Thursday, September 18, 2014

At 100 Years World War One is now History

2014 is the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War One.   The war is long enough ago that it is history for most people and not something that is a personal experience.   The last veterans of the war are dead, most of the children of the veterans are dead as well, the first hand stories have faded away.  World War One is history now.

I had one grandfather fight in World War One, August von Schulmann.  I never met my grandfather because he was shot and dumped in a mass grace 20 years before I was born.  He was 28 when the war started and was called up as a Russian cavalry officer.   I never had a chance to ask him about his experience.  My von Schulmann grandmother died in 1945 in a Soviet labour camp which means she was not around for me to ask what it was like for her.

My mother's parents were both alive for World War One, but my grandfather was only 12 at the start of the war and my grandmother 9.   I was only 14 when my grandfather Patrick von Dellingshausen died and never spoke with him about the war.   He was also in Germany and I only saw him four times in my life, though for extended periods each time.

My grandmother Maria von Fersen lived in Vancouver and was around all the time.  When I was in my late teens I did have a chance to ask her about World War One.  She did not really remember anything about the war because it did not directly effect her life.   What she did remember very well was the Estonian War of Independence in 1919.   She remembered having to hide from the Reds and the utter fear of the time.   She also remembered that it was then when they went from being very rich to middle class.  

I am talking about World War One through my family because as a youth I asked everyone in my extended family and ethnic community what they did in World War Two.   Iwould have asked about World War One but by the time I was asking this in the early 1980s there was no one around any longer to ask about it.    For me World War One is on the edge of history.   The Western Front and allied experience is history as is the German experience.   My small direct connection to World War One is only through what happened to my family.

For my family World War One was a major watershed in our history.   The war marked a fundamental change to our 700 years in the Baltics.  Our position as part of the aristocracy came to end in 1917.  We ended up losing our standing and losing most of our lands.  I say "our" because I grew up with the stories of this change, this is the history of World War One that I connect to.

For my family World War One is intimately connected to the Russian Civil War, the two flowed into to each other as one ongoing conflict with the Russian Civil War being the much more traumatic.  For my mother the civil war meant that as a child she grew being very much in fear of the Bolsheviks.   The fear was enough that her father owned real estate in Germany in the interwar to protect the wealth of the family.

The experience of World War One still showed itself in the 1970s in my family.  My grandfather Patrick von Dellingshausen lived in Lübeck for the last years of his life, he feared a Soviet invasion of West Germany and moved some of his money to Canada to protect it.

For my parents generation who did not personally experience World War One and the Russian Civil War the much bigger impact on their lives was World War Two.   The worst that happened between 1914-1919 paled in comparison to what happened between 1939 and 1947.  My grandparents witnessed the end of the life of privilege, my parents lived through Stunde Null.

For the next four years there will be a lot of talking about events of 100 years ago during World War One.  I worry that the personal connection is no longer there and the war will no longer be truly horrific to the world.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Using Google autocomplete "Why is [province} so...."

Top five options from Google in the auto complete for "Why is [province] so...?"

Prone to earthquakes
Expensive to live in


Saskatchewan - only four came up


Warm this winter


New Brunswick Nova Scotia only one answer



Yukon one answer
Sparsely populated


Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Where do I start?  

I have bad depression.   It has been very bad for the last five months but it has been around consistently for years.   How bad?   I am not sure I can admit that in public.

I was in denial about it for most of my adult life, even when I got some treatment in 2009 I do not think I truly accepted it.

Denial happened because to admit it was to say I am a flawed person, that I am a failure.  I was ashamed that I was weak.   I also grew up in a family where we should be able to suck it up.   I made bad decisions because I was trying to keep up appearances.  

I have to admit I have a mental health problem. I have to admit my mind is not right.   This has been the single hardest thing I have done in my life.

The first step is that I have to admit it to myself.  Admitting to myself works best when I am open about it to others.   I have to allow my public persona match my private one enough to be vulnerable.

Depression has been very lonely and isolating as well.   This year I have been telling people and I have had many people to do not understand it but others who get it because they have been through it.  It has been good to connect with friends that have been through serious depression as well.  

As part of my process to try and improve my mental health I am going to try and write about my depression.  I hope that by expressing in written word what has been going on I can understand what is going on with me and find ways to cope.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Family Silver

What remains of my family silver
Family Silver is a concept referring to the remains of what a family haves, in my case in my family we actually have family silver though very little remaining.

Two pieces have belonged to me since I have been a baby, a pitcher and a shot glass.   With my parents death what was left was divided between Nik, Beatrice and myself.

The family silver I have is:

  • Five Spoons from the 1880s
  • Two Forks from the 1890s
  • 4 shot glasses from the 1960s and 70s
  • A baptismal cup from 1929
  • A pitcher from before 1860
  • 12 knife rests from the 1960s


This is the baptismal cup for my mother Margarita Esther von Dellingshausen
I think this cup should go to my sister's first granddaughter

The single most important piece to me is this pitcher.  I was made in the mid 19th century and was originally a piece of von Grünewaldt silver.   In about 1864 the family home was broken into and all the family silver was stolen but the robber was seen by my great grandmother Ebba.   Her description helped the police find the robbers but all the silver other than this one piece were melted down.

