Wednesday, 30 June 2010

New Manitoba Members of the O.C.

Congrats to the Manitoba Order of Canada appointees announced today by the GG

The Honourable Jake Epp, P.C., O.C. is elevated to Officer.

The new Members are:

James Ehnes of Brandon (violin virtuoso)
Étienne Gaboury (architect)
Garry Hilderman (architect)
Alex C. Michalos (educator from Brandon)
Aftab A. Mufti (Engineer)
Roz Prober (volunteer service)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Footy, Irwin Barker and the Key to NYC

Some odds and ends that I didn't get to post about earlier in the week.

Sticking to the gotta love footy theme, a great story in the LA Times about the most unique football team in South Africa:

They kick like grannies, proudly (L.A. Times June 21, 2010): Frail, elderly women in South Africa started playing soccer as a joke. Now they are running and competing on the field, leaving cultural expectations in the dust.

This weekend W5 replayed the 2008 Irwin Barker doc That's My Time.

I am not a huge fan of stand-up comedy but did follow Irwin Barker a fair bit. I worked on a project with him many years ago in his previous life in Winnipeg. I remember him as a nice, funny, decent guy.

Here's a Barker excerpt from 2002 Just for Laughs.

A neat art project in New York City called Key to the City. You sign up for a key, and grant one to another person, and the key "grants extraordinary access to generally off-limits parts of a no-entry-to-unauthorized-personnel kind of city".

What a really cool idea ! Here's a related New York Times story.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Gotta Love Footy

I haven't been able to do regular posts about the World Cup so here are a few bits and bites from the first few days of action.....

- It's the Cup of the fallen giants. The
collapse of Italy, the nuclear meltdown of the French. They weren't beaten so much by opposing teams on the field but from within.

- On the too-bad side: African football, for whom some thought this to be a coming-out party, didn't really come out.

- Of my original picks, Netherlands (often the bridesmaid) have made it through while Cameroon has bowed out.

- I always look forward to the British commentary as much as anything. Best lines heard so far (cue the dry, British accent):

"The warning light is flashing on the dashboard of this Slovenian defence"

"This was supposed ot be a sumptuous feast of international football but here we are at the twenty-six minute mark and still crunching on the bread rolls" (Portugal / Brazil)

- As for the vuvuzela, yes it's constant and yes it's a bit annoying but it's their thing. Some have gone a bit overboard about the impact of the instrument like this National Post story.

North American sport has been moving toward taking the fan out of the game in favour of noise for a decade or more.

A few years ago I went to see an indoor lacrosse league game involving the Toronto Rock and their league has a 'rock soundtrack' that runs too loud and throughout the entire game ensuring that not a peep is heard from, or spoken between, fans until intermisison.

When the Winnipeg Alliance played a pair of exhibition games a couple of years back, the same thing. The first game featured wall to wall, concert- level music. After boos, chants of 'turn it off' and presumably some more direct complaints, for the second game it was announced that it would be presented 'without sountrack' which drew the largest cheers of the evening.

If in 'new sports' noise is replacing the fan, for traditional sports they have tried to push it as far as they can.

In both Philly and Chicago, the noise of fans going mad after a goal was replaced with air horn blows. By the final, when fans were at their cheering best, the horns seemed to go on for a minute to be sure that it didn't let random cheering get through.
At the next Moose game you attend, time how many seconds between whistles you get without blaring soundtrack (or tv commercial) - very few. Why hear fans chanting or even talking to each other when you can have the 10th AC/DC song of the night playing.

The vuvuzela, as annyoing as it is, shouldn't be that foreign a thing to sports fans. It wouldn't surprise me if all sport in the coming years ends up being noise from beginning to end.

At least the vuvuzelas' din is created by fans, not a pre-recorded sound system.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Redone art, the good and the bad

Kwakiutl Totem Pole
For my Downtown Places blog I profile the Kwakiutl Totem Pole on the south grounds of the Manitoba Legislature. Donated by B.C. in 1971, by the turn of the century the totem was in bad repair and rot had set in. Local artist Dwayne Ball spent a month in the summer of 2006 restoring it.

