Sunday, December 26, 2010

London Day 2-3

Dec 24-25:

These two days have flown by. I don't think I can even recall everything that's happened. Had a wonderful night Christmas eve watching Catherine and Monty perform. Met lots of amazing people, most of them not British actually. It seems all the other colonials hang out together! At the pub on Christmas eve I met the British Vicky was seriously creepy. We're going to a gay club with her on Thursday...are we shocked? So much more has happened, pubs, lunches, walks, getting scared by opposite traffic, Christmas eve on the 9th floor of a beautiful condo overlooking the Thames...with an all Canadian group + 1 New Zealander. Rush rush, we're off to Herrod's to look for sales....more importantly I'm looking for a tweed cap! Alisha and Catherine gave me a sweet book on London, argyle socks and a tweed tie for Christmas! Must run, more later!


Local's amazing

Thames at low tide..Vauxhall Bridge to the right

Thursday, December 23, 2010

London Day 1:

Day 1 Jan 22-23 2010:

We flew out today from Ottawa Itnl. with no lines and no problems at security. Both of us had fitful sleeps on the plane but arrived excited and alert in London this morning (23rd). Surprisingly, there was literally around 5 people in line as customs at Heathrow and we were checked in and had our baggage within 20 minutes. Our friend Alisha met us at the airport to a happy reunion. We took the Tube and cabbed to Alisha's lively little apartment in the Battersea area of London. Went to lunch and grocery shopping with Alisha. Dan and I are both taken aback by the amount and beauty of the cute row houses and 19th century office buildings.She then cooked us a lovely supper which we shared with our friend Catherine and her beau Monty, who we met for the first time. He passed the Dan shock test ie. didn't run away frightened! Dinner included (and was followed by!) much wine, laughter and stories. The lovely dinner was cooked by the lovely Alisha. Winding down the night now with some British TV and reflections while looking over the Thames by night. So much history concentrated on one narrow's overwhelming. Busy day tomorrow, lunch with Catherine and Monty at a local pub, Christmas carol service at St. Paul's Cathedral, Christmas dinner with the gang, then going to see Monty and Catherine perform at another local pub. While in the cab driving to Alisha's on the opposite of the road I was scared several times thinking we were about to crash! Hopefully, I'll get used to that.

More to Come!


Monday, November 1, 2010

New post..."Eww...nationalism"

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Post...

Film screening at Carleton University Shannon Lectures...



Saturday, October 2, 2010

Where I Stand....for now

So, I'm in a philosophical mood...possibly due to the fact that I'm taking two philosophy classes at the moment. I've been musing over where I stand on the God question. Well knowing that these things are quite fluid, constructed and in constant evolution I've been musing over and re-vamping or perhaps an extending my stance as an agnostic. This has taken me a few years to get to and I'm quite sure it will change again but here it is...

I am a humanistic agnostic deist.

You may be thinking, wtf Jordan? I shall explain.

First let's get some definitions down...

Someone who neither believes or denies the existence of a God/gods/transcendent being etc.

Someone who believes there is a creative and organizational power/being in the universe. This being is not a personal god nor does it intervene in the affairs of humans. It simply created the world and keeps it running. This idea came out of the Enlightenment and was actually popular with many American founding fathers. The best analogy of this belief is that God is a clockmaker. A clockmaker builds the clock, winds it and lets tick with no other interference. The key here for us is that this Being/Force is impersonal. It takes, or possibly cannot take, any interest in human affairs ie. no prayer listening/granting, no miracles, no interjection at all such as commandments, salvation, redemption, wrath etc.

This is someone who isn't necessarily religious, but can be. Regardless of this persons belief in God etc. their focus is on human affairs and their own life. This person is primarily more concerned with the advancement and sustaining of themselves and society. A more specific definition of the humanist I'm speaking of would be a secular humanist, one who removes religious beliefs from their humanistic philosophy to life and society. Think, separation of church and state.


For quite a while the term agnostic is the title I've given myself. However, it needs to be nuanced after a class the other day when my professor corrected what I viewed as agnosticism. His definition was an agnostic who is neutral, or does not have an opinion as to whether or not there is a God. I knew instantly that this general definition no longer applied to me and needed to be nuanced.

I do have an opinion, however. My agnosticism is based on the idea that there is ample evidence to argue both for and against the existence of God(s) But we, as humans, have not the capacity or ability to answer this question definitively.  Therefore, without enough proof to say either yae or nay I cannot fall strongly on either side. This is my agnosticism.

However, I do vehemently reject the notion that there is a personal God. This is where the deism comes in. I shall use the most obvious example of why I believe there must be some sort of working force, evolution. It seems nonsensical to me to suppose that the process of evolution didn't start somewhere, somehow. This, for me, is based on probability. The rules and the patterns of the universe from which evolution is based are indeed mathematical in nature, most obviously with probability and physics. Bringing in agnosticism again, I simply cannot claim for sure that some force did not put those rules and patterns into motion. I don't believe for one second that a being created this for the pleasure and enjoyment of either it or human kind. If there is such a creator force humankind has personified it and created it in OUR image, not the other way around. The evolutionary history of religion bares witness to this personification rule. This is my deism.

