Category Archives: Media

What is Your Heavy Weight?

The word I have chosen for 2020 is listen. One of my resolutions is to listen to interesting and educational podcasts this year. I have rarely listened to podcasts in the past and I wanted to find some good ones I could follow regularly.  My son recommended Heavy Weight and I have really enjoyed the episodes I have listened to so far. 

Series host Jonathan Goldstein introduces you to a guest each week who is struggling with a heavy weight, something from their past that is placing a burden on their life. Jonathan attempts to help them lift that burden.

The first episode I listened to was about a recovering drug addict named Scott who wants to return a valuable family heirloom he stole from his father and sold to buy drugs. It takes quite the detective work to figure out what has happened to the antique and when Scott finally returns it to his Dad he is surprised by his reaction. 

In another episode, a woman who has always hated math has to pass a math exam in order to get her real estate licence.  The fact that she isn’t good at math has been a troubling weight on her life and prevented her from doing all kinds of things.  Now she wants to become a real estate agent to support her daughters and be a role model for them.  Jonathan listens to her story and finds unique ways to provide encouragement during her journey towards the exam day.  

I’ve also listened to episodes where a family wants to find a child their mother put up for adoption forty years before and an episode where a young woman wants to connect with her father who just disappeared from her life one day. 

Illustration by Venezuelan artist Maria Guadarrama

Heavy Weight is a weekly podcast in its fourth season so there are plenty of old shows to listen to.  I was telling my brother about the podcast and he asked what might be a heavy weight in my own life. What burden from my past would I want to work at having lifted?  I can think of a couple and when I listen to Heavy Weight I wonder whether I would be brave enough to ask host Jonathan Goldstein to help me confront them. 

Other posts……….

Your One Wild and Precious Life

A Rememberer

Utah Massacre Remembered

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Celebrity Sighting at Breakfast

“That’s Better Call Saul”  my husband Dave whispered as we stopped on the steps on our way out of the Winnipeg restaurant Clementines where we had breakfast yesterday with our friends. Dave was sure he had spotted actor Bob Odenkirk. 

 “I thought he looked familiar when we walked past him,” I said. I had watched the whole Breaking Bad series in which actor Bob Odenkirk plays smooth-talking lawyer Saul Goodman. His series Better Call Saul which my husband Dave watches, is a prequel to Breaking Bad and will debut its fifth season in February of 2020. 

Bob Odenkirk – Photo by Gage Skidmore

When we got home I looked up whether Bob Odenkirk was in Winnipeg making a film or television series.  Sure enough, a CTV article said Odenkirk would be in Winnipeg from October 15 to November 29th shooting an action thriller movie for Universal Pictures set to be released in August of 2020 called Nobody. It is about a suburban father named Hutch Mansell out to get revenge on thieves who break into his home.  

This is not the first time however that Winnipeg has had a connection with the Better Call Saul television series. The Winnipeg Free Press reports that during the 2018 season of the series, a character called Nacho is getting ready to skip town and opens a safe containing cash and a fake ID that has Wolver Avenue in Winnipeg listed as the address of the owner of the identity card. 

When we passed Odenkirk in the restaurant I overheard him telling his breakfast companion about the things he liked on the menu so obviously, this wasn’t the first time he had eaten at Clementine’s. Both Dave and I thought Bob looked a lot younger in person than he does on television. I am looking forward to seeing Bob Odenkirk in the movie Little Women which opens during the holiday season this year. 

When you live in the Exchange District of Winnipeg you get used to seeing actors, props and scenery and film crews on the streets regularly. But it is still always a little bit of a thrill when you spot a celebrity.  I sometimes say living in the Exchange District of Winnipeg is a bit like living in a movie set. 

Other posts……..

I Live in a Movie Set

Movie Shot in Our Building

Winnipeg in the Movies



Filed under Media, Movies

Five Lessons From Switched At Birth

I did a little binge watching lately of a Netflix series called Switched At Birth.  There are five seasons of the show which follows the lives of two baby girls who were given to the wrong parents at the hospital.  The mistake is only discovered when they are sixteen years old.  One girl, contacts encephalitis at age three and becomes deaf. She is raised in a poor Latino neighbourhood by a single mother who is a recovering alcoholic. The other girl, a talented young artist, is raised by a former major league baseball star and his accomplished wife. They live in a mansion in an affluent suburb of Kansas City.  There is ALOT of over the top drama in this show and some of the stuff that happens is definitely implausible. It’s a bit of a soap opera really. The characters make plenty of very bad decisions in my opinion. But…….. I kept watching and so I thought about why I did.  What did I learn from this show?

