Tag Archives: winnipeg writer

Four Docs

Reid Dickie

I’ve been pillaging the Winnipeg library system’s terrific collection of DVDs for recent documentaries and have four to recommend to you. I’m sure you can find some or all of these on the internet.

Gasland by Josh Fox Wanna see a guy light his tap water on fire? Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is a dangerous and earth-killing technique that oil and gas companies all over North America use to release natural gas from shale deposits deep underground. A combination of water, sand and over 900 chemicals under enormous pressure is pumped into the shale, fracturing the rock. Trouble is, without any oversight, the drillers pollute the groundwater of area residents with natural gas and chemicals causing dire consequences. On the Canadian prairies, fracking is used extensively in southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan. It would be interesting to look at the groundwater purity in places like Waskada and Melita, MB and Stoughton, Carlyle and Weyburn, SK today and see what happens to it over the next year or two. Click the pic to watch a preview of Gasland.

Buck by Cindy Meehl Buck Brannaman is an American “horse whisperer” of sorts. Raised by a violently abusive father, Buck bucked the typical imitative lifestyle of the beaten-young and lived the opposite life, one of compassion, love and understanding for people and animals, especially horses. We follow Buck as he travels to various four-day horse-training workshops and we encounter the people and horses he meets and tames using his gentle technique which he teaches to the horse owners. We get to listen to Buck’s country philosophy delivered with humour and true wisdom. As Buck says, “Often, instead of helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.” I was honoured and humbled to spend ninety minutes in the presence of someone as highly evolved as Buck Brannaman and you will be too when you watch it. Click pic to see preview.

Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy When Linda and me first got together in 1977 we made all sorts of art including street art. Our outdoor work included putting fancy decorated bras on the “breasts” of fire hydrants, postering neighbourhood telephone poles with paper collages and so on. (You can find out much more about our early art efforts on my DTC Art page.) The spirit of street art has grown since then to the degree that one of the genre’s most shadowy figures, British graffiti artist Banksy, has made an Academy Award nominated documentary on the topic. Banksy tries to give us some direction here but this film twists and turns until you’re not sure who or what it is about. Fascinating glimpses into the lives of Shepard Fairey (OBEY) and Thierry Guetta whose role changes as the film progresses. Overall a statement on art beyond post-modernism demonstrating that the distance between graffiti on a brick wall in an alley and on the wall of a cocktail-muzak art gallery is very short. There is some indication the whole movie was a hoax, a prank by Banksy. Decide for yourself. Click pic for a preview.

Catfish by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost After a discussion on the veracity of the internet, my friend Kenn recommended Catfish to me. Thanks Kenn! Here we find a nice Jewish photographer who starts to buy art ostensibly painted by a little girl over the internet. Soon he meets her older sister, again over the internet. They talk on the phone, exchange pictures, check each other out on Facebook and he starts to fall in love with her. He desperately needs something to believe in but gradually things about her don’t add up so he and his filmmaker friends decide to visit her in Michigan. That’s as far as the trailer takes you and I’m leaving you there too. You’re on your own for the rest of this fast-paced eye-opener. I didn’t have much sympathy for the gullible photographer who seemed incapable of any kind of critical thinking, dumbed down and fully in the sway of Born-Yesterday Syndrome but I was richly entertained by the film. The upshot: Believe nothing you read on the internet, including my reviews, unless you can personally verify it, which in my case you can by seeing the films. Click the pic for trailer.

Four non-docs I recommend: Red State is a departure for that Kevin Smith and the antidote to Clerks. Tyrannosaur is a powerful British film completely peopled with despicables. The first season of British crime drama Luther features the incredible Idris Elba in the scary title role. Pirate Radio is a nostalgic romp that includes one of the best Beatles homage moments ever.