Thus, with the ideas that we cannot prove or disprove the idea of a transcendent force and with the belief that such a force, if its exists, is most certainly not a personal one but rather a deistic distant administrator (the clockmaker or the auto pilot) our focus must then be humanistic. My humanism lies in the idea that this being/force is indeed impersonal and any personification of it is the work of humankind based upon our innate (probably evolutionary) spiritual needs. Indeed, for some reason evolution has not seen fit to rid our species of the need for spirituality, and I believe this is key. I do not reject religion, I reject it as transcendent and see it rather as earthly, as human, as humanistic. My view is that we, humankind, are responsible and in charge our own personal and societal destinies. While not denying the need for the emotional and mental advantages of personal religions these can and are found among earthly things. However, we must stop comparing our earthly spiritualism to a transcendent one. Indeed, a fantasy is always much more sweet than the truth. However, the truth doesn't have to be bad. This is a matter of perspective. I find my own spirituality in a number of ways in things earthly, in things human, in things that are indeed temporal. Just because something is temporal does not make it inferior. This is my humanism.

You ask for meaning in life? Our meaning in natural, rooted in evolution and the rules and patterns of the universe. Our evolutionary meaning is the continuance of our species and looking to God for help will not, and has not, solved our earthly problems. I urge to, as Dan Dennett writes, to break the spell. Find your own spirituality and put it to work in your life and the lives of others.

I am a humanistic agnostic deist...for now.

JK right away I found this. Random eh? It pretty much explains where I stand except for the humanistic part. Supposedly I could fit somewhere in the area of an agnostic thesist and an agnostic creationist. Truly, labels mean nothing and cannot ever encompass the complexity of the human life and thoughts.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Crux of Social History

Old news (response to Who Killed Canadian History?) and well understood ideas but as I've finally gotten around to reading a piece that I ignored in a second year history course (sorry Dr. McDowell, I owe you one.) but I was re-introduced to it last week. It's a passage from A.B. Mckillop's response to a Jack Granastein book, "Who Killed Canadian History? (1998). Mckillop's response was titled, "Who Killed Canadian History? A View from the Trenches" (Canadian Historical Review, 80.2, 1999). As a student in his first years of understanding social and post modernist history, and forming reasoning as to why he studies and writes history, this passage articulated what has been solidifying in my mind for the last couple years. Mckillop is responding to Granastein's lament that in the absence of Canadian history being written on the political and social progress of the nation (ie. accomplishments and positive progress that tell the story of Canada's growth as a nation) historical writing has focused on specific aspects of specific groups in Canadian history that oft times don't reflect a very positive view of our past as the oppression of these groups comes to light.

"It was Canada's social historians, as much as its political historians, who rose to the challenge to see Canada anew. In their work they attempted to respond to the needs of long-neglected social groups to recover their own history and to understand why they had been, and continued to be, disempowered. To give them voice, to let the dead once again speak, it was necessary for historians to understand the particularities of past social experience.(f.66) The price they paid -- and it has been a steep one -- was the end of any pretension that a single narrative voice, based on power exercised from above, could tell the one story of Canada's true past, and do so in a palliative manner. For there was no one story, and Canadian history has involved pain as well as progress. In this respect, Canadian social historians understand what Granatstein apparently does not: that in order for Canadians to take the full measure of what it means to be Canadian, they must be made conscious of all aspects of their shared past. In this sense, there are no subdisciplinary hierarchies of historical significance. Citizenship entails the understanding of what it means to be weak as well to be powerful; it involves healing as much as it does pride."

Jordan Kerr

Monday, September 27, 2010

Archiving Poem (ya, ya I did...)

Thought of a poem while archiving. Enjoy my awful awful poetry :)

These are more than just papers,
Dull ink and dead wood.
These are life, knowledge & effort,
Hope, joy, love and faith.
These papers are human,
A life bound in files.
These papers are living,
E'en as time expires.

Jordan Kerr

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New post - Queer Ottawa #2 at...

Jordan Kerr

The LSR and some much needed optimism...

The League for Social Reconstruction (LSR) was a socialist think tank that existed in Canada between 1931 and 1942. Though incredibly idealistic their philosophy of society and human nature is nonetheless inspiring and brought out in me some much needed optimism. Some analysis and reflection on LSR philosophy is given in Michiel Horn's "The League for Social Reconstruction: Intellectual Origins of the Democratic Left in Canada 1930-1942." (University of Toronto Press, 1980):

"They believe that man is essentially co-operative rather than competitive; they have faith in his ultimate rationality and goodness."...At one point they write that the planned economy 'must invite allegiance' of every educated individual 'who has, in addition, a sense of social justice and has not soured in his hopes of human nature.'...Adjust the social and economic environment, and the human material will not show itself wanting." ...Sceptics will entertain the suspicion that the LSR's hopes rested on far too kindly a view of human nature...There will perhaps always be sceptics who believe such optimism to be foolish and mistaken, possibly even pernicious. The sceptics may be right. All the same, it is churlish to speak ill of those who would think well of us, who in any case think better of us than we believe ourselves to be." pp. 96-98

To end, in our increasingly secular and globalized world perhaps it would be helpful to reflect on this poem by Frank Scott, a member of the LSR, concerning this optimism.

The world is my country
The human race is my race
The spirit of man is my God
The future of man is my heaven
p. 98
Jordan Kerr

Saturday, September 25, 2010


I'm re-reading one of my favourite books for an essay, "The League for Social Reconstruction: Intellectual Origins of the Democratic Left in Canada 1930-1942." by Michiel Horn (University of Toronto Press, 1980). Just thought I would share.


Queer Ottawa #1

This is old but I forgot to post it. The first post in a series on Queer Ottawa history can be found here.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Remarks on the Occasion of the Unveiling of the Statue of L.B. Pearson on Parliament Hill...