I also found a site that profiles some of the worst in redone art in a section they call: Awful Hockey Card Art. Those horrible 'paint-overs' of new jerseys onto old player pictures. Here is Randy Cunnyworth which actually gets a pretty good review given the difficulty of the Jets' logo.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Calm places in busy hospitals: part two

In March I wrote part one of this series explaining how I came to love hospitals and what I find so fascinating about them. There, I featured two interesting hospital spaces: the Buhler Gallery at St. Boniface Hospital and the century-old chapel at Misericordia.

Given their utilitarian nature and need for constant upgrades and renovation, hospitals are overlooked as places of interesting architecture and beautiful spaces.

HSC Campus
Take the Health Sciences Centre, for example. A walk around the area presents a dizzying array of architecture ranging from the late 1800s to early 2000s. As the hospital has been added to in concentric layers you sometimes have to look in the nooks and crannies see past details.

HSC Campus
HSC Campus
Winnipeg General Hospital Powerhouse
HSC Campus
HSC Campus
Should you find yourself spending time at the HSC, take a walk around the sprawling site and adjacent U of M Bannatyne Campus for some interesting and unique buildings.

St. Boniface Hospital - Chapel
My featured indoor space this time around is the chapel at St. Boniface Hospital. As with Misericordia, the chapel is in one of the oldest parts of the complex, ca.1908 and is quite a beautiful space.

St. Boniface Hospital - Chapel
St. Boniface Hospital - Chapel
Located on the second floor of the C Wing, the chapel is open 24 hours a day. Another space to escape the sometimes chaotic world of the modern hospital.

Winnipeg General Hospital Winnipeg Time Machine
Urban Myths: St. Boniface General Hospital CBC
Former Brandon Mental Health Centre site West End Dumplings
June 2011 Update: Misericordia Chapel under demolition

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Remembering Frank Cassidy

1941 - 2010

Francis Michael 'Frank' Cassidy was born in April 1941 in Drumcondra, Dublin to Agnes and Patrick, a policeman. He was one of seven children who grew up in the Walsh Road home.

The Independent
Frank apprenticed as a printer and worked for the Irish Independent newspaper in Dublin. In 1964 he met his future wife Alacoque at a dance in County Offally telling her at first that he was a school teacher rather than revealing his true profession !

In October 1966 the couple married and the very next day set off for North America. Their original plan was to emigrate to the U.S. but the quota for the year was full so they decided on Canada instead. Upon arrival in Toronto they were told by the Canada Manpower people at the airport about this growing city out West in need of new blood. Sight unseen, (and not even the Internet with which to check the place out !), they carried on to Winnipeg arriving in a late October snow storm.

Christmas 1970
The couple first settled in the City of St. James, now part of Winnipeg. St. James was hungry for new immigrants as it was in the midst of an incredible expansion that included a new international airport (1964), St. James Civic Centre (1966) and Grace Hospital (1966). Frank and Alacoque moved into the newly opened Courts of St. James and had their first child, a son.

Within a few years they settled into their first home, a townhouse in the Willow Park Housing Co-op on Burrows Avenue. There they had a daughter and the family was now complete.

Future moves took the family to the Maples then finally to North Kildonan. Perhaps with Frank being a Northside Dubliner he had an aversion to taking his family anywhere near the Assiniboine, much less across it !

In Frank's career as a printer he worked with Public Press, Comet Press and, most recently, Admiral Printing.

Frank enjoyed travelling, though most trips in the early days were to bring the children back to Ireland to make sure that they kept ties with their extended family. Since retiring in 2005 Frank and Alacoque travelled extensively - from Texas and Banff to France and China to name just a few locales. In the months prior to his death Frank made a final trip to Ireland to visit with family.

Closer to home, Frank and Alacoque loved spending time at Winnipeg Beach and Gimli, the never-ending Lake Winnipeg reminding them of the ocean coast back home. Moose Jaw was another place that they routinely visited as it was what they considered the quintessential prairie town.

Frank loved the heat - the hotter the better. Most of his summer was spent outdoors mowing the lawn, tending the garden or cleaning the car. The closest to thing to indoors that you could get him in the summer was the open-air sun porch at the back of the house.

Frank Cassidy thumbnail
Frank was a quiet man, famously laid back and always up for a laugh. Whenever asked 'how are you doing', even in the midst of some terrible cancer treatment, his answer was 'fine, just fine, thank you'.