At the end of World War 2 it was still in the possession of my great grandmother as she was transported by the Soviets to a labour camp in Siberia with her daughter Beate and granddaughter Sabine.   Ebba died on the way to the labour camp and Beate shortly after arriving.  Somehow Sabine managed to keep a hold of this pitcher through her 12 years in the labout camp.    She says it is because it was so tarnished and beat up that no one thought it was silver.   When she was released from the Soviet Union she managed to bring it out with her.

Sabine gave it to me for my baptism.

In 1994 our home in Vancouver was broken into and all CDs, thestereo equipment and some of Catherines jewelry had been stolen.  I thought this pitcher had been stolen as well because it was missing.   I told Sabine that I thought it had been stolen, she said that it would turn up.  Some months later I found it when I went to clean out behind the fridge.

In theory there are a couple of other pieces of silver I should have in my possession, a soup tureen, a couple of candlesticks and some more spoons.   I saw them once when I was nine years old and in Sweden.   Long story, they were in the hands of a distant Schulmann cousin and were supposed to come to me.   My father and this cousin had some issues with each other and my father wanted me to assert my right to the silver which made me unconfortable .  When years later I came into contact with this cousin via one of the Finish branch of Schulmanns the message that came back from him almost immediately was that his home had bee broken into the week before the silver had all been stolen.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why the art of Peter von Tiesenhausen matters to me

The Ship
Peter von Tiesenhausen's art has changed the way I see the world by opening my mind to see everything around us as a large every changing spiritual connection between humans and nature.   Peter is not so much an artist as a person who lives within his art as an integral piece of it.

I was first introduced to the start of Peter's art in the early 1970s.   This introduction came at my parents dining room table in Tsawwassen.  My mother was talking with my father about what he should give to his Godson Peter for Christmas and she insisted it should be a set of good quality oil paints.   They ended up buying this for him at the Roof House Gallery in Point Roberts.

I first saw a painting by Peter  around New Year's in the later 1970s.  We were visiting the von Tiesenhausen's at their homestead in Demmitt Alberta.  As a third cousin, Peter's father was my father's closest relative in North America.   Peter showed my father a small landscape which looked like the Peace country in the late summer.   My father smiled, which for him was great praise.

Demmitt Alberta and the whole Peace Country has a lot of similarities to the landscape my father grew up in Estonia.   I never asked my father why we would often visit in the middle of the winter, but we did.  I have to wonder if it was because for my father it was a chance to be back in the world of Schulmann family estate Limmat that he had to leave at age 17 in 1939.  It may have been because the von Tiesenhausen's were creating farm from the wilderness in the 60s and 70s and my father liked to see the change over time.

Peter's early landscape I think spoke very deeply to the place that was the home of my father's soul.

For art to matter it has to have some sense of wonder, it has to make you think, it has to have an emotional connection for you, it has to matter to your soul.   I have seen a lot of well known art.  I learned how to look at an art work and try to connect and understand it.   When I was at university I would often go to Vancouver on Tuesdays because this was the free admission day at the Vancouver Art Gallery.    When I lived in London I went to the Tate Gallery more than any other place I can think of because of the art.  

In an art gallery I try to sit quietly in a room for an hour or more and see what comes of it - almost a Quakerly Meeting for Worship type of process.   I have really tried to understand and seek meaning or purpose in contemporary art but I found little genius.  I rarely seen anything that spoke to my soul.

The galleries are sterile, they are about preserving the art works and celebrating the famous artists.  I would look at a Rothko and could see that over time the painting had changed because of slow decay of the materials involved but that is not what the gallery wants.  Paintings are cleaned, restored and otherwise conserved in a stasis.   I started to pay more attention to the people in the galleries and saw that people came to "collect" the art, they walked through quickly and could then say they saw a Picasso or a Turner.   The name of the dead artist and the fact they had seen the work of art mattered more to them than anything.  They were soulless art spotters.

Over the years I had seen many paintings or sculptures that were beautiful but very few that pushed me to really think and contemplate, very few that touched my soul.   Then one day I saw a sculpture that instantly spoke to me on a thousand levels or more.

In 1996 at the Lillooet Public Library I saw a picture of a sculpture in hay field.   It was of a longboat made of branches from the woods around it.   It was not at a gallery or in front of some corporate headquarters but in the field of a working farm.   It was also weathered, it was clear to me the moment that I saw it had a finite lifespan and that nature would take it back.   This sculpture would never be restored or conserved.  The sculpture came from nature and would go back to nature.   I then saw the name of the sculptor, Peter von Tiesenhausen, and I knew I had walked on this field as a child.

Starting in the 90s Peter's work has been all related to people, the land, nature, decay, transition, and change.  His art is not static, his art is not gallery material.  His art is the best I have seen in connecting the power of nature and the ages with human creation.   With most art, and how we deal with it, it is about humans trying to stop change from happening, Peter's work is the opposite.