I was recently given a copy of the remarks made Lester B. Pearon's late son Geoffrey (he's GAHP in the top right corner) on the unveiling of his fathers statue on Parliament Hill in 1990. Geoffrey Pearson wrote "Seize the Day : Lester B. Pearson and crisis diplomacy" (Carleton University Press, 1993) which traces his father's role as Secretary of State for External Affairs and was working through a book on LBP as prime minister before he passed away in 2008. I do believe (though I'd have to check to confirm) that he assisted in LBP's memoirs and a biography written on the former Prime Minister. Geoffrey Pearson led a distinguished diplomatic and public service career,with several ambassadorial positions, including to the USSR from 1980-1983.

Anyway, here's a photograph of the remarks. I thought they were worth sharing.

Jordan Kerr

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy...

School is about two weeks in and I'm swamped! The work hit me like a tidal wave and as such I haven't had time to post here. I do post on Monday's on Christoper Moore's History News. I have a few ideas for posts here just not the time to realize them!

I hope everyone's settling into Autumn nicely!


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Justin Trudeau Eulogy of P.E. Trudeau...

This still gets to me when I watch it. Perhaps from this it can be gleaned that Justin has more of a political future than what many have assumed.

random uni student

New post...

'Queering Ottawa's History' at Christopher Moore's History News

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Curing Gays Isn't Charity..."

With my various posts on Tommy Douglas and queer history you'd be correct to assume that I sit somewhere on the left side of the political spectrum. However, I don't want to make this blog too directly political, aside from the occasional comment on less sensitive issues. So, I won't comment on these two links from (what I believe is) a leading Canadian LGBT blog, "Slap Upside the Head". and you let take from them what you will.

"Curing" Gays Isn't Charity
Slap Into Action: "Curing" Gays Isn't Charity

The blog was found via this post from Hill Queeries, the political blog from the LGBT newspaper Xtra!

random uni student

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

National Post on Tommy Douglas and...Jack Bauer?...worst article ever!

In connection to my last post, I happened to glance at the National Post today in a corner store and noticed there was an article on the soon-to-be unveiled Tommy Douglas statue. When I got home I looked up the paper online (because...really, who actually buys the paper anymore?) and found a candidate for the worst newspaper article of the year! On the front page of the Post (yes, you read that right, the front page) with two huge pictures of Tommy Douglas and Keifer Sutherland is a critique of current political issues from the perspective of....wait for it...Jack Bauer, the fictional Fox TV character of "24". Sure, I can see doing an article on what Keifer thinks about the issues, showing the evolution of the family and differences time has made but honestly, what the hell does Jack Bauer have to do with the perspectives of Tommy Douglas or current Canadian political issues for that matter!

Sure, the article is cheeky and I'm not saying it doesn't have a place in the paper or is useless but honestly, does it really deserve to be front page news and be the only article on the Douglas statue? Seems demeaning to me...but maybe it's supposed to the National Post is a rather conservative paper. I still would have expected more respect even from a conservative paper. Hopefully they'll have a more tasteful article on Friday on the unveiling...but I'm going to assume we can read about it on page c-12.

I know it's only a comment article and not a news article...but it's still useless and rather inappropriate. In the Post's weak defense I will note that they do mention Douglas as a "Canadian political icon".

Be annoyed!

random uni student

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tommy Douglas statue...Tommy says nay!

So, CBC tells me (thanks to my partner for passing on the Tweet!) that a statue of Tommy Douglas will be unveiled in Weyburn Sask. (what can be considered his home town and his constituency as Premier) by his grandson Keifer Sutherland, best known for his role in Fox TV's series '24'. It seems that acting runs in the family as he's the son of Shirley Douglas and Donald Sutherland and Tommy himself was an actor in his early years I believe).

I love the idea of a Douglas statue but, while it's placement in Weyburn is fitting and appropriate, as a central Canadian federalist I'd prefer it on Parliament Hill! But, I don't think Tommy would be too wild about the statue and as soon as I find my source I can tell you why! ( have left the book in a friends car).

Going on without my source, my feeling is that Tommy would have thought of himself as part of a movement, not the head of a party. His work was that of the movement and not, necessarily, for political or personal gain. To him, I believe, the movement, the ideals and the successes should be recognized, not the leaders. But, that's just my feeling.

More to come!

random uni student

Monday, September 6, 2010

Guest blogging...

Hi Everyone,

For the upcoming school year I've been accepted as a guest blogger at Christopher Moore's History News. I'll try to keep posting regularly at his blog and my own.


Jordan Kerr

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ontario History Textbooks

Came across this historical survey of Ontario history textbooks in the 20th century at by Larry A. Glassford of the University of Windsor:

Citizenship Literacy and National Self-identity: The Historical Impact of Curriculum and Textbooks in Shaping the Character of Ontario 

A quick search revealed that Glassford has written several items on Ontario education history.

It's a fairly compact article and draws conclusions about the power of schools for political socialization. I enjoyed it but couldn't help but thinking, 'my god, it was boring enough reading these textbooks in public school and high school, how did this man survive reading through them all and writing about them without reverting to some sort of bored and resentful adolescent state?'

For those of you who went to Ontario elementary or high school I'm sure the narratives for the mid and late 20th century texts will sound painfully familiar and dredge up memories of awful boredom as you force-read passages from these texts whilst sitting in blandly painted classrooms...enjoy!

random uni student

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ash cloud and dry conditions reveals ancient crop marks in the UK....neat

Neat, the recent ash could that grounded planes across the globe and dry summer conditions in Britain coincided and have revealed unknown ancient archaeological sites in the UK via aerial reconnaissance...see the links below...


random uni student

Great blog post from Andrew Smith..."How the Iraq War Weakened the USA: Lessons for Canada"

Check out this recent article in Andrew Smith's blog. Though it seems a but shallow in places, which I believe is just due to the nature of blogs, it's an excellent article that makes some very poignant connections. Something to muse on.

random uni student

Technology killed the history star? cont.

