Tag Archives: Canada

A Canada Day Like No Other

A canadian flag flying with mountains and pine forests in the background. I remember a Canada Day spent on a rooftop party hosted by a friend of a friend. The view was spectacular.

I remember a Canada Day when I felt asleep early only to be awoken by fireworks being set off nearby.

I remember a Canada Day where I took a long nap and relished that precious day off from work after several big changes there.

I remember a Canada Day that commemorated my country’s 150th birthday. It was my favourite one so far. There were massive celebrations everywhere. I spent hours listening to the live music, soaking up the happy energy of the crowds, and eating delicious treats like beaver tails (that is, the pastry and not the rodent) and seasoned french fries. That particular celebration lasted for several days instead of only one.

This Canada Day can’t be like the others for reasons all of us already know far too well.

Our government is setting up virtual celebrations for everyone so we can share joy, not germs. I hope there will be some good music to listen to and a fireworks display if possible. And I reserve the right to get a Beaver Tail later on this summer once the Canada Day lines for it are long gone.

It’s tricky enough to predict next week or next month, so who knows what will or won’t be possible next year depending on if there’s a vaccine for Covid-19 by that point. What I do know is that this year is going to be a unique one regardless of what happens in the future.

My plan is to pay attention and remember as much as I possibly can about the similarities and differences between 2020 and the years that came before it. Just like I always have a million questions about what it was like to live through any number of historical events that still remain in living memory, I suspect that future generations will have the same questions for us.

May all of their questions be answered one day. In the meantime, Happy Canada Day to all of my fellow Canadians! I hope we all find new, creative ways to enjoy this holiday this year.

Hopeful Science Fiction: Skin City

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Earlier this year I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago. This is the eighth story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them.

Skin City

Kelly Robson’s Skin City was about a street performer named Kass who got into trouble after falling for a radical privacy devotee.

The futuristic world Kass lives in is set about 80 years in the future in a time when climate change has become strong enough to seriously damage cities. Toronto and any other city that wished to survive had long since erected domes over themselves to keep violent, seasonal storms from flattening their historic buildings.

woman wearing virtual reality goggles
They might have looked something like this but larger.

This naturally meant that humans were crammed into much smaller spaces than many folks know in 2020.

To compensate for constantly being surrounded by strangers, some wealthy people in this universe have decided to wear a sort of electronic helmet over their head when they leave home that digitally erase other people in their line of sight and hide the owner’s facial expressions from strangers, too.

The reason why people who wore visors would want to hide their facial expressions is something best discovered by new readers for themselves. It was explained thoroughly and satisfactorily.

I enjoyed reading about these sociological and technological changes. They seemed like things that could easily happen to future generations given what life is like in 2020. I’ve known some people who gave up on social media for privacy reasons and many others who are painstakingly careful about what they post there.

Given the right technology, I can see a lot of people opting out of being seen by others, especially if they’re living in a cramped city that no longer has the resources to give people much personal space at all.

As for Kass? She wasn’t one of those folks who were wealthy enough to afford a status symbol like that by any means. Her income barely covered the necessities, and she definitely wasn’t someone who was thought of highly by the authorities. In fact, when the audience first met her she was in jail and looking at the possibility of spending the rest of her life there.  That’s the sort of detail that will keep me reading for sure!

The ending was well done, too. I would have liked to see more foreshadowing done for it so that readers would have a hint of what was to come when the earlier scenes continued to grow bleaker, but I enjoyed the twist when it was finally revealed. Honestly, it was the only logical outcome of everything that had been established about Kass and her society earlier on.

Now I know you’re all wondering how a story about a character who was incarcerated and deeply in love with someone who ordinarily would never interact with her could possibly be hopeful.

There was a time right before the final scene when I was tempted to stop reading. It didn’t seem possible for there to be a cheerful ending when Kass had so many things stacked against her pursuit of happiness.

The beautiful thing about the Better Worlds series is that it doesn’t require perfection from its characters, settings, or plot twists. In fact, some of the best stories in this online anthology so far have come from the most unlikely places in my opinion.

While this wasn’t my favourite story in this collection, it was a solid one.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Books Set in Ontario

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

Most people immediately think of Toronto when they hear the word Ontario. I love my city, but today I wanted to highlight the province as a whole. There are great books set in every part of it, so I have a lot to say this week!

Wenjack by Joseph Boyden and Kent Monkman book cover. Images on cover are of common Ontario wildlife like rabbits and otters.

Wenjack by Joseph Boyden and Kent Monkman

Where It’s Set: A fictionalized version of Kenora. (If you’re not familiar with our geography, think a remote corner of Northern Ontario near Woodland Caribou Provincial Park).

What It’s About: The story of Chani Wenjack, an Ojibwe boy who ran away from a  North Ontario residential school in an attempt to go home to his family. Chani was a real child, but some parts of the plot were fictionalized.

The Short-Wave Mystery (Hardy Boys, #24) by Franklin W. Dixon book cover. Image on cover is of one boy looking into a log cabin through its window while another boy crouches on the snow behind him.

The Short-Wave Mystery (Hardy Boys, #24) by Franklin W. Dixon

Where It’s Set: A fictional body of water called White Bear River near Hudson’s Bay, a real place in Northern Ontario.

What It’s About: The Hardy Boys figuring out who stole a collection of stuffed animals from an estate sale.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery book cover. Image on cover is of two lovers walking in a rose garden.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Where It’s Set: The fictional town of Deerwood, located in the Muskoka region in Central Ontario. Deerwood is based on the real city of Bala.

What It’s About: A young, single woman who was diagnosed with a fatal heart condition. Knowing that she only had about a year to live, she decided to escape her controlling family and find happiness wherever she can with the time she had left. This is my all-time favourite Montgomery novel, and it is much more cheerful than it might seem.

