In Everyone Can Learn Math by Alice Aspinall, Amy is in 5th grade and is frustrated with her math homework. She struggles with a word question, sparking an outburst toward her mother, who also struggles with math but is doing her best to help her daughter succeed. Will Amy give up or will she learn the secret to unlocking her potential?
On February 24, 2019, at 2 p.m., author and historian Guy St. Denis launched his latest book, The True Face of Sir Isaac Brock. The fully reserved event was held in the lovely Interpretive Centre of the Duff-Baby House located at 221 Mill Street in Windsor, Ontario.
Windsor, Ontario may seem an odd place to launch a book about Sir Isaac Brock, but the author felt the General’s connection to the area, and especially to the place St. Denis chose for the launch, was strong. The Duff-Baby House is thought to be the oldest building in Upper Canada and the author believes that given the historic home’s strong military connection, especially to the War of 1812, that Sir Isaac Brock visited at least twice.
The first visit likely took place in 1810 and the second in 1812. Though St. Denis did not locate a definitive primary source that would validate the hunch, his expert opinion of the stature of the visiting military official that his visiting a home, so important in military history would have been a given.
St. Denis has spent a decade wading through the hosts of portraits painted after the death of Brock at the Battle Queenston on October 13, 1812. A military hero, artists and, historians after the death of Brock would accept the image of the hero. St. Denis, a lively and entertaining speaker, regaled the packed house with the story of his search for a true image. The cover image of The True Face of Isaac Brock, while perhaps the well-known image of Brock is not actually a picture of the late General. The young, handsome, noble image is actually that of Lieutenant George Dunn. While St. Denis insisted to his publisher that no one should pretend the cover photo is actually Brock, it’s really the point of his research, isn’t it? A librarian way back when saw the image of the young and handsome Dunn and thought, “That’s what Brock should look like” and suddenly he gets a historic makeover. Why the portrait is cut off is a mystery to the author but makes for a book that will catch the eye of any history buff walking by a bookstore shelf.
St. Denis spoke for around 40 minutes about his book and future projects and he was such an engaging speaker that time flew. The question period following was brief but imbued with laughter as one savvy attendee asked if Brock would be “someone he would like.” St. Denis, who is also writing a biography of Brock, shed some light on what he considered the General’s “humanity,” and while he wasn’t initially a fan of the Six Nations, believed that opinion changed when the General met Tecumseh for whom he had great respect. A statue of the pair stands at a newly constructed roundabout leading from the east to Olde Sandwich Towne, the oldest area of Windsor. Les Amis Duff Baby provided coffee and baked treats including a lovely cake featuring an image of the book’s cover. If only I’d been able to get a picture. I purchased a book which the author signed and must say, I can’t wait to start reading. The author’s next project is a study of the court-martial of General Henry Procter.
Les Amis Duff Baby hosted a lovely and well-organized event. To join them in their quest to preserve and educate, visit them on their Facebook page and send a message to the administration. Guy St. Denis is pursuing a Ph.D. in history at the University of Western Ontario. You can connect with him on Goodreads.
You can buy The True Face of Sir Isaac Brock by Guy St. Denis on
The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon is a biography. Huguette Clark, born near the beginning of the twentieth century, was the daughter of the nation’s second richest man and grew up in luxury. She was a lively and social philanthropist who relatives one day realized, had become gradually more distant until she virtually disappeared. What happened to this once vibrant personality?
The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark is an infuriating read. It is a dispassionate account of the life of Huguette Clark, and what happened to her once she went into isolation. The biography was written by the journalist, Meryl Gordon. What is infuriating about the book is the connection that Gordon builds between her subject and the reader and then the revelation that she was basically a tool for gain in her later years outlined in an objective fashion that could not make clearer the motivations of the century-old woman’s carers. Continue reading The Phantom of Fifth Avenue: The Mysterious Life and Scandalous Death of Heiress Huguette Clark by Meryl Gordon
To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild is a look at the often ignored World War I moral objectors along with those people who wholeheartedly believed in the cause.
