The Hockey Sweater is a quintessential Canadian short story. It was written by Roch Carrier in 1979, and has been read- or watched- by a majority of Canadian kids over the years. It was originally entitled Une Abominable Feuille D'erable Sur La Glace (An Abominable Maple Leaf On The Ice) but the name was simplified to The Hockey Sweater when the story was translated into English by Sheila Fischman. In 1980, the National Film Board of Canada made an animated short of the story and called it The Sweater.
The short story was written by Carrier about an actual incident which occurred in his childhood, and is a celebration of Canada's enduring love for the game of hockey. It also highlights the oldest rivalry in hockey- the one between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their fans are rabidly partisan, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Lastly, The Hockey Sweater is a love letter to the legendary player Maurice "Rocket" Richard, revered by generations of young hockey players and fans. Fun fact: for a number of years, a line from Carrier's story was printed on the back of Canada's five dollar bill:
Without further ado, here's The Sweater, narrated by the author and original sweater wearer, Roch Carrier:
The man in this photo is Wilfrid "Wop" May, Canadian hero. He was a flying ace in World War I, and was actually involved in the dogfight during which the Red Baron was shot down. He rose to the rank of captain and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1918. After the war, May became a bush pilot in Edmonton. During this period, he was hired by the Edmonton police to help in the search for a murderer. It was the first time a plane was used in a manhunt. One of the most celebrated events of Wop May's career occurred in January 1929. In northern Alberta there was an outbreak of diphtheria and May, hundreds of miles away, was asked to fly in the desperately needed medication. The incredible feat is recounted in the vignette below. What the vignette doesn't mention is that in 1932 Wop May was also involved in the most famous manhunt in Canadian history, the search for Albert Johnson, the Mad Trapper of Rat River.
** Since Canada's 150th birthday is at the end of the week, I'm going to put other things on hold for a few days and devote a number of posts to Canadian content.**
Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster were Canadian comedians whose career lasted from the late 1930's until Wayne's death in 1990. They met in high school in Toronto and later both attended the University of Toronto, where they began writing for and performing in the school theater. In 1941 they got their own show on a local radio station. Their comedic talent was soon noticed and they were given a show on CBC radio.
During World War II, they joined the Canadian army and became part of a group of entertainers, performing for the troops in Europe. They returned to CBC Radio following the War and developed The Wayne and Shuster Show. They again spent time entertaining the troops during the Korean War. Wayne and Shuster, famous in Canada, became well-known in the States following an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in the late 1950's. They became Sullivan's favourite performers and appeared on his show 58 times.
The comedy duo turned down a lot of offers for permanent positions in the United States, preferring to stay in Toronto, though they did go Stateside frequently to film shows and comedy specials. Wayne and Shuster's humour was a strange blend of slapstick and literate humour; they weren't adverse to sight gags and delightfully bad puns, but would also produce skits which sent up Shakespeare and other classic works. They would also spoof TV shows and movies, commercials, Canadian parliament, and pretty much anything else which took their fancy. Some of their most famous skits include Julius Caesar, Shakespearean Baseball, Frontier Psychiatrist, and The Brown Pumpernickel (The Scarlet Pimpernel). Below is another well-known skit- "I Was A TV Addict":
Well, the first trailer for the new Star Trek series, Discovery, was released the other day. I knew there was a new incarnation of Trek coming, but I haven't paid any attention because, frankly, I haven't been interested. I did, however, watch the trailer and found out that it is set ten years before the events of Star Trek: TOS. Huh. The last time a series was set before TOS, we ended up with Enterprise, which made almost every Trek fan feel like this:
This is a really early trailer and doesn't actually tell us anything about the show and I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt and hope that the producers have learned from past mistakes and are going to make a quality show, but there are a couple of worrying signs. To begin with, the trailer says that this is ten years before "Kirk, Spock, or the Enterprise." This may seem nit-picky, but while this was before Kirk, it wasn't before the Enterprise or Spock, who served under the previous captain of the Enterprise, Christopher Pike. I get that they're trying to give viewers a frame of reference, but this is the sort of thing that irritates fans, because it makes it seem like the people making the show didn't do their homework.
Good Trek can be made by non-fans- case in point: The Wrath Of Khan, inarguably the best Trek movie ever made. Before embarking on developing the storyline for it, however, Harve Bennett went back and watched all of the episodes of TOS. The Trek universe is a lot bigger now, and it would be unreasonable to expect the writers of a new series to never trip over continuity, which makes me wonder why they would decide to set it pre-Kirk, and in the original timeline. They could have set the new show in the movie reboot timeline and not had to worry about continuity, or the limits which the TOS canon will necessarily place on them- such as not knowing what Romulans look like. Or, if they were determined to have it in the original timeline, they could have set it later so as to avoid a lot of these problems. But having insisted that Discovery is set when and where it is, it's just going to tick fans off if they then go ahead and ignore TOS canon.
What I really hope is that the new series won't be used as a soap box to preach to viewers about the correct attitudes to have about contemporary issues. This is what irritated me the most about a lot of TNG; usually when there was some sort of conflict over a moral, social, or political issue, we were told that the choice was between the reasonable, rational, enlightened Federation side, and the incredibly backwards, unreasonable and obviously wrong other side. Very few episodes bothered to present the truth about such issues: that both sides can be well-intentioned, have legitimate points or grievances, and that such things usually aren't clean cut and morally unambiguous. This is why I think that DS9 was a far superior show- they didn't shy away from pointing out that many of the issues being dealt with were messy and complex, and sometimes there were no morally or ethically pure solutions. So those are my rambling thoughts on a new Star Trek series... maybe it'll be good, but Voyager and Enterprise have left a bad aftertaste, and I'm having a hard time working up any enthusiasm for a new series.