  1. A family doesn’t have to look a certain way.  Your ‘family’ is what you make it. The families of the two switched girls in the story manage to come together to create a new very different kind of family despite all their differences.  One major character in the series takes in two teenage boys whose parents have rejected them. She cares for the boys in her home as if they were her own. One character agrees to become a surrogate parent to a boy whose father is going to jail. A grandmother moves into one household to help with child rearing. 
  2.  You learn so much about the deaf community and culture.  Several of the actors who play main characters in the series are deaf and almost all the main characters know or learn American sign language during the seasons of the show. The one girl attends a deaf school and we get to know her friends and teachers and learn about their pride in being deaf and the sense of belonging the deaf community provides for them.  After watching five seasons of Switched At Birth I learned some signs just from seeing them so often and almost found myself making the signs when I was talking to people. 
  3. The show doesn’t shy away from looking at important issues.  For example two characters in college have sex when they are both quite drunk.  When the girl shares the story with a friend she is encouraged to report the guy for sexual assault because in her inebriated state she didn’t agree to sex. Both the girl and guy in the situation are profoundly effected when the incident becomes public and they both struggle mightily with its ethical implications and personal ramifications. The incident leads to another main character revealing his experience with sexual abuse as a child. 
  4. Discrimination is unacceptable.  The show focuses on how deaf people are discriminated against but in various episodes we also get to know and care about characters who are discriminated against because they are LGBTQ, have Down Syndrome, are Latino, are black, are recovering from addictions, have PTSD after military service, or have been in prison.
  5. Let your children follow their dreams.  The young people in the show have some pretty high hopes for their futures and it is hard for their parents to let them follow their dreams to be doctors, artists, filmmakers, professional athletes and musicians. The parents know the pitfalls and obstacles and heart ache that stand in the way of their children having a happy and successful future in those fields.  But the kids have to find their own way, make their own mistakes and need parents who provide support while they do so. 

Other posts……….

Lessons From the Sydney Opera House

Lessons From Oscar

Lessons From Leonard

Lessons From Gray Mountain

Lessons From the Movie Arrival

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Check Out the Kids’ Section

Yesterday on Jeopardy the current champion James Holzhauer who has won over a million dollars so far was asked by host Alex Trebek how he had prepared for competition.  James said he had done most of his studying in the children’s section of the library.  There he could read about all kinds of topics in a simple straightforward way that helped him recall all the basic facts he needed to know about an event, person, country or geographical landmark. 

I just nodded my head because I use James’ technique  too.  Often if  I need information about a scientific principle or a historical event for a column or blog post I am writing I will search online for a kids’ version.  

For example the other day I was doing a blog post about Margaret Thatcher the first woman to hold the office of British Prime minister. Googling just her name brought up long-winded essays and biographies.  Then I typed margaret thatcher for kids into the search bar and I was quickly led to a three-minute cartoon biography of Margaret Thatcher  that taught me basically everything I needed to know about her.  

Aimee Miles in an article for Book Riot says reading materials marketed for children can offer an opportunity for growth and education for adults as well because they often break down complicated ideas or issues and explain them in a straightforward way.  So the next time you want to learn something new or do some research and don’t have time to wade through a plethora of information just check out the material for kids. James Holzhauer did and became a millionaire!

Other posts………

Coloring Books Aren’t Just For Kids

Why Adults Are Reading Teen Fiction

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Profane Parrots

The audience started out laughing loudly but then the room got so quiet you could have heard a pin drop.  

We went to the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see the winners of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The evening consisted of a compilation of award-winning 2018 television advertisements.  

One of the ads was created for Unicef and was called Cursing Parrots. It starts with a warning that this ad might offend some people.  One can easily see why. We saw one clip after the other of disrespectful and irreverent parrots delivering derogatory statements laced with profanity. They had obviously learned their curses from their owners. The audience seemed to find the profane parrots funny and laughed with each new foul-mouthed outburst.  

Then the screen went black and these words came up in stark white print one sentence after another.   

If a parrot can remember what happens in an abusive home

imagine a child.

1 in 4 young children are exposed to domestic violence. 

Violence marks children forever.

Recognize it. 

Report it. 

After the first sentence came into view the audience stopped laughing. As the next four sentences appeared on the screen it got so quiet in the theatre you could have heard a pin drop.  Those profane parrots suddenly weren’t funny at all. Imagining the effect of domestic violence on children was a sobering experience.  How would a child be impacted if they constantly heard their parents exchanging the kind of foul-mouthed insults the parrots had learned so easily? 

It was clear why Cursing Parrots had won an award for excellence.  It got its message across in a very effective way. 

Other posts………

Hard to Watch

Filial Piety

Laughing at the Suffering of Others


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I Cry Every Episode – Chef’s Table

I have been enjoying a Netflix series called Chef’s Table.  Each show follows the culinary adventures of one of the world’s great chefs.  But……… you not only see them creating all this amazing food, you also learn their life story. To me that is every bit as fascinating as their skill in the kitchen. Every time I’ve watched Chef’s Table there’s been a moment in the episode that has brought me to tears. 