Is it the job of the historian to moralize and pontificate? History is propaganda written by the winners, so to read a book highlighting the moral objectors is supremely interesting. To sermonize that an event already placed in history shouldn’t have happened is not appealing. People died in World War I. It happened. It’s done. It’s 100 years in the past. History is about facts and while “woulda” “shoulda” and “coulda” are nice to suggest that a war in which an estimated 37 million people (civilian and military) died was a waste of human life. Maybe. But it happened and isn’t it a disservice to chide key figures in history-making portraying them as Keystone Cop archetypes. Despite my distaste at the author’s position, the story of the objectors is one that should be told and was presented with delicacy, mindful of the challenges they faced. Continue reading To End All Wars; a Story of Love, Loyalty and Rebellion 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild
In Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham, it’s 1954 and Juliet Hulme and her friend, Pauline Parker, killed Pauline’s mother. The crime, committed by two teenage girls who lived rich fantasy lives and simply did not want to be separated when Juliet would be sent to South Africa, rocked Auckland, New Zealand. Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century chronicles the crime, trial and Peter Jackson film that led to the hunting down of the two long released convicts.
It seems a widely known fact that English author, Anne Perry, was born as Juliet Hulme and spent five years in prison after she and Pauline Parker were convicted of killing Pauline’s mother. Given the first name when released from prison and returning to England, she took her stepfather’s last name. A secret for many years, the release of Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures brought the crime back to the public eye and interest in tracking down the now elderly teen killers. Continue reading Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century by Peter Graham
On December 31, 2018 Hector Xtravaganza, Grandfather of the House of Xtravaganza (one of the early Latino drag families), died at the age of 60. Hector was featured in Paris is Burning and served as a consultant on the Ryan Murphy show about the New York gay ballroom scene of the 80s. Pose.
DVD Publication Date: February 22, 2012
Paris is Burning was filmed in the mid to late 1980s and chronicles the ball culture of New York City’s Black, Latino, Gay and Transgender community.
Paris is Burning follows the largely African-American Ball scene in New York City. Livingston became interested in the scene when she met a group of young gay men doing what they called “voguing” in Washington Square Park. Thinking the ball scene would make an interesting University project, the men suggested she contact the creator of the vogue moves, Will Ninja, who introduced her to the ball scene where contestants would have walk off competitions in a variety of categories. Contestants would be scored on a number of categories including realness of drag whether it be boy drag (banjee – or passing as straight), girl drag or androgyny. In exploring the ball scene, Livingston connected with many individuals and highlighted their stories.
As a parent, this documentary tore at my soul. On the one hand there’s the pageantry and over the top nature of the ball scene. A place to be accepted and celebrated for people who normally found themselves on the outside of 80’s mainstream society. A celebration of acceptance, open hearts and love. In the ball setting of everything goes live people who want to be who they are. They want love and happiness and the societal idea of normalcy. Venus Xtravaganza is a trans woman supporting herself as a call girl while dreaming that one day she’ll have the life she’s always wanted. People who love and accept her. People who see her as the woman she knows herself to be. Her longing for a life she’d never have was heart stirring. In my review of this movie I don’t wish to pontificate on gay rights but my heart broke for Venus in her dreamy desire for a life she would never have (not to give anything away). What we’re left with is a clear, unvarnished look at a woman who is hurting no one in her longing for the life of a suburban lady who lunches. Her end is heartrending and tragic and I will admit to wishing that things had worked out differently for this compelling young person.
As a longtime viewer of RuPaul’s Drag Race and follower of drag culture, watching Paris is Burning shined a light on how much the fore-bearers of the ball scene influence gay culture. The drag houses of the film still exist and thrive and the sense of community shines in the artists appearing on our screens weekly. Livingston showed the good and the bad. The nurturing “families” and the danger of daily survival. I searched wikipedia for many of the key players in the film after finishing and many of them lived on their terms and, sadly, met an early end. Hector Xtravanganza became a key player in HIV/Aids activism.
Paris is Burning is engaging, enlightening, joyful, heartbreaking and informative. It is a must see for humanity. Check it out today. I don’t know why I waited so long.
In Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter, Belle Gunness was a serial killer who operated between 1884 and 1908. She killed at least 14 people (including her own adopted daughter) but possibly as many as 40. Detected in 1908, she apparently died in a house fire with her remaining three adopted children, and though a man went to trial for the arson and murder, not everyone was convinced.
