Category Archives: Media

Instagram Retrospective

I have had an Instagram account for almost six years now and although I post there less frequently than I do on other social media platforms looking back at the photos on my page does provide an overview of the kinds of things I write about on this blog.

My very first Instagram photo was one of me celebrating my birthday with a dear group of friends dubbed the T-4s.

Other photos of them appear frequently on my Instagram feed including the most recent one I posted just this week.

I have featured plenty of photos of my family. The very first family photo on my Instagram page is this one taken with my Aunt Mary when I visited her in her home in Kansas.

And the most recent one is this photo of my great grandparents Paul D. Peters and Helena Rempel.

There are lots of photos of our travels. The oldest one was taken on a glacier hike with my sister and brother-in-law in Iceland.

More recent ones catalogue the trip we took to British Columbia last fall. The latest is this photo of me with a statue of the great Canadian artist Emily Carr a reminder of the Emily Carr pilgrimage that was part of my visit to Victoria.

My Instagram page includes many photos of works featured at the Winnipeg Art Gallery where I work. The earliest one is a photo of Hannah Claus’ mobile installation Cloudscape with works by Wanda Koop in the background.

The most recent one shows me and Goota Ashoona’s gorgeous sculpture The Gift which sits in front of the new addition to the Winnipeg Art Gallery called Qaumajuq.

There are lots of photos of the progress of my novel being published. The first shows me signing my book contract.

The last was a poster for the announcement my book had been nominated for an award.

I notice a food and drink theme running through the photos. The first shows me ready to bite into a sandwich at a famous deli called Caplansky’s in Toronto.

In the most recent one, I am ready to imbibe a birthday Ceasar in Victoria.

Finally, there are lots of photos with my husband of nearly 49 years Dave. The first one is a goofy selfie taken at The Forks on Canada Day.

The last taken by our friend Bill shows us crocus hunting in the Sandilands this spring.

I often forget to post what I’ve written about in this blog on Instagram but the times I have remembered provide a pretty good retrospective of the last six years.

Other posts………

The Gift Was a Gift

The Best of Birthdays

Glacier Hike

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Viewing on My Own

My husband Dave and I watch a few television series and movies together but we have very different tastes so more often than not we are watching our own things independently.

A few recent solo views I’ve enjoyed are………….

The Lincoln Lawyer

Lawyer Mickey Haller is played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and his chauffer Izzy Letts is played by Jazz Racole- photo from Netflix by Lara Solanki

There have been a book and a movie called The Lincoln Lawyer but this is a series with ten episodes. It’s about a lawyer named Mickey Haller who likes to work out of the back seat of his car. He is recovering from an opioid addiction that developed from the medications prescribed following a bad accident. Mickey is trying to rebuild the relationships he had with his daughter and her mother before the accident. Just as he is ready to return to his law career a colleague dies leaving him his practice and one very high-profile client.

Mickey is a lawyer with a conscience and adheres to his father’s mantra that it is better for a thousand guilty people to go free than for one innocent person to go to jail. This belief leads Mickey to make some difficult decisions that could jeopardize his professional future and his family relationships. Mickey takes on a client who is also a recovering addict as a chauffer and as he explains the ins and outs of the courtroom to her while they drive, the viewer gets an education as well in how the legal system works.

My engagement with the series has inspired Dave to start watching it now too.

Baby Fever

Josephine Park plays Nana and Olivia Joof Lewerissa her friend Simone. They face some hard ethical decisions in the series Baby Fever– photo from Netflix

There are only six episodes in this Danish series about a 37-year-old doctor named Nana who works in a Copenhagen fertility clinic and when she is inebriated one night inseminates herself with an ex-boyfriend’s sperm stored at the clinic. This leads to a pregnancy and all kinds of ethical and personal decisions that Nana is forced to make. In the process, Nana is also forced to reevaluate her relationships with her mother, her best friend and the two men in her life. This series viscerally illustrates where telling lies can lead you.

