Non-fiction

Category: Non-fiction

Born in a manse in Molesworth, Ontario, in 1884, John Paris Bickell would overcome family tragedy to become one of Canada’s true renaissance men of the first half of the twentieth century. JPB or ‘Smiling Jack’, as he was known to many – was fatherless at seven, owned his own brokerage firm at twenty-three and was a millionaire before he turned thirty. As one of the most important industrialists in Canadian history, J.P. Bickell cut an enormous swath across a nation that he helped to shape.

Before the mid-twentieth century, if you’d asked someone to describe a quintessentially Canadian story, they might’ve used the words “historical” and “wilderness”. That’s because many of the popular Canadian books from this period — such as Wacousta (1832) or The Man From Glengarry (1901) — followed characters contending with natural forces and historical contexts. These kinds of books created a mythology around a so-called Canadian identity: a mythology rooted in the natural landscape and a particular version of the country’s history.

Many of the demands we make of forest managers, if practiced, will ensure that the future forest will not be what we want or need.

For seven decades I have been a part of the eastern Canadian boreal forest. I grew up exploring and examining the forest of central Newfoundland Island. Despite living in a logging community and spending some summer vacations with my Dad in logging camps I disapproved of the way the forest was being harvested by the pulp and paper company that managed the land.

It’s funny how one or two statements uttered in a casual conversation can lead to the genesis of an entire book project. I suppose that’s both the curse and joy of those who continually court the writing muse. Everything is fruit for a story or writing project. In fact, I find that there are days where I might often toss out as many as a half dozen ideas.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question I am often asked.

I’ve always found it challenging to answer that, because, for me, the answer is simple.

Everywhere.

It was 1975. The Vietnam War had ended and the United States had been defeated. That part of the story most people know.

Less well-known is that in 1975, all along the Canadian U.S. border, U.F.O.s were everywhere. There were large number of sightings in Ontario, Manitoba, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

Circumstances surrounding any writing about Glenn Gould these days can best be explained if I point to what happened one Saturday afternoon years back in St. Peter's Anglican Church in Erindale, the ever-morphing suburb where I grew up. For a pre-Christmas event for children to help explain the meaning of the season, a parishioner known to play a little piano was asked to provide accompaniment on few hymns.

Capital punishment, or the execution of someone found guilty of a crime, dates back to the arrival of European explorers on Canadian shores. Historically, punishment for serious crimes included hanging, death by firing squad, and burning at the stake. But by the time the Dominion of Canada was established in 1867, one method was available for the capital crimes of murder, rape, and treason:  hanging.

I love going to conferences. I love travelling and touring too, but there’s something about attending a conference, or any organized event that’s scheduled over an intense short period of time, in a new place, that makes life thrum in a different way. There’s a certain group of people all there for the same reason – but all with different agendas and perspectives. Some are the movers and shakers, the bigwigs, the celebrities of whatever group you are with. Their agendas are more obvious. There are things that you want, too. You schmooze, you connect, learn.

It’s always difficult to get everything that you want into a book. In the case of the Second Edition of The Ontario Craft Beer Guide, Robin and I trailed around all over the province in order to taste beer at well over 200 breweries. We revisited the majority of the brewers who were in their second year of operation because we wanted readers to understand that there is a sharp uptick in brewing quality year over year from the point when breweries open.

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