Let me say right from the start, Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness is one of the most compelling books I’ve read in a long time. Not a generally well-known serial killer today, Belle Gunness was a Norwegian-American who operated out of La Porte, Indiana. Her victims appear to have been exclusively her fellow Norwegian immigrants. She’d advertised in the Norwegian papers located in Chicago for a handyman and then would operate a love scam quite a lot like we see today online. Continue reading Hell’s Princess: The Mystery of Belle Gunness by Harold Schechter
Set mostly in 1964, Kit Walker (Evan Peters) is accused of killing his wife (Britne Oldford) and locked up in Briarcliff Manor, an asylum that houses the criminally insane. Court appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Oliver Threadson (Zachary Quinto) is assigned to asses Walker’s ability to stand trial. Reporter Lana Winters (Sarah Paulson) requests access to the asylum as she sees exposing the mistreatment of the patients as the making of her career. Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) denies her access so Lana sneaks in and is injured. Jude initially uses the injury and then Lana’s homosexuality to keep her locked away. Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) is using the patients to make the ultimate human beings. Dark forces are at work. In modern day in the ruins of Briarcliff will history repeat itself?
Asylum is the second show in the American Horror Story series.
There is a lot going on in Asylum. There are serial killers, alien abduction, demon possession, war criminals, the list goes on. The show tackles homosexuality, interracial marriage, unchecked medical practices and the abuses that occurred unchecked in asylums of the era. People treated as sub-human and disappeared easily. Each character is deeply complex and unique in their own right and few are truly evil, simply misguided in their approach to what they think is best for the world.
As would be expected from the calibre of performer to appear in a Ryan Murphy production, the acting is beyond reproach. I read a tweet not long ago that lauded Evan Peters as the Meryl Streep of the modern age and I can’t say that I disagree. He is an absolutely phenomenal artist. In Kit he is traumatized, confused and desperate. Kit is a man fighting for his life and the audience believes the urgency of his dilemma. Lily Rabe appears in this second outing as Sister Mary Eunice, a nun imbued with childlike innocence who turns evil. Frances Conroy appears briefly as an angel of death of sorts and her brief appearances are simply breathtaking. Though there are sex scenes in Asylum, they are less pronounced than in Murder House though, I must warn viewers that might be triggered, there is a pretty brutal rape scene that is in no way gratuitous.
Because of the many directions in which the stories go, some of them simply aren’t done very well. I know that there are lines throughout that will connect in the final season, perhaps the very poorly executed alien story-line that seems like an afterthought will re-emerge in Apocalypse. The backstories of the varied inmates (woman accused of killing her family, sex addicts, Anne Frank, Pepper – a nonverbal patient who appears as a main character in the later installment Freak Show, etc…). Each character is explained and their motivations explored. Innocent and guilty melted together and forced to survive. Sister Jude rules the roost but she’s at odds with Doctor Arden believing that the experiments Briarcliff’s founder, Monsignor Timothy Howard (Joseph Fiennes), has given Arden the space to perform is against nature but she soon finds herself with a greater adversary…her past.
I expected to be deeply uncomfortable with the cruelty of the Asylum and was but was intrigued with where the story would go and was not disappointed. The tie in of the past storyline with it’s present counterpart was expected but really well done. Adam Levine and Jenna Tatum are perhaps not the strongest actors in the piece but their brief appearance certainly makes its mark. Sarah Paulson especially was a standout as a later life Lana Winters.
To say much more would be giving away the story so if you are one of the few people who haven’t seen this series and enjoy well acted drama, check it out. Let me know what you think.
American Horror Story Asylum is available as a DVD, Blu-ray and on Amazon Instant Video.
Noted novelist and screenwriter, William Goldman, died today at the age of 87. Goldman’s first original screenplay was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1967) which he followed with some of his well-known scripts that include The Princess Bride (1973) and Marathon Man (1974), which were originally novels. One of my favorite Goldman novels is No Way to Treat a Lady (1964), so I’ve chosen that work to share with you. If this novel doesn’t appeal to you, look into this very diverse author’s body of work. There is something out there perfectly suited for your tastes.
Publication Date: 1964
No Way to Treat a Lady was originally published under the name Harry Longbaugh and written over a two week period, No Way to Treat a Lady imagines that there were two Boston Stranglers who were aware and deeply jealous of each other and follows the investigation to track them down.
Aired: October 5 – December 21, 2011
DVD Release: September 25, 2012
In American Horror Story: Murder House, on the precipice of divorce, Ben (Dylan McDermott) and Vivian (Connie Britton) relocate from Boston to a renovated mansion in Los Angeles with their daughter Violet (Tassia Farmiga) in order to start again. Little do they know that the great price that they got on the mansion is due to its dark history of violence. Will they become eternal tenants to be the rare people to leave the house alive? Continue reading American Horror Story: Murder House