Rabbit Holes Podcast Blog

Not all the rabbit holes we fall down can be stretched into a full episode, but we still wanted to have a place to share with you guys the stories we found interesting! So, please enjoy all the content that didn’t make the show!

 
 
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How often do you find yourself saying, “Well, just to play the Devil’s advocate here…” when making plans, trying to settle a debate, or just to be a pompous ass?  If you’re like me, then a lot.  But what does that mean, really, to be a Devil’s advocate?  Does it mean what we seem to think it does these days? (Which is someone who argues a point to be contrary?)  Well, kind of…

 

For Sale: One Brooklyn Bridge

If you listened to this week’s episode than you know that a con man once sold the Eiffel Tower. You might ask yourself has there any other public building that have been the target of cons? The answer is lots, but the most popular target of con men seems to be the Brooklyn Bridge.

 
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Stop. Doing. Blackface.

I can’t believe it’s 2019, and this has to be said, but here it is: blackface is racist.  For fuck’s sake…. Blackface started in the 1830s in New York when white performers in ‘minstrel shows’ performed as black characters; they would darken their face with burnt cork or shoe polish, wear tattered closed, and mock enslaved Africans from the south.

 

2019 Fashion Trends

I am very late with my January blogs but hopefully we are back in the swing of things. I talked in the start of the year about the book, movie, and TV trends. Now I am going to look at a few fashion trends that are supposed to be popular in spring 2019.

 
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The 12 Days of Christmas

Let’s set the record straight on this one: the 12 days of Christmas aren’t some pre-Christmas, half-advent like period in the calendar…  While the carol The 12 Days of Christmas had always been in my consciousness at this time of year, it wasn’t until I learnt more about the actual 12 days that made me think about it, and try to pick it apart.  So, in honour of the actual 12 days, this week’s blog post is about the song.  Let’s break it down.

 

Christmas TV Specials

Last week I did Christmas Movies, so this week I had to do tv: the specials and Christmas episodes. What is the difference you might ask? Well specials are both easy and hard…

 
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Christmas Movies

What I really want to talk about is Christmas movies. What makes a movie a Christmas movie, why do some really not that overly festive movies become so tied with the season? Since this is not a fact-based article, this is how I look at it, so if you have any thoughts on Christmas movies please let me know.

 

Don’t Pack That

The holidays are almost here, and holidays mean family, and family often means travel.  Last year, AAA expected 97.4 million Americans were going to drive to see family, while 6.4 million were going to fly.  If that’s the boat you find yourself in this year (flying), please keep in mind that air travel security isn’t relaxed just because you’re feeling festive.  And this is a message the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) felt they needed to stress earlier this week.

 
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The Women's Royal Naval Service

Growing up as a teenager I read mostly the same book as my mom, heavy on female British authors, I remember reading about the WRNS in Rosamunde Pilcher’s novel Coming Home. WRNS were featured in a number of other books but this group of women working in the military in World War II (and I) fascinated me and stuck with me all these years.

 

Marie Antoinette and her Jewels

If you have a passing knowledge of the French Revolution, you must be familiar with the Diamond Necklace Affair – it was the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to extravagant royal spending at a time when the nation was starving and fighting expensive wars… when a lot of jewelry, purported to be her, hit Sotheby’s auction block this month, it drew the attention of the media and the public.

 
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Ancient Graffiti

Odds are, if you’ve ever lived or visited a city (or hey, a small town that lack excitement on Saturday nights), you’ve seen some graffiti.  Some of it is beautiful artwork, some of it is illegible jumbles, and sometimes you have to wondering why the person wasted their (and your) time putting it up.

 

The Poppy

November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada, a day that’s very important to me personally, so my blog post today is about one of the ways our nation takes to recognize and thank those service members who have served their country on our behalf. 

 
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The Babadook as Gay Icon

In our last outright spooky blog post for this Halloween season, I wanted to follow-up on a Tweet I saw a couple of weeks ago (which of course I now can’t find) about how wild 2018 is because the Babadook is now the internet’s favourite gay icon.  I was as intrigued as I was here for it. 

 

Canadian Witch Trials

I wanted to do the Halloween episode on Canadian Witch trials, only it turns out there were not a lot of them nor are they as horrific as the trials in New England, England, Scotland or Spain. It turns out even back in the day we were chiller about witchcraft than our homeland or neighbours to the south.

 
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Death Masks and Photography

Let’s stick with the creepy theme for October, and today look at the phenomenon of death masks and death photography.  If you’re squeamish, be prepared to feel uncomfortable. But, like, don’t stop reading or anything. Just buckle up.

 

Odd Wellness Trends

For my first blog post I wanted to tie in to my topic on this week’s episode (Episode 7: Wait, What?), wellness and the crazy trends that come with it. I was looking in to the craziest trends in wellness in 2018, and a few stuck out to me.

 
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Old Ottawa Jail

It’s October, which is basically just 30 Day of Pre-Halloween shenanigans, so for this first blog post, I wanted to tell you guys the story of Ottawa’s most haunted over-night get away, the Old Ottawa Jail, which is now a hostel.

 

Devil’s Advocate

How often do you find yourself saying, “Well, just to play the Devil’s advocate here…” when making plans, trying to settle a debate, or just to be a pompous ass?  If you’re like me, then a lot.  But what does that mean, really, to be a Devil’s advocate?  Does it mean what we seem to think it does these days? (Which is someone who argues a point to be contrary?)  Well, kind of…

 
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Where do I Sign up?

The term “Devil’s advocate” is about 400 years old.  It became an official position in the Roman Catholic Church under Pope Sixtux V in 1587.  The person in the office had one job: try to convince the Church to NOT beatify/canonize someone (i.e. make them a saint).  While lots of stories will pour in about someone arguing that they were a miracle worker, the Church has felt a need to do some due-diligence on candidates.  The priest appointed to this position was generally a cannon lawyer, and he (because it was always a ‘he’) would take a skeptical view of all the supposed miracles and try to prove they weren’t real by finding inconsistencies in the story and/or problems with the candidate’s character.  When Pope John Paul II changed up the rules in the 80s and went on a blessing spree and made almost 500 saints during his term, the office was quietly shuffled out of the process, and the role of due diligence fell to a new office, that of the Promoter of Justice.

But wait, what’s this?

While the official role of Devil’s advocate kind of (but not quite) went away at the end of the last century, there was a recognition that skepticism was still going to reign and, in fact, was probably going to be a bigger issue moving forward that it was in the past.  And then, Mother Teresa died.  This was a bad time for the woman whose name was synonymous with all things good and holy to shuffle this mortal coil.  Of course, calls for sainthood were immediate, and the Church wanted to follow-up.  But how to make it seem like a legit beatification/canonization and not a PR move?  Enter the world’s greatest Devil’s advocate, Christopher Hitchens (RIP).  The Church actually reached out to Hitchens, a vocal atheist and critic of the Church and Mother Teresa (because yeah, she was hella problematic) and asked him to take on the role of Devil’s advocate to poke holes in MT’s miracles (both of which were healing in nature).  Building on his book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, in which he lays out her less than stellar practices, Hitchens wrote a piece called “The Devil and Mother Teresa” (which appears in his collection of essays, Love, Poverty and War), Hitchens laid out for the Church the reasons they shouldn’t confer sainthood on Teresa.  They ignored him, but it was still a nice gesture.

