The Great Fire of Vancouver

June 13, 2016

Today is the 130th anniversary of the fire that completely destroyed Vancouver in 1886, just two months after the city had been incorporated.

great-vancouver-fire

The fire was deliberately set, to clear undergrowth between the present-day Main and Cambie Streets, but was swiftly expanded out of control by a heavy wind. Almost every structure in the new city was destroyed, with only three said to survive. A number of people were killed, but very few were identified due to the destructive power of the fire’s high heat.

Rebuilding began within a few days and, in the end, the great fire proved to be merely a hiccough in Vancouver’s rapid rise.


A Real Trip Down Memory Lane

April 6, 2016
Neville, Richard, (1968), OZ 11, OZ Publications Ink Limited, London, 36p.

Neville, Richard, (1970), OZ 31, OZ Publications Ink Limited, London, 48p.

You may have to be as old as me — and possibly brought up in London — to remember OZ, one of the greatest magazines that, between 1967 and 1973, straddled the period from the summer of love to the much harder seventies.

OZ exemplified that era so perfectly with sex, drugs, politics, progressive art, and rock n’roll oozing between its covers, eager to be free. It was in OZ that I first became acquainted, for example, with Robert Crumb’s subversive drawings, and with so much more.

I lived then in a suburb of west London where it was almost impossible to find copies of OZ, and so it also became a great reason to adventure into downtown to find a store that carried it.

Now, Richard Neville, the original editor, has made all copies of OZ available online. Marvelous memories on every page.  We are really lucky to have this artifact of a very different time.


On The Moon

December 14, 2015

Harrison_SchmittHarrison Schmitt was the last of only twelve humans ever to walk on the moon. Forty-three years ago today — yes, way back in 1972 — his ship took off from the moon and we have not been back since.

Manned space flight was the dream of my father’s generation.  We boomers pushed us into the unmanned and more machine-driven discovery of space at the same time as we were inventing programmed stock trading, robotic automation, and plugged-in entertainment.  We love machines apparently.

I wonder where the millennials will take us?


Rosa Parks Day

December 1, 2015

Rosa_Parks_BookingIt was sixty years ago today that an experienced activist named Rosa Parks chose to say “No” when told to give up her bus seat for a white passenger on a rainy night in Montgomery, Alabama. Later, repeating her refusal to a police officer, she was arrested and became an historical figure.

Not withstanding the scores of millions of volunteer hours that went into the Civil Rights movement, and the billions of words crafted to defend the principles of equality and anti-discrimination, movements are often characterized by individual actions: Rosa Parks refusal being a classic example.

Never underestimate the ability of very small groups of people to start movements that develop into landslides of social change.


Joe Hill

November 19, 2015

Joe Hill

 

 

Today is the 100th anniversary of the murder by execution of the great Wobbly songwriter and martyr Joe Hill.

 

A minute’s silence, and then back to the work that still remains unfinished.


The Invasion Of Grenada

October 25, 2015

On October 25, 1983, the United States invaded the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada (“Operation Urgent Fury”).  The 1,500-strong Grenadian Army, along with 600 Cuban allies, were considered such a strategic threat to the Imperial Power that Ronnie Reagan sent in the Marines, lying through his teeth to his erstwhile ally Margaret Thatcher all the while.

In case we didn’t get the message:  opposition to the power will be crushed ruthlessly no matter how petty it makes the power look.


And Then The Blitz Began

September 7, 2015

The German Luftwaffe attacks against London known as the Blitz began on the afternoon of September 7, 1940 — seventy-five years ago today.  They went on essentially uninterrupted for 79 days, and expanded across Great Britain.  Here can be found the Guardian‘s report of the first night’s bombing.

The German airmen apparently have orders to loose their bombs whenever they feel they are over the area called Metropolitan London.  Certainly 90% of all the damage done was to non-military objectives.

About 43,000 civilians died during the Blitz. Almost 140,000 more were injured, and more than a million homes damaged or destroyed. Even when the Blitz itself was over, the Germans continued to bomb London  for several years.  My parents spent much of their teen-aged years running to air shelters, sleeping in the Underground stations.  My mother went to the school which suffered the first V2 rocket attack.  Thousands of younger children were evacuated from London to “safer” country towns.  A dozen or more years later, when I was a kid in the early 50s in west London, all my “playgrounds” were bomb sites that still hadn’t been rebuilt.

Those of us who are lucky to live in North America have no conception of what this could be like. Imagine, perhaps, the events of 9/11 happening all over the country every day for two months and more. And all of this just one lifetime away from us.