What’s New in the New Local History Room

It’s time to take a look at the Local History Room’s recent arrivals, and there are great picks to choose from.

FirstWish you were here : hand-tinted postcards from Winnipeg’s halcyon days by author and photographer Stan Milosevic is a treat for readers who delight in going through books of historical photography. Stan has collected historical postcards of Winnipeg for years and he shares a portion of it in this book with a selection that illustrates the city as it was around the turn of the 20th century.

Cover image for Our forgotten heritage : the streetcars of Winnipeg

Winnipeggers have had a long and strong relationship with public transit and for many years, until they were discontinued in 1955, its presence was embodied by streetcars. Our forgotten heritage : the streetcars of Winnipeg is not the first book ever published on the subject but it is one of the better illustrated and full of details.  This partly due to the fact that the book’s author, Brian Darragh, was a streetcar operator himself and wanted to share his experiences and the importance of streetcars to the growth of Winnipeg, especially before the first city buses appeared here after the First World War. His added personal observations and anecdotes make this a strong recommended read.

Notable trials from Manitoba’s legal history by Norm Larsen is the story of 15 trials that took place in the province within the span of a century, starting in 1845 with a murder trial where a man was convicted and executed in a matter of days, to the case of a man who was tried three times in twenty years for murder only to be finally declared innocent in the 1980s. Cases of national importance are also covered, such as the trial of Louis Riel’s government in the murder of Thomas Scott and the trial of the 1919 General Strike leaders, which is interesting because that aspect of the strike has gotten very little coverage in the history books. Each trial included says something about the legal context of its time; we see the evolution of legal justice from frontier society to present issues.


Winnipeg in the decade before the Second World War is the focus of Premonitions of War by Robert Young.  The author dedicates his book to “the memory of those who warned”, and it is notable that the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper, led by John Dafoe and his editorial team, was an early and isolated voice warning of the rise of Fascism, often running against the grain of those who preferred appeasement to confrontation in order to avoid war. The book benefits from good illustrations and original content from the pages of the Free Press, including political cartoons and even advertising of the time. It also covers other stories that were popular with Winnipeg readers like the Dust Bowl, the coronation and visit of the new British King or the Olympic Games.

 Farblonget in the Wilds of North Winnipeg is the biography of WWII veteran Winnipeg Free Press writer Wilfred Mindess told in a series of humorous vignettes filled with his personal experiences during the Great Depression, the war, the flood of 1950, and all the places he visited as a “newsman”.  It’s a fun, light read and a good reminder that the Local History Room makes stories from ordinary Manitobans like this one available to all.

Finally, an overdue book about one of Winnipeg’s local celebrities with Dancing Gabe: One Step at a Time by Daniel Perron. Gabriel Langlois had been a fixture of Winnipeg’s sporting scene long before he was christened Dancing Gabe in 1991 when Winnipeg Jets executive Mike O’Hearn spotted him energising the crowd with his dance moves and presented him with a jersey. The author was put in touch with Gabriel’s older brother and the idea to do a biographic work about the life of a superfan who is much more than that, and the many people who helped him on his journey after being diagnosed with autism as young child.

Come visit the Local History Room in its new location on the 4th floor of the Millennium Library to look at these, and other, great new titles.


Colour Your World

Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment. – Claude Monet

In November, when the weather is getting colder, daylight is in short supply, and the world looks rather dreary, I find myself longing for colour. When I was a child I gloried in my colouring books and crayons, and my most prized possession (other than the contents of my bookcase) was my box of crayons, the one with 64 colours that came complete with a sharpener. Just opening the box and getting a whiff of that wonderful waxy fragrance was enough to make me happy. As I got older, I graduated to markers and posters, then later in life I re-acquainted myself with the joys of crayons, through colouring with children. I love the current trend of colouring books for adults – I can finally stop pretending that my stash of paper, crayons, markers, and pencil crayons are for the kids who come to visit.