We see Nana consulting with many different clients who are trying to have a baby using the variety of services offered by the fertility clinic and I found this part of the show very educational because there are so many reasons people want to become parents and so many ethical and personal things for them to consider. I also noticed that in the process of trying to have a baby invariably unexpected things about a couple’s relationships come to light.

I think my husband Dave might like this series if he decides to watch it.

Finding You

The scenery of Ireland plays a key role in Finding You which stars Rose Reid as Finley Sinclair and Jedidiah Goodacre as Beckett Rush

You might have to be in the right mood to watch this romantic movie set in Ireland but I certainly was and it made me laugh and cry. I would say it is definitely a level above a schlocky Hallmark Christmas love story. The gorgeous scenery of the Irish countryside is beautifully filmed and it made me even more certain that Ireland needs to remain firmly on my travel bucket list.

The main character Finley Sinclair is a violinist who goes to stay with a host family in Ireland during a college study abroad program. I was impressed to learn that Rose Reid the actress who plays the role is a violinist too and worked intensely with a violin teacher so she could play the pieces in the film herself.

She meets a well-known movie star on the plane to Ireland and wouldn’t you know it he is filming his latest movie in the same Irish village where Finley is staying. Although it is a romance the two main characters are really finding themselves more than they are finding each other.

My favourite part of the film is the relationship Rose develops with an elderly woman named Cathleen Sweeney who is played by the wonderful actress Vanessa Redgrave.

This is a movie I know my husband Dave would not like and I was glad I’d watched it on my own.

Let me know if you have watched any of these Netflix offerings and if you have what you thought. I’d also love to hear your suggestions for series or movies to watch.

Other posts……….

Borgen- Politics is Tough

Maid- Tender and Troubling

Have You Watched The Chair?

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Pachinko

I read the book Pachinko by Min Jin Lee in January of 2018 and writing about it on this blog I called it a riveting read. So I was excited to learn that Apple TV had produced a dramatic eight-episode series based on the novel.

Pachinko is a multi-general family story with a Korean woman named Sunja at its heart. She leaves her widowed mother in Korea and immigrates to Japan with her new husband when she is pregnant with her first son. Her second son is born in Japan and the two brothers are bound for very different destinies.

At first, I wasn’t sure I liked the fact that the television series jumped around in time rather than telling the story in a chronological way as the book did. But by about the third episode I started to really appreciate that production decision and the way it allowed the viewer to first be introduced to a character and then later learn more about their backstory and in doing so help us come to understand that character better.

One of the things that fascinated me about the novel was learning how Korean people were so terribly discriminated against by the Japanese who annexed Korea in 1910 the year the story in Pachinko begins. This aspect is emphasized even more in the television series with any number of scenes that don’t take place in the book. I thought that was a good production decision too.

Sunja on the right played by actress Minha Kim and her sister-in-law Kyunghee played by Jung Eun-chae form a strong bond

Pachinko is a story with strong resilient female characters and illustrates the way women band together to help each other survive.

It clearly demonstrates how your family’s past is bound to influence who you become.

It is about how the choices we make change our destiny and we are often left to wonder whether we have made the right ones.

It explores the idea of how much we can conform to those in power without losing ourselves.

We are almost finished watching the first season of Pachinko and I was happy to hear recently that there will be a second season. Often the film version of a book doesn’t live up to its source material. I think Pachinko does and in fact enriches it.

Other posts……….

A Touching Moment at the Oscars

Ten Thoughts After Watching the Movie Minari

Ten Observations After Seeing the Movie Parasite

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Checking Out- The Ultimate Privilege

Carol Off Photo by Kevin Kelly from the Penguin Random House site

Veteran journalist Carol Off has conducted more than 25,000 interviews as a CBC foreign correspondent and as the host of the radio program As It Happens.  She recently left that assignment and in one of her final programs said to her listeners……….

“So many people I know say ‘I’d like to get more involved, but I just can’t read the paper anymore. It makes me crazy. I’m not paying attention anymore because I just have to take care of myself.'”

