Au revoir Honey Boo Boo!

French Senate votes to ban child beauty pageants


PARIS — The Associated Press

(published in the Globe and Mail, September 18th 2013)

France’s Senate has voted to ban beauty pageants for children under 16, in an effort to protect children – especially girls – from being sexualized too early.

Anyone who enters a child into such a contest would face up to two years in prison and €30,000 ($41,270) in fines, according to the measure. A pageant organizer expressed regret that the move was so severe.

The Senate approved the measure 197-146 overnight, as an amendment to a law on women’s rights. The legislation must go to the lower house of parliament for further debate and another vote.

Such beauty pageants, involving girls of all ages heavily made up and dressed up, regularly elicit public debate in France and elsewhere. While such pageants are not as common in France as in the United States, girls get the message early on here that they are sexual beings, from social messages and advertising and marketing campaigns — and even from department stores that sell lingerie for girls as young as 6.

“The foundations of equal rights are threatened by the hyper-sexualization that touches children … between 6 and 12 years old,” said conservative lawmaker Chantal Jouanno, who authored the amendment.

“At this age, you need to concentrate on acquiring knowledge. Yet with mini-Miss competitions and other demonstrations, we are fixing the projectors on their physical appearance. I have a hard time seeing how these competitions are in the greater interest of the child.”

She noted it’s primarily focused on protecting girls. “When I asked an organizer why there were no mini-boy contests, I heard him respond that boys would not lower themselves like that.”

The amendment’s language is brief but sweeping: “Organizing beauty competitions for children under 16 is banned.” It doesn’t specify what kind of competitions would be covered, including whether it would extend to online photo competitions or pretty baby contests.

It would apply to parents or others who enter children in such contests – but also anyone “who encourages or tolerates children’s access to these competitions.”

The amendment says it’s aimed at protecting children from danger and being prematurely forced into roles of seduction that harm their development.

Michel Le Parmentier, who says he has been organizing “mini-Miss” pageants in France since 1989, said he’s disappointed that the draft law involves an overall ban. He said that he has been in discussions with legislators about regulating such pageants but wasn’t expecting such sweeping language.

The senators did debated whether to come up with a softer measure limiting such pageants but in the end decided on an overall ban won out.

Some pageants make an effort to de-sexualize the competitions. One recent pageant in the Paris region specifically banned makeup, swimsuits, high heels or anything inappropriate for the child’s age.

In the same debate, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have restricted the use of models under age 16 to modeling for products or services destined for children.


What an awkward way to go in the 1890s…no pun intended

What an awkward way to go in the pun intended

Try out this interactive game by Laura Helmuth and Chris Kirk that shows you the grisley death you could have had if you lived in a certain time. Memorable deaths include diarrhea, plague and tuberculosis!

Boyhood adventure unravels puzzle: Ossington Bones Mystery

Boswell, Randy. The Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Ontario. 23 January 2003, C1 Front.

Solved: Ossington Bones Mystery

In a long-ago summer, a 13-year-old sparked a chain of events that left modern-day scientists confounded. Randy Boswell explains how it all came about.

On a summer afternoon in Ottawa during the Second World War, a 13- year-old boy with an armload of bones and a burden of guilt slipped into the backyard of a home on Ossington Avenue and buried his secret shame.

Nearly sixty years later, after reading a Citizen story about the struggle between the Algonquin First Nation and the Canadian Museum of Civilization over its scientific collection of human remains, the schoolboy — now 72 and living in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood – – has stepped forward to solve a mystery that had perplexed archeologists for decades and which had recently thrust the Ossington Avenue bones into the repatriation uproar.

“I think I’m the guy who buried them there,” says Ross Knowles, who grew up in Old Ottawa South but today runs a printing shop in Chicago. “It’s a little bit embarrassing, but nevertheless, I believe that’s what happened.”

– – –

When the museum recently identified bones from 11 Ottawa Valley burial sites as candidates for possible return to the Algonquins, one set of human remains seemed oddly out of place.

The other sites include some of the region’s best known aboriginal cemeteries, such as those at Morrison Island near Pembroke and on Aylmer Island near Kanata — both set in sandy soil on the ancient Ottawa River trade route, exactly where archeologists would expect to find burials and other traces of prehistoric native communities or encampments.

But the 11th site was a considerable distance from the Ottawa River, at 8 Ossington Ave. in what today is a long-established residential community near Carleton University.

