Monthly Archives: September 2012

Winnipeg TED Talks 2012

*Everyone tells at least two lies a day.

*Improving your brain’s health is easier than you think.

*Being environmentally friendly and financially prosperous are not mutually exclusive.

*Polar bears have been tracked swimming distances of a 100km.

*Novelty, challenge and focus are the keys to learning new behaviors.

*Listening is an art form.

*North Americans are overweight and under nourished.

*Space tourism may become popular and affordable sooner than we think.

Those are just a few interesting things I learned when I attended the Winnipeg TED talks on September 13.

 TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. They were the trio of topics assigned to speakers when an American non- profit organization staged a conference in 1984. Presenters had only 18 minutes to share their ground- breaking ideas. Since then TED talks have gained international popularity.

 Now three thousand events are held annually. Their theme ‘ideas worth sharing’ has grown to encompass many more topics than the original three. TED talks can be found online, in dozens of languages and have been viewed by more than 500 million people. A one million dollar prize is awarded annually to the speaker who presents the boldest most creative idea, one that can garner world- wide support. Famous people including Steve Jobs and Bill Gates have given TED talks, but so have hundreds of ordinary men and women with cutting edge ideas they believe can change the world. 

 The Winnipeg event called The Next Big Thing featured eight speakers talking about everything from why polar bears serve as an early warning system for our planet to how we value shelf life over taste and nutrition in our food.

 Two of the talks addressed human interactions. Jeff Hancock said the Internet makes us more honest. His research shows that because a written record is kept of what we communicate online we are much more likely to tell the truth than when we are communicating face to face or over the phone.  Karyn Gagnon, a Winnipeg middle school teacher gave a moving address about the revolutionary changes that could happen in society if only we would listen to one another with patience and respect.

 Two of the speakers looked at the environment.

John Gunter is a Churchill nature guide passionate about polar bears. He has introduced the bears to tourists from all over the world. Ironically these international visitors are much more concerned about saving the polar bears from the dangers of global warming than Manitobans. John challenged us to change our attitude.

Monique Haakensen is passionate about microbes. The earth is full of them and they hold the potential to repair much of the environmental damage we’ve done to our planet. The company Ms. Haakensen founded is flourishing financially. She helps industries use what she’s learned about microbes to do business in a way that is friendly to the environment.

 Another duet of speakers talked about our brains. Dr. Zahra Moussavi has discovered new techniques for early detection of dementia and has created a series of memory exercises that significantly slow its debilitating effects. Dr. Karen Pape has come up with new ways to help young children who have suffered brain damage recover their mobility.

We also heard about the possibility of colonizing space from Araya Shahsavar and listened to Dr. Jarrett Chambers.

He told us the earth produces enough food to feed everyone and if we think innovatively enough we could make sure every global citizen ate nutritiously.

 The Winnipeg TED talks were inspiring and thought provoking. Everyone has ‘ideas that are worth sharing’ and TED talk events bring those ideas to a wider audience. 

Categories: Annual Events | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thin Air Writer’s Festival- 2012

I hadn’t read their books, but now I want to!  David Bergen, Richard Ford, Mike Grandmaison, Sarah Klassen and Carrie Snyder are just a few of the authors I enjoyed at Winnipeg’s annual celebration of writing called Thin Air. The festival is ongoing and I’d love to dip into more of its pleasures but I’ll need to be satisfied with the rich experiences of the four sessions I attended. Each of the writers I heard were promoting new or nearly new books, none of which I’d read. They did their job well, because in most cases I became intrigued enough to want to read their latest work. However I haven’t succumbed to any purchases for myself yet since I bought a raffle ticket which just may win me a basket containing all the books featured at the festival!

Poet Sarah Klassen reading at Thin Air Festival

Sunday night I walked down to the Forks and settled myself on the hard steps of the Oodena amphitheatre. I found a spot where I could lean up against the stone wall. I had brought mitts, a wool toque and two jackets expecting a chilly evening but even after the sun had set it was unexpectedly balmy for an autumn Manitoba night.  Five diverse writers shared their work under the three-quarter moon and in the shadow of the new Human Rights Museum. I admit my favorite was Sarah Klassen. Sarah and I were both writers for a magazine called The Mennonite Mirror  decades ago and recently I ran into her at an MCC thrift store where we are both volunteers. She has a new book of poetry out called Monstrance.