In connection to an earlier post, here's a blog post from a British rail way historian I found that provides more anecdotal info on the subject of the affects of technology on historical research.


random uni student

Googling the Future

There is a plethora of debate and writing on Google but here's a few sources that deal with Google in its modern and possible future impacts and contexts...

An interesting article on Google and its future impacts from the NY Times by William Gibson, the author of the forthcoming novel “Zero History.”. Too much info and quotations there for me to not write a 3 page blog post so I'll just post the article and welcome any discussion via the Comments on specific points.

Here's another good article on Google in relation to the above by Daniel J. Solove in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The later article is from a larger collection of articles from various experts and disciplines from the Chronicle of Higher Education entitled,

"What's the Big Idea? For the 10th-anniversary issue of The Chronicle Review, we asked scholars and illustrators to answer this question: What will be the defining idea of the coming decade, and why?"


random uni student

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stonewall Uprising movie at the Mayfair

For those of you in Ottawa this weekend, and of course if interested, I just heard that a movie Stonewall Uprising about the, you guessed it, the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 will be playing at the Mayfair Theatre on Bank St. this weekend. The Stonewall riots are widely thought to have been the catalyst to the gay liberation movement.


random uni student

Where for art thou census debate?

Now, I know this is getting to be old news and all the points have been masticated quite thoroughly in the media and blogs but it's still on my mind. To be honest, I wish it was still national news. Unfortunately, the mainstream seems to have thrown in the towel in the face of the Conservative bulwark on the census.

I came across this and thought it was worth sharing. Paul Wells in Macleans makes a point about the Tories scrapping the mandatory long form census that I hadn't considered, one based in government accountability:

"Unmooring the census from its basis in statistical reliability is a wicked thing to do because it takes away one of the few tools we have for measuring the effectiveness of the things governments do...If you want the evaluation of government action to be a public good, available to us all, you need publicly available data of a high order, so that anyone with a decent grasp of statistics can measure results against goals...citizens will have fewer independent benchmarks against which to judge any of this."

I won't make any comments on it, as I am in no way an expert on the subject or even consider myself informed on it, and really, the quotation speaks for itself.


random uni student

PS. So, I posted this and then immediately saw this...I guess it's not quite as dead as I thought it was....may bad! And then I found this, also from Macleans - a list of for and against the scrapping of the long form census.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

JKF in Canada - 1961

For no particular reason other than that I find them neat, here's some clips of the arrival and speech of Pres. John Kennedy to Parliament in 1961.

Speech to Parliament - May 18, 1961

Arrival on Parliament Hill (reminds one of Obama's reception on the Hill?)

For some reason the Arrival on the Hill link goes to the Obama reception link, but if you click either link just below the Obama clip you'll find JKF's visit clip - it's #17 in the sideways scrolling list.


random uni student

Monday, August 23, 2010

In search of Canadian cuisine...

What food can be connected to a Canadian identity as authentically Canadian? What is the Canadian national dish? What can be considered specifically and uniquely Canadian cuisine?

Recently in a lecture we discussed how Chinese restaurant menus were the first in Canada to specifically differentiate between Canadian food and 'other' food. Think about it, what general Chinese food restaurant sign or menu doesn't say Chinese AND Canadian food. Of course, even the food labeled as Chinese food can really be considered Canadian food but such restaurants during the 20th century were the first to define what constituted Canadian cuisine in contrast to the food of a foreign, 'other', culture.

A recent CBC program, The Main Ingredient, discusses Chinese restaurants in Canadian cuisine history as well as engaging in a debate of what is truly Canadian national cuisine.

To top it off,  ever want to know about when pizza become popular in Canada? Check out the CBC Archives clip and choose Who's The Happiest Homemaker?


random uni student

Monday, August 16, 2010

Log Driver's Waltz as nostalgia?

For an exam I was re-introduced to The Log Driver's Waltz, an old NFB Vingnette from 1979. For me it brings back some childhood memories of seeing it on tv and is just a pleasant piece of historic Canadiana, regardless of its nostalgic aspects.

I made a surface connection of this production of this film as a nostalgic and romantic expression of the log driving industry in Canada during a time when it was fading out of the industry. Perhaps connected to the same nostalgia that placed a log driving image on the the back of the 1970's to 1980's Canadian One dollar bill?

Would anyone with more expertise on the history of the log driving industry in Canada be able to say yae or naye to this observation/connection?


random uni student

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nature, Humanity and History

Discussed this well known idea in class and came across it in an article. I thought it might be a nice one to share. It is, as mentioned, a well known thought as often seen in nature and climate change television documentaries. It might be comforting to note then, that the idea impacts history as an academic discipline. That was a comfort to me. Also, I just like how this is worded.

"In recent years, many environmental historians have argued that a perceptual division between ideals of "nature" and ideals of "culture" is at the root of many current environmental problems (see, e.g., William Cronon; Richard White; Neil Evernden). The notion that "nature" exists outside of and stands separate from human society and technology presents a challenge for addressing ecological problems in the twenty-first century. Not only does this dominant way of thinking mask many environmental tensions, but also it creates a sense of separation between most people's lived experiences and the environmental impact of their day-to-day activities. To conceive of "nature" as existing separately from "culture" is to deny the sense of interconnectedness that affects all forms of life on Earth. As Neil Evernden argues, "Nature is [. . .] nowhere near as independent or as 'given' as we like to suppose" (xii). For those concerned with addressing twenty-first century environmental issues, a critical re-thinking of what "nature" is and means is necessary....

