Tag Archives: history

at hycroft

i am here at hycroft, the lovely, lovely 100-year-old home of the university women’s club of vancouver. my friend MJ ankenmann had invited some vancouver bloggers to join her in the unveiling of a painting in honour of the many 100-year events that will happen here in 2011.

just now i interviewed donalda falconer, who leads the club’s choir, the hycroft singer. they present a wide repertoire, from early music to broadway to jazz. they sing in many different venues and configurations. “we always have a good time and are good friends,” says donalda. recently at the last “christmas at hycroft” (a venerable vancouver christmas event), the choir did a flashmob. the public was milling about, with the choir mixed in and suddenly they erupted into in dulce jubilo. it was a lot of fun!

on friday march 18 there will be a festival of choirs, a women’s choir festival in the ballroom. so far three choirs are scheduled to sing, the hycroft singers, the lyric singers, and higher ground from north vancouver. doors open at 7, refreshments are available, the music starts at 7:30. tickets are $15 for members, $20 for the public – phone the office! there is limited space. the number is 604 731 4661.

i asked donalda to tell me why i should join the club. “there is such a variety of people and things going on. the interest groups are amazing. you can get really serious or not, you can do a little bit or a lot of it, the camaraderie is wonderful. when i first joined, i loved the variety of the members. a variety of age and interest. and that’s one of the big points of this club.”

another person i interviewed was kathy barford, a fountain of knowledge about hycroft. “there is something very enduring about this house,” she says. there is an effort to continuously make it closer to what it might have been when it was first built and lived in (and partied in! the ballroom and bar downstairs are huge!). during WWII, the house was converted to a veteran’s hospital. the beautiful, very large formal living room in which we are sitting right now was hospital green during the war and the floor battleship linoleum. afterwards, when the place was restored to its old splendour, the members couldn’t get any men to strip the linoleum, so they did it themselves. just imagine all these well-educated women way back in the 60s and 70s on their knees, stripping the floor!

cathy took art history in university, and loves hycroft because “it is just overall beautifully designed, the proportions, the scale of it, it’s all so well done, all the way through. sadly, this is a rare thing.” thomas hooper was the architect. his older brother became provincial architect in manitoba (hm, i wonder what a provincial architect is?) thomas hooper came here in 1886, just as vancouver was founded. he built many schools and churches in vancouver and victoria, e.g. the vancouver public library, the addition to the vancouver art gallery, and the winch building. he also did the provincial court houses in vernon and revelstoke. mccarter, who built the marine building, trained with him.

cathy looks after the volunteers at hycroft. right now she is putting together a lecture series about the history, heritage and antiques at hycroft. she is also part of the house committee, which replaces all the work a butler or major-domo would have usually done. “really,” she says, “we have a cooperative between members and staff.”

so, why should i join this club? “it’s interesting and there is fellowship and a beautiful house, advocacy on behalf of women’s issues and a great place to hang out.”

finally, i asked MJ a few questions. when MJ lived in toronto, there was a university women’s club but she never got around to joining it. when she got here, she saw the building and thought this would be an interesting place to belong to. when she first visited, she was immediately drawn to it. there are women of all ages. “one of my best friends is 87.” she doesn’t have that sort of multigenerational family connection here. it’s a real sisterhood, an older version of the sorority but without the politics. “we do some good work with advocacy. right now we’re working on a paper about prostitution. we are against legalisation and are involved with the canadian federation of university women; this way we are able to put forth a position. we do take a stand on things.”

why should i join? it’s a great place to meet and be surrounded by women who have ideas, who are creative who want to enjoy life. there is a wide variety of things to do, educational and fun, “we play poker and drink wine, and play bridge and drink tea.” there is also a connection to history, one because of the house and vancouver’s history, and we’re preserving some of this. there is also the history of the club in the house. when we bought it in 1962, women were not allowed to legally hold a mortgage on their own. they had to raise the money and buy the house outright. and they did that. rather than having a man co-sign it, they said, we’re going to do this. there are members from all over the world. it’s a great place to come to meet people.

remembrance day: musing on war and sacrifice

remembrance day has always been an ambiguous day for me. good memories : an hour in the rain under a gazillion umbrellas, proudly listening to my daughter singing a song with the girl guides at a remembrance day celebration; or a lovely morning 17 years ago when my then-boyfriend, now-husband were walking up and down the streets trying to find a place to have breakfast.

