Monday, April 4, 2011

Sun smiles

It’s plus four on what seems to be the nicest day of the year.

To celebrate, I decide to take a walk downtown and end up at the Forks. I almost feel like I need my sunglasses to shield the streaming sun while I sit in the food court. The warm, bright, smiling sun shines through the tall long ceilings at the Forks Market in Winnipeg on this Monday. The sun sits on my back, and I know its rays are hitting my hair perfectly. 150 days of the year, I have black hair and for the rest, when the sun is as it is today, my hair has a tint of red in it.

After basking in the sun’s warm rays, I get up and continue my walk. I resist the cinnamon buns from Tall Grass Prairie…..although the warm, intoxicating smell of butter and cinnamon is overwhelming to the point that I have to stop and stare at the cinnamon buns glazed with white sugary icing. My mouth watering, I decide a bag of candy can also satisfy my sweet tooth.

Stella Gower, owner of The Almond Tree, chats with me in a thick addictive Ukrainian accent as I pick my treats, candy corn, chocolate raisins, and sour patch kids. I ask her whether the sun being out makes a difference in the amount of business the store receives.

She tells me that it absolutely does.

“Naturally, as soon as it gets green outside, people want to come out,” she says.
Then she says what I’ve been feeling all day.

“Everyone feels a little better once it’s nice out.”

She’s right. I feel better when I see the sun. I’ve been in an edit suite desperately working through the last of my work in CreComm as this is my last week in the program. Now, I’m here at the Forks in the strong sunlight and all I can think of is how lovely it would be to stay a little longer rather then head back to the blank draining disheartening computer screen that’s calling to me back at school.

I remind myself my walk isn’t over yet and head into the second corridor of sun. The vegetable and fruit aisle. The long line of food stretches on for what seem an eternity and the colours of the vegetables and fruits are extra bright and vibrant today, what with the sun shining down on them, reds, greens, and yellows. That’s where I find myself starring at the red and yellow mangoes, my favourite fruit, ripe and ready to eat.

Suddenly a woman comes up next to me…and I’m immediately obsessed with her. Why? She has a little tiny baby attached to her stomach in one of those baby-carriers-on-the-stomach things. He’s tiny. I can’t help it, I make conversation. She tells me he’s her son, Sylar, and her name is Angela Anderson. She’s on maternity leave and she decided, with the sun being as warm as it is, to take a walk from her home downtown.

"I debated where to go and decided on the Forks because I have the option of walking inside or outside," Anderson tells me.

I say hello to her little baby boy, tiny with soft blond precious hair, we agree the cinnamon buns are to die for and then I go on my way.

I move on from the engaging health aisles into another dream food world. Ice cream. With the weather getting better, I imagine there are people getting ice cream, gelato, or frozen yogurt. And I am right. A mother and daughter sit together and chat quietly while they eat ice cream at Neon Cone and a young boy, probably around 7, grabs his dad’s hand and maneuvers him to the ice cream stand, I laugh as I watch. I feel the same way.

I turn my head and watch a couple walking outside. They’re about the same age, but the girl is very tall, with long longs and a skirt so short it’s only appropriate in the summer. I’m intrigued. I follow them outside to the benches near the river. They sit, eat candy as I do as well, and chat away, clearly on some kind of date.

A few benches away, two middle ages women, friends I assume, sit together tightly on the bench. Their words are a distant whisper to me, articulated only by the expression in their waving hands.

One brown bench closer, a young woman in her 30s I believe, sits in a green sweater, jeans, and sneakers. She shields the sun with her hands and looks out the water, the river which is still half covered in melting off-white snow.

I look out with her, following her gaze. The soft breeze in the air hits me hard, it’s sunny, but the wind is still striking, any stronger and I’d consider it cold out.

Around me, the sound of leaves softly flutter across the grass…grass which is barely visible under the mud and dirt spring has brought. The grass looks yellow actually, dried and dead. Besides the leaves which have fallen from the bare grey trees, there is little sound besides that of the wind rustling softly.

I look around. Its quiet today, but I imagine what it will look like when summer begins, perhaps on Canada Day, when there’s not a free bench to sit on for miles. When streams of people crowd in the space like tiny ants waiting for the fireworks. I wonder if I’ll be back in Winnipeg this year to watch them…

I can barely get myself to leave. I wish I could have sat in that spot and took it all in for a moment longer. But I couldn’t. I don't know when I'll be back. It could be months. But I’m already looking forward to going back and am grateful for the peaceful moment I received from this place amidst life's craziness today. Under the smiling sun.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Final Two

Crecomm is coming to an end. Now what?