Cultural production has long dictated the ways in which animals are conceived of and, ultimately, treated in Western society. From novels and fairy-tales to paintings, films, advertisements, and postcards, representations of nonhuman species continually shape the dynamics of interspecies interactions. These representations have firmly solidified the perceptual gap that exists between "nature" and "culture" in North America. In the realm of nature, such animals as bears, deer, and bighorn sheep are conceived of as "wild" and "untamed," while nonhuman animals encountered in spaces characterized by notions of "civilization" fit into very different systems of representation. In urban centres, for instance, nonhuman animals tend to be grouped into categories that label them as either "pets" or "pests," both commonly recognized as resulting from human desires, behaviours, and habits."

Cronin, Keri. "The Bears are Plentiful and Frequently Good Camera Subjects": Postcards and the Framing of Interspecies Encounters in the Canadian Rockies." Mosaic : a Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature. Winnipeg: Dec 2006.Vol. 39, Iss. 4;  pg. 77, 16 pgs.


random uni student

Friday, July 30, 2010

Albert Kahn - Early 20th Century Colour Photographs

I was sent a daily link from Very Short List and wound up searching the Albert Kahn Museum site.

Albert Kahn, (Under 'Albert Kahn (1860-1940)' , "... realising that his era was to witness great changes, he began to build up an iconographic memory of societies, environments and lifestyles – many of them traditional – around the world. From 1909 to 1931, he commissioned photographers and film cameramen to record life in over 50 countries. The images were held in the Archive of the Planet, a collection of 180,000 metres of b/w film and more than 72,000 autochrome plates, the first industrial process for true colour photography, of which the museum now has the largest collection in the world."

I'll be taking my sweet time and gazing through as much of the collection as possible, it's absolutely fascinating and I'm not quite sure how I havn't heard of this man before.I'm sure this is probably a case of me just being out in space/unobservant and hence never encountering this collection.

In navigating the french site (Mon francais, c'est terrible!) I eventually found colour photos from Canada in the 1920's.

Always good to keep in mind that a photograph is not always an accurate representation of reality. As with paintings, photographs are the interpretation of the photographer of the scene or people in which he/she is taking a picture. With that interpretation comes the photographers message (whether intentionally or not) of class, culture, gender, etc. A photograph is often more useful in giving insight into the photographer's perception of the world than it is information on the subject.

Enjoy gazing and musing!

random uni student

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Podcast - 'Stuff You Missed in History Class'

A friend in one of my classes suggested this podcast and so far I'm in love.

Stuff You Missed in History Class


random uni student

The Mythological Card Catalog

I've heard far far too many times from my grandmother how much she enjoyed using card catalogs. My impression is that she thinks they are still used in libraries...Gram's a bit behind the times. We all get nostalgic about tools and skills no longer used, however I'm pretty sure most of us can agree that this is not one of those things. Granted, I wasn't around when card catalogs were in use, but I'm very glad I wasn't...I'm a fan of catalog search software.

random uni student

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Social Media and the Long-Form Census

A great point from ACANADEMICS blog concerning the long-form census debate...

"Perhaps census questions change every year, and perhaps I missed the census that asked more "intrusive" questions.  I can understand why some people would not want to divulge this kind of private information, but in the age of Twitter and Facebook (dont' even get me started on foursquare) it seems reasonable to suggest that the general population is okay (and by "okay" I mean "eager") to share information.  We've even had to assign an acronym (TMI) to ask people to stop.  Facebook is worth hundreds of millions of dollars because each and every one of us wants others to know where we are, what we're doing, and how we feel. "

The whole blog post can be found here.


random uni student 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Technology killed the history star?

In response to an article by Sir. Keith Thomas about his working methods as a historian. I've been sitting on this for quite some time but, honestly, I'm bored in my poli-sci class so I'm zoning out and writing this. Historians, by nature and necessity, must be organized in their work. The evolution of a historian, or in my case a history student, is in part predicated on the evolution of the processes and methods by which one assembles, organizes and tracks information. I worry, however, that the rapid change in technology (specifically software and new forms of reading ie. electronic books, online journals, excell, word, Kindle et al. etc.) may disrupt this evolutionary process by which research skills are honed in that a researcher must constantly adapt to the new technology and indeed re-invent their research techniques to fit the new technology.

That's all, don't have more time to put anymore detail into it, but perhaps it's something to muse on.


random university student

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

1891 Canadian Census Free Online for Canada Day Weekend

Gleaned from Chris Moore's blog...

"Christopher Moore's History News"

The 1891 Canadian Census is open on free of charge for the Canada Day Weekend...

1891 Census Temporarily Available for Free

I know I'll be taking advantage of this to track down the records of some family members information for posterity's sake. Perhaps my grandmother will like copies...

Happy hunting!

Random uni student

Monday, June 28, 2010

Dusty bookshelves? I think not....well....maybe.

Interesting article out of the Huffington Post on the importance of funding public libraries. Surprising stats.