Whatever Happened to Mary Janeway?- A Home Child Story by Mary Pettit book cover. Image on cover is of a Victorian girl's photograph superimposed onto a black and white photo of London, Ontario

Whatever Happened to Mary Janeway?: A Home Child Story by Mary Pettit

Where It’s Set: Hamilton (southwest of Toronto).

What It’s About: This is a fictional story of a teenage girl who was sent to London, Ontario (which also southwest of Toronto) as part of the Home Child Program. She was so dissatisfied with her placement that she ran away from it!

If you’re not familiar with this bit of Canadian history, The Home Child program was a precursor to modern foster care and adoption in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Children in English orphanages were sent to Canada (and Australia) to be looked after by families there and taught the life skills and trades they’d need to know to be self-sufficient as adults. Some children were adopted into loving homes through it, but others were treated as free labour…or worse.

Cat's Eye  by Margaret Atwood book cover. Image on cover is of a hooded figure holding a glowing blue orb levitating above a bridge while snow falls on bare tree branches.

Cat’s Eye  by Margaret Atwood

Where It’s Set: Toronto

What It’s About: A controversial painter who returns home to confront her past and understand how those experiences shaped her art.

After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara book cover. Image on cover is of a hand holding a branch filled with cherry blossoms.

After the Bloom by Leslie Shimotakahara

Where It’s Set: Toronto

What It’s About: An elderly woman suffering from dementia who goes missing one day, her adult daughter’s frantic search for her, and the family secrets that are revealed along the way.

My Best Halloween Memories

Jack-o-lantern with a light burning inside of it is sitting next to a wooden calendar that says October 31Occasionally, I wander away from the usual topics on this site to share personal stories from my life. Today is one of those days.

For about the first decade of my life, my family attended harvest festivals at local churches at the end of October and observed half-price candy day on November 1. (This a very special day that I highly recommend to people from any background who enjoy sugar and keeping their family dentist in business!)

Harvest Festivals

Harvest festivals happened indoors because our town was surrounded by mountains and that time of year could get fairly cold and snowy. These festivals included costumes, music, games like bobbing for apples, and copious amounts of sugar and chocolate. My young mind was never entirely sure how they were that much different from regular Halloween, but any excuse for sweets was music to my ear.

Hay, sheaves, and pumpkins artfully arranged to celebrate the harvest. The pumpkins are sitting next to the sheave and on top of the hay bale. When I was about seven, my family was surprised by Halloween. A few neighbourhood kids knocked on our door to say trick-or-treat one night. We had nothing sweet to give them at first until my dad remembered his small stash of strawberry bon-bons, a hard candy that has a red liquid centre in them.

A year or two later, we had a family friend who understood was the important of choosing the right sweets no matter what name you give to that sugary day at the end of October. I’m sure she had many other admirable personality traits, but almost everything I remember about her is somehow related to the delicious things she kept in her house.

I have a vague memory of visiting her house and getting a little more candy that was definitely only intended for Harvest Festival purposes. It skated just close enough to that other holiday that I felt like I’d gotten away with something. (My parents were in the room and approved of this gift, however).

Secular Halloween

Round tin can filled with halloween candy. My family started celebrating secular Halloween when I was eleven. By that time, we’d moved into a neighbourhood that was known for its generosity, so the streets were packed with families from other areas as well as from our own.

Trick-or-Treating on those nights was exciting. I wanted to run as fast as I could to every house to make sure I didn’t miss a single one.

We lived in Ohio then. Halloween night could be chilly, but it generally didn’t dip below freezing or include snowstorms. Wearing a jacket over your costume was usually sufficient, although I also tried to pick costumes that covered my whole body up. As in, picking something that required a skirt was not the smartest idea unless you had warm tights on underneath it!

Once I reluctantly realized I was too old to trick-or-treat, I reverted to celebrating half-price candy day once again.

Halloween as an Adult

Most of the places I lived in the United States were in rural locations or small towns. While Canada and the U.S. share a lot in common, moving to Toronto did include some surprises along the way.

I was looking forward to switching from receiving candy to giving it out, but it turns out that the apartment buildings here don’t have trick-or-treaters from what I’ve observed.

Luckily, there is always half-price candy day.

What are your favourite Halloween memories?

 

Let Me Answer Your Questions About Canada for Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!

Most of my readers do not live in Canada, so I thought it might be fun to answer any and all questions you have about my country today.

Do you want Canadian reading suggestions?

What parts of Canadian history were taught in your country, if any? Is there anything about it that you wish you knew more about?

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a country that has a publicly funded healthcare system for everyone?

Will you be travelling here in the near future and wonder which landmarks a local would recommend visiting the most?

Do you want to know what should and should not be included in a proper poutine?

Have you ever met a really friendly Canadian in your home country and wondered if I know them?

When is the appropriate time to include the term “eh” in a sentence? Do you know?

Are you thinking about immigrating here yourself?

I’m full of answers if you’re full of questions!

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: What to Read to Learn About Canadian History

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. To the best of my knowledge, I’m currently the only Canadian who participates in the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge. (If I’m wrong about that, please do speak up!)  I thought it would be interesting to share some of my favourite books about our history with everyone else. Let’s begin… Read More

My Favourite Canadian Books

Happy belated Canada Day! One of the most interesting parts of moving to Canada was getting to read some of the amazing books that have been written by Canadian authors over the years. From what I’ve observed, there seems to be a lot of Canadian literature that isn’t necessarily that well-known in the United States.… Read More

It’s More Than Just Survival: A Review of Into the Forest

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the never-ending list of films I’d like to see someday. Into the Forest was the first movie from that list I’ve watched since then, and I liked it so much that I decided to review it today.  This story does include a rape scene that I will be discussing… Read More