The end of the school year is approaching. Fast.

Last week, while standing in line at Tim Hortons with Dr. Petty, we both came to the conclusion that I only had two weeks left of CreComm.

It hit me.

Two weeks.

It’s the end of post-secondary education for me. Five years, a double major and a diploma later, I am done school. For now at least…I think I eventually want to get a Masters in journalism, but probably not for a few years.

So this is it for now. No more school.

I have the next two months of my life planned out. After these next two weeks, I head to Vancouver for a six week internship at Global National.

After that? I have no idea…

This is the first time in my life where I’ve had NO idea, absolutely no idea, where I am heading or what’s going to happen.

In two months, where will I be?

Will I have a job? If I do have a job, what will it be? An internship? Maybe I’ll be volunteering? Travelling?

Or maybe I’ll be working out and sleeping…or sitting at home unemployed watching soap operas?

I’m not scared of change….but it does make me a bit uneasy… I’d rather I knew what was going to happen…but the unknown is kind of wonderful too.

If you’d told me in September I’d be living in Vancouver for two months this summer, I’d have been shocked. Change can be so surprising and amazing…but I’ll admit it. I’m scared.

School has always been my security blanket. The one constant thing in my life. What am I going to do without it?

And I’ve realized, I’m really going to miss it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Winnipeg's Great War, close to one hundred years later...

Last week, I finished reading a book called Winnipeg’s Great War: A City Comes of Age by Jim Blanchard.

It was filled with interesting details, information, stories, and anecdotes about people, businesses, and the history of Winnipeg during the First World War starting in 1914.

I decided to learn a little bit more about some of those organizations and places the book references.

One of the first places I visited was the Bank of Montreal building located at the corner of Main Street and Portage Avenue. This building, located at what is one of Canada’s windiest corners, was finished in 1913, right before the First World War began.

Today, it is still absolutely stunning, made from marble with high ceilings and beautiful architecture.

Caronline Torres, the senior customer service representative for the BMO branch, told me that most of the branch’s employees at the time of the war were male. They all lived on the third floor of the building in apartments. They had maid service, three hot meals a day, and laundry service. When the war broke out, the branch lost most of its employees as many went to fight in the war. In fact, the statue in the front of the building (still standing today) is of one of the employees who went off to war.

“Most of the bank’s employees at that time were men. As a result, when they all went off to war, that’s when we started hiring women to work at this branch,” she said. “That was the beginning of women working here.”

Torres also said that the branch was built in 1913 at the center of the city because (as Blanchard states in his book) Winnipeg was the third largest city in Canada and that its growth was imminent and booming. Branch owners thought by building the bank at the center of the city, it was a great way to be in the center of an economic boom.

But Torres said, after the war occurred, the bank went from being focused on Winnipeg’s economic growth and prosperity to farming.

“This branch became the center for farming,” she said. “After the war, the bank was now earning all its money from the farming community.”

This got me thinking more about Winnipeg’s Exchange District.

That’s why after the Bank of Montreal, I headed down Main Street and visited CentreVenture Development Corporation located at 492 Main Street. The senior development officer there Jeff Palmer showed me a large framed photograph taken of Winnipeg’s Exchange District, a national historic site, in 1911 (right before the war).

“This building was built in 1894 and is a designated building by the City of Winnipeg,” he said.

He directed me to the City of Winnipeg’s website, and I learned that the building was MacDonald Shoes for a really long time.

Thomas Ryan opened the store that year, a businessman who had confidence in Winnipeg’s boom. At that time, the building, with its four stories, cost close to $35,000 to make.

In 1900, Armine Banfield, a household furnishings dealer, took over the property. After a fire in 1903, he rebuilt the building. In 1933, after another disastrous fire, MacDonald Shoes took ownership of the property. Interestingly, T.J Ainslie MacDonald served in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War One before settling in Winnipeg. Today, CentreVenture has been operating out of the building for a few years.

It’s interesting, as I read Winnipeg’s Great War as lifelong Winnipegger, how many names of businesses that I recognized, such as the Canadian Red Cross that’s still around today as well as the Winnipeg Free Press (although it has moved from its original location on Carlton Street downtown to its location on Mountain Avenue now).