Her poems on Sunday night focused on Winnipeg bridges and experiences connected with them.  I was especially moved by the one about the Slaw Rebchuk Bridge named after a colorful Winnipeg politician affectionately known as The Mayor of the North End. Yet Sarah focused not on Slaw, but on his mother and her journey through life. I also liked her poem about fireworks and the way she compared the various bursts of colorful light to flowers–begonias and birds of paradise.

Chadwich Ginther reads from Thunder Road

 Chadwick Ginther was reading from his book Thunder Road about an unemployed man from Alberta driving to Gimli with a trickster god named Loki.  It was delightfully bizarre to hear science fiction/ fantasy that included places like Lower Fort Garry and the Selkirk Mental Health Centre. 

Tuesday at lunch I was at the Millenium Library to hear photographer  Mike Grandmaison talk about the array of lush and diverse images in Prairie and Beyond. His photos are truly works of art and many look more like paintings than photographs. I have to admit the passage he read from his book seemed a little didactic but Mike’s photos are simply stunning. It’s honestly hard to know how  he could have captured some of his wildlife shots like an owl framed perfectly in the window of an abandoned house

or a trio of ducks in a precise row perched on a rock with their  reflections shimmering in the water below or

two male polar bars sparring with each other.  I will definitely visit the Pixels Gallery where his work is on display. 

Tuesday afternoon saw me at McNally Robinsons to hear Carrie Synder and Cordelia Strube read and discuss their books. Cordelia’s latest book is Milosz. She described how she crafts a novel by taking intriguing bits of news and information from non-fiction writing and somehow connecting them and weaving them into her narrative. She said that “if  you scratch below the surface of anyone you reveal massive dysfunction” and that’s where she finds interesting stories. 

I bought Carrie Synder’s book The Juliet Stories as a gift and had her autograph it. I’m madly trying to read it before I give it away. Her book is about peace activists who relocate their three young children, including their daughter Juliet Friesen to Nicaragua in the 1980’s. Although Carrie said her book is fiction; her own Mennonite parents were peace activists who took Carrie and her siblings to Nicaragua. Carrie went back to Central America with her husband and children to do research for the book. She didn’t let her parents read the novel till it was finished and Carrie loved what her Mom said about the mother character in the book. “I know it’s not me, but I wish it was.”  The host of the Tuesday afternoon event Charlene Diehl made reference to Carrie’s blog Obscure Can Lit Mama and I read several posts with amazement. It so hard for me to find time to blog every day yet Carrie does it while raising four kids, cooking, running  long distances, promoting a novel and writing  free-lance pieces. 

Charlene Diehl, David Bergen and Richard Ford in discussion at Thin Air Writers Festival

Dave Bergen and Richard Ford shared the stage at the Shaw Performing Arts Centre at the Forks on Tuesday night. A glass of wine, some New Bothwell cheese curds and pretzels in the form of alphabet letters got attendees in the right frame of mind for the evening. Both writers began their readings from the first pages of their books which contain attention grabbing events. Bergen’s The Age of Hope opens with a plane crash and Ford’s Canada with a robbery.

I am especially looking forward to reading The Age of Hope since its main character is based on Dave Bergen’s mother-in-law, someone I knew while growing up in Steinbach. During the book discussion in the second half  of the evening I was impressed how familiar Bergen and Ford were with each other’s books. The questions they asked each other were as interesting as the ones versatile hostess Charlene Diehl had prepared.  The theatre was full and long lines of people were waiting to have their books autographed by the authors. 

I entered my name in a draw to win the Bergen and Ford books on Tuesday evening but didn’t win. I hope I fare better with my Thin Air raffle ticket or I just may be buying a whole raft of books in the coming weeks. The draw is on Friday night! I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Categories: Annual Events, Literature, The Forks | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Winnipeg Strike Mural

This mural is on the south wall of the very popular nightclub Whiskey Dix on Main Street. Painted by Tom Andrich it tells the story of perhaps the most memorable event in Winnipeg history, the strike of 1919.  In May some 30,000 workers walked off the job because of poor working conditions and a lack of employment opportunities especially for World War I veterans. Union organizers had been passionately advocating  for an eight-hour work day, collective bargaining and the need for employers to pay a living wage.  