His work is not intellectual naval gazing that so many contemporary artists seem to want to do.  Too often when I go into a gallery I see artists trying to "clever" or obscure in a way to exclude those that are not part of the "in crowd"and if you do not "get it" you are not part of the art club.   There is no need to have an advanced degree in art history to see deep meaning and purpose in Peter's work.  His work is not cynical or ironic, there is nothing jaded about it.   It is not meaningless pretty or a clever graphic design.  It is not created to shock for the sake of reaction and nothing else.   His work is transcendent, honest, playful and deeply spiritual.

Peter's work is spiritual on the deepest level possible for art because it embraces that relationship between humans and the natural world at the most fundamental level.   All spirituality comes from the need of every  human society to make sense of the world around us.  Peter's art speaks to the very core of this and how all human creations are ephemeral and are changed over time by the forces of the natural world around us.

Peter with Alex and one his charred figures
Looking at, or more often thinking about, Peter's work becomes a very deeply worshipful process for me.  His art has allowed to me to look out a window and see a tree a pruned years ago as part of the creative interaction between humans and nature.   I can go for a walk and see the remains of an old building being swallowed by blackberries and contemplate the relationship of human creation and how the natural world is taking it back.

Vessel/Enclosure at the Banff Centre
Some of his works of art like Duration in Calgary he has created knowing their lifespan will be for millenia.  Others like Vessel/Enclosure at the Banff Centre are much shorter.    Some of his art is created just by him living his life on his farm.  The fence he has been building for 24 years, where the end he is working on is new and the other end is rotting away, takes a simple task many of us have done and attachs a sense of human history, meditation and inevitability of change to the task.   For Peter being present in the place where he is makes the art.

Quaker's believe there is that of God in everyone and that your whole life is in someway part of your worship.  Peter, while not being a Quaker, has done a brilliant job of showing how art, nature, everyday human activity, time and spirituality can all be part of a meaningful ongoing daily process of worship.

Peter's work matters to me so much because it has liberated me from the sterile world of the art gallery and opened my mind to a concept of art that is directly tied to my soul and the world I live in.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Rain Language Part III

The Kamloops Wawa was a Chinook language newspaper published for more than a decade by the Oblate missionaries.  It was written in a short hand specifically designed for Chinook and interior Salishan languages
Here is the third section of Terry Glavin's poem Rain Language.  This is the link to the first section, and this is the link to the second section.

I am posting the poem in chunks,  Terry wrote it in seven pieces.   Since I could not find a copy online I asked Terry if I could post it and he agreed.   The original is in the book "A Voice Great within us: The Story of Chinook" by Charles Lillard and Terry Glavin published by Transmontanus/New Star Books

The "English" sections are not only a translation but an integral part of the whole poem.  I like that the poem shows how the grammar works for Chinook and how it shows the way the language lingers in the little words in this part of the world.

Rain Language
Ahnkuttie, yaka mitlite nesika lelang,
     Once, it was our language,
nawitka nesika oakut
     our own way
     to dance,
     to want, to love, 
mamook mesachie,
     to curse,
mamook polaklie,
     to darken,
pe mamook skookum light.
     and to make bright.
Alta, yukwa mitlite ketling,
     Now, there is a kettle here,
keekweelie powitsh stick,
     under the crabapple trees,
pil ilta kopa chickamin chako halo ikta.
     rusting to nothing.
eneti kullaghan,
     on the other side of the fence,
kokshut leshaloo
     a broken plough
mitlite kow kopa klale ollallie.
     is tangled in the blackberries.
Yaka mitlite kopa kopet tenas coulees kopa nesika illahie,
     It is only the little places of our country,
kopa snass,
     in the rain,
pe ole shantie.
     and in old songs

Konoway sun nika cly,
     Always, I weep,
Siah Illahie nika mitlite alta;
     Far away is my country now;
Konoway sun nika cly.
     Always, I weep.
Siah illahie nika mitlite alta.
     Far away is my country now.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Rain Language Part II

Here is the second section of Terry Glavin's poem Rain Language.  This is the link to the first section.

This is about 1/8th of the whole poem, I will be posting it in chunks.  Terry wrote it in seven pieces.   Since I could not find a copy online I asked Terry if I could post it and he agreed.   The original is in the book "A Voice Great within us: The Story of Chinook" by Charles Lillard and Terry Glavin published by Transmontanus/New Star Books

The "English" sections are not only a translation but an integral part of the whole poem

