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‘In Flanders Fields’ still Canada’s pre-eminent war poem, even after 100 years

Murray Brewster and Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Nov 11th, 2015

OTTAWA – A century after it was written, “In Flanders Fields” — the solemn lament of war, sacrifice and obligation by John McCrae that’s carved into the marble masonry of Parliament Hill’s Peace Tower — will find new life Wednesday among schoolchildren who will recite its haunting refrain.

Few other works of battlefield art are as poignant or as famous — indeed, as Wednesday’s now-familiar Remembrance Day proceedings will make clear, none of the bloody conflicts of the past decade have produced anything that comes close.

McCrae — a colonel, a surgeon and artillery field officer — wrote the poem in the midst of mourning the death of a close friend following the Second Battle of Ypres in late April 1915.

It was published later that year to wide acclaim; many credit it with inspiring Britain, Canada and other Commonwealth countries to adopt the poppy as symbol of sacrifice.

Its personal sentiment and haunting symbolism are why the poem has its own special place in the pantheon of great art and literature that was born out of the suffering of the First World War.

McCrae’s poem was a response to newly emerging questions about the meaning of war and the need to keep fighting, said Adam Muller, a professor at the University of Manitoba who researches how war is represented in art.

The same questions weren’t being asked of Canada’s fight in Afghanistan, which is why the artistic answers are different as well.

“These are peripheral representations; they don’t strike at the core of our day-to-day life in the way that something like ‘Flanders Fields’ did,” he said.

“And I think also there’s prevailing ambivalence about Canadian involvement in that war … we find evidence of this ambivalence in the art that has been produced to date as well. It’s not clear cut. Say what you like about McCrae, he’s clear cut. “

It’s one of the reasons it still resonates 100 years later and why the Vimy Foundation, which is committed to preserving the legacy of Canada’s greatest First World War battle, has challenged classrooms from coast to coast to recite it.

Kathleen Pick, a Grade 12 student at Ottawa’s John McCrae Secondary School — named after the poet-soldier — says since 9/11 she is hard-pressed to point to any enduring artistic expression of this generation’s wars.

Part of it may be that society looks at war differently than it did a century ago and people today — bombarded by images of conflict in the news and movies — may have become numb, or indifferent.

“Our perception of war has definitely changed as a society,” said Pick.

“We don’t see it as the same series of tragedies that it was in the First World War and I don’t think people recognize exactly how devastating the wars of today can still be to people.”

In the U.S., there is a growing body of art reflecting on the American side of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of which that has won major awards, said retired U.S. Army officer Peter Molin, who teaches at Rutgers University and runs the website Time Now, about how those two wars are represented in art, film and literature.

A major difference from past wars is that most of the poems and novels aren’t about life on the battlefield, but what happens after.

Some are driven by veterans using government funds to return to school, taking classes that inspire their work. The dissonant nature of poetry from the battlefield also means many wait until they get home to put pen to paper, Molin said.

“It’s only afterwards you take off the kid gloves and you can get a little tougher with your thoughts about things.”

McCrae’s poem is carved into a serene alcove in the Peace Tower, amid the stained glass and marble of the Memorial Chamber, where books of the country’s war dead reside on six newly reconstructed altars.

Johanna Mizgala, curator of the House of Commons, said she believes it will take society a few years to sort through the trauma of the last decade before perhaps producing a lasting work of art akin to McCrae’s.

“I think it’s very difficult to translate profound grief and loss into something, (because) it’s a question of making an absence into a presence and something that is it sometimes almost too hard to put into words,” said Mizgala.

“So, if we don’t compose a poem for today, perhaps there will be some other sign or symbol. It may take a while for something to take hold, but that’s the thing about this poem.

“It wasn’t written to become the anthem that it became. It just resonated so profoundly with people. Often, it’s the grassroots that tells us when something has poignancy or not.”

While there may yet have been no great modern-day expressions of battle-borne art, there are quiet, individual contributions.

Dominion sculptor Phil White designed and built the altars that hold the books of remembrance. It took him two years to get the design and construction just right so that it reflected the original architect’s solemn vision for the chamber.

There are little touches here and there, such as the poppies integrated into the legs of the altars, which add to the remote, pastoral air the designer envisioned.

“I have relatives whose names are inscribed in those books,” said White, who spent part of his career at the Canadian War Museum preserving history there.

“So, to me, I could think of no more important thing I could do with my career than honour the names of the people who gave their lives.”

Honouring veterans: Ceremonies being held across Canada for Remembrance Day

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Nov 11th, 2015

It’s a day to remember those who fought for our country and those who are still serving.

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Canadians will observe two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, to honour all military personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Gov.-Gen. David Johnston will preside over the main ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa at 11 a.m., and will then host a luncheon to honour this year’s National Silver Cross Mother, Sheila Anderson.