When diagnosed with the disease in 2008 he fought hard, battling back on a couple of occasions after his doctors told him he likely wouldn't make it. One even referred to him as a 'tough old bird.'

Sadly, the complications and medications related to the disease finally beat him. He died June 14, 2010 at St. Boniface Hospital at the age of 69.

Frank, like hundreds of thousands before him, came to Manitoba seeking a new and better life for himself and his family. I'm very glad that he did.

I will miss you, Dad.

Winnipeg Free Press, June 19, 2010

Free Press' 'Passages' Sucks

Not sure if anyone has had to use the Free Press' obits section in the past few years. Passages is FP Newspapers' on-line display for entries, similar to how they use Workopolis as their on-line partner for want ads. The problem is, Passages really sucks.

For the history research I do I sometimes need to delve into the site and I cringe whenever I see the terrible formatting of their entries. Someone's careful and lovingly crafted remembrance reduced to an almost nonsensical run-on block of text for out-of-town relatives and people looking back in time to scratch their heads over.

Thankfully that poor woman doesn't have the misfortune of requiring an accent in her name as that unleashes a whole new formatting kettle of fish.

I wonder if they get much business from their 'order laminates' tab ? Who wouldn't want to shell out for a laminated blob of text like this as a keepsake for a loved one ? That would be touching.

I guess I am a little sore because this week I've unfortunately had to use the Free Press obits for my father. Most of his friends and relatives are overseas so they won't be reading the Free Press in person which means that if I don't go get the paper, cut and scan the ad we placed and either send it to all of them by email, or upload it on my blog and send them the link, they'll have to rely on the nonsensical version that the Free Press happily uploads to Passages.

Seriously, Free Press, for what you charge for obits set aside 1% of that for a month and hire a grade 6 kid for a week this summer to help you solve the formatting issues that have dumbfounded you for the past 5 years.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Old Market Square's CUBE Opens !

Old Market Square
Old Market Square's new stage, The Cube, opens on Thursday July 17. Official ceremonies begin at at 11:00 am with speeches and at noon Papa Mambo will play the first concert. At 9:30 p.m. an interactive light and sound show will give Winnipeggers a peek at the stage as a stand-alone entertainment piece.
Entertainment and Old Market Square's park dates back to 1976 when the Old Market Square Merchants Association turned what was a grassed lot, once site of Winnipeg's main fire hall, into a farmers market.
Market Square
With the creation of larger, permanent stage in 1990 the park became home base for many of Winnipeg's summer entertainment events such as the Fringe and Jazz Festivals.
New Old Market Square !
Old Market Square
Old Market Square
In 2008 a revitalization program started that included better drainage, new sod and more lighting. The $1.5m stage, the skin of which is made up of 20,000 aluminum links, has a built-in lighting system, green room and two performance levels. It was designed by 5468796 Architecture.
Old Market Square
Related:Old Market Square - Downtown Winnipeg Places
Setting the Stage - Winnipeg Free Press
$1m stage - CTV

New Stage Interacts with passers-by Winnipeg Free Press
The Cube Opens - Exchange BIZ Media Release (pdf)

Saturday, 12 June 2010

On the front lines of H1N1

It has been a few months since we were at the height of concern about H1N1. In the past couple of weeks three reports were released that take a look at how well Canada dealt with the pandemic at the front-line level and make suggestions on improving that response for future public health emergencies.

The H1N1 Pandemic – How Ontario Fared: A Report by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health News Release - Report

Last week, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health released her report giving Ontario a 'good' grade for dealing with the pandemic but noted deficiencies in their ability to roll out a street-level mass immunization campaign and a lack of co-ordination and consistency of services from one health authority to the next. The outbreak was mild enough, however, that the public health system was able to cope.

$2-billion mass flu immunization program a bust, figures reveal

The Globe and Mail did some of the same numerical comparisons as Ontario's top doc did but broke it down, where possible, to cities.

To illustrate the disparities between different Ontario health authorities, Ottawa had a 53% vaccination rate while Kingston had 40% and Toronto just 28%. It's likely that many of Ontario's conclusions will be echoed by other provinces as similar disparities can be seen in Alberta: Edmonton 36% versus Calgary 44% and with Moncton NB 60% versus Halifax NS at 53%.

