Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thank You All for Your Support

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I want to thank all of you who attended our Christmas production, "The Missing Piece/Peace". It was a great run and in tickets sales, donations received and raising awareness of the work that iProjects.ca does in the third world - it was a tremendous success! Thank you and may God bless you all!

I'm always of two hearts when a show ends; on one hand I'm glad the work is over and there are no more ghost glitches to track down, on the other hand after three months working with some great people there is a hole left by their absence. I know I'll see many of them again but I miss the camaraderie.

I particularly want to express my thanks to Marion, Julie, Katura, Faith, Verese, Michael, Alan, Mike, Mark, Laural, and Adam. I have mixed a number of bands and chorus in my time, but this is the most fun I've had in years. No matter how tired I might have been when I arrived at rehearsal, no matter how much the day may have worn me down, listening to these talented singers and musicians work their craft always brought me back to life. Bless you all.

So... with the show over, and Christmas 2007 all but out of the way, life will soon fall back into it's usual routine. But there will be new projects I'm sure, and I look forward to the adventure.

Merry Christmas Everyone! And may God bless you richly!

-- Dennis Gray --

The Cast and Crew of "The Missing Piece/Peace" (click for larger image)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Great Whiteboard Animation

Stumbled across this on YouTube, I love it! Enjoy!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Missing (Piece) Peace

Every year I find myself taking on at least one major theatrical effort. For many years it was either with road companies or in church groups, but the last two years I find myself working in community theatre. Last year, as some of you may remember, I was priveledged to work with some great people on a production of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Saleman." This year I find myself doing soundscape design once again on a new production called "The Missing Piece Peace."

Written by Deborah Briggs and Alan Garrett "The Missing Piece Peace" is a Christmas production with a difference. I can't go into a lot of detail without spoiling the experience, but trust me this is not your parent's Sunday School Christmas play.Taking place in different dimensions and different time zones, it chronicles one man's struggle to make sense of it all. I'll leave it at that. The play features a great cast under the direction of Deborah Briggs; and Alan Garrett as Musical Director adds his own touch to the proceedings with a live 7-voice chorus accompanied by a five-piece ensemble. All in all it promises to be a wonderful dramatic and musical experience.

But if that isn't enough, there's an even more compelling reason to take in "The Missing Piece Peace" this holiday season. All of the proceeds from the ticket sales will be going to assist iProjects.ca in funding the building of an orphange in Peru. The land for the project has already been acquired and they are now looking to build the needed buildings.

iProjects.ca (Isaiah Projects) is a Christ centered charitable organization, working in partnership with local leaders in third world countries to help fund infrastructural development projects that will significantly impact the lives of the local people. Projects are selected on the basis of how they will offer hope and improve the quality of life for individuals with a bias towards helping the young and most needy in society. Iprojects funds the construction of schools, orphanages, youth centres and other projects which empower youth to become leaders in their own communities therefore enabling them to have a positive influence in the area where they live.

In addition, we are also asking patrons to bring Canadian Tire money and/or pop cans to be donated to Habitat for Humanity to help them in their efforts.

So if you are going to be in the Guelph area this holiday season I would ask you to contribute to two great causes and enjoy a great show by attending "The Missing Piece Peace." Performances are being presented at Guelph Little Theatre, on the following dates:

Saturday, December 15, 2007 @ 2pm & 8pm

Sunday, December 16, 2007 @ 2pm

Thursday, December 20, 2007 @ 8pm

Friday, December 21, 2007 @ 8pm

Saturday, December 22, 2007 @ 2pm & 8pm

All seats are $17 and available through the Guelph Little Theatre box office by calling 519-821-0270 or through their website at www.guelphlittletheatre.com

Thanks everyone... and see you at the show!!


Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Bright Light shines no more.

I'll tell you up front, this is the same post as I placed on my Java and Jesus blog two days ago. I Just felt I needed to post it here as well. The subject seems appropriate for this venue. For me it's a pretty black and white issue....

I had fully intended to write the next episode of 'Exploring the Kingdom Gospel" this week, but then something unexpected happened. Late Wednesday night a man walked out of a local bar, got into his truck and drove off. Because he was drunk, instead of taking the on-ramp to Hwy 6 south, he took the off ramp and wound up driving south in the North-bound lanes. A few minutes later he drove head on into a car, killing the driver. That driver was a wonderful young woman named Anna Graham.