Rain Language

Alta nika potlach wawa kopa okoke pepah.
     Now I will talk to you about this picture.
Yaka klatawa kopa stick
     He went into the woods
mamook tzum.
     to write.
Snass chako.
     It was raining.
Yaka mitlite halo tamahnous.
     He had no Guardian Spirit.
Kopa Nemiah, Mabel Solomon mamook le di.
     Up in Nemiah, Mabel Solomon brewed up le di.
Le di.
Huloiam klawhap mitlite kopa illahie, 
      There were strange pits in the ground, 
konoway kah,
pe olemans pe ole klootchmans mamook wawa
     and the old Chilcotin people called them
keekweelie holes.
     giggly holes.
Okoke wawa, klaska wawa kopa
     It is their word for
keekweelie houses.
     underground houses.
Kopa ole yiem, yahwa mitlite t'kope man
      In old stories, there is a white man
cloosh sakolleks, cloosh pasesse
     in a fine suit of clothes
pa yaka nem mitlite Lejaub.
     and his name is Lejaub.
     The Devil.
Kopa okoke oakut, lelang mitlite,
     That is the way the language lingers,
yukwa pe yahwa
     here and there.
Halo chako, halo mahsh,
     Not arriving, not leaving, 
kopa tenas wawa.
     in little words.
Wake siah kahkwa kwass leloo,
      Not quite like the fear of wolves,
halo kahkwa snass kopa Bella Colla,
     not like the rain at Bella Colla,
yaka mitlite nawitka kiuatan chako tseepie
     more like the horse that was lost
kopa Snow Mountains,
     in the Snow Mountains,
kiuatan nesika nanitch kopa stick
      the one we would see through the trees
tenas hiyu times
     now and then
kopa tenas lamonti klahanie Tsunia.
     in the hills beyond Tsunia.
Yaka mitlite tenas wawa,
     It is in little words,
pe ole shantie.
     and old songs.

     Tlonas kahta nika tumtum
          I do not know how my heart feels
     Nika nanitch klatawa Godsroad klatawa
          I have seen the steamer Godsroad leaving
     Pe chali mitlite, pe tlakawa nika.
          With Charlie aboard, and I am sad

Friday, March 07, 2014

Rain Language Part I - A Poem by Terry Glavin

I like to read this poem out loud because of the rhythm and sounds of the chinook.

This is about 1/8th of the whole poem, I will be posting it in chunks.  Terry wrote it in seven pieces.   Since I could not find a copy online I asked Terry if I could post it and he agreed.   The original is in the book "A Voice Great within us: The Story of Chinook" by Charles Lillard and Terry Glavin published by Transmontanus/New Star Books

The "English" sections are not only a translation but an integral part of the whole poem

Rain Language 

Yaka yiem halo kliminawhit,
     This is a true story
Waum illahie klip sun, kopa Byrne Oakut,
    On a late summer evening on Byrne Road
kimta tenas wahm snass chako,
    after a gentle summer rain, 
Spose hyack colley konmokst chikchik, Ford pe Chevrolet,
    in a race between a Ford and Chevrolet, 
spose Ford tolo kopa tenas-sitkum mile
    if the Ford won the the quarter mile
pe Ford man mamook klahwa,
    and the Ford guy slowed down
kopet cooley, yaka halo mamook fly
     soon enough to avoid going airborne
oakut opoots, 
   at the end of the road,
Ford, yaka skookum chikchik.
    then the Ford was the skookum car.
Nawitka, Ford skookum chichik  
     A right skookum car.

Yaka yiem halo kliminawhit.
     This is a true story.
Spose mika hiyu mamook,
     If you had a job
pe chickamin sun chako
     and it was pay day
pe mike halo mahkook lum kopa tillicums, 
     and you still didn't buy a round, 
mika mitlite cultus bastard.
     you were a cultus bastard.
Nawitka, cultus bastard.
     A right cultus bastard.
Saltchuk, yaka mitlite saltchuk,
     The oceans was the saltchuk,
klootchman kopa mika tillicum
     your buddy's girlfriend
yaka mitlite klootchman,
     was his klootchman,
pe kopa okoke oakut, lelang mitlite
     and this is how the language lingers
yukwa pe yahwa.
     here and there.
Yaka mitlite kopa tenas wawa
     It is in the little words
pe ole shantie.
     and old songs.

Hyas Tlakowa nika
     I am so happy
Spose steamboat klatawa yukwa
     When the steamboat arrives,
Tlonas nika cly
     I think I will weep
Spose steamboat klatawa.
     When the steamboat leaves.

Monday, February 03, 2014

NHL Attendance - Canada is tops in the league

There are currently seven out of 30 NHL teams in Canada but these teams have been consistently selling out all of their games.  In the last eight seasons only one Canadian team has not effectively sold out every game, that being Ottawa.

Season     Van   Calgary Edmon  Toronto Ottawa Montrl Winnipeg
2013/14 100.0 100.0  99.9 103.0  93.7 100.0 100.0
2012/13 100.2 100.0 100.0 103.2 101.3 100.0 100.0
2011/12 102.5 100.0 100.0 103.7 101.1 100.0 100.0
2010/11 100.3 100.0 100.0 102.9  99.3 100.0 
2009/10 102.1 100.0 100.0 102.5  98.8 100.0
2008/09 101.1 100.0 100.0 102.7 105.0 100.0
2007/08 101.1 100.0 100.0 103.4 107.1 100.0
2006/07 101.1 100.0 100.0 103.7 104.7 100.0

        Teams that sold out
Season  Canadian  American
2013/14   5          9
2012/13   7          9
2011/12   7          9
2010/11   5          7
2009/10   5          6
2008/09   6          6
2007/08   6          6
2006/07   6          5

Not a single US team has sold out every one of the last eight seasons but over the same time four Canadian teams have.