but mostly there is ambiguity. i watched the berlin wall come down on TV with my ex husband 20 years ago while on a let’s-make-it-up trip following a horrible fight. yes, the wall coming down was amazing, especially after having lived in berlin from 1980 to 1982 (and i’d like to propose pink floyd’s the wall as this year’s song in my annual tradition to suggest non-war remembrance day songs). that was only seven years before the destruction of the wall; it seemed nearly impossible then that it would ever happen. but seeing the wall fall felt as surreal as being on that trip with my ex husband. by that time, i had come to deeply distrust making up after a fight, knowing that the sweetness wouldn’t last long (three days in that case). i’m glad the end of the cold war lasted longer than my marriage, which was to end eight months later.

this surreal, ambiguous flavour has always seasoned my remembrance days. there are all these guys, and a few gals, walking around in their uniforms, wearing poppies. these poppies are pretty – really, they are – but it’s always felt like they were glorifying war. but wait, no, they aren’t. or are they? my head spins over that one every november 11.

questions that come up are: does being a soldier automatically make one complicit in the cruelties of war? if so, is that complicity the same as glorifying the killing, raping and maiming that happens in every war? what exactly are the sacrifices that a soldier makes? when someone celebrates soldiers and what they do, is it nationalism? glorification of war? gratitude? sentimentalism? hero worship? paying hommage to someone who truly deserves it? admiration?

lately, i have been thinking a bit about sacrifice, partly because of a book i am reading right now, the priority of love: christian charity and social justice, by timothy p. jackson. he proposes some instances of sacrifice as a truly sacred act, an act of love and surrender not in a masochistic sense or as something forced in oppression, but a giving of oneself in the deepest meaning of charity.

a soldier dying in the battle of metz 65 years ago – what sacrifice might that have been? what if we was protecting a fellow soldier, a brother-in-arms, a relationship that some say is as tight and binding as the one between mother and child?

i can’t get behind wars, never. maybe that’s because i was brought up in a fiercely pacifist household; even my grandfather refused to fight and opted to be a medic instead. but i can get behind one man giving his life, using his body as a shield so another may live.

thank you.

why we blog and other intelligent waxings on self-expression

i just want to send some kudos to hank for his fabulous blog post want to know what i think?

in that post, hank waxes intelligently and humourously and historically about what makes us blog, or generally express ourselves, like martin luther,

famous for publicly posting his disagreements with catholic dogma (except for the parts dealing with hating the shit out of the jews, he was sweet with that). i shall distill his arguments thusly: “OMFG ppl teh pOpe is GHEY, jezuz dont wan’t u 2 b @church!1! jus spk 2 him IRL! WWJD LOL ^_^”. understandably, the vatican was well shat with such blatant protest-trolling and, once the pope had written “FIRST!” and been flamed for being a nOOb, the ensuing comment thread took off and still rages today

or even earlier, like the

hairy cro-magnon smearing his handprint on the wall of his dining cave with a mixture of blood, faeces & clay as if to say ” … um, so, that’s my wall”.

or never mind humans, how about animals?

natural as laying your eggs into the brain of your host organism and flying away, leaving your offspring to burrow through its cherished memories.

i was going to be real academic about this and link his words to research and psychology and all that brainy stuff. however, every time i came across something that was somehow related, it just didn’t measure up to hank’s incisive analysis. so let’s just let well enough alone, shall we?

mental health camp: speaker list, diagnosis, and the history of stigma

for today, i’ll simply send you over to the MentalHealthCamp site.

we have a list of presentations now – really interesting stuff – topics reach from anonymity and pseudonymity to ADD to online therapy to stigma and self stigma – please check it out! the title of my presentation will be “blogging yourself home” – on blogging, writing, creativity and mental health.

there are also two very interesting guest posts.  one is on diagnosis, stigma, loneliness – and hope.

the other is entitled mental illness and stigma in history by ian from graveyard contemplations.

easter, eostre, ostara

eostre http://www.vrouwengeschiedenis.dds.nlwikipedia on the origins of easter:

the modern english term easter developed from the old english word eastre, which itself developed prior to 899. the name refers to the goddess eostre, who was celebrated at the spring equinox, and has cognates in old high german ōstarÅ«n, plural, “easter” (modern german language ostern). the old english term eastre ultimately derives from Ä“ast – meaning the direction of east. this suggests it originally referred to a goddess associated with dawn. corresponding traditions occur with the roman goddess aurora and the greek goddess eos.