I first met Anna about a year ago. Her uncle asked me to work on a production of "Death of a Salesman" that he was directing for Guelph Little Theatre. It was one of
the best experiences of my life, and Anna was no small part of it. Anna, along with Anthony "Pooch" Brown, was designing the lighting for the production. You didn't have to watch her work for long to know that this woman not only knew what she was doing, she enjoyed it immensely and had a real gift for creativity. You also didn't have to watch for long to see just how proud her uncle, my friend Lloyd, was of her.

And now she's gone!

As you scan the status lines of her friends on Facebook you can see the range of emotions. One person "is sad", another "is numb", one more is "trying to come to terms." The most vocal of the lot is "Really mad....and hurt...and not understanding why this life has to be so f**kin unfair!!!
" (the asterisks are mine). I know how he feels. I felt the same way when James died a year ago (I wrote about it here.). But somehow, I don't feel the same pain about Anna, not the same way.

I know part of the reason is the simple fact Anna and I weren't as close as James and I were. It's no reflection on Anna; we worked together on 'Salesman' and then went ou
r separate ways, her to her circle and me to mine. Most of the pain I feel is for her uncle Lloyd. Him I do consider a friend, and as both actor/director and human being, have a great deal of respect and admiration for the man. I can only imagine what he is going through. He's never far from my thoughts.

But the biggest difference in this case is there was some good to be found in Jame's death. He had been sick for a long time. In many ways his passing was a relief. His suffering is over and the spiritual part of me can at least begin to wrap my head around the idea that God decided it was for the best.

But in Anna's case this logic does not apply. The hard cold fact is Anna died because someone couldn't find anything better to do with a Wednesday night than get drunk watching naked women dance on stage
. And even that might not matter except he then compounded things by making the selfish decision to drive himself home, and no one, not the bartender, not the servers, not his friends, nor the big burly guy at the door took the necessary steps to stop him. Anna is gone because human beings made selfish and wrong choices! Plain and simple!

Do I sound like I'm ranting? Of course I am. I'm angry! Because the simple fact is THIS IS WHY WE NEED GOD!!

Every day on the news and in other media I hear people trying to tell me how outmoded a concept God is. How human beings don't need some invisible being in the sky, they are quite capable of conducting their own affairs. Morality is a flexible concept and changes from day to day, what's good for you is bad for me, etc. etc. etc. Religion is no longer required because we can run our own affairs quite n
icely thank you.

But the fact is, human beings, generally speaking, as a species, are no where near smart enough, wise enough, deep enough or insightful enough to be their own moral compass. When push comes to shove each of us, left to our own devices, will make a decision based not on the common good, or the welfare of others, but on our selfish wants and desires. The only hope for us is to have a moral guide that comes from outside of ourselves. A culture of accountability which holds us personally responsible for our actions on a level above and beyond the human trappings of law and order. This is the role religion fulfills.

And before you get started on the evils of organized religion, let me say it's not the institution of religion I'm talking about. Rather it is the ground level, day-to-day belief that God is watching, and that someday we will have to face Him one-on-one and He will say, "Explain it to me again why you were a
complete and total moron" - or words to that effect. For thousands of years the love for and fear of God has kept human beings from acting out of selfish motives and inspired us to think twice before we act, even if the only reason is the slim possibility that if we don't behave we might find ourselves spending eternity roasting on a spit over a lava-fed barbecue. Though personally I have always suspected the lake of fire in Revelation is a metaphor for something far worse.

I know - I'm preaching. I'm taking advantage of Anna's death to get on my soapbox and call down fire and brimstone. Well, I make no apologies for it. I'm not trying to be comforting, I'm trying to stop this kind of thing from happening the only way I know how.

I know full well that if it were not for the work of God in my life, I could well be that same moron getting drunk watching naked women dance. Or possibly something muc
h worse. This is why Jesus came to earth as a child and sacrificed himself as a man - to save us from ourselves. To give us an option other than hopelessly trying to be our own moral compass. He is God's response to our insistance on doing things our own way.

