Up-and-Coming Band: The Dead South

The Dead South is a terrific band from Saskatchewan that is up and coming.

They have a great sound that is tinged with roots, blues, folk and traditional country.  If you haven’t heard of them before, I think before long all of us will be hearing a lot more of their wonderful music.

Vintage Picture Map Geography of Canada


I recently came across a copy of an old school book, “Picture Map Geography of Canada and Alaska” by Vernon Quinn, that includes charming woodcut picture maps by Bruno da Osimo, a then noted Italian illustrator, for each of the Canadian provinces (other than Nunavut, which was then part of the Northwest Territories).  Originally published in 1944 and updated in 1954, it has a light but well-written chapter devoted to individual provinces.  Each map features animals, plants, activities and industries peculiar to the province depicted.  In addition to the maps (scanned in above and below), the book is adorned throughout with other delightful illustrations by da Osima (some of which I’ll compile in a future post).

alberta british-columbia manitoba-saskatchewan newfoundland nova-scotia-new-brunswick-pei ontario-2 quebec yukon


Similar Posts on O’Canada Blog:

1933 Quebec Tourist Road Map

Old Maps and Their Hidden Stories

Songs & Ballads From Nova Scotia

Bob Pitzel’s Art of the Vanishing Prairie

B. Pitzel, Redline (2009)

Our fresh snow cover here this morning sent me looking for some wintery inspiration, which I happily found in the wistful watercolors of Saskatchewan artist Bob Pitzel.  Pitzel’s art captures the stark and vanishing rural landscapes of western Canada, typified by imposing grain elevators, graying farmhouses and sheds that dot wide expanses of  prairie, and weathered fences erected more as barriers against the elements than to fence in or out people or creatures.

While Pitzel’s subject matter ranges beyond winter settings, it struck me while surveying his masterful work that many of his scenes are rendered with the coldest of seasons as a central element.  In the biography on his site, I love the ethos of humility, practicality and community that he expresses when noting that given the remoteness of rural life “we had to help ourselves out of the corners our inexperience got us into.”  More broadly, the following observation by Pitzel suggests some further inspiration for the muted emotional feel and sense of isolation conveyed in much of his winter-themed art:  “As the human race, we fool ourselves that we’re in control. But look at global warming, and history. At the end of the day, we’re only spectators.”

More about Pitzel and his wonderful watercolors can be found on his artist site here.

B. Pitzel, Trackside (2014)


B. Pitzel, Deep Snow and Treeline Study (2010)


B. Pitzel, Fresh Snow (2012)



B. Pitzel, Pioneer Grain, Lake Lenore (2007)


B. Pitzel, Maybe We’ll Start Her Up in Spring (2007)


B. Pitzel, No Glass Left (2005)



B. Pitzel, Six in a Row (2014)



B. Pitzel, Fuel Storage (2005)



B. Pitzel, Regular or Premium (2016)


Canadian Cities in 1950s Watercolors


For Canada Day weekend, this post features images that span the geography of this vast country.  Around 1953, in a grand display of national pride, the Montreal-based alcohol and beverage giant Seagram Company commissioned over a dozen Canadian artists (including several among the famed Group of Seven) to create a series of  watercolors of major Canadian cities. The paintings were subsequently the focus of a world tour organized by Seagram to showcase Canada and its urban landscapes.

While recently rummaging through an antique shop I came across a small booklet, dating to 1953, in which these paintings were reproduced and for which this post shows a sampling of the now somewhat faded images.  While many of the provincial capitals are depicted, I find the inclusion of several less prominent cities (including Fort William, Hamilton, Sarnia, Shawinigan Falls and Trois Rivieres) to be fascinating.

St. John's


Shawinigan Falls





Quebec City

Saint John






They’re Giving Away Land!