Carol goes on…….

“That is the ultimate act of privilege. If you decide to check out–and I totally understand self-care- but if you have the ability to check out, it’s because you have nothing at stake. You are not running for your life. You are not about to be arrested. You are not about to lose your home.”

Carol concludes,

“So I urge, gently, don’t do that. Stay engaged. Stay here in the world. Don’t leave it. Not because you need to be there, but because other people need you to be there. Other people need you to, at least, bear witness. Just bear witness to the struggle of others. That’s as much as the world can ask of you.

Photo by Hasan Albari on Pexels.com

Carol’s words rang true for me because I often feel like checking out from what is going on in the world.  Of course, we all need breaks. I take them too, to do puzzles, walk, read novels, nap with my granddaughter and bake.

And we all need to still carry on with our day to day lives as I wrote a few days ago but……… cutting ourselves off from what is going on in the world isn’t healthy and it certainly isn’t being a responsible global citizen. 

Many of us in North America are sitting in a position of relative privilege right now, but someday we may not be, and then we will need others to be engaged and bear witness for us, just as we hopefully have done for them.

Other posts…………

God Rest the Children

Remembering the Children of Sichuan

War Is Hell- Especially For Children

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Do You Know How I Know That?

One of the daily rituals at our house is watching Jeopardy. As we view the television quiz show I am always amazed at all the answers to the questions my husband Dave knows. Often after he’s answered a particularly challenging question before the Jeopardy contestants do he will say to me,

“Do you know how I knew that?”

And I always play along and say, “No. How could you possibly know that?”

And then he replies, “I have no idea.”

Dave says he has no idea how he comes up with so many answers to Jeopardy questions but I think I know why.

Dave doing the Saturday crossword with a friend via FaceTime during the pandemic

He does lots of crossword puzzles. He has faithfully been doing the Saturday New York Times crossword puzzles for more than four decades and during the pandemic isolation period, he worked his way through several large books of crossword puzzles. Studies prove crossword puzzles enlarge your vocabulary, broaden your knowledge base and increase your mental acuity all valuable skills to have when playing Jeopardy.

Dave stops to chat with a truck driver during a day of cycling in Portugal

Dave talks to everyone. He loves to talk to people, anyone he meets for that matter. On our travels, I often lose track of him only to find he has stopped to have a discussion with some stranger. He can strike up a conversation easily and quickly and all those people he’s met and talked with have filled his head with a myriad of interesting bits of insight and information that help him answer a diversity of Jeopardy questions.

Dave and my brother-in-law Ken reading in a house we rented in Iceland

Dave reads a lot of books. He always has a book on the go and he reads such a wide variety of things. In the last while, he’s finished State of Terror the mystery co-authored by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny, Five Little Indians Michelle Good’s moving novel about five residential school survivors and Travel to the Northwest Passage by Cameron Dueck a non-fiction travel diary. He picks up lots of different kinds of information from the variety of books he reads that proves valuable when answering Jeopardy questions.

Dave is sitting between his Mom and Dad in this photo

Dave read the encyclopedia when he was a kid. His parents didn’t have extra money to buy their children lots of books but one thing they made a financial sacrifice to do was to purchase an entire set of encyclopedias paying for it in monthly instalments. Dave read each volume pretty much cover to cover. He still pulls odd bits of information out of his head that he picked up during that encyclopedia reading stint and that helps him excel at Jeopardy questions.

Dave in Arizona during a winter hiatus there several years ago playing Scrabble online with his brother Bill who lives in southern Ontario. He also played online with his brother John before he passed away.

Dave plays Scrabble. His mother loved the word game and he and a number of his brothers inherited her affection for it. During his retirement, Dave has really become enamoured with online Scrabble and at the height of the pandemic isolation, was playing for many hours a day with folks from around the world. Scrabble is a great way to enlarge and enrich your vocabulary something that is definitely an asset when answering Jeopardy questions.

Dave is always ready to learn a new sport. Here he is playing pickleball the most recent sport he has added to his repertoire.