Opportunity and Access: The Power of Today's Public Libraries

I worked in a library (in southern Ontario) for a few years and I can anecdotally (a word??) attest to the findings in the article. It is vitally important that public libraries provide a place where people, who may not have access to the internet or the money to buy books, are able to actively participate in our information age. I also witnessed quite often just the free public space that libraries offered (coupled with access to the internet) being used as a haven for kids and teens who had a less than ideal home life. In these cases, like teachers in a small way*, library staff become key figures and influences in some of these peoples lives. Another note on the use of the internet in libraries is by elderly people. When working at my local library I had the opportunity to teach seniors (and even sometimes middle aged people) how to use a computer and the internet. This training became vitally important in more than a few people's lives; indeed I was able to witness some heart touching connections between generations are older people actively sought to take part in the world of their kids and grandkids. To cut budgets from libraries endangers cutting a whole swath of the population out of OUR information age.*

The link was found through a daily link subscription. Library Link of the Day . It's become very useful :)


random uni student

* Most teachers fill this role far more substantially than any library staff could. I certainly don't wish to take away from the good work and influence of our teachers.
*Noted that there are other places to access free internet, such as employment offices, but these are not as numerous as libraries and often the mandate of these sites is to use internet access for job searching.

Update: Found this article as well, it fits nicely to the theme...Libraries and Librarians Are Endangered Species: What You Can Do to Help

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Turning a new's about time.

An interesting article...

"Gay-Themed Youth Literature Takes Off"

Article sent by Library Link of the Day


random uni student

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bathroom Graffiti Project

Two things:

One, lately there's been some discussion amongst people I know about the anonymity of internet and how it allows people to say what they want without fear of consequences. This same principle applies for bathroom stall graffiti and messages, which have always fascinated me - especially when conversations are carried on. There's everything from Bible quotes to racist comments and from philosophical sayings to fart jokes...there's quite a variety of thoughtful ponderings, shocking confessions,rude comments exchanges, toilet humour (pun INTENDED!)etc. Why is it that the walls of a public toilet offer us a secluded solace where we fear little to no consequences for what we write?

Two, I've often pondered how interesting it would be to undertake a project of documenting and analyzing messages and conversations that one finds on bathroom stalls and above urinals.

Well...look's like someone's already thought of the idea...

and also...


random uni student

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Help!? Book Decisions!

So, as usual I have way too many books on my to-read list and I've decided to throw a few out there and let my readers (all 4 of you I'm sure) to choose my next read for me. Please post your choice via a comment. I'll read the one with the most votes and then write a general review when I'm finished. Also, when I get it and see how dense it is I'll post choices for a timeline for me to finish it that everyone can vote on as well.

Indecisive much? I think yes.

1. Breaking the spell : religion as a natural phenomenon
Daniel C. Dennett.2006.

2.National dreams : myth, memory, and Canadian history
Daniel Francis.1997.

3.The ascent of money : a financial history of the world
Niall Ferguson.2008.

4.The Aryan Jesus : Christian theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany
Susannah Heschel.2008.

5.Private history in public : exhibition and the settings of everyday life
Tammy S. Gordon. 2010.

6.Boys in the pits : child labour in coal mines
Robert McIntosh. 2000.

7.Kiss the kids for dad, don't forget to write : the wartime letters of George Timmins, 1916-18.
edited by Y.A. Bennett. 2009.

8.Canadas of the mind : the making and unmaking of Canadian nationalisms in the twentieth century. edited by Norman Hillmer and Adam Chapnick.2007

9. The Lord for the body : religion, medicine, and Protestant faith healing in Canada, 1880-1930. James Opp. 2005.

10. Books on fire : the destruction of libraries throughout history / Lucien X. Polastron ; translated by Jon E. Graham.2007.


Random Uni Student

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tommy Douglas Docs...

Hi everyone,

Just a quick post. Here are a couple documentaries on Tommy Douglas that I enjoy. Both docs contain some great speech clips.

Tommy Douglas: Keep of the Flame - National Film Board of Canada 1986

The Premiers: Tommy Douglas -CPAC 2009?
Steps: (because for some reason the link wasn't working)
Select Program (drop down menu)
The Premiers
Tommy Douglas

CBC Archives: Tommy Douglas and the NDP - 1935-2001

Sometimes being idealistic can be a good thing...


a random uni student

Thursday, June 10, 2010

History Flickr?

Hi Everyone,

A very cool site, once again an amazing find from historian Christopher Moore's Blog...

This site seeks to gather historic photographs and super-imposes them upon modern photographs of the same locations at which the original picture was taken.

As an example of my atrocious Frenglish...this site is TRES COOL!

Christopher Moore;s blog -

Random Uni Student

Friday, June 4, 2010

Remembering the chair...

Hi everyone,

I saw today that June 2nd was the anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It reminded me of an awful blog post that I wrote in 2007 on my first blog and I thought I'd re-post it for the heck of sincerest apologies. Below is also a link to a video of the 1953 coronation ceremony...CBC archives has come through for me again!

"Now children gather round and hear a faithful tale resound, for from the lips of a historian flow, the wonder that only history can bestow. Haha, I’m a geek, ok here’s my, I’m sure long anticipated, blog on the British Coronation Chair, otherwise known as King Edward’s Chair. This is a subject that has fascinated me for quite some time and my admiration goes out to the protectors of the chair over the centuries for so carefully preserving not only a piece of British history but a piece of history that has had such an impact on Europe and the World as a whole; for upon the chair almost every English, then later British monarch have been crowned since 1308. For 700 years the royals of England have been crowned upon its seat.

The chair is made of oaken wood and originally did not have the four lions at its feet. They were added in the early 16th century (1500’s) by the Tutor dynasty and the four gold lions presently at the bottom of the chair where put in place of the originals in 1727. The space above the four lions was the former permanent home of the Stone of Scone. I will come back to speaking about the stone later on. Originally, the stone was completely enclosed by a decorated wooden panel, but over the years the panel was worn away thereby exposing the stone when it is set in place beneath the seat.