The Hudson’s Bay Company, located on Portage Avenue, is also mentioned in the book and it’s still around close to 100 years later, but the Eaton’s building is not (although I do remember when Eaton’s closed when I was a kid).

Other newspapers mentioned in the book, The Winnipeg Tribune (1890-1980) and the Winnipeg Telegram (1907-1920), are also no longer in existence.

The Royal Alexandra Hotel is mentioned in the book and it is no longer around. Instead, a plaque where it used to be in Winnipeg’s Exchange District exists in its memory.

Lt. Colonel’s Thomson’s old home is now St. John’s Ravenscourt School, a private school in Winnipeg. My brother goes to that school and I can say, having visited many times, it is amazing to see how much it has changed from a home to a school over the years. It’s hard to recognize it as a home anymore.

I also found in my research that although the First World War took place close to 100 years ago and across an ocean, there are many memorials here in the city, even today, to pay tribute to all those who fought for our freedom. At Augustine United Church, located at 444 River Ave, a memorial stands outside the church to commemorate the soldiers who fought.

Outside the Bank of Montreal on Main Street that I visited, like I mentioned before, a 9 foot tall bronze statue with a marble base is of a World War One soldier to pay tribute to the 230 BMO employees who died in the war.

I learned a lot by reading this book and even more by doing some research about the places, businesses, and people Blanchard mentions in his book.

The thing I took away from this reading experience is that it is really nice to know that close to 100 years, in so many ways, in Winnipeg, the soldiers who sacrificed their lives have not been forgotten.

I also think it’s interesting to know how so many businesses in the Exchange District have been around for so many years….every day while I drive by these buildings to get to school, I never stop to think about how long the buildings have been around or what they were first used for. I will definitely do that in the future.

I definitely recommend Winnipeg’s Great War: A City Comes of Age to anyone interested in Winnipeg’s history.

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Winnipeg’s Great War

I just finished reading Winnipeg’s Great War by Jim Blanchard.

I really enjoyed this book. I’ve always been interested in history, and this story was very detailed and intensely edited. The amount of information in it is absolutely remarkable.

The author, Jim Blanchard, came to our journalism class this week, and we had the privilege of asking him a few questions about his writing process.
He told us that he wrote the draft to this story by hand twice before ever sending it to an editor, and if you’ve read the book, that’s outstanding.

Moreover, like I mentioned before, the amount of research and information that went into this book is admirable.

The book is about the First World War starting in 1914 and basically goes over most of what happened in Winnipeg at that time.

I was particularly interested in this because, in my old job at Manitoba Film and Music, one of my tasks was to showcase the city to offshore producers who visited. Many producers saw Winnipeg as “the Chicago of the North” and I always told them that, at one time, Winnipeg was on the path to becoming as large and prosperous as Chicago.

I found this book to be very interesting, because it explained how Winnipeg went from being Canada’s third largest city in 1914 (“the Chicago of the North”) to the city it is today.

I was super interested in learning what exactly took place that changed the course of our city’s history, and I think Blanchard did a great job of explaining what happened.

My favourite topics in the book were women’s role in the war and how voting for women became legal. I also enjoyed reading about conscription and what events made enrolling as a soldier mandatory.

If you’d like to read more about how the First World War and Winnipeg in particular, pick up a copy of Winnipeg’s Great War at McNally Robinson.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Evidence based reporting

So this week, the journalism majors learned about evidence based reporting. Dr. Noralou Roos from the University of Manitoba visited our class and taught us about the Evidence Network. We learned that evidence reporting is essential for journalists in order to get the real story out. If one writes a story without adequate research or evidence, the story lacks depth, credibility, accuracy, and validity, especially for stories related to health care.

As an exercise, I took a health care related topic and searched articles about it written on the internet to see what I found. My topic was “patient financing of health care.”

I was astonished to find that in most of the journalistic articles I found, there was little evidence used as a reference or reported. Most of the stories were about the benefits of patients paying for their own health care (privatization in Canada).

Interestingly, by reading up about this topic through research from the Evidence Network, I found that in actuality, based on research and evidence done, it was found that for many patients, privatization is a bad thing.

Dr. Noralou Roos said that many patients are unaware of when they need to go to the doctor in the first place, when it’s really necessary, so when they do, if there is a user fee, it tends to discourage care for the people who really need it.

