Sunday, 27 November 2016

Sunday November 27, 2016 Cohen's Final Waltz

On November 7th, the great Canadian musician Leonard Cohen passed away at the age of 82. Fans all across the world responded with broken hearts at the announcement of his passing. Cohen will fondly be remembered for his poetic lyrics that touched on many different themes, notably on love and romance, pain and loneliness, redemption and spirituality. What made Cohen such a versatile lyricist was his ability to combine opposing themes into a single ballad. This contrast can be famously observed on one of his greatest hits, “Hallelujah”:
  Your faith was strong but you needed proof,
  You saw her bathing on the roof,
  Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you…

This duality of romance and spirituality would become a highlight in Cohen’s eclectic career. “Hallelujah” was recorded for Cohen’s 1984 album, Various Positions, which brought Cohen worldwide acclaim. More so than any album, Various Positions challenges its listener to contemplate difficult subject matter.  The album opens with the haunting “Dance Me to the End of Love”, a song that can be powerfully interpreted as chronicling the fates of concentration camp prisoners. 

Cohen’s connection to the past can also be seen in his 1969 album Songs From a Room. He frequently makes references to past historical events, or even biblical stories, by evoking wartime imagery and angry deities. Cohen’s effort to conjure up the past can be heard in the “A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes”, “The Old Revolution”, and his hypnotic cover of “The Partisan” about the French resistance movements against Nazi Germany during World War II.  On the other hand, “Story of Isaac” was inspired from a parable in Genesis that accounts one man’s unwavering faith to a fear ruling God.
More so than anything, Cohen will forever be known for his poetic expressions of love and doomed relationships. The 1998 album I’m Your Man contains a number of songs to that effect. “Everybody Knows” is a song that about societal troubles that come in the way of true love. “Take this Waltz” is a seductive number about Cohen’s burning affection for a poetess who had a lasting impact on his songwriting. Cohen’s romantic and sometimes idealized view of woman can be heard on I’m Your Man, where songs like “Suzanne”, “Sisters of Mercy”, and “So Long, Marianne” express his curiosity and  longing, as well as betrayal by the women in his life. Cohen explored similar themes outside of his music. Cohen’s novel Beautiful Losers, which precedes his songwriting, follows a love triangle set during the tumultuous 60s.

Beautiful Losers is now considered a seminal piece of post-modern Canadian fiction. During the last five years of his life, Cohen’s songwriting took an equally beguiling turn as he began to examine spiritually darker themes. His 2012 album Old Ideas shows Cohen acknowledging his mortality, particularly in “Going Home” and “Show Me the Place”. Cohen’s peaceful acceptance of death can be heard on You Want It Darker (2016), a bleak but lovely summation of his life that Cohen uses to bid farewell before departure. Listen carefully to “Leaving the Table” and you can hear Cohen reconciling past grievances and indiscretions in favour of peace and tranquility. As such, the listener gets the impression that he knows this will be his final musical offering. Cohen’s acceptance of his fate displays a powerful sense of closure rarely displayed by another artist, a sentiment we would not expect from anyone other than Leonard Cohen.   

Petar Vidjen

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Sunday November 20, 2016 The book was better...

It’s not uncommon to hear people talking about books being made into films, , but have you considered books into television series? Perhaps you’ve even enjoyed some of these programs without knowing that there’s more to discover by reading the books. It can be a bit trickier finding these gems as the titles often aren’t simply the same as the book title.

For example I was enjoying watching The Expanse (a space opera with a case to be solved) when I found it seemed oddly familiar. It was only after looking it up that I discovered that the series is based on Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. The book is the first of a series of nine that are collectively share the title of the television series , but having a gap of years between reading the book and watching the show I didn’t immediately make the connection. On the other hand there are books that some of us were first introduced to as television series. For many the show Bones was the introduction to Kathy Reichs’ writing. The screenwriters even have some naming the character Temperance Brennan (Bones) writes about in her fiction after Kathy Reichs.

A popular means of naming the show is to take the main character from the book series. In these cases as long as you know the character the series will be recognizable. Two examples that immediately come to mind are Wallander and Vera. Both are British television series, the first based on Henning Mankell’s Swedish crime series and the latter based on Ann Cleeves’ novels set in Northumberland. One more thing these programs have in common is casting well known actors as their lead characters, with Detective Kurt Wallander played by Kenneth Branagh and DCI Vera Stanhope by Brenda Blethyn. There are a significant number of television series casting actors we would typically consider movie actors working on the smaller screen. I like to imagine that they enjoy the larger canvas of a series where their characters have more time to develop than in a two hour film. I hear much less frequently that "the book was better" in reference to television series than films.