As mentioned, every monarch in England since Edward I in 1308 has been crowned upon the chair at a coronation ceremony, but there are a few exceptions. The 12 year old Edward V was proclaimed king in 1483 but his throne was quickly usurped by Richard III and Edward was placed in the Tower of London; and never seen again. He therefore was never officially coronated. That makes me want to study the War of the Roses more…it’s so hard to keep all these monarchs straight!!! There was one other monarch who was king but was never crowned; this being Edward VIII who abdicated in 1936. Both instances there were proclamations of kingship but never coronations. There are two other interesting facts that I feel would fit quite nicely in this section. The first is that in 1689 when a joint monarchy of William III (William of Orange, a Dutch royal) and Mary II was created. At the coronation ceremony a second chair was made for the Queen. Thus, in 700 years there were really only three monarchs of England who were not crowned upon King Edwards Chair. There is one more interesting bit of information, in 1653 Oliver Cromwell was proclaimed Lord Protector and the sat in King Edwards Chair for the ceremony. It should be noted though that Cromwell was not proclaimed a monarch, he did not want to be a king and was surprised even when Parliament wanted to give him power, and therefore the ceremony was not held in Wesminter Abbey, but in Westminster Hall. The ceremony had always been held in Wesminster Abbey to, I assume originally, go along with the idea of the divine right of Kings.

As a quick note Cromwell was head of the military and jointly ruled England with a Council of State and Parliament.

The Stone of Scone is surrounded by many legends. First it is said to be the stone that Jacob rested his head against "And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it" (Genesis chapter 28, verse 18). O, I’m just going to paste straight from the site here to tell you the legends behind the stone, “Legends abound concerning the Stone of Scone and tradition identifies it with the one upon which Jacob rested his head at Bethel - "And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it" (Genesis chapter 28, verse 18). The legend then says that Jacob's sons carried it to Egypt and from thence it passed to Spain with King Gathelus, son of Cecrops, the builder of Athens. About 700 BC it was said to be in Ireland, whither it was carried by the Spanish King's son Simon Brech, on his invasion of the island. There it was placed upon the sacred Hill of Tara, and called "Lia-Fail", the "fatal" stone, or "stone of destiny", for when the Irish kings were seated on it at coronations the Stone groaned aloud if the claimant was of royal race but remained silent if he was a pretender. Fergus Mor MacEirc (died 50l?), the founder of the Scottish monarchy, and one of the Blood Royal of Ireland, received it in Scotland, and Kenneth MacAlpin (d.860) finally deposited it in the monastery of Scone in Perthshire (846).” (

Now, here’s the really interesting part of the story. The original purpose of the chair was to enclose the Stone of Scone, and the stone being under the seat of the British Monarch was a symbol that England was “over” Scotland and its throne. You see, up until 1292 every Scottish king had been crowned upon the stone (and before the Scots, Irish monarchs had been crowned upon it). So, British monarchs, when crowned upon the King Edwards Chair were essentially proclaiming England’s power of Scotland and Ireland.

There is an ironic twist to this story though. Upon the stone is carved:

Ni fallat fatum, Scoti, quocunque locatum
Invenient lapidem, regnare tenentur ibidem

[If Fates go right, where'er this stone is found
The Scots shall monarchs of that realm be crowned]

Basically it says that whatever kingdom the Stone is found in that a Scot will be the ruler of that kingdom. This came true in 1603 with the crowning of James VI of Scotland (James I of England). So, the original purpose of the Stone was to show English rule over Scotland and then a Scot takes the British throne and once again puts a Scot ruler over Scotland…AND England. Isn’t that a kick in the pants?????

Oh, and for the record the Stone weighs 336 pounds and is composed of sandstone. Also, I tried to think of something funny/qwirky/clever to type here but failing to do so I will continue onto the next section.

There have been a few instances when the chair has been removed from Westminster Abbey. In WW2 the chair was moved and the Stone was placed in a vault. This was for their protection from the German bombing raids. On the last point I am not 100% sure, I just remember reading it. Please correct me if you know it to be false or would like to add information to it. In 1887 the chair didn’t actually left the Abbey but it was used for something other than a coronation. Queen Victoria used it for her Golden Jubilee services. As mentioned before the chair was moved to West Minster Hall where Oliver Cromwell was declared Lord Protector.

In 1950 the Stone was actually stolen from the chair by four Scottish nationalists and brought back to Scotland. It was retrieved again after negotiations with the nationalists and was promptly put into the vault that it was placed in during WW2 and wasn’t returned to the chair until 1952, in time for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

There is speculation that the current Stone is not the original. Some say the Scots hid the real stone and replaced it with another in anticipation of the invasion of Edward I circa. 1296. Also, there is speculation that the nationalists in 1950 didn’t give back the stone they stole, but replaced it with another one. The truth may never be known. Sometimes there is great wonder and tension when thinking about historical mysteries of such nature. Regardless, the current stone represents England’s rule over Scotland.

In 1996 the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, John Major, had the Stone returned to Scotland where it resides today in Edinburgh Castle. The Stone though was returned on the condition that it is restored to the chair when a coronation occurs in England.

Well, that’s my blog about the Coronation Chair of Britain and the Stone of Scone. I have no idea why it interests me so much. Maybe because it’s a representation of so many things, patriotism, deceit, power, honour, cruelty, pride (both good and bad), all of these things have characterized English monarchs over the centuries. These monarchs of England jointly have had perhaps the most influence on the world than the monarchs of any other nation throughout history, and for 700 years they have been crowned upon one chair, over one stone. The nation has changed much in 700 years but the Chair has remained.

