Monday, April 29, 2019

Diversity Garden in Assiniboine Park

The Diversity Garden presently under construction at a cost of tens of million is looking more like roller coaster than glass encased garden. My brother actually took it to be a roller coaster under construction and was bitterly disappointed to hear it wasn't.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Saturday Morning Cartoons in Winnipeg

In 1970 my family moved from a rental property in River Heights to the home my parents continue to live in today. Our TV as I just began school was black and white had CBC and CJAY (later CKY). Cable had started in 1968 but reception was still an issue especially in summer and we had a black and white TV in a large cabinet to boot. Our first priority was a new colour TV but by fall of 1972 my father had broken down and got Videon cable that was priced at $10 to install and $5 a month. That was still pricey for a service that came in fuzzy with bad weather nearly every summer. By the way, the colour TV would have to wait another year.

My first sci-fi was comics and Saturday morning cartoons. It is funny that my first encounter with Star Trek and Planet of the Apes was through their animated shows of around 1973. The Jetsons was also one of the first animation shows totally set in the future. In fact, there were so many shows based on live action TV series such as Addams Family, Brady Kids and Jeannie (which featured the voice of Mark Hamill of Star Wars).

By 1973, all three kids in our family were up at the crack of dawn to watch cartoons before breakfast. Invariably, sports like hockey and soccer would take up chunks of time each weekend but with re-runs, we watched Fat Albert, Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny and its doubtful any episodes were missed over the years.

My passion for sci-fi came about in the 1970s via comics and television programming. Primetime series such as Wonder Woman, Six Million Dollar Man, Bionic Woman as well as Spider-Man were on in the evenings. Saturday morning cartoons introduced me to first space-based series which was Star Trek The Animated Series in 1973. I had never even the live action series as it had not reached syndication in Manitoba yet. I would also go on to see the Planet of the Apes both as a TV series in 1974 and an animated series in 1975 long before I saw the movies. Rounding out my early 1970s Saturday morning live and animated fare was Land of the Lost (1974), Shazam (1974), Isis (1975) and Ark II (1976).

I can honestly say that Space: 1999 was a game changer for me when it came on in 1975. For two years, it showed a near future story that was space-based and full of adventure. I was already sold like much of the population because of NASA, the Apollo missions and the moon landings. A story of a base on Earth's moon was amazing. Having the moon flung out of orbit and from place to place had me enraptured. This program didn't come from from the U.S. networks but on CBC via ITC, a British producer. It featured Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, a married acting couple famous from Mission Impossible. I never did see Mission Impossible till decades later so the two were new to me. Two full seasons of Space: 1999 would be broadcast and I'd see the show over and over which was a good thing since when it was gone, it would a very long time before it would become available on TV or DVD again. It was replaced by Star Trek which would run for year upon year after that. By the time the Star Trek movie came to the screen in 1979, pretty much every kid in Canada would have had seen or known about the show because of CBC.

Kids were only vaguely aware that the shows they were watching were re-packaged programs from prime time 1960s animated shows or Bugs Bunny and Road Runner clips from Warner Bros. for their theatrical releases. It was all new to kids. And even seeing them once, kids were prepared to watch them again and again. This, of course, set up a whole new marketing opportunity for companies producing Flintstones and Jetson's labelled products. Yogi Bear featured on Saturday mornings inspired campgrounds called Jellystone Park which exist to this day.

The 1970s Saturday morning cartoons were filled with superheroes, sci-fi, mystery and music. Bill Cosby, in the days when he was associated with family comedy, was there with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids which was very popular in Canada. There was also a huge amount of programming related to prime time comedy such Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy. Even the Dukes of Hazzard had an animated TV series.

Old programming was still mainstay in the 1980s but Smurfs came to dominate in 1981. Star Wars animated shows also began to appear. However, it was clear that some 1980s programming was aimed at a much younger demographic other than young teens. There were many junior versions of animated characters. Hello Scrappy-Do.