“The last set of remains,” noted a museum memorandum sent to the Algonquins in December, “consisted of three long bones collected from the backyard of a house in Ottawa (near the Rideau Canal). These remains could be either white or native and are from an unknown temporal context.”

Maybe, the museum’s archeology director, David Morrison, said at the time, the remains belonged to one of the hundreds of labourers who died while digging the canal in the late 1820s. Perhaps the bones came from a single native grave. Perhaps they were the remnants of someone whose body was unceremoniously buried in the early 20th century.

But along with bones from Aylmer Island and five other burial sites, the Ossington Avenue remains were proposed for radiocarbon testing to determine their age and whether they qualify to be handed over to the Algonquin people for reburial. The museum’s view is that remains that date from before about 700 years ago cannot be reliably linked to any present-day aboriginal group — a position native leaders dispute.

Gatineau resident Ernie Mahoney read a Dec. 31 Citizen story about the bone controversy, which included a West Quebec man’s recollections of playing on Aylmer Island back in the 1940s and discovering an aboriginal skull and some other bones — all of which today are part of the museum’s collection.

Mr. Mahoney recalled a similar story once told to him long ago by a childhood friend, Ross Knowles. A copy of the Citizen story — including a map identifying the Ossington Avenue site — was mailed to his old school chum in Lincolnwood.

– – –

Mr. Knowles says he was just a boy with a canoe and a thirst for adventure one sunny Saturday in the early 1940s. At the time, he recalls, his parents were separated. His father lived in the McKellar Park area — “that’s where I kept my canoe” — while he and his sisters lived in Old Ottawa South, at 12 Ossington Ave., with their mother.

“One day, a buddy and I paddled up to Aylmer Island, just playing Tom Sawyer sort of stuff. We’d cross over to the Quebec side, portage the canoe and head up from there,” Mr. Knowles remembers.

“As I recall, the up-river side of the island is where this gravel and loose sand was, and you could see where the water had washed away a lot of the up-side of the island. It was a bit like a cave — a foot or two underground — but we knew it was some kind of burial.

“The grave had already been opened and there wasn’t much left around. But just as a souvenir, I took a couple of thigh bones.”

But by the time he’d reached home, the thrill of discovery had given way to fear that he had done something wrong by disturbing a burial site and removing human remains.

“We brought them home, but then I didn’t want my dad to see them. I sort of had a little guilt complex.”

He hid the bones at his dad’s place for a while. Then he decided to take them to his mom’s.

“My mother wouldn’t have cared as much.”

He went into a backyard on Ossington — he can’t remember whether it was at his own house or at a secluded spot nearby — then dug a shallow hole, dropped in the remains and covered them with dirt.

“I buried them there,” he recalls, “so my father wouldn’t find out I was doing a little grave-robbing.”

– – –

Ross Knowles eventually moved to Toronto to work in the printing business. When the owner opened a new operation in Chicago, Mr. Knowles and another employee moved to work there.

The house at 8 Ossington was purchased in 1961 by Allan and Rita Hendrick. They lived there until the early 1970s, and the house was sold after Mr. Hendrick’s death.

Mrs. Hendrick is 90 and now lives in Barrhaven. She remembers a day in 1963 when she was doing yardwork in the back corner of the property, near where the fence and garage met.

“I was raking or something, and these bones just surfaced in the soft, loose soil. We wondered where they’d come from. One was about 18 inches long with a knob at the top, probably the hip-to-knee bone. We suspected it was a murder victim.”

The police were contacted and her husband, she recalls, took charge of the situation.

“Women weren’t involved in these things in those days.”

There were two or three officers at the scene. She thinks they dug deeper at the site to look for further evidence. No one, says Mrs. Hendrick, was even sure if the remains belonged to a human being.

The bones were eventually handed over to the museum, and a catalogue tag attached to the remains identified Allan Hendrick as the donor.

Janet Young, a researcher in the museum’s physical anthropology section, says it’s likely the Ossington Avenue bones will be reclassified as a subgroup of the Aylmer Island remains. The explanation provided by Mr. Knowles appears to prove that the mysterious backyard bones are aboriginal remains after all.

“What are the odds of them not being the right bones?” she says.

Mrs. Hendrick says she had come to believe the remains must have belonged to an animal.

Except for the vivid memory she retains of churning up bones with a garden rake, she says she hasn’t given much thought to the incident over the years.