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Filed under Art Actions, Diversions, Film, Linda, Love

New Video – Frozen Warnings Taxi Mix

Reid Dickie

A blast from the past! Alternate take of “Frozen Warnings,” a Nico classic covered by beautiful Linda and myself somewhere in the early 1980s. (Find our original version here.) This time, join us on a taxi ride from near River and Osborne to Winnipeg’s North End via the Arlington Street Bridge. Alfred Avenue between Battery and Artillery is where Linda grew up.  The Winnipeg taxi dispatcher works hard to keep the customer satisfied while we Dick Tool around, intoning a freakish duet. Local landmarks arise, Homer’s Restaurant on Ellice, the Windmill Restaurant on Selkirk and who remembers the Rickshaw Restaurant at 875 Portage? Rancid Randy, a feisty obese raccoon who frequented area backyards, can be heard pounding on a toy baby grand piano we set up near our trash can and tricked him into playing. That coon plays a nasty yano!

Despite the full moon and the deep background the places contain, things aren’t quite right. Aren’t they? Click the pic to find out.

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Filed under Art Actions, BEAUTY, DickToolery, Family, Humour, Linda, Video, Winnipeg

Nothing Virtual About It

Reid Dickie

Six weeks after I had double bypass heart surgery in 2002, I wrote this piece about healing and prayer circles.

Before we got our home desktop, whenever my computer-literate friends would talk about virtual reality, virtual communities, virtual museums, virtual anything, I would smile, nod and appear to know exactly what they meant. I didn’t, of course.

I understood the word ‘virtual’ and the concept they were using it to support but I was not adequate to their meaning of the term. It was the context I was missing. I didn’t have the necessary tool to create the possibility of something/anything being ‘virtual’ in my life. That changed the day I unpacked the computer. Soon I’d be keenly aware of the new meaning of this word ‘virtual’.

It was Valentine’s Day 2002 when I found out I needed double-bypass heart surgery. The stress test, angiogram and nuclear heart scan all pointed to the same conclusion: two of my coronary arteries were almost completely blocked. Surgery was recommended though not urgent since I could function with medication and moderation.

Ten years before, at age forty-two, I’d had a heart attack shoveling snow on another February day. It was my wake-up call! I paid attention. Changing my diet, habits and attitude, and walking twenty miles a week for a year at a rehabilitation-fitness centre saved my life. I had ten good years before my “genetic predisposition” caught up with me. The cousin who minds the family tree mentioned how many of my male predecessors had heart problems and attacks. The surgeon who performed the bypasses commented on how I’d gotten a bit of a raw deal genetically since I was slim, otherwise healthy and “young.”

There is a limit to the amount of responsibility for one’s situation you can attribute to “genetic predisposition.” The guilty food pleasures, the walks I should have taken but didn’t, the negative thoughts and aggression that always work against the heart; this is where my responsibility lay, how I started to jam up my own arteries. And now the consequence, the feedback was making itself known. Heart surgery!

Nothing virtual about it. This was a problem at the level of matter and meat. It was something we could fix, do fix everyday, almost routinely, with modern medical tools and skills. A re-arranging of arteries and veins, the right drugs for the various stages of the procedure and afterwards, the pump to take over from the heart and lungs, the drainage pathways required, the restricted movements to allow proper healing of bone and flesh – all this we are very accomplished at doing.

I had the surgery in mid-June. With at least six weeks of recovery after the operation, some financial planning had to be arranged and I needed to research the surgery and the alternatives. I spent many hours online reading about the heart, bypass surgery – often in full colour graphic detail – and the other resources available.

After weighing the alternatives, Linda and I decided the surgery would be my best option at this stage of life. I was strong and healthy enough to survive it intact, we were confident about the skills of the surgeon and the surgical staff.

One idea I came up with during this time was to create a prayer circle of family and friends online and elsewhere when the day of my operation neared; a ‘virtual’ prayer circle as one of my friends dubbed it.

As resilient and resourceful as the human body is, it necessarily houses a spirit that requires expression in the world and thrives on love exchanged between beings. That was what I wanted to tap into with the prayer circle.

I was on the cardiac surgery waiting list four weeks. On a Friday, I got my date. It would be in one week. Linda and I kept the date to ourselves during the weekend giving us a chance to mull it over and feel more settled about the whole procedure. It weighed heavy on my mind.

When we live more intensely, as in a pre-operative state, life begins to manifest itself in ways that are necessary and appropriate. As we began to inform family and friends about the surgery date, something wonderful happened! When we shared the burden of knowing, an increasing lightness started to grow in both Linda and me. The simple act of sharing the burden relieved the weightiness of the immediate future. With each successive person we informed, anxiety melted away. An unexpected confidence started to build in me, complete certainty that this was the right thing to do.