Dave has diverse interests. He loves music, movies and sports so Jeopardy questions in those categories are often a breeze for him. He reads the newspaper faithfully each day and has a degree in theology so he’s ready with answers for Bible questions and current events questions. He’s been a history teacher, math teacher and English teacher so categories involving those subjects aren’t hard for him.

When we are watching Jeopardy and Dave answers a question and says,

“Do you know how I knew that?”

I could say “I think I do know how you knew that.”

But I don’t. It would spoil the fun.

Other posts……..

The $2000 Jeopardy Question

Check Out the Kid’s Section

Nice Guy- Not A Great Writer

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Filed under Family, Media

Have You Watched Ted Lasso?

Be a goldfish! That’s one of the mantras you’ll hear from soccer coach Ted Lasso when you watch the highly acclaimed series that bears his name. We just finished the last episode this past weekend. Ted is an American football coach hired to manage a British soccer team.

Ted Lasso is an Apple TV series

Although Ted doesn’t know anything about soccer he knows a lot about people and is able to bring together a franchise of squabbling, self-centred, unsuccessful, hurting players and staff and meld them into a supportive, caring, successful family. Ted has a sign over the door of his office that says BELIEVE in capital letters and that’s maybe what sets Ted a part. He BELIEVES in the basic goodness of people and their potential to achieve any goal.

Image from artist Blake Stevenson– Jetpacks and Roller-skates

The ‘be a goldfish’ mantra is only one of many Ted Lasso has made famous. He says when you make a mistake, or have a fight with someone you need to be a goldfish, because they only have a ten second memory. ‘Be a goldfish’ means don’t dwell on your personal errors or conflicts with others but move on and be happy.

Some other wise things Ted has to say are……

Be curious not judgemental.

There is something worse than being sad and that’s being alone and being sad.

Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you are comfortable doing it, you are probably doing it wrong.

The harder you work, the luckier you get.

If you care about someone and you have a little love in your heart there isn’t anything you can’t get through.

If all this sounds a little too inspirational and uplifting to make a riveting television series, I assure you it is not. The characters in Ted Lasso all have major flaws and that causes all kinds of problems and conflicts.

Critics are saying the reason for the success of the Ted Lasso series, which won seven Emmy awards in its first season, is that in these difficult and often negative times people are hungry for a character like Ted who is positive, compassionate, humble and kind no matter how mean people are to him. He remains hopeful despite his own personal struggles. Ted sees the best in people and tries to get them to recognize their own strengths. It does the heart good to imagine a world where everyone did that.

Other posts……….

A Television Series Senator Plett Should Watch

Winnipeg and Mennonites In Gone Girl

Watching Bear Town

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Tender and Troubling

Talk about fantastic acting! If you haven’t already watched the Netflix series Maid, consider it worth your while just to witness the performance of child actor Rylea Nevaeh Whittet. Rylea is a five-year-old Canadian girl who lives with her family on Vancouver Island where much of the series Maid was filmed.

In Maid, Rylea has the role of three-year-old Maddy and she is brilliant. Maddy and her Mom Alex played by Margaret Qualley are trying to start a new independent life because Sean, Maddy’s father, and Alex’s partner, is struggling with addiction issues and has become abusive. Qualley is on the screen in virtually every scene and her expressive face makes her emotional performance almost as riveting as the endearing and realistic acting of little Rylea Nevah Whittet.

The series shows just how hard it can be for women to leave abusive domestic situations especially when they lack employment skills, can’t afford child care, and have no family to back them up. Alex’s parents each struggle with issues of their own and sometimes it was hard to believe that the two of them could have raised a daughter like Alex who is intelligent, talented, perseverant, and hard working. She’s been honing her survival skills since she was a little girl. As a writer, I was drawn to this series because Alex is a writer too and her writing proves to be both her solace and her salvation.

