicting him in an unsavoury light, Big Rob went after them.
Is it possible that now that his impromptu appearance next to Sasquatch Dave is out there for the whole city to ridicule that Rob Ford may go after art in general?
Sasquatch Eddie, who was visiting from the Fraser Valley in B.C. has been facing ridicule amongst his fellow-Sasquatch at home. In a front-page story in the local Sasquatch Valley Recorder, the Sasquatch community is in an uproar about Sasquatch Dave posing alongside Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, claiming it was poor judgement on his part. In an interview with Canadian Culture Thing, Sasquatch Dave claims he was simply making a silly pose for a photo for long-time girlfriend Sasquatch Velma and he “was just as shocked as everyone else that the Toronto Mayor jumped into the frame.”
Sasquatch Dave added that he has been having trouble sleeping ever since and has been having a recurring dream, “I’m in a large pot of boiling water and there a Rob Fords dancing around it and chanting that I have to “volunteer” for his Toronto football team or I can kiss my job goodbye! It’s horrible…just horrible.”
Let me tell you, you haven’t seen sad until you’ve seen a Sasquatch cry.
Supergirl Laura Vandervoort signed her Canadian Culture Thing MapleLeafForever Stamp…ages ago! But hey, even though it predated this blog, it’s still cool.
Toronto-born actress Laura Vandervoort, actively acting from the age of 13, has appeared in many children’s shows like Goosebumps (1997-1998) and Are You Afraid of the Dark? (2000) until finally getting her biggest break in the WB’s Smallville. Laura playedKal-El’s (Superman‘s) Kryptonian cousin Kara, subtly known as Supergirl beginning in the 7th season (2007) of the series until the finale of season 10 (2011).
Becoming Sci-Fi’s It-Girl, Laura was cast as Lisa, an alien visitor in the ABC reboot of V (2009-2011) along with fellow Sci-Fi It-Girl Morena Baccarin of Firefly (2002-2003) who worked with Canadian actress and MapleLeafForever Stamp, Jewel Staite.
Laura Vandervoort has starred in countless Television Shows like Instant Star (2004-2008) and Movies like Into the Blue 2: the Reef (2009) as well as the voice of Mary-Jane Watson in the Spider-Man: Edge of Time videogame (2011). Up, up and away!
Edward James Lennox was born on September 12, 1854 in a Toronto of just over 30,000 people. The son of Irish immigrants, Lennox would one day be Toronto’s most important and influential architects during the great growth and expansion of the City of Toronto during the 1880’s through the 1910’s.
Having designed over seventy buildings in Toronto, prolific architect Edward James Lennox near single-handedly designed the look of Toronto. Graduating in 1874 first in his class from the Mechanics’ Institute, Edward apprenticed for five years with William Irving before forming his own firm in 1881.His quickly rose to the top of his profession, winning the contract to build Toronto’s third City Hall on the northeast corner of Bay and Queen streets.
Built in the Richardson Romanesque style, the now-Old City has been and is still one of Toronto’s great features. Due to time-delays, cost over-runs and legal disputes, City Councillors spitefully refused to allow a plaque titling E.J. Lennox as the architect of the building. E.J. Lennox was not to be denied and had stonemasons engrave “EJ LENNOX ARCHITECT AD 1898” on corbels around the entire building on upper floor eaves as well as a carved portrait of himself on the facade. This was not enough for Lennox who also included grotesque caricatures of City Councillors and opponents.
E.J. Lennox would go on to build many landmarks in Toronto including St. Paul’s Anglican Church (1909-1913) on Bloor Street West, the Neo-Classical Bank of Toronto Building (1905) on Yonge Street and the King Edward Hotel (1905) on King Street. Lennox would pioneer in the Romanesque Revival style, the Annex House, an indigenous Torontonian house named for the Annex neighbourhood but used in most elite neighbourhoods. The Annex House blended Richardson Romanesque style of large rounded archways with Queen Anne turrets and were built mainly of brick and Credit Valley Sandstone.
In 1908, Lennox would be commissioned to design Toronto’s most famous house.
E.J. Lennox was notorious in Toronto society for his bravado, self-promotion in the press and networking at high-society parties. Infamous for publicly criticizing and insulting anyone who disagreed with any of his many opinions and he would shamefully slight other architect’s work. It was only a matter of time before his brazen antics brought him together with another larger-than life character, Sir Henry Pellatt.
Commissioned in 1908 E.J. Lennox began construction on Casa Loma between 1911-1914, and it proved to be an exercise in the excessive vanity of the two men. With materials brought from as far away as Scotland and Italy, Casa Loma proved to be too much for Sir Henry’s pocket-book and with the start of World War One, Casa Loma would never be finished.
During this same time, E.J. Lennox would begin building his own dream-house just northeast of Casa Loma called Lenwil, a combination of Lennox and his wife’s name Wilson. Built between 1912 and 1914, E.J. Lennox now almost 60, saw Lenwil as an ideal 21-room retirement home and in 1917 sold his firm and retired from architecture. Though retired and no longer designing buildings, Lennox continued being involved in several architectural societies and associations and returned to the architecture spotlight in 1931 when the Province of Ontario passed legislation that required architects to be certified. Though retired for 14 years, a 77 year-old Lennox was certified, having written and passed the exam. E.J. Lennox passed away two years later at the age of 79 leaving behind a lifework that proves to be the cornerstone of the City of Toronto.