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Pass me the Yellow Pages

Sometimes, though, I like to take the term “Devil’s advocate” literally, and consider situations where Beelzebub might actually have needed a lawyer.  Cut to 1971, when Gerald Mayo filed suit in Pennsylvania against “Satan and His Staff.”  The filing claimed "Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff's downfall" and had therefore "deprived him of his constitutional rights.”  When he filed the case, Mayo was a little broke and so filed a motion with the court that would see the court cover the legal expenses of the case (known as in forma pauperis).  Unfortunately, the court had to decline the motion and throw out the case because Gerald was unable to provide instructions to the US Marshals as to where they could locate Satan to serve him court papers.  Better luck next time, G-Dog!

So, remember to always be open minded and willing to play the skeptic when planning/debating.  I mean, you don’t want to be less efficient that the Church and the US justice system, do you?

Have a great week!

Elise

Sources:

Devil's advocate (Wikipedia)

Questioning the ‘miracles’ of Saint Teresa

Lawsuits against the Devil (Wikipedia)

 

For Sale: One Brooklyn Bridge

If you listened to this week’s episode than you know that a con man once sold the Eiffel Tower. You might ask yourself has there any other public building that have been the target of cons? The answer is lots, but the most popular target of con men seems to be the Brooklyn Bridge. This was sold so often and by so many con men and women that it was used as a plot device in the 1937 Mae West movie “Every Day's a Holiday.”

Since the bridge was completed in 1883, the idea of illegally selling it has become the ultimate example of the power of persuasion. A good salesman could sell it, a great swindler would sell it, and the perfect sucker would fall for the scam.

 
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Can I Interest you in a Toll Booth?

A turn-of-the-century confidence man named George C. Parker actually sold the Brooklyn Bridge more than once. Parker posed as an architect that preferred building bridges to owning them. He would produce impressive forged documents to prove that he was the bridge's owner, then convince his buyers that they could make a fortune by controlling access to the roadway. Many times, the new “owners” had to be rousted from the bridge by police when they tried to erect toll barriers. Parker also successfully sold the MET, the Statue of Liberty, and Grant’s tomb.

The American Dream

He was not the only one to sell the bridge, other con men such as William McCloundy, Reed C. Waddell, and the Gondorf brothers (Charles and Fred) also ran the scam from the 1880 until the 1920’s. As you can tell this was a profitable scam with the bridge selling for anywhere from $250 to $50,000 (that’s all in 1890’s value), but you might be wondering: was there really enough people in New York that would fall for this scam? Most New Yorkers wouldn’t, so the mark for this scam was new immigrants. The con men would pay the stewards of international vessels docked at Ellis Island for information about passengers who might have money and be interested in buying property. These new immigrants didn't understand the country, or the law. However they did understand that it was the land of opportunity, where they could change their status and become someone of wealth and privilege.

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Hard-Learnt Lessons

The bridge was perfect because it was close to the port so very visible to newcomers, large enough that you could show it off without being to close, and second only to the statue of liberty as the most famous American landmarks in the late 19 century. The scam was still being run until the 1920’s however, less successfully, as immigrants had become more knowledgeable and officials started handing out booklets to newcomers stating things like you can not own public building or streets.


Even though we might not fall for this specific con, there are still lots of scams and con men and con women out there trying to make a fast buck.

Have a (legally) profitable week, everyone!

Andi


Sources:

For You, Half Price

George C. Parker (Wikipedia)

America's Greatest Conman Sold the Brooklyn Bridge Twice a Week for Years

 

Stop. Doing. Blackface.

I can’t believe it’s 2019, and this has to be said, but here it is: blackface is racist.  Stop doing blackface. For fuck’s sake….

Blackface started in the 1830s in New York when white performers in ‘minstrel shows’ performed as black characters; they would darken their face with burnt cork or shoe polish, wear tattered closed, and mock enslaved Africans from the south.  These performances would portray black people as lazy, cowardly, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexualized and prone to thievery.  By 1845, the trope had become so popular that an industry sprung up to supply music, makeup, costumes and music to be used by white performers mimicking black people.  From the National Museum of African American History and Culture:

Minstrelsy, comedic performances of “blackness” by whites in exaggerated costumes and make-up, cannot be separated fully from the racial derision and stereotyping at its core.  By distorting the features and culture of African Americans—including their looks, language, dance, deportment, and character—white Americans were able to codify whiteness across class and geopolitical lines as its antithesis.

 
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Halloween Isn’t an Excuse…

Every October, it seems like the lesson above (and the hurtful history behind the origins of blackface) are forgotten, and white people think they are ‘honouring’ black people/characters by donning blackface as part of their costume.  And by the morning of November 1st, they’re getting (justifiably) dragged for their poor choices.  In 2011, Paula Deen (yes, THAT Paula Deen)’s son appeared on a Halloween episode of his mother’s show dressed as Ricky Ricardo, if Ricky Ricardo had been from sub-Saharan Africa rather than Cuba; in 2013, Julianne Hough went out to a party as Crazy Eyes, from Orange is the New Black; and in 2017, Luanne de Lesseps donned the world biggest Afro wig and a fuck-ton of bronzer to go out at Diana Ross.  Just, don’t.  Fucking don’t.

Politicians are Trash, Too

What’s been all over the news in the last week are pictures of politicians surfacing in blackface.  Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s med school year book surfaced showing two men – one in blackface and the other in a Klan robe.  Northam wasn’t immediately sure which he was; then the story changed and neither were him, and he was sure of that because that Halloween he was dressed in blackface somewhere else.  According to Rhae Lynn Barnes of Princeton University, we should expect more to pop up in the future.  Blackface was (apparently is) a popular way for whites to show off their power, and were (are?) popular themed parties in elite circles, from which politicians typically come.  So, everyone better hold on to their hats, because we may be seeing a lot skeletons busting from closets in the coming months/years.

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Lack of Representation in Boardrooms

Where else has blackface popped up recently?  In fashion, of all places.  Goddamnit.  Before Christmas, Prada was marketing a like called “Pradamalia,” the mascot for which was a midnight-black monkey-like figure with giant red lips.  If you showed a child a picture from an early minstrel show performance, and asked them to draw the white performer, this mascot is what that kid would draw.  Prada acted shocked and confused (and defensive) before finally pulling the products.  Then, this week, Gucci put out a $900 turtle-neck sweater that is intended to be pulled up over the nose that included a cut-out for the wearer’s lips, which was ringed in red.  Now, I know they knew it would appeal to the blackface fans in the crowd, because only elite whites would be okay with paying $900 for a fucking sweater.  These products managed to go from designer to production to storefront (I’m assuming) because there is a shocking lack of black representation in management/board rooms in these companies, or if there is, these executives aren’t comfortable putting up a hand and saying “Uh, wait a minute, this isn’t good.”