The hard cold fact is that this world is the way it is because human beings, collectively and individually, have said "Sorry God, we don't need you any more. We are totally capable of making our own decisions. We are the captains of our own fates. Thanks for all your help in the past - we'll take it from here." And like it or not - this fractured, faulty, unfair world we live in is the result. I don't like it either, but that's the way it is.

The good news is this; when we said that, God responded by saying, "Fine. Have it your way. But when it all falls apart, when the unfairness of it all gets to you and you just can't take it any more - please, please, PLEASE! Come crying back to Me and I promise - I WILL HELP YOU GET THROUGH IT!"

Good-bye Anna.

Shalom everyone.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Chinese Gov't Doesn't Like Me!!!

Well, It would seem that folks surfing the Internet in the People's Republic of China are not allowed to read the musings of yours truly.

But then that's hardly surprising when you think about it. I mean, it's not like they would want the Christians in China being encouraged, or exchange ideas about what the Bible is really saying, or learn something of church history. No we can't have that now can we? If you want to know if your favorite URL is blocked in China check out The Great Firewall of China. Just enter the URL in the space provided and see if their test location can access your site from inside China.

Sarcasm aside, it actually serves to remind us that we are extremely privileged in this country. For all of our complaining about inept government, inconvenient bureaucracies, lengthy commutes and the lineup at Tim Hortons, the fact remains that we are the most fortunate people in the world.

We live in a country where we are free to vote for the worst candidate, make the wrong career choice, and over indulge our every desire. We can be complete and total idiots and the only consequence will be those of our own making. There's no one telling us where to live, what to do for a living, or what to think. We can worship who we want; Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed or no one at all. And it's all because of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure these freedoms for us.

So I add my voice to the hundreds of others and ask you, when you see the poppy displays at Tim Hortons, or the veterans in the mall with the poppies and pins, please give generously, shake a hand, and say, "Thank You!"

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

String Ducky

Have trouble understanding the concept of string theory. Try this vid on for size. I love it!!

I love it when people can explain someting without burdening us down with all the math!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Goodbye Old Friend

I've been stalling on writing this one for a while now. I've even considered not writing it at all. But the need to write about it is not subsiding in the least. So here goes...

Two weeks ago Roberta and I had to put our cat, Remington, to sleep. You never fully realize just how much these small furry creatures infiltrate every corner of your life until they are no longer there. It's been two weeks and I still wake up every morning wondering why Rem isn't sitting on the landing outside our bedroom waiting for me to get up and feed him. It only takes a second to remember why. The heart sinks, and I wonder how long before I stop forgetting he isn't there.

I've had three cats in my life and Remington is by far the most human of the lot. I know, we all tend to anthropomorphize to one degree or another, but Remington was scary sometimes.

From the beginning this Siamese/Russian Blue/Manx cross just did not behave like other cats I've had. He loved to play fetch, chasing a small nut and bolt wrapped inside a plastic baggy till my arm wore out. He had this almost human need to be around people, never aloof like other cats. Wherever we were - he was.

His penchant for conversation was enough to make you wonder about reincarnation. The most bizarre example of this was after his evening meal. He would wander over to the patio door and then look out into the back yard expounding to the neighbourhood about Lord knows what for about five minutes. I'm not talking a few meows here - I'm talkin' full blown sentences made up of meows, mews, grunts, purrs, and other all too human sounding syllables complete with syntax, inflection and identifiable punctuation marks!

For over 15 years, from when he was just a kitten of seven weeks, my wife and I have been blessed with his companionship. He warmed our laps and our hearts, filling the quiet moments with the sound of laughter and contentment - ours.

Thank you Remington. You are greatly missed.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I was doing a 100 km tour on my bicycle over the Labour Day weekend when it occurred to me that I had not been on my blogs for nearly three months. In part it was because I really felt the need to take a break from it all, but the other half of it was the fact the the weather was just too nice to spend cooped up in my basement office staring at a computer screen. But now summer is over and it would seem the time has come to take a sledge hammer to my writer's block and get back in the zone.