It was safe to say that each generation of kids growing up decade by decade grew up and probably ended up working Saturday mornings, doing sports and activities or found new programming wasn't reaching them as it was aimed at very young kids. Federal rules on what could be broadcast and what commercials could be run began to change the Saturday morning landscape by the 1990s. Syndicated animated programs like G.I. Joe and He-Man, Thundercats, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could appear more freely on TV television after 1984 and away from Saturday morning cartoons. This was both a good thing and bad thing as it gave older teens animated shows to watch but it gave pause to the networks to create material for Saturday that was increasingly held to a different standard for education. Moreover, specialty cable channels such Disney, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network grew each year they were on till the dominated Saturday Morning Cartoons.

Add to the mix rental videos and game systems such as Atari, Nintendo and Sega, most networks gave up on doing anything Saturday and by 2002 in Canada, cartoons were dropped, In some cases live programming for young people like Saved by the Bell entered the picture but more and more U.S. networks extended news programming into their weekend shows. The power of the networks ended and with it nearly 40 years of Saturday programming.

Still, this programming today feeds several kids networks as well as adult networks and now gets play as feature films. So what once was old is new again. CBS in the U.S. seems to have re-discovered Star Trek animated material and there are announcements being made almost every week. In Canada the Adult Swim animated channel for older audiences now warrants its own channel.

Some might ask when the golden period of Saturday Morning Cartoons was and for many it will be the time when they were kids. It is safe to say though by the 1990 it was fading fast due to the aforementioned rules in broadcasting as well different entertainment options. The 1950s were still and content still limited. The 1960s were a huge deal with full blocks of programming. That only got bigger in the 1970s. By the 1980s cartoons a mix of old and new but neglected older teens. Syndication in the 1990s brought back the teens but those shows were not seen on early morning TV. By 2000s it was all over.

By virtue of a mix of old and new, the golden era was probably the 1970s.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Keycon 36 May 17 to 19

There are a number of long running pop cultural festivals in Manitoba but there are likely none that are closing in on near four decades of continuous operation. Science fiction and fantasy are among the biggest sellers in the multimedia world from books to television to movies to games. Keycon has always been the more literate of the festivals but just as fun loving. This year they have guests of honour representing both writers and authors. Carrie Vaughn, Tanya Huff and Lee Moyer will be present to discuss their work.
Traditionally the May long weekend has been marked by Manitobans heading to the cottage or camping for the first time of the new year. Some nip down to the States for a last shopping weekend before summer. However, the Victoria Day weekend in the city was often marked by a sleepy whole lot of nothing. 
No sci-fi festival wold be complete without costume masquerades and competitions, panels and discussions, gaming and fights as well as dinner and dancing with friends. The venue is the Radisson Hotel on Portage Avenue in the downtown area and is spread out through most of their ballrooms and guest suites. 
Attendance has ranged as high as 600 for a weekend pass but day passes are also available for those who have only a day to spare. There are lots of celebrations for sci-fi culture that Keycon will be tipping the hat to including vampire stories, Mad Max, Monty Python as well as Wizard of Oz.
Tickets in advance are the best course of action and reviewing the schedule and times for programming. Costumes are always welcome but check to see when cosplay and masquerades are happening. There are vendors selling a variety of goods and art so be sure to check that out as well.
Keycon is a more intimate look at sci-fi and fantasy than some of the biggest shows out there but then it is all about forming close relationships with the people and groups that share interests. And once again, not everyone goes out of town on the May long weekend.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Portage and Main 1913 Back in Parking

This 1913 pictures shows a number of things. It shows that back in parking which is in vogue now was common back in 1913 in Winnipeg. Horses were still used all over the city but it was streetcars that transported the bulk of people and simple walking. The city was far less spread out.