So, in summary and as a reminder: blackface is fucking racist.  It has been for the better part of the last 200 years, and in 2019, we should all know better.

Have a good (and blackface-free) week everyone!

Elise

 

Sources:

Blackface: The Birth of An American Stereotype

10 Stars Whose Blackface Blunders Backfired, From Ted Danson to Kylie Jenner

Yes, politicians wore blackface. It used to be all-American ‘fun.’

How fashion houses that thrive on detail miss such critical social cues

 

The 12 Days of Christmas

Let’s set the record straight on this one: the 12 days of Christmas aren’t some pre-Christmas, half-advent like period in the calendar.  As we learnt during our Christmas show this year (Episode 19: Whole Lotta Sap in Here), the 12 days of Christmas are the period proceeding Christmas, leading up to January 6th, which is the date when the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem after Christ’s birth.  If you believe in that kind of thing.  While the carol The 12 Days of Christmas had always been in my consciousness at this time of year, it wasn’t until I learnt more about the actual 12 days that made me think about it, and try to pick it apart.  So, in honour of the actual 12 days, this week’s blog post is about the song.  Let’s break it down.

 
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Gift-apoloza

If you’re not familiar (and, in that case, I’d like to say welcome to our planet), The 12 Days of Christmas is a pretty repetitive carol that detail the exploits of the world’s worst gift giver.  Why the worst?  Well, according to the carol’s singer, their true love gives them the following gifts:

  1. A partridge in a pear tree,

  2. Two turtle doves,

  3. Three french hens,

  4. Four calling birds,

  5. Five gold rings,

  6. Six geese a-laying

  7. Seven swans a-swimming,

  8. Eight maids a-milking,

  9. Nine ladies dancing,

  10. Ten lords a-leaping,

  11. Eleven pipers piping,

  12. Twelve drummers drumming.

History

According to Vox, the first iteration of the carol appears in a 1780 children’s book called Mirth Without Mischief, and may have French origins.  Basically, it was a game – singers were testing their memories, and if they missed an item or made a mistake, they had to ‘forfeit’ a reward to the person/people they were singing with.  The current version we all get stuck in our head isn’t the definitive one – over time, lots of items have been included, like sailing ships and bears (which, Jesus…).  And those golden rings?  They probably refer to the rings on the necks of pheasants, and not something you could actually use.  The modern version of the carol that we all know so well appeared in 1909, and is credited to Frederic Austin, an English composer.

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Just… Don’t

While in the shower though, I had a thought: the way the song is structured, is the gift giver giving these items only once, and the singer lets us know with each verse what the new gift is and is recounting the past days’ gifts, or is the gift giver repeating gifts?  The way the lyrics makes it sounds, I honest to god think that, come January 6th, the receiver is going to end up having received the following:

  1. 12 partridge in pear trees,

  2. 22 turtle doves,

  3. 30 French hens,

  4. 36 calling birds,

  5. 40 gold rings [which, okay, that I don’t mind],

  6. 42 geese a-laying

  7. 42 swans a-swimming,

  8. 40 maids a-milking,

  9. 36 ladies dancing,

  10. 30 lords a-leaping,

  11. 22 pipers piping, and

  12. Twelve drummers drumming.

That’s a lot of bird shit.  And a lot of performers just milling around.  Is the receiver responsible for cleaning up after those birds and feeding the performers?  See – world’s worst gift giver.

That’s a lot of bird shit.  And a lot of performers just milling around.  Is the receiver responsible for cleaning up after those birds and feeding the performers?  See – world’s worst gift giver.

 But, let’s say you were absolutely stuck for gift ideas this year, and decided the best thing to give a loved one was the full list.  What did that run you?  Well, the PNC Christmas Price Index has us covered and has broken down the cost for a SINGLE set of all the items described (i.e. nine ladies dancing, not the 36 the song implies).  The costs have been tracked since 1984, when the initial expense totalled $20,069.58 – now, however, you’re looking at dropping $39,094.93 to annoy the shit out of your loved one.  Some may say that’s a fair prince, but there’s much cheaper ways to do it… [like this delightful little story here.]

So, long story short?  Don’t be the asshole that buys the love of your life 12 trees, 184 individual birds and hires 140 performers to fuck up their life just in time for New Year’s.  (And if you do, those 40 golden rings better be on point (and not just more birds).

All joking aside, we hope you enjoyed your holidays and that you still have some time left to spend with family and loved one.  Enjoy the rest of your 12 days of Christmas!

 Elise

Sources

12 Days of Christmas: Counting by the Gifts

The 12 Days of Christmas: the story behind the holiday’s most annoying carol

PNC Christmas Price Index

 

Christmas TV Specials

Last week I did Christmas Movies, so this week I had to do tv: the specials and Christmas episodes. What is the difference you might ask? Well specials are both easy and hard; the easy, once are like the Grinch, Frosty and all the other old-school stop animation - they are stand alone, not part of a series and are just shown at Christmas. Some series have Christmas specials that stand alone from the series, are shown at Christmas even if the series is on hiatus at the time (Doctor Who and Call the Midwife come to mind in this category). I put them in the category of specials. Personally, my favorite specials are the Grinch, Doctor Who (all of them, but the two I always watch are Voyage of the Dammed and A Christmas Carol), and the Disney Christmas Day Parade.

 
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Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean

There is one show that could be considered in both categories, it was first included in a series run but has become a popular Christmas special, that is Merry Christmas Mr. Bean. This is one of my favorites, one I watch every year and am sure pvr. The original run of Mr. Bean was from 1990 to 1995, but only for a total of 15 episodes over the 5 years, so you could look at it as a TV series or a series of specials. Any way you cut it, Marry Christmas Mr. Bean is a much loved classic.

Christmas Episodes

Now on to the much longer list of Christmas episodes, just about every tv show running will do a Christmas special every year (or close to it).  For me to consider it a Christmas episode, Christmas has to be central to the theme. Here are some Christmas episodes from shows gone past that you might want to check out.

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  • The OC: the Best Christmukkah Ever - I have a personal love hate relationship with this show but the Christmukkah episode(s) were the best and points out how Seth is the best (and main) reason to watch the show.

  • The Office (UK): Christmas Special Part 2

  • Black Mirror: White Christmas - I added this one in for Elise as I believe her internet boyfriend Mr. John Hamm is in it [Elise’s reaction to this: HAMM BONE!]

  • Cheers: Christmas Cheers - working late, last minute presents and other sitcom high jinks plus it has a whole wack of Santa’s

  • WKRP in Cincinnati – ok so this show is the poster child for what sexual harassment at work looks like, but the two best episodes of this show are hands down the turkey episode and Jennifer’s home for Christmas. Oh you also get a lot of Andy and his tight tight tight pants.

  • Supernatural: A Very Supernatural Christmas - the boys fight Krampus, and you might never look at wreaths the same way again.

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  • Are You Being Served?: All the Christmas episodes – when you run as long as this show did, you are bound to rack up a number of Christmas episodes especially if it is set in a department store. I have a dvd with some of the Are You Being Served? Christmas episodes and the ones I would recommend checking out are, The Father Christmas Affair and Christmas Crackers.