         Sold Out Seasons
Team    2006/07 - 2013/14
Calgary        8
Montreal       8
Toronto        8
Vancouver      8
Edmonton       7
Philadelphia   7
Pittsburgh     7
Chicago        6
Minnesota      6
Rangers        6
San Jose       6
Ottawa         5
Boston         4
Detroit        4
Los Angeles    3
Washington     3
Winnipeg       3
Buffalo        2
St Louis       1
Tampa Bay      1

Clearly there is a good case for Canadian teams to have larger arenas to accommodate the crowds.   I think each of the Canadian teams could build new arenas with seating for 23,000 to 25,000.  In the case of Vancouver this would be about 5,000 more people per game, which is 205,000 more regular season tickets sold or about $15,000,000 to $17,000,000 more in annual revenues.   If we include pre-season and playoffs this rises to about $20,000,000 to $25,000,000 per year.   

Winnipeg only has a capacity of 15,004 at their arena.   Building a new one with 23,000 capacity would allow for 8,000 more tickets to be sold per game.   This should be worth an extra $20,000,000 to the team per year.   It would pay for the costs of a new arena in just over a decade on the extra hockey attendance alone.   

If I were Calgary, Edmonton or Winnipeg I would look at building a purpose build outdoor hockey stadium to use for a reasonable number of games each season.   The various outdoor stadium games are less than ideal because the action is too far from the crowd.   It should be possible to build an outdoor hockey rink that could seat more like 30,000 people.  Maybe you could get Saskatoon to build one and have three prairie teams play two games against each other there each season.  

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Number of Athletes at the 2014 Sochi Games

Here are the current registered teams from various countries.  This is all the countries with 10 or more athletes at the games.   25 of the countries are from Europe.

  1. United States 224
  2. Canada 222
  3. Russia 216
  4. Germany 169
  5. Switzerland 168
  6. Japan 137
  7. Norway 134
  8. Austria 123
  9. Sweden 112
  10. Finland 110
  11. Italy 109
  12. France 105
  13. Czech Republic 83
  14. Slovenia 75
  15. South Korea 66
  16. China 66
  17. Slovakia 63
  18. Poland 63
  19. Great Britain 62
  20. Latvia 56
  21. Australia 56
  22. Kazakstan 44
  23. Netherlands 41
  24. Ukraine 41
  25. Belarus 25
  26. Estonia 21
  27. Spain 20
  28. New Zealand 19
  29. Romania 19
  30. Denmark 15
  31. Croatia 14
  32. Hungary 14
  33. Belgium 13
  34. Brazil 10

Friday, December 27, 2013

Construction of the Stanley Park Railway in 1947

As a kid I rode on this train a lot from about 1968 to 1978.   One of the most common outings we did with our grandmother was to go to Stanley Park

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Der 90. Geburtstag oder Dinner for One mit Freddie Frinton und May Warden

How could it be New Year's Eve without Dinner for One? 2013 is the 50 anniversary of the filming of the sketch.

I was introduced to it in 1985 New Year's Eve in Darmstadt

Why is it so big in Germany and the Nordic countries? No freaking idea, but it is. I know people in Germany that speak no English but can recite the sketch word for word.

This is the most repeated TV broadcast of all time

Thursday, December 12, 2013

1983 North East coal takes a giant step forward

This is a government promo video for North East coal made in 1983.  It is amazing how much our attitudes have changed to development.   Something like this would never be produced today.  

1936 Vancouver Golden Jubilee Parade

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mackenzie-Papineau War Memorial in Victoria BC

In February 2000 a war memorial to the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion was unveiled in Victoria.

The Mac-Paps were a battalion of 1200 Canadians that volunteers to fight for the government of Spain against the fascists that were overthrowing democracy.

Of the 1,546 Canadians known to have fought in Spain, 721 of them died.   That is 46.6% of them.

Those that returned to Canada were considered politically unreliable by the government and when the war with Germany started many of them were imprisoned for being premature anti-fascists.  The term premature anti-fascists is really short hand for communist and was the useful pretext for the government to imprison them.

The Mac-Paps were fairly strongly working class communists.  Given the Molotov/Ribbentrop pact in August 1939 did make the communists in Canada quasi the enemy.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Nelson Mandela

I am very sorry to hear of the death of Nelson Mandela.  He was a hero of mine, and I do not use that term about many people.

In the 1980s I was involved with the anti-apartheid movement in Canada, I organized a number of demonstrations in Victoria between 1984 and 1989.   The idea that someone could be imprisoned for decades for simply wanting the basic human rights we have in Canada pushed all my buttons.

I was in London for the April 16th 1990 Nelson Mandela concert at Wembley stadium.  I was living close enough to the stadium to be able to hear it at moments - the Brent Reservoir reflected the sound rather well. .  This event is one of two events I wished I could have gone to in my life.   I could not get a ticket at anything close to an amount I could afford.  Even though I could not go, it was close enough to me that I could feel like I was a small part of celebration of freedom and democracy.

I had a chance in the early 1990s to hear about the changes in South Africa rather more directly than I had ever expected to.  From 1990-1992 I attended St James Piccadilly in London, which is where Trevor Huddleston lived at the time.   He was an Anglican Archbishop who had been a priest in Sophiatown South Africa from 1943 to 1956 when he had to leave because he spoke out about apartheid.  When he retired from episcopal office in 1983 he dedicated his life to the anti-apartheid movement and become of the global leaders.  

On numerous Sundays I got a chance to speak with him in person.   He was "interesting" to talk with - he had no time for fools, he had a cranky edge to him, but I did hear what he thought should happen in South Africa and what he knew was happening.   I also lingered nearby as he talked with senior Anglican ministers that attended St James and was happy to hear that Nelson Mandela was making sure there would be a peaceful transition of power.  

In 1999 Nelson Mandela did what I thought was one of the most important things in his life, he stepped down as president of South Africa.   Too many liberation heroes become tyrants once they are in power and refuse to relinquish power unless forced to, people like Robert Mugabe and Fidel Castro utterly betrayed any sense of liberation by being even worse tyrants than the ones they replaced.  

The expectation of a peaceful transition of power and the ballot box is important, it is an important marker of a functioning democracy.   I am certain Nelson Mandela could have been re-elected as long as he wanted, but that would have set a bad example.   South Africa may be flawed democracy but at least the country has seen several peaceful transitions between presidents.

Nelson Mandela was not a prefect man but he went much further than the vast majority of people in living his life true to his core values of freedom.  He sets an important example for all of us.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Time for Canada to Stand Up for Santa's Caribou

Image from Calgary Coin
It is every year  during the Christmas season we talk about Santa's reindeer, the latin name is Rangifer taradus.   This is the same animal that is on the Canadian quarter and called a caribou.

To be clear here, a reindeer is a caribou.   We should demand that people the world over  refer to Santa's draft animals by their proper name, caribou.

Reindeer are the caribou the Lapps raise for food and fur.   Do I look like a Lapp to you?  Last time I checked Santa was not a Lapp either.   We have Clement Moore to blame for this error in naming with respect to Santa's caribou.   I wonder if he did it on purpose to deny Canada's connection to Santa?  It was less than a decade after the War of 1812.

a picture of a Raniger taradus - in this case a caribou
image from USF&W
Santa's sleigh is pulled by caribou people, not by reindeer!   This is Canada, we as Canadians we should be taking ownership of the animal and giving the poor beasts their proper name, the caribou.    You would think after 76 years of having a caribou on the quarter, we would know a caribou when look at one.

We also need to change the lyrics to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, it is bad enough he had a red nose, but to call him a reindeer when everything clearly indicates he is North American based is just another insult.

Rudolph, the red-nosed caribou
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other caribou
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any caribou games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the caribou loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed caribou,
you'll go down in history!
OK, I admit, caribou has an extra syllable and the song sort of falls apart, but that only says to me that we need a new song for Rudolf that clearly points out his Canadian heritage.

Picture of a  Ranigifer Taradus  - in this case a reindeer
If you want to mail a letter to Santa, you have to do it through Canada.  This is the only country on earth that has a functioning address and postal code for the North Pole.

Santa Claus
North Pole 
H0H 0H0

Other countries may have places kids can mail letter to Santa, but none of them are Santa's clearly accepted home of the North Pole.  Rovaniemi in Finland is clearly a hoax by the global Finnish industrial complex.  North Pole Alaska is even more of a joke, it is south of the arctic circle.

As Canadians we lay claim to the territory that is Santa's home, every exercise book I had as a child showed our boundaries extending all the way to the North Pole.    Canada is also home to the northernmost permanent habitation on earth - Alert Nunavut at 82 degrees and 28 minutes north.   It is only 817 kilometers from the North Pole.

As a country that is covered in all this snow and ice, we need to take ownership of Christmas.  We need to demand at the UN and WTO that the world accept Canadian suzerainty over the season.  We need to start this by calling the caribou what it really is and making the world know the truth.

Time for a campaign to get people to know the truth.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

More name changes to the Canadian Forces

From 1968 top XXX We had a unified Canadian forces where everyone wore the same uniform.   The uniforms "demerged" in the 90s.  We saw the return of the RCAF and the RCN in August 2011.  Now we have changes in names to in the Army as well.

We now have the official return the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps in July, it was formally the Armour Branch from 1968 to 2013.

The Canadian Army is now made up of five divisions, something that has not happened since World War 2. .  It is an interesting change for Canada to make.   Divisions of the Canadian military existed during World War 1 and World War 2 but not otherwise.  A division is normally a military unit with 10,000 to 20,000, which would mean the divisions of the Canadian army are at the 10,000 end of the spectrum.

The name changes all connect the Canadian Armed Forces more closely with the history of the military of this country.   It also makes many of the names much more traditionally military.   The RCAF was known as Air Command before the change in 2011.   The 3rd Canadian Division was known as Land Force Western Area till July of this year.

To me the changes in the Canadian Armed Forces make it sound more like a military and less like a part of the civil service.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Two Reports from BC Legislative Committees in 1879 on Chinese People

I posted a similar legislative committee report yesterday from 1885, here are two from 1879.   The terminology they use about the Chinese is pretty damning especially calling all the women prostitutes.

Your Committee appointed to draft a Report upon the Chinese Question, beg to state that, in the absence of any statistical information on the subject, they have felt some embarrassment in dealing with it.

There are various opinions as to the number of Chinese in the Province, but 6,000 is within the mark.

The acknowledged strong and growing antipathy to their presence in the community is attributable to several causes, of which the following would appear to be the most prominent :—

1st. Their moral and social condition is degraded in the extreme. A large majority of the men are in a state of semi-bondage, if not of absolute slavery, while all the women are prostitutes and are daily bought and sold as such. A state of marriage is unknown amongst them; hence the influence exerted upon society by such wholesale vice cannot be otherwise than highly pernicious, as no attempt is even made at concealment.

2nd. They are also undesirable settlers as they are wholly opposed to any assimilation or amalgamation of races or to becoming a portion of the permanent population of the country. The wealth gradually acquired by them is from time to time transmitted to China, and the Province is impoverished to the extent of and in an inverse ratio to their gains.

3rd. Their system of Coolie labour defies competition, as the low rate of wages paid is insufficient to support ordinary labouring classes, hence the Chinese are gradually monopolizing and controlling many industries which have hitherto afforded employment to the permanent population of the Province. This fact is not alone calculated to drive many valuable settlers elsewhere, but is likely to seriously discourage desirable immigrants
from coming to the Province.

4th. It is well known from experience that slave labour has a degrading effect wherever it exists, as it causes an unconquerable and not unreasonable prejudice on the part of the free members of a community against engaging in any work similar to that performed by the Coolies in their midst.

The great groups of Colonies constituting the Australias and New Zealand, are now unitedly moving the Home Government to aid them in restricting, if not in stopping, the further influx of Chinese to their shores. The Committee would recommend that advantage be taken of this circumstance, and that the Dominion Government be respectfully requested to co-operate with the other Colonies of Her Majesty's Empire, and add its powerful influence with a view of securing the object mutually aimed at, namely the restriction of further Chinese immigration to British Columbia, as well as to the Colonies referred to.

GEO. A. Walkem

Your Committee appointed to consider the question of Chinese Immigration as it affects this Province, and to devise means, if possible, to arrest or materially diminish it, have felt much embarrassment in framing their report, in consequence of the scanty information at their command with respect to the views held and the course taken upon the subject by older communities ; and this embarrassment has rather been increased, than otherwise, by the recent action of the President of the -United States in vetoing an Anti-Chinese measure, passed by Congress in the interests of the neighbouring Pacific States. The measure referred to, as the House is doubtless aware, was not dissimilar in some of its provisions to the Queensland Act, which received the Imperial sanction notwithstanding the existing Treaty between Great Britain and China.

It has, however, been admitted that this Legislature has no power to pass the Queensland Act, as its provisions would interfere with trade and commerce, and thus conflict with the British North America Act, which confers the regulation of that subject upon the Dominion Parliament.

As the Australias are now organizing a combined movement to obtain, if possible, from the Imperial Government such measures of protection against the further influx of Chinese into their country, the time would seem opportune for united or independent action on the part of the Dominion in the same direction.

Your Committee have ascertained that several measures of an .Anti-Chinese tendency, and more or less restrictive in character, have been passed in New Zealand, and in Victoria and other Australian Colonies, but have been disallowed by the Home Government.

It is, therefore, respectfully suggested that an Address to the Dominion Government should be passed by the House, setting forth the baneful effects of the presence of Chinese in our midst, and the necessity of such measures being adopted as will effectually prevent their further immigration to the Province.


Monday, November 25, 2013

1885 BC Legislature Report of the Select Committee on Chinese Restriction

I was looking for something else from the 19th century Journals of the BC Legislature and came across this:

To the Honourable the Speaker and Legislative Assembly.

Your Committee appointed to draft a Resolution for transmission to the Dominion Government in regard to Chinese restriction, beg leave to report as follows:—

Be it resolved that the following Resolution be passed, and that a copy thereof be forwarded to the Honourable the Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada:

That the Legislature of the Province of British Columbia extremely regret the disallowance of the Act for the prevention of the immigration of Chinese, passed at its last Session.
The disallowance of the Act, according to the correspondence, did not proceed from a view of its being unconstitutional, but because the Act was regarded as inexpedient.
The Legislature sees nothing to change the carefully considered representations and opinions which have heretofore been expressed by this House on the Chinese question, and which from time to time have been communicated to and urged upon the Dominion Government.

