She bills her­self as “the most Cana­dian woman in the world”

Hamilton writer cel­e­brates Canada’s ‘weirdos’

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - GRA­HAM ROCKINGHAM

You would have to be a lit­tle warped to write a book on Cana­dian cul­ture with an open­ing chap­ter de­voted en­tirely to “The Lit­tlest Hobo.”

Well Hamilton writer J.C. Villamere has done ex­actly that with her new book “Is Canada Even Real?”

As a mat­ter of fact, the en­tire first 60 pages of the book con­tain noth­ing but odd facts about fa­mous and not so-fa­mous Cana­dian ho­bos — Sol, the hobo clown of TV On­tario’s “Par­lez Vous;” Wilf Carter, the hobo bal­ladeer of coun­try mu­sic; and Rut­ger Hauer’s Cana­dian-made vig­i­lante film “Hobo with a Shot­gun.”

The sub­ti­tle of Villamere’s book is “How a na­tion built on ho­bos, beavers, weirdos and hip hop con­vinced the world to be­liebe.”

It would have been easy for Villamere to cel­e­brate our na­tion’s 150th birth­day by stak­ing a stud­ied look at Canada’s tra­di­tional cul­tural icons — things like maple syrup and Moun­ties, Gor­don Light­foot and hockey, totem poles and inuk­shuks.

But no, that’s not Villamere’s style.

She’d rather fo­cus on the mu­si­cal theme for “Hin­ter­land’s Who’s Who,” the Cana­dian Wildlife Ser­vice’s ridicu­lously dry public ser­vice ads that aired dur­ing the ’60s.

She would rather ex­plain how Aubrey Gra­ham mor­phed from Wheelchair Jimmy on “De­grassi: The Next Gen­er­a­tion” into Drake, the world’s big­gest hip-hop star.

“This coun­try is crazy,” Villamere says over a pint at the Aberdeen Tav­ern, her favourite wa­ter­ing hole. “So much about Canada is ab­surd — our wa­ter­proof money, our unusu­ally at­trac­tive prime min­is­ter. He was even in a box­ing match with a se­na­tor. Peo­ple all over the world ask, ‘Is Canada even real?’

“There’s even an on­line de­bate (on de­bate.org) that asks the ques­tion ‘If you die in Canada, do you die in real life?’ Cur­rently 82 per cent of re­spon­dents say ‘no.’

She pauses and takes a sip of her beer, be­fore is­su­ing a seem­ingly end­less stream of de­light­ful Cana­dian trivia.

“Do you know that Bon­homme, the mas­cot snow­man of the Que­bec Win­ter Car­ni­val, has his own LinkedIn page?” she says with in­credulity.

Villamere is a 39-year-old writer and jour­nal­ist, born in Arn­prior near Ot­tawa, now liv­ing in Hamilton, very close to the Aberdeen Tav­ern, with her hus­band, Peter, and five-year-old daugh­ter, Bea.

A two-time Na­tional Mag­a­zine Award win­ner, Villamere is a con­trib­u­tor to “ET Canada,” for­mer se­nior editor for “Cana­dian Liv­ing” and so­cial me­dia direc­tor for “The Hockey News.”

In her spare time, she also pub­lishes “Villamere, The Low­brow Mag­a­zine of High-End CanCon.” Is­sue 3 is now avail­able through her villamere.com web­site.

This coun­try is crazy. So much about Canada is ab­surd. J.C. VILLAMERE

She bills her­self as “the most Cana­dian woman in the world,” and takes pride in the fact that she won a 2007 CBC con­test called “Bring Home the Stan­ley Cup.” The prize in­cluded be­ing pre­sented with the Cup by hockey star Mark Messier at her fam­ily’s hunt­ing lodge in the Ot­tawa Val­ley.

Villamere says she learned how to drive a Ski-Doo at the age of eight and counts among her most prized pos­ses­sions an au­to­graphed eightby-ten glossy of CBC Ra­dio per­son­al­ity She­lagh Rogers.

“Is Canada Even Real?” pub­lished by Dun­durn Press, is Villamere’s first book. She’s hold­ing a book launch and read­ing Thurs­day, May 11, at 6 p.m. at the AGH An­nex, 118 James St. N.

The book’s 20 chap­ters are chock full of bizarre trivia, or­ga­nized like a game show into five sec­tions called “Rounds” — the “bonus round” is on fa­mous Cana­dian mas­cots, in­clud­ing Bon­homme.

Each chap­ter — a per­sonal favourite is en­ti­tled “Sir John A. Mac­don­ald: Founder of the ‘Go Home, Dad, You’re Drunk’ meme” — is ac­com­pa­nied by a quiz on the topic com­plete with zany, but true, an­swers.

Hamilton pop cul­ture critic J.C. Villamere has a new book cel­e­brat­ing our coun­try. It’s called “Is Canada Even Real?”

“Is Canada Even Real” by J.C. Villamere, Dun­durn Press, $15.99

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