  • My So-Called Life: So-Called Angels - Yes I was 14 when this show aired and very biased, but this show is one of the greatest one-season wonders of all times. My So-Called Angels is the best of that show, and really sells the meaning of Christmas in a way that isn’t super cheesy but impactful. If you like a Christmas special that will tug and your heart strings this is the one for you.

  • Golden Girls: ‘Twas the Nightmare before Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – both Christmas episodes have that amazing mix of humor and heart that is the calling card of GG. (Both Elise and I are huge Golden Girls fans, and for the last two years, I’ve gotten her birthday presents with a Golden Girl theme.) In their only two Christmas theme episodes, the girls tackle loneliness and metal health at the holiday and homelessness, with compassion and laughter, if you want to laugh and maybe shed a tear check them out.

Is there a Christmas special or episode that you love and want to tell up about? Reach out to us and let us know.

 Have a great week!

Andi

 

Christmas Movies

I love December and Christmas (once I get past the stress). I love the way my house looks, so shiny and fun. I use to love putting up my Christmas tree, I still enjoy it but it’s more a hurry up and do it, than a look at the ornaments and remember where I/we got them from. My love of Christmas comes from my mom, we use to put up the tree together every year. I remember there was a string of years that no matter when we put up the tree (team fake tree here, I’m allergic to real trees) PBS would show this Peter, Paul, and Mary special. I don’t think anyone liked Peter, Paul and Mary but we would listen to Puff the Magic Dragon each year. In my current house I have two trees, one upstairs and one down stairs, I felt very extra until I saw a video on Buzzfeed of a lady with 8 trees in a one-bedroom apartment.

 

So, what I really want to talk about is Christmas movies. What makes a movie a Christmas movie, why do some really not that overly festive movies become so tied with the season? Since this is not a fact-based article, this is how I look at it, so if you have any thoughts on Christmas movies please let me know.

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Tradition

There are just some movies that are Christmas movies no argument, you are not going to see Elf in July (to be upfront I don’t like Elf, I’m sure someone I have never met will call me a horrible person for that, oh well). My favorite straight up Christmas movie is National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. Mine and Dan’s tradition these past 14 Christmases is to decorate while watching it. But there are lots of other movies in this category; Polar Express, the Grinch, the Santa Clause, A Muppet Family Christmas and Ernest Saves Christmas to name a few.  But what about the other movies that get lumped in to the mix but are not really pure Christmas movies, how so we decide if they are worthy of the category “Christmas Movie”. To me there are two ways I classify them, is Christmas central to the feel of the movie, and do I strongly associate that movie with Christmas for some reason.

Christmas-adjacent

For the first classification, think of movies such as Die Hard 2 or Home Alone. Though both movies are set at Christmas, they aren’t strictly about Christmas. For Die Hard 2 the feel of Christmas is really important to the feel of the movie more so than say the first Die Hard. The airport is packed and busy because its Christmas, more plane traffic, more stress (if you have ever flown at Christmas you know what I am talking about) and that tension is running as an undertone for the whole movie, something that wouldn’t be as believable as say in October or June. For Home Alone the Christmas of it all is brought up more but is not the main focus. However, the trimming of Christmas is heavily used in the movie to further the plot, think of the choir practice or the inventive use of glass ornaments. To me both of these movies are Christmas movies.

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Give it to ‘em

For the second I have a couple of old movies, Little Women (the 1949 version) and Meet Me in St. Louis for some reason I always watch at Christmas, and I always have. They do seem to be Christmas favorites now on the classic movie channels but when I was a kid they would come on every Christmas on regular cable. Both movies are set over an extended amount of time, months or a year so Christmas isn’t a main feature, but they both have memorable Christmas scene. With Little Women starting at Christmas and using the holiday to set up the story and all the March family. Meet Me in St. Louis introduced the much-loved Christmas carol Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Since it gave us a Christmas song that we still sing 70+ years later, to me it’s a Christmas movie.

I hope you enjoyed my trip down Christmas movies memory lane! 

Andi       

 

Don’t Pack That

The holidays are almost here, and holidays mean family, and family often means travel.  Last year, AAA expected 97.4 million Americans were going to drive to see family, while 6.4 million were going to fly.  If that’s the boat you find yourself in this year (flying), please keep in mind that air travel security isn’t relaxed just because you’re feeling festive.  And this is a message the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) felt they needed to stress earlier this week.

 
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Liquids, Duh.

One of the most strictly enforced security measures these days seems to be the rule about bringing liquids on board a plane in your carry on.  If you’re like me, and thought getting a $6 smoothie once you’ve checked in but before you go through security was a good idea, you know that no matter what extenuating circumstances you can throw at the screening agent, they will make you throw that shit out before you get in line.  Same goes for that new tube of toothpaste or, as a new mother found out a couple of years ago, freshly pumped breast milk.  That’s because any vessel containing more than 100ml/3oz of liquid can’t go through in your carrying.  So, if Aunt Clara is a snow-globe collector and you’ve found the perfect addition for her collection, be sure you pack it in your checked bag.

Surprise!

Speaking of checked bags, do yourself a favour and don’t wrap anything before you arrive at your destination.  The last thing airport security wants to do is experience the adrenaline spike that comes with opening up your bag and finding a package that can’t immediately be identified.  They will unwrap that shit for you and then you won’t get to see little Timmy’s eyes light up when he finds out you bought him a replica of his favourite movie villain’s (Freddy Kruger) claw hand. 

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Explosive Situation

If you’ve ever travelled anywhere on an airplane since…. well, since their second week of operations, you know that the one thing that makes people the most nervous (with reason) is the fear of a hijacking/explosion on board.  And that’s why explosive devices aren’t allowed anywhere near planes.  But some people don’t seem to know this yet.  Weird, right?  A Chicago TSA agent realized that some additional education was probably needed for the passenger who tried to bring a home-made ‘joke bomb’ on board a plane last year.  Even through every knew and agreed the thing was fake, the bomb squad still had to come in and dispose of it.  So, if your dad is a jokester and likes this kind of thing, you may want to ship his gift ahead, or better yet, get him a book of jokes.

Travelling can be a hassle, especially at the holidays, so do yourselves a favour and check with your airline/air transport security agency about what is and isn’t allowed on board these days.  Sometimes, packing it in your suitcase is the way to go, but in some cases, there’s just no way an airline will agree to transport it for you (looking at you, matches!).  Make sure you know in advance so your plans don’t get ruined and you don’t ruin the plans of anyone else.

 Safe travels!

Elise

Sources:

A Guide to (Somewhat) Painless Christmas Travel

Air passengers still ignoring banned items list, CATSA says

The weirdest things people have tried to smuggle past TSA agents

 

The Women's Royal Naval Service

Since November is barely over, and I did not get to write this earlier in the month when I had originally planned on it (life and work got in the way), this is my look at the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS). Growing up as a teenager I read mostly the same book as my mom, which were heavy on female British authors, and I remember reading about the WRNS in Rosamunde Pilcher’s novel Coming Home. WRNS were featured in a number of other books but this group of women working in the military in World War II (and I) fascinated me and stuck with me all these years.

