Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Have a mouse flamboo

I was delighted to rediscover another one of my childhood memories on YouTube - the 1971 National Film Board Short, "Hot Stuff":

It's a warning of the dangers of careless use of fire, and begins with a chaotic fiery universe - "The gods were angry", and moves on to the generosity of the gods in giving fire to Man, but with a warning: "You must not be careless! The fire is to be your slave. You must never set it free, for though it will serve you faithfully, it will devour all of mankind if given half the chance." Man progresses through the ages, and arrives at our modern day, with fire conveniently tamed in the form of electricity. The story then moves to an disgruntled couch potato watching TV, and we see how people have forgotten the warning of the gods.

I found I'd remembered the cartoon very accurately, right down to the punchline - it's odd, but the things I learned before the age of about 18 I have very clear, accurate memories of. After that, it becomes patchier and more confused, but I must have had a phenomenal memory as a child. I don't believe I've seen this little cartoon since the early 70s.

One thing I didn't remember because I probably never noticed it in the first place was the first credit at the opening: "The Dominion Fire Commissioner, Department of Public Works, Canada, Presents". "The Dominion Fire Commissioner" - what a wonderful title! Full of the lost history of Canada, when "Dominion" wasn't a dirty word. I can only guess what sort of description goes with that job now - "Public Safety Officer", or some colourless equivalent. Or maybe worse: "Sauvetage/Canada Safety", like so many of the mongrel-words that have fallen on our institutions like smothering black soot. From "Royal Mail" to "Poste/Canada Post", as if we could invent some kind of hybrid English/French language all our own.


Anonymous Bill in Ottawa said...

The Office of the Fire Commissioner of Canada is still referred to by Treasury Board Policy, but all of the functions are performed by the Fire Protection Service of the Department of Labour.

In the absence of other evidence, it appears that the office of Commissioner has gone into abeyance and that it is one of the powers exercised by the Deputy Minister of Labour.

You are right, though. Dominion Fire Commissioner has a much more satisfying sound than Director, Fire Protection Services.

4:11 pm  
Anonymous Bill in Ottawa said...

I have to correct my previous post - the Office of the Fire Commissioner still issues standards for things like sprinkler systems in high-rise buildings and for fire extinguishers and such like. That said, there is no person who holds the title of Fire Commissioner of Canada.

10:11 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Thanks for looking that up, Bill! "Dominion Fire Commissioner" sounds like a job that was created in a time when a lot of Canadian cities were of wood construction, and fire must have been a serious worry. Serious enough for someone to be fully employed to combat the threat. Changing standards maybe made it more sensible to roll the function into some general "safety" administration, but I'll always love the sound of that title.

11:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The revival of the term Dominion by Tilley was such an interesting part of the history of Confederation. And the reference to Psalm 72 was so appropriate to the future geographic shape of Canada
Sadly, all in the ashcan of history by our political betters.

"He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth",

12:00 am  

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