On Wednesday (October 5, 2011) Canadian actress Jewel Staite of Firefly, Stargate: Atlantis and Wonderfalls (Yes, and other stuff too) was in Valhalla with her friend Chelan Simmons! Jewel very graciously signed the back of Canadian Culture Thing postcards #0097 which features a MapleLeafForever stamp of Jewel on the back. The Chelan Simmons stamp is in the next batch so we’ll just have to hope she comes back!
Jewel Staite was born in White Rock, British Columbia which sits on the Pacific coast south of Vancouver, just north of the Canada/U.S. border. She began her career in modeling but turned to acting at the age of 6. She went on to become Sci-Fi royalty with linchpin roles as the endearing Kaylee in Joss Whedon’s Firefly and it’s follow-up film Serenity as well as Dr. Jennifer Keller in Stargate Atlantis. I have to give an honourable mention to her in Wonderfalls, another short-lived but exceptional show set in Niagara Falls around a gift shop whose star has conversations with animated objects – just see it. Wonderfalls is from the people who brought us Dead Like Me and Pushing Daisies, two more must-see shows!
When I think of the noble beaver, I think of him like one of our founders. I think of how he and his kin built this great nation one dam lodge after another. Planning out our waterways while commingling with it’s fellow future-Canadians, the Moose and Goose, the Salmon, Loon and Caribou. The great beaver deciding one day, while gnawing down a sap-oozing tree as he built the Parliament buildings, that a leaf should be the symbol for this great tree-covered nation. These proud Beavers would name the country Can-ada because the word Can’t wasn’t in a beavers vocabulary!
The beaver was only found in Canada (Castor Canadensis) and before the discovery of Canada by the French Vikings of Portugal, no one had ever seen such a creature! Travelers bringing back tales of the 12 metre-tall beast with mighty teeth that was known to raze forests and it’s paddle-like tail that could flatten man or beast. Oh, the beaver, the Great Industrious Beaver…I digress.
But seriously, the beaver is as important as any of our founders and definitely more recognizable.
The cute little beaver has been symbolic of Canada since the first settlers came to Canada and hunted them till near-extinction. But, hey, it was before down-filled, Gore-Tex® jackets and heated cars. Let’s face it, if a fur-trade hadn’t been developed in Canada, there would have been little motivation to explore the country. The explorers who charted Canada were really just charting out where to hunt beavers.
Trade began between the Native people and the French in the 1500’s, swapping beaver pelts in exchange for cooking pots and knives. By the the early 17th century, Samuel de Champlain had come to Canada and on orders by Henry IV, the King of France, to develop the fur-trade. Before long, the English got into the fray and as the competition took off, both the French and English began sending shiploads of beaver pelts back to Europe. The industrious beaver became the industry of a fledgling nation.
In 1670, the newly founded Hudson’s Bay Company was given sole control of the Hudson’s Bay region by the English government and their territory continued to grow as they overcame many of their challengers. The fighting over beavers between French and English fur-traders became so fierce it eventually led to the The French-Indian War of 1754. The English won the war and in 1763 took over France’s North American colony. There had been an estimated six million beavers in Canada before the fur-trade began but at it’s peak traders were shipping as many as 200,000 pelts a year back to Europe. Luckily, by the 1830’s, the felt hats that beaver fur had been used for in Europe began falling out of favour and silk became a more popular choice. The fur-trade was almost entirely finished by 1870 and beavers all over Canada let out a huge sigh of relief.
As the years passed things would get better for the beaver and in 1851, one (let’s call him Olaf Joaquin Duguay) would even adorn the first Canadian postage stamp. Known as the “Three Penny Beaver” and designed by Sir Sandford Fleming, the stamp was the very first stamp anywhere in the world to depict an animal instead of a monarch!
This became trend-setting and a mere 86 years later, in 1937, the beaver, in a design by G.E. Kruger-Gray, shared it’s place on the Canadian five-cent coin where (with the exception of 1943-1945 and 2005 – damn war!) it still remains.
Suddenly, there were beavers everywhere. Besides stamps and money, they were found on product packaging, books, advertising, postcards, toys, and souvenirs of all kinds. When someone visited Canada, they always left with a little beaver. They appeared on company logos like the Canadian Pacific Railway, on newspaper mastheads and on more Government buildings across Canada than you can shake a beaver tail at. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, Canada and Ireland led the way in introducing the Beaver Scouts programme. Soon little boys (and eventually girls) began dressing in blue and brown paramilitary uniforms embellished with beavers. These little scouts saluted by hooking two fingers on each hand like claws while making tsk tsk noises with their front teeth. The beaver now had an army! Perhaps, they could form an air force comprised of De Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver airplanes!
Life became relatively stress-free for the Beaver until late 1954 when worry would return. The success of Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett created a new-found popularity for the coonskin cap and the beaver feared it was only a matter of time before they would be, once again, adorning fashionable human heads. The mighty Beaver began a campaign against the fad by burning effigies of Fess Parker but as luck would have it the fad had passed by the late 50’s and the beaver was safe. A mere 30 years later their population numbers were considered stable.
On March 24, 1975 beavers were finally given their due respect when, by Royal assent, they became an official emblem of Canada. Furthermore, it seemed that some of the Canadian elite began keeping beavers as pets. It was said that the wife of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the vivacious and unsinkable “Margaret, was seen sitting in the front row at a fashion show with her pet beaver. High Society magazine reported: “…Maggie Trudeau, no longer Canada’s leading lady has guaranteed the beaver a place in Canadian culture as the national pet.”
The final thing I would like to add about the beaver is that it should be said that, through all of it’s trials and faced with extinction at the hands of humans with cold heads, the beaver has never lost it’s manners or decency. The beaver is industrious, the beaver is a survivor but most importantly: the beaver is polite.