Also note that electric cables are everywhere. During the 1960s and 70s, Winnipeg Hydro began the process of burying all the cables. People talk about how good the good old days were but downtown looks better with them gone.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Osborne Village in 1957

This picture in 1957 of Osborne Village tells us a lot. The first is that there are no more streetcars. They came to an end in Winnipeg in 1955. Trolley buses continue to operate as we can see from electric lines away from the Assinniboine River. But what about headed towards the downtown?  The building under construction in the background is the Great-West Life building that was complete in 1957. The steam pipe in the middle is the Drewery Beer Plant (later Labatt's)

The Osborne Theater, a fixture in the Village since 1912, was soon to close. Killed off by television in 1957. It later became an Elk's Hall and today is Anytime Fitness. Stephen Paints, Margaret Rose restaurant are clearly seen as neighbours to the movie theatre. The beauty salon is Nugguit's? It is difficult to read the names on the other side but a Perth's Drycleaner can be see as well as a drugstore. The drugstore sits where Papa George's resided from 1972 to 2012. However, it was once White Drugs which was owned by the Ringer family that owned the famous pharmacy on Pembina Highway. The store obviously had a different name before that though.

Papa George's is now Cornerstone restaurant.

The Roslyn Apartments are seen on the right side of the street with its recognizable red brick. As with many street on major roads almost everything you wanted was within a walkable distance. The rapid expansion of the suburbs was just about to accelerate as cars and technology began to change urban settings.

Ironically, it was the harder time that Osborne Village was about to go through in the 1960s that set up what it was going to become from the 1970s and beyond. Even today the community continues to evolve.

Any help in filling in the blanks with the names of businesses on the street would be appreciated.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Netflix Review: Secret City

There are two seasons of Secret City on Netflix starring Anna Torv as an investigative reporter on one the Daily Ntion based out of Australia's capital Canberra. The term Secret City comes from John le Carre's The Honourable Schoolboy, the follow-up to the George Smiley epic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. This should give viewers an idea that the series will have a strong espionage angle.

This series was based on the political novels of Chris Uhlmann and Steve Lewis and their books The Marmalade Files and the Mandarin Code. The main protagonist is journalist Harriet Dunkley working with the Daily Nation who stumbles upon a young man drowned during the course of her morning rowing. Immediately she sniffs a story and leads to a conspiracy that threatens her life as well as others.

A number of series in Australia have explored the feelings Australians have on the subject of big brother and the state. The China and United States dynamic plays a huge role on modern Australia who feel squeezed and vulnerable while their own state monitors its citizens for signs of protest. It is a level of paranoia we don't see on Canadian TV too much as we seem more focused on corporate control on our lives. This could be a reflection of how much corporations like HBC and Canadian Pacific Railway settled huge portions of Canada. Distrust runs deep.

Anna Torv as Harry the investigative political reporter hearkens back to an older journalism that is hard to find today. She is not a TV personality but a writer who is part of the press gallery in Canberra covering national politics. Shot on location in the capital, Secret City really shows off an area of Australia that has largely been unseen by many. The modern capital building has only been in existence since 1988. Netflix has a number of series courtesy of some of the film funding from Canberra government support and the result is seeing a different side of Australia.

Insights into Australia's intelligence organizations works and fear of both China and the United States plays a huge role as Harry investigates cabinet ministers and spies alike. Murder follows her around, some of it very close to her, that leaves her reeling and not sure who to trust. The first 2016 season of six episodes end climatically but with some unresolved issues which set up the premise of the next season.

The second season in 2018 has Harriet being released from prison for crimes related to her news reporting which violated the law. She remains convinced she knows who the traitor working for China bit wants to turn her back on Canberra and almost succeeds. The troubles of her friend from her prison and a job offer to act as an Independent MP's media adviser bring her back to center of action.

It is there that she stumbles upon information revealing a cover-up of a bomb attack in Australia. The deaths of one family is pinned on Pakistan but Harriet gets video showing it was a drone missile from Australia itself responsible for the attack.

One again the espionage and politics of China and the United States pushes Australia one way and the other. She finds that the conspiracy keeps even the new prime minister out of the loop. Uneasy alliances with some Australian intelligence people and side stories of arms dealing keep the story clipping along. Over two seasons the times that Anna Torv plays second fiddle is when Oscar winning Jacki Weaver is on screen first as Attorney-General and later Minister of Home Affairs Catriona Bailey.

A political thriller worth watching for those who like a spy story, action and great acting and writing performances. Hopefully, a season 3 is in the cards.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

University of Manitoba Broadway Campus

In 1956 the Broadway campus of the University of Manitoba was still going strong on what is now Memorial Park. The Osborne Stadium is still visible but would be demolished shortly after this picture was taken. It would not be long till the downtown campus was also headed for the wrecking ball.