“Oh, my goodness,” she exclaimed after learning about the origins of the bones. “Well I didn’t expect to get a call like that this morning. A mystery solved.”


Colour Photo: John Booz, The Ottawa Citizen / Now the operator of a Chicago printing shop, Ross Knowles read about the mystery of the bones when a friend mailed him a copy of the Citizen story from last month.; Colour Photo: As a youngster in the 1940s, Ross Knowles used to canoe and paddle around Aylmer Island in the Ottawa River.

(Copyright The Ottawa Citizen 2003)

The Last Stand of the Drive-In Theater: Upgrade or Perish

Midlife Crisis Crossover!

In my early childhood years, I had only two options for seeing movies: squinting at them on my family’s thirteen-inch black-‘n’-white TV (and I was rarely allowed to choose what channels we watched); or seeing them writ large on the giant-sized, outdoor screen down at the drive-in theater. In a world where limited technology narrowed our choices, this competition was a no-brainer to me.

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A post written in the stars

Something to think about next time you look up your horoscope in People.

the many-headed monster

Laura Sangha

According to my horoscope, consulted on the website of a popular entertainment magazine, this will be a good week for me. With six planets in my sign, I’m ‘the one to watch!’. I might be feeling the pressure, but before the week is out, ‘luck will come’. Excellent news, I am sure you will agree. Look in most entertainment magazines and tabloid papers and you would hardly be surprised to find the similar revelations in the stars, tucked away somewhere between the week’s television and the latest suduko. You might be more interested to discover that, unlike wikipedia currently suggests, astrology did not gain broader consumer popularity through the influence of ‘regular mass media products’ in the twentieth century, but in fact had a ‘popular’ following many centuries before then.

The search for order and meaning in the sky is, of course, ancient. No one would deny that…

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Fictionalized History: Hindering or Helping?

In the 2 part episode titled “I Am Anne Frank”   in American Horror Story (a popular fictional television show that centers on different characters in haunted locations) a woman in a 1960s asylum claims to be Anne Frank.  After watching the episode I took to the web to see A) What kind of reception the episode received (surprisingly well) and B) If there were Anne Frank impostors.  My web search quickly turned up an interview with the show’s creator, Ryan Murphy. Murphy in his interview is asked point blank why he brings Anne Frank into the story and he replies that she is a historical figure that has always interested him due to the number of women that claimed to be her following the diary’s publication.

Murphy also mentions Anastastia Romanov, the famous Russian Grand Duchess who was shot to death in 1918 during WWI at 17. Like Anne Frank, Murphy explains that following Anastasia Romanov’s death women came forward claiming to be her. I knew this to be true as I had done some research into the Romanovs in elementary school.

While trying to find out more on Anne Frank impostors, I came across a thread posted on Someone had posted a comment about the American Horror Story episode. Unfortunately this led to a number of people be confused:

Discussion on Anne Frank's appearance in American Horror Story

This got me thinking about whether or not the misrepresentation, or the misplacement, of historical characters in film and television was a good idea. It certainly doesn’t help perpetuate historical accuracy. However, Anne Frank’s appearance in American Horror Story had piqued my interest in Anne Frank her impostors, causing me to do some research.

Upon reflecting, I realized this wasn’t the first personal instance in which film/television had pique my interest in history. For those who weren’t fortunate enough to grow up in the 90’s and watch a plethora of animated movies,  in 1997 20th Century Fox presented the animated movie Anastasia, centering on none other than Anastasia Romanov. The animated children’s film is based on Anastasia escaping her families’ execution and her journey to re-connect with her grandmother/discover who she is. The movie, with its spicing of semi-accurate history combined with catchy music left an impression on my young self. I vividly remember going to my public library (back when I didn’t Google) to learn more. Needless to say, the Romanov family occupied my interest for a number of years.

So, despite being inaccurate, the film did propel me to learn more about the Romanov’s story, and into the study of history. Then is the misrepresentation excusable? My answer is possibly, particularly when it foster interest in history. Besides, how many archaeology students didn’t watch Indiana Jones and think “I want a cool hat and a whip!” I think there is a fine balance in film and television to entertain and to present some sort of “truth.” At least in my case, I didn’t watch Anastasia and grow up thinking that she had indeed survived. Instead I was intrigued and excited to learn more. But then again maybe there are people out there who came away with something different, like that all Russians burst into musical numbers.