DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 08/01/2013 - 09/01/2013 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lesley Hazleton

I have been reading the blog,, of Lesley Hazleton for a couple of years. She is an author who have written a lot on the Middle East, the politics, religion and sociology.  

I decided to read four of her books. I have ordered the one on Mary, the one on Jezebel, the one on the Sunni/Shia schism in Islam and he last book on the life of Muhammad.

The two biographies of the most powerful women in the Bible, the Virgin Mother and the Harlot Woman will be fascinating reading I am sure. I am most interested in her two book on Islam. Thanks to the Bush Administration and the American criminal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I have sought to understand better the history of the Middle East and Islam's power and influence in that area as well as it's contribution as one of the great monotheistic Faiths to the development of civilization. Our American/European centered history taught in our schools ignores much of the history of the Middle East and Asia.. This has much to teach us.

The following two TED talks by Lesley Hazleton  are wonderfully clear , delivered in her lovely voice, explaining  first the reading of the Koran and then the role of doubt in Faith. As a secular Jew, she sympathetically explains what is best in a religion, which so many religious zealot fail to do.

In this TED talk Lesley Hazleton discusses the role of doubt in Faith using the encounter of Muhammad with the divine revelation and his response to it  fear and terror. Only doubt explained it.  It made me think right away of the Numinous experience that points to the idea  of the Holy by Rudolf Otto,  :mysterium, temendum et fascinans. (the mystery that is both terrifying and fascinating).

A couple of things fascinate me. The first is the role of women in Islam.  Muhammad had only four daughters and no male heirs that survived. He also had a long and devoted marriage to his first wife, who was an older woman, widowed, who actually asked him to marry her.  The Prophet has several wives after his first wife died. None of them bore him children. None of them overshadowed his first wife. Islam from its beginning has a lot to say about women. The Prophet held them in high regards and Islam recognized them as being equal to men.  Why then to we see Islam as a faith that oppresses women.?  There certainly is within the best of Islam an honoured and equal place for women.  I was interested to learn the Mary is held in high regard in Islam, perhaps even higher than she is in Christianity.  She is after all recognized is the mother of the great earlier prophet, Jesus.

It also interest me that Arabic was the language of Islam from the beginning.  A devout Muslim views Arabic as the language of God. This adds an additional sacredness to the text of the Koran.  The Koran is to Muslims what Jesus, the Christ is to Christianity, the direct link to God.

I recently watched a wonderful PBS program on the Life of Muhammad. Keep an eye out for it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Sign of Summer's Ending. . .The Ex

The Ex begins today for it's two week run. The Ex is the Canadian National Exhibition. It is an annual event in Toronto which draws people to the city from all over the Province and beyond.  It is an institution in Toronto going on almost as long as Canada has been a country. This is it's 135th year.

The Exhibition is a combination of an agricultural fair, trade show, carnival, with countless other entertainments such as a stage show, air show, water shows and my favourite the Lumber Jack Show.

When I was young it was the great exciting event of the summer. Just when the summer was getting boring and we had exhausted our visits to the cottage vacation along came the Ex..  

I have wonderful memories of going to the Ex. At the end of the school year they handed out free admission passes at school.. One of the newspapers ran coupons you could clip and use toward rides at the midway.
One could go to the Ex several times and have a good time for very little money.  My father did not make very much money in the 50's. He was an electrician and back then they made under $100 a week. In fact, for a short period of time my father was a teacher at the Institute of Trades  where he taught electricians for $50 a week. He loved this job and one year had a demonstration class in the Government of Ontario building at the Ex, but they would not give the teachers a raise to he quite saying he was not handicapped like so many of the other teachers and he could go back to his trade and make $90 a week.  We lived modestly but comfortably on that. There were three children in our home and my mother was a stay at home mother. It is a time long past. Not many families these days can buy a house and raise a family on the strength of one person working.  As I was saying, the Ex was quite inexpensive in the 50's. With free admission and rides on the midway subsidized with coupons from the paper, one had to spend little money. There were lots of free thing to do: wandering through the building and seeing the exhibits, (flower show, automotive building, good housekeeping building, government building, and the food building.) Everywhere you were given free information and in the Food building if you were willing to line up you could eat by getting the free tastings  of food products.  Many manufacturers gave out free samples of their products. I particularly remember fondly all the free chocolate bars.  We came away with bags of stuff. Not only literature and food samples but also such things a covers we could fold and cover our text books at school. which was commonly done back then to protect the books. It was a thrifty culture with adults who had grown up in the Depression.

I was never a big fan of the Midway.  I did not like the rides. Frankly, I do not like to be frightened. There were one or two I would go on such as Crack the Whip and the adult faster Merry go Round. These were excitement enough for me.  I refused to go on the Flyer (the ancient  wooden roller coaster) which by today's standard is very modest. Years later I let my son talk me into going on it and as soon as it started to climb the  high spot you fell from I knew I did not want to be on this ride.  At 9 he had a wonderful time and a screamed my head off. Never again! 