 
Dame Katharine Furse

Dame Katharine Furse

The Wrens

The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS; popularly and officially known as the Wrens) was the women's branch of the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. First formed in 1917 for the First World War to do mainly shore-based jobs, it was led by Dame Katharine Furse, recruiting women using the great tag line of “Never at Sea.” The WRNS and its women were such a success that the British Military created the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) for service. By the end of World War I there were 5,500 Wrens in service, but due to post-war cuts all three women’s divisions where disbanded.

Janes of all Trades

At the beginning of the Second World War, the Wrens were back in business and with expanded roles. They were, to name a few positions, cooks, clerks, wireless telegraphists, radar plotters, weapons analysts, range assessors, electricians, mechanics, piloting transport planes, and in intelligence as code and cipher breakers. At the war’s peak, it has 75,000 active service women, with 100 casualties. One of the tag lines used in recruiting posters during this time was “Join the Wrens and free a man for the fleet”. The expanded roles of the Second World War also brought more overseas postings which helped to ensure its survival after the end of the war.

One of the things that struck me when I started to research this blog post is that, until 1993 when it was integrated in to the Royal Navy, the service has been led by women. As I said, Dame Katharine Furse was the first Director in 1917, and there were 17 Directors in total all women (each have an interesting history and deserves their own blog post) with Commandant Anne Spencer being the last in 1991-1993.

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The canucks take part

If you are wondering if there was a Canadian equivalent, yes there was. The Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) came into being during the Second World War, specifically on 31 July 1942, as the naval counterpart to the Canadian Women’s Army Corps and the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division. WRCNS, also known as Wrens, were patterned heavily on the British example, and at the start, filled senior leadership roles with WRNS on loan. By August 31st, 1945, 6,783 women had enlisted in the WRCNS, and at its peak, it had 5,893 members - more than 1,000 of whom served outside Canada. More than 500 Wrens were stationed at the Canadian naval base HMCS Avalon in St. John’s, Newfoundland (then a separate Dominion), and another 500 were stationed to the shore establishment HMCS Niobe in Great Britain. No WRCNS were killed in action, but 11 died on duty due to illness or accident. 

Here’s another group of amazing women who contributed to the war efforts!

Have a great week everyone!

Andi

Sources:

Women’s Royal Naval Service (Wikipedia)

Katharine Furse (Wikipedia)

Obituary: Commandant Annie Spencer

Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service

Getting women on board: the history of the WRNS

 

Marie Antoinette and Her Jewels

If you have a passing knowledge of the French Revolution, you must be familiar with the Diamond Necklace Affair – it was the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to extravagant royal spending at a time when the nation was starving and fighting expensive wars.  Since then, Marie Antoinette, doomed French Queen, and her jewels have been the focus of much debate, speculation, and study.  So when a lot of jewelry, purported to be her, hit Sotheby’s auction block this month, it drew the attention of the media and the public.

 
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Legacy

The Diamond Necklace Affair, while closely tied to Marie Antoinette unfolded without her knowledge or involvement until the end.  Designed and created for the mistress of the previous king, the necklace in question was a massive diamond piece that was valued at 1.6 million livres.  The jeweler to made the piece knew that his client pool for such a piece was extremely limited, and tried to sell it to the Queen on several occasions.  Understanding the deteriorating political climate, however, she declined.  Enter the Comtesse de La Motte, who convinced the Cardinal de Rohan to but the necklace and gift it to the Queen to win her favour.  The Cardinal, proving God can’t protect the truly dunderheaded amongst us, bought the piece, but then failed to raise the first installment payment.  The jeweler, obviously worried that he wouldn’t be paid for this massive asset, went straight to the Queen looking for his money.  The Queen’s response? “Hun?”  Turns out, La Motte played a fast one, and as soon as she got her hands on the necklace she did a runner for London, where the piece was broken up and sold for part.  But the damage was done – the Queen was linked to another scandal that was seemingly caused by her reckless spending, and those agitating for revolution took advantage.

On the Sly

Between the Diamond Necklace Affair (1785) and the fall of the monarchy (1791), there were several important events that made sure the royal could read the writing on the wall.  Knowing trouble was coming, Marie Antoinette and the King started making plans to leave France and seek asylum elsewhere in Europe should the situation worsen to the point where the monarchy itself was at risk/their lives were threatened.  To prepare for that, the Queen packed up a selection of her jewels in a wooden crate and entrusted them to an Austrian diplomat who smuggled them to Vienna.  A few months later, the royal family were arrested after they were caught trying to flee the country, and their story ends with imprisonment, a trial, and finally beheading in 1793.  They were survived by two of their children; the Dauphin (or, king, technically after his father’s death) died shortly after his parents while in custody, but his sister survived and, after three years worth of solitary confinement, was released and sent to Vienna where she was reunited with her mother’s jewels. 

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Up for Grabs

So, do you have a few million you’re looking to spend?  Well, if you were in the market, you could have picked yourself up some stunning pieces from Sotheby’s, which was auctioning off several lots under the title of “Royal Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family” in Geneva this month.  Included were pendants, necklaces, earrings, brooches, rings and a tiara.  The historical cache obviously drove up the prices – the fleur de lys tiara was expected to go for between $460,000 and $723,000 Canadian dollars, and the final price was just shy of $1.3 million.  Yikes!  But, I mean, look at it.  Of course.  But it wasn’t the only piece to go way over expected prices – the mere framework for a brooch (without any stones) was expected to sell for $1,000 - $1,600, instead, it was sold for $52,600.  What?!?  The most expensive piece was expected to be a natural pearl and diamond pendant; it was pre-valued at $1.3 million to $2.6 million, and the final sale price was $48 million.  Can I suggest that the people who bid and won some of these pieces re-examine their priorities and find some charitable organizations to help instead?

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There’s no denying that the pre-Revolution French court was an expensive place to live.  No historian would say that the excessive spending by the royals and aristocrats didn’t lead directly to the Revolution.  But, looking at the amounts that were spent to be able to claim some of Marie Antoinette’s former pieces, it seems like some people didn’t learn the lesson.  These are beautiful pieces, no doubt, but the 100 pieces sold for a grand total of $71,045,667.98.  Surly there was a better use for that much money that people could have found?

Have a great week, everyone!

Elise

Sources

Affair of the Diamond Necklace

Marie Antoinette's prized jewels up for auction

Marie-Antoinette’s Jewels Come to Auction

Cover Picture

 

Ancient Graffiti

Odds are, if you’ve ever lived or visited a city (or hey, a small town that lack excitement on Saturday nights), you’ve seen some graffiti.  Some of it is beautiful artwork, some of it is illegible jumbles, and sometimes you have to wondering why the person wasted their (and your) time putting it up.  But graffiti wasn’t born in the age of the spray paint and the Warped Tour.  No no, humans have been defacing public spaces for millennia.

 
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The “I was here” style

There is something about human life that is fleeting and makes us want to mark our passage through it.  Some people have kids, others write book, and some people write their names on tourist traps.  Such is the case at pharaoh Ramesses VI’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.  About 2,000 years ago, the tomb became a hot spot for vacationing Romans who noted their visit by carving such bon mots as ““I visited and I did not like anything except the sarcophagus!” and "I cannot read the hieroglyphs!" in the walls.