The recipient of the Silver Cross represents the mothers who have lost their children to war. Anderson’s son, Corp. Jordan Anderson, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2007.

In Toronto, a Remembrance Day sunrise ceremony will be held at Prospect Cemetery, at St. Clair Avenue West and Lansdowne Avenue, at 8 a.m. Ahead of the ceremony, Mayor John Tory will lay a wreath at the Cross of Sacrifice.

Ceremonies and services will be held at various other locations across the city, including at the Old City Hall Cenotaph and at Queen’s Park at 10:45 a.m. Click here for a full list.

The TTC will observe two minutes of silence by stopping all vehicles at 11 a.m. Subway and Scarborough RT cars will be held at station platforms, while buses and streetcars will stop at a regular service stop. Current and former members of Canada’s military and one companion will be able to ride the TTC for free.

GO Transit is also offering free service for veterans and their companions. Veterans are asked to identify themselves by wearing their medals, beret, blazer, uniform or other similar belongings while traveling.

On Tuesday evening, several volunteers including children from Girl Guides planted 30,000 tiny Canadian flags on the front lawns of the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre at the North York hospital.

A similar display can be seen in downtown Toronto, at an emotional Remembrance Day tribute at the Manulife building at Bloor and Jarvis streets.

Ahead of Remembrance Day, 11,843 Canadian flags were planted on the front lawn of the company’s head office, honouring the more than 118,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces who died in wartime and in peace keeping missions.

It was on this day in 1918 that an armistice was signed with Germany and allied nations, ending hostilities during the First World War. As per tradition, moments of silence will be held on the 11th hour around the world.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian Lt.-Col. John McCrae. It was first published in the London Spectator in 1915.

What’s closed today

Government offices and banks are closed, and there is no mail delivery.

The LCBO and Beer Store locations will not open until noon.

With files from The Canadian Press

University of Toronto students create poppy banner to honour veterans

Kevin Frankish and News Staff | posted Wednesday, Nov 11th, 2015

University of Toronto engineering students have created a banner made entirely of poppies to honour Canada’s veterans.

The banner, reading “U of T Remembers,” was erected Wednesday morning at College Street and King’s College Road.

The students spent all night cutting poppies out of felt before affixing them to the white banner.

“The installation commemorates Remembrance Day,” student Kim Ren said.

“Even though we weren’t alive, we’re still reaping the benefits of fellow Canadians who did sacrifice their lives so we can live the way we do now, so we could go to school and do fun things like this.”

Roughly 70 per cent of the U of T campus was used by the military in the First World War, including as a training ground for pilots. The university also has a Soldiers’ Tower, which serves as a memorial to alumni who were killed in the two World Wars.

University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.
University of Toronto students created a banner made of felt poppies to honour veterans on Nov. 11, 2015. CITYNEWS/Kevin Frankish.

Lady bugs are invading!

Frank Ferragine | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2015

Are you being invaded by Ladybugs?

From all over Ontario, people are saying, “what’s up with all the ladybugs?”

Most likely, the swarms are Asian Multicoloured or seven spotted ladybugs introduced to North American in the 90s to control aphids.  With warm days and cool nights, these little guys know it’s time to hibernate and there goal is to find the warmest place possible and that’s why they are coming into your homes.

To prevent them coming in you need to block any entrances and caulk as many cracks and holes as possible.

If they are in your home the easiest way to remove them is to vacuum them up.  The good news once inside your home they will not eat or lay eggs they just want a warm place to stay overwinter!

Ladybugs just looking hibernate, now let’s just stop them from hibernating in our homes.

We shall not forget: Remembrance Day events part of weekend roundup

Patricia D’Cunha and Amber LeBlanc | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2015

It’s been 70 years since the end of the Second World War, and the memories are still fresh in the minds of veterans and their families. Stories from this war, battles past and ongoing missions will be shared at ceremonies leading up to Remembrance Day next week.

On Nov. 11, Canadians will stop to remember soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom, and those who are currently serving in countries around the world.

A veteran clutches the Canadian flag during a Remembrance Day ceremony in the GTA. CITYNEWS/Michael Talbot.
A veteran clutches the Canadian flag during a Remembrance Day ceremony in the GTA. CITYNEWS/Michael Talbot

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
– Lt.-Col. John McCrae

A Remembrance Day ceremony and a tribute will be held in Toronto this weekend. Those heading down to those events should note there’s a partial subway closure on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) due to TTC work.