Don Rickles died today at the age of 90. I've watched pretty much every Dean Martin Celebrity Roast; the smokey, boozy, un-PC and hysterically funny episodes are addictive. Rickles was a big part of why they were so great, and he will be missed. Especially when we contemplate what frequently passes for comedy today. Here's a clip of "Mr. Warmth" roasting then-Governor Ronald Reagan:
Last week we had a couple of relatively warm days and we dared to think that spring might be on the way. Wrong... so wrong. We had another snowstorm, followed by some of the coldest days this winter. I stepped out the door to go to church this morning, and was hit by -28 wind chill, the kind of cold that freezes the insides of your nose when you breathe, then burns all the way down to your lungs.
The nephews don't seem to mind- especially since it's March Break- but frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of going about dressed like Nanook of the North. I like winter and all, but enough is enough.
Due to the illness of a staff member, I ended up working at our company's exhibit at the Outdoor Sports and RV Show last evening. While we do several shows of this sort a year, I've never worked one before nor, to be honest, even attended one. It's not exactly my bailiwick, but it was an interesting experience. Since I was mostly just needed to cover breaks, close up at the end of the night and take the cash box and deposit, I had some time to wander around looking at other exhibits and watching a few of the shows. These included competitions like log rolling, wood cutting and axe throwing, etc. I missed the chainsaw juggler, but did get to see a bit of the hunting dog exhibition, which was fun. A fishing gear company was giving away sugar cookies in the shape of fish, and a spice company was handing out bags of flavoured popcorn, so I had always had something to snack on as I meandered about.
At the Parks Canada booth, I scored a pass which grants free admission to all of Canada's national parks and historic sites this summer. The passes are being handed out in honour of Canada's 150th birthday, which occurs this July, and I'd been planning on sending away for one; now I don't have to do so. It's going to come in handy, because I usually go camping a few times during the summer months with a couple of my sisters, and I always try to visit any historical sites located close to where we are. Here are a few of my observations about the show: 1) About half the people there were wearing either plaid or camo, with higher concentrations of plaid around the woods/ camping exhibits and camouflage more evident around the gun/ hunting/ taxidermy booths. * Cutest camouflage wearer was a one-year-old girl in camo overalls and pink boots. 2) Different exhibits attracted different age and family groups. For example, there were a lot of young families around the camping and boating booths, lots of teenage boys around the ATVs, and what appeared to be many father/ son/ grandfather groups at the hunting and fishing exhibits. The RVs were mainly being examined by retired couples and young families whose kids wanted to climb inside and look around. * Best overheard remark: A wife, looking admiringly at a huge RV with a loft, to her husband, "Why couldn't you have been rich instead of good looking?" 3) In the spirit of the occasion, here's a clip from The Red Green Show:
I was over at my sister's place last Thursday night and she insisted that we watch The Crown, a Netflix series based on the life of Queen Elizabeth II. She had recently binge-watched the entire first season and declared that I, too, must see it. We watched the first two episodes that evening and it was... actually pretty good. It is an interesting blend of true historical events and speculative fiction about the actions, opinions, and feelings of Elizabeth and the people who surround her.
I'm not going to get into the actual content of the show right now, but will give a few of my original thoughts and impressions on The Crown. First, the show is a veritable who's who of British actors. Some I recognized right away- like Jeremy Northam- and others I had to think about for a few minutes to figure out where I had seen them before. For example, I had seen the actress portraying the Queen's Mum in Jane Austen's Persuasion, and I had viewed Claire Foy in Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit.
Then, of course, there's Doctor Who himself- Matt Smith- who plays Prince Philip, a casting choice which isn't immediately obvious but actually works. Speaking of which, Winston Churchill is played by John Lithgow, someone who I'd never think of in relation to the late, great Prime Minister but he's pretty good in the role.
Also, no matter how true/ untrue the portrayals of the various characters are, the show brings home just how, well, unnatural the lives of the royals actually are, and how their lives are defined by their titles and roles. Yes, they're wealthy beyond comprehension, but still... what a bizarre way to live. Last, how weird must it be for Queen Elizabeth to know that there's a serialized drama based on the intimate details- real and imagined- of her life? I wonder if she watches.
Well, I'm home from work today; the entire province is shut down due to a blizzard. A lot of snow is coming down and the wind is so high that visibility is pretty much nil. I had assumed we would be closed; the Halifax Regional Municipality announced last night that all government offices would be closed and the transit buses and ferries were being shut down in anticipation of the storm, which hit in the early hours of the morning. Even so- not gonna lie- when my boss texted me with official notification of closure, I momentarily had that remembered thrill of childhood when, getting ready for school on a snowy morning, you heard the radio announcement that all schools in the district were closed. And that reminded me of this Rick Mercer rant:
UPDATE: Family and friends all over the Maritimes have been puttting pictures on Facebook of the storm from their locations; one of my my brothers posted this one:
I'm currently watching the new Sherlock episode, The Six Thatchers which is, I assume, based on the Sherlock Holmes story The Six Napoleons. Just got home from New Year's dinner with my entire family- all forty-two of them- in time to tune in. It's a good day.