Reading picture books is one quick and easy way to brighten the dullness that this time of year sometimes brings. There’s no shortage of beautifully illustrated children’s books in the library, so everyone can find a favourite. Two of my current top picks for livening up a grey day are Michael Hall and Todd Parr. Michael Hall’s use of shapes and colour to tell a story is intriguing, and the bold lines and even bolder colours in Todd Parr’s books never fail to bring a smile to my face.

My heart is like a zoo                   different

Looking at what artists and their imaginations have created is another wonderful way to bring colour into your life. Even though many of Lawren Harris’ works are of the far north, the colours he chose brings light, if not heat, to a frosty landscape. Don’t want to look at more winter? If warmer climates are more to your taste the incredibly vivid shades of Georgia O’Keeffe‘s desert paintings are a wonderful choice. For a change of scene, try  Henri Matisse‘s works, which burst with colour, joy and exuberance.

Hiker's guide           Henri Matisse

There’s virtually no limit to the colours, materials and techniques you can use to create your own work of art. Whether it’s Bob Ross’s happy little trees in oils, a portrait in watercolour, using a computer to create digital art, or just plain old crayons on paper, if you can come up with it, there’s a book or dvd out there that will help you create it.

Sometimes the use of colour can cause controversy. Check out Voice of Fire, the hotly debated purchase by the National Gallery of Canada. There are only 2 colours on the canvas, but the ongoing discussion ignited by this piece has been far from monochrome. Is it a brilliant piece of abstract art? Or an overpriced meaningless image ? You be the judge.

Pigments, dyes and paints have a fascinating saga of their own. Victoria Finlay has written two captivating books on the subject: Color: A Natural History of the Palette and The brilliant history of colour in art. Both of these books discuss the fascinating history behind various colors, the paints preferred by certain artists, and which artist reportedly ate his paint. There’s also the sometimes surprising materials that paints and dyes are made from, like the stinky shellfish used to make purple in Roman times and cochineal beetles, which make a unique shade of red.

Color a Natural History              brilliant history of color in art

There are many ways to appreciate colour and the joy it can bring to your life. So don’t wait any longer – open up that crayon box, take a deep sniff, and let your true colours come shining through today!


Dealing with the inner critic


I’ve been asked by a few writers what to do about writing anxiety and negative self-talk.

There you are, writing happily (or at least finally sitting at your desk), and then it starts.

Who do I think I am? My Grade 8 teacher was right. I’m not a writer!
Or: The page I wrote yesterday is awful. I’d better just tear it up and start over.
Or: That’s the wrong word, I know it’s the wrong word. The whole sentence sounds terrible. Maybe I’m better off not even trying.
Or: If I was really a writer, I’d write better and faster from the beginning. I bet that’s what Margaret Atwood does.
Etc., etc., etc.

We all hear those critical voices in our heads, and they quickly paralyze us. That’s partly because we’re always attempting the impossible—the task of transferring what is in our heads to the page. Our vision is larger than we are. And so we let ourselves become overwhelmed by faint-heartedness and fear. It’s easier not to start. It’s easier to give up.

It’s almost impossible to produce anything while listening to this incessant internal criticism. The good news is that you can do something about the inner critics.

birdThe writer Anne Lamott says: “Quieting these voices is at least half the battle I fight daily. But this is better than it used to be. It used to be 87 percent.” Here’s an exercise she suggests:

Close your eyes and get quiet for a minute, until the chatter starts up. Then isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse. Pick it up by the tail and drop it into a mason jar. Then isolate another voice, pick it up by the tail, drop it in the jar. And so on. Drop in … anyone who is whining in your head. Then put the lid on, and watch all these mouse people clawing at the glass, jabbering away…
[from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life]

Another option is, first, to accept the voices in your head. That sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but it prevents you putting so much energy into resisting or fighting them. Let them know you appreciate their advice, but they need to go away until you’ve finished your first draft. Then, and only then, invite them back. Keep them firmly in check, though. You want to look at your work with a critical eye so you can revise/edit, but you don’t want to sabotage yourself.