Remembrance Day events

Inscription of the poem "In Flanders Fields" in a book at the John McCrae memorial in Guelph, Ont., on Nov. 11, 2009. CREATIVE COMMONS/Lx 121
Inscription of the poem “In Flanders Fields” in a book at the John McCrae memorial in Guelph, Ont., on Nov. 11, 2009. CREATIVE COMMONS/Lx 121

Remembrance Day at Scarborough Civic Centre
A number of ceremonies and events honouring Remembrance Day are taking place across Canadathis weekend, ahead of the solemn day next week. In Toronto, a commemoration will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Scarborough Civic Centre.

Queen’s Own Rifles Day
Hear performances by the Queen’s Own Rifles band and meet members of the regiment at Casa Loma during Saturday’s event being held in honour of Remembrance Day. First World War and Second World War re-enactors will also be on hand, including military vehicles and armament. Soldiers, veterans and cadets will be able to access Casa Loma for free Nov. 7-11.

The Queen's Own Rifles Day is being held on Nov. 7, 2015. Photo via casaloma.ca.
The Queen’s Own Rifles Day is being held on Nov. 7, 2015. Photo via casaloma.ca.

Since its inception in 1860, the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada has been called to service during the Fenian Raids and the North West Rebellion, as well as the two world wars. The regiment is based in Toronto, and is part of 4th Canadian Division’s 32 Canadian Brigade Group. Click here to read about the history of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

Officers with the Queen's Own Rifles, taken after 1900. CITY OF TORONTO ARCHIVES (Fonds 1244, Item 43).
Officers with the Queen’s Own Rifles, taken after 1900. CITY OF TORONTO ARCHIVES (Fonds 1244, Item 43).

Other events

Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair
Fall in love with the written word, or rekindle your love affair with it, at this book fair. No, Kindle readers won’t be for sale here. Rather, antiquarians will be able to find first editions and signed works, incunabula (a book printed before the start of the 16th century in Europe), illustrated books, as well as maps, prints, manuscripts and other treasures. The fair is being held at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) from Friday to Sunday. It is free with admission to the AGO.

The Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair in 2014. Photo via torontoantiquarianbookfair.com.
The Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair in 2014. Photo via torontoantiquarianbookfair.com.

Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
Bringing the country to the city! A beloved November tradition is back at Exhibition Place for its 93rd year. The fair starts Friday and runs until Nov. 15. Along with the farm animals, there are world class horse shows, exhibits, a butter tart competition, a wine garden, food, a petting farm and many other events and activities for all ages.

Big Bold Brass
There’s something lovely and beautiful about the deep rich sounds of lower-pitched instruments like the tuba.

A man playing a tuba. GETTY IMAGES/Digital Vision
A man playing a tuba. GETTY IMAGES/Digital Vision

Hear that and other instruments at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s concert celebrating all things brass on Saturday. One of the performances includes Richard Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries, which features the thumping tuba, trombones, trumpets and horns. Showtimes are at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Before the show, concert-goers can catch a performance by Toronto’s tuba quartet Euba in the lobby.

CN Tower Climb

It’s a little daunting but thousands of people are about to get the ultimate workout for a very good cause. On Saturday, it’s the CN Tower Climb for the United Way. You can register in-person for the public climb by going to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (North Building, Hall C), with a fundraising minimum of $100. The United Way says those who conquer all 1,776 stairs will help make meaningful change for thousands of families in the city. The corporate challenge takes place on Sunday.

View of CN Tower and downtown Toronto from Ontario Place during sunset on Aug. 5, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Dominic Chan
View of CN Tower and downtown Toronto from Ontario Place during sunset on Aug. 5, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Dominic Chan

Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend
The careers of some hockey stars will be solidified into “legend” status this weekend. It’s induction weekend at the Hockey Hall of Fame, with a number of activities planned. You can see some retired big names in action Sunday during the Hall of Fame Legends’ Classic hockey game at the Air Canada Centre featuring Team Gilmore vs. Team Bure. The class of 2015 will be officially inducted on Monday.

Canada’s Walk of Fame
Some very famous Canadians are getting red-carpet ready for a glam afternoon in downtown Toronto on Saturday. Canada’s Walk of Fame is holding its 2015 induction ceremony, which will feature celebrities walking the red carpet including Michael Bublé, Silken Laumann, and Don Cherry & Ron MacLean. After the star presentation, there’s a show and concert at the Sony Centre hosted by Jason Priestly and featuring a performance by rising Pickering pop star Shawn Mendes. Click here for ticket information.

Don Cherry and Ron MacLean from Coach’s Corner. Photo via canadaswalkoffame.com.
Don Cherry and Ron MacLean from Coach’s Corner. Photo via canadaswalkoffame.com.

TTC closure

Partial closure on Line 2

Another subway shutdown this weekend. Trains won’t be running between Keele to St. George on the Bloor-Danforth line Saturday and Sunday because of track work.

All trains on Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) will turn back westbound at Keele Station and eastbound at St George Station, but frequent shuttle buses will be running.