Back in the day, Canada needed more people to build up its country and, in particular, in its vast western inland plains. With lots of land and not so many people, the federal and provincial governments and land companies starting in the late 1800s on into the early twentieth century launched  recruitment campaigns  around the world, especially in Europe, with the lure of free land grants and the potential for prosperity.  The distance was far and farm life was (is!) tough, but the appeal drew many new immigrants to Canada’s west.   I love the variety and details in some of these posters! (Click on images to enlarge)

Artist to Appreciate: Michael E. Glover

Michael Glover, End of the Line, Hines Creek, Alberta (2010) 2

Michael Glover, End of the Line, Hines Creek, Alberta (2010)


Michael Glover’s realist artwork conveys a deep appreciation for the stark and forlorn rural and industrial landscapes that hint at the hardscrabble existence of the hardy folks who settled such remote areas long ago.  His sense of place is strong — even to the point that the titles of his paintings denote the specific towns depicted — and I like that much of his work focuses on the often overlooked Canadian heartland regions of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.  However, Glover is the rare Canadian painter whose work embraces images of virtually all the country’s provinces, reflecting his wide travels across Canada’s vast expanse.

Michael Glover, In The Heartland, Aneroid, Saskatchewan (2006)

Michael Glover, In The Heartland, Aneroid, Saskatchewan (2006)


Michael Glover, On the Crowsnest Line, Pincher Station, Alberta (2012)

Michael Glover, On the Crowsnest Line, Pincher Station, Alberta (2012)

Michael Glover, Forgotten Timber, Wawa, Ontario (2007)

Michael Glover, Forgotten Timber, Wawa, Ontario (2007)


Michael Glover, Once Proud, Still Strong, Fredericton, N.B. (2004)

Michael Glover, Once Proud, Still Strong, Fredericton, N.B. (2004)


Michael Glover, Standing Proud in the Eleventh Hour, Mossleigh, Alberta (2006)

Michael Glover, Standing Proud in the Eleventh Hour, Mossleigh, Alberta (2006)


Michael Glover, The Final Days of Fleming, Fleming, Saskatchewan (2012)

Michael Glover, The Final Days of Fleming, Fleming, Saskatchewan (2012)


Michael Glover, Alexandria Falls, Enterprise, NWT (2012)

Michael Glover, Alexandria Falls, Enterprise, NWT (2012)


Michael Glover, Nightstop, Grenfell, Saskatchewan (2012)

Michael Glover, Nightstop, Grenfell, Saskatchewan (2012)


Glover has a much-deserved exhibition opening in late November 2013 at the Art Gallery of Northumberland (Ontario), appropriately entitled “The Lost and Forgotten: Canada’s Vanishing Landscape.”   More of Glover’s exceptional art may also be viewed at his website here and at the Quinn’s of Tweed (Ontario) gallery.

Image Credits:  Michael E. Glover

Voices of the Floods

Flooding in Lumsden, Manitoba (Photo Credit: David Stobbe, Reuters)

Although wreaking havoc and presenting immense challenges, natural disasters allow us to better maintain perspective on the things that should matter most.  The record-breaking floods now affecting many areas of Canada, including Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, and the similar flooding to the south that is inundating major swaths of the Mississippi River valley serve as powerful reminders of nature’s force and our inability to bend it to our will.    In an article about the floods near Louisiana, the reporter James Byrne on NOLa.com aptly quoted from T.S. Eliot’s “The Dry Salvages”:

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities – ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons, and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.

Flooding Near Bonnet Carre Spillway, Louisiana (Photo Credit: Brett Duke, Times Picayune)

The flooding also had me thinking about the experiences and emotions being shared by people north and south of our common border.   In that spirit, I surveyed a variety of stories about the widespread flooding and below is a small sampling of quotes I found interesting from affected individuals in Canada and the U.S.

It speaks to our spirit. Flooding is not pleasant . . . People put their best foot forward and deal with it.  People tend to stay. This doesn’t drive people out of communities. If anything, it probably makes the community stronger when you have a (common) response to it.”  Chuck Sanderson, Manitoba’s Emergency Measures Organization, quoted in the Leader-Post

“I don’t think they can afford this flood.  I don’t think the government can pay for all the damage. It’s heartbreaking.  We worked hard all our lives to get established, to take care of our families. Now this.”  Glen Fossey,  Starbuck, Manitoba, quoted in Winnipeg Free Press

“I don’t think I’m afraid.  I just don’t know what to do.”  Chris Yuill, Starbuck, Manitoba, quoted in Winnipeg Free Press

