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All 'Bout Canada

Canadians often call aurora borealis the "northern lights." These are caused when solar winds—streams of charged particles (ions) from the sun—interact with the earth's magnetic field. Some Inuit call aurora "aqsarniit" (football players), said to be spirits of the dead who are playing football with a walrus skull. (The football game might be a traditional Inuit game called akraurak or aqijut. In this game, two lines of players face each other and kick a ball between the lines until it passes through one line of players, after which all players try to kick the ball into their opponent's goal.) In an Anishinaabe (Algonquin) Traditional Story, aurora borealis are the fires started by earth creator Nanabozho (also known as Nanabush). The lights symbolize Nanabozho's bond with people.

Anne of Green Gables, the lively, red-haired orphan created by Canada's L. M. Montgomery, has a world-wide following, particularly in Poland, Japan, and Canada. It is thought that more than 50 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide. During the Second World War, Montgomery's books were part of the Resistance black market trade in Poland, and they were also issued to Polish soldiers heading to the front. There is an L. M. Montgomery School in Warsaw. Anne was added to the Japanese school curriculum in 1952. Japan has national fan clubs, an Anne academy, the Green Gables School of Nursing, and thousands of citizens who flock to Prince Edward Island each year.

The Acadians were settlers from France who first set down roots in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Maine during the late sixteenth century. From 1755 to 1763, approximately ten thousand Acadians were deported and had their lands seized by immigrants from New England. Many Acadians eventually relocated in Louisiana, where their Acadian culture evolved into Cajun culture. When they were allowed to return to Canada after 1764, the Acadians settled in Cape Breton, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

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What I Think Happened

What I Think Happened

An Underresearched History of the Western World
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Is Canada Even Real?

Is Canada Even Real?

How a Nation Built on Hobos, Beavers, Weirdos, and Hip Hop Convinced the World to Beliebe
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Chapter 1