Ten years after World War II, returning soldiers were hitting the market for school and work and the war rationing had ended along with the Great Depression. The era of the personal car was really moving ahead and streetcars came to an end in 1955 in favour of buses which were considered more flexible.

The suburbs of Winnipeg were really starting to grow. Case in point: The Osborne Stadium was ditched in favour of Winnipeg Stadium which was on the border of Winnipeg and the City of St. James. The Broadway campus of the University of Manitoba was about to be abandoned for the Fort Garry campus in the municipality south of Winnipeg.

The Drewery beer plant soon to be Labatt's can be seen on the right The one smokestack that can be seen, The Great-West Life building one and two still not built yet.

Winnipeg was no longer the third largest city in Canada. Vancouver had surpassed us twenty years earlier but still still was a titan of the west and would hold onto that for another twenty years forward when Edmomn and Calgary would speed past us.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

New Stores for Garden City Shopping Centre

The construction at Garden City Mall continues so everyone should be careful. A pedestrian fatality took place this past week near where work was done and is still being investigated.

As reported in this blog long ago, Seafood City is coming to Winnipeg and is being constructed within the footprint of the old Sears. The Filipino grocer will be complete this summer. It will be accompanied by Bulk Barn and a Michaels store leaving only three other spots left in the old Sears area left to leased.

Garden City is anchored on the other side of the mall by Canadian Tire and Winners. There are a few other vacancies within the mall left but suffice to say it is the biggest investment in the mall in decades and it is the first former Sears to have something built on the market.

After the Northgate Mall upgrade and addition of Save on Foods, Garden City could not afford to be complacent.

The closure of numerous national stores across North America has had landlords scrambling. Garden City and Grant Park malls have added Goodlife Fitness locations to attack crowds earlier and later into their shopping area. At 45 years old. Garden City was in need of an upgrade and looks to make continued improvements in 2019. Bulk Barn and Michaels are to open in the fall of this year.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Canada Poll of Members of Parliament

DeepSheet Analytics

In a poll of Canada's 338 members of Parliament, a varied list of questions was given to Canada's Members of Parliament on a wide range of topics and issues during the last week of March, 2019. A complete document of the responses is available on our website but the highlights of what was found are as follows:

Question: Do you believe Australia is a real country? 42 MPs believed that it wasn't real. 4 MPs believed it was in Europe and Adolph Hitler was born there.

Question: Do you believe Canada's economy is improving? 106 MPs believed their own personal finances had improved since they were elected. 2 MPs and formal cabinet ministers believed their own personal finances declined.

Question: Do you believe Canada's military is in a good state of readiness? 203 MPs believed that as long as other countries had aging equipment to buy, Canada would always be ready. 11 MPs wondered if the former submarines at West Edmonton Mall were still available.

Question: Do you personally ensure you and your family are vaccinated? 338 MPs said they did because they didn't want to get autism from the general public.

Question: Is a life in Ottawa hard on your relationships? 144 MPs said what their partners didn't know, wouldn't hurt them. 1 former MP and present premier said: what did he know...he lives in his mom's basement.

Question: What is Canada's national sport? 334 MPs replied Timmies. 2 MPs said Lacrosse. 2 MPs said Cricket.

Question: Has Canada leaned anything from Truth and Reconciliation? 338 MPs all agreed that there is no reconciliation in truth and no truth in reconciliation.

Question: Does 24 Sussex, the Prime Minister's residence, need to be fixed or replaced? 337 MPs said that only the resident needed to be replaced.

Question: How should Canadians prepare for retirement? 300 MPs said vote themselves a pension. 38 MPs said get appointed to the Senate.

Question: What is the major issue in your riding? 338 MPs agreed it was voter ignorance of the MP's achievements.

Question: Do you believe in prosecutor independence? 338 MPs didn't think if they personally faced charges.

Question: Do you read the Bible? 4 MPs said they had read it in the original Klingon. 1 MP said that they wrote it. 80 MPs said they watched it on TV.