 I did like the "Freak Show" in the midway, which I am a little ashamed to admit today.  It became socially unacceptable eventually. I was fascinated by it and the strange things it showed and claimed.

   I wandered by the games of chance but never tried to play any of them. I learned by lesson years before when I lost my total fortune of $5 at the carnival in our town trying to win some crummy prize. (I previously wrote about this sad lesson). No only do I not play games of skill and chance I have never purchases a lottery ticket of bet on anything to this day. 

The Exhibition was always a place with lots of food vendors and the smells of all the varieties of food.  We did not spend much on this. We may  have gotten a cone of fries or even a Shopsy's hot dog, as a special treat  (so much better than those we got at the grocery store). But I always got an ice cream sandwich. Remember when  ice cream came in brick form.? One could slice off a 3/4 inch slice at the end and put it between two warm waffles.  What a treat.  When it came to food we were cheap. We brought our own. My mother made up a picnic lunch. She froze the sandwiches and wrapped them in newspaper. They were thawed out by the time we had lunch usually by the band shell or where we had a view of the lake. We always bought a large cone of  an orange drink to go with the lunch, which our whole family shared.

We often split up and went separately to what interested us the most. We would always agree to a time and place to meet up afterwards. The place was the Fountain. We soon learned as kids the basic layout of the grounds and could always find our way to the fountain. For me, I enjoyed the agricultural exhibits in the rambling Coliseum. It was largely a building designed for livestock. Here you would see and touch farm animals up close You could sit and watch them judged and exhibited in various ways.  You could also watch the care and grooming of them to put them on show.  The building also a lots of places where small animals were exhibited  and judged  such as rabbits and ducks and chickens.  Also there was lots of farm produce and preserved  good and crafts that were judged.  And it was in this building that there was always a very large sculpture made of butter. One year it was a full sized dairy cow.  For farm families from all over Ontario, this must have been a great outing to come to the large city and show off the products from their farms as well as share in the excitement of the rest of the Exhibition.  When I was old enough to go to the Ex without the rest of the family I would only spend my time in the Coliseum. 

My mother was a terrific sport when it came to the Exhibition. I think she enjoyed it as much as we did. Or course she went to it as a child as well as a parent. I am sure it held special memories for her. One year I remember she agreed to take my brother and a boy around the corner, Percy Harcourt to the Ex. They left very early and were there when the gates opened. The spend the whole day and did not get home until after the fireworks display at Midnight.   What a good sport my mother was that day.

One could always find a way to rest at the Ex. We used to go to the Grandstand show in the afternoon in order to be able to sit down and rest after a morning of wandering about.  There was also always a water show down by the lake where you could sit and watch the events on the water. And there was the band shell where there we chairs and performances throughout the day. One place I like was at the far West end of the grounds just beyond the Government of Ontario building were my father had his booth of electrician students. It was a baseball park where there seemed to be games throughout the day. One could sit in the bleachers there for a rest.  If one did not find some restful time, one would soon be exhausted at the Ex with its noise and activities and crowds in the summer heat.

Years later when I went to the Ex with Parker, it was much the same but a lot more expensive. I was taken aback as to how much it was just to get in. And the free handouts of food were no longer free. Chocolate bars I remember getting for free were now being sold. There seems to have been a cultural generational change. I have not been back since but from what I have read the Exhibition is now a lot different. Many of the buildings I remember have been replaced. And worst of all the agricultural part of it has been much reduced.  There is even talk about locating a casino resort on the Exhibition grounds. 

 I am not sure I would like to visit the Ex again. I prefer to keep my memories in tact. It was a great part of by childhood summer memories for at least a decade. that special timeless decade.

Prince's Gates, 1920. This is the main entrance to the Ex which I never used. I remember entering the grounds by the special streetcar loop, or the Dufferin Gates to the North or more recently the Go Train stop.

This is the midway in 1930 when my mother was 13 and I am sure she and my father were enjoying the Ex that year.

This is the Midway in 1960, perhaps the last time I went as a child. 

This picture of the Central Stroll shows the Fountain in the background. Always the most convenient place to meet up with people

This is the entrance to the Pure Food building as I remember it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Butter Tarts, Yummy!

I recently read an article on butter tart summer festivals.   I did not know there were such summer festivals to the iconic Canadian sweet treat. There is one in the Muskoka cottage district half way to Toronto from here.

Oh, how I miss my mother's butter tarts. She made wonderful ones because she made wonderful pastry, which makes all the difference between the ordinary and extraordinary tart.  The photo below reminded me  of how my mother's tarts looked.