Two enemies of creativity

I recently came across a powerful passage about creativity by the craft artist Ann Wood that I wanted to share. It expands on my first blog post about the importance of ‘unknowing.’

Two great enemies of creativity are inertia and uncertainty. The fix for inertia is simple—not easy, but very simple: start, move, take a step forward. Certainty is trickier. Our brains are built to be efficient. They categorize, assume, learn, repeat, and create habits and rules. It is work to notice – to really look at things, consider them outside of their familiar context or history or purpose. Autopilot is easy and comfortable and I catch myself slipping into it, in little ways and big ways, all the time. I see what I expect to see because subconsciously, it is already a certainty. And often I feel myself bumping up against rigidity in my thinking because I’m headed somewhere that conflicts with what my brain considers a given, a known quantity or a proven or even familiar course of action.

Certainty isn’t open, it isn’t creative, and it isn’t curious – it doesn’t have room for possibilities, and possibilities are magic. I wonder:
What would the world look like if we could forget everything for just a moment?
What would my own possibilities look like if I could un-know all I believe about myself?

Next blog entry (Dec. 1): How to write first drafts

Time Enough At Last

If all is well, by the time you read this blogpost I’ll be hunkered down in my living room taking a much needed vacation, and playing the highly anticipated post-apocalyptic video game Fallout 4 — hopefully, with my glasses intact. As I bide my time waiting for the (nuclear?) launch of this game, I thought I’d take a walk with you, dear reader, through the irradiated wasteland that is post-apocalyptic fiction.

Under the umbrella of science fiction and fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction exists as a sub-genre.   But whereas fantasy is often used as an escape from reality and science fiction uses allegory to explore possible futures, post-apocalyptic fiction often strips us to the bone and forces us to look at ourselves separated from society.

Within the post-apocalyptic sub-genre there are a variety of sub-sub-genres which are usually identified by the way in which the world ends.


The Zombie Apocalypse

I’ve never really been a huge fan of zombies. As antagonists in fiction I find them lacking in intelligence. Luckily, in post-apocalyptic fiction, why the world ends is often much less important than the story of the survivors, so I find when the zombie apocalypse is written well I can often ignore the zombies themselves and focus instead on those left intact.  Among the best in this sub-sub-genre is the The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.  Both the graphic novel  and the television series have excellent characters who struggle to retain their humanity as they survive a world overrun by zombies.



The Pandemic

Pandemic post-apocalyptic fiction is the realm where my favourite book of all time resides:  Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.  It follows the story of Snowman, the last surviving man in the wake of a global pandemic, and his begrudging role as caretaker to a group of primitive sentient beings known as Crakers.  Orxy and Crake is the first in a trilogy that includes The Year of the Flood  and MaddAddam, and was nominated for the Man Booker Prize in 2004.


The Nuclear Apocalypse

My favourite post-apocalyptic sub-sub-genre, the nuclear apocalypse is often the most terrifying. It highlights man’s capacity for supreme self-destruction; not only of humankind, but of all life on earth. Most of the classic post-nuclear works were written in the shadow of the Cold War, when it seemed that nuclear annihilation was a real possibility.

My first experience with post-nuclear, post-apocalyptic fiction was when I pulled Alas, Babylon off my mom’s bookshelf.  The title had always intrigued me, as did the cover, which shows a group of survivors wandering a wasteland under a hot sun.  The story also had an impact on me and I will never forget the goldfish. Yes, the goldfish.


One Last Selection

If you’ve never seen the classic television show The Twilight Zone, I urge you to check out the first season of the original series.  I lifted the title of this blogpost from one of the episodes.


If I’ve missed any of your favourite post-apocalyptic stories, please share them in the comments below.

– Alan

Alan can be found at the Transcona Library where he may or may not have grown a third arm after his vacation.