Two days before surgery I emailed the prayer circle request to about 25 family and friends. It was straightforward with date and time of surgery, approximate hospital recovery time and a simple sincere request:

“Please join together in a circle of love during and after my surgery with your prayers and positive energy. Your loving help means so much to us at this time and will aid in my full and speedy recovery. Thank you for sharing in my healing. Now that you have read this, the healing has already begun!”

Several people emailed me right back with their messages of hope and loving support. The rest I felt in my heart. On surgery eve, I was awash in the positive energies and expressions of love generated by the prayer circle; bliss in full measure took over my being. It was palpable. Linda felt it too. I had invoked the healing interplay between body, mind and spirit and wept at the sheer perfection of its unfolding. I was ready for the repairs!

 There was nothing virtual about it. The reality of love and friendship, expressed with singular intent across many miles from many sources, converged in me. This aura of love carried me through the surgery, the immediate recovery and onto the ward where I spent four days. I basked in the afterglow of this healing intent, aware of how it was fueling my recovery, abetting the natural regenerative abilities of my body and lifting me when I felt some post-operative depression.

This outpouring of loving support manifested in other ways. It helped me sustain a positive attitude during my hospital stay. The people who noticed this immediately were those angels of mercy, the nurses. They’d seen people deal with this same situation in all manner of ways, some more successful than others.  Maybe it was my spiritual preparedness or the intangible support that I brought with me; whatever it was, the nurses and staff recognized something extra was happening.

Looking back on this I now realize what was happening: the ‘virtual’ was being made real in the world. The prayers and loving intent that I asked for ‘virtually’ online became my reality. While the computer tool made the virtual prayer circle possible, it was the spirit and expression of our loving first nature that made it real in the world. I was living those special conditions.

And what was my responsibility? The answer came to me with such brash certainty I could not ignore it. It made perfect sense. The only way I could repay my family and friends for their limitless sharing of love was to recover fully, completely. It would answer their prayers. It was the exchange the special conditions demanded.

In the six weeks after the surgery, my recovery was nothing short of remarkable. My heart, with its new stamina, allowed me the increasing exercise I needed, the flesh and bone healed with little scarring and no infection. An unexpected benefit of the procedure was increased creativity. Suddenly I had all this extra blood flowing to my brain causing fresh new ideas to spew out of me. For a writer that’s almost a miracle! One of the risks of heart bypass surgery is cognitive decline. For the exact opposite to happen is an unexpected bonus.

The fact is, love lives large in the world and, when focused, produces amazing results! The love shared by my family and friends merged with Linda’s unconditional love and devotion resulting in a perfect healing environment for body, mind and spirit. Nothing virtual about it.

Read an earlier post about my heart surgery.

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Filed under BEAUTY, Family, Hope, Linda, Love, Momentous Day, Spirit

Tree Birds Dog Trucks Dead

Reid Dickie

In the cemetery of the church yard around St. Francois Xavier Roman Catholic Church in St. Francois Xavier, MB stands a huge tree, once magnificent in every season, now dead every day. On its naked branches, some entangled in the church steeple, European starlings gather to discuss important bird business. In the neighbourhood, Rover barks at imaginery foes, halftons roll past one by one and the dead are patient, as ever. Click the pic to watch my latest video, Tree Birds Dog Trucks Dead.

UPDATE: As of summer 2013, the tree has been cut down, just a low stump remains.

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Filed under Birds, Churches, Critters, Day Tripping, Life and Life Only, Spirit, Video

Manitoba Heritage – Carberry Agricultural Society Display Building

Reid Dickie

 Agricultural Society Display Building, Fairgrounds, Carberry, MB

The high point of many small town summers was, and still is the annual agricultural fair. Usually one or two days long, depending on the size of the town and the surrounding population, country fairs bring a diversity of rural people together in a spirit of pride and competition. Gardeners show off their best produce and blooms, cattle and horse producers groom and display their prize animals in various formats, riders demonstrate their prowess, farm machinery dealers show off the latest equipment and usually a small midway offers a few rides and carny games.