Here is a link to a video clip of Queen Elizabeth II being crowned in 1953 at her coronation ceremony. There are several spots in the clip that show her on the Chair:

Ok, that’s it. Frig….I love history.

-a history student"


Random Uni Student

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Stubborn Ounces of History

A thought...though by no means a new one...

no turning point in history occurs or significant historical personality makes their impact in a vacuum. Indeed, each is necessarily supported by many intentional and unintentional acts of other people; people who seem insignificant in the shadow of the event or the historical actor.

This is, of course, a very general and simple idea, but nonetheless warrants expression. In a moment of clarity while enjoying the sunshine on my campus this thought occurred to me while I was reading. In Tom Warner's book "Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada" he writes about the evolution of gay and lesbian/feminist (closely linked during the gay liberation movement of the 1970's-1980's)in that a good number of small liberation organizations and publications were started and failed within a few years or less. These initiatives were constantly failing and yet more would be formed, fail, and more would be formed after those. Finally, in the late 1970's and onward gay liberation groups generally gained a more permanent status as circumstances changed. They would go on to have serious legislative, legal and social impacts upon Canada and Canadians. But, these impacts would not have occurred if it were not for what I'm going to label as stubborn ounces. These early groups and publications, now largely forgotten, paved the way for the stability of gay and lesbian political and social activist groups and publications that we see today. Each one added more weight to a movement which eventually would tip the scales of Canadian society. No matter how many failures the groups and publications continued to be formed...again...again...and again.

The gay and lesbian liberation movement is just one example of many that fits this historical pattern. It could easily be applied to any movement or occurrence, past or present. But perhaps I could nuance this common sense thought with a quotation from the late Tommy Douglas, former leader of the Saskatchewan and federal CCF/NDP parties between the 1940's and the 1960's...

"You say the little efforts that I make will do no good; they never will prevail to tip the hovering scale where justice hangs in balance. I don't think I ever thought they would, but I am prejudiced beyond debate in favour of my right to choose which side shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight"

The acts of many INDIVIDUALS and SMALL groups working towards a goal are the "stubborn ounces" which far outweigh the importance of the significant events or historical actors as it is these stubborn ounces that provide the weight and thus the the power to create the inertia that is inherently present in the evolution of every epoc of human society.

Every vote counts, every e-mail, every petition signature, every Fscebook status, every link passed along etc. etc. are the stubborn ounces which tip the scale of justice and social evolution.

And here's some union and civil rights songs to complement. Also a video of the farewell speech of Tommy Douglas upon his resignation as leader of the NDP in 1971...I find it inspiring :)I do wish the NDP would its roots again as a movement rather than a party, but this may impossible, and is of course terribly idealistic.

Solidarity Forever:

We Shall Overcome:

Douglas steps down:


Random Uni Student

Saturday, May 1, 2010

First Gay Rally

This is a news clip of the first gay liberation movement rally in Canada. There are several other interesting clips grouped with it in the "Gay and Lesbian Emergence: Out in Canada" section of the CBC online archives. For context see my previous blog on history as a human right. The rally took place in the same movement that gave birth to The Body Politic. A few short weeks after this rally a gay liberation group (Gays of Ottawa) was formed in the capital.

Enjoy a brief glimpse into Canada's gay liberation history:)

If you're interested in more context check out this link from the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives...

Random Uni Student

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The human right to history

While reading for an essay I came across an anthology of articles from an early Canadian gay liberation movement called The Body Politic. This was one of the very first gay liberation publications in Canada, being first published in 1971. In sum, the last gay liberation wave began in Canada in the late 1960's, moreso in the early 1970's. This movement advocated for a positive public visibility of gays and lesbians and pushed for their legislative/political, social, occupational, and legal rights.

In the introduction one section stuck out at me. It's a quotation, which to me, gives a shining example of the modern western human's need, and thus their right, to have a legitimate history. Anthropology and the study of nationalism tell us that humans naturally form into groups. These groups form identities, and each individual within that group conforms, in some aspects, to that group identity. This identity, as personal though bound to a group, is the right, the right to personally belong to the group to which ones feels most suited, or to more than one groups that ones feels suited. This can only be done if such a group has some sort of historical foundation, for a group cannot define itself in the present, or its vision for the future with an historical background by which to relatively compare its present and future against.

Gerald Hannon here explains his reasoning for contributing to The Body Politic over a number of years:

"I got hooked, I guess, on empowerment, the transformation of The Helpless Queer with no history and an unlikely future into Someone, into a group of Someones, who uncovered a history, who found heroes, who grabbed today and shook it till tomorrow fell out of its pocket and there was a place in it for us."

This individual in being part of the gay liberation visible gay identity helped to pull back the layers of society to reveal a distinctly queer history ("who uncovered a history") and how that history aided in its present identity ("grabbed today") and helped to focus upon its future ("shook it till tomorrow fell out and...there was a place in it for us").

Peronsal history, group a human right...deny it to no one.

It was once denied to Women, Canadian Japanese (only examples of many) as it was denied to Homosexuals. It has been denied in gender, race, and sexuality. Though it is not the start, NOW is the day to uncover the histories of those to who it is denied.

Maybe ask yourself, who are we denying today?

Random Uni Student

Ps. It can be a worthwhile thing for a group to understand its history, only to be ashamed of it and use that shame to redirect their role in the future to be as positive of one that's possible within their present perspectives.

pps. The quotation can be found in Flaunting it!: A Decade of Gay Journalism from The Body Politic.