It wasn't really all that eventful a summer. Mostly the days were spent (when I was not at work) enjoying a park, spending time with my wife Roberta, or just cycling all around town exploring areas of the city I haven't seen is a while. The trips we planned to take didn't happen, the parties we thought about holding never materialized, and yet there's no disappointment because all in all - life is good.

There was one event however, that will stand out in my memory about the summer of 2007. A few weeks ago my friend Brian took Roberta and I up in the single engine airplane owned by the his flying club. I will admit there was a little apprehension as we made our way out to the runway. I'd been flying in a small plane many years ago and I don't know if it was the weather that day, or the skill of the pilot I was with but it wasn't the best experience of my life. I was determined however to give it another shot.

It was a terrific experience. I'm not afraid of heights, but I do have some issues when I'm not sure of my footing. Unsecured ladders, for example, can be a problem for me; but once my senses got accustomed to the idea of being suspended 1000ft above the ground with no visible means of support it was great fun. We took a bunch of pictures (my online album of them can be found HERE ) and I find that it was one of the most enjoyable photographic experiences I've had. I can't wait for my next opportunity.

Among the many pictures we took was one of the Guelph water treatment plant (see pic). Brian's comment at the time was, "Why does everybody always take a picture of the water treatment plant?" I've been giving the question some thought.

It's because we didn't know it was there! Well, we knew it was there - intellectually. Most of us realize that Guelph has a water treatment plant and a significant number may even know where it is, but I'm willing to suggest that the vast majority of Guelphites have never actually seen it and so we lack that personal point of contact that gives it a true sense of it being real. And I think it's that way with a lot of things; it's all a matter of perspective.

That was most exhilarating aspect of our time in the air, getting a different perspective on the city in which I have spent my entire life. The Church of Our Lady, my own little townhouse, the incredible amount of tree cover that Guelph has for a city that large, not to mention the incredible amount of treeless new subdivisions going up around its edges. Roberta and I both found that the change of perspective gave us a new appreciation for the places we took for granted as an everyday part of our lives.

So I'd like to publicly thank Brian for the experience and the new perspective. I can see where aerial photography could easily become an obsession if it is given the chance. The question now is, how do I feed that obsession without making a pest of myself. Though I did find this article on the web about aerial photography using a kite and an RC control. Now I'll have to pester my brother Alex.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Results for "What Kind of Classic Leading Man are You?"

Humphrey Bogart

You scored 38% Tough, 0% Roguish, 38% Friendly, and 23% Charming!
You're the original man of honor, rough and tough but willing to stick your neck out when you need to, despite what you might say to the contrary. You're a complex character full of spit and vinegar, but with a soft heart and a tender streak that you try to hide. There's usually a complicated dame in the picture, someone who sees the real you behind all the tough talk and can dish it out as well as you can. You're not easy to get next to, but when you find the right partner, you're caring and loyal to a fault. A big fault. But you take it on the chin and move on, nursing your pain inside and maintaining your armor...until the next dame walks in. Or possibly the same dame, and of all the gin joints in all the world, it had to be yours. Co-stars include Ingrid Bergman and Lauren Bacall, hot chicks with problems.

Take the Leading Man test yourself... Here!

Find out what kind of classic dame you'd make by taking the
Classic Dames Test.

This test tracked 4 variables. How the score compared to the other people's:
Higher than 76% on Tough
Higher than 0% on Roguish
Higher than 64% on Friendly
Higher than 37% on Charming

Link: The Classic Leading Man Test written by gidgetgoes on Ok Cupid

Friday, June 08, 2007

The ROM Does Itself Proud

I've always been a fan of innovative design in architecture ever since my Dad took me to see Frank Lloyd Wright's "Fallingwater" when I was a kid. My father was a construction superintendent and he was always careful to make sure I understood that form does not always have to follow function. It's one thing if a car parts warehouse is a big concrete and steel box, but the places where culture thrives, the places where people gather to express their creativity, individuality and spirituality need to reflect the events that take place inside them.

As I llok around the world at what is being done in other cities and then look at the bulk of modern Canadian architecture all I see is a glowing tribute to the bottom line. It's never about what it looks like, what it inspires, what are the possibilities - it is only about how much it costs. Especially, it seems, when it comes to public buildings.