A TTC report proposing numbered subway lines was presented at a board meeting on Oct. 23, 2013. TTC

Smartphone maker BlackBerry Priv, company’s first Android device, goes on sale

Winston Sih | posted Friday, Nov 6th, 2015

TORONTO – The stakes are high for BlackBerry as its first Android-powered device goes on sale today.

The release of the BlackBerry Priv could mark a pivotal moment for the smartphone maker as it tries to turn around its money-losing hardware division.

If the Priv is a sales flop, it’s likely the Waterloo, Ont.-based company will exit the business of designing phones and turn attention to its software licensing and services division.

For the first time, BlackBerry (TSX:BB) is launching a device that will run on Google’s Android system, not on its own operating software.

The change is intended to resolve one of the biggest criticisms levelled against BlackBerry — a lack of apps that left it behind its competitors in an era where customers increasingly use their phones to stream movies and post on social media.

BlackBerry has said advance orders for the Priv have been higher than those for the Passport, Classic and Leap devices, though it hasn’t provided presales figures.

With files from The Canadian Press

How to boost your immune system naturally

Cityline | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2015

With cold and flu season around the corner, it is important to keep your immune system strong and your body in tiptop shape. By doing so, you will have a far better chance of fighting off any nasty bugs that you may be exposed to over the next fall and winter months.

What is the immune system?
In short, the immune system is a combination of cells and organs that work together to help you avoid sickness and disease, which can lead to coughs, colds and flus. The immune system can be likened to a powerful army that has various weapons such as anti-bodies and white blood cells. When an invader “attacks” in the form of a bacteria, virus or allergenic food, a response is issued by the immune system to protect your body. Conditions such as sleep deprivation, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and an excess intake of alcohol can weaken the immune system response and leave you susceptible to getting sick.

Can I improve my immune system?
Yes! Absolutely – your immune system can be strengthened (or weakened) by various food and lifestyle approaches. To keep your immune system function strong, simply implement a few of the steps below:

Go for garlic: Garlic is an immune boosting superstar. Eaten in raw form or in capsule form, research has shown garlic to be a very powerful preventative agent against coughs, colds and chest infections during the winter months. Odorless garlic capsules are available at your local health food store.

Get your zzzz’s: Sleep is the time where your body repairs and re-builds. If you are sleep deprived or suffer from interrupted sleep, the immune system can become depressed and an increase of inflammatory chemicals can occur. In order to get some sound sleep, opt for lavender on your pillow, sleep in a room that is completely dark, and avoid watching TV before bed.

Supplement with vitamin D: Canadians who live in colder climates typically have limited sunny months and can become deficient in the immune-boosting vitamin D. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people with low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to catching colds. For supplementation reasons, most experts suggest supplementing with a minimum of 1000 IU per day.

Avoid white sugar: Eating too much white sugar can cause fatigue, weight gain and can suppress immune system function. An excess amount of white sugar found in pop, candy and other refined food dampens your white blood cell response, referred to as your leucocytic index response. White blood cells are part of the “army” that the immune system uses to ensure harmful microbes such as bacteria or viruses do not grab hold. Instead of eating white sugar, turn to natural sweet foods such as berries, mangos, apples, apple sauce and naturally dried fruit for a healthier type of snack.

Additional immune boosting tips include:

  • Hydrate with a minimum of 2 liters of water per day.
  • Add probiotics (“good bacteria”) into your daily diet such as those found in yogurt or in capsule form.
  • Be with your friends! Research show those who socialize and spend time with loved ones enjoy better health and longevity.
  • Lighten up your eating. When you are under the weather, your body does not actually have to eat a lot of food. If you do fall ill this winter, drink warm liquids and eat organic chicken soup until you feel stronger.
  • Remember to wash your hands! Infections can be transmitted via contact such as sneezing, coughing or touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on.
  • Boost your vitamin C intake by eating citrus fruits and broccoli, as well as in supplement form.
  • Sweat it out: Engage in physical activity on a regular basis to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that when over secreted by the adrenal glands, can cause your immune system to weaken.

Thinking about getting the flu vaccine this year? Cityline guest expert Dr. Joelene Huber recently talked about the vaccine on Breakfast Television Toronto — watch the video below to learn more.

Courtesy Dr. Joey Shulman
drjoey.com

German Shepherd tucks toddler into bed

Erin Criger | posted Thursday, Nov 5th, 2015

A beautiful, near-silent video perfectly illustrates the loving relationship between dog and man.

Or in this case, dog and toddler.

Baron, a German Shepherd, helps get his human Alexander ready for bed, including tidying up, prayers, and of course, goodnight kisses.

Baron even helps turn out the light.

Watch the sweet video below or click here to view it.

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