Winnipeg, by the way, had a 36% vaccination rate which is just over half of what Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina were able to achieve.

Issues in Pandemic Influenza Responses for Marginalized Urban Populations
English - French

Last week, Winnipeg was host to one of a series of national meetings taking a look at the experiences of those who dealt with the most vulnerable in society during the pandemic. 'Most vulnerable' include the homeless, shut-ins, sex workers, those living in shelters or half-way houses and others who fall through the health care cracks due to lack of insurance or documentation.

The report is still in draft form but participants so far have expressed concerns about vaccination clinics not being set up where these populations actually are. Also, as many of these agencies run on shoestring budgets with few full time staff, they had difficulty accessing and purchasing the resources and supplies that front line workers in other facilities were told they needed: gloves, masks, sanitizer, dispensers etc.

Pandemic Preparedness Voices from the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic Front lines
Press Release - Report

Monday at the World Conference on Disaster Management, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) released results from their 2009 round table with healthcare and emergency services workers.

Despite having national and provincial plans in place some jurisdictions didn't have enough supplies like gloves and masks stockpiled. Many also felt that word didn't get out quickly or clearly enough as to who the highest risk groups were and who needed to be vaccinated first.

They also brought up the need for 'scalability' within the pandemic levels set by national and provincial bodies. Different parts of the country had very different experiences with the number and severity of cases, yet blanket levels were used to lump them all together.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Local history on the big screen at Cinematheque this weekend !

This weekend Cinematheque screens a collection of works by local filmmaker Paula Kelly.

The Friday night feature is "The Notorious Mrs. Armstrong" which looks at the life of Helen Armstrong, a key figure in the Winnipeg General Strike. Aside from being a leading labour organizer I seem to recall that she was also suspected as being one of the women who set alight the streetcar outside city hall on the afternoon of Bloody Saturday thus helping create one of Winnipeg's most iconic images.

Following that is "Souvenirs", (Sand and Stone, Watermarks and Waiting for the Parade), the trio of shorts she did while working with the Winnipeg Archives back in 2008.

To wrap up the evening is the cinematic premiere of her newest film "Blog Winnipeg", 'a unique, irreverent and funny short documentary about the love/hate relationship we have with our city' featuring some of Winnipeg's more prolific bloggers.

Saturday night is Kelly's 2006 full length feature "Appassionata: The Extraordinary Life and Music of Sonia Eckhardt-Gramatté". The film will be introduced by Kelly and include a live performance of Eckhardt-Gramatté's Violin Caprice # 7: The Departing Train (Le depart d’un train) by musical guest by Oleg Pokhanovski.

Admission both nights is a very Winnipeg-friendly FREE !

Provincial Passion Winnipeg Free Press June 10, 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Avenue Building is a real fighter !

Avenue  Building
I was happy to finally hear the formal agreement announced yesterday about the renovation of the Avenue Building.

I looked into the history of the building for my Downtown Winnipeg Blog and it turns out she's a real fighter !

MB Free Press March 1905:
Avenue Building grand opening
Opened in 1904, the Avenue's first owner went down with the Titanic. Under the new ownership of a former Lieutenant Governor she was completely gutted by fire - twice ! Now, having survived a sometimes uncertain decade sitting vacant it will be great to have the Avenue back !

Read my post on the history of the Avenue Building here.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Winnipeg's First Sex Scandal !

Today, take time to remember Winnipeg's first Police Chief James S. Ingram.

Image source

Ingram was a man who loved drinking, fighting and women and was not afraid to do all three in public view.

He fit in a bit too well with the characters that he was hired to keep in check. On June 7, 1874 Ingram's deputies raided a Sherbrook Street brothel. One of the johns found in a state of undress with a prostitute was, yes, their chief.

That was not the last time that Ingram made the news !

He was part of the rough, tough, adventurous wave of Ontarians attracted by the frontier West. Unlike men such as Sir Sam Steele, though, he came from the opposite end of the morals pool. Nonetheless, he is one of those great colourful figures that make our local history so interesting.