To make sure the taxpayer gets value for the tax dollar is indeed important, but it seems to me we must redefine "value." It should not always be about only doing what is needed, it must also be about showing the world, our children and ourselves just how much we are capable of doing, just how great a legacy we can leave.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


The Guelph Little Theatre production of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" is has been selected for the Western Ontario Drama League's Festival during March Break!!

This has been an amazing experience. I have to admit, when Lloyd Lindsay (our director) first asked me to be a part of this production, I was a little reluctant. But I am so glad I said , "Yes."

I have long wanted to be a part of a production of "Death of a Salesman." I think I was one of only a handful of kids back in high school who 'got it' when the teacher tried to explain it's significance. There are some plays that just define what theatre is all about and what it accomplishes beyond mere entertainment. "Death of a Salesman" is one such play.

I knew as we went through the process we were putting together a fine production. -- our selection to Festival confirms it. There is a wealth of talent to be found here that is exceeded only by the dedication that accompanies it.

I want to take the time to thank the entire cast and crew for what has proven to be an incredible learning experience for me. At over 50 years of age I am learning more and more just how much I have yet to learn. My gratitude and admiration goes out especially to the 'tech support' team I was so privileged to be a part of..

Gary Chapman - Technical Director/Master Carpenter - having someone else who spoke 'my language' around made being the rookie a lot easier. Gary - you're the best.

Greg Insley - Producer - This former 'sound guy' has certainly found his true calling as a producer. Thanks Greg for your incredible support. (And yes.. I still have two computers.)

Ruth Connor - Stage manager - I've been away from theatre for nearly two decades, but you made me feel like I never left. Thank you.

Lynn Chapman - Set Decor/Properties - Definitely the hardest working person I have ever met. It tires me out just thinking about how much work you do. Amazing!

Lynn Fisher - Dramaturge/Costume Design - Every night as I came into the theatre, I was met by your lovely smile and a warm greeting that always made me feel like I belonged. Thank you so much.

Anna Graham & Anthony "Pooch" Brown - Lighting Design - Watching the two of you paint the set with light was a joy to behold. Thanks Pooch for your help as well solving a few technical challenges. You guys are terrific!

Davian Hart - Lighting Operator - I really enjoyed working with you in the booth, Davian. Every time I hear someone of my generation complain about 'kids these days' I'm going to point them in your direction. Now we just have to sort out what music we're playing in the hotel in Sarnia. Jazz vs Heavy metal - tough choice!

Andreen Harwood - Costume Design , Kelly Insley - Properties , Deb Woodward - Hair & Makeup , Paul Cheesman - Assistant Stage Manager - I didn't work with you folks directly, what with you being backstage and me up in the booth (thought thanks for keeping an eye on the back stage amps Kelly), but I did get to see see the results of your efforts and your dedication to your crafts. It was also great to hear your stories about your experiences in the theatre. You guys are amazing!

Lloyd Lindsay - Director/Mentor/Friend - Lloyd, there are those who consider me a fairly articulate person, but somehow I lack the words. It's been a great ride Lloyd! Thanks ever so much for inviting me along. God bless you!

I could not write about this without saying something to the cast of "Death of a Salesman." I want the thirteen of you to know that you made my job one of the most difficult times I have ever spent behind a sound board. Take it easy - that's actually a compliment.

Watching you people perform was amazing! Even after ten shows and I don't know how many rehearsals you still managed to grab hold of both my mind and my heart and made me want to just sit there and watch. Usually it's boredom and repetition that gets in the way of my job. Not with you folks! I would have given anything to spend just one performance sitting in the audience enjoying the experience. Thank you so much. You are a credit to your craft.

I'll avoid the impossible task of picking favorites by thanking you in order of appearance..

Gerry Butts - Willie Loman - You tore my heart out Gerry!

Liz (Stokes) Poulton - Linda Loman - More than once Liz -- I cried.

Rob Gray - 'Happy' Loman - (no relation) - Though I'd be proud if you were!

Adam Waxman - Biff Loman - Someday, I just know I'll be turning to someone and saying, "You know, I worked with him once!"

John Licari - Bernard - Actor and musician, you are a substantial talent John. I'm a fan.