The “go fuck yourself” style

The Romans were not shy when it came to slapping graffiti on walls.  And they were not shy in what that graffiti was.  When Mount Vesuvius blew in 79BC, it encapsulated the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in ash which has been slowly removed by archaeologist over the last century.  Not only were people frozen in time, but so too was the graffiti they put on the walls, and we are now able to look back at what some felt it was important to share with their fellow city folks.  My favourites include “Theophilus, don't perform oral sex on girls against the city wall like a dog” [rude – don’t be a cock block], “Secundus likes to screw boys” [don’t out people guys], and “Chie, I hope your haemorrhoids rub together so much that they hurt worse than when they ever have before!” [that’s a nice level of petty, if I do say so myself].

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The “come fuck me” style

Slams on others were common, but so to were the self-boasting ones.  Also from Pompeii, specifically outside a bar (brothel?) is the line "Weep, you girls. My penis has given you up. Now it penetrates men's behinds. Goodbye, wondrous femininity!"  Speaking of penises, wangs were a popular art form that popped up all over the place; on the island of Astypalaia in the Aegean Sea, archaeologists recently discovered a bunch of dongs etched into limestone with boasts about their owners’ prowess.  But, really – you’ve seen one schlong, you’ve seen them all.  So what makes this find in the Aegean so… hmmm, impressive?.... well, it’s the fact that it’s some of the earliest examples of graffiti describing a sexual act and homosexuality.  Along with the doodle was left this little description: “Nikasitimos was here mounting Timiona."

In some ways, it’s nice to get the reminder that our ancestors were like us.  In other ways, it’s disappointing to see that we haven’t come all that far, really.  If anything, we’ve gotten worse, because while we’re able to giggle about some really sick burns from 3,000 years ago because they’ve withstood the test of time and the elements, modern graffiti is more fleeting.  I guess your overall opinion on that will be decided on whether or not someone painted a giant dick on the side of your building. 

Have a great week!

Elise

Sources:

7 Entertaining Examples of Ancient Graffiti

The Bawdy Graffiti of Pompeii and Herculaneum

Archaeologists have uncovered hilariously raunchy ancient graffiti

 

The Poppy

November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada, a day that’s very important to me personally, so my blog post today is about one of the ways our nation takes to recognize and thank those service members who have served their country on our behalf.  Starting in mid-October, you’ll see the ubiquitous poppy pins on the lapels of people’s coats; I wanted to learn a little more about that tradition, and share it all with you.

 
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In Flanders Fields

The poppy its self has been tightly linked to the wars since Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian army doctor, wrote the poem “In Flanders Fields” to mark to passing of one of his close friends in action.  The area where his friend (and so many others) was buried was covered in wild poppies that had begun to bloom.  The sight inspired those now famous lines:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch, be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields

The poem was first published in “Punch” magazine in December 1915, and within months, it became a touchstone for the sacrifice of war and is still recognized around the world as a powerful tool of remembrance..

An act of remembrance

The poppy worn on the lapel became a public and personal act of remembrance when Moina Michael, a staff member of the American Overseas YMCA, wore it as such in 1917.  She then led a campaign to have the American Legion recognize the poppy as the official symbol of remembrance, and was successful by April of 1920.  The movement spread to Europe where it was picked up by Anne Guerin of France who, with her organization, the American and French Children’s League, sold cloth poppies to help raise money for rebuilding efforts after the way.  The poppy was then adopted by both the British Legion and the early Canadian Legion in 1921.  In Canada, the production of poppies was originally overseen by the Department of Soldiers Civil Reestablishment, which employed disabled soldiers.

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The Impact

Currently (since 1925, actually), the Canadian Legion has overseen the annual poppy campaign; making them available to all Canadians for a donation of any amount, starting on the last Friday of October and leading to November 11th each year.  The money raised via the annual poppy campaign goes directly to benefit veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces (all branches) and the RCMP, and their family.  The money goes into a trust, and is used to providing housing and care accommodations for veterans, to support veterans and their spouses if one of them is hospitalized, to fund community drop-in centres, meals-on-wheels programs and senior services in communities across the country, and to provide relief funds in areas of the country where the government has declared a state of emergency (like a forest fire or flood) if veterans are impacted.  All these services are incredibly important, and provide much needed support to the men and woman who put their own lives on hold (and risked those lives) for Canada.

While the two week window in October/November is the most common time to see the poppy, the Legion is always accepting donations for their fund.  If you have a few bucks to spare, why not consider making a donation to them at other times in the year?  Or, if you’re an international reader, to the veteran support group in your home country?  It would mean the world to the veterans and their families.

 Tune in to our all new episode this Sunday, November 11th, where Andi and I talk all things military to mark this important day of the year.

 Elise 

 

Sources: 

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (Veterans Affairs Canada)

The Poppy, Symbol of Remembrance

The Poppy (The Canadian Legion)

 

The Babadook as Gay Icon

In our last outright spooky blog post for this Halloween season, I wanted to follow-up on a Tweet I saw a couple of weeks ago (which of course I now can’t find) about how wild 2018 is because the Babadook is now the internet’s favourite gay icon. I was as intrigued as I was here for it.

 
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The Babadook

Full disclosure: I’ve never seen the movie The Babadook.  I’m too much of a chicken for scary movies, so had to rely on good ol’ IMDb for the following plot synopsis: “A widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband, battles with her son's fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a sinister presence all around her.”  A spoilerrific description of the plot (which is the only way I consume horror movies, btw) filled in the following blanks:  The widowed mother, Amelia, reads to her son, Sam, from a book called Mister Babadook, and it seems like the monster in the book becomes a reality and terror ensues.  The monster is finally defeated when Amelia stands up to the thing, and it seemingly takes up residence in the basement where it’s suggested that Amelia takes care of it.

LGBTQ, where the “B” stands for “Babadook”

The Babadook’s (or, The Babs, as I’ll be calling him) adoption by the LGBTQ community seems to have started in 2016, but found traction in February 2017 when a Buzzfeed writer reposted a Tumblr thread to Twitter in which the many interpretations of the movie were discussed.  The inciting comments seems to have been: “It may be ‘just a movie’ to you, but to the LGBTQ community, the Babadook is a symbol of our journey.”  From there, the Tumblr community started tagging on the thought, and the next thing you knew there was a whole culture/meme history built around The Babs. A non-hetero Babs hit the main stream when social media influences (like Mikey Pop – and don’t ask me who that is, because I’m not cool enough to know) reposted memes and viral videos featuring Netflix and RuPaul’s Drag Race crossover content.

 I think the best way to describe why The Babs is seen as a symbol of the LGBTQ community is the following tweet from @gaywonk:

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An article on Vox.com breaks down why phenomenon further with the statement: “Mister Babadook, as the figure is referred to in the movie, is queer in the most empirical sense. Its existence is defiance, and it seeks to break down the borders of acceptability and establishment… although it’s couched in absurdity, the idea of a queer Babadook is also perhaps a way to satirize bigger, real-life ongoing conversations and cultural preoccupations.”