The fairgrounds was and still is a place unto itself. Even though it is used for a short time each year, large, well-tended acreages are devoted to it. This picture shows the gate leading into Carberry fairgrounds with commemoration of its hundredth anniversary in 1983. Among the permanent fixtures in many fairgrounds are a grandstand in front of the display ring and several small buildings where the competitive displays of agricultural products are shown. You can see these structures in the above picture. (Click pic to enlarge)

These display buildings could be rather fanciful creations, befitting their specialized function. One popular design was the octagon, an eight-sided structure that was both eye-catching externally and spacious internally. This picture shows three completely different designs of display buildings in Carberry.

In the Carberry Fairgrounds, you will find an octagonal display building constructed in 1893 and used continuously by the local agricultural society ever since. This rare building, remarkably, retains all its original design and construction features right down to the ornate hand-carved display shelves. Even the original carved brackets are still in place. You can how well the exterior is maintained with its coat of fresh paint. Carberry has another octagonal building – a wooden grain silo. Read my post about it here.

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Filed under Carberry, Heritage Buildings, Local History, Manitoba Heritage

It’s Grasslands National Park Day on ReadReidRead

Reid Dickie

For the second year in a row, February 1st is Grassland National Park Day on my blog. This year I’m offering two new videos, one of prairie dogs in GNP and a video tour of The Convent Bed & Breakfast in Val Marie, SK on the edge of the park.

Grasslands National Park is an enchanting place. Features of the park include its recent designation as a Dark Sky Preserve, in fact, the darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada. Critterwise, GNP is celebrating its first wild-born black-footed ferrets. The park reintroduced black-footed ferrets without much success until last year when, for the first time in 70 years, a wild black-footed ferret was born in Canada. Watch a park video of the ferrets.  

Another reintroduction to Grasslands National Park is plains bison. For the first time in 150 years, a herd of plains bison now numbering about 250 head are part of the prairie ecosystem. Adaptable and comfortable, the plains bison population is increasing quickly with about 75 calves expected to be born in spring 2012. The herd has increased from the 70 bison first released in 2005.

Read posts from last year’s Grasslands National Park Day.

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Filed under Critters, grasslands national park, Heritage Buildings, Natural Places, Saskatchewan

The Convent B&B, Val Marie, SK

Reid Dickie

I’ve spent more glorious nights at The Convent Bed & Breakfast than any other lodging on my prairie travels. Its appeal is powerful and pleasant, relaxing yet stimulating at the same time. The combination of a serene old building and the caring owners creates a peaceful and rare experience. The picture above is The Convent’s charming dining room overlooking Grasslands National Park.

Val Marie (pop. about 130) is located at the western end of Grasslands National Park and features the park office and visitor centre. It’s about an hour south of Swift Current off the Trans Canada Highway. Few accommodations for travelers exist in the little village making The Convent even more precious. An actual convent used as a teaching facility into the late 1960s, the Ducans converted it into a bed and breakfast in the late 1990s. They retained many of the features, such as blackboards, chapel including confessional and woodwork from the original building. Take a video tour of The Convent inside and out with me by clicking on the pic below.

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Filed under Accommodations, grasslands national park, Heritage Buildings, Old Souls, Saskatchewan, Spirit

Prairie Dogtown in Grasslands National Park

Reid Dickie

For sheer cuteness and adorability it’s hard to find a rodent more fitting than the black-tailed prairie dog. Largely extirpated from most of their habitat which extends down into Texas, the prairie dogs in Canada are safely preserved in Grasslands National Park. Several easily accessible dogtowns dot the park and you won’t be disappointed with the shenanigans of these cute critters.

Prairie dogs are a keystone species, meaning they are often the main course for several other species in their habitat. In GNP prairie dogs are preyed upon by newly-reintroduced black-footed ferrets, prairie rattlesnakes, swift foxes, ferruginous hawks,  golden eagles, badgers and coyotes. Burrowing owls nest in old prairie dog burrows. It’s a cozy relationship. Click the pic and spend two minutes in dogtown.

You can find more information on prairie dogs elsewhere on my blog like here and here

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Filed under Critters, grasslands national park, Parks, Sacred Places, Saskatchewan

February 1 is Grasslands National Park Day on ReadReidRead

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Filed under grasslands national park, Parks