Tracey Kenyon - The Woman - The "Other Woman" is an oft underrated role. No one will ever underrate your talent. Well done!

Jim Monaghan - Charley - Thanks Jim, you're sense of humour was quite often just what I needed. - A salesman doing "Salesman" - what a concept.

Paul Duncan - Uncle Ben - From that first day reading through the script I knew you'd be great 'Ben'. I wasn't wrong - well done!

Ken Cameron - Howard - "Authentic" sounding recordings are one thing Ken, authentic performances are another. Thanks for the authenticity you brought to the stage.

Mary Lillico - Jenny/Waitress - Some people's contribution goes well beyond what happens on stage - so it is with you. You often brightened my day, Thanks Mary.

Ryan Kotack - Stanley - Ryan, I know I need unique New York. I also need to see more of your work in future. Great job!

Liz Gallagher - Miss Forsythe - Will you accept a compliment from a stranger? You ought to be on stage. Oh wait - you have been! Told ya Stanley!

Kimberley Young - Letta - The best dressed cordless power drill operator I've ever met. Pretty good actress too! Congrats.

If I've missed anyone please understand it wasn't for lack of trying. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life. I thanks to you all for your part in it.

See you in Sarnia!!

Dennis Gray

Monday, January 22, 2007

Death of A Salesman

Last week I mentioned that I was working with Guelph Little Theatre on a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. It has been a great experience. I haven't worked in formal theatre in a number of years (25 actually) so it's been a bit of a flashback getting involved again. I was a little surprised to find out how quickly I fell back into "the mode". I love working behind the scenes to make a thing come together. However, I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about my feelings on this however. I know a lot of blogs are about what's going on inside a person's head, but that's not me.

I'm writing today to make a shameless and enthusiastic plug for the play itself. I'm a firm believer in supporting local artists of all kinds, painters, sculptures, musicians and, of course, actors. There's an incredible amount of talent out there that will never be seen on the silver screen, or on Broadway, or hung in the National Museum of Art. That doesn't mean it isn't worthy of your attention. No matter the genre, it has been produced by talented and dedicated individuals who love what they do and do it for no other reason than it brings them joy.

It's kind of like small town hockey - sure, there's the dream of playing in the NHL, but most know they'll never be there. They play anyway - just for the love of the game. At it's heart, community theatre is the same way. Local volunteers, people like you and me with a regular 9-5, 40 hour-a-week day job, who spend their free time making something they care about happen. The group working on Death of a Salesman includes factory workers, construction workers and contractors, IT managers, warehouse workers, and I don't know what else.

And frankly, I think we're putting together a great production. 'Death of a Salesman', for those of you who may not be familiar with it , is an North American Theatre classic. An emotional look at the last days of Willy Loman, a hard working family man, who's pursuit of the American Dream hasn't panned out the way he had always hoped. Is it his fault? Or is the dream itself flawed? Questions we will all face one way or another in life, and over the years many people have found some insight for their own journey in the lines of this Pulitzer Prize winning play.

So I'm am appealing to you, gentle reader, to support this production. Opening night is Thursday, February 8th, 2007. There are 10 showings running Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the following three weeks, with a matinée in Sunday the 18th. Tickets are $17.00 and can be ordered online or by phone at 519-821-0270. Full details are available at the theatre's website.

So if you live near Guelph, or know someone who does, or will be visiting the area during the run of the play, please do yourself (and me) a favour and come out to enjoy a great evening of local theatre.

Thank you.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Call to Remember

I'm currently involved in a production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (I'm one of the 'techie' guys) and I have to tell you it's been a great experience. Today was the high point of the process so far. There's a step in the process called "polishing" in which an person who has not been a part of the production is invited to make observations, comments, offer advice, and in a word, help to "polish" the performance. Today I was thrilled to watch as R.H. Thomson, a great Canadian actor, held our polishing workshop at Guelph Little Theatre. It was one of the best learning experiences I've ever had, watching as Thomson worked and reworked scenes with the members of our cast.

As great as it was to sit in on this experience, it's not the workshop I want to tell you about. it's what he had to say after the workshop I want to share with you.