Colour Me Happy

This month Westwood Library is on trend with the latest craze: adult colouring! That’s right, colouring books with intricate detailed designs, aimed at adults, are the hottest thing going right now. The idea is to disengage from the stressful adult world by revisiting childhood, and focusing on the simple joy of colouring instead of the many worries competing for your attention. Adherents say it’s a great tool for easing anxiety and dealing with pressure; women in France, where colouring books now outsell cookbooks, say the practice is more effective than antidepressants.

Colouring page with intricate designs.

Find out for yourself on Saturdays, November 14 and 21 at Westwood Library’s colouring for grown-ups drop-in. We’ll be providing pencil crayons and colouring sheets in a range of designs – including geometric patterns, animals, garden scenes, and more! – from 1-3pm. Stop by for as long or as little as you like, and see what it’s all about!

Meanwhile, if you’re interested in more serious mindfulness practices, or true art therapy (in which you develop skills and create your own original works), the library offers all kinds of great reads to help you get started.

Cover image of Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of MindfulnessFully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness introduces the concept of mindfulness – that is, “the art of paying attention with an open and curious mind to present-moment experiences” – along with scientific explanations of how the practice positively affects the body, and guidance for introducing mindfulness to your everyday life. For more information on mindfulness techniques and how to integrate them into your daily routine, try The Rough Guide to Mindfulness or The Mindfulness Workbook.

Cover image of Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

If you’re interested in a more detailed exploration of mindfulness, check out the 
classic bestseller Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. The 10th anniversary edition linked to here includes a new afterword by the author. Also of interest is Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health, which explores encounters between Buddhist traditions of believing the mind can heal the body, and Western medicine, which is uncovering evidence to support those beliefs.

Cover image of Uncovering happiness : overcoming depression with mindfulness and self-compassion.You can also explore mindfulness techniques as they relate to specific life situations. There are guide books for people who are managing shyness, anxiety, addiction, or depression. Some mindfulness techniques aim to help people with illnesses ranging from cancer to chronic pain. There are even mindfulness guides for parenting, quitting smoking, and working in public service. It just goes to show that mindfulness can be a part of anyone’s life.

Cover image of Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul.
If you’re looking to go deeper than simple relaxation through colouring and mindfulness, try delving into the world of art therapy. In Art Heals: How Creativity Cures the Soul, expert Shaun McNiff explains how a variety of forms of creative expression – from painting to performing – allow individuals to share, interpret, and heal their emotions.

cover image of Art Journals & Creative Healing: Restoring the Spirit Through Self-Expression.To engage in art therapy yourself, check out The Art Therapy Sourcebook and Art Journals & Creative Healing: Restoring the Spirit Through Self-Expression for techniques and other advice on using art to overcome life’s challenges and experience personal growth. The Magic of Mess Painting: The Creativity Mobilization Technique and Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony both examine specific forms of art therapy. Art therapy can even help us connect with other people in our lives, as described in Creative Therapy for Children With Autism, ADD, And Asperger’s: Using Artistic Creativity To Reach, Teach, and Touch Our Children.

So take a deep breath, relax … and express yourself!

— Lauren

Have a Laugh!

You know, it’s okay if you just want to laugh out loud, sometimes, when you sit down to read, right? Sure, you may feel compelled to read the latest “important” book by Malcolm Gladwell, or the latest gut-wrenching tale from Joseph Boyden, or maybe your book club is all about this year’s version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” or “Gone Girl,” or “The Girl from the Train”. And speaking of that, what’s up with all these disturbing thrillers with “Girl” in the title? When I write my great Canadian thriller, it’s going to be called “The Girl in the Library.” Look for it!

Anyway, yeah – I enjoy those kinds of books too, but sometimes you want a good laugh, and if you’re in one of those moods, then why not try one of the following?