"In Saskatchewan, in a study done on user fees in health care, it has been found that people who need to be at the doctor’s office who avoid going because of user fees often end up even more sick and in the hospital because they didn’t go the doctor earlier as they could not afford the fees,” she said.

Roos said that it has been found through research that many people may not go to the doctor even if they need to because of the fees.

“Most people who are at the doctor’s office aren’t there because they enjoy being there,” she said. “People in the office are usually sick and need to be there. They need the care.”

I was shocked to see the results I found from the Evidence Network on this topic.

Through the search I did on patient financing of health care, it seemed that many people were in favour of patients’ paying because it would lead to better quality health care.

I see how for a journalist, it is essential to learn about your topic not just through stories and anecdotes or interviews, but to review research on your topic. Otherwise you could end up making a journalist’s biggest sin, not doing justice to the story.

Monday, February 28, 2011

IPP Go Time...

So here it is. The moment has arrived.

It's been over a year since this year's second year Crecomms began deliberating their IPPs (independent professional projects). And now, the time has come. It's almost hard to believe.

For those of you who don't know, my IPP is a video documentary on arranged marriages.

It has been a long and challening year for me with this IPP and, no doubt, the next week and a half, as I finish up and prepare for my presentation next week, will only be longer.

That being said, how sweet the end of the race feels!

I am so excited to finally have something to show for all of my work, and the final product reminds me why I chose a documentary in the first place. Because I now have something I can show to tell this story.

Next week marks IPP week. To anyone who reads this blog or knows anything about Crecommm, all the second year Crecomms will present their IPPS over the course of three days (March 9-11) at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Here is the list of the order.

If you're in the area, drop by. It's unbelievable that Crecomm is ending and that in one week, the IPP, the thing that's been looming over our heads for over a year, will be over.

Wow. Time flies.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Going back to the basics

Duncan, I'm sorry! For my post today, I am reverting back to the my original blog topic...Love.

I'm sorry, but it's Valentine's Day!!! How could I not post about something to do with love?

I will refrain from posting about how people who don't agree with the holiday should come over to the dark, I'll let that debate go (I already had it with 7 people today...)

Instead, here are some of my favourite love poems...They aren't all love can be a rollercoaster of good and bad, but nonetheless, here are some wise words about love.

And does this relate to journalism?

Easy....poems are words mixed with creativity...which in a lot of ways is what crecomm is all about!

The Benjamin Franklin of Monogamy
Jeffrey McDaniel

Reminiscing in the drizzle of Portland, I notice
the ring that's landed on your finger, a massive
insect of glitter, a chandelier shining at the end

of a long tunnel. Thirteen years ago, you hid the hurt
in your voice under a blanket and said there's two kinds
of women—those you write poems about

and those you don't. It's true. I never brought you
a bouquet of sonnets, or served you haiku in bed.
My idea of courtship was tapping Jane's Addiction

lyrics in Morse code on your window at three A.M.,
whiskey doing push-ups on my breath. But I worked
within the confines of my character, cast

as the bad boy in your life, the Magellan
of your dark side. We don't have a past so much
as a bunch of electricity and liquor, power

never put to good use. What we had together
makes it sound like a virus, as if we caught
one another like colds, and desire was merely

a symptom that could be treated with soup
and lots of sex. Gliding beside you now,
I feel like the Benjamin Franklin of monogamy,

as if I invented it, but I'm still not immune
to your waterfall scent, still haven't developed
antibodies for your smile. I don't know how long

regret existed before humans stuck a word on it.
I don't know how many paper towels it would take
to wipe up the Pacific Ocean, or why the light

of a candle being blown out travels faster
than the luminescence of one that's just been lit,
but I do know that all our huffing and puffing

into each other's ears—as if the brain was a trick
birthday candle—didn't make the silence
any easier to navigate. I'm sorry all the kisses

I scrawled on your neck were written
in disappearing ink. Sometimes I thought of you
so hard one of your legs would pop out

of my ear hole, and when I was sleeping, you'd press
your face against the porthole of my submarine.
I'm sorry this poem has taken thirteen years

to reach you. I wish that just once, instead of skidding
off the shoulder blade's precipice and joyriding
over flesh, we'd put our hands away like chocolate

to be saved for later, and deciphered the calligraphy
of each other's eyelashes, translated a paragraph
from the volumes of what couldn't be said.

"How do I love thee? Let me count the ways..."
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

William Shakespeare - Sonnet #18

Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.