One of the things I learned while watching the series is that most women must leave their abusive partners multiple times before they manage to stay away from them permanently. It may be a lack of self-esteem, financial desperation, or the false hope that their partner can change, which keeps sending them back to him even if they know it isn’t the right or safe thing to do.

Maid makes the viewer realize what a vital role domestic abuse shelters play in helping women start over. Even with that support, they face mountains of paperwork, endless obstacles and oceans of red tape to get their lives back on track. It’s a miracle if they succeed.

There were times it was hard to watch Maid because you often knew ahead of time what disastrous thing was bound to happen in certain situations and you could barely stand to see it unfold on the screen.

I found Maid a troubling but tender story about a woman fighting against all odds to make a better life for herself and her child. I’d recommend it.

Other posts………..

Violence in Christian Families

Silent Prey

Ladies in Black

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Have You Watched The Chair?

The Chair stars Sandra Oh as Dr. Ji-Yoon Kim, Nanah Mensah as Dr. Yasmin McKay, and Holland Taylor as Professor Joan Hambling

We just finished watching the Netflix series The Chair. The story begins as Ji-Yoon Kim becomes the first female chair of the English Department at an American college. She has lots on her plate. Some of her colleagues are way past retirement age and hardly any students sign up for their classes, while a brilliant black female professor who is very popular with students isn’t receiving the academic recognition she deserves.

Another professor makes a Hitler salute to illustrate a point during a lecture and the student body stages a protest. Then there is the wealthy donor who wants a famous actor rather than a distinguished scholar to give an important annual lecture at the college.

Everly Carganilla plays Ji-Yoon’s daughter Ju-Ju in the series

And as if she doesn’t have enough to juggle at work Ji -Yoon is trying to parent her adopted daughter who has behavior issues. She struggles to maintain a good relationship with her traditional Korean father and is trying to figure out if she wants to include romance in her life.

The Chair tells an engaging story with lots of action and humor but I would offer these three observations.

The syllabus at the university in the film was so steeped in tradition. The students were mainly reading things like Chaucer and Shakespeare and Melville. The work of white writers, mostly male seemed to dominate the courses offered. We didn’t see professors using contemporary texts by a diverse group of authors which I know quite a number of universities do by now.

I think the series realistically showed just how hard it is for single parents to juggle a challenging work-life and less-than-perfect family life. Ji-Yoon has reached what she thought would be the pinnacle of her career. She is the chair of the English department. She is also finally a mother something she’d always dreamed of being. And yet her life is so much harder and less fulfilling than she had imagined.

I thought it a bit unrealistic that every older professor in the department was portrayed as out of touch with students and dull in the classroom. My experience both as a teacher and student of English in secondary schools and universities leads me to believe that age isn’t always a factor as to whether a teacher is interesting or relevant.

The Atlantic reviewer calls The Chair “the best Netflix drama series in years.” Have you seen it? What did you think?

Other posts………….

Watching Bear Town

Politics is Tough

1619

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Connections With Michelle Sawatsky

I wrote a cover story about Michelle Sawatsky in 1991

In 1991 I was asked to do a story about Michelle Sawatsky for the magazine The Mennonite Mirror. At that time Michelle was a University of Manitoba volleyball player working towards a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance and voice.

She and I talked about her successful high school volleyball experience under the tutelage of coach Shannon Kehler and the wonderful support her family gave her in all her endeavors. Michelle commented on how media coverage of women’s sports seemed to pale in comparison to the coverage offered men, and the way the American attitude towards the game of volleyball stood in stark contrast to the Canadian approach. She expressed appreciation for her university coach Ken Bentley who she said made allowances for her musical aspirations and was helping her become the best player she could be.

At the time I interviewed Michelle in 1991 she shared her dream of someday making the Canadian National Team and competing in the Olympics, a dream which came true in 1996 when she was on the Canadian women’s Olympic volleyball team in Atlanta. Michelle went on to establish a long and successful career for herself as a radio host for CFAM and its affiliates.

