Behold! My COVID-19 Haircut and Shave

I have shared this in a few places already, but as I am reviving this blog in large part as a COVID-19 self-isolation project, I figure I should preserve this for posterity.

As long as I am posting it, I should add that beard was the first one of my life. I started growing it in late January during a two-week vacation, knowing I would not have another work trip until April. When we began to self-isolate I already needed a haircut, and by week three of the self-isolation with all the barbershops closed I became very aware I was not in a position to cut my won hair properly.

A friend loaned me a set of clippers, and I had a fun Sunday afternoon taking my hair off in stages. There was one point where —if I had stopped— I would have been okay, but at that point I had already mentally committed myself to taking it all off. I’ve always been curious about the shape of my head. When am I ever going to have a better chance to do this than during self-isolation?

Anyway, I bet I’ll be okay until the barbershops reopen now…

Remembrance Day, 2010

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. It’s the first Remembrance Day of my life that I will not be celebrating with my grandfather, Murray Anderson, a veteran of the Second World War who passed away last winter.

In December, 2009, I scanned a number of pictures he took during his time in the Royal Canadian Navy with the intention of uploading them to honour today. Unfortunately I cracked the motherboard of the computer containing those scanned pictures last spring, and I haven’t managed to recover the harddrive yet. When I do, you can be sure I’ll upload them to this blog.

In the meantime, I want to put something up here in his memory, and to mark this day where we remember all those who have served and sacrificed in the past and present so that we can live in a better world. On my facebook profile I have a collection of photos of his ship that I’ve found online up, and so I’ll republish them here for a wider audience.

This is my grandfather’s ship, the HMCS Dumheller (K167). Of the 37 U-Boats destroyed by the Canadian Navy during the Second World War, it sank one and assisted in sinking another. It also served in Operation Neptune, the naval component of Operation Overlord, the Allied Invasion of Europe.

My grandfather was one of the wireless operators aboard the HMCS Drumheller. His ship escorted the Mulberry hulks, old wrecks that were scuttled off the D-Day beaches to make breakwaters and piers so the Allies could use the Normandy beaches as a port.

On June 6th the HMCS Drumheller was just offshore. He could see bodies floating in the water. He told me he saw a troopship, its deck full of soldiers, hit a mine and vanish in a flash of light and white water. Later that day he was out on the deck when the HMS Norfolk was firing its eight-inch guns inland against Nazi positions. He burst his eardrum and permanently lost his hearing in his right ear. He never reported the injury for fear of being put ashore, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that he filed a claim with veterans affairs. He was afraid he was going to get in trouble somehow for concealing his war wound for so long.

This is the HMCS Drumheller coming into a harbour. This photo was taken from the deck of a Canadian destroyer. See the sailors lined up on the deck? During the run up to D-Day it worked alone, shepherding individual ships from British port to British port along the English Channel.

One night he said they were escorting an American merchantman through the English Channel, and they could hear over the water the special whine of a German E-Boat (a torpedo boat that was easily a match for the Drumheller). The Canadians were hoping that the Germans wouldn’t find them, but the Americans had a 50-calibre machine gun bolted to their bow, and they started firing wildly into the night. All of a sudden my grandfather heard the ‘Ping! Ping! Ping!’ as the bullets bounced off the metal of the E-Boat. The Germans revved up their engines, turned tail and ran. He figures they must have thought anyone with the nerve to shoot at them must have been another torpedo boat. The Americans trigger-happy attitude saved the day.

My grandfather told me once they were in Portsmouth, and V-1 Buzz Bombs were flying overhead. All the ships in the harbour were firing their anti-aircraft guns, and then the orders came over the radio from the harbour master to cease fire immediately: If any of the V-1s were shot down, they could have hit one of the ammunition ships. The RAF would take care of them once they were in land.
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Awesome Pictures: Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks

What is it:

This is ‘Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire’, also known as ‘Cossacks of Saporog Are Drafting a Manifesto’ painted by Ilya Repin between 1880 and 1891.

Why is it Awesome?

Well, to start, look at it! This painting is roughly two meters high and three and a half meters wide. Repin conceived of the painting as a study in laughter and a salute to the free spirit and independence of the Cossacks. It took him more than a decade to finish, and when it was done Tsar Alexander II paid the staggering sum of 35,000 rubles for it. It currently hangs in the State Russian Museum of St. Petersburg.

Do you wonder what they’re laughing about? Would it interest you to know they’re trying to write the dirtiest piece of diplomatic correspondence in the the history of the world?
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My Grandmother, Serena Anderson

Serena Anderson, 84

I mentioned last month that I’ve scanned in a number of pictures from my grandparents’ old photo albums. Everything I’ve put up thus far has been from my grandfather’s youth, and so I thought I’d mix things up a little bit by putting up some information on my grandmother. A great deal of the following text comes from an interview I did with my grandmother for a school English assignment. I have no idea what the project was about, but I must have put a lot of time into it based on how long the interview was. Anyway, I recently came into possession of a number of my old computer files, and I was delighted to find this conversation typed up. I’m sorry that some of my questions are a little stilted and her answers tend to ramble. I was just a kid when I did this, and I had no idea how to conduct a proper interview. I have added some recent additions and notes. You’ll find them in square brackets.

