Sunday, 28 September 2014

Damsel in Distress

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m much more of a city girl than a country girl. I may have grown up in the wilds of BC - where rattlesnakes infest the hills, mountains get climbed on Christmas Day, and the occasional bear turns up in the backyard (all true stories) - but I haven’t gone on a bona-fide nature adventure since high school. 

Last weekend though, I was talked into venturing out to the salt fields of Chaplin in the name of a photo-adventure in an alien landscape. I am my father’s daughter after all, so the part of me that is willing to do anything for a good photo won over the urbanite telling me to stay home and read a book. That, and the novelty of exploring Saskatchewan’s unique geography hasn’t worn off yet. 

Chaplin proved to be well worth the longer-than-expected drive, since it really did look like something out of a sci-fi movie. The high salt content in the soil turned the terrain an odd white and the shallow waterways have attracted a myriad of seashore birds, so there was plenty to take photos of and explore. The only things missing were the crab carcasses and kelp strands that are the mainstays of a true oceanic coastline. 

Things were going wonderfully until I conveniently forgot the old adage “look before you leap;” one wrong step off the path was all it took and I found myself quite literally knee-deep in muck. 

photo courtesy of Dann McKenzie
“Oh shite” was the first of many profanities that began to parade through my head, as I immediately began the extraction attempt. After a few minutes in vain my foot came out, but alas my boot was still 2-feet under. 

At this point most girls would have been shrieking for help, but besides an emphatic “Dann, stop taking photos of me” I wasn’t ready to give up yet. Down on my knees on solid(ish) ground I went, and into the mud went both hands. I pulled and pulled and pulled (while Dann went back to the jeep for a shovel), and to my surprise I actually won the battle for my beloved (now encased in mud) boot. Apparently I love my shoes more than Mother Nature does. 

My poor, poor boots.
The mud came off, but the salt may have ruined them after all.
In retrospect, I was really lucky; a few more seconds and I may have lost my cool and burst into tears. But it’s unexpected trials like this that remind me of one very important thing: I’m not the damsel in distress - I am the dragon. 

(Though it’s good to know that I have a back-up knight in shining armour, who comes prepared with a giant jug of water to wash up with. Getting dirty might have gotten the job done, but I sure as hell don’t like to stay that way).

Sunday, 14 September 2014

I Heart Regina

For a city that most people think of as the cultural back-water of Canada (and that’s only what the polite people say), it’s surprisingly full of art. Since I’ve moved here I’ve gone to see theatre three times (twice in theatres - it counts okay - and once live), fallen in love with Gothic/Tudor-revival architecture, and been surprised at the wide range of art and fashion books at the library. But what’s most impressive is that there are little pieces of artwork hidden in plain sight all over the city. Some places it is expected - parks, war monuments, statues of politicos (at least that’s who I assume they are, since I never remember what the plaques say after reading them) - but it’s the little touches of beauty in the least expected places that really get me, so I’m going to share some of my favourites with you. 

For a city that is dead flat, they’ve done a remarkable job at maintaining the tree-lined avenues. The arching branches remind me so much of my heart-city Victoria that I feel much more at home. 

One of the bridges in my neighbourhood is following the example of New York, and is starting to amass a collection of love-locks. A little bit overly-romantic for my cynical self, but for some reason I still like it. 

Apparently I can’t escape the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, since I walk by this post on my evening walk every day. As much as I’m not into the Olympics, I really like the cut-out style of type here as it’s very classy and minimalist. 

This building downtown has a whole bunch of little guardian gargoyles (though they look more like brownies to me), and I can’t help but smile every time I see them faithfully guarding their building. 

Most of the statues in the city are of the normal variety - marble, bronze, etc - but this group of copper people are a step away from normal in that they’re only half there. At first glance the eye tries to fill in the missing pieces, but the brain knows something is off, and when you realize that they’re not whole there’s definitely a “wow” moment. 

I found this adorable wire elephant hiding on the North side of the central library branch, and was instantly charmed. There’s also a grasshopper and a dinosaur in other parts of the city, but the elephant is my favourite!

I’m a total sucker for old-school lampposts, so I was absolutely delighted to see them scattered all through the paths of Regina’s main park. I can’t wait until the first snow comes so that I can do a Narnia/Snow Queen photoshoot all wrapped up in elegant furs!

The bridge on Albert Street has a whole bunch of artistic touches, but my favourite are the decorative support posts that line each side. It’s surprising how well the colours have stood against the elements, since I’ve never seen anyone repainting them. 

As the sign says, I really do heart Regina, and I’m sure that the longer I live in the city the more unexpected touches of beauty I will find and the more I will grow to love it. If only the winters were slightly less cold… 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Working Overtime

I know I’ve already Tweeted, and Facebook-ed, and Social Media-ed the video that our team at the Archives put together for a digital exhibition at the Legislative Assembly building - not to mention that my boss beat me to the [blog]punch a few days ago - but I’m really proud of the video and feel the need to shout from the rooftops again. Okay, maybe not shout from the rooftops, since it’s a lot of effort to scale a building and I dodged the radioactive spider, but at least a little explanation of our efforts and achievements are due. 

So the story starts off in late June. The boss had just returned from his vacation in Europe, and we in the Preservation Management Unit and Digital Records Program were steadily working away on a variety of projects. I was waging war against our new OCRing (optical character recognition) software and forcing it to cooperate with our newly digitized microfilmed newspapers (another big project that’s scheduled for launch in November), but when our team was given the opportunity to create a four-year exhibit to commemorate the Great War the boss said yes (we followed suit) - and then started cooking up some wild ideas. 

We’ll find diaries of Sasketonians who lived during the war years, he said.

We’ll scan a whole bunch of never before exhibited materials, he said. 

We’ll research artists, and photos, and make a giant banner (or two), he said.

We’ll get a giant high-definition television, he said.

We’ll make a display of archival material that we can change every year, he said. 

No. We’ll make a MOVIE, he said.

All in four-and-a-half-weeks, he said…

And so we did. Research was conducted: the diaries of soldier-bros were found (seriously, they are brothers), regimental escapades were laughed over, interviews with the 46th Battalion were discovered (otherwise known as the Suicide Battalion), and reams of photos & diaries & scrapbooks were scanned. A voiceover script was written, people were cajoled into reenacting diaries and speeches, a storyboard was constructed, and video segments were parsed together. 

And at the end of it all we wound up with an unsurprisingly fantastic video and accompanying brochure (hello, we’re awesome, and we don’t do things half-assed) that went live on August 4th at the Legislative Assembly Building during the re-commemoration ceremony. Our exhibit will be up for the next four years, with the current instalment lasting until next Spring when it is replaced by a second exhibit of materials which focus on the war during 1915. 

If you’re in Regina you should definitely check it out live (the experience is practically cinematic considering the size of the television that was donated by Radio Centre), and if not you can always check it out on our YouTube channel which I’ve embedded below!

***update: we couldn't upload the HD version of the video until our account was verified, but it's live now so you can revel in the full visual/auditorial brilliance! (It really makes a difference with the newspaper pages, since you can read the smaller type-sets)