Babadook on the Loose

The Babs as LGBTQ icon wasn’t just relegated to a few social media threads.  Oh no – he stormed the public consciousness in the summer of 2017.  While attention to the original Tumblr thread was heating up, pride month (June) was quickly approaching.  Whether it was an attempt to seem cool, a genuine love for the LGBTQ funny, or a desire to spread the smiles around, The Babs started getting attention in the real world from some very public appearances.

 On June 9, 2017, Maura Healey, the Attorney General for Massachusetts, posted a Babadook meme welcoming everyone to her state:

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2017 also saw a lot of Babadooks appear at Gay Pride Celebrations:

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At the end of the day, I love this appropriation.  It’s sublimely ridiculous, and yet it’s also heartbreaking.  At the root of all the jokes, there’s clearly a lot of truth – some people do feel like they’re the monsters haunting their families.  Which is just not cool.  No one should be made to feel like their version of representation is a creature designed to terrorize.  So, LGBTQ community – keep up the good work with the funny, but know that there are allies out here that see through the masque at the glorious Babs you really are.

 Now, everyone, go forth and be nice to each other.

Elise

Sources:

IMDb - The Babadook

How the Babadook became the LGBTQ icon we didn’t know we needed

The Babadook: how the horror movie monster became a gay icon

 

Canadian Witch Trials

The idea for the blog posts came from, well, let’s call it ‘shallow holes that you fall down.’ It’s a great topic, very interesting but it’s not as deep as you were hoping and isn’t long enough to make in to an episode. That is how this started out, I wanted to do the Halloween episode on Canadian Witch trials, only it turns out there were not a lot of them nor are they as horrific as the trials in New England, England, Scotland or Spain. It turns out even back in the day we were chiller about witchcraft than our homeland or neighbours to the south.

 

Witch trials started in the 15th century and lasted until the 18th century, but really hit their peak between 1580 and 1630. A large number of accused, especially during the height of the trials, were women often unmarried or elderly. Scholarly consensus on the total number of executions for witchcraft ranges from 40,000-60,000. That number does not include the number of unofficial lynchings of accused witches, or the individuals who died as a result of the unsanitary conditions of their imprisonment, or due to the torture.

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everywhere

Back in Canada most of the cases I found came from New France. At that time, New France worked under laws much the same as France, and the French approach to witch trials was as about as sensible as laws around witchcraft can be. They were very different than the British laws, which relied on evidence like “swimming” a witch to see if they would float (which was when you tied their thumb to their opposite big toe and then threw them in to a body of water), finding a witch’s mark, or hearing testimony that they could fly, change into some form of animal, or had visited you in a dream to torment you.  These things were not admissible in France.  Basically, anything that was deemed impossible in the natural world, or against God’s law, was deemed impossible by French judiciaries and therefore not credible evidence. Also in France because of the popularity of witchcraft cases in certain areas, anyone found guilty of witchcraft, a capital offence, had the right to appeal to the provincial parliament. Who paid for the appeal was based on the sentence; people sentenced to death had their appeals was paid for by the community magistrates, but people sentenced to banishment had to pay the cost of appeals themselves.  This lead too many more “witches” being sentenced to banishment than death.

Black Magic (Wo)men

As in instances, sex and magic where linked in New France.  This was the case with René Besnard, who was accused in 1661 of using the “nouement à l’aiguillette” (which can be translated as knotting the needle) on a young couple (Pierre Gadois and Marie Pontonnier) in the town. This spell was very popular and feared; it supposedly cause impotence in newly wedded grooms, and the fear was so strong that getting married in secret in the middle of the woods was not uncommon. The “witch” in this situation is often a man who the bride did not chose.

Back to old René.  Documents from his trial are spotty, but much of the trial centered on why Pierre and Marie still did not have a child after three years of marriage. Apparently René admitted (after being questioned over and over again) that he did offer to remove the effects of the spell if she would have him over to her house while her husband was away. His defence was that he did not do any magic on the couple he just said that so he could quote “enjoy her.”  Yup men have been creepy since forever. I do not think he was convicted but I’m not sure.

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Another case that I wanted to tell you about is of Anne Lamarque a tavern keeper in 1680 Montréal; she was accused of witchcraft, debauchery, adultery, and suspected infanticide. There are lots of records on Anne, and they are gossip AF. Her neighbours testified to how often her husband is spending the night at the house, how often she is taking walks with suspected lovers, and how frequently certain men are walking in and out of her tavern.  (If you listened to this week’s episode of the podcast than you will know that this is classic small town gossip but not in the good, prosocial way.) Her biggest sin was having a magic book, or a grimoire, which the local doctor saw and read parts of and then told the whole world about it. He could not keep his mouth shut at all and during the trial whenever anyone was asked about the book they would reply that they heard about it from the doctor. The spell the doctor saw had to do with “making people love you,” so of course rumours started to spread that she was using magic to draw young men to her tavern and then debauch them with sex.

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second-hand news

It’s interesting to note that the most famous witch of New France is Marie Joseph La Corriveau. La Corriveau was the first person to be executed by the English regime in New France, however she was never accused of witchcraft, actually witchcraft had nothing to do with her case or trial. She was convicted of murdering her husband, and the English used a gibbet to hang her dead body. The association with witchcraft came many years after her death and more than likely had more to do with the first-ever use of the gibbet New France, the gibbet is heavily connected to the Salem witch trials.    

For more reading on the topic see my reference.

Thank you for reading, have a fantastic day!!

Andi

 

Witch trials in the early modern period

Sorcery in New France

The Halloween Special - Witchcraft in Canada

 

Death Masks and Photography

Let’s stick with the creepy theme for October, and today look at the phenomenon of death masks and death photography.  If you’re squeamish, be prepared to feel uncomfortable. But, like, don’t stop reading or anything. Just buckle up.

 
 
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L’inconnue de la Seine

Death Masks

For as long as people have been dying, those left behind have been looking for ways to memorialize their lost loved ones or important people.  As early as ancient Egypt, with the boy king Tutankhamun, people have been creating death masks, or memorial casts of the faces of the deceased.  The practice really took off in Europe in the late 1800s when a young woman, known only as “L’inconnue de la Seine” (the unknown of the Seine) was pulled from that river after her suspected suicide; the morgue attendant who prepared her body was so taken with her youth and beauty that he made a plaster mold of her face.  Yowzas.

While no longer the norm, death masks are still made, but now usually for art.  Nick Reynolds, a former British Navy diver turned artist, told CNN about his process in a Style article from 2017.  “It’s quite a messy business,” he reported. Reynolds still uses the traditional materials of the form: plaster of Paris and wax.  Picture it: Reynolds basically paper maché the faces of the dead, and then uses wax to recreate the person’s face. It’s an odd art form, no doubt, but this is the guy who had himself cast as a life-size, crucified version of Jesus with the wound on his side being represented by a vagina.  So, double yowzas.