I just saw the story about Michelin Three Star chef Dominique Crenn.  A meal at Dominque’s restaurant in San Francisco is a very personal experience.  She likes to greet her guests, shake hands with them and talk with them. She writes poetry and when you enter her restaurant you will receive a printed poem instead of a menu.  Different lines in the poem refer to dishes you will eat that night.

Dominque Crenn at work in her kitchen

Her restaurant is called Atelier Crenn and pays tribute to Dominque’s late father Allain Crenn who was an artist. His paintings decorate her restaurant. ‘Atelier’ means workshop and Dominque’s father had an artist’s workshop or studio in the house where Dominique grew up. She named the restaurant to honor her father who loved her dearly and told her she could be anything she wanted to be! During the episode of Chef’s Table featuring Dominique, she goes back to her childhood home in France to see her father’s old studio/workshop and visit her father’s grave. At that point both Dominique and I were in tears.  

Mashama Bailey in her Savannah restaurant

Then there was the episode about Mashama Bailey an award winning black chef who operates a restaurant in Savannah called Grey in an old bus station from Jim Crow times when black and white travelers had to wait for the bus in separate areas of the station, use separate washrooms and drink from different fountains. Reminders of those days of shameful segregation deliberately remain in the decor of the restaurant where Mashama serves southern comfort food.  

There is a scene in the Chef’s Table episode about Mashama where her parents tell her how proud they are of her and how proud her grandmothers would be to know their granddaughter was reclaiming the history of that bus station with her restaurant where people of every race and culture can enjoy soul food together.  You could tell how moved Mashama was at her parents’ praise and I was ……. in tears. 

I haven’t been a big fan of cooking shows in the past but Chef’s Table is different. In each episode you see an incredible artist creating sumptous and gorgeous food but…….. you also learn that their talent and drive is inspired by some very deeply personal experiences that are bound to make you cry. 

Other posts……..

A Chocolate Evening With Beatriz

Cooking Up A Storm in The Yucatan

First Supper in Lisbon- My Husband Has Great Instincts

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Films That Mirror Life

The world of film offers a way to explore some important changes that are happening in families.  I’ve watched a variety of movies and television series lately that illustrate some of the new family dynamics developing in society.

The number of Canadian children living alone with their father has increased by 35% in the last decade. Statistics Canada says this reflects a growing acknowledgement of the important role of fathers in family life. 

eighth grade movieThe movie Eighth Grade available for rent on Amazon tells the story of a dedicated single Dad raising his teenage daughter who is beset with self- esteem issues, anxious about her appearance, her friendships and her online presence.  Although she finds her father bumbling and irritating at times he is the rock in her life always there to listen, tell her how great she is, and to provide protection and support.

Nearly 16% of Canadian couples will struggle with infertility in 2019. Only 5% had problems conceiving children in 1985. Many different factors contribute to this increased rate. While new ways of helping such couples are constantly being explored infertility is still very difficult.

private-life-poster-thumbThe movie Private Life on Netflix looks at a couple Richard and Rachel who desperately want to conceive a child. They’ve tried everything but won’t give up.  I found their story heartbreaking even thought it is told with a sense of wry humor.

There has been a significant increase in the number of same sex Canadian couples having children and raising families together. These families tend to live in urban areas. Their children may be biological or adopted or a combination of both. 

CIERRA RAMIREZ, TERI POLO, SHERRI SAUM, DAVID LAMBERT, NOAH CENTINEO, HAYDEN BYERLY, MAIA MITCHELLThe Fosters is a Netflix series that tells the story of Lena and Stefanie, a married lesbian couple living in San Diego. They are raising one biological and four adopted children together. Lena is the vice-principal at a charter high school and Stefanie is a police officer. Together they provide their children with a loving and stable home.

About 10% of Canadian children live in stepfamilies. About 30% of those children live in what is called complex stepfamilies, with both biological parents having some custody rights and stepbrothers and sisters playing a role in their lives.

The Netflix series Bonus Family examines just such a situation. Lisa and Patrick are a Swedish couple who have both left unhappy marriages to live together. Lisa has a son and daughter and Patrick has a son. They retain joint custody of their children with their former partners and Patrick and Lisa have a new baby together. It is a very complex situation and Patrick and Lisa seek help from a therapist team to try and sort it all out.

There are more Canadian children with disabilities and they are living longer. A Lethbridge University research report said this statistic raises concerns for parents who worry about who will care for their disabled children once they can no longer do so.

In the moving and inspiring Netflix documentary Far From The Tree we meet a whole series of families who are doing their best to find happiness even though their children face some major challenges in life.  One of the families profiled is that of Jason Kingsley a man with Down syndrome and his elderly mother Emily. Jason’s father has died, and Jason has no siblings. Emily expresses her anxiety about who will care for her son once she is gone.

Canadian families are changing and one way we can further understand those changes and think about them is to watch films and television series that explore a wide variety of family experiences.

This post was a newspaper column published in The Carillon recently. 

Other columns published on my blog…….

The Great Statue Debate

Women in Politics

On The Rock

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