Mysteries really seem to have a corner on the books to television market. We have the aforementioned examples of Bones, Wallander, and Vera; all of which use the name, or the nickname in the case of Bones, of the lead character as title and that theme continues with some of the classics. In the case of Agatha Christie’s popular mysteries the makers of the television series wanted no doubt in the viewers’ minds as whom the titles refer. Thus we have Agatha Christie’s Poirot and Agatha Christie’s Marple, rather than the single name titles of some of the other programs. With the enduring popularity of her work it’s no surprise that the producers wanted to ensure that we know we’ll be entertained by her stories.

An increasing number of epic fantasy, science fiction, horror, and even literary fiction have been adapted for televsion rather than for film as we might expect. In addition to the massively popular Game of Thrones and Walking Dead series you will also find Outlander, The Shannara Chronicles, Under the Dome, and The Book of Negroes.

Whether the books lead you to the television program or the reverse I hope you enjoy all the means of getting a great story.

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Sunday November 6th, 2016 World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project

Thunder Bay Public Library (TBPL) supports and provides access to information for those who are interested in researching World War One. Visit the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project ( to read council minutes (courtesy of City of Thunder Bay Archives), newspaper extracts, death notices, obituaries and soldiers letters for the period 1914 – 1918. These resources provide a very full and human picture of the impact of World War One on the local community. It is fascinating to learn about what was happening in the City and on the Western Front 100 years ago. 

On the Home Front, the Port Arthur City Council formed a committee with the goal of securing quarters for a battalion to be stationed in Fort William during the winter months. A letter of assurance was sent to Col. Little indicating that provisions were being made for their accommodations. Council received a letter from B.J. Roberts, Assistant Secretary of the British Red Cross regarding a Red Cross appeal. Council granted a request made by the 141st Battalion to provide light and phone services for the battalion’s mess located at 309 Dufferin St. Council authorized the purchase of $25,000 worth of British War bonds, maturing in 1921. 

The Port Arthur News Chronicle reported that recruitment continued in the Lakehead. The Canadian Army Service Corps required chauffeurs, machinists, teamsters, clerks, warehouse men, bakers, farriers, butchers, wheelers and saddlers. The 242nd Forestry Battalion sought two sawyers for immediate overseas service. The 212th American Legion Battalion also continued to recruit. 

The Chronicle also reported that Colonel Carrick came home after visiting the troops in action and described the conditions at the front and the wonderful work being done by the allies. He explored dugouts and other positions taken by the enemy and marvelled at the efficiency developed by the British in the last year. He said the Canadians were confident of ultimate victory. 

The Fort William Daily Times Journal noted that Captain Guinness, travelling throughout Canada, arrived in the Lakehead to promote the recruitment for the Royal Naval Canadian Volunteer Reserve. With speaking engagements at the Victorian Hotel and Lyceum Theatre, Guinness spoke at length of naval life and the British and Canadian need for enlistments with the naval reserve. 

On the Western Front, the Battle of Ancre Heights and the Battle of Transloy Ridges began on the Somme. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Divisions attacked Regina Trench. The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion suffered a number of casualties, including six men from Port Arthur and Fort William.

Thomas Whittaker (born England 1887) was a carpenter who enlisted in April 1915 and is remembered at Albert Communal Cemetery Extension and at the Port Arthur Collegiate Institute, Port Arthur. Norman Fleet (born England 1892) was a clerk who enlisted in September 1915 and is remembered on the Vimy Memorial. 

Charles Teddiman (born England 1897) was a teamster who enlisted in March 1916 and is remembered on the Vimy Memorial and at St Paul’s United Church, Port Arthur. 
Harry Gray (born England 1887) was a butcher who enlisted in May 1915. He received a severe wound to the head and left leg in June 1916. He died of his wounds at No. 10 General Hospital and is remembered at St Sever Cemetery, Rouen. 

Thomas Ringrose (born England 1889) was a teamster who enlisted in September 1915 and is remembered at the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, Manor Park and at St Paul’s United Church, Port Arthur.  James Deagle (born Port Arthur 1883) was a teamster who enlisted in March 1915 and is remembered at Maroeuil British Cemetery and at St Andrews Roman Catholic Church, Thunder Bay.

If you have any information, family history, anecdotes, stories, photographs, diaries or artifacts relating to World War One, we would like to hear from you; please feel free to send an email to

John Pateman