eostre is sometimes derived from the proto-germanic root *aew-s, “illuminate, especially of daybreak” and closely related to (a)wes-ter- “dawn servant”, the dawn star venus and *austrôn-, meaning “dawn, east” (compare ostar-rîchi “eastern realm, austria“), cognate to the names of greek eos, roman aurora and indian ushas, all continuing proto-indo-european *hausos.

there is no certain parallel to eostre in north germanic languages though grimm speculates that the east wind, “a spirit of light” named austri found in the 13th century

according to bede (c. 672735), writing in de temporum ratione (“on the reckoning of time”), ch. xv, de mensibus anglorum (“the english months”) the word “easter” is derived from eostre, an anglo-saxon goddess of spring, to whom eostur-monath, corresponding to our month of april (latin: aprilis), was dedicated:

15. the english months.

in olden time the english people – for it did not seem fitting to me that i should speak of other nations’ observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation’s – calculated their months according to the course of the moon. hence after the manner of the hebrews and the greeks, [the months] take their name from the moon, for the moon is called mona and the month monath.

the first month, which the latins call january, is giuli; february is called sol-monath; march hreth-monath; april, eostur-monath; may thrimilchi…

eostur-monath has a name which is now translated paschal month, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. now they designate that paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

what is secure in bede’s passage is that the lunar month around the month of april in the julian calendar was called eostur or similar; in vita karoli magni einhard tells, that charlemagne (c. 742 or 747 – 814) gave the months names in his own language and used ‘ostar-manoth’ for april.[6] some critics who question bede’s account of a goddess suggest that “the anglo-saxon eostur-monath meant simply ‘the month of opening’ or ‘the month of beginnings’.” it should be noted that old high german ōstarÅ«n is plural, as it is in aelfric‘s hexameron: “and ne beoð næfre eastron ær se dæg cume ðæt ðæt leoht hæbbe ða ðeostre oferswiðeð

in 1835, jacob grimm (1785-1863) published deutsche mythologie, a collection of german myths and oral histories, including a two-and-a-half page commentary on a goddess ostara.

grimm recalls bede’s account of eostre and states that it was unlikely that the man of the church would simply have invented a pagan goddess. from the anglo-saxon month name, he then reconstructs an old high german equivalent, *ostara:

“this ostarâ, like the as [anglo-saxon/old english language]. eástre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.”

grimm also notes various accounts of the name of the easter festival in old high german, like ôstertagâ or aostortagâ. according to grimm, these were plural forms of ostara, since the festival would have been celebrated on two days.

grimm’s commentary does not mention any easter eggs or easter bunny customs, the only easter custom he mentions being easter bonfires (osterfeuer), a long-standing german tradition, attested since 1559.

ostara is also one of the names of the mother-archetype in the psychology of carl gustav jung.

the interpretation of dreams

108 years ago today, sigmund freud’s most significant work, the interpretation of dreams, was first published (it was later forward-dated to 1900). dreams, freud thought, were “the royal road to the unconscious”. chapter one of this book starts with these words:

in the following pages, i shall demonstrate that there is a psychological technique which makes it possible to interpret dreams, and that on the application of this technique, every dream will reveal itself as a psychological structure, full of significance, and one which may be assigned to a specific place in the psychic activities of the waking state.

further, i shall endeavour to elucidate the processes which underlie the strangeness and obscurity of dreams, and to deduce from these processes the nature of the psychic forces whose conflict or co-operation is responsible for our dreams.

like so many other scientists and psychiatrists, he was a little overenthusiastic in what exactly a new technique or discovery could do. i know of no psychologist worth her or his salt who is convinced that every dream will reveal itself as freud described, or that it can always be “assigned to a specific place in the psychic activities of the waking state”.

nevertheless, freud’s contribution to our understanding of psychology today are immeasurable and got us all moving in a dramatically new direction (to what degree it was only freud who devised these ideas is a matter of debate. often ideas are “in the air”. you may want to read here for some thoughts on how and whether freud was influenced by nietzsche, for example).

by “us all” i literally mean pretty much every even semi-educated person anywhere in the world today. everything from arts to education to marketing strategies to politics is embued with findings that originated as a direct result of freud’s writings.

and this book is where it all began. it is the book that first talks about the ego, and introduces the idea of the oedipus complex.

you can read the book online, and more about freud all over the internet, on my bookshelf or in a library near you – or you can go here.