I can't help but think that if we were in America there would have been at least a couple of Hollywood movies made about him. If we were in Britain at least one prime time mini-series. For better or worse we are in a land where colourful figures in local history don't get much, if any, attention at all and that's really a shame.

For more on Ingram read my expanded piece about him here. For more events from today in Manitoba history.

Friday, 4 June 2010

People do dumb things for free stuff

So, my parents' house got flooded in last weekend's deluge. A bit of water, bit of sewage. Mucho nasty.

Having been through this back in the 90's we had an idea of what to do: get stuff out of there FAST. A group of us emptied out the basement including the carpet and flooring. The adjuster came, said "yup, that's poo", then gave us some instruction about what steps to take and what we should just get rid of unless we had a huge attachment to it and were willing to get professionally cleaned.

Over the next couple of days stuff got dumped in the back yard for sorting and a lot of it ended up in the pile that would make its way to the front curb for garbage pickup. As we began the chore of hauling the nastiness to the front we noticed that stuff would go missing after an hour or so ! No one came to ask what's up, what that 'organic' smell (or cloud of flies) was due to, or if the inch or two brownish water stain at the bottom of every item was, indeed, water. They just took it !

My Mom was outside yesterday and a woman driving past stopped to ask "are you moving ?", seemingly oblivious to the fact that three houses in the same block had substantial piles of drywall bits, skirting board, carpet pieces, couches etc. piled up in the driveway. My Mom said "no, it's there for the city to come pick up tonight" and went back into the house. The lady opened the back of her car and started loading stuff in ! My Mom started back out of the house as the lady was getting back into her car to tell her that maybe she didn't want that stuff and probably not a good idea to wipe her eyes or eat a sandwich until she cleaned her hands. The lady called out that her and her husband would come back later with a mini-van for more !

How she didn't tweak to the fact that this stuff really stinks, considering it just spent a couple of extra days in the back yard stewing in a pile of fouled carpet, I have no idea. Thankfully, before she and her husband returned with the mini-van, the city's special garbage pick up came to clear the driveways on the block.

A bit of advice: if you are hitting the garage sales over the next couple of weekends be reeealllly careful about what you're buying and be on the safe side: bleach the hell whatever you pick up even if it looks fine !

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The West End Fights Back

Home Street
It's been a tough few days for the West End with a couple of shootings last week on Toronto and Victor Streets.

I live near Arlington and St. Matthews, just a couple of blocks from where events went down. I have been through the area dozens, if not hundreds of times. I know there are rough pockets but that level of crime took me by surprise.

Simcoe Street Walk
The police chief says that he was 'shocked' at what happened. After reading this version of events of his press conference where he says senior brass don't look at CrimeStat data and puts the responsibility of street crime squarely on Ottawa (?!) I would imagine that he is shocked every time he picks up his morning paper and reads about crime in the city.

St. Matthews Maryland Church
Of course, people who don't know the West End except for what they read in the pages of the Winnipeg Sun are painting the area as some Detroit-style wasteland and that's the additional tragedy to the story.

Retail Block
There is an open letter to the media published here criticizing some of the recent media coverage as sensationalized. It urges local media "...to get to know the inner city, and people here better...." in order to be able to provide "...more nuanced, useful coverage of what is going on, and help us make change for the better."

The writers also take the media to task about privacy issues such as broadcasting children's faces and the names and exact addresses of those involved. One example I noticed is that of the Victor Street house, instead of "the 400 block of Victor" it lists the exact address which was included in the Canwest wire story and
picked up nationally.

West End Business
There have been some great things happening in the West End lately. A newly expanded West End Cultural Centre has opened, the U of W is in the process of transforming a block of what was mostly empty lots to add hundreds of new eyes to the neighbourhood. We've had some funky new businesses open up like Black Sheep Diner and Hungover Empire boutique. There are new community gardens and there's a bike cage at Orioles CC.

But still, there gang members.

Ellice Street Festival 2008
The increased police presence has had some impact as 'several people' with outstanding warrants have been picked up but policing alone is not the answer. The community needs to get aboard.

Tomorrow at 6 pm there is a community parade departing from Maryland Street and winding through the West End.

Come out and see this great part of the city and help the West End fight back !