The Littlest Hobo: Our German Shepherd Guardian Angel TV Star
The year is 1979. Margaret Thatcher dramatically wins the British general election, becoming the first female prime minister of Britain. Skylab, NASA’s first orbiting space station, returns triumphantly to Earth after soaring through the stars for more than six miraculous years. Pope John Paul II’s trip to his homeland of Poland sparks a revolution of conscience that transforms a nation.
Meanwhile, in Canada, television executives in Toronto launch a program that stars a German shepherd that travels from town to town befriending clowns, rescuing ballerinas, and foiling gold robbers.
On Thursday, October 11, 1979, The Littlest Hobo (French title: Le Vagabond) premieres on CTV. The pilot episode begins, as each episode will, with Terry Bush’s urban hymn “Maybe Tomorrow.” While most other dramas and comedies are shot on film, The Littlest Hobo is recorded on hard, cheap, bright videotape, a medium reserved for ephemeral (read: disposable) programming.
The opening credits are comprised of a modular montage that shows us, variously, Hobo trotting down a suburban street, Hobo running out of the woods, Hobo in the passenger seat of a convertible. He does not look glamorous, even in a convertible. He is all business. But he is not a business dog. We know this because he wears no tie, no glasses, has no briefcase. “Just grab a hat, we’ll travel light, that’s hobo style,” sings Bush, a wistful smile in his voice. But Hobo wears no hat. Not even a collar. Potentially the least anthropomorphized animal to ever capture the imaginations of both young and old, this dog never wears clothes and is known only as “Hobo,” or by nicknames bestowed by his short-term human companions.
The show’s title appears in yellow brush-stroke font: The LITTLEST HOBO. Say “the”; Yell the rest.
We see Hobo leading a cow, Hobo placing a call, Hobo carrying a rifle. He swims in a lake, his ears smoothed against his nape. He is always moving, always onward. Hobo runs out of the woods, tongue out, panting as he surveys the scene. The next title card reads: Starring LONDON. (Yell it!)
A rainbow-bright hot-air balloon sits in the air. Is Hobo aboard? Wait, Hobo is swimming across a stream now; he emerges onto a rocky outcrop and shakes the water from his coat. Droplets of water arc out in all directions. It is a dramatic visual. It is the most dramatic visual you will see for the duration of the program. A dog shaking water off himself. Hold on to that. Hold dearly to that sense of wonder, that action.
Hobo’s origins, motivation, and ultimate destination are never explained over the course of the series. In this capacity, he is the perfect metaphor for Canada.
In the opening scene of the pilot episode of The Littlest Hobo, our altruistic Alsatian befriends forest ranger Ray Caldwell and rescues a pair of wildcat cubs from a forest fire. But the scene is soft, slow, halting. There are no subtle nuances. There are broad actions and sharp transitions. There is no budget for suspense.
As the episode continues, a local storekeeper aims to keep the forest’s fire-ravaged animals at bay by setting a trap of raw hamburger laced with rat poison outside his shop, but it’s eaten by a toddler. First of all, I hope viewers made note that CTV was the destination on Thursday evenings for watching wee ones eat raw meat, but secondly, and most importantly, Where were you on that one, Hobo?
In an attempt to save the child, Ranger Caldwell and Hobo set off by plane to fetch a doctor and the antidote, but a thunderstorm prevents Caldwell from landing the plane back home, leading to this tense exchange:
Caldwell: Of all the rough luck. I can’t even see the airstrip.
The doctor: What can we do?
Caldwell: The only other place is about ten miles out. We might make it there, but there wouldn’t be any kind of vehicle to go the rest of the way.
The doctor: The child needs an antidote in a hurry.
Caldwell: Doc, can you fly a plane?
The doctor: Goodness, no, no, I’ve only been up a few times in my life. Why?
Caldwell: There’s a parachute in the rear. You could land it and I could jump with the antidote.
The doctor: Sorry.
You’re likely now considering that scriptwriting might be a much, much easier venture than you’d previously imagined, and it may prove to be a generous source of income for you or anyone else capable of penning such prose — say, your nine-year-old tabby or your great aunt with the acquired brain injury. With characteristic Canadian humility, even those behind the scenes acknowledged that aspects of the show were lacking. “Sometimes the stories, quite honestly, may fall flat,” producer Barrie Diehl told StarWeek in 1985. “It could be considered unexciting.… The A-Team is exciting. They shoot guns.”
Returning to the show, we see that, naturally, Caldwell and the doctor take the only reasonable course of action under the circumstances: they strap a parachute to the stray and hurl it out of the plane in a storm.
“You know, I could swear you’ve done this before,” Caldwell says to the dog with a cure for poisoning attached to his collar and a parachute strapped to his back. Our four-legged hero hops out of the plane as the ranger whispers, “Good luck.”
The chute deploys and Hobo comes to a reasonably graceless landing in a field. He sprints through a forest and across a creek.
We see the toddler’s anxious parents waiting in a medical clinic. Then Hobo walks into the clinic and the attendant immediately goes for his neck pack. Obviously, this dog is here with the cure. A perfunctory “good dog” is issued. The toddler is saved. Now, Hobo rests.
Only one question remains: How is this even a real show? Oh, and also, all these other questions:
1. Which of these Canadian celebrities guest-starred on The Littlest Hobo?
a) Super Dave Osborne
b) Mike Myers
c) David Suzuki
d) Leslie Nielsen
2. How many episodes of The Littlest Hobo were produced by CTV?
a) 18
b) 50
c) 67
d) 114
3. What happens in the final episode of the series?
a) Hobo finds an undetonated Second World War bomb
b) a gambler plans to sabotage a lumberjack contest
c) a criminal tries to sell a stolen secret laser
d) Hobo is mistaken for a sheep-killing wolf
4. Reruns of The Littlest Hobo ran on national networks until
a) the ’80s
b) the ’90s
c) the ’00s
d) the ’10s
5. The program is based on
a) a 1958 Hollywood movie about a stray dog that befriends a boy named Tommy and rescues his pet lamb from slaughter
b) Le Vagabond, a Quebecois fairy tale that also features a man who believes himself to be a horse
c) an acid-fuelled fever dream endured by television producer Dorrell McGowan
d) the 1978 TV series Incredible Hulk, which sees a widowed traveller help others in need despite his terrible secret
6. London, the dog who played Hobo, co-starred with Prince in which film?
a) Purple Rain
b) Under the Cherry Moon
c) Graffiti Bridge
d) The Sacrifice of Victor

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