April 2007 marks the 90th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The monument to this event will be rededicated this year in France as part of the ceremonies marking the anniversary. To acknowledge the event here in Canada R.H.Thomson has initiated "The Words from Vimy Project." Full details are available at the projects web site, but in a nutshell what they are seeking to do is hold a virtual role call of the Canadians that fought in that battle, many of whom lie buried on that very site.

To do this the project is seeking to contact the families of all the men who fought at Vimy Ridge. With the family's permission, pictures, letters, personal thoughts and reflections, and comments by the surviving relatives will be collected and digitized to create a narrative of the Battle of Vimy Ridge using the words of young men who were there. This archive will allow Canadians to not just remember that so many young men gave their lives in April 1917, but to connect individually with many of the 97,000 Canadians who took part.

So if you are the relative of someone who fought at Vimy Ridge, or know someone who is, I ask you on behalf of the project (with R.H.Thomson's permission) to contact the project and discuss with them having your relative's memories added to the archive. You can link to either this blog or the project itself.

Help create a lasting and very personal memorial to these brave young men.

It should be noted that this is not RH Thomson's first foray into the virtual world. Click on this link to read an article on his involvement with Canada's Virtual War Memorial.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Please, Don't remind me...

I have always been confused by Canadians’ apparent dislike for their own history, but I never fully appreciated until today just how deep this aversion runs.

In an article entitled “A lesson in respect” published in today’s Toronto Sun, Sheila Copps points out a major difference between Canada and the U.S. in regard to respect for our leaders. As you are likely aware, U.S. presidents establish a library at the end of their terms that contains memoirs, papers, correspondence etc. that define their term in office. In Canada however, no such libraries exist; in fact, we don’t even have a single library for all their papers. Not only that but we have even squashed every attempt to create one. I’ll quote Ms. Copps....

Two attempts to establish the Canadian equivalent of a presidential library have failed. The first, at the newly minted Canadian Museum of Civilization, was quashed more than two decades ago when cost overruns terminated the project in the planning stages. Prime Minister Paul Martin recently killed the second, a proposed Canadian history museum, because the project was too closely associated to his former boss. Neither decision was surprising. Canadians are averse to hero worship and even more leery about positive political histories.

Why is this? Can anyone out there explain to me why it is that we are so indifferent to our own history in this country? Especially when so much time and effort is spent agonizing over just what it is to be a Canadian? National identity is born out of a nation’s history. Canada is the country it is today because of what has happened in our past, especially in the political arena. We are who we are because of the actions of people like Douglas, Deifenbaker, Trudeau and Pearson, and yes, even the likes of Mulroney, Turner, Clark and Campbell.

Every Prime Minister, regardless of political affiliation, has contributed in some way to making Canada the country so many people around the world want to call home. These contributions deserve to be chronicled and remembered. The inside story as to how and why decisions were made, both good and bad, are important if we are to learn the lessons the past has to teach us. And yet, because we seem to consider politicians unworthy of remembering, for any reason, we will instead condemn future generations to fighting the same battles over and over again.

So great is our disregard for the people who have led this great country, it took an act of parliament under the authority of Parks Canada to ensure that weeds do not over grow the graves of former Prime Ministers. Apparently we aren’t even willing to mow the grass to afford them some small measure of dignity.

Once again, I have to ask the question, Why? Earlier I referred to our attitude toward history as indifference; that might not be quite right. We recoil from our history so intensely I wonder if we aren’t in some measure ashamed of it. Like an embarrassed twenty-something we would rather people didn’t mention the things we did when we were teenagers. Our current attitudes and preferences are so different from what they once were we can’t believe, and don’t want to admit, we ever held to any other philosophy.

And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe when it comes to the community of nations we are still just a twenty-something. After all, while other nations have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years, Canada is a mere 140 years old. As nations go, we’re still a teenager, maybe even adolescent. Maybe, like most teenagers, we can’t think beyond the next big date, what parties will we be invited to, or which nation is paying attention to us this week. Maybe, like most teenagers, we won’t care about what really matters in life until we’ve grown up a little bit.

So, let me play the role of parent and say -- Pay attention to your history Canada. Like older relatives, one day you’ll appreciate the wisdom of those who once led this country. I know it doesn’t make sense to you right now, but trust me, you’ll understand when you get older!