The  artist has chosen to highlight eight of the strike leaders who were imprisoned, eight men and one woman. The woman right in front is Helen Armstrong. In 2001 a television documentary called The Notorious Mrs. Armstrong told her story. Nicknamed Wild Woman of the West she was a union organizer who championed the cause of working women. Born in Toronto and married to a carpenter named George she moved to Winnipeg with him in 1905 where Helen became the leader of the Women’s Labor League. Her leadership helped bring a minimum wage to Manitoba. 

During the Winnipeg Strike she organized kitchens to feed female strikers and harassed strike breakers who were crossing the picket line. She encouraged women to boycott stores where the workers were on strike and challenged them to join the men who were on strike. She was arrested and jailed for inciting people to strike, disorderly conduct and encouraging the abuse of strike breakers. 

Winnipeg business owners organized a Citizen’s Committee of One Thousand to oppose the strikers. They  blamed foreign immigrants for the strike and many were deported. The majority of the strikers however were British.

On June 21, 1919, war veterans organized a parade to protest the arrest of labor leaders. They were also upset at the government edict that the labor movement newspaper could no longer be published. 6,000 people gathered in front of City Hall. When a streetcar, operated by strike breakers came by the protesters overturned it and set it on fire.  

The federal government had sent out the Royal North West Mounted Police to help put an end to the strike. Carrying clubs and firearms the North West Police charged into the crowd after the street car was overturned. They began to fire their weapons. 

June 21, 1919 became known as Bloody Saturday, because the North West Mounties killed  two strikers, wounded thirty-four and made nearly a hundred arrests. The mural on Main Street has a portrait of one of the men who died. His name was Mike Sokolowski. After Bloody Saturday the strike organizers fearing more violence called the strike to a halt and the strikers went back to work on June 26th. 

I often catch the bus at a stop right by this Winnipeg Strike Mural.  I am glad that I understand more about it now and the important event in Winnipeg history it documents. 

Another post that might be of Interest is………….

1919 Winnipeg Strike- Fact and Fiction

Categories: Exchange District, Historical Events, Murals | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

When our friend Rebekah was here spending a few days with us we took her to the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park. The garden is filled with beautiful flowers.  It was awash with bright pinks, purples, reds and yellows on our visit. Can you see Dave and Rebekah hiding in the flowers in the picture below?I’m sure in fall and spring the garden will feature a different but equally stunning color scheme with the flowers that are in bloom at that time. Here Dave is showing Rebekah had to snap open the mouth of a snapdragon. 

The name snapdragon comes from the flowers’ response to having their “throats” squeezed, which makes the “mouth” of the blossom snap open like a dragon’s mouth.

Leo Mol who died in 2009 is probably Winnipeg’s most famous and prolific artist. You can find his sculptures all over the world. His likenesses of three different popes are in the Vatican and he sculpted American presidents Dwight Eishenhower and John F. Kennedy as well as British prime minister Winston Churchill. Despite his international fame, Leo Mol remained determinedly loyal to his adopted home in Winnipeg where he found a safe haven after leaving Ukraine in the 1940’s. 

The Leo Mol sculpture garden has more than 300 of Leo Mol’s works many of them donated by the artist.  There are two buildings on site– one a gallery featuring some of his smaller art pieces and the other the old school-house which once served as Mol’s workshop. Leo Mol sculpted such a variety of subjects. 

Biblical figures like MosesMythical figures like Europa and the bull

Fellow Canadian artists like A.Y. Jackson, member of the famous Group of Seven

Sculptures influenced by his Ukrainian heritage like The Blind Bandurist

Likenesses of famous Canadians like William Stephenson–the spy called IntrepidSculptures of ordinary Canadians like this Family GroupWorld famous figures like Queen Elizabeth

I especially enjoyed watching the National Film Board movie Leo Mol In Light and Shadow being shown in his school-house studio. It tells the story of how Leo was reunited with his sister after not being able to communicate with his family back in Ukraine for over fifty years. I learned that besides creating sculptures Leo also designed and made stained glass windows. 

The Leo Mol Sculpture garden is a serene and rejuvenating kind of place. There are huge shady trees to cool you, the scent of thousands of flowers, the sound of water running into the lily pond and plenty of excellent art to look at and think about. 

Rebekah took this picture of Dave and me enjoying the day in the Leo Mol Garden. 

You might want to check out these other posts I have done about Leo Mol sculptures in Winnipeg

Tom Lamb- Mr. North

James Bond is  From Winnipeg

Tree Children

Categories: Famous Citizens, Parks, Sculptures | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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