“It’s been very, very long.  As long as the electricity keeps working, I can hang in till the end.”  . . . She added it was heartening to see how people are helping each other out, including one volunteer who has been using his all-terrain vehicle and a wagon to provide a free taxi service through chest-deep water to the main road.  Linda Durbeaum,  St.-Paul-de-l’Ile-aux-Noix, Quebec, quoted in the Windsor Star

 In my lifetime, we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s going to be serious.” Ray Bittner, Manitoba Agriculture, quoted in the Windsor Star

 “What I’ve seen in Shelby County over the past couple of weeks isn’t so much a rising river, it’s a rising community.  . . . Wave after wave of volunteers show up asking ‘what can I do?’”  Craig Strickland, Cordova, Tennessee, quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal

“When you live in an area like this, you sometimes forget the magnitude and awe of the river.”  Susan Brown, Bartlett, Tennessee, quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal

“This is all I got.  I’ll protect it the best I can.”   Francis Cole, Popular Bluff, Missouri, quoted in the Aribiter

“I packed everything, and I mean ev-ry-thing. . . . It’s depressing. But what are you going to do?  This is a resilient bunch of people, and I imagine the biggest part of them will come right back.”  Terry Bower, Butte La Rose, Louisiana, quoted in NOLA.com 

Richard Ford’s Amusing Description of Canada

Close to the ground: novelist Richard Ford near his home in Maine.

This past weekend I caught part of an interview by Eleanor Wachtel of the Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer Richard Ford on Wachtel’s CBC Radio One program “Writers & Company.”  Among the subjects touched upon is a novel that Ford has in progress, which has the working title of Canada.    The novel tells the story of a young boy from Montana going to live with a family friend in Saskatchewan.  In an excerpt from his manuscript that Ford read on the program (and as transcribed by me below as accurately as my ears would allow), Mildred, a friend of the boy’s mother drives him up to the fictional town of Fort Royal and shares with the boy some of her quirky and unintentionally humorous perspectives on Canada as follows:   

In the car, Mildred recited what she knew about Canada that might be useful to me.  That Canada contained provinces not states of the union, though there was really no difference.  She said they spoke English there but in a different way she couldn’t describe though I’d be aware of it.  She said they had Thanksgiving but theirs was on a Sunday and wasn’t in November.  She said Canada had fought beside America in the war my father had fought in and Canada had gotten involved in it even before we did and had an air force as good as ours. 

She said Canada wasn’t an old country like ours and still had a pioneer feel to it, and nobody there thought of it as a country anyway, and in fact in some parts people spoke French.  And the capital of which she couldn’t remember the name of, was back in the east some place and nobody respected it the way we did Washington, D.C.  She said Canada also had dollar bills for their money, but theirs were different colored and weren’t worth even half of what ours were.  [Ford interjects at this point that this was a long time ago.]  She said Canada had their own Indians but treated them much better than we treated ours, and Canada was much bigger than America, except it was mostly useless and inhospitable, since it was covered in ice all year long.

The full interview can be accessed here on the CBC Radio One site, with Ford’s reading from his book starting at around 23:36.

(Photo credit: Robert Yager)

Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil

I finished Yann Martel’s latest novel, Beatrice and Virgil, about two months ago and set it aside unsure what to make of it.  I figured I’d give this work by the Saskatchewan-based Martel some time to percolate a little in my mind before venturing comment.  I truly enjoyed his Life of Pi, as clever a tale written in parable form as one might find.  I later learned that Martel was the 1991 recipient of Canada’s Journey Prize (related O’Canada Blog entry on 3/21/10), which enhanced my appreciation for his writing abilities.  As icing, because the author is Canadian, at some level I expected (hoped) that to weigh in the book’s favor.  So, given all this, I looked forward to this latest offering by one of Canada’s contemporary literary lights.