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

why not me

For those who don’t know who she is, Mindy Kaling got her start as a writer and minor cast member on the American version of The Office. She has gone on to write and star in her own series, the hilarious “Mindy Project” and is active on Twitter and other social media platforms. This is actually her second memoir so, if you want to start at the beginning, I highly recommend Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? which covers her childhood, her time working the Fringe Festival circuit, and getting her big break in television. The second memoir carries on where she left off in the first and talks about the struggles she’s had keeping her show on the air, all the work that goes into making something great, as well as the ups and downs of being a minor celebrity. As she says: she’s well enough known that she can have lunch with Reese Witherspoon, but not well enough known to have people go through her garbage. Ms. Kaling is a wonderful writer and has excellent comedic sensibilities. I strongly recommend both of her books and look forward to what she has planned next.

Food, A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

Food a Love Story

Jim Gaffigan is one of those guys who pops up in supporting roles on TV and in movies, and you’d recognize his face but maybe not remember his name. I first saw him a few years ago doing stand up on Dave Letterman and took an instant shine to him. His latest book, Food, A Love Story is really just an expansion of his recent comedy tour, transcribed to print, about the weird food traditions he’s experienced all over America and around the world. It’s funny, but it would probably be even funnier to see him perform the material in person. His first book is much better. It is called Dad is Fat, and it is about becoming a father. Not just a father, actually, but a father to five children who all live (with Mr. Gaffigan and his long-suffering wife) in a two bedroom apartment in New York City. It’s a great mixture of humorous parenting stories.

I Must Say: The Life of a Humble Comedian by Martin Short

i must say

Andrea Martin’s Lady Parts

lady parts

I’ll finish off with these two books together. By the Martins. Anyone of a certain age (let’s say over 30), who had access to TV, and who grew up in Canada will remember the wacky wonderfulness of Second City Television (SCTV). For all you too young to remember, it was a sketch comedy show based around a fictional TV network. The humour was often absurd, but distinctly Canadian, and I must have seen every episode multiple times. In addition to Andrea Martin and Martin Short, the show launched the careers of John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Rick Moranis, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, and Harold Ramis.

It was fun to read these memoirs within a few weeks of each other, to hear different stories about the same time period, and different perspectives of the same events. While I read and enjoyed Andrea Martin’s memoir very much, I may have enjoyed Martin Short’s even more. This was probably because I borrowed the audiobook from the library and listened to it on a road trip. Martin Short reads it himself, and is able to slip into various characters and voices as he tells the stories, which really enhanced my enjoyment.

The old gang.

The old gang.

  • Trevor

Happy Birthday to Us!

The Millennium Library turns 10 this week!

Millennium Library

It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago Centennial library reopened its doors as the Millennium library and became the place we all know and love! So much has changed in the past 10 years and we’re excited to see what the next 10 have in store for not only Millennium library, but for ALL Winnipeg public libraries.

Our birthday wouldn’t be complete without a party! This Saturday, November 7th come join us for a day full of awesome events, activities, and birthday cake:

11 am: Birthday Bonanza Story Time!
Family storytime with stories, rhymes and a craft. Children’s Area.

11 am: Naming Ceremony: Aboriginal Resources areas (second floor)

2 pm: Seanster and the Monsters
Groove to a lively family-friendly performance of music and comedy. Children’s Area.

2 pm: Writer-in-Residence Reunion
Former Writers-in-Residence share memories and read from the work created during their residencies. Carol Shields Auditorium.

1-4 pm: Maker Faire
Create, experiment and collaborate with Creation Stations throughout the library. Pick up a Maker Pass and enter our draw.

1-4 pm: Local History & PastForward
View highlights of the Local History collection and PastForward, our online archive of historical Winnipeg images. Local History Room.

Aboriginal Resources Area

Please make special note of the Naming Ceremony at 11am. The Aboriginal Reading-in-the-Round (main floor, children’s area), and Aboriginal Resources area (second floor), will receive Anishinaabemowin names in celebration of Millennium Library’s 10th year. Elders Barbara and Clarence Nepinak will provide a blessing and give both spaces new names. Please join us for the ceremonies. Refreshments to follow.

Hope to see you there!