Butter tarts are  Canadian desserts.  Usually, American friends visiting us have never heard of them of had one. After having some, even the run of the mill ones sold in stores, they end up taking some home with them to the US.

The origin of the butter tart is not certain. Several origins are looked. I think it is nice there is both British and a French possible origin.  It may originate with the Scottish Ecclefechan tart or the French tarte à la frangipane. It may date back to the 16th century.  It certainly has become a widely enjoyed pastry treat in Canada along with other pastry treats more regionally identifiable, Nanaimo bars and beavertails.

In looking up a little more information about the butter tart I fond this article on a contest a few years ago, at Riverside Public School in my home town of Port Credit.  I remember this school well down in the village by the river, for three years, (grades 7,8,9) I took dancing lessons there with many of the young people from different school. It was here that I learned the basics of many dances, ballroom and round dances. I also learned who to politely ask a girl to dance and afterwards to thank her and escort her off the floors. I think the teaching of manner was part of the motivation for the adults that organizes these lessons.  They certainly came in handy in making all of us more comfortable with dances and partners in our teen age years.  It was nice to see that small school was still being innovated with having students make butter tarts.

I have never made butter tarts myself.  I have generally shied away from making pastry. I know it is more an art than a science. I would hate to do it badly and not up to my mother's standard.  Maybe it is time to get over this and try to make some butter tarts, maybe even a blueberry pie?

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Happy Birthday, Parker

8/8/69,  the most memorable day of my life. My son, Parker, was born.  Yes, I was unable to go to Woodstock, but it was worth it.

We were living in Roxbury, Ma.  It was a exciting day with early morning contractions seeing us off to the hospital in Cambridge. Both Shaun (Parker's mother) the star performer on this day and I, as a bit player, were calm, which is  the way we are.  I remember our friend,  Johnny Frazier, who lived with us the most excited one.  Johnny was an African American from Jackson, Mississippi who was a fellow student at seminary with my.  He was a most excitable personality in sharp contrast to Shaun and myself.

As these things go it was a rather un-dramatic event.  Having taken lamaze classes, Shaun and  I were somewhat prepared to take part in the delivery.  I certainly was better prepared that the student nurse, who seemed bewildered. With relative ease Shaun delivered a 9 pound, 2 oz, baby.  Rather big it seems.   Two days later we took him home . Shaun, was only 2 pounds over her normal weight. It seems she was made to have babies. As things turned out Parker was to be her one and only.

Parker and his new best friend

"This magic moment
So different and so new
Was like any other
Until I met you
And then it happened
It took me by surprise
I knew that you felt it too
I could see it by the look in your eyes"

1969 song  "This Magic Moment"

For a few years, there were three of us.  Shaun and I took Parker everywhere with us. Here she is with Parker on top of Mount Washington, New Hampshire.  This traditional family life did not last long as Shaun decided she wanted something else in life which did not include being a wife and mother. She moved on and Parker and I  carried on as a family, A single father with a young child was a rare sight in those days.  I tried hard to be the best "mother" I could be.  I certainly did not want people to think I was one of those weekend father.  As it turned out our life too went on in a direction I did not anticipate.  Parker was the center of my life and what joy I have had  over the years has been as a result of him and his growing up.

Parker was not always a little devil. In fact, he was a very easy child to raise. This costume my mother made and for a few years it was also used by my sisters boys.

1969 was an interesting year.  It was a culturally a watershed year. I also already mentioned Woodstock, which took place a week after Parker was born.  Was this the last hurrah of the hippie generation. It was also the year of the Beatles last public performance.  The 60's were definitely coming to and end. A new era was beginning. Astronauts landed on the moon. The Non-Proliferation Treaty was signed by many counties including the US and the USSR. There was the Stonewall Riot in New York that was the beginning of the struggle for gay rights. The first message was sent over ARPANET, the forerunner of the INTERNET,  It also was the end of the cultural revolution in China.  I am sure there were more but these event, looking back, were the beginning of shaping our World today.

Year later Bryan Adams sang a tribute to the "Summer of 69"

I have my own reason to cherish the summer of '69.   Happy Birthday, son. Your birth was a precious gift to your mother and I.   We are very proud and satisfied at how your life has unfolded.  In our own way we tried our best and you have rewarded us as parents.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Moose Dropped By

Last week I had some visitors at the house.  Three moose stepped out of the bush and grazed for a while on the small field in front of my house.  What a treat.  It is always a wonderful surprise to see these interesting beasts in the wild and up close. There are a lot around here and if you are travelling a bush road in the early morning or evening you can often spot them.  Of course, if you are camping on the vast area of crown land of forest, lakes and rivers, you are in their home territory and they are often seen. They are only seen alone or in small family groups. The male spend most of their time alone. A female may have a calf or two with here. These three are a female with two year old calves.  I have been watching for a return visit but so far no luck.

(click on photo to enlarge)