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History Category

Maple Treats

bc-maple-nixon-100714.jpgI was quite pleased earlier this year when I learned that British Columbia has a fledgling maple syrup industry, mostly around Duncan on Vancouver Island.  But unfortunately, by the time I learned it existed the spring sap flow had ended for the year.  So that story will have to wait. 

The idea of hammering spigots into trees and turning them into taps for a delicious liquid has fascinatinated me, and no doubt you too.  Yet, being a Westerner, I've had almost no opportunity to see the maple farmers in action as they're concentrated in Ontario and Quebec.  A major part of Canada's heritage is missing from my soul, sob, sob. 

How pleased I was, then, to come upon a bit of that heritage as I wandered about the Wednesday afternoon farmer's market just outside Via Train station on Main Street in Vancouver.   Not only did I avoid doing a story about rutabagas, a part of my life became more complete.  Sugaring Off icon_video.gif

The "Master"

bc-tugboat-nixon-100616.jpgI may be wrong but I believe no one ever demonstrated against the decision to put the Bluenose on Canada's dime.  No offence to the beaver, the loon, the wapiti and the rest, but the dime is my favourite coin, because a wooden sailing ship is a miracle.  Take some lengths of lumber and saw, plane, steambend and spoke-shave them into a craft that can safely cross the seas. 

Not many wooden boats are made anymore, but those that survive can trace their roots back to the ancients who saw in tree trunks a means to transform their world.  I suspect it's this communion with the past that inspires such devotion among the wooden boat folk in B.C.   They display a mild sort of reverence for watery workhorses like the steam powered "Master".  The skill that went into building that tug decades ago got displayed recently when she went into dry-dock for repairs.  It was worth a peek.  Steam Tug icon_video.gif

Rembrandt's Eye

bc-rembrandt-nixon-100528.jpgThe Dutch Master, Rembrandt, is so revered in art circles that his paintings sell for millions of dollars.  But his influence also can be seen every day on television screens.  All of the camera operators I've worked with over the years are very familiar with "Rembrandt Lighting", a technique that uses key and fill lights to emphasize one side of a subjects face on the screen.  The idea, traced back to Rembrandt, is that this lighting allows viewers to focus better on a subject and listen better to what they have to say.  Apparently, it puts people at ease.

But if it works, why?  And how?  What did Rembrandt discover 350 plus years ago that so attracts attention to his paintings?  A UBC researcher decided to try figure out the science behind the art.  Art Science icon_video.gif

Navy Centennial

bc-navy-nixon-100504.jpgGrowing up in Winnipeg, I always wondered why that city had a Navy post, HMCS Chippawa. just north of the Donald Street Bridge.  It is not on water, a block from the Assiniboine River and about a thousand kilometres from saltwater, Hudson Bay.  But tons of prairie kids learned their sea skills there and my father was one of them.  Thanks to the Navy, he and, through him,  I learned to love what Melville called the watery part of the world. 

So it was a great thrill for me to ask my dear friends in CBC Archives to assist in finding old film and video of the Navy in action for a story about the 100th anniversary of its founding in May of 1910.  The story of this force is long and justly celebrated and I could only skirt a few of the highlights in this piece.  By the way, why is there a base in Winnipeg?  In addition to offering Sea Cadet training to kids like my Dad, it also recruited prairie men and (eventually) women to the Navy, almost eight thousand sailors during the Second World War.  Navy 100 icon_video.gif

Oldest Bowling Alley

bc-bowling-nixon-100324.jpgHow is it possible to wander the streets of downton Vancouver for decades and not realize there's a bowling alley on Granville Street?  I was shocked at myself.  The place was staring me right in the face, the big neon sign, the bowling pin shaped sandwich board straddling the sidewalk.  Yet somehow I had missed it.

So I decided to go inside, and was shocked once more.  The place is amazing, something right out of the 1930s.  In fact it is right out of the 1930s, virtually unchanged for eighty years.  And most amazing still, it was open for business but completely empty.  Not a bowling ball was rolling anywhere.  I may have discovered a new lunchtime hobby.  But I don't have the time to spare.  Oh ho.  Ho Ho Ho.  What a stupid line, eh?  Had to use it.  Other Commodore icon_video.gif


Toothy Dilemma

bc-mammoth-nixon-100201.jpgGiven the kind of lifestyle stories I do, you would not immediately think my world suffers from that most pressing of reportial issues - deadline pressure.  The TV news biz is designed to avoid the disaster of a reporter missing their assigned slot - especially if their story is the lead item.  It follows that top story reporters get resources assigned to them early, so they can start filming, writing and editing in time to make their spot. 

Now the last time I led the news was shortly after the great Vancouver fire of 1886.  So when I ask for camera time, I am usually met with laughter and great guffaws, before my tears soften their hearts and off I go.  This often means I get back late and must rush the writing and editing in order to make my slot.  This item, involving a rather interesting item, is a case in point.  Let's just say that if you watched it on TV, you saw a few elements presented out of order, which no doubt only increased your usual level of confusion from my pieces.   I have fixed the problem for this blog, and hope it's less confusing now.  Mammoth Sale! icon_video.gif

Birks Clock

bc-clock-nixon-net.jpgWho would have thought that a trip to watch a historic clock's return to Granville Street could turn into a lesson in the art of punning.  In this case, it's the Birk's Clock, that was removed several years ago when the Canada Line subway construction began and the venerable jewellry company decided to refurbish its giant time piece for the first time in almost 100 years.  They called in the best - and he delivered ... and then some.  A who really knows when the clock is ticking. Time Flies icon_video.gif

Y2K Plus 10

bc-decade-nixon-net.jpgLet me see.  As the 20th century ended, I had this idea that within ten years I would cash in my stock options from the San Francisco internet company I worked for and lead a life canoeing every river in Canada.  Oh, so, so, so naive.  Last time I looked, about 2003, those options were worth 63 bucks.  But at least I have canoed two of those rivers, and one creek besides.  And I got to spend the day asking other people, young and old, whether their own Y2K dreams came true.  The idea was to spark a conversation amongst viewers over your own experiences, hopes and dreams over the first decade of the 21st Century.  What say you?  Reflection 2010 icon_video.gif

Old Films

Back in the 1960's there was a joke about the easiest way to clear a room was to offer to show off home movies.  But you know what?  Wait a couple of decades and those old films suddenly look really interesting.  They become a window on another world.   


Taxidermy Exhibit

I've reached the age when I can start puffing out my chest and beginning sentences with "Well, in MY day....."  and then go on to pontificate to young people.  Here's one I can use right here - Well, in my day - when we went to museums, we used to see dozens and dozens of stuffed animals.  Not any more though, most museums have long since relegated their menageries to the storage rooms - or worse (or better, depending on your view). 

Viking Ship

  You've got to love this boat.  Two hour sails on English Bay.  An experienced and friendly crew.  A chance to for some hands on sailing. 

Man on the Moon

What Canadian does not remember where they were when men first walked on the moon?  In truth, most of them don't remember. 

Birks Clock

A well known Vancouver landmark has been missing for the past two years.  Where did it go?  And what's happened to it? 

Jackson Memorabilia

>When the King of Pop died suddenly, online auction sites were swamped with Michael Jackson memorabilia for sale.  I wondered, where did all this stuff come from, and who was selling it?