Taking Michelle out for dim sum in Hong Kong

In 2005 when my husband Dave and I were teaching at an international school in Hong Kong we invited Michelle to fly out to visit us and talk to the students at our school about her Olympic experience at our annual sports awards banquet. She also spoke to the high school student body and did some volleyball clinics with my husband’s physical education students.

Michelle with the students who interviewed her in Hong Kong

We had a good time showing Michelle around Hong Kong. One morning when we took a cable car ride to the top of Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak and happened to meet two young radio journalists doing a school assignment. They asked to interview us and when we told them Michelle was an Olympic athlete they were thrilled to have snagged her as a guest for their video project.

Photo by Jordan Ross The Carillon
Photo by Jordan Ross for The Carillon

On July 8th I was thrilled to connect with Michelle again when she interviewed me about my novel Lost on the Prairie on her radio show. We talked about how I got the idea for the novel, how it was appealing to a really wide audience of different ages, and the research I had done to write the book. You can listen to the interview here.

I was so grateful to Michelle for giving me an opportunity to talk about my book on her radio program. It also provided us with another opportunity to reconnect.

Other posts……….

Memories of Sai Kung

The Goddess of Running Shoes and Olympic Medals

Aunt Olly

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Filed under Hong Kong, Lost on the Prairie, Media

Aunt Olly

Olly Penner

We didn’t have Sesame Street or Paw Patrol or Blues Clues when I was a kid. We had Aunt Olly. Olly Penner hosted a program on the radio station CFAM for kids called Children’s Party and I was a devoted fan in my childhood.

Like many families in the late 1950s and early 1960s we didn’t have a television and along with thousands of other children from all over western Canada and the central northern United States I sat near the radio every afternoon while Aunt Olly read stories like Tall Fireman Paul, Big Red or Johnny Appleseed and played funny songs like I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly and There’s a Hole in the Bucket. If your mother sent in a request, Aunt Olly would also wish you a Happy Birthday over the air and even tell you where your Mom had hidden your present.

I remember hurrying home from school and sitting down at the table with the snack Mom had ready for me and listening to Aunt Olly.

Photo from the CFAM radio website of Aunt Olly and her sidekick Gus

In 1989 I was on the staff of the magazine The Mennonite Mirror and was assigned to write a feature story about Olly Penner for the magazine. I was excited to have the chance to interview my childhood idol. I found out that not only had Olly done a children’s program for CFAM she had also hosted a variety of other shows like Ladies First, Hints for Homemakers, The Garden Show, and Social Calendar. She co-hosted the radio station’s morning show with anchor Jim McSweeny for 13 years.

Remember this was a time when most women did not work outside the home, something Olly Penner was criticized for by some radio listeners. She said the support of her husband Vic who was the editor of the Altona newspaper The Red River Valley Echo but was often referred to by the public as ‘Aunt Olly’s husband’, made it possible for her to keep up with all her radio station commitments which included many public appearances. She also found time to write a regular newspaper column, publish a cookbook, and be an active participant in several community organizations, all while raising two sons.

Children’s Party souvenir from Greg Lindenbach

The day I interviewed her she showed me the thousands of fan letters she had received from children. Many had sent her photographs and drawings and I recognized some of the names. But Olly also had fan mail from adults; grandparents who enjoyed her show, farmers who listened to her while driving their tractors, recent immigrants who said they were learning English by listening to her, and parents who said they got their children to behave by threatening to take away the privilege of listening to Children’s Party. She even had a fan letter from a clergyman who said he’d ‘fallen in love with her voice’.

Olly Penner

Olly retired in 1987 and when I interviewed her in 1989 she was already a grandmother and was enjoying traveling with her husband, and spending more time with her family. Olly Penner died in 2015 at the age of 86. She had a legion of fans in a time when media programming aimed specifically at children was a rarity.

The full original article I wrote for the Mennonite Mirror can be accessed on page 4 of the May/June 1989 issue here.

Other posts………

Radios Good and Evil

What a Woman!

My Childhood Reading Heaven

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Filed under Canada, Childhood, Culture, Media