Alas . . . .  My predisposition and my prolonged rumination could not salvage my conclusion that this book comes up short on several measures.  While it may be that the shadow of success cast by Life of Pi would make just about any author’s subsequent efforts fall short by comparison, I felt in many ways that a kind of writer’s block may have gotten the best of Martel with this work.  There are too many elements that bear at least a passing resemblance  to the earlier novel or the actual life of its author:  like Martel, the protagonist in Beatrice and Virgil, is an author who found  initial success with a work that was a parable and who then had a hiatus of some time before completing another novel; also like Martel, after encountering resistance to an innovative manner of telling a combined fictional story and a non-fiction narrative about the Holocaust, he retreats from writing; the main character then chances to meet a taxidermist-cum-writer in need of editorial guidance with a play whose main characters are animals — a donkey (Beatrice) and a howler monkey (Virgil); Beatrice and Virgil struggle to recount the horrors of a series of events perpetrated among animal-kind that, in the manner of a parable, is supposed to be akin to the Holocaust.

There are certainly a number of imaginative flourishes in the novel.  The various ways in which the horrors are referred and recounted is interesting as is the idea that all the action in the play is supposed to take place (literally) on a great big shirt.  The connection between the lengthy recounting of a story of cold-blooded animal hunting written by the 19th-Century French writer Gustave Flaubert and the mysterious life of the taxidermist-playwright is also intriguing.  However, Martel’s story itself plods along and it is unclear whether Martel’s point about the Holocaust is that we should appreciate how vastly horrible it was — notwithstanding that, with the exception of true historical Luddities or denialists, the understanding is widely shared that, indeed, the Holocaust was immensely terrible.  So, this is not much of a revelation by Martel.  Maybe, like Martel’s fictional novelist in Beatrice and Virgil, Martel wanted to conjure up a more creative way to approach the Holocaust, or the subjugation of animals by people,  than one can find in traditional literature on those subjects.  Yet, at the end of all this, this novel feels like a work that is more of a palette cleanser than the satisfying main course we expected.

Canada’s Regional Sounds on Smithsonian Folkways

French Canadian Folk Songs Track Listing  (Song suggestion:  “A la Claire Fontaine”)

Pretty much for as long as I can remember I’ve always liked folk music.  Among the earliest folk songs I can recall is the French-Canadian song “Alouette,” which every now and then would be played in one of my grade school classes as I was growing up in New York.  I enjoyed the fast, playful pacing of this simple children’s tune and, not knowing any French at the time, was more than amused years later to learn that it dealt with the plucking of a chicken.

Folksongs of Saskatchewan Track Listing:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=761

(Song suggestion: “Saskatchewan”)

That song, along with hundreds of other Canadian regional tunes, can be readily found through the website for Smithsonian Folkways.  Over almost  40 years, Folkways Records devoted itself to recording songs and sounds from America, Canada and other parts of the world, producing a prodigious 2,168 albums.  Several years ago, the Smithsonian acquired the archives of Folkways Records and part of the Smithsonian’s mission was to make the collection widely available, which it accomplishes, in part, through the website.

A search of “Canada” on the Smithsonian Folkways site reveals a total of 118 Canada-related records.  Because most of these recordings are from the 1950s and 60s, they are very difficult to find elsewhere, so it is amazing that so many are collected in one location.  (Link to Canadian-Related Records on Smithsonian Folkways:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/searchresults.aspx?sPhrase=canada&sType=’phrase’).

While the Smithsonian Folkways collection is broader than just Canadian music, there is a further strong Canadian connection of this music by virtue of the University of Alberta’s folkwaysAlive! project that is part of the Canadian Centre for Ethnomusicology.  The University of Alberta has also made a significant grant in support of the mission of Smithsonian Folkways.  (Link to University of Alberta’s folkwaysAlive!:  http://www.fwalive.ualberta.ca/home/about-us/)

There are many albums worth noting on the Folkways site.   A few examples, with links to album track listings and a suggested song to which you might listen for a flavor of the album, are noted above and below.

Canada’s Story in Song Track Listing: http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2116

(Song suggestion:  “Poor Little Girls of Ontario”)

We’ll Rant and We’ll Rave Track Listing:    http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=1523

(Song suggestion:  “Harbour Place”)

Heart of Cape Breton Track Listing:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=2973

(Song suggestion:  My Great Friend John Morris Rankin, etc.” — Medley)

Songs and Dances of Quebec Track Listing:  http://www.folkways.si.edu/albumdetails.aspx?itemid=1241

(Song suggestion:  “Danse Carre”)

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