Death Photography

The memorialization game changed completely with the advent of the photograph.  No longer were dead bodies plastered for molds, now they were being dressed up and posed, either alone or with their families.  In a time when the majority of people couldn’t afford to have a portrait of themselves painted, and before we all had a camera in our pocket, captured images of people you knew where rare and expensive.  Usually, pictures were saved for special occasions. And what’s more special than the last time you were going to see a loved one?

The trend really took off in Victorian England.  With the passing of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria made mourning fashionable, and so death became part of every-day life.  Considering the era was plagued (sorry – cheap pun) with illnesses like measles, diphtheria and rubella, life could be fleeting, especially for children.  While death photography of all ages occurred, it was often families that posed their dead children with their living ones or parents so as to remember what their complete family looked like.  Once health care began to improve, the life expectancy lengthened, and death photography started to die out (and no, I’m not sorry for that one).

Daughters posed with dead mother

Daughters posed with dead mother

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Modern Versions

These practices haven’t completely died out either.  (I can’t stop now! Oh no!) Death masks and photography are still used, but now for a more dramatic purposes: police work.  3D printing is enabling police forces to creating sanitized versions of damaged skulls. (Who wants to serve on a jury if there’s a chance you’ll be handed the skull of the deceased to examine the pattern of blows?)  

The most common use of 3D printing of faces in police work, however, is for identification purposes.  And this isn’t a new phenomenon. Once a replica of the skull is created (now facilitated by 3D printing), clay is applied in layers to flesh out the look of the deceased.  Once the face is made to look like a living person, identification becomes much, much easier.

So, from Tutankhamun to modern applications, memorializing the look of the dead seems to be trend that isn’t going anywhere…  

Happy spook-tober!

Elise

Sources:

The curious and gruesome art of human death masks

Taken from life: The unsettling art of death photography  

How police departments are using 3D printing to solve crime

Odd Wellness Trends

For my first blog post I wanted to tie in to my topic on this week’s episode (Episode 7: Wait, What?), wellness and the crazy trends that come with it. I was looking in to the craziest trends in wellness in 2018, and a few stuck out to me.

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The first was hay bathing, as an asthmatic and hay fever suffer, this sounds like hell. Apparently, the custom of hay bathing comes from Austria and has been practiced by farmers for over 200 years; people noticed that sleeping in hay left the sleepers full of energy and giddy-up. Is it really the hay or the fact that you are napping in the middle of that day that is energizing you? So of course, some spa is selling a nap on “fermented ‘fatty” alpine hay mixed with healing herbs such as arnica, heather and thyme” for $50.  They claim this mixture can rejuvenate your immune system, eased muscle pains, enhanced circulation in the body, and treat obesity. That’s a large claim for napping while covered in dried grass. The thought of sleeping covered in grass is making me itchy.  

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The second was weed massages. As many places (including Canada) are legalizing marijuana, spas are picking up on the cannabis buzz by incorporating topical cannabinoids. According to doctors, cannabinoids have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pain-killing properties. I know what you are thinking: weed is the wonder drug, it seemingly can treat everything.  I fully believe it is great for many things; however, I’m sceptical that it is the all-purpose cleaner of pharmaceuticals or street drugs. Usually these cannabinoids are incorporated into products like massage oils, hand and body cream, and since they do not enter the blood stream they sadly don’t get you high. With a weed massage, you get a regular massage but using a weed laced oil or lotion.  People who have tried it report a post-coital sense of bliss and muscles relaxed more than after a normal massage. I feel that sometimes in these cases it’s hard to prove the real effect of a product vs. the power of suggestion.

If you have ever tried one of these trends let us know about it.

Thank you for reading, have a fantastic day!!

Andi

Sources

https://www.thecut.com/2014/04/hay-baths-a-new-spa-treatment.html

https://www.theloop.ca/the-newest-trend-in-beauty-treatments-is-hay-bathing/

https://www.allure.com/story/weed-day-spa

Old Ottawa Jail

It’s October, which is basically just 30 Day of Pre-Halloween shenanigans, so for this first blog post, I wanted to tell you guys the story of Ottawa’s most haunted over-night get away, the Old Ottawa Jail, which is now a hostel.

HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, 75 Nicholas St, Ottawa, ON

HI Ottawa Jail Hostel, 75 Nicholas St, Ottawa, ON

The Building and its History

Built over a period of two years, and opened in 1862, the Carleton County Gaol (as it was official known) was considered a “spacious, airy building” of it’s age.  The design was intended to deter crime while aslo reforming the prisoners that ended up spending time there.

 Probably the most famous resident (and executed prisoner) was Patrick Whelan, who was found guilty of the shooting death of then federal politician, Thomas D’Arcy McGee.  Hanged from the gallows on February 11, 1868, Whelan drew a crowd of 5,000 people to watch his death.  (Fun fact: the assassination in April 1868 remains Canada’s only murder of an elected official, and no one was ever able to definitively prove from Whelan targeted McGee because of that.)

 If asked to describe the cells in the building, you could only give one word: small.  Not only were accommodations tight, but they were also unsanitary, unheated, poorly lit and ventilated, and had no running water.  The cells themselves run along the inside of the building, meaning the hallway that connects them all is between the cell doors and the windows, and the cells back on to each other:

Capture.PNG

(Un-fun fact: the windows didn’t have glass in them.  Anyone that’s been to Ottawa knows our winter temperatures can did to a muggy -40 degrees with the wind-chill.  And that building was made of stone and the cell areas were un-heated.  Brrrrr…..)

As early at 1930, civic authories were calling for the jail’s closure due to the conditions, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it happened.  In 1972, Ottawa city council decided to lease the property to the Ottawa Youth Hostel Committee, which still runs the property to this day.

Historic Double Cell

Historic Double Cell

Double Jail Cell

Double Jail Cell

The Ghosts

Given how terrible the conditions were and the number of deaths that occurred on site, is it any wonder that some of the occupants passed without passing on?  There have been stories for years of ghost activity in the building; tourists that won’t stay the whole night, levitating objects, slamming doors…

 I myself had a creepy encounter there one year.  I was on one of Ottawa’s popular haunted tour walks, and we were following our guide through the upper levels of the building, peaking in cells, scaring each other and generally getting creeped out.  At one point in the tour, I was looking at all of my group standing in front of me and was doing a head count (because I had organized the evening).  When my count tallied to the right number, I had a moment of dread, because if you had asked me, I would have sworn that someone was standing behind me.  (You know that feeling – you can almost hear a absence of ambient noise from a space and can sense eyes on the back of your head?  Yeah, it was that.)  I whipped around and, of course, there was no one where.  The feeling stayed with me though, until I got to the stairs and started heading down – it’s almost like whoever it was wasn’t allowed to leave.

 So, if you’re feeling brave, why not book a night at the hostel to see what’s what?  Rooms are usually about $50/night.  Or, if you’re not willing to commit, you can always take the haunted tour of Ottawa, which I highly recommend!

Happy Halloween!

Elise

 

Sources:

HI Ottawa Jail Hostel (Where you can also find all the pics used in the story!)

Heritage Ottawa - Carleton County Gaol

Canadian Geographic - The Haunted Side of Ottawa

Haunted Walk - Ottawa Tours