My grandmother will be 85 this August, and a lot of interesting things have happened to her: As a newborn she spent six months in a hospital, hours away from her mother, and she may have been almost adopted by her mother’s cousin. Even my grandmother is a little hazy on the details of that episode. Her father died in a logging accident before she was five years old. She spent a lot of her childhood as a pair of working eyes for a blind neighbour. She grew up very poor during the Great Depression. She gave up school at fourteen after her mother was in a car accident, and then she got a job working for seventeen cents an hour six days a week in a wool mill. Her youth was spent in a very different Canada from the one I live in today, and I think I’m rather lucky to have these stories to paint a picture of what that was like.

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A Car Story from the Early 1920s

This is another photo from the collection I scanned up at my grandparents’ place two weekends ago. My grandfather thinks this photo was taken before he was born, which would date it prior to 1924. There is a small possibility that he’s the little boy second from the left whose face is in shadow, which would put the photo somewhere around 1928. Either way, it is a very old picture. Working from the assumption that it predates Murray Anderson’s birth, those would be my great uncles Bruce, Graydon, Henry and Clarence sitting on the running board, along with my eldest great aunt, Margaret. The face sticking out of the driver’s side doesn’t look much like their father, Elmore Anderson. It might be the neighbour, Mr. Monaham (who has a story of his own worth putting up here), but I think we’ll just have to leave him unidentified.

When my grandfather saw this photo, his eyes lit up, and he told me a story that has been often repeated at Anderson family gatherings for the last eighty years and more. It took place a couple of years before this photo, but that is the car, and those are (some of) the kids. This is the story:
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Awesome Pictures: Assyrian Lion Hunting

What is it:

This is a bas relief panel carved in limestone from an enormous frieze depicting the royal lion hunts of Assyria, built for the North Palace of Nineveh, circa 645-635 BC. It is now on display at the British Museum in London in a massive hall that will take your breath away.

Why is it Awesome?

I first came across the sculpture when I was seventeen, wandering around the British Museum. The lion’s expression of suffering –of great dignity struck low– was so palpable that I felt compelled to sit down and sketch it. I have that drawing taped into one of my early notebooks, and in an idle moment a year or so ago I decided to look around online to see if the image was available. Much to my delight, my very lion –of the dozens depicted on the frieze– was available on the Wikipedia Commons. It promptly became my desktop. I have since scoured the Internet for more images and information with limited results at best, I’m afraid. What I did find is compiled into this article.

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Crest Advertising Campaign: You Can Say Anything With A Smile

Call me a willing consumer in a key demographic of a capitalist society, but I love a good ad campaign. Crest is already my toothpaste brand, but if it wasn’t, this campaign would make me change my mind. Hell, I almost –almost– took up drinking Canadian just to support the fantastic I Am Canadian campaign.

The ad firm Saatchi & Saatchi of New York won The Gunn Report’s 2009 Best Commercial award for this campaign. It’s well deserved. If you haven’t seen it already, get ready to smile!

Best of the Web: Old Picture of the Day

I came across this blog yesterday, and I’ve already decided I’m going to check it every day from now on. The site is run by a man from Christoval, Texas; every day he puts up an interesting old photo, with a brief explanation of what it’s all about. It seems he often does weekly themes as well. He’s been regularly posting to it since March of 2007, and the back list is well organized for easy browsing. I spent over an hour yesterday just going through the American Civil War and early days of aviation posts. I know there’s hours more to be enjoyed, and I wanted to share it with you.

I promise not to intentionally lift any of his content into my own Awesome Pictures category, although there has already been a small overlap: He has a picture of General William Tecumseh Sherman on his site too, although his caption focuses less about the general (as mine does) and more about how the blogger’s ancestors fled from Georgia to Texas to escape the Union’s scorched earth tactics during the March to the Sea in 1864.

Anyway, this is a great site, and well worth a look. Enjoy!

Awesome Pictures: The Great Depression Era’s Concept of Gun Safety

What is it:

This is my grandfather, Murray Anderson, in 1942 at age 17, pointing his gun directly at the photographer.

Why is it Awesome?

Okay, let’s get a closer look at this. You tell me, what’s interesting about this image? Is it the bit where you can see directly down the barrel of what is almost certainly a loaded firearm? I’ll admit, it makes for an interesting picture –especially once I was assured the photographer is not now dead and quietly buried in a shallow grave somewhere out in the forest– but what is the wider context? What can this photo tell us about the life and times of the generation that grew up during the Great Depression?

Let’s take a step back and remember what we’re talking about here. This is not a couple of teenagers horsing around with firearms. Well, okay, it is teenagers horsing around with firearms, but it’s also one of those things that disconnects the Greatest Generation from my own. Even the Baby Boomers can’t really wrap their head around the idea that in the Great Depression, you fed your family however you could. Everyone had a garden. If you lived near a lake or a river, you fished. If there were wood lots around you, you hunted. You didn’t do it because you were starving. You did it because it was something you could do to make things easier on the family budget. It wasn’t a question of desperation so much as independence.
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The Log Driver’s Waltz

For most Canadians of my generation, this needs no introduction. For the rest of you, get ready for a real treat! When I was five or six I used to watch this every morning between cartoons.

“The Log Driver’s Waltz” is a Canadian folk song written by Wade Hemsworth. The most famous version of the song is done by Kate and Anna McGarrigle and the Mountain City Four, and that’s the one used in this animated short by the National Film Board in 1979. The film is one of the most requested in the entire collection of the National Film Board.
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