Briefly, they may be summed up as follows:—
1. The Chinese are alien in sentiment and habits.
2. They do not become settlers in any sense of that word. They have no intention of permanently settling in the country, but come for the purpose of trading and labouring, in order to return to their native country with the means to pass the remainder of their days in ease.
The Chinese population chiefly consists of male adults, and thus—without the responsibility of providing for a family—they come in unfair competition with white labour.
They are the slaves or coolies of the Chinese race, accustomed to live on the poorest fare, and in the meanest manner, and hence their presence tends to the degradation of the white labouring classes.
Their presence exerts a baneful influence in restricting the immigration of white labour, and especially in the class of house-servants, who will not be brought into contact with this race.

They have a system of secret societies which encourage crime amongst themselves, and which prevents the administration of justice. The use of opium has extended throughout the Province to the demoralization of the native races, and the Chinese encourage the use of this drug amongst others of our own rising population.
And this House urgently demands that some restrictive legislation be passed to prevent our Province from becoming a portion of the Chinese Empire.


I find amazing at that inhumane and abhorrent views that people could hold.  Humans are humans.   At no point in human history has racism ever been right or rational position to hold.  BC in the 19th century was not a lost people or racism, there were others who thought differently.   The people of Victoria elected an American black man to an early city council.  In 1874 AW Smith registered Chinese people as voters in Lillooet for the provincial election.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Beaverbrae II - the ship that brought many Baltic Germans to Canada

Growing as a Baltic German in Canada, most of the people I met that came over as immigrants did so on ship, the Beaverbrae.

The ship was initially known as the Huascaran by the Hamburg America Line.   She was intended to serve on their Mexico-Panama Canal-South American Service with her sister ship was Osorno and made a single voyage to the west coast of South America before being requisitioned by the Kreigsmarine.   The ship was launched on December 15th 1938 as a 10,480 gross ton freighter with a speed of 17 knots.  She was ready for service on April 27th 1939

During the war she served as a submarine depot at Trandheim in Norway.   and then taken over by the Canadian War Assets Corporation managed by Park Steamship Company

Muendels on the Beaverbrae in 1952 I think
After being captured by the Allies at the end of the war and came into to the possession of the War Assets Corporation.   In November 1945 she was handed over to Great Britain as part of the War Reparations.  Later in June 1947 she was allocated to Canada as part of this country's war reparations.  After arriving in Montreal she was purchased by Canadian Pacific on September 2 1947 and renamed the Beaverbrae II.   CP had a previous ship known as the Beaverbrae that had been sunk in March of 1941 by German Focke Wulf Condor bombers.

The Beaverbrae II  was refitted in Sorel Quebec into a cargo liner of 9,034 gross tons with space for 773 passengers, 74 in cabins and 699 in dorms.

The Commissioner of Immigration Arthur Jolliffe placed the Beaverbrae at the disposal of the Canadian Government and the Canadian Christian Council for the Resettlement of Refugees (CCCRR).  The ship sailed about every 28 days with 773 passengers. In its service to the CCCRR, the Beaverbrae completed 52 voyages carrying a total of 33,259 passengers from Bremen, Germany, Rotterdam, Holland and Antwerp, Belgium to Halifax, St John or Quebec City, Canada..

Her final trip carrying people to Canada left Bremen on July 28th 1954.

Both my parents and my aunt Nata Runge came over on the Beaverbrae.  My grandmother Maria von Fersen, her two young sons  and my cousin Charlie did not come on the Beaverbrae, but on the Arosa Kulm.   The first job both my parents had in Canada was on the Beaverbrae as translators, so they were hard working immigrants before they even got off of the ship at Quebec City.   They were both expected to do work on the ship to "pay" for their passage, this meant cleaning and cooking.

My father sailed on her in 1951 leaving Bremerhaven on August 22nd and arriving in Quebec City on September 3rd.  He spent the trip playing cards for money and winning.   My father would have made a good professional poker player if he had any real desire to play for money.

My mother sailed in August 1952 from Bremerhaven arriving in Quebec City on August 19th.  Her trip was a non-stop party for her.   As a 23 year old woman travelling on her own she spent most of the trip cavorting with the crew.

In Quebec City  my mother boarded a special immigrant train that took her, and many others to Winnipeg from where they traveled onto their final destinations by train.  My mother was headed to Penticton to work as a nanny and housemaid for the family of Dr Wickett.  Her first home in Canada was 689 Winnipeg Street in Penticton

Maria von Fersen's 1954 German Passport

Interesting is that in his passport her citizenship is listed as Deutshe and not  "Einem deutschen Staatsangehörigen gleichgestellt" which is that is was in her 1950 Deutshe Kennkarte and as my father had in his 1951 German Passport.

Her passport was issued on May 3 1954, about six and half weeks before she sailed for Canada

Nils and Lorenz were on her passport

Maria von Fersen's Canadian immigrant visa issued May 26th 1954 in Hanau

Maria von Fersen landed in Quebec on July 2nd 1954

Seems that in April and May of 1957 my grandmother was in eastern Canada and visited the US from there

So my grandmother arrived back in Vancouver October 2nd 1960 via air - I